These are notes and “work in progress”; they will be polished in early 2005.
Logline: A young actor and potential A-list “heartthrob,” working in a law firm as a “second choice,” launches his career by nurturing an unusual (platonic) relationship with an older gay man who has involved himself with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” problem for gays in the military.
It is significant that the older man lost the right to self-esteem and capability to be wanted because of an incident early in his college years, described below. The young actor realizes he is in the best years of his life and appreciates what the older man lost and what the older man is curious about in the actor’s life. So the story will be framed.
I’ll add a suggestion right here. There have been some films
about making it in showbiz (or music, or ballet or some such performing
art) (“A Star Is Born,” “Boogie Nights,”
“Garden State”, “The Player”, “Walk the Line”, “Ray”, “Hustle & Flow”,
“Center Stage”, “The Dying Gaul”, and so forth – but nobody seems to have
tackled what it takes for a teen or young adult to jump the hoops and make it.
All of the films above deal with some particular sidebar (some are biographical, a lot of them are seedy and get into the drug
world). I think something that shows the career of any number of stars I can
think of (Josh Hartnett, Gregory Smith, Carter Jenkins, Chris Pratt, Daniel Radcliffe, Jesse McCartney, Tyler Hoechlin,
David Gallagher, Ashton Kutcher, Zach Braff, Jon Heder, or lesser known
actors such as those I met in the Twin Cities, like Jeff Gilson or Mark Parrish
– the list goes on and on) – would make a fascinating concept in any number of
treatment possibilities. Maybe a broad composite of some of
these characters, which I have attempted here. (Amateur turned pro
baseball – even with the help of
Upcoming Treatment Changes (see Treatment below). These changes will be worked much more clearly into the treatment and the screenplay text in early 2005.
(1) Tobey remembers Syd’s name from his past (as shown in 5-year flashback) dinner meeting with Bill. Then Tobey, while looking for acting opportunities, remembers the name and “Google hacks” or locates Syd. (As an alternative, while interning at the law firm he could have done a skip trace to find Syd, or even Sheila could have run it.) He decides that he wants to audition with Syd. He knows that Syd will become curious about the 35-year-old history of Bill’s college explusion (since Syd was Bill’s roommate). Tobey thereby manipulates Syd into being even more interested in him.
(2) Make sure that Tobey figures out that W-M set up Bill with an intentional witchhunt (after Tobey sees Syd’s black-and-white film of the hazing Tribunal). Tobey should try to get this into Bill’s civil trial but not succeed. (He could carry it on when Patrick acts in his film – point 4). A cardinal point is that the Dean sat around for two hours on the day after Thanksgiving in 1961 and waited for Bill to come to his office; he was not going to let Bill out of the office without “asking” first.
(3) Bill gets his film of the dinner with Tobey made only after Tobey’s interaction with Syd and the exposition of what happened at the Tribunals; Tobey gets to be a movie star by earning his wings in sports movies (like baseball), but will eventually do William and Mary (and the dinner) only if Bill “changes” and “earns it.”
(4) Tobey has “hired” a local actor to play “old” Bill in his film of the “dinner.” The actor is Patrick, who had to struggle a bit with the disguises. But Tobey still does not see Bill again (for the first time in several years) until Part 4. Tobey’s motivation for making a film about a “priestly” character like Bill could be just to impress his geeky girlfriend Sheila, or it could have a taste of sinister nature. But Syd also has 8mm films of the WM tribunals and even some of the enactment of Bill’s expulsion. He would like Tobey to edit them.
(5) Here is an inventory of the “movies within the movie”
(a) Tobey has filmed the matriculation dinner using Patrick, disguised to play older Bill
(b) Syd had gotten a copy of an 8 mm film of the WM tribunals in 1961
(c) Syd has hired Frankie to make a super 8 mm film of Bill at WM (Frankie plays Bill, Erich plays young Syd)
(d) At the end there is a modern film of the 1961 WM incident (shown at the final Academy vetting)
(See discussion of a film with similar structure: Bad Education Why do we have to
This film treatment uses historical flashbacks. They will be
shown in Black and White (especially the secret films made by the characters).
There are also embedded films that are shown in DV format. The overall story
requires wide-screen 2.3:1 aspect ratio and high quality film processing (with
respect to color saturation) for the driving present day story.
Setup (Phase 1): Tobey, model and law student, trying to become a movie star, conducts an audition from his old fraternity house and then travels to LA to deliver his head shot. He knows that the director, Syd, was a roommate of his elderly friend Bill (this probably should be explained better) when Bill was expelled from college and he starts to recount his dinner with Bill to get a conversation going. Syd takes an unusual interest in Tobey’s comments, but challenges Tobey to try out for a film about a cyclist.
New situation (Phase 2):
Tobey travels to
Progress (Phase 3): Bill has his website shut down because of terrorist hackers, gets laid off from his job, and challenged to accept a boot camp training opportunity from Frankie, who also knows people at Tobey’s law firm. Then he is served papers regarding his book and business name.
Higher stakes (Phase 4): Tobey helps the law firm with the first legal action against Bill, a gay soldier compromised by Bill’s book. Tobey is compromised by not being clearly enough on the plaintiff’s side. In the mean time, his girl friend is getting him prepped for bigger movie roles. Tobey saves the life of a friend in a bar fire, and Syd shares some deeper secrets that lead him into getting the film role.
Final Push (Phase 5) after setback. Tobey has a “setback” in dealing with the appearance changes required by acting, while Bill faces a major lawsuit. Tobey is subpoenaed to testify at the trial before he starts filming. Tobey supports Bill (saying that Bill was “set up” with his original college explusion) but Bill loses his place in the writing world but the judge will help him with a “new job.”
Resolution (Phase 6) After a volcanic disaster, Bill puts on his town hall but proves he can pay his dues. As an epilogue, he tries out for the boot camp, while Tobey and Sheila help film the audition.
As the film opens 27-year-old law student TOBEY STRICKLAND
is playing a videotape of a dinner that he once had (five years before, when he
was graduating from college) with older mentor
The film interleaves the videotape with the audition. Very
quickly both Sydney and Morgan recognize Bill, and have to wonder why Tobey has taken an interest in him.
As the videotape starts (refers to May 1998), Tobey wakes up from a light nap in his frat house in
Bill is also preparing for this dinner date in his high rise apartment. He leaves, and stops for a moment to watch a train, to time his meeting. He arrives at a “family restaurant” (about to be razed) about 7. (There is a flashback to a confirmatory email with no capitalizations). (Hook: What will Tobey look like in shorts; play whether he has changed from early to late 20s.)
Tobey is on the pay phone when Bill arrives, as his cell phone ran down. Tobey is talking to his girl friend SHEILA DANIELS, who scolds him lightly for leaving Corey alone in the frat house. But she congratulates him again for his Vanity Fair upscale fashion ads and the upcoming “Straight Boys.” “People will know what you look like,” she says.
Bill stops for a second, seeing Tobey in shorts for the first time on a warm spring day.
Bill and Tobey have a “My dinner
with Andre” meal. Tobey orders a
Here there is a flashback to how the met at the Nikomos Café when Tobey waltzed into the room and talked up “public speaking is easy” and Bill autographed a book (“instance”). Then another flashback to election night, the commiseration wake for Libertarian Party candidates, when Tobey talks about majoring in “philosophy.”
Bill asks Tobey about his interest in movie and whether the book could be filmed. There is, he says an “arch story” where the 1993 debate on gays in the military is his point of recognition.
Bill then recounts his 1961 expulsion from William and Mary for telling the Dean of Men that he was a “latent homosexual” after a semester of tension with his roommate (Sydney). The film shows this event as a second-level flashback of the expulsion incident, along with a few other incidents of the consequences, such as hospitalization at NIH. The incident is very traumatic, with notices placed in the dorm and his parents being called back from vacation to make a special trip to Willamsburg to take him home. The incident is also tied in to “Cold War” (Berlin Wall, Cuban Missile Crisis) mentality and older ideas about family values. Then he gets into the polarities of his Ninth Street Center activities during his “second coming” in the 1970s, and educates Tobey that he (Tobey) is an objective masculine.
(Hook: Bill’s explusion) Particularly important are the idea that Bill did not know what homosexuals “do” until he heard that from his roommate, that he is viewed as a kind of alien enemy with “super strength,” that the Dean waited for him all Friday after Thanksgiving, and the tie ins to the Cold War political climate of the time.
The tension here is, of course, that Bill would like his Lex-Luthor-like “friendship” with Tobey to have a future. He makes a comment that he cannot covet a younger man’s looks. Tobey eases the tension by “inviting” Bill to participate in Libertarian Party ballot-access petitioning, whereas Bill wants to focus on a town hall to discuss his “Bill of Rights 2.”
At the end of the dinner, Bill picks up the tab and tries to high-five Tobey, who backs away just a little.
After showing the introductory film and audio narrative by
remote Internet, Tobey flies quickly to LA (from MN)
to meet Sydney and Morgan in person. He presents his head-shot and other formal
audition materials. Morgan informs Tobey more details
of the budgeted film, where he could play backup for
both the cycling scenes and baseball scenes. He will need to demonstrate some
athletic abilities to get the part. Tobey explains
his motives to Sydney and Morgan. He has made spending money as an upscale
model, and fears that will get harder as he moves into his mid twenties. He has
had only one on-screen role but has worked as a double for other actors several
times. He is in law school and taking a paid intern summer job because he needs
income. Morgan wants him to go to
Syd plays games with Tobey, telling him about the home movie of the WM tribunals
but hiding the movie about Bill, “the man who wasn’t there.”
Tobey returns to MN to visit his old buddies and plays back-yard baseball with a now 9-year old Corey at the 1569 Club house. The snow is just about gone.
Part 2: Tobey
Tobey visits his girl friend Sheila, on the surface a computer geek, at her apartment and updates her on the audition. Sheila also teases him about getting serious about the movies later than did most of the pop stars and other heartthrobs. (Hook: What will Sheila do to him in the love nest? ) Tobey now relates to his girlfriend Bill’s sexual or platonic interest in him, as she teases him about his body, looking for nascent chest hair. Bill had called him about showing the “Dinner with Andre” spot publicly, and Tobey had to charge him under SAG. All of $200. Not enough money. But it was business. But now they realize that Bill bears watching. They draw an analogy with the embedded stage play in Hamlet. Sheila encourages him to do the interview at the law firm. But Tobey wonders why she is still working on a file-sharing program that makes copyright infringement so easy,
Tobey interviews for a paid
internship summer job at a law firm in
Tobey goes to a party at his old 1569 Club, where Patrick and his girl friend live upstairs. Patrick relates that he found a job as a process server and shares more information about his science fiction novel about a society in which people and money are interchangeable and where slavery and freedom are scaled with meritocracy. Tobey doesn’t confess that he had already shared this fictional plot with Bill, although it is a deep secret. There is a suspicion that “merit” is equated to physical attractiveness, as in the gay world. Corey wants to go outside to play backyard whiffle ball again and get away from grown-up talk. But Patrick hauls out his video gear that he had used recently before to tape a recreation of Tobey’s dinner with Bill as well as Corey’s growth from Toddler to rambunctious little boy.
Tobey gets a bizarre email,
telling him not to go to
But Tobey visits his father CHRIS
STRICKLAND in a British enclave and reviews a time-lapse of his rapid growing
up. He goes to the William the Conqueror museum in
With Lapp looking on, Tobey wins the mock bicycle race on the banks of Omaha Beach—without shaving his legs—and then they all travel back across the English Channel to party in a Brighton pub, where Tobey has worked part time on previous visits to his father. (Hook: Does Tobey win and how does he look?) Here Lapp also talks about his early trials in minor league baseball, and suggests that Tobey would fit better for the baseball role, although he would have to play a cancer patient in some scenes.
Tobey returns to
Sheila works as a self-employed, bonded contractor at the
same law firm as a network administrator. She joins the interview and reveals a
plan to Tobey of searching the Internet for small
business owners who may be violating trademark laws or abetting other
intellectual property violations (like spam or piracy). The second law partner
Tobey starts low-key practice of his baseball skills by playing in a company softball tournament, where he meets FRANK WEBER from another consulting company called Career Auditors, a subsidiary of a little name conglomerate named Handyman Systems. Tobey hits a disputed home run to win the practice game.
Bill has found Tobey’s dinner film
from a file-sharing service and wants to see the dinner film shown publicly,
and finds, to his surprise, that Tobey is rejecting
(bouncing) his email. So he calls
Sheila. She had once proofread one of Bill’s books. She has noticed Bill’s
distinctive name in a (potential defendant’s) file dealing with one of the law
firm’s clients, an
(Hook: Has Tobey rejected him? They haven’t yet met in present time of the film)
Bill is called in at work for an audit of his work, and this becomes a career audit conducted by Frankie. Bill remembers that he had once put the make on Frankie in a gay bar, and now wonders why Frankie seems to be standing in judgment of him.
Morgan, Sheila and Tobey attend a
Minnesota Orchestra concert together and Morgan quizzes Tobey
on how good he is getting at hitting baseballs.
Sheila and Tobey walk away together towards
Bill gets laid off from his job at Postulate-A Financial, presumably because of the career audit. He is glad to get severance and realizes that severance can’t be taken for granted anymore.
Tobey visits Lapp in the hospital after a relapse of his lymphoma, requiring more radiation therapy. (Hook: generous Lance-like hospital visit) Lapp informs Tobey that Tobey should be prepared to play the entire movie. Tobey beefs up his physical training, now regularly hitting mechanical pitches for major league homers. Having learned of Bill’s firing, Tobey quizzes Sheila about Frankie’s connections to the ambulance chasing.
Bill finds his website shut down, apparently because hackers
tried to use it to plant steganographic messages for
terrorists, and his
Scruggs takes Tobey to Kieran’s Pub for lunch and quizzes him about Bill’s references to military subjects in his book (about the ban), since Frankie has been helping them look for clients. (Hook: draw Tobey into ambulance chasing)
Bill goes to the free IFP emerging filmmaker series at Bryant Lake Bowl and watches a documentary short by ERIC BLUM about teenage computer hacking and why it is a “boy thing.” Bill meets Eric afterwards, who appears around 18 himself and is very attractive to Bill.
Bill consults feminist attorney ALLISON KATZ, who is not optimistic that she can help Bill get his website back, but sho shares that she has a lesbian spouse SUSAN in the military.
Shelia and Tobey become more intimate, and Shelia goes through a mock ceremony with shaving cream where she pretends that she will shave Tobey’s body for the cycling epidodes of the upcoming film, although the actual filming is some months off. Tobey conveniently resists by bringing up the subject of ambulance chasing. But her teasing eventually leads to sex.
Bill gets a cease and desist letter forwarded to him by his cooperative publisher because of a complaint from a former military person discussed in his book. (hook: cease and desist from apt manager)
Eric pays Bill a surprise visit at Bill’s high rise apartment, ringing in on the intercom. Eric looks at the corrupted files from when Bill’s site was hacked and runs some encryption programs to decode some Unicode jibberish having to do with suitcase nukes. (hook – sexual tease with a minor?) Then Eric, using Bill’s machine, shows how to hack into a couple of FEMA addresses dealing with changes in the earth’s orbit and future volcanic eruptions. They become slightly intimate, and Eric suggests that they go upstairs to the apartment swimming pool. In the dressing room, Bill gets served by Patrick (picture taken as proof) with a lawsuit claiming trademark infringement from his former domain name.(hook – service of process)
Tobey meets with Morgan and Syd and they plan for him to shoot the baseball portions first.
Allison and Bill meet in his boyhood home in
Allison picks up on Bill’s “ray of hope” for a new love life
with Tobey, and for a moment hugs him. Bill is
momentarily embarrassed by his nearness to her “ripened” breasts (“luscious bosoms”)
and then backs away. (hook:
compulsive fragments of heterosexuality) Bill then recounts some times when
he has been rebuffed by his desire for mere “friendship” with younger men, and
when he was teased about his birthday at a
Allison tells him about Susan’s burn injury in the 9-11 attacks and her participation in the new WTC debates. They get into a discussion about other scenarios (like trademark) where his writing could get him into trouble.
Tobey, rather enjoying his double life, meets with the other law-partner-boss EUGENE MYERS who quizzes him about Scruggs (possible involvement in porn) and defends the lawsuit, claiming that Bill was impersonating a real business and disrupting a Christian publishing company with the same name. (hook: ambulance chasing and fund out his employer could be criminal)
Tobey and Patrick find Bill
selling hot dogs (volunteer work for
Bill and Allison meet with DICK CRONALIN to settle the first complaint against Bill’s former website, along with his (Dick’s) attorney SHARRY WATSON.
The complaint is from a former servicemember who has been pursued by the Air Force for recoupment after his discharge under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The civil procedure comprises depositions from Bill and Cronalin.
(hook: take home for sex)
Here there is a flashback (told to Tobey
by the plaintiff Cronalin) to the early 80s, just
about when GRID (as it was called before it was called AIDS) had become known,
and Bill gets taken home by a Lt. Paul Cronalin, who
is a first year med student with school paid for by the Air Force. He finds
quite an ultimate sexual experience, and then leaves Cronalin
sleeping the next morning and never sees him again. Then, according to the complaint, Bill wrote
about the case in a newsletter fifteen years later when Cronalin
had to resign from the service when his lover “told” while applying for a
civilian TS security clearance with the
The grounds for the lawsuit are invasion of privacy, that Bill is not a member of the legitimate “press” and therefore does not have the same claim to a right to keep a controversial case in the public eye (that is, blogging to advance Bill’s own publicity) when it would have long been forgotten if it were only available in print. Bill is questioned about various aspects of how he conducted his business (assumed name in only one state, media perils). (hook: military ban admin proced; hook – controversial limit on i.p. freedom)
Allison insists that the judge would have to rule on the
point of law, but Tobey explains that the judge seems
to feel that a jury can decide this case as a matter of equity. The plaintiff’s
lead attorney warns that Bill could be accused of promoting himself in front of
children. They offer a deal to stop action if he removes references to Cronalin from his book. Bill finally agrees to take
everything down in his control (he doesn’t have his website but he does have
Tobey hits homers over the Green
Tobey signs the final contract at Morgan’s home in Hollywood Hills. They watch Syd’s home movie, in 8mm format, of the original hazing “tribunals” at William and Mary in 1961. Tobey, given that the hazing rituals subject has occurred already in the American Pie movies, wants to see just how far people really went. (hook: the tribunal tapes and why Syd had made them)
Tobey, Lorraine, Sheila, and Bill visit the gay disco again (straight couples often visit certain gay discos in many cities), and Tobey actually talks Bill past the security guard , when there is an explosion near the dance stage and Patrick is burned. (hook: gay disco explosion, Tobey plays “save me”) Tobey saves two lives with CPR. Bill is not injured. Next day, Tobey is interviewed on CNN for his heroics, since there has already been a public announcement of his film role. Bill and Allison watch on a Times Square Jumbotron before going to a WTC site dedication. There is concern that the gay bar incident is terrorist related, but possibly domestic and right-wing.
In winter, Tobey and Matt rehearse the motel scenes in the movie about Lapp, the scenes where Lapp first becomes ill. Syd takes him through several different acting approaches. But then Scruggs summons Tobey to tesify at Bill’s trial regarding the second complaint. Lapp assists as a consultant but is ill again from relapse and chemotherapy, and having trouble with the cold weather.
This second complaint, leading to a formal courtroom trial, concerns trademark regarding his own book publishing name. RANDY HARTNETT is the new-age young judge. The controversy over Bill’s ethics in handling his site is discussed in front of the jury. Bill is questioned as to his cutting corners in registering his business names (“assumed names”) in different states and as to incidents where he learned about the confusion he was causing. The plaintiff claims many Christian bookstores and book buyers were confused by the similarity of their business names, as several of them felt embarrassed when they tried to contact Bill by mistake. Bill had used the Internet to cheaply promote his business name, whereas the older religious business had not. Bill is also questioned about his “professionalism” in the I.T. area.
Tobey is asked by the defense to testify for Bill. Hook: (His legs look shaved, or maybe singed by the fire, and Bill reacts nervously by puking.) He explains that Bill saw writing as a way to make himself socially credible with younger men. Tobey mentions that Bill was set up originally for his college expulsion, and this statement may have some effect on the judge.
Tobey flies with Morgan and
Frankie to his filming of the bike races in
Bill winds up shutting everything down and agreeing to community service.
Tobey and Allison, out at the
Tobey, having bike-raced, filmed his scenes, and passed his own “tribunals” proposes to Sheila, who has just tested pregnant. Sheila remarks that their son will be the best of everything (they will do sex determination).
Bill tries for a job as a security screener and fails the treadmill stress test in the physical.
Bill is then working at a collection agency when someone he calls looks him up on the Internet before talking to him. Bill has a heart attack and is taken to the hospital and gets a keyhole bypass before he knows what has happened. (Maybe he is part of the zipper club, just a little.) While he is recovering in a private hospital room, there is a volcanic eruption. Frankie’s company and Myers’ law firm are on television as helping with the cleanup. Tobey calls him at the hospital but never visits.
Bill finally takes a low wage job at the bottom, flipping burgers, when Tobey, Patrick, and Hartnett come into the McDonalds and offer Bill the opportunity to do his town hall on free speech. He also learns that Scruggs is being investigated for child pornography found on his home computer.
Tobey comes to Bill’s apartment and gives him a swimming lesson. His appearance has changed again, well, for the Olympics. Well, Tobey will play the part of an Olympic swimmer, that is. (Hook: shaved) The sexual picadillo dwindles. Bill becomes “better” by learning to swim.
Bill, with no website, and Tobey
do get to conduct a townhall on free speech at
Tobey gets a second real
up close Movie role, for $50000, playing Bucky Dent
Finally, there is an Independence Day Celebration in Washington and Tobey shows up ready for a competitive swim in the Reflecting Pool. Bill has seen his doctor and may join the manly zipper club. (Hook: Dave Letterman)
Tobey gets married to Sheila in an outdoor ceremony, and a rehearsed Bill hands over the ring.
Frankie, with a poster for Tobey’s new movie in his office on display, interviews Bill to become a reservist at his Handyman company, an asset person to help out with the next disaster. Tobey takes the medical test in the same room to show what asset persons are getting themselves into. Hook: (Judge Hartnett “gets it.”) Bill is ready for a new life. But it may not be his own.
I would like to comment on the viability of basing a screenplay on an Internet legal problem that so far has not yet been much seen. We have all heard recently about abuses such as music piracy (copyright infringement) through peer-peer file sharing and about spam, and, somewhat less so, about the indirect liability computer users may have if their servers or sites are used by hackers to harm others, participate in illegal activities, support terrorism, transmit child pornography. The Internet does give an ordinary person an opportunity to promote himself barely imagined even ten years ago. The self-promotion can occur even just with the passive advertising offered by search engines, with no aggressive salesmanship outreach to others, so it is perfect for introverts. Yet, partly because the Internet is a young, basically unregulated and poorly secured medium, one could assume that one who uses it does so at the risk of criticism, at least, or disapproval, or even legal exposure because he may be leveraging himself on the names of others who have already “paid their dues,” promoting his ideas in front of children, or inadvertently interfering with established businesses. The personal controversy comes partly from the fact that self-promotion can be a convenient escape for people who don’t like to perform in intimate relationships with others in a manner normally “expected.” Of course, this problem does not immediately translate to visual media like film, but then neither does courtroom drama without imagination. It gets back to having real characters with real charisma becoming involved with the problems. Tobey and Sheila fulfill that need in this screenplay. Any topic or issue can be filmed.
Patrick did the original video of Bill’s dinner
Morgan would want to know where the video came from
Tobey is concerned about Sheila’s possible piracy and ethics but rationalizes it as good for Bill, and will bring some order back into the system
Have Syd use the phrase, “Keep your mind out of the gutter” in a flashback scene in his own 8mm movie.
Tobey has sex with Sheila when teased and then proposes later.
Sheila calls Tobey the perfect metrosexual and he agrees
Tobey rehearses ad-libbing with
Possible addition to Act 1:
Bill tells minor friend John about Syd’s old wives’ tale (or “urban legend”) about gay male “super strength”; Tobey chuckles at it and compares Bill to Smallville’s Clark Kent in a conversation with (old) Std..
Tobey verifies that he does not use steroids or drugs before his athletic performances
Bill says that writing gives him acceptability to people he likes when he doesn’t want to bond with people his own age. This explains why drawing attention to himself, publicity and celebrity, are so valuable to him.
Why so many young men majoring in philosophy? The humanities?
Note on the title:
Imbd.com and bn.com show a few movies and books with titles like “The A-list.” It is acceptable for titles to be duplicated among movies and books (a title itself cannot be copyrighted or trademarked unless it is of a series). Nevertheless, I have make the subtitle unique by adding the phrase “Make the…” which occurs in the text of the script.
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