By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Voiceover of adult Steven McKay: "Hack was the kind of guy--he would move into a neighborhood, and this was certainly what happened in our neighborhood. He showed up in a neighborhood, moved in, and it was like some signal would go out to every kid within a five-mile radius--they would just find him. He was just this great old guy. I learned a lot of life lessons from that guy."
The camera cuts from day to night, to Steven, Hack and the other cowboys hanging out around a campfire.
"Most of these cowboys had been in prison and stuff. These were like the good, old, wild days, man. These guys would go get tanked down at the Rusty Spur every weekend--assuming they had the money to do it. They had knives in their boots, they carried guns and prison tattoos."
Scene 3: Night, the early '70s, the living room of a dingy apartment somewhere in Scottsdale.
In the intervening decade, McKay has dropped out of high school, worked odd jobs--pumping gas, driving a tow truck, shoveling Taco Bell--been married for two years, had a daughter, divorced.
Now in his early 20s, McKay is sprawled on a couch watching television, a PBS special on the death of Harry Chapin.
He is dozing off when the mention of writing catches his attention. Chapin is telling the interviewer about his love/hate relationship with writing, about the pain of exposing himself to criticism--a necessary part of the craft.
McKay sits up on the couch, edges closer to the screen. He still writes, but has still never shared his work with anyone. Even though alone, he says the words aloud:
"I'm a writer."
Scene 4: A sunny day, the late '70s, aerial view of the Los Angeles freeways.
The camera pans across the crowded freeway, closing in on an old car moving cautiously in the far-right lane as shiny sports cars zoom by. We see that Steven McKay is driving the old car. It is filled with his belongings; on the passenger seat is an unfinished screenplay titled The Difference.
The car drives around Los Angeles, through Beverly Hills. McKay buys a map of the stars' homes and gawks.
Voiceover of adult McKay: "I got a map and looked for Hollywood. It was stupid, it was naive--but what can I tell you? When all is said and done, I was just this dumb cowboy from Arizona who wanted to go be Mr. Big Shot in Hollywood. I'm gonna go save Burt Reynolds' career, or something. I look back now and it's funny. Then, it was the most serious thing in the world to me."
Scenes of McKay driving around Los Angeles, looking for an apartment. Lots of "No Vacancy" signs, beeping horns, imposing high-rises. The car goes up an entrance ramp to Interstate 5 and disappears under a freeway sign pointing the way south to San Diego.
Voiceover: "So I retreated to San Diego. I'd been to San Diego before. And it was a retreat--I make no bones about it. I was overwhelmed."
Scene 5: A public racquetball court in Mission Beach, San Diego.
McKay, dressed in shorts, bats a tennis ball at the wall. He looks lonely, despondent. The camera moves back, to reveal that another man, about McKay's age, is doing the same at the next court. The two men stop playing at the same time, bump into each other, strike up a conversation.
Cut to a tennis court. McKay and his new friend are playing singles. They take a water break, and the new friend, David Valdez, tells McKay he's in the movie business. Valdez lives in Los Angeles, but is on location, helping to direct a movie.
McKay's eyes light up. He tells Valdez about his writing aspirations--that he's never taken a class or read a book about screenplay writing, but has studied a yellowing copy of a completed screenplay given to him by a writer he met in Arizona.
Cut to a montage of quick scenes: Valdez showing McKay another script; McKay working on a film set in San Diego; Valdez introducing McKay to movie-industry players at a cocktail party; McKay writing feverishly; Valdez telling McKay that it's time for him to move to Los Angeles to try to sell his work.
Cut to a shot of McKay's car, heading north on I-5 under a sign pointing the way back to Los Angeles.
McKay is leaning back in a dental chair, mouth packed, goofy on nitrous oxide. Dental assistants hover around the various chairs, tending to patients.
One of the assistants, a striking blonde named Jean Caperonis, strikes up conversations from time to time. A series of shots show that her acquaintance with McKay expands over the next few months.
One day, she overhears him telling the dentist that he often spends weekends in San Diego; Jean asks Steve if he can recommend a place for her to stay. She says she wants to get away from her husband for the weekend, do some soul searching.
Scene7: A room at the Hyatt Islandia hotel in San Diego, weeks later.