Here is my NYC Midnight Round 1 Entry in the 2013 Short Screenplay Competition, in which writers are given 48 hours to come up with a screenplay of no more than five pages within the assigned genre and incorporating the assigned prompts. Mine were Suspense / A Birthday Party / A Checkbook.
When conservative religious zealots plan to disrupt the anniversary celebration of the liberal church in town, one member of the group decides to take things a step further. Will divine intervention intervene in time?
EXT. – OUTSIDE OF GOD’S RAINBOW FELLOWSHIP CHURCH
This huge modern church looks more like a field house than a place of worship. A large banner has been hung under the church name, which reads:
10th ANNIVERSARY RECEPTION – SUNDAY, JUNE 18
HELP US CELEBRATE OUR BIRTHDAY! EVERYONE WELCOME!
INT. – ACTIVITY HALL INSIDE GOD’S RAINBOW FELLOWSHIP
About two dozen teenagers are moving tables into place, while several women follow behind adding tablecloths and decorations. Men are on ladders hanging crepe paper. PASTOR SALLY, mid-30s, comes into the room.
(shouting to the workers)
It’s looking great everyone! We are going to have a wonderful celebration tomorrow! Thank you for your help!
INT. – CLASSROOM IN AN OLD BUILDING
Eight men of all ages sit around a worn table, their Bibles opened in front of them. MARK, early 30s, is riveted to the passionate words of the BIBLE STUDY LEADER.
BIBLE STUDY LEADER
Scripture is clear. The world has given in to sinful ways, and we must not sit idly by and do nothing. Tomorrow, we will show the fornicators and homosexuals of God’s Rainbow (making air quotes) “CHURCH” that there is still time for them to repent and be saved. We’ll gather here at 8 a.m. and ride over together.
INT. – MARK’S BEDROOM
Mark speaks into a video recorder.
When they identify my body, and come back to this room, I want a record of why I did what I did. God has told me that carrying signs isn’t enough. If the sinners won’t repent, it’s time for me to bring them to him for their judgment day.
EXT. – OUTSIDE OF GOD’S RAINBOW FELLOWSHIP, SUNDAY MORNING
Throngs of people enter the building in great spirits. In evidence are many minorities, along with many gay and lesbian couples.
INT. – LOBBY OF GOD’S RAINBOW FELLOWSHIP
Pastor Sally greets worshipers.
Welcome! We’re so happy you could join us on this beautiful day!
INT. – MARK’S BEDROOM
Mark stands in front of a mirror with his shirt open. He secures the last of the explosives to his torso, and walks back to the video recorder as he buttons his shirt. He presses record.
I’m also doing this for my sister. Satan led her astray, and she can only be redeemed by blood – first mine, and then the blood of Christ. I am the human sacrifice God requires to make her clean.
Mark turns off the camera and removes the tape. He sets it on his desk, next to an envelope marked “Mom and Dad.”
INT. – WORSHIP AREA OF GOD’S RAINBOW FELLOWSHIP
The contemporary worship area features chairs instead of pews, and many people stand and talk while others find a seat prior to the service. A band warms up to the right of the stage/altar.
Pastor Sally heads toward the stage. A large cross on the wall behind her is draped with a long piece of rainbow fabric, as if to ward off a chill.
For those I couldn’t greet in the narthex, let me offer a warm welcome to God’s Rainbow Fellowship. We are especially happy to welcome you to our 10-year birthday celebration today.
(Applause from the assembly.)
EXT. – STREET OUTSIDE MARK’S APARTMENT BUILDING
Mark gets into his car and begins driving. As he drives, we hear Pastor Sally continue her remarks.
PASTOR SALLY (V.O.)
When Jennifer and I became partners, we were welcomed in many places, but not in church. Well, as the saying goes, we’ve come a long way baby!
(Laughter from the assembly.)
Thanks to the ministry of God’s Rainbow, we now have a place to express our faith, and share God’s faith and love with others. If you are a member, thank you for helping make this day possible. If you are visiting, we hope it is the first of many times we will see you here. Now, let us begin our worship.
EXT.- OUTSIDE GOD’S RAINBOW FELLOWSHIP
The band begins playing a contemporary song as MARK exits his car and walks toward the church. The others from Bible study picketing on the sidewalk.
BIBLE STUDY LEADER
We didn’t think you were coming, Mark. Glad you could make it. The signs are on the corner.
Mark walks by without acknowledging them.
INT. – SANCTUARY OF GOD’S RAINBOW FELLOWSHIP
Mark walks in and takes a seat in the back of the church as worshipers sing enthusiastically and pay him no notice. He observes two young children, a brother and sister, playing a game on a shared iPad. Across the aisle, two elderly men sit, hand-in-hand, singing with gusto. Mark surveys as much of the room as he can see. The song ends.
Now that we’ve offered our prayers in word and song, it’s time to receive our monetary offerings. As always, your presence here is gift enough, but if you are so moved, we thankfully accept whatever you wish to give.
Mark reaches into his inside jacket pocket and pulls out a checkbook and pen. He writes out a check, and leans over to a WOMAN a few seats down.
(handing her the check)
Would you please put this in the offering plate for me? I can’t stay for the whole service.
He exits the building unnoticed. The woman looks at the check and gasps audibly.
INT. – FUNERAL HOME
Pastor Sally and Jennifer stand beside a closed coffin, waiting for the visitation to begin. An older couple, Mark and Sally’s MOTHER and FATHER (both early-to-mid 60s), are nearby.
Why would Mark do this, Mom? He visits my church for the first time, donates every penny he has, and then kills himself. Why? Why?
I don’t know sweetheart. I don’t think we’ll ever know. Apparently he had demons we never saw. I guess we’ll just have to assume he loved you more than he could — or knew how to — say.
INT. – MARK’S BEDROOM – FLASHBACK
The Mother and Father leave the room, envelope in their hand. Camera pans to the garbage can, which contains a smashed video tape.