Review of: Background Action 

reviewed by Gary Wright on 11/04/2011
Credited Review
Gary Wright
b.g. action Credited Review
Matt,

I enjoyed this very much. Here are a few thoughts about things I love, and things that I think could work better.

HIGHLIGHTS…

The opening crosscut between Patrick's red carpet fantasy and the reality. Though I admit I had trouble following what was actually happening with the drunk who assaulted him. And it seemed strange that he was still there on the set days later - seems someone would have called the police and had him escorted away? Or if that's not what's done, wouldn't someone at least wonder aloud why the hell not?

DONNY (bolting up) They got porridge!

That brief moment of enchantment with the knight fixing his horse's harness in the shaft of sunlight.

Falling down the manhole.

The call from the producer after his audition, when he didn't get the job. I found myself wanting him to get it for, and expecting him to get it - and I realized that show business movies have kind of conditioned me to want and expect that. So I was very pleased when you withheld success from him at this moment.

STONER (after pause) Wait, what? LOL

Shelia's speech to the effect that "you can be the man you were - you just have to believe in him". Very nicely done, and felt perfectly organic, coming from Shelia.

TERRY Don't even joke (about Aimee's serial killer potential)

Patrick's sigh when Terry faints. LOL

Marcia watching the old audition tape.

Patrick's two lines in the horror movie.

Patrick instinctively moving with the background players in the final moment, and then remembering that he's a principal now. Brilliant.

THINGS THAT I THINK COULD BE BETTER..

As I mentioned above, the action with the face-punching drunkard felt a bit disjointed.

In leading up to Aimee's freakout, I feel you rely too much on dialogue between other characters talking about her. My preference would be that you show us more little moments like the crazy eyes in the movie theater, to put us on notice that this girl is really troubled.

I like your dialogue very much - it feels on the nose to me in only 2 spots. The first is the angry phone call between Shelia and Patrick - Shelia's lines feel especially OTN, and I think you've missed a nice opportunity here to have her push a button that she knows will hurt. She could call him a hypocrite for chiding her about not treating their son as a son, since he doesn't give Terry enough time, either, and (this is the part that stings) "It's not as if you're the star of these stupid movies. Not as if anyone's going to say Oh dear, what'll we do without Patrick today? Cancel the shoot, go home everyone, we'll try again when Patrick's here!" I think if you let her be a little more cruel here, then her lovely speech about how to be the man he once was will carry more weight, and will feel better. The other OTN spot is between Terry and Patrick, and it's just Terry's one line: "You were, and still are, a big part of my life." It feels stilted compared to the rest of your excellent dialogue, and I think it could be something much more terse, like "[Thanks] For… you know… everything." Patrick's reply tells us what Terry's really talking about, so we don't need Terry to spell it out for us.

I'm an actor, and there's something I do that I think would fit beautifully in this script, because I'm sure I'm not the only actor who does it. When I'm watching a performance, one of two things happens. Either I'm completely transported by it (which is what I prefer to have happen), or, as I'm watching, I replay it in my head the way I would do it. It's not a smug feeling, it's kind of painful - not nearly as pleasant as simply enjoying the performance. You establish the convention for such an "interior scene" in the opening, so I think it would be cool, and thematically appropriate, and totally verisimilitudinous (is that a word?), to have him watch a mediocre actor toss off a scene in a rather uninspired way, while imagining how he would make that scene sing if it were his to do.

And finally, Patrick's speech on p.97 doesn't resonate with me at all. I wouldn't want it to be too on the nose, but I really feel something that requires real acting would be better. An impassioned plea of some kind - pleading with a jury or an executioner for a defendant's life, or talking someone out of committing suicide - something far more dramatically chewy, and thematically on point.

This is a very wise script. For a guy who is near the beginning of his career (I assume, based on your profile pic and bio) you have an uncanny and very compassionate understanding of what it's like to be a middle-aged guy with a lot of regrets about the road not taken. That's the most exciting thing about it, for me - the human empathy in these pages. I like this script a lot, and I think you've got a lot more good work in you.

all the best,

Gary


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