Living With The Dead
INT. PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE – DAY
(OPEN CLOSE ON James, agitated, unnerved, looking terrible)
JAMES: I don’t know what’s going on. First my Mother, now my business –
(visiting his Psychiatrist.)
JAMES: – I can’t sleep, every time I close my eyes I –
(Tears spring to his eyes. He stops, trying to gain control of his emotions.)
PSYCHIATRIST: What would you think about seeing me twice a week? Just for a while, just til you get a better grip on things?
JAMES: (the panic growing) I can’t. I have no money. Haven’t you been listening?
PSYCHIATRIST: I sometimes use a sliding scale when financial issues arise. How’s Thursdays?
(James doesn’t know what to say – he’s confused, lost, feeling manipulated. The doctor reaches for his appointment book, opens it and flips through it – just as the office door opens behind the Doc and a Woman walks in – a blonde, wearing a pale blue blouse and a heart-pendant around her neck. She’s very upset, very agitated, and is talking to herself, screaming actually – though we don’t hear a word she’s saying. She heads right to the Doctor’s desk and begins opening and closing drawers, looking for something. James is astonished at what he sees, but the Psych is oblivious, his nose in his appointment book.)
PSYCHIATRIST: Two o’clock? Or I could see you Fridays at three.
(The Woman comes to a locked drawer and frantically, furiously, starts looking for the key. She goes through things on top of the desk, sweeps its contents to the floor, then searches bookshelves, flinging books to the floor as well. James can’t take his eyes off her. The Psychiatrist interrupts:)
PSYCHIATRIST: James, are Fridays better?
(A disturbed James tries to remain calm, not to look at the Woman.)
JAMES: Do you, um – do you know a blonde woman? She – she wears a pale blue blouse?
PSYCHIATRIST: What are you talking about?
JAMES: And a – a gold heart on a chain around her neck?
PSYCHIATRIST: A gold heart?
JAMES: Your wife? Is she your wife?
PSYCHIATRIST: My wife has nothing to do with the issues we’re dealing with here.
(Just then the woman finds a key, opens the drawer, and takes out several bottles of prescription drugs. She tears off the caps, and dumps the contents into her mouth, swallowing them all.)
PSYCHIATRIST: Now I could see you Thursdays at two or Fridays at three – which is better?
(The Woman curls up on top of the desk as if trying to become as tiny as possible.)
JAMES: Is she – is she dead?
PSYCHIATRIST: (snapping) Stop it!
(James is alarmed, shaken, certain now that he’s going mad.)
James’ mother is dying; his business is failing; his life is falling apart. Matters don’t improve when he receives repeated visits from a boy who it turns out is long dead, leading him to uncover a series of gruesome murders and finally embrace his ability to communicate with the other side.
This movie is very loosely based on a book written by James van Praagh, the famous psychic. In taking the job, I insisted on being able to create my own thriller-scenario, since I felt the book did not readily lend itself to adaptation. The final product is a story and film I’m quite proud of – aided by a lovely collaboration experience with director Stephen Gyllenhaal and actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen. It did well when aired on CBS – actually increasing its viewership for the second night, which seldom happens. I love this film. Sadly, it is not available on DVD.