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Genre: Adventure
Premise (from writer): When his mother is kidnapped and sold into slavery, the legendary fableist must overcome being a short, ugly mute and outmatch Greek philosophers and bloodthirsty kings to rescue her and save the kingdom.
Why You Should Read (from writer): If I have to sit through another movie starring a chisel chinned, barrel chested, cooler-than-christ anti-hero, I’m gonna start drinking. And when I drink, I get all existential. And when I get all existential, I go searching for myself. And when I go searching for myself, I take trips to exotic countries. And when I take trips to exotic countries, my planes mysteriously disappear. And when my planes mysteriously disappear, I end up on Lost island. As cool as that would be for about a week, please don’t let me end up on Lost island, Carson! For a change, let’s give the short and uglies of the world a chance at being heroic. And you can start right here with this inspired, true-ish tale. — I’ve always been intrigued by ancient Greek culture and stumbled upon this story in college. It is tailor-made for the big screen, but very few people know about the man behind the fables. A cute, straight forward fantasy adventure this is not. Think more along the lines of the dark and dirty original versions of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. The Zemeckis’, Burtons, and Depps of the world would have a field day with this.
Writer: J.D. Dorsey
Details: 104 pages

Josh+Gad+CBS+NUMB3RS+100th+Episode+Bash+xPT_qz4ilrllJosh Gad for Aesop?

Adventure is one of those genres that I surprisingly don’t see a lot of. And it’s a great genre to write in because there aren’t many demographics out there that don’t like a good adventure. I think because Adventure is often seen as the “grown up” version of the family film, writers stay away from it. And most of the adventure stories have been folded into the animation world anyway (Up, Tintin, Shrek). It’s much cooler to write an edgy thriller or a dark comedy. Who wants to write a wussy adventure?

I think the “cooler” adventure film is ready for a comeback, though. With the exception of the Hobbit films, there hasn’t been something people over 12 can really stand by and say, “Yo, you see that latest adventure film? That was good shit.” We need our new Romancing the Stone, our new Raiders, our new Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Is Aesop that script? Only one way to know…

It’s the year 602 BC. We start the movie where anything in 602 BC should start. Greece. It’s here where we meet Aesop.

I’ll allow today’s author to describe our title character for you, since he does it better than I ever could. Aesop is “a loathsome, potbellied, misshapen-of-head, snub-nosed, swarthy, dwarfish, bandy-legged, short-armed, squint-eyed, liver-lipped, portentous monstrosity.” In other words, the guy’s not modeling toga underwear to pay the rent.

Aesop is also a mute and a coward who spends his days with his head in the clouds, dreaming about turtles and crickets and ants who can speak. He seems uninterested in reality, for reality is often so cruel. Until he meets a magically beautiful young lady named Rhodope. Something about this girl powers up Aesop’s vocal chords and just like that, he can talk!

Unfortunately, before he can head home and share his newfound powers with this family, he finds his village burning, and everyone in it taken away as slaves. Determined to get his mother back, Aesop uses his new power of speech to talk his way onto a slave boat heading for the Island of Samos.

Once there, Aesop offers up himself as a slave (for reasons that weren’t entirely clear) to a local philosopher named Xanthus. Xanthus quickly realizes how smart Aesop is, and uses him to win several town riddle-challenges, the local Samos currency for the upper class. Word of his intelligence spreads, until he comes to the attention of the King.

Turns out the kings of this land also duel each other in battles of wits and riddles, often times betting fortunes in the process. Lose a few riddle bets in a row, and you could be out a kingdom. With Aesop by his side, however, the Samos King does nothing but win. Aesop is the smartest in the land. Until he’s given an impossible riddle by the Samos King’s chief rival. Will he be able to solve it? Or will an unforeseen betrayal lead to Aesop’s undoing?

Folks, I want to make something clear right away. We got ourselves a writer here.  This is a script that relishes its time and place, and makes you feel like you’re there all the way through.

The wooden slave boat docks at a relatively sophisticated harbor.
Replete with horse-drawn carriages, men and women in gowns
and tunics. A far cry from the rustic village.

From the bustle of workers unloading cages, horses, and equipment,
Aesop steps off the boat in awe.

He quickly gathers himself and notices that a similar boat rests next
to theirs, having already been unloaded.

Aesop starts for the city, but the Slave Trader quickly grips his collar.

SLAVE TRADER
You have duties, swine. Tend to those cages
there. Be useful in action if not in appearance!

The young man lumbers towards his duty, startled to see Mastor
dragging the beaten and bloodied body of Enops down a wooden plank.

If you want to read really good writing, download this script at the end of my review. You won’t be disappointed. Now as you know from reading Scriptshadow, if it were all about the writing, there’d be a lot more spec sales. Screenwriting is more about the storytelling though, and it’s here where Aesop needs some work. The script changes tone, changes story, changes focus, leaving you unsure what it is or what it’s trying to say.

The most jarring change for me, was in Aesop himself. He starts off as this meek bullied little mute, someone we immediately love and root for. Then, 30 pages in, he learns how to speak and all of a sudden he’s a nasty little smartass for the remainder of the script.

Completely changing your hero during your story is a risky proposition to say the least. I’ve seen it done before, like in American Beauty. Much like Aesop, Lester Burnham is a pushover who stops giving a shit. But his change is clearly motivated. We watch as he gets tired of being pushed around. So we understand why he transforms into someone who refuses to take it anymore. In contrast, I’m not sure why the ability to talk all of a sudden turns Aesop into a wiseass.

The tone wavered as well. We start off with this cute little story about a mute young man trying to make it in an unaccepting world by creating imaginary animal friends he can communicate with. Everything’s very G-rated. Then later, Aesop is getting raped (albeit comically) by his owner’s wife. We’re talking about a man famous for children’s fables here. I don’t think you want any sex scenes in this script (or “urinating while walking” scenes).

Another problem is that it took me half the script to figure out what the actual story was, which is never a good sign. At first I thought this was about the struggles of a young mute. Then I thought it was about a man trying to save his mother. Eventually I realized it was about an extremely smart individual, captured by a king, who uses his wits to stay alive. You never want it to take that long for the main story in your screenplay to emerge. It leaves the reader extremely frustrated.

There were also too many unexplained things. You can get away with not explaining maybe one major element, but any more than that and the reader’s going to turn on you. I couldn’t figure out, for example, if the animals were just talking in Aesop’s mind or they were really talking. I was 80% sure it was in his head, but with something as crazy as animals talking, there can’t be any misunderstanding there. It needs to be 100%.

I also didn’t understand what led to Aesop being able to talk. He met this girl, but why would a random girl give him the ability to speak? That was unclear. And why is it that the bad guys took everyone in Aesop’s village as slaves, however when he comes to their boat and demands to go with them, they don’t take him as a slave as well? Is there some 600 B.C. rule that states you’re allowed to catch people in the wild, but once they’re in the city they’re off-limits? And why did Aesop offer himself up as a slave? I think it was to find his mom. But how would becoming a slave help him find his mom? Wouldn’t the freedom of being able to go anywhere you wanted give you a better shot at finding her?

I’ve also read enough of these “fictional writer biopics” now to know that the better you can integrate the writer’s influences (which led to their famous works), the more powerful the story will be. The tortoise and the grasshopper and the ant seemed to pop in and out of the story with no rhyme or reason. Much like the rest of the script, there were no rules governing their arrival. They needed to have a more direct influence on Aesop, to be more crucial to the story itself. I saw them more as announcers or distant observers of his life.

Despite all that, there were good things going on here. I maintain that one of the hardest things to do in screenwriting is give us a protagonist we won’t forget. You read this script, I guarantee you, you won’t forget Aesop. He’s that memorable.

Dorsey really puts us back in Ancient Greece too. From the descriptions to the sounds to the characters, I felt like I was there. A lot of that was due to the dialogue, which was great. Pick out any page here, read the dialogue, and you’ll see what I mean. “So you see, that is why the people of Samos care so much for reputation. It informs us. It puts us in position to leverage outcomes. When I heard that my guards found not one but two slaves with particular familiarity with Aesop the monstrosity, well I couldn’t help but inquire—“ I don’t know. You just get the feeling this guy knows what he’s doing.

But I’m very frustrated by “Aesop.” We obviously have an amazing talent here in Dorsey. But he needs to spend some time in the Structure Garden. This script needs focus. Aesop isn’t really trying to find his mom after awhile, which means he’s an inactive character imprisoned by a king. I’m not sure that and a handful of riddles is enough of an engine to drive an entire second act. We need a more dominant goal and we need Aesop to be a little more active in pursuing it. Or we need a succession of goals, each clear and strong, with high stakes attached to each of them, not unlike the way Star Wars is structured.

The script also needs consistency. It starts out one way and turns out another. The tone is messy. The imaginary world and the real world need to be better explained and intertwined. These are all doable things for someone this talented, but they take time.

Regardless of what happens with this script, I want to know what Dorsey is working on from this point forward. I really like him as a writer.

Script link: Aesop The Courageous

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

What I learned: We need someone to bring the true adventure spec back. I’m predicting whoever does is going to make a lot of money. Who’s going to do it? Pitches in the comments? Or submit your adventure to Amateur Friday.

  • Steffan

    Dearest Script Shadow Community,

    It is my full intention (right after I finish this draft of my latest “edgy thriller”) to write the next “cool” adventure story. I hope you will all read it here. Something Carson said years ago was the seed of that script and I shall be using the mini-movie method to write it… which is daunting since I’ve never used that structure before. However, I am excited about it. I hope you all will read it about a year from now.

    In the meantime, read the best adventure story out right now: SAGA (by B.K. Vaughn).

    I pitched this to you guys during Star Wars week and nobody read it. Here are Amazon links to buy it. I can’t make it easier for you:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=saga

    Three volumes out right now. It’s a relatively new series. Every stinking last one of you should be read this!

    Steffan

    http://scriptshadow.net/amateur-friday-inhuman/

    • Linkthis83

      I’m currently working on a drama/adventure story. I’m hoping it only contains minor elements of “wussy”.

      “Who wants to write a wussy adventure?”

      -Carson Reeves

    • mulesandmud

      Don’t worry Steffan, I’m sure people heard you.

      I’ll second that Saga is fantastic, one of the more unique blends of sci-fi and fantasy that I’ve ever read. Also just an amazing story about family and the tribulations of raising a child. Definitely an adults-only adventure story, though (complete with raunchy sex and a shit-ton of swearing).

      Vaughn has always been talented but Saga stands head and shoulders above his other work. Also Fiona Staples’ art is pitch perfect.

      • Casper Chris

        Yea, I was very impressed with the artwork I saw on Amazon. Fiona has some serious talent.

    • garrett_h

      I actually ordered the first volume from Amazon when you recommended it… along with about 5 other books lol. And I also recently borrowed a book from a friend. So it’s a couple books down on my queue, but I’ll get to it.

    • carsonreeves1

      I’m heading over there right now. Thanks for the recommendation, Steffan!

    • Franchise Blueprints

      Trying to jump aboard what’s hot trend will be cold by the time you get onboard.

      • Steffan

        Franchise,

        Actually, that’s not me trying to jump on board a trend. I move between genres each script I write. So the script I wrote three years ago was a straight up horror flick, followed by a psychological thriller (which was reviewed here); presently, I’m working on a found footage film and my next (which I mentioned above) is a tent-pole action/adventure.

        That way I can keep what I’m doing fresh.

        -Steffan

  • hickeyyy

    I really enjoyed Aesop, but I think you have some valid criticisms. At times I felt like that even though his mother’s imprisonment was the driving force of the story, far too often he was distracted by other pursuits. I also really enjoyed the mute version of Aesop that when he started talking, I felt cheated. After a while, it did grow on me based on the quality of writing.

    I’m really excited to see future work from the writer. Great stuff.

  • Linkthis83

    “The most jarring change for me, was in Aesop himself. He starts off as this meek bullied little mute, someone we immediately love and root for. Then, 30 pages in, he learns how to speak and all of a sudden he’s a nasty little smartass for the remainder of the script.”

    Well, I guess this supports what I (we) already know, it doesn’t matter how far you read in a script if you don’t read the whole thing. I stopped at page 27 and was in awe of this script/story. After thinking about it and reading other comments, I think the mute-to-speaking transformation should be done better. Especially because the muteness seems to be an important character trait of Aesop (and endearing). I think I understand the change and why it happened so suddenly, but I don’t think it was effective. I feel like it should be a bigger deal and a bit more impactful. This is a mighty big change for this character.

    Unless his smartassness is endearing for the remainder of the story, I have a feeling that would’ve taken me out of the story. However, I can’t judge the rest of the script because I didn’t read it. I do believe that even if I didn’t like it overall, I would still enjoy the read based on pages 1-27. Enjoyed all of those.

    Congrats to J.D. Dorsey!!

  • martin_basrawy

    I think Pirates 1 was the last truly great, live action, adventure film. 2009 Trek also, maybe?

    • carsonreeves1

      Ahhh! I forgot Pirates!

  • Randy Williams

    This script contradicted your idea about the danger of period pieces, that the farther you go back, the slower things were. How much farther back can you go than ancient Greece? This script was bustling, rowdy, wicked and soaring. A few languid harp moments but mostly a rock soundtrack.

    What is a “true adventure” script? I might have an idea in that genre. Been thinking of it as a thriller but the protagonist is a misfit young American in a far off land that might better be served by adventure.
    I’m gonna hammer the script out through a new screenwriters group forming in my community!!!
    They promise to bring in “speakers”! Like, who would that be? The second cousin of the guy who wrote, “MILKMAID: A dairyliteful history”?

    • carsonreeves1

      That’s a good point. You really can make any time in history fun/action-packed/fast-moving. I should’ve clarified I meant period pieces in the traditional sense (people in costumes, more drama than adventure).

  • pabloamigo

    Adventure is a genre I’m becoming increasingly drawn to for some inexplicable reason. Tried to put some Indy-esque elements into my Amateur Friday contender (The Dark Parade from a few weeks back).

    Will check this script out.

    • walker

      You did a good job with that. The opening had a fun rollicking feel.

      • witwoud

        I agree. It rollicked and romped.

  • Citizen M

    OT: I’ve been to Samos. We were told it was the island least overrun by tourists, probably because it is the closest to Turkey and much of it is controlled by the military (or was, during the Regime of the Colonels).

    We were three guys and the one guy’s sister. We joined up with two Americans, call them Jim and Bob. We spent the day on a beautiful bay, watching a fisherman catch octopi in the rock pools and turn them inside out. We found a wild fig tree with small black figs and ate as many as we wanted. That night in the youth hostel we drank beers and talked shit with the girls in the girls’ dorm. Apparently this was a terrible offense and we were thrown out of the hostel.

    Ten o’clock at night and nowhere to stay. Someone told us we could always sleep at the monastery. We rang the bell and a tetchy monk told us to get lost.

    It was a warm, moonlit night. Wandering around, we spotted a nice flat patch of open ground in a graveyard. We spread out our sleeping bags and went to sleep.

    Presently Bob started stirring. “There’s bugs,” he muttered. We told him there were no bugs. A bit later he said, “I’m telling you, there’s bugs here.” We told him to shut up.

    There was a long silence. Suddenly Bob leapt up with a scream. To this day I have imprinted on my memory a picture of Bob outlined against the night sky, shaking his sleeping bag in a wild arc and a spray of thousands of little black specks flying off.

    Using our cigarette lighters we searched the ground. Bob had placed his sleeping bag on top of an ant colony. He moved far away from us and we all went back to sleep.

    Next day we left Samos and never returned.

    Incidentally, if you are interested in modern Greek history I can recommend a book called Eleni. Written by an American about his mother who lived in northern Greece during the post-WWII civil war at a time the area was controlled by the communists. Their nastiness and cruelty were beyond belief. It was made into a movie. No idea what the movie was like.

    • Eddie Panta

      Eleni, 1985 I saw the movie with John Malkovich. Great use of flashbacks.
      It was gritty enough and historically accurate. One man’s long journey towards revenge.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Those are some pretty funny holiday memories :)
      I spent a couple of weeks on Samos 20 years ago and absolutely loved it ! I’d recommend wearing those ugly plastic sandals when you go bathing so as to avoid two-inch spikes in your foot if you stupidly step on a sea urchin… That’s when their famous olive oil comes in handy (and a couple of shots of ouzo as well ’cause that sure hurt like a bastard !).

      • witwoud

        When I was in Greece as a kid, I was told that the only remedy for sea urchin pricks was to plunge your foot into a saucepan of boiling water: the pain from the water was preferable to the pain from the poison. That terrified me so much that I never went within fifteen feet of the things. It’s only just occurred to me that my Dad might have exaggerated a bit.

        • Citizen M

          The theory behind the boiling water remedy is that poison is a protein, like egg white, and just like egg white it gets hard if you cook it, so it stays at the point of infection and doesn’t circulate further.

          I stood on a sea urchin as a kid. My stepfather spent the afternoon squeezing my foot to stop the blood flow and picked the spines out with a needle. He calmed his nerves with Scotch. I just whimpered.

          • walker

            Very clever that it was your “step” father.

          • witwoud

            Yikes. Cringe. I guess my Dad was right, then.

      • Stephjones

        Sea urchin spines dissolve in vinegar…and a few shots of ouzo. :)

      • Franchise Blueprints

        I went to Olive Garden once. I had the pasta. Yum.

    • carsonreeves1

      It’s funny how one little bad experience can turn you off from an amazing place. I had a terrible weekend in Manhattan once. Never want to go back.

    • MaliboJackk

      Cool fable.
      (Loved the part about the ants.)

  • brenkilco

    When I’m told I’m about to encounter great writing I expect writing that is not just expressive but clear, precise and at a minimum grammatical. I also think it’ fair to ask for dialogue that isn’t hackneyed. Now I don’t mean to bang on this writer because he seems imaginative and talented, but just considering the first two pages I’m beginning to wonder what Carson means by great writing. Specifically:

    Using the word anthropomorphic twice within a few lines is awkward and unnecessary. The writer might explain in what way the animals resemble humans. For instance are they all standing upright

    “Rocking chest plates”. This single use of contemporary slang is out of place and confusing. For a minute I thought the animals were throwing rocks

    Their screams just as haunting when wounded. As haunting as what? Their screams when they’re not wounded? Or is he suggesting that the animal screams sound like the screams of wounded human beings. Rewrite.

    A huge pair of eyes. Since we’e been hanging with animals thus far it would be nice to know whether they’re human eyes. Also we now have an actual insect behaving anthropomorphically. Don’t know whether this is supposed to still be happening in Aesop’s head, but it’s not being presented that way.

    The physical description of Aesop. He’s a portentous monstrosity. Portentous? I assume the writer intends the seldom used tertiary definition meaning to inspire amazement. Does he really mean to suggest that Aesop is so extraordinarily hideous that people shrink away from him in horror? Or is he just an ugly schlub? The writer loves his own description but I’m not sure he means it.

    “Him and his accomplice” Elementary grammar error.

    “rubs his struck head.” Awkward. How about injured head

    “He grins and we’ve fallen in love.” I haven’t. Why? What is it about his smile that makes us completely change our attitude about this loathsome Quasimodo? The writer goes overboard on the physical defects and then scrimps on the apparently self evident deeper qualities of his hero.

    The dialogue. When I saw an ancient character say you swine and by Zeus on the same page I knew there were going to be problems. If you decide to present the dialogue of your Greeks with old school movie formality you’d better know what you’re doing. “When I ask of you a question, better of you to answer me quickly.” Ugh. It may just barely be grammatical but it’s not good. How about simply, When I ask a question, better to answer me quickly. No, that’s still lame. If you can’t make this stuff literate better to leave it alone.

    Maybe this story is great, and I’m sure I’m being picky but great writing should be both expressive and disciplined. And the writing here, while certainly promising, needs work.

    • Nicholas J

      >”rubs his struck head.” Awkward. How about injured head

      >I’m sure I’m being picky

      Looks that way. I wouldn’t call it ‘great’ writing, but it’s pretty solid. And I happen to like ‘rubs his struck head’ better. It’s a less obvious choice, but still makes sense, and it reads kind of sing songy, which is fun.

  • Katastrophix

    I haven’t read the script but, “I’m not sure why the ability to talk all of a sudden turns Aesop into a wiseass.” I would guess that came about as way to finally be able to successfully fight back. After a lifetime of being picked on, he’s still not going to be able to kick anyone’s ass, but he can defeat them ‘mentally.’

    I immediately thought of this guy:

    • Gregory Mandarano

      He’d have to wear makeup, cause Peter Dinklage is way too handsome to play Aesop. ^_^

  • James Lion

    Um, this is nitpicking to be sure, but the “horse-drawn carriage”, as we understand it, wouldn’t be invented until about 2000 years after the time of the ancient Greeks. These folks probably didn’t even have chariots. They’d more likely have human-borne carriages.

    • walker

      Not too nitpicky. That tripped up the read and would have been easy just to drop.

  • gazrow

    I’m not suggesting the writing in Aesop The Courageous is great. What I do know is it was strong enough to draw me in and make me want to read on. No small achievement given that I’m not particularly fond of reading to begin with! So kudos to the writer.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I’ve only had time to read the opening 5 pages, but Carson, you are dead right about the writing. It’s as clear and visual as anything I’ve read.

    At the top of page 2: “WHAM! The owner of the eyes catches a foot to the head.”

    That is visual.

    The writer has described it as we would actually see it. Versus the usual: “A flying foot kicks him in the head. WHAM!”

    That usual way is fully functional and clear, but it’s a master-shot view. Sure a master-shot view can work, but it’s much less fun to read.

  • ripleyy

    As a very famous man once said in Spartacus: “Cut circle with straight line”, in other words, just get to the point. The plot here is as close to a Seismometer than anything, yet the writing is pretty damn excellent.

    If the writer had submitted something else, something more focused, I have no doubt that it would instantly reach Top 25. :)

    What strikes me as interesting is that writers are so out-of-balance, that some can be so good at dialogue but bad at plot, or fantastic at structure but fail at dialogue. It’s really fascinating.

    As for adventure, I’ve written a series myself. It’s quite refreshing, from the gritty thrillers and the like. Maybe there will be an “Adventure Week” sometime down the line? Let’s hope.

  • carsonreeves1

    I think it’s got a shot. Why not?

  • Linkthis83

    I’d say those who supported it probably haven’t chimed in, but I haven’t gone back to look. Also, most people only read the first 10-20 pages and vote on that. When it makes it into AF, then some will read the entire thing. After that, you will probably be more likely to be critical of it.

    I loved the pages I read despite the comments against it here today. However, based on Carson’s review, I probably wouldn’t have loved the story overall had I read the whole thing. But I enjoyed the writing immensely.

  • Casper Chris

    Where are all those people taking swipes at it? I don’t see them.

    Most of those who voted it in on AOW only read 10-30 pages. From reading Carson’s review, it seems like most of the script’s issues appear later.

  • T.R.Pendleton

    For some reason I think most adventure stories have gravitated animated films these days (Frozen, Wall-E, etc) I don’t know exactly why that is, but I think it’s due time for some more sweet adventure flicks.

    I think the new Wes Anderson is supposed to be an adventure type film though so maybe they are about to make a come back.

  • Eddie Panta

    The SS NEWSLETTER asked for suggestions for a Thurs. Post.

    Here’s my suggestion: FADE IN: — A LOOK AT PAGE 1

    How important is it? How fast can you kill a read? Are ppl who say they want to be hooked on pg. 1 being unreasonable? Do you start with the weather? The lighting?
    How many characters are too many on the first page? How many scenes? What are the pro readers really looking for? What are some of the most common page 1 mistakes. Oh, and god forbid you start with V.O… Should the character be waking up and slapping the alarm clock, what about coming out of the birth canal. Does the lead need to be on the first page. What about quotes, and over black. Should you use a FADE IN at all? Cold Open anyone? How bout a hot open? Should page 1 end with” “TWO WEEKS LATER”.
    Does page 1 start with the past?

    Can the writer act like a director, at least on the first page, should the scene be a crane shot.

    Can the whole world blow up on page 1.

    Should the first page indicate how much of a budget is necessary.

    Why didn’t L. A.. Confidential start with the montage that was on the first page of the script?

    Why didn’t SWINGERS start with the L.A, street scenes like in the script?

    Seems like a lot pf page 1’s don’t make it from script to screen.
    What is “page one” really about?

    • MaliboJackk

      You need to make a distinction between page 1 of a pro and page 1 of an amateur script. That’s rule one.

      For an amateur script, page 1 has to be impressive.
      It has to catch the attention of people who matter.

      If you listen to the recent On Story podcast featuring Harold Ramus —
      He mentions that he was getting 10 scripts a week to read and that he (like many others) hated reading scripts (and probably rarely did).
      His advice to screenwriters — It’s not the first 10 like everyone tells you. It’s the first page, because of all the competition out there.
      And sometimes it’s not even the first page. If there’s a typo in the first paragraph, he’s done.

      • Midnight Luck

        i agree.

        I can’t even put into words how important that very first page is. How it needs to do so much with so little. How it has to be flawless, and grab the reader and basically take the story and their imagination to the moon.

        I believe it is even doubly true for the Amateur. A pro can get away with a lot, people will give them the chances even if they don’t dazzle or captivate them right out of the shoot, especially if their previous work has captivated audiences in the past. They will get a ton of leeway wherein they don’t need to prove themselves.

        The Amateur has to prove themselves to a degree that is probably totally unfair, but this doesn’t make the reality of it less true. A reader is dying to put the script down, especially if all they read are uninteresting, uninspired, poor scripts by amateurs. They are looking for any reason AT ALL to say “No Way” and chuck the script.

        So Pg. 1, sentence 1, word 1……..Must hit it out of the park. An error on Pg. 1 isn’t ok in any shape or form. I personally believe that the 1st Ten pages are so crucial to latch on to your audience and drag the reader into your story full on. If you haven’t gotten them by Page 10, you won’t get them.

        • Eddie Panta

          Thanks, now I’m even more worried about my page one! : )
          Well, hope this will inspire an article on SS, perhaps there has already been one, I didn’t really check. Please UPVOTE if you want to see an article on SS about PAGE 1 of a screenplay.

        • Franchise Blueprints

          In all seriousness how much story real estate, plot development, character arc / description can be mined on the first page of a script. As amateurs we need to stop imposing criteria and standards that haven’t come from an official agency involved in green lighting scripts. I do believe some readers look for the slightest excuse to stop reading. These readers ultimately will cost the Prod cos they work for. You may have heard this example I’m about to give. About the writer who forged the title of an Oscar winning script changed a few names and put his name on the script. Nearly every reader gave a pass on the script. That script was Casablanca. Eventually some type of internal audit will be done to catch fraudulent readers. In the meanwhile the only thing we can do as writers is craft the best script possible. Because the truth of the matter is there are no steadfast rules that a writer can look to guidance for. And more than likely the writers path to Hollywood will remain vague.

          • Midnight Luck

            (opinion) My main point is about making your script the best it possibly can be, which is of course a given, yet I see it glossed over time and time again.
            So many writers seem to just dash something off, or think, “yeah, that will do”, when nothing could be farther from the truth. The number of purchased Spec scripts has gone way down, readers are generally low paid and possible interns. Yes they either are climbing their way up or being paid to read and give some simple coverage and may promote a script up the ladder. Herein is where my point comes home again and again.

            People are animals, animals give their first impression the most weight. Is it going to kill me? Is it dangerous? is it ok? is it nothing? Do I care, Is it interesting, is it ok, is it nothing, am I bored?
            Now the first impression for a paid reader or intern is going to carry weight, are they skimming by page 10 or 30, or God forbid, Page 1? If page one has problems or is boring or doesn’t catch their senses and attention, by page ten they are skimming to the end, picking up whatever is necessary to write a quick review, but by page one they already know what they think, if it isn’t better by page ten they are just going through the motions to get to the end. Second act? they could care less if it is good or not. Ending? they might read out of curiosity to see what is done with it, or just to tie off their coverage in a good knot so it seems complete.

            Now, let us say your script does get a decent to good review and it moves up the ladder.
            Here is where the problems really begin.
            The next person in line most likely isn’t paid just to read scripts. They are paid to find winners along with with their other responsibilities. They are trying to find Gold and quick. So Page 1 Better hit it out of the Fucking Park. Even if they just read to page ten for Shits and Giggles, if they aren’t impressed with Page ONE getting to page ten is just out of kindness, but if they aren’t in it by page ten, it is in the round file.

            Me personally, I give all the scripts I read to page 10, I am a true believer in giving scripts a ten page read. However, some don’t make it there, it is true. Those scripts just don’t have the goods. And yes, I am like most others, if they are honest with themselves, by the end of page one, The First Impression kicks in and people can tell just about everything they need to know about the writer and the story. Not to say there isn’t a ton more to learn as they go about the story, but confidence in the writer is made or broken by beginning of page two.

            So, my point circles back around to what I said earlier, and The First Page and First Impression is the most valuable ground on screenwriting earth. (/opinion)

          • Citizen M

            There’s no substitute for reading the whole script. But I must say it is far more often that a script which seems exciting at first turns out to be disappointing, than a script which gets better as you read further.

      • Cuesta

        That’s one of the biggest problems with this industry, the readers.
        They are astonishingly bad at their job, probably because they hate it, therefore they come up with increasingly ways to not do it.

        Then we are surprised Hollywood produces so much crap.

        • Midnight Luck

          I think they love being in the industry, might actually like much of their job, get excited about things.

          but hate reading.
          and hate reading bad scripts more.

    • astranger2

      A phenomenal suggestion. I am curious how many Page 1’s — especially from relative unknowns — make the screen, if made of course. And, if you make it too flashy — with pianos that don’t play, and costly explosions or such — do they toss your script in the round file because they feel you are a rookie that’s clueless?? I remember reading William Goldman’s “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” and he was making a point where the “Monster” doesn’t have to show up right away — that you, as the writer — has time. That’s an older book, and of course because of his talent and track record, Goldman doesn’t have to follow the same rules. But, as you suggest — what are some guidelines regardless of genre for the critical Page ONE?

    • astranger2

      What might be cool is if Carson could take 5-10 amateur and pro FIRST pages and analyze them. As many here have said, the approach for a seasoned and respected screenwriter might differ drastically from an amateur because for us, that first page is more an audition than an actual lead-in to the story. It’d be interesting to read Carson’s break downs on multiple first page submissions. At least, IMHO.

    • Midnight Luck

      You have a lot of great questions. But most of them are just up to you the writer to decide. Nobody else can do that.

      Except for one.
      Don’t begin using directions. If you have the money already in the bank, if you have everyone in place to direct it yourself, then put in whatever you like, but don’t put in anything that can be seen as direction. No one likes that. You need to find a better and more interesting way to direct your pages, without obvious direction call outs.

      Beside that, the first page should set the tone, place, a few or one character. Again, it is entirely up to you which part you want to set up on that page, the opener tone, or the whole movie tone. Some begin with one tone, and use it as a jarring opposite of what the actual entire films tone is, but there needs to be a specific reason to do that.

      I would love to hear everyone else on their thoughts on page one, as well as Carson’s.

      No one approaches it the same, obviously, it would be boring if they did. But tone, interesting character intros, intrigue, excitement, etc, all are great openers. But what that scene is, who is on it, what tone and pace, where it is located, are all up to the author. Keeping it interesting, not boring the reader, is always purpose number one.

      Never be boring. Most importantly on page one. But also two. or ten. or pg. 100.

      • astranger2

        We live more and more in an ADHD Adderall-riddled culture. Not just with scripts, but with anything,. You’re lucky if people give something a full nanosecond before moving on.

        Because we are assaulted daily by so much stimuli — we live in an ever-increasing CAP, bullet-pointed, italicized, bolded, and underlined world…

        We all get LOUDER — to be heard. And then, it all becomes a din… inseparable…

        I agree we have to “knock it out of the park” as amateurs, because only the established have the luxury of “singles and doubles” to set up a more complex plot.

        But by writing your best — what exactly does that mean? Because if you write for the reader — which I agree you need to do — you’re not writing for yourself, or the target goal audience.

        Most troubling to me is, can you write for the reader without losing the tone and character of your story? And if you’re writing for the reader — how do you trust that it is your “best?”

        You made an interesting point about our all being animals. And we react viscerally. Instinctually. My main problem is, if we constantly rewrite those initial pages thinking of what the reader wants, do we risk eviscerating our script? Ripping out the unique vitality we hope to convey?

        Do we inadvertently just get — LOUDER? (More explosions, violence, car chases, gratuitous sex?) By trying to over please the reader — can we actually make the first page vanilla without knowing?

        I know… the writer’s challenge… ; v )

  • J.D.

    Hi Everyone! Writer of Aesop here. This is a very pleasant surprise. I didn’t receive the newsletter last week and had no idea that my script was getting the AF treatment. This is excellent and exciting. Sure, a “wasn’t for me” isn’t the ideal rating, but the critiques make lots of sense to me and will only help to tighten the story and structure. So, a massive THANK YOU to Carson and the SS faithful for your objective notes and encouraging words.

    It seems that one of the biggest issues is a fluctuating tone, which I have to admit was one of my biggest concerns because I’m clearly stuck between an animated children’s film and a darker, live-action story (which is actually closer to the source — despite what we’ve made of his fables, Aesop really was a pompous asshole after “the Gods” bequeathed him with the gift of gab; he talked shit to the wrong people and they threw him over a cliff; the end). He also really did have sex with Xanthus’ wife — it was these absurdly dark and unexpected tidbits that initially drew me to this character. Kind of how the Mr. Rogers script reveals him as a drug addict in his youth. But I see how this would be jolting when the story starts off so cute.

    My question then, if anyone has the patience to chime in, is whether you think I should go the more obvious route and make this a soft, fully-realized G-rated story with bigger set pieces OR do you find the darker tale more interesting/unique?

    Thanks again, Carson! Knowing that you’re intrigued by my future work means the world.

    • klmn

      I think it has to be animation. The description of Aesop makes it unlikely to be shot live action, given Hollywood’s preference for pretty people.

      But I understand animation specs are a hard sell. And now that you’ve thrown the idea of an Aesop film out there, what’s to stop the one of the animation houses from developing their own script themselves?

      • J.D.

        You’re probably right about needing a pretty lead in H’wood for live action.

        Haha, I certainly wouldn’t be able to stop them. That’s for sure. I’m not presumptuous enough to think this would sell, but the familiarity of the character hopefully gets me more reads, making this a decent sample piece (after many more rewrites of course).

        • ScriptChick

          Take my suggestion with a grain of salt but if Hollywood is all about the pretty maybe relate one of those fables to Aesop’s outward ugliness/beauty inside? You kind of have a Beauty and the Beast thing going for him and Rodolphe so maybe there’s a scene where it shows the actor without deformity (as she sees him)? Or a metaphor with wolf’s in sheep clothing. Aesop hides his cunning from his enemies by being born looking like a dullard. I think it’s cool and actors probably enjoy it too when we see them looking like a celeb and then they dirty themselves up in the makeup chair for transformation.

          • J.D.

            I think that’s a GREAT idea that helps appease Hollywood, but still give a live action actor a chance to really transform. Kind of (but not really) like in Benjamin Button — Pitt is old, wrinkly, and weird looking for the bulk of that film, but for a sequence we get to see him as the soft-faced stud the studios want to market. Thank you!

    • ElectricDreamer

      Your vibrant description of Aesop in the script is borderline cartoonish.
      So, why not give that a try? It worked for Gru in Despicable Me.
      For better or worse, your opener does scream family film franchise.

      I think you can tinker with the legend. For example, re-purpose the mute device…
      Say, Aesop starts out as a smack-talking punk. The town butthole.
      But THEN he goes MUTE for some reason.
      Just one example that “re-shuffles” the known mythology.

      Good luck with the script!

      • J.D.

        Very smart. I think I became too attached to the legend as told, but this really opens my eyes to the possibilities. Many thanks!

        • ElectricDreamer

          That’s the highest praise you can get for development notes.
          Much appreciated. Hit me up for a private read for your next draft.

          soleil [dot] rouge13 [at] gmail

          • J.D.

            What a great offer. I’ll definitely take you up on that.

    • astranger2

      First, I found what Carson said true about your wonderful ability to transport us to a time and place setting tone and mood perfectly. You descriptions are lean and lush at the same time, painting a great picture. … hope I’m not double-posting here as I’m still getting used to this board. ; v ) Personally, I enjoy the darker tale — but a lot of my favorites are “cult classics,” which mean they flopped at the box office but found a less-than-profitable fan base later. So, I think the former would most likely be more successful. You have a wonderful style! Nice job!

    • IgorWasTaken

      I’d suggest animation.

      Why? Because of the 2005 film “The Brothers Grimm”. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=brothersgrimm.htm

      It seems to me that you can go “darker” in today’s animated movies than you can, with the very same story, in live action.

      But here’s the catch: Animated movies on the screen – where we actually see the animators’ work and flourishes and details that soften harsh realities – can truly have dark moments. However, on the page, those dark moments may come across as merely dark – i.e., too dark for kids.

      Maybe it’d help if you could find a script for a studio animated film and read it BEFORE you see the film and know what the characters and backgrounds look like. How the writer was able to go dark, but not too-dark, on the page, and how that then looked on the screen.

    • skateboard_B.U.

      I don’t think you have to choose between the two. My opinion on what would make the most interesting script is combining a dark-tale with a so called “G-rated Movie”. You don’t have to right a sex scene/rap scene to make you script DARK and there are plenty of children films (G-rated Movies) that have intense battles scenes, with blood and violence’s. For example, I use to love watching Hercules with Kevin Sorbo and Xena when I was a little and they both use to have intense battle scenes love interest and tons of battles with the Gods. Now I don’t know if it had a perfect PG rating but it was pretty close. Another example could be Chronicles of Narnia (please don’t hate me for this example) a movie that has action with a great battle scene at the end. I know Chronicles of Narnia doesn’t take place in Greece during those Mythology times but it’s a PG movie that adults might make catch themselves watching on a Sunday afternoon and say, hey, that wasn’t too bad. So why compromise? Why build a fork in the road if you don’t need one? You have clear idea of what kind of script your writing. Screenwriting is completely different form literary writing sometimes you have to recreate what the original author wrote. It’s plenty of ways to make your script Dark and edgy with tuning into a HBO drama series or keeping it clean for the kids to watch.

      I was happy reading your script because I really like Greek Mythology and I liked that your script was something completely different! I also hope it gets turn into a movie because I really want go and watch it!

    • A Tribe Called Guest

      IMO you don’t have to choose one route or the other. Most fables are inherently dark, and this was an adult tale that was written like a children’s story. It seems like the confusion came in what readers were expecting: I suggest making clear in the logline or the pitch that this is an adult’s tale, as most of your audience were raised reading these stories and are now older.

      Having been raised on tales & legends from different cultures and reading as many scripts as I do, I respectfully disagree with most of the criticisms of the screenplay. Still one of my 3 favourite submissions that I’ve read here.

  • J.D.

    No, this is an excellent and clear note. I worried that readers would get tired of him being mute throughout, but there are certainly inventive ways to make that work. Looking back, the missing inner debate is so spot on. That’s an eye opener, thanks.

  • J.D.

    To be honest, as awesome as it was to receive positive feedback during AOW, I didn’t invest too much into it knowing that many probably hadn’t read the entire script (as others have stated). I knew the road ahead was still long and today’s review pretty much reaffirms that. But nice to know peers think I have some talent, even if the writing’s a bit pretentious.

  • klmn

    OT: I think Miss SS’s sketch is one of her better efforts. This one is right up there with her classic Grendl drawing. I like the expression she gets with such a simple sketch.

    But all her drawings seem to be just figures facing forward. I’d like to see her challenge herself and put some motion into her works.

    (X) Worth the viewing.

    • Citizen M

      Very expressive. She looks like Grendl on steroids, being stung by a wasp.

      BTW just noticed she has blond streaks in her hair.

  • ScriptChick

    I leisurely read the script today past of its recommendation a few weeks ago, not knowing it was being reviewed today so nice surprise! I too really enjoyed the writing and the dialogue. Aesop is a very interesting character and made me wonder how much was supposedly true. I guess I really perked up at the vomit scene — the way a mute proved his innocence was so smart! Loved it. I will say though the opening with animals I thought it was going to be G/CG animals for a good chunk. I might have forgotten the logline but as I kept reading then I got the sense that this was going to be Aesop’s story, with the fables sprinkled in (vs. the fables being front in center with more of a magical animal aspect).

    The biggest hangup for me was when Aesop learned how to talk. I kept rereading that page — the voice being his and just how Rodolphe/creature played a part, It was a little confusing and besides talking, he took on a whole new sophisticated persona. So that was jarring to me.

    I think I read somewhere that Aesop becomes a slave then asking the philosopher where all the slaves hang out (because he was under the impression of the slave trader that slaves match up with slaves, free ppl with free ppl). Even with that logic, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Slaves have no freedom, Aesop could try to do so much more as a free man (and later he sort of does, putting his meager coin towards his supporting his family, although did he ever try to buy them outright from whoever owned them? Everyone has a price).

    I loved the riddles even if the goal of getting his mother/family back kinda fell by the wayside. But Aesop also never seemed to struggle with a riddle. He’s a smart guy but everything looks so easy with him. I wanted him to be challenged more.

    All in all I did enjoy the read and the depiction of the fables. Before reading I tried to think of fables off the top of my head and came up short or ones like the fox/grapes, didn’t remember the moral or retort which Aesop readily applied. So that was neat. And I believed the attraction between Aesop and Rodolphe priestess in training. I’m glad this story was reviewed and keep at it!

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

    Pewter Island is an adventure movie ;) and when that rewrite is done sometimes in the next who knows how many months, years, or millennia, I’ll deposit it into your email Carson, if Scriptshadow still exists by the time I actually get the sucker done!

    And congrats on the pick this week Mr. Writer!

    Always glad to see people take notes well (I’m not one of em, I get crushed and go cry in a corner for a couple weeks, and then stand up, go get a glass of water, and then go cry for another couple weeks in a different corner!)

    And to answer your question, I think you should go where your heart takes you. Tell the story you want to tell, not the one you think is going to sell. If your heart is in it, it will have a much better chance of selling, or at the very least, lead you to being rep’ed and maybe an assignment or two.

    Kids movies do really well… if they’re cartoons. I’m not sure how well G movies do that aren’t cartoons. I personally would still stick with young adult or higher… of course, most of the young adult stuff has came from books.

    Good luck.

  • gazrow

    Because I love movies not books. :)

  • Franchise Blueprints

    A side tangent to you mentioning spartan descriptions in screenplays. I read “Only GOD Forgives.” At first the script starts with 2 line action beats. It only gives you the bare minimum of information. Later in the script some of the descriptions are 5 or 6 lines long. You have a more complete picture of what’s going on. To jump to the end. What ended up on screen was very different from the script. I guess only 79% percent of the script made it on screen. Those brief descriptions didn’t convey a movie. They only massaged the egos of readers who insist on generous white space on the page.

    • astranger2

      Since any random three readers can give you three distinctly different opinions on the same script, or a first page, it’s a difficult task. And while you don’t want to focus solely on pleasing the reader — if you don’t address it, it won’t get read. I wonder if in ONLY GOD… the writer made a conscious choice to be spartan initially to engage the reader, then expanded in later pages — once the reader was into the story. Sounds though, if the tone of the script changed too. Funny how with some of the “greatest” screenplays of all time — albeit older — there are HUGE blocks of expo. But, if you’re Sorkin or someone like him, the beauty of your words allows more canvas for your paint.

  • Bifferspice

    best writing i can remember seeing on an amateur friday. strikes me as the writing of someone who will make it. and if the main crit is that it blurs the lines and crosses genres, than that makes me doubly sure. i’d read anything written by this guy – it goes places you don’t expect, and it does it stylishly, fluidly and wittily. great job.

  • Bifferspice

    they’re not the same thing. :-/ why do you want a drink if you don’t like swimming?

  • Citizen M

    I’m not sure how much of the story is the writer’s and how much is from other sources. Aesop’s “loathsome, potbellied, …” description is quoted from a biography.. According to Wikipedia, Aesop did serve the Tyrant of Samos and was sent to Delphi where he was executed because he got insulting. Don’t know about other details like inspiring a revolt against the Tyrant, though.

    I mention this because I thought the writer was trying to shoehorn the story into a predetermined pattern rather than let it flow naturally from the nature of Aesop and the times he lived in.

    My biggest problem was there didn’t seem to be a clear goal driving the story. There wasn’t a single scene where I knew what Aesop was trying to achieve and what his plan was for getting it. For instance, if at some stage he makes a promise to his mother he will always look after her, it motivates his trip to Samos.

    It would be nice to set up a series of problems he faces as a mute that he is able to resolve as a talker. Things he wants to accomplish but cannot, if only to explain to others what he was trying to say. Stories he was trying to tell.

    Some of the writing used modern phrases that took me out of the story, like “turns on a dime”, “drunk as shit”, “to leverage outcomes”, “flop sweat”. “Indeed” was erroneously written as “in deed” throughout. The inhabitants of Samos are Samians not Samoans.

    Some of the scene transitions were a bit jarring. For instance, he goes hunting with his father, goes back to his village to find it burned, returns to the forest and finds Rhodope, and exits the forest to the slaver beach, with no clue that his parents have been taken as slaves. A more logical progression would be go hunting, get lost in the forest, find Rhodope, return to his village to show his parents he can talk, learn from a survivor they have been taken by slavers, and go to the coast.

    Some detail comments:

    p. 21 – I don’t think Aesop does enough for Rhodope to conclude that his greatest wish is to speak. And there should be some indication during his mute phase that he will turn out to be the smart aleck he proves to be.

    p. 30 – “Eloquently, Mother. I can speak eloquently.” Seems a funny thing to say to your mother on speaking for the first time.

    p. 32 – Why would Aesop ask to be sold as a slave? It makes no sense.

    p. 36 – Why would Xanthus buy Aesop? It makes no sense, unless he wants someone ugly for his missus. Xanthus would appreciate wit, but Aesop’s banter is more like smart-aleckism. Why would Aesop want Xanthus to buy him? (I presume he does.)

    p. 49 – After the challenge in the bath house, we expect the next scene to be the sea. Insert a line like “See you on the morrow” or suchlike so we know Xanthus will return home first.

    p. 51 – Aesop is following Xanthus out of the house but has time to stop and tell Penelope a story. I don’t think so. In a general comment, I didn’t see how Aesop’s stories related to the action. I’m presuming his stories were relevant and not chosen at random.

    p. 55 – Not sure why Orion is no longer top pupil. Has Xanthus freed Aesop and made him his top pupil? He doesn’t say so.

    p. 57 – Use (beat) rather than (then) in wrylies.

    p. 61 – The king exposing his genitals. Is this historically accurate? Even if it is, it is tonally wrong, as is Xanthus peeing while walking. It detracts from the theme that cleverness and wit beat brutishness.

    p. 67 – The scene with the king, mother, and father, had me confused. Did Polycrates hold Aesop’s mother and father as hostage, or did he free them? If he released them, did Aesop ever see them again. It seems he has achieved his objective. What drives his actions further? Why his desire to wear face powder and rouge?

    p. 70 – How do we tell if the tortoise is aged? They all look the same to me. Also, given the prominence of the tortoise in the story, does it do enough to justify its inclusion. It doesn’t seem important enough.

    Niggles: 63. aligning/lining; 88. centered/scented; 101. thrown/throne.

  • Bifferspice

    i do read. :-/ and he reads, even if he doesn’t like it. lots of people in the film industry hate reading scripts, including many screenwriters. your comment sounds pretty pompous.

    • gazrow

      “your comment sounds pretty pompous.”

      Jake’s got, sorry, I mean “Dazed&confused” has a personal axe to grind against me.

      Thanks for your support! I do read scripts all the time, but it’s more out of necessity rather than for personal enjoyment. :)

  • gazrow

    Ha! Am I really supposed to take advice off some “random poster guy” calling himself Dazed&confused?! I think not.

    Don’t forget to say hi to Jake for me!