Grey Matters - A short film, Scene Breakdown



Eight-year-old Felix is sitting at the kitchen table throwing a tantrum by tossing the lunch that Concha has served him onto the floor.  Concha is clearly distressed trying to control her son who is hitting his mother on the back of the head as she tries to wipe the food off the floor.  In an instant Felix stops his tirade, sitting blank and stoic.





Concha is sitting at the kitchen table, which she has cleaned from Felix’s mess.  Her hair is piled high in a messy bun.  She is sipping at a snifter of brandy.  Her husband, Alamar, arrives home in dirty work clothes carrying a toolbox full of blacksmith’s tools.  Noticing his wife’s exhaustion, Alamar pours his own brandy and sits.  Alamar knows the reason for Concha’s exhaustion all too well.  They discuss the further consultation with doctors to diagnose Felix’s condition and what can be done about it.  Elizabeth says she has heard of a local neurologist named Antonio Egas Moniz, breaking new ground in brain research with a technique called, ‘frontal leukotomy’.  They agree to call Dr. Moniz.





Concha and Alamar are standing at the door of the home of Dr. Moniz.  They are silent, holding hands, dressed in fresh dress and suit, respectively.  The door opens with Dr. Moniz standing in a suit vest and trousers.  He has a monocle over one eye.  He welcomes them into the house.







The doctor offers a coffee to the young couple who decline, saying they just want to hear about the new procedure.  Dr. Moniz explains that the procedure is a safe and simple operation that is an effective treatment in many mental illnesses, but it may have side effects in some cases. 





With the voice-over of Dr. Moniz’s explanation of the procedure and what it entails, three nurses dressed in pressed, white uniforms and caps prepare an antiquated operating table.  They are arranging the gleaming tools to be used for the procedure, filling hypodermic needles with anesthetic, and adjusting leather hand and ankle straps. 





Concha and Alamar are driving home from the consultation in silence.  The voice-over of Dr. Moniz’s explanation is still heard as he describes the tool known as the ‘leucotome’ with its retractable wire loop and how it is used to sever the connections in the white matter of each brain hemisphere.  The couple pull into the driveway and exit the car.  They enter their home.





Concha and Alamar enter the house, taking off their coats and hats despondently.  Their movements are very programmed as they greet the nanny who tells them that Felix had woken and had a spastic fit, running around the house pushing things onto the floor, yelling and so on.  They go to Felix’s room.





Felix is asleep.  The couple sits on the edge of his bed, stroking his hair, looking at each other with worriedly.  Felix gently wakes, looking at his parents groggily, then smiling.  Concha embraces Felix as if never wanting to let go.







Concha and Alamar are standing at the door of Dr. Moniz’s office, this time with Felix at their side.  The doctor opens the door and lets them in, greeting Felix with a pat on the head and a lolly. 





After engaging in some small chat about the weather, Dr. Moniz asks Felix how he’s feeling.  Felix is fiddling with trinkets in the office, inattentive and mumbling to himself.  The Dr. pulls some pages from his desk and asks the parents to sign.  Felix is pulling books from the shelf and throwing them on the floor.  When Concha asks him to stop, he yells at her.  The papers are signed, and it’s time for the procedure.  Concha calls Felix over to explain that he must go with Dr. Moniz, but Felix ignores her.  The couple manages to collect their son, and follow the doctor out the door.





Concha and Alamar kneel to tell Felix to be a good boy for the doctor, and that they’ll see him soon.  Dr. Moniz takes Felix’s hand to lead him into the back operating room.  Felix lunges at his mother, not wanting to leave.  The doctor pulls a kicking and screaming Felix from his mother and leads him to the back.  The parents are unsettled, watching the door close behind the doctor.





Dr. Moniz enters the room with Felix at his side.  Felix looks like a zombie.  His eyes are glazed, and his movement minimal.  He is dragging his feet as the doctor presents him to his parents.  The parents speak softly, welcoming their son with gentle hugs and kisses.  They thank the doctor, asking if there were any complications.  None.  According to the doctor, the procedure was a success.  He tells them to expect some listlessness, and that there should not be any more outbursts or uncooperative behavior.  The parents thank the doctor and take their son home.




The family is driving home in silence.  Felix is nestled in his mother’s arm.  Concha is looking at him not knowing how she’s supposed to feel.  Alamar reaches over, placing a hand on his son’s knee.  Concha looks out the window, suppressing tears.





Concha is bathing Felix.  She is talking to him rhetorically, like one might talk to a pet.  It’s obvious in her voice that she has accepted her son will never be normal again.  Alamar enters in his coveralls, leaving for work.  He says good-bye to Felix who stares into the water.  Concha is washing under his armpit.  When she is finished, she lets go of Felix’s arm, which drops into the water.  Concha bursts into tears, desperately clutching Felix.  Alamar rushes over, engulfing the two of them.  In voice-over we hear the award ceremony for the Nobel Prize.  The category for the prize in Physiology and Medicine is awarded to Dr. Antonio Egas Moniz followed by great applause.  The announcement is followed by Dr. Moniz’s speech.  He is saying how proud he is to take part in such an important medical breakthrough, and that his new technique will aid in the curing of many mental illnesses in the future.  Loud applause from the audience, as we watch the crumpled family in the bathroom.

Fade to Black


SYNAESTHESIA - A one-act play

Synaesthesia /n. 1 Psychol.  The production of a mental sense-impression retaliating to one sense by the stimulation of another sense. 2 a sensation produced in a part of the body by stimulation of another part.  Synaesthesiae, plural






Poynton:         Conservative, left-brain nerd in his mid forties.  Science                                 professor atUniversity.  Married with one teen-aged                                       daughter. 

Clara:              Nineteen year old daughter of Poynton.  Strong willed,                                   creative who wants to study art in Uni. 

Neve:              Mother and wife of Clara and Poynton respectively.  Mid                               forties. Intelligent and stylish

Dr. B:              Forty-something female Psychiatrist. Worn out on pills and                          whiskey.





[While all house lights are down, the word ‘synaesthesia’ and its dictionary definition is projected on screen UC.  Each letter in the word is in a different colour.  The definition is in white letters.  Lights up.  Center stage only.  Psychiatrist’s office. A chaise lounge sits sideways with a chair behind it facing downstage. Dr. B is sitting in chair.  Enter Neve.]


Dr. B:        [Standing] Hello, Neve.  I’m glad you decided to return.  Please.  Come in.


Neve:        Well, I had to give it a chance, didn’t I?


Dr. B:        Yes, of course.  I’m very glad that you did. [Gesturing to the chaise]  Make                   yourself comfortable.  Would you like a sedative?


Neve:        No, thanks.  I think I’ll go without one today if it’s all the same to you.


Dr. B:        Sure, that’s fine.  I’ll just have a small one myself.  [She pulls a small             pill                   case from the inside pocket of her blazer and pops a pill dry.  Composing                   herself, she straightens her blazer and sits up in her chair] Now, Neve.  Just let me go through my notes from last week to see where we left off.  [flipping pages of a notepad]  Right. [affixing reading glasses]  Let’s seee.       Oh, yes.  Very interesting.  Your husband and daughter both suffer from         synaesthesia but neither of them knows about the other.  Is that about right?

Neve:        Sort of.  Neither of them is necessarily suffering.  What you first need to                   understand is that they don’t have a very close relationship.  I mean they’re                     always arguing.  It’s bloody incessant.  [Lights down]


Dr. B:        And what is it they argue about?


Neve:        It’s going to sound so ridiculous.


Dr. B:        I’m sure it won’t, Neve.  What is it?


Neve:        They argue over what’s more important, art or science.  It drives me bloody                   mad.  You should hear them.


                  [Lights drop]


                  [Lights up. DL onlyPoynton and Clara are standing facing each other.                    Poynton is wearing white-framed reading glasses, a white shirt and tie with a white belt, white slacks and white shoes and socks.  Neve is also in all     white, including several white, plastic bracelets, a white bandanna tied on her head, and dangling white earrings.  They are arguing.



Clara:          What is it with you, Dad?  Why can’t you get it through those thick glasses of yours?  Art is important.  Art is relevant.  Without it we’d all be swimming in your bloody theorems and logarithms.  And oh, lest I forget, your prized integral calculus.  Maybe Mom should’ve given birth to a square root.  God knows she married one.


Poynton:     How dare you!  Don’t you ever talk to me that way, missy.  You will                     respect     me in my house.  And if you intend on staying here you will give up any              hope of studying art next year.  Art will get you nothing in this world but                     bloody filth under your nails and the dole on a platter.  Is that what you’re                     striving for?  I sure as hell didn’t pay all those private school fees to see my                     daughter become some bludging artist.


Clara:          Yeah, like I’m gonna’ be on the dole.  Do you even have the slightest clue                     how much money good painters make in New York and Paris, Poynton?


Poynton:     Don’t you call me that.

Clara:          What?  Your name?


Poynton:     It’s the way you say it.  Don’t pretend you don’t know what you’re doing.


Clara:          What’s wrong, Poynton?  Don’t like the sound of your own name?


Poynton:     Go to hell, Missy!


                     [Lights down]


                    [Lights up. Center stage only.  Psychiatrist’s office.  Neve still talking to                     doctor]


Neve:          [her voice fades in] --some bludging artist, and things like that.  He’s not a                     bad man; he just can’t see the beauty in things.  I think the best                     compliment he ever gave me was to say how red my lipstick was on our                     wedding day.  That’s just Poynton.  He’s a damn fine professor.  I mean he’s                     earned the respect of his colleagues and students.  It’s just that his scope       in confined by numbers, and that doesn’t allow room for anything else.         Especially art.


Dr. B:          Neve, have you ever tried to open--P-Poindexter is it?


Neve:          Poynton


Dr. B:          Right.  Have you ever tried to introduce him to the arts in any way or form?

Neve:          Well, there was that time I took him to a multi-media show at the Fringe                     Festival.


Dr. B:          And how did that go?


                    [Lights down]


                    [Lights up.  DL onlyPoynton standing alone, looking up at an imaginary                     exhibit.  His head is slightly tilted and his arms are crossed]


Poynton:     What the hell is that?  It looks like regurgitated pasta!


                    [Lights down]


                    [Lights up.  Center stage only.  Psychiatrist’s office]


Dr. B:          Riight.  So, Poynton is neither open to, nor impressed by new artistic                     experiences.


Neve:          No.  Well, not until recently.


Dr. B:          And what’s happened to change this?


Neve:          Well.  [beat] He became a synner.


Dr. B:          Synner?  What do you mean?


Neve:          It’s what they call themselves.  I saw it on the Internet.  They spell it S-Y-N.                      Anyway, one day it just happened. I don’t know... (voice fades with lights)


                    [Lights up. DR only. Poynton standing in front of blackboard filled with                     mathematical equations, lecturing to imaginary class]


Poynton:     Analytic functions act on complex numbers, numbers of the form a + bi, in                     which ‘i’ signifies the imaginary square root [looks around uncomfortably.                      Clears his throat] of negative one.  Analytic function establishes a                     relationship between the complex--


                    [Suddenly a high-pitched squeak sounds in the classroom.  Poynton jerks                     away from the blackboard.  His white attire shines with a direct         spotlight of deep red that only lasts a split second.  The flash of red is          accented by a solitary piano note which reverberates as he looks around   nervously, straightening his glasses]


Poynton:     What was that?  [He takes a few nervous seconds to compose himself     before continuing on his lecture]  Uh, where was I?  Um, well yes, complex, uh, complex numbers are traditionally denoted by the letter ‘z’, as proven by Bieberbach.  The magnitude of a complex number--


                    [The noise is heard again, and continues in staggered metrePoynton’s                     clothes again light up in red, the piano notes also bellow as he drops the                     chalk, looking around, holding his head with a simultaneous look of fear                     and pleasure.]


Poynton:     [Yelling frantically] What in God’s name is that sound?  Where is it coming from?   [He’s walking up and down the imaginary aisles of the classroom, addressing random imaginary students]  You’ve done something haven’t you?  Was it you?  What’s this? A radio? 


                    [He grabs the imaginary radio, miming the act of turning up the volume.                      The voice-over of a sports announcer is giving commentary of a    basketball game.  We can hear the occasional squeak of the player’s shoes     on the wood of the court.  Poynton’s body shines in red with each squeak.     He holds the radio to his ear, tilting his head back and closing his eyes with each rush of colour.  He starts laughing maniacally.  The laughter   eventually dies down with the lights.]


                    [Lights up. Center stage only. Psychiatrists office]


Dr. B:          And what did Poynton do when this happened?

Neve:          He didn’t know what to do.  He rushed himself to the emergency room                     thinking one of his students had slipped him a Mickey.  The doctor told him                     he was fine.  When he called me and told me what had happened, I knew                     what it was straight away. 


Dr. B:          Because of Clara.


Neve:          Yes.  Clara’s been experiencing synaesthesia for as long as she can    remember.  But Poynton has no idea.  When she was six and he would try        to teach her new math equations she would run off to the backyard and      hide in the shed.  When I would go back to see what was wrong, I’d find         her madly drawing pictures with a box of crayons she had stashed.  They      were beautiful pictures, abstract and a little eerie.  But, I knew she had a           unique talent.  We kept it from Poynton because it was our special secret,     our bond.  I knew Poynton wouldn’t understand nor accept it, so I kept it to     myself. 


Dr. B:          Let me ask you, Neve.  With Poynton’s synaesthesia it was the particular                     sound that set him off.  What do you think sends Clara into her artistic                     state?


Neve:          Well, it’s obvious isn’t it?


                    [Lights down]


                    [Lights up.  DR only. Clara standing in front of a large canvas that rests on                     and easel.  She is surrounded by several blackboards smattered with                     mathematical equations.  Several different coloured spotlights shine on her                     intermittently, while she recites the equations out loud.  The high-pitched                     notes of an electronic keyboard sound with each new colour that lights her                     white attire.  With a closed-eye smile she appears to be euphoric in her                     craft.  She finally ends the recitation of numbers with an orgasmic squeal.                      Lights drop except for the purple spot which still shines her person.  She                     stands, brush still in hand, with her head slumped down, exhausted.  Two                     beats.  Purple light comes down.]


                    [Lights up.  Center stage only.  Psychiatrist’s office.]


Dr. B:          I see.  Now we’re really getting to the heart of the matter.  So Clara, it seems, would be embarrassed if her father knew how she truly felt about numbers--more specifically--mathematical equations.  So by you and Clara keeping it from Poynton, you are, in effect, quelling a potentially irreparable situation.  Would that be a fair assessment?


Neve:          Well, I suppose.  But you’re missing the other side of it, doctor.

Dr. B:          No I’m not, Neve.  I’m just waiting for you to say it.


Neve:          Um, well I suppose Poynton also risks humiliation should Clara become                     privy to his newly found appreciation for the beauty of colour.  And I can’t                     contribute to the shame of either of them.  Therefore, I must protect their                     secrets.  But I need to know doctor, how long should I go on like this?  It’s                     killing me knowing that in all their distrust for each other, they actually                     share a phenomenon that most people would give anything for.  Just to                     experience for one day, one moment.


Dr. B:          Neve, I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to be perfectly honest                     with me.


Neve:          Okay.


Dr. B:          Neve.  Are you now, or have you ever been a homosexual?


Neve:          [Sitting up, surprised] Huh?


Dr. B:          [Containing laughter] Just kidding.  It’s an old psychiatry joke.  No, but                     seriously.  [Beat] Neve, is there anything you can think of that makes you     see colours like Clara and Poynton do?


Neve:          [Lying back, still shaken from the Dr.’s sick joke.]  Hmm.  Well, if you must                     know.


                    [Lights drop]


                    [Single spotlight comes up on a dildo standing on end on a pedestal DL.                  The loud buzzing is heard for a few seconds as the light changes from                     white to yellow to orange to red.  All lights drop, buzzing fades]


                    [Lights up.  Center stage only.  Psychiatrist’s office.]


Dr. B:          Riight.  I don’t think that qualifies you as a synner, Neve.  But, we’ll come                     back to that.  [Makes a note in her pad] Would you like a quick nip?


Neve:          No, thank you.


Dr. B:          I’m just going to dip in, if you don’t mind.  Pardon me, won’t you?


                    [Dr. B reaches under the chaise, producing a silver flask.  She pours a shot                     into the lid and swills it.  She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand,                     slips the flask back under the chaise, composes herself and continues.]


Dr. B:          Ahh. Barbiturates and whiskey make such a lovely cocktail.  Now, back to                        business.  Okay, so we’ve established the reason your husband and    daughter don’t want to be found out by each other.  But, I think there’s         something more than the shame factor at work with regards to your    inability to expose the truth, Neve.  How do you feel about what I’ve just said?


Neve:          I don’t know, doctor.


Dr. B:          Neve, if you genuinely want to progress here you must be honest with me.    I won’t take the ‘I don’t know’ answer again.  We’re here to dig deep into   your psyche for answers.  Now, are you willing to relinquish your fear and give in to an effective resolution?


Neve:          Yes, doctor.  I am.  Please forgive me.  This is my first attempt at therapy,                     and I do want it to work.  It’s just that I’ve always been able to solve my                     own problems, and this situation is putting my integrity to the test.


Dr. B:          That’s perfectly understandable, Neve, and I realise this forum may be a bit                     awkward for you.  But, you must also realise that I’m in the business of                     understanding and healing.  You must learn to trust me.  Are you sure you   

                    won’t have a pill?


Neve:          Quite.


Dr. B:          Fine.  Then let me ask you again.  How do you feel about what I said                     before?


Neve:          What was it exactly that you said, doctor?


Dr. B:          [Angrily slapping her notepad] Godammit, Neve!  This is what I’m talking                     about.  Why aren’t you listening to me?  Am I a bloody mirage or                     something?  Am I keeping you from a nap?  Tell me, please!


[Dr. B goes for the flask again, rashly pours a shot and downs it.  Neve is sitting up, expressing a look of fear.]


Dr. B:          I’m sorry. My goodness. [Forcibly calming herself through deep breaths]                     Now, Neve, I want you to close your eyes with me and concentrate.


                    [Neve is looking at the doctor nervously, not wanting to close her eyes.]


Dr. B:          It’s alright, Neve.  I’m alright.  You’re alright.  We’re alll alright.  Focus,                     Neve.  Close your eyes and listen to the questions I ask.  They’re not                     difficult.  You just need to open your ear canals and allow the words to                     permeate your consciousness.  Do you think you can do that for me, Neve?

Neve:          [Obediently] Yes, doctor.


Dr. B:          Okay, then.  Let us continue.  Now, Neve, do you love your family?


Neve:          Of course, doctor.


Dr. B:          Then why are you intentionally withholding information that could quite                     possibly bond the two of them?


Neve:          I told you, I—


Dr. B:          DA!  Careful!  Be very careful, and think this out before you answer, Neve.


Neve:          Well. [Pause] I suppose I enjoy the bond I’m sharing with each of them on                     separate levels, and, well, I guess if I bring them together then they’ll have                     that bond, and I’ll be left out?


Dr. B:          [Sighing] For the love of God, thank you!  Now, how hard was that?


Neve:          Very hard, actually.


Neve:          Yeah?  Well, welcome to my world.  You’d think in all my years of   psychiatry I’d be able to get an honest answer in a reasonable amount of         time.  But it never ceases to amaze me the utter feces I must wade through     before reaching a summit.  I should get a bloody medal sometimes.


Neve:          I’m sorry, doctor.


Dr. B:          Aw, it’s not you, Neve.  It’s this whole friggin’ practice.  I mean, how am I                     supposed to get your neurons firing while all my senses are dulled by these                     damn pills they keep dumping on me?  Just forget I said anything, and let’s                     march on.  [Drops her head in her hand]


Neve:          Are you sure you’re up to this, doctor?  I can come back tomorrow if you                     need a rest.


Dr. B:          I think that might be best, Neve.  Just answer me one question.  What will                     you do?


                    [Neve lies silent.  Lights down]


                    [Lights up. DL onlyClassroom.  Poynton just finishing lecture.]


Poynton:     Okay, that’s all for today.  Remember, the person who can solve today’s                     equation will get their solution posted in next month’s issue of Nutty                     Numbers.  So get crackin’.  [Nerdy chuckle]


                    [Enter Neve]


Poynton:     Shnookums!  What a pleasant surprise.  [Patting his pockets]  Did I forget    my tinea cream again?


Neve:          No, darling.  I just came to talk.


Poynton:     Oh. Is everything alright, pumpkin?


Neve:          Sit down, Poynton.


Neve:          Just sit.


Poynton:     [worried] Okay.  But, what pray tell is the meaning of—


Neve:          Poynton, why don’t you ever talk about your gift?


Poynton:     My what?


Neve:          Your gift, Poynton.  Have you no idea what I’m talking about?

Poynton:     [Looking guilty] Oh, you mean that.

Neve:          Of course that.  See?  You can’t even say it, can you?

Poynton:     Yes, Neve.  I can say it.

Neve:          Then say it, Poynton.  It’s not a curse, you know.  You shout be proud of it.

Poynton:     I’m not ashamed, Neve.

Neve:          Of what, Poynton?

Poynton:     [Looking down at his shoes] Of my synaesthesia.

Neve:          Then why won’t you ever talk about it?  Why must we hide it from our                     daughter?

Poynton:     You know why.

Neve:          Are you frightened of how you’ll be judged?  As a hypocrite?  Do you really                     think Clara would be so cruel?  So shallow?

Poynton:     I don’t know, Neve.  Do we really have to talk about this?  What does it                     matter?  It’s not doing anyone any harm, least of all me.  Since when did                     you care so much about Clara knowing anyway?

Neve:          Since now, Poynton.  Because she thinks you can’t appreciate her interests, the things that make her who she is, the colours, the feelings of exaltation,     the love of the affliction.


                    [Neve looks surprised at her unexpected disclosure.  She looks at Poynton                     awkwardly]


Poynton:     Hmmm.


                    [Neve remains silent, staring at the floor]


Poynton:     Neve?  What do you mean the love of the affliction?


                    [Neve looks up slowly.  She stares into Poynton’s eyes for a few seconds                     then takes his hands]


Neve:          The love of her affliction, Poynton.  Just like your own.  Am I getting                     through to you?


                    [Poynton sits looking confused]


Neve:          I’m trying to tell you that Clara also has synaesthesia.  She has since she                     was six years old.  I’ve kept it from you all these years because I was scared                     I might lose a connection with her.  I wanted to tell you as she got older,       but then you started at her with your anti-art campaign, always butting            heads.  You should’ve been more understanding, Poynton.  Why wouldn’t        you listen to your own daughter’s plea for freedom of expression?  Why    did you have to be such a Godamned stuffed shirt?  Did you forget our      days at Uni?  We were once young.  For Christ’s sake, we dropped acid at     the Doors concert.  Did you forget that, Poynton?

Poynton:     [Looking around nervously] I did no such thing, Neve.  And keep your voice                     down.  I’m a respected professor, and these walls have ears like Mickey                     Mouse.


Neve:          We did, Poynton.  We dropped during Light My Fire and were tripping by                     The End.  We had sex right there on the grass of the stadium.


Poynton:     Neve!  For God’s sake, lower your voice.  What the hell has gotten into you?


Neve:          I know what got into me that night, Poynton.  And it wasn’t anywhere near   as good again until you became a synner.


Poynton:     [Standing] That will be all, Neve!  I won’t sit here and listen to this   lewdness any longer.  Now, go home and settle down.  My next class begins             in thirty minutes, and I’m meeting a colleague for lunch.


Clara:          [Offstage] Poynton?  You ready for some chow?  [Her voice gets closer]  I’m                     starv--


                    [Enter Clara.  BehindNeve’s backPoynton is waving Clara away.  Clara                 stops in her tracks at the sight of her mother.  As Clara comes to a halt, her                     runners make a squeak on the linoleum floor, sending Poynton into a                     colourful fit, flushed by a purple spotlight.  A single piano note                     reverberates.  When it’s over, Clara and Neve look at each other                     awkwardly.  Several seconds of silence follow]


Neve:          [somberly] Oh, Clara.  Baby, I’m so sorry.  I never wanted to deceive you,                     darling.


Clara:          Mum—


Neve:          No.  Please, Clara, let me get this out.  I need to get a lot of things out in the                     open, and now that you’ve seen this--and I know you can identify with it--    we need to be honest with each other; clear the air as it were.  [Clara takes    a seat next to Poynton, looking at him guardedly] First of all, you both need      to know that I’ve been going to therapy lately.  And...the reason for this is             because I feel I’ve let you both down.


                    [Clara and Poynton speak simultaneously]


Poynton:     No, doll.              Clara:     No, Mum




Neve:          Please you two, let me say what I have to say.  It’s been a long time coming,             and I want to get it right.  [Pause.  Clara and Poynton shift in their chairs         uncomfortably] As a wife and mother I have a responsibility, a duty. a seamstress in a small country village grading and cutting         patterns, threading needles, winding bobbins to enable her to collate the         textiles of her trade and all her knowledge in order to make the perfect denim         jacket.  Do you see where I’m going with this?


                    [Clara and Poynton are looking at each other confused]


Neve:          I am the seamstress.  You two are the fabric of my being.  You are the denim                     jacket that keeps this family warm.


Clara:          Mum, please.  Can I say something?


Neve:          Clara.  Oh, baby Clara.  I know you’re hurt.  I only ever wanted to be your                     friend, your soul mate.  Someone you could always trust with your secrets.                      And now I feel I’ve let you down by not being honest with this. [Gesturing   to Poynton]


Poynton:     Neve, you have no reason to feel guilty.  You’re an exceptional woman.  No                     one can ever deny you that.  We both love and respect you dearly.  You are   our seamstress with your own designer label that no one can imitate.


Neve:          That’s sweet, Poynton, but nothing can dispel the fact that I have been                     deceiving the both of you for several years.  I am not worthy of my role as                     seamstress.


Clara:          Mum, can we drop the lame metaphor please?  Listen to me, and listen                     very carefully.  It’s not you who has been deceiving.  It’s us.  [She looks at                    Poynton for support, who shakes his head affirmatively]  Mum.  This is                     rally hard for me to say.  Um, I need to tell you that, uh.  [To Poynton]                      Shit, jump in any time, Poynton.


Poynton:     Yes, Neve, there’s something you need to know.


                    [Neve looks nervous]


Neve:          I’m listening.


Clara:          Well, it’s just--Dad and I have known about each other’s conditions for over                     a year now.


                    [Neve sits silent, unable to process the information]


Poynton:     It was my idea not to tell you, honey.  Clara told me how you protected her                     secret as a child, and I just couldn’t break that bond the two of you had.


Neve:          Am I to understand, Poynton, that all the arguments I’ve had to endure                     between the two of you over the much-repeated art and science issue, not      to mention countless other meaningless spats were all just an act to protect me?  How in God’s name could you possibly think that my seeing the two          people I love most in this world at each other’s throats day in and day out       would possibly solve anything?


Poynton:     No, Neve.  Like Clara said, we only found out about each other last year.      All the debates before that were real.  We never really liked each other           until we found our commonality.  By that time, were so used to fighting    that keeping up the facade just came naturally.


Neve:          And how, pray tell, did the two of you find out about each other?


                    [Clara and Poynton look at each other, both wanting the other to speak]


Neve:          Well?  Is someone going to answer my goddamn question?


Poynton:     It was an accident, love.  Your diary had fallen off the bedside table.  It lay   on the ground opened.  I read it and—


Neve:          Jesus, Poynton!  Is there anything else you care to tell me while you’ve got   my trust on a cutting board?  C’mon!  Drop the hatchet.  I can’t believe           you read my diary.  And then to cover it up?  What the hell is the matter            with you?  You couldn’t just ask me about it?


Clara:          Mum—


Neve:          Stay out of this, Clara.  This doesn’t concern you one bit.


Clara:          But, Mum--


Neve:          Forget it, Clara.  You dear Poynton is going to have to face up to his sins.


[Clara stands to leave.  She places a hand on Neve’s shoulder, Neve reciprocates the gesture.  Clara walks away.  Before she leaves, and without turning around, she intentionally drags her shoes on the linoleum which makes the loud squeaking noise that causes Poynton to go into an extended colour fit.  Lights go down.]


                    [Lights up.  Center stage only.  Psychiatrist’s office.  Dr. B is sitting in her                     chair.  Enter Neve.]


Dr. B:          Oh, hello, Neve.  Welcome back.  I’m so glad to see you.  I’m feeling much                     better today, and I do apologize for the last--


[Neve approaches Dr. B who is slowly backing away as Neve opens Dr. B’s blazer, reaches into the inside pocket and pulls out the pill case.  She opens it, counts out two pills, places the case back into the blazer.  She slowly walks to the chaise lounge, lies down, reaches under the lounge without looking, pulling out the silver flask.  She pours a shot into the lid, pops the pills in her mouth and downs the whiskey, wiping her mouth with her sleeve.  Dr. B, watching Neve all the while, smiles, pulls out the pill box, walks over to the chaise, takes the whiskey and two of her own pills, lies          down next to Neve on the chaise.]


Dr. B:          Well[Pause]  Let’s start from the beginning.


The Litmus Test - A short film






It’s 10:3 p.m. in the trendy Richmond apartment of TRENT LITMUS, 25, and his girlfriend of two years, TARA SATER, 27.  The THEME SONG OF ‘UNDERBELLY’ bellows from the TV while the couple is sloppily strewn on the couch wearing tracksuits and hoodies.  Trent is engaged in the show, while Tara is dazed and inattentive. 






Trent is still watching the show while Tara is flipping through women’s magazines at a rate that doesn’t allow for much reading.  Her occasional glances at Trent go unnoticed, so she gets up and leaves the room.






Tara enters the lounge with a bag of chips and a soft drink.  She sits on the couch next to Trent who looks up at her briefly, pushing the doona in her direction before returning his attention to the television.  Tara is offended by Trent’s insensitivity and leaves the lounge again.  The CLOSING MUSIC TO ‘UNDERBELLY is heard while Trent grabs for the remote control.


                                   DISSOLVE TO:




Tara enters the lounge reluctantly, hoping to cozy up with Trent.  He’s asleep on the couch with the remote control locked firmly in his grip.  Tara turns right around, retreating to the bedroom.  On the coffee table sits Trent’s mobile.  CU of the vibrating mobile that is lighting up in bright red, displaying the word ‘ANONYMOUS’.  ECU of Trent’s closed eyelids twitching while he sleeps.


                                        CUT TO:





ECU of Trent’s closed eyelids as he sleeps on the train.  Montage of Trent’s morning commute:  His rocky ride in the carriage amongst a sea of suits, to his de-boarding at Melbourne Central station, going up the escalator and spilling out onto Elizabeth Street.


                                        CUT TO:








Trent is scurrying down the sidewalk on his way to work.  He’s wearing khaki trousers with dress shoes, a business shirt with a jumper over it, and a backpack.


                                        CUT TO:




Trent is sitting in his cubicle wearing a headset, giving a sales pitch.



                            Look, if you want the $69 plan I can offer you two months interest free, plus                               I’ll throw in free Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Apps. How’s that sound?

(Beat) Fantastic.  Well, I’ve got your details here, so le’mme give you a call after lunch with the info on that Galaxy S-three, and we’ll take it from there.  Okay, Sue?

Great.  You’re a champion, Sue.  I’ll talk to you then. See ya.


Trent throws his headset to the desk and stands.  He leans over the wall of the cubicle to talk to his neighboring workmate, JERRY.



               (raising his hand for a high-five)

Yeah, baby!  That’s four deals before break, mate.  I think it’s time for a cuppa.  You want one?



Nah, I’m good.  I only got one deal on the board.  I need to get my ass in gear.



Trent pushes a button on the speakerphone.  His floor manager, NEV, answers.






Nev, it’s Trent.  I’m goin' on my break now.






Trent hangs up, reaches in his pocket and produces a handful of shrapnel.  He starts counting twenty-cent pieces when his work phone rings. 














          You going for a coffee?



          Yeah, why?  You want one?         




          I’ll take an Earl Grey tea.  Come over, and

          I’ll give you the money.



          All right.




                                         CUT TO:




Trent is waiting in a queue to order his coffee.  The cafe is bustling with an anxious lunch crowd.  Trent’s mobile rings.





A male voice is heard through the phone.


                    UNIDENTIFIED CALLER






          Hello?  Anyone there?


Trent hangs up, looking at his phone with a confused expression that quickly turns to indifference.  He gets to the counter.



          What can I get you?



          Can I get a skinny latte and

          an Earl Grey tea, please?


He steps aside to wait for the drinks.  His mobile rings again.





                    UNIDENTIFIED CALLER





          No, this is not Ahmed.  Who is this?

               (Two beats)

          What number are you trying to reach?


The voice doesn’t respond.  Trent is starting to get irritated. 




               (under his breath)



He turns off his mobile and puts it in his pant pocket.



          Skinny Latte and Earl Grey.  Sugar is over there.





He gathers the drinks and snakes his way back through the queue.  Exits cafe.




Trent crosses the street to where his office building is and plants himself on a step to have a cigarette.  He puts the drinks on the step below him, gets out a cig and lights up.  He picks up his latte and takes a couple deep drags off his smoke while observing the busy street scene.


Up walks a courier holding his motorcycle helmet in one hand and a parcel in the other.  As he walks up the stairs where Trent is sitting, his boot kicks the cup of Earl Grey, sending it splashing across the stairs.  The courier is oblivious to his action.  Trent, although startled and pissed off, says nothing to the offender.  Instead, he looks around awkwardly, ashamed at his lack of confrontation.  Just then Trent’s mobile rings again. 





                    UNIDENTIFIED CALLER




Trent says nothing and hangs up.  He’s completely fed up with the way his day is unfolding.  He sucks one last drag of his cigarette, stomps it out, and goes back into the building.





Trent drops a five-dollar note on Nev’s desk.



          They’re out of Earl Grey.






Trent walks back to his cubicle.




Trent’s neighbour, Jerry, is wielding a toy dart gun.  When Trent walks up, a suction dart goes whizzing past, narrowly missing his nose.



          I’m the terminator!



               (not impressed)

          Fuck off.



          What’s your dilemma?


Trent shakes his head as if to say, 'don't ask'.  He puts his headset on and punches out a number.


                                        CUT TO:




Nev is sitting with his headset on, listening to calls while taking notes.


                                        CUT TO:




Various cuts of different call centre staff giving pitches.






                                    CUT TO:





Nev, still listening on his headset, has a concerned look on his face.  A few seconds later, he dials a number.


                                        CUT TO:






               (talking on phone)

          Yeah, mate.  What we’re offering is a plan

          to beat all plans.  I’m talking two handsets to

          start, with an option to add as many additional

          sets to your network over the first twelve

          months at the base rate of $89 per month

          on the initial two units. I’m sure you’d agree

          that’s a plan not to be matched by any other

          carrier.  Now, what I’ll first need to do in

          order to get you started on this is to get your

          details and--(two beats)  Aw, okay.  No

worries, Abe.  Thanks anyway, mate.  Yeah, see ya.


Trent hangs up.  Seconds later his desk phone rings.



               (into phone)




Trent, it’s Nev.  That last call was a bit dodgy, mate.  You sound like you’re selling encyclopedias in Woop Woop.  C’mon mate, what’s wrong with you?  Liven up.        




          Yes, Neville.



               (returning the sarcasm)

          Thanks, mate...for nothing.


There is a click on the line.  Nev has hung up.  Seconds later, Trent’s desk phone rings again.  He answers quickly.



          Yeah, good one, dickhead!


                    UNIDENTIFIED CALLER



Trent is stunned.  He remains silent, hoping the voice will say something else.  He stands to observe the call centre, thinking he might catch one of his workmates playing a prank on him, but everyone is hard at work with their noses to the grindstone.



          Who the hell is this?  (beat) Nev?  Hello?


He throws his headset to the desk still looking around suspiciously.  With no clues presenting themselves, he pulls out his mobile and swipes the screen.  It indicates that there are five unread text messages.  They all read, ‘Ahmed’.  He checks the number from which they were sent and calls it.  He hears an AUTOMATED VOICE.


                    AUTOMATED VOICE (O.S)

          The mobile number you have dialed is either out

of service or turned off.  Please check the number and dial again.


Trent tosses his mobile on the desk in frustration, resigning himself to his chair.  He sits deep in thought, fidgeting worriedly.


                                        CUT TO:




Trent approaches a laneway bar.  Tara is sitting in the front window waiting for him.  She waves with a welcoming smile.  Trent enters the bar.






          Hey, you.





Trent joins Tara at the table.  Tara’s already got a cocktail.



          Get yourself a drink.




          Nah, I’m cool.



          What’s up with you?



          Something’s going on.



          What do you mean?


                                        CUT TO:




Point of view from across the street with the side mirror of a car in the foreground, the couple can be seen sitting in the front window with Trent's erratic hand gestures and Tara's interested response as he tells the story.


                                                                                                                  CUT TO:





          Well, did you call the number?



          Of course.  You think I'm a fucking moron?



          Le'me see your phone.






          I want to see the number.


Trent hands over the phone.  Tara checks the last numbers and fiddles around with some other buttons.









          What do you think?


Tara is concentrating on the mobile screen, not answering.




          Are you playing Angry Birds?






I can't fucking believe you.  This shit is buggin' me out and you’re playing games.



          Are you scared?


          Not scared. Just kinda’--Well, a little

          freaked out.



So, what are you going to do about it?



          What do you mean?


          Nothing.  I gotta' go to the lil' ladies room. Be right back


She goes to the toilets, leaving Trent to ponder his situation.  Trent goes to the bar and gets himself a beer.  While he's standing at the bar his phone alerts him to a new message.  He reluctantly views the message.  CU of mobile screen. It reads:


          'R U SCARED?

          JUST ME-BRING TP J'


Trent laughs in relief, looking around tensely.



               (to bartender)

          Hey, man.  Can I get a roll of toilet paper?



          Whaddya got loose bowels?



               (laughing awkwardly)

             No, man.  My girlfriend is in the toilet and she's out of paper.



The bartender produces a roll from under the counter and hands it to Trent who disappears to the back.  Camera pans the entire bar, passing by Trent and Tara's table which has nothing but Tara’s cocktail on it.  At the end of the 360-degree pan Trent re-enters the shot.  As he walks through the bar the camera is now behind his head facing their table.  Trent stops in his tracks.  There is now a folded newspaper sitting on his table with a large clump within it.  He walks slowly through a dizzying crowd of people, staring at the newspaper, then sits.


Finally able to control his shaking hands, he opens the paper to find a large manila envelope stuffed with a fat roll of $100 notes, a 9mm handgun and a series of surveillance photos of a middle Eastern man he doesn't recognize.  Just then his phone alerts him to another text message.  He jumps at it with simultaneous anger and fear.  CU of mobile screen shows the message:


          'YOUR TARGET'


He's still flipping through the photos when Tara returns to the table.



          Thanks for that.  It’s a good thing you were

          here.  Otherwise I would’ve had to drip-dry.

               (nodding towards the table)

          What’s all this?



               (angrily holding up one

               of the photos)

          Do you know this man?


Tara is confused, and quite frankly, pissed off by Trent’s tone.



          What the fuck’s up your ass? 


She takes the photo.  Inspects it



          Who the hell is this?



          You tell me.



          Wha--?  Why would I know?




          I don’t know, Tara.  That’s why I’m asking



          I guess I’m supposed to know what’s in

          the envelope too.  Huh?



          I’ll tell you what’s in the fucking envelope,

               (lowering his voice)

          A shitload of cash. And a gun.  Look at this!


He hands the mobile to Tara.



Your target!  It came through just as I was looking at the picture.  Someone’s watching me in here. Look around.  None of these people are really having conversations.  They’re all going through the motions, pretending to have a good time.  But they’re really all watching me to see what I’ll do. 

               (leaning forward)                                 We’ve gotta’ get outta’ here.



          Trent!  Calm down.  Don’t get hysterical.


Trent is fidgeting in his chair, looking around the bar, trying to hear the words of the ‘contrived conversations’.  He’s running his hands through his hair and beginning to sweat.  Feeling claustrophobic, he rashly pulls off his jumper and places it behind him on the chair.



          Let’s just go over what’s happened and figure

          this out.  Now, who gave you the envelope?


Tent’s not paying attention, still rubber necking the bar patrons.  Tara reaches over and grabs Trent’s shirt collar.



          Trent!  Listen to me.  No one is watching you.

          Don’t get paranoid.  Just tell me who

          gave you the envelope?



          No one.  It was just here.


Tara nods, looking out the window briefly.



            Okay, now when is the hit supposed to take place?



          Hit?  Who the fuck are you, Dexter?  There’s not gonna’ be any hit, Tara.  Jesus Christ,        what kinda shit are you talking?  I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the fuck outta here.



       Don’t be stupid, Trent.  If there is someone watching you, they’ll surely have someone     waiting outside. 



          So, you do think I’m being watched.



          Of course not.  All I’m saying is we need

          to be rational and think things through before

          you go running out the front door like some

          paranoid jackass.  Just tell me, were

          there any other details about the job?






          Did you count the money?



          No, but it’s enough to choke a horse.

          It doesn’t matter anyway.  I’m clearly

          not the one they’re looking for.  As if I’m

          a fucking hit man.  I’ve never even held a

          gun, much less fired one. 



          What about the newspaper?  Was there




          Would you just drop it?  Stop playing

          detective.  It’s simple.  I’m bailing right

          now.  If you’re coming with me then get

          off your ass and let’s go.


Trent stands.  Tara is looking out the window.  EYELINE CUT to a WHITE SEDAN with black, tinted windows sitting in repose across the street. Trent’s mobile rings.  Trent stares at it wide-eyed, terrified to answer it.  Tara picks it up instead.





Tara listens stoically as--


A GROUP OF FRIENDS at the other end of the bar sings happy birthday to a mate.


CU TRENT’S FACE watching Tara as she listens intently.  Very businesslike, she hangs up the phone and places it back on the table.  Trent is shaking.  He’s analyzing Tara’s face for a sign.



          Four minutes.


Trent continues to stare at Tara while he considers the implications of Tara’s words.  He’s frozen.  Sweat is beading down his temple.



          I—I—gotta go.  I’m not supposed to be here.


Still in a daze, he starts collecting his things to leave. Tara roughly turns him around by the shoulders, shaking him back into reality.





         Trent!  Listen to me carefully.  However the fuck they got you involved in this doesn’t       matter.  The fact is, that is now your money paid in advance for a job you must do if you want to make it outta here alive—to say nothing of my well being just by my association to you. Now you’ve got exactly four minutes to decide what you’re going to do.  Are you hearing me?




Trent shakes his head affirmatively.  Tara takes the gun from the envelope then takes Trent’s hand.  She lays the gun in his palm, closing his hand around it.  Tara takes a step back, looking Trent up and down.  Showing a hint of a smile, she shakes her head in approval.



          You can do this, baby.  I know you can.


She reaches back into the envelope, grabs the roll of cash, and holds it up for Trent to see.  One of her eyebrows rises slightly, mimicking one corner of her mouth.




ECU Tara’s approving eyes.




ECU of Trent’s worried eyes that start turning more confident with Tara’s seal of approval. 




Tara’s eyes.




P.O.V. CUT to CLOCK on the wall reading 4:26 p.m. then—




Trent’s eyes, which are now stone cold. 


He’s stroking the gun confidently.  Finally, in one swift motion, he raises the gun and cocks it, but, in doing so he accidentally pulls the trigger and, CRACK, the gun fires.  Everyone in the bar SCREAMS, dropping to the ground.  Trent is stupefied, juggling the smoking pistol. Tara stares with her hands over her mouth.  Trent looks at the gun, then at the clock.


P.O.V CUT to CLOCK, which is now shattered with a bullet hole through it.


Everyone in the bar is still, waiting for Trent’s next move.  He’s looking around the bar, still frazzled by the gunshot.




FACES OF SCARED BAR PATRONS looking around at each other.


Tara is staring at Trent with her hands over her mouth, waiting.  Trent looks at the gun in his hand, then at Tara.  A wry smile grips his face.  He has made his decision—again. He runs and jumps onto the bar, cocking the gun properly this time. TRENT

          Alright everybody, in about four minutes

          there’s gonna be an assassination, so I

          Suggest everyone get the fuck on the floor

          and say their prayers to sweet Jesus while

          you got the chance.


The bar patrons start flipping the tables on their sides for protection.  Tara looks up at Trent with glowing eyes.  Trent gives his best action hero grin.  He jumps down and helps the patrons with the tables.  Tara stuffs the roll of money in her purse and joins in.  When a satisfactory wall of tables has been built, the patrons duck down behind it, while Trent and Tara set up behind the bar facing the front door with the gun. 



               (to Tara)

          How much time do we have left?


Tara looks at the clock that still shows 4:26.



               (yelling out to bar patrons)

          Time check!


                    PATRON 1

          Four twenty seven.



          Four thirty four.



          Four twenty eight.






          Don’t worry. 


The bar is silent with thick tension.  Trent and Tara are staring wide-eyed at the front door, waiting for the target.  Suddenly, Trent’s mobile, which is still sitting on the table in front of the window, rings.  Tara looks at Trent with an inquisitive look. 


Trent tentatively walks around the bar pointing the gun with his outstretched arm.  His eyes are darting about as he reaches the table, picks up the phone, and answers it.


                    ANONYMOUS MALE VOICE






There is no forthcoming response.



          This is Litmus.  Who’s this? Where’s the

          fucking target?



               ANONYMOUS VOICE

          Game over.



          What the fuck you talking about?  What about

          the hit?  (long beat)  Hello?


Confused, Trent drops the phone on the table and turns around.



               (long beat)

          Well, everyone, I guess you all got lucky today.


The bar patrons are getting out from behind the tables one by one.  Trent takes a glance out the window, shoves the gun into the back of his pants, and walks over to retrieve Tara.  He takes her in his arms, hugging her tightly with his back to the front window. 


Behind Trent’s back Tara raises her hand and gives a thumbs-up sign.  Through the front window, the white sedan can be seen with one of its windows slightly rolled down.  Out of the gap comes a hand returning Tara’s sign.  The window then closes, and the car drives away. 


Tara and Trent look at each other lovingly and exit the bar arm in arm.  Various bar patrons are standing around watching the couple leaves.  One of the male bar patrons walks up to the front door and peeks out, making sure the couple is out of ear shot.



                    MALE BAR PATRON

               (to bar crowd)

          Okay everybody, that’s a wrap.  Great workshop.

I’ll be e-mailing everyone with the details of the next gig.  Thanks to everyone.  Well done.


The bar crowd applaud themselves, breaking into discussion groups about their respective performances while straightening the tables.  The bartender hits the play button on the stereo which promptly belts out some beaty track.


                                   FADE TO BLACK