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, May – October 2006 Screenplay Contest – Full-Length Series


Written by Anita Skibski


A wealthy coalmine owner spirals into dangerous obsession over the wife of his best employee in small-town, 1950s Kentucky.


In a small, 1950s Kentucky coal town, the line between what belongs to him, and what does not begins to blur for wealthy mine owner, TJ Thomas. As he celebrates a mid-life birthday, TJ begins to feel the empty places in his life. He has no children and a loving, but busy, wife. Into his life walks Ruby Davis.

Ruby is the stunning young wife of Henry, TJ's best friend and best employee. TJ has great power as well as charisma and they are drawn to each other.

TJ’s fantasies about Ruby bloom into reality when he stumbles upon her bathing. He follows her to the schoolhouse later that night and gives in wholly to his temptation. His obsession with Ruby increases.

He sends Henry into a dangerous mine to drill test holes, hoping it will collapse. When it does, TJ realizes he has made a huge mistake and tries to right his wrong behavior…but it may be too late.




Springtime. The works of a coalmine is spread across the face of a crumbly mountain.

At the mine entrance is TJ THOMAS, 49, good-looking, confident face, intense eyes. He holds a clipboard and writes at the top of the form: April 19, 1954.

FRANK KITCHENS, company engineer, hearty, red-faced, and solid, joins TJ and they enter the mine.

Kitchens paces off sections of ground while TJ checks the map and records the results.
Sounds of DRILLING.

Three hundred
seventy-five due
west...good. These
numbers match up so

Well, sure.
Why wouldn't they?

Because every third
mine map I've ever
seen is wrong.
Sometimes bad wrong.

This one's good.

TJ turns the map over. A DISTINCTIVE RED STAIN stretches across a good third of it.

What in Sam Hill is

Some old boy spilled
a Nehi redpop down
on it. Still reads
just fine.

Okay, stop at the
split. What's your

Three hundred.

Good. Then it'll be
another sixty paces
straight back to the
working face. She
ends there.

I'll pace it off.

TJ writes on the clipboard until a shadow falls across it.

It don't end there.


It's two hundred
sixty paces to
the working face.

I hope you're wrong,
old man.

I count two hundred
sixty paces straight back.

Better be sixty.

I'm telling you --

Thomas jams the clipboard into Kitchens fat gut.

What's that say?

Says sixty feet.


TJ drops the clipboard and tears down tunnel. Kitchens huffs to keep up.

So, she's a little
more dug out than you
thought --

You making test holes
down there, or
drilling coal?

We're drilling coal.

TJ stops, shoves Kitchens to the wall, and talks in his face.

You've got about five
feet of barrier wall
between your drill
and a lake of sludge

That damn map says I
got two hundred!

Yeah. And every
third mine map is
wrong, you stupid

TJ breaks away and runs down tunnel.


An auger-style drill drags free great chunks of coal. Kitchens runs to the operator and waves his arms, shouting. The drill snorts to a stop.

Map's wrong! The
map's wrong! We're
too close to the

The stain gleams like blood in the beam of TJ's hat light.

You need to get this
checked out before we
talk about a sale.

I can understand

A small trickle of water pops through around the motionless drill embedded in the rock.

You drill any closer
to that underground
dead sea, and you
never see me again.

Another pop of seepage within view of the first. Both grow strong and steady. Kitchens waddles after TJ up tunnel.

MINER ONE signals a reverse-out to the operator. The other workers load each other with coils of rope and tools. The drill SQUEALS, then reverses out with sluggish reluctance.
The puddle beside the wall grows with frightening speed.


TJ and Kitchens walk toward the entrance.

I want clean test
holes or you got no


An angry HISS of water suddenly sprays in all directions around the retreating drill. There is no missing it now.

           MINER ONE (O.S.)


I'll drill 'em

Makes all the
difference in what
kind of money I'm
willing to pay.

If it's green and
sweet, I'm willing to
take it.

SHOUTS from deep in the mine tunnel. Panicked miners gallop into and past them.

           MINER 2
We hit water! We got
water coming in!

Shit! Are you sure?

Men pour like blackened rats through the tunnel. TJ runs deeper into the tunnel, hitting knee-deep rushing water.

Anybody else back

           MINER 3
Floyd! He's trying
to save the drill!

TJ plunges in. At an elbow in the tunnel, he sees FLOYD struggling, up to his shoulders in dark water.

Hey! You Floyd? Get
your butt outta

As Floyd slogs toward TJ, a gush of water THUNDERS from the lower tunnel. Floyd goes under, surfaces, YELLS, goes under again.

TJ SHOUTS, watching for Floyd to surface. He does not. TJ finds a rope and sloshes in after Floyd.
He SHOUTS twice for Floyd. Finally, a floundering arm rises from the churning water followed by Floyd's GASPING, spitting face.

TJ grabs him, and they thrash against the heavy pull of rushing water. Floyd loses his footing again, bringing TJ down with him.

TJ's hand is yanked from its grip on the rope. Tangled together, the two men crash with the current into the rock walls, groping for wall spikes.

Finally, the frayed end of a rope brushes TJ's face. He seizes it, and hauls them to safety.
They slosh out and lie crumpled, soaked and PANTING. TJ gives Floyd a light swat upside the head.

You idiot! Trying to
save a damned drill!
That drill ain't
going no place!

He pulls Floyd to his feet and they stagger to high ground.


TJ and Floyd emerge from the mine entrance, wet and tired.

Okay, seal off this
entrance and close
her down.

Close it?

We can't work it 'til
we know how the
barriers are holding.

The miners move to oblige.

The rest of you go on
home. This mine is
closed until further

The tired miners droop in defeat.

Hey, listen up! You
all that live close
to Geness Creek Mine,
head over there
tomorrow. Rest of
you go to Timberwood.
We'll find you some
paying work.

Relief. Kitchens claps TJ on the shoulder.

I may still take her
at scrap value. I'll
let you know.

The gate SLAMS shut and locks on Cowbird Hollow Mine. TJ drives away in a THOMAS COAL COMPANY truck.

At a crossroads, TJ stops the truck and takes out a small notebook. Inside is a list of names, some untouched, some crossed off, many circled.

TJ draws a careful circle around COWBIRD HOLLOW MINE.


TJ drives by low income homes, farms, tobacco fields, and running horses.


A sign reading WELCOME TO FORD'S GAP.

TJ drives down the main street, past the schoolhouse, a baseball field, rows of identical company houses, a feed store, a filling station.

TJ passes the Davis house, where RUBY DAVIS is just coming out the back door. TJ slows and watches Ruby until a truck comes up behind him and HONKS. When he drives away, the truck slows and stops.

In the driver's seat is CLYDE CARY, 30s, grizzled beard, looks like he smells bad. He stares at Ruby with unpleasant intensity.


Ruby is in her early 30s and gorgeous. She carries a basket to the wire-fenced chicken yard, and enters the henhouse.

She gathers eggs, moving down the row of brooder boxes. She stumbles, and looks down at a crumpled bundle of colorful feathers.

Oh, no! No, no!

She runs to the door in time to see a large brown HOUND loping away. He has another limp bundle in his mouth.

You hateful old

Ruby picks up clods of red clay and flings them after the thieving mutt. The dog YIPES and drops the chicken, escaping around the house.

Ruby picks up the limp bird with regret and anger. As she stares at it, her eyes harden with a new idea.


TJ drives under a gate sign reading PRESTON-FORD Coalmine.

He parks near an office building with another sign that reads THOMAS COAL COMPANY HEADQUARTERS. TJ sits in his car.

Miners' hat lights blink in the growing gloom as the men line up at the pay window.

           FIRST MINER
Hey, bonus! Bonus!

           SECOND MINER
Bonus? Everybody get

           FIRST MINER
Says 'Bonus for
Achieving Goal'.

           SECOND MINER
We been topping the
day goal by twenty-
five tons for weeks
now. That's why.

           THIRD MINER
I ain't never pulled
a bonus in nine years
at Harlan. Got
docked for breaking a
bad drill once. But
never seen no bonus.

           SECOND MINER
Well, son, TJ Thomas
ain't your Harlan

The miners pull TJ out of his truck, shaking his hand. TJ smiles. He catches the arm of a passing man, GRISSOM, 20s, lanky with a reckless face. TJ fixes Grissom with a look and points with his chin at the office door.

Grissom nods with the look of a dog caught peeing the rug.


TJ sits at his desk. On the desk is a capped Mason jar of clear liquid. Grissom sits across from TJ.

I can't have it,
Grizz. I just cannot
have it.

I know, sir.

I cannot have it in
my mine. Not now,
not ever.

I understand, sir.
I'm real sorry, sir.

Men drink this stuff,
they get sloppy.
Sloppy men break
equipment. Sloppy
men get men killed.
I can't have it.

I know, sir. It's
the first I ever
made, and I wanted to
show it to ole --

I don't think I've
ever been more
serious in my life,

Grissom looks down.

If I ever hear you've
brought home brew
into my mine again,
you're boxing
groceries for the
rest of your life.
You hear me?

Yes, sir.

You hear me talking
to you?

Yes, sir.


HUFFMAN, 22 and serious-faced, peeks his head in the door.

Yes, Mr. Thomas?

Huffy, Mr. Grissom
here needs to empty
his slop jar. Can
you show him around
to the back and watch
him do it?

Yes, sir.

He'll be right with

Huffy closes the door behind him.

Huffy is a nice,
quiet boy. That's
what I like about
him. He don't run
around telling my
business. Understand

Yes, sir.

On the other hand,
if I was to tell him to,
he can make sure
everybody from your
Granny to your
girlfriend hears
about this.

I understand, sir.

Don't ever make me
bring you in here

Grissom takes his jar and opens the door.

Thank you for letting
me stay, Mr. Thomas.

Go on, now.

TJ sits back in his chair.