We’re studying the opening 10 minutes of Steven Knight’s superb historical crime drama Peaky Blinders.
We’re up to scene 7.
In this scene Thomas has just entered the family home, had the short exchange with younger brother Finn, and now walks through the doors of the pantry which opens us up to his illegal gambling den.
First, let’s see how Steven Knight describes the scene in his screenplay:
INT. BETTING SHOP – CONTINUOUS – DAY
…To our surprise the pantry gives out onto a secret world.
We find two hole terraced houses have been knocked through to form a single open plan space with the windows boarded. It is a fully functioning (illegal) betting shop and it is buzzing with activity.
The large room is dominated by a huge blackboard on which bets and odds are being chalked by two RUNNERS in shirt sleeves. They stand on stepladders to reach the top of the board. The room swirls with cigarette and cigar smoke and there are half a dozen men queuing silently at a desk to lay bets. A heavy looking man (a gang enforcer known as SCUD-BOAT) is taking the bets in the form of coins wrapped in scraps of paper.
Scud-boat unwraps the pieces of paper and drops coins into a hat as he unrolls the next bet. Thomas pauses and peers up at the blackboard. We see twenty bets, all for Monaghan Boy. The sight doesn’t please or displease him.
One of the men at the blackboard is young and pretty and immaculately groomed. This is JOHN Shelby (Thomas’s 24 year old brother). When he sees Thomas, he looks up from his ledger and hisses with delight…
Tommy, will you just look at the board. Will you just look.
At that moment, at the far end of the room, a door opens from a small office, partitioned by glass and curtains. A man in his late thirties puts his head around the door. We will learn that this is ARTHUR. He calls out angrily.
Tommy! Get in here!
Arthur slams the door. John smiles as Thomas sets off towards the partitioned office (we sense Thomas is in trouble he can handle). Through reflections in the glass of the partitioned office, we see Arthur’s angry, anxious face, waiting.
Firstly, we have to again note the incredibly close detail Steven Knight employs.
On screen is almost identical to the script with minor changes in dialogue:
But what is revealed in this scene?
I see 3 revelations regarding character:
1. Thomas is admired by John, his younger brother.
2. Thomas shows leadership skills, positively reinforcing his younger brother with a pat-on-the-back “Good work, John.”
3. Arthur barks an order at Thomas, displaying superiority.
In the next scene we’ll see how the two older brothers – Arthur and Thomas – battle for that superiority.
Click here for Scene 8.