Rachel Witenstein wrote Lena's Spaghetti in my screenwriting class in 1994. The B.F.A. Thesis Script Committee (which chose up to five scripts to produce for thesis films every year) voted unanimously to produce Rachel's screenplay.
I asked Rachel to describe the process of writing the script, and she said:
The "mail relationship" in Lena's is an invention that came about through the process of trying to come up with an idea for your screenwriting class at F.S.U. My first idea had something to do with a plant shop run by an eccentric lady, I think, and I just kept flip-flopping characters and situations until it felt like something I wanted to write. If something wasn't inspiring me, I just changed it. I kept adding in bits that I saw in real life, like the character of the father as a breast surgeon. My father isn't a breast surgeon, but I read an article in the New York Times about one, and his flamboyance really tickled me, especially in contrast with a girl who is experiencing a certain amount of anxiety about her own development.
But the journey from script to screen was less joyous, more like Nora Ephron's description of The Process, "a polite expression for the period when the writer, generally, gets screwed."
I had a horrible experience with the production process. But in the end, I learned a lot, and maybe someone reading this will learn from what's happened to me. The screenplay had been chosen for production unanimously by a committee of professors and older students at F.S.U. I received a lot of praise for it. But the director added unnecessary scenes and took out a lot of the flavor and humor, even to the point of making references to "going to church" when the family was written as Jewish. Ironically, in the editing process, virtually everything that he added was cut, so I felt somewhat vindicated. But there was something irretrievable that definitely did not make it on to the screen and that still makes me sad, even today.
"If you're very lucky as a writer," Ephron says, "you look at the director's movie and feel that it's your movie, too."
In the end, although she admires the film, Rachel cannot honestly say she feels that Lena's Spaghetti is her movie, too:
It did win a lot of awards. The production value was good for a student film. Some of the acting was good. The music was ambitious. The credits were ridiculously long, but they showed that a lot of people worked very hard to make Lena's Spaghetti—and worked for free. I feel good that I created a story that moved people to work so hard. It must have touched them on some level. But I never felt comfortable using it as a "calling card" to lead to other work after school because the film doesn't represent my style, my range, or my interests as a writer.
But the version of the screenplay published here is hers. It's the final script from my class and the one selected by the B.F.A. Thesis Committee.
Both the script and the film—though quite different—are wonderful works. The film, directed by Joe Greco, won First Place in the student drama category at the Columbus International Film & Video Festival; First Prize in the comedy category at the 26th Annual Canadian International Film/Video Festival; the OSU Photography & Cinema Alumni Society Award, and the Crystal Reel (First Place) for Best Cinematography and Best Actor at the Florida Motion Picture & Television Association. Lena's Spaghetti has also been screened at numerous film festivals at home and abroad, including Telluride.
After graduating from F.S.U., Rachel worked in film production in Los Angeles, then went on to study screenwriting at USC, the Charles University in Prague, Conservatoire Audiovisuel (CEEA) in Paris, and earned her MFA in screenwriting from UCLA. Rachel's writing has garnered several international awards, and she is a two-time recipient of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences student screenwriting grant. She sold her screenplay, Neither Wolf Nor Dog, and moved to Paris, France, under a writing fellowship from the Franco-American Fund.
Currently, Rachel is working as a writer and producer in Los Angeles. She has created advertising campaigns for films such as Ocean's 12, The Wild, Anchorman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Triplets of Belleville, City of God, Monster, Charlie's Angels, and Meet the Parents. She is also the proud godmother of a very special little boy named Will.
By Rachel A. Witenstein
MAIL. Two hands leaf through a stack of mail. They come across a PICTURE POSTCARD. It fills the SCREEN. A MAN kisses an almost transparent angel. The postcard flips over. It is signed in deep red ink: "With oceans of love, and a kiss on every little ripple, Rosalie."
Settled back into his seat, postman HERBERT MACK, 33, is absorbed in reading the postcard. He waves it in front of his nose and inhales perfume. He sighs, slips the postcard into a bundle of mail and leans out the window to put it all in a mailbox. From the sack beside him, he grabs a new bundle and leafs through it. He finds another postcard to read.
Another mailtruck approaches. The driver, ADELE, inches up beside Herbie for the big scare. She HONKS.
Caught ya, Herb!
Herb jumps, puts the mail in a mailbox, watches her drive away.
EXT. QUAINT SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOOD—DAY
Herbie's truck passes Southern homes. We hold on HANNAH GOLDIN, 13, who sits on a swing hung from a tree, writing in a notebook. A moving truck pulls out of the driveway. CAROLINE AND STANLEY GOLDIN carry bags to their car. THUNDER grumbles.
CAROLINE Come on, Hannie! It's time to go!
Hannah scowls and scribbles furiously in the notebook.
INT. GOLDIN FAMILY CAR—DAY
The Goldin family car starts and pulls out of the driveway. Rain runs down the back window as Hannah forlornly watches her house disappear.
EXT. TO INT. MAILTRUCK—DAY
Through windshield wipers we see Herbie trying to stuff mailboxes without getting wet. He drops a few pieces of mail into the swirling gutter stream. He splashes out into the rain and chases the mail down the street.
With the city in the background, the car drives out of town.
INT. THE GOLDIN FAMILY CAR—NIGHT
Sunk real low in the back seat, Hannah stares out the window. We hear Caroline SINGING soft harmonies with the RADIO. After giving her mother an annoyed look, Hannah dons headphones, plays a tape.
EXT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—DAY
Wearing his postal uniform, Herbie walks to his mailbox. He opens it, peers inside and closes it, empty-handed.
INT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—DAY
Canvasses are stacked against the walls. Some are hung. None of the artwork is figurative. It should reflect a mind in isolation. An empty canvas rests on an easel. A table is cluttered with painter's paraphernalia. The shades are drawn. COLA PLUM, Herbie's stylish, fragile mother, opens the shades. Disturbed, she flips through the stacks of artwork. Her concern increases as she inspects a dark, shadowy work. She shakes her head slowly. Herbie enters, already unbuttoning his postal shirt.
(smiling bravely and kissing him) Darling. How are you?
She licks her thumb to wipe the lipstick off his cheek.
HERBIE Mom. What a surprise.
I was just passing by ... I was looking at your paintings, Herbert.
Very . . . Powerful . . . dark and, well, a little dismal, don't you think, sweetheart?
You see what you want to see, Mom. I didn't ask you to look.
Let's just stop this right now. I didn't come here to quarrel.
(pulls a number out of her purse) Herbert, Evelyn's daughter is getting a divorce.
Cola stares at Herbie incredulously. Herbie exits to the kitchen. Cola follows, calling after him.
INT. HERBIE'S KITCHEN—SAME
Herbie pulls out a can of spaghetti and opens it with an electric can opener. He starts eating it right out of the can.
She's going to be single! Use a plate. Herbie dumps the spaghetti on a plate.
Here's her number. You should—
Herbie exits with the plate. Cola follows.
INT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—DAY
Herbie sits down at the art table and eats amongst the paints and brushes. Cola stands across from him.
Can't you allow me just this small happiness? I'd like to see you paint something . . . beautiful for a change!
Mother, I'm sorry. I'm just not interested in that kind of thing.
I see. Should I have gotten her ex-husband's number instead?
I've seen your painting, Herbert. Not even one picture of a woman!
Cola exits, leaving Herbie speechless.
INT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—NIGHT
ANGLE ON: Herbie's eyes. We pull out to see him slouched by his easel, tapping his teeth with a dry paintbrush. The dirty plate is next to him. He stares at the blank canvas. With one sweep, he knocks it off the easel, revealing the naked window behind it. He sees his neighbors through the window of another apartment. Herbie crosses to the window to get a better look.
EXT. TO INT. DANNY AND JULIE'S APARTMENT—SAME
HERBIE'S POV: DANNY holds the ladder as JULIE climbs it to unscrew a dead lightbulb. From the ground, he hands her a fresh one. The window brightens. He climbs the other side of the ladder to face her. They kiss and descend the ladder, somehow still joined at the lips. The lights go off.
INT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—SAME
Frustrated, Herbie sighs and pulls down the shades.
EXT. APARTMENT COMPLEX IN HERBIE'S ROUTE—DAY
Herbie stands beside his truck, stuffing the grid of mailboxes. A young couple, FORD and AMY, approach him hand-in-hand.
Got anything for apartment "M"? Herbie hands them a letter.
Ford, it's from you?
Read it, Honey.
Herbie stands next to Amy, waiting for her to move. He tries to tell her, but can't. Oblivious, she leans back against the mailboxes to tear open the envelope.
AMY (reading the letter) Amy Madison. I love you with everything I have. Will you marry me?
(looks at Ford)
Yes, Angel. Will you marry me?
HERBIE (under his breath) I can't believe this!
(throws her arms around him) Of course I will! Yes! I do I do I do!
Herbie tries to sneak behind the smooching couple. Amy bumps him.
Herbie watches as Ford and Amy walk back to their apartment.
INT. NEWSPAPER BUILDING—DAY
People swarm around the lobby. Herbie stands in a long line of CUSTOMERS under a SIGN which reads: "Classifieds: Employment, Lost & Found, Pets, Automobiles, Garage Sales, Personals, Obituaries." He steps forward, accidentally kicking the back of the shoe of the woman, GINA, in front of him. She gives him a cold look.
The clerk, CLARK, is a bodybuilder, a real "stud." He fills out a form as Gina dictates, but he is actually busy checking her out.
Adele passes though the office, carrying a package. She is in uniform, but her knee socks are bunched around her ankles. She walks with a spring in her step and has sparkling eyes. She spots Herbie.
Adele. Read any good postcards lately? Just kiddin', everyone does it. Well, I do anyway. Whatcha doin'?
Can I help you?
Wow, how sad. What's he look like?
Well, he's. . . black. And he looks pretty much like a cat.
She walks away, balancing the packages precariously on her head.
HERBIE No. No reward. No cat.
HERBIE (quietly) An ad. A personal ad.
Clark snorts a laugh. He pulls out a different form and slaps it down on the counter with a hand.
EXT. HARVEST STREET FAIR—DAY
A FERRIS WHEEL. A CAROUSEL. And LOTS OF PEOPLE. Three school buses line the street. Bouncing above a CROWD of jostling fairgoers, Hannah Goldin jumps on the trampoline of the HUMAN FLYTRAP. She is dressed in a velcro suit. Small earrings frame her clean face. Each of her fingernails is painted a different color. A DJ broadcasts live over speakers, piping GRUNGE MUSIC through the sunny fair. Hannah smiles at ADAM, a fourteen-year-old teddy bear of a boy. He tosses a baseball and watches with JARRETT, DICKIE, and a group of four BOYS. The radio music tails out.
We're havin' a blast here at the Harvest Fair! So come on down! Bring the kids!
DICKIE (elbowing Adam) That new girl likes you, Adam!
All except Jarrett laugh. Jarrett scowls.
I think they're ready for a new volunteer at the dunk tank! Only two tickets gets you the chance to get this lovely Hooter's girl wet!
Adam and the boys dart through the crowd over to the dunk tank. Hannah turns as she bounces, helplessly watching Adam walk away.
We've got lots of rides, lots of games, and of course, what fair would be complete without the Human Flytrap!
Frustrated, Hannah flings herself at the velcro wall and sticks, spread eagle. She laughs, then realizes that she is unable to move and panics. She yanks furiously with her arms and legs.
Oh my God! A little boy is stuck to the wall for our enjoyment! Everybody look!
The crowd looks and LAUGHS. Hannah closes her eyes and grits her teeth. Her face burns.
Oh, sorry, a little girl! I didn't see the earrings. Gotta come out folks . . .
INT. SCHOOL BUS —SAME DAY
Hannah sits alone on the empty school bus, scribbling furiously in a journal.
HANNAH (V.O.) I hate this school. I hate Adam. I hate our new house. I hate velcro. I hate my nose —
The greasy BUS DRIVER opens the door. Hannah slams the notebook shut as kids with carnival prizes pass her seat. Adam passes without noticing her. Jarrett stops next to Hannah.
JARRETT (yelling to the back) Dickie Nelson, get the hell out of my seat!
He notices Hannah and snorts a laugh before pushing to the back.
EXT. SCHOOL BUS—SAME DAY
Hannah gets off the bus alone, her backpack over her shoulder. As the bus pulls away, Jarrett and his gang are seen pressed up spread eagle against the back window, imitating Hannah. She runs for home.
EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD STREET — SAME DAY
Hannah runs down the middle of the road. She stops to catch her breath. A MOVING VAN drives by. She hurls a rock at it as it passes.
HANNAH (V.O.) Hello, I'm back. Dad says I hate everything because I'm thirteen and that I need to put things in perspective.
EXT. RAILROAD TRACK—SAME DAY
Hannah kicks rocks along the tracks, still toting her backpack.
HANNAH (V.O.) So I've decided to start writing to "Lena," since when I'm older, I'll be a famous actress with lots of perspective, and "Lena" will be my stage name.
Hannah trudges through the yard of her new house. She opens the front door and disappears inside, slamming the door behind her.
HANNAH (V.O.) So, dear Lena, I'm sure you can remember, this has been the most humiliating day of my life.
INT. HANNAH'S ROOM—NIGHT
Hannah sits on her bed under a SMALL READING LAMP, writing in her journal. She closes it, CLICKS OFF the lamp and walks to her desk to put her journal away. Moonlight spills into her room.
EXT. TO INT. HANNAH'S BEDROOM —SAME
Looking very small and young in her nightgown, Hannah stares out her window.
HANNAH (V.O.) Lena, you are the only friend I have.
INT. HANNAH'S BEDROOM—NEXT MORNING
Hannah lies on the very edge of her bed, awake. The bed is covered with mounds of meticulously arranged stuffed animals. The room is filled with unpacked boxes. Caroline pokes her head in as she buzzes the house. She wears a smart business suit with no makeup.
CAROLINE Hannah! I'm not going to tell you again.
Stanley enters the room with a newspaper in one hand, a thermometer in the other. He places his lips on her forehead.
STANLEY You don't feel warm. What hurts?
My stomach and my head. And I have the chills.
STANLEY Let's take your temp, Babe.
He sticks the thermometer in her mouth.
CAROLINE (O.S.) She's normal, Doctor Goldin.
STANLEY (calling to Caroline) With our genes? I doubt it.
(Hannah rolls her eyes) Keep it under your tongue.
Stanley sits at the front of the bed and opens the newspaper. He offers Hannah a section.
Got the old paper form back home. Comics?
She puts them aside. Humming an opera, Stanley reads but feels Hannah looking at him. He looks up and speaks after a pause.
I know this move was hard on you, Babe. Hannah's eyes fill with tears but do not spill over.
But there's only room for so many breast surgeons in one town. Do you understand?
Hannah nods. Stanley looks a little relieved. He tries something.
But you know what? I'll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell any of my patients. They're all beautiful.
Hannah rolls her eyes. Stanley plays now. He acts out the following shapes of breasts to Hannah while he sings this rhyme.
There are tubular boobies and conical domes. Ptotic droopies and little young ones . . .
Hannah laughs. She spits the thermometer out.
Stanley picks up the thermometer and reads it.
Well, Mom's right, kiddo. You're normal. Congratulations.
Daddy, I feel sick. Can't you take my word for it? Hannah gives him puppy dog eyes.
INT. HANNAH'S BEDROOM—LATER
Hannah jumps on the bed. She flops onto her stomach, picks up the comics, looks them over with a straight face. She turns the page and sees the personal ads. She brightens as she reads.
THE PERSONAL AD FILLS THE SCREEN:
"Like to write? Single male seeks unique female for penpal. Please write: Herbert Mack. 8013-B Duck Lane. Savannah, Georgia, 41256."
INT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—NIGHT
Herbie stares at the blank canvas. The phone RINGS. Suddenly inspired, he feverishly mixes paints. After four RINGS, his ANSWERING MACHINE can be heard.
HERBIE (V.O.) Hello, this is Herbert Mack. I'm not home, Mom. I'm on a date with Cindy Crawford. And no, I haven't gotten a letter yet.
Herbie strokes a deep blue on the canvas. The machine BEEPS.
COLA (V.O.) Herbert, change your message!
He stops and looks at what he has done. Dissatisfied, he opens a tube of black and paints over it.
What if I was a girl calling? It sounds like the only calls you ever get are from your mother. Call me when you get home.
Herbie finishes painting the entire canvas black.
FADE INTO THE BLACK:
The sound of RAIN ON ALUMINUM is heard. INT. HERBIE'S MAILBOX—DAY
Herbie opens the SQUEAKY mailbox door, throwing light into the deep cavern. It is empty. Herbie's disappointed, wet face fills the hole. He slams the mailbox shut.
EXT. MAIL TRUCK OUTSIDE HERBIE'S APARTMENT—DAY
Settled back into her seat, Adele is absorbed in a postcard. She wears her postal uniform but looks more polished than usual. The sound of a DOOR closing startles her. She sees Herbie exiting his apartment. She smoothes her eyebrows. Herbie jogs to the mail truck.
HERBIE Anything for 8013-B?
(recognizes Adele) Oh, hello. When did you get this route?
ADELE (hands him his mail) A while ago. I hope you found your cat, 'cause I saw a black one. On the road.
ADELE Yeah. She sounds nice.
INT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—DAY
Herbie runs into his apartment, reading the postcard. After a moment he picks up the phone and dials.
Mom! I got a letter!
Yes from a woman!
Well, read it to me.
Okay. "Dear Herbie. Hi. I am writing because I usually write myself, but I thought it would be a nice change to actually get a response.
(he chuckles) I'm an actress. I'm from the West and I miss my home in the mountains. My favorite food is spaghetti. I have two Siberian Huskies with ice blue eyes, named Lapis and Lazuli. What about you? Lena."
That's it? What does she look like? Did she send a photo?
He waves the postcard in front of his nose and inhales, grinning.
HERBIE She's beautiful, Mom.
MUSIC BEGINS: It is a simple, yet lyrical piece.
EXT. HANNAH'S HOUSE—DAY
Hannah sits on the front steps, writing in her journal. A mail truck pulls up to the house. She runs to it. The
POSTMAN hands her a bundle of mail. She pulls out a letter on the way back to the house and slips it in her journal.
INT. HANNAH'S HOUSE—SAME
Hannah enters the house. It is a mess with boxes and furniture in the wrong places. There is a grand piano in the foyer. She puts the mail on top and squeezes past it.
CAROLINE (O.S.) (calling from the kitchen) Time for lunch, Hannie!
Caroline appears behind the kitchen counter with a phone propped up to her ear by her shoulder. She places a bowl on the counter.
CAROLINE I made Spaghetti O's.
Hannah takes the bowl without her mother noticing.
INT. HANNAH'S BEDROOM—SAME DAY
Hannah closes her bedroom door, flops down on her bed and tears open the letter. She eats as she reads it, delighted.
Dear Lena. I can't believe how lucky I am. Your letter was wonderful. You are a charming and witty woman. Life in the theatre sounds so exciting. It's funny, the only thing I cook is spaghetti. . . and not very well. Could you send me your recipe? Herbie.
Wide-eyed, Hannah drops her spoon into the almost empty bowl of Spaghetti O's.
INT. HERBIE'S KITCHEN—NIGHT
The flame of a gas burner IGNITES. Onions are simmering, tomatoes are basting, water is boiling. The counter is a mess with spices and dirty cutlery. Holding a postcard, Herbie carefully measures ingredients into a steaming pot of sauce. He opens a can of pineapple chunks, checks the postcard again and doubtfully stirs them in the pot. He tastes a spoonful and smiles.
ANGLE ON: The back of the postcard fills the screen. It reads: LENA'S SPAGHETTI, and is followed by a recipe.
INT. SCHOOL BUS—DAY
ANGLE ON: A small painting of a mountain range. Hannah sits alone among the CHAOS of the school bus, leaning her head against the window, staring dreamily at the painting. Jarrett passes by her seat and gives her a dirty look. She takes out a postcard and begins to write.
HANNAH (V.O.) Dear Herbie. Thank you for the mountains. When I look at them, I breath in golden air and exhale silver.
INT. MAIL TRUCK—DAY
A PILE OF MAIL is stuffed into a mailbox. Herbie stuffs mailboxes without reading any postcards.
HANNAH (V.O.) I can see through the ceiling to the stars.
EXT. MAIL TRUCK IN A SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOOD— DAY
Herbie drives down the beautifully foliated road.
INT. HANNAH'S HOUSE—DAY
Hannah helps her father hang a swing in a tree in the front yard.
HERBIE (V.O.) Dear Lena, Even though it's only once a week, it's so good to talk to someone who understands me, who thinks the same way I do.
INT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—NIGHT
Herbie sits at his easel, rereading a postcard. He sets it on top of a stack of postcards and letters, and begins to paint.
HERBIE (V.O.) I wish I could see your play. I'm sure you'll make a great Juliet. I'll be thinking of you. Break a leg, Lena.
INT. SCHOOL BUS—DAY
SOUNDS OF CHAOS. Hannah sits in her usual seat, alone, reading a letter. Across the back seat, Jarrett, Adam, Dickie and a few other BOYS play a bouncy game of poker, using a backpack as a table. Several CLASSMATES watch, hanging over the back seat.
JARRETT (chewing on an unlit cigar) Adam, you in? Don't be a wuss.
The bus hits a bump, the cards go flying.
I'm not playing unless we get a flatter table. This sucks.
Jarrett takes the cigar out of his mouth and stands.
JARRETT How about your girlfriend?
(bellows to Hannah)
Jarrett wads up a piece of paper and tosses it. It lands on Herbie's letter. Hannah quickly folds it into the envelope.
Hey! New Girl!
Hannah is caught by the address on the envelope. It reads: "Miss Lena Gold." She takes a deep breath, then stands to face Jarrett.
HANNAH My name is not "New Girl." It's—
—New Boy? That's right! Adam says we need something flat to play on, New Boy. Any Ideas?
Jarrett's BOYS laugh, give him five, and do the "spread eagle."
BUS DRIVER No standing on the bus!
HANNAH (walking towards him) Yes, Jarrett, I do have an idea. Your flat Neanderthal head!
The entire bus reacts in amazement.
JARRETT (steps into the aisle)
Barely a mouthful!
ANGLE ON MIRROR: The bus driver's eyes dart to the back of the bus.
BUS DRIVER Sit down, both of you!
They stand eye-to-eye.
BUS DRIVER Jarrett Buxell! Sit down or I'll write you up.
Defeated, Jarrett sits. His BOYS react, disappointed.
You too, Girl!
HANNAH (to the driver)
Sit down or walk!
She doesn't move. The entire bus is quiet. Everyone looks at Hannah with wonder.
Hannah sets her jaw.
The bus WHEEZES as the door opens. Hannah trudges down the stairs and starts walking with her head down. As the bus drives off, we see the faces of her classmates, including a girl, JJ, staring at her out the window.
EXT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—DAY
As Adele drives up, she see Herbie leaning up against his mailbox. With paint smudged on his face, he whistles merrily as he waits for the delivery. She checks her hair, leans out the window, hands him his junk mail.
HERBIE (flipping through the mail) Hey . . . Isn't it Wednesday?
Can't fool you! Yep, it's Lena Day. And it's a goodie, too.
She holds out the postcard, looking at him oddly. He grabs it but she doesn't let go. She rubs the side of her nose. He doesn't get it. She wipes the paint off of his face.
INT. CAROLINE'S BATHROOM—DAY
Hannah sits on the counter and opens a fashion magazine as if it were a Bible. She holds it up to the mirror and mimics the model's expression. She opens a drawer full of Caroline's makeup.
HERBIE (V.O.) . . . My mother doesn't believe that you're real. She thinks I'm writing letters to myself. Will you send a picture to prove. . .
ANGLE ON: HANNAH'S FEATURES
She applies loads of lipstick, eye shadow, blush, etc . . .
HANNAH (V.O.) . . . will not send a photo, because I believe that penpals should remain a bit mysterious. But I will describe myself to you. I have long black hair. . .
Hannah spies a box of tissues.
ANGLE ON: BOX OF KLEENEX AS HANNAH PULLS OUT TISSUES.
EXT./INT. CAROLINE'S BATHROOM—LATER
Caroline approaches the bathroom and opens the door, revealing Hannah. She spins around, stuffed to a size "double D." Caroline jumps back, startled.
Hannah! You scared the crap out of me! Look at you.
(looks her over and smiles) You want me to teach you how to put it on right?
Hannah nods. Caroline sets down her purse and things and reaches for a washcloth and soap. She wipes the makeup off Hannah's face.
INT. HANNAH'S BEDROOM—NIGHT
Stanley and Caroline bend over Hannah's bed to kiss her good night. Her room, unpacked now, looks like a little girl's room.
STANLEY (picks up a stuffed dog) Don't let ol' Lapis push you out of bed tonight.
He kisses her forehead.
Good night, Dolly. I had fun today. Did you? Hannah shrugs, then grins. Caroline kisses her cheek.
Their arms around each other, Caroline and Stanley turn off the light and exit. Moonlight shines on her bed.
HERBIE (V.O.) Dear Lena. Last night I dreamt that we met. I had cooked for you a nest of spaghetti the size of a bathtub. You insisted on throwing it to the ceiling to see if it was done. It never stuck . . .
INT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—NIGHT
Herbie sits at his easel reading a postcard.
HANNAH (V.O.) Dear Herbie. Sometime tonight have you looked up at this beautiful full moon? If you have, then (MORE)
HANNAH (CONT'D) we've seen each other, because I've been watching it too . . .
He sets the postcard next to the canvas and continues painting.
EXT. RAILROAD TRACKS—SUNSET
Hannah lies back on the hill, wearing a flowing skirt and a bit of makeup. Her hair is longer. She tears open a letter and begins reading. As she does, her face becomes worried.
A TRAIN IS OFF IN THE DISTANCE.
HERBIE (V.O.) Lena, have you ever noticed the way stars seem to fade if you look straight at them? Well, I need to look straight at you, Lena.
(she sits straight up) All I know is that you are an actress, you have a beautiful mind, beautiful handwriting, your perfume smells like baby powder and . . . I think I'm in love with you.
Hannah stops reading. THE SOUND OF THE TRAIN APPROACHING. She runs down the hill. The train rushes past as Hannah runs off.
Hannah runs up the street and driveway to her house.
HERBIE (V.O.) What was your childhood like? Do you like red or white wine? Angel hair or fettuccini? How old are you? When can I meet you?
Hannah runs into her house and SLAMS the door behind her.
EXT. HANNAH'S HOUSE—NIGHT
INT. HANNAH'S BEDROOM—NIGHT
Hannah sits on her bed, rereading the letter. There is a KNOCK at her door. She hides it under her animals. Stanley enters wearily and kisses her good night.
Sweet dreams, babe. I'm going to bed.
I guess I shouldn't call you that anymore. You're really growing up fast.
Yeah. And you were such a cute kid. Whatever happened?
(he chuckles) Don't let ol' Lazuli push you out of bed tonight.
He exits. Hannah moves to her desk and spreads out the collection of Herbie's letters. She puts her head in her hands, then looks at herself in the mirror and steels herself for the task ahead . . . She picks up a postcard and her purple pen and writes.
EXT. SCHOOL BUS—MORNING
ANGLE ON: Hannah's face in the harsh morning light as she runs for the bus. We hear the RUMBLE of the school bus's engine. She pauses at the corner to drop the postcard into a mailbox, then disappears into the school bus. The doors close in our face.
INT. Herbie's APARTMENT—SUNSET
The finished "Lena painting" fills the screen. It is a nude, reclining female. Her head is tipped back in profile, her hair cascades abundantly over her body. It tangles with and becomes a forkful of spaghetti which she holds over her open mouth as if it were grapes. It looks vaguely like Adele. Propped up against it is the new postcard from "Lena." The phone is RINGING. We HEAR Herbie pick it up.
COLA (O.S.) (heard faintly on the other end) Herbert, Evelyn and her daughter are meeting us for lunch on Sunday. Don't say no... do it for me ... as a favor . . .
Herbie stands in front of the painting, the phone to his ear. He reaches for the postcard. Cola's voice FADES as we HEAR . . .
HANNAH (V.O.) Dear Herbie. Guess what! I got a job with a touring company. I won't have an address for a while, it could be years if the show goes well. But you have been a magnificent friend, Herbie, and artist. I'll never ever forget you. Your pen pal, Lena.
All right, Mom. I'll meet her. I've got to go. Bye. Herbie hangs up.
INT. SCHOOL BUS—MORNING
WE MOVE with Hannah down the aisle as she heads for her usual seat. She stops dead in her tracks. Her seat is not empty. JJ, a girl with glasses and a soccer ball, stares out the window. Hannah looks around. There are no empty seats.
HANNAH (cautiously) You saving this seat?
EXT. HERBIE'S APARTMENT—DAY
Herbie walks across the parking lot with groceries under his arm. He sees Adele's truck turning into the parking lot. He ducks behind some bushes, unsure of what to do. Adele gets out of the truck to stuff mailboxes. She has a new hat. It is fairly outrageous, but she wears it with style. She looks radiant. Herbie finally stands up from the bushes.
Adele jumps slightly. They are face-to-face, closer than they have ever been.
Hi, Herb. There is an awkward moment.
I'm sorry about Lena. She might write soon. HERBIE
I like your hat, by the way. It's a great color.
ADELE (touches the hat) Oh, do you? Wow. Thanks. It's my birthday.
It's your birthday?
How old are you?
Um . . . twenty-nine. Hah! No, actually, I'm thirty-three.
No kidding. Me too. Hey, um . . . would you want to grab something to eat? Just as friends, I mean. Or dinner? Do you like Italian?
Oh wow. Yeah, I do. I'll pick you up at seven? HERBIE
Hannah runs off the bus, followed by JJ. JJ gives the soccer ball a swift kick. The girls chase it down the sundappled road together.
FADE TO BLACK:
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