The Lesson

Overwhelmed by the terror and violence that have become the ‘new normal’ across America, Keller, an assault survivor, seeks solace in buying a gun for self-defense. But during her very first shooting lesson with Ty, an ex-cop battling his own demons, Keller begins to wonder if a gun will be enough to give her the comfort and connection she needs to survive in a changing world.

  • Kimberly Kalaja
  • Project Type:
    Short Script
  • Number of Pages:
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • First-time Screenwriter:
  • Student Project:
  • Portland Screenplay Awards 2021

    Official Selection
  • Los Angeles Television, Script, and Film Festival 2021
    Los Angeles
    Official Selection
  • New York City International Screenplay Awards 2021
    New York
    Official Selection
  • Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards 2021
    Los Angeles
    Official election
  • Oregon Short Film Festival 2021

    Official Selection
  • Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition 2021
    January 28, 2021
  • Garden State Film Festival 2021
    Asbury Park, NJ
    March 28, 2021
    Honorable Mention
  • Irvine International Film Festival 2020
    Irvine, CA
    April 9, 2020
    Best Short Screenplay
  • Austin Under The Stars 2020
    Austin, TX
    November 7, 2020
    Official Selection
  • New Hope Film Festival 2020
    New Hope, NJ
    June 25, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Atlanta Film Festival 2020
    Atlanta, GA
    August 25, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Top Shorts Film Festival September 2020
    September 30, 2020
    Best Screenplay
  • Global Shorts 2020

  • Manhattan Short Fim Festival 2020
    New York City
    October 31, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition 2020

    Official Selection
  • Big Apple Film Festival 2019
    New York, NY
    August 29, 2019
    Winner - Short Screenplay
Writer Biography - Kimberly Kalaja

Kimberly Kalaja is an American playwright, author, and Fulbright.

Her award-winning plays include “Night Moths on the Wing,” “Acts Without Words,” and “The Shooter.” Her screenplay “The Lesson” is a four-time Best-Screenplay festival award-winner.

Her non-fiction work, “Reading Games: An Aesthetics of Play,” (a philosophical consideration of game theory in the production of Art), was selected in 2007 to be part of Dalkey Archive Press's Scholarly Series. Her essays have been published by The Four Courts Press (Dublin), “The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies,” “The Journal of British Studies,” “The Irish Journal of Feminist Studies,” “The Irish Review,” “Princeton University Library Chronicle,” “Twentieth Century Criticism,” and “Gazeta Shqip.”

Kimberly earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University, an MA in Irish Literature from The Queen's University of Belfast, and a BA in English at Scripps College. She has worked with incarcerated students since 2006, has been a professor at Princeton, NYU, California State University, and was a visiting Faculty Fulbright at the University of Tirana, Albania.

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Writer Statement

I believe stories are the foundations of identities, that they have the uncanny power to shape our realities, and are one of the most powerful means of connecting people.

The inspiration behind “The Lesson” was my dad, who, for as long as I can remember has told us, “anything worth having is worth protecting.” This heartfelt belief is at the root of his support for gun ownership. I wanted to write a story powerful enough to show him that however different our choices have been, we share common ground: we love our families and want to protect them; we fear the ever-increasing violence that plagues our nation; we want safe streets, and secure homes. All that really separates us is how we have chosen to respond to the uncertainties of this world.

This film is for anyone who – like me – has friends and family members whom we love deeply, but who hold very different beliefs. And it is especially for those of us who fear that expressing our beliefs will drive away those we love. I will view the film as a success if it is able to bridge the empathy gap; it is not an ideological piece, but an emotional one. Genuine dialogue demands we set politics aside, and get to the roots of our shared humanity.

“The Lesson” reframes the dialogue about guns in America – away from the guns – and focuses instead on the human emotions that perpetuate the cycle of violence. It is aimed at two groups of people – those who would consider buying a gun for self-defense, and those who would never buy a gun under any circumstances. I hope it inspires safe and respectful conversations between those who might otherwise believe they have nothing in common.

I wanted the viewer to be inside the head of a person who chooses to buy a gun, to understand that she is reasonable and rational, even if fear and vulnerability drive her choices. And of course, I also want viewers to understand why, in the end, she makes the choice she makes.
One challenge in writing the script was to remain vigilantly nonpartisan. This film does not tell people what they should do, but hopes to inspire viewers to think about the power each of us has to determine our own lives. As our country becomes more and more fractured, as more and more of us experience violence first-hand, and many of us feel more isolated, defensive, and cautious than ever, this film is an exploration of how our private decisions really do matter, how every choice we make as individuals resonates in and impacts the world around us. And we are accountable for every choice we make.