Ok. As I'm sure you are aware this is a spec for a $100M+ period fantasy adventure. A hard as hell sell at the best of times. With that in mind it needs to be bulletproof to even begin to entertain a cat's chance in hell of being produced. At present itís far from it. I'm gonna pull no punches with my review but please bear in mind that everything that follows is motivated by my desire to pinpoint and expose problems and suggest potential workable solutions to them, if my tone comes across heavy handy apologies in advance. Iím a Brit (weíre stiff assed that way or so Iím told Ė expect the worst lol.)Ö
Iím not sure what the concept is exactly. Little Mermaid meets the 20í000 leagues? It's stuck between far too many different kinds of stories. There is 'a save the mermaid' free willy type thing that to my mind sits uneasily alongside the seafaring treasure-hunting sea monster killing kinda stuff thatís more traditionally what youíd expect from this genre. Can it work? Maybe. Does it right now? No. Whatís the macguffin? Is it the mermaid? The medallion? Whatís the goal? Get treasure? Kill monster? Find the sweetheart?
Pulling off this kinda SP is a bitch.
You have 10-15 pages. In that 10-15 pages you need to Set up your fantasy/period world, the concept of it, itís foundations, itís history, it's rules and it's quirks. Then you need to introduce your protagonist (Luke the Tattooeen farmboy), set up the status quo ( Luke bored on Tattooeen- intergalactic oppression) and THEN create the incident (for example the now immortal hologram message: ĎHelp me Obi Wan Kanobi, you re my only hopeí- call to adventure) that turns this protagonistís world entirely on it's head. That's ALOT of leg work. A ton of pipe to lay and you have to do it on the move without stalling the story to do so. To show not tell. How much of your world is like the real Victorian world (as it was) how much of it is fantastical? Set this up clearly so the audience knows where they stand.
Also the concept of whalers killing sea creatures for no particular reason is kinda outta whack in this modern era imo. The sea monsters at too close to Ďwhalesí for comfort. Today where whales are endangered and most children outside of North Korea equate the term Ďwhalerí with evil bastard without a second thought. Something to consider.
Crippled by the structural issues (more on this to follow). I was left detatched and emotionally unengaged when the action kicked off. It was unclear who was chasing after what and why we the audience were supposed to care about any of it?
Far too many characters. Many of whom donít contribute to the forward progress of the story at all. Itís hard to discuss the characters independent of structure since the structural issues undermine most of the characters and make them pointless or less compelling or whatever. What is the protagonistís arc? Heís caught awkwardly between searching for a love lost at sea and seeking bloody minded vengeance? And his desire to save this mermaid is hardly noble either since it's to use her as bait? And then there is that treasure or lack thereof?
Everyone's motivations are muddled and confusing. Too many factions. And not enough clear tangable goals to anchor and guide the story. Or direct the audienceís interest and engagement.
I donít give a damn about that mermaid btw. Sheís not a character. Sheís a mute but also totally devoid of any sort of personality. Sheís a static plot goal/maccguffin stuck in a fish tank. Whatís more the protagonistís motivation to save her is related to his cynical desire to use her to get revenge. Also why she is definitely going to serve as bait for the sea creature anyway? Isnít clear. Why not make her look exactly like the lost girlfriend?- but with a fishís tail or something? So that the connection is obvious/clear. And Ďhow on earth did my long lost girlfriend BECOME a mermaidÖí becomes the central mystery DRIVING the protagonist along withÖ ĎI gotta save herí? Give the other supporting characters ANOTHER different reason to want to free the mermaid. i.e to use her to lead them to treasure or to a monster they want revenge on or something. So that protagonist goes along with them but has a different agenda thatís related to HIS individual fatal flaw of his lost love and his inner goal of resolving her loss? This will create tension within the crew and improve the story imo.
Also poor poor Ardan. He defends his home (the sea) kills whalers that intrude on it. And is then murdered when one whalerís son comes back and throws a spear through his heart? And weíre supposed to be on the damn kidís side and cheer about this?
Right out of the block your race car stalls. Kill the love interest OR the father, not both in quick succession back to back like you do.
We donít have enough time to care about either character. Your protagonist has 10 years. For the audience itís the next scene.
If you must kill both (father and sweetheart) at the start, then kill both during the SAME single incident (I'd advise against that too tho). At present the script essentially has two back to back totally different inciting incidents that detract and undermine each other. One sets up a love story the other a moby dick-style revenge. If you have to kill the father too do it much much later. Well into act two at the Ďall is lostí, by which point we might know him and the protagonistís relationship to him enough to give a damn.
Think of it as Luke Skywalkerís uncle dies (early on-point of no return - no one really cares - but it's the call to adventure)Ö.Then about an hour and a half later just before the finale is set upÖ the mentor/ master Obi Wan dies (everyone loves him, kids cry etc). Thatís how itís done. Because thatís how it works.
Too much on the nose expo. Various characters have a tendency to state their motivations and emotions literally. But again the problems with the motivations are fundamental and at the level of structure which is why I think characters end up reminding us and themselves of what these are in on the nose fashion all the time.
As a big fan of Moby Dick/20kleagues/Jules/HG Wells/Atlantis and all that stuff I really wanted to like this. But the structure is imo in need of a fundamental rethink. Sorry I donít have more positives to add. Hope this helps one way or another with the rewrite and best of luck.
Page by Page
P1-10 Ė Nice story book feel to it so far.
P13 Very on the nose outburst about the father. Find another more subtle way of showing this loss.
P10-13 The protagonist has sustained to huge emotional hits before weíve had enough time to give a damn about the guy.
P15 -17 Structural problems. Two massive tragedies back to back one in flashback.
P17 Too many characters have come and gone already. Who is who?
P20 This dirty dozen stuff doesnít quiet work. Who are these people? Why should I care?
P31-35 The treasure issue is raised as too much of an afterthought. To the pirates/crew at least it should be the main and only motivation for the proposed misadventure.
P 35 You might want to check this but Iím pretty sure there wasnít a country called Senegal as such in 1850 but a collection of chiefdoms locked in combat with each other and with colonial oppressors. I think modern Senegal was created in the 1960s?
P40 trim this dialogue it rambles.
P41 very on the nose. The protagonist is explaining his motivation as it should only appear on the writerís character sheets and bios.
P57 This stuff is coming into it FAR too late. This stuff belongs in the first ten pages or as near to them as you can get it. Think the Ark back story in Raiders.
P60 Suddenly real people from Brit period history arrive on the scene? This hasnít really been signposted properly in advance.
P64 Blackwood has been away for what feels like forever. Forgot who he was.
P67 This business about the mermaid dying outside sea water feels like a contrivance.
P74 Make Aquarianna look exactly like a mermaid version of the missing girlfriend-and essentialy BE the same woman transformed or something like that. This love stuff is too little to late imo.
P91Iím feeling sorry for Ardan. Wondering what happened to the treasure? Why is this all boiled down to being only about revenge?
Review of: Aquarianna (v2)
reviewed by MSeyf on 11/25/2010
Review ID: 3510357
Other Reviews by MSeyf 18
A review of 13-Romeoby MSeyf on 06/10/2011Action and Drama/Romance often make strange bedfellows. I must confess I feared one of those god awful Mr & Mrs Smith/Knight & Day Bountry Hunter type affairs here. I'm delighted to say those fears were misfounded. There is lots to love about this script. The action scenes in particular are tight neat and filled with mouth watering tension and authenticity. The structure... Action and Drama/Romance often make strange bedfellows. I must confess I feared one of those god awful Mr & Mrs Smith/Knight & Day Bountry Hunter type affairs here. I'm delighted to say those fears were misfounded.
There is lots to love about this script. The action scenes in particular are tight neat and filled with mouth watering tension and authenticity.
The structure with the drama type flashbacks interspersed with the ever mounting tension of the present day siege unfolding works really really well.
It allows you to have a break neck action movie that doesnít need to stop to flesh out itís characters, and as the tension and drama of the siege unfold we are given more and more character detail and therefore given more and more reasons to care about Shep and to want to know how and if he'll make it through his last day on the job.
One critism Iíll level is the department of character description. You throw alot of characters at us and at times there isnít enough in the way of distinct voices to help us pick them apart. A few more sentences just to set up the different characters as easily identified archtypes I think would help. Think of how everyone in the Shieldís cast is really easily distingusable with just a handful of visual and dialogue quirks. I think adding a bit more colour/quirks to the supporting characters would help here too.
Parts of the present day scenes really reminded me of all the pre bus stuff in the first Speed. Really dramatic and tense in all the right ways. The flashback structure is risky in this type of movie and I think at present it works really good but there is a disconnect that stops it being quite as great as it could be.
Now Iíve got a somewhat controversial issue and also a controversial suggested solution to it. Part of my problem for me was the disconnect between the flashbacks and the unfolding siege. I kept waiting for them to link up and while they 'kinda' do, those links come very late in the day. It does build up nicely to the emotional punch of the ending and the 'guyís who donít come home from their shift theme' of the movie but for long stretches I was struggling to really get into the present day stuff and to link it all together. And I think the absence of Amy was the problem. Now had Amy somehow been in building in which the siege unfolded, somehow one of the hostages? Maybe Resneck has taken hostages that are in a press core in the bid to gain publicity for his cause/grudge? I dunno. But I think involving Amy in the siege somehow would help to unite the drama and action aspects better? So as we learn about the estranged relationship between Shep and Amy we'd get to see and become increasingly invested in Shepís increasingly desperate attempts to save HER from the threat. And the couple would get an emotional good bye in the finale. That way in the end his sacrifice has that much more of an emotional punch? Sort of like the first Die Hard if John had died to save his wife type deal. Of course you lose some really neat stuff and specially the neat Ďsorry I didnít return from my shiftí ending that you have. But I just feel like at present there isnít a clear enough link between the romantic story and the action siege for long stretches and I think putting Amy into the middle of the siege somehow would be an idea for addressing the disconnect?
Donít get me wrong I had a blast reading the screenplay and both strands of it work really well independently of one another. Another minor gripe was Shepís lack of development, which isnít such a problem in an action movie but sits a little more uneasy in a drama/romance context. Heís kinda stoic and saintly throughout and I didnít get enough of sense of an inner struggle about him. I wanted him more torn between duty to the force and duty to Amy kinda thing.
I dunno so much of it works so well itís really hard to put my finger on the disconnect. I think itís got something to do with Amyís absence in the siege stuff. Also, Resneck could maybe mirror Shep more? We learn too little too late about why Resneck is doing what heís doing and I felt it kinda weakened the present day siege segment of the story. Since for alot of the time it's just another (albeit) tougher final day job for Shep.
Itís kinda like all the drama and emotion is in the flashbacks and all the action is in the present day story and somehow addressing this disparity I think will make the difference between making a very good SP into a potentially great one.
Sorry itís all a bit vague. But anyway best of luck with it and thanks for writing such a barnstorming screenplay. read
A review of The Professorby MSeyf on 05/25/2011First off this movie has a very self consciously Ďindieí type vibe, and while this isnít my thing personally it certainly has the style and tone likely to appeal to itís target demo so thatís good. Itís a script about moods and moments in time rather than the thrust of an overt goal-driven narrative and thatís no bad thing in itself, albeit again not quite my cup of tea. One... First off this movie has a very self consciously Ďindieí type vibe, and while this isnít my thing personally it certainly has the style and tone likely to appeal to itís target demo so thatís good. Itís a script about moods and moments in time rather than the thrust of an overt goal-driven narrative and thatís no bad thing in itself, albeit again not quite my cup of tea.
One problem that I think isnít an issue of personal preference is the general lack of conflict. Which is strange because given the UK/USA dynamic and the age gap. I feel there were plenty of missed opportunities to have conflict fuelling the drama/romance.
Peter starts the story just sort of mildly out of sorts rather than at his lowest possible ebb. He came across as pathetic and unsympathetic and as a guy I couldnít really relate to his self pitying nature. I found myself wondering what Poppy (who seemed far too cool by comparison) even saw the bumbling old mess. I didnít really get a sense that he deserved to become the subject of Poppyís affections quiet as suddenly and as easily as he did. And whatís more he didnít really address his general lameness once he was with her. Their relationship seemed to flourish despite his faults and flaws.
There wasnít really a sense of conflict or tension, either present or pending. It was all a bit too breezy - till the ex wife showed up. I donít think the time skips help this. As they come rather abruptly and take us out of the intimacy it takes to make this kind of story flow and work. The couple kinda flourish in a bubble, and i think that something of a missed opportunity for comedy and drama. Taking each member of the couple out of their element, for example; Poppy takes Peter to rock gig or a burlesque strip show? While Peter takes Poppy to a book club full of boring married folks that makes her stomach turn or he takes her to a British pub to watch soccer games which she struggles to follow or understand? There were loads of potential bumps on the road like this that could have help layer the contrasts between the two of them and fleshed them both out as contrasting conflicting personalities.
Those are just some general ideas of what I mean by conflict and tension. Not necessarily have the two of them flying into arguments and wrestling on the floor as itís far too subtle a type of story to require that kinda stuff. But rather subtle hints and clues of troubles to come, or cracks in the blissfully surface of their relationship. There are obvious places to start, generational and cultural conflicts.
As it stands the return of the wife is a massive curveball. Itís abrupt. And it makes the already unsympathetic Peter even more obnoxious, (atleast in my eyes). Having scored Poppyís heart without really deserving to he proceeds to drive a knife through it because he doesnít have the balls to stand up to his domineering wife? Heís a hard guy to root for. But then again her love for him kinda undermines her, sheís too smart and too cool to be into this guy i kept telling myself.
And I didnít get the sense that I was supposed to feel this way about him. Perhaps a key might be to really amp up his alcoholism and initial despair (Leaving Las Vegas Ėstyle). So that heís a guy about to go off the edge of a cliff rather than what he is presently, which is kinda a self pitying loser/man child that scores a hottie he doesnít deserve then breaks her heart for no good reason. Iíd suggest a more meaty and compelling hook that draws her to him. More than that heís just kinda 'broken' and needs nursemaid to fit him.
At the end of it Peter was just too pathetic and too needy. I wanted to slap the guy. All he seems to do to Poppy is feed her insecurity. He constantly tells her sheís talented and that seems to be enough for her to forgive him his countless and significant flaws and to pine after him once heís gone? In the end sheís a success as an artist REGARDLESS of her involvement with Peter. I needed more of a connection between her Ďheartbreakí and her Ďartí/success. If being with Peter inspired and fuelled her work somehow? In the end she doesnít need Peter in order to succeed, he starts the story with the same Ďtalentí she ends it with. All Peter does is tell her heís talented over and over.
I think you kinda need to go back through break down exactly what each characterís INNER NEED is and then work out how the relationship between them, both holds them back from and/or pushes them towards those different inner needs that define them. Easier said than done of course.
Also there are too many songs in it! Iím not gonna to do what alot of reviews will do and just bash you for using songs in your screenplay that need to be rights cleared. But in this case you literally have almost every other scene punctuated by some track or another. This problem is compounded by the fact that in several instance you are relying on the actual specific song lyrics to do the dramatic heavy lifting, to literally communicate the meaning or inner emotional turmoil of a given character. Thatís problematic for a number of reasons, not least because any producer might struggle to secure a specific song and if a substitute song would undermine or change the meaning or impact of a scene totally, then you got a problem there.
Ultimately my main issue was that the characters ended up unsympathetic. Like I said Peter has few redeeming qualities, and Poppy loses credibility for falling for him like she does. Then Peterís wife is an out and out bitch who Peter just doesnít have the balls to stand up to. Peterís second act Ďsearch for Poppyí doesnít quiet work, mostly itís because heís decided he wants to be with her already. There is no love rival, no alternative guy or anything, heís arced too soon decided he loves her and wants her and just needs to go find her. Itís a treasure hunt where it should be an emotional pay off, laced with uncertainty and will she won't she. We know she loves him, we know he loves her, it's a tension/drama killer in the final furlong.
I wish I had more to offer. Ultimately is a really hard type of story to pull off. Props for getting the job done and good luck on the re- writes.
First 10- Good tone. Sense that this script kinda knows what it is. Some of the action passages could do with being trimmed down.
P15 UK addresses donít tend to have such large numbers. If itís a sub section of a larger building itíll more likely be something like Flat 4, Pinegree Lane. London. NW 1. For example.
P18 At this point I m thinking Peterís really quiet pathetic. Itís getting hard to stay sympathetic towards him.
P28 The cultural differences between Peter and Poppy feel all too superficial. Try to use conversations about things like that to convey other deeper things in the subtext.
P28 this feels very abrupt. We donít really have enough reason to like Peter. Up to this point heís been pathetic, so the sex scene feels kinda like a pathetic man taking advantage of an insecure vulnerable girl.
P30-cultural differences stuff needs to be expanded. Itís a great source of conflict thatís squandered in the present draft. It seems reduces to quirks of manner and attitude rather than being a fundamental source of contrast or conflict between the couple.
P60 Ė revelations come too thick and fast here.
P64 Ė the characters (esp Poppy) have a snarky way of talking about themselves that doesnít quiet work for me atleast.
P66 Ė I donít really like this kinda political point scoring. It feels out of place and itís kinda a cheap gag that risks making half your audience laugh and the other half grimace.
P69- again with the purple prose from Poppy. The character has this habit of narrating her own situation/s and thought Ė i think you a treading a tight rope. Some times this kinda stuff can appear quirky post modern and ironic, a la Juno...but at other times and especially for an amateur writer, readers might assume this to be just plain old bad writing.
P82 Ė again there was no signposting of the threat to Peterís job. Poppy occasionally threatened to grass him, but no outside source of conflict or sense that such a problem might arise prior to this.
P88- waay too late in the day to throw all these new characters into the mix imo.
P103- Angelaís lump of bald expo doesnít work here. Itís feels like soliloquy we could do without.
P107- I have a hard time imagining Peter throwing a punch Ė lol. read
A review of People Who Love Peopleby MSeyf on 07/24/2010People who love people Ė CONCEPT Wow. Yes. The set up is superb. Only critism Iíd level at it is that while the world of the story is wonderfully realises there are many competing themes and sentiments. Itís not a problem, I loved the Watchman movie (and comic) for example, but competing themes tend to challenge and consequent turn off a lot of people. Thatís something to... People who love people Ė
Wow. Yes. The set up is superb. Only critism Iíd level at it is that while the world of the story is wonderfully realises there are many competing themes and sentiments. Itís not a problem, I loved the Watchman movie (and comic) for example, but competing themes tend to challenge and consequent turn off a lot of people. Thatís something to be aware of if indeed engaging Ďlots of peopleí is a concern or consideration of yours.
On the whole very good. Distinct voices by and large. Voice over stuff works very well. Jules is an appealing lead role i think. When it comes to voices and narration we actually donít get too confused (apart from when thatís your intention), and this is down to the distinct and well realised characters that populate the script.
Bulletproof first ten. Budget concerns not withstanding. As it progresses things unravel in ways that tax and challenge the audience. You refuse to tie things in bows and resolve mysteries and questions in conventional ways. As a writer itís inspiring stuff. But Iím conscious of the fact that you have a very particular kind of viewer/reader in mind and I might well be your huckleberry here, which again makes objective evaluation tricky for me Iím afraid.
Good voices. Love the mix of period detail and nuances with the outright bizarre. If anything could do with more of the alternate history stuff. I want to know whatís going on in the mainland too. What else is different about the world what remains the same?
You really know what you are doing, and pull off some audacious stuff very effectively. Of course youíre style is going to inspire alot of bad TS scripts from beginners without your skills and imagination to match yours but thatís not your problem. ;) You know what your doing enough to play free and easy with structure and get away with it. The way stories from different perspective and points of view bleed into one another really for me recalls James Ellroy (with tentacles) Or Burroughs. It really dig it, but at the same time I know many wonít.
Truely great stuff. Lots going on, wild images. I love the world you set up with this. We need that voice over and it guides us through your set ups very well.
Letís get one thing out of the way off the bat... we are talking mega budget Spec with a limited mainstream audience appeal. Iím sure you know that already. Thatís evident 10 pages in. Maybe you donít care? From a production point of view I think that in order to move this project forward your best bet would be to hire an accomplished comic book artist with a style that complements your vision. Supply that artist with as much photo/comic/visual reference material as you can oversee the process collaboratively and produce a serviceable graphic novel that reflects your vision fairly. Get that published. I think without a demonstrable and significant existing audience such a project from a commercial stand point will be a next to impossiable sell as a wide spec. Motion comics are another option worth looking into, where you could self produce/publish a visual representation of your movie at a comparatively modest personal cost. A proof of concept which you can use to start the ball rolling on a live action feature? Alternatively hereís a curve ball for you ... videogame script. I know Iíd love monkeying around in a 3D Orange Island with the murder mystery plot serving as the games core plotline/spine? And alot of the world building issues you have cost wise with a feature won't apply when it comes to games. Any kind of world has to be built bottom up anyway for a game right? Again no idea how youíd go about pitching this to the relevant people but itís an idea none the less.
Of course none of that has anything to do with the actual content of your screenplay per se. Which I loved. A vivid unique brilliantly realised world. Itís like James Ellroy Fritz Lang H.G Wells and William S Burroughs all got together one evening shared countless drinks and smokes and whatever else and this Screenplay was the result. A hell of a party. :)
Alot of the time you are writing your own rules with this thing. So itís kinda of hard to review and evaluate your movie in relation to other scripts on TS or perhaps on the market or to other produced movies. You try and lot of audacious things, and you get away with most of them, on itís own terms this Screenplay works.
In order for it to become a more commercially viable prospect there are a number of concessions youíd need to make one way or another. I personally feel that making any concessions in terms of content would betray whatís a wonderfully lucid and well imagined work, and Iíd prefer to see you seek an alternative mode of production (graphic novel/motion comics/games etc) as a means by which to get your vision in tack to a broader audience from which you can secure the fanbase it would take to justify a full live action production of this scale.
You have a number of competing themes. Thatís great in one sense because it makes the work rich, but on the other hand it makes it difficult to get a grasp on. Most people like simple answers, yet this is a movie that invites re-read/watches and alternative interpretations. Your alternate world isnít a Ďsingle issue worldí, like for example ĎNazi occupied alternate Europeí in the Fatherland. Instead yours is a broad canvas on which multiple themes, ideas, images and concerns compete for our attention. That's both a positive and a negative.
If you did pump for a self consciously more Ďcommercialí rewrite that more directly focused on the Air conspiracy plot strand Iíd suggest the alternative title AIR-FAIR. If you also make this the name of Knoxís company. Itíll also encompasses your concept in a way thatís more direct and marketing friendly. Logline being...
ĎIn an alternative 1950s orange island where clean air is at a premium, a lowly cartoonist becomes one of an assorted array of suspects potentially responsible for the murder of the shady tycoon who provides it.í
If indeed thatís a way you want to go. Iím guessing itís not.
Either way very best of luck with this thing. It deserves to get to a wider audience one way or another.
Notes by page
P1-10 Damn near Bullet proof. You take lots of liberties. Voice over, bags of expo but it all works.
P11 Jackie Millerís false confession is a little too grim. Maybe instead have it unfold visually until the point where he unbuttons his fly then have the Dapper copper interject and telling itís BS?
P25 Wow itís porno time. I think itís actually funnier and more subtle if this stuff is hinted at. Like maybe a rom-com is described with squid head tentecled man as the romantic lead? Actually hardcore sex here especially graphically depicted I fear would turn alot of people off. Fine line, you donít want creepy rather than funny all of a sudden.
P26-8 I love this rashamon type multiple motive structure again brilliant stuff.
P37 This po-faced cludeo stuff is hilarious.
P40-1 I want to SEE this Rabbit story play out visually. You do so much of that in other points itís seems odd that you donít here. Maybe an animated series of cave paintings?
P57 Hilarious Wally story. Love it.
P58 Not a fan of a lot of Jackieís dialogue for my tastes it just kinda goes too far without being funny enough to get away with it.
P70-78 Some great trippy imagery. But I think there is a bit to much acrobatics going on. You can only pull the rug out from under us so many times And i think for the first time it all gets a bit overwhelming around this point. Which makes the important plot revelations hard to get a handle on too.
P85 Brilliant stuff! Damn Rabbits! What does Rabbitese sound like though? hehe.
P97 I both love and hate the whole self conscious omniscient narration thing. The whole breaking the forth wall thing is something I tend to have mixed feelings about. Maybe one rule break too far? I dunno, Feels too much like you (writer) talking to us (reader/audience).
Either way best of luck with this. read
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