Write Your Screenplay: Podcast

Write Your Screenplay is a podcast that Kathy finds useful. This edition is more appropriate for television series as it centers on the show bible.


Jack’s Treatment

Journal of Rudd Screenplay Treatment D iii

This hero’s quest details in the Journal of Rudd, obstacles and how the 17 year old landlubber Frank Rudd Bybee, overcame those obstacles. Frank, who, in 1897, after leaving the homestead in Iowa, in search of a relative, and after a reluctant sea-voyage, tells of how Frank becomes one of the unwilling hero’s in rescuing Lady Sarah Churchill from Boer forces, and helping to relieve the Siege of Mafeking, in South Africa. The Narrator, who appears to guide the viewer sporadically, is Frank’s Rudd Bybee’s grandson.

Amander Franklin Rudd SILENCE THIS SCENE.
Amander is working in the print-shop of the Dennison Review, creating a leather bound book, that becomes The Journal.

Adelia Rudd (‘Ma’) AMANDER’S daughter.
Later Amander is seen riding up to the homestead, to visit his daughter, Adelia Rudd, (aka ‘Ma’). Amander also gave MA a note, addressed to Frank. After giving the Journal and note to Ma, he rides off. (exeunt Mister Amander)

Frank Rudd Bybee (Frank), 17, Hunter – a dog, and ‘Ma’.
The note is from Frank’s brother, Charlie-Elmer, in San Francisco writing urgently for help. Frank and Ma conspire to keep the Journal and the note secret from Pa, who will no doubt seek out ‘sissy making’ stuff, such as writing and sketching, and cause an uproar due to an alcohol-induced stupor.
Frank is perplexed. He tells Ma what he saw in the woods. What he can’t understand is why didn’t Hunter growl. Hunter was right there.

While sitting in the snow clad woods near the creek on the homestead, Frank sees a vision of an ‘island’ (or so he thinks) . This flat-topped cloud covered rock massive seems to appear out of a lake, or a vast expanse of water. He can not figure out what, where it is, or how this could appear to him in the woods in the middle of Iowa. He becomes ever so slightly obsessed with this image. What can it mean? How could it happen? Why didn’t Hunter react?

Pa returns from piece-meal iron-mongering job in Denison, and finds the Bybee boys at their musical best, fiddling, harmonica, more. Pa goes nuts. Art, music and writing are ‘sissy making stuff’. Frank runs up from the creek, and helps in the confrontation which has Ma, Oliver, Frank and others flailing trying to keep Pa under control. Frank hustles in and lays Pa out cold by hitting him twice over the head with the barn’s ‘shit-shovel’. Frank fears he has killed Pa. He does not wait to find out.

Running away from the farm, Frank knows he has Ma’s blessing, but Pa is another matter. He starts his daily entries in the Journal of Rudd. Heading for Arion Depot, hoping, that if Pa is alive, that he doesn’t follow Frank as Pa is a very good tracker. At Orion Depot, Frank discovers Ol’ Jebb truly likes him, and despises Pa. Jebb buys an image from Frank – Jebb’s coffee mug – it is Frank’s first sale of his art. Clari, whom Frank has had his eye on for awhile, and Frank become lovers in the boxcar of the Great Northern Railroad. Frank asks Clari to accompany him to San Francisco. She declines.

Frank rides shotgun on the Great Northern, as Malcolm shows him the ropes in survival as ‘injuns’ attack. Frank proves himself as a very good shot, taking down a wood pigeon in front of Malcolm from the doorway of a wildly swaying, rickety box car. When ‘injuns’ do attack, it is the son of Standing Bear, Bear Jumping, whom Frank kills. Then it is up the Platte, over the range, near the area of the Donner Party tragedy, down into and across the great salt desert, and on to Sutter’s Fort (Sacramento).

To Frank’s amazement, his girl friend, Clari, and her aunt, Aunt Bee, arrive in Sacramento, most unexpectedly, with the news that Clari’s mother has died. Aunt Bee, as she is referred to, has lived on the Barbary Coast of San Francisco. She cautions Frank on the types surrounding that area.

Brief history of crimps and crimping, featuring master crimp, Bunco Kelley (aka Shanghai Kelley). He is heavily responsible for corrupting many State of Oregon and California legislative councils. Became leader of the Oregon Republican Party. Heavily involved in heroin trafficking. Few could believe anything he said. The two recent Acts of State Legislature he does not like at all. He is ‘persuading’ council members with every favor he can figure (including a visit or two to a flop-house of his, on the house, as it were.) Eventually tried and convicted of a murder he (probably) did not commit.

Later, while waiting for Clari and Aunt Bee to return from scouting the Barbary, Frank encounters Bunco Kelley who invites him to his psuedo-birthday party to say “Thank You” for all the help. Also, that Kelley says he knows where Charlie-Elmer works. Responding to the invitation, but cautious about the motive, after all, what help, but Frank is lured by the news of Charlie-Elmer’s whereabouts? Frank goes on board a ship, is given a tonic, and that’s the last thing he remembers, until he wakes up, in the brig of the Hornet II. Bart, the First Mate, pushes food and Frank’s Journal to him in the brig. He will be let out, as soon as they are far enough away from land that Frank can not swim ashore. Should he dare call Bart, ‘the Fart’, Frank will become shark-food.
“Shark? Shark food? What’s that?”

Days pass, the great lake gets bigger and bigger. Frank is finally allowed on deck, only to hear Victor say he had met Charlie-Elmer, and that Charlie-Elmer now manages a flop-house or sailor’s boarding-house, run by Bunco Kelley. Victor, who chants and drums, Bart and the seventeen year old, Frank, cautiously form a shipboard working alliance. Frank slowly learns the ins and outs of life aboard a sailing ship, and slowly he introduces the concept of his sketches by labeling himself the ‘Cloud-Collector’. The ship is heading (ostensibly) for London via Valparaiso, Chile, the Straight of Magellan, South America and north to Europe. In the brig, Frank is startled by the sudden, ochre eyed appearance out of gloom, narrow eyes, and great, long white whiskers. A feline, one Rippens – the ship’s cat.

Awhile out, after Frank proves his weather reading capabilities, warning Bart and the crew, they spot Bunco Kelley’s clipper racing up astern of them. After the storm, they make it to Valparaiso. The talk is that the ‘Mister Captain’ and Kelley are pushing heroin – or some serious contraband. Frank is content to mind his own business – except revenge is sweet – he wants back to the farm, Ma and Clari – Kelley got him into this – Kelley will get him out and back to Iowa, else Kelley dies – or worse.

Bart announces that Frank will be allowed shore leave, on condition that he returns to the ship. Frank, mulls the offer, then gives Bart his word of honor. While ashore, Frank spots Kelley arranging for a pick-up. He maps the house where the couple have entered. When Bart comes to collect Frank, he is informed of the collusion. Bart is equally antagonistic towards Kelley. Bart and Frank kidnap Kelley. He is now prisoner in the same brig where Frank was before – and the captain has zero knowledge of this.

They set sail with extreme-weather gear for the passage through the Straight of Magellan “…as long as the deep sea monsters stay below…” as Bart puts it – with a twinkle in his eye. The passage through the land of near ice and snow is traumatic to say the least. ‘Deep sea monsters’ do surface. But the ‘monsters’ (hump-backed whales) help the ship stay off the rocks, not hinder its progress – and Frank yells at Victor to keep drumming, to keep chanting. They make it through the horrific Straight. Rum is made available as celebration. A feeling of camaraderie emanates, after that bit of adventure.

Soon after leaving the South American continental shelf they are hit by ‘…and very, very big swell…’ a tsunami. Bunco is being washed overboard, Frank is the only one close by, but Frank has Bart in a sailor’s grip, and has no interest in saving Kelley – after all, how did he get on deck? Bunco yells to him to let go of Bart and save him. He offers him gold, Frank refuses. Bunco Kelley becomes ‘shark-food’. Bart rewards Frank with his freedom as soon as they can ‘persuade’ the Captain to head for the nearest shore. The mutiny succeeds, landfall is imminent. Upon the call of “Land Hoo…!” Bart rushes Frank to the bows and Frank sees his vision in the woods, of a rock in the middle of a great lake. A massive rock with a white cloud tumbling over it – surrounded it would seem, by water – this is Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa rising at the Tavern of the Seas.

Bart honors his promise of Freedom for Frank, and together with Rippens, the cat, Frank lands on the shores of Southern Africa – never again to return to America. The sense of isolation that encompasses Frank, as he sleeps on the slopes of Signal Hill, is only intensified in the dawn two days later, by the sounds of distant chanting and a drum, as the ship, Bart and the shipmates, hoist sail, and depart Table Bay on the early morning tide. All Frank wants is to live up on the summit of the mountain behind him –where no ‘great swell’ can reach him – ever.
He thinks, he can not be the only one who has stood alone – totally alone – on a foreign shore – and survived. He has proven he is a survivor. He will survive.

By a series of fortuitous events in trying to barter his art, Frank meets Chester, manservant to Rudyard Kipling. Then Miss Mini-Clara Harryman, Cecil-John Rhodes and eventually Robert Baden-Powell. Rhodes asks Frank to help Baden-Powell relieve the Siege of Mafeking. Frank agrees, leaving the romance with MCH. In Mafeking, with the help of Haribooi, a man of the Khoi-Khoi tribe, Sir Winston Churchill’s aunt, the lovely Lady Sarah Churchill is rescued from the Boer encampment. In the process, Haribooi is wounded, captured, tied to a wagon wheel, and whipped by the Boer’s. Frank owes it to Haribooi, rescues him from the Boer encampment. As the 6-8 Boer’s sing praises to God, Frank looses it – a shoot-out occurs. As Frank lays Harribooi at the steps of the convent in Mafeking, Haribooi dies in Frank’s arms.

On returning from Mafeking, Frank passes through the Hex River Valley, where Rhodes has some of his large fruit farms. Frank spies a little thatch roofed cottage. That is where they, Miss Mini and him, will make a home, he decides. Suddenly, returning to Iowa is not such a major issue for Frank after all.

At Cape Town Station, Frank is met with jubilant crowds hailing him as a hero. He insists he is not a hero, that Haribooi is the hero – not him. There and then, on Cape Town Station platform, with steam and noise and cheers all around he asks Miss Mini to marry him. She agrees, “I thought you’d never ask.” Rhodes is delighted, offering Frank a job as assistant foreman of the Cape Orchard Company, in the hamlet of Orchard, and as wedding present, gifts the cottage Frank saw, to the couple.
Reluctantly, Frank agrees to Rhode’s request to ride in support of B-P, who is regarded as a total hero of the Crown and is being hailed as such at the Relief of Mafeking Parade. Cecil Rhodes has informed Her Majesty of the incredible feat.


Frank and Mini move to Orchard where three sons, Ellis, Leland and John Ernest, are born in quick succession to the couple. In memory of the true hero, Frank finds a lovely ridgeback dog, dark chocolate in colour. His name? Harri.

Frank Rudd Bybee, dies an isolated, lonely, misunderstood man, in Worcester, near Orchard, in 1953. Upon discovery of the Journal of Rudd, something no-one knew about nor ever expected, Frank’s grandson vows to retrace Frank’s steps, and to set the record straight on behalf of his grandfather, by firstly, telling the Journal of Rudd story. This has now been accomplished. Then seeking out Miss Mini’s Memories, and vowing to eventually create The Journal of Jack.

As the Hero’s Journey was not completed with the stranding of Frank in South Africa, by coming full-circle, Jack Bybee feels that he is completing the Journey of his grandfather’s behalf.

“There’s a movie in this… somewhere there is a movie in this.”

Yet More Screenplays

You can never have too many screenplays!

The collection this time includes Sundance fave Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, immigrant story Brooklyn, the story of an elderly composer who vacations in Switzerland and reflects on his Youth, a college student gets disrupted by her change agent aunt in Mistress America and finally an adaption of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel about a romanting square in Far From the Madding Crowd.


Making Period Films Feel Fresh

The Wrap recently sat down with the writers of three period films (Brooklyn, Suffragette and The Danish Girl) to discuss how to bring out the lessons we can learn from the past and how these films still matter today, despite being set decades in the past:

Nick Hornby, Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a movie of big emotions, but without the kind of big conflicts you’d usually find in a film like this. It’s delicate, emotionally.

I think that was the thing that we were all the most conscious of when we were making it–the delicacy. It’s interesting that there’s no baddie, really. In terms of the central characters, they are all lovely and they all want the best for each other, pretty much.

But I guess the truth is that the experience of living is extremely painful. The intense homesickness, which I have not seen done on screen before, is a big feeling that we all have. And loss, of course. So it felt to me like there was plenty in there without having that conventional structure of obstacle/opposition/whatever. How many of us have baddies in our lives, actually? I don’t have any in mine. A couple of critics, that’s about as far as it goes. And yet, life is difficult and sad and occasionally exhilarating.

Director John Crowley has said that it had to be emotional but not sentimental. Do you need sensitive radar to figure out where that line is?

I felt emotional when I was writing it, and it never occurred to me that it would be sentimental. I just felt the weight of the story and the sadness that was buried in the story as a sort of weight in my chest. I have no idea whether that affected the actual writing. It could have been merely hopeful, like playing a piece of music that you love and hoping that ends up in your writing somewhere.

I tend not to write sentimentally — it makes me feel yucky if I think I’ve done something that’s sentimental. But I knew that we wanted to be close in on this girl [Saoirse Ronan], and to feel everything that she felt.


As an Englishman, did you feel connected to this very Irish story?

I think we’re quite similar, really, the English and the Irish. Of course, the English didn’t emigrate in the same numbers, but in terms of what life was like in those decades, I think our experience wasn’t so different. I read the book and thought, “I can do this.”

Your first few books were about guys of a certain age, sports fans and music fans. But the movies you’ve written — An Education, Wild and now Brooklyn – have young female protagonists. Was that a conscious choice?

After the first three books, I thought, “I don’t know if there’s anything else I want to say about certain guys.” I hoped that I had some sort of long career ahead of me, which meant that I would have to write about everybody. And after I wrote An Education, I got a lot of confidence — or, at least, any fear about writing about a young woman was taken away.

Emory Cohen as "Tony" and Saoirse Ronan as "Eilis" in BROOKLYN. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Also after An Education, one of the things that struck me is that if you write these big parts for young women, you get to work with the best talent in the world, because they’re not spoilt for choice. The guys are all like, “Yeah, it’s a nice indie movie, but someone’s just offered me $20 million to wear a superhero suit, so thanks for your interest.” Meanwhile the girls are playing the superhero’s girlfriend. And when they get these scripts where every single page is about them, it’s kind of amazing.

So we got Carey [Mulligan, for An Education] and Saoirse, and they are the best actresses of their age. That’s quite an incentive for a writer and filmmaker, to think that there is this untapped talent that actively wants to do what you’re interested in writing about.

Lucinda Coxon, The Danish Girl

How did you get involved in adapting David Ebershoff’s novel?

Gail Mutrux optioned the book in 2000, and in 2004 she sent it to me to see if I’d be interested in adapting it. They thought there was something in my sensibility, and they were interested in the fact that I was a playwright, which at the time I didn’t think was relevant. I had no prior knowledge of the story, but I was intrigued. So I started reading the novel and researching alongside it, to assess where the novel was fictionalized and how much of the original story was in there.

I was just amazed by the love story between Einar and Gerda [Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander], really. And once I found out more about the real story, I was amazed by the portrait of the marriage and the two artists. It was period, but it also felt fantastically modern–ahead of us, in many ways. I think the importance of sharing that story with people was kind of overwhelming. I became such a bore about it that friends were afraid to catch my eye at parties.

So I worked on the script and everyone loved it and I thought “OK, here we go.” [Laughs] That was a decade ago.

You said that at first you didn’t think your being a playwright was relevant. Did it become relevant?
I can see now that it was. I knew I wanted something that was very intimate, almost claustrophobic, where you are almost under the skin of the marriage. And there is something about that that is similar to writing a play, where you stay under the surface of the material for a very long time. And I hope that’s part of the intensity of the film. I stripped out the obvious fictions and the extraneous characters in the novel, and I kept the focus very tight. It was really about the couple and the art and the spaces in between.


Is the film truer to the actual events than the novel was?
It is truer. In the novel, Gerda had become Greta, and she’d been Americanized–she was an orange heiress from Pasadena. But it was quite a superficial change, and she was emotionally the same. And when I met David, to his credit and my great relief, the first thing he said was, “I’m really sorry about that thing about Greta being American. You’ll have to fix that right away.” But he had done a lot of the difficult spade work, and his novel is still very present in the movie, I think.


It’s been more than a decade since you began working on this story about a transgender person — and now we have Transparent, and Caitlin Jenner…
It’s bizarre. One of the reasons it’s taken this long is that the subject matter was commercially toxic. We had big actors and directors who were keen to be involved, and we almost made the film several times. But it was very, very difficult to finance because of the subject matter. It’s remarkable that the zeitgeist has shifted and all this progress has been made. And I couldn’t be happier that we can talk about transgender issues so openly now, because the truth is we’re all much more alike than we are different.

There was a terrible moment when I thought, “We’ve been ahead of it for a decade, and now we’re almost behind it!” People have stopped short of accusing us of jumping on a bandwagon–which is good, because, my God, I’ve been pushing this bandwagon up the hill for a very long time.

Abi Morgan, Suffragette

What was your reaction when director Sarah Gavron came to you to write a movie about the suffragette movement?
I didn’t look at the material for about six months. I thought, “Oh god, corsets and period?” But I looked at some of the testimonials working women gave in the Houses of Parliament, and I found them so moving. Always, if I get really interested in the research, it pulls me in. But it took me forever to write it. It’s horrific how many drafts I did.

Unlike adapting a novel, if you’re trying to capture a movement you’re starting from a much vaguer point.
Absolutely. It’s all about what you leave out. I did a version that was completelyDownton Abbey-esque, around an upper-class character. I don’t know what I was on. But into that I brought the character of a seamstress/laundress, and I became more and more interested in her. And when I started to look at the hierarchy of the movement, I thought well, they keep referring to the foot soldiers. Who are these women? They aren’t all middle-class, Mary-Poppins-bashing-the-tambourine women. And I came back to the testimonials, and though, “Oh, it’s you. And you had so much to lose. If you were in prison for a week, you lost your job.” I felt that the economics of what it meant to be a woman at that time were really interesting, and that’s what made me home in.

It’s a very tiny story, but I hope it has bigger political effect. This film is about feminism, and has parallels in the modern fight against inequality.


Were you thinking about that current political resonance as you were writing it?
No, not at all. People keep saying, “Did you want to write a feminist film?” And I don’t think like that. But with the digital age we have such a growing social activism, and we can’t ignore the global inequalities. We can YouTube the stoning of a woman in the Middle East, or the gang rape of a woman in India, or just the basic inequalities of a sweatshop in the U.K. I think it’s ignited a growing feminism and activism amongst the generation underneath me.

And then running parallel with that, you do get excited about working with so many women. The core producers, director, writer, production designer, costume designer — all women, except for one male producer. Usually when I write a movie, I’m lucky if I get one good actress. But suddenly, I could think, “What if we had two or three great actresses in a film? Or a great ensemble, like Scorsese has with men?” And then it just became fun to make the movie together and share stories, and just be on the set with that many women.