Sometimes it's the heart that gets schooled.
HOW IT RATES
“SEVEN BILLION AND ONE” is a comedic look at the question everyone’s asked themselves at some point in their life…”What if”. Imagine being born the seven billionth human and all the fame and fortune that would follow. Now imagine you missed being that person by seven seconds and are the seven billionth and first human. Calvin has recently been laid off from his job, is fighting depression, and is turning 40. A friend recommends a Psychiatrist for Calvin. The Psychiatrist specializes in hypnosis, and soon after Calvin’s visit he’s able to see what life would have been like if he were the seven billionth. Is it everything he dreamt it would be?
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Reviews of Seven Billion and One 13
by Matt Compton on 04/01/2011There was quite a lot in this script that reminded me of some very fondly remembered '80's movies like Trading Places or Brewster's millions or even Big. That's a pretty good thing in my book though I think you could do with updating it a little bit... though more on that in a little bit. Overall, this is a pretty nice script. Well written for the most part, a tight story... There was quite a lot in this script that reminded me of some very fondly remembered '80's movies like Trading Places or Brewster's millions or even Big. That's a pretty good thing in my book though I think you could do with updating it a little bit... though more on that in a little bit.
Overall, this is a pretty nice script. Well written for the most part, a tight story and a few funny scenes and lines as well as a little bit of 'sweetness' which I think is all too lacking in modern movies.
I do however think that there are a few fundamental flaws with it which, to me, really prevent it from being a standout script. Firstly, the premise. I just don't get it to be honest. It doesn't make any sense to me. How could anybody calculate who the seven billionth person to be born is? How would that remotely be possible? What with people being born and dying literally every second all round the globe, how would this work? Also and maybe even more importantly - why would anyone care in the slightest what number any person was let alone heap riches and adulation upon them? Maybe a certain breed of z-list celebrity status would be feasible but only just. I can see this idea working but you'd need to use a different sort of 'accident of birth' type circumstance in my view.
Also, the structure seems pretty off to me. The set-up is much too long and much too eventless. Make Calvin go into the alternate world much sooner. it should be the catalyst in a film like this. Set Calvin up in the first ten pages or so and show him struggling with his life and wishing for something else. Chuck the theme in there too nice and early - 'Life is what you make of it'. Let us know what your story is about and then tell us that story. Why wait about? That would also give us much more time in the alternate world with Calvin as the rich guy to see a character arc. At the moment it all just kind of happens. Put Calvin through his paces more - make him really love this new life but then learn to hate it through some really meaningful events. think about stuff that really would make Calvin have to compromise his very basic morals and ethics, stuff that would be completely intolerable to him. Something so big that he would give up millions of dollars for it. In the film Arthur this was done with the love story where Arthur gave up his money for true love rather than convenient marriage. Perhaps you could amp up the love story here - make it much more important to Calvin. Maybe something he neglects and undervalues but realises he needs more than anything else in the world.
Also on that point, I think Calvin needs to be a more developed character. Show us what he likes and dislikes sure but also show us what he loves and hates, what he adores and what he despises. Make us KNOW him but also I think we kind of need to love him too. He needs to be more endearing and more quirky. Less depressing and mopey. Still make him as an everyman but give him some more unusual characteristics perhaps? I am rather uncomfortable with the way he seems to be all for the boobs n' beer but then runs a mile when confronted with anything like a real chance at any sexual encounter.
I think this also brings us onto the tone. At times it feels like a light hearted family comedy from the eighties while at others it feels like a teen gross out or Farrely brothers movie. The comedy is a little inconsistent and borders sometimes on the offensive. The fact that he runs screaming from the transexual for example could be seen as a pretty unpleasant way to treat somebody who he has already had a sexual encounter with and has offered nothing but positivity towards him. Maybe his reaction should be seen as wrong in some way and the actions of a spoilt rich kid that he is becoming rather than the kind-hearted man he should be? Just a thought.
Finally, I'd just like to mention your writing style which is nice and economic and flows in a pacy, slick way. I would recommend that you stop putting (beat) into your dialogue however. It simply doesn't need it and can put many readers off.
I hope these comments are useful to you. This is on the way to being a pretty nice little script. read
by **DELETED ACCOUNT** on 03/21/2011Ok first off I'd like to congratulate you on creating on creating a likable character. I read a lot of screenplays that don't even have lovable scoundrels. The screenplay isn't really my style but that's not saying much because I hardly like anything. However you have done better than most on this website. You started out with a story and ended with that same story. Meaning... Ok first off I'd like to congratulate you on creating on creating a likable character. I read a lot of screenplays that don't even have lovable scoundrels.
The screenplay isn't really my style but that's not saying much because I hardly like anything. However you have done better than most on this website. You started out with a story and ended with that same story. Meaning you didn't dance around the plot and take a simple story and turn it into some Twilight Zone episode where the reader or viewer has to make up their own mind about what happened. There wasn't a lot of F words and violence to ditract from the plot. Maybe a little too much nudity but I'm a girl so yeah. The thing that kept me from liking it is it seems to be like and adult version of a Disney Channel Original. Little Kara isn't as popular as Veronica. Kara has a magic star cross over her head and then poof she is Veronica. She soon realizes what bitch Veronica is and wants to be herself again.
One thing though I wish you of had some slight moment where Calvin was living it up as the Seven. It was a little too It's a Wonderful Life for me. Here's what he's wanted his whole life and just seconds after he gets it he's over it.
The ending though is cool. It's kind of scary that there are that many people in the world.
However your story shows how fleeting fame is and how anyone will degrade themselves for a five second shot at it. Like the plot and the characters maybe get to the hypnotist sooner and let us see Calvin enjoying his time the way the Seven would. read
by David Muhlfelder on 03/17/2011This is the second assignment in a row that boasts a really good concept. I love the idea of missing out on being the seven billionth human, and all the benefits it entails, by just seven seconds. It's also the second assignment in a row where a great concept is undermined by poor execution. The structure is way out of whack almost from p. 1. We meet Calvin as an adult on... This is the second assignment in a row that boasts a really good concept. I love the idea of missing out on being the seven billionth human, and all the benefits it entails, by just seven seconds. It's also the second assignment in a row where a great concept is undermined by poor execution.
The structure is way out of whack almost from p. 1. We meet Calvin as an adult on the verge of suicide, then flashback to his life growing up as seven billion and one. The first act is almost 35 pages, more than a third of the script. It might make more sense to use a linear narrative in act one. Open with a series of brief episodes starting with Calvin's birth, and take him to the brink of suicide, which leads to his friends to send him to Dr. Van Koff. And it could all be done in about 25 pages. Right now, each episode in the flashback goes on way too long. There should also be supers to show the passage of time.
Once Calvin gets hypnotized, the story and characters completely fall apart. Part of the fun in a story like this is watching the protagonist adjust to his/her new life. Calvin just seems to fall right into it without much trouble. There's no real conflict or much in the way of stakes. It's never clear what Calvin wants once he's given this "gift." He just goes along with whatever happens. If he was passive aggresive in act one, he's just plain passive for the rest of the story.
Many of Calvin's actions simply don't make sense in the real, or any other, world. For example, he gets in the limo with Jeremy, and says take me home. He's never seen Jeremy before. Why doesn't he ask to be taken to his real address? Instead he goes to a strange mansion and calls Brigitte. What's worse, when a strange man answers his phone, he just leaves it at that. You spent the first act showing that they had a decent marriage, and that she was standing by him through his troubles. Wouldn't he want to know what's going on with her? Instead, he has two accidental meetings with her much later, the second where her "husband" decks him. I would think that his first order of business would be to see his wife, and get her to come with him.
We never see the effect his being the Seven has on the real Seven we met early on. Why set him up as an antagonist if you just drop him until act three? You missed a real opportunity for Calvin to see that his real life wasn't so bad through tis other character. Instead, what we get is a series of strained gags involving Calvin's parents, Jeremy and Butler. And when Calvin returns to his real life, you drag out the denouement just so you can show the real Seven's fall from celebrity. It's just too contrived, and none of it adds up to much of a narrative, or a journey for Calvin.
On the plus side, it was a fast and easy read, and a butler named Butler gave me a chuckle. I think what you need to do is go back to the concept, and rethink the story, structure and characters from the ground up. Good luck. read
by blue439 on 03/16/2011Okay, while I thought the concept for this was a viable one, I think the execution was basically lacking. Essentially a "be careful what you wish for" morality tale, this starts in a humdrum way with Calvin passively/aggressively attempting suicide. He's depressed, but his unemployed state isn't the reason for his depression. The script would have been better served if... Okay, while I thought the concept for this was a viable one, I think the execution was basically lacking. Essentially a "be careful what you wish for" morality tale, this starts in a humdrum way with Calvin passively/aggressively attempting suicide. He's depressed, but his unemployed state isn't the reason for his depression. The script would have been better served if it had begun with the flashback to Calvin's birth and his miss at immortality. After this script follows Calvin in young adulthood improbably still nursing a grudge at his bad luck. The script has an easy charm to it, but concentrates more on the trees than the forest. There would be more urgency to Calvin's want if he outwardly hated his present life and yearned for The Seven's, but with The Seven being presented as a total jerk, it's hard to believe Calvin, who seems basically a nice guy, would want that life. There not much conflict or stakes in the piece. If nice guy Calvin was actively destroying his not-bad life instead of moping his way through the piece, then his comeuppance when he learns the great life he envied wasn't so great might have more resonance. There also doesn't seem to be any stakes here because while Calvin's not doing well, his life isn't terrible. He has an understanding wife so his fallback position isn't bad. If Calvin were set up as a character who blamed everyone but himself for his present position and believed life was set by circumstance, then learned that he could actually affect his own life and be responsible for it, that would be a credible character arc. As written though, Calvin really doesn't seem very different when he's The Seven. He behaves the same way, and basically just learns more details about how The Seven is a jerk, something he already knew. These kind of stories always end with the protag learning to appreciate what he already has, but Calvin seems unchanged by his experience -- what he already believed has just been validated. I think a more rigorous approach to the character would create a more compelling read than the pleasant, but unexciting read it is now. Put some obstacles in Calvin's way. Have him realize how horrible it can be to have everything you want, to not have friend you can trust like his buddies. Basically I think Calvin needs to be different when he's The Seven, not just Calvin in a different circumstance. Make Calvin change and learn. read
by tsmith7500 on 03/10/2011I first want to applaud you for finishing you screenplay. That is a feet in itself. That being said I will say that I might not be your audience. I feel these types of movies are overdone. The concept of taking an unhappy person and somehow making them experience "the life they never had" only to realize their real life is much better, is far from original. A Wonderful... I first want to applaud you for finishing you screenplay. That is a feet in itself.
That being said I will say that I might not be your audience. I feel these types of movies are overdone. The concept of taking an unhappy person and somehow making them experience "the life they never had" only to realize their real life is much better, is far from original. A Wonderful Life, Scrooged, Down To Earth, the Family Man, and a ton of tv shows just to name a few that employed this story arc.
The idea of using the 7 billionth person as the focus of the story was an interesting idea, but again it's just hard to imagine anyone caring enough about it that much for this person to maintain a career and lifestyle over 40 years based on when he was born. Granted it's a movie and you expect a certain ammount of exageration, but when i was reading it I found myself embaressed at the possibility that people like the seven or reality tv stars get this type of noteriety.
None of the characters were really likable people which might have been what kept me from enjoying your screenplay. The difference between your screenplay and the movies I listed is the main character. The main character in all those movies had a character that you liked despite their flaws. I didnt find Calvin to be a likable character. He seemed bitter, vulgar, and obnoxious the entire movie. He did a couple of the cleche' things such as introducing an uptight guy to McDonalds (another gimick way overdone). He doesnt seem that upset or to miss his old lifestyle, wife, or friends in the least. He tries to contact them but they dont know him and he seems to say "oh well" and moves on. He doesnt seem to miss his wife that he suposedly loves, especially because he has his run-ins with the multiple women. He doesnt really express any dissatisfaction with the new lifestyle with him as the seven, so it makes his mental breakdown at dr. van koff's funeral very forced and contrived. Even his wife and his friends just arent particularly likable people and in my opinion there just didnt seem to be anything in the screenplay to really grab you and keep you interested.
I believe with some tweaking you can improve the story. I admitted the concept had been done, but it has been multiple times with some degree of sucess. I think the dialouge is what caused my biggest problems with the characters. The dialogue between the characters constantly seemed sarcastic and snarky. Most of the jokes and gags border on vulgar or obnoxious.. I would recommend relying more on actual jokes than references to seeing a pair of tits or balls.
This wasnt my cup of tea but that doesnt mean it wont be for someone else. I'm sorry this probably wasn't the review you were hoping for but I wish you all the best luck with your screenplay and future works read
by csundt on 03/04/2011Okay, let me start off by saying I really enjoyed your SP and I liked your humor and where you were going with it. I think you have a great concept and good structure in the story and it is easy to stay focused and not lose interest. I do, however, see lots of room for improvement. I will begin with the obvious that I am sure you have heard before, that would be the directors... Okay, let me start off by saying I really enjoyed your SP and I liked your humor and where you were going with it. I think you have a great concept and good structure in the story and it is easy to stay focused and not lose interest. I do, however, see lots of room for improvement.
I will begin with the obvious that I am sure you have heard before, that would be the directors instructions. I am certainly not a pro at writing or evaluating these things but am learning as I go. I’ve been told a few things that have helped me recently with my SP’s that might help you as well.
Never include any kind of director instructions. Guess this turns them off immediately.
Always start a new sentence/ paragraph any time you describe something new or switch characters. I was told that this is one of the key ways to gage the 1 minute per page sequence and if this does not happen that it makes it very difficult to measure the amount of time each page takes.
I would tighten your dialogue and in some cases maybe re-evaluate/ eliminate some of it. Like Jeremy never having eaten an egg mcmuffin? That was a stretch. I see where you are going with it but he is obviously not from the upper class and a guy of his age has to have at least tried one. I thought since it was in New York you could maybe use something like a toasted bagel with extra butter or something like that from New York deli.
Lastly, a few grammatical errors in it but not enough to make me lose focus. All and all, I enjoyed the read and think you have a really good story that could be polished up fairly easy. Thanks for the read and best of luck with it! read
by Johnstone82 on 02/16/2011Sorry, I couldn’t resist that title. When Jeremy talks about working so hard to get a harmonica, I immediately thought of Otto in an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer creates a bowling team and Otto tries to get a lobster harmonica out of the claw game... but I digress... Let’s get into it: Overall, I liked your concept and story and it proves quite original. You... Sorry, I couldn’t resist that title. When Jeremy talks about working so hard to get a harmonica, I immediately thought of Otto in an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer creates a bowling team and Otto tries to get a lobster harmonica out of the claw game... but I digress...
Let’s get into it:
Overall, I liked your concept and story and it proves quite original. You open with a very funny suicide scene that gets interrupted by Brigitte. The conversation that follows also carries a lot of momentum that kicks us off into the script. I really like the zucchini joke and the chemistry between Calvin and his wife. However, one of my main concerns lies in your structure. For a one-hundred page script, your first act feels too long. We don’t break into act two until page 34. Now, let me also add that I think your first act is the strongest act of the three. I really enjoyed the first ten pages in which we are given a hilarious synopsis of Calvin’s life up to now. What I suggest is you tighten up this act and get us into the second act by page 20-25. This may feel a bit nit-picky, but I’m a big fan of structure and I'm sure there are plenty out there who will disagree with me.
Your second act also carries much of the script’s humor and I enjoyed “watching” Calvin deal with all the crazy people in The Seven’s life. Although, I feel like there is something off about this act. I think one of two things has to happen, either
- Calvin has to enjoy this new life for awhile and then come to some realization at the midpoint and struggle to get back to his old life as he breaks into act 3, or
- Calvin has to encounter some ‘real’ reasons to find this new life unbearable. Yes, he has a wife he wants back; but it doesn’t seem too believable, somehow...
Anyway, this is just how I interpreted the script as I was reading. I didn’t really feel like either of these things happened, and it just felt like “Hey, Calvin is now The Seven, how does he get back to his real life?” Admittedly, the first option of my suggestions is rather predictable, so take it or leave it as you will.
As far as your characters go, they all felt pretty solid. I liked your setup with Calvin and the opening suicide scene (as I mentioned before). I think his encounter with Marshall (as The Seven) works well; but his encounter with Brigitte a little less believable. Is he so dense that he thinks Brigitte will recognize him? And then he runs into her again and Tony intervenes, and I wasn’t quite sure that my previous assessment of Calvin’s intelligence was... low enough. However, as I write this, I realize that Calvin is at his wit’s end, so there is an argument for his actions. I will still keep this thought on my review so you can think about it and change it if you need to.
So just in case it didn’t seem like it, I need to reiterate that I really enjoyed this script. I think there is something great here that needs tweaking. Good luck to you. read
by kokopelli on 02/10/2011This is a story about a guy who'd like to do it over as the guy he'd like to be. Only thing is "things" don't work out so well. Page 1 • I know you’re just writing your story, but here’s what happens when you add music by irrationally famous groups. If a reader likes your story the next place might be a breakdown by the finance guys. They’ll price your piece adding up the... This is a story about a guy who'd like to do it over as the guy he'd like to be. Only thing is "things" don't work out so well.
• I know you’re just writing your story, but here’s what happens when you add music by irrationally famous groups. If a reader likes your story the next place might be a breakdown by the finance guys. They’ll price your piece adding up the significant amounts to buy rights and send it back to production. Someone there will look at it and compare it with 3 other scripts that come in at or under budget and toss yours aside. They won’t even ask why. Better to leave that out, unless there’s a significant story reason why it’s in there.
• If they’ve been down this road that many times in 12 years wouldn’t Brigitte already know what the problem is? This seems like a rehash that though funny, is unnecessary.
• At this point we don’t have the following:
- A set up that tells us what this story is about
- A goal, as it relates to Calvin - what is it that he’s going to go after in this story? Does he want to: a. Kill the Seven, b. Kidnap the Seven and take his place, c. Start a new life …. What?
- Right here, at this point, or shortly after, Calvin needs to be headed toward that point where things are going to change.
- No real idea what the over-arching thematic process is here.
Right now this is pretty much a 12 page complaint. Don’t get me wrong, there is some glittering dialogue here and some funny moments, but it’s not going forward, it’s simple stuck in B for bitching.
• You write good dialogue and funny stuff, but I would warn against to many of these scene that have literally nothing to do with the story. They eat up time that is needed to move the story forward, and nothing here about Topaz’s titties moves the story along or says anything about the character of Calvin.
• Calvin ends up in the Bizaro world that Dr. Van Koff has somehow manufactured. Normally these kinds of worlds rules set up in advance so we know how this happened and what the groundwork is. You have skipped that step and just had Calvin end up there. Without the previous structure I place this has ground to a total stop. The only reason Calvin is now in this magical realm is because you are trying to “plot” him through the story. But it’s not working well because there’s no compelling internal process going on that we can grab onto.
• The other thing is that usually when this kind of thing takes place the magically captured is in disbelief, but Calvin just gets in the car and goes along as if everything’s cool. While the audience will suspend disbelief for this change, they won’t go along with a guy who is not a bit freaked out here. Think Family Man with Nick Cage and how he freaked out.
• The last thing missing here is any antagonist. I’m past mid-point and there’s no one putting any pressure on the Main Character. He’s just kinda drifting around experiencing the world as Seven knows it, and not doing a very good job of that. He’s not pursuing anything, he’s not goal bound, he’s not really interested in or focused on a particular issue … in other words there’s really not much happening here.
• If Calvin is so stupid to believe that Brigette is going to know who he is while everyone else thinks he’s the Seven then your expecting your audience to be stupid enough to buy this. They won’t be, but they will be insulted. You have to figure out what the rules are in this world and then make them apply evenly so that your Main Character doesn’t have moments like this that make no sense.
Al, while you have some moments of fun dialogue, they’re not enough to overcome the total lack of structure and real character development necessary to carry this off well. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s inconsistently processed and without the necessary goal and theme shortly loses all steam and just barely limps through the second act. By the third act, with no visible antagonist in pursuit of the same goal there is simple a linger death to the end of the story.
Sorry to beat the structure drum, but structure is not formula. Formula is tired derivate writing while structure is that engineered anatomy that will allow your work to come to life. My suggestion is to watch some of the following films that do a similar thing and see what makes them tick:
13 Going on 30
Disney's The Kid
Me Myself I
Peggy Sue Got Married
Turn Back the Clock
Good luck and as always, keep writing.
by nohaybanda on 02/10/2011I think the number one issue this script has is that while it's funny enough it doesn't really push itself to being memorably funny. Bits like Calvin shielding himself from gunfire with a dead body during a funeral home are things I haven't seen before, and work really well. The mispronounced name that also sounds like something dirty, the S&M massage, on the other hand, not... I think the number one issue this script has is that while it's funny enough it doesn't really push itself to being memorably funny. Bits like Calvin shielding himself from gunfire with a dead body during a funeral home are things I haven't seen before, and work really well. The mispronounced name that also sounds like something dirty, the S&M massage, on the other hand, not so much. I thought it was amusing that Kelly kept spilling wine on herself so that Calvin would get the hint that she wanted to have sex, but the resolution of that scene, that she's a man, happens in an awful lot of screwball comedies. I would go through all these scenes and ask myself if this is as outrageous as it could possibly be (like the funeral scene), and if it's not, like the massage scene, think about what to add in them to make them crazier, more original. Even the Seven's existence has this problem. As of now, his fame and wild success is too unrealistic to be plausible and yet too commonplace to be funny. It seems odd that that much importance would be placed on someone as useless as this guy, but as it is now he is never really ridiculous enough to be funny until the very end, when the eighth billion baby is born.
Secondly, there is an awful lot of unnecessary dialogue in the beginning. The attempted suicide scene is amusing, but Brigitte reacting the way she does isn't really believable. Perhaps if Calvin had made several half-hearted, annoying attempts at suicide before, this scene would be funnier and Brigitte's behavior more reasonable. Then, he has a lengthy talk about how he wishes he could be the seven, followed by a painstaking montage about how he was almost the seven. I think the beginning would work much better if the montage started, with absolutely no voice over, just the images. Then the failed suicide, and then the rest of the script. read
by blopar on 02/09/2011Hi Al: I enjoyed the script and there are a lot of really good things about It. I think the structure is nice and I really like the fact that your protagomist has a very nice arc to him. That is rare in comedies. I enjoyed the story and thought it moved at a very nice pace. Your formating is a nice minimalist style, that makes the script a quick and easy read. I also liked... Hi Al: I enjoyed the script and there are a lot of really good things about It.
I think the structure is nice and I really like the fact that your protagomist has a very nice arc to him. That is rare in comedies.
I enjoyed the story and thought it moved at a very nice pace. Your formating is a nice minimalist style, that makes the script a quick and easy read. I also liked the limited number of characters. I find it tough to follow scripts that have 20 or more named characters and my guess is that hollywood readers hate to see the cast of thousands scripts in their stacks.
Your script should get an A+ for readability and that's a great plus.
On the other side, I wondered whether the concept itself is strong enough to sustain a full length story. I wondered if identifying and lionizing the 7th billionth baby born is even within plausible reality. Perhaps another reviewer might have a different view of this, but it doesn't really work for me. Maybe if he was born into a rich famous family, but got switched at birth into a very dysfunctional poor family and found out about it years later, this might work better.
With respect to the dialogue, I thought a few times it was longer than necessary and too on the nose. For example, we were told many times that he was born 7 seconds too late and that might be a little tiresome.
I think comedy is the hardest genre to write just because humor is so subjective and becomes cliche so quickly. Some of the parts of the script I found very funny and clever, specifically the last 4 pages. Other parts, such as the S & M prostitutes seemed cliched. It might still work but something really funny and original would need to be added to it to get a big laugh out of it. I have written one comedy script and I found I wasn't original and funny enough to really carry a whole script without reverting to the tired and cliched. It's really hard to do. I don't want to discourage you - but it takes a lot of work I think. Maybe that is why a lot of comedy script writers come from the ranks of stand-up comedians and Hollywood burns them out very quickly.
I think you've got the spine of a good comedy here, you just need to flesh and the story a little and ramp up the humor in a few places. Best of luck with this project. read
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