Ludlow Massacre - Your best historical event to develop for screen

A crazy day in the life of our fictional Hollywood super developer. Part of 5M Projects. Written by Rogue Saint.

It was Saturday night. I had stayed up late watching T2: Judgment Day, nicely cozied up on my couch. Do you remember that scene in the hallway when Arnie carries in a gun concealed in a golden box of flowers? Yes, exactly when he pulled out the shotgun, my phone rang. It was 2:13 a.m. Who in the world would call at 2:13 a.m.? It was my friend who owned a local busy bar in Hollywood.
"Dude, I need you here immediately," his frenzied voice pleaded. He continued without giving me a chance to respond. "There's some guy here who’s locked himself in a bathroom punching the wall and screaming your name."
"My name?" I grabbed the window of opportunity to insert a pressing question. "Who in the world would do such a thing screaming my name?"
"I don't know. I do know I need you here."
"Why didn't you call the cops? This is more a job for them than for me."
"I did, but upon arriving they said they are powerless to help. They said they have seen this before. Only you can help."

I dressed as quickly as possible and headed to the bar, arriving there about 30 minutes later. Once I got inside, I was ushered to the locked restroom door, as wild sounds still continued to echo from deep within. I knocked on the door and introduced myself as loudly as possible. Shortly after that, the door lock clicked and the door slid open. A bewildered man eyed me, sighed, and calmly stated, "Oh, it is you. Finally."

So there you were, an aspiring writer or a seasoned Hollywood pro with bloody fists, messy hair, and some cuts and bruises on your forehead and chin.
"What is this all about?" I asked, confused.
"If I had known the life of a Hollywood writer was like this, I’d have stayed on my farm in North Dakota, raising cattle and doing yard work from 5 a.m. to late afternoon," you said, sounding disappointed. "Do you know I've been working for a reality show for a few years now?"
"Isn't that a positive thing? I mean, you have a job, don't you?"
"Screw that." You opened the door all the way, took some steps back and sat on a toilet seat. "I'm an artist who needs to be challenged. I don't want to do things mechanically all my life. I'm not a whore. It's not always about money, but personal satisfaction. I want to be fulfilled by what I'm doing."

I recognized the troubles in your voice as I grabbed a chair that was placed nearby, put it in the doorway, and sat down. I looked straight into your wrecked face as a strong odor of alcohol spread around.
"How long have you been drinking tonight?"
"I started at 3 p.m.," you answered, avoiding eye contact. "Just don't..."
"I know exactly what you need, so I won't. You're looking for that script that will win awards at multiple festivals and hopefully get you the most important one—the Oscar."
"Is that bad? Is it really bad that I want more than just generic money for not achieving my full potential?"
"No, it's not bad at all... So, tell me, you must have thought about a particular genre. What is it that you find fulfilling for your artistic mind?"

"I like history." You adjusted yourself slightly on the uncomfortable toilet seat. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not at the level of a university professor, but... you know what I mean. The historic events do well on screen and pick up a lot of awards, but the problem is... they've all been taken. The Civil War, World Wars I and II, any major story of any major historical event has been done already. Even a fictional horse from World War I had its own movie made. What's left for me, sheep and dogs?"

"So, we're looking for a historical adaptation here? Something that prompted changes in society and hasn't been done already?" As I summed up your points aloud, my brain performed a quick search for any historical event I could remember. There were many of them, but one seemed particularly interesting and appealing. I smiled.

"What are you smiling for?" you asked, confused, almost angry. "I'm here on the ropes, down for the count, and you find it funny."
"I find it funny how nobody ever wanted to bring a story to the screen that will wow the masses and conquer their hearts. A story that impacted this country for years to come."
"What is the story? Tell me. Tell me now," you urged me impatiently, but I decided to make you wait a bit longer before I actually revealed it.

"Have you ever heard of Ludlow?"
"Ludlow? What’s that? A common name in the Czech Republic?"
"No, it was a town next to a coal mine. Actually not exactly a town, more of a settlement for coal miners."
"What happened to them?"
"Many of them got killed."
"By whom? Native Americans?"

"No. This is not that kind of story. This is the story of a massacre that happened at Ludlow on April 20th, 1914... On that day, the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company camp guards attacked a tent colony of one thousand, two hundred striking coal miners and their families. Nineteen to twenty-five people died, including women and children, asphyxiated and burned to death."

"That's terrible," you uttered after a moment of silence.
"I know. You need to know that Ludlow was not an isolated incident, Ludlow was a tipping point. The tragedy itself, the massacre, was part of an overall struggle in the Colorado mines at that time. In the aftermath of the Ludlow Massacre, the union of mine workers openly armed its members, and there was a full-throttle war until President Wilson sent in federal troops. The federal troops eventually disarmed both sides."

"Okay, I think I can picture the circumstances now." You were starting to collect the pieces of the puzzle. "But the question that bothers me is... why would the coal mines send the armed guards against miners and their families?"
"Everyday life in coal mines is difficult even today, let alone back in 1914. An ordinary miner works long, hard hours in dangerous conditions where collapses, explosions and suffocations are all realities. He puts food on the table for his family and dreams of a better life for his children. All that collapsed at Ludlow when workers attempted to unionize to improve their working conditions while the companies did everything they could to prevent that unionization. A spark between the two sides turned into a wildfire when workers started to strike. In response to the open strike, the companies sent their private security and the Colorado National Guard."

"So let me get this straight... the miners tried to unionize to receive better compensation for themselves and their families. But the coal mines refused, and when the miners started to rise against working conditions, the coal mines sent armed guards to quench the strike."
"Remember, this was 1914. The level of understanding and dialogue at that time between coal mines and miners didn't quite reach those of modern-day negotiations. So one decision, or just an action wrongly interpreted by the other side, sparks an incident. In such a tense environment, a simple spark easily grows into a wildfire... But, unfortunately, the events turned out more deadly than anybody had ever expected. In the aftermath of the Ludlow Massacre, in an armed uprising of miners from nearby coal mines, almost two hundred more people died. It is to date the deadliest strike of workers in the history of this country."

I let you soak up all the necessary information before I continued.
"I'd suggest you write a personal story of a miner family that lived in Ludlow at that time. Make it about the struggle for a better life that never comes, or may never come. Depending on what kind of ending you want, that family may or may not survive the massacre. So start with the buildup to April 20th, 1914, then move on to the massacre itself.
“To add another dimension to your script, you may include as a character the officer in charge of the federal troops. I haven’t found out that man's name, but he must have had one. Why do I believe including him could bebeneficiary?...
“Well, imagine yourself in charge of the federal troops sent personally by President Wilson to disarm both sides. On one side, you have the State of Colorado National Guard—so not mercenary soldiers, but regular armed forces—in addition to armed guards hired by the coal companies, and on the other side, furious, hard-working miners who count women and children among their dead. These people were not foreigners—both sides were American. The situation was anything but easy to diffuse. Only God knows what kind of decisions this man needed to make."

"This has the potential to be a powerful, emotional story," you said, slightly hit by emotions yourself in aftermath of my words. "Is there anything else I need to know?"
"When you start researching the Ludlow Massacre, you will find out that John D. Rockfeller Jr. owned one of the mining companies involved in this incident. The Ludlow Massacre haunted his image for a long, long time."
"Should I exploit this?" You jumped on this opportunity before I could stop you. "We're in Hollywood, after all. Hollywood votes Democrat and loves unions. Unions good, mines bad, John D. Junior suck it up, this is a stain on your legacy..."
"Stop. Stop. Stop." I'd heard enough, even too much. "I said you will find this info—but you should avoid exploiting it. Make this story about personal struggle, not an opportunity to voice political preferences."

You nodded in confirmation, then looked left then right, searching for an opportunity to showcase what you had learned. Suddenly, you sprang to your feet.
"Okay. Let's do a short role play. I'm a writer trying to sell a pitch about this project, and you're a powerhouse executive. Ready?"
"Here it is. Hmm. Hmm." You cleared your throat before beginning. "Ludlow is a fictional story loosely based on a historical moment for American workers that happened on April 20th, 1914, when the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company camp guards attacked miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado. The conflict took the lives of between nineteen and twenty-five miners and their families as well as four members of the security forces. In the aftermath of Ludlow, furious miners from the surrounding coal mines rebelled against the mining companies in a conflict that took an additional sixty-nine to one-hundred-ninety-nine lives. It is to date the deadliest workers’ strike in the history of the USA and a watershed moment for unionizing workers across the country..."

"That's a decent start," I interrupted. "But it's too late for me, almost 3 a.m., and you don't have the screenplay ready. So before I depart, I'll give you some words of wisdom for this project.
“First, some advice. Name your script Ludlow, not Ludlow MassacreLudlow is shorter and will market better... In your pitch, highlight why this is such an important historical moment. It has lots of conflict, lots of emotions...
“Stress the project’s potential to develop mesmerizing characters and story... Mention that this kind of project is prime for winning awards and that a script like this can easily attract top character actors."
"Okay," you confirmed.
"We're set, then. Don't wait—research the subject tomorrow morning. Start writing as soon as next week. I'll be watching you."


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VillianLabs by Rogue Saint: Ludlow Massacre - Your best historical event to develop for screen
Ludlow Massacre - Your best historical event to develop for screen
A crazy day in the life of our fictional Hollywood super developer. Part of 5M Projects. Written by Rogue Saint.
VillianLabs by Rogue Saint
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