Winning October 2015 Feature Screenplay.
Watch BELLE BREZING, by Margaret Carlyle Price
NARRATOR – Allison Kampf
YOUNG BELLE – Meggie McKinnon
OLDER BELLE – Susan Wilson
CHILD BELLE – Maya Wolozyn
MABON/BILLY – Hugh Ritchie
MUCCI/SINGERLY – Sean Kaufmann
Get to know writer Margaret Carlyle Price:
1. What is your screenplay about?
Somewhere between a paperboy’s first cup of chicory coffee and the memories of the Madam who inspired Belle Watling of Gone With the Wind, there lies a story of sex, secrets and spiritual redemption. Interweaving portals to the past with the magic tricks of a spirit called back to his lover’s deathbed, BELLE BREZING is a haunting love story about a loyal paperboy on a high-stakes mission: To guide his former lover to remember the secret that forged her rise to fame but closed her heart to love. The screenplay focuses on this turn of the century scandalous madam who over-powers men of political fame and fortune, while keeping secret her ambiguous beauty. As her house at 59 Megowan Street rises to international prominence, she remains untouchable by the law or pulpit – a woman of influence, secrets and ambiguous beauty whose shadowed past belies her power. The screenplay illumines one of the South’s most charismatic, scandalous and powerful Madams – Belle Brezing, She was a magnetic business woman who brought herself out of poverty and an emotionally and physically painful early childhood. Abused by an alcoholic mother, raped by a pedophile when she was fourteen and accused of murdering her lover at sixteen, Belle Brezing gave birth to an illegitimate little girl (Daisy May) before spending Christmas eve at age nineteen in a house of ill repute. Fate or choice charted her dynamic rise to power. When she died, both the New York Times and Life Magazine ran Brezing’s obituary on the front page.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
Shedding light on the connection between a wounded past and a life lived in quiet desperation, the screenplay exposes the scandals and secrets of this dynamic woman whose life speaks to timely issues in the arena of child abuse, prostitution and sex trafficking.
WHY CARE ABOUT BELLE BREZING?
QUINTESSENTIAL BUSINESS WOMAN at the turn of the century; a successful entrepreneur. She built a lavish “resort” called by the NY Times the “most orderly of disorderly houses” and her classy clients included a “Who’s Who” among prominent men of the day. Horse owners, million-dollar newspaper publishers, politicians, governors and possibly a few “Crown Princes” from Europe. She knew how to entertain in a style comparable to the pleasure houses in Paris.
FAMOUS MADAM: Her obituary appeared on the cover of the NY Times and Time Magazine. Inspired the character Belle Watling in GONE WITH THE WIND.
CONNECTION BETWEEN THE “INVISIBLE CHILD” AND YOUNG WOMEN LIVING ON THE STREETS (prostitutes and/or sex traffic victims.)
REMINDS US OF OUR OWN HUMANITY: She awakens us to the power of the indomitable human spirit – the power to rise above circumstances of birth (poverty, violence, discrimination) and conquer.
COMPASSION: Despite being an out-cast, Belle Brezing lived her life with compassion for those in need – specifically orphan children, men with troubled pasts (alcoholics, poor, etc.) and young women who found their way to her house.
PASSION: Belle is a striking example of a woman who lived her life fearlessly, with great passion. She rose above her circumstances through sheer ingenuity, intelligence and a natural charisma.
FORGIVENESS: Despite being raped by a pedophile, giving birth to an illegitimate child (with severe challenges), being accused of the murder of her sixteen year old lover and being shunned by the southern “elite”, Belle Brezing forgave all who had hurt her. Through a deep faith she was able to find a way out of her past and through forgiveness, ultimately found spiritual redemption. On her mother’s gravestone she had these words inscribed (which perhaps speak more to her own life than Sarah Brezing’s): “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
RELEVANCE TO CURRENT SOCIAL ISSUES: Sex trafficking in Kentucky (and elsewhere) is a highly volatile, tragic and critical issue; a recent federal case brought to light the wide extent of young women being trafficked into three southern states. Although Belle was a prostitute (and there are important differences between prostitutes and women trafficked) the core issue is the same: What are the circumstances that allow or force young women into these lives? Ironically, a fire in Belle’s life that cost the lives of three young women was tragically mirrored in a similar fire in the third floor attic of 59 Megowan Street (several years after Belle’s death). This fire also took the lives of three young women, probably prostitutes.
3. How would you describe this story in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
It would not be an understatement to admit that I have lived, breathed and danced with Belle Brezing for almost thirty years. About a year after I graduated from law school, a child advocacy organization approached me about writing a stage-play based on the life of Belle Brezing. The idea was to shine a light on the path between the wounded child and the adult woman who ends up in prison or on the streets. I visited what remained of Belle’s house at 59 Megowan Street (stone steps) and sat for hours gazing at a painting of the house – trying to figure out why she lived the last 20 years of her life shut up on a sunporch, addicted to drugs, a recluse. Her library, journal and poetry opened portals into the secrets of this brilliant but tortured soul. The stage-play opened at the Lexington Opera House and then the play began its journey … to LA and NY … then shaped itself into a novel and finally a screenplay. It has been in many respects a spiritual journey.
6. How many stories have you written?
I live a magical life – for I have been gifted the soul-stories of strangers since I was a child. I grew up wearing red cowgirl boots, catching crawdads in Elkhorn Creek; my southern roots cut deep in the coal-seamed Appalachian mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I wrote my first story (“Ponies, Picnics and Ghosts”) at age six. The number of stories/scripts I’ve written? I’m a storyteller; and sometimes the stories shape themselves into novels, sometimes screenplays or stage-plays (or a musical) … or poetry. I’ve written five novels. (Four published) One sitting on my shelves – waiting for the magic to happen. I’ve written 9 screenplays and about a zillion rewrites of those scripts. In the rather daunting stack behind the door to my “writings” there are also five stage-plays , some Law Journal articles, and a poem “Resilience” – which won serendipitously second place in Horticulture Magazine’s Poetry Contest!
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
Please consider the answer to #5.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
I often debate with my dad about whether it is possible to “actually move a mountain – by faith”. In many respects, writing, re-writing and “finishing” Belle Brezing has been moving a mountain. And it took a good deal of faith in something bigger than my own drive, energy – cups of Starubcks” to see the script to the finish line. The obstacles came in the guise of tough reviews – critics who didn’t like some of the story’s spiritual dimensions (visits from Spirit Guides, etc.) and in the voice of the critic in my own head who wondered if I’d chased the right rabbit down the rabbit hole. In the end, I simply committed to the characters who first drew me into Belle’s 59 Megowan Street and the story in many ways wrote itself. On that note, I am grateful to whatever Spirit (on the other side) guided me in shaping the details of this extraordinary woman’s life. And I am oh so grateful to my dogs (some who are also now “spirit guides” – Tucker and Chelsea and Gavin) who faithfully sat beside me while I wrote and re-wrote Belle Brezing.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
10. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Festival?
This is a chance for me to thank a wonderful friend (Holly Arnold) who told me about the Festival. Thank you, Holly!
What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
I am an admirer of Andrew Harvey who wisely suggested that we follow not simply our bliss, but also our heartache. As writers, we have a chance to speak for those who are silent, a chance to stand up for the child or trafficked victim… the homeless animal – to shine a light on LIFE. We can choose to look for the Wonder and Beauty; and we can also choose to illumine those places where there is little light. My only suggestion is simply this: Don’t give up on the story in which you believe. Be resilient.
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