Original screenplay contender

DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Columbia Pictures, Dec. 15

STORYLINE: A father fights to provide for his young son, enduring homelessness and arrest, while striving to prove himself at a brokerage where he’s landed a competitive internship.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: Conrad identified with the true story of stockbroker Chris Gardner, having himself once been dangerously broke. “I had to race every day to beat a bill or make the rent,” he says. “I envisioned this movie with a lot of running and racing, where the consequences if you show up late or empty-handed are that you get further into a hole. When I began to spend time with Chris Gardner, he said he remembered it that way precisely.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The big price he’d have to pay if he couldn’t make this work was the loss of his son’s trust. So it was making the father-son relationship real, and creating the middle of the movie as a race where he has to get everything right before his son figures out that he might not be able to do it.”

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: “I kept envisioning (Gardner) carrying something heavy, so I came up with the idea of this bone density scanner that he was strapped with. “

CHOICE LINES: Gardner, asked what he’d say if the brokers gave an internship to someone who’d shown up at an interview as he has after a night in jail, covered in paint and without a shirt: “He must have had on a really nice pair of pants.”

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