Author Topic: Unfortunate  (Read 2740 times)

Offline Cyndith

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Unfortunate
« on: March 28, 2011, 07:55:50 PM »
This is a new non-fiction project.  All critiques are appreciated.  I'm trying to get this format correct. I'm concerned about pace, although this is roughly only 5 minutes of a script.  Thank you in advance -- Cyndie

FADE IN:

EXT. NORTH CAROLINA FOREST NEAR DEEP RIVER - DAYBREAK - 1804

C/U COTTON-TAIL RABBIT CHEWING ON GRASS.  The woods are deep in shadows during the pre-dawn hours.  We HEAR the early-morning birds chirping as the forest emerges from slumber.  Hazy light filters through the trees as the songs of the birds seem to reverberate through the forest.  Suddenly there is the sound of a snap.  A twig breaks, silencing the birds.  The sound is ominous.  The rabbit looks up, frozen in place.  Rabbit ears strain for the source of the sound.  Another soft snap sends the rabbit racing through the forest.  In its panic, the rabbit comes full circle and the door of a black gum box suddenly releases, leaving the rabbit trapped in the primitively constructed snare. LEAH, a twelve year old mixed-blood Croatan Indian, steps through the trees.  Her moccasins tread softly, apologetically toward the rabbit box. She carefully pulls the rabbit out of the snare.

LEAH
Iím sorry little sister.
My father and brother hungerÖ
as do I.
We are grateful for your sacrifice.
CUT TO ...

Leah is making her way through the woods which have become animated once more.  She walks slowly with the body of the rabbit tied to her belt.  Periodically she stops and listens. She looks around as if something is not quite right.  Taking a breath, she continues her way home.


SUDDENLY: A SHADOW DROPS HEAVILY FROM A NEARBY TREE.  IT SCARES US AND...

LEAH draws her hunting knife against her eight year-old brother WILLIAM. Breathing heavily, with anger flashing in her eyes, she pushes her laughing brother aside. WILLIAM, slightly darker in complexion than LEAH, bears the features of their Portuguese grandfather.  His swarthy, Mediterranean features lend him a mysterious, yet charming quality even at such a young age. No matter how mischievous he may be, LEAH can rarely hold her anger against him.

LEAH
Stop sneaking up on me!                              
I couldíve killed you just now, WILLIAM!

LEAH sheathes her knife and glares at WILLIAM. WILLIAM grins and carefully offers his side of the situation.

WILLIAM, JR
Youíre heavy-footed, LEAH.
Every living thing in the forest can
hear you plowing through here.(beat)
Is that all there is this morning?
Just the one?

LEAH does not answer.  The two solemnly walk toward a cabin in a clearing.  The morning sun has risen, and the soft sunlight reveals two horses are tied in front of the cabin.  LEAH and WILLIAM look at each other and break into a run. Pushing the door open into the small log cabin, they find their elderly father sitting by the lit fireplace.  A cane rests on one side of the chair.  His weathered hand clutches legal papers as two men dressed in fine clothes wait for the answer to a clenching decision.  

INT:  Small log cabin. Two men stand near the table. WILLIAM SR., a mixed blood Cherokee is seated by the lit fireplace. He holds legal papers in his shaking hands. WILLIAM JR and LEAH pause at the door.

WILLIAM,SR.
(in a weak, defeated voice)
So what youíre implying is
Iíve no choice in this matter.
You will take my land so I canít
provide for my children, or you will
Take my children so I canít work my land.

The two neighbors, KINNITH MURCHISON and his brother, DUNCAN MURCHISON survey the small room.  The Scottish men immigrated to America twenty-five years ago, but they were quickly buying labor in the form of slaves, indentures or land from tax forfeitures.  Their empire and influence was expanding rapidly and a mixed-blood Cherokee land owner for a neighbor would be easy to dispatch of.

DUNCAN MURCHISON
Och, WILLIAM.  You are an auld man.  
What good is this land to you anyhow?
Thereís nothing but rocks to be cast away.
Be sensible, man. Youíve not managed a crop in years.

WILLIAM SR.  
And the drought has taken your crops too?
Your slaves work the fruitless earth, nonetheless. What worries have you?

KINNITH MURCHISON
We are not the ones with worries, auld man.
WE pay our taxes and you are delinquent.
You may indenture your half-breed children to us and remain on your homestead,
or you may forfeit your lands for auction.

WILLIAM SR. SEES HIS CHILDREN AT THE DOORWAY.

WILLIAM SR.
Do you ever fear someone
may come and take everything...
EVERYONE sacred to you away?
We were here in America centuries before you
and your forefathers immigrated.
I served as a patriot to this country in the
continental army, yet you say we are
different from you. You call us cursed soulsÖ I believe you now.
Only a cursed soul would find himself in this situation.
   
KINNITH MURCHISON
The children will be better off with me.
The price is fair enough for you to hold on to your family lands for many years to come. They will work and learn trades. I will see that they learn to read and write.

WILLIAM JR. TO HIS FATHER
You are selling us?  
We are to be their slaves now?

KINNITH MURCHISON
Slavery is such a harsh word. Servant might be more suitable under the circumstances. It is a peaceful solution we offerÖ One that will allow your father to keep his land.

WILLIAM GOYENS, JR
We will not go with you.  There is no peace in being ripped from oneís family land.  There can be no peace in being forced to work for another manís gain. It is wrong!

LEAH
(in a calm voice)
Will we be separated? William and me? Will we live and work at the same plantation?

KINNITH MURCHISON
I promise you will both stay and work on my
land, adjacent to your fatherís.  If it is
within my power, I will not separate you until you are free at the age of 21.

LEAH draws her sharp hunting knife. (beat)She observes the lethal blade. She cuts the leather strap binding the rabbit to her belt. She places the rabbit and the knife on the table for her fatherís evening meal. Tenderly she kisses her father.

LEAH
We will be close, father.  It will not be the same, but I will never
truly leave you or our home place. WILLIAM, we must go now.

WILLIAM is scooted out the door by the Scottish gentlemen. He tries to resist, but the men tie a rope around his hands.


WILLIAM  Jr continues to scuffle and the men bind his hands tighter.  The last shot is of William Jrís confused and pained glance at his father who watches helplessly from the door.

DISSOLVE TO:
« Last Edit: March 29, 2011, 09:09:32 PM by Cyndith »
--Cyndie

"Why do you do it in the first place? I mean you paint a picture, but you can't explain what it means because the audience is supposed to get it.  But then a judge comes along and says, 'I see this painting, but what you intended for me to see is not what I see; therefore, it isn't'"

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2011, 08:01:47 PM »
Hi Cyndith - haven't a clue about screenplays, however Ulster-Scots I do know. Kinnith>>>Kenneth

Maybe use the term 'drooth' instead of drought???

 ;) ;) ;)

Offline Maimi

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2011, 12:10:57 AM »
Hello Cyndith,

The first thing that struck me was how your script favors other prose. Be brief with setting descriptions and in setting the tone. Lean is key.

Some advise not going over four lines in paragraphs (lines are not the same thing as sentences). With MWCs formatting, your first paragraph has 5 lines. Only necessities should be provided, while highlighting important actions and what's significant. The guideline is to write short, crisp sentences.

Note: I can regurgitate the "rules" all day, but struggle applying them to my own work. How much is too much and keeping it lean is an issue of mine. :)

Quote
EXT. NORTH CAROLINA FOREST NEAR DEEP RIVER - DAYBREAK - 1804
DAYBREAK informs us of the time, however, the time is repeated by including pre-dawn hours, early morning birds, emerges from slumber, etc.

Quote
We HEAR the early-morning birds chirping as the forest emerges from slumber.
We hear and we see... avoid these. We hear and see what we read. Birds chirp.

Quote
LEAH, a twelve year old mixed-blood Croatan Indian, steps through the trees.  Her moccasins tread softly, apologetically toward the rabbit box. She carefully pulls the rabbit out of the snare.

Leah is making her way through the woods which have become animated once more.  She walks slowly with the body of the rabbit tied to her belt.
1. Replace the passive 'is -ing' with active.
2. Specific verbs help us see the action without using adverbs.

Compare Leah is making her way through the woods.
to
Leah tiptoes through the woods.
Leah prowls
Leah pads
Leah slinks
Leah staggers
Leah scurries

Those are visible cues, whereas 'is making' is vague. Plus, using concrete verbs reveal something about Leah. Her stomping through the woods doesn't give us the same clue to her personality as someone who sneaks. Let your verbs provide action and give insight into your characters.

Capping character names: Everything I've read says to use all CAPS the first time they appear in the screenplay. Also, as you've done, all CAPS names before dialogue.

Thanks for the read,

Maimi
« Last Edit: August 11, 2013, 10:25:26 PM by Maimi »

Offline Cyndith

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2011, 11:55:57 AM »
Thank you very much.  I feared there was too much description here but was modeling it after The Last of the Mohicans script.  In the beginning there's no dialogue, so the script begins with an elaborate description of of sounds, scenery and light tasks.  To me, it evokes a tone of closeness to the woodlands.  But perhaps I overdid it.  

I will tighten the description up a bit and I believe I need to double space those lines.  This is by no means a Last of the Mohicans type budget film, but I could take out the descriptions of the characters and compile that in the casting page - list of characters and their descriptions.  Good points!  I will get to work on it right away.

« Last Edit: March 30, 2011, 11:59:02 AM by Cyndith »
--Cyndie

"Why do you do it in the first place? I mean you paint a picture, but you can't explain what it means because the audience is supposed to get it.  But then a judge comes along and says, 'I see this painting, but what you intended for me to see is not what I see; therefore, it isn't'"

Offline Cyndith

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2011, 12:42:31 PM »
FADE IN:

EXT. NORTH CAROLINA FOREST NEAR DEEP RIVER - DAYBREAK - 1804

C/U COTTON-TAIL RABBIT CHEWING ON GRASS. We HEAR birds chirping as the forest emerges from slumber.  Hazy light filters through the trees. 

(soft snap of a twig, silences the birds.)

SERIES OF SHOTS

A) The rabbit looks up, frozen in place.  Rabbit ears strain for the source of the sound. 

B) Another soft snap sends the rabbit racing through the forest. 

C) In its panic, the rabbit comes full circle

D) The door of a black gum box suddenly releases.   

E) The rabbit is trapped in the primitively constructed snare.

F) LEAH steps through the trees.  Her moccasins tread softly, apologetically toward the rabbit box. She carefully pulls the rabbit out of the snare.

END SERIES OF SHOTS

LEAH
Iím sorry little sister.
My father and brother hungerÖ
as do I.
We are grateful for your sacrifice.

CUT TO ...

Leah walks slowly through the woods which have become animated once more. The body of the rabbit is fastened to her belt.  Periodically she stops and listens. Something is not quite right.  Taking a breath, she continues her way home.

SUDDENLY: A SHADOW DROPS HEAVILY FROM A NEARBY TREE.  IT SCARES US AND...

LEAH draws her hunting knife against her eight year-old brother WILLIAM. Breathing heavily, with anger flashing in her eyes, she pushes her laughing brother aside.

LEAH
Stop sneaking up on me!                             
I couldíve killed you just now, WILLIAM!

LEAH sheathes her knife and glares at WILLIAM.

WILLIAM grins and carefully offers his side of the situation.

WILLIAM
Youíre heavy-footed, LEAH.
Every living thing in the forest can
hear you plowing through here...
Is that all there is this morning?
Just the one?

LEAH does not answer. 

SERIES OF SHOTS:

A)   The two solemnly walk toward a cabin in a clearing.
 
B)   The morning sun has risen, and the soft sunlight reveals two horses are tied in front of the cabin.

C)   LEAH and WILLIAM look at each other and break into a run.

END SERIES OF SHOTS


INT.SMALL LOG CABIN WITH A BURNING FIREPLACE.

Pushing the door open into the small log cabin, the children find their elderly father sitting by the lit fireplace.  A cane rests on one side of the chair. 

The old manís weathered hand clutches legal papers as two men dressed in fine clothes wait for the answer to a clenching decision. 


WILLIAM SR.
(in a weak, defeated voice)
So what youíre implying is
Iíve no choice in this matter.
You will take my land so I canít
provide for my children, or you will
Take my children so I canít work my land.

The two neighbors, KINNITH and his brother, DUNCAN survey the small room. 

DUNCAN
Och, WILLIAM.  You are an auld man. 
What good is this land to you anyhow?
Thereís nothing but rocks to be cast away.
Be sensible, man. Youíve not managed a crop in years.

WILLIAM SR.
And the drought has taken your crops too?
Your slaves work the fruitless earth, nonetheless. What worries have you?

KINNITH
We are not the ones with worries, auld man.
WE pay our taxes and you are delinquent.
Indenture your half-breed children to us and remain on your homestead or forfeit your lands for auction.


WILLIAM SR. SEES HIS CHILDREN AT THE DOORWAY.

WILLIAM SR.
Do you ever fear someone
may come and take everything...
EVERYONE sacred to you away?
I have the scars on my body from
My service in the continental army long before you and your forefathers came to our shore.

(Pause, staring into the fire, remembering the bloody battles)

WILLIAM, SR.
Yet, now you say we are
different from you.
You call us cursed soulsÖ
I believe you now.
Only a cursed soul would find
himself in this situation.
   
KINNITH
The price is fair enough for you to hold on to your family lands for many years to come. They will work and learn trades.

WILLIAM GOYENS, JR. TO HIS FATHER
You are selling us? 
We are to be their slaves now?

KINNITH
Slavery is such a harsh word. Servant might be more suitable under the circumstances. It is a peaceful solution we offerÖ One that will allow your father to keep his land.

WILLIAM JR.
Weíll not go with you.  Thereís no peace in being ripped from our home.  There is no peace in being forced to work for another manís gain. Itís wrong!
 
LEAH
(in a calm voice)
Will we be separated? William and me?
May we work at the same plantation?


KINNITH
I promise.  You will both stay and work on my land, adjacent to your fatherís.  If it is within my power, you will not be separated until you are free at the age of 21.

LEAH draws her sharp hunting knife. (beat) She observes the lethal blade. Then, she cuts the leather strap binding the rabbit to her belt. She places the rabbit and the knife on the table for her fatherís evening meal. Tenderly she kisses her father.

LEAH
Weíll be close, father.  It will not be the same, but I will never truly leave you or our land. WILLIAM, we must go now.

WILLIAM is scooted out the door by the Scottish gentlemen. He tries to resist, but the men tie a rope around his hands.

LEAH (CONT)
No!  Thatís not necessary.
Please!

WILLIAM Jr continues to scuffle and the men bind his hands tighter. 

The last shot is of William Jrís confused and pained glance at his father who watches helplessly from the door.

DISSOLVE TO:
--Cyndie

"Why do you do it in the first place? I mean you paint a picture, but you can't explain what it means because the audience is supposed to get it.  But then a judge comes along and says, 'I see this painting, but what you intended for me to see is not what I see; therefore, it isn't'"

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2011, 02:28:51 PM »
Quote
Leah walks slowly ambles through the woods which have become animated once more. The body of the rabbit is fastened to her belt. Quizzical, she periodically stops and listens. Something is not quite right.  Taking a breath, she continues her way home.

Quote
The children push Pushing the door open into the small log cabin, the children find where their elderly father sits sitting by the lit fireplace.  A cane rests on one side of the chair.

The old manís weathered hand clutches legal papers as two men dressed in fine clothes wait for the answer to a clenching decision.

Quote
(Pause, staring stares into the fire, remembering recollects the bloody battles)
Will these 'thoughts' be shown somehow? [I don't have a clue about screenwriting so I don't know if the parentheses is an indication to that effect.]

Quote
The last shot is of William Jrís confused and pained glance at his father who watches helplessly from the door.
William Jnr gives and anguished glance to his father who watches, helpless, from the door   . . .  how are you going to get both actions seen in one shot? One is W Jnr's face looking at his father, the other is the father's forlorn expression.

Offline Cyndith

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2011, 02:42:12 PM »
very good point!  I need to remember to write as though I'm looking through a lens.  The last shot cannot be done.  I appreciate all input. If I can perfect my technique in the first 5-10 minutes of the film, perhaps the rest will fall into a good form. 

I will remember these tips as I write and revise future scenes.

--Cyndie

"Why do you do it in the first place? I mean you paint a picture, but you can't explain what it means because the audience is supposed to get it.  But then a judge comes along and says, 'I see this painting, but what you intended for me to see is not what I see; therefore, it isn't'"

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2011, 02:44:57 PM »
 :D :D :D :D Whoo hoo! I said something that made sense.

You have made my day, Cyndith. ;D ;D ;D

Offline Cyndith

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2011, 04:20:14 PM »
510bhan,

I always benefit from your critiques.  They make me look deeper.   :) :) :) :) :)
--Cyndie

"Why do you do it in the first place? I mean you paint a picture, but you can't explain what it means because the audience is supposed to get it.  But then a judge comes along and says, 'I see this painting, but what you intended for me to see is not what I see; therefore, it isn't'"

Offline Cyndith

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2011, 04:38:37 PM »
Yayyy!  I ordered How to Write a Script in a Month today!  I'm looking forward to studying and applying the guidelines in my attempt to write this screenplay.  I'm sure the process will go much smoother after reading helpful tips and suggestions. 

I felt so confident before I began, but I've stalled and do not know how to organize the events I have swirling in my head.  I feel sure the CD will help me outline the scenes and coordinate my characters more effectively. :) :) :) :)
--Cyndie

"Why do you do it in the first place? I mean you paint a picture, but you can't explain what it means because the audience is supposed to get it.  But then a judge comes along and says, 'I see this painting, but what you intended for me to see is not what I see; therefore, it isn't'"

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Unfortunate
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2011, 06:44:40 PM »
Sounds like you're in the 'zone' at the moment Cyndith - you go girl! :)