"Penitence" Part 1

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  1. #1

    Post "Penitence" Part 1

    This is the first 10 pages of a screenplay I'm writing called "Penitence". Let me know what you think and how I can possibly improve on it. WARNING: some language.

    FADE IN:

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


    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.


    It has begun. Wake up, Chad.

    CUT TO:


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

    He answers --

    (Into phone)

    (Over phone)
    Is this a Mister Chad Devlin?

    CUT TO:


    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.

    You might want to prepare yourself, Mister Devlin. Just in case --
    -- you know.

    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:

    Thatís my son.

    The Mortician covers the body.

    Let me see the autopsy report.

    Mister Devlin, I donít think --

    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.

    Your sonís personal effects.

    Chad sifts through it, searching for something.

    He was wearing a watch. A rather expensive watch.

    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:

    Iím sorry for your loss, Mister Devlin.

    Not as sorry as I am.

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

    (Over phone)

    (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.

    Title Card:

    CUT TO:


    CAPTION: One Week Later

    A high-ceiling church with blue and gold domes. Highly ornate, but with a warm atmosphere.

    Adamís funeral. A closed casket sits with a large high school portrait of Adam next to it.

    The song ĎHis Eye is On the Sparrowí is bellowed with the grace of angelic choirs. Some mourners visit the casket while others sob and console one another.

    In the front pew we see CHAD DEVLIN staring blankly at his sonís coffin. Near him is his wife, SUSAN. She looks like a former pageant winner. Warm with a feel of motherly prominence, able to sense emotional changes of someone in the room.

    Next to her is their daughter, ELIZABETH. Eighteen years old and looks every bit as innocent as her age.

    For the moment, Elizabeth is crying into her motherís bosom as Susan tries to console her. She looks over her daughterís head to the back of the church and sees something she holds contempt for.

    Chad sits staring at the coffin, unaware of whatís behind him. Suddenly, a hand gently lands on his shoulder and gives a subtle squeeze.

    Broken from his trance, Chad looks to see who it is.

    VOICE (O.S.)
    (Irish accent)
    How are you holding up, little muppet?

    (Standing up)

    The man known as FITZY pulls Chad into a big bear hug. A tall Irishman with a strong jaw and a lean build, he wears a suit equally as comfortable as Chad does.

    Behind him are four trusted associates, all of them known to Chad, as well as Fitzyís wife LAUREN.

    Susan gets up and makes sure that she is between Fitzy and Elizabeth, a brooding look of protective instinct draped on her face like war paint.

    (Goes for a hug)
    Susan, been a long time.

    (Reaches for a handshake)
    Yes, it certainly has been.

    Animosity towards Fitzy as he, a little thrown off from the cold shoulder, politely kisses the back of Susanís hand instead.

    (Looking over Susanís shoulder)
    And whoís the little sprout behind you there?

    That would be our daughter.

    (Reaches for handshake)
    Elizabeth Devlin. How do you do?

    (Shakes hands)
    I do very well, thank you.

    The two exchange a warm smile, but Fitzyís eyes also see the cold glare in Susanís expression.

    Will you be coming to the wake as well?

    Only if weíre allowed. Otherwise, weíll leave you to mourn in peace.

    Susan looks to her husband. His eyes plead with her.

    He needs his best friend today.

    Okay, but only for today.

    Okay Susan, only for today.

    CUT TO:


    Several neighbors and relatives congregate in the house, an all-American home that you would find anywhere.

    -A man goes for more dip for his potato chips.

    -A couple of children play ĎPatty-Cakeí in the living room

    -Susan and Lauren hug as they talk. Two friends catching up.

    Elizabeth stands nearby, preoccupied with the Irishman guarding the door to the basement.

    CUT TO:


    A two-room basement. In one room is a washer and dryer along with assorted workout equipment, including a couple treadmills and an unused punching bag. In the other room, a flat screen T.V. hangs on the wall with several chairs and a sofa in front of it and a bar behind them. Several ornaments surround the room, beer signs and sports teamsí logos.

    At the bar, Fitzy and Chad sit on a few barstools and share a swig of very expensive whiskey.

    Fitzy looks around the room, a nostalgic look on his face.

    Remember the first time I was in this room?

    (Deep thought)
    (Sudden realization)
    Wasnít that the night you brought Charlie here, with all those bullet holes in him?

    (Light laughter)
    Yeah it was. That was also the night Susan found out what you really did for a living.


    (Wiping tears away)
    I was so fucking scared that she would castrate me in my sleep!

    The men continue laughing for a moment before they slow to a somber stop.

    Several painful moments of silence permeate the room.

    Chad takes another swig of the liquor.

    I know youíre retired and all. And I respect that youíve stayed out
    for so long. Some guys canít help but scratch that itch.
    But if you need help finding the people who did this, just know that Iím there for you brother.

    I know you are.

    Even if all you want to do is turn them in.

    I know, Fitzy. I never told you this, but I always knew that no matter how bad things got, I knew I could always depend you with my life.

    Fitzyís eyes begin to tear up when he hears FOOTSTEPS coming down the stairs.

    Itís Elizabeth. Sheís worried.

    Dad, the police are here.

    Chad instantly looks at Fitzy, who holds his hands up in surrender.

    I havenít done anything illegal.

    CUT TO:


    Chad, Fitzy, and Elizabeth walk up the stairs to find DETECTIVE MONDAY and SERGEANT KOHLER talking with Susan and Lauren. Detective Monday is older, more experienced. His hand is always resting on his holster. Sergeant Kohler is wet behind the ears in every sense, but has the youth and energy to be down for whatever.

    Susanís concerned. Laurenís ready for a fight.

    Everybody knows each other, and they all have bad blood from the past.

    Detective Monday, what a surprise.

    (Looks at Fitzy)
    Yeah, almost feels like a big reunion.

    (Sarcastic but insulting)
    If this is a reunion, then whereís the fried chicken?

    Oh, youíre funny.

    (Holds up hands)
    Peace, man. I didnít come here to start shit.
    (To Chad)
    I came here to tell you some news. Iíve been staying updated on your sonís case, and about an hour ago I got a phone call.
    They arrested your sonís killers, Chad.

    The whole room goes wide-eyed and silent for a second of disbelief.

    Theyíre being held, without bail, until trial.

    Word passes from person to person throughout the house. Susan breaks down in Chadís arms, crying tears of joy. Elizabeth leans back against the kitchen counter, breathing fast and unsure of what to think.

    Detective Monday gives them their moment to let it sink in.

    After the celebrating dies down, he speaks to Chad.

    And thatís why I came here, so that I could talk to you about it.
    (Eyes Fitzy)
    In private.

    Okay, we can talk outside.

    Chad looks at everyone else. Fitzy, with an instinct, doesnít trust it. Susanís eyes scream Ďworryí. Elizabeth is confused.

    Itís alright. Iíll just be a minute.

    CUT TO:


    A beautiful day. Sunny with sparse clouds. Some kids ride by on their bikes to wherever.

    Chad, Detective Monday, and Sergeant Kohler walk towards the curb and stop just far enough away from the house so that theyíre the only ones who can hear the conversation.

    Look Chad, I know youíre hurting. I know Iím not your friend. And odds are you still got it in your brain to ignore the advice of a cop.

    Chad NODS in reluctant agreeance.

    Let the law take care of this, Chad. They got all the evidence they need to put these guys away for life. And this time, even Iím pulling for you. Just let the law handle it.

    The Detective looks to the front window of the house. Susan is standing there, watching them talk.

    Your family has been through enough, losing Adam.
    They donít need to lose you, too.

    I donít plan on dying anytime soon.

    I donít just mean that kind of loss.
    Youíve been out of the life a long time, Chad. Youíve got a good family, a good home. Most people in your former line of work donít even have an idea of what thatís like. For your familyís sake, as well as for your own, donít fuck it up. Okay?

    I donít plan to.

    The men all SHAKE HANDS as the cops leave Chad standing there, contemplating his options.

    BAILIFF (V.O.)
    All rise!
    When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, When the funds are low and the debts are high, And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit-.
    Rest if you must, but don't you quit

  2. #2
    I don't know too much about script-writing, but the format looks about right. In terms of the structure, starting out with two extremely brief scenes might make for a choppy experience onscreen. I also feel that Chad's composure upon seeing his son's body might make it harder for the audience to relate to him. An interesting start, though.

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  3. #3
    Thank you very much for your input, Harper. I know that it seems incomplete without knowing the rest of the story. And maybe that's my fault for not making it more clear for the audience. But seriously, thank you very much.
    When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, When the funds are low and the debts are high, And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit-.
    Rest if you must, but don't you quit

  4. #4
    Good going! The dialogue is great and the visuals keep it moving. If I had to be picky, I'd adjust some of your description:

    Eighteen years old and looks every bit as innocent as her age. Eighteen year olds are not necessarily innocent.

    Susanís eyes scream Ďworryí. Eyes don't scream.

    ..the cops leave Chad standing there, contemplating his options. I'm thinking it should just be "contemplating". You should try to express a character's thoughts/intentions through dialogue and action. The viewing audience would have no way of knowing exactly what Chad was contemplating, so it's not necessary to add the word "options".

    Adamís funeral. Should be Chad's son Adam's funeral. I don't believe you mentioned his name before.

    If I non-committedly clicked this on Netflix, I would probably want to keep watching at this point.

  5. #5

    I don't read many contemporary scripts but I like this.

    Reflecting, I thought we had begun in the mortuary; I'd forgotten Julia.

    The title 'Penitence' makes the high-church funeral feel appropriate. I find Susan curious and wonder what part she has played in the story so far - but as I said, I had forgotten Julia and do wonder what has 'begun'. Then I noticed she was part of a dream.

    I like the way Fitsy arouses some sense of nostalgia for criminal life in Chad. I can see the death of his son could be used as an excuse for revenge, since I doubt Adam's killers are the only ones involved in the chain; but since there is so much I do not know, I am eager to learn more. What part religion plays in your plot is also interesting.
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