An Empty Chair

College student Chloe Lindell, 20-22, with no plans for the Christmas holiday, is talked into dropping in on the step-grandmother she hasn’t seen in years. Having written her first-semester term about a notorious relative, the second semester is to go meet that person and get their side of the story.

Chloe and childhood friend JOPPER, 20-22 head out to a small town where fishermen and hunters wave with suspicion as they pass. They get directions from store clerk LISA LOU, 40s, who, to Chloe’s dismay, seems to know everything about Chloe.

MAGGIE 960-70s seems to know everything about Chloe and admits to joining Facebook just to keep up with her life. Maggie shares memories that Chloe has no recollection of including one of riding the old horse, Jody.

The next day, WILL, 22, brings Chloe’s car back on the back of a car carrier. He is pleased to see Chloe and apologizes for slamming her finger in a door when they were young. (Chloe has no recollection ). Will is disappointed to meet Jopper until he finds out they are simply childhood friends. To Chloe’s irritation, Maggie arranges for Chloe’s car to get towed to town to have the brakes fixed.

Maggie reads the paper that Chloe wrote for her first semester and tells Chloe she understands the why of the lies told by her Grandmother Karen. Angry, Chloe tells her they could have a relationship if Maggie would just tell the truth.

Chloe just wants to get out there. Hearing about a flood, Chloe’s rich grandmother, Karen, shows up in a helicopter to take Chloe to her house for Christmas. Karen admits that Maggie has been telling the truth but Chloe can’t let go of the tales she’s heard growing up. She leaves with Karen to be dropped off in town to pick up her car. After Karen leaves she finds the car up on jacks and not drivable.

Chloe calls Karen to come back while Jopper goes back to the farm with Will for Maggie’s annual “Orphan’s Christmas Party.” When Karen doesn’t show, Chloe goes to the store where Lisa Lou puts Chloe up on Jody, the horse that she rode when she was little, and sends her off, scared to death with directions to just hang on.

Over the River and through the woods, Chloe gets back to the farm after dark. Dinner is over and the sound of laughter, fun, and games emanates from the house. When she goes inside, all get silent. Maggie embraces her granddaughter and the Christmas merriment continues with Will dancing with Chloe.

  • Suzanne Birrell
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Christmas, Family
  • Number of Pages:
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • First-time Screenwriter:
  • Student Project:
  • TMFF
    August 31, 2021
  • Atlanta Screenplay Contest
    Atlanta, GA
    April 12, 2022
    Quarter Finalist
  • Isa Family & Holiday Plus Genre Busting Screenplay Competition

    June 15, 2022
    Quarter Finalist
Writer Biography - Suzanne Birrell

Suzanne Birrell started her career in the entertainment business as a child when she wrote, produced, and directed comedy skits for the neighborhood kids. She stumbled into the professional world as a bareback and gymkhana rider where she landed doing stunts in Hollywood and fell in love with the movies.

Raising a family took her out of California into rural America and primitive life on a farm: cutting logs, hauling them with a horse to the saw mill, building a house with a hammer and saw. No electricity, gravity fed water, wood heat, farm raised food, making bread and wine, canning and slaughtering. Meanwhile she punched out stories on an old Remington and got involved in local theatre where she apprenticed as a director.

Later she went on the road as a bass player/singer with a traveling band, lost her brakes on a high Colorado mountain, was a main witness for a national murder trial, and started writing scripts.
After landing in San Francisco, she worked production manager with the Fringe of Marin and honed her skill as a scriptwriter by seeing her words up on stage.

A writer needs to experience life and Suzanne has lots to write about. She continually re-invents herself: as a bartender, camp cook, wrangler, baker, waitress, hotel maid, taught Intro to Opera and Shakespeare at Junior College, naturally certified paralegal, artist in residence on the Navajo Nation, jailed as a political activist and took the case pro-se to the state supreme court. Back in rural New Mexico, she the currently teaches middle school band and hosts a screenwriter/actor group.

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Writer Statement

Suzanne likes a good mystery, satirical comedies, and tear jerking dramas. Her focus is on character pieces for ensemble casts, with strong roles for women. Coming from a multi ethnic background [2nd gen. Sicilian, 2nd gen. Scotch, 3rd gen. German, & Pottawatomie (not registered) ]she brings a unique perspective to her scripts.