20. The F Word (Part 1)

Two years ago, in April 2011, I drafted a video script titled “The F Word”.

This was before I had any formal training whatsoever in the field of scriptwriting. This was before I learned about a standard script formatting, before I learned the proper terms to use in and between scenes, and definitely before I got serious about this writing business.

Why the script, then?

In April 2011, I had just completed the summer semester at the end of Year 2. It was a difficult semester – I was taking accounting principles, entrepreneurship and small business, macroeconomics, and the dreaded business law.

(“dreaded” wasn’t actually part of the course name; but really, it should be)

It was, by far, the hardest thing that I have ever encountered in my academic life, but in hindsight, I was taking it all in rather well, given the circumstances. Accounting? Did that in Form 5, it’s not too difficult. Write a 30-page business proposal? More tedious than anything else, but manageable. Economic principles? I can bluff my way through the presentations by throwing jargon around, no problem.

But law? What on earth do I know about law, but the first 2 pages of Criminal Law that fried my brains when I read it, out of curiosity, in secondary school?

The business law lecturer went into labor at the beginning of the year, and we had a replacement lecturer for the first 4 weeks; and you know how it goes with replacement lecturers – they teach you nothing about what you’re actually supposed to know about the course.

So when my lecturer finally recovered and relieved the replacement lecturer of his duties, she was astonished to find out how little we knew. Mid-terms were only 3 weeks away; but we’re bachelor degree students, so we should know what we’re doing, right?

(anyone who has ever put that much faith in bachelor degree students invariably find themselves deeply disappointed at the end of the ordeal)

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. I thought I knew what I was doing. My lecturer thought I knew what I was doing. But when I sent in my take-home mid-term paper and received it back two weeks after, I scored 2.5 points out of 20 – 1.5 points for language, and the rest for actual content.

My maximum possible final grade has been lowered to 81.5%.

In the American Degree Program where I study, you need 60% to pass (D), and 70% to pass with credits (C). 80% is a B, and you have to score above 90% to get an A. As a student on scholarship, I have an obligation to keep my CGPA above 3.20, which means that the worst possible combination of grades I should be getting at the end of the semester should be 1A and 3Bs; or 2As, 1B, and 1C. At this point, my hopes of getting even a B for business law has pretty much been vaporized, but I could still get a C, right?

Then the final exams came. In the nights preceding the paper, I studied religiously. I poured over the textbook until 2A.M., I went to the library to look for references, I looked online for anything that I could use. I walked into the exam hall, thinking that I was ready to take it on.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. It wasn’t any better than the take-home mid-terms. If anything else, it was even worse. I probably scored like 1 out of 20, bringing my maximum possible final grade to 62.5%. I could only pray that I did well enough on my presentation, and attended enough lectures to salvage that last 2.5 points that I needed to pass the course.

If you have been through university, you’ll know that it takes the university in excess of a month to process your final grade. Their way of being mysterious, I suppose. As I stepped out of the examination hall and into my month-long break, there was a very real, and very daunting possibility looming at the back of my mind, that even after my best efforts, I could very well fail this course and lose my scholarship.

SEQUENCE 1

Open on title: THE F WORD. Establishing shot of university, students in the corridors.

JOEL (VO)
It all began on the first day of the semester. Yes, you know what that means: results day for the past semester.

Tracking shot on JOEL, walking through the corridor.

JOEL (VO)
That’s me – the average genius. The guy who comes into the exam hall late and leaves early. The guy who aces his subjects without even trying.

Overhead – JOEL walks into the office. He collects his results slip from the person at the counter.

JOEL (VO)
Like I said, the average genius. Except there’s something wrong today – there’s something different. I can feel it in the air. Don’t matter, I’ll just get my results and I’ll be out of here. So far, so good… Another four flat this semes- wait.

Dramatic zoom in as JOEL’s eyes widen.

JOEL (VO)
What’s that?

Dramatic zoom in on results slip: an F grade.

JOEL (VO)
An F?

JOEL looks increasingly troubled as he holds the results slip up to his face, then drops his arms. Stunned.

JOEL (VO)
I can’t be. This must be some kind of bad dream. It’s impossible… I… I… FAILED?

(to be continued)

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