Genre: TV Pilot – 1 Hr. Drama
Premise: Club Lavender follows a transgender cabaret singer forced to go undercover for the FBI to infiltrate a gay private club run by an alleged communist gangster.
Why You Should Read: My script received a recommend on the trackingboard.com in 2016 and yet nobody would touch it because it was too niche. This was when transgenderism was beginning to get mainstream news after Caitlyn Jenner’s recent reveal. Now it’s a year later and I believe it’s the right time for more daring television surrounding controversial matters. Most importantly, my script exists in the new age of television and as such, takes a no hold’s barred approach to the aspects of story realism and grit. So read at your own caution.
Writer: Sylvester Ada
Details: 68 pages

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 4.23.38 AM

Andreja Pejic for Sydney??

One thing we need more of in Hollywood is unique voices. Most screenwriters tend to come out of that upper middle class white male demographic. The problem is, since most of these people were brought up the same way, they tend to see the world the same way. Not all of them. But most of them. Which is one of the reasons all Hollywood movies look and sound the same.

A couple of weeks ago we had a writer from rural North Dakota, Logan. And you could feel the uniqueness and the truth in his voice when he wrote. He was great at writing about isolation because he grew up isolated. And this week, we have someone who clearly had a different upbringing because nothing you read here feels familiar. This is a unique script and a unique voice. And we’re going to figure out if that translates into a good story.

Sydney Towne is a 20-something female singer at a beat-up old club in 1960s Queens, New York. It’s clear from the way she sings, she’s too talented to work here. But we get the feeling that a multitude of secrets keeps her from singing at the nicer clubs up the street.

After her performance, Sydney gets changed, and that’s when we realize Sydney is actually a man. She heads home for the night, but on the way a few thugs corner her and ask her for a “private” performance in an alley. As they toss Sydney around, debating whether she’s a woman or a man, a man in a mask arrives and puts a bullet in all the thugaroos.

He reveals himself to be James Pompero, the owner of a high class joint uptown called “Club Lavender.” He wants Sydney to work for him, even driving her there and taking her on a tour. That tour reveals a complicated club where gays, transgenders, and straight men with secrets, hide behind masks and enjoy a world they must keep private from their everyday lives.

Sydney wants no part of this but James is nothing if not persistent. Things become complicated when it’s revealed that one of the men James killed was Tiny Pete, the son of Columbo mob boss Carmine Perisco. New York Police Commissioner Arthur O’Reilly comes in and asks Carmine to let them find out who did this. But you get the feeling Carmine’s going to do his own investigation.

The remainder of the script follows several cops, as well as Carmine’s men, as they try and figure out who killed Tiny Pete. Since everyone has something to hide, they’re all trying to reconfigure the variables so that they don’t get exposed. Meanwhile, Sydney’s got to make a decision soon. Or James might nudge all these Sherlock Holmses in her direction. It’s starting to sound like there was never a choice in the first place.

Club Lavender is a really well-written script. Probably one of the best written scripts of the year. But remember, there’s a difference between “well-written” and “well told.” I’m more interested in a well-told story. And I’m on the fence about how I feel with Club Lavender in that regard.

While I figure it out, let’s talk about specificity. Specificity is an advanced screenwriting tool one uses to make their world believable. If you were a beginner screenwriter and you were to describe Club Lavender, you might write, “It’s a throwback to the clubs of the 60s, a beautiful arrangement of old-time elegance, along with some hip trim.” The problem with this description is there’s no specificity. So we don’t believe in the club.

Here’s how Sylvester describes it:

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 2.13.27 AM

Can you see the specificity there? With that specificity comes our belief in that world. You might be saying, “But Carson, I thought the writing in a screenplay was supposed to be sparse.” It is. Except when you’re describing the important things, the things that matter to the story. This show is titled Club Lavender, so I better get my money’s worth when it comes time to describe the place.

Another thing that Club Lavender reminded me of was that, when writing a pilot, you need “THAT SCENE.” “THAT SCENE” is the scene that shows us why your hero is worthy of watching for 70 hours, AND that’s a good memorable scene in its own right, the scene people are going to be talking about afterwards.

That scene in Club Lavender comes in the form of Tiny Pete and his cronies trapping Sydney in the alley and trying to get her to strip so they can figure out if she’s a man or a woman, and then a masked man shows up and kills them all. That scene had everything – a horrifying situation, suspense, our hero fighting back with everything she had, a mystery person showing up and killing the thugs. It was the moment for me when I truly committed to the script.

But the best thing about Club Lavender is the dialogue.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 1.32.09 AM

It’s creative. It’s unique. I’d go so far as to say every dialogue chunk was its own little work of art. And I say that because you can tell Sylvester put everything into every single line. Lesser writers take scenes off. There isn’t a single dialogue scene that was taken off here. It’s all strong.

With all that praise, this script must be getting a genius rating, right Carson? Not so fast. There are a few missteps that kept me from loving Club Lavender.

The first is that the plotting starts to get clumsy towards the end. I was having a particularly hard time following the cops. Writers have to remember that readers lump cops in together. Every time a new cop is introduced, we’re thinking, “Okay, that’s cop number 6 now.” They don’t get that memory bank differentiation that comes from a character having their own unique job.

So when some cops are trying to destroy evidence, others are trying to kidnap Sydney, others are trying to help her, there was another cop I think who was also on the take or something. It becomes easy for us to mix those people up unless we’re taking meticulous notes. And if you’ve got us doing that, you’re making us work too hard. This is why I always say, use as few cops as you can get away with. And for the ones you keep, make sure their names are all really different. And the way they look, act, and talk is all really different. Otherwise, I’m telling you, we’re going to mix them up.

Another thing I had a problem with was this whole communist thing. I didn’t get it. If this script was just about important powerful people – criminals and good guys alike – hiding in this club, I would’ve liked that. But we’re also supposed to believe that these people are communists? Or some of them are communists? Or is this a time when the U.S. was calling gays and transgenders communists even though they weren’t? I didn’t understand it. And since that was the big ending reveal, I was left feeling limp. A pilot is supposed to have you on the edge of your seat ready for episode 2. I was not there after this ending.

It seems to me like that’s a really important story point for Sylvester so I’m not going to tell him he needs to ditch it. But I would. I think it’s unnecessary. You have a club where everyone is hiding something, a Godfather like mob-war subplot, and lots of fascinating characters. What else do you need? If you want to keep the secret agent thing, then have her working for the cops as an informant rather than for the FBI.

With that said, this is definitely worth a read. I’m sometimes asked the question, “How do I know when my writing is at a professional level?” And the only answer I can give them is, “When someone wants to pay you to write.” And I would pay, in a second, for Sylvester to a dialogue pass on one of my scripts.

Think about that guys. If you needed to pay someone to write an idea of yours and it couldn’t be you, whose writing is impressive enough in your eyes, that you would actually pay them money out of your own pocket to write it? Now turn that question back on yourself. Do you believe someone, after reading your script, would pay you to write something for them? If you’re good at being objective, that question can help you understand where you’re at and what you need to work on to get to that paycheck.

Script link: Club Lavender

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

What I learned: “Just drop the heater and step away from the lady, before we have one of those closed casket conversations.” Come on, I dare you to write a line as good as that.

  • Malibo Jackk

    **

  • Zack

    Congrats on the Worth The Read!

    • carsonreeves1

      The high quality level of these Friday scripts has become surprisingly consistent. Great jobs to the writers submitting and the members of the site who read the scripts and vote. You’re doing a great job.

      • Scott Crawford

        What SPECIFIC improvements are you seeing, Carson? Better writing? More 3D characters?

        • carsonreeves1

          More scripts are consistently strong in important areas (like story or dialogue or voice). They leave an impression. I feel like I used to get a lot of thin scripts that had so little behind them, they were instantly forgettable.

          • A Man is No one

            The longer Scriptshadow exists, the more the people here are writing and learning the craft, which inevitably means that the quality is going to consistently go up.

            The only leveling factor would be people making it (and no longer being eligible for AOW) and people quitting.

    • Sly

      Danke fam.

  • carsonreeves1

    By the way, what did others think about the Communist plotline? Am I on an island here? If you liked it, let me know why.

    • A Man is No one

      Personally, it did nothing for me, and neither did the hoover opening. I can see how the mystique and nostlgia of a noir mccarthyism cold war era can be appealing, but I found it distracting to the story that club lavender could really focus on telling.

      In a fashion, the communist plot is sort of like the cliche underbelly of a more gritty seemingly realistic world that to me detracts from where the script would otherwise shine.

      I think it’d be more interesting if communism was reserved for a single character sub plot outlined for later episodes in a bible rather than the pilot, or excluded altogether and replaced with something else thematically.

      Like horse racing.

    • Adam McCulloch

      I only read and reviewed the loglines and noted that the communist element seemed out of place even from such limited information. Clearly I’m feeling a little smug about that now but it’s really because I’m focusing on getting better at finding story weakness in loglines so it feels like progress for me. But I really did think the idea and voice were both great. I would suggest that the writer needs to separate himself a little from the source material. It may be that the communists were involved in the club in real life but if it doesn’t serve the story then don’t keep it. Great result for the writer. Very exciting stuff.

    • Levres de Sang

      My critique went down a similar road as I didn’t buy the 60s setting. Rather, the dialogue and tone felt contemporary.

  • Lucid Walk

    Let’s play a game. What was THAT SCENE in the following pilots?

    1. Breaking Bad
    2. Lost
    3. Game of Thrones
    4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    5. Walking Dead
    6. House of Cards
    7. Firefly
    8. Stranger Things
    9. This is Us
    10. Rick and Morty

    • carsonreeves1

      For Lost it was the aftermath of the plane crash, of course, and Walking Dead the hospital scene. Been awhile since I watched some of these others.

      • Lucid Walk

        Crap. I fear this game will get lost in the comments.

        • Scott Crawford

          OT but along similar lines… one of the most important things to get the audience on your side is to make the laugh. Jonathan Moscow recalls how everyone was against his Terminator 3 until this scene… then the audience decided to get behind the film. I don’t think it has to be a joke but SOME emotional jolt that shakes the audience.

          http://aceofgeeks.net/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Terminator-3-3.jpg

          • klmn

            Hmm. Maybe Arnie should play Sydney?

      • UPB13

        I think for most people, Lost is the polar bear in the jungle. Doesn’t have anything to do with the hero, but it creates the sense of mystery.

    • wlubake

      1. Breaking Bad – The very beginning of the pilot. Underwear in the road with a gun.
      2. Lost – Honestly didn’t come for me until episode 3 (“Walkabout”). I was into it from the get-go, but after Walkabout, I was in until the end.
      3. GOT – I’m a bad example here, as I watched the pilot and haven’t returned to the show yet. Was not a fan.
      6. House of Cards – It was the first interaction between Zoe and Frank.
      8. Stranger Things – Murder in the diner.
      9. This is Us – The reveal at the end of the pilot.

      Haven’t watched 4, 5, 7 or 10. But I’ll add a couple other favorites:

      Justified – Opening scene where Raylan confronts the guy at the pool in Miami. That show had me hooked on the character and show there.

      Mr. Robot – This one is just strange, as it isn’t necessarily any one scene that hooks you. It is the immaculate direction and use of music. It just felt unique from the start, and I felt like I HAD to watch it. The real hook moments came mid-season of the first year.

      • Lucid Walk

        Thanks for playing.

        I literally just saw Justified. I think it was when Boyd blew up the church with a rocket launcher. Wasn’t expecting that at all.

        • wlubake

          The pilot is basically the short story “Fire in the Hole” upon which the series is based. In the story, Boyd dies at the dinner table. Fortunately, we are treated to 5 seasons of Walton Goggins’ brilliant hillbilly badass.

          • https://twitter.com/Angry_Cyborg Angry Cyborg

            Walton Goggins is one of my favorite actors. Loved him in The Shield too. Just finished binging all 6 seasons of Justified, excellent show and mostly b/c of Boyd Crowder.

            Still trying to get through Six, though. You can tell it was written by people who weren’t in the military and are only going off what they’ve seen on TV or in the movies. It can be painfully cliche at times.

      • hickeyyy

        I’d argue that the opening of LOST is the hook. Jack waking up in a suit in the middle of a jungle, a random single shoe hanging from bamboo. Then a dog runs up to him from nowhere. What the hell is this? Then when he runs out and we slowly see the wreckage? That was that.

      • Thaddeus Arnold

        I’d say the hook in Mr. Robot was the opening scene.

        And I recommend you check out Buffy. First season is a little rough but I put that right up there as some of the best genre writing on TV.

    • Thaddeus Arnold

      For Buffy – though it didn’t feature Buffy herself, that scene was when you thought the unsuspecting blonde was about to become another victim of a vampire. Instead she turns to reveal she is the actual vampire and pounces on her male companion.

      • Lucid Walk

        I can’t say how much I love that show.

  • Sly

    Writer here, I’ll take my WTR and run.

    The communist plotline: The script centers around a gay secret society called the mattachine society which involved the presence of both powerful and low level members. I knew I was courting controversy using that as the stage for my pilot as well as implying members of the force were involved. But you have to understand, even decades after his death, Hoover is still rumored to be gay and that was worth exploring IMO, especially considering he enacted “COINTELPRO” where the FBI monitored and waged war against suspected “subversives” and communists through means of brute force and misinformation camapaigns. I’m surprised Carson got lost but hey, that’s the price of I paid for shooting for complex.

    Oh and I’m a 24 year old Nigerian bloke with an overactive imagination. Thanks to everyone who gave my script a chance as well as the community on here for pushing me to get the script to where it is now. Writing for your peers as opposed to “the industry” will push you to get in your bag.

    As for my dialogue… I honestly watch too much battle rap and write dialogue I would love to hear on TV.

    • Scott Crawford

      Imagination is the key… last weekend’s scripts were all not bad, but your script was DIFFERENT. Embrace the bold ideas, the crazy ones, the ones others say won’t work. Embrace them!

      • Justin

        Absolutely. Usually within a week, I forget all about the AOW submissions (for the most part). But “Club Lavender” is one of the few, aside from “Battle God,” “Meat,” (among others) that I still remember with absolute clarity. Mark of an original or at least imaginative script, if not anything else.

    • Adam McCulloch

      Congrats, Sly. That’s such good news on the review. I’m really excited for you.

    • ThomasBrownen

      Congrats, Sly! And thanks for chiming in here in the comments.

    • klmn

      Congrats, Sly.

      Have you written any scripts set in Nigeria? That would make an interesting addition to the AOW mix.

      • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

        I agree. That would add a layer of authenticity.

        • Sly

          Y’all are trying to tempt me.

          • Jaco

            Adapt something by Wole Soyinka! Love his stuff.

  • Poe_Serling

    Another [x] worth the read. Congrats to the writer!

    Here’s hoping the top script from the upcoming AOW keeps the positive
    trend going.

    • klmn

      OT. Just got the email from teh Beverly Cinema, and their showing Slithis. It sounds right up your alley.

      By the way, did you get your rubber suit for Halloween yet?

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

    Another worth the read. Awesome. I finally finished my new pilot. It’s currently at the cleaners with a couple TV writers. Hoping it’s good.

    Anyone in the UK get their hands on a SNES classic? I have two American models and would love to trade one for a UK version.

    • Scott Crawford

      What is this! Writer’s good news day!?

      I won eleven pounds on the ponies today. That’s my good news – upvote it.

      Really don’t think I can get my hands on a SNES classic – not on ebay?

      • klmn

        Congrats!

        Don’t spend it all in one place.

        • Poe_Serling

          The Disqus gremlin wouldn’t let me respond to your other post
          regarding…

          Slithis…

          I think I’ll pass on that one. You should check out Mr. Ebert’s
          original review of the flick.

          On the same note…

          TCM is ramping up for the Halloween season starting with
          classic horror features every Tuesday through the month
          of October.

          30+ films in total.

          Showcasing a wide variety pics in this particular genre from
          ’30s – ’60s.

          • klmn

            Don’t get TCM with my current cable package. I may drop cable entirely. Mostly I’ve been reading old books for ideas. (Old, as in “long out of copyright.”

      • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

        Too expensive on Ebay. Rather trade someone my US version. I have most of the games… more for nastalgia.

        So nobody, huh?? :(

        Congrats on 11 pounds… is that like $18 bucks?

        • Adam McCulloch

          Or around 300 Mexican Pesos. Hell, you could have a nice night out for that down here.

  • Justin

    Congratz on the “Worth the Read!” I knew that at the very least, it’d score at least that. I didn’t read the script all the way through, so I can’t comment on the few possible flaws that Carson mentioned, but it was an amazing read nonetheless.

    OT: Scored an “8” on my script that I’m hosting on The Black List. I know it might be no big deal, but I’m still happy about it.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Title?
      Genre?
      Logline?

      • Justin

        Title: Molly
        Genre: Sci-Fi Drama
        Logline: A grieving inventor creates an innovative virtual reality technology in the hopes of reuniting with his deceased four year old daughter.

        • Adam McCulloch

          Sounds good. Has it been on AF?

          • Justin

            Not yet. I actually got some great notes from Carson on it, but I can’t implement them just yet because I’m working on another script.

          • Adam McCulloch

            Wonderful stuff, Justin. I feel your pain. Great position to be in, though. Too many projects, not enough time. Looking forward to reading which ever one pops up first.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Sounds like a great concept.

        • PQOTD

          Hey, congrats, Justin! It sounds good, too. Fingers crossed for you, mate!

    • Adam McCulloch

      That’s great, Justin. Did an ‘8’ qualify it for the Black List Newsletter? I hope so. Share the deets here too. You never know who’s watching.

  • Justin

    I’d rather not post the script since it’s something I might do a rewrite on later in the future — but I am working on a script that I’m planning on submitting to AOW within the month or so.

  • Sly

    Think of dialogue as the most prominent weapon you have when writing.
    Readers will skim descriptions no matter how good, especially if you write in blocks. But dialogue is the one moment you know that the reader is using their inside voice just so they can put themselves in the shoes of the characters.

    . A lot of readers love dialogue that sounds a bit lyrical. People just won’t admit it.

    Think of all the Tarantino slick talk. It’s basically the same sorta street wise banter you’ll find in hip hop videos, only this is being said by mobsters. The dialogue has a certain “recitability”.

    Same with Sorkin. His dialogue is lyrical without using alliteration. He also knows hw to make his dialogue have dual aims as opposed to two characters discusiing just one thing. So if one part of the argument gets boring, he automatically brings up the second topic as a sleight of hand.

    The trick to finding your dialogue voice as opposed to your writing voice in general is looking at the way people around you talk. No matter what country on earth you’re from, if you’re writing in English, there has to be a certain cadence of English within your immediate environment.

    Also always remember, people cut each other off mid sentence. People stammer. People repeat words. People don’t speak in full ‘proper” sentences. Some people forego certain words while others don’t. This is different from your characters having various accents. This is more like characters have different “flows” to their lines.

    As for having “cool” sounding dialogue, honestly binge watch the wire. Not pulp fiction or inglorious basterds or anything like that. The wire was my masterclass in having tough characters sound “cool” while not being outlandishly so. Even then, I don’t always hit my mark.

    It also helps when you have that one line of dialogue you would like your character to say that sounds cool, so you write the entire scene around that line. You make the previous banter dance around until the character gets to say that line. Once you have that down, you can then go back and change even the most random lines to sound a bit more authentic, knowing that it will end up with that one particular trailer worthy line.

    • PQOTD

      Speech really is as distinctive as fingerprints if you’re paying close enough attention.

  • Sly

    Danke.

  • Adam McCulloch

    Longevity, schmevity. The guy is 24 years old and he’s got a fresh voice. I’m eager to see what else he has in store. Hopefully HE has longevity. There are a lot of writer’s rooms which would benefit from his presence. Hopefully someone gives him a call as a result of this.

  • BMCHB

    Once again, Carson is totally wrong… It has to be Jamie Clayton in the lead role!

    Congratulations to Sly. I still think you should write the movie first – Casablanca as a “gay bar”? – but I’m gla[a]d I changed my vote to Club Lavender. Best of luck with this.

  • klmn

    No late post? I guess C missed last call at In ‘N out.

  • Sly

    Wagwan. Hit me up in my email sly0712 @ gmail . com