Writing in the Dark,, an apt metaphor for anyone who has ever tried to tap out words on a  backlit screen.  This book, a collection of essays gathered by Max van Manen, shows how "different kinds of human experience may be explored, the methods for investigating phenomena contributing to human experience…the process of inquiry, reflection and writing…a valuable and rich resource".   That is to say, writing is an attempt to reflect what goes on inside us.  Inside us is where "story" occurs.Scott Popjes maintains a busy schedule, writing, producing and editing major theatrical trailers, promos and EPK's and developing and producing TV series and films, such as "The Remarkably 20th Century" and "The Long Ride Home".  Born and raised in suburban New Jersey, this everyman director/editor loves making movies.Ernest Hemingway - The man who ran with the bulls.  His literary sparseness and compression, well-worn and well-earned, captured the attention of critics and public in a volatile age.  In 1952, he received the Pulitzer for The Old Man and the Sea.   In 1954, he received the Nobel Prize for his "powerful style-making mastery of the modern art of narration."  He wrote from life.  Until his life subdued and rescued him.Will Shakespeare - Aka "The bard".  Arguably the best English writer to ever glide pen to page, populist hero as well as aristocratic raconteur, though we wish he had used all women instead of all men to populate his plays.  (Not a prejudice, just a fact.)   His sonnets remain divine.  Rare is the writer who can scribble successfully in one genre, let alone two.  Some postulate this poet and playwright was, in fact, more than one man…or woman.  What would he have done with film, we wonder?Though he produced fewer than 40 paintings, Dutch painter Jan Vermeer is one of the most respected artists of the European tradition. He is known for his serene, luminous interiors populated by one or two figures. Vermeer grew up in Delft, Holland, joined the painters' guild in 1653, and worked as an art dealer to support his wife and 11 children.  In 1672, war with France ruined Holland’s economy and Vermeer's business failed.  Soon after, he died of a stroke at age 42, leaving his family bankrupt.  Vermeer's paintings were largely forgotten for nearly 200 years, until 1858 when a French critic began to write admiringly about his work.  Interest in Vermeer surged again recently with his work exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Contemporary writers have also been inspired by him, including Tracy Chevalier whose novel Girl with a Pearl Earring imagines the life of the girl in Vermeer's painting of the same name. L.Ron Hubbard - Whatever you may think of his other worldly beliefs, the full body of L. Ron Hubbard's work includes more than 5,000 writings and 3,000 tape-recorded lectures, spanning five, highly productive decades.  A humanitarian and adventurer, he  believes, "There are only two tests of a life well lived: Did one do as one intended? And were people glad one lived?"  We add, "And can one write about it, anyhow?"Johannes Vermeer's "Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid" records a prior chivalrous age where class decorum reigned.  (Oh, well, you can't have everything.)   One of the most talented painters in the Dutch Golden Age, that's the 1600's, Vermeer's work was forgotten for centuries.  The most brilliant artists of any century are probably never discovered, their paintings hidden till ruin, their pages dropping to dust in unfound attics.  We find this oddly comforting.  No martyr of time, this particular masterpiece hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland.  Definitely worth a gaze.Jules Verne - Ode to childhood and the player within us.  Verne was born, aptly, in Nates, France in 1828.  He promptly ran off to become cabin boy on a merchant ship but was caught and sent back to his parents.  Thus constrained, his imagination wandered.  He wrote story after story, became very rich, bought a yacht and resumed his initial intent - to sail around the world.  Or Europe anyhow.   Our favorite remains Twenty Thousand Leagues.
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First-Place Winner, November 2004 – April 2005 Screenplay Contest – Teleplay/Short Series

Fifteen Miles

Written by Herbert Higginbotham

LOGLINE

A mysterious woman disrupts the dilapidated life of a man, his father, and his son.

 

SYNOPSIS

For a man, his father, and his son, the future is as bleak and bland as the parched fields they till – until a lively woman careens off the road and into their lives. With no help around for miles, the man reluctantly invites her into their home while he fixes her car. But when this new and unexpected visitor presses him to confront a painful past, he decides he’s had enough disruption for one lifetime. Can he open up his eyes to a second chance before it vanishes forever, or will his painful past threaten to blind him to still more tragedy?

SCRIPT FOLLOWS

EXT. FARMHOUSE- LATE AFTERNOON

A small, rundown farmhouse in rural western Pennsylvania sits against a country road. Window shades are tightly drawn to the hot sun and blue sky. Dry, brown fields stretch for miles. No other life in sight. A palpable loneliness.

Dust reshuffles the dirt driveway whenever the wind changes. Amid half-worked-on farm equipment, a radio crackles light FM while RAY, 40s, white and scraggly, works on an old pickup.

A shot CRACKS through the thick summer air. A Jeep Cherokee swerves off the road violently, coming to a halt in the drive.

Ray springs to his feet to investigate. Through a cloud of dust, the car door slams and a woman's figure materializes.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Woooh! What a mess!

The dust settles to reveal a WOMAN, 50s, black and lively. She wears a light cotton dress and no shoes.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Don't suppose you could change
                                       a flat?

Ray stares bewilderedly at the attractive stranger.

EXT. FARMHOUSE - LATER

Ray is on his back under the Cherokee, jacked-up on one side, tire removed. The woman peers after him.

                                                        RAY
                                       Looks like the axle jammed up when
                                       you swerved off the road.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Eww... can I still drive on it?

                                                        RAY
                                       Not for more'n a few miles.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Does that get me to a service
                                       station?

Ray stands up and dusts off.

                                                        RAY
                                       That gits you to the end of this
                                       field.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Well. Could I trouble you for a
                                       ride -

The woman turns to see the cacophony of metal, equipment, and parts across the driveway.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       - or - a phone?

EXT. FARMHOUSE - LATER

Ray pretends to work on the pickup while he watches the woman in the kitchen on the phone. She hangs up and he quickly returns to the truck.

The screen door slams.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Well, no luck with Triple A. And
                                       everything in town seems closed.

                                                        RAY
                                       I figured as much. We're in a bit
                                       of nowhere out here.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       You're not kidding. I brought you
                                       some water.

Ray pauses, thrown off by her gesture, before accepting.

                                                        RAY
                                       Thanks.

He guzzles the water voraciously.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       If you could fix my car, I could
                                       pay you.

Ray finishes the water, considers the offer.

                                                        RAY
                                                    (hesitantly)
                                       I could fix it, but it wouldn't be
                                       done til tomorrow.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       That's fine with me. How 'bout
                                       you?

INT. POP'S ROOM- MOMENTS LATER

The room is mostly kempt, with a made-up single bed and modest furniture. On the nightstand, a black and white picture of a young man in uniform hugging his beautiful wife. A man's slippers peek out from under the bed.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Are you sure I'm not taking
                                       somebody's room?

                                                        RAY
                                       No. My father's - he's away for
                                       the night. Make yourself
                                      comfortable. Supper's at half
                                      past.

Ray steps out of the doorway and turns down the hall.

INT. HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Ray?

Ray stops, turns around.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Do you have a towel I could use?
                                       I'd like to freshen up a bit, if
                                      that's alright.

EXT. FIELDS - SUNSET

The wind whistles through waves of wheat. A boy, STEPHEN, 7, spins in a circle, hands outstretched to chop at the wheat stalks.

INT. BATHROOM - SAME

Hands turn on the bath faucets. They test the water flowing from the spigot.

EXT. FIELDS - SAME

Stephen abruptly stops his play to feel the winds change.

INT. BATHROOM - SAME

A foot gingerly steps into the new bath.

EXT. FIELDS - SAME

Stephen remains motionless. From far off,

                                                        RAY(O.S.)
                                       Steee-phen!

Stephen bolts back to the farmhouse.

INT. BATHROOM - SAME

The woman slouches into the water.

INT. KITCHEN - MOMENTS LATER

Stephen excitedly sets the table for three while Ray moves hot food from stove to table.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       What's she look like?

                                                        RAY
                                       Uhh, I don't know. She's - she
                                       has short black hair, 'bout as
                                      tall as Pop.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       Is she pretty?

Ray turns with a dish of potatoes, placing them on the table.

                                                        RAY
                                       Ehh, she's eh - I suppose they'd
                                       say. Judge for yourself.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       Now?

                                                        RAY
                                       No, you go on and wash up now.
                                       I'll call her down for supper.

Stephen hurries to the sink.

                                                        RAY (O.S.)
                                       Ma'am?!

INT. POP'S ROOM - MOMENTS LATER

                                                        RAY
                                       Ma'am?

The room is unoccupied.

                                                        WOMAN (O.S.)
                                       Yes.

Ray pops back into the hallway.

INT. HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS

                                                        WOMAN (O.S.)
                                       In the bathroom.

Ray moves tenuously toward the open bathroom door. He peeks in to see the woman standing nude, toweling off. He quickly retracts in embarrassment.

                                                        RAY
                                       Oh my god! I'm sorry.

She laughs.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       You alright?

                                                        RAY
                                       Umm. Yeah. Supper's ready.

                                                        WOMAN (O.S.)
                                       Thank you. I'll be down in a
                                       minute.

Ray breathes out a short puff of air.

INT. KITCHEN - EVENING

The three eat in silence save for the old radio broadcasting a Pirates baseball game. Stephen picks at his food, mesmerized by the strange woman. She reciprocates his gaze with a wise smile. Ray observes.

                                                        RAY
                                       Stephen, eat your greens.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       I don't like them.

                                                        RAY
                                       Eat 'em anyway.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                                         (quietly)
                                       You make 'em crappy.

                                                        RAY
                                                       (swiftly)
                                       What'd you say, young man?

                                                        WOMAN
                                       Ya know, Stephen, greens is what
                                       gives you big strong muscles. All
                                      the girls like boys who eat their
                                      greens.

Stephen smiles at her sheepishly, attacks his greens with vigor. The woman smiles at Ray, who scowls at her success.

INT. STEPHEN'S ROOM- NIGHT

Stephen is tucked into bed, eyes closed, praying. Ray sits on the edge of his bed, in his own thoughts.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       And God bless Mommy and all the
                                       other people in heaven. And bless
                                       Daddy, and me, -and God, help Pop
                                      come back home safe and sound.

Ray looks at his son forlornly.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       We sure miss him. Amen.

Ray stands, then stops, as Stephen remembers a prayer.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       Oh wait! And God bless the nice
                                       lady who's staying here tonight.
                                      Amen.

Ray stands and-

                                                        STEPHEN
                                                         (stalling)
                                       Oh, and God bless all the
                                       Pittsburgh Pirates, help them win
                                      a game soon, and -

                                                        RAY
                                       Okay, that's enough, kid. I don't
                                       think God's too worried about
                                      baseball.

He tousles Stephen's hair and kisses him on the head.

                                                        RAY
                                       Good night, son.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       Night, Daddy. I love you.

                                                        RAY
                                       You too.

Ray flicks off the light.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       Daddy? I think she's pretty.

Ray nods and exits.

INT. HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS

As Ray walks past the woman's door, he hears muffled voices, like a conversation. He stops, puzzled. Deciding not to investigate, he moves on.

INT. ray's room - MOMENTS LATER

Ray sits on the edge of the double bed staring at the moonlight peeking through the shuttered window. At his feet lay an open suitcase. In his lap is a small, rectangular leather case.

Inside the suitcase are women's clothing, trinkets, photos from a happy life, and a death certificate for Maren Jane Coulter. Ray looks for a while at all that remains of his wife. Then,

                                                        RAY
                                       Not today.

He places the leather case under some clothes, closes the suitcase, and slides it back under the bed.

INT. RAY'S ROOM - next morning

Sunlight streams onto Ray's sleeping face from the window. His eyes creak open. From across the house, he hears Stephen and the woman laughing and singing, pans clanging, bacon sizzling. He sits up with a start.

INT. KITCHEN - MOMENTS LATER

Light pours into the room, kitchenware is everywhere. Stephen is on a stepstool beside the woman. They fix breakfast and sing, still in nightclothes.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       'I've got a mule, her name is Sal.'

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       'Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal!'

                                                        WOMAN
                                       'She's a good old worker and a good old
                                       pal.'

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       'Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal!'

                                                        WOMAN
                                       'We've hauled some barges-

                                                        RAY
                                                      (angrily)
                                       What the hell is this?

Stephen and the woman stop and turn, looking caught. The woman recovers.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       It's Sunday breakfast, silly. I'm
                                       boiling some water - you want tea?

                                                        RAY
                                                   (to the woman)
                                       What are you doing?

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       Dad, we're just fixin' breakfast.

                                                        WOMAN
                                       It's just breakfast, Ray.

Ray is about to speak when there's a KNOCK on the kitchen screen door.

                                                        JIMMY (O.S.)
                                       Morning, Ray. Everythin' alright?

JIMMY, police officer, 40s, white, trim, peers through the screen door. Ray regains his composure and goes to the door. A police cruiser is parked at the end of the driveway.

                                                        RAY
                                       Jimmy. What're y'all doin' out
                                       this way?

                                                        JIMMY
                                       We found him again.

Stephen rushes to the screen.

                                                        STEPHEN
                                       Pop!

                                                        JIMMY
                                       Hey there, Stephen.

Jimmy takes notice of the black woman in a nightgown in the kitchen.

                                                        JIMMY
                                       Who's your lady friend, buddy?

Ray darts out the door, taking Jimmy with him toward the cruiser. He shoots a warning look back at Stephen to stay.

EXT. FARMHOUSE - CONTINUOUS

                                                        JIMMY
                                       Stayin' dry?

Ray chuckles despondently.

                                                        RAY
                                       Looks like we'll lose half the
                                       crop again this year.

Jimmy winces sympathetically.

                                                        RAY
                                       Yep. Gotta figure somethin' out... So how is he?

                                                        JIMMY
                                       Ohhh, ornery as ever. And talkin'
                                       to himself, as always. He was out
                                      past McCallister's place this
                                      time.

The two share mutual disbelief. Jimmy opens the door for POP, 80s, small, sinewy and slightly senile.

                                                        POP
                                       I almost beat 'em this time, son!
                                       I almost made it!

The old man springs out of the car, muttering and lost.

                                                        RAY
                                       Hey Pop, how you feelin'?

                                                        POP
                                       Feel fine, fine. The ocean was in
                                       my sights!

Ray and Jimmy stare at each other sadly.

                                                        RAY
                                       Dad, thank Jimmy for bringin' you
                                       back home.

                                                        POP
                                       Thank him? For what? I almost
                                       made it, I tell ya.

                                                        RAY
                                       Sorry, Jimmy.

                                                        POP
                                       ...the sea was right there...

                                                        JIMMY
                                       No worries.

                                                        POP
                                       Humph! Thank him for what? For
                                       bringing me back to this
                                      graveyard?

                                                        RAY
                                       Dad!

Ray momentarily has Pop's full attention. Pop begins his muttering in more muted tones.

                                                        POP
                                       I could smell the water... it was
                                       beautiful...

                                                        RAY
                                       Jimmy, thank McCallister for me.

Jimmy nods.

                                                        POP
                                       I could hear the waves-

Pop stops in his tracks, transfixed by the woman standing in the kitchen doorway.

                                                        POP
                                       I could-, I could-, I could see...

Ray scrambles to get Jimmy on his way.

                                                        RAY
                                       Thanks again, Jim. I'll stop by
                                       the station this week!

Jimmy looks on skeptically as Ray moves Pop into the house.

(CONTINUED)