I recently updated my Youtube channel, and came across a scene from my 2003 pilot “Alaska.” I thought it would be interesting to compare the written scene to what it looked like in the final version.
Here’s the scene as scripted. (You can read the whole script in the Library.)
INT. SATCHEL HOUSE – DAY 3
Closing the front door behind her, Valerie follows Mathers into the living room. The house is spartan by any standard: dirty walls, old drapes, sagging furniture. Two rifles hang on the wall.
In all, it’s a shelter, but not a home. No woman has been in this house in a decade.
Venturing into the kitchen, Mathers finds industrial-sized cans of beef stew lined up on the counter. Saltines by the case.
The mother is dead, isn’t she?
Virginia Satchel. She died ten, fifteen years ago.
So who is Connie?
He points out a child’s drawing on the refrigerator, the paper yellowed with time. The illustration shows four stick figures in front of the house, labelled “Daddy,” “Glenn,” “Bobby,” and “Connie.”
Connie is noticeably bigger than the other three. As Mathers steps back,
BLASTS through the kitchen window from outside. As glass begins to rain down, a SECOND SHOT rips into the kitchen cabinets. Mathers and Valerie dive for the floor, unholstering their weapons.
Three more SHOTS blow through the kitchen. Mathers listens to the tone of the shots.
Rifle. One shooter.
You want me to call for backup?
How close is it?
Half hour. Maybe more.
Silence. The shooter has stopped. Mathers very carefully edges up to the shattered window. Valerie takes the far side.
With a quick movement, Mathers leans around the window frame and starts SHOOTING. Behind a distant wood pile, movement. A flash of metal.
Mathers ducks back as two more SHOTS rip into the window and wall.
Keep him shooting.
Before she can ask where he’s going, Mathers runs down the hallway. Valerie presses back against the wall. Steels herself, then pops around to FIRE.
She’s met with another BLAST. Just missed her.
EXT. BACK OF HOUSE – DAY 3
A chair SMASHES through a second story window.
Mathers climbs out after it. He slides down the shingled roof, then jumps down another ten feet to the ground below.
EXT. EDGE OF THE FOREST – DAY 3
We STAY WITH Mathers as he circles behind the woodpile, gun at ready. Up in the house, Valerie continues to FIRE, keeping the shooter’s attention.
Reaching a good distance behind the shooter, Mathers SHOUTS OUT:
State Trooper! Drop your weapon!
The shooter stands. CONRAD “CONNIE” SATCHEL is six-foot-six and weighs in at nearly three hundred pounds.
Severe birth defects have left him physically and mentally malformed. Although 20 years old, he’s like a giant eight-year old.
Put it down! Put it down!
Connie isn’t aiming at Mathers, exactly, but he isn’t inclined to drop the rifle either.
You’re a police man.
I am. I need you to put that rifle down.
Over Connie’s shoulder, we see Valerie approaching. She has her gun on Connie.
Is your name Connie?
How did you know?
Put down the rifle and I’ll tell you.
Intrigued, Connie sets the rifle down. Connie holds his hands up. His fingers are bandaged and bloody. Several are obviously broken, sticking out at strange angles.
What happened to your hands, Connie?
(looking at them)
They had evil in ‘em. Daddy had to fix ‘em.
Here’s the finished scene after filming and editing:
The biggest changes to the scene were motivated by the location we found. Director Kim Masters wanted plenty of windows, so we ended up enclosing a porch and playing it as a kitchen. We didn’t feature any of the set dressing I wrote in (industrial cans, saltines), but the set decorators followed that vibe.
Once the gunshots started, some dialogue got rearranged.
First, Valerie’s line was shortened to the much better “Call for backup?” Second, we added a line for Mathers — “Alright, let’s see what we got first.” I honestly don’t remember if it happened on set or in looping. (We don’t see his face in the cut, so it would have been an easy line to slip in.)
Because we ended up with a single-story cabin, there was no need to have Mathers sliding down a roof. Otherwise, the rest of the scene plays very much as scripted — and very much how I imagined it.
For me, writing a scene is a process of fully visualizing a scene in my head, then finding the words to describe it. You don’t always get such a good match between intention and finished product, but the better you can evoke the experience of the scene on the page, the more likely you’ll be pleased with the outcome.