Saturday, September 6, 2014

# 1 ANGKOR - "The Organisation". TV series in development






The Screen Australia ban on me has far reaching ramifications for me as a filmmaker. It effectively renders me persona non grata with other possible sources of collaborative support and funding for all of my projects – including this series. Who wants to get into bed, creatively speaking, with a filmmaker who has been given the Screen Australia kiss of death?


The challenge confronting me now is to see if I can get ANGKOR up and running despite the ban.  



Stair (Alistair) Morecombe travels to Cambodia to retrieve the body of his brother Nick - an investigative journalist killed in a fiery car ‘accident’ that left only skeletal remains. He teams up with Nick's photographer girlfriend, Patrice, to investigate and finds himself drawn into a web of intrigue and corruption from which he finds it impossible to extricate himself. Was Nick murdered by one of the many enemies he made through his journalistic exposes?


1 EXT. PHNOM PENH RUBBISH DUMP. DAY  

Tip-trucks unload rubbish at a huge dump.

SCAVENGERS - men, women and children - use lengths of wire with hooked ends to extract what can be recycled and sold. 

The air is thick with smoke; the work conditions hellish.

A YOUNG GIRL, 8 or 9, climbs a mound of rubbish with her hooked wire in one hand and a plastic sack in the other - into which she places plastic bags and other plastic items she finds. The process requires her to empty the bags first - of mouldy rice, rotten fruit, sanitary napkins etc.
One plastic bag resists her attempt to lift it with her hooked wire. She lifts the bag with her hands, upends it. Out falls the severed head of a man - his eyes open in terror, his mouth taped shut with gaffer tape.

The YOUNG GIRL’S scream fades as the screen...

Fades to black

Out of silence a young woman’s voice is heard.

KATIE (VOICE OFF)
That was the third murder, right?

PATRICE (VOICE OFF)
Third....fourth...depends what you count as the first.

2 EXT. TROPICAL GARDEN. DAY

Fade up from black

PATRICE, early 30s, her hair cropped short, a glass of wine in her hands, looks directly into the camera.

KATIE (VOICE OFF)
Which do you...(count it as?)

PATRICE thinks for a moment, takes a sip of her wine.

PATRICE
You’ll cut this out, of course! Me...

She indicates her glass, takes another sip.

PATRICE 
In vino veritas. 

KATIE (VOICE OFF)
Sorry!

PATRICE
‘In wine there is wisdom.’  

PATRICE puts her glass down, composes herself.

KATIE (VOICE OFF)
If you could...I don’t know...just start at the beginning.

PATRICE
The beginning! Where does the beginning begin?  With the first murder? (A BEAT) But you cant understand that unless...There are so many beginnings to this story. 

KATIE
For you.

PATRICE
With my conception 33 years ago? (LAUGHS) With the Kingdom of Angkor 1000 years ago? With a fight between two brothers 20 years ago? With the execution of a boy’s entire family by the Khmer Rouge in 1978?  (A BEAT) With a sick mother who couldn’t feed her children... who couldn’t even breast feed her baby? 

3 OPENING CREDIT SEQUENCE

A music over montage of images that conveys the physical beauty of Cambodia, the poverty of so many of its inhabitants and a sense of the milieu in which the story takes place.

4 EXT. RICE PADDY. DAY

An 11 year old girl, KEK, chases a frog in a rice-paddy. 

She catches the frog but it slides from between her hands. 

Kek’s 7 year old brother, DARYA, and 5 year old sister, SREY NIAN, join in the chase. DARYA slips, falls into the paddy. 

KEK laughs, continues with the chase, catches the frog, places it in a sack filled with live frogs.

5 INT. RAMSHACKLE 3RD WORLD HUT. DAY

A skinny dog, on a dirt floor, suckles 3 new born puppies. 
A pair of dark slender hands, holding a six month old BABY, appear in frame, placing the baby alongside the puppies. 

A wide shot. MI, an emaciated Khmer woman in her late 20s, inside the most basic of thatch-roofed 3rd world dwellings, positions the BABY to suckle.

In the background, outside the ramshackle dwelling a pig, a chicken and a dog fight over a scrap of found food.

CLOSE ON BABY suckling on the dog's teat. (CGI)

CLOSE ON MI - tired, ill, sweat glistening on her face.

6 EXT. RURAL VILLAGE. DAY

KEK, DARYA and SREY NIAN make their way into an impoverished village; KEK carrying a bag of squirming frogs.

They make their way between ramshackle houses with thatched roofs, past a small shop that sells rice, cooking oil, bottled water, washing powder and other basic necessities.

Signs of extreme poverty abound - skinny children with red-tinted hair showing signs of malnutrition.

KEK, DARYA and SREY NIAN stop at the village water pump.

7 INT. RAMSHACKLE 3RD WORLD HUT. DAY

SREY NIAN squats close to where her baby suckles with the puppies - her face wet with sweat. She is clearly very sick. She leans against a wooden post, closes her eyes.

8 EXT. VILLAGE. DAY

KEK pumps muddy water into DARYA’S and SREY NIAN’S cupped hands. They drink. 

9 INT. RAMSHACKLE 3RD WORLD HUT. DAY

The dog stands, walks off. The puppies follow. The BABY lies alone on the dirt floor kicking its legs, flailing its arms.

The dog snarls at the large pig standing at the entrance, as it walks past. The pig’s eyes are focused on the baby. (CGI)

10 EXT. VILLAGE. DAY


DARYA tries to operate the pump but he is too small. KEK laughs, pumps muddy water into one cupped hand, drinks.

11 INT. HUT. DAY

MI leans against the post, asleep.

The baby, lying on the ground, makes happy gurgling sounds as the pig walks slowly towards it. (CGI)

The pig sniffs the baby lying on the dirt floor. (CGI)

MI, rivulets of sweat running down her face, sleeps up against the post.

12 EXT. VILLAGE. DAY

A minor dispute takes place between DARYA and SREY NIAN as to who is going to carry the bag of frogs. SREY NIAN wins.

KEK takes DARYA’S and SREY NIAN’S hands as they walk towards their ramshackle home - four posts, a thatched roof, walls made of tin, cardboard, hessian and frayed plastic. 

As they get close to the hut a baby’s cry is heard, closely followed by a loud scream from MI. 

KEK runs fast to the hut.

13 INT. RAMSHACKLE 3RD WORLD HUT. DAY

KEK runs into the hut to see:

MI struggling to her feet, screaming, as the pig licks the baby’s face. (CGI)

KEK launches herself at the pig - kicking it hard. The pig retreats. 

KEK picks up the baby.

MI’S face, a mask of panic, glistens with sweat.

LATER

MI lies on a bamboo mat, sick, as KEK ladles thin rice soup from a pot over an open fire into four bowls.

KEK hands one bowl to DARYA and SREY NIAN, sitting on the dirt floor, and takes another to spoon feed MI, her mother.

KEK wipes Mi’s wet face with a cloth. Her attention is caught by a car arriving. She looks out to see:

A shiny white sedan pull up outside.

KEK looks to her mother, with a puzzled expression on her face. MI turns her head away.

A SMILING KHMER MAN gets out of the car and walks towards the hut. KEK walks out to greet him.

MI half sits, looks out to where KEK and the SMILING MAN talk. Tears well in her eyes as:

KEK claps her hands excitedly, turns, beams a smile at MI.

14 EXT. FISH MARKET. DAY

TITLE CARD: “Trat, Thailand.”

MUNNY, mid 30s, lean, tanned dark brown by the sun, scans the crowd nervously in the adjacent fish market as he unloads fish; looking for someone. His attention focuses on a BUDDHIST MONK in orange robes, filming with an iPad.

The Caucasian BUDDHIST MONK, late 30s, interviews a Thai FISH MERCHANT standing in front of a truck into which fish are being loaded.

FISH MERCHANT (SUBTITLED)
I just buy the fish. I need to make money. I have to feed my children. 

The BUDDHIST MONK becomes aware that MUNNY is standing closeby scratching his nose.

FISH MERCHANT (SUBTITLED) 
If the fishermen are slaves...it’s not my problem. You must talk...

The BUDDHIST MONK nods to MUNNY imperceptibly.

15 INT. NICK’S APARTMENT. DAY

NICK MORECOMBE, late 30s, stands in front of a large notice board, looking at his smart phone. 

GERMAN MAN (VOICE OFF)
He says if the fishermen are slaves...it’s not his problem.

NICK has a two day growth of beard and longish tousled hair. 

CLOSE ON smart phone screen:

BUDDHIST MONK (GERMAN ACCENT)
You have to talk with the authorities, he says.

NICK
Thanks, Gunther.

BUDDHIST MONK
Nanda.

NICK (SMILES)
Nanda.

Nick’s apartment is creatively chaotic. Books, magazines and folders cover every available surface.  

BUDDHIST MONK (NANDA)
I will the arrangement finalize and call you later, OK?

NICK
Thanks.

NICK finishes the call, looks for a long moment at the cluttered notice board cluttered with press clippings, photos of people (arrows connecting them), notes and other evidence of Nick’s multiple journalistic investigations.

16 EXT. PHNOM PENH CITY STREET. DAY

PATRICE, her hair shoulder-length, camera in hand, kneels in a busy street that runs alongside a bustling market. 

She positions, readies herself, to take a photo of a man crawling on his belly along the asphalt road, begging. He is being led, on a rope, by a barefoot SIX YEAR OLD GIRL.

PATRICE waits for the right photographic moment. Through the lens of her camera: 

A motor bike flashes by in one direction at the same moment as a cyclo weighed down with an impossibly big load of bananas travels by in the opposite direction. In between the two moving vehicles, for a fraction of a second, the CRAWLING MAN inches forward as the SIX YEAR OLD GIRL holds out her spare hand in hopes of donations. Click.

17 INT. NICK’S APARTMENT. DAY

PATRICE looks at the photo of the crawling man and little girl on her computer screen.

NICK, his hands resting affectionately on PATRICE’S shoulders, gives his thumbs-up approval of the photo. 

NICK
Yes.

PATRICE smiles, nods in agreement. 

NICK 
We should...(go)

PATRICE turns her face towards him.

PATRICE
Kiss.

They kiss.

18 EXT. RURAL CAMBODIA. SUNSET

The shiny white car, KEK visible in the passenger seat, drives through a picture post-card beautiful Cambodian rural landscape. 

The sky is lit up with a brilliant sunset.

19 INT. CAR. SUNSET

KEK sits in the passenger seat of the car running her hands over the plush upholstery, fiddling with knobs; overawed by the interior of the car.  

20 EXT. SHOP. VILLAGE. DAY

DARYA, clutching a a crisp US$20 bill, points to a tin of powdered baby formula milk in the ‘shop’ seen earlier.

21 INT. RAMSHACKLE 3RD WORLD HUT. NIGHT

DARYA finishes pouring formula milk into a baby bottle.
MI, lying on a mat close by, watches as DARYA shakes the bottle, places the rubber teat in the baby’s mouth.

CLOSE ON MI’s wet face, her eyes filling with tears.

22 EXT. RESIDENTIAL STREET. PHNOM PENH. NIGHT

A battered and mud-bespattered yellow 4 wheel drive is parked on a suburban street in an upmarket Phnom Penh suburb. NICK, and PATRICE, sit in the 4WD. 30 meters in the background a huge palatial mansion can be seen.

23 INT. YELLOW 4 WHEEL DRIVE. NIGHT 

NICK, his mobile held to his ear, nods in agreement with whoever he is speaking with. PATRICE mimics him. NICK smiles.

NICK
OK, OK...speak soon. Chou.

He hangs up.

PATRICE
You are the only man I have ever known who would interrupt a scintillating conversation with me to answer his phone. Ping! (A BEAT) Correction. You are one in a long line of men who love their phones more than their women.

NICK
A long line? (A BEAT) How long?

PATRICE
A woman is entitled to her secrets.

NICK
And a man?

PATRICE
He must be an open book.

NICK brandishes his mobile.

NICK
An occuptional hazard.

PATRICE
Your choice.

NICK
Yes, I could choose not to be a journalist, but if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have met you.

PATRICE
You made the right choice, but...let’s say I wanted...needed... your undivided attention...and your phone rang....pinged...vibrated... and you didn’t know who was... pinging you...demanding your attention...ping...perhaps a Pulitzer prize story on offer...ping...and you had to choose? Me or your phone?

NICK
You’re asking me this...now?

PATRICE
Isn’t this what lovers do? 

NICK
Now!? (PATRICE SMILES, NODS) And you want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer?

PATRICE
Yes....No...you can have a whole sentence if you need it.

NICK
You.

PATRICE
Is that the truth? Or a reassuring lie? (A BEAT) 

NICK
A reassuring lie.

PATRICE laughs.

PATRICE
I love reassuring lies. Tell me another one.

NICK
I don’t love you. I think you are a pain in the arse. I am counting the days and ways I can get you out of my life.

PATRICE (LAUGHS)
Have you ever tried turning it off? For....like...a whole day?

NICK
The batteries run flat every now and then.

PATRICE
Quelle horreur! 

NICK holds up his hand, his attention on:

24 EXT. PALATIAL HOME. NIGHT

The white sedan seen earlier pulls up outside the palatial home, outside of which four armed and UNIFORMED GUARDS wait.
A GUARD opens the door for KEK. She gets out of the car, looks at the house; awestruck. 

25 INT. CAR. NIGHT

From a slightly wobbly and grainy perspective KEK can be seen being led inside the front gate to the palatial home.

NICK films a small digital camera. PATRICE takes photos with a professional stills camera, a powerful zoom lens attached.

NICK
Abort.

ARMED GUARD # 1 is looking towards the car in which NICK and PATRICE are sitting. He says something to his fellow GUARDS. 

PATRICE unscrews the zoom lens of her camera as ARMED GUARD # 1, his AK 47 at the ready, makes his way towards them. 

NICK places the small camera between his legs as PATRICE puts her camera in the glove compartment, locks it and slips the key into her shirt pocket.

NICK leans close to her, kisses her lightly on the lips.

NICK 
Pretend that we re lovers.

PATRICE
We are lovers.

NICK smiles, kisses her nose. The ARMED GUARD is only a few meters away as they kiss passionately.

ARMED GUARD # 1 taps the window with his AK 47. NICK and PATRICE stop kissing, look towards him, puzzled.

NICK winds down the window, smiles disarmingly, speaks in faltering Khmer.

NICK (SUBTITLED)
Hello, how are you?

The ARMED GUARD, thrown a little, speaks in Khmer.

ARMED GUARD # 1 (SUBTITLED)
Get out.

NICK (SUBTITLED)
Why?

ARMED GUARD # 1(LOUD)
Get out.

As NICK reaches for the door handle, he whispers to PATRICE:

NICK (SOTTO VOICE)
Camera under the seat.

As he begins to exit the car NICK hesitates long enough for PATRICE to grab the small camera from where he was sitting.

PATRICE (SOTTO VOCE)
Got it.

26 INT. PLUSH BATHROOM. 

An ELEGANT KHMER WOMAN, seen in a mirror, lipstick in her hands, looks at the reflection of herself and KEK. She speaks in Khmer.

ELEGANT KHMER WOMAN (SUBTITLED)
You are a very beautiful young woman.

KEK smiles but is clearly now confused and a little fearful.

KEK (SUBTITLED)
I want to go home.

ELEGANT KHMER WOMAN (SUBTITLED) 
Soon, darling. Soon.

27 EXT. CLOSE TO PALATIAL HOME. NIGHT

From PATRICE’S point of view: NICK stands by the open door to his car talking in haltering Khmer to ARMED GUARD # 1.

NICK (SUBTITLED)
My wife just told me that she is pregnant. 

NICK pats his stomach.

NICK (SUBTITLED) 
I am excited. Our first baby. Are you married? Do you have children?

ARMED GUARD # 1, thrown for a moment, signals to the other ARMED GUARDS close to the entrance to the palatial home to join him. He signals to PATRICE to get out of the car.

PATRICE gets out, stands alongside NICK. He puts his arms around her shoulder, kisses her.

NICK 
All under control.

PATRICE raises her eyebrows sceptically. 

ARMED GUARD # 1 shines his torch inside the car. He opens the back door, shines his torch on two large oil-stained plastic containers resting on the floor. He runs his fingers around the rim of the screw-on cap of one of them, lifts his fingers to his nose; sniffs. NICK speaks in Khmer.

NICK (SUBTITLED) 
Petrol.

ARMED GUARD # 1 moves to check under front driver’s seat with his torch.

TWO ARMED GUARDS approach, ARMED GUARD # 1 instructs them:

ARMED GUARD # 1 (SUBTITLED) 
Look under the seat.

ARMED GUARD # 2 opens the door, feels under the passenger seat. He finds something but has difficulty getting a firm grip on it. 
NICK is having difficulty maintaining his ‘innocent and perplexed’ smile. 

ARMED GUARD # 2 extracts a bottle of wine.  

ARMED GUARD # 1 shines his torch on the glove compartment, instructs ARMED GUARD # 2

ARMED GUARD # 1 (SUBTITLED)
Open it.

ARMED GUARD # 2 tries to open it. He cannot.

NICK (SUBTITLED)
The key is lost.

ARMED GUARD # 1 moves around the car, pushes ARMED GUARD # 2 out of the way, raises his AK 47 in preparation to smash his way into the glove compartment. NICK speaks his one word of Khmer assertively:

NICK (SUBTITLED)
Wait.

NICK takes out his wallet, takes a $100 note from it, hands it to ARMED GUARD # 1. He looks at it for a moment before turning to the other ARMED GUARDS. They nod. 

ARMED GUARD # 1 signals to NICK to hand over his wallet. NICK does so. 

ARMED GUARD # 1 takes it, removes all the money from it, hands it back to NICK; indicates with his AK 47 that he and PATRICE should get back into the car and leave.

NICK nods. He and PATRICE are in the process of getting back into the car when ARMED GUARD #1’s voice is heard off.

ARMED GUARD # 1 (SUBTITLED)
Stop.

NICK and PATRICE turn towards him. There is a flash. ARMED GUARD # 1 has taken their photo with a small digital camera which he then tucks back into his pocket.

ARMED GUARD # 1 nods to his companions, turns and walks back to the palatial home. They laugh excitedly at their windfall.

28 INT. CAR. NIGHT

NICK and PATRICE get back into the battered yellow 4WD.

NICK
Faaark! 

He reaches under the passenger seat.

NICK 
If they’d found the...(video camera)

He can’t find it. PATRICE smiles.

NICK 
Where...(is it?)

PATRICE holds out her hand to NICK. He takes it. She guides it to her waist, slips it inside her jeans.

PATRICE
Head south.

NICK  feels the camera, smiles, shakes his head; laughs.

NICK
Not just a pretty face.

PATRICE laughs, pulls the camera out.

29 INT. HALLWAY. PALATIAL HOME. NIGHT

Seen from behind, KEK stands by the ELEGANT WOMAN as she knocks on a door in a hallway filled with Chinese antiques; its walls covered with tasteful art works. Classical music can be heard being played inside.

There is no response. The ELEGANT WOMAN knocks again. A male voice is heard, speaking in Khmer.

WING CHOU (VOICE OFF, SUBTITLED)
Enter.

30 INT. BEDROOM. PALATIAL HOME. NIGHT

The door opens to reveal KEK dressed in a white wedding dress, made up to look as much like an adult woman as is possible for an 11 year old. She is shocked by what she sees.

The ELEGANT WOMAN leans close to KEK, whispers in her ear.

ELEGANT KHMER WOMAN (SUBTITLED)
Smile. You must smile.

KEK tries her best to smile.

WING CHOU, a portly Chinese man in his mid-50s, wearing an embroidered silk dressing gown only, sits on the edge of an antique four-poster bed. 

Close to the bed, on a tripod, is a small video camera, pointing at the bed.

WING CHOU smiles, uses a remote control device to turn the camera on, pats the bed beside him.

WING CHOU
Come.

With the flip out screen of the video camera prominent in the foreground, KEK walks slowly, tentatively, towards WING CHOU.



...to be continued...

7 comments:

  1. Intriguing, Ricketson. When is the next instalment?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Freddy, I have only recently started serious work on this. Should have the next 'instalment' in about a week, cheers

    ReplyDelete
  3. James, this looks to have promise, so far! You've got me hooked. Where is the world are you now? Still In New York?

    ReplyDelete
  4. No, back in Cambodia working on ANGKOR. Tried to email you but it bounced back. Me: jamesricketson@gmail.com

    Tell me what you are up to YKW, cheers

    ReplyDelete
  5. So far so good, Mr Ricketson. If these were pages I would have kept turning them. As it is I kept scrolling. Keep it up and you might be onto a winner and winning is the best form of revenge

    ReplyDelete
  6. Reluctantly AnonymousSeptember 14, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    I read online that you are planning to shoot this with the new iPhone! Wow! How are you going to deal with the sound issue?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, shooting the series on the streets of Phnom Penh is an option i am seriously considering. Sound is a challenge, not an insurmountable obstacle.

      Delete