Get Your Script Reviewed On Scriptshadow!: To submit your script for an Amateur Review, send in a PDF of your script, along with the title, genre, logline, and finally, something interesting about yourself and/or your script that you’d like us to post along with the script if reviewed. Use my submission address please: Remember that your script will be posted. If you’re nervous about the effects of a bad review, feel free to use an alias name and/or title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every couple of weeks so your submission stays near the top.

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Premise (from writer): A troubled detective operates outside the law when he buys an underage prostitute to perform “favors.” But when a 16-year-old girl goes missing and he must use her diary to reconstruct the events that led to her disappearance, an unimaginable truth emerges.
Why You Should Read (from writer): You once wrote on your blog that you had passed along a script because it was RFG (Really Fucking Good). The person you sent that script to, agreed with you about it being RFG and they passed it along, etc. — Well, I’ve been told that my script is RFG and I’m passing it along to you as I’d like to see what the SS community thinks. — It’s a dark tale and honestly, I was in a fucked-up place when I wrote it. Hell, I still might be there. But while I love reading a good mindbender, I loved writing one even more.
Writer: Carver Gray
Details: 125 pages!!


We need some Aaron Paul action for Ryan here.

It’s time to break out those stars and stripes and celebrate America’s birthday everyone! How do we do that on Scriptshadow? By reviewing a script about a missing girl who’s likely been brutally murdered. Woo-hoo! What’s more American than that!

Ahh, you think I’m joking. We’ve had a handful of angry commenters over the years complaining of too many “missing women” scripts. But here’s why I think the formula works. There’s something about a young beautiful woman that represents hope. We see endless possibilities in that life. So when that’s taken, it’s like our own hopes and dreams (a very American ideology) are taken as well. So there’s a symbolic nature to getting that girl back. It’s like getting our dreams back.

“Unlawful” follows 27 year-old detective, Ryan Risberg. Ryan’s finally coming back to work after a stint at rehab and that treatment must’ve kicked ass because he’s already shooting up heroin 24 hours into his recovery.

To facilitate his addiction, Ryan buys a hooker for the week, 14 year-old, Deja. Because Ryan’s scared of needles, he needs Deja to inject him. This will cost him a pretty penny – $1500 to be exact. I have a feeling Ryan could’ve done better by shopping around.

The first day back at work, Ryan’s assigned the case of a missing 16 year-old girl, Sadie Mullen. Sadie slipped out of her house one evening and never came back. The cops aren’t sure if she just ran away or there’s foul play involved, so that’s where Ryan comes in.

Through Sadie’s best friend, Jolene, Ryan learns that Sadie was seeing some frat boy named Nick. The two went out one night and Sadie hasn’t been seen since. Complicating matters is that Nick is missing as well. Did he kill Sadie and go on the run?

Meanwhile, Ryan is getting high on anything he can find (his current infatuation is air dusting compressors) and dealing with his own demons – a daughter he had when he was younger that the mom ran off with. As he gets closer to finding out the truth of what happened to Sadie, he begins to suspect that, gasp, she might be his child.

Unlawful is solid. Carver sets up a really nice mystery here. It gives our main character a noble goal that powers the story through its running time. Carver’s obviously put a lot of effort into Ryan, as well. The dude is really fucked up. And his relationship with a 14 year-old black prostitute gives the script an edge.

And that’s EXTREMELY important when you’re writing dark thrillers. I often feel that for a dark thriller spec to sell, you have to be the most fucked up kid on the block. You have to be able to go to places that other writers can’t or are afraid to. That’s why Lambs and Seven still resonate today. They went to some really dark fucked up places (a form of torture where you simultaneously starve the person yet give them just enough calories to keep them alive? WHO THINKS OF THAT???).

I also thought the ending was great. And it saved this script for me because through the bulk of it, I was mentally leaning towards a high “wasn’t for me.” The ending (spoilers!) has Jolene killing both Nick and Sadie. And also, it turns out that Jolene is Ryan’s daughter. So he’s captured the killer, but he now has to decide whether to put the daughter he’s been looking for all his life behind bars for the rest of her life. That’s a great dilemma!

Here’s where Unlawful went sideways on me. IT’S FUCKING TOO LONG! This is a 125 page script. Really!?? For a single-thread plot?? I get it if you’re writing Pulp Fiction with multiple narratives or a script with a more complicated structure (the dual-character-perspectives of Gone Girl). But this isn’t that. I suppose we do get some backstory scenes with Sadie’s diary. But that’s not enough to justify 125 pages. This shouldn’t have been a page over 110.

And readers know this. And you can lose a reader that way. Remember, readers are always scared to recommend things. They’re afraid their bosses are going to come back and say, “What is this crap? This sucks.” And it makes them look like they have bad taste, the last thing they want their boss to think of them.

So it’s almost like readers are looking for you to give them reasons to say no. That way, they can rationalize not passing the script along. In this case, a seasoned reader will say: “This is pretty good. But he doesn’t even know that a script like this should be 110 pages. He’s obviously a beginner.”

So that’s the first piece of advice I’d offer Carver. Make this lean and mean. And I say that not just as a page Nazi. I say it because the middle act drags. We start to get a little bored. Cut out every scene that isn’t absolutely necessary so we move through this mystery faster.

My other issue is Deja. And I’m going to contradict myself here for a second. Yes, I like the edge that Deja brings. BUT her character is so cut off from the rest of the story that I’m not sure it’s worth it. I say this all the time but be careful of plotlines that are off on their own island (that don’t co-exist with the rest of the plot).

If you want to include Deja, she’s going to have to become part of the bigger story at some point. Even so, you already have two 16 year-old girls you’re dealing with (Sadie and Jolene). So can’t we use one of them for this role? Or an approximation of this role? In other words, you need to give us some damn good reasons for adding a third teenage girl.

Also, if you do keep Deja, give her more of an arc. We need to see her change. If you wanted to kill two birds with one stone, maybe she starts to help Ryan find this girl. And through that experience, she can learn that she doesn’t want to prostitute anymore. Now that I’m thinking about it, the older cop and young prostitute teaming up might come off as a little goofy. But we need to find SOME WAY to connect Deja with this story. Right now, it’s not happening.

If you can cut the length down here and figure out what to do with Deja, you’ll be in really good shape. Also, add a couple more WTF scenes – scenes that really push the boundaries, like the drug-test dehydration scene. Prove to us you’re the most fucked up kid on the block (as long as the scenes are organic to the story and not just there to be fucked up!). A lot of writers are writing these scripts so you have to demonstrate that you’re creatively darker than they are. I wish you luck, my friend. And good job!

Screenplay link: Unlawful

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Figure out which character in your script is the best candidate to arc. In other words, the best character you can take from a negative place at the beginning of the screenplay, to a positive place at the end. Not all characters are created equal and some characters aren’t built for huge character arcs. Take Ferris Bueller, for instance. Ferris lives a great life, loves his friends, and is always happy. He doesn’t really need to change. Cameron (his best friend), on the other hand, is always depressed, doesn’t believe in himself, and has major issues with his father. He’s a much better candidate for change. I don’t think nearly enough was done here to arc Deja. Yeah, she goes back to her family but it sort of comes out of necessity, because the story no longer needs her, not because it needed to happen for her. So look for those character-arcing candidates, guys. Those arcs, when written well, can have a powerful impact on the audience. We just love seeing people learn and become better. It makes us feel like we can do the same.

ss 250 banner
Just 29 days left. Free contest. Winner gets their script optioned by Grey Matter. There’s no better contest deal on the planet! Submit now!

coma the doof

So a few weeks ago I was watching a short film (actually, it was the one I linked to in my newsletter) and I marveled at how easy it is to stand out in that medium. You have so many tools available to you. You can do something funky with the color grading (the green tint used in The Matrix). You can add a weird soundtrack (Gregory Go Boom). You can play with the camera angles, add creative camera movement, dress the set in a weird way (a la Wes anderson). The opportunities are endless.

Then you slide over to the screenplay side and… all of that is gone. You’re working with black and white. Not even images. Just words. There’s no musical cue to set the tone or sound effect to heighten the atmosphere. And that got me thinking. What can writers do to make their scripts stand out? I started thinking back to all the scripts I’ve read and specifically to the ones that left an impression. Was it only about the story? Or were there specific areas where you could make an impression? That’s the question I want to answer today. Here are six things you can do to make your script stand out from the pack.

Take pride in your presentation – Scripts riddled with weird presentation issues leave a bad taste in my mouth. Like the other day I was reading a script where a character name was at the bottom of the page, and the dialogue for that character was at the top of the next page. How am I supposed to see you as a professional after that? So start using professional screenwriting software, whether it be Final Draft, Fade In, even Celtx. This takes care of 90% of your presentation issues. From there, aim for a zero-mistake policy with your grammar and spelling. And avoid manic writing styles (lots of capitalization, underlining, italicizing). You may think you NEED TO WRITE WITH A BUNCH OF CAPITAL LETTERS AND BOLD AND ITALICS TO STAND OUT but all this does is make you look unsure of yourself – like you don’t think your story is good enough to be told without screaming. Whether I like a script or not, I always respect the writer who takes pride in their work. Those scripts always stand out to me.

Voice – Identifying something you want to write about is only half the battle. The other half is identifying how you’re going to present it – how your specific presentation is going to make it unique. This is the most effective way of standing out in screenwriting – writing in a unique voice. Take note, however, that “voice” has a volume dial. You can turn your voice up to “10” (tell your time travel story through the subconscious of a rabbit with Tourette’s Syndrome) but that might be too weird. On the flip side, if you don’t turn the “voice volume” up at all, nobody’s going to hear you. Take Tuesday’s two Narcos pilots. The first draft was slow, droll, painfully linear, and something we’ve seen a million times before. It lacked a single unique trait. The second draft shifted the perspective to a disembodied voice over and focused on a whirlwind retelling of Columbia’s exciting drug trade history. The exact same subject matter went from being boring to being fun – and it was all due to the voice it was told in – one that was more energetic and that changed up the perspectives of the main characters. So think hard about how you’re going to present your material. It has a huge impact on the read.

Start telling a story and never stop – Too many writers start their scripts in “set up” mode. They’re focused on setting up characters, relationships, backstory, jobs, plot exposition. As a result, we feel like we’re back in 6th grade reading comprehension class. Like, “Oh man, I better write down that John here lost his brother when he was 10 or I’m going to get an F.” Scripts should never feel like work, especially spec scripts. To that end, start telling a story from the very first line of your script and don’t stop until you type “The End.” The other day I rented this amazing foreign film called “Wild Tales.” It starts out on a plane, and an older man begins hitting on the woman next to him. Within 90 seconds, the two realize that they have a mutual friend. As they begin talking about this friend, someone in a nearby row pops up and says, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. I know that man as well.” And then another person pops up, and then another. We begin to realize that everyone on this plane knows this man. I’m not going to tell you what happens next to drive my point home. You’re already hooked. You want to know how all these people know the same person and you want to know what happens next. That’s what telling a story is about – it’s about hooking the reader immediately and not letting them go. Too many writers believe in some unwritten rule that it’s okay to bore the reader for awhile as long as you entertain them later. I’m sorry but it doesn’t work like that.

Thoughtful character introductions – It always leaves an impression on me when a writer writes thoughtful descriptive character introductions. Characters are really important. They’re the lifeblood of your story. And when you watch a movie, you get a sense of the character right away just by the way they look. Think about any of the characters in The Big Lebowski (or any Coen Brothers film for that matter). They really make an impression when they arrive onscreen, right? Well, you should try to replicate that on the page. And the only way you’re going to do that is with a thoughtful description that captures the character’s essence. To achieve this, identify a character’s defining characteristic and make that the focal point of their description. Here’s how The Dude is introduced in The Big Lebowski: “We are tracking in on a fortyish man in Bermuda shorts and sunglasses at the dairy case. He is the Dude. His rumpled look and relaxed manner suggest a man in whom casualness runs deep.” Isn’t that so much better than, “This is the Dude, a bored-looking man who walks through the supermarket isle?”

Paint a picture when you write – Lots of writers use the Dragnet approach to screenwriting (“Just the facts ma’am.”). So they’ll describe a bedroom this way: “The room is messy and has a single bed in the corner.” There’s nothing wrong with this. But come on. You’re a writer! Be creative. Paint us a picture. Maybe, “The room is populated with endless stacks of old Popular Science magazines. The bed in the corner is buried in various fast food bags.” You see how much more information the second description gives us? How much more you know about the person living in that room? And I know what you’re thinking: “But you tell us to keep our writing sparse, Carson.” That’s true. If a room isn’t relevant to the story, a quick and dirty description is fine. But if a location is relevant to the story or your characters, take a little extra time and paint a picture for us. Just do it in as few words but do it. If your entire script is told in a “just the facts ma’am” manner, it’ll register in the reader’s head as a big ball of genericness.

At least one larger-than-life character – When I read a script, I need at least one character who pops off the page. It doesn’t have to be the main character. But it’s gotta be someone. That way, I’m always looking forward to that character coming back (and that keeps me reading your script!). The most obvious example of this is Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs. Just a larger than life character who’s constantly surprising us. But your memorable character can be someone who’s crazy (The Joker), funny (George Clooney’s character in Gravity), a little bit dangerous (Quint from Jaws). If every character in your story is stuck firmly on the ground, you’ve probably got a pretty boring screenplay. You need that one character who’s at least 500 feet above sea level.

To sum up, I think the biggest way to stand out as a screenwriter is to be creative where others settle for being ordinary. Are you the writer who’s going to mail in one more generic car chase? Or are you going to put your character in a stationary bullet-proof super car with 20 cops firing AK-47s at it from less than 10 feet away and your hero has nowhere to go (Captain America 2). Are you going to give us one more generic boy-meets-girl rom-com? Or are you going to put that relationship in a blender like 500 Days of Summer? Are you going to demonstrate your main character’s detachment from life by making him yet another drunk? Or are you going to pull a Collateral Beauty and have him mindlessly building domino sculptures all day? Remember guys, it’s easy for readers to measure effort. We know when you’ve really put a lot into a scene and when you’ve mailed it in. You can never trick the reader. So put every ounce of your soul into every ounce of your screenplay and I promise you, you’ll stand out.

Genre: Sci-fi/Thriller
Premise: In the future, crime-fighting has been taken to the next level with “Vision,” a government project that allows specially trained agents to watch everything we do – and it’s all totally legal.
About: “Vision” went out a month ago and while it hasn’t sold yet, it probably will. Writer-director brothers Alex and David Pastor already have a big writing project coming out, Self/Less, which stars Ryan Reynolds as a body-hopper. I think with Vision they plan to direct it as well, which should push it through the system a lot faster (a naked spec takes forever to move through development – if you have directors attached, that eliminates half the battle). The Pastors first broke on the scene with their 2009 horror film, Carriers, which starred Chris Pine and followed four friends fleeing a viral pandemic.
Writers: Alex & David Pastor
Details: 108 pages (revised draft – 4/29/15)


A job for Daniel Bruhl?

So the other day I wrote an article about “spec-friendly” screenplays, the type of screenplays that do well on the spec market. These scripts are fast, fun, and easy to grasp.

Which stands in stark contrast to scripts built off of book adaptations, or assignments that come through the studio and prodco systems. In those environments, you’re working with people who are guiding you. They are therefore more patient and open to complicated story developments (and actually might encourage them).

Vision plays in the Sci-fi and Thriller genres (two genres that sell a lot of scripts), it’s really fast (you’ll struggle to find any paragraph over 3 lines), the script is built on a clear strong goal, it’s got loads of urgency, it doesn’t require a ton of concentration to keep up with – in that sense it’s about as “spec-friendly” as a script can get.

So then why didn’t it work for me? Well, it turns out that all spec-friendly screenplays have one giant weakness – a pitfall that’s easier to fall into than a never-used gym membership. What is that pitfall? Let’s discuss Vision’s plot first and then we’ll work on saving you from imaginary workouts.

The year is 2034 and the Snowden sub-culture that scared the bejeezus out of the average American in 2015 has morphed into something far freakier. Back in 2024, there was a nuclear attack on Chicago that killed a million people. After that, people were willing to give up a little freedom if it meant plutonium-free trips to the park.

And hence the Vision Project was born. Vision allows specially trained agents to watch over every single camera in the city to identify crimes before, during, or right after they happen – allowing cops to catch criminals instantaneously.

Our Vision controller protagonist is Leo Kruczynzki, a 35 year old guy who believes in the cause. And he’s good at what he does. The opening sequence shows Leo tracking down a murderer using a number of visual and aural monitors throughout the city (he locates a gun shot by triangulating the sound through three separate pedestrian recordings). In conjunction with his ground agents (every Vision Jockey needs’em), Leo’s pretty much unstoppable.

But everything changes when Leo spots Amanda, his former wife who disappeared on him one day. The red-headed Amanda has just been involved in a cop shooting. She makes a run for it and Leo must decide whether to use his fancy-schmancy Vision tools to capture or aid her.

Using some Vision magic, he gets Amanda on the phone, where he learns she’s part of a resistance and she’s found evidence of some major government plan – evidence the government will do anything to destroy.

So Leo has to make a choice – ditch his superiors and join the resistance – or do what’s “right” and protect the American people.


Rose Leslie to play Amanda? You know nothing John Snow!!!

So what’s that big danger when writing a “spec-friendly” script? Simple.


When your story moves spec-quickly, when your description is limited, when you’re playing to the impatient crowd, there’s not a lot of room for character exploration. Character development is mostly relegated to character choice, character action, and character reaction. And while you can still do a lot of cool stuff with those options, you’ll never have that scene in American Beauty where a character breaks down while watching a video of a bag flying in place.

And “Vision” falls victim to that in a big way. My biggest fear when opening this was that it was going to be Eagle Eye 2. And while we’re approaching those themes from a slightly different angle, that’s basically what it is. A lot of running around with very little plot and almost no ingenuity.

When you’re writing that spec thriller, I think the one area where you can stand out is in your plot choices – in the ways you twist and turn and evolve your plot. Because, as we’ve established, it’s hard to do much of anything anywhere else. So I was hoping for more exciting twists and turns here, plot developments I hadn’t seen before. Instead I got the standard:

1) Someone knows a secret about the government.
2) There’s a flash drive that contains this information.
3) They have to find the flash drive.
4) The flash drive says the government is going to attack the people.
5) Our protagonist has to prevent the attack.

The story beats here were just too “Screenplay 101 3-Act Thriller.”

I know some people didn’t like the Source Code film, but Source Code the spec was one of the best specs ever written. And a big reason for that was that they played with the plot more. They developed rules (the mission resets every 8 minutes – our main character stuck in a mystery bay) you weren’t used to, which allowed them to go places that kept surprising you.

Vision was the opposite. It was set up as a standard thriller from the get-go and it never tried to be anything more than that. Which was frustrating. I think one of your duties as a writer is to anticipate what the reader/viewer is expecting and then GIVE THEM SOMETHING ELSE. I’ve seen Tarantino mention this approach in a number of his interviews. I just wish more writers would challenge themselves to do the same.

With that said, this script is still a better read than your average amateur thriller. We may know what’s going to happen, but the writing is slick. The beats come at you when they’re supposed to. There’s an urgency here (the entire thing is basically happening in real time) that makes the story move. It feels like a screenplay, and more importantly, a movie. So there is something to learn as a writer.

But it’s one thing to write a screenplay that looks and feels like a professional screenplay. It’s quite another to write a screenplay that surprises, moves, and wows people. I wish the Pastor brothers took a bit more time and tried to make this the latter.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Every thriller needs that “there’s no going back moment.” You need to add that scene where your protagonist does something where going back to his normal life is now impossible. That way, we know he’s fucked and that he has to commit to the cause. This raises the stakes considerably. Here in Vision, one of Leo’s co-workers walks in and sees that he’s working against the company. Leo makes a quick decision to kill his co-worker. There’s definitely no turning back after that.

Genre: TV Pilot – Drama
Premise: A show that follows the DEA’s attempts to take down one of the most notorious drug lords in history, Pablo Escobar.
About: Narcos is the newest show to come to Netflix (it debuts in late August) and is written by Chris Brancato, an extremely successful TV writer who most recently penned a bunch of episodes for NBC’s well-received Hannibal. It’ll be directed by Jose Padilha, the director of the recent Robocop reboot.
Writers: Chris Brancato
Details: 53 pages – May 13, 2014 draft


You know, it’s funny. I started reading an older draft of Narcos, only to be sent the newest draft before finishing, which turned out to be a complete page 1 rewrite. And holy shit, what a difference a new take makes.

Of all the ways to learn screenwriting, one of the best ways is to read two takes of the same idea. Because you can see, right there with your own eyes, how drastically different choices affect the material. You can see how one writer’s ideas can build a promising story while another’s can doom it.

In the case of the old Narcos draft, it was about as generic, safe, and predictable as a storyline about the Columbian drug trade could be. We meet a drunk Austin DEA agent. He’s depressed. He gets a new assignment. Go fight drugs in Columbia. He goes there, starts learning the trade.

Meanwhile, we introduce 700 other characters of two different ethnicities (foreign character names are harder for readers to keep track of due to the lack of familiarity), without ever establishing a clear storyline or point other than the vague, “Let’s stop drugs.”

There wasn’t an ounce of creativity and the pacing was more glacial than a Terrance Malick director’s cut. Enter Brancato’s take, which was 180 degrees different.

Instead of moseying through lazy character introductions and taking forever to get to something interesting, he embraces the Martin Scorsese approach, giving us a pilot-long voice over from DEA agent Steve Murphy. Unlike the other draft, where we spend 20 pages just getting to Columbia, Brancato has us there on page 1.

Through Murphy’s voice over, we learn the fascinating backstory of how Columbia became the cocaine capital of the world. Chile was actually the number 1 cocaine dealer for a time, but when Nixon cozied up with the Chilean president and asked him to “just say no,” the president killed the country’s band of drug lords in one fell swoop.

That is, except for one man, a survivor named Mateo Moreno who was appropriately nicknamed, “The Cockroach.” Mateo figured out that the number one smuggling nation in the world was Columbia. That made them the perfect fit for his new star drug.

So he went there and eventually hooked up with Pablo Escobar, the number one smuggler in the country, and the two began building an empire. Escobar figured out right away that Columbia could only pay so much for the drug. If they wanted to make big money, they needed to export to America.

Which leads us to how our hero, Steve Murphy, got involved. After Escobar kills The Cockroach in a dispute over money, the guy becomes a megalomaniac, taking an aggressive stance against anyone who challenged him, a stance that would lead him to kill over 1000 cops during his rein.

Will Steve Murphy be one of those cops? Or will he be the man who finally takes the legend down?


So like I said, the rewrite of Narcos was a thousand times better than the old draft and that’s because Brancato realized what was interesting about this world – Pablo Escobar. If he’s going to sell you on this series, he needs to sell you on this man – not the 85,372nd depressed alcoholic cop protagonist in the history of television.

But this approach comes at a price. Because the entire pilot focuses on how Columbia became the cocaine capital of the world , we don’t really get to meet any of our heroes. And that would be cause for concern… if this weren’t a Netflix series.

It used to be, in the traditional television model, that you had to have a super awesome self-contained pilot episode that ALSO set up a series. Because if people didn’t like your pilot, they didn’t tune in the following week, and your show was dead.

With Netflix, they just throw all the episodes up at once, creating one long extended movie. So Brancato, no doubt, realized he had some leeway with his pilot. He could forego setting up all his characters and instead set up his world. Then he’d use the second episode to introduce his crime-fighters.

Does this mean you should start doing the same? Uhhhh, no. If you’re writing a pilot, stick to the network model for now. You definitely want to set up all your main characters. The only way you should be pulling a Narcos is if Netflix has already greenlit your show (or HBO, or one of these other “special engagement” 8-10 episode series).

Now some of you craftier Scriptshadow readers may have noticed that yesterday I was telling you to SLOW DOWN. That the story was moving too fast. Whereas here, I’m saying the pilot didn’t work until they sped it up. What gives?

Well, speed and pacing and how quick you move will always depend on the individual story you’re telling. Yesterday’s script was begging for a slow burn. We needed to feel safe before the fear could creep in. Today’s script, with its complicated subject matter and potential to get bogged down in details, needed more thrust.

As the previous writers proved, moving slowly through complicated drug agency parlance and multiple drug organization hierarchy did nothing but put us to sleep. By instead saying, “Here’s this super interesting dude named the Cockroach who survived a mass assassination attempt by his country then fled to Columbia to start one of the biggest illegal industries in history” – I’d say that’s a bit more exciting and more likely to draw viewers in, no?

Now does this mean Narcos couldn’t have worked with ANY slow setup? Of course not. A different writer could’ve constructed a slow burn that was a lot more exciting. And actually, now that I think about it, the biggest problem with that old draft was how not a single character stood out. They were all cliché bland to the fucking max.

Go read Allan Loeb’s latest spec – Collateral Beauty – to see how to achieve the opposite. But point being, the slow setup with boring characters doomed the early draft of Narcos. And kudos to Netflix for recognizing that and starting over. Cause that previous draft was unsaveable.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Dialogue that sounds authentic is good. Dialogue that sounds authentic at the expense of being clear is bad. This was another big problem with the early draft of Narcos. A lot of characters saying things I didn’t understand. Here’s a common exchange:


We’ve been working this place for months. Title Three intercepts, trap and trace. Whole nine.


How’d you get up on them?


I read enough exchanges like this and I’m falling asleep (which I did!). Sure, they sound wonderful. But they mean NOTHING to me cause I don’t have the slightest idea what the characters are talking about. Sound authentic but NEVER at the expense of us knowing what the characters are saying.