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Katrina – 5 years later

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  The media blamed Republican president George W. Bush.  They ignored the actions of Democrat Governor Kathleen Blanco and Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin, who did mostly nothing to prepare people.  Hollywood leftists flocked to the scene.

Tonight, the same media is reliving, as they say, the hurricane.  We thought we would reprise our own coverage of the storm – first, our Mahone Dunbar.

Katrina Hits Hollywood

Sean Penn
Penn & Ink Productions
609 Palm Lane
Hollywood, CA

To Carl Weishammer,
Cinema Solutions West, Inc.
1134 Hollywood Blvd.
Suite 110
Hollywood, CA 90210

Re: Project proposal

Dear Carl:

Hope everything is going well for you. I am about to get a new film project off the ground and immediately thought of you as the principle cinematographer – providing you can pencil me into your busy schedule. I will need a sixteen week block of time starting in late November of this year. I intend to wrap post production by early March and be ready for late spring or early summer release. Please let me know if you are interested.

I am currently headed out of town on a mission of mercy to New Orleans, with my entourage, but you have my cell number, so call anytime. However, I’m not sure if the cell towers are functioning properly down there as yet, so you may have to leave a message with my service. In addition to saving some lives down there, I intend to kill two birds with one stone by getting some set ideas on film, and soaking up the atmosphere of events, and getting the big picture on this whole catastrophe thing.

Here are some relevant stats and facts, as well as a brief plot synopsis and some production ideas, that I would like to bring to your attention. I have included some script specifics (the first section is completed) to give you the flavor, and a synopsis of the rest. I have included a few of the story-board sketches to give you an idea of my camera angles, etc.


Sean Penn

PS Financing will be no problem on this one. I made some great personal connections with money sources on my last trip to the Mid-East. Being familiar with the general tenor of the project, they have already expressed an interest in bank-rolling it.

Proposal: Action movie

Working title of production: The Big Blow

Alternate title of production: Bushwhacked

Setting: New Orleans, post Katrina

Cast: To be determined (some tentative suggestions below, if available)

Star: Sean Penn

Scripting: Sean Penn

Director: Sean Penn

Cinematography: To be determined

The Big Blow

Partial Script, Narrative Outline, and Synopsis

Sean Penn

Copyright 2005

Title credits over shots of New Orleans in happier times.

Opening: We will use some canned footage, stock shots and such, of old New Orleans for the titles, during Mardi Gra, perhaps, with crowds of revelers partying big time. Dixieland jazz will be played behind this. As the titles come to an end, we segue to the White House and the Oval Office. Here, we see two men, the president, (Alex Balwin has expressed interest in the role) and his top advisor, a Karl Rove type (I’m shooting for Danny DeVito here, his busy schedule permitting). The two are considering a NYT headline that reads: “Iraq occupation winding down. Future of Iraqi Oil Fields In Doubt.”

President: Putting down the paper, looking glum: “Well, that just about tears our plans, Paul. Damn! After all the money I invested . . . ”

Presidential Advisor: A smug smile on his face, he produces the Washington Post. Its headline reads: “Katrina headed for Gulf Coast: New Orleans and off-shore oil fields may be in danger.”   “I wouldn’t worry about that, sir. We may have a bonanza closer to home.”

President: Looking up at advisor. “What? We’d have to be mighty lucky.”

Presidential Advisor: Chuckling. “Lucky? Remember the Tesla particle beam energy weapon we have in geo-synchronous orbit, sitting there doing nothing since the Reagen administration? I had our science boys spread the beam’s focus out and point it at the gulf–about a four-hundred mile spread. Anyway, it heated the ocean surface up a few degrees, enough to mimic the global warming effect–the greeners would love that if they ever found out–and get a good class five hurricane going. The rotation of the earth will do the rest. It should go right over the oil fields. They’ll be destroyed, or damaged and condemned. They’ll have to be shut down, with a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

President: “But . . . Paul. They’re reporting that New Orleans is directly in its path. All those people . . . ”

Presidential Advisor: Shrugs. “But, they’re not our kind of people, are they? Mr. President. They’re blue state voters. Besides, the destruction of New Orleans will provide the distraction we need. The surge from a category five will breech the levee–we’ve made sure the levee could never stop anything over a cat four. New Orleans will flood. In the confusion, everyone, including the media, will be too busy to notice as our dummy corporations move in and buy up the damaged and condemned oil fields. Then, you put the squeeze on your Saudi pals again to raise the price of imported barrels of oil. . . Congress will gladly allow the reopening of the old fields and the establishment of new ones off the coast. The public will demand it.”

President: Smiling. “That’s great news. No wonder I pay you so damn much. Come on. I feel like celebrating. Let’s fly down to Florida and shoot some dolphins.”

The president gets up from his desk and heads for the door. At the hatrack, he stops to pick up a cowboy hat, then turns around, having just remembered something.

President: “But what if Katrina doesn’t create enough of a surge to destroy the levee and inundate New Orleans?”

Presidential Advisor: Shakes his head, and smiles broadly. “Oh, the levee will break . . . one way or another. That’s already taken care of. Don’t worry. Nothing can go wrong.”

President. He starts to ask how, but thinks better of it, puts on his cowboy hat and turns away.

Presidential Advisor: After the president leaves, the advisor turns to a TV screen that is now showing Katrina blowing around New Orleans. He mutters to himself. “Hope you monkeys can swim.”

Cut to New Orleans Setting: A neighborhood near the levee as heavy rains from the tail end of Katrina are passing. [Atmosphere Note: The feel what I want here is a cinema noire type thing; bleak, gray and wet. The music will become the pulse of the inner city, thumping gansta rap.]

Behind a row of houses, above the levee and seen though heavy rain, a black helicopter with no markings hovers. The camera then switches to following an African-American youth, KaMeen. KaMeen is out in the torrential rain looking for his lost dog, Berniemac, calling its name over and over. He comes upon the scene at the levee and pauses to watch as several men in camouflage gear rappel from the helicopter on ropes. The men hurriedly plant explosive charges in the ground, then back out of range to await further instruction.

KaMeen happens to have a digital camera handy. Since his curiosity is aroused – he hopes one day to become a reporter and break a big story like Watergate – be begins taking pictures of the unusual scene. As he is photographing the men on the levee, Berniemac finds him. After a hurried and joyful reunion between KaMeen and his dog, he returns to photographing the strange happenings on the levee. Unfortunately, Berniemac notices the men on the levee and begins barking at them. The men on the levee hear the dog and subsequently see the youth – in the middle of taking a picture – before he can withdraw to safety.

Group Leader in copter: Close up shot, shouting into his headset at the ground-team leader: “Get that kid! And bring me that camera!”

On the ground, the goons start chasing KaMeen. They are no more than a block from the levee when the explosives go off and the levee gives way, sending torrents of water gushing out. This immediately washes away two of the goons.

KaMeen takes pictures of the president’s henchmen getting ready to blow up the levee.

Using his street savvy, KaMeen manages to elude the men, who are now taking shots at him. As the water rises, the goons begin to panic. One is impaled by a falling weather vane. Another is crushed by a concrete brick wall that collapses. Running toward higher ground, KaMeen goes through a small opening in a chain link fence at an industrial site. The final goon pursues, but his military-style utility belt gets stuck in the fence. As the water rises around him, he screams. KaMeen stops and looks over his shoulder as the man’s last scream is replaced by a choking gurgle.

KaMeen: “Come on, Berniemac. We got to find Shamall and tell him about this!”

This section ends with the helicopter high in the air, from which the group leader watches helplessly as KaMeen disappears into the rapidly flooding city.

Team Leader: Shouting into his headset. “Call in another team. . .. . I don’t care what it costs! We’ve got to find that kid and get that camera.” He motions to the pilot and the black, unmarked copter disappears into the sky.

Segue. Fade-in to Street Scene, New Orleans, post Katrina.

The camera establishes a long shot of flooded streets and people wandering around confused. It slowly pans in on the figure of Shamall (played by Ice T, who has already committed to the project), who is a compassionate and benevolent gang leader, a community activist with political aspirations, and a positive role-model for lower income youth. Shamall and his posse, knee deep water, are directing refugees, helping the old and infirm, and explaining to them where to best appropriate the resources they will need for survival. Shamall comes upon an old woman, futility trying to break the window out of a pastry shop with her cane.

Shamall proves himself a boon to the community in dire times.

Shamall: Smiling. “Yo’, granny. This is how you do it.”

He deftly removes a crowbar from under his shirt, grips it like a baseball bat, and shatters the window.

Old lady: Holding a donut aloft in one hand, she raises the other, with the cane in it, and waves at Shamall as he retreats down the street. “God bless you, young man! I didn’t know where my breakfast wuz coming from.”

Segue to KaMeen, pulling Berniemac in a red wagon as he wanders down the flooded streets of the French Quarter. He is attracted by commotion coming from a nearby jewelry store, whose display windows have been broken out. He spots Shamall, standing in front of the busted window, laden with gold chains and other shiny baubles.

Shamall hears a dog bark, and turns to see KaMeen and Berniemac.

Shamall: “Yo, lit’al bro. I been worried ‘bout yo’ skinny ass. Where you been?”

KaMeen: “Shamall . . . what you doing?”

Shamall: “Uh, liberating some of these goods. You know . . . so I can, ah, use them later to barter with the corrupt political forces in this city for food for the people.”

KaMeen then explains to Shamall about what he saw at the levee, the pictures he took, and the men who chased him.

Shamall: “Damn!” He motions for his posse to gather. “Word up, guys. My little brother just laid some heavy shit on me.”

Shamall explains KaMeen’s situation and the fact that the ominous and always mysterious powers-that-be have tried to destroy the city.

Shamall: Scowling in the classic Ice T way. “This is heavy, man. From now on, we gots to protect our own, dig? These goons will be coming after us, maybe disguised as rescuers.

Posse Member MC Weasel-tooth: He nervously fingers a large crucifix he wears. “Disguised as rescuers? Man, that jest ain’t right. That’s positively un-Christian.”

Shamall: “Right, Weasel-tooth. So, anybody get near the hood in a boat, shoot the shit out of ‘em. Got it?”

They all nod. A couple pull their nines and rack one in the chamber.

Anonymous Posse member: “Man . . . this is too heavy. Maybe we should go to the po-lease? Git them to help?”

Shamall: “Fool. You know a powerful cabal of the white po-lease and corrupt white politicians controls this town. They be wantin’ to hunt us to extinction anyway.”

Posse Lieutenant, Kamir: Wearing wrap-around mirrored shades and a stocking over his hair. He pulls two Desert Eagle auto mags from beneath his shirt and holds them aloft. “Don’t worry ’bout it. None of them ‘publican bitches getting’ through. Ain’t nobody huntin’ me to extinction.”

All Posse Members: A general clamor of agreement goes up.

Shamall: “Good deal, men. Now, while there’s still daylight, let’s get busy and get some more tangible goods that we might later use to barter for food for the old and the infirm. I’d suggest we start at that Best Buy over there. Them plasma screen TVs got to be good for a few loaves of bread.”

Cut to rescue jump-off point. Red Cross workers and civilian volunteers mill around. From the back of the crowd there is a commotion among the aid workers and victims who are idling around. It is the arrival of Hollywood actor, humanitarian, world traveler, intellectual and political activist, Brawn Pennelton (Sean Penn). Pennelton is wearing his John Lennon-style sunglasses, his signature black beret, and is sporting a flak jacket.

Action: Pennelton passes among the victims of Katrina, giving words of encouragement, shaking hands, and passing out boxes of breath mints. Since he has an affinity for the less fortunate which comprise the urban population, he is hip to the latest handshakes on the street, and uses these to bond with the victims as he passes among them. His sincere smile and easy going manner create instant rapport with the flood victims and lift their spirits considerably. His entourage has commandeered a boat for him, so he can go in and rescue two or three victims personally. He also has a film crew among his entourage so that they can record his magnanimity and self-sacrifice for prosperity.

Synopsis: The middle section of the movie is comprised of a series of cliff-hangers as the posse is chased, and in turn chases, and clashes with the goons who are after KaMeen and his camera. Brawn Pennelton comes upon Shamall as the latter is cornered by a force comprised of corrupt police and government goons. Also with Shamall is a Sydny, a sexy young female Red-Cross aid worker (Angelina Jolie would be perfect here) with striking good looks who has been caught up in the events. Brawn intervenes, takes a machine gun away from a goon, and he, Shamall, and Sydny (who proves surprisingly sufficient with automatic weaponry) fight their way out of the fray and escape. As they continue to elude police, Brawn and Shamall bond, and Shamall – realizing that Brawn is actually a caring and sensitive individual, thus trustworthy – explains about the importance of KaMeen’s camera. A hot romantic relationship also develops between Brawn and Sydny. Brawn decides that if he can get the camera and take it to Hollywood, where there are a lot of people concerned with freedom and truth, he can inform the world about how the current corrupt Washington administration blew up the levee, and thus bring down the corrupt regime. He convinces Shamall to let him take possession of the camera.


Brawn Pennelton, actor, intellectual, and selfless friend of humanity, saves the day.

This is all a good set up for a great action ending. After another protracted gun battle and chase scene,  most of the goons and Shamall’s posse die, and Shamall is incapacitated by a grievous wound. As a helicopter with the presidential advisor, Paul, aboard (who has come to New Orleans to personally oversee things) rises in the air to escape, Brawn Pennelton jumps up and clings to one of the struts. As the copter begins to rise, Brawn realizes he might die and bravely takes KaMeen’s camera and tosses it down to Sydny.

Brawn: Shouting over the roar of the copter blades. “For God’s sake . . . get that to Hollywood! The truth must prevail. The president is using an energy beam weapon to worsen global warming! It’s a vast conspiracy for oil!”

Brawn knows that if the helicopter escapes all will be lost; the truth will never be known and the murder of his friends, the innocent gang members, will continue. So, in an ultimate act of sacrifice, he uses his free hand to grab his gun and fire up through the bottom of the helicopter, and at the fuel tank. One of the bullets strikes the pilot, killing him. Another bullet hits the fuel tank. With the presidential advisor screaming in terror, the copter spins wildly out of control. As Sydny, the wounded Shamall, KaMeen and Berniemac, all watch in horror, the helicopter explodes high in the air.

Final scene: Sydny, a bandaged Shamall, KaMeen and his dog, Berniemac, are seen in a Cadillac passing a freeway sign that says “Hollywood: Next Exit.” A rap version of “Fight The Power” by the Isley Brothers begins to play in the background.

Fade to black.


Final Credits. Fade back in and play over an air shot of a flooded New Orleans. A funeral dirge plays softly, and a tattered American flag waves gently in a breeze. The camera slowly closes in on an object floating in the water. It is a newspaper with the headline: President Impeached. A smaller headline reads: Beloved Hollywood star missing in New Orleans. The camera then slowly pans to a piece of flotsam, and slowly closes in on it: It is Brawn Pennelton’s signature beret, drifting in the water.

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