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ILLATION

Genre: Drama

Logline: A professor finds himself falsely accused of sexual


misconduct with a female student, leading to his dismissal and her
spiritual liberation.
FADE IN:

EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - EARLY MORNING

A statue of a wooden angel stands like a sentinel overlooking


a now empty campus. We hold on

THE WOODEN ANGEL STATUE

SUPERIMPOSE: “If there is an angel who records the sorrows of


men as well as their sins, he knows how many and deep are the
sorrows that spring from false ideas for which no man is
culpable.”

EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - LATER

A sign on a brick building reads: “HUMANITIES BUILDING.”

EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - AFTERNOON

PROFESSOR JOHN CLAYTON (33), dressed in khakis and a


patterned button-down shirt, a worn leather satchel slung
over his shoulder, strolls across the campus lawn, which is
scattered with a few early fall leaves. He walks past a pond
that softly glows and hums in the bending light of morning.
STUDENTS shuffle past in occasional intervals, moving in both
directions past Professor Clayton. Several times Professor
Clayton makes eye contact with students, exchanging pleasant
smiles.

EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - EARLY EVENING

ABBIE REYNOLDS (20), blonde, dressed comfortably in a REO


Speedwagon rock-n-roll T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers stops to
look at a sculpture of a wooden angel. She admires it for a
moment, then checks her watch and walks away.

INT. COLLEGE LECTURE HALL - EVENING

A large college lecture hall sits mostly full with wide-eyed


STUDENTS, the faces of young America. Some students flip
through textbooks; others check their make-up in cosmetic
compact mirrors; a few talk to one another in a low murmur.
In the front row of the classroom KELLY JASPER (21), dark
hair, dark eyes, and wearing an unbuttoned flannel shirt over
a Cheap Trick rock-n-roll T-shirt plays with her hair. The
hall starts to fill with students, and Abbie Reynolds walks
in.
2.

KELLY
Oh, my God! Abbie!
(she waves to her and
smiles)
You can sit here.

ABBIE
(smiling and dropping her
shoulders to relax)
I was hoping there would still be a
seat. Thank you!
(she sits)
You know anything about this class?

KELLY
Not really. I needed another class,
and this one sounded the most
interesting. Kind of.

ABBIE
Yeah, The Skeptic’s Guide to Great
Books. Seemed like the least
painful to me. So here I am. The
skeptic.

KELLY
You know anything about the
professor?

ABBIE
(excitedly)
Dr. Clayton? He’s great! I’ve had a
few courses with him already, and I
just switched majors, so he’s my
advisor now. That’s really the main
reason I signed up.

KELLY
(raising her eyebrows)
Really now? Good enough to make you
switch majors? To English? Uh huh.
He must have made you a believer
all right.

ABBIE
Come on, Kelly. It is not like that
at all. He’s just a great guy and a
great teacher. You’ll see.

INT. COLLEGE LECTURE HALL - EVENING

Professor Clayton enters the classroom and comes to a stop at


the lectern, where he situates a textbook.
3.

He has a more sober look about him than before, but his eyes
are alert. He scans the classroom quickly and is efficient in
his mannerisms. His eyes meet Abbie’s eyes. Kelly leans over
and whispers into her ear.

KELLY
I think he likes you and you like
him.

ABBIE
(playfully annoyed)
You’re absolutely impossible. You
know that?

KELLY
(shrugging)
I just call it like I see it.

They smile and giggle as they focus their attention on


Professor Clayton.

KELLY (CONT’D)
(leaning over and
whispering again)
There is something about him
though. So I wouldn’t blame you, if
you know what I mean.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!
I can tell by your tired eyes that
you’re all very eager to begin your
study of literature this late in
the day.

He turns around and scrawls “Skeptic” and “Great Books” on


the blackboard.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON (CONT’D)


So let’s begin with a little
getting to know you question or
two. First, how many of you would
consider yourselves skeptics?

A few hands are raised.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON (CONT’D)


Okay, good. Can someone maybe
explain what “skeptic” means,
please?
4.

YOUNG MAN
Doesn’t it deal with like toilets
and stuff? Like a skeptic tank, or
something?

Some students laugh.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Now don’t laugh; he may be on to
something. But you mean “septic
tank,” which is quite different
than “skeptic.” Our word here comes
from the Greek word “skepsis,”
which literally means “inquiry, or
doubt.” So you may very well have
to dig through the septic tank of
literature or ideas or anything
else you study, using the art of
inquiry, until you can erase all
doubts.

YOUNG MAN
You mean, like asking questions
then, right?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Correct. Do some research. Ask
questions. Or in our case, read. A
lot. How can you be sure of
anything if you don’t put forth the
slightest effort to find out the
facts, sort through the evidence,
and uncover the truth?

Abbie raises her hand.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON (CONT’D)


Yes, Ms. Reynolds?

ABBIE
Do you really believe great books
can do that?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Ms. Reynolds, I absolutely do.
Stories can teach us a lot about
being human, and being human is a
messy thing. Just when you think
you have it all figured out, life
happens. But it’s worthwhile.
(MORE)
5.
PROFESSOR CLAYTON (CONT'D)
And it’s more worthwhile when you
finally start to find answers to
the big questions of the
humanities. Who am I? Why am I
here? And what do I believe in?

YOUNG MAN
What if you don’t believe in
nothing?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Then I’d say you’re already a leg
up on those who believe everything!

The students laugh.

INT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - ENGLISH DEPARTMENT CHAIR’S OFFICE - DAY

TIGHT SHOT over PROFESSOR CLAYTON’s shoulder onto DR. GILES


RIGBY (62), English Department Chair, a hefty, balding,
middle-aged man.

DR. RIGBY
(referring to a paper he
holds)
Your evaluations are always high,
and that’s a good thing. But I
wanted to talk with you about some
matters that have been brought to
my attention.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Matters?

DR. RIGBY
(leaning forward)
It appears there have been some
concerns about you getting too cozy
with some of your students, a
blonde student in particular who
camps out in your office quite
often.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
The Reynolds kid? She’s an English
major and one of my advisees.

DR. RIGBY
(raising his eyebrows)
John, she’s in your office an awful
lot. And people talk. I’ve seen her
in your office late in the evenings
myself.
6.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
That’s because she’s in my evening
class, sir. Nothing more.

DR. RIGBY
Well, if you don’t mind me asking,
what do you two talk about?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Just things.

DR. RIGBY
Things? You do understand how that
sounds?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Sure. It sounds like you’re telling
me that you have a problem with the
way I do my job advising students.

DR. RIGBY
(sighing)
No, John, what I’m saying is this
is a small liberal arts college,
and it only takes one spark to
start a fire. People see, and
people talk.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
Yeah, and what do people say?

DR. RIGBY
Things.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
But you aren’t going to tell me
what they say or who had concerns.
Right?

DR. RIGBY
You know I can’t.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
And what do you say?

DR. RIGBY
I’m saying you’re too close to
tenure. Don’t blow it. Many of your
colleagues serve on the tenure
committees. If they have the
slightest reason to hesitate, they
will.
7.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
(shaking his head in
disbelief)
Unbelievable. Do you think I’m
sleeping with her?

DR. RIGBY
I don’t think anything, John.
People see you with that girl a
lot. They talk. They shouldn’t, but
they do. That’s all I can say.

(BEAT)

DR. RIGBY (CONT’D)


You can’t be that naive. Just think
about it. That’s all.

INT. COLLEGE CLASSROOM - DAY

MONTAGE - PROFESSOR CLAYTON’S THOUGHTS

-- He lectures in the classroom.

-- He walks with Abbie and Kelly across the campus quad.

-- Dr. Rigby walks past his open office door while Abbie sits
cross-legged in the advising chair.

-- Students whisper into one another’s ear in the classroom.

-- He hands Abbie a book.

-- He takes up student exams.

-- He sees a SILVER HEART-SHAPED RING WITH A CROSS on Abbie’s


hand as he hands back essays and their eyes meet. The foot of
the cross is pointing inward toward her hand.

BACK TO THE OFFICE

Professor Clayton shakes his head.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
You’re right, Dr. Rigby. I’m not
that naive. But clearly you are,
sir.

DR. RIGBY
Excuse me? What did you say to me?
8.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
(animated)
Sir, respectfully, have I ever
given you reason to suspect that I
would be so foolish as to risk my
career or reputation? To actually
give you reason to believe I would
sleep with a student? Really?

DR. RIGBY
(wiping his brow)
I should caution you to watch your
tone, John. I’m simply looking out
for you. Rumors get their start in
reasons. If you drill down deeply
enough, you hit close to the truth
every time. I’ve seen this happen
too many times in my career. Don’t
give them a reason.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
You’ve seen it happen before, but
you don’t know anything. Seeing
isn’t always believing, sir.

DR. RIGBY
(taking off his glasses
and pointing with them)
John, damn it, you know this is a
small community and at this
institution...

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
(interrupting)
Institution? Sir, respectfully,
this is a college, not a prison. I
was hired to teach and advise
students, and I do both
exceptionally well. You know that.

DR. RIGBY
I’m not saying you aren't a good
teacher, John. Hell, you’re the
best we’ve got, but I’ve got a job
to do. If somebody sees something,
they’re supposed to say something.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
But there’s nothing to see! There’s
nothing going on! God help me.
9.

DR. RIGBY
(leaning forward sternly)
You will watch your tone in my
office. Is that clear?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
I don’t believe this.

DR. RIGBY
People talk, John. And words have
weight.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
So do names.

DR. RIGBY
What does that mean?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
I teach my students. I don’t sleep
with them.

DR. RIGBY
You teach literature, Dr. Clayton.
Teach them to write. To analyze
poetry. To annotate. But do not
confuse that with empowerment or
entitlement, their’s or yours.

Professor Clayton raises both hands to his forehead.

DR. RIGBY (CONT’D)


So whatever things you two are
talking about ends today. I’m
taking the girl off your advising
list for the spring. And she will
no longer be allowed to take
classes with you. Do you
understand?

Professor Clayton remains silent.

DR. RIGBY (CONT’D)


Say something.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
(shaking his head)
Better a handful with quiet, sir.

He stands, steps to the door, turns the handle, and exits.


10.

EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - ENGLISH BUILDING - DAY

Professor Clayton strides through a crowd of STUDENTS.


SORORITY GIRLS in sun dresses are on parade. Some STUDENTS
relax on blankets on the green grass. A YOUNG MAN plays a
guitar.

Professor Clayton suddenly stops and gazes ahead. There


stands Abbie Reynolds.

ABBIE
(smiling)
I was coming to see you. And don’t
worry, I know I’m not supposed to
talk to you, but it’s graduation
day. I wanted to give you this.

She hands him a sealed envelope. As she does, he notices


again the silver heart-shaped ring with a cross. The foot of
the cross is now pointed outward, away from her hand.

ABBIE (CONT’D)
(laughing)
It’s kind of a long letter. Sorry.
I had a lot I wanted to say. I
guess I felt liberated.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
(taking the envelope)
That makes two of us then. I didn’t
get tenure.

ABBIE
I know. I heard. I’m so sorry.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
(smiling)
It’s fine. Really. Life happens.
But you should be happy. It’s
graduation day. You’re getting out
of here. We’re both getting out of
here.

INT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - DR. RIGBY’S OFFICE - EARLIER

DR. RIGBY
I’m glad you understand where I’m
coming from.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
(staring blankly)
Believe me. I understand very
clearly.
(MORE)
11.
PROFESSOR CLAYTON (CONT'D)
But thank you for explaining your
rationale. I’m sure you were in a
difficult position.
(standing and offering his
hand)

DR. RIGBY
(standing as they shake
hands)
I’ll give you a good
recommendation, John. You know
that.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
That won’t be necessary, sir.

DR. RIGBY
How’s that?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
This put a lot of things into
perspective. Let’s just say I don’t
intend to teach again.

DR. RIGBY
You can’t be serious, John. What’ll
you do? Where will you go?

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
West. I’ll figure the rest out when
I get there.

EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - QUAD - GRADUATION - DAY

Caps are thrown into the air in slow motion. Faces blur until
Abbie’s becomes a distinct face in the crowd. She cries and
bows her head as the caps fall in slow motion around her.

EXT. FOREST - LATER

Leaves fall in slow motion. John Clayton, now dressed in a


U.S. Forest Service uniform sits at a wooden picnic table
somewhere out West and silently reads Abbie’s letter. As he
reads, Abbie’s voice comes into focus.

ABBIE (O.S.)
“Finally, thank you for the fact
that you were willing to spend the
time listening to me and answering
my questions. Not many people in my
life have ever done that.
(MORE)
12.
ABBIE (O.S.) (CONT'D)
Never once did you make me feel
like a bother; you always made me
think, and you allowed me the
freedom to find myself. No words
could ever say just how much you’ve
impacted my life. In fact, I know
I’m better for having known you. I
can finally say I know with
certainty what I really believe in.
I’ll be heading east soon to work
with the Peace Corps in Nigeria.
Who knows? Maybe I will find myself
there. Either way, I just wanted
you to know that you changed my
life for the better, and I’m
terribly sorry about what
happened.”

PROFESSOR CLAYTON
(shaking his head)
It’s not your fault, kid. It’s not
anybody’s fault.

He stands, walks over to a picnic area cooking grill, takes a


lighter from his right pocket, and sets her letter on fire.
He holds it until the edges fold inward, closer to his
fingers, and finally lets the burning letter fall into the
grill.

As some ashes start to float upward Clayton’s eyes follow


them until the first star of evening comes into view.

PROFESSOR CLAYTON (CONT’D)


(smiling)
You’re going to be all right.
Wherever you end up. We’re all
going to be all right.

EXT. COLLEGE CAMPUS - EVENING

The statue of the wooden angel stands like a sentinel


overlooking a still empty campus as we

FADE OUT.