1. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    Americana help?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by cmcpress, Dec 16, 2010.

    Hi, i've had an idea for a script i'd like to develop that's based in America. Is there any experienced writers here who could help me give it a genuine American voice?

    The subject matter is pretty strong, set in the very near future - the nearest i can think of would be The Big Lebowski meets 1984. Please PM me if you think you can help...

    To start off with some quick questions.

    1. How prevalent is house sharing amongst Young Americans nowadays? particularly students?

    2. Are there any run down cities, or small towns within commuting distance of lower scale universities with high unemployment?

    3. Do students tend to live on campus in their later years?

    4. How are the bible belt communities dispersed in the US, and where are the strongest sets of supporters for the grassroots political movements?
     
  2. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    1. House sharing? Not particularly common in my admittedly limited experience. Generally if two people can afford a house together they'd just rent a separate place each, unless they're dating or somehow related.

    2. Multiple smallish towns have nearby universities of some type; I'm sure what you're imagining can be found somewhere in this country...

    3. This varies, i don't really know.

    4. IDK what a grassroot is, but Bible belt communities are usually dispersed throughout Tennesee/Kentucky/Texas/etc. It's generally random, but 'down south' basically every smallish town has a very strong church element, or so my southern travels indicate: Four freaking churches with huge names on every street! Borderline obsessive!
     
  3. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    1. How prevalent is house sharing amongst Young Americans nowadays? particularly students?

    In the Boston / Cambridge, Massachusetts are, I've known a fair number of MIT students and recent grades who would rent a house and share it, living 4 to 8 in the house depending on the number of bedrooms and the size of the rooms available. But America is huge -- you do realize driving from the south of California to the north is like driving from Madrid to Paris, right?

    2. Are there any run down cities, or small towns within commuting distance of lower scale universities with high unemployment?

    There are a fair number of places with high unemployment, meaning unemployment of 14% or even slightly higher. My hometown in California is pretty bad right now -- 15.2% undemployment. And there are "lower scale universities" all over the place, assuming you mean 2-year colleges rather than the 4-year Bacchalaureate programs.

    3. Do students tend to live on campus in their later years?

    Varies by college. Varies enormously. MIT provides on campus housing for four years, but many students choose to live off-campus. Many other colleges and universities only provide freshman housing, and the upperclassmen all live in apartments off campus.

    4. How are the bible belt communities dispersed in the US, and where are the strongest sets of supporters for the grassroots political movements?

    Midwest and south, I guess, although the middle part of California has been described as something of a "Bible Belt." As for where the strongest supporters for grassroots politics might be, that's more or less the whole U.S. Big leftist cities -- San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston -- have grassroots culture of a different sort than in smaller, more conservative towns, but there's really quite a bit of participation in politics here.

    On the other hand, our "grassroots" stuff is rather different from the ****e that goes on in Europe. I mean, the idea of torching cars to protest? I guess France likes that, but do that here and people'd consider you something of a Stone Age barbarian. People were really upset by the recent riots in Oakland, because some windows were smashed up. Setting a bank on fire and trapping people inside like the recent riots in Italy over budget cuts? Yeah, no, we don't hold with that sort of . . . I'm trying to come up with a word that means "complete and utter insanity," but with an additonal flavor of rabid wolf.

    In short, you'll probably want to do some research on the types of grassroots political participation Americans do. I mean, standing on street corners raising money for one cause or another. Peaceful protests with signs and chants and singing and paper fliers. Calling politicians. Drafting propositions and going door to door collecting signatures. Participating in online communities. Volunteering for a political campaign to get an honest politician into office. Donating money to groups that protect civil rights. Paying for billboards citing statistics, so people know how much water is wasted annually, for example.

    I'm emphasizing the difference because, at least in politics, it seems like the political class in Western Europe does a certain amount of "Oh, well, those Americans, they're just irresponsible. You can't really expect them to be forward-thinking and progressive, can you? With all those guns and all that religious and racial bigotry." And then workers riot in France and torch cars, or riot in Italy and kill people who dare to work on a strike day. Or the students riot, smashing windows and graffitiing signs and attacking people who disagree, and it's as though that's perfectly acceptable.

    And you won't get very far with a show that tries to portray American college students acting that way. Feeling strongly about politics, sure. Smashing windows in the process? Not really our thing.
     
  4. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    To be honest the students who rioted last week are viewed mostly the same way as the guys there. So much so, that in the 70's the police would employ agent provacateurs to bring certain political groups into disrepute by branding them as thugs.

    back to the story - actually i wasn't coming from that angle at all - quite the opposite. It's basically about a group of close friends who go to uni together - 2 are stoners, the other is a more bookish (but not that clever) law student who has a lot of faith in the "system".

    In the background, an exaggerated palinesque figure (who it becomes clear feels she is on a mission from god) has become president who gradually gains confidence to repeal certain (federal?) laws (such as abortion, equality for gays - you know where i'm going) - this leads to widespread tensions and occasional terrorist acts by groups based in the liberal (northeast?- NYC area?).

    The Pres. mobilises grassroots supporters to help keep the peace and instigates martial law in the worst affected areas. The conceit here is that there would be enough Far Right Christian types within the senate to allow her laws to pass, and that someone like that could get elected in the first place (and wasn't a puppet president).

    Rather than being about the political intrigue - this is about normal everyday people who are caught up in the fallout.

    Rather than being a show script - this would be a movie script - but one that could be made on a low budget (so more about character drama than SFX).
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Hi, I can answer some of your questions:

    College students and/or young, just-began-their-career people live together all the time to save money. However, as Renat said, not a huge house, because if you can afford that then you can afford a small place of your own. People often share apartments, small houses etc.

    As far as low-scale colleges in grimy urban settings, yes, there are loads.

    The Bible-belt stuff is pretty prevalent in the Pensacola, panhandle area of Florida, from what I've heard. I'm not from that part of FL but that's its reputation.

    Anything else I can help with? :D
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's going to be a major problem for you if you haven't spent a lot of time in the part of the us where your film will be set... but having an american writer 'give it a genuine voice' will mean collaborating, which means sharing credits and profits [if any]...

    why don't you set it in a place you know well, where your own 'voice' and first hand observations will suffice?
     
  7. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    2. Are there any run down cities, or small towns within commuting distance of lower scale universities with high unemployment?

    You could check out this town, Greensboro, North Carolina. It is a large town with several universities and is made up of several small communities in the lower income bracket. Furthermore, several small towns surround Greensboro..too many to name all but there are a lot and most are low income and "southern/bible belt"..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensboro,_North_Carolina#Institutes_of_higher_education

    Another town you should check out, just for its weirdness is Lynchburg, Virgina. Half the town is really close to god..in a scary way.. and the other half are people rebelling from that close to god stuff (lots of bars and tattoo shops). It is a smallish town centered around a Christian University (Liberty Christian Academy) founded by the famously intolerant Preacher Jerry Falwell..this would be a good place for that pres to develop those "sent by god feelings"
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynchburg,_Virginia#Education

    You might also like Charlotte North Carolina. Again a large town surrounded by smaller ones. In addition, lots of higher education and religion.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte,_North_Carolina#Colleges_and_universities
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think that Charlotte, NC is a place with high unemployment. Several banks are there (including Bank of America, I think) and at least one major insurance company employs about 10,000 people there. It is also the home of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, which is certainly not a "lower scale" university.

    I'm not sure what "grassroots political movements" you have in mind. There are movements of every stripe, from tree-huggers to the canned-goods-in-the-basement crowd, and they can come from anywhere. With the internet, political movements no longer really have to be "from" anywhere.

    I agree with mammamaia...if you want to give this an "American" voice, you will need to spend some time here. It's not something that can be imported.
     
  9. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    1. How prevalent is house sharing amongst Young Americans nowadays? particularly students?

    I am a university student. Right now I live alone due to rare circumstances, but in the past I was a roommate in a dorm. When I begin veterinary school, I will most likely live in an apartment with two or three other people. Normally we room with the same sex, although a few of my friends are in arrangements that are co-ed.

    2. Are there any run down cities, or small towns within commuting distance of lower scale universities with high unemployment?
    Eh, I live in Auburn. It's a small town in the state of Alabama. It's 40 minutes from the state capital of Montgomery, which is pretty run-down as most state capitals are. My university is public, but it is ranked 32 in the US News and World Report's top universities. There are a lot of small towns in Alabama.
    http://www.auburn.edu

    For really rural, I would suggest Starkville, Mississippi, home of Mississippi State University. It's a good uni, but in the middle of NOWHERE.
    http://www.msstate.edu

    Tuscaloosa is a kind of old town, the first capital of the state of Alabama. It's the home of the University of Alabama.
    http://www.ua.edu

    My hometown is near Mobile, AL. There is a really old university that has a primarily African American student body and is known for being a sort of poorer university. However, with recent donations from Morgan Freeman, it has fared better over the past, especially their physical therapy curriculum.
    www.bscc.cc.al.us

    Surrounding towns are poor. Prichard, Bayou la Batre, certain areas of Mobile, etc...

    3. Do students tend to live on campus in their later years?
    I do. I am 20 years old and I currently live in a dormitory. It fits my current money situation. I will stay there one more year before moving into either an apartment or share a small house with some people.

    4. How are the bible belt communities dispersed in the US, and where are the strongest sets of supporters for the grassroots political movements?
    I can't tell you the politics behind it, but I do live in the Bible Belt. I guess because it's a university setting, but there is an equal amount of liberals and conservatives on campus, with a large majority being like me: in the middle. There aren't many Tea Party supporters around this area, surprisingly.
     
  10. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    1) What do you mean by "house sharing"? Do you mean renting an apartment together? That's very, very common. Buying a house together? Very, very rare.

    2) America has a lot of community colleges in depressed areas. Any urban university would have run down neighborhoods just a few minutes walk away. Try most any Michigan university. University Of Michigan, Flint Campus would be a great choice. Flint has had double-digit unemployment for about 30 years, and currently it stands at 25-30%. Meanwhile, a world-class university (UofM) has an 8000 student satellite campus in the city. And it's not too horrible a commute to the main campus in Ann Arbor.

    3) No. If "later years", you mean college years, then most (though not all) live near but off campus. If "later years" means non-traditional students in their later years, they almost always live off campus. Some in their mid-twenties, just out of the military, may live on campus though.

    4) "Bible belt" refers to the swath of culturally conservative land in the USA - typically not to enclaves of conservatism. What do you mean by "grassroots"? Liberal or conservative grassroots? If you are referring to the "Tea Party" movement, understand that it is a mix of grassroots and astroturf - it was created by political lobby groups, but got away from them somewhat. Supporters can be found pretty much everywhere because they are actually the conservative wing of the republican party, which rebranded itself to appeal to dissatisfied conservative republicans.

    -Frank
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The Tea Party may have started as a grassroots movement, but it was completely hijacked by people like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers.

    Disclaimer: not looking to hijack the thread. Just saying.
     
  12. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Okay, that makes a lot more sense.

    You've certainly got your work cut out for you, not least in creating a plausible situation where a Christian of the "Bible-Thumper" variety was elected President by the country. There are a fair number of conservatives who would turn away from such a President because they care more for the Constitution (which legalized abortion) than for the anti-gay policies of the President.

    Also, the Senate has two Senators from each state. I just don't think there's any plausible circumstance where half the states would elect Bible Thumpers to office. And if they don't have at least 40 of the 100 seats, the other side can just filabuster any of their weird plans. The House of Representatives apportions seats based on population, so that would mean any Bible Thumper majority there would have to be elected by states that had suddenly swung to the far right.

    I'm sure this premise can be done, and done well. I'm just saying that the political process in the U.S. doesn't lend itself to really extreme Presidents. Bush had the Republican mask on, and benefited from the post-September 11th concerns; plus the opposition ran the only Democrat who could lose against Bush in 2004. Otherwise Bush would've been a one-termer. Obama had the press rooting for him and a lot of popularity because it was a historic moment -- the first non-white President ever! -- but the instant his policies were seen as extreme, the voters put people who would oppose him into the Legislature.

    Any deeply conservative Christian President would deal with enormous opposition from the Legislature, and two years later the voters would vote more moderate officials into the House and the Senate. If you'd like, you can think of that as a time frame for the movie -- from the time when the President gets elected (and presumably promptly shows her true colors) to two years later, when there is a legal way to stop her policies from getting passed by a similarly conservative Legislature.
     
  13. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    I just realized that I didn't address your specific ideas.

    As Heinlein Fan noted, the legislature wields considerable power. Though there is a "unitary executive" idea out there which says the president can do anything they want, it isn't widely held - and not held at all by members of congress.

    Basically, changes in the law come from houses of congress and are approved (or vetoed) by the president. From there, if the congress has a supermajority, it can override a veto.

    Regarding your specific examples of "abortion, equality for gays" - there is no law to overturn.

    Abortion is legal by virtue of the courts finding that the government cannot stop it as it's a private decision between a woman and her doctor. That said, federal and state legislatures have certainly regulated it - mostly in an attempt to limit it. In other words, such a president as you postulate would need to have a law approved by both houses of congress that bans abortion. The law would then need to survive a challenge in the supreme court.

    Regarding gay rights, there is no equity for sexual orientation under federal law. Well, there's the occasional "The Federal Department Of Funny Names shall not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation". No broad gay rights legislation though for your hypothetical president to overrun. I mean, we're still arguing in the USA whether gays should continue to be discriminated against regarding military service.

    Not a bad idea, though, to explore the current political divide in the USA though. Good luck.

    -Frank
     
  14. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Sorry if I'm duplicating others' answers, but here's my own two cents. In case you're curious, I'm a college student at UCSD.

    1. "House sharing" is pretty prevalent in the area I live in (La Jolla) because houses are so expensive for students and young people right out of college. My brother went to the same college I did and he rented a Town House with 4 other guys until the owners got foreclosed on. When I leave campus, I intend to find a group of people to get an apartment or house with so we can split the rent.

    2. There are a few lower-income towns. The particular area I live in is expensive, but we're not too far from Chula Vista and Escondido, which are crummier. They can't be described as "small towns" or "rural" though. Southern California is just not a very rural area. There are situations like the one you describe in other areas of the US though. And it sounds like you're more thinking of the South or Midwest.

    3. For us in the UC schools, we are only guaranteed 2 years of housing on campus. Sometimes you can squeeze another year out of the system, but we're just too overcrowded to make it work. Since the recession, more and more Californians have been coming to public colleges (state university systems and the like--for us, we have California State Universities and Universities of California) because they're much cheaper than private universities. Long story short, we have too many people and not enough housing. But for private campuses, there's more of a chance of living on campus for the 4 years, and I think exceptions are made for athletes.

    4. The "Bible Belt" usually refers to the South states, especially from West Virginia down to about Georgia and Florida (but in the cities in Florida, there are a lot of Jews who retire from NYC). The area is very rural and it's generally among small town people, usually middle to lower class. It's hard to pinpoint a single area as the focal point; I think it's fairly dispersed among the South. In my state, I live in the tiny little area that is Christian/Republican--namely Orange County, CA. We're so weird that we got our own little footnote in my AP American Government textbook that said that we were an exception to the rule that California was always liberal! So there are miniature Bible belts throughout the country, but the main one is in the South.
     
  15. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    Thanks everyone - some great information there.

    I'm actually completely open to sharing credits / profits if it comes to it - i should have mentioned that up front.

    The issue with placing it where i know best (so mainly the UK) is that the UK is politically secular - occasionally there are religious groups that place pressure on the government (such as the plymouth brethren who recently influenced a bill on pension rights) but these tend to be limited to tweaking financial rules (such as muslims, mortgages and interest).

    A candidate could not win a ticket over here if they were openly religious.

    Also i think the concerns of the piece are mainly American.
     
  16. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Personally, I think if you research it enough, it'll be just fine. I agree, the concerns of having a religious candidate are highly American. But don't overestimate them too much. The Bible Belt is an important group, but they are still a minority.

    I'd be really interested to read your book. I like politics a lot. And I can't chide you for setting it in a place you don't know well because the book I'm writing at the moment takes place in WWII Germany...guess where I've never been?
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It won't be that hard to study and research. Not to mention i don't think many American films and books give a genuine feel to them - I didn't recognise the place from the literature and other media I have experienced.
     
  18. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Good point about films! A friend of mine has relatives from India and she says that whenever they visit, they always wonder where all the car chases and crimes are. I think this is smart though--asking people who actually live in America questions about America.
     
  19. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    the bible belt may be numerically in the minority, but they make so much noise and get so worked up over different beliefs you'd think they speak for America. They certainly believe they do, at least the ones I've debated.
     
  20. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    "...they make so much noise and get so worked up over different beliefs you'd think they speak for America..."

    Remember - the squeeky wheel causes the ugly, oily stain. ;)

    -Frank
     
  21. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    Of course, in insulting them I've taken the same position as them. This is logic; all the same, this is not the topic of the thread. Let's get this back on track.
     
  22. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    The Bible Belt is important in politics and they talk loudly, but in number they aren't a majority. The issue they seem to be concerned with is abortion. Did I say "concerned"? I meant "obsessed." But you'll surely find that out in your research...so I'll stop talking now, since this will likely get deleted if I'm too political/off-topic.

    In any case, it's a good topic for a novel because it's a really important concern in America. And how ironic that in a country that adamantly supports "separation of church and state" that we'd have so many problems actually keeping them separate. A lot of things to talk about, anyway.
     

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