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A Feature Film

NORM

By

MARK PIPER

 

In January 1984 Hakki Atahan robbed three banks.

10 hostages, scores of cops, the media and thousands of onlookers will never forget what they saw…..

and it’s a true story!

 

 

A mainstream movie with intelligence

 

The day was shaping up as a pretty ordinary one. Norm Lipson had a hangover the size of Mount Everest. A junior reporter at work had once again got the front page news.

 

Norm was just about to tell his Editor to take a leap, when he hears a call on the police scanner “An armed robber has taken hostages at a city branch of the Commonwealth Bank”.

 

Norm is determined to get the scoop and do whatever it takes to get it, which is something Hakki Atahan understands. He is determined to be reunited with his 10 year old daughter. He wasn’t planning on taking hostages. He wasn’t planning on anyone getting hurt. But if that’s what it takes, then that’s how far he will have to go.

 

‘NORM’ is a true story about a Sydney man who is besieged in a bank (with nine bank employees and one customer) after he robs three banks that day.

Norm Lipson (real name), a reporter who will stop at nothing to get the scoop in an attempt to salvage his dwindling career.

 Detective Senior Constable Steve Canellis (real name) head of the Armed Hold Up Squad, who is determined to catch Atahan, who has already committed and got away with, 16 armed robberies.

What follows is a four hour media circus as Atahan bundles his hostages into an abandoned car, drives through the city in peak hour traffic, crosses the Sydney Harbour Bridge to pick up his girlfriend in Queenscliff, and is shot dead in front of thousands of people as the story unfolds on national television.

 

The hostage vehicle is being followed by a convoy of fifty police cars, several news vehicles and a bevy of police and TV helicopters.

 

The story, told through the eyes of a tabloid reporter, a cop and the armed robber Atahan, is a comment on the media and the distorting role it plays in news events.

 

More than that, it’s a comment on the lengths to which we go in pursuit of that haloed virtue which we call ‘conviction’.

 

The absurdist mobile siege that takes place that day is the best reality television that the world has ever had. But as the story’s moving and operatic climax unfolds, we ask whether it’s the kind of reality that the world would wish to follow.

 

Norm is a hard edged, absurdist, drama comedy, in the mode of One Day in September, Magnolia and Apocalypse Now.

 

A unique and distinctive movie experience, that explores contemporary world stage ‘arrogance’, with a heightened sense of absurd conviction, under the guise of realism.

 

Reality IS as strange as fiction

 

NORM

 

Film Overview

 

Genre Crime / Drama / Black Comedy

Similar example: Dog Day Afternoon, 1975.

Directed by Sydney Lumet, starring Al Pacino

 

Target Audience Male / Female aged 18-55 years

 

Scope / Scale This film is a true snapshot in time. It is an intimate

re-telling of a dramatic 6 hours in the lives of 3 men and those

who happened to be around them at the time.

 

Theme Irresponsibility of the press – getting the scoop.

Determination – everybody has an agenda.

Real life characters – true natures revealed under pressure,

prepared to take risks in pursuit of their destinies.

 

Location Sydney Australia 1984

 

Budget $15 - $20 million

 

Based on a true story, a Sydney man Hakki Atahan (real name) is besieged

In a bank with nine bank employees and one customer after his attempt to rob his third bank that day goes awry.

 

What follows is a four hour media circus as he bundles his hostages into an abandoned car, drives through the city in peak hour traffic, crosses the Harbour Bridge to pick up his girlfriend in Queenscliff and is shot dead in front of thousands of people as the story unfolds on national television.

 

The story, told through the eyes of a reporter, is really a comment on the media and the role it plays at crime scenes. The story is given depth by the development of the three main characters and their personal conflicts.

 

Norm Lipson (real name), a reporter who will stop at nothing to get the scoop in an attempt to salvage his dwindling career.

 

Detective Senior Constable Steve Canellis (real name) head of the Armed Hold Up Squad, who is determined to catch Atahan, who has already committed and got away with, 16 armed robberies.

 

And of course, Atahan, who is robbing the bank because he believes that if he has money he will be able to get his daughter back. He hasn’t seen her for a couple of years.

 

This comical mobile hostage and siege drama becomes the best reality drama the country has ever seen.

COPY OF PROJECT ASSESSOR DUNCAN THOMPSON’S REPORT FOR THE AUSTRALIAN FILM COMMISSION

 

Duncan Thompson wrote:

 

Hi!

 

In my last couple of weeks at the AFC, I read a terrific project in treatment form. It’s called ATAHAN. My estimate is a $10 – 15 million budget. If it comes through your doors, it’s definitely worth a look.

 

I’ve attached my review of it.

 

The Director is Mark Piper: markpiper@ozemail.com.au

 

Hope you are well.

 

All the best

 

Duncan

 

Excuse the prolix enthusiasms…

 

NORM:

 

Bejesus! Wow! Incredible!

 

This is an interesting, strongly cinematic story that starts when a reckless bank robber robs three banks in a row (running from one bank to the next) in downtown Central Sydney.

 

And it’s true.

 

It’s a richly detailed treatment, full of the real and unexpected, full of beautiful human weaknesses and stupid human venal courage. A rollercoaster, helter-skelter heist, siege, chase movie, like something Michael Mann might do. Or Sydney Lumet. Or John Frenkenheimer. It’s brilliant. This could make an excellent groundbreaking movie.

 

Despite the US name-checking above, it feels like one of these new wave Korean or Taiwanese movies, that strange heightened steely-polished realism they do. Coldness as unbearable horror and warmth. This story and its telling is fresh and bold and cold and real. Distinctive and refreshing.

 

It’s crazy, mad and unimaginable. Truth here is not only stranger than fiction, it’s a darn sight more cinematic than most movies, when here the gods are having their fun.

 

What’s great about this story is it mocks reality somehow, the absurdity of the real and of the violent. In desperate situations journalists do jump into taxis and shout, “follow that car”.

Quote: “In retrospect, it was like something out of a Keystone Cops movie. The car we commandeered was full of reporters and photographers. There were pressmen hanging onto the back. When norm looked to the back and saw one of the reporters was from a rival newspaper, he stopped the car in the middle of the Harbour Bridge and chucked the reporter off”.

 

But really it’s the psychology of the central character, the small time crook who cracked and went for broke, that holds the whole thing together. It’s like a deranged DOG DAY AFTERNOON, but gone kinda modern and multi-story-strand.

 

The plot unfolds unruly, just like in real life, yet miraculously (the skill in the writing) it plays as ‘story’ with a solid beginning, middle and end thematic/emotional structure. It’s an excellent, strange, odd piece of work. A 21st century movie (about the early ‘80s).

 

The treatment is basically a clip-and-pasting of news articles, interviews, etcetera, etcetera, but it reads a pure movie, the rhythm, tempo, structure and pacing of this treatment is impeccable. Just join the dots and colour the spaces. A writer’s fuck’n dream.

 

I hope they write the script with the same matter of fact manner they’ve written the treatment. The notes indicate they will. If they stuffed it up with (in this context) all that character development baloney, it would be an inappropriate cop-out. Forget that shit. This just tells it like it is and it works.

 

Please excuse the superlatives, but this is excellent. A gilt-edged hit. The climax is astounding.

 

All in all, this is a beautifully-measured, cool, calm and intelligent take on a very intriguing (and hilarious) story. The masterstroke is all the decisions the director has made so far. I know this may sound dumb, but the story tells itself, revealing the complex and compelling psycho(patho)logies of all its major players.

 

This is a film with a brilliant vision and an impeccably measured distance. Pure, pure cinema.

 

Highly recommended.

Mark Piper

markpiper.com

Byron Bay NSW 2481

AUSTRALIA

Mobile +61 (0) 414 888 884

Email markpiper@ozemail.com.au

 

© 2024 MARK PIPER

ALL RIGHTS BY ALL MEDIA RESERVED

STRICTLY PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

 

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