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.
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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.