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Genre (from writer): Action
Premise (from writer): “Taken” set against the Manson Family murders. Sharon Tate’s father, an Army Intelligence vet, takes matters into his own hands when he infiltrates the L.A. underground scene in order to find her killer. — Tate’s father does go undercover but it’s never been revealed what he actually found. He was close enough to finding something that the LAPD were nervous about his presence.
Why You Should Read (from writer): My name is Erik Stiller, and I’ve just been promoted to Staff Writer for the upcoming season of CBS’ CRIMINAL MINDS. If you like LA history and revenge-action with a good man doing brutal shit then check out this feature.
Writer: Erik Stiller
Details: 95 pages


So yesterday the new Star Wars trailer surfaced. Due to potential spoilers, I’ve mastered the art of watching the trailer without actually watching it. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 times. It’s not easy to do but I will say this. Something about this movie feels small. I can’t put my finger on it. But it feels very contained.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. One of the big issues with the prequels was that they tried to cover too much ground. The original Star Wars was a much simpler story. That would seem to support Abrams’ attempts to do the same. But even Star Wars felt bigger than what I’m seeing here.

A couple of other thoughts. Everyone’s going nuts over the opening crashed Star Destroyer shot. But that shot is partially ripped off of a famous Star Wars video game (which I’ve included above). Another shot everyone’s going nuts over is the final shot of Han and Chewbacca. The problem I had with that shot was that the two looked like they were posing for a selfie. Possibly even using a selfie stick. It felt very stilted and inorganic. Put them in the cockpit.  Have them doing something, anything.  Finally, I think the trailer inadvertently reveals a huge spoiler. This is just my theory. But it sure looks like Luke may be that masked bad guy.

What does any of this have to do with Cielo Drive? NOTHING! Which is the perfect segue into our plot summary…

It’s 1969 and 50 year-old Paul Tate is feeling good. Sure, there were too many hippies back then and everyone smelled like Freddy Mercury’s socks after a 3 hour concert, but Paul’s got a beautiful wife and three daughters, one of whom (Sharon) is pregnant and married to a famous Hollywood director. Life is good.

Then Paul gets the call that all parents dread.  Except somehow, this call is worse than all of those calls combined.   Sharon’s been brutally murdered, her baby carved out of her stomach.

Now you have to remember, back when the Manson murders happened, they didn’t have any leads for a long time. The whole thing baffled the LAPD and every Frank, Sarah, and Harry had a theory about what happened. Paul, a military man, didn’t want to wait around for them to figure it out. So he drove out to LA and started his own investigation.

It’s here that he meets Emily, a young bartender who likes to have a good time. Emily becomes a bit infatuated with Paul, agreeing to let him use her place as a home base. Paul is all business though, slurping through the seedy Sunset Strip for any tip to his daughter’s murder he can find.

As we watch acts such as Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors play in the background of the Whisky A Go-Go, the militaristic Paul questions high-profile groups like the Black Panthers and the Hell’s Angels, convinced they know something.

Eventually, Paul runs into a young woman who’s wearing his daughter’s bracelet, and she tells him about a man living in the desert who thinks he’s God. Paul concludes that whoever this “God” is, he’s the man who killed his daughter. So he heads into the desert to enact justice, law be damned.

SharonTateHOTTSharon Tate

I’ll start off by saying this was a LOT better than Tuesday’s mess of a pilot, Aquarius, which is somehow going to be shown on the air. Whereas that story was all over the place, this one is flat-out focused. We have a man looking into his daughter’s death. It makes this a really easy read.

I also like when writers take subject matter that’s been covered extensively and find new angles into it. I mean how many movies and shows and books have been done about the Manson murders? Hundreds. So to find this new angle of Sharon Tate’s father investigating her death was a smart move on Erik’s part.

My issue with Cielo Drive is similar to the one I had with Aquarius. And that’s: is this story worth telling? We already know how it ends. So instead of us wondering what Paul’s going to do next, we’re waiting for him to catch up to us, to find Charles Manson. And it’s just hard to create suspense when the reader’s always ahead of you.

Now if we could’ve built a story around Paul finding something NEW about the case that nobody had ever picked up on before, now you have my interest. Because now you’re ahead of me.

We’ve actually seen this work before. A couple of years ago, one of the big spec sales was “Inquest” by Josh Simon. Here’s the logline: “After the death of Princess Diana, a reluctant investigator is hired to ascertain whether her death was premeditated. And in the process, he begins to uncover a conspiracy that compromises his own safely.”

We also see this in once-hot spec, Slay The Dreamer, about a conspiracy behind Martin Luther King’s murder. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I read any kind of history, fiction or non-fiction, I like to leave knowing more about the events than what I knew going in. That’s what I got from those screenplays. Cielo Drive was light on new info, and since that’s what I craved, I left frustrated.

I also thought the relationship between Paul and Emily lacked clarity. It’s played with romantic undertones, but since we know that Paul has zero interest in Emily, and that he has a wife and family, and that he just lost his daughter, even hinting at a sexual relationship feels wrong.

If I were Erik, I’d treat Emily more as her own character with her own issues that she needs to overcome by the end of the story. Or, since you can’t go with a romantic subplot here, maybe you pair Paul up with someone else. A young lost hippy, the kind of guy who could easily be manipulated by a guy like Charles Manson. Now Erik acts as a sort of mentor to this kid, steering him away from the bad life he almost certainly would’ve led had he not met Paul.

Stiller is a hell of a writer. This was an absolute BREEZE to read through. I just have some philosophical differences with whether this story is big enough to warrant telling. Will be interested to hear what the rest of you think. Enjoy a Helter Skelter Star Wars trailer watching weekend!

Screenplay link: Cielo Drive

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

What I learned: Don’t just arc your protagonist. Try to arc as many characters as you can in your screenplay. Look for ways to make every single key character change. Reading through Cielo Drive, it felt like Paul was the only character Erik cared about. And maybe that’s because he sees this as more of a “Taken” like movie. But I think there’s the potential for so much more here. The subject matter is so dark, it’s almost begging to be explored on a deeper level.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Scripts like these make me ask the question:why base it on true life at all? Wouldnt it be more captivating and open to surprises if this was changed to a fictional story? I just dont undsrstand the fascination with Manson and even Aquarius seems old hat. For those who read this in full – would it add or take away if the names of every character were changed and it shifted from real life towards fiction? My impression is – it would allow a rewrite to breathe fresh life into a tired trope. The first priority should be the script, and I just dont think holding on to the Manson namesake makes it more marketable. Of course I could be wrong, but id rather see a film about a Manson-like individual than the man himself.

    One thing is for certain: the 70s are hot right now.

    • Felip Serra

      To answer your question: Yes and No.

      If the writer has no inclination to research the subject further, then my recommendation would be to scrap the Manson stuff and make a clean start with just the premise: Father searching for his daughter’s killer. If they wanted to set in the 60’s, fine, but as the script currently is it is almost a distraction.

      However. If the writer were really compelled by the Manson family et al then I would say do as much research as possible. My caveat concerning Erik’s script was that his background characters (Manson, Black Panthers, Hells Angels etc.) were all used as decoration and all reeked of inauthenticity. There’s some good books out there (“Season of the Witch” by David Talbot is mind-blowing) and when you get into this stuff you see that it was FAR more dangerous, wild, and fucked up than most people realize. For the writer though this is a little goldmine because there’s no way to make up the stuff that really happened.

    • drifting in space

      I agree. A murder mystery with an individual LIKE Manson, and set in a time BEFORE cell phones/internet/etc.

    • BellBlaq

      Maybe it’s just the pursuit of free IP? Meaning, attaching a recognizable name to your story to help it sell to the public?

  • tokyoYR

    Congrats to the writer! **Edited my lead in because I thought “Criminal Minds” was a true crime show, a la anything on Investigation Discovery. Alas, it is not. I love those shows.

    However, I didn’t enjoy Cielo Drive. A lot have remarked on the writer’s professional pedigree. I agree that the script looks professional, but the comparisons stop there. This is a script that relies largely on character, but the characters came across to me as completely stock and two dimensional. There’s the tough military pop who loves his girls. The steel magnolia mother who is turning to drink (and you won’t forget it, as she’s always pictured glass in hand.) The former druggie hot girl who for some reason wants to help out this weirdo middle aged man. And the overworked detectives. Tropes a plenty.

    So, for me the script fails on the character front. There are no revelations. We don’t get any added insight into the human condition. We get rehashes of stuff this writer seems to have learned from film and television, rather than from real life.

    How about the action? I don’t know about you guys, but I was NOT sold on the whole Pop goes undercover as a hippie thing. That was completely laughable to me. I literally laughed out loud. I was shocked when I found online that the man actually did this. But just because it’s a fact does not mean we will automatically accept it.

    The writer needs to do a lot more to make the undercover thing seem like a natural and not completely absurd decision. OR the writer to emphasize that it was a decision born of desperation. Maybe the dad DOES look ridiculous; this arthritic old guy trying to pass himself off as a hippie. But he doesn’t realize and he is just trying to get his daughter’s killer any way possible. Instead the writer just takes it for granted that the disguise is convincing and the choice is not laughable.

    I found the gutting of the Manson kid to be a weird choice, especially in a film ostensibly based on true events.

    Lastly, I found the script to be distasteful. To show Paul Tate going around, roughing people up, disemboweling Manson followers… I guess your heart was in the right place, but I don’t think it would be well received. These are real people, whose descendants are still living and quite vocal. To treat this as a Taken style romp is a bad choice.

    All in all, this one wasn’t for me, but I’d be interested to see what else this writer gets up to. Otherwise he has a pretty sweet day job.

    • Eric

      “To show Paul Tate going around, roughing people up, disemboweling Manson followers…”

      This strikes me as similar to the Miss Universe title. It works great right now to get the screenplay noticed, but it has to change before it can become a movie or else someone will sue you. Here it’s even worse, because it’s ingrained into the story. To portray Paul as gutting a Manson follower is not something his family would take kindly to. To take any sort of liberties would likely be seen as distasteful. Debra Tate is still alive and has worked on behalf of victim’s advocacy most her adult life. What are the chances she’s gonna be cool with this portrayal of her father?

      The only real solution is to change Paul Tate into someone else; someone entirely fictional who has his own reasons to go after Manson and make this more of a story that ‘surrounds Manson’ than is exclusively about him. For example, who’s to say all the Manson followers have been accounted for. We know they weren’t all arrested. One of them attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford. There’s a lot of room to get creative with this without unnecessarily defaming real people

      • Randy Williams

        If you want a reminder of the brutality of this crime before we start taking too many liberties.
        The crime scene photos. Very graphic.

        • Eric

          Strangely enough I’ve seen these recently. Been researching serial killers/mass murders for another project. From Carson’s review though, it’s worth it to note they didn’t stab Sharon in the stomach, let alone “carve the baby out”.

          But yeah, that’s why I suggested this might work better by focusing on a fictional Mason cult offshoot, rather than attempting to tie it to the real life situation. To this day there is still a semi-following that surrounds Mason from afar.

    • S_P_1

      I’m pretty much in agreement. When this script was submitted for AOW this was the first time I heard of an private investigation. This script does have hooks even if the execution and plausibility aren’t quite there. I just looked at the crime scene pics from the link below. What’s interesting is one of the captions insinuates someone attempted to copycat the murder scene.
      My primary sources of information when I first became aware of Charles Manson were the movie, Heraldo Rivera , 60 minutes, and various documentaries along the way. I may have skimmed the book Helter Skelter.
      This script is basically wish fulfillment for all the individuals in life cast as irredeemable. Manson was a figurehead the public needed to see prosecuted in order to deliver a level of justice to the victims. When these murders occurred people stilled cared about basic human dignity. So Charles Manson will always resonate with a certain percentage of Americans who see his fate as justice served.

  • Felip Serra

    Well. Why not add the Manson conspiracy?

    There’s the conspiracy that says Manson was really CIA, that the murders were Covert Ops, that the CIA had a “hidden” house inside Laurel Canyon, yadda yadda yadda… (Weird/crazy book on the subject: “Weird Scenes Inside the Canyons” by David McGowan.)

    If you’re main character is former intelligence and, while investigating his daughters death, finds out that the very people he served and worked for were possibly behind it, or knew about it, or could have prevented it… That could be compelling as hell.

    • hickeyyy

      That’s another great take! Good idea, Felip. I would be interested in reading that.

    • Linkthis83

      This was a curious read:

      • klmn

        Thanks for posting that. Looks interesting.

  • Eddie Panta


    MAN starts out on journey of revenge and ends up on journey of self discovery. Hero doesn’t get what he wants, he gets what he didn’t know he needed.

    That’s basically how you handle a story where the hero doesn’t accomplish his goal.

    Somewhere along the line, Paul needs to realize that if he continues down this path of revenge that he’s chosen, he’s going to need to turn into someone very different than he is. Even in the movie TAKEN, our hero has a price to pay for the life he’s chosen, revenge doesn’t come easy, he lives a lonely existence, outside the system. You’d need to show Paul standing on the precipice, debating whether he can continue down this route, and still be the man he really is.

    For example, if Paul got now where near the Manson family, which is probably the case, but instead was able to save Emily from a life on the street, then that would be the compensation Paul needs to move on. Again, not sure if anything like that happened.

    The ARC of a CHARACTER like this should be similar to the stages of grief, Paul is locked in anger mode and unable to move on until he does something, anything to avenge his daughter’s death.

    The JONESTOWN MASSACRE is another cult story where we all know how it’s going to end except for the millennials who live in a blissful state of ignorance where nothing happened before 1989 which is why Ti West and his club where able to pull off The Sacrament, a film which I think got a thumbs up here on SS, but got no where close to the tension, suspense, and gritty realism that the 1980 TV movie Guyana Tragedy had ( Ti West thinks he’s the only one who saw that movie)

    .I’d venture to guess that this is a similar situation going on here with the plot for Cielo Drive, young screenwriters need to be aware of the work that came before them in order to accomplish new and interesting work without being derivative.

    So as the commenter here tokyoYR pointed out, why base it on the facts at all, just change it to another cult, another murdered young girl, with a dad who has military intelligence connections. Then you could do whatever you want.

    SS asks: Is this story worth telling?
    Answer: Yes, IF you get past the exploitation and don’t attempt to titillate the audience via action of the murders.

  • Somersby

    I agree with Gregory M. This would be a fairly entertaining offering similar to Taken or The Equalizer if it was crafted around a fictional story. It’s that big, it’s that over-the-top and, basically, it’s that unbelievable.

    It’s good escapist fare.

    But it doesn’t work as an action flick purportedly based on actual events.

    There’s something really unsettling about seeing Paul Tate portrayed as a John McClane, or a John Wick, or a Bryan Mills, or a Paul Kersey because we, the audience, recognize the incredible divide between an action hero and real-life, flesh and blood individual.

    Because it’s based on an event with which many people are very familiar, Cielo Drive comes across as an exaggerated tall tale, an unlikely fishing story. Instead of drawing the audience in, it invites us not to participate and root for the protagonist because we are forced to be skeptical and mistrustful of everything presented to us.

    Having Paul take out four Black Panthers at once without breaking a sweat, beating up Hell’s Angels, single-handedly tracking down Manson and his followers is just too much of a stretch.

    All this is not to say that the writing is not competent, even compelling. The writer has crafted a nice action story—if only he didn’t keep us from enjoying it by trying to convince us it’s true.

  • Scott Strybos

    “And that’s: is this story worth telling? We already know how it ends. So instead of us wondering what Paul’s going to do next, we’re waiting for him to catch up to us, to find Charles Manson. And it’s just hard to create suspense when the reader’s always ahead of you.”

    The writer could pull a Tarantino ala Inglourious Basterds and have Paul kill Manson. End the story however he wants. Have fun with it… Or did Tarantino only get away with deviating from the source material, and killing Hitler, because he is Tarantino? Or did it work because Hitler was such a piece of shit, watching him be killed in such a horrible fashion was a lot of fun? Because it was a kind of wish fulfilment? In which case it could work here.

    • hickeyyy

      I like that, Scott. You already have Paul as a character killing off Manson-esque characters. Why not finish the job?

    • drifting in space

      To me, this is a fantastic idea. It would have a lot of impact and people would talk about it.

    • Felip Serra

      I didn’t even think of the “Inglourious Basterds” angle. Right on! If you’re already throwing history out the window then give it a nice top spin. Have Paul kill Manson, leaving the FBI with “Well, we have to have somebody take the rap…” Set up a fake Manson to be “captured” and tried and sent to prison… (and this feeds the conspiracy theory of why Manson was sent to prison for murder when he actually didn’t kill anyone.) Great suggestion Scott.

      • Scott Strybos

        You could, but then it gets a little complicated, and, as a writer, you might start tripping over yourself trying to tie your ending back into recorded history. I’m saying, Stiller could just deviate completely from history and have Paul kill Manson (like killing Hitler). Manson being killed is what we all want to see/read. No explanations. No conspiracy theories. Nice and clean.

        • Felip Serra

          I don’t know why I had to mention another conspiracy (seems to be on my brain today…)

          I just thought to let the audience have their cake and eat it too. In addition to a wish fulfillment have a clever coda (a la “Forest Gump” or something) where the viewer goes “Oh. So THAT’S what happened…” A little history might lend some credibility, even if the story deviated entirely from it. But who knows; I’m just making this up as I go :)

          • Scott Strybos

            I agree there is something really fun about an alternate view of what-we-have-come-to-think-of-as-indisputable history. Stuff hidden inside other stuff we didn’t know had stuff hiding inside of it…. Everyone loves a conspiracy.

    • 21BelowZero

      Excellent idea (“wish fulfillment”).

      I’d MUCH rather see Paul disembowel Manson, than hear about how Manson’s recent, real-life marriage/engagement(?) just ended.

      • klmn

        I’m surprised C didn’t mention his favorite gimmick – time travel. If Paul went back in time to prevent the murders the story would work better.

        Then Paul could look for his missing daughter all over the hippie time-space continuum. Get on the bus with the Merry Pranksters, drink the electric koolaid, go to Woodstock, get shot at Kent State.

        The possibilities are endless.

    • Kimmo Häkäri

      This is a really good idea. I’m currently writing something where I have a character very loosely based on a historical person and I was having a lot of trouble shoehorning the story to fit to the character’s history, so for my next draft I decided to just forget about it and write the story the way needs it to be.

      I felt super relieved when I made that decision.

      • andyjaxfl

        Some of the more widely regarded biographical movies take considerable liberties with actual events. Braveheart is nearly pure fiction save for a few character names, as is Kingdom of Heaven and The Patriot.

        Not that I have a vote in your script, but I say keep the historical person and change whatever you need to fit your story.

        Happy writing!

    • Bob Bradley

      How about building up Manson as an interesting character. Much more interesting than Paul Tate. Like Satan in John Milton’s poem. He’s much more interesting than God. Who are we rooting for now? The more interesting but evil character or the man on a mission? And is killing people for revenge a good thing? This script implies yes it is. The police agree.
      The script seems half way there. Great idea. But it needs to be re-fashioned, made more complex. Not less complex.
      I’d scrap the beginning. Building Paul and Sharon’s relationship was pretty boring. Show instead, The Manson Family relationships. Then some guy is after them. That could be a reveal. It’s Sharon’s Dad. That’s weird and interesting.

      • walker

        This is an excellent point, especially given screenwriters’ extensive knowledge of Paradise Lost.

        • Bob Bradley

          This reminds me of an ironical statement made by Oscar Wilde. But, oh, forget it.

          • walker

            Hey your point is astute, I just think it may be falling on sow’s ears.

    • drifting in space

      And as a segue… how about a Tarantino directed Star Wars?

    • Casper Chris

      Not a fan of that alternate reality / wish fulfillment stuff. Seems silly. I could accept Inglorious Basterds because, well, it’s Hitler. A man whose negative influence is still felt today. But Manson is such a massive step down the ladder. Too small. I’d rather watch a fictional serial killer (and a “real” one at that — that is, one who actually kills) get his comeuppance. That way I can at least pretend it’s real.

      • Scott Strybos

        You jogged my memory about a film I was excited to see years ago but completely forgot about called I SAW THE DEVIL.

        In it, a trained secret agent hunts down the serial killer that murdered his fiancé.

        I’m going to try and hunt it down this weekend. (The film received really good reviews.)

        • ArabyChic

          Amazing film — see also “Bittersweet Life.” Same director and star. Great duo.

          • Kimmo Häkäri

            One of my all-time favorite films. Heartily recommended.

        • Casper Chris

          Interesting. I’ll look into it.

        • Linkthis83

          It’s available on Netflix (on demand) and Amazon Prime.

          • Poe_Serling

            Also, I just noticed that the horror film Babadook has finally hit Netflix.

            The other item that caught my eye on their list of TV shows available – Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

            Starring Darrin McGavin as an Independent News Service reporter and one of TV’s first paranormal investigators involved in tracking down “aliens, zombies, werewolves, spooks, and even a boogeyman from

          • Linkthis83

            I saw that too (regarding Babadook). I couldn’t wait so I had rented it when it was on Amazon. I wasn’t a fan. All the components I wanted to like, love, and have the ability to appreciate, just didn’t land. Once I lost the ability to watch it sincerely, it did become humorous. I understood why people were so divided on it.

          • Felip Serra

            Ok. Poe:
            “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” is the television series based from two television movies: “The Night Stalker” and “The Night Strangler”. Netflix unfortunately doesn’t have these but SEEK THEM FIRST. Great atmosphere and well written (by Richard Matheson, of all people.) The series, in contrast, is a let down, though Darren McGavin is always great to watch.

          • Poe_Serling

            “Netflix unfortunately doesn’t have these but SEEK THEM FIRST.”

            Oh, I’m more than familiar with two TV movies that helped launch the short-lived series. Matheson is one of my favorite writers. ;-)

            And you’re right, Gavin’s rumpled and determined Carl Kolchak character is the compelling engine that drives the often hit-and-miss episodes of the series.

          • Felip Serra

            Ok. Hey. I’m on your side!
            Just thought to steer the uninitiated to the filet side of the beef first!

        • andyjaxfl

          Good flick with some intense action sequences, particularly the cab scene.

        • Bacon Statham

          If you like South Korean films, check out No Tears For The Dead.

  • klmn

    I’m surprised C chose this script to review today, because the writer is hardly an amateur. Another day of the week would be more suitable.

    • S.C.

      For what it’s worth, I agree.

    • drifting in space

      I felt the same way.

    • Randy Williams

      He beat out the competition (some of which may be from pros, how do we really know? Carson’s notes are priceless to anyone.) so he deserves the slot.
      Congrats to him for making it here.

    • Casper Chris

      Jesus guys, AF is about finding the great undiscovered story, not about breaking writers.

      • klmn

        Presumably he has an agent who can blast the script all over town.

        • S.C.

          I hope his agent doesn’t know his script has now been read by hundreds of people and only got a “Worth the Read”.

          • klmn

            I suspect his agent has already tried to market this and found no interest. And that this is the writer’s last ditch effort to save a dead project.

          • S.C.

            Yes, that IS a posibility. I’ve said in the past that I think some people use AOW as a wesbiste of last resort – the scripts have been “around the block”. Still, I think (if possible) that AOW should be reserved for five screenplays by people without agents, etc., even if that means subpar scripts making the cut.

          • Casper Chris

            Try to presume and suspect less and just enjoy the ride.

          • klmn

            Only fools and horses wear blinders and horses don’t have the choice.

          • walker

            Ken you are straight out of a Western just like brenkilco is straight out of a Noir.

          • klmn

            I wish I knew which one. I’m ready to go there now.

          • walker

            Actually I am pretty sure I saw you in China 9, Liberty 37 (1978) directed by Monte Hellman.

          • klmn

            I’m ready to go, but I might have trouble getting a single action on the plane. Not to mention the Eyetalian poe-lease.

          • Casper Chris

            Come on, it’s Amateur Friday, not the Jesuit Treason. Lighten up.

          • walker

            Not only is that very possible, I have seen it happen more than a few times on AF and AOW.

      • S.C.

        Yes, because it’s not like he could get this kind of professional feedback any other way. It’s not like he doesn’t have access to managers, agents, even producers and executives.

        Jesus indeed.

        • Casper Chris

          It’s not like amateur writers could not get Carson’s feedback any other way. His script notes service is up there bent in neon.

          • S.C.

            Amateur writers can’t always afford them. Pros have more money. Usually.

          • Casper Chris

            I could afford them. I’m a student with hardly any income.

          • S.C.


            I can’t afford them. Most of can’t. That’s why we post here, on AMATEUR Friday. To see how good we are. Or aren’t.

            Erik – who hasn’t shown up yet, and probably won’t – already has a writing gig, so he doesn’t need that advice – on TV, anyway. And his residual checks should pay for any mentorship he needs. In the meantime, I’m going to get back to my own script. It’s rather complex.

          • Bacon Statham

            Spot on. I’d rather have someone tell me my script is shit for nothing, than having to pay for the privilege of it being called shit. That makes me sound cheap, but like a lot of people on here, I can’t afford to spend money that doesn’t need to be spent.
            And like you say, Erik could easily pay Carson for notes instead of sending in for AOW.

          • walker

            Hey if you pay me I’ll tell you it’s good.

          • Bacon Statham

            How does a packet of Jaffa Cakes sound? Alright, I’ll throw in a bottle of Lucozade if you tell me it’s great.

          • walker

            You are getting pretty close to my usual fee. I haven’t had a Jaffa Cake since I lived in Belsize Park.

          • Casper Chris

            I’m more appalled by the fact that people are submitting scripts that they apparently believe so little in.

          • Bacon Statham

            I never said I believe so little in my script. I wouldn’t write it, if I didn’t believe in it. And I haven’t submitted any script yet. I’m a long way off from that.

          • Casper Chris

            You don’t believe in it enough to invest a little money in it? That’s what I mean.

          • drifting in space

            Carson’s notes are not a “little money.”

          • Casper Chris

            Compared to how much scripts sell for, it’s pocket change. Now, do you believe in your script or not? :)

          • drifting in space

            I believe in it so much I don’t need to pay $500 for notes. :)

          • Casper Chris

            Oh so you weren’t one of the people who desperately wanted a Carson review? Why are we talking then?

          • klmn

            There are many ways to spend money on scripts. You could enter half a dozen or more contests for what Carson charges. Some of them offer feedback at a resaonable price.

          • Casper Chris

            See reply to drifting below.

          • walker

            Hey now I have believed in every piece of shit script I have written.

          • Casper Chris

            That’s the spirit! :)

          • Kirk Diggler

            I believe in your shit scripts as well!

          • Casper Chris

            Chances are your income is higher than mine. I could afford it. So can you. It’s all about priorities, man.

          • walker


        • Randy Williams

          Different ballgames, yes. In our screenwriting group we had the second unit director who was currently shooting with M. Night Shamalamadingdong, yet he wanted to learn how to write screenplays with us yahoos. Some go where the road takes them.

      • 21BelowZero

        Then maybe Carson should just change it to Open Friday. A Professional qualifying for an Amateur slot defeats the whole purpose.

        Twist it around any way you want, someone getting paid to write scripts is NOT an amateur.

        • drifting in space


        • Casper Chris

          How does it defeat the purpose of trying to find a great story?

          Simon Cowell didn’t kick Andrea Faustini off the X-Factor UK because he was from Italy and not the UK. Don’t get so caught up in semantics. Hell, there are no rules on the Submit page stating you must not have gotten paid writing scripts before submitting, so how am I twisting again? Panties in a bunch much?

          • drifting in space

            I assume yours would be too if you were in direct competition with this person and learned he is a paid writer.

            All depends on which side of the equation you’re on.

          • Casper Chris

            Absolutely not. If Scriptshadow nation likes his story better, his story should get the review, not mine.

          • drifting in space

            We’re not talking about story here. We are talking about the credentials of a writer.

            Why not just let professional baseball players play in the minors and crush 100 HRs, amirite?

          • Casper Chris

            If the crecedentials of the writer were so important, writers wouldn’t be allowed to submit with pseudonyms. Maybe you should start your criticism there then.

            The sports analogy is flawed as having a great concept is usually more important than having pro-grade writing when it comes to landing an AF spot.

          • S.C.
          • drifting in space


          • andyjaxfl

            Ken Griffey Jr and his brain tonic makes me laugh every time. One of my favorite episodes!

          • klmn

            Actually, they do. Big leaguers are sent back to the minors all the time to work on one thing or another.

          • Kirk Diggler

            You can’t make a baseball analogy to a Brit and expect the lad to follow along.

          • walker

            Yes you are certain to strike out.

          • Kirk Diggler

            or ‘bowled’.

          • Bacon Statham

            But there’s the problem. A paid writer may have a really great script that everyone likes, but he shouldn’t get picked for AOW because it defeats the purpose of the game. Like Scott said, this seems like a last ditch attempt at getting the script read and I don’t think that’s right, because it takes away from the rest of us.

            Look at it like this. What if your script was better than this one and they both went up against each other, but his gets the most votes instead and that one goes up for AF? What if your script could receive a ”Genius” rating and get sold? But of course, Carson doesn’t review your script, it doesn’t get a ”Genius” rating, it doesn’t get sold and this script still gets the same rating it got today.

            I think you’d be pretty pissed if that happened. I think most of us would. Someone just takes your shot like that and it’s gone. You may never get another one. That’d be pretty sickening.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            I know how that feels. My character piece lost out to a flashy action sequence. But thats just how it goes. Voters are fickle.

          • Casper Chris

            Oh the horror! Oh the injustice! If I so DESPERATELY want Carson to review my script, I’ll use his notes service. If he loves it, I’m sure he won’t mind featuring it on his site or sending it to his contacts. ¨

            Seriously guys, you’re making mountains out of molehills.

          • klmn

            Someone with a tv gig should be able to afford C’s note service too.

          • Eric

            So if Quentin Tarantino posted his newest script for Amateur review, would that be aye okay as well? Maybe he posts a pilot. He’s an amateur to TV right? Where’s the line?

            I think the line is, “I’m on a writing staff and get paid to write screenplays everyday.” But if there’s a specific dollar amount that would do better maybe Carson can ask for tax returns. The point of course is that if there is no line, than there’s no point in calling it Amateur Friday. In which case we can just go back to calling it what everyone else does…


          • Casper Chris

            I was talking about grey areas above.Tarantino is hardly grey area.
            Low-profile professional singers pop up in amateur singing competitions all the time. And that’s real competitions with a formal rule set. This is just Amateur Friday where the submissions rules are, at best, hazy. What is going to stop pros from submitting with a pseudonym? Hell, what is going to stop Tarantino from submitting with a pseudonym?

            At least Erik was upfront before Scriptshadow Amateur Brigade picked his script to be reviewed on Amateur Friday. I’m not going to cry foul over that.

          • Eric

            But he already has a job writing for TV. What exactly are we going to do for him as a writer. His script could benefit, sure, but his career? He already has one. I don’t see much grey in that area. I know there’s no “rules”, but the ‘Amateur’ title should mean something at least. You may say Tarantino doesn’t count, but without rules that’s just your opinion, and you are no more right or wrong in that then we are in this.

          • Casper Chris

            Like I said, Amateur Friday is not about breaking writers, it’s about finding great stories. It helps when you look at it like that. Tarantino doesn’t need his stories found. He makes them himself. Cheers.

          • Eric

            Maybe, maybe not. But the track record is clear. An Amateur Friday spot is much more effective at getting an amateur writer attention than getting the featured script made. Once these scripts start being made into movies, then I’ll believe the focus should be to spotlight the story rather than the writer.

          • 21BelowZero

            Seriously? Are you daft? A PROFESSIONAL qualifying for an AMATEUR spot. How do you not understand that?

            THAT defeats the purpose of calling it AMATEUR Friday. You’re the only one preaching about finding some story in your garden.

            Get off your high horse, you don’t need to defend professional writers for the greater good of finding some amazing story (in the soil?).

            I think you’re one of those people who just like to disagree with something for the sole purpose of annoying everyone. It’s the only way you can get people to pay attention to you.

            I’m done with your whining, you’re not worth any more of my time.

          • Casper Chris

            I could reply to this post with the exact same thing I posted above. Clearly, you’ve run out of ammo. No wonder “you’re done”.

          • Bacon Statham

            ”Simon Cowell didn’t kick Andrea Faustini off the X-Factor UK because he was from Italy and not the UK.”

            People people who weren’t born in the UK or aren’t a naturalised citizen shouldn’t be eligible to appear on Britain’s Got Talent. If you’re a German student studying in the UK and you apply to go on, you shouldn’t be allowed, because you don’t fit the mold of what they’re looking for. They are looking for the next best talent from Britain.
            Same thing applies here. Carson is looking for the next best amateur script from an amateur writer.

            The way I see it is, a paid writer can still be a novice at it, but they’re no longer an amateur. If you’re being paid to write, it becomes your profession which means you are now a professional writer. But the rest of us, the ones who aren’t being paid, we’re all still amateurs.

          • Casper Chris

            Oh, it was Britain’s Got Talent? There you go.

            Anyway, as long as there are no formal rules for AF submission regarding this whole amateur/pro issue, let’s try not to bust a nut over trivial shit. I mean, there are lots of grey areas. I mentioned TV vs feature above. Another example is a former pro feature writer who’s lost representation (Hollywood is a revolving door after all). I’d probably stand a better chance against the pro TV writer, all else being equal. Then again, just because he’s a better writer than me, doesn’t me he’s sitting on the best story/concept. I’d welcome the challenge.

          • Eric

            This isn’t like some who’s German being on Britain’s Got Talent. This is like someone who has a record deal and is in the middle of touring stopping by to audition.

        • klmn

          Maybe Carson is pulling the plug on AF. He has also reviewed another conspiracy script today, about Princess DI.

          It’s not getting many comments, so I think some here have overlooked it.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Totally didn’t see there was another review today.

  • Poe_Serling

    Congrats to Erik for scoring this week’s AF slot!

    Like I few others already mentioned, I think if this case is “merely… a jumping off point for a revenge-fantasy-action flick about a lost daughter” it would benefit from another level or two of a larger conspiracy at work.

    If Erik does show up today, I’d also be interested to know if his position on Criminal Minds has made it any easier to crack open any other production company doors and get this particular project in their hands.

  • jw

    I struggle with JJ Abrams in not only his directing, but his writing as well. He’s clearly a brilliant guy, but I find it really difficult to connect to his material most of the time. I’m not sure what it is, other than there is ALWAYS this moment in his films of just pure commercialism that it takes me out of the story entirely. It’s as though he’s attempting to be Spielberg 2.0.

    Not only that, but let’s face it, this trailer is absolutely stupid. We all know one thing that must happen with trailers and that is that we need to see what the story is followed by a question that everyone wants answered. This trailer is so PC attempting to pull in every demographic possible that you can see the “suits” sitting at the table going, “okay, black storm trooper – minority audience – check, Harrison – old people and fan boys of the original – check, hot chick – teenage boys – check”. It’s so beneath the story and “on-the-nose” that it’s borderline offensive to someone who just wants to see what this is going to be about.

    Plus, I don’t really give a shit because I think Lucas already killed this franchise, so I don’t think it’s coming back, no matter who you put at the helm.

    • drifting in space

      It’ll be entertaining and make a trillion dollars. I think that’s all they could have hoped for at this point in the franchise. Like you said (and I agree), it’s been dead in the water for awhile.

      • jw

        I mean, it’s easy to say it’s going to “make bank” when you have a $100 million dollar marketing budget and a name everyone knows, but I’m honestly not too sure here. They’re setting it up for the Christmas extravaganza, which is smart because the December box office is now outpacing any month during the summer, but I think it will be interesting. If the upcoming trailers do not expand on the story and give audiences something they are salivating for then I’m going to take the “under” on this bet because audiences are NOT the same anymore in terms of “just showing up because it’s a blockbuster”. The ante has already been raised to heights that are so extreme, that if you just “make a blockbuster” and think that people are going to “show up” you’re delusional. In fact, even if we look at something that HAS a built-in audience like Fast & The Furious (to the tune of $175 million for the second), the 3rd version of that only made $80 million and they almost shelved any sequels, until the 4th came along and brought the franchise back from extinction, basically bringing it back to the same numbers it had prior to falling off. It shall be interesting.

        • drifting in space

          You are comparing F&F to Star Wars. There’s your problem.

          If you don’t think this will gross over a billion, you’re delusional.

          That and you’re JW. We all know your end game.

          • LV426

            Furious 7 is charted to hit 1 billion in world-wide box office.

            It’s at around 800-$omething million now.

            If a F&F sequel can do that, this new Star Wars could hit 2 billion. SW is releasing in December. It will potentially be able to stay in theaters a few months, leading into the new year. I’d say that this factor helped Avatar as it really didn’t have much competition. It’s another ballgame compared to the summer blockbuster season filled with tentpole after tentpole release.

          • Bacon Statham

            I think Furious 7 just hit a billion today. Star Wars will most definitely surpass a billion in about a fortnight, maybe even a week.

    • Kirk Diggler

      Lucas killed the franchise for the original 1977 fanboys. But as muddled as the prequels were, the 2nd set of SW films have a tremendous fan base. There are a lot of 7 and 8 year olds (Lucas’s intended audience, apparently) who didn’t give a crap that the story wasn’t as good and had zero nostalgia for the first films because they weren’t a glimmer in their daddy’s eye yet.

      Well those young kids who remember watching the dvd versions of Phantom Menace and Clone Wars (and the original 3, which their parents always told them were the ‘better ones’) are now in their 20’s and 30’s and will flock to the theaters. They’re nostalgic for the whole thing. The prequels were like Saturday morning cartoons only in high def with a 200 million dollar budget. Those kids remember watching the films, not in a theater, but in their PJ’s eating a bowl of fruit loops every weekend.

      It’s gonna make bank. In fact, they’re gonna need a bigger bank.

      • LV426

        I agree with everything you said here.

        The hardcore old school Star Wars fanboys just confuse me. They hate everything except the original Star Wars (A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back. Even then, I always hear about how Empire is the only truly “good” or “great” SW film. They continue to hope that the old glory days can be recaptured with a new SW film.

        Maybe it will, maybe it won’t?

        When you’re too close to a movie series like this you are bound to be disappointed. I experienced this with Prometheus. I had too many nitpicks beyond the obvious things people complained about. The truth is, Prometheus wasn’t really for an old school Alien/Aliens fan like me. Neither was Alien Vs Predator. I was too close to the old days of the franchise.

        Sure the studios like to let the geeky super-fans think they are the reason that a sequel or prequel to our favorite films end up getting greenlit and produced. They know we can’t resist showing up opening day. They get our money and it doesn’t matter if we rant on forums for the next decade.

        I’d say it comes down to the difference between fans and fanatics. The fans and casual viewers are the target market. The fanatics who cosplay and wage nerd wars online are the minority. Even if most of the truly hardcore SW fanatics don’t show up to the theater this December for The Force Awakens, Disney/Lucasfilm are still going to be rolling in piles of cash.

        The fanboys will show up though. They won’t be able to resist.

        • Kirk Diggler

          Jeez I hated Prometheus. It looked nice though, I’ll give Ridley that. But that story was absolute nonsense that relied on so-called smart people doing incredibly stupid things, so say nothing of posing questions that they never had any intention of answering.

          • LV426

            Yeah, there’s a bunch of surface level issues before you even delve into how it tinkers with the Alien franchise’s mythos. It does Look great. I also thought Michael Fassbender was interesting as David the scheming android.

            My guess is that Fox is building a shared universe with Alien/Prometheus/Predator. We’ve got a Prometheus sequel coming sometime over the next few years, plus Neill Blomkamp making some kind of Alien sequel/spin-off. Shane Black is making a Predator reboot, or sequel. I’m not exactly sure what it is.

            With the whole shared universe thing being so big nowadays I feel like this is not a crazy theory. Part of me says it sounds like an awful idea, but then again the old mystique of the Alien and Predator are gone. Too many sequels and spin-offs will do that. I’ve made my peace with that. Hopefully the Star Wars uber-fanboys can do the same and maybe enjoy the new film this December. At the end of the day it’s just a movie. That might sound glib, but there are tons of other stories out there to seek out in written or cinematic form.

    • charliesb

      It would seem that trailers are a dying art form, that has been destroyed by marketing departments. I agree that a trailer should hint at the story and leave us with a question, but these day’s we get teaser after teaser, and teaser’s for teasers that just show us “cool shots” and one liners “Do you bleed? You will.” And then when the actual trailer does eventually roll around, it pretty much tells us the whole story and only leaves us with the question “How the hell did this get made?” (TERMINATOR GENESIS – I’m looking at you).

      I don’t agree with your assessment that the SW trailer was created by a bunch of suits trying to be PC though.

      • Ninjaneer

        I disagree. I think trailers have been getting progressively better. Every time I see an old trailer it is soo bad. I’ll take new trailers any day.

        There are always going to be bad trailers because there will always be bad movies.

        You don’t like teasers but also don’t like trailers because they reveal too much? That is why I like teaser’s because I can gauge the quality of the movie but without spoilers.

        I wholeheartedly agree about the Terminator Genesis trailer :)

        • charliesb

          There have been some really bad trailers in the past, but I also remember in the early 2000’s where I was seeing trailers that really made me want to get into the theatre (despite the eventual quality of the film).

          Now (using Batman vs Superman as an example). We get a teaser : Batman looking at some screens as Zod calls out Superman. Then we get another teaser advertising an upcoming teaser : Superman’s suit and Batman’s suit. Finally I get the “real” teaser : Lex Luthor talks about the danger of of Superman, I see some bat vehicles and the final confrontation with witty one liner. I’m assuming that there are at least 2 more teasers plus a couple of full trailer’s coming before it’s released next year.

          I actually didn’t hate the last teaser, but after the other two, I just felt underwhelmed by the whole thing. Obviously YMMV. I did love the shot of Superman floating with the man reaching up towards him though, regardless of whether the story is good, I think it will be a very good looking film.

          It’s not that I don’t like teasers, it’s that I think we get too many of them, and the marketing departments seem so concerned with parceling out small snippets over time that by the time we get the actual trailer we (I) barely care anymore.

          There are exceptions. I actually liked the latest SW trailer a lot, though I agree the Chewie/Solo shot seemed a little out of place. I also loved the Pinnochio song being used in the Avengers 2 teaser. And I think the Mad Max teasers have been pretty incredible.

          Despite thinking that modern trailers reveal too much, I’m glad they put the twist in the latest Terminator trailer, because it just cemented that I wouldn’t watch it. ;)

          • Kirk Diggler

            The trailer for The Social Network is still one of the best I’ve ever seen.

        • LV426

          Though it does get foggy when we get those brilliantly cut trailers for crap films.

          Slightly off-topic, but I read a rumor that the nude Terminator(s) in Genisys will have CGI Ken Doll nubs where their manly parts would be. Because PG13 I guess.


    • Casper Chris

      Not only that, but let’s face it, this trailer is absolutely stupid. We all know one thing that must happen with trailers and that is that we need to see what the story is followed by a question that everyone wants answered.

      Keep in mind it’s not a trailer, but a teaser. It’s supposed to tease, not tell a whole lot. The regular trailer(s) will come later.

      (and yes, I know it’s called a ‘teaser trailer’ as well)

  • Shawn Davis

    I cracked this open based on the story being inspired by actual events. I think the writer may need to verify a couple of the major hiccups in the first few pages.

    The baby (named Paul) was NOT cut out of Sharon Tate’s Body. That’s a rumor that is easily debunked with a little research. And NO, the baby was not buried in it’s own baby casket.

    He was removed at autopsy wrapped in a shroud and placed in Sharon’s arms. They were buried together.

    Personally, I think that is far more compelling than a separate baby casket.

    I may be wrong and somebody please double check me on the facts, but even the crime scene photo’s show she still had her baby in her womb.

    The autopsy diagrams also show that there were no incisions on her stomach. Just multiple stab wounds in the chest and back. The tombstone also reflects they were both buried in the same plot.

    In fact, there are two schools of thought (not verified) on why the baby was not removed.

    1- Sadie May (I believe) wanted to but there was not enough time.

    2- Sharon actually begged them to cut the baby out in order for it to live. They left it in for the sole purpose of allowing it to slowly suffocate.

    Anyway. If the story is based on actual events, I think it should play closer to the actual events as they played out. Otherwise the story loses some credibility.


  • paul

    You shouldn’t punish the writer because the particular story isn’t your cup of tea. Some people might not be into the Manson story, but I for instance would find LA history pretty interesting. There might have been hundreds that touched on this subject matter, but I certainly haven’t seen one on it in a while so it feels new. The question is whether it’s good writing or not. The intro says that it’s from a staff writer at Criminal Minds, so I’m assuming he’s a pretty good writer since that show wouldn’t be hiring some schlub.

    But I do agree on one point that for stories based on history, I do want to learn alot about what went on or if it’s completely made up at least sell me on the world.

    • S.C.

      On your second point: I would say, as a general rule, don’t write about something historical or true unless you’ve either a) been studying it as a passion for some time or b) are prepared to spend a lot of time doing the research.

      You must know the subject better than almost anyone who will read your script (in this case, a large number of commentators have been able to spot errors in the story, and yet few are probably Manson murder experts).

      • paul

        I actually have a question on that. James ellroy and many others are completely off historically preferring to just make their own. Even many of the ones that are supposed to be straight depictions fudge the facts to tell the story… Where’s the line?

        • S.C.

          Here are two movies about the same subject (Valerie Plame) – one fictionalizes, the other is “the truth”:

          Neither did particularly well, but NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH is marginally less offensive:

          Some more examples of fictionalizing here:

          I would say, personally, that unless you are an expert on the true story, fictionalize it. If what’s interesting to you are the characters and their actions, rather than the actual historical detail, fictionalize it. Or use it as background, but use fictional characters as the leads.

          That’s all I have to say.

          • paul

            That’s what I was wondering….because many writers or novel authors actually know everything about a historical event and I can see where they get their inspiration….but they deviate sometimes for dramatic purposes or the fact that if they didn’t it wouldn’t really fit a 2 hour format….because real life doesn’t always neatly fit a linear way of telling the story or has too many people. But, I have seen a lot of historical figures used in a fictional way and since I know their entire background I know the writers are just making stuff up.

  • lesbiancannibal

    I think some of you guys, Carson included, need to turn off the targeting computer and use the force.

    Trailer looks awesome. It’ll make two billion dollars but I don’t care about that. I want to sit wide-eyed and watch in wonder.

  • fragglewriter

    I read until page 15. I just couldn’t continue reading it becaus I know what happens at the end, so it’s basically why bother. That’s also a reason why I can’t get into prequels.

    I think if the writer uses the above as a framework to develop an original serial killer movie that happened in the 70’s, this would be great.

  • Midnight Luck

    Wow, so Carson seems really down on this script, as is almost everyone else when I just skim through the people actually talking about the script and not yodeling on about Star Wars porn.

    Why is everyone so down on it?

    I think it is an incredibly interesting story with a Tru-ish basis.

    I find focusing on Paul to be THE thing which makes this story interesting.
    Is it worth telling?

    Carson you just wrote a thursday article called:
    Scriptshadow 250 Article – WHEN CONCEIVING CHARACTERS, THINK 3-D!

    So, we are constantly being talked to about Character and Concept being the most critical parts of your story.
    So this is a CHARACTER piece, just like your article was highlighting and going on about.

    Is it worth telling? Well you were just saying how important it is to make interesting, rounded characters, about their goals, about who they are.
    As far as I can tell, this script does EXACTLY that in spades.

    So if everyone is looking at this strictly from the perspective of: DOES IT HAVE A BLOCKBUSTER CONCEPT?

    Well, no it doesn’t. But it doesn’t HAVE to with an interesting character.
    And then everyone gets all tripped up on it being a story about an incident everyone already knows about. And everyone knows how it ends.

    But do they really? If the typically audience is 12-24 males and 8-16 females, do they have any clue about this? I doubt it.
    And even if they do, do they know ANYTHING about Paul’s story? I highly doubt it.

    This is what makes the story and script valuable. Not only is the writer very skilled, but he found a way to make it Personal, and found an incredibly intriguing with a BIG character.

    In the end, who really cares about Charles Manson? No one. This story isn’t actually about Manson. It is about Paul. So what does it matter if people know who dunnit?

    I would argue it is mainly about seeing what happens to Paul, and how he gets through this, and if he changes, or if he survives, or what his actions are and how he comes to grips with the loss of his daughter.

    Now isn’t that what we are constantly pushed to create?
    A big CHARACTER, and an interesting story?

    • tokyoYR

      Effective characterization is markedly absent in this script, in my opinion. Did you read it?

  • Ansar M. Smith

    Carson, you are trying to pretend to not geek out super hard about the star wars trailer because everyone else is. Its fucking Star Wars dude, that shit was so awesome. Don’t look for stupid reasons not to like something just because everyone else loves it, just so that you could be that guy. Also your theory makes no sense. It was just a casual Luke Skywalker voiceover stating how the force runs through the family, and he’s obviously talking to his daughter/son. Simple, dont over think it.