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Synopsis of THE CUNNING MAN Screenplay

  • First place in StoryPros Fantasy/Science Fiction
  • Quarter-finalist in the Nicholl Fellowship
  • Second-rounder in the Austin Heart of Film competition
  • Quarter-finalist in the Texas Film Institute competition

If you're a producer or agent, please email me to see the whole script.



THE CUNNING MAN, by Wendy Wheeler, is a family feature-length screenplay set in an alternate, magical Colonial America. It's the story of a missing pirate treasure, a mysterious creature, and the plucky young wife of Boston's best Cunning Man (the term for a white witch of the times).

Samantha Mickelwhite must return to her tomboy ways to save her budding family from financial ruin. She loves her alchemist husband, Anders, and he loves her, but he's so impractical! When a group of seamen come to ask for help with dowsing for a buried treasure they believe is along an inlet of the Delaware River, Anders sends them on their way. What he doesn't know and Samantha does is they'll have need of some stable income in the near future. What Samantha doesn't know is that the seamen are actually pirates in disguise who were driven away from their treasure site by a strange and hungry earth goblin that their West Indian voodoo man, King James, calls a "duppy."

Disguising herself as a young Cunning Man in training, Samantha goes to the dangerous Boston docks to convince the seamen to extend their invitation to Anders a second time. Instead, her own dowsing skills impress the incognito pirates so much that they weigh anchor with Samantha aboard and set off for the inlet. Samantha is shocked, but with the offer of one-tenth portion of the treasure, well... She decides that she's their man!

On-board, Samantha must keep up her disguise, learn seafaring ways, overcome the distrust and suspicion of King James, and bond with the crew of the ship. Things get wilder and more ominous the closer Samantha and the pirates get to the buried treasure, with highly surprising results. Samantha's plan to avoid the pirates backfires when the fiercesome "duppy" abducts her!

As Samantha battles on the open seas, Anders gets a rough and quick lesson in practicality when he sets off by horseback to rescue Samantha using the arsenal of magic and alchemy at his command. What Samantha learns about herself and her true Talents, about the Duppy, and about her husband Anders ultimately sends her back to Boston a changed person and a budding "Cunning Woman."


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Rev 2017-June-15