long and wordy

Film Day three. I'm seeing Julius Caesar at the RSC tonight.

When I was trying my hand at script writing in the late nineties, one of the subjects I was interested in was how films effected their audiences. When Kevin Smith's film Dogma was released there were a number of protests about its content by religious groups in the US. Famously, as a wheeze, Smith himself protested his own movie:

There have been similar protests for everything from The Life of Brian to The Last Temptation of Christ and I wondered if it would be possible to write a screwball romance about an atheist and a Christian who meet and fall in love at a protest for the Monty Python film and then we'd revisit their rocky relationship during the time frames of when each of these 'controversial' films are released.

I hadn't developed it too much, but I did make a (very) rough start on the script and that's what's published below as is, typos and other flotsam intact. Keep in mind, if you know the place, the cinema is supposed to be the Hyde Park in Leeds.


CAPTION: ‘1999’.


A girl with blonde hair in power dress is sitting at a shabby looking café table looking nervous. This is JASMINE RAINE. In front of her are placed, two bottles of ‘Volvic’ water and two shrink wrapped packets of SANDWICHES.

MAN’s VOICE: I could only get Tuna.

JASMINE: I hate Tuna.

A man with short dark hair in a white shirt and stripy tie sits down in front of her. This is TOM PARKER.

TOM: So do I. But I’m also hungry.

JASMINE reaches forward and grabs the water.

JASMINE: Why do we do this . . .

JASMINE starts to unscrew the water bottle.

JASMINE: . . . why do we put ourselves through this?

TOM: Because you love it, and we make a great team.

Tom bites into his sandwich.

JASMINE: But these ones. I like having at least a week to prepare. But two hours.

TOM: (gesturing with his sandwich) Look, its going to be alright. You always think of something. I’ll just go in and talk about freedom of speech, talk about book burnings, y’know stir it up and then you come in for the . . .

JASMINE: Kill? I don’t know. This is too close.

JASMINE takes a swig of water.

TOM: You keep saying that, but you won’t tell me why.

JASMINE: I can’t.

TOM: Well, you’ve got ten minutes. Plenty of time.


The lecture theatre is in some disrepair, but this doesn’t seem to bother the people who have filled it, and clapping loudly.

They are watching a debate. A chairman (slightly balding, late fifties) sits at a long desk underneath a blackboard with the motion – ‘This house believes the film ‘Dogma’ be banned?’ - scrawled across it. On the left hand side of the chairman sit two men in grey suites behind a card which reads ‘For the motion’. To the right sit a still confident TOM and a still nervous JASMINE, who is smiling despite herself. Sitting on the desk in front of everyone is a glass of water.

The chairman turns to left.

CHAIRMAN: And I now believe it is the turn of John to second the motion.

JOHN, who is sitting at the far end stands and reaches into his jacket pocket for his prompt cards, which he proceeds to read from.

JOHN: As my learned friend has highlighted there is little recoups but to support this motion. My argument is simply this – any film which blasphemes against someone’s religious system can only be damaging. The writer James Blish once suggested that every budding writer should ask themselves one question – ‘Who does it hurt?’ Kevin Smith, the writer/director seems to have forgotten this and offers a film which hurts believers everywhere, by presenting the following – two murderous angels, a profain ‘13th’ apostle, the supposed decendant of our Lord working in a laundrette, at the Crucifixion, he offers an obscene gesture . . .

As the list continues, the audience offer a mixture of stunned silence, shock and laughter.

JOHN: . . . and the almighty is portrayed as a rock singer. None of which occurred in the gospels and which go against the fundamental beliefs of over a fifth of the world’s population. Please, support this motion.

The hall again erupts with applause.

TOM: (whispering to JASMINE) He’s done his research.

JASMINE nods nervously in agreement.

The applause stops. The chairman turns to the right.

CHAIRMAN: And finally, I think it’s the turn of JASMINE to second the motion against.

JASMINE stands and pulls her cue cards from her pockets.

JASMINE: Thank you, chairman. My learned friend in the opposition offers a very valid quote from Blish. But he forgot to mention, Mr. Blish’s amendment – which was – I think – that its always good to walk on the wild side now and then – and I think if the artists religious or otherwise had followed the oppositions foggy thinking, we’d have been a poorer place. Excuse me.

JASMINE takes a sip of water.

JASMINE: My colleague has clearly stated the legal and sociological reason’s Dogma can’t be banned, so instead, if you will indulge me – and I hope you will since the opposition didn’t seem to give an argument but a list – I’d like to tell a story by way of illustration.

TOM sits down in his chair and gets comfortable.

JASMINE: You see this isn’t a new motion. Not too long ago, another film was banned throughout the country for very similar reasons. It was 1979, and the film was ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’.

CAPTION: ‘1979’.


This is a time before the multiplex. The cinema is a large building on the corner of a road with a box office that is actually a box and a foyer with a big log fire. A fire which isn’t benefiting the crowd of people outside. The protest has been well attended with assorted people in big thick coats freezing to death. Some even have plackards with phrases like ‘Ban BRIAN’ and ‘For the faith’ printed on. A long queue of people are lining up against the wall of the cinema looking at ‘Coming Attractions’ boards and the sign over the door “Now Showing: The Python Film”.

AMY (V.O.): I was always amazed at how many people would turn up to these kinds of protests. But I suppose it was the decade for it.

AMY is standing handing out leaflets to cinema goers as they join the line. She much younger than previously, with long flowing hair and a warm looking leather biker clothes and boots. She is chatting to a friend as he hands her pile of leaflets, a young, shorter man in a blazer and role neck jumper.

MARK: Do you like the leaflet? I mean - I hope I got - my – our – point of view across.

AMY (V.O.): MARK was a good friend. Whenever I had a problem, if I was doubting my faith, he’d always listen, and put me back on the right track.

As she straightens the leaflets out, she doesn’t notice MARK wishing she was kissing him right then.

MARK: Would you like a coffee?

AMY: Black.

MARK heads of to get his thermos. As AMY offers the leaflets to passers-by, she looks up and down the line for the film. Its date night, so there are couples cuddling, couples reading newspapers or magazines and couples tucking into crisps. Some are looking at protest grimly. One man, somehow seperated from the rest is scribbling away at a notepad. He’s in a long grey overcoat and extra long scarf. She knows him. Realising she is staring, she looks away and goes to get some more leaflets from MARK.

The man in the queue realises she was looking at him and looks back, impressed by what he sees. He looks up and down the line and turns to the couple behind.

MAN: Do you mind holding my place?

The couple nod uncertainly, and the man smiles. He approaches AMY. She has her back to him (still passing leaflets) and doesn’t seem to notice him. He looks down at his shoes slightly in embarrassment, then softly taps her on the shoulder. She turns startled.

MAN: Hello. You’re in one of my joint classes.

AMY looks slightly embarrassed as one part of her life clashes into another.

AMY: Yes. Erm . . . NATHAN? Greek Philosphy, I think. How are you?

NATHAN: I’m all right, I think.

He motions his body towards the cinema.

AMY: (incredulously) You’re going to see it.

NATHAN: I’m going to see it again, actually.

AMY: Didn’t the blasphemy work its evil the first time around?

NATHAN: Blasphemy? (he steps closer so that he can whisper) Haven’t you heard – it isn’t blasphemous.


The man looks around implying that everyone just saw her outburst.

NATHAN: Which scene.

AMY: Well I can’t tell you that.


It’s now AMY’s turn to look around.

NATHAN: How can you protest against something you haven’t seen?

AMY: I didn’t want them to have any of my money.

NATHAN: Then they’d better have some more of mine.

AMY: Are you actually inviting me to see this thing?!?

NATHAN: Call it spying behind enemy lines.

AMY smiles.

AMY: Well, if you put it that way. And you’re paying?

NATHAN: I believe that was the offer.

By now, MARK is trying to carefully carry two cups of coffee to AMY. She arrives smiling almost pushing him over.

AMY: My coffee?

She takes the coffee and begins to swig down the lukewarm liquid.

MARK: Where are you going?

AMY comes up for air.

AMY: I’m going to be gone a couple of hours. I’ve got some research to do.

MARK: That person you were talking to.

AMY: NATHAN’s going to take me to see the film.

MARK is disapproving.

AMY: Well someone in the campaign has to see the thing. It can only help us to be more effective.

MARK still doesn’t agree, but nods. AMY reaches up and kisses him on the cheek.

AMY: Thanks. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.

She runs off, leaving MARK to watch after her with a look of horror and love.

NATHAN is waiting for her. He looks at his watch, then at the queue, which has rapidly disappeared into the cinema. She appears, looking stony faced.

AMY: (impatiently) Well, come on.


The interior of the cinema is in the style of the old picture houses with candelabras and old-fashioned popcorn machine. People are crowding into the auditorium, through ground floor doors and up some stirs to a balcony.

AMY and NATHAN are passing the refreshment stand.

NATHAN: Popcorn?

AMY: Don’t push your luck.

NATHAN: (to the girl passing out popcorn) Do you have any with sugar?


As AMY and NATHAN enter the balcony, it is packed with people. Its already dark and an advert is playing ‘Adora – Kiora . . . it just for me and my dog . . . I’ll be your dog . . . woof – woof – woofwoof – woof – woof – woof.’ Some what inevitably the only seats free are at the very back.

As they sit down, NATHAN with his popcorn in his lap, AMY turns to him.

AMY: Don’t get any idea.

The film starts as three camels are silhoetted against the bright stars of the moonless sky, moving slowly along the horizon. A star leads then towards BETHLEHEM.

AMY: (whispering) This is worse than I thought it could be.

NATHAN is munching his popcorn.

The film continues. BRIAN’s mother, Mandy, has been offered Myrrh, a balm.

MANDY (on screen): . . . what is Myrrh, anyway?

THIRD WISE MAN (on screen): It is a valuable balm.

MANDY: (on screen): A balm? What are you giving him a balm for? It might bite him.

The auditorium fills with peels of laughter. NATHAN laughs. AMY is not happy.

The theme tune starts . . . ‘BRIAN, the babe they call BRIAN . . .’

AMY gets up.

NATHAN: You’re going.

AMY: I can’t sit and watch this.

NATHAN: The next scene is great. Its got Jesus in it.

AMY: Throw tomatoes at him do they?

An irritated man in front of him turns.


NATHAN: (to irritated man) Sorry. (to AMY) Look, please stay.

AMY looks around and thinks for a moment.

AMY: Tell you what. I’ll stay. If you come to church with me on Sunday.

NATHAN double takes at her.

NATHAN: This Sunday?

AMY: Going once. Going twice.

NATHAN: I’ll do it. Now, will you please, just sit down. Please.

AMY sits down again smugly.


The protestors have downed their placards, have no one to protest to now. Some are drinking coffee. MARK is opening his lunch box. Inside are two silver wrapped packets of sandwiches. Each with a white sticky label. One has ‘MARK’ written on it in black felt pen. The other reads ‘AMY’. MARK sighs and picks out his own closing the box.


The film has moved on some more. It’s the scene where BRIAN’s been scooped up by the alien spaceship which subsequently crash lands on Earth. As BRIAN staggers out from the wreckage, A PASSER BY looks at him with amazement, having witnessed both his fall and his rescue.

PASSER BY (on screen): You jammy bastard!

Again the audience falls into laughter. MARK turns to AMY and realises she is enjoying herself. She smiles at him and helps herself to his popcorn.


MARK has open his lunch box again. Only the sandwiches with AMY’s name on them remain. He lists them out.


The film is finishing. Some people are chatting, other people are whistling along with Eric Idle. AMY and MARK are oblivious to all this.


Amy is smiling.

AMY: It wasn’t so bad.

NATHAN: So harmless.

AMY: (reticently) Oh, it wasn’t harmless. Definitely not.

NATHAN: But you enjoyed it!

AMY: Yes. But people are going to be seeing out of context. The only way that film would be harmless is if they were giving away a copy of the gospels with every ticket.

NATHAN sighs disappointedly. AMY is conciliatory.

AMY: Thank you for inviting me. (she looks around) Come on. The cinema’s closing.


The PROTESTORS have consolidated now and are marching in a circle with the placards. All except MARK, who is sitting on a bollard waiting for AMY, who arrives eventually, NATHAN in tow.

MARK: Should we be burning the placards?

AMY: Not yet. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

MARK: Tomorrow.

NATHAN: We’re going for a quick drink. You’re welcome to join us (in a way which say ‘Oh no you aren’t).

MARK: I can’t. I’m driving the minibus.

AMY nods some mock understanding. She turns to NATHAN.

AMY: Give me moment.

Nathan heads off and starts chatting to the protestors.


It's a horrible opening -- long and wordy -- and if I was starting this now I'd ditch the flashback structure (in which Jasmine would eventually be revealed to be the couple's daughter) and voiceovers and open on a lateral tracking shot from the people queuing up to the protesters stopping on Amy with her coffee. And I wouldn't have Nathan convince Amy to to go into the cinema on the first night -- I'd have him return on consecutive nights until she's eventually won over, the end of the first act having them fall in love despite their differences.

No comments: