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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Short Scripts  ›  Christmas in Leningrad - Filmed Moderators: bert
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  Author    Christmas in Leningrad - Filmed  (currently 8944 views)
alffy
Posted: April 5th, 2015, 12:41pm Report to Moderator
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Dustin,

Truth is stronger than fiction some times, and that definitely applies to this story.  Food was in short supply throughout most of Europe throughout the war and I guess if you were stuck in a city under siege with no food you would eat anything to stay alive.

It's the truth of this that makes your story so bleak.  I did feel that if the reader had no background knowledge of the era, they might not understand how dangerous it was to live in the city (danger from both Russian and German soldiers).

Overall though this was a nice little piece and I enjoyed it.


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Iancou
Posted: April 5th, 2015, 4:17pm Report to Moderator
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The siege also solved the city's rat problem for awhile. Everything that could be eaten was, so references (through dialogue and/or a visual) to this could be part of building the background for members of the audience who don't know their history. For example, a character holds up a box of rat poison and says, "Since they've all been eaten, nobody's needed this stuff for a long time." I don't know if they even had rat poison in the USSR at that time, but I use that as a silly example. Another issue could be that residents there were not necessarily die-hard Marxists in support of the regime. Pyotr (perhaps named in honor of Czar Peter the Great for whom the city had been previously called) is in his 40s, so he was a young adult when the revolution happened and remembered life under the Czar. His character could even be a closet monarchist or Menshevik. They were both still around and hunted until the war when they were released from the gulags to fight for Mother Russia, and not the revolution.

Just some random thoughts on a lazy day.


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Dustin
Posted: April 6th, 2015, 2:55am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from alffy
Dustin,

Truth is stronger than fiction some times, and that definitely applies to this story.  Food was in short supply throughout most of Europe throughout the war and I guess if you were stuck in a city under siege with no food you would eat anything to stay alive.

It's the truth of this that makes your story so bleak.  I did feel that if the reader had no background knowledge of the era, they might not understand how dangerous it was to live in the city (danger from both Russian and German soldiers).

Overall though this was a nice little piece and I enjoyed it.


Thanks mate. I understand your point on people (without prior knowledge of this event) not getting what this story is about, but without sign posting it it's hard to do. There is a super with the year and the place, so hopefully anyone not so knowledgeable would use the information to do some checking. First thing my gf did after reading this was Google and she turned to me after reading for a while and said "Why didn't they teach us stuff like this at school?"

Personally, I don't believe the education system is responsible for teaching us things we can easily learn ourselves... but I understand what she means. Unfortunately, we are part of a propaganda machine. Just like we accuse every other country of and maybe even laugh at them for being brainwashed, we can rest assured that they think the same about us.

Anyway, thanks for the read. Not sure you've posted anything for a while, but if you have and I've missed it, please point me in the right direction.



Quoted from Iancou
The siege also solved the city's rat problem for awhile. Everything that could be eaten was, so references (through dialogue and/or a visual) to this could be part of building the background for members of the audience who don't know their history. For example, a character holds up a box of rat poison and says, "Since they've all been eaten, nobody's needed this stuff for a long time." I don't know if they even had rat poison in the USSR at that time, but I use that as a silly example. Another issue could be that residents there were not necessarily die-hard Marxists in support of the regime. Pyotr (perhaps named in honor of Czar Peter the Great for whom the city had been previously called) is in his 40s, so he was a young adult when the revolution happened and remembered life under the Czar. His character could even be a closet monarchist or Menshevik. They were both still around and hunted until the war when they were released from the gulags to fight for Mother Russia, and not the revolution.

Just some random thoughts on a lazy day.


Thanks mate. I do open showing a photo with the family and their dog, but there is no dog throughout the story. I suppose it could have died of natural causes, but it was meant to show that they had to eat their pet, or swapped it and ate a neighbour's pet, as was the normal thing to do.

There's certainly a lot to include in regard to the horrors that went on in the city, but I think the bigger story, as you've pointed out, is the political one. Why was food veered away from the city before the German and Finnish army surrounded them? I know the official story... but, like all official stories, it's not necessarily the truth.
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MarkRenshaw
Posted: April 7th, 2015, 9:31am Report to Moderator
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Hi Dustin,

Interesting title and logline, makes me want to actually check the script out!

I love the name Dmitry, no idea why.

Oh man that's grim but a good read. I imagine under those circumstances people would resort to such desperate measures.

I sometimes forget my body is basically a meat sack, thanks for reminding me lol.  

One question, is Dmitry better because he ate some of his Papa or did he just get better on his own?

Good job on this,

-Mark


For more of my scripts, stories, produced movies and the ocassional blog, check out my new website. CLICK
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Dustin
Posted: April 8th, 2015, 1:11pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from MarkRenshaw
Hi Dustin,

Interesting title and logline, makes me want to actually check the script out!

I love the name Dmitry, no idea why.

Oh man that's grim but a good read. I imagine under those circumstances people would resort to such desperate measures.

I sometimes forget my body is basically a meat sack, thanks for reminding me lol.  

One question, is Dmitry better because he ate some of his Papa or did he just get better on his own?

Good job on this,

-Mark


I like the name Dmitry too, I've used it a few times in my stories. Dmitry doesn't eat any of his father, he gets better on his own. Pyotr hangs himself the night before and ironically, the boy is better anyway. Just a d ash of irony, but even a small amount is something. Thanks for the read.
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IamGlenn
Posted: April 8th, 2015, 6:37pm Report to Moderator
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Dustin,

Gave this one a read. Haven't read any other thoughts so excuse me if I repeat.

I enjoyed this. As always your writing is on point. In 5 pages you manage to set the scene and the tone perfectly. I've always felt that a tough thing to do in such a small page count. Nicely done.

The story itself is as bleak as they come. But in a weird way I also found it sort of warming that the father did what he did at the end. Maybe it's just me being messed up.

I get the feeling this could be a feature. Dealing with the same subject, I feel this could be beefed out and added to and make quite an interesting movie.

Overall, nice one here. Congrats. Good luck with it..


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Dustin
Posted: April 9th, 2015, 8:22am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from IamGlenn
Dustin,

Gave this one a read. Haven't read any other thoughts so excuse me if I repeat.

I enjoyed this. As always your writing is on point. In 5 pages you manage to set the scene and the tone perfectly. I've always felt that a tough thing to do in such a small page count. Nicely done.

The story itself is as bleak as they come. But in a weird way I also found it sort of warming that the father did what he did at the end. Maybe it's just me being messed up.

I get the feeling this could be a feature. Dealing with the same subject, I feel this could be beefed out and added to and make quite an interesting movie.

Overall, nice one here. Congrats. Good luck with it..


Thanks mate. I tried to say a lot in a very small space. That Pyotr commits suicide to feed his family is symbolic of the fact (albeit almost cryptically) that it was mostly men that starved to death in the city, they obviously went without to feed their families first. Women and children first is true in this regard too. It was also mostly the women that turned to cannibalism, actually killing younger infants to feed older children.

We're extremely lucky that we have never had to face anything like that and it's impossible to judge their actions otherwise. What it shows is that we will do anything to survive but there are also those willing to lay their lives down to protect their family. Even in those circumstances there are levels of decency.

Thanks for the read and reply mate, much appreciated.
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colkurtz8
Posted: April 10th, 2015, 11:18am Report to Moderator
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Dustin

Good job with this, it feels like a primer for something bigger although it functions as a self contained story by itself too. The fortunes of Ekaterina and Dmitry are left up in the air, which is fine by me. Yes, they have food now but what is to become of them in the long term? This could serve well as the opening sequence of a longer piece where we follow mother and daughter in their quest to survive in the harshest of conditions.

This is an especially bleak time in an already dark period of modern history. I know a bit about so I was intrigued by the title alone and recognized the stakes from the outset. Unfortunately, a lot of people probably won’t grasp the greater situation which I understand you can’t really get into too much in a 5 page short. This is all just observations on my part by the way, not criticisms. You obviously made a conscious decision to keep it confined and personal which I think works for the brevity of the story.

I thought Pyotr was not going to come back in those last scenes and we would be left to assume he had been caught thus leaving Eskaterina and Dmitri to perish but when the ending was revealed I kicked myself for not anticipating it. In other words, it worked in catching me by surprise, Pyotr made the biggest sacrifice imaginable which ties in with a time where these sort of life and death decisions were being made on a daily basis.

At first, I was a little jarred by Ekaterina’s lack of emotion when seeing her husband hanging there dead. She just balls the note, grabs the knife and gets to work but thinking on it now it again fits into the hardened, dehumanized mindset prevalent in those times. No room for sentimentally, we need to eat!
  
On a side note, if you’re interested in this particular part of history you should check out “Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History” podcast. One of his multi part series from a few years ago is called “Ghosts of the Ostfront” which focuses the conflicts between Germany and the Soviet Union with emphasis on the siege of Leningrad and the atrocities that went on there…cannibalism was only part of it...

My layman’s takeaway from it all was “Russians are tough basta?ds!”…but seriously, its truly shocking stuff that still lingers with me to this day.

Col.


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Dustin
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Quoted from colkurtz8
Dustin

Good job with this, it feels like a primer for something bigger although it functions as a self contained story by itself too. The fortunes of Ekaterina and Dmitry are left up in the air, which is fine by me. Yes, they have food now but what is to become of them in the long term? This could serve well as the opening sequence of a longer piece where we follow mother and daughter in their quest to survive in the harshest of conditions.


Yeah I agree, be hard to sympathise with Ekaterina after the coldness with her husband but I believe that sometimes, the story is bigger than any need to get behind a character. Quite a lot of my writing is like that and I always write best when I'm portraying bleak and harsh backdrops. I suppose it's merely testament to the types of people watching I've done over the years.


Quoted Text
This is an especially bleak time in an already dark period of modern history. I know a bit about so I was intrigued by the title alone and recognized the stakes from the outset. Unfortunately, a lot of people probably won’t grasp the greater situation which I understand you can’t really get into too much in a 5 page short. This is all just observations on my part by the way, not criticisms. You obviously made a conscious decision to keep it confined and personal which I think works for the brevity of the story.


I agree. However, there is enough information in there. I think you just have to be smart. Personally, whenever I come across something I don't understand or desire more knowledge of, I study. My gf did the same thing and she was shocked at what she read... and my short made a whole lot more sense. She watched the (Russian-biased) feature with me afterwards too.


Quoted Text
I thought Pyotr was not going to come back in those last scenes and we would be left to assume he had been caught thus leaving Eskaterina and Dmitri to perish but when the ending was revealed I kicked myself for not anticipating it. In other words, it worked in catching me by surprise, Pyotr made the biggest sacrifice imaginable which ties in with a time where these sort of life and death decisions were being made on a daily basis.


Yeah, although mostly symbolic, it's likely that this type of thing would have occurred. I did look around the web before writing, hoping that I would find a story it would relate to, but it seems that the Russians stifled much of the information so this has to be called entirely fiction.


Quoted Text
At first, I was a little jarred by Ekaterina’s lack of emotion when seeing her husband hanging there dead. She just balls the note, grabs the knife and gets to work but thinking on it now it again fits into the hardened, dehumanized mindset prevalent in those times. No room for sentimentally, we need to eat!


Yeah. I think with great suffering comes less sympathy for suffering... because it's just normal. If a mother could smother an eighteen month old baby (as in one account I read of) to feed herself and older children, simply because she didn't have a man around (perhaps they'd eaten him first!) to put extra bread rations on the table, then a fully grown man perhaps wouldn't cause much fuss either. Sentiment is a luxury.
  

Quoted Text
On a side note, if you’re interested in this particular part of history you should check out “Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History” podcast. One of his multi part series from a few years ago is called “Ghosts of the Ostfront” which focuses the conflicts between Germany and the Soviet Union with emphasis on the siege of Leningrad and the atrocities that went on there…cannibalism was only part of it...

My layman’s takeaway from it all was “Russians are tough basta?ds!”…but seriously, its truly shocking stuff that still lingers with me to this day.

Col.


Yes I am. I found those and will have a listen when the time comes to write this feature. I see it more of an indie project and I'm writing two Hollywoodesque scripts back to back at the moment. Thanks for the read and the insights, mate.
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Athenian
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Hi Dustin,

Very disturbing this one, but you achieved what you were trying to do. Which, I guess, was to show what people can become under certain circumstances.

One thing I'm not sure about is whether Dmitry hanged himself only to give his family a chance to survive or he also felt guilty for not being a good enough provider (Ekaterina does seem to blame him for that). In the second case, perhaps you could change a little the incident in the cemetery into something that he'd feel it was his own fault. What if he dropped the boy's corpse accidentally, for instance?

Also, I wonder if an ending where Ekaterina would commit suicide instead of Dmitry (for the same reason) would have an even more intense dramatic effect. But that would be a different story, of course.

A powerful script, which definitely leaves a lasting impression.

Manolis
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Dustin
Posted: April 13th, 2015, 12:21pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Athenian
Hi Dustin,

Very disturbing this one, but you achieved what you were trying to do. Which, I guess, was to show what people can become under certain circumstances.

One thing I'm not sure about is whether Dmitry hanged himself only to give his family a chance to survive or he also felt guilty for not being a good enough provider (Ekaterina does seem to blame him for that). In the second case, perhaps you could change a little the incident in the cemetery into something that he'd feel it was his own fault. What if he dropped the boy's corpse accidentally, for instance?


He hangs himself for both reasons. The reason I didn't write Pyotr picking up the corpse was because I imagined that it would be difficult to film. I didn't want to risk an injury to the actor. I do like the idea of making it his fault in the cemetery. Extra irony is always a good thing.


Quoted Text
Also, I wonder if an ending where Ekaterina would commit suicide instead of Dmitry (for the same reason) would have an even more intense dramatic effect. But that would be a different story, of course.


Yeah, plus it wouldn't tie in as nicely with the statistics. It has to be the Man that commits suicide. Not to suggest that there weren't women ready to lay down their lives too. But it was a different mindset back then, I'm sure today the stats would be equal (ahem... think I dug myself out of that one).

Thanks for the review and the helpful hint, much appreciated.
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DWLiu
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Dustin,

I like the structure of this very short script; it has all three acts in such a limited space.

Given the bleak ending, I thought it might be a good idea to have one or two scenes earlier to show the special bond and caring between the father and the son (in spite of their desperate living condition). It would give the father's sacrifice in the end a stronger touch.


Read my scripts:
"American Girl" - Drama --19 pages
"An Incident" - Drama --9 pages
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Sham
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Hey Dustin,

I quite liked this. Reminds me of another cannibal-themed short I read a few years ago called A Taste For Blood, which I loved. The difference here is yours goes for a little more subtlety, which isn't a bad thing at all.

I think the ending is definitely bleak in the best way, but I agree with the user who pointed out Ekaterina needs some type of reaction when she prepares to carve. Yes, realistically, there might not be an immediate reaction from her in this situation after all she's been through. But we as an audience haven't been in this environment but for less than five minutes -- we're going to react, and in a way, she needs to as well. Even if she's not reacting, you need to emphasize that to your viewers -- this bitch is about to eat a loved one and she is not reacting.

Otherwise, this is very solid. Hope it gets picked up.

Chris


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Dustin
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Quoted from DWLiu
Dustin,

I like the structure of this very short script; it has all three acts in such a limited space.

Given the bleak ending, I thought it might be a good idea to have one or two scenes earlier to show the special bond and caring between the father and the son (in spite of their desperate living condition). It would give the father's sacrifice in the end a stronger touch.


That's a good idea. I think I could open with a shot of Pyotr attempting to feed and care for his sick son, then Ekaterina walk in and shoo him away, mention something about the putrid meat. Make him feel even more worthless. Maybe she's carrying a bowl of steaming hot water which would make an excellent contrast with the cold background. Cold, useless father. Warm, sensible mother.

Thanks very much, that's a nice idea.




Quoted from Sham
Hey Dustin,

I quite liked this. Reminds me of another cannibal-themed short I read a few years ago called A Taste For Blood, which I loved. The difference here is yours goes for a little more subtlety, which isn't a bad thing at all.

I think the ending is definitely bleak in the best way, but I agree with the user who pointed out Ekaterina needs some type of reaction when she prepares to carve. Yes, realistically, there might not be an immediate reaction from her in this situation after all she's been through. But we as an audience haven't been in this environment but for less than five minutes -- we're going to react, and in a way, she needs to as well. Even if she's not reacting, you need to emphasize that to your viewers -- this bitch is about to eat a loved one and she is not reacting.

Otherwise, this is very solid. Hope it gets picked up.

Chris


Yeah looks like a good script. It's downloaded straight to my computer though and not gone to a comment thread.

OK. After some thought, I like your suggestion, and a way I could work around that is by using the kid. Maybe Dmitry appears in the kitchen doorway, not far enough to see Pyotr hanging. She tells him to go back in the living room, that she's preparing breakfast. He asks after his father's whereabouts and she, after looking toward her husband, replies with something cold. I've got several lines of dialogue playing through my mind, not necessarily cold, more matter-of-fact... it's going to take some thinking about, but thanks for planting the seed. Thanks also for the read.
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DWLiu
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Dustin,

Good to hear that you liked the idea.

Instead of the father feeding his son in the opening scene, how about they are doing something non-food related, like chatting about a sport (soccer?), or talking about a movie (or a book).  It shows what a "normal" life they've lived, in comparison to the cruel life they're living.


Read my scripts:
"American Girl" - Drama --19 pages
"An Incident" - Drama --9 pages
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