'Our Son' - Screenplay Pitch
The form: Our Son is a 30 minute drama short screenplay (to be developed also as a feature script simultaneously).
Theme/subject: The film deals with the realities of being a parent with a terminally ill/disabled child.
This leads into themes such as choice, consequence, guilt and acceptance, which such parents come to grips with on a daily basis.
Synopsis: We follow a day in the life of parents Tony and Clarisse as they care for their young son Ryan, who suffers from 'Metachromatic Leukodystrophy'/MLD, a disease that destroys the coating of nerve endings and impairs all body function . His only means of communication is through a visual personality simulator linked to his mind. As we see the parents trying to cope in this adverse situation, we also learn of how things came to be when Clarisse revisit old footage and photos, and the sad journey that tore this film apart.
Tone/style: despite the light bit of sci-fi with the simulator (drawn on real technology), this is a very down to earth and restrained tale, with little in the way of levity and a strong focus on the human element. Lorenzo's Oil and Awakenings are key influences, the former for the family dynamic, while the latter addresses the issues surrounding a more radical form of medicine/other help for patients, and the duality of its effects.
Target audience: Adult audiences as well as parents to help spread awareness of the disease and enlighten to the kinds of struggles these people face daily.
Where will you send: Script contests like Script Pipeline and Stage 32, opportunities from the BBC Writersroom, and sending it off to agents.
Relation to your previous work: Ninos Robados and Beautiful Madness both deal with hot topics concerning children and both relate to medical establishments. Robados dealt with the abuse of trust and the subsequent loss and guilt wrought on the parents of stolen children, while Madness was a semi autobiographical short documentary on raising a child with medical issues and all the battles and pressures that had to be fought.
Relation to outside world: MLD is a rare disease, so it is not known very well or easy to recognise/distinguish from other debilitating disorders, and the effects it incurs upon families. There is also the debate around experimenting with terminally ill life and the kind of strain that causes on families, especially when the sufferer is young.
Sites on illness:
- http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/metachromatic-leukodystrophy (Full medical article)
- http://www.mldfoundation.org/ (Charity devoted to the disease)
- http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/05/fatally_ill_child_teaches_us_how_to_mother.html (On Illness and dealing with it)
Writing aides/influences: Writing the Short Film by Pat Cooper & Ken Dancyger, as well as Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee for the actual writing. Visual inspirations include Lorenzo's Oil, Awakenings and A.I.
Process: Following an outline, organising the key components,
there will be a continuous process of redrafting, based on both class and tutor feedback.
Schedule: As the deadline is April 26, the goal being a new draft of the script every 2-3 weeks (accounting both for personal life and other work assignments).
5. Contingency & Review:
Challenges: To treat the situation and characters with the maximum level of respect and dignity a touchy subject like this one requires.
Addressing these challenges: The research, as well as drawing on personal experience so as not to overdramatize nor undersell the subject.
Points of review: Key points for review would mainly be focused n the reality of how the writing treats the subject how believable the parents are and is there enough of a friction there between them and what they have been lumbered with.
Contingencies: Screenwriting is a constant process of trial, error and experimentation, so even if an element goes wrong, it can be redrafted and retooled (with backup copies saved). Also, tutors are available to consult should there be problems.
Flexibility: Since the deadline is in April, there is plenty of time for rewrites, redrafts and changes to made should a particular part of the script not work/not mesh well.