The Killing Floor: A Reflection of Unfinished Work

The Idea and Inspiration

The Killing Floor, my first screenplay ever to come to life outside of my university acting and film classes (I was a theatre major…shocking, right?). Eager to share my art with the world, I hastily began to draft a short film after gaining inspiration walking through an arboretum at the university I was currently employed at. I remember walking through the thick forestry up a steep hill coming across this open, and flat patch of land. “This must be where the students have their satanic rituals.” I think laughing to myself. Embracing the open space, a story begins to form in my head as I pace quickly leaving circular tracks in the snow. The Killing Floor was born.

Poster

SCENE ONE

Michael Karon sits close to his Christmas tree grasping an almost empty bottle of whiskey. His clothes are tattered and covered in blood. A half-wrapped present lies before him and a pistol on the floor to his side.

Michael’s takes a final swig of whiskey and tosses the bottle in front of him.

Michael picks up the pistol next to him, cradling it in his palms.

Matthew stands atop a mountain pass within a firing trench. Michael Karon, Matthews father, stands beside him giving verbal pointers. Matthew draws his arrow taking aim. Breathing in the fresh mountain air, he focuses his attention to the beaten target ahead.

MICHAEL: Envision the arrow puncturing the target before you release. Push your shoulders downward. And when you’re ready…slowly release your breath and let it fly.

Matthew slowly releases his breath; the arrow takes flight. Striking the target meters out, he celebrates.

MATTHEW: I did it…I did it dad! Did you see that?

Matthew hugs his father who proudly embraces his sons’ accomplishment.

Michael places the barrel of the pistol against his temple.

Matthews head lies upon his father’s shoulders.

MATTHEW: I love you dad.

MICHAEL: I love you son.

A loud gunshot is heard.

Snow falls over Michael Karon’s home, his Christmas lights are perfectly fastened, and beautifully organized. His Christmas tree can be seen through the window of his living room. A dog can be heard barking in the distance.

Matthew 4:16 “…the people dwelling in darkness

    have seen a great light,

and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

    on them a light has dawned.”

Scene 1 BTS

Pre-Production

Beginning to draft the screenplay for fun, one of my friends was still a film student at the university that needed content for their senior film. During the early stages of pre-production, holiday break was drawing closer. University students were tired, and finding a crew was becoming more difficult than we imagined. Still, we persisted to go through the casting process and get everything we could. Obviously, in projects like this people wear many hats. Attempting to create casting calls, reach out to locations to lock down shoot dates, find necessary film equipment, and a few extra hands to help on set. In a small mountain town, right before holiday break…this wasn’t impossible, but we found ourselves running short on time.

SCENE TWO

Elementary language arts teacher, Michael Karon, wraps up a lecture on dramatic reading.

MICHAEL: When portraying a character from any script, not only do outside forces effect their motivations, but internal conflicts may also affect the way our character walks, talks, and reacts.

Brian rests his head in his palm staring out the window. A student in the back raises their hand.

MICHAEL: Yes, Amy.

STUDENT: I don’t understand Mr. Karon. How would we know if our character doesn’t feel good?

MICHAEL: Well, we can only go with what the writer gives us…right? So, if our character is described by our writer as ill. They might walk around holding their tummy, or they sound nasally always about to sneeze.

Brian joins in the conversation.

BRIAN: What if your character wasn’t sick, but they were not themselves?

MICHAEL: How so?

BRIAN: Well. Just because a character doesn’t feel themselves, doesn’t mean they’re sick. What if they’re just sad, or another character hurt them? What if they love someone, but don’t have the courage to say so?

The class laughs, Michael waves them off.

BRIAN: I just…I don’t think it’s always that obvious. You know?

MICHAEL: I do. We all know. True internal conflict stems from our emotions, our desires, and the obstacles pushing us further away from our objective, our goals, our dreams. Remember, what makes a great story isn’t always where the characters end up, it’s how they overcame their failures, how they celebrate their triumphs, and what they…

The bell rings indicating the end of the period. The kids quickly scurry out to the door as Michael attempts to get a final word in.

MICHAEL: Don’t forget to have your group presentations and skits ready by Monday morning-

They’re gone before he can finish. Michael begins to pack his things as a student approaches his desk.

BRIAN: Mr. Karon?

Michael turns and greets the young man, a friend of his sons.

MICHAEL: Sorry Brian, didn’t see you there. What can I do for you?

Brian avoids eye contact while standing awkwardly. He stammers as he begins to speak.

BRIAN: Matt and I…I…I just…

Michael stops him with a consoling mannerism.

MICHAEL: Brian. It’s alright buddy. Matthew is just…he’s just lost. He’ll find his way home.

There’s a long pause as Brian collects his thoughts.

BRIAN: I think I know where he is.

Michael’s expression quickly changes as Brian continues to ramble on.

BRIAN: Well, where we were. He went through and I told him not to. I wanted to tell you, I just didn’t think you would believe me {and then my dad said that I’d just make things harder for you}

MICHAEL: {Brian…Brian!}

Brian flinches, Mr. Karon lowers his voice.

MICHAEL: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. Just…just slow down and start from the beginning. What do you mean “he went through”?

Brian reaches inside his bag and places a tattered leather-bound book on Mr. Karon’s desk.

BRIAN: Matthew and I found this book. He thought…we thought, it would be cool to follow its instructions.

Michael picks up the book slowly thumbing through it as Brian elaborates further.

BRIAN: I mean, it’s old…we didn’t think it would work. It has a map of town with cool places we’ve never explored-

MICHAEL: Your dad’s seen this, right?

BRIAN: Not really.

MICHAEL: What do you mean?

BRIAN: Well, he said not to tell you and just to stay out of it, but I couldn’t just leave-

MICHAEL: Has. He. Seen. This?

BRIAN: No, but-

Michael quickly packs the book with his things and exits, Brian follows.

BRIAN: Mr. Karon. Mr. Karon wait.

SCENE THREE

Pastor Stephen hangs Christmas lights outside his church. Atop a ladder he reaches across hammering in some nails, continually stringing the lights as he goes along. Michael approaches smoking a cigarette.

MICHAEL: Need an extra pair of hands pastor?

PASTOR STEPHEN: (surprised) Michael? (beat) Hold on. One second.

Pastor Stephen quickly finishes hammering in the nail he was working on, then heads down the ladder to greet Michael. Michael goes in to shake hands, but Pastor Stephen goes in for a hug.

PASTOR STEPHEN: It’s been a while.

MICHAEL: Yeah.

PASTOR STEPHEN: I…um…I’m sorry to hear about Matthew. I’ve been praying for you.

MICHAEL: I appreciate that.

There’s an awkward silence between the two of them.

PASTOR STEPHEN: What brings you here?

MICHAEL: Surprisingly, Brian did.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Everything alright? He really enjoys your class.

MICHAEL: Ha-ha. Yeah, everything’s great in class. He brought a strange bit of text to my attention. Claims him and Matthew followed its contents to open some type of…doorway or portal?

Michael hands Pastor Stephen the book. Pastors Stephens eyes light up in shock as he glances upon the cover, he tosses the book on the ground before him. Michael retrieves the text brushing off its casing.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Where did you get that?

MICHAEL: Brian handed it to me after class. What’s the problem?

PASTOR STEPHEN: My son?

MICHAEL: Yes.

PASTOR STEPHEN: No. no. no. It can’t be.

MICHAEL: Steve, what’s the issue here?

Pastor Stephen heads towards the entrance of the church up the stairs.

PASTOR STEPHEN: We can’t talk here. And do not bring that inside this building.

MICHAEL: Steve, can you tell me what the fuck’s going on here? What is this?

Pastor Stephen approaches Michael aggressively pushing him into the wall.

PASTOR STEPHEN: If my son held that book, then my life is in danger.

MICHAEL: Get off me!

Michael pushes Pastor Stephen away.

PASTOR STEPHEN: That book has been only heard of, never seen. Its contents are dark, but not as ancient as it may seem.

MICHAEL: Oh enough with the end of times bullshit, come on Stev-

PASTOR STEPHEN: You want answers or what!?

Michael nods.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Stemming from this town, I only thought they were rumors, but it must be true.

Pastor Stephen heads back up the stairs, Michael tries to follow.

MICHAEL: What are you talking about?

PASTOR STEPHEN: [To himself] The bastard child strays from the flock. [To Michael] Your son is alive Mr. Karon. Meet me at the old docks tomorrow after church and I’ll explain further.

Pastor Stephen locks the door in Michaels face vanishing. Michael pounds on the door calling out to him.

MICHAEL: Steve? Steve! Steve?! Where is Matthew? Steve!?…Fuck!

Scene 1 BTS 2

Portraying A Character That I Created

Not going to lie, I thoroughly enjoyed becoming the character Michael. The look and motivations were loosely based off a professor I had in college. He spoke about his kids and how he would do anything to protect them. Obviously, I wanted the character to care about his son. The self-loathing and medicating was more of a reflection of my personal thoughts on the holiday season. Self-medicating is something I’m very familiar with, especially during the winter months. Those scenes, I found, really hit home as an artist and actor on set, but also as a reflection of what my holiday season used to look like. Taking the partner out of the equation was crucial to the motivations of Michael. His son is everything, and without him during this time of year should feel more than detrimental.

Michael Karon

MKMK

Production and Downfall

All the promotional shooting was complete, and we began filming scenes when we could. We all had day jobs and responsibilities that had to come first, time was already…not on our side. One of the kid actors was very experienced on camera, the other was almost brand new with some stage experience in school. Eager to learn and passionate about the project, we decided to take time aside and give him some acting lessons. It’s not hard to explain, but he was the character he was cast for. Being himself was what we wanted and being a character is what he believed it to be. Which is fine, like any film set the down time should be filled with banter and fun. We cast T.J. Tranchell, author of Cry Down Dark and Asleep in the Nightmare Room, to play Pastor Stephen and he was all for it from the beginning. Introduced from a mutual friend, T.J. and I immediately connected as horror fanatics and writers. Be sure to check out his Author Website. The families were taking holiday vacations, so we began pushing back shoot dates and our time eventually became so tight. With another job starting out of state I was getting ready to leave the area. Alongside the film to-do list, I was training two individuals on my day job and that had to be my main priority. We completed about half of the filming, then the project was terminated.

Full Cast

SCENE FOUR

Snow covered pines surround an old fishing dock. Michael waits sleepless smoking a cigarette on the dock, gripping a coffee cup dozing off.

BRIAN: Mr. Karon? Mr. Karon? Mr. Karon!?

Brian is heard attempting to snap Michael out of his blur.

BRIAN: You alright Mr. Karon?

Michael sits up, his cigarette is burned to its end next to his feet. Pastor Stephen approaches the dock with his dog Guinness by his side.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Hey Brian take Guinness for a walk, let me talk to Mr. Karon for a while. Alright?

BRIAN: Yeah dad. Come on Guinness.

Brian runs off the dock off onto some trails, Guinness follows. Pastor Stephen takes a seat next to Michael. They stare off admiring the silence over the reservoir and picturesque view of the snow caps in the distance.

“You can always rinse the surface, but the stain will remain.”

PASTOR STEPHEN: It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

There’s a moment of silence.

MICHAEL: I taught Matthew to fish here. Diane and I would come camping and he’d wake us up before the sunrise ready to cast off.

PASTOR STEPHEN: You must keep it together Michael, he’s still out there.

MICHAEL: Ha. Yeah.

Michael lights another cigarette and begins to pace around the dock.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Michael…you smell like an old sock soaked in whiskey.

MICHAEL: Kentucky bourbon to be exact.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Even in the worst times, you have a quick wit. I know the holidays aren’t really your favorite time of year, especially since your wife passed-

MICHAEL: Look. Steve. I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but I just want to find my son.

Michael places the book on the bench between the both of them.

MICHAEL: What is this? And how does it correlate with my son’s disappearance?

Pastor Stephen takes exasperating sigh, then proceeds to explain the meaning of the text.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Alright. In the early 80’s the Palouse area was home to an estranged cult that believed bastard children possessed satanic powe-

MICHAEL: Steve. What does this have to do with Matthew?

PASTOR STEPHEN: Just hear me out. I’m not preaching at you, okay?

MICHAEL: I’m sorry, continue.

PASTOR STEPHEN: This cult believed a child born out of wedlock could be used to open doorways or portals of some kind directly connecting our world to the nine circles of Hell. This book is basically their “how to guide” on opening these circles to earth.

MICHAEL: So…then where’s Matthew?

Pastor Stephen flips through the book for a moment.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Here. Limbo. The first circle of Hell, an inferior form of Heaven.

MICHAEL: But he’s not dead, so couldn’t he just leave?

PASTOR STEPHEN: I’d imagine it’s as if a ghost surrounded us in our world. We wouldn’t be able to see them, but they could see us. So, if Matthew’s alive in Limbo then-

MICHAEL: Then he’d be invisible to the others in Limbo.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Exactly.

MICHAEL: Wait. When Brian handed me this book he said something like “he went through, I told him not to go through”. He didn’t think I’d believe him.

Michael’s cigarette burns to its end singeing his fingertips he jumps up.

MICHAEL: Ow, fuck!

 Guinness barks aggressively in the distance, Pastor Stephen runs off after Brian and Guinness.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Brian!?

Michael grabs some snow to ice his finger and glances over the water. Matthew stands across the reservoir alone, Michael yells out to him.

MICHAEL: Matthew? Matthew!?

Pastor Stephen quickly makes his way through some brush on the back trails searching for Brian and Guinness. Pastor Stephen stops for a short moment hearing Michael call out to his son, then proceeds searching for Brian and Guinness. Guinness screeches from afar, Brian screams in anguish. Pastor Stephen picks up his pace in fear for his son’s life calling out to him.

Michael turns back towards the water, Matthew sits on the edge of the dock fishing singing “I’ll Fly Away”. Michael approaches slowly.

MATTHEW: “I fly away, oh glory. I’ll…fly away. In the morning. When I die, Hallelujah by and by, I’ll…fly away.”

MICHAEL: Matthew?

MATTHEW: [Monotone] Diane says hello Michael.

Michael reaches for Matthew’s shoulder, he turns quickly covered in ritualistic paint and blood. Michael falls over the bench behind him, as he recovers Matthew is gone. Michael gathers his things quickly, then runs to the trails after Pastor Stephen.

SCENE FIVE

Michael makes his way through the thick brush following the barks of Guinness. Slightly off the trail in a large snowy clearing Brian lies motionless in a pool of blood. Guinness’ barks are silenced, Michael sees Brian and approaches quickly. Pastor Stephen is nowhere to be seen.

MICHAEL: Brian. Brian wake up. Brian!?

Brian regains consciousness slowly. Noticing the blood next to him, Brian begins to panic.

BRIAN: Who’s blood is that? {Dad. Dad! Where’s Guinness? Where’s my dad!?}

Michael attempts to comfort Brian.

MICHAEL: It’s alright. {Brian. Brian, it’s alright, but we have to go.}Let’s go!

Michael picks up Brian and carries him quickly off the path as Brian continues to cry for his father.

Brian is silent in the car staring off out the window as Michael drives back towards town.

MICHAEL: You alright bud?

Brian doesn’t respond.

MICHAEL: I’m sure your dad just got scared and head back home. He’s probably there waiting for us now, alright? It’s going to be fine.

With no response from Brian, Michael pulls the car over turning it off.

MICHAEL: Look, Brian. Please talk to me. We’re in this together now. What’s wron-

Michael reaches out to console him, but Brian’s frustrations lash out.

BRIAN: I saw him, okay!?

MICHAEL: You saw who?

Again, no response. Michael becomes frustrated.

MICHAEL: You saw who Brian? Who did you see!?

BRIAN: Matthew! I saw Matthew, alright!?

Michael stands down. There’s a moment of silence.

MICHAEL: I believe you. I saw him, too. Except…it wasn’t him. He was angry…hurt, and his face was-

BRIAN: Painted.

MICHAEL: Yes.

Michael fumbles through his things quickly and pulls out the book.

MICHAEL: Brian, he’s trying to reach out to us. He needs our help. You have to show me where you guys went the night Matthew went missing.

BRIAN: Area occisio…

MICHAEL: What? {What does that mean? Brian?}

BRIAN: {Area occisio…area occisio…area occisio!}

Brian takes the book out of Michael’s hands and thimbles through diligently.

BRIAN: Look.

Brian hands the book back over to Michael marked at a certain page.

BRIAN: When we first read through the book we weren’t sure if it was explaining how to get to a certain place or a specific time.

MICHAEL: That doesn’t make any sense.

BRIAN: Of course it doesn’t…you have a very limited imagination. Alright, it’s a map of a timeline. A journey of this group…kind of? They explain where they go and when they go, time being specific and seeming important. You follow?

MICHAEL: I guess…

Brian points to a specific note on a page.

BRIAN: Here. “Et trahentium ius vel sinistram non furca, esse certus ut semita levi. Cum pervenire ad magnitudinem planitiem quae non est remedium ad te pervenit occisio areæ.”

MICHAEL: And that means…

BRIAN: And you’re the teacher? We translated here: “The trail will fork left or right, be sure to take the path with light. When you reach the vast plateau there is no cure, for you have reached the killing floor.”

MICHAEL: So, let’s go there!

BRIAN: Hold on. Like I said before it’s a timeline. Next to each instruction or clue or whatever you want to call them, there’s a specific time. Plus, I didn’t go past this point. Matthew went through, I left.

MICHAEL: Why not?

BRIAN: You wouldn’t believe me if I told you…

MICHAEL: Try me.

BRIAN: At the fork, it says to take the path with light, right? Well, you think there was anything lit at 09:45PM in middle of the woods?

MICHAEL: No…

BRIAN: Exactly. There was this blinking light that was showing us where to go…we could feel it. It was like a presence was guiding us, almost pulling us towards the plateau. I waited at the fork as Matthew went in, he kept saying everything was getting brighter and darker at he same time until he just stopped talking. I yelled for him, but he never responded. The blinking light got faster and faster, like it was coming closer trying to get me, so I ran.

MICHAEL: So, what’s the first step here? How do we find him? Where do we go first?

BRIAN: I’m not going!

MICHAEL: What?

BRIAN: I’m not going…just take me home.

Michael takes a moment, then starts up his truck. ‘Two Minutes to Midnight’ is heard coming from the radio.

MICHAEL: Fine.

Michael turns the radio up, angrily puts the truck in gear and heads back towards town.

What I’ve Learned and What I Take Away

In a nutshell, be prepared and have time set aside.

I believe this project could’ve been completed if we began much earlier than we did. Juggling a full-time job and making a short film was not ideal. Focus needs to be on the project and the people participating. The people involved deserved our full attention. Especially if actors are working for free, there’s no reason not to put them first.

At all costs, avoid mixing hats you’re wearing.

At times I was writing parts of the script while on the phone scouting locations and emailing talent to interview. Don’t recommend that. Ha-ha. Take the time for each detail. Obviously, in productions like this you’re going to be doing multiple jobs. Plan accordingly, schedule intelligently, and act only when fully prepared.

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s