Scene Fix: Doctor Jones

The following is a scene from a script for an original television pilot script called Doctor Jones by Jenna Milly. In the story, a New York City physician named David Jones relocates to Atlanta, Georgia and takes a job in an inner city ER while searching for his brother, who has gone missing. Also working at the hospital is nurse Angela Jones, an old love of David’s that is now married.

The script opens with Dr. Jones entering a crack house in search of his brother. The brother isn’t there, but Dr. Jones gets into a conflict with Lil’ G, a violent drug dealer. The conflict ends in gunfire. Lil’ G is taken to the hospital where Dr. Jones works and Dr. Jones gets chewed out by his boss, Dr. Perez. At this point, Angela is introduced for the first time and the scene proceeds from there:

   INT. HALLWAY -- DAY

   Around the corner, SOMEONE is watching David and Dr. Perez
   talk in the hallway.

   It's an RN, ANGELA HUGHES (30's, white, pretty). She ducks
   out of sight when David turns around.

                                                    CUT TO:

   INT. MEDICAL SUPPLY CLOSET -- DAY

   Angela sneaks into a supply closet. She digs a COMPACT out of
   her purse, checks her face, composes herself. After a second,
   the door opens. It's David.

                       DAVID
             I see you.

   He's glad. She lets him sneak inside with her.

                       ANGELA
             What happened?

                       DAVID
             How do you work for that man?

   David peeks into the corridor, the coast is clear. Angela
   looks at him like she wants to hold him, but she holds back.
   David picks up her purse without asking. He rummages.

                       ANGELA
             Did you find Sammy.

                       DAVID
             No, but I found out where half the
             patients on the third floor get
             their crack.

                       ANGELA
             Did they say anything, give you any
             clues as to where he might be?

                       DAVID
             Talking to those people isn't like
             having a summit at the UN. You
             can't reason with them.

                       ANGELA
             Not if you don't try. Why don't you
             use that diplomacy you learned in
             med school?

   He gives her a look.

   She puts her hand on his face.

                       ANGELA (CONT'D)
             I'm worried about you.

   He puts his hand on hers. She pulls away, gets out her
   compact again, dusts her face to recompose. They both let the
   moment pass, but it's clear there's more between them.

                       ANGELA (CONT'D)
             When did you hear from him last?

                       DAVID
             Three weeks ago.

                       ANGELA
             It only took you three weeks to
             quit your job in New York and move
             back down here?
                 (sotto)
             And...I'd been waiting for 12
             years.

   He gives her a look at that last comment, but keeps going on
   the topic of Sammy.

                       DAVID
             Something's wrong. I can feel it.

   He finds a BOTTLE OF PILLS in her purse, POPS one.

                       ANGELA
             I thought you weren't nervous
             anymore.

   David puts the BOTTLE in his POCKET for later. He reaches for
   the door.

                       ANGELA (CONT'D)
             What are you going to do now?

                       DAVID
             Give your idea a try.

                       ANGELA
             What's that?

                       DAVID
             Diplomacy.
 
                                 
  

When reading this scene, I was struck by several things. The first is that Angela seems very inconsistent. The set-up suggests that this is the first time she has seen or had contact with David in a long time. A lot of the scene plays this way, and yet it also contains beats that indicate she knows all about why he has come to Atlanta, which suggests that she has been in touch with him after all. This is confusing. Also, the scene contains beats in which Angela expresses her irritation that David never moved to Atlanta, which suggests that she is upset with him for not wanting to be with her. At the same time, she nervously makes herself up in anticipation of seeing him again, indicating that she is not mad and in fact is eager to see him. This seems contradictory, so the primary goal of my rewrite is to make the scene much more logical and consistent.

Video best viewed in full screen mode.

Here is the rewritten scene:


    INT. HALLWAY -- DAY

    David looks towards the nurses station and sees an RN, ANGELA
    HUGHES (30's, white, pretty), organizing some charts. He
    crosses over to the station.

    NURSES STATION

    David approaches Angela, who hasn't noticed him.

                       DAVID
             Hello, Angela.

    Angela looks up -- startled. 

                       ANGELA
             David!
                 (beat)
             I'd heard you were coming to work
             here.
                 (cool)
             It only took you twelve years.

    He reaches down, takes hold of her left hand and holds it up.
    We see she's wearing a ring.

                       DAVID
             It doesn't look like you've been
             pining away.

                       ANGELA
             Did you think I was going to wait
             forever?
                 (beat)
             So, what brings you to Atlanta? 

                       DAVID
             Sammy's missing.

                       ANGELA
             Oh no! Do you have any leads?

                       DAVID
             One.

    He nods towards the end of the hallway, where a bloody Lil' G
    is being wheeled into a recovery room. 

                       DAVID (CONT'D)
             But so far he hasn't been
             particularly forthcoming.

                       ANGELA
             I see you're still your same
             diplomatic self.

    Giving her a wry look, he grabs her purse and rummages
    through it. He finds a BOTTLE OF PILLS in her purse, POPS
    one.

                       ANGELA (CONT'D)
             I thought you weren't nervous
             anymore.

                       DAVID
             Just looking to take the edge off.

    He leaves the nurses station and heads toward the recovery
    room.

                       ANGELA
             What are you going to do now?

                       DAVID
             To try a little more diplomacy.

                         

  

Obviously, this rewrite is a bit bare bones. The writer can certainly go back and revise the writing and the dialogue to give the piece more character and texture. But I think this version gives the scene a more pointed, solid, and punchy structure that provides the necessary exposition in a crisp fashion and keeps the story moving forward.

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