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HOW IT RATES
A Thai prostitute dying from AIDS imprisons her ex-lover in an attempt to produce a magical cure.
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Reviews of The Land of Smiles - Rev 1 17
by TheKeenGuy on 07/05/2009To start with, I quite like your writing. The style flows easily. You define the characters well, paint the setting colorfully, create very good dramatic tension, and the structure is solid. Now, I donít know if youíve seen HARD CANDY. This narrative is constructed very similarly to that one. That doesnít make it a rip-off by any means, because thereís so much terrific... To start with, I quite like your writing. The style flows easily. You define the characters well, paint the setting colorfully, create very good dramatic tension, and the structure is solid.
Now, I donít know if youíve seen HARD CANDY. This narrative is constructed very similarly to that one. That doesnít make it a rip-off by any means, because thereís so much terrific invention youíve created in terms of an entirely different conflict. But it leads to the similar kidnap/torture scenario which keeps this from feeling like itís truly broken new ground in terms of the concept as a whole.
The main reason I bring that film up, though, is because I had the same reaction while reading this script as I had while watching that movie, which is that I didnít really care for how it attempts to play with your sympathies by making each of the two main characters increasingly horrible, leaving you hating everyone involvedÖ but hopefully learning from their tragedy a valuable lesson about what happens when people do not show basic human respect for one another.
Now, is this a problem with the narrative, or is it simply that I have a personal distaste for this kind of film? Thatís something that I want to consider very carefully, and so thatís what Iím just about to doÖ because the real question is, would it be improved if done differently?
The Rex character starts out as a somewhat adorably jubilant ugly American, with nothing more on his mind than getting his rocks off. Though some viewers would be turned off right away, others would be able to latch onto his excitement, and even relate when the story turns and he becomes frantic in the face of Kirkís death.
The first moment where my sympathies for Rex started to waver is when he refused to dole out a thousand dollars to the crooked cops to investigate his friendís death. It simply seemed stupidly stubborn, because certainly it was not more important to take a moral stance against extortion than to catch his friendís killer.
Before realizing where you were going with this story, I had planned to tell you to simply rework that scene so that the cops demand more money than he can readily produce. Given that time is of the essence, it was easy to get around that.
Then, thereís the callous message he leaves for Kirkís parents. I could still write that off as him simply being so frantic and exhausted that it didnít occur to him how tactless he delivered what would likely be heartbreaking news.
But the whole picture is coming clear around this time that you are not trying to paint Rex as sympathetic. At best, he comes across as understandably flawedÖ but clearly, youíre laying the groundwork. Weíre just getting the first hints of the truly terrible soul that lies beneath.
He seemed like a harmless sex fiend, and in fact, thatís the way he sees himself. He doesnít realize what damage his narcissistic hedonism has caused to others. Thatís what the lesson is, as we learn through the well-drawn flashbacks of the second and third act.
But what of the horrific torture that heís put through? (By the way, Iím not sure why you didnít label this as Horror along with Drama, except perhaps to try to draw in people who are horror-averse, because you donít want them anticipating something especially gory. I still donít think itís fair or accurate, though.)
The extreme horror of whatís being done to him, coupled with the tragic foolishness as itís obviously not going to provide the magical cure Gik wishes, is whatís supposed to keep the audience still hoping that Rex will escape to safety no matter how awfully you portray him in the flashbacks.
Had Rex been tied down and Gik said ďIím going to kill you, but first Iím going to read you these stories,Ē the narrative certainly would have eventually felt interminable as we came not to really like Rex as a person. Itís only because of the basic level of human decency, that we donít want to see anyone tortured ever, which maintains our sympathies for Rex to some small extent.
In the end, while I had anticipated hat Rex was going to contract AIDS in this process, the dramatic irony was palatable when this ultimate punishment came through the same carnality he had so desired and which had incited this grand tragedy.
So, in my analysis of all that, I have my answer. I donít feel like this is a flawed narrative. Itís just the kind of story that I feel is particularly unpleasant. It makes a valuable thematic point, though.
In fact, I would say that I actually find this to be a much less flawed narrative than HARD CANDY, where there was no rational reason to sympathize with the motivations of either character, a lecherous pedophile and a sadistic torturer. Both Rex and Gik had good intentions in the beginning, but their tragic inability to communicate with each other honestly lead to a grand tragedy in which they destroyed each otherís lives.
So, in that respect, I think youíve done your job in bringing this narrative close to its full potential.
On one last note, formatting-wise, the ď(in untranslated Thai)Ē approach just didnít make any sense to me at all. Itís giving the reader information that the audience would not have, which can be quite confusing. Every time I came upon one, I questioned whether I should disregard it, and if I did read it, wondered if I should pretend I didnít know what it meant (like a juror being told to disregard testimony).
Good luck with this! read
by Cinji18 on 06/23/2009Positives 1. The first act is ver well done. I thought the characters and the situation is setup enough for me to know who the protagonist is and what his mission is in the story. I was hooked to the Kirk murder case. Improvements 1a. I'm confused who the protagonist is. Your logline is pretty close to what the story is, but it still needs some work. From the logline,... Positives
1. The first act is ver well done. I thought the characters and the situation is setup enough for me to know who the protagonist is and what his mission is in the story. I was hooked to the Kirk murder case.
1a. I'm confused who the protagonist is. Your logline is pretty close to what the story is, but it still needs some work. From the logline, it states that Gik, the Thai prostitute, is the protagonist, but in the story, especially the first act, it's pretty obvious that the protagonist is Rex, the ex-lover. Starting the logline off with Rex would be more accurate to the story, or if Gik really is the protagonist, she needs to be properly introduced in the first act as so.
1b. The same goes for the goal/mission of the story. Again, I think it has to do with the act that Act I doesn't match the logline and Act II. The logline tells me this is about Gik finding a cure for her AIDS condition, and that is what Act II seems to be about. However, Act I is telling me the story is about Rex searching for Kirk's murderer. If the logline is what you want, then the first act needs to be re-written to reflect and launch the rest of the story.
2. The story starts out well in the first act, but when Act II comes along and Rex gets imprisoned, it gets episodic with all the flashbacks. Rex becomes quite passive. He doesn't really do much.
3. The climax is deflated. Rex doesn't appear to fight back because he is tied up. Rex doesn't overcome anything. As a result, Rex lacks character arc. Also, for Rex to have a hallucination of Kirk who blurts out his killer is weak and not climatic. It feels lazy for Rex to find out in that manner.
4. I don't care nor like for any of the characters. I don't see character arc for any of them. I don't feel any empathy for them, and none of them have any redeeming traits.
5. Your inciting incident and your climax don't go together. The inciting incident brings the question of whether Rex finds out or fights Kirk's killer. The climax should answer that question. To me, it's much more climatic if Rex confronts the killer face-to-face. Yet, as it is, the climax is between Gik and Rex. The logline clearly states that Gik is Rex's actual antagonist. In that case, the inciting incident needs to change. Perhaps Rex finds out Gik has AIDS, and he goes to her because he is deeply concerned for her life only to find out her deep grudge against him when he arrives.
6. I would drop Kirk's murder altogether. It only appears in the beginning of the story and at the end of the story. There's nothing in Act II about Kirk, or Rex working to solve his case. It doesn't do anything for the story.
7. What is the purpose of the water festival?
8. Why is a wholesome couple like Tyler and Annette eating a in a not-so-wholesome bar, and having a hamburger in Thailand? Seems very odd to me. I just don't see it happening.
9. For the dialogue in Thai, I think you can just say "in Thai." You don't need to say untranslated.
10. I can't tell how big the glass in which Rex's blood goes. I'm surprised he lasts as long as he does.
11. I find it childish for an 18, 19-year-old to be reading Alice In Wonderland and Charlotte's Web even if she is learning English.
12. I'm unsure how comfortable the audience is about the ages of Rex and Gik. Of course, once someone is over 18, s/he can date anyone older than that, but when s/he is underage, Americans consider that statutory rape. Thus, when I got to the flashback scenes where Gik is only 14 and 16, it made my real uncomfortable.
13. I find it real odd that Rex at 31 needs Viagra. Unless I know Rex is impotent at a very early age, it just seems over kill.
14. I'm not sure about the flashback within a
flashback technique. It may get confusing on the screen and unneccessary.
15. When Gik is 14, I think she acts much older
than she is. Even though she may be "incredible" at English, she speaks like a native and know English phrases that are not normally taught in English class in a foreign country, having been there myself. Also at 14, a girl may dream about her wedding, but I don't think it's to the point of marrying an American maybe for money. Also, having visited those countries before, young girls make money not for themselves but for their boss/pimp because it's the boss who takes care of them. It's not until they get to a certain age/status that they fend for themselves and need the money.
16. It's probably just my taste, but I find the story a bit lewd. read
by duncanjames on 06/14/2009These writer/director scripts are always a tough read mainly because the director side knows what he wants to film and can use the writer side to fill in a few key words from scene to scene that spark the director's visions. But that leaves the reader out in the cold, as this script left me. I found numerous unfilmables, a lot of poor word choices, and many scant narrative... These writer/director scripts are always a tough read mainly because the director side knows what he wants to film and can use the writer side to fill in a few key words from scene to scene that spark the director's visions. But that leaves the reader out in the cold, as this script left me. I found numerous unfilmables, a lot of poor word choices, and many scant narrative lines that left me wandering what was going on. That said, now I focus on the story that was there. The opening scenes where Rex is looking for Kirk make no sense to the rest of the picture. Rex doesn't pursue the killers, so no end comes of it (other than the hallucination which didn't set well with me). Everything up to Rex finding, or rather having been found by Gik could be cut out. The story begins when she confronts him. Now to the meat and potatoes: is this a story about redemption or retribution? It could be both. Rex's redemption at the hands of Gik's retribution. But this whole story speaks louder to immorality of childhood prostitution in a foreign land and the consequences (on both sides) of those actions. Harness that angle and you'll have an award winning screenplay. As it stands, it's loosely tied together with multitude of flashbacks the effectively reveal how Rex came to be bound in Gik's bedroom. I felt pity on him at first, then wanted to see him die. I suggest making Gik's story selections chronological so that we see their budding relationship, believing his interest in her is true, take the journey with her as her young hope for love buds, blossoms, then withers, through her stories told in flashback. I'm the worst hater of flashbacks, because they're misused, but in this context they'll work great. I see this as Memoirs of a Geisha meets the decadence of Thailand's child exploitation. Hope all this helps. I wrote notes as I went along. Email me if you'd like them but I warn you, I've not fluffed them up. They're raw and pointed but intended to help you see the weaker side of your story as it exists. Best of luck. DJ. read
by lakotafilms on 06/13/2009This was just creepy and sick enough to keep me on edge most of the time. It was suspenseful, tragically sad and twisted. Excellent! I was hoping to go back to the cops, Kirk and Miaou to find out more about WHY she murdered him. Why Kirk? Why not somebody else? Did Kirk do something terrible to Miaou that would warrant her killing him? Yes, Kirk and Rex are both dicks,... This was just creepy and sick enough to keep me on edge most of the time. It was suspenseful, tragically sad and twisted. Excellent!
I was hoping to go back to the cops, Kirk and Miaou to find out more about WHY she murdered him. Why Kirk? Why not somebody else? Did Kirk do something terrible to Miaou that would warrant her killing him? Yes, Kirk and Rex are both dicks, but is it enough of a reason to kill him? Not sure why Kirk dies other than to give Rex a reason to search for his killer. Did Gik and Miaou plot Kirk's death to get Rex to the shack? If so, it wasn't clear. That said... it is clear why Gik would seek revenge on Rex. And, her character and the Grandmother are so disturbing. Reminded me a little of "Misery,Ē the imagery of these two characters was especially strong.
Bringing Kirk back as a hallucination to wrap things up (which I enjoyed) was somewhat effective, but a little too easy. I think this is a great way for Rex to learn the truth but, there's something missing... this goes back to what I was asking earlier. Thereís a missing ingredient in there somewhere. Iím not sure what it is but, once you discover it, itíll hit us over the head like Grandmaís mallet.
Why are the tourists, Tyler and Annette in this story? They could probably be eliminated or used more effectively to drive your point home. They are great characters... so, perhaps used more.
The Land of Smiles exposes us to a world raped of innocenceÖ and itís a crime! This story successfully raises the issues about AIDS and pedophilia. There was never a dull moment. Educational and entertaining. Great job! read
by tarboy on 06/10/2009I look forward to reading a great story. I will give you my opinion and you can take what you want. Relationships are learn in dialogue. his equally pudgy wife. You only need to Capitalize names of people that talk CHILDREN REVELERS A grinning GIRL (15) LOL! You have Capitalized everyone. This went over my head. Armed with what? Rex strides through the Songkran chaos unarmed...
I look forward to reading a great story. I will give you my opinion and you can take what you want.
Relationships are learn in dialogue.
his equally pudgy wife.
You only need to Capitalize names of people that talk
A grinning GIRL (15)
LOL! You have Capitalized everyone.
This went over my head. Armed with what?
Rex strides through the Songkran chaos unarmed.
I am totally enjoying your writing.
Would the police allow such?
Rex staggers in. He kneels down next to the body and turns it face up.
You can not go BACK in Action line
He runs back to her,
Rex lifts her head back up.
Rex lifts her head up.
Is Tout someoneís name
The tout spits.
Grandmother should do an ad for AARP
The script is simple and clear. Quite a quick read. Iím halfway finished.
Gik keeps blaming Rex for her condition. It appears they had a lot of goodtimes.so why is she treating him so bad?
Rex went after Gik to find out who killed Kirk. The hallucination does nothing to help the story. Since its a hallucination.
Did she kill you?
She can hardly get around the room I the shack
Thank you for you interest story. Good luck. read
by agilitygsd on 06/10/2009You have definitely painted a vivid picture of how terrible the sex trade is in Thailand by chronicling the demise of one poor girl. You've given us an extremely callous unsympathetic character in Rex, and a girl we pity, yet abhor in Gik. I have to say that I thought the Viagra, etc... at the end was a totally unique way to achieve revenge. You have stated in your production... You have definitely painted a vivid picture of how terrible the sex trade is in Thailand by chronicling the demise of one poor girl.
You've given us an extremely callous unsympathetic character in Rex, and a girl we pity, yet abhor in Gik.
I have to say that I thought the Viagra, etc... at the end was a totally unique way to achieve revenge.
You have stated in your production notes that it's not a spec script and you are going to shoot it yourself, so a lot of what I would say wouldn't apply or be of interest to you.
You also stated you were looking for ways to shoot it cheaper. I think you've accomplished your goal of low budget - you could eliminate the water festival scenes - they call for a lot of extras and you never really tie in any significance of Songkran to the story or explain what it is about.
I would also consider losing Tyler & Annette - they really don't contribute to the story and would eliminate having to rent a van.
pg. 25 - REX
And I know who did it. Iíll go get
her. It wonít be too much of a
problem. Sheís a silly, silly
girl. Try to get here as soon as
you can. Iím sorry you had to find
out this way...
Silly Silly girl doesn't sound strong enough to describe someone who killed your friend.
pg. 26 - The Thai PASSENGERS around him hold plastic baggies to there
faces as the bus careens over a rise, overtaking a truck.
pg. 76 - She turns momentarily, places her
hands on here hips and scowls, then runs off.
...her hips... read
by Centurio on 06/05/2009Your production notes specifically asked for this to be reviewed a bit differently than a normal spec script.Based on the citeria I say you've nailed this script in many ways. It's a great piece for what you want. There are two areas where it could use some substantial improvement though. First, Dialogue. Every character speaks with the same or similar voice. You need to... Your production notes specifically asked for this to be reviewed a bit differently than a normal spec script.Based on the citeria I say you've nailed this script in many ways. It's a great piece for what you want.
There are two areas where it could use some substantial improvement though.
First, Dialogue. Every character speaks with the same or similar voice. You need to dig deeper into every character and give them a unique sound. Some of these are rough people. Make thewir dialogue rough. They speak matter-of factly. If your friends will be filling the roles thne start now having them build the cahracters and do readings.
Love the story, but it seems passionless at times. We need to feel the emotions of being tied up. The horror of the situation. The flashback needs to contrast that. Happy, laughing, giggling, kissingÖÖ.happy. Youíve written it but you havenít felt it yet. Same is true all along. The story needs to be seciondary to the characters wants, needs, feelings, and ways of expressing themselves.
Overall, for what you want it almost works. Although, until you work on dialogue and character I think you'll end up unhappy at the feel and sound of the finished product. read
by bushj41 on 06/04/2009a good story,but it lack some emotions in some scenes. i get were the story is going but i know some of my friends will not get it. the story have good message on religion and about the temple. and give a lot of mistery and adventure also give you a strong since of what buddha is or buddhism.will be a lot of mix messages. and the story has a lot of situation and lots of twists... a good story,but it lack some emotions in some scenes. i get were the story is going but i know some of my friends will not get it. the story have good message on religion and about the temple. and give a lot of mistery and adventure also give you a strong since of what buddha is or buddhism.will be a lot of mix messages. and the story has a lot of situation and lots of twists that i read. and the story has a good ending. there should me another ending as well. to give the story the finle conclusion. meaning there is more to the story or not.the story is great. read
by micmacmoviemaker on 05/30/2009This was a neat story, using the dreaded flashbacks (I love em!) to great effect. However, one change I'd recommend is using the flashbacks in a reverse chronological order, with Gik and Rex getting younger and younger each time. Then, it would have a pattern where the reader would be interested in seeing how far (young) we'd go back. Of course, you ended with Gik only 14,... This was a neat story, using the dreaded flashbacks (I love em!) to great effect. However, one change I'd recommend is using the flashbacks in a reverse chronological order, with Gik and Rex getting younger and younger each time. Then, it would have a pattern where the reader would be interested in seeing how far (young) we'd go back. Of course, you ended with Gik only 14, but I think the reverse order would prove effective.
I think there's some character problems in a few areas. I don't think Tyler and Annette were needed as they only illustrated ignorant Christians in a non-Christian country. I thougt they'd play a significant role in the end but they didn't. As is, they're two-dimensional.
Likewise, I also didn't think that Kirk was used to full effect other than to show the corruptness of the Thai police. To me, this hurt both your Character and Story. Again, I didn't really see any depth to his character. Still, I think he could be the catalyst for driving Rex deeper and deeper into the jungle. Rather than having him shown dead already, (immediate loss of tension) I'd recommend Rex be trying to find him alive and running out of time. This ticking clock would be intensified when Rex gets caught and tied up. Of course, Kirk will already be dead, (Rex can find him in a grisly manner) which would only serve to ratchet up the stakes during the climax.
Hope there's something of use in this review. Good luck on future drafts! Peter
Below are the notes I took while reading. They may or may not make sense.
Page 4: Cool reversal with the watergun - but I'd like to have see the tension built up more. It happens so quick, I think there's a loss there.
Page 5: I think you misused the word "ubiquitous."
Page 23: You have Miaou speaking twice in a row.
Page 26: "The bus chugs into a sleepy terminal, displacing a skinny dog, yawning dog."
You seem to know quite a bit about the country and it shows in the details you provide. I spent some time in Asia (granted, not Thailand) but I think you need more descriptions of how humid and sweat inducing it is. Just to give a proper feel for the climate and its effects.
Page 29: Ha! What a pair of assholes.
Cool technique to show the flashbacks. Effective.
Page 43: "If she paid more attention to sucking cock than verb conjugations, weíd still be together." Ha! Good done.
Page 54: What's a Sanka Jai?
Page 57: The tone seems to be turning to an almost horror feel. That's cool, but I didn't feel it yet in your action lines to denote such a shift.
I especially like the last flashback. Very nice. Sad.
Page 87: Oh no! Death by fucking! Very cool. I didn't see that one coming.
Overall: Good read
by brux on 05/28/2009This is an intriguing story with a lot of promise, but in my opinion, real flaws. The screenplay reads quickly, which is good, with a lot of action in an exotic location. The writer seems to know the environment of Thailand very well and infuses the script with the sights and sounds of the land and its people. This element is easily the best part of ďThe Land of SmilesĒ. Itís... This is an intriguing story with a lot of promise, but in my opinion, real flaws.
The screenplay reads quickly, which is good, with a lot of action in an exotic location. The writer seems to know the environment of Thailand very well and infuses the script with the sights and sounds of the land and its people. This element is easily the best part of ďThe Land of SmilesĒ. Itís described with authority and fine detail. The use of Thai phrases and dialogue adds flavor without distracting too much from the flow of the story. The atmosphere of Songkran is colorfully presented as well (although I have to say, the way the writer introduced it, with the cabbie pulling a gun on Rex and revealing it to be a watergun, felt like a very cheap trick).
The characters are drawn reasonably well, and their dialog is competently written. The writer is obviously skilled and this story feels like itís a labor of love for him or her, polished and cared for.
The flashbacks are handled well and add a layer of interest to the narrative, and they reveal critical different perspectives on the main characters, Rex and Gik.
Some questions pop up in reading the screenplay that might be worth examining: first that comes to mind is, why is Rex there? What does he want? One might presume that he is there simply for a vacation in a place he loves. But we donít really get any clear sense that this is the case. In fact, Rex seems kind of angry when he first arrives. He is supposed to meet his friend, but for what purpose? His presence in Chiang Mai seems haphazard.
Another question is, what purpose do the pudgy missionary tourists serve? They seem to act simply as random encounters that contrast with Rex (although neither reflects well on Americans in Thailand). Their presence in temples at the start and at the end makes a nice bookend, but their thread seems to run alongside the rest of the story, rather than being woven into it.
When Rex finds out that Kirk is dead, one might expect this to turn into a murder mystery, and it feels like thatís the direction weíre taking, but that is quickly turned on its head and we find ourselves in the middle of aÖ what? A revenge plot? This brings up one of the most important structural flaws that I see in this screenplay; we (the audience) donít know what kind of story it is. There is an advantage to that in that it keeps us guessing, but I think ultimately the story feels unrealized for that reason.
Who is the protagonist? Sheer screen time would say Rex. But heís only an active driver of the story for a short time Ė from the moment he learns of Kirkís death to the moment he is struck on the head by the Grandmother. Before that, he is just floating along with no clear purpose. After that, he is at the mercy of Gik and the Grandmother. He briefly regains the ability to act, but that comes to an end very quickly and he never regains that ability. Besides, as a protagonist heís kind of a dick, and characters like that seldom make good protagonists. They can, but itís really difficult to accomplish.
Gik is a candidate for protagonist, but she doesnít even appear until page 33, and she is too weak to make much happen, aside from telling her stories and drinking blood. Perhaps she arranged Kirkís murder as a way to get Rex to come to her, but the only way we know who killed him is from the mouth of an hallucination, so we canít really trust the information.
The grandmother is the figure who most drives the story after she appears, but we donít get a sense of whether she is out to exact revenge (at which she succeeds) or work a miracle folk cure on Gik (at which she fails). And we never really get to know her.
I think this issue is the biggest challenge the writer faces with this story. Perhaps the structure is already clear in his or her head and it just needs to be more clearly expressed on the page. But the central question of any story is what does the protagonist want, and this question is hard to identify throughout ďThe Land of SmilesĒ.
A couple of smaller points Iíd like to bring up before I forget them: the little boy in the village, Noi, plays confusing roles, too. He is first a witness, then he helps Rex escape (why does he do that?) then, when he appears again, Rex yells at him and chases him away. I understand that Rex is suffering mightily at this point, but still, his treatment of the boy is inconsistent at best.
Also, the mechanics of the script are very good, and I just want to note four small typos that were overlooked in proofreading: on page 26, ďthereĒ is typed when it should be ďtheirĒ. On both page 42 and 48, ďitísĒ should be ďitsĒ. And on page 76, ďhereĒ is written where it should be ďherĒ. Easily overlooked, easily fixed. I just mention them in the interest of perfection.
I hope this review helps (and I hope I read the script properly). I enjoyed taking this trip to Thailand and I know thereís an excellent script here. Great title, too. Best of luck with it. read
- Writer: Chris Simons
- Uploaded by: gordonkris
- Length: 90 pages
- Genre: drama
- Iíd like to shoot this myself on my next trip to Thailand. Iíll bring an HD camera and a laptop, use my friends and their families for talent and shoot the festival scenes myself during Songkran. This is definitely a no-budget production. And definitely not a spec script. So criticize it all you want but please realize that a lot of the story and structure was dictated by budget concerns. Iíd really appreciate input on how to shoot it even more cheaply. This version has only minor changes but was purged of blatant typos (Iím sure theyíre more). Thanks to all who read and helped before.
- Bio: I teach filmmaking and film history overseas on the uni level. Back when I was living in the States, I used to spend days at a time on Triggerstreet. It was addictive, fun and motivated me to write. I donít read or write many feature screenplays these days and the desire to actually film one is on the back burner, but I do write and make a lot of shorts. Iíll try to review on TS when I can. Donít know why Iím changing this bio and pic - probably the whole 10th Anniversary thing has got me nostalgic.
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