Black Bella Donna

‘Black Bella Donna’ inspired by a photograph by An Nguyen.

Pictonaut challenge screenplay sequence effort for March 2014.


Black-and-white photography. Mid-afternoon, a clear spring day. We’re looking out across the great expanse that is the city of Rome – the bustle of Roman life quietly rumbles in the background though it is muted and buried beneath a slight discordant droning noise. The noise sounds like a sustained sharp intake of breath or a distant tap running.

Pulling back gently, we see the frame of a window and realise that we are positioned inside a building looking out from an upper storey. Pulling back further a black disc shape floats into the frame. The black shape inches forward towards to open window and we see that it is the wide brim of a fedora.

The fedora belongs to a woman – BLACK BELLA DONNA – and she stands before the aperture looking out. We only see the back of her head – long black hair, long black cloak on her back.

We stay with her and sit with the eerie droning. After a spell we hear a car approaching, its wheels crossing street cobbles.

Black Bella Donna flinches slightly and moves with careful poise closer to the window to look out and down.


We’re in the street below in one of Rome’s inner city residential areas and we’re looking down from a high angle – perspective from just outside the upper storey window. A taxicab is rumbling down the cobbled avenue. It slows to pull up outside the apartment block – the droning fading to only natural sound as we concentrate on this moment.


The tyres roll to a stop and from a low-angle we see a young woman leap out of the rear of the taxicab. She is JOANNA HOPPER and she is a 20-year-old American art student dressed in all-black haute couture garments – a trendy floppy hat, a loose-hanging long skirt affair and, for contrast, big black boots. In spite of her dark clothing, she’s incredibly perky and she moves and acts with peppy joie-de-vivre.

She skips to the front window and hands the driver a wad of paper money.





The taxicab drives off and we’re left with Joanna. She looks up at her apartment block and then, with a spring in her step, makes to walk up the entrance steps.


Back at the window again, we’re looking down on Joanna entering the building and we’re seeing this from over the shoulder of Black Bella Donna. The droning on the soundtrack becomes more pronounced as the woman’s dark figure draws back out of the shot as soon Joanna disappears from view.


Low-angle tracking shot following Joanna as she saunters through the grand lobby of the apartment block. Though not quite palatial, the building has a certain grandiosity as if it used to be a municipal centre or a household for someone very rich before it got broken up into multiple residences.

Through a montage of different shots, we get a visual sense of this young woman’s happy-go-lucky character. She smirks and smiles to herself as she dances around the lobby, boots tapping across the marble tiling, lost in her own world. In spite of this the tense sound-effects continue to throb making the atmosphere uneasy.

Joanna strides up to a great staircase and walks right on up. As she gets to a level we cut to an overhead view and in the corner we see Black Bella Donna walking in parallel on the level Joanna’s climbing to. She sweeps in swiftly, ready to meet Joanna at the staircase’s summit.

From Black Bella Donna’s elevated position we look down on Joanna as she stops in shock and comes out of her reverie, surprised by the sudden appearance of another figure. The soundtrack droning cuts out.


Oh, my!

At a standstill, mid-step, she looks up at the woman in black. Black Bella Donna’s head is bowed low, the brim of her fedora covering her face. Joanna recovers herself.


Ha, you surprised me! Gave me a fright!

There is no response from Black Bella Donna. Joanna hangs on a moment but the silent figure stays motionless, centred at the top of the stairs.


Are you, erm… can I help you?

The mysterious figure replies in a deep, hollow, disquieting whisper.




Help? Erm, yeah… can I help you?


Help… no… but you my child…

Joanna starts to look unsettled. She draws back slightly, guarded. The pulsating drone on the soundtrack comes into force again as she stares at the uncanny cloaked figure before her.


Look… hey, erm, who are you? Do you live here?

No answer. Joanna summons up some nerve and goes to push on by.


Look I just want to get by to…


No getting by…


Hey, wait a minute! I don’t know who you think you are or what this is all abou…


No more… Joanna…

Joanna is visibly shaken that this eerie figure knows her name and starts to get angry.


Hey, how do you know my name? Huh? Who are you and what are you doing here…


No more…


What do you…?

But the black figure has moved forward and moved down several stairs to come right up to Joanna. The volume of the droning escalating and rising to a crescendo, the pitch rising and the tension tightening.


I… I… Who…?

But it’s too late for Joanna. Black Bella Donna raises her head so the fedora no longer covers her face. We see now that she has no face – all there is is a swirling black whirl spinning into a void.

Joanna makes as if to scream but she can’t. It’s as if her throat has been throttled and she chokes in silence, her face a picture of abject fear. Her skin starts to turn a greyish hue and we experience her final conscious moments from Joanna’s point-of-view.

Looking into the black vortex that is Black Bella Donna’s ‘face’, we slowly zoom in as the soundtrack’s crescendo sustains, unbearable and otherworldly.

After elongated blackness holds for several beats, the title – BLACK BELLA DONNA – appears and the opening credit sequence rolls.


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  1. Pictonaut Short Story Challenge: ‘Black Bella Donna’… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON


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