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Writer-1
August 24th, 2018, 10:37 PM
This is the opening scene for my screenplay that I've been working on called "Penitence". What I'm looking for is "Is it good? Is the story introduced the right way? Does this make you want to continue reading? And what are some ways to improve this?"

Hopefully, you enjoy this.

FADE IN:

Title Card: ďHe who is penitent is almost innocent.Ē -Seneca the Younger

EXT. FOREST-CAMPFIRE-NIGHT [DREAM]

A clear, starry night. A WOMAN tends to the campfire, humming ďJesus Loves MeĒ without a care.

A figure walks out of the woods, a wandering man named CHAD DEVLIN. Heís in his mid-50ís and handsome, wearing a nicer suit than he should in the woods.

She hears his footsteps and stops humming, turning to face him. Heís shocked.

CHAD
Julia?

JULIA
(Smiles)
It has begun. Wake up, Chad.

CUT TO:

INT. DEVLIN HOUSEHOLD-MASTER BEDROOM-MORNING

Chad wakes with a start. A cell phone BUZZES ominously.

He answers --

CHAD
(Into phone)
Hello?

VOICE
(Over phone)
Is this a Mister Chad Devlin?

CUT TO:

INT. MORGUE-AFTERNOON

Chad walks in with SHERIFF DICKMAN next to him, guiding the man to the MORTICIAN standing next to a pulled-out slab with a covered body on it.

SHERIFF DICKMAN
You might want to prepare yourself, Mister Devlin. Just in case --
(Pause)
-- you know.

CHAD
Iíll be fine, Sheriff.

The Sheriff nods to the Mortician, who pulls back the sheet.

Chad clenches his teeth, his fists, practically every muscle in his body. The corpse is a handsome young man with a dead look in his eyes and a DEEP SLIT from one end of his jawbone to the other.

Chadís eyes TEAR UP, but he keeps his composure. He says what heís said a million times, but now with sadness in his voice:

CHAD (CONTíD)
Thatís my son.

The Mortician covers the body.

CHAD (CONTíD)
Let me see the autopsy report.

SHERIFF DICKMAN
Mister Devlin, I donít think --

CHAD
(Curt)
Just give me the fucking report.

The Mortician takes a folder off a nearby desk and hands it Chad, who starts reading through it. Certain words stand out.

Shattered spinal column. Broken nose. Fractured jaw.

Shattered. Broken. Fractured.

Chadís hands begin to shake, either with sadness or rage.

The Sheriff pulls out a box and hands it to Chad.

SHERIFF DICKMAN
Your sonís personal effects.

Chad sifts through it, searching for something.

CHAD
He was wearing a watch. A rather expensive watch.

SHERIFF DICKMAN
No watch was recovered. I could canvas the crime scene again, but --

Chad waves him off, deciding to believe him. In walks FATHER JOHN BISHOP. A priest from farmerís stock, heís older but still a strong man. He would be just at home behind the wheel of a tractor as he would be at a pulpit.

Chad walks toward the door with what little strength he has left. Before he leaves:

JOHN
Iím sorry for your loss, Mister Devlin.

CHAD
(Pauses)
Not as sorry as I am.

Chad pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. He dials, and after a few rings:

SUSAN
(Over phone)
Hello?

CHAD
(Into phone)
Susan, I think you need to sit down for what I have to tell you.

We go to BLACK before hearing a woman SCREAM BLOODY MURDER over a phone.

Lizzie Brookes
October 3rd, 2018, 10:59 AM
I haven't read many screenplays but I do think this one is good. If I might make a suggestion, unless it is intended to be a comedy, I would alter the name of the Sherriff. The story is definitely introduced in a good way with clear succinct description and straightforward dialogue. Yes I would definitely like to continue reading this.

Writer-1
October 9th, 2018, 09:41 PM
Thank you for the response. I tried to do a play on words with the Sheriff's name, his full name being Ben Dickman and having it sound like Benedict Arnold. That way, the audience could sense he's not on the right side of the fight. I'll consider changing it, though.

H.Brown
October 11th, 2018, 11:04 PM
Hi writer.1, firstly sorry it has taken me so long to read through this screen play. One of the difficulties that I have faced when writing scripts is figuring out what should be stage direction and what shouldn't, something that jumped out at me is that you seem to mix screen direction with the dialogue.


INT. DEVLIN HOUSEHOLD-MASTER BEDROOM-MORNING

Chad wakes with a start. A cell phone BUZZES ominously.

He answers --

Here for example all of this I think should be stage direction...

INT: MORNING-DEVLIN HOUSEHOLD-MASTER BEDROOM.
CHAD WAKES WITH A START AS HIS CELL PHONE BUZZES, HE LOOKS AT IT WITH DREAD BEFORE ANSWERING.

THEN would come your dialogue.

Speaking of the dialogue of your charters, it all works really well, it is smooth and paints a very intriguing opening plot line. You also show the suspense building. To me it came across more as a detective/murder mystery script which I liked.

I would read another rewrite of this script.

KenTR
August 27th, 2019, 01:48 PM
A good start. I like the device of opening with a main character waking up from a very brief dream. It suggests more surprises may be in store and aids in creating an unsettling mood.

I agree that you should change the sheriff's name. Ben Dickman makes me think of Ben Dover. I tend to think most audiences pay more attention to dialogue and visuals than subversive character names. A better way to make them question a character's motives might be to have him do something slightly questionable without making it overt, like the watch Jake Gyllenhaal stole from the security guard in "Nightcrawler". Something viewers will remember only subconsciously.

Also, with a name like Devlin, I assume Chad might also not be on the up and up?