of a different kind placed on me three years ago by Screen Australia –
which refused to read or assess my screenplay HONEY on the grounds
that I was not a ‘proven producer’. That I had been producing films
for close to 40 years, that I had been the only producer of
BLACKFELLAS through the three years of the screenplay’s development
and right up to a few weeks before pre-production, cut no ice with
Martha Coleman, Fiona Cameron and Elizabeth Grinston. I was not, this
triumvirate assured me, a ‘ proven producer’ in accordance with Screen
Australia’s guidelines. Producing contractual proof that I was the
sole producer of BLACKFEALLAS during its development made no
difference. What counted, the triumvirate insisted, was what was
written in the credits! I would need a ‘proven producer’ if I were to
apply to Screen Australia for funding; someone whose name appears as a
producer in the credits. That he or she might never have written a
screenplay, directed a film or even walked onto a set was not
important. As long as their name appeared in the credits as a producer
they were acceptable to Screen Australia. “So, “I asked, “an investor
with no background in film but whose investment was contingent on a
producers credit, would qualify, un Screen Australia’s guidelines, as
a ‘proven producer’?”
Trying to enter into a dialogue with Screen Australia about the
absurdity of this proposition in 2009 does not win one friends in high
places! More to the point, the same criteria used to prevent me from
making an application with HONEY were conspicuously NOT applied to
many other feature film projects by the same triumvirate.
Here are the first 12 pages of a screenplay that Screen Australia now
has a second reason to neither read nor assess , since doing so would
place Screen Australia’s poor beleaguered staff at risk!
Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Opus 64 over darkness. A
match is lit. A girl’s hand holds the burning match. YOUNG HONEY (9)
lifts the burning match close to her face, stares directly at the
camera for a long moment.
2 EXT. OUTBACK AUSTRALIA. LATE AFTERNOON
HONEY, in her mid to late teens, stares into space, lost in her
memories; her face bathed in late afternoon sun.
HONEY is standing close to the edge of a bluff overlooking a vast
outback landscape, a box of matches in one hand and small dry sticks
in the other. One of her arms is covered from wrist to elbow with a
HONEY crouches, placing the sticks on a fire she has set, takes a
match out of the box, strikes it, lights the leaves under the twigs
and watches as the fire comes to life – soon sending flames waist
high. HONEY is mesmerized by the flames.
Deep in the background there is a car – a figure pacing impatiently up
and down beside it.
HONEY takes her wallet from a small backpack at her feet, opens it,
extracts credit cards, a driver’s license, Medicare card, throws them
in the fire. She looks at her wallet for a moment before extracting
from it a battered and creased photo – only the back of which we see.
HONEY looks at the photo for a long moment then throws it into the
fire. She watches it for a moment as the edges turn brown and begin to
burn. In a sudden movement she reaches down and pluck the photo from
3 EXT. DIRT ROAD. BLUE MOUNTAINS. EARLY MORNING
A motor bike wheel spins on a dirt road.
DANIEL, late 30s, wind in his hair, drives his Harley Davison fast on
a on a dirt road - crash helmet and a blue duffle bag strapped to the
back of the bike. As he leans into a sharp curve in the road the bike
slides out from under him; skids sideways along the dirt road,
disappearing in a cloud of dust.
The dust clears. DANIEL lies beside his motor bike in the bush, opens
his eyes, looks at the gash on his arm for a moment, feels his body
for other wounds, smiles to, stands, grimaces a little, rights his
Harley, kick starts it, drives off.
4 EXT. CLIFF FACE. DAY
A foot, in a rock-climbing shoe, seeks out a cleft in the rock 20 feet
from the ground. DANIEL, ‘solo climbing’ (no ropes), clings to the
face of a cliff – his concentration intense. He releases one hand,
dips it into a chalk pouch at his waist, reaches up - his chalk-white
fingers searching out something he can grip. He finds a small rock
extrusion, explores it with his fingers, grips onto it. He releases
one of his feet – moving it to a small cleft on the rock face.
5 INT. JASPER’S BEDROOM. DAY
JASPER, 9, bare-chested, wearing jeans, pink wig, looks at a mirror.
The reflected image reveals skinny legs, flat chest, spindly arms. In
one hand ,a plastic guitar. JASPER, lips liberally daubed with red
lipstick, mimes music emanating from a tape deck: JASPER playing at
being an androgynous rock star.
6 INT. DINING ROOM. DAY
HELEN, mid 30’s, pretty, hair stylishly groomed, holds a large framed
photo. Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto plays on a CD player. A white
leather lounge suite and large aquarium filled with exotic tropical
fish dominate the room. The table is neatly set for three. In the
middle, an antique brass chafing dish. Alongside it a large bottle of
Brandy. On the walls: family photos. Mum, dad, sole child. Lots of
7 INT. JASPER’S BEDROOM. DAY
JASPER puts on a training bra, fills each cup with tissue, looks in
the mirror; adopts a ‘feminine’ stance; appraises the reflected image
in the mirror.
8 INT. DINING ROOM. DAY
HELEN finishes hammering a stud into the wall - the photo that will
hang from it resting up against the wall. She pauses for a moment to
pay full attention to part of the concerto before resuming her hanging
of the photo. She lifts it and hangs it from the stud in the wall,
though we do not see the photo itself. The stud gives way, the photo
falls, disappears from frame. The sound of shattering glass.
9 INT. JASPER’S BEDROOM. DAY
JASPER wipes the lipstick from her lips, takes off the pink wig. Her
blonde hair falls below her shoulders. She picks up a pair of
scissors, looks at herself in the mirror.
10 INT. CAR. DAY
CLOSE ON a journal. A collage: a pressed flower, snippets of poetry, a
caricature drawing of a smiling octopus.
NEWS READER (radio)…no relief in sight for the heat that…
HONEY, in the passenger seat, holds a strip of 4 photos of a happy
mum, dad and daughter (not Honey) crammed into a ‘Photos While U Wait’
booth – trying to find room on the page for it. A battered blue teddy
bear, one arm missing, sits on the dash.
NEWS READER (radio) …reached 42 early this afternoon…
HONEY reaches out to change the station. The driver, JOHN, late 40’s,
sips beer from a bottle, reaches out to stop her.
NEWS READER (radio)…in the western districts…
HONEY withdraws her hand for a moment. When JOHN withdraws his, she
reaches out quickly and changes to a music channel:
RADIO “One day a near Selina Lord, I let him slip away…”
JOHN smiles, hands the bottle of beer to HONEY.
RADIO “He's lookin' for that home, and I hope he finds it…”
As she takes a swig of beer, JOHN turns the music down.
RADIO “But I'd trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday to be…”
HONEY reaches out and turns the music up again. JOHN holds his hands
up: “OK, you win.” HONEY smiles, returns to her journal.
RADIO “holdin' Bobby's body next to mine…”
11 EXT. OUTBACK ROAD. DAY
John’s beat up old blue Holden passes a sign: THANK YOU FOR VISITING
SOUTH AUSTRALIA. Singing over from the radio.
RADIO “Freedom's just another word for nothing left to loose…”
12 EXT. ROADSIDE CAFÉ. DAY
JOHN, in the drivers seat, hands a cheque book through the window to
HONEY, standing by the car. She is not happy. She glares at JOHN for a
moment, turns petulantly and walks towards the café. JOHN watches her,
takes out a cigarette.
13 INT. ROADSIDE CAFE. DAY
HONEY carries meat pies, a loaf of sliced white bread and assorted
junk food to the counter as JOHN, in the background, can be seen
filling the car with petrol.
BETTY, behind the counter, notices HONEY’S bandaged arm.
BETTY You been in the wars, dear?
HONEY (smiles) You should see the other guy!
BETTY smiles. HONEY places a cheque on the counter. BETTY points to a
sign: SORRY NO CHEQUES
BETTY Sorry dear!
HONEY Dad’s wallet got stolen.
BETTY You’re not bullshitting me?
HONEY flashes an innocent young girl’s smile.
HONEY Cross my heart and hope to die.
BETTY (smiles) Well I hope you don’t die, dear. Not for a long time yet.
BETTY picks up the cheque.
14 EXT. CLIFF TOP. DAY
DANIEL, sweating, sits on top of the cliff looking out over a
mountains and valleys, oblivious to his bleeding arm. The only sounds:
the wind and occasional bird cries. He takes a cigarette packet from
his pocket, extracts a cigarette, holds it between his fingers, looks
at it closely for a moment, puts it in his mouth, draws on it, unlit.
He closes his eyes for a moment – imagining, remembering. DANIEL
laughs, looks up, sees a bird hovering motionless in the wind. He
stares at the bird for a long moment.
Pull back to reveal DANIEL a small figure in a vast Blue Mountains landscape.
15 INT. BATHROOM. DAY
HELEN stands in front of a three mirrored bathroom cabinet looking at
the small cut on her finger, a band-aid in her hand. As she lifts her
bloody finger to put it in her mouth she looks at her reflection.
After a long moment, seemingly dissatisfied with what she sees, she
opens one of the mirror doors so that she can see a reflection of her
profile. She then reaches out to move the third mirror so that she can
see her other profile and catches, in reflection:
JASPER, her hair cut crudely short. HELEN reacts with shock.
16 EXT. ROADSIDE CAFE. DAY
JOHN leans against the car, smoking a cigarette, his eyes on
HONEY standing in the doorway of the café, clutching her arm full of food.
BETTY You take care of that arm dear?
BETTY glances at HONEY’S bandage-free but heavily scarred arm, looks
BETTY Is that really your father, Kelly?
HONEY looks at BETTY for a long moment.
BETTY Does your mother know where you are?
HONEY My mother’s dead.
BETTY Oh, I’m sorry dear. So it’s just you and your dad?
HONEY looks back towards JOHN.
BETTY You can stay here if you like, sweetheart. Until we sort that arm out.
Tears well in HONEY’S eyes. BETTY moves forward, wraps her arms
around HONEY. HONEY hugs her tight.
JOHN (shouts) Kelly!
HONEY turns from BETTY and runs towards JOHN.
As the blue Holden drives off down the road BETTY stands by the petrol
bowser writing down the number plate.
17 EXT. OUTBACK ROAD. DAY
The Holden is parked at the side of the road, boot open. John kneels,
unscrewing the number plate. HONEY sits closeby, cigarette in hand,
crying. JOHN shouts at her.
JOHN For chrissakes, Catherine!
HONEY wipes tears from her eyes, puffs on her cigarette as JOHN screws
a new number plate in place, throws the ‘old’ number plates into the
boot, alongside another set of number plates, three DVD players, two
TVs, and other stolen goods.
18 EXT OLD FACTORY PARKING LOT. DAY
DANIEL rides his motor bike into the parking lot adjacent to a large
old factory – recently renovated. He parks beside a truck that has
PITT ART SUPPLIES AND FRAMING written on the side of it. DANIEL
smiles as he pulls up, disembarks and makes his way fast to the
entrance, trying to catch up with a MAN pushing a trolley piled high
with large wooden packing cases. His mobile rings. He takes it out of
19 INT. FOYER. OLD FACTORY. DAY
DANIEL, mobile to his ear, walks into an upmarket complex of studios
for photographers and others involved in the advertizing and fashion
industries. He follows the trolley of packing cases.
DANIEL (on mobile) I’m here…
DANIEL smiles flirtatiously at a slim TEEN MODEL and she and two other
MODELS walk by. TRACY appears in a doorway up ahead, mobile to her
ear, opening the doors for the trolley.
DANIEL Sorry, sorry, sorry…
TRACY shakes her head. DANIEL kisses her on the cheek affectionately.
DANIEL Traffic! Unbelievable…
20 INT. PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDIO. DAY
DANIEL follows the trolley excitedly through the door into a large
studio space that bespeaks, his skill as a commercial photographer,
his financial success and his design aesthetic. In one corner, on a
raised platform, with wooden stairs leading up to it is a small
‘loft’, cut off from the rest of the studio by multi-coloured Indian
TRACY You’ve forgotten, haven’t you?
DANIEL’S attention is on the packing cases but after a moment he remembers:
He looks across the studio to a glass-enclosed conference room in
which THREE ADVERTIZING EXECUTIVES sit at a table with large
portfolios. One of them waves to DANIEL.
DANIEL grimaces, collects himself and starts to walk towards the
conference room. TRACY reaches out, stops him.
She takes his hands, looks at them. His fingers are stained with white
chalk dust. TRACY shakes her head, wets her fingers on her tongue,
wipes the chalk stains from his fingers. DANIEL submits to this
sheepishly, like a naughty boy who’s been caught with his hand in the
21 INT. CAR. DAY
As they drive down a deserted outback road HONEY, pale and sweating
profusely, glances at her shoulder fearfully – as if expecting there
to be something there. There is nothing. She brushes her shoulder
obsessively. JOHN looks on with concern.
HONEY brushes her shoulder with manic energy. JOHN takes a small vial
of pills from his pocket, hands them to HONEY. With shaking hands she
tips 10 or so pills into her hand and lifts them to her mouth. JOHN
knocks them from her hand.
HONEY nods, picks up three tablets, throws them in her mouth. JOHN
hands her his can of beer. HONEY washes the pills down with a swig,
looks at her shoulder again – terrified.
22 INT. DANIEL’S STUDIO. CONFERENCE ROOM. DAY
DANIEL sits at the table with the THREE AD EXECUTIVES – one of whom is
speaking about the mock-up ad in front of him:
AD EXECUTIVE We love this 100%…OK, 95%…it’s just…the girl…her smile…
DANIEL’S attention is on the packing cases on the other side of the
studio. One has been unpacked and TRACY is looking at the framed
photos inside it.
AD EXECUTIVE …it looks a bit…fake…perhaps there’s something you could
do in photoshop to make her look…happier…
DANIEL (nods) We can do that.
TRACY looks at DANIEL, smiles, raises a thumb in approval.
23 INT. CAR. OUTSIDE PUB. LATE AFTERNOON
HONEY sits in the Holden, outside a pub in a dusty outback town,
sweating in the heat. She looks out the window at:
JOHN, in the beer garden – drinking and talking with TWO MEN.
HONEY picks up her fountain pen, mouthing words silently to herself as
she looks down at:
Her journal resting on her lap. Honey has started a new double-page
montage. There is a caricature of John, a photo of an octopus cut from
a magazine, an artist’s impression of Joan of Arc burning at the
stake, the strip of photos of the mum, dad and daughter. Honey has
written the beginnings of a poem.
How much blood…
HONEY thinks for a moment, writes some more for a moment before looking back at:
JOHN regaling the TWO MEN with a story. They laugh appreciatively.
HONEY watches them for a moment. Her attention is caught by the family
sitting at an adjacent table:
The MOTHER, in her 30s, sits alongside the FATHER, in his 40s, her
head resting on his shoulder. They both look at their DAUGHTER, in her
mid-teens, standing closeby telling them an animated story. The MOTHER
and FATHER laugh. The MOTHER looks up at the FATHER lovingly. The
DAUGHTER glows with happiness as she registers her parents
appreciation of her story.
HONEY observes this scenario wistfully.
Backlit by late afternoon sun, the MOTHER, FATHER and DAUGHTER’S
shared love and laughter could be an advertisement for the ‘perfect
This is Honey’s POV. Tears well in her eyes.
24 EXT. DANIEL’S HOUSE. LATE AFTERNOON
DANIEL pulls up on his motor bike alongside a large SUV in the
driveway in front of a large timber home of modern design. JASPER runs
through the front door and down the path.
As DANIEL gets off his motor-bike he registers JASPER’S short hair
with shock. HELEN appears in the front doorway.
JASPER (excited) Tell me you like it?
Before DANIEL has a chance to respond HELEN indicates with a shrug and
upheld hands that she had nothing to do with this.
DANIEL I though we had an agreement.
JASPER You and mum had an agreement!
DANIEL shakes his head. JASPER smiles seductively, holds out her arms.
DANIEL holds up his hands, walks past her, towards HELEN. JASPER pouts
for a moment but takes this in her stride.
25 INT. CAR OUTSIDE PUB. LATE AFTERNOON
HONEY is asleep in the passenger seat, her journal resting in her lap.
A man’s hand reaches out and grabs the journal. JOHN’S angry voice
JOHN (voice off) Fucken bullshit!
HONEY wakens in shock. JOHN, drunk, sitting in the passenger seat,
looks at journal in his hands for a moment, opens it, glances at it
scornfully for a moment, throws it out the window and starts the car.
HONEY leaps out of the car as JOHN starts to drive off, starts to pick
up her broken journal and the photos, newspaper clippings, pressed
flowers etc. JOHN stops a little down the road. HONEY, in tears,
inspects the damage to her journal. JOHN backs up, pulls alongside
HONEY crouched at the side of the road.
JOHN Get in.
HONEY shakes her head. JOHN leaps out, grabs HONEY, drags her to the
car, pushes her into the passenger’s seat. HONEY flips through her
journal as JOHN staggers around the back of the car and falls into the
driver’s seat. HONEY looks for something in her journal with
increasing urgency and panic as JOHN starts the car, pulls out onto
the road. HONEY screams.
JOHN Fucking Jesus.
JOHN stops. HONEY leaps out of the car and runs back to where her
journal landed. She looks for something but can’t find it. And then
she sees it, picks it up. It is the photo she had thrown in the fire –
its edges burnt.
26 INT. DINING ROOM. NIGHT
JASPER, face up close to the aquarium, purses her lips, kisses a
tropical fish on the other side of the glass as DANIEL, in the
background, pours kerosene into the burner at the base of the chafing
dish while HELEN moves first course dishes aside.
DANIEL You want to look like a boy?
JASPER turns to face DANIEL - grins, nods.
JASPER You and mum always wanted a boy.
DANIEL Not a Tomboy.
DANIEL lights the burner under the chafing dish.
JASPER Well, if you and mum make me a brother I’ll grow my hair and
act like a girl.
HELEN (smiles) Will you now?
HELEN pours Brandy from the bottle into a measuring cup as JASPER
walks up, dips her finger in a pot of honey, puts her finger in her
HELEN You washed your hands?
JASPER ignores HELEN as she pours the Brandy into the pan.
JASPER Anyhow, it’s my hair!
DANIEL Your mother just asked you a question!
JASPER Yes, I’ve washed my hands… millions of times.
DANIEL Jas, you asked if you could cut your hair. We said no. It’s…
JASPER But you’re always telling me not to take ‘no’ for an answer.
DANIEL When you’re grown up! When you’re a girl…
JASPER That’s discrimination
HELEN Hey, you two! I really do not want an argument right now…
The Brandy in the flambé pan is boiling now.
JASPER When’s a good time for an argument?
HELEN smiles, takes a long match from a box.
HELEN How about 10.15 tomorrow? I think! Have to check my diary.
JASPER laughs. HELEN strikes the match alight.
HELEN You want honey or maple syrup?
HELEN smiles as she lights the Brandy fumes. Flames leap up.
27 INT. MOTEL ROOM. NIGHT
JOHN, in underpants only, sits on a single bed watching TV as he
drinks from a longneck bottle of beer. He is very drunk.
HONEY, wearing jeans and shirt, sits on the second bed, repairing her
damaged journal with sticky tape. She secures the burnt photo: a
mother with her five year old daughter sitting in her lap. Alongside
it another photo of an octopus clinging to a rock underwater.
HONEY becomes aware that JOHN is standing beside her. She closes her
journal, clutches it to her protectively.
HONEY looks at him, scared. She shakes her head.
JOHN Get into the fucken bed.
HONEY shakes her head. JOHN looks at her journal – as if it were the
enemy. He reaches out to grab it. HONEY clutches it to her chest. JOHN
grabs her. HONEY struggles, breaks away from him, runs into the
adjacent bathroom, stands under the shower recess, clutching her
journal to her, terrified.
JOHN staggers to the door, a large hunting knife in his hand.
JOHN Get into the fucken bed.
HONEY shakes her head. JOHN brandishes the knife threateningly.
HONEY (crying) I don’t care if you kill me.
JOHN holds the knife to his own throat.
JOHN It’s me I’ll fucken kill!
JOHN moves runs the knife across his scrawny chest, draws blood. HONEY
watches, transfixed. He reaches forward, turns the shower tap on.
Water pours over HONEY, clutching her journal, trying to protect it
from the water. HONEY walks from the shower like a zombie, past JOHN,
into the bedroom, wipes water from her journal, places it on the
table, moves to JOHN’S bed, lies on her back, stares at the ceiling.
JOHN, knife at his side, watches her, shakes his head.
JOHN What the fuck!
JOHN staggers to the bed, flops alongside HONEY.
JOHN Fucken bitch!
JOHN tries to get under the covers. Suddenly, HONEY turns to him,
grabs him, wraps her arms around him, holds him tight.
HONEY I’m sorry.
JOHN pats her reassuringly: “It’s OK”.
HONEY lies on the bed staring at the ceiling, a ‘mad’ look in her
eyes, JOHN asleep beside her, snoring. She looks at her shoulder
fearfully, tries to flick an invisible something from it, can’t get
rid of it, tries to ignore it, makes a decision, swings her legs off
the bed, stands, moves to where her damaged journal rests on the
table. She looks back at John, sees the knife on the floor beside the
bed, moves over picks it up, grasps it tightly, looks with anger at
John’s blotchy face. Her eyes blaze as her grip on the knife tightens.
...to be continued