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Author: Paul Gustafson and Dawn Jelley
Genre: Screenplay (1:45)

Registry #: scp001


"You've just broken a dead man's boat," was the last thing Tom Shepard wants to hear in his suddenly upside-down life. A website engineer, traumatized by his wife's recent and tragic death, and compounded by his father's death when Tom was only fifteen, this accident with the boat only escalates his fear of death. He struggles to box his emotions, along with his wife's possessions. Only her death certificate remains as he busily gets on with his life, or so thinks.

His business is expanding well, which is a distraction for the grieving man. But soon, this work leads him to a local hospice, and strangely enough to his being drawn into volunteering to help a dying old man finish a boat he is building, a scull.

Over the course of one year, through humor an experience, Tom and the elderly patient, Stan, develop a unique and trusting friendship. As Stan becomes increasingly ill, Tom is forced to both help his friend and deal with his own demons at the same time. With the invaluable help of Hospice dedication and the guiding memories of his wife, Tom is carried to a moment of crisis. Will he succeed?

With compelling dialogue and visual scenes, Dead Man's Boat delves into the taboos, fears and mystiques commonly associated with the dying. When Tom is overwhelmed by his fear, in a room filled with origami birds hand-made and hung by his wife, they gently remind him of the importance of completing the journey he has begun with Stan.

Creatively explored at the same time are the boundaries and powers of spiritual growth, deeply committed relationships and the strength necessary to overcome tragedy. When Tom, at a peak point of the screenplay, is able to release his wife's death certificate, launching and gliding it into the distant air in the form of a paper origami bird, the circle is complete and he embraces life again. The death certificate flown as an origami bird and the completed scull both serve as ranging metaphors in the lives of two men at the opposite ends of life.


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