Review of: The Freak Show 

reviewed by Gammon on 09/29/2008
Credited Review
Gammon
Freak Show Credited Review
What comes across from this script in its present form it that there is a decent storyteller behind it. What the story lacks for me is focus. What the plot lacks is cohesion.

Even though the story is set in 1946, other than carrying out the corpses from bombed out buildings, there the period feel of the story ends. That whole sequence, nearly 7 pages, essentially had nothing to do with the story, and it did little to establish your main character other than show he could handle a gun and loved animals. I don't know whether the mule and wheelbarrow thing was intended to show his strength, but a grown mule weighs between 600 and 800 pounds. Getting a living mule into a wheelbarrow is feat enough, but rolling that wheelbarrow through mud, even backward, seems quite a stretch.

The attention to detail is at once a positive and a negative here. It feels like you burden us with details that, while pertinent perhaps, are over-lengthy and certainly marred by the excessive use of ALL CAPS. When you CAP everything from the DONKEY to SUN BEATS DOWN and almost everything in between, any emphasis intended by the CAPS becomes inconsequential because nothing becomes important. The capitalization made this a most annoying read.

The action lines stick to two and three lines, but they're often wordy as they strive for clarity. "A huge circle of OPEN LAND in the middle of a FOREST
CLEARING." Open land in the middle of the forest IS a clearing, so "forest clearing" says it all.

The writing is sometimes not well thought out in terms of placing the reader where the writer wants.

INT. CARNIVAL TRAIN, MURDER SCENE - DAY

OLLIE gets to his feet, dusts himself off. VINCENT watches
through the window. He checks his POCKET WATCH.

The car is a MESSY LOUNGE ROOM with CHAIRS and CARD TABLES.

A rule of thumb is to go from the general to the specific. A description of the room should come first. Starting with Ollie places him inside the train. Vincent watching through the window doesn't place Vincent clearly; he could be inside or outside looking in. It's just as important to organize the visuals logically as it is to make sure the visuals are clear, IMHO.

CUT TOs in a spec script make no sense. If you end one scene and slug the next, the reader is wherever the scene heading places him. CUT TO occupies space and basically does zilch. Same with DISSOLVE TO. Those are director's decisions.

Seemed somewhat convenient that Vincent was at the restaurant just when Holt showed up since the only set up was Holt asking Hawkins for time off and not getting it. In fact, far too many of the plot points feel there more for convenience than as an outgrowth of the story, which doesn't have a very determined through line. It feels like you have worked out the protagonist's journey through the story, but what I think is missing is giving the reader a glimpse of the antagonist's motivation here and there (without blowing the mystery) so the twists and turns don't feel quite so disjointed.

The plot through line starts with the death of Holt's brother - which, by the way, doesn't seem to be of much consequence to him when he finds out by the way the scene is written. He doesn't seem to care for Vincent much. Then when Vincent shows up at Holt's door, fine, he goes with him. His brother's death then seems to become important to him but other plot twists, and deaths, and beatings, and stabbings and shootings come along and Holt's original goal seems all but forgotten.

P 32 - (you should use page numbers) The man in the trench coat at the carnival. Since we have no idea of the length of time past, I had no idea that the tents had been erected and the carnival was open for business until "he turns into the crowd." It feels like you're describing a movie you're seeing in your mind, but you're not efficiently getting it onto the page. Logic. If the carnie is in full swing with a crowd, then there's going to be crowd noise, maybe carnie barkers. Just a suggestion to make sure you build your visuals logically so the reader knows where he is and what's going on around the characters in the scene.

For what it's worth, there are a lot of trench coats in the story. And loafers. I can tell the story is crystal clear in the writer's mind but it hasn't quite found its way onto the page.

The characters are, to say the least, interesting given the freak show setting, but the setting winds up rather inconsequential other than a place to hide Wilma until she emerges as who she ultimately becomes in the story.

I think you have the bones of a really good story here. I have to say that I took a reading break at page 68 and was shocked that I wasn't closer to the end of the script. I'm not exactly sure why I felt that. Perhaps the pacing (not the action, but the story) had slowed down. There is a lot of action in the script, but I'm not sure all the action actually moves the story forward always; it feels like the story nestles down and waits for the writer to dazzle us with another action sequence, a bit more blood, stab wounds, gunshot wounds, etc.

Writing, they say, is really rewriting. You have a great start here. If you choose to rewrite, it can only improve.

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