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Taking The Fall – Screenplay (Excerpt)

  1. Several years ago, I entered this script in a couple screenplay competitions, and was deeply honored when it won one of these and placed in another.  I also wrote several companion pieces to it, including the short story, “Of Julie and Better Men,” which became the Prologue of a novelette that is the screenplay’s prequel, and all the lyrics to the (10 song) soundtrack (plus a few songs for the novelette  — which, in both cases are integral to the stories, and performed by the male lead).  I also later wrote the additional short story mentioned below. (Gee, not obsessive at all, am I?!?)

What It”s About:
Four years after his girlfriend’s suicide, rock star Joshua Gray insists his music is his only love.  But when he meets the one woman to stop his past from destroying his future, things starts to change – until fallout from his fame abruptly threatens to destroy them both.

Below are sample scenes from the screenplay – which, incidentally, includes the character Father Pete, whose backstory is detailed in the short story, “Acceptance.”  (my apologies that proper formatting hasn’t translated particularly well to this page, resulting in some far from proper adjustments!)

Also, it should be noted the screenplay is set in 1997 – the year Princess Diana was (quite literally) driven to her death by badgering media, rocker Michael Hutchence died at his own hands, and the joy of Christmas was countered by the release of a film about the ill-fated Titanic. While none of these events are a part of Taking the Fall’s script, it’s only reasonable to think they would weigh upon the mindset of a main character already dealing with such issues. In addition, this (pre tech-in-every-pocket) year also provides credibility for the low-tech use of the female lead.

****************************

EXT. STREET OUTSIDE BALDUCCI’S MARKET – DAY

It’s Saturday morning and there are quite a few people on the street, but the pace is a bit less harried than on weekdays.  Sam and Patty walk toward Balducci’s market and enter.

INT.  BALDUCCI’S – DAY

The market is crowded.  Sam and Patty inch their way to the pastry counter.

SAM (the female lead, Samantha, age 33)
I’m between cheesecake and cannolis.
What about you, Patty?

PATTY (Samantha”s sister-in-law)
Definitely chocolate mousse cake.
Cannolis do look pretty good today,
though.

SAM
(to Server)

We’d like a slice of cheesecake, a
slice of chocolate mousse cake, and
2 cannolis, please.

They watch as the girl puts their selections in a box.

PATTY
Mmmm.

SAM
(taking the box)

Thanks.

They make their way to the checkout line.

EXT. WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK – DAY

Sam and Patty are seated on the ground by the arch, delving into their goodies.  Patty notices Father Pete walk by.

PATTY

Pete!  Hey!

Father Pete looks around him, sees them.  He smiles and approaches.

FATHER PETE (priest, age 41, of the parish Sam and Patty attend. Sam also volunteers at its soup kitchen)

What’s goin’ on?

SAM
(offering him a cannoli)

Breakfast — have some.

FATHER PETE

Wow — that looks healthy.

(taking it)

Thanks.

He takes a seat by them.

PATTY

Guess who Sam had dinner with again
last night.

SAM
(to Father Pete)

So.  Have you ever had any success
counseling people with obsessions?
I have this sister-in-law who…

Patty gives Sam a playful shove.

SAM

Oh yeah — and she has these outbursts
of violence, too.

PATTY
(ignoring her)

He asked her over to his place
this time.

FATHER PETE
So I take it you like this guy.

SAM
Yeah.  I do.

FATHER PETE
Why do I sense a “but” coming?

PATTY
She’s probably thinking too much
again.  These intellectual types —
they can think their way out of
fun every time.

SAM
No.  I think he’s great.  I really
do… “but” he’s got a lot of —
stuff — going on inside.  I mean…

FATHER PETE
You mean his band’s not called
Ghosts in Gray for nothing.

SAM
Exactly.  And that’s not just a
metaphor.  His last girlfriend
committed suicide.  He feels
responsible.

PATTY
Is he?

SAM
Geez, Patty.  You make it sound
so simple.

PATTY
Well.  She was obviously unhappy.
If they weren’t getting along…
I was married.  I know how rotten
men can be.  No offense, Pete.

SAM
But you didn’t kill yourself over it.

FATHER PETE
I’ve got to go with Sam on this one.
There’s nothing simple about suicide.
I’ve done a lot of work with families
who’ve lost somebody that way.  It
can really mess people up.  So much
anger — and guilt.  It’s tough —
for everybody.

SAM
I just — want to do something for
him.  I don’t know…

FATHER PETE
Does he talk about it?  Being open
is a start.

SAM
He’s written about it.

PATTY
Does that mean you’re right about
that ”Farewell Ophelia” song?

SAM
Yeah.  I asked him about the whole
thing last night, actually.  And he
talked about it — very openly
in fact.  But I got the impression
even he doesn’t understand how muc
it’s still affecting him.

FATHER PETE
Has he had any other relationships
since it happened?

SAM
Not from what I gather. And I think
he’s re-evaluating that now because
he’s looking for redemption in a way.
I think he’s tried to deal with it
through his music — and I’m sure
that helped… but —

FATHER PETE
But now it’s time for “physician,
heal thyself.”

SAM
I think so.  Yes. I mean, he’s talked
about it, he’s sung about it, but I
don’t believe he’s ever really come
to terms with it.

FATHER PETE
Well, he couldn’t have picked a better
person to help him do that.  And if I
can do anything, if you want me to
try to talk to him — whatever,
just let me know.

SAM
Thanks.  You know I will.

FATHER PETE
(glancing at his watch)

I’m supposed to be meeting some
people near here in a few minutes.
I’d better go.

SAM
Okay.  See you, Pete.

FATHER PETE
Thanks for “breakfast”.

PATTY
Bye, Pete.

**********************

INT.  SAM’S APARTMENT – DAY

Sam emerges from the kitchen, goes to the small table in the entry area, grabs her keys and steps into the hallway. She locks the door and turns toward the stairs.

INT.  HALLWAY OUTSIDE SAM’S APARTMENT – DAY

RICH DOWNING, a surly-mannered tabloid reporter, is standing in the hall.  As Sam starts toward the stairs, he snaps her picture.  She is startled.

DOWNING
You’re Samantha Jameson, right?

SAM
And you are?

DOWNING
I’m doing a story on Joshua Gray.

SAM
Then I’d suggest you talk with him.

DOWNING
Yeah, well, I thought maybe you
could help me out.  He was here
last night, wasn’t he?

Sam begins to back away from him.

SAM
I have nothing to say to you.

DOWNING
Exactly what’s your relation-
ship with Mr. Gray?  How long
have you known him?  Are you –

SAM
(still backing away)
I said I have nothing to say to –

In her desire to end this unsettling encounter, Sam has backed closer to the stairs than she realizes and one of her sock-clad feet slips from the top step. She tries to catch herself, but is unsuccessful.  She plunges down the entire fight.

Downing grabs his cell phone – we CLOSE IN on the keypad as he dials 911.  He snaps a picture of her still form at the bottom of the stairs as he awaits an answer.

INT.  SAM’S APARTMENT BUILDING – FOYER/STAIRS – DAY

Josh and Chris are just starting up the stairs.

CHRIS
So Matt says there’s a party
after the show tonight.

JOSH
Yeah — at our manager’s place.
I’m going to bring Sam, introduce
her to the guys.  She’s a little
nervous about it.  That’s part of
why I thought I’d bring you over
to meet her today.  This way she’ll
know at least one other person in
the room. You are coming, right?

CHRIS
Definitely.  Wouldn’t miss it.

INT.  SAM’S APARTMENT BUILDING – FOURTH FLOOR HALLWAY – DAY

Josh and Chris have just reached the top of the fourth floor. As they round the corner from the stairs, they see Downing standing near the landing at the bottom of the stairs to the fifth floor, talking furtively into a cell phone. He has puthis camera back into its bag and they do not recognize him. A couple more steps and they spot Sam lying on the floor.

JOSH
Sam!

They rush over, kneel on either side of her.

JOSH
(to Downing, without looking up)
What happened?

CHRIS
Geez, Josh. She’s white as a ghost.

DOWNING

We were just talking upstairs and she slipped —

Josh and Chris both look up at the now seemingly endless flight of stairs.  Their concern turns to horror.

JOSH
From up there??!!??

CHRIS
Holy —

Josh leans over Sam carefully, listening for a heartbeat as Chris feels her neck for a pulse.

DOWNING
She’s alive.  I already checked.
And an ambulance is on its way.

The activity causes Sam to stir slightly, slowly open her eyes.  Wanting to comfort her, Josh lays a hand on her right arm.  She cries out.  He draws back quickly.

JOSH
(to himself)
Can’t I ever cause anything but pain?!?

DOWNING
Is she your girlfriend or something?

Sam appears to be unconscious once more. Josh glances up briefly at Downing, suddenly notices the camera bag.  A light dawns.

JOSH
You’re a reporter, aren’t you?
You were bugging her about me.
Weren’t you, you son of a —
Josh snaps.  He lunges toward Downing, who has quickly backed away.  Josh rushes after him, grabs him by the collar near the opposite end of the hallway.

INTERCUT between the two ends of the hallway.

Hearing Josh’s shout, Sam lets out a small sound.  Chris looks down quickly.

DOWNING
Mr. Gray!  Please — wait a minute!!

Josh slams Downing backward against the wall.  The camera bag slips from his shoulder to the floor.  Josh kicks it down the hall.

Sam has opened her eyes again and struggles to focus.

SAM
You’re Chris, right?

CHRIS
Yeah.  Just take it easy.  Shh…

Josh still has Downing’s collar.  He slams him against the wall again.

JOSH
What did you do, you miserable
piece of —

Sam is still struggling to communicate with Chris.

SAM
Don’t — don’t let Josh blame himself —
like for Julie…
Please, Chris…

CHRIS
I’ll do my best.  I promise.
Just promise me you’ll try to
save your strength and not talk
any more, okay?

Sam starts, frightened, as she hears Downing hit the wall once more, then slips back to unconsciousness.

CHRIS
Oh, man.  Stay with me, baby.
Come on.  Just keep breathing.
Jesus, where are the paramedics?!?

Josh is now holding Downing on the edge of the top step.  Downing is sobbing, terrified by this enraged madman.

DOWNING
Please don’t hurt me!!  Please!!

JOSH
But you’re a reporter.
You want to know what people
are feeling. Don’t you want to
know exactly what she’s feeling
right now?

DOWNING
No!! Please!! No!!!

JOSH
Well, maybe I want you to!!!

The PARAMEDICS can be heard coming up the stairs below, bringing Josh back to reality and Sam’s need for immediate attention. He roughly thrusts Downing to the floor a safe distance from the stairs.

JOSH
Get out of here, you creep.

Downing just sits there, still sobbing in terror.

JOSH
GET OUT!!!

Downing collects himself and scurries off past the paramedics as they hurry up the stairs.  Josh runs back to Sam and Chris.

*****************

INT.  JOSH’S KITCHEN – NIGHT

The kitchen is dark. Josh fishes in the back of a cabinet over the sink, comes out with a bottle of Jack Daniels.  He opens it, starts to take a drink, stops.  In his head, he sees…

FLASHBACK:

INT. SAM’S APARTMENT – THE NIGHT BEFORE HER FALL

JOSH
I love you Sam.

INT. SAM’S BUILDING – STAIRS/FOURTH FLOOR LANDING – THE

DAY OF SAM’S FALL

CHRIS
She said — that she loves you.

INT. HOSPITAL – HALLWAY – THE DAY OF SAM’S FALL

FATHER PETE
You haven’t lost yourself.  Not
yet. So don’t. Don’t…don’t…
don’t…

RETURN TO SCENE

Josh suddenly pours the contents down the sink and hurls the bottle in the trash.  He watches the liquid run down the drain, leans both hands heavily on the edge of the sink. We PULL BACK TO REVEAL him standing there in the darkness as his shoulders start to shake with silent sobs.

*****************


Lyrics to the title song, sung by lead character, Joshua Gray, in one of several key performance scenes.

              TAKING THE FALL (song)

What you want from me today
You slimy little snot?
Try to take another piece of me,
I’ll give you what I’ve got.
You strip me of my sanity,
You poke holes in my pride;
You rip and shred and dig your claws
In scars I try to hide.

Press  Press  Press  Press
Pressing in on me.
Digging up my roots in life
For everyone to see.

You say it’s your job
And you claim free press for all.
But I’m claiming your freedom costs
And who’s left taking the fall?!?

Who’s left taking the fall?!?
Come on guys — who’s left taking the fall?!?
I’m asking — who’s left taking the fall?!?
I’ll tell you — you’re not taking the fall!!!

Don’t tell me I asked for this;
I never asked for sh–.
I set out in search of truth;
Your lies are what I get.
You tell me I played your game
And knew what you stood for.
Only wish when you came knocking
I’d known how to slam the door!

Press  Press  Press  Press
Pressing in on me.
How about if I come take
All of your privacy?

You say it’s your job
And you claim free press for all.
But I’m claiming your freedom costs
And who’s left taking the fall?!?

Who’s left taking the fall?!?
Come on guys — who’s left taking the fall?!?
I’m asking — who’s left taking the fall?!?
I’ll tell you — you’re not taking the fall!!!