WARNING – STRONG ADULT CONTENT
An introverted white teacher tutors a gifted black student in a violent urban neighborhood.
Once you’ve been in the script reading business for awhile, you’ll realize genres are just labels. Broad categories that only partially describe. You like science fiction? What kind? Action fantasy? Cyberpunk? Dystopian societies? And then there’s horror, a genre even more difficult to define. There’s slasher, gothic, torture porn. Creature features abound as well…
Then there’s Drama: a genre about regular people. And that’s easy enough – isn’t it?
But chat with a few seasoned script writers. They’ll tell you writing Drama’s a bitch. FX, Fantasy and Horror provide lots of flash and distractions. But strip that window dressing away, and you’re left with no place to hide. Just reality. Emotions. People’s lives.
And that’s a pretty complex world – impossible to classify. Biographies. Romances. Medical dramas. Each strikes a chord in its unique way.
Some dramas are meant to uplift the spirit. Others bring historical eras to life. But some dramas don’t try to make a grand statement. They simply shine harsh, unapologetic light on a life. What you see may be ugly. But you can’t tear yourself away.
Thistles is one of those scripts. Brutal. And effective.
The life illuminated in this case belongs to Sazha Davids. African American and thirteen, Sazha lives in a broken down, urban neighborhood – with an equally fractured family. Her father? Deceased. Her older brother Turrell’s been getting in deep with the local gang and drugs. As for mother Cora? She has other things on her mind. A bus driver by day, Cora’s passionately involved in pro-life demonstrations… spending most of her time picketing Planned Parenthood clinics, rather than with her kids. A single mother – venting her frustrations. In perhaps not so healthy ways.
Which is fine with Sazha. This is, after all, her normal world. She’s got her friends… and that new English teacher at school, who lives in her apartment complex:
Philip Crandall, mid 30s. White. The complete opposite of urban hip. And very clearly burned by life. Philip’s an easy mark for most of his students, but young Sazha is intrigued. Unlike her other teachers, Philip’s recognized her potential. Just a few kind words here and there – but when a girl’s starved for water, a few drops go pretty far.
And there’s an emotional vulnerability about Philip, as well. Some tragedy that draws the girl to him.
During an after school reading session at Philip’s apartment, a confused Sazha pursues her interest – in the only way she knows how. Philip pushes her off, but the damage is done. Turrell spots his half-naked sister crying in Philip’s bathroom. He draws his own conclusions. And makes plans…
Soon, things spiral out of control… a Shakespearean urban tragedy. But there are no Royals and Jesters in Thistles. Just flawed human beings, with difficult choices and painful lives. And an ending that would make the Bard himself squirm. Titus Andronicus not withstanding.
Brutal and polarizing, Thistles is a dramatic limited location gem – one that’s already won kudos in several script contests. It could be done to perfection on a limited budget, given the right director: one with vision, guts and raw cinematic skill.
You want a film that’ll set fire to festivals? This one’s it. It’s a stark script that will make audiences wince. With just the slightest sweet ray of humanity, and (dare we say it?) hope.
Budget: Limited sets, urban locations. Very affordable.
About the writer: Mark Lyons is a screenwriter from Youngstown, Ohio. He’s written several scripts, most notably ‘Best Film’ award winner “God’s Empty Acre”, which was filmed as ‘Girl(s)’, at the 2013 Winter Shorts Film Festival and Best Drama at the 2013 World Independent Film Expo. He has also written the feature “Thistles” which was a Quarter-Finalist in the 2013 Bluecat Screenwriting Competition and the short “Ginger” which was a Finalist at the 2013 Shriekfest Film Festival. He can be reached at markielyons “AT” yahoo
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