How have you introduced multiple characters in a scene?
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I had the same issue with Ben Hur II Exile. Six leads, each having equally impacting contributions. I fixed it by starting with the end Coloseum scene with all of them appearing in the same sequence. So look for a sequence when all characters are together - and zoom out from there.
It helps if you give each and every one something specific to do which is consistent with their character and contributes to the story. Readers like visual action which clues them into character.
Character performances are vitally important and give the leads and the project their credibility. The movie 'The Magificient Seven' really got it right - it made stars of all seven.
You are supposed to introduce your characters when they first appear on film. It doesn't matter if they are in the same scene or not.
Sure, the storyline must be followed, however there are plot devices that can also work to align with the budget and film duration.
Thanks for your comments Joseph.
Thanks for your feedback Douglas, Dan and Jim - all good points.
Have one character introduce the next character - think of it as a party filled with strangers, and a host introduces the audience to each person.
I like that William, thanks for your comment.
Hi Patricia, I agree with you. It's one of the reasons I started this discussion after work with two separate script consultants on my current screenplays.
While multiples have high risks, there are exceptions. When the story becomes the central character or a design that allows multiples without it being too complicated and the thread of focus is not lost. An example is the world-wide smash "Independence Day" - here there is no single character, the main thing being the 'Alien Attack' and its new city-size spaceships - these were the draw cards, and it would have worked with any stars. Other examples are George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, POSEIDON ADVENTURE, ITS A MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD, THE BIBLE, HAIR, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE & AVATAR.
Joseph. I think you're right. If the overall threat is big enough, forces everyone involved to deal with it, then multiple characters become less of a problem because, absent individual quirks, the audience knows what everyone of them is up to, (usually though there are exceptions) survival.
Hollywood's formula is a proven success, audiences relate when its reduced to the personal level. Yet sometimes the story cannot be reduced by the characters, specially historical stuff and stories based on truth - here boy-girl kissing and drifting in the sunset - THE END - can be too superficial and wanting. Different horses apply. Try as I may, I could not reduce Ben Hur II - Exile to one set of characters battling it out, it appeared too compromized and reductive. Ben Hur I worked because it was only about Jesus - yet so well done it too has the two friends who became foes and the chariot race that eventually domintaed everything - that is the Hollywood magic. I honestly could not emulate that genius with the Roman war with the Jews - there was too many vital things going on - at least not in a book edition.
Glenn. True, its very dicy and risky. I managed to place all six bigger than life characters in the opening scene, focusing on the issue, while making each character contributing to the focus story by also giving them strong roles. Like with "The Magificient Seven", where each character was respected, while the main theme [helping the villagers] was left intact. One must decide at the start: personalized charaters or the story, and design a comfort zone for the audience. Cheers.
Thanks for your comments Joseph, Douglas and Glenn - all good points.
Hi CJ, Thanks for your feedback.
Reservoir Dogs does an excellent job of introducing most of the main characters in one scene.
You upcoming experts can tell me if this opening containing all A-list characters works. Its from a preview anyone can see in Amazon's 'Look Inside' facility. Its still being polished, so feel free to bash. ‘BEN HUR II – EXILE’ Screenplay. By Joseph D. Shellim © 2014 [ADAPTED FROM THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME] =============================== 1. THE COLOSIUM. [THE MOVIE’S OPENING SCENE CONTAINS 3 X 2 MINUTE PROLOGUES, LEADING INTO THE 10 MINUTE COLOSIUM SEQUENCE. IT INTRODUCES THE MOVIE’S MAIN CHARACTERS & ISSUES, WITH ALIGNMENTS WITH THE CLAIMAX. THE OPENER IS THE SP’S MOST COSTLY SEQUENCE, BUDGETED AT $3M.] FADE IN [PROLOGUE 1] EXT. THE HEAVENS - THE STREAMING CLOUDS. A distant lone black dot is approaching. Nearing, enlarging, soaring; the most powerful of all birds dominates the heavens alone. The majestic eagle tilts its head south; a plume of fiery smoke is ascending. SUPER: LONDONIUM - 60 AD/CE. Below, a war carriage is enveloped in flames, horses are screaming to be freed from their harnesses, and Roman soldiers are fiercely engaged in retrieving their COMMANDER caught within the flaming wooden carriage amidst a raging battle scene. The soldiers pull and tug at their Commander’s body in a desperate bid to retrieve him, but the fire is overwhelming and all retreat the raging furnace. Then one SOLDIER throws himself into the flames, into the carriage cavity, burning instantaneously; yet he manages to throw off his COMMANDER from the flaming carriage. A charred hand extends from the flames; quivering. BURNING SOLDIER Promise me, swear by Rome you will protect my son, my only son... pledge to me by sacred Jupiteres... COMMANDER [Now secured from the fires] You have my oath, MATARIAN. Before our comrades I swear it. By sacred Jovis Diespiter, with my life will I protect your son. Go in praise of Jupiteres... The burning man nods, then ceases his battle with the fires. The Commander turns to his soldiers. COMMANDER VESPASIAN Erase Londonium. Burn them all as they have our comrade. Heed not for age or sex of these savages. DISSOLVE: In the dawn of the next day, amidst the fiery embers, a BRITON still yet alive stirs under the heap of burning dead bodies; he crawls out smouldering and bleeding. He confronts naked women on crosses, their breasts cut off and plastered into their mouths; smashed up men are nailed on crosses upside down and decapitated children are strewn about in a great destruction. The young Briton, in his 20’s, bushy red beard, tooth ear-rings and tattoos, drops to his knees, screaming in an agony of the horror he confronts. DISSOLVE: Transitional scene to prologue II: The gliding eagle’s powerful eyes see a patch outside the Roman metropolis; it nose-downs onto a large stone monument. [PROLOGUE II] EXT. ROMAN SCHOOL – WAR MASTER/STUDENTS/3 SLAVES. SUPER. ROME – 60 AD/CE INT. The eagle is now perched on the rooftop of a school building monument. Inside: A class of Roman adolescent 14-year old lads. The WAR MASTER, statuesque muscle-sculpted, stands waiting; he holds a golden Roman sword in his arms – as if it were a most sacred thing. Now three slaves - a man, woman and their terrified screaming daughter, bound in chains, are hurdled before the shocked students. WAR MASTER A Roman soldier knows - woe to the conquered. A Roman soldier knows – no glory without the death of the enemy. The War Master pans the fresh wide-eyed faces of the students: Fear or hesitance before the enemy will see no glory. It is not Roman. Which one of you achieves such glory... will be decided here and now. The SLAVE GIRL screams, slumping to the floor, turning her face into her mother’s protective torso. Who thirsts - for GLORY!? A STUDENT [Jostling to the front] I… I want the glory. Your Name? I am TITUS. Son of Vespasian. House of Flavian. The War Master nodes, handing the lad the golden sword. The lad Titus grasps the sword, grappling with its weight; then he bites his lip nervously and advances to his victims... DISSOLVE: The youth face dissolves into the face of TITUS, now the grown up transformed WARRIOR, sword in hand. He turns, focusing on a powerful eagle perched on his balcony rim. Titus imparts a quest: I want it… tell it to the Gods. The eagle flaps its mighty wings, ascending, soaring, gliding into the heavens – as if obeying a command. Titus’ hand grips the golden sword; the killer blue eyes glisten. DISSOLVE TO THE EAGLE APPROACHING A SOMBRE MONUMENT – IT IS DARK NIGHT – THE BLACK EAGLE IS PERCIEVED ONLY BY ITS WING FLAP SOUND EFFECTS. TRANSITIONAL TO PROLOGUE III. [PROLOGUE III] INT. A LIBRARY – A PRIEST/ AUSTERE STATUES/ NIGHT. Inside, heaps of rolled-up scrolls and feathered quills litter the large hall’s table and wall cubicles. The face of a bearded, elegant priestly figure with piercing urgent eyes stands, very slightly wavering his upper torso to and fro – as if in slow motion contemplation; the oil lamp light flickers on him. His eyes open; he addresses us in a Shakespearean-speak. YOSEF BEN MATITYAHU [Into CAM] “WHEREAS... the war which the Jews made with the Romans have been the greatest of all wars, not only that has been in our times, but, in a manner, of those even that were ever heard of before; both where cities have fought against cities, or nations against nations. [Pauses unsteady; regains]: I have submitted, for the sake of the Romans, to translate my books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of my own country. [Drops his scroll on table, as if in his defense]: I, Joseph, the son of Matthias, by birth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who at first fought against the Romans myself, and was forced to be present at what was done afterwards. I am FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS. I am the author of “The Roman War with the Jews...” DISSOLVE INTO A SUNRISE. The eagle is peering down at Rome’s largest iconic monument. The great bird in the sky is descending; cruising south. The music theme says we are approaching an event that will shape history and humanity... SUPER MOVIE TITLES: BEN HUR II – EXILE [Limited Credits over opening scenes] EXT/INT. THE COLISEUM – ROME - DAY. SUPER. ROMAN COLISEUM – 73 AD/CE Descending vertically onto the arena of an elliptical-shaped Roman Coliseum, the size of two large football fields, packed to its 50,000 capacity on 4 levels. The imposing Roman structure is partly incomplete; some of its walls stop rising abruptly. A reveling circus atmosphere. Masked Roman children are blowing on toy horns; barely naked harlots are soliciting; a senator’s wife complains of food drippings from the upper levels. The Speaker BASSUS [the MC], centre-staged, welcomes us with a ‘Tragic-Comic’ mask on his face, denoting tears and laughter. SPEAKER BASSUS Cari fratlli e sorelle - Rome will not disappoint her people this day! This day Rome revels in the glory of Jupiter. Welcome my glorious honorable Romans... Welcome... TO THE ARENA!? The masked face turns, showing smiles and cries; palms flap inviting. A frenzy of chanting erupts. On this day Rome speaks not only to its citizens, but to the whole world! Even unto History! Rome promises you the greatest wonders ever seen! LOOK!... He bows repeatedly, worshipping, pointing, raised open hands of devotion toward the Royal Chamber on the second level. The Emperor Vespasian waves a slight hand palm in response; his ascended Flavian dynasty, immediately adjacent of the royal chamber, rises, waving. The peoples’ chanting is unceasing; they roar in unison. SPEAKER BASSUS This day Rome anoints our emperor with the Crown of Divinity – we worship Vespasian! And this day we glorify Vespasian’s son with the Crown of Victory – Rome bows before Mighty Titus! A hailing: “TI-TUS! TI-TUS!” SMASH CUT: A TEAM OF TWO MEN AND A WOMAN is deliberating with the guard at one of the Arena’s 20 gates to be allowed to enter. SPEAKER BASSUS What you will see fellow Romans has never been seen before! The finest gold that makes the eyes to shine! Blood rubies the size of grapes! Sacred hearts of sapphires! It comes from the ancient kingdom of the Hebrews. And this day… this day you are witness to the end of a nation. One which stood for 2000 years. One even older than Rome...? [Hushes; hisses resound] The Guard at the gate examines a parchment with a Roman seal. SPEAKER BASSUS [O/S] Gratis! Gratis! A reward from Titus to the women of Rome! I throw for you the finest jewels your eyes have seen! For the women of Rome, a gift from Titus. Here…here… Bassus flings buckets of Jewels; the women of Rome compete in hair pulling fights for the gem stones. END OPENING CREDITS. TWO SENATORS, in rich toga dress, discuss their new divine emperor in the oppositte royal chamber. SENATOR ALIENUS [Covertly; hand on mouth] He appears not happy. Even in his greatest hour. SENATOR MARCELLUS Word is the stiff neck Jews perished without the surrender word. SPEAKER BASSUS [O/S] Look! The throne of King Solomon - made from the finest gold and ivory. But oh! -- [Mocking]: No king! This magnificent throne is... empty!? -- [Empties palms; taunts of laughter]. The team of the three foreign ‘BRITONS’ at the gate is led by guards to an entrance leading to the darkened, lower level basements of caged slaves. One of the Britons pauses; his gaze transfixed on the caged slaves, his thoughts transported to another far away land: “IN FLASHBACK”. IMAGES BURST: A massacre and burning of Londonian. Naked women on crosses, their breasts cut off and plastered into their mouths; tattooed men crucified upside down; decapitated children. The guard pushes the team forward. The parading of the war booty continues. SPEAKER BASSUS Citizens! The seal of Alexander the Great! And look – the silver sandals of the Queen Bathsheba! In the royal chamber, Titus presents a jeweled broach [Priestly Diadem] to his lover-Goddess the Queen BERNICE. A golden eagle stands atop Bernice’s provocative crown, its beak pointing to the heavens; the Menorah, symbol of the Jerusalem temple, is clasped in the eagle’s powerful claws. Bernice’s face dangles droplets of gems attached to her eye brows; her gown fronts a U-neckline plunging below her navel, exposing coils of mock painted pubic tattooing. The Queen displays Titus’ gift with sensual desire, loving it within her breasts in the sight of Rome. SENATOR ALIENUS. So that is the harlot Hebrew Queen. Dare he bring such a woman on this day as his royal escort? Even after she was mistress with her own brother, the King Agrippa?! SENATOR MARCELLUS. [Hand over mouth] First with Vespasian, who we glorify today. Now she is with his son, seated as a queen before Rome. The Flavians insult us!? SENATOR ALIENUS. Dare it be seen Rome will allow a Royal marriage to a harlot… an incestuous Jewess, one calling herself a Roman Queen!? The Gods forgive us, we have yet not recovered the depravity of our last Emperors. Now this!? SMASH CUT. The dim basement quarters holding Hebrew slaves; an emaciated girl’s face in an iron cage packed with women. The young maiden winces in an agony of pain; her comrades assist her. SENATOR MARCELLUS Hah! But her wealth… it exceeds Vespasian’s. That crown comes from her grandfather, King Herod, a true friend of Rome. He left her great wealth, mounds of gold, seventy mansions - each with its own security garrisons. Why else will father and son bow before this Hebrew harlot? Betrayers! A FOREBODING DRUMBEAT: Cages packed with 20 slaves are paraded in the arena. Three crocodiles are released from an encircling row of cages. As the Roman gladiators direct the kill, a hailing erupts. SENATOR ALIENUS More boring displays. This is all Rome has become... savages ruled by savages. A Hebrew appears to prevail against a crocodile, his powerful arms suffocating its large throat; he is cut down by a Gladiator’s sword from behind. The crocodile snaps the Hebrew’s neck; he continues smashing the animal with blows; the spectators roar with laughter. The Gladiator, chanting Rome’s doctrine “Woe to the conquered”, pierces the slave’s back again. The Hebrew succumbs. Bernice caresses the beak of the eagle on her crown seductively, points at the king, blowing him a hand kiss. SENATOR MARCELLUS [CONT’D] [Swaying beer mug; lusting]: It is said no man can resist her vile. Ever see a more desirous cunnus. She dishonors Rome so magnificently. Bernice sways her painted face; she dangles the droplets attached to her eye brows tauntingly. She tears out the mock pubic coils from her torso, throwing it towards the king. The howling audience scrambles for the glittering coils. SENATOR ALIENUS We’ll see about that! Such dishonor unto Rome will not receive honor in return… Slaves hoisting the giant MENORAH of gold enter the arena. SPEAKER BASIS [O/S] YOUR ATTENTION! This giant Candelabra is our greatest trophy. Carved from one piece of gold – built in the fiery Arabian deserts by the Israelites! PAN. The audience gasps as the slaves sway and waver with the enormous weight of gold they carry. The people squint their eyes as a brilliant glow flashes on their faces as the giant Menorah passes them; a shimmering, golden halo hovers. SPEAKER BASIS Fellow Romans, this giant 8-Arm light of gold is a most sacred item - it will never lose its luster. It will be encircled seven times, so its blessing shines upon all Romans gathered here today. Be you all blessed! ANGLE: JOSEPHUS whispers to the King; bows; leaves the royal chamber. SENATOR ALIENUS [Sneering] A fine victory this is! Rome’s divine Emperor gets his council from a Hebrew priest – and Rome’s War Commander is ruled by a Hebrew Harlot. Aah! Rome bleeds inside by the Flavian treachery! INT. THE CAGES - BASEMENT SLAVE CHAMBERS – DIM LIGHTING. JOSEPHUS [TO SLAVE GUARD]: I have been promised ten slaves by Vespasian. I may select one from here. SLAVES GUARD These are for the people’s sport. Bring me Titus’ orders with his seal or… [Smirks; cuts his throat with his finger]. CAGED HEBREW WOMEN Mercy, mercy! We took no part in the revolt, we are Nezarim, innocent as your own mothers of any charges. Release us we pray thee! ROMAN GUARD Haha! You are all the same Hebrew enemy - all are guilty of heresy - all are marked as sacrifice for Rome’s Gods this day. [Menacing smirk; roars of lions resound in the B/G] CAGED HEBREW MEN [Rattling their chains at Josephus] Roman Jew! Jewish Roman! Traitor! Betrayer! Phu! Phu! Josephus retreats terrified into a safe corner of an arch. EXT. Outside the Coliseum, Rome’s citizens mock the caged slaves being driven into the basement chambers. ROMAN CITIZENS Jude! Jude! Roman gods need sacrifices too! Jude! Jude! Why you cut off your mentula for? -- [They grab their groins in a ridiculing]. THE ARENA. TRUMPETERS’ BLAST - THE CROWNING OF DIVINITY AND VICTORY. SPEAKER For the Thanks-Giving sacrifice Rome offers exotic Hebrew women for Jupiter’s blessing. Twenty Hebrew women captives are hurtled before the royal chambers in a bordered compound. As three lions are released from their cages, the Hebrew women pan the audiences with their tied hands stretched towards the royal chamber. WOMEN SLAVES O Vespasian! O Titus! We die with no surrender to Roman murderers of mothers! NO SURRENDER!? -- [The people hoot and boo as the lions jostle about the women] INT. A MAIDEN MOTHER – BASEMENT SLAVE HOLDINGS - DIM LIGHTING. In the basements below the Colosium, a cage of women rattles to a standstill, awaiting its turn in a ramp queue. A young maiden lying in the background of the cage floor emits a scream. A child is being born in the back confines of the iron cage. The young mother’s tightly wrapped belly is torn of its cloth wrappings which till now hid her full pregnancy. Her face is distorted in pain. She glows as she hears the defiance of the women’s chants in the arena above; she grasps her comrades, pledging them. MAIDEN MOTHER No surrender - never!? THE ARENA. The roars of the lion frenzy reverberates; audience faces of howls and tension as the women slaves are overwhelmed by the beasts. Erotically clad Roman women dancers astride on Gladiator’s shoulders are parading; they mimic the slaves’ torment with shuddering gestures and screams as a mocking. A drunken Vespasian peers between fingers covering his eyes. The Queen Bernice drops her face in her palms. THE HEAVENLY BEINGS - THE THANKSGIVING SACRIFICE Two BLONDE VIRGINS carry platters of two sacred crowns as they advance in angelic steps toward the emperor’s raised dais. They are adorned to look like divine heavenly beings, covered only with white feathered wings attached to their shoulders, their naked bodies sprinkled with silver speckles. The shimmering divine beings waver through torn corpses on the ground and the bound Hebrew women dodging the beasts, screaming ‘NO SURRENDER!’ The people thump hands and feet as severed limbs and torsos are strewn across the aisles in the vista of the King Vespasian. The King holds his palms over his ears, swaying his head away from centre stage, as if to shut off the diminishing ‘NO SURRENDER’ screams still filtering in the Arena. VESPASIAN [In drunken stupor] Woe... woe is me! I am being made a God, yet I am ill to my soul. These cursed stiff-neck Hebrews and their No Surrender… will we not kill the dogs who bark at me this day? [One of the HEAVENLY BEINGS wipes off the king’s mouth as he keels over vomiting] ANGLE: The partial silhouette of a face opposite the royal chamber is gazing relentlessly at the king. FLASHBACK: Now a fire in Londonium and MATARIAN’s charred hand reaches out to Vespasian as a FLASHING memory that haunts him: “Swear it you will protect my son… my only son?” When a drunken Vespasian sees Alexis about to leave his seat, the King smashes his tub of wine on his Royal table. When the HEAVENLY BEINGS begin to devoutly place the CROWN OF DIVINITY on his head, he pushes it away, his hand flicking the crown; it falls to the ground. A great hush of bewilderment from the audience resounds. Vespasian keels over the naked torso of the HEAVENLY BEING holding the platter before him; she assists the king to stand him up. The other HEAVENLY BEING turns to Titus, standing him opposite his father, and begins to place the CROWN of VICTORY on Titus’ head in the solemn anointing process. VESPASIAN [Undertone; tormented] You failed to save Matarian’s son… and the Jews insult us with their last breaths before Rome. [Hisses]: Victory!? TITUS My father commanded me for victory over the Jews and their God – to do whatever I must. Your leg was torn, my arm is broken, Alexis is burnt. Such is the price of war, my father. Yet we live this day in glory because you trusted the oracles of a Hebrew priest. I stand now in your own divine footsteps - for all my glory is from you - for you? –- [Bows solemnly] The king turns away, focusing again on the man in the opposite chamber, Vespasian’s enflamed eyes addressing ALEXIS’ challenging gaze. Alexis begins to leave his seat. He is assisted by two guards, one under each arm, as he is hoisted and carried off from the ceremony to the Coliseum under-parts. Alexis’ face is covered on one side by an iron mask which extends to his abdomen, the encased hands appearing as a leper without fingers, the legs also encased in iron castings below the knees. One eye is free of indentation; it winces at the uninhibited reveling. Each movement displays the agony of his existence. VESPASIAN [Slurring; in a torment]: Alexis, Alexis! My orders were for your safety - even before that of my son. Aah Jupiteres! Be thou my witness before Matarian! Alexis’ helpers shake their heads at the King, indicating Alexis is too unwell to remain the rest of the festival. The giant Menorah of gold, lifted on the shoulders of 20 slaves, is encircling around the Arena as the divine anointing begins. A solemn liturgical blessing: ROMAN PRIEST “HAIL VESPASIANUS-FLAVIUS-FLAVIAN; THE DIVINE ANOINTED EMISSARY OF JUPITERES.” SMASH: The Maiden Mother in a basement cage below; her comrades are wrapping up a newborn child in torn away clothes, pressing the baby’s cheeks on the mother’s lips. ROMAN PRIEST “HAIL TITUS-FLAVIUS—CAESAR-VESPASIANUS! GLORIFIED FOR VICTORY UNTO ROME! THE DAVIDIC DYNASTY IS NO MORE! SOLOMON’S TEMPLE IS NO MORE! HERESY UNTO ROME IS CRUSHED. COMRADES - JUDEA CAPTA!?” [A great chanting] ANGLE: a crown lying on the floor. As the Menorah is encircled, a Hebrew slave stumbles, his leg quivering by the weight of the golden edifice on his shoulders; the audience mock in rage, chanting with thumbs down: “KILL! KILL!” A Gladiator pierces the fallen slave for holding up the anointing showpiece, throwing him to the lions as a diversion. MENAHEM, captured temple war Captain, chained hand and foot to his neck, dares the gladiator with gestures inviting a combat. Menahem mocks and dodges the dizzied Gladiator in a ridiculing: MENAHEM NO SURRENDER - NO VICTORY?! Menahem plunges himself onto the Gladiator’s sword, denying him the kill, smirking in a triumph as he repeatedly plunges into the sword. The other Gladiators set upon the rest of the slaves with a vengeance from the ridicule. Two hand-bound Hebrews are hoisted to the top of the pillar tower in the arena centre. They are dangled by their feet in a ridiculing, then dropped. They scream ‘NO SURRENDER!’ as they fall; their skulls smashed on the ground. A focused silence pervades the Arena as the wild beast’s cages are opened and they feed on the dropped Hebrews. A child in a purple costume on his father’s lap starts to cry by the frenzied growls of the beasts. His mother starts to grab away the screaming child, but the father rejects her, holding onto the child and pointing him at the killings, chanting ‘Woe to the conquered!’ FOREBODING DARK CLOUDS IN THE SKY – CRACKS OF THUNDER - A RAINSTORM. A great explosion emits from the heavens as cracks of thunder and lightning descends; a strong downpour of rain pelts the arena in the midst of a sunlit day. The lions leave off their meals and flee into their cages and safe crevices, crouching to hide themselves from the blasts in the skies. The screams of a child in purple mingles in the din. Another blast of thunder results in screams from the audience as the down- pour becomes stronger, washing away debris, sandals and foods across the aisles and balconies. Torrents of winds shake the people and the rains flood the arena, carrying away with it some of the audiences from their seats unable to withstand its force. Poles supporting the Royal chamber collapse; women and children are whipped and flung. A crocodile emerges from the swelling waters and grasps a Roman child in a purple costume in its jaws. A stampede develops amidst screams of terror, with throngs rushing for the gates, ignoring orders to calm down. Titus, panning the frenzy and fear of the people running for their lives, the undaunted warrior gazes at the skies above, as if challenging the heavens. Titus pulls out his sword and begins a defiant, purposeful walk to the midst of the arena’s centre stage, as he stumbles over corpses of Hebrews strewn across the grounds. MAIDEN MOTHER The rains, the heavens are shouting! It is for freedom! A light given us from the God of all Gods. Now be of good courage, be not afraid anymore. Rome, not Israel, is tested by our God this day. TITUS [At the heavens] I am Titus. I triumphed before all. This glory - it is mine! NOT YOURS! NOT YOURS!? BASEMENT. The blasting rains now pour into the subterranean tunnels, swaying the women’s cage so it is wobbling afloat. The maiden then turns away detached and dreamlike, her gaze appears in a ‘TRANS-LIKE’ distant time and place. A vision from the past comes before her; her eyes light up: [IN FLASHBACK]. The vision of a hand from a young Roman on his horse extends to her, calling and beseeching; his eyes searing as he waits on her. The maiden’s tears well up in a delirious smile of her recalling. The women in the swaying cage crowd closely around her face. MAIDEN MOTHER I see it!? Sisters…it is our light in the darkness… and I see it now… Her eyes are in a wonder. The young, emaciated mother struggles, grasping her comrades: This seed I bear is of the house of Hur, of Megiddo. May God grant him life - may Israel be returned - as God swore unto our fathers. The women covertly tear the umbilical by hand and conceal the baby in a pile of garment, setting it outside the back cage floor through its bars. The maiden gasps her final words. My son’s name - Alexander ben Hur. My light - in the darkness... The women hold hands over the covered mother and determine their pledge. WOMEN IN CAGE For freedom... our light in the darkness! The Arena: TITUS [Continuous; screams] NO SUCH THING AS AN INVISIBLE GOD! Empty! Your house – it was empty!? The waters surge up to Titus’ knees; wooden vats once holding jewels and a throne bop up as debris floating around him. TITUS [TO FLEEING PEOPLE]: I, Titus, I conquered the Jews - and their Hebrew god. Fear not – stay – I will save Rome. I am Rome. I am your savior! BASEMENT. On the floor corner of a cage holding the women slaves, a baby’s hand is protruding from under the mound of a garment. Josephus discretely covers up the baby’s hand and carries off the bundled mound. The flooding waters gush into the slave cavities, tossing and overturning cages and whipping the Roman guards against the walls. The waters flood into the basements in raging torrents, sealing the faith of the captive slaves, the Roman guards and the animals held in cages within the maze of its subterranean caverns. THE ARENA. The procession of 20 Hebrew slaves hoisting the giant Menorah begin to waver, their feet faltering as their exhaustion from lifting the giant Menorah of gold overwhelms. Titus stiffens. He drops to his knees, appearing struck by a sudden pain. He squats on the ground pulling at his hair, as if nursing a piercing throbbing ache inside his head. He is soaking in the heavy downpour. The mighty warrior’s eyes turn challenging at the heavens; he is heaving. A SLOW ZOOM OUT: The slaves hoisting the Menorah are captured in the streaming downpour. Titus’ face is challenging the heavens in the deserted arena. Except for the rains pelting the Roman Metropolis, there is a prolonged silence; it is contrasting the great din of the victory celebrations. A blanket of night descends on Rome. [A Sectional Timing: 10 min.] [End of Opening Coliseum Sequence] ========================
Hi Patricia. Yes, it’s a draft for someone who asked for a SP impression how this would work as a movie. I imagine this would need more than one writer on board. Ben Hur 1 had 6 veterans, a hit stageplay, 2 previous movies & a best selling book at hand. I am more inclined as a 6-part TV series because a movie is too long an effort. IMHO, docs have a longer shelf life. The wordiness has to be improved by way of fewer more succinct words, I agree. Re Dissolve. Yes, it should be not made confusing. However, I thing I used the 'dissolve' sparingly, and it appears to me it is required where there is a strong transitional break – as between prologues of different space-times. The sunrise is to say, the battle is over and it is the next day in the aftermath; the eagle is not in Londonium but Rome, with a SUPER; here just EXT does not offer sufficient differentiation. Yes, normally there is no need to include music theme remarks, yet I wanted to remind there are 6 themes available. Needs work. Thanks.
Thanks Patricia for your tips & input. Cheers.