Synopsis: Night. A woman walks purposefully through an industrial cityscape. At a bridge over a canal she looks over her shoulder and deposits a small package in a crevice before quickly walking away.
Day. Same bridge. A group of nerdy pre-teens—Oliver (11) and Aiden (8), and Jeff and Talulah (both 11) are walking with Oliver and Aiden’s mom Frankie when they are waylaid so Frankie can chat with a friend. Oliver and Aiden, being brothers of a certain age, immediately get into a fight, with Oliver knocking Aiden over, who finds the strange package in the crevice. A mysterious man with a clear interest in it shies away in frustration.
They bring it back to Oliver and Aiden’s house for further inspection, where they determine it is a coded message. Outside their house, the mysterious man lingers, waiting.
After school the next day, they are discussing the message when a teacher, Ms Miller, interrupts and is oddly interested in the conversation. They leave, watched by Ms Miller, who is watched by the strange man in turn.
Now obsessed with the meaning of the message, the kids agree to meet at the “bunker” which turns out to be a clearing in the bushes of a playground. While they are meeting, the mysterious man tries to observe them, but is chased off by a concerned mother. In the meeting, Jeff has an idea for how to break the code, so Jeff hands him the package.
Back at home, Jeff is successful in breaking the code enough to realize it’s written in Russian, and alerts Talulah, who realizes that Oliver and Aiden might be in danger. She tries to reach them on walkie talkies, but their walkie talkie’s battery dies.
The next morning, Talulah and Jeff march over to Oliver and Aiden’s house to confront them. Oliver rejects the idea outright, having not noticed the mysterious man peeking in window, but Aiden, being younger is excited. The mysterious man breaks in, threatening Frankie and demanding the package, but just as he’s about to hurt them, is stopped by another agent, who turns out to be Ms Miller. FBI agents surround the house, and Ivan, the Russian agent, surrenders.
Later, the kids are hiding out when Ms Miller comes down to apologize for putting them in danger. They are more interested in whether or not she’s a teacher or a secret agent. As she’s telling them, we fade to black.
Alyson Ryan (Agent 1/Ms Miller)
Amanda Fox (Frankie)
The seedling of The Dead Drop was planted one afternoon when I happened by chance on the costume department of The Americans, which occupied a storefront in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn at the time. I was with my kids, so I had them pose for a snapshot in front of the sign to amuse their mother. This led to the idea of precocious kids getting mixed up in spy vs spy games.
As the story started to form, I knew I wanted the four kids who play the gang to be in it, and built everything around that. The treatment and first draft of the script even uses their real names. If any of them had not agreed to be in it, I’m not sure what I would have done, but luckily I didn’t have to confront that possibility. Oliver is the de facto leader, Talulah is the dramatic one, Jeff the sensible one, and Aiden is the instigator.
Inspired by 80s Amblin’, I picture The Dead Drop as a thriller, but as imagined by a 10 year old. Both the spies are a little larger than life and on the cartoony side, which is how a kid would picture them, but the way the children interact and engage with each other is grounded in observation. There is truth in the portrayals, even if it’s a child’s truth.
A bit of a Viking on his mother’s side, artist on his father’s, and with a career straddling the roles from rock and roller to advertising creative director, Washburn has always been involved in some form of storytelling. As a child he wrote spec scripts for his favorite shows (mostly long gone and in syndication at the time) and experimented with super 8 films, creating stop motion animations and what could generously be called extended chase scenes. He now writes and directs narrative and documentary films, commercials, and branded content.