Relying on Nicoli

A film treatment



Email to Al Sullivan



Neil Castner is a pathetic daydreamer of about 35 years old whose wife tossed him out of the house. He is an irresponsible cur; he makes his living writing inserts for greeting cards. Neil also believes that in his dreams he is secretly Nicoli Tesla, the misunderstood genius that helped invent television, alternating current electric delivery and remote control devices. Neil believes that he is living in two periods of time simultaneously, his contemporary life in at the edge of the 21st Century, and as Tesla at the edge of the dawn of the 20th century. He believes he lives his current life while he is awake and his life as Tesla when he is asleep.


Neil would honestly love to do something marvelous for the world, and keeps hoping that somehow in his dreams he can correct all the mistakes he believe Tesla made, even though he not yet been able to communicate between the two people, except as a vague memory. Each believes the other is a dream, and has only vague memories of what the other did during the last cycle of dreaming. Yet the Neil side seems more aware that the Tesla side exists than the Tesla side does of the Neil side.


As Tesla, Neil wants to find a way to give away free electrical power to the world. He is constantly experimenting in his New York City lab, but he is also constantly short of money despite close friendships with people like Mark Twain and Albert Einstein.


As Neil, he is also always short of money. �While still married he worked for a bank and got caught stealing. He saw nothing wrong in his attempting to steal, telling himself he was only wrong for getting caught.

He has no skills, but he has a notion that he might actually be a great poet, and believes that the greeting card poems he writes will someday be recognized as great art. And each time he sends off these, he curses himself for giving away his art so cheaply.


Living in a single room occupancy hotel, Neil barely makes rent through these sales. He is currently cursing the greeting card company more because three of his last submissions were rejected as too obscene. His room is dirty. His life is boring.� He keeps telling himself he has the power to help save the world from itself � great ideas he might explore � if only he could get away from this hand to mouth existence.


The Tesla part of Neil is also broke, and Neil often struggles to send a message for the Tesla part of him to actually market one of the great inventions the way Tom Edison did, and to invest the money, so that over time both Neil and Tesla could live well, Tesla on the immediate profits, Neil on the interest from the savings. But the Tesla side can�t or won�t hear these pleas. He refuses to sell his soul the way Edison did, wanting to become a benefactor of mankind, not its exploiter.


Neil is constantly looking for a job. The purchase of the newspaper every morning is a kind of ritual that takes him to a local coffee shop where he manages to scrounge up enough for the first cup to qualify for repeated refills until the diner owner throws him out.


Then, Neil has a break through. Tesla is going to contact entrepreneur Westinghouse in order to develop his invention of alternating current � a system Tesla claims is far better than the direct current system Edison is trying to con cities into adopting.


Neil begins to rely on Tesla to pull the deal together. He spends most his time daydreaming his hopes and wishes that he blows two interviews for minimum wage jobs in local fast food joints he could have had.


If Tesla pulls this off, we�ll both be rich, Neil thinks, and envisions himself as living on the proceeds, spending on his time writing. He might even purchase his own publishing house so that he can better distribute his words of wisdom.


He wakes up in a sweat after a panicked night in Tesla�s head. While Westinghouse is willing to give Tesla�s invention a try, Edison has found a rich backer� HB Morgan, and there will be a corporate battle for which current the world will adopt. Tesla is crushed. The concept of free electricity fades from the picture. This is good news to Neil, who always thought giving the stuff away was a pipe dream.


Neil�s landlord confronts him in the hall, saying he hasn�t paid rent in weeks, and that if he doesn�t come up with what he owes, the door will be locked and he�ll have to write his poetic masterpieces on the stoop with the rest of the bums.


He scribbles off some more ideas and walks them downtown to the publishing house where he delivers them in person to the secretary � a thing he has been told not to do since people in the office are scared of him. He apologizes to the woman but said he really, really needs the money, and hopes the company will see his latest efforts as worthy.


On his way back, he falls asleep in the park and finds that Tesla�s alternating current plan has been accepted the official power source for the Chicago Exposition � giving it potential credibility across the nation.


Bolstered by this good news, Neil heads back to the rooming house, gathers up his papers and his other possessions, and tells the landlord to get lost. Neil believes he�ll soon be rolling in the dough and won�t want to have his name associated with a dive like this anyway.


Then, as he walks the streets, flashes of Tesla come into his head, panic exploding from his shadowy side, as Westinghouse�s voice echoes with the news that his company is broke and that unless Tesla gives up the patents for the process freely, both the company and Alternating current will become history.\


Neil screams, �Don�t do it!� drawing odd looks from people he passes on the street.

But Tesla agrees, dooming any future hope that either one will have to profit from the invention despite Tesla�s hope to provide free electricity and Neil�s to get wealthy.


After scrounging through his possessions, Neil comes up with enough to pay for a phone call.

He calls his wife. Tells her it�s all over. Tesla gave away the patents.

Again? She says. You�re harping on that old story again. When are you going to get some help, Neil?

�I can�t do it alone,� he tells her. �If you take me back, I�ll see the doctors.�

�That�s what you said the last time, and the time before that,� she said.

�But this time I mean it,� he tells her.

�All right,� she says. �You come home. I�ll call the doctor. But this is the last time, Neil. I can�t keep putting the kids through this. And Neil,� she says before he can hang up, �Leave Tesla where ever he is. I don�t want him in this house with you.�


monologue menu

email to Al Sullivan