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By Debbra Jansen

GENRE: Film-noir, Thriller

Yes Virginia, even monsters have children; a conflicted teen sets out to destroy the trafficking syndicate she has been groomed to inherit before it engulfs her.


San Antonio, TX, late 60s to mid 70s Isolated boarding school teen, Zoey, is home for the holidays, staying with her guardian, Great-Uncle Arthur, and avoiding her less than loving single mother, but this year she narrowly escapes being murdered. Arthur, however, isn't as lucky. To the surprise of everyone, Arthur has left Zoey the majority of his estate in untouchable trust funds, and designated Zoey and her school administrator, Father Francis, as trust fund managers. Because of a clause in Arthur's will, Francis pushes for Zoey's emancipation from her mother, giving 14 year old Zoey legal status as an independent adult as allowed by the state of Texas. Her mother, Jewel, is livid she didn't inherit control of Arthur's businesses and estate, and plots to rid herself of Zoey. Her new step-father, George, befriends the teen and confides to her that he is her real father. Everyone around Zoey thinks she's oblivious and controllable. Francis mediates the family rift and George finds Zoey a summer job away from the family accounting firm and her sadistic mother. George introduces Zoey to Bugs, his best friend and partner, at a popular local entertainment complex. Bugs, very much a loner, isn't happy about his new chore. It breaks his 'no females' rule in business. Even as a Dominant, Bugs isn't equipped to deal with a teenager such as Zoey. After several attempts to test Bugs' boundaries, Zoey realizes he is unaware of the after hours underage trafficking at one of his and George's legal private clubs. Zoey entrusts Bugs with her secret. Bugs, unable to believe Zoey, confronts George and finds the situation is worse than he could have imagined. George coerces Bugs, and intimidates Zoey by having her monitored by his brother-in-law, county-sheriff henchman, Wayne. George focuses his attention on driving a wedge between Zoey and Francis. Bugs tries to protect Zoey from George, but she pushes Bugs away. Zoey successfully manipulates George’s fixation and gains access to the inner workings of the family's criminal organization. Zoey soon discovers the syndicate includes a vast network of crooked cops, politicians, community businesses, and evidence begins to surface that Francis may be the syndicate's true mastermind and her real father. Dozens, if not hundreds, of lives are at stake, and Zoey is determined to bring the organization down, but can she commit patricide when it is the only option left? Bluecatscreenplay coverage: I liked how we are thrown straight into the middle of a family crisis, as Jewel interrupts Zoey's idyllic family life, and there is a clear contrast between Jewel and her caring step-family. This coincides nicely with our curiosity over the Angola prologue. All of this is achieved without any overt exposition – we learn through the characters and the progression of the narrative who these people are and what roles they have to play in the unfolding drama, but still with plenty of surprises along the way. The pacing of the script is excellent, moving at a brisk pace throughout as Zoey arrives at home, to live with George and Jewel, and is introduced to the variety of characters including the initially reluctant and unlikely hero Bugs, before being plunged into the terrible truth behind George's business. After the revelation that George is running a child-trafficking organisation it is clear what is at stake both for Zoey and Bugs as well as those that have previously been allied to George and the other girls under his thrall, giving the script an even darker edge and a truly captivating narrative. The characterisation is incredibly strong; Zoey comes across as a very authentic teenager:- headstrong, feisty, with a sense of invincibility mixed with a growing social conscience and burgeoning sexuality which is sensitively handled. Bugs' trauma from the death of his sister during childhood and the effects of the Vietnam war on his psyche adds depth to the one man who we can identify as a definite hero in spite of his association with George. All of the characters are believable and each has their role to play in the drama, and the character relationships are clear, even the supporting ones – for example, Nicky's reaction to Wayne's arrival at her house demonstrates the fear and power he exercises over her without being heavy handed. However, there are also shades of grey – George initially seems like a nice guy that loves Zoey as a daughter and wants to protect her from Jewel's spite, yet he runs a sleazy sex club and has prostitutes including young girls Zoey's age working for him. Once it is revealed that he cannot be her father and his true motivations are exposed, our understanding shifts as does our sympathies, parallel with Zoey's own realisations. The dialogue is naturalistic and you have a real ear for differing voices and the individuality of the characters. The setting of the time period is an interesting choice; it allows for the uncertainty of Zoey's paternity to be believable, for Bugs to be suffering from PTSD after Vietnam as well as a believable closed community of conspirators in a pre-internet/mass-communication age. The narrative is further aided by a well crafted and skilfully constructed three act structure that drives the story and character arcs inexorably forward towards the final showdown and the resolution. Although the plan to expose George and the entire child-trafficking operation doesn't go entirely according to plan, the conclusion is an emotionally satisfying one which still leaves us hooked.

Eric Alagan

Excellent read.

Shankar Pandalai


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