10-Page Treatment 5 - The White Wind

I really like how this one turned out. Like, it might be my favorite 10-page so far. It might not be, but it might be.

I had a lot of fun just reading about Inuit culture, for one thing, not that a whole lot of it made it into the story; I was afraid of getting too... gimmicky, I guess. Basically, I didn't want to half-ass a representation of Inuit culture, so I went with just setting the story in a vaguely Inuit-esque setting, sort of like how Kung Fu Panda is just in a China-esque setting. I don't know if it worked, but that was the goal.

The one thing that I'm not crazy about in this treatment is the pregnancy aspect. It feels pretty tacked-on, but I also like it too much to just cut it. I don't know. I would certainly elaborate on it in a full screenplay, but for this treatment, it doesn't contribute enough, and I probably should've cut it. Oh well.

A link to the original 3-page treatment.

And the original logline:
When an Inuit shaman's village starts starving to death, she goes on a spiritual quest to discover the source of their misfortune, and to reverse it.

The White Wind

Opik is an Inuit woman who lives in a small village in the middle of nowhere - but then, every village is in the middle of nowhere. They rarely have any interaction with anyone else, but that’s not unusual. Mostly life is quiet and boring, and that’s good - things are only exciting when they’re dangerous.

The primary bit of excitement in Opik’s life is the fact that she’s pregnant with her first child. She and her husband, Amaruq, have been married for almost five years, and were beginning to think she was barren. Her unborn child has brought a new hope into her life as well as her husband’s… which is good, because there’s one more bit of excitement in their lives.

The village is slowly starving to death. Every time the hunters go out, they have to range further and hunt for longer in order to get less food. They’ve had dry spells before, but nothing this bad that kept up for this long. If it keeps up, they’re just going to have to leave. It’s dangerous out in the wild white, but they might not have an option.

Amaruq returns home from a hunt that intended to go further than ever before, trying to scout out new potential hunting grounds. They found nothing, barely even enough food for a week. Amaruq is optimistic about trying again in a different direction, but he’s the only one. The entire village is in despair.

The night after that, Opik’s brother, Qajak, visits with her and Amaruq. He tells them that this famine cannot possibly be natural; somebody in the village must have angered the spirits, and they need to find out who. Opik resists the idea, but Amaruq agrees. There’s only one problem: they have no shaman. Their last shaman died years ago, and the spirits haven’t spoken to anyone since.

Qajak tells him that’s not true. Opik refuses, telling him no, the spirits have spoken to no one. But he reveals that Opik has always had a connection to the spirits, and that she’s the only one who could save them.

Amaruq asks her why she hid this from him, and she tells him it’s not all pleasant. There are frightening spirits, and you can’t open yourself up to just the good ones. She reminds them both that she’s pregnant, and that opening herself up to the spirits could hurt her child. She will not squander the gift she has been given.

Opik tells her that refusing to listen to the spirits is squandering her gift. And besides, he’s pretty certain her starving to death will harm the child more. She knows, and she admits it; she needs to talk to the spirits. But she’s scared, and she doesn’t know how.

The three of them go to visit Sauri, the son of the late shaman, to ask for advice. He’s overjoyed to hear that they have a new shaman, and tells Opik that his father would go out alone into the wilderness, and just sit and wait. It’s as simple as that.

So they wander out a full day’s journey from the village, and construct Opik a small shelter. They give her a spear and a knife, then leave her alone to wait for the spirits to talk to her.

She waits, and allows herself very little food - as much out of necessity as asceticism. Time crawls along slowly. Nothing seems to be happening. She gets up and walks around outside. The sun starts to set. She goes back in her shelter to sleep.

As she drifts between waking and sleeping, she suddenly finds herself in between worlds. Sitting across from her is a frightening spirit, full of teeth and eyes. Opik is petrified. The spirit asks if Opik knows who she is. Opik nods. She’s Kigatilik - a vicious spirit known for tormenting shamans. And probably the cause of their village shaman’s death.

Kigatilik laughs with glee at her legacy, pleased that she’s recognized. She tells Opik that she’s glad that she’s scared, but there’s nothing for her to be scared of. She only hates shamans, and Opik is no shaman - yet. If she turns back from this path now, no harm will come to her. Well, not from Kigatilik. Otherwise…

But there is another option. She is already dead, as is her village; they just don’t know it yet. There is no food. There will be no food. They’ve angered the spirits too much. But Kigatilik is capable of saving them. All it would cost is Opik’s unborn child.

Kigatilik scowls at something unseen, and warns Opik to consider her offer, then flees. Opik is snapped back to the real world, and is startled to see a massive polar bear snarling just outside her shelter.

She tries to stay calm, and slowly reaches for her spear, but the bear notices. It pokes its head inside the shelter, stops snarling, and speaks. It tells her not to worry, for there is no danger anymore; he has chased Kigatilik away, and will be able to keep her at bay.

He introduces himself as Nanuk, and tells her that he is here to help her. She asks him why her village is starving, but he doesn’t know. He tells her, though, that he will do everything he can to help her find out, and for now, they should return to the village.

When they get back, things are far worse than when they left. The village is completely out of food. That’s not the really weird thing, though; the weird thing is that everyone in the village has some sort of animal following them. Some of them have birds, some of them rabbits, a couple of them wolves, and one or two have muskoxen. Opik is confused by this, but especially confused by how none of the villages seem to notice the animals.

Nanuk tells Opik that these are the villagers’ personal spirits; they’re invisible to the unopened eye, much like himself. Opik watches the spirits, and notices how they all see and fear Nanuk. Moreover, she notices that a little of that fear transfers over to the villagers, towards her; everyone eyes her warily, and gives her a wide berth.

Opik returns home to find out what happened to all of the food. When she finds Amaruq and his spirit - a duck - Amaruq is overjoyed to see her - but his duck is terrified of Nanuk. Amaruq runs to his wife, but there’s something strange about her that holds him back, just a little.

Amaruq tells Opik that he was scared something had happened to her, but given her fears of the spirit world, he was more scared to go check on her and accidentally interrupt something. Nanuk tells Opik that was a wise fear. Opik is confused, though; how long was she gone?

Three weeks, Amaruq tells her. And in that time, things have gotten bad. The food stores got low enough that it’s every man for himself, now; everyone is hording the little food they have in their homes, and even still, nobody has enough to last the week. They have three teams of hunters, two of which are just constantly out hunting at any time, and still they come back with less food each time.

He asks Opik if she knows what the problem is, and she tells him no, but she has the tools available to find out. On that note, though, she really needs to spend some time conversing with the spirits. He understands, and leaves to go update Qajak.

She asks Nanuk about the personal spirits; is he her personal spirit? He tells her that he is now. But what does that mean? He wasn’t always? Nanuk tells her that while he understands this line of questioning, it’s not immediately beneficial, and she should save it for later. She agrees.

Next, she asks him about the personal spirits. Why are they all scared of him? He tells her that he is powerful and feared among the spirits; this is why he’s able to keep Kigatilik at bay. She asks him why everyone seemed scared of her, including her husband, and he tells her that’s the nature of a person’s relationship to their spirit; their spirits fear him, and so because he is her personal spirit, the villagers fear her.

And it corresponds to more than just fear. If Nanuk were to comfort a spirit, that person would appreciate Opik. If he were to anger that spirit, that person would be angry at Opik.

She confirms that he doesn’t know anything about why the village is starving, and then says she has an idea.

She gets her brother and husband to help her set up a new shelter in the middle of the village. She tells the villagers that she’ll be questioning each of them, one at a time, until she finds out who angered the spirits and left the village starving.

And so, one at a time, she invites villagers into her shelter. Once inside, Nanuk intimidates the villager’s personal spirit, which cows the villager, and leaves them willing to answer Opik’s questions. She asks them if they’ve knowing violated any taboos - they haven’t - and then starts prying to find out what taboos they may have unknowingly violated.

As she questions them, she questions their spirits as well. The spirits are usually quicker to answer, and occasionally help her trap the villagers in lies. It’s rarely anything important or noteworthy though; usually it’s just something embarrassing they were trying to hide.

Sometimes, as night falls, Opik sees Kigatilik wandering around the perimeter of the village. Nanuk always scares her off, but each time it takes a little more roaring, and her persistent presences unnerves Opik.

After the third time, when Nanuk has to actually chase Kigatilik away, Opik sits down in her shelter in the middle of the village, and interrogates Nanuk. She asks him what he meant before, when he said that he’s her personal spirit “now.” What does the “now” mean? He wasn’t always? He tells her that’s correct.

Well then who was? He doesn’t know. All he knows is that she didn’t have one when he arrived. For all he knows, Kigatilik killed hers right before he arrived.

That freaks her out. You can do that? You can kill someone’s personal spirit? What happens to the person? Nanuk gets grave. Nothing good happens. The person will slowly unravel. Personal spirits are a stabilizing force; you’re like two rocks tied together. Because there are two of you, it takes twice as much force to affect either of you, and unless it’s operating on both the physical and the spiritual planes, its effect is diminished even further. This is why their interrogations are going so well; with Opik interrogating the physical, and Nanuk interrogating the spiritual, they’re pushing both halves of everyone in the same direction, so they’re both having an easier time of it.

It’s possible to live a normal life without a personal spirit, but you’ll be moody, flighty, easily affected by things both good and bad. Eventually, something will come along that pushes you too hard, and without a partner, you can’t really get back.

Opik says she wasn’t any of those things, so she clearly wasn’t without a personal spirit for long. She thanks Nanuk for becoming her personal spirit before that happened to her. He makes sure she knows that theirs is a special case; shamans are more open to the spirits, and he’s a powerful spirit besides; normally, if you lose your spirit - or if a spirit loses their person - they’re gone for good.

Nanuk, after he’s answered all of Opik’s questions, asks her a question of his own: why is she interrogating her people, instead of going out and finding the animals? Opik explains to him that she’s trying to figure out which taboo the village broke that would anger the animals so much that they’d stay away. Opik assumes he should’ve known that, though, right? Nanuk tells her she didn’t understand his question; she’s a shaman now. Why isn’t she searching for an animal, to ask it why it’s staying away from them?

His question hits her like a bolt of lightning. The only fear is that it may be too late; maybe all the spirits are too far gone by now.

She doesn’t hesitate; she gathers the supplies she’ll need for a long journey. Amaruq tries to get her to wait until morning, but Nanuk assures her he can guide her even through the night. She visits with the hunters to try to get an idea of where she should go, but they don’t know what to tell her; they didn’t see anything the last time they went out.

She picks a direction and goes.

She finds the occasional plant she can eat to survive, but no sign of any animal - or even any spirits.

She’s gone for too long. She’s starving as she returns home, and she’s still doing better than most of the village.

Everyone is freaking out when she comes back. Even more than they should be, which is a lot. Everyone cowers just at the sight of her. Amaruq won’t even embrace her; he keeps her at a distance.

Nanuk shakes his head, and ponders whether the village might truly be dead. But Opik notices something he doesn’t - Amaruq’s personal spirit is wounded. It’s been clawed and bitten, and the marks look like they came from Kigatilik.

When she points it out, Nanuk howls in fury, and charges off away from the village. It’s all Opik can do to keep up with him. She spies Kigatilik in the distance at about the same time that Kigatilik sees Nanuk. Kigatilik flees up a tree, and Nanuk lets her; he could fell the tree easily if he wanted to.

Kigatilik doesn’t seem to understand the danger she’s in, though - either that, or she doesn’t care. She laughs and taunts Opik and Nanuk. She points out how they abandoned their duty of protecting the town - but that they had no choice, because if they hadn’t, they’d have let the village starve, which still would’ve been abandoning them. They have no choice but to let the village die now. If only Opik had taken her up on her offer, she could’ve saved everyone. Kigatilik wouldn’t have wanted to, but she could’ve been convinced.

Opik wants to know how. How could Kigatilik save the village? Does she know what was wrong? Kigatilik laughs and laughs, mocking Opik for still having no idea. Is she really so blind? What could possibly have made all of the animals leave in such a way that a shaman wouldn’t know how to bring them back?

She did it. It took a lot of work, and she took her share of blows, but Kigatilik managed to scare away every last creature and spirit, and make them stay away.

It was easy once she got started. Once she’d scared away all the little critters, the big ones didn’t have much reason to stay; they’d starve if they did, anyway. They still wanted to stick around, obviously. They benefit from being killed by the village and turned into tools, just as the village benefits from killing them. But Kigatilik scared them all off, or killed them if she couldn’t.

Opik demands to know why. Why target them? Why would she seek to destroy their village? Kigatilik assures her it’s a very simple answer, but says she will only tell if Opik and Nanuk swear not to harm her until the next sunrise. Opik does, and she convinces Nanuk to do so as well.

Kigatilik laughs. It’s because of her. Because of Opik. Because Kigatilik hates her. And because it was the only way for her to kill her.

Opik asks Kigatilik why she targeted her? She wasn’t even a shaman when Kigatilik started. She wouldn’t have become one if Kigatilik hadn’t started. Why not target any other shaman out there?

Kigatilik refuses to answer, telling Opik that there’s nothing else she has that she wants. She climbs down the tree, and proceeds to attack Nanuk. As a spirit, Nanuk is bound by his agreement not to harm her, and she savages him viciously. Opik tries to fight her, but Nanuk stops her - if Opik violates her oath, it would give Kigatilik too much power over her. She’s forced to simply watch as Kigatilik kills Nanuk.

Kigatilik taunts Opik with her failures. She couldn’t figure out why they were starving in time. She couldn’t protect the village from Kigatilik’s attacks. And now she couldn’t even save Nanuk. She’s a failure as a shaman.

Opik collapses into tears, clinging to Nanuk’s fading essence. Kigatilik laughs and laughs. But then, Nanuk’s essence flows into Opik, and she sprouts a bunch of spiritual polar bear fur.

Kigatilik is outraged. She wails and yells and gnashes her teeth, crying that Nanuk does not belong to her, and he cannot give himself to her like that. She howls and runs away, promising destruction for Opik and her village as she goes.

Opik return to the village distraught. Everyone is curious about her, what she was doing - their spirits picked up on the importance of what was happening, even if they didn’t know the specifics. Moreover, as soon as they catch sight of her and her new fur coat, the spirits are clearly awed by her, and she commands a level of respect among the village that she didn’t have before.

She tells everyone that the animals are gone - they’re gone, and they’re not coming back. The village panics. What are they supposed to do? They’re going to starve to death! Everyone blames everyone else for imagined taboos and made-up infractions. Everyone else blames Opik - she was their shaman, she was supposed to bring the animals back!

Opik doesn’t defend herself or anyone else. She tells them all that it’s pointless to figure out the blame; they’re in the situation they’re in now, and if they don’t work together - and leave together - they’ll all die.

The spirits, still awed by her, listen, and that carries over to the villagers. They begin packing everything up; as soon as the current group of hunters return, they leave.

The villagers are restless, but the spirits moreso. While they see that Opik inherited some of his power, they know that Nanuk is dead, and can deduce that Kigatilik killed him. They can hear Kigatilik’s increasingly frequent howls in the distance, so they know she isn’t dead - and that she’s pissed. What are they going to do when she comes back? Opik assures them that she can protect them, but she’s not half as certain as she sounds.

It gets worse as night falls. The spirits are terrified, and won’t let any of the villagers sleep. Amaruq confesses his fear to Opik; he tells her that he trusts her, but also doesn’t, and says he doesn’t understand what’s happening. More than anything, though, he’s afraid for their child.

Opik realizes that she has to end this, once and for all. If she can’t stop Kigatilik, Kigatilik will certainly kill them all - perhaps indirectly, but she’ll do it all the same.

Opik tells everyone that she’s leaving to stop the angry spirit, and that they shouldn’t wait for her if she doesn’t come back. If she’s not back by daybreak, they need to go, and fast. Amaruq tries to stop her, fearing that he pushed her away, but she assures him that this is the only way for them to survive. She thanks him for supporting her, and thanks Qajak for helping her to attune herself to a part of herself that she’d neglected all her life. Then she leaves.

It doesn’t take her long to find Kigatilik - or rather, for her to be found by Kigatilik. The spirit tackles her from behind, savaging her, but the polar bear hide that’s grown from her back protects her from the worst of it. She lands a couple blows, knocking Kigatilik off of her, and the two of them square off.

Kigatilik hisses and spits at her. She tells Opik that she’s worse than vermin, and useless. She promises not only Opik’s death, but the death of her entire village. Kigatilik will make sure everybody knows that Opik has failed them. She promises Opik that she cannot possible win this fight.

Opik knows. She agrees. She can’t possibly win. That’s why she doesn’t intend to fight her at all.

Kigatilik is confused, and angry about it. What does that mean? She’s just going to stand there and die? So be it.

But Opik stops her. She tells Kigatilik that she knows what happened to her personal spirit.

It’s Kigatilik. It’s her. She’s Opik’s spirit.

That’s why she was there when Opik first opened herself up to the spirits. That’s why Nanuk thought she didn’t have one, after scaring her off. And more importantly, that’s why Kigatilik hates her. Because Opik hated her first.

Opik breaks down into tears. She apologizes for everything. She closed herself off to Kigatilik her entire life. She knows now that the signs she saw was Kigatilik. Even the things that scared her, were Kigatilik, after getting angry about being rejected and ignored. Everything Kigatilik has ever done has been to get Opik to accept her, and everything Opik has ever done has been to reject and replace her.

Even when Kigatilik went to extreme lengths to force Opik to accept her - to force Opik to need her in order to survive - that’s right when Nanuk found her, and stepped in to replace Kigatilik. It must have been awful for Kigatilik, to see Opik finally open up to the spirits, and take a new personal spirit after rejecting her. Even in death, Nanuk has become a part of her, while Kigatilik remains separate and other.

Opik begs Kigatilik’s forgiveness, and asks her to please accept her again. She promises her that they can be together now, like they were supposed to be.

But Kigatilik offers no forgiveness, and no acceptance. She has suffered like no other spirit, and so Opik shall suffer like no other human. Opik tries to convince her that that’s not necessary - it’s not too late for them to be reunited. But Kigatilik swears to her that it’s far past too late, and that Opik will die here.

Kigatilik tackles Opik, and they break into a vicious fight. Opik’s attacks are mostly defensive, but she fights back all the same. Both of them howl in pain and cry in anguish.

Finally, Kigatilik pins Opik to the ground, a massive clawed hand at her throat, while Opik reaches up and grasps Kigatilik’s neck. They’re strangling each other, both of them drifting closer to unconsciousness. Kigatilik is about to claw at Opik’s pregnant belly, when suddenly Opik’s polar bear fur shines. A golden light travels down her arms and emerges from her fingers as glowing spiritual claws.

Opik stabs the claws into Kigatilik’s belly, ripping straight through her. Kigatilik weeps as she dies.

Opik unleashes a massive roar of pain and sorrow and anger. Every creature and every spirit within a thousand miles hears it - including all of the animals. They howl back to her.

Opik returns to her people, physically wounded, but spiritually triumphant. Everyone is awake, alert, and somehow calm. The spirits whisper among each other about Kigatilik’s death, and Opik confirms it. She assures them that they’re safe now. And not only that, but the animals know it as well, and will be returning.

Opik leads her people home.