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By Melanie McDonald

GENRE: Crime, Drama, Romance
LOGLINE: PRIMITIVO A detective and a blogger work together to untangle the murder of a renowned winemaker, with a little help from two famous chefs, and fall for each other in the process.


PRIMITIVO A detective and a blogger untangle the murder of a winemaker with vineyards in the Sonoma Valley and Italy, with a little help form two famous chefs. Napa Valley Police Detective Mike Danville mostly solves crimes against property in the affluent wine country that is his jurisdiction – theft, trespass, vandalism, with the occasional break-in. However, with the discovery of a winemaker’s body next to an empty coffin, Danville suddenly finds himself with a murder to investigate, a suspect list like a Who’s Who of local wine celebrities, and a missing murder weapon of unknown provenance. Now he must prove he’s up to the task of solving the tough case not just to his captain, but also to himself. His lack of experience with such crimes makes him question his own judgment at every step, worried he will miss crucial evidence and fail. At the victim’s funeral, Danville runs into Ellen Gates, a blogger he met when she arrived at the home of the deceased, Giorgio Castello, for an interview. Danville now realizes her pending trip to Italy to visit the winemaker’s niece also offers an opportunity for further information gathering at the dead man’s Italian estate, if only the blogger will agree to help him. Even as the two begin to work together, Danville remains stymied by the lack of a murder weapon. And Castello was so well-liked in the community, it’s difficult even to find any motive for his murder; yet someone found a reason to kill him. Danville knows he must find the weapon, and soon; he also knows the killer has done his or her best to make sure it never surfaces. Meanwhile, at the estate in Italy, Ellen and the niece discover Castello’s hybrid vines have gone missing. Danville’s interviews with the last people to see Castello turn his suspicions back to the same man, but still he has no evidence. Ellen has a couple of chance encounters with two celebrity chefs she admires, and their remarks give her an idea about the missing vines. At Danville’s urging, she pays a visit to the Castello crypt, only to discover nobody is missing after all. Meanwhile, a label on her bottle of Castello wine peels away to reveal another hidden beneath it, adding yet another layer of mystery. Once Ellen returns to Sonoma, she and Danville put their heads and bottles together to determine why some wine has been deliberately mislabeled. He returns to the Castello estate, and finds the missing vines. Even now that he knows Castello’s secret, Danville still is no closer to solving the murder until a migrant worker turns in a fancy wine opener he found discarded in a pond, and Danville follows a hunch, tracing the upscale gadget with its custom foil knife back to its original designer. The designer gives him the names of customers who own one; one name is that of Danville’s main suspect. Confronted with the evidence, the murderer confesses at last. Case solved, Danville and Ellen soon celebrate their success with a return trip to Italy, this time just for pleasure. Contact: Melanie McDonald Phone: 703-942-6991


10 Sample Pages - Full Screenplay Available Upon Request “PRIMITIVO” by Melanie McDonald Melanie McDonald 6905 Custis Parkway Falls Church, VA 22042 703-942-6991 “PRIMITIVO” FADE IN: EXT. ROME SKYLINE - DAY - ESTABLISHING STOCK - (2010) INT. AIRPORT - DAY A COFFIN is being wheeled by a HANDLER through the Rome airport’s baggage handling facility. EXT. TARMAC – SAME The handler wheels the coffin across the tarmac for loading into the open cargo hold of a Boeing 767. EXT. BOEING CARGO HOLD – SAME The handler watches as two LOADERS lift the coffin into the waiting plane’s underbelly. HANDLER (to coffin) Arrivederci. EXT. SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - DAY INT. CUSTOMS LINE – SAME Wine maker GIORGIO CASTELLO waits in line, with four bottles of wine in a box and his passport in hand. CUSTOMS BOOTH – SAME CASTELLO’S POV He steps up to present his passport to the U.S. CUSTOMS OFFICIAL behind the glass booth. CUSTOMS OFFICIAL Anything to declare? CASTELLO (OC) Just this wine,and a coffin in the cargo hold. The official hands back Castello’s passport. CUSTOMS OFFICIAL Our condolences. Have a nice day. EXT. CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY - AFTERNOON CASTELLO’S POV Golden wine country flashes past his rented LIMO as the DRIVER, turning off U.S. 101, takes him home. EXT. CASTELLO WINERY, SONOMA – SAME The limo winds between rows of CYPRESS to the graceful villa-style HOUSE in front of the winery grounds. EXT. CASTELLO HOUSE - SAME Climbing out of the limo, Castello is met by his housekeeper, MRS. TORVALD, and estate foreman, JUAN. CASTELLO (OC) Juan, I’m expecting a delivery from the airport. Have them put it in the main cellar, please. JUAN Of course. Castello hands the box of wine to Mrs. Torvald. CASTELLO (OC) I’m having dinner with a friend tonight, so I’ll just have coffee later, when I go through the mail. MRS. TORVALD Very good, sir. INT. DINING ROOM - NIGHT OPERA MUSIC plays softly. CASTELLO’S POV Mrs. Torvald clears the coffee service from the table. CASTELLO (OC) Thank you, Mrs. Torvald. Mrs. Torvald nods, and carries away the things. Now Juan enters the dining room. JUAN The coffin has arrived. My condolences, sir. CASTELLO (OC) Thank you, Juan. Actually, it has been some time. Juan nods and leaves Castello looking through his mail. He opens a small, elegant ENVELOPE, pulls out a handwritten thank you NOTE, unfolds and reads it. INSERT – HANDWRITTEN THANK YOU NOTE ON STATIONERY PRINTED AT TOP, FELICIA CAMPBELL MCDIARMID Dear Giorgio, The new wine is amazing. How lovely of you to share it with us. Looking forward to the next time already. Warmest regards, F. CUT TO: INT. NAPA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE – PREVIOUS MONTH CONFERENCE ROOM CASTELLO’S POV Castello has invited the DIRECTOR and THREE VINTNERS to a tasting of a WINE brought back from his Tuscan winery, the first vintage of his new hybrid grape. CASTELLO This is from last year’s harvest, the first since I crossed two grapes, old vine Sangiovese and a Primitivo. I think it has turned out well. He POURS WINE, his HAND TREMBLING a bit as he pours. Looking up, he scans the FACES around him. Most look at their WINE, the TRAY of CANAPÉS, or one of the others, but Felicia Campbell-McDiarmid SMILES at him. RETURN TO SCENE: EXT. CASTELLO WINERY GROUNDS – SAME NIGHT CASTELLO’S POV (WITH OPERA MUSIC) Across the dark lawn to the main cellar. INT. MAIN CELLAR – SAME The coffin sits to the right, beside some barrels. Castello walks to the coffin and opens the lid. Inside are pots of soil holding rooted vines. INSERT – POTS OF VINES INSIDE COFFIN CASTELLO (OC) From these bones, the blood of Bacchus. Welcome to America. He looks around for a likely place to put them. He sees an empty bin stenciled with POTATOES. One by one, Castello LIFTS each pot from the coffin; deposits them in the bin, and covers it with burlap. Now Castello returns to the EMPTY coffin, pausing with his hands on the raised lid before closing it. There’s a RUSTLING, and Castello’s face is visible at last as he turns toward the KILLER behind him. CASTELLO Yes? What are you. . . KILLER’S POV Castello’s eyes widen in fear; the music SWELLS. INT. MAIN CELLAR – SAME NIGHT Mrs. Torvald enters, seeing the coffin at right. Between the coffin and barrels, a dark liquid POOLS. MRS. TORVALD Telephone for you, Mr. Castello. Mr. Lloyd, calling from Colorado. Don’t worry, I’ll clean up this. . . She SCREAMS as she comes closer and sees Castello lying dead; the pooled liquid is not wine, but BLOOD. Mrs. Torvald SHOUTS for Juan, and RUNS out into the night. A shadowy figure SLIPS out the door behind her. EXT. CASTELLO WINERY - MORNING The main cellar is marked off with yellow crime tape. DETECTIVE MIKE DANVILLE is questioning Mrs. Torvald while another DETECTIVE speaks to Juan; still more OFFICERS and INVESTIGATORS are processing the scene. EXT. CASTELLO DRIVEWAY - SAME A small car PULLS UP. ELLEN GATES climbs out, stunned to see the police here. An OFFICER approaches. OFFICER Sorry, Miss. This is a closed crime scene. ELLEN I have an appointment with Mr. Castello at ten. OFFICER Sorry. Just got cancelled. ELLEN What’s going on, officer? I’m supposed to interview him. My boss set it up. . . Detective Danville walks over from the crime scene. DANVILLE (to officer) I’ll take it from here, thanks. The officer leaves. Ellen turns to Danville. ELLEN Officer. . . DANVILLE (extending his hand) Detective. Mike Danville. ELLEN Ellen Gates. I do a wine column for a local blog, Amuse-Bouche. DANVILLE Sorry. Never heard of it. ELLEN Oh. Anyway, my boss set up an interview with Mr. Castello. I just drove down from Santa Rosa. DANVILLE The housekeeper said they were expecting you. Sorry, but. . . ELLEN Oh, my god. He’s dead, isn’t he? What happened? Did somebody. . .? DANVILLE I’m not at liberty to discuss this investigation. . . ELLEN Somebody killed him. I’m not a reporter. I just write a column. Can you tell me. . . DANVILLE No. Danville opens her car door for her. DANVILLE (continues) Sorry, Ms. Gates, but you have to leave now. Don’t take off anywhere the next few days, just in case we need to talk to you. ELLEN (getting into car) I’m supposed to go to Tuscany in two weeks, to meet his niece. DANVILLE Sofia Castello? Yeah, I need to interview her, too. Bought your tickets already? That sucks. ELLEN I have to call my boss. If I can even reach her. She’s off island-hopping. DANVILLE Who’s your boss? ELLEN Hallie Morton. DANVILLE The Hallie Morton? Her bucks, she could buy her own island. ELLEN Actually, she’s planning to. DANVILLE Ah. Thus, the hopping. ELLEN Right. DANVILLE Maybe you can still write a tribute to Castello. Maybe even go and interview the niece. . . ELLEN Maybe. If Hallie still wants it. If his niece is still willing. DANVILLE I’ll be in touch. Danville closes the car door and pats the roof. Ellen backs her car around and drives off. INT. MEDICAL EXAMINER’S OFFICE - DAY Danville enters while the Sonoma MEDICAL EXAMINER is conducting an autopsy on the body of Giorgio Castello. DANVILLE What’d you want to show me? MEDICAL EXAMINER (opening corpse’s mouth) This. INSERT - CORPSE’S MOUTH WITH A CORK INSIDE DANVILLE Is that. . . a. . .? MEDICAL EXAMINER Cork, yes. The medical examiner uses a pair of TWEEZERS to extract the CORK and holds it up to the light to read the print on the side. It’s a Castello cork. INSERT – CORK HELD UP TO LIGHT WITH TWEEZERS MEDICAL EXAMINER (continues) One of his. How cold is that? DANVILLE Cold. Before, or after, they killed him? The M.E. drops the cork into a plastic evidence BAG, seals it, and gives it to Danville with a gloved hand. MEDICAL EXAMINER After, to make a point. Dust it for prints, but I bet you won’t find any. I gave your CSI Gayle photos of the wound already. Any weapon yet? DANVILLE Nope. Still looking. Thanks, Doc. MEDICAL EXAMINER (saluting with tweezers) Always a pleasure. Danville hefts the bagged cork in response. EXT. CASTELLO WINERY GROUNDS - DAY GIORGIO CASTELLO’S FUNERAL The MOURNERS are seated before his own, new CASKET. Castello’s niece, SOFIA CASTELLO, stands beside it.

Mark LaFever

Nice concept! I like these sorts of mysteries or thrillers, in which the author walks the reader through an industry or milieu that's a little exotic or exclusive, and little-known to anybody besides those who really care enough to learn about it.

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