Filmmaker Michael Markham wrote this screenplay for "The Call" in response to 1 Kings 19:1-14 and in reflection of his recent experiences.
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1 Kings 19:1–8
1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me , and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. 3 And when he saw that , he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 ¶ But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD , take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. 5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. 6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. 8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
It took a long time for this story to materialize.
I picked this passage as it speaks to my current struggles with God and with my art. This last April I shot my current film, "The Decades of Mason Carroll." It was a very intense experience as production pressure is usually magnified by the realities of low-budget indie filmmaking. After that giant push, I found myself in an extended period of depression which conflicted with the prolonged post-process for the film. At some point I described this to an advisor who said, "You need to sleep." She pointed me to this story in Kings. Elijah had just finished this amazing feat of faith, a demonstration of God's power, by calling down fire from heaven to burn up his sacrifice then slaughtering the prophets of Baal with the sword. But instead of taking a victory lap he's running for his life in the wilderness, searching for God. God meets him and feeds him and tells him to sleep. Then feeds him again. He then travels for 40 days to the mountain of God (Horeb, also known as Sinai). When he gets there God doesn't reveal himself in an awesome show of power (not the wind, nor earthquake, nor fire), but through a still small voice.
From our perspective it feels easy to think, "I wish God would give me a sign that's easy to read like he did in the bible." But if you look at the bible in total, he doesn't often work that way, It's usually through his people, in quieter and more subtle ways. Elijah had just taken part in an episode where God showed up in "biblical" fashion, decisively conquering His enemies. But instead of trusting Him, Elijah chooses to fear Jezebel and Ahab and runs for his life. And God provided for him. Justifiably, Elijah was exhausted. I can't imagine the effort, physically and spiritually, it takes to call down fire from heaven and then have 450 people put to death with the sword and then run to Jezreel from the Kishon Valley faster than Ahab could get there in a chariot. And when he's running scared, God says, "Eat. Sleep. Now eat again. You'll need your strength." That's why I was referred to this story. I had just finished this massive creative/physical/mental effort to get through production and instead of getting a break, I started post facing several immediate setbacks and a few people I had relied on needing to pull out. I felt alone with another mountain to climb and like Elijah my spirit wanted to fall down in the desert and die. And then in my despair I kept looking for God to sweep in and miraculously set things right, like he had during filming. There was so many things way out of my control that had gone right that week and a half for me to deny God's hand in it. But instead of trusting him, I turned right around and began to doubt His care for me.
So sitting with all of that, I wanted to find a way to communicate that spiritual desire to cry out and die. Once the physical manifestation of that appeared to me, the rest of the story fell in line. I was able to build the whole story off of that physicalization of internal conflict. From there it was just a matter of finding the details as they appeared. I found often the simplest solution was to pull details directly from Elijah's story. After all, it was already there for me.
Michael Markham is an Actor/Filmmaker based out of New York City. His favorite roles in New York include Platonov in The Spectacular Demise of Platonov at Shapiro Theater; Frizer in christopher marlowe’s chloroform dreams at The Red Room with Lunar Energy; Giant in Giants at HERE; and The Singing Soldier in Mother Courage and Her Children at The New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park. Film and television include Law & Order; When Things Fall Apart; Home Office; Fumes; Lies; Unearthed; Game Theory; and Blind Date. Though his production company KiteMonkey Productions Michael has created over 10 short films in the past 5 years. His currently project The Decades of Mason Carroll is currently in final stage of post production. Look for it on the festival circuit in 2018. Michael graduated from The Juilliard School Drama Division, and has a Bachelor of Arts in Acting from Washington University in St. Louis. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.