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 107
A review of The Curtainby Rfordyce on 06/14/2013Hi Neil, I’m sorry this review has taken so long. We’ve actually been moving house (from Somerset to Surrey) and I’ve been offline for a week or so. Anyway, we’ve now packed away enough cardboard boxes to allow me to clamber over to my laptop, so here goes. ‘The Curtain’ is a very heartfelt story about coping with terminal illness, and it’s the sort of topic that most scriptwriters... Hi Neil, I’m sorry this review has taken so long. We’ve actually been moving house (from Somerset to Surrey) and I’ve been offline for a week or so. Anyway, we’ve now packed away enough cardboard boxes to allow me to clamber over to my laptop, so here goes.
‘The Curtain’ is a very heartfelt story about coping with terminal illness, and it’s the sort of topic that most scriptwriters avoid like the plague. I applaud you for even tackling the project. I see also that it’s your first venture on to Trigger Street, so congratulations on that. I also see from the ratings and from your posts on the Message Board that the script has not only had positive reviews on TS but has also garnered some interest from industry professionals. That’s a huge boost and you must be excited about the prospect of a possible production. I hope all the pieces fall into place for you.
Basically your story is a very simple one and the way that events unfold for Fiona and Peter is told with assurance and style. The concept itself is also solid – girl falls in love with terminally ill man and after his death falls for a close relative and has to deal with the decisions thrust upon her. There are of course many ways in which you could approach this. The idea was the driving force behind ‘Love Story’ (“Love means never having to say you’re sorry”!) but if I remember correctly there was no second romance involved.
These things said, I have to admit that the story didn’t really work for me. I wish I could say that it did, because it’s such a worthy topic. And in view of the positive feedback you’ve already had, please remember that it’s only my opinion, so feel free to ignore it. In fact it may well be that the subject matter is dear to your heart from personal experience, so I apologise if this is so. The reasons for most writers’ aversion to this theme are not difficult to understand – the downbeat nature of the story, perceived lack of marketability, possibility of descending into cheesy schmaltz, etc etc. This last element is perhaps the most obvious drawback: my impression is that the script rather self-consciously appeals to feelings of empathy and compassion for the main characters, and lays the pathos on with a trowel.
The dialogue is witty but it often lacks interest because Fiona, Peter and Adam are very similar characters and there isn’t much to differentiate them. They share the same sense of humour and talk in a very similar way. You almost know what they’re going to say before they say it. There’s very little of that vital edginess which comes from characters who are dissimilar and have different speech patterns.
If I had to pick out the major factor where the script is lacking it would be in conflict. You’ve probably heard the message already on TS that Conflict Is King. But in this script there really is no conflict. Sure, Peter has a fierce external antagonist – his terminal illness. But there really are no personal battles with other characters at the heart of the story. No rabid ex-wife who hijacks Peter’s final illness for her own agenda; no cynical family members who try to stop Fiona becoming tied to a doomed suitor; no petty hassles from employers, health managers, public servants or estranged family members. Instead, everyone is very nice to each other. It would be far more interesting, say, if Peter was already embittered and cynical about the cards which fate has dealt him, and showed no interest whatsoever in Fiona initially. In ‘Love Story’, Ryan o’ Neal’s character had to overcome the antagonism of his father-in-law in order to deal with Ali McGraw’s final struggle. If you’re working on a re-write, the development of conflict should be your top priority. Just my opinion!
I hope you can take something positive from these notes and I do wish you every success with it. Please keep us posted on TS about the progress of the project. Other reading notes I made along the way are as follows:
1 A quiet residential street in Eastbourne's Old Town.
For those unfamiliar with Eastbourne (about 99% of your readership, I should think!) you need to give some visual clues about the setting.
1 Fiona asks him if he has any letters for her. He hasn't.
General rule is: unless the dialogue is of an entirely insignificant nature, or just ‘background chatter’ it needs to be formatted as dialogue. This occurs throughout your script so I won’t mention it again – I just use the term multiple or MULT.
1 EXT. BEACHY HEAD
You definitely need some description of this location. Most readers don’t know it.
1 BEGIN FLASHBACK:
SERIES OF SHOTS
This can be incorporated in one slugline, e.g. –
FLASHBACK: SERIES OF SHOTS
There’s a slight problem here. The sequential order of your flashbacks implies that the action takes place concurrently. But Peter’s actions happen over a longer time period. Maybe you should only have Fiona appearing in the later parts of the flashback, i.e. – as Peter drives to Beachy Head.
2 ...towards the South Downs...
Again, you need to fill in the reader with some clues about the South Downs. Basically these opening location shots should strongly underpin the atmosphere you’re trying to create – a beautiful but melancholy place. So you need to bring it alive for the reader through your description.
2 ... suicide jockey...
Never heard that one before. I suspect it’s American. Try to avoid unfamiliar phrases which may pull the reader out of the story.
3 No need for the (MORE) at the foot of this page. You can fit all the dialogue in.
5 Today only! (beat)
In dialogue, you use ‘beat’ quite frequently – most scriptwriters try to avoid it these days. You also often insert a blank line (sometimes even two) where, I assume, a pause is intended: I haven’t seen that before. You definitely don’t need both! MULT.
6 You do tend to use ellipses ... a great deal... It can get... quite ... IRRITATING!
8 They walk back to the car park, put Seamus in the back, drive down the hill.
Sequential actions like this need to be written ‘in real time’, i.e. – the action should last for roughly the amount of time it takes to read the words. Basically, think of one page as a minute of screen time. In practice a director wouldn’t show all this; it adds nothing to the story. They would probably just cut to the next scene. So write only what needs to be seen and heard on screen. MULT.
This opening scene between Fiona and Peter has some nice touches but it feels as if she’s being too pushy. If she’s trying to give him the come-on she’d be a bit more obvious about it; if she’s trying to be a Good Samaritan she’d probably have established in her own mind after a lengthy conversation that he’s not a suicide risk, so she would be unlikely to ask an unknown male, possibly with psychological issues, back to her place. It just doesn’t sit comfortably in my mind that she’d act like that - but please remember that’s just my opinion.
9 So, Eeyore, you don't say much, do you?
I’m not sure how many readers are familiar with dear old Eeyore!
9 Why call me Eeyore? FIONA 'Cos you always look so fecking
...and my rule of thumb is; if you find yourself explaining a joke, it’s probably not a good one!
14 Fiona walks back in with toast and orange juice.
She hasn’t had time to do that – see previous note.
18 Peter's three children enter the kitchen.
Might be an idea to offer some explanation for their absence and sudden entry. Where have they been?
21 Lizzie said she's doing it at school... She said something to me... What does 'non illegitimi carborundum' mean?
I’m probably completely off the mark here, but do any children these days learn Latin at primary school? And at Lizzie’s age, I’d think they’re more likely to be at the ‘Amo amas amat’ stage.
28 ...his sister ALICE...
Quite a similar name to Alex, his ex-wife. Try to avoid this – it can cause confusion.
I find the scene with Peter’s family a bit confusing. Sheila and Alice ‘gasp’ when Peter makes an oblique reference to his impending death. But on the next page it seems clear that they already know about it. Are they gasping in surprise, or just because they’re amazed by his rudeness?
31 The dialogue here feels too much ‘on the nose’ – try to think of other ways of giving this information. MULT.
32 Peter undergoes an M.R.I. Scan, attends a meeting with Mr Sadiq in his office.
Should be written as a montage.
32 So, d'you want to hear the results of my latest scan?
Again, a little too direct. Try to find more varied ways of getting this information across.
34 Quite a moving little scene, Peter falling asleep.
42 It's ambrosia from far-flung Rye Harbour! Topped off with a bottle of Chateau Sarsons!
The local English references are appealing, but just remember that most of the readers on TS are non-UK. Rye Harbour and Chateau Sarsons are probably lost on them.
43 Fiona enters, escorted by her UNCLE DERMOT.
Uncle Dermot has no speaking role so possibly you shouldn’t name him. Or better – give him a small role to play – he could be a comic guest appearance (Irish? Rural? Absent-minded? – lots of possibilities).
44 I think there’s a missed opportunity in Claudia. She’s extremely hostile to the rest of the family, for no apparent reason. She’s such a bitch that she’s not really believable – in my opinion, anyway. There must be reasons why she’s so nauseous. She could also have a meatier role to play in an Adam-Fiona-Claudia triangle, which would offer you more scope for genuine conflict within the story. Instead, she just conveniently drifts out of the story.
Also this scene kind of plays out in a predictable repetitive way. Most of what the characters say is repeating information in a different way, except for the part about helping ‘through our dad dying’, which is new information. Try to rely less on dialogue and more on actions and subtext.
Also, in your action blocks, there’s an awful lot of unnecessary ‘fluff’. The audience don’t need to see every movement or facial expression a character makes. As an example, the scene with the hotel receptionist is unnecessary, and also the movement from one scene to the next. A good rule of thumb in scene writing is ENTER LATE, LEAVE EARLY. You could simply write:
Well, Mrs Robbins, I thought a nice country hotel, then a honeymoon touring the country - England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland even. Anywhere you want!
EXT. COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL – NIGHT
A very charming hotel. Peter and Fiona walk in, carrying their cases.
INT. BRIDAL SUITE – NIGHT
The room is laid out sumptuously, with flowers and chocolates. Peter pours two glasses of champagne as a PORTER leaves the room. They clink glasses.
Darling Neef. Thank you for becoming my wife.
51 Fiona shows the signs of pregnancy.
Sheila would spot it straight away if she did!
58 None of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt.
You can’t just write this – you have to demonstrate it through action and / or dialogue. Only write what you can see or hear on screen. Anyway it’s not really relevant to your story.
Nothing sinister, you daft git.
I presume this should be Alex talking, not Fiona?
61 INSERT SUNSET
Not sure what you’re trying to do here?
71 The emblem of Kent County Cricket Club... is emblazoned...
If Peter is a massive Kent County fan, I think you need to place a few more pointers for it earlier in the script.
77 I don’t get the jacket / geography connection. Maybe I missed something.
82 ... chats to SAMANTHA (early 40s), her bereavement counsellor.
It seems a little late in the story to be introducing a character who plays a significant role.
90 Adam pours the last drops of a wine bottle into Fiona's glass.
So how are you all keeping?
Again, enter late and/ leave early. They’ve just had a meal and a bottle of wine. They’re well past the stage of ‘how are you keeping’. I’d be inclined to go straight to the ‘So you mean to say we've been sitting in two separate houses’. The rest is fluff.
92 Often when you’re in a fixed venue and the action moves from room to room, it’s best to use subsidiary slug headings. That’s definitely the case here. So at the beginning of the scene you can have
INT. PETER AND FIONA'S HOUSE (KITCHEN) – NIGHT
and when they move to the lounge it could be:
Fiona gets up, walks into the
and puts some music on.
Care to dance?
All changed! ???
Typos, grammar, boring stuff....
5 He looks out to sea again.
5 ... being a brain surgeon.
10 The doctors have found...
14 ... what he can get.
17 be fine... Seamus needs...
21 It means 'Don't...
22 ...puts down the crossword,...
29 ... a whole production line of Fionas?
31 How are you feeling, Peter?
34 Fiona and Peter enter, laughing...
37 ... one of the things...
37 Look, Eeyore, I'm totally...
49 He's been our doctor...
54 ... your Auntie Maud?
56 Coffee sponge overdose?
57 ... how do you think?
58 ... we'll give you more news...
59 Boy and girl...
59 Oh God, I'm so sorry.
65 Fiona enters the room, sits down next to Peter...
70 ...so much I still wanted...
72 ... most of all I’m thankful...
82 ... don't know if I'm ready...
83 How are you, Fiona..?
84 ... pulls out an envelope.
84 Peter Jr and Lizzie look lovingly at Fiona.
85 How are the twins... Getting big now, I guess?
87 Knowing you, you'll probably..
87 There's no recipe...
92 They dance. Adam places his hands...
95 They walk to Adam's car, load up with... read
A review of The Uglyby Rfordyce on 05/08/2013Philip, this script is certainly worthy of attention. It fits much more into an ‘art house’ style rather than being anywhere near a mainstream audience. It seems to have its roots more in stage theatre than on the big screen, and your comment about it coming from ‘a much longer work’ is intriguing – is it derived from a theatrical work, or did you envisage it as a longer... Philip, this script is certainly worthy of attention. It fits much more into an ‘art house’ style rather than being anywhere near a mainstream audience. It seems to have its roots more in stage theatre than on the big screen, and your comment about it coming from ‘a much longer work’ is intriguing – is it derived from a theatrical work, or did you envisage it as a longer film, or possibly a series of films?
I enjoyed it. I find the development of Frank and Agnes to be one of the strongest elements. Your comments show that you’re aware some reviewers will complain about the lack of dramatic action and the meandering of the storyline, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. However I’m sure you’re also aware that this script is never going to figure highly in terms of box office success. It is in a different place, which is what I assume you’re aiming for.
The story is full of symbolism and imagery, and to me Frank and Agnes represent the original Innocents. Roots and vines claim Agnes as their own, a child of Nature. But Frank and Agnes don’t fit into the world of men and women. Even their carved effigies don’t fit into the model carved village. They have to stumble and stutter their way through a world where materialism and power are the watchwords of society. It is very touching and at times very brutal.
The characters in the story are portrayed not so much as individuals but as metaphors for human states of being. Smalls is the ever-‘improving’, ever-colonising mindset of Western society; Cybil an idealisation of motherhood; George the gifted dreamer whose creations are sullied through contact with the marketplace. The storyline takes liberties with authenticity; finding Agnes half-dead in a ditch is a bizarre means of kicking things off; the convergence of hundreds of wagoners in the desert to build a town out of nothing is a tall tale. There again, maybe you were thinking of Las Vegas? But in the metaphorical world you create, you can pull off stunts like that.
The way you handle both Frank and Agnes’s speech is very skilful. You put enough country bumpkin talk into Frank’s mouth to make him realistic, while it never gets in the way of the reader. Agnes’s gradual growth into articulate speech is masterly. George’s self-delusion is totally believable.
I don’t have much to criticise. Some elements could be developed more fully. The incipient sexual attraction between Agnes and the two men could be more pointedly dramatised. Both Frank and Agnes’s backstories could benefit from a little more meat on the bones – but that’s just my opinion, and I did find the scenes with Frank’s dead mother very moving, particularly because of Frank’s matter-of-fact demeanour.
Although the setting is 19th century, you don’t offer much in the way of visual or linguistic clues to point our way. Perhaps a few extra polishing touches would make a big payoff.
There are one or two formatting points. You don’t need to provide scene numbers. That would be for a shooting script and it would be done by a scene director anyway. Your sluglines tend to be over-detailed. There are some typos which I’ve listed at the end.
1 THE LATE 19TH CENTURY TOWN OF NEELY.
To be deliciously pedantic for a moment:
(a) The tag of ‘19th century’ should be inferred from your description, dialogue, or a SUPER. Not from the slugline.
(b) Although it’s a town, you refer to the inhabitants as ‘villagers’. You need to clarify.
6 Why is Frank leading her by the neck with the rope?
11 Agnes is filling out.
Have they been there for some time now? It doesn’t feel like very long.
12 EXT. RIVERSIDE AT NEELY. MORNING.
The previous scene is DAY but we’re now back at MORNING, although the two scenes appear to be more or less sequential. In general you’re better to stick to DAY and NIGHT to avoid confusion.
15 Only the teenage girls remain.
And Agnes! – needs more clarity.
17 The teenage girls intervene on Agnes’ behalf, and then jeer at her? The tone doesn’t seem right.
19 When he speaks again, it’s the voice of a ten year old.
Is this purely metaphor, or do you mean it literally? If so, how long does it last??
27 Autumn has turned the leaves brown. Frank’s hair has grown.
We’ve moved on again. Presumably Frank has been living rough all this time?
28 ...the little chicken from the other day...
This doesn’t fit. Several months must have passed.
36 Heavy pots fall on her. She lies still.
Has she been killed?
42 God, th’ place stinks o’ bein’ lonely....seems like nobody ever come ’ere...
I really like that line.
44 They meet an old couple, who I think are supposed to be Agnes’s parents, but it’s pretty ambiguous.
55 SLOW FADE
These are effective.
70 Some physical description of Robert Smalls would be good.
77 You could use a mini-slugline here, e.g. –
Agnes can just make out a large table covered with a cloth.
She is led to stand alongside.
81 Excuse me, but you called your dog...
‘Excuse me’ is a modern term for astonishment – it just doesn’t fit with 19th century dialogue. In general, I feel Claire’s dialogue is just a little too modern in idiom.
88 ...and all those other people who say one thing and mean another.
Maybe you could make more of this theme. I’m thinking of the dramatic irony in Agnes’s learning to communicate through speech, while simultaneously realising that it’s often used to deceive.
88 But Frank, I can’t tell the foxes from the rabbits!
106 This should be written as dialogue.
Typos, punctuation, etc...
11 ... a mind of its own!
11 ...that sets you off real nice.
16 ...better lay off the sauce...
25 CYBIL MORGAN’S HOUSE.
36 She smiles up at him...
46 Frank is excited that the letters match.
50 Frank sleeps, his mouth open.
55 A woman sits ... at the front of the first wagon; her husband... talks with George.
63 ...to see if George’s eyes are closed.
63 ... opens the drawer...
71 ... believe we’ve found it!”
74 She’s joined by...
79 The light spreads out...
80 By the way,..
85 ... several new buildings to the east...
94 You’re scared, aren’t you?
That’s all from me. I really enjoyed the read, Philip. I hope you can take this to the next level. read
A review of Goblin Marketby Rfordyce on 01/16/2013This is the first screenplay I’ve reviewed which has been inspired by a poem, so full marks for notching up that one! There’s a lot to commend in this script. I enjoyed the constant visual flow of your descriptive passages. You are adept at painting striking images in the mind of the reader, and the story keeps up an increasing pace in suspense and gruesome action as you... This is the first screenplay I’ve reviewed which has been inspired by a poem, so full marks for notching up that one!
There’s a lot to commend in this script. I enjoyed the constant visual flow of your descriptive passages. You are adept at painting striking images in the mind of the reader, and the story keeps up an increasing pace in suspense and gruesome action as you build towards its climax.
The dialogue is pretty sharp and observant, and there’s a good sense of character description and development throughout. I like how you’ve given all the main characters some very recognisable traits. Eliza is the mother hen to Laura’s headstrong wilful child. Although Laura almost becomes a caricature of standard horror fodder as she appears hell-bent on thrusting herself into every conceivable situation of danger and thrill-seeking that she can find. Sam is a cynical opportunist; Claire a slut; Beth a victim; Jimmy an introverted loner, and so on.
The story itself is of course loosely based on Rossetti’s poem, but you’ve brought it into the modern world (well, Cornwall anyway!) and made it your own. And some of the scenes are genuinely creepy and suspenseful – I can easily envisage them in glorious ghoulish colour on the big screen.
I have to say that horror is not my genre of choice, but I hope I can give you some useful feedback. But please bear that in mind if some of the comments seem a bit wayward. As I say, there’s a lot to enjoy here but I definitely think you need to make some improvements.
Firstly, the Goblins. You just introduce them with hardly a word of description or justification. They just appear and we’re expected to buy into the premise. Perhaps you’re seduced by the opening of the poem: “Morning and evening / maids heard the goblins cry...” and think if it’s good enough for Rossetti it’s OK for you. But she’s aiming at a 19th century audience, many of whom probably believed in goblins anyway. And of course she’s writing poetry, not a film script. You can get away with stuff like that in poetry. To my mind you can’t get away with it in a script, not even a horror one. Today’s audience needs to know who these creatures are. How did they come into existence? What’s their relationship with humans? Tell us more about the fruit thing! And last but not least, what do they actually look like? Your description is really good and yet you say hardly anything about these little beasties except to give them names.
While we’re talking about Goblins, I’ll jump to the end of the story just now. They are the main antagonists. But at the end, they’re neither defeated nor victorious. They sort of slink off into the sunset, but they’re muttering threats at Eliza as they go. I think you need a sharper resolution. Oh, and the bit about her suddenly finding she could kill one just by throwing a burning brand at it – that sort of comes out of nowhere. You could set it up better. Maybe she could somehow kill them all off by driving them into the bonfire. Unless of course you’re planning a sequel. Son of Goblin. The Phoenix Goblins Arise. That sort of thing.
Perhaps more importantly, it feels to me like your story is more a collection of disconnected sequences rather than an organic whole. A plane drops dust... a baby gets baked alive... a herd of cattle swarm over a car... a collection of stitched-up corpses. And I couldn’t really figure out what the Weatherfields’ motivation was for their ghoulish taxidermy. What were they trying to achieve? Maybe I’m being over-critical, but I think you need to look closely at your main themes and try to make the story more of a whole. The main battle is between the Goblins and the two girls. You need to make that the backbone of the script, and weave the other themes around it: repressed sexuality, lesbianism, self-control v. laissez-faire, and all that stuff.
The other thing is, you need to give this baby a really good proofread. There are an awful lot of spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors, most of which should be picked up by any decent spellcheck program. I’ve listed the ones I found below, but I stopped after 20 pages (it tends to get worse as the script proceeds).
At 122 pages, the script could also do with a fair bit of trimming.
My other reading notes are shown below:
0 Your title page is a little confusing. It looks as if the script has been partly-written by Christina Rossetti. Maybe something like ‘Inspired by Christina Rossetti’ would fit the bill.
1 No need for the CONTINUED at the top and bottom of each page – you only use it if there’s a dialogue chunk running over from one page to the next.
24 Seems rather strange that Eliza accepts Laura’s fruit-fuelled binge without question. Especially as she reveals later that she had a visit from Mister Greenway, who had dragged Laura out of a lake.
36 You’ve heard the story of the girl...
This is mentioned a couple of times but not really developed. I think you need to expand on it a little.
68 The scene with the doctor doesn’t sit well. The notion that any qualified medical practitioner would even debate the wisdom of feeding more of the same poison – which he admits he doesn’t ‘know anything about’ – to someone who’s at death’s door, just doesn’t make sense. I think you need to find a way round that one.
103 A really good horror scene as Eliza kills Margaret, scalds Richard and gets a finger chopped off. What happens to Grace? I don’t think we find out.
122 The girls drive away. But there’s a hint of ambiguity.
Typos / spelling / grammar (first 20 pages)
1 …stretches its red tentacles…
3 Its talons crease the … shirt.
3 Eliza breaks off.
4 …into the sea, miles below. They’re several miles above sea level?!
4 To the girls’ right…
5 The girls move away…
6 Jimmy nods appreciatively.
7 …notices a woman sitting in the corner…
8 Damn you, hideous tyke!
8 Beth pushes her pint over to Sam.
10 It’s seen more than most, that’s for sure.
12 Ah, you know me.
13 ... aren’t you?
13 She said no, alright?
13 Sam glares, indignant.
13 Eliza backs off, mortified.
15 Nobody’s seen them for years...
16 She emerges; sees Laura lying...
16 sees Laura lying amongst brookside rushes, eyes wide. Laura stares out...
16 ... large cedar tree...
16 Lizzie, look!
16 Eliza presses her back fearfully...
16 The Goblins dance maniacally...
16 ...from the glen...
18 The Goblins dance and CHANT...
19 She shakes her head, fearful, and withdraws.
20 His pincers chop.
20 Laura cups the fruit in her hands; her eyes stare...
20 ...her eyes stare, thick with desire.
20 ... down her wrist and neck.
I hope some of this is useful to you, Jack. Thanks for the read. read
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