Institute History

  • 2000 January Screenwriters Lab


Warren, a disgruntled social worker, meets an intelligent but incredibly reckless teenage girl named Jaynee one morning at the Detroit Zoo. Jaynee has spent the night there with only her father's gun for protection and Warren offers her a ride home. Jaynee takes him to Westland, the town where she lives. Here he meets her father, Earl, a factory worker at the local Ford plant and his much younger but quietly wise girlfriend, Jody.

Warren soon finds himself deeply entangled with this makeshift family. Earl sees Warren as someone who can offer valuable insight into his daughter's mind—a friendship begins. When Earl discovers that Jaynee's been carrying his gun around he flies into a rage, takes the gun out of Jaynee's coat and asks Warren to dispose of it. Warren leaves with the gun but he doesn't dispose of it. Instead he buys some ammunition, cleans it and puts it under the seat of his car. The gun begins to change his life in ways he hadn't expected: he becomes a better father and a better husband—he is now empowered by some mysterious purpose.

Meanwhile, Jaynee has begun to explore a budding friendship/romance of her own—with Alex, an awkward but friendly kid from school who is always willing to accompany her on her various adventures. But when Jaynee realizes that Warren still has the gun, her attentions quickly shift back to him. She begins to aggressively draw him into her obsession with a girl who was raped and murdered in her neighborhood. The murder was never solved but Jaynee tells Warren that she has found the killer. She shows Warren where the supposed killer lives and asks Warren if he will help. At first skeptical, Warren becomes more and more involved in Jaynee's world, until he cannot separate her fantasies from his reality. Ultimately, they decide to confront the suspect together, entering his house under false pretenses. Once inside, all of their illusions are shattered and both of them emerge broken but transformed.

WESTLAND is a landscape dotted with ghosts—the remnants of industrial Detroit, barren suburbs, and a pervasive feeling of uncertainty and always imminent violence. Within this world, Jaynee and Warren are two ordinary people struggling with extraordinary mysteries, attempting to break down the facades of the past and move into the present.


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