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Genre: Comedy/Mockumentary
Premise (from writer): A tightly-wound retail store manager on the brink of being fired struggles to prove his worth against a crew who hates him, a competing retailer (who happens to be his ex-girlfriend) out to sabotage him and a mall full of crazed Black Friday shoppers.
Why You Should Read (from writer): Because it is a story about working in retail which means that while it’s written as a comedy, it could easily pass for a horror, a drama, a thriller, an action-adventure or any of the wild aspects that make working retail soul-crushingly awful and occasionally (oh so occasionally) great. Also, this script is very much a product of Scriptshadow. I studied screenwriting in college, but spent many years caught up in absurdly grand fantasy-adventure screenplays that were really novels written in Final Draft. And then I stumbled upon Scriptshadow, learned some new lessons, refocused my writing, and set out to create screenplays that were actually screenplays. “Black Friday” is one proud example.
Writer: Jason Tropiano
Details: 104 pages


Man, you guys make it hard on me. There hasn’t been a clear winner on Amateur Offerings for awhile. And when that happens, it means I have to decide. I hate deciding!

I ended up going with Black Friday for a couple of reasons. I think a comedy surrounding Black Friday is a movie. I can see the poster. I can see the trailer. Also, it’s that time of year.  So shouldn’t we be featuring a holiday script?  True, Inhuman had more votes, but I was only going to give it a second coveted Amateur Friday slot if it blew away the competition. There are only 55 Amateur Friday slots a year so I like to use that day to see as many new voices as possible.

It’s a month before Black Friday, and Jonathan, the manager at American Outfitter’s Roosevelt Mall location, isn’t wasting any time getting ready for the biggest day of the year. You see, Jonathan has a baby on the way and he hasn’t exactly been knocking it out of the overpriced hipster clothing park. All signs point to him being fired unless he makes this the best Black Friday in store history.

That won’t be easy though with a young disinterested sales team that has bigger plans in life than working in retail. Jonathan also has to contend with former flame Kennedy, who manages the Abercrombie & Fitch clone, Charley & Waves, across the way. Kennedy divides her time between finding anorexic looking sales-models to stand outside of her store, and plotting her revenge for Jonathan dumping her.

When the big day finally comes, the shenanigans are on. Kennedy fights way below the belt, printing up 50% off flyers for American Outfitters that the clueless sales team at AO start honoring, and having one of her employees defecate in one of AO’s fitting rooms. If Jonathan is going to last another day at this job, he’ll have to rally the disinterested troops, fend off all the sabotage, and clear things up with Kennedy. All before the closing bell rings at 10 pm.

The other day, someone said in the comments section that you shouldn’t send a comedy to Scriptshadow because the people who frequent this site don’t celebrate comedy – or, put more bluntly, they wouldn’t know what comedy was if it shat on them in a changing room.

I would rebut this. Comedy struggles to gain acceptance in every venue. It doesn’t get celebrated in screenplay contests. It doesn’t get celebrated during Awards shows. There aren’t that many comedies on the Black List.

The problem is that it’s really hard to be funny. Especially on paper. You don’t have the benefit of a comedian delivering your lines or a physical actor who can just contort his face in a way that makes you laugh. All you have is your words.

So it’s not that we here at Scriptshadow hate comedy. It’s that rarely do writers meet the bar the genre requires.

So how does Black Friday rank in regards to this bar? Well, from a story perspective, there are some good things here. I like how Jason created some really high stakes for our hero, Jonathan. Jonathan is on the outs at the company. He’s got a kid on the way. Black Friday is his only opportunity to save his job. We have a proper villain, Kennedy, who had a personal relationship with Jonathan (the personal relationship adds another layer to the story) and who creates plenty of obstacles to prevent Jonathan from reaching his goal. So structurally, I thought Jason did a good job.

But in regards to the funny factor, I don’t think we’re there yet. To start, utilizing the mockumentary style feels dated. That was all the rage five years ago, but I think people are looking for something new now. Ironically, telling comedy in a “straight” fashion feels fresh again.

I point this out because there were maybe 20 mockumentary-interview-specific jokes I didn’t laugh at because I’ve seen them all before. For example, when the clueless customer digs through their purse with 80 people in line behind them – then we cut to an interview shot of the salesperson giving a “Really?” look into the camera. That joke is too familiar at this point. It’s safe. So that’s 20 jokes right there that didn’t hit for me. I saw them coming a mile away.

So where do you find the funny? You find it in situations and in characters. That’s really your main job when it comes to comedy writing. You have to create funny characters and seek out funny situations. The only character I genuinely laughed at was Woo, the stock-boy with a penchant for extremely inappropriate rap music. He really stood out.

And the only situation that resonated was the fake 50% coupon debacle. But I don’t think enough was done with it. I like the idea of everybody coming to their store, seemingly exactly what they want, but then it getting completely out of control once they all start demanding half-off. The thing is, this problem was solved within a few minutes.  There needed to be that moment where Jonathan secretly honored it for one problematic shopper to get him out of the store, then tried to cut the discount off.  But by that point, everyone’s found out that the customer got the discount, and they’re not leaving until they get it too.  Old customers also need to come back and retroactively demand the discount.  It needs to get to riot levels.  This is Black Friday.  Excessive situations are expected.

Situational comedy can be fun to figure out. But it’s something you really have to spend time on. I would go so far as to say that if you’re writing a comedy, sit down for an entire two days and come up with 50 concept-specific situations, then cherry pick the best. Cause if you’re only picking from a nest of 4-5 ideas that popped into your head, you’re not going to be able to compete with the truly hilarious guys.

Finally, I’ll say this – the more I read of Black Friday, the more I wondered if this was the right approach. I mean, the script’s called Black Friday, but we start a month before Black Friday. We should be starting ON THE DAY. And I wondered if a Breakfast Club type approach might have been better. One day. Seven shoppers. Each with their own specific goals (maybe not all of them to get gifts) and, of course, everything under the Christmas tree goes wrong. Also, when I think of Black Friday, I don’t think of clothing stores. I think of big box retailers like Best Buy and Walmart. That seems to be where the real craziness is. And yet those businesses were left out. But even if you’re interested in mall-like stores, I’d go for more of a variety. A clothing store, a sports store, a candle store, a Radio Shack type store. We should be getting the entire scope of the mall, not just these two locations. That’s probably how I would’ve tackled it, at least.

There’s a lot of love here though. I can feel Jason’s own experience in retail shining through. But something’s missing and I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is. What did you guys think?

Script link: Black Friday

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

What I learned: Worst case scenario situations. One way to find laughs is to think of the worst case scenario for a character, and then put them in it. So for example, let’s say one of the employees at American Outfitters is OCD OBSESSED with his displays. That’s literally all he cares about –everything being folded perfectly and placed perfectly and the area being exceptionally clean. What’s that character’s worst case scenario? Each of you are probably thinking of something different. But chances are, it’s funny. Maybe, for example, a mother comes up and starts changing her baby’s diaper on the most important display in the store – the one OCD EMPLOYEE was working on all night!  She’s just carelessly placing the dirty diaper on the most expensive shirt as if it’s nobody’s business. This approach is an easy way to generate 3 or 4 big laughs in a movie.

Real-Life-LogThe first person who can tell me the screenwriting significance of this picture gets a free upvote!

A lot of times I’ll get e-mails asking me why I don’t pick your scripts for an Amateur Offerings slot. The short answer is that the loglines or the queries aren’t good enough. But there’s obviously more to it than that and if I had the time, I’d e-mail you and let you know specifically why they weren’t chosen.  Well, consider today my e-mail back.   I’ve decided to highlight seven queries I’ve received over the past month and explain why I didn’t choose them. This is not meant to embarrass the writers in any way, but rather to help them understand what the person on the other end is thinking.  Each query contains the ENTIRE text from the e-mail (minus the subject line). So if something is missing, it’s not me.  Hopefully this is helpful to the original queriers as well as the rest of you.  Let us begin!


Please post it for AOW! Because you’re awesome… I’m awesome… we’re all awesome! LOL. Thanks!

Genre: Psychological Thriller / Horror
Logline: A troubled actress moves into an old-fashioned mansion to recover from a mental breakdown, but her husband suspects that she’s lost her sanity when she begins claiming that the mansion is haunted.

WYSR: Haunted house movies have two cliches that annoy me. First, matches and candles have open flames that are often used as sources of light without any regard for their safety. Second, cell phones either have dead batteries or are out of range. These cliches inspired me to write Midnight Leather, in which fire is dangerous and cell phones are ubiquitous. I hope you enjoy the script and I appreciate your feedback!

Why it wasn’t chosen: Let’s start with this one because it’s not a terrible query by any means. But there are a few things that worried me. First, the term “old-fashioned mansion.” “Old-fashioned” is such a generic word. With so few words to use in a logline, each one has to be really well thought out. That one isn’t. But the real killer was the Why You Should Read. Of all the immensely important things that are required for a good screenplay – character development, excellent plotting, strong dialogue, goals, stakes, urgency – the focus on open flames tells me that the writer isn’t concerned about the right thing.


-Cory Austin Edwards

Title: There Where The Judges Gather

Genre: Drama

Log line: Dylan is as straight edge as they come, a hard working young man dedicated to finding a purpose, Dylan strives for meaning. With his father dead and his mother in a mental hospital Dylan looses his job and must find a better way of payment. In response he begins taking up work with his friend Warren robbing his former Employers. The jobs are set up by a heroine crazed dope peddling minister(his actions are a metaphor for religious hypocrisy) and a two bit independent gangster type individual known as Lenny. As the crimes continue Dylan is brought too his knees as simple theft leads to murder. The darkness of the script is completely throughout as the reader will see the slow but steady build of the main character’s psychotic thinking. Again Dylan begins frustrated by his job loss for no reason and his family, Dylan is carrying individual He does not drink or smoke he always scene drinking from a glass of milk which displays his child like character, but his vice is soon turned to violence as a theft goes wrong and out of anger he begins to kill. There are many compelling stories involved such as the friendship between Dylan and Warren and the connection between his mothers nurse and Dylan. The entire story is told from Dylan who is talking too a priest before he is executed in the prison.

Why it wasn’t chosen: To most this will be obvious but a logline isn’t 300 words. It’s typically one sentence (sometimes two). What we have above is a summary. Also, it’s strange to start an e-mail off with a dash and then your name. Also, I see a lot of people capitalizing words in their pitches that aren’t supposed to be capitalized (Employers). I know tablets and phones sometimes randomly capitalize a word if it starts a new line. You shouldn’t be submitting something as important as a query from a tablet though. – Look, we’re all eager to jump into the game. But it’s best to do your research and understand how the protocol works first. You want to arrive to the interview looking professional.


TITLE                                     Model Citizen

GENRE                                  Teen / Fantasy / Comedy

LOGLINE                              A teen is granted special access to a hi-tech department store that can change people’s skills and identities.


(bolding here is writer’s) Jeff has completed three short films and five feature-length screenplays. His debut short “Don’t Slam (Don’t
Erase)” was an Official Selection of the New York Short Film Festival and played online in the Amazon/Tribeca Film Festival
Short Film Competition.

Jeff’s second short film “Attendance,” which he wrote and executive produced, was an Official Selection of the Show Off Your Short Film Festival in Los Angeles.
The film also received a Quarterfinalist distinction in the Fade In Magazine Awards.

His latest short film “Against the Wall,” which he wrote and produced, was featured on Amazon Studios, Ain’t it Cool News, G4TV, iTunes, and
VUDU. It played 12 festivals and received a 4 1/2 star review in Film Threat Magazine.

Other projects include a TV sitcom “Monster Suit Blues” (Semi-Finalist, Page Screenwriting Awards).

He is married with children and lives in NYC.

First 10 pages and the entire script are attached

Why it wasn’t chosen: It’s hard to convey this e-mail properly because formatting doesn’t transfer well to HTML. I tried to retain what I could. Outside of the janky formatting, this is the most impersonal query ever. There’s no actual greeting. The logline itself is too vague. Change people’s skills and identities how? It’s half a logline. And you don’t want to include a third-person bio of yourself. We know you’re talking about yourself so it’s strange. Just highlight your relevant achievements in an informal first-person paragraph.


Title: Executioner’s Torment
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Logline: An esteemed judge and adviser to California’s leading candidate for Senator is locked in a passionate struggle between revenge and the family life he desperately covets.
Why You Should Read: Here’s to hoping that a trade of originality for a story well told is in play. This is a character-based drama about a family man with deep political influence who chooses to defend his own law within a world shrouded in lawlessness. It’s written more in the spirit of a Western than an action film about a genuinely decent man who’s taken a detour, putting all that he holds sacred in peril, as he struggles to contain a desperate need for revenge while navigating within a government deeply steeped in political corruption and media scandal.

Why it wasn’t chosen: This one doesn’t have a greeting either, but I’m more inclined to pay attention since the writer’s followed the submission rules and the actual writing is good. But here’s the funny thing. We always sit here and wonder what loglines the agents and executives are going to like. But we see the answer play out EVERY WEEK in Amateur Offerings, where you guys ARE essentially the agents and executives. And whenever I post loglines like this (non-high concept dramatic faire), you rarely read them. Since I know they’ll be ignored, I usually look for something else. With that said, the writer makes a crucial error in the logline. He chooses the general over the specific (“…struggle between revenge…”). Tell us SPECIFICALLY what the revenge is about. Because there’s revenge in a ton of stories. Remember that your job with a logline is to be as specific as possible so that your idea stands out from the rest. When you use generic words like “revenge” you imply that your script is also generic. It would be like if I wrote the logline for Indiana Jones as, “A professor goes on a quest for a famous artifact while battling one of the most terrible regimes in history.” Be specific and tell us the artifact is the Ark of the Covenant! Tell us that the regime is the Nazis!


Thanks for all the emails, blog posts and tweets kicking my ass into gear to keep writing.
-J. Pias

Here goes:
TITLE – Harrison Quest
Genre – Comedy
Logline: Discovering that Harrison Ford plans on cryogenically freezing himself, three childhood friends embark on a heroic journey to find their idol and win him his long overdue Oscar — before it’s too late.
Why You Should Read -
What do you want to be when you grow up? An Astronaut? A scientist? CIA agent, doctor, cop, pilot? The President of the United States? These aren’t just the dreams of children. These are the faces of Harrison Ford.

Love him or hate him, his resume is ripe for a backdrop to an adventure story. I set out to harness that energy, while humanizing it through the story of 3 average guys. I think people rely on different passions to help inspire them through the sadder parts of life. I’m hoping that inspiration story will resonate on its own, while still being a chin-scarring, plane-offing, fugitive-chasing adventure homage to the most amazing leading man alive (that is alive, for now…dun dun dun etc).

PS – I wrote part of this at Indy’s boyhood home from Last Crusade, which is now a B&B. One example of how it’s a bit of a passion project, and could use some objective feedback.

Why it wasn’t chosen: This is a good query. Starts out with a short but sweet greeting. The “Why You Should Read” is well-written and conveys a lot of passion for the project. I almost chose it for that alone. But the logline prevented me from pulling the trigger. There are too many questions here. Why is Harrison Ford going to freeze himself before he dies? Don’t you wait until you die before you’re cryogenically frozen? How do you win somebody an Oscar? Are they going to make a movie with him? That sounds like a complicated process to document in a movie. Also, where are the stakes? Sure, it’d be nice if Harrison Ford won an Oscar. But I’m sure he’ll be just fine with his millions if he doesn’t. I really really wanted to like this one because I like the writer’s query. But I think either the logline or the story itself needs to be reworked to fix these issues.


Hi, my name is Drew Howard and I just recently finished this script I’ve been working on over the past few months. I put a lot of effort into it, and I think you’ll definitely be surprised by what you read. This script wasn’t made with the intention I would ever sell it. I didn’t hold myself back with the thought, “Could this actually be put onto the screen?” I just did my thing and ran wild with it. The script is imaginative, darkly funny, sad and cinematic. While on the surface, the plot could be seen as “high concept,” I think the story is actually deceptively simple. The characters grapple with real issues within the context of much weirder scenarios. Think if Woody Allen was placed in Blade Runner, and all he could think about was who he was going to fuck that week. I know you don’t read all the scripts, and I understand you’re probably very busy with many other things. If you could give my script a chance, I know you wouldn’t regret reading it afterwards.

Title: Murder Girl
Genre: Drama
Logline: Donna Summers, 19, and Kap Harrington, 22, are known around the world as the two human beings who can never die. Instead of saving the world or lending their bodies to science, they are instead pressured to date, or rather fuck, the other. The story follows the relationship between these two after a female android named P enters their lives on a whim.

Why it wasn’t chosen: Drew has a lot of passion. That’s clear. But this query is all over the place. There’s no focus to either the query or the logline, which indicates there will be no focus to the script either. I’d avoid giving too much information on the writing process. We don’t need to know you worked on the script for the last few months. Keep the time spent on the script to yourself. Also, get someone to read your query ahead of time for grammatical errors. “This script wasn’t made with the intention I would ever sell it,” should be, “This script wasn’t written with the intention to sell.” Even so, that’s not a detail you want to include in a query anyway. My advice to Drew would be: Keep it short and simple. And focus your story. No androids named P!


Title: Minus
Genre: Action
Logline: On the coldest night of the year, a Minneapolis drug runner and a conflicted cop cross paths after a deal gone wrong. But while they’ll need each other make it through the night, one of them won’t survive to see daybreak.
Why You Should Read: This time of year, everyone talks about writing the “anti” Christmas movie. However, the genre continues to thrive because such films readily embrace the basic tenet Carson harps on week after week – relationship-driven conflict.

On the surface, Minus isn’t a traditional holiday movie, and would seem to fit into the cadre of screenplays that are desperately trying not to fit in. However, that simply isn’t the case; the holidays are a time of familial bonds driven to the brink, and Minus is full of those; hell, there’s even a senior-citizen-double-suicide.

Whether your preferences are carols or corrupt cops, there’s a story here that will keep readers guessing while driving home the same values found at the core of any Christmas special. I just want to get you there in a more entertaining – and hopefully thought-provoking – fashion.

Why it wasn’t chosen: A couple of things stood out here. First, there’s no hook in the concept (it being cold out isn’t a hook). There’s nothing that stands out, that gets people excited. And I’ve seen a million drug deals go wrong in movies and TV shows. If you can’t make your logline stand out in a group of five other scripts on an informal Saturday website competition, how do you expect it to stand out against the thousands of scripts a year that Hollywood sees? I like that the cop and the criminal have to team up, but that needs to become a bigger focus of the logline in the next draft. What also worried me was the focus on Christmas in the “Why You Should Read,” and yet Christmas is never mentioned (or implied) in the genre or the logline. When I see things like that, it tells me the writer hasn’t thought everything through, so I’m less inclined to choose the script.

I hope this helps.  What’d you guys think?  Would you read any of these based on the query?

Genre: Drama
Premise: An irresponsible man attempts to raise his dead sister’s daughter, a child genius, until his mother comes to town and starts fighting for custody of the child.
About: This just landed on the 2014 Black List with 7 votes. Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man 1&2) is going back to his 500 Days of Summer roots to direct the small character piece.
Writer: Tom Flynn
Details: 121 pages (undated)

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MANMarc Webb with a big camera.

I just read a quote by Tim Burton saying that the world will soon tire of comic book movies. I used to agree but I’m not so sure anymore. The only reason comic book movies weren’t around in abundance earlier was because Hollywood didn’t have the special effects to back up the vision the films required.

Now that that’s not a problem, comic book movies are actually perfectly suited for film. They carry with them action, spectacle, wish-fullfillment, and a lot of flashy characters. I don’t see them leaving the local Cineplex anytime soon.

But I’ll tell you one person who wants to leave them behind, and that’s Marc Webb. Webb’s initiation into the world of big-budget comic book movies hasn’t been a good one. The two Spider-Man movies he’s made have been pretty bad – jumbled messes with nary a clear plot. Of course, you could say the same about the earlier incarnations of Spider-Man. But the big difference there was that Sony wasn’t competing with the juggernaut known as Marvel. Say what you will about Marvel but they take their superhero films VERY seriously, and as such, they consistently deliver a quality product. Peter Parker’s one-liners all of a sudden aren’t enough to keep an audience interested.

Webb is clearly tired of this world, so he’s going back to his indie roots. And I must say, I commend him for doing so. Rarely do directors who make it to the big leagues with those big league paychecks go backwards, especially in an industry where movies like Gifted are lucky to get 100 screen releases and featured rollouts on Itunes.

But the very notion that Webb is willing to take that chance tells me this script has something going for it. And truth be told, I love these ‘gifted children’ movies. Call it the Searching for Bobby Fischer Syndrome. Exceptional intelligence at a young age is always a burden, and so there’s conflict built right into the character. Let’s see if Flynn nails this latest attempt at the genre.

30-something Frank Adler is an irresponsible bachelor if there ever was one. Seven years ago, Frank’s sister, Diane, a brilliant but troubled mind, walked in on Frank, dropped off her baby, then killed herself. And just like that, the eternal bachelor found himself father to a child.

And an awful father he was. Not knowing the first thing about parenting, Frank treated Mary more like a roommate than a daughter. Got a boo-boo?  Go, like, find a band-aid or something.  Luckily, Mary could handle it. Just like her mother, she was extremely smart. But at 7 years old, Frank’s realized that he can no longer keep this girl locked up in his place. He has to send her off to school.

Problem is, Mary’s like 100 times smarter than all the other kids at school, combined. Actually, she’s smarter than all the teachers, combined, including Bonnie, her primary teacher, who takes an interest in Mary’s unique talents, as well as her emotionally damaged but hot father.

Just as it becomes clear that Mary needs to be placed in higher education, Evelyn, her grandmother and Frank’s mother, shows up, demanding custody of the child. On the one hand, Frank doesn’t want Evelyn anywhere near Mary. She ran his sister (Mary’s mom) into the ground, and she’d do the same to Mary.

But there’s a little voice in the back of Frank’s head saying: “Freedom.” Finally, he can go back to living life his way, instead of being responsible for a child he’s no good at taking care of anyway. At least that’s what he tells himself. When the courts get involved and decide that NEITHER brother or mother is capable of taking care of Mary, they bring in a third party, a foster couple. But this couple harbors a secret that will throw everything off its axis, and force Frank to decide what he really wants out of life.

Gifted is a good screenplay, and further proof that if you can identify the key line of conflict within a logline, you probably know how to write a screenplay. You may wonder what I mean by that. Let me explain.

Your first order of business in a logline is to convey the plot, which essentially means the hero’s main goal, or the journey he’s going on. Indiana Jones goes after the Ark of the Covenant. But that’s only half the battle. You then have to identify the key line of conflict that’s going to impede upon that goal. In other words: What the fuck is going to get in the way and hamper Indiana from getting the Ark?

To see this in action, let me give you the NON conflict-laden logline version of Gifted: “An irresponsible man attempts to raise his dead sister’s daughter, a child genius.” There’s some semblance of a plot there. BUT THERE’S NO LINE OF CONFLICT.  The idea is open-ended and therefore directionless.  There’s no story yet! “…until his mother comes to town and starts fighting for custody of the child,” is the key line of conflict that all of a sudden gives the story a reason to exist. Without that conflict, the story has nowhere to go.

Now as much as I liked Gifted, it had some issues that kept it shy of “impressive” territory. One thing that drives me nuts is when a writer skirts reality in order to move the plot forward, particularly with a major plot point. I’ll have to get into spoilers to explain this.

Late in the story, Frank loses custody of Mary to the foster parents. But come on. There’s no way this would happen in real life. Frank loves Mary. He’s a family member. She loves him. He doesn’t do drugs. He’s not an alcoholic. He provides a roof over her head.  He doesn’t neglect her in any way.  And the courts give the child to a random foster couple instead?

Come on.

The only reason this development occurs is because the writer wanted to advance the story. But audiences are savvy to this. They may not know the technical reason things feel off. But deep down they feel something isn’t right. And that something is cheating. The writer is pushing along false plot points when, in the real world, we all know this would never happen.

I think it’s one of the most disingenuous things you can do as a writer, is to falsely move your story along. It’s your job to follow an honest path. That’s not to say you can’t have the courts give Mary to a foster family. But you need to build in a legitimate REASON for it. If Frank were an alcoholic (or whatever kind of addict), for example, and was therefore truly unable to care for his daughter, I’d buy into the court giving Mary away.

And lastly, they need to do more with Frank’s character. If you’re going to write a drama, you have to recognize that the ONLY way to market the movie (since you don’t have explosions) is through an A-list actor. And A-list actors don’t sign on to play characters like Frank in his current incarnation. Frank’s a level-headed guy. He doesn’t have any huge issues. He’s a bit of a loser, but otherwise average. If an A-lister is going to be in a small movie and get paid a tiny amount of money, they want to either play a really challenging role, win an Oscar, or both.

My guess is that, as this script works its way through development, Frank will become more fucked up. He’ll become an addict in some capacity. And I don’t think that’s a bad approach. It actually makes sense because now, like I mentioned, there will be a reason for the courts to separate him from Mary.

And all this isn’t to say I didn’t like the script. I thought it was good. But these are the realities of the ways these movies are made nowadays. Big actor or go home. Making the main male character interesting/unique is the difference between getting Matt Damon or Josh Brolin. I hope they figure it out because this can not survive with Josh Brolin.

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

What I learned: From now on, I want you to always include the key line of conflict in your logline.  I can dismiss half the screenplay queries I get due to the lack of a key line of conflict in the logline.  And if you can’t come up with a key line of conflict for your logline, chances are, you don’t have one for your script, which means you’ll have to rethink the story and add a key line of conflict.


I’m hearing a lot of complaining on the internets. The Black List is fixed. The Black List is a jack-off session with agents nominating each other’s clients (I don’t even think the agencies vote, do they?). I would like to remain above the cynicism if possible. It’s still a celebration of screenwriting and for that we should be excited, even though they did leave off the best script of the year in Hot Air. I mean I know for a fact that the first sentence of that screenplay is better than the entirety of the atrocity known as Moonfall. But no one’s bitter here. No one’s bitter.

I do have a bone to pick with you though – YES YOU! – Scriptshadow readers. You had the opportunity to discover one of the Black List scripts during Amateur Offerings but you passed it over! More on that later. But yeah, I may have to ground you at the end of this post. I’m adding something new to this year’s thoughts as well. The “Want-to-readabilty Factor.” I’ll grade, on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) how interesting the script sounds to me based on the given information. It’s going to be all sorts of fun. Like a party in your margins. Are we ready? On to the list!

Writer: Kristina Lauren Anderson
Genre: Period
Premise: Sophia Augusta takes control of her life, her marriage, and her kingdom becoming Russia’s most celebrated and beloved monarch: Catherine the Great.
Thoughts: A worthy number 1. The writing is not sludgy like most period pieces and the characters are fascinating. Anderson does an amazing job taking us through 10 years of Catherine’s life without it ever feeling laborious or too long. This thing read as fast as the screenplay for Buried. All this from a script that I expected to bore me to tears.
Want-to-readability Factor: Already read.

Writer: Adam Morrison
Genre: ???
Premise: A look into the mania of the OJ Simpson trial, through the eyes of Simpson’s sports agent Mike Gilbert and Los Angeles Police Department Detective Mark Fuhrman.
Thoughts: I don’t know anything about Morrison and I haven’t heard about this script until today. He appears to have written something called “The Chateau Meroux” about a struggling winery. It did have the benefit of starring the super-hot Marla Sokoloff, but one look at the poster tells us it’s not exactly Netflix-queue worthy. The only way something like this works is it shows us a really unique angle of the OJ Simpson event that nobody’s ever covered before. Otherwise, this is going to feel very dated.
Want-to-readabilty Factor: 3

Writer: Randall Green
Genre: Comedy
Premise: A nerdy high schooler, who fancies himself an amateur photographer, attempts to create a “Swimsuit Issue” featuring his high school classmates in hopes of raising enough money to go to summer camp.
Thoughts: From The Hit List – “Randall is a recent graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Screenwriting program, he’s currently writing the live-action reboot of “Scooby Doo” for Warner Brothers.” The Swimsuit Issue sounds okay but I expect something with higher stakes than “to go to Summer Camp.” But it’s the highest comedy on the list and therefore probably pretty good.  Or at least I’m hoping it is.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read a good comedy.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writer: Brian Duffield
Genre: Comedy-Thriller-Horror
Premise: A lonely twelve year old boy in love with his babysitter discovers some hard truths about life, love, and murder.
Thoughts: I like Gersh (Duffield’s agency). They always seem to snag the writers with the most unique voices. As you all know, I’m a huge Brian Duffield fan. He’s written two scripts on my Top 25, Your Bridesmaids is a Bitch and Monster Problems. He’s also got a movie coming out with Natalie Portman. But I’m a little surprised this landed so high on the list. It felt a little rushed. I think his scripts are so readable though that people in the industry just love them.
Want-to-readability Factor: Already read.

Writer: John Patton Ford
Genre: Black Comedy?
Premise: A young, well-educated loner kills the members of his mother’s estranged family one-by-one in hopes that he will inherit the family’s vast fortune.
Thoughts: Ford graduated from both USC AND AFI. So he’s got the best Hollywood education money can buy. This sounds like it could be good. The structure is right there in the premise. You can see the movie clearly. While dark comedies that finish on the Black List tend not to do well at the box office, they’re a great choice for writers looking to get noticed, since the Black List loves them.
Want-to-readability Factor: 6

Writer: Dwain Worrell
Genre: Thriller
Premise: A sniper and his spotter must kill and avoid being killed, separated from an enemy sniper by only a 16x6ft prayer wall.
Thoughts: This is that script that Amazon Studios bought – their first full-out purchase of a spec. The writer was working in China barely getting by when the script sold. He also benefitted from selling this right before the Black List came out. These late-in-the-year specs tend to have an advantage on the Black List in a town of short memories.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Kieran Fitzgerald
Genre: Real-life Thriller?
Premise: Based on the documentary style film “The Day Britain Stopped” directed by Gabriel Range, an oil tanker collides with an Iranian patrol boat in the Strait of Hormuz, triggering a chain of tragic disastrous events.
Thoughts: Fitzgerald is a writer to watch. He’s got a movie out right now, The Homesman, about a man tasked with bringing a group of women across the dangerous plains of the old west. And he’s working with Oliver Stone on the Edward Snowden movie. I’m not a really a fan of these politically charged films though, so I’m unfortunately not aching to read this one.
Want-to-readability Factor: 3

Writer: Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Genre: Thriller
Premise: In near future London, a revolutionary technology has been invented that can record sounds hours after they were made. Detective Harry Orwell, inventor of this technology, is part of a pilot program where investigators record and analyze past sound waves and finds himself the prime suspect while investigating a string of brutal murders.
Thoughts: lol. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the writer herself didn’t write this logline. This appears to be written by someone who doesn’t even know what a logline is. I mean, there are like 17 things going on here, most of which make no sense. At the same time, this whole “delayed sound” idea is so bizarre that I’m kinda interested. Wilson-Cairns is from Scotland and this script placed on the Brit List earlier this year. She’s also adapting “The Good Nurse” for Aronofsky.
Want-to-readability Factor: 6.5

Writer: Cat Vasko
Genre: Comedy
Premise: A young woman, feeling directionless, stumbles upon a mysterious courtyard where she is transported into a sitcom-like universe, becoming a major character on this “TV show.”
Thoughts: This sounds a little like that canceled FX Charlie Kaufman pilot, “How and Why.” Vasko is a journalist who sounds a little bit like the lead character from this script. Hard to tell if this will be any good or not based on the logline.
Want-to-readability Factor: 4

Writer: Noga Landau
Genre: Horror-Sci-Fi
Premise: A woman held captive in the futuristic smart house of a serial kidnapper realizes that her only hope of escape lies in turning the house’s sentient computer against its creator.
Thoughts: This one might sound familiar as it placed on this year’s Blood List as well. According to The Tracking Board, Landau placed in both the Page and Zoetrope screenwriting contests before landing here on the Black List.
Want-to-readability Factor: 6

Writer: Chris MacBride
Genre: Drama-Thriller
Premise: A CIA drone coordinator battles his own psychological health while trying to decipher whether his wife has been replaced.
Thoughts: I watched MacBride’s previous film, “The Conspiracy,” which starts off as a documentary and turns into a found footage thriller. It was a good idea but it wasn’t quite convincing. This one, however, sounds a little deeper, even if the logline is terribly written (note to newbies: The writers rarely write their loglines for the Black List. Agents and managers are notified at the last second that their clients’ scripts are making the list and are asked for a logline. This is why a lot of these loglines are so badly written. Because they’re written by people who don’t know how to write them).
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writer: Gary Spinelli
Premise: In the late 1970s to mid 1980s, Barry Seal, a TWA pilot recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America finds himself in charge of one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States, one that spawned the birth of the Medellin cartel and eventually almost brought down the Reagan White House with the Iran Contra scandal.
Thoughts: This was one of the year’s biggest sales. Ron Howard came aboard and packaged it to Universal, and they paid a hefty 7 figures for it. It sounds like a fascinating character. It’s just really hard for me to get behind anything Ron Howard does these days. Then again, it at least looks like he’s stretching himself here and trying something different.
Want-to-readability Factor: 4

Writer: Scott Wascha
Genre: Action-Comedy
Premise: A genre bending action comedy about a pill popping thug who begins to develop superpowers.
Thoughts: I was saying this the other day in my Amateur Friday review. We definitely need new angles on superheroes, and one of the only fertile areas left in that space is comedy. So I’m all for ideas like this. This one, however, seems to be moving away from the big screen and over to television, where it’s being re-packaged as a pilot. Interesting.
Want-to-readability Factor: 6

Writers: Banipal Ablakhad, Benhur Ablakhad
Genre: Crime-Thriller
Premise: A down and out prison guard attempts to murder a recently released inmate and steal a half million dollars in hidden heist money.
Thoughts: This one sold not too long ago to New Line. The writers, and brothers, sold one other spec a couple of years ago called “Blacklisted.” “North of Reno” looks to have a better shot at getting made though. As you future successful screenwriters will learn, the first thing you sell rarely gets made. Everyone’s secretly afraid to produce a first-timer. Once you sell your second or third script, though, they start trusting you and give you a shot.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writers: Daniel Stiepleman
Genre: Biopic
Premise: The story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as she faced numerous obstacles to her fight for equal rights throughout her career.
Thoughts: The subject in the script is the writer’s aunt. He’s also a former screenwriting teacher. Hey! Those who can’t do, teach… and then it turns out do as well. As you all know I’m not the biggest biopic lover, so this isn’t high on my list. But I did unexpectedly like Catherine The Great, so who knows?
Want-to-readability Factor: 3

Writer: David Weil
Genre: Sci-fi
Premise: The investigation of a murder on a moon colony.
Thoughts: Oh no.  Just, oh no. I’m sorry but this script was awful. After being virtually ignored when agents first sent it out, they re-branded the script “Fargo on the moon” and somehow got Darren Aronofsky to quasi-commit to it (I’m pretty sure he’s no longer involved). The script sold and now 16 people have to explain why in the world they voted for this. It was so sloppy, so badly researched, so badly written, I have no idea how this script is getting any attention.
Want-to-readability Factor: Already read.

Writer: Will Widger
Logline: A little person private eye investigates the disappearance of a young actress in 1930s Hollywood, leading him to uncover conspiracies involving THE WIZARD OF OZ and Metro Goldwyn Mayer brass.
Thoughts: This is the most interesting sounding script on the list thus far – the first script to have some actual irony in the logline. True, it’s very reminiscent of the Michael Mann Leonardo DiCapro project that covered a similar premise, but making the private eye a little person is the ingredient that gives this the edge.
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: Eric Koenig
Premise: A prison psychologist has 48 hours to convince a serial killer to tell her the location of her final victim before she is executed.
Thoughts: As I brought up in my newsletter, I’ve been reading Eric’s scripts for a couple of years now. I watched him get better and better. I even sent out one of his scripts to a couple of my contacts who said “no go.” They’re probably kicking themselves right now. I’ll republish Eric’s advice to other screenwriters I put in the newsletter: “My advice to writers trying to sell a spec, which we’ve all heard a thousand times but it’s the absolute truth, is just don’t give up. It takes an unwavering belief and optimistic attitude that it WILL happen one day. ‘When’ it happens varies from writer to writer. For some, the lucky ones, it’s the first draft of their first script only six months into the game. For others, the majority of us, it takes years. For me, my personal process of improving my craft to the point of selling Matriarch, was writing. And writing. Then a little more writing. And then, when I wanted to take some time off, I did some more writing. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read a lot of scripts, but I have gotten more than my money’s worth from my copy of Final Draft (I’m actually trying to break it). This entire time, with every polite rejection notice I received (yes, there were MANY), I just kept telling myself, “It will happen. It will happen. It will happen.” Don’t. Give. Up.”
Want-to-readability Factor: 9!

Writer: Ken Nolan
Premise: After the Edward Snowden affair, an intelligence contractor defects to North Korea, taking a mysterious bag with him, and the CIA hires an expert trained during the Cold War to help with the case.
Thoughts: This one sold to Fox after a bidding war. But Nolan’s not new to success. He wrote 2001’s Black Hawk Down. The question is, where has he been in the meantime? He wrote a TV mini-series called “The Company” in 2007. But between Black Hawk and now, he doesn’t have any other credits. Maybe, just maybe, he’s been spending all these years working on this spec!  Which…would…mean he’d have to had predicted the Edward Snowden thing but hey, I’m trying to give the guy the benefit of the doubt here.  Work with me.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writer: Dan Stoller
Genre: Drama
Premise: A self-destructive trucker estranged from his son travels cross country with a problematic nephew whom he barely knows.
Thoughts: Despite knowing these types of scripts are almost impossible to turn into movies in this box office climate, a part of me still loves a good 1 on 1 character piece. You have to get the right characters though. There has to be that perfect mix of conflict and tension between them. I thought Hot Air, which got left off this  list, was a great example of that. Hopefully, The Long Haul is too.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: F. Scott Frazier
Genre: Thriller
Premise: As the Berlin Wall is being constructed at the height of the Cold War, a veteran CIA agent searches for a Soviet mole who has already killed several fellow agents, including a young agent he’s mentored.
Thoughts: It’s great to see F. Scott Frazier still pumping out specs. He’s one of the fastest writers I’ve ever seen. And it’s gotten him ongoing projects at like 3 or 4 studios. It’s ridiculous. Despite the subject matter not being my thing, I’m always interested to see what he comes up with.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Greg Scharpf
Premise: A self-centered divorce attorney’s life takes an unexpected turn when he is guilted into spending time with the family of a one night stand who dies in a freak accident.
Thoughts: I’m not a hundred percent sure what’s going on in this logline (how is the character being a divorce attorney relevant to the unique situation of someone dying in a freak accident? I feel like there’s a missing component here that the writer could help clear up). With that said, I enjoy scripts that take on the challenge of a unlikable protagonist so I’m intrigued by this one.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Eric Heisserer
Genre: Horror
Premise: A woman tries to lead her children to safety after the world is invaded by monsters who turn you insane upon sight.
Thoughts: This is the script that finished number 1 on this year’s Blood List. Heisserer has been having a Heissonasance lately, moving up the Hollywood screenwriting ladder with solid drafts of just about everything he writes. And he’s been writing a ton. My favorite script of his is still “Story of Your Life.” I’m not thrilled about this concept (monsters that turn people insane upon sight?) but I’m thrilled about anything Heisserer writes.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Anthony Ragnone II
Genre: Drama-Thriller
Premise: A girl tracks down the man responsible for her father’s death and avenges him.
Thoughts: Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Is this a cover logline? The Tracking Board has this written as: “In a sleepy southern town a man with a haunted past encounters an attractive young woman who moves in next door.” Neither incarnation makes this sound unique. But the guy did work for Alan Ball. That alone gets him a notch up on the “readability” factor.
Want-to-readability Factor: 4

Writer: Anthony Jaswinski
Genre: Thriller
Premise: A lone surfer attacked by a shark and stranded on a reef must find a way back to shore before succumbing to her injuries.
Thoughts: This one sold in that big bidding war recently. As you know, I’m not a big Jaswinski fan. With that said, this is a good premise and probably his best script. Sony better hope so at least. They need some good news these days.
Want-to-readability Factor: Already read.

Writer: Rob Siegel
Genre: Biopic
Premise: The origin story of McDonald’s and Raymond Albert “Ray” Kroc.
Thoughts: Really?  Now an origin story about the creator of In and Out.  Titled “Double Double?”  THAT I would go see.  This sounds as boring as a Mcdonald’s cheeseburger minus the pickles.
Want-to-readability Factor: 2

Writer: Spencer Mondshein
Genre: Thriller
Premise: An expert tracker battles his demons while on a journey to rescue his estranged older brother who has vanished in the uncharted wilderness of the Northwest.
Thoughts: Mondshein’s success isn’t going to encourage anyone who believes Hollywood runs on nepotism. Both his parents have been nominated for Academy Awards and he was an assistant on Boardwalk Empire.  If the script’s great though, none of that matters.
Want-to-readability Factor: 4

Writer: Daniel Kunka
Genre: Action
Premise: After an apocalyptic event, a mother wolf is separated from her mate and the rest of the pack, and has to protect her cubs from swarms of mutated humans.
Thoughts: I remember the rumors that ran rampant when this script sold for a bajillion bucks. There was no dialogue. It was only 50 pages long! Whatever the case, it’s easily one of the most interesting sounding loglines on the list. In an industry where not many people take chances, this is a chance-taking idea.
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: Mark Heyman
Genre: Thriller
Premise: A detective solving the case of a disturbing film with subliminal images that is killing people who come in contact with it discovers a greater evil.
Thoughts: I remember when this was a big writer assignment. The producers wanted a great writer to take on the material. And they got one in Heyman, who wrote Black Swan and co-wrote one of my favorite movies of the year, “The Skeleton Twins.” I’ll be checking this one out for sure.
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: Jeff Lock
Genre: Comedy-Thriller
Premise: The manager of a fast food chain in Muncie, Indiana gets in over his head with some bookies.
Thoughts: Strangely enough, this writer ALSO worked as an assistant on Boardwalk Empire. For all we know, this might be a secret back-door way onto The Black List. This one is supposed to be like Fargo. So despite the bare-bones premise, I will check it out.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writers: Jonathan Stewart, Jake Crane
Genre: Thriller
Premise: On the eve of a US-Soviet disarmament treaty, a British scientist and a NATO medical investigator discover a secret Soviet plot to unleash a terrifying biological weapon.
Thoughts: It’s hard to discern from this logline whether this is taking place during the Cold War or during the present day. Each version would result in a totally different story.
Want-to-readability Factor: 3

Writer: Randall Green
Genre: Comedy
Premise: When a young boy finds out that the cartoon character he’s in love with is based on a real girl, he drags his single father on a road trip to track her down.
Thoughts: I like this premise. It’s one of the more clever ones on the list. I think what readers and producers are constantly looking for is that premise that’s a little off in left field, but still marketable, and this is that. I really hope I’m drawn into the story.
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: Josh Golden
Genre: Biopic
Premise: The early days of brilliant, whimsical author L. Frank Baum, who gave the world The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Thoughts: I’m going to wish the writer luck here, but these “early years of famous author” scripts aren’t my thing. They seem almost obligatory at this point. If someone tells me this is awesome, I’ll read it. Otherwise, I’m clicking my red shoes and wishing to go home.
Want-to-readability Factor: 2

Writer: Jason Orley
Premise: A sixteen year old virgin with a growth deficiency slowly gets corrupted by his hero, an aimless college dropout.
Thoughts: A growth deficiency WHERE?? That’s an important detail.
Want-to-readability Factor: 3

Writer: Joey Hartstone
Genre: Biopic
Premise: Lyndon Johnson goes from powerful Senate Majority Leader, powerless Vice President to President of the United States following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Thoughts: There’s no doubt LBJ’s story is an interesting one. It’s just not interesting to me.
Want-to-readability Factor: 2

Writer: Jack Stanley
Premise: In a seemingly perfect marriage, a man discovers that he is actually wedded to a demon inhabiting another woman’s body.
Thoughts: A man discovers he’s wedded to a demon inhabiting another woman’s body? As in another woman besides his wife? In that case, wouldn’t the demon not be inhabiting his wife’s body? Sounds like another botched logline. Stanley landed on last year’s Black List with his female assassin spec, “Sweetheart.” That script got him the coveted high profile job of writing Chronicle 2. So let’s not rule this script out yet!
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writer: Mike Vukadinovich
Genre: Drama
Premise: Twin brothers with opposite personalities are separated at a young age and go on to live drastically different lives, eventually being reunited in the effort to save the company ‘Rocket Cola’ despite their love of the same woman.
Thoughts: Vukadinovich is a good writer. You may remember that I recently reviewed his script, The Three Misfortunes of Geppetto. That was a wacky script and this sounds sort of wacky too. I’ll definitely give it a go.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Jac Schaeffer
Genre: Action-Comedy
Premise: At a baby shower for their longtime friend, the attendees suddenly find themselves in the middle of a different type of shower: meteors that release a vapor turning men into blood-hungry aliens.
Thoughts: Is this a true story? Men already are blood-hungry aliens. Schaeffer wrote and directed Timer, which became a sort of underground hit due to it being the only new comedy on Netflix for, like, an entire year. This sounds a little silly to me though.
Want-to-readability Factor: 3

Writer: Kimberly Barrante
Genre: Sci-Fi
Premise: When a missing astronaut crash lands forty years after he launched having not aged a day, his elderly twin brother helps him escape the NASA scientists hunting him. As the government closes in, neither brother is who they claim to be.
Thoughts: Okay, I’m always down for a good sci-fi flick. Let me just say though, there are a lot of writers out there who come up with these fun sci-fi premesis, but then they half-ass the execution. They don’t clean up all the holes in them, and they pass off the burden of understanding to the reader. Like, “You’re supposed to figure it out.” Give me a tightly wound sci-fi script and I’m in like an expensive bottle of Gin.
Want-to-readability Factor: 6

Writer: Billy Goulston
Premise: An inside look at the marriage, career, and mental state of 2010’s Sexiest Man Alive.
Thoughts: I LOVED this premise when it came to Amateur Offerings and left it up to YOU GUYS to make it an official review selection. And what did you do?? You PICKED SOMETHING ELSE! How could you?? Together, we could’ve been the discoverer of I Am Ryan Reynolds. Come on guys. This can never happen again.
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: Dave Callaham
Genre: Comedy
Premise: After a group of bumbling teachers win a large amount of money, their greed and incompetence put them on a hilarious path toward death and destruction.
Thoughts: I don’t know where Callaham found the time to write this as he’s been busy writing huge assignements like Godzilla and Zombieland 2 and all the Expendables movies. This one sounds like it could be good. Hopefully it will be a screenplay “jackpot” if you catch what I’m meaning (note that “Jackpot” is the title of the script if you didn’t get my joke).
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: April Prosser
Genre: Comedy
Premise: Just out of a long-term relationship and realizing that all her friends have married, Rachel discovers that her only remaining wingwoman is Summer, a loud and oversharing wildcard.
Thoughts: This was one of those big end-of-the-year script sales. Prosser got her start as a TV writer’s assistant and now seems to be moving into the much more glamorous feature world. I’ll give this one a shot. An over-sharing wingwoman sounds hilarious.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Jason Micallef
Genre: ???
Premise: A dark, reimagining of the Willy Wonka story beginning in World War II and culminating with his takeover of the chocolate factory.
Thoughts: Now this one sounds f&^%$ng interesting. Probably the weirdest most intriguing idea on the list. I was not a fan of Micallef’s first Black List script, Butter, and the subsequent movie. But this one sounds totally different. This will be high on my to-read pile.
Want-to-readability Factor: 9

Writers: Evan Mirzi, Shea Mirzai
Genre: Comedy
Premise: After they unwittingly get their daughters disqualified from the child beauty circuit, two warring stagemothers are forced to go head to head in an adult beauty pageant.
Thoughts: This premise feels a little forced. Evan and Shea continue to beat out scripts that make the Black List though. For me, the jury’s still out on them. Here’s to hoping that changes with Beauty Pageant.
Want-to-readability Factor: 4

Writer: Jared Cowie
Premise: As Britain struggles through the darkest hours of World War II, a naval officer, raw from the loss of his ship during the evacuation of Dunkirk, is thrust into the thick of the hunt for the Nazi superbattleship, Bismarck. Based on a true story.
Thoughts: I’ll be honest. This logline didn’t do anything for me until “superbattleship.” Now I want to read it. I don’t know what the hell a superbattleship is. But I wanna know!
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Seth W. Owen
Genre: Comedy
Premise: A corporate risk management consultant is summoned to a remote research lab to determine whether or not to terminate an at-risk artificial being.
Thoughts: This logline isn’t quite coming together for me. Actually, I don’t understand it at all. Someone explain it to me and I’ll assign a readability rating then.
Want-to-readability Factor: ?

Writer: Joe Gazzam
Premise: A viral attack puts lives in danger, forcing a CIA agent to initiate a secret prisoner exchange of Russia’s most notorious spy for the American scientist who can create a cure.
Thoughts: Okay, this sounds like it could be pretty good. Gazzam sold this spec and another one, Replay, this year. So he’s doing all right.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writers: Brandon and Philip Murphy
Genre: Horror
Premise: A private investigator investigates a mysterious murder at a downtown Los Angeles hotel and uncovers its dark supernatural history. Based on true events.
Thoughts: The Murphys caught some heat after this sale, as some in the industry said they were exploiting a woman’s death. But the real exploiting here was in the messy script’s second half. Talk about a script falling apart.  It really is a freaky story though and would make a great movie. So I hope they figure it out.
Want-to-readability Factor: Already read.

Writer: Julia Cox
Genre: Romance-Thriller
Premise: A young, play-it-safe, art restorer is swept up in a whirlwind romance with her charming boss, who turns out to be a world class thief.
Thoughts: Another writer’s assistant (Parenthood) making waves. Got to aim for those assistant jobs people. This sounds very… not geared towards me.
Want-to-readability Factor: 3

Writer: Hernany Perla
Premise: Years after being fully paralyzed during an infamous bank robbery, a man is taken hostage for the secrets in his head. His only form of communicating with the outside world – and outsmarting his captors – is his ability to blink.
Thoughts: This just sounds impossible to build an entire script around. For that reason alone, I want to read it.
Want-to-readability Factor: 6

Writer: Chuck MacLean
Genre: Drama
Premise: In the 1960s, a determined detective puts his life and career on the line to solve the case of the Boston Strangler.
Thoughts: Could work as a companion piece to Zodiac. Looks like MacLean broke out with this script. He’s got no former experience in the industry.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writer: Greg Sullivan
Genre: Drama
Premise: A deaf computer genius’ world is thrown into turmoil when he meets a troubled coffee shop waitress whose voice turns out to be the only thing he can miraculously hear.
Thoughts: Do you hear that? That’s me being not so sure about this script. Sorry, that isn’t true. I just wanted to make that joke. Sullivan studied screenwriting at UCLA. At least that’s what I heard (I’ll be here all night).
Want-to-readability Factor: 4

Writer: Abraham Higginbotham
Premise: As his life reaches its neurosis-inducing midpoint, a married man asks himself an eternal question with no real answer — “Am I living the life I want to be living, or do I need to start over before its too late?” Torn between two lives, he’s forced to do the one thing he doesn’t want to do — make a choice.
Thoughts: Abraham gets points for best last name on the list. I sense even Benedict Cumberbatch would feel jealous about this name.
Want-to-readability Factor: 4

Writer: Tom Flynn
Premise: A thirty year old man attempts to continue raising his deceased sister’s seven year old daughter, a kid-genius, while battling his own mother for custody.
Thoughts: FINALLY, a logline that solidly coveys the major source of conflict in the screenplay. Other agencies take note! Maybe that’s why Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, Amazing Spider-Man) has made this his next film.
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Genre: Drama
Premise: An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.
Thoughts: Not enough info but Longergan is known for, among other things, that 8 year debacle of his movie, Margaret, that became a giant clusterfuck for everyone involved. Will be interesting to see if he’s redeemed himself.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writers: Andrew Bozalis, Derek Mether
Genre: Thriller
Premise: When a disgraced former soldier finds success by working for a private security company, the illegal tactics the company employs challenges his worldview.
Thoughts: Some Edward Snowdenism going on here. Again, not a politically-charged type of guy so I’ll have to let it go… let it gooooooo.
Want-to-readability Factor: 3

Writer: Jeff Feuerstein
Genre: Comedy
Premise: A famous children’s author, with an affinity for drugs and hookers, finds himself on a journey of self-discovery with a dead stripper and her eight year old son.
Thoughts: This is the only logline that made me laugh. Well, I Am Ryan Reynolds made me laugh a long time ago when YOU GUYS SHOULD’VE PICKED IT FOR AMATEUR FRIDAY. But this is the only one that made me laugh today.
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: Christina Hodson
Genre: Sci-Fi
Premise: When a race of genetically modified humans living secretly among us declare war on Man, the fate of the world is in the hands of a rogue “Synthetic” named Eve and a young girl who is about to discover she’s not all human.
Thoughts: This was that big sale that was built up as a potential trilogy for a female actress. It was a pretty decent script, although a little on the light side. Then again, the same can be said for Divergent, and that’s doing well.
Want-to-readability Factor: Already read.

Writers: Brian C Brown, Elliott DiGuiseppi
Genre: Biopic
Premise: The little-known personal, heartbreaking, and darker side of cartoonist/author Shel Silverstein.
Thoughts: This logline just sounds sad.
Want-to-readability Factor: 3

Writer: Gary Graham
Premise: In a post-apocalyptic world, a recluse, trying to recreate trees to produce new life, takes in a young girl who is on the run from some bad men, including her father.
Thoughts: I’ll basically read anything post-apocalyptic, and actually, I’ve been meaning to read this one for awhile. A true “unknown writer-to-spec-sale” situation.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Shane McCarthy
Genre: Comedy
Premise: An overweight, foul-mouthed nine year old reluctantly teams with the straight edge cop sleeping with his mom to take down Detroit’s most ruthless drug lord.
Thoughts: When I read this logline, I imagined them digitally pasting Kevin Hart’s head on a 9 year old’s body. Now THAT I would pay to see.
Want-to-readability Factor: 6

Writer: Max Hurwitz
Genre: Biopic
Premise: How Mike Wallace helped to create 60 Minutes and how years later, he confronted and dealt with his own depression.
Thoughts: Ugh, I hope I never see this and Uncle Shelby back to back.
Want-to-readability Factor: 1

Writer: Chai Hecht
Genre: Drama-Sci-Fi
Premise: A young man convinced that his mentally unstable sister needs to relive her high school prom from ten years prior to overcome her depression goes to great lengths to recreate that event.
Thoughts: Last year on the Black List, cancer was hot. Now it’s depression! This feels too much like a Gray’s Anatomy episode for me. But fear not. The Tracking Board has an almost completely different logline: “A man creates the illusion of time travel in an attempt to revisit one pivotal day in his life.” That sounds cooler. The writer graduated from USC’s screenwriting program. I’m seeing a lot of writers coming from these programs on the list.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writer: Bryan McMullin
Genre: Drama
Premise: A man rises to power during the California gold rush, tearing his family apart.
Thoughts: What’s strange here is that McMullin is an actor who appears in lot of schlocky reality television. Yet this premise sounds like something Paul Thomas Anderson would make. Looks like McMullin is hiding a dark side!
Want-to-readability Factor: 4

Writers: Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf, Jamie Linden
Genre: Comedy
Premise: After a man loses all his money in the stock market by following the advice of a Wall Street TV host, he takes the money adviser hostage on live television.
Thoughts: This sounds funny! I’m in!
Want-to-readability Factor: 8

Writer: Marc Meyers
Genre: Drama
Premise: Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by John Backderf, Jeffrey Dahmer struggles with a difficult family life as a young boy and during his teenage years he slowly transforms, edging closer to the serial killer he becomes.
Thoughts: They made a graphic novel… about Jeffrey Dahmer???? I don’t even know how to react to that. It’s definitely got the curiosity factor going for it though.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writer: Arash Amel
Genre: Romance
Premise: Based on Chris Greenhalgh’s eponymous novel. Ingrid Bergman and war photographer Robert Capa engage in a passionate, life changing romance in post-World War II Paris.
Thoughts: This sounds like something geared towards my parents.
Want-to-readability Factor: 2

Writer: Zander Lehmann
Genre: Drama
Premise: A high school soccer star’s personal life becomes complicated leading up to his championship game as he develops a relationship with his soccer coach.
Thoughts: Is the coach a man? A woman? The answer vastly changes the landscape. Either way, I hope he scores.
Want-to-readability Factor: 5

Writer: David Bar Katz
Genre: Drama
Premise: The story of Clark Rockefeller, a con artist thought to be American royalty until he kidnapped his young daughter initiating a manhunt that revealed his true identity.
Thoughts: I’ve heard about this guy before. A crazy story. This might actually make a good movie. I can see a lot of actors wanting to play him.
Want-to-readability Factor: 7

Writer: Tyler Shields
Premise: In a corrupt Southern town, a dangerous sociopath runs bareknuckle boxing fights that pit its youths against each other.
Thoughts: See this is what I was hoping for as opposed to a script like Southpaw, which takes too straight-forward of a look at boxing. You gotta approach subject matter in a unique way!
Want-to-readability Factor: 6

Genre: Drama
Premise: When the Princess is kidnapped, the Prime Minister of England is given a bizarre demand for her return that will change his life forever.
About: Black Mirror is a UK show that the writer, Charlie Booker, described as a sort of technology-centered mirror into our immediate future. I love how he put it to The Guardian: “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects?” Booker is a bit of a controversial guy with a strange sense of humor. Early on in his career, he used to write cartoons for a magazine, and one of them was so offensive, it actually caused the magazine to be pulled from the shelves. The cartoon was titled “Helmut Werstler’s Cruelty Zoo” and chronicled a zoo where children could deal with their anger by beating animals. All in the name of satire of course. Though it sounds like the people didn’t get it. Robert Downey Jr. is a fan of Black Mirror and optioned one of the episodes, “The Entire History of You,” to make into a movie.
Writer: Charlie Brooker
Details: 44 minutes


I’m about to put my complaining hat on. I will wait a minute to allow you to find your complaining acceptance hat and put it on as well. That way, we can all work together in harmony. Are you finished? Good. Cause I have a question.

What the hell is up with TV?

This was supposed to be the Golden Age of the medium. I’m starting to think that that only thing “golden” about it is the paychecks Hollywood’s getting.

We’ve reached a saturation point, something we all knew was coming, but now that it’s here, it seems to have dimmed everyone’s imagination. I caught an advertisement for the new Netflix show, Marco Polo, the other day, so I decided to check it out. Within five minutes I wished I was playing the game instead. As in the game, “Marco Polo.” As in I WISHED I WAS BLIND. Not only was the production value below your average History Channel show, but the question arose: What was the point?

I’ll tell you what the point is. There are too many slots and not enough good ideas. So people are throwing shit at the wall. Kinda makes you wish Genghis Khan was in some of these meetings. I bet he’d have a thing or two to say about what gets on the air.

I mean is there a must-watch TV show out there at the moment? The Walking Dead has been borderline unwatchable this season. But at least it’s in the position of having run out of ideas. These new shows haven’t come up with an initial idea.

This probably has something to do with why I’m going back to 2011, arguably the best year of TV ever, to review today’s show. You guys across the Atlantic Ocean have already heard of Black Mirror. But we in the states are getting our first taste of it now, probably because it recently appeared on Netflix.

Black Mirror: The National Album, follows Prime Minister Michael Callow, who has just been informed that the Princess (as in THE Princess of England) has been kidnapped. A video has been uploaded to the internet showing the Princess begging for her life.

Her unseen kidnapper then gives his demands for giving the Princess back. Actually, it’s only one demand. But it’s a doozy. By 4 o’clock this afternoon, the Prime Minister will have to have sex with a pig on live television.

Naturally, Callow assumes this is a joke. But he’s quickly assured it’s real. What follows are two intercutting storylines where the government tries to locate the princess’s whereabouts, while they also prepare for the worst case scenario – the pig loving.

Talk about a ticking time bomb!

While at first, Callow refuses to even entertain the idea, the country’s love for the princess begins to sway public opinion to do the deed. Callow realizes that if he is responsible for the princess’s death, his life and his legacy will be in ruins. Which is why he desperately needs to find that kidnapper. Will he succeed? Or will he have to have sex with a pig on national television? The show’s on Netflix. Check it out for yourself.


To borrow a phrase from my brothers and sisters across the pond. This was BRILLIANT.

This is the kind of television we should be making over here, but we’re scared to because we’re too busy making snore-fests like Marco Polo. Now I know what some of you are thinking. “So, uh, wait a minute here, Carson. You’re saying that we should be aspiring to make TV shows about… pig-fucking?” It’s not necessarily the pig-fucking that we should aspire to. It’s trying something different.

What is every show out there doing right now? Every show on television. They’re giving us linear storylines, right? Whether it’s a procedural or a serialized show, the series are connected from one show to the next. Black Mirror comes at this with the opposite approach. It gives us a show with standalone episodes, each a little mini-movie. That’s the kind of thinking that allows you to stand out from the pack.

The writer takes that non-traditional approach and then applies it to the episode. If I told you about a TV episode where a Prime Minister has to fuck a pig, what’s your first reaction. “It’s got to be a comedy,” right? The genius of “The National Anthem” is that it goes in the exact opposite direction. It takes the set-up DEAD SERIOUSLY.

That’s why this episode has such an unsettling feel when you watch it – why it stays with you – it’s going against what you’re used to.

This seriousness allows us to take the question driving the episode seriously, which then allows the show to do something all great stories do – break the fourth wall. The audience is now putting themselves in the Prime Minister’s shoes. “What would I do?” they’re asking.

And the awesomeness of the episode is that it really makes a compelling argument for why the Prime Minister has to do it. This isn’t some average woman we’re trying to save. They make it clear it’s the most beloved woman in the entire country.

Not only that, but it has a brilliant structural set-up. We have a clear ticking time bomb. The stakes are sky-high (princesses dying, fucking pigs on national television). There’s a goal inherent with the problem (he must find the princess before he’s forced to do this horrifying act).

(spoiler) But what I really loved was that the writer capitalizes with a climax that would’ve never flown over here in the states, an ending that embodied the chance-taking spirit of the show. It actually happens. The Prime Minister actually has sex with the pig. And it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to watch.

And what makes it all the more impactful is that the writer is actually trying to say something about our society. We’ll watch anything, no matter how big of a trainwreck it is. But what’s our limit? Do we have one? Everyone in the U.K. heads out to their local pub to enjoy the party. But when it actually happens, when they actually start watching, they realize what a sickening lot they’ve become. It’s a sobering moment.

But the big point I want to make is that there were three moments where the writer made a choice that every other writer in the world would’ve made the opposite choice, and that’s why this episode stands out. The first is by creating the show in the first place. A non-linear show goes against all traditional thinking at the moment. The second was to take an absurd premise and treat it seriously. Everyone else would’ve played this as a joke. (spoiler) And the third was to actually have the Prime Minister fuck the pig. Every other writer would’ve backed off of that.  They would’ve found the kidnapper at the last second.

I’m not going to go ahead and say that Black Mirror is my new favorite show or anything (I didn’t love the second episode), but I love the spirit and the innovation of the show, and I think we ought to be doing more of that over here, lest we be stuck making more shows like Marco Polo.

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

What I learned: Before you write a script, consider every angle you can tell the story from. Sometimes what would seem obvious as a comedy might end up being way more interesting as a drama. One of the best ways to shock a reader is to approach material from the least obvious angle.


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