Overall - There is a ton of stuff that I really, really like about this script. It's messy. The world feels very real, things don't happen in any neat and tidy way or resolve themselves miraculously. I finished the story a little bit confused about how everything fit together, but I LIKE that. It feels like the kind of movie you need to see several times before you really GET it. That's my favorite kind of movie. It's understated and quiet most of the time. It doesn't really beat us over the head.
It's clearly designed around a budget, and it's actually a really good script to try to produce yourself, because if you can hire the right actors, you can do a really good job of it. As someone who makes his living in the low-budget film world, the single biggest mistake I see people make over and over is to try to make a ten million dollar movie for fifty thousand dollars. Better to choose something you can do WELL for your budget, and this (some script issues aside) definitely fits the bill.
Right now, I think the script is great. But it's not fantastic. It COULD be fantastic very easily, which is the good news.
The genre is a bit problematic. You list is as "Drama, Romance, Horror". I like movies that aren't easily categorized. What many mainstream film critics view as "uneven tonal shifts" are usually the things that make me really like something. In the case of your script, I do like that it's not quite a drama and not quite horror, but I feel like the horror and drama elements are too segregated. Right now, it feels like a drama for 90 pages before turning on a dime and becoming horror. Yes, there are hints early on (with the hallucinations) that something wicked is this way coming. But to me, it's not enough. In the grand context of the story, I saw those hallucinations as being mostly isolated dream elements. I never expected the script to descend into all-out horror. I'm not saying you should turn it into The Exorcist. Just saying that there could be more horror in the drama parts, and probably more drama in the horror parts. The risk, of course, is that it will be too horrific for the people who want to see a drama, and not horrific enough for the people who want to see a horror film. It's a hard edge to ride.
Pacing - I like that it's slow. I really do. And I never felt bored. But it feels like you spend just a hair too much time setting things up. Page 48 is the first time that Richard seems to actually DO something--to move his own story forward. To me, 48 pages is just too long to wait. This is your break into act 2. It needs to be 15-20 pages sooner.
I can't tell you what tipped me off, because I really don't know, but I knew almost from the moment she showed up that Iris was not what she appeared to be. I expected her to be a figment of his imagination (ala Beautiful Mind). I was surprised when Maggie could see her. And I'm still not entirely sure what she turned out to be, but I don't so much mind it. It works.
Honestly, the more I think about this script, the more I like it. All these quibbles are minor. I almost want to go back and read it again.
I do have one criticism that I think is an absolute must, and it has to do with some of your dialog. Most of your scenes and your dialog are beautifully understated. Which makes those occasional moments when they AREN'T really stand out. On a few occasions--and especially when things start to get a little heavy between the characters--the dialog tends much more toward "on the nose". Pg 47. The top of page 56. Especially page 62. A lot of this stuff can be left unsaid. We already KNOW this about Richard. We've SEEN it. There's no need for him to tell it to us, also. Pg. 63 "Iím not used to sharing certain things. Iím afraid." This line is terrible. Good movie dialog, like much of real life, is about subtext. It's about not stating the obvious. This is obvious. Top of page 73. Basically every time there's a really deep interaction between characters, you have them telling each other exactly how they feel.
Also, speaking of on-the-nose, I HATE the title. Hate it. It's so on-the-nose it makes me cringe. Your story is about abandonment. CALLING it "Abandonment" is unfogivable. Find a new title.
The biggest problem area in this script is purely mechanical. The writing is mostly good, but the grammar and the typos, the non-standard formatting, etc. work against it. The story is enough to overcome that, but why handicap yourself? Even if you plan on making this yourself, you are going to have to attract financing and actors and crew etc.
The continued use of INT when you move from one interior location into another (i.e., from the living room into the bedroom, etc.) is distracting.
I don't know what a "holocaust figure" is, and a quick internet search turned up nothing. If it's important for us to know what this thing looks like, tell us. If not, just describe what we see. But either way, make it clearer that "Holocaust figure" is your own invention (if it is). Otherwise, I feel like I SHOULD know what you are talking about, but don't. For most of the script, I was picturing a skeleton in a cloak--like "Death" from a Monty Python sketch. But by the end, I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant. Make sure you tell a reader all of the information that a viewer would take for granted because they can SEE it.
Pg. 12 "You're cane..." s/b "Your cane..."
Pg. 17 "Your supposed.." s/b "You're supposed..."
20 - "wines" s/b "wine's"
21 - "Go" s/n/b capitalized.
28 - "as the move" s/b "as they move"
Not going to point out any more typos and grammar errors. You are averaging about one a page. Way too many. You especially need to learn the difference between "your" and "you're" and "its" and "it's", and in general, the proper use of the apostrophe.
"A boring sort of handsome." Great phrase!
Pg. 63 "On the ground, in front of her door, is Richard." This makes it sound like he's either collapsed or lied down in the hallway, which I'm pretty sure is not what you mean.
I'm ambivalent about your opening scene. On the one hand, the scene by itself is great. It hits the ground running and is very dynamic. But then we skip ahead some unknown amount of time (without being told that we are skipping ahead), and the actual opening to the script has a much more sedate pace. I think the opening scene sets up false expectations. Why not just start with him getting out of the hospital? We'll see the scar, we'll know what happened. At the very least, you should give us a "SUPER: X months later" or something, because when I first read the script, I had no idea. I thought that they were releasing him the next day, which is obviously not right.
Pg 50 "WE DOLLY AWAY SLOWLY" you've mostly stayed away from this sort of camera direction. Why have it here? What does it add?
You need to tell us how old "Young Richard" is. It makes a difference to the story if he's 4 or if he's 14. Right now, I don't know which it is. It's also not clear how old Richard is when the accident happens. Again, this makes a difference. Is he still a kid? Or did this happen a year ago? Even by the end of the story, I didn't know.
In conclusion, great script. I think this has tremendous potential, and shows some serious story-telling skills. Please try to ignore all the morons who will tell you that it needs to be more "focused" or "structured" or that it's not "Hollywood" enough. This is an indie script, If executed correctly, it could be fantastic.
Review of: Abandonment (V.2)
reviewed by stevend on 04/05/2011
Review ID: 3718719
Other Reviews by stevend 59
A review of Gordonby stevend on 11/06/2013Where do I begin with this script? It starts out so well. You get into the action quickly and efficiently. You introduce your characters and your situation with such great flair, and the script just sucks you right in. High stakes, snappy writing. Great first act. And then it takes a nose dive. A massive, massive nose dive. Holy crap. In a weird way, the first act... Where do I begin with this script? It starts out so well. You get into the action quickly and efficiently. You introduce your characters and your situation with such great flair, and the script just sucks you right in. High stakes, snappy writing. Great first act.
And then it takes a nose dive. A massive, massive nose dive. Holy crap. In a weird way, the first act being as good as it is really made this a WORSE read, because I thought I was in for a great script and a great story, and as the script wore on (and WEAR on, it did), it just got progressively stupider and sillier and more ridiculous and nonsensical. I'm going to try to provide as much constructive criticism as I can, but please try not to take offense at my tone. I can get a little snippy when I feel this let down by such a promising start.
So I'll take things one at a time.
Story/Structure - Holy moly. As I've said, you set things up really well. We know who our heroes are, we know who the villains are. There's mystery about what's happening and who's behind it. The first act wasnít flawless, but it got the job done and made me want to read more.
And then, around page 30 or 40, things really started to bog down. The second act problems in this script are numerous. The primary issue is that it gets boring and repetitive. And for 20-30 pages, your hero does nothing to move the story forward. He gets high. He brings people's bags to their rooms (twice). He flirts with the cute co-worker. He stands around in the lobby. During this stretch, I found myself longing for his scenes to end so we could get back to what the bad guys were doing, which was much more interesting.
There are long stretches where not only is your hero not moving the story forward, but NOTHING HAPPENS.
Page 49 through 51 - You have literally almost two full pages of Frank doing his job, standing in an elevator, and then walking and looking at stuff. What is the purpose of all this? Why are you bogging down the story with this in the middle of the second act? That's two full minutes of screen time where NOTHING happens. Cut ALL of this.
The romantic subplot takes up way too much screen time. For vast stretches of the second act, I feel like I've been transported from a high-stakes spy game to a low-key romantic dramedy. It's like you interrupted me while watching Skyfall and changed the channel to Garden State. I understand (eventually, sort of) the point of all this, when you reveal who Kelly really is, but it takes way too much screen time, and its exacerbated by the fact that reading each scene is difficult because you make me slog through gobs and gobs of irrelevant action lines (more on that below). There's no reason Frank's joke about getting fired needs to take two pages. (There are further specific examples in my notes below of scenes you could easily reduce or cut entirely).
I don't see what the hooker subplot really had to do with anything? You donít really need both it AND the scene with the coke dealer. If you want to establish Big Bob as a ruthless badass, then keep the scene with the coke dealer. But what does the hooker scene add?
These are all solvable problems. You could build a decent second act out of what you have here, by giving Frank more to do and slashing the unnecessary stuff.
But your third act is such a total mess that it's hard to see any viable solution short of blowing the whole script up and starting over. The contrivances necessary to get the story to work are ridiculous. And once the bad guys' plan becomes clear, it makes NO DAMN SENSE. At all.
First, why are they doing all this? You've given us no motive other than "Strike the match that sets the world on fire." But why do they want to set the world on fire? You need to give us a reason, especially when one of your characters is a successful business man. These are not desperate, unhappy people lashing out at the world. They aren't religious zealots trying to usher in the apocalypse because God told them to. They don't seem to need to or want to profit off of this. So why are they doing it? You've shown us nothing in their character that would remotely explain why they are doing what they are doing. We need a believable motive, and "some men just want to watch the world burn" is not enough.
Second, leaving aside the question of motive, the plan itself is retarded. If Agent Andrews (and presumably Ivan, Terrorist, Ms. Evans, and others) are already willing to give their lives to the cause, then what is the point of brainwashing them? There's no shortage of desperate people willing to blow themselves up for a cause. So why does Crenshaw have to go through the ridiculously elaborate process of using a supercomputer to turn them into human robots? Why not just hand them a bomb and say, "go blow yourself up"? Or, you know, just PLANT THE BOMB AND DETONATE IT REMOTELY. Itís their own damn hotel, it's not like they would have to sneak in anywhere or worry about it being discovered. If I wanted to bomb my own house, the simplest way would be to build a bomb and leave it sitting in my house. I wouldn't spend decades perfecting a superweapon--one that could be used for MUCH more nefarious purposes, BTW--so that I could brainwash my neighbor into blowing himself up in my house. What on Earth would be the point of that? This plan is absurdly, unnecessarily elaborate.
And why are they blowing up their own hotel, anyway? On page 71, Frank says, "Itís gotta be the party." It does? There are a hell of a lot of places one can carry out a terrorist attack. At one's own place of business and primary source of continued funding seems like one of the WORST choices.
It might make sense if there was a REASON to blow up that particular place at that particular time, but there doesnít seem to be. I mean, if they were hosting a convention of the NSA and all the world's top security experts were going to be in the same room at the same time, then maybe that would make some sense. If the President was giving a speech at their hotel, maybe. If they could blow up the historic first visit of the Prime Minister of North Korea, and blame it on South Korean militants, thus setting off a potential nuclear conflict, that would be a good reason. But blowing up a room full of vacationing families? Do they really expect that to "set the world on fire"? Does the risk/reward of destroying their own place of business and source of funding really work out in their favor when they could, you know, do the same thing in someone ELSE'S place of business and accomplish the same (really ineffective and mostly pointless) goal?
Seriously, not a damn lick of sense.
And that's before we get to the double whammy of ridiculousness that is the last 3 or 4 pages. First you have Sherman turn out to be the bad guy. Why? We don't know. Something about using Gordon to blah blah blah. So why did they ever involve Frank in the first place? What purpose did his role serve in this conspiracy that couldn't have been done by one of the FOUR agents that come in at the end and are clearly in on the plan, not to mention Kelly. Why, why, why? And what clues did you give us at any point in the story that Sherman and Kelly were going to turn against Frank in the end? Answer: none whatsoever. If they wanted to capture Gordon, and knew it was there, why didn't they just go down there and get it themselves in the first place? It's not like Frank demonstrated some special, essential skill. He killed Big Bob and took his key. ANYONE could have done that. At any time.
The essence of a good ending is that it feels both surprising and inevitable. Your ending is certainly surprising, but only because it doesn't make any damn sense. Might as well have aliens descend from the skies and blast everyone apart. That makes about as much sense as the ending you have.
And then there's the final scene. Huh? Wha? So the point of their ridiculously elaborate plan was to brainwash Frank into writing his own memoirs? Seriously, what the fuck?
A couple of other minor points:
They have VX gas. Why do they decide not to use it? It's not like planting the bomb is somehow easier or quicker. You've now rendered the entire point of the opening scene completely moot, so why is it even in the script? Stories are about setup and payoff.
Do you really expect people to buy that he got a nose job and now his own worst mortal enemy will no longer recognize him? They tried this in The Tourist and it was about the dumbest twist ending I've ever seen.
Why does Big Bob bring Chris down to the basement in the first place? If it's to brainwash him, then why does he object when Crenshaw does just that? And if not, why does he bring an employee down to his evil supervillain lair?
Dialog - Decent throughout. Competent and well-done. I don't recall any really egregious examples of on-the-nose-ness or naked exposition that took me out of the story. Characters had individual voices, especially Big Bob, who I like a lot. This is your greatest strength.
Characters - Actually not bad, considering how much I hated the story. You did a fairly decent job of differentiating them from one another. I liked Big Bob. Frank is a bit of a stock hero with a trite back story, but that's the least of your problems. I liked that you went with a female lieutenant in Ms. Evans. It's a great play against expectations. In that context, I don't really see the point of Ivan. What does Ivan ever do in this story that couldn't be handled by Ms. Evans? Why have this unnecessary character?
The big flaw, of course, character-wise is that we had no idea why anyone was doing anything, and what we DID know doesn't make sense. Frank is the only person with a clear goal and rational motives. Everyone else is doing things because you, the screenwriter, told them to, in the service of the worst twist ending since The Village.
Screenplay mechanics - A weak spot, for sure. First, there were the two to three typos/grammar/spelling errors PER PAGE, which is enormously distracting. I point out a few of them in my notes below, but honestly, if I had taken the time to jot them all down, it would have taken me three days to get through your script. Sloppiness like this is a huge turn off.
Quit cluttering up the read with unnecessary and unimportant action lines. "She twirls her hair as she shakes her head." "Kelly stomps her foot on the ground and runs her hand through her hair." "Big Bob looks at down at the ground then back up again. He
puts his hand on Accompliceís shoulder." Let your characters have a damn conversation without specifying every single action they go through. It's enormously distracting and unnecessary.
Similarly, you way overuse parentheticals. E.g. page 91: "(screams)" "(back to forceful)" Quit trying to direct your actors from the page. The dialog speaks for itself. Parentheticals should really only be used when the line needs to be delivered DIFFERENTLY than the obvious way. There's no need to tell us that someone saying "Stop!" does it (loud). Or that "Don't move asshole" is (forceful). The only exception to that rule is "(to so-and-so)" and--in the case of your script--keeping track of Big Bob's accent.
Overall - You show promise as a writer. You start off strong and set things up great. That's a weak point of a lot of writers, so it's a great skill to have. But man oh man, is this story a silly mess. A complete page 1 rewrite is absolutely essential. Anything less and you will be merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Best of luck with it.
Some notes I took as I was reading:
Pg. 3 - Frank falls down the stairs because he's surprised? By a dead body? And he's a secret agent? Given that this never pays off in any way, I'm not sure why it's here.
Pg. 8 - Really? "Hey guys. I made sure you got a bomb instead of what you thought you were getting because I'm an evil dickhead working for a major supervillain. But I won't blow you up right away. I'll go ahead and give you 60 seconds to save yourself." Austin Powers skewered this exact absurdity almost 20 years ago.
Pg. 14 - The Southern accent gag would be much funnier if you DIDN'T have Big Bob comment on how much he hates it. It would be much funnier if Andrews just asked him "What's up with the Southern accent?" and Big Bob launched into his speech in his normal voice.
Pg. 17 - one-year
Pg. 17 - Underline "With". Otherwise it reads as "With ME?" which is not what you want.
Pg. 18 "You're still at this place"
Pg. 21 - I'm pretty sure it takes longer than a week to recover from a bullet wound to the gut.
Pg. 22 "Your new identification."
Pg. 24 - "Thatís all I have left of them." This is obvious. Especially given Sherman's next line. No need to state it.
Of course, this is about the most trite back story you can give a character, especially a spook or a cop.
Pg. 29 Big Bob, not "Big Bib" (or "Bib Bob", page 89)
Pg. 40 "Bluetooth" One word. Very different thing from a blue tooth.
Pg. 46 - "It affects everybody differently"
Really starting to drag in the second act. Donít waste so much time showing us how Frank does his job.
Pg. 54 - Probably a bad sign that I'm thinking about Zoolander at this point...
Pg. 55 - "Gordon, generates a signal that makes minds susceptible, to certain..." Why all these commas?
Pg. 56 - "sheer evil"
Pg. 58 - Another half page where nothing happens. Cut to the point. Don't make us watch Sherman watch a screen and shake his leg for 30 seconds.
Pg. 61 - A secret agent is ignoring a call from his boss? Yeah right.
Pg. 61 - Why do we need to see Frank answer the phone and have this conversation? We know who's calling and why. You could easily cut two pages from this scene. He's on his date. The phone buzzes. He looks at it. His eyes widen. "Holy shit. I've gotta go." Bam he leaves.
Pg. 65 "carryout" is food that you take from a restaurant. "carry out"
Pg. 71 " Your coverís done." Aaaaand just like that, we render the entire last 50 pages completely useless... There's nothing that happened that is now relevant to the story. They didn't find out any information they didn't already know, they didn't do anything that will affect what they are going to do next. They literally could have just started with this plan in the first place and saved themselves (and us) a whole bunch of our lives that we will never get back.
Why is he Mr. Crenshaw? Why not just Crenshaw?
Pg. 73 "Which agency knows we're here"
Pg. 73 "Itíll be alot quicker than the gas." Then why didn't they just do that in the first place? And how will it be quicker? And why is being quicker important? Also "a lot".
Pg. 77 - And now I'm thinking of the South Park episode where Barack Obama and John McCain rob the Whitehouse. Never a good sign when your script continually reminds someone of the SPOOFS of the genre.
Pg. 92 "Kelly, gun raised steps out." Saw this coming a mile out.
Pg. 96... wait, what? read
A review of Trash Dayby stevend on 11/04/2013This is a really tough one to review. It's clearly got different ambitions than most scripts. There is no "dude with a problem". No real act breaks or Blake Snyder beats. That's okay. Movies can function without those, despite what most of the screenwriting gurus might say. My favorite movie of the last year (and possibly ever) is the decidedly low-key The Spectacular... This is a really tough one to review. It's clearly got different ambitions than most scripts. There is no "dude with a problem". No real act breaks or Blake Snyder beats. That's okay. Movies can function without those, despite what most of the screenwriting gurus might say. My favorite movie of the last year (and possibly ever) is the decidedly low-key The Spectacular Now, which breaks every single "rule" about how you are supposed to write a script and structure a story.
That said, I think that your script is missing quite a bit. A story without a traditional structure needs incredibly compelling characters at its heart. And the writing needs to be absolutely flawless, because there's no excitement or horror or humor masking it.
To me, there are three key things that you are going to need to address in future drafts.
1) Conflict conflict conflict. The soul of drama. It doesn't require kung fu fights, but it does require trimming back or eliminating all of the scenes where nothing happens but two characters telling their feelings to one another, or telling their backstories.
2) Dialog. There is so much that you and your characters say with words that needs to be said with actions.
3) Structure. Make sure we understand what the story is about early on. It's going to be very difficult to hold most people's attention in a script like this. So you need as much as possible to make sure that they understand where it is going (or where they THINK it is going).
Your story meanders. I wouldn't want you to change it into "Die Hard in a Trailer Park" or anything, but it needs more structure than it has right now. And it DEFINITELY needs more conflict. Much more conflict. There are whole stretches in your script that are almost entirely conflict free. And others where the stakes feel so low that it's really hard to care. I have enough worries in my own life. If I'm going to invest 2 hours into someone else's problems, I really better get attached to them very quickly.
For example, on page 45, you have Sam tell C.C. that Jimmy is no good for her, and he illustrates this by saying something about how her son will call her a whore, if Jimmy is his role model. But not only does Sam have no reason to believe this--because he's seen nothing whatsoever to indicate it--but WE also don't have any reason to believe it ourselves. You have shown us nothing of how bad Jimmy is. In fact, you've shown the opposite quite a few times. Yes, he shows up at Sam's trailer that first time and he's pissed. But you imply with C.C.'s dialog that he has a right to be. And then even though he finds her with another man, instead of doing anything awful about it, he accepts her statement at face value that this guy is just a friend. No jealousy, no irrational behavior. He also reacts quite favorably to the news that he's going to be a father. So nowhere in the entire script up to this point have you shown us Jimmy being an asshole in any way whatsoever. He picks a minor fight with her about the smoke alarm, but she's being just as ornery and difficult as him, and he doesn't really do anything particularly awful. They just seem like a couple fighting. And he's right about her. She IS never there. She's off with Sam.
So as of this moment, I have no idea why she's so keen to leave him, or why Sam is so keen to make sure that she does. Sam says something about Jimmy calling her a whore, but we've never seen that. Never seen anything like it. And in fact we've seen the opposite several times. So this conversation makes no sense to me.
Finally, AFTER this moment, we get some scenes where Jimmy is being a bit of a douchebag. And then WAYYYYY later, we finally see his violent side. I hate to be the guy saying this, because I do really like low-key, realistic movies, but Jimmy needs to be much more of an asshole, much sooner. This is a movie, not real life. Our expectations are considerably higher regarding what is acceptable behavior in a movie than it would be in real life. So a couple kinda yelling at each other is par for the course. That's the bare minimum conflict necessary to sustain a drama. He's a dick, sure, but he's not really abusive in any way, even verbally, for most of the script. If you want us on C.C.'s side, you need to establish that he treats her awful right from the beginning, and you need to reinforce that. Yes, abusers can be charming and they can do nice things. And no, you don't have to turn him into "Sleeping With The Enemy" to make the point. But right now, while Jimmy is not exactly someone I would choose to be friends with, he's also not someone I would kick out of my house and never invite back. He needs to at LEAST be that. He can ALSO have a good side and be complicated and 3-dimensional. But he's the closest thing this story has to an antagonist, and right now he's just not cutting it.
A character study like this lives or dies (obviously) on the strength of its characters. And character is defined through action. Most of your characters have potential, but right now they aren't really compelling. Sam is very passive. That's okay if handled properly, but it has the potential, as here, to really make the story drag, since he's not the person driving it until fairly late in the game.
And to be honest, the real weak point of this script is the dialog. There are places where it is actually really good. But there's a LOT of places where characters tell one another things that they should be showing, or characters talk nakedly about their feelings for one another. It's really hard to take dialog like that seriously. And a story as low-stakes as this one needs exceptional dialog to work.
Example: "You're never here!" "I'm always here!" "You know that's not true" is two characters stating the obvious at one another.
Would be better if this stuff was IMPLIED by what they were saying instead of spoken outright: "Where the hell have you been?" "Since when do you care?" "Since you stopped cooking dinner for me."
Not to mention, in this particular scene, you have Jimmy saying "Here! In this room. With me. You are fuckin' miles away." Which seems like an awfully self-aware and astute thing for an oblivious jerk like Jimmy to say. It's something I'd expect my therapist to tell me, not my uneducated wife/husband.
Beyond that, the biggest criticism I have of the script is the ending. Holy sheesh. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be a surprise, but it wasn't. I knew that Sam had murdered his father, and I knew that there were other children running around, because you hit that so hard in so many places throughout the script with you "looks vaguely like Sam" motif.
But more to the point, I didn't buy it for a minute, and in a script that hews very closely to realism for its first 120 pages, to be hit with something that absurd that late in the game is jarring as hell.
First, there's the problem of execution. How on Earth do you propose casting people who look enough like Sam that an audience will notice it, or even buy that Sam has noticed it?
There's also a major plausibility problem. The numbers boggle the mind. You have half-a-dozen men and women that look like this guy involved in the murder, and another half a dozen-ish that we meet at various other points in the script. Let's say 10, total. All living in the same town. It strains credibility greatly that more than ten percent of women who are raped will carry their rapist's baby to term. Even that number seems high. So this guy must have impregnated at least 100 women. Even if not a single one of them was on birth control (itself highly unlikely), the chances of getting pregnant for a woman who is REGULARLY sexually active is something like 11% if she's not specifically trying. So now we're talking about him having raped something like 1,000 women. All in the same small town. And the cops have caught him at least once, but somehow failed to make the connection to any of the 999 OTHER rapes he committed. Even though his children apparently look so much like him and like one another that they can recognize each other on the street. And even though each one of them is living proof of a rape that is totally admissible in court.
Then, on top of that, somehow a half dozen of his illegitimate children managed to find one another. I have no idea how that happens. "Hey, you kinda look like me. Any chance that you were conceived when your mom was raped?" That's gotta be a weird enough conversation. But then you have to follow it up with, "How would you like to join me in murdering the guy?" Nope nope nope. This is the most preposterous thing I've ever heard, and wouldn't work even in a script designed around bizarre coincidences and major plot contrivances. It DEFINITELY doesn't work in a low-key romantic drama.
And it's totally unnecessary. The revelation that he killed someone--anyone--is big enough. That he found and killed the man who raped his mom is great. Cut all of the stuff with his parole officer down to a single scene so it's not completely telegraphed. Make us think there's something only moderately bad in his past, and he's scared to tell C.C. because he's just being too hard on himself. Some youthful indiscretion. And then when it's revealed that he's a murderer, it has much more impact.
I don't really buy her reaction to it, either. It smacks of contrivance. For a script that has very little in the way of traditional structure, this is one beat that feels like it's there because it's obligatory... the "all-is-lost" moment where the romantic interest bails. Yes, I think that she might very well bail given that information, especially if you set up either that he lied to her about it sometime earlier or that there's something in particular in her character (that you establish well in advance) that makes her reaction make sense. I can definitely see not being able to handle the fact that someone you thought you knew was a murderer. But the reaction to something like that is enormously complex. It's not "storm out in a huff". It's "I really need time to process this (with the implication that things are never going to be the same between us)".
So, in the end, to be completely frank, I'm not sure you are a strong enough writer at the moment to pull off a script like this. Please don't take that the wrong way. I think there are only a handful of writers on the whole planet capable of pulling off a script with stakes this low. I'm certainly not one of them, though I hope to one day be. I think there is a lot of potential in this story, and I would not advise giving up on it entirely. My first script was very similar in a lot of ways, and what I found was that I needed to write some EASY scripts and get good at that before I started trying to tackle the really difficult ones. That's what I'd advise you to do, for whatever that advice is worth. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that my comments have been helpful in some way.
Some other random thoughts and page notes:
The title is terrible. It doesn't even remotely fit the mood of the story. A movie called "Trash Day" could be an action movie. It could be a zany comedy. It could possibly be a gritty crime drama. But it has zero connotations that say anything remotely like "low-key romantic drama". Your title is the first thing people know about your movie. You first piece of marketing, essentially. It's branding, first and foremost. And calling the script you have here "Trash Day" would be like calling "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" "My Little Pony". It just doesnít fit.
Your logline and synopsis are also really deceptive, and that's doing you a disservice. I went into this thinking "Crime Drama", and instead I got "Subtle Character Study". I like both kinds of movies. But I need to know which I'm reading/seeing so I can set my expectations accordingly. As it is, when basically nothing particularly impactful had happened 30, 40, 50 pages into the script, I was worried you just didn't understand how to put a story together.
Check "your" and "you're", "its" and "it's", "who's" and "whose" throughout. Pg. 2, 4, 9, 24 (also IEDs), 34
Pg. 15 It's "stock still", not "stalk"
Pg. 15 "I didnít know you had a gun." How would she? She just met him. Speaking of which, how did she end up at his house? The cut from the hospital to here is a little weird.
Pg. 23 - The baby is a great little detail.
Not sure how an audience is going to see a resemblance to all these random people, unless you have the same actor play them (which won't work for the female ones).
Pg. 32 - Children's ages?
Pg. 41 - "Receptionist" with a "c"
Pg. 51 - We really need to see C.C.'s reaction to the news that Sam's mother was raped. Cutting away from the scene like this is incredibly weird. That it never come up again until the climax is similarly weird.
"Look at that face. How old are you? You ainít even got a bed yet. You got like a sleeping bag. You can wriggle right outa them things." Great line.
The timeline of Jimmy's death just doesn't work at all. Before he leaves for basic, C.C. has six weeks left until she gives birth. Basic training lasts ten weeks. So even if Jimmy went through basic training, got shipped off to Afghanistan the very day he left basic, and got killed the day after, it would be at a MINIMUM ten weeks before he was killed. But even that is extremely unlikely. Leaving aside for the moment that a) we're not at war with Iraq anymore, and b) it's simply false that every soldier who enlists ends up in Afghanistan, there's still going to be a considerable amount of time between when Jimmy would finish basic training and when he would be deployed. Anywhere from a few weeks at the earliest, to possibly months or years (or never). I just don't buy that he's dead within a couple weeks of enlisting. This smacks of serious plot-contrivance. If you insist on killing him, make it an accident during basic training or something like that.
Pg. 116 - What is the point of this scene? While I do like most of the Romero family stuff (Carlos is probably your strongest character, and his mother is hilarious), there's just too much of it. And scenes like this one not only fail to move the story forward (which shouldn't ever happen, and especially not at the climax), but it's not compelling or funny in its own right. It's slack.
Pg. 121 - This speech is painful to read, and not in the way you may have intended it. It's about as on-the-nose as screenplay dialog gets. No real person would ever say this to another person. read
A review of The Killing Kind ver 3.5by stevend on 11/03/2013I love a good mob movie. I'm a huge fan of The Sopranos, Scorsese, The Godfather, etc. There are some things that I liked about this script, but ultimately it left me a little cold. The main issue is that I don't feel like it adds anything of value to the whole mob movie canon. I'm not sure what's unique about it. Given the stiff competition it faces among classic mafia... I love a good mob movie. I'm a huge fan of The Sopranos, Scorsese, The Godfather, etc. There are some things that I liked about this script, but ultimately it left me a little cold.
The main issue is that I don't feel like it adds anything of value to the whole mob movie canon. I'm not sure what's unique about it. Given the stiff competition it faces among classic mafia movies (which aren't exactly setting the box office on fire lately anyway), a mob movie has to have a unique angle or a really compelling story and characters. This doesn't have either.
I feel like, thematically, it's hard to know what the movie is ABOUT. Is it about revenge? About how crime doesn't pay? How crime DOES pay? The story doesn't seem to have any particular point of view about the actions that the characters take. Don't misconstrue what I'm saying... I'm not suggesting that you add an "afterschool special" moral. I'm just really confused, after reading the script, what you are trying to SAY. What is this story about? Every choice in building the script needs to be in service of the theme somehow. The story, the characters, the dialog. Everything. Why did you want to write this script? To me, for a crime story to work, the answer to that question can't just be "because I thought it would be a cool story". It has to be "because I thought it would be a cool story AND..."
Speaking of story - You start off really well. The writing is crisp and visual. Your story hits the ground running. We know exactly what kind of script we are in for after the first 5 pages. Very well done.
But then things kind of go all weird. You set us up for some sort of police-procedural. A crime happens. We meet the detectives tasked with solving it. We know who our protagonist is, we know what his goal is. Except not really.
Structurally, the story is a bit of a mess. You set us up in the first fifteen to think that solving this crime is going to be the point of the story. But it's not. Midway through, we suddenly feel like we're in a different script, where now it's the protag's job to keep this mobster safe from his enemies. But no, not really. Ultimately, we learn that it was always somehow about Tino getting revenge. Or Danny getting revenge. I'm not sure. I fell like that twist at the end was somehow supposed to hit me harder than it actually did.
My advice is that this script needs a page 1 rewrite. I don't know if you are the kind of writer who outlines, or how many drafts this has gone through, but it FEELS like a first draft, written off-the-cuff. The story just isn't entirely coherent, structurally. I'm having a really hard time expressing what I mean, for some reason. But the point is, your protagonist needs a CLEAR goal, and he needs to pursue that goal. If that goal is finding the people who killed his family, great. Make that the central goal. Or, make solving the crime the central goal, and finding the people who killed his family his secondary goal, and it just so happens those two things end up coming together in a surprising way at the end. Right now, they come together in the least surprising way possible.
Characters - I didn't really buy any of them. The mobsters didn't really act like mobsters. The cops were mostly indistinguishable. Tino was the only one with some personality. I don't really feel like you defined anyone through action. Or else you DID, and then UNdefined them a few pages later. Donello is a perfect example. You establish him in this opening scene as a ruthless, sociopathic badass, capable of murdering a woman and her two young children because they were inconvenient. And then the next time we see him, he's having a touching heart-to-heart with his friend the mob boss, whining about being passed over for a promotion and begging his friend to back him next time. Is he a badass or not? Because a badass doesn't beg or whine. Ever. He's your bad guy. He can be charming and charismatic. He can be loyal to certain people. He can seem to really love his family. In other words, he can have good qualities that contrast with his ruthlessness. But what he can't be is weak and ineffectual. A badass TAKES what he wants. He doesn't wait for it to be handed to him. And he doesn't ask nicely if you'll kindly back his power play. He tells you to get out of his way or he'll kill you, too. Later, Donello does a COMPLETE 180 when he decides, for some bizarre reason, to go to the cops. There ARE people who would do that, especially if they were afraid for their family's safety, but they aren't the same kind of people who shoot children because they don't want witnesses. THOSE kinds of people (the killing kind, ahem...) don't back down at the first sign of trouble. They go out and FIND trouble and kick trouble's scrawny little ass.
Define your characters through action. And make sure that those actions are consistent. And if they AREN'T, make sure there's a damn compelling reason why they aren't.
I hated the ending. The last page in particular. You establish Danny as the rational, cool-headed member of the duo. The guy who isnít out for revenge. Who, only two pages ago, was telling Tino not to do it, because it would ruin his life. And then suddenly he's the stone-cold killer? Nope. Don't buy it. Again, there's no REASON for the shift, and no reason at all for us to believe he was really a ruthless revenge artist all along. If that's the case, why does he wait for Tino to die before acting?
Not to mention... these guys are cops on the Organized Crime task force. And yet, somehow, they failed to realize until NOW that several of the city's biggest mobsters, people they had been trying to bust for years, were the same people who shot their families 20 years ago? How does THAT work, exactly? Danny looks up into Donello's eyes in the flashback. And yet he doesn't recognize him? I don't buy that at all.
There's a really interesting possibility for a compelling story in the idea of a mobster who has to be protected by a cop whose family he killed many years ago. And of the struggle of that cop between doing his duty and taking revenge. But that's not really the story you are telling here. If it is, you need to get to all that MUCH much sooner. And we need to really see Tino's struggle. Right now it's completely unclear how much Tino knows or doesn't know about Donello's past.
One of the script's weakest points was the dialog. Not the worst I've ever read, but a long way from professional-grade. It does show occasional flashes of inspiration (the conversation with the old Russian woman was fantastic). But there are FAR too many conversations where people just talk at one another about their feelings. That's hard enough to buy in a romantic comedy or a tender tear-jerker, but it's especially incongruous in a story about gangsters and cops, neither of which are renowned for their great emotional fluency. Mobsters don't talk about how disappointed they are in one another. Organized Crime cops don't talk about how much they love their job because they get to help people every day. There were three or four conversations in here that made me cringe they were so on-the-nose. Page 17, 31, 78, to name a few.
Some other notes you may find useful:
I hated that you showed Tino's back story so early. Let us wonder for a while why he's so wounded. There are several conversations about his past that felt really on-the-nose when we know what happened to him, that would actually play much better if we DIDN'T know it. And speaking of what we know, I was not aware until at least 2/3rds of the way through the script that when you were talking about Tino's family, you meant the family he grew up with. Based on your description, it sounded like someone had killed his wife and kids. I'm kinda glad that's not what it was, because that's about as trite a back story as you can give a character, especially a cop. But you need to make that clear.
Pg. 29 "EXT. SHORE ROAD - EVENING" This doesn't need a separate slug.
Pg. 50 - "want's" here and many other places throughout the script, you misuse the apostrophe. "You're" and "your", "its" and "it's", "whose" and "who's". You are constantly confusing them. If you don't know the rules, find someone to read your script who does, because it unfortunately makes your script come across poorly.
Pg. 96 - The car chase. You cheated. You can't just say there's a car chase. You have to show it to us. Tell us exactly what we see.
I wish you the best of luck with this script. There's definite potential there, both in the story and in your writing ability. For what it's worth, I read it in one sitting and it held my interest. But I didnít get to the end of it thinking that I'd read a finished story. It felt like an early draft that needed a lot of reworking before it cohered as a finished product. Mostly, I didn't see why you wanted to tell this story. Figure out what the story is about and rewrite with that in mind. Nail down the structure--inciting incident, act breaks, climax, etc.--and build the story around a solid frame that gets us clearly from point A to point B. read
Copyright © 2001-2013 Trigger Street Labs. All Rights Reserved.