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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Script link: Black Friday

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

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

  • Steffan

    I just want to extend a big thanks to everyone that voted for Inhuman and an even bigger congrats to Jason for being this week’s selection.

    I enjoyed the energy of your script and I want to second the notion someone brought up in the forum (it was Adam W. Parker): you definitely should grab a bunch of people and shoot this at a mall guerrilla style. I think that the tension between getting it done and getting caught would infuse your movie with the same verve your script has.

    Good luck with it!

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      Yeah Steffan – GUERRILLA THIS THING!

    • Nicholas J

      Ha, there’s absolutely zero way you could shoot this guerrilla style.

      • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

        I hear you, maybe not these exact scenarios, but someone’s gonna do it and they’ll be called a genius lol.

        • Nicholas J

          You could maybe, maaaayyybe do it in a huge Walmart or something. But I doubt it. And even if you did I don’t think it’d turn out well.

    • Howie428

      Classy comment. It’s taken me a week to cheer up from my own AOW near miss, so I hope you do better than me.

      I agree that a guerrilla style Mouse House version of Black Friday would make sense. Even if it wasn’t done that way they should pretend it was!

  • Matthew Garry

    The thing I loved best about “Black Friday” was how it was framed as a “Christmas Carol” in the form of “Carol,” the morose, cynical, chronically overworked and underpaid mall manager, who seems to have given up on the good in mankind. And then, in the end, with Jamie’s last line, that all gets turned around.

    The human element has once more triumphed over the more materialistic aspects of the holidays, and Christmas is saved. It gives you that cheery “Merry Christmas” feeling in your tummy, which, I think, is the best possible outcome for a story with this theme.

    • Randy Williams

      The character of Carol put this script over the top for my vote over some tough competition.
      Worth the read just for her.

    • Nicholas J

      Can’t believe this wasn’t at least single x worth the read territory.

    • JTrop

      Well if anyone had a question as to what the core of “Black Friday” is about, here you have it! Thanks Matthew Garry for this highlight! Thanks a whole lot!!

  • LostAndConfused

    If no one is offended, then no one is laughing. Someone’s ego, feelings, pride, has to be hurt to incite the audience to laugh. Humor in its essence is seeing someone being humiliated. In Ferris Bueller would we have found Ferris’ antics on the Dean funny if the Dean didn’t care so much about his job?

    Someone’s dignity has to be challenged for it to be funny.

    • carsonreeves1

      So you’re not saying a subset of people have to be offended (fat people, Asians, etc.)? You’re saying that someone in the screenplay has to be offended.

      • LostAndConfused

        Yep!

        • Shawn Davis

          I think there is a distinct difference between LAUGHING WITH
          and LAUGHING AT, when writing comedy.
          I’ve written comedies that pokes fun at many stereotypes, but I was careful to try not to intentionally offend them.
          That said, there will also be someone who finds something offensive.
          Shawn…..><

    • Randy Williams

      In “Black Friday” on page one, the first time a smile crossed my face was reading the description of Carol and it was a bit humiliating. The first laugh out loud moment was soon after with Carol wishing some humiliating experience on someone.
      You’re right!

    • Howie428

      This fits with a joke writing mantra I read in a book… All good jokes have a target.

      Historically comedians used to be able to target their mother-in-law and other less appropriate people or groups of people. Most modern comedians seek safety by targeting themselves, either their personal foibles, or their own demographics.

      The problem screenwriters have is that unless you’re performing the material yourself you don’t have the option to do this. You’re left with targetless jokes, toilet humor, swearing, and other such weak material.

      The main out for this problem is “situation comedy”. Create a situation, e.g. The Hangover, and targets emerge within it, e.g. Alan.

      The most recent comedy I’ve written is called EX-STREET and is about cynical newlyweds who must learn the value of marriage if they’re to survive a curse that forces them to live on the same street as their bizarre exes. The situation in it is a bit contrived, but once it’s established it provides its own jokes.

  • carsonreeves1

    Holy Moses. A compliment for this script from Grendl. That’s like me giving a script a double-genius. I’d be pretty damn excited if I were the writer. I’m not being sarcastic.

    • walker

      Grendl is highly sympathetic to writers and wants to see them succeed.

      • Randy Williams

        as long as it’s a “good cable movie”

  • hackofalltrade

    IMO, this is better than Carson is suggesting. I am surprised Carson didn’t mention this, but this script seems professional to me. Maybe Carson didn’t laugh enough, but the writing itself was in the top three or four comedy’s I have read on SS.
    When I read a comedy, I am always considering the smile/laugh percentages. How often am I smiling? How often am I laughing, literally OUT LOUD? I spent most of the script smiling. My first laugh was on page 14, which is probably a little late. However, the characters introduced before that were interesting enough, and the first 10 pages were fun.
    Personally, I’m always thinking about how I can get something made. In this instance, I felt like the tone and concept felt similar to the movie “Waiting” from 10 years or so ago. I enjoyed Waiting, and remember seeing something about how half of the cast in the movie had waited tables at some point, and that was one of the draws for them. I think that would be the approach I would take. Research actors that had some sort of experience in retail. Actors(like writers) often work some pretty crappy jobs until they “make it,” so I bet there are plenty of options out there. As an added benefit, the role of Jonathan wouldn’t even need to go to a traditionally “comedic” actor. I think at the very least, actors will consider the concept fun. Sure, its a longshot but so is spec writing. I think an impassioned query to get this in the hands of a few handpicked actors could get this off the ground.

  • Nicholas J

    Carson, can you name a few of the funniest scripts you’ve ever read? Not including ones that you saw the movie first?

    Or anyone else for that matter…

    Just wondering what people consider “the bar” or close to it.

    • brittany

      For me, definitely anything written by Colin O’Brien. He’s great with comedy, I know I’m in for lots of LOL moments when I read his work. NSFW is a favorite of mine and I recall Carson mentioning in the AF review that he laughed something like a dozen times while reading it.

      • Nicholas J

        Ha, you know I was trying to think of what recent scripts I’ve read that had me laughing, and the only one I could think of was one of Colin’s. Don’t think I should say which one though.

        I still think the funniest script I’ve read is Brad Cutter. That one really needs to be made into a movie. Election is up there too, but I had already seen some of the movie before reading it so not sure that counts.

        Being funny on the page without cheating is hard.

        • cjob3

          Thanks NJ! I really appreciate that. I hope to submit that soon. Maybe this week.

          • Nicholas J

            Man, I barely remember Norm, but remember liking it. Do you still have it? Send it my way!

        • gazrow

          “I still think the funniest script I’ve read is Brad Cutter.”

          I gave it a read yesterday after your endorsement.

          Have to say that I wasn’t particularly impressed after reading the first act. A guy competing with a rival for a promotion is overly familiar.

          I stuck with it though and it got funnier and funnier. A hilarious script. Thanks for the heads up. :)

      • cjob3

        Whoa! Thanks, Britt!! I’m honored.

        It was actually “half a dozen times in the first ten pages” according to the tattoo I got afterwards.

    • kenglo

      When Harry Met Sally

      • Midnight Luck

        definitely

    • Randy Williams

      Not the funniest. That would probably be animation scripts… But I really enjoyed “Situation Comedy” on this year’s Black List.

    • carsonreeves1

      He’s Fucking Perfect, My Bridesmaids is a Bitch, the spec sale draft of Going the Distance, The Hangover, Brad Cutter Ruined My Life Again.

      • Nicholas J

        Yeah those are all good, though I never did read Hangover. Brad Cutter beats the rest though.

        But what about,

        Most Annoying Man In The World? Laughed so hard at that one.

    • Bacon Statham

      I can’t remember the name of it, but it definitely had Monsters in the title. It was an AF script about a teenager and his friends having to save the world after an Egyptian princess jumps into his crush’s body. I think it was called Monster Mash. I really liked that one.

      • cjob3

        Sounds like Monster Problems, which is in Carson’s Top 25. I’d love to read it, if anyone has a copy. cjob3(AT)Hotmail

    • Bifferspice

      From this site, it was called untitled Stanley cup heist or something. I was laughing so hard throughout. That is the comedy screenwriting bar for me. It was sublime

    • klmn

      FATTIES is the funniest amateur script to appear on this site. It may be the funniest script period.

  • kenglo

    If it was done at a WalMart the movie wouldn’t get released due to the anticipation of riots…..just sayin’….

    • Mhocommenter

      Kenglo, per yesterday’s post. Could you send Seth Rogan, James Franco controversial script to MAY1MSG AT GMAIL DOT COM? Thanks!

  • Shawn Davis

    Carson mentioned–

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

    Absolute words to live by in comedy. That’s why it’s the hardest and most disliked of all the genres. Most writers miss the mark by falling back on cliché or overused styles without adding their own voice.

    It’s okay to use a proven style, but you HAVE to apply something more…something that sets it apart, or you get what Carson mentioned…

    Jokes that are too familiar.

    I applaud Jason for his effort. Comedy is the deep end of the writing pool. Nice job, man!!

    He’s got the bones to this one right, he just needs to take some of the advice into consideration when the rewrite is done.

    Shawn…..><

  • jw

    My favorite part was the irony of this post, as it was me who stated not to submit comedy to this site, NOT because comedy is difficult (which it is) but the fact of the matter is that you WILL have a subset of people who just are NOT into most styles of comedy (and those comedies tend to be the ones that make the most money — ie: 21 Jump Streets of the world). Which Carson then stated wasn’t really the case here on ScriptShadow only to turn around and give Black Friday a “wasn’t for me” after pointing out that Black Friday didn’t get the most votes. ahahahaha! Classic, brother. Absolutely 100% undeniably classic. Bravo.

    • Howie428

      What we’re getting at here is an issue that applies to popularity contests in general. The winners are typically those that most people think are fine. If something divides opinion that makes it hard for it to win. Even successful comedies have fans and haters.

      Our responses on I AM RYAN REYNOLDS were actually quite positive, but it also got dinged and ignored. It’s never going to appeal to a wide group, but that doesn’t mean it can’t find its niche.

      It’s also worth noting that sci-fi, noir, fantasy, romance, satire, and doubtless others, also tend to split opinion.

      One way to approach this would be to ask readers to specifically state RECOMMEND, CONSIDER, PASS, on the scripts they look at. If three people get really excited about a script that’s worth more than ten people saying, “Well I guess this is the best one of these.”

      • jw

        That’s a solid suggestion, but would unfortunately triple Carson’s work as instead of having to tabulated votes, he’d have to tabulate 3 different categories. And, I think you’re right that every genre CAN have its fans or not, but I think when we look at the overall here, we wouldn’t be surprised to know that horror, thrillers, noir, indies and the like usually get a majority of votes. Now, some would say that is because of genre, but I would say that it’s also attributable to WHO visits the site on a regular basis, and unfortunately the tilt there isn’t toward comedy…

  • jw

    Grendl, no bets needed. You’re spot on. As likely the only person (or one of few) on this board who has stood at the North Korean border and stared across at the NK soldiers and creepy guys at the house who stand in the windows and behind the posts, as well as having spent many years in the South I can tell you NK didn’t do this. They may have commissioned it, or been in talks about it, but they wouldn’t threaten anyone, let alone the US. I think as storytellers we are attuned to spot a story that’s being spoon fed to us a mile away and we generally understand when too many coincidences go hand-in-hand they are anything but. Life is messy in reality, so when things begin to happen very, very cleanly and it’s laid out very succinctly, in a manner that looks like a PR firms day dream, the BS meter tends to go off the charts!

    • Nicholas J

      they wouldn’t threaten anyone, let alone the US

      What? North Korea threatens us with nuclear destruction like every Monday.

      • jw

        No, those are idle threats to garner attention when they either need something or realize no one gives a shit about them anymore. Those are ‘power-play’ threats. They wouldn’t issue 9/11 style threats. Just far, far out of their scope.

        • jw

          And, at the same time let’s really ask ourselves with the “police state” that we live in are we as a society really believing someone could attack every theater in the US? I mean, come on. If there wasn’t a more James Bond threat. There’s just little to no capability to actually pull something like that off, which is why I say this isn’t real. Something else is going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of, oh the irony considering this is a movie… eventually we’ll figure out what the hell is going on here.

          • Nicholas J

            There’s just little to no capability to actually pull something like that off

            Which is exactly what North Korea does all the time. That’s my point. Empty threats that they can’t go through with are their specialty.

          • jw

            Well, if you and I know that, then why would anyone respond like we have? As Moore pointed out, many threatened him prior to Fahrenheit being released, but they basically stuck their middle finger back up, hired security and said, “bring it.” No one did. This was an empty threat, there was no way it could have been carried out, and yet the response was to back-off. If the point of the attack was to stop the release of the film that will not matter because eventually the leak of the film will hit the internet and EVERYONE will see it. As they did with Team America and White House Down, both depicting North Korea as a power hungry, ridiculous, out-of-touch regime. They allowed those to go on just fine. So, what was the motive? If it was to stop the release of the film, mission failed because it will leak. If it was to cause Sony to lose money? Okay. Maybe a bit there. But, you could probably cause a lot more damage hacking into the banking system… it’s a strange situation all the way around.

    • Rick Hester

      Something tells me this isn’t the first conspiracy you’ve uncovered, jw. :)

  • carsonreeves1

    This Sony thing is reaching a statute of limitations on the layers involved. Now George Clooney is complaining that nobody in Hollywood signed his petition to stand behind Amy Pascal during this attack. Which appears to be noble at first glance. But as we found out from some of the leaked e-mails, Clooney was horrified when Monuments Men didn’t do well for Sony and extremely apologetic. By standing up for Amy, of course, he gets back some of what he lost by making a bad movie for them. So much going on here!

    Either way, he does say some great things in his Deadline interview about fighting to be able to release the movies we want — http://deadline.com/2014/12/george-clooney-sony-hollywood-cowardice-north-korea-cyberattack-petition-1201329988/

    • charliesb

      President Obama just put Sony on blast.

      Says they should have spoken to him first…

      • Nicholas J

        “Imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.”

        Lol. Awesome.

      • Eddie Panta

        CONTROL. it’s all about control…Every dictatorship has one obsession. And that’s it.

        Each dictatorship has its own methods to go about doing this.

        They could keep the populace busy with entertainment.

        But other dictatorships use other strategies to control the ideas, the knowledge. They limit culture. Censor information. They censor any means of individual expression.

        And it’s important to remember that this is a pattern that repeats itself throughout history.

        – Jake Gyllenhall’s monologue in ENEMY (2013)

        • Midnight Luck

          nice.
          I liked Jake in ENEMY. Interesting yet odd movie.
          Though, for some reason I don’t really remember his monologue. Can you refresh me?

          • Eddie Panta

            It’s from the part in the film when he’s giving a lecture to his class about this history of dictatorships.

            But it goes to the themes in the film. The Teacher is afraid of being controlled by his wife. So much so that he creates a fantasy self to act his wish fulfillment.

          • Midnight Luck

            I’ll have to see it again. I can’t believe I don’t remember that scene. It is so pertinent to what the movie was about.
            I saw it in the theater and there was no one there. It only played for a week here in one theater.
            It was strange, but I wish more people saw more of a variety of movies like it. Widen their horizons.
            get some variety in their diet.
            Still baffled about the end and what the Spider meant though.
            Any thoughts?

          • Eddie Panta

            Hey,
            Yeah, I watched it more than a few times, streaming it online.
            I even transcribed the first 30 mins or so into script form, just as an exercise.

            As far as the surreal ending, it’s not that complicated of concept. But still hard to explain because there’s a lot of role reversal.

            The gigantic SPIDER is the woman. All woman in the film are represented by spiders . To the TEACHER, the spider means control, lack of choice, like the black widow that kills its mate.

            In the last scene, Helen turns into a spider because, Teacher has found the KEY in the coat pocket and says he might have to go out tonight.
            The spider is not on attack, it’s actually cowering back out of fear.
            In the opening scene he goes to the sex show to watch the spider get crushed.
            The couple that died in the car wreck are not real. They were destroyed in a intercut scene when Teacher Jake apologizes, then relents and has sex with the pregnant girl Helen.

            The entire film takes place in the subconscious mind. A struggle between two persons, that occupy one single man. The Teacher, who is a real person, has allowed a fantasy version of
            himself, the Actor, to take control of his life, his marriage, which is why Teacher sits
            dormant, in a dark apartment without any furniture or decor, and all he
            does is his work.

            During the argument in the car, ACTOR says: I am a man! I am a man.
            But he’s not. He’s not real. They wreck and the windshield is crackled like a spiderweb.

          • Midnight Luck

            very interesting. Thanks for the breakdown. It makes much more sense now that you have broken down all the parts and inner workings. I can’t say that I felt the movie did a very good job instilling in the viewer that these ideas and things were going on. Many parts of the movie, while very watchable and interesting, weren’t very understandable. They left way more questions without answers (for me) than anything.

            I have to watch it again, now that I get more of what was meant, or the underlying reasoning for things.

            Thanks again for the breakdown.

      • peisley

        They probably didn’t want to after the things they said about him in a leaked email.

  • Eddie Panta

    Black Wednesday, Black Autumn, Black Friday…

    I got to put the word “black” in one of my titles.

  • Sullivan

    CARSON! TYPO ALERT! You mistakenly and routinely use “for awhile” when it is “for a while,” 3 separate words. “A while” is a noun, thus the “a.” “Awhile” is an adverb. “For awhile” doesn’t make sense.

    For the sake of all that’s good in this world…STOP. :)

  • ChadStuart

    i think the hidden issue in a any script centered around working in Retail is that it’s such a shared experience, that the jokes born out of the frustrations automatically become obvious. If you talk to a retail worker in California and one in Alaska, they will have very common experiences. Things like customers wating in an 80 person deep line and getting to the counter unprepared is the low hanging fruit. Even if you dig real deep and find the most absurd experience you can remember, chances are many others have a similar story.

    We’ve all sat around with friends and “bitched” about customers. You’ve got to move beyond that and find other things that are truly funny about the experience that tickles the funny bone of both workers and customer alike to really stand out.

  • You’re Not Funny

    I think comedy works best when it’s through the eyes of one person, not situational, etc.; but one character’s experience- reactions, etc. Look at ‘The Interview’ (or rather, don’t: nowhere see it), here we have a movie of incredible ambition that stumbles in feces from Fade In. If it was a story of one character’s experience going to DPRK, etc.; instead of a vulgar ensemble, the thing might have had a chance; or at the very least, possibly funny. But it’s a trashy ensemble that (as it ends up), does not deserve to be seen. Ensemble comedies don’t work (sitcoms), but work best when one character reacts to the world around him (and of course the less vulgarity the better: personal opinion). Borat is vulgar, but it’s one guy reacting to stuff… there’s a lesson there somewhere.

  • JTrop

    Writer of BLACK FRIDAY here…

    Well this has been genuinely exciting and incredibly stress-inducing! A huge thank you to everyone for their thoughts/feedback/compliments/snark (there’s always room for snark).

    And thanks especially to Carson! I really appreciate the post. Points well taken! I put a lot of effort into character/plot/structure and trying to make the comedy intrinsic to those elements, but having had time away from the screenplay, I certainly see that the comedy bits can be amped up and I can push it further! So that’s the next rewrite!

    And let’s think less “cable movie” and more VOD/Netflix (after a brilliant theatrical release, of course).

    Thanks again to all. This has been remarkably insightful and encouraging. On to the next (non-mockumentary) comedy script… here’s hoping I prove funnier! Happy writing and happy holidays!

    • Shawn Davis

      Let me know when you get the re-write done. I’ll give it a read if you want. You’ve got a great start going here. With some TLC, this could be really special.
      Btw…I see where you mentioned you took some time away from the script. Smart!!!
      I think EVERY writer should write the draft, and walk away and let it rest. Give your mind some time to wind down. It’s amazing what you see revisiting work after a break from it.
      Shawn…..><

    • davejc

      ” (there’s always room for snark)’

      lol

      You’ve survived Snarknado and I think you’re on to something. You have real talent and I look forward to seeing where it takes you.

      Good luck Jason!

    • Kenny

      Hi JTrop, love your concept and I admire your amenability to constructive criticism. To me, Black Friday sounds like a script that will become blockbuster material on its third draft. If it’s no trouble to you, kindly mail me Black Friday because I can’t download it from the sendspace link for some reason, Thank you very much. elyonsown at yahoo dot com

  • Brainiac138

    OT: Carson, are you going to do a top 10 films of the year list? Maybe also have a list of films you may have gotten wrong? :::cough: Under the Skin :cough:::

  • Rick Hester

    You do realize the entire world has been focused on North Korea as the likely culprit in the Sony hack since day one, right?

    • grendl

      Why are you following me around this board?

      Weird.

      • Rick Hester

        Coming from you? That’s hilarious.

        But about your prediction? North Korea or China? It’s probably both. North Korea is too sealed off by sanctions to pull this off on it’s own. That’s the scarier scenario.

        • grendl

          No ones targeting your comments, Rick.

          And I think its China.

  • LostAndConfused

    I don’t watch those shows, but I think I know what you’re saying. One of my favorite comedies (more of a dramedy) shows of all time is Weeds (only the first three seasons). So many of the characters there say or do the stupidest and most childish shit, but are so sure and confident of themselves when they do it. And I realize I may be contradicting myself in that humor is wrought from people being humiliated as a result of caring too much, but the characters in Weeds are hilarious because they don’t care.

    Someone had described comedy to me using a situation. There’s a board meeting set up by the CEO of the company, and rumor has it that he’s very unhappy. Everyone is sitting there in the room, all the managers and head of departments, sweating their palms out as the CEO sits there on his chair having not said a word yet. The CEO suddenly laughs. Then, the managers and heads are looking at each other trying to decipher the meaning of this laugh, and start chuckling. They don’t know why they’re laughing, but because the CEO is laughing, something funny must have happened and whatever it was, it simply flew over their heads. So they laugh because they don’t want to look like idiots not laughing. The CEO stops laughing and stares at everyone saying, “What the hell are you guys laughing at? I just remembered a joke my son told me.” And then the lowly intern enters the room, gets people their coffee, and laughs. All the managers and heads in the room darts their head at the intern with furious eyes, all subconsciously thinking “You better shut the fuck up or you’re getting booted!”

    The theory is that comedy is dependent on the hierarchy that a person stands in within a given social order. If the King farts and doesn’t give a shit, everyone in the court room starts laughing; the King has given them permission to laugh. The King farts and is embarrassed about it, no one dares squeak a word about it. If a peasant farts and doesn’t care about it, people look at him and start judging him; someone may even call him out on his lack of dignity. If a peasant farts and is embarrassed about it, the court room will be laughing with their backs on the ground kicking their feet in the air in his humiliation.

    Comedy is such a tricky area. I’ve read books and watched ton of stand up, studying what makes something or a person funny. I’ve applied every theory I’ve heard about comedy into my stories, and where it works in one situation fails horribly in another, even though I followed through with the steps at every juncture. I just think you have to know what people want and what makes them tick.

  • Citizen M

    Very late to the party this weekend, unavoidably, but I’d like to take the extra time to make a fuller analysis than usual.

    Having read the script from cover to cover, I think A) there is a lot of potential in the concept; and B) the potential is not realized.

    Of course, comedy is subjective. I can only indicate how I personally think it fails, and how I would tackle the project if it was given to me as a rewrite. Normally, I only make suggestions if they mean a small amount of rewriting, but here I think the problems are so major the script needs to be stripped down to essentials and reassembled differently.

    Start off with the main character, Jonathan the store manager. He is not funny, and there’s no way you can keep his character the same and somehow make him funny. Which rules out a certain type of comedy, like an Adam Sandler comedy, or a Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy comedy. In these comedies the main character provides most of the laughs, and the role attracts the big-name comic actors.

    So what to do? Invent a whole new character for the store manager?

    No.

    As it happens, this weekend I watched an old black and white comedy on TCM which had a serious main character, The Women. It’s about an upper-class woman whose husband is having an affair with a cheap floozy. She tries to Do The Right Thing and freeze the floozy out, but has to go to Reno and get a divorce when the husband chooses the floozy. It all ends happily, of course. The humor comes from the woman’s gossipy, vapid friends and their back-biting and rivalries; and observational humor about their exercise routines, clothes-buying habits, etc etc. The main character is at all times sober, serious, moral, upright, and just a tiny bit malicious. She provides a solid spine on which to hang the frothy, funny bits.

    I would keep Jonathan as the decent guy doing the best he can in an honest way under impossible odds. Does he need all the motivational stuff? I don’t think so. It wekens him and makes him look silly. He needs to be strong but under great difficulty.

    I would lose Kennedy and Charley & Waves. They might be funny, but they are so tonally at odds with the rest of the cast, it’s like they wandered onto the set by mistake from a Zoolander audition. And if you lose Kennedy you can lose the wife and fetus, and good riddance because they added nothing to the story, they were purely there to rile Kennedy.

    But that’s your main villain gone. You gotta have a villain, right?

    Yep. And she’s there, in the script, just with the wrong character. Kia Starr, the buxom assistant store manager. Instead of being the nice supportive person she is, she needs to be Jonathan’s main rival, trying by all means fair and foul to usurp him and become store manager herself. In cahoots with Ken Sizemore the odious district manager with whom she is having an affair.

    That’s how I’d set it up. Ken and Kia vs. Jonathan, with the staff split in two camps, the sneaky dishonest undermining cheaters with Ken and Kia, who bribe them with [whatever]; and the honest loyal types with Jonathan.

    The customers: you gotta keep them. But don’t start with the horrible ones and end with the nice ones. That’s gooey sentimental Frank Capra territory. Start with the nice ones and hit Jonathan with the horrible once you’ve got him down. That’s comedy.

    Carol: your best character. You gotta keep her. But I’d make her head of mall security on the trail of a suspected ring of shoplifters. That gives her an excuse to be in the store.

    Jaime you have to keep purely for the last sweet moment with carol. But don’t have him abused by the horrible Kennedy. Everyone loves a trier. Have him struggling to do his job as best he can, with small victories and small defeats interacting with the horrible and nice customers. Let’s see how they behave outside the store.

    The film crew: lose them. Not needed. In any case, if they are researching consumerism they should be interviewing customers, not the staff.

    The time scale: two days. Black Friday, and the evening before.

    First Act: the day before. Set up the charcters and rivalries, and the plan.
    Second Act: No plan survives contact with the customer. A series of unfortunate events for Jonathan.
    Third Act: Triumph and wrap up. Each goes their own way home.

    Some detail notes:

    p. 3 – “I hope Santa shits in her stocking.” There’s nothing wrong with what the little girl says. She doesn’t deserve such a nasty comment.

    p. 6 – The Supers come too late. Show them as you introduce the character. Help the reader. Later the editor can experiment to find out what the most effective timing is. Just get the story across at this stage.

    p. 8 – What happened to the burnt-out window display? We need to see how they recovered from the disaster. Who organized it? What was it like before it burned, and in what clever way did Jonathan make it attractive with what he had on hand afterwards?

    p. 18 – Jonathan is spying inconspicuously. But we don’t know this. We only learn it later. All we feel is WTF is this guy doing? Better would be to show us the plan first, then show us the failure of the plan. That’s funny.

    p. 22 – Raunchy rap songs: what audience rating are you expecting? I would have thought All Ages, NC-13 at worst. Not sure if such songs are allowable.

    p. 25 – “Death” scenes behind KPI lecture: It would be better if Jonathan were giving the lecture.

    p. 26 – White is supposed to be working in the fitting rooms, not here (p. 8).

    p. 28 – Why is White telling Kennedy this? What is the relationship between them? It seems unmotivated. Anyway, Ginger Model has already given her this information.

    To be continued…

    • Citizen M

      p. 28 – Why is Jonathan fucked? Nothing like a terminal disaster has happened.

      p. 30 – I don’t see what Carol’s roach analogy demonstrates, except that roaches are too dumb to divide by three.

      p. 31 – Without knowing the history that motivates it, Kennedy’s “sleeping dog” analogy falls flat.

      p. 31 – DAY in slugline. Better would be EARLY MORNING or 5:00 AM. Show us a clock.

      p. 32 – Jonathan’s non-address to the troops. Not funny. We need to see him believing all will go well but having to deal with disaster.

      p. 33 – FOX: “You’re missing the point” Don’t get it.

      p. 33 – You need to keep reminding us Jonathan is trying to “think happy thoughts”. Maybe he carries a little card in his hand and keeps looking at it and putting on a big false smile which soon disappears.

      p. 34 – You need to establish Fox as super-competent.

      p. 35 – Getting ready to open sequence is just not funny. Nothing seems to be set up. I don’t know what to anticipate. There seems to be no plot developing.

      p. 48 – Carol can’t harm Kennedy. They work for different organizations. Empty threat.

      p. 60 – Why has Starr gone onto the attack? What is her personal stake?

      p. 67 – I liked the perfume promo. More of the same, please. Make it a running gag. (In The Women there was a similar gag, only with ladies’ undergarments.)

      p. 87 – What did Jonathan do that the staff now suddenly think he’s a hero? He seems to have been the same dick he’s always been.

      p. 91 – Not getting the tension of making the numbers. Is there perhaps a more visible way to show the target and the consequences of not reaching it?

      p. 98 – Seriously, is Jonathan Kennedy’s type?

      p. 102 – Kennedy jumping (and shit smearing earlier). These are nor funny. It’s a comedy, remember? And think about your rating. “R” films are potentially less profitable than All Ages.

      p. 104 – “I quit.” So how is that a victory for him? No job and a baby on the way. That’s out of the frying pan and into the deep doo-doo.

      Read “Moferefere Lenyalong First Draft General Notes”. Many of the comments apply to this script. (see sabc.co.za/commissioning). Example:

      Watch the drama – many of the techniques you’re using work brilliantly in drama/soap but not in sitcom. In comedy, the audience is as clever or cleverer than the characters. (In drama/soap the audience is either as clever or less clever than the characters). You need to show us the characters making mistakes, making plans etc so that we know about it when the plans go wrong. This is crucial to setting up the joke. So, watch scene endings that are full of mystery or suspense, or “big reveals” later in the plot. All comedy should be based in some kind of truth that we recognize ie “it’s funny because it’s true”