This week I failed.

Fail to Win

This week I failed.

On Monday, I found out that a feature-length script I wrote didn’t advance to the semifinals of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition.

When I saw I didn’t advance, I expected a sting in the place I squirrel away my sense of self worth, but it didn’t come. The next day, I expected to wake up feeling defeated, but I woke up feeling amped. None of it made sense.

I walked out to get some grocery store sushi and contemplate this lack of negative emptiness. An embarrassingly awesome pop song rolled onto my playlist and I found myself literally dancing in the street like I just won the standing long jump at my 9th grade track meet. It still made no sense.

I dug down. I riffled around in my emotions like they were inside the goddamned Tickle Trunk. I found the answer: Failure isn’t bad.

This failure, in fact, was actually disguised as a small success. It meant that, although I didn’t advance to the semifinals, I made it to the quarterfinals. Out of 3272 scripts, mine was one of 272 selected. Pretty rad, amirite? Before they announced the semifinalists, I went back and reread the feedback that was included as part of the entry fee. It was positive and validating, in spite of the fact that I didn’t advance.

In my rooting around, I also realized that failure is just one step on the long road to success. No one has ever succeeded without failing first. It takes a million gillion hours of working your ass off to make it to the point at which you can even begin failing. And if you manage to have the stick-to-it-iveness to continue failing, the succeeding is already queued up.

I guess most importantly, I realized that failing means trying. If you’re failing, you’re in play. You’re creating. You’re pushing. You’re hustling. You’re improving your craft. You’re becoming a master. I decided I’m going to heartily embrace failure, cause it means I’m on my way.

The Poppy

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EXT. GARDEN OF A FAMILY HOME – DAY

A grandfather, CLAUDE, putters about the garden, weeding and carefully tending to his flowers.

Behind him, his granddaughter, HENRIETTE, 10, dressed in bright 1970s garb, plays with a wooden airplane, dive-bombing the various plants that come into her toy’s flight path.

Claude smiles at her as she plays.

GRANDFATHER
Be careful not to trample the flowers, Henriette.

HENRIETTE
Grandpa, I know.

GRANDFATHER
When did you get so cheeky, huh?

She giggles and twirls around, swooping her plane with increased intensity.

As she spins around, her foot catches on a clump of dirt and she topples into the
closest flower bed.

Claude rushes over to help her up.

CLAUDE
What did I say about being careful,
sweetheart? Did you hurt yourself?

As he dusts her off, he sees a lone poppy lays crushed into the damp earth where she fell.

In horror, Henriette looks between the flower and Claude.

HENRIETTE
I’m sorry, Grandpa.

Claude doesn’t seem to hear her as he stares into the crumpled redness of the petals.

FLASHBACK TO:

EXT. ROAD – DAY

Two soldiers, dressed in First World War French military uniforms, speed in an open jeep towards a farmhouse in the distance.

PASCAL
Come on, hurry.

CLAUDE
Cover your face.

EXT. FARM HOUSE – CONTINUOUS

Claude and Pascal jump out of the vehicle and rush toward the house, sleeves over their mouths and noses.

They mount the porch and Pascal bangs loudly on the door. A woman’s screams can be heard coming from inside.

PASCAL
Open up, it’s the French army!

The door opens a crack, exposing the eye of a OLDER WOMAN, 60, who x-rays the two with her gaze.

CLAUDE
Ma’am, we must evacuate you.
A poison gas bomb has been released
less than a kilometer from here.

PASCAL
Get your things. You must leave now.

OLDER WOMAN
We can’t leave.

More screams.

CLAUDE
What is going on in here?

Claude pushes the door open, revealing a YOUNG WOMAN laying on a couch in full labor.

She screams again as a contraction takes over her body.

PASCAL
At the very least, get in the basement
and cover your faces with damp cloths.
Come on, Claude, we have to continue
the evacuation.

CLAUDE
We can’t just leave them like this!

PASCAL
We don’t have a choice, man, come on!

Pascal turns to exit, but Claude is frozen to the floor. The young woman stares at him in blood-soaked terror.

CLAUDE
I’m staying here. They need help.

PASCAL
How can you possibly help them?
The cloud is coming. There is no
stopping it, no matter how many
soldiers are standing in the way!

CLAUDE
You go on ahead. I’ll
meet you at the base tomorrow.

PASCAL
Don’t do this! You need to get out of here.

CLAUDE
I will be fine. Go!

Pascal claps Claude on the shoulder before running out the door.

CLAUDE (CONT’D)
We need to get you both
into the basement.

OLDER WOMAN
This way.

The older woman and Claude carry the young woman toward the basement door.

INT. BASEMENT – LATER

The older woman crouches in front of the young woman as she pushes and screams. Claude holds the young woman’s hand.

OLDER WOMAN
Push, Celeste. Push!

CLAUDE
(whispers)
You’re going to be OK. You’re both
going to be OK. It’s all going to be OK.

Claude looks up to a tiny window at the top of the basement wall. Darkness has fallen.

INT. BASEMENT – MORNING

Celeste caresses her sleeping newborn baby, exhausted and sweaty. She looks up to smile at Claude, who smiles back. The older woman has fallen asleep in a chair in the corner.

CLAUDE
I’m going to go check the air.

Claude places a damp cloth over his face, opens the basement door cautiously and heads upstairs.

EXT. FARM HOUSE – CONTINUOUS

Claude exits the front door with the cloth over his face.

It’s a glorious morning, the sun is shining brightly and the air is completely clear.
Slowly, Claude lowers the cloth from his face to take a quick sniff of the air. He takes a deep breath, detecting no gas, and exhales as if the air has breathed new life into him.

Looking down, Claude sees a single poppy growing next to where he stands. He bends down, plucks it and heads back into the house.

INT. BASEMENT – CONTINUOUS

Claude returns. The older woman stirs and wakes as he enters. Celeste coos to her new child.

CLAUDE
Excuse me, ladies, but I have to be going.

They both look up at him with gratitude on their faces.

CELESTE
Thank you for your help.

CLAUDE
I didn’t do anything. You’re
the ones who did all the hard work.

The young woman giggles and the old woman beams at him.

CLAUDE (CONT’D)
I should be the one to thank you.
You reminded me that beauty exists
in these ugly times. This is all I have
to repay you.

Claude hands Celeste the poppy. She takes it from him and smiles. She brushes the soft petals against her baby’s cheek.

CELESTE
What is your name?

CLAUDE
Claude.

YOUNG WOMAN
Then I will name her Claudette.

Claude smiles and exits the basement.

BACK TO PRESENT:

EXT. GARDEN – DAY

HENRIETTE (O.S.)
Grandpa.

Claude looks up from the flower into the puzzled face of his granddaughter.

HENRIETTE (CONT’D)
Are you OK, Grandpa?

CLAUDE
Yes, darling. I’m fine.

Claude grabs his granddaughter, pulling her in for a hug.

HENRIETTE
I’m sorry I ruined your flower, Grandpa.

CLAUDE
It’s OK, honey. Why don’t
we plant some more together?

Henriette squeezes him back as he gives her a kiss on the top of the head and they stroll off together toward the house.

THE END

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182. Taking Thanks

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177. Up the Wazoo

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176. Girls Weekend

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175. Slow Motion

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171. Bitter Sweet

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170. Dog Gone

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165. Johnny Asshole

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