Well, the second screenplay idea didn’t work out. I should have known better than to try to scrape by with a colour-by-numbers idea I wasn’t really invested in, but I was fairly disillusioned with the course at the time.
I ended up going back to my original idea – the surreal animation about the drowned man journeying towards the afterlife. I called it SUNK, because I felt it captured the essence of the idea without tipping it too much further into complicated pretentiousness. I was fairly happy with it in the end.
It’s probably a right mess according the criteria we were given for what makes a good screenplay, so I’m not expecting a good mark. I do feel sorry for people who mark screenplays – not only do they have to deal with all the subjective merits that the creative writing tutors do, but they don’t even have the finished film but rather a prototype for a film that might end up being good or crap independently or the quality of the screenplay. But I’m creatively satisfied, at least.
Anyway, I realise that I’ve been banging on about this module with no actual examples of what I’ve been working on, so I’ll add some below. Take this image as an idea for the visual aesthetic and tone I was going for:
SCENE 1: EXT. SEAFLOOR – NIGHT
Far away, a body floats some thirty feet above the seafloor. Anchored by a long chain, it forms a crucifixion-like silhouette against the vibrant blue.
Moving closer, SHAW comes into detail: early thirties with a castaway beard, average build, wrapped in chains and unmistakably dead.
Intimately close, the only movement is the stirring of his hair in the water and a crab crawling across his waxy cheek.
SHAW raises his head, and opens his eyes.
He looks around. His eyes widen, and he begins to thrash wildly, accompanied by a note of rising panic.
TITLE CARD: SUNK
SCENE 2: EXT. SEAFLOOR – NIGHT
SHAW sits on a rock, staring at his mottled, dead hands. His eyes are wide and shaking, and he does not blink.
Behind him is the anchor embedded in the sand, joined to him by a chain wrapped many times around his body.
Far away but approaching break-neck fast, a scrap of purple fabric is buffeted closer on the current.
It strikes SHAW, wrapping around his face. He stands and grabs it, holding it draped across his hands.
It is a faded scarf, embroidered with pale blue flowers and the faint words ‘forget me not’.
SCENE 3: INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT, FLASHBACK
SHAW stands in sailor’s clothes. He is shaven, healthy and alive, holding the same scarf, only new.
He looks up and smiles, with easy affection.
Standing opposite is LORNA, dark-haired and modestly pretty, smiling expectantly.
The surrounding room gives a snapshot of their life: a small bed, a threadbare rug, a rocking chair, a table with a lantern and a DOG curled next to a fireplace, all packed into one small room.
SCENE 10: EXT. GATE – NIGHT
Cresting the brow of a slope, SHAW comes to a wide vista.
A procession of drowned men and women follows a winding path along the seafloor, towards a gate and fence hewn from coral.
Where the line reaches the gate, a SEA DEVIL wielding a long trident sits atop a ship’s crow’s nest buried in the sand.
Closer in, the SEA DEVIL’s bottom half is that of an octopus and its top half humanoid but with a crab-like carapace.
It obstructs the DROWNED MAN at the front of the line with its trident and inspects him, menacing but impassive, before allowing him through the gate.
SHAW watches this process repeat from behind a rock, and then steps out and approaches.
To the side, he spots something – the scarf snagged on a piece of coral.
He picks it up, puts it on, and joins the back of the line.
SCENE 13 EXT. ABYSS – NIGHT
SHAW lies motionless on barren seafloor, the anchor a short distance away and the lantern lying further off, its glow fainter now.
Blurry, the lantern comes into focus and SHAW stumbles toward it.
SHAW’s boot comes down next to a half-buried shell, setting off eddies of sand that swirl around it.
The shell un-buries itself, revealing itself as a HERMIT CRAB, which scuttles after SHAW.
SHAW reaches the lantern and picks it up.
Straitening up, he is startled as the lantern reveals a gruesome angler fish, uncomfortably close with nightmare jaws stretched wide.
SHAW holds the anchor as if about to swing at the angler, when a pebble strikes it in the eye. It darts away.
SHAW turns to see the HERMIT CRAB next to a small pile of pebbles, bouncing another in its tiny claw.
SHAW smiles weakly, before the scything beam of the lighthouse sweeps overhead like a searchlight.
SHAW turns, gives a whole-body sigh, and pauses.
He begins pursuit, hefting the anchor onto his shoulder once more.
As SHAW walks, the DOG is momentarily walking beside him in place of the HERMIT CRAB.