I remember when Pushing Tin (a comedy about two cocky air traffic controllers and their machismo or something — like I would see a movie described as such!) came out and I thought, "Wow! Hollywood can glamorize anything and make it seem like a topic worthy of the best and brightest actors!" But it made me wonder — are they trying their hardest? Why, for instance, hasn't anyone made a movie about civil engineers?

And thus was born this screenplay, whose working title was Uncivil Engineers. To my knowledge, there exist no real (that is, American) movies about civil engineers — leave that to the French. But, for what it's worth, here's my contribution to the genre.

Over Troubled Water

Our hero is an attractive, strapping student at good engineering university. A bright kid, but idealistic. A bit of a slacker and rambunctious to boot. The movie opens on him skipping class to pull some clever pranks. He is apprehended and sent to the dean's office, where he is chastised. The dean tells him that if he keeps these antics up, he may not be allowed to compete for the Briggs Bridge Fellowship, the most important award a civil engineer can win. Our guy promises to straighten up and fly right, as he very much wants to win. The dean is dubious but eventually gives in to his boyish charm.

As he is leaving the dean's office, we are introduced to his young, sexy girlfriend, who is an English major. She kisses him. But while they are kissing, we see him open his eyes and look lustfully beyond his girlfriend. The camera pans to reveal him looking at an old bridge on this picturesque Harvard-like campus. His girlfriend does not find out. They walk back to her dorm, talking. He is reticent for the most part, except when talking about the upcoming bridge-designing competition, which he discusses excitedly.

They get to her room and start making out. This goes on for several minutes, and is extremely sexy, with multiple camera angles. Afterwards, she playfully talks of their future. But though he tries to be a good boyfriend, all he can think of is bridges. She gets angry and yells at him, "All you ever think of is those darn bridges! You never think about me!" They get into an argument. She threatens to leave him unless he gives up his bridges.

While very much in love with her, he realizes he cannot give up on his civil engineering — he is reminded in a flashback of what his father, a famous civil engineer, told him when he was young: "Son, women will try to tempt you away, but you have a higher calling. Choose the more civil path — build bridges." And right after he says that in the flashback, his father keels over and dies. Back in the room, our hero walks out on his girlfriend.

Walking across campus, he is accosted by a group of Chinese graduate students. Their hair is dishevelled and they look menacing. They announce their intentions to beat him, a mere undergraduate, in the Briggs Bridge Fellowship competition. They taunt him and continue on their way, laughing evilly.

Next we see a montage of images, all set to "Eye of the Tiger" and other inspirational music, as our hero prepares for the bridge competition. We see him spending late nights at the library, combing over books, building models out of balsa that, when tested, don't hold up properly. Every once in a while, we cut to see the Chinese students being lazy, and then we find out they're cheating, stealing their design from China or over the Internet or something. We cut back to our guy, working harder than ever and sweating, studying and designing like never before. Computer-generated graphics float over the montage, with 1s and 0s, as well as 3-D raytraced images of bridges. Finally, as the energizing montage song ends and the tables of concrete tensile strength fade, we see our hero asleep early in the morning at the library, exhausted from his engineering ordeal.

Suddenly, he is awakened by a friend, who announces that our guy has to hurry, the deadline for the competition entry is in ten minutes. They run across campus willy-nilly (almost running over the dean, who tries to give a stern lecture about not running on campus — this adds levity in a moment of crisis) and our guy just barely submits his entry. The judges pore over the many entries and select both our hero's and the Chinese graduate students' entries as finalists.

Next up is the testing round, where the judges actually stress-test the two models. While testing the Chinese students' entry, something goes wrong, and they are revealed as cheaters, or their model blows up or something and our hero wins. As he is surrounded by thousands of cheering fans hugging him, he sees a familiar face off in the distance — it is his old girlfriend, offering him forgiveness. He pushes through the crowd and gives her a big kiss. Fade out.

We fade back in with a caption revealing it is one year later. We see a bridge in the very early stages of construction. Our hero is the foreman on the project, wearing a hardhat, carrying around blueprints, concrete, or whatever, and directing things. His girlfriend shows up — it is lunchtime, and they are going out to lunch — and they go to a really nice restaurant where he plans to propose to her.

Interleaved with his proposal, which of course takes a long time owing to his need to get up some gumption, we see a tragedy unfold back at the bridge construction that leads to the death of one of the crew members. Some explosion goes awry or something breaks or whatever. Construction halts indefinitely. Our hero arrives back at the bridge all giddy from his proposal, until he hears the news. He is brought to his knees by the roller coaster of emotions he is experiencing. Literally to his knees. This bridge was his dream. While crying over the death of a crew member, he notices a strange pin on the ground — a Chinese flag! This is even more suspicious to him because it is the same style pin all the Chinese graduate students wore. Perhaps we show this in a flashback to a close-up of one of their lapels, or via voice-over narration or subtitles.

Movie poster for Over Troubled Water

Now our guy switches into detective mode, trying to discover what the Chinese students want, and what they are planning. Since he is also a computer nerd, he hacks into their database or Web page to try to find out what they're up to — and it shocks him (not literally)! The Chinese (not all of them, just the students) are plotting to blow up the entire bridge to get revenge! Our hero finds out that they are planning to do their evil deed early on Easter morning — which is now! He rushes out to the site with his one true friend who has stuck by his side this whole time, believing in him, even when everyone else thought he was crazy. Since we haven't previously seen this best friend, he can be introduced through a flashback, or maybe he just shows up and says, "Sorry, I was sick."

At the construction site, they find the nefarious students, but it seems our hero is too late. Leaping out of the car, he and his friend engage their foes in a battle royale that takes place all over the bridge using exciting construction equipment — i-beams suspended from cranes, steamrollers, wheelbarrows, cables, all that. The Chinese students repeatedly try to kill our hero, who is trying to prevent them from blowing up his bridge. They swing from the dangling bridge cables, firing guns and such. Some explosions do go off, but not enough to damage the bridge — they just cause more excitement!

Eventually, our hero, maybe using some civil engineering knowledge or something, kicks the Chinese students' butts, cornering them and binding them with cables just as the police arrive and take care of everything from there on out. The police call our hero "a truly civil engineer" for saving the citizens of this town from suffering the horrible fate of not having a truly stellar bridge to travel on. Everyone laughs.

Then there's an awards ceremony back at the school, and stuff like that. As the credits roll, we see a humorous, cathartic montage of images as to what happened after the movie, all set to a pop punk version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water".

There is the bridge finally being completed, and our guy and his girlfriend getting married in the middle of it on opening day. Also, before that, we saw the Chinese graduate students in prison clothes, being forced, ironically, to work on the bridge as part of a prison work program. They are not too happy! And at the wedding ceremony, we see the cake — it is two separate cakes linked by a scale model of the bridge our hero built. At one point, a young child or pet monkey impishly tries to scale the cakes and cross the model bridge, and the wedding guests are appalled and try to shoo him away. But to everyone's amazement and ultimate amusement, the scale model is so strong that it supports the child or monkey's weight, and everyone claps really hard as the child/monkey dances on the cakes.

Also, we see the ghost of a dead civil engineering instructor from earlier in the film, who helped our guy to be such a great civil engineer. The ghost is smiling, standing with younger professors from the school and also our guy's best friend. They are happy he has succeeded.

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Below: stills from the short film Gerry Toll and the Hostess Cupcake