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 "I’m not used to sharing certain things. I’m 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 54
A review of BOSS OF ME - (2nd Draft)by stevend on 02/23/2012Whew... where to start. This script starts off absolutely brilliantly. There are a few minor flaws in some of the set-up scenes (which I'll get to), but mostly, by page 40 or so, I was thinking, "Man, I kinda want to direct this. I wonder if I can option it, take it to some of my producer friends and try to get it made." Truly. It is such a relief to read something on... Whew... where to start.
This script starts off absolutely brilliantly. There are a few minor flaws in some of the set-up scenes (which I'll get to), but mostly, by page 40 or so, I was thinking, "Man, I kinda want to direct this. I wonder if I can option it, take it to some of my producer friends and try to get it made." Truly. It is such a relief to read something on TS that's this compelling, well-written, and has a brilliant high-concept premise.
But then, unfortunately, it completely falls apart in the second half. I was devastated. Not that there aren't some good bits in the second half, but most of the cleverness, ingenuity and spark that the first 40 pages had just fizzled by the end. I was so disappointed.
So where did the script go wrong for me? Let's take a look...
Mechanics - Decent. There are typos and grammar errors, some of which I note in my notes below. Nothing that would kill the read of a solid script, but it's definitely not up to a professional level.
Character: In many ways, great. In some other ways, this is a big weak point. Like I said, it starts off great. I like Tom a lot. Spencer is more of a blank everyman, but that doesn't kill it. It gives us someone good to identify with.
You round out the cast with a bunch of mostly one-joke characters, but that mostly works as well. I like Altair, and most of your secondary characters have just enough personality that they are funny and interesting. I'd love to see it taken to another level, but what you have is just serviceable enough.
But at the same time, there are some flaws. The big one is Monica. She is a functionary character only, stuffed into the story basically as a MacGuffin to give Spencer a concrete reason for needing to find another job quickly. She's given essentially ONE character trait, which isn't even a character trait but rather a backstory. She wants a big wedding because that's the only thing she remembers about her mother. It's an interesting possibility for a set-up, but it totally doesn't work for me because you never really commit to the idea or sell it, and because I never really BELIEVE it. The truth is that she wants a big wedding because you the writer realize that it will complicate your protagonist's plan, and that shows in every interaction they have. She's not a person, she's a complication, and not a terribly good one, at that.
My suggestion is that you need to deepen both her character and her relationship with Spencer. Right now, she comes across mostly as a potential harpie, and I kept waiting for the moment when things blew up between them. I was half expecting the story to go in a more traditional rom-commy sort of route where over the course of the story the main character realizes what a horrible shrew his potential wife is and instead falls in love with the female lead (see, e.g., Trial and Error with Jeff Daniels and Charlize Theron). I'm really glad you didn't go there. But if you want us to care about their relationship, you need to make us do so. If you make Monica a more sympathetic character, if you truly communicate her NEED to have the perfect wedding and make us believe it, and most importantly, if you make us LIKE her so that WE want her to have the perfect wedding also, then you make Spencer's story so much more compelling.
Along those same lines, it would not hurt to have some other, direr need for Spencer to get a job quickly. As it stands, the wedding seems like the ONLY reason, and it's not enough. My biggest impression is that Spencer needs another job so he can maintain his rich lifestyle. That's not going to garner a whole lot of sympathy with your average audience member. No one is going to cry if a rich guy has to leave his penthouse apartment and move into a place that's STILL nicer than the shithole they are watching the movie at on their ancient CRT TV. But make Spencer more solidly middle class, and you get more people on board with his dilemma.
I also feel like I want to understand Tom better. He starts out as a bit of a buffoon, and I kept seeing something like Steve Carell in Dinner For Schmucks or as Michael Scott - someone very well-meaning who still manages to screw everything up for the protagonist. You started to go there, and then you more-or-less abandoned that about halfway through, when he became a fairly competent manager. This is a big reason why the second half doesn't work, for me. Instead of increasing complications in a comedy-of-errors, we level off around page 40 into a muddled, unstructured mess.
Mostly solid, but needs some work. Which is to say, there are moments of sheer comic brilliance in some of your exchanges. And then there are other moments of cringe-worthy on-the-nose-ity that ruin an otherwise good scene. The good news is that the latter is very fixable, and in most cases, it's simply a matter of removing the offending line.
The biggest sin that you keep committing is this tic that makes you feel the need to explain a joke after you've told it. There are so many instances in this script where you made a funny, and then you have someone basically explain why that thing was funny, which kills the humor. You need to trust your audience more to get the jokes.
For instance, for me, on page 8, "I'm fired too?" is funny. "You were never hired!" makes it less funny. We know he was never hired, and we know that both characters know it. Why say it? It's like you are explaining the previous joke, and explaining a joke almost invariably makes it less funny. If I were rewriting this, I'd just have the security guard come in after Tom's line and cut Spencer's. I'd probably cut Spencer's next line, too. Again, we know this information. To me, it's funnier if he doesn't say it, but just grabs the boxes from the security guard with a scowl.
Later on page 9 "That’s what friends do." Funny. "Even when they’re not friends." makes it less funny.
Pg. 11 "Make that three friends. Yours truly here." I'd lose the second sentence. What does it add that isn't already contained in the first sentence?
Pg. 13 "He uses a stupid smiley face. How would I have known what he looked like?" Again, to me the visual gag is funnier. He points to the yellow smiley face, we know exactly what he's talking about, because we've all seen people on facebook who have pictures that aren't them. Trust your audience to get the joke without explaining it.
At other times, you demonstrate some really great subtlety. For instance, on page 52:
TOM: Thank you, Altair. New tie?
ALTAIR: Yes. Yes, it is. Macy’s.
TOM: It’s nice. Thanks for the report. I appreciate it. I do.
Here's a brilliant bit of subtext that talented actors could totally bring alive. It works because we know these characters. We know how much Altair hates dressing like a normal person. And you rightfully refrain from pointing it out to us to make sure we get it.
In addition to this problem, I think that your dialog is often over-written. You could cut large chunks of it (particularly the expository stuff) without sacrificing humor or meaning. You have moments of awesome, snappy, witty stuff, and then occasionally get bogged down telling us information. Most of that information turns out to be either irrelevant, or better communicated visually. I have some specific examples in my page notes.
Here's where you major problem is. Like I said, the first 40 pages are absolutely brilliant. You set it up so perfectly that I was dying to see how everything played out. It follows a very standard screenplay formula, but it's fresh and inventive and a GREAT concept (potentially) that I was really looking forward to seeing just how far you took things.
And then you dropped the ball. I can pinpoint the exact moment when it happened, which is when they arrive at the factory. There are some issues before that, which I'll get to, but the minute Tom starts talking about wanting to save the factory workers, you lost me. You didn't end up going where I thought you were going, which is good, but where you went instead totally killed the momentum of the story.
Up to this point, you had increasing complications. You had Tom getting Spencer and everyone else into more and more ridiculous, funny, and interesting dilemmas. But here they solve the problem. And quickly. What I thought was going to be a MAJOR complication (they get hired to actually do what they are only PRETENDING to do) turns out to be the thing that saves them, and it happens more or less at the midpoint, where things should really start to ramp up.
There's so much potential for drama and humor in this premise. Someone actually hires them, thinking they are a real company, and they actually go and do something. They have now technically committed fraud. But rather than letting them squirm on the hook, you let them off. Then, even given the very easy job of simply handing in a fake report that's already written, they screw it up, and AGAIN, instead of letting them squirm and making the consequence of their actions ramp up the drama in the script, you AGAIN totally let them off the hook.
You follow this with a bachelor party sequence and finance/stripper misunderstanding that we've seen SOOOOO many times before, and then AGAIN, you mostly back out of having Spencer face the consequences. Monica's upset, but she's not THAT upset, and I bought neither her action (leaving him) nor her reason for that action. And also, if this is going to happen, it needs to happen at the break into act III. It sort of does, but not really. Mostly, that's because you haven’t made your characters suffer enough to get here, so it definitely doesn't feel like a dark night of the soul, more of a vaguely twilightish evening of the soul.
Page 65 is way too late to be still in the "fun and games". You started out with a clear goal, that goal got complicated along the way, but now the story is just wandering around. The bachelor party doesn't move the story forward. It keeps it in stasis. This is where the story should be ramping up, the complications and obstacles should be getting bigger, and the story should be getting more intense. Instead, it's fizzling.
Finally, way too late, you bring in the point of this scene. I'd get to it much faster. I'd make Spencer much more reluctant to even be participating in this party. That way, our sympathy stays with him. If he's objecting the whole way, instead of bragging about how drunk he's going to get, then when the phone call comes we feel for him, because he DIDN'T want to be here, or only reluctantly.
That said, this is such a cliché complication that if I were re-writing this script, I'd probably lose it entirely. The whole "girlfriend/wife/fiancé catches her man doing something nasty with strippers and he has to try to explain it to her" thing has been soooooooo done to death. We've seen this scene a thousand times before, and your version of it is neither original nor particularly well-executed. In a script that is very full of inventiveness and originality, that makes it stand out even more.
You then take it in a slightly different direction, which is good, making the fight about IDS instead of the strippers. But on the whole this whole incident feels too much like manufactured conflict. There have to be better ways to get him into a fight with Monica.
It doesn't help that Monica is very under-written and one-note.
Punish your characters. Make them WORK for stuff. Make them fail at getting it, over and over and over. The second half of this script is in such dire need of drama, conflict, and stakes. Conflict, conflict, conflict!!
The only real flaw, plot-wise, in the first 40 is the length of the kickball sequence. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of them joining a corporate kickball league. And you clearly intend this as a fun-and-games set piece. But it just goes on too long and isn't funny enough in itself. It also has no bearing whatsoever on the rest of the plot. You could remove it entirely and it would affect nothing else.
My suggestion is that you cut it way back and use it to further the story. If I were re-writing this, I'd make their potential "job" offer come as a direct result of this kickball game. This not only makes the game relevant to the plot, it adds the potential complication and stakes that the people bringing them this job are a bunch of corporate lawyers. If the lawyers have some sort of client that needs a consulting business, and they suggest IDS, then if Spencer and Tom et al. screw it up, they're going to have to answer to the lawyers, which is BAD. Make your characters suffer. That's your job.
So that's my take. I hope you find it helpful. I really, really wanted to like this script, and I DO, but it can be so much more than it is right now.
Personally, I've still got my eye out for a good comedy feature to direct. This script could be done WELL on a very tight budget, and I'd love to be the one to direct it. But it needs a lot of work, first.
Anyway, best of luck with it, and if you have any questions for me, my inbox is always open. Minor notes to follow...
Pg. 3 "I don’t... He’s not more important than you. I just haven’t seen the guy since high school. We weren’t even that close really. No big deal." The perfect combination of on-the-nose and naked exposition.
Pg. 6 "Of the food or the people?" Chuckled out loud.
Pg. 7 "You’re job" s/b "Your job"
Pg. 7 "looses" s/b "loses"
Pg. 11 "nowadays" is one word. "long-term" needs a hyphen
I know from experience that many companies will be suspicious of you if you have long gaps in your employment history. But I'm not sure I buy the premise that having lost his job THE DAY BEFORE (especially when you make it clear multiple times that he was laid off, not fired) is going to affect his employment chances. Specifically, I can't recall ever having seen an employment advertisement ever say anything like “Must be currently employed” - “No long term unemployed” - “Current employment a plus”. Even if these things were true, I've never seen someone come right out and say it. It's one of those unspoken things.
I know you need to get to the break into act two as quick as possible, but it seems to me like you'd be better off replacing the scene of him at a computer searching for jobs (which, after all, is not terribly visually dynamic) with a scene of him actually landing an interview, and then the subject of his current employment coming up and him having to explain the difference between being laid off and fired, the interviewer clearly being skeptical. You could even throw in a line like "I mean, it's not like I jerked off in the coffee pot or anything." Basically, there's just more potential for humor AND believability if we watch him get in his own way at the interview. Like he's so nervous about the prospect of not having a current job that he psyches himself out and makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy. That I'd buy.
Also, and I'm just throwing this out there, a few weeks is not long enough to make Spencer's situation dire enough. If it were my script, I'd cut to something more like six months or something later. This gives you two advantages: one, it means that Spencer is more likely to have blown through his savings and gotten himself into more dire financial straights, which in turn complicates his plans with Monica, and two, it makes it more believable and more in line with Tom's earlier assertion that unemployment is self-perpetuating. The fact is, a few days or weeks of unemployment is not going to affect your job prospects significantly. But stay unemployed for six months or a year, and suddenly every place you interview is going to ask you WHY, and regardless of your answer, they are all going to be thinking the same thing: what's wrong with this guy that no one else has hired him yet. Which makes it harder to find a job. Which makes unemployment drag on longer. Which makes it harder to find a job. Etc.
Pg. 19 "You wanna to work for me?"
Pg. 20 " I have a MBA" s/b "an MBA"
Pg. 36 This whole scene really bogs down in rather uninteresting and unnecessary exposition. Having Spencer vomit up Monica's backstory is not the best way to get this information out. Try to come up with ways to get information across visually. If, at some point, we SEE these pictures, that's far better than being TOLD about them.
Pg. 53 - "look like your studying the box making" s/b "you're" and "box-making"
Pg. 55 - You just had a second incidence of Tom controlling a flash mob. This had better pay off...
Pg. 57 "The IDS workers help the hard working factory workers find ways to save time.
"Sales people are constantly calling on the phones.
"Everything is moving like clockwork."
What does this LOOK like? Give us specific, visual scenes that illustrate these things. I have no idea what this is supposed to look like on the screen. Tell me exactly what I see and hear, no more, no less.
Pg. 60-61 - "outrank" is one word.
Pg. 62 -" SPENCER: A bachelor party? For me?
TOM: Hell yeah for you! Call the
driver, tell him Spencer's here.
ETHAN: Texted him three minutes ago."
You don't need these lines. Let Spencer react and have the car drive up. This is needless exposition and wasted space that doesn't move the story forward.
I don’t like that they hatch the plan to save the factory right away. While I understand Tom's desire to save jobs, given his own history, I feel like this would be a much stronger plot point if they decide to save the factory AFTER they get to know some of the people they might be firing. That humanizes their decision.
Also, a thousand dollars is a pretty miniscule amount for a business consultant. And it also makes their decision much easier. If, instead, he offer them TEN thousand dollars (or TWENTY thousand), then now they have a big pot of money to split, and passing it up is a much more difficult proposition. You put them to a much more difficult choice.
Page 71 is also way too late, IMO, for this kind of information to come out about Spencer. This is a classic example of telling rather than showing. Through 70 pages, you've given us very little indication that Spencer is the kind of person who would buy Valentine's chocolates the day after, or not go out on New Year's or etc... These are all very interesting traits, and they tell us a lot about Spencer. But it's page *70*. We need this information much much sooner (like, page 10... or page *1*). And we need to SEE it, not learn about it because Monica tells it to us. Add just one incident like these to the early part of the script and you will not only give us valuable information about Spencer, but also valuable information about their relationship that then PREDICTS this conflict later. But right now, it comes completely out of left field, which makes it feel forced. I don't buy her leaving because so far we haven't seen them having any actual problems. read
A review of THE MISSOURI METHOD MURDERSby stevend on 01/03/2012I'm not going to mince words... this script was not very good. It was a quick read, and it didn't make me want to claw my eyes out or drop the assignment in frustration, but it was very clear to this particular reader that I was not in the hands of a master storyteller. The story was easy enough to follow, but I barely believed a word of it. It was coherent in the sense... I'm not going to mince words... this script was not very good. It was a quick read, and it didn't make me want to claw my eyes out or drop the assignment in frustration, but it was very clear to this particular reader that I was not in the hands of a master storyteller.
The story was easy enough to follow, but I barely believed a word of it. It was coherent in the sense that one scene followed another and made sense in the context of the whole, but never really settled on what type of story it was trying to tell. The characters were extremely shallowly-drawn, which made their motivations unclear.
Mechanics - Solid. I caught two typos/errors. For TS that's got to be some kind of record. You've obviously created your story with competence and care.
The writing was serviceable but not particularly inspiring. You told us what was happening, I never felt confused about what was going on, but at the same time, your prose didn't make the story leap off the page. I never really saw the scenes in my head, I read them on the page and was always aware that I was reading.
Pg. 40 - I think "Jonas Valk" should be "Gunther Valk", no? I thought Jonas was the sheriff. And while on the subject, I totally missed the part where Gunther was Jonas's brother and had to go back and re-read that. You tell us that the strip club is owned by the sheriff's brother, but then you don't really let us know that Gunther is said owner (as opposed to just a bouncer or a manager). Which is to say, the only place where you make this explicit is when you name him (once) in the action lines with his full name "Gunther Valk". In script form, this is very easy to miss. In MOVIE form, it's impossible NOT to miss. So something needs to happen in the first strip club scene that makes it explicit that Gunther is the sheriff's brother.
Pg. 55 "BLAIR" s/b "BLARE"
Character - Very weak. You failed to define your characters through any sort of ACTION. They talked. They told us a lot of stuff about themselves, but they never really SHOWED us who they were by what they chose to DO. The closest you came was Bix, whom you introduced in an intriguing way, followed it up with a very character-defining scene (where he kicks David out of the house), and then did absolutely nothing with. He exists in the script solely to further your main character's agenda. The next scene where we see him, he tells a total stranger (whom he thinks might be a reporter or a cop, no less) that he's a local drug dealer.
You have a supposedly gifted criminal profiler who does precisely one bit of profiling which is no so much "profiling" as "guessing". And then he gets it wrong.
Dialog - Also very weak. This dovetails with the character issue. The major problem with your dialog (and by extension, your whole script) is that you have characters telling one another (and us) things that they/you should be SHOWING to us. How do we know that David is burned out by the whole profiling business early in the script? Because we see the toll it is taking on his emotional health? Nope. Because he tells it to Vince. How do we know that his wife's death really affected him? Because we SEE those effects? Nope. Because he tells it to us. This happens over and over and over in this script. The story is advanced through dialog more than through any other means.
Film is a visual medium. Show us these things. We can't take your characters' word for it.
Story/Structure - Meh. It's hard to separate what I see as this scripts major flaws (dialog and character) from the overall feeling of underwhelmingness that the story left me with. If you fix the problems with telling rather than showing, then there is a potentially interesting story here. It's fairly well-structured. You set up your character, give him a goal (if not a particularly compelling one), and he works toward it fairly steadily.
But in the process, all sorts of coincidences and plot conveniences happen that I can't really get behind. It bleeds any sense of tension from the script. The biggest one is David's motivation. Why is he taking this "one last job"? What drives him to do it, even though it gets him beaten to shit, arrested for a crime he didn't commit, and sure to be murdered at some point? On page 41, David says, "I'm not messing around with a drug dealing serial killer and his redneck sheriff brother. I'm just not." Sounds like a very reasonable decision, given what has happened to him in the last 24 hours. That, put together with his earlier retirement, means that you have to give me some reason to believe that he would stay. You don't. So I don't believe you.
Already on page 5 there start to be major plot holes. The FBI is involved, but somehow only the local cops are going to be involved in the SWAT operation. And because Albany is apparently too small to send SWAT teams to two different locations. FYI, the Albany metro area has nearly a million people. They aren't a small town. And this is a serial killer taunting the police and skinning women alive over the telephone, but they can't devote any more resources to it? I can't buy that for a second. And then the only way they can decide which place to go is to ask David to "go with his gut" and choose between two suspects. You never make clear how those two suspects were narrowed down, so again, I don't really buy it. And then after all that, you have them get to the other (real) location on time anyway. No harm, no foul. No big deal. And the girls is fine. I'm not sure what the point of all this is.
Now, I'll freely admit that most of what I know about police procedure comes from watching cop shows on TV. But that's going to be true of 90% of your audience as well. And I don't really buy any of this opening sequence.
I don't believe for a second that the safest place for David in a town where the cops are corrupt meth enablers and potentially in cahoots with serial killers is in the local jail. In fact, I'd say that's the WORST possible place to be. You're trying to set it up as if he can't have an "accident" in the jail cell, but he would if they released him, but I don't buy it for a minute. Trapped in a cage at the mercy of those who want you dead is the worst possible place to be. All a cop has to do is say David reached for his gun (which everyone would believe because he DOES that on page 60) or hang him with his own belt in the cell and say it was a suicide.
And then there is the problem of the complete tonal shift that happens midway through the script, when we shift from police-procedural to supernatural thriller (of sorts). You need to set this up way earlier.
Overall - I'm impressed that you held my interest for a couple of hours, despite the scripts many problems, but I can't see remembering anything about this script a couple of days from now. Work on figuring out how to define your characters through action and using visuals to move the story forward rather than dialog, and figure out how to work in the supernatural angle earlier. read
A review of Ashlandby stevend on 05/29/2011Overall - Exceptionally well-written and professional. Great dialog, great prose, great story. The notes that I have are almost all meant to take the story from "excellent" to "fantastic". From "this would be a decent movie" to "this is an exceptional film". Concept - It's not a concept that leaps out at you. That's perfectly fine by me. Most of my favorite movies... Overall - Exceptionally well-written and professional. Great dialog, great prose, great story. The notes that I have are almost all meant to take the story from "excellent" to "fantastic". From "this would be a decent movie" to "this is an exceptional film".
Concept - It's not a concept that leaps out at you. That's perfectly fine by me. Most of my favorite movies are fairly quiet, realistic dramas like this. But it does mean that the execution has to be pretty-well flawless.
Dialog - Excellent. Very few complaints. There are maybe two times where you spell something out in dialog that could be left unsaid. One is early on, with the parents talking about Keith's previous "trouble", and the other is the line about the miscarriage. I'm not sure it would be a good idea to take them out of the SCRIPT, since they probably help the read, but they are the kind of lines that, as a director, I would cut immediately, having faith that my actors could convey this information without saying it quite so explicitly.
Characters - certainly more than "good" but probably less than "great". I liked Keith. I liked all the characters, really, but I felt like I would have liked to get to know both Mickey and Madeline a little better. They are both so important to the story, ultimately, and I didn’t feel like they had enough screen time, or made enough choices so that we could really see who they WERE, and not just how they fit into Keith's story.
Don't get me wrong, your characters are better than 90% of the writers' on TS. But this story has such potential to transcend "good" that I'd love to see you find that extra 10%.
Story/structure - excellent, but again, could use that last 10% to push it over the top.
When I was reading it, I really liked the episode with the train. But then you cut immediately to quite some time later, and it felt like it was a long time before the train episode became relevant, and when it did, it was only very vaguely relevant. I kept waiting for the script to come back to this, somehow, because it is such a dramatic opening moment, but it never did.
Structurally, by spending so much time with Keith and his parents before this happens, and leaving the train to page 8, you make this FEEL like the inciting incident. But it's not. The first ten pages are essentially prologue. The real inciting incident is not until page 14, when he crashes into the cop car. Personally, I'd lose most of the stuff with the parents. You spend this time with them as if they are going to be important players in the story and they aren't. If I were re-writing this, I'd probably lose the totally unnecessary diner scene and just have the accident happen with the train when they are there for the first time. Keep the prologue down to 4-5 pages, short and sweet.
The only other place that felt weird to me, structurally, was around page 27. The scene with the professor. It feels like you are trying to set up this as the point where he makes the decision to enter the fire department. But since I never really felt that this was much in doubt, this moment felt a little forced. I knew the minute he had the idea for the first time that he was going to do it. So either just have him DO it, or really make us believe somehow that he's NOT going to. The point is, there's not much of a decision point here. There's nothing else really at stake. He doesn't have to choose between becoming a fireman and SOMETHING ELSE, equally important. So making this decision is easy, and therefore, drawing it out as if it isn't easy seems cheap. So make the decision harder, somehow.
It becomes clearer later that he's essentially giving up school and his scholarship, but that's by no means certain, or even implied, at this early point in the script. So you need to find some way to make it clearer that if he chooses to go to the fire department, he's truly putting his scholarship at risk. That invests his choice with real meaning.
Plus, you call attention to Lindsey again, as if she's going to be important when she obviously isn't.
I'm not sure that I like the episode with the cows and Sinatra. Or rather, I like the episode, I'm pretty sure that it doesn't belong HERE. It seems like the kind of thing that you really thought made a good scene and didn't know where else to stick it, but it has exactly zero relevance, that I can see, to the story at this point. This kind of thing belongs maybe in the beginning of the second act. It's a great character moment for Mickey, but it comes so late. This would be a great way to introduce Mickey early on, to help us (and Keith) bond with him. But as a weird little interlude before the climax of the film, it simply doesn’t work. You could cut this scene entirely and no one but you would ever know there was something "missing", which is a sure sign that a scene needs to go.
It sticks out all the more because the rest of the script is so tight.
The other thing I think you should consider is that the bonding between Mickey and Keith feels like it happens way too late in the game, and that really robs the ending of some impact. If you throw something early on that really shows that these two are going to become friends, we'd feel that bond forming earlier. As it is, it's not really until Keith gets kicked out of school that they start to become friends, and to me, that's just too late in the script.
I love the ending. You don't wrap things up neatly. From the beginning of act II, I was expecting a big finish where Keith ends up saving the day at a big fire and was pleasantly surprised when you subverted that. I love scripts that don't try to cram life lessons down the characters' throats.
Here are some notes I took while reading:
Pg. 5 - The second half of this conversation feels a little on-the-nose and expositional. Can you find a better way to introduce the info about the mother drinking? [After reading page 22, I think you DO have a better way. I'd drop this line on page 5 and let us SEE her drinking problem for the first time on page 22].
Pg. 13 "All of a sudden Toby and his friends are righteous." Wasn’t sure what this meant. Righteous as in literally, or righteous as in the eighties use of the word? In other words, I wasn’t sure if the "beating" that followed was a joke, playful, congratulatory beating, or if they were actually doing damage. I gathered it was the latter, a few pages later, but I still don’t understand WHY. I mean, I get that it had something to do with the naked woman in his arms, but you never painted Toby as the kind of guy who would turn on his roommate like that, and I have no idea why the other two guys are joining in, really. I'd make this a little clearer. This just feels a little forced to me.
Pg. 16 "You’re face" s/b "Your face"
Pg. 20 Plus ten points for knowing the proper plural of "apparatus". But minus five points for using "antennae" as a singular noun.
Pg. 20 This is a minor style thing, but I don't like wasting six lines for a quick insert flashback. Personally, I usually write this as something like "In his mind's eye: the girl's severed arm dangles from his fingers".
"Keith and the clerk share that look between men when there’s a pissed off woman in the room." Great line.
I think you hit the "got into trouble in the past" bit too hard and too often. The dad says it. Then the mom says it. Then the mom says it AGAIN. Then Keith asks Jack about it.
Personally, I don't think you need the parents to mention it. Or at least, drop two of them, and make the reference more oblique. On page 28, we'll know he has a juvie criminal record. And leaving more of this unsaid enhances the mystery, especially when he jimmies the door of Madeline's car so quickly. To me, that moment would be so much more effective if we hadn't already been beaten over the head (relatively speaking) with it. I think you handle it fairly subtly, but personally, I'd go subtler. The less we know, the better.
I realy do like how you never go back and try to explain this at a later point in the script. It's just background, and there's no cheap moment where Keith explains the entire thing to Madeline (and the audience). But I would push it even further into the background. Right now it feels like you are calling to much attention to it, trying to make sure that the audience gets it, when it's really just something that informs your character and not something specifically relevant to the PLOT of the story.
Really great script. Best of luck with it. Feel free to hit me up with any questions. read
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