Why I'd Burn by Helena Charlton-Jones

Created by Helena Charlton-Jones, The Pitch 2020

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Austin is a 16 year old boy who lives with his drunken mother Mae and 12 year old sister Mary in a run down trailer home. In the sweaty and hostile town, the strange inhabitants speak only in Bible verse, cherry-picking phrases to justify their own world views. Austin however is quiet and introspective: he never speaks but only observes, as though waiting for some sign he doubts will come. One day Austin and Mary come home to find their trailer ablaze with Mae inside. This destruction changes Austin. Is this a sign, the proverbial burning bush? Soon after, Mary -the last pure thing in his world- quotes a verse from the Bible to him. This seems to decide something for Austin. He must risk meeting God or forever live in doubt of his existence. He takes Mary, as Abraham took Isaac, and they build a fire from the trailer debris. He decides they will present themselves to Him as He has presented himself to them: in fire. In his final moments, as he walks towards the flames, Austin finally speaks, in words that are his own.

Biblical Connection

‘Why I’d Burn’ features many references to the bible; the burning bush, the kiss of Judas, Sodom and Gomorrah. Ultimately it was inspired by the character of Abraham, particularly ‘the binding of Isaac’ where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of faith. (Gen 22:1-19) In my story, Austin also believes that God may have sent him a message. For him though, the sacrifice is more about finding God than following him blindly. Thus, he and Mary gather wood for their ritual, as did Abraham and Isaac, and set about building a fire. Unlike the original story, nobody seems to stop Austin. I wanted the ending to feel ambiguous. For me, the script is strong because it treats the audience with respect and is open to interpretation. It explores important questions of reason vs. faith, enlightenment vs madness and invites the audience to come to their own conclusions. This is an important story philosophers like Kierkegaard often quoted and I feel I need to tell. It speaks broadly of society, but also warns of the dangers of a shallow understanding of the Bible and going against the love and understanding that the book is really about.