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THE LONGEST NIGHT by Dawson Joyce

Logline: A young transgender girl, along with her mother and friends, goes on a surreal and life-threatening race against time to get back the money that she desperately needs for surgery.

Plot: Riley Whitford, a twenty-year-old transgender woman living in Los Angeles, wakes up at morning on December 21st and gets ready for community college, her last day there before winter break. The holidays this year are set to be a special occasion for her, since on the day before Christmas Eve, she's scheduled to go in for gender confirmation surgery.

Riley and her supportive mother, Emma, have worked various jobs and held multiple bake and garage sales over the past several years, as well as set up a GoFundMe campaign, in order to raise enough money to be able to pay for the operation, and earlier during the year, they've managed to greatly surpass their campaign goal. Riley drives to school, as the opening credits starts to play.

At school, Riley meets up with her friends and classmates, Jeremy Newton (who, unbeknownst to her, has a crush on her) and Maya Taylor, both of whom are also trans. She tells them about the impending surgery, having not told them until now because she wanted it to be a surprise, and both tell her how happy they are for her. She shares Jeremy's love of retro music, even admitting that it helps soothe her and brighten her spirits whenever she's stressed out or in general not in the best of moods, and she's learned over time to embrace and be more confident in her femininity with help from Maya.

Riley comes home after school to see Emma looking at old pictures of her before and after her transition. Emma admits that although it's just two days shy of the operation, she never thought the time would come so quickly. She tells Riley a story about her late wife Christine and says that if she were still alive today, she'd be nothing but proud and happy for Riley, deeply moving her.

Later during the day, at an unkempt apartment building, Isaiah Deluca is doing sit-ups. As it gets increasingly aggressive, the story enters flashback mode where it's revealed that Deluca was a former police officer whose partner, and boyfriend, Xavier Yates was shot and killed during a bust gone wrong six months ago by Aaron Brock, a corrupt officer with a severe alcohol and crack-cocaine problem. Outraged over Yates' death and disgusted by his fellow officers siding with Brock and forgiving him, Deluca quit his job and now feels ashamed that he was ever “blue.” Deluca's had thoughts of revenge against Brock ever since.

Speaking of Brock, he's shown — along with his much younger, college-aged girlfriend Willa — at a cheap, disgusting hotel room, where he speaks with Quincy Owens, a powerful loan shark to whom he owes a considerable amount of money, on the telephone. Owens has had it up to here with Brock making excuses for why he hasn't paid his increasing debt.

Before hanging up, Owens gives Brock until midnight to give him $100,000 or else he'll have him killed. When Willa mocks Brock, he socks her across the face, leaving her with a bloody nose and a black eye, and pins her down on the bed, threatening her with further violence if she doesn't shut up, before putting on his police gear and leaving the motel.

While Emma's home alone, Riley goes out for a night ride with Jeremy and Maya. Jeremy brings with him his own compilation of classic songs, which he pops into the car's CD player. As she drives and chats with her friends, and the songs continue to play, a curious Riley observes the Los Angeles nightlife outside, including what looks like a trio of sex workers on the streets.

Riley gets instantly afraid when Brock is behind her, blaring his police signal. She pulls over and expects the worst, only for Brock to simply tell her that she forgot to execute a turn signal, and he leaves her alone. She continues driving, thinking about Brock's unusual behavior. Unbeknownst to either of them, Deluca is following Brock.

Riley, Jeremy, and Maya go to eat at a drive-in diner to take Riley's mind off of Brock. While eating, they talk more about her impending surgery. As they finish their meals and pull out, they see Brock again and witness him murdering someone in cold blood. Riley quickly drives away, terrified. However, Brock observes her driving fast and quickly deduces that she witnessed his killing a man. Riley immediately goes back home and tells a concerned Emma about the murder she and her friends witnessed.

Worried for everyone's safety and distrusting the law, Emma tells Riley to go to her room and pack a suitcase. Jeremy and Maya help her. In her room, it's revealed that Riley has kept all the money raised for the operation in a jar. As they head back down, they're horrified to discover that Brock has followed them and is holding Emma at gunpoint with a revolver, threatening to shoot and kill her. Defending herself, Emma bites his hand, causing him to scream in pain and accidentally shoot at a light, making the house go dark.

After a brief struggle, Brock shoots at the four some more, failing to hit them, and escapes the house. To her horror, Riley sees that Brock has her money, as he intends to use it to pay off his debt. She recklessly tries to follow and catch him, but to no avail, as Brock dashes off in his police car. However, Brock's tires are shot at, making him crash into garbage cans and causing the car to flip over.

It's revealed here that the shooter was Deluca, and that Maya recognizes him as her former step-brother. Brock steals a neighbor's car and drives off with the money, while Deluca's out of bullets. Riley tells Deluca about Brock having her money for the surgery and they all agree to pursue him. Riley, Emma, Jeremy, and Maya go in Deluca's car and they attempt to track him down through the city. Riley gets increasingly tense and distraught and Emma comforts her.

While driving, it's revealed that Maya's relationship with Deluca had gotten strained when he became a police officer. He tells the group about his history with Brock and why he joined the force and later quit. He wanted to be an officer because he wanted to protect his family and his community and possibly turn things around, but he later realized that he was doing more to hurt them.

The group follows Brock to the hotel he was staying at, where the manager is sleeping on the job. Brock goes back to his room, where he apologizes to Willa for abusing her and tells her about the money he stole and how it'll pay off his debt. However, she's had enough of the way he's treated her for so long and pulls out a revolver that she bought. She intends to kill him and take the money for herself and run.

Brock tries and fails to convince her to hand the revolver over to him and they get in a struggle in the hallway that ends with him fatally shooting her repeatedly. The group makes a run for it after seeing this and he chases after them, with Jeremy tripping down the stairs. Brock chases the gang, with both parties risking getting into accidents. The chase culminates in Brock shooting at Deluca's car, breaking the windshield and causing them to crash into a department store. Failing to pay attention to the road, Brock crashes into a lamppost.

Riley, Emma, Jeremy, Maya, and Deluca all make it out okay. They escape the store and successfully hide from Brock, who tries to find them in a dark, wet alley to no avail. Riley vomits from shock and starts to sob, lamenting the possibilities that they'll never get the money back and that she'll never be able to fulfill her desire to have the surgery.

The group walks around the city sidewalks, where they end up coming across the trio of sex workers that Riley saw while driving earlier, who are all frustrated over the lack of customers tonight. The trio consists of Kathryn Vogel, Zara Helm, and Sophia Pratt, all of whom are trans women. The group accidentally bumps into them and apologizes. After hearing about their situation, the women offer to let them stay at their apartment for the night, which they graciously accept.

The sex workers live with their supportive procurer, and Kathryn's loving husband, Gabriel, who is a trans man, and he welcomes the group into their home. Riley, not feeling very well, goes to a spare bedroom and lies down, wanting to get some rest. However, Riley has trouble getting rest. She tries to cheer herself up with music, but it doesn't work and she starts to tear up. Maya comes in to check on her and Riley confesses that she feels hopeless and worthless because of tonight. Before she leaves the room to join the others, Maya reassures that she's not a bad person and says that she shouldn't give up so easily. After Maya leaves Riley alone, she reconciles with Deluca and thanks him for what he's done for them tonight.

Back in the living room, everyone's telling their respective LGBTQIAP+ coming-out stories. Emma's, in particular, strikes a chord, as she talks about how she grew up in a hostile and abusive household and vowed never to let her own children grow up under the same circumstances. When Riley told her that she was really a girl, Emma and her wife Christine, who passed away from breast cancer a few years ago, were proud of her and did everything they could to support her and make her feel happy.

When Emma asks about the pole in the room, Sophia confesses that she used to be a stripper before she was a sex worker. As she impresses everyone with her dancing skills, Jeremy walks into the spare bedroom and comforts Riley, who's no longer crying nor listening to any music. He admits that although it's been a bad and long night, there's a part of him that feels that the adrenaline rush of it all was rather exciting. He finally decides to confess his feelings for her.

Jeremy pops his still-intact CD into a player. As the music plays, Jeremy initiates a dance with Riley, which brightens her spirits. The dance culminates in the two leaning in towards one another and sharing a tender kiss. But they're interrupted by Emma, who barges in to warn them that they need to leave after seeing that Brock has followed them to the apartment. Thinking about what Maya said to her earlier, Riley refuses to give up easily and will do whatever it takes to get the money back for the surgery, no matter how risky.

When Emma warns her of how dangerous this is, Riley points out that her being an out trans woman in a world where bigots claim that it's something to be ashamed of and disgusted by technically means she's always been living a dangerous life. Wanting her daughter to be happy, Emma agrees to help her and the group sends the sex workers and Gabriel their goodbyes. They manage to get out of the apartment building before Brock, who's even more drunk and coked up, can catch up to them. But he soon spots them and they run off into the night.

They eventually find themselves heading into an autosilo, which is where Brock is supposed to meet up with Owens to give him the money. Brock repeatedly shoots at the group and keeps missing before he eventually manages to hit Jeremy in the left foot, injuring him. Riley convinces him and the rest, barring Deluca, to hide before leaving him with another kiss. Deluca hands her a lightweight silencer pistol. Riley stands at a wall where Brock, in a stolen car, sees her. He drives towards her, aiming to kill her.

Riley pulls out the silencer and shoots him through the windshield, hitting his shoulder and blinding his view. As he swerves repeatedly and comes closer towards her, Deluca crashes into him and corners him. Deluca drags him out of the damaged vehicle and brutally beats him. Riley hands him the pistol and Deluca takes out the silencer.

As revenge for the death of Yates, Deluca shoots him twice, once in the stomach and once in the leg, before he gets shot in the chest himself by Brock. Although in deep pain, Brock still pulls through and aims his gun at Riley. However, it turns out that Owens has showed up with his lackeys. Brock tells him that he's got the money and that it's more than enough to take care of his debt.

Owens tells him to check his watch, where it's revealed to b past midnight. Telling him that it's too late now, Owens and his lackeys shotgun-blast Brock to death. Riley manages to retrieve the money from the vehicle. Owens demands the money from her, but Riley tells him about her impending surgery and begs him to let her keep the money.

Owens decides to let her do so, as he has a niece who came out to him as a trans woman a few years back. He did everything he could to help her out and acknowledges that she would probably not even be here right now if he hadn't. He tells her to go on and get out of the autosilo, and to forget she ever saw him. Deluca's still alive, having survived being shot and revealed to be wearing a bulletproof vest underneath his shirt. They get out of the autosilo along with Emma, Jeremy, and Maya, and Maya takes Jeremy to a hospital to get his foot fixed up. On the morning of the 23rd, Emma takes Riley to the hospital for the surgery, and the end credits roll.

Soundtrack: “Changes” by David Bowie, “Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp, “Gratitude” by Oingo Boingo, “Nightrider” by Electric Light Orchestra, “Night Shift” by Quarterflash, “The Stranger” by Billy Joel, “Self Control” by Laura Branigan, “Into the Jungle” by David Shire, “Baseball Furies Chase” by Barry De Vorzon, “One Way or Another” by Blondie, “Voyage” by Carmine Coppola and Francis Ford Coppola, “Sweet Hitchhiker” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones, “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer, “Move Me” by Cher and Gregg Allman, “Theme from Dead Solid Perfect” by John Beal, “Hey Boom” by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, “What's Up?” by Charles Bernstein, “Love on a Real Train” by Tangerine Dream, and “Tiger42” by Miami Nights 1984.

Director Results

Director Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Dawson Joyce 100% 

Cast Results

Riley Whitford Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Nicole Maines 100% 

Emma Whitford Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Sarah Paulson 100% 

Jeremy Newton Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Elliot Fletcher 100% 

Maya Taylor Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Indya Moore 100% 

Isaiah Deluca Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Robin de Jesús 100% 

Kathryn Vogel Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Trace Lysette 100% 

Zara Helm Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Hunter Schafer 100% 

Sophia Pratt Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Alexandra Grey 100% 

Gabriel Vogel Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Brian Michael Smith 100% 

Quincy Owens Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Billy Porter 100% 

Aaron Brock Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Zachary Quinto 100% 

Musical Score Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Oneohtrix Point Never 100% 

Film Editing Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Stephen Mirrione 100% 

Cinematography Total Votes: 1

  1. 1. Caleb Deschanel 100% 

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