Justified Violence?

My last post was all gloom this and despair that, so I thought I'd admit that I do think there's one thing I can do about all this senseless violence, and that is to make Art about it. And no, I'm not talking about that shiny little bit of writing I did yesterday -- I'm talking about ye olde Art of Screenwriting.

I can write a movie.

That'll fix it.

But then I remember the violence that's in some of the movies I've already written, and I think, "Armigarsh! Am I part of the disease?!?"

Well, maybe.

But maybe the content of a bit of Art is less important than the thematic direction toward which that content is moving. The Bible, for example, is an often grotesquely violent book, but no Christian's gonna be stupid enough to think it's actually advocating violence, are they...? Or no. Wait. Bad example.

Nevertheless, you get the point. The depiction of violence (or sex, or nose-picking, or whatever) in art isn't inherently moral or immoral -- what matters is what the piece as a whole conveys about that content.

With that in mind, I present to you... GUN CONTROL, a treatment for a short film I wrote that'd probably cost more to shoot than anyone's going to want to invest (on account of the large-ish cast, multiple locations, dialog in moving vehicles, etc). Ergo, I've decided to paste it onto this website, so y'all can take a gander and decide for yourselves what it means.

Am I advocating violence?
Pointing out its senselessness?

I'm honestly not quite sure. I'm interested in your opinion, so feel free to let me have it in the comments.



by Josh Barkey


The annoying, persistent RINGING of a doorbell. 

MILES (Black, 20’s—a little pudgy) crawls out of bed and makes his way out of an upscale room and through an upscale house, toward the front door.

V.O. NARRATOR “Ever wonder if maybe it’s all just a big misunderstanding? I mean, like, all of it. Like, maybe Mrs. God was all, ‘I want somethin' more fun to watch than all these stars and planets and sh*t’ and she was thinking, like, unicorns, or something—but then God went and made people? Like, that sort of thing.”

And just as this narrator (not Miles) finishes saying this, Miles turns the front-door handle with a “WHAT do you WAN...?” But is cut off as the door FLIES open and CHRIS (Black, 20’s—athletic), screams something about “WHERE’S MY MONEY!?” and SLAMS Miles into the wall, brandishing a flat-black pistol.

After a beat to let this soak in, Miles SHOVES Chris off, and we learn two facts:

One: they’re friends, and Chris is just messing with him; and
Two: this whole “gun” thing is new... and Miles is NOT cool with it.

Miles tells Chris to ditch the gun – maybe saying something about how carrying a gun is asking for trouble – and Chris says if he’s gonna go along with Miles’ stupid idea, he gets to bring the gun.


TROY (White, 30’s—kinda redneck) talks to LEIA (Asian, 30’s—hot, but a little run-down), who’s brushing her teeth in the bathroom of a cheap place on the crap side of the tracks. She asks what he wants for his birthday, he tells her “you know what I want,” and she insinuates that, yes, after she gets back he will be gettin’ some.

But he says “That’s not what I meant and you know it.” 

What he wants is a gun. Why he wants it is that he was hassled the day before by some black guys in their increasingly run-down neighborhood. He feels he can’t wait to try to get one legally. He feels he needs a gun today, because his life is in danger. Plus, it’s his birthday. He wants her to use her “connections” to “that world” to get it for him.

She puts him off, asking him A. Why he’s gotta be so paranoid about everything—they were probably just messing with him, and B. She thought he wanted her out of “that world.”

She starts blow-drying her hair.

Her phone, sitting out on the bed, signals a new message. Troy, snooping, listens to it. It’s SOME DUDE confirming a place and time for a meet-up with Leia. This is JAY (Asian, 20s—a serious dude). The message is phrased in such a way that Troy (mis)interprets it as a booty call of some sort.

Troy absorbs this, then leaves the phone and goes into the bathroom. He asks Leia a pointed question about her plans for the day and she deflects... making him more suspicious.


Leia walks off down the sidewalk outside their apartment block. Troy stands in the doorway, watching her go.


Chris drives a luxury vehicle, as Miles toys with the gun. Despite his continued protests to the contrary, Miles is finding it hard to conceal the fact that he thinks this gun thing is pretty cool. You get the feeling that he might be something of a video-games nerd.

They are discussing something vaguely philosophical... something about causality, or free will, or the randomness of the universe, and how that relates to guns and violence and the rule of law. They’re obviously a couple of well-educated young men.

By listening, we learn that they are going to the other side of town to score some weed, because their usual dealer got picked up by the cops. They figure this way they’ll cut out the middle man and save some money. This is their first foray down to that world and they are woefully naïve about it, believing they can just drive around until they find someone who’ll sell them some weed.


Troy steps out of what looks like may be a pawn shop, carrying a plastic bag with something hard and angular inside...


Leia sits on the city bus, clutching her purse in her lap. She looks streetwise. Tough. Some thuggish-looking black guys get on the bus and take the last two seats, across from her. One of them smiles at her. She ignores him. A little old lady gets on, and the guy who smiled gets up and gives her his seat. A real gentleman.


Troy sits in a hole-in-the-wall bar, whining to the BARTENDER about women. The bartender says something like “Can’t live with ‘em, it’s illegal to kill ‘em.” Troy pulls a gun out of his bag by the barrel. Sets it on the counter to reveal... it’s a toy, with an ORANGE TIP.

He roots around in his bag and pulls out a BLACK MARKER, which he uses to color in the tip as he continues to talk to the bartender.

Looking out the window and across the street, he sees Jay-the-Asian loitering... waiting for Leia.

A couple blocks down the street from this very same bar, Chris and Miles roll slowly along in their car as Leia’s bus pulls over up ahead. She gets out, and notices Chris and Miles (who are laughably obvious in their attempts to look gangster). 

She crosses the street. Her phone rings. It’s a girlfriend of hers.

Leia tells her friend she’s going to buy a gun for Troy’s birthday. Leia giggles, telling her friend about the argument she and Troy had that morning. We intuit that Jay was actually calling her back about meeting up to sell her a gun for Troy’s birthday (she was trying to keep it a secret).

Leia spots Jay and hurries forward to meet him.

Troy comes out of bar on the other side of the street. He starts yelling angrily at Leia and Jay. Leia’s taken aback—doesn’t know what to say.

Troy lifts his modified toy gun.

Jay’s all, “What is this?!” and goes for the gun that he brought.

In his car, Chris goes for his gun. Miles yells NO! at Chris, telling him to put his gun away. Instead, he ERUPTS out of his car door and DIVES to take down Troy.

Jay gets his gun up and SHOOTS at Troy, just as Chris dives. The bullet RIPS through them both.

Leia, devastated, LEAPS at Jay with a screech!

Chris steps out of his car, SHOOTING at Jay. Obviously scared and inept, he fires again and again: BANG! BANG! BANG!

Jay ducks.

Chris misses, and hits Leia. She goes down.

Jay turns his gun on Chris and shoots him dead. He runs off, wiping down the gun as he goes, then ditches it and makes his getaway.

On the street behind him: Silence.

Chris, Miles, Troy and Leia lie dead.

The bartender sticks his head out. He can't believe what just happened.


Jay at home, later. He's watching TV with NORM (white, 40’s, heavily-tattooed), when a news story about the killings comes on. They’re interviewing the bartender.

Norm says something about how the whole neighborhood’s going to sh*t.

Jay grunts, like he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Norm says, “I heard the one dude had a fake gun. That it was just some stupid mis-understanding.”

Jay gets up to leave the room, telling Norm to shut up. We realize, as we finally hear Jay speak, that he is our NARRATOR.


- - -

*Note: if you're a film-maker and you've got Thirty-Plus Grand kicking around to spend on a short film, this baby's still up for grabs. So if you love it, gimme a call. 


  1. Hi Josh,

    I don't think you're advocating violence or glorifying it at all. I hear the cry of your heart about the senselessness of it all in your preface and your screenplay. And I think, ultimately, it doesn't matter if others think you're advocating violence (though I don't see how they possibly could) because you're doing more than trying to get a message out--you're creating art. And I think, above all else, art is the expression of what the world looks like through the artist's eyes. You show a loveless world what it means to love. Keep going.

    1. That was, in fact, more my intention. So, thanks.


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