Out of Yellowstone, a screenplay, continued
EXT. VISITOR CENTER AT OLD FAITHFUL - DAY A small sign in the window reads, "OLD FAITHFUL GEYSER, LAST ERUPTION, 10:13 AM, NEXT ERUPTION, WITHIN 15 MINUTES OF - UNKNOWN." A clock shows "3:25". A YOUNG MARRIED COUPLE read the sign then stare at each other in disbelief. YOUNG MARRIED MAN Unknown? They look toward the inactive geyser. EXT. OLD FAITHFUL - DAY The famous geyser is inactive. A FEW PEOPLE mill around looking at it. INT. VISITOR CENTER - DAY The VISITOR CENTER RANGER behind the information desk talks to a thick mixed GROUP of people. He seems weary but patient. The young couple go over to listen. VISITOR CENTER RANGER ...it's too early to predict whether it will erupt again. That depends on what's happening with the natural plumbing. His audience, for the most part, acts quite interested but somewhat numb. VISITOR CENTER RANGER (continuing) Earthquakes have caused geysers to die, others to be born, and they have changed the intervals between Old Faithful's eruptions. The Ranger shrugs, looking sympathetically at his audience. MALE RANGER (continuing) But this is the first times she's ever missed... EXT. ROCK OUTCROP NEAR SLOPING MEADOW - DAY Two marmots on the rocks suddenly become alert. EXT. SLOPING MEADOW - DAY Steamy gasses begin to puff from a cavity at the base of a large rock. EXT. ROCK OUTCROP NEAR SLOPING MEADOW - DAY The marmots stand on alert. EXT. SLOPING MEADOW - DAY Steamy gasses gently pour out of small natural vents. EXT. ROCK OUTCROP NEAR SLOPING MEADOW - DAY The marmots lay dead. EXT. A SEISMOGRAPHIC STATION - DAY We view a pile of rocks from which protrudes a high-precision GPS antenna. EXT. THE LAKE SEISMIC AND GPS OBSERVATORY - DAY We see the transmission antennae and receiving dish. INT. YELLOWSTONE VOLCANO OBSERVATORY, UTAH - DAY SUPERIMPOSE "Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, University of Utah, Salt Lake City". The room houses rows of busy seismometers, computer monitors with such things as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) maps and maps of recent earthquake epicenters in Yellowstone, plus other seismographic stuff. HUFF (55) and TWO STUDENT INTERNS excitedly examine a seismograph laid out on the table. PHONE RINGS. A SCIENTIST answers. SCIENTIST Hey Huff, it's McCoy. Huff jovially picks up the phone. HUFF (into phone) Hello Rob. How's things shaking up there? Got yourself a nice earthquake swarm. INT. ROB MCCOY'S OFFICE - DAY ROB MCCOY is on the phone. He's late 30's, average build, good looking, wears jeans and is no nonsense. The office has a neat pile of field equipment and two active seismometers. The desktop computer shows a map or recent epicenters. A laptop computer has a seismograph on the screen. ROB (into phone) Yeah, it's like the Elvis song - Whole lot of shaking goin' on. I've been looking at the data; what's your take on it? INT. YELLOWSTONE VOLCANO OBSERVATORY, UTAH - DAY HUFF (into phone) Well the uplift phase you're in has been accelerating. And if we're interpreting right, there's been some magma movement into the reservoir. INT. ROB MCCOY'S OFFICE - DAY ROB (into phone) Any gut feelings? EXT. WILDERNESS CAMPSITE BY LAKE - DAY Six canoes are beached on the sandy shore of placid Shoshone Lake. Nearby in a wooded campsite, two two-man tents are set up. Four others are partially pitched. TEN BOY SCOUTS, 12 - 14 years, and their TWO ADULT LEADERS set up camp. A small rolling earthquake rattles the group. BOY 1 Wow! The ground felt like it was Jello. BOY 2 Yeah, that was neat. BOY 3, with the dramatic attribute of Count Dracula, takes center stage. BOY 3 I know what caused it. BOY 4 It was an earthquake, you dodo. Boy 3 tries to contort himself like a ghoul and sound like a Halloween recording. BOY 3 Nooooo. It's the Yellowstone Monster coming up from his grave to swallow us alive. Many of the boys laugh nervously. BOY 4 Yeah, and I'm Superman. Most of the boys laugh. The smallest boy, TOBY, stands back from the rest. His fear from the quake is obvious. He fights back tears. BOY 4 Hey, look at Toby. BOY 5 What's the matter wittle Toby? You scared? You want your mommy? BOY 4 Yeah, Twerp... Boy 1 points toward the lake. BOY 1 Look! As the boys look toward the water, they freeze in astonishment. Out of the previously calm water, a wave rises in height as it nears the shore. The four foot breaker crashes down on the canoes and pulls them away from the beach. THREE OF THE BOYS (V.O.) (not quite in unison) The canoes! The boys and the two men dash for the shore. The four boys that are ahead flail into the lake to rescue the boats. Their yelps and exclamations divulge the icy temperature. BOY 4 Aaaa! It's cold! BOY 5 It's freezing! Toby's fear transforms into amusement. A second wave, larger than the first, tumbles the boys and canoes. INT. HEADQUARTERS, MAMMOTH - DAY The headquarter's reception area is empty. Seen through an open door, Mike talks impatiently on the phone in his office. A clock reads 6:15. MIKE (into phone) ...Okay. Well close it off. (pause) You go to the Shop, get a barricade, get a sign... Mike's voice fades to the background as WINONA LAMBERT and Rob McCoy enter the reception area from another part of the building. Winona (25) is short, cute and buxom. Despite the uniform, she looks like a dumb blond. Her voice doesn't help the image. She is cheerful. He is somber. WINONA Thanks Rob. You've been so helpful. Rob nods a distracted acknowledgement. MIKE (O.S.) You need a truck? In the shop there's a board with keys. Get a key to a truck... Through the door panes Winona spots a TV news crew coming up the walk. WINONA Oh good. They're here. MIKE (O.S.) (continuing under) By the way, you don't call here. You call your supervisor. Where's your radio? (pause) It's dead? Try using your head. Winona opens the door for reporter ANGELA GREYFEATHER and a CAMERAMAN. Angela, late 20's, appears competent and professional. Her features reflect her Native American heritage. Rob waits outside Mike's office. Mike hangs up the phone tiredly shaking his head. MIKE Seasonals! Mike walks to his doorway. Angela ignores Winona and heads directly for Mike and Rob, whose gestures make it quite clear that they do not want to be interviewed. WINONA (to Angela) I'm Winona Lambert. You can come with me. The TV people follow Winona out the door and into the hall. Anxious to leave, Mike tries to go around Rob. MIKE Excuse me. Rob blocks his path. ROB Where can I find Rex? MIKE He's out of town. Frowning, Rob motions with his head that they should talk in Mike's office. As they go in, Rob closes the door. INT. SMALL CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY Winona talks with the news crew. Available are flip charts, a pointer, recent seismograph recordings, and a computer with a large monitor, and a TV screen hooked to a VCR/DVD player. WINONA During the last twenty-four hours, there have been over two hundred recorded tremors, with fourteen earthquakes being larger than two point five. The largest, so far, has been four point five. With a pointer, she indicates the epicenters that are marked in red circles on the Yellowstone map on the monitor. WINONA All of them have originated in the park and are volcanic in nature. ANGELA Volcanic? Does this mean that there's a volcano in Yellowstone National Park? WINONA The Yellowstone Plateau is a volcano. Winona cheerfully hands a booklet to the confused Angela. The title is "The Yellowstone Volcano." INT. MIKE'S OFFICE - DAY Mike exasperatedly sits behind his desk trying to reason with the scientist who leans coldly over the side of his desk, too close for comfort. MIKE I just can't order them to close the Inn. Do you know how far in advance people make their reservations? Do you know how much the concessionaires would stand to lose? ROB We're talking lives. MIKE Oh come on, there's been no damage. Rex will be back tomorrow night. If I start ordering stuff shut down and nothing happens, it'll make me look like a power monger. ROB Didn't you just close down something on the phone. MIKE Just a trail. ROB Which one and why? MIKE Fairy Falls. Seems there's a break in the trail. Rob silently mouths an "ah" and raises his eyebrows. ROB A break? MIKE About three feet wide and just as deep. ROB Just a three foot break. On the Yellowstone wall map, Rob points first to Hayden Valley and then to the east of Old Faithful. ROB The Sour Creek Dome rose two feet overnight. This Mallard Lake Dome rose half a foot. There's more quakes coming, Mike. MIKE Enough to shake buildings down in the next 24 hours? ROB The vulnerable things are the fireplaces. They shake at a different frequency than the rest of the building. Those massive fireplaces in the Old Faithful Inn... it wouldn't take much more to send 'em toppling. MIKE They've survived far worse stuff than this. Rob shoves some seismographs over toward Mike who only gives them a glance. Exasperated, Rob picks up the end of the desk a foot and a half and lets it drop. MIKE Hey, hey. ROB You know what that measured on the Richter scale? Zero. But you were at the epicenter. One fourth of the epicenters have been at that end of the park. (beat) Can you comprehend this? MIKE Okay. We'll call them up. You talk them. Let them make the decision. ROB Good. INT. SMALL CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY WINONA This video tells all about it, but you know, in a simple nutshell. I've got the volume turned off so I can explain it. Winona clicks on video which is mostly simple animation. She talks fast and is annoyingly bubbly. (Note that the video does not show anything about an asteroid). WINONA There's this hot spot that appeared like seventeen million years ago. There's a bunch of theories on how it got there. My favorite is that a great big asteroid slammed into the earth and made a deep, deep scar and all this molten rock came up. Well it doesn't matter how it got here. But it's fixed in one spot in the earth's mantle, and ... You know all about continental drift, right? Well, this hot spot is like a big blow torch fixed in one place. Well the continental plate has been moving across this hot spot at the rate of about two inches a year. And you can see the path it took on the map there. It was just one gargantuan volcano after another and another that blew themselves apart. Well now this hot spot is underneath Yellowstone National Park. Which is why we have geysers and hot springs and stuff. ANGELA Excuse me, but could you turn the sound on? WINONA Oh sure. She clicks the remote and we hear the male NARRATOR. NARRATOR (V.O.) Three of the greatest explosive eruptions in the earth's history have occurred in the Yellowstone area. Each eruption began when a reservoir of molten rock called magma formed beneath the earth's surface. WINONA That reservoir is about twenty-five by fifty miles across and only five miles below the surface. NARRATOR (V.O.) As the molten rock continued to accumulate, the earth above it formed a dome. WINONA By the way, this is actually taking place right now. Angela raises her eyebrows. NARRATOR (V.O.) The pressure from below caused the ring fractures around the base of the dome. WINONA This may just be starting to happen, with all these earthquakes. INT. LOUNGE AT SIGNAL MOUNTAIN LODGE - NIGHT The above video fills the screen of the large television in the lounge. Winona's voice and the computer are on the special news program. Rex, Robin, the Washington big wigs, and some hotel guests watch. The Washington men are now dressed casually, most looking like they stepped out of an Eddie Bauer catalog. Rex is in a Western suit. Robin wears slacks and a sweater. George isn't there. NARRATOR (On TV, V.O.) Some lava escaped from the ring fractures, but the pressure continued to build. WINONA (On TV, V.O.) You see it's not the way we normally think of volcanos. NARRATOR (V.O.) Unlike the gently flowing lava in the Hawaiian volcanos, most of the hot rock here was full of trapped steam and other gasses. This caused the molten rock to blow apart, blasting out hot ash... WINONA (On TV, V.O.) It's kind of like an egg in a microwave. ROBIN Like an egg in a microwave? REX Shush. NARRATOR (V.O.) (continuing under) Superheated gasses and ash sped out at over two hundred miles an hour, instantly destroying all life for thousands of square miles. ROBIN You leave for a day and look who's doing interviews. THOMAS Shhhh. On the screen, an ash cloud spreads over a map of North America. WINONA (on the TV, continuing) Ash darkened the skies of the northern hemisphere, chilling the earth for years. The Washington men stare curiously at the TV where Angela Greyfeather, now on camera, holds up the "Yellowstone Volcano" pamphlet. ANGELA (ON THE TV) That described volcano took place about six hundred thousand years go and was five hundred times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens. Robin gets up and stretches. ANGELA (on the TV, continuing) Similar mega eruptions occurred in Yellowstone six hundred thousand ears before that, and eight hundred thousand years before that. Experts believe it will happen gain. WASHINGTON MAN #2 You know, that would ruin all this planning. Thomas shoots him a cold look, then laughs lightly. ANGELA (ON TV) Were that to occur, it would be the worst natural disaster in recorded history. The anchorman speaks from his desk. ANCHORMAN (ON TV) It should be pointed out that earthquakes are not unusual in Yellowstone. No one is suggesting or even implying that... EXT. SIGNAL MOUNTAIN LODGE - NIGHT The lights of the lodge glow in the night. An owl HOOTS. MALE VOICE (V.O.) Is this really true? EXT. SIGNAL MOUNTAIN LODGE - MORNING Across the lake, the morning sun illuminates the mountains. INT. HALLWAY OUTSIDE CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY Many of the group take their seats around the table in the conference room. Rex and Robin are again in uniform. The rest are casually dressed. Robin pauses outside the door for blurry-eyed George. ROBIN Short night? GEORGE Had to speed sleep. ROBIN This is going to be a long day. GEORGE Uhm. EXT. HEADQUARTERS, MAMMOTH - DAY SEVERAL REPORTERS and CAMERA PERSONS scurry toward the door. INT. HEADQUARTERS RECEPTION AREA - DAY About a dozen MORE REPORTERS from various news agencies storm the reception area. The pesky reporters fluster the SECRETARY, a mature woman in uniform. SECRETARY I've told you. An official statement will be released at one thirty. AD LIB, reporters throw out questions simultaneously. REPORTER #1 There's a volcanologist here, where... REPORTER #2 How soon do they predict... The secretary stands helplessly, barely able to speak. SECRETARY All I can say is that there will be an official statement... TWO large PARK POLICEMEN bulk their way through from the outside. POLICEMAN #1 All right, everybody out. POLICEMAN #2 Outside. INT. MIKE'S OFFICE - DAY Mike and Rob McCoy stand arguing across the desk. MIKE Are you crazy? The phones are ringing off the hook. Part of that is from people irate that the Old Faithful Inn is closed, thanks to you. And now you want to close the whole frickin' Park. God bless. ROB You're afraid to make a move. You've got your head in the sand. MIKE You know what all the other phone calls are? They're about flaky Winona's interview last night. She was supposed to talk about earthquakes and geysers, not about the Park turning into a volcano, for cryin' out loud. ROB She didn't say anything that wasn't true. MIKE It wasn't necessary either. The whole country's getting in a panic. For what? We've had clusters of earthquakes before, far worse than anything right now. We're deluged with reporters from about every network. ROB Mike... MIKE Look what my wife picked up. Mike tosses three tabloid newspapers in front of Rob. One headline reads: GOODBYE YELLOWSTONE, VOLCANO THREATENS NATIONAL PARK. A second says: VOLCANO TO DESTROY YELLOWSTONE. The third is: YELLOWSTONE SOON TO ERUPT, ICE AGE TO BEGIN. ROB So what will you say in your official report? MIKE I'm going to try to inject a voice of calmness and sanity. INT. GUS'S MOTOR HOME - DAY Gus drives. Stella sits defiantly in the passenger seat. Neither pays any attention to the scenery as they pass by Yellowstone Lake. GUS I can't believe I let you navigate. We saw this yesterday. Now we gotta drive all through it again? Like gasoline grows on trees? STELLA Yesterday we did the South Loop. Today we go to the North Loop. GUS Oh joy. There's a North Loop. We're gettin' outta here, we're headin' to Seattle to see Sam and Lois. STELLA Do I ask for much? I never ask for nothin'. But since I was a little girl I wanted to go to Yellowstone. All I ask is three days. In our whole marriage, can't I have three days? GUS Jesus! Gus flips on the radio. Low STATIC CRACKLES from the speakers. He pushes the "Seek" button. The digits seek and seek but don't land on a station. Gus switches off the radio. GUS Uncivilized country. INT. DINING ROOM, SIGNAL MT. LODGE - DAY Finishing lunch, the group passes around several newspapers, both tabloid and respectable. Yellowstone hits all the front pages. Robin reads an article headlined, "YELLOWSTONE EARTHQUAKES MAY SIGNAL VOLCANIC ERUPTION." Next to her is a half-eaten lunch and an empty chair. Rex approaches his food and shrugs. REX I just talked to Mike. He says he's got everything under control and that he'll soon release a statement that will downplay all this media hoopla. Oddly enough, he says the hype is actually attracting more people. THOMAS Maybe we should forgo the rest of the agenda and focus on this new issue. REX Maybe. The trouble is that all this stuff... (indicating a newspaper) is based on that interview you saw last night. Rex sits down and takes a small bite. ROBIN That video's at least fifteen years old. REX Yellowstone is earthquake prone. I don't know if the sudden frequency of tremors is significant of anything. ROBIN These clusters of earthquakes are called swarms. They happen every few years. (to Rex) What's McCoy say? REX (to Thomas) Rob McCoy is a research volcanologist who's been studying the park. They couldn't locate him for me. THOMAS Did Mike say anything about predictions? REX No. ROBIN That interview did not say anything new. The real news is the changes in the geysers. And now that's dwarfed. The fact that Yellowstone is a gargantuan volcano that will probably erupt again is right on the Visitor Map. Everyone gets the info when they go through the gate, if they bother to read it. WASHINGTON MAN #2 As a warning? ROBIN No, as a fact. The same way that... fish are a fact. But now there it is on the news and suddenly it's Orson Wells. WASHINGTON MAN #2 Orson Wells? REX I am anxious to get back. THOMAS Well, one more report left. Then feedback. Hopefully we can wrap up by two thirty.