So for the past couple of weeks I've been working on the 1st draft of a synopsis of Burp's Christmas. It's been pretty tricky - the script of Burp's Christmas doesn't break down too easily. There's a lot going on... four main characters, each with their own stories. It's hard to discern what to focus on. Here's where we're at so far:
The days are growing darker, the nights colder. Wintertime has come to their town. Charles Burp and his family, like most families here, are preparing for Christmas. It’s only twenty-five days away when we meet them; good ol’ Charles Burp, as bull headed as he is warm hearted, and his infinitely patient wife, Norma. They live in a smallish house on a smallish piece of land where they raise their two grandchildren; six year old Elijah, a pudgy marshmallow of a boy whose spirit is as bright and pure as the thick white snow that blankets the playgrounds, parks, and neighborhoods in which they live; and Walter, the eldest… poor Walter Burp, an eleven year old victim of a tragic car accident that broke him, body and soul. Confined to a wheel chair, un-fixable, he has gone inward, refusing to talk to anyone… silent as the darkening night. Charles and Norma do the best with what they’ve been given, but to be honest, it’s getting harder.
As Christmas approaches, the family’s slippery financial situation is at the forefront of Charles and Norma’s minds. Twenty minutes from their house is Fogerty’s Footwear, a small shoe store that’s struggling to survive in the wake of a big box megamart that’s recently opened on the edge of town. It’s here that Charles struggles daily to hold down his job as a store clerk. As sales decline, Charles is pressured by his boss to sell poorer and poorer quality shoes at “discount” prices to increase their profit margins while maintaining the illusion of a bargain. Carrying the weight of his and his family’s financial debts and anxieties, Charles swallows his integrity, betrays his ideals, and sells the shoddily crafted merchandise to his friends and neighbors. He obeys his boss, he bites his tongue, and the days go by.
Back at home Norma does her best to provide a happy environment for her two grandchildren, and, to her credit, she succeeds remarkably. Trees are decorated, carols are sung. ginger bread houses are decorated, and in these times the love that this family has for each other, no matter how trammeled by the weight of the world, is evident and obvious in the here and now of these rituals. There’s bake sales, pageants, hot cocoa and Christmas specials on TV. The town streets bustle with merry anticipation. Christmas lights sparkle and children play in the snow.
But the weight of the world remains. Beyond the debt and unpaid bills lays a greater sorrow that threatens to overwhelm the souls of each family member. It’s been eight months since Charles and Norma lost their son and daughter in law to the same car accident that shattered the body of young Walter. This will be the first Christmas without them, an intolerably sad fact that no one in the family can process… least of all Walter, who spends his time outside of school isolated in his room, performing amateur magic shows in front of his stuffed toys.
Tensions escalate when Walter, yearning deeply for a friend, asks his grandparents for a dog for Christmas. Interpreting this as another unbearable burden – financial and otherwise – the weary Charles denies his grandsons request, enraging Walter and straining their already distant relationship. Norma scrambles to pacify the situation while Charles escapes deeper into his work, competing tooth and nail to win a Christmas bonus that will be awarded to the employee who sells the largest amount of bargain shoes by Christmas Eve. As his hours increase, Charles’ temper becomes shorter and his exhaustion becomes palpable. Norma’s anxieties swell; afraid for her family. All around town shops are closing, unable to compete with the shiny new megastore. Jobs decline. The television chatters with loud commercials, news of foreign wars, and televangelists promising hope in exchange for money. The weekly sermons at The Burp’s church, littered with references to joy and miracles and good cheer, seem almost inappropriate, un-relatable.
But behind all this restlessness, anxiety, and despair, bright-eyed young Elijah merrily plots to reconcile his broken family. To this young boy love and miracles and magic are real, believable things that are even more powerful at this time of year. In him is great joy and hope, and so he prays and he wishes and remains eternally optimistic for what Christmas will bring – a miracle that will fix his family. As their apprehension escalates, so does Elijah’s optimism, until one evening during dinner, in the midst of their worriment, Elijah proclaims joyfully that he has changed his Christmas list. That this year, for Christmas, he only wants one thing: for Jesus Christ to make his brother walk again. Norma and Charles are almost brought to tears by his sobering sincerity, shocked and speechless at this wondrous, joyful boy. But how can they explain to their grandchild, after all he has suffered, that the impossible is in fact impossible, and that wishes don’t come true? That contrary to what he’s been told to believe in church and on TV and in his house – that miracles don’t exist, and that prayers go unanswered. That on Christmas Day Walter Burp will not be healed.
The days are growing darker, the nights colder. Wintertime has come to their town. And into this darkness a light will be born. This is the story of Burp’s Christmas. The story of a family, who once were broken, and who, on Christmas, will be healed.
Definitely in the 1st draft stages. Some of the working is awkward. Some of the language can be punched up. But the hardest challenge so far is tone. The above synopsis does a good job at capturing the tension of the film, but it does little to reflect the humor and merriment that is abundant in the script. Unfortunately, a lot of that humor isn't plot relevant, and I'm not sure how to insert that levity without just saying "and Burp's Christmas is funny, too!"
Anyhow, that will at least give you guys some insight into what this whole thing is about, anyhow. After you read this go back and check out some earlier drawings and put some faces to those names!