Review of: Croatoa
reviewed by kokopelli on 01/08/2012
A dark story of betrayal. A historical telling of how one of the first colonies of the new world came to an unexpected end.
I’m a history buff and especially love this period, and while I’m titillated with the possibilities of what happened to this community, I was not provisioned for the overlong dreariness of this journey. There are sever problems with your script in structural and character development and it made the reading difficult. The major problem being page count. You are going to have to find a way to cut this down to a tight 110 pages and less if possible. The only way I can see this being accomplished is by starting your story near the departure of Governor White, then giving us a deeper story of the community so we can get to know individual characters better, then after the Spanish leave, let it end. You have a lot of work to do to make this happen but that's the challenge of writing successful historical dramas. Below are some page notes, followed by general notes in other areas.
Page 1 – 12
• In 12 pages we’ve met 17 characters … even in this kind of story (historical drama), that’s difficult to keep track of. But, the real problem is that there is no one character that stands out as the Main Character, the one who has a goal that relates to the start of the thematic journey. My suggestion is that you reconsider your opening, and use either a major SUPER to open with more information, or a VO by a story teller. Open closer to the Main Character who can explain her/his goal and its relationship to what is happening in the narrative/plot of the story. Right now, because the Main and Goal are missing I’m losing interest and so will an audience. While this is a historical drama, it needs the appropriate structure (Main, Goal, Appropriate Plot Points, etc, etc) to keep it from floundering in the Second Act when you try making up ground.
Page 14 –
• If we are going to go back in time to see what happened at Roanock, then you have to give us a FLASHBACK in the slugline, even if you do a SUPER.
Page 15 -
• At the end of the FLASHBACK you need to give us an END OF FLASHBACK, or BACK TO SCENE so we know where we are.
Page 20 –
• A ships spyglass/telescope, at that time was a very remedial affair with very small optics. It was difficult, in good weather to spot anything and surely would have been nearly impossible to use in a pitching storm as you’re describing here.
Page 87 –
• LOL … I like this scene between those who killed the natives and those who just found out. It’s just like politics today … nothing’s changed.
Page 90 –
• The chief speaks of everything but the brutal killing of his fellow tribesmen? I think at this point rather than having any discussion, you might just want to show the natives. We know they’re going to be going to war, we don’t really need to hear the discussion, unless it’s going to be something we don’t know.
Page 95 –
• It is way too late to begin adding characters and new threads to the story. I refer to the beginnings of a story about the natives. And, at this point these people wouldn’t have any idea about “English, Spanish, French” … or the not so subtle European political divisions.
Page 108 –
• The Chief’s Son understands English?
Page 110 and on
• Lots of exposition necessary to tell us the story. This would better done with more clues during the story and less talking here about the nuanced political issues of the day. I know it’s interesting but the audience will never sit through this.
• Adding new characters and a new story … the sudden publication of a book … is not a sound way to end this story. Plus it adds pages you don’t really need at this point.
Commercial Possiblities – Period pieces just do not sell. I love’em and many folks do, but you won’t convince anyone with money to make this. It’s overly ambitious, too long, without the proper structure and doesn’t have any car crashes. I know about this because of the numerous scripts I’ve written that are good stories but are not what anyone wants to make.
Tone – Dark, dark, dark. There is not a single moment of light here and you might have intended this but the problem with writing dramas is that you have to have moments of light to provide contrast. Almost every page is filled with the hopelessness of the situation or the underlying threat of the Queen or Fernandez or the Spanish or the Natives or the Spy or …. get my drift. You have to let up. We have to believe that Eleanor has a chance of happiness, that Governor White will buck up and save the community from ruin, that the English will just go away. If there isn’t a glimmer of hope, then it’s just a straight, downhill ride all the way and it’s more fun if we’re kept guessing by the up and down bumps of the story.
Dialogue – There is too much redundant dialogue, everything from the Governors dead wife, to the constant threat of the Queen. All of this adds up to a lot of unnecessary dialogue, which contributes to an overlong script. While you write fairly good dialogue, very often there is not enough tension in it and you can add that with fewer words and more subtext. The few scenes with the Governor and Captain have some tension because they’re at odds. My suggestion is to make massive cuts in your dialogue and concentrate on writing more conflict into your existing dialogue. Then there are moments where you have dialogue between people who wouldn’t speak the same language and these really need to be changed.
Character – As I state in Page Notes, too many. And worse than that there is no real Main Character for us to adhere to. Even in historical pieces you need a strong MC with a goal. At some points I feel like the Gov. is the main and at others Eleanor. The Governor is the only one standing at the end so it might be him, but he has no arc and for a big section he’s not even around. As for the other characters, you have spent so much time describing the dreary, dangerous journey and adding so many characters that it’s difficult to manage bonding with many of them. From page to page, I really didn’t know who was who for many of your secondary characters. What happens in that case is that I start disregarding them. The other problem is that the dialogue of each character is written in that older English patter that they all sound the same. This is a difficult undertaking because you are endeavoring to show us a community, but it’s difficult to follow, again because of the sweeping scope of the trying to build a broad story rather than telling a small piece of it.
Structure – This is nearly non-existent. There is no single hard-beat at any point past the group leaving England which is around page 12. This makes reading the story a veritable journey of survival and that is not fun. My suggestion here would be to cut the opening scenes so that the journey begins earlier than 12, cut the ocean voyage and the betrayal of the Captain. That can be inferred in a number of ways to show that the group has been dropped of purposely at the wrong place, late in the season.
The other issue with the structure is at the end when you should be ending your story you add the story of the Doctor, then the story of the decedent Virginia at the publisher … that comes so out of right field as to have taken me right out of the end of the story. These two pieces are episodic, making the story unnecessarily long and totally cut up. Really consider cutting both and if you have to say something about the Gov, do it in a tagged in SUPER, then end the story.
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