He must get into the game before he can get out of it.
HOW IT RATES
When Jason Moon stumbles into the world of sled dogs he discovers adventure, love, anguish and a new understanding to his life.
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Reviews of Winter Moon 3
by Serita on 11/10/2006This is a good start but it could be a whole lot better. The names of John and Jason confused me at times. It is common that you do not use the name inital for characters. Both characters could be a lot better developed. Jason seemed almost perfect - I mean no major faults. Yeah he hit the dog and I didn't like that but he is not well rounded. Relationnship with Shannon... This is a good start but it could be a whole lot better.
The names of John and Jason confused me at times. It is common that you do not use the name inital for characters.
Both characters could be a lot better developed. Jason seemed almost perfect - I mean no major faults. Yeah he hit the dog and I didn't like that but he is not well rounded.
Relationnship with Shannon is too pat. Why does she like him? Why does he like her - other than her money she seems rather vapid.
The writing is okay. Could be more vivid. I would like to see him go through and remove all the passive "to be" words and create more active words.
The begining is much too slow. By page three we should already be feeling the tension and know what the conflict is. If the conflict is only can Jason get to the finish line...my question is why?
Now if John had tried to do this in an earlier day and failed , that might make more sense. Oh the thing with the dog in Vietnam, good and it made me sad but did not really relate to this other than to show that both dad and kid liked dogs. You need more parallelism than that.
The sister comes out of nowhere in the hospital scene. I would have the sister at the house when Jason comes to say goodbye and have her defending Jason against dad.
Got lost in geography you start in Minnesota with no indication of why the guys are there except to pick up women and then he is back in Iowa.
Each scene, each word must be accountable in a script..and yes, this script is too long.
Many of the scenes can be either cut or shortened and can be made more visual. remember this is a visual media. How can we show the father being upset? He doens't need to say it. pg 2 - if it is impossible to explain and then don't have him explain it!! Just show it.
pg 20 still no real conflict. Alot of the words are transitions that we do not need - driving through Iowa...driving through here.
Now what if Jason figures out that dad had wanted to be a musher and never made it and then decides...I don't know...but if I hadn't agreed to read the whole thing I probably would have stopped here.
Tom seems like a good old boy but not developed enf.
What if Shannon's dad is a top musher and Shannon doesn't get along with him and wants Jason to win to show him that others can. Their relationship as it stands is way way tooo easy. He needs to strive for something more than just proving himself.
Are they Asian - isn't Moon an Asian name?
I would like to see more about Tucker. Maybe Tucker at the end becomes not only the leader but helps to save Jason. Show Tucker being abused by another musher and have Jason rescuing him.
Or what if all the dogs Jason has are loosers and he decides he is going to make winners of them because he himself felt he was a looser and is going to be a winner.
Several spelling and typing mistakes.
pg 56 - Jason - I have to dig deeper to find it...find what??
Again, I need to see more What is at Stake? How far will Tom go to make sure he is the winner? would Tom rig the race and rig Molly's sled?
Would Jason do anything? Has he thought of it? Was he even tempted?
pg 78 John and Tucker look eye to eye - you mean Jason??
How about throwing in some Indian lore. Make it more mystical with the light or something.
Why is Shannon surprised pg 85 - Dogs love their owners even the ones who beat them. They seek the love.
pg 86 - going from jason to John's home..confusing.. again the names I think.
pg 87 - John's dog is Tucker too? How odd and so far away???
What is Jason's character arc?
pg 95 - John says he has waited for Jason to win the race??? He fought him!! So if that is the case you need to show it. Look at Cars and how the old car got in to mentoring the new car.
I mean it might be ok for an indy but just....
Being that what it is, I liked the story only because I love Alaska and have been on the frozen Yukon - speaking at small class at St. Mary's at the mouth of the Yukon - about writing.
You have the research done now lets get the characters to breathe. read
by victoriaellis0380 on 11/06/2006PG. 23 "Guess brake time's over!" ~ Break time? Or brake time for the release of the brake? PG. 27 This is a general note, not just specific to this page. But remember to avoid -ing words. An example from this page: Tom is standing inside the open... ~ Instead say: Tom stands inside the open doorway... PG. 33 "...are abraded and have several little rips in them." ~ You say... PG. 23
"Guess brake time's over!" ~ Break time? Or brake time for the release of the brake?
This is a general note, not just specific to this page. But remember to avoid -ing words. An example from this page: Tom is standing inside the open... ~ Instead say: Tom stands inside the open doorway...
"...are abraded and have several little rips in them." ~ You say the same thing twice in one sentence. Leave it at abraded or leave it at little rips.
While I understand Jason's loss and the aggravation of the dogs fighting. I do believe the scene is a bit too extreme with him beating the hell out of the dogs. It's too violent. Something needs to change there as it automatically makes me hate Jason who has, to this point, been very likable. It's just too extreme for the content of the story which has been very family like.
No mention of a sister until now. And only used as a plot device.
Why did you switch from Tom's first name to using his last name?
Fantastic story! It kept a nice pace throughout, which is great considering the script is very very lengthy at 129 pages. It's still a very long read due to the heavy action lines. You paint wonderful pictures with your words, but I do believe there are areas that can be cut. The flashback scene of Vietnam, in my opinion, could certainly be cut.
At the same point of it being a long 129 pages. I felt cheated in the end. Like it just stopped. I can't place my finger on it. But I have a feeling that if you got into the story later, with him already mushing for the one guy and thinking of getting his own place with his disapproving father, that would help free up some time in there as well.
It's a great story. I read a book by Gary Paulsen called "Dogsong" which is about his experience with sledding and when I was kid it was truly intriguing and your story makes me want to dig it out and re-read it.
I had a vibe from it as being a real feel good Disney-esque movie (which I'm sure you both loathe and love to hear that) but that one scene with the beatings of the dogs really bothered me. It truly angered me. And at the same time I'm sure you wanted that effect. I just think it didn't have a place in a story of this nature.
With some cleaning up and tightening of your descriptions you could shave some pages off the script.
The relationship between Shannon and Jason was rushed along. But it worked for what it was worth. But it just seemed to happen. They meet, boom they're together. You could really add some dimensions here with their relationship but you just toss it at the reader as it is and we are forced to believe this incredible bond has been made.
You had some great dialogue down there on the page as well. The characters all had distinct voices and that made for a fun read as well.
I wish I had more to offer as a review. I usually have more pages written down. But I read it without really noticing huge mistakes that were of note. Just work on chopping down some of the descriptions/action blocks. What parts repeat what you've said. What parts can be combined with others to shorten it a bit. Many readers will see the 129 page count and freak (I did) but I was already interested in the subject matter I just prayed the writer could put it together. And you did.
Thanks for the read. read
by Chained Bear on 10/02/2006I love sled-dog stories. I have one on the back burner myself, strangely enough, and I spent some time near Grand Marais, MN. What a treat to be able to read someone else’s take on the same subject! And let me also say, I read the writer’s bio, and if this is his or her first screenplay—well this is a heck of a first swing at bat. I caution the writer: I did not mean to write... I love sled-dog stories. I have one on the back burner myself, strangely enough, and I spent some time near Grand Marais, MN. What a treat to be able to read someone else’s take on the same subject! And let me also say, I read the writer’s bio, and if this is his or her first screenplay—well this is a heck of a first swing at bat.
I caution the writer: I did not mean to write a seven-page review, but it just happened that way! Please accept it in the helpful spirit in which it's intended.
My first thought was “The Beargrease! Great! It’s better to set it in Minnesota than Alaska, where a hundred sled-dog movies are set…” But then we moved to Alaska. I guess that’s where the business is—where most of the jobs are—but I would have liked to see a more unfamiliar world, in a place where audiences rarely get to go. Part of the joy of this movie would be the vicarious thrill the audience would get from going along to a place, on an adventure, most of us will never get to go on. The dogsledding part could be Alaska, could be Minnesota, could be Greenland—but as far as movies we haven’t seen, Minnesota’s a little more unique than Alaska.
Jason’s an outsider to the dog life, giving the writer a prime opportunity to show the dogsledding life through his eyes to the audience—also outsiders. Therefore, I’m not sure how powerful the montages are—the wait until spring, the drive to Alaska—and then Jason got a job with no trouble at all. From what the writer has shown of Jason’s character, it wouldn’t be surprising if this adventurous young man just left on a whim—if he saw the ad that night on the free Wi-Fi in his hotel room in Duluth, and showed up at Tom Larsen’s doorstep in response. Appearing in Alaska is a larger-than-life action—one worthy of a movie hero. Reading magazines is not.
(This means the scene with his dad would go away—and I do like that scene quite a bit—but unless the dad’s going to be important later on in the script, he doesn’t need to be there--see notes later about this. Also, there should be either more forces arrayed against Jason’s move to Alaska, or else he just lands there—no sense beating around the bush. Either there is conflict for Jason (e.g. he has to fight to even get to the dogs) or he just gets there and gets busy—it’s important that we get to the meat of the story ASAP. Of course that depends on what the writer wants to be the "meat.")
A surprising choice like that would tell us more about Jason, and give us the chance to learn who Larsen is (besides just a nice guy who’s comfortable outdoors). If some kid showed up on your Alaskan frontier doorstep begging for a job driving your dogs, what would you do? That’s what Jason would have to deal with. If I were Larsen, I’d make this tenderfoot prove himself, not just give him the job. (One of the great things this writer did, BTW, was make all these people feel absolutely three-dimensional and real--at least for the first half of the script--so the reader has no trouble imagining them or saying “Gee, if I were him…” Maybe that makes them a little too real—they have to be bigger than real in the movies, after all!) Then the audience would get to learn along with Jason, and get to root for him and watch him get tough. As it is, Larsen literally throws him on a sled and takes him for the ride of his life—trying to show this naïve kid how hard it is, and that he ought to go home and save himself a tough time. But Jason hangs on—he does well, impresses Larsen, and gets the job. Now we know something about dogsledding, and we’re really rooting for Jason. This is the path the writer takes, only he/she doesn’t take it to the fullest, which is where most audiences would like to see it.
On a similar note, on p. 22, Jason says “do you ever get the feeling that…” As a reader, that line stuck out to me, not because I don’t understand that there’s a mystical bond with the dogs, but because we haven’t seen Jason really make that connection with the dogs yet. He hasn’t earned that connection in the audience's mind. Tom has it, maybe even Buster. But Jason’s still new at this, and we haven’t seen that transformation. That seems, at this point, to be the core of this story—Jason's journey to “oneness” or whatever with the dogs, with nature, with himself. Perhaps if we saw a bit of that transformation first—a few more scenes of Jason having learning experiences, like what does he eat? Does he get much sleep? How hard does he really have to work? Is he any good at this? Doesn’t he want to quit? What did he do before—deliver pizzas? Why is he good at this, or not good at this? Do the dogs respect him, or ignore him? How many times does he get hurt doing the same task before he gets the hang of it and does it like a pro?—then his line here would really resonate with the audience. But since we haven’t had any of those indications, he hasn’t been tested, it rings hollow. I LOVE what Tom says in response. That is beautiful stuff. It would resonate even more if we saw Tom teaching Jason all this hard work in a way that’s like tough love—maybe he’s a taciturn guy—I can’t tell because we haven’t seen enough of him. But maybe this beautiful, poetic description of how treating sled-dogs is a metaphor for life is the most words he’s ever strung together. Maybe it’s even the first time he’s really spoken to Jason—this proud young tenderfoot who thinks he can just pick up dogsledding and do it like it’s a snowmobile. I don’t know—I see the seeds of a really awesome story here, a lot of conflict for Jason that forces him to grow and change and mature—but I don’t see that story yet. The conflict isn’t there, everything is too easy for Jason.
The scene on p. 27-28, for example, gets the audience a little closer to that—only it’s a scene of three guys talking, rather than of Jason having to do anything. In an action-filled life like dogsledding, there is going to have to be some action here. If the main character’s arc is that dogsledding changes him and the way he views his world, if it makes him grow up, then we have to see that hard work so that the payoff will be greater. If all we see is him giving up on girls in bars, and talking about how dogs are mystical, and not actually stirring dog food but grimacing at the thought of stirring dog food, we’re not going to care if he ever changes. Also if he never fails, we don’t care if he changes. (That was a big lesson that took me umpteen drafts to figure out—my hero had no flaws! She never failed at anything! As soon as I made her fail—and I burned with embarrassment for her, it was so weird—the script got so much better. Don’t be afraid to let this guy fail, especially at first. We will learn 1) the stakes are high, this is a dangerous sport, 2) it’s not as easy as the pros make it look, 3) he’s determined to learn and do it right, and 4) we’ll root for him!) He’s going on a hell of a journey—the audience wants to go with him! I actually felt cheated when he got to drive a team by himself on page 30—because the audience did not see him earn that right. Yet, when he has trouble handling the dogs because of the moose—that’s a good scene. I only wish we had seen that kind of event earlier—not that he should go out on his own earlier, but that he screwed something up, he couldn’t do it right. (Falling off his snowmobile at the beginning doesn’t count. That set up his world, that he’s young, strong, likes the outdoors—it didn’t set up that he deserves for us to root for him.) Even Shannon just falls into his lap—repeatedly. We’re told she is prime meat for all the guys, we even see it (a little bit)—but does Jason have to work to get her? Nope. She literally just appears before him, every time. At first we learn her family owns planes, making us hope she’s a spunky bush pilot or something… but we never get to learn that much about her. She shows up, but like Jason, doesn’t really do anything that shows us what she’s made of. Of course this is less of a problem (though still a problem) in the main character’s romantic interest, and a bigger problem in the main character himself. But it’s worth thinking about how to make a character interesting and active, because it’s necessary for both of these characters.
Kathy Larsen appears out of nowhere to talk Tom into letting Jason drive a sled, then never appears again. Similarly, on pages 91-92 we learn that Jason has a sister, and she is introduced; at that point in the film, we don’t need to meet anyone else.
My understanding of Alaskans is they don’t trust anyone until that person has spent a full year in Alaska—until he or she has lasted a full winter. But Jason got through his first winter awful easy, and I felt like he not only doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing when he gets his own place, but that we, the audience, don’t have a clue either. If we had seen more of Jason’s struggles when he first got to Alaska and first had to learn about dogs and running sleds, then this moment, when he gets his own place, would mean so much more to him and to us.
The restaurant scene threw me for a loop. I understand, logically, that Jason needs to make ends meet. But we haven’t seen that need. And what the hell is a nice restaurant doing out in the wilds of Alaska? I’m sure they have them there; but why on earth are we in one? What is this movie really about?
Then Jason’s training his own dogs with the ATV. I found myself asking, why are we watching this happen now, instead of at the beginning when we wanted to see it? Again, Buster and Jason talk really well—realistic dialogue, interesting—but if this is a sled-dog movie, we want to see action, not two guys talking about a dog being a head-case, but the dog actually being a head-case. (Here’s a golden opportunity for the writer to show just what it means when a dog is a head-case.)
Again, p. 50-51: It’s a good idea to come in late and leave early, but in this case, when the audience doesn’t know anything about what to expect, the writer misses yet another opportunity to set the stage and set up our expectations. What are the stakes? How long is this race in distance? In time? How hard is it to get registered to run? (Many races require that you run a certain number of shorter races before they’ll let you in theirs, for example.) Who are the favorites? Are they out for blood? How competitive is this going to be? Is Jason going to flame out? We can’t feel any tension because we don’t know any of this—we come in on the very end of the official’s speech about the race.
How does the Lead Musher know Jason’s name? And why on earth would Jason try to attack a bull moose? And why would the audience know that that’s a big deal?
P. 56. Shannon moves in in a montage. Again—montages are weak. They’re useful to show time passing, but in this case, just moving along and showing Shannon’s things in Jason’s house in whatever the next scene is in that house, would have had the same effect—just as the writer does later, using a quick visual or two to show that Shannon has left Jason. On the other hand, I couldn’t believe at this point that Shannon and Jason’s relationship had moved that far along, so perhaps the point about montages is moot.
Similarly, the scene with Tucker on p. 56-57 just seems inexplicable. Not sure why it is there, or what the writer is trying to show with it. It seems, like the restaurant scene above, to have dropped out of the sky.
P. 58-60. Interesting scene, but I didn’t feel like the story earned it. It could work well, depending on what scenes take place around it. Where it happens now, it falls flat.
P. 62: “We’ve got him worried.” This line should indicate to us that Jason has become a skilled musher—but it doesn’t, because we don’t know how good Tom is. We’ve never seen him race—and we’ve never seen Jason race either. We saw him off his sled hitting a moose—but we haven’t seen him race. What does it take to win one? What does it take to run one and finish it? We still don’t know, and we’re halfway through the story.
Killing all the dogs in a collision really just makes me hate Jason for being a bad dog owner. I can see that it was supposed to be a major turning point, but killing fuzzy cute animals that we love is a writer’s choice that is best used very judiciously. In this case it makes us simply hate Jason, the main character we should be rooting for, for not paying attention while he’s driving. How could he? And yet, it’s something that could work, depending on the story. So, a larger question: what is this story? Is it the story of Jason finding maturity and happiness in the outdoorsman’s life with dogs? Then what dramatic purpose does the death of his dogs serve in such a story? If that’s not the main story, then what is it?
Similarly, why on earth would we ever root for Jason again after he not only got his racing team killed, but he beats his dog nearly to death with his fists? No way. That is not a musher—that’s a psychopath. P. 78. I could not believe that John would have the nerve to ask Shannon to tell him about her relationship with his son. I also couldn’t believe, given how she left him, that she was there washing his damn dishes. No spunky young woman I know would do such a thing. Shortly afterward, as if it weren’t enough that Jason is an ass to his dogs, he also has to be an ass to his perfectly reasonable (we have not yet seen anything to indicate otherwise) father. This could work—maybe—if the audience is firmly on the side of the main character. But that hasn’t happened—and now, in fact, we’re dead set against him.
John Moon saying “get back on that sled” would really mean something if he had done everything in his power to prevent Jason from going out there and learning the life in the first place. As it is, it doesn’t mean much to us. Same with “don’t make the same mistakes I did.” And then—another larger question—if all Jason needed was someone to yell at him to get him to try again, then how much, really, did he suffer?
The flashback to Vietnam is another extraneous scene. Again, the writer must answer this basic question: what is this story about? If it is about a young man finding his life’s journey in the life of a dogsledder, then that is what this story must be about. His father’s Vietnam flashback would seem to have very little to do with that story.
The montage of Jason preparing his team as his father, back in Iowa, builds him a sled is visually beautiful, and dramatic. Yet it, like so many other scenes, seems to fall from the sky—and again Jason is going to get something we are clearly meant to believe is valuable, without having worked for it. How did he win his father over? How did his father come to believe so deeply in Jason’s new life (he was never all that opposed to it anyway, so the transformation was kind of meaningless) that he’s going to use his skills (which we’ve never seen) to build him a sled (which we didn’t really know he needed)? It’s a good idea, but disconnected, like so many other scenes, from the core of the story. On a side note, if John’s never built a sled before, I can’t really believe this one’s going to be any good. It might work just as well if John simply bought Jason a top-of-the-line sled. Again, later, when John is suddenly dying of cancer, we not only learn that Jason suddenly has a sister (whom Shannon has been waiting to meet?!), but we see what should be a touching scene of empathy and “torch-passing” between father and son—but since the relationship wasn’t fully explored for most of the film, its presence here feels contrived and leaves the audience cold.
The Iditarod suddenly appears on page 98. Now, this is a famous race. It’s probably the only dogsled race most of us have ever heard of. Yet here, at what should be the very end of the script (but it isn’t), it appears as if out of the blue as Jason’s moment of truth. As a reader, I found it unbelievable that Jason has gotten so good, so quickly, that he is even qualified to run the Iditarod, let alone finish it (winning is out of the question). It costs a fortune to run that race—one absolutely must have corporate sponsors, for one thing—and we have had no inkling, nor seen any preparation on Jason’s part (how much dog food? How much equipment? How much money? How much training to get the dogs, and himself, in shape for this grueling ordeal?), that this event was even on his radar screen. One could easily make an entire two-hour movie about just the Iditarod, without having a dull moment. And the promise of this premise (the young man learning the life of dogsledding) makes it seem like seeing this entire race could indeed be the “meat” of the story. Yet, somehow, the Iditarod appears here as an afterthought.
Here, too, Buster appears, makes a few comments about Jason’s ability, and then disappears again. Like the others—Tom, Shannon, and John—if Buster is going to be a character, he needs to have a real dramatic purpose in the story, and like those others, he shouldn’t be neglected for large chunks of the script, only to appear out of the sky when it’s convenient.
On page 100, when Jason and another nameless, faceless musher enjoy the northern lights, it seems as if this is the first time Jason has seen them. That is almost impossible, if he’s been living in Alaska (by the way, what part of Alaska? We never did find out) for several years. Did he really never expect to see them “in a million years”?
P. 113: Jason supposedly can start someone else’s team—yet again, we haven’t seen this ability in him before now, so it’s hard to believe.
P. 122: Shannon in a plane? Why now and not before? Why are characters still being introduced at this point in the script? Why isn’t Shannon the pilot—if only for the sake of not introducing yet another person? The writer might consider that having the audience watch people in the plane watching the race, might be one step too far removed from the vicarious thrill this movie should offer people: the thrill of being in the race with the main character.
I sensed that the belated, half-hearted conflicts with Shannon, John, and even Tom (in the race) were efforts by the writer to inject some kind of antagonist into the story. There must be one, only one, central conflict. Is it Jason against his dad? Then it should be that, start to finish. Is it Jason against nature? Then he needs to learn how to fight nature, fight it, and then have a final showdown. Is it Jason against Tom? Then the race will be the final showdown. Is it Jason against animals—a metaphor for the animal within himself, perhaps—which will be the story of the relationship between Jason and Tucker? The central conflict can manifest itself in many forms—Jason can still fight with Shannon, with his dad, etc.—but the nature of all those conflicts must be offshoots, or facets, of the main theme.
The writer might find it helpful to ask and answer some basic questions, such as What does Jason want? The story of the film should be how he gets what he wants—who and what must he fight to get that thing? How bad does he want it? How far is he willing to go, what is he willing to do to get that thing? Since the question is never raised at the beginning, it can’t really be answered at the end. If the writer can zero in on that one, overriding, overwhelming conflict, and inject it in every possible scene, it will automatically make this script exponentially stronger. That might mean that a lot of good scenes and characters that the writer loves are going to disappear. It might mean writing a whole lot of new scenes and facing down the same problems as to character arcs and putting conflict into each scene—but it will be worth it in the end, because the script will be a lean, mean, entertainment machine.
Another very basic question that might help the writer make some of these tough decisions about what must go and what can stay, is to ask “what have audiences not seen in movies before?” I suspect the writer has probably seen every dogsledding movie ever made. How is this one going to be different? What kind of story is this movie going to tell that we haven’t seen in any of those others? That might help to focus what the main character’s going to be like, what the conflict is, and the tone of the story as well.
One last note: the writer probably knows already that this script is far too long. Even for someone already interested in the story and the subject matter (like me). There’s a way to tell this terrific story and show these terrific images in 100 pages. I hope the writer finds that way!
People on the Message Board sometimes complain that this is a lame thing to say, but I really do want to read a rewrite. Good luck, and keep writing! read
- Writer: Mark Dunlap
- Uploaded by: woodsguy63
- Length: 129 pages
- Genre: adventure, drama
- Winter Moon is the result of my long time desire to write, a love of movies and fifteen years of life with sled dogs. Thousands of miles behind dog teams and my status as a champion sled dog racer give me at least some insight into how the world of sled dogs can be portrayed and hopefully, provides the fuel for a good story. A few key scenes for Winter Moon have been simmering in my mind for years. Over the past months of seriously working on the screenplay, it's been a frustrating process of trying to create something that not only gives an accurate view of modern mushing, but is also exciting, thought provoking and moving. With due respect to the Disney Films "Iron Will," "Snow Dogs," and most recently "Eight Below," I've concentrated on making Winter Moon as realistic as possible. I was totally unprepared for how difficult it is to keep the page count in the vicinity of 120 pages and can only hope I managed to piece a decent story together.
- Bio: I've been writing a little bit here and there since I was a kid, but have never pursued any serious career as a writer. I've always loved motion pictures and have had a secret interest in having some part in the production of at least one movie in my lifetime. For years I've had several ideas smoldering in my head and I'm finally hard at work on my first screenplay. A resource such as Triggerstreet may be a valuable boost to my efforts.
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