So I entered NYCMidnight’s Screenplay Writing Contest, because I am a fool, and in the first round my group received the following assignment: Drama, Courage, A Dishwasher.
Ooookay. Here’s what I entered. Results of the first round came back this week and I was one of the 5 in my group that’s moving to round 2, so it can’t have been too bad.
EXT. DINER – DUSK
The sun is setting on a small, quaint diner on the corner of a city intersection. The sign says “The Diner on 3rd.” We move in as two young waitresses walk out, still gathering their things as they go.
–am not going out with you. I’ve
been here since 6 in the frickin’
morning! If someone slipped me a
roofie tonight I’d take it just to
get some sleep.
(taking her arm)
We will indeed go out and terrorize
this town with our hotness and if
need be I will pour shots down your
throat like a baby bird because I
am your friend and I love you.
They pass us. An older man wearing an apron, JACK, steps into the doorway to watch them get to their cars.
Don’t listen to her and her evil
ways! I need you back here
Jack smiles, shakes his head and FLIPS the OPEN sign to read CLOSED as he steps back inside.
INT. DINER – NIGHT
The diner was clearly designed by someone who loved the 50s, possibly in a kind of stalky, obsessive way. Jack goes behind the counter and does cash register things. A Japanese-American teenager, IZZIE, is sweeping the floor. Izzie is a surburban kid trying to look street and nearly succeeding. He has a fading bruise on one cheek. Somewhere, CLASSICAL MUSIC is playing softly.
Hey, Iz. Good night tonight
Izzie nods, keeps sweeping.
You’ve been doing a hell of a job
since you started here, and I
Izzie nods, keeps sweeping.
You know if you ever need anything,
you can ask me, right?
Izzie nods, keeps sweeping.
Say, I hear they discovered water
on whichever planet you’re circling
at the moment.
Izzie nods, keeps sweeping. Jack grins and zips up a BANK BAG, closes the register. He turns, leans into the large window looking into the kitchen, and yells.
You got this, Benny? I’m gonna do
I got it! Sorry I was late today.
Hey, first time for everything.
Jack grabs his stuff and leaves, squeezing Izzie’s shoulder on the way past. We stay on Izzie as we hear the door CLOSE and LATCH. Izzie looks up and WATCHES, intently, until we hear a car drive off.
INT. DINER’S KITCHEN – NIGHT
The kitchen is spotless, gleaming. A middle-aged man, BENNY, is WASHING DISHES in the huge sink. His sleeves are rolled up and he has a bowtie on under his apron. There’s a lot of history in his face, but he looks like a nice old guy. There’s a hint of Jersey that comes out in his voice sometimes. The music is coming from a RADIO on a shelf. There are a few more stacks of dishes waiting, and a large drying rack nearby, half-full.
Izzie comes in, without the broom but carrying a BACKPACK, and leans against a counter across the room.
(without looking around)
Hey, Izzie. You know what song this
Me neither. I don’t know the names
of any of this crap, Brahms-toven,
Mo-chairsky, whatever, but I like
it. It’s soothing.
Izzie just watches him.
What’s up? You need help with
There’s a pause just long enough to be uncomfortable. Then:
I want to learn from you.
This ain’t rocket science, kid. You
want my secrets? Put some baking
soda in the water to cut the
grease, and sometimes you got to
use your thumbnail to get the stuck
stuff. There, now you can buy a
sponge, go into business for
CLOSE ON: Benny’s hands. He’s wiping down a LARGE KNIFE.
I want you to teach me how to kill
Benny’s hands stop moving. He just holds the knife. Then he carefully dries it and sets it aside.
ANGLE ON: Both men, but we can clearly see Benny’s face and he looks honestly confused.
I know what you do. What you used
to do, I mean. I want to learn.
Kid, I wash dishes in a two-bit
diner in Florida. What am I
supposed to teach you, how to kill
a guy with a lunch special?
I Googled you. I had this homework
assignment on organized crime,
right? There was this picture of a
bunch of made guys from the 80s and
I thought, no fucking way, but I
started checking you out and turns
out you ain’t got no past, Mr.
He reaches into his pack and pulls out a handful of papers and newspaper clippings.
But your life picks up right when
Nickolas “Bullet” Brancato’s stops.
Looks just like you, man. Although
you sure don’t look like no killer.
Izzie HOLDS out the papers; Benny makes no move to take them.
You Googled me?
I Googled you. And if you don’t
teach me, I’ll tell everybody, the
Feds, the whole world.
Benny, a tired old man, shakes his head and goes back to washing dishes. Izzie comes over to stand next to him, dropping his PAPERS on the counter away from them.
Since you and Mr. Google seem to
have gone cuckoo, lemme ask you
this. Why do you want to be a
I’m in this group…
Just a buncha guys, we hang out.
You’re in a gang, I got it. That
where you got hit?
It’s not a gang!
It got a name?
Yeah, we’re the–
Then it’s a gang. Here, learn how
to do something useful.
Benny hands Izzie a BOWL to dry. Izzie takes it, reacts (it’s hot!), then grabs a towel and starts awkwardly rubbing the bowl. Benny continues washing, adding dishes to the water as needed.
Whatever. The point is… I’m at
the bottom. I’m the one got to run
around, get the food, run the
errands, pay for shit. None of them
are tougher than me, but there I
And they’ll respect you if you can
Hell yeah. Wouldn’t you?
No. Fear, maybe. Not respect.
I’ll take fear. Fear means you
don’t get sent for pizza.
Well, that’s certainly enough
reason to murder complete strangers
in cold blood. What’s “Izzie” stand
(taken aback, maybe a little
Isamu. Means “courageous.”
Courageous. You want courageous.
Isamu, there is nothing more
cowardly than a hitman.
Stop shittin’ me, old man. You
kill, you got it all, don’t take
shit from nobody. Anybody bother
(blows someone away with a
pretend gun held sideways,
BLAM! That’s it, lights out,
straighten your tie and go back to
banging supermodels on a pile of
That how it works in the video
That’s how it works in the real,
man. Assassins are cool. You don’t
Thought I was one?
(stops rubbing the bowl)
Benny takes the bowl from him, holds it up. Water DRIPS out of the bowl Izzie’s been drying all this time. Benny gives him a disgusted look and goes back to washing, but not as quickly now.
I knew a hitman once. Back up
north. He was good. I mean, scary
Usually you’re a boss, you just get
some interchangeable hired goons
and you use them up and go get
more. There’s always another damn
fool idiot thinks shooting people
The dig goes right over Izzie’s head. He’s in heaven; this is what he came for.
But sometimes you needed someone
taken out that was protected, or
hard to get to, or too tough for
your regular guys. Or maybe you
just wanted to send a message. Then
you’d call this guy. He might take
the job, he might not. But if he
did, your problem was gone.
Sometimes everyone in your
problem’s apartment building was
(spinning around, delighted)
That’s what I’m talking about! And
he loved it!
No, he didn’t.
Come on, he had to–
Benny looks at Izzie.
He didn’t love anything. Or hate
anything. Or anyone. Ever. You had
more emotional investment in
picking out socks this morning than
he ever had shooting someone. Men,
women, children, babies, puppies,
didn’t matter. He got hired once to
kill the woman he was dating at the
time and he didn’t blink an eye.
Benny goes back to scrubbing.
When you start out killing people,
you tell yourself that they deserve
it somehow, or maybe they’re not
really as human as you. Soldiers do
that with the enemy, call them
“Charlie” or “ragheads” or whatever
they need to so they don’t have to
think about shooting at people.
(looks at Izzie)
I guess you’d be a gook.
Whatever, man. Guy was a stone
killer, that’s what you gotta do.
He never had to do that. There was
nothing inside him. People were
always just things to him, and
annoying things at that. You got
Yeah, I got… a dad, you know.
Mom’s dead. No brothers or sisters.
So kiss your dad tonight, cuz if
anyone gets mad at you they’ll go
Shit. They’ll have to get in line
behind me, man.
Benny eyes Izzie’s bruise and nods. He loads the last stack in the sink. He also starts handing wet dishes and pots to Izzie, who absent-mindedly starts drying them.
When you’re a killer, you can’t
trust anybody. Everyone around you
is a potential target or a
potential threat, and you make sure
you learn all you can about all of
them, just in case. You don’t let
anyone close because that’s where
you’ll be weak and you can’t let
that happen because you’re a
What’s with the coward shit? Guy
It ain’t brave to shoot somebody
from hiding, from across the
street, or when they’re sleeping.
Soldiers are brave. Firemen are
brave. Hell, teachers are braver
than hitmen, and they probably get
shot more. Hitmen are gutless.
Even your boy, there?
Especially him. It takes a lotta
courage to let yourself be
vulnerable sometimes, and that’s
the one thing he would never do.
They wash for a moment.
So what happened? You’re telling me
for a reason, right? What have we
learned from all this?
He got a job to whack some
dignitary, I forget the name. He
gets in the guy’s bedroom and does
the deed, no problem, and he’s
leaving when this chick steps out.
Young, beautiful, holding a baby.
And she sees him and she knows
she’s a witness. And she doesn’t
freak out. She stays calm and says
’Let me put him in his room and
shut the door, and I won’t scream.’
And for some reason, he lets her.
And they go in the hall, and she’s
got tears rolling down her face,
and she says ’Do what you need to,
just please, let my baby live.’
Damn. Lady had some balls.
You got to understand, this guy
didn’t see a lot of self-sacrifice
in his social circles. Guys might
jump in the way of a bullet in the
heat of the moment, before they
thought about what they were doing.
But here’s this chick perfectly
calmly offering her life.
What did he do?
Oh, he shot her. But it bothered
him, after. None of the others had
ever bothered him. And it nagged at
him. Something had meant more to
her than her own life, and he
couldn’t understand that.
All the dishes done, Benny starts tidying up. Izzie glances over; the top newspaper clipping on his stack is headlined “AMBASSADOR, WIFE SLAIN.”
And he started thinking back about
all the others. For the first time,
he thought about what happened
after he did a job. He ruined the
lives of entire families with one
shot, and then walked out without
caring what happened next. He
realized, basically, that he was a
cowardly, selfish prick. So he left
to go think about things.
Consequences. Humanity. Whether or
not hitmen have souls. How to open
up and care about people. How to
Benny turns off the RADIO.
How to be vulnerable.
You think he became a dishwasher?
I doubt it, the pay’s crap. But you
never know. You can get a lot of
thinking done, washing dishes. And
bit by bit, you’re making the world
a better place.
EXT. DINER – NIGHT
They emerge in the alley behind the diner. Benny locks up.
It’s a beautiful story, they should
tell it at Christmas. But it don’t
You want a moral? You want to fix
your life, do it yourself. Don’t
make other people suffer for it.
You don’t know nothing about my
Benny looks at him and his expression is suddenly cold, hard, scary as hell. For the first time, Izzie is afraid of him. So are we. This is a man who can kill.
I know a little. I know your mom’s
alive and lives in Fort Lauderdale.
I know you got two sisters and a
brother, and I know where they go
to school and I know when. And I
know what your dad does to you when
he drinks. Didn’t even have to
You leave them alone, goddamit!
Benny’s expression relaxes back to that of a harmless old man.
Sorry, habit. But you been coming
to work with a lot of bruises
lately, so I had a little chat with
your dad today while you were in
Never touched him. I might have
scared him a little, you know, by
accident. Can’t have our janitor
coming in beat up all the time.
Nice that you still care about him,
though, don’t you think?
Jack don’t care you take long
lunches to go threaten people?
Jack doesn’t own this place, Iz.
Then who… oh.
A real owner probably would have
bought an electric dishwasher by
now. But I get by, and I watch over
my people. You’re my family. By the
way, I think Karen likes you.
Really? Did she… Wait!
I know your secret! I could put you
away! What are you gonna do to me?
Benny takes in a deep, joyful breath of night air and looks around, beaming.
I’m going to do the bravest thing
I’ve ever done in my entire life,
I’m going to let you live.
Benny grins at him and walks off, into the night.
Night, Izzie. See you tomorrow.
Hey, good luck on your report.
Izzie watches him go as we:
FADE TO BLACK.
WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT – ………A surprising plot, very realistic dialogue from different generations of characters. Great rising tension/stakes especially in 3rd act….Some great dialogue, nice relationship between Izzie and Benny. Nice character change with Benny turning hardened then turning back to nice guy………………………………………………………. WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – ………”Hitman with remorse” story is bordering on cliché. …Keep all prose in present active tense and remove all camera angles, it takes you out of the read and doesn’t belong in screenplay (only in shooting scripts.). Concentrate on Benny and Izzie, open with them, Karen and Lila and Jack… none of them are important and they water down your script. The story is bout Benny and Izzie simplify and center it around Izzie and Benny’s goals and their relationships…………………………….………………………