‘Private Eye’ is part of a long-lived cinema genre; the moody, whisky-swilling sleuth who skirts uneasily around the edges of a fragmented society, inevitably becoming tangled up in the passions and deviances of those who hire his services.
Joe Quinn is no exception, and you’ve done a great job here in filling out the portrait of a man who has a lot of love to give, but is constantly fighting his own inclinations towards violence and excess. I like the way that you slowly build our understanding of his character. Indeed all the main players are memorable; Elizabeth’s voyage between normality and mental instability; Morgan’s suave cruelty and manipulation; Red as the loyal sidekick. Your characterisations, together with the dialogue, are I reckon the main strengths of this script. The speech fits naturally in each character’s mouth. I especially like the urbane cadences of Morgan (he just had to be a Brit, didn’t he? – but I don’t hold it against you)!
The gradual peeling away of the layers of the story is also nicely done. More than a few echoes of ‘Chinatown’. I like the way we begin with a peripheral character, Willard (good opening scenes); and in fact Elizabeth doesn’t appear onscreen until page 27. You’ll probably get slammed for that by other reviewers, but it works for me. Up to that point, there’s more than enough to hold our interest.
There’s no doubt about the strength of your writing, and I certainly enjoyed the read. It held my interest right to the end. But I think there are some issues to be addressed. Please feel free to disagree (you probably will!) And please don’t take these to heart; your skills are more than enough to cope with all of them.
The story itself I think leaves some important questions unanswered – perhaps deliberately, but I’m not a big fan of unanswered questions unless they’re organic to the script. It’s never made clear exactly what Morgan’s interest in Samantha is. Presumably it’s either sexual or sadistic or both. But when we finally get to see her, there are no signs of physical abuse. She’s certainly portrayed as being in a state of fear, but it’s not clear what she’s been subjected to. Indeed she seems quite feisty considering she’s been under lock and key for two months. And I don’t understand the ending. It appears that Elizabeth hasn’t finished playing her double-dealing games, but what exactly is she up to? Is she trying to bring Stacey under her perverted spell? And if so, to what purpose, given that Morgan is no longer around to play with her in this great game of deception and abuse?
I’m not sure that you’ve got things quite right for your protagonist. You follow a well-worn trail in his brawls with strangers who just all happen to be unsavoury characters – the man in the elevator, the pimp, the morgue attendant. This runs the risk of appearing clichéd. Personally I think you’d make the point more effectively through just one of these – the pimp, probably. Joe’s penchant for violence is one thing, which in itself is almost obligatory in our modern-day Hollywood hero. But more importantly, Joe shows himself to be a thoroughly unpleasant character when he kills Willard in a needless frenzy of anger. Not only that, but he then uses some of the money he’s stolen from Willard (that’s what we infer) to pay Harry. At this point you cross a line where the audience loses sympathy for him. Maybe that’s your intention, but I don’t believe so, since you continually focus on his desire to win back his daughter. That leaves you with a bit of a problem, in that your story is likely to be seen merely as a vehicle for gratuitous violence.
Joe’s relationship with Stacey also needs some work, I think. I like the angle that Stacey is just a voice on the phone to begin with. It reflects what Joe’s role as a parent has been in her life. But she’s such an important part of his make-up that I think your story loses by not bringing her onscreen; we need at least to meet her in the flesh and underline how important she is to Joe. Your premise that she believes that her father never wanted to ‘fight for her’ doesn’t quite square with the opening scenes, where we discover that Joe is running a legal custody battle for her. And I’m really not convinced that Stacey would just pack her bags and abscond from her mother to run back to her father – at the whim of a total stranger on the phone who claims to be his girlfriend. Especially as we’ve just heard her telling Joe to take a hike. It doesn’t add up.
The last point I’d like to make is that you rely rather heavily on Red to be the agent for moving the story forward. Much of Act 2 seems to consist of Red reporting on his investigations to Joe, who then gets into a fight, has another briefing from Red, gets into another fight, has another briefing from Red, and so on… I know it’s difficult to come up with variations on a theme but I suppose that’s the challenge we all struggle with.
Other reading notes:
1 (she just looks at him; he gestures toward the beach).
Quite frequent use of parentheses which should really be separate action lines. I do this quite a bit myself, mainly to avoid eating up page space, but if it’s more than five or six words it should really have a line of its own. Also you tend to use ‘beat’ quite a lot. It becomes a bit jaded.
35 You're old girlfriend seems to think so. Do you mean ‘his old girlfriend’?
75 Joe’s assault on Tony’s car and his effortless conquest over four hoodlum guys is a little too far-fetched for me!
77 I’m not sure what the backstory about Elizabeth’s sister being an identical twin brings to the story. Is it supposed to have some Freudian bearing on her mental state?
88 He decides to use the severed arm as a weapon. Now this is veering towards unintentional comedy!! Unless of course that’s what you intend… but it doesn’t fit the tone of the script.
Typos, punctuation and boring stuff:
1 You sure your friend won't mind?
2 Ripped a guy’s face off in a fight.
14 You think you're helping her out?
17 … in Willard’s face.
17 Willard's hand finds a glass…
19 No Samanthas, no Grimes.
22 Joe drops a thick envelope…
23 I believe her name's Elizabeth.
23 …her agent’s number…
24 You’re so full of yourself.
24 This is you, isn't it?
33 …seems to waver a bit…
34 The buzzer rings, round’s over…
34 …a dozen speeding tickets. Big ones.
35 A mansion off Mulholland…
35 Your old girlfriend seems to think so.
47 I see what you’re doing here…
48 And is that champagne she's holding, a minor?
49 …no dirt, no scandals…
53 Unsportsmanlike conduct…
59 The knuckles of her hands go pure white…
67 Why the devil should I care what those two do together?
76 What do you know about the girl?
83 …then, Stacy answers-- Suddenly you’re spelling her name without an ‘e’.
88 doesn't want to let go of its grip on his wrist.
88 Joe arrives at the main entry; it is huge…
91 That's where we always went to hide.
91 …don't you, Elizabeth?
93 Morgan takes out a cigarette; lights up.
97 WHY DID HE PUT YOU IN HERE? WHO ARE YOU???
WHAT DO YOU WANT???
That’s all from me, Chris. Hope it helps. As I say, with a few focused chunks of re-writing I reckon this could be a really solid script. Good luck with it.
Review of: Private Eye
reviewed by Rfordyce on 03/05/2012
Review ID: 4145500
Other Reviews by Rfordyce 107
A review of The Curtainby Rfordyce on 06/14/2013Hi Neil, I’m sorry this review has taken so long. We’ve actually been moving house (from Somerset to Surrey) and I’ve been offline for a week or so. Anyway, we’ve now packed away enough cardboard boxes to allow me to clamber over to my laptop, so here goes. ‘The Curtain’ is a very heartfelt story about coping with terminal illness, and it’s the sort of topic that most scriptwriters... Hi Neil, I’m sorry this review has taken so long. We’ve actually been moving house (from Somerset to Surrey) and I’ve been offline for a week or so. Anyway, we’ve now packed away enough cardboard boxes to allow me to clamber over to my laptop, so here goes.
‘The Curtain’ is a very heartfelt story about coping with terminal illness, and it’s the sort of topic that most scriptwriters avoid like the plague. I applaud you for even tackling the project. I see also that it’s your first venture on to Trigger Street, so congratulations on that. I also see from the ratings and from your posts on the Message Board that the script has not only had positive reviews on TS but has also garnered some interest from industry professionals. That’s a huge boost and you must be excited about the prospect of a possible production. I hope all the pieces fall into place for you.
Basically your story is a very simple one and the way that events unfold for Fiona and Peter is told with assurance and style. The concept itself is also solid – girl falls in love with terminally ill man and after his death falls for a close relative and has to deal with the decisions thrust upon her. There are of course many ways in which you could approach this. The idea was the driving force behind ‘Love Story’ (“Love means never having to say you’re sorry”!) but if I remember correctly there was no second romance involved.
These things said, I have to admit that the story didn’t really work for me. I wish I could say that it did, because it’s such a worthy topic. And in view of the positive feedback you’ve already had, please remember that it’s only my opinion, so feel free to ignore it. In fact it may well be that the subject matter is dear to your heart from personal experience, so I apologise if this is so. The reasons for most writers’ aversion to this theme are not difficult to understand – the downbeat nature of the story, perceived lack of marketability, possibility of descending into cheesy schmaltz, etc etc. This last element is perhaps the most obvious drawback: my impression is that the script rather self-consciously appeals to feelings of empathy and compassion for the main characters, and lays the pathos on with a trowel.
The dialogue is witty but it often lacks interest because Fiona, Peter and Adam are very similar characters and there isn’t much to differentiate them. They share the same sense of humour and talk in a very similar way. You almost know what they’re going to say before they say it. There’s very little of that vital edginess which comes from characters who are dissimilar and have different speech patterns.
If I had to pick out the major factor where the script is lacking it would be in conflict. You’ve probably heard the message already on TS that Conflict Is King. But in this script there really is no conflict. Sure, Peter has a fierce external antagonist – his terminal illness. But there really are no personal battles with other characters at the heart of the story. No rabid ex-wife who hijacks Peter’s final illness for her own agenda; no cynical family members who try to stop Fiona becoming tied to a doomed suitor; no petty hassles from employers, health managers, public servants or estranged family members. Instead, everyone is very nice to each other. It would be far more interesting, say, if Peter was already embittered and cynical about the cards which fate has dealt him, and showed no interest whatsoever in Fiona initially. In ‘Love Story’, Ryan o’ Neal’s character had to overcome the antagonism of his father-in-law in order to deal with Ali McGraw’s final struggle. If you’re working on a re-write, the development of conflict should be your top priority. Just my opinion!
I hope you can take something positive from these notes and I do wish you every success with it. Please keep us posted on TS about the progress of the project. Other reading notes I made along the way are as follows:
1 A quiet residential street in Eastbourne's Old Town.
For those unfamiliar with Eastbourne (about 99% of your readership, I should think!) you need to give some visual clues about the setting.
1 Fiona asks him if he has any letters for her. He hasn't.
General rule is: unless the dialogue is of an entirely insignificant nature, or just ‘background chatter’ it needs to be formatted as dialogue. This occurs throughout your script so I won’t mention it again – I just use the term multiple or MULT.
1 EXT. BEACHY HEAD
You definitely need some description of this location. Most readers don’t know it.
1 BEGIN FLASHBACK:
SERIES OF SHOTS
This can be incorporated in one slugline, e.g. –
FLASHBACK: SERIES OF SHOTS
There’s a slight problem here. The sequential order of your flashbacks implies that the action takes place concurrently. But Peter’s actions happen over a longer time period. Maybe you should only have Fiona appearing in the later parts of the flashback, i.e. – as Peter drives to Beachy Head.
2 ...towards the South Downs...
Again, you need to fill in the reader with some clues about the South Downs. Basically these opening location shots should strongly underpin the atmosphere you’re trying to create – a beautiful but melancholy place. So you need to bring it alive for the reader through your description.
2 ... suicide jockey...
Never heard that one before. I suspect it’s American. Try to avoid unfamiliar phrases which may pull the reader out of the story.
3 No need for the (MORE) at the foot of this page. You can fit all the dialogue in.
5 Today only! (beat)
In dialogue, you use ‘beat’ quite frequently – most scriptwriters try to avoid it these days. You also often insert a blank line (sometimes even two) where, I assume, a pause is intended: I haven’t seen that before. You definitely don’t need both! MULT.
6 You do tend to use ellipses ... a great deal... It can get... quite ... IRRITATING!
8 They walk back to the car park, put Seamus in the back, drive down the hill.
Sequential actions like this need to be written ‘in real time’, i.e. – the action should last for roughly the amount of time it takes to read the words. Basically, think of one page as a minute of screen time. In practice a director wouldn’t show all this; it adds nothing to the story. They would probably just cut to the next scene. So write only what needs to be seen and heard on screen. MULT.
This opening scene between Fiona and Peter has some nice touches but it feels as if she’s being too pushy. If she’s trying to give him the come-on she’d be a bit more obvious about it; if she’s trying to be a Good Samaritan she’d probably have established in her own mind after a lengthy conversation that he’s not a suicide risk, so she would be unlikely to ask an unknown male, possibly with psychological issues, back to her place. It just doesn’t sit comfortably in my mind that she’d act like that - but please remember that’s just my opinion.
9 So, Eeyore, you don't say much, do you?
I’m not sure how many readers are familiar with dear old Eeyore!
9 Why call me Eeyore? FIONA 'Cos you always look so fecking
...and my rule of thumb is; if you find yourself explaining a joke, it’s probably not a good one!
14 Fiona walks back in with toast and orange juice.
She hasn’t had time to do that – see previous note.
18 Peter's three children enter the kitchen.
Might be an idea to offer some explanation for their absence and sudden entry. Where have they been?
21 Lizzie said she's doing it at school... She said something to me... What does 'non illegitimi carborundum' mean?
I’m probably completely off the mark here, but do any children these days learn Latin at primary school? And at Lizzie’s age, I’d think they’re more likely to be at the ‘Amo amas amat’ stage.
28 ...his sister ALICE...
Quite a similar name to Alex, his ex-wife. Try to avoid this – it can cause confusion.
I find the scene with Peter’s family a bit confusing. Sheila and Alice ‘gasp’ when Peter makes an oblique reference to his impending death. But on the next page it seems clear that they already know about it. Are they gasping in surprise, or just because they’re amazed by his rudeness?
31 The dialogue here feels too much ‘on the nose’ – try to think of other ways of giving this information. MULT.
32 Peter undergoes an M.R.I. Scan, attends a meeting with Mr Sadiq in his office.
Should be written as a montage.
32 So, d'you want to hear the results of my latest scan?
Again, a little too direct. Try to find more varied ways of getting this information across.
34 Quite a moving little scene, Peter falling asleep.
42 It's ambrosia from far-flung Rye Harbour! Topped off with a bottle of Chateau Sarsons!
The local English references are appealing, but just remember that most of the readers on TS are non-UK. Rye Harbour and Chateau Sarsons are probably lost on them.
43 Fiona enters, escorted by her UNCLE DERMOT.
Uncle Dermot has no speaking role so possibly you shouldn’t name him. Or better – give him a small role to play – he could be a comic guest appearance (Irish? Rural? Absent-minded? – lots of possibilities).
44 I think there’s a missed opportunity in Claudia. She’s extremely hostile to the rest of the family, for no apparent reason. She’s such a bitch that she’s not really believable – in my opinion, anyway. There must be reasons why she’s so nauseous. She could also have a meatier role to play in an Adam-Fiona-Claudia triangle, which would offer you more scope for genuine conflict within the story. Instead, she just conveniently drifts out of the story.
Also this scene kind of plays out in a predictable repetitive way. Most of what the characters say is repeating information in a different way, except for the part about helping ‘through our dad dying’, which is new information. Try to rely less on dialogue and more on actions and subtext.
Also, in your action blocks, there’s an awful lot of unnecessary ‘fluff’. The audience don’t need to see every movement or facial expression a character makes. As an example, the scene with the hotel receptionist is unnecessary, and also the movement from one scene to the next. A good rule of thumb in scene writing is ENTER LATE, LEAVE EARLY. You could simply write:
Well, Mrs Robbins, I thought a nice country hotel, then a honeymoon touring the country - England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland even. Anywhere you want!
EXT. COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL – NIGHT
A very charming hotel. Peter and Fiona walk in, carrying their cases.
INT. BRIDAL SUITE – NIGHT
The room is laid out sumptuously, with flowers and chocolates. Peter pours two glasses of champagne as a PORTER leaves the room. They clink glasses.
Darling Neef. Thank you for becoming my wife.
51 Fiona shows the signs of pregnancy.
Sheila would spot it straight away if she did!
58 None of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt.
You can’t just write this – you have to demonstrate it through action and / or dialogue. Only write what you can see or hear on screen. Anyway it’s not really relevant to your story.
Nothing sinister, you daft git.
I presume this should be Alex talking, not Fiona?
61 INSERT SUNSET
Not sure what you’re trying to do here?
71 The emblem of Kent County Cricket Club... is emblazoned...
If Peter is a massive Kent County fan, I think you need to place a few more pointers for it earlier in the script.
77 I don’t get the jacket / geography connection. Maybe I missed something.
82 ... chats to SAMANTHA (early 40s), her bereavement counsellor.
It seems a little late in the story to be introducing a character who plays a significant role.
90 Adam pours the last drops of a wine bottle into Fiona's glass.
So how are you all keeping?
Again, enter late and/ leave early. They’ve just had a meal and a bottle of wine. They’re well past the stage of ‘how are you keeping’. I’d be inclined to go straight to the ‘So you mean to say we've been sitting in two separate houses’. The rest is fluff.
92 Often when you’re in a fixed venue and the action moves from room to room, it’s best to use subsidiary slug headings. That’s definitely the case here. So at the beginning of the scene you can have
INT. PETER AND FIONA'S HOUSE (KITCHEN) – NIGHT
and when they move to the lounge it could be:
Fiona gets up, walks into the
and puts some music on.
Care to dance?
All changed! ???
Typos, grammar, boring stuff....
5 He looks out to sea again.
5 ... being a brain surgeon.
10 The doctors have found...
14 ... what he can get.
17 be fine... Seamus needs...
21 It means 'Don't...
22 ...puts down the crossword,...
29 ... a whole production line of Fionas?
31 How are you feeling, Peter?
34 Fiona and Peter enter, laughing...
37 ... one of the things...
37 Look, Eeyore, I'm totally...
49 He's been our doctor...
54 ... your Auntie Maud?
56 Coffee sponge overdose?
57 ... how do you think?
58 ... we'll give you more news...
59 Boy and girl...
59 Oh God, I'm so sorry.
65 Fiona enters the room, sits down next to Peter...
70 ...so much I still wanted...
72 ... most of all I’m thankful...
82 ... don't know if I'm ready...
83 How are you, Fiona..?
84 ... pulls out an envelope.
84 Peter Jr and Lizzie look lovingly at Fiona.
85 How are the twins... Getting big now, I guess?
87 Knowing you, you'll probably..
87 There's no recipe...
92 They dance. Adam places his hands...
95 They walk to Adam's car, load up with... read
A review of The Uglyby Rfordyce on 05/08/2013Philip, this script is certainly worthy of attention. It fits much more into an ‘art house’ style rather than being anywhere near a mainstream audience. It seems to have its roots more in stage theatre than on the big screen, and your comment about it coming from ‘a much longer work’ is intriguing – is it derived from a theatrical work, or did you envisage it as a longer... Philip, this script is certainly worthy of attention. It fits much more into an ‘art house’ style rather than being anywhere near a mainstream audience. It seems to have its roots more in stage theatre than on the big screen, and your comment about it coming from ‘a much longer work’ is intriguing – is it derived from a theatrical work, or did you envisage it as a longer film, or possibly a series of films?
I enjoyed it. I find the development of Frank and Agnes to be one of the strongest elements. Your comments show that you’re aware some reviewers will complain about the lack of dramatic action and the meandering of the storyline, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. However I’m sure you’re also aware that this script is never going to figure highly in terms of box office success. It is in a different place, which is what I assume you’re aiming for.
The story is full of symbolism and imagery, and to me Frank and Agnes represent the original Innocents. Roots and vines claim Agnes as their own, a child of Nature. But Frank and Agnes don’t fit into the world of men and women. Even their carved effigies don’t fit into the model carved village. They have to stumble and stutter their way through a world where materialism and power are the watchwords of society. It is very touching and at times very brutal.
The characters in the story are portrayed not so much as individuals but as metaphors for human states of being. Smalls is the ever-‘improving’, ever-colonising mindset of Western society; Cybil an idealisation of motherhood; George the gifted dreamer whose creations are sullied through contact with the marketplace. The storyline takes liberties with authenticity; finding Agnes half-dead in a ditch is a bizarre means of kicking things off; the convergence of hundreds of wagoners in the desert to build a town out of nothing is a tall tale. There again, maybe you were thinking of Las Vegas? But in the metaphorical world you create, you can pull off stunts like that.
The way you handle both Frank and Agnes’s speech is very skilful. You put enough country bumpkin talk into Frank’s mouth to make him realistic, while it never gets in the way of the reader. Agnes’s gradual growth into articulate speech is masterly. George’s self-delusion is totally believable.
I don’t have much to criticise. Some elements could be developed more fully. The incipient sexual attraction between Agnes and the two men could be more pointedly dramatised. Both Frank and Agnes’s backstories could benefit from a little more meat on the bones – but that’s just my opinion, and I did find the scenes with Frank’s dead mother very moving, particularly because of Frank’s matter-of-fact demeanour.
Although the setting is 19th century, you don’t offer much in the way of visual or linguistic clues to point our way. Perhaps a few extra polishing touches would make a big payoff.
There are one or two formatting points. You don’t need to provide scene numbers. That would be for a shooting script and it would be done by a scene director anyway. Your sluglines tend to be over-detailed. There are some typos which I’ve listed at the end.
1 THE LATE 19TH CENTURY TOWN OF NEELY.
To be deliciously pedantic for a moment:
(a) The tag of ‘19th century’ should be inferred from your description, dialogue, or a SUPER. Not from the slugline.
(b) Although it’s a town, you refer to the inhabitants as ‘villagers’. You need to clarify.
6 Why is Frank leading her by the neck with the rope?
11 Agnes is filling out.
Have they been there for some time now? It doesn’t feel like very long.
12 EXT. RIVERSIDE AT NEELY. MORNING.
The previous scene is DAY but we’re now back at MORNING, although the two scenes appear to be more or less sequential. In general you’re better to stick to DAY and NIGHT to avoid confusion.
15 Only the teenage girls remain.
And Agnes! – needs more clarity.
17 The teenage girls intervene on Agnes’ behalf, and then jeer at her? The tone doesn’t seem right.
19 When he speaks again, it’s the voice of a ten year old.
Is this purely metaphor, or do you mean it literally? If so, how long does it last??
27 Autumn has turned the leaves brown. Frank’s hair has grown.
We’ve moved on again. Presumably Frank has been living rough all this time?
28 ...the little chicken from the other day...
This doesn’t fit. Several months must have passed.
36 Heavy pots fall on her. She lies still.
Has she been killed?
42 God, th’ place stinks o’ bein’ lonely....seems like nobody ever come ’ere...
I really like that line.
44 They meet an old couple, who I think are supposed to be Agnes’s parents, but it’s pretty ambiguous.
55 SLOW FADE
These are effective.
70 Some physical description of Robert Smalls would be good.
77 You could use a mini-slugline here, e.g. –
Agnes can just make out a large table covered with a cloth.
She is led to stand alongside.
81 Excuse me, but you called your dog...
‘Excuse me’ is a modern term for astonishment – it just doesn’t fit with 19th century dialogue. In general, I feel Claire’s dialogue is just a little too modern in idiom.
88 ...and all those other people who say one thing and mean another.
Maybe you could make more of this theme. I’m thinking of the dramatic irony in Agnes’s learning to communicate through speech, while simultaneously realising that it’s often used to deceive.
88 But Frank, I can’t tell the foxes from the rabbits!
106 This should be written as dialogue.
Typos, punctuation, etc...
11 ... a mind of its own!
11 ...that sets you off real nice.
16 ...better lay off the sauce...
25 CYBIL MORGAN’S HOUSE.
36 She smiles up at him...
46 Frank is excited that the letters match.
50 Frank sleeps, his mouth open.
55 A woman sits ... at the front of the first wagon; her husband... talks with George.
63 ...to see if George’s eyes are closed.
63 ... opens the drawer...
71 ... believe we’ve found it!”
74 She’s joined by...
79 The light spreads out...
80 By the way,..
85 ... several new buildings to the east...
94 You’re scared, aren’t you?
That’s all from me. I really enjoyed the read, Philip. I hope you can take this to the next level. read
A review of Goblin Marketby Rfordyce on 01/16/2013This is the first screenplay I’ve reviewed which has been inspired by a poem, so full marks for notching up that one! There’s a lot to commend in this script. I enjoyed the constant visual flow of your descriptive passages. You are adept at painting striking images in the mind of the reader, and the story keeps up an increasing pace in suspense and gruesome action as you... This is the first screenplay I’ve reviewed which has been inspired by a poem, so full marks for notching up that one!
There’s a lot to commend in this script. I enjoyed the constant visual flow of your descriptive passages. You are adept at painting striking images in the mind of the reader, and the story keeps up an increasing pace in suspense and gruesome action as you build towards its climax.
The dialogue is pretty sharp and observant, and there’s a good sense of character description and development throughout. I like how you’ve given all the main characters some very recognisable traits. Eliza is the mother hen to Laura’s headstrong wilful child. Although Laura almost becomes a caricature of standard horror fodder as she appears hell-bent on thrusting herself into every conceivable situation of danger and thrill-seeking that she can find. Sam is a cynical opportunist; Claire a slut; Beth a victim; Jimmy an introverted loner, and so on.
The story itself is of course loosely based on Rossetti’s poem, but you’ve brought it into the modern world (well, Cornwall anyway!) and made it your own. And some of the scenes are genuinely creepy and suspenseful – I can easily envisage them in glorious ghoulish colour on the big screen.
I have to say that horror is not my genre of choice, but I hope I can give you some useful feedback. But please bear that in mind if some of the comments seem a bit wayward. As I say, there’s a lot to enjoy here but I definitely think you need to make some improvements.
Firstly, the Goblins. You just introduce them with hardly a word of description or justification. They just appear and we’re expected to buy into the premise. Perhaps you’re seduced by the opening of the poem: “Morning and evening / maids heard the goblins cry...” and think if it’s good enough for Rossetti it’s OK for you. But she’s aiming at a 19th century audience, many of whom probably believed in goblins anyway. And of course she’s writing poetry, not a film script. You can get away with stuff like that in poetry. To my mind you can’t get away with it in a script, not even a horror one. Today’s audience needs to know who these creatures are. How did they come into existence? What’s their relationship with humans? Tell us more about the fruit thing! And last but not least, what do they actually look like? Your description is really good and yet you say hardly anything about these little beasties except to give them names.
While we’re talking about Goblins, I’ll jump to the end of the story just now. They are the main antagonists. But at the end, they’re neither defeated nor victorious. They sort of slink off into the sunset, but they’re muttering threats at Eliza as they go. I think you need a sharper resolution. Oh, and the bit about her suddenly finding she could kill one just by throwing a burning brand at it – that sort of comes out of nowhere. You could set it up better. Maybe she could somehow kill them all off by driving them into the bonfire. Unless of course you’re planning a sequel. Son of Goblin. The Phoenix Goblins Arise. That sort of thing.
Perhaps more importantly, it feels to me like your story is more a collection of disconnected sequences rather than an organic whole. A plane drops dust... a baby gets baked alive... a herd of cattle swarm over a car... a collection of stitched-up corpses. And I couldn’t really figure out what the Weatherfields’ motivation was for their ghoulish taxidermy. What were they trying to achieve? Maybe I’m being over-critical, but I think you need to look closely at your main themes and try to make the story more of a whole. The main battle is between the Goblins and the two girls. You need to make that the backbone of the script, and weave the other themes around it: repressed sexuality, lesbianism, self-control v. laissez-faire, and all that stuff.
The other thing is, you need to give this baby a really good proofread. There are an awful lot of spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors, most of which should be picked up by any decent spellcheck program. I’ve listed the ones I found below, but I stopped after 20 pages (it tends to get worse as the script proceeds).
At 122 pages, the script could also do with a fair bit of trimming.
My other reading notes are shown below:
0 Your title page is a little confusing. It looks as if the script has been partly-written by Christina Rossetti. Maybe something like ‘Inspired by Christina Rossetti’ would fit the bill.
1 No need for the CONTINUED at the top and bottom of each page – you only use it if there’s a dialogue chunk running over from one page to the next.
24 Seems rather strange that Eliza accepts Laura’s fruit-fuelled binge without question. Especially as she reveals later that she had a visit from Mister Greenway, who had dragged Laura out of a lake.
36 You’ve heard the story of the girl...
This is mentioned a couple of times but not really developed. I think you need to expand on it a little.
68 The scene with the doctor doesn’t sit well. The notion that any qualified medical practitioner would even debate the wisdom of feeding more of the same poison – which he admits he doesn’t ‘know anything about’ – to someone who’s at death’s door, just doesn’t make sense. I think you need to find a way round that one.
103 A really good horror scene as Eliza kills Margaret, scalds Richard and gets a finger chopped off. What happens to Grace? I don’t think we find out.
122 The girls drive away. But there’s a hint of ambiguity.
Typos / spelling / grammar (first 20 pages)
1 …stretches its red tentacles…
3 Its talons crease the … shirt.
3 Eliza breaks off.
4 …into the sea, miles below. They’re several miles above sea level?!
4 To the girls’ right…
5 The girls move away…
6 Jimmy nods appreciatively.
7 …notices a woman sitting in the corner…
8 Damn you, hideous tyke!
8 Beth pushes her pint over to Sam.
10 It’s seen more than most, that’s for sure.
12 Ah, you know me.
13 ... aren’t you?
13 She said no, alright?
13 Sam glares, indignant.
13 Eliza backs off, mortified.
15 Nobody’s seen them for years...
16 She emerges; sees Laura lying...
16 sees Laura lying amongst brookside rushes, eyes wide. Laura stares out...
16 ... large cedar tree...
16 Lizzie, look!
16 Eliza presses her back fearfully...
16 The Goblins dance maniacally...
16 ...from the glen...
18 The Goblins dance and CHANT...
19 She shakes her head, fearful, and withdraws.
20 His pincers chop.
20 Laura cups the fruit in her hands; her eyes stare...
20 ...her eyes stare, thick with desire.
20 ... down her wrist and neck.
I hope some of this is useful to you, Jack. Thanks for the read. read
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