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Thorns

A feature film written by Tony Gapastione

The Thorns We Live With

A feature film written by Tony Gapastione

View the full film treatment here.

It was Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving. Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3 in E-flat major Op. 55 was playing ominously from an old record player filling the aging Atherton mansion. The long antique wood table was set perfectly for a seven course meal. The silverware was freshly polished and each place was perfectly adorned with a hand-written calligraphy name card for each of her three children and three grandchildren.

Dawne, 81, barks orders from her powder room. "Consuela! You found the recipe?” Consuela, 70, in the kitchen, rolls her eyes. “Si, Señora.” The turkey was being prepared in the usual way according to Dawne’s much beloved family tradition by her loyal, yet frustrated, caretaker.

Dawne sips red wine elegantly as she stares at herself in her bathroom vanity mirror. She sets her wine glass on her sink basin which is covered with a perfect line of seven prescription pill bottles. She removes her make-up, almost smearing it off like Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. With her aging hands, she smoothes over her wrinkles and bags under her eyes. She stares at her reflection in the antique mirror, tears filling her eyes.

“I can’t take this anymore,” she mutters under her breath as she gulps down the rest of her red wine .

This was when she made the decision.

The next day her family would arrive and things would never be the same.

About the Film

Logline: A wealthy family reluctantly reunite over the Holidays only to discover their mother’s attempted suicide has left her in a coma. As they try to reconcile why this has happened (WTF!?), skeletons in all of their closets are revealed, and the family is forced to face secrets from the past in order to see a way forward to a possibly hopeful future. Fingers crossed.

They put the fun in dysfunction.

Short Synopsis

Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Hatchet family confront their biggest, most painful wounds: each other. Siblings, Charlie 45, Janet, 41, and Tiffany, 37, have been estranged for years but when their mother, Dawne, guilts them into coming home for the holiday, grandson Adam, 24, tries desperately to keep the family together in the wake of her suicide attempt. Good luck with that.

The Thorns We Live With is a dramady. (Yes, there’s major drama but in order to deal with family trauma you need a lot of comedy). Sometimes the characters weep in fetal position, other times they erupt and throw full blown punches. Then, like any other (ab)normal family, there are times when they can’t stop laughing, hysterically…(probably due to too much wine, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get through life).

And still there are moments when they have nothing to say, numb and entranced, desperately praying to make sense of their life, and the death that they face..and the afterlife, if there is any.

This is grief. This is family. This film invites the audience to witness, experience and question how we make sense of our pain, how we heal and how we move forward (or not) from life’s tragedies and family dysfunction.

The Thorns We Live With reminds us if we are willing, we can experience love and hope in the most hopeless and confusing situations.

Some families grow together, some families are pricks, all families need therapy.

Detailed Synopsis

We open on the sprawling garden estate of Dawne Hatchet. Her beautiful landscape is pruned by longtime groundskeeper Sergio. She speedwalks down her long driveway to once again try and light an unrequited flame with her pastor, Richard, much to the chagrin of her pastor’s wife. It’s an unhealthy attachment, but her “faith” and desire to be loved are what motivate her, even though she’d never admit that overwhelming guilt and sadness drive all of her decisions.

At the same time, her grandson Charlie rushes to his MFT internship: he obligatorily counsels another overbearing woman who is revealed to be his mother, Chelsea. Adam always tries to “save” his family (although he’d never use that word.)
We open on the sprawling garden estate of Dawne Hatchet. Her beautiful landscape is pruned by longtime groundskeeper Sergio. She speedwalks down her long driveway to once again try and light an unrequited flame with her pastor, Richard, much to the chagrin of her pastor’s wife. It’s an unhealthy attachment, but her “faith” and desire to be loved are what motivate her, even though she’d never admit that overwhelming guilt and sadness drive all of her decisions.

At the same time, her grandson Charlie rushes to his MFT internship: he obligatorily counsels another overbearing woman who is revealed to be his mother, Chelsea. Adam always tries to “save” his family (although he’d never use that word.)

Later, Dawne uses her powers of manipulation to persuade Charlie and his sisters Janet and Tiffany to visit Northern California. They agree only when Dawne threatens them with vaguely suicidal language: “I’d be better off dead...”

She celebrates her victory at Thanksgiving Eve service, another chance to connect with Pastor Richard. Many glasses of wine and lots of pills later, she sits alone at a gorgeous table set by Consuela, Sergio’s wife and the Hatchets’ longtime family caretaker. Spying from the shadows, Consuela watches as tears stream down Dawne’s face. This woman has some major issues.

On Thanksgiving, Charlie, Adam, Tiffany, and Janet arrive at the awful news that Dawne has been found unconscious after an apparent overdose. They rush to the hospital, only to find her comatose and covered in tubes and wires. Being together under normal circumstances was hard enough; now they’re at the foot of their lifeless mother’s hospital bed. Adam discovers he has been named Dawne’s executor and overseer of her DNR directive, but he is not the only one. Apparently Dawne has stated she doesn’t want her life sustained artificially. Did she plan this whole thing? WTF. After a meeting with Dawne’s attorney, the family finds they need the blessing of another named legal contact — James Hatchet, their long-lost father and grandfather. He’s apparently alive? James, once thought to be dead now enters the picture again. Oh boy, here we go. This family puts the fun in dysfunction, don’t they?
Now they must find their long-lost recluse of a father, which reveals skeletons in each of their closets. Savior Adam attempts to keep the family together in the wake of his grandmother’s imminent death by practicing his therapist skills. Nobody loves this, especially smack-talking Tiffany. God help them all.

Ultimately, they must remove her from life support and try to make sense of it through their deep grief. and ridiculous hashing up of the family history. All the while, Janet’s substance abuse; a long-hidden affair between Consuela and James; Tiffany’s unwanted pregnancy; Charlie’s hidden sexuality and secret lover are all exposed. Throughout it all, the Hatchets deal with the insidious PTSD of growing up in a judgmental Evangelical Christian environment. Sounds normal doesn’t it? But they all manage to band together to find a way forward to a hopeful future.

After five grueling days, they say their goodbyes in the family garden. And, in unique, spontaneous Hatchet fashion, they fight with Dawne’s remains, tossing handfuls of her ashes at one another like a childhood snowball fight. Honestly, who does that? The Hatchets, that’s who. But somehow, it’s exactly the closure they needed.

Investors

Ideal investors are one or all of the following:
People who love the arts and believe in the power of film to create transforming conversations that result in societal change.

People who want to craft opportunities for discussions on suicide and addiction. It shouldn’t be taboo to discuss death or the tragic way in which some die either intentionally or accidentally. This film will start conversations to help us care about mental illness and the sufferings of those who have endured losing a loved one to suicide. This film will give families an invitation to process with grief through the power of story with honesty, humility and humor.

People who are LGBTQ+ or allies who want to move the faith and sexuality conversation forward with compassion and humanity.

People who understand investing in film is about investing in artists, the makers of the film as well as the film itself and requires a long journey of production and distribution before seeing returns.

People who’ve always wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry , attend red-carpet events and film festivals or simply enjoy the pleasure of taking a film from idea to execution and seeing it on screen.

People who want to empower women, filmmakers of color and see a diverse group of actors cast in film. I am committed to partnering with women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
Thanks for your consideration. If you’d like to read the script, invest or produce this film with me call or email. tony@bravemaker.com, 650-743-4547

To see my previous film work click here:

http://www.tonygapastione.com/work

Below are photos from our table read.
Tony Gapastione Signature

Photos from Our Table Reading

In loving honor of Dawne P. Goodwin
and all those putting the pieces back together after the suicide of a loved one. May you find a way to make peace with the past as move through your grief toward a hopeful future.
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