New School image assignment. Images that connect to my screenplay at a visceral level.
Download my first scene in Word below (Rated R) :
In my last week of my online screenwriting class, I travelled to Woodstock to enjoy some privacy and quiet time to complete the rough outline of my latest screenplay. While there, I had an impulse to have a session with a lovely lady, Rose. http://www.psychicreadingsinwoodstockny.com/
She is convinced that this screenplay will be produced. Call me a naïve optimist, but I believe her. Maybe I believe her because I just want this so much. I don't need to make any money off of it (not that I would turn it down) but I could die happy with my low five figure salary if I could just see this one fully realized. My other screenplay, my stage play, my YA novel -- they are all my babies -- but this one is my SELF in text.
If you do read my first scene, you will find that my "film within a film" here is disturbing. It is a microcosm of the theme of the film itself. How does my protagonist, Charli, process the damage that has been done to her and come out on the other side healed, new, and open to love again? How many of us who are damaged by others remain guarded and bitter? Is there a path to trusting others after being victimized?
If you would like to read the scene, but don't want to download it into your Word program, I'll paste it here. You'll just have to put up with the funky formatting. I welcome any feedback you may have. Just be forewarned, the scene involves intense violence against a young girl. Reader beware.
INT. THERAPIST’S OFFICE - DAY 1
This is a film within the film. MARINA, an attractive (a la Vera Farmiga) woman in her early forties as the character, Jennifer, speaks to THERAPIST who with clipboard. Therapist is clearly moved by her story.
I really liked him, you know? He was so good looking and he had such a nice smile... I like the way he smiled at me. I liked how he would say my name.
Say your name?
Yes... he would just repeat my name over and over like he was loving the sound of it, hearing the music of it... "Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer"
Why do you think he did that?
I read that you can make people like you just by saying their name you know? That it activates parts of the brain in a way that no other name would. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel important, valuable... I don’t know.
Did it make you feel that way?
Absolutely. It was like, for that moment, the sun was shining on me... like it existed just for me. I loved it. I had a huge crush on this guy.
There is a long moment as Jennifer begins to tear up. She tries to hold the emotion back. The therapist hands her a box of tissues.
How old were you?
Jennifer has to decide whether to let the story flow or continue to hold it back.
(laughing through tears) Camping. I loved it.
EXT. CAMPSITE - EVENING
JENNIFER’S FATHER, BROTHER, friend LISA, and brother’s friend, ANDY sit around the fire talking and laughing. Jennifer and Lisa are eating smores. The guys are drinking beers.
My dad let each of us take a friend. I took Cindy and my brother took him.
Andy. He was seventeen, I think. We had so much fun on that trip. We all stayed up late by the firepit talking, eating a ton of junk, vacation food, you know? And my dad let the boys drink beers... I was just as happy to have a Coke. Andy was teasing me, you know? He had a bunch of weeds, like, long grass with a fluffy kind of end. He was tickling me with the end... plucking them out of the ground, tickling me, throwing them at me.
Shoving the grass in my hair, down under my collar. It was so fun. I took off and he chased me... had a long piece of grass with the roots and dirt and all still attached and was threatening me with it.
(low volume, with humor) I’m going to get you, you little brat.
Young Jennifer runs from him, screaming and laughing. He easily catches up to her, grabs her from behind and sticks the weed, dirt and all right down her pants from behind. He immediately lets her go. She’s still laughing, but her expression shows that she thinks it’s a little inappropriate as she removes the weed.
BACK TO PRESENT 3
It was weird, you know? He stuck that dirty root right down my pants, inside my underwear. I didn’t think much of it, but looking back I can see that it was a red flag.
(tears up again) So... so.
INT. TENT/EXT. CAMPSITE - NIGHT 4
(Action follows V.O. description).
I’m not sure what time it was. 2:00? I had to get up to go to the bathroom. There were porta-potties across the campsite. I didn’t want to go alone, but Lisa was just impossible to wake up. So I went. God, I feel like he was just waiting for me.
His eyes just... honed in on me. He looked completely different. There was no smile, no teasing -- he just moved after me -- silently. He took hold of me, like... he was escorting me through a door or something and he led me right to the woods. He took my flashlight and turned it off. It was so dark. I couldn’t see. He couldn’t have been able to see. He just stumbled farther and farther into the woods.
Did you say anything during this time?
No. It was like his silence took hold of me too. I didn’t understand what he was doing, but I was terrified because this wasn’t Andy. It was something... primitive, almost subhuman. Anyway I guess he found the place he wanted to be because he turned the flashlight on and shined it in my face for a moment. And then he just dropped it and started grabbing at me, pulling off my clothes. He pushed me up next to a tree and tried to get inside of me, but he couldn’t. I guess I was too small. So he put me on the ground and he found his way in. I couldn’t see him at all, but I could feel the hate coming off of him, you know? He finished by turning me over and pushing himself into my rear... I don’t know... I didn’t even know what was happening to me. I thought he was going to tear me apart from the inside. I was sure he wanted me dead
BACK TO PRESENT 5
(compassionately, with veiled emotion)
But you’re alive.
What happened after the rape?
(surprised at the use of the word)
He spoke. Told me to get my clothes on. He walked me back out of the woods and went right back to the fire pit... but before he turned his back on me he said... "You shouldn’t have done that." Like I had done it to him.
You do understand that he was a predator? You were an innocent child.
I flirted with him.
He was a predator. You were a child.
I just let him do it. I didn’t fight. If I had fought him, or even tried to say no... I might be able to stand myself.
Jennifer, just close your eyes for a minute and imagine yourself at twelve years old. Just twelve short years on this earth.
Jennifer closes her eyes.
Can you see her? Twelve-year-old Jennifer?
Yes. She was clueless.
Of course she was. It’s natural for a twelve year old to be infatuated with a teenaged boy. It’s not natural for her to be attacked, and you know... you know... that having a crush on a boy does not mean you invited sexual violence.
(weeping, movingly) I do know that.
Then I think we may be getting somewhere.
Jennifer smiles slightly through her tears and nods.
CAMERA PULLS BACK TO SHOW THAT THE PREVIOUS SCENE IS ON THE SCREEN IN A MOVIE THEATRE.
No real reason for the Vera Farmiga picture. I just felt like putting it here.
I'm going to take a few days on my own to complete my new screenplay, Consumed. My screenplay class at The New School will get me as far as the first act as well as indexing the whole thing. Then, I just need to make a firm commitment to getting it done. Going away for a few days for the express purpose of completing the script will do it for me.
Even though I'm thrilled about the fact that Modern Persecution is getting attention (I have made the finals at almost every contest I've entered -- the latest being the Southern California Screenplay Competition -- still waiting for a #1 win), I'm far more excited about this new script. This is because Modern Persecution is about Elizabeth Packard; Consumed is about me (tee hee hee). Well, it's about a fictional me and a fictional Vera Farmiga. I hope she doesn't mind. Like Dark Corner, the protagonist is a version of me and that's fun. Writing is so freeing because I can take my ideas about dramatic events that I could only imagine and make them happen.
And if you believe in the astral plane-Sethian-Jungian cosmic consciousness stuff, then my writing a script makes it happen (in a sense). At times, writing is a struggle. Lately, it's 100% high - better than any drug or meditation designed to take me to an altered state. If I never get a script produced, this high is my intrinsic reward. I saw Kerry Ehrin in a tweet mention something to a struggling writer about commercial success, advising him to just follow his heart with his writing. That's really all we can do! Therein is the satisfaction. At least for me, that's where it is. If commercial success comes our way, then that's icing on the cake. I just don't think that grasping at success will ever result in the happiness and peace we crave. I think we've got to enjoy the work, love the work, and then, maybe, that success will come. Having said that, I know there are some people who approach life more aggressively; I'm not sure if aggressive people have a better success rate than I, but I'm not going against my nature. I'm going to write, put myself out there online via contests and Twitter, but I'm not going to do headstands outside the doors of producers and agents.
So, here is some more fun. My imaginary cast list for my characters:
1. Charli Wingfield - a "me" type in her twenties -- this has got to be an unknown
2. Marina Jones - a film star who has boundary issues -- Vera Farmiga (of course - could it be anyone else?)
3. "Keith" -- the sexy bodyguard -- Matthew St. Patrick (okay, he's probably a bit old for the role, but I can't forget "Keith" in Six Feet Under; he's perfect.
4. Sam - the boy next door fiancé who has a dark side - Ryan Reynolds
5. Mom - Charli's mom - Diane Lane
6. Maddie - twelve year old "niece" - should be an unknown
7. John - too handsome movie star type based on John Hamm - how 'bout John Hamm?
Dreams of success are super fun, and I appreciate the fact that Modern Persecution is getting some attention. (See the pic below). Now, I'm writing a new screenplay with expert coaching from Douglas Moore and my classmates at The New School. This experience really brings home the importance of writing for the sake of the process. I may never see one of my screenplays realized, but the experience of writing this one has been a healthy addiction. Everything is just moving into place and I feel... joie de vivre!
The Cube, No Exit, Fox and His Friends, The Woodsman, L.I.E, Moonlight, Down to the Bone, Kong: Skull Island, Burn Your Maps
Now that I'm in this screenwriting class, I've been watching more films -- well, at least more films that don't have Vera Farmiga in them. I've seen every Farmiga film except a couple in which she has less than five lines. The exception is Burn Your Maps, and it's killing me that I can't figure out how to see it. I think it's playing in NYC now, but I can't easily go hopping off to Manhattan this week. Sigh. On to my intended topic: I don't want to get into lengthy discussions about these films, but I do feel the urge to put my two cents in on them. So here goes.
1. The Cube: The reminds me of the play, No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. Personally, I'm claustrophobic, so I hate stories in which the characters are stuck in one place. The exception to this rule is The Diary of Anne Frank which I love. The reason my professor mentioned this one, though, is that the script took a very interesting turn. He said that originally there was a hero cop and a villain, and they writers realized that it would be effective to combine the characters. And that did work very well. I can't imagine what a loss it would have been if they had not made this realization.
2. Fox and His Friends: This one was much more interesting for me to watch than The Cube. The relationships mystified me and I could not relate to the behaviors of these men (this movie is German, 1970's, and the main characters are gay men). The film is famous for its cynicism, and I am truly not a cynic. For the purposes of my current screenplay, though, it was helpful to see an imbalanced power dynamic play out.
3. The Woodsman: I am quite surprised that this film got made, because our society does not like sympathetic portraits of pedophiles. In this case, though, we do find ourselves feeling for this guy (played by Kevin Bacon). I have always thought that the way we characterize these people as 100% monsters may make it easier for us to deal, but people are more complicated than that.
4. L. I. E. Speaking of pedophiles, here's another one (played by Brian Cox). These films were recommended to me, because one of my screenplay ideas was one in which the point of view was from a pedophile who felt terribly ashamed of his behavior but that shame failed to put a halt to it. This is in the same vein as Dexter, who considers his killing to be an uncontrollable addiction. L.I.E. was disturbing on a number of fronts, and its ending was predictable, but here is yet another film that refuses to deny the complexity of human beings even if one of them has clearly given in to evil impulses.
5. Moonlight: The Academy got it right this time. I watched this, and took notes. I don't believe I've seen anything so perfectly executed. Maybe the fact that the writer and director are the same person. Then, I read online reviews of this - not by critics but by "regular" people. I couldn't believe how negative they were. Boring? This was boring?! Was that "reviewer" looking for a gun battle or something? I was holding my breath nearly every moment, so enthralled with the life of Shiron. One of the other criticisms that stood out to me is that the clothing wasn't correct for the time and place. Okay, I very well might have missed accuracy of 80s clothing in Miami while my heart was being torn inside out with feeling for Little.
6. Down to the Bone: Okay, of course, I've seen this a bunch of times. It was new to me because I made my husband watch it. I knew he'd get upset about the ending. He thinks it didn't have an ending, but I think it actually had more of an ending than Moonlight. In both cases, the audience probably craves to know more, but in Down to the Bone I think I can infer the future. The lead woman (my girl, Vera) stays straight, while her sexy former sponsor has a long, rocky, and addicted road ahead. Perhaps he never comes back to sobriety. This film seems like a documentary; I'm thinking the turkey guy and the snake guy were not actors -- just for real people. If they are actors, then they're beyond brilliant. Vera, just as Joe Sanfelippo says on AfterBuzzTV, is not practically perfect, but perfect.
7. Kong: Skull Island: I saw this film accidentally. I showed up a week early with my son to see Beauty and the Beast (not sure how I got the date wrong) and this was our last minute choice. I have to say I LOVED it! So much fun. I am not a fan of most action films, but this one (basically a retelling of Moby Dick but instead of a what it's a giant gorilla) was beautifully done. I haven't liked an action film this much since Raiders of the Lost Ark.
8. Burn Your Maps: I've been looking forward to this for months. The limited release date was Friday, and I can't even figure out whether I'll be able to see it on the 24th where it is supposed to expand its release. With the popularity of Vera Farmiga and Jacob Tremblay you would think it would be coming to all theatres! Cinelou, help me!
Okay, now some contest I didn't even remember entering has chosen my "project" for their film festival. I just can't figure out what that means. At worst, it means a mention on the Beverly Hills Film Festival website and in their program. At best it means a trip to Beverly Hills. Life has been unutterably difficult lately thanks to the misbehavior of all sorts of people on the periphery of my life. (I count my blessings that they are not individuals who are close to me; nevertheless, I've been suffering). I could really use a creative getaway. LA is simultaneously terrifying and exciting. I need something to look forward to.
So with teaching and mothering and fangirling and all, I haven't had the chance to get beyond a sketchy index card stage on my next screenplay. Actually, I wrote a couple opening scenes as well. I need the motivation and, criticism of other people to get me going, so I turned to my alma mater -- The New School -- to give me a kick in the butt. I start my online screenwriting workshop/class/group on Monday! I'm so happy to be a student again -- and nervous about how tired I will be.
My first screenplay, Modern Persecution, was recently a quarter-finalist in the Cinequest Screenwriting Contest, and they actually rejected me with some helpful criticism. They loved the idea, but it felt a bit too much like a documentary. I've heard great compliments from Slamdance and New Hampshire FF but with no criticism I had nowhere to go. This, will really help me (once I move back to it). Being one of only three finalists at the NHFF gave me a miniscule spark of hope for a career, but coming in second (or was it third? I'll never know.) did not do anything concrete for me at all.
My current screenplay is inspired by Vera Farmiga, and in part by all the people who put her profile picture up and use her name on Twitter as if it is their own. Now, I understand this impulse, and Vera herself does not seem bothered by it -- but it does creep me out just a tiny bit. Yet, I don't sense that her fans are sufferers from "celebrity worship syndrome." (Look it up; it's weird). Instead, I think they identify with her. It's actually easy to do so because her characters tend to be very relatable, open, and vulnerable. "Norma" is the one that grabbed a lot of fans, and I think that is in part because she's such a mess. Aren't we all train wrecks -- or train wrecks waiting to happen? If you're sensitive, empathetic, truly human, life can be as horrific and difficult as Bates Motel at times. If you were to ask my husband, he would say that I have got to be the most obsessed fan who ever lived, but I do draw the line at taking her name or photo on as my own. I do put a great deal of thought into her which is entirely illogical (see the Vera Farmiga and Carbohydrate post) but it does give me pleasure. Now maybe I can channel this love from afar into a worthy work of creativity. I hope my husband isn't actually worried, because even if she were available to me, I'm not that kind of girl. It is an interesting idea for a screenplay, though, isn't it? The girl who leaves everything behind to follow a movie star whom she idolizes? So... there you go. I begin in earnest on Monday.
Another fun thing -- my husband gave me a copy of the pilot of Bates Motel (the script). It freed me up quite a bit to see that Kerry Ehrin wrote quite a bit of subtext. I am an actor and I don't balk at subtext written in the stage directions, but I think do remember Uta Haugen saying we should cross out any and all stage directions. I liked reading Kerry's subtext and I think it helped the actors realize her vision. If Vera or any of the other professional actors wanted to provide a different subtext, they certainly had the freedom to do so. I don't think the suggestion of subtext is going to lock a strong actor to the idea right away.
On the fan front, I understand that Bates Motel, Vera Farmiga, and Freddie Highmore won People's Choice Awards. I did, indeed, vote for them. Also, Vera mentioned on Twitter that they started filming the finale today. One month from today, I will be watching the Season Premiere of Bates Motel!
I guess it is about time I shared my latest tragic success/failure story. On September 18th, I was informed that I was one of only three finalists for the New Hampshire Film Festival 2016 Screenplay Competition. See below?
As I waited for the news, I tried to avoid getting my hopes up. Instead, as I often do, my imagination ran wild with the idea that I might win the festival, magically secure a producer, and cast Vera Farmiga in the lead. At the same time, I suspected that my (possibly) less marketable period piece centered around a woman over forty was a longshot. (It seems to me that America doesn't much do women over forty -- England is a whole other story though -- their films are loaded with "wrinklies" and I love it).
Well, the success fantasy was just that -- a fantasy. I lost to a contemporary crime drama that I must admit sounds intriguing. I don't really feel that I lost, as such, but the end result is that I certainly cannot claim to be the winner.
So after drowning my sorrows in a variety of carbohydrates over a variety of days, I've pulled myself from the depths of disappointment. The way out of this mini-depression has simply been to focus on the next script, and continue to enter Modern Persecution in various contests (seems like England might be a good location to focus on). I can't help but be excited by my next screenplay idea. It's really unusual, but contemporary and very marketable. I've got a good number of the (virtual) index cards all laid out. There's a part for Vera in this one, too. Angelina Jolie would also fit the bill. I'd need a twenty-something actress (an unknown would be preferable), and a guy as hunky as Keith (Matthew St. Patrick) in Six Feet Under. I do love to let my imagination run wild, don't I?
I always come back to writing; I'm not built for marketing. Of course, I long for my screenplay to be produced and I look at people in the business and wonder why I'm not in it (all while knowing that my introverted nature and lack of marketing perseverance may have something to do with it). "Some folks lives roll easy as a breeze..." --Paul Simon
or "Why I am a Little Bit Like Norman"
...Thanks to the genetic hand I have been dealt, I have come to the realization that I can no longer eat simple carbohydrates -- AT ALL -- unless I want to be shopping in the "Woman's" department (which as cool as that might be for some people -- I just don't have the confidence to pull it off). So, my carbs are between 20 - 40 grams, and the carbs I do get are from healthy, nutritional sources.
One of the benefits simple carbs used to offer me is the release of chemicals in the brain that release serotonin. This stuff -- 5-hydroxyltryptamine (5-HT) -- makes me feel calmer, happier, like life is good! So, I need to give up the carbs without giving up the serotonin and this is where Vera Farmiga comes in. No judgments, now, I know I'm crazy (think about the line from Elf now) in a GOOD way.
Now let me preface this by saying that I love my husband and I'm attracted to my husband and as far as I know all signs point to me being straight. I do, however, love Vera Farmiga from afar. So I have discovered that when I look at her photograph, view her films, look into her eyes, and especially hear her voice, I get a serotonin release. So, thanks to her existence and her career, I can stay off the carbs.
Now, this intense actress-girl-love is not a new thing for me. It started with Judy Garland. At about the age of six, I decided that I loved her and I would be her. (I didn't understand acting, so I thought of her as "Dorothy"). I thought about her, looked at her picture, played her album at every spare moment, and because when you are six you can be whatever and whomever you want to be, I told every new acquaintance that my name was Dorothy. That finally stopped when I got busted. A new neighbor moved in; I told her that my name was Dorothy and that my little dog, was named "Toto." This lady had a coffee klatsch with our next door neighbor who clued her in that my name was Jennifer and that the dog's name was "Gidget."
It's hard to believe, but my old neighbor (now in her 80s) still remembers it and brought it up on her daughter's FB page recently! After that, I kept my passions a bit more to myself. Here's my list of celebrity loves:
Sherilyn Wolter (my college age General Hospital period)
Finola Hughes (more college age General Hospital)
a little bit Jane Seymour
And now, the best of all of them, Vera Farmiga. (officially announced on this blog in April of 2014)
So, I've managed to accomplish things and hold a job and get married and have a family even with this little crazy side of me. And I need the serotonin, so it's just another reason why crazy can be good.
Thank you, Vera.
Being a fan is both pleasure and pain. I am able to enjoy the influence this person has on my life, but there is always that nagging reality that it is an entirely one-sided relationship. She can influence me, but I in no way can influence her. And those fans who attempt to reach a celebrity and express their admiration will usually come off as creepy. I wouldn't do it.
As a writer, she has inspired me to come back to a screenplay I wrote circa 2002. I always dreamed of who might play the lead role in my film -- and I could not come up with a better idea than Susan Sarandon. She would have been good -- but not quite right. An unknown was my first choice back then, so there would be no one having to look past the celebrity to see the character. No problem with Vera. She is a character actress who moves so deeply into her roles that celebrity doesn't factor into them. I love that. Vera Farmiga would be perfect. She's got the acting chops and I know her well enough (from my lowly position as ardent fan) that she would without a doubt fancy the role.
So here is the logline for my screenplay, Modern Persecution:
Committed to an insane asylum by her reverend husband, a mother of five must dig deep within to survive -- and escape. Based on a true story.
She'd love it. I know that, especially because her creative baby, Higher Ground, has such parallels.
So, it's a nice fantasy. I'll keep dreaming it. I'll keep writing because that's a compulsion. And finally, I'll hope that someday the entry fee into one of these screenwriting contests will pay off with a little attention from someone solid in the business.
I'm Jennifer, the author who loves her novel, but doesn't want to think about it, talk about it, or write about it constantly.