Electric Laughter (Love Story & Sci Fi Thriller)
GENRE: Psychological Thriller, Love Story
TONE: Face Off meets Presumed Innocent or The Fugitive
THEME: Only your heart knows the truth. In a world where no one is who they seem to be or claim to be, one’s heart and intuition are the guiding lights.
AWARDS: Semi-Finalist, ISA FastTrack, 2015, Semi-finalist Stage 32 Screenwriting Competition 2015
LOGLINE: A brilliant scientist hires his best friend to become his public double after his electric laughter invention (a sophisticated device that triggers laughter in the brain) brings him fame, fortune, and a media frenzy, which is too much for him and ruins his life. When his best friend/double is murdered in public, he goes into hiding for five years and re-emerges to reclaim his life and reunite with the woman he loves and has always loved.
SYNOPSIS: The script opens as JOE COYOTE (40) rides in an open convertible in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago when a bullet pierces his forehead. Pull back to reveal Joe (45) watching a replay of the murder of his public double and best friend, GRAHAM GOLD (40). This murder scene plays out at various intervals throughout the script, revealing new information and a different perspective each time.
Joe’s invention changed the human condition and exaggerated the ability to avoid dark or challenging emotions. The wealth and fame that came with the success of his invention proved to be more than he could handle and he withdrew from life. When his best friend offered to become his public double and undergo plastic surgery so they’d look exactly alike, he reluctantly agreed.
The only other people who knew about their arrangement were STURGIS REGAN (70), his mentor and lawyer, a man of questionable integrity and immense power and wealth who tries to get Joe to plead insanity in order to save his life, but that would mean he would be committed to an asylum and never be with Angelica again. The other one was OLGA (50) the Swiss plastic surgeon who performed the transformation surgery, fell in love with Graham, and married him just before she changed his face.
After Graham gets murdered during a televised parade, Joe goes into hiding since he believes his life and Angelica’s life is in danger. He emerges five years later to see her play with the Symphony, but before they can reunite up close, he’s arrested for the murder of his double, a crime he didn’t commit.
When we first meet Joe, he has been holed up in a brownstone in Chicago for five years, too afraid and too remorseful to leave. To alleviate his loneliness during his self-imposed exile, he created a life-size hologram of the woman he loves, ANGELICA JOHNSON (40), a gifted cellist who also has Synesthesia, a brain anomaly that fuses sight and sound. The journey begins when Joe ventures out into the world, undisguised to see Angelica perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Angelica has a form of Synesthesia (a brain anomaly that fuses her senses of sight and sound together) and literally sees the beautiful sounds that she creates with her cello. She falls in love with Joe when she consulted him about her condition. As a brilliant neurologist and the inventor of Electric Laughter, he designed a special, sophisticated, watch-like device that triggered laughter and calm in her exceptional brain.
They fell in love quickly, but the situation was complicated because of his public double. They split up due to a misunderstanding and mistaken identity experience, an arrangement she knew nothing about until later.
During Angelica’s performance, Joe and Angelica’s eyes meet and they fall in love again, though she doesn’t know that it’s really him. Before he can reach her at intermission, he’s intercepted by Sturgis. Joe is arrested, taken to jail, denied bail, and charged with Graham’s murder.
Encouraged to plead, ‘not guilty by reason of insanity,’ Joe is pushed to the brink of sanity while in jail after he’s administered an unprecedented form of torture that’s administered by the very electric laughter device that he created. Instead of delivering an imperceptible jolt of electricity that triggers laughter in the brain, this version triggers dark, painful emotions like anguish, fear, and murderous rage.
Angelica comes to see him and fuels his hope for a future together, but he unravels from the torture. The exhaustive manhunt for Graham five years earlier led by Sturgis supports up the evidence against Joe as Graham’s killer.
As the trial progresses, Angelica taps into her ESP ability that’s an inherent trait with her Synesthesia and uncovers pieces of the truth. Graham is still alive. While Joe is pushed over the edge, Angelica finds Graham in a remote part of the Alps with his wife and kids. He returns to testify and save Joe. He provides enough evidence to arrest Sturgis for fraud and the torturous use of electric laughter. The murder scene plays out one last time as Graham explains what really happened. With an elaborate disguise, razor-sharp timing, and a hologram in the ambulance, Graham convincingly faked his own death so he could save their lives.
With Graham alive and the torture device taken off his wrist, Joe resurrects a piece of his psyche. In the final scene, Joe goes back home a free man. Instead of her hologram, the real Angelica plays her cello in his living room. They kiss, reunited at last.