Burchard's Trunk | Skillshare Projects



Burchard's Trunk


Only god's law counts here.


A barman has won a deceased Reverends trunk in an auction, but a spiteful member of the church stakes a claim on it, and brings the barman's morality into question.


I chose the Spoon River Anthology because this is my first adaptation, and I liked the idea of doing poetry more than a short story, because it seemed farther removed from film. However after having a look at the other two texts I'm not so certain! The poems tend to be more set up-punch line (but obviously more elegant,) where the stories are more mood based. I think I got off easy.

The poem Rev Abner Peet painted an immediate picture in my head, and a full story, it felt a bit like when Bilbo Baggins returned home to find his neighbours and relations staking claim to his estate. I think New Zealander's generally have a fairly awkward, bleak sense of humour and I saw the potential for that in this poem. While I can see the value in exploring new areas as a writer, I know that I still need to play to my strengths and inspiration, and venturing into adaptation feels exotic enough for now.

The title was an unplanned pun, painting Burchard as an elephant and thus Cavill as a mouse, but their exchange works in that way and I do find it helpful to have something as elemental as this to work from. So it stays for now. I enjoy playing with people’s expectations and having Cavill act as the aggressor will have the actors play against type. I also like flawed characters so I think showing that the audience was rooting for the bad guy all along makes for a satisfying denouement.

Practically speaking my interpretation of the poem allows for a low fuss shoot utilizing daylight and one primary location, the abundance of churches and their usual goodwill makes for an achievable yet cinematic backdrop, which although does not stick to the source material, does give a visual cue to who the deceased person was. I could potentially shoot this project myself, but there is still room to do it on a larger scale.

I also quite like the irony of Burchard disrespecting the good intentions of the church for his own basic purposes, while at the same time I am probably misinterpreting the whole poem itself!


In a quaint little town, a small church is holding a market; people eat sandwiches of blackened meat off of a charity barbeque next to a table of old ladies peddling home made preserves. At the far end of the lawn there is a table with a red and white checked table cloth, it is laden with various petty items numbered for auction, an agreeable looking old woman with a clip board ticks off items as people claim them. The general conversation tells us that these are the belongings of a deceased reverend.

At the end of the table there is a large trunk, and on either side of the trunk there are two men, one man "Burchard" is a barrel chested barman in plaid. The other "Cavill" is a meek little member of the congregation. Burchard has won the trunk at auction but Cavill arrived late and dearly wanted the trunk, while Burchard appears threatening he is actually quite reasonable, he has already won the trunk at auction. Cavill makes the case that he does not even belong to the church and is indeed the opposite of what the church stands for, suddenly Cavill becomes the aggressor, the old woman with the clip board watches on awkwardly as Burchard is admonished. We suddenly wish for Burchard to come out the victor, and lo and behold! The new Reverend arrives to settle the dispute. He points out that for all Burchard’s flaws, that they will not treat him any differently than any other member of the community, in the hope that this justice serve as an example to him of the true nature of the church. Burchard smiles, the old lady reads out his bill, twelve dollars fifty. Cavill looks disgruntled.

A godly beam of sunlight illuminates the dust inside Burchard’s kitchen. The beam lands on the trunk sitting on the table, where Burchard himself sifts through page after page of the late Reverend Abner Peet’s hand written sermons. Burchard sniffs callously and dumps the stack of papers into the fireplace. The trunk is placed unceremoniously next to the fireplace, and firewood is dropped in piece by piece.     

SOURCE MATERIAL- Spoonbill River Anthology

Rev Abner Peet

I had no objection at all. To selling my household effects at auction On the village square. It gave my beloved flock the chance To get something which had belonged to me For a memorial. But that trunk which was struck off To Burchard, the grog-keeper! Did you know it contained the manuscripts Of a lifetime of sermons? And he burned them as waste paper.

Deacon Taylor

I belonged to the church,
And to the party of prohibition;
And the villagers thought I died of eating watermelon.
In truth I had cirrhosis of the liver,
For every noon for thirty years,
I slipped behind the prescription partition
In Trainor's drug store
And poured a generous drink
From the bottle marked "Spiritus frumenti."

Nicholas Bindle

WERE YOU NOT ashamed, fellow citizens,
When my estate was probated and everyone knew
How small a fortune I left?—
You who hounded me in life,
To give, give, give to the churches, to the poor,
To the village!—me who had already given much.
And think you not I did not know
That the pipe-organ, which I gave to the church,
Played its christening songs when Deacon Rhodes,
Who broke the bank and all but ruined me,
Worshipped for the first time after his acquittal?



There is no poem about Burchard, just a few references. I think that's what drew me to him is the ability to take more liberty with the character. Funnily enough though he has wound up being the straight man, where Nicholas reminds me of the classic good guy who can't get a break, Burchard can coast from incident to incident, learning nothing but enjoying himself.


From his poem I interpret him as a man concerned with fairness. Who is generous to a fault, which leaves him acting petty. He expects his fellow citizens to feel shame in discovering his financial problems. His noble acts leave him behaving badly.


Bill Murray.


I checked the outline, it just has to be under ten pages and the film itself should be under 8. On one hand; the tighter you can get a story the better. On the other hand; I think there are things in this story I haven't let the reader in on yet. So I'm fleshing it out more.

I'm revising characters to stay more faithful to the rest of the popuation of Spoon River. I discovered in finding characters in the book to replace my own, that they fit the general traits I had wanted but they were also far more complex, and added richness to the whole script. I had arrogantly thought they would just take away from my own brilliance, I think I'm starting to see the appeal in adaptation.

I'm thinking of starting an Indiegogo for this and shooting in august.






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