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Quality 3-Page Treatment 2 - In the Line of Fire

I'm not very good at bowling. I never have been. When I was younger, I didn't even know how to throw the ball. I'd use two hands and rock it between my legs, like throwing a basketball granny style. I got good enough with it that I could pretty consistently score in the 90s.

Then, when I learned the proper way to throw a bowling ball, my scores dropped even lower, because I was so unfamiliar with how to do it. It felt like I was going backwards, but once I got used to it, I was able to consistently score over 100. Not a huge jump, but a jump nonetheless.

(Full disclosure, I haven't been bowling in years now, and would probably be lucky to get a 70). 

With this treatment - and the Quantity one, but especially with this one - I feel like I'm learning how to do things properly, and it's hurting my game for the moment. I switched up my normal style two, two and a half times while writing this treatment, and it definitely suffered for it. 

But at the same time, there's some real quality here. I know it could benefit a lot from another month working on it. But that's an improvement - some of my treatments could get more polished, sure, but not a lot better on a basic level. And I don't mean that this one is, you know, worse than those, I mean it's on a similar level now, and has more potential.

I imagine I'll write up a post on how I've been changing things up soon, but for now, just keep that in mind as you read this, I guess.

The original logline:
After shooting and killing her own son in the line of duty, a Chicago beat cop has to decide whether she was doing the right thing - and that her son was a dangerous criminal - or that her son wasn't doing anything wrong - and that she herself was.

(Also yeah I swapped the gender.)


In the Line of Fire


Sarah Loud, a Chicago beat cop, is good at her job, but bad at the politics that will let her advance. She’s bad at most interpersonal relationships, really. Her marriage broke up years ago, she never sees her kids - even though her son lives about a mile away - and the only real friend she has is her partner, Russell.

Sarah and Russell are sent to respond to an elderly woman’s complaint about some scary kids outside the convenience store she’s at. They both roll their eyes, but they head over as fast as they can. When they get their, they can see the hooligans - two groups of gangbangers staring each other down.

One of them, his face shrouded in a hoodie, pulls a gun out from his waistband. Sarah draws her own gun and shouts at the kid to drop the weapon. The kid turns and points the gun at Russell. Sarah shoots. Everyone scatters, and Sarah runs over to the kid and bursts out crying.

It’s her son. Michael. She got him in the head. He was dead before he hit the ground.

The next ten hours or so are a blur of paperwork and awful phone calls. She calls her ex-husband, Luke, to tell him what happened. He freaks out, naturally, and screams at her. She takes it all, agreeing with him. The only thing she doesn’t agree with is when he tells her that she can’t be the one to tell their daughter, Rebekah. But Sarah insists - it’s her fault, and she needs to accept that. Luke accepts that.

Russell makes sure that Sarah really wants to be the one to make the call. She says yes, the only problem is she knows she'll sound upset, and she doesn’t want Rebekah to know she's upset, because she’ll try to fix it.

Sure enough, when Sarah calls, she almost cries, and Rebekah can tell. Rebekah tells her she’s coming to Chicago immediately to be with her. She tries to beg her off, and Russell saves her by saying that she’s going to be staying with him for the time being. Rebekah tells her she already bought a plane ticket that leaves in tonight, so she’ll be there if Sarah needs her.

Russell tells her he is willing to let her stay with him, if she needs it, and she thanks him but tells him no.

She goes to discuss things with Chief Hoxton. Hoxton’s known Sarah for years, now, and he tells her that he’s got her back. That said, not everyone is on Sarah’s side. The story hasn’t even broken to the press yet, and the commissioner is already asking Hoxton about firing Sarah. Not saying he plans to, mind, but testing the waters. The commissioner is new and a coward, terrified of negative press.

Sarah begs to keep her job, and Hoxton promises her that he will do everything she can. For now, though, Hoxton is putting her on leave, and warns her against talking to the press. Like, at all. The commissioner is afraid of how they’ll spin it, and wants to leave this in the hands of his press team. Sarah’s okay with staying quiet. She has no interest in talking about anything.

As Sarah leaves, Hoxton warns that it’s mandatory she go to counseling before too long. Sarah asks if there’s any way she can avoid it, and Hoxton says probably not, but he’ll do what he can.

Sarah has barely left the station when she gets a call from her brother, Sam. Sam’s a reporter, and she wants to cover this story. Sarah pleads no, but Sam insists that this story will break, and that nobody will cover it as well - and as kindly - as him. Sarah tells him that if she could have her way, there wouldn’t be any story, but Sam tells her it’s going to happen, and she'll thank him for it later, and when would be a good time for them to talk? Sarah hangs up on him.

Sarah gets home and goes to bed, but she doesn’t sleep. She tries, but before too long, she's rolled out of bed, into the corner of the room. She lays there and cries.

The next day isn’t much better. Sarah goes to make funeral arrangements with Luke, but he refuses to even look at her, much less talk to her. Eventually she's forced to just leave everything to him. Later, Rebekah arrives, and she’s trying to be caring, but all Sarah wants is to be left alone. She only manages to get rid of her by asking her to make sure her rabbi speaks at the funeral.

It’s Sam’s arrival that really screws with her. Sam comes to be with her, and promises not to pry, but he keeps asking questions. Sarah knows the questions are all interview questions, and that Sam is trying to write a piece, and refuses to answer any of them. She only opens up to Sam when Sam takes a hidden recorder out of his pocket, turns it off, and swears to her that he’s a brother now, not a reporter.

Sarah explains, stone-faced, about how she's trying not to blame herself - she did the right thing. Someone was pointing a gun at her partner. She made the right decision. Sam doesn’t believe her; she really doesn’t think it’s her fault? The more Sam pries, the more solidly Sarah seems to believe it - and at the same time, the more obviously she's just trying to convince herself.

That night, she can’t sleep. She rolls into the corner and cries.

She’s woken up by Russell at her doorstep. He shows her the editorial that Sam wrote about her last night.

There’s nothing damning, or accusatory, or even mean in it, but it is all extremely personal, and Sarah is alternately broken and furious. She calls Sam to swear at him, and Sam insists that she'll thank him later, then hangs up to give her time. Luke calls up to ask her not to come to the funeral, Rebekah officially comes to stay with her because she thinks she needs it, and the Hoxton calls, chastises her for not laying low, and tells her the commissioner is extending her leave, pending a full review.

Sarah wakes up in the middle of the night, sobbing again. She rolls into the corner of the room, sits, and weeps.

This time, though, she doesn’t cry alone. Rebekah hears her crying, comes into the room, and curls up with her, also crying. That makes Sarah cry more, even as she tries not to cry in front of her daughter. They both cry until they can’t anymore. Rebekah falls asleep, and Sarah carries her back to her room.

She lies awake in her own bed for a while. Eventually, she falls asleep.

Sarah goes to the funeral and hides in the back. After the rabbi recites some Psalms, Sarah gets on stage to speak. Kelly freaks out and tries to stop her, but Rebekah calms her down.

When she gets to the stage, she's petrified. She gapes for a while at her family, then at the audience, then at her dead son’s casket. Tears run down her face, but her voice is clear and strong.

She says that she wishes she was dead, but she's not; her son is, instead. She says that she's retiring from police work; the police do good work, but it’s not her place anymore. She’s going to look into charity work. She’s heard of one charity that reaches out to gangs and gangbangers and tries to show them a better way of life; maybe she'll do something like that.

She says she understands if everybody blames her. She blames herself. Even if pulling the trigger was the right choice - and she's not saying it was, but if it was - she's still the reason her son was in that situation in the first place. If she'd been a better father - a better husband - a better person…

She walks off the stage, out of the building, and away. But before she can drive off, she's chased by Rebekah, by Kelly, and by Sam.

Rebekah tells her she loves her, and Sam tells her she's a brave woman.Luke tells her that he doesn’t blame her. He wants to, and he thinks everyone else should, but he doesn’t. He can’t. He knows that everything she said of herself is true of him, too. He needs to know if she can forgive him.

They all break down crying together.