This screenplay captures a single moment in time in the lives of a single mother and her teenage daughter. A moment in which things don’t go quite as expected for either of them.
The assignment brief required me to ‘create a short narrative film with a clearly defined conflict showing the main protagonist attempting to overcome or solve the conflict.’ At five and a half pages, it’s a very short screenplay. Everything takes place in a single day. But, all the structural elements are there (opening image, theme stated, set-up, catalyst, midpoint, climax, final image) and the conflict is clearly defined, in that both characters objectives are clearly stated: Mother wants her daughter to finish school and go to university; Daughter wants to take a gap year. We also see the main protagonist (Mother) attempt to solve the conflict, if in a somewhat unusual way.
I have intentionally left it open-ended, in that we don’t know what will become of Mother and Daughter, though we are aware things may never be the same again. It is also a narrative which I think captures the essence of the short film’s ability to ‘deliver a short, intense burst of emotion’ (Nash 2012, p.110).
What captured my imagination about this idea is Mother’s response to finding the letter in Daughter’s pocket – on discovering the deceit, she lets her daughter have a nice meal, then serves the letter up in a dessert specially prepared for the occasion. It reminds me of Ernestine Ulmer’s quote ‘Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.’ I can’t remember where or when she said this, but I have since seen it on the walls or pavement boards of several Dublin cafes.
I like the idea of combining the ‘uncertainty’ and the ‘dessert’ in some way, of making a moving image that taps into both the concrete and the less tangible, abstract aspects of life – ‘Eat dessert’ is a fairly concrete action; while ‘Life is uncertain’ is an existential outlook on what it means to be human. If that makes any sense.
I have chosen pavlova for the dessert because, although a simple recipe, it is often something that is served during celebratory and holiday meals. I think this will add an element of irony to the scene as, in Mother’s eyes, there is nothing celebratory about the meal.
I see this script as just a blueprint for the finished moving image. I have purposely kept descriptions to a minimum, giving only the basic information needed to help the reader to get a sense of the story – characters, locations, actions. A lot will depend on how well I can stage the actors, light the scenes, and compose and frame the shots.
Looking back over the script, I notice there are several ways in which ‘uncertainty’ is embodied within the text: none of the characters are given names; the father’s presence is vague and undefined; why Mother decides to ‘confront’ Daughter with a dessert is unclear; the subtext beneath the Mother-Daughter relationship is vague; the open-ended ending leaves the viewer wondering what will happen between Mother and Daughter. All of this will add to the sense of ‘uncertainty’ within the film.
Screenplay (final draft)
Revision – 21/09/18
I put the screenplay up for peer review.
One observation about the ending was particularly interesting, in that the reviewer said she ‘knew what the mother might do, but the daughter is more unknown’ (Emma 516689, 2018). Her suggestion ‘I wonder if it would be worth investigating the daughter’s reaction at the end, rather than the mother’s’ made me re-think the effectiveness of the ending.
This was very helpful. I added another scene to the end of the film, in which we see the daughter’s reaction to the events at home.
To accommodate this change to the ending, in which we see the Daughter at the bus stop reading the letter, I altered the description at the end of the kitchen scene to show her picking up the letter as she storms out of the room.
List of references
Nash, P. 2012 Short Films: Writing the Screenplay Harpenden, UK: Camera Books
OCA Critiques Discussion Forum (2019) https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/can-anyone-critique-my-script-for-moving-image-assignment-3-on-conflict-please/8140/7 (Accessed on 16 September 2018)