North Star (pdf format) by P.J. Palmer
A rancher on a secluded mountain ranch makes life-changing sacrifices to take care of his ailing wife.
Films that explore devastating illnesses fall in and out of favor… and aren’t to every moviegoer’s taste. Are they “entertaining”? No. But best of them (for instance, Still Alice or The Theory of Everything) strike to the heart of what makes drama great. Exposing what it means to be human, and vulnerable. To have one’s life – or a loved one’s – altered by a twist of fate. Stories that deal with such topics may never draw the popcorn crowd, but their impact will persevere – long after the latest blockbuster spectacle fades away.
In his poignant short North Star, writer P.J. Palmer shines a narrative light on a stroke victim’s family. Specifically, on the difficult decisions required of a loving husband… and caregiver.
Steve and his wife Cheryl (50s) live on a secluded mountain ranch. At first glance, Steve’s daily routine seems mundane. He rises before dawn, shaves, dresses – and patters about their bedroom quietly so as not to wake Cheryl. In the kitchen, he fires up the coffee and lights the stove. Then, accompanied by two rambunctious dogs, Steve heads outside to do chores.
Once back, Steve returns to the bedroom and opens the curtains to wake his wife.
…but with daylight come realities. For Cheryl is thin and frail – and completely dependent on Steve for her needs. Bathing, dressing, feeding. Everything. But through his actions, Steve’s dedication to his wife is clear. His love: unconditional.
The situation’s heart-wrenching… and ultimately unsustainable. As their daughter Erin laments: “We all wish it were different. Just gonna do what we have to, to make it through.” But there are some hard decisions ahead – even for the most devoted family.
There’s no sugarcoating North Star’s theme, but its psalm to humanity rings true throughout. Vivid descriptions, and touching moments – contrasted with harsh reality. Are you a drama director in search of a substantial story that resonates? Be assured, you’ve got one here.
Budget: Relatively low. Only four actors, all of whom have meaty roles. Steve, Cheryl and Eric (and neighbor rancher Mike.) A couple of dogs and a cat are optional. A horse is a necessity – but no riding required.
About the Writer: P.J. Palmer has worked on 20+ short films, web series, music videos, documentary projects and commercials as a director, producer and/or writer. He began his career at Warner Brothers Studio working on the set of the TV series ‘ER’. Palmer is now alumni to the 2013 Edinburgh Film Festival Talent Lab. He was also an artist in residence with 2014 Steinbeck Festival where he premiered his documentary: ‘GRAPES OF WRATH’ (Director / Producer) starring James Franco and Lois Smith. That same year Palmer won the CLIO for best commercial for producing Srixon’s ‘JOURNEY TO BETTER’ broadcast campaign. Palmer’s comedy pilot project ‘SLACKLY MANOR’ (Producer) won the 2013 LA Comedy Script Festival. Recently, Palmer guided the ground-breaking, dramatic web series ‘ANYONE BUT ME’ (Series Producer) through three seasons in NYC to dozens of top industry awards including Best Web Series and Best Drama. His short film “GOOD LUCK” (Director) was picked up for distribution by Fox Digital Studios and accepted into several festivals. Another short film of his, ‘MEMBERS ONLY’ (director) is out to festivals. Previously, in making his first documentary, Palmer was on the ground during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a disaster relief volunteer while filming the documentary ‘AMERICAN RED CROSS: KATRINA RELIEF’ (Co-Director / Producer). Palmer is now in production directing the feature length documentary ‘FOR ED RICKETTS’, exploring the lasting influences of John Steinbeck, Joseph Campbell and Ed Ricketts, set to debut in the spring of 2016. Currently, Palmer is in active development on the Scottish feature script ‘PULL NO PUNCHES’ as his narrative feature directorial debut. IMDB: Portfolio
About the Reviewer: California über reader/reviewer KP Mackie is working hard on an animated feature.
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