The Pneuma in-progress TV Pilot

May 6, 2010
By Frances

I haven’t forgotten about this series – I’ve still been working on it, albeit in a different manner than usually posted here: a TV spec pilot. I went to school for Creative Writing, specifically fiction, but I also studied TV production and scriptwriting. I don’t imagine anyone’s ever going to want to make it (please prove me wrong, world!) but I am still planning on putting it in contests and maybe one day getting it shot. That’d be lovely.

Anyway, below is a sample from the first act of the script. Warning: It’s chock full of spoilers and characters that haven’t been introduced in the short story series yet, so if you’d prefer not to know I advise you to stop reading now. Otherwise let me know what you think!

Pneuma – “Pilot”

COLD OPEN

INT. RED CAR – LATE NIGHT – PRESENT (NIGHT 1)

A red car speeds down winding and dirty New Jersey highways. It’s a beast of a machine, years old, the paint chipped and the leather peeling, engine running on a miracle.

CONRAD WHEELWRIGHT drives like he’s been doing it nonstop for years – which he has. 51, hair prematurely gray, FULL BEARD. He used to be handsome, one eye blue and the other green. In the passenger seat sits IRIS WHEELWRIGHT, 48, a petite woman with a tired and tense face that is still extremely pretty with brown hair. She assembles a Taurus Millennium pistol, inspecting the parts for wear and tear by the streetlight, squinting. The pistol contrasts her girlishness but she handles it with ease.

CONRAD
You all right, honey?

IRIS
Of course not. I’m terrified.

He glances at her, drinking her in with his eyes, very much in love.

CONRAD
You might hate me for this, but in a perverse way I’m glad you’re with me. And at the same time I wish I’d never met you.

IRIS
You’ve always been a selfish beast that way.

She smiles at him but the moment is tense. She completes the gun, cocks it, releases the safety. He looks at her. Iris looks out the window, squinting.

IRIS (CONT’D)
I can’t see anything.

CONRAD
It’s too dark, love.

Conrad spots something through the windshield. Terror – a sound of a bird cry, gutteral and vicious – Conrad gives a savage yell and accelerates the car.

CONRAD (CONT’D)
It’s him!

Iris raises the gun but cannot see where to fire.

IRIS
Conrad, where is he?!

IMPACT! The car collides into something large, looming, feathers flying everywhere, inhuman shrieks, twisting metal.

Iris bangs her head on the dash and falls unconscious. The gun drops to her feet. Conrad is pinned to the steering wheel, face bleeding but still conscious. He reaches for the fallen gun to no avail. Black feathers everywhere.

The animal shriek wails again, louder. With renewed desperation he scrambles for the gun.
Cut to black.

ACT ONE

INT. POLICE MORGUE HALLWAY – DAY – PRESENT (DAY 1)

A clean, cool place of strictly maintained quiet. Bright fluorescent lights give the linoleum hall a sterile feel. A few medical personnel and the occasional police officer passing in the hall. LIAM WHEELWRIGHT and DETECTIVE ISAAK FERGE proceed down the length of hall.

Liam, 21, is a skinny college student, with brown floppy hair and a skater look, wary and intimidated but determined.

Ferge keeps pace, 43, a seasoned NYPD detective, half Korean and half German, with an unassuming demeanor. He is careful not to walk too far ahead of Liam.

FERGE
I know I said this once already -

LIAM
Twice.

FERGE
- once, twice, whatever, but you should probably wait for your guardian.

LIAM
I’m overage. I’m not going to sue you for showing me.

They stop at a door at the end of the hall. Ferge looks to the boy as if to say something, but Liam looks away. With misgiving, Ferge opens the door to the laboratory space and leads Liam inside.

INT. MORGUE ROOM – DAY – CONTINUOUS

A male PATHOLOGIST, late 30s, dressed in scrubs and wearing latex gloves, stands at a table fiddling with instruments as Liam and Ferge enter. Behind the pathologist are two metal tables covered in white sheets.

PATHOLOGIST
Jesus – A head’s up would’ve been nice.

LIAM
Is that them?

Ferge and the pathologist exchange glances.

PATHOLOGIST
You tell me.

The pathologist gestures Liam forward, then pulls back one of the sheets to reveal the face of IRIS WHEELWRIGHT, cold and dead. She looks peaceful, the face mostly unharmed but for a browning bruise on her forehead.

Liam’s cold facade cracks. He looks away.

LIAM
That’s her. That’s my mother.

FERGE
Show him the other.

With some hesitation pathologist reveals the body beneath the other sheet – it is a disfigured, beaten and dead CONRAD WHEELWRIGHT. There are two gaping holes where his eyes should be, the edges of the sockets brown with dried blood.

Liam steps back, visibly shaken – Ferge places a reassuring hand on him. The pathologist replaces the sheet.

PATHOLOGIST
I’m sorry.

LIAM
Where are they? His -

PATHOLOGIST
Eyes? We don’t know. Combed the crime scene but they’re MIA.

LIAM

If you find them, you might not know – they weren’t same color. You might not know.

PATHOLOGIST
Excuse me?

LIAM
Two different colors. One of his eyes was blue, the other green. In case maybe you find them.

FERGE
They had their driver’s licenses; you didn’t have to identify them.

Liam leaves the room. Ferge hastens to follow him out. The pathologist calls to him as he leaves:

PATHOLOGIST
Ferge, am I gonna get in trouble for this?

FERGE
No, John, we’re okay. Thanks a million.

INT. CAMPANA CURIO – DAY – PRESENT (DAY 1)

A small storefront, peeling and old, handed down through generations. Fading letters on the window announce the name: CAMPANA CURIO SHOP: BUY AND SELL. By the small wooden door a long string of silver bells hangs.

It’s a tiny pawn shop, made even smaller by the rows of shelves crammed into the space, with barely enough room for a person to fit through the aisles. Each shelves is loaded down with trinkets of various usefulness, some looking shiny and well-cared for, while others look broken down: Lamps, vases, ceramic cups, plastic toys, old books and ship’s bells.

HALIMAH “HALI” DARSHA, 16, a lovely Indian girl, stands behind the counter polishing a pile of recently-arrived knick-knacks, bored out of her mind. She picks up an amphora, pokes at it with her rag, sets it down. She spots a pair of RED PIXIE GLASSES and picks them up, intrigued.

The door to the shop opens, letting in sunlight and revealing her father, SAMIR DARSHA, 50, lanky and clumsy, carrying a cardboard box of battered toys.

SAMIR
Good news, honey! We’re now stocked with enough luck to end a war.

HALI
Please tell me you didn’t rob an orphanage?

SAMIR
No need. Toy drive, fifty cents each. Best deal I ever landed.

Hali fiddles with the glasses in her hand.

SAMIR (CONT’D)
Don’t.

He drops the box on the counter.

SAMIR (CONT’D)
Polish it and shelve it, but don’t wear it.

HALI
Why not?

SAMIR
We hold these things for other people but we don’t use them ourselves.

HALI

Rule One: Don’t handle the merchandise.

SAMIR
Exactly. Our family survives in this business because we never stick our noses where they shouldn’t be. Buy it, sell it, forget it. Now take this box upstairs to your mother.

Hali hesitates. She slips the glasses into her pocket in secret. She takes the box and clatters up the back stairs.

EXT. ST. JOSEPH’S PREPARATORY – DAY – FLASHBACK (DAY 1F)

A posh, modern California boarding school in the cool brick style of Stanford, housing no more than 400 students at a time. YOUNG LIAM stands in front of the school on its manicured lawns, weeping, a suitcase on either side of him. JAMES ETCHISON, 55, the black distinguished headmaster, consoles him.

The BLACK car drives out of the school parking lot, a 44 year-old Conrad at the wheel. He is CLEAN-SHAVEN with only slight hints of gray in his full head of black hair. 41 year-old Iris looks out the back windshield at their son, withdrawn, without trace of her future battle-hardened self. They don’t speak to each other, both lost in their own thoughts.

INT. POLICE MORGUE HALLWAY – DAY – PRESENT (DAY 1)

Liam feels the cold walls with his hands like they’re the most important things ever created, anger and grief barely at bay. Ferge is a hard cop but he is also sympathetic; after some hesitation he puts a hand on Liam’s shoulder.

LIAM
I just wanted to be sure for myself that it was really them. I didn’t think it would be. So stupid.

FERGE
Is there anybody you can call? Somebody you should be with at this time?

LIAM
You told me it was a car accident.

FERGE
We found their car smashed into a highway divider. Your parents were found some feet away.

LIAM

Car accidents don’t take people’s eyes out.

FERGE
Not usually.

LIAM
Did someone kill my parents?

FERGE
I don’t know yet. The pathologist in there – he’s still working on it.

LIAM
Are you kidding me? My dad doesn’t have eyes. What else does he need to look for?

FERGE
Do you believe someone would want to kill your parents?

LIAM
I don’t know anything about them.

FERGE
There are a lot of messed up people in this world; for all we know somebody with a sick sense of humor saw your parents’ wreck and decided to play a joke.

LIAM
Some joke.

FERGE
I won’t lie, I haven’t seen a lot of cases like this. It’s unusual to say the least.

LIAM
Where’s their car?

FERGE
Police impounded, getting the once-over by forensics. The items inside will be confiscated already.

LIAM
I just want to see it, if that’s possible.

Liam is humble and Ferge, against his better judgement, is won over.

FERGE
All right.

EXT. ST. JOSEPH’S PREPARATORY – DAY – FLASHBACK (DAY 1F)

A young LIAM WHEELWRIGHT, aged 13, smiles and runs around in the huge lawn of the boarding school.

In the background a BLACK CAR is parked haphazardly.

It’s autumn and Liam picks up leaves to toss them to the ground. Seeing a lake on the grounds with rowboats tied to a dock, he runs toward it happily and with much shrieking – the opposite of his guarded 21 year-old self.

Behind follows 41 year-old Iris. She takes in the picturesque scenery with misgiving, and fiddles with a pair of RED PIXIE GLASSES hanging around her neck by a chain. When Liam waves to her from the dock she waves back cheerily.

IRIS
Liam! Don’t get too close to the water!

YOUNG LIAM
Yeah yeah!

IRIS
I mean it!

YOUNG LIAM
Okay!

He inches away from a rowboat he was prodding.

Nearby, out of earshot from Liam but close enough for Iris to listen in, 44 year-old Conrad talks quietly with JAMES ETCHISON, headmaster of St. Joseph’s. James is an old college professor of Conrad’s, a man that commands respect from his former students like troops to their commander.

JAMES
This isn’t the proper manner in which to conduct your family.

CONRAD
It’s not a typical sort of situation, sir.

JAMES
Does the boy know?

CONRAD
Not yet.

JAMES
Abysmal. Is your wife a part of this devilish plot as well?

CONRAD
Iris is aware.

JAMES
That explains the look in her eye.

CONRAD
That’s her regular expression, sir.

JAMES

Are you cracking jokes whilst dropping your child on my doorstep like your personal day care facility?

Conrad quails at first at his mentor’s rebuke. He spots Iris and his son playing on the pier. He becomes grave.

CONRAD
We’ll pick him up as soon as we can.

EXT. POLICE IMPOUND LOT – DAY – PRESENT (DAY 1)

The summer sun beats down on the cars in the lot, reflecting light and making Ferge and Liam squint. The cars are in various states of disrepair. In a corner, the RED car squats like a wounded animal, the front destroyed and the windshield shattered.

FERGE
Recognize it?

LIAM
They didn’t have this car last time I saw them. The other one was black.

FERGE
When was that?

LIAM
I was thirteen.

FERGE
You haven’t seen your parents in seven years?

LIAM
Nope. Can I open it?

FERGE
Knock yourself out. But don’t touch anything, I’m watching you. Where did you stay?

LIAM
Boarding school.

FERGE
You didn’t have anybody at Visitor’s Day or something?

Liam wrestles with the passenger side door but manages to get it open. The car is as Ferge warned: there is nothing in the interior, no CDs or old food. Disturbingly, however, there is a dried bloodstain on the passenger side dash board.

He sniffs the air and makes a face: something reeks. He looks down and sees something glinting beneath the seat, trapped in a corner between the seat and the door. A candy wrapper.

Ferge watches him with a hawk-like gaze.

FERGE (CONT’D)
I think that’s long enough.

NATALIE TILL, 47, strides through the lot toward them. An African-American lady in a business suit with a personality like a smiling bulldozer. A hapless male OFFICER follows in her wake.

NATALIE
Liam Wheelwright, is a phone call really that hard to make?

As Ferge glances away to address Natalie, Liam swiftly leans down, grabs the piece of foil and places it in his pocket.

FERGE
Can I help you?

OFFICER
Detective Ferge, I’m sorry, she just sort of stream-rolled through when she found out that kid was here -

Ferge glances back at a seemingly-innocent Liam.

LIAM
(gesturing to Natalie)
She came on Visitor’s Day.

Ferge signals to the officer that Natalie is all right; the officer sighs and backs away.
Natalie hands Ferge a business card.

NATALIE
Natalie Till, nice to meet you.

FERGE
Detective Ferge, my pleasure.
(looking at the card)
A lawyer… Unsurprising.

LIAM
Sorry, Natalie. I got a little – I don’t know. Wasn’t thinking.

FERGE
He’s overage, never said anything about other family.

NATALIE
We’re not really related.

Liam slams the car door shut; Ferge and Natalie both react.

LIAM
Is your car outside?

Natalie tosses him the keys.

NATALIE
You ride shotgun. You’re in no state to drive.

LIAM
Are you?

Natalie glares at him. Liam raises his hands in surrender and leaves the lot. Ferge and Natalie remain, sizing each other up.

To be Continued… OH SNAP.

One Response to “ The Pneuma in-progress TV Pilot ”

  1. Life Update! | Tales of Pneuma on May 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    [...] now the TV script sample I’ve posted today will have to suffice… but it’s quite a juicy sample! Characters [...]

Leave a Reply