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Genre (from writer): Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Premise (from writer): At the end of the world, young loner Pete Garey and his unicorn companion, Ariel, fight to survive in the chaos of the Change, where magic rules and they battle a dark sorcerer who covets the powers of her horn.
Why you should read (from writer): I have written a fantasy/adventure called “ARIEL” based on the 80′s cult classic young-adult novel by Steven R. Boyett. The script won Best Action/Adventure Screenplay in the Script Exposure Screenwriting Competition, and was chosen by Stephanie Palmer to be pitched from the stage at the AFM in November 2013. I first fell in love with this story when I was 14 years old. It really made an impression on me, (mythical creatures and post-apocalypse, whee!) and I always thought it would make a great movie. ARIEL seems to have a lingering effect on many of its fans. So, fast-forward to thirty years later: I optioned the rights and wrote the screenplay. I hope you and your readers will enjoy it too! — ARIEL is an edgy post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, an exciting road adventure, and a surprisingly funny story of courage and trust on Pete’s journey to becoming a man. — P.S. I had to laugh when I saw Friday’s newsletter and the presence of FIREWAKE on Amateur Offerings. I hope you will not be put off by the idea of TWO talking unicorn scripts – really, what are the odds?? That said, I have read FIREWAKE and the only similarity between the two is a talking unicorn character – they are very different stories.
Writer: Stacy Langton (based on the novel by Steven R. Boyett)
Details: 118 pages


Due to a mix-up in me being an idiot, I just discovered that today’s slated review, Black Autumn, was written by S.D., who’s other script (Primal) was reviewed just three weeks ago. I didn’t think it was fair to give up an amateur slot to someone who had just been reviewed, which sent me scrambling for a replacement. If you guys still want to get a Black Autumn review, let me know and I’ll figure out a day. But today feels like we must release someone new from the Matrix.

Where do you go for replacements at 11 o’clock on a Thursday night? I’ll tell you where. Unicorn Land!

Luckily for me, I had TWO unicorn scripts to choose from! It was a toss up, but I ended up going with Ariel. What did I hope to learn from this experience? Well, let me say this. Some writer (whose name I’m forgetting) once noted that if Harry Potter was the EXACT SAME STORY but written as a spec script called, “Limpy Ladderbottoms and the Candles of Pegasus,” it never would’ve sold. People only take chances on this “out there stuff” if it’s been proven in another medium first. Well, with Ariel being based on a book, I figured if it’s any good, we can give it a Potter platform!

18 year old Pete Garey is just a regular high school dude… until The Change comes. The Change is when the entire world stops working, all electricity, all machines, all batteries. Nobody knows why this happened. All they know is that they can’t cycle through Netflix movies for 30 minutes at a time anymore.

Oh, and that mythical creatures have invaded the earth!

While bumbling around, trying to figure out what’s going on, Pete meets Ariel, a unicorn. Ariel pulled a Harrison Ford so Pete must nurse her back to health, and along the way, they become friends!  You may be asking how that can happen.  It’s because Ariel can talk!  She speaks in a little girl voice, and over time, Pete teaches her the entire English language so they can communicate.

As they head to the library to try and figure out what’s happening, Pete and Ariel feel the presence of a very powerful man, the Sorcerer, who they believe wants to find and kill Ariel so he can take Ariel’s horn! For those of you ignorants who know nothing about unicorns, a unicorn’s horn is said to be packed with magic. Therefore, they’re in high demand.

After the sorcerer hires some horn-men (get it? Instead of hit-men) to steal Ariel’s horn, it becomes clear that the only way they’re going to stop this meanie is to go mano et unicorno with the Sorcerer. Problem is, he’s in freaking New York, which is forever away. So they head down that way, picking up a samurai, a little boy, a horny woman, and a few other peeps, hoping to resolve this Sorcerer problem once and for all.



I’m going to have a tough time with this one. First of all, we have to be fair here. This isn’t the kind of script that most people who visit this site are into. So right off the bat, Stacy’s got a tough sell. I’m sure if this was being reviewed on one of those Twilight sites, it’d be a whole different story.

But it does lead me to my first question. Who is the audience here? Because you’d think if we’re following talking unicorns, we’re looking at a 5-11 year old demographic. But the thing is, sex is a huge part of this script. One of the major threads is that only virgins can touch unicorns. And Pete is a virgin. That’s what allows Pete and Ariel to become so close.

That leads me to my next question. Why did it matter if only virgins could touch unicorns? Virgin or not, everybody was still able to see and talk to Ariel, so losing your virginity only deprived you of touch. You could still hang out, crack jokes about zebras, and get wasted on moonshine. Right?

Issue three was that I got the feeling there was a weird sexual thing going on between Ariel and Pete. I don’t know if that was on purpose or I was totally misreading it. But it made me feel the way the rope in gym did when you slid down it.  Then you start imagining where everything goes and it’s just… well, it’s not church conversation, let’s just say that.

But let’s move past all that stuff. If I’m being honest, it’s hard for me to see what makes these magic worlds work or not. As crazy as a sexually frustrated talking unicorn sounds, is it any stranger than Harry Potter casting Griffensporf Level 5 spells on his ginger friend, turning him into an eagle spider? Not being the audience for this world, trying to gauge its logic is a hornless endeavor.

All I can do is comment on the story. Everything else being even, did the characters and the plot compel me to read on?

In a word, they did not.

First off, there was the double time-jump-forward in the opening ten pages (we jump a year forward after the opening scene, then jump another year forward after another scene). Not only is this clunky, it indicates a writer who doesn’t know where to begin their story. If we’re going to jump, just do it that one time. Two years ahead.

From there, there was a LOT of expositional dialogue with very little drama. It was a lot of characters talking about people they knew and how “you should meet this person” and “you can go to the library” and how “I’ve heard of this sorcerer,” and then “who is the sorcerer” and “what does he want” and “where are we going.”

Instead of scenes being used for dramatic purposes, they were used to talk about plot details plot details plot details. Characters talking about the plot is boring. Readers want drama!

For example, there was a scene in The Walking Dead (zombie apocalypse show) where Rick, our hero, shows up with his son and a friend at an abandoned house. He wants to rest and they want to go into town to look for food. So he takes a nap and they leave. While they’re out, some violent raiders come to the house, and Rick must hide. He knows his son and friend are coming back soon, and when they do, these men will surely kill them. But Rick can’t do anything about it. He’s trapped, unable to warn them without letting the raiders know he’s there. That’s drama!  We have no idea how our characters are going to get out of this so we have to read on to find out!  We don’t get a single crafty dramatic scene like that here.

There was also ZERO subtext going on under any of the scenes. Characters almost exclusively delivered two kinds of dialogue: They’d say exactly what they were thinking, or they would discuss plot exposition that set up later events.

This kind of thing becomes apparent once you run into a scene that actually does display subtext or conflict. And that’s what happened here. I noticed, all of a sudden, that I was drawn into a scene. It was when the new girl joins the group, and Ariel becomes jealous of her. Ariel tells Pete that she doesn’t trust her, but that’s not what she’s really saying. She’s saying, “This girl is trying to take my man.  And I don’t like it.” They then kind of dance around that reality, without saying it out loud. That’s what I mean by subtext. But that was the only time it happened in the entire script.

Remember, the reader likes figuring things out. They enjoy trying to measure what two people are really saying while they’re talking. It’s like a little adventure. When you have two people saying exactly what they feel (“I love you.” “I love you too”), we don’t get to go on those adventures. So we become bored.

In addition to that, the goal was too muddy. Everybody talked about this Sorcerer guy, but I couldn’t figure out who he was or why he was important. People would say his name and then everyone would get jittery. So for a big portion of the script’s first half, we’re just talking about this guy but not doing anything about him.

Then, at some point, they say, “Okay, well, let’s go get him.” Which was good, because now our characters were actually moving forward. But I still didn’t know what the plan was. Was it to kill him? Talk to him? Strike a deal so he didn’t take Ariel’s horn? When the motivation for the main goal driving the story is muddy, the reader loses interest. How can someone be into something if they’re not sure why it’s happening? Look at Lord of the Rings. We know what Frodo is doing the whole time. He’s going to the volcano to destroy the ring. That’s always clear.

I think this script needed a clear goal right away. The motivation behind that goal needed to be strong. The scenes themselves needed less exposition, more drama, and more subtext. And it would’ve been nice if some of the rules had been clearer. Again, why does it matter if you can’t touch a unicorn if you can still see it and talk to it? Other than petting privileges being revoked, it’s the same thing.

On the plus side, the script was properly formatted. There was some imagination behind the world. And there was a certain charm to some of the characters. I think Stacy was up against a tough crowd. Even if this was the greatest talking unicorn movie ever made, you’d still have to drag me to the theater.  That shows you just how high the standards were.  I dearly hope this doesn’t hurt my chances of seeing a real unicorn someday, but this wasn’t for me.

Screenplay link: Ariel

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

What I learned: For a dramatically potent scene, create a complicated situation where success is in doubt. That’s all that Walking Dead scene was.

  • PoohBear

    Shoot, I was hoping for a Black Autumn review. I don’t think it’s bad form to have someone get the AF spot more than once. If the votes support it, the votes support it. Just be consistent.

  • brenkilco

    “On the plus side, the script was properly formatted.”

    And I’m sure it had a nice personality. Damn with faint praise much?

    • Casper Chris

      Did you read the next sentences?

      On the plus side, the script was properly formatted. There was some imagination behind the world. And there was a certain charm to some of the characters.

      Had he left it at “properly formatted”, yea, that would’ve been arid.

      • Ange Neale

        I got to p21. Properly formatted, with something of an enthusiasm for parentheticals and an occasional 6-line paragraph thrown in for good measure.
        I found a few oddities: p2 — needs a new slugline when Pete and Grace get in the car and start talking, then on p3 when they get out again, still talking.
        P5, I think it was, when Pete gets knocked out by the looters — it seemed like he was inside his house. But he wakes up the next morning outside.
        He had a strange non-reaction to Grace’s murder, too — I know he was just a teenager, but wouldn’t he go to her place to try to find her parents to tell them, or try to let the police know? Would he really just throw up, cover her with a blanket and walk away? Not even bury her? Weird. Maybe teens don’t wonder about that sort of thing.
        Or maybe it’s just for devotees of the fantasy genre, it’s like astrology and making sense doesn’t matter.

        • IgorWasTaken

          About 6-line paragraphs. I don’t recall the last time that I formatted one that way, but here is one from “Ariel”, page 5:

          Pete’s eyes flicker open, squinting in the bright morning
          light. His lip is swollen, his mouth dry and caked with dirt
          and blood. He sits upright slowly, wincing with pain, climbs
          unsteadily to his feet. The unnerving silence makes the
          singing of the morning birds seem almost deafening. Pete
          limps slowly back to the house.

          That reads fine to me as-is and I think that’s the kind of action paragraph that works best without being broken up.

          Each of those details seems worthy of mention, yet not one of them needs to be highlighted. Plus, I think that’s just one camera shot.

          Also, if that paragraph were broken into 2 or 3, it would slow the pace. Yeh, Pete moves slowly in that action, but more paragraphs would make it seem even more slowly.

          IMO, breaking up a paragraph such as that one would be a matter of letting format drive substance.

          • Ange Neale

            Actually, short paras or long — doesn’t really worry me personally. ‘Brokeback’ has 6s and 7s, ‘The English Patient’ has them up around 10 lines, and I seem to recall Kaufman’s ‘Eternal Sunshine’ has some biggies, too.
            Some pro readers seem to get really freaked out about them though.

            Just sayin’…

          • brenkilco

            This is the sort of paragraph that clearly took some effort and still comes across as amateurish. Why do eyes alway flicker open? Why cant he just open his eyes? His mouth is dry, not his lips, so we’re talking about the inside of his mouth, which is caked with blood and dirt, so I assume he’s choking. There’s an unnerving silence even though the birds are singing away. So it’s a noisy sort of unnerving silence. Everybody talks about writing and no one talks about editing.

          • IgorWasTaken

            I don’t disagree with many of your comments about the particulars. But, I could see editing that paragraph and still having 6 lines, or maybe 5, and still thinking it should not be broken up into 2 paragraphs with shorter lines in each.

          • brenkilco

            I agree that a paragraph that actually is a paragraph shouldn’t be broke up into artificial snippets for the sake of giving the script a less wordy look.

      • brenkilco

        To quote some master screenwriters “Barton, it was a joke.” But honestly, if the first positive thing you can think to say about something is that it’s properly formatted, well, you’ve said it all.

      • carsonreeves1

        Hey, if you had to go through some of the amateur entries I had to go through, you’d see that “properly formatted” is far from a given! :)

  • Randy Williams

    Wow, so three scripts, “Down to the Wire”, “Breaking the Chain” and now “Ariel” have been reviewed and all from the same May 24th Amateur Offerings Weekend.

    Is that your birthday?

  • Casper Chris

    Carson wrote:

    First off, there was the double time-jump-forward in the opening ten pages (we jump a year forward after the opening scene, then jump another year forward after another scene). Not only is this clunky, it indicates a writer who doesn’t know where to begin their story. If we’re going to jump, just do it that one time. Two years ahead.

    Interestingly, Carson wrote pretty much the same thing in his review of the infamous The House That Death Built:

    Next we have a double time jump. We observe a kidnapping. Cut to 8 years later. Then meet our hero. His wife quickly dies. Then we jump 3 additional months forward. You can do a hard time jump forward once in your opening act, but you don’t want to do it twice (time montages are different). It’s confusing and gives the opening of the script an uncertain sloppy quality.

    The reason I bring it up is because I pointed out to Will Alexander, the writer of THE SORCERER (AOW entry last week), that going through the following time-jump progression within the first 10 pages of his script made for a difficult read:


    First 10 pages. 6 big time jumps. 5 different years. Spanning almost a century.

    I don’t know if he took my concern seriously, but maybe now he will.

    • Will_Alexander

      I don’t want to derail Ariel’s day, and yes I’ve taken ALL the notes seriously, but I would like to dig just a little deeper into this. And I won’t be able to respond for a couple days because I have a family thing this weekend, but please know that I’m open to and grateful for your thoughts.

      I am not asking the viewer of The Sorcerer to keep up with all those years. They are in the script to help the filmmakers. It was at the request of a producer who read. She asked me to note what year every scene was taking place in because production would need to know that for things like costume and decor.

      All I’m asking the VIEWER to understand is that there was a man in the Victorian era who had seemingly magical powers, and when he died in the middle of WW2 the FBI tried to find out if he had actually created a powerful weapon he claimed to have created because his nephew seems to want to get that weapon and give it to the Nazis or some other bad guys. I am establishing that (or trying to) and then saying, “Okay, now let’s find out for ourselves…”

      I’m not saying all that is clear as it stands, I’m just saying it’s all I’m asking of the viewer.

      And I wouldn’t consider them time jumps at all in the vein of what is being described in Ariel or The House that Death Built. I haven’t read those, but they sound like stories that jump ahead twice at the beginning and then play out chronologically after that. My story has three threads that must be shown concurrently, and they each frame each other. We’re not jumping forward in time so much as bouncing back and forth.

      Again, not saying that works as it is, just saying it’s a different thing. There’s pretty much no way to intercut three things happening at three different times without intercutting them. It’s just part of the buy-in for the script.

      So, a real question, if I put a note in very early that says to ignore the dates in the slugs because they won’t be onscreen and are only there to aid production, would that help a reader? I don’t want them getting hung up on the dates, but I also want them to be able to paint a quick picture in their minds of costumes, architecture, technology, etc., as the story covers a time of huge change in those areas.

      Might that, along with clearing things up within the scenes themselves and maybe dropping a few characters (I’ve already cut out a handful to get to what was posted) and combining other things, smooth things out. I really just want to accomplish what I wrote in that third paragraph above (while including the clues that will be meaningful later) at the opening.


      • mulesandmud

        I haven’t read the script past page one, so I don’t know how necessary the time jumps are to the project, but beginning with a note could help quite a bit. The note should probably focus less on ‘ignore the dates’ though, and more on how you’d like the reader to experience those early pages.

        If the script is meant to feel fractured at first, and readers aren’t expected to keep up or understand everything, then you can let them know this. You could say something to the effect of ‘I know it’s confusing at first, but just let it happen, and eventually it will all make sense.’

        Of course, you still have to find ways to keep the pages compelling, which gets harder when people feel a constant lack of context. And if you’re going add burden to the reader’s experience, they’ll expect an appropriate dramatic payoff to make up for that. It’s a tricky game; kudos to you for playing it.

      • Casper Chris

        Can’t you have a separate script for whoever wants all those dates in there for production purposes? Just like there are shooting scripts…

        Generally, when reading, I don’t want to know more than what I’d know from watching the film on screen. Especially not if that information is bogging down the read and making it feel scatterbrained.

        Like I said in my first post to you, I’m sure there’s a logic to it all. I’m just letting you know how it felt for this particular reader, reading the first 30 pages of the script for the first time.

        btw. on the first page, you have “1893” both in the slug and in the description that immediately follows. Delete the latter, or use a SUPER if you want the audience to know the year as well.

        Good luck.

    • IgorWasTaken

      As a general proposition, I think time-jumps in a historical story are different. Especially if the historical times are ones that readers are likely to know.

      I’m not saying they are necessarily good. Just, let’s say a story is about a U.S. general in WWII, and there are time jumps back to his battlefield experiences in WWI, and then maybe a jump to time he spent with his family during the Depression. I’d be less concerned because I could identify each of those periods. IOW, it’s as if we’re jumping (not in time periods) back and forth between Boston and Denver.

      Now, one might argue that time-jumps are simply bad as a story device. But I think a big element of that is that readers will get lost. I think “getting lost” isn’t a likely issue in Will’s script because of the time-jumps.

  • Tomer Shavit

    I might be mistaken, but I believe that these “Unicorn scripts” are aimed at the female teen demographic, the same demographic that made Twilight a billion dollar franchise.

    In general female teens are interested in two things: Fantasy and boys. That’s why it makes perfect sense to have the unicorn be female and to have her awkwardly seek out some kind of loving relationship with a virginal (attractive yet safe) boy. It also makes sense that along the way they would meet a “horny woman” who is everything Ariel isn’t (the right species, sexually experienced) to make Ariel feel self concious and undeserving of love (a highly relatable situation for the demographic).

    All of these choices made perfect sense to me (don’t really know why they didn’t seem obvious to Carson), but I can’t really say more than that because i’m not planning on reading this script (for the obvious reason that it’s about a talking unicorn).

    Anyway, I do think that there is a chance that Unicorns might be the next big thing for tween and teen audiences (weirder things have happened) so it might be worth keeping on eye on this concept.

    • carsonreeves1

      I would say I knew these things on some level, but it’s hard for me to focus on those things when the story itself isn’t working.

    • Brainiac138

      So true about unicorns being the next thing. I have read so many young adult scripts and manuscripts that involve unicorns, and angels, too. Find a way to fit both into a script and you’re set.

      • Ange Neale

        Millenial mysticism.
        Angels and ministers of Grace defend us…

        • Randy Williams

          Jurassic Park with Unicorns.

          Sprinkle dust in the mirror is closer than it appears.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Will there be a chain smoking Samuel L. Jackson that always says, “hold your horses” when the manure hits the fan?

          • Ange Neale

            Captain Jean-Luc Pixie-Dust issues the command, ‘One-quarter impulse’ to the young unicorn at the helm of the Federation starship ‘Enterprise – U’ as she leaves space dock in Earth orbit for the very first time.
            The young ensign taps on his console with his horn when suddenly the ship lurches and his horn pokes right through it, emitting a shower of sparks.
            ‘Disengage the docking clamps!’, shouts Pixie-Dust.
            First Officer Will Rycorn stamps a foreleg impatiently and dryly observes that perhaps the vessel’s designers hadn’t thought through the practicalities of bridge operations by a crew with horns and hooves as thoroughly as they might’ve.

          • Hadley’s Hope
          • Marija ZombiGirl

            “I’ve just about had it with these mothereffin’ angels on these mothereffin’ unicorns !”

        • Hadley’s Hope

          Cyber-unicorns, armed with crystal horns that shoot laser beams at the bad guys. Lazicorns? Unilazercorns!

          The angels are the villains.

    • Ange Neale

      And, “horny woman” be damned — Ariel has a real horn, so there!

    • klmn

      Considering the level of obesity in the good old US of A, I think unicorns are the wrong critter.

      The right choice? Water buffalo!

      • Hadley’s Hope

        A unicorn (Sandra Bullock) teams up with a magic buffalo (Melissa McCarthy) to save an enchanted forest from an army of marauding logging giants led by a grumpy two-headed ogre (The Rock & Vin Diesel).

        Pixar’s next mega-hit?

        • klmn

          Love it. We need more two-headed characters.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Years ago I attempted to write an epic fantasy comic book. One of the minor villains was a two-headed troll. Basically two characters in one, their names were Gagglebork & Borgleknot.

            So yeah, didn’t get too far with that one, but I might try and use old Gags and Borgie again someday.

  • Guest

    I’ve been thinking lately about the factors that create drama. Drama, I think, is created when the reader can:
    1. Clearly see
    2. The characters we care about are
    3. On the road to immediate and total disaster.
    So, if we started The Lord of the Rings with Frodo and Gollum fighting at the edge of Mount Doom–well, there’s certainly conflict. Both parties want possession of this ring. But since

  • Logic Ninja

    I’ve been thinking lately about the factors that create drama. You get drama, I think, when the reader can:
    1. Clearly see
    2. The characters we care about are
    3. On the road to immediate and total disaster.

    So, if we started The Lord of the Rings with Frodo and Gollum fighting at the edge of Mount Doom–well, there’s certainly conflict. Both parties want possession of the ring. But since we don’t understand the consequences of that conflict–since we don’t realize this fight could lead to total disaster–it wouldn’t be all that dramatic (other than, of course, the massive lava lake directly below).
    Extra points if we have to WATCH our favorite characters start down the disastrous road, due to some characteristic or flaw. For example, in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, during the card-guessing game (headbands? I think?), we see Hugo Stiglitz get pissier and pissier, sitting there handling his knife, wanting to bludgeon everyone in the room to death. And we know, we just KNOW, something bad’s gonna happen. We can see him leaning toward that Road to Disaster. And now, instead of thinking “Yawn, when’s this supid game gonna end so we can get back to the plot,” we’re thinking, “Jesus f***ing Christ, don’t antagonize him! Don’t piss him off!”

    • Jim

      You can have two people squaring off and it’s conflict – but that’s not necessarily compelling. The most compelling dramas – stories in general – give us the perspectives of both parties fighting so that we can understand the logic of their choices and feel for them both with regards to the consequences, regardless if we think they’re right or wrong.

      “A Separation” was given the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture a couple of years ago, but it was – imo – far and away the best picture of the year, the story spiraling from one event to another in a way that we see and feel both sides of the argument.

      The latest “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” trailer exemplifies this in spades, too:

      • Guest


      • Logic Ninja

        Absolutely! Another great BASTERDS example: The Bear Jew is fixin’ to bust open that Nazi captain’s head. We’re rooting for the Jewish guy, thinking “Hell yeah! Kick some Nazi ass! ‘Murica!” –And then the Bear Jew asks him how he won his medal, and the Nazi answers, “Bravery.”
        And then we’re like, holy crap. Suddenly the waters are muddied.

    • Nicholas J

      This is great, and I think you’ve pointed out the biggest story engine that drives LOTR. We start with the war over the ring, and see the massive end-of-the-world destruction it brings. Then soon after, we get to Frodo, a dude smaller and softer than a cupcake, and see him take up the task of carrying this ring.

      So we know, sooner or later, this tiny lovable cupcake is going to have to face off against vast armies of horrifying monsters.

      That story engine has enough fuel to take us through 143 hours of walking and eating and singing and climbing shit.

      • Ange Neale

        And some fan-friggin’-tastic scenery!

        • Nicholas J

          Brb, watching Fellowship of the Ring. See you guys in a week!

  • ripleyy

    So it’s a more serious “Charlie the Unicorn” mixed in with “Ugly Americans”.

    • klmn

      You should have warned me so I could have dropped acid before I watched that.

  • Poe_Serling

    ” I didn’t think it was fair to give up an amateur slot to someone who had just been reviewed, which sent me scrambling for a replacement. If you guys still want to get a Black Autumn review, let me know and I’ll figure out a day.”

    I think Black Autumn deserves a review. It definitely was the clear-cut winner of the May 17 AOW.

    Instead of Mish-Mash Monday, why not a Make Room Monday for Black Autumn?

    • Kirk Diggler

      Carson logic: Because S.D. wrote a better script that was reviewed a few weeks ago he won’t review another better script S.D. wrote a few weeks ago because S.D. keeps writing better scripts than his weaker competition, and that’s just not fair!

  • Randy Williams

    I was jarred with the sudden appearance of the mystical creature. I know their world was suddenly turned upside down with the looters and in the context of that, things can be surreal and thus we can accept some odd occurences but was there enough preparation for this mystical beast? It wasn’t mentioned in the review so I guess it worked for Carson.

    The reason I’m thinking about this because in my own current script, I have things suddenly disappearing and I wonder whether I’ve jarred the reader with incredulity instead of surprise.

    • Ange Neale

      Oops — yes, congrats indeed!

      • Exponent5


        • Ange Neale

          For what it’s worth, Stacy, I’d have read on if I’d been invested more with Pete. (See post elsewhere — geek to cold-blooded killer threw me.)

          • Exponent5

            Well, let me know if you do. I was under the impression that the readership read the whole script when they commented on AF featured scripts. I would love to have had some feedback on Malachi, The Rider, Shaughnessy, and most of all the ending!
            I got more love from the Black List reviewers than I’m getting from the crowd here – tough crowd!!

          • Ange Neale

            Many certainly do read the whole script, but it can depend upon genre. Thrillers and horror script do particularly well and often get inhaled cover-to-cover.
            Most of the regulars will tell you how far they got and why they stopped (which is incredibly useful and much more valuable than just giving you a pat on the back and telling you ‘Good effort’, because you’ll get to see what’s not working as well as you’d hoped).
            And if you think this is a tough crowd, it’s got nothing on Hollywood execs. All we’re investing is time.
            To make a movie like ‘Ariel’ with a whole bunch of CGI… Getting someone to stump up the tens of millions to make a flick like this is where things will get really tough.
            Just a thought, Stacy… Do you have any tech-savvy pals who’re into animation? I ask because there’s a crowd called ‘Blender ( ) that do open source animation software of stunning quality. You could push your script with a 15 or 30 second animated trailer put up on youtube.

          • Exponent5

            Sounds interesting, will have to look at that website.

    • Exponent5

      Thanks so much!

  • dawriter67

    I haven’t read this one but the fact that the electricity goes out reminds of of the TV Series Revolution which was cancelled…

    • Nicholas J

      Yeah, but the concept is what sold that show, not what got it cancelled, which was the execution.

      • dawriter67

        Yeah – the series was a convoluted mess – I really couldn’t figure out what was going on week after week but I kept on watching cause I was hooked on the idea – how were they going to turn on the lights? NBC should have given them ONE more season to wrap everything up. :-(

        • Nicholas J

          Based on the few episodes I saw, I’d say the answer is: With a flash drive.

    • OddScience

      And there’s soon to be Galyntine on AMC, “Galyntine is rooted in a both fantasy/action adventure and science-fiction. In the vein of NBC’s Revolution, It takes place at a time after a cataclysmic technology-induced disaster has resulted in a new society that has eschewed any form of technology.”

      If this is a trend, better find a unique angle to put on it. Though, I guess adding a Unicorn is unique.

      Any movie featuring a Unicorn I’d also only go to kicking and screaming. Unless there were a LOT of mythical creatures: Griffins, Dragons, Chimeras, Minotaurs, etc… Maybe if each of them took to a human and there were some badass battles along the way to I ♥ NY, then I might be interested.

      • dawriter67

        Kicking and screaming? I would have to be shot and then revived in the theater to watch Unicorn movies…

        • klmn

          I think chloroform would do the trick.

    • Cuesta

      It doesn’t matter- Revolution uses it as a mere excuse to have swordfights and stuff like that since the first episode.
      It never fully embraces the concept. Perhaps that’s why the show failed.

  • Citizen M

    I tried reading it again but there are just too many places where I stop in irritation. A few detail comments:

    p. 12 – PETE (reading) “Unicorns are highly prized by wizards for the powerful magic in
    their horns.” He looks at her splinted LEG. He is starting to realize what must have happened to her.

    Are we supposed to gather from this that Ariel was injured fighting off a wizard who is likely to attack again? A broken leg is far more likely to come from a fall than from an attack. Anyway, that’s what I assumed it was from. The passage also says that unicorns are prized by wizards i.e. the whole animal. If it’s only the unicorn horn that is prized, say so. Then we assume the horn will be cut off like rhino horn. Whatever. Make clear the danger to Ariel at this point. It’s annoying when the viewer knows less than the protagonist.

    Suggestion: Use the fact that Peter can touch Ariel. He strokes her and discovers old scars invisible under her coat and gets from her the story that [whatever happened].

    p. 13 – “Ariel is bigger now and her leg is healed.” Make a bigger thing of the fact that time has passed. If we are not paying close attention we miss it because this scene looks like all the others. I think it is permissible to use a DISSOLVE TO: before the slugline, and I would also underline the quoted sentence to make double sure it is noticed.

    p. 14 – “A large LION crouches by the entrance.” This is our first chance to see how things work in the changed world. Give us more detail. Is the lion tied up, or in a cage, or sitting like an obedient dog? A lion normally crouches as a prelude to attack. Why was Pete not scared to go past it? How did he know it wouldn’t attack and eat Ariel? How did he know it was under an obedience spell (as he mentions later)? This again is an example where the protagonist knows more than the audience. This scene should be used as exposition to explain to the audience the rules of the world.

    p. 15 – BARTENDER: “Guy comes in from New York twice a year, regular. Rides a griffin. He works for the Sorcerer. Just drops off these little bags and then he takes one of them.”

    I cannot believe a bartender would impart such sensitive information to a kid he ‘s never seen before who just walked into his bar and didn’t even buy a drink. Make your protagonist work harder to learn what he needs to know.

    p. 16 – WOMAN: “What’s wrong? You queer or something?”
    PETE: “No, just selective.”

    This seems a pretty bold thing for an inexperienced teen to say to a prostitute when he’s in a bar among strangers. It’s fighting talk, and indeed does provoke a fight later. But at this point my impression of Peter is he’s quite a gentle, sensitive, academic, almost feminine type. He’s done nothing to suggest he’s a confident fighter who enjoys a bit of aggro.

    p. 17 – Pete beats up a thug and Ariel stabs a lion to death with her horn. Whoa! Where did their fighting skills come from? This is completely out of left field.

    Also, the fight between Ariel and the lion happens off-screen. I feel you should describe it in some detail so we learn what Ariel’s capabilities and fighting methods are.

    • Ange Neale

      And Pete killing the cannibal kid with a piece of piano wire delivered via a blowdart thing seemed a bit improbable, too.

      • pmlove

        I love this comment.

        “Ah Pete killing the cannibal kid with a piece of piano wire delivered via a blowdart thing… you must be talking about Ariel, where the fey boy has a relationship with a unicorn.”

        • Ange Neale

          I can just see ‘Mythbusters’ putting it to the test:
          Is it possible to blow a short piece of piano wire out of a tube at a sufficient velocity to pierce the eyeball and pass into the brain with lethal force?
          Will it be ‘busted’, ‘plausible’ or ‘confirmed’?

          • klmn

            I think it is plausible. A quick glance at Wikipedia shows that piano wire is manufactured in diameters up to .192 inch. If you had the proper tube, it should work well. I would suggest glass laboratory tubing just slightly over the size of the wire. It might take some experimentation to get the right size of tubing.

          • Ange Neale

            Or something like computer cabling conduit pipe or a thin curtain rod or bamboo? Glass mightn’t survive a post-Apocalyptic road trip.
            Didn’t know piano wire came that thick. Definitely plausible then.
            Down my end of the world, we’d go with ubiquitous farm galvanised fencing wire — abundant and no need to break into houses searching for pianos to restock ammunition from.

          • klmn

            Galvanized wire is soft. Music wire is high carbon steel.

          • Ange Neale

            A bit of foam traveling at sufficient velocity effectively killed a space shuttle. Don’t underestimate soft.

          • Citizen M

            Piano wire would curl when not under tension, like guitar strings. You need something more rigid. Fencing wire would be better.

            In school we used to make blowpipe darts from nails pushed through toothpaste tube tops as flights. They were just the right size to fit the pipe (curtain rod?) with a good seal but sliding freely. Lethal weapons. We never shot each other, only at targets. You could penetrate 1/2″ into a tree.

          • Citizen M

            Bullets are lead.

    • Casper Chris

      Good notes.

    • Beautiful Derek

      Hey, Citizen M. My name is Derek Williams and I had an AF spot last year with my script Goodbye Gene. You ripped it apart pretty good. Which was awesome. I was wondering if you’d take a look at my new script Tuesday’s Gone and maybe do the same. Thanks.

      • Citizen M

        Derek, I’m confining myself to scripts Carson publishes ATM. Submit to AOW and let everyone tear into some fresh meat ;o)

    • Citizen M

      To amplify a bit. Take the scene where they come across a lion guarding the bar/trading post. We know Pete has been catapulted from our ordinary world into a magical world, and as far as we know he has never seen such a thing before. As far as he knows, lion = danger. The logical thing to do is to stop and observe from a safe distance. Presumably there will be other people going in and out unfazed by the lion. So he can conclude it might be safe to enter, although there is always the chance it is trained to attack strangers or the people going in and out might carry some sort of charm or amulet. (He knows about such things from reading books in the library.) He should chat with Ariel, speculating on why the lion doesn’t attack, and whether it is safe for them. When he approaches it would be very cautiosly, making sure he has an escape route, hopefully with Ariel to act as a getaway horse.

      To me this is more a coming-of-age rather than a YA story, given the change from the old world to the magical, and the virginity. Pete’s task is to step from the child’s world of narrow choices and a sheltered environment into a world of infinite choice and much more dangerous environment. What are the rules of conduct that will stand him in good stead? (In the above scene, the lesson is, when confronted with something strange, stop, observe, consult.) Basically, he has to learn how to cope, and also learn that he can cope, that he is capable of taking his place in the world on his own merits.

      • JakeBarnes12

        Great notes, Cit.

        Just want to point out that when you write “Twilight” you mean “The Hunger Games.”

        (Yes, for some reason I’ve read all the Twilight and Hunger Games books).

        • Citizen M

          Thanks. All these YA movies run together in my mind.

      • Citizen M

        I read the first chapter of Ariel online. I see it starts when Pete meets Ariel, five years after the Change. Pete is 20 and is pretty feral himself, having survived all that time and learned a thing or two. He is quite comfortable and competent in the new world.

        By showing Pete in the pre-Change world, then one year later by a pond, the impression is given in the script that he fled to a safe spot and has been hiding out there ever since the Change while the world has gone to pieces around him. So when he and Ariel go forth, he is an inexperienced person entering an unknown world of dangers.

        Maybe you should re-think the beginning.

        • Exponent5

          Ok, found your notes. Number 1: Everything you have stated upthread here is a criticism of the story that is told in the novel. I set out to adapt the novel, not to rewrite it. I like the story that was told in the novel, and I would not want to change it. So, to rewrite things like: why is a lion outside the trading bar, (a BL reviewer commented that they loved the lion scene, so, go figure) why does Pete tell a hooker to buzz-off, etc. etc., I guess you would have to take it up with the source material. That’s the character that was written, and I certainly don’t feel compelled to change it. I think I addressed this very issue with someone in the initial AOW post. I was also recently heartened by an article with the screenwriters of FAULT IN OUR STARS who felt they should not change the novel to stay true to its fans. That’s how I feel about ARIEL. It has fans – I wouldn’t want to take things away from them.
          Regarding, the time jump of Change-first or Change-flashback, it is a matter of taste, I guess. You could start the movie as the novel does, where the flashback to the day of the Change happens fairly late in the story. I thought it would be more expedient to have the setup and explain the “rules” of this fantasy world (necessary in any fantasy) at the very beginning so as not to leave the audience confused as to what the rules were or what had happened to the world. The setup and rules and world build need to happen quickly, but not too swiftly. A good example, I think, was in REIGN OF FIRE, where there was a combo script-crawl-montage-voiceover by Christian Bale to explain how the present-day world came to an “end” by dragons in the first ten minutes of the film, then they are in the years-ahead time jump of the post-apocalypse for the rest of the film.
          I think I wrote to someone last night that it might be useful to have a montage of day-of-Change disaster imagery overlaid upon PETE’s initial voiceover world-build. Thanks for your notes.

          • Citizen M

            When I first read the script I knew nothing about the book and dealt with the script on its own merits. It seemed to me that there were logical inconsistencies, as in an inexperienced young man in an unfamiliar world wouldn’t behave in the way shown.

            On reading the first chapter of the book, I realize that the Pete of your script and the Pete of the book are different. Book Pete is a hardened survivor who has lived on his own for five years already and is comfortable in the new world. He’s a warrior who does what he must to survive, like shoot the feral kid. Script Pete is a typical protected middle-class debate geek pitched into a world unlike any he’s known. He’s a long way from Book Pete.

            The first scene introduces us to the protagonist and his world.

            In your script we first meet Pete debating in school in present-day suburbia. So we assume that’s Pete and that’s his world.

            If we e.g. first met him as a lean and athletic wild man hunting a rabbit with a blowpipe out in the woods dressed only in a loincloth, when a gryphon swoops in and takes his prey, we would know we are dealing with a very different protagonist in a very different world, and the story would play out differently.

            That’s why I suggest elsewhere you rethink your beginning.

          • Exponent5

            But why would you expect inexperienced, suburbia Pete to still behave the same way after seeing an onscreen SUPER giving you the time jump “One Year Later” and listening to Pete’s v.o. description of life in the aftermath of the Change? One quickly grasps the changes HE has undergone.

            Thanks for the suggestion, but so far I”ve not had anyone say they didn’t understand the sequence of events. Maybe I could have Pete catch a fish from the pond first before he bathes to show his resourcefulness.

            It’s clear why he has had to become hardened Pete in a kill or be killed world only a few pages later when he is attacked by the feral kid. Yet even then his reaction to it is not one of coldness.

          • Citizen M

            No more comments after this, I promise you.

            This is how we meet Pete after the Change:

            “Sunlight sparkles on the water. Pete is bathing naked in the pond. His CLOTHES and BACKPACK are on the shore, along with his BLOWGUN. He is lean from the rigors of surviving in the world since the Change. There is an overgrown house nearby.”

            I think you need to emphasize the change in Pete. As written it is just a minor detail amongst descriptions of the scenery. And Pete could be lean because he’s not coping so well and can’t find enough food, which is not the impression you want to give.

            How about something like this:

            “An overgrown house stands near a pond. Sunlight sparkles on the water as Pete bathes naked..

            “This is not Pete the schoolboy debater. This is Pete the survivor — lean and athletic physique, burned brown by the sun, uncut tousled hair. His eyes have the watchful intelligence of a creature that lives by its wits blah-de-blah-de-blah

            “Instinctively, he checks the location of his BLOWGUN resting on the shore with his CLOTHES and BACKPACK.”

          • Exponent5

            Yes, I see what you’re saying. I like that.

  • Chris Mulligan

    “On the plus side, the script was properly formatted.”


  • Midnight Luck

    Wasn’t JERHICO about an end of civilization, and two factions fighting over energy since there wasn’t any ? Or something similar? Haven’t seen it, but heard about it at some point. (Though there were no unicorns)

    • Nate

      No, Jericho was about a small town struggling to survive after a terrorist group sets off nuclear bombs in 23 different US countries (I think it was 23). I think you might be referring to Revolution (which I haven’t seen). Jericho is really good though, I suggest you give it a watch.

      • Ange Neale


  • Poe_Serling

    I just had the opportunity to read the entire Black Autumn script yesterday. Like you, I thought it was well done… a scary and exciting jaunt into the Vietnam jungles.

    I’m really looking forward to sharing my thoughts about the project on the upcoming Make Room Monday post. ;-)

  • Linkthis83

    And Bluedust, if you
    are out there, this is what I had for you:


    P21 = The discussion about the eighteen year
    soldier that was killed feels off and

    forced. I didn’t believe that Wyrick would need
    a “comforting hand” from Stitch.

    P24 = The order to shoot at anything is
    counterintuitive. These guys have no idea what has happened to Diaz. You could
    argue that they are thinking it’s

    the same thing that happened to Blake, but this
    JUST HAPPENED to Diaz. What if it’s Diaz wandering through the jungle and they
    light him up?

    P25 SUMMARY:

    As of these first 25 pages, I feel that your
    story details are credible. I don’t feel that these first 25 are that
    interesting. What you have done is shown us a guy with fangs early and the rest
    feels like “hope” that people will hang around to find out. For me, it hasn’t
    worked. Sure we have “guy with fangs” and “kid who was tortured”, but the
    majority of these pages makes me envision…


    I know this is story set up, but it needs to
    have some intrigue too. We know they go on routine patrols, make this
    particular patrol an actual investigation for something specific. Give us some
    more details that makes us invested in what is happening. Then we don’t know if
    they are going to find VC, or if they are going to find

    Vampires. And the mom joke intent was funny, but
    the joke itself felt like the same mom joke in all other movies. If anything,
    have him say that he regrets to inform Antrum that they had to sell his mom and
    all they got was a sack of rice.

    P39 = “STITCH: What do you want from me, Frank?
    I’m just a medic! This place look like Walter Reed to you?” = All this feels

    P50 SUMMARY:

    I’m stopping here. I’m not buying their “all in”
    attitude to rid the jungle of vampires.

    I was also bothered by Wyrick telling Hastings
    and crew they could leave on their own and travel the 17 miles to Dagger.
    Hastings replies that they won’t make it before nightfall. But that was the
    original plan BEFORE they arrived at the village. To cover that distance, with
    the villagers, and arrive at Dagger. Now, these three guys can’t do it before
    nightfall, then the other plan was uber terrible. Plus, they do these intense
    patrols everyday within a limited radius of the LZ, but now 3

    journalists can trek 17 miles all on their own?
    With Vampires and VC.

    I think an arrangement of ideas and motivations
    is needed in these pages to really get things going. I could always be wrong


    I can’t shake PREDATOR. That’s what it feels
    like I’m reading. I keep challenging

    myself with CLOVERFIELD. I enjoyed that movie
    and I’m trying to remember why.

    Although, it may fall under that category of
    movie you enjoy once, but

    upon rewatches you realize really isn’t that
    great (TRANSFORMERS would be that

    movie for me – I did enjoy the first one the
    first time I saw it – Not so much any more).

    I think these characters need to be drawn out
    just a little bit more. I’m not talking

    external goals/internal flaws either. Just more
    opportunity to allow us to witness this team of soldiers being this close-knit
    team of soldiers. By their actions, and interactions. I could just be full of
    shit too. Always possible in this subjective realm.

    • Bluedust

      Link, thanks for the notes, man. I appreciate the read. And I understand why you couldn’t shake Predator. In the first draft, even I couldn’t shake Predator. Soldiers and monster in the jungle and all that. But I tried to give this story enough spin to stand on its own. Agreed on boosting the tension in the first twenty. If BA does get an AF slot somewhere down the line, hopefully I can get a new draft to Carson that addresses that issue. Cheers.

      • Malibo Jackk

        No rush.
        Do it by Monday.

        • Bluedust

          Lol, no problem.

          • Poe_Serling

            Just curious – did Carson give up a heads up about switching out Black Autumn with Ariel or were you in the same ‘surprised’ boat as the rest of us?

          • Ange Neale

            Surprises coming thick and fast lately.

          • Bluedust

            Yeah, found myself on the S.S. Surprise just like you.

        • Ange Neale

          ‘Cos there’s a test.

      • Linkthis83

        I don’t think I did a good enough job in my review of giving you proper credit. You set up the world awesomely. I believe everything about the setting. I believe everything about the time. The characters feel mostly real, with the exception of some things I noted.

        Like all the scripts that show up here, those first 10-20 are really crucial.

        I think telling us it’s a vampire in the logline really kills some potential impact and tension for you. That’s one of the things that was so great about CLOVERFIELD, you wanted to know what it was. And you were only going to find out by going to see the movie. Maybe you could call it an “unknown predator.” By doing that, you’ve already created misdirection. People put jungle + predator together and they are going to think beast, not vampire. I assume you told us it’s a vampire so we immediately get the uniqueness of this concept Vietnam + vampires. But 50 pages in and I don’t feel like I’m experiencing anything unique. Also, once I know they are vampires, it feels like there aren’t many surprises. Now sure, if I kept reading I might’ve found a nice surprise, but nothing in those 50 pages makes me want to (other than the credibility you’ve created for yourself – I want to keep reading because of your ability, but not the story – it should be the other way around – or both :)

        Maybe even throw in a legend. Put something in the air early that let’s us know something is off. Perhaps the team that was there previously ended their rotation early (intrigue/mystery) for some plausible, yet questionable reason. Maybe when we are learning about patrols, we learn that for some reason the VC are staying away from this region. That would be odd. Normally they’d be going straight at the American camp. I especially think that first patrol with Hastings team is when the should be investigating something specific.

        I don’t know what’s best for your story. Only you know that. The world it takes place in is believable and I like the historic angle as well within that setting. And that it’s found footage. I do hope you get a true AF (or A+any day of the week), and if I have time, I will read the rest.

        Congrats on putting up quality work and being a two time winner :)

        • Malibo Jackk

          Love your idea of adding mystery
          — with the VC avoiding the area.

      • Linkthis83

        Thought you might find this interesting/inspiring:

        “Lawrence Gordon, who produced K-9, also produced the original Predator. He told me an interesting story about that movie. It was based on a spec script by two brothers, Jim Thomas & John Thomas. Evidently the script went around town and every studio passed. But Larry used to have his assistants accumulate a list of all the scripts that had been out on the previous weekend read, keying in on each screenplay’s logline, even on projects that had been passed on.

        And that’s precisely what happened with Predator: He read the logline — “A team of commandos, on a mission in a Central American jungle, find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial warrior” — and said, “That’s a movie.”

        All because of a great logline.

  • Nick Morris

    “Carson, if you find yourself in a similar situation again in the very near future, all I have to say is: THE HARVESTER :)”

    Thanks, Link!
    You think I should re-submit THE HARVESTER to AOW?

    • Linkthis83

      I’m not really sure to be honest. You’ve received support during that particular AOW, and if I remember correctly, in comments since then.

      I don’t know if it’s the genre that’s working against you or you’ve just been plain forgot. Lol.

      Comeback scripts have been a thing lately, I’d try to jump on that train if I were you. Especially if you’ve made changes since the last submission. As you know, word on the street is that quality submissions are lacking. Perhaps the planets are aligning :)

      • Nick Morris

        Lots of changes. Feels like I’ve been over that thing a thousand times since April. Thanks, man!

        • Linkthis83

          In that case, get out to some of your “people” to be vetted and then re-submit.

          • Poe_Serling

            Sounds like a great cross-promotion opportunity.

            With Deliver Us from Evil hitting the theaters on July 2, it would be the perfect tie-in for an all horror week here on the site. First up —

            Monday: The Harvester.

            Presented in part by the new motion picture…

            **Carson, you need to get your marketing department to give Screen Gems a call – pronto!

          • Linkthis83

            If there’s going to be an all horror week I’ve gotta get mine done!! Lol.

          • Poe_Serling

            The Tuesday slot is all yours. l;-)

          • Linkthis83

            Should probably make it Thursday for the How Not to Writer A Horror Script article.

          • Poe_Serling


            No, we’ll keep you penciled in for the Tues. slot… that way Carson has a couple of days to write his How Not to Write a Horror Script article. ;-)

    • Ange Neale

      !!YES, NICK, YES!!

      • Nick Morris

        Haha! Thanks, Ange.

  • Jim

    Not a fan of it either and hope JJ tones it down a notch or three in the new Star Wars movies.

    • lesbiancannibal

      yep, was very happy to see that puppet in the JJ/star wars charity thingy

  • Nicholas J

    Well when it comes to prosthetics and makeup, today’s HD shows the “seams” much more than before. But I agree, practical effects mixed with CGI when necessary is the way to go. Very excited to see the new Star Wars because it looks like this is what they are aiming for.

    This is amazing technology and all, but the end result is the stuff of nightmares:

    • Hadley’s Hope

      Charlie Runkle?

    • Linkthis83

      The Social Network did it flawlessly. Never knew there were any facial special effects until I watched the special features on the Blu Ray.

      “One of The Social Network’s most heralded tricks was how actor Armie Hammer played both Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss using a combination of split-screen effects and digital face replacement.”

      • Nicholas J

        Wow. I just assumed they were really twins… never thought about it really.

        • Linkthis83

          Me too.

          “For shots that included both twins at the same time, [actor/model Josh] Pence stood in for the second twin; Hammer later went into a studio, where he strapped his head into a harness to film that twin’s face and voice, which was then digitally superimposed over Pence’s face in the film. The result is a sort of hybrid actor with Hammer’s head and Pence’s body. Intricate split-screens and rotoscoping were also used for some shots. Piece of cake, right? “AfterBenjamin Button, you go, ‘It can be done,'” says Fincher. “Give us a case of Red Bull and a weekend, and we’ll figure this out.”

          • Hadley’s Hope

            While the digital face replacement tech is impressive and can be convincing, it is different from creating an entirely CGI Audrey Hepburn two decades after her death. The Winklevoss twin performance was still starting out with a live action performance.

            Speaking of dead people brought back to digital life, I present to you CGI ORVILLE REDENBACHER.

      • Casper Chris

        The Social Network totally fucked up when it came to the artificial breath fog though. I don’t know if anyone here noticed or if they mention it on the Blu Ray, but every time they’re outside in the cold, their breath is fogging the air. But because it wasn’t actually cold when they shot, they created a CG breath fog. I didn’t know about it when I started watching, but it was glaringly obvious to me. Couldn’t stop focusing on it throughout.

        • Linkthis83

          I meant to include that caveat. I hate when they CGI breath. I’d prefer they leave it out than manufacture it.

      • FilmingEJ

        That is pretty impressive.

        And yeah, I agree with Casper, I didn’t really notice the fake fog and breath when I first saw it, but after it was pointed out in the commentary I couldn’t unsee it.

  • Brainiac138

    Off topic, but did anyone else see Rian Johnson, whose Looper was not liked by Carson, is being reported as taking over Star Wars for episodes VIII and IX, according to Deadline?

  • Nicholas J

    Isn’t Predator meets Platoon… um… Predator?

  • Logic Ninja

    “That mountain is literally in Andy’s boxer shorts when he wakes up in the morning. And scaling it will take the entire film….” Nice.

  • pmlove

    Being brutal, this script loses you on page one, scene one. It’s a debate scene but there’s no back and forth, no tension raising, no investment at all.

    I have no idea if Pete’s argument is a good one. If I am to empathise, I need to feel like he’s hard done by, nailing the debate but being harshly misjudged. Or, maybe he just isn’t that bright and is out of his depth. But because of the exposition-by-subterfuge, I have no idea whether he is talking sense or not, so I simply tune out.

    Then, there’s no build up. It’s like walking in to a room to watch the end of a sports game that you don’t understand and one side wins. I couldn’t care less. This is where start the scene as late as possible can be misleading – you don’t just want a series of functional plot points. Pacing is crucial.

    Look at the Newsroom’s first scene. It doesn’t start with the tirade. It wouldn’t work. It starts with a series of bullshit back and forth that is meaningless and we’ve all heard before. He doesn’t start the speech til the fourth of fifth minute. Without the build up it’s nothing. I’m not saying you need to extend your scene to an eight page behemoth but give us some lead in, something to hook us emotionally so when that moment arrives and Pete loses – it hurts.

    But as a climax to the scene probably don’t go with ‘The affirmative position is the winner’. Maybe it’s just me but I can’t see that line delivering me to any state of emotional duress in the near future.

    • Kirk Diggler

      On the plus side, it finished in 3rd place out of five scripts during AOW a few weeks ago.

  • FilmingEJ

    That really is fantastic. More and more movies have been looking like video games, I’m really hoping for a comeback for this sort of stuff.

  • Casper Chris

    This CG Audrey Hepburn is pretty convincing.

    Also her eyes.

    If I have a complaint about the eyes, it’s that her blinks are too slow.
    But that could’ve been easily fixed.

    • Cuesta

      Eww, absolutely not, uncanny valley material.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      While certainly very impressive work, I have to wonder why not just find an actress that looks kind of like Audrey Hepburn?

      While it wouldn’t fool some people into believing it was actually her, all the other aspects of the commercial could still be there. The’d still have the period setting evoking a warm tone of nostalgia. They could have still used the same music, etc.

      Not only would that be easier, they probably could have gotten just about the same thing for less cost. Even better, if the commercial were a big hit, they could cast the same actress in some new ones later on (like that lady that is in all those sterile white insurance commercials, or the deodorant commercials with Terry Crews). I mean who doesn’t love a good franchise?

  • klmn

    Rumor has it that Carson is not into unicorns because he is into the Brony lifestyle.

  • Exponent5

    ARIEL screenwriter here – just wanted to say thanks to Carson for the entirely unexpected review of ARIEL. I also wanted to say I hope the readership of Scritpshadow will give it a chance in reading it, since I am obviously new to your community. That said, man, you guys ARE a tough crowd! ;0) Carson wasn’t kidding when he said I had a tough sell here. I submitted it to Carson after reading his post awhile back lamenting a lack of adventure screenplays, and thought he might enjoy the genre.

    Two things I wanted to address: I am not sure why it is the mere mention of the word “unicorn” seems to bring out the jokes, and the instant idea that the script must be geared toward five-year olds. I guess I can thank “My Pretty Pony” for this? The logline is explicit in the mention of the end of the world, which to me immediately calls to mind chaos, hardship, and darkness. But, perhaps I need to be more heavy-handed in the logline’s hint at the “edgy” and dark aspects of the story.

    Also, this same expectation of unicorns (Ariel ought to be shitting Skittles, maybe?) has seemed to give a few of the readers here a sudden delicate sensibility when it comes to the violence that takes place in the story. It’s a young-adult novel, like so many other more recent ones, that has a fair amount of violence in it. HUNGER GAMES, anyone? Kids slaughtering other kids in the most graphic ways. DIVERGENT, anyone? More kids fighting and a suicide, etc. TWILIGHT, anyone? Werewolves, vampires, black rituals, violent sex, and a demonic pregnancy. All of those young adult films were rated PG-13.

    The audience demographic for ARIEL is certainly the teen-set, but it is also the adults who enjoy post-apocalyptic films, martial arts, and sword and sorcery adventures such as LOTR. The goal rating when I set about adapting ARIEL was a PG-13. I think the book is much more graphic, as I tried to keep it true to the source material, but within the bounds of what has been depicted in those other similarly violent films.

    I do believe there is a market for ARIEL. It is also a potential franchise, as there is a sequel. If a “campy” mythological creatures series like PERCY JACKSON can do $400 million, then I don’t see why a totally badass, sword-wielding, non-campy mythological creatures series wouldn’t also do well. I think the PETE GAREY role would be a star-making vehicle for an actor such as Grant Gustin of DC Comic’s THE FLASH, due out this fall on the CW network.

    And finally, to the readers who are put off by a talking unicorn, or think it’s silly, I have one response: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Let’s see here: a gun-toting, talking RACCOON – in space (!) – voiced by Bradley Cooper, and a talking TREE – played by Vin Diesel, natch – and John C. Reilly doing God knows what. And did I mention they’re all… IN SPACE?? Yeah, not at all ridiculous. Somebody at Disney actually thinks this will sell! And so, I must pray for Guardians of the Galaxy to do some bang-up box office, so I can most definitively say a talking unicorn is not silly.

    • Ange Neale

      Hey, hey — nice to read you, Stacy!
      Yeah, tough crowd but you’ll get great feedback here, and all sorts of things find their way into jokes — don’t take it personally. Zombies feature frequently, too. Congrats on the read & keep plugging away at it.

    • Tom

      I think it’s really admirable how ambitious this script is. You’re creating a complex merging of the current world and a fantasy world with an epic plot that passes through multiple years. Most Amateur Friday scripts merely build upon previous films as opposed to building a new world. So congrats on that.

      With that said, the more ambitious the script, the more room there is for it to lose its way. And I feel ARIEL, unfortunately, gets lost.

      (I cannot comment on what is or is not in the original book, so please understand that my comments are as though the source material does not exist.)

      One of the issues that readers are bumping up against is the inconsistent tone. The “tonal rules” of the world are not firmly established, and as a result, the read is never on solid footing. PERCY JACKSON has characters in danger, and even dying, but it’s always by some magical creature or device. What it doesn’t have are feral children being shot through the eye with a dart. At various points, we’re in a gritty post-apocalypse (Walking Dead), a clean post-apocalypse (Revolution), a fantasy post-apocalypse (Neverending Story), and a pure fantasy (Wizard of Oz).

      In some ways, genre bending and tone shifting is good – it gives us things we haven’t seen before and keeps us off our feet. But in this case, it confuses the read as much as it destabilizes it. By not understanding the tone of this post-apocalypse, we can’t understand the functionality of this post-apocalypse. There’s nothing grounding us. We don’t know what to fear. We don’t know what’s normal. And when we are unable to form expectations, you, as the writer, are unable to subvert them. Instead of being surprised by the twists, we just shrug and say “I guess that’s how it is in this world.”

      One of the biggest issues with the tone stems from Ariel herself. As the title character and primary hook to your premise, the unicorn needs to blow us away. She needs to be Jack-fucking-Sparrow in terms of screen presence. But again, Ariel is just not grounded. On one page, Peter is fulfilling every little girl’s dream by nursing a talking pony back to health. Her hooves leave glitter trails. But then she stabs a lion to death (it seems to be written off-screen, or maybe I missed something). She kinda has magical powers. She kinda has a sarcastic spunk. But none of her personality or characterizations truly walk off the page. Her speech is at the same meter as Peter’s, creating a blending of the two where their conversations lack any real spark. The tone of your world will be defined by the tone of Ariel, and right now she’s all over the place… and therefore bland.

      One thing that could fix this is the dialogue. The script hasn’t integrated action with dialogue yet, and therefore the dialogue and characters are falling flat. The action scenes alternate with the dialogue scenes, so that it feels as though the world stops whenever people start talking. This is what Carson was talking about with the exposition. All the talking scenes lack tension, and actions, and status differential, and give-and-take, and subtext, and reversals. Without characters having anything to do while they talk, the script has no chance of making them rich and full. Instead, they just… talk.

      I can tell a lot of effort went into this script. I am not predisposed to dislike a unicorn script, and I believe this could be a lot of fun. But it just hasn’t transported me into the world yet. It’s not conveying a clear vision. Yet.

      Good luck with it!

      • Exponent5

        Thank you, Tom – very thoughtful, useful notes!

    • ArabyChic

      The fact is that unicorns are for children. Even Legend — the only Unicorn movie I can think of without shaking my head and cracking a smile — was geared mostly towards a teenage audience. Unlike Apes, lions and RACCOONS — all which have been part of big movie franchises. An ape or a lion or a raccoon is not ridiculous in itself. When they talk it is not ridiculous, because mythology has a long history of talking animals. Sometimes they are tough talking, gun toting Raccoons. A unicorn — to most people — is ridiculous. A talking unicorn with a little girl voice is, at least to me, an instant turn off.

      I think instead of being defensive of this very central part of your story you should be open to all of these criticisms. Accept that, even though to you and fans of this book a talking unicorn is not inherently silly, for the vast majority of your audience it is. Setting it in a post-apocalyptic setting doesn’t make it less silly, it makes it incongruous.

      How do you make this for either a VERY young audience (a la my little pony) or for an older audience (a la Legend/Twilight/Hunger Games)? That should be your main concern. Telling other people that their reactions don’t make sense is wasting the gift that this site offers: to get feedback from a knowledgable group of writers.

      • Exponent5

        I am certainly open to criticism, as I think I have demonstrated. What I am not open to (nor would anyone be) is insults without even having read it, e.g. ridiculous, silly, won’t read it because it’s a unicorn, bailed at page one, nice formatting, etc. Do you think any of that is constructive feedback? It’s not. Plenty of people have given constructive feedback.

        To say that most people think unicorns are ridiculous is inaccurate, IMO. I think most people are actually fascinated by them. That’s fine if fantasy is just not your thing. I have no problem with that. But, the assumptions made (even by you) – not reactions – without bothering to read it are what I find irksome. BTW, the unicorn in this story speaks in a “little girl” voice for less than 5 minutes because she is young, then it is an adult’s voice for the rest of the film.

        This cannot be made for a very young audience – it is based on source material. You can’t turn a gritty, realistic, post-apocalyptic novel into a children’s’ movie. It’s NOT a children’s’ movie.

        For what it is worth, I have paid for a fair amount of professional coverage, and not a SINGLE one of those readers said the concept of a talking unicorn was ridiculous or a “turn-off.” On the contrary, ALL of them said the premise and concept were OUTSTANDING, and had no problem taking it seriously.
        I believe the mean-spirited comments and jokes here at SS seem to have arisen more from the fact that there was an expectation of a different script being reviewed this Friday, and the fact that another unicorn script was posted on an AOW awhile back. I can’t control that. But I don’t see anyone complaining about too many horror scripts, or whatever. So, it seems the REAL feedback is limited to a fairly closed group. At least Carson thought enough of the script to allow someone new in, even if some at SS do not.

        • ArabyChic

          I’m sorry I insulted you. That wasn’t my intention.

        • Casper Chris

          I don’t have a problem with a talking unicorn, per se…. but…

          You can’t turn a gritty, realistic, post-apocalyptic novel into a children’s’ movie. It’s NOT a children’s’ movie.

          How can you say “gritty, realistic, post-apocalyptic novel” with a straight face when there’s a talking unicorn? Blows my mind.

          • Exponent5

            There’s talking dragons in ERAGON and LOTR, but that doesn’t make them children’s movies. Teens, yes, but I would not let my young children see those films – they’re pretty dark and sorcery, IMO. I don’t see much difference between a talking unicorn and a talking dragon, perhaps since they are mythical. I suppose if it’s a real creature (a talking raccoon) that seems more absurd to me. I believe there is a talking manticore (the manticore in ARIEL doesn’t talk) played by Daniel Cudmore in the latest PERCY JACKSON installment, but I have not seen the film.

          • Exponent5

            P.S. I have only seen one comment from Citizen M: he took a 68 word description from the script and turned it into a 74 word description that said the exact same thing. If he wrote other notes, I must have missed them. Other people have written much more comprehensive feedback here.

          • Casper Chris

            Then I suggest you scroll down and find them. There are at least three more. He even took the time out to read the first chapter of the novel.

            I’m detecting a bit of a mean streak. No one here has given you more comprehensive feedback than Citizen M. No one. And his point about using shot-based and more vertical writing is well-informed too.

          • Exponent5

            I found his notes and responded. Disquis doesn’t lay things out in the easiest way to wade through.
            Mean streak? No. I think I’m pretty thick-skinned considering the beating I’m taking in the mean comments from those who didn’t bother to give it a read. It’s not a welcoming group to newcomers, by those responses.
            Ok, so you are saying I should take a MORE economically written description and substitute a longer description – but split it into separate lines – and make it more vertical = better? Fine, if that’s how you like it. It just sounds like a matter of style to me.

          • Citizen M

            I don’t mind if writers don’t respond to my comments. It’s not as if I’m a guru or anything.

            But on the question of economical writing — I was was also a bit nonplussed when my version turned out longer than the original. But on reflection, how long would that scene take in screen time?

            Get out the car, lift the hood, look at the engine, realize something’s different, look around, note the stalled cars, Grace gets out the car. That would take at least fifteen seconds, or a quarter page of script. Which is roughly what my version was, so I’m happy with it.

            Vertical writing is not just a matter of style. It’s also a useful convention that helps a script conform to the ‘one page = one minute’ rule of thumb.

    • Exponent5

      Yeah, I definitely am going to have to get this shirt:

      • Citizen M

        Ironically, having just written a script about a lame unicorn.

  • Ange Neale

    Completely anal, but seriously, would you just leave a pal lying murdered, covered up with a blanket and walk away?
    “Oh, well — the world’s changed. New rules apply. Too bad.”
    I might be anal, but if you did that, you’d be the complete asshole.
    Imho, it would improve the script no end if we saw how civilization virtually collapsed overnight — that society went to hell in a handbasket — but it’d say to me that even though the world had changed, he was at heart a decent kid who tried to do the right thing for his friend. It’s not exactly save the cat, but that to me would be a more plausible reason for the unicorn to befriend him than his sexual inexperience.

    • Exponent5

      Ange – I don’t see Pete as a sweetheart of a guy at the opening, I think he seems like a bit of a smart-ass and a little immature. His somewhat irrational response to Grace’s death (stumbling, vomiting, tears) makes sense because of panic/shock: he doesn’t know WTH is happening in the world, he was beaten and left for dead, he’s now alone.
      I could actually see the usefulness of a montage sequence of day-of-the-Change imagery being overlaid upon Pete’s opening v.o. on page 7.
      Pete’s save-the-cat (save-the-unicorn?) moment comes 2 pages later when Pete bandages Ariel’s broken leg – he’s not a total schmuck.
      I didn’t think Pete read as a cold-blooded killer, seeing as how it’s a kill or be killed situation he finds himself in with the feral kid, and he is shaken up by it. He doesn’t get to be a badass until later. ;0)

      • Ange Neale

        Thanks for the insights, Stacy.
        Sure, most youths his age are a bit smart-assy and immature, and I got the beaten-up-and-left-for-dead, confused reaction, but it’s an enormous leap of character development from complete unpreparedness for looters to not hesitating in a ‘kill or be killed’ situation. I’m far too old for your demographic, but I’d have bought into it a little easier if things were seen to degenerate rapidly and that he had to struggle and grow up fast to survive.
        (Think of ‘The Lord of the Flies’, ‘Event Horizon’ or ‘The Road’, where we do glimpse the descent into anarchy, rather than — boom, from civilization straight into hell.)
        Or Zero’s idea of just do away with the pre-Apocalypse world entirely and cut to the chase, maybe explain the Change through flashbacks or something. I dunno. Others might have better ideas.
        Anyway… Good luck with it!

  • brenkilco

    Movies have changed over the years. Back in the day the mountain, to use your metaphor, often wasn’t even seen clearly until end of the first act. To take two classic example Rear Window is mostly a domestic drama for the first half hour with only hints of what’s coming. Likewise The Man who knew too much is a travelogue involving a likable married couple with only the barest hints of intrigue until the murder that ends the first act. Even in something as simple as The French Connection it takes a considerable time for the protagonist to learn just how big the mountain is he’s pursuing. I love suspense and action but I dislike narratives that seem unnaturally rushed and forced.

    In my David and Goliath movie, I’d hint about the big guy, whisper about him and introduce him as late as possible.

    I was also thinking about all the great movies that don’t fit this pattern. Particularly those where the mountain, or most of it anyway, is inside the protagonist. A few off the top of my head: Vertigo, Dr. Zhivago, A Man For All Seasons, The Hustler, The Godfather Part II, Lawrence of Arabia, Barry Lyndon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, many if not most comedies, and virtually every classic foreign film I can think of not starring Toshiro Mifune.

  • Paul Clarke

    I love the analogy Grendl.

    Just curious, what about films that don’t appear to fit?

    Silence of the Lambs doesn’t start with Buffalo Bill, or Hannibal, or her saving a lamb. Alien doesn’t open with an Alien.

    Not being argumentative, I’m just very curious, especially as I’m still not sure whether to open mine with the serial killer (as you recommended) or not.

    • grendl

      The distress call in the opening scene to the Nostromo is the alien calling to punk the crew.

      And “Silence of the Lambs” doesn’t start with the evil, but hints at the maze Clarice will be running, chased by the bleating of the lambs from her childhood ( that run harkens to her run in the night as a young girl when she heard the farmer slaughter the lamb she couldn’t help )

      She’ll be up against obstacles like a male dominated FBI that doesn’t take her seriously, and Hannibal of course, and Buffalo Bill. She’ll be walking a maze in total darkness in his cellar at the end, so that obstacle course was a brilliant visual to start with.

      It doesn’t have to show the killer or their work, just hint that troubles on the horizon. Just the hint of the mountain outside while the protagonist is at base camp, maybe not even expecting to climb the mountain themselves until they get a distress call from a friend or family member or colleague from high above to come help them.

      “Halloween” started with a murder, but “Psycho” didn’t. However heres what they have in common. Both Michael Myers and Marian Crane are the antagonists to Laurie Strod and Norman Bates, who are the protagonists.

      So the antagonist calls the Nostromo, and kills the Myers sister and robs her boss and awakens Norman’s desire, angering the mother half of him.

      “Frankenstein” starts with Colin Clive and Fritz stalking a graveyard and funeral. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” starts with shots of body parts and a macabre scarecrow made of dead bodies at a cemetery.

      I think just a hint of death mountain in the mist is fine. Imagery, music things to get the ball of dread rolling. There’s no one way of course, as these movies prove.

      But however you start, you’re going to have to escalate further up the mountain, things are going to have to get a lot more dangerous, so you have to leave leeway for that.

      “Alien” left itself room to grow the horror, as did “Halloween” and “Silence of the Lambs”. They took their time building the dread, starting off with a hint of the horror to come without revealing it in all its glory.

    • brenkilco

      Just a thought, but so long as a serial killer remains offscreen he can be anyone or anything. He can seem demonic, super human. But once you introduce him he’s just what he is, one more psycho. So unless he’s as fascinating and three dimensional as Hopkins’ Lector you may be better off preserving the mystery.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Whatever works best for your script.
      Open with a crazy badass
      Let us slowly discover the antagonist
      as in something like MARATHON MAN.
      Each has its advantages.

  • Exponent5

    Thanks, ebola. I always wanted to see ARIEL made into a movie and so I figured if no one else was going to do it, why not try to do it? My version of fan fiction, I guess. My girls love unicorns, and my boys love dragons. Something for both sides!

    • Ange Neale

      Have they read Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Dragons of Pern’ series? If not, they’d love it – girls and boys alike. No unicorns but dragons, and lots of strong, young female characters, too.

  • Exponent5

    Thank you, Zero, for seeing the potential that I see.

  • carsonreeves1

    No newsletter this week? Next week though!

    • Kirk Diggler

      How about an AOW?

      • pmlove

        Dream on, dreamer.

  • brenkilco

    Yeah, the fact that Bruce sank or stalled or whatever meant that the first part of Jaws had to be all sleight of hand and gave Spielberg the chance to prove he was movie magician number one.

    I find the script of the Exorcist interesting. Clearly it works. But the first part of that movie is so all over the place. Iraq and the priest’s mother and the detective and the church desecration and the sinister seeming servants who turn out to be irrelevant. Lee J. Cobb’s character is given a fair amount of screen time and never solves anything. We never do find out who desecrated the church. The only thing that holds all the loose ends together is that vague but believable sense of dread that Friedkin creates. That script would never be shot today. But like I say, somehow it works.

    • Poe_Serling

      “The only thing that holds all the loose ends together is that vague but believable sense of dread that Friedkin creates.”

      One of the major ways Friedkin and his crew created that sense of dread – sound effects.

      I always felt that The Exorcist is a master class in the use of sound to scare the crap out of the audience.

      Starting with the opening desert scene… having the sounds of the dog fight turn into an almost demonic growl as Father Merrin stares off at the statue of Pazuzu.

      Followed by a slew of other creepy sound cues: the ‘rats in the attic’ noises, the downright unsettling creak of Regan’s neck as it does its infamous spin and, of course, Mercedes McCambridge’s standout performance as the multiple voices of the demon.

      It’s no surprise the film earned an Oscar for its Sound Mixing.

      • brenkilco

        Yeah, really amazing work for the time. All the sound is scary, right down to the industrial sounds of those medical contraptions that perform the awful tests on Blair. There’s that Demon chant that sounds like a chorus and turns out to be backward English. Really impressive when you think about it. Then there’s Roizman’s cinematography and the music and forty five year old Von Sydow doing a convincing seventy. Even the non actor priests they hired to play the priests are spot on. The effects may have dated but it still earns its rep.

      • astranger2

        I remember watching it in re-release… there is a moment where Father Damien contemplates the situation at his desk in complete silence — when the phone RINGS. Everyone in the audience gasped…

        Simple things can be hugely effective… although tubular bells didn’t hurt either…

        • Poe_Serling

          Silence… followed by a jarring noise is great way to get the popcorn flying out of their boxes in the theater.

          Even the unexpected snapping shut of the pocket watch at the beginning of The Fog is always a guaranteed ‘jump in my seat’ moment for me.

          • astranger2

            Like the popcorn flying out of boxes metaphor.

  • Exponent5

    “It’s like politics – it doesn’t matter your views, it matters what lies others can tell about your views.”
    Certainly true.

  • brenkilco

    Dont have a problem with an estate controlling the likeness of a dead celeb on mugs and T shirts. But this is somehow a lot creepier. Like pimping out the celeb’s reanimated corpse. And how old is the average consumer of premium chocolate that they think this elaborate commercial is going to move more product? No one under thirty five who isn’t a film buff knows who the hell Audrey Hepburn is.

  • Malibo Jackk

    — should have started this way.)

  • Malibo Jackk

    The first four pages of the script are lifeless.

    One suggestion:
    Peak our interest with strange things going on in the b.g.
    and as they walk to their car, unaware of what’s going on around them.
    (As in the opening sequence of Independence Day.)

    There’s almost a Spielberg moment here, where the camera could rise in the air
    — and we see the whole of the parking lot — and everyone has their hoods open.

    • Exponent5

      P.3: Pete gets out and lifts the hood. He has no idea what he is looking at in the jumble of HOSES and WIRES. He shades his eyes from the sun as he looks around. A hundred yards away is an intersection, the traffic lights are out. People are out of their cars, hoods raised, gesturing to each other. Grace gets out and notices too. It is eerily quiet.

      • Citizen M

        ^^^ An example of how not to write cinematically.

        Write in shots. My suggestion:

        Pete gets out. He lifts the hood and gazes at the hoses and wires. He has no idea what to do.

        He becomes aware that it is EERILY QUIET. He looks around.

        On the normally busy street no cars move. They have simply stopped in their tracks. No one hoots. Some drivers have their hoods up, some gesture to each other, others attempt to phone.

        Grace notices too and gets out the car.

      • Malibo Jackk

        If you don’t remember the opening of Independence Day, you can borrow a copy from most libraries.
        Will Smith wakes up, goes to the bathroom, takes a piss, brushes his teeth, and goes outside, picks up the morning paper and begins reading.
        None of that in itself is interesting. Except for what is going on in the background. I’m not saying it’s a perfect example but — it keeps the audience watching, waiting to see how long it will take him to realize what is going on.

        I wasn’t getting that from the first four pages. Instead you dump a reveal in an undramatic fashion on page 3 — as Citizens M mentions.

        Obviously, the script must have something going for it. I’m only talking about the first four — the front door to your script. And in this business, first impressions are important.

        Sorry if this sounds harsh. It’s actually not meant to be.
        Ultimately, it’s your script.
        And like the others here, I’m just stating an opinion.

  • Citizen M

    SS newsletters are as rare as unicorns these days.

    • Malibo Jackk

      … are ‘rarer than’ unicorns these days.

  • Citizen M

    I thought you were male. The only Stacy I have known was a rugged Australian bloke.

    Speaking of YA/coming-of-age and Stacy reminds me of my first night in London. I arrived as an innocent young man from South Africa, which was a very conservative, short-back-and-sides, Victorian morality sort of place in those days. “Playboy” was banned, along with television. Topless photos had nipple stars, that sort of thing.

    Anyway I had arranged to stay in this communal house in Wandsworth with a whole bunch of South Africans and Australians. That night I heard a weird howling noise, like a wolf or something.

    Next morning at breakfast I asked, “What was that noise last night? Like a factory siren or something.” Stacy and his girlfriend looked at each other and giggled. I learned later I had met my first screamer.

    • charliesb

      Now, there’s a proper opening to a werewolf movie if i’ve ever seen one. :)

  • Exponent5

    Casting fun…Grant Gustin for the role of PETE GAREY:

  • Exponent5

    Casting fun…suggestions for the voice of ARIEL, dear SS readers??

  • charliesb

    Actually, they’re not really getting rid of the actors as all the main characters are done with motion capture. It’s why the movements (if not the faces) look life like.

    I agree with what you’re saying about the eyes though, cgi eyes never look completely real. Human skin also looks too shiny or waxy.

    I feel with CGI the axiom is often “good enough”. Unless you’re James Cameron, you’re just not going to get the time and money needed to make an entire film look perfect (or pretty close in Cameron’s case). For every scene that shows an exceptional amount of attention to detail (Ceasar watching from the trees) you will get 2 or 3 scenes that feel rushed and rough (The “apes” attacking near the end of the trailer).

    As much as I hated the Planet of the Apes remake, Tim Roth (as per usual) was remarkable.

  • Casper Chris

    Hey Joshua

    I took a crack at this as I’m a sucker for all things Japanese (I believe the clinical term is ‘japanophile’).

    I gotta be honest with you (because anything else is doing you a disfavor), this feels very rough around the edges. And down the middle.

    You started off with a dream sequence. I actually quite liked this scene (the visuals) until I realized it was “just a dream”. Sure, starting with a dream is not necessarily a death sentence (it is the mark of an amateur though), but it did make me go “here we go… another dream opening” which is maybe not the reaction you want. Just keep that in mind.

    Obviously you’re using the dream to establish… her dream… her dream of becoming a dancer. I presume? So it’s not like it doesn’t serve a purpose. But maybe this could be conveyed in some other way? You’re certainly spending a lot of time hammering home this point elsewhere. Dancing with the plate (and yea, I get it… plate breaks = metaphor for her broken dreams). All those wistful glances cast on her little figurine dancer. To be honest, it’s a little too much. You don’t need to constantly beat us over the head with it. We get it… she wants to become a dancer.

    There are many scenes that feel superfluous or outstay their welcome. The sauna scene for instance. It’s almost a page and what’s the point of it? Her friends are talking (about stuff we don’t get) and she’s zoning out. The jogging scenes. What’s the point? I get the impression it’s improper for a Japanese housewife to jog about town (hence her nervousness), but if you’re trying to show the beginning of some sort of revolt (also with the throwing dirt on the floor earlier), it feels a bit tame. I think it’s one of these cases again where the writer is deep inside the head of the character and is trying to show some profound inner reversal based on tiny on-screen minutiae. However, it just flies over our heads. It’s too ambiguous visually. Too insignificant. And it just results in a very pedestrian experience.

    A lot of the dialogue feels stilted, but it might be because they’re Japanese. A cultural thing. Still, the dialogue scene at page 13 struck me as bizarre. Here’s the exchange between Momo and her husband (Toshi):

    Edward was very impressed with us.

    The foreigner?

    Not only did he place the order.He decided to stay here in Japan to oversee the execution. You might just be looking at the new assistent director of manufacturing.

    He decided to stay?

    Yes. He was intrigued by our culture and impressed by our efficiency.

    Our culture?

    Like your kimono. Our traditions, and also our vending machines. He even commended your tea.

    The tea?

    He spoke highly of your tea making ability.


    Why does Momo seem so incredibly dense all of a sudden? She keeps repeating Toshi. Are you trying to paint her as preoccupied or something? It reads like she’s an old hearing-impaired lady. Very, very strange.

    Then there’s the dinner scene at page 20 which is even stranger. I had to do a double take as I thought I had accidentally scrolled back a few pages or something. But no, Toshi is reapeating himself almost word-for-word. This is some Groundhog Day shit. What’s going on? What’s the point of it? Speaking of Toshi, he seems like a caricature, something out of a slapstick comedy.

    Momo visits Aoki. They talk. About what I’m not sure. Again, what’s the point of this scene? What is it that Aoki needs fixed? I don’t get it. Maybe I missed something earlier (sometimes readers miss shit), but I doubt it.

    Then there’s the whole breaking into the car dealer sequence. This could’ve been interesting if it wasn’t for the fact that her reason for doing it is so unbelievable. She wants to retrieve her little dancing figurine from her old car (which her husband has exchanged for a new one) because… she really likes that figurine. Okay, we get that it’s important to her (from all her wistful glances), but the thing is, we don’t care. It’s such an insignificant goal. What’s at stake here? What happens if she doesn’t get back her figurine? Can’t she just buy a new one? I don’t even care what the answer to that is. It’s not movie material.

    So this is where I tuned out.

    In addition to the aforementioned, there were some weird sentences, e.g.

    – “The house looks pristine and very very quiet.”
    – “The voice of her friends sinking away in the background.”
    – “She looks around if nobody has heard her.”

    I get that the house looks pristine, but how can it look quiet? She looks around if nobody has heard her? What does that mean? Do you mean to say ‘she looks around to see if anyone has heard her’ ? And I would probably write ‘the voices (plural) of her friends recede into the background’.

    There were also numerous spelling mistakes littered throughout, e.g.

    enthousiasm instead of enthusiasm
    doktor / doctor (repeatedly!)
    noone / no one
    rifles / riffles (as in ‘riffles through a book’)
    responsing / responding
    alltogether / altogether
    faillure / failure
    sneak peak / sneak peek


    I hope this helps. Thanks for sharing and good luck with it.

  • Exponent5

    Amen, brother.

  • Exponent5

    Thank you. Yes, the sequel as well.

    • Scott Chamberlain

      More power to you, then. That really makes this a project worth persisting with. Best of luck with it. I hope you find the angle that brings it alive. It seems it was his first story (when he was 19!) so I wouldn’t feel too constrained by the source material.

  • klmn