Deborah Dalton

D. Dalton is an award-winning novelist and an optioned screenwriter, who has a passion for historical fiction placed in the real world. She also hosts the podcast Dark Kingdom Arts, which is a fun adventure into how-to-write and the pitfalls that popular movies, books, and TV shows often make.

Screenplay Type
Film Script
War forces two groups of likeable soldiers to fight to the death to either kill or save the legendary sniper, The White Death; based on the true Winter War between Finland & the USSR.
Winter War
Logline
War forces two groups of likeable soldiers to fight to the death to either kill or save the legendary sniper, The White Death; based on the true Winter War between Finland & the USSR.
My Submission

FADE IN:

EXT. WILDERNESS ROAD - NIGHT

Snow. Towering evergreens. It's winter in Finland. Between the reflective snow and the moonlight, it's almost as bright as day.

SUPER: "Finland, December 1939"

A Soviet tank and a troop transport--open in the back where soldiers ride--drive through the snow down a one-track lane.

Sixteen Ukrainian soldiers and three Russian officers keep their heads down against the cold in the transport.

Their uniforms are dark against the white landscape. The Ukrainian soldiers range between 17-22 years old.

ALEKSANDR YEVTUKH (21), a conscripted Ukrainian soldier sitting in the front of the transport, smirks as he tosses a glance back at the other soldiers. Deep down, he's scared and desperate, but his façade is bravado.

ALEKSANDR

Not a mine to be found!

NOTE: All dialogue is spoken in English. For the above line ONLY, there is an echo of the same line in Ukrainian. This way the viewer can understand that the character is speaking another language.

Grim chuckles resonate among the soldiers.

Aleksandr turns away to hide a sigh of relief. Furtively, he removes a glove and twists a wedding ring around his finger. A nervous habit.

TOUGH-GUY SOLDIER stands up, puffing out his chest.

TOUGH-GUY SOLDIER

Finns are stupid to fail to do such a basic thing--

The lead tank sticks in the snow at an awkward angle. The convoy lurches to a halt.

The tank's treads grind forward, but it remains stuck. Smoke coughs out of the engine as it revs, until it goes quiet, its engine turned off.

2.

IMPATIENT RUSSIAN OFFICER climbs onto the tank and waves at the soldiers. Four soldiers climb out of the tank, making the total number of Ukrainian soldiers twenty.

IMPATIENT RUSSIAN OFFICER

(in Russian; subtitled)

Dig it out already!

The soldiers exchange glances and shrug in confusion. Aleksandr retrieves a battered translation book from a pocket and thumbs through it while muttering to himself:

ALEKSANDR

None of us speak Russian, so why the fuck would they put us with officers who don't speak Ukrainian?

Impatient Russian Officer pantomimes his order at the soldiers.

A few Ukrainian soldiers get to work digging out the snow and clear out space in front of the tank. Then they shove planks, taken from the troop transport, in front of its treads.

Aleksandr slides in front of Impatient Russian Officer. Flips through his book.

ALEKSANDR

(in broken Russian; subtitled)

...Bad place... Ambush. We scout.

He waves at trees. Impatient Russian Officer shakes his head. Points at him, and then at the planks. Aleksandr's shoulders slump. Studies his book as he walks toward the planks.

ANGRY SOLDIER slams the book from Aleksandr's hand into the snow. Snarls in Aleksandr's face.

ANGRY SOLDIER

I'm gonna tell your wife how you're sucking up to our slave masters, or will you tell her yourself in Russian?

Aleksandr picks up his phrasebook, dusts off the snow, and pockets it.

ALEKSANDR

Let me know what she says. It's not like we get letters.

3.

ANGRY SOLDIER

Just...how dare you learn their language.

ALEKSANDR

Look around! It's the only way up the ladder.

ANGRY SOLDIER

But you're giving into them. It ain't right! They invade our home, make us soldiers, then they drag us up here to invade someone else's house.

Aleksandr picks up a plank.

ALEKSANDR

Ain't nothing but stormy skies in Europe these days.

He uses the plank as a shovel to shift the snow. Glances up at Impatient Russian Officer towering at the height of the tank. A god on the mountain.

Aleksandr flinches at a LOUD CRACK. Studies the planks, searching for the broken one.

Impatient Russian Officer falls face-first into the snow. Shot in the head; dead.

Aleksandr straightens. Fear swells across his expression as he searches for the source.

The other two Russian officers collapse to the SNAP OF RIFLE SHOTS against the quiescent forest.

Aleksandr's whole body flinches as he fights to gasp out:

ALEKSANDR

Sniper!

He dives behind the tank. Soldiers crouch for cover around the convoy.

Angry Soldier leans toward the direction of the shots.

ANGRY SOLDIER

It came from over there!

4.

Angry Soldier lights up a flare to see better. Firelight outlines his face.

A bullet takes him through the head, killing him instantly.

Tough-Guy Soldier brandishes his rifle.

TOUGH-GUY SOLDIER

There's twenty of us, and only one of him! You five!

He points at five huddled soldiers.

TOUGH-GUY SOLDIER

Covering fire!

Aleksandr raises his trembling rifle.

ALEKSANDR

You!

He points at Scared Soldier.

ALEKSANDR

We'll go wide.

He hesitates as Tough-Guy Soldier leads eleven soldiers into the trees as the five remaining soldiers fire into the darkness in the direction of the sniper.

Aleksandr and Scared Soldier wait for the others to have a head start. Then they duck and flank, running low.

Aleksandr flinches at the GUNSHOTS metered out like a drumbeat. Charging soldiers fall one by one.

He and Scared Soldier hide behind a tree. A second of silence.

ALEKSANDR

He's reloading--go!

They dash. Ahead of them, the surviving leading soldiers fire wildly as they run.

RIFLE CRACK. Centimeters away, Scared Soldier collapses without even a gasp. Headshot.

Aleksandr spins behind a tree. Glances back to see the five soldiers left in the convoy, two of whom are firing; three hiding.

5.

Aleksandr shoots blindly behind him as he slides and jumps through the snow back to the convoy.

The unseen sniper guns down the last of the charging soldiers.

Silence.

Aleksandr hides behind the tank. He's whole body shakes. He fights to swallow enough air to hiss:

ALEKSANDR

Radio. Call for help.

He whips his head around as he searches for one, and up toward the hatch to enter the tank--which is totally exposed.

He squirms toward the ground and hides. So much open space, but so claustrophobic.

Aleksandr steals a glance into the trees--no reveal of a specter, no shine of a scope.

Two more soldiers in the convoy fall as they raise their rifles to shoot into the night.

Skinny Soldier flinches to the side as a ricochet slams into his shoulder.

He's shot dead the second his head leaves cover.

Aleksandr stares.

ALEKSANDR

He lured him out with a fucking ricochet...

He casts a fearful glance at the darkness, but doesn't dare expose himself.

He looks around. He can see CLEVER SOLDIER, and the legs of BRAVE SOLDIER behind the troop transport.

BRAVE SOLDIER (O.S.)

I've got one.

Aleksandr hears the crackle and click of a radio near Brave Soldier.

BRAVE SOLDIER (O.S.)

Help, help! We're under fire--

6.

Muffled Russian replying; no audible words.

BRAVE SOLDIER (O.S.)

Fuck.

(beat)

Does anyone speak Russian?

Aleksandr bangs his head against the tank in frustration. Digs out his phrasebook.

ALEKSANDR

I... I can try. Throw it over here.

BRAVE SOLDIER

I can't see you!

Clever Soldier makes eye contact with Aleksandr.

CLEVER SOLDIER

I can. Toss it here first.

Brave Soldier rolls the radio in the snow toward Clever Soldier. It gets stuck two feet from cover, right out in the open.

Aleksandr sighs in despair.

Clever Soldier undoes his belt. Throws it at the radio. The buckle bangs off the side and into the snow. Tries again--it hooks! He reels it in. Smirks at Aleksandr, whose shoulders drop in relief.

Clever Soldier throws it across the open space toward Aleksandr.

GUNSHOT. A bullet shatters the radio in midair.

Aleksandr stares in horror as the pieces fall to the snow.

Clever Soldier points in a new direction.

CLEVER SOLDIER

It came from that way! He's moving!

ALEKSANDR

Get in the tank!

Clever Soldier jerks forward at Aleksandr's voice, and stops as a shot takes him in the chest. But because he was in motion, it's not a clean headshot.

7.

Clever Soldier wheezes and claws at his chest as he falls.

ALEKSANDR

Fuck me.

Aleksandr lunges to Clever Soldier.

Brave Soldier dashes into Aleksandr's line of sight. He slaps a hand onto the tank and starts to climb as Alek presses hard on Clever Soldier's wound.

Aleksandr looks up, knows he's exposed, makes eye contact with Brave Soldier. It's 50/50 who dies, and each of them realize it.

Aleksandr heaves Clever Soldier toward cover, but he weighs too much for Aleksandr to pull quickly.

GUNSHOT. Brave Soldier falls.

Aleksandr gets Clever Soldier to cover, but it's too late. Clever is dead.

He looks around--he's alone. Dead quiet. He strains to listen. Nothing.

He flies to crawl through the gap in the snow in front of the tank and underneath it.

EXT. UNDERNEATH TANK - NIGHT (CONTINUOUS)

Aleksandr shoves snow back up the hole to hide his tracks.

Crawls into the interior of the treads. Watches his breath in the freezing air.

Shivering, he pulls off his glove and speaks to his wedding ring.

ALEKSANDR

I'm so sorry, Daryna! Our parents should've run when the Soviets came. I should've run when they pulled me from the farm-- I'm so sorry--

He cuts off as he hears the faint CRUNCH OF FOOTSTEPS in the snow. Holds his breath and squeezes his eyes closed.

8.

EXT. UNDERNEATH TANK - DAWN

Aleksandr opens his eyes. Breathes. Sees the fog of his breath.

He's alive.

Twists his wedding ring and crawls out.

EXT. WILDERNESS ROAD - DAWN

Aleksandr's mouth hangs open at the blood and bodies across the snow in the growing light.

He steps over corpses as he flees to the troop transport. It's not stuck in the snow.

He yanks the cab door open and heaves himself inside.

INT. CONVOY'S TROOP TRANSPORT CAB - DAWN

Aleksandr slides inside and tries to start the vehicle. No good. He slaps the dashboard. Punches it.

Presses his forehead against the steering wheel in defeat.

EXT. WILDERNESS ROAD - DAWN

Aleksandr climbs out and pops the hood. Reaches inside.

ALEKSANDR

They said it wouldn't freeze. Bastards!

He yanks up an old-timey car battery. Pulls a vial of mostly frozen acid out of it. He shakes it and tries to warm it up in an armpit.

He puts it back and fiddles with the connecting wires. Sparks crackle.

Aleksandr offers an exhausted, hopeful grin.

RIFLE CRACK--a bullet pings off the inside of the vehicle's hood, right by his head.

He whirls. Four Finnish Soldiers in white uniforms approach the convoy on skis. All of them have rifles trained on him.

9.

Aleksandr fires haphazardly with his pistol as he sprints down the road, back the way the convoy had come.

The Finns lower the rifles.

They are: SERGEANT TAISTO (32), VOITTO (22), AATOS (25), and HEIKKI (13), a kid pretending to be older than he is.

They ski up to the convoy, leaving behind a reindeer pulling a sled.

HEIKKI

They say the White Death never misses anyone.

NOTE: All dialogue is spoken in English. For the above line ONLY, there is an echo of the same line in Finnish. Same as Page 1.

Taisto laughs.

TAISTO

Nah. Gotta leave someone to put the fear of us into them.

AATOS

Poor bastard. I wouldn't want to be the body reporting this mess back to the Soviets.

Voitto picks up a shovel from their sled. Punches it into the tread of a tank.

TAISTO

Come on, let's torch these buckets. Only got four hours of daylight left.

They get to work: tearing out wires and breaking tank treads.

EXT. WILDERNESS ROAD - DAY

Taisto, Voitto, Aatos, and Heikki watch the Russian convoy go up in flames from their skis. Heikki's gaze keeps dragging itself back to the frozen dead.

HEIKKI

We might have a chance. With him.

10.

As they ski back up the road away from the convoy, Taisto veers toward the trees. Ignores Scared Soldier's body as he skis around it.

He tilts his head and listens as he knocks on a tree.

VOITTO

Uh, what are you doing, sir?

Taisto grins and slides over to the next tree. Knocks.

TAISTO

This will make good lumber.

He pulls out a notepad and pencil.

TAISTO

I'm writing this place down. If an average tree can give twenty-two planks, then I will need one hundred and six trees. Maybe.

Scribbles as he skis back to them.

Aatos quirks an eyebrow.

HEIKKI

Are we building a fort? Roadblock?

Taisto shakes his head.

AATOS

Then why do we need lumber, sergeant?

Taisto's grin fails.

TAISTO

We don't. I do.

They ski up the road; Voitto leads the reindeer and sled.

VOITTO

Fine. Why do you need lumber, sir?

Taisto's eyes glow, but he presses his lips together and says nothing.

Heikki's upper lip curls.

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