A rare treat. An extremely solid amateur script! But will not owning the rights to the material doom the screenplay??

Next week is a SPECIAL WEEK here on Scriptshadow. It’s WEIRD SCRIPTS WEEK. I’ll be reviewing five really strange scripts, saving the weirdest and oddest for Friday. Your life will never be the same after you hear about that last script, I promise you. This means there will be no Amateur Offerings this weekend. So check out Damn Nation instead. It’s a good script!

Genre: Horror/Action-Thriller
Premise (from writer): Five years after a plague has overrun the United States, turning most of the nation into feral vampiric creatures, a Special Ops unit from the President’s current headquarters in London is sent back into the heart of the US in a desperate attempt to find a group of surviving scientists who claim to have found a cure for the disease… but not everyone wants to see America back on its feet.
Why You Should Read (from writer): I believe screenplays are evolving. With the advances of technology in the last couple of decades such as the internet, computers, ipads, smartphones, etc, screenplays can be more than words on paper, they can be visual and even interactive experiences. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last person to integrate artwork into my screenplay, but I think this approach, if done right, can add a lot of value to a project. Integrated artwork is just the tip of the iceberg though. I believe soon people will be adding a lot more elements, such as photo references, storyboards, video, sound effects, music, and other audio-visual components embedded into their scripts. The possibilities are endless. — However, I know that my view on things is going to be vastly unpopular right now. I think most people will have an old school attitude and believe that writers should write, leaving the fancy bells and whistles to someone else. — With that said, I do believe nothing is more important than the words themselves. Above all else, I hope my script is judged on the words, not the images. Everything else I’ve added is just a bonus.
Writer: Adam Wax (Based on the comic, “Damn Nation,” written by Andrew Cosby and illustrated by J. Alexander)
Details: 110 pages

item3172.1

I guess you could say today’s entry is a little controversial. We don’t usually review adaptations on Amateur Friday. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with writing one. I know some people get upset by it but as long as you give credit where credit is due, which Adam does, it’s fine.

As far as whether it’s legal to adapt something you don’t have the rights to – it’s perfectly legal. If you went and wrote your own Fifty Shades of Grey script tomorrow, nobody’s going to come knocking at your door. The only time it becomes illegal is if the studio buys it and turns it into a movie without obtaining the rights. And even then, it’s not you who gets sued, it’s them.

Wax has also decided to infuse artwork from the comic into his script. As I’ve stated before, I have no problem with this either. I think, under the right circumstances, art can enhance the read. I just wasn’t a particular fan of THIS art. I’d prefer art that actually gives me a clear idea of what’s going on. This art here is almost the opposite – as evidenced here.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 12.31.20 PM

The setup for Damn Nation is pretty straight forward. Five years ago, a lost Russian tanker wanders into U.S. waters, full of dead bodies. When a group goes to inspect the ship, they find that these “dead” bodies aren’t as “dead” as they thought. We cut to five years later, where we learn that that event was the beginning of a fast-acting virus that took down the entire United States.

Back in Britain, where the remainder of the United States government now resides, they receive a signal from Buffalo, New York, with a simple message: “We have the cure.” The Americans and the Brits put together a team of about a dozen soldiers and send them off to Buffalo to see if there’s any truth to this message.

The team is led by the always cynical Captain John Cole. He’s joined by the non-shit-taking Lieutenant Emilia Riley, a Brit who’s not a huge fan of the American way. The two command a group of both Americans and Brits, and head into Buffalo where they immediately find our scientist with the cure.

Except that’s where shit starts going wrong. A sub-division of the team turns on them, killing everyone within sight. They try and kill Cole and Riley, who just barely escape with the doctor, a few other soldiers, and the cure. We eventually learn that the Brits, the Chinese, and the Russians, like this new world where the U.S. is no longer a player. And if there’s a cure, that puts the U.S. back in the mix.

Cole and Riley are thrust into a dangerous country where these… things lurk around every corner. They’ll need to come up with a plan not only to avoid them, but find a way to safety, and find someone who actually wants to use this cure to save the United States.

item3172.3

A page from the comic.

In the spirit of being completely honest, permission-less adaptations are usually the worst scripts I read. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but my guess is, these scripts tend to come from first-time screenwriters who fall in love with a property (movie, comic book, what have you) and want to write a movie in that universe. They do this before learning how to actually screen-write, which is why the scripts are often complete messes.

My advice to writers thinking about adapting a high-profile property you don’t have the rights to: don’t do it. I can guarantee that the rights to anything you’ve found are already owned by some producer working for some studio, which means you have approximately ONE BUYER for your script. If that one buyer doesn’t like what you’ve done, you’re shit out of luck.

There is a less cynical side to the approach, though. If you write ANYTHING that’s good, whether it sells to that single buyer or not, the town will take notice. And while you may not sell this specific script, you’ll get tagged as a good screenwriter and get some meetings out of it.

I don’t know where Adam Wax is in his screenwriting career, but he deserves some meetings after Damn Nation. This script is good. The first word that comes to mind is: polished. This isn’t something that was thrown together quickly, like so many amateur scripts we read here seem to be. Rather, there’s a clear structure to the story, and Wax moves it along quickly.

We start with that great teaser – A Russian boat that’s been lost for 15 years. Inspecting that boat to find 200 dead bodies that suddenly come to life. If that doesn’t grab you, you are incapable of being grabbed.

We don’t waste any time when we jump to five years later either. We immediately jump to the “cure” signal and within pages, our team is on their helicopters, heading to the U.S. Spec scripts HAVE TO MOVE FAST. And Damn Nation eschews the Prius approach in favor of the Lamborghini.

The first big twist is maybe a little predictable (the soldiers turning on their leaders), but Adam’s such a good writer, he makes it work. And it places our characters into a seriously terrifying situation – being alone in a country dominated by blood-sucking creatures with no one to come save them.

I often discuss on this site using ideas that DO THE WORK FOR YOU. This is the kind of idea that does the work for you. Putting your characters in this kind of peril ensures that you’ll have a bevy of terrifying scenes and sequences. Every moment counts. Every wrong choice could lead to death. There’s never a moment here where the audience can sit back and relax, which is a sign of a really good story.

Some of the character stuff is really good too. For example, Captain Cole isn’t just some tough-as-nails vanilla captain. He learns that the whole reason he was picked to lead this mission is because he’s been such a terrible captain (killed two platoons in Afghanistan). He was chosen for the specific purpose of ensuring failure. Cole is going to have to dig down deep and overcome all his demons and past failures in order to prove to others, but more importantly, himself, that he can lead.

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, or really any post-apocalypstic literature, I can guarantee you’re going to LOVE THIS. I could see this being a hit movie TOMORROW. But I don’t know who owns Damn Nation, and I don’t know if whoever has the rights plans on making the movie anytime soon. But they should. And they owe it to themselves to at least check out Adam Wax’s version.

Script link: Damn Nation

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

What I learned: I’ll say it again, guys. A spec script NEEDS TO MOVE QUICKLY. The specs that never seem to slow down, that never allow the reader to sit back and relax – these scripts have a HUGE advantage over the slow-moving specs with stories that take forever to get going, and which spend too much time sitting around in that second act. If you can, I’m BEGGING YOU to infuse URGENCY into your spec idea. Urgency and specs go together like peanut butter and jelly.

  • IgorWasTaken

    <Next week is a SPECIAL WEEK here on Scriptshadow. It’s WEIRD SCRIPTS WEEK.

    Great!

    I’ll be reviewing five really strange scripts, saving the weirdest and oddest for Friday. Your life will never be the same after you hear about that last script, I promise you.

    OK.

    This means there will be no Amateur Offerings this weekend.

    Huh?
     

  • walker

    This is something of a travesty. I want to offer my congratulations and condolences to anyone who wrote and submitted an original screenplay for Amateur Friday consideration. You know, one of the most-repeated pieces of Hollywood advice is “Nobody knows anything”, but I can assure you that it is untrue. Attorneys know a little something.

  • S.C.

    Congratulations, Adam! Only about one in ten Amateur Friday scripts gets a Worth the Read – I’ll think we’ll be seeing a lot more from you.

    On speed – How long do we have to wait before something interesting happens in a script. The answer is simple: One page. Something must happen on every page.

    I’m a slow reader of screenplays, takes me about hour and a half, even if it’s a fairly quick read (as many modern pro scripts are). Every page I read is, therefore, another minute that I spend not looking after my father. Or not reading another screenplay. Ergo, therfore, vis a vis… something must be going on every page.

    Not an explosion, necessarily, or a murder, although that can help. But if you’re wading through twenty pages of treacle before anything happens, well, you’ve lost me and you’ve lost a lot of other people.

    Not a particularly original comment, fairly obvious, but still seems that it must be repeated.

    The Ten Commandments of Billy Wilder:

    1. Thou Shall Not Bore.
    2. Thou Shall Not Bore.
    3. Thou Shall Not Bore.
    4. Thou Shall Not Bore.
    5. Thou Shall Not Bore.
    6. Thou Shall Not Bore.
    7. Thou Shall Not Bore.
    8. Thou Shall Not Bore.
    9. Thou Shall Not Bore.

    10. Thou Shalt Have the Right of Final Cut.

    • walker

      Pretty ironic in this context that “Thou shalt not steal” is left off that list.

  • HRV

    Finished reading the script yesterday. A quick read especially toward the end. Good job on what tends to be a common topic of late.

  • HRV

    No AOW again. That’s what I thought would happen.

  • SandbaggerOne

    I’ll have to slightly disagree with Carson on the topic of adapting something you don’t own the rights to. Not on the legal side of it, that is pretty obvious, but rather on the idea that it can be valuable as a writing sample. It isn’t. Or at least, also in a very minor way.

    The problem is, as a writing sample, especially if the reader is not familiar with the source material, that they have no way of knowing what has been lifted straight from the source. The setting and plot obviously, so that won’t win you (the writer) any points with them. The dialogue might also be lifted directly from the source material, so the reader/producer has no way of knowing if you can write dialogue either. The characters are also assumed to be taken directly from the source, so you won’t get any credit from that either (even if you have improved/added or changed some of the characters) because the default perception is that all of it is taken from someone else’s work. The only real “credit” you might get is that you know how to format a script and can put sentences together to describe action.

    The only time a sample like this would be if the reader/producer is very familiar with the source material so they can tell what changes and improvements you may have made, and the odds of that are pretty remote. But on the off change the reader/producer is familiar with the original material, then a script like this might make them interested in hiring you to adapt something they do own the rights to. But that is such a long shot, I would never recommend doing that. 99% of the time if a reader/producer sees a project come in that is an adaption of someone else’s property that the writer does not own the rights to the script will be deleted, unread. Just like unsolicited scripts.

  • Steffan

    Congrats on the double worth!

    When I get a chance I’m going to crack this open.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Apparently Ashley Miller, the writer of Thor, X Men: First Class, Top Gun 2 / Big Trouble in Little China 2 – turned in a draft of Damn Nation to Paramount Pictures in 2009.

    • S.C.

      Six years ago, so it’s pretty much in limbo. They probably didn’t do as good a job as Adam!

      OT: We need an amateur TV pilot weekend!

      • Gregory Mandarano

        In any event, this is what happens when you write an adaptation you don’t have the rights to. As an unknown, Adam’s script is up against the same project from someone writing MARVEL movies, and two of the hottest slated productions in Hollywood.

        • S.C.

          Yes, but before everyone piles on top of him, I’ve communicated with Adam in private and he’s a very smart, very serious writer. I’m sure we’ll see more of his originals later.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            I look forward to him chiming in and giving us some insight into his creation process, and why he chose to tackle this project.

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

            It feels like it should almost be a requirement for the writers to add to the discussion if their script gets reviewed.

            But most of the time they don’t say anything, or they give a polite thank you, but we never hear anything else from them.

            Though I suppose that’s better than the writer defending every bad choice they made as being the right one, and nobody knows what the hell they’re talking about lol

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Be nice. For all we know he’s meeting with the the four DarkHorsemen of the Apocalypse signing a options contract in blood.

            On a side note – Dark Horse is cool! My uncle once did a comic script for them about the black plague, but I can’t remember what it was called.

          • walker

            I really must ask you Scott, how is it that you are censorious about Dave Collopy’s dogged determination to get an AF review for his original script, but you are ok with this guy submitting someone else’s work as his own?

          • IgorWasTaken

            Uh, I think I’ll go out now for a cigarette. (And no, I don’t smoke.)

          • S.C.

            Oh, don’t worry about it, Igor. I try not to. Here, have a laugh:

            http://static.fjcdn.com/pictures/Superdickery_333f27_5405024.jpg

            Superman’s a dick!

          • S.C.

            “I’ve communicated with Adam in private and he’s a very smart, very serious writer”

            I’m pretty sure I wrote that.

          • walker

            I don’t see how that addresses your egregious double standard or your unpleasantness with regard to Dave.

          • S.C.

            Dave has changed the name AND genre of his script more times than any other script I can think of. And YET, open the script and it’s STILL called 50 HIGH STREET.

            When I pointed out that his script was based on a bad idea, I got lambasted, but don’t worry, I look forward to seeing it again in a few months time where it will be called THE WINDS OF FATE and be described as a “Shakespearean problem play”.

            You’ve made your point, now leave me and Adam alone to enjoy our weekend.

          • walker

            Funny, I thought it was my weekend. I guess I should have checked with you first.

          • IgorWasTaken

            Shit, I’m a gonna run out of cigarettes. Later…

          • S.C.

            Try a Snoke.

            http://shop.alpha-steam.com/media/image/thumbnail/IMG_3282_720x600.jpg

            When it comes to quitting smoking, it’s the Supreme Leader.

          • davejc

            “Dave has changed the name AND genre of his script more times than any other script I can think of.”

            Which is once. Either you haven’t read very many scripts or you can’t think [of]

          • davejc

            Walker,

            I can tell you what it’s all about.

            Last year S. C. posted a statement about Mars film being shot on location. I responded: “You mean they’re already filming on location on Mars.

            I didn’t know S.C. And I didn’t think much of it, it seemed like a natural response. And then some people thought that was funny.

            S.C. didn’t think it was funny.

            But you a have to be careful what you say to to people you don’t know. Because you never know how they will react.

            It’s like that scene in Goodfellas with Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci where Ray Liotta tells Joe Pecsi that he’s funny.

  • Matthew Garry

    > As far as whether it’s legal to adapt something you don’t have the rights to – it’s perfectly legal.

    Actually it isn’t. It’s very much a derivative work, so you can’t distribute, copy, perform, etc it.

    > If you went and wrote your own Fifty Shades of Grey script tomorrow, nobody’s going to come knocking at your door.

    That’s because no one would care enough to do so, not because it’s legal.

    > The only time it becomes illegal is if the studio buys it and turns it into a movie without obtaining the rights.

    That’s because at that point in time there’s money to be made from actually enforcing copyright, not because it suddenly turned illegal.

    As far as “Damn Nation” goes, I urge every action writer to take a good look. In spite of its plot holes, 2.8 MB! of useless filler, and pretty blunt ex machina, the action never lets up once the soldiers parachute down.

    Two things I noticed here:
    -The next obstacle is already being introduced and is causing problems before the previous one has been resolved. There are no pauses.
    -The protagonists world gets smaller and smaller (country side->city->house->room) with every obstacle avoided, right up until the world is so small there are no more options left.

    These two things really made the story move at an incredible pace. For an action movie it’s a great story. But judging by the first few pages of the comic it’s a straight adaptation to screenplay, so I don’t know whether to praise the writer for it, since it might not actually be his story.

    • IgorWasTaken

      Actually it isn’t. It’s very much a derivative work, so you can’t distribute, copy, perform, etc it.

      I’m not sure you’re right on the details there. For example, AFAIK if he wrote the script and never showed it to anyone, that is legal. OTOH, if he printed it up and distributed it widely, that would be “publication”, and that is not legal.

      In between those two, there’s writing it and showing that only to a limited group of people. My understanding is: That is legal. But am I sure? No.

      • walker

        Posting it on Scriptshadow is publication, and a prima facie violation of US Copyright law.

        • Gregory Mandarano

          As long as he doesn’t try to sell it, I’m pretty sure it falls under the Fair Use Copyright Act of 1988.

          • walker

            No it absolutely does not. He is very tangibly harming the author of the property and he and Carson both deserve to receive a cease and desist order.

          • IgorWasTaken

            There’s a case in the past few years in which an artist in NY took a photo out of a book, blew it up, then used that photo in its entirety with barely an alteration and sold prints for $100K – and the federal appeals court ruled that was fair use.

            Blows my mind. But as I said above, copyright laws is getting more and more curious.

          • walker

            Interesting Igor, but I stand by my analysis. Cease and desist.

          • IgorWasTaken

            OK. BTW, one other thing: When determining “fair use”, one factor to be considered is whether the market for the original has been harmed. IOW, would it hurt sales? Again, it’s just one factor, but it’s hard for me to envision that this script, with a link to it at SS, would hurt sales.

            All of my comments aside, would I recommend someone do this? No.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Feasibly, any interest this script receives could end up promoting the existing paramount draft and revitalize the project.

          • walker

            Jesus Gregory don’t injure your spine bending over backwards.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            I wrote an adaptation of an autobiography once WITH the person whose autobiography it was. I spent every penny I have in the world dealing with the legal repercussions. Suffice to say I think writing an adaptation without a full chain of title and clearly defined collaboration agreement is a waste of time and money.

          • walker

            Yeah I am aware of your unfortunate odyssey. I am just ribbing you about your spine.

          • walker

            Well this kid should submit summaries of those outlier cases you refer to in his query. Maybe a few amicus briefs. That should help him jumpstart his career.

          • IgorWasTaken

            See, those cases may be odd to you and me (one of the cases actually infuriates me), but neither of us is a copyright lawyer.

          • walker

            My point is that agents, managers, studios, and production companies might see a bit of a red flag. But perhaps you will argue that it is just a reddish flag.

          • IgorWasTaken

            But there are things that are legal that “just aren’t done” in the industry; and there are things that are illegal that are done.

          • Nicholas J

            Fair use doesn’t really have anything to do with this. The property holder just needs to say “back off” with a C&D, and there’s nothing more the writer can do.

          • IgorWasTaken

            I’ve had that happen to me and… yadda, yadda, yadda, they backed off.

            Yes, I agree with you about how things work typically. But, not always.

          • Somersby

            There was the recent case of the T-shirt seller who was hawking shirts emblazoned with the words “Johnny Football”. Johnny Manziel, who was quarterback for Texas A&M at the time, and had been christened “Johnny Football” by his legions of fans, had his lawyers appeal for a cease & desist order against the T-shirt vendor–and won!

            The poor guy trying to eek out a living selling shirts had to give way to the young up-and-coming NFL prospect who subsequently signed a guaranteed $8 million with the Browns.

            Curiouser and curiouser indeed.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            You may have rights, but you’ll need tens of thousands of dollars to enforce them if anyone so much as files an injunction. This is why corporations thrive, and the little guy fights to survive. The legal system rewards those with the cash to defend themselves.

          • IgorWasTaken

            If anyone wants to go into the tall reeds on this (YOU’VE BEEN WARNED), here are two links –

            The court decision: https://casetext.com/case/cariou-v-prince-2

            Harvard Law Review: http://cdn.harvardlawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/vol127_cariou_v_prince.pdf

            Granted, that case is about using someone’s artwork, while here we are discussing text, but IMO this case is a big example about how copyright law is changing as courts apply existing statutes to new today’s markets. Yes, adapting a book into a script is not a new fact situation. But as copyright law is applied to new markets, old rulings about old-type situations are likely to be revisited and changed.

          • klmn

            Would a New York court be binding on the West Coast?

          • Gregory Mandarano

            NuklearPower.com created an entire comic 8-bit theater using SPRITES taken DIRECTLY from the final fantasy games, and he was protected by the Fair Use act. And that was him literally creating a publication.

          • LostAndConfused

            I believe fair use is only meant to protect the person using the copyrighted material if he’s using it for commentary (like an essay), or a parody (Family Guy).

          • Matthew Garry

            More specifically:

            “purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research”

            Reproducing a story wholesale in a different medium, commercial in nature or not, is definitely not protected under fair use.

          • IgorWasTaken

            Reproducing a story wholesale in a different medium, commercial in nature or not, is definitely not protected under fair use.

            Oddly, there may be exceptions even to that. But I’ll stop my opining there.

        • IgorWasTaken

          And that is what’s so interesting about “prima facie” – it’s (merely) prima facie.

          I’ve read a number of recent copyright cases lately, and – in the age of the Internet – things are getting curiouser and curiouser.

      • Scott Chamberlain

        Need to compare apples with apples. What you have described is probably breach of copyright. The breach is in the copying. So the script itself is the breach. Fair use is a different bundle of rules from adaptation. Exceptions include satire/comment. That’s why honest trailers and hishe can do what they do (though hishe had to reissue it’s frozen parody because they performed too much of let it go). The rules are complex but it’s pretty clear taking someone’s comic story and turning that story into a screenplay is straight breach of copyright.

        • IgorWasTaken

          No, no, no. I was comparing apples to apples, but one was GMO and so just looked like a pear.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I must be reading a different script, because I am not finding it an easy read.

    Why? Maybe because, especially on page 1, I read scripts visually.

    I want to know what I’m seeing.

    I’d like that to be clear, and I certainly don’t want images that conflict. But here, lots of things conflict. Small things, yes; but the number totals-up fast –

    The world is dark.

    Even the cold light of day is stagnant with an oppressive
    aura, impossible to escape from.

    FADE IN:

    A sickly, orange sun cascades its dirty amber light across…

    EXT. MIAMI – DAY

    …as we glide along the coast, following in the wake of a
    BLACK HAWK helicopter. Ripples of shimmering heat distorting
    our view.

    The helo comes to settle on the…

    EXT. PORT OF MIAMI – DAY

    …an impossibly large shipping and container port – ‘The
    Cargo Gateway of the Americas.’ A beehive of activity.

    An overweight, bespectacled, balding man, DR. LANSING (45),
    unsure of himself, steps off the helo into insufferable Miami
    heat.

    So, it’s black. And then, even before it’s light, we’re told about how things look “in the cold light of day.” And only then do we FADE IN.

    And we FADE IN on “A sickly, orange sun cascades its dirty amber light across…”

    Amber light is literally towards the far end of the spectrum from “cold light”, i.e., bluish light. Amber is warm.

    As to what I’m supposed to be seeing, I’m not sure. We see the sun, and see it’s light cascading, and we do this “as” we glide along behind a helicopter. And then the helo “settles on” a “an impossibly large shipping and container port”, where a balding man steps off. Huh?

    If this is supposed to be a continuous shot? It’s not written clearly. And while there’s a lot of detail, there’s no detail about where the Black Hawk lands.

    About the bald guy, “Doesn’t have a clue where he is.” My hunch is that he knows where he is, just not why he’s there or what’s going on.

    Then on page 3, he’s met Agent Childs –

    She gestures to something over his shoulder. He turns to
    see…

    …a GIGANTIC FREIGHTER SHIP. Black and rusted. The sound
    of tortured steel, groaning like it was a living creature.
    Black helicopters buzzing around it like flies.

    Is it off-shore. Docked? Far away, or nearby? If it’s just “over his shoulder”, he and we would have heard those sounds, but apparently until that moment neither of us hears it. So I’m guessing the ship is off in the distance. But that is a problem: I should not have to guess.

    And then, while I am not a stickler for formatting conventions, I was confused by the dialogue in italics. What am I supposed to get from the italics? I eventually figured the writer simply decided to put all V.O. in italics, but it was distracting.

    Carson, simply because of your rating for this script I shall try again. But for me, trying to get a grasp of the visuals, I am having trouble.

    • GYAD

      Good points. The “FADE IN” also confused me. How can we be seeing a dark world lit by the cold light of day…before we even fade in?

      It only makes sense if you assume it’s actually a cut from one location (wherever this cold world is) to a hot, sunny one in Miami. But that actually needs to be written.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Typically, before a FADE IN: the action lines here could be replaced with

        BLACK SCREEN: or OVER BLACK:

        And is only really necessary if you plan on doing a SUPER: before the fade in.

        • GYAD

          Yeah, but we’re not seeing black, we’re seeing a dark world. And if we’re seeing a dark world then we’ve already faded in. So either all that dark world stuff or the “FADE IN” are superfluous.

    • LostAndConfused

      This really confused the hell out of me too.

      I’m guessing that opening paragraph was taken straight out of the first page of the comic.

    • carsonreeves1

      I found the script super easy to read for whatever reason. My eyes flew down the page. I think writers always try to be too cute with their opening few paragraphs, spending way too much time on them, which is maybe what happened here?

      But once past that, I never had to read anything twice. And I never once questioned what was happening on the screen.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        I agree with you on this point Carson. I also find that we on SS spend a little too much time harping on the first few pages, which might not necessarily always be representative of the pacing or structure of the script as a whole. For me, the only thing that slowed my read down were the images that overlapped with the text.

  • Shawn Davis

    Congrats Adam!!!

    Welcome to the [XX] club.

    Shawn…..><

  • Citizen M

    Seeing as the same number of Oscars are awarded for Adapted screenplays as for Original screenplays, we should be seeing at least half the scripts submitted for AOW being adaptations. They are seriously under-represented at the moment.

    As to whether the writers of adaptations have the legal right to adapt the works, I consider that their problem. Also, I’m not aware that the Oscar judges rate adaptations on originality when compared to the source material. AFAIK they rate it on its merits as a screenplay.

    • Kirk Diggler

      I think you’ve glossed over the real issue here. The challenge of Amateur Offering Weekend is; Can you create a compelling screenplay from scratch featuring original characters and ideas? It should not be, “What can you create if given the huge head start of using someone’s else’s completed work?”

      And it’s important to note that, yes, the Academy gives out Oscars for best adapted screenplay, but those screenplays complete against other adapted works, and that is not what happened this past amateur weekend. It’s quite a distinction.

      • Citizen M

        I think the challenge of AOW is “Can you create a compelling screenplay?”

        If the Oscars recognize a non-original screenplay as worthy of an award equal in status to an original screenplay, why shouldn’t we?

        Anyway, how do we know that a work purported to be created “from scratch featuring original characters and ideas” is indeed as advertised? If the writer is cribbing some obscure property we have no way of knowing if he doesn’t mention it. Anyway, we are all influenced by the work of others to a greater or lesser extent, often unconsciously.

        • Kirk Diggler

          Yes, we are influenced by the work of others, no doubt. I don’t think I claimed otherwise.

          “If the Oscars recognize a non-original screenplay as worthy of an award equal to an original screenplay, why shouldn’t we?”

          They don’t mix them together though, do they?

          If Carson wanted to devote a weekend to adapted works I’d be fine with it. But I don’t think adapted works should compete against original amateur screenplays and I think most people would agree.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            It’s not the fact that it is an adaptation. It’s that it’s an unauthorized adaptation which has no possibility of being sold. One of my TV Pilots is an adaptation, and I’ve submitted it a bunch of times to AOW – though I was told tv pilots aren’t allowed on AOW (even though they sometimes show up anyway.) Of course it was adapted from MY novel, so the chain of title is clear. If someone’s going to have their script reviewed on AOW, it should be someone who has the rights to their own material, so that if they DO get a good review, it can actually be used to promote their career. Honestly, I see it as a wasted opportunity for someone else, regardless of how excellent of an adaptation it is, and regardless how negative the missed out review might have been. That review could have helped another writer improve their craft, or gotten them attention from the industry. Is there anyone in the industry who would REALLY show interest in this script or this writer – regardless of how good the script is – since it’s an unauthorized adaptation? I’m hesitant to think the answer is anything other than no. I think the writer of this script would be better served writing adaptations to material he can get an option for, or writing his own original work. Personally I think the same thing can be said for fanfic screenplays, including the Indiana Jones script that popped up on here a few months ago. At least STAR WARS week had its own entire week dedicated to the concept – and there’s always the chance Disney might have read one of those scripts and loved it, and considered the writer. There’s a far cry between writing in a universe where original material is being created vs adapting material for the screen.

          • Kirk Diggler

            I agree with what you’re saying here.

            There is an interesting debate going on as to what is considered ‘unauthorized’. No one can agree on the exact definition, especially when the term ‘fair use’ comes into the equation.

            Again, strictly talking about AOW, adapted works (that the author does not have the rights to) should not compete against original amateur screenplays.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Well in any event, with Dark Horse contacting Adam, we can just hope for the best, and hope that his adaptation is thought to be excellent by the holders of the rights. Maybe it’s better than the original adaptation and they’ll be interesting in using it? Paramount’s option was 6 years ago, and it’s certainly possible it has expired. IF he gets POSITIVE attention from Dark Horse, then obviously I take back everything I said about an adaptation not being a good representation of writing material. It only takes one exception to change the game for everyone. Here’s hoping Adam gets some good luck!

          • Kirk Diggler

            Agreed.

          • Citizen M

            You have a valid point when you say the competition should be adapted vs. adapted, and original vs. original scripts.

            A special weekend devoted to adapted works is a good idea. Carson please take note.

            I’ve tried adaptations myself. It’s not so easy. Who was better: Elvis who sang other peoples’ songs; or the Beatles who wrote their own? Either way, you have to be very, very good to be successful.

          • jeaux

            I agree. Have adapted works compete against adapted works. If its good enough for the oscars. Otherwise, i may have to submit MY adaptation of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            This wouldn’t be entirely fair. I wouldn’t want my adaptation of my own novel being excluded simply because it has a source material.

  • Zero

    I do like adaptation spec scripts – if they’re handled properly. ‘Ariel’ from last year comes to mind – the author of the screenplay paid an option to adapt the book before she submitted it to AOW.

    As to Damn Nation in particular, I’m split.

    On one hand, I liked the mystery and the tension in the opening parts section on the ship. Anomalous mysteries, like a long-derelict Russian ship with bodies on board, are really cool (in fact, I might’ve liked a movie about just that). If I had kept reading, I would’ve liked all the action and conflict that happens later.

    On the other hand, I was turned off by how unclear some of the visuals were. As others have mentioned, the ‘dark world’ before the helicopter landing at some unknown location at the Miami port is quite difficult to decipher.

    Similarly, I feel there should be a secondary indicator that time has passed when it jumps to five years later. Maybe a calendar on the wall, or a newspaper on the floor.

  • GYAD

    Notes first, thoughts later:

    p.2 “I don’t work for Homeland Security…They work for me.” – I know Americans think this kind of chat is sassy, but the broad just comes across like a massive blowhard.

    p.3 “300 some odd crew” – Wait, what? Modern cargo ships have tiny crews.

    p.4 Murmask, headed for Lithuania…but nobody noticed it before it hit Miami? And on p.5 it turns out it’s been going for 15 years!!! Wouldn’t that also mean all the corpses should have totally rotted through?

    p.8 Fog and rain and a redhead who says “luv”? This is a timewarp to 1950s London.

    p.8 Hero is all American but torn up enough to pop pills and slug whiskey…so generic.

    p.12 Oh hell, an “East London Cockney” (East End would be the correct phrase, and very few of them still live there anymore) with “yellow teeth”. Again, 1950s cliches.

    Isn’t everyone really old? Cole 41, Winters 38, Lynch 36, Edgar 45, McKay 51, Browne 28, Wells 34, Sandhurst 37, Riley 40. Feels a bit geriatric for what is a summer movie aimed at 15-30 somethings.

    p.14 “Ain’t none of your business who they are, flower. You lads shouldn’t even be ‘ere. Why don’t you just let us do what we do best, okay? Ta, mate.” – No Yorkshireman (with a “thick accent” no less) has ever spoken like this. It’s pure Dick Van Dyke.

    p.14 That’s 12 named characters so far. I know this is based on a property and all but I can’t remember who all these people are, especially as most of them have such generic names (i.e. if Gerber, the ex-gang member, was called Hernandez then he’d be a lot easier to remember; if the Brits had names suited to the places they come from – rather than a working class Yorkshireman with a posh name like Sandhurst – it’d be easier).

    p.18 Sticking in full page images is perfectly OK but sticking images under the text is not because it just makes it hard to read.

    p.37 “Squiring body bags” – I presume this is squirting because otherwise it means something unintentionally hilarious (to Brits).

    p.42 “Uh-hu” should be “Uh-huh”.

    p.53 How can you walk your “two last platoons” (last two platoons?) into the same ambush. You can walk a platoon or a company into an ambush but there’s no rank that commands only two platoons. Anyway, the old ‘got-his-men-killed’ traumatic back story is so over-used.

    All credit to Adam for getting a ‘worth the read’ and for writing a highly professional, incredibly fast-moving and genuinely marketable script. I can see why Carson liked it.

    I can’t comment on the legal stuff so won’t.

    The biggest lesson from this script is action. It never lets up, which makes it a fast and easy read, but has enough variation to avoid it all blurring into one. There’s good back and forth in the battles and some effective use of suspense.

    Where it falls down for me are the characters: the British characters are walking 1950s stereotypes, the hero is utterly generic (right down to the traumatic event in his past and the generic demons he struggles to overcome) and I didn’t really care about anyone.

    In addition, I’m not sure where the story goes. It’s too big to be a low budget film but smaller than the likes of “World War Z”, which leaves it in an awkward middle ground (especially considering the saturation and exhaustion of the market in zombie flicks). The concept – squad against a continent of zombies – never quite came about. I feel a bit too much like I’ve already seen everything in this script before.

    In truth, it’s the sort of thing that feels like it might be better as a television series where it would have room for the characters to breathe and the world to be explored.

    That said, congratulations on your success and good luck in future.

  • Scott Chamberlain

    “As far as whether it’s legal to adapt something you don’t have the rights to – it’s perfectly legal. If you went and wrote your own Fifty Shades of Grey script tomorrow, nobody’s going to come knocking at your door. The only time it becomes illegal is if the studio buys it and turns it into a movie without obtaining the rights. And even then, it’s not you who gets sued, it’s them.”

    You need a better lawyer, Carson. Adaptation is any work turned into another. It’s a breach of copyright. You mean writing a new story based in/on the world of another story, which will depend on the extent of the borrowing/basing. But that’s nit adaptation. It’s just lazy originality.

    As GRRM says of fanfic “fuck off and get your own world”

    • Frankie Hollywood

      As GRRM says of fanfic “fuck off and get your own world”

      That’s an awesome quote.

      Nothing against Adam, congrats on the great rating and getting contacted by Dark Horse. But if when I break in I hope and pray I’ll be able to ONLY work on my stuff, my ideas, my worlds. Not really interested in promoting someone else’s material — over mine.

  • walker

    Ok let’s leave the legalities out of this for a minute, although you will see from my posts below that I think this script very clearly infringes upon the rights of the original author or whoever may hold them at this time. Look at Carson’s review: everything he compliments about the script is the work of the original author: the plot, the teaser, the overall structure, “some of the character stuff”. Furthermore, the original author is an active writer and producer in Hollywood, and apparently has optioned the property at least once. This was an abysmal choice for an Amateur Friday review, and borderline irresponsible.

    • Matthew Garry

      Well, I think the legalities are very much secondary here, since, at this point, all the writer did was send his adaptation out to a group of peers for feedback. I don’t think any copyright holder is going to take issue (considering the small scale and also that it’s a screenplay, so a blueprint for an actual product).

      Hopefully he gets some good feedback, and a double worth the read might be something he can use in his query, although there’s only one group of people he can send the query to, and should they pass, that’s pretty much final. And, if it’s really a straight forward adaptation, it’s very likely they’ll pass, since they can just hire a known screenwriter, give him a copy of the comic, and say “make a screenplay out of this,” without having to negotiate anything or even acknowledge the existence of this one, since it’s their own material.

      • walker

        I disagree with your assessment that “all the writer did was send his adaptation out to a group of peers”. Posting it online is de facto publication.

  • Poe_Serling

    Late to the party…

    Sorta thought klmn’s project might get the nod from CR for this week’s AF… but that’s the breaks in the often rough and tumble world of the AOW battle royale.

    For my money I’ve always pictured klmn’s oft-mentioned Western getting the AF review rather than a family-oriented project about banana eaters.

    But I guess even the hard-living, maverick film director Sam Peckinpah once flirted with a literary property that had a slight primate connection – the novel ‘Monkey In The Middle.’ The book was adapted into Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite.

    **Wishing klmn only continued success with his script, especially as it moves forward in the Story Pros competition.

    • klmn

      I think I’ve submitted enough to AOW and it’s best Carson chooses other writers in the run-up to his contest.

      Thank you and all the others who have commented on my script.

    • S.C.

      I was disappointed with The Killer Elite. Liked parts of it, but thought it could be better.

      If you want a good samurai action film, I’d recommend Frankenheimer’s THE CHALLENGE with Scott Glenn.

      Also, I watched Peckinpah’s last, THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, again on Monday. I love that film, massively underrated.

      • Poe_Serling

        Yeah, a solid action film. One of the writers on the pic – John Sayles.

        A great double bill in my opinion: The Challenge and ….

        RED SUN

        “In the 1870s midwest an outlaw is betrayed by his partner after they
        hold up a train carrying Japanese diplomats en route to Washington. The
        outlaw and one of the Japanese bodyguards–whose partner was killed by
        the double crosser–set out for revenge.”

        Also featuring Toshiro Mifune and starring some guy by the name of
        Bronson.

  • Howie428

    I’ll make notes as I read…

    Pg 8 – The teaser is fun stuff, but I’m not sure it’s worth seven minutes of screen time. Ultimately none of these characters are going to count for anything.
    Pg 10 – The drunk broken soldier with a prostitute might be a bit of a worn character intro.
    Pg 14 – Things are readable, but I’m beginning to feel like the story is dragging its feet a bit. It’s probably because we’re in the dark as to what’s happening and these cool hard-asses are getting processed.
    Pg 19 – In several of these scenes it has felt like the dialogue has run on a bit long for me.
    Pg 26 – I know it’s a taste thing but I tend to find it hard to get on board with stories where every character is cool edgy and hard. They talk in samey ways and conflict between often feels contrived.
    Pg 29 – Why would someone type the same four word message over and over? Perhaps he should describe the cure. I guess I’m a bit surprised that all these survivors are all alive. It makes me feel like the premise is a bit of a cheat in that contact with these people should have been possible and the threat can’t be that dangerous.
    Pg 33 – It feels a bit weird to cut to London now when all these people can do is wait.
    One of the challenges of comic book/graphic novel adaptation is that the standard of veracity expected in them isn’t the same as it is for movies. The reader will go along with some wacky stuff as long as it provides a great visual image or cool story moments. On screen audiences need things to feel a bit more robust or they’ll check out.
    In this case, the cool premise is the idea of a vampire infestation of the United States. But to describe that infestation as having been held back at the Canadian and Mexican borders feels like nonsense. If you said the whole of North America has fallen and they are held back by a massive defense line at the Panama Canal, I’d go with that. By saying that the vampires can be stopped by the 49th parallel you make them seem pretty weak and unthreatening.
    This concern is added to by the fact that so far we’ve not seen anything much of the vampire enemy. You skimmed over them in the teaser, numerous people have survived the infestation, our professional soldiers have shot at some cows, and they’ve made easy progress to this facility. For us to be concerned about how hard this mission it probably makes sense to make it clear just how dangerous this enemy is.
    Pg 34 – These researchers have survived in hiding for five years and a four word message brings in a rescue team. Why didn’t they want to be rescued before? Why are they not flipping out excited about being rescued at all?
    Pg 38 – The flashback is a good example of the veracity thing I mentioned above. In the comic I’ll bet that is worth lots of cool panels. In a movie it would be a weak explanation for something that doesn’t make sense. These guys made their way all the way from Miami to Buffalo, then decided to stop at a place with a chainlink fence? I might buy it if he said something like, “When the outbreak began we established the growth of a million test cultures at this site, which was far removed from the infected. But the infected spread our way and we didn’t want to leave the test cultures while there was hope that one would be the cure.”
    Pg 42 – So this group walked in and out of an infected city and didn’t encounter any of the vampires?
    Pg 49 – The geo-political side of this feels weird to me. The United States is already broken and if this vampire plague is so dangerous the other countries would want that cure. Again, I’m feeling like the core threat in this story is being devalued.
    Pg 56 – At last the vampires have shown up. Having concealed them for so long I guess I’m a bit disappointed at how generically zombie like they are. I think I expected a vampire plague to have some fresh angles.
    Pg 61 – You’re in Buffalo and you have to escape the United States, but you rule out going into Canada? I’m still not buying the idea that the Canadians managed to defend all 4,000 odd miles of their border.
    Pg 75 – The thing about the cure seems like the sort of thing that might have been worth mentioning during all the times when they were arguing about who to leave behind.
    Also, I’m not sure I get what purpose Riley has in being so murderous. She’s dead meat herself, so why does she want things to go that way?
    The action of this is flowing along just fine, even if the pauses for dialogue scenes still feel a bit overdone, and the events of the story are conventional for the genre.
    Pg 98 – The action of the finale has be solid so far. I’m not sure about stopping the story for another background story chat. It doesn’t feel like it matters much to their current situation and I guess I have expected this kind of stuff to have be dealt with by now.
    Pg 106 – His survival feels a bit flukey to me, as does the abrupt everything is okay now thing. I’m also a bit disappointed that we don’t get to see them succeed at the impossible challenge of crossing the border. And I rolled my eyes at the blatant sequel setup.

    Overall, this has lots of good action and a potentially fun story. It’s well written and the flow of the read was good stuff.

    However, as I described above I guess I’m not sure this quite solves the problem of making this into a movie that audiences will buy into. Also, I’m not sure that this departs from the genre tropes sufficiently to make it stand out. I can see though that it would be possible to rework aspects of these things in a development process. Have fun with it.

  • Randy Williams

    Congrats to the writer for making it on AF!
    (although there would have been less of a visceral reaction if Carson had chosen Dave’s “100th incarnation” of his psychological thriller and let SC be the only commentator)

    I think I can understand some of the reaction, other than copyright concerns. Most of us toil and toil and toil over our first few pages with dialogue and everything. This writer took it verbatim off the comic, including the line about “if I told you, I’d have to shoot you”.

    Please, at least leave out that old haggard line.

    • S.C.

      I posted a link to a free movie on YouTube for you, but I think it may have gone into moderation. Oh well…

      I’ll just say thanks for the shout-out, Randy, and have a good weekend!

      • Randy Williams

        I saw it before it disappeared. Thanks!

        • S.C.

          I’ve also posted THE CHALLENGE from 1982, somewhere on this board.

  • Scott Reed

    I think the whole point of Scriptshadow is about learning how to become a better amateur writer. Learning how to do all the heavy lifting.

    My take on an amateur adaption, whilst not being paid or contracted to legally write it?

    Kind of feels like a cut and paste project.

  • S.C.

    Did it actually sell, OP? I’m having that problem at the moment – some scripts are coming in and they’re not “sold”, they’re just “out there”.

    There was a script called TERRIBLE TWOS about a father who switches places with his two-year old – they said Vince “True Detective 2″ Vaughn was attached, but he wasn’t. Someone trying to big up their own script.

    Before saying to people, “Hey, read this new spec that’s just sold!” I’m now doing a bit more research to see if it sold or is just some publicity thing.

    I’d recommend VISION, though, as the guys that wrote it wrote self/less and J.J. Abrams and others are “circling it”.

  • carsonreeves1

    Update. Dark Horse is contacting Adam.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Whoaaaaa! Let’s hope it’s something GOOD!

    • Casper Chris

      Uh, exciting!

      (assuming it’s something good of course)

      • Nicholas J

        If it’s anything other than a cease and desist I’ll eat my shoe.

        • klmn

          Do lawyers work weekends?

          • IgorWasTaken

            Do hookers work weekends?

            Oops, sorry. I repeated your question.

          • klmn

            Let’s see, hookers bring pleasure to people and lawyers bring…

        • Casper Chris

          Yea, could be something along those lines. Dark Horse are known to be pretty protective of their stuff.

  • jswriter1981

    Thought I’d weigh in here. Once again, I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to have my work featured on AOW. I received extremely useful feedback from many, and got some words of praise as well, in addition to a few votes. It was a valuable experience.

    That said, I’m just not sure how I feel about this selection, and the precedent it sets moving forward. I don’t have a problem with adaptations in general. I’m just not sure how I feel about them for Amateur Friday. When I think of Amateur Friday, I think of a search for an amateur who can hit it out of the park in every category — especially Character and Plot, where arguably most of the work is required. To me it just seems like, if you’re writing a screenplay where those two things are already figured out — and on top of that, much of the dialogue is the same — much of the work is already done for you. It’s not even like you’re adapting a short story, which would require significant expansion, or a novel, which would require significant cutting. In all honesty, it feels like a bit of a cheat.

    The writer is clearly talented when it comes to narrative description. Also, structure. And I guess dialogue, to an extent. I just can’t tell, based on this writing sample, how talented he is in other key areas, because the work as it stands doesn’t really give you a chance to do so. So to me, a choice like this almost defeats the purpose of Amateur Friday. It means I can go pick up a comic book, replicate a significant portion of it, and take credit for it even if my work primarily involved formatting it for the 3-act structure and describing the action scenes. Honestly, I wouldn’t feel comfortable submitting such an entry to AOW.

    Anyway, congrats to Adam — you accomplished something few on here have, which counts for something. I think next time we’d all love to see one of your 100% original works, which I’d like to think would match the quality of this one. Regardless, all the best in the future. I’m sure it’s a bright one.

  • Poe_Serling

    “Next week is a SPECIAL WEEK here on Scriptshadow. It’s WEIRD SCRIPTS WEEK. I’ll be reviewing five really strange scripts, saving the weirdest and oddest for Friday.”

    Just curious, Carson…

    Are these ‘weird’ scripts in active development at major production companies or are they a batch of often-talked unproduced scripts that have been floating around Hollywood forever and a day?

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Carson: HEY GUYS! Hope you got your 3D glasses CAUSE THIS SCRIPT HAS BOLD that POPS out of the page! Weeeeeird right?