An American Worker in Tiananmen Square
DRAMA MEMOIR POLITICAL
GOOD VS EVIL COURAGE
1980s & '90s
REDS, THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, HUNGER, HARLAN COUNTY, USA
KEVIN “NIVEK”: LIKELY 30-40S. LEAD. HEADSTRONG AND IMPASSIONED.
WANG: UNKNOWN (20-30S). STUDENT LEADER WHO NIVEK BONDS WITH.
LIU: UNKNOWN (20-30S). ONE OF THE MEN LEADING THE PROTESTS IN THE SQUARE.
XING: UNKNOWN (30+). GOVERNMENT WORKER AND NIVEK’S CONTACT AT HIS COVER JOB.
YANG: UNKNOWN (20-30S). LIU’S BODYGUARD.
BAI: UNKNOWN (30+). PROFESSOR WHO INTRODUCES NIVEK TO STUDENTS PROTESTING.
LISA McGUIRE (30s). NIVEK'S EX-WIFE.
In May 1989, Kevin McGuire (Nivek) went to Beijing, China, as an observer and supporter of the pro-democracy campaign headquartered in Tiananmen Square and known as the Beijing Spring. An American Worker in Tiananmen Square is a chronicle of the last 8 days of the Beijing Spring.
Target Gender: Universal
San Francisco, Beijing, New York City
Based on a True Story
It is May 1989. The author is a 35 year old socialist/journalist who is in the middle of leading a union organizing campaign at his legal publishing job in San Francisco when he gets a call from the SF Examiner to cover the Tiananmen Square protests.
Kevin talks to Square protesters; sees the Goddess’s arrival Monday; befriends 3 Chinese activists—Wang, Square commander Liu, and Yang; sees the PLA kill hundreds of citizens June 4; returns to SF, gets standing ovation from 5000 Chinese students at Vigil; emotional 1993 NYC reunion with Wang.
An American Worker in Tiananmen Square is an eyewitness account by a US socialist/journalist of the last 8 days of Tiananmen Square’s pro-democracy mass movement--known as the “Beijing Spring”--and the Chinese army’s brutal crackdown of that movement on June 4, 1989. It is the 1989 version of Warren Beatty’s “Reds,” which told the story of American socialist/journalist John Reed, who went to Petrograd on the eve of the 1917 October Revolution in time to write an eyewitness account of that seminal historical event entitled, “Ten Days That Shook the World.” An American Worker in Tiananmen Square has the potential to be an international hit film. There would be no shortage of controversy to spark demand from a worldwide audience—not just in the USA but Latin America, Europe, Africa and of course China and the East. The Chinese Communist Party would not want it made, but that would only boost demand for the film. The CCP has for 32 years whitewashed, falsified, and swept under the rug what happened in Tiananmen Square--covering up the PLA’s brutal crackdown on June 4th while silencing the voices of the Chinese who participated in the Tiananmen Square protests. The people of China and the world deserve to see this unique eyewitness account of what happened. The film’s biggest strength is that it gives voice to the hundreds of Chinese workers and students whom Nivek talked to in Tiananmen Square for 8 days.
The author has not yet written this
Mature Audience Themes
Plot - Other Elements
Plot - Premise
Voyage and Return,Quest
Main Character Details
Name: Nivek McGuire
Key Traits: Aspiring,Engaging,Educated,Honorable,Leader,Masculine,Outspoken,Visionary,Romantic
Additional Character Details
Name: Lisa McGuire
Key Traits: Charming,Complex,Confident,Heartthrob,Educated,Leader,Sexy,Blunt,Outspoken,Skillful,Funny,Romantic,Seductive,Sophisticated,Adventurous,Aggressive,Decisive,Engaging
Additional Character Details
Key Traits: Charming,Confident,Empathetic,Engaging,Gracious,Educated,Honorable,Masculine,Modest,Patriotic,Selfless,Funny,Visionary,Sophisticated
Additional Character Details
Name: Square commander Liu
Key Traits: Charming,Complex,Confident,Engaging,Heroic,Honorable,Leader,Funny,Aspiring,Selfless,Modest
POLITICS, DRAMA, ACTION, SUSPENSE
Journalist Nivek Mcguire is invited to fly to Beijing to cover the pro-democracy protests by students and civilians. Due to the strong tension present in the place, Nivek is unsure whether or not to accept the invitation, but because he agrees with some movement's ideas, he decides to go. There, he understands what is really going on, listens to the civilians, and gives them a voice. He witnesses the massacre and reports what he witnessed to the rest of the world.
Authors Writing Style: GOOD
Franchise Potential: FAIR
Accuracy of Book Profile
It does, but he could include other characters like Lisa and Wang.
Draw of Story
The journalist's daily life and the inciting incident draw attention because Nivek has an interesting but quieter routine, and is suddenly invited to move into a chaotic environment.
The exposition parts. As this is a historical fact, it is understandable that we have to understand the situation more broadly, but some of Nivek's dialogues sound very expositive and sometimes tiresome for the audience.
Use of Special Effects
THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS
Primary Hook of Story
The hook is this journalist's experience almost as an eyewitness to a criminal massacre and people's attempts to live in a democratic environment.
Due to the nature of the events, the historical magnitude of the fact, and the journalist's support as the author of the story, the narrative could indeed reach a broad audience.
Depending on how the narrative is constructed, yes. The script is still somewhat open in terms of narrative and structure, but because of the wide and detailed content to be worked on, the film has the potential to receive awards.
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What’s New About the Story
It's a historical passage not much explored by the film industry, so its content is original, especially because is told by the journalist's POV.
Nivek is very well built. He fears for his life, his career, but at the same time, he has the desire to make a difference, to show the world what his eyes are seeing. His interpersonal relationships, as with Lisa, for example, show a protagonist with conflicts on a personal level, which elevates him in narrative terms and complexity. Lisa could have a little more relevance. She is almost like a confidant of Nivek and fundamental to her husband/ex-husband's choices, so she could be portrayed in a more potent, stronger way. Wang works as a sidekick in China and a bridge between the Western world's Nivek and the Chinese. It works very well in this role.
Uniqueness of Story
It's not a rare gem, but it has a lot of historical relevance and narrative potential for cinema.
It could be considered due to the extensive and detailed content reported by the journalist who witnessed the events. This is a film that could only be told in this way by him, which elevates the importance of his story. It is also an important historical event and not much explored by the entertainment industry, which could elevate the chances to achieve a larger audience and media. Clearly, the script is almost in a treatment phase, in which the author is still defining what he wants in the scenes, and drawing a narrative, but it is already possible to see the beginning, middle, and end there. It would take a lot of work by the screenwriters to make this story more attractive on the screen, but the supporting material is rich in detail, and the author is a good source of information to make the story more cohesive and realistic. It is possible to feel the author's emotion when reporting the facts, the tension in the air is felt, even with a script not correctly formatted and still incomplete. It is a story with good characters, an important historical context, and a tension present throughout the narrative that rises along with the tension of protests and more personal subplots, making Nivek's character more human and complex. This document would be used as a reference and source material for the script to actually be written, but good dialogue and a narrative line can already be seen there.
An American socialist is tapped to go to Beijing as a freelance journalist to cover what’s happening with the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. He finds himself easily connecting to the Chinese students and workers protesting, and he believes in their goals of forming a more democratic-socialist government that gives them more opportunities. When the protests turn violent and deadly due to the government sending in the military, he’s forced to escape back to San Francisco where he tries to get out the Chinese people’s message and hopes for the future.
What We Liked
The Tiananmen Square protests and massacre are a woefully underrepresented time in recent history, and bringing more attention to what really happened in 1989 is so important. For too long misinformation has been spread by the CCP to imply the students and workers were somehow at fault, and though there’s little that can be done within China to combat that, it can be addressed elsewhere in the world. This project features an important lesson, and it effortlessly taps into issues and themes that are still important today — but in China as well as the Western world.
It’s so easy to see this adapted into a limited series for television, and there’s plenty of plot to play with in this project. The story presented here could be expanded and fleshed out even more, and the way the author has already broken down the events into a day-by-day format would make this a simple task. Each day could be a new episode, and the story would unfold linearly as it reached its tragic climax. Tension could be held well throughout the episodes, as most audiences would be familiar with the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. This would also allow all of the
secondary characters’ own subplots to come to the forefront and weave in and out of the protagonist’s own story. It likely lends itself more to being a limited series than a film.
Not only does the project feature an important message for both the fair treatment of workers as well as the dangers of a capitalism-driven political system, it’s also the author’s own true story. The fact that this is a firsthand account that primarily focuses on the real life people involved with the protests is a huge boon for anyone adapting and marketing this feature. True stories are always a drive at the box office, as well as with awards buzz. It’s easy to see producers and audiences alike being passionate about this due to its authenticity. This is such a great angle at which to portray what happened in Tiananmen Square, and it presents all of the factors and build-up into what occurred (and why) in an easily understandable and relatable way.
1. Author’s true story
2. Unique location
3. Topical themes to today’s audiences
4. Interest to a Chinese diaspora audience
5. Author has outlined a dynamic screenplay already
In the spring of 1989, KEVIN “NIVEK” MCGUIRE is offered a freelance assignment by the San Francisco Examiner to cover the pro-democracy movement sweeping Beijing, China. Nivek, a vocal socialist who pushes for unionizing, jumps at the chance despite the danger the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses. The Beijing Autonomous Workers Federation (BAWF) and students could push the country toward democratic socialism, and Nivek’s cover will be helping the government identify archive footage to share abroad. On Sunday, Nivek is greeted by two STUDENTS who help introduce him to the student leaders and serve as interpreters. The crowds are immense, hundreds of thousands of people consisting of not only workers and students, but even entire families. Government loudspeakers declare that everyone must cease and disperse, but it has little impact Nivek draws a lot of attention as a white American, and it’s easy for him to get people to talk. He meets WAN, a student leader from Inner Mongolia, who warns him that despite the amount of interest, the student movement isn’t very well organized.
Some of the leaders want to leave the Square soon, whereas others want to stay. Nivek meets WANG, one of the main student leaders. Wang is cautious, but he doesn’t think the CCP will bring the troops in as the demonstrations are peaceful.
Wang says the Chinese people don't want to overthrow communism, they just want a chance at a brighter future. Wang introduces Nivek to Liu, who led a march that stopped the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in their tracks. He secured their agreement that they won’t open fire on the civilians gathered here. Liu tells him that BAWF formed earlier in the month when workers marched in support of students on a hunger strike. Liu worries the CCP has no interest in having an open dialogue with the students and workers. Nivek is called to the American embassy along with all journalists and diplomats. Nivek feels the diplomats are either clueless or disingenuous, as they dismissed the significance of the Goddess statue and the mass movement in the Square. Nivek goes back to Tiananmen Square with Wang and Liu that night. Hundreds of thousands join them, while the PLA waits just outside the city. Nivek is anxious to see what happens on Saturday, but he’s pulled away by XING, his contact through the TV Ministry, to tour the Great Wall to prevent him from reporting firsthand on the CCP’s actions.
Nivek races back as soon as he can, finding that the demonstrators have been tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets. The protestors and their leaders are divided on whether to stay and fight for their rights or to leave the Square for their own safety.
Troops are amassing in greater numbers every second, and the promise of violence hangs in the air. Finally, Nivek makes contact with BAWF demonstrators, many of whom are committed to the cause no matter what. Military action begins in full force that night, and Nivek can see soldiers killing dozens of protestors and tanks charging down the street toward the Square from his hotel room. He calls the Examiner to report on what is happening, and it becomes front page news. Nivek walks the streets on Sunday, stunned by the carnage of the massacre. He’s miraculously able to get out of the city safely with his tapes in tow. He is invited to speak to several media outlets, but everyone focuses on the deaths, rather than the message. In 1993, Nivek reconnects with Wang. Wang barely avoided being arrested, and Nivek firmly believes that the seeds for a socialist-democratic revolution were planted in the Square regardless of the outcome. Unfortunately, over 30 years after the Beijing Spring, the CCP has managed to suppress any anti-government stirrings still. The world is fiercely divided between China and the US, yet China’s poor treatment of workers is tacitly allowed thanks to a market that enables Western capitalism to exploit cheap Chinese labor. The issues that led to the massacre in Tiananmen Square haven’t been resolved and instead have only multiplied.