'Troop Zero': An Underdog Tale With Lucy Alibar’s Distinct Voice
January 30, 2020
Troop Zero is familiar while still wholly unique. It does not apologize for being unabashedly wholesome, which also makes it a delightful breath of fresh air. It’s a tale for anyone who has dreamed an impossible, heartbreaking dream. It’s no wonder this story was dreamt up by screenwriter Lucy Alibar, best known for co-writing Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Troop Zero absolutely lives in the same universe as Beasts. In these two worlds that both feel familiar yet far away, young protagonists grapple with the struggle of loss and hope while managing to remind their adult counterparts that life is better if you look at things with a glass half full — even if the glass you are holding is chipped and rough around the edges.
Troop Zero is led fearlessly but its heroine, Christmas Flint. After losing her mother, Christmas becomes obsessed with the extraterrestrial, so when a NASA representative is set to descend upon the annual Birdie Scouts jamboree to award the talent show winners with a chance to leave a message for any extraterrestrial life out there, Christmas makes it her mission to get to the jamboree — even if she has to create her own Birdie troop. Christmas then rallies a pack of neighborhood outcasts wholly unfit for the task — hence, Troop Zero.
Alibar said she’s been longing to tell Christmas’s story since working on Beasts of the Southern Wild, stating that in early drafts of that script the character of Hushpuppy initially spent time with a pack of friends. Alibar couldn’t let go of wanting to create a world where a pack of kids dominated the screen.
“I remember how much I loved watching groups of friends onscreen and being a kid, and just how magical it is,” she said.
“When you’re nine your friends know more about you than your family. I think around nine you start to choose your family.”
The chosen family Alibar has created for Christmas is a true posse of kids for the ages. There’s Joseph (yes, a boy can be a Birdie). There’s Hell-No, whose catchphrase is self-explanatory. Then there’s Smash, who you definitely want on your side in a fight. And finally, there’s Anne-Claire, who will certainly ask what Jesus would do before offering her own opinion. It’s a crew of kids an audience can instantly root for, especially with the built-in nemesis of a more well-to-do and established Birdie troop with polish but very little pizazz.
Creating a troop of outsiders comes to Alibar honestly. She said that growing up, she felt an intense sense of not fitting in, and that she often spent more time with animals than people.
“It never goes away, the longing for human companionship if you don’t have it,” she said.
The heartbreaking moments Alibar deftly befalls upon Christmas often come when the protagonist is forced to face her shortcomings head-on, whether she’s ready or not. Alibar said she was striving to hit upon the feeling of loss that comes with being forced to grow up, which works pitch perfectly in an early coming-of-age tale.
“Ultimately when people grow up they aren’t the same people when you were friends with them, which is why those childhood friendships are so special.”
Alibar’s hope is that Christmas Flint will remind audiences what it feels like “when people show up for us, and demand the best of us, and see our flaws and love us through them.”
As one might expect, Christmas Flint is the type of person that does just that. She might bring along a metal hat, some friends who could beat you up, and an explosive chicken or two, but she’ll be there, and audiences will likely be glad they showed up, too.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/