Saturday, December 14, 2013

THURSDAY'S CHILD - a banned screenplay!



A banned screenplay! The Screen Australia Board has decreed that neither THURSDAY’S CHILD (co-written with Bob Ellis), nor any other screenplay of mine, can be read or assessed by Screen Australia staff. This month, the SA Board voted to provide script development money to Goalpost Pictures – a director of which, Rosemary Blight, is a member of the SA Board. Next month, Martha Coleman, in charge of Script Development at Screen Australia, will join Goalpost Pictures.


1 EXT. BEACH  COTTAGE – PALM  BEACH. DAY. 1908    

BEA MILES, a fair-haired five year old girl in a white dress, plays happily on a rock amidst tall grass and a profusion of wildflowers in a lush overgrown garden. Beside her is a hat full of flowers she has picked and in front of her a brightly coloured music-box – around which she is arranging a circle of wildflowers.

Through the wooden frame of an old swing and the gum trees at the lower end of the garden, Pittwater Bay can be seen, sparkling silver in the late afternoon light.

With great care and precision, Bea takes one last flower from the hat and completes the circle.  She becomes quite serious now, placing both hands on the music box, tilting her face up into the sun, closing her eyes and whispering softly to herself:

                            BEA
              I wish…I wish…I wish…
The sanctity of her private ritual is broken by the sound of her father calling out to her.

                            MR MILES
              Bea…Bea, darling...
2 INT/EXT. BEA'S CAVE. DAWN.

BEA MILES, a 60 year old ‘bag lady’ now, awakens with a start in a cave at the mouth of a huge stormwater channel.

                            BEA
              Yes?… What?…
After a moment’s disorientation she realizes that she has been dreaming – the changing impression on her face revealing the complex feelings the dream has induced in her.

As she sits up in her ‘swag’ – a rumpled assortment of old grey army blankets – BEA grimaces: her arthritis is bad this cold winter’s morning.

The cave is Bea’s ‘home’.  A wooden packing case serves as a table.  On it are jars of tea and sugar, a loaf of bread, a newspaper, some books and a vase with a bunch of wilting flowers in it. 

Close to her swag are the smoldering embers of last night’s fire; on which sits a blackened billy.  Leaning up against the rear wall of the cave is a painted wooden sandwich board placard that reads: SHAKESPEARIAN RECITALS, 6d, 1/-, 1/6.  RATIONAL CONVERSATIONS ON ANY TOPIC.  Another box, turned on its side, serves as a makeshift bookshelf.  In it are a dozen or so books.

Overwhelmed by her memories, BEA looks out through the mouth of the cave at the mist enshrouded park on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour. Her eyes sparkle in her lined old face.

3 EXT/INT. CITY STREET. DAY. 1963

OPENING CREDIT SEQUENCE BEGINS. MUSIC OVER.

BEA, wearing a thick brown army coat over a floral print dress, a stained sun-visor and with her SHAKESPEARIAN RECITALS sign around her neck, hides behind a red postal box at a busy inner-city intersection.  People around her react with frowns, grins and amusement.  A little girl looks at her with amazement. 

When the lights change and the traffic stops, BEA runs as fast as her arthritic legs will allow, in the direction of a taxi.  The taxi driver (whom we will later recognize as SYLVIE), notices BEA’s approach too late and is in the process of trying to lock the front-side passenger door when BEA opens it and drops into the seat beside her; greeting her cheerily. 

SYLVIE clearly knows BEA well but would prefer not to have her in her cab right now; indicating the respectably dressed husband and wife in the back seat.  Bea turns and smiles at the shocked couple, ignoring Sylvie’s angry scowl.

4 EXT. GENERAL POST OFFICE. DAY.

Bea approaches a news stand in front of the large brown columns outside the General Post office and buys a newspaper from the proprietor.  As she scans the headlines she makes her way further down the road to where a thin, leather-skinned old lady - MOLLY - is tending her flower stand.  BEA and MOLLY greet each other warmly: old friends.  As they chat, BEA picks out the bunch of flowers she wants and shakes the last of her money from a small leather pouch, handing it to MOLLY.  MOLLY won’t take it.  BEA insists.  MOLLY shakes her head.

5 EXT. MITCHELL LIBRARY. DAY. 

BEA, standing on the sandstone colonnade at the Mitchell Library, recites animatedly to a small group university students.  Most are impressed - especially the young women - but there are a couple of young men who make no secret of the fact that they think BEA is crazy.  Carried away by her performance, BEA is oblivious to her audience’s response.  She finishes her recital to mixed applause and mocking laughter.  A young pimply-faced smart alec hands BEA a shilling and makes a joke at her expense.  Several of the students laugh.  BEA looks directly into the young man’s eyes and with a few carefully chosen words puts him in his place; causing him to blush and eliciting uproarious laughter from the crowd.

6 INT/EXT. TRAM. CITY STREET. DAY.

BEA sits on a crowded tram playing a game with an enchanted three year old girl who stands between her outstretched legs and looks at her with awe.  The girl’s mother, sitting adjacent, smiles a little nervously.  The other passengers look on: amused.  BEA is totally absorbed in the game.  Her eyes sparkle and her old face is broken by a warm radiant smile.  She taps the girl's forehead - ‘Knock at the door’.  The girl laughs.  She pulls the girl’s ears - ‘Ring the bell…’

As the game continues, a blue-uniformed TRANSPORT INSPECTOR can be seen moving down the aisle; checking tickets.  Behind him is a somewhat nervous and apprehensive TRAM CONDUCTOR.  The TRANSPORT INSPECTOR stands close to BEA, hands on hips, and demands her ticket.  BEA, clearly annoyed by this interruption, refuses to acknowledge his presence.  When he becomes more insistent she turns to him angrily and lets him know, in no uncertain terms, that she has not got one and has no intention of buying one. 

The TRANSPORT INSPECTOR pulls the cord and the tram jolts to a standstill.  He makes it quite clear that Bea should either pay her fare or get off.  BEA folds her arms, shakes her head and looks out the window.  Everyone on the tram - especially the TRAM CONDUCTOR - is amused by the officious TRANSPORT INSPECTOR’s inability to get BEA to buy a ticket.  The angrier he gets the more studiously does BEA ignore him; taking her tobacco pouch calmly from the dilly bag that hangs from her shoulder and beginning to roll herself a cigarette.

7 INT. COURT OF PETTY SESSIONS. DAY.

The MAGISTRATE, with BEA’s fat file in front of him, looks over the top of his spectacles to where BEA sits playing Patience with a pack of worn cards at the table reserved for legal counsel, obviously bored by the proceedings. 

The TRANSPORT INSPECTOR, who has just finished giving evidence, stands in the witness box. 

                            MAGISTRATE
              I seem to recall, Miss Miles, that you promised last week to pay              your fares for the next month?
                            BEA
              Yes, Wally, but that was for buses; not trams.
Laughter in court.  The MAGISTRATE shakes his head.

                            MAGISTRATE
              Fined five pounds.  In default, five days hard labour.
                            BEA (cheerily)
              Time to pay, Wally. please?
                            MAGISTRATE (wearily)
Only if you give me an understanding not to offend again for at least a month.
                            BEA (sighing dramatically)
    I can only try, sir.  But success is in the lap of  the gods.
                            MAGISTRATE
              That includes taxis, too. And any other form of  transport known to man.
                            BEA (smiles)
              OK. Wally.
                            MAGISTRATE
              Miss Miles, I should point out to you that this is your 199th conviction for traffic related offences. I hope I will not have to preside over your 200th.

8 INT. BEA'S CAVE. NIGHT.  

BEA  lies in her swag beside the fire in her cave on a rainy winter’s night; propped up on one elbow, reading GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.  She wears a tin miner’s hat with a flashlight attached its beam illuminating her book. Beside her, a steaming hot cup of tea and nearby, on her packing case table, a transistor radio playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The music brings back memories. BEA finds it difficult to concentrate on her book. She looks out into the night rain; absorbed by her private thoughts.

9 INT. HOSPITAL ROOM. AFTERNOON.   

BEA walks into a small intensive care ward in a hospital and over to the bed on which MOLLY lies unconscious.  She removes her SHAKESPEARIAN RECITALS sign, places it against the wall, and pulls up a chair.  She sits and looks with fondness at the sallow-cheeked face of her old friend; reaching out to push some wisps of white hair back from MOLLY’s face.

LATER.

It is night-time now.  BEA sits beside MOLLY; lost in her own thoughts.  MOLLY opens her eyes.  She recognises BEA and the faintest suggestion of a smile appears on her face.

                            BEA (smiling)
              Hello Moll. You’re still aloft. Still with us.
                            MOLLY
It’s bad this time, isn’t it? (BEA NODS) I’m worried about one thing, Bea. Probably doesn’t matter. Though I think it matters. I’m worried I was wrong.

                            BEA
              You could have been.
                           MOLLY
              He was a good man, Bea.  And it’s too late.
                            BEA
              No matter, Moll.  It’s all in the past.
                           MOLLY
It was just a second ago and I was a girl.  And he came in the front door, so…tall he almost filled up the door.

Molly’s words stir BEA’s own memories.

                           MOLLY
              And I looked up. (Pause) He didn’t mean it Bea.  Not the way things turned out.
                            BEA
              Things change don’t they. Quick as winking.
                            MOLLY
              Hold my hand.
BEA takes MOLLY’s hand and holds it between her own.

                            BEA
              We’ve had a good innings. We’ve had good mates.
                            MOLLY
              I don’t like it Bea.  I’m scared.
                            BEA (sings)
              Hushabye, don’t you cry,
              Go to sleep my little baby
              When you wake you shall have
              All the pretty little horses
10 EXT. BEACH COTTAGE - PALM BEACH. DAY. 1908

YOUNG BEA (5 years old) sits between her father’s MR. MILES' legs in amongst the tall grass and wildflowers; her head resting against her chest and her hands on his knees. A tinkling rendition of All The Pretty Little Horses emanates from the music box in front of them - its lid now open. Old Bea’s soft singing mingles with the music box music then fades...

                            OLD BEA (singing)
              Pintoes and bays, dapples and grays
              All the pretty little horses
MR MILES, a handsome man in his mid-thirties, takes a distinctive red wildflower from the hat beside them and holds it in front of his daughter.

                            MR MILES
              And this one?
BEA thinks for a moment.

                            BEA
              Um...Fan...Blandfordia Grandi…Grandiflora.
                            MR MILES (smiles)
              Good girl.
BEA turns her head and looks up at her father proudly.  MR.MILES kisses her on the forehead and picks up a blue flower.  BEA looks at it; a slightly impish smile appearing on her face.

                            BEA
              It’s a... It’s a... It’s a...
                           MR MILES
              It’s a what?
                            BEA (smiling)
              A blue flower.
BEA bursts out laughing. MR.MILES hugs her tight and laughs also.

MRS MILES, in her early 30s, wearing an apron over a floral print dress, stands on the verandah of the green wooden beach cottage, watching her husband and daughter laugh together in the garden; a look of contentment on her face.  Beside her is a table covered with a variety of freshly picked wildflowers that MR.MILES has been pressing and mounting in a leather-bound book.  Behind her, in the house, her TWO DAUGHTERS are playing with new toys in front of a Christmas tree.

                            MRS MILES (calling out)
              Darling!...Bea!... Lunch.
MR. MILES waves his arm in acknowledgment but does not turn.  MRS. MILES calls to her two sons who are playing cricket in another part of the garden.

                            MRS MILES
              Boys...wash your hands now... It’s time.
The tune on the music box finishes; BEA closes the lid.

                            MR MILES
              What did you wish?
                            BEA
              It’s a secret.
                            MR MILES
              You can tell me.
BEA shakes her head. MR. MILES hugs BEA tight - playful; insistent.

                            MR MILES
              Go on.
                            BEA
              Daddy, can I have a swing?
BEA runs in the direction of the swing, disturbing two butterflies that she then chases through the long grass; squealing happily. 

MR. MILES gets up and follows her.  In the background, close to the cottage, MRS. MILES and GRANDMA ELLIE (Mr.Miles' mother), arrange a sumptuous Christmas lunch on a table in amongst the trees.

BEA has stopped and stands transfixed, watching the two butterflies that have alighted on a branch and are now mating.  She calls excitedly to her father.

                            BEA
              Daddy, look!
MR. MILES catches up, kneels beside her; his face close to hers.

                            BEA
              What are they doing?
                            MR MILES
              Mating, darling...to make babies.
BEA thinks hard for a moment.

                            BEA
              Why do they want to make babies?
                            MR MILES
If they didn’t, there’d be no more butterflies after they died.

                            BEA (thinking hard)
              Oh! Where do they go when they die?
                            MR MILES
              Nowhere; they just die.
                            BEA
              Where do people go when they die?
                            MR MILES
              Nowhere, darling. They just die too.
BEA is puzzled and a little upset by this.

                            BEA
              Oh!
MR. MILES watches BEA intently as she ponders the implications of what her father has just told her.

                            MR MILES
              Come on, sweetheart.  Lunch.
He sweeps her into her arms.  BEA wrestles free.

                            BEA
              A swing first.
                            MR MILES
              Alright.
The rest of the family had sat down to lunch.  MRS MILES calls out.

                            MR MILES
              William!  Lunch is on the table.
                            MR MILES (off screen)
              Be there in a minute.
MRS. MILES is a little annoyed; Bea's four brothers and sisters resentful at having to wait.

BEA squeals elatedly as MR. MILES pushes her higher and higher on the swing.

                            BEA
              Higher!  Higher!
MR. MILES, infected by BEA’s excitement, pushes her higher, GRANDMA ELLIE is annoyed.

                            GRANDMA ELLIE
              William!
MR. MILES seems not to hear. On BEA’s ecstatic laughing face as she swings up into the sky:

DISSOLVE TO

11 EXT. BEACH COTTAGE. DAY.

NINE YEARS LATER
             
BEA, fourteen years old now, laughs as MR. MILES pushes her on the swing; her dress billowing out and exposing her naked thighs as she swings towards him.

MRS. MILES watches from the verandah; vaguely embarrassed.  MR. MILES gives BEA one final exhausted push and staggers back breathlessly.

                            MR MILES
              Enough.
                            BEA (laughing)
              More!
                            MR MILES
              Enough.
                            BEA
              Spoilsport.
She lets go of the swing and flies through the air; landing in front of her father, stumbling and crashing into him.  They fall in a tangle of arms and legs in the long grass.

                            BEA (laughing)
              You’re getting old.
                            MR MILES (laughing)
              And you’re getting fat.
BEA kisses her father impulsively on the cheek.

                            BEA (coquettish)
              I am not.
MR. MILES, suddenly aware that he and BEA are lying in each other’s arms like lovers, feels a little uncomfortable.  He rolls out from underneath her.

                            MR MILES
              Bet this old man can beat you to the lighthouse.
                            BEA
              Bet he can’t.
MRS. MILES looks on; worried.

12 INT. PUBLIC HALL. NIGHT. 1917   

MR. MILES stands in front of a banner stretched across the stage that reads: COMPULSORY DEPORTATION OF OUR MANHOOD MEANS RACE SUICIDE.  SAY ‘NO’ TO CONSCRIPTION. He is trying to make himself heard above the rowdy crowd.  There are some soldiers in uniform present, a few policemen and as many hecklers as supporters.  BEA, aged 14, sits in the front row; proud of her father.

                            MR MILES
Through censorship the Australian government and the gutter press are whipping you into a hysteria which renders you all liable to vote a small minority of our sons to die in a war declared by a British Parliament in which we have no voice.

A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN, carrying what looks like a pillow, moves up the stairs leading onto the stage.  As she approaches MR. MILES she empties the contents of the pillow all over him.  Thousands of white feathers swirl around his head.  The noise and violence from the audience increases as policemen drag the woman off stage.  

                            WOMAN  (screaming)
              Coward!  Coward!  Coward!
With white feathers floating around his head, MR. MILES continues to shout above the noise.
                             MR MILES
              This is not merely a political issue; it is a moral issue...

13 INT. KITCHEN/DINING ROOM. EVENING.

MRS. MILES finishes carving and serving a roast as GRANDMA ELLIE carries plates into the adjoining dining room.  Through the window, MR. MILES, in a business suit and carrying a briefcase walks from his car to the back door, his arm around BEA’s shoulder, with Bea's younger sister CONNIE walking alongside.  Both girls, in their school uniforms, talk over the top of each other.

              CONNIE                                                          BEA
       She was looking for trouble...                   I was not. Pearl said….                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
              CONNIE                                                          BEA
       She’s always...                                             I was not. Liar...
They reach the back door now. It becomes apparent that BEA has a black eye.  MR.MILES, in good spirits, is rather proud of BEA’s war wounds - which annoys CONNIE (and MRS. MILES) all the more.

                            MR MILES
              One at a time... one at a time...sorry I'm late                                                                                                                                                       darling...
He puts his arm around MRS MILES’ waist; kisses her on the cheek.  She does not respond.

                            BEA
All I said was the boys can go to the war if they want to but they shouldn’t be made to and she called me a traitor and...

                            CONNIE
              You can hardly blame her... her brother...
                            MRS MILES (angry)
              Will you two stop...
                            CONNIE
              Her brother was killed a few weeks ago...
                            BEA
              I’m still entitled to express my opinion.
                            MRS MILES 
Sometimes, young lady, it’s best to keep what you think to yourself.

                            BEA
              Lie!?
                            MRS MILES
              No, just be more discreet.
GRANDMA ELLIE, who has been carrying plates into the dining room throughout the scene, attempts to defuse the situation.

                            GRANDMA ELLIE
              Come on everyone...stop shouting and sit.
As they move into the dining room.

                            CONNIE
I’m sick of being called Little Miss Bosch and a traitor just because...
                            MR MILES
              Sticks and stones will break your bones...
The two Miles boys appear and take their seats - greeting their father perfunctorily but respectfully.

                            GRANDMA ELLIE
But William, the whole family must live with the reputation that each member...

                            MR MILES
              Damn the family reputation. If one can’t express a view that is currently unpopular...

                            GRANDMA ELLIE
              It’s dangerous to encourage one so young …
                            MR MILES
I neither encourage nor discourage, mother.  Beatrice is free to choose for herself what she wants to believe and how she wants to behave...pass the salt please John.
BEA looks at her father for a moment, a wicked glint in her eye.  She pushes her chair back, gets up and walks to the piano on the other side of the room.

                            MR MILES
              Beatrice...
BEA ignores him. She  sits at the piano and plays the first few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  MR MILES is furious.  All eyes alternate between him and BEA.

                            MR MILES
              Beatrice... What an earth...!?
BEA turns to him with a wicked smile.

                            BEA
              I’ve chosen to play the piano.
MR. MILES, hoist on the petards of his own logic, is not sure, for a moment, how to react.

                            MRS MILES (angry)
              William, you can’t allow …
                            MR MILES (angry)
              Beatrice!
BEA stops playing and calmly returns to the table.  There is a long moment of tense silence.

                            BEA
              Do you mother?  Keep what you think to yourself?
MRS. MILES, shocked by the question and unable to answer it, looks to MR. MILES to take control.  He remains silent.

                            BEA
              Do you think we should have compulsory conscription?
MRS. MILES would prefer not to answer.

                            MR MILES
              Do you, darling?
                            MRS MILES
              Yes.
MR. MILES is shocked by this but does his best to cover it.  There is an awful, strained, silence.

14 EXT. SYDNEY UNIVERSITY. DAY. 1920    

BEA, a young woman now, (17 years old) wanders through the grounds of Sydney University, amidst the many stalls inviting new students to join the DRAMA SOCIETY, the ROWING CLUB, the DEBATING CLUB etc.  It is Orientation week - the beginning of the University year.  Amidst the crowd of university students, dressed in the fashions of the day, BEA’s white blouse, skirt and tennis shoes appear quite eccentric.  Her excitement at being at University is apparent.

15 INT. LECTURE THEATRE. DAY. 

BEA sits in a lecture theatre with several dozen other students - most of them men.  Behind the black-robed PROFESSOR hangs a biological chart of the 'Tree of Life'.

                            PROFESSOR
...So, in a given environment, members of the same species compete for survival...

BEA puts her hand up.

                           PROFESSOR
...And it is those best adapted to the environment that have the best chance for survival. Yes Miles?

                            BEA (standing)
If Darwin is right and we’ve descended from apes and apes are animals, then we’re all animals too, aren’t we?

                            PROFESSOR (good humoured)
              Some of us more than others.
The Students laugh; BEA smiles.

                           PROFESSOR
              From a biological point of view, yes.
                            BEA
Then does it follow that his theories of natural selection apply to man also?
The PROFESSOR, finding the question interesting, turns to the ‘Tree of Life’ chart, pointing first of all to the top of it.

                            PROFESSOR
The beginning of life in the planet, roughly five...six hundred million years ago...

His finger moves past the various colored blocks on the chart to the thin section at the bottom marked 'Homo Sapiens'.

                            BEA (interrupting)
Then it must follow that charity is contrary to the laws of nature.
The PROFESSOR looks a little puzzled and there is some murmuring amongst the students.

                            PROFESSOR
              Is that a question or a statement?
                          BEA
Well, natural selection dictates that the strong survive and the weak die off.

                            PROFESSOR (becoming impatient)
              Yes.
                           BEA
And yet charity, which we hold to be a virtue, involves keeping alive those who would, in nature, simply die off...the weak...the cripple...the insane...

                            PROFESSOR
That is our Christian duty...but I fail to understand what all this has to do with biology...

                            BEA
I’m trying to reconcile the fact that all men are born equal, or at least we believe this to be the case, with the fact that in nature there is no equality at all. The strong survive; the weak die off.

                            PROFESSOR
An interesting ethical question Miles but one I would have thought more appropriately directed at your philosophy professor.

                            BEA
              But if two professors contradict each other...
                            PROFESSOR (annoyed)
              This is biology class, NOT a philosophy tutorial.
                            BEA
              Yes sir, but...
                            PROFESSOR
No 'buts', Miles! Now with your kind permission, I will proceed.
BEA sits; confused and upset by the PROFESSOR’s attitude.

16 INT. MR. MILES' OFFICE. DAY.    

BEA paces up and down her fathers’ ornately furnished wood-paneled office; frustrated and angry.  MR. MILES sits on the edge of a large shiny wooden desk.

                            BEA
              I’d be happier teaching children.
                            MR MILES
              That would be a waste of a first-class mind.
                            BEA
              It’ll be a second class mind by the time I finish university.
                            MR MILES
              Darling! Please! Stick it out. For me...
As he speaks, BEA begins to feel dizzy; the colour draining from her face.

                            MR MILES
              Three years will go by like that...
MR. MILES clicks his fingers. 

From BEA’s point of view, the image of her father moving towards her becomes blurred and the sound of his voice distorted.

                            MR MILES
              And then you’ll be free to do what you want.
BEA’s vision returns to normal: MR. MILES standing in front of her with his hands on her shoulders.  She moves away from him, puzzled by this sudden bout of dizziness.

                            MR MILES (concerned)
              Are you alright?
                            BEA (distracted)
              Yes.
17 INT. BEA'S BEDROOM. DAY.

BEA, in a pair of men's shorts, an open-necked men's shirt and with a green scarf around her waist, looks at herself in the mirror of her untidy bedroom.  She decides against the green scarf, removing it and hurriedly putting on a red one.  As she races around her room picking up books and papers and stuffing then into her satchel, MRS. MILES appears in the doorway.

                            Mrs miles
              Beatrice! You can’t go to university looking like that!
                            BEA
              Oh mother!
                            MRS MILES
And you’re not to leave the house till you’ve tidied your room...
BEA kisses her mother as she dashes out of the room.

                            BEA
              No time now.  I’ll do it tonight. Promise...
                            Mrs miles
              Beatrice...?
BEA is gone.  MRS. MILES is annoyed, upset; concerned.

18 INT/EXT. CITY STREET.TRAM. DAY.  

BEA rushes down the footpath to catch a tram that is stopped in the middle of the road. The tram starts to move off. BEA stops running for a moment, annoyed at having missed it and then, on an impulse, starts running again, racing out into the traffic, dodging a car that almost hits her and leaping onto the running board of the tram that is moving quite fast now. The passengers stare at her in amazement. BEA feels excited; exhilarated. Suddenly she feels dizzy; as if she might faint. She sits down. Her vision blurs.  From her POV the world slips out of focus. The sound of the tram’s wheels on the track become amplified out of all proportion. For a moment the world comes back into focus. BEA sees the passengers staring at her. Her face is white now and her brow moist with perspiration. She closed her eyes and sits still for a moment before falling over sideways and onto the floor of the tram.

19 INT. HOSPITAL ROOM. DAY.

BEA lies semi-conscious in a hospital bed as DR JAMES and two nurses examine her.  During moments of consciousness, blurred images come into focus - the doctor leaning over her, the nurse writing on a clip-board, white curtains blowing in the breeze.

20 INT. HOSPITAL HALLWAY. DAY.

MR. and MRS. MILES stand in the hallway, outside Bea’s room, with DR. JAMES.

                            MR MILES
              Encephalitis Lethargica!?
                            DR JAMES
A disease of the central nervous system...one that we’ve never seen before...and that we know very little about... there’s an epidemic worldwide...
DR. JAMES is quite distressed.

                            MR MILESes
              Yes...?
                           DR JAMES
I think it only fair to tell you that...two of my patients have died.
A moment of stunned silence.  MRS. MILES begins to cry.  MR. MILES puts his arm around her shoulder.

21 INT. HOSPITAL ROOM. DAY.

BEA is alone in her hospital bed; her eyes closed.  The door opens. MR. MILES enters and walks over to the bed, MRS. MILES just a little behind him.  Both Bea's parents are emotionally shattered.  MR. MILES kneels beside the bed and looks with tear filled eyes at his unconscious daughter.  He brings his trembling hands together, clasping them tight and holding them up to his face, as if to pray; a man in need of the god he does not believe in. BEA's eyes open.  She looks wanly at her parents.

                            BEA
              Dad.
                           MR MILES
              Yes darling.
                            BEA
              Am I going to die?
                            MR MILES (a little too quickly)
              No.
                            BEA
              I don’t care.
                            MR MILES
              You must care.
                            BEA
              Why?
MR. MILES is unable to reply.  BEA looks at her father. He is having difficulty holding his tears back. Then she looks over to the window, where the white curtain blows in the breeze.

22 EXT. MILES' HOME. DAY.

BEA sits in a large comfortable chair, in late afternoon sun, in the garden of the family’s suburban home, staring into space.  MRS. MILES, sitting close by, is trying to cheer BEA up.

                            MRS MILES (savouring the word)
Italy...embossed in gold on the cover...I suppose I was five...perhaps six… and because my father had hidden it, the book...the word Italy...there was something...magical and quite... forbidden about it...
MRS MILES laughs at the memory.

                            MRS MILES
...and inside, a lithograph of Michelangelo’s David, wearing a fig-leaf...but I didn’t know he was wearing the fig-leaf...I thought men were born with fig leaves...
The sound of a car pulling into the gravel driveway can be heard in the background.

                            MRS MILES (smiling)
              And it wasn’t until I met your father …
She laughs and looks at BEA, who tries to smile; to please her mother.  MRS MILES, worried but trying hard not to show it, takes BEA’s hand in her own for a moment, squeezing it, then getting up to walk across the garden to greet MR. MILES, in a business suit.

BEA stares into space, lost in her own thoughts, as MR. MILES kisses his wife in the background, talks with her for a moment, then approaches.  MRS. MILES follows; stands a little distance away.

                            MR MILES
              Hello darling.
He kisses her on the forehead; she barely responds.

                            MR MILES
              I’ve got something for you.
He opens his briefcase and takes a small wrapped parcel from it, handing it to BEA.  She puts it in her lap.

                            BEA (softly)
              Thank you.
                            MR MILES
              Aren’t you going to open it?
BEA opens it.  Inside is a leather bound volume of the COLLECTED WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.  BEA smiles weakly, but does not look at her father.

                            BEA
              Thank you.
BEA stares into space.  MR. and MRS. MILES exchange looks.

23 EXT. BEACH COTTAGE. AFTERNOON.

BEA sits on the swing in the yard of the Miles’ beach cottage, looking vacantly out over Pittwater.  MR. MILES and DR. JAMES approach.

                            MR MILES
              Beatrice, look who’s here!
BEA makes no response.

                            DOCTOR JAMES
              Bea, it’s Doctor James.
BEA does not respond.  MR. MILES and DR. JAMES exchange knowing, concerned looks.

                            doctor James
Bea, you’re cured. The disease is gone. There’s nothing to worry about.
BEA takes no notice of her visitors.

                          MR MILES
              Beatrice, this nonsense has to stop!
                            DOCTOR JAMES
              William!
                            BEA
              Evolution.
                            DOCTOR JAMES (paternalistic)
              Yes Bea?
                            BEA
              I’ve been thinking a lot about evolution.
                            DOCTOR JAMES
              What have you been thinking about it, dear?
No response from BEA.  The men exchange glances.

                            BEA (still staring ahead)
Life just keeps evolving, forever. Millions of years to go. There’s no end, no goal. What’s the point?

                            doctor James
Bea, young ladies don’t have to concern themselves about such things.

                               BEA (vacant)
              I can’t help the way I think.
                            DOCTOR JAMES
Leave it to us men to torture ourselves with questions for which there are no answers.

BEA stares at the water, smiling almost imperceptibly to herself at the fatuousness of this last statement.  MR. MILES and DR. JAMES exchange concerned looks.

24 INT. BEACH COTTAGE. BEA'S ROOM. PRE-DAWN.

Early morning.  Bea’s room is empty and the window open; the curtains blowing in a light breeze.  MRS. MILES stands in the doorway; worried.

                            MRS MILES (shouting)
              William...William...
25 EXT. BARRENJOEY HEADLAND. PRE-DAWN.

BEA, in her nightdress, climbs the steep rock face at the northern end of the beach; her face expressionless.  Out to sea, on the horizon, the pre-dawn sky is bright orange.

26 EXT. PALM BEACH. DAWN   

MR. MILES and Bea’s TWO TEENAGE BROTHERS run along the water’s edge, following fresh footprints that lead in the direction of the rocks.  The sun is just about to rise.

27 EXT BARRENJOEY HEADLAND. DAWN.

BEA stands on a rock ledge that juts out over the sea. The incoming swell covers a rock ledge forty feet below, then sucks back leaving the rocks bare again for a few moments before another white mass of water swirls over them. BEA's face glows golden in the light of the rising sun; her nightdress and hair blowing in the breeze.  After a long moment looking at the sea BEA steps off the edge of the cliff quite calmly.  The boiling white mass of water sucks back into the sea.  There is no sign of her.

28 EXT. PALM BEACH. DAWN.

MR. MILES and his two sons are near the end of the beach now, close to where the rocks begin to mount up at the base of the cliff. They stop running, unable to believe what they see :

BEA, her white nightdress clinging to her, emerging from the water, smiling broadly.  

                            BEA (radiant)
              Morning dad.
MR. MILES looks on with shock and horror. There is an unusual peace and calmness in BEA.  Her father and brothers are speechless.

29 EXT. COUNTRY RAILWAY LINE. DAY.

Amidst lush hilly sheep country a goods train puffs past.  BEA, dressed in white shorts, white shirt, white sun visor and with a large dilly-bag around her shoulder, rises up into shot and starts running beside the train, closely followed by two bearded and disheveled SWAGGIES.  One grabs hold of a metal bar protruding from the side of a carriage and deftly swings himself on board.  BEA copies him, though not quite as deftly.  She almost loses her footing but is held on board by the SWAGGIE on board whilst the other swings himself up with ease.

BEA, exhilarated by the experience, clings to the side of the train as it moves through the lush green hills - her face broken by a huge and happy smile.

30 INT. MILES' HOME. DAY.

Mr. Miles hands a sheet of paper to a POLICEMAN, on which is written: BE BACK SOON, BEA.  DR.JAMES stands nearby.  MRS. MILES, extremely upset, sits down; a handkerchief in her hand.

31 EXT. COUNTRY ROAD. DAY.

BEA, her swag beside her, sits by a red dirt road, taking in the beauty of her surroundings, thinking for a moment, then writing in the notebook in her lap: a travel journal.

32 INT/EXT. CAR/COUNTRY ROAD. DAY.

BEA hitching a ride, as seen through the front window of an approaching car. In the front seat is a FARMER, his WIFE and TWO CHILDREN; in the backseat FOUR MORE CHILDREN - all startled to see BEA standing at the side, arm outstretched.  The car pulls up. BEA leaps over a puddle and leans down to talk through the window.

                            BEA (cheerful)
              Morning.
                            FARMER
              Sorry! No room.
BEA inspects the interior and the exterior of the car hastily.

                            BEA
              Cripes, plenty of room out here!
She hands her dilly bag through the window to the startled wife.

                            BEA
              Thanks. I’m Bea...
BEA swings one leg over the left front mudguard and sits astride it, her feet on the front bumper bar. Hanging onto the mudguard with one hand she turns to wave to the farmer that she is ready; they can go.  The farmer and his wife - both bewildered - look at each other for a moment. The children are amazed.

BEA rides the mudguard as if it were a horse and as the car picks up speed Bea becomes increasingly exhilarated.  There is a bit of a bump as the car hits a puddle, splattering Bea with a brown muddy water. She looks at her mud-bespattered clothes and laughs; looking back then with a happy smile at the occupants of the car, who can’t believe this is happening to them.  MUSIC OVER this traveling sequence.

33 EXT. COUNTRY ROAD 2. DAY.

The car is parked at the side of the road in drier country; further west.  The wife passes Bea’s dilly bag to her through the window.  BEA thanks them for the ride and the car drives off; down a dirt track off the main road.  MUSIC OVER.

LATER IN THE DAY

BEA, some distance from the road, late in the afternoon, collects wildflowers.  She hears a truck coming and runs back through tall dry grass clutching a handful of wildflowers. 

She hails the truck and as it slows down, douses the smoldering fire with the remnants of a blackened billy of tea, closes her travel journal and packs it and her fountain pen into her dilly bag. 

The TRUCK DRIVER, a leathery man in his 40s, opens the door for BEA. She clambers up and into the passenger seat, closing the door behind her; smiling her 'thanks' to the driver. 

She suddenly remembers that she has forgotten something, opens the door, gets out and retrieves, from beside the now dead fire, her bottle of ink. 

She climbs back into the passenger seat with it.  The TRUCK DRIVER looks at the young mud-bespattered woman beside him, clutching a bottle of ink and wonders what the world is coming to.  MUSIC OVER.

34 INT/EXT. COUNTRY ROAD 3. NIGHT.

BEA and the TRUCK DRIVER laugh and talk together as the truck headlights illuminate the road ahead. MUSIC OVER.

35 INT/EXT. COUNTRY ROAD 4. SUNRISE.

Bea is curled up asleep in the cabin of the truck a little after sunrise.  The truck is coming to a stop.  As it does so the TRUCK DRIVER nudges BEA, sho wakes and looks out the window.  The country is drier still. Outback NSW.  MUSIC OVER.

36 EXT. COUNTRY ROAD 5. SUNRISE.

BEA stands at a cross-roads as the truck pulls out and turns left, heading south.  She walks a little way down the road heading west, puts down her dilly bag and looks around. Some distance down the road there is a Station homestead. MUSIC OVER.

LATER

BEA, sitting cross-legged on the ground in the early morning sun, flattens a wildflower between the pages of a book.

LATER

BEA lies on the ground, in the shade of a tree, writing in her journal.

LATER

BEA, a small figure in a vast dry landscape, watches another truck approach the cross-roads.  She holds her hand out but the truck turns right, heading north; stopping a little around the corner.  BEA runs to the truck.

                            DRIVER (voiceover)
              Where y’going’?
                            BEA (voiceover)
              Western Australia.  Where are you going?
                            DRIVER (voiceover)
              Queensland.
CLOSE ON:

BEA looking through the window at the RED-FACED DRIVER and his MATE. She thinks for a moment.

                            BEA
              Got room for a passenger?
                            RED-FACED DRIVER
              Hop in.

.....to be continued...

10 comments:

  1. The elephant in the room - SA board members approving funds for SA board members projects!

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  2. Your collaborators are banned too, Ricketson?

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  3. No project with my name attached to it can be presented to Screen Australia for funding consideration. And Screen Australia staff are not allowed to to even speak with me on the telephone - part of the decree handed down by Ruth Harley and ratified by he Board. Now that Ruth is gone, only the Board can lift the ban. It clearly has no intention of doing so or of providing me with evidence of my crimes.

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  4. By implying, James, that there is something untoward about the board funding Goalpost Pictures, you are guaranteeing that the ban will remain. You are a fucking idiot!

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    1. I have not implied anything, Mr or Ms Anonymous. I have merely juxtaposed two facts – my being a banned filmmaker and the fact that those responsible for the ban have recently voted to provide funding to a member of the board and, by virtue of her joining Goalpost Pictures, to Martha Coleman. It is up to the reader to arrive at whatever conclusions they like.

      Having said that I do wonder about the appropriateness of having four filmmakers on the board. I can understand one but four! What is the role of the board members? Is it to make judgments about the creative pros and cons of individual projects? It is my understanding (and I may be wrong here) that this is the job undertaken by Screen Australia employees; not the Board!? If it is the Board making the final call on the creative and box-office pros and cons or particular projects there is (to me at least) a clear conflict of interest if the board members are voting on their own projects – whether they remain in the room whilst the vote is taken or, most likely, if they leave the room.

      This is a perfectly legitimate question to ask. It is not the kind of question that should lead to the questioner being banned, or to having his ban continued. It is also worth pointing out, Mr or Ms Anonymous, that I am not alone in asking this and other related questions. The difference is that I tend to ask them in public and many others do not. Their reason for not doing so, and the reason why (I suspect) you chose to remain anonymous, is that they do not wish to bite one of the few hands that is in a position to feed them.

      It is my belief that just as Screen Australia should not be banning filmmakers that it does not like, for whatever reason, nor should it be showing any form of favouratism to filmmakers that it does like. The playing field should be level and it is not.

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    2. Your co-writers are stupid to get into bed with a cranky old has-been such as you Ricketson. If you lie down with dogs…

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    3. That my screenwriting collaborators are likewise banned from making an application to Screen Australia because they are working with a ‘has-been’ such as myself is not only unfair, Ms Anonymous, but just plain stupid. If there is one thing that I think we can all agree on it is that we need, as story-tellers, to improve the quality of our screenplays. To ban screenwriters deliberately (in my case) or as ‘collateral damage’ in the case of my co-writers, makes no sense at all. That such a ban has been imposed by four fellow filmmakers, in conjunction with the rest of the SA board, is a source of never-ending puzzlement to me. It may well be that all 8 of the feature film projects that I and my co-writers are working on are crap. It may be that only one of them is any good. It may be that a few have potential. The point is, Screen Australia will never know because no-one in the organization will read any of them. Does this make sense to you? If so, I’d really like to have you explain what sense it makes?

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  5. Reluctantly AnonymousDecember 16, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    Are you suggesting, James, that members of the board should not be eligible to apply for script development or any other kind of funding - regardless of the merit of their projects or of their track record?

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  6. I think that you are asking the wrong question, or at least asking the wrong question first.

    What is the role of the Screen Australia Board? Is it to make creative decisions about the strengths and weaknesses - creative and box-office oriented - of projects placed before it? Or is the Board’s role to review decisions made by the relevant staff within Screen Australia, to see to it that these are made in an appropriate manner; that guidelines are being followed; that checks and balances are in place to make sure that certain filmmaker-applicants are not being advantaged by their friendship or prior professional relationships with senior SA decision-makers; that filmmakers are not disadvantaged because senior SA decisions-makers do not like them for one reason or another? This is the category that I fall into as a banned filmmaker. Tellingly, the Board had to vote to alter Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade in order to make the ban on me legal and did so without any discussion at a board meeting. The Board did so because Ruth Harley requested it to do so. And it all happened in a 24 hour time-frame without my even being aware that I was essentially being charged, found guilty and sentenced!

    If the Board’s decisions (which translate into considerable power and influence) extend to making creative judgments about film and TV projects and can override decisions made within Screen Australia, how appropriate is it that Board members can vote for their own projects or for the projects of their fellow filmmaker Board members? Is it appropriate that in Dec 2013 Martha Coleman can recommend to the Board that it invest development money in Goalpost Pictures – part-owned by a member of the Board - and then, this month, join Goalpost? Given the very significant role that Martha played in deciding which filmmakers would be awarded development monies and which would not, is it possible to ask how much development money was provided to Goalpost in the 12 months preceding her going to work for the company?

    Questions such as these swirl around the ‘industry’ all the time and there is much behind-the-scenes bitching and complaining about the naked nepotism that we have all been privy to over the years. Not a great deal is said in public, however, as this would amount to the person asking such questions (or bitching and complaining) biting one of the few hands likely to feed them – all filmmakers being dependent in so many ways (too many ways!) on Screen Australia. So, in true Emperor’s New Clothes style, there is a collective refusal to admit that there is, at the very least, something fishy about the Emperor’s clothes. Or, to use a different metaphor, who is going to speak out in public about the elephant in the room that is Board members voting to give money to fellow Board members at Board meeting where, no doubt, the Board member applicants leave the room whilst the vote is taken?

    …to be continued…

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  7. This brings me back to your question: Why shouldn’t Board members be allowed to apply for development and production monies? My answer. There is no reason at all but I still think that this is the wrong initial question – which is: “Does the Screen Australia Board really need to have on it four filmmakers who benefit financially and in career terms from decisions they arrive at in Board meetings?”

    The usual response to questions such as this is: “But wouldn’t you rather have on the Board men and women who have experience in the film industry so that they can make informed decisions?” My answer: “Isn’t that what senior management at Screen Australia has been employed to do?” Yes, maybe one practicing filmmaker but why four? And how much money, in terms of development and production, has been invested this past few years in projects that Board members benefit from financially? Is it possible to even ask this question without fearing the repercussions?

    I would certainly appreciate some clarity around the question of who makes decisions regarding development and productions monies? Are these are made by the relevant members of Screen Australia staff and merely reviewed, appropriately, by the Board? Or can the Board override the advice given to it (the recommendations) by SA staff and give preference to projects that Board members have a beneficial interest in? These questions have nothing to do with the current make-up of the Board or of senior management at Screen Australia. They are questions that go to the heart of how Screen Australia functions when decisions involving millions of tax-payer dollars are involved.

    I have only scratched the surface here of the questions that could be asked and I believe should be asked about the appropriateness of having a Board top-heavy with filmmakers benefiting from Board decisions.

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