Jan, I finally got round to your script; my apologies for the lengthy wait. I hope I can give you some useful notes.
‘The Perfect Gentleman’ is a variation on an extremely well-known theme, as exemplified in the Oscar-laden ‘My Fair Lady’ which you give several nods to in the script. So you’re up against some pretty stiff competition, including George Bernard Shaw! To pull off a challenge like that you need some outstanding ideas and the execution to go with them.
You’ve certainly put a lot of time and effort into this and there are several good things going for it. First off, changing the Audrey Hepburn character into a vagrant from the Bronx is a pretty cool move. There’s a lot of mileage to be had from that. And secondly, moving the upper-class action to Europe rather than England preserves the theme but gives the setting a bit more flavour. So the concept itself is a bit of a challenge but you’ve made a good start.
Let’s talk about Guy. Your whole story revolves around Guy’s transformation, so it needs to be good. Really good. At the moment I think you’ve got a long way to go. He should be a totally changed person when we see him at Cannes. Certainly his appearance has changed – but not much else. His opening lines are:
‘All but the last part. I'm not going to kill anyone for you.’
Poppy cringes at his thick Bronx accent. Really? I’m no expert on USA dialects, but this doesn’t sound much like a Bronx accent to me – either in delivery or phrasing. You need something more like:
‘What kinda dumb broad you? I ain’t gonna kill no fancy wardrobe for no-one.’
I know it’s difficult to convey an accent in a script – if you try to vary the spelling it can become a turn-off for the reader. But if you’re going to make a big deal out of his Bronx roots you need to make some kind of attempt to capture the sound in the rhythm of your dialogue. At the moment he talks exactly the way Poppy and Mia do. You could get a lot of comedy out of the Bronx speech but you need to work for it. At the beginning, his Bronx psyche should be oozing out of him. And that means peppering his speech with the sort of phrases you’d expect to hear from a Bronx boy – including a few sonsabitches, dickheads and motherfuckers. Then throw some nasty personal habits into the mix. He picks his nose and eats it. He doesn’t flush the toilet. He smokes roll-ups and slurps Budweiser. The audience should be saying to themselves, ‘There’s no way this Guy can be a gentleman.’
I don’t really think the Rumi angle works very well. Yes, it’s nice that he’s already got an appreciation of literature and an ear for Beethoven when we first meet him, but I think that works against the comedy. It just seems at odds with his background. I think it would be OK to introduce it at a later stage; maybe Rupert encourages him to read poetry and appreciate the music as well as teaching him to dance.
Likewise his extended grieving for his mother seems to me to be mawkishly sentimental when you should be primarily playing it for laughs. The scene where he tells the whole story to Poppy doesn’t ring true to me. It seems too facile that a hard-bitten, streetwise person like Guy would just blurt all this out in one go. Again, I think you could introduce it in the scenes at Cannes, where you could have him revealing this at the height of an argument with Mia, then storming off to catch a plane. That would provide a much more dramatic route.
Poppy and Mia are competently drawn but I think you could do more to differentiate them. With Poppy almost 20 years the elder, you could make her much more matriarchal so that Mia could be more wayward and impulsive. That could work quite well within the story. At the moment they seem to act and talk in a very similar way.
In terms of the storyline, there are several things that don’t seem to stack up. First of all, the wager that Guy can be turned into the perfect gentleman is one that seems to sprout tendrils all over the place. It should be straightforward enough; by the end of the first Act you want to have the wager firmly established. The girls think they can turn Guy from a Bronx tramp into the perfect gentleman; Harry thinks it can’t be done. A deadline is agreed upon, stakes are established, and the rules are plain for all to see.
But this is very far from being the case. On page 9, the bet is made, but it all seems a bit vague. How is Guy’s transformation into a gentleman going to be measured and judged? We don’t really know. A bet should entail winners and losers. What does Harry stand to win? What do Poppy and Mia stand to lose? Very little, seems to be the answer in both cases. But having set up the bet, you keep moving the goalposts...
On page 16 Harry decides he wants his money back with interest if he wins. Then on page 24 we suddenly find out that the wager is to be decided at Cannes. There’s been no mention of Cannes before then. On page 69, after Guy’s faux pas at the Wall Street club, Harry announces that ‘the bet is finished’. But a few pages later it seems to be back on the agenda. Then on page 81, Harry demands that a woman must fall in love with Guy, followed closely by Poppy’s announcement that ‘the shelter’ for the homeless (which hasn’t been mentioned before!) is not only going to be provided by Harry if he loses... he has to run it as well!
So the initial bet just seems to grow more branches all the time, leaving the reader very confused. I’m not saying the rules of the bet can’t be changed during the story – but it would have to be as a result of some plot development, a raising of the stakes. In any case the whole project seems heavily stacked against Harry – he doesn’t actually stand to win anything.
I think also you need to make it clearer where Harry earns all this money he’s squandering. The reader knows he’s an investment banker, but only because you’ve mentioned it in a descriptive passage (page 4). You need to demonstrate it to the viewer as well.
Another aspect which could do with some reinforcement is the girls’ motivation. It needs a stronger focus. The girls have been jilted, so they’re both pissed off. But that’s not quite the same thing as a desire to have a true gentleman around. We need to understand why they don’t just want a new lover – they want someone who’s stylish and considerate. So you need to show Poppy and Mia on the receiving end of some pretty boorish conduct. You have a montage doing exactly this on page 8, but it seems to sit rather awkwardly at this point in the script, as a series of flashbacks taking place while the girls are in the taxi. An alternative might be to move this to the beginning and use it to introduce the characters during the opening credits. But lay it on thick with a trowel. Show the ex-boyfriends behaving really badly – farting on the sofa, puking up after a boozy night, getting caught watching porn videos – all that stuff. That would then establish the girls’ need for someone a bit more cultured.
Structure-wise, the story falls into three parts which would normally correspond to a typical 3-Act structure:
1. The set-up of the bet and the search for a candidate, i.e. – Guy;
2. The education of Guy as a gentleman, and the various escapades he has to go through;
3. The events at Cannes and the final resolution.
So on a 125-page script (which is much too long, by the way, but more of that later) your first Act ends on page 24, about one-fifth into the story. That’s a little early. Your second Act ends around page 82, or two-thirds in. That’s seriously early! So I’d say the divisions within the story are OK but the dramatic structure needs a fair bit of work. Your final Act needs to be shorter, punchier and really racking up the action.
Last but not least, your script is riddled with spelling and punctuation errors - just look at the list below – and there are others I could have added. When you’re trying to get your script past a studio reader, it’ll kill your chances stone dead. The great bulk of these should be picked up by a good quality spell-check program, and the rest by a thorough proof-read.
Other reading notes:
1 Underlining I believe is still frowned upon by most script editors.
1 Try to avoid ‘we see’s.
6 INT. REAR OF CONCERT HALL- CONTINUOUS
You use the CONTINUOUS slugline a lot when it’s not suitable. LATER would be better in most cases. CONTINUOUS means what it says: i.e. the action unfolds in ‘real time’. It can’t be CONTINUOUS here because there has to be a time lag between Mia resting her head on Harry’s shoulder in the centre seats, and asking Guy for directions near the back of the hall.
10 ...her free-lance job at Nissan.
How are you going to convey this information to the viewer? It’s not enough just to tell the reader.
10 her manuscript for an anthropology book...
39 GUY And anthropology is... POPPY The study of man.
Guy’s already answered his own question on this (page 25). Doesn’t make sense for him to be asking it again.
40 Slow down... We should get going. A little contradictory!
45 You tend to over-write. There are scores of little passages throughout the script which could be pared down or omitted entirely. You need a more rhythmic, punchier tone to keep the reader engaged. If you go through the script and weed out all the places where you drift into novelistic prose, it would reduce your page count quite a bit. Just one example
They shake their heads, yes, maybe. Guy hears, smiles, waves.
INT. MIA AND POPPY'S PENTHOUSE VESTIBULE - DAY
Poppy and Mia wait for DICTION EXPERT #1 (70) to arrive.
Guy sits in living room reading Poppy's anthropology book.
He looks debonair in his tweed coat. Finally doorbell rings.
DICTION EXPERT #1
You could pare this down to:
Guy hears, smiles, waves.
INT. MIA AND POPPY'S PENTHOUSE VESTIBULE – DAY
Poppy opens the front door, revealing:
DICTION EXPERT #1
55 A lot of viewers won’t recognise the bridge in Central Park, or even connect it with his mother’s death. You need to find a more cinematic method of showing this.
65-66 Good scene in Wall Street club.
74 GUY So you're an anthropologist? This has already been discussed. You need to vary the dialogue.
93 I'd say he is a Yorkshire Man. Traces of Scottish Highlands. ??? They’re a long distance apart!
99 It's been in her family for 1000 years. Seems a little unlikely!
Countesses don’t fling themselves at strangers in the full glare of the public, no matter how macho and handsome the man is. They’re much too careful of their reputations to act like that. And presumably there’s a Count somewhere in the mix? Doesn’t he object to being a cuckold?
123 I don’t really understand the ending. Mia and Guy were re-united in the previous scene, but now it’s a year later and they’re apart again?
So the bad news is I think you’ve still got quite some way to go. But hey, it’s only my opinion and I’m sure you’ll get some very positive reviews. The good news is, the basics are there and everything can be fixed. I know how hard it is to put together a good script, so good luck with it. See you round the Message Boards!
Spelling, punctuation, typos, etc:
1 ... chooses an emerald chiffon dress to don.
3 ... throws her cell, and its housing separates.
4 ... checking his Rolex.
4 Neither of them is a gentleman...
6 Poppy worries a locket open... Worries??
7 He points to a well-dressed concert goer...
8 What if we hire professionals to help us?
9 He pats both their knees, happy he has cheered them up.
11 What have we got to lose?
11 ... our specimen?
12 Is that..?
12 They back-up, startled.
13 ... his brown pointy... pointy??
16 ...it'll only make me work harder.
17 Here, put your clothes in this.
20 ...brushes past them... (several instances of ‘passed’ for ‘past’ in script)
21 ...and he stumbles over...
21 ... take an axe...
25 Guy plays with shaving cream, not liking the smell. You omit commas quite frequently. Won’t highlight it again.
29 Resigned, Guy calms himself...
30 ...Guy chases down a cab heading downtown. His new clothes and hair are drenched.
30 You can't just think you’re a gentlemen, you...
32 ...we know you've seen one musical.
33 ...but let’s start...
36 ... gripped with sadness
37 ...takrd a bone to stir coffee. takrd??
38 ... pushes Mia's drawings aside to make room...
40 ... can you do all that...
43 Hey, take it easy...
45 Colin Firth?
46 The final expert is waiting...
47 Why put it off another minute?
48 Ready to get to work...
48 So, my young fellow...
53 Je ne sais quoi, if I do say so myself.
55 ... tilts his head quizzically.
57 Where are your shoes?
59 Where are your index cards? (Rupert would speak ‘correctly’.)
61 ... cease their repartee...
69 Does this mean we're not going to Cannes?
74 Guy jumps to the boy's aid...
74 Other mothers... grab their children and run.
75 It's just that mothers are responsible...
75 They walk through the park to practise...
75 Guy lets a woman know...
78 He takes her hand and they stroll...
80 and lets it slide through...
82 ...we'll up the ante too.
82 ...on the first night...
82 Whatever we can do to help you...
83 ...except Mia, who peeks over partitions...
83 ...the Palme d'Or.
83 You speak French?
83 Un petit peu.
83 Ma Cherie.
87 He admires the watch, glinting and sparkling.
92 When you label something...
92 ...you put it in a box and you’re prevented from...
97 ... bundles of newspapers...
97 ... bundles of newspapers...
98 Guy ends it...
98 ...she gets no attention.
102 ...right now I’m delighted...
103 if she falls in love with him in spite of it, we
116 ...greets foursome in vestibule...
117 Suddenly, Poppy gets an idea.
Review ID: 4011322
Other Reviews by Rfordyce 127
A review of Space Vacationby Rfordyce on 11/16/2014Hi Russell, thanks again for your notes on FF, and sorry it’s taken so long to complete this. I’m not one of the speediest operators when it comes to reviews. I’m also tinged with sadness as it’s probably the last one I’ll be doing on TS. Boo Hoo... Space Vacation’s best feature, I believe, is a strong concept which lends itself to many possibilities. You’ve gone for a... Hi Russell, thanks again for your notes on FF, and sorry it’s taken so long to complete this. I’m not one of the speediest operators when it comes to reviews. I’m also tinged with sadness as it’s probably the last one I’ll be doing on TS. Boo Hoo...
Space Vacation’s best feature, I believe, is a strong concept which lends itself to many possibilities. You’ve gone for a family comedy drama with lots of scope for Star Wars-type set design and cinematography, and I believe that’s a market which could be actively looking for scripts like this. There’s the core of a good storyline here as well, although I think you’ve got a bit of work to do there. Overall I think this is a good effort. As your notes suggest, you’re happy for people to ‘rip this one apart’ so I’m sure you’ll take my notes as constructive criticism, as they’re intended, and not feel that they’re overly negative. Being a freewill, I felt it was OK to take a look at the other reviews and I see that many of them are earmarking the same issues I've noted, so I hope you’ll see that as useful commentary.
The main points I’d focus on are structure and storyline. Structure-wise, I feel that the natural break into Act 2 should be the point at which Brad accepts the offer of a space vacation, and the interaction between humans and aliens truly begins. In this draft that happens quite late. But I believe a lot of the first Act could be easily trimmed and it shouldn’t be a major problem to bring that turning-point in around page 25. The final Act should commence at the point where Sticky Fingers and his mob, having discovered that they’ve been double-crossed, go gunning for Henry and the Walshes. That sets up the story for an exciting action-led finale. That leaves Act 2 covering the adventures of the Walshes in the theme-park, with the mid-point possibly being the discovery that they are HUMANS and need to be hunted down mercilessly.
As regards storyline issues, I’ve covered these individually in the Reading Notes which follow. Maybe with some of these I’ve missed clues, taken a wrong meaning, or simply been a bit thick, so please make allowances.
Other Reading Notes:
1 I’m not sure you need the opening sequence at all. It seems disconnected from the rest of the story. I can understand that its main purpose is to set up the impending Inspection at Nopadopal’s, but frankly (see following notes) I think it would be much easier simply to have Nopadopal announcing this as a given in the conference scene. You could then begin the script with the Walshes, bringing in the Halloween theme and Joey’s skill on space-games, etc.
1 The opening scenes simply mention ‘alien humanoids’, and ‘space vehicles’. A little description just to sharpen up the visual impact would be useful.
1 ...as they look on slack-jawed...
You use the word ‘slack-jawed’ frequently in the script. Try to vary it a bit (I find that a good thesaurus is extemely useful!)
10 The room reaches a crescendo as the audience breaks into a raucous, muttering and mumbling amongst themselves.
This is a repetition of the previous description line – I presume you’ve done a cut and paste in error.
10 It has come to my attention that we will soon be receiving an inspection and audit from the Interstellar Committee.
I know I’m being picky here, but there are a couple of points about the ‘inspection and audit’ that need to be made:
(a) presumably the tip-off that an inspection is imminent has come from the theme park owner whom we saw in the first scene – and has been rewarded ‘big time’ as was implied. So if word got back to the Committee that Nopadopal had been tipped off, it would mean trouble for him. So he’d be unlikely to broadcast this in such an open manner.
(b) ‘Each and every one of you will be given an employee and customer satisfaction appraisal that must be completed’.
The way this is worded, it sounds as if they’ll be given a form which they must complete – in which case they’d simply give themselves high scores all round! I’m sure that’s not what you intend. Maybe just word it something like: ‘Each and every one of you will undergo a performance appraisal’. I’m confused about the appraisal process in any case. Do employees simply need a 100% appraisal from one customer / family? Who actually carries out the appraisals?
15 Smoke billows from the hull of Henry’s Supervisor Shuttle.
Should this not be vice-versa? It’s the Tourist Shuttle which is faulty, isn’t it?
15 Inciting incident is bang on cue – Henry loses holidaymakers to the Black Hole.
18 It’s not clear to me why Nopadopal doesn’t simply fire Henry on the spot. He falls asleep at a crucial company meeting, and then proceeds to lose four people in the Black Hole through negligence. Given that Nopadopal’s a dictator, why would he keep Henry employed? Also, the fact that the family have signed a waiver begs a few questions – why would they do that, unless tourist trips to the Black Hole are inherently dangerous? If so, why does the Inspectorate allow them in the first place?... etc, etc.
One way or another, Henry doesn’t really come across as a likeable protagonist. I think you need to change him in some way – either make him more of a comic-style buffoon, or else make him a bit darker so that when he develops into a close friend of the Walshes towards the end, it provides a strong arc for him and gives a counter-point to Brad’s arc.
19 How the heck am I meant to get an appraisal when I’m banned from any interaction with any on site vacationers?
When was this ban announced? And if there is a ban, why is Nopadopal happy to allow interaction later on (p. 56) when the Walsh family appears?
20 It’s not clear why HUMANS are NOT ALLOWED. This is a pivotal element in your story, and needs more explanation. Perhaps humans have shown themselves in the past to be untrustworthy or inferior in some way to the other aliens who visit the theme park. This in itself offers up many possibilities for your story.
24 Good introduction to Joey.
30 The Cocky Neighbour scene is good and provides a nice grounding for Brad’s motivation to take the family on holiday. But correspondingly it needs some resolution towards the end: it would be really good to show them in the final scenes, perhaps having had a disastrous holiday and coming back with their tail between their legs.
36 Structurally, I think this should be the turning point into Act 2: Brad encounters aliens in the form of Henry, and gets sucked into the ‘Space Vacation’. But it’s too late – it needs to appear around page 25.
37 EXT. WALSH RESIDENCE - LIVING ROOM – NIGHT
Given how excited Brad was in the morning, it seems strange that we’re now into evening and Brad hasn’t even tried Directory Services for the number yet.
45 They have to keep the necklaces on all the time, but there’s no indication of how Brad manages to enforce this – he’s just told to ‘make something up’.
72 Lucy’s reaction to the news that the theme park is in space doesn’t ring true. She’s spent most of the time so far appearing anxious and distrustful about it, and yet when it’s confirmed she can’t wait to start the party!
73 The reveal that Henry has double-crossed Sticky Fingers also seems unlikely. Not the fact of his having done it; but the manner of it. Given all the space-age technology at their disposal, you’d assume that the transfer of credits, cash or whatever is now used as currency would be instantaneous and 100% reliable. The idea that it’s still like waiting several days for a cheque to be processed seems preposterous.
76 INT. COCKPIT OF HENRY’S SUPERVISOR SHUTTLE
Brad studies the hologram...
Brad’s separated from Lucy and Joey? Surely they’d all ride together? On the same topic, I can’t see why there’s a need for the Supervisor to be in a separate Shuttle. Seems an unnecessary complication.
85 As Sticky Fingers rips the necklaces off Lucy’s and Joey’s necks, their voices start changing.
What does this mean, exactly? I thought the purpose of the Voice Modulators is to enable humans to disguise themselves as aliens and yet be able to talk to aliens without knowing their language. But after they’re removed, it seems to make no real difference.
91 OK, so at this stage one might expect an explanation from the Judge of why humans are banned, but there’s none forthcoming. Also, for what is supposedly a heinous offence, the punishment is a bit of an anti-climax: they’re simply sent back to Earth and told not to do it again.
I’m not keen on the ending. It’s very inconclusive. While I realise you’re playing for a sequel, I think you’ll have a better chance of optioning the script with a neat ending. You can then discuss a sequel if it gets to that stage.
Also, I’d try to trim the script to 100 pages or less, which should be quite possible.
Typos, punctuation, grammar and boring stuff:
1 What’s this ‘we’ business?
2 Standing at the bar, CRABACUS, a crab-shaped humanoid, motions...
10 ... in one fell swoop commands...
29 On the level, you said.
32 ... before hitting the gas pedal.
37 Can you try again?
40 Just seems strange, that’s all.
54 Didn’t know you were scared of heights!
65 Lucy shakes her head, not impressed...
73 As the line of cars slows to a stop...
76 The lane of lights retreats into the distance, weaving its way towards an asteroid field. OR
The lanes of light retreat into the distance, weaving their way towards an asteroid field.
78 POWER FAILURE IMMINENT.
84 It’s no shame, not making the grade.
92 JOEY Ah, Mom. I was hoping to stay a
93 As Crabacus adjusts the gag around Park Security Officer’s mouth, Henry (in disguise) pops his head...
94 ...while Henry and Brad, still wearing their disguises, sit up front.
94 What about Dad?
100 Crabacus points at a pedal.
102 INT. COCKPIT OF GRAXSON’S SPACECRAFT
That’s all from me, Russell. Good luck with it. I’ll probably see you over at Talentville! read
A review of The Devil's Lullaby (PDF 2nd draft)by Rfordyce on 08/22/2014‘The Devil’s Lullaby’ is a very busy script. I mean busy, as in there’s lots of stuff happening. I’m not a horror fan myself, but I gamely worked my way through the first twenty pages, reinforcing my prejudices (which I freely admit) against slasher movies and wondering why anyone could be remotely interested in tongues being extracted without the owner’s consent, and severed... ‘The Devil’s Lullaby’ is a very busy script. I mean busy, as in there’s lots of stuff happening. I’m not a horror fan myself, but I gamely worked my way through the first twenty pages, reinforcing my prejudices (which I freely admit) against slasher movies and wondering why anyone could be remotely interested in tongues being extracted without the owner’s consent, and severed hearts dancing in glass jars.
However, as I got further into the story, it seems that you’ve got some nice themes going on here. The scenes with Father Murphy in particular give more depth to your story, and I do like the ambiguous ending. Your visual presentation is striking, and I like the twists and turns which keep us guessing right up to the end. I’m sure many will enjoy your script for the gore fest it promises and delivers. But I think there are a number of points you should consider for a re-write. It’s only my personal opinion, of course, so please feel free to ignore it, and apologies for anything I may have missed or misunderstood along the way.
Firstly, I think that you start at a sprint when you’re trying to run a mile. Michael’s actions on page 4, pulling out Bobby’s tongue, have a yuck factor – OK, I’m in a slasher movie here - (and why is Michael not immediately arrested and put behind bars?) - but to my mind they also raise the stakes too quickly. To trump that, you’ll have to produce too much gore in too short a time period. Much better to make the audience wait for it. You know they want it. They know they want it. But don’t be too free with your favours; build up the tension. Don’t show a scene with blood until page 20. Make them wait; they’ll enjoy it all the more.
Secondly, I think you’ve got too much storyline which you don’t really need. And that’s the opposite of most scripts I’ve read. Most of them have too little going on and they’re trying to string the story out. With yours there’s too much going on and I’m trying to figure out what the hell is happening to whom. There are too many characters and events which are an integral part of the story, but which we never see on screen. We only hear about them through dialogue, which is always a second-hand method. Rule of thumb is, if a character or event is important to the story, they / it should have some screen time, so that the viewer is invested in the process. Let’s just list some of the examples where that doesn’t happen:
• Helen, the daughter who is crucial to McBride’s motivation – and also to the whole story - is never seen on screen, apart from one perfunctory glimpse on a TV report.
• McBride’s parents, who refused to look after Helen. There’s a throwaway line which suggests they disowned her because she was born out of wedlock, but otherwise we know nothing about them.
• Victor, McBride’s brother, who apparently committed suicide. But we don’t see it. And that’s all we know.
• Michael’s father, who murdered Helen. Because McBride had killed one of his children. But none of this is shown on screen, although we’re told that both Michael’s parents have been murdered.
• McBride’s wife, who died in childbirth. We only know of her through dialogue.
• Brian’s father, who’s never really identified in the script, but must have been Jenn’s partner at one time.
• Jeffrey – inmate 1245 – who killed McBride, but didn’t know why. We never see him on screen.
Bottom line is, I spent so much time trying to figure out who these characters were, their relationships to each other, that I lost track of your core story. Which is a great pity, because I think your theme here, the father – daughter relationship, is a strong one. It’s the core of innumerable movies, and it could work here as well.
I don’t think all these characters are necessary to your story. The step-brother / step-sister relationships are particularly confusing, and I’m not sure why you need to have them. Get rid of characters like Victor – to me he serves no useful purpose, other than to be a false trail for detectives to follow – and concentrate more on building up the suspense involving a few key players.
OTHER READING NOTES:
1 EXT. WOODED AREA - SPELL SITE – NIGHT
Screenplays are all about giving the reader a cinematic experience (visuals, sound) by using prose (text, paper / computer screen). Rule Number One therefore is, ‘Describe only what is seen and heard on screen’. So I wouldn’t put ‘Spell Site’ in the slug. It’s anticipating something which hasn’t happened yet, therefore pulls the reader out of the story immediately. And in any case, what does a ‘spell site’ look like?
1 Some description of McBride’s appearance would be useful – how is he dressed? – what expression does his face convey? Etc.
1 ...a circle with a horrific design...
In what way is it horrific? Satanic? Or just really badly designed?
1 I’ve been told by numerous screenwriting gurus that your first scene shouldn’t be a dream sequence. I don’t believe them. Bur even allowing for that, the description is given in a very haphazard fashion. Is Janet in the middle of the circle? Or just nearby? What does ‘the hearts gain tempo’ mean, exactly? The children aren’t mentioned until Donald suddenly sees them – so have they been hidden from the viewer as well?
2 INT. DONALD’S HOME - DONALD’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
The slug’s rather clunky; you could just write
INT. DONALD’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
This applies throughout the script.
6 Jade hymns ...
A hymn is a song of praise to God. I’ve never seen it used as a verb before. Do you mean ‘hums?’
6 ... the Devil’s Lullaby.
At this point you haven’t yet introduced the idea of a devil’s lullaby. How would the reader know what you mean?
7 EXT. DONALD’S HOME – NIGHT
Brian walks away. Jade’s dad, Donald, calls for him.
You need to put more thought into your sluglines and description; don’t make life difficult for your reader. Firstly, you’d be better using CONTINUOUS rather than NIGHT; this would tell the reader that the scene follows directly from the previous one. Next, where is Donald? Standing in the doorway? Waiting to ambush Brian in the garden? Calling from an upstairs window?
12 It would be better to format the lullaby in rhyming lines. It would make it much easier to read. So:
Hey little kitty, please come and stay.
I need your help to take my pain away.
Don’t be shy, please come and play.
I just want you to have a fun day.
You’re my beauty, and my power.
I want you to blossom into a beautiful flower. Etc.
23 BEGIN FLASHBACK:
It’s not really a flashback, it’s the DVD playing. You could simply write ON SCREEN.
30 His heart isn’t missing. What about the hearts of the parents?
Not that I know of.
This is a strange reply - it would be very obvious if their hearts were missing!
Victor committed suicide years ago.
Seems unlikely that Owen (a policeman) wouldn’t already know that.
Yeah, how’s that P.I. stuff working out for you?
I presume that means Private Investigator.
51 Janet, now in her twenties, opens the door...
Janet is now five years older – also, she’s never been named in dialogue. Would the audience know who she is?
You got the tests back yet? What tests?
Typos, grammar, punctuation + boring stuff:
1 ... the hearts inside the jars.
8 ... get a few things straightened out...
30 The lullaby is possessed! Run!
31 The other officers look on, confused.
35 God’s Right Hand? (possibly use italics)
36 JADE Diamond Stud?
38 Alice looks at him, confused.
48 Donald’s eyes light with shock.
54 Why doesn’t he take over the world, or kill us, or
like you said, make us suffer?
54 I know you’re looking for redemption, Donald.
58 Brian chuckles and walks...
59 It’s so clean you can eat off it.
67 Jade looks on, afraid.
69 Their parents called it in.
82 He takes heavy breaths...
94 He gets off him and walks back to Jade.
I hope these notes are useful. Good luck with it. read
A review of HyperGraphiaby Rfordyce on 08/10/2014‘Hypergraphia’ is a very professional screenplay and I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t think the concept is entirely new, but this has a very surreal mood and a storyline which buzzes around your head like a swarm of bees. I love Martin’s fragile grasp of reality, his erudite speech patterns and his erratic thought processes. Just to savour his wordplay and autistic tendency... ‘Hypergraphia’ is a very professional screenplay and I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t think the concept is entirely new, but this has a very surreal mood and a storyline which buzzes around your head like a swarm of bees. I love Martin’s fragile grasp of reality, his erudite speech patterns and his erratic thought processes. Just to savour his wordplay and autistic tendency (surely he must be at least partly autistic?) would in itself be worth the trouble of reading this script. But it has so much more to offer than that. It’s a film noir, it’s a detective whodunnit, it’s a psychological thriller, but most of all it’s a script which has the potential to become a box-office success.
The characters are all distinctive and well-drawn. Each has their own recognisable voice. The story rattles forward at a fairly frenetic pace and grabs our attention throughout, but information is only revealed gradually to pile extra layer upon layer of mystery. Good job.
I think it would be presumptive to say that I completely understand the outcome of this convoluted storyline, but it might be in order to accept it for what it is – a product of Martin’s fragile mental state. I think I’m right in saying that we never actually see any on-screen killings, except in the final bust-up when Martin kills Richardson and is in turn shot by the Redheaded woman – so that scene is presumably a product of his own fevered imagination, since we then immediately see him talking to the Three Men in the final scene. An ending like that would normally give rise to loud howls of protest from the ‘It Was All Just A Dream’ huddle of critics who maintain that it’s the death-knell of any script. Whatever, schmatever – I think this script is entertaining enough to survive that criticism. It’s a statement that our life can’t be viewed through the single lens of our own consciousness – our life impinges on other people and we have to look through their lenses as well.
Anyway, enough of the psychobabble. I’m never comfortable with that (British, you see). There are elements in the script which could be improved. As much as I love Martin’s unique poetic dialogue, I think you rather over-egg the pudding with it sometimes. It feels like you enjoy writing the dialogue so much that you sometimes neglect other aspects of the script. At 118 pages some of it could be gently trimmed, and you could use the space gained to build up the film noir tone. I’m thinking of instances like the scene on page 69, although the same comments could apply to many other parts of the story:
“Martin aggressively shakes the desk in front of him, startling Dr. Maravich and causing her lamp to fall to the floor.”
This scene should be a big atmospheric moment, where you leave the audience wondering about the true state of Martin’s mind. Use the lamp to greater effect. Imagine shadows falling around their faces, their movements. Imagine creepy music playing on screen. Give it a bit more edge. So you could have something like:
INT. PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE - NIGHT
A single desk lamp illuminates the room. Dr Maravitch watches Martin pacing back and forth.
And what do you think is the most logical explanation for that?
Half of Martin’s face is in shadow. He hesitates, shrugs his shoulders.
Martin aggressively thumps the desk. The LAMP falls to the floor and goes out. Darkness.
A few seconds of SILENCE, and then:
Martin switches the lamp back on.
I don’t think that I should see you anymore.
Don’t just have the lamp falling; make it go out. Plunge the room into darkness; play around with it.
The continuous alliteration in your dialogue sometimes drifts into your description lines as well, e.g. –
A frumpy, flimsy British man…
Lee lazily greets…
There’s nothing wrong with this in principle but it may distract the reader’s attention from focusing on the actual content of the words. Unless you think it’s necessary, I’d remove it.
Other reading notes:
1 No title page!?
1 A little more description would be good, e.g. – is there a desk? What does Martin look like? And as regards the Three Men, I know you’re playing for mystery and tension, and I think your decision not to name them, to keep them faceless, is a good one. But a few more clues would be helpful. At the very least, describe what will be seen on screen. Does it suggest a police station? A psychiatric unit? A meeting hall?
3 INT. PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE - DAY Martin sits across from Dr. Maravich.
Might be better to use LATER to emphasise that it’s a different scene from the one before.
6 Show me the fucking baby.
Nice nod to ‘Jerry McGuire.’
7 MARTIN This is the last book in the series, Jerry.
On a slightly pedantic note, it seems unlikely that movie producers would be waiting to see the finished product if it’s a series of books. If they like the first books enough, the movie would get made anyway. Maybe make it that the producer has seen extracts from an uncompleted book, and is eagerly awaiting the finished product.
16 I assume that at this point, and other instances throughout the script, we go into freeze-frame or something of that ilk. It would be good to show this in your formatting, e.g. –
...and sees DETECTIVE RICH RICHARDSON, a hard-nosed, middle-aged man.
May I help you?
Yes, I’m –
DETECTIVE RICHARDSON IN FREEZE-FRAME:
This is Detective Rich Richardson................................................. Never mind that. I’m rambling.
BACK TO SCENE
...Detective Rich Richardson. I want…
21 It gives me an opportunity to say gazoontite. It’s my third favourite word in the English language.
‘Gesundheit’ is actually a German expression so I assumed you were playing ironic in some way here. Maybe you want to check it out.
44 You’ve really got me on the ropes, here. HA! HA!
47 Detective Richardson hands Martin an urn.
A bit unlikely – where was he hiding it?
53 Your visit the other day threw me for a loop.
It’s a lot longer than ‘the other day.’ Martin had time to grow a substantial beard!
66 It’s your handwriting. And it’s dated two years ago.
We need some clearer evidence of this – a written date on the manuscript, for instance.
83 Just a small stylistic point you should watch out for: you tend to repeat characters’ names too much in blocks of description, e.g. – “Martin dashes across the room ... Martin immediately goes to the fan fiction site... Martin begins to read it aloud...” Try to vary the style so that it doesn’t become repetitive.
I go see Gary.
Several new characters are introduced late in the script – a practice normally frowned on by screenwriter scribblers. I don’t have a problem with it here, because the story is strong enough to carry it, but just thought I’d mention it.
90 I like the scene with the biker and the monkey – very surreal.
The bribe accepted by the DMV worker seems a little unlikely – I assume it’s a highly regulated organisation. See if you can come up with a better idea.
103 Suddenly Martin hears cop SIRENS.
Would the police have sirens blaring if they were on a secretive mission? Might be more effective if they simply appear without warning.
115 Martin frees his hands, reaches for his gun, points it at Detective Richardson...
The suspension of disbelief is broken here. There’s been no mention of the gun. Richardson would surely have searched him. And yet it’s suddenly there in Martin’s hands at the critical moment. I’m sure you can come up with a better narrative.
Typos, grammar, etc:
18 Hypergraphia, a disorder...
18 ... picks up a book off Martin’s bookshelf.
20 Yes, Mary Pickett.
47 Detective Richardson hands Martin an urn.
58 ... and fumbles it on to the floor.
63 ... If you ever need anything taxidermied,..
81 Martin sits in a dark room...
115 Detective Richardson stops singing; he cocks the hammer...
Thanks for this enjoyable read. A few more polishes, and I think you could have a winner here. Best of luck with it!
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