Screenplay Review: Hangman
A DJ facing an alcohol addiction has a shot at representation when he attends a seemingly never-ending party in the feature screenplay Hangman written by Shlok Shukla. Sam is 28, and while he enjoys his nights of party and mixing, his liver is verging on cirrhosis. If he keeps his habits up much longer, he could wind up dead before he has fulfilled his dream.
The script takes place primarily over the timespan of one evening at a party where DJs show off - in particular to one in the music business named Kassandra Aust. Shukla explores all the ways temptation draws one in, especially at a party. Sam must navigate a way around alcohol and drugs to keep a clear head all evening. When the acceptance of alcohol could mean positive networking or more importantly, being a successful DJ in the moment, the task proves to be harder than anticipated.
Sam’s thoughts are explored through intermittent playful, surrealistic sequences. Through the sequences, bits of Sam’s backstory and personality are revealed. A bump of cocaine is not just a bump of cocaine but an enticing, pillowy mountaintop waiting to be climbed.
The surrealism adds a fun, unique flair to the script, and adds a subtle lightheartedness to what is otherwise a tense 90 minutes. The audience is stuck with Sam intimately from minute to minute as he chainsmokes and stumbles through every interaction. Through this technique, the audience is put into Sam’s shoes and they are able to empathize deeply.
Shukla tempers a somewhat repetitive plot with a surprise rival that Sam must face. Sam’s plans for his set get ruined and he must improvise. In doing so he spirals down the rabbit hole of addiction. Through his departure - at times entirely from reality - Sam manages to find clarity.
The characters all feel relatable and real. Anyone heading into their 30s has felt the pressure to live up to their dreams, to be recognized by their parents. Addiction can feel entirely casual in a place like a party in your late 20s. The age is also an age where many realize they have addictions like Sam.
Shukla’s dialogue has a naturalistic flow. The world comes alive through the DJ jargon, the youthful slang, and the way people avoid talking about their true feelings. It’s all very coming of age in tandem with its genre.
This late coming of age story ends up being more than a DJ’s struggle to be seen, it is a story exploring the nuance and gray areas of addiction. It is a story about living in the moment versus reflecting on the past. Human coping mechanisms are on full display for an audience to judge or relate to. The tight structure puts the audience in the mind of the protagonist and grips us. In reading this script, hopefully people will come to understand their own selves just a little bit better.