Premise: A divorced mother must protect her drug-addicted daughter after she does something horrible to her abusive boyfriend.
About: This script was purchased by Black Bicycle Entertainment, who will produce with Scott Free (Ridley Scott). This team is also producing another Ingelsby script, The Burning Woman, which stars Anne Hathaway. Ingelsby is probably best known as the guy who was selling insurance in Pennsylvania when his spec script, “The Low Dweller” (Out of the Furnace), sold to Leonardo Dicaprio’s company for a million bucks.
Writer: Brad Ingelsby
Details: 115 pages
We are in the dark weeks of movie entertainment, my scribe-friends. It’s the end of summer, where studios dump tweener content they’re unsure of into the market and hope they catch fire. The Hitman’s Bodyguard? That concept is straight out of 2005. And what is, exactly, the genre for Logan Lucky? Comeheistindy?
Did you know that two weekends from now, there will not be A SINGLE NEW STUDIO WIDE RELEASE? You heard me correctly. ZERO! That hasn’t happened in 20 years. Now I’m not ready to say the sky is falling. We still have IT coming up and Star Wars, and the Oscar hopefuls will begin rolling out in the fall. But it sucks that there’s nothing out there to watch.
It’d be cool if they could give Good Time a wide release, my favorite movie of the year. But the truth is, those kinds of movies can’t survive in the Streaming Generation. If a film looks like it has the production value of a movie you’d watch on Netflix, people aren’t going to pay money to see it in the theater.
And that’s too bad. Because if this were 1997, Good Time would’ve made 60-80 million dollars and everyone would’ve been announcing the film as a breakout hit.
Which brings us to “Claire,” another good script that, unfortunately, also suffers from tweener status. It’s not a horror film. Not a comedy. It’s definitely not a super-hero movie. It’s not fast-paced enough to be a thriller. So the only way a movie like this escapes a 4 theater release is if David Fincher or Clint Eastwood signs on.
Is that possible? Sure. But so is winning the lottery.
Kate Garrett is in her 40s and, at first glance, seems to be living the life. She has a huge mansion that rests on 22 acres. She’s got horses, guest houses. Money seems to be an afterthought in Kate’s universe.
But as details emerge, we realize this utopia isn’t all it’s advertised to be. Kate’s divorced. The man she married was extremely rich, but he’s long gone, upgraded to a new family. So Kate spends most of her days wandering about the scenic acreage, coming up with things to do.
It isn’t long before we learn what Kate’s real job is: Claire. Claire is Kate’s 20 year old opiate-addicted daughter. We’re not talking casual addiction here, folks. Claire goes off for days at a time with her abusive boyfriend, Ryan, and rides the devil’s coat tails.
To make matters worse, Kate’s as addicted to enabling as Claire is to opiates. Whenever Claire comes home with puppy-dog eyes and a laundry list of apologies, Kate happily lets her in, nurses her back to health, only to be taken advantage of by Claire again, who takes her money, jewelry, anything that pays for the next high.
The first half of the script explores Kate’s loneliness in this giant house, and how that loneliness drives her enabling. Those little slices of daughter-love are the only thing worth living for.
But (spoiler) when her daughter gets in a fight with Ryan and accidentally kills him, Kate is forced to perform the ultimate enabling act – clean up and erase all traces of the murder. Kate achieves this. But just when we think the coast is clear, Kate’s own hidden addiction surfaces, which begins a chain reaction that forces Kate deep into the dark world Claire inhabited for so long.
There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who can’t watch Intervention. And those who can. Intervention is a docu-series where people get help for their addicted family members, usually daughters, sons, or spouses. I wouldn’t say there’s anything entertaining about the episodes. But there’s a weird high that comes from watching people battle their addictions.
On the one hand, you’re furious with them. They make their loved ones’ lives a living hell, then take advantage of that love to keep paying for their addiction. On the other, you want to see them get better, so you’re hoping they’ll be one of the few to somehow kick the habit.
If watching that play out is your jam, you’re going to love Claire. Cause this is the closest a feature script has come to mimicking the realism that is Intervention.
I loved the way this script started. It’s called “Claire.” But we start on someone named Kate. We get to know all about this Kate but, obviously, we’re wondering, “Who the hell is Claire???” It’s rare you find a writer clever enough to use their title as a form of suspense.
That’s basically all writing is, finding little tricks to keep the reader around, dangling a carrot in front of them if you will. And when that carrot has been reached, you better have another one dangling, or else why would they keep walking?
Once we find out who Claire is, the next carrot is the Intervention device – our simultaneous intrigue and anger with Claire. One second we’re happy that she and her mom are hanging out, having fun. The next we’re furious because she’s stealing Kate’s money and taunting her while she does it, anything to get that next batch of pills.
Ingelsby’s biggest strength is that there’s such a level of detail to his characters and the broken lives they lead that you believe it all. This is one of the hardest to do in writing which is why so many writers fail at it. They think to convince an audience that a character is a drug addict, you show that character stick a needle in their arm and fall back against a wall in ecstasy.
Not how it works, people. Want to know how I know that. Because “Claire” is one of the most realistic depictions of addiction I’ve read and we don’t see Claire get high once. We see her WHEN she’s high. But we never see her take drugs.
On Thursday, I’m going to talk about how to create this realism. It’s called “anchoring.” Anchoring is the process by which you anchor components of your story to components of your own life. It’s really the only way to build truly believable situations. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Ingelsby used it here. These scenes are so raw, so detailed, they have to be anchored in truth.
Another thing I like about Ingelsby is that he’s elegant and he’s thorough. For starters, this man cares about details. He knows that specificity sells realism. But he also thinks about the best way to convey that realism. He’s not boring about it. For example, when Kate goes over to her ex-husband’s house, she runs into Audrey, her ex’s new wife.
Inglesby writes a line which I felt perfectly captured how the new wife sees the old one. This is what he wrote: “Audrey regards Kate with a smile, polite but not friendly: Kate is an annoyance that must be tolerated.” That line gives me everything I need to know about that relationship in less than two seconds. That’s good writing.
If you’re someone who struggles with character development, this is a great script for you to read. We have everything from vices, to flaws, to backstory, to complicated relationships. It runs the gamut. So check this out if you can. And feel free to let me know what you think!
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Avoid anchoring characters to your imagination. Instead, anchor your characters to people you’ve known in your life. I promise you those characters will come off more realistic (MORE ON ANCHORING THURSDAY!).