Newsletter has been sent! If you have Gmail, make sure to check your promotions folder as well as SPAM. If you still don’t see the newsletter, e-mail me. If you want to sign up, by God do it now. And you definitely want to get a hold of yesterday’s newsletter, as I reviewed, what I believe, to be the #1 Black List script of 2014.

Genre: Comedy/Drama
Premise (from writer): A gambler wins millions on a crazy bet, yet is unable to
 tell anyone. Instead, he resolves to secretly use the money to improve the 
lives of those closest to him, and win back the love of his long-suffering
Why You Should Read (from Carson): This script faced off against last week’s “Down to the Wire,” in the Amateur Offerings round-up. Much controversy arose when Down to the Wire got a lot of early love in the comments section then “Chain,” got a lot of votes late. Were those early votes from people in Wire’s writing group, some wondered? According to the conspiracy-obsessed Grendl, yes, although I have no idea if any of that is true. In the end, it’s Evian under the bridge, as “Chain” gets its shot today. Everybody wins! Yay!
Writer: David Braga
Details: 116 pages

mf-hiresMartin Freeman for Steve? (oh yeah, I know my British actors)

Breaking the Chain has become a well-known script over the past few weeks. Grendl has been raving about it ever since he read it a few months ago. And since Grendl hasn’t raved about anything since 1975 (the year Jaws came out), that’s a pretty big endorsement.

The problem is, for some reason, it keeps finding its way into the Comments section, derailing on-topic conversations. Which is fine. I don’t mind, as long as we’re talking about screenwriting, but man, so much has been built up about this script, I’m worried my expectations are going to be too high. Part of me feels like since Grendl doesn’t like anything, that anything he DOES like must be really REALLY weird.

When you combine my devastation over learning that Harrison Ford broke his ankle on the set of Star Wars 7 last night and there’s ZERO information about how bad it is and how it’s going to affect the shoot, you could say I’m in a pretty emotionally fragile state at the moment! I mean does Harrison have to be sitting down in every scene now? Will the climax of the film be a yelling match during family dinner? Forget the Death Star. Try the Death Stir Fry. May the fork with you.

Steve is a small town guy with a big time gambling problem. Poor Steve would like for nothing more than to quit gambling, but the thing with being an addict is, well, no matter how much you want to stop, you can’t. Even if it’s ruining your marriage. Which it is. Steve’s perfect wife, Sarah, an actress at the local theater, is sick of playing the asshole, having to question her husband every night he comes home from work late. Did you do it? Did you gamble again?

After attending a local support group, an old gambling codger tells Steve the trick to quitting is to bet on the worst odds possible. That way, you’re guaranteed to lose. And after a steady diet of losing, you won’t want to play anymore. Steve takes him up on the advice, making the dumbest bet probably in the history of gambling.

He then goes home, where Sarah asks him, yet again, if he was out gambling. No, he lies. He’s quit. For good. This seems to appease her, which is great, except for one little problem. The next day, Steve ends up winning that bet! 3 million pounds!

Of course, he’s ecstatic. But then he realizes if he reveals his winnings to Sarah, it would confirm his lie. So he decides not to tell her or anyone else.

After getting the money, Steve anonymously buys up the floundering general store he works at, then anonymously buys up the playhouse and forces the director to give Sarah the lead in the play! Soon, Steve is trying to solve all the town’s problems with money.

Of course, we know how these things usually end up. As if on cue, Steve’s evil nemesis and Sarah’s ex-boyfriend, Craig, wins the lead role opposite Sarah in the play. Steve tries to puppeteer Craig’s ouster, but it’s fruitless, and soon Craig and Sarah are spending a lot of time together.

Could it be? Steve thought this money would solve all his problems, but it only seems to be making them worse. Will Steve find a way to make it right, or will he have to come clean to the town about his financial secret?

“Breaking the Chain” had a really tough act to follow. Last night I read my favorite script of the year, “Hot Air” (about a talk show host who gets a visit from his teenage niece). The thing about that script was it was really in your face. Edgy. Intense.

Breaking The Chain was more of a “feel-good” script. It was warm and fuzzy around the edges. You knew everything was going to be all right in the end. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. Cameron Crowe and Richard Curtis made a living off these films. But when you go from a script where everyone’s acting realistically to one where everyone isn’t, it’s a hard switch to make.

Let me give you an example. There’s this character, Martin. He’s a bad alcoholic. Both us and Steve learn this in the very first scene. Later, Steve needs a business manager for his newfound wealth. All the other interviewees talk over his head. But when Martin comes in, he’s dumb, but down to earth. So Steve hires him.

That moment, where Steve hires Martin, is funny. I laughed. But after the laugh was over, I sat there thinking, “Is Steve really dumb enough to hire an alcoholic?” I mean he’s a gambling addict. He should know better than anyone how unreliable an addict is. And he’s now trusting him with his 3 million pounds? It didn’t make any sense other than to get that quick laugh.

There were plot choices that didn’t make sense to me either. For example, the first thing Steve does after he gets the money, is anonymously buy the store he works at before it can be sold off. I couldn’t figure out the logic behind this. He hated this store more than anything. Why would he want to buy it to continue working at it? I understand he must keep appearances up that he’s poor, but he doesn’t need to go through the hassle of buying and secretly running a store to do that, does he?

If any business was going to be on the verge of dying with Steve saving it, shouldn’t it have been the playhouse, since that’s where the real stakes were? His wife’s happiness?

Then there was Craig, who became a bigger part of the plot as the script went on. The problem with Craig was, he was so thin as a character, it was hard for me to see him as anything other than a cartoonish persona. When a character is too thin, the reader starts to see through him (call it “reader x-ray vision”) to the hand manipulating him underneath.

The more screenplays I read, the more I learn that every character in a story should have his weaknesses AND his strengths. Craig didn’t have any strengths, any redeeming qualities. And since the last 40% of the script depended heavily on him, it was hard for me to keep my disbelief suspended.

Now I don’t want to discredit what David’s done here. There’s a lot of good stuff in this screenplay. I loved his use of dramatic irony – We know our main character is manipulating everyone, is living a high-stakes lie – but nobody else does. And it was fun seeing if he was going to get away with it.

But I don’t know if I ever truly bought in to the premise. The thing with these scripts/movies is that the reader’s either going to buy into the premise, they’re not going to buy into it, or they’re going to straddle the line. If they don’t buy into it, you’re screwed. Nothing you write afterwards will matter.

But if you keep them on the fence, you have a shot at converting them. That’s where I was through the first half. I wanted to be pulled over. But once the Craig stuff took over, I just couldn’t commit. There was something too inauthentic about his character to me.

Still, I can see why this got recommended by The Tracking Board. It’s better than a ton of the amateur stuff out there. Everything just felt a little too loose, like the glue hadn’t hardened yet. The dad ending up in the hospital late, for example, didn’t seem like it had an appropriate setup. I saw in the comments section that David implemented some suggestions from the Scriptshadow community over the week. So maybe that’s the reason? He didn’t have time to solidify all this stuff? I’m not sure. I still like David’s writing. This one didn’t quite grab me the way I hoped it would, though.

Script link: Breaking The Chain

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

What I learned: Make sure your third-act climax is a payoff of your theme or your main character’s flaw (most of the time, these will be the same). The climax here focused on Steve’s worry that Sarah was going to cheat on him. That’s not the story we signed up for. The story we signed up for was a character who’s lying to his wife, and who then uses money to manipulate her (and the town’s) happiness. His lack of trust in Sarah was never mentioned anywhere until the final act, which is why the sudden focus on it didn’t make sense. – To make this work, you’d probably want Craig to represent the opposite of Steve. He would represent truth and trust, the things Steve hasn’t been able to give Sarah. That way, this ending stays on-theme. As a bonus, that would make Craig a more interesting character – if he’s actually a good guy. Or at least appears to be.

  • Nicholas J

    [NOTE: This comment is based on the version posted to AOW. I haven’t yet read the version used in today’s review.]

    BREAKING THE CHAIN is a rare AF script that does more right than it does wrong, and that’s so refreshing to see. We spend so much time on AOW/AF discussing where scripts went wrong and how they can be fixed, that when a good amateur script comes along it’s nice to change gears and see what makes it stand out. I’ve been supporting this script since the AOW post by saying a lot of good things about it, so to back up my statements, here are a couple of specific examples from the script that I think show the quality of writing on display.

    In Act 1, Steve places a chain bet. 3 unlikely bets with huge odds, needing to win each one in order to win any money. After winning the first bet, the second bet is a horserace and the writer decided to create a scene centered around it. A horserace is inherently exciting, and a lesser writer might be happy with a simple scene where Steve watches the horserace and cheers on his horse, maybe the horse falls behind, but pulls through in the end and Steve wins the bet. However, the audience already knows Steve will win this bet, because they know the premise. A horserace where we know the ending isn’t nearly as exciting. We need something extra to make the scene stand out. A lesser writer won’t think to go this extra length. But this isn’t a lesser writer.

    So here, Steve is smartly placed amongst family, the very people he is hiding this bet from. And even better, his parents have money on the race, but on a different horse than Steve’s. As the race plays out, the parents are cheering on their horse while Steve has to pretend he is uninterested. When his parents lose, the emotion in the room is one of disappointment, but we know the emotion inside Steve is elation. This difference in emotional charge makes the scene unique and creative. It’s a scene infused with dramatic irony, and more importantly, the scene has been characterized. It has personality. It has style.

    It may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. This type of writing can get writers noticed and can get a script made. What actor wouldn’t want to play Steve in this scene? And IMO it could be made even better by making this scene the third bet when Steve actually wins the 3 million dollars. The contrast of the parents losing a small amount of money and Steve secretly winning millions could make this the best scene in the script.

    Or take the execution of the concept. A gambling addict wins millions.

    Again, in the hands of a lesser writer, we may see something like a down-on-his-luck gambling addict go off the deep end and stupidly throw a bunch of money at a terrible bet, luckily winning and becoming a millionaire. But that’s a first choice.

    Here, we have a bet infused with both great character work and story. This is not a selfish bet, which may create disdain for Steve from the audience. This is a bet to break the chain. It’s a bet that is near impossible to win, in the hopes that it will leave such a bad taste in Steve’s mouth and discourage him from ever gambling again. It’s a great character action. Steve decides to do the very thing he is trying to stop doing in order to get him to stop doing it. He’s taking this ironic action to better his life. Change through destruction. So when he miraculously wins the bet, it is great irony, and provides a realistic reason for him to keep the money a secret from his family.

    And it’s this secret that helps propel the script above the norm. Not only is it dripping with dramatic irony, but this irony is exploited in nearly every scene, such as when Steve’s boss fires him, being completely unaware that Steve is actually the owner of the store.

    So many amateur writers don’t even know what dramatic irony is, much less realize that it is an integral part of an entertaining story and great comedy, much less actually come up with a concept that is dramatically ironic, much less exploit this dramatic irony throughout the script.

    The script is far from perfect. The stakes are very low. The conflict doesn’t escalate quite as much as it should. Some characters need work. The theme isn’t all there. It’s clay that still needs some shaping, but the elements are all there to be shaped. The amount of faults it has are typical of many specs that sell and could get worked out through development.

    This isn’t a #1 box office comedy, but it isn’t trying to be. It’s a great character piece that is subtle, yet is supremely funny and dramatic. It has heart, character, is relatable, and has a great concept at its core. I’d love to see this story on the screen someday. Well done.

    For me, BREAKING THE CHAIN is [xx] worth the read.

    • Bifferspice

      Thanks Nicholas, once again. Your support has been really appreciated – you’ve taken so much time over the last couple of weeks, and I really appreciate it. :)

      • Nicholas J

        Just supporting what I think is a good script!

    • Linkthis83

      Basic intros to irony:




    • Steve Enloe

      “So here, Steve is smartly placed amongst family, the very people he is hiding this bet from. And even better, his parents have money on the race, but on a different horse than Steve’s. As the race plays out, the parents are cheering on their horse while Steve has to pretend he is uninterested. When his parents lose, the emotion in the room is one of disappointment, but we know the emotion inside Steve is elation. This difference in emotional charge makes the scene unique and creative. It’s a scene infused with dramatic irony, and more importantly, the scene has been characterized. It has personality. It has style.”

      Very sharp insight, Nicholas. Bears repeating. :-)

  • Michael

    I’ve been a fan of this script since Biff posted it. It’s easy to see it as one of those charming English situational comedies that become a hit every so often. The script reminds me of “Waking Ned Devine.”

    Biff has a nice clean writing style, nothing to get in the way of the story. It’s a simple, but solid premise. The tone is consistent, the pace good. Biff has most of the elements he needs to tell a great story, he just needs to do a better job of weaving the tapestry that is the story.

    The core of this story has to be the love between Steve and Sarah. In both drafts we don’t get enough of that, especially in Act 1. Sarah needs to be more of a presence in the story in general. It looks like Biff tried to address that in the latest draft, with the Playhouse scene. As others posted the other day, it doesn’t really work as the best opening scene, because it’s only about Sarah and not Steve’s gambling problem. The Playhouse scene addresses the gambling problem later in the act, but it’s too disconnected to open the script.

    I liked the imagery of the scissors-cutting scene in the opening of the 1st draft, however, I never bought that a guy would sit at home doing that. It made me think that Sarah could be clipping coupons for groceries or whatever, showing that she’s desperately trying to save money to get by; and coming across vacation ads for Fiji and daydreaming about exotic vacations she’ll never get to take. Intercut that with the new gambling scene in the 2nd draft, showing Steve collecting betting slips. You have two scenes connected by slips of paper, one showing a character scraping for savings and the other showing a character callously gambling money away. Now, the scene is entirely dramatized, no dialog. We get who both of those characters are and what their lives are about without even knowing their names.

    The next big issue is the gambling. The premise needs shoring up. For the premise to work, there needs to be a bigger and more specific event in Act 1 for Sarah’s ultimatum. Most people would overlook their ultimatum if someone gave them 3 million in winnings, so you have to get us over that hurdle in logic.

    As others have pointed out, Steve’s gambling has to be more of an issue. Steve needs to continue to gamble and have it be a part of the conflict that threatens to undue his plans. At least through the mid-point turn of Act 2, Steve needs to be his own worst enemy, then we can see his character arc. Maybe Steve starts to gamble away the winnings. Maybe Martin also has a gambling problem and gambles away Steve’s money. Now, Steve learns as Sarah has, what it is like to be victimized by someone with a gambling addiction. There are ten layers to the gambling problem, right now, the script is on layer two.

    Steve needs to do more good deeds. The more he does for people, the more that can (and should) go wrong. More conflict needs to be heaped upon Steve. Right now, Steve’s biggest conflict is with Sarah’s old boyfriend. That’s not big enough. Steve’s life has to become a run away freight train. We have to be astounded by how out of control things get. This is where the writing gets hard. You have to come up with situations we can’t imagine the character getting into and completely baffle us as to how they are going to get out, then get them out. Oh, and did I mention, it all has to be connected to the gambling theme, teach Steve a lesson, validate Sarah, save everyone and the town and make us leap out of our seats and cheer.

    The plot points, with what conflict there is, proceed straight forward. Add some unpredictability. It is all about depth. Look for ways to trip all the characters up, not just Steve. Interlock all of their problems and the town’s, with Steve’s, and make gambling the way in and out of conflict.

    Five drafts down the road from now I could see this script being in shape to shop around. Thanks Biff, I enjoyed the read. Good luck with the rewrites.

    • Bifferspice

      Michael, these are excellent comments – thank you so much! I love the idea of the clippings contrast, I need to think more visually, I think, to get people’s personalities across without needing the dialogue. I’ll work on that. So many other good ideas too, it’s daunting to try and get them into what feels full to bursting already, but that’s what writers have to do, right!? :) I’ll keep working on it. Thanks again for your supportive comments – they mean a lot.

    • Bifferspice

      Michael, I’d love to run future drafts past you, and other scripts, if you wouldn’t mind. If that’s the case, please drop me an email (from the screenplay) and I’ll keep you updated. If not, no worries and thanks for all your valuable notes. :)

  • Bifferspice

    Thanks Carson, for the opportunity. Very exciting to see my script up there as an article! :-) Curse my luck to follow a top-25’er!

    I’ll take on board your comments, and the comments that appear below. It’s been quite the ride, and I’m really chuffed so many people like it. I’ll aim to keep improving it.

    Thanks again :)

    • Craig Mack

      Great job Biffer — I read last week. It’s a good story, with a unique premise. Sometimes I like to take a break from horror and this was a welcomed change.



      • Bifferspice

        Cheers Craig, thanks for the read :)

    • Matty

      Yeah, I always feel bad when one of these AF scripts gets stuck in a shitty position in terms of how it’s being approached, whether it’s because Carson just read a great script, or Carson is pissed off at In n Out, or it’s the sixth script Carson’s read that day and it’s 4 in the morning. Whatever it may be. Just sucks. It’s also an unfortunate truth that mirrors reality – readers, producers, studio execs, etc. may well be in the same position when they start reading your script. Doesn’t suck any less, but it is a reality.

      But then, of course, some get a boost because Carson just read a string of really shitty scripts, or he’s in a particularly chipper mood, or whatever. I think I found a good approach in my script “The Savage South” a while back – write a slow, seemingly underwhelming first act to make Carson think the entire script will be that way, and then shift into high gear and surprise him ;-)

      just kidding, that wasn’t actually an approach. Just worked out.

      Congrats on the review and good luck with the script! :-)

      • Bifferspice

        Haha, thanks Matty :)

  • Citizen M

    Me too pleeeze.

    • Craig Mack

      • craktactor


        • Casper Chris

          Me too pretty please with sugar on top:

          csprchrs AT gmail com

          • craktactor


          • klmn

            I’d like to see it too.

            kenklmn AT yahoo dot com

            Thanks in advance.

          • N.A.

            would love to read over the weekend if possible. hquattlebaum at gmail


          • Casper Chris


          • pmlove

            sorry to join the chain but … lovepeterm – gmail


          • Casper Chris


          • Casper Chris

            Time for someone else to step in as the script fairy godmother (should there be more requests).

          • pmlove

            You had a good run.

            If anyone wants – email me at the address above and I’ll forward.

          • Logline_Villain

            pm, would you be kind enough to forward to: Sakhwood13 @

          • pmlove


          • Casper Chris


          • TomG

            If I’m not too late, sounds like a very helpful script.
            tomgarf1 @ gmail — thanks in advance!

          • Casper Chris


          • martin_basrawy

            please send Hot Air to please and thank you.

          • Casper Chris


          • Mike.H

            yokejc100 at yahoo dot com thanks!

          • Casper Chris


          • Midnight Luck

            i would love it as well, thanks much

            m -at- blackluck -dot- com

          • Casper Chris


          • Midnight Luck

            Thanks a million, really appreciate it.

          • Midnight Luck

            thank you, thank you

        • Patrick Wijsman

          patrickwijsman at gmail dot com. Thanks in advance.

          • craktactor


        • Mike.H

          please send to may1msg AT GMAIL DOT COM. THANKS.

          • Dan J Caslaw

            I’ve emailed you a copy.

    • Matty

      And I, if possible. Thank yoooou! :-)

      • craktactor


    • craktactor


  • craktactor


    • Acarl

      Can I pleeease get this?????
      hagpok @

      • Casper Chris

        Sent. (although I see now that you might’ve gotten it in the meantime)

        • Acarl

          Thank you so much!

        • ElectricDreamer

          Would be so kind as to share the script? :-)
          soleil dot rouge13 at gmail dot com

          • gazrow

            sent it.

    • Acarl

      Thank you! Very nice of you!

    • OddScience

      Sorry I’m late to the request party (just got off work — left coast).


      Much appreciated.

    • Dan J Caslaw

      Could you possibly send ‘Hot Air’ my way, s’il vous plait?
      danj_caslaw at yahoo dot co dot uk
      Thanks in advance.

  • craktactor

    This was definitely one of the better “amateur” scripts I’ve read here. Kept me interested throughout (for the most part). Yes, the ending needs work, but overall, a nice read.

    • Bifferspice

      Thanks for reading all the way to the end :) Much appreciated!

  • Casper Chris


  • Casper Chris

    Had a feeling this was a little too vanilla to land a WTR.

    Still a pretty good effort all in all though. Biffer should feel encouraged.

    • Bifferspice

      thanks Casper. I do :)

  • jw

    So interesting in the newsletter to look at what the writers of Neighbors did as WHAT TO DO, when Neighbors itself wasn’t even that funny. Can you imagine? A film that hardly got more than 5 laughs in my theater actually brought in comedians to punch up the jokes? Holy crap! What did it look like before? Helps to have Seth Rogen as a friend!

    • Kirk Diggler

      I think that’s part of the problem with the whole Apatow comedy factory. It’s becoming more about the jokes, stuff that they can put in the trailer to get people to laugh to lure them into the theater, then crafting good story and characters. I deliberately avoided Neighbors for this very reason.

  • mulesandmud

    Biff, I’ll just to share a few targeted thoughts for now, since you’ll have your hands full with other comments. May chime in again later based on other people’s remarks.

    FIRST SCENE – Your original clip-cutting opener nailed the modest tone of the script perfectly, and also hinted at the larger subject of your story, and about the double-edged sword of wish fulfillment. Your new opening is more expository than evocative; you’ve traded ideas for character intros (which you already had just fine).

    GAMBLING – Others have said that Steve needs to keep gambling after he wins; I want to suggest a variation on this. I think it’s great that Steve successfully quits gambling and fixates on helping people instead; it feels like he’s traded one addiction for another, which is a wonderfully articulate bit of psychology. The gambling does need to rear its ugly head again, though, and that should happen once Steve’s best-laid plans to help everyone start to go bad. Many people use addiction as an escape, and only find the will to quit once that addiction becomes more of a problem-creator than an escape. Steve escapes from the stress of gambling via his big win, but when the win starts to go bad, he should escape back to gambling. Maybe he retreats to a long night at the slot machines after his dad’s accident; a classic grief-induced relapse. Steve needs to fall off the wagon again on the way to confronting his real problems.

    CRAIG – Carson’s best comment. This character is damn thin, and he gets featured more in this new draft than the last one, so you really feel his lack of dimension. For now, I’d worry less about making Craig a more complex guy than about making sure he doesn’t distract from the realism and key ideas (addiction, trust, good intentions). Overall it feels like you’re trying to position Craig as the antagonist, but he only needs to be present enough to suggest a romantic alternative for Sarah (think Tim Robbins in High Fidelity…not the villain, just a douche). The film is ultimately about the broken trust between Steve and Sarah; the real antagonist is Sarah, not some rival prettyboy Romeo. Keep the focus!

    REALISM – In a broad sense, this should be your biggest priority: making everything feel as absolutely natural as possible. My major comment on the first draft was that I didn’t believe Steve’s choice not to tell Sarah about the win; I still don’t. Any story beat that feels manufactured is death for a feather-touch script like this one. I suggest going scene by scene and asking yourself honestly, ‘Does this moment feel unforced and emotionally true, or is it just something I need to happen so that the story moves forward?’.

    Plenty more to say, but it’s hard to know what helps since you’ve gotten so much feedback already. Hopefully these thoughts add more clarity than murk. Good luck today.

    • Kirk Diggler

      I agree with your comment regarding Craig. I didn’t need to see more of him. I feel the re-write should have focused on making the script tighter, not adding more pages. Craig, as an obnoxious prat, works well on the edges of the story. There was too much Craig in the new pages.

      • Nicholas J

        Well in the AOW draft, Craig is in the beginning and basically disappears until the end when Steve tries to punch him, which caused it to feel slightly out of left field.

        Utilizing Craig more is a good choice IMO, but it seems biff didn’t have the time to rework the character to beef him up in order to match his more important role. I haven’t read the new draft to be sure though.

        There is nothing wrong with adding pages in a rewrite, as long as the pages improve the draft and you replace/condense others that need replacing/condensing in order to make room for the new additions.

    • JakeMLB

      The gambling does need to rear its ugly head again, though, and that should happen once Steve’s best-laid plans to help everyone start to go bad. Many people use addiction as an escape, and only find the will to quit once that addiction becomes more of a problem-creator than an escape. Steve escapes from the stress of gambling via his big win, but when the win starts to go bad, he should escape back to gambling. Maybe he retreats to a long night at the slot machines after his dad’s accident; a classic grief-induced relapse. Steve needs to fall off the wagon again on the way to confronting his real problems.

      I really wanted to read the script last night but alas wasn’t able to. That said, I think I have a good sense of the story from Carson’s reviews and others’ comments. I just wanted to say that this is excellent advice (as is the rest about Craig). I played a lot of online poker in college, it paid for most of my food and bar tabs, and a win never made me think about stopping. Only a huge loss. It only seems natural to have Steve contemplate resorting to gambling AGAIN either as a relapse or to try and fix yet another problem. Maybe his original winnings aren’t that much (3 million pounds is a lot!) and then all of a sudden he needs even MORE money to cover up some of the mistakes he made with his original investments and thus he debates placing an even larger bet? But can he really lie to Sarah AGAIN!?

      And shouldn’t there be some shady characters after Steve’s money? Bookies don’t like losing large bets…

      Anyway, take that with a pound of salt since I haven’t yet read the script but it sounds fun and can’t wait to read!

      • Bifferspice

        Thanks Jake. A single incident in the past is good for convincing us she might leave. Thanks, I’ll have a think on it :)

        • JakeMLB

          I’m sure you’ll have a ton of comments to digest. Take some time to mull it all over and do what you feel is best :P

    • Bifferspice

      more great thoughts as always, mules :) i put the intro scene back into this draft, and slightly changed the sarah scene after, to put her in the theatre rather than watching tv at home. i like your thoughts on the gambling making a comeback when he’s at rock bottom. so much to think about! arrgh! :-D

      • Ange Neale

        Re “arrgh!”: hang in there, Biff! It’s a lovely script (haven’t finished it yet but I will).

  • Jarman Alexander

    I have to back Carson in my inability to buy into the premise (this is why I never opened the script). As someone who used to play poker professionally, I have seen ADDICTS win large sums of money more times than anyone should ever see in their life.

    I have never seen that win turn off the person’s addiction. Some were stronger than others. One even stayed away for nearly six days (I had a lot of hope for him), but they always came back, or made a call to find where the bigger game was at and without fail, put money on the table.

    The truest bit of wisdom I had dropped on me by some of the older professionals I played with was that “the only difference between a professional poker player and a gambling addict is that the professional wins money.” Now, I have discovered another difference along my run that’s an infallible truth, and it’s that the professional has the self control to say no.

    So when I see a premise (and read comments) that says an addict came into millions, THAT NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT TO EVEN CARE IF THEY WENT RIGHT BACK AND BLEW IT ALL, I have to see the biggest antagonist in the script be them fighting the urge to gamble it.

    I don’t care if he comes into this money in the midst of an alien invasion, I need to see this guy trying to find someone who will lay him competitive odds on the aliens losing.

    Congrats on the review and writing something that most seemed to really enjoy! It appears that people who haven’t seen the things I’ve seen don’t seem to have a problem with this aspect of the premise, so it’s probably too small of a complaint to even pay attention to. Good luck, Biff!

    • Nicholas J

      You make good points, however I read the script differently. (Starting with the fact that I actually read it.)

      I didn’t see Steve addicted to the gambling as much as I saw him be addicted to the possibility of improving his life with money.

      So when he wins the millions and becomes addicted to not only improving his own life, but the lives of those around him, I felt it rang true and was consistent to the character. His addiction didn’t disappear, it transformed.

      The real fault was not having this reformed addiction hurt his life in worse ways than he imagined. It did to a point, such as with his father, but I would’ve liked to see it happen across the board and to a more extreme degree.

      • Kirk Diggler

        In the new draft, Steve’s father doesn’t die. I honestly didn’t have a problem with him dying in the original. It worked well for me and added a little melancholy at the end.

        • Nicholas J

          Wow really? Interesting choice. Now my interest is piqued, I read a bit of the new draft but now I’m gonna have to open it back up.

          • Bifferspice

            I don’t expect you to do so, but if you ever do read the version posted here, I’d love to know if you think it’s better or worse. either way, i know there’s plenty more to do, but i was (and am) convinced the rewrite is FAR better than the original, but have been thrown a bit by the comments preferring the original. like i say though, no requirements – you’ve already given me so much to think about. just a thought if you ever do read the rewrite ;)

        • Bifferspice

          yeah, i’m not too sure about that particular plot point. he’s lived/died in various drafts along the way. I like the ending with the ashes and plaque in the park, but it put plenty of people right off. he might die again next time. i’m sure frank’s dreading the next rewrite.

          • Nicholas J

            Poor guy.

      • Jarman Alexander

        “addicted to the possibility of improving his life with money.” I’d say that’s the M.O. of every gambling addict, but where the addiction comes in is once they have that big sum of money, the disease really expresses itself. It forces their mind to think they can improve their life even more with an even larger sum of money, so they risk what they have.

        In essence, they think they want the money for various motivations, but in reality, they just enjoy the chemical reaction in their body.

        To trust your interpretation (since you’ve read it and have a greater frame of reference), I would like to see Steve as someone who tries multiple ways to acquire money. Once all of those fail, (maybe he only makes himself fifty bucks and thinks that won’t help at all) he stops by the gambling spot and takes his chances.

        I think this would really show that he doesn’t have an addiction and just relys on gambling (which I can’t see a competent minded person doing if their goal was to gain money AND THEY WERE DOING ALL THEY COULD TO OBTAIN THE GOAL) and is actually just a guy who is trying everything he can think of to gain the money he feels will fix his problems.

        Maybe his wife doesn’t give him an ultimatum about gambling, maybe she comes down on him for always blowing their money. Maybe she grills him on if he’s spent all their money on another get rich quick scheme. This would take the addiction off of gambling and put it squarely where you felt it to be.

        • Bifferspice

          that’s a really excellent note. thanks very much. i love that idea. i’ll give it some thought. thanks for taking the time to help :)

          • Jarman Alexander

            I feel like it could even be something quick, like three random guys all collecting money for doing odd jobs, then they meet Steve at the local gambling spot and they give him his cut, he puts it down on the winner. Could be very descriptive and clear in just under a page I think. If you decide to go this route, I mean. I know you’ve got a lot of great notes to think about and story lines to mull over. Best of luck!

        • Citizen M

          That’s a good point. This isn’t a movie about addiction. Make him more of a chancer than an addict. Getting involved in get-rich-schemes that always lose money, keeping them in the poorhouse.

      • Bifferspice

        “I didn’t see Steve addicted to the gambling as much as I saw him be
        addicted to the possibility of improving his life with money.
        So when he wins the millions and becomes addicted to not only improving his
        own life, but the lives of those around him, I felt it rang true and
        was consistent to the character. His addiction didn’t disappear, it

        this is exactly what i wanted it to be about, and why he didn’t relapse into gambling. but you’ve put that far more succinctly than i’ve managed in the past. thank you!! :)

  • carsonreeves1

    Well, to be fair, taste is the x-factor. I may not be gelling with this setup and these characters the way others did.

  • Somersby

    Also, please…. anvil[at]

    • gazrow


      • charliesb

        Could you please also send to it to me birdieey [at] g mail [dot] com

        • gazrow


  • Mike.H

    Please send HOT AIR to yokejc100 AT YAHOO DOT COM thanks!

    • gazrow

      Sent it.

  • witwoud

    Sorry, but I can’t see what the fuss is about. (Apologies, Bifferspice.) I read to page 70 and found it … well, pretty dull, I’m afraid. There were some good bits: the AA guy gate-crashing the GA meeting made me laugh; Arran was quite funny, I guess. But whole swathes of it were neither very funny nor very life-life, which rules it out either as a laugh-out-loud comedy or as a thoughtful character piece in the style of, say, Mike Leigh.

    I mean, after 70 pages I had little idea about who Steve was, or what he wanted. I formed a vague impression of a well-meaning bloke with a bit of a gambling habit, and that was that. I have to say, I find it very difficult to root for a guy who seems happy to be a shelf stacker in a nondescript shop. (And if he’s not happy about it, ram the point home.)

    Likewise, I had little idea what the story was about. I mean, REALLY about. At first I thought it was going to be about addiction, but that issue disappeared almost immediately, once it had served its purpose to the plot. Then it became about a guy using his newfound riches to fix various problems. Okay — but still, what is it really about? What’s the theme here? Sorry for the crude comparison, but while we’re up north, have a look at THE FULL MONTY or BILLY ELLIOT. In terms of scope, both of these are similar to BREAKING THE CHAIN (unemployed guys put on a show at the local club; local boy wins place at ballet school) but they feel like much, much bigger films. They have vivid characters and obvious themes. Both were massive hits. It may be that BREAKING THE CHAIN is aiming for a quieter, more subtle and less ‘triumph over adversity’ sort of tone, but for me it’s simply not working on that level. Not yet, anyway.

    Clearly Bifferspice has talent. But this is miles away from being a feature film. It feels more like an afternoon play on Radio 4. Personally, I think it needs to be much louder and funnier. I found the premise (guy wins ‘impossible’ 3-way-accumulator) quite hard to swallow. It felt like a bit of a cheat, to be honest: a sort of ‘deus-ex-machina’. But I could accept it more easily in a comedy where all sorts of other wacky things were happening.

    Good luck!

    • pmlove

      I think it was about trickle down economics. No, wait. State investment. No.. I don’t know.

      On a serious note, I think what you’re alluding to is the lack of regional identity which defined those films. Full Monty, they’re all out of work following the collapse of Sheffield’s steel industry. The factories are where they practice. It gives them no hope of a new job as the whole industry is done.

      Billy Elliot – Durham / NE mining and the potential for ballet to act as a method of escapism for Billy as much as anything from the local strife.

      Here it is a little vague and bland, which leads us to question the whys a little more. I think this could also answer Carson’s ‘why save the shop’ question. Ultimately, it has to be because Steve is a man who believes in the community, in the potential of local heritage and (say) a fight against ‘the high street’ invading. If there was a British town specifically suffering from lack of identity it might also help explain why Steve wants to escape through his gambling.

      The criticism re: winning the bet being hard to swallow seems a bit unfair. Guy wins long-shot – what are the odds?

      • witwoud

        “The criticism re: winning the bet being hard to swallow seems a bit unfair.”

        It’s just one of those things that bug me (and nobody else, it seems.) I can accept a bit of coincidence in a script; often it’s a good thing. But when three near-impossible bets come up good, one after another, at a plot-convenient time, then all I see is the hand of the writer at work. If the story were set in an absurd sort of world where improbability ruled, then okay. In a realistic setting like this, it just seems forced and unbelievable.

        If I were writing this story, what I’d do (you’ll be thrilled to know) is open with a news reporter gushing that a local person has won £3m. Trouble is, nobody knows the identity of the winner. The whole town is buzzing with gossip and speculation. Cut to: Steve sitting alone in his bedroom in a state of shock, holding the winning slip. Hearing Sarah coming home, he hastily tucks it away and goes downstairs to greet her. Immediately, the audience will be eager to know more; we’ve set up a nice fat mystery box that we can spend much of Act I unravelling. Also, if it’s done that way around, I could accept the million-to-one chance more easily — because it’s already happened. It’s what begins the whole story.

        • Citizen M

          The problem is, for this script to work, you need Steve to come into a lot of money by means he has to keep secret from his wife or she’ll leave him.

          Gambling when he is forbidden to is one way out.

          There are other ways to do it. He could secretly be a sex worker or a drug dealer or a burglar, for instance.

          They all have their problems. But gambling and winning big is fairly well established as something audiences will accept.

          • witwoud

            Sure. I just meant, start later in the story. In the opening scene we learn that Steve has just won £3m. In the subsequent scenes, we learn WHY he has to keep it a secret from Sarah. The set-up remains the same — Gamblers Anonymous, his promise to her, etc — we’re just telling it in a different order.

    • Bifferspice

      no worries, witwoud. thanks for reading as far as you did. no script’s for everybody! hopefully another one will grab you down the line :) you’re right that i’d like to get more regional identity into the script. i’ll have to think about that.

  • Linkthis83

    PREFACE: I haven’t read the entire script. I also haven’t read much of the new draft (but I did read comments made by others regarding it). Everything that follows is just opinion (and most of it will be copy and pasted from a discussion between me, Biffer, Stephjones, and mulesandmud).

    I read 40 pages of the previous draft. The thing I felt was really “missing” from that was a better, more effective delivery of the “emotional weight” (stakes) of the situation. The Steve/Sarah relationship is THE relationship of the story. There is a history that we aren’t privy to and we pick up the story when that history has reached its breaking point.

    When I was breaking down those pages and writing notes to discuss, “addiction” was something I was going to focus on. I was going to say things like “he doesn’t feel like an addict” and talk about how his actions didn’t seem addict-like either. Then I realized, this story really isn’t about addiction. And that being at GA is a relationship move, not a move to deal with addiction. So if he’s not an addict, then that motivation comes off vague. And it makes sense why everybody THINKS he is an addict. We first me him at GA. (One of my other issues with Steve being an addict would also mean that people around him would know — which would make sense to me as why he WOULDN’T be an addict because it would make him the obvious suspect of winning the money — which I also commented on AOW)

    If in fact, the unknown emotion history of the relationship is really what truly needed to be dealt with, I stick to my original comments from AOW and will post them here again:

    “Mules’ is right about that scene with Sarah. Based on your reply to him, you are also right. In the logline, it says she is long suffering, but when the story starts, we haven’t witnessed this suffering. And they actually get along well enough to make it look like if he said, “I won three mil…” that she could find a way to forgive him.

    I think even if you make her more emotional in the scene on page 30 that it will still feel a tad forced/false. It needs set up. This situation needs historical context for us the reader/audience to empathize with BOTH characters in this situation.

    My solution: Sarah’s emotional state can’t initially come from her. Steve is the protag and thus we will be identifying the emotional core of this story through him (and the characters his choices affect). I don’t want to take away an opportunity for a female actress to deliver a solid interpretation of this situation, but it has to INITIALLY come from Steve.

    If we see Steve’s interpretation of what Sarah is going through, and see the weight it is putting on him, then we will believe and identify with Sarah when she takes her stance (vigorously and heartbreakingly).

    I think the place to do this would be the GA meeting you open on. Don’t just reveal that he’s there because of his wife, but allow him to tell what the toll of his decisions are taking on their relationship. And then have him tell/show the weight of the last time he placed a bet and the ultimatum she gave him. That’ll set up how BOTH characters feel when we see them together in future scenes.”

    “Not via flashback at all. And I don’t think you have to be long winded. I think the key is conveying that Steve truly does care and wants to be in this relationship, but he’s also battling his urge.

    i also didn’t say this would be easy to do :) Haha.

    Ummm, it is for sure challenging. Like I said, I think the most important thing is to give us the necessary info and showing Steve’s current emotional state. Also, he is validating Sarah’s stance in doing that. You have to be effective, impactful, and economical I think. I could also be oh so very wrong.

    I think the issue with starting with her ultimatum is that we have no context for this relationship. Sure we can fill in the understanding pieces when we get more info, but I don’t think it’s as effective.”

  • klmn

    OT. It’s a shame that Harrison Ford broke his ankle, but he got off lucky. You usually hear about folks his age breaking their hips. It’s time he shuffled off to the has-been actors home and let younger dudes do the work.

  • Casper Chris


  • Kirk Diggler

    I know some readers had an issue with the notion that Steve needs to keep the win a secret from his wife, that it pushes credulity a little.

    One solution would be: When we meet Steve his marriage is in tatters, partly because of his gambling and partly because of Steve and Sarah are two unhappy people. Steve at his low wage job at the shop, Sarah as a struggling 2nd rate actress. These types of situations usually put stress on a marriage anyway, even without the gambling.

    So perhaps they are separated when we meet them, and Steve wants to keep the win a secret so he doesn’t have to share the money with his wife. But he still loves her despite all that and wants her to be happy. That way he would still be motivated to fund her lead actress role at the Playhouse, as a sort of parting gift to their failed marriage.

    If Sarah is as miserable as Steve prior to when the story starts because of her unrealized dreams, getting the role in the play would change her demeanor, it might give Steve a reminder of why he loved her in the first place. This way, the rivalry with Craig might work better, at first Steve doesn’t care about Craig as the leading man, then gradually over time as Steve sees how the lead role has changed Sarah into a happier person, Steve starts to have second thoughts about his impending divorce. He wants his wife back, but in his mind, he wants to make sure that it’s not because of the money but because Sarah has fallen for him a second time.

    So initially Steve keeps the money a secret out of greed, the second time he keeps it secret because he needs to be sure his wife loves him for him. It would give both of these characters a chance to have big arcs as well. Just some thought on a way to justify the whole “Steve keeps the win a secret from his wife” plot device.

    • Bifferspice

      some very interesting ideas here, kirk. thanks very much. the relationship is key to the whole thing and i’ve probably had the most problems with sarah, as i’ve said before, making the audience both want them to stay together, but also believe that she’s one bet away from walking. lots to think about in what you’re saying. thanks again :)

  • gazrow

    So why not provide us with a link to one of your own scripts, “Guest?” Show all us clueless, struggling amateurs exactly what Hollywood is looking for!

  • Randy Williams

    Professionals champion scripts feverishly in Hollywood every day only to have other professionals pass.

    This is just practice.


  • pmlove

    I think you misunderstand the purpose of AOW. It’s a very capitalist endeavour.

    Carson wants to make money doing something he loves. We like his product (sorry Carson, I’ll turn off adblock).

  • Casper Chris

    Carson is not a professional*

    Besides, it works both ways.

    Watch Carson orgasm over the script Where Angels Die here:

    Then watch people in the comments section tear it to shreds.

    Hype sometimes create a strong reaction in the opposite direction because it inflates expectations.


  • Nicholas J

    It’s almost like art is subjective or something.

  • harveywilkinson

    Come on guys, your film titles belong in all caps. This is not a creative choice. Seen this on a few AF title pages lately.

    • IgorWasTaken

      Trees, meet forest.

    • IgorWasTaken

      Such as…

      • harveywilkinson

        of course, and Tarantino writes title pages by hand etc…etc…

        Re: forest/trees, I’m not saying the script can’t be good or should be judged by the title page, just saying it’s easy enough to get the little stuff right. So why not do it?

        • IgorWasTaken

          You say “This is not a creative choice.” I disagree. And certainly it isn’t not-right to do not-all-CAPS.

          Especially for long titles. And it’s easier to read words that are not all CAPS.

          Yes, the “rule” is the title should be all CAPS in the same 12pt Courier font, but lots of people do larger than 12pt, some use different fonts, etc.

          Anyway, below are two more examples of “creative choices” -

    • Midnight Luck

      everything is a creative choice.

      there are no wrong answers.

      just wrong absolutes.

      I love writing in lowercase. lower case without capitals, lowercase titles.

      this isn’t incorrect, just a different choice

      Just how I do it.

      If the story is great, then who really cares?

      It actually pisses me off that Final Draft forces your name and the title on the title page to be capitalized. I have to force it through a work around not to be.
      I always write my name without capitalizing it.

      That is my preferred way.
      And most of my titles aren’t capitalized.
      it is a style i like. a style i support.
      clean and simple.


  • Casper Chris

    Keeping my fingers crossed that grendl will descend upon this place with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy his biffercinnamon.

    • Guest

      I hope he keeps it a tad dialed back, I want to be able to read it. Why should Carson have all the fun?
      “Dudes, dudes, dudes, you don’t know what you just missed. Grendl just went all code orange apeshit in moderation!”

  • Tom

    I read a little past the first act. This script is very well-written. The scenes flow nicely, the dialogue is smooth, the characters are clear. Bifferspice has an effortless style that calmly guides you along.

    But now, he needs to start challenging himself more. Because as smooth as this script is, it is encumbered not by Craig’s hollowness nor by the shallowness of Steve and Sarah’s relationship, but by the fact that it’s all too safe.

    Every script, even a small, feel-good one like this, needs edge. “Edge” doesn’t mean that Steve needs to shoot Craig in the face at the midpoint. Edge is that invisible border between what is expected and what is not expected. The best scripts walk that line. Just when we think we know where everything’s going, it crosses into the unexpected. And just as we’re blindsided by that, it steps back into the expected and the choices suddenly make sense. When a script doesn’t walk that edge, it’s either “over-the-top” or, in this case, “safe.”

    Again, we don’t need vampires, hitmen, and explosions. PHILOMENA was a sweet, simple, feel-good story that gave us those unexpected edges. “The son was a gay Republican??? Didn’t see that coming.” “Philomena’s okay with that? I thought she’d be more traditional, but she loves her son, so it makes sense.”

    BTC was too familiar to ever shake me from that safe zone. As soon as the old gambler gives him that tip, we know that Steve is going to place a losing bet. As soon as Steve makes the bet, we know he’s going to win. As soon as he wins, we know the blessing is a curse. In many ways, “safe” is synonymous with “familiar.” When we’re put in a familiar setting, we know exactly what to expect.

    Look at the settings of the first act:

    – an AA-style meeting
    – a community playhouse
    – The Little Shop on the Corner
    – a bookies
    – the kitchen table
    – a pub

    I’ve seen all these places. I’ve seen all those scenes. I could probably cut together the first act of this movie from snippets of other movies. The script didn’t transport me to new places. It didn’t spark my imagination. It just kinda recycled things I’d seen before. Even the premise – “Wish Fulfillment: Accidental Millionaire” – felt familiar.

    But Bifferspice shows such ease with his writing that I’d love to see him crack something bigger. And it’s possible to be ambitious within a genre like this. I know he could nail it.

    (Personal note: I never care for stories where the conflict is based on a lie to a loved one, unless that lie is to physically protect the loved one. It partly bothers me because if they would just tell the truth at any moment of the story, the story would be over. And so the ultimate end-point feels arbitrary because the rest of the story is being sustained by inaction (continuing the lie) rather than action. But also, I can’t buy a love story where a character would lie about something so important. There are so many trust issues buried in a choice to not tell your loved one that you won a fortune. In a real relationship, that’s her money too and she has a right to have a say in its use. And so these stories, no matter how well-intentioned, leave me with a “this relationship doesn’t deserve to work” taste in my mouth. And, yes, scripts are about growth and changing. But if a relationship is at the heart of your story, then it has to be one worth saving. And if there’s no trust in this relationship then I don’t see it as one worth saving, and therefore the story lacks stakes to me. Again, that’s a personal thing.)

    • ElectricDreamer

      “Edge is that invisible border between what is expected and what is not
      expected. The best scripts walk that line. Just when we think we know
      where everything’s going, it crosses into the unexpected. And just as
      we’re blindsided by that, it steps back into the expected and the
      choices suddenly make sense. When a script doesn’t walk that edge, it’s
      either “over-the-top” or, in this case, “safe.”

      I think there’s another term for this concept: MISDIRECTION.
      A writer misdirects a reader, surprises them. That’s the first part.
      But then the writer must PIVOT the reader in another direction.
      Here’s where the real craft comes into a scene…

      The Pivot Scene must be MORE LOGICAL than the misdirection.

      Example: Die Hard. The entire movie we’re led to believe Hans Gruber is a terrorist.
      Every cinematic tool manipulates the viewer into the blatant misdirection.
      And the cash-motivated reveal turns out to be more logical than what we were told.
      That kind of technique “exhausts” an audience into trusting a writer.

      • Tom

        “The Pivot Scene must be MORE LOGICAL than the misdirection.”

        That’s a really cool way to put it. I like that a lot.

        • ElectricDreamer

          It’s based on some takeaways from Dan O’Bannon’s book.
          He talks about psychologically exhausting the audience in Alien.
          I called part of that the super-critical: Pivot Scene.
          In my mind, the writer pivots the reader in a jarring direction.
          But because the destination is more logical, the reader buys in.
          That device also develops trust between reader and writer.

          I’m currently experimenting with this theory in an action/thriller.
          The idea being, if I successfully pivot the reader enough…
          They will go along with the rest of my roller coaster ride. :-)

          • Nicholas J

            Love this. Is the rest of the book as magical?

          • ElectricDreamer

            For me, it is. All the theories within are conflict-based.
            You have to IDENTIFY & QUANTIFY each conflict in your story idea.
            For each conflict between characters, internal & external. All of it.

            Then I come up with the CONFLICT ARCS. Just like three-acts.
            Identifying the conflict is essentially Act One of the conflict arc.
            Then identify the Point of No Return and Resolution of each arc.

            After that, I review all my conflict arcs. Nurture the best, kill the rest.
            This helps me distill the narrative before I type Fade In.

            Those conflict arcs also heavily influence my character generation.
            If I know how and why that character reacts to conflict, I win.

            Having a CONFLICT ENGINE for a script is mission critical for me.

    • Bifferspice

      Great notes, Tom. Thanks a lot. Lots of food for thought there. And thanks for the comments about the writing. Hopefully another script further down the line will be more your thing :)

    • mulesandmud

      (Damn Tom, you hid your best thought in parentheses at the end. Plenty of good notes in there, but man, you really buried the lede.)

      Roger Ebert used the phrase “the idiot plot” to describe stories whose conflict would be instantly resolved if not for one tiny element of misunderstanding or dishonesty. Or as he put it, “a plot which is kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everyone involved is an idiot”.

      I don’t think Biff is quite as bad as that, but as you suggest, it’s tricky to tell a story about trust in relationships without trivializing the subject or getting caught up in petty melodrama. It’s not an easy thing to be clear-sighted about why and how people lie, especially in relationships.

    • Linkthis83

      What if:

      -Craig is also in GA (and actually has the addiction + success)
      -He knows the situation with Steve and Sarah b/c of this meeting
      -When the old guy provides his wisdom, Craig overhears
      -Steve runs into Craig at the betting site
      -Craig knows what Steve is up to and places the same bet with him
      -Craig also wins and gets to flaunt his money while Steve has to keep winning a secret (this is ultimately what I was focused on – Steve having to watch somebody enjoy the winnings, especially if he hates him)

  • Midnight Luck

    I see ScriptShadow as a microcosm of the Hollywood Universe. In all of Hollywood people, readers, producers, production companies, managers, agents and contests are going through dump truck loads of dreck and nary finding a gem. One in a million come upon something great. The majority of scripts Hollywood has to read are poor if not unreadable.

    So by those standards, being on SS gives us all a tiny slice of what the rest of the world sees. In fact it seems the SS reads are actually of a slight higher caliber.

    If you want proof, go read some of the scripts on TriggerStreet, or TalentVille, or

    A lot of dreck.

    • N.A.

      Does anyone happen to have a copy of last week’s Haggis script, Third Person? Sorry I’m so late to the party. hquattlebaum at gmail. thx…

      • Logline_Villain

        I’ll send it over in a minute…

        • Somersby

          Logllne, I’ll be in you debt if you do the same for me…
          Thanks muchly.

          • gazrow


          • Somersby

            Got it. Thx.

          • Logline_Villain

            Sorry Somersby, just saw your request for first time and would have gladly sent over had gazrow not already done so… Enjoy!

          • Somersby

            I know you would have. Thanks anyway. Cheers!

    • Kirk Diggler

      I’ve read 5 scripts on Trigger. One was so bad I thought someone was trolling me. Half the dialogue sentences ended in commas.

      Another script was about 90 pages long, with at least 7-8 wrylies per page, often misused to denote action. Take the wrylies out and the thing might be 85 pgs tops.

      • conner

        You and Midnight are acting like total snobs. Yes, a lot of scripts on Trigger are bad. The reason for that is because the purpose of the site is “peer review”. Most of them are first time writers looking to improve. The site is not meant to be used as a way to showcase top notch scripts like here or on the black list. Those writers are posting their work for others to review. And if there’s too many wrylies or misplaced commas then they obviously need someone who knows as much as you to let them know what’s what. So, to make fun of them is just wrong. Why not actually help them instead?

        • Kirk Diggler

          Who says i didn’t help them with polite suggestions? I’m just shocked at the quality so far, was expecting a bit more. Maybe it just says more about the quality of AOW than it does about amateurs in general.

        • Midnight Luck


          I have no idea where you get that from.
          I am giving my opinion and that is all.

          If you break down all the Amateur scripts that have been posted on SS you will find the majority of them are works in progress. They still need a ton of work to get them to a level that is ready for a Producers or Agents eyes.

          I do not see how my comments can be considered “Snobbish”.
          No, it is called “reality”.

          The numbers do not lie.
          The vast majority (I will forgivingly say 95%, though it is probably higher) of scripts are somewhere between –> Unreadable, and –> Poor. I would wager to guess Carson, and just about every Reader and Producer out there would agree with me.
          The rest of the scripts fall into these categories: 4.9% are workman-like and readable, with some flashes of inspired writing. And then there is the .1% (though that might be a High Percentage) which fall into the Great to —> Genius range. Yes, that is probably a high percentage.

          If you have different numbers, by all means lay them out for me.
          I am all ears.

          If you feel the majority of scripts being presented ANYWHERE have a higher percentage of readability or skill level, I would love to find out where that is, so I can read them.

          Snobbery. No.
          Try another word. That ain’t it.

      • IgorWasTaken

        You’re against all wrylies for action?

        I think they’re great. I learned about them from pro scripts. I’ve even seen mainstream, well-established pros do a 3-line action wryly. Almost all of mine are only 1 line, but I use them all the time.

        • Kirk Diggler

          I think 3 line action wrylies are quite wasteful and don’t look good on the page but YMMV. I guess a pro can do whatever he/she likes.

          The additional problem with aforementioned script was that a character was talking on the phone a lot so there were dozens of wrylies indicating (filtered)…. i think you only need to do that once not every single time, especially since it was accompanied by a V.O. as well.

  • ASAbrams

    I read both versions.

    The latest version (I think it was the latest–it was linked in the comments earlier this week) didn’t do it for me. I didn’t like the characters as much because everyone’s motivations seemed to be all over the place in this one. To me, the script changes seemed to reveal the weaknesses in the plot. Maybe the first version had those same weaknesses, but I didn’t pay attention to them because I liked the characters much better in that one.

    Sarah has no character arc whatsoever. She’s wanting Steve to support her acting–which apparently provides no income to their household–while they are struggling to pay bills. But she threatens to leave Steve the minute he can’t pay her dues. Pay them yourself! In the third act, she mentions something about them both being bad for each other, but that was vague and she didn’t learn anything worthwhile from all this. Also, at no point did she give Steve any trust, so what he did didn’t seem like to be as big a betrayal.

    I didn’t care about Sarah and Craig because I didn’t care about Sarah. She didn’t seem all that committed to her marriage with Steve anyway.

    The whole father thing wasn’t followed through on. In the beginning they had this conflict going, but I don’t feel it was properly resolved.

    I wanted the low point to be where Steve had made everything worst through his gambling and lies. Yet Steve never seemed to have a real gambling problem. He made two bets in the entire script. He didn’t seem to be struggling with his addiction throughout the story. I would think all that money would make his gambling habit worse, not suddenly better. The same with Martin. He gets a job, and with one exception, he’s seems to be okay. Uh, no. These flaws need to be hit on at different parts of the script and complicate the character’s getting what they want in different and unexpected ways.

    I guess my two suggestions are 1) to figure out what’s wanted for the throughline of this story and to stick with it. I would think the main story is what’s up there in the logline, but maybe that’s changed. Make every choice and subplot support that main story and not distract from it–including the climax. Whatever this story ends on should be what it begins with. What’s set up at the beginning should be paid off at the climax. And 2) to develop the characters more so that their motivations are more in line with their goals. If a character wants to succeed, then all of his or her actions need to support that. Does hiring the drunk Martin go with Steve wanting this store to succeed? Does giving Steve’s friend a promotion go with turning the store around? His friend doesn’t do anything to earn a raise. And on top of that, Steve doesn’t really hang out much with him so why is he doing all this for him. Does Sarah letting Craig have his hands all over her right in front of Steve go with her wanting to be with her husband?

    I still like the story. Just not as much this time around.

    • Bifferspice

      Thanks AS, plenty of great points to mull over there :)

    • Kirk Diggler

      I agree with some of your points, however,

      ” If a character wants to succeed, then all of his or her actions need to support that. Does hiring the drunk Martin go with Steve wanting this store to succeed? Does giving Steve’s friend a promotion go with turning the store around? His friend doesn’t do anything to earn a raise. ”

      You’re assuming that Steve KNOWS what the right thing to do is. Part of Steve’s flaw is that he is well meaning. He thinks that he can solve other people’s problems by throwing money at them, which directly relates back to his gambling addiction. You are telling us what you or a RATIONAL person would do. Well, Steve is supposed to have problems, judgement being one of those things. When Steve takes the wrong course of action, it’s part of his character. After all, if Steve does the things that you feel he should do, where is the drama or comedy in that?

      • Bifferspice

        true. i’m trying to get on board with the idea that it’s weird he goes with martin at the interviews. i honestly think i would too – hahaha! faced with a bloke i think i could connect with, who is a drunk, compared to a load of whizzkids that are probably brilliant but i have no idea what they’re talking about and they make me feel like an idiot, then i’d go for him. especially as his cv shows he’s also brilliant when he wants to be.

        but i’m on my own in that regard, as far as i can see :-D

        • Kirk Diggler

          Exactly. I saw that as Steve taking a chance on someone, in the same manner that Sarah could be successful if someone took a chance on her. Steve wants good things for others, even if its not always the wisest of choices.

          • Bifferspice

            yes! i wonder if i can get that across more with steve moaning to sarah or frank about people not taking a chance on him more at the shop or something.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Well, the thing is, when i read the Martin scene, it thought it was clear why you did what you did. You showed, like you said, a bunch of whiz kids boring Steve to tears, and then Martin comes along and instantly Steve can relate to him and sees potential in him. I don’t think you need to hammer the point over the head just because some readers don’t understand your choices.

          • Bifferspice

            thanks, maybe you’re right. it’s just been brought up a lot (including by several people on this page). once enough people don’t get it, it needs changing, i would say, even though when i first wrote it, exactly as you say, i didn’t even think it was slightly contentious!

          • Citizen M

            Maybe the interviewees could reject Steve when they realize he hasn’t a clue what they’re talking about. That would be the funniest option. These MBA types all want to work for trendy, go-go type businesses anyway. They wouldn’t be interested in a village shop.

            Maybe Steve doesn’t realize his advert gives the wrong impression of the scope of the job and is attracting high-fliers instead of more modest individuals like Martin.

      • ASAbrams

        I’m not saying that Steve should do what I or someone more rational would do (see how I put myself and the hypothetical rational person in different categories?). I’m saying that what he does should make sense for HIS goals. And also for the characterization that has been set up for him. If Steve follows the beat of a different drummer, then I’d like to see that set up from the beginning and most of his actions fall in line with that. (Not all, of course. If what he does is properly motivated, he doesn’t have to always do what he always has done. That way, there’s room for growth–either positive or negative.)

        He’s been pretty conventional in every other way in this story, so why would I assume that he’d follow a different logic for one or two things that seem to be Steve doing what he’d naturally do in these situations (e.g., if he’s gambling to get enough money and can stop the minute he does, then that seems pretty rational to me so why would he lose that rationality when hiring people to help him get the store in shape)?

        Steve going about things randomly only in one or two situations confused me. I felt I wasn’t getting to know Steve as the story progressed. If he consistently does it and these are shown to be a part of Steve’s character and to be a way to get what he wants better than any other way (from his point of view), then I can go along with it.

        I guess I just don’t know Steve’s point of view that well from what I’ve experienced in the story.

        • Bifferspice

          good stuff. my idea was that steve’s a gruff, no nonsense northerner, who works in a shop and doesn’t trust what he doesn’t know. faced with a load of university whizzkids, he immediately distrusts them, mostly due to his own insecurities, and therefore feels an innate connection with martin, due to their having spoken more normally, and i guess, for their ‘addictions’. i think steve is just a normal, simple guy, and would rather work with someone he thinks is genuine, open and understandable, than a city whizzkid, that would be like talking a foreign language. i clearly need to get that across better, as i don’t think i explain that at all in the screenplay, but that’s my basis in steve making his decision. how the hell i spell that out i have no idea!!

  • mulesandmud

    OT: Did anybody manage to get their hands on UNDERSTAND this week?

  • Bifferspice

    great notes. Thanks Patrick. I hadn’t even considered having him found out early. That’s a great idea. I currently HAVE to have them forgive him, because it’s at the end. I do struggle with that bit. You could be on to something :) Thanks again.

  • Bifferspice

    my thoughts on this are that if i was in her position, where my partner and i have come into millions, yet i know they can’t be trusted with money, then i’d take my half and bugger off quick, before they fritter it away. it makes sense to me. but so many make the same point, i don’t know how to avoid people thinking it

    • Stephjones

      One way to explain Steve’s inability to tell Sarah about his winnings would be to make it clear they have very different attitudes about the importance of having money. Steve thinks its the solution to everything and they’ll only be happy once they are rich. Sarah thinks money is the root of all evil because of the suffering Steve’s gambling addiction has caused in their relationship. Maybe have an intense scene in the set-up where Steve has gambled after he swore he wouldnt. Sarah gets down on her knees, throws her arms around his legs, sobs her heart out and just says…”Please.” ( I actually saw a guy do this to an ex-girlfriend who wouldn’t leave him alone– that image is burned into my brain. There was no anger. Just utter desperation.) If the audience can see this level of desperation in Sarah, that’s she reached her tipping point, we will be more likely to buy into Steve’s dilemma about whether to tell her.

      • Bifferspice

        wow, that’s pretty intense. you could be right. something like that could keep the balance between people having sympathy for both characters, but seeing where they’re coming from, and wanting them to stay together. pretty heavy for a comedy drama though! hmm, more brain cogs turning… :)

        • Stephjones

          Yeah. Pretty heavy. I’ll give it another think.

  • Tom

    I don’t disagree. There are several good films that base their conflict around a lie. It’s not that it can’t work, it’s just that I don’t like it personally. To me, it debases the relationship, and once the relationship is debased, I don’t care if it succeeds or not.

    I would argue that Tootsie is slightly different because the lie exists before the love does. We initially become invested in Michael’s attempts to succeed in the world of acting, and in the process of lying his way to success, he falls in love. Therefore the conflict was that their entire relationship was based on a lie, meaning Michael is never sure what in their relationship would survive the truth.

    But your point is valid – lies work all the time in movies.

    But in Breaking the Chain, I wasn’t invested in the lie enough to care if it succeeds (as I was in Tootsie), and I wasn’t invested in the relationship enough to hope that it can survive.

  • Citizen M

    The average script quality is better now than when AOW started, but I don’t know whether the writers have got better or Carson or Miss SS are more ruthless in weeding out the no-hopers.

  • Bifferspice

    sorry it didn’t hit the marks you wanted, but the only thing i can say for certain is that this wasn’t written to please the masses, but was written to please myself. The inspiration came from a time i was going out with a struggling actress and i daydreamed about being in a position where i was able to help her out by pulling strings secretly behind the scenes to make her think she was doing really well for herself, and i was struck by the dramatic possibilities. the rest came from that. i had the whole thing plotted out as a book before i ever even thought of screenwriting. it had nothing to do with trying to please anyone else at all.

  • gazrow

    Who works in the biz, genius?

  • Bifferspice

    you seem to think that nobody should share anything until they’re brilliant. you only get better by sharing. as for who is hollywood-ready, who knows. it’s subjective at a certain level. i’m sure there are better scripts posted by amateurs here in the history of the site than the worst films that have been made in hollywood, so it’s not on a different level. it’s finding the crossover point. you act like filmmaking is an exact science, but it isn’t. your best will only get good enough by sharing it, and taking notes and working like hell, not sneering at the efforts of others.

    • gazrow

      Great answer, Biffer! :)

  • Guest

    You have to raise the stakes of lying. Maybe she’s left him before because of lying and gambling but she reluctantly came back because he convinced her he could change (by lying, of course). He said he would stop the lying and gambling but now he’s rich because he did just that.

  • gazrow

    I just watched it! :)

    • Linkthis83

      I thought the question was ironic ;)

      • gazrow

        Me too. lol

      • Ange Neale

        Can’t they do blood tests today to see if one is low on irony?

  • gazrow


    • OddScience

      Sorry I’m late to the request party (just got off work — left coast time zone).


      Much appreciated.

      • gazrow


        • OddScience

          Got it, thank you very much.

          • Steve Enloe

            I’m even later! Could I please get Hot Air?
            senloe at earthlink dot net
            I’m a new participator but I’ll look forward to returning the favor. Thanks!

          • Steve Enloe

            Got it! Thanks very much!

    • lesbiancannibal

      Any chance please???

      • Citizen M


      • gazrow

        Sent it.

    • lesbiancannibal

      a big Elvis thank-you-very-much

  • gazrow


  • Bifferspice

    no this is excellent. i’m really chuffed with the stuff i’ve added with martin in the bar, etc, so it’s good to get the counter to it. i like the point that the script is currently stuck in the middle, hinting at lots of things but not actually hitting any of them out of the park (to suddenly go all american in my metaphors). thanks very much for letting me know your thoughts on it – it does make sense. can i take it that you prefer the previous version then?

    • aDriveAway

      I like the opening to the previous version for sure.

      From what I remember, the previous draft felt a bit more realist, especially with the father dying at the end. This draft is more up beat in comparison, with the father living at the end.

      They both approach the story a different way and try to achieve similar results.

      The new draft has some good bits like the Martin scene and the attempt to shorten the shop scene was a good start, but some of it, like the Craig/Nigel scene, didn’t work for me. That scene was too over the top.

      In the end, I guess it comes down to preference – what you’re trying to say/accomplish with this story and in what lens we should be viewing it.

      Yes. I prefer the previous version. Again, I hope this helps.

      • Bifferspice

        thanks man, i need to try and get the best from both. the craig/nigel scene was an attempt to flesh out those characters a bit (especially nigel, who seems to have crept up on me as someone who actually has quite a lot going on, the more i expose about the madeleine thing too), but isn’t necessary i guess in any other way – the outcome is entirely obvious!) if i get rid of that, i can maybe flesh out more important things elsewhere

  • Tom

    I like some of those better than others. Hell, Cyrano de Bergerac is one of my favorite plays of all time.

    But the key (for me, at least) is that the lie exists before the love. And if lie and love become snarled later, they have to at least begin independently. That describes Tootsie and some of the others you listed. The conflict is whether or not the love is based on the lie.

    I’m also interested in stories about whether love can survive a lie. But in BTC, I would argue the conflict is “Can Steve sustain the lie?”

    If you love someone and then lie to them (a BIG lie at that), and then spend the next 90 pages trying to cover that lie, you’re really not showing me a story about love. I’m a big ol’ romantic at heart, and to me, love is honesty… often brutally uncomfortable honesty.

    But again, I bring my own relationships into my reads. And sometimes characters do things that make me say, “You seem like a nice guy, but that’s an unforgivably dick move. I don’t care what happens to you anymore.”

    (This dialogue is ripping Bifferspice’s script way too hard. In all fairness, he handled the script very well, and the whole “lie” tangent is a small quibble I have with such plots in general.)

    • Bifferspice

      don’t worry about ripping too hard – this is great stuff. one thing i took out, when doing the rewrite, was bits of dialogue hinting at steve’s discomfort, in terms of trying to solve his problem and win back sarah’s love enough to tell her about the win. it’s all so vague. that’s one problem I have with the script as it stands, and that I thought carson would jump on, is that we never really understand steve’s intention. it’s vague – win back her love. he doesn’t have a plan that we can understand – it’s a bit vague. full monty works it so that IF THEY DO “X” THEN THEN WIN. my script doesn’t have that, and is too vague. I don’t even hold that he has to have a plan. he can just be stalling while he works out what it is, but I think we need to know he’s trying to work it out. As the script currently stands, he’s rolling along, but there’s no END in sight. The scene, around the play’s first night, is good in terms of being a natural point, but as the script stands, it just happens to all come out on that night. It hasn’t been building to it with that in mind. I’m not sure what Steve can be thinking, but I do think that’s a flaw, and it’s interesting that nobody seems to have jumped on it yet

  • Matty

    I haven’t even read the entire script, so I didn’t even comment on it. I was simply stating that every once in a while, an AF script gets the short end of the stick due to whatever negative external circumstances regarding the reading experience. This is normal, to be expected, and not at all shocking – I was just saying it sucks. Crazy reality I perceive, I know.

    Chill out dude.

  • mulesandmud

    Craig wasn’t changed that much, just given a bit more attention on the front and back end, as far as I can tell. It’s interesting though, the way that shifting just a bit more story weight onto him made him seem flimsier. I think it’s less a matter of changing Craig than of making sure the film’s focus is where it needs to be. Sort of like movie sets for old westerns; two-dimensional facades did the job perfectly, as long as you never walked around to shoot them from the other side.

    I suspect that even if Carson loved the script, there’s not much he could have done for it professionally. The limited degree of influence that SS has comes mostly from the fact that Carson’s tastes align so exactly with the current Hollywood standard for a salable product. Breaking the Chain isn’t in that range (part of the reason I like it), and I suspect the majority of people whose hands Carson could put it wouldn’t know or care what to do with it. The script’s best prospects lie elsewhere.

    Once Biff has this thing sharpened up like a samurai sword, he needs to start exploring alternative channels; indy companies and producers, actors, young directors, maybe British management companies (I don’t know how those things work things on the far side of the pond). Getting a quiet movie like this made nowadays isn’t easy; it requires a team of true believers that aren’t afraid to play in the low-budget sandbox, not cynical reps hunting for a traditional spec script to sell.

    • Bifferspice

      mate, i know there’s an awful long way to go, but it’s great to hear you (and others on here) mention that at some point in the future, it may end up being makeable as a film. i know it’s an off-beat low-key film, but man, just reading people mention it as a possibiltiy makes me want to toughen up and write the hell out of it!

  • Bifferspice

    frank lives! for now.

    this is excellent stuff – more more more, is the message. more repercussions, more hardship.

  • IgorWasTaken

    Biffer, as before, I’ll offer some advice on the micro level.

    Along with some others here, I, too, like the original set of opening scenes, though I do think they need some tweaking to make them “more visual” – to write them in a more visual way.

    But if you want to stick with your new opening, here’s how I’d suggest you open Scene 1 and Scene 2:


    We hear FOUR COINS drop in quick succession into a slot
    machine, then a CLICK, and then the wheels as they SPIN…

    FADE IN:


    Three slot-machine wheels spinning… Then one at a time,
    they stop…

    An APPLE… a second APPLE… a CLOWN’S FACE.

    STEVE (O.S.)

    And yet, we then hear two coins CLINK-CLINK into the payoff
    tray – a tiny win.

    SOME GUY (O.S.)
    Hey look, everybody! After two hours,
    our boy Steve finally hit the jackpot!

    STEVE, late 30s, looks older. Gruff, no-nonsense, working
    class. Our hero.

    He scoops up his meager 2-coin win, then eyes the TV…

    [rest of this scene, and then – ]


    SARAH, 30s, beautiful, shy, dressed as a scullery maid,
    stands just off stage,

    [some short dialogue]

    Ma’am, there’s-

    NIGEL (O.S.)

    [rest of this scene]

    • Bifferspice

      cheers man. in this latest version, i’ve actually reinstated the original opening, and put sarah’s play scene after, where steve picks her up on his way back from GA. it’s all up in the air though. I liked Michael’s suggestion of SARAH doing clippings about a positive future, while steve is doing betting slips. that has some really lovely imagery and contrast all in the opening credits. i think i’ll be redoing quite a lot of the very opening.

      • IgorWasTaken

        cheers man. in this latest version…

        This “latest version”?

        • Bifferspice

          yes. the version carson has linked has the opening scene rejigged after the comments from when i posted the rewrite.

          • IgorWasTaken

            Just wondering, how was anyone supposed to know that the linked version was a 3rd version?

            I mean, why would I have spent the time to post a rewrite of your two opening scenes if I’d known (or been able to know) that I was working off your superseded version 2?

            I mean, fuck me. Ya know?

          • Citizen M

            Good point. Carson should have stated this was a different version from the others. Luckily it’s the one I read.

            Bad Carson! >:o(

          • Bifferspice

            sorry igor, i took the notes, and changed the opening scenes around again, and updated the link on the updated post, with a comment to say it was an updated link, so anyone looking for updates would have found the latest one. it’s kind of impossible to keep people up to date via an ever-moving comments section, and i’m sorry you feel you wasted your time. i can see why you think that. i don’t think anyone’s comments were a waste of time, as i’m finding it all really useful, but i can see why you do. i only did a follow-up version cos the new opening got so roundly smashed open and i didn’t want that to be the one carson reviewed. your criticism is valid and noted though. sorry for that.

  • ElectricDreamer

    I see all of Steve’s well-intentioned decisions backfiring every time.
    The Universe punishing Steve until he changes at the end.
    Perhaps Martin could be his Executive Assistant, a puppet title.
    Maybe Martin terrorizes a sexy accountant that Steve secretly hires?
    And perhaps Martin falls head over heels for said sexy accountant?

    Just throwing spitballs into the ether here. :-)

  • JakeBarnes12

    Good to see you getting a Friday read, Biff.

    Just a couple of quick notes.

    I read to around p.30 of an earlier version and to around p. 42 of this one before I decided to bail. Hey, that’s progress. :)

    I like how you handle the dialogue in places, though realistic often isn’t a virtue. Like the whole script, it could use a soupçon of tabasco shoved up its ass.

    1. We all know that Steve is going to win so there is zero suspense there, yet you drag it out over pages with this accumulator idea. His winning the money is the inciting incident, yet it doesn’t happen until p. 26. I was just waiting around as you laid out the dull mechanics of winning money over several scenes that were neither particularly dramatic nor funny. I’d have ONE EVENT that wins him the money and move on.

    2. Sarah. So far she’s a nag. Yeah, she’s justified, but I felt annoyed for Steve that she was constantly watching him. And she wants the money at the beginning for an inconsequential local play. It’s not like she’s actually auditioning for a role that’s going to change her life and Steve screws her out of it. Nothing even indicates (at least so far) that she’d be great in the role, so it’s hard to care.

    3. Steve. He’s a regular guy. The only thing that makes him stand out is that he needs to gamble and that isn’t enough. I found him kind of boring. Why would I want to pay £15 to watch an average person on the big screen?

    4. Steve wanting to save the store. That felt very small.He wins millions and he is so lacking in imagination and ambition that he gets actively involved in keeping this average store going. I couldn’t care less if the store stayed open or closed.

    5. Keeping the secret from Sarah. I think a problem is that I can buy it up to a point as you present it in the script given their relationship, but I don’t buy it hearing it in the logline. Maybe that’s just me, but since the logline is what’s going to persuade producers to read, that might be something to think about.

    When you put those elements together, I didn’t feel any compunction to keep reading further.

    A couple of general thoughts:

    a) I’d commit to a drama or a comedy. As it stands, for me it was nowhere near dramatic enough or funny enough. Frankly, I’d suggest going the comedy route. I was beginning to find the poverty and desperation depressing. Since the characters weren’t interesting to me, I just wanted to distance myself from the whole situation.

    b) Winning money has to be the most common fantasy there is. There would need to be a unique approach to this for the idea to stand out and helping others secretly doesn’t strike me as enough.

    Why does it have to be money? What if through gambling in a card game he won a giraffe? Or an aeroplane? Or the deed to a VD clinic? See how those all send the story into very different directions?

    Am I spitballing incredibly stupid ideas? Sure. But if it were me I’d keep going until I hit something not just different but good. Think of your pitch. Think of the movie poster. Think of the trailer.

    Think of how that giraffe or VD clinic is going to get Steve out of those cliched “it’s grim up North” pub and shop scenes.

    Think about how Dustin Hoffman was the one autistic person out of a million in “Rain Man.” Walter White is the one chemistry teacher with cancer out of a million who would start dealing meth. That’s why we’re fascinated by those characters.

    This isn’t a documentary. Make Steve the one gambler out of a million who has unique good luck habits, gambles in unique ways, deals with losses uniquely and faces a unique problem. In “Croupier” Jude Law’s character is addicted to seeing other people losing. We have never seen a character like that before. That’s a major reason that movie got made.

    For example, a small detail that worked was how he hit the betting slip in his watch case. I’d like to see lots more stuff like that.

    Good luck with the tabasco.

    • Kirk Diggler

      “What if through gambling in a card game he won a giraffe?”

      Then it would be a different movie, no?

      What if Steve was a transsexual body builder and Sarah was a kleptomaniac who’s flaw was that she couldn’t understand the nature of puns because she always took things literally?

      • JakeBarnes12

        What Biff has at the moment isn’t a movie, Kirk.

        It’s 11:30 PM on BBC 2.

        • Kirk Diggler

          Croupier, starring Clive Owen, wasn’t a comedy if I recall correctly. So I don’t really see the correlation.

          You are suggesting that BTC needs an outlandish “gimmick” in order to succeed, at least that’s what your spitballing suggests. Yes, I know you are merely making suggestions to think outside the box, but if none of it is germane to the story Biffer is trying to tell than it doesn’t help much.

          Steve has the addiction of using his new found wealth to ‘improve’ the lives of his friends and family that has an impact that isn’t always positive. Are you saying that is not a worthy theme?

          I think it is. No one said the script is perfect. I don’t think there is a single person here who said cameras should roll tomorrow. But I don’t feel the need to cast aspersions on what BBC time slot this belongs in. It’s a work in progress and you should know that.

          • JakeBarnes12

            I’m suggesting to Biffer he should either make his protagonist interesting or strengthen the concept beyond “decent bloke uses won money to help his community.”

            If it reads like TV before TV got edgy and not a cinema concept, I’m going to say so.

          • grendl

            So why on earth would the Tracking Board something with a bland boring protagonist.

            You don’t have an answer for that. They’re a legitimate organization, no?

            You think they don’t read more scripts than you have, Jake?

            His protagonist is a blue collar everyman, not the comic relief you fucking simpleton. He’s the straight man. You have no clue how comedy works, and there are plenty of funny lines in this.

            A helluva lot more than “Identity Thief”. Would you like to do a script by script comparison? Or “Movie 43″, or any Marlon Wayans “comedy”.

            You suggesting Biffer isn’t funny is a joke. You don’t have a sense of humor. Jake.

            Martins first entrance made a lot of people here laugh. You can’t negate other peoples reactions. Yours is your own.

            And its still pompous as all get out.

          • JakeBarnes12


            I’m expressing my opinion.

            You don’t agree, I couldn’t give a fuck.

  • Kirk Diggler

    In the 2nd draft Martin is asked to shadow Sarah as she goes about town with Craig. He ends up sloshed and kinda blows his and Steve’s cover. However, I would have preferred Martin having a screw up that had something to do with his a position at the store. Using Martin as a spy of sorts didn’t quite work with me, because that for sure is one situation in which Steve would have money for a private detective if he really wanted to pursue that avenue.

    That part didn’t work for me.

  • Ange Neale

    In the interests of full disclosure, I’m only 38 pages in. While I agree with others’ comments that maybe Sarah’s part in the stage play seems like small personal stakes (perhaps Steve could do something really bad like ‘borrow’ money they’d been carefully saving for a second honeymoon and gamble that away, or gamble away their mortgage money?), Apparently, I think you’re dead wrong about the lengths some guys will go to in order to avoid being caught in lies to their wives.

    Lies are corrosive to respect and trust in a marriage. So, is it feasible for his lies to add up to the point where he feels he must hide a big win to stop her leaving? If the stakes were a little bigger, definitely that’s a ‘Yes’ for me.

    To paraphrase your argument, you seem to think that, ‘Honey, I just won 3 million quid’ ought to be enough to make her forgive him for all the worry and disappointment he’s put her through.

    Boiled down, that money should be more important to her than having faith and trust in her husband and her marriage.

    Maybe you’re too young to remember because it was, crikey, 17 years ago or so now. But for those of us old enough, remember Bill Clinton?

    He wasn’t completely forthcoming to a Grand Jury. He held out for several months before he was forced to come clean after Monica Lewinsky produced her blue dress for the Grand Inquisitor: ‘Mr. President, how did your semen end up on this young lady’s dress if there was, as you’ve repeatedly claimed, no contact whatsoever of a sexual nature between you?’

    You can just imagine Ken Starr’s glee: ‘Lie your way out of that one, Billy-boy.’

    Clinton did all of that because he’d lied to Hilary once too often about his philandering and feared for his marriage. To borrow from Sir Walter Scott, ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave…’

    The worst Congress could do was impeach and remove him, and if they’d dared do that, then Larry Flynt would’ve ensured some of them were exposed as hypocrites. They’d have found their own philandering exploits on the front pages. So Congress huffed and puffed and… Huffed a bit more, but that was that.

    The tabloids had already done their worst to Clinton and because he was never going to be up for re-election, it didn’t matter what the polls said. So he gambled his reputation and his legacy on maintaining the lie for long enough for the story to die for lack of public interest. The Republicans weren’t about to let that happen.

    But it was always Hilary’s and Chelsea’s reactions Bill was most afraid of.

    In Bifferspice’s script, p.4, Steve’s desperately afraid he’s going to lose Sarah. His gambling addiction’s screwing up his marriage and he’s lying to placate her. He ends up hoist on his own petard. If she leaves him, he’s not only lost her, but half the loot, too. So, yeah, he’s gonna maintain the lie to the point where it’s untenable.

    Up the stakes a bit, Biff, and it’s a perfectly feasible set-up.

    • Bifferspice

      wow, great post! Thanks Ange :)

      • Ange Neale

        I’ve got my fingers crossed for you, Biff, so good luck with it. Sadly, I’m not half the script analyst many here are, so probably not much use there.
        But I expect you’d get a lot of sympathy and love from long-suffering spouses of gamblers and heavy drinkers.
        Are you putting it in for the Shore contest?

  • Malibo Jackk

    Like this sequence.
    Think Biffer has talent.

  • Nick Morris

    Sorry for going OT, but any opinions on this would really be appreciated. I’m wondering what the preferred method is for indicating yelling or screaming lines of dialog.

    I’ve been doing it this way:

    How the hell do I indicate yelling
    or screaming in my dialog?!

    But it seems like the prevailing attitude re: parentheticals is that they’re not cool. My script has a fair amount of screaming in it. Is there a better way to do this? Thanks.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Anger management?
      If a reader sees too much of anything, they’re likely to go — here it comes again.
      I’ve heard some pros talk about how they have cut back on the use of exclamation marks. (Something as little as that.)

      Take a look at some pro scripts.
      They might let the dialogue do the screaming.
      I love the opening scene of BURN AFTER READING.
      Take a look at AMERICAN BEAUTY.

      If that doesn’t work — take a look at any of g’s rants.

      • astranger2

        LOL… you’re too much, Malibo… although you make a cogent point. IF you paint your characters well enough initially as being temperamental, head-strong, intimidating — you don’t have to add that “scream” constantly. You can read it in the verbiage… the pace, and tone… it’s implied.

        The reader will see that character, or group of characters in that way. In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by the end of the first act, you know Elizabeth Taylor’s shrill voice, and you expect it — no italics, underlinings, or wrylies are necessary. Albee’s mastery of dialogue allows you to hear whatever screaming, shouting, or meek mutterings are there, without depending on many literary crutches…

        Just as on this board, the well-loved members like grendl, Midnight, and others have established a voice. Your’s is usually delightfully sardonic…

        If you establish a richness to your characters, wrylies become less important, unless involving sudden emotional changes not illustrated by action lines… imho ; v )

        • Malibo Jackk

          Sly and sarcastic — a common mistake.
          (Not sure how long you’ve been reading the blog.)

          Not into sly, sarcasm, being condescending, arguing, or winning arguments. Don’t care about those things.

          • astranger2

            My apologies. I’ve always found your responses very insightful on the more practical side of the film biz, as well as light-hearted and funny. I didn’t mean to imply you were the least bit snarky. I meant no disrespect.

            I just laughed aloud when you used the “rants” to illustrate your point. I’ve been on the blog long enough to know you’ve never been into any contentious behavior.

            Cheers… ; v )

      • Nick Morris

        Haha, thanks Jackk. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about characters screaming in anger so much as fear/panic. But I guess the occasional wrylie or exclamation point is ok if they’re not overused.

        • ElectricDreamer

          My rule of thumb comes down to readability.
          In general, I lean on words like: panics, cuts loose, freaks out, etc.

          “The tree branch whips Jane square on the nose. She freaks out.”

          Then the reader can fill in that specific gasp, groan or scream.
          In the end, use whatever you think doesn’t trip up the page’s flow.
          When dealing with fear and panic, toss in some question marks too?!?

          • Nick Morris

            Nice! Thanks, E.D.

    • Poe_Serling

      Hey Nick-

      A guy with a lot of ‘yelling and screaming’ in his scripts/books – Richard Matheson – always used a combo of techniques in his screenplays:

      1) As Malibo pointed out – let the dialogue do the screaming.

      Here I am again! Destroy me if you can!

      2) Part of the descriptive line.

      Suddenly, she cries out:

      No, Daniel!

      3) Parenthetical

      Belasco! Where are you?!

      • astranger2

        I went out with his daughter once… I should’ve known you were a fan… but, who would ever want to be male in the role of The Incredible Shrinking Man? … even George Costanza will tell you that after a dip in the ocean, (SCREAMING) “There’s shrinkage! There’s shrinkage involved!”

        • Poe_Serling

          “I went out with his daughter once…”

          Did it end with a faceless trucker chasing you all the way home? ;-)

          • astranger2

            lol… I wish it were that dramatic… If I weren’t such an idiot, I would of spent more time asking about him. I worked with her for months, and really had the chance to ask her about him.

            Other than Rod Serling, there’s probably no one more prominent in early sic-fi film-making than Matheson.

            Isaamov, Bradbury, Clarke and others were novelists — and while Matheson wrote fiction, he was instrumental in the development of screen sci-fi.

          • astranger2

            You bastard… I’d forgotten he’d written Duel… : )

            Wow… Contained Thrillers are such the rage because of their low production costs… but talk about a simple made-for-TV movie that stars only two characters — and one of them is a sixteen-wheeler semi…

            And you could literally watch this film over and over again… even today… and it has the ultimate simple high-concept:

            “A businessman is stalked by the mysterious driver of a tanker on a lonely and desolate highway.”

            How incredibly generic and unexciting it seems — until you watch it, and realize how absolutely riveting it is.

            Maybe Contained Thrillers have it all wrong. You don’t need space constrictions to minimize budget concerns — you just need a great script written by someone like Richard Matheson.

            When Weaver slaps the sandwich out of the burly trucker’s hand at the dive diner… the tension erupts on the small screen like the explosion of the Death Star. (With a trillionth of the production cost.)

            I can still see the trucker’s shocked face. I will always see the trucker’s shocked face…

            How did Spielberg do that? How did he make us so anxious watching a wiry, anxious, businessman slapping somebody?

            Really a masterwork in the Hitchcock style. Nothing really ever happens — its all based on Dennis Weaver’s anxiety on the fear of what “might happen…”

            Life is so random… Spielberg probably would’ve made his mark, regardless — maybe… But Duel is so simply unforgettable. Thanks to Richard Matheson.

          • Poe_Serling

            There were some really fun and scary TV movies being cranked out in the ’70s. Just a few that I remember enjoying quite a bit on Saturday afternoons and in late-night reruns:

            >>The Night Stalker with Darren McGavin
            >>Don’t be Afraid of the Dark
            >>Bad Ronald
            >>Crowhaven Farm
            >>When Michael Calls

            and, of course, Duel.

      • Nick Morris

        Cool. Thanks, Poe!

    • Citizen M

      Some clips from “Aliens”. Cameron mixes it up.

      Code Blue! 415. Code Blue! 4-1-5!


      Hicks screams right in her face.

      He’s gone! Forget it, he’s gone!

      Let’s go! Let’s go!

      (shouting at Vasquez)
      Thanks a lot! Now I can’t hear shit.


      • Nick Morris

        I was just looking at the ALIENS script!
        (in Keanu voice)

  • Ange Neale

    I’ve watched ‘way worse crap than this.

  • Bifferspice

    that’s a pretty interesting idea! :)

  • Bifferspice

    well yes, it is the absolute best i can do, at the moment.

  • Citizen M

    I read this latest “scissors” version. I thought it was more solid than the AOW version, but still with problems. For starters, too long. Should come in under 100 pages. Look at cutting some of the inconsequential dialogue.

    I find it hard to get my thoughts in a coherent whole, so bits and pieces:

    As Steve tells it to the GA group, his problem is he’s afraid he’ll be stuck in a dead-end job forever. He sees his way out as gambling but his wife has blocked that option.

    However, we see Steve with brochures for tropical islands and an Aston Martin. Which implies that Steve actually wants to impress his wife and buy her nice things, and the job doesn’t pay enough. The two desires are not quite consistent. If he wanted money to get a qualification for a better job, that would be consistent.

    Anyway, I think an Aston Martin is too flash for Steve. It would cut him off from his roots. Maybe a vintage Austin Healey 3000 or a Morgan 4/4 would be more his line. Most people want to be a bit better off than they are now, not way, way better.

    So my opening scene would be Steve and Sarah walking arm in arm down the street. They pass a parked Austin Healey.
    STEVE: “One day, when your name is up in lights, I’ll pick you up in my sports car…”
    They pause at a travel agent.
    STEVE: “…and take you away to… where do you want to go? Barbados? Cuba? Belize?”
    They come to their little semi to find the Sheriff of the Court carrying away their furniture.
    Sarah has a meltdown and forbids him to ever gamble again and he must stick to his job not be a layabout like his father.

    Maybe she also worries that his real reason for getting a sports car etc is to impress other women and leave her. Maybe she suspects he fancies Kelly who works in the betting shop. Just spit-balling.

    When Steve talks to GA he needs to be more broken, more emotional. We have to feel his pain, and his dilemma. No way out except to gamble. No way to gamble without losing his wife.

    Martin needs a bigger entrance. Maybe a snarky comment.
    STEVE: “…I don’t want to be stacking toilet rolls for the rest of my life.”
    MARTIN: “Toilet roll stacker! A noble profession! Where’d we be without them, eh? We’d be in shit, that’s where we’d be. Hi everybody, I’m Martin, I’m an alcoholic. Thought I’d take a little gamble tonight.”

    Martin is your fun character. Give him more droll comments throughout the script.

    Craig needs more. When he arrives he needs to be driving Steve’s dream car, and have a nice tan from doing a gig in Barbados. Steve needs to realize Craig has everything he is striving for and now can’t get.

    What is Craig doing back in Lower Rubbleton? Obviously to brag he’s a success, but is he back permanently or just passing through, hoping for a quickie with Sarah? He gets a part in a play, which suggests that he’s settling down for a while. We need to know more.

    Craig disappears between page 9 and page 62. How and why did he get a part in a play. (I’m presuming it’s a local am-dram society, not a professional troupe. Maybe that needs to be made clear. Is Craig, a pro, acting for no salary?) I think Craig needs to be seen more often, and be seen to be making progress in seducing Sarah. Give Steve more worries.

    p. 6 – This is the first time we see Steve and Sarah together. If the opening stays the same, this scene needs to be beefed up. We need to come away from the scene knowing exactly how things stand between Steve and Sarah.

    p. 16 – I think you need to provide Madeleine’s lines in the play.

    p. 18 – Steve and Sarah visiting Steve’s parents. How do they feel about each other? Are they buddies, polite, on best behavior, visiting out of duty only, daggers drawn, what? I’m not picking up the family vibe here.

    p. 26 – Steve comes home to sleeping Sarah. I’d leave out. Let them have breakfast with Steve bursting to tell her the news.

    p. 31 – Good. The problems of having money. Need a secret bank account.

    This raises a problem I forgot to mention. Steve’s wages. The plot depends on him being paid salary plus bonus in cash and gambling the bonus without Sarah knowing. A) Everyone gets paid via bank transfer these days. B) He’d have a wage slip in his pay packet that Sarah could check if he was paid in cash. A finicky detail that needs to be sorted.

    p. 60 – Where is the plot? Things are going too well. I’m getting bored. Could lose ten pages already.

    From the pub fight things got a bit slapsticky, especially with Martin as the super-sleuth. Personally I liked it, and it’s common in British comedy, but needs a bit more slapstick in the beginning to be tonally consistent.

    As someone who does a lot of rubbish picking-upping in my neighborhood, I’d like to see the neglected park feature more.

    • Bifferspice

      Awesome notes, cheers Citizen M :) some great ideas, and I get the feeling I need more setups/payoffs. I actually had more neglected park stuff (it’s a nice final image, and allows for conclusions about community and things everyone can do if they’re millionaires or not) but shunted it out when pushed for space in the rewrite. i think you’re right though, it’s been shunted out too far

      • astranger2

        Late again to the party, but just finished the read. I gather there is some frustration this isn’t the most recent version, so I don’t know if it starts with the clippings, or the playhouse.

        I read halfway down the board, but then I got vertigo from all the comments, and decided to stop. I didn’t want to be redundant, but that would take some monumental culling to prevent.

        I enjoyed this version, and found it cleaner and superior to the original. It’s been a while since I’ve read the original, but it appears there are fresh new scenes — so I’ve liked your choices.

        This is a light-hearted warm and fuzzy with quaint pub humor, so I’m not so sure why some want such hard realities injected into the script’s blood.

        (Although Carson’s suggestion of adding depth to Craig’s character is sound, and I think presenting him as someone who represents truth and integrity is a great idea.

        After all, if Craig’s not a wanker, Steve’s conflict graph accelerates quite dramatically upward. It would also build inner torments within Steve that perhaps Craig might be the better man to ensure Sarah’s happiness. )

        Regardless, I still really like your script. And it’s really a rom-com of sorts, even though they’re married, but the goal here is for them to remain together, and should outweigh other goals.

        I wonder if some here actually appreciate dry British humor anyway? When Martin stumbles backwards in the pub — I thought that a hilarious moment.

        (On an OT note — does Risky Business still hold up, all these decades later?)


        • Bifferspice

          Hey man, thanks very much for the read (again!)

          Yeah, I’m upset about the version thing – last thing I wanted was people feeling their comments weren’t needed. After the mauling my rewrite got for the opening page, I panicked that Carson would be reading something that seemingly everyone thought was rubbish, but I also knew I had added lots to improve the second half, and that I wanted Carson to read the rewrite. So I simply changed the first 5 pages into some kind of hybrid of the two, and sent that, replaced the link in my rewrite post to point to the new one. Carson also linked to the new one. Anyway, any thoughts on the opening are still valid, as I still haven’t got it right. :)

          I’m really glad you like the new scenes. :-) It’s a good point about Craig. I wanted to focus on Steve more than him, but yes, fleshing out the antagonist will always make a better film, I think.

          My blu-ray of RB has arrived. I intend to watch it this week, so will be sure to let you know!!

  • JakeBarnes12

    Biff can ignore my personal reactions to his script or he can head to the zoo with a bottle of Chipotle.

    Entirely up to him.

    Choosing not to engage with your tired little rants is up to me.

    You don’t set the conditions here. I’ll continue to post my reactions to any script that catches my attention.

    • witwoud

      I’ve no idea why people keep ragging on you, Jake — there’s obviously some history here that I’m missing — but I think your feedback is some of the best on this site. It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d want (or need, at any rate) if my script was up for review. So keep it up!

      • JakeBarnes12

        Now hold on a second there, witwoud — sure you’re not me posting praise for myself?? :)

        Anyway, thanks, man.

        I can only say what I think and I tend to say it directly.

  • Dan J Caslaw


  • astranger2

    What’s interesting about films is if we fall in love with the story, and the characters, we are either unbelievably forgiving, or simply choose to ignore their faults, as we are swept away in the magic of the movie moment.

    Not only does Michael Dorsey continually lie to Teri Garr, he has a blatant disregard for her feelings.

    Like most, I love the film — but if you look at how he treats Teri Garr, missing dinner dates, and having gratuitous sex with her to cover yet another lie — while in “love” with Jessica Lange — I don’t think it paints him as this new “sensitive” male… that is “a better man with you, as a woman… than I ever was with a woman, as a man…” (Phenomenal line though…)

    Be an interesting to hear Terri Garr’s character’s feeling about Michael’s new found “sensitivity…”

  • astranger2

    This is what I meant by if we love a film, we ignore the character’s flaws. It’s why we go to films — regardless of whether it’s a historical drama like Gandhi — or Dumb and Dumber. We want to be transported, and forget life’s logical issues.

    — I loved Tootsie too. Who didn’t?

    No, Michael isn’t evil. He’s a good guy. Ethically, an average guy. He’s no saint, because while Terri Garr is not insanely in love with him, she thinks they’re dating.

    And from someone in the past who has forgotten a date with a young lady — they don’t take these things lightly. For most, standing them up on a dinner date is potentially a capital offense.

    Let’s not forget also, Michael takes private “girl-to-girl” talk from Jessica Lange, on how she’d like a man to be honest for once — and just tell her he found her attractive, and would love sleeping with her…

    After he tries the “honest approach,” Michael is promptly reminded by the Chardonnay splashing in his face — it’s not that simple…

    My point is, Michael tries to use this “confidential” moment with Jessica to his romantic advantage. If it weren’t a comedy, and it weren’t the charming Dustin Hoffman, it may be seen as predatory. If Bruce Dern had uttered those lines — it would have transformed it instantly from a rom-com into a Thriller…

    And Rocky? Stallone is a magnificent writer. Rocky is a leg-breaker, who won’t break a man’s thumbs… but, what’s cleverly never revealed, he MUST have broken thumbs in the past. Or Gazzo wouldn’t have kept him employed.

    And when he’s flirting with Adrian, the pet story lady sends her to clean out the dog cages downstaris. So when Rocky defiantly steals the turtle food — we’re glad. Phenomenal script, Rocky.

    So, I know what you’re saying. Of course I cheered of Michael Dorsey at the end… but for me, that’s what makes them movies… and like Holden Caulfield, I love the movies, but they’ll drive you crazy. In “real life” you end up in a sanatarium…