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Genre: Sci-fi
Premise: Members of a deep-space mission come out of cryo-sleep only to learn that one of their crew members has gone missing, and that mysterious forces may be to blame.
Why You Should Read: Ron Hollis has been promoting his script in the comment section for awhile now and when Scene Week came around, he got a ton of support for his scene from other readers. Therefore, I’m giving him an Amateur Friday shot!
Writer: Ron Hollis
Details: 116 pages

Sunshine-056

I don’t know where I first heard the phrase “Go big or go home.” All I know is that Ron Hollis must have that credo tattooed to every visible part of his body. I’ve got to give it to the guy. Anyone who attempts to explain the origins of mankind, the universe, and the meaning of life, all in one script, isn’t messing around.

It’s funny that just yesterday I wrote that article about unconventional writing. We couldn’t have received a screenplay better designed to explore that debate than Dark Matter. This script is anything but conventional. It takes chances left and right. It’s weird. You’re never really sure where it’s going. By gosh, a chimpanzee even turns into an alien boy at one point!

So it leads us back to yesterday’s question – is this the kind of unconventional writing you want writers to embrace? Or should Ron utilize a more proven storytelling approach? Keep that in mind while we check out the plot.

Dark Matter follows two separate narratives. The year is 2199, and mankind has created a space station orbiting Mars. Three people are operating this station. Ethereal beauty Angelique is the one we’re primarily following. So one day, while the crew’s going about their daily duties, Angelique spots a glowing white orb dancing around the ship. It’s a fascinating moment for her, but since it leaves as quickly as it showed up, all she can do is marvel at the experience then get back to work.

Cut to a few hundred light years away where we meet up with the H.M.S. Babylon, a ship that’s travelling to a distant planet. On this ship, crew-member Newton is brought out of cryo-sleep to be informed that fellow crew-member Adam has disappeared! The record of this disappearance is being conveyed to Newton by the ship’s creepy A.I. controller, S.O.L.O.M.O.N., who seems a lot like another artificially intelligent ship controller we know.

SOLOMON’s acting all fishy when Newton asks specific questions about Adam, so he’s forced to wake up the rest of the crew early and do some detective work. After some snooping around, they realize that aliens may be involved. Apparently, they’re being followed by, or are in some kind of “dark matter” that’s allowing their entire ship (and their minds) to be controlled. Naturally, this freaks everyone out.

Now you’re probably wondering what these two completely separate space missions have to do with each other. Well, not a whole lot. The lone connection is that Newton and Angelique are a couple and really want to call each other, but no one on either ship will allow them to. I’m guessing this has something to do with cell phone charges in the year 2199 being REALLY bad.

Eventually, Angelique and her crew decide to go down to the Mars surface (not sure if it’s ever explained why?), only to crash land in the process. Back on the Babylon, SOLOMON’s acting more and more suspicious, while the crew keeps seeing more aliens, white orbs, and spaceships. At one point they even bring out a chimpanzee (“Darwin”) as bait to lure the aliens in.

But don’t worry, it gets stranger! The crew realizes that dark matter can only be accessed subconsciously, so they decide to go into hyper-sleep together and take on these problems through their collective subconscious. While there, they’re able to communicate with the dark matter and the aliens, and find out what their ultimate endgame is. Of course, no one’s really sure what’s real and what’s not, which begs the question if any of this is even real.

Okay, so here’s the big debate, kids. Yesterday we asked if we should let the writer follow his voice while ignoring convention, or follow the proven storytelling methods Hollywood endorses. To add some stakes to this debate, let’s say that YOU are developing this project for a studio and are tasked with guiding Ron to write a great script. What would you do with Dark Matter?

To me, the two separate narratives here are a killer, particularly because there’s barely any connection between them outside of one character from each ship mentioning that they want to call the other. Outside of that, bouncing back between a station orbiting Mars and a ship hundreds of light years away seemed distracting and unnecessary (and is it even possible to make phone calls light years away?).

Now if we’re playing devil’s advocate, we could say, “Yeah, but take the double-narrative away and you take away the script’s originality.” I suppose that’s true. But would you rather have a focused story that’s more engaging or an unfocused one that’s more thoughtful? For me, I always want the more engaging story, but I know others disagree with me on this.

As for everything else, Dark Matter was one of those scripts that took a lot of work to get through. And readers don’t like to feel like they’re working when they read. The problem was I was never quite sure what was real and what wasn’t. And I couldn’t decide if the deliberate vagueness of the storyline was well-crafted or sloppy.

What I mean by that is we’re given these really vague rules, like the fact that dark matter and the soul are linked. And that aliens can take over humans and make them look like human-alien hybrids. That there are alien ships and there are alien orbs, and the two may or may not be connected. And to communicate with dark matter and aliens (which may or may not be the same thing), we have to access our collective subconscious while we sleep.

All of that stuff sounds fun in a vacuum, but when you add it all together and try to spin a story around it, it can be quite frustrating to try and keep up with. If I don’t understand the rules of the universe you’ve created, how can I remain invested? It’s kind of like listening to two people talk in a language you only sort of know. You understand a few things here and there, but most of the time, you have no idea what they’re talking about, and boy is that frustrating.

It IS a delicate balance though because there are movies that have been able to make this work, such as Donnie Darko and 2001. All the answers are not given. There are many little gaps in rules and logic, and somehow, it makes the story feel deeper and more exciting.  Instead of you feeling frustrated trying to figure things out, you feel charged, like every frame could contain a new clue to the mystery.  You want to participate.  Why Dark Matter didn’t get there, I’m not sure.  All I can say is that the rules were TOO fast and loose.  It was hard to find any numbers that add up.

Speaking of 2001, you have to be careful about letting your influences be too influential. S.O.L.O.M.O.N. was so similar to H.A.L. that whenever he spoke, all you can think about was that movie. You can’t have that. Look, our favorite movies always end up influencing our scripts. But you have to be smart about it. Find a new angle that makes the thing you’re stealing seem unique.

Maybe you change SOLOMON to a female voice. Maybe you make SOLOMON a full-on see-through virtual ship-assistant (something it looked like Ron was thinking of doing, but never quite pulled the trigger on). What I can tell you is that if you recreate one of the most famous characters ever, people are going to call you on it.

Finally, this story seemed to be about “what comes next,” or the afterlife. That’s pretty much what the last 20-30 pages cover. However, there was barely ANY DISCUSSION about the afterlife throughout the script.

If you’re going to focus on a particular subject matter, especially something as intense as the afterlife, you have to design your characters around that idea. We need characters who are extremely religious. We need characters who are extremely scientific. We need agnostics. And we need conversations that tackle these different points of view in compelling entertaining ways. It was really strange that this script ended on such a religious note, yet barely brought up religion throughout its running time.

I’d be interested to hear what people think of Dark Matter in light of what we discussed yesterday. Would you rein this in or would you let Ron trust his voice and roam free? The unfocused narrative and vague rules ultimately did it in for me. But Ron certainly has a unique point of view and way of writing that should serve him well in his career.

Screenplay link: Dark Matter

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

What I learned: When you’re writing, you’re always looking for which parts of your story pack the most punch and which parts are missing something. With each subsequence draft, you want to spend more time expanding the “packing punch” parts and less on the “something’s missing” parts. Over the course of many drafts, you’ll see the good stuff expand to take over most of the screenplay while the lacking stuff disappears completely. That’s the approach Ron needs to take here. The stuff that packs the most punch is on the ship, Babylon. The stuff that seems to have something missing is the Mars storyline. Therefore, I’d eliminate Mars and keep the story on the ship.

  • ximan

    Mmm, mmm, mmm! MAN, it feels good to be reviewed! :)

    It’s exhilarating when the reader gets what you were going for, and completely frustrating when they don’t. But still ALL GOOD! :) I’ll wait to see what the general consensus of the SS community is before I start chiming in with my thoughts. But in the meantime…

    THANKS FOR THE REVIEW CARSON!!! :)

    • BennyPickles

      Congrats, man! And based on the previous AF as well, it seems subtlety is now the key to being reviewed. I think I got it. *Ahem*…

      ME NEXT! ME NEXT! ME NEXT!

      But in all seriousness, how do we know what script is about to be up for the Friday? I would love to have read Dark Matter Thursday night, as I had a free evening, but I didn’t actually know which script it would be. So now I have to miss out on it, which sucks, as I really love this kind of sci-fi. It wasn’t in the newsletter, and I just jumped over it, was it? Or was it a last minute choice? Sorry for my potential ignorance, I haven’t done AF for ages.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        I agree. It would be better if we knew which script is going to be reviewed beforehand.

      • gazrow

        “I would love to have read Dark Matter Thursday night”

        Me too. I was really looking forward to reading this script and had it been made available by Carson earlier, I would have done. But having seen his review, I doubt I’ll crack it open. Simply because of the religious/afterlife aspect. That stuff bores me rigid.

        Sorry if this sounds harsh ximan – Just being honest.

        On a more positive note, congrats on this:

        “Ron certainly has a unique point of view and way of writing that should serve him well in his career.”

        • Amazon

          As a heads up, the religion/afterlife aspect is barely explored, or in better terms, explored in such a way it doesn’t take away from the script until the ending. Definitely not boring… Compare it to Pinbacker’s search for the end of man in Sunshine, very similar in terms of its relation to religion.

        • ElectricDreamer

          Congrats to Ron on the AF attention.

          I like to read during the week too, as my work schedule allows.
          Always more inclined to give notes BEFORE the AF review appears.
          The potential of finding a killer script is exciting!
          So, I asked for the script from the author himself.
          But Ron chose to keep the script under wraps.

          It’s a double-edged sword…
          I suppose you want to build up some anticipation for your review.
          Since this script reached AF through unorthodox channels.

          But missing out on all those AOW notes is a big part of the process.
          And now it seems the script may get less feedback.

          • gazrow

            “And now it seems the script may get less feedback.”

            Yeah – it’s a shame when that happens. Also, a big part of the fun on AF is getting to read the script a few days before Carson’s review then comparing his notes with yours.

      • garrett_h

        Same here regarding getting the script. Yesterday while commenting it occurred to me I hadn’t read/reviewed an AF or AOW script in a while. Decided I’d download the script that night, but couldn’t find what it was. Now that I’m at work, the sharing sites are blocked, so I can’t download it. Plus I have to work anyway (yeah right, who am I kidding, it’s Friday).

        I think the same thing happened a couple weeks ago when there was a last minute AF switcharoo. And once, I had read an entire script the night before only to have it changed. Went ahead and posted my thoughts on what I thought was the AF script (as did some others) but felt bad for stealing some attention from the actual reviewed script. Come to think of it, I think that was my last AF review…

        These “surprise” Amateur Friday picks might be interesting to some, but it’s a lil frustrating when you’re looking to participate.

        • charliesb

          I can email it to you, if you like. Since it’s friday and all :)

          • garrett_h

            Too late, all my procrastination happens before 12 lol. Now I have to finish my work!

        • John Bradley

          I completely agree. Good post.

        • gazrow

          “These “surprise” Amateur Friday picks might be interesting to some, but it’s a lil frustrating when you’re looking to participate.”

          I only found out my own script Offline was up for review literally a few hours before it appeared. Luckily some people had asked to read the script earlier in the week, so I got some great notes on the day! :)

          • garrett_h

            Guess it was pretty interesting to you! lol

            I remember Offline from the logline contest (at least, I think that’s what it was). We were discussing it in the comments, talked about The Bone Collector, etc. I think I even gave you a suggestion or two.

            Got to work that morning to see Offline was the AF script, which was a pleasant surprise. But I wish I had known it was on the AF slate. Would have surely read it that week and joined in on the comment section.

            Congrats though, glad it worked out for you!

          • gazrow

            It would have worked out even better if it hadn’t got:
            [x] wasn’t for me – LOL

        • kenglo

          Turn off your proxy settings in Internet Explorer….works for me!!!

          • garrett_h

            Might have to try this one day…

        • Eddie Panta

          Same here, not sure why anyone uses SENDSPACE.
          Mediafire works. Sendspace is blocked on computers because of all the malware on that site.

          • garrett_h

            I seriously hate Sendspace. But Mediafire is blocked for us as well. They block everything up here.

        • Eddie Panta

          But this doesn’t mean it is in replace of the last AOW five: Gripper, Gone, etc… I’m guessing the winner there will be next Fri. ???
          It was a strong week for the loglines, but not the scripts.

      • Nicholas J

        It’d be great if we could get a line in Wednesday or Thursday’s post simply letting us know what script is to be reviewed Friday.

      • ElectricDreamer

        Congrats to Ron on the AF attention.

        I like to read during the week too, as my work schedule allows.
        Always more inclined to give notes BEFORE the AF review appears.
        The potential of finding a killer script is exciting!
        So, I asked for the script from the author himself.
        But Ron chose to keep the script under wraps.

        It’s a double-edged sword…
        I suppose you want to build up some anticipation for your review.
        Since this script reached AF through unorthodox channels.

        But missing out on all those AOW notes is a big part of the process.
        And now it seems the script may get less feedback.

      • Eddie Panta

        You do have a point, I had to rush through OFFLINE in order to comment. I’m sure others felt behind so didn’t comment.

        Sounds like Dark Matter is not a simple read. Would of liked to had it sooner.
        Also on MediaFire instead of sendspace.

        • garrett_h

          That’s the thing. The couple times I was able to download the script Friday morning, by the time I finished there’s 100+ comments. So then it’s like, what’s the point? I’m late to the party and everyone’s grabbing their coat…

          • Eddie Panta

            agreed, It creates less variety in the posts

        • garrett_h

          That’s the thing. The couple times I was able to download the script Friday morning, by the time I finished there’s 100+ comments. So then it’s like, what’s the point? I’m late to the party and everyone’s grabbing their coat…

    • andyjaxfl

      ximan, I read your scene week entry and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to starting the script tonight (the wild and crazy life of a married guy)…

    • Poe_Serling

      Hey Ximan-

      I’m kinda behind on my SS viewing. A couple of weeks ago, I was walking across the UCLA campus and saw this event in full swing:

      https://hepconf.physics.ucla.edu/dm14/index.html

      No wonder that the stars aligned and you got a shot at the AF spot. lol

      • ximan

        Hey Poe!

        Hahaha! You know what’s weird? I actually DO believe this script was meant to be reviewed right when it was. For instance, had Carson reviewed the script just ONE week earlier, my goals and plans for it were *completely* different! And I really like my new plans for it. I think it will end up better than I’ve ever imagined. :)

        • Poe_Serling

          Perhaps they will be screening your film Dark Matter at one of their future symposiums. That would be blast, wouldn’t it?

          • ximan

            That would be serendipitous indeed :)

  • m_v_s

    I would suggest just keeping it simple.

    The logline hooked me: “Members of a deep-space mission come out of cryo-sleep only to learn that one of their crew members has gone missing, and that mysterious forces may be to blame.”

    Then I read the synopsis and all the bite disappeared. Just keep it simple. People wake up, someone’s missing, who’s taken them?

  • Amazon

    I don’t agree with a lot of things in Carson’s review, mainly the fact that this was hard to work through — I completely disagree. This was definitely one of the better written amateur entries, you can tell Ron put a load of effort into the writing and visuals — just trrying to make it as clear as possible. Maybe I’ve been reading too many poorly written writer-director projects but the writing itself here was pretty damn solid, so two thumbs up there.

    The biggest problem I had was with the third act really, you set up all these ahem, setups but we get a somewhat poor payoff that doesn’t really relate to what the script was dealing with. It was bordering on making the audience feel cheated, especially when the crew is forced into stasis. Did not work for me in any way and although I respect the decision, like Reeves, there needed to be more suggestions that you were going this route. And really, some of the characters didn’t make much sense either — I literally had no clue what Aiden was doing there, like honestly, he did nothing important the whole entire script. Start off by cutting him…

    “Contained” sci-fi is probably one of my favourite sub-genre to read… And I find that lots of writers are trying to find new and innovative ways to tackle these ideas but frankly, most of them turn our either uninspiring/unoriginal. I think that’s where Dark Matter really shines. It stirs something inside of you, the ambition that Prometheus’ ‘origin of man’ was lacking was perfectly encapsulated here. This is new and I found myself excited as I approached the ending. The mystery itself was enticing, very cool and very well laid out. The first 10 pages were probably one of the best I’ve read in recent months.

    I think there’s a lot to be loved here but man, does it turn into the opposite of what made it so great at the beginning. You’re shoe horned into a specific mold later on (little after the evolution scene) and then the script kind of plummets. You’re presented with the payoff, which I barely understood… And see, normally, that’s meant to eliminate most of your questions but here, another million are thrown in. There’s obviously reasoning and thought behind it, and I know Ron put some effort into it but it just doesn’t work on paper… Which is a shame since this is what voice in scripts are really about. Stuff like this. And although I don’t want to say this… I think Ron should shelve this for now, just because of how hard it is to get into the script’s themes and messages. Bring it up later once your writing generates some interest or you’re some big shot writer trying to get a project off its feet. There’s a boat load of potential but I don’t think this is the optimal script to be shopping around, unless of course, Ron’s already repped. I wish you the best of luck, man! You certainly deserve it.

    • Randy Williams

      Great analysis and advice! agree agree. For me, too, first 10 pages were probably one of the best I’ve read. He has that command in the writing that lets you settle in to the story with confidence. The format, that has given some pause, I find works for me, here. I was actually disappointed, however, on reaching page 15 when all the crew member introductions were lined up with their names and character descriptions. So, so many, and some description felt cheesy after such exquisite writing. Took the sweet zone I was in and invaded it with all those characters to remember and just, well.. Yikes! Anyway, what Amazon said.

      • ximan

        I think a consensus is forming on the first 10-15! Thanks so much for your encouragement! :) I’ve had my writing complimented, but never called “exquisite”. Made my day.

        As for that jarring list of characters, not gonna lie, I COMPLETELY understand. I’ve gone back and forth on how to handle that scene and frankly settled on what you read here. Any advice on how to fix it?

        • Randy Williams

          Maybe open on the scene with the pods already open? All have been removed from the pods. One character remains standing there. Perhaps, Aiden. (btw, you cracked me up about the marketing character. I have my own marketing character in my thriller but she’s turning out to be the most interesting!)

          Maybe Aiden is still in the pod area, expresses his pessimism somehow here for some reason, then another character pokes his head in, asking what’s taking him so long to get to the showers or whatever they do after waking up. (maybe she or he has a thing for Aiden and wants that shower time?) Anyway, So, you introduce two characters here.

          Then later, we can meet the rest. Characters always seem more memorable to me if they are matched with some action or some prop. The descriptions they now have suddenly seemed flippant and a bit degrading compared to what had come before.

          • ximan

            “. (btw, you cracked me up about the marketing character. I have my own marketing character in my thriller but she’s turning out to be the most interesting!)”

            Show off!! :)

    • charliesb

      “Contained” sci-fi is probably one of my favourite sub-genre to read

      Agreed. They don’t make enough of them (films). Any you can recommend that I might have missed?

      After Carson’s review I was thinking of skipping this, but your analysis changed my mind. Opening now.

    • ximan

      O Amazon, a man after my own heart! :). I’m so busy at work today, but your analysis compels me to at least chime in with a few quick responses:

      1) Lol on the Aiden comment! Not gonna lie: He’s solely in the script for marketing purposes.
      2) Sad face because you didn’t enjoy Act 3! What kind of payoff in particular were you expecting? I’d be really interested to know, and maybe even incorporate.

      That’s all I have time for now. Hope you get a chance to respond, and THANK YOU FOR THE KIND WORDS! :)

      • Amazon

        I didn’t know making characters Asian helped its marketability! I think I might make everybody in my next script of different ethnicity ;). Just kidding obviously, anyway…

        This is probably one of the harder scripts to remedy. Personally, and this is going to go against what A LOT of peeps think, I’d add another 15 pages to the third act, probably by eliminating the Mars sequence unfortunately. Make the reader invested in the payoff, you introduce this huge galactic war but nothing comes out of it. Maybe you can be cliche as all fuck and have Newton be the only man who can stop it. I know, I know, not what you were looking for but I find that’s the only way for me to actually care what happens. You hit this dull spot around the end where there’s literally nothing compelling me to read further. I didn’t see any relevance with the heaven scene, I mean yeah, you suggested a few things here and there but that’s definitely not the payoff we’ve been looking for. We waited that long for… nothing? No, the ending has to relate with his predicament. And if that was indeed the predicament, it needs to be way way more obvious. How does him getting into heaven have anything to do with the story? I don’t think the reader actually cares to be honest… What’s he trying to do? What have the crew been trying to do? Do all this random shit and then bam, now they’re all going to suddenly die? Sorry but very cheap, man.

        And again, there was definitely a certain quality to it though, something that showed a lot of promise. So that’s why I suggested you keep this one in ‘later’ folder for now, when you have more leniency to do stuff like this. And then to the peeps above suggesting you’re being derivative… I’d honestly say to just ignore that, it’s impossible to write a sci-fi set solely aboard a space station without borrowing elements from other films. Look at Slingshot as an example, that was a Nicholl finalist and actually sold — but wow, it’s impossible not to think the writer was inspired by a dozen other films. Truthfully, it really doesn’t matter and in my opinion, it’s just bullshit advice that hinders the story. Nobody gives a shit if you tell a good story.

        • ximan

          Innnteresting. My goal with Newton and Ange was to show that marriage is deeper than mere commitment, it’s a soul-binding invisible/”dark” bond that not even death can completely eradicate. But I think I may have missed the mark conveying that. I’ve got some ideas about making their bond stronger and more palpable in my next draft.

          As for the setups/payoff, I was aiming for a scientific explanation of the spiritual world. Maybe the spiritual world is closer than we think, only invisible/”dark”? That was the question I was trying to answer. And you can’t show the spiritual world without referencing good (angels), bad (demons) and God/Heaven. Again, I may have missed the mark, but here’s to the next draft! :)

  • Alex Palmer

    “Speaking of 2001, you have to be careful about letting your influences be too influential. S.O.L.O.M.O.N. was so similar to H.A.L. that whenever he spoke, all you can think about was that movie”.

    This is something that has come a lot in things I’ve read recently, and it’s starting to feel less like a trope and more like a cliché.

    This absolutely KILLED the Black List script Sovereign for me. I.V.A.N was literally a carbon copy of HAL-9000. I haven’t finished Dark Matter, though, so I can’t speak as to Ron’s treatment of the concept.

    My favourite rouge A.I. in recent years is GERTY from Moon. You’re never quite sure about him.

    • garrett_h

      GERTY was awesome. Sure, he was HAL-ish. But he was also his own guy… err… AI.

      Carson brought up a good point. If you’re going to be influenced, at least create your own spin on it. Something as simple as GERTY’s smiley face expressions really gave him a fresh feel.

  • JakeBarnes12

    I was one of the few who wasn’t so keen on Ron’s opening pages during scene week. They lacked drama and tension. Let’s see if things pick up…

    Here’s my unexpurgated reaction to the pages I read, not notes, just what was going through my head as I read.

    p1. Writer opens with a panning shot, a quote from the bible, and a hopefully non-diegetic choir warbling ominously. We appear to be firmly aboard the SS Pretension.

    He’s now telling us when the music cuts out on the opening title. I’m not a fan of this kind of directing on the page, but it’s a small point if there’s a strong story coming.

    I said it back in scene week and I’ll say it again. All those freakin’ parentheticals (over radio, filtered, BEEP) are distracting me and slow down the read. He’s already taken an action line to tell us there’s a “BEEP” after each transmission, but then puts them into parentheticals and more action lines anyway.

    “Her earnest blue eyes are struggling to restrain her fright, but Newton always told her she’s stronger than she knows. (More about him later.)”

    We don’t know who Newton is, so this line doesn’t tell us anything. Cut.

    Awright, so one page in and the writer has a style that isn’t working for me; giving camera directions, describing musical cues, loading every dialogue line with parentheticals, making references to characters we haven’t met. Meanwhile no drama, no conflict.

    p. 2. A glowing white orb. This reminds me of old Star Trek when they had zero money for effects so every alien life form that wasn’t a guy in a rubber suit was a glowing ball of light.

    The orb is “at least ten feet in diameter!” Ten feet? I’m six feet. In the vast abyss of space, that is tiny, yet the writer’s exclamation point suggests he thinks this will be impressive.

    “Creeping from around the corner of the space station. It’s almost as if the orb knows it’s being watched.” Sounds Pixar cutesy, not ominous.

    Angelique’s attached to the shuttle by a gigantic robotic arm. Yeah, just saw that in Gravity. Only in Gravity it spun out of control and broke into pieces in a terrifying manner. Here it just sits there.

    p. 3 Orb flying away while Angelique films it and describes it to Houston. Well described, though there’s something a little redundant about a situation where a character describes what we’re already seeing. Sure, I understand the logic. Maybe cut the communication with Houston?

    Okay so first scene designed to build sense of wonder and mystery. Yeah, okay. I think it would be better to bulid a sense of threat and danger. Problem with going for awe is that audiences are so jaded by CGI.

    p. 4. A circular white room with freezer pods against the walls. Hello? Yes, Sir Ridley here. Stop ripping off my bloody masterpiece and use your own imagination, you little git.

    Oops, no. The pods are upright. Though I’ve seen that in other movies.

    “We pan across…” “End pan on a descended pod.” Yes, when you’re a pro or directing your own movie or whatever, you can put in as much camera direction as you like. It is generally frowned upon coming from the great unwashed, however, and taken as a sign of amateur overreaching. Just describe what we’re supposed to be seeing and leave the camera directions to the director.

    “There is a man HOVERING within the pod, lying on his back, mid-air.” Say what? He’s hovering, but he’s lying on his back? And in mid-air? Rewrite for clarity.

    Introduction of Solomon, the ship’s computer “but much more than that really.” Hello? Yes, the late Stanley Kubrick here. Stop ripping off my bloody masterpiece and use your own imagination, you little git.

    Writer uses a CLOSE ON. Look, do whatever you want, but they’re quite unnecessary. If you just have the next line “His fierce blue eyes open suddenly,” THAT is how you do a close up skillfully and economically without wasting a line and calling attention to more directing on the page.

    Solomon asks if muscly but cerebal Newton would describe his current location as “earthly, or heavenly?” Seriously, frak off. An artificial intelligence is not going to put it in this way just so the writer can squeeze in some heavy handed symbolism.

    p. 6. Muscly but cerebral Newton wants to know why he was woken from cryo-sleep early. Ship’s computer tells him “An event has occurred, postponing the mission indefinitely.” I coulda sworn I’ve seen this exact same scene in other movies.

    p 7. YES! Something intriguing has happened. A crew member, called Adam, I’m afraid, has disappeared.

    On the other hand Solomon says “One moment, please. I am checking my protocol to see if I am required to answer…” No! On-the-nose! Don’t have Solomon SPELL OUT that he is up to something. HAL, MOTHER, DAVID, GERTY all created a sense of unease by playing verbal games, by not stating they were out to fool the humans.

    Awright, so despite being overly familiar, page seven is working with some mystery and a reluctant ship’s computer appearing baffled.

    p.8. Flashback, showing us what happened to Adam (described as “serious but amiable.” Think I’d rather be muscly but cerebral).

    “He [Adam] speaks from a chiseled face with a British accent.” Something seriously wrong with that line.

    p. 9. “The ship is like Ezekiel’s Wheel, with its rings within rings. A RING ENGINE that encircles a GRAVITY RING, which is spoked to the circular CORE of the ship in the midst of the RINGS.” Clunky description. Keeps repeating “ring” for some reason.

    “As we admire…” Do we? I’m not a fan of this style.

    p 10 – 11. Adam can’t see the stars. Nice sense of unease here (much better than that orb at the beginning) but I find all these references to the movie “frame” distracting. Rather than BEING IN OUTER SPACE the writer is placing me in a movie theater.

    p. 11 “Suddenly, we hear a SYNTHESIZED ROAR of sorts offscreen. It eerily ECHOES in from the black.” ugh. I’m wading through all this description of Adam’s movements only to find this is the sort of script where there’s sound in space?

    No, wait, Solomon says there’s no sound in space. Yay!

    No, wait, a big noisy UFO appears, so the writer goes for sound anyway. Boo!

    Awright, couple of things. I would cut a lot of this description and focus more on building the sense of unease, which is already good.

    Also, the last scene had a mystery; what happened to Adam? I’d suggest leaving the reader wondering. Why answer the question in the very next scene? Keep us locked into Newton’s viewpoint trying to figure things out.

    This is moving kinda slowly, with elements I’m finding pretty familiar. I’ll keep going to p. 25 but it’s a bit of a ponderous read.

    p. 14. Oh, now it’s clear that what we’ve just seen was what Solomon told Newton. This is disappointing for the reasons I stated above.

    To be honest, this is what I call the storytelling instinct; knowing when to withhold information to keep the audience enraptured. Keep Newton and the audience in the dark.

    p. 14. No, I don’t buy it. Newton’s buddy has been abducted by a freakin’ UFO but Newton’s not really paying attention to what Solomon is telling him because he’s gazing at a photo of Angelique. Finally he “snaps out of his daze.” Gimme a break.

    p. 15 And then Solomon tells Newton he’s greatly concerned about Adam and Newton says “I’m sure you are.” WTF? Why isn’t Newton freaking out about this or at least showing some real concern instead of mooning over the picture of the French chick? And why do we have Solomon being all accommodating?

    Now more pods are opening and the usual multi-national cast awakes (though mainly Brits). We have Jessick who is, um, “nubian.” Dude, just say “black” Oh, shit, I just checked. There are nubians in the bible.

    We also have the Asian who is “more emotional than he knows.” Really? You’re going there?

    We also have a Commander Feral, “40s, British, just as cool and intimidating as his striking albino features and platinum Cesar hair.” Sorry, but that made me laugh.

    p. 16 “Suddenly, the opened pods COME OUT from the walls and LOWER into horizontal positions. They do this in unison, and we are impressed by their hydraulic grace. They LOCK into place.”

    Here we are, being impressed again. I’d really cut that stuff out.

    It’s LATER and they’re still thawing out. Hurry this up.

    Remember how in Star Trek the Movie it took forever to get going and the camera would slowly pan over all these “impressive” images and everyone who saw the movie got really bored and impatient? That’s what I’m feeling now.

    p. 17 One of the cast members, Syrion, isn’t waking up. We go into a dream sequence with Adam.

    Syrion is floating in space “stark butt naked.” I think “naked” would suffice. He’s missing nipples and genitalia.

    p. 18. Oh no you didn’t! Adam has just said “I’ve seen things you’ve never imagined.” Hello? What? It’s Sir Ridley on the phone again. He seems really upset, keeps calling the writer a “thieving little git.”

    In the dream Syrion opens the craft’s doors: “The door’s latches UNLOCK. The gate RISES from the bottom up, letting outer space in with a WHIRLWIND!”

    Um, I’m no science dweeb, but isn’t it more that atmosphere is sucked OUT into space or something?

    p. 19 Syrion wakes up.

    Things are happening but there’s very little conflict or drama. Some promise earlier which quickly dissipated.

    p. 20. We’re back to Mars with the French chick, Angelique. More talk, the Star Trek orb was warning her not to go to Mars.

    p. 21. Now she really wants to call Newton because, ready for this? “He’s the only one who can calm me down when I get like this!” Well, heck. What did you expect, sending a young woman into space? Gotta call their boyfriends when things get rough.

    Not to worry. Guy called Unit explains she can’t make the call because “we’re in the middle of a mission.” Huh?

    Understanding Sal (women in her 30s) says “Unit’s right, dear. Just shake it off.”

    That “dear” makes Sal sound like a matron from the 1950s.

    That was a very, very strange scene full of unbelievable behavior and dialogue. Writer appears to have little experience with the females of the species.

    p. 22. We’re back to muscly but cerebral Newton now joined by the albino Commander Feral.

    So weird. Solomon has a digitized face but writer doesn’t describe what he looks like (unless I missed it earlier, but I don’t think so.)

    Writer is on much firmer ground with plot-related discussions.

    p. 24. I don’t remember who Troy is, but he “strokes his handsomely short beard” after the room exchanges quizzical glances. We don’t need these kinds of micro-directions.

    p. 24 Solomon is back to being cryptic again, refusing to play his last conversation with Adam, saying it is classified.

    p. 25 Writer sets up another mystery (why Solomon won’t spill the beans) and now we’re going into another flashback (with more up and down panning, of course) presumably to explain. Again, surely better to build a mystery.

    Okay, I’m done.

    OVERALL THOUGHTS:

    I found it hard going to get through those twenty-five pages and the idea of reading more doesn’t appeal to me. Too much description, overly familiar sci-fi tropes, muddled storytelling, very little conflict, decent plot-based conversations but weird when handling more emotion-based stuff. Or women.

    ADVICE TO WRITER:

    Simplify your set up. Cut back on descriptions. Let mysteries build. Do much more work on the characters; try to put yourself in their shoes. Anchor any grand schemes you might have in the characters’ experiences.

    Finally, my most important piece of advice; don’t give in to the insecure “you just don’t get it” attitude in the face of criticism. You’ll never learn to write better if you take the attitude that your work is fine and it’s the reader who has the problem not understanding.

    • Eddie Panta

      The comment here and Carson’s review both point out copying fx moments, troupes, and tech gimmicks from other movies like Alien, 2001, and Gravity.

      Didn’t OBLIVION borrow so much from the first two in the Planet of the Apes series of films. ( perhaps with permission)

      They even gave a nod to the Statue of Liberty’s Arm in a chase sequence.

      The entire bit about an underworld society, with a doomsday device is completely taken from the second Planet of the Apes film, BENEATH the PLANET of the APES which is really the last part in the story.

      Oh, and don’t forget about the “forbidden zone”, a deserted place that holds” “the answer.” That’s totally key element from the original planet of the apes. Most films have forbidden zones though. Characters always have a threshold to cross.

      What about a beehive of pods brewing human clones, anyone smell Matrix?

      I wouldn’t accuse the DARK MATTER script of bowering from Gravity, it’s very likely this was written prior to seeing it, that does happen, and that moment is fairly standard procedure in a space walk.

      I guess the real concern is not appropriating themes, but rather troupes and specific technical details like HAL and SOLOMON comparisons.

      BTW: Oblivion just made me yearn to watch Beneath the Planet of the Apes again. It was clear to me the writer of Oblivion loves the Planet of the Apes movies, there is an awareness of it in the film that comes off as paying tribute.

    • Citizen M

      Here are my notes made while I was reading Dark Matter. Fairly typical for an AF script. I didn’t transcribe them all because others had covered the same ground, or they were trivial or answered later in the script, or I just forgot to (in the case of the niggles).

      Whatever. I’m showing them as proof that I made a commitment and put effort into reading and commenting on the script. And if I sound a bit testy, it’s because I committed three or more hours of my free time over a weekend and was disappointed, like I am with nine out of ten amateur scripts. Just as I am sure Jake Barnes feels.

      If eight commenters put three hours each into reading and commenting on a script, that’s the equivalent man-hours of someone putting three working days into the same task. And how much would you have to pay someone knowledgeable to work three full days for you? This stuff is valuable. Don’t try to take away it’s value by asking everyone to be nice.

      If a writer wants to pay someone to kiss their butt and be nice, go ahead. But unless they are already at the top, it’s not going to get them far. Being nice to each other is all right in a small writers’ group, and probably necessary in keeping the group from breaking up, but eventually a script has to venture out into the big, bad world. Enter Scriptshadow, the portal to the real world.

      If commenters have a problem with how other commenters see a script, by all means say so, briefly, then put an alternative view of the script out there. That’s much more useful than slagging off at length someone who’s done the work.

      We used to have really insightful people hanging out here. Most of them have gone. And I think it’s because they got criticised by people who frankly haven’t earned the right to criticize yet.

      • JakeBarnes12

        You know, Citizen M, I think most people on this forum are decent and sincere and we still have some smart commenters, though, yeah, there’s some I definitely miss from the old days.

        I think the problem is that the site isn’t as effective a training ground for beginners. In the old days we were reading and commenting on three professional scripts a week, fifty weeks a years, for a number of years.

        If you were smart, you soon got a sense of what made a script professional. I think a number of us became decent script readers out of that experience, if not decent writers :)

        Regarding my comments getting criticized, well, heck, if I’m going to speak my mind frankly about what I really feel about someone’s pages, which I think is actually doing the writer a huge favor, I expect a few people will ask me to tone it down.

        That’s fair enough.

        The other issue is how the writer reacts to criticism, and it’s clear some don’t take it well.

        Looking at Ron’s response to your own thoughtful notes, for example, it’s clear he’s feeling very defensive.

        I think it takes a certain level of confidence and experience to separate yourself from your work, but the crucial thing for us writers is to set aside our own egos and to be able to acknowledge that a scene, act, or whole screenplay isn’t working and try to understand why.

        That’s where we need other people to shine a light on our blind spots. The tiny number of writers who are going to make it are the ones who can recognize smart criticism and are eager to develop the skills to apply it.

        I agree, however, that it’s disappointing when the writer can’t see the time and work that goes into offering FREE detailed comments, however positive or negative, and then doesn’t have the maturity to offer a simple thank you.

        • Matthew Garry

          I can’t help but think “Dark Matter” is a victim of its own success here.

          I didn’t follow how it came to be picked exactly, but what I can find it was picked because there was some positive feedback when a scene of it was posted in the comments section during scene week. It didn’t participate in AOW; it wasn’t a featured scene during scene-week, and the feedback loop in the comments was very short. Also it specifically wasn’t made available online for early reading for some reason (which I can imagine contributes to the “testiness” of readers).

          In short, if came by its AF slot easily, and sometimes when things come easily, they aren’t appreciated fully.

          • JakeBarnes12

            From my point of view, Matthew, Act 1 of “Dark Matter” isn’t working very well, either in setting up character or story.

            Regardless of how this script ended up on Amateur Friday, those problems would still be there.

            Still, this is a good learning opportunity for Ron, since most commenters seem to agree on these issues.

      • John Bradley

        Haha this is a great way to leave notes! I’ve never scene that before!

      • Stephjones

        Handwriting analysis came back. Bit of disturbing news to report, old sport. Not for public consumption, I suspect. Should I send via email?

    • ximan

      Gotta admit: I avoided your comment yesterday because the opening criticisms were too similar to Scene Week, and BOY did you come across as a “BEEP/filtered”-obsessed weirdo there! But after all the upvotes you received, I decided to give it a go…

      And MAN am I glad I did! LOL! You’re f*cking HILARIOUS! Negative, contrarian, effeminately passive-aggressive? Yes, but NOT without one or two helpful insights.

      Thanks for the read! :)

      • JakeBarnes12

        Glad that one of us was entertained.

        • ximan

          Lol! Ouch :)

  • Brainiac138

    This is a great sentiment. Look at Beasts of the Southern Wild, no way would that have been made in the current studio system, but the filmmakers just did it. I believe we are going to see more and more of this happening, especially since so many young people are opting not to move out to LA and be part of the industrialized film system, instead going out to Austin, NYC, Portland, and other places where there is a creative atmosphere and a feeling like this crazy idea they just came up with could get done after all.

  • drifting in space

    *I have not read this yet*

    Based on Carson’s review, along with a few below, I find the logline to be misleading. If it is a duel narrative, I think readers will find themselves jarred to find out only part of the story is about a crew waking up to find one of them missing. Especially if the two stories are barely intertwined.

    You could probably simplify the story and work on characters to create an unnerving, atmospheric aura.

    Premise alone, this is interesting. Hope the review provides a lot of beneficial notes. Seems like people were diggin’ this one.

    • garrett_h

      Very misleading. Seems to me like the two lovers should be on the same ship/space station, then one of them disappears and is mysteriously whisked away a couple light years. One is working to escape and get back to the ship/space station from this strange place, the other is working to figure out what happened to the other and find them. Then you can keep the dual storylines. Just a suggestion…

      • drifting in space

        That’s a good idea.

  • Nicholas J

    Small note that I thought was funny…

    ANGELIQUE: Has anyone ever been hurt by one of those things?
    SAL: Of course, not.

    Spot the error in grammar and how it changes Sal’s answer. This is why you do a thorough spell check or find someone who can.

    • Linkthis83

      Maybe Sal’s character was seriously influenced by Wayne and Garth.

      • Nicholas J

        Did you guys see that huge bulbous orb? SCHWING!

    • Wes Mantooth

      We’re not worthy.

    • ximan

      Congratulations! You found the one comma out of place in the entire script! :)

  • John Bradley

    Congrats Ron on the AF shot! Always enjoy seeing the regulars get a day in the spotlight!

  • Eddie Panta

    SS: To me, the two separate narratives here are a killer, particularly because there’s barely any connection between them…

    I would agree with Carson here. But not sure if he likes any script that is a “group” or “team” shared narrative instead of single lead. Correct me if I’m wrong…

    It would be cool if when they contact the ship. light years away, they are actually talking to themselves, in the future!

    But this is a great AOW pick considering yesterday’s post. Sounds like a lot of plot here. Neither Alien nor 2001 are really that plot heavy.

    Soderberg tried some unconventional sci-fi with SOLARIS: “that’s not your wife, you’re dreaming her”. Anybody see it? I couldn’t get through it.

    The more complicated, “unconventional”, or experimental the story / concept is, the simple and clean the script should be.

    If dealing with “the eternal question” or faith, the writer’s concept or philosophy should be so concise it would work as a stage play, without any FX visuals. Not an easy task.

    2001: A space odyssey is not character driven, we don’t really know who Dave is. That’s not the point. He is simply, human nature, should he go on, or turn back. Dave is in a vehicle on a journey, coming up to a fork in the road, making a decision, and then crossing a threshold, same as any other movie, not very unconventional at all in terms of story structure, is it.

    • mulesandmud

      I’m a great lover of both versions of Solaris, but they’re definitely an acquired taste. Except for the music; anyone who doesn’t like the soundtrack of the Soderbergh film has serious issues.

      Solaris gets a special prize for the way that the film’s sci-fi premise so perfectly encapsulates its themes. The themes: memory and love. The premise: a psychologist visits a mysterious planet which makes memories become real, and is confronted by his own dead wife.

      Also, Solaris presents one of the most original ideas for extra-terrestrial life ever conceived: a sentient planet which communicates with humans by bringing their thoughts to life.

      • Eddie Panta

        Agreed music was great, so were the visuals. But it was a character driven story and I found it hard to connect with the character.

      • Citizen M

        I’ve seen both versions of Solaris and my reaction is WTF².

        • mulesandmud

          Heh. Tarkovsky wouldn’t mind that review. Soderbergh might.

          With art, oftentimes it’s like Louis Armstrong says: “Some people, if they don’t know, you can’t tell’em.”

    • ximan

      This! :)

  • ElectricDreamer

    Congrats to Ron. Always sweeter when a regular contributor nabs the AF spotlight!

    I suppose there’s a lot of technical niggles that I could let sabotage the read.
    At least they’re consistent on the page. Many of them have already been mentioned.

    But I overlooked that stuff and pressed on. The pages moved pretty fast. Got up to 30.
    Maybe all those wrylies about filtered radios facilitated the whole page turning thing.
    I wonder how long the script actually is without them.

    Got to page thirty pretty quickly. But I didn’t feel like much had happened from 15 – 30.
    It’s mostly spent on the reveal of Adam’s disappearance and jawing with the glib computer.
    And I didn’t care for Adam’s predicament being demystified so quickly.

    Why not let the reader earn some answers to your mystery by investing in the quest?
    If the crew organically discovered that fact, it’s more engaging for the reader.
    That approach puts us in the room with your characters.
    It’s never as engaging for the reader when the author easily reveals a mystery.

    Those kinds of mini-quests within the narrative keep the pages fresh for the reader.
    I think you can streamline a lot of that stuff to give the end of Act One some urgency.

    Good luck with the next draft! I expect we’ll see this script again in the AOW!

    • ximan

      Thanks ED! :)

      • ElectricDreamer

        Sorry it wasn’t more, but my Friday morning was slammed.
        Hit me up privately anytime you want a read on some revisions.

        The SS faithful demand a new draft from their hard-working regulars! ;-)

        • ximan

          It was plenty. And as begrudgingly as it is for me to admit… I know Carson was right about Mars being the script’s weak link.

          A more “focused” draft is likely in my future. But I’ve moved on to other stories, so who knows when I’ll be back. But I’m sure I will :)

  • ximan

    My main response to Carson’s review is that it seems he was looking for an OVERT explanation of things, but I was more interested in the subtleties.

    “I don’t know where I first heard the phrase “Go big or go home.” All I know is that Ron Hollis must have that credo tattooed to every visible part of his body. I’ve got to give it to the guy. Anyone who attempts to explain the origins of mankind, the universe, and the meaning of life, all in one script, isn’t messing around.”
    –The compliment OF MY LIFE!! :)

    “By gosh, a chimpanzee even turns into an alien boy at one point!”
    This is a MAJOR SPOILER Carson. Can you at least change it to say “a member of the crew even turns into an alien”??

    “Eventually, Angelique and her crew decide to go down to the Mars surface (not sure if it’s ever explained why)?”
    –Mars is the mission. The space station is just the launch pad for their shuttle (Discovery). We never even see them enter the MSS in the script.

    “I’m guessing this has something to do with cell phone charges in the year 2199 being REALLY bad.”
    LMAO! :)

    “To me, the two separate narratives here are a killer, particularly because there’s barely any connection between them outside of one character from each ship mentioning that they want to call the other.”
    –Two separate narratives, or main and subplot? Either way, the two characters are married, separated by a vast distance, worried about each other, and IN LOVE! :)

    “and is it even possible to make phone calls light years away?”
    –In the year 2199 it is.

    “There was barely ANY DISCUSSION about the afterlife”
    –Maybe not discussion, but the subtext of the script is BURSTING with allusions, and there were a good amount of obvious gestures as well: The bible title card, “Heavenly” location versus “Earthly”, Feral’s speech on religion and science, The biblical names: Adam, Solomon, Babylon, Ezekiel, etc.

    “We need characters who are extremely religious. We need characters who are extremely scientific. We need agnostics.”
    And you got them (see below), but again, my approach to these things is SUBTLE. I personally hate it when I’m hit over the head with caricatures of these types of individuals. It isn’t true to life.
    Extremely religious = Newton (I mean, the dude quotes scripture like there’s no tomorrow!)
    Extremely scientific = SOLOMON, Feral and Troy
    Agnostics = Arguably, everyone except Newton and Angelique

    I’m very thankful for the review, but I do feel it’s lite on subject matter. I would have loved to know what Carson liked, specifically. He sure wasn’t bashful about what he didn’t like! :)

    • Linkthis83

      No wonder a certain poster was hyping SUBTEXT just one day prior ;)

      I read Carson’s review and I haven’t read the script because the only opportunity thus far has been today = I’m at work.

      …and since I’m at work I was only able to check out the first ten. Sine I had the luxury of reading the review, the references were pretty easy to see at the beginning.

      I think what could work against you here, or anyone who submits a script with real, subtle depth, is it going over heads. The readers are expecting amateur material and wish to provide helpful feedback. And what they don’t get they will put on the writer. Which might be how it’s supposed to be but I find myself regularly in a state of antithesis to what is supposed to be “the norm” or proper etiquette.

      I believe if the reader really wants to get something from a read, they’re willing to put more into it. This doesn’t have to be the case across the board with all scripts. But I believe it to be true with yours.

      Even based on the back and forth that took place Scene Week. I liked some of the PURPOSEFUL choices you made while others did not. I think that is what you are going to find here (and already have by the looks of it).

      I hope I get the time in the near future to read it. Because I’m interested. Especially with the monumental STAKES you’ve included into the goal of the script. Congrats, man. If I do get a chance to read and note I will email you the notes.

      • ximan

        You see right through me Link! ;)

  • drifting in space

    This is one of the most polite responses I’ve seen come from grendl. Great advice.

  • walker

    This is OT, but has anyone noticed that after a year of these reviews being posted by “admin” this week a couple were posted by “Carson Reeves” and now today’s is posted by a “Christopher Pendegraft”? Ok I get Christopher, but Pendegraft?

    • klmn

      Sounds like Carson is having an identity crisis.

    • wlubake

      This was the basis for Donald Kaufman’s next project after “The 3″.

  • walker

    Unfortunately, Jake gives one-note notes.

  • Alex Palmer

    It helps that Kevin Spacey contributes with his inherent creepiness.

  • walker

    I strongly disagree. I think that a paid reviewer who writes “We appear to be firmly aboard the SS Pretension” in the first line of his notes would be firmly aboard the SS Out of Business. How is that an unbiased critique?

  • Citizen M

    I agree with everything Carson said, although I might be tempted to give it a “what the hell did I just read?” instead of a “wasn’t for me”. It’s hard to classify the genre. It starts off as science fiction, then the science gets tossed out the airlock, then it ends up as more of a religious allegory than a straightforward story. Pseudoscience fantasy, maybe.

    As someone with an engineering degree and a space geek who stays up at night to watch space walks live on streaming video, perhaps I’m the wrong person to judge this script. Anyway, I forced myself to read to the end.

    A big problem in the early pages is the writer fell in love with his world. We wasted too much time in description and minutiae and didn’t get into the story promptly and vigorously. Also, we weren’t told important stuff. It was only on page 25 that I figured out there were two separate stories and three separate spacecraft: the shuttle and the MSS in orbit around Mars, and the HMS Babylon in the vicinity of Polaris, 434 light years away. And two separate missions: the shuttle landing on Mars for some unknown reason, and the Babylon investigating dust around Polaris.

    Part of the reason for the confusion is the sluglines. On page 1 we get EXT. MARTIAN SPACE STATION (MSS). Okay, except it should be MARS space station. “Martian” implies it is controlled by little green men. The next slugline says INT. CRYOGENIC CHAMBER so we naturally assume the cryogenic chamber is on board the MSS. We should either get an establishing shot of the HMS Babylon, or BABYLON — CRYOGENIC CHAMBER; SHUTTLE — PILOT’S BRIDGE etc. Make clear where we are.

    I agree with the suggestions to drop the Mars angle entirely. It adds almost nothing and takes up precious pages with meaningless little tiffs. Drama is life without the boring bits. Mars is one of the boring bits. Shuttle crash? We saw it bigger and better in Gravity. Anyway, what is a museum piece (literally) like the Shuttle doing around Mars? Has NASA been sitting on their collective butts for 200 years, especially when we have spacecraft that can journey to the stars and talk to Houston in real time? The writer has commented that Mars is there because Newton and Angelique are in LUUURVE! And SEPARATED! Oh, the anguish!

    Well, here’s a secret, courtesy of Bill Martell, writer of 19 produced scripts (so there, Grendl). It’s no good SAYING two people are in love. You have to SHOW them in love. Which means they have to be together, interacting with each other, at some point. Put Angelique on the Babylon. Have athletic, masculine but cerebral Newton at some point have to choose: Angelique or the mission. Make him sweat!

    Anyway, what is the Inciting Incident (recalling discussion earlier this week)? I submit it is when SOLOMON refuses to cooperate on page 24. That’s the bit that rocks their world. Not mysterious objects. You expect that in space. It’s when your own systems and procedures no longer work and you are forced to use your initiative. And the Inciting Incident should be on page 12 or thereabouts. I think those early pages should be pruned drastically.

    Regarding names: I thought SOLOMON could be written without the periods. I found them annoying. Feral and Unit I thought were two of the silliest names I’ve ever seen in a screenplay. They are words with actual, defined meanings, not names. Sal is usually a man. Can’t you use Sally? Describing the ship as like Ezekiel’s wheel makes sense given the ending, but only the reader sees the description, not the viewer, and anyway Ezekiel’s wheel has been imagined in many different ways, most of them very un-spaceship like. HMS means His/Her Majesty’s Ship. If Babylon was British would it be controlled from Houston?

    Some detailed notes:

    p. 2 – Angelique would say Merde! not Shit!

    p. 4 – “He’s not rude, but he learned the hard way to trust his intuition. And it’s always told him that Solomon’s existence was a certain kind of abomination. The manifestation of men playing God.” This is not only unfilmable, it is telling the reader stuff that needs to be shown via the character’s actions.

    p. 7 – SOLOMON: “One moment, please. I am checking my protocol to see if I am required to answer…” Via SOLOMON, the writer introduces a conspiracy element that ultimately leads nowhere. It is never revealed why Mission Control might want to conceal important information. There’s a suggestion it might be aliens working through SOLOMON, but I never figured out why they needed to. If they are so advanced, what’s stopping them doing whatever they want when they want? We need some idea of the rules of their world; what their limitations are. Also, SOLOMON sounded a bit bitchy and gay to me.

    p. 27 – Gravity can only attract. It cannot resist. Perhaps you mean Dark Energy, which is an unknown repulsive force preventing the universe from collapsing.

    p. 29 – Solomon says Mission Control instructed him to wake Adam to make repairs. Yet on page 23 he says he woke Adam to repair the comms link. If the comms were down, how could Mission Control instruct him to wake Adam?

    p. 29 – I started tuning out around this time. I had a hard time imagining what was going on. We are way beyond any sort of science or astronomical object into a fantasy land where the writer, not the laws of physics, makes the rules.

    p. 30 – The convention is to write out all numerals in dialogue. “Hull integrity at point 100.” should read “Hull integrity at point one zero zero.”

    p. 32 – Actually, to deorbit the shuttle you would point its butt in the direction of travel and fire the rockets, then drop and turn and face the direction of motion, but I suppose the convention of facing down and firing rockets to deorbit is well established. Incidentally, all the pages of procedural stuff in flying the shuttle contributes nothing to the main story. It is just filler, and expensive to shoot as well.

    p. 33 – Speed in miles per hour. Height in kilometers. Captain Unit, don’t mix units! Anyway, I have an idea the shuttle uses knots, nautical miles, and feet above ground level, but maybe they’ve gone metric by 2199.

    p. 42 – What is a dust “void”? Is it a hole in a dust cloud? Is it supposed to be surrounding Polaris or in orbit around it? Note that it would be insignificant as seen from earth. A cube fifteen hundred miles on a side is a speck compared to a star. The Sun is 865,000 miles across, and it’s quite a puny star.

    p. 76 – “Whirling” supercomputers? You mean, with tape drives like Univac, circa 1960? Technology is going backwards.

    p. 88 – Does Darwin resemble a small boy chimp or small boy human?

    p. 94 – The astronauts are behaving more like teenagers than like trained professionals. Note that astronauts are taught to use the same protocols that airline pilots use when confronted with a non-standard situation.

    p. 97 – We in the Southern hemisphere cannot see Polaris. Does that mean we will never go to you-know-where?

    • ximan

      LMAO at a lot of your comments! I promise I will respond when I get off from work.

      Hi-larious!! XD And thanks for the read! :)

      • Citizen M

        Not to be entirely negative, here are a couple of suggestions.

        1. Forget the MSS. Open with the Mars shuttle crash. WE see the surface of Mars, and in the distance the shuttle coming down, trailing smoke. Panicky crew talking in V.O. The shuttle crashes in a cloud of dust. Credits. Next scene, wrecked interior of Discovery IV. Angelique requests Houston to contact Newton. They refuse, saying he’s in cryosleep.

        2. Cut to Babylon. Pan across cryopods. We see Newton’s name. Show Adam’s encounter with orb.

        3. Cut back to Mars. Angelique preparing to leave shuttle for trek across Mars. Her first encounter with orb.

        4. Use orb/alien encounters as linking device to cut between Mars and Babylon. Show there’s some connection between the two.

        5. Cook up some sort of mumbo-jumbo explanation as to how we are able to communicate instantaneously with Houston from deep space, how we can travel 434 light years in cryosleep without being centuries older than our partners back in the solar system, and what was so interesting about Polaris that they sent a mission all the way out there, while at the same time the Mars shuttle seems to be based on 1980s technology with air brakes etc.

        You might be more interested in the spiritual and philosophical aspects of the story, but many in the audience will treat it as straightforward sci-fi and need their dilithium crystals, warp drive, etc.

        • ximan

          For the record, I don’t think you’re being entirely negative. I hope people don’t mistake my LMFAOs as being sarcastic or condescending. I honestly only award LOLs to folks who actually succeed in making me LOL ;)

    • Midnight Luck

      “Drama is life without the boring bits.”

      Exactly. Love this.

      Printing it up on a t-shirt as we speak.

      • Citizen M

        “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out” — Alfred Hitchcock

        • Midnight Luck

          I thought it sounded familiar. Now it makes sense. I have heard it before.

          Thanks for the reminder.

          • Citizen M

            Another Hitchcockism worth remembering:

            “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

    • Linkthis83

      “Technology is going backwards.”

      If you watch the episodes of Star Wars in chronological order, their technology takes a serious step back around Episode IV. What happened to all that cool, aerodynamic shit?!?!?!

  • mulesandmud

    An alternative viewpoint:

    Arguably one the most productive things that happens on this message board is that writers are exposed to unfiltered (and even actively hostile) feedback.

    It’s true that most working creatives are exceptionally polite (a sign of professionalism and respect, yes, but also a reason that industry note sessions tend to be so roundabout and ineffectual). It’s also true that every so often an abrasive personality will step in with a self-appointed mission to “tell it how it is” and shred you in public. Whether Jake’s notes are constructive or not, a thick skin is valuable asset in this industry, and it’s better for a young writer to toughen up here than for them to get caught unawares in the room, on the day.

    If a person isn’t prepared to digest that kind of criticism, they should hesitate to submit their work for review in a public forum. For better or worse, real life doesn’t play by the rules of art school critique.

    I personally like to keep a few people close who will hit me with the harshest words possible now and then, just to keep myself honest.

    p.s. – Jake, don’t talk to Harvey Weinstein like this.

    • Stephjones

      Yep. Any way you slice it, its a gift to have someone take the time to read your stuff and then share their thoughts. Stay receptive to the advice of others but by no means heed everything. You’ll know whether it has validity for the story you are trying to tell.

  • Citizen M

    In fairness to critics, they themselves are exposed to criticism. It’s not as if they are safely ensconced in ivory towers. They are vulnerable to any passing troll who happens to disagree with them, same as any writer who puts his work out there for judgement.

  • Eddie Panta

    Dear Jem,
    These are good points, but the posts here are limited, there is not a lot of space, time for anything else but putting it rather bluntly.

    If someone takes the time to read and write this much, go through the script this thoroughly, the author should take it to mean that there is something there worth talking about, analyzing. Take it as a compliment.

    Hell, I would be fine with trashing mine all you want, please, just give me the answers I’m looking for in the script. I wouldn’t be looking for pats on the back, I can go to my friends for that. If the core of the script’s themes are strong it will survive all of this page counting and nit picking. Those are easy things to fix.

    I would concede that the comments should be delivered more like: Here is a fix and here’s what you need to think about. And not like hey, look how smart I am. But people steal time away from work and their own scripts to post here. It’s not easy to frame the comments delicately.

  • Midnight Luck

    Congrats on getting this covered, and thanks for letting us read and comment.

    Here are my comments, and they are pretty much on one topic.

    Up to Page 15.

    I read the beginning of this back in Scene week as well. I wasn’t as captivated as many. Of course I had a hard time seeing anything other than Gravity at the time, while reading. Probably just bad timing, as the story is different. So, take that comment with a grain of salt.

    Firstly, I have never been someone who agrees with or likes how most Amateur scripts use identifiers or markers that call out who a new character is. Overall they mean nothing to me, and I don’t get an image in my head that tells me anything.

    Example:
    The astronaut’s striking, helmeted face is full frame. This
    is ANGELIQUE (30s, logical, elegant). Her earnest blue eyes
    are struggling to restrain her fright, but Newton always told
    her she’s stronger than she knows.

    or

    This is NEWTON (30s, athletic, masculine but
    cerebral). His long, muscular physique is encased in a dark
    body-glove of sorts.

    All I can picture about Angelique is she looks like Angelina Jolie. Maybe that is because of her name (probably), other than that she is French, which was told to us earlier and I remembered. I don’t know anything else. I can’t picture her in any real way. “Earnest blue eyes” and “Newton always told her she’s stinger than she knows” and “logical, elegant” really tell me nothing. I have no idea what this means about HER, herself. I have no image of who she is, or what she is about. She is 30’s, and French, Newton is 30’s and that is it, other than he is muscular. “Masculine and Cerebral” I can’t picture, what does that mean? who is he?

    Maybe this is just my issue, but I really dislike these kinds of instructions for who this person is. Masculine and Cerebral, tells me he has – An extremely large cranium on his body? maybe? His head is very large? Masculine? He sweats a lot? cusses and looks like Wolverine? It just doesn’t tell me anything so I can picture him.

    Then on page 15 we get a HUGE dump of people and signifiers, and all I can remember is: An Albino with Cesar dressing in their hair, a Nubian (which makes me picture a small, long limbed African black girl, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions about what the writer meant), a Scottish person, a British person, and I don’t know.

    So this is what is written:

    JESSICK, Nubian, strong, beautiful but she knows it.
    SYRION, British, boastful, too curious for his own good.
    ASA, a sexy ginger. And a real ball-buster at times, but she
    means well.
    The next pod doesn’t open…
    TROY, Scottish, serious. The kind of scientist produced by
    Oxford.
    AIDEN, Asian, pessimistic, and more emotional than he knows.
    And COMMANDER FERAL, 40s, British, just as cool and
    intimidating as his striking albino features and platinum
    Cesar hair.

    How am I too remember all that? or tell one person from the next? I remember NUBIAN, CESAR, ALBINO, and that is pretty much it, if I am honest with myself and don’t go back and reread it.

    I need to have things put out that TELL ME WHO THIS IS. Not a laundry list of signifiers that are just standard beats. I couldn’t tell you who was extremely muscular (because ALL the guys are? I think?) or Beautiful, because they all are in scripts. It means nothing, I won’t retain it. I can’t visualize it. All women in Amateur scripts have something akin to “Strikingly Beautiful” put after their names, and All guys are Muscular.

    Here is the introduction to ROGER “Verbal” KINT from USUAL SUSPECTS:

    “FOLLOW A PAIR OF FEET as they shuffle across the cement
    floor. The shoes are shabby and worn, as are the wrinkled
    pants that hang too low and loose at the cuffs. The right
    foot is turned slightly inward and falls with a hard limp. It
    is clear that the knee does not extend fully.

    ROGER KINT, VERBAL to his few friends. He has a deeply lined
    face, making his thirty-odd years a good guess at best. From
    his twisted left hand, we can see that he suffers from a
    slight but not debilitating palsy.”

    I can picture him and will retain it.

    This is the kind of stuff that helps me know who the character is. Obviously every character can’t be put down in this manner, but in SUSPECTS, every main character is.

    Here is FREDDY FINSTER’s intro:

    “FRED FENSTER, a tall, thin man in his thirties strolls
    casually down the street. He is dressed conspicuously in a
    loud suit and tie with shoes that have no hope of matching.
    He smokes a cigarette and chews gum at the same time.”

    All I am saying, is I like to try to intro characters in an interesting way, that allows the reader to not only remember them, but picture them in their Minds Eye. So when that name comes up again I can quickly imagine that person.

    After 15 pages of DARK MATTER I can’t picture one person. Who they are, what they look like, or a style any of them carries.
    That hurts my being able to read a script.
    I need to know who someone is.
    ADAM is more interesting, because of what he is doing, the fact he is missing, the fact that he disappears, but I can’t tell you ANYTHING about who he is or what he looks like. So when the name “ADAM” appears, I have to remember and attach thoughts in my head to bring back up, “oh yeah, they guy who vanished, but who was he? was he on the Mars ship, or the one out somewhere in the stars?” I don’t even know if Adam is the main character, or was Angelique. But are they on the same ship? or light years away?

    We just need something that latches us quickly onto WHO THIS PERSON IS, and allows us to DIFFERENTIATE THEM from all the other characters.

    I think if you can find a way to quickly signify who these main people are, it will help the read immensely, not just for me, but for everyone.

    • Citizen M

      Physical descriptions are often a waste of time. I usually forget who’s the redhead, the tall one, the short one, etc. From a story point of view, unless a character description or trait makes a difference, it is about as relevant as the color of the wallpaper.

      Nationality, class, and age affect the speech pattern, which is a help in differentiating them.

      It’s also helpful if one is an optimist, one a pessimist, one a joker, one a geek, etc, and speak and act in clearly different ways consistently through the script. Minor characters are disposable commodities. They shouldn’t arc. They should always behave in character until you kill them off, one by one.

      • Midnight Luck

        I agree. The Phys descriptions do absolutely nothing. As you said, unless it makes a difference, has relevance to the character, or the story, putting these things in is useless.

        I remembered that Angelique was French because it was significant. She won’t talk like me, she may sound different than others, even if she speaks English, so I put that somewhere in my head and I remember it.

        And things like “but Newton always toldher she’s stronger than she knows” is considered an Un-filmmable. And yes, you can occasionally get away with something like that, usually they just take you out of the story so fast. This one does for me.
        It reminds me that, yes, actually, I am reading someone’s script.

      • Stephjones

        I’ve only killed off 2 of my characters in the 6 scripts I’ve written. An old woman( accidental death, mercy killing) and a rooster (game cock in a cock fighting script) Most reviewers were sad to see the chicken go.

        • Citizen M

          I plan to kill ‘em all in my zombie script. Heh-heh. I’m looking forward to it.

        • John Bradley

          I imagined the roosters death happening in slow motion to epic opera music….

          • Citizen M

            A downy feather floats into the distance as a sad phrase plays on an oboe.

            FADE TO BLACK

          • Stephjones

            Actually, I chopped his fucking head off with a meat cleaver. He was being very naughty.

          • Stephjones

            :)

    • ximan

      “Maybe this is just my issue, but I really dislike these kinds of instructions for who this person is. Masculine and Cerebral, tells me he has – An extremely large cranium on his body? maybe? His head is very large? Masculine? He sweats a lot? cusses and looks like Wolverine? It just doesn’t tell me anything so I can picture him.”

      HAHAHAHA! Seriously, this is the funniest shit EVER!

      Honestly, I *HATE* character descriptions. Hate, hate, HATE! I would rather say “A Marion Cotillard type” and let it be. Actors inspire me to write, so the descriptions really stem from the actors I’ve envisioned in the roles. And, again, I HATE writing them, which is why so many people find them off-putting. My discomfort comes through on the page.

      • drifting in space

        Same. I hate when people try to be clever with it. I usually just skim right over it.

        I’d rather see someone with “nerves of steel” than a writer just vomiting it on the page as part of the description. ESPECIALLY when the next scene shows them as a chicken shit.

      • Midnight Luck

        OK. But if you are writing the character, it is best if you, the writer, know WHO they are. Know all the little things about them. What they long for, what they will never do. What drives them, etc. If they smoke a certain way, or are missing an arm, or cuss every two seconds. We need to know their interesting eccentricities. Just knowing they look like Marion Cotillard will leave you with nobody on the page. And that, sadly, was my feeling about the people here. I need to feel, sense, and understand these individuals. So I can follow them, believe in them, and hope or cry for them. Otherwise, it is a cardboard cutout character and that won’t carry a story.

        Just read some of the scripts from movies with your favorite characters in it. There is a rhythm, a cadence to the best descriptions. They are like poetry, but you almost don’t notice how much info you are taking in. Easy to read, easy to remember.

        If this is something you have struggled with, I believe those are the things that have to be worked at EXTRA hard, until you can break through it.

        • Citizen M

          Have you noticed how people’s voices never match their looks? Get used to someone’s voice on the radio or wherever, and when you finally see them in the flesh or see a photo of them, they look totally different from the way you imagined.

          • Midnight Luck

            yes. it is something that has always intrigued me. Listen to a disc jockey for years on the radio, and they never look like you imagine. I also think about how strange it is, that if you know the person speaking, their voice seems to fit them perfectly. Like somehow it has a magical quality to it. Like the body shape, size, the tin of their voice, the shape of their face, you can’t imagine any other sound coming out of their mouth other than that voice. It is strange to me, that it works both those ways. I had a Romanian friend in college, and she had this deep, throaty, amazing voice. I met her the same time I heard her speak. So, I cannot ever imagine her with a different voice. Her look and style, black hair, easy way of walking and talking, all fit that voice perfectly. I can say without a doubt though, if I had never seen her before, and all I had done was heard that voice, she would have looked entirely different in every way. So interesting, and odd.

        • Stephjones

          Hey, ML. I just created a new character for my latest and this is how I described her–
          Myrtle and FAYE (80) play cards. Faye is an elderly fashionista devoted to giving the latest youthful trends a good drubbing.

          It’s a comedy so I wanted my characterizations to be funny. What’s your reaction to this sort of description? I think that one sentence tells a lot about her personality. Curious if it reads that way for others, beyond imagining what she’s probably wearing?

          • Randy Williams

            It put a smile on my face. Beyond imagining what she’s wearing, (imagined more the bulging fat over tight waistline than the clothes themselves) I imagined her spirited, nonconformist and unapologetic. The word “drubbing” itself is funny. Great job, I thought.

          • Stephjones

            Thanks, Randy! Exactly what I was trying for.

          • Midnight Luck

            it did make me laugh and smile which is good. but i think it needs just a tiny bit more.

            give us at least a slim idea of what this description looks like. from the example I gave above, Fenster is described as wearing shoes that would never possibly match his ensemble. So, her being an Elderly fashionista, and killing the latest youth trends, I am sure that some look to you. What does it look like? She shows way too much cleavage for not just a typical woman visiting an old folks home, but for an 80 year old living there? Or the curve hugging lines of her stockings and miniskirt bring to mind a ZZ TOP video, not a silver haired Social Security card carrying member?

            I like where you are going, and it is working for the comedy angle, but keep pushing it, keep digging and see what you come up with.

          • Stephjones

            Hey ML, thanks for the comeback. I’ll have a think and see what I can come up with…or just kill her off. She’s a pretty minor character:)

          • Midnight Luck

            if you are writing CLUE, killing off all your characters is expected.

            if you don’t know what to do with a character, or you are having troubles with them…..

            well, it might be expected too.

          • klmn

            The first part of the description “…Faye is an elderly fashionista…” works, it’s something interpretable by a reader. The second part, “…devoted to giving the latest youthful trends a good drubbing” is unfilmable, and should be shown through dialogue or action.

          • Stephjones

            Hmmm..thanks for the comeback. I am actually pretty flexible about unfilmables, in my work and in the work of others. Sometimes I actually think they are helpful in establishing exactly what a writer is trying for. I don’t mean to say they’re critical in this case but they are not deal breakers to me.
            But I do understand where you are coming from and appreciate the feedback.

          • klmn

            It varies from reader to reader. There is one southern CA area professor who makes a big deal about unfilmables, and his former students do likewise.

            My opinion is that if it irritates so many, it’s just easier to eliminate them (the unfilmables that is, not that professor’s former students).

          • Midnight Luck

            it might be easier to:
            Kill your Professor
            or
            Kill your Students
            than to
            Kill your Darlings

            -in my opinion.

        • ximan

          Why this doesn’t have 30 upvotes is beyond me. Thanks for challenging me to face my weaknesses head on.

          • Midnight Luck

            well, i’ve said it before, I tend to ruffle some people’s feathers since I just say it as I see it. my point blank approach doesn’t tend to bring the votes either. I have no problem with any of it.
            Thanks for being open to my critique, and to being willing to work at a weakness. (we can all work at getting better, all the time. ALL of us)

    • lesbiancannibal

      From Quizshow – describing the quiz show master:

      “… A MAKE UP girl puts the finishing touches on JACK BARRY, late 30s. Part snake-oil salesman, part snake.”

      Description should address character. This is beautifully efficient at doing just that.

      • Midnight Luck

        I like that.

        Loved QUIZSHOW.
        So glad two of us saw it.

        I think the real beauty is if you are able to convey, WHO they are, in very short, descriptive strokes.

  • carsonreeves1

    Sorry about that guys. The explanation for this is actually rather boring, but the short version is that I couldn’t sign into WordPress and therefore had to sign in with my tech guy’s account.

    • Poe_Serling

      Hey Carson-

      What’s up with next week’s batch of Star Wars scripts? Are they gonna be featured in an upcoming newsletter? Or do you have something else up your sleeve?

      • klmn

        My guess is he has an arm up his sleeve, unless he had it severed.

    • klmn

      You’re right, it is boring. Surely you can do better than that.

      My rewrite has Miss SS braining you with a frying pan, causing you to develop multiple personality disorder.

  • ximan

    Thanks Gren! As the dialogue MASTER around here, the fact that you didn’t even mention any problems with mine is the biggest compliment you can give me ;)
    (And don’t go looking for them now!)

    I made no bones in my WYSR about the script being a love letter to 2001, Alien(s), etc., but c’mon, it is VERY different from those films! Similar, yes…but VERY different.

    SOLOMON is *definitely* inferior to HAL. There’s just no topping that character. I was aiming more for corporate pawn/big brother/mouthpiece and less autonomous controller.

    “And when S.O.L.O.M.O.N. says the crews directives were overridden by a higher authority why wouldn’t the next question out of their mouths be WHOSE FUCKING AUTHORITY?”
    -Because they know who. Mission Control/the Govt. The crew’s lack of reaction was really more an acceptance of their place on the totem pole. Maybe I need to make that clearer.

    I like your other ideas! I’ll keep them in mind for the next pass :)

  • walker

    I guess you are saying that this disingenuous disclaimer absolves the commenter. My unexpurgated reaction is that it does not.

    • sheebshag

      Why not?
      Isn’t it useful for a writer to know exactly what a reader felt/thought while reading his/her script?
      If the reader filtered his feelings/thoughts, they wouldn’t be unfiltered.
      The filtering should be done by the writer. You take what you can use and throw the rest away.

      • walker

        The disclaimer does not absolve the commenter because it is dishonest, and because the comments are not made in good faith, they are essentially self-aggrandizing.

  • brenkilco

    Read it all the way through. The writer has a very strong visual imagination and creates some intense scenes but as noted by others there are a lot of issues.

    First, a very general impression. This is a script which frequently tries to describe the indescribable and in order to anchor it a careful, precise and grammatically correct prose style is required. I don’t think the artificially intense, impressionistic half sentences that fill a lot of scripts should be the writer’s model. Sometimes the writing is good enough to convey what he wants to convey. Other times it’s off. One very small example on the first page: “Her earnest blue eyes are struggling to restrain her fright….” No they’re not. Eyes don’t fight or restrain. Eyes aren’t sentient. Whether they’re earnestly blue or not. She struggles to contain her fear. Got it. What’s being described is generally interesting enough on its own. Clarify and simplify wherever possible.

    Dont know how the story does without Solomon but he is perilously like HAL. And the central plot element of violent, physically transformed crew members is awfully close to Alien/The Thing.

    We have no investment in the claimed eternal love of Newton and Angelique because they never interact. This is pretty close to fatal.

    Too often the characters react like movie characters who need to get us to the next plot point, not like the highly intelligent, well trained human beings we’re being asked to believe they are. They may have entered a dimensional void never encountered before but they seem content to sit around and wait for instructions while leaving everything in the hands of a computer that’s acting about as trustworthy as a used car salesman. Cmon. Worst moment. While attending to a medical emergency the crewmembers discover that Adam, the violent, probably malign hybrid human/alien they believed dead has somehow been reanimated and is prowling the ship. Their response. We’ll worry about it later. The iqs need to be raised in the next rewrite

    The threat posed by the bad aliens/demons is never made clear. What exactly are they trying to do to the crew and why? Whats the point of the dream scenes? Why do they ask newton’s permission to make him into whatever it is they’re going to make him into? This is the sort of script in which the supernatural enemy seems to have as much or as little power as necessary to make individual scenes work with insufficient care for consistency

    OK the ending. The protagonists don’t save themselves. They are saved. Pretty much out of the blue. And the Deus Ex Machina is literally Deus. Its a jarring shift that doesn’t fit with what’s gone before and in my opinion simply doesn’t work. If the writer wants to write a story with a religious epiphany more power to him. But it shouldn’t be this one.

    Dont mean all this to be harsh. The writer is gifted and clearly sees lots of amazing things in his mind’s eye. Just needs a little more discipline.

  • Citizen M

    You never said anything about Bill Martell, but you frequently say, “Show me your IMDb credits.” He’s got plenty, so I am happy to use him as an authority, confident that not even you will dispute what he says.

  • hickeyyy

    This makes complete sense.

    I know rewrites of such a high magnitude when you’ve (I’m sure) already done a few drafts on the thing will suck, but what Grendl has posted here would absolutely make the story better.

  • GeneralChaos

    Janet Leigh.

  • S_P_1

    I read everyone’s current commentary. And I will try not to re-tread ground. First I’ll start with the positives. I read your enthusiasm in your script. You clearly have a vision of how you want your script to be presented on the silver screen.

    Things I liked.
    Although no one knows what Ezekiel’s Wheel looks like. You give a good description of what it could be.
    p10
    The ship is like Ezekiel’s Wheel, with its rings within
    rings. A RING ENGINE that encircles a GRAVITY RING, which is
    spoked to the circular CORE of the ship in the midst of the
    RINGS. This is the H.M.S. BABYLON.

    You took into account a real world problem with suspended animation. Cellular atrophy.
    p17
    Their slender bodies eerily JERK WITH TICS from some kind of
    ELECTRIC nerve stimuli, also administered by the Rings.

    At first I had no idea what you were talking about. Drop the negative qualifier “It’s Typical”. Otherwise its a very short concise poetic description.
    p26
    It’s typical. Vacuous and black, with diamonds sparkling
    therein. Canaries, pinks, sapphires.

    Nice creative invention of a fictional technology.
    p27
    S.O.L.O.M.O.N. (V.O.)
    We were traveling at the speed of
    dark-E, and thus unable to
    decelerate in time to avoid its
    force…

    This is two-fold. The sordidness of Babylon. The off tone sexual innuendo of Megan Fox in Transformers.
    p47
    INT. BABYLON CORRIDOR
    As Asa struts her shapely ass through the halls, her chin
    just a tad too lifted up. She bends a corner, finding–

    Nice visual descriptions.
    p49
    ADAM OUTSIDE THE GLASS!
    He’s spinning in place, with his limbs outstretched (ala Da
    Vinci’s VITRUVIAN MAN).
    p60
    INT. CRYOGENIC CHAMBER
    Which is spinning in concert with the Gravity Ring. The crew
    is fast asleep, HOVERING within their respective pods.
    Suddenly, the white walls dissolve away, leaving OUTER SPACE
    beneath their suspended rotating bodies, as we enter–

    Another poetic description. But this time its a little to wordy. I pictured Avatar versus Platoon.
    p61
    EXT. EARTH PRIME – DAY – SAME
    Imagine a gorgeous, exotic jungle made completely of precious
    stones; with emerald leaves and jasper bark and diamond
    hanging lilies. That would begin to describe the pristine,
    jewel-like forestation of this mysterious world.

    Nice visual.
    p86
    Suddenly, LARGE WHITE MONOLITHS start to RISE from the white
    floor, encircling Newton and the Alien like Stonehenge.

    Nice comeback.
    p97
    NEWTON
    If man evolved into you…why are
    there still men?
    ALIEN
    If apes evolved into you…why are
    there still simians?

    Clever and subtle. You changed the font to mimic when GOD is directly speaking in the Bible.
    p111
    THE ORB (V.O.)
    (echoes)
    You were of flesh, and I am spirit.
    If I had touched you, you’d be
    consumed. And I did warn you…

    I bought into your Major reveal.
    p112

    You clearly have a passion for what you wrote.

    • Citizen M

      You speak of “The sordidness of Babylon” in relation to sexy Asa. But it’s not exactly the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah on board the HMS Babylon (to mix my biblical city metaphors). They are asexual, focusing on the mission.

      You might as well write “Asa struggles to fit her saggy, dimpled butt into her space suit.” for all the difference it makes to the story.

    • ximan

      Thanks for the read S_P_1! These are awesome, AWESOME notes!! :)

      It’s observations like yours that really help me to understand what I did right, in that it was memorable, and what could be tweaked.

      Cheers! :)

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

    I still think you should have took people up on their offer to read it first, give you feedback… make changes, and make sure it’s ready before sending it to someone who can actually do something for your career. Majority of the time they will not give you a second chance.

    Can guarantee you, our scripts are almost never as good as we think they are. It’s through our writing groups and writer friends that we get our scripts into shape… and eventually get a thumbs up from a majority. And then we send it out to the important people.

    If all you wanted was to be reviewed, you got your wish… but what a wasted opportunity, in my opinion. Drifting has an open invitation, but he’s being smart and making sure he has something ready and that it’s the best it can be.

    But in the end, it’s all a learning experience. Sometimes we learn the most by our biggest mistakes. Not that it was necessarily a mistake. If you got what you wanted, then it’s all gravy. Anyway, good luck in future endeavors. ;)

    • ximan

      “If all you wanted was to be reviewed, you got your wish…”

      I did indeed, for reasons I won’t disclose now. Let’s just say that all is working out according to plan :)

      • m_v_s

        Surely you forgot to add a, “bru-hahahaha!” there ;)

        • ximan

          Lol!

  • lesbiancannibal

    The latest attempt to do an original HAL just won best original screenplay. HER HAL

  • BennyPickles

    That wouldn’t really work here. ‘Slack Off’ means to be lazy or waste time. ‘Slag off’ means to shut up. Though I don’t think the latter is commonly used in the states.

  • mulesandmud

    A very minor but important note:

    If you plan to keep the bible quote at the beginning, don’t cite it simply as ‘The Bible’. The passage is ‘2 Corinthians 4:18′, and should be written as such.

    Using a broad and incorrect citation is quick way for people to lose faith in the seriousness of your ideas.

    • ximan

      I know the scripture very well, obviously, but I thought it read too academic. Still do.

      EDIT: Dude! You got an upvote in less than a minute?? Ohhhh, I see what’s going on here. A lot of self-upvotes! ;) Kinda mastabatory, don’t you think? :D

      • mulesandmud

        My note was given in good faith, and the format I suggest is the correct one. Your rudeness is unnecessary, and is not excused by emoticons or exclamation points.

        The upvote, as I’m sure you can see, came from Malibo Jackk. Thanks Jackk.

        I think it is in your best interest to curb your defensive responses to people’s feedback, it suggests that they are wasting valuable time and effort assessing your work.

        • ximan

          Sorry. My sense of humor is pretty frat-boy at times. And I couldn’t see who upvoted it. Your comment is appreciated and will be incorporated, just to show good faith. Mine will be edited.

          Take care.

          • Stephjones

            You are a lucky fucker. Get out of your own way. Overall, your responses leave the impression that this is an exercise in futility for the folks who are earnestly trying to help you. There are too many apologies/qualifiers, after the fact, if you know what I mean?
            Frat boy humor can translate into” I’m a dick” in this case.
            Yuck.

          • ximan

            What I learned: Commenters can and MUST be harsh, abrasive, and “brutally honest,” but writers are NOT allowed to respond in-kind.

            I thought we were having a conversation here. Geez, Louise! I really don’t think that this is as serious as you’re making it out to be.

            As the writer, it is my right to accept the criticisms that register as truthful and helpful, and to reject the ones that aren’t. And the ONLY reason I edit in apologies and qualifiers is because, all of a sudden!, the “brutally honest” are feeling hurt.

          • Stephjones

            Arrogant much? Re: ‘the ONLY reason I edit in apologies and qualifiers is because, all of a sudden, the ” brutally honest” are feeling hurt.”
            Ximan, they’re not feeling “hurt” they are feeling “pissed” for wasting their time.

          • ximan

            No one who provided earnest, constructive criticism has wasted their time. And I have no doubts that they know that.

          • mulesandmud

            Careful, Steph. This conversation is a black hole, and you’re getting sucked right in.

  • ximan

    I don’t think I’m being defensive at all. I genuinely CHERISH constructive, intelligent criticism, and even a personal jab or two–I thought Carson’s were particularly hilarious. But petty jabs are just not what criticism is about. They have the opposite effect of the reader’s intention, and can cause an entire thoughtful review to be discounted.

  • ximan

    This! And the fact that she was so bitchy and fun to write :)

  • BennyPickles

    What’s your native language, if you don’t mind me asking?

  • Wes Mantooth

    No newsletter again? Guess that means no AOW again. Just when I thought things were back to normal.

    • klmn

      This is the new normal.

      I miss Miss SS’s drawings more than I miss the text.

  • Kirk Diggler

    The only danish i want to eat is Nina Agdal.

  • Malibo Jackk

    What part of Danland do you live in?

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    A fellow dane :) Nice to meet you !

  • ximan

    Bye the way: Thanks for the HILARIOUS visual of Solomon’s hologram with chocolate around his lips! XD