Posted by: steveonfilm | December 16, 2009

Pride is Forever: Day Ten

I was pleasantly surprised with how things turned out tonight. I sat down to start writing and everything just sort of came out. I’m actually relatively satisfied with the content of Plot Point 2, the Act 3 summary, and the end of Act 3. My treatment came in at 4 pages exactly. Literally one more word and it’s too long.

Writing action in a summarized format is actually a rewarding challenge. Anyone who’s been faced with revising a big giant block of text in their screenplay knows how hard it is to write vertically sometimes. Exercises like this just force me to get better at that sort of thing.

Here’s how the final three parts of the treatment turned out:

NCAA meet, Eugene, OR, June. Doug is somber. Distant. The coaches look at him, concerned. They mention that even though Doug won his earlier heat, something is off. Doug stays to himself, stretching, thinking. The race starts. Doug in the middle of pack. Lost in the shuffle. Just going through the motions. Uncharacteristic. Third lap, Doug goes down hard in the water jump. He’s slow to get up. Danny yelling from the sidelines. Everyone yelling. His chance slipping away. Doug gets up, a full 20 yards behind everyone, he trots and then picks up steam. Finally into a damn near full out sprint. Final lap. Doug still in last, but he’s moving through the pack. 7th. 6th. 5th. 4th. His lungs scorching. His legs straining. Every muscle giving it his all. He catches 3rd places, and BEATS HIM across the finish, and hits the Olympic Trials qualifying time with .05 to spare.

Doug talks over what to do with his coach. He’s qualified for the steeple and the 10K, but he needs to pick one. Doug picks the steeple. Doug makes up with Kelly. Back to Eugene. Race day Doug doesn’t want to think about, goes fishing the first day, catches a bunch of Trout. Things still not sinking in. He finishes 3rd in his heat. That night he can’t sleep, realizing he’s going to be running to make the Olympic team the next day. Doug pacing the morning of. Can’t calm down. Goes to the track, warms up, etc. Steve Prefontaine is there, asks him why he’s warming up. Doug tells him he’s nervous and this is the only thing that will calm him down. Pre race Doug is a mess. Not used to this pressure. Convinced he’d not make the team. This is a mistake. He should be running the 10K instead. He’s a 20 yr old who’s been running this race for 2 ½ months, he shouldn’t be there. He manages to get his sweats off and make it to the starting line. Silence.

BAM! Doug keeps in the mid pack most of the race. Coaches talk about how comfortable he looks. Doug flirts with making a move, but holds back. One lap to go, he’s in 4th. Moves past Jim Dare into 3rd. Doug goes down hard at the barrier with 300M to go. Everything stops. A flag goes up. Doug hesitates, but hears a voice in his head. “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.” Doug leaps up and takes off. Blood gushing from the wound on his leg. He passes 3rd. Passes 2nd. Almost into 1st, but out of room. He’s made the team. They rush him to the infield care center. He’s unaware of his injury. Then a judge tries to disqualify him. Doug and his coach rush over. Jim Dare say Doug never touched him when he fell. The celebrations are awkward for Doug that night. When he’s laying in bed, he gets up, crutches and all, and makes his way to the field. Looking out over the empty track he loses it. A janitor cleans up in the stands. Finally Doug laves. The janitor looks up, it’s Father Stevens. He smiles turns, fading away into the shadows.

One thing that is interesting about the end of the treatment is that there are two people of varying notoriety who are part of my Uncle Doug’s story. The first one is Steve Prefontaine. When my uncle was really starting to freak out about what he was about to attempt later that day, he had a chat with Prefontaine down at the track. Being that Prefontaine has not one, but two movies made about him, it’s sort of odd to actually have him in my screenplay. I’d feel like I was stealing a character, but I guess when a person is real, and part of history, you can’t really steal them. The second person is Captain James Dare of The United States Naval Academy. Jim is the person my Uncle beat out for the last spot. Jim was well known in the track and field circuit, and an honorable man who really did my uncle a solid by telling the judge there was no foul. He could have kept his mouth shut and went on to the Olympics, but he didn’t, and it changed my Uncle’s life forever.

A lot of what inspied me to take up this story for my next screenplay in the first place was getting a copy of an e-mail my uncle sent to his cousin. She lives in Germany, and he had been coaching her, via e-mail, on how to better her marathon and half marathon times. When asked, he sent her an e-mail recounting his story of making the team. It quickly spread around the family, and I got a copy as well. Soon after that it made it’s way to an editor at Track and Field, and they put it up on their website. If you’d like to read the post, you can find it here. It’s cool to see a picture from the big event itself. I’ve posted the image to the blog post. That’s my uncle with the #30 jersey for Tennessee, and Jim Dare over his left shoulder.

I’m ready to start getting into some serious writing. The next few chapters in The Screenwriter’s Workbook deal with “character” and fleshing them out and giving them background, history, substance. I don’t think I’m going to do those exercises. If you want to see what they’re all about, you can check my old posts on exercises five here, exercise six here, and exercise seven here. I’ve done a lot of what these exercises cover in my background research, and I’ll explain in a post a little later on why I have some issues with significant character biographies.

Until next time, keep writing!

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