Just a short post to firm up something in my head. I was asked again recently what my screenplay was about. I often give people the logline; when the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister. This time I said “it’s about the cruelty of prohibition.” I realised today it’s not about the cruelty of prohibition, Carrion is about the fight between freedom and security. The fight between freedom and security is at the core of the war on drugs. Think about the rhetoric prohibition. War. Protection. Threat. Danger. Safety. They all frame drugs and their users as dangerous. A threat to our way of life. We have to protect ourselves. At the core of peoples desire to take drugs is rebellion. A desire to reject the values of the wider society. To be free. I’ve mentioned this dynamic before when writing about the conflict between Adam and Reiner. Deep down the two men are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in. Reiner demands a world of security. At the end of the story Adam is fighting for a world of freedom. He doesn’t get it. The fight for freedom has only just begun but the realisation is what brings the end of his journey.
Working on Carrion today I found myself asking the question; why is Adam against drugs? In the story world of Carrion the drug user is the enemy. As a distinct social group they are to Reiner and the prohibitionist what the Jews were to Hitler and the Nazis; “if we did not have them we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy.” (1) They are the outsider. The other. The enemy. The threat that people can be united against. Defeat drugs and the world will be a better place. From Reiner’s point of view the choice to do drugs represents a kind of desire for freedom that poses a direct challenge to the security he craves. This makes Adam’s animosity for drugs more about his desire to be part of something bigger. Which raises the question; if you strip away that belonging would the animosity go with it? Adam wants to be part of something bigger. The price to become part of that something is his sister. Unwilling to pay the piper he is exiled, forced to experience the world thusly. That makes Adam’s animosity towards drugs environmental. It is a learned behaviour that has more to do with his relationship with Christine than some innate hatred of drugs and users.
I’ve been going over yesterdays post trying to figure out the ten minutes of story that follow the inciting event. At its simplest the sequence is about Adam escaping. This prompted me to research individuals escaping arrest. The scenarios for escaping arrest seem to fall into three main categories. The first involved intervention by a third party. Two bank robbers escaped custody when a prison van they were in was attacked by an armed gang. The gang forced the van to stop, threatened the guards with shotguns, freeing the two men. The second involves meticulous planning. A murder escaped prison by scaling the walls of the prison with an improvised rope. He first hid in the prison gymnasium, then made his way onto the roof, before climbing down the wall using a rope fashioned from discarded netting. The final scenario can best be described as an opportunistic escape. While guards were not looking, an arsonist slid under the van that delivered him. He managed to escape custody by clinging to the undercarriage as the van drove out. The second of these scenarios is the least likely to work for Adam. There simply isn’t the time for him to plan an escape. The first scenario is also unlikely. All of Adam’s comrades are prohibitionists; who would come for him? Which leaves the third scenario, the opportunistic escape. Refusing to kill Christine categorises him as a junkie in the eyes of Reiner and the prohibitionists. While the punishment for this treason could very easily be quick and final, Adam’s punishment is to be treated as a junkie, suffer the same indignities the drug taking community has to suffer. Outcast by the prohibitionists, thrown in with the quarantined users, Adam is reviled by both sides. This scenario is rife with the possibility of violent confrontation. Confrontations that have the potential to get out of hand and create opportunities for escape. There is more to come but that’s it for now.
Some time ago I mentioned throwing out the first act. While working though various ideas about Adam, Christine and Reiner I came across a much stronger inciting event. Basically Adam is forced to make an impossible decision. He is given the opportunity to join the party and progress within the prohibitionist cause but to do so he has to kill Christine. It’s the most provocative inciting event I have managed to find. The problem is choosing it has forced me to reassess what follows. Specifically the events after the refusal. Technically this is the start of Adam’s desire line. But to save Christine he first has to save himself. The problem is the refusal to kill Christine makes him a combatant deep behind enemy lines. He is now a prisoner of war. Which makes the question for next ten minutes of story; how does Adam escape? One way is to have Reiner release him. But Reiner is so hurt by Adam’s refusal, so committed to the prohibitionist cause, that this just wouldn’t happen. A second way is to have Adam fight his way out. But this option is just too obvious. Adam’s character is not combative enough at this point in the story. He has not yet learned to fight prohibition. It contradicts the “not fighting back” immoral actions that underpin his character. A third way is to have him take advantage of events happening within the story world; swarming insect, a riotous mob or sympathetic aggressor. But all of these scenarios have the potential to dilute events later in the story. Overall it needs to be something of relatively low intensity. But what? Time to finish. I will return to this issue in another post.
Reading through Christine’s desire (1) I found myself going over one section repeatedly.
At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something.
Thinking about her destructive weakness and creative need it dawned on me that this binary polarisation of destructive and creative impulses is at the heart of the story. The clash between the will to destroy and need to create is the point at which all the characters intersect. Adam and Reiner are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in; one of security or one of freedom? Each character wants to destroy the others version of the world and create their own. Another of the things this understanding allows is to broaden destroy/create dynamic into one of damage/heal. For example, the destructive weakness that compels Christine to rebel against Adam brings with it the creative need to heal the rift between them. I said this was a “short note” and it is. That’s it for now.