amateur offerings weekend

It turns out that when I posted yesterday’s Amateur Friday review, it went on a post delay or something, so it didn’t show up for most of you until the evening. I apologize about that. If you have some time, though, check it out. I go over a lot of beginner mistakes that are huge tells to readers and identify you as “not ready for prime time.” I want all of you to be ready for prime time.

On another note, Lights Out is doing well! Remember that Lights Out is a Grey Matter film, the same company I teamed up with for my contest. So if you want to see winning script, Disorder, hit the big screen, go and see Lights Out! The better it does, the better chance we’ve got!

Onto Showdown Saturday! This is a HEAVY HITTER week, man. There are previous favorites, previous winners, and hot genres all in a single bunching. Read the scripts and vote for your favorite in the comments section! Winner gets a snazzy Friday review!!!

(3 Sweet Things has enough fans that I’ve brought it back for another shot!)

Title: 3 Sweet Things (updated draft)
Genre: Contained Thriller
Logline: Three girls conducting door to door surveys are lured into a twisted and deadly all-night game of cat-and-mouse by a psychopathic home owner.
Why You Should Read: Because this is the dark and twisty home invasion thriller that KNOCK KNOCK should have been. Fuck you for that weak shit, Eli Roth. My girls don’t have to act like overheated whores to get what they want from a man.

Title: Starring John Wayne
Genre: Biopic
Logline: The true story of how John Wayne, guilt-ridden over avoiding military service in World War II, helped save the Marine Corps from being eliminated by Congress and the White House with his iconic portrayal of a battle-hardened Marine in the movie “Sands of Iwo Jima.”
Why you should read: The biopic craze that has gripped the movie industry in recent years has left out arguably the most compelling figure in the history of Hollywood: John Wayne. My script, “Starring John Wayne,” fills void. The script focuses on an overlooked and tumultuous chapter of Wayne’s life as he sought to atone for his lack of military service in World War II. A little about me: I am a journalist for a major news organization who has relentlessly and thoroughly researched John Wayne’s life with the goal of selling this script. I recently took a break from my job to be a stay-at-home dad for my baby boy after my wife went back to work. We watch John Wayne westerns and war movies during bottle feedings and diaper changes. I try out dialogue during the nap-time routine. And when the baby sleeps, I crank out pages. Thanks for your consideration.

Title: Under the Cover of Darkness
Genre: Thriller/suspense
Logline: A man awakens without memory in the nightmarish world of history’s largest super-prison. As he fights for his freedom, he develops visions of a past he cannot recall, causing him to lose grip on the present — leaving only a matter of time before his past & present collide.
Why you should read: It’s the Bourne trilogy meets Oldboy. — You once gave some advice on how to generate a good starting point for your script. Basically, you had it down to: confined space, central hero, a mystery to solve, and keep them moving. I really took that into consideration when starting this script. I love The Twilight Zone. I love that the best stories involve basic human fears, and then build and twist them into simple, confusing, haunting stories. And I had a great idea: a regular guy (or is he..?) wakes up in a super-prison without any memory of how he got there. He’s innocent as far as he knows. It involves fears we all share: the innocent man accused, held against our will, losing our mind – really frightening shit.

Title: The Claiming
Genre: Horror
Logline: A paranormal expert who investigates a mysterious mansion falls in love with the blind pianist who lives there, only to discover it’s not the house that is haunted but her.
Why you should read: I’m both a horror fan and a hopeless romantic, so I set out to write a haunted house script that’s also a love story. The character of Alexa, the blind pianist, is the one I love the most out of all the characters I’ve ever written. I’d really like to know if the Scriptshadow readers find the secret that she hides as heartbreaking as I do.

Title: Bush Baby Summer
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi
Logline: A small-town juvenile delinquent on a hiking trip with three other teens runs afoul of a D.B. Cooper-style air hijacker smuggling extraterrestrial cargo.
Why You Should Read: My previous script won AF back in November and I’ve taken everything I learned from the process of writing that one and from the awesome notes I received here, and poured it all into this one. Bush Baby Summer is (hopefully) a fast-paced outdoor action adventure with a sci-fi twist. It’s also my attempt to capture the oft sought after yet ever-elusive “Stand By Me meets E.T.” vibe. It’s currently a Page quarter-finalist under the title “Ramblers”, and – I just found out today – it placed among the top 10% at the Nicholl. Thanks for considering Bush Baby Summer for AOW. I look forward to some constructive notes (good or bad) from the community.

Genre: Horror/Slasher
Premise: After their friends run a supposedly haunted red light and suffer horrible deaths, three disbelieving teens run the same red light to dispel small town superstition, only to find themselves the next targets of a sinister figure hellbent on revenge.
About: I’ve been teaching Pre-Kindergarten for seven years now, so trust me — I know horror. Besides wanting to bring the slasher film back for the Z Generation, I’ve always wanted to write a movie that made an ordinary thing seem terrifying. Think of what Jaws did for going swimming, or Shallow Hal for, uh, going swimming.

One night, while sitting at an empty intersection waiting for the light to change, I found myself coming up with reasons not to go through it. A car could smash into me. I could get pulled over. An unflattering photo of me taken from a traffic camera could appear in my mail. But it wasn’t until I convinced myself the vengeful ghost of a woman — a woman wrongfully killed at that very intersection by another red light runner — would follow me home that I knew I had something special.

I’m confident anyone who reads my script will never go through a traffic light the same way again. But don’t just take my word for it. Professional script consultant Danny Manus gave it a strong consider and called it, “A fast and enjoyable read with a solid climax, a couple good twists in the plot, some strong scare moments, suspenseful scenes, and enough gore to satisfy PG-13 horror fans while still having a solid mystery.”

So how isn’t this a movie yet? How am I still without a manager or agent? How did I keep you reading this long without the exchange of payment or sexual favors? Maybe you can educate an educator. I’m hoping you’ll give my script the chance for some extra attention and critique, but more importantly, I just want everybody reading it to have fun. Because I had a blast writing it.
Writer: Chris Shamburger
Details: 103 pages

Zendaya for Nicki?

So, honest first thoughts when I read this logline:

A haunted red light?

Ehhhh… I wasn’t too confident.

It seemed a bit goofy.

But then I thought about The Ring, one of the most popular horror movies of all time, and wondered, “Is it any less goofy than that? A haunted video tape?”

Then again, the great thing about The Ring was that the video tape was the ultimate visual freak fest. What you saw on that tape chilled you to the bone. It really helped you buy into the premise.

I’m not convinced a red light does that. But let’s find out. WAIT! Hold on. Press the walk sign button. Okay… and it’s green now.

We start off with an eclectic mix of high schoolers and college kids. There’s 18 year old Nikki, a young black woman with some sass. There’s Xander, 19 and athletic. There’s Hannah, 17 years old and eager to start going to college parties. And then there’s some periphery players, like Hannah’s older brother Jimmy, who treats her like a misbehaving child, and Rebecca, Jimmy’s bitchy ex-girlfriend.

So Nikki, Xander, and Hannah head to a college party at ASU where the talk is of a recent group of kids who ran a red light and all but one got butchered at a diner afterwards. When Xander hears that the operating theory is that they were butchered by a ghost who’d been killed when hit by somebody who ran the same red light, Xander wants to run the light too.

So he recruits Nikki and Hannah under the pretense that they’ll hashtag it and become internet famous, only to learn afterwards that there may be more truth to the story than he originally thought. When strange things start happening to them, the three each separately start investigating this woman who was killed, and find out some disturbing things about the incident.

Eventually, as you would expect, teenagers start dying, and the question becomes, is this really a ghost, or might it be a real life killer who’s big on road safety.

Okay so, we’ve got a lot of beginner mistakes here and I hope that by highlighting them, I can help Chris as well as other writers out. Remember that readers are quick to pick up on red flags. And red flags are like ants. Where there’s one, there are usually more. And remember when I said I was skeptical of the premise? That tends to be a red flag out of the gate. When the premise isn’t on point, other things tend not to be either. Unfortunately, that was the case here.

Starting with the opening scene where something immediately jumped out at me. Our drunk teenagers are in a car, but instead of acting like drunk teenagers, they’re spouting out functional backstory-laden dialogue such as, “It’s Rebecca.” “I haven’t heard that name in a while.” “We just started talking again.” “Why?” (remember that leading questions are bad!), “She’s the new president of Alpha Omega Pi.”

Does that sound to you like drunk high school kids? I remember the conversations myself and fellow drunken high school kids had and they were nothing like that. There were random screams and woops about nothing in particular. Someone would say out of nowhere, “We should go to New Orleans!” Someone would always mention some girl that someone recently banged and that “we should call her.” There’d be lots of laughter.

You have to honor the truth of the moment. If you prioritize screenwriting conventions over truth, your scene won’t feel honest, and that’s the case here.

Next on the docket is this description: “He’s so lit, you could probably read a book by him.” It took me several reads before I finally understood what the writer was saying. These overly cute descriptions are almost always the sign of a beginner. Pros prioritize storytelling over everything. They don’t want to break the suspension of disbelief and understand that lines like this can do that.

The exception is when they’re built into the style of the script and the writer is REALLY good at it. When cute lines like this appear out of nowhere, they’re lone wolves and draw attention. I’d avoid them.

Next you have the dialogue. One of the genres where dialogue is extremely important is teen movies. Teenagers are often at the forefront of whatever slang is dominating the zeitgeist, and seek to one-up one another with the latest burn or turn of phrase. For these reasons, when the dialogue in a teen movie is boring, it’s a huge mark against the script.

The dialogue here was very functional, very robotic, and didn’t sound like teenagers at all. When Hannah’s brother’s ex runs into her, she says, “And Hannah, when you see Jimmy again, please tell him I said hi.” That sounds like a 35 year old speaking. Not someone in college. The script was littered with dialogue like that. No style, no fun, no slang. There were a few sections that eschewed this, but not enough.

The next red flag didn’t take long to appear. When they go to this party, Matt, the lone survivor from the first gang to run the red light, gets out of jail after being questioned, and goes straight to this party.

So let me get this straight. You’ve just watched your friends die horrible deaths. The police think you may have done it. And the first thing you do when they release you is head to a party by yourself? But it gets worse. The first thing Matt does when he gets there is go to a bathroom, sit in a stall, and cry???

Why did he come to the party if all he was going to do was cry in a stall? Soon after, the stall is burned to the ground with Matt in it, and we have our answer. The writer wanted to kill Matt in this bathroom. He didn’t care how he got the character there, as long as he could have his bathroom killing scene.

This is another difference between amateurs and pros. Pros will find logical motivations for characters to do things. Amateurs don’t care about that stuff. They’ll pace their character through the most illogical set of actions (showing up at a party the second you’ve been released from jail for being a murder suspect, heading to the bathroom to cry by yourself) to get them to the scene they want to write.

This is why when people say that Hollywood movies are terribly written, I chuckle. Yes, there is badly written professional material. But the bad in those movies is “professional bad.” It’s a whole different level from amateur bad.

On the plus side, the premise began to win me over as the script went on. I thought it was clever to make the ghost woman an investigator who was in the middle of trying to find a missing child. It brought another level of mystery to the teenagers’ investigation. I mean who knows. I could see this being a direct-to-digital horror title. Why not? It has a great title. It’s an easy-to-understand concept. However, before you can rope in the people necessary to make this movie, you have to take care of these basic mistakes.

Script link: Red Light

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

What I learned: Another red flag is character descriptions that are purely physical. Here’s Xander’s character description: “XANDER, 19, stands on the front step, newspaper in hand. Lean, athletic build. Strong chin. He’s a six foot tall drink of water.” It’s almost always better to convey something about the character in their description. For example, a simple word like “mischievous” tells us so much more than that “he’s a tall drink of water.”


Week 12!

Week 3 of the rewrite!

If you’re new to the Scriptshadow Script Challenge, here are all the previous posts…


You should be halfway through your rewrite at this point. But if you aren’t, don’t get down on yourself. Yes, the Scriptshadow Write A Script Tournament is coming up soon, but next week I’ll announce that you may have more time than you think to get your script ready. So stay strong and KEEP WRITING EVERY DAY.

One of the most common e-mails I’ve been getting is, “What is the outline for a screenplay supposed to look like?” I thought I’d get into that today because every time you rewrite a script (and you may rewrite a single script up to 30 times), you should start with an outline. An outline allows you to see your script in macro form and therefore have a better sense of how a scene or a moment fits within the grander state of things.

Now everyone outlines differently. Some people like to be extremely specific, some more general. I find that on a first draft, your outline will be big and lumbering with lots of detail. Then, as each draft goes on and less of your script needs to be rewritten, the outlines will become smaller and more manageable.

I know some people like to write an outline then NOT LOOK AT IT AT ALL during their rewrite. Their belief is that if they can’t remember what they wrote, it’s probably not important enough to be in the script. Of course, they still have the outline to draw upon if they get really stuck.

Before I get into what you’ll specifically write in an outline, here’s the framework for what an entire outline should look like. Note that the number of scenes is just a guideline. Fast-paced scripts will tend to have short and therefore more scenes. Slower period-piece type scripts will likely have longer and therefore fewer scenes. This will break down to between 12 and 15 scenes for each section, which means your script will have between 50-60 scenes. And yes, it’s okay to go a little lower than 50 and a little higher than 60. It all depends on what type of script you’re writing.



ACT 2 (PART 1)

SCENES 13-28


ACT 2 (PART 2)

SCENES 29-46


SCENES 47-55


Unfortunately, I can’t do an entire outline from start to finish. So I’ll do a small section and you can use that as a guideline for the entire outline. Since HTML doesn’t allow you to outline without having a degree in nuclear fission, I’ll have to take a screenshot and post it as an image. Here’s a fictional outline for The Force Awakens. Sorry if it’s a little small.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 2.06.43 PM

Hope this helps. Next week I’ll announce the official time table for tournament submissions. Get to writing!

Rewrite Goal (Week 12): Three-quarter point of the script (around page 75-85)!

Today’s script may be the strangest combo I’ve ever read. Forrest Gump meets Clockwork Orange.

Genre: Thriller
Premise: We follow the life of Cosmo Hopper, a drifter whose life has been influenced by several major historical events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Challenger Explosion, the Rodney King inspired riots, and the first Iraq War.
About: This is one of the two scripts Eric Bress, writer of The Butterfly Effect, sold back-to-back last year. I loved the first one and got a lot of flak for it from you guys. Well, we’re back with the second one, which is a lot more ambitious. Let’s check it out!
Writer: Eric Bress
Details: 107 pages – 1st draft


This feels like an Adam Driver part all the way

Guess what time it is?


Raise your hand if you’re tired of hearing about voice? Okay, now ask me if I care. Go ahead. Ask me.


See, the nice thing about reading an Eric Bress script is that it won’t be like anything else you’ve read before. We have death by falling Challenger Shuttle explosion debris in this movie. Try and top that.

On the flip side, if all you do is rewrite the movies you’ve loved from your past, you’re not going to write anything memorable. That’s not to say you can’t write an entertaining product. If your technique is good, if you understand basic storytelling (suspense, irony, dramatic irony, character development, conflict, anticipation, mystery), you can still write something solid. But you’ll never write something great unless it comes uniquely from you.

I mean, yes, I liked The Force Awakens. But I’ll be the first to admit that JJ didn’t bring anything new to it. He didn’t bring any voice. He brought his love and passion for the source material. And that was enough to get me excited about Star Wars again. But The Force Awakens never had a chance to be great because there wasn’t a unique voice behind it.

39 year old Cosmo Hopper is a homeless vagrant who’s just been accused of burning down a building and trying to kill everyone inside of it. Luckily, nobody died, but the interrogating officer wants to know why the fuck Cosmo would do such a thing. So Cosmo decides to tell the officer his life story.

Cut to Cosmo at seven years old when he loses his mother to cancer. That means his care is transferred over to his estranged weirdo father, one of those low-lifes who thinks he’s a scientist because he drinks a lot of beer and reads books.

Dad makes Cosmo his own personal guinea pig, putting him through a series of tests like holding him underwater for minutes at a time, walking on glass and hot coals, covering Cosmo’s favorite horse with gasoline and having Cosmo walk him through a thin path with fire on each side. Yeah, your basic nut job shit.

Lucky for Cosmo, his father dies one day when the two are fishing. They’re in Florida at the time, and watch in horror as the Challenger shuttle blows up in the sky and eventually rains down its debris on the lake. His father is hit by one of the chunks from the shuttle and that’s all she wrote.

Cosmo, now 19, says goodbye to his best friend and love of his life, Rosanna, and heads off to find his grandparents. He stows away on a crabbing boat (the most dangerous job in the world) eventually ending up in Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall. He finally finds love again with his grandparents, and things seem to be going well.

Eventually, Cosmo heads off to fight in the Iraq war, where he sees the kind of death and mutilation that even someone with the most fucked up father in the universe is prepared for. At one point, he’s responsible for taking all the blown up soldier bits and, like a puzzle, putting them back together again.

All during this time, Cosmo ponders the meaning of life, of the universe, with a particular obsession over the number 17 (“I’d seen 17 men die in my meat wagon and 17 explosions since then. The flight home was 17 hours and left at 17:00 hours.”) and longs to be back with the only thing that makes him whole – Rosanna.

But is it too late for them? Is it too late for Cosmo? Has he seen too much? Experienced too much? Not even Cosmo may be able to answer that question.

You ever wonder what Forrest Gump may have looked like had it been directed by David Lynch, with second unit directing by Harmony Korine? Yeah, me too. Well, it would probably look something like this. This is bizarro world shit up in here, and whether you love it or hate it will depend on how fucked up you are in the head.

Structurally, it’s kind of a mess. We’re randomly jumping through time to key historic moments both in our hero’s and our planet’s lives. But Bress does use a device to make it more palatable, and it’s one all screenwriters should be aware of. He uses the “base camp” technique.

So last week, I was consulting on a script for a writer and his story was jumping all over the place. We were in Egypt for awhile, then we spent some time on a ship, then we spent time in business boardrooms, then we followed the construction of a soccer stadium. The script was frustrating to read because it couldn’t focus on one thing.

You could argue American Drifter is the same way – with a tweak. Bress establishes a “base camp” at the beginning of the story – the interrogation of Cosmo Hopper for burning down a building. By establishing a base camp, wherever we travel in our story, no matter how far or how weird, we have this base camp to come back to.

Now ideally, you want a storyline going on with your base camp, something the reader actually cares about. That way, when we’re in Berlin or a crabbing ship or Florida during the Challenger explosion, we’re always thinking in the back of our minds, “I wonder if he’s guilty of burning down that building.” This device basically gives a shapeless story shape.

Now is the base camp storyline here great? No. But we are dealing with a first draft. And I assume Bress has improved it since. There didn’t seem to be big enough stakes attached to his burning down of this building. Nobody died. It was more about, was this a dry-run for Cosmo to do something even worse. And since he was already captured, I wasn’t worried about that.

A base camp movie that worked better was Source Code. Whenever we went back to base camp (our hero stuck in that room with the controllers), it was made clear to us that time was running out. If they didn’t find this bomb soon, another bigger bomb would blow up, killing thousands. So the interrogation actually had some stakes attached to it.

Still, this script is unlike anything I’ve read all year. It’s not perfect. It’s not something that will appeal to everyone. But in a sea of scripts that all read the same, this is a refreshing diversion I was happy to take.

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

What I learned: Anybody you’ve ever been passionate about – good or bad – has a strong voice. M. Night, Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Bay, Quentin Tarantino. The less passionate you are about someone, the less defined their voice is. Again, you can still enjoy a non-voicy person. But their films tend to inspire less of a reaction. So ask yourself when you’re writing – am I writing the kind of thing that wouldn’t offend a single person? That wouldn’t inspire passion one way or another? If the answer is no, you’re probably not drawing deeply enough within yourself to explore your unique point of view on the world.

What I learned 2: The bigger your movie, the harder it is to inject voice into it. Voice often divides people. And the biggest movies out there can’t afford to divide people. They have to appeal to everyone. So if you’re writing a huge 150 million dollar movie, don’t worry too much about injecting the script with a controversial voice.

Might today’s action spec be the most manly ever reviewed on Scriptshadow???

Genre: Action
Premise: A group of badass mercenaries are hired for the most difficult security detail in the world, protecting a Mexican politician targeted by the biggest cartel boss in the country.
About: Originally written by Predators scribe, Alex Litvak, Five Against a Bullet pulled in the king of cool, Joe Carnahan, to rewrite the script and direct the film.
Writers: Joe Carnahan rewrite (original script by Alex Litvak)
Details: 121 pages


Here’s my question. How do you turn a script like this into the next Fast and Furious franchise as opposed to the next straight-to-digital franchise? Cause honestly, it could go either way. It’s got five cool testosterone-busting leads for actors, the kind of badass parts you could see action actors playing over and over. Yet if they don’t get the right mix of hot faces and money, it doesn’t matter how good of a director Carnahan is. This will never get a wide release.

“Five” follows five badass dudes, starting with the leader, Frank, a man of few words who can get out of any situation by always expecting the worst. There’s Simon, a mouthy Australian desperate to prove he’s got the biggest dick in the room. Terry, a weirdo Japanese-American who can hardly be bothered to look up from whatever video game he’s playing. Vic, a slimy private detective who will bang your wife the second you hire him to see if she’s cheating on you. And finally, Rico, a former bodyguard who failed to protect his boss from one of the most ruthless cartels in the country.

These five are brought in to protect Alvaro Diaz, a Mayoral candidate in a large Mexican City. All they have to do is keep him alive for three weeks, until the election is over. The problem is, every cartel member and their step-mom wants to off this guy as he’s the only candidate with the balls to stand up to them.

The script follows our team as they try and figure out how to navigate even the most mundane of tasks, like traveling a few blocks. When the bounty on Diaz’s head is raised to 20 million, even the girls playing hopscotch are libel to slit your throat. And the longer this goes on, the more Frank worries he may have gotten himself in over his head.

When the heat of the campaign eclipses the heat of an average day in Mexico, Diaz decides to confront the man who wants his head, Montero, face-to-face. He lets him know that he’s not backing down, and if Montero wants to kill him, he’s going to have to pull something out of his ass. Frank, for the record, is not a fan of that challenge.

Eventually, when gang members start showing up at locations in advance of our team, Frank figures out they’ve got a mole. If he doesn’t flush out that mole quickly, there is no way they’ll make it anywhere close to election day. And we’re not just talking about Diaz. We’re talking about every single one of them.

So what is the difference between a straight-to-video balls-to-the-wall action flick and the next Fast and Furious franchise? Fuck if I know. But if I had to guess, I’d say eliminating as much generic as you can from your action movie. If all you have is guys shooting at each other and getting in car chases, it’s likely you have a boring action movie.

With Fast and Furious, as cheesy as the original was, it took place in a world (underground car racing) that hadn’t been explored much on the big screen. This is the unheralded benefit of a unique concept. Just by the nature of it being unique, most of the scenes you write will be unique without you even having to think about it.

Five Against A Bullet straddles the line between that world and the generic world (we get plenty of ubiquitous Mexican standoffs) but comes out on top strictly because of how good of a writer Carnahan is. I’m serious. This guy writes action better than anyone in town, and there isn’t anybody even close. When a car crashes in a Carnahan script it doesn’t “flip five times before coming to a stop.” It “barrel rolls over and over, vomiting metal and glass as it slides to a shuddering halt in the middle of the freeway.” I grew a beard reading this script it was so manly.

Also, Carnahan knows that the secret ingredient in an action movie is non-action scenes. If every scene is people shooting each other up, the audience gets bored. You have to find ways to mix it up.

One of the best scenes in Five Against A Bullet is when our guys are driving through town at night and get stopped by a police blockade. The police chief, obviously in bed with Montero, tells Diaz that his team is illegally carrying firearms and that the cars they’re driving aren’t up to code. Unfortunately, he apologizes, he’ll need to take both. This leaves the entire team in the middle of the city, in the middle of the night, without vehicles or a way to defend themselves. The suspense and anticipation this situation presents is far more engaging than yet another “Pew pew pew! Got’em!” gunfight.

Then there’s the mole stuff. Someone in the group is informing Montero where they’re going to be ahead of time. So Frank has to figure out who it is. I was far more engaged in this mystery than I was the next car chase. And a lot of newbie action writers don’t realize this. They just write the most elaborate gun fights they can think of.

My big problem with the script was the structure. I’ve mentioned this before. I don’t like stories that are built on waiting. I like it when the characters are actively going out and trying to achieve a goal (like a heist, which is what one of the recent Fast and Furious films was about).

Five Against A Bullet is all about waiting for someone else (Montero) to make a move, and then repeatedly reacting to that move. It’s not to say that can’t work. There’s a level of suspense involved in “Where is the next attack going to come from?” But movies tend to work best when the main character is pursuing something as opposed to waiting on others to pursue something. The latter results in a more passive story, which is particularly dangerous when you’re writing a testosterone-filled action film.

But again, Carnahan is such a good action writer, he makes it work. And to that end, I implore ALL action writers to find and read this script. Particularly, pay attention to the detail Carnahan adds. It makes everything he writes feel so much more tactile than your average action spec. You really feel like you’re there. For example, here’s how he has one of his characters introducing the cars they’ll be using to drive the team around: “V-12 short stroke switchout engines. These cars will turn 600 horses apiece and look like everyday drivers. Reinforced bumpers, so we can punch through roadblocks. Run flat tires. UL Level 10 Bullet-resistant glass. And that’s as much as 50k gets for three cars.” A bit different from your average newbie description of “A badass muscle car” no?

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

What I learned: Look beyond the action for the best scenes in an action movie. Use tried-and-true storytelling tools to find scenes instead. Mystery (which one of them is the mole?) and suspense (place them in the middle of town, at night, with no way to defend themselves). You obviously want action in action movies. But if ALL you’re offering is action, then all you’re offering is boredom.