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Shinjuku Underground

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An original screenwriting project about a train conductor in Tokyo capable of seeing the ghosts of people who've committed suicide on the rails. Supernatural thriller/dark comedy. 2010.

Cover Summary

Film Title: Shinjuku Underground.

Genre: Supernatural thriller/dark comedy.

Premise: What if a deadbeat, submissive train conductor with the ability to see the spirits train-track suicides, who's spent his entire career being bossed around, runs into a yakuza girl with the same ability?

Logline: A young train conductor at the Shinjuku rail station in Tokyo with the ability to see the spirits of those who have committed suicide on the rails runs into someone else with the same ability – a young woman whose deep involvement with the yakuza comes in handy when they're both entangled in a murder mystery.

Beat Sheet (PDF version)

1. OPENING IMAGE: Faux-romcom opening with young Yasuda interrupted by the blood splatter of a train suicide. CUT TO: Older Yasuda, with the same dorky glasses he had as a child, conducting trains in the same station, scrambling to please everyone. Blood-drenched ghosts scattered around the platform. (Scene script.)

2. THEME STATED: Yasuda is obedient and submissive to his boss Ishida even when it's harmful to himself, and he doesn't have to. Schoolgirl ghost asks why; he can't answer.

3. SET-UP: Narrative explanation from Yasuda concerning the suicide spirits in the station. Run-ins with resident spirits of station, bump into Kuwabara (a thug often loitering around the station), Ishida, and, at the end of the day, Sagi, a yakuza girl who is shown to also be able to see spirits but is very bold and confrontational, unlike Yasuda. Brief conversation between Sagi and Yasuda at an izakaya.

4. CATALYST: That morning, as Yasuda is seen commuting to work that evening, a man stumbles onto the rails and is killed by an incoming train. Several ghosts are seen staring at this scene, looking shocked. Kuwabara is seen again, lurking nearby, as well as Sakata, a timid, bandaged young ghost some distance away.

5. DEBATE: Yasuda arrives at work to find the lingering hubbub of this newest suicide. The spirits insist that this was a murder instead of a suicide, as the spirit isn't present and that he look into the matter; Ishida catches Yasuda prying into the matter and tells him to go back to work 'like he should.' (Scene Script.)

6. BREAK INTO TWO: Sakata approaches Yasuda that night as the trains stop. He tells Yasuda that Kuwabara, the main suspect of the "murder" is innocent, and that Kuwabara only lurks around the station to mourn his suicide. Sakata pleads with Yasuda to intervene, saying that Yasuda is the only one who can help. Yasuda cautiously agrees to help as much as he can without angering Ishida.

7. B STORY: Sagi, bored and avoiding yakuza duty, arrives to drag Yasuda out drinking just in time to hear this debate. Yasuda wants Sagi to help as well, but Sagi refuses, saying that she believes in self-sufficiency instead of "weakly depending on others." She mocks both Yasuda and Sakata, and though she eventually agrees to help Yasuda from time to time "for fun," claims that she dislikes Yasuda's altruism. (Scene script.)

8. FUN AND GAMES: Yasuda investigates the circumstances of the murder by interviewing the ghosts present at the time of the suicide/murder and following these leads, as well as trying to speak to Kuwabara. Naturally, Yasuda isn't very good at any of this due to his lack of a spine and desire to please people, hijinks occur. (Scene script.)

9. MIDPOINT: After some browbeating from Sagi, Yasuda speaks to a reclusive, gloomy spirit lurking about the stairway who reveals that he saw the murderer leaving the station, and that the man had a heron tattoo: a sign of members of Sagi's yakuza family.

10. BAD GUYS CLOSE IN: Yasuda hunts down Sagi to confront her about this murder case, saying that he has the necessary evidence to turn the lackey over to the police unless Sagi intervenes. Sagi doesn't believe Yasuda and contemptuously dismisses him.

11. ALL IS LOST: As Yasuda prepares to go to the police, he receives a video-call from the yakuza members revealing that they've been planning a coup d'état behind Sagi's back for some time, and that if Yasuda goes to the police, they'll ruin both his and Sagi's lives.

12. DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: As Yasuda hesitates over what to do, he is discovered by Ishida, who promptly berates him for his actions and threatens to fire him if he doesn't step away from this murder case. Ishida also criticizes Yasuda for not being as obedient as his father had been and for associating with thugs, giving the company "a bad image"; Yasuda quietly fumes.

13. BREAK INTO THREE: Finally, Yasuda snaps and yells back, saying Ishida worked his father to death and that he's got more important things to do than try to please everyone all the time. As he storms off, Ishida yells that he's fired; Yasuda flinches, but keeps walking away. The schoolgirl ghost cheers from the sidelines.

14. FINALE: Yasuda makes up his mind to barge in the middle of the yakuza coup and, though he's absolutely useless in a fight, manages to get Sagi enough time to take down the coup leaders. Yasuda has grown a spine, Sagi accepts that sometimes it's okay to trust other people, and by dragging the coup leaders (who murdered the man on the rails) to the police, they're able to free Kuwabara. Because Yasuda is given high praise by the police for his cooperation, Ishida grudgingly un-fires him. (i.e. Everyone gets a happy ending.) (Scene script.)

15. FINAL IMAGE: The train station again, but this time when a rowdy drunk picks a fight, Yasuda is able to stand up against the ill-mannered customer and usher them out with dignity.