ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Bag of Money

So sometimes, as I'm brainstorming things for a script, I like to post questions here, because the more hands the merrier.

These are today's pressing questions:

A) How much money can one plausibly fit in a large duffel bag? It doesn't have to be $20 bills, it could be $100s. If I said that there was $580,000 in the bag, would that seem unrealistic? How heavy would $580,000 in $100 bills be? (I know there's a lot of arcane knowledge out there that will save me the need to actually try to cram 5800 bills in a bag).

B) What's an interesting source for $580,000 in a duffel bag? I want it to be something different from money from a drug deal or cash from a bank robbery, though it should definitely be something shady. It should also be something simple that doesn't require a lot of huge backstory. In basic terms, some of my supporting characters are looking for a duffel bag of cash that disappeared when one of their cohorts was killed.

Let fly.

36 Comments:

At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Reagan said...

A)
I had the same sort of problem with the script I'm wrapping up, except I needed to hide half a million in the hollow of a shower curtain bar -- yikes.

I considered using money orders. They're good for laundering but even they only go up to five hundred bucks. So I took the Panic Room route and used bearer bonds.

B)
I don't think anyone else can really come up with a proper idea for this without the details. If you're going for dark it could be sex trade money. If you're going for a smart-espionage-type idea it could be corporate spy money (for a stolen computer program or beta processor or whatever).

 
At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

$1 million = 40 pounds (roughly)

 
At 11:07 AM, Blogger Andy said...

According to the Treasury, US bills weigh about one gram. There are about 454 grams per pound, so 5800 bills would weigh 5800 divided by 454; or about 12.78 pounds. No sweat. Make it mixed denominations and you can make it a heavier or lighter bag as you see fit.

As for how much would fit volume wise, that depends on the size of the bag. Now, my method here may be off (it's been a long time since high school) but the US Treasury gives us the dimensions of a bill as 2.61 inches by 6.14 inches by 0.0043 inches. Multiplying those values, we get a total volume of a bill at 0.06890922 inches. So take your duffel bag measurements, multiply them up and divide by your bill measurement, and that's the absolute largest number of bills you can fit in that bag if you neatly stack all the crisp new bills, squeeze out all the air, etc.

For an example, a 12" by 10" by 11" duffel bag would hold 19155 bills. Maybe half that if they were crumpled up handfuls of bills instead of neat stacks. Plenty big enough to hold 5800 bills.

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Hmmmm. I used to work at a movie theater and handle money. The problem with that math is that a stack of 50 bills is about an inch thick, and not the .2 inches that the .004 would multiply out to.

Though your duffel bag is a lot smaller than the one I was thinking of. I was picturing one of those army bags that's 2-3 feet long.

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Chris (ukscriptwriter) said...

How much money in a bag? Does a cheque count as money? If it does you could fit millions and then some.

As to where it came from? A charity Event, A "how much money can you fit in a duffel bag" contest, A police man on an undercover operation (probably too much like a drug deal), perhaps a currier found it in a package he was nosey enough to look in.

Aw crap, I'm no help - bad day :(

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the ill-gotten gains from a screenwriting competition.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger S. A. Petrich said...

It's the ill-gotten gains from a screenwriting competition.

Nah, I don't think that would fill you up a duffel bag.

Anyway, regarding the money: It could be charity money, which was supposed to be sent to hungry little children in Africa but got "lost" on the way. Or maybe money collected by hacking into a lot of ATM machines (which also calls for a lot of different denominations). Or money a politician was paying to cover up a sex scandal.

There are ways, dude, you don't want to know.

 
At 3:33 PM, Anonymous ELM said...

Kidnapping/ransom money.

 
At 3:35 PM, Anonymous ELM said...

Maybe a big lottery winner cashed out because she and her friends just had to see what half a million bucks looked like.

 
At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, Scott...
i have a traveling retail job and a few months ago, on an extremely rare occasion, i was required to drive across five states with nearly fifty thousand in cash, in a duffel bag. (our company's bank wasn't in the same region as where we were doing business that week)

my loot included mostly twenties and didn't take up even half the duffel bag. if they were bundled in stacks of a hundred, i think it would be fairly easy to put that amount in there.

Cincinnati Kid

 
At 6:03 PM, Anonymous DougJ said...

How about these guys occasionally work demolition and renovation and find it stuffed into the walls and floorboards of a house that belonged to an old man who is now deceased. (maybe he was a pro criminal or just crazy).

They kept it in one place until the time was right to divvy it up.

That is, until one of the friends met his demise.

 
At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "we found the money when we remodeled some old guy's house" idea seems viable to me.

A lot of quirky old people who lived through the Depression never really trusted banks after that. My grandfather used to have little rolls of $100-500 hidden everywhere in his old house (under the mattress, in a shoebox, etc.). After he died, we cleaned out his house, and kept finding rolls of $20s in random places.

He was never a wealthy man, but if he had been, I could totally picture him having a stash hidden under a loose floorboard or something. (Or, maybe he did have a big stash under the floorboards, and we just never found it...)

 
At 7:21 PM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

Sounds like you have enough information on the money-in-a-duffel bag question.

As for a reason someone would have half a million in a duffle bag. Here's a pretty simple, believeable scenario:

Someone ripped off a local bookie, a guy that does all his business in cash to avoid the IRS. Someone found out where he stashed the cash and stole it from him...

I knew this girl in college who was the girlfriend of a sleazy bookie and they often had hundreds of thousands of dollars stuffed in various places around their shitty apartment. They didn't have bank accounts.

 
At 7:54 PM, Blogger Bruce Findleton said...

A) Seems covered. Want a bigger bag? Make it 50s or 20s or a mix and do the math until you reach your duffel size.

B) How about a Vegas casino heist?

Or, someone stole it from "the Mob"? Oooh, gangsters to deal with.

Or, someone stole it from a corrupt land developer who had the cash on hand for bribes. Everyone knows these guys are "connected".

 
At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Stella said...

FWIW, part of the plot of Knockaround Guys involves the delivery of $500,000 in a small duffel bag.

Mob money seems to be an easy answer.

 
At 8:23 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

You've got some good info here from these posts, but remember, you can fit about 8 heads in a duffel bag.

 
At 9:56 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

Identity Theft. Saw it on the news just the other day. You can get millions if your good at it and the money comes from all over so theres little to no back story.

Reasons for having the money on hand: IRS will get cha if you put it in the bank and they catch it. Thats how they get a lot of drug dealers.

I'd Believe it. G'luck

 
At 10:18 PM, Blogger wcmartell said...

1) There's a Ross Thomas novel (can't remember which one) where he gives all of the info on money - weight, size, etc - because, as a pro go-between, the hero has to know these things.

This info has to be online somewhere by now.

2) Two things: A - always go to theme. B - if this is the event that triggers the story, it's not *random* it's really what the story is all about. If you think about thrillers like MINORITY REPORT and BOURNE IDENTITY those scenes that trigger the chase end up being what the story is really about - they are thematic.
Those movies are not about the chase scenes, they are about destiny and identity... the elements created by the inciting incident. Even if you are writing a wacky comedy - this is the thing that triggers the story - and it shouldn't be random. Theme is everything - when I wrote a line of dialogue, I try to put theme in there... watch MINORITY REPORT and count the times "watching" and "seeing" and variations come up. It's, like, every other line of dialogue!

- Bill

 
At 3:07 AM, Anonymous skullen said...

Ukrainian foetus serum for all those aging LA hags horrified at losing their looks.

 
At 6:41 AM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

I think it would be a lot more interesting to have $580,371.89 in a duffel bag. But maybe that's just me.

 
At 8:10 AM, Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

in the old days of las vegas after the midnight shows we would often see well dressed gentlemen with duffles, briefcases, gym bags, and other non-descript carriers all full of cash. they would find a blackjack table bet the whole thing and lose the money. then they would leave and head back to chicago or new york. it was mob money that they were "cleaning." as soon as it crossed the table it was legitimate cash.

i miss me some old vegas. the city ran better when the mafia was in charge. it was more fun too.

 
At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The duffel bag contains the spoils of one of those Nigerian internet scams -- the the owner of the bag cashed out the various bank accounts he had access to.

 
At 12:41 PM, Blogger James said...

B) $580,000 which is simple, shady, and not drugs or robbery.

1- Payment for a world-class hitman.

2- A secret political “donation”, from a mobster.

3- Corporate hush money.

4- Blackmail.


Gee, that was fun. Gimme more.

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger cvcobb01 said...

1) No idea on the weight and size of money but...

2) There was a big story in the midwest a few years back about a doctor who was diluting cancer patient medication because he could sell it for an enormous amount on the pharmaceuticals black market. Of course, those patients taking the diluted drug died because, well, the drug doesn't work diluted.

It might require more explanation than you want to give. In fact, as Bill Martell suggests, it might lay in an entire world of backstory that becomes a key part of the story. But it does have the proper double whammy of greed and evil.

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Tom said...

The money is real cash for fake cash, payment for ten or twenty times that amount in fake bills from a counterfeiter.

Over the holidays, I had a few days at work handling about $40-50K in cash, mostly twenties. Oh god, the twenties! They should be outlawed. I felt like Hamilton was laughing at me, some sadistic monetary flipbook.

 
At 2:56 PM, Anonymous DJ said...

Stolen payout from a porno AIDS hush fund.

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Scott,

Did you see the story today about the 12 *billion* we shipped in cold hard cash to Iraq that nobody really knows what happened to?

"A report from Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said the money represented more than half of Bremer's budget from May 2003 to June 2004. The report described contractors being told to bring big bags to collect shrink- wrapped bundles of money and one episode where a Bremer staff member was allegedly told to spend $6.75 million in a week."

 
At 10:57 PM, Blogger -K- said...

I see someone beat me to the 'cargo planes of $$ sent to Iraq during the war' scenario so I will sugest:

- illegal campaign contributions to Republican politicians.

Or
- a racetrack robbery (a homage to "The Killers")

 
At 11:43 PM, Blogger Formerly, The Dude Spoke said...

"The duffel bag contains the spoils of one of those Nigerian internet scams -- the the owner of the bag cashed out the various bank accounts he had access to."

- whoever wrote this is genius.

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Thanks everyone. I've made my choice, and moved on.

I'd like to hands on some of that Iraq money, though...

 
At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

B) maybe someone random (friend of a friend's uncle, etc) had been skimming while they worked as a franchise story manager - the franchise corporation found out & went to shut him down, but he snuck out early with the skimmed cash.

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, what was your choice?

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I'm going to do a kidnapping riff. Mostly because Bill Martell is right, as always.

 
At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Leif Smart said...

as a side note, I think Dodgeball had one of the funniest moments when Stiller is trying to buy Vaughn and gives him the 100k in a suitcase.

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Clooney is already taking care of the racetrack-stealing plot, he's directing a movie called the Belmont Boys - about a heist at a race track.

 
At 8:02 AM, Blogger Spanish Prisoner said...

why do you need to know where the money comes from? make it a mystery. make them asking questions about where the money comes from and a running gag.

 

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