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  • Opening scene of a feature length screenplay.
  • Pick out the common screenplay writing errors.
  • Consider how to improve your scripts.
  • Note: WordPress does not allow a faithful rendering of the Final Draft screenplay format. Hence, the spacing below is slightly out. But they suffice for our purposes.

Mystery Woman

FADE IN

EXT. – HAVANA WOMEN’S PRISON – DAY

MARIATA, 30s, latin , brunnette , good looking, leaves prison. She looks tense. She steps toward a car that is waiting for her . DIEGO, 20s, latin, is the driver. He gets out, they hug and he opens the door for her. Mariata gets in the car and they drive away .

EXT. – IGNATIO OCHO STREET, HAVANA – NIGHT

Mariata walks along street toward a shabby two storey apartment block. She bounds the stairs to the second floor, stops at one of the doors.

MARIATA (Shouts.)
Mami!

She puts her head to the door, listens, knocks. No response. She takes a key from her pocket and lets herself inside.

INT. – IGNATIO OCHO APARTMENT – NIGHT

Mariata steps into the living room of the small apartment. The curtains are drawn in the living room is a small bed with an old lady, ABRILLA, MARIATA’S MOTHER, 60s, in it . She breathes from a machine at the side of the bed.

MARIATA
Mami!

ABRILLA
Ola, hija!

Mariata rushes to the bed and they embrace. Mariata sits down next to Abrilla.

MARIATA (In Spanish .)
It stinks in here. Like sickness.

ABRILLA (In Spanish.)
No, daughter. Like death.

MARIATA
You are not going to die Mami. Not now.

Mariata gets up and opens a window. Traffic noises are heard through it. The room is lit by a prayer candle . Mariata takes a package of cigarettes and some matches from the side of her mother’s bed and lights up. It’s obvious that Abrilla then finds it a little more difficult to breathe but her happy expression shows that she loves the smell.

MARIATA
Hold on Mami, hold on. I will get money
and move you to a much better place.

ABRILLA
I’m tired Mariata, so tired. It’s hard living here.
I long to go to the other side.

MARIATA
No Mami! I’m going to get you a beautiful home.
I promise you. I just got out today, give me a
little time… I hear Marco is making money.
Lots of it.

ABRILLA
You are such a good daughter Mariata, such a
good daughter. I trust you. Not like your
useless brother Marco.

MARIATA
I’m the useless one, remember. Trust doesn’t
come into it with Marco. But I know who
he works for I’m going to talk to the guy,
get me a regular good paying job.

ABRILLA
Just be careful it’s not dangerous Mariata…
Are you staying here tonight?

MARIATA
No mami, I have to go.

Mariata begins to leave the room.

MARIATA (CONT’D )
Don’t forget, Mami. If my parole officer
stops by, I’m staying here with you.

ABRILLA
Mariata?

MARIATA
Yes?

ABRILLA
Leave the cigarette burning in the ashtray.

###

Updated on 12 June 2016: Areas that need improvement.

  1. Typos – first impressions (especially in the first page, Scene 1) count plenty. Typos indicate a lack of professionalism, a lack of care.
  2. There is a format when first introducing characters. This is lacking.
  3. Clunky narration/action lines.
  4. Incorrect use and placing of parentheticals.
  5. Incorrect tense in sentences – use present, not past, tense.

Note:

  • The scene headings are perfect.
  • All the other formatting elements are accurate.

###

Revised screenplay uploaded 26 June 2016

NB: WordPress does not faithfully replicate screenplay format.

FADE IN

EXT. – HAVANA WOMEN’S PRISON – DAY

MARIATA, 30s, Latin, good looking, steps out of the prison gates 
and with great disdain, scans the empty parking lot. 

EXT. – IGNATIO OCHO STREET, HAVANA – NIGHT

Mariata walks along a street toward a shabby two storey apartment 
block. 

She bounds up the stairs, her movements sleek and catlike, and 
stops at a door on the fifth floor.

                          MARIATA 
                      (softly)
                    Mami!

She puts her head to the door, listens and knocks. 
No response. 

She retrieves a key from her backpack and lets herself into the…

INT. – IGNATIO OCHO APARTMENT – NIGHT

Mariata steps into the studio apartment and immediately covers 
her nose with her hand. The place, curtains drawn shut, is in 
semi-darkness. 

Mariata steps over strewn clothing. 

On the coffee table, squashed beer cans and an open box of 
shrivelled pizza.

                           MARIATA
                      (whispers)
                    Mami!

ABRILLA, 60s, stirs on the bed. She breathes from a machine. 
The nose cup mists and clears with every laboured breath.

On a nightstand beside the bed, a clutter of medicine bottles 
and soiled cotton-rolls in a kidney tray complete the squalor.

                          ABRILLA
                 Ola, hija!

Mariata takes Abrilla’s hand in hers.

                          MARIATA 
                      (In Spanish)
                 The stench.

                          ABRILLA 
                     (In Spanish.)
                 The smell of death.

                          MARIATA
                 You’re too stubborn to die. 

                          ABRILLA
                 Even the Angel of Death does not care.

Mariata opens a window and traffic noise injects live into 
the mite-filled room.

Mariata lights a cigarette for herself.

Abrilla coughs but relishes the smoke.

                          MARIATA
                 I hear Marco is doing alright. 
                 Making plenty of dough.

                          ABRILLA
                 Your brother, he’s useless.

                          MARIATA
                 I’ll get some of that dough. Get
                 you a better place to live in.

                          ABRILLA
                 I fear for you.

                         MARIATA
                 I’ve survived prison.

                         ABRILLA
                 You staying the night?

                        MARIATA
                 No, have to go.

Mariata kisses her mother.

                        ABRILLA
                 So soon?

                          MARIATA
                 A parole officer will stop by. Tell
                 them I’m staying here with you.

                          ABRILLA
                 Mariata?

                          MARIATA
                 Si, Mami?

                          ABRILLA
                Light me a garet.

                          MARIATA
                 Mami, no!

Abrilla pulls off the nose cup. 

                          ABRILLA
                 Light me a garet.

Mariatta sighs, lights a cigarette and places it in her mother’s 
lips.

                          MARIATA
                 You smoke in bed, you go up in flames.

Abrilla ignores her and drags on the cigarette.

With a sigh, Mariata sets down her backpack and settles on the 
bedside chair.

                                                        FADE OUT

###

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