Sunday, November 22, 2009

music from a scorched earth

Following is the pitch I'm using for my newest/oldest screenplay, MUSIC FROM A SCORCHED EARTH.

To, you know, answer the question, "What have you been up to?" and, hopefully, account for the long absence from this blog.



Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which
it is impossible to be silent.

— Victor Hugo

Spiraling. She is spiraling down. Two months clean and sober, living just this side of homeless with devout grandparents and a trunk-load of secrets they won't share, won't discuss, won't even admit are there, and if 18-year-old Ellie doesn’t do something, she’s going to lose it.

Out. She wants out. She wants to claw out of her own skin (that's the addiction speaking), to crawl out of the hole that has been dug for her as a well-meaning cocoon that does nothing to shelter her from a past she did not live and the memories of ghosts who refuse to lie down.

School is suffocating. She is a prodigy, they claim — brilliant, an exceptional artist, a classical musician whose talent conjures that of the masters. Haydn. Handel. Hummel. What she possesses is beyond promising — if. If she can remain focused. If she can stay disciplined. If she can keep the bottle at bay.

The death of her friend and mentor at Guildhall, one of the most prestigious music academies in the world, and suddenly, London feels provincial. Comical. Unbearable. Ellie has to step out, step off, step away. It is the only way.

Escape to Vienna, to a music academy conducting program designed to restore the dilapidated school to its original grandeur. The move emboldens her. She can separate herself from her family's past, her father's pathetic addictions, her mother's calculated, clinical love, and the canyons of resentment that have ruptured and settled around her grandparents' volcanic past.

Never mind that she is the only female student of conducting in the entire school — the first female ever to grace its campus. Never mind that her teacher, himself just a student, demonstrates an alarmingly accurate ability to see through her tough-girl, fuck-you attitude to a part of her that she's not ready to reveal. And never mind that the score she's been assigned to lead an orchestra through in just a few week's time resonates in a way that makes her sick to her stomach. This is it. This is all she has.

What she doesn't know is that the music holds the answer to everything that has plagued her for as long as she can remember. The score that she must lead her orchestra through leads her directly into history, into old-world Vienna on the verge of the Holocaust, into the camps at Auschwitz, and, at last, into the living room of an old man's home on the banks of the Danube.

In the final score to this music from a scorched earth is a crescendo of promise: of confession and forgiveness, of resolution and redemption. And if she can face the music, if she can make it through, she’ll make it out.
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