For our Three Page Challenge segment at the Austin Film Festival, we look at four entries submitted by attendees.
You can download the PDFs here, or keep scrolling to read them (handy if you’re on mobile).
SEAWORTHY by Andrew Cosdon Messer
All four will also be available in Weekend Read.
BAPTISTE written by Jenny Deiker
EXT. LOUISIANA – BAYOU – MORNING
Spanish moss melts from bald cypresses in the sweaty, sickly-sweet soup of Louisiana air. Live oaks and palmettos line a wide, dead-calm river, dotted with fallen branches and blankets of algae.
The CHIRRUP of frogs and WHINE of cicadas carries through the stagnant, breathy morning.
Camera PANS to find a sturdy, wooden DOCK, connecting the water to a grassy bank. Minnesota businessman and foreigner to these parts, JONATHAN PARKS, 51, ambles toward the water, carrying a fishing rod.
He’s followed at a distance by RICHARD DEVILLIERS, mid-50s, his clothes pressed and proper. Richard speaks with the soft, upper-class accent of someone from a very old, and very important Louisiana family.
I think you’ll find the biggest catfish in Bayou Baptiste right here off our dock.
Jonathan stops and takes in the scenery.
It’s really beautiful here, Richard. You’re a lucky man.
“Luck is a thing that comes in many forms. And who can recognize her?”
Jonathan looks at him quizzically.
Nothing like this in Wisconsin. I love the northern lakes, but this is... heavenly.
He slaps at a mosquito.
Bite-y... but heavenly.
We think so, too.
Jonathan moves to the end of the dock and begins baiting his hook. Richard stays behind him.
Worms are okay?
Yessir. ‘Cats like the simple bait. Put on two or three if you want a big one.
As they chat, Richard reaches into his pants pocket and pulls out a little BURLAP POUCH – similar to something a woman would store jewelry in. He loosens the drawstring.
Cast out as far as you can. Deeper waters out there. More life stirring on the bottom.
Jonathan throws his arm into the cast. ZZZIIPPP. A slim fishing line sails to the dark water beyond.
Richard pours out some of the sack’s contents into his hand – a grainy white POWDER.
He sits on his heels and begins siphoning the powder through his fist to draw a large CIRCLE on the dock.
Jonathan turns and watches Richard. Bewildered.
Whatcha doing there?
Voodoo ritual. For the union of predator and prey.
A real touch of Louisiana.
History runs deep here.
Jonathan goes back to his fishing. The two men stand in silence for a beat.
From behind them, on the bank’s edge, a woman appears. MARIE, mid-5Os. Richard’s wife, wearing her Sunday best.
She shares a sad, knowing glance with her husband.
Richard takes a deep breath, leans down, and draws a SLASH across the powdered circle with his finger. He stands up, slowly, and looks to Jonathan.
Richard positions himself BEHIND Jonathan.
I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be a wh --
THUD! Richard kicks Jonathan square in the back, toppling him into the water.
Marie looks on -- dispassionate, remote.
Jonathan emerges briefly to the surface, kicking and sputtering, choking on muddy water.
Hands in pockets, Richard watches for a split second before --
WHOOSH. Jonathan is sucked under the water. Quick as a wink. No sound, no stirring.
He’s simply gone.
Richard pauses for a beat, blinking, un-surprised, then grabs Jonathan’s fishing rod and turns back to Marie.
Their 29-year-old son, KEVIN, appears on the bank. He’s dressed in the pressed khakis and boat shoes of a Southern one-percenter.
Kevin steps down to the dock and moves to the powder circle.
He uses a single foot to sweep the powder away.
We’ll be late for mass.
Richard nods, and joins his family in silently leaving the water’s edge.
SEAWORTHY written by Andrew Cosdon Messer
EXT. OCEAN – DAY
A vast expanse of gray water stretches beneath dark clouds.
We land on a drifting DERELICT SAILBOAT.
EXT. DERELICT – DAY
Remains of the past slosh in the wrecked vessel’s cabin--
--until everything moves at once in a sharp collision.
ANGLE ON a healthy boat, bobbing alongside. THE CATAMARAN.
A faded name is engraved on the once-futuristic twin hulls.
A faded man is steady on the deck, an extension of the boat.
holds fast to a ROPE and a weathered SPEARGUN as he raises an irritated look back towards the helm and
THE GIRL (14)
She can drive better than that.
The lanky teenager stands at the stern of the catamaran, wearing a SHELL PENDANT and a bemused smile.
She shrugs. No harm, no foul.
Dad jumps aboard the derelict and ducks inside. A moment passes before he returns and nods approval. This one’s safe.
The girl tosses the rope and they tie the boats together. She jumps the gap as Dad double-checks the horizon.
Names will come later; they have little use for them now.
Their trust is routine.
INT. DERELICT – DAY
The girl ducks inside to see the abandoned interior--
--and the STARVED BODIES. A family.
The mother and little boy lay peacefully in a bunk. The father is seated nearby.
They didn’t eat him.
No. They didn’t.
Dad searches. She follows.
Religious iconography is everywhere. The girl touches a LARGE ORNATE BIBLE. She flips through the pages.
Dad discovers a few tools and some books. He takes a SHEATHED DIVE KNIFE.
The girl examines the little boy’s clothes and shoes. She begins to strip the corpse.
Thank you for being so generous. I’m sorry this happened to you.
EXT. DERELICT – LATER
Dad lifts the small wrapped and weighted body into the sea. The girl holds the Bible nearby.
Don’t we say something?
She holds out the book.
You can if you like. Didn’t seem to help them much.
Dad leaves her to it and returns to the catamaran.
She places the book on the deck and follows him off the derelict as the wind blows over the cherished pages.
EXT. SEAWORTHY – DAY
THUNDER echoes. Dad scans the clouds bearing down on them.
Can we outrun it?
No. Come take the wheel.
The girl seems uncomfortable.
Hey. Don’t worry.
He moves to stow the rigging and sails on the mainmast.
The girl is queasy and uncertain. She sits next to the helm. It doesn’t help.
She stands up again. There’s a small BLOODSTAIN on the seat.
The girl slides a tentative hand into her ragged shorts and comes up with BLOOD on her finger.
Dad drops everything.
I’m hurting. And there’s blood--
Where are you hurt? What happened?
The girl opens her legs, shows her fingers.
Dad understands. He quickly heads down into the bunk cabin.
The confused girl stares blankly after him.
INT. SEAWORTHY – BUNK CABIN – DAY
Dad doesn’t know what to use. They’re not equipped for this.
He’s not equipped for this.
He searches the living quarters. There are a pair of HAMMOCKS; a bolted TABLE next a galley with a hot plate.
Tools and supplies adorn every inch of bulkhead alongside the two racks of plants that comprise the VEGETABLE GARDEN.
Dad finds a RAGGED WASHCLOTH.
FINDING MASON written by Amy Leland
INT. RICHARDS HOME – KITCHEN – NIGHT (SPRING 1981)
MARY RICHARDS, a woman in her 30’s, hangs up a wall phone.
She holds onto the edge of the kitchen counter and closes her eyes. She takes a deep breath, opens her eyes, looks out of the kitchen window for a moment, then straightens up. She walks down the hall.
INT. HALLWAY – NIGHT
Mary opens the door to a bedroom, slowly and quietly.
Sam... Wake up.
INT. CHILD’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
A young girl, SAM, 10 years old, lies asleep in bed. Her arm wraps around a large black Lab, CINCO, who is lying next to Sam with her head resting on the girl’s stomach.
C’mon Sam...wake up.
Sam moans sleepily and turns over.
(She shakes Sam’s shoulder gently)
Come on. We have to go get Mason.
(The girl opens her eyes Slightly.)
Where this time?
What time is it?
It’s 2 AM.
(sits up, suddenly awake)
Moooom, I have school tomorrow! ...Today!
I know. I’ll call the school.
Nooo. Leave me here. I’ll catch the bus.
No. We have to go. Come on, get up.
It’s not fair!
(Sighs. As she walks out...)
Sam crawls out of bed very slowly. Cinco jumps down after her. Sam puts on a jacket over her pajamas and slips on some sneakers, then grabs her pillow and a blanket.
OPENING CREDITS – MONTAGE OF TEXAS/OKLAHOMA DRIVING
INT. POLICE STATION – NIGHT
Sam and Cinco sit next to a desk in a police station. A police officer pets Cinco while Sam stares off in the distance, sulking.
After a little while, Mary walks out from the back. MASON, a 14 year old boy, who looks both scruffy and innocent, trails behind her. His clothing is dirty, and he needs a shower badly. As they approach, Sam looks up. Mary walks out with fast, angry strides, looking straight ahead. Sam scrambles up and follows them with Cinco.
INT. CAR – NIGHT
Mary drives down the dark, empty highway, seething. Mason slouches quietly in the passenger seat, leaning against the door, staring out the window. Sam lies sleeping in the backseat, with Cinco as her pillow.
Mason reaches for Mary’s travel mug and takes a sip. Mary scowls, but says nothing. Mason wrinkles his nose at the ice cold coffee. He rolls down his window, removes the lid from the cup, and pours out the remaining coffee. As he does so, the car hits a bump in the road, and he drops the mug.
I dropped your mug.
Mary slams on the brakes as she swerves into the shoulder. She then slams the car into reverse, stamps on the gas, and squeals backward, then slams on the brakes again. This wakes up Sam. After a long pause.
Well? Get it.
Uh...because you ran over it.
Mary stares at him in angry disbelief for a moment, while he sits quietly, trying to keep his face as neutral as possible. Sam leans up on her elbow to see what will happen. For a moment, Mary continues to seethe with anger.
But then the corners of her mouth start to twitch. Mason sees this, and his expression changes just a little, to one of exaggerated innocence. Mary resists as long as she can, but eventually bursts out laughing. Mason laughs with her, relaxing back into his seat as Mary pulls back onto the highway.
SAM flops back onto the backseat, clenching her blanket around her, a look of annoyance on her face. Cinco rests her head on Sam’s arm, and lets out a sigh. The car continues on as the sun begins to peek over the horizon.
AMERICAN FRUIT written by Jess Burkle
EXT. COSTA RICA – 1904 – PROMONTORY ABOVE THE JUNGLE – DAY
BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPH
Against a sprawling jungle-scape, CHARLES KESTON, dressed in 1900s explorer suiting, peers nobly out into the panorama.
Quivering while maintaining that pose is Keston (20’s, thin and well-tailored, sharp part), very aware of his portrait.
Make sure it’s dignified. I want to look as though I am at home in the jungle, not born in it.
A PHOTOGRAPHER (20’s, fresh-faced) ducks out of a CURTAIN-COVERED TRIPOD to give some direction.
Can you put your leg up on something?
Like a fauteuil?
Like that rock.
Ah, yes. More Antony, less Cleopatra. Of course.
(conquering that rock)
BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPH
Keston in a dynamic lunge, set against the stark cliffs and rolling jungle below him. He is king in this new world.
Keston SLIPS AND FALLS BACKWARD WITH VERY LITTLE GRACE, landing as if he’s never touched soil before.
Let’s stop there. Harper’s will publish those. It’ll look like the Botanical Gardens Gala, but with more verve.
Photographer starts packing up. Keston lights up a cigarette.
One can either set the subject or be the subject.
That’s what I always tell Emily...
Is that your girl back in Boston?
Oh! Now, forget you’ve heard that. I don’t want any rumors to start swirling so soon after my arrival.
Photographer has moved to the cliff edge, surveying.
Shouldn’t we see your railroad from here, Mr. Keston?
(re: art direction)
Perhaps I’m not doing enough pointing. When people think “railroad” they think “pointing”...
ANGLE ON: BUNCH OF BANANAS ON TREE spied by Keston.
Hold on a moment!
Keston saunter-jogs over to the line of trees. He picks a BUNCH OF GREEN BANANAS...but fails to see that it shakes loose a BRIGHT RED SNAKE.
Excited to have a prop, a giddy Keston skips back by one path, and the snake takes another.
Keston triumphantly holds the bananas like a big scalp already claimed; Keston POINTS TO THE HORIZON in a pose.
There! Take that Boston! Charles Keston makes his own destiny!
Suddenly, Keston spies the snake silently approaching the PHOTOGRAPHER’S LEG. Dumb with fear, he points emphatically.
BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPH
Terrified and effeminate, Keston URGENTLY POINTS to the ground. He is all scared elbows, twisted, flailing bananas.
(under the curtain)
How’s about a different pose? You’re a Keston! You’re invincible! You’re here to conquer the--!
The snake BITES the photographer.
--SWEET JESUS CHRIST!
Photographer falls, knocking over the camera. The snake slithers back to the jungle. Keston (now) rushes in.
Johnson? Are you quite all right?
Photographer’s moans are quickly clouded by FOAM SPILLING FROM HIS MOUTH and the torturous convulsions of his body.
Keston slowly backs away...
Photographer stops thrashing, and his body deflates like a rancid tire. A URINE STAIN on his trousers pools to one side.
Keston is alone. All alone. HE DROPS THE BANANAS.
END OF COLD OPEN