The Eighth Candle: A Screenplay Adaptation

Ick on a Stick

I took this photo in the streets and, like Rochelle, saw nothing as a prompt.  But the street?  There’s an idea.

The following is a scene from a screenplay I’m finishing up based on a stage play Rochelle and I wrote nine years ago called, The First Nights of Hanukkah.  The scene takes place in December of 1931.  KC native and Yeshiva student Joe is talking to radio singer and (spoiler) soon-to-be wife, Shifra, while they walk the streets of New York.  Jerry Goldberg, Shifra’s manager/boyfriend has left them for a wild goose chase in the Bronx (set up by Joe to get rid of him in order to be with Shifra).  They have just left the restaurant.

The word count is 100 words of dialogue.   Names and stage directions are exempt since they are for reference only.

++++++++++++

SHIFRA:  You are a stinker!  Sending Jerry to the Bronx!

JOE: My pop got rid of a rattler on our porch once only he used a hoe instead of a phone.

SHIFRA: Look, Jerry’s faults may be many, but he’s very nice.

JOE:  So was the rattler until it almost bit my sister.

SHIFRA (resigned): Well, you shouldn’t have had to pay for the meal.

(they continue walking)

So, what happens to you after graduation?

JOE:  Language teacher at Center High School in Kansas City, I hope.

SHIFRA (disappointed): Oh.  So, you’re not staying, then?

JOE:  No longer than I have to.

SHIFRA (warming up a little):  Well, don’t forget you have friends in New York.

JOE (surprised):  Yeah?

SHIFRA:  Yeah.

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61 Responses to The Eighth Candle: A Screenplay Adaptation

  1. Nice dialogue. It’s funny how screenplays kind of give the game away with their emotional directions, but then also leave so much to the imagination of the reader because of lack of details about location.

  2. wmqcolby says:

    Well, actually, Claire, I wasn’t supposed to write in the emotions. One of the things I learned at the screenplay workshop is to “never direct your characters or your scenes.” But, since this is a “somewhat” adapted screenplay for fiction writing as opposed to actually writing a script, I broke the rules.

  3. Nice glimpse into the world of screenplays…I read few scripts in my life and as an avid book lover I am always surprised how “naked” they seem to be…But then I remember it is director’s job to direct and actors job to interpret. You set the scene well, I can imagine them walking down the street having this conversation. Nice excerpt.

  4. Love your use of screenplay dialogue (and appreciate the spoiler). Joe wins after all.

    • wmqcolby says:

      He does. And he loses, too (according to the story) … or does he gain? If you’d like to know more, let me know. I’ll send you a synopsis.
      Thanks for reading, Alicia!

    • wmqcolby says:

      OK, here you go. The end doesn’t sound too inspiring, but it really is when you know the details (which I didn’t include).

      +++++
      SYNOPSIS: It’s 1930. Joe Gorovich, an idealistic Jewish kid from Kansas City, decides he wants to go to New York to the Yeshiva, become a teacher and to make the world a better place. He bumps into Shifra Bergman, the daughter of one of Joe’s professors when invited to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah at her home. Shifra has the singing voice of an angel and sings on a national radio program, The Lyceum Hour, much to her parents’ disapproval.

      Joe later goes to see her during a show and meets her boyfriend/manager, Jerry Goldberg, a greasy weasel of a guy using Shifra as his meal ticket. Through a “sneaky move” on his part, Joe sends away Jerry and he and Shifra pass the time together. The plot works and Shifra and Joe get married and move to Kansas City.

      Years later, Shifra receives a letter from her brother in Germany. He and his family can’t get out and she and Joe go to Germany to help, but end up in hiding with the help of a friendly older German couple, the Schmidts. Unfortunately, it gets worse when the Nazis discover them in the attic and all get sent to concentration camps.

      Joe is back in KC without Shifra. His relationship with his two daughters is strained to the breaking point as they all try to deal with his post trauma and Shifra’s absence/possible death. Then, the kind lady, Ilsa Schmidt, arrives in America after the loss of her husband and family. She tells Joe that she and Shifra got separated and never heard from her again, but remembered always that Shifra cherished her wonderful Joe. Joe can’t take it anymore and goes off to his room, still bitter and sad.

      At the same time, Shifra is walking down the streets of Kansas City. She had been treated in hospitals not knowing who she was, later remembering and now heading for home, not knowing what she’ll find there. Ilsa answers the door and greets Shifra along with the daughters. Joe comes out of his room and the family is reunited.

  5. elmowrites says:

    Aw, on such things young love is based. Interesting glimpse at the characters, and an intriguing photo, thanks Kent!

    • wmqcolby says:

      Thanks, Jen! 🙂
      As to the story, it’s something Rochelle and I worked our socks off trying to get right and we had really no training until AFTER we produced this play on an amateur basis.
      As to the photo, I have no idea what that thing is. Obviously, it’s a food product like a lollipop or something. I picked it up and still didn’t know what it was.

  6. Very nice, realistic dialogue. Felt rather peaceful reading it. Good work.

  7. plaridel says:

    all’s well, i suppose, except for poor jerry.

  8. nice, humorous,sensitive, feeling-each-other out dialogue which leads me to think that Joe may be sending a young lady tickets to visit in, all places for Jews to visit, Kansas City. Oy!
    Joe should send Jerry there, and become Shifra’s manager/boyfriend (I know you said that Joe was from KC – but no yeshiva buchers are from KC).,. Randy

    • wmqcolby says:

      😀 Well, I’ll tell you, Randy, the story starts in KC, continues in New York, then back to KC. A “traumatic” incident happens where Shifra realizes Joe is the best decision for her. Granted, Kansas City was pretty much of a cowtown back in the day (still is, in some respects) but it had some really cool things that were (and still are) very uptown and happening back even then. In fact, Shifra, earlier in the play, saw Joe as a “cowboy” and a “hayseed” in the beginning.

      • vat means dis verd “hayseed”
        Mine mutter had hayfever, and dat you vuld expect from a shtetel like KC but “hayseed”?
        No cowboy is a hayseed, but maybe he is a farmer?

      • Oy vey izmeer. Hayseed is what my mother called my gentile husband when we were dating. Shtetl, you call KC a shtetl? Fiction is always a “what if” proposition isn’t it?

        Sorry for butting in…well not really. That’s what yenta’s do. I’m working on my Y license. Good yontif.

        Shalom,

        Rochelle

      • wmqcolby says:

        Announcement of our collaboration was kind of like: “Here we are again, the Extravagant Gentile and Wonder Jew. Johnson County Kansas and Haifa.”

  9. Sandra says:

    Very sensitively constructed dialogue. Great take on the prompt. What was it anyway?

    • wmqcolby says:

      Thanks, Sandra! As for the “thing” I know it was a food product of some kind, probably a lollipop left to the elements. I picked it up and there was no weight to it, so probably the sugar had disintegrated leaving the trash around it.

  10. Dear Kent,

    American name? You named yourself after a tree and a river.

    Well played.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

  11. Dear Kent,

    And the first rule of screenplays is don’t forget to break the rules. Your tale did not suffer from being written in the screenplay format. The director in me was doing his job. Very well done.

    Aloha,

    Doug

    • wmqcolby says:

      Thank-you, Mister DeMille. 🙂
      Actually, when you think about it, things really DO have rules, they just get presented differently. The trick is telling the story without telling the story.

      Which reminds me … how’s your screenplay coming along? I’d love to read it.

  12. Hi .. I like what you can draw from a screenplay .. actually it’s like eaves-dropping and getting to know the people..

    Would be interesting to see how this tableau fit into the rest of the story..

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  14. rheath40 says:

    My story was set in NYC also. I didn’t know yours was until after I’d written mine. I like your dialogue and the photo. Thank you.

  15. Intriguing dialogue which looks like it will set up an interesting and multi-layered story. But what should I get these two for Hanukkah?

  16. Bastet says:

    Liked the screen-play take, the dialogue was was easy flowing.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Nice story, few lines but I could few Joe’s need to leave that place. And your photo is great too!

  18. rgayer55 says:

    I like the exchange between the two characters. She slyly infers that getting rid of Jerry was mean, but it’s easy to see she’s very comfortable with Joe. I rate this one 4 lollypops.

  19. K.Z. says:

    great dialogue there kent! and thanks for sharing this very interesting photo 🙂

  20. Amy Reese says:

    It looks like things are going in Joe’s favor. Great dialogue. I’ve always wanted to write a screenplay. Thanks for the photo!

  21. Nan Falkner says:

    Dear Kent, Your screenplay or skit is great. I love to write plays for family gatherings. We have made props before and filmed it – although I was younger when they were filmed – the last few years, the kids (and their families) and grandkids have to come up with their own short skits and they are so funny! It was great Kent! Nan 🙂

    • wmqcolby says:

      Thanks, Nan! I had a Super 8 camera and used to experiment in special effects. They were quite surprisingly good for what they were. Now, with video, I can still do stuff without having to wait for the footage to get back from the lab! 😀

  22. Great scene. I love the dialogue and the words behind the words. Great job.

  23. Excellent dialogue– compelling and interesting, Kent. I too could picture these two walking along, having this conversation. I’m intrigued by the idea that you and Rochelle have known each other for 9 years, and worked on a story together! Wow! I’m dying to hear more… 😉

    • We’ve known each other longer than that, Dawn. And we worked on another play together before this one. Our writing office was a Mediterranean restaurant where we would spend as much as six hours over Turkish tea. Some of it we spent working on the plays. 😉

      Joe and Shifra are near and dear to my heart as well. First Nights was the springboard to my novel writing.

      There’s much more to tell.

    • wmqcolby says:

      Thanks, Dawn!

      Rochelle, do you remember how many times we closed the place? 😀

      It was a blast, really. We had no training in writing outside of what we learned in high school. But, we did have a goal which was to write something outstanding. We looked at Paddy Chayefsky’s TV plays for inspiration. The first year we produced it we had two performances. It was a shakedown cruise, essentially. Kind of something to look at and cringe, but our hearts were in the right place. The next year, though, we had the same people, some new cast members, a better revised script, better production values and three performances instead of two (one was a matinee). We nailed it. In fact, I wrote down the origin of the story itself. If you’d like to “hear more” I’ll be happy to send it to you.

      • Totally fascinating that you two share such a colorful and creative history, Kent! Someone, I assumed that everyone met here on FF, and I’m slowly putting the pieces together… of a much more meaningful back story. Thanks for sharing!

    • wmqcolby says:

      You are MOST welcome. 🙂

  24. AnnIsikArts says:

    It’s interesting to read of your collaboration (artistic) with Rochelle, Kent. This story sounds absolutely fascinating. I’ve always thought screen writing must be very taxing. Everything has to come from the dialogue. I’ve tried removing everything but the dialogue from some of my scenes (novel) to see where it’s all going wrong. The novel writer has to take the place of the director of the screen play and animate his characters.

    • wmqcolby says:

      Well, I got to tell you, Ann, the trick I have learned is to tell the story by not telling the story. Once you master that, it’s all gravy, very beneficial. No, I have only learned it, I haven’t gotten it right yet, but I’m getting there. And another thing, this flash fiction wiring is the BEST for really tightening stories, even scripts. My script writing has improved so much because of it. I recently took lessons on screenwriting from a guy who is an award-winning TV writer in Hollywood for over fifty years. He teaches the screenwriting class at UCLA and is still in the business. He pretty much said the same thing about brevity, even though there’s SO much more about screenwriting. Keep me posted on your efforts, OK?

      • AnnIsikArts says:

        My writing has improved through FF, too. When I started I didn’t think I’d be able to do it at all. And sometimes I fall flat on my literary face. Nothing is wasted though. Your screen writing lessons sound absolutely fabulous. It could have been better, it could have been me. 🙂 I’m trying to arrange to go away and write before Christmas, but don’t know how I’ll manage it. Maybe I should do a screen writing course. My dialogue writing can ONLY improve. 🙂

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