Thursday, 11 October 2012

Stealing Moses (story outline and opening of screenplay)


Story Outline Pitched @ BAFTA (04, 2012)

I love him like he’s my brother.

When we first moved to Churchill Heights, Moses was just another little black kid who happened to live next door. I was fourteen years old and he was in another universe. Being four years younger than me was a chasm in my world.

We both had something in common - our fathers were long gone. His father had been hounded out of town by guilt and mine was everyman I ever passed in the street, or it could have been. 

Okay, I didn’t have a dad but I had a mother who loved me in her own way and who was a just as great at being a father . Perhaps this is what this story is all about: love. How people can love each other in the weirdest of ways. It has nothing to do with sex, it just that love can mean a million things and still be the best of everything. 

My mother spent most nights out in the streets looking for love and if it came with money left next to her bed then so much the better. It meant we could eat. 

Moses’ father had been a preacher in a baptist church in Wind Cotton Row, but one summer he had seen the light in a deaconess by the name of Tallulah and they disappeared for good into the wilderness.

His mother was scared that the struggle against Satan was only as good as that particular soul’s DNA and so if Moses was anything like his father then the devil would find him a walkover.

 So every night when Moses returned from his schooling and after being watered and fed (and having said his prayers), he would be put into his bedroom and the door locked against the forces of darkness. I’m not criticising his mother, this was how she showed her love by protecting her boy - by squeezing the very life force out of him. 

I know all this because his bedroom was through the wall from mine and every night,as I went to sleep, I could hear the poor kid weeping and calling for his father. After a while I got so used to it, that I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t hear him anymore. 

That was until one night while my mother had taken to the streets; I heard a scream from next door that made me think Moses was dying. It didn’t stop, in fact, if anything, it got worse making me get out of my bed and go to see what was wrong.

I knocked on their door but there was no reply. I looked through the main window and there were no lights showing, so I decided I had to do something and I charged the door with my shoulder.
 It didn’t move an inch. It was then I spotted a small side window open and without too much bother I managed to let myself in (I don’t want to give too many details away in case someone reads it and copies me).

Although I must have tripped over everything in my path, I found his bedroom - it was in the same place as mine but the other way around. Luckily there was a key in the door but so as not to frighten Moses further, I shouted.
“It’s me, Josh from next door.”
 I don’t think he heard me, or at least he didn’t care as he just kept on screaming.

When I opened that door I stumbled into the strangest bedroom - ever. There were pictures of angels and Jesus covering all the walls, it was enough to give me the shivers and there, in the middle of the floor, was a ten year old boy who was screaming his head off. I guess he’d just had enough. It happens to us all.

I’ve never been much good at hugging people but I felt that this was what was needed. I held the poor kid and tried to get him to calm down; after a half an hour or so, he began to cool it and I so I got him a fizzy drink from my place. 

Eventually Moses only let out the occasional sob and it was then I saw he was clutching at a postcard of some beach.
“It’s Hastings”, he said, apparently it’s where his father was from and get this - Moses had never seen the sea. His father had promised to take him one day. So this is the point where I promised the kid that I would take him to the beach the very next day,  when both our mothers were out doing other things. 

The following morning, after I heard Moses mother leave, I took some money from my mother’s bedside table (the money she got from her boyfriends to get her through the recession) and went next door. 

Once again, I had to break in – what is wrong with this woman?  Satan isn’t going to come knocking on her door, although I can see what you’re thinking – I could be the bogey man, but I’m not. 

Moses was sitting on the edge of his bed and he was all ready to go. Apparently he didn’t sleep at all because he was so excited. To tell you the truth I hadn’t noticed that there was no sobbing through the wall.

When we were on the train, he told me this was his first trip on one and I was totally blown away by this little guy’s excitement. When we finally reached Hastings, he ran all the way from the station to the beach and shouted and laughed and cried (all at the same time). 

He had me look for the exact spot that was shown on that postcard of his father’s and whether by luck or providence, we found the very spot and that was when the poor kid started to weep. To celebrate and cheer him up, I took Moses to an ice cream parlour – sure, he had had ice cream before but never walking along a sea front. I stole a look at him and he was a million miles away from that little boy in the bedroom. 

And then he did something that I’m sure was rarer than gold, he smiled - not just a grin but a full- on smile from ear to ear. It was then I knew I had done the right thing. 

Once we’d finished the ice cream, I asked Moses if he was still hungry and do you know what he said?
“Yeh”
So we bought some fish and chips and as we ate them as we weaved our way through the fishing boats that sat on the beach. That’s the unusual thing about the trawlers down here - they launch them from the beach. 

As we reached the old car park, the seagulls started to dive bomb us, I guess they pass this little piece of wisdom from seagull to seagull, that if you annoy the tourists enough they’ll drop their fish and chips and leave a banquet for the birds. 

It was then I saw her - Moses’ mother and a posse of folks I took were from the baptist church, the God Squad were on our tail. She must have known he’d pick this place to disappear to, and she probably thought that if the devil ever took a trip anywhere, it would be to Hastings to corrupt ten year old boys. 

I was sure she hadn’t seen us but just in case I made Moses run, telling him that the gulls were coming in for an attack. He seemed to believe my story and so we ran into the nearest toilet which stood at the end of the car park. 

I told Moses to be quiet while I listened for marauding church people but it seemed all clear. Moses then decided he needed a pee but that  he wasn’t prepared to use the urinal, he wanted to use the cubicle and could I stand by the cubicle door just in case. 

If it made him pee a little easier then there was no problem with me.
While he was in the cubicle, he kept asking was I still there, I’d tell him yes and he’d go back to whistling. Then he passed a newspaper cutting under the cubicle door.
“What’s this?” I asked him.
“Read it.”
So I did. It was all about this guy who stood in the high street of a town preaching the gospels for as long as there was daylight. He’d made the more sensational papers and they’d dubbed him The Jesus of Bromley – an area in south London.
“That’s him, that’s my father” he whispered under the door. 

I read on and it seems to get back in God’s good books, after running from his family, he’d taken it upon himself to steer the people of  Bromley back to a more religious path. The ‘newspapers made out he was crazy. To be honest, I liked the look of the guy, he seemed to be just an older version of Moses. Same smile, same kindness.

“I miss my Dad” he whispered.
When Moses had finished up and his hands were washed, I decided we should make a run for it. Where to, I hadn’t decided yet but we couldn’t stay in the toilet.

As we ran out of the building, it was like that final scene from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. They were all there waiting on us - the police, the social workers and the baptist posse led by an angry version of Moses’ mother. 

What can I tell you about the outcome? Moses was returned home and I was told to appear in front of a panel of old people who would sit and judge me.
And they did.
Because I hadn’t forced Moses to come to the seaside, I was put on probation,  or more accurately, I was bound over to my grandmother on the condition that if I absconded from her, I would be sent to a young offenders’ institution until my 18th birthday – no questions and no appeals. 

So I moved in with my grandmother and it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I know my mother loves me but my grandmother was at least home most of the time.

One night, I sat outside my grandmother’s house in the garden. I’d never lived in a house with one of those before and I loved it. Looking after the garden was my grandmother’s hobby, although looking after me seemed to be up there with it.

I loved living with her, although I did still miss my mother and even Moses in a funny sort of way.  Then one night, my grandmother was on the ‘phone talking to one of her friends and they were discussing a boy.

“And he hasn’t been seen? No....no....what, just completely disappeared?”Asked my astonished grandmother.

It seems that Moses hadn’t been seen, even at school and I knew right away what the problem was.

I guess Moses’ mother thought that I was the devil or the nearest thing to it and to keep him safe, she’d locked him permanently in that room of his. Poor Moses would be going insane.

I had to do something and I knew it was going to hurt me very badly but I couldn’t leave my friend, my brother Moses stuck in that room, it would finish him off. I wasn’t angry at his mother -  it was a sort of love, that all she wanted to do was keep him protected. 

If I went to get him and they caught me, I would go to prison but the other side of the argument was that Moses was already in one.

So the next morning while my grandmother was having a bath, I took her rent money from the box underneath her television. I knew this was wrong but sometimes you’ve got to do a thing even if you don’t like it.

I waited outside Moses’ house until his mother went out and then I went in and got him. It wasn’t so easy this time, nothing was lying open, so I had to smash a window.

When I eventually broke into his bedroom, he was lying on the floor in the foetal position. When he saw me, he got up and threw his arms around me. Someone needed me and it felt good.

We managed to catch the Bromley bus but I didn’t tell Moses where we were going.
We stood at the bottom of Bromley High Street and there, at the top, was his father preaching to a crowd of maybe six or seven people. The moment Moses saw his father, he flew up that hill and threw his arms around him.



I smiled, as I walked back down towards the bus station.
I knew I was leaving and not coming back, but for the first time I had done something good and it filled me with hope.


Josh, aged 14.



                            Thanks to Stellar Network for their hard work and encouragement. :-)






bobby stevenson 2012






Stealing Moses:  First Scenes of Screenplay - presented to BAFTA TV April, 2012


INT. BRITNEY’S FLAT. JOSH’S BEDROOM - EARLY MORNING

A PAIR OF BATTERED LADIES’ SHOES.
The owner is unconscious and someone is pulling her along the hall.
The woman is BRITNEY (30) - she’ll tell you she’s 24.
Her 14 year old son, JOSH is the proof of that lie.
Britney is a party girl and at the moment, she’s the aftermath. Josh has done this a dozen times before.




INT. BRITNEY’S FLAT. BRITNEY’S BEDROOM - EARLY MORNING


BRITNEY is snoring on her back. 
JOSH is undressing her to her bra and pants. The situation doesn’t phase him.
He places the money, probably given by customers on the bedside table.
He places a cover over his mother and then studies her.
He KISSES her on the forehead. This is LOVE.


INT. BRITNEY’S FLAT. KITCHEN - MORNING

JOSH, the ‘little man of the house’ is making a cup of tea. He sits at a breakfast table which is a little too big for him.
He sips his tea. He’s used to making his own breakfast.


EXT. BRITNEY’S FLAT. DOORWAY - MORNING


A communal corridor that all the front doors share.
As JOSH is leaving for school, OPRAH, black(35), Josh’s next door neighbour is leaving her flat with MOSES, black (10), her son. She is holding him with a more than normal grip. She doesn’t want him to escape.
OPRAH pulls MOSES to face forward. MOSES keeps looking back at JOSH, then he smiles, a smile that would break even the hardest of hearts.
OPRAH turns to see what MOSES is looking at. When she sees it’s JOSH , she rushes away pulling MOSES even faster.
She doesn’t want her son to mix with this boy.

INT. BRITNEY’S FLAT. HALLWAY - NIGHT

A reborn BRITNEY is touching up her makeup using the hall mirror. She is blinged up for another night out.
She’s not a prostitute but if her gentlemen friends want to leave a little something next to the bed, then who is she to argue.


INT. JOSH’S BEDROOM - NIGHT

Josh is lying in his room with a computer screen he’s drawn on a piece of paper. He’s making the noises as if he’s playing a game on the fake computer.

BRITNEY (O.S.)
Remember....don’t answer...

JOSH
Answer the door to no one.
I won’t.


BRITNEY (O.S.)
No staying up late.

The CLOCK in the bedroom says 10.30pm.

JOSH
I won’t.

BRITNEY (O.S.)
Love you. Kiss, kiss.

JOSH
Love you too.

From the hallway the DOOR SLAMS. JOSH continues to play his game.
There is a DISTANT MOANING and CRYING from through the wall.
JOSH puts his ear to the wall.
He can hear MOSES crying.


EXT. BRITNEY’S FLAT. DOORWAY - AFTERNOON


JOSH is dragging his feet returning home. As he passes Oprah’s house, MOSES is at the window. MOSES smiles at JOSH.
Then MOSES disappears as if he’s been yanked away from the window.
OPRAH appears at the window. She waves to JOSH to get away from her window.

OPRAH
Shoo! Shoo!

She stares at him until he leaves.


INT. BRITNEY’S FLAT. JOSH’S BEDROOM - AFTERNOON

The bedroom is full of Josh’s imagination and very little else.
JOSH is drawing the face of MOSES. This boy IS an artist.
SCREAMING FROM THE BEDROOM NEXT DOOR.
It sounds as if someone is being murdered.
JOSH, who’s heard it all, even he is alarmed.


EXT. OPRAH’S FLAT. DOORWAY - AFTERNOON

JOSH stands at the door and even out here, the screaming is LOUD.
JOSH knocks on the door, then BANGS, then THUMPS. There is no response but the screaming is gaining in intensity.
JOSH sees a top window is open. He climbs onto the window sill and reaches inside to open the larger window.


INT. OPRAH’S FLAT. LOUNGE - AFTERNOON


JOSH climbs in the window and immediately notices how much more like a home this room is.
The screaming brings him back to the present.
JOSH rushes through the flat (which is the exact opposite of his) he finds the room without problem.
JOSH tries to open the door of Moses’ bedroom but it’s locked.
He takes a run at it with his shoulder but JOSH comes off the worst.
The screaming from inside, continues and gets more severe.

JOSH
Hold on, I’m coming.

JOSH is just about to take a huge run at the goddamn door when he sees the key in the lock.


INT. OPRAH’S FLAT. MOSES’ BEDROOM - AFTERNOON


What ever JOSH was expecting to find it wasn’t this.
MOSES is lying on the floor screaming and in the midst of  a mental meltdown.
The room is covered with religious paraphernalia. Posters, symbols, bibles.
JOSH kneels down on the floor and comforts the younger boy. The screaming changes to sobbing.   
The sobbing moves to whimpering.
MOSES is calming down, at last.
JOSH looks around the room and spots the only non-religious item on the walls.
A POSTCARD OF HASTINGS.
Trying not disturb MOSES, JOSH leans over and takes the postcard from the wall.
Josh turns the card over and on it is written:
“We’ll go here one day, promise”

JOSH
Your Dad’s gone?

MOSES rubs his runny nose and eyes, then nods.

JOSH (CONT’D)
Would you go, if I took you - to Hastings. I know I’m not your dad.

MOSES gives the biggest smile in the history of smiles.
MOSES gives JOSH a hug.


EXT. BLOCK OF FLATS. YARD - DAY

JOSH sits in the yard watching the doors of the flats. This morning, it’s a Saturday and things are more relaxed.
OPRAH leave her home alone after locking the front door.
JOSH hides behind a wall until she’s disappeared towards the bus stop.


INT. BRITNEY’S FLAT. BRITNEY’S BEDROOM - DAY

Britney lies snoring.
JOSH has a look on his face that says he’s fighting his conscience.
He makes a decision by displaying a ‘whatever’ expression.
JOSH takes the money from his mother’s bedside table and pockets it.
Thinks about it and counts out a few notes and puts some of the money back on the table.
JOSH shrugs - he’s just being fair as far as he can see.


INT. OPRAH’S FLAT. LOUNGE - DAY


JOSH coming through the window of Oprah’s place in his usual house-breaking fashion.


INT. OPRAH’S FLAT. KITCHEN - DAY


JOSH is stuffing food from Oprah’s kitchen into a small rucksack. He eats a couple of the nicer things.


EXT. OPRAH’S FLAT. DOORWAY - DAY

JOSH looks out of the door to make sure the coast is clear.
JOSH and MOSES make a run for it.
MOSES has all the wrong gear on - you get that feeling that JOSH has had a hand in the fashion advice.


EXT. BUS STATION - DAY


At the bus station, JOSH and MOSES escape aboard the bus for HASTINGS.


INT. BUS - DAY

MOSES’ mouth is covered in all the crap he’s been fed by JOSH. Moses is probably having a sugar rush.
The two of them are HAPPY.
MOSES points to everything out of the window.
JOSH is pleased with himself.


EXT. HASTINGS. SEAFRONT - DAY


JOSH buys MOSES a ‘KISS ME QUICK’ hat (assuming they still have them).
JOSH hands MOSES a T-shirt he’s just bought for him, but MOSES won’t change in public.

JOSH
(indicating behind a hut)
Go over there.

JOSH stands to the side of the hut as MOSES hands out his old shirt.
MOSES comes out pleased as punch with an ‘I’m With Stupid’ type shirt.
MOSES looks down at his shirt as his face grows from concern into the biggest of grins. 

JOSH (CONT’D)
You like it, then?

MOSES nods his head, enthusiastically. JOSH ruffles MOSES’ hair.


INT. HASTINGS. CHIP SHOP - DAY

Looking through the counter glass MOSES’ face appears and disappears.
MOSES is bobbing up and down to see the battered fish and hamburgers on the hot plates.
Eventually JOSH takes pity and lifts MOSES up who points to the biggest fish in the oven. Followed by a grin.


EXT. HASTINGS. BEACH - DAY

JOSH and MOSES are sitting on the stony beach next to the fishing boats devouring their food.
The seagulls have smelled the fish and chips and are gathering like Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.

JOSH
Maybe we’d better move. Quick.


EXT. HASTING. CAR PARK - DAY

As they run along the car park the seagulls are going mental - the Hasting’s Angry Birds always do this.
JOSH
Throw a chip.
MOSES throws a few chips on the car park and this distracts the seagulls for a short time.
MOSES and JOSH keep throwing part of their fish and chips ‘overboard’ to get rid of the birds.
Eventually they dump their food and save themselves.


INT. OPRAH’S FLAT. HALLWAY - DAY


OPRAH enters her flat and her hall and immediately senses something is wrong.
Moses’ door is lying open.


INT. OPRAH’S FLAT. MOSES’ BEDROOM - DAY

OPRAH rushes into the room and SCREAMS in fear and anger.
There is a gap where the POSTCARD of HASTINGS was stuck on the wall.
It takes a moment, then it hits her.


EXT. OPRAH’S FLAT. DOORWAY

OPRAH dashes out of her flat and starts BANGING on Josh’s door.
There is NO ANSWER
Oprah slides down the door and starts SOBBING.


EXT. HASTINGS. STREET - DAY

MOSES and JOSH come flying around the corner. JOSH stops and leans against a wall to catch his breath.
He puts out a hand to stop MOSES. They both lean against the wall and MOSES looks up to JOSH as if he’s starting to see him as the big brother he’s never had.
MOSES is starting to thaw out and holds JOSH’s hand.


EXT. OPRAH’S FLAT - STREET


A CAR pulls up with THREE MEN AND TWO WOMEN.
The CAR HORN is SOUNDED.
Oprah looks over the bannister.
She runs down several flights of stairs then jumps in the car.


INT. HASTINGS. CAFE - DAY


Josh and Moses are licking ice cream and sitting looking out the window like the big kids they are.
They are HAPPY!


EXT. MOTORWAY - DAY
The Oprah Posse Mobile is heading to Hastings. OPRAH is reading the Bible.

MAN
God will look after your boy. Be not afraid.


EXT. HASTINGS. FAIRGROUND - EVENING

It’s a SMALL family run fairground.
Whatever this ride JOSH and MOSES are on, it obviously suits someone of MOSES’ age rather than JOSH’s.
MOSES has transformed into a happy little boy, his smile is lighting the sky.


EXT. HASTINGS. STREET - EVENING


Oprah and her friends have arrived in HASTINGS.


EXT. HASTINGS. FAIRGROUND. BIG WHEEL - EVENING

While MOSES and JOSH are spying on the world from the wheel - Josh spots OPRAH WITH A POSSE OF THREE MEN AND TWO WOMEN.
OPRAH has come for her boy and nothing is going to stop her.
The big wheel can’t drop fast enough for JOSH. As it reaches the bottom, he’s hanging from the side.
JOSH gets impatient and makes himself and MOSES jump from the Big Wheel Cabin before it reaches the drop off point.
MOSES thinks this is some sort of game.
JOSH makes MOSES run through and out of the back of the fairground. So they’re heading the opposite way from Oprah.


EXT. BUSH - DUSK

MOSES and JOSH are hiding behind a bush. Josh has a look.

JOSH
I think we’ve lost them.

MOSES
Who?

JOSH can see that MOSES is in some discomfort.

JOSH
What wrong with you?

MOSES
I need to pee.

JOSH
What about over there?

MOSES SHAKES his head. He’s having none of it.

MOSES
I need to pe-e-e-e.

JOSH
So you said.

MOSES
I don’t like going out side. God can see you.

JOSH and MOSES run off.


INT. PUBLIC TOILETS - NIGHT

JOSH is standing in front of a cubicle, guarding his new wee brother.

JOSH
You wont even pee in here?

MOSES (O.C.)
No. I told you.

A VERY SUSPICIOUS LOOKING MAN enters the toilet. He goes over to the urinal but keeps looking back at JOSH.

JOSH
(To MAN)
What? I am not a bum boy, if that’s what you’re thinking.

MOSES thinks he’s being talked to.

MOSES (O.C.)
What’s a bum boy, Josh?

The MAN looks forward and pees.

JOSH
I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to this pervert out here.

MOSES (O.C.)
God will punish him, Josh.

JOSH
More like the Old Bill. Don’t worry, he’s not a real pervert, just some sad old bloke.

The MAN hurries out the toilet.
A NEWSPAPER CUTTING is slid under the door by MOSES.
JOSH looks down.

JOSH (CONT’D)
Is that what you wiped your ass with?

MOSES (O.C.)
It’s about my dad.

JOSH picks up the newspaper cutting and starts to read.

JOSH
Blimey! Who’s Jesus of Bromley?

MOSES (O.C.)
That’s him, my dad.

JOSH
It says here he ran off with one of his church members. She was only 17. Blimey! And now he preaches in Bromley High Street seeking forgiveness from the Lord. Hasn’t you mother gone round and belted him one?

MOSES (O.C.)
She says he is the devil.

JOSH
A bloomin’ lucky devil, more like.

MOSES (O.C.)
I miss him, Josh. I miss my dad so much. 



bobby stevenson 2012

2 comments:

  1. This is truly impressive. A very moving story.
    Helen C Mason

    ReplyDelete
  2. Helen, thank you, thank you - I'm hoping it will be a good film. Thanks for reading it, so much .

    ReplyDelete