Written by Clint Horvath & Alma Dominguez
A middle-aged prostitute struggles with the demons of the industry and finds an unconscious priest who’s battling suicidal thoughts from his demonic alter ego.
Will Father Gabriel resist the urge to kill himself?
Can Father Gabriel forgive society enough to see the good in humanity?
Will Liz be able to get out of the prostitute game?
Can Liz respect herself enough to find the strength in order to resist the urge of temptation?
Father Gabriel hates life. He hates the new generation. He doesn't understand God. He drinks his pain away. His only real friend, Lou, is a demonic figure who's the mirror image of him. One day in the church quarter he finds out a pedophilia priest is joining their congregation. He gets so upset that he refuses to go back to the church. He buys alcohol and drinks. He drinks so much that he passes out. He falls and hits his head.
He wakes up in a strange woman's house. He has a very hard time coming to himself. After a few days, he learns she is a middle-aged prostitute, Liz, who's battling her life's decisions. During his stay, he has met her friends (prostitutes), her neighbors and got to see her get ready for the nightlife. These are people that disgust him. He would never look the sight of them.
He soon starts to realize these people may have hard exteriors but they have the most compassion. One night during Liz's outings, she gets gang-raped. And the day after that her pimp, Arlo, comes over to reprimand her. Instead, he gets in an altercation with Father Gabriel and kidnaps Liz.
In order to stop the hate and have a clear mind to do the right thing. He must kill Lou. Father Gabriel knows he has to go into the unknown in order to save a soul worth saving.
The story has a lot of momentum as we meet a surprisingly stark and unconventional priest, Father Gabriel, who is struggling heavily with his faith. The story takes off when Father Gabriel meets Liz, a prostitute in his neighborhood. The contrast between these two characters highlights exposes the commonly misguided ideas and perspectives towards people in these professions - the priesthood and prostitution. The ability of Father Gabriel and Liz to become friends shows that people are so much more than their work. As Liz stayed, this life chose her.
The moment on page 53 when Liz realizes that Father Gabriel has given her a metal fork is gorgeous. It’s an incredibly subtle gesture, and even though the two never discuss it, the implications of the metal fork are clear. Gabriel really does care about Liz. So much so that he takes note of her living situation and goes out of his way to make it better in a tangible way.
One of the strongest parts of the script is when Mina, Tina, and Gina come over to Liz’s house. The trio is immediately funny and endearing, but also surprisingly normal. Watching Father Gabriel warm up to them and start having fun is a real delight. These women, who he considered subhuman at the beginning of the movie, turn out to be vastly more responsible, witty, and (ironically) wholesome than his fellow clergymen. As the four of them joke around and play potato chip poker (an adorable idea), Father Gabriel starts to feel like a lovable character. Up until this point, the audience has felt pity and empathy for him, but this pushes our connection with him even further.
The script does a great job staying focused and forging a clear path for the plot. There is immense clarity amongst the characters. We are provided with opportunities to understand who they are and what their roles are as they interact with one another. The dynamic between Liz and Magdalena right away tells us a lot about Liz's caring nature and Mag's slight tendencies for recklessness. However, the relationship is tested when Liz goes missing. Father Gabriel, especially, takes it upon himself to find her and save her from her abusive pimp. The rescue is a pivotal moment as we draw near the conclusion of the story. The bond they have developed and his willingness to fight for Liz illustrates how much he cares about her. He has reestablished his desire to be better and trust in his faith again.
The story was extremely well-paced, and every moment and scene presented itself with a purpose that guided the plot well. The dialogue reflects all of the characters' unique personalities. Arlo had a particularly strong ton. His attitude, his dialect all contribute to how we envision him. Having these distinct tones amplify our engagement with the script as we can fully submerge in the world.
This story came about when my wife went to the dollar store and overheard a priest talking about going to the homeless shelter to volunteer. I've driven past the shelter a few times so I knew the location plus how it looked inside from volunteering years back. I wanted to do something opposite of what a priest is. I thought what if he wasn't a nice guy, but in his negative attitude an event happens and he's immersed in with the crowd of people he doesn't like. And through it, he finds serenity.
Now comes the time for the outline. Who can I pair him with so that it takes him out of his comfort zone and makes him realized the good in the people who he doesn't care for? Another question I have is, why is this priest so negative? Why is he full of hate? And when he makes the change, what does he do to help? As you can see I have so many unanswered questions.
This is my favorite part of storytelling. I love to turn to movies I love and pick pieces from them not to rip off but to pay homage to them. So I started with the character of the priest, I said let's make him a drunk which is why he's bitter. "Leaving Las Vegas" was my top choice. Nic Cage's acting is superb. But the question I have is why is he a drunk? Then I thought, it's because he's trying to kill himself just like the character in "Leaving Las Vegas". Now the bigger question, why is he trying to kill himself? I thought of the film, "Mr. Brooks" with Kevin Costner. In that film, his imaginary friend urges him to resume his murderous compulsion. I didn't want to have him be a killer, but his imaginary friend would urge him to commit suicide. And this imaginary friend would look exactly like him who also is a demonic being.
Now time for the person to help him see the good in people. So let's make the people he doesn't like the poor people of the neighborhood. And let's make the person an older woman in her early 40s and let's make her a prostitute like in "Leaving Las Vegas". Now to work on her story. She's an older prostitute who doesn't take new clients because he's in love with a married man, but when that married man wants nothing to do with her she turns to drugs. Okay got that. The encounter is next. On her drug rage, she finds the priest unconscious on his drunken rage.
Act II begins. Now following the beat sheet by Blake Snyder, we have moments in the downfall of act two. Some of my favorites, the all are lost and the beginning of act three. I knew I wanted her pimp to be upset with her and he comes to get her to take her to new clients. When the pimp comes there's an altercation between him and the priest. Now he must go and get her and rescue her from evil. But first, he must kill the evil in him.
My favorite Scorsese film is "Taxi Driver". I love the music. I love the acting. I love the story. I knew I wanted that same thing. He must save the girl. A true hero story.
I wrote this story as a short. But I really want to film this. And I have to continue to make features not shorts. So I lengthed it to 90 plus pages. I asked my wife to know only read it but contribute to it. I wanted her voice to be in it. She agreed. I am usually a know-it-all but I had stopped some years ago when collaborating with new people. I wanted the twists and turns and dialogue that wasn't planned by me. Everything she added I left. I left it in because when collaborating there has to be a balance of respect.
When collaborating I do a ton of revisions. The first draft, letting it out. The second, grammar. The third, their take (changes). The fourth, read together. The fifth, review of festivals. The more reviews from professionals I get, the more revisions I make.
*NOTE: I do not own the rights to the above image. It is clearly a depiction representing the story.