Time Before the Fall


A famous movie director harboring dark sins and nightmares of war tries to persuade his granddaughter not to make a biographical drama about his life while subconsciously knowing he needs it for his redemption. His secrets come to light when a young actress channels the spirit of his missing wife.

Similar to "The Others" and "The Rabbit Hole"

The story takes place in the wine country of California.

The protagonist, Camilla (F 20s,) is a director shooting her first feature - a biographical drama about her famous relative, the award-winning director Mac Mckaskle (80s) who absolutely does not want his great-granddaughter to make the movie. He just wants to be remembered for his movies.

Mac is a Korean War veteran and Camilla believes he doesn’t want to revisit that time of his life but she thinks it is important to show the angst behind his creativity. But still, Camilla is hurt because Mac is not supportive of her endeavors-either financially or otherwise. He refuses to be part of the process in any way.

That is until he meets KATY, the actress hired to play the role of his wife, Annie, who had disappeared many years ago. All agree that Katy looks just like photos of Annie. Mac can’t help to be interested and reluctantly agrees to go to the set which is the actual house that his wife lived in when she disappeared.

The filming is plagued by supernatural events that are not readily apparent to anyone except for Matty (60s) who is the daughter of Mac and Annie and grandmother to Camilla. Matty is very much supportive of Camilla’s goal to shoot the feature. But Matty, who was age three when her mother disappeared, can’t quite remember the past that Camilla wants to discover. What happened to Annie? Where did she go? Why did she leave?

After a series of setbacks and delays which frustrate Camilla, Katy blows her lines through several takes causing Camilla to get progressively angry. Matty, trying to recall a past memory, asks Camilla to just let the scene run the way Katy seems to be stuck.

When Katy, possessed by the spirit of Annie, begs an unseen Mac not to hurt her, Matty regresses to the moment in her childhood when her mother, Annie, was killed.

Mac is at last relieved of the burden his dark secret. He later confesses that Annie and his best friend Peter are buried there. He talks of how the boy he was never came home from Korea, how he lost all his buddies there, how he was trained to kill, and how he lost it all when he came home.

When a sheriff comes to take him away, Mac asks Camilla if she thinks he will be remembered for his movies.

Time before the Fall is an ensemble piece.

  • Suzanne Birrell
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, mystery
  • Number of Pages:
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • First-time Screenwriter:
  • Student Project:
  • Santa Barbara International ScreenWriting Contest
    Santa Barbara, CA
    February 15, 2022
    Quarter Finalist
  • Wiki Screenplay Contest
    Santa Barbara, California
    March 12, 2022
  • Inroads Fellowship
    Los Angeles, Californina
    April 15, 2022
  • Golden Script Competition

    June 5, 2022
    Quarter Finalist
Writer Biography - Suzanne Birrell

A Renaissance woman with a multi-ethnic background from small-town America (where the women are strong), Suzanne Birrell writes screenplays from a unique perspective. Suzanne teaches middle school (where children are wild and hormones rage), plays bass in a country band, and generally observes life as inspiration for her stories. All of her screenplays feature great roles for women of all ages and are based on real-life and actual events albeit with a bit of exaggeration. https://www.networkisa.org/profile/suzannebirrell

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Writer Statement

The idea for "Time Before the Fall" was inspired by my father, who was one of three survivors of B Company in Korea and never got over it. He did not kill anyone, but when my mother died he said he had cheated her and they had lived a lie. After he returned he was never again the man she had married. The words of Mac to his granddaughter about leaving himself in Korea are my father's words.