Sunday, April 21, 2013

an ongoing work....

I have learned so much lately about professionalism, who I can and cannot trust, and what my desire is as a creative individual. Of course there is MUCH left to learn. But I hope that my gratitude outweighs any residual bitterness or feelings of betrayal. Life is just too beautiful. I have begun substitute teaching back in the town in which I grew up and went to school myself, for most of my life. Its an education in itself for ME. So many beautiful kids, so much potential. Each with their own pace, their own struggle, and their own gifts to give. I hope they each find someone in their lives who truly believes in them and offers support and encouragement. Before I venture off on a tangent, the idea behind this post is from the first screenplay that I tried to write. It was a short script I wrote as an exercise for someone I met through a "film maker" conversation. It was produced and actually went to the showcase at the 2012 Cannes International Film Festival. I can still barely believe it. While the director changed a few elements and added a few of his own (naturally) the basic part of the story remained. The idea is that someone has died and stands before three spirits who represent his idea of the Trinity. He feels, according to how he lived and believed, that he is to be judged. That is his expectation. No such judgement is being offered, more a review of his life. Yet, he believes, as he lived, under judgement. It is an idea he cannot release. I reflect on the meaning I was trying to convey today. How do I live? How do I view the world? How do I see my actions within the world? Do I feel the need to justify my actions? Am I being judged?

The resulting short film made from my script continues to tour Film Festivals around the world, recently the Greek and Cyprus festivals. I remain grateful for my words becoming actualized by someone's vision. I am posting the original version that was my script. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know. No judgment. (NOTE: the formatting did not copy well, so please forgive the layout.)

Canonize Me

Brian Todd Barnette

Copyright 2011 by BRIAN TODD BARNETTE

open on various vistas of sun-lit clouds.
 narrator VO
 There is an ancient story of the most beautiful prayer. A learned man was traveling into the city and he passed by a poor man. The poor man was muttering with his eyes closed and his head lowered in prayer. The learned man rides on. On another visit to the city, he passes the same poor man again and again hears him muttering in prayer but this time he makes out what the man is saying. The poor man is reciting the alphabet over and over. "You there," the learned man says to the poor man. "What is it you are doing?" The poor man replies, "oh, please forgive me. I am not an educated man and I do not know the prayers that you must know. I recite the alphabet and I ask that the Lord rearrange the letters into the words that He finds pleasing." At this the learned man scoffs and feels in his heart a feeling of disdain for the poor man. Immediately an Angel of the Lord appears and addresses the learned man. "From this day on, YOUR prayers will no longer be heard in Heaven, for it is this prayer, the prayer of the most sincere that we find pleasing and sings in the heart of the Lord your God." The learned man is left humbled. For it was the intention of the poor man to please the Lord that rang the bells of Heaven.

increasing light from out of frame results in total wash out of scene; 

 fade to black
 fade in
 interior - all white room - 

POV of man opening his eyes. 

 There are muffled voices and all we can see is total darkness with silhouetted figures. There are three figures in the room, walking slowly back and forth and they are each backlit by a single color of light, one is red, one is blue and the other yellow. 

 Holly (to the others in the room) 
I think we have him. (to the man) George? 

 fade to black

fade in
interior - dark room - no particular time - 

 Small dark room with no detail except a table and a chair on one side which faces three chairs on the other. George Goodman sits on one side of the table. Beside him is a leather briefcase. He sits facing the three figures back-lit by the primary colors. Back-lit in red is what looks to be a tall woman with long hair but is very obviously male wearing woman's clothing, this is Holly. Next to Holly back-lit in yellow is a young woman, Martha, pretty but plain and holding what appears to be a baby wrapped in a blanket. Martha is rocking and patting the infant though we do not see or hear it. Seated next to Martha is a very shabbily dressed man, mid to late 50's in age, who has the appearance of a "homeless" person, slightly dirty, ragged clothes including a military jacket with the name "Emmanuel" on it. He is back-lit in blue light. This is Jésus. 

 George, there is great love here for you. Are you aware of that?

 George Goodman looks slowly and drowsily from one to the other. 

 What's this? Am I dead? 

 Dead? That's not for us to say. You are no longer among the physical. But you are still in a state of what we call "separation." This is not part of your physical experience but you have yet to make a transition. 

 George appears weary and lets out a sigh. 

The young woman, Martha, holding the infant does not look up and he has yet to meet her eyes. Jésus has a look of total calm and regards George with a soft and easy expression on his face. 

 You still have a simple consciousness. Some things may take a moment to understand. 

 Am I to be judged? I was a good man, I was practically a Saint in my life. Surely that must be evident.  

Holly has a slight smile. 

 Judged? No. The idea of "Counselor" may be appropriate. We must decide what happens next. The next step. Next in time. That is up to you. 

 And who are you then? You seem familiar as if I should know your names. What do I call you? What is the last thing I can recall? 

 What do you recall? Where were you before you were here? 

 I'm not certain. There seemed to be a large crowd and a lot of noise. 

 Behind George a six-paned window appears and on it a scene exterior - civic park setting - daytime - southern town George is giving a speech. The sound is muffled and unintelligible to us. He is at a podium on a lawn with a crowd standing around him, in the near background a municipal building. The crowd is a mix of people who periodically clap during the speech. Flanking George are men in suits and ties. Clean cut, wearing "campaign" style buttons. We understand that this is a rally or political "meet and greet" of some kind. There is the sound of gunfire and then screams. 

 Window scene goes black. 
 interior - same small room - continuous 

 Is that the last thing you recall? 

 No. There is something else. I can smell disinfectant. I hear engines and traffic. Something smells burned as well. It feels crowded. Someone is yelling.

 The scene in the window changes 
 interior - ambulance - daytime 

 POV of George looking up as several EMT's are working feverishly over him. The siren wails and the EMT's shout directions back and forth. We can see a bloody shirt being cut off and pulled to the side and just below POV we can tell George is wearing an oxygen mask. One of the EMT's is putting an IV in George's arm. 

 The window scene fades out. 


 George looks at Jésus. 

 George (to Jésus) 
Do you not talk? 

 Holly and Jésus exchange a look. Martha does not look up but continues to gently rock and pat the infant. 

 And what about her? (motioning to Martha) Does anyone else talk to me here? 

 Now isn't the time for frustration or for being angry. They have actually tried
many times to talk with you. Let us do what it is we need to so that a decision
can be made. You will be given all the information you need. Call me Holly, I can counsel you. Jésus will guide you as well. Martha cannot look directly upon you and speaks to you through us.

 George (in a quiet voice) 
Why does that make sense? Where have I been told that before? 

 You made the statement that you lived the "life of a saint." What do you mean by that? 

 If I am no longer in physical form, it must be that I am no longer "living." I
think I was shot. I don't think I survived it. I thought that after we die, we
are judged for our lives. I am certain I was an honorable and just man. I feel as if I am to be jedged then I need to say that I know I was a good man. 

 Can you explain? 

 George is surprised by the sudden involvement of Jésus and turns to address him

 Well, foremost, I treated everyone I met with compassion and respect. I was awarded for it on many occasions in my life. Humanitarian awards, special recognition for working with non-profits, donations to my church and to the community... 

 Ah, yes. The George Goodman legacy. You raised money for several organizations
and helped champion the scholarship for a school. The "George Goodman" Academic
Achievement Scholarship for your Alma Mater. I believe you insisted on naming it after yourself and also being able to have first right of refusal on any new products created by the participants when developing their senior projects. Did you not end up making more money by having an authorship rider on the patents created over the years? More money than all the endowments you made in sum

 It takes money to make money. That program created several civic leaders and
leaders of industry for the city. It created jobs and kept people working. 

 I am sure you can justify it. But lets talk more about the manner in which you treated others. Do you recall what you would tell friends and co-workers about those who pan handled or begged in the streets? 

 Well, I supported soup kitchens as well. And homeless shelters. 

 George has a flash of recognition. He looks at Jésus with wide eyes. 

 You! I remember you! You stood outside of the homeless shelter and wouldn't come in. This was years ago. You refused to go inside to get anything to eat or seek shelter. It was cold that year. 

 Another scene plays in the window of Jésus outside of a big brick building. exterior - dirty city street - daytime - date undetermined Jésus is having an exchange with a man in a suit that we only see from the back. Jésus is obviously bundled up against the cold. He is smiling but shaking his head nervously. He reaches out to take the hand of the man in the suit who recoils and pulls away. 

 The window scene fades out.

 I remember you asked me to just go inside and bring out something for you to eat. I recall that it made me feel a bit angry. There was help for you just inside. All you had to do was walk in! 

Do you recall what you did? What you thought? What did you tell others about that exchange? 

 George hangs his head a bit sheepishly, as if the memory now fills him with a bit of guilt. 

 Well, what I remember is feeling indignant. As if all that we did was still somehow not enough for you. I didn't understand why you wouldn't just go inside. Some part of me wanted to drag you inside. I feel shame now, but I was mad at you. I told my colleagues that some people were beyond helping. I know that isn't so. It was my pride saying that. 

 Do you recall what you said to me under your breath? 

 George (voice cracking)
 I said "so starve." 

 There is an old proverb. "True charity sees the need, not the cause." The man you met that day, the man I seem to you, was a war vet. He was suffering from a post-traumatic stress. He found it almost impossible to go into strange buildings. He had seen several of his fellow troops ambushed once and they were all killed. He himself barely survived. He had been left for dead. Upon his return to 
civilian life, he was never able to accept the help that had been offered him. He only found help at alocal church that had to close after a fire. He lost his only refuge. And the way you now recall dealing with him, was a chance for you to welcome him. And inasmuch as the way you treated him, you treated the Divine. 

 Jésus pauses. George cannot look at him. He looks down at his own hands folded on the table. >>although there is much that Jésus is saying, his tone is always loving and kind. He never raises his voice.  

Jésus (with compassion) 
Do you understand the idea of seeing the Divine in others? That the way you treat others is an opportunity to interact with the Divine. And rather than take the opportunity to bestow kindness and understanding, you treated me from your pride and with indignity. You wanted someone to pat you on
the back for helping build the shelter, yet one personal act of kindness was lost. 

 At this point, Martha begins to hum softly as she rocks and pats the infant.
With a sweet voice she sings what sounds to George like a made up song. 

 Martha (singing to the infant, without looking at anyone else in the room) 
I love you, you're perfect. I love you, that's everything. You are part of me, I am in your
heart, you are in my heart. You are loved. 

 George looks on with a puzzled expression. He turns to Holly. 

 And why do I know you? Did I have an encounter with you? 

 Do you remember any reason why you and I would have crossed paths? 

 No offense, but I don't know any lessons I could have learned from...well...anyone like you in my life. I don't have anything against....people like you. To each their own, I say. I know I never did anything to put you down. 

 In your life, do you remember someone who worked in one of the companies from whom you sought campaign suppor when you were running for city councilman? There was someone you met, someone who headed the public arts council? 

 I think so. You always wore a neck scarf right? Always a neck scarf with a butterfly motif? I do remember now. I remember you catching me staring at you and I told you that the scarf reminded me of a picture I had seen in a magazine. I tried to make you feel...OK. 

 The person you knew me as was trying to make a difference in the community. I
wanted to create a public art space. To encourage kids and young people to find
their self expression through art. Do you remember that? Do you remember what you told the Mayor about the kind of people who worked with the public? 

 Vaguely. I think I had told the Mayor that even though I had nothing against you, the public may base their perceptions on his projects on how you....looked...and that may leave a negative image in their minds. But I wasn't the ONLY one who thought that! You must admit, most people would have felt uncomfortable not knowing how to relate to you! Should they think of you as a man? As a woman?

 In the world beyond yours, there are no such things as either men or women. There is neither free man nor slave. We are all one. We are all spirit. We appear to you this way now because we are part of what you accepted. You spent your life as a Catholic, but you didn't even fully experience that path to God 

 How was I not a good Catholic? 

 Its not about being a good Catholic. I am speaking about your experience of God. There are as many paths to God as there are individuals, but you never even fully experienced the one to which you say you were attached. You say you lived the life of a "Saint" and yet you never even looked to a Saint for guidance, for comfort. You didn't pray the prayers, you stopped taking communion, you had not
made the sign of the cross in years. Whenever you were inside the most beautiful church in the state, your mind was a hundred miles away, in a small corner office, thinking of anything else. 

 a new window scene comes into focus. It's a small office. 
 interior - non-descript office - daytime We see "Holly" sitting at a desk, looking at a small hand mirror, adjusting the scarf around her neck. As she looks up she sees a man standing in front of her.
We see him only from the back. The smile fades from Holly's face and is replace with a solemn, almost "hurt" look and she lowers her head. interior - same small room - continuous George looks down at his hands again. He seems to be lost in thought. 

Martha begins to say the "Glory Be" prayer 

 Martha (to no one) 
Glory be to the Father... 

 George looks at Martha as she recites this prayer to the infant, which we have
still yet to see or hear. 

 A new image appears on the window behind George. 

 interior - undetermined location - undetermined time/date 

 A simple image of a pair of hands holding the rosary. The hands are not
discernible as either male or female. 

 Martha (VO) ...Glory be to the Father, 

 The scene in the window fades out 


 Martha without without without end Martha goes silent again. Jésus (quietly, not looking at anyone) And so it is. 

 I am beginning to feel like my life is being reduced down to a few instances
where I just didn't do it right. But I feel like that's an unfair assessment.
I really did try my best. (sighs heavily) 

 >>George regards Holly silently. Holly smiles at George again with a look of deep compassion. Her eyes are soft on him. George looks over to Jésus without expression. Jésus offers the same smile as Holly and brings his hands together as if in prayer and bows his head to George. George looks at Martha. She has yet to look up at him or engage him directly in any way. She hums softly but has a
small sweet smile on her face as well. 

 And what of her? When did I meet her in my life? What circumstance where I gave a sincere effort yet Was there a time I faile to completely honor her? 

 You need not be defensive. This is for your benefit. For you to understand fully what happens next. There really is great love here for you. 

 No. I do NOT feel it. I feel condemnation. I feel as if I just do not measure up. How does anyone measure up. What are we cut out for? Who can be perfect? 

 Who indeed? Whats perfect is the process. In any moment you strive to be even incrementally closer to Truth. That is perfect. That is all we must do. 

 And her? (indicating Martha) I am searching my memory. But she has not looked
upon me. How do DID I know her? 

 What do you feel happens next? What is after your experience of life? Where are you going? 

 What? I get to choose? Do you mean Heaven or Hell? I would choose Heaven!
What is it? Where is it? 

 Your "life" experience is the only one in which you have a separate sense of self. An identity of self outside of the All. Heaven, as you know it, is just a concept for the physical realm. To be part of the "ALL" is beyond your comprehension, It is a level of wholeness for which you do not have words or any point of reference. All you knew of as YOU will be no longer. Your mistakes, your hurts, as well as any feelings of separation. As waves are not separate from other waves but all part of the ocean. Though the circumstances that created them may be different, they all return to the ocean. Without want or need, you can return to Source. Hell is another concept for the physical realm, and in truth, it is a feeling of total separation from the All. Its a feeling of disconnection so total that you will never feel whole. 

 But sameness is hated in our lives. To be individual is the goal. It is rewarded. How can perfection turn that idea on its head? 

 But you do not have the capacity to understand how it really is. In your world, pure white light is made of the reflection of all spectrums of light. There are really endless levels within the pure white light. In your world, the absorption of all light actually becomes the deepest black. Perfection is the reflection of pure light. Inclusion, light and perfection. Separation is the absorption. Darkness, separation and lack of any characteristics. Simple but you may understand the opposites of a spectrum. 

 George seems lost in thought again. His brow is furrowed and he seems borderline exhausted. 
Martha begins to sing again. This time it's a song from the 1970's that had been refashioned into a soda commercial. As she finishes the first chorus, George, in a flash of recognition, looks again at her, wide-eyed. 

 Martha? YOU! I remember you! You helped me produce my first speech while we were in college! You were amazing. So beautiful and so dedicated. I think we even dated! (to the others) Is that her? Is that the same young woman? 

 You have part of it correct. She fell in love with your drive, your ambition and the electric atmosphere you created wherever you went. She believed in your vision. She felt at her young age that she could actually make something of her life. She had come from a family where the mother was long suffering and the father was silently aggressive. Abusive with indifference. She was on the edge of becoming alive. Do you remember what happened between you two? 

 George face begins to crumble. He becomes overwrought with emotion. He doesn't cry but his words are almost strangled in emotion. 

 We went out after a debate. We had too much wine and made love. I woke up thinking that she would become a burden. She looked at me with such admiration and expectation. 

 What did you say to her? 

 A new scene appears behind George in the window.

 Martha sitting at a canvas. The canvas is actually blank. A door close behind her. 
 CLOSE UP on Martha's face, and her eyes close and smile fades. 

Window scene fades. 
 Interior - same small room- continuous 

 I told her that we could not be a couple. She wanted too much. She needed me too much. I needed more excitement than she generated. I told her she needed to learn more about the world. 

 It may be hard to hear it this way, but she didn't keep the baby. 

 George (choking) The baby? 

 She conceived that night. She had a very difficult pregnancy. You don't recall
that she dropped out of school because you were riding a wave of acceptance and
support that would carry you to many successes in your life. How could you know
what happened to one young woman? You knew her only briefly. 

 George (still emotional) 
What happened to the baby? 

 She was almost to term. She miscarried. Her family had turned their back on her and she felt guilty that she was not able to even become a mother. She had thought having a baby would bring into her life all the love she felt she wanted to give. And she lost her only son. In her grief, her life took a turn for the
worse. She escaped into drugs, selling herself and eventually into an unfulfilled life living on the fringe. Most people just didn't believe in her. In her goodness. In how much love she really could offer. The rest of the details aren't important. 

 Then what can I do? What are my choices? What happens now? You say somehow I will know or I will choose. Heaven or my concept of it is I get to forget all my mistakes? Hell means I get to remember them compounded? I don't want to be separate, I want things to be right. 

 Holly (indicating the briefcase that has been beside George the entire time.)
 In your memory are all the things that can be done differently. All the times you thought you were right but were still coming from a profound sense of YOURSELF only. Not selfish, but not concerned for anyone other than yourself either. You can choose to rejoin Source. Say good bye to all that was and experience paradise in Source, or you can... 

 George (interrupting) 
Can I do it over? Can I do it again? Can I take the chance that I DO know better? I CAN bring others closer to truth. Can I do it again? 

(he gets more emotional and impassioned.) 

 Holly and Jésus share a solemn glance and then look at Martha as she continues to rock the baby. 

 You can choose so. You must choose freely. It happens when you decide. To rejoin Source is a final choice as well. All the effort will be over. 

 Then I choose to do it again! I can make it work. life is full of opportunitie to make it right. To bring us all to the Truth. For all of us to reflect the light. Life would not have been created if it wasn't possible. Too many of us agree that its worth it. 

 Martha (indirectly) 
The choice must be free will. 

 George (grabbing the briefcase) 
Then I choose it. I choose it all over again. 

 Light comes from the window scene and grows brightly until the whole scene has been engulfed in the light. It recedes a bit and we see Holly, Martha and Jésus stand. Martha drops the blanket open and we see it is now empty. Jésus and Holly come to stand on each side of Martha. Jésus has a tear in his eye. 

 The choice is always the same. 

 They go back and live separately. (pause) They always choose "Hell." 

 A new scene appears in the window. 

We see a newborn being held in a doctors hands. 

 interior - hospital delivery room - undefined date 

 We see a baby crying, covered in birth matter, being cleaned by a nurse. From off camera we hear the doctor then the mother over the cries of the infant. 

 You have a healthy baby boy. 

 Thank God. 

 Fade to black.