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Lens Change

When I began learning screenwriting, I had two ideas in my head I had learned from a conference I went to called, Mind of a Saint, by Graham Cooke. The 2-day conference was teaching us about correcting the mindset and our identity as a sinner to our true identity: We are saints of God.

One of the analogies Graham talked about was changing lenses. The lenses we look through life can hinder our vision or enhance it. We must go through a series of lens changes in order to see correctly and clearly.

He also told a story of a man he met who introduced himself as an angry man and been this way all his life. His church sent him to anger management classes to "manage" his anger. Obviously, this didn't work for the guy who had been angry for 20 years still battling it.

With these two ideas in my head, I started writing my first short story. I hope to film it some cold winter night.

Here it is. It should be about a 10-13 minute short film.

LENS CHANGE

Written by Dewey Compton


INT. HAROLD’S HOUSE - EVENING

A grey, empty living room is lit by a roaring fire. The room has little to no furniture. A solo wing back chair faces the fireplace.

A man enters and THROWS logs into the fireplace.

He paces back and forth like a pendulum on an old worn-out clock. This is HAROLD, a tall man in his late forties. He is wearing dark slacks and a grey long sleeve shirt and tie.

Harold sits down. Gets up to stir the fire. Sits.

MOMENTS LATER

He looks at his watch. He hits his head with his hand and runs to grab his long coat and black godfather hat. He exits the front door.

EXT. BUILDING - NIGHT - LATER

A sign posted on the door of a new downtown building reads: Anger Management Class 6:00-7:30.

The door bursts open violently and an angry person exits abruptly. It’s Harold.

His tie is loosened and he carries his jacket. He pauses to slam on his hat. He storms off down the dark lonely sidewalk.

EXT. DAGNY’S COFFEE SHOP - NIGHT

A focused PHOTOGRAPHER stands outside Dagny’s, a cozy coffee shop. He secures a telephoto lens on his camera.

The people inside the coffee shop seem separated, self-absorbed in their books, and electronics.

The camera shutter clicks away.

Harold rams into the photographer and doesn’t say a word almost knocking the camera out of the photographer's hands and continues on.

Harold enters and gets in line.

The photographer recovers, positions and takes shot after shot of Harold through the windows.


INT. DAGNY’S COFFEE SHOP - CONTINUOUS

The photographer enters the shop and jumps in front of Harold as the next customer in line.

An angry Harold turns toward the photographer and we see his face for the first time. Harold is a zombie and is not happy.

PHOTOGRAPHER (To the clerk loudly)

I’m buying.

Harold’s angry look begins to soften and he is stuck in a trance-like stare.

The clerk, SHAYLA, a young attractive college student, friendly, but firm and artistically painted with tattoos, and a bit impatient addresses Harold.

SHAYLA
Harold, did your class end early tonight? It’s only 6:45.

Harold continues his stare at the photographer.

SHAYLA (CONT'D)

Harold?!
Harold snaps out of it but still stares.

HAROLD
Ahhh, sure a supremo house coffee

black, a cinnamon roll, a peanut butter brownie, and two lemon bars.

PHOTOGRAPHER
And I’ll have a tall drip coffee

with room for cream, please.
The photographer changes his lens. Harold stares.

SHAYLA
That will be fourteen twenty-five.

The photographer pays with a fifty. Drops the change in the tip jar and takes a quick photo of Shayla’s reaction.

The photographer walks to a table by the window and sits alone. Harold’s eyes follow.

SHAYLA (CONT'D) (OS)

Next in line, please.

A shocked Harold walks outside as he continually glances back at the photographer.

EXT. PATIO - CONTINUOUS
He finds a table with a perfect view to spy on him.

Harold eats and drinks as he watches the photographer take photos and review them through the viewfinder.

The photographer smiles. Laughs as if he is talking with someone.

A distraction catches Harold’s attention. It’s a BUM sitting on the street.

BUM
(yelling to nobody)

He is over there! He’s got change. Get some.

Harold looks back at the photographer. He is gone. He looks back to Bum. It’s now the photographer in his place.

Harold rubs his eyes. He looks again and the photographer is at the same table inside and the Bum on the street.

A little freaked, Harold gets up and leaves.

INT. HAROLD’S HOUSE - EARLY MORNING

DISSOLVE TO:

A digital clock turns to 3:33. Harold rolls over in bed to see it. He gets up and starts a fire in the fireplace.

He sits in his chair staring at the fire sipping on coffee. Harold reflects on his last anger management class.

FLASHBACK TO MEETING
People are sitting in a circle and listening to what's being read.

FACILITATOR

Step 2, once you are calm express your anger. As soon as you're thinking clearly, express your anger in an assertive but non-confrontational way.


BACK TO PRESENT
Harold looks into an empty cup.

HAROLD (to himself)

Bunch of horseshit.
He gets up, stokes the fire and exits room.

EXT. BUILDING - NIGHT

FADE OUT.

We see the same anger management sign posted on the same door. The door bursts open again and an angry Harold exits abruptly.

EXT. STREET - CONTINUOUS

He walks toward Dagny’s Coffee Shop. He sees a homeless guy sitting with a sign. It says CHANGE?

As Harold passes he hears a voice.

VOICE (O.S.) Thirty-three three

Harold stops. He looks at a homeless guy. It’s the photographer holding out his hand.

PHOTOGRAPHER Need some change.

Harold blinks and it’s really a homeless guy. He ignores the request for change and walks on.

HAROLD (to himself)

What is happening to me?

EXT. DAGNY’S COFFEE SHOP - MOMENTS LATER

Harold walks up to the door, opens and enters. The door closes and reveals a poster taped to it. The poster is for Mickey Fine the Accident Lawyer 333-3333.

INT. DAGNY’S COFFEE SHOP - CONTINUOUS

It’s a slow night and few people are in the coffee shop. Harold walks up and is greeted by Shayla.

SHAYLA
Hey Harold, what can I get you tonight? Same as usual?

HAROLD
Yeah, but add the triple-layer cake.

Shayla greets JOHN who has shown up for work and putting on his apron.

SHAYLA Hey John.

So a coffee black and triple-layer cake? That will be $3.17

The photographer steps up and pays for Harold again. He drops the large chunk of change into the tip jar. He holds the camera up, snaps a photo of their reaction without looking and then smiles hugely at John and Shayla.

PHOTOGRAPHER
Harold, would you care to join me at a table?
Harold breaks from his stare, nods, and follows behind.

EXT. PATIO - MOMENTS LATER
Harold and the photographer sit outside at a table.

PHOTOGRAPHER
Thanks for joining me. I thought I might be sitting alone tonight. Harold eats the cake.

PHOTOGRAPHER (CONT'D) Do you mind if I take some more photos of you while... Harold interrupts, looks up confused.

HAROLD
Why would you want any photos of me? Sure, click away.

PHOTOGRAPHER Well, I’m putting together a collection of photos for my art exhibit.

HAROLD
If we are going to get to know each other, you need to know some things about me. I have an anger problem.

PHOTOGRAPHER
You are a comedian? That sounds hilarious. The angry zombie?
Harold continues eating as there are more camera CLICKS.

HAROLD Say what?

PHOTOGRAPHER Oh nothing. Go on.

HAROLD
Told me to go try out anger management class on Tuesdays.

PHOTOGRAPHER How is that working?

The photographer changes his lens on the camera.

HAROLD (angry)

It’s not! That’s the problem and it makes me angrier!

PHOTOGRAPHER
Who told you you've got an anger problem?
Harold stops eating looks up and slams his fork down.

HAROLD
What kind of question is that? Look at me! Can’t you see it’s true? I’ve been angry since I was a kid! That’s just who I am!

CLICK from the camera shutter.

PHOTOGRAPHER
What if the real Harold isn’t angry?

Interrupts

HAROLD
What does that even mean?

You’ve never gotten angry?

PHOTOGRAPHER (pauses)

Yeah, but it was necessary. Anger doesn’t rule me. I rule it! I never let the sun go down...

HAROLD
My dad would always get mad at us, would beat my brothers and me after we got home from school! Then he’d beat on my mom. That made me really angry!

CLICK from the camera shutter.

HAROLD (CONT'D)
I hear it everywhere. As long as I'm in this body of flesh, I will continue to struggle. So I’m pretty sure my anger comes from that!

PHOTOGRAPHER
Hey, what if you could change your heart? Well, we need to start with your mind first.

HAROLD
I’ll never change. This is who I am.

A STRANGER, a young teenager, walks by and knocks Harold’s hat off the table and onto the ground. Harold stands up in a fit of rage and yells at the person.

Photographer snaps photos. We see through his lens. There are words suspended in the air above Harold: PATIENCE, KINDNESS, CALMNESS, CONTENT, ANGER, FURY, TEMPER.

HAROLD (CONT'D) Hey! Watch what you’re doing!

What’s the matter with you?!

STRANGER
I’m so sorry. It was an accident.

The STRANGER sheepishly picks up the hat and hands it to Harold.

PHOTOGRAPHER

Right there. That’s was it. You missed it.

Harold looks at the photographer puzzled, yet curious and sits back down.

HAROLD
What are you talking about?

CLICK of the camera shutter.

BEAT

PHOTOGRAPHER
That situation. That was your practice ground. You could have chosen the opposite of anger right then. Didn’t you see it?

HAROLD
All I saw was that careless kid.

PHOTOGRAPHER Look, I have changed my lens tonight about eight times. You haven’t changed yours once!

When you change your lens how you see yourself, everything begins to change. Your mind, and your language.

HAROLD
I look in the mirror every day. I see the truth.

PHOTOGRAPHER
Do you think there’s a difference between what is true and the truth? Let’s try this!
What is the opposite of anger?

HAROLD
I’m not sure, I’ve never thought about that.

PHOTOGRAPHER
Look it up and start thinking about those words instead.

HAROLD
What good will that do? I’ll never change. So many years of struggling with the same issues. I’ve tried, believe me. Can’t you see?

CLICK CLICK of the camera shutter. Harold looks more depressed than angry.

PHOTOGRAPHER (teary-eyed)

Yes, I see!

HAROLD
That’s enough. I’m pretty sure you don’t need photos of me for your exhibit thing.

There is a pause.

PHOTOGRAPHER
Well, I must be off. Thank you for your time. Harold seems confused.

HAROLD
You’re leaving? Uh well, thanks for buying the coffee and stuff.

PHOTOGRAPHER 
It’s a joy for me to pay.

The photographer stands up.

PHOTOGRAPHER (CONT'D) 
Hey Harold!

The photographer leans over to whisper something in Harold’s ear.

Harold perks up and appears to be encouraged.

He reflects on the words. When he snaps out of it, he turns to look for the photographer, who is now gone.

A curious woman in her mid-twenties is sitting straight across from Harold. Interrupted from her book reading, she stares at him.

HAROLD
What?

The woman nods left to right then looks down to continue her reading. Harold gets up and drops his hat.

He bends over to pick it up to put it on his head. Harold is no longer angry. He smiles halfheartedly.

He leaves the coffee shop to head home. 

FADE OUT.

EXT. BUILDING - NIGHT

SUPERIMPOSE “2 WEEKS LATER”

We see the same anger management signposted on the same door. The door bursts open again and an angry Harold exits abruptly.

He approaches an almost empty Dagny’s coffee shop.

INT. DAGNY’S COFFEE SHOP - NIGHT 
Harold enters and orders.

HAROLD
Hey John, coffee. Black.

JOHN Coming right up.

Harold waits.

He sits down inside the shop. He pulls out an iPad and looks up antonyms for the word “angry”.

SCREEN
The screen shows a list of eleven opposite words.

He sits back in his chair, closes his eyes and tilts head upward.

He opens his eyes wide. He looks around puzzled.

HAROLD
Hey John, Shayla has the night off?

John points at the flier on the wall.

JOHN
Yeah, she’s at the art exhibit down the street.

His attention is drawn to a flier on the window for an art exhibit.

It reads: “Lens Change - Seeing the Unseen” by visiting artist - The Photographer.

HAROLD T
hat’s tonight?

Harold slurps down his coffee, packs up his iPad, and heads out the door.

EXT. STREET - NIGHT
He walks and thinks out loud.

HAROLD
Seeing the Unseen? What’s that all about?
Harold turns the corner and the art gallery comes into view.

(Slowmotion)

Through the window, Harold sees large portraits of various people hanging from the ceiling like spinning mobiles. Others mounted on the walls.

INT. ART GALLERY - NIGHT

Harold enters as he admires the photos. The photos are people from various places. Below each picture is a word matching the look in the photo: “love”, “peace”, “joy”, “kind”, and “good”, etc.

Shayla walks up to Harold. Her voice startles Harold out of his stare and back to reality.

(normal motion)

SHAYLA 
Hey Harold!

He looks around and spots the photos of the people from Dagny’s Coffee Shop.

SHAYLA (CONT'D) How are you? You look great!

HAROLD
Were these taken that same night the photographer paid for me?

SHAYLA
Yes. Did you see you? He is over there with you right now.

Harold wades slowly through the hanging mobile of photos and people admiring them. He sees the photographer standing admiring all the photos of Harold on the main exhibit wall. Harold walks up next to the photographer.

PHOTOGRAPHER
So what do you think of my best work?

Harold’s jaw hangs open and his eyes are wide. Under each photo of a very human and alive Harold are the exact words he looked searched on his iPad earlier: “calm”, “cheerful”, “cool”, “happy”, “mild”, “nice”, “peaceful”, “pleased”, “collected”, “content”, “joyful”.

HAROLD
How did these words...

This time the photographer interrupts Harold.

PHOTOGRAPHER
This is the real Harold. How you are seen through my lens.

HAROLD
I don’t remember looking like this.

PHOTOGRAPHER
Remember what I told you that night we had coffee? 

FLASHBACK OF THE WHISPER

PHOTOGRAPHER (CONT'D) 
Harold, the fire burns because it needs fuel. It will go out when you stop putting logs on it. Anger is the same.

FLASH FORWARD TO THE PRESENT

Harold stares at his real self photographs. He turns to the photographer.

HAROLD
All those years of me trying to not be angry makes it worse?

PHOTOGRAPHER
When you focus on a negative like anger, you give it the fuel it desires.

HAROLD
So just ignore it and it goes away?

Is it really that easy?
The photographer points to the photos.

PHOTOGRAPHER 
Bring him into focus.

Harold drops his head.

The more you practice, the more you remind yourself who you really are, the faster it gets established. Consider the old Harold to be dead!

Harold looks human and alive for the first time. Tears run down his face. He smiles like never before.

HAROLD
These lenses haven’t been changed in a long time.
The photographer hands Harold a handkerchief.

PHOTOGRAPHER (laughs)

You have new lenses now and clean. How do they look?

HAROLD (laughs)

Blurry!

PHOTOGRAPHER
They’ll clear up and you will see the real Harold?

The photographer puts his arm around Harold. He pulls him close as he embraces him. A severely scarred wrist and a tattoo on his arm reveals: “JER 333”

FADE TO BLACK.



13.

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