First-Place Winner, May - October 2013
Screenplay Contest - Full-Length Series
Written by Thomas Jannetta
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My published and produced work includes:
Co-writer, producer, and distributor of a nationally aired radio serial “Steve Sado, Private Eye” (also available as a feature-length screenplay);
Co-writer of radio spot advertising for Detroit radio station WABX in conjunction with CBS Records (later Columbia and Sony);
On-air contributor to ABC Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV's "Making the Grade," a 5-part series on how to succeed in school.
Additional Writer Information:
In 1932 two teen-age girls responded to the Great Depression by committing a bank robbery so clever in its execution and unique in its escape plan that police were left without a clue as to the who and the how. One local newspaper headlined: Cops Say Bandits Disappeared “Into Thin Air”. Inspired by actual events.
Detroit, 1932. Nineteen-year-old best friends Mara and Belle struggle for survival in demeaning and sexually perilous jobs.
Belle’s chance encounter with a bank accountant spawns a clever scheme to ‘end the Depression’ (as Belle puts it) by stealing a large payroll. The unique twist: for the first time ever an airplane is the getaway vehicle, putting hundreds of miles between the girls and the crime, and leaving the cops clueless.
The seduction of the banker, flying lessons from an aging barnstormer, a couple of dubious World War I pistols, the boosting of a shaky Ford Runabout, the theft of a biplane, and the bank job are all that stand between the girls and success. All doable.
But bad weather and mechanical problems with the plane force a landing well short of the girls’ intended destination near Toronto. Worse yet, while Mara and Belle ride a train toward Toronto, a piece of telltale evidence dropped in a small-town hotel arouses suspicion, brings in the police, and begins the pursuit.
Canadian and American law enforcement combine to have the Mounties waiting at Toronto’s train station, where Mara and Belle must outwit their pursuers to escape. [Inspired by actual events.]
The Maiden Flight screenplay, copyright, and story idea below are owned by Thomas Jannetta. No copying of any of the below pages is allowed unless approved by owner.
The words "BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS" appear briefly and fadeout.
INT. BASEMENT VAULT AREA OF A BANK -- DAY
Rectangular hallway; stairs from upper floor at one end.
One long wall is blank. The other: a vault near the stairs,an elevator at the other end, a small lavatory between.
The large vault door is fully open, almost touching itsopposite wall, screening the area between it and the stairs.
The elevator door is open, waiting for tellers and moneycarts. The elevator is controlled by a keyed wall mechanism.
Between: a closed wooden door, "LAVATORY" stenciled on it.
P.O.V. FROM THE LONG BLANK WALL
The lavatory door; right the open elevator; left the openvault.
The words "AUTUMN, 1932" appear briefly and fade out.
INSIDE THE VAULT – CONTINUOUS
Six young male TELLERS in suits TALK indistinctly whileloading carts with cash bundled in neat stacks wrapped with paper bands bearing the bank's name and the amount of each stack.
Their carts are marked to designate teller stations in the bank: Cage #1, Cage #2, Cage #3, Cage #5, Cage #9, Cage #10.
Behind the tellers, long shelves of money stacked in groupings of various sizes, labeled for various business accounts.
INT. BASE OF STAIRS IN VAULT AREA -- CONTINUOUS
SOUND of the tellers O.S. continues as two hooded figures incoveralls reach
the bottom and turn into the hallway. Each has a pistol. THIEF ONE carries a large, double-handled satchel.
They move stealthily to the door and look around it into the hallway area
beyond, which is empty.
INT. THE VAULT AREA -- CONTINUOUS
They move from behind the vault door, rush into the vault waving their guns and shout, voices muffled by the hoods.
Hands up! Everybody! Shut up or
Confusion among the tellers; comprehension; compliance.
Get against the wall over there!
Pushing, directing them away from the door and money stacks.
(menacing with gun)
Any sound and I blow your face off.
Thief One puts the satchel on a cart, and Thief Two begins to load money from all the carts into it. Seconds pass.
It's a mistake. Thief Two stops dead, glaring through theeye slits. Thief
One's eyes close in a wince, then open.
THIEF ONE (CONT'D)
(head gesture toward
A few seconds pass as Thief Two looks at them trying to understand, then suddenly rushes out of the vault.
INT. THE VAULT AREA -- CONTINUOUS
Thief Two moves quickly to the elevator and looks inside, then notices a key in the wall mechanism.
Seconds pass as Thief Two looks back to the vault, then rushes to the lavatory door, flings it open, rushes inside.
THIEF TWO (O.S.)
Hands up, hands up!
Some muffled movement.
THIEF TWO (O.S.) (CONT'D)
No! Get out! Now!
WILLIAM RIPLEY, a bank officer dressed in shirt and tie, his trousers down around his ankles, boxer shorts up, shuffles through the door into the hall, hands raised.
Thief Two follows closely prodding him toward the vault.
INT. THE VAULT – CONTINUOUS
Thief One is putting money from the carts into the satchel, looking from the tellers to the vault door. The teller carts are pretty well emptied.
Ripley shuffles in, Thief Two close behind.
Thief One stifles a laugh of both relief and amusement.
Even the tellers can't help fleeting smiles and snickers.
All right, move over there with the
rest of 'em.
As Ripley complies Thief One moves to the money shelves and begins to stuff stacks into the satchel. Thief Two finishes with the money from the carts.
Thief One then struggles to close the overflowing satchel.
They look at each other--an agreement to leave.
Looking at the group of men against the wall.
THIEF TWO (CONT'D)
Everybody...take your pants off.
They hesitate, not exactly sure.
THIEF TWO (CONT'D)
(loud, angry, menacing)
They comply, lowering trousers to ankles like Ripley's.
THIEF TWO (CONT'D)
No! Off! All the way off!
They comply, some having to remove their shoes.
THIEF TWO (CONT'D)
(pointing to one)
(indicating the cart
with the satchel)
Bring 'em all over here.
The teller gathers up the pants, bringing them to the cart, setting them next to the satchel.
Thief Two waves the gun indicating the teller is to return to the group.
As he complies Thief One begins to push the cart with the satchel toward and out of the vault door.
THIEF TWO (CONT'D)
(menacing and precise)
Do not leave here for at least ten
minutes or I will shoot you dead.
Thief Two starts out.
INT. THE VAULT AREA – CONTINUOUS
Thief One in the hallway as Thief Two exits the vault.
They push the heavy door closed, but do not trip the locks.
They pull off their hoods, stuff them in a pocket of their coveralls, their faces sweaty, their hair matted. Broad smiles on both of them. They are MARA NOVAK and BELLE PETRUE.
Both eighteen years old, slim, pretty; Mara dark haired; Belle bleached blonde; otherwise they could be sisters.
[Note: Rest of scene in quiet tones.]
(kisses Belle's cheek)
The pants are a great idea.
She gathers them up, runs to the elevator, tosses them inside.
She rotates the key, causing the door to close, removes the key, puts it in her pocket, runs back to Belle.
Now their only way out is up those
stairs and into the street.
They start to laugh.
Not without their pants!
They tuck the guns into their waistbands. Together they struggle to heft the now heavy satchel off the teller cart and head for the stairs.
EXT. THE BANK'S SIDE DOOR -- MOMENTS LATER
The door opens slightly, Mara pokes her head out, looking up and down the street. No one.
She swings the door open; they lug the satchel from the bank to a 1926 FORD RUNABOUT parked at the curb.
Belle lifts the rear deck lid; they hoist the satchel inside, close the lid.
They get into the car, start it, and drive away.
SLOW DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. CITY STREETS
"FIVE MONTHS EARLIER" appears briefly, fades out.
MONTAGE: a "Hooverville"; bread line; soup kitchen; unemployment line; apple seller on a street corner.
EXT. HARTUNG AIRFIELD -- MORNING
LONG SHOT inside a small airfield on the edge of Detroit. A few W.W. I and '20s aircraft variously parked; an air show in progress; SOUND of airplane engines overhead; people mill about looking at the planes and glancing at the hazy sky.
A tandem, two-place biplane with two people aboard appears out of the clouds.
The biplane lands at the far end of the field, turns about, taxies to an area near the onlookers.
CHARLIE DAVIS, the pilot, and Mara climb out of the plane, exchange a few words while shaking hands. Mara is obviously excited and enthusiastic about the flight.
Charlie wears the typical outfit of the barnstorming aviator, right down to the
oversized, flowing, white scarf.
Mara wears a man's plain white shirt and dark trousers. She walks away from Charlie toward the CAMERA.
EXT. HARTUNG AIRFIELD -- MOMENTS LATER
Belle stands at a small concession booth.
She wears a colorful summery dress only slightly, but noticeably, too small, accentuating her figure. Every man in the crowd who passes by notices her.
She's almost finished eating a hot dog. A violin case and a battered wooden cigar box are at her feet.
Mara walks up, still excited from the plane ride.
That was amazing, Belle. You really
should go up.
No thanks. Just thinking about it
makes me queasy. Besides, seventy-
fivecents is a lot just to end up
where you started from. For that
kind of money they should at least
Belle pops the last bite of hot dog into her mouth.
She reaches down to pick up the violin and cigar box.
I gotta get hustling, and you gotta
go to work.
They start walking off.
(fading as they go)
He said anybody could learn to fly
in no time. If I ever get rich....
INT. RESTAURANT KITCHEN -- NIGHT
The restaurant OWNER, a COOK, and his ASSISTANT are busy at food and service preparation. No one is speaking.
The Owner: about 40, six feet tall, sturdy, Aryan. He wears a newish suit, freshly cleaned and pressed. As owner of a small, thriving business in the midst of a world-wide Depression he sees himself as better, as opposed to luckier,
than others, which manifests as smugness.
The Cook: 45, medium height, thick-set, unshaven, seriously thinning hair. His kitchen "whites" need cleaning, but are not actually grimy. Fortunately the customers can't see him. He is experienced and competent, and content with that.
The Assistant: 20s, about 5' 8", rail thin, dark hair and complexion. He wears a full-length white apron over well-worn Levis and a thread-bare white shirt. The apron is randomly and frequently spotted from various food accidents. All his actions are hesitant and nervous. He doesn't really know how to do this job, and lied about that to get it.
A WAITER enters from the dining room through a swinging door.
The Waiter: mid-30s, 5' 10", slim, quite pale, severelypomaded hair. He wears an old, very neat,dark, carefully pressed suit. Despite the kitchen's heat, he shows not a bead of sweat, not a wrinkle, not a hair out of place. He knows his job; is very good at it. In better times he would be in a better restaurant.
The kitchen is so small that these four crowd one another. Barely visible to one side is a cramped ALCOVE containing a sink where Mara stands, dressed as before, but with a full-length apron, washing dishes, her back to the group.
(brusque, to Assistant)
Where's the lamb chops? My customer's
about to have a fit out there.
The Assistant fumbles with a plate on which he awkwardly tries to arrange lamb chops, peas, potatoes.
I'm getting it together right now.
But there's no--
with a large knife)
It ain't complicated, kid. One plate,
two chops, scoop of peas, and a couple
of those roasted spuds.
(to Waiter, but eyeing
Somebody told me this guy actually
worked in a kitchen before.
The Owner doesn't like the dig at him nor the overall conversation. Both distract from the work.
The Cook softly snickers, the Assistant looks worried, the Waiter straightens his jacket and tie, offended that he should be lumped with the others in this circumstance.
INT. RESTAURANT KITCHEN ALCOVE -- LATER
Mara is washing dishes as the Owner walks up with and sets down a tray of dirty dishes to be washed.
His attitude toward Mara is softer. He is torn between being avuncular and lust, with lust winning every time.
He puts an arm around Mara's shoulders, giving a slight squeeze which he hopes will pass as simple friendliness.
We're done serving for the night,
Mara. These are the last of it.
Put a rush on 'em, and when you finish
take the garbage out back so we can
Sure thing. On the seventh day we
The Owner pats her a bit too low on the back and walks off.
Mara shudders, sets the tray of dishes into the sink, and begins a rapid, vigorous washing.
EXT. ALLEY BEHIND RESTAURANT -- LATER
It is narrow, littered, quiet, apparently deserted. It is lit only by a low-watt bulb above a screened door at the back of the restaurant. The inner door is open to allow ventilation into the kitchen.
Mara appears inside the doorway, flips the hook-and-eye lock on the screened door, opens it, then noisily wrestles a large trash barrel out into the alley just next to the door.
Mara looks around briefly, as if surprised she is alone, then goes back inside; the screened door SLAMS SHUT.
She turns, and is about to close the inner door, then hesitates because the slamming screen, as if a cue, prompts some EIGHT OR TEN MEN to appear out of the shadows of the alley and move quickly toward the trash barrel.
The first one begins pawing through the garbage for edible scraps, but is quickly caught up in a struggle with the others that results in the barrel overturning, spilling its contents. The ensuing free-for-all is competitive and violent.
Mara, her face stricken, slowly closes the inner door.
INT. RESTAURANT DINING ROOM -- MOMENTS LATER
The room is pleasantly appointed, without expense. About a dozen tables, the chairs resting upside down on them, fit comfortably into the room. At the front end is a small vestibule just inside the street door. At the back, separated
from the dining room by a minimal divider, is a small bar with stools. These are next to a swinging door to thekitchen. The impression is of a modest restaurant, easily managed by a small staff. It succeeds, though just barely.
Mara, apron removed, enters from the kitchen, applying lotion to her hands, and sits on a bar stool as the Cook is exiting the front door, held open for him by the Owner. The Cook is putting a small amount of paper money into his pants pocket.
(slight wave of hand
See you Monday, Boss.
(forced humor, but
Don't spend all that before then.
He closes the door and turns the dead bolt lock. He speaks to Mara while walking across the room to behind the bar.
Sometimes I think he'd be better off
if I held his pay for him each week
and gave him an allowance. Inside
six months he'd have a bigger nest
egg than he's ever seen.
Mara smiles and offers a mirthless chuckle.
The Owner takes a stack of money from the cash box and counts out four dollar bills.
You, on the other hand, are too smart
to waste good money
(mock hesitation before
handing the bills to her)
Another perfunctory smile from Mara.
Just kidding.I know you took this job to
saveforcollege. Editor of your school
newspaper, eh? And some scholarship
money to go to Ann Arbor?
But your father died so you had to
drop that to look after your mother.
Mara nods again.
That's one of the reasons I keep you
on...because you're a good girl.
He pats her hand, then rests his on top of hers and waits as if expecting a reply. Mara says nothing.
So now, I bet you think all that
talent’s going to waste. But you
can still have a good life...pretty
thing like you...maybe better off
without a college education. Lotta
men don't like that anyway.
Mara is about to speak, but the Owner doesn’t notice and forges on, walking around the bar to where Mara is seated.
But you gotta be sure you associate
with the right kind of people...that
don't drag you down. Take that
girl...you know, the one with the
violin who's sometimes waiting for
you out front. She doesn't seem to
me like your caliber. I mean, what
self-respecting girl plays music in
Her name's Belle.
The Owner rolls his eyes. To him the name only confirms the girl's cheapness.
She's a gifted musician. Besides
violin she plays piano and oboe.
She would have gone to Julliard if
her folks hadn't died in the Pontiac
Oh, I...I didn't know about her
family...or this Julia.
Still, it's no excuse for becoming
some kind of beggar. You gotta make
your own luck in this world. I never
went to college.
(gestures "out there")
But plenty of those bums you see
ridin’ the rails were once college
boys. Now what do they have? A
degree in uselessness is what.
(to ease the tension)
Well, what do you say we get outta
here. Tomorrow's Sunday. I expect
you'll be in church with your family.
That's how you make something of
yourself in this world, Mara--God,
family, and hard work.
He continues as they move toward the front door; he tries to walk beside her with an arm around her waist; she keeps just enough ahead to avoid the touch, but without seeming to hurry.
When I came home from Wilson's War I
wasn't much older than you, without
two nickels to rub together. But I
stuck my nose to the grindstone, I
watched my money like a Jew,
Mara winces at the slur.
and today I got a good business here,
while a lot of guys my age are
standing in bread lines.
When they reach the door he unlocks and opens it. They go out into the street.