The premise of THE IBOGA VISIONS – an addiction treatment that causes lifelike visions in a guilt-ridden war vet – was intriguing enough to make me give this script a try. It starts well enough by placing the reader in the middle of the action with a scene that will have life-altering consequences for the protagonist. Unfortunately, the story that follows never came together for me. There is a love story that did not seem real to me, a subplot about a soldier wounded in World War I, which may or may not have really happened, and an illegal addiction treatment, none of which seem plausible or integrated into a unified story with a coherent theme.
This is all my personal opinion and there may be plenty of other people who will like this screenplay. I offer my comments on the chance they may be helpful to you. If not helpful, or totally out of line with the other comments you receive, by all means please ignore.
The biggest problem for me is that the story did not engage. This was especially true of the first half, which seemed implausible to me on so many levels. The character of Julie starts out as a caricature of an antiwar liberal. Maybe sentiments were different in Scotland, but of the many people I know in the US who were opposed to the war in its initial stages, all of them were careful to be respectful and even sympathetic to the frontline soldiers who had to fight it. Julie seems more like a throwback to the early 70’s. I’ve got no problem with her eventually falling for the object of her ire, but would have liked to see more of how that happened from the inside of the character. Instead, Julie does a sudden 180 degree turn from one kind of caricature to another.
Tom was not much more real to me. The incident on the Amman Road would be enough to give him nightmares. But heroin addiction? This is not the worst war has to offer. Not even close.
Tom is essentially blameless for Donna’s death. I can see how this incident would cause him a great deal of guilt, because he was the man in charge. But from a story point of view, I believe it is more poignant for him to have some kind of direct blame for her death, either through an error in judgment or an explicit failure of leadership. Instead, you show him performing as many soldiers would, which makes his situation look like the result of bad luck. He would have to be a man of weak character to turn to heroin over this.
The staging of the incident is also unrealistic. Donna would have to be pretty unseasoned to reach into her jacket like that and the troops would be unlikely to fire on an American female, no matter how green they were. The scene would be a lot more believable if an Iraqi national were involved and a lot more affecting if there was some grizzly collateral damage to innocent children bystanders.
Tom’s story did not come together for me. First, there’s the inexplicable recourse to heroin, followed by the Ibogaine cure. Tom has visions about a distant relation from the past, but it’s never clear how this helps him come to terms with his own wartime past. In Tom’s visions, his great-grandfather, Angus, gives up on life. The message there is pretty much a downer. So how does Tom get to the point of absolving himself and Presley of the guilt they feel about the Amman Road incident? It would have helped to have seen more of the internal journey that Tom goes through to find that inner peace.
One assumes that Tom’s relationship with Julie has something to do with his healing process. But I did not get a sense of how that happened either. Julie rejects Tom. Then Julie falls head over heels in love with Tom. Then she finds out about a traumatic thing that happened to him in Iraq and instead of sympathizing, she rejects him again. Then she accepts him. You give us some external sign posts to guide us on the way, like the back story on her mother’s death. But I never felt any of this from inside the characters.
Tom’s speech to Presley at the end of the screenplay is a good example of why this story does not succeed for me… “The things we do, the choices we make - it’s not us. It’s what we become, it’s what we need to be to survive. This, here, right now, is who you
are.” This could be a summary of the theme of the screenplay. Unfortunately, it is expressed in a long block of dialogue by a protagonist who seems a little too impressed with himself, instead of unfolding over the course of the story and the actions of its characters.
Like I said above, this is just one person’s opinion. My comments could be totally out of synch with the rest of the world. So please don’t be discouraged. Writing screenplays is hard. But pleasing everyone is impossible.
p. 1-3 – The opening scene doesn’t work for me. First, the scenario of nervous young soldiers firing at someone reaching into her jacket for a harmless object is a cliché, especially the reveal of the US passport at the end. Second, I can’t imagine US troops firing at a Western woman under these circumstances; it’s just too improbable.
p. 5 – I’m wondering how Tom shows up in Scotland with a supply of methadone. It seems highly unlikely that would happen, unless he smuggled it in. In the U.S., clinics generally do not allow patients to leave with take-home doses. I can’t imagine any clinic that would allow someone to take a supply with them overseas.
p. 5 – I feel it would be more effective to show Tom waking up from a nightmare, instead of showing the dream itself. Nightmare sequences rarely work in movies, because you can never make them as disjointed, bizarre and anxiety-provoking as they are in real life. It’s much more effective to show the anxiety and fear on the face of the waking sleeper… My opinion only.
p. 10 – “I’ve got ninety days to get clean or my career is over.” – I don’t know how this works in the military, but I can’t imagine the Marines would allow a soldier to go off on his own methadone cure in a foreign country. It’s just too improbable and calls into question the viability of the premise for your story. It’s going to be very hard for me to identify with the character and his story, believing that this could never happen in real life.
P. 13 - "How many innocent people did you kill?" - Julie comes across as a 60's cliché, rather than a real person.
p . 15- "I don't understand how Tom can take a position as Head of Security at Mar Hill. His status in the military is not at all clear to me. Can soldiers in the US military take medical leave, seek their own treatment and seek employment overseas? I wouldn't think so.
p. 15 – This scene ends abruptly. I was left wondering what Tom and Julie said to one another following this awkward moment.
p. 16 - I'm having a hard time figuring out what kind of facility Mar Hill is. Why would the staff entrust the care of a troubled young woman to a male Head of Security with addiction issues? (Only later did I realize it’s a hotel)
p. 19 – The conflict between Tom and Julie feels forced, like it’s there for the story, not coming from the characters. Julie doesn’t feel like a real person to me.
p. 22 – “Why are you telling me about it then?” – I was wondering the same thing. This is a critical point in the story, but it doesn’t quite come across as believable. I think you need to set it up a little better. Roddie could lose his license and maybe go to prison for administering the illegal Ibogaine treatment. I think he needs to be cagier about how he introduces the subject to Tom. It doesn’t work for Tom to ask if there’s something better that’s not recommended, then have Roddie mention the Ibogaine. From a storytelling point of view, this makes your protagonist far too passive. Better to make Tom the active character by having him find out about Ibogaine through his own actions and force Roddie to come clean about it. You could easily do this by making Mar Hill a little more mysterious. So far, it’s not very clear what kind of facility it is. Unfortunately, this comes across as merely confusing. I think it would help a lot if you used the first 20 pages to establish that there is something unusual and not quite legal going on at Mar Hill. Give Tom some hints of this, then show him trying to solve the mystery
p. 23 - Repetition of "gay university professor" is wasted verbiage.
p. 26 - Actually, Stalin died of natural causes and was never defeated militarily, so Tom is wrong to say that he was stopped by war... The scene is not engaging because it lacks emotional subtext -- just two people arguing about politics and not in a way that is especially intelligent or original.
p. 27-32 - The vision sequence does not in any way feel like a real vision. It feels more like a subplot in flashback form, intended to reinforce the main theme of the story.
p. 43-45 – Good scene… Implies consequences that may come back to haunt Tom later in the story.
p. 55-57 – Well-written battle scene.
p. 75 – Julie has a knee-jerk reaction to Tom’s story about what happened on the Amman Road. I thought her character had gained some depth and was past that by this point. Now she’s starting to look like a liberal caricature again.
p. 90 - The euthanasia scene is disappointing. Angus succumbs to self-pity and despair. Plenty of men in his situation have done the same thing. But as far as the story goes, this turn of events is a real downer. In the prior battle scene we saw Farquar redeem himself through an act of heroism. I can't believe he would render his sacrifice for naught by enabling Angus to end his life in a moment of self-pitying despair (which is how I read the cemetery scene). This doesn't make sense from either a story or human behavioral point of view.
p. 94 - Tom's letter to Julie is pretty lame… Mostly platitudes and cliches. It's hard to write this kind of letter without resorting to cliches. But if you're going to attempt it, try writing something that will add more depth to the reader's understanding of the characters.
p. 97 - "The things we do, the choices we make... etc." - This could be a summation of the theme. Unfortunately, it sounds very on the nose, stated outright in a speech like this. How can this be conveyed through action and emotion, instead of just putting words in the mouth of the protagonist at the end of the story?
p. 99 - Giving President Bush the final word in your screenplay feels totally out of place with the rest of the story. I have no idea what to make of this. Irony? It doesn't work for me on that level. But I can't believe it's intended as an endorsement of the war, either.
Review of: The Iboga Visions (Redraft)
reviewed by jayb on 03/01/2012
Review ID: 4141369
Other Reviews by jayb 98
A review of Rise of the Crimson Sunby jayb on 07/31/2014This screenplay for RISE OF THE CRIMSON SUN reads like a very rough draft – especially the second half in which events unfold without regard for plausibility and the conventions of story structure. The logline promises a story about a slave on a crusade to conquer the Middle East, but that doesn’t begin to happen until around page 80, when the story should be reaching for... This screenplay for RISE OF THE CRIMSON SUN reads like a very rough draft – especially the second half in which events unfold without regard for plausibility and the conventions of story structure.
The logline promises a story about a slave on a crusade to conquer the Middle East, but that doesn’t begin to happen until around page 80, when the story should be reaching for its climax. Everything prior to that is pretty much backstory that could be handled in 20 pages at the most. Instead, you skip the second act entirely and plunge us directly into a very rushed third act that feels like it was drafted in a single sitting.
The premise of this story is viable: SPARTACUS more than 100 years in the future with the ongoing Middle East conflict as its principal arena… I’d watch that! But the script needs a lot of work, particularly in the areas of story structure and dialogue.
Don’t get discouraged. It takes time to develop as screenwriter and you need to be in it for the long haul to succeed in this business.
You must have received more favorable comments from other reviewers to have garnered four stars on TS, so this is just one reader’s observations. Take my comments for what they’re worth, and ignore the rest. And keep writing!
p. 2 – “Was that gas necessary?”… I don’t get it.
p. 4-8 – We’re in Greece 133 years in the future, but the kids talk and act just like American kids of today.
p. 10 – Kids still carry backpacks, drink soda and use spray paint cans to make graffiti in 2147? This is all very unbelievable; I keep wondering if I misread the slug line and this is not really the future.
p. 11 – The intro to Martin Wolfe is very confusing. You refer to a squad and soldiers that haven’t been introduced. I’m guessing Wolfe is a soldier, but you don’t even show him in uniform. This is a screenplay so if you haven’t shown it, it doesn’t exist for the reader/audience. At first I thought Wolfe was a teacher. Then I figured out he’s a soldier. But for what Army? It would be natural to assume the Greek Army, since they’re in Greece. So what’s a guy named Wolfe doing in the Greek Army? See how confusing this gets for the reader? If he’s an American soldier you need to show that too, because at this point in the movie no one knows his name. In my mind, I’m picturing a Greek teacher who I realize is a soldier only when he starts giving orders to other soldiers. You can correct this by showing us the squad of soldiers proceeding through the building, then focus on their leader, Wolfe, in a way that clearly identifies him as an American, British, Greek, UN or other kind of soldier.
p. 13 – It’s not clear why Wolfe surrenders. Is he out of ammo, trying to protect the kid, or just a coward?
p. 14 “A ghastly expression manifests on his face.” Purple prose. Describe his expression as simply and visually as possible.
p. 15 – “Get a grip!” I want to pretend the year is 2015 so contemporary slang like this does not sound so jarring. If you mean to set this story so far in the future, you need to give the characters a different vocabulary of slang, as well as new technologies, pastimes and the rest. For an idea of how this is done watch Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.
p. 17 – “Pray to your God. Though, it will do no good for you.” Stock cliché bad guy banter like this sounds comic rather than menacing.
p. 19 – “I will break him – for all things truly wicked start from innocence.” This is good.
p. 19 – Praxis Camp… At last, we are at an interesting place in this story. Mathew is a young man and he and Wolfe appear to be future-day gladiators.
p. 21 – Yazdan is described as the leader of the Praxidians. What does this mean? Aren’t the Praxidians slaves? He appears to be plotting some kind of rebellion with Wolfe. But aren’t they on opposing sides? I’m confused.
p. 34 – “He stops, an Arab pushes him down.” Why does the Arab push him down? Coming immediately after the conversation with Alexander about the afterlife and the statement “This is the last time I will speak with you”, it seems as if Bakas is to be executed with the other prisoners. Yet we see him again several pages later.
p. 40-41 – Dialogue here is very on the nose. The characters are speaking mostly in clichés.
p. 43 – “children by blood but enemies by war” This kind of figurative language has no place in an action line. I’m not even sure what it means.
p. 45-47 – I don’t get this at all. The Praxidians are armed. Why would they obey orders to kill their own fathers? I can’t imagine an audience that could identify with protagonists this slavishly obedient.
p 50 – The Arabs have nuclear bombs this far in the future and the war keeps going on for decades with no changes in the front line? I’m sorry but none of this makes sense to me. I don’t understand this world at all.
p. 57 – More on the nose nonsense about privileges and rights. This really detracts from the tension of the scene.
p. 59 – The author seems to be sermonizing here. Nobody talks like this.
p. 59 – “ANA manifests out of nowhere.” Sorry, but this is so absurd it’s comic.
p. 64 – Who is the audience supposed to root for – the Praxidians who are trying to nuke a major city or the Europeans? This is totally not working for me.
p. 72 – What is Ana doing in this scene? Isn’t she supposed to be a prisoner?
p. 79 – In an internal dialogue sequence, Matthew encounters his destiny to lead a New World. It seems we are finally arriving at the point promised in the premise of the logline. But this is very late in the story for the protagonist to be embarking on his goal. I would expect this turn to occur no later than page 20.
p. 83 – How did Matthew/Matthias suddenly gain a following? On a preceding page Matthew says it’s a miracle, but from a story point of view miracles like this are not very interesting. I’d rather see him building a following rather than just acquiring one out of thin air.
p. 84 – Matthias is suddenly behaving like a megalomaniac, ordering Thanos to drag the General’s broken body to him. Then he compares himself to Jesus and Muhammed, claiming he has a message from God. So far, this is not a positive transformation.
p. 89 – The rebels take Mecca. If the rebels are able to overcome against the Arabs with such ease why didn’t they do so sooner? The structure of this screenplay is seriously flawed. You are jamming the most interesting parts of the story – Matthias’ transformation into a messianic figure and the revolt against the Arabs – into the final third and not developing any real conflict around them. This is what the second act should be about, in my opinion, and the path for Matthew and his followers should be strewn with conflict and near impossible.
p. 90 – “I pulled the trigger, but I didn’t kill him.” This just makes Matthias look like a moral coward and megalomaniac, because he refuses to accept responsibility for his part in his father’s death. One might predict that someone this out of touch with his own internal flaws will become an even greater tyrant than Xanthis and the Shah. I can’t root for a protagonist of such week moral fiber.
p. 92-93 – Dialogue here is very on the nose.
p. 93 – If it’s so easy to kidnap Matthias, why didn’t the Arabs get him? Or conversely, if he’s so easy to kidnap, how can he be of help to Horus against the Arabs?
p. 99 – What is Xanthis doing in the scene? I thought he was dead.
p. 113 – When Matthias speaks of being reborn through enlightenment moments after gouging Yazdan’s eye out with a shard of glass, he sounds like a psychopath. Not sure if this is the effect you’re going for, but it doesn’t work so well for your protagonist.
p. 114 – “cleans the earth” Now he sounds like an anti-Christ. There is not necessarily anything wrong with that, but you haven’t set the story up to lead to this.
p. 118 – So the Wardens have all this advanced weaponry to propel Matthias to victory and yet have no ability to resist him in the end? This hardly makes sense. read
A review of Crossing Overby jayb on 07/03/2014The excellent premise is what induced me to read this script. It sounded like it could be a funny and entertaining read, and in parts it really was. The concept of a gay ghost coaching an insecure and sexually inexperienced straight man on how to get laid, while racing against a supernatural clock to solve a murder, is full of comic potential. There were definitely some... The excellent premise is what induced me to read this script. It sounded like it could be a funny and entertaining read, and in parts it really was. The concept of a gay ghost coaching an insecure and sexually inexperienced straight man on how to get laid, while racing against a supernatural clock to solve a murder, is full of comic potential. There were definitely some funny parts, and the principal characters were likable. But CROSSING OVER reads very much like a first draft, written by someone with a good comic sense and decent writing ability, but not a lot of experience writing screenplays.
It is too long and there is far too much dialogue. A script in this genre should come in at less than 110 pages and ideally less than 100. You can easily get to those numbers by cutting down the dialogue. Most talking scenes are two to three times longer than they need to be. I’m serious about this: you need to cut down the dialogue by at least half (probably more), then go back and flesh out the rest of the story with solid action and description lines.
Some of the jokes are very good. Others bomb. Getting the comedy right is largely a matter of repeated rewriting – pruning and refining jokes with each revision, then testing them out on multiple readers. I have indicated some of the bits I thought were funny to give you an idea of what’s working. There were a lot of jokes that didn’t work for me, but it’s probably less helpful for me to tell you which ones, because they very well may work for other people. The fact that I mention any jokes at all is a good sign. Your comic sensibility is a lot more developed than most people attempting to write comedy on this site. It’s better than that of many people currently writing for Hollywood. That’s not to say there are not a lot of jokes that fail. There are. But you prove you can be funny. Now you just have to figure out how to get rid of the unfunny stuff.
One area where you seem to struggle a lot is writing dramatic dialogue. When your characters aren’t being funny, they are often saying some artlessly on the nose or overly sentimental. To make matters worse, they go on saying it over and over again. Once your characters have expressed a feeling, point of view, or thought they don’t need to say it again. Chances are, they don’t need to say it all if they can express it through action or in dialogue through subtext.
Another problem is that parts of the story are confusing or implausible. This is a supernatural comedy, so the reader must be willing to make some concessions on realism. But bringing the two main characters back to life at the climax via a defibrillator, one from a gunshot wound, is asking too much. Other times I was just plain confused about what was going on. What you provide too much of in the way of dialogue, you withhold in descriptive narrative and action. Movies have to move in order to move us. You must show the reader more of what is going on in the story, not just tell us about it via dialogue.
Regarding character, the protagonist and his allies are likable, but I think you need to define the antagonists – Anna and Wilmot – better and introduce them as opposing forces earlier in the story. Wilmot, especially, seemed to be a one-dimensional cliché. I did not understand what motivated him and had a hard time believing he would behave the way he did.
This screenplay had a lot of flaws, such as one usually sees in a lot of first drafts or beginning efforts. But the concept is much stronger and a lot more marketable than most of the unproduced scripts I read. CROSSING OVER shows a great deal of promise and the good news is that all of the problems I mention here can be addressed and fixed with repeated revisions and increased skill.
No cover is an instant negative. Whether true or not, it suggests that the author is not familiar with formatting conventions.
p. 2 – Moving in scene quickly establishes that Steven has issues with his masculinity.
p. 3 – Steven has a sympathy-inducing save the cat moment on the school bus.
p. 4 – Mrs. Baltrim’s speech about love, respect, guidance and believing in yourself is too contrived. She is a totally disposable character and I suggest you cut this scene which adds little of value to the story.
p. 5 – What happened to Steven’s eye? Did Bernhard hit him? If so, why not show it?
p. 5 – “Do you need to see them?” This line is an obvious set-up for Bernhard’s homophobic remarks that follow. The problem is that it doesn’t flow from the character.
p. 5 – Steven visits a magic shop… I feel this needs some setting up. People in Steven’s situation don’t usually go to a magic shop to solve their problems. I think you need to place him there by some form of accident.
p. 6 – Don’t reference popular songs in your script. Readers will assume you don’t have the rights and are therefore an amateur. This is the third strike for your script. The first is the lack of a cover and the second is the excessively long page count. These are little things that tell an experienced reader that the author is not an experienced writer. My natural inclination is to stop reading here, but I’m curious to see how the premise plays on, so I will read a little further.
p. 7 – Steven gets slapped for making one rude remark to Wilmot’s ten. Good.
p. 10 – Good introduction of Marcus.
p. 14 – “Look. I want to be a real man.” – Too on the nose.
p. 16 – Steven moves too easily from incredulity over Marcus’ ghostly status to looking for remedies in the book of spells. Both he and the audience need to see irrefutable proof that he’s a ghost before we move on to acceptance. Then he needs a settling in period while he adjusts. This is where you and the audience get to have some fun with the premise, so milk it for everything it’s worth. We want to see comic stuff here that we’ve never before seen in any ghost movie. Make us wonder.
p. 17 – Steven agrees to take dating advice from a ghost? This is too much, too fast. He needs to show some reluctance here – what Blake Snyder calls “Doubt” or Joseph Campbell calls “Refusal of the Call.”
p. 20 – Good comedy here with the Waiter mix up.
p. 22 – Marcus starts to work on Stevens flaws. Good.
p. 24 – “Housewives”… Good. The Cyrano de Bergerac thing is working well so far.
p. 26 – It looks like Wendy is shaping up to be “the One.” This is a mistake in my opinion… Better to show us one or two quick dates first that end in disaster. More comedy that way.
p. 27 – Jeopardy… This is good because now Steven is succeeding on his own, despite getting contrary advice from Marcus. But it’s coming too early. He is succeeding with Wendy because she’s different from other girls. First, we need to see him fail miserably with one or two of those girls so we can see how much Wendy is the right girl.
p. 31 – Muppets… Good.
p. 35 – Now we have our ticking clock. Good.
p. 39 – The magic mirror is a cool idea, but so far I don’t see what it has to do with the story. Meanwhile, this scene is going on too long and there is far too much talking, not enough action. They’re talking about the mirror and then they suddenly switch to the topic of who killed Marcus. This scene needs to be cut by half.
p. 41 – Matias is Castillo’s son? If there was a kid on the school bus whose father was about to be executed, everybody on the bus would know about it, including the driver. You’re already stretching credibility by having Steven know the son of the guy who is accused of murdering the man who’s house he now lives in. You can make this easier for the reader to accept by revealing this information up front – for instance by having Brett tease Matias about his father’s impending execution.
p. 42 – They can’t be serious about phoning in a false confession. Are they idiots?
p. 42-49 – Another example of a talking scene that goes on way too long. There is nothing more boring in a movie than watching two characters have a phone conversation for two and a half minutes with nothing else going on in the scene. Then we get this long exchange with Madonna, which seems to be going nowhere, until we realize that she’s the potential vehicle for Steven to lose his virginity. Somehow it feels wrong to switch from the life and death stakes of Castillo’s pending execution to the relatively trivial matter of Steven’s virginity.
p. 49 – Good complication with the addition of Molly.
p. 50 – I don’t get the Gloria Estefan reference.
p. 52 – The Wizard of Oz reference is good, but again there’s too much talking in this scene.
p. 53 – What exactly is Molly’s status? Is she actually dead, or merely kidnapped and in some kind of limbo state of soul? You need to be absolutely clear about this if you want the audience to care about what happens to her. If she’s not actually dead, you must also explain why she appears as an apparition to Steven and Marcus.
p. 58 – The diabetic coma explains why Molly was in a near death state, but I think you need to clarify this much earlier on.
p. 59 – Some confusion here. Doesn’t Wendy know that Steven saved Molly? Why doesn’t she just tell that to Wilmot?
p. 65 – Good bit with the truth serum turned on Wendy.
p. 72 – Anna turns the tables on Steven by trying to seduce him. Good.
p. 75 – Ann appears to be setting Steven up. Good.
p. 77 – Dialogue in this scene is really on the nose. Pillow talk is really hard to do – especially in a comedy. I’d be inclined to go with some level of disconnect or incongruity in this scene.
p. 82-83 – I don’t understand what’s happening here with the ghost verification proof. I think you need to clarify.
p. 84 – The reveal that Anna is a witch doesn’t really work for me. I think you need to do a better job of setting it up. Why doesn’t Marcus know this about the woman he was married to? There is a lot of magic in this story that seems to randomly come together by coincidence. You need a unifying principal that brings it all together, otherwise you run the risk of invoking what Blake Snyder called “double mumbo jumbo” (or in your case triple mumbo jumbo). In my opinion, Ana has to emerge much earlier as the antagonist of this story and her magic needs to drive all that goes wrong for the protagonist and his allies, including the curse. This is something you can reveal over the course of the story, but you need to lay the groundwork right from the start.
p. 85 - Steven asks a valid question. How could Marcus not know? His reply is inadequate.
p. 88 – The point here is that Steven has undergone a transformation into a man. This is good, but it needs to be conveyed with more showing and less on-the-nose telling.
p. 108-109 – The conversation about trust goes on for too long and is too on the nose.
p. 111 – How does Wilmot know how the murder weapon got into Steven’s trunk? I don’t understand the magic here. Unless Wilmot has first-hand knowledge of what happened, isn’t the truthful answer to Wendy’s questions “I don’t know”?
p. 113 – None of this is making sense to me. What is Wilmot’s place in all of this? Is he allied with Anna? Why would he shoot Steven and try to shoot Wendy? And the business with Steven emptying Wilmot’s gun of bullets is just plain unbelievable and silly.
p. 114 – How did Wendy become an apparition and why is she naked? All the other ghosts appear to be dressed (I like it that she’s naked, but don’t understand the logic of it).
p. 115 – “I know.” Lame.
p. 116 – “What the hell happened to her?” That’s what I want to know. Did I miss something?
p. 119 – I’m not buying Anna’s transformation. You need to work a lot more on this. Part of the problem is that the character transformation is all explained in dialogue near the end of the script and it’s all very on the nose. You need to do less telling and a lot more showing.
p. 122 – This scene doesn’t make much sense. Steven has been shot and they bring him back to life with a defibrillator? They already tried that trick on Wendy, for reasons that are not really clear to me. And what is Wendy doing in the hospital room with Steven, if she only just had her own near brush with death? Wouldn’t she be in ICU recovering?
p. 126 – He arrives long enough to marry Wendy, then his heart stops again? From a gunshot wound? This is really too implausible.
p. 130 – How come we never get to see Matias’ reunion with his father? This seems like a loose end.
A review of The Killing Kind ver 3.5by jayb on 04/04/2014THE KILLING KIND is a cops and mobsters story with a strong sense of place and interesting premise – the kind of story I want to love, despite the many clichés that abound in this genre. The best thing going for this script is the premise: an honorable tough-guy cop is assigned to protect the Mafia hit man who killed his family. Unfortunately, the story structure does not... THE KILLING KIND is a cops and mobsters story with a strong sense of place and interesting premise – the kind of story I want to love, despite the many clichés that abound in this genre. The best thing going for this script is the premise: an honorable tough-guy cop is assigned to protect the Mafia hit man who killed his family. Unfortunately, the story structure does not do justice to the power of that premise.
The main character, Tino, does not articulate a driving goal until page 77, when he connects the death of his family with the hit man turned informant, Vincent Donello. This would normally be your turn into Act II moment if it were not occurring in the final quarter of the screenplay. Everything before that feels like an extended set-up. There are a lot of details which add local color and nuance to the characters. But none of that matters if you end up putting the audience to sleep. The pacing of the first 75 pages is in my opinion much too slow for a mainstream feature movie.
It’s a sign of real problems with a script when whole scenes and conversations can be cut without any significant impact on the plot and story (I point out several examples in my notes below). Structurally, you story consists of a very long and tedious first act, followed by a much faster third act, with no second act where you develop the problem posed by the premise and complicate the life of your protagonist.
In the first 25 pages we are led to believe that the story is going to be about Tino and Danny finding out who did the murders at the Russian coffee house (unoriginal and boring). The next 25 pages are about finding an informant to turn evidence against the mob (unoriginal and slightly more interesting). It’s only in the last 35 pages, the final act, that the real story emerges: an honorable cop who must protect the man who killed his family (somewhat original and a lot more interesting).
Consider this alternative: Open with the attempted hit on Donello, assign Tino and Danny to protective duty, and have Tino realize in a moment of epiphany that Donello was one of the men who killed his family. Now you have a strong second act dilemma over whether Tino should kill or save the man he’s assigned to protect. You need a strong second act of at least 55 pages (and probably longer), that fully exploits the inherent conflict, internal and external, implicit in the premise. This is what engages an audience.
Act III is the strongest part of this screenplay, as the pace picks up and we see the principal characters forced to make difficult choices. Unfortunately, the plot begins to fall apart just at the point where the pace picks up and the story improves. First, there is this police conspiracy which seems to come from nowhere and frankly made no sense to me. Second, is the reversal in Danny’s character, which did not seem properly foreshadowed.
One thing you get right is many of the details of the world your characters inhabit. There are moments, particularly near the beginning, when the details ring true with the note of authenticity. But authentic details don’t make for a compelling story. You also need a coherent storyline that draws the reader into the internal and external conflicts of your characters. Add a theme to give the conflict meaning and you’re on the way to getting your screenplay made into a movie.
I hope this doesn’t come across as overly harsh or negative. You have a good premise and seem to know the world you write about. I think you’re looking at a total page one rewrite. But with the right attention to structure, pacing and dialogue, you could have a viable story. The most important thing is not to get discouraged and to keep working at it until you get consistent feedback that people love your script (in this business “like” is not enough).
p. 1-3 – The story begins with a dramatic event, which is good. But I had a hard time following the action. There may be too much attention to detail in the action lines and not enough interaction between characters. Also, you introduce eight characters in the first three pages, which is too many to keep track of in an opening sequence.
p. 8 – The scene with the Old Woman doesn’t work for me. I’d steer clear of phonetic spellings in dialect. But if you’re going to do it, you need to get it right and be consistent. Better to capture her ethnicity in her word choice and grammar, and leave the accents to the actors.
p. 12 – I’m not picturing the wall full of photos in Tino’s apartment. Do either of them have families of their own? Or are these their childhood families? In either case, it’s kind of weird for Tino to have hundreds of pictures of Danny’s family on his wall without having more context about their relationship. Anyway, the transition from old photos to flashback is not so original.
p. 14 – What is the purpose of this scene? Duke and Vic are minor characters. Why are we watching them talk about coffee?
p. 28 – No reaction to the news of the death of a brother officer?
p. 29-30 – What is the point of this exchange of dialogue between Vincent and his son? Fathers and sons might talk that way in real life, but this is dull stuff to have to listen to in an action crime drama.
p. 31-33 – Soracci comes across as a real numb nuts in this scene. How did he get to be anybody important in the Family?
p. 33-37 – It’s ok to add some local color, but this scene goes on too long without advancing the plot or adding to the story.
p. 37 – The phone conversation is disorienting because you don’t tell us they’re talking on the phone.
p. 37-39 – This scene is a good example of what’s bogging down your screenplay. You take more than a page and a half for a scene that should take less than half a page. Anything longer than that must have very entertaining dialogue, which this scene doesn’t have.
p. 40 – You missed an opportunity to add some action to your screenplay by showing Jimmy getting killed in jail, instead of having him die off-screen from an overdose.
p. 45 – Famous Five Karamazovs – you devote half a page to a throwaway line that adds nothing to the story.
p. 49-50 – Why would Jovica assume that Tino has Donello’s prints? He’d have to be pretty dumb not to question that. Jovica needs a better reason than that to go after Donello.
p. 51 – And Soracci is going to go ahead and whack him? Why? Even Mafiosi need motivation to kill people. They don’t just go on the word of a cop who’s setting them up. They need their own reasons for killing someone.
p. 52 – A stone cold mafia hit man who thinks he’s just been given the keys to Queens is going to leave the party because he told his wife he’d be home early? I don’t think so.
p. 58-63 – This scene goes on much too long. Strictly speaking, it isn’t even necessary, as you can have Danny ask Tino, “How come he asked for you on the protection detail?” T: “He said he liked the way I handled that Jimmy Rio thing.” The audience can figure out he cut a deal – they don’t need to see the details.
p. 63 – Tino and Danny take custody of Donello. Cut out all the unnecessary dialogue and this would be your natural turn into Act II at page 20. Everything before this feels like the Act I set-up to me.
p. 70 – I’m not sure who the “saving kind” would be in Tino’s world. It sounds like your hinting at a theme that never gets developed.
p. 72 – Why would Tino be shocked that someone like Donello killed his own father? And why is Donello telling him his life story?
p. 75 – The dialogue in this scene is dead on the page. Here are two guys on the same team who are in conflict with one another. The length of this scene (one page) is perfect. You can build on the inherent dramatic potential by turning up the emotional volume. Tino and Evans talk like they’re having a discussion. What you want are two testosterone-charged alpha males going verbal head-to-head with one another. Tino’s final gesture of tossing the keys on the floor makes him look like a sulky little bitch.
p. 77 – Tino articulates the goal that drives him – to get revenge on the people who took away his family and took away his life. This is first act stuff that does not belong in the final quarter of the story.
p. 78 – “Because it’s my job. It’s what I’m good at…. etc.” Danny is speaking in cliches instead of from the heart.
p. 80 – Why would hired killers take the time (and rope) to tie up the Clerk, when they’re just going to kill him anyway? (OK… we later learn they’re cops, which may explain something. But it still doesn’t explain why they let him live after seeing they’re faces.)
p. 84 – Johnson asks if the killers are cops, Tino says they’re not cops and Donello says Reese is a cop. I’m confused.
p. 86 – Now I’m really confused. If Spano’s a bad cop, why does Tino tell him to put on the vest before he shoots him? This makes no sense to me. The audience needs unequivocal good guys and bad guys in this scene. Why is Tino even talking about vests?
p. 88 – Why doesn’t Donello know what borough they’re in? Has he been blinded or something?
p. 90 – Everybody thinks Tino staged the attempted hit? He freed the Clerk, warned Johnson, and saved both him and Jenner. Isn’t Johnson still alive to tell everybody what happened?
p. 99 – Tino just remembers that Donello was one of the men who killed his father? Did he know this all along? Or did he just figure it out? If the latter, why did it take so long? What jarred his memory. The story is making less and less sense to me. I think it would be more dramatic to show the discovery – have Donello do or say something that gives himself away, then show Tino’s reaction as he realizes Donello is the killer.
p. 108 – How does Danny allow Donello to get a draw on him?
p. 111 – The ending is a cheat. I don’t doubt that Danny in this situation would have killed Donello. But then why was he trying to talk Tino out of it moments before? You seem to be playing with audience expectations, rather than showing these actions coming out of character.
Copyright © 2001-2014 Trigger Street Labs. All Rights Reserved.