White-haired Goldenrod

Well into their 70s, Dr. Annette Braun, lepidopterist, and Dr. E. Lucy Braun, renown botanist, set out in their Model-T Ford to Appalachia to procure an endangered flower, the White-haired Goldenrod. When domineering Lucy leads them astray in the woods, Annette's unspoken resentments surface, forcing her to question the hierarchy of their sisterhood and whether they will survive Kentucky's Red River Gorge. This "off-the-record" account, set in autumn 1963, is inspired by the lives of these two female scientists.

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  • 2016 Sundance Institute Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant
    Los Angeles, California
    September 16, 2015
    Round II Advancement
  • 2016 Cannes Screenplay Contest
    Cannes, France
    April 3, 2017
    Best Treatment/Concept Official Finalist
Writer Biography

Cora J. Duffy is a screenwriter, poet and experimental essayist. She holds degrees from Chapman University and the UCR-Palm Desert low residency MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts.

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Writer Statement

My first exposure to Annette and Lucy was in a black & white photograph displayed at the Salato Wildlife Center in Frankfort, Kentucky. My parents and I had gone in with the sole intent of showing my husband a wild turkey-- I came out with a screenplay about sisters.

My goal for WHITE-HAIRED GOLDENROD is to introduce Annette and Lucy, their lives and scientific contributions, to a larger audience, but to do so in a way that celebrates Lucy's love of plants and Annette's authority on butterflies and moths. By immersing this real-life duo in the dense, multi-layered Appalachian forest, I hope to push beyond biography and explore the dense, multi-layered themes that impacted them: sisterhood, aging, oppression and development vs. conservation.

At the emotional core of this story is Annette and Lucy's relationship. Though equally gifted scientists, Annette was dominated by Lucy. Accounts characterize Lucy as brash, ungracious, condescending and bossy; yet Annette admired and facilitated her little sister's life and work. Theirs is a story of one person's journey inextricably bound to another's. But, as is often the case, beneath the surface of co-dependency can lie conflicted feelings of resentment, self-doubt, untapped potential, even jealousy. Like the White-haired Goldenrod growing in the shadow of Appalachia's lush canopy of oak, hickory and maple trees, there is a quiet, patient strength in one that prospers-- loves-- despite the very real, darker side of life.

I am inspired by the moving docu-fiction STRANGERS IN GOOD COMPANY (1990, dir. Cynthia Scott) in which women, playing themselves, were given the freedom to be affected by nature; what transpired was a series of organic conversations on womanhood, love, death and the "remnants of your past." I want WHITE-HAIRED GOLDENROD to take on this quality of allowing ruminate nature to draw out thoughts and memories.

In both Annette and Lucy, I see myself-- I'm a late-bloomer and, self-admittedly, a control freak. But it is not because I relate to the Braun sisters, but because I think we all do, that this story is worth telling. We all feel frustrated with the impermanence of everything; that however white-knuckled our grip, the seasons of life can't be controlled; that the more tenaciously we hold on, the more out-of-control we truly are; that the world inevitably changes while we work to preserve what we can.