PHAA – The Script

The original story of 2006 had a lot more ‘sets’ – writing can paint imagery much cheaper than filming can. For filming purposes, I decided to keep my film idea in the forest location, as it gives the isolated aesthetic to the scene, there’s a practical location nearby, and it also makes an interesting and scenic setting for the viewer. However, keeping this central location also meant that the script had to be upgraded and sharpened, as the focus was now solely on what was being said (though it should always have been in the first place!)

When developing the script, I knew that there were several factors I needed to take into account in order to make things work:

1. Show the audience, don’t tell them – This notion has been used to describe films where the narrative is explained to the audience through the script, rather being shown the narrative through the cinematography. As a film maker, I want to show as much as possible through the screen, but I am aware that due to the relatively low budget this film will have, the chances of me showing the entire life stories of both characters is unlikely. They will indeed talk about their past lives, but I will leave out certain parts of their history, focusing only on those parts relevant to the plot (easy to do, considering the theme of ‘talking to others to resolve the negative aspects of life’). The parts not explained will be left to the audience’s imagination, thus delivering a full narrative with whatever the audience have added themselves.

2. A short film is part of a bigger one – This is a notion coined by myself, and it basically states that short films can be scenes, or snippets, of a bigger story. What happens before this film is partially reflected upon, and what happens after the meeting in the forest is also shrouded in mystery. This film is simply one conversation – a very important one that plays a significant part in the two different larger narratives of the character’s lives. The benefit of thinking this way is that you then focus on the one scene alone (i.e. the short film), rather than trying to explain complex expositions, and going to great lengths to ensure a fully closed narrative at the end.

3. Quality over quantity – This is an obvious thing to bear in mind – it relates to ‘KISS’ (Keep It Simple Stupid), which means to not do lots of things badly, but to do only a few things really well. In this case, how to make a conversation engaging and interesting is the only thing I need to worry about.

“These woods mirror my mood… they are a quiet and isolated place for me to contemplate on my own past… Anyone who comes into these woods must feel similar, and in which case I wondered… if you just wanted someone to talk to.”

Amy Carter, upon the first encounter with Peter in the forest.

There were three acts as I wrote the script, which was mainly for my own benefit for organization (and thus can be removed later if needed). When doing the original TEOTA idea, the fallen angel had to do three good deeds to get back to heaven. In the case of PHAA, the angel sorts out three aspects of Peter’s life that are troubling him the most. They are not so much three good deeds – just three topics of conversation (namely, Peter’s relationship with his parents, his career, and his love life). Peter’s career is adversely affected by the other two issues, meaning if he resolves those two, his career will sort itself out with his own piece of mind. Two parts of the central conversation are based around Peter’s romance with a girl called Rebecca, and his apparent falling out with his family. The third section, however, is about Amy Carter’s character, and her history with the afterlife.

Peter is a character with average human problems associated with student life. Likewise, the advice given to him by Amy Carter provides obvious solutions. I knew from the TEOTA scripts that two mysterious characters would leave the audience confused – technically, this film could be called ‘The Eyes Of Peter’, as it is naturally him who the audience will relate to the most out of the two characters.

This meant that Amy Carter had to be much more interesting – mysterious, dark, perhaps even slightly threatening. As a fallen angel, the character was set up as such – she had an innocent, pure side to her soul, and also a deviant and twisted side. Although she reflects upon her misdeeds in her past, ultimately she is portrayed as a character trying to wrestle with her inner demons so that she can be a good, genuine angel despite it all. She helps Peter to try and show to herself as well as her peers that despite her dark desires, she is worthy of the heavenly virtue that was once bestowed upon her.

“You tell me because your family has no money they don’t love you, but you’ve got it all wrong. When your parents are rich, they’ll throw everything you’ve ever wanted at you to win your affections. (pause) But no matter how many times you hug a teddy bear, it will never hug you back.”

Amy Carter, in response to Peter’s claims that his parents are falling out with each other over the recession. Ironically, Amy Carter’s parents were both career-driven bank moguls.

It was difficult creating different scenes, as almost the entire film is one long continuous scene, with one topic leading onto the next in very subtle ways. The only time we cut outside the forest is for two flashback scenes showing the audience Peter’s life. The first is to do with his parents arguing, and the second is to show us the girl he has a crush on. The locations where these flashback scenes take place will be domestic, but will serve only to vary the mise-en-scene a little for the viewer.

Peter’s crush Rebecca, nor his parents, have any great effect on the plot as a whole – they are there purely to help the audience get acquainted with Peter more than Amy (and see more of his life than Amy’s), and to vary the scenery. I did consider putting in a few flashbacks of Amy’s recitations, but this would involve heaven (and all the costumes therein), or it would have involved flashbacks to her murder and her funeral, which I thought were really heavy moments for a short film. Sometimes it’s better to leave things to the imagination of the viewer, and as long as I don’t take liberties with this notion, the film in theory should work.

“The day I lost my virginity was the day I died… Do you remember a serial killer, about seven years ago called Benny ‘The Butcher’ Morrison? He got several life sentences after he killed seven teenage girls in southern England. (she raises her eyes to Peters). I was his third victim.”

Amy Carter, explaining how she died. The mystery surrounding her juxtaposed character allows her to steal a lot of my favourite lines from the script. In this instance, a flashback could indeed be triggered, and if the budget will allow, such scenes could be developed in upcoming weeks if considered beneficial to the film.

I’ve never liked open ending myself, although I’ve always found that they worked better in short films. Originally, the angel is illuminated in a bright light, and her gothic robes turn into more stereotypical white angel robes. This signifies that she is going back to heaven – again, I left this to the audience’s imagination. Instead, I left a prop at the log where the conversation took place – originally a black feather. However I thought it would be more intriguing to leave a white feather there instead. As long as it is placed at the spot very deliberately, it could signify that Amy has shed her black feathers for white ones, becoming a heavenly inhabitant once again.

The first and last things the pair say to each other were by far the hardest parts of the script to make, as they had a lot of weight as regards how the characters initially feel about each other, and how they have changed throughout the encounter. It was very important for me to get this right, otherwise the characterization would be wrong (thus ruining the whole film). I made the first encounter one of shock, and the final scene where Peter leaves the complete opposite. After talking about their lives, it was hard to find a way to make the ending full of comfort and ease. However, since the pair know deep down they will never see each other again, I decided to make the final words more philosophical and mysterious, not really regarding the future of each other, but rather the future of mankind.

“Hidden emotions. They’ll be the death of us all.”

Peter Hopsworth, and his parting words to the fallen angel. Amy does not reply, she simply lowers her gaze and allows Peter to walk away. Peter leaves without looking back, leaving the angel sitting on the log alone in the forest. It is the last time we see Amy Carter in the film.

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