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The screenplay based on How Not to Become a Spy is a finalist at the Jefferson State Flixx Fest film festival

Justin Lifflander

SS-20 and Pershing II missiles on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC

SS-20 and Pershing II missiles on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC

The Plowshare Paradox, a screenplay written by Justin Lifflander, based on his Cold War memoir How Not to Become a Spy, won third place in the writing competition at the Jefferson State Flixx Fest.

The festival, which is in its fourth year, took place in Fort Jones, California last month. “The dialogue felt authentic and well-researched,” said Flixx Fest director Megan Peterson. “I loved the fact that it was a spy movie about peace (not war!) and overall everyone loved the premise.”

Lifflander is pleased to have accomplished this step in his long-term goal of bringing his story to the screen. “It turned out something like Ferris Bueller meets Red Sparrow,” Lifflander said. “I know in these dark times it won’t be easy to find an agent or producer likely to be passionate about a story of when Russia and America actually got along,” he added, “but, the story is about people that we can all relate to on both sides.”

Synopsis of The Plowshare Paradox

George Clarkey spends his teenage years preparing to become a spy. From bugging his mother’s women’s group meeting to an internship at the FBI, George readies for his mission to defeat the Evil Empire. He moves to Moscow as the Cold War is ending to get front-line experience as a driver at the US Embassy.

Meanwhile, in the heartland of the USSR, Vladimir Sadovnikov runs a rocket factory in the town that gave birth to Tchaikovsky. His workers manufacture the finest road-mobile nuclear missiles in the world.

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When Reagan and Gorbachev sign a treaty eliminating all medium-range missiles, Vladimir visits Utah to review his enemy’s production facility. He is astonished by the high standard of living.

Planning to perfect his language skills before applying to the CIA, George joins a team of US military officers living at the gates of Vladimir’s factory. A new department set up at the factory administers the treaty and monitors the Americans. It’s staffed primarily by attractive young women – “escorts” in treaty parlance – and is infiltrated by the KGB.

While working as a missile inspector, cook and janitor, George is surprised by the locals’ compassion and warmth. He makes friends with Anatoly, a colonel in the Soviet construction troops, and Zhenya, a cardiologist.

In between adventures, such as looking for hidden microphones and building a subterranean hot tub, George falls in love with Sofia, one of the escorts. Although the rules on both sides prohibit romance, they plot a life together. The KGB, convinced George really is a spy, tracks their relationship.

Vladimir struggles to come to terms with the destruction of the missiles he’s built to defend the fatherland, and the financial hardship to his town created by the ban on making more missiles. He is also bewildered by the public exposure of the failings of the Communist Party – which he believed was infallible.

Vladimir pins his hopes for the future of the factory on consumer goods production. But a diagnosis of Parkinson’s and his positive opinion about America convince Party leaders that he must be retired.

George quits the treaty and moves to Moscow – where signs of the USSR’s demise are everywhere – while he waits for Sofia to join him.

When she learns that the KGB plans to manipulate them for the rest of their lives, Sofia severs ties with George. He pursues her, only to discover that she has another fiancé - a deception by Sofia to discourage George.

With no job and no hope, Vladimir commits suicide on the steps of the recreation center he built for his workers.

With the help of his friend Zhenya, George makes a last-ditch effort to win over Sofia. He takes an unauthorized road-trip across the country and manages to convince her to build a future together.