‘Ban BRIAN’ and ‘For the faith’

TV Back in the late nineties when I still had delusions that I could make a living as a script writer, I had an idea for a film based on religious controversies, notably the likes of Life of Brian and The Last Temptation of Christ. After watching Holy Flying Circus the other night, I had a look about about found the one fragment I managed to write towards this.

Like many recent films, it was essentially inspired by When Harry Met Sally, but the deviation was that we'd follow a relationship between an atheist and a Christian, looking in on them at the dates when these "controversial" films were released and along with the usual badinage, the characters would rehearse the philosophical discussions. It would be bittersweet but would end with their own children reheasing the same discussions over the release of Kevin Smith's Dogma.

I had Leeds's Hyde Park Picture House in mind as location.

Here, then, are the opening scenes:


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 placards 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 has long flowing hair and is wearing a warm looking leather biker clothes and boots. She is chatting to a friend, MARK, 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. All grimly eyeing the protest One man, somehow separated 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 out leaflets) and is pretending not 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 Philosophy, 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 ideas.

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 , just sit down. Please.

AMY smugly sits again, safe in the knowledge that it hasn’t been a wasted couple of hours.


The protesters have downed their placards, having 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 his own out, 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 understanding. She turns to Nathan.

AMY: Give me moment.

NATHAN heads off and starts chatting to the protesters.


And that's it. Clearly that's not the scene you would start on. Reading it back I feel sorry for Mark but he becomes more of a zealot later.  It could also do with being better written ...

No comments:

Post a Comment