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 2011
Screenplay Contest - Full-Length Series

"The Cullings Principle"

Written by Christine Autrand Mitchell

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine Autrand Mitchell grew up in four countries and splits her time between writing and filmmaking. She is a Screenwriter, Producer, Director and Casting Director, and heads Entandem Productions. Christine coaches actors and writers, is a freelance editor, and also writes plays, fiction and non-fiction.

Additional Writer Information:
Christine@entandemprod.com
http://www.EntandemProd.com
http://www.facebook.com/christine.autrand.mitchell
http://twitter.com/dilettantegal
http://christineautrandmitchell.blogspot.com
http://kingsriverlife.com
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2960367

LOGLINE

When you think you’ve lost everything, you may find destiny… In the heart of Victorian era London, the young attorney, Owen Cullings, searches for his beloved sister, reported dead in a brief letter. Convinced it’s a mistake, his charm and boyish looks allow his search through both high society and the city’s underbelly, as he comes to terms with both. After months of fruitless searching and growing deathly ill, he investigates his final lead, and uncovers what his career hasn’t prepared him for – discovering truths in himself…

SYNOPSIS

In the heart of Victorian era London, the young attorney, Owen Cullings, searches for his beloved sister, reported dead in a brief letter. Convinced it’s a mistake, his charm and boyish looks allow him to search for her in both high society and the city’s underbelly. But after months of fruitless searching and becoming deathly ill, he investigates his final lead, the enigmatic Leopold Mahler, to uncover more than his world travels had ever prepared him for.

LEGAL NOTICE

The Cullings Principle screenplay, copyright, and story idea below are owned by Christine Autrand Mitchell. No copying of any of the below pages is allowed unless approved by owner.

SCRIPT FOLLOWS

FADE IN:

INT. ALIQUIS HOUSE - MERYTON'S OFFICE - DAY

At a desk in an upscale legal office overstuffed with books and briefs, elderly MERYTON writes a letter. The V.O. spans the scene:

                   MERYTON (V.O.)
20th of June, 1855. Mr. Cullings,
We regret to inform you, by way of
this lamentably insolent and
impersonal letter, of the death of
Anna Liese Cullings on the Fifth
day of June of our year 1855.
Please be comforted by the news
that her burial was attended to
lovingly. Yours Truly, Lester
Mertyon, Esquire, London

The office is on a busy upscale section of Fleet Street. London is an overcrowded labyrinth of streets, buildings, parks and squares. The sky is smoky and overcast.

Beyond, the Atlantic is limitless. A steamship speeds toward New York, though farther inland cities lie
scattered. Under a jaundiced evening sky, Cincinnati grows industrial out of a bucolic valley.

SUPER: "4 JULY, 1855 CINCINNATI, OHIO - CULLINGS RESIDENCE"

In a middle-class neighborhood, a Georgian hosts an Independence Day party. MUSIC and VOICES are indistinct.

INT. SALON - EVENING

In a modestly furnished salon with world-wide tribal pieces, ladies watch OWEN CULLINGS politely escape them. He's a tall, well dressed 26 year old attorney with pink cheeks and blond curls. MR. CULLINGS, prematurely aged, crumples a letter into his son's hand and teeters away.

After reading it, Owen goes to a daguerreotype of his younger sister, Anna Liese, who resembles him. Their
frail mother, MRS. CULLINGS, looks on.

INT. SALON - NIGHT

Outside the guests admire colorful FIREWORKS while inside, in the darkness, Mrs. Cullings breaks down on the floor, her skirts encircle her like a puddle.

Mr. Cullings and Owen collect her with difficulty and seat her between them. The BLASTS cast grizzly shadows
but drown out his mother's wails.

One of the guests enters and approaches them. Mrs. Cullings succumbs to her grief.

DREAM SEQUENCE - INT. ANNA LIESE'S LONDON ROOM - NIGHT

Anna Liese falls dead onto worn floorboards. A drop of blood spills from her lips. She stares into nothing.

INT. OWEN'S ROOM - MORNING (BACK TO PRESENT)

Owen wakes and goes to the window: it's like any other day except for the assembly of mourners.

INT. SALON - LATER

Mirrors are covered in black crepe. Mourners pray. Mrs. Cullings looks infirmed while Mr. Cullings wanders, signs of dementia apparent. Owen answers the door as AMELIE ROUSSARD, a pretty look-alike, accompanies him.

                   AMELIE
You have all of our sympathies.
She will watch over you from Heaven
as no other angel has ever done--

                   OWEN
(generic RP)
Amelie, I should have asked you to
dinner the other night, but it
would have been inconsiderate on
such short notice.

Owen lets the mourners in as Amelie guides them. The ladies distract him with condolences while his father
escapes. Owen redirects him toward the house.

                   OWEN (CONT'D)
Come Father, let's return home.
It's not time for your walk yet.

                   AMELIE
Come, Professor Cullings.

He ignores the ladies as he gathers his effects at the coat rack. Mr. Cullings speaks a refined Midlands.

                   MR. CULLINGS
Owen, where are you going?

                   OWEN
To work... Nothing I can do here.

                   MRS. CULLINGS
                 (refined Derbyshire)
There are arrangements to make.
It's only been a day.

Owen enters the room and interrupts the mourners.

                  OWEN
No, it's been a month, according
to Meryton's letter. I need to
find out more.

                  MRS. CULLINGS
Your sister would veer you to proper
manners and polite retorts.

                  OWEN
Ah, but Anna Liese isn't here.

                  MRS. CULLINGS
Be polite, young ladies are present.

He kisses his mother's cheek and escapes.

EXT. DOWNTOWN CINCINNATI - OWEN'S OFFICE - LATER

Owen hurries into his office building. The sign reads: "Prater, Wilson and Cullings, Attorneys at Law".

INT. OWEN'S OFFICE - MOMENTS LATER

Owen sweeps inside followed by his young clerk, TIMOTHY.

                  OWEN
...and I need Prater's contact in
London. I don't recall his name,
Timothy. He knows.

                  TIMOTHY
Yes, Mr. Cullings... I'm very
sorry for your loss.

Ignored, Timothy leaves. Owen hovers over his calendar to turn back pages of appointments and court dates.
Scribbled on 5 June: "Dinner - Prater, 7 o'clock Steady!" He falls into his chair, then begins his work.

INT. CULLINGS HOME - SALON - NIGHT

SUPER: "14 AUGUST, 1855"

Owen paces holding Meryton's letter. He looks tired but his parents have endured the loss better.

                  MR. CULLINGS
You ought not leave at a time like
this.

                  OWEN
It's been six weeks since the
letter. There's been no response.
           (beat)
You should know. I arranged a pin
account and it hasn't been touched
since the end of May. That is why
I want to go. Exactly who attended
her burial 'lovingly'?

                  MR. CULLINGS
For God's sake--

                  OWEN
I've received no word. It's
ludicrous to believe it was her at
all. It must have been a dreadful
mistake. London is overcrowded.
Prater tells me cholera is rampant.

                  MR. CULLINGS
Has she written? There's your
answer. You're an impudent child--

                  OWEN
Who knows her best but her own
family? Who could have identified
her properly? Anyone can fall off
the walk and land unluckily under
a post carriage--

Mr. Cullings struggles to his feet and departs but loses his way in the hall. Owen pleads with his mother:

                  OWEN (CONT'D)
Or look too far over a bridge and
go head first into the Thames, not
to be pulled out for weeks.

                  MRS. CULLINGS
You've removed yourself from the
docket. What have you been doing?
          (beat)
Anna Liese has been called to God
for her goodness early.

                  OWEN
If your God has any compassion
whatsoever, He would allow her to
to continue her good works here!

                  MRS. CULLINGS
We're not as strong as we once
were... It's God's will, my son.

INT. SS BALTIC - STEAMER'S DINING HALL - NIGHT

Charismatic Owen Cullings struggles through his dinner at the CAPTAIN'S table.

The first-class dining room sparkles with mirrors and crystal, and overdressed diners.

SUPER: "19 SEPTEMBER, 1855"

Owen sees the mothers as vampish and the husbands too full of drink; the young women and men practically glow.

MRS. DODE places her plump fingers upon Owen's hand.

                  MRS. DODE
Tell us about your work, Mr.
Cullings. How very exciting.

                  OWEN
Yes, working for the confused
underprivileged inappropriately
capitalized or failed to be
believed, and the wealthy auspicious
whose guilt is a matter of semantics
is indeed exciting.

Confused, Mrs. Dode titters and the other ladies follow.

Owen sees Anna Liese at the end of the table. She teases him but after his plate is cleared she's gone. His POCKET WATCH RINGS THREE SULLEN NOTES: 10 o'clock. Charming:

                  OWEN (CONT'D)
I must excuse myself from your
unrivaled company.

Owen bows and leaves the ladies atwitter. He attracts the usual attention but hurries through the narrow paneled corridors to arrive in near panic at his cabin.

INT. SS BALTIC - OWEN'S CABIN - CONTINUOUS ACTION

During Anna Liese's V.O., Owen pulls out her last letter from a hidden compartment in his valise and sniffs it.
On his bunk he traces her name, then embraces it.

                  ANNA LIESE (V.O.)
15th of May, 1855. Dearest Owen,
It grows hot and humid as I search
for relief in the shade of the
splendid gardens at my disposal.
I have grown accustomed to new
routines as well as attuned myself
again to life. I am truly thankful
to have rediscovered beauty...

EXT. SS BALTIC - DECK - DAY

As Anna Liese's V.O. concludes, Owen stands among passengers on the windy, cold deck of the steamer to watch the castle ruins on Cape Clear.

Colorful boats travel the River Mersey as Owen enters the customs house where his trunk and valise are searched. He can't evade the mothers with their daughters.

                   ANNA LIESE (V.O.)
I fear your promise will be broken,
either by my own fortune or by
Mother's fixation to find you a
suitable wife. You must endure it
alone for your own benefit. There
is little I can offer but a reunion
after two years' time. I will
have much to tell. My love to
Mother and Father. Your Ever Loving
Sister, Anna Liese Cullings

On a foggy street, RATS SCURRY ON the COBBLES and CHEAP LAUGHTER RINGS OUT. Owen, with valise, heads to an Inn.

INT. LIVERPOOL TRAIN STATION - EARLY NEXT MORNING

Owen gets comfortable in his Parliamentary train compartment. It ROLLS OUT amid VOICES and WHISTLES.

INT. TRAIN - LATER

Owen pulls out his notes from the valise as the green countryside flitters past nestling villages and farms.

The passengers in first class look comfortable. Second class is less cozy. Passengers in third class's open car
battle smoke and seared shavings from the track.

INT. FENCHURCH STATION - LATE EVENING

Owen walks under the vaulted ceiling, his TRUNK PULLED by a young Porter. He looks at every woman and follows a familiar hat outside onto the CROWDED WALK: not Anna Liese. The Porter hails a CARRIAGE on the crowded streets.

                   OWEN
Draggon Inn, please.

EXT. DRAGGON INN - SHORT TIME LATER

On a muddy, packed road where streetlights are being lit, Owen's carriage stops at an old building with a sign:
"Draggon Inn". Owen looks puzzled as he steps out with his valise. The DRIVER struggles with his trunk.

                   DRIVER
Not far, is it? Sure you don't
want the George or Vulture Inn?

MR. SMITH, the Innkeeper, a tall, plain man younger than he looks, unloads barrels from a dray cart. He taunts the young men who help him.

                   MR. SMITH
Are ya 'ere ta'elp? You're young
and sprite...

                   OWEN
Good Evening. I'm seeking lodgings
for a few weeks at most.

                   MR. SMITH
You would be. I'm Smith.
            (to trunk)
Is tha' all?

Owen nods so the Driver leaves it. Smith directs the young men to help then goes inside. Owen follows.

INT. DRAGGON INN - CONTINUOUS ACTION

Mr. Smith steps behind the counter and starts anew. He pushes the directory toward Owen with a quill. TAVERN SOUNDS leak in through the arches.

                   MR. SMITH
Wha' brings you, Mr.... Cullings?

                   OWEN
Owen Cullings, Esquire. Business
from America. I might have callers
and I will need a desk in my room.

                   MR. SMITH
Tha's fair. You'll find everything
'ere. Mrs. Smith will 'ave supper
shortly.

Smith leads the way. Owen peeks inside the tavern-restaurant, filled with mostly working class patrons.

As Mr. Smith talks, they climb a narrow stairwell and manage a dark hall interrupted by doors. At the end it
juts right, to an open door and a wedge of light.

                   MR. SMITH (CONT'D)
Supper's round dark, dinner at
noon, breakfast at dawn. Mrs.
Smith don't like latecomers. No
overnight guests - we're not that
sort'a place. You can make your
toilet before supper. 'Ere's your
key. Are ya' expectin' any visitors
this night?

                   OWEN
No, Mr. Smith, not tonight.

                   MR. SMITH
Your turnk'll be up presently.

Mr. Smith leads Owen into the plain, colorless room. The only window, in the far corner, is open and has exterior shutters and simple curtains the breeze flutters. Owen closes his eyes as he inhales deeply and his curls waver.

                   OWEN
Is there a garden beyond?

Mr. Smith shakes his head incredulously and leaves. From his valise, Owen sets up his desk: an old Bradshaw Guide, documents and paper, and portraits of Anna Liese. Then he sits on his bed in the quiet stillness.

INT. DRAGGON INN - TAVERN - NEXT MORNING

A visible atmosphere hangs between yellowed walls. MRS. SMITH - a young, shy, worn simile of Anna Liese - hides a missing tooth and heads toward Owen with a pitcher.

                   MRS. SMITH
You like the chaps?

He pushes aside his notes. Mouth full, he nods: Good.

                   OWEN
What are they? Chaps?

                   MRS. SMITH
Pig's cheeks.

Mrs. Smith moves on, but he watches her.

EXT. DRAGGON INN - STREET - LATER

Owen waits for a carriage in front of the Inn as Mr. Smith tells a raucous story to the regulars. He walks instead.

EXT. GREATER LONDON - SERIES OF SHOTS - OVER SEVERAL DAYS

Owen arrives at Green Man to catch a congested Omnibus.

At Tottenham's crowded shopping district, he hires a cab to take him down Oxford Street. Awnings, signs and facades delineate the contiguous tall buildings.

Uniformed men can't keep the carriages and cabs in the proper directions on the four lane street.

The Driver still cannot find the Oxford Street address along the circle of manicured homes and gardens.

FLASHBACK - EXT. CULLINGS GARDEN - AUTUMN - EVENING

Anna Liese walks with Owen after a rain storm.

                   ANNA LIESE
I want to visit England.

                   OWEN
I can't leave now, I'm on four
cases.

                   ANNA LIESE
Owen... I'm to be a private teacher
in London.

                   OWEN
I would've expected Italy or Greece--

                   ANNA LIESE
I can visit with family, as if I'm
like everyone else, and you can
marry, making Mother proud--

                   OWEN
Who would I marry?!
             (beat, softer)
Since when do you care about that?

                   ANNA LIESE
It doesn't much matter what we do.
(beat)
I'm a happy spinster, Owen, so
it's much too late for me. But
it's not too late for you...

EXT. OXFORD STREET - CONTINUOUS ACTION (BACK TO PRESENT)

Owen leaves the cab to approach neighbors and drab nannies with prams and small children. No one can help him.

He walks through side streets to Berkeley Square and eats among the elite at Gunter's Tea Shop. No one there recognizes the address or Anna Liese's picture.

INT. DRAGGON INN - OWEN'S ROOM - THAT NIGHT

There's a signature rap at the door. Owen hesitates, drowsy at his desk. Mrs. Smith is timid, with a tray:
stew with a hoc and buttered bread.

                   MRS. SMITH
I brung you a bit o'stew.

                   OWEN
It's very kind of you.

She leaves the tray on his desk but he pushes it aside to work again. Deflated, she leaves.

EXT. ALIQUIS HOUSE - NEXT DAY

SUPER: "24 SEPTEMBER, 1855"

Owen's hansom pulls up, he pays the driver and enters.

INT. ALIQUIS HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER

Owen looks through his valise in a comfortable reception area as a young clerk approaches.

                   OWEN
I'm looking for Mr. Meryton. I've
come from America to meet him.

                   CLERK #1
Meryton? From America, you say?

                   OWEN
I have no appointment but it is
urgent I speak with him.

Owen presents his Cincinnati calling card and the Clerk rushes off. MASON, bent with gray hair, soon appears.

                   OWEN (CONT'D)
Do I have the correct address?

                   MASON
Yes, I'm one of Meryton's partners,
Mason is the name. But Meryton
passed away in June, quite
unexpectedly.

                   OWEN
When did he pass?

                   MASON
On the twenty-second of June.

                   OWEN
          (pulls from valise)
He wrote this on the twenty-first
of June. I've come from America
to find my sister, referenced here.
Perhaps his records can corroborate
her place of residence.

                   MASON
The name is not familiar. I'll
have you speak with his clerk.
Come with me.

INT. ALIQUIS HOUSE - MERYTON'S OFFICE - MOMENTS LATER

Mason paces the wall of books and briefs now in disarray. Owen sits across from the empty desk. When MERYTON's CLERK enters, Owen jumps to hand him the letter.

                   OWEN
Do you recognize this?

                   MERYTON'S CLERK
It's Meryton's hand but I don't
recognize the name.

Meryton's Clerk looks to Mason for guidance.

                   OWEN
How long have you been his clerk?

                   MASON
I'm afraid old Meryton had his
peculiarities and kept no records.
All in his head. Quite a genius.

                   OWEN
You jest. No accounting records?

                   MASON
You're not the first and I'm truly
sorry for it. I shall make certain--

                   OWEN
What about my letters to him?!
They were not answered.

                   MASON
We are attempting to sort out--

                   OWEN
This is a damned outrage. I want
to see his appointment calendar.
I know how this works.

                   MASON
Mr. Cullings, we'll look into the
matter and we'll certainly inform
you the moment we've found anything.

The Clerk doesn't look hopeful but Mason gives the Clerk the nod, who starts a half-hearted search. Mason moves to the door but Owen has glares for them both.

                   MASON (CONT'D)
There's no need to wait. Tell me
where you're lodging and I'll make
certain you receive details on...

(CONTINUED)