An air force drone operator slides into an emotional tailspin after accidentally killing a child.
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An arrogant American hedge fund analyst is sent to appraise an African mine that is controlled by a brutal warlord. The financier is kidnapped by child soldiers and dragged into their bloody rebellion. He becomes entangled in their struggle and must choose between claiming the immense wealth he worked so hard for or throwing it away and risking his life for a slim chance to save theirs.
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Reviews of Toy Soldiers 54
by bobmessinger on 05/06/2010A superb script in every sense of the word! A wonderful example of how a script should read. Descriptive copy is concise, to the point, and very, very effective in creating vivid visual images. Dialog is dynamic and effectively gives each character a distinctive voice. The story is timely, relevant, captivating and ultimately heart-wrenching. Characters are well developed and... A superb script in every sense of the word! A wonderful example of how a script should read. Descriptive copy is concise, to the point, and very, very effective in creating vivid visual images. Dialog is dynamic and effectively gives each character a distinctive voice. The story is timely, relevant, captivating and ultimately heart-wrenching. Characters are well developed and truly believable.
If I were to make any suggestions for improvement, they would be as follows:
I would cut the number of pages between pages three and ten (the scenes introducing the Jupiter Fund and Kaufman and Milos, how they manipulated the Krygyzstan incident, Kaufman's basic personality, etc.). While all of this information is critical to the set-up, I believe it could be done in fewer pages to get us back to the heart of the story a little quicker.
I also had a bit of a hard time believing that Kaufman would have opted to escape Makanga's compound as he did. At that point in the story, there is no reason to believe that such action would have been possible within the realm of his personality. While he does see the situation for what it is, he is at this point in time still too meek for such a daring escape. Perhaps a different escape without his having to be so daring at this point would be more believable.
Other than these two things, I have nothing but praise for the story and the script. It had to have been difficult to have kept the perfect balance of showing the kids as both children and soldiers, and the author did so exceptionally well. The title is also perfect. I look forward to seeing "Toy Soldiers" on the big screen one day. read
by 3mnanmar on 04/27/2010An intense story, well written, well developed, great character study and an interesting choice of location. As Africa is an almost unexplored region for cinema, however I would advise that you researched the Congo conflict and child soldiers a little more. I felt the characters from New York and their business was well researched and I take my hat off to you however the child... An intense story, well written, well developed, great character study and an interesting choice of location. As Africa is an almost unexplored region for cinema, however I would advise that you researched the Congo conflict and child soldiers a little more. I felt the characters from New York and their business was well researched and I take my hat off to you however the child soldiers and their commanders are not realistic to what really happened. I also found the first few pages to become a little boring however it did pick up and became a thrilling tale. Overall a great screenplay read
by nickiyo on 04/20/2010My ultimate compliment to you, is that you made someone with a famously short attention span pay attention enough to read your entire script in one sitting. I never do that but your writing is so fluid nd your description so sharp and simple, it makes reading your work an easy pleasure. Your characters were very strong and from the start I loved Sebu. So brave, and even at... My ultimate compliment to you, is that you made someone with a famously short attention span pay attention enough to read your entire script in one sitting. I never do that but your writing is so fluid nd your description so sharp and simple, it makes reading your work an easy pleasure.
Your characters were very strong and from the start I loved Sebu. So brave, and even at his hardest moments you saw the heartbroken child beneath. I love Kaufman too - a really interesting character. I'd have loved to find out a little bit more about him personally, but loved his dryness.
There was constant action throughout the script and I loved that. You never got a chance to get bored and it kept me hooked. Great dialogue too - very clipped with no flowery crap - something that's so easy to do. Every conversation felt real and helped you to understand that these characters don't have time for bullshit. Your description is great too. You get to the point in a few words whereas it takes some writers paragraph after paragraph. Sometimes I had to read some descriptions twice because I couldn't believe how you'd got so much action into one or two lines. Great job! I'm jealous!
My favourite bit by far was when the bus full of terrorist children are singing the wheels on the bus. Genuis. Shows so effortlessly that underneath their terrorist fronts, they're still children. My second favourite bit was when Kaufman batters the punk - again it simply shows that hes tired with being messed about and has no more patience left.
You've managed to mix real grit and terror, with comedy, compassion and drama here - excellent job and a pleasure to read. You truly deserve screenplay of the month.
Only typos I spotted were page 74, and 80.
by cmeakins on 04/17/2010I thoroughly enjoyed your screenplay. I read it in one sitting which normally doesn’t happen. My reading process usually involves me banging my head on my desk for long durations as I’m constantly reminded of my own fallacies as a writer. That being said I liked your script. The action was clean and descriptive. The dialogue was short but meaningful. I do have concerns... I thoroughly enjoyed your screenplay. I read it in one sitting which normally doesn’t happen. My reading process usually involves me banging my head on my desk for long durations as I’m constantly reminded of my own fallacies as a writer. That being said I liked your script. The action was clean and descriptive. The dialogue was short but meaningful. I do have concerns though mostly with the characters.
Kaufman - How did he feel about his job as an analyst? It seemed that he was not like others in the industry and did not care much about the money. He was really good at what he did but it didn’t seem to fit his personality. It was very clear that he loved teaching kids, so why wasn’t he a teacher? Why was he a financial analyst? Second, I did not understand the relationship between Kaufman and Milos. Milos kind of came off as a father figure to Kaufman, but not really. Why did Milos trust Kaufman to go to the Congo over another analyst? Why did Milos care so much about Kaufman’s safe return? Third, why did Kaufman agree to go to the Congo? This goes back to how he felt about his job and the life that he was living as an analyst. Was the shallowness of his life too overwhelming that he needed a change? What was so wrong in his life that he needed to get away?
Mekanga - What did Mekanga really want? Did he just want to get rich? Did he want power? When I read this screenplay I get a picture of Mekanga and like all other corrupt leaders they want money and power. In the end I guess that’s enough but I guess I did not get a consistent feel of his viciousness. It was great in the beginning how he killed Sebu’s father as coldly as he would swat a fly off his arm. But after that all his violent actions seemed provoked by Sebu and his soldiers.
Also some parts lacked an emotional punch for me. Such as when Kaufman decides to go to the Congo, when he decides to escape from Mekanga’s palace, and the end. The end didn’t do it for me. It makes me ask; before Kaufman went to the Congo, what was he searching for? What did he want?
But as I said, I did enjoy your screenplay. I can tell you did a lot of work on it and more than likely, plenty of research. When I read it I felt like I was there. read
by AlexThompson on 04/08/2010Pretty good script. Very well written and a great message. I don't know how it would lend itself to being a filmable feature unless a major star or two attached themselves to the project. The first act was pretty slow, but it picked up the pace as things went along. NOTES WHILE READING: Pages 1 to 6- No action or any other major event that would usually keep me interested... Pretty good script. Very well written and a great message. I don't know how it would lend itself to being a filmable feature unless a major star or two attached themselves to the project. The first act was pretty slow, but it picked up the pace as things went along.
NOTES WHILE READING:
Pages 1 to 6- No action or any other major event that would usually keep me interested if this was a movie. It does slightly remind me of Blood Diamond, which I liked. It's well written, so though nothing stands out to me at the moment (characters or situation), I'll keep reading.
9 & 10- The sex scene of 9 and the murder of father on 10 could have used a little to punch them up and separate them as extreme moments. As they are they sort of blend into the rest of the text. That said, I did love the subtle scene of Kaufman and Carrie's meeting (age for Carrie?).
17- Around 12 to 17 is when this is getting really good.
24- Okay, I expected "coltan" would be explained by now, but I had to look it up. A definition by someone would be helpful.
27- Who is the protagonist? Kaufman or Sebu. Right now, Sebu is the most interesting.
45- There we go... drawing attention to the action.
91 & 92- The singing, nice touch. read
by 77kart on 03/29/2010Part 1: Running Notes p1. I'm immediately reminded of the opening to Blood Diamond. p14. I find the "wall street Jews" comment very offensive, particularly coming from this Krgystan leader who assuredly got his position by being the most ruthless and corrupt man in all of Stan-is-Stan, which is saying a lot. You might want to temper that comment by having his opposition... Part 1: Running Notes
p1. I'm immediately reminded of the opening to Blood Diamond.
p14. I find the "wall street Jews" comment very offensive, particularly coming from this Krgystan leader who assuredly got his position by being the most ruthless and corrupt man in all of Stan-is-Stan, which is saying a lot. You might want to temper that comment by having his opposition tell how he got into power. Kaufman's comments come across as self-serving and do not ameliorate the original insulting comment. In other words, you may not want to open this can of worms.
p17. I like how you've created two plotlines: Sebu and Kaufman.
p17. A nice mini-jeopardy. What will happen to Sebu?
p23. No way Kaufman would be taking the train. Put him in a limo.
p24. Kaufman has the potential to be complex and interesting but right now he's just confused. I'm having trouble buying the contradictions in his character. He's brilliant but doesn't seem to know that his boss is a robber baron.
p34. I'd like to see some more character development of Command Moses. Just one of two quick scenes would really round him out and make him the kind of role actors want to play. For example, The Fugitive, where Marshall Gerard says, "He tried to kill one of my kids."
p35. Kaufman enters Congo. Reminds me of an anecdote: I was entering some country, Turkey I think, and the customs officer asked, "What's the purpose of your visit?" I said, "Tourist." He said, "Terrorist?!?!" I said, "no, not terrorist, tourist!" It took me 10 minutes to smooth over the situation.
I don't think Kaufman would get his visa info from a website. Contact at the embassy more likely. You need to clarify Kaufman's person and stick with it. You introduce him as the smartest guy in the company. You can't now allow him to be clueless.
p38. I like the reversal of Sebu crossing Moses, still having the humanity and character to do so.
p40. "...life insurance." is good dialog.
A major problem is that you haven't condensed these issues into a concise objective and central conflict. What does Sebu want? What does Kaufman want? What are the obstacles and antagonists to attaining those objectives. For example, in Blood Diamond, Solomon wanted to find his son and Archer wanted the diamond. In the Sixth Sense, Malcolm wanted to help Cole. In Sideways, Miles wants Maya and his book to be published. In those well-written films, the writer creates objectives that the audience can anticipate and wonder, "Will they or won't they achieve it?" You need to do that
Kaufman escapes from Makanga. This is an OK reversal but it needs to be strengthened. Specifically, it's not clear to me that Kaufman did everything he could via legitimate means to leave the country. Did he call his embassy, did he call Jupiter? And again, this guy is the smartest guy in the room so it's hard to believe that he would let himself get into this mess so easily. No backup phone, no satellite internet? Hard to believe based on how you set him up.
p52. Kaufman gives money. A potentially good scene. Make this scene stronger by showing how some of the people are grateful, some are greedy and it gets dangerous for K.
p59. Kaufman meets Sebu. Nice reversal, although a little predictable. Perhaps if you condensed the action between K's escape and meeting Sebu, the audience would have less time to predict. Maybe not; it could go wither way.
p65. So, is Sebu's objective revenge against Makanga? That's Ok but you should establish it clearly much earlier.
67. Why does Kaufman try to shoot Mai Mai? Consider giving him a specific reason, like the chief pissed on him or threatened or humiliated him in some way.
The language issue enters here. Specifically, I don't buy that all these Congolese children speak English. Maybe Sebu, who went to the missionary school but not all of them. Presumably you know that French is the official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although the country has 242 languages. Consider adding another subplot, a character, who can act as interpretter. Or maybe Kaufman speaks French or works for a French company or has a French interpreter.
Why is no one, for example his employer or Makanga, looking for Kaufman? Why is Kaufman so passive in trying to escape?
p77. Kaufman's dialog, "What kind of retarded..." I don't buy it. I expect more sophisticated dialog from someone with his education. Also, why are they beating him up since they still want funding from his employer.
p90. Buying the bus is an interesting reversal. I'd call that a shift into act 3, with the act 3 objective to escape in the bus with the kids. I'd like to see more antagonism to this objective. For example, Makanga has soldiers searching for the kids. They spot the bus driver when he flashes his money in a bar, beat him up and learn how and where the kids are going. That gives you a high stakes climax. You could add a timelock when Makanga orders all border crossings to close at 9 PM.
p92. Kaufman getting the kids to sing is a nice twist, paying off the earlier setup of him teaching in inner city schools.
p96. Plausibility issue. How does Kaufman know how to probe for mines and do first aid?
I'd like to see them get closer to the border before they get caught. You can milk that sequence for more suspense.
part 2: Analysis
This is a reasonably good first draft. It has some strengths as well as some problems.
- Sebu is an interesting and sympathetic character.
- You've created the potential for a great antagonism between Sebu and Makanga but it needs work. For one thing, I didn't know that revenge against Makanga was Sebu's primary motive until late in the story.
- How about consolidating Moses and Makanga?
- Act 3 is not bad. You've created the potential for a great climax with the kids racing for the border and Makanga racing to stop them.
- Kaufman lacked consistency. Either he's the smartest guy in the room or he isn't. If he is, the obstacles he faces can't be dependent on lack of research or knowledge. For example, in Blood Diamond, Archer didn't fail because he can't speak South African; he failed because his objective forced him to confront an antagonist far more powerful than himself. Also, Kaufman's motivation for going to Africa, as well as his conversion, need to be strengthened.
- Sebu is potentially an interesting and sympathetic character but he needs better development.
- The billionaire from Jupiter is a stick figure. Consider giving him a bigger role; perhaps he promises to save the kids, only to sell them out to Makanga. Also, his last line, "I'm fallible" is weak, both as dialog and in revealing his character.
- There were some plausibility problems, as indicated earlier. I'd like to see Kaufman made more realistic and consistent. For example, why was he sent in the first place, instead of a field agent? Why did he go, since he was obviously unsuited for the mission?
- There's very little anticipation or suspense created until act 3. Try to add some. For example, in Blood Diamond, there's the anticipation on the flight to the refugee camp if Solomon will find his family.
- Try to avoid being preachy. People don't like being preached to in films, that's for documentaries. It's a fine line. That said, this story can work if you concentrate on the story and characters and let the; Blood Diamond di well
- A lot of the dialog needs work. Kaufman does not speak with a consistent or convincing lexicon. Too many locals speak English. Others are unreasonably familiar with American slang and speak like kids from LA. For reference, review the speech patterns of Solomon in Blood Diamond.
- Blood Diamond
- The Last King of Scotland
- The Air Up There
- The Constant Gardener
- The Wild Geese
Nice job. Make the next draft twice as good. read
by Dilburtus on 03/03/2010Concept This is almost the lovechild from a marriage between "Blood Diamond" and "Last King Of Scotland." A seemingly plausible idea based simply on First-World demand and its cause/effect on a Third-World country as supplier. The title refers to the child-soldiers who are forced to grow-up fast and choose a side before it's too late. Story The fish-out-of-water protag is... Concept
This is almost the lovechild from a marriage between "Blood Diamond" and "Last King Of Scotland." A seemingly plausible idea based simply on First-World demand and its cause/effect on a Third-World country as supplier. The title refers to the child-soldiers who are forced to grow-up fast and choose a side before it's too late.
The fish-out-of-water protag is very believable as the naif who is volunteered to visit the African country on behalf of his high-stakes brokerage company. Very soon he is plunged into the world of corruption and violence and is forced to seek out the help of a group of suspicious/battle-hardened urchins roaming the countryside.
Very distinct and unique characters throughout. Only the bare minimum were introduced (or so it seemed.) Surprisingly the African names were easy to remember - that's a testament to both the effortless reading of their involvement in all scenes as well as the bare-bones casting in the story. Bravo! Sebu, Makanga, Lumumba etc were very well done - not that I have first-hand knowledge of that world, but I was buying the whole enchilada.
No problems here - you clearly know exactly what you are doing. Act 1 break comes p32 when Kaufman calls Milos. Mid-point finds Kaufman escaping from Makanga p51. The act 2 break comes after the torture scene when Kaufman understands that Makanga isn't going to play ball (re: the kids) and so the prisoner escapes during the ride to the airport p81.
Kaufman and Makanga would make enviable leads. The former is very sympathetic (but why keep the Garcia Youth Center volunteering gig a secret from his employers?) and the seemingly-polite-yet-monster-like Makanga is quietly established as a ruthless tyrant. The goals, motivations and obstacles are all self-evident.
Excellent. Nothing much else I can say. :)
Very quick, very clean read. The first 10 pages are stellar and act 1 is terrific. I did enjoy act 2 and 3 but feel it would benefit from some rewrites. Slight but potentially adding more tension etc.
Specifically, my suggestion would be to have Act 1 utilize an agent of Makanga as the antag. That way everyone would deal with Makanga's right-hand (MRH)... and of course MRH is (as now) seemingly quiet and civilized, albeit determined and full of menace. I believe that adopting something like this would make the leader of the country, say a President-for-Life, be *even* more menacing without our actually seeing him in the first two acts. It would introduce a layer of complexity - perhaps MRH could himself be a survivor of the lunatic President's whims and conspiracy theories. In any event, a further suggestion would be to have Kaufman plead for amnesty for *his* kids specifically (ie. Sebu et al). That way MRH would know Kaufman has a specific character at stake. Then if Mekanga - the head honcho himself - now comes along to personally escort Kaufman to the airport, the protag's escape would act as a personal slight - a humiliation - towards the President himself.
Anyhoo - just an idea. I like the thought of Kaufman escaping but MRH finds him thru Sebu's gang of child-soldiers. In an effort to ingratiate himself *further* with the President, MRH could hunt them all down. Meanwhile (of course) we could see something to further deepen the plot, namely to have Makanga be suspicious as to MRH's plans... and so (surprise!) the President shows-up at the Jungle basin. This would greatly amp-up the tension in act 3 IMHO. It is the President's greed/suspicions that lure him there to accompany MRH and Sebu. In fact, justice almost demands that it is the *President* who kills MRH in a fit of rage when he realizes they are all trapped by MRH's tupidity. And it should really be *Sebu* who then kills Makanga with a spear (a symbolic act, using an *original* tool/weapon not supplied by a foreign country.)
Right now the act 2 is missing some tension but for sure, act 3 is missing a sense of story justice where the bad guy just bites the dust via an accidental spear hurled by an unknown Mai Mai. His fate should really be sealed by his own hand and the final blow should come from the closest thing to a just victim.
I've made some additional notes (below) that occurred during the read. As with everything else, please feel-free to ignore... this is all just some schlub's (ie. me) opinion. Best wishes with this and all your other writing!
p11 she peaks out the window s/b peeks
p74 Kaufman and the children are start to look bored. (Appears to be a scan/replace problem with some sort of bulk "ing" removal) read
by wilder on 03/01/2010This gripping war thriller maintains tension from start to finish, linking the brutal reality of survival in a conflict zone with the cushioned, privileged world of the commodities trader. This is not exactly virgin territory, and there are inevitable parallels with other African conflict films, but the storytelling is just fresh enough to carve its own place in the genre... This gripping war thriller maintains tension from start to finish, linking the brutal reality of survival in a conflict zone with the cushioned, privileged world of the commodities trader. This is not exactly virgin territory, and there are inevitable parallels with other African conflict films, but the storytelling is just fresh enough to carve its own place in the genre. This is a tight draft but there is more mileage to be had from the powerful premise, and character arcs still leave plenty of room for exploration.
When a young Congolese boy discovers Coltan ore in his local river, his father dreams of riches to come. But the discovery brings a massacre upon the village leaving suddenly orphaned Sebu learning to fight for his life. Meanwhile an American tycoon sends a trusted analyst on a secret mission to assess the potential for investment in the new Coltan mine. Before long, these two paths collide.
A mainstream movie about the Coltan trade is long overdue, though it needs to be carefully differentiated from Blood Diamond to keep it from feeling like a carbon copy. Despite strong similarities, I feel the writer has been fairly successful in this. Introducing the analyst character creates a ‘fish out of water’ element while helping to contextualize the bloodshed, and while the collision of ideologies is thankfully handled with some subtlety, it could still prove a more powerful force later in the story while actually gaining new levels of complexity.
Thriller: African Conflict Action-Drama. Heavy on the action, but well balanced with thoughtful drama, attempting realism throughout. There are many scenes and characters that are reminiscent of other films exploring conflict in Africa – Last King of Scotland among them. While some of these are entirely credible, the following scenarios have been seen in many other films: a horrific village massacre, child soldier training, a brutal warlord preserving a mask of civility before a nervous westerner, a torture scene enacted on behalf of the warlord, etc.
This is not a criticism of the story, rather a caution that there are particular challenges to presenting this material afresh. The screenplay at least partially succeeds, because these scenes are often resolved in an unexpected manner, and generally through the actions of the characters.
Sebu’s story starts as a fairly standard movie story of a child in an African conflict zone, though that’s not to say it isn’t a fairly typical story of childhood in the Congo. We are introduced to Kaufman and others at the Jupiter building in a scene that presents the traders as callous yet impressively savvy (Kaufman in particular).
By contrasting the world of the African child with that of the western traders, the writer lets us know we are in serious moral territory. This will turn some viewers off immediately, as they hate being lectured to. The screenplay attempts to confound these initial expectations, but while there is no lecturing as such, the message is pretty clear by the end. The contrast of wealth and conflict may seem facile and obvious, but it is grounded in reality and in that respect pretty near unimpeachable. On some levels we are dealing in simple rights and wrongs – massacring millions to feed the economy of the privileged is wrong, and should be wrong regardless of your politics. Positioning Kaufman as a market capitalist allows an attempt to explore the strengths of this system as well as its weaknesses.
Rebels massacring villagers is another familiar image. Arguably, we need movies to remind us of this reality time and again, until these scenes feature only in period dramas. Many of the scenarios in the story are similarly stereotypical but (to my knowledge) quite authentic. Sebu treks through the jungle, and we expect to follow him through the nightmarish realities of survival in a country where life is cheap. In some respects we are proved correct, as he is soon recruited as a child soldier. But football-loving Sebu turns out to be full of surprises.
Ordered to massacre ‘enemy’ villagers, Sebu orders his troop not to shoot, then desserts the ‘battle’ killing his own commander on the way out. He then leads a ‘rogue platoon’ of children, intent on survival, though with a secondary motive of exacting revenge on general Makanga. Meanwhile, Kaufman arrives in Africa, but is reluctant to endorse the Coltan mining investment. Under house arrest at General Makanga’s compound, Kaufman makes a bold bid to escape but ends up lost in the Jungle. Soon he encounters Sebu and is taken prisoner by their troop, but eventually he attempts to help the children escape to the border.
The children are caught and returned to Makanga, and Kaufman is put on a plane back to the US. Sebu uses his knowledge of the local tribes to draw Makanga and his men into a trap where they are murdered. Kaufman returns to visit the children, who are now ‘safe’ in the refugee camp.
Setting up the two stories delay some of the structural elements, taking extra time to introduce two sets of characters and establish two worlds, with Kaufman not arriving in Africa till p35. The writing in the meantime is compelling and exciting enough to keep our attention, but this does push its structure to the limit, especially as it operates without defined character goals at this stage. It would be good to streamline the first act and have Kaufman arriving in Africa a little sooner, and some of Sebu’s scenes could take place once Kaufman is there.
The rest of the screenplay is taught and exciting, though again a lack of clear goals makes the pacing entirely reliant upon the effectiveness of each individual scene, and there are points when the story naturally starts to flag through a lack of structure but is saved by a compelling scene.
Sebu and Kaufman are parallel protagonists, and in a way both could be framed as ‘coming of age’ stories. In particular, they are both wild-cards which makes them a pleasure to watch. Sebu is wonderful, perhaps a little too wonderful for his age, he never seems to make any mistakes, but I love the way he copes. I’ve seen so many scenes where a character like his is forced to shoot innocent people, and it was exciting to see him take a stand – and then cover his own back.
Kaufman has great potential but there is lots of development needed with his character. The key question here is, how does he change? He is introduced as savvy and intelligent, but lacking any fulfilment from his privileged lifestyle. He volunteers teaching inner city children so we know that though he’s willing to exploit other economies he cares about those around him and is seeking something deeper out of life.
I’d really like to see Kaufman struggle more with his world view in Africa – I like that he’s no ‘convert’ and has ethics from the start, but there needs to be more to his character arc. Perhaps he is used to clashing with others over his personality but in Africa he has to learn about the serious consequences of his behaviour? Something is missing; a greater challenge to his initial perceptions. Of course, he’s well informed and clever, so this would have to be something beyond the obvious. How does he decide to go to Africa? Boredom? Is he initially reluctant to go, but under pressure, and pushed over the edge by this? It is unclear.
From the moment Kaufman runs away from the General’s compound, he reveals a reckless and impulsive streak that is hard to swallow at the moment as it is poorly set up, though there should be adequate opportunity in his NY scenes to do this. He comes across as somewhat outspoken, but he needs to be just a bit more shocking in his behaviour, perhaps the disconnect of trading has made him so used to taking action on a big scale that the physical consequences of his actions could come almost as a surprise to him.
Milos is good but underused, and the General is pretty stock, though an effective villain.
The dialogue is mostly good, with some great moments.
The action sequences are well described and tense, and the action is clear even amidst chaos. The storytelling is predominantly visual.
African Conflict, specifically in the Congo – the blood economy – notions of value, the value of stability, the value and cost of progress, intelligence vs. brute force. This last theme is confusing, as the two seem inextricably linked – the computers that connect people won by the blood of so many, yet perhaps it is this inherent conflict that is interesting and could be explored. The idea that these machines could perhaps bring liberation, peace and equality to Africa one day is a strange one.
A very strong screenplay, edge-of-the seat action and an important subject. If you can crack Kaufman this will be move onto the next level and could certainly be a viable production. Fingers crossed!
I don’t like the title – it’s been used before for a well-known movie in another genre, I guess you are trying to say they are pawns but I’m not sure that’s quite right…. Like a general playing with his toy soldiers?
Also, you have a recurring font glitch in this draft.
Wanna trade commodities?
I thought you covered stocks.
No, I mean lets hit the club and
pick up some tarts.
The apartment is sterile and barely used. (font glitch)
Nother font glitch…
The congo story is both ‘typical’ and all too credible. I like the ideas here already at play, setting up these two contrasting worlds, so far so good. I like that there are only two stories here for now.. thinking blood diamond, Syrianna etc. Kaufman has a little character but needs more work.
Kaufman and boy Sebu are the protagonists, Kaufman I expect to have more of an arc to embrace accountability, Sebu to become a man? Interested to see where this will go, Sebu’s story will surely be of survival. Kaufman at the moment has no major problems, but we can see he is not leading a fulfilling life.
P16 interesting to see he volunteers here, he’s not a total shit then.
The craps / probability scene is very reminiscent of the Wire btw
P19 all the adults say ‘I do not know’. This is very effective.
Welcome to what, brother?
Welcome to dirt.
Don’t worry, there is still time
Kaufman is invited to Milo’s house
Wow, this is a huge ask – wouldn’t Milo at least offer him a huge bonus, isn’t that how these things are done?
How Milos tries to justify it being better for the Congolese, interesting
We’ve had the recruitment, Sebu’s story is progressing, strong pov, but what about Kaufman? Need lots of ‘action’ soon, if he’s in Africa by b35 we’re ok I think
These scenes have been done before
Wonderful. Sebu leads his troop onwards.
P45 (good action sequence)
They must be dead.
A rogue platoon of children!
wow, I like these characters – they do what they need to, just like that
oops, poor Kaufman?
Font glitch… ooooh…
Wow, Kaufman shoots a gorilla
The woman, mother, and fruit
No clear goal that kind of thing, almost beginning to drag a little then another exciting sequence.
Ok, Kaufman ‘ this must stop’ what is he going to do?!
Why does Kaufman get himself in this mess? Now a torture scene, again, seen before, let’s see where it goes though there’s been a good pay-off so far..
(font glitch) & 79
I probably can’t save them... I
know... I just have to stay a while
So for the fourth time, reckless Kaufman (? – how does this relate to his established character?) rolls from the car to near certain death, trying to do god knows what… we’re at film end time now… I need reassurance, and fast.
engine belches black smoke and sounds like a weed whacker (?>)
Kaufman punk scene…
A disillusioned banker becomes disillusioned proper
The Driver hits the breaks and opens the door.
P90/91 – Kaufman buys a bus!
P91/92 font glitch
Brute force usually isn’t the best
strategy. If you keep reaching for
your rifle to solve your problems,
you won’t have long to live.
Eventually, you will be outgunned.
But your most dangerous weapon;
your most useful tool is your
(Interesting, is this what it’s all about?)
If you keep reaching for your rifle
to solve your problems, you won’t
have long to live. Eventually, you
will be outgunned. But your most
dangerous weapon; your most useful
tool is your brain.
(bit too cheesy in the repeat)
P105 font glitch
The climactic mai mai scene is problematic I think…
P107 – back in the present?
Back in the present, Kaufman looks bewildered and overwhelmed
walking through the barbed gate and past the throngs of wiry
refugees. He holds a large cardboard box.
I won’t lie to you: The game is
rigged and the odds are lousy. But
maybe if you work ten times harder
than the next guy, you might have a
prayer. These machines aren’t just
toys. They won’t solve all your
problems, but they do connect you
to the rest of the world.
And that connection brings
opportunity. We are all connected.
The children betray a glimmer of hope.
(I like that it all comes around, that the machines they die for may one day bring them liberation and equality, that is a powerful idea, but… this speech sounds too much like something from a Microsoft or Google convention.) read
by OldFFF on 02/11/2010Comments on Toy Soldiers In total this is better than Blood Diamond in three ways. It puts one of the prime manipulators in the center of the screen. Makanga. It can’t go on like this without his rapacity. But, of course, he does not see it that way. And you have made a good start on developing him. Since we need a villain he is a good candidate. We need more of his manipulation... Comments on Toy Soldiers
In total this is better than Blood Diamond in three ways. It puts one of the prime manipulators in the center of the screen. Makanga. It can’t go on like this without his rapacity. But, of course, he does not see it that way. And you have made a good start on developing him. Since we need a villain he is a good candidate. We need more of his manipulation and treachery. You’re onto something.
It ties the industrial, financial and commercial interests to the cause of the misery. The promise of wealth draws the war lords like flies. They kill without regard for the people in the village and the whole business is kept off the front page. This is not just a luxury item like a diamond. It is the dirty business of ore and grubbing in the dirt.
The other improvement is to have a protagonist in Kaufman who not as jaded as the diCaprio character. His volunteer work at home sets him up well. And the Sebu character is a good addition. These two also need to be delved into deeper. You have a real strong triangle to work with. The resolution has to include more time for Kaufman proving his worth to the lads and Sebu in particular. The phone call may be a surprise. But it should have a logic and a development when viewed after the fact.
Interesting start and good dialogue with the African family.
Minor quibbles with details. Most of the time you hit these issues on the head.
Concept: It is good to show the far side of the world and how it feeds into the everyday life we think we need.
Story: The story works for me. The path for the characters generally worked. You have handled the interweaving of the two protagonists well.
Structure: p10 Incite. Makanga led to the village. This makes things start.
P30 Act I end. This is close to where Sebu makes the decision to join the resistance. P32 Decision by Kaufman to take the assignment. Since you have two characters to bring together you did well to wrap them into the commitment within a couple pages.
P60 They join forces
P90 Kaufman buys the bus, setting up the ending.
Dialogue: The dialogue was well rendered and to the point.
Characters: The characters were generally well drawn. I liked the set up of who they were but wold like to see you delve deeper into Kaufman, Sebu and Matanga. They are well positioned.
Good presentation of the devastation of the Congolese village, the escape trek and the gathering stream of refugees, the camp with aid workers (seemed too fast), and the quick turn of Commander Moses as soon as he gets his new soldiers out of the camp.
How can the viewer tell that the traders are making money and that the aggression is controlled, etc.? These are declarative sentences that fit in a short story or novel. A screenplay will never be read by the same people who read fiction. It will be read by people who will try to make a movie. The only descriptions allowed are the ones that tell them what they will be putting in front of the camera. Tell it just as it will look on the screen.
Inciting incident on p10. Makanga will kill for what he wants and there will be trouble for our NY boys.
Dissociation? His wounded shoulder struggles? Doesn’t he struggle to rise on his wounded shoulder? And why does he not lean on his good shoulder more?
A boy of 15 in Africa would be pretty self-sufficient and know all the neighboring villages within a couple days walk, wouldn’t he? He must have been doing many chores and helping his parents in many ways. Look at the stories of the Lost Boys who trekked out of the Sudan. They were led by 12 and 13 year old boys. Most of them were 10 and under.
Good contrast of the description of the trek of the refugees and contract with the life back in NY.
Climax of Act I should be about p 30. What is there is good but it is a recruiting drive by Commander Moses. Sebu is important but he does not look like out main protagonist. I suspect that the real climax is the decision by Kaufman to go to the Congo and do something. It should be pretty easy to land it in the right spot.
When Sebu shoots the Commander it needs more description. I thought he was running away.
If you have to tell us Makanga is referring to the attackers being dead, how will the audience know this? You could have him gesture toward the other side of the river.
I’m beginning to like Kaufman. Can you turn his curiosity and integrity on earlier? He has been quiet in previous scenes. He would hold the screen much better if you gave him a voice to talk about things in America. If we knew he had a tendency to mouth off at the wrong moment it would add to the tension going into the general’s territory, especially since you have already shown us what kind of man he is.
Makanga is a good character to use here, ruthless and self-justifying. It’s good to have a villain who thinks he is doing the right thing as he helps himself to everything in sight.
Middle of ActII. What this costs Sebu. Kaufman is just along for the ride. Other than running away he has made no decisions. Wouldn’t his arc be stronger if he had been given a chance to leave and went with them voluntarily? It is not likely they are doing him any favors. This script is running in a kind of stream of consciousness vein. It brings the audience in deeper if we have declared goals for characters and watch them strive toward them. They should be opposed and not be able to easily make their goals but that is part of what we enjoy in a story. If Kaufman is the protagonist instead of just a witness, and surrogate for the audience, then he has to be active in making decisions. Give him increasingly harder decisions.
At one point Sebu did not know what white people were and now he knows about NYC? It’s more believable if he does not start out quiet so ill informed.
Just an aside. Is he in eastern Congo to find people who know English? And how did he get to Kinshasa and back so easily? That’s far down the river toward the west. Won’t most people there be speaking French if they know any European language at all?
Turns to hope. Good ending. Things happen that we want to see on screen. The children may scatter and Sebu should tell them he has one last mission for them. Then show them making their way into the camp. Although Kaufman has the means you have given the most dramatic moments and biggest decisions to Sebu. He is like the Greek Zorba to the English young man. He does it by his force of will and perseverance and having his head and heart in the right place. If Kaufman is going to stay in the same picture he has to be ramped up a good bit.
by David Muhlfelder on 02/10/2010It's always nice to take a second look at a good script to see how it has developed. As the production notes state, this draft is not radically different from the one I read a while back. But sometimes small changes can make a world of difference. One change (At least I think it's a change) that stood out was the scenes of Kaufman tutoring inner city kids in New York. It's... It's always nice to take a second look at a good script to see how it has developed. As the production notes state, this draft is not radically different from the one I read a while back. But sometimes small changes can make a world of difference.
One change (At least I think it's a change) that stood out was the scenes of Kaufman tutoring inner city kids in New York. It's important we see that, because it reveals a character trait that underpins Kaufman's involvement with the child rebels in the Congo. Another key change was the scene where Makanga came to Kaufman's room after being shot. The scene created an interesting, almost father-son dynamic between the two. It addressed my earlier concern that there was not enough of a seductive side to Makanga's character. In fact I think it would add a chilling quality to the story if there were one or two more scenes like that prior to Kaufman's escape from Makanga's estate.
This brings me to my one quibble with this draft. I felt Kaufman's escape was a little rushed. May be if he witnessed Makanga torturing a captured rebel, especially in counterpoint to Makanga's gregarious side, it would feel more organic. As is, I didn't quite get why Kaufman felt so threatened or in danger to the point where he felt he needed to escape.
One final minor note. I tell this to every writer who does it. So, please don't fell I'm singling you out for nitpicking. The only time I ever hear about people "striding" or "sauntering" is in screenplays. When I read that, I always think of John Cleese doing a silly walk. I think using colorful verbs is fine if it reveals something about a character. For example, if a man sashays into a room, it tells me he is effeminate. If a woman does it, she's being sexual. Characters hurry or trot or shuffle. Those words say something about their state of mind at the moment. Stride and saunter don't tell me anything. I would go for the simple choice, unless you're going for something character specific. If everyone strides and saunters, it tends to diminish the distinctions between them.
Okay, rant over. This script is coming along nicely, and Kaufman's relationship with Sebu and the other children sets it apart from similar stories. Nice job. read
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