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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Line in the Sand – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - post author Guest Reviewer

A Line in the Sand (6 pages in pdf format) by Tim Westland

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. – The Dalai Lama

“A Line in the Sand,” a short screenplay by award-winning screenwriter (and graphic novelist) Tim Westland, describes a gritty dystopian future, a civilization on the edge, at a crossroads — a dramatic, high-tension moment that could either rescue mankind from itself or cause our society to unravel completely.

The story takes place in 2037, and like all the best tales of futuristic dystopias (e.g. Blade Runner, The Matrix, etc.), “A Line in the Sand” is a masterful blend of two things: First, it’s a rockin’ good sci-fi story (complete with all the trimmings — UltraMarines, exo-suits, and high-tech weaponry) with a somber gloominess about it. This is one possible future that we hope never comes to pass. And secondly — it’s totally plausible. It could come to pass. “A Line in the Sand” pits religious fanaticism against nuclear madness. It’s like a headline from today’s news — projected twenty years into the future. Scary, to say the least.

There’s a third thing that ramps up the emotional impact of this script — more than anything else it’s a story about people. Specifically two people: two men, both warriors, but radically different nonetheless. One is a military man trying to save the world; the other a fanatical religious terrorist trying to tear it to shreds.

They meet on a California beach at sunset after the terrorist group has destroyed a nuclear reactor. It’s a horrific scene. As UltraMarine John Hawkins says, it’s “going to stain this coastline for the next ten thousand years.” While he combs through the rubble on the beach, he stumbles upon a lone survivor, one of the terrorists. The man is badly injured, “covered with festering radiation sores.” Hawkins could kill him right then and there. Why not? An eye for an eye and all that. Among the horror and the wreckage, what’s one more death?

But the damage is already done; one more death won’t make things right. And Hawkins is a compassionate man. So when the injured terrorist asks for a favor – the chance to enjoy one last sunset – Hawkins carries him to the beach and props him up against a rock at the water’s edge. As they listen to the waves crash against the shoreline and watch the sun touch the horizon, the two men share philosophies: one contemplating a grim future, the other with not much future left.

But which is which? And, the terrorist’s story-line isn’t quite yet. It turns out there’s still some life radiating within him.

Is the Dalai Lama right? Without compassion can humanity survive?

Maybe Hawkins should have killed him when he had the chance…

Budget: Moderate-to-high. Some futuristic scene setting may be required, but with some creativity (or some CGI), they could be simulated.

About the writer: The co-writer of the acclaimed graphic novel Chasing the Dead, Tim Westland received first place for Balls Out in the NNYM 15 page contest. A moderator at Moviepoet, he’s an outstanding writer with an eye for the details. His IMDB page can be found here.

About the reviewer: Helen Magellan (a pseudonym) is a successful screenwriter with several produced short scripts under her belt.

Read A Line in the Sand

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This screenplay may not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author.

4 Comments so far


KP Mackie
April 6th, 2015 at 10:52 pm

Captivating story.
Can picture every detail of my beloved SoCal blown to smitherings. 🙁
Tim is a terrific visual writer. May be the best realistic helicopter sound ever — FWUP FWUP FWUP. So cool.

Nice review, Helen Magellen… 🙂


Johnny Robbins
April 8th, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Nice script, Tim. The end visual was wild, and sends its message like exclamation point. Good work!


Tim Westland
April 11th, 2015 at 12:29 am

KP – MWAH! Thanks, darlin. Here’s an extra for you – FWUP!

Johnny – thank, bro. Coming from a talent like you – I’ll take those props!

And Helen Magellan, wherever you are – sincere thanks for the really nicely written review!


Debbie Moon (#WRAC17)
March 15th, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Okay, there’s a lot of good elements here. The script is very well written, in a technical sense, and the situation is compelling. What I feel is slightly lacking is an element of change – by which I mean emotional change. Hawkins thinks and feels the same at the end of the script as he does at the beginning, and so does the fanatic. No one has had an emotional experience, no one has learned from their encounter: so in a way, the encounter has no meaning, because if Hawkins hadn’t spotted him, the exact same thing would have happened (only not on the helicopter).

I’m wondering it if needs a more profound encounter between the two characters. Does Hawkins start off a committed atheist and end up understanding the fanatic’s motives? Or the other way round, perhaps? A moment of illumination, of revelation. Something that makes this meeting matter, emotionally.

Is there a way to get a sense of urgency, a ticking clock, into the situation? Does Hawkins know there are other detonations planned, and need to get information from the fanatic? Who holds power over whom, and how does that balance of power shift between them during the script?

It doesn’t have to be a big thing, i think, but a small deepening of the emotions and the connection between the two men will make this a far more profound experience.

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