Logline: A mother nurses her dying daughter through the badlands. When two villainous strangers step out of the night, she is pushed to the limits to protect her child. The story begins with pioneer Merrily dragging a sled through blasted uplands. Her daughter Grace lies dying on the sled — they both know so, and still push ever onwards. Two men approach their campfire. Sepp and Jeroboam appear superficially kind, but their visit hides an awful purpose — starving, they have turned to cannibalism to survive, preying on the travellers heading West. Grace dies. The men offer to take her away, then insist — realising their intention, Merrily chases them away with the single bullet left in her gun. They vow to return when she sleeps. Exhausted, Merrily carries Grace away, seeking refuge, seeking peace. The men torment her from the fringes of her sanity. Grace appears to her, a vision, and gives Merrily to understand how she can defeat the men. Turned against each other, Jeroboam murders Sepp, and in the aftermath Merrily murders Jeroboam. Finally, given the peace to do so, Merrily inters Grace in a tomb of stones — and with the single bullet, she ends her own life.
Long before I discovered the competition, I had an idea for a Western that essentially reimagined the Gospel stories of Christ’s temptations and the 40 days in the desert — the image of a woman walking in the wilderness, tortured to the limits of her strength, and ultimately reconciled with God. In my story, Satan takes the incarnation of two villainous prospectors, and the woman’s daughter, deathly ill, is the symbol of her faith, waning as she walks through hell. In developing the idea, I found supplementary texts from Jeremiah 8:2 and the 1875 hymn ‘All The Way My Saviour Leads Me’ that fitted word for word into my themes. The writing process also uncovered Biblical tropes — while seeking the ultimate villainy for my antagonists, I discovered I had accidentally but organically created a space to explore the eucharist. The script was half-written when I first heard of The Pitch, and I knew that my story connected strongly with the brief. In completing the piece, I have tried not to overegg the Biblical references, but they are regular and entirely organic to the story I want to tell, fitting character, setting and narrative.