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 2012
Screenplay Contest - Teleplay/Short Series
"Parting Gift"
Written by Jon M. Mennella
Heather Kenihan "Chasing Rabbits"

Jon Mennella was raised in New York City and educated in Boston. He currently resides in Brooklyn, where he spends all of his free time nurturing an ever-growing love for film and screenwriting.

Additional Writer Information:


When a dying woman opens up to her youngest son on her deathbed, the truths that she leaves behind makes him question the whole foundation of his being, and where he fits in a life that seemed his birthright.


In the midst of a business meeting, John O'Farrell is interrupted by an urgent telephone call- the call telling him that his mother, Margaret, is on her death bed, and fading fast.

Shocked by the news, John returns to his childhood home to pay her a final visit. And there, within walls and rooms long forgotten, his family waits, sadly milling about Margaret's bedroom as she scolds the visitors for clouding her peace before death.

But when John walks through her door, for him, the youngest of her three children, Margaret's manner changes.

Because she has something to tell him.Something that she's held on to for a lifetime, and must let go before she takes her last breath. And in an emotional, impassioned exchange, she lays her cards on the table, leaving one unturned, for until after her passing. A final offering, a final truth, a final push to send her son's life into a tailspin.


The Parting Gift screenplay, copyright, and story idea below are owned by Jon M. Mennella. No copying of any of the below pages is allowed unless approved by owner.



CLOSEUP of two hands in canvas gardening gloves as they pat the soft earth around a newly-planted seed.

REVERSE ANGLE of an aged woman, the owner of these hands, as she focuses on her work. She has long, silver hair, wears a sun visor and denim gardening clothes, and has a weathered face of faded attractiveness.

As she continues to work, she begins to cough deeply, an action which she directs into the sleeve of her shirt. The cough is followed by a long, painful wheeze.

After it passes, she returns to her work.

An elderly man sits on the patio in a wooden chair that faces the backyard. He wears a button-down shirt and khaki pants.

An untouched glass of iced tea rests on a table beside him. All of the ice has melted and condensation drips gently down its sides.

His body and face show the traces of a strength that used to be. He is a large man, but time has sloped his shoulders and worn down his bones.

He stares blankly out into the garden.

LONG SHOT of the woman, from behind, as she kneels in the dirt and works with the soil.

Her movements begin to slow in pace. A beat passes before she comes to full stop, placing her hands on her knees in physical distress.

And then, she crumbles to the ground on her side, not moving.

SIDE ANGLE CLOSE UP of the old man's face as he continues to stare into the garden. His head turns slowly to the right as he notices what has happened.

SIDE ANGLE MEDIUM SHOT as he raises to his feet and looks out in curiosity. His expression shows concern but nowhere near the level of urgency that this moment warrants.




Three men in suit and tie sit at the far end of a long, mahogany table. The table is surrounded by many high-end leather desk chairs.

At the head of the table sits a man in his mid-forties with a balding hairline and piercing blue eyes. This is JOHN O'FARRELL.

To either side of him, there are two older gentleman who give off the aura of an "old way." They are PATRICK O'HARA and TEDDY CONNOLLY.

A plate of danishes waits untouched before them.

         (to JOHN)
And when can we expect a quote by?

No later than the end of the week.

Great. Are we settled then, Ted?

Good as gold.

A beat.

You know, I was saddened by your
father leaving the business. I
guess it was a necessity, but I'm
glad to see that it will continue
on with you. It's a fading but
important tradition to keep it in
the family; to preserve what your
father has worked so hard to build.
You have his charisma, you know?

Is that right?


But your mother's eyes.

A young secretary silently pushes open the glass door to the conference room and edges closer to the sitting men.  JOHN sees her out of the corner of his eye.

Did I ever tell you...

Excuse me, gentleman.

JOHN directs his attention to the young secretary, slightly annoyed by the intrusion.

                   JOHN (CONT'D)
What is it, Mary?

There is a call for you, Mr.

Can't you see that I'm in a
meeting. Why didn't you have them
call back?

It's urgent, sir.

She looks down at the ground, nervously.

JOHN puts on an expression of concern and looks to the two, older gentlemen.

        (to both)
Excuse me for a moment. I guess I
should take this.

Please, go ahead. We're in no rush.

PATRICK gestures him away.

JOHN stands up and exits through the glass conference room door. It closes sluggishly behind him.


JOHN stands over the desk in his office. There is a computer, a phone, and photographs arranged randomly across its surface.

JOHN places his hand on the phone, takes a breath, and picks it up, not knowing what to expect from the other end of the line.

Hello. This is John O'Farrell.

He listens for a moment and his air of professionalism eases off.

                   JOHN (CONT'D)
Oh, hi.

More talk on the other end. After a beat, his shoulders begin to sink, his breaths quicken, and his eyes lower to the floor. He is receiving bad news.

                   JOHN (CONT'D)
Oh my god. When?

CLOSE UP on his hands as he rubs a smoked glass paperweight on his desk with violent, anxious intent.

                   JOHN (CONT'D)
Did they say how long?

He begins to pace nervously around his desk. He stops in a position facing the outside window, with his back directed to the camera. He lays his left hand palm-down on the desk.

                   JOHN (CONT'D)
Yes. Yes, of course. I will be
there as soon as I can.

He places the phone down on the receiver and holds his gaze on the window for a few beats.

As he turns back around, the camera pulls uncomfortably TIGHT to his face. He looks as if he has just been punched in the gut and is at a loss for air.

JOHN raises both hands to his head and rubs them down his cheeks toward his chin. As he returns them to his sides, his expression resumes a calm, collected disposition in preparation for his return to the conference room.

He walks out of frame and exits the office.


JOHN pushes open the door to the conference room while holding a polite smile.

He hurries over to his seat at the head of the table while addressing a loose button on his suit jacket.

I'm sorry about that. Where were

Not a problem. Is everything all

JOHN looks slightly fazed for a brief moment, but pulls out of it to address the inquiry.

Yeah, yeah, just a particularly
needy client.

Oh, we know that game, without a

The two men laugh to themselves. JOHN holds a straight, cold face.

Before you left, I was about to
tell you a little memory that I had
of your family. Teddy, your father,
and I were dining at a magnificent
Manhattan steak house one evening -
now this was around the time that
your father was having those issues
with his heart, the stint and all -
but anyway, the foolish old men
that we were, we had three steaks
the size of a small child laid out
in front of us with all the proper

JOHN looks at PATRICK, but his eyes are glazed and his mind is elsewhere.

                   PATRICK (CONT'D)
Now your mother called your father
in the middle of this meal, and the
conversation started politely
enough, but he told her a little
fib that he was at the office
finishing some work. Within
seconds, she knew exactly that he
was up to no good. You could hear
her voice through the phone from
the other side of the room.

ANGLE on TEDDY recollecting the memory with a grin.

                   PATRICK (CONT'D)
I've never seen a man send a plate
of food back so quick. Let it be
said, that he finished that meal
with his face in a plate full of

The two men laugh. JOHN politely joins, but his laugh is insincere and distracted.

                   PATRICK (CONT'D)
I never knew someone that could
maneuver in this business as well
as your father, but as soon as he
left the office, he was tame like a
housecat. Your mother was as strong
as an ox. A truly tough woman. Tell
me, is she still that way?

ANGLE on JOHN's bittersweet expression.

Till the end.


JOHN apprehensively walks down the sidewalk of a suburban street, stopping abruptly as a cream-colored Victorian home with a wrap-around porch comes into sight.

CLOSEUP of his shaky hands as they reach into his pocket for a plastic container of nicotine lozenges. He struggles to free one and pops it into his mouth.

ANGLE on his feet as he steps onto the grass at the perimeter of the home and begins to move toward the entrance.

LONG SHOT from the front porch as JOHN approaches. The camera pans left in the shot to reveal a dark-haired man in a fleece pullover and jeans smoking a cigarette on a swinging porch bench.

The man is JOSEPH, JOHN's brother. He swings his head around as soon as he hears the footsteps on the stairs.

        (from the swing)
Jack, is that you?

JOSEPH jumps out of his seat and runs to bear-hug his brother.

Hey, Joe.

The two separate from each other. JOSEPH keeps his hands on JOHN's shoulders for a beat.

How's my kid brother doing?

Could be better.

        (looking down)
Yeah, no kidding. What's it been, a
year now?

Just about.

And to think, it's something like
this that brings us together.

JOSEPH takes another drag from his cigarette. JOHN eyes it for a moment. JOSEPH holds it up, gesturing toward JOHN.

                   JOSEPH (CONT'D)
Hey, you want a smoke?

Nah, I'm good. I'm trying to quit.
Got these lozenges I'm using. But
the craving never goes. You know?

A beat.

                   JOHN (CONT'D)
Hey, how are Jane and the kids?

Fine, fine. Everyone is healthy and
happy, so I consider myself
blessed. The business?

Good. I just saw Pat and Teddy
today, actually.

Oh, no shit, so they're not dead

JOHN shakes his head. A beat passes. The two brothers have exhausted their pleasantries. JOHN bites the bullet and looks toward the house.

You been inside?


JOSEPH flicks his cigarette away and places his hands in his pockets.

                   JOSEPH (CONT'D)
Susan's in there. And some of the

JOSEPH pats JOHN on the left arm.

                   JOSEPH (CONT'D)
You should go in. I'm gonna stay
out here a little longer. We'll
catch up after.

JOHN nods. JOSEPH turns away and returns to the swinging bench.

JOHN stares at the door for a moment, then places his hand on the knob and turns.


JOHN enters the home where he grew up, and as it is for most, nothing has changed.

He looks to his right, where the open living room waits unlit but glowing from the natural light that bleeds through the translucent-white window drapes.

His POV shows an old-style fabric chair with an artisanal wooden base, facing outward at the living room window. The soft, opaque white hair of an older man peeks out from the head of the chair.

REVERSE ANGLE of the old man from the first scene of the film, sitting in the chair and having no reaction to JOHN's entrance. He does not turn around or even flinch.

In the background, we see JOHN stop and glance in the old man's direction for a beat, then continue on into the depths of the home.


MS of the bedroom door as it opens slowly, revealing JOHN. He carefully and silently enters the room, closes the door without a sound, and leans against it.

REVERSE ANGLE of the people in the bedroom. A number of sullen, withdrawn faces stare back at him, saying nothing. They all surround a bed at the center of the room.

JOHN's POV focuses on a heavy-set, brunette woman sitting on the edge of the bed. This is JOHN's sister, SUSAN. She holds the withering, sinewy hand of a bed-ridden individual, whose legs elevate the woolen quilt in a motionless mound.

SUSAN smiles sadly at JOHN.

JOHN's POV pans to the head of the bed, and there lies the old woman from the first scene, his mother, MARGARET. She is awake but fading, her silver hair clotted in stringy bands from the sweat.

Hey, Ma. When this passes, you're
gonna teach me that recipe for your
Corned Beef in time for St.
Patricks, right?

MARGARET directs her glassy eyes to her daughter.

        (raspy, worn voice)
Please, honey, spare me. This is
not a passing matter.

SUSAN's eyes begin to water.

Come on, Ma, don't speak like that.
You're stronger than you think.

Sweetheart, the only thing that is
passing is me. The quicker you get
that through your head, the easier
it will become for both of us.

MARGARET is overcome with a fierce cough. It propels her weak body upward.

SUSAN wipes the tears from her eyes.

The pain subsides and MARGARET looks to her left at JOHN by the doorway. She simply stares at him with no expression, thoughts and words running through her internally.

A middle-aged cousin standing with his arms crossed, steps up to speak.

                   MALE COUSIN
Hey, Aunt Margaret, do you remember
that time...

With what is left of her strength, MARGARET launches up to sitting position, a heated glare across her face.

Please, please. This is not how I
want this to happen, sharing
stories and crying over happy
memories long forgotten. I'm tired.
Just leave me be for a little and
let me rest.

Ma, that's not a good idea, we
should be here with you, someone
should be with you.

Susan, it's one simple thing that I
ask. If you love me, then please do
as I say.

Some of the people begin to file out of the room, past a motionless JOHN, who has moved to a leaning pose against a dresser.

It takes SUSAN a beat to gather herself, but she raises to her feet visibly upset, and leaves the room.

JOHN, the only person left, approaches his mother's side and lowers himself to kiss her forehead. As his lips raise from her pale, patchy skin, MARGARET's left hand wraps around his forearm, preventing his walking away.

What is it, Ma?

Will you stay with me for a little?

Of course.

As he takes a seated position on the bedside, MARGARET's eyes never waver from her son. She smiles at him lovingly.

I'm sorry about that little show.

What do you mean?

The yelling and such. I had to
break up your sister's little pity
party, and anyway, I wanted to
spend some time with you.

She places her hand on top of his.

                   MARGARET (CONT'D)
How are things, honey?

They're fine. Everything is fine.

The business?

As good as its ever been.

A beat. MARGARET simply looks at her son, past his face, into his inner self, his soul, basking in the happiness of what she has created.

She tugs at him to come closer. He gently edges himself up the bedside, one leg draped over the comforter, the other planted on the floor.

I'm so proud of the man that you've
become. Do you know that?

Of course.

With you, I think I did most of it

JOHN begins to tear.

What're you talking about, most of
it? You did everything right, Ma.

ANGLE on MARGARET looking away for a beat. Her expression turns dark for a moment, as if she is fighting something away internally.

She returns her stare to JOHN. She places her hand to his cheek.

My son, my beautiful baby boy...

The emotions turns up a notch. JOHN is losing his grip on the situation. He places his hand over his mother's against his face.

                   MARGARET (CONT'D)
I remember the day you were born
like it was yesterday. I keep it so
close to my heart. Holding you in
my arms, the way your crystal blue
eyes were looking up at me.

JOHN wipes his face, listening.

                   MARGARET (CONT'D)
You were so small, and so calm. I
was just exhausted, just worn out.
My body was shaking from the pains
of labor. There were points where I
just wanted to give up, close my
eyes, and let it take me. I had
been sick too, as you know. Stage
three, I think. The doctors didn't
know what to do to fix me.

ANGLE on MARGARET's face, lost in her recount.