To: Hollywood Re: The next big thing
The pitch: Ken Burns meets The Parent Trap
The premise: 15-year-old identical twin sisters have their own movie company, Doubletroublets Productions, in Little Rock. They make award-winning documentaries.
Their work includes A Soldier in Skirts (2009), about the Women's Army Corps in World War II, and Return to Sender (2008), about Cuban refugees at Fort Chaffee, Ark., in 1980. Everybody tells them they ought to make a movie about themselves, but they can't see why.
The girls win national acclaim for their work, all the while bickering over Daredevil, the comic-book hero, and doughnuts, the last on the plate.
Confusion overtakes a visitor to the Bailin household. Twins Sarah and Emma Bailin are the daughters of artist David Bailin and lawyer Amy Lee Stewart. The girls expect to follow their mother and three older sisters to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Hilarity ensues from T-shirts that read, "Wellesley Football." The all-women's college has no football team.
Still, the moviemaking twins resist turning their camera - a Panasonic DVX1006 - on themselves.
Screen treatment follows:
OPEN: on the red-brick exterior of the Bailin home in west Little Rock. A reporter has arrived to interview the twins.
The reporter has made a study of DoubleTroublets Productions. He has seen the twins' work on their Web site, doubletroublets.com. He has read their type-written filmography that cites three pages of screenings and honors at the Little Rock Film Festival, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival, National Film Festival for Talented Youth in Seattle, others.
Skeptical of so much accomplishment in three years, he has contacted Bob Pest, co-director of the T Tauri Film Festival and Movie Camp in Batesville, for comment.
"Sarah and Emma are very talented and extremely focused," in Pest's esteem. The twins have received several awards in the T Tauri competition for young filmmakers, and Pest sees' "enormous promise" in their work.
CLOSE-UP: The reporter dings the doorbell, primed with serious questions about the twins' work - their focus on such troubled times as the subjects of Watching the Waters Rise (2007), about the great flood of 1927 that swamped much of Arkansas, and Separate But Equal (2006), about school desegregation.
He is five minutes early, interrupting an episode of the classic Star Trek on TV. The twins know what happens: Capt. Kirk kisses the girl (again). But of all the scenes to miss! - one of those moments that define why Star Trek is better than Star Wars.
Sarah: "Star Wars - who cares?"
Emma: "I for one like to see a happy earth, and that's Star Trek."
They are accustomed to interviews, having logged a number of appearances on television. Early on, they determined to manage their own public relations, a choice that calls for business manners.
Emma: "That's when I started reading etiquette books. My favorite is Don't Take the Last Donut."
Sarah: "If I want the last doughnut, I'll take the last doughnut.' Emma: "Nobody in this house respects the table code."
Dizzied by the girls' mirror image likeness to each other, the reporter comes up with a brand new idea for them. Such a unique thought: Make a movie about themselves.
Emma/Sarah: "We hear that a lot."
MEDIUM SHOT: The home office they share with their dad's desk, loops and tangles of cables and cords that hang against the cream-colored walls, lighting equipment, the iMac computer they bought with money they made from commercial work - clients including the Wolfe Street Foundation - and a turtle, named Tux, in a glass aquarium.
Sarah: "I write everything. I do all the pre-production, the research. She comes in and wrecks my research piles. I have a unique system.
Emma: "It's not really a system. It's piles of paper."
Overlapping dialogue comes to no consensus on the right way to research a project.
Emma: «You're in my way."
Sarah: "You're on my computer."
More overlap, establishing how the girls took up moviemaking as seventh-graders at Horace Mann Arts and Science Magnet Middle School in Little Rock. They discovered lights and cameras in the school's Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) classroom. They are juniors this year at Little Rock's Central High School.
Emma: "A lot of people want to know how we work."
Sarah: "We're both extremely dominant."
Emma: "We tried to work with other people."
Sarah: "We realized it was a waste of time. They couldn't hold their own."
Emma: "The more we bicker, for some reason, the more we get done."
Sarah: "I maintain our secret is tea and chocolate-chip cookies."
ZOOM IN: on the DoubleTroublets' professional-quality movie camera, housed in a hard yellow case. The camera was a birthday gift from their grandfather a couple years ago, the same time their parents gave them lapel mikes.
Sarah: "You want to get out our camera?"
Emma: "It's not your camera. We've had this discussion 1,000 times."
Sarah: "We love our camera."
The gear takes know-how, mostly learned by doing, sometimes learned the hard way – the case of an early interview with a woman whose nose itched.
Emma: "We were young and naive. She sneezed on my microphone."
Sarah: "We've learned since then not to interview people who have colds."
MONTAGE: family photos, calendar pages, movie scripts – the passage of time and of miles as the twins pursue the subjects of their research across the state: the Butler Center (Arkansas Studies Institute) in Little Rock, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, to the Delta farmlands, to Forrest City, to Fort Smith.
Voiceover/Bob Pest: "They are fortunate to have two engaged, supportive parents."
Voiceover/the twins: Overlapping dialogue, relating how their father, David, wished they would have picked something easier to make a movie about than Cuban refugees.
Emma: "Our father said. 'Give up. Find a new topic."
Sarah: "We're not going to give up."
David: "Everybody has their…”
David: "Antagonists, yes. I just didn't think…”
Emma/Sarah/David: Overlapping discussion about research being hard to find, and the old voice recordings they discovered were in Spanish, and the twins don't know Spanish.
David: "But then, they had some breakthroughs."
Dad gives sort of a shrug in his supportive Wellesley T-shirt, telling how he gave up work in theater for that of drawing and painting in solitude, and can't imagine surviving the collaborative demands of filmmaking.
David: "I don't want to rely on anybody else. This drives me nuts. I don't know how they do it."
CUT TO: opening scene of A Soldier in Skirts, women in uniform.
Emma, narrating from Sarah's script: "They were the daughters of suffragists, the mothers of feminists. One hundred thousand soldiers. One hundred thousand women. This is the story of one of them."
CUT TO: opening scene of Return to Sender, a crowded boat.
Emma, narrating from Sarah's script: "Imagine, 3,000 boats, filled with 125,000 people, sailing over a small 90mile patch of sea that might as well have spanned thousands of miles. On this sea, refugees sailed between two worlds. The outcome of those crossings not only had repercussions for the lives of the refugees, but for Arkansans as well."
Comment on the Web site: "These kids are only 14?!?!?"
They were at the time.
Sarah: "I love dramatic openings. They're just so much fun to write."
CUT TO: the twins in their identical Wellesley T-shirts.
Emma: "We'll probably stop wearing the same clothes in college. I wanted to stop, but Sarah said we can't."
Sarah: "Because then we'd get more questions on why we stopped.
PAN ACROSS: the home office, the cables, the camera, the computer and the turtle, the only quiet presence.
Emma: "We've only got two more films to make before we go to college.
– figuring one a year, their approximate schedule so far. They work nights and weekends, odd moments, every chance they get.
Emma: "When we skip school…"
Sarah: "We do not skip school."
Emma: " …our teachers know we're working on films."
Sarah: "We're beginning to research the next one, on the Little Rock Censorship Committee."
The old-time authority seems to have regulated such things as movies. But details are hard to find.
Emma: "Not a lot there. What a surprise.'
WIDE ANGLE: front step of the Bailin House. The reporter leaves with a bent notebook full of furiously scribbled quotes. Among the few questions he managed to ask is this: Have the twins ever been told they can sound like chipmunks? Yes, "we've heard, and this sparks a debate. Is the live-action and computer-generated movie Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007), technically, a cartoon?
Sarah: "Emma loves comic books."
Emma: "I have a few select heroes that I follow."
Sarah: "I'm just going to say this: Ben Affleck resembles a box."
Emma: "Daredevil was a good movie."