The Macedonian Trapeze Artist

(The first 15 pages)

Logline: A 17-year-old Jewish trapeze artist in Macedonia tries to win over the antisemitic father of the girl he loves – and then the Nazis invade.

FADE IN:

INT. THE WARM-UP TENT – NIGHT

Two trapeze families, THE FLYING ZARCOUSCOUS FAMILY and THE DARING DAMEVSKIS, are stretching and getting ready for Macedonia’s biggest trapeze competition.

PALOMBA DAMEVSKI, 17, is artistic and with her pretty face and long hair drives the boys crazy. She keeps glancing over at BARSHA ZARCOUSCOUS, also 17, smart, funny and muscular.

He keeps looking at her as they stretch and they make their way toward each other.

         PALOMBA
So, what are your chances?
 
         BARSHA
I’d say real good.
 
         PALOMBA
And why is that?
 
         BARSHA
In practice, we caught a lot.
 
         PALOMBA
Impressive.
 
         BARSHA
And you?
 
         PALOMBA
We’ll win.
 
         BARSHA
Really?
 
         PALOMBA
Let’s make a bet. If we win you have
to take me out to dinner.
 
         BARSHA
And if we win?
 
         PALOMBA
I’ll let you take me out to dinner.
 
         BARSHA
Sounds like you win either way.
 
         PALOMBA
I usually do.

Barsha smiles at her. She smiles back at him.

AXIOS DAMEVSKI, 18, hard-edged and pimply, sees his sister flirting, taps his father on his shoulder and nods at them.

KRATIS DAMEVSKI, 40, a strict man with a broad chest and thick arms looks over at his daughter and Barsha.

         KRATIS
Palomba! We have work to do.

Her smile disappears. She quickly goes back to her family.

         KRATIS
And stay away from him. He’s a Jew.
         PALOMBA
Father, stop!

CYNNA DAMEVSKI, 38, tough and competitive with short, blonde hair, reaches out and takes her daughter by her arm.

         CYNNA
Come, help me stretch my shoulder.

INT. THE BIG TOP – CONTINUOUS

A full crowd eagerly awaits the start of the competition. Suddenly the lights are killed and the band, complete with a saxophone player, starts playing fast rhythms. The crowd erupts in cheers and applause.

At the center of the ring a spotlight illuminates a large, framed picture, held up by wires, of HADZI NESTOROV. The band stops and only a drum roll is heard.

         CROWD
Had-zi! Had-zi! Had-zi!

A second spotlight hits the RINGMASTER, mid-50s, decked out in a long, red coat, ruffled, white tuxedo shirt and top hat, who stands next to the picture of Hadzi.

         RINGMASTER
Ladies and gentleman, children,
children, children! Welcome to the
twentieth annual Hadzi Nestorov
Trapeze Competition!

The crowd cheers and applauds again.

         RINGMASTER (cont’d)
Hadzi Nestorov was a great man, our
World War One hero at the battle of
Dobro Polje who helped to kick the
Bulgarians out of Macedonia.

The crowd cheers louder upon hearing about Hadzi’s exploits.

As the Ringmaster speaks the picture of Hadzi, with the spotlight still on it, slowly rises up by its wires.

         RINGMASTER (cont’d)
Hadzi was also a champion trapeze
artist and the first Macedonian to ever
catch a double somersault. And now,
Bizaka’s finest trapeze teams have been
competing for the past month and we’re
down to the finals, the Flying Zarcouscous
Family versus the Daring Damevskis!

The crowd cheers some more, with people calling out the name of the family they’re rooting for.

         RINGMASTER (cont’d)
The rules are simple: each team must
catch a single layout and then the
more challenging two and a half
somersaults caught by the legs. If
there’s a tie they keep trying the
two and a half until someone misses.
And now Bizaka gives you, as only
Bizaka can give you, the Hadzi Nestorov
Trapeze Competition!

The crowd cheers again. The illuminated picture of Hadzi is at the top of the tent and then its spotlight is shut off. The band starts playing fast, festive rhythms again.

The Zarcouscous family goes first and spotlights hit them as they stand on the trapeze pedestal board.

HYMAN ZARCOUSCOUS, 42, is a jovial, caring man with a slightly paunch belly.

YARSHA, 17, is Barsha’s twin sister. She’s quirky, trim and strong and stands next to her father.

ANNA, 40, the twins’ mother, svelte with bright eyes and a long, braided ponytail, stands next to Yarsha.

The three of them gracefully wave their arms out and gently sway their hips to the sound of the music.

Barsha has already climbed up the rope ladder and is swinging on the catch bar.

         HYMAN
You can do this. Just like practice.

Hyman kisses Yarsha’s forehead and she smiles at him.

Yarsha steps up onto the raise, Hyman hands her the fly bar.

         YARSHA
(calling out to Barsha)

Right!

She steps off the raise and starts swinging. Barsha hears her cue and gets ready to catch her by hanging from his knees. Yarsha lets go of the bar, does a single layout flip and is caught by Barsha.

The crowd applauds and cheers.

Now it’s the Damevskis’ turn. Kratis, Palomba and Cynna stand on the pedestal board.

Axios swings on the catch bar.

Palomba and Cynna gracefully wave their arms out and move their hips to the music. Kratis just stands there, arms folded across his chest, looking down at the crowd. Then he turns to Palomba.

         KRATIS
There is only one acceptable outcome,
victory.
         PALOMBA
Of course, father.

Palomba steps off the raise, swings to get her momentum, releases the fly bar, flips and is caught by Axios.

The crowd applauds and cheers again.

The Zarcouscous family is back up on the pedestal board.

         RINGMASTER (O.S.)
And now the more difficult two and a
half somersaults caught by the legs.
         HYMAN
Remember, don’t come out too early
looking for Barsha. Stay in your tuck
until you hear him.
         YARSHA
I know, Daddy. I’ll wait.

Hyman kisses her forehead again, she smiles back at him.

Yarsha steps off the raise, swings twice to get momentum, releases the bar and spins through the air somersaulting.

         BARSHA
Break!

She comes out of her somersault and Barsha catches her legs.

The crowd erupts in cheers and applause.

The Damevskis are on the pedestal again. Kratis says nothing and just gives Palomba a stern look, as if to say “don’t mess this up”.

As Palomba steps up onto the raise, she looks thoughtfully into the distance.

FLASHBACK – THE WARM-UP TENT

         KRATIS
And stay away from him. He’s a Jew.
 
     PALOMBA
Father, stop!

BACK TO SCENE

Palomba steps off the raise, gets her momentum, releases the bar and starts somersaulting through the air.

         AXIOS
Break!

Palomba comes out of her somersault and as Axios reaches for her she moves her legs purposely away from his outstretched arms and falls into the net below.

Axios looks down at her, anger burning in his eyes.

There are loud gasps from the crowd, boos and cheering.

The Zarcouscous family celebrates and hugs each other.

EXT. THE TOWN OF BIZAKA – MORNING

Hyman sits in a horse-drawn cart, delivering milk on his morning rounds. He stops at PETAR and SARA’s home.

Petar, 54, stocky with a thick mustache, and Sara, 52, his petite, freckled wife, sit on their porch.

         HYMAN
Good morning.
         PETAR
Morning, and congratulations!
         HYMAN
Thank you. My kids did all the work.
         SARA
Yes, it was very exciting. Good job!

Hyman nods appreciatively at them, drops off their milk.

         PETAR
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. It’s a
shame you have to work.
         HYMAN
Work is work. What can you do?

Hyman approaches the next house. JOSIF GRANIC, 72, surly with a gaunt face, and his wife ORTA, 74, also ornery with messy hair, sit inside, waiting at an open window as usual.

         HYMAN (cont’d)
Mr. and Mrs. Granic.
         JOSIF
Next to the door, you know where.

Hyman steps over to the door and puts down the milk.

         JOSIF (cont’d)
(under his breath but still loud)
That cheating Jew probably bribed
the Damevskis to miss that catch.
         ORTA
Ha!

Hyman leaves the porch and gets back on the cart.

         HYMAN
(to himself)
Always a pleasure.

He looks in the back of the cart and sees it’s empty. He smiles and whips the horse with the reins to get it moving.

         HYMAN (cont’d)
Finally, a little breeze in my hair.

He whips the horse again and it trots a little faster. He soon approaches the stable and sees Yarsha.

EXT. MUSHROOM’S STABLE – CONTINUOUS

Yarsha is putting firewood in a basket to bring inside.

         YARSHA
(to the horse)
Hello baby!

She caresses MUSHROOM’S head and notices she’s sweaty.

         YARSHA (cont’d)
Daddy, you can’t keep bringing her
back so sweaty and tired.
         HYMAN
Mushroom will be fine. She needs
the exercise.
         YARSHA
I’ll take care of that, bring her
to the meadow where the grass is
soft. Much easier on her bones
than this dirt road.
         HYMAN
Her bones will be fine too, my dear.
You worry too much.
         YARSHA
(to Mushroom)
It’s okay baby. We’ll be back in the
meadow soon. And then maybe you’ll
take me away from this boring
town one day.

Hyman hears her comment, smiles slightly then shakes his head disapprovingly.

INT. THE DAMEVSKI’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Palomba sits on the couch with her school books. Instead of doing homework she draws a picture of a deer in the forest.

Kratis enters the living room and sees what she’s doing.

         KRATIS
That doesn’t look like homework.
Stop wasting your time with that nonsense.
         PALOMBA
I, it’s just. It’s nothing.

She picks up some school papers and starts organizing them.

INT. THE DAMEVSKI’S KITCHEN – CONTINUOUS

Kratis goes into the kitchen, where Cynna is cleaning dishes, and turns on the radio. The kitchen door is open and Palomba can hear the radio and her parents.

         RADIO REPORTER (V.O.)
The new government, led by King Peter II Karadordevic, announced it will not
ratify Prince Paul’s signing of the
Tripartite Pact. King Peter also
announced the appointment of General
Dusan Simovic as Prime Minister.Kratis angrily turns the radio off.
         KRATIS
These idiots with their coup. We don’t
need the corrupt army and some
17-year-old running things. And
Prince Paul was right to sign that
agreement. This Hitler is good. Smart.
Strong. Putting his country first.
We need a leader like that.
         CYNNA
But what about the shop? Will it be
harder for you to get wood now?
         KRATIS
Probably. These idiots, with their King
Peter II, don’t know what they’re doing.

Palomba enters the kitchen.

         PALOMBA
Father, may I go to the Big Top?
To practice.
         KRATIS
With who?
         PALOMBA
Andrej, Jovan and Rosa.
         KRATIS
Is your homework done?
         PALOMBA
Yes.
         CYNNA
And the laundry?
         PALOMBA
Finished.
         KRATIS
Work on that two and a half.

Kratis nods his head toward the front door. Palomba quickly spins around, grabs her coat off the coat rack and leaves.

INT. THE BIG TOP – CONTINUOUS

As Palomba makes her way through the dark Big Top she sees some candlelight in the front row and heads to it.

Barsha sits next to two lit candles, with a plate of tulumba, fried pastry soaked in syrup.

Palomba sits down next to him.

         BARSHA
It’s no six course meal, but the
best I could do.

Palomba ignores the plate, moves closer to him, they embrace and start kissing passionately.

         BARSHA (cont’d)
You sure taste better than any pastry.
         PALOMBA
I should hope so.

Barsha laughs. They then kiss again. They finish kissing and smile at each other for a moment.

Palomba then takes an envelope out of her coat pocket and gives it to Barsha.

He opens it and pulls out a drawing of him on the trapeze.

         BARSHA
Amazing, where did you get this?
         PALOMBA
I drew it.
         BARSHA
You did?

She nods her head “yes” while smiling at him.

         BARSHA (cont’d)
Such detail, incredible.
         PALOMBA
Really?
         BARSHA
Absolutely. It’s great, thank you.

She smiles again then points to the plate Barsha brought.

         PALOMBA
Tulumba?
         BARSHA
My mom made it.

She picks up a piece, eats half, then feeds Barsha the rest.

         BARSHA
Actually, this is really good.
         PALOMBA
Hey!

She smacks him playfully on his arm and he smiles at her.
They hold each other for a moment, Barsha tries to kiss her again but she turns away from him.

         BARSHA
You okay?
         PALOMBA
It’s my father. And this coup. He’s
worried about getting wood for his
shop. Before the war started he got
it imported from France. White oak,
the best for beer barrels.
         BARSHA
I can get him white oak. My cousin
owns a lumberyard in Bulgaria.
         PALOMBA
Bulgarian wood? Are you mad? After what
they did to us in the Great War? My
father would never accept it.
         BARSHA
I’ll tell him it came from Serbia.
         PALOMBA
That, that might work.
         BARSHA
He sends shipments out here once a
month. I’ll call him tomorrow.
         PALOMBA
Thank you.

They smile at each other, embrace and start kissing again.

INT. A DRUGSTORE – DAY

Barsha sits at a small desk in the back of the drugstore holding a telephone’s hand receiver to his ear.

INTERCUT – TELEPHONE CONVERSATION

         BARSHA
I’m good, thanks. I’m calling about
some wood. White oak.

INT. THE SAMOKOV LUMBERYARD – CONTINUOUS

DIMITROV ASTEV, 45, a bespectacled man, sits in his cramped office at his lumberyard, drinking coffee and shuffling endless papers around, looking for the right one.

         DIMITROV
What do you need that for?
         BARSHA
A friend needs it. For her father’s
barrel shop.
         DIMITROV
Staves then. You need staves.
         BARSHA
What are they?
         DIMITROV
Pre-cut pieces of wood. To make a
barrel. We sell them by the pallet.
About 450 to 475 staves per pallet.
         BARSHA
When were you coming out here again?
         DIMITROV
Soon, next week.
         BARSHA
Okay, I’ll let you know.
         DIMITROV
Please do. We’ll need to cut them, load everything for the trip.
         BARSHA
I will, thank you.
         DIMITROV
Tell your parents and Yarsha hello.
         BARSHA
Yes, of course.

EXT. THE STREET – CONTINUOUS

Barsha leaves the drugstore and walks a few blocks to an intersection. At one corner is Kratis’ cooperage. The lumberyard is outdoors and as Barsha walks through it he sees several empty pallets and a few staves scattered about.

Barsha approaches the shop’s entrance, smiles at Kratis through the plate glass window and enters.

         BARSHA
Hello, Mr. Damevski.
         KRATIS
What do you want?
         BARSHA
I, I just wanted to congratulate
you on the competition. I know you
and your family worked hard for it
and it was an honor to compete against you.

Axios comes out from the back room, stands near his father.

         KRATIS
Okay.
         BARSHA
And I noticed your lumberyard is empty.
Get a lot of orders recently?
         KRATIS
Wood’s hard to find these days.
         BARSHA
I see. Any particular type you need?
         KRATIS
Oak. White oak.
         BARSHA
I can get you that. My cousin owns
a lumberyard in Serbia.
         KRATIS
Really?

Barsha smiles at him while nodding “yes”.

         KRATIS
Where in Serbia?
         BARSHA
Where? Well, um, outside of Belgrade.
Near Leskovac.
         KRATIS
Leskovac is far from Belgrade.
         BARSHA
I, um, was there once, years ago.
We went to Belgrade then his lumberyard.
Actually we traveled, spent the night
at friends of my parents then went to
my cousin’s place.
         KRATIS
I’ve been buying wood from all over
Europe for years. I’ve never heard of
any lumberyard near Leskovac.
         BARSHA
Well it’s there. I can run over to
the drugstore right now, give him a
call and see if he has any white oak.

Kratis points to the phone on his desk.

         KRATIS
You can call him from right here.
         BARSHA
Oh. Yes.

He picks up the hand receiver and puts it to his ear.

         BARSHA
Operator, connect me to Pernik 95958.
         OPERATOR (V.O.)
Connecting sir, one moment please.

INTERCUT – TELEPHONE CONVERSATION

         DIMITROV
Hello?
         BARSHA
(in Yiddish; subtitled)
It’s me again. This is your first
language and your lumberyard is
in Leskovac.

Barsha turns to Kratis and speaks loud enough so Dimitrov can still hear him.

         BARSHA (cont’d)
Yiddish, it’s his best language.

(NOTE: for their phone conversation Barsha and Dimitrov speak in Yiddish and it’s subtitled in English.)

         BARSHA (cont’d)
Follow me if you want to make this
sale. Yiddish is your first language
and your lumberyard is in Leskovac.
         DIMITROV
She must be something special. But
not Jewish?
         BARSHA
Not now. We’re discussing white oak.
         DIMITROV
Of course. How much does your special
friend’s father need?

Barsha turns to Kratis.

         BARSHA
How much do you need?
         KRATIS
That depends. How much for one pallet?
         BARSHA
What does one pallet cost?
         DIMITROV
Usually 100 dinars. But now, with
this war and all the border guards,
we need to bribe them to let us through.
So probably 175 dinars.
         BARSHA
175 dinars. He has to pay the border
guards, to let them through.
         KRATIS
I need four pallets but 700 is too
much for me. 600?
         BARSHA
He said 700 is too expensive. 600?
         DIMITROV
You really like this girl?
         BARSHA
Yes.
         DIMITROV
Fine, 600. I may lose a few dinars
but it’s worth it for love, right?
         BARSHA
Yes, of course. And thank you.
         DIMITROV
Where’s it going to?
         BARSHA
Damevski’s Woodworks and Barrel Shop.
         DIMITROV
Very good. It was a pleasure doing
business with you and tell your new
girlfriend I said hi.
         BARSHA
I will, absolutely.

Barsha puts the hand receiver back into its holder.

         BARSHA (cont’d)
Your white oak will be here in a week.
         KRATIS
Thank you.
         BARSHA
I have to get home now. Again, it was
an honor to compete against you.
         KRATIS
Yes, of course.

Barsha nods in acknowledgment at Axios and leaves the shop.