This story, while primarily fictional, was inspired by my experience as an ESL teacher in rural Virginia.
Logline: Speaking American
A newly-assigned ESL teacher in rural Virginia struggles to communicate with her lone Salvadoran student, exposing hidden fears, prejudices and the universal desire to connect with others.
Beth’s private pain has left her overly protective of her young son and fearful of the dangers she imagines. When she is assigned to teach English as a Second Language to a recently immigrated Salvadoran girl at the local high school, she stumbles clumsily through her efforts to communicate with the girl.
At home, Beth struggles to connect with her husband, neighbors and community. She begins to realize her world has become quite small. Meanwhile her student, Angela, faces the challenges and prejudices, both subtle and overt, of being part of a small minority in a rural Virginian farming community. She shares the responsibility of caring for a sick younger brother while her mother works to support the family.
Back at school, the initially awkward language lessons open up a new world for both Beth and Angela, who find they have much to learn from each other. Inspired by Angela’s strength in the face of a painful past in El Salvador, Beth begins to face her own pain and fears, branching out to explore the unfamiliar and uncomfortable parts of her world just as Angela strives to find her place in a similarly strange new land.
“The script comes alive…a well-observed character driven piece.”
“This script reads like a movie—it’s rare to come across a screenplay where you read it and can immediately see it as an independent film.”
“The script taps into a casual racism that is surprising, and acknowledges that it comes from someone as seemingly open as Beth. It’s not a judgment of your protagonist, more the presentation of something that happens. It’s a complicated idea, sophisticatedly handled in this story.”
-Bluecat Screenplay competition