First-Place Winner, November 2006 – April 2007
Screenplay Contest – Full-Length Series
Written by Jonathan Harnisch
Student with Tourette’s syndrome overcomes his inner demons with help from a few improbable relationships.
We meet RYAN ALEXANDER, 17, as his parents drive him to Wakefield Academy, a posh prep school in New Hampshire. Ryan, who suffers from Tourette’s and has numerous tics and eccentricities, arrives at the school amid several students’ derisive laughter. However, one student MARILYN CAMPBELL and a teacher MISS AUSTIN are sympathetic and attempt to mitigate the effect of the students’ teasing, specifically that of JASON OZER and RANDY WYMAN, who with their girlfriends Marilyn and SUSAN OLSEN, tease Ryan mercilessly. Ryan works for the school library, keeps a journal, and drinks in his dorm. Marilyn tries opening up to Ryan, who obviously has a crush on her.
Ryan’s life soon settles into a routine – working in the
library, getting drunk at the local bar and writing in his journal. In the philosophy class that he and Marilyn and the others take, Ryan shows an interest in the class that the other students don’t. He tells Miss Austin that he suffers from a form of Tourette’s Syndrome, which causes him to nervously twitch and stutter uncontrollably, especially in tense situations.
Jason has been pressuring Marilyn to sleep with him, but she’s not ready for that yet. She learns from him that Ryan is only attending Wakefield Academy because of a scholarship, the same way she was admitted. That evening Ryan gets arrested for public intoxication, and Miss Austin gets him released. She drops him off at his dorm building. After discovering he doesn’t have his keys, he tries to climb up a drain pipe but falls to the ground. Marilyn had been watching and rushes out to help him. He takes her to a cliff overlooking the coast just as the sun starts to rise. She chastises him for his drinking.
Marilyn and Ryan start spending more time with each other, much to Jason’s consternation. Jason sneaks into Ryan’s room one night and discovers Ryan’s journal, including an entry that declares Ryan’s love for Marilyn. Jason steals the journal and hurls it off the cliff. Miss Austin invites Ryan to lunch with her, and he shares a bit about himself with her.
Ryan discovers his journal is missing. He goes for a walk to the cliff and finds Marilyn sitting there, crying. She tells him about Jason’s pressuring her for sex. The two spend the day together, becoming better acquainted. She tells him about her father having committed suicide, and that she sometimes wants to do the same because she misses him so much. Jason bumps into them and pulls Marilyn away.
During another lunch, Miss Austin reveals that Ryan reminds her of her late sister who suffered from cerebral palsy. The sister died, and Miss Austin holds herself somewhat to blame. Ryan tells her that he’s going to enter the essay contest held at the school. Sometime later, Miss Austin finds Ryan crying at the cliff. She tells him that he needs to accept himself as he is.
One day Jason, standing outside the classroom window, hurls a rock at Ryan’s face. The impact swells Ryan’s eye up, and
drives him into a rage, causing him to throw books and desks around,
screaming. He retreats to his room and destroys that too.
Suddenly, he snaps out of it. Later, he tells Miss Austin he’s given up smoking and drinking. He has started writing his memoirs. He tries apologizing to Marilyn for his outburst, but she’s hurt that he treated her as if she were Jason.
Weeks pass into months. Ryan has managed to stay clean and work on his memoirs, even having to start again from scratch after Jason destroys his computer. Miss Austin’s job is threatened by the parents of the other students who feel she’s being generous to Ryan and Marilyn. Dean Winterbourne encourages her to be more lenient to the other students, and tells her that he will be sitting in on her class for the rest of the year. Marilyn goes missing one day. Ryan rushes to the cliff to look for her, but is shocked to find her lifeless body sprawled in a tree.
Ryan finishes his memoirs for the essay contest. He wins, but is told by Miss Austin that she won’t be returning next year. The story ends on graduation day and with Ryan’s proudly introducing his parents to Miss Austin.
EXT. INTERSTATE I-87 – DAY
The leaves are falling off the trees. The colors of fall give life to the New England countryside. RYAN ALEXANDER (17) is in the back seat of an aging sedan, looking out the window. Two figures, who never turn around, are in the front seat. A huge trunk is tied to the roof of the car, a bike's on the back.
EXT. WAKEFIELD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – DAY
A small blue-collar neighborhood near the coast. Turn-of-the century colonial homes, sidewalks, large grass lawns, a train station, your everyday necessity shops. A children's playground and park. A pizza place. A bike shop. A couple restaurants and a vintage luncheonette.
BICYCLISTS, JOGGERS, PEDESTRIANS and MOPED RIDERS line Main Street, in the center of town. Yellow wooden arrows point toward the school grounds. They read: WELCOME WAKEFIELD STUDENTS.
Just around the corner from the remarkable school arches and vast grounds in the background is the old run down shady bar ("THE PEN") near the corner of the street. The HOMELESS and DRUNK hang around outside with their paper bagged bottles and flasks.
The car with Ryan inside comes to a red light. Ryan notices the LOWLIFES, DERELICTS and BIKERS and the backdrop to their local getaway spot. The traffic light turns green. The beautiful campus is just around the corner.
EXT. MAIN STREET - DAY
The WAKEFIELD TRACK TEAM runs in unison with yellow jerseys
past the blue and gold signpost: WAKEFIELD ACADEMY VETUS TAMEN IUVENESCO FOUNDED 1892
EXT. WAKEFIELD ACADEMY - CONTINUOUS
The car stops in front of the main building where several luxury cars are parked. PARENTS, STUDENTS, FACULTY, DEAN WINTERBOURNE (50s), and MISS AUSTIN (40s) mill about. Parents and students are dressed in high-end clothing. JASON OZER, short, stocky, tough and RANDY WYMAN, (both 18) stand apart from the other students. With them are MARILYN CAMPBELL (Ozer's girlfriend, 18) and SUSAN OLSEN (Wyman's girlfriend, 18).
Ryan jumps out of the car; he's dressed in jeans, baseball cap, T-shirt, and sport coat. Dark glasses cover his eyes. He looks around the campus and grimaces, bobs his head, then stretches one arm over his head and scratches his ear. Ozer notices, nudges Randy; they both start laughing, as does Susan. Marilyn glances in Ryan's direction, turns back to her friends but doesn't laugh. Miss Austin notices this exchange, frowns.
INT. DORMITORY - CONTINUOUS
Students crowd the halls, calling to one another good naturedly, as together they locate their rooms and roommates. Ryan, alone, lugging his trunk half hops, half skips down the hall looking for his room.
Finally, at the end of the hall, Ryan finds his room; it's a single.
INT. RYAN'S ROOM - CONTINUOUS
Ryan unpacks, puts away his clothes, sets up his computer and the like.
The last thing he unpacks is a flask, which he jams underneath the mattress. Then he sits on the bed and begins writing in his journal.
EXT. WAKEFIELD CAMPUS - MORNING
Students hurry to classes. Ryan walks -- step-step-step-hop.
INT. MISS AUSTIN'S CLASSROOM - CONTINUOUS
Ryan walks into the classroom with his books. He picks a seat in the back of the room, sits down and places his books on his desk. He looks at all his CLASSMATES seated in the room through his sunglasses. He wears a hat. Some other boys do, too.
On the board is written: “We agree that what is holy is loved by the gods because it is holy, and not holy because it is loved by the gods.” --Socrates. Marilyn and Ozer sit two rows over and a couple of seats in
front of Ryan. Ozer glances back at Ryan, nudges Marilyn; she
ignores Ozer. Ryan drops his gaze.
Expectations for this class are on
the syllabus, as are my rules,
which are very simple: No late
assignments, tardiness, or talking
out of turn.
The students talk among themselves.
MISS AUSTIN (CONT’D)
And no hats, no shades.
Ryan removes his hat and shades. The other boys remove theirs.
Miss Austin hands out the syllabus.
MISS AUSTIN (CONT’D)
Also, a big heads-up. Come January,
the competition for the prestigious
Winterbourne Memorial Scholarship
for the most outstanding senior
writing -- any topic -- opens.
Ryan glances at Marilyn, notices her legs, which are crossed
at an angle and partially in the aisle.
MISS AUSTIN (CONT’D)
I'd encourage all of you to enter --
nothing ventured, nothing gained --
but more on this later in the
Ryan drops his gaze to Marilyn's feet, open toed shoes, pink toenail
polish halfway coming off.
MISS AUSTIN (CONT’D)
For now, let’s get started.
Marilyn looks back at Ryan, dead into his eyes, no expression,
purposefully moves her legs out of the aisle.
MISS AUSTIN (CONT’D)
And what better place to start...
Miss Austin points to the quote on the board.
MISS AUSTIN (CONT’D)
Than with Socrates.
Ryan catches Marilyn's eyes then looks down at his book.
INT. RYAN'S ROOM - EVENING
Ryan studies on his bed. Outside his window, sound of students passing by, joking and laughing. Ryan goes to the window, watches the students disappear. He returns to studying, reaches beneath the mattress, pulls
out a flask of whiskey, gulps it down.
EXT. HILL OVERLOOKING PRACTICE FIELD - DAY
Ryan stands watching the LACROSSE TEAM practicing. Ozer and Wyman are among the players; Marilyn and Susan and several SENIOR GIRLS stand on the sidelines. Ryan stares at the field for several seconds, occasionally squinting and twitching, as the sounds of laughter and camaraderie drift up to him. At last he turns and walks off, alone, down the tree-lined path. As he shuffles along, he hops on one foot, every third step.
INT. SCHOOL LIBRARY - DAY
A large text book is closed. Ryan turns the book around. Hands it to a student.
Back by the twenty-fifth.
Ozer approaches the counter, hunches over and swivels his head back and forth. His tongue hangs out. Wyman laughs, looks around, and approaches as the leader's backup. Fighting back his wariness and susceptibility, Ryan turns his back on the boys and begins placing returned books on a cart.
Susan, in low-cut jeans and hair spray laughs. Marilyn doesn't. Marilyn dresses more conservatively than the other girls. It makes her that much more appealing.
The boys stand in front of Ryan, staring intensely at him for a long couple of seconds, without a word, causing Ryan's face to turn red. Ryan succeeds, for the moment, in suppressing his twitching. But when enough emotional damage is done, Ryan is relieved and unloads all the tics he held inside in huge heaps.
There we go. That a boy. Let it
out. Let it all out.
Wyman crosses his arms.
Mmmm, would you look at that.
Ozer and Wyman look at one another in self-congratulation. Ozer turns
to Ryan with his hand out.
Good to meet you.
But Ryan won't shake it. Ozer bows, withdraws his hand.
THE BOYS LACROSSE CLIQUE approaches Wyman and Ozer, greeting
one another, slapping hands, all smiles. They're all wearing gym sweats. As the boys head out, Susan keeps up with them in good spirits. She sees Marilyn back by the checkout counter.
You coming, M?
Marilyn looks down.
I’ll catch up later.
Susan continues giggling with the boys as they walk away. Ryan watches the boys' easy camaraderie. Marilyn moves to the counter. She follows the line of Ryan’s eyes and sees that he’s watching the boys. Ryan waits for her to state her business.
That was ass of them.
I'm used to it.
It was still ass of them.
Do you have the text for Miss
First period or seventh?
We're in the same class, you know.
I know you saw me.
Ryan ducks under the counter, looking for the book.
It's got a blue cover.
(singing to himself)
Red balloon, green balloon. Will
you find my blue balloon. Red
balloon, blue balloon. This
balloon's for you.
Having found the book, he pops back up, hands it to Marilyn.
That was lame. Sorry. Sorry. Just a
tune. Tune Balloon. Tooney and
He laughs nervously at himself but Ryan still won't look Marilyn in the eyes. His shirt's filthy now with dust and dirt smudges. Marilyn giggles.
(in the dark)
Ryan looks down at the front of his shirt.
Ah, fuck. Sorry. Who cares, it's
still dress code.
Marilyn takes a small coin purse from her backpack and
removes her student photo I.D. Ryan waves it away.
I don't need I.D.
She shows him her I.D.
It’s last year’s picture.
What do you mean?
I fell out of a tree. Landed flat
on my face. See?
The photograph shows Marilyn smiling bright with a puffy lip and black eyes.
Ryan hints a smile, his lips quiver.
Fuckin-A. What were you doing
Marilyn tries to look Ryan in the eyes. She bends even lower, but Ryan won’t meet her gaze.
Marilyn turns and looks at the boys, still behaving like apes in the
distance. She turns back and starts for the door.
I've gotta go. But you have to
check me off. My name's Campbell,
Marilyn. Campbell, like the soup.
Ryan. Campbell. Marilyn. Campbell.
Ryan. Alex-Alexander. Shit.
They shake hands, Marilyn arches back.
Firm grip, Ryan Alexander.
It's nice to meet you.
You, too. Are you related?
To the soup.
The sou-pa. You never know around
here, do you?
She shakes her head negatively. Walking away, Marilyn turns her head
back to Ryan.
Ryan turns around to watch her walk past the turnstile.
He mutters Marilyn's name repeatedly to himself obsessively, lost in
thoughts of her.
INT. RYAN'S ROOM - NIGHT
Ryan on the bed studies. Sound of students below draws him to the
Students disappear; Ryan returns to the bed, resumes studying, seems
distracted. He closes the book, pulls on a jacket, goes downstairs.
EXT. WAKEFIELD CAMPUS - CONTINUOUS
Sound of students is faint; Ryan hurries after them, but far enough away
that they can't see him. Snatches of conversation drift back to him.
EXT. THE PEN - LATER
Ryan stands outside the bar as groups of students go in and out
the door. Ryan stands there several seconds before pushing the door
INT. THE PEN - CONTINUOUS
The place is smoky, filled with students. Ryan approaches the bar, signals the bartender.
Ryan nods 'yes.'
INT. MISS AUSTIN'S CLASSROOM - DAY
Students are goofing off. Marilyn's holding her nose with her tongue out.
Miss Austin, stands by the window, then opens it.
Ryan's startled by the sudden scraping sound. Miss Austin tosses a piece
of chalk out, dusts off her hands and heads back to the front of the room.
True or false? The chalk that I
just tossed out the window hit the
The students look at one another, all smirks and rolling eyes.
True? How do you know?
The chalk flies back through the window. The students laugh.
Surprised, Miss Austin darts back to the window.
Wyman and Ozer walk away, laughing. Ozer looks back at Miss Austin
You dropped something, Miss A.
Thanks, but the two of you are late
Miss Austin walks around the room looking at each student individually,
a little imposing. The class is pretty diverse, by race and dress, but not
by the looming lack of interest in this class.
MISS AUSTIN (CONT’D)
Okay, so assuming there are no
Wymans or Ozers out there to throw
the chalk back at us.
Marilyn raises her hand. Miss Austin points to her.
MISS AUSTIN (CONT’D)
Yes. Marilyn, is it?
Marilyn nods 'yes,' looks at Ryan for a moment.
He sticks his tongue out
at her, like a frog catching flies. It's a tic disguised by means of
Um, the chalk could have landed in
Ryan traces the letter “M” over and over on his notebook with his pencil
until it breaks through the paper. He begins talking to himself.
(under his breath)
Alright. Alright. Alright.
True. The chalk could have landed
in a bush. Or a bird could have
swooped down and thought it was a
(muttering to himself)
Bush. Bush. Tasty snack. Tasty, I
say. She's saying it's a good snack.
Nobody else hears him; he conceals it well.
Some students nod, with knitted brows at the teacher. Some, like TODD
HENDRICKS, oaf, stoner, stare vacantly. Ozer and Wyman enter the
room, take seats in the back. Miss Austin acknowledges their entrance.
But let’s assume it’s a straight
fall directly to the ground. Does
the chalk make it?
ELIZABETH WINTERS, "I should've stayed in public school," tall, ditzy, stereotypical, unoriginal, and others roll their eyes like the whole thing is stupid.
Ryan grows visibly more nervous as time elapses. He turns a page of his notebook and completes a complex geometrical design. He starts on a sketch of an angel. Ryan goes back to tracing the “M,” still talking to himself.
(muttering to himself)
Dude. Fuck Wyman. Dude. Fuck Ozer.