“SITTING BY THE POOL POPPING CHOCOLATE COVERED COFFEE BEANS”
By Maryanne Pope
INT. PLANE – DAY
A woman, MA (that would be me), is squished in her seat, typing madly on her laptop.
INT. LAX AIRPORT – DAY
MA now sits on a hard, plastic chair. Still frantically typing, her laptop is plugged in, recharging.
EXT. AIRPORT – DAY
A woman, NINA, 70 waits curbside for the shuttle bus.
MA runs up. The two women hug.
The shuttle bus pulls up. The women get on.
INT. SHUTTLE BUS – DAY
MA and Nina chat excitedly, catching up.
How far is the hotel?
‘Bout twenty minutes…maybe half an hour.
INT. SHUTTLE BUS – DAY TWO HOURS LATER
Nina is furious. MA is hot, hungry and thirsty…never a good combination (those of you who have traveled with MA will know this firsthand).
This is ridiculous!
Where are you going?!
Driver glances in rear-view mirror, nervous.
The route isn’t up to me, ma’am.
I have to drop each passenger off in the
order the dispatcher tells me.
Too bad the dispatcher can’t read a map.
MA and Nina look at each other and roll their eyes.
INT. L.A. HOTEL ROOM – DAY
Nina sits on one bed, propped against pillows. MA sits on the other bed, propped against pillows, with laptop on lap.
An open bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans (that Nina brought from Hawaii, where she lives) is on the night table between them.
MA reaches for another handful of coffee beans and pops them in her mouth.
I’m ready when you are…
MA nods, chewing while typing a last few words.
MA begins to read aloud the screenplay she’s writing about Nina’s grandmother, Nell Shipman – a silent screen star, writer, director and producer.
So the film begins with 77-year-old Nell
floating on her back in the ocean,
hands clasped behind her head. The year is 1968.
As the camera pans down closer to Nell…
we can see she is smiling.
MA looks up from computer and turns to face Nina.
So this part will be played by you.
And do you know why older Nell is smiling?
Because she’s reflecting back on her life…
which is what her voice over will tell us?
Close. She’s smiling because she knows
damn well that someday, somewhere…
someone will come along and bring her story
to life again on the big screen…but in a way
that’s relevant to a contemporary audience.
That would be you.
MA reaches for another coffee bean.
MA and Nina, now in pajamas, watch a DVD on the TV. Nina has brought the DVD with her from Hawaii, knowing MA would be interested in seeing it.
It is a recording of the 1991 theatrical production of the play, “Between Pictures,” about Nell Shipman. Written by Barry Shipman (Nell’s son, Nina’s father), Nina plays Nell.
This is awesome, Nina…except that it is a little
weird that Nell’s story is so familiar to me now.
The DVD ends.
So I see writing, acting and producing
film and theatre is a family tradition.
You betcha…we’re on our fourth generation.
Speaking of which…what time is
tomorrow night’s show?
Nina reaches over to turn out the light.
INT. L.A. THEATRE – NIGHT THE NEXT EVENING
It is opening night of “The Falsetto’s” and the inaugural production of the Third Street Theatre.
On-stage, LANI SHIPMAN, 40, plays the role of Trina – the woman whose husband leaves her for a gay lover.
Lani (also the co-owner of the theatre) is similar in appearance to her great-grandmother, Nell: tall and lean with long dark hair and those large, expressive eyes so perfect for the silent movies.
MA and Nina sit in the front row.
By God…I’m prouda my kid.
So I’m sitting there in the front row
and I think to myself…this is all quite unbelievable.
Here I am in L.A., writing the screenplay
about Nell Shipman, brainstorming about the script,
line by line, with Nell’s real-life grand-daughter…
and now I’m seeing Nell’s real-life
great-grand-daughter acting on stage.
Lani, of course, will hopefully play the role
of the younger Nell Shipman in my film, “God’s Country.”
On stage, the characters sing to each other.
CUT BACK TO:
MA in her seat.
Then I turn off the voiceover…my monkey-mind…
and I sit back, relax and enjoy one of the best pieces
of theatre I’ve ever seen.
SERIES OF SHOTS
MA sitting in bed, writing.
MA sitting by pool, popping chocolate covered coffee beans and writing.
MA floating in pool, thinking about writing.
MA in one bed, Nina in the other. MA reads aloud from the script. Nina responds. MA types a note on her laptop then resumes reading.
For the rest of the weekend, I wrote and wrote and wrote.
Although I’d already been working on the God’s Country
screenplay for six years, L.A. was the first time the
characters finally began to come to life…
At long last, the magic began to happen.
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc and the Board Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. Maryanne lives in Sidney, British Columbia.
A few more pics from LA…
God’s Country; the Nell Shipman Story and C’s Trial Screenplays Nearing Completion
Over the past four years, Maryanne Pope of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc has been writing the screenplay for the future feature film, God’s Country; the Nell Shipman Story and the screenplay for a related short film, entitled C’s Trial.
The Nell Shipman screenplay is based on Shipman’s autobiography, The Silent Screen and my Talking Heart. Nell Shipman was a Canadian-born silent screen star, writer, director and producer. She had her own production company and was an early animal rights activist and environmentalist who advocated, through her films, the importance of people working in harmony with nature versus exploiting it.
In 1919, Nell starred in one of Canada’s highest ever grossing films entitled Back to God’s Country, which was shot in Northern Alberta.
Inspired by Andrew Nikiforuk’s book, Tar Sands; Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, the C’s Trial film will be a satire about the massive oil sands development in Northern Alberta. Here’s the synopsis: when a local woman with a passion for polar bears and a penchant for Kafka orchestrates the arrest of a government representative, oil executive and public relations expert and puts them on trial in a mock courtroom, the truth comes out as quick as…tar.
Maryanne has been working in close collaboration with Nell Shipman’s granddaughter, Nina Bremer, regarding rights, permissions, content, vision, structure and the link to C’s Trial – which sets Nell Shipman’s valuable story within a contemporary context.
The underlying question driving both films pertains to both local and global environmental concerns: what are we doing to God’s Country?
Both scripts are now nearing completion and the pre-production phase of securing funding and creative talent will begin in the fall of 2010.
“Being in a sense so alone with the animals…serving them and maintaining the soft-spoken image which arrived punctually with their food made communication between us a natural and easy thing. And with this treasured silent monologue, I was also acquiring a closer spoken relationship with my fellow humans.” – Nell Shipman, The Silent Screen and My Talking Heart