SCREENPLAY TREATMENT: White Feather by Donna Surles
The film will open with nothing but sound and vision, i.e. synchro-kinetic soundtrack and visuals.
From there, the story begins with a woman, CHRISTINA ROSE, who is an upwardly mobile person of the 90's. In her language, that just means she is the kind of person the Greek's were thinking of when they were 'seizing the day'. She is quick. She does free-lance reading and writing. That is, she receives first editions of new books, reads them and writes reviews. This she does in her spare time. Her primary motivation is contact. Just contact, with anyone and anything, anytime. In her quest for proof of her existence, she has lived and loved on many different levels. She has many outlets for these experiences, including a corral of bizarre friends, "one of whom is destined to appear at any moment", she thinks to herself, as there is a knock on her sliding glass door. "Come in," she calls, barely glancing up from her newest book. It had arrived today, 'Planet Fire' by Joey Malone.
Enter PETER KING, her partner-in-crime. He is a successful talk-radio host who is between jobs right now. The last station he had a show on was unhappy with the subjects he was introducing on his show, "Spotting Fakes", and he had quit before it got dirty. Since then he had been developing an idea for a new show and was preparing to present it to another station. Today he is particularly glorious about his unemployment and was wearing a silk kimono and grinning. "Yo babe, you ready?'
"For what?", Christina replies, sensing trouble already seeing how Peter is dressed.
At the same moment, DAVID ROSE, Christina's brother enters the front door yelling, "It's Saturday!". he especially likes to celebrate weekends now that he has a 'real' job at a community college teaching a few classes in Mineralogy.
Christina jumped up and said, "David, knock sometimes, okay?"
Peter and David quickly come together and start a heated discussion about a new television show that had started the previous evening. "Remember that part?", says David.
"Oh great, we're going back in time." Christina leaves the room.
On the screen appears a television screen showing the words LAST NIGHT.
We're in David and BLAZE FLEMISH'S house. The four of them are sitting in a room with the television on, but no one is watching it. They are all working on individual projects. Christina is sitting at a desk, typing. Peter and David are playing chess. Blaze is sitting by a window, with the moon shining in, building a mask. The mask is glowing in the moonlight. It has feathers and sequins and strings hanging from it. It seems to take over the room, appearing much larger than life. Over the silence of the presence of the four, we hear the television, "So, what will happen to the millions of people who listened faithfully to peter's show? Where will they go? Will we ever hear from them again?"
Peter looks as if he is contemplating a very serious move on the board. In fact he hasn't looked up once at the show that had interviewed him and others in his field, including the power-mad executives at the station he had last been employed by. No one had ever said a bad word about him though. It was made to look like he was well respected and that the network had valued his creativity. "Thousands, pshaw, I want millions. Checkmate!" as Peter blew every theory David had ever had about the game of chess.
A shot of Christina's last typed page, which contains the word BUZZARD written over and over again, as if she had to type it perfect before she could stop. She was like that. No one knew though. No one ever looked at anything that she wrote. They knew it was her work, and as far as they were concerned, she sealed up and mailed away every word that she wrote
Next we go back to Christina's home as she walks out of the bedroom, changed, and repeats, "Ready for what?" Peter remembers his mission and tells her about a show downtown that is opening today. The rest of the scene is Chris and David deciding where to meet later.
Peter walks outside, checks his mail, and goes into his apartment, leaving the door ajar.
Back to Christina's living room, overhead shot focusing on the floors chessboard pattern and the stacks of books and magazines placed there.
Several days later, after checking his mail, Peter finds he has been offered a chance to pitch his new show to a network in NYC.
He is pacing the room, mumbling about something. he is leaving in three days.
"During the next few years we are going to find out...what was discovered." Christina is mumbling to herself also, while she types. She finally has a chance to do something for herself. She has been so interested in helping Peter retain the image he thought that he needed, she had almost forgotten about her own dream
She and Blaze are writing and costuming a film about the heathen festivals of the divine death and resurrection. Christine is in the middle of re-reading her third re-write of the script when Peter came in. She quickly slid it under the sofa.
Peter looks as ashen as one of Blaze's fertility masks. He has been struck by the realization that this is the offer he has been waiting for. He tells her about the offer, adding "You'll have a great time there."
"What's wrong though?"
"I'm afraid, afraid of going there without you, and ju as ad of going there with you.", Peter answers quickly.
Christina says, "I'll be fine. You'll be fine. We've been through this before." They had been apart years before. And this time when Peter came back they had kept separate apartments anyway. She knew it already, that he was leaving again was something she had been dealing with since that night.
Cut to television screen, that reads, THAT NIGHT.
Pan of the same room we saw before at David and Blaze's home. This time we see the walls of the apartment, which are covered with masks. There are big masks, there are small masks, and there are masks that look like actual flesh faces instead of masks. We hear the television commentator again. He is breaking away to a commercial, repeating the words, "Peter King, Peter King".
"Christina, you've always known that I have to do it my way, sing on and on until I get it right."
"Sure, Jack, your way." She knew he hated it when she called him that.
Wisdom for Peter was an entirely different thing for him than it was for Christina. She was comfortable with her anonymity, while Peter thrived on the attention. she couldn't say that she blamed him entirely. He had established a financial security that she could only dream about. And she didn't want it to come from him. She knew she could dream it, if not earn it.
The next week, Peter had already left, returned and left again, to start his new show, 'The Atomic Angel Theory', reaching millions of households worldwide, on syndicated radio every Tuesday night, late.
This evening Chris is with Blaze and DEVON STAYONTAP, a ballerina with the fastest footwork in thirteen counties. "A true idea must copy it's reality", Blaze says as she places two masks on her lap. She is explaining to Devon that there really was no difference in any of her masks, no matter how ornate or plain that they were. "They are all the same mask." She finishes her lecture, noticing that Devon has no earthly idea what she is talking about and that Chris was paging through a magazine ripping out pages.
"What are you doing, Chris?"
"Tearing out every page with the word Peter on it, and God there are a lot of them."
"Why are you doing that?"
"Because I miss him."
"Oh." Blaze rises to replace the two masks on the wall. Devon gets up, dances over to her jacket, puts it on and leaves the room.
"She's weird." Christina has been watching her little dance.
Shot of television screen. 'THAT NIGHT EARLIER'
Christina and Blaze are in the kitchen. "You know, Devon got a part in the next play at the Fireside." Blaze always knows all the gossip.
"Oh, did she? Who's she playing?"
Blaze and Christina fall to the floor laughing.
We hear the television at David and Blaze's apartment, "During this half-hour we will feature an interview with the nation's next shock-jock, Peter King."
We see Peter and David setting up the chess board. "That weird chick Devon came over today."
"Now, she's a strange bird", replies Peter, "yesterday Chris was reading a book that I swear, had Devon's photo on the cover."
"Except this woman had a bone through her nose", Peter laughs heartily, "can't you just picture it?"
"Sure can," David laughs at the thought.
Christina arrives home. She walks into the bathroom, rubbing her shoulder lades through her blouse.
Months later we are back in Christina's house. It is different, darker, except this time there is a large television in the corner and in the middle of the floor there is a mime, NEVIL KING, Peter's brother.
"So anyway, Peter really misses you and I think you should go visit him."
"Hey, mimes aren't supposed to talk. What are you doing?"
"This is the only way I could think of to make you listen to me. Every other time I mentioned Peter you told me to keep my mouth shut."
"Well, I'm busy right now, okay?"
"You're always busy when it comes to Peter. What's the deal here?"
She knew she would have to make him leave soon. Sooner than she thought. Things were getting worse since Nevil had dropped in on her. And she never knew when he would leave. One time he stayed three months. But this time was the worst. Her condition, she didn't know what else to call it, had worsened in the last few days. What had begun as an aching back, especially her shoulder blades, had developed into something she could not control or explain. She had begun to sprout wings. The worse had been her visions. [She is shown in a laboratory, in a cage, in a circus.]
Christina was soon lost in reverie. She knew she couldn't tell Nevil. She knew she couldn't let Peter find out. She knew it would be soon before she would have to stop going out of the house. They were growing larger every day and it wouldn't be long before she wouldn't be able to hide them under the large clothes she had begun wearing. She knew she would have to tell someone soon. How would she get food? And her mail?
"Hey, what's wrong?"
"Hey," repeated Nevil, "I'm sorry. I won't talk about him. Okay? Hey?"
Christina came back. "What is it? I'm sorry, Nevil. I've got a lot on my mind, that's all."
"Well, I'll get out of here tomorrow. I'll stop bugging you."
Christina doesn't answer. She is concerned about the day after tomorrow, and after that.
Weeks later, Chris and Blaze are sitting in the darkening room. Blaze says sadly, "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know."
That night, after Blaze leaves, Christina forlornly rises from where she had been lying on her side on the floor. The wings were quite large now and they were getting sore. They needed to be exercised. She did wonder what the span of the wings would be if she stretched them out. When she had shaken them off after showering today; that had felt especially good. She was afraid and ashamed of them though, so she didn't move around much anymore at all. Blaze had been bringing her food and mail to her for weeks now. As she moved around the room, not noticing there was a clear view to the courtyard, it felt good to be up. "Up", she said aloud, at the same time thinking how she had always taken the meaning of that word so differently than she now did.
"Wings, my Lord, what am I going to do with these?" As she spoke she lifter the right one a little bit, then the left one, and quickly it felt almost natural to actually move them about. "I can do this." She moved slowly in a circle, feeling the motion of the feathers brushing against themselves.
She thought she saw something fly by the window and this brought her back to her senses. She said, "That's enough of this foolishness", and once again curled up oh her pile of blankets on the floor.
What she had seen out the window was the frightened figure of one PHILLIP JESTMAN, a neighborhood boy, who had just been wandering, as boys do, in the courtyard. He had seen Chris through the window and now he was running home as fast as his little legs could carry him.
Television screen, with the words, 'NEXT NIGHT'.
Christina is listening to the television. It is a National Geographic show about migration patterns of native birds. She is once again standing, stretching her legs, her arms, and her wings. She is beginning to feel comfortable moving them. She spins, she shakes and she smiles.
Outside the window, crouching near the flower-wall, are two boys, Phillip and DALE DRINKWATER, a Native American boy. "See, I told you!" I told you I saw a lady with wings!", says Phillip to the wide-eyed Dale.
"I told ya", repeats Phillip.
As Christina loosens up she looks at herself in the full-length mirror. She is naked. She is beautiful. She has wings. "Maybe they'll just go away", she hoped. She shakes them again and it feels so good she begins to dance around the room.
"May the saints be with us", says Dale.
"What's that mean?", says Phillip.
Dale shrugs his shoulders. "I don't know. My dad always says it. Hey! Do you know why I was late tonight?"
"My dad blew up the kitchen! Yeah, no shit, he was cooking up something on the stove and it blew up. No shit. Smoke alarms went off and everything. It was cool."
"Let's get out of here, Okay?"
With one more peek inside the apartment, the boys were off to their respective homes, to their less-than-normal families.
Two nights later, Dale and his father, ROGER DRINKWATER, are sitting in their kitchen going over Dale's homework for the next day. "Dad, can people grow wings like birds?"
They weren't even doing science homework, so Roger was puzzled. "No, son, I've never heard of it." He was lying. He had heard of it. Sure, he was a cook by day, but he was an alchemist at night, and in his studies there was a story about a woman with wings. He knew it by heart. "Why?"
"Oh, no reason, dad."
That night Christina had been exercising her wings while listening to the television. It was the local news, and when the entertainment part came on she saw Devon. Devon was now serving on the board at The Fireside, and she was being interviewed. Christina became so excited she did a little flip of the tips of her wings and caught them on the coat rack. "I had better be careful", she thought.
Later on that night Roger was thinking about what Dale had said, and was re-reading the story of the woman with the wings. Blue lights shone in the room as Roger opened a drawer with a key, and removed some vials and containers. He poured a bit of each substance together and lit a match. As he held the flame under the glass containing the mixture, the lights turned to yellow. He knew someone was in trouble.
Weeks go by. Blaze brings food; Christina exercises at night. She watches TV by day. Listening to every word, sometimes tuning the radio in at the same time, trying to hear something, she tries to calm herself by stroking her wings.
At night, sometimes when Christina was up, the boys would watch. By now Roger was suspicious. The boys had been very sneaky about something and he wanted to know what.
One night Roger follows the boys. He sees what they have been watching. He knows what he must do.
Christina had not even opened the mail from Peter that had been piling up. She was out of control. No one but Blaze ever saw her.
One night there was a knock on her door. "Who could that be?", she thought. "I'm not answering that door", she said to herself as she peeked out the peep-hole.
There was an Indian man standing there. He had a concerned look about him. He knocked again saying, "Please let me in, I know you're there. I won't hurt you."
She was considering letting him in. She had always trusted Indians. Maybe he COULD help her. Without another thought, she opened the door. Hiding behind the door, she said, "Why are you here?"
"I can help you."
"I believe you."
Late into the night, they mixed and measured and changed the channel again and again. He had the cure; the wings were already withdrawing into her back.
When morning came they were exhausted, but her wings were gone. She was so excited. She could begin living again.
Television screen, with the words, 'LATER'.
Chris could hear the television when she walked in the front door of David's house. She saw the back of his head over a chair. She walked up to him and slapped the back of his head. "What is it? You haven't seen your sister in months and your not even worried about her?"
David jumped up and threw his arms around her. "Hey, they told me to leave you alone. I knew you'd be back,"
Chris walks out to the kitchen, holding a bundle of letters. thinking, "They?"
Blaze comes home, throwing her arms around Chris, "Look at my new kitchen!"
After Christina had read all of Peter's letters, she called him and arranged to fly to New York the next day to visit him.
Television screen with the words,'NEXT MONTH
Peter says, "Check. You know, I'm going to ask Christina to marry me someday."
David says, "Yeah-yeah-yeah."
Fade to black.
Copyright ©1994 Donna Surles
David read this story. This photo of him was taken in his studio. It is the last photo taken of him there. He wore his white feather sweater for me.