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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    My Work In Progress  ›  Opening Scene "Mountain Meadows" Moderators: bert
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  Author    Opening Scene "Mountain Meadows"  (currently 246 views)
Gerlinde
Posted: November 19th, 2017, 5:59am Report to Moderator
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I'm working on a manuscript/movie script about the infamous "Mountain Meadows Massacre", where a group of Mormons, with the help of Indians, raided an emigrant train, killing 120 men, women and children over the age of eight. Only 17 children under the age of eight survived, and were later handed over to relatives for a ransom payment (Mormons called "resignation allowance"). Some characters in the script are fictitious (Jacob and Sarah, for example), others actually existed and were involved in the crime (like John D. Lee and David Haight). Here is the opening scene. My question: What else can I improve, except language?

OVER BLACK:
FEAR SCREAMS of women, men and children are to TUNE. Chance of shots, shots,
speaker (v.o.)
In 1857, a squad of Mormon militia dressed as Indians raided a settler train under the leadership of John D. Lee. Indians of the Paiute helped them. 120 men, women, and children over 8 years were brutally killed at the mountain meadow.
Only 17 children up to the age of 7 survived because they were taken away by Mormons and hid. One of those Mormons who took a child was Jacob Mitchell.

Fade in:

01     Ext. Mountain Meadows - Evening          01
A big mountain meadow. Horses run around isolated, bodies of men, women and children lying in the grass.
An as an Indian dressed white man walks through the ranks, bumping the faces of the lifeless bodies with his foot, and, as a body moves, he pokes mercilessly on his head with the butt of his rifle.

Cut to:

SARAH (5), a scared little girl hiding under a covered wagon, watching the scene.
She sees whites and Indians taking off their rifles and valuables from the dead.
JOHN, (45), a gaunt big man with a fanatic face, looks at JIM, (20), a young red-haired man standing next to him.

John
Tell our people to pick up the cattle and bring them to Cedar City at the Bishop’s Tenth Office, as well as anything of value.

Jim
And the Indians?

He points to a troop of Paiute Indians who cut off a white woman’s hair and triumphantly dance.

John
Give them something of everything, but remember, Brother Brown, that most of this is dedicated to the Lord.

cut to Jacob:

JACOB, 40, a tall, broad-shouldered man with horn-rimmed glasses, rides the wagons on his horse. He discovers a wooden box on one of the cars and opens it
.
POV Jacob:

In the chest is bedding, jewelry, and the photograph of a beautiful woman.
Jacob puts in the photography and the jewelry. He throws the jewelry box to the ground.

The box opens and a piece of paper falls out. Jacob stoops and discovers the trembling Sarah.

Jacob
What a nice surprise
(loud)
President Lee. Please come. We have a problem.

John comes on board. He sees Sarah.

John
I understand what you mean, Brother Mitchell. Are there any other children of their age who have survived our punitive action?

Jacob
I do not know. It would be possible.

John
Search for everything. This kid is under 8 years old, and the Lord teaches us, that those children are innocent. We will not kill her. But we will take her and other survived children, and give them to a strong faithful family, And, we will hide all of them so that no American will ever find them.

END OF SCENE


Whoever has money buys a car. Whoever has no money dies in another way. - Fernandel, French Actor
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Marty
Posted: November 19th, 2017, 6:59pm Report to Moderator
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Gerlinde,

A few opinions and suggestions based off of your writing:

I would open with your text.
Example:
OVER BLACK:
SUPER: In 1857, a squad of Mormon militia dressed as Indians raided a settler train under the leadership of John D. Lee. Indians of the Paiute helped them. 120 men, women, and children over 8 years were brutally killed at the mountain meadow.
Only 17 children up to the age of 7 survived because they were taken away by Mormons and hid. One of those Mormons who took a child was Jacob Mitchell.

And then I would while over black, I would add you opening sounds/screams.
Example:
The screams and cries of women, men and children are drowned out by the repeated echos of gunfire.

Then I would open on.
Example:
SARAH (5), a scared little girl hiding under a covered wagon, watching the scene.
She sees whites and Indians taking off their rifles and valuables from the dead.
JOHN, (45), a gaunt big man with a fanatic face, looks at JIM, (20), a young red-haired man standing next to him.

Those are just my opinions and suggestions.

I hope it helps.

Remember to finish it and submit for feedback.

All the best,
Marty
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HyperMatt
Posted: November 20th, 2017, 4:29pm Report to Moderator
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Hi Gerlinde,
I think I mentioned this before, but have you seen September Dawn with Jon Voight? It is about the same subject.
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Gerlinde
Posted: November 20th, 2017, 10:06pm Report to Moderator
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@ Marthy,

Thank you for your suggestions. I'll use it on the weekend when I get back to my notebook where the script is stored (I only use it on weekends)


Quoted from HyperMatt
Hi Gerlinde,
I think I mentioned this before, but have you seen September Dawn with Jon Voight? It is about the same subject.


Of course I know this horrible movie with this impossible love story! In my screenplay, the focus is on the relationship between the child Sarah (the victim), and Jacob, the murderer of her family. And what the Mormons leaders and the LDS society did, to cover up this crime.


Whoever has money buys a car. Whoever has no money dies in another way. - Fernandel, French Actor
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eldave1
Posted: November 23rd, 2017, 11:32am Report to Moderator
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The theme is a fascinating one. It is a film I would want to watch.

I know you don't want comments on the language - but at all costs, avoid something like this:


Quoted Text
John
Search for everything. This kid is under 8 years old, and the Lord teaches us, that those children are innocent. We will not kill her. But we will take her and other survived children, and give them to a strong faithful family, And, we will hide all of them so that no American will ever find them.


Regardless of how it is written - what you're doing is embedding exposition in dialogue in an unnatural way. They're Mormons - they already know what the Lord teaches them. They wouldn't be sharing this info with each other - you are having them do it for the purpose of informing us. That makes it unnatural sounding.  


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Gerlinde
Posted: November 24th, 2017, 6:31am Report to Moderator
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Yep, but the audience mostly would be gentiles (as Mormons would call them) so I had to tell the audience, why Mormons act as they act.


Whoever has money buys a car. Whoever has no money dies in another way. - Fernandel, French Actor
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Dustin
Posted: November 24th, 2017, 7:48am Report to Moderator
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Writing requires a good problem-solving ability. Problem-solving is far more than calculation, it also takes creativity.

The problem here is how to divulge certain information to the eventual viewer. Some of us will come up with creative ways of doing that, others will be lazy and use on-the-nose dialogue.

It's clear which camp you're in, Gerlinde.
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HyperMatt
Posted: November 24th, 2017, 7:56am Report to Moderator
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Rather than totally an anti-Mormon standpoint, I would analyze both sides a bit more. Not to say that they are right but why did they act the way they did?
Mormonism is fascinating because of the ties with American history and its folklore. There are many stories in its history that would make a good script. You could be very creative with the story. Do you have to show the event? Why not tell the aftermath and you could have charecters reflecting on it?
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eldave1
Posted: November 24th, 2017, 10:53am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Gerlinde
Yep, but the audience mostly would be gentiles (as Mormons would call them) so I had to tell the audience, why Mormons act as they act.


Yes - you do - but OTN dialogue is not the way to so that


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Gerlinde
Posted: December 3rd, 2017, 10:42pm Report to Moderator
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I guess, I write my script firt in German, and then translate it in English. What did you think about that?


Whoever has money buys a car. Whoever has no money dies in another way. - Fernandel, French Actor
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Dustin
Posted: December 4th, 2017, 2:46am Report to Moderator
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Whether you write OTN dialogue in German or in English it will still be OTN dialogue.
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eldave1
Posted: December 4th, 2017, 10:22am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Gerlinde
I guess, I write my script firt in German, and then translate it in English. What did you think about that?


No - it may solve some grammar issues - but not the problem. Here is the info you are trying to convey:

Mormons at the time believed that children under 8 years old are innocent and therefore do not deserve to die.  Instead, they and their mothers should be placed with a strong faithful family and hidden so that Americans won't find them.

The worst way to convey that plot point is to have two people who already know that information convey it to each other in the form of dialogue. As an example - let's say two siblings are talking about their dead father who was abusive. This chat would never happen.

SON
Why do you hate Dad?

DAUGHTER
Because he was a drunk and beat us.

SON
Yeah, that's right.

So you are providing the audience a plot point that would never be provided in that manner. Instead (a) the daughter would be conveying this information to third party who doesn't know the info - maybe a therapist, etc. (b) You could use  a flashback (c) you could have parties unrelated to the daughter/son convey it, etc. etc.

Keep in mind that you don't always have to provide this info at the exact place the action occurs. The fact of the matter is that in your opening it is far more interesting a read if we don't know why the children are being spared during the massacre.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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CameronD
Posted: December 15th, 2017, 12:34pm Report to Moderator
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Lose the VO and instead build exposition into the opening scene. This doesn't happen often but you start the story too late, after the massacre has happened. I'd start with the Mormons and Indians setting the trap as unsuspecting settlers walk into it unaware.


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