Monday, April 21, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 46 - The Penitent

Before I went to Ryerson for film, I'd already been writing screenplays. During first year, when I heard that we'd eventually be doing a special project with the theatre department in third year, I knew what story I would use.

I developed a scene from the full-length screenplay treatment to use as a short film. I wanted it to feel as if it had been plucked from a full-length screenplay, however. And I was very pleased with how it turned out.

It was a joy to work with trained actors from Ryerson's theatre school. I was lucky because my husband went to The New School of Drama in Toronto, and my sister was a veteran of high school and community theatre. So I had a pair of actors I could count on, while using non-actors for everything else. Meaning my friends and co-workers from the theatre where I worked. Luckily, most of my friends there were creative types and willing to expand their skill level through acting in a couple of my films.

But for The Pentitent I got a taste of the talent search. The film students got to meet the acting students in a huge group meeting, then we submitted requests for whom we'd like for our roles. We had to pick 1st, 2nd and 3rd - and lucky me, I got all my first choices!

For the scary step father, Luther, I got Ted Ludzik. For Kate I got Linda Ballantyne. And for Arlen I got Andrew Croft, whom I can't find on the net other than through an academic theatre group from Toronto called Handmade Performance.

Here is the script for my third year film, with the addition of stills which I photographed off my TV. Keep in mind that Blogger won't allow center spacing - everything here is aligned left, but all dialogue should appear in the center.


Luther drags Arlen along the tunneled path to the door, opening it. Arlen struggles, trying desperately to stay outside. But Luther yanks him along with no trouble.


Luther dumps Arlen onto the hay-covered floor. He pulls his coat off, heading across the small space to grab a strap from a peg on a post.


Take your coat off.

Arlen gets as far as hands and knees, wiping the blood from his nose. Luther strides over to him, yanks the coat from Arlen and kicks him down again. Arlen covers his head with his hands as the blows begin.


Kate cracks an egg into a bowl and stirs the mixture. She hears Arlen’s cries from outside and stops mixing.


Luther holds nothing back as he rains the blows on Arlen. Though seventeen, Arlen cries like a terrified child.


Kate tries to carry on with the cooking, but puts her bowl down as her son’s cries fill her ears. She pulls her rosary out from beneath her shawl and prays.


Arlen puts a hand back to shield himself. Luther stops just long enough to kneel beside Arlen, forcing the boy’s hand away. He swings the strap again and Arlen’s cries are filled with hopelessness.


Kate flees the cabin.


Kate arrives at the shed door, taking in the scene between her husband and son. She runs forward.


Luther, no!

Kate flings herself at Luther, but he easily tosses her aside. He continues the beating, so Kate hurls herself between Arlen and the strap. When it strikes her, Luther pulls back, as if suddenly realizing she’s there.




What has he done?

Luther tosses the strap aside, lunging for Arlen. He picks Arlen up by the front of his shirt, shaking him back and forth.


Tell her. Tell her!


Wolves got into the food.

Luther throws Arlen down into the hay and backs away from them, gaining his feet.


He didn’t secure the food store! The wolves got everything. Meat. Grain. Everything.

Kate looks at her son. Arlen hangs his head, shivering and crying. Luther stoops and retrieves his coat, putting it on.


I’m going to head out. See if I can get anything. Deer. Rabbit, maybe.

He exits the shed. Kate looks at Arlen, then reaches for him, but he pulls away from her.


Why would you..? Why didn’t he do it?


When we got back from the traplines, the storm… It was already blowing, and he… He went for the animals. The snow was blowing. I couldn’t see. My hands were freezing.

Kate takes one of his hands in hers. She sees an ugly red welt on it. Arlen moves closer to her, but Kate bursts into tears.



She dashes after her husband. Arlen huddles on the floor of the shed. After a few moments, he rises painfully to his feet. He picks up the strap and carries it back to the peg, where he hangs it.

He makes his way to his coat and puts it on, then leaves the shed.

Copyright - Julia Smith - 1994


No Nonsense Girl said...

stopping by to say hello!!! :)

Good post! :)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

This is the first screenplay I think I've read. Maybe not, but ...

At any rate, I like this. I like how fast the action sucks us in, how different the writing is, how easily we can picture not only the action but the characters.

Teach me more, my friend!

Wylie Kinson said...

Chilling. Knowing this happens - that people have this violence within. That mothers/wives/daughters are so helpless against it.

Missy said...

Wow! Love it! And this is most definitely sharing the creative. As a wannabe screenwriter, this is of particular interest to me. Thanks for sharing.

Akelamalu said...

How talented you are m'dear - great stuff!

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Thanks for stopping by on my blog. Wow... you are the first real screenwriter that I have ever met... :-)


Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

oh yea... you were not at that blog... you were at this one


I gotta write!

Flowerpot said...

very chilling - glad I'm reading this in the morning not evening!

Rose said...

I love it. You're so talented.

Jill said...

Aren't you proud of you work, Julia?
Is this part of the story you have put for the last 2 train?
I want to know more!

Julia Smith said...

Yes, Jill - this is the story for which I wrote backstory poems for the last three Poetry Trains. And I really do love this short film. Everyone was great, especially Arlen. He had a hard day of filming - very emotional.

I'm developing the full-length screenplay now. It's totally consuming my imagination these days.

Jill said...

I cannot wait to see the final project!! Let me know in advance if the is a little premiere... You are not that far away!!

Julia Smith said...

I'll definitely keep you posted!