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Genre (from writers) Historical Action
Premise (from writers): In 30 A.D., a charismatic stonemason bent on revenge leads a band of guerrilla rebels against the Roman occupation of his homeland.
Why You Should Read (from writers): This is the story that led up to the biggest trade in human record. It is Braveheart meets Gladiator, with characters on a collision course that splits history in two. Come for the battle, the intrigue, and the epic. Stay for the sacrifice, the betrayals, and the passion that drives a man to darkness. — As co-writers, we work from 3,000 miles apart. Yes, we have two of the WASPiest names imaginable. No, they’re not pen names. We’ve been polishing this script to a trim, accelerative tale that strengthens, weaves, and deepens with each choice our characters make. The ending is the most difficult we’ve ever worked on, but the feedback on the resolution has been powerful. We have to earn the effect we want a story to have, and with this script we aim to challenge, to provoke, but most of all…to entertain.
Writers: Parker Jamison & Paul Kimball
Details: 112 pages

eric-bana-the-other-boleyn-girlEric Bana as Barabbas?

Man, the last couple of days have been carraaaa-zy in the comments section. The Comments Post did not go over well with a lot of you. Miss Scriptshadow’s review caused a nuclear-sized meltdown in the Grendl-verse, and some manic derilect from 2011 topped it all off with a bunch of “Carson is evil” comments.

Today, however, it’s going to be all about the script. If you want to talk about other things, feel free to go back to those earlier posts. But I want today to be about the writing, specifically Barabbas. I’ve already read Barabbas once for a consult and I liked it with reservations. So I’m really glad you guys picked it as a healthy discussion should continue to strengthen the script even more.

The story is not without its challenges. It puts itself in some unenviable writing situations, which I’ll get to after the summary. I’m also interested to see what these guys have done with the latest draft and how much the script has improved. Let’s take a look.

“Barabbas” offers something whether you’re familiar with the story of the man or not. If you’re like me and had never heard of him, Barabbas plays out like a slow-burning quasi-mystery, pulling in familiar elements from religious history that eventually lead to a shocking finale.

If you do know Barabbas’s name, the script plays out like “Titanic.” You know where this will eventually end up, so you’re curious what’s going to happen to get us there.

Joshua Barabbas, 30, is a stone mason. Along with his younger brother David, the two build bridges and aqueducts for the Romans who, at the time, were occupying Jerusalem. When the Romans raid the Jews’ own temple to pay them their wages, David and Joshua have had enough, and rebel.

When their friend is erroneously chosen as the instigator of this rebellion and crucified, an angry Barabbas is persuaded by a local politician, the sinister Melech, to start a war. Using rage to guide his leadership, Barabbas and his fellow workers attack the Romans, but eventually flee to the mountains once outnumbered.

Realizing that there’s no turning back, Barabbas starts to grow a small army with the hopes of driving the Romans out of Jerusalem. But when Barabbas falls for the wife of a key ally in the city, he loses focus, and the rebellion begins to fall apart.

In a last ditch effort to recruit a huge army from the surrounding regions, Barabbas designs a plan to take down the Roman Regional Governor Pontius Pilate. (major spoilers) He ultimately fails, and his life hangs in the balance of the people themselves, when they must choose which of two men shall be set free, Barabbas or Jesus Christ.

I knew this weekend’s Amateur Offerings was going to be good because I’d read two of the scripts and knew both were solid (the other being “Reeds in Winter” about the infamous Donner Party, which ended up in some gnarly cannibalism). The rub? They were both period pieces, which are the hardest to get readers on board with. Therefore it was satisfying to see them both end up with the most votes, as it shows that readers still respect challenging material.

With that said, each script has its trouble spots. Assuming the reader sticks around long enough to get into the story, which is never a guarantee with period pieces, I was always worried about that darned Barabbas second act.

The problem is this – the second act is where countless scripts go to die. It’s hard as hell to keep it interesting even under the best of circumstances. In Barabbas’s second act, our army is relegated to a single location up in the mountains. Keeping a “swords and sandals” period piece lively when the main character and his army are relegated to one spot for 60 pages is as challenging a proposition as you’re going to find in screenwriting.

Compare that to Braveheart. The great thing about that film was that William Wallace kept moving across the country to bigger and bigger cities, so we got this sense of BUILDING as the story went on. That’s harder to do when characters are hiding in caves in the mountains, especially when you’re limited by history. Barabbas’s army couldn’t have gotten TOO big or else he would’ve been more well known in the history books. Barabbas’s one defining characteristic in the bible is that so little is known about him.

But my gut’s telling me we need to either get Barabbas off that mountain space at some point, grow his army bigger in some way, or find some other means to spice up the second act.

What if, for example, Barabbas had to go out on some recruiting trips into the surrounding cities? If we built up certain meetings with city leaders he would have to win over in order to receive their soldiers, that’d be one way to keep the story dynamic.

Getting him off the mountain to meet Jesus at some point would be interesting as well, but Parker told me he doesn’t want to physically see Jesus until that final scene, which I understand.

Another thing that bothered me during the initial read, and something I don’t think Parker and Paul have addressed yet, is the character of David, Joshua’s brother. Over the course of the script, David sees Jesus speak (we don’t see this) and starts to respond to his teachings. Whereas Barabbas wants war, David preaches forgiveness and peace.

The problem is that all of this happens too late and doesn’t have enough conviction. I was bothered, for instance, by a character named Thaddeus, who comes into the story late to aggressively preach Jesus’s philosophy. I couldn’t understand why this character wasn’t David. In order to get the maximum amount of conflict from a relationship, you need the two characters to be on opposite sides of the philosophical spectrum. David was tepid in his support of Jesus’s teachings until the very end. Let’s have this guy go out there, see Jesus speak, and let him be the one who comes back and starts aggressively converting the other soldiers.  Now you have a direct conflict.  Barabbas needs soldiers to take down Pontius and his own brother is turning those soldiers into pacifists.  Isn’t that better than Random Thaddeus, who I met five minutes ago, who has no allegiance to anyone, converting these people?

One of the complaints about Barabbas during AOW week was dialogue. Most people said it was serviceable, but that serviceable isn’t good enough in a spec trying to stand out. And I’d agree with that. But fixing this is a lot easier said than done.

What I believe people are responding to here is the lack of “fun” in the dialogue. People always seemed to speak in a proper and serious way. “You still labor at the aqueduct?” “Every day. Why?” “I’ve heard that funds are running short. That Pontius Pilate needs extra coin to finish it.” “As long as the Romans pay, we work.” This is a conversation between two people who have secretly loved each other since childhood. You’d think they’d have a more relaxed and easy rapport, right?

But the biggest issue here is that almost EVERYBODY spoke like this or very similar to this. So the problem might not be “dialogue” so much as “variety in dialogue.” I always talk about creating “dialogue-friendly” characters. People who have fun with the language and say things others wouldn’t. It would be nice if a featured character here were dialogue-friendly. From there, look at every character and figure out ways to make them speak differently from everyone else.

Finally, I wanted more out of the ending. I think the problem here is that Parker and Paul see the sacrifice at the end as the climax. Which it is. But before we get there, we need to give the audience the climax they’ve been waiting for, the one we’ve been building up for 80 pages, which is an attack on Pontius Pilate.

Let’s see him and his army try to head Pontius off at the pass on his way to Jerusalem. Let’s see him almost kill Pontius. He ALMOST does it! But something at the last seconds prevents him from succeeding and he’s captured.

Then, since it’s now personal between him and Pontius, we can see Pontius, behind-the-scenes, preparing Barabbas so that he’ll be the one picked for crucifixion by the people. Pontius makes him extra dirty and nasty looking, in the hopes that he’ll be the one killed.

I know we’re playing with fire here, but it could be an ironically delightful ending to see that Pontius had a horse in the race and was hoping to snuff out Barabbas, which, of course, would’ve changed history. He’s visibly disappointed, then, when Jesus is chosen instead.

Whatever these guys choose to do, though, I trust them. Barabbas is not perfect, but it shows a lot of skill, and it shows two writers who are going to make a splash at some point if they stick with it. I don’t know if it’s going to be with this script because, again, the subject matter is challenging, it’s a unique sell, and there’s that whole second act issue that I’m not convinced is solvable. But I just like these guys as writers and hope to see more work from them in the future.

Script link: Barabbas

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

What I learned: Use specificity instead of generalizations when writing description. Today’s “What I learned” actually comes from Casper Chris, who I thought made a GREAT observation when he compared two action paragraphs from Barabbas and Braveheart during AOW. Here were the two he compared…

Barabbas:

Barabbas leads the charge. The rest of the stonemasons pour down on the patrol. Slashing, spearing, hacking. Barabbas fights like a barbarian, fearsome and brutal. Ammon slices through soldiers with precision. David is quick and athletic.

Braveheart:

He dodges obstacles in the narrow streets — chickens, carts, barrels. Soldiers pop up; the first he gallops straight over; the next he whacks forehand, like a polo player; the next chops down on his left side; every time he swings the broadsword, a man dies.

Notice the difference. Whereas the Barabbas text uses mostly general words to describe the action (“slashing, spearing, hacking” “fights like a barbarian” “quick and athletic”), Braveheart uses specific imagery. There are more nouns here and the verbs are used to highlight powerful actions (“chickens, carts, barrels” “soldiers pop up” “he gallops straight over”). It was a great reminder that we need to put specific imagery into the reader’s head so he can properly imagine what’s happening up on the screen.

  • andyjaxfl

    Read first thirty of this one during AOW a few weeks back and loved it. I have to go back and finish it this weekend now!

    I love the original Barabbas with Anthony Quinn. It’s a forgotten classic, and remains one of the more exciting adventure films I’ve seen, particularly the escape from the mining colony while it’s collapsing around them. I’ve yet to see a computer generated image match the realism of the practical effects in that sequence.

    Anyways, great job by the writer!

    • Altius

      Thanks andy! Also a tip for better reading: download the version posted in this review. It’s better :)

  • Patrick Sawyer

    This script got better the further along I read it. The beginning felt a little flat. There wasn’t really anything too exciting happening. To me there wasn’t anything inspired in the way that Barabbas became the rebel leader. It was very much by the books and I felt it was there just because you need to have a set up for all the good stuff that happens later on.

    I liked that there were only two big battles (IIRC) because it’s hard to imagine there being anything we haven’t already seen before in combat scenes. This way you can focus more on the human drama which I enjoyed in this story. Especially the death of Taya was great (in the tragic sense). First I was a little apprehensive about having a love interest for Barrabas but having her stoned to death and him arriving too late to save her was great drama. I also think it was a good choice that he didn’t even get the opportunity to say goodbye to Taya. To me this makes it even more sad than having her die in his arms or something like that.

    What’s really unique about this compared to other battle flicks set in antiquity is of course it being connected to Jesus. And even though it’s a story about Barabbas I would’ve wanted Jesus to have a slightly larger role in it. I don’t know if it’s said in the Bible if Jesus was put into a cell before he was taken in front of the crowd but it would be interesting to have him and Barabbas meet before going onto the dais. Maybe they’re placed in adjacent cells and the two exchange words and Jesus tries to get Barabbas to abandon his hatred and all that. We of course wouldn’t be aware that it’s Jesus who Barabbas is conversing with until they’re taken onto the dais. That could also pontentially tie into the ending where Scaro has his epiphany. Pehaps Barabbas has a similar sort of experience as well.

    Speaking of Jesus I think there shouldn’t be so many references to him before he actually appears toward the ending. If there happens to be people who don’t know who Barabbas is and don’t know his connection to Jesus the surprise will be ruined for them well in advance. I’d perhaps even scrap the sermon on the mount scene. Jesus is Yeshua or Joshua in Hebrew so why not just use that instead of the Latin version of the name. And even though there definitely should be some references to him along the story imo they should be kept a little more ambiguous.

    Here’s a couple of minor grievances that I noted while reading:

    Barabbas changes his mind about rising up against the Romans very quickly. First he says that he doesn’t want to bring further death to his people yet the next second he agrees to fight for Nathaniel. And the next thing we know he’s already leading a revolt. Is he just trying to make it look like he doesn’t want to do it while secretly he actually does want to lead an uprising?

    Barabbas and co. were perhaps being unrealistically confident that they’d be able to get all the Romans under the arch before making it collapse since they didn’t prepare a plan-B incase someone got away. The decision to leave to the mountains seemed very quick, like Barabbas had planned for it all along but if he had wouldn’t he have told David?

    Barabbas realises that Melech is trying to manipulate him into killing Idan yet believes him when he says that the cities will give their support if Barabbas kills Pontius Pilate?

    Shouldn’t Pontius Pilate explain why the crowd gets to decide which one of the prisoners is being freed. One of the guards does say that it’s passover and this is a well known incident but I think it still should be made clear that it’s a tradition to free a captive on passover and that’s why the crowd get’s to choose.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, see, I think Jesus should have a larger role too.

      • Randy Williams

        Your readership just shot up in the bible belt.

      • gonzorama

        I’m the writer of ‘Reeds in Winter’, and I wanted to throw in my two cents on fashioning a screenplay out of real people and events.

        I’ve received the same type of notes and feedback as these writers are getting, and while sometimes useful, they tend to want to move the story into directions that did not happen. Some of the feedback I got was; “I don’t believe Reed would bury his wagon. Strange choice.” “Killing Snyder was not in Reed’s character.” “Why would Reed join the war against Mexico when his family is starving and freezing?” Well, the answers to all of those is the same: Because that’s what happened.

        When writing a script about historical events it’s difficult forcing the story into a compelling narrative. It took me a long time to decide what aspects of the Reed’s journey I thought would be strongest in screenplay form. It’s always a struggle between what happened vs. what would make a good movie.

        Carson, you mentioned Titanic in the beginning of the review. To me this is the best meld of historical events married to fiction. The creation of Jack and Rose falling in love made Titanic a very compelling movie. But, as we all know, that never really happened. So in a way it was easier to create a compelling movie. As long as the ship sinks you can do whatever you want.

        As writers, it’s a fine line between honoring the story that made us passionate enough to want to write about it and creating the best story possible. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it fails. But we choose to write about it because the story speaks to us. We want to share this story with all of you.

        Congrats to the writers for getting reviewed. I know how hard you’ve struggled to get your script done. I’m not done reading it but I like everything so far. Great job, and best of luck!

        • IgorWasTaken

          Very interesting post. Those are big challenges when the protagonist in your story was a real person.

          So a reader believes “Killing Snyder was not in Reed’s character.”

          What if some character in your story says, “Gee, I can’t believe Reed did that”?

          And two characters talking. One says, “Why the hell Reed run off to the war against Mexico when his family is starving and freezing?” And the other replies with just a shrug.

          In other words, acknowledge the reader’s likely confusion. And the subtext of doing that is your message to the reader: Yes, you think this seems odd; and maybe it is odd; but this is what the guy really did.

          I’ve even seen that done in scripts that are fiction.

          • gonzorama

            Thanks, Igor. I understand what you’re saying, but I think
            if we try to please every reader it ends up muddying the waters. Our goal of keeping the story as real as possible will have failed. With that said, I also understand there are times when we need to abandon what really happened and create moments that make great movies. ‘Braveheart’ and “Gladiator’ are being mentioned today, along with ‘Titanic.’ All great movies based on actual events, yet all very far from the true stories.

            It’s a double-edged sword when writing historical fiction.
            The intent is to stay close to the real story, but the reality is that you need to alter it in order to create a compelling script/movie.

          • IgorWasTaken

            OK. Maybe it’s because I’ve been considering a based-on-history script. I mean, Braveheart did work, and from a commercial perspective, that’s obviously key. And the reviews were also good, so it worked well as art. Plus, even if the history was scrambled a lot, it did create interest in Wallace and in Scotland’s history.

            Here’s a problem I face, and I see others newbies like me face, all the time: Nobody knows us; and so if we offer something to a reader that seems “wrong”, they have no reason to give us the benefit of the doubt. So when a character does something that seems odd to readers, they often think, “The writer is bad.”

            And in a based-on-history story, they might think the real person did have a reason for doing something, but “the bad writer” didn’t tell us. When in fact, maybe nobody knows the reason. Or maybe simply it was out of character for this real person.

            OTOH, if we were pro writers, maybe readers would think, “This pro writer didn’t tell me ‘why'; so, I guess nobody knows ‘why'; because, a pro write would tell me in his script if there is a ‘why’.”

            So if we can’t give readers a ‘why’ in that type of situation in the story, we can at least try to tell them, in effect, “We know we didn’t give you a ‘why’.” Of course, readers might still not like what we’ve written, but at least with what I’m suggesting, they know it’s not just some oversight on our part. They know we’ve made a choice.

            Anyway, I’m hoping you can find a way to write a script that’s both compelling and sticks rather close to history. In my experience seeing reactions of people to other writers’ scripts (i.e., not my own, so I think I’m being dispassionate here), sometimes there already is a good story on the page, but there are stumble-points that are keeping some readers from coming along for the ride. And if the writer can get rid of those; for example, find some way to inspire the reader to suspend disbelief just a bit more; then sometimes the writer can keep his/her story as is.

          • gonzorama

            I totally agree. It’s hard proving yourself as a writer when everything is subjective to the reader. Some things work for everyone while some readers miss huge chunks of the plot. It’s up to us to comb through the feedback and make the story as accessible as possible.
            Thanks!

          • brenkilco

            If you don’t provide a why you’re pictorializing an historical event,not dramatizing it. And you deserve to get pilloried even if you can cite a lack of consensus from historians. I have no idea what the real William Wallace was like and neither does the writer of Braveheart. The character is his Wallace. I have read that the big battle in Braveheart was in reality just a minor skirmish at a bridge. Maybe. Who knows? Who cares? When fashioning a dramatically satisfying story the preservation of historical accuracy should be way down the checklist.

          • Citizen M

            “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” – Mark Twain

            I agree with Igor. You can’t just say, “Well, that’s what happened.” You have to make it believable.

            Everyone acts rationally, but sometimes we don’t know what is going on in someone’s head and they seem to be acting irrationally. If we understood better what their thought processes were we would come to the same conclusion they do. It is the task of the writer to help us see why they did what they did.

          • brenkilco

            Have to admit that as a general rule I avoid movies based on true stories. Assume I’m either going to get a poorly contrived Hollywood tale far removed from actual events or else something more accurate which winds up full of loose ends and lacking resolution. Real life after all doesn’t feature convenient dramatic arcs or satisfying closure. If you come upon an interesting historical incident, take what’s most interesting about it and fictionalize it. You’ll be better off.

          • Nate

            ”If you come upon an interesting historical incident, take what’s most interesting about it and fictionalize it.”

            That’s what I’m doing with a period script I’m currently working on. It’s sort of an alternate history story.

            It’s about a former soldier turned conman / fighter in late 19th century London who is recruited by the Queen to stop a secret organisation from assassinating her. The story and characters are fictional because I realised I couldn’t tell the story I wanted to if the characters were based on real people.
            So instead what I’ve done is twisted history a little bit to fit the story.
            Queen Victoria and her husband survived an assassination attempt. She survived six more attempts on her life. The story is based around the idea that a secret organisation wanted her dead so one of her fictional relatives could claim the throne.
            The way I’ve written it twists history in a way that allows me to write the story how I want. So in my story, the first assassination attempt claims the lives of her husband and her first child. Later on, Queen Victoria has a relationship with her companion, John Brown, and had another daughter with him, who grows up to be the next Queen (the one who the story is based around).
            It’s a tricky tightrope to walk because it could potentially piss a lot of people off because even though it’s fictional, it’s still based around real people and events that happened. I mean killing Queen Victoria’s entire immediate family actually kills off the royal family as we know it. That could end up harming the script.
            I’m still gonna write it, but I’m gonna have to do it in a way that stays close to reality as possible but keeps it from becoming too real if you know what I mean.

          • brenkilco

            Sounds intriguing. After Inglorious Basterds, it seems like audiences will buy anything. Not just a twisting of history but even an alternate reality. Steam punk scifi warps victorian England every which way.Of course killing off Victoria’s kids is pretty nervy. If they don’t survive they don’t procreate and there’s no Kaiser Wilhelm so maybe no WW I, and no Nicholas and Alexandra so maybe no Russian Revolution.

          • Nate

            Cheers, mate. When I first read about one of the most powerful women in history surviving seven attempts on her life, I immediately thought it would be a good concept for a film.
            And killing off Victoria’s kids is something that I was hesitant to do at first, but I realised that if I wanted to tell the story, I had to take a risk.

        • Sullivan

          Then it is up to you as the writer to convince us that it IS within the character to do whatever happened in reality. Just saying in happened isn’t enough–it has to be believable. So in reality, WHY did it happen? Did the character just go nuts at some point? If so, we need to see that.

          • ArabyChic

            I couldn’t agree more. If you’re getting notes from people saying they think your character is acting in a way that isn’t believable it’s because you haven’t given them the proper keys to understand your characters’ actions. A biopic is just like every other screenplay — just because it all really happened doesn’t mean you don’t have to craft a complete character to explain WHY it all happened. In some ways it’s harder because you have to make sense of these actions and tie them all back to a central arc. You have to create emotional sense out of chaos. I think it’s a cop out to say the fault lies with the reader

        • Altius

          Thanks for your comments, gonzorama, and congrats on having a script that has garnered a lot of positive response as well!

          Go history :)

          • gonzorama

            Congrats to you – for getting reviewed and for the [X] Worth the read!

    • Nate

      ”I also think it was a good choice that he didn’t even get the opportunity to say goodbye to Taya. To me this makes it even more sad than having her die in his arms or something like that.”
      I really dislike it when a supporting character dies in the arms of the protagonist or vice versa. It just feels too clean and you can feel the writer’s presence. Real life is never like that. When someone we care about dies it’s so unexpected, so sudden and we rarely get a chance to have one final chat with them before they go.
      Kyle Reese’s death in The Terminator wouldn’t have had the same impact if he died in Sarah Connor’s arms. Whereas Trinity’s death in The Matrix Revolution would’ve had a bigger impact if she died before saying goodbye to Neo.
      I think there’s a few exceptions though. I remember reading about Lethal Weapon 2 and how Riggs was originally supposed to die in Murtaugh’s arms at the end. I think that would have been one exception where it would feel ”right” so to speak.

    • Altius

      Thanks for your comments, Patrick! You have some good points and things we’ll definitely be discussing together.

      And yes, we thought it much more tragic for sure to find Taya already dead than allow Barabbas to say goodbye…never even entered our thoughts to do it any other way :)

  • leitskev

    Wow, this looks like a really interesting story. I’m a history guy and I have always been fascinated by the idea of turning points where things could have gone in a totally different direction if one small thing had changed. I have to check this out later.

    I do want to comment on the dialogue problem Carson referred to – I completely sympathize. When you do a period piece like this where English would not even have been the language spoken, how do you add color to the dialogue? I’m sure it’s possible, but man it’s hard. I’ve been there, having recently written a WWII period piece which takes place in Italy and Germany. I mean you can’t use Diablo Cody type dialogue here. It’s a daunting challenge, and whatever you do, it will be wrong for someone. I’d love to hear if anyone has suggestions for this.

    • Randy Williams

      I’m sure in every age they had colorful expressions for things, didn’t they? “The cat’s meow” Isn’t that from the 1920’s? You also have class distinctions. Then a world view vs. a narrow view. Gender, females can speak from the heart and a male from the groin.
      You have speech impediments or someone who measures their words like lead weights.
      Insults must have been around since cavemen. What better way to color period dialogue?

      • leitskev

        Yes, but the problem is making it sound authentic. How does one say “word to your momma” in 30 AD Roman Palestine? No doubt they had expressions of their own, in Aramaic, not English. It’s hard for us to know.

        You’re right, some things are universal. It’s just hard to make it convincing. They do a nice job in Gladiator. No real attempt to colorize the language is made. Not a lot of humor, only one scene that I can recall(the poison scene when they’re eating). It can be done, but readers have to be aware that the dialogue is unlikely to jump of the page.

        • Randy Williams

          I think taking the physical geography of the location, their homes, the clothes and shoes they wore, their everyday utensils, their recent history, you can make assumptions they would use these things to color their language as we do.

          To answer your question, “Your momma wears locust chewed sandals”

          • leitskev

            lol

        • Linkthis83

          Commandment to she who birthed thee.

          -Link

        • Ange Neale

          Counsel thy mother?

    • Ange Neale

      Apart from making use of regional dialects and accents, or checking idiom on google ngram, I can’t add anything. Ngram only reaches back to around 1800 AD. While it’s great for WWII (along with the archives of ‘Life’ and ‘Time’ and a whole bunch of primary sources like letters), Ngram is no help for 30 AD.

      First and second century historians like Tacitus and Suetonius would give an author a sense of speech patterns for (approximately) contemporary Romans, but unless one’s reading the original Latin, these’d hardly be literal translations into English. As far as Aramaic vernacular goes, my only suggestion would be to look to the New Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls — again, these’d be translations, though.

      • Jim Dandy

        Ange, I’d be very wary of basing dialogue on any texts from history. Writing was undertaken by an educated elite who did not necessarily reflect ordinary speech patterns of the time. Almost every culture in history had two forms of language – one of the ruling elites (royalty, government, priests) and one for everyone else. The language of the elites is the one which survived because it was used for recording important things.

        I studied Latin at high school (“amo, amas, amat” – LOL), and I was always struck by its rigidity and formality. It never rolls off the tongue. Apparently Romans spoke a bastardized, less formal style of Latin for everyday use. This vulgar Latin formed the basis of the romance languages such as Italian and Spanish. High status Romans who were educated by Greek slaves spoke Hellenistic Greek, which is a truly beautiful language. It’s a bit like modern educated Indians speaking English for work, then speaking Hindi at home and with friends.

        The great thing about the Roman Empire was that it was a melting-pot of nationalities. You could get away with any type of dialogue in a screenplay on the basis of the characters’ origins and travels.

        • Ange Neale

          Oh, thanks for that correction, Jim.
          Hard to believe it’s actually not that many generations ago that most people were illiterate.
          Ancient history’s a subject I’ve never gotten around to researching as exhaustively as I’d like.
          Alas, so many interesting subjects, too little time.

        • ThomasBrownen

          Amo, Amas, Amat, Amamus, Amatis, Amant.

          Phew! I can’t believe I still remember that! Hope it’s right….

    • Casper Chris

      Hmm, let’s see…

      STEP 1: Create characters with strong personalities
      Carson makes a good point about dialogue-friendly characters. Once you conceive of a character, you begin to think of this character in a certain way. Perhaps you consciously or subconsciously base the personality of this character on a person from your life. This personality then informs your choices for dialogue for this particular character (that’s why some writers talk about their characters “speaking on their own” and them, the writers, just transcribing what they say onto the page). You have an idea of what would and what wouldn’t come out of this character’s mouth based on his or her “personality”. The character seems to “come alive”. The problem arises when you set up your story with too many boring or “dialogue-unfriendly” personalities. Writing colorful dialogue (“dialogue with personality”) for these characters is going to be a struggle. It’s going to be… against their personalities. In general, the traits you should be looking for are assertive, opinionated, witty, confrontaional etc. as opposed to meek, humble, introverted, non-confrontational etc..

      STEP 2: Create characters with clashing/contrasting personalities
      But creating characters with “strong personalities” is rarely enough on its own. Now you need to look at your cast as a whole and make sure there are clashing personalities. This is not just about their innate personality traits, but about their convictions and life philosophies, the things that shape and inform them as individuals. And in fact, even between characters which are on the same side of the protagonist-antagonist field, you’d ideally want a bit of good ol’ clashing. In Gladiator, for instance, we get brilliant exchanges of dialogue between same-siders because of small variations in personality and outlook:

      Maximus and Quintus (general and general second-in-command):
      - Quintus: Soldier! I told you o move those catapults forward. They’re out of range.
      – Maximus: Range is good.
      – Quintus: The danger to the cavalry…
      – Maximus: Is acceptable. Agreed?

      Gracchus and Falco (Roman senators):
      - Gracchus: He enters Rome like a conquering hero. But what has he conquered?
      – Falco: Give him time, Gracchus. He’s young, he may do very well.
      – Gracchus: For Rome? Or for you?

      Maximus and the senators:
      – Falco: Where do you stand, General? Emperor or Senate?
      – Maximus: A soldier has the advantage of being able to look his enemy in the eye, Senator.
      – Gaius: Well, with an army behind you, you could be extremely political.

      While these characters are not in an antagonistic relationship, small contrasts in their personalities and outlooks make for some interesting and memorable exchanges that also give us insight into who they are.

      STEP 3: Create “dialogue-friendly situations”
      These are often situations with conflict (in comedy it’s situations that lend themselves to… comedy) . Writing great dialogue (great dialogue is usually colorful) is so much easier when there’s conflict. So now that you’ve created, hopefully, characters with strong personalities and characters with clashing/contrasting personalities, you need to create situations where you can capitalize on this. That means not only bringing the contrasting characters together, affording their interaction (the immediate situation), but also having a larger situation (in the above cases, a war, a turbulent political scene and a transfer of sovereignty) that ignites their differences, brings them to the surface and crystallizes, in the mind of the viewer, their respective personalities. It’s in the interaction with other clashing/contrast personalities, that the individual characters come into their own, become individuals so to speak (as opposed to pieces of cardboard).

      The tricky part, of course, is that these situations must also be in service of the larger story so often times that means looking for these situations within the story you’ve already delineated. Look for ways to bring your characters together in exciting ways.

      In Braveheart (I’m going off on a slight tangent here), we have an interesting situation with William Wallace, Robert The Bruce and the latter’s father. Wallace and the father never interact indirectly, but their strong personalities and conflicting views still clash ferociously inside Robert who’s caught between a rock and a hard place (should he join Wallace in revolt against the English and win the favor of the people but risk losing his life or should he play it safe and look after the interests of the Scottish nobility at the expense of the people?).

      William and Robert’s father are both men with strong convictions as the following lines are testaments to:

      William: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

      Robert’s father: “Uncompromising men are easy to admire. He has courage; so does a dog. But it is exactly the ability to *compromise* that makes a man noble.”

      While the instant appeal of William’s statement is not lost on us, there’s some truth to Robert’s father’s belief that “even dogs have courage” and as we realize that courage may not ultimately be what defines a man, we understand Robert’s predicament all the better.

      I think these are often the best situations. Ambiguous situations.Situations where there is a little bit of truth to both sides. We become engrossed when the opposing sides can speak their opposing convictions and both sound convincing. It adds credence and resonance to the story. That the bad guys are not just bad for badness’s sake.

      STEP 4: Be creative in your execution
      As we all know, on-the-nose dialogue is bad and subtext is good. Just knowing that should push us to be more creative (admittedly, sometimes you need a character to enunciate their feelings and sometimes it can even result in a great scene, e.g. Commodus talking to his father about virtues).

      But you can do many things to add a bit of flair (examples from Gladiator):

      Go against convention/expectation:
      - Commudus: Why doesn’t the hero reveal himself and tell us all your real name? You do have a name.
      – Maximus: My name is Gladiator.

      Use allegory/metaphor:
      - Falco: I have been told of a certain sea snake which has a very unusual method of attracting its prey. It will lie at the bottom of the ocean as if wounded. Then its enemies will approach, and yet it will lie quite still. And then its enemies will take little bites of it, and yet it remains still.
      – Commodus: So, we will lie still, and let our enemies come to us and nibble. Have every senator followed.

      Use metonymy:
      -Gracchus: The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it’s the sand of the Colosseum.

      Strategic use of strong language:
      Proximo: I am Proximo! I shall be closer to you for the next few days, which will be the last of your miserable lives, than that bitch of a mother who first brought you screaming into this world! I did not pay good money for your company. I paid it so that I might profit from your death.

      Strategic use of humor:/
      [as an executioner tries to draw his sword but can’t]
      – Maximus: The frost, it sometimes makes the blade stick.
      [kills the executioner]

      Foreshadowing via subtext
      - Commodus: If you’re very good, tomorrow night I’ll tell you the story of emperor Claudius who was betrayed by those closest to him, by his own blood. They whispered in dark corners and went out late at night and conspired and conspired but the emperor Claudius knew they were up to something. He knew they were busy little bees. And one night he sat down with one of them and he looked at her and he said, “Tell me what you’ve been doing busy little bee or I shall strike down those dearest to you. You shall watch as I bathe in their blood.” And the emperor was heartbroken. The little bee had wounded him more deeply than anyone else could ever have done. And what do you think happened then, Lucius?
      – Lucius: I don’t know, uncle.
      – Commodus: The little bee told him everything.

      The clever conceit (write your dialogue in a way that makes it sound more clever than it is):
      Ultimately, we’re all dead men. Sadly, we cannot choose how but, what we can decide is how we meet that end, in order that we are remembered, as men.

      Use alliteration, rhythm, rhyme/near-rhyme (non-Gladiator)
      “Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.”
      (from the famous Blade Runner monologue)

      The x-factor (dialogue that is awesome simply because)
      Maximus: Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead. Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity!

      I’m sure there’s many more… feel free to add to the list.

      • Jarman Alexander

        Amazing breakdown. For those who aren’t born with it, this is how it’s done.

      • bex01

        Awesome breakdown! Also now I just really want to go watch Gladiator again

  • Randy Williams

    I really like Carson’s suggestion that there be an overwhelming need for Barabbas to die from someone. Their whole world should be pulled out from under them that Jesus was chosen instead. Yeah, it’s a cool reveal who Barabbas is but then the choice that saved him was already predestined, so they say. It’s always nice to balance one emotion with the other. Our surprise with the discovery of who he is with the devastating blow of who he stays.

    It’s like the Titanic sunk, but a scientist on board had the cure for cancer on board in a petri dish. His lover is waiting at port when the news hits. Frail and pale from weeks of chemo, crumbles to the salty planks.

    Screw history.

    • BSBurton

      Great post, couldn’t agree more!

    • ElectricDreamer

      Tough narrative nut to crack.
      Essentially, you need to manufacture is a biblical Salieri type.

      Someone that hates Barabbas as much as the aforementioned loathed Amadeus.
      That’s a great character dynamic, but quite a challenge to nail.
      Something like that could steer the viewer away from the historical facts.
      Anyone knowing history would see the tragic trajectory of Bible Salieri.

    • Brainiac138

      I agree. I think Carson’s scenario would really elevate the last third of this script, especially if there was an escalating conflict between Barabbas and Pilot.

  • BSBurton

    Congrats to the writers, it’s clear you’ve put a lot of work into the script! What’s the next step for this project?

    • Altius

      Hey BSBurton, we’re not sure what’s coming next for it. Coincidentally enough, though, I’m working with a producer on another project, whose first film he ever worked on as an accountant was the 1961 Barabbas film with Anthony Quinn. When he heard I’d written a Barabbas script he couldn’t believe it, and has requested the script. So we’ll see!

      • BSBurton

        Congrats, that’s awesome! How much time did you spend on research for this project? Just curious

        • Altius

          Thanks. I have no idea, honestly…I did have the luxury of having a Bible scholar on speed-dial, though, so we always had a resource for quick questions!

  • Nicholas J

    Want to know how to write great dialogue for a story like this?

    Watch Spartacus: Blood And Sand. Subtext, subtext everywhere. The style of dialogue from that period is made for it.

    • ripleyy

      “Cut circle with straight line” will forever be a personal favourite of mine. The imaginative, creative dialogue in that show was just…outstanding. I’m glad someone brought it up because I was going to suggest the show as well.

      • Nicholas J

        Sounds familiar but I can’t place that line, what scene is it from?

        I love anything with Batiatus talking to any of the higher ups. They almost never mean what they say.

        • ripleyy

          It was in the third season (of fourth, if you include “war of the damned”) and it was Gaius speaking to someone, I can’t remember who. At least, I think it was Gaius. Pretty sure it is.

          • Nicholas J

            Oh, I’m nowhere near that far yet.

          • ripleyy

            Whereabouts are you? Are you still in “Blood and Sand”? I really liked that one. I skipped “War of the Damned”, though. I keep meaning to watch it.

          • Nicholas J

            Just the first season. To be honest I’m not sure I’ll like watching a new actor, I really liked Andy Whitfield and get pretty depressed when I think about what happened with him. Also my wife doesn’t like watching it and I’ve heard it declines after that season.

            I’ll get around to watching more though eventually. I really like that time period. I’ll have to give today’s script a shot when I get the time.

          • ripleyy

            I think it improves, and the new actor is good I think. He had a really hard act to follow, but he definitely delivers. I never knew about Andy Whitfield until I finished the first season. Really sad to see him go. I would say keep at it, but I can also understand that it’s not for everybody (it’s ridiculously violent) but the story is exceedingly good, especially from the new seasons onward.

          • charliesb

            Andy was the best. By then end of the first season, I felt like i lived a full life with that character. Every high and low…

            The second season is unfortunately not as good, and I didn’t have the same “feels” for Liam as I did for Andy. But I really really loved (and recommend) the third season. Liam was a lot better and Crassus is fantastic.

  • ElectricDreamer

    “What if, for example, Barabbas had to go out on some recruiting trips
    into the surrounding cities? If we built up certain meetings with city
    leaders he would have to win over in order to receive their soldiers,
    that’d be one way to keep the story dynamic.”

    I dig the thinking behind this comment in regards to set pieces…
    Building set pieces around meetings of characters with conflicting goals.
    It’s not about the size of the explosions, it’s about the size of the personal conflict.
    All the spiffy spectacle is the consequences of two opposing forces meeting.
    This also builds up anticipation of your hero and villain having their first face time.

    • bex01

      Really good point. I think this is a great suggestion from Carson to make the film feel ‘bigger’ – that was my main issue with the script, that we seemed to be stuck in the one place for too long. And reading others’ comments, it sounds like the writers might have quite a bit of leeway in regards to facts about Barabbas’ life? If so, I think there’s no reason this shouldn’t happen. It would also give us a greater feel for the people he is fighting for, to see him interacting with and being amongst them, instead of hiding out in the mountains the majority of the time

  • S_P_1

    When it comes to AOW I go sci-fi first and all other genres next. I read all of Broken at 96 pages. I read part of the The Sorcerer and abandoned it. I started reading Barabbas and couldn’t put it down. The 114 pages of Barabbas read much faster than the 96 pages of Broken. I was surprised at how quickly I was reading through the story and I believe the main contributing factor is the confidence in the writers approach. The last time I believed in the writers delivery was Marlowe. This story, this time period I knew nothing about other than it was a biblical story. The early lead ins tipped me off that Jesus may be inferred or involved when the preferred method of execution is crucifixion.
    Is this script as technically flawless as Marlowe – no. Is this script as engaging as Marlowe – Yes. The beginning of the script with the talk of wineskins, tool satchels and brick slings drew me into this textured biblical universe. It let me know the writers had command of the story. The story of Barabbas is completely unfamiliar to me so I didn’t know until the very end was this a fictional character or a real character in a fictionalized setting.
    The attitudes and mores of the characters I bought into because of the time period they were living in. People weren’t jaded and calloused to violence as they are now. I felt their responses were sincere in having to ignore the man hanging on the crucifix with the roman soldiers nearby, similar to black people having to ignore a lynching with the klu klux klan standing present. Their outrage of having the temple robbed also rang true similar to the fire bombings of black churches during jim crow.
    I didn’t believe Barabbas had an hidden agenda to secretly want to rebel. Because of the Roman occupation and the murder of his friend Nathaniel he was bound by the Laws of the Old Testament – An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. In that time period I believe a man’s words carried more gravitas in what was being said.
    A surprising twist to the story (not a spoiler) is that the Pharisees weren’t the bad guys initially. All Israelites were equal pre-Jesus sermons.
    Now to jump into the heart of the story. None of the people surrounding Barabbas were warriors. The open conversation of warring against the Romans brought the Egyptian warrior Ammon into the fold. Whose motivation wasn’t out a sense of obligation but as an opportunity to strike a mutual enemy.
    If this script were to be produced. I easily see the supporting character Ammon and later Scaro winning awards for their performances. My only complaint with Ammon is the description of him being Arabic. Ancient Egyptians were African. Modern Egyptians are Arabic.
    The script now falls into conventional storytelling. This isn’t where the 2nd Act falters.
    Barabbas trains and recruits. The introduction of Levi’s wife Taya into the guerrilla mountain camp is the beginning of the end for Barabbas. Barabbas had been caught several times before staring lustfully at Levi’s wife. He was warned by Ammon to seek a wife of his own.
    Ammon further trains and hones the group of resistant fighters for their first real encounter. Due to early successes Barabbas gains false bravado. Because of this bravado he gains a false entitlement to Levi’s wife. They eventually succumb to lust. Everyone in the camp suspected it but it wasn’t officially confirmed until the Pharisee Melech discovers the adultery. The penalty for adultery for women is being stoned to death.
    Prior to Taya being killed, Barabbas brother David was being persuaded by the teachings of Jesus of non-violence. Scaro the top roman soldier was determined to succeed above all costs in his personal vendetta against Barabbas and Ammon. The Pharisee Melech was losing the power of religious influence due to the teachings of Jesus.
    All elements build to a satisfying climax.
    The script does have a few grammatical and spelling errors. The two biggest negatives for me were using modern day curse words and phrases, and the implication that ancient Egyptians were Arabic.
    [ ] Pass [ ] Consider [X] Recommend [ ] Strong Recommendation
    Although not as strongly woven as Marlowe this is my second favorite AF script for 2014.
    Good job. Very entertaining read.

    • S_P_1

      Hmm something happened to the spaces between the paragraphs.

    • Citizen M

      There’s a lot of argument about the ethnicity of Egyptians. “It is now largely agreed that Dynastic Egyptians [3,000 BC onwards] were indigenous to the Nile area. About 5,000 years ago, the Sahara area dried out, and part of the indigenous Saharan population retreated east towards the Nile Valley. In addition, peoples from the Middle East entered the Nile Valley, bringing with them wheat, barley, sheep, goats, and possibly cattle.” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_race_controversy

      Some of the Pharaohs in this period were black Africans. In 300 BC the Ptolemies (Macedonian Greeks) took over leadership after Alexander the Great conquered the region. In 30 BC Octavian defeated mark Anthony and annexed Egypt to Rome.

      • S_P_1

        I’ve read on the migration pattern in that region of when the black African went further south because of drought conditions. When was the period of BC and AD acknowledged? Even after Christ was born and died the record of time keeping didn’t reflect BC or AD. So to gage exactly when Middle Eastern Arabs occupied Egypt is hard to pinpoint in the context of biblical historical record keeping.

        If this script were made into a movie and all the Egyptians were Arabic I would still see it and more than likely enjoy it. I saw Stargate they implied ancient Egyptians were outer space aliens. I still enjoyed the movie for the most part.

        Speculation of ancient civilizations will always leave room for debate. Nobody knows with absolute certainty even with artifacts left behind.

        • Citizen M

          Egyptian dates are known fairly precisely because of the records of the various dynasties and cross-checking with accurately dated events.

          I agree that Egyptians are not Arabs. “Egyptians generally do not identify themselves as ethnic Arabs and still retain numerous pre-Arab cultural traditions that date back to ancient Egypt”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_of_North_Africa

    • Altius

      Hey S_P_1, what page are you referring to where we describe Ammon as Arabic? I don’t believe that word is found anywhere in the script…so it’s puzzling me!

      Thanks for your extensive feedback. We appreciate the time you took to read and respond in such depth.

      • S_P_1

        Hey Altius, I was referring to this character description.

        Pg. 14
        Nearby, an olive-skinned man of god-like physique and wary
        demeanor watches the stonemasons as their blood rises. This
        is AMMON (30), an Egyptian warrior. Hawk-like gaze.

        Going by the people living in that region at the time your choices are darker complexion Africans or olive complexion Arabs to be ancient Egyptians.

        My Chaldean neighbors are olive skinned so it was easy for me to infer that ancient Egyptian Ammon is being described as Arabic.

        I know some of you will say Chaldeans identify themselves as Catholic first and of Arabic descent second. That’s another debate.

  • ThomasBrownen

    Congrats Parker and Paul on the [x] worth the read! I hope we continue to hear good things about you guys!

  • Charlestoaster

    I haven’t read the script but after reading Carson’s suggestion of giving Jesus’ philosophy a larger role makes perfect sense to me if you want to sell this really fast. This year alone we had Noah, Son of God, and three other Christian related films all of which made (Domestically or globally). But either way congrats on getting a Worth The Read!

  • darren

    Well done guys. The writing is certainly better than most. But I agreed with Sawyer, the opening was DOA and dreadfully cliched. And for some reason I kept thinking this was Noah’s story with the amount of Sheep and goats driving the action. Worst of all Barrabas was a plank of wood. One decent line of dialogue, but other than that, zero expectation except The Rock with a skull-cap.

    Thuggish Romans, set-upon Jews, crucifictions, strong silent hero, mixed bag of associates. And a meet-cute better done in the 1980’s Hercules serials. Dialogue was also hit and miss and exposition heavy, with styles varying wildly and some real clunkers (“A little warning next time” in 30 AD?). And Inciting incident bang on page 15.

    Throw away the rules and cliches guys. Dig deeper. Give us a lead character with a flaw, maybe a few problems. Unless you want us to just sit back and expect Jew-hem. I would have loved to have seen a version of that opening scene where Barrabas defended a lone Roman against an attack by his countrymen, against Nathaniel and David’s expectations (An officer from the Aquaduct?). Instant valuable conflict, deeper character. Morally complex, but still principled.

    Maybe have a Llama at the Market. Spice that shit up. Everyone loves a Llama. tasty fuckers.

    • Ange Neale

      Minor problem with the llamas: they’re from South America, and ‘Barrabas’ is set in the Middle East. Almost fifteen centuries separated this story and European discovery that such beasts existed.
      Did you mean camels perhaps?

      • darren

        Sure Ange. Camels. There ya go. Hope that helps your brain relax. Or a Koala. Mate.

        • Ange Neale

          Mysterious, isn’t it, how there’s no mention whatsoever in Genesis before or after the Flood story of llamas, anteaters, sloths, koalas, kangaroos, black swans, giant pandas, orang-utans, coyotes, bison or anything else that wasn’t known to the ancient Israelites, yet they all somehow managed to survive inundaition.
          Must’ve had someone like Nemo cheering them on: ‘Keep swimming! Keep swimming!’

          • Linkthis83

            I’ve posted this before, but I love it. So I post again!

            Jim Jefferies on religion. He does a bit about Noah that starts at 7:11 if that is all you want to see :) Also, when he addresses pandas, that is hilarious as well:

            “You put me in a cage with anything. ANYTHING! And after a week I’ll fuck it.” -JJ

          • Ange Neale

            Thanks for this, Link! Hilarious. Profane, but funny as f*$k.

    • Altius

      Thanks for your comments, darren. No llamas, but we appreciate your thoughts :)

  • drifting in space

    Everyone knows this has already been made into a movie, right?

    Edit: they are slightly different, yes. But still, tough sell. I’ll give it a read because I have a similar story I’m noodling.

    • klmn

      Yes, but did you know Ayatollah Khomeini used to front a hair metal band?

      • Ange Neale

        Called ‘No Fun Intended’?

    • Poe_Serling

      Saw this the other day, and I couldn’t help but think of you and your avatar.

      http://blog.modernmechanix.com/robot-with-mechanical-brain-thinks-up-story-plots/

      I hope I just didn’t expose one of your screenwriting secrets. ;-)

      • drifting in space

        SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! ;)

      • Linkthis83

        Are you sure Drifting isn’t an Automatron?

        http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/vjx234/computerized-automatron

        • drifting in space

          With the million ideas I have and little writing I’ve done, it could be true.

        • Poe_Serling

          No, I’m pretty certain that he’s a leftover android from the now defunct Delos amusement park. ;-)

          • Linkthis83

            “Westworld is a 1973 science fiction western-thriller film”

            Had to look that up. This movie is only missing a few more genres for a clean sweep :)

          • Poe_Serling

            If you haven’t seen it already, you definitely should check it out. Still a lot of fun… in a ’70s sorta way.

            Directed and written by Michael “Jurassic Park’ Crichton.

    • Sebastian Cornet

      You write period pieces, as well? I considered it for a while, but I was afraid there wouldn’t be much demand for it so I decided to turn what little I had into a novel instead.

      For my screenwriting class we had to pitch our ideas in front of everybody, and the instructor kind of cringed when two people (one after the other, no less) pitched historical pieces.

      • drifting in space

        One is a historical piece and another is a retelling of a historically classic story.

    • Altius

      Hey drifting in space, this has not been made into a movie before, I assure you :) There are other movies about Barabbas, but none of them tell this story, nor do the books that have been written about him.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I have not yet read the script. But, Carson, I’ve now read your review twice-through.

    And this is certainly one of your best reviews ever. That is – best-considered, best-written.

    You’re clearly pulling for this script – and even more, in some ways, for these writers – but in a way that’s entirely sober, and without glossing over the challenges of the script in its present form. Indeed, the feeling I get from this review is an amazing earnestness on your part.

    Re: Casper Cris’ comments. I agree with his side-by-side (in this specific instance, and as a teaching-example). And your quoting it here is one more sign of your determination to help the writers make the most of this script.

    Of course… once I read the script, I might think differently. But even if I then disagree on this or that point, I think my overall opinion will stay the same. This review gets an “impressive”.

    • carsonreeves1

      Thanks, Igor. :)

  • Poe_Serling

    I haven’t seen that script bouncing around anywhere. You could always try the writer: Gary Hawkins. He’s currently a filmmaking instructor at Duke University. I’m pretty sure you can find his email address in the school’s faculty director.

  • brenkilco

    I had some small problems with the script when I read the first part last week. Chiefly the dialogue which varies uncertainly between formal and colloquial, and is often jarringly anachronistic. And when it’s formal it doesn’t come within a mile of the literate, aphoristic dialogue found in the best ancient epics like Ben Hur and Spartacus. But now that I’ve finished the script I have to confess I’m much more troubled by not knowing exactly what the story was. OK the narrative is clear enough. Barrabus becomes a rebel, kills some Romans, cheats with a friends, wife, murders for revenge, gets sold out by some of his own and luckily avoids crucifixion. But what are we to make of the ending. Has he somehow been magically converted to christianity in the last five pages of the script? Has he forsworn violence? Will he continue fighting the Romans? Has he forgiven those who stoned his lover? The film Barrabus started with the crucifixion and the protagonist’s transformation was the story. Here the protagonist starts angry and certain and ends angry and confused. I didn’t find the ending at all satisfying. The tension between christian pacifism and the proper response to social oppression could have made for an interesting theme but was sort of left hanging.

  • Citizen M

    I’m still reading, but I see nearly every line of dialogue has been tweaked compared to the AOW version of the script. I think it’s much better now. Just the right blend of archaic and conversational.

    • ElectricDreamer

      Same issue. I almost cracked open Barabbas(1).
      Only to find out that Barabbas(4) has gotten the AF treatment.

  • S_P_1

    Pg. 4
    ROMAN THUG
    You fucking parasite. I gave you
    the chance to welcome us, and you
    try to cheat us out of our dinner.
    Don’t you know that all of this
    land belongs to Rome? And
    everything on it?

    Ignore the obvious and lets look at the word parasite. Is that something the ancient world would know about. The phrasing of that put down is too modern. If the thug had said “Hebrew jackal” that would be more tonally inline with the time period.

    Pg. 9
    NATHANIEL
    How about we sacrifice a
    moneychanger instead?

    Moneychanger sounds anachronistic. Merchant sounds far more appropriate. Did Rome allow any currency to circulate other their own?

    Pg. 13
    BARABBAS
    Their fucking aqueduct can wait.

    The tone again is too modern.

    Pg. 15
    NATHANIEL
    (to Marcellus)
    You rob God’s people! Your mother
    must have been fucked by swine.

    You steal the sacrifices from the sons and daughters of Abraham.
    This would convey outrage and be more in tone.

    Honestly I don’t know when the famous 7 curse words from George Carlin came into circulation. To me the absolute worst thing you could say to a person back then would be “Burn in Hell”. Even the Romans had a concept of Heaven and Hell so it would carry meaning to anyone it was addressed to.

    I stayed with the story despite those multiple misgrievances there were more I didn’t list. I think the best person qualified would be an orthodox historian of the Torah and Koran to give an insight closer to the harsh language they may have used.

    • witwoud

      Well, a couple of these pass muster…

      Parasite — from Latin parasitus or Greek parisitos, ‘One who lives at another’s expense.’

      Moneychanger — And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves

      But I agree with your general point. Even the most common swear words like ‘fucking’ just sound wrong in this context.

      • S_P_1

        Moneychanger doesn’t sound like a person giving change. It sounds like a person exchanging two different currencies. That implication sounds modern even if it was used during those times.

        If the writers had used the word parasite. I wouldn’t have gave it a second thought.

        But I agree with your general point. Even the most common swear words like ‘fucking’ just sound wrong in this context.

        Yeah we’re on the same page.

    • Citizen M

      Currencies in those days were coins whose value depended on the metal content and were interchangeable. They didn’t have fiat currencies like today with central banks manipulating the value.

      I thought the Romans were much more likely to call the Israelites backwards, or uneducated, or primitive, or uncivilized, rather than parasites. After all, it is clearly the Romans who are the parasites.

      I didn’t mind the use of “fuck”, but I thought it should be confined to the coarser elements of society or Roman soldiers. Barabbas himself shouldn’t use the term, because he’s a natural leader. It would be like Nelson Mandela swearing. (Maybe he did in private, but that’s not the image we have of him.)

      • S_P_1

        I honestly wished there was some document dating the first or original usage of the word “fuck”.

        • Citizen M

          I think the Romans spelled it FVCK ;o)

    • Kirk Diggler

      Maybe they should write the screenplay in Latin or Greek.

      Maybe they should have said “Your mother must have been cornholed by swine.”

      We can all relate to that in any time period.

      But seriously, there needs to be a little leeway when it comes to language. Asking the writers to limit their vocabulary based on notions of what you consider to be anachronistic phrases creates more problems than it solves. Was the word ‘fucked’ use in Roman times? Doubtful, but they certainly had a word that represented the same exact thing, and even if the writers knew what that word was it wouldn’t resonate or have any meaning for modern audiences.

      So ‘fucked it’ is. It works. It’s a coarse way to communicate and not many other words can adequately replace it.

    • gonzorama

      I also ran into this problem. Even though I knew they didn’t
      use the word in the 1840’s I chose to have one character exclaim:
      “Bullshit!”

      I ran other possibilities through my head, but “Horse apples!’, “Meadow muffins!”, “Piss water!” and “Dagnabbit!” just didn’t have the impact I was looking for. It’s another fine line that is crossed in historical dramas from time to time. Darn that Driftwood!

  • http://the-movie-nerd.com themovienerd

    Great spec. Thanks for sharing it.

    My problems all align with Carson’s. But the biggest?

    Jesus. The dichotomy and dual philosophies of your world needs to be strengthened. Yes, there is a power in waiting to show Jesus until the end. Hiding that egg, making the audience want it and thus keep reading/watching to get it. Absolutely something to be said for that. But a lot of your problems in the second act will be alleviated if you instead show us how these two philosophies rise simultaneously, via David and his relationship with Jesus and Joshua via his relationship with his army et al. Because right now you’re using Jesus as a crutch for yourself, to excuse a certain degree of short shrift-ing, to get us to the end, instead of using him as a living element in your story that is used to propel the story forward.

    The problem with “Jesus” as story element though, is that he’s one of those rare things that 80% of your audience is going to come into your movie with some kind of pre-concieved notion about. And you won’t fulfill two-thirds of them regardless of what you do. Just the fact that he exists in your story period is also going to turn off some segment of your potential audience depending on which you way go with it. You’ll either get the religious types and lose the nons, or visa versa. The middle ground imho really just doesn’t exist. And for such an epic, the story needs to be marketable to as many as possible. This, no matter what else you do, is this particular specs fatal flaw.

    The other problem, is your title. “Barabbas” means too little to too many. Just as “Braveheart” was not titled “Wallace,” you need to convey more with your title in this instance. Beyond that, it has been done–

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2535664/

    • S_P_1

      There was another glaring philosophical issue. Both Levi and Joshua were living and following the Laws of the Old Testament. What right did Joshua have in killing Levi? Levi acted in accordance to the Old Testament. Joshua was the direct cause of Levi killing Taya. If anything this is where David should have used the example of Jesus in the temple letting the adulteress go free because no one is free of sin.

      If the writers tell the most honest story possible the inclusion of Jesus shouldn’t diminish the overall movie. Its a story from the Bible so it will generate debate regardless.

      • Altius

        One of the writers here…I’m traveling today so won’t get to respond to most of these comments until this weekend, but you’ve made an attentive observation about the philosophical issue with killing Levi in retaliation. You’re right – Barabbas wasn’t acting in accordance with Jewish law by taking revenge. He had really become a man without law or code, ruled only by his destructive desires. David wouldn’t have condemned Taya, but he had so say in it as he didn’t even know what was happening.

        And the level of Jesus-inclusion is a tricky one. We wanted to tell a story about Barabbas, not about Jesus, though the two are inextricably linked. Though we want to make all of this stronger, so will be reconsidering the power of using the opposing philosophies as represented by those characters.

        • Poe_Serling

          Hey Altius-

          Thanks for sharing your work.

          Just curious – with Barabbas’s background being so sketchy, did you guys research any other resources (books, etc.) to fill in the missing gaps of his life?

          • Altius

            Hey Poe_Serling, thanks for checking it out!

            There’s reference to Barabbas in only one other place, I believe by Josephus the historian, but it adds almost nothing to the little that’s written of him in the gospels. I read two fiction books on Barabbas to know what’s been done before, make sure we weren’t treading similar ground, but both of those were based on his post-pardon life just as the movies have done. So our primary source was really just the history books. Understanding the time period, life under the Romans, the timeline of uprisings and retaliation, even the sacking of the temple to pay for the aqueduct was fact.

            Other than that, everything aside from the ending with Pilate and the crucifixion is entirely fiction.

        • S_P_1

          Congratulations on writing an entertaining script.

      • http://the-movie-nerd.com themovienerd

        It’s not about diminishing. And it’s really not about story per se. It’s about the crossover between the business of movies and storytelling choices.

        Jesus is a polarizing figure at best. That choice, making that choice to include Jesus as storytelling element, opens up a floodgate of possible horribles that have nothing to do with the choices made on the page, but rather market response to inclusion at all.

        In a modern world (i.e. not the 1959 world that no longer exists and saw the Quinn version), that degree of religious personhood being portrayed is going to be polarizing one way or the other. The line to toe is imho non-existant. The best you can hope for with the choice to make Jesus as character is a non-epic, character tale (see Passion of the Christ). Meaning including him as non-protag in your swords and sandal epic, you’re either writing a de facto made for tv movie like the Billy Zane version, or you’re going to piss off the biggest market for your film, ala Noah.

    • Poe_Serling

      As Andyjaxfl already mentioned, there’s also a 1961 version starring Anthony Quinn.
      Personally, I haven’t seen it, but the recent review in Film Comment magazine makes it sound like a film worth with searching out and giving it a spin.

      “Barabbas, a bona fide spectacle which includes a mine collapse,
      gladiatorial combats replete with lions and elephants, and Rome in
      flames…

      … its score and in almost every other regard, Barabbas is a very
      different approach to the Biblical epic, endeavoring to tell the story
      of early Christianity through the Life of Un-Christ.

      … Barabbas is ripe for reconsideration—the Greatest Story Ever Told has been Retold and Retold, but Barabbas brings it back from the dead.”

      • brenkilco

        Have never managed to sit through the whole thing. Except for a well done scene of gladiatorial combat between Quinn and Jack Palance nothing much else stands out. A big Cinecitta thing with poor dubbing, and the awful color- perhaps the result of poor preservation- makes it one of the ugliest films I’ve seen.

      • andyjaxfl

        The ’61 version is pretty outstanding and decidedly modern. Ever watch a movie from 50-plus years ago and it just seems overacted and flashy? The Quinn version is not that type of movie. It’s really something else. I think it’s on streaming Netflix and is worth the two hours. Hope you enjoy if you are able to catch it!

    • Altius

      Thanks themovienerd. The opposing philosophies is something to consider strengthening, especially via David’s transformation. We didn’t want to tell a story about Jesus, as this is Barabbas’ story, but it is a tricky thing to pull off, for sure. You say that middle ground doesn’t exist, but we want to create it, damnit!

      And yeah, thankfully the Billy Zane TV movie didn’t pull huge numbers, so probably didn’t spoil us for too many eyes ;) Comment about the title appreciated, though.

  • carsonreeves1

    Besides the dialogue, these are things I brought up in the notes. Applying feedback is its own monster. In some cases, the writers won’t agree with you. In others, they may try to address the issues but not go far enough. In the end, it’s the writer’s choice, and one of the things I was hoping for with this review was reinforcing some of these problems.

    Despite this, I still think the script is strong. For me, Barabbas was a mystery figure, someone I didn’t know. So when mentions of Jesus started making appearances in the script I was like, “Whoa. This just got interesting!” And when I found out that this man was placed up against Jesus and set free so that Jesus was crucified, I was blown away. I had no idea that happened. It’s just that the second act here is so tricky. It needs to be figured out.

    • Scott Chamberlain

      Carson – you’ve read and continue to read so many scripts. One article I’d be really interested to see – the five scripts/stories you hope to see but never do. You know, when you get that soul destroying “ye gods, not another buddy cop story” feeling, what do you really wish you were about to read…

      • pmlove

        I’m guessing the problem with reading so many scripts is that you end up filtering the story ideas into a few discrete categories that it becomes hard to imagine the thing you really want to see.

        What you really want is probably the thing you haven’t thought of (yet).

  • carsonreeves1

    I also want to say to Parker and Paul that I think opening with the detailing of the time and what’s going on REALLY helps. Great change.

  • Matthew Garry

    Congratulations to Paul and Parker for getting their script featured, and to Carson for recognising its value and a great analysis.

    I really think the writers have picked a winner with the concept and fleshed it out with many interesting plot devices throughout to create a compelling tragedy.

    The execution wasn’t always perfectly aligned with the story, but with the above article and the many reads and suggestions, it shouldn’t be too hard to fix.

    As for bringing in Jesus earlier/giving him more screentime: I wouldn’t advise it. Those who know what’s happening in the background will eagerly be looking forward to when and if he appears, and those who don’t will probably be pleasantly surprised as it falls into place. Either way, his appearance should have as much impact as possible, which makes me believe his historical appearance–as it is done now–is the perfect timing.

    I also think not writing your own dialogue for Jesus and just having him appear as is generally believed will go over a lot better than making him a character that you control. You can’t really have someone like him make a quick celebrity cameo appearance without it feeling like you’re pandering (unless your script is called “The Voices” and bowling is involved).

    I thought the ending was absolutely killer. There’s this almost palpable emptiness after the crucifixion, like nothing has changed in the world and everyone just died for no particular reason. Everything is over for Barabbas: God’s plan for him has failed. He has been betrayed and rejected and his fall has turned him into an animal consumed by hatred. And then Scaro walks by–the most hated character of the entire story–and asks himself, “What the hell have we just done?” Things *have* changed, and they will continue to change. It’s not very often I’ve seen a denouement add so much value to a story. It’s a bold choice but it really made the story stand out for me.

    So good job, and it was nice to see a tragedy take an AF slot for a change.

    • Altius

      Matthew, thank you for your feedback! Your last paragraph especially reminds us why we write. You got it and articulated it back to us in a way that’s profoundly rewarding and encouraging. We went with what we considered a difficult ending, but one that resonated with us on a fine line of darkness and hope.

      Your thoughts on the non-speaking appearance of Jesus are exactly why we made the choices we did. We didn’t want him to bowl over the entire story with his presence, and we didn’t want to write dialogue for him, but we wanted to thread the reality of his existence/impact in that region through the story to pay it off in the end. We have gotten several calls to see more of him, though, and it’s something we’re going to consider going back to with the finest of scalpels…

      You’re also the first person to call it a tragedy, which I guess it is, in many ways. We appreciate that :)

  • Malibo Jackk

    The biggest question I have is — Do the studios need this script?
    If they want to make a Barabbas movie, all they have to do is call in
    a number of pro writers, have them pitch their ideas, and choose
    the one they like best.

    A few years back, John Templeton (of Templeton Mutual Funds) made available
    $100,000,000 for the making of movies with heavy Christian themes.

    As a result, numerous small companies began looking for scripts.
    Don’t know if any of the funding is still available, but if it was they would want
    to see more Jesus — less Braveheart.
    And the production would lean to low quality — bad.
    In this case, the question might be — Do you want your first effort to be third rate?

    • Somersby

      The screenwriting award for the Kairos Prize (the Templeton competition) is one of the most lucrative offered by any competition–$25,000 for 1st place, $15,000 for 1st runner up and $10,000 for 2nd runner up.

      Twenty-five thou takes care of rent, food, and internet costs for a little bit. More importantly, it affords one time to write.

      Not sure if the quality of the production would be good or bad, but the reality is, no writer who has a first script going into production is going to see his/her vision realized. Christian script or secular script. Chances are, the script will be rewritten by a more experienced writer–or worse, a director who thinks he can write (it happens more times than you’d think!)

      When I peeked at this script earlier, my first thought is it would be a strong contender for the Kairos Prize if the spiritual/Jesus -factor was amped somewhat. Independent of the contest, a number of commenters have already mentioned they’d like to see that. I’d suggest the writers give it serious consideration.

      http://kairosprize.com/awards.html

      • Malibo Jackk

        They would only need 1,000 entries (based on the regular deadline fee) to cover the cost of the total $50,000 in prizes. Plus they receive funding from The Templeton Foundation.
        Any large church could sponsor the same thing.

        Why do I keep thinking this is all about the money?

        • Poe_Serling

          Speaking of script contests, this one just popped into my email box today. I think it might appeal to a few of the horror/thriller/suspense writers here on SS.

          https://www.stage32.com/happy-writers/contests/1

          A solid list of judges in my opinion.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Cool.
            Might give it a shot.

          • Linkthis83

            Thanks for posting this. Looks like some personal goal dates are going to need to be moved up :)

        • Citizen M

          “We received nearly 500 for the 2011 competition and we expect to maintain around that number for this year. Given that the competition has a relatively narrow focus – we were greatly encouraged to see this number grow to such an extent in only 5 years of its existence.”

          • Malibo Jackk

            This is really quite interesting.
            There are 50,000 scripts floating around. But less than 500 entered
            in this competition. Roughly 1%.

            That really is a “relatively” narrow focus.

  • carsonreeves1

    I’ve given scripts I’ve consulted on many wasn’t for mes before on the site. I’m always honest. The thing with this second act is, it’s not bad. It’s just stagnant. Parker and Paul put a lot into the conflict that Barabbas is involved in once he starts his romantic relationship. And Melech (I think that’s his name) creates another thread of conflict back in the city, as he’s trying to create an uprising. There’s just something about being in one place and not moving for so long that’s hurting this script.

  • Scott Chamberlain

    I think the concept of a story about Barabbas has real promise. This is the guy who should’ve died instead of Christ. Potent stuff, there. And his backstory is mercifully thin, leaving plenty of room for the writer.

    But, I also think it is perilous territory from which to craft an honest story. Move too far away from the rose-coloured expectations of the already-converted and you lose a big and obvious audience. But equally, make the Romans cartoonishly evil, the religious cartoonishly good, and the ending an unearned religious epiphany and you lose an even larger audience looking for a meaningful story about the human condition. In the middle is the symbolic poison some see in this fable: that of the Jewish crowd choosing to save a criminal rather than the Son of God.

    I think you need to be very clear about what you want to say, here. For example, previous comments speak of the emptiness of the ending, the sense that it had all been for nothing. Is that the truly intended meaning from the events that led to Christ dying on the cross and redeeming sins? ‘Cause the Christ-myth is ultimately redemptive, not tragic. And if the crowd saved Barabbas and condemned Christ for no benefit, then that makes Pilate the hero and the crowd the villain.

    Apparently, his name is bar Abba, or son of the father. So, he is really the false son of god. But, to me, the real power from a modern retelling of this myth would come from Barabbas being “us”. He is humanly flawed. And in dying instead of him, Christ saves us all. It is potentially a powerful, new way of personalising the redemptive message of the Christ-myth by dramatizing its impact on the guy who should’ve died instead.

    That would mean this story ends when Barabbas is saved, not when Christ is crucified. His pardon should be the catalyst for his redemptive change in outlook, not the final confrontation with a Roman Centurion who “get’s it” before Barabbas does. That would make Christ’s crucifixion the “elixir”. And it is Barabbas’ change in attitude that should transform Scaro.

    We’d get something like:

    Set Up: Barabbas is a man, with human failings. But he loves Taya, his people, and his God. I wouldn’t set the story up with Roman thugs and Temple trashing. I would set it up with examples of petty injustice – the kind you should turn the other cheek to – but Barabbas fights fire with fire and things spiral. (the temple trashing should be an escalation of an earlier failure to turn the cheek) Like Macbeth a single, tiny flaw becomes the catalyst for an epic tragedy.

    The Middle: I disagree you need to get Barabbas out of the Hills. Symbolically, this is his time in the wilderness. His human desire for revenge, to “re-inherit his earth” through violence and strength cuts him off from all that he loves – and endangers all that he loves. I agree with Carson that his brother should be the carrier of the Christ-message here. And Barabbas should come to embody the Old Testament, fire-and-brimstone, eye-for-an-eye approach. That conflict between the Old Testament and the New Testament should drive this segment as Barabbas descends into Hell, his own via dolorosa as he ignores his brother’s advice and his failed rebellion ends in capture, humiliation and impending death. David then performs the archetype of mentor/ally – the person who always believes Barabbas can change, the B Story Relationship that dramatizes Barabbas’ internal growth.

    The End: I like the idea of Christ being in an adjoining cell, but unseen. The Christ-wisdom could be imparted to Barabbas but it would only implicitly come from Christ. No reason for it to be explicitly Christ’s words, just words Christ might have said to a fellow inmate.

    But the seemingly unavoidable problem with the end of this tale will be Barabbas is necessarily impassive. The ending happens to him, not because of him. Indeed, if we accept Christ’s death is a necessary step for the redemption of humanity’s sins, then Barabbas becomes God’s tools for thwarting Pilate’s evil plan to save Christ and keep humanity damned…

    I don’t know how you get away from that. I don’t know how you make Barabbas earn his redemption. His active goal is an uprising. That goal arises from his flaw. He does not need to overcome any flaw to achieve this. Instead his flaw is simply redeemed by Christs death… Deus Ex.

    • Somersby

      Good notes.

    • Altius

      Scott, thank you for this remarkable set of notes, specifically those on our themes. You’re right about the ending. Deus ex machina feels almost inevitable. The ending was incredibly difficult to decide…we didn’t want nihilism and true hopelessness, with Barabbas retaining his animal rage, necessarily. We also didn’t feel it would be genuine to have him struck by a redeeming revelation of salvation, either. We did want to present his crisis, and the impact of what had just happened on those around Barabbas – his brother and his enemy. He sees only the effects of something he doesn’t understand, but the effects are enough to confuse and overwhelm him. Though we couldn’t truly go deus ex machina, because I hate that :) Barabbas makes a choice to not kill Scaro. After seeing his mortal enemy essentially spare his brother’s life with a moment of understanding passing between them, he spares the centurion even as Scaro makes himself most vulnerable.

      It’s a difficult ending, a sort of denouement that might hover over unsatisfying, but we feel it’s the right one for the story and the characters in that moment.

      • Scott Chamberlain

        See, I think giving Scaro the epiphany only transfers the problem, rather than solves it. Being utterly godless myself, Scaro’s change felt forced to me, and hence hollow.

        Another brainstorm (hope you don’t mind – it’s your story, after all): If David is effectively a mentor to Barabbas, have him die at the break into Act 2, where all mentors go to die. Scaro kills David and Barabbas is captured. Thus you get a foreshadowing of Christ’s own death.

        Barabbas then enters the cells at the lowest point in his life… and finds Christ. And Christ dies so that he may live. You could then include an extended sequence in Act 3 of Barabbas witnessing Jesus’ via dolorosa.

        In that confrontation, Barabbas defeats Scaro, has him at his mercy and he says something like “You have ruined my life. You’ve destroyed everything I hold dear. You have killed everyone I have ever loved… and I forgive you… Gaius Vinicius Scaro, I forgive you.” THEN he drives the the sword into the empty breastplate while, in the background, Jesus is hung high on Golgotha.

        Just a thought…

        Then, of course there is that delicious Heine sentiment: “We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”

        • S_P_1

          Honestly the type of soldier Scaro is, I really don’t think if there had been a true final confrontation Barabbas would have stood a chance. In a way I agree with the choice made. Scaro needed to see the light first. Because Barabbas fell into a murderous rage he became the aggressor and oppressor. In the beginning he was meek and humble. In order to bring the audience back into Barabbas corner, Scaro had to be propped back up as the true opposing force.

          A truly superior opponent saw some meaning in the non-aggressive teachings of Jesus, that was the final lesson for Barabbas to learn. The teachings of Jesus held sway over ALL men.

          • Citizen M

            On the other hand, Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

            Basically, Jesus was just kicking the can down the road. Scaro could argue that Judea was Caesar’s by right of conquest, or by treaty or international law.

  • Altius

    Hey rpostroz, thanks for the comments! You’re entirely correct about the fiction element of our story. Almost nothing was known about Barabbas, aside from the fact that he was a rebel and a murderer. What made him curious to us was the idea that though he rebelled against the Romans, he was also reviled by his own people, to the point that it was a surprise when they chose to spare his life instead of Jesus.

    1) an interesting note on Barabbas’ character. He does really devolve, but in some ways it exposes the flaws that were there all along. Although he and David did not go back to their mother as they were certain it would get them killed (they touch on that before they flee to the mountains.) In that time, it was a son’s responsibility to care for his mother if she was widowed. To die just for the chance to see her again would have been to abandon her absolutely. They believed it would be better for her if they lived, to do what they could from afar. We’ll definitely think over your reaction to his character as a whole, however.

    2) Definitely an interesting idea to consider…

    3) Damnit, I cannot even believe I didn’t remember that bit from Braveheart about his wife’s scarf…now I’m really annoyed at the similarity. Hah, thanks for pointing it out. Nothing new under the sun? Was sincerely unaware of the parallel.

    4) That tricky ending…we’re glad it generates conversation and opposing opinions. It’s a source for debate, and a difficult fine line to walk. Thanks for the input!

  • Altius

    Hahah, glad to help make the distinction, Sebastian ;)

    Thanks for your comments, though. We appreciate this feedback!

  • THE JOKER

    What do you think the budget would be on a project like this? Just curious what it might require to get funded.

  • IgorWasTaken

    Some scripts have a list of problems. And some have the same list of problems, and something about them grabs you.

  • Citizen M

    Finally finished it. General impression: pretty good, but…. There’s always a but.

    A small group of rebels fight for their freedom against an occupying power. You could write the same story with aliens and ray-guns instead of Romans and javelins. What makes Barabbas special is the Jesus connection. It forces one to face up to some difficult questions.

    Must one fight the oppressor, or turn the other cheek?

    Ironically, it is 100 years to the day that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was shot in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip who said, “I am a Yugoslav nationalist, aiming for the unification of all
    Yugoslavs, and I do not care what form of state, but it must be free
    from Austria.”

    That action led to two world wars. But inaction can lead to the gas chambers. Is one better than the other? I don’t know. But it is a question each person must face up to and answer according to their conscience, and I would like to see a bit more disputation in Barabbas’s ranks about the rightness or wrongness of their actions. Al Qaida brainwash new recruits. Barabbas should do the same.

    Barabbas does say “We fight for the deliverance the Lord promised to our people.” (p. 62) and “We are Israel, growing stronger each day with the Lord at our backs.” (p. 68) but I never got the feeling that he was at all religious.

    I thought the first scene, where the Romans wantonly slaughter the lambs, was overdone. They were disciplined troops, not a rabble of bandits. I’m not saying they wouldn’t take an animal, but these things are normally done a bit more subtlely. Our traffic cops ask for “lunch money” when they solicit a bribe. Everyone knows what the alternative is. They don’t have to say “…or I’ll slap you in jail with hardened criminals who will rape your sorry ass.”

    So I can imagine them taking one and claiming it was a “road tax” or “spectator tax” for looking at the crucifixion, but if they went too far Barabbas and co should threaten to report them to their commander.

    The actual moment of revolt, when David starts throwing stones at the soldiers, came out of the blue. We were never shown any planning, yet the attack seems to have been carefully planned. I would like to see either more build up to the moment, or things going horribly wrong by accident (like the arch collapsing) and Barabbas improvising a rebellion on the spot.

    I thought Barabbas needed a more personal stake in revolting, preferably connected to Scaro. They need more history. Scaro cuts his mother’s hair, but only after the revolt has started. He needs to be the cause of a loss or humiliation Barabbas before the revolt. I would also like more of a sense throughout the script that Scaro is closing in on Barabbas while he is in the mountains. He does track them via their food supply, a standard counter-insurgency measure. I’d like to see a bit more of his actions.

    Zechariah is an important character. He should be capped on p. 20 when he is introduced, and I think he needs a bit more build up so we get a sense of his personality and relation to Barabbas.

    Melech was another one I would like to know more of. I never quite figured out his game. Was he genuinely trying to rout the Romans, or was he just trying to be a hero without taking any risks?

    Couple of small points:

    p. 6 – What happened to the lamb Nathaniel rescues?

    p. 19 – “You know this is not over.” sounds anachronistic.

    p. 62 and elsewhere – Jews using lard (pork fat) on leather armor. Would they do this?

    p. 63 – “We need them yesterday.” sounds anachronistic.

    • witwoud

      Belatedly good points as always, Citizen!

    • S_P_1

      I honestly thought about how strongly the support characters are written. Ammon, Scaro, and Melech are the type of roles actors love. Taya is sweet but her role is common for that time frame. What really would have been an interesting turn of events is the inclusion of Lady Magdalene.

  • pmlove

    OT (Third Person):

    http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/sep/11/third-person-review-toronto

    Seems this completely bypassed me – I had no idea this had been out for so long. There seems to be a lot of hate – has anyone seen it? Is it justified? How does the film compare to the script? Is this a case of massacring it in the execution (pun not intended)?

    Give me some hope here, people; I thought the script was great.

  • ElectricDreamer

    Just watched the 1961 Anthony Quinn film…
    I was surprised to see that the film started pretty much where this spec script ended.
    A bunch of it is spent with Barabbas walking the path of Jesus and learning about him.
    The Jesus Factor felt so forced and ham-fisted, I turned off the movie after an hour.
    I hope seeing the film first helps me give inspiring notes on the script.