Screenplay Challenge One: Subtext

iceberg

This Challenge Is Closed

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Winner Chosen: See results here!

The gauntlet has been thrown.

John Rainey has stepped up and volunteered to referee our first challenge. It goes without saying that all of our challenges share a few requirements… among them proper format, spelling, and punctuation. Otherwise, we leave it up to each referee to define their challenge, and to decide just how stringent they plan to be on issues of compliance. We can promise you John has extremely high expectations.

JOHN’S CHALLENGE REQUIREMENTS (READ CAREFULLY):

From John’s site: “An objective is the character’s subtext in a scene. Rarely do characters say what their objective is. They speak around it in an effort to persuade the other character to give him/her what he/she wants. A guy on a date would never say ‘Let’s go to my place and have sex.’ … To say that would be ‘on-the-nose.'” …more at John’s site…

The Challenge

  1. 1 scene
  2. 3 pages or less
  3. 2 characters
  4. Strong opposing character objectives where the objective of one character must be fulfilled by the other character
  5. the objectives should be discerned only through subtext and never articulated by character through dialogue
  6. one or both objectives is/are fulfilled through implication
  7. zero typos (esp. spelling, commas, and apostrophes)
  8. your entry can function as a self-contained short or a scene from a larger story

HOW TO SUBMIT:
Post your entry in the “comments” for this post. Use “Scrippets” tags to format your entry like a screenplay.

SUBMISSIONS LIMITED to the first 25 qualified entries (qualified = meeting the stated criteria) or 09-30-09 — whichever comes first.

WINNERS ANNOUNCED approximately two weeks after close.

WHAT YOU WIN:

  1. SONY Vegas Movie Studio 9 software courtesy of The Business of Show Institute and Sony Creative Software. (Learn more…)
  2. Bragging rights.
  3. Satisfaction.
  4. A kick in the direction of a new writing project.

That’s it. Simple, right?

Check our RULES page for details.

John Rainey – Rated the #1 screenwriting analyst in the country by Creative Screenwriting Magazine in 2003, John has been in the industry as an actor, screenwriter, reader, and analyst for more than 20 years. Learn more about John’s consulting and writing services at raineyscriptconsulting.com.

10 thoughts on “Screenplay Challenge One: Subtext

  1. The following is the climax scene from by baby script, that i’ve been growing for years “The Ontological Argument”. it is about terrorism and it is meant for greater good. would love to hear your comments, enjoy 🙂

    [scrippet]
    INT. PICCADILLY CIRCUS UNDERGROUND STATION-EARLY MORNING
    On one of the busy platforms, it is morning rush hour. Commuters of various nationalities and races are getting on and off the trains, going to work like every other day.
    CUT TO:

    ALI, Islamic look, enters the platform, wearing his scarf like always, his eyes are looking darker than the usual. He is wearing a large loose jacket.

    A train leaves the platform.

    Ali walks down to the platform edge. He takes out a trigger that runs beneath the jacket. He holds the trigger firmly.

    He looks sideways. Commuters are coming in, crowding the platform.

    FAHD (O.C.)
    Is this is how you want it to end?

    Ali turns around. FAHD, Islamic looks is standing by the entrance of the platform. Ali heads directly towards to him.

    ALI
    (Anger)
    You abandoned me again. This time you’ve turned your back on God. What are you doing here?

    FAHD
    This is my jihad, “and spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to your destruction, but do good, for Allah loveth those who do good.”

    ALI
    Shut up you infidel. Don’t you speak the words of the Koran.

    People around notice there is something wrong.

    FAHD
    “And make NOT your own hands contribute to your destruction; but do good; for Allah loveth those who do good.” “DO GOOD.”

    Ali covers his ears.

    ALI
    SHUT UP! SHUT UP.

    FAHD
    Ali, we were wrong. I have seen the truth last night.

    Many people start moving off the platform.

    Fahd walks slowly towards Ali. Ali walks backwards towards the platform edge.

    FAHD (CONT’D)
    I know for sure we can live in peace. You have to believe me. Ali, you are not suicidal.

    ALI
    Don’t you dare call me suicidal. I am about to sacrifice myself, this all I have. I am a witness, a witness of his wrath.

    People who haven’t moved yet, sprint from the platform as soon as they hear these words.

    The platform is empty, people are now taking cover behind the platform entrances. They are sticking their heads out and watching.

    Ali reaches the edge of the platform.

    FAHD
    There will be innocent people on that train. They don’t deserve to suffer neither do their families. You are not the one who will do such a thing.

    A train is coming. The train is filled with passengers, men, women and children.

    There is no room for Ali to move back. He backfires.

    ALI
    (Roaring from deep inside)
    I am the one who no one wants to be. I am the pain inside. I am the unspoken truth. I am revenge.
    (He hits his hands against his chest hard and rapidly)
    I am revenge. I am released. I am released.

    Armed police are racing down the escalator.

    The train is slowing.

    FAHD
    (Shouting)
    What do you want them to do?

    ALI
    I want them to know what we have become.

    The train stops behind Ali. The doors beep as they are about to open.

    FAHD
    How would they listen if you are dead?

    The doors open.

    Ali walks to Fahd.

    ALI
    Then they will listen to you my brother.

    He pushes Fahd away, who falls to the floor.

    The police come in.

    Ali gets on the train. The doors beep as they are about to close.

    Fahd gets up quickly.

    Ali holds the trigger firmly.

    Fahd races towards the train.

    The police shoot at Fahd several times.

    Ali is looking at Fahd going down. The doors are closing.

    Ali whispers to himself as he presses the trigger.

    CUT TO BLACK
    [/scrippet]

  2. [scrippet]

    INT. OFFICE BUILDING – DAY

    Elevator doors open to reveal, GEORGE, who wears a Goofy t-shirt. Only one office light is on, in the largest office. GEORGE carries a box to the open door.

    PETER, wears a Spider-Man t-shirt, as he types away. GEORGE stands in the doorway. He still goes unnoticied, as he drops his box on PETER’S desk. The WHOOSH wakes PETER from his daze.

    PETER
    What the hell are you doing here?

    GEORGE
    Did you read Nikki Finke this morning?

    Peter’s eyes widen, as he looks at his computer screen. Peter, grabs his action figure of Spider-Man, off his desk.

    GEORGE
    No one will be here for two hours. Why don’t you go grab some milk and Disney cookies?

    Peter puts his portfolio under his arm and George smirks. Instead of exiting the building, he decides to sit, by desk at the window. He unloads his portfolio and action figure.

    The clock on the wall reads eight A.M. The entourage of the office, starts to pile in, and wear Marvel t-shirts. The group raises their brows to Peter. Peter points to his office. George stands at the glass window with a Goofy grin. Everyone looks to each other in horror.

    The clock on the wall reads eleven A.M. George opens his door,to then stand behind Peter. Peter, shuffles his papers into his portfolio, and bends a straw into a shape of a spider.

    GEORGE
    Maybe you’d be better off away from the window?

    He takes the straw and bends it with his knee.

    GEORGE(CONTINUED)
    Would you be better suited to go down to merchandising?

    Peter shakes his head no. George leads him to a desk by the bathroom.

    The clock reads five forty-five P.M. George swings open his door. He carries a boom box, in the shape of Minnie Mouse, and puts it on the reception desk. He snaps his fingers to the Marvel group, to bring attention to the front.

    GEORGE
    Lets have an early knock off, and our first Disney work party. I went over some changes today. Why don’t I get to know you a bit better. Anyone like to start?

    George hits the play button on Minnie Mouse. Lyrics come out about uniting friendships. Peter comes forward and throws his portfolio to George. George, opens it to reveal, a series of drawings. The Spider-man ride with Goofy strapped into it. The title reads WE WILL NOT GIVE UP ON OUR IDEAS.

    GEORGE
    Cute. Why don’t you all put on these Disney t-shirts?

    George leans into his box to pull out a handful of t-shirts. Two of the men, in Iron Man t-shirts, grab George by each arm.

    GEORGE
    What the?

    Peter, rips off George’s Goofy t-shirt, to replace it with a Spider-Man one. The two men, that wear Iron Man t-shirts, force George into a chair. Peter stands in front of a cheering crowd.

    PETER
    The way I see it, until your little dwarfs show up, you’re going to be one Goofy Spider-Man.

    Peter throws his head back in a sinister LAUGH. George looks very afraid.

    [/scrippet]

  3. [scrippet]
    INT. LORNA’S BEDROOM – DAY
    Clutter and chaos reign. RAP MUSIC pulsates from oversized speakers. Sunlight glimmers through an open window.

    LORNA, 17, pink spiked hair, mini skirt and work boots scrutinizes her look in a full-length mirror. She SIGHS.

    She reaches beneath her skirt and wriggles out of her panties.

    Strumming chords on an air guitar, Lorna hoists it high above her head, arches her back and screams.

    LORNA
    Yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah.

    The music stops.

    Lorna’s mother, ENID, 51, in a pantsuit and pearls, stands before the stereo, hands planted on her hips.

    ENID
    Lorna, dear, the Bingham’s will be here soon.

    Lorna glares at the mirror. She makes indiscernible adjustments to her pink spikes.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    I’ve invited them for dinner.

    Enid scans the clutter across Lorna’s room. She grimaces at the sight of the open window.

    Enid sidesteps piles of clutter, closes the window and lowers the shade.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    That reminds me. I’ve been meaning to call the landscaper. The hedges have grown so unsightly.

    Enid gathers a pile of clothing from Lorna’s unmade bed. Finding no place to put it, she drops it to the floor.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    I do hope you’ll join us.
    (singsong)
    They’re bringing their son, Henry.

    Lorna pouts her lips. She applies a deep ebony lipstick.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    Henry’s starting college in the fall.

    Enid tucks in the sheets on Lorna’s bed, hospital corners.

    Lorna opens the lapels of her blouse, more cleavage.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    He wants to be a lawyer.

    Enid straightens the comforter.

    Lorna hikes up her waistband.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    He’s earned a full scholarship.

    Shoulders square and chin up, Lorna faces her mother.

    Enid gives Lorna the once-over. She hesitates, turns away.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    Not that he needs one.

    Lorna’s eyes lose their sparkle. Her shoulders droop.

    Enid fluffs the pillows.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    Henry plans to join his father’s–

    Lorna plops her foot onto the freshly made bed. She bends to tie her boot lace.

    Enid stares at Lorna’s foot. She catches a revealing glimpse beneath her skirt. Enid’s eyes widen. Her jaw drops.

    A flicker of triumph softens Lorna’s blackened lips.

    Enid’s lip quivers. She turns and repositions the pillows.

    Lorna stomps her foot onto the floor. She grabs her car keys and heads for the door.

    ENID (CONT’D)
    When can I expect you back?

    The bedroom door SLAMS.

    O.S.
    A car engine REVS. Tires SCREECH.

    Enid focuses on a framed photograph above the bed. CLOSE UP: jubilant smile of a much younger Enid holding Lorna as a child.

    Enid cradles her belly and drops to her knees.
    [/scrippet]

  4. [scrippet]

    EXT. ROYAL GARDENS – AFTERNOON

    Trista strolls a respectful beat behind her Queen, following her lead through twisted spires and exotic, flowering orbs.

    QUEEN
    How fares your son?

    WIFE
    Spending the evening in a rejuvenation unit, but he’ll pull through. Thank you, My Lady.

    QUEEN
    My son respects his skill in the cockpit. He claims yours was born with wings.

    WIFE
    Alas, his heritage excludes him from the Royal Academy. With the right recommendations —

    QUEEN
    All are born to their function, even Tovarians. He’ll do fine.

    WIFE
    He is blessed to have a friend of such rectitude as our Prince. They’ve become virtually inseparable.

    The landscape is broken by a massive, REFLECTIVE DOME STRUCTURE. Trista and the Queen arrive at a sealed entrance.

    QUEEN
    I hear you tend to a particularly noteworthy garden.

    WIFE
    My lineage is of the soil, I suspect I inherited a small amount of talent.

    The Queen’s hand glides past a laser scanner and the entrance slides open. It is dark inside.

    QUEEN
    And your chosen seed?

    WIFE
    I suppose I have a reputation with J’ran Firs.

    INT. GEO-DOME
    Trista follows the Queen into the mouth of the sleek, shiny black tunnel.

    QUEEN
    We have several on the outskirts of the north lawns. A common, but durable lineage. Perhaps my lead technician could give you some instruction.

    WIFE
    Thank you, my Queen. It would be an honor to learn from such a renowned specialist.

    Their footsteps echo through the dark chamber as they approach a curtain of RED GAS, billowing from ceiling to floor. Trista hesitates.

    QUEEN
    An inoculation cloud. Have you ever seen the Royal Arborium?

    WIFE
    That was my first time, thank you, my Lady.

    QUEEN
    Outside was not the Arborium.

    The Queen disappears into the red mist. Trista follows.

    INT. ARBORIUM

    Trista emerges from the cloud into a twinkling, bioluminescent ALIEN FOREST.

    It is night time here, the Geo-Dome mimicking a perfect, clear nocturne, complete with glimmering stars and constellations in its seemingly endless “sky”.

    WIFE
    Heaven’s Kingdoms…

    QUEEN
    Indeed. The plants that grow in here are of the rarest breeds from throughout the known biospheres. All are precious, all irreplaceable.

    WIFE
    I see.

    QUEEN
    Do you? All this fabrication is nothing less than a grand womb, regulating every atom enveloping us to the slightest degree. Every need is met. Every circumstance regulated, enabling every sprout to reach its fullest potential. Good men have lost lives to ensure that every blade in this forest may flourish. To me, it is the very symbol of the strength and prosperity of our entire race. No infection great or small must be allowed to compromise that potential.

    WIFE
    Understood, my Queen.

    [/scrippet]

  5. [scrippet]

    EXT. DANCE STUDIO ENTRANCE – DAY
    Richard exits his daughter’s dance studio, runs into SHIRLEY CHAPMAN, his mother-in-law, who’s walking up the sidewalk in full European high society demeanor.

    SHIRLEY
    (with disdain)

    Why Richard… What a pleasant surprise.
    She gives him a “cold” hug.

    RICHARD
    Hello Shirley. How are you?

    SHIRLEY
    Oh please Richard… You know you can call me Mother.

    Richard gets on his motorcycle. Takes helmet off rear view mirror.

    SHIRLEY (CONT’D)
    So. How does it feel?

    RICHARD
    How does what feel?

    SHIRLEY
    Why, to finally come to your only child’s dance class? I mean, it’s been.. what.. two weeks since you’ve been home? Oh but I do know you must be very busy.

    RICHARD
    Yes. Busy. Look, I gotta go Shirl.. er.. Mom.

    As he puts his helmet on, the orchid picture falls out of his pocket, landing by Shirley’s feet. Shirley picks it up…

    SHIRLEY
    Uh, you dropped this.

    She gives it to him, and he clips it on the motorcycle dash.
    As Shirley walks to the studio door, she looks back at Richard…

    SHIRLEY (CONT’D)
    You do know you’re not going to succeed, don’t you?
    Richard looks at her, speechless.

    SHIRLEY (CONT’D)
    The orchid… in your picture… you’ll never find it. We’re in a bad season now.

    Richard smirks, starts the engine. As he shifts to first gear, the clutch fails and the bike lurches.

    RICHARD
    (to himself)
    God dammit! They were supposed to fix this.

    Shirley overhears, as she’s about to enter the studio, Richard drives off.

    [/scrippet]

  6. [scrippet]
    INT. DORA’S DRY CLEANING – DAY

    BERNARD, 40, in jeans and a brown t-shirt, steps up to the unmanned counter. A service bell, designed to look like a perky breast, claims “Press me if you mean business.”

    He looks around. Nobody. He taps the bell and waits.

    DORA, 25, appears from behind rows of garment bags hanging on the carousel. Her red hair matches her fake fingernails.

    DORA
    You rang?

    BERNARD
    That was me, yeah.
    (motions to the bell)
    Kinda funny.

    DORA
    What, the boob?

    BERNARD
    The bell. That it looks like one.

    Dora leans in, her cleavage on display.

    DORA
    Suppose I should make it a pair. Doesn’t seem right with just one. Is this a pick up, mister…?

    Bernard stammers. Dora grabs the computer’s mouse.

    DORA
    Name?

    BERNARD
    Uh, Bernie. Bernard.

    DORA
    Bernie Bernard?

    BERNARD
    No, just Bernie. I have a ticket.

    He digs into his pockets. Dora gingerly clacks at the keyboard, mindful of her nails.

    DORA
    Last name would be grand.

    BERNARD
    Not Grand. Sinclair. Probably under Julie.

    DORA
    Wait, Julie’s under Bernie?

    BERNARD
    No. The order. It’s under my wife. I’m just here to pick it up.

    DORA
    Sinclair. Right.

    Bernard stops searching through his pockets.

    BERNARD
    Nope. Can’t find it.

    DORA
    Found it!
    (at the computer)
    Oh yeah, I remember this one. Chiffon on chiffon. Well, I hope there was alcohol involved.

    Dora presses the carousel button.

    BERNARD
    Lawson. My last name’s Lawson.

    DORA
    But now I have Bernie Bernard on the brain.

    BERNARD
    Well, your boob keeps ringing in mine so I guess we’re even.

    They watch the bags drift by in silence.

    DORA
    Why do people do that, anyways?

    BERNARD
    Do what?

    DORA
    Keep their last names when they get married. Isn’t that the whole point? Two becoming one?

    BERNARD
    (glancing at his wedding ring)
    I’m not sure. That’s a good question.

    DORA
    It’s like they’re not totally married all the way, you know what I mean? Like they’re paddling up the same river, but in different boats. I’m not saying that’s you and your wife or nothing.

    BERNARD
    Of course.

    DORA
    But if it were me, I’d be all over that last name like a sophomore on spring break, ya know what I mean? Whup– here we are.

    Dora spots the chiffon dress, stops the carousel. She hangs the garment bag from the counter hook, checks the tag.

    DORA
    Looks like you and the missus will have reason to celebrate. It all came out in the wash.

    BERNARD
    She’ll be pleased. What do I owe you?

    DORA
    All orders are prepaid, so you’re a free man.

    She hands the garment bag to Bernard.

    BERNARD
    Well thank you. Now I know where to take all my dirty laundry.

    DORA
    The dirtier, the better, Bernie. The dirtier, the better.

    Bernard clumsily exits through the door. Dora watches him leave while nibbling on a fake fingernail.
    [/scrippet]

  7. [scrippet]

    INT. LUCKY’S APARTMENT – KITCHEN – DAY

    A hand opens a fridge door. The hand belongs to MADAGASCAR (LUCKY) O’MALLEY, 24, as she pulls out a pan of marinated barbecue chicken. She plops the pan on the counter, uncertain what to do next.

    Her brash friend STORMY CHO, 26, stares at the uncooked meat.

    LUCKY
    A little help would be appreciated.

    STORMY
    Okay. How about I pick up the phone and dial 1-800-KFC-NOW. Will that help?

    LUCKY
    No. I’m going for home cooked all the way. It can’t be that hard.

    Lucky pulls her red-streaked hair back into a ponytail. She grabs a few spices out of the cupboard.

    LUCKY
    Hey, do you know any aphrodisiac spices I can sprinkle on the chicken? I want Bob to remember this meal.

    STORMY
    How about something so hot and spicy he’s speechless?

    LUCKY
    Come on. He’s not that bad. Is he?

    Stormy turns and silently flips through the cookbook.

    Perturbed, Lucky shakes too much spice on the chicken.

    LUCKY
    (sliding pan into oven)
    Maybe I need a little structure in my life.

    STORMY
    Well, every dog needs a leash.

    LUCKY
    Could you at least help me with the salad? This three-month anniversary is really important to me.

    STORMY
    Sorry, I gave up cooking for Lent.

    LUCKY
    It’s nowhere close to Lent. And you’re not Catholic.

    Stormy shrugs and grabs a mint off the kitchen counter. She pops the mint in her mouth, smiles, and saunters out of the kitchen.

    Lucky picks up a spice jar.

    LUCKY
    (calling out to Stormy)
    So, you think more red pepper?

    [/scrippet]

  8. [scrippet]

    EXT. PARKING LOT – DAY

    SHENG, 17, comes out of the kitchen door, letting the screen bang behind him.

    LUIS, 21, paces by the dumpster.

    SHENG
    Smooth move in there, Ex-Lax. Lucky he didn’t fire you.

    LUIS
    I wish he would. I don’t need this abuse.

    SHENG
    So quit.

    He eyes Luis. Luis’s gaze skitters away. Sheng lights a cigarette. He offers the pack to Luis, who glares at him.

    LUIS
    Why you doing that? Come on.

    SHENG
    Oh, right. How many days now?

    LUIS
    Four.

    SHENG
    Four days of purity. Respect.

    He grins and takes an impossibly deep drag. He must have the lung capacity of a whale.

    Luis watches. Sheng exhales a plume of smoke. Luis gnaws a bitten-down thumbnail.

    SHENG
    You gotta stop confronting him.

    LUIS
    Did I ask your advice?

    SHENG
    He bitches at you about something, you argue.

    LUIS
    He shouldn’t have been bitching! I was doing it exactly like he said.

    SHENG
    He don’t care how you were doing it. He just wants to show everyone who’s boss. You gotta submit.

    LUIS
    Are you kidding? I’m not bending over for that son of a bitch.

    SHENG
    Don’t think of it as bending over. Think of it as….

    LUIS
    As what?

    SHENG
    Shit, dude, I don’t know. You’re right, it’s bending over. But everyone’s gotta do it. Couple times, you don’t mind so much.

    Luis kicks the dumpster.

    SHENG
    What you really want to do is impress him. Do that, suddenly you’re not the one on the bottom rung anymore. He’ll pick on someone else.

    LUIS
    I shouldn’t have to impress him. I do my job. That’s enough.

    Sheng shrugs.

    LUIS
    I mean, it’s busing tables. I’m not on a career path here.

    Sheng nods. His cigarette tip glows orange as he inhales. Luis examines his fingernails. There’s nothing left to chew.

    LUIS
    Did he ride your ass when you started?

    SHENG
    Hell, yes. No Vaseline or anything. I was raw.

    LUIS
    What’d you do?

    SHENG
    Whenever he bitched me out about something, I said–
    (subtitled Mandarin)
    “Fuck you.”

    LUIS
    What’s it mean?

    SHENG
    Means “Yes, sir.” He liked that. See, it wasn’t just that I was saying “Yes, sir.” ‘Cause I was saying it in Chinese, he thought it was, like, extra respectful. Be even better coming from you.

    LUIS
    What is it, again?

    SHENG
    (subtitled Mandarin)
    Fuck you.

    LUIS
    (subtitled Mandarin)
    Fuck you.

    He mangles it. Sheng corrects him. Luis practices.

    LUIS
    Yes, sir.
    (subtitled Mandarin)
    Fuck you.

    SHENG
    That’s good. Sounds like you just got off the boat.

    Luis cracks a smile.

    LUIS
    I better go. Break’s almost over.

    Sheng offers the pack of cigarettes again. Luis pulls one out and flicks it so it bounces off Sheng’s forehead. Sheng’s laughter follows him to the door.

    SHENG
    Stay pure, dude.

    [/scrippet]

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