The Screenplay: Day Two

Today the book graciously informs me that I am going to write twenty pages in three hours.

Twenty pages, three hours.

While I'm at it, why don't I make bricks without straw?    I've always felt that I can't progress in a story if the beginning is wrong.  It's like adding another layer of pyramid on top of a crumbling, uneven foundation.  Eventually the pyramid will fall down.  Or it will turn out lopsided.

This monstrous task makes me want to waste the rest of the night reading Inspiring Dog Stories.

So tonight I am going to defy the book and do what it tells me NOT to do: go back and edit, starting with the opening scene.  Read the first draft here.



Red rooftops bake in the afternoon sun. Wind tosses dust and dead leaves across the roof. NIX’S HAND grabs a leaf. She opens her hand and the leaf lies in her palm. CAMERA PULLS BACK to show NIX, a plain girl of 16. She balances on the pinnacle of the roof.

BELINDA (O.S. from below) And when you fall and break your neck, I suppose you’ll expect me to feel sorry for you.

NIX Watch!

The leaf lies in her palm. Nothing happens. BELINDA and PEARL watch from the courtyard below. Belinda, 17, is plump and wearing yards of ribbons and white lace. Pearl, 5, is rocking up and down on her toes.

PEARL Are you doing magic, Nix?

BELINDA No, she isn’t. Come down! You can fail on solid ground just as well as on that roof.

NIX Uncle Lorenzo says heights inspire great feats of magic.

BELINDA (hands on her hips) Uncle Lorenzo also believes the earth is flat and that the ghosts of all the rabbits he’s ever eaten live under his bed. If you don’t come down, I’ll—

Pearl runs for the ladder leaning against the wall. She is half up the ladder before Belinda or Nix realize what is happening.

BELINDA Pearl, come back!

Meanwhile, Nix has still been staring intently at the leaf on her palm. There is a spark. Is it real or a trick of the light? The spark jumps out of her hand.

NIX (shrieks in triumph) LOOK! Look, both of you, I-

Pearl totters along the roof towards Nix. She slips, and grabs Nix’s skirt. Nix loses her balance and she slides down the clay tiles, twisting her skirts. She scrabbles at the tiles with her hands, and grabs a pipe. Nix dangles half off the roof, with Pearl clinging to her. Belinda watches from below, horrified. She runs for the ladder.

BELINDA Don’t let go, don’t-

Under the deep shade of a laurel tree in the courtyard, PASCI rouses himself from sleep, with two cats curled up in the dust beside him. Pasci wears rather grimy white clown’s blouse, frilled collar and trousers. He yawns and dabs his sweat with his collar.

PASCI Little birds are singing. (Lazily he walks over to the ladder, which Belinda is dragging towards Nix and Pearl.) Allow me, lady.

Pasci walks below Nix and Pearl and spreads out his arms dramatically, offering to catch them.

PASCI Smallest bird first.

Pearl lets go of Nix and falls in to Pasci’s arms, giddy and laughing. Pasci sets her on the ground and holds his arms out for Nix.

NIX I think I’d rather take the ladder.

PASCI Brown bird, brown bird, fly down to me.

Nix takes a deep breath and allows herself to tumble down into Pasci’s arms. He staggers, but catches her.

Better?  I think so.  Belinda and Pearl are important, so I might as well introduce them right away.

Read Screenplay Preparation: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Day One.