Get Your Script Reviewed On Scriptshadow!: To submit your script for an Amateur Review, send in a PDF of your script, along with the title, genre, logline, and finally, something interesting about yourself and/or your script that you’d like us to post along with the script if reviewed. Use my submission address please: Carsonreeves3@gmail.com. Remember that your script will be posted. If you’re nervous about the effects of a bad review, feel free to use an alias name and/or title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every couple of weeks so your submission stays near the top.
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.
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.