Posted by: steveonfilm | June 15, 2010

The Bill is Due

So what’s “The Debt Collector”? Well, it’s not about someone who goes after past due accounts for the IRS, I can tell you that much.

Actually, I’m going to tell you a lot about the story. I’m not worried about “spoilers” because, frankly, the odds are you’re not going to read the screenplay. But what you’re likely to do is read some posts where I’m working through problems, posting hypotheticals, and talking about my creative process. And for all of that to work, you need to know what the story is about.

Ira Black is an “enforcer” for a mobster in Los Angeles named Mr. Avarita. Why Los Angeles? Because I needed a city within driving range to Las Vegas, where the majority of the story takes place. It could be somewhere else, and the locations don’t really matter too much. But L.A. and Vegas work, so that’s what I’m going with.

Mr. Avarita is your typical mobster type, involved in various criminal enterprises, one of which is lending money to people for various… endeavors. When they don’t pay up, or need to be reminded of their agreement, Avarita sends out Ira.

Ira is VERY good at his job and Mr. Avarita pays him well for doing so. However, money isn’t everything, and his job is slowly tearing apart his family. He and his wife, Catherine, have separated. She moved into an apartment recently, and their son Fadi lives with her during the week, with Ira taking him out for ice cream, trips to the park, and other “special” things. Another baby is on the way, and Catherine has just recently started to show, and reality of another child in this world has made Catherine realize she does not want to live, or raise children, with Ira as long as he continues on his current employment path.

Ira is doing his best to be a good father to Fadi. He truly loves the kid, and his wife for that matter. However, Mr. Avarita is very demanding, often sending Ira off on jobs with little to no notice. This usually gets in the way of Ira’s life, and more specifically the life he has, or had, with his family. It’s one such even that is really the launching point for the story. Avarita sends Ira to Vegas to have a “talk” with someone who’s fallen behind on their obligations, and he needs Ira to leave now. Unfortunately, Ira had promised to take Fadi to his baseball game tomorrow. He gives Fadi the bad news and it doesn’t go over well, with Fadi or Catherine, who at that point formally suggests a divorce.

Now… these last two paragraphs contain about the first 10 pages of the story or so. Not every detail, but the gist of the set up is what I just talked about. The whole story opens up with Ira and Fadi in a diner enjoying a milkshake. A busboy drops a boy of dishes. Around page 15 or so Ira will head to Vegas to find the man Avarita wants him to “talk” to, Victor Kobolar. He locates Victor, who refuses to pay back Avarita. Ira makes short work of Victor and his two goons.

Ira heads to a hotel… gets a room. While sitting there, he looks at a picture of Fadi, checks his watch, and decides to leave. He’s going to make the drive back. He’ll be tired, but he’ll still make the game. On the drive back, he starts to doze off, and wakes up just in time to avoid an oncoming semi. He swerves into a nearby field. A short time later his car dies. Without cell reception, or any help, he starts off walking.

He finds a weird motel a short walk later. Is assigned a room. A knock at the door. Two goons. Their boss wants to talk to him. They say he’s a friend of Mr. Avarita’s and heard he might be in some kind of trouble. Ira at first resists, but the goons make it apparent this isn’t really a choice.

Ira meets Luc Saligia at his desert estate. Luc is in a similar line of work to Mr. Avarita. He says he can fix his car, have it ready for him by morning. In the mean time, he’s got some side work for him if he’s interested. Ira agrees to take care of a problem for Luc, a man named Merrick. And Luc asks he bring back a small statue of an angel Merrick carries with him. This is probably plot point one.

Ira locates Merrick, back in Vegas, and is aboutto kill him, but Merrick insists they know each other. He tells Ira that Luc is already starting to change him, and he needs to get out while he still can, before it’s too late. Ira loses interest and finishes the job. Ira comes back to Luc, tells him the job is done, but when he goes to leave Luc’s goons slam the doors shut…

Ira wakes to avoid the semi again… he repeats the same steps as before, only getting vague hints of deja vu. He meets Luc again. Agrees to work for him. Kills his target. Returns. Tries to leave, and wakes up to avoid the semi in his car again.

This repeats a few times. Each time Ira is asked to bring back a different trinket from his victim. Ira getting a little more conscious each time. Every target a bit different. Some sympathetic. Others terrible people. In the middle a specific target causes him to get flashes of everything, become aware to a point. He returns to Luc and the meeting isn’t pleasant. However, he’s once again returned to the point where he avoids the semi. This is about the mid point or so.

This time Ira is fully aware of what’s going on, and what’s going to happen. He retraces his steps, causing as much chaos as possible along the way. He burns down the hotel. Kills Luc’s two goons when they arrive. Drives to Luc’s himself. Shoots up the place when he arrives. Luc isn’t happy about this… Ira wants to know what’s going on. Luc promises him that if he does this last job, he’ll explain what’s going on, and Ira will be free to go. It’s a model. And he wants him to bring back a small cigarette case.

Ira heads off to kill a model. He finds her. She’s a wreck. Strung out. A sob story. He takes pity on her. Like the other victims, she too was taken advantage of by Luc. Her life is a mess. She looks closer to a skeleton than a person. He decides no to kill her. He grabs a bag, brings her outside, tells her to get away from here. Tells her to stay there as he signals for a cab. She stumbles from the curb, and is hit by a car. She dies in his arms… saying there is no light, just darkness.

Ira returns to Luc. He tells him he didn’t kill her, but she’s dead. He asks if he has the cigarette case. He doesn’t. This really pisses Luc off. He complains that someone else has her now. Ira doesn’t want to hear it. He wants his car now. But there is no car. There never was. Ira leaves the room, trying to get out of the mansion, but it’s like a maze, rooms lead to rooms, which lead back to the same room. None of it makes sense.

Ira opens a door to a long hallway, that seemingly goes on to infinity, staffed by glass display cases. He runs down the hallway, finally stopping, and looks at one of the cases, and there on the top shelve are all the trinkets he’d taken. Ira turns but Luc is already standing in front of him. He snaps his fingers and they’re transported to a place of infinite darkness.

Ira and Luc square off, but Luc isn’t normal. Gunshots pass through him. He moves with inhuman speed. He does things a normal person can’t. You’re left knowing that Luc is something other than human. And when he’s done with Ira, a light shines down on nearby, with Catherine and Fadi tied to a chair. Luc walks over and kills Catherine. Says he’ll do the same to Fadi if Luc doesn’t keep working for him. He’s going to go to the person’s house who has the cigarette case, retrieve it, kill the man, and come back.

Ira heads out, and finds the man, but it’s not a man at all, it’s a young boy, not unlike his son Fadi. He touche’s Ira’s hand and they’re transported to a diner from earlier. The same diner we open with, where Ira and Fadi were talking. The boy tells Ira that his family is safe, and still very much alive. Luc’s reach srong, but not that strong. Nothing is what it seems, and his illusions are no different. He tells Ira that he has been a bad man… and his path ahead will be difficult. But before he can move on he needs to realize something about himself. And when he does, the boy will be there to help.

Ira agrees, and the boy touches Ira’s hand again… this is the end of the second act.

Ira snaps back to avoiding the semi again. He walks through his routine, without any resistance, and nearly identical to the first time he did so. He arrives at Luc’s place. Luc is sitting, waiting, very much different than their first encounter. He tries his act again, threatening Fadi. Ira doesn’t bite. Something Fadi says gives away that he’s not real, nor is anything else. Then it hits Ira… he never did avoid that semi. None of this is real. He’s dead. And Luc is having him collect the souls of people who made a deal with him. The devil? Luc assures him that the Devil isn’t the only one a man can sell his soul to. Ira realized that Merrick used to be the role, and he had Ira kill him, and thus replace him. Ira refuses to be his angel of death anymore. Luc insists he doesn’t have a choice. Ira says he does, he can break the chain, and “kills” himself.

Bright brilliant white. Ira standing in the middle of it. Looking around. He turns to find the boy. He takes Ira’s hand. They start to walk. The boy tells him the next step won’t be easy. He can take his punishment. Or be given a new chance, a way to prove his soul is worthy of moving on. Ira takes the later. the boy tells Ira it will be hard. He will be tempted. But the temptations will be things he is capable to overcome, and things he is already familiar with. Ira agrees, whatever it takes…

Ira snaps to in a diner as a bus boy drops a bin of dishes, just like where we opened, Fadi sitting across from him. He takes Fadi home to Catherine. Still unsure of what’s going on. Ira and Catherine have a similar discussion that they did before. Ira’s phone rings, it’s Mr. Avarita, just like before. Catherine rolls her eyes. Ira says this time it will be different. If getting a new job is what it will take, that’s what he’ll do. He drops the phone on the ground and crushes it with his foot. Then asks Fadi if he wants to hit the batting cages to practice for tomorrow. Fadi leaps at the chance. Catherine is confused, but doesn’t disagree.

At the batting cages Ira watches at Fadi swings and misses. He gets something from the concession stand. On his way back he spots the boy standing on the other side of the parking lot. They share a glance, Ira nodding, the boy nodding back. A truck passes by, blocking Ira’s view, and when it passes the boy is gone. Ira returns to Fadi, sets his drink down, and starts coaching the boy.

That’s how it ends.

I know that’s a lot of narrative, but it lays the whole story out. Every beat isn’t laid out here, and a lot of what I talked about is summarized, but that’s the story. I’ll post of the outline when I’m complete, and it’s getting very close to that point. My wife is going out of town for about a week or so, so there will be plenty of uninterrupted time for me to write this weekend.

Until next time, keep writing!



  1. interesting idea. I saw it unravel in my head as I read through it. I will say, don’t make it too much like “Source Code”, and if you haven’t read it, you should (Scriptshadow has it, or I have a copy if you want it) Anyway, just keep that in mind before you write it, that’s all. But I like the concept, I like your ideas…it will be interesting to see how you write it. And yes, I assume I will read it, once you are done with it.

    • What’s “Source Code” about?

    • Never mind, I read the primer on ScriptShadow. While the “repetition” stuff has some similarities, story wise these two are ages apart.

      Plus, like Scriptshadow complains about, things start to change up in my repetitions pretty quickly, and I’m already paying close attention to making sure that each repeat strays further and further from the original.

      However, the bookend that Scriptshadow likes with something happening outside of the repetitions is something I hadn’t considered before. It’s too late in the process to look at that now, but when I finish this draft I might consider how I could possibly approach something like that in my story.

      On the flip side, although the beginning in each repetition is nearly the same, the task given differs each time, as does the payoff at the end.

      Thanks for bringing this story up though, i’m going to give it a read since Scriptshadow is really high on it, and he’s got a great eye for rock solid scripts.

      • Yes, you definitely should give it a read – It’s an easy read, I read it in an hour or so – and even though each segment started out the same, he had a different mission as the story progressed. I’m not saying this to discourage, exactly the opposite. I think you can make it resoundingly different if you work your story into it more adeptly.

        Either way, I am excited to read it when complete, I think you’re onto something here.

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