The blog’s going to go slightly differently this week. The Press is a mini-series screenplay in its very early stages, so to glimpse into the writer’s psyche, I’m posting both the first few scenes of the script, and their equivalent in plot outlining.
Set in a deindustrializing urban area in central England. City called Darrellton.
Nate McEleney is your typical suburban lawbreaker trying to drop the evidence of his latest relapse. At 4 AM, he opens a dumpster lid in Everything-Mart’s back alley and freezes at the sight of a bloodied corpse. With a panicked 999 dial, the news spreads until it arrives at prestigious documentarian Charlotte Cornell at The Press offices. After years of waiting and run-ins with the police, she jumps at the opening of the murder case for a “Secrets and Lies: Local Police edition” style documentary. Her team, reporting veteran Phillip Johnston, grad-student researcher Hailey Sanders, and burgeoning filmographer Ben White gear up and head out in the news van.
At the scene, Cornell tries to push through the barricade with a hailstorm of papers (reluctantly signed by the Chief Constable) when the detectives arrive.
DI Olivia Myers transferred from the NYPD eight years ago, and Darrellton’s homicide division has never had a cleaner record. Joined by forensic-turned-detective Dr. Elliot Henson and one of the only amiable cops in the station, DS Samantha Andes, the police go straight to work collecting and analyzing. They find four bullet wounds in the stomach and look into camera records. The Press get their greenlight when they identify the victim as Kalyn Bennett of the wealthy Bennett household and provide a list of contacts, potential connections, and suspects.
EXT. ALLEY – NIGHT
5 AM. Cut open on a simple dumpster in an alleyway. Sirens blare in the background. Hang on the dumpster as a man enters the frame, slowing from a sprint. NATE MCELENEY (25) looks over his shoulder, unzips his hoodie, and pulls out a paper bag. He opens the dumpster, throws the bag in, shuts the lid, and walks off screen.
Then he backs up, turns back to the dumpster, and opens the lid again.
And he realises. He staggers back from the dumpster and trips.
He scrambles back, hands running through his hair. Cut around him as he looks back and forth over the alley. He finally pulls a PHONE from his pocket and dials 999.
OPERATOR (ON PHONE)
Hello, emergency service operator, which service do you require?
Hello? I think I just – I think, there’s –
He opens the dumpster lid again, staring inside.
I think I just found a body.
There’s the BODY of a teenager, pale, contorted, his T-shirt darkened at the chest under the dim light.
On McEleney, petrified. The lid slams shut.
INT. THE PRESS OFFICES – DAY
6 AM. Pan through a narrow office, desks and bookshelves crammed together in the low-rent space. At the nearest desk, HAILEY SANDERS (25) spins in her chair, scrolling dully on her laptop and snacking on something from a bag. The desk is a biohazard zone of textbooks, papers, and folders.
The next station is its opposite, clean surfaces, files color-coded in a clear cabinet. An assortment of cameras and equipment are displayed on a bookshelf. Their owner, BEN WHITE (30), is asleep on the some nearby cushions.
In the far corner, PHILLIP JOHNSTON (40) leans back in his chair, glued to a book. Beside him, focus on CHARLOTTE CORNELL. She’s hunched over her computer screen, the only alert one in the room. On screen, she hits “SEND” on an email. She swivels in her chair and takes down a few pieces of paper from the bulletin board, tossing them in the trash.
The phone rings. Johnston picks up.
This is Phillip Johnston for The Press. How can I help you? (a beat.) You’re sure? Yeah, yeah, hold on. Cornell –
It’s about the film.
She grabs her phone.
This is Charlotte Cornell. (a beat.) Melissa, hello. You’re up early…What? Are you serious? Alright, alright, what’s the address?
Johnston is already up and pulling on his coat.
Sanders, wake up White. I’m going to start the van.
The door shuts behind him and Sanders swivels in her chair, tossing a couple pretzels at White.
Ben! We’ve got a case.
White jerks awake, stumbling to his feet.
Wait, we’ve got what? You mean –
He skids to the cabinet and piles gear into a camera bag. Sanders stuffs her laptop in her purse with a handful of files.
Oh, Melissa, you’re a star. Thank you, thank you. Alright, we’ve got to go – thanks, bye.
She hangs up, grabs her bag, and shakes a half-awake Ben by the shoulders, grinning.
We’ve got a murder!
Sanders smirks and the crew rush out. The door clicks shut behind them.
EXT. ALLEY – DAY
7 AM. Open on the main road. The alleyway’s blocked by a police car, lights flashing. By the dumpster, a constable questions a shaken MCELENEY. An unmarked red van pulls up to the drive. CORNELL gets out from the driver’s seat, JOHNSTON, SANDERS, and WHITE following with their equipment bags. White already has his giant film camera out.
A pair of POLICE CONSTABLES are taping off the alleyway. One comes up to the press crew.
Oy, this is a restricted area –
Cornell flashes her ID.
Charlotte Cornell, Phillip Johnston, Hailey Sanders, Benjamin White. Chief Lawrence gave us clearance for documenting the case.
Sanders hands over a folder. The constable flips through, squinting at a page with some signatures.
Sirens blare, and the crew look up as another police car pulls up. DI OLIVIA MYERS (30) steps out, walking swiftly to the tape. After her comes DS SAMANTHA ANDES (25) and DR ELLIOT HENSON (35), each carrying a black duffle bag. Myers flashes an ID and the other constable holds the tape up for her. Andes smiles thanks as she passes under, and Henson nods acknowledgement.
Detective Inspector Myers, we’ve got some press people –
DS Andes comes up to the press crew as Myers and Henson walk toward the dumpster.
I’m sorry, we can’t let anyone in right now –
The constable hands her the papers. Andes’ brow furrows.
DS ANDES (cont’d)
Who gave you this?
We arranged it with Chief Lawrence a few months back. She said first possible opening, so here we are.
For a documentary?
Don’t you want the public to know the good work you’re doing here?
Well that’s not really –
You can confirm with the Chief Constable. It’s authentic, and we have access to this crime scene at the soonest possible opening.
Andes! We need you over here.
(flustered, to the constable)
I guess they have access.
Wait – !
But the Press are already piling through. Andes follows them to Myers at the dumpster. The detective’s cross armed, examining the scene. Henson has a camera out and takes shots of the alley.
(Sharp, to the press)
Who are you?
Andes starts talking to the DI, trying to explain. She gives her the papers. Meanwhile, the press are right at home. Sanders walks around, phone in hand, and is taking notes and pictures right alongside Henson, who shoots glares at her. Johnston stands near a staring Nate, jotting on a notepad. White sets his camera, and Cornell stands in frame.
White nods and hits record. We see through the camera’s view, a clean shot.
Welcome to the crime scene. This is your standard urban back alley, desolate and unseeming. But wander in at 5 AM, and the true underbelly of this city is revealed. (A beat.) Ben, over there –
White scrambles to the dumpster to frame his dramatic shot. Myers has the dumpster lid half off and Andes helps push the lid against the wall so the dumpster is completely open. Andes stares inside, horrified.
Through White’s camera, we see over the edge. Under police flashlights, the body is so pale it’s translucent, its stomach drenched in dark red.
Henson, you’ll want to get this before we move it.
Henson walks over, unflinching, and takes some pictures of the dumpster.
Four visible bullet wounds in the stomach, rigor mortis sets time of death six, six and a half hours earlier, approximately 12:30 to 1 AM.
Position of rigor mortis suggests they were in the dumpster at time of death. Trash around the victim is relatively old – they were still alive when they were dragged in. No way it’s a suicide.
Well, they phoned the right division. Come on.
The constables pull on gloves and help the detectives pull the body out, laying it on a black tarp. Henson goes in close, taking samples and pictures.
Where’s the store owner?
On her way – few more minutes. Melissa Wallace.
This is Melissa’s shop?
Cornell just motions for the camera again.
Can we get an ID on the kid?
I don’t recognize him. By the clothes I’d guess mid, upper class. I’ll send a photo to Williams and get confirmation.
All turn toward her. She walks up to the body.
His name’s Kalyn Bennett. He’s the youngest son of Andrea Bennett. Lives up in the Quartier.
(Scrolling on phone)
Address is 25 Cliffston Drive. Seventeen years old, goes to Parker High School, B-average, football team. No criminal record.
Sanders hands Andes the phone.
Where did you get all this?
I have my sources. Want a suspect list?
Police and press alike look between Myers and Cornell. Myers stares at the phone, scrolling through.
It might give us a starting point.
Myers hands the phone back to Sanders.
Send it to the station. They’ll process relevant intel. Henson, Andes, get him in the car.
Henson zips the corpse into a body bag and the police carefully load it into the car. Myers approaches McEleney, Cornell and White right behind her. The DI nods to the constable, and he passes her his notes.