J. Grace Pennington

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Screenplay – Once and Future

KingArthur

I’ve shared bits and pieces of my work on this blog in the past several months–poetry, short stories, articles, novel excerpts. But as I was digging for something to post this morning, it occurred to me that I have not yet posted any of my screenwriting.

As I’ve explained before, screenwriting is not my favorite medium. I find it difficult, and the resulting work is rarely very well-plotted and usually rather flat. Every year I say I’m not going to participate in ScriptFrenzy (the challenge to write a hundred pages of screenplay in the month of April), because I have no time, and I’m not good at screenwriting. But the past two years, certain friends (who may or may not be Aubrey Hansen and Jordan Smith) have compelled me to change my mind at the last moment. At the last moment being very shortly before the end of April–I wrote Sugar & Strife in four days near the end of April 2011, and Umbrella Beach in ten days the next year. They aren’t especially brilliant at the moment, and need a lot of work, but I like the ideas, and may try to revise them in the future.

However, there was one more immediate problem they both had–they weren’t long enough. I was lacking five to ten pages to reach the desired one hundred.

With Umbrella Beach in 2012, Jordan solved my problem by suggesting I write a “just for fun” pilot episode for the then-hypothetical Month of the Novel season two. Incidentally, this pilot has since been rewritten to become the first episode of the now-not-so-hypothetical season.

But with the year before that, I was lost. How to use up the last few pages? What could I write? My mind seemed squeezed dry of any screenwriting ideas.

But then… there was one idea back there that I’d filed away.

I actually can’t take full credit for the idea. A few years back, on Isaac Botkin’s screenwriting blog, he put up a free download of a screenwriting beat sheet he’d created. In one section designated as “notes,” I found these words of instruction:

“Of course, you should also have a much more significant file of all the research that you need to write your characters and story. If your movie involves brilliant doctors, nuclear technology, military jargon, medieval kings, or complex economics, you should learn enough about these topics to be able to write them convincingly.

“Of course, if your movie manages to combine all of those elements, you should send it to me…”

This of course was a joke, but my stubborn brain decided to take it as a challenge, the wheels got turning, and I came up with an idea.

Ironically, it’s the research that’s kept me from writing it so far–I haven’t had time to do the extensive research needed. But that spring of 2011, desperate to make my quota of pages, I wrote just a few scenes for the script, scenes I already had in my head.

ScriptFrenzy no longer exists, but there is an option for screenwriting in Camp NaNoWriMo this year, which my friends are urging me to try. I’ve refused thus far–I don’t even have a screenplay idea I’m ready to write! But if the past two years are any indicator, you just might find me suddenly plugging away at one on April twenty-seventh or so… who knows?

In the meantime, here is a sample of the screenplay that is meant to feature brilliant doctors, nuclear technology, military jargon, medieval kings, and complex economics.

INT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE – DAY

Dr. Benson gestures to a chair.

BENSON
Sit down.

Arthur, tall, forty-something, with a strong, handsome face and long, brown hair, dressed in medieval style tunic and leggings, sits.

ARTHUR
What manner of place is this?

He caresses the leather arms of the chair, and looks around in dignified awe at the clocks, machinery, and computers.

BENSON
This is a doctor’s office.

ARTHUR
Indeed. I have never seen the like.

He looks at a lamp with obvious curiousity.

BENSON
Why did you come here?

He slides a rolling chair from his desk over to Arthur and looks hard at him.

ARTHUR
I was instructed in a dream to visit a
physician.

BENSON
A dream?

ARTHUR
Yes. A voice spoke inside my head.
I know not whose.

Vincent looks nervously at Benson, twiddling his fingers. Benson turns and jerks his head at him.

BENSON
Get me the blood test kit.

With a quick nod, Vincent rushes off. Benson turns back to Arthur.

BENSON
So, just how did you get here?

ARTHUR
I walked here, not being able to procure
a good horse…

BENSON
No, how did you know how to get here.

ARTHUR
I asked for a physician, an excellent
one, and was directed here.

BENSON
I’m flattered.

Vincent rushes back in with the kit. Benson draws a hypo from it and pushes the trigger in.

BENSON
Roll up his sleeve, Vince.

Vincent timidly moves to the “king.” Arthur moves his arm away a bit haughtily.

ARTHUR
What means this?

BENSON
This means I’ve got to test your blood
and see where you belong.

ARTHUR
My — blood?

BENSON
Yes, that blue stuff in your veins.

Arthur stares, his arm still hesitantly held away. Benson sighs.

BENSON
Look, bud, we just need to have a look at
your DNA. Let’s see your arm.

ARTHUR
You — are a learned physician?

BENSON
Yes.

Arthur hesitates another moment, holding his arm, then glances at Vincent, then back to Benson again.

ARTHUR
Then I shall do as you say.

He holds his arm stiffly out to Vincent, who gingerly rolls the coarse sleeve up. Benson sighs, then poises the needle over Arthur’s arm.

BENSON
This will hurt just a little, but
it will be alright.

He pierces Arthur’s arm where a vein is just visible under the skin. Arthur winces just perceptively, and watches with interest.

Benson draws the trigger back and carefully pulls the needle out. Without looking up, he nods, and Vincent picks up some gauze and presses it to the tiny wound.

Arthur looks with fascination at the tube of blood in Benson’s hands.

ARTHUR
Wondrous! What magic is this?

BENSON
It’s not magic, it’s just a hypodermic
syringe.

He looks up to see Arthur staring at him, his manly brow lined with confusion. Benson groans.

BENSON
Never mind. Vince, I want an analysis
of this. Once you have it down, get
ahold of the nearest mental hospitals.

VINCENT
Yes sir.

He takes the tube from Benson.

BENSON
I’m going to have a talk with our guest
here.

Arthur watches as Vincent leaves the room with the blood, his arm still stiffly held out. Benson points to the guaze.

BENSON
You’d better hold that there. Gravity
applies just as much now as it did in
the middle ages.

ARTHUR
Gravity?

BENSON
You don’t miss a trick, do you buddy?
Alright, just hold it there and relax
your arm.

Arthur pulls his arm back in, pressing one finger to the little patch of gauze.

BENSON
Now, where did you come from?

Arthur furrows his brows.

ARTHUR
I was on the battlefield — locked in
conflict with my nephew, Mordred.

BENSON
Alright, yes, Lancelot and the Round
Table and the Holy Grail and all that.

ARTHUR
Indeed. I ran him through, but before
death he drew his sword and aimed it at
my breast. I felt no pain, but the world
faded around me as his sword touched me,
and I believed myself to be dying. I
knew nothing further until I awoke in a
peasant bed in this strange place.

Benson stares.

ARTHUR
I can only believe that the prophesy was
true, and that Christ in His wisdom has
seen fit to bring me back to Britain in
her time of greatest need.

Benson continues staring for a moment. Then he pulls a walkie-talkie from his pocket and speaks into it.

BENSON
Vincent, you finished with that sample
yet?

VINCENT
Yes, but I really think you’d better
see…

BENSON
Just get the hospitals on the phone.

VINCENT
But I think…

BENSON
Stop thinking and start obeying. I’ll
be there soon enough.

VINCENT
Yes sir.

Benson puts the radio back in his pocket and looks at Arthur.

BENSON
Look, buddy, you’re not fooling anybody.
I know you’re not King Arthur, so who are
you?

Arthur stares at him with wide eyes and eyebrows raised.

ARTHUR
You — doubt my word?

BENSON
Yes, I doubt your word. Is that new for
you?

ARTHUR
Indeed. I am not accustomed…

BENSON
Well get used to it.

8 Responses to Screenplay – Once and Future

  1. Laura says:

    I liked it! I’d love to see more :D I know what you mean about screenplays. They seem to be a lot harder than just a novel or short story. Maybe because it’s written in present tense, which has always been kind of difficult for me to do well.

    • Grace says:

      Thank you, Laura! I definitely agree with you about them being harder… I think partly because you’re not allowed to describe things much, and I tend to want to use precise details. :)

  2. Leah E. Good says:

    I wasn’t quite sure where this was going at first, but now I wish I could read more. Modern day Great Britain in its time of greatest need and King Arthur getting shipped of to a psychiatric ward? That could be interesting!

  3. Rebecca says:

    What?? You stopped there? ;) I wanted to read on. Completely disappointed to find it was the end of the post! I enjoyed this a lot, although I will admit I have not read many scripts. This almost makes me want to try a script myself, though I don’t know how good I would be at it. I’ve been told I’m descriptive, and I think I would miss that a lot. But it may be worth a try for something different…
    I also would urge you into Camp Nano. There’s nothing like Nano to get writers producing words! :)

    • Grace says:

      Sorry. ;) There is no more after that even written, anyway. *laughs* I’m glad you enjoyed it, Rebecca!

      You should at least try a screenplay–you might be better at it than you think! :)

      I’m still thinking about it. I do the regular NaNo every year, so I know it’s very helpful!

  4. Intriguing. :cool: You could do some fun things with this. :D

  5. Grace says:

    Thank you, Jonathan! :D I’m glad you think so.

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