This page holds draft 1.1 of Outside, a short screenplay by me written as part of the Aaron Sorkin Screenplay Masterclass. If you have got here without a direct link, then you are cleverer than I in the ways of IT.
This screenplay was written in response to the question at the end of a chapter of Erik the Viking (I think it’s called “A Hard Question” or “A Difficult Question”), by Terry Jones. If you know the chapter you’ll know what I mean, but otherwise it bears little resemblance. I tried to fit in vikings and trolls, but they just didn’t fit. Nonetheless, you should read Erik the Viking. It’s awesome.
The Final Draft PDF of Outside, draft 1.1, can be found through this link (Thanks to Judy, Martha and Misha from the facebook group for the feedback):
Note: I’ve left the played character names in all caps throughout, because I have to convert this to a stage play in the morning. I’m aware that isn’t the convention in screenplays, and apologise to anyone who this annoys.
If you don’t fancy the proper PDF version, here is the full story formatted to work on this website. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment!
“Outside” by Keith Crawford
INT. HOUSE – NIGHT
The front room of the house has been transformed into a bunker. The windows are boarded up, and sealed with tape to block out all light. Tinned goods, boxes, bags and bundles of supplies and equipment. Four camp beds with sleeping bags, bedding, blankets and a few pitiful personal possessions. Everything stashed to get as much in as little space as possible.
There is one main door outside. It is sealed with an improvised electronic lock (light currently green). All other interior doors are sealed and unused.
There are three important pieces of equipment in the room.
The LAPTOP has a large countdown (60 seconds) and a series of red flashing symbols on the screen.
The air filtration and primary power UNIT looks like a repurposed air conditioner.
The secondary power CRANK is connected by cables to the door, the laptop and the unit.
NELL is winding the crank. The faster she winds the brighter the lights burns. As long as she winds the door light stays green.
EADIE is shining a flashlight inside the unit and working the controls. It can’t be restarted unless the crank is wound, and currently is not working at all. Eadie’s left leg is bandaged.
MIKE monitors the laptop. The controls are not responding.
They are dressed for cold weather; scarves, coats, multiple layers; mismatched, scrounged and stolen. They move with the urgency of a team that have faced life and death together, and are facing it again.
NELL: Mike? How long has she got?
MIKE: 50 seconds.
EADIE: Something’s happened. She’s not coming back.
NELL: Skip the hypotheticals, Eadie. Are the filters on-line?
EADIE: No. No filters, no primary power.
MIKE: 37 seconds. Jackie will make it. She always does.
NELL: I should go out and get her.
MIKE: We need you on the crank or the door won’t unlock.
NELL: Take over the crank.
EADIE: It’s too late, Nell.
Suddenly, the air filtration unit shudders into life. EADIE hits the button and it begins noisily pumping air.
NELL: Eadie, the door! She’ll be coming in fast.
EADIE rushes to stand by at the door. NELL keeps working the crank.
NELL (CONT’D): Mike, anything on sensors?
MIKE: Still nothing.
EADIE: If she fixed the filters why aren’t the sensors back up?
MIKE: 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…
They stare at the door. The countdown goes negative. They keep staring, not wanting to believe it. Eventually, MIKE reaches up and stops the clock.
EADIE: Nell. Nell!
EADIE: You can stop now.
NELL stops turning the crank. The green light on the door turns red. The room lights dim when she stops turning and for a moment they all wait, wondering if the lights will go out altogether.
NELL (CONT’D): Ok, looks like primary power’s running back through the unit.
EADIE (Goes to the unit): I’ll check
MIKE: Jackie could still be alive.
NELL: The sensors, Mike.
MIKE (Checks the laptop): No. No sensors, no comms. We have to go get her.
EADIE: She’s already dead.
MIKE: You don’t know that.
NELL: Eadie, if the sensors are out, is there any way we can tell if the filters are fully functional?
EADIE: Not from in here.
NELL: How long can we survive if they aren’t?
MIKE: It depends how bad it is. 24 hours? Probably less.
NELL: How would we know if it’s affecting us?
EADIE: We wouldn’t. It could be affecting us now.
BOOM,BOOM,BOOM. Three long, loud knocks on the door. They stare.
MIKE: Jackie made it! Open the door!
NELL: Primary power’s up. Why isn’t she using her code key?
EADIE: It isn’t her.
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. MIKE rushes to the door.
MIKE: Crank the door!
NELL: Get your gun, Eadie.
EADIE limps over and gets her gun from beneath her bed. NELL takes position on the crank.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
NELL starts the crank. The lights burn brighter. EADIE raises her gun at the door. The door lock turns green. As soon as it does, MIKE jerks open the door with all his strength.
Someone falls through the door. NELL catches them, and MIKE slams the door shut. The door lock turns red. EADIE still points the gun.
NELL gets a look at the figure she is carrying, yells in shock, and steps back.
It is not Jackie.
JOHN falls to the centre of the room. He is nearly naked, freezing cold, and too weak to lift himself from the floor.
NELL (CONT’D): What the fuck?
MIKE: John? John, is that you?
NELL: You know this guy?
MIKE: It’s Jackie’s husband.
EADIE: That’s impossible.
NELL: How do you know?
MIKE: I was at their wedding. It’s him.
MIKE kneels down next to JOHN but doesn’t get close enough to touch.
MIKE (CONT’D): John? Can you hear me? Where’s Jackie?
JOHN: Outside. She’s outside. You have to go to her.
EADIE: She’s dead. And that’s not her husband.
MIKE: Are you insane? Use your eyes!
NELL looks from one to the other. Then she drags a blanket from the nearest bed, wraps it around JOHN, and helps him sit. JOHN appears barely conscious.
MIKE (CONT’D): I’m going to get Jackie. Crank the door, Nell.
NELL: How are you still alive, John?
MIKE: Jackie’s still out there – we don’t have time for questions!
JOHN: Close. She’s close.
MIKE: Wind the crank.
EADIE: If you go out there alone, you’ll die.
NELL: We’ll all die if the filter isn’t working. Someone has to go out to clear the sensors.
EADIE: Then I should go with him.
NELL: If the unit fails I need secondary power to restart, and I can’t restart the unit and run the crank at the same time. I don’t think John’s fit to help me and we don’t have time to wait.
MIKE: And I’ll be faster on my own.
EADIE (A moments thought.): You want me to work the crank?
NELL: No. I can go again. Watch him. (Nods at JOHN)
MIKE pulls on his gloves and stands by the door. NELL goes to the crank. EADIE keeps her gun on JOHN. JOHN stares in to space.
NELL (CONT’D): Check times?
NELL and MIKE look at their watches.
MIKE: Three minutes
EADIE: You may not have the time to rescue Jackie and clear the sensors.
MIKE: Fuck you, Eadie.
EADIE: Just be ready to make a choice.
MIKE: Just make sure you open the door when I come back.
She starts the crank. The lights burn brighter. The door lock goes green.
NELL (CONT’D): Go!
MIKE glares at EADIE, then opens the door, dashes through, and slams it shut behind him. NELL releases the crank. The lights dim and the door lock turns red. She goes to John and tries to look him in the eyes.
NELL (CONT’D): Eadie, grab the first aid kit.
EADIE keeps her gun on JOHN.
NELL (CONT’D): John, are you ok?
JOHN: I was looking for you.
NELL: John? John, how did you survive?
He slumps forward. NELL eases him to the floor, then looks at EADIE who still hasn’t lowered her gun.
NELL (CONT’D): For Christ’s sake Eadie.
NELL gets the first aid kit, and starts looking through several items, including a knife.
Suddenly, the lights drop, leaving them in near darkness.
NELL (CONT’D): Have the filters stopped?
EADIE (Goes to the Air Filtration Unit): No. It’s something else. Main power?
NELL (Goes to the laptop): No. It’s the filters. Something jammed in the inputs?
Smoke starts slowly coming out from the air filtration unit.
EADIE: It’s backing up!
NELL: Can you stop it?
EADIE: Not from in here.
NELL; Can Mike?
EADIE: Not a chance. No time. No comms to tell him.
NELL: Ok, then I’ve got to go out.
EADIE: I’ll go.
NELL: Eadie, your leg.
EADIE: You can’t fix the filters anyway. Do you trust me?
NELL (Beat): Yes. How do I stop the smoke?
EADIE: You have to shut down the unit.
NELL: Without the unit running primary power will go out, and your code key won’t work. How will I know when to open the door?
EADIE: Open the lock in exactly three minutes. I’ll be there.
NELL (Checks watch): Don’t be late.
EADIE: Don’t let the lights go out.
Nell starts the crank. The lights softly come back up. The door lock turns green.
EADIE: I’ll be back.
EADIE pushes the door and propels herself out. The door slams shut behind her. NELL goes quickly to the unit and powers it down (the lights go down as soon as she releases the crank, and the door lock turns red). The pump stops and the smoke with it. NELL stands up. She’s alone with JOHN.
NELL shakes herself out of her reverie and blinks heavily. She grabs some clothes for John.
NELL:Here. Put these on.
JOHN: I’m cold.
She starts rubbing his hands in her own. He makes no move to put on the clothes.
NELL: Are you ok? Do you want me to help you put those on?
NELL: We’ll be alright once the unit’s back up. Just try not to breathe too deeply.
JOHN: Give me your coat.
JOHN: Give me your coat. I’m cold.
She takes off her coat and puts it over his shoulders, over the blanket. Then she stands up and stands back, confused by what she has just done.
NELL: How did you survive, John? How did you find us?
JOHN: Jackie found me. I was looking for you.
NELL: But how is it that you are still alive?
JOHN: Give me your scarf as well.
She unwinds her scarf and hands it to him. He stands up to take it, letting the coat and blanket slide from him. He lets the scarf hang in his hand as she stumbles back.
JOHN (CONT’D): The others aren’t coming back.
NELL: Who are you?
JOHN: You sent them outside. They can’t get back in.
NELL: What are you?
JOHN: There’s a knife in the first aid kit.
JOHN: Take out the knife from the first aid kit.
JOHN: Take out the knife and put it through your heart.
Nell shakes her head. She looks at her watch like she can’t remember why. Then she goes to the first aid kit and gets out the knife
JOHN (CONT’D): It’s only a matter of time. The filters aren’t working. Better to do it now.
NELL: It’s only a matter of time.
JOHN: Take the knife.
NELL: The filters aren’t working.
JOHN: And put it through your heart.
NELL: Better to do it now.
Suddenly the lights come up. JOHN blinks, confused.
With a shout NELL lunges at him with the knife. But the smoke has made her weak and confused, and he just steps out of the way. He likes that. He’s smiling for the first time.
But NELL’s attack was a feint! With him to one side, she rushes to the crank. She drops the knife and winds with all her strength. The door lock turns green.
JOHN: Ask not what your country can do for you…
NELL (Still winding the crank): Come on!
JOHN: But what you can do for your country.
He walks over and crouches down beside her. He puts his arms wide around her, offering her the knife.
NELL (With all that’s left of her strength): Please!
BOOM! The door slams open. EADIE drags herself over the threshold, MIKE slumped under her arm. She holds the door open. JOHN rises. BANG! EADIE fires her gun. JOHN is thrown back. NELL stops winding the crank. The door lock turns red.
With an inhuman shriek JOHN leaps at EADIE. EADIE fires again. JOHN grapples her. She drops MIKE then loses the gun. NELL picks back up the knife and stabs JOHN. He shrieks again. Not human. NELL and EADIE throw him outside, and slam the door behind him.
EADIE: Get the crank!
Exhausted and confused, NELL goes to the crank and starts to wind it. EADIE is heading directly to the unit.
EADIE: Dead. Just outside. It killed her, then used her body to jam the filter inlets.
EADIE activates the unit. This time there’s no smoke and the lights come all the way up. EADIE goes over and switches the laptop back on.
EADIE (CONT’D): The sensors are back up. They were switched off from the outside.
NELL: What happened to Mike?
EADIE: He tried to get to Jackie before clearing the sensors. I did warn him.
He’ll be ok.
NELL: I don’t know. What did we do wrong?
Boom! Boom! Boom! On the door. They both look. MIKE still doesn’t move.
EADIE: We didn’t have to do anything wrong.
Eadie sits, exhausted, against the vibrating unit.
EADIE (CONT’D): How many more days until morning?
NELL: I don’t know.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Note: The original draft can be found here: Outside 1.0
I'm a doctor of law and economics, a qualified barrister, and a retired British naval officer. I have written for journals, collections of academic writing, and newspapers including The Economist. I also write scripts, short stories, and am finishing a novel just so I can throw it on a bloody bonfire. This blog charts my efforts to avoid fiction-related fire hazards.