The Screenwriter’s Vow of Air Vent Chastity

Screenwriter “John August”:, who I have been reading (on his blog and IMDb) for many years, and have been watching lazily since Charlie’s Angels and more closely since Big Fish has a “great post on his blog today”: about an overused film cliché (I copied and pasted that accented ‘é’ because I have no clue how to type it!).

Let’s back away from the keyboard and look at the situation with fresh eyes.

1. Most air ducts are not nearly large enough to hold a grown man.
2. Even if large enough, they’re not built to support a grown man’s weight.
3. “Secure” facilities — where characters are most likely to climb through air vents — are exactly the places that wouldn’t have hero-sized air vents.

Thanks to continuous bombardment in television and movies, the idea of characters shimmying through air ducts has become not just a cliché, but almost a given. The moment a hero finds himself stuck someplace, we expect his eyes to drift north to that spot just below the ceiling, where an oversized grate is beckoning: “Just yank twice! I’m not screwed in or anything!”

He goes on to create the Screenwriter’s Vow of Air Vent Chastity. Now I’m no professional screenwriter, though I’ve tried my hand at the craft. But in case I turn back to fiction writing in any form in the future…

I, Devanshu Mehta, hereby swear that I shall never place a character inside an air duct, ventilation shaft, or any other euphemism for a building system designed to move air around.

There, I did it. Now, are tunnels ok? How about air vents to spoof the above-mentioned air vents? And how does one move about a heavily guarded building unnoticed? How would “Ethan Hunt have stolen the NOC list”: ? And, more importantly, how would “Bender have gotten across the school building”: without alerting Vernon?


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