This script charts the ups and downs of Harold Godwin, as he travels from lord to king, to getting an arrow in the eye at the Battle of Hastings. The plot is reasonably clear, though I confess some of the finer points of the various intrigues, rebellions and councils were lost on me. What is this story really about? This is a world that’s not been brought to screen for a while—a swords and banners medieval epic. Harold stands for justice and humanity in a brutal world. Why does he lose? What brings him down? I assume you’ve done your research, and you’re telling it much like it happened. But in terms of story—why does Harold lose?
Here is my understanding of the structure: The story starts with Harold’s family members being kidnapped and handed over into the ‘safe-keeping’ of Duke William. Long first act as Harold tries various ways of getting them back. Various subplots simmer away—love interest with ‘Swan-neck,’ and wrangling over Northumbrian matters and the Succession. First act climaxes with Harold making his choice—he will become King. This sets in motion the second act—consolidating his power, putting down rebellions. Second act climax—Harold’s brother dies. Harold has put country ahead of family. Third act—Duke William invades, threatening the survival of Harold’s kingdom, for which he has sacrificed so much, climaxing with a ‘down ending’ as William gets it at Hastings. Sorrow of war.
Harold was perhaps a little too consistently ‘good’ for me to relate to as a character. How is he changed by the story? His main dilemma, which I took to be loyalty to country and justice versus loyalty to family, seems a little too easily settled. He has so much right on his side, that when he kills his brother, Tosti, there’s no real emotion. This should be a major emotional peak in the story, but it just fell flat for me. Can you find a way of punching up this conflict, and taking Harold on more of a journey? This story did not touch my emotions.
The dialogue was patchy. You haven’t done enough yet to make it sound true to the period. At the moment, it’s contemporary English peppered here and there with archaic phrases. Occasionally reads like a Tolkein parody. I think you either have to go further with the language, delve into Shakespeare and other sources, and work on it word-by-word to achieve and even tone, or just write it in the clearest formal, contemporary English you can. It’s tough to write period dialogue, and very easy to make it sound over-heavy. Some of the official announcements and proclamations sounded fairly convincing.
Also, on page one, I think you need to do something to evoke the period—a bit of costume description, some suggestion. Are we looking at the Bayeux tapestry? A Bruegel painting? Just a few words to put me in the picture.
You do a bit of ‘we see’ and calling the shots, which are sometimes frowned upon in a spec script. Overall, I think you need to think about wielding a two-edged battle axe, and find what can be cut. Long blocks of dialogue, long blocks of scene description. You’ve got to pare that down, as it’s a slow read at the moment.
What sort of budget do you think you’d need to film it? I’m thinking multimillions.
I’ve got to give this a ‘pass’ in its present form, although I do think you might persevere through a few more drafts if you’re really fired up about it. You obviously have a pretty good feel for the history, and perhaps people who liked Lord of the Rings and Excalibur would go for Guardian of the Shore.
Review of: Guardian of the Shore
reviewed by Jackson Pillock on 05/17/2007
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