Today’s script won 25,000 dollars. But will it win the hearts of the Scriptshadow readers??

Amateur Friday Submission Process: To submit your script for an Amateur Review, send in a PDF of your script, a PDF of the first ten pages of your script, your title, genre, logline, and finally, why I should read your script. Use my submission address please: Carsonreeves3@gmail.com. Your script and “first ten” will be posted. If you’re nervous about the effects of a bad review, feel free to use an alias name and/or title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every couple of weeks so your submission stays near the top.

Genre: Faith/Drama
Premise: (from writer) In the Mid-Twentieth Century a mysterious boy with Christ-like healing powers must bring together a racially charged town before the vindictive Mayor’s son murders him.
About: This is the script that generated the most discussion from last weekend’s Amateur Offerings. It recently won the $25,000.00 GRAND PRIZE at KairosPrize Screenplay Competition sponsored by www.movieguide.org.
Writer: R. W. Hahn
Details: 117 pages

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I wasn’t too excited about the way the Amateur Offerings Weekend went two weeks ago, particularly in response to this script. I find that whenever a script wins a contest, it also hops inside a piñata. A piñata at a party attended by every screenwriter in the world. And they’re not leaving until they bash that thing to pieces. Why this is, I don’t know. I think there’s some frustration there that THEIR script didn’t win a contest. And that taking this other script down will somehow alleviate that pain.

But then I found out this was a Christian-themed script (“Faith based” I think you’d call it?) and that it won a Christian-themed contest. I don’t think you could put a bigger target on your back. Contest winner AND faith-based?? People have such strong opinions about religion. Get two opinionated people with conflicting beliefs in the same room and it isn’t going to end well.

And I understand the reaction. You read something you don’t believe in AT ALL and it gets you riled up. You want to scream, “Do you really believe in this???” And the same can be said of the person/people writing the script. “How could you NOT believe in this?” So to bring that kind of script into the mainstream is one hell of a risky move. I give R.W. major props for taking that chance.

Truthfully, though, I don’t care about any of that stuff. All I care about when I sit down and read a script is being entertained. I don’t care if you write a screenplay about bathtubs. If it’s a damn good bathtub story, I’ll be happy. So with that established, it’s time to see if Gideon is any good.

60-something African-American preacher Leon Swanson’s just run out of gas in a small town. He pulls up to a tiny gas station, but is frustrated to find that it’s closed. However, a sign has been left, “Open After Service.” So Preacher Leon, who you’d think would be understanding of this type of delay, trudges over to the local church to look for the gas station attendant. However, when he walks inside, he’s greeted by a church member who tells him they’ve been waiting for him! Their previous Preacher died, and God told them a new one was coming. Leon appears to be that someone.

Even though Leon isn’t interested in leading someone else’s congregation, he gets the feeling that they’re not letting him go anywhere until he gives them something. So he goes up to the pulpit and tells a story.

Cut back to the year 1939, where we meet 35 year-old Jenny. Jenny’s a maid at the local town motel and seems to live a pretty sad life. Even though she resides in the biggest house in town, everybody hates her. We don’t know why, but when Jenny walks into a store, everyone turns the other way.

Lucky for Jenny, as she’s cleaning out a room one day, she finds a baby! Naturally, she snatches that little ball of drool up and takes it home, not telling anyone about it. The baby, whom she names Gideon, starts to grow up, and it’s clear right away that he’s different. As in when he touches animals that die, they come back to life. THAT kind of different.

Back in town, we meet a group of young friends. There’s Young Leon (the old man telling the story), overweight Leftover, stump-legged Petey, bucktoothed Weasel, and skinny Skeeter. This group of misfits also includes the town bully, Josey, Petey’s older brother. Why you’d allow the town bully to be a part of your group, I don’t know. But that’s the case here.

Getting back to Jenny, we eventually learn why she was shunned. Her grandfather built the first colored church in town, and the white folks didn’t like that. So of course when he died, they shifted their anger over to Jenny.

But things have started to get better for Jenny. When her boss dies, Gideon puts his hand on him and he rises from the dead! Now it isn’t just animals Gideon’s healing, it’s people! And more and more people get wind of this and want in. Pretty soon, if you have a hangnail, you’re marching up the mountain to get a little Gideon love.

As you’d suspect, Josey isn’t keen on someone other than him being a local celebrity. So as the town gathers for some mass miracle-making, Josey prepares to end this Miracle Party once and for all. What happens next will test the faith of the town, not only in God, but in themselves.

Before I get into any deep analysis, I want to point out a couple of things. First, I can see why this did well in a competition. The writing is borderline impeccable. R.W. should consider writing novels. The dialogue also felt really authentic, which isn’t easy to do when writing 1939.

With that said, this story didn’t capture me, and I’ll try to explain why. I always tell you guys that the best engine to drive your story is a goal – a character going after something. The second best engine is a mystery. Set up a good mystery and we’ll stick around to find out what’s behind it. If you’re not using one of those two things to drive your story, it gets exponentially harder to keep a reader’s attention.

The only mystery really keeping my attention here was why everyone hated Jenny. That mystery deepened when we found out she lived in a mansion. However, once we know it’s because her grandfather built a “colored” church, there really wasn’t anything left driving the story for me. I didn’t understand why I was supposed to stay interested.

Gideon is a mystery in himself, but there are a couple of things wrong with him. One, we don’t learn anything about Gideon the person. We know Petey lives every day under the threat of his evil brother. We know Josey’s jealous and full of rage. But what do we know about Gideon? Nothing.

And he’s potentially the most interesting character in the script. He has a special power. He can heal people. He can create miracles. Imagine what kind of burden that is on a young child. How much pressure comes with it. But we never see any of that. We just see Gideon when he’s healing and happy.

Another thing that bothered me about Gideon was how repetitive his storyline got. He would heal someone. They’d be happy. Then someone else would come along. He’d heal them. They’d be happy. Then someone else. Heal, happy. Then someone else. Heal, happy. I began to roll my eyes because I always knew what would happen next: Gideon’s going to heal someone and they’re going to be happy.

How come nothing unexpected ever happened with Gideon? How come someone didn’t come along that he couldn’t heal? Or why not have an evil character kidnap Gideon and use him and his powers for his own nefarious purposes?

What this script needed was a good mid-point shift. It needed something to make the second half of the story different from the first. Cause that was a huge problem. Once Gideon starts growing up, nothing surprising happens. I’m not saying that my kidnapping idea is a great one, but do you see how, if it happened, it would make the second half of the story totally different? We wouldn’t just be repeating what’s already happened over and over again.

There were some story/structural choices that confused me as well. This movie starts off about Leon, then becomes about Jenny, and then, out of nowhere, jumps into this group of kids. I didn’t understand how we got to these kids or why we were all of a sudden following them. I eventually got used to it, but I never felt like they were a natural extension of the story. I thought this was Jenny and Gideon’s story.

That’s not to mention Young Leon. He’s our preacher. He’s the one telling the story. Yet of all the kids we follow, he’s the least significant. Shouldn’t he be the most significant? As the person telling the story, shouldn’t Young Leon be the main character? There’s even a moment towards the end (spoiler) after Gideon is killed when Leon says something about him being his best friend. His best friend?? I never saw the two talk to each other once.

Yet I thought that would’ve been a much more interesting story. You have Jenny on one side, who’s been shunned from the town because her father built a black church. After years of turmoil, she’s finally starting to make headway with the town. They’re starting to accept her again. Then her white son, Gideon, becomes best friends with Leon, a black kid, and the scrutinizing begins all over again. Jenny has to make a choice. Does she pull her son away from that friendship to make her life easier, even though she knows it’s the wrong thing to do, or does she allow them to continue their friendship, even though it’ll make her life miserable again?

However, this leads to another problem I had, which is I didn’t think the race storyline was well integrated into the story at all. It was a problem for Jenny’s grandfather, but outside of one scene where Young Leon gets picked on for being black, race isn’t really a central part of these characters’ problems. To be honest, the race stuff feels like one of those things that’s been painted on or left over from an old draft. It doesn’t feel INTEGRATED. If this is going to be about race, then MAKE THE STORY ABOUT RACE ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Not just at the beginning and the end.

For me, this story became too predictable and too straight-forward. It didn’t surprise. It needed more twists and turns. It needed to take more chances and go to more unexpected places. As it stands, the quality of writing is really high, but the story itself needs an engine. I thank R.W. for submitting it and going through the always torturous experience of getting critiqued in front of the world. As tough as it is, there hasn’t been a single Amateur Friday writer who hasn’t gotten better from it. So I know he will too. ☺

Script link: Gideon

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

What I learned: These days, there’s usually a specific contest out there for your kind of script. While Gideon might have struggled in a traditional contest, it was perfect for a Christian-themed one. Heck, China just opened a screenwriting contest for scripts that center around its cities. So find the competition that fits your kind of script and you’ll have a much better chance of winning that top prize.

  • Poe_Serling

    “So find the competition that fits your kind of script, and you’ll have a much better chance of winning that top prize.”

    Solid advice, CR.

    and flip that coin…

    Find the production companies that produce your kind of scripts, and you’ll have a much better chance of possibly getting a read or two.

    • klmn

      Hmmm, are they still reading horror scripts? Email me at kenklmn AT yahoo dotcom

      Thanks.

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey klmn-

        My friend exited the company about 3 years ago, the company’s producing partners split and went there separate ways about 2 years ago.. the one partner looks to be working on the cable side of things now… the other partner doesn’t look to be in the business any more.

        So, I really don’t know the answer to your question.

        A few potential companies that you might want to target would be Blumhouse Prods. (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, etc.), Vertigo Ent. (Ring, Grudge, etc.) and Screen Gems (the genre division of Sony).

        • sweetvita

          Capt’n PoePedia, you’re such a kindly soul to take the time and shower klmn with this info – just sayin’ ;)

          • klmn

            True.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.lenihan1 Kevin Lenihan

    I definitely feel there is a good script here waiting to emerge. The writer has the chops, and the story has enough possible angles. I think with a tighter focus on the structure, much tighter, this could work out well. Maybe the observations from Carson and others here could be just the thing he needs. Good luck!

  • Frankie Hollywood

    “So find the competition that fits your kind of script, and you’ll have a much better chance of winning that top prize.”

    I won the Holiday Screenplay Contest a few years ago (2010). I got $500 and… hmmm, guess that’s about it. It was cool to win (and a huge confidence booster), but it got me zero interest from Agents/Managers/Producers…

    Specific Contests are nice, but don’t expect too much from them (even if you win). Of course, $25,000 is a hell of a lot nicer than $500.

    Congrats on the win R.W. and good luck with your script.

  • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

    Thank you Carson for taking the time to read and review GIDEON….As always I feel your insight is invaluable….I learn so much from your other reviews, now I can certainly learn some things from this one…..I appreciate you…..

  • klmn

    I couldn’t get into the story. Maybe because I’m not religious. It would probably work well for the right audience.

    • Greg Klein

      It definitely had a slow start.

  • Xarkoprime

    I’m curious regarding SSers views and opinions on Screenwriting Contests.

    Does anyone have examples of contest winners that have been purchased by major studios for 500k+? Does this ever happen? Have great screenwriters founded their careers off being recognized in a competition? Does the fact that your screenplay being in a contest hurt its chances of selling? Does it become degraded? Is it labelled as specifically made for that contest?

    Lots of questions, curious of answers, for those who didn’t have time to read – or I guess for anyone who did and wants to answer too.

    • Frankie Hollywood

      Even winning the biggest and most prestigious contest, the Nicholls Fellowship, doesn’t guarantee anything. They’ve got a few big name winners: Mike Rich, Susannah Grant, and Ehren Kruger (I’m sure there’s a couple more), But I IMDb’d ALL the winners names a few years ago and I’d say 9 out of 10 of them I got “No Results.” I’m not knocking the contest (I’d love to win), but…

      I also remember reading about a guy who entered some contest I’d never even heard of. He didn’t even win, but one of the judges who read his script was also a Producer. He loved the script and the writer got in that way (backdoor through a contest).

      Bottom line, ALL contests are a total crap shoot. But when we don’t have very many options, it’s one of the things we have to do (IMO).

      • Deaf Ears

        Good list. There’s also American Zoetrope.

    • Greg Klein

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this how The Grudge was picked up?

      • Xarkoprime

        I highly doubt it.

        The Grudge is based off of the Japanese film Ju-On. Are Americanized Remakes ever done through spec?

    • garrett_h

      In all honesty, I’ve always seen contests as a dead end, and mainly for the reasons you listed (as well as Frankie Hollywood). Nicholl’s is the Super Bowl of screenwriting competitions and it’s only produced a handful of movies and even fewer writing careers.

      What does that say about the other lesser-known contests?

      Needless to say, I haven’t entered any. I’d rather save my money for notes from respected readers, as some contests won’t even give you feedback on your script and why it placed where it did.

      However, the Launching Pad contest at Tracking Board does look interesting. And they have special genre packages. I’m considering making that my (our, including my bro) first contest. We’re still not sure yet. This is the first year of it so it’s hard to say how successful it will be. But it does look intriguing.

    • http://twitter.com/jaexhkim jae kim

      correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t snow white and the huntsman get picked up from a contest of some kind?

      • Frankie Hollywood

        Yep, Script Pipeline. http://www.scriptpipeline.com/screenwriting-competition?gclid=CMfDna3z7bUCFY9AMgodQz4ALg

        I haven’t read the original, but I heard it really got watered down. Evan’s was much darker. He’s highlighted on the main page. He seems to be doing quite well — at least busy/working.

        • garrett_h

          The original was MUCH better. It actually had BLOOD in it! *gasp*

          Of course, leave it to the studio to try and make it a kid flick. In the end, it was a mess, and it didn’t know what it wanted to be. And that confused people, including me.

          I don’t remember the box office results (and I’m too lazy to Wiki right now), but I remember they were disappointed. I think if they had kept it dark and made it definitive who the audience was, it would have done a lot better. Both with the critics and the ticket sales.

          Then again, I don’t have hundreds of millions to put behind a movie, so my opinion doesn’t matter much lol.

          • Frankie Hollywood

            That movie (idea) had so much potential, but ended up with so many problems. One of my biggest annoyances, an inactive Antagonist. The Evil Queen spends 99% of the movie waiting in the castle. This whole thing is life or death for her yet she’s, waiting in the castle. Her brother (basically the Head Henchman) is doing all the dirty work, while she’s just, waiting in the castle. She went out in the woods ONCE for like 3 minutes.

            Compare her to The Dark Knight’s Joker, he’s out in the middle of it all, getting his hands dirty, instigating things – an <active Antagonist. Hell, we don’t even know where he lives.

            But the Evil Queen is just waiting in the castle. SO DUMB!

            BLOCKBUSTER. Besides having a “cool villain,” your villain should be just as active pursing evil as your hero is active pursuing justice.

          • Kay Bryen

            Such a great point Frankie; we talk so much about avoiding passive protags, but we rarely stop to think the same applies to antags.

          • Xarkoprime

            Ah yes. You nailed it.

            The Evil Queen is 90 percent sitting in a room yelling and pouting like a little girl. Awful. I turned that movie off, couldn’t take it after an hour (could have stopped sooner and probably should have).

    • Frankie Hollywood

      Here’s an interesting article/blog post from a guy who won the Nicholl a couple of years ago:

      “What to Expect When You Win the Nicholl” http://www.wordplayer.com/pros/pr16.Murphy.Matthew.html

      • Malibo Jackk

        What’s telling
        is that people are still asking him to write for free.

    • shewrites

      I won a contest last year, not one of the big ones. I still got a $1000 check which was nice. But more importantly, I had a few read requests and my script was finally optioned by a producer. He had me do some work on it and now he is agressively getting it around.

      If you don’t have contacts in Holyywood, I think contests are a good way to get noticed. I wouldn’t not enter contests based on what does not happen to Nicholl winners because Nicholl has a reoutation for not going for particularly commercial concepts. There are exceptions of course.

      • Xarkoprime

        I was considering this when I first asked my questions. I live in Toronto, Canada. I’m planning on moving to LA to get right into the heat of the kitchen, but right now I have no outlets and no contacts. I was wondering if contests were a good way to get noticed and from what you’re experience was like it definitely sounds like it’s worth a shot.

    • Dane Purk

      Here’s some things to consider about competitions:

      Bluecat, which costs $60 to enter I believe, also gives you 2 separate feedbacks from 2 different readers, so that’s kinda cool. However, the scripts given to Bluecat are read by INTERNS who are paid $10 per script. Yes, $10. So if you spend 2 hours actually *reading* an entire script, you are officially making $5 per hour, otherwise known as less than minimum wage. And how much time is left for your “analysis” after that?

      Also, multiply the 4000 entries Bluecat gets every year by $50 (subtracting the $10 paid to the guy reading it) and what do you get? $200,000. Bluecat is run by Gordy Hoffman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s younger brother, and he’s apparently a “screenwriter.” However, his produced work “Love Liza” was an indie film starring his famous brother, and it’s terrible. But that’s okay. He doesn’t need to be a good writer to make money. He’s got 200k coming in every year from a bunch of amateurs looking for “help.” Hmmmmmm.

      Different story: when I was interning for some mid level producers (who were the nicest guys on the planet by the way), one day one of them sent me an email that said “I got hoodwinked into doing another competition. Can you look over some of these? You don’t have to read the entire thing. If it’s terrible just make something up on the score card. You know what to look for.” So I did. And most of them were terrible. 2 of them I didn’t finish and just made it up. The moral here is, when places like Scriptapalooza brag about “giving your scripts directly to producers and managers,” yeah maybe they do, but then who do THEY give it to?

      But guess what. I found one. It was called “Bloodlust” and yes, I know, the title is terrible, and I voiced that on my scorecard. It was a fictional tale about the first female pirate. Sounds cheesy, right? But you know what? It was a GREAT STORY, heartfelt and action packed with some unmistakable TALENT. So I rated it a 7.5 (out of 10). I think the writer won, and then later placed in quarter finals in Nicholl. The author wrote under the name “FDR” and I later found out that it was a woman. I don’t know if anything ever happened with it, but finding that script was really awesome and refreshing.

      Different and last story: I entered a script called “Wonderwall” into Page one year. It made quarterfinals. The next year I was a much better writer, and I came back to the script. I made the characters memorable, gave them all goals, put talent into the dialogue, shaved off 9 pages, etc. It was light years ahead of where it was. Entered it again. Didn’t even make quarterfinals.

      So I don’t have a full opinion on whether or not screenplay competitions are good or not. So sorry for the long, meandering political answer that runs circles around the question. Do what you will with that information. :)

      • Xarkoprime

        This is exactly what I was looking for :)

        Thanks for sharing your stories.

        Kind of what I expected tbh. A crap shoot.

  • ff

    I hate flashbacks too…

  • ff

    Comments and suggestions are good. One of the things that makes “Last Temptation of Christ” such a good book/movie was because Jesus was dealing with who he thought/felt he was versus just being human. And I’m not Christian, but that makes the story a millions times more interesting.

  • travisf111

    I agree with Carson, the writing was great. Maybe a little over-written for my liking in a screenplay, but overall R.W. nailed it. Good job.

    The story seems to move a little slow though. Generally, how a screenplay works is you have an inciting incident somewhere in the first 5 minutes. This gets the action moving. The rest of the first act is used to introduce us the main characters. Then, at the end of the first act a problem or character goal is introduced. This is what the script will be about and it launches us into act 2. The first act is generally about 20 to 30 pages. Now, this isn’t to say you HAVE to follow this format, but it’s generally what works.

    In this script, the inciting incident would probably be when Jenny finds Gideon in the bathtub. This doesn’t happen until page 10, so already this script is behind the pace. Josey, who I assume is supposed to be the antagonist, isn’t introduced until page 41. I read to page 45 and our protagonist, who I assume Is Gideon, still doesn’t have a character goal or a problem to deal with. So technically this is still the first act, and that’s a really long first act. This is the main problem I see with the script so far.

    R.W., have you ever considered adapting this into a novel? To me this story and your writing seem to suit that medium more than a screenplay. Just my opinion. Good luck in your future writing endeavors.

    • sweetvita

      Hi travisf111 – I’d like to share the following in regard to this inciting incident comment you made: “In this script, the inciting incident would probably be when Jenny finds Gideon in the bathtub. This doesn’t happen until page 10, so already this script is behind the pace.”

      Recently, I exchanged an email with Carson over one the of the pro scripts that we receive via the newsletter. It was a good ride, but I noticed that the inciting incident didn’t happen until page 29! Carson said that If you keep the writing sharp and the story moving, a late inciting incident is possible.

      I totally agree with Carson on this. This particular script showed that writers can bend the rules, and not lose the reader, as long the story and characters are advancing towards the inciting incident in an engaging and meaningful way. To me, this is freedom, because each story is different and sometimes requires a longer set up. But having said that, I know we must still work really hard to make happen as quickly as possible.

      Something to think about if we find our inciting incident up against a page count and the story not cooperating.

      Peace out ;)

      • travisf111

        Yeah, like I said, you don’t have to follow the format I layed out above, it’s just what usually works best. I really didn’t have that big of a problem with the inciting incident taking place on pg. 10, the story had been interesting enough to that point. My bigger issue was the antagonist not showing up until pg. 41, and still not having a goal or problem for the protagonist by pg. 45.

        • sweetvita

          Hey there travisf111 – I saw that too, what you said about not having to follow format that you laid out, but thought you still might like Carson’s comment.

          And boy… I agree with you on the a antagonist in anyone’s story not showing up until page 41 is way too late – and probably wouldn’t wash under any circumstances. I mean, who would be there to antagonize the protagonist for the first 40 minutes of the movie? No one, and that would be boring!

          And you are so right about a protagonist that has no goal and/or problems to overcome until page 45 – huge no-no. Why should we care? There’s nothing on the line – no stakes for the first 45 minutes of a movie and I’ll be checking out.

          • travisf111

            I did find the comment interesting sweetvita, thanks for posting. Screenwriting is a form of art, and like any art form you can interpret it any way you like. You don’t have to follow the rules. Movies are about entertainment, and as long as they’re entertaining you can break as many rules as you want. I just find it’s a lot easier if you stick to the accepted structure, but that’s just me.

      • JakeBarnes12

        Be very careful with late inciting incidents, SV. MOST amateur screenplays I read have very late inciting incidents simply because the writer doesn’t know where it should go or doesn’t have the skill to set up a story in ten to twelve pages.

        A pro with a late inciting incident gets the benefit of the doubt; us amateurs do not.

        • sweetvita

          G’mornin’ JakeBarnes12,

          Right. Pros get the benefit (they’ve earned it) where amateurs don’t.

          I’ll be careful regarding the inciting incident but not a slave to it. I think if an amateur’s inciting incident came in a little late at around page 15-17ish because the story really did need those extra few pages, and the writing was sharp and the story was moving forward (like Carson said), then that would be okay. But I do always endeavor to stick to 12ish (Save the Cat beats).

          No doubt it would not be a good thing for someone wanting to break into the industry with an inciting incident on page 29!

          Thanks for the word of caution, don’t want to get too bendy ;)

          • JakeBarnes12

            Page 17 is really late.

            Aspect to consider is the knock-on effect. So you have an inciting incident on page 17, then it’s going to feel too short if you go into your first act turn on page 25, and a writer who can’t set up the story in twelve pages (which is most amateurs — check in here every week) will be running late anyway, so now you have a first act turn around p. 35 to 40, which knocks everything else (mid act two, end act two turning points) back.

            Result is structurally, it messes everything up.

            For your family, friends, and civvies in general, they’re not going to notice. Note the many comments here from people who don’t notice when structure is off. For pro readers and producers reading your spec script, who are WAITING for you to miss your structure, it’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

            I see almost no amateur scripts which are slaves to structure. Most amateur scripts I read the writers are slaves to a story that they can’t shape. They think they need seventeen pages while a more experienced writer can see where cuts can easily be made, so the lack of structural discipline is of course affecting the content.

          • sweetvita

            Hey Jake… thank you for pointing out the dangers of a late inciting incident – duly noted ;)

  • garrett_h

    I cracked this one open during the Amateur Offering, but got busy and didn’t get very far.

    I was expecting a “Rosewood meets Phenomenon” type of story. You can even throw a lil “Stand By Me” in there with the kid situation. Based on the review, it sounds like it really never got there…

    A week or two ago, someone mentioned a quote about characters making choices. Maybe that’s what this one lacks. You have this race war going on, with Gideon in the middle of it. Jenny pulls him to the “white side” because, hey, they don’t really have a choice. But Leon is his best friend. And somewhere down the line, Leon gets hurt/killed. Now Gideon has a choice to make. Does he heal him? Does Jenny fight him, and try to keep him from healing him? And how will the rest of the town react? Will the whites be upset? Will the blacks let this white kid near their black child? And will Gideon’s actions be the deciding factor to bring this “war” to an end?

    That, to me, is the most compelling version of this story. Granted, I haven’t read the entire thing, I’m mostly just going off the review. And the synopsis sounds like it’s another version of us Amateur writers putting a script together because we think “X would be cool” and “Y would be cool too!” and never really crafting a story around it.

    Pretty busy at work today. Gonna try to give it a full read later tonight. Congrats to R.W. and good look with this script!

  • cjob3

    Yeah, the Amateur script announcement thread got ugly last time. I was pretty surprised. SS readers have always struck me as a smart, supportive, sexually attractive bunch. For my money, I didn’t think “Fool” got a fair shake from some of the readers. I hope there’s a chance of that getting a second look somewhere down the line. It’s good, I’m tellin’ ya.

    That said, I’ve had a few interactions with RW and he seems like a great guy. Congrats again on the win, guy.

    • Frankie Hollywood

      I’ve been called a lot of things, but “sexually attractive,” that’s definitely the most common ;)

    • John Bradley

      Thank you cjob3, I was worried no one here had noticed my new jeans=)

    • Midnight Luck

      I always get that I am:

      “Less than average smart,
      certain parts need more support,
      and Sexually Distracting”

      • cjob3

        you sound perfect.

    • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

      Thank you cjob3…I also hope Carson takes a look at Fool…anyone championing someone else’s script like you have, he should at least give it a read…

  • jridge32

    I know the story is based in 1912 and 1939 (maybe other years, too) when the world was a much simpler place, narratively speaking. Certain plot developments should be taken with a grain of salt. Disbelief suspended a little more. A lot more.

    Not me.

    Leon Swanson is a preacher in his 60’s en route to a place called Doraville. He runs out of gas in the country side town of Glendale Falls, where the closest gas station is closed for business and situated conveniently next to a church. Swanson walks over to see if anyone knows when the station will re-open.

    He meets a man named Dorvil (headed to Doraville… meets Dorvil… Doraville, Dorvil…‘k) who says the church has been waiting for a new preacher to arrive since the last one died. But, Swanson isn’t there to be anyone’s new preacher. He just wants gas. Dorvil says the gas station doesn’t open till after church service, but that it’s been closed for a few months. Before their last preacher passed away, he declared a new one would be along and that that man would run out of gas, and the gas station should not be opened again till this new guy agrees to take the pulpit.

    I’m assuming Dorvil means the duration of the gas station’s closure coincides with how long they’ve been preacher-less, but the way this information is presented confused me. Anyway.

    Swanson informs the tiny congregation he won’t be their new preacher. They ask him to tell them a story while they wait for the right one to appear; then he can fuel up and leave. So, we flashback to 1939, to Backwash Hotel where Jenny, the maid, is cleaning rooms. She finds an abandoned baby with the Gideon’s Bible on his chest in a bathtub. She decides to keep the baby.

    Per hotel co-owner, Martha: “Doraville treats her like she’s the plague.” She’s right; even at the local grocery store, people treat Jenny jeer. Sorta makes sense she would keep the baby, named Gideon (of course), and hide him away from the world: he puts a smile on her face, again. The cold, cruel world need not be privy.

    Which is where Swanson’s anecdote comes to a close. Only, the congregation insists he continue. “Gideon” officially lost me right there — not only did I not care where the Jenny/Gideon saga was headed next, Swanson could easily just walk out of that church any second. Could’ve left before now, true, and even though he wonders to himself why he DOESN’T leave… he still doesn’t. Keeps talking. It’s not like he has to. Maybe there are other, operable gas stations somewhere else in the surrounding area. Has he checked? He can’t honestly feel like he’s being held hostage until the story is over – especially since he was already told the gas station across the way hasn’t been open for a few months (why would he think it would magically be up and running again?).

    This bugged me. The main character stays out of plot necessity, not natural human behavior; as glaring as the new guy in town happening to be a man of the cloth, happening to run out of gas next to a church happening to need a new preacher. You can’t tell me that doesn’t make you roll your eyes and go, right..

    I liked some of the dialogue — “That night it rained like the sky was angry at the earth.. by morning it cleared like all was forgiven” (nice) — and I have no problem with unhurried storytelling. But when something doesn’t make sense and just sits there with a big question mark over it, I need to either kind of have a vague understanding why it’s happening or be willing to wait, forever if necessary, for full disclosure because the writer has me hooked. Not merely annoyed.

  • JakeBarnes12

    For better or worse, here’s my uncensored reactions as I read.

    p. 1 First Scene: Overwritten. “Splinter” doesn’t work with the movement of butterflies through the air. The one piece of action is confusing — the Cadillac “rips” the butterfly off the sign. Huh? Does the writer mean the wind from the car does that? Unclear.

    p. 1 Inside the car — half a page to tell us a black preacher’s smoking. So already I’m thinking this writer’s going to take too long to set up a story and get it moving.

    p. 2. Too long at the gas station, but Preacher’s “the hell?” line works.

    p. 3 We’re expected to believe the local yahoos have been just going to church every week waiting for God to send them a new preacher? Really? Or they could pick up the phone and call a rectory.

    p. 4 So dead preacher predicts the new preacher’s arrival down to running out of gas. Yeah, I don’t buy it. Already we’re into cutsie religious-people-know-future-stuff territory. Such a contrast with Robert Duvall’s hard-nosed religious movie “The Apostle.”

    p. 5 These people in the congregation have been waiting for weeks. Someone finally shows up and preaches to them and they give him hard stares. Ungrateful f*cks.

    p. 5. Oh, God, no. Congregation asks for a story so on…

    p. 6. We get a flashback to 1939, killing any forward momentum.

    p. 7. Some hotel owner, Ed. Bloody cough so he’s a goner. Don’t know him so I don’t care.

    p. 8. Wife’s Martha. They’re having a boring conversation about the motel they run. See, here’s the problem. We’ve just invested in one character we thought was the protagonist, the preacher, and he seems to just be part of a frame story, so now we’re being asked to get to know a NEW set of characters — are they the one’s we’re going to follow, not the preacher? This is why flashbacks are so deadly.

    p. 9. Jesus. Even more boring dialogue with the maid about muddy roads.

    p. 10 AWRIGHT! Something happens right on time. Maid finds a baby in the bathtub with a Gideon bible on top of it. So guess that’s the title character. We’re going all the way back to his birth? I’m seeing a lot of bad story choices here.

    p. 14 Boring Ed and his boring wife are STILL talking about nothing while the maid has decided to keep the kid. I’m seriously struggling not to go into major skim mode.

    p. 17 Jenny buys baby stuff at the store. Minor mystery about why the local yahoos don’t like her. Probably means she read a book.

    p. 18 I’m going to page 20 for the same reason you run a marathon — just to say you did.

    p. 18 We’re introduced to Scrappy the goat. Jenny feeds the baby. The morning mist lingers. I am so bored.

    p. 19 Biggest event here is that Scrappy the goat nibbles at the baby’s quilt. Just remembered I need to pay the electricity bill and buy some eggs.

    p. 20. Jenny hears a song from a black church down the mountain. This lulls her into ANOTHER FLASHBACK, this time to 1912. Awright, snorefest. I am officially out of here.

    A few months back we had a great discussion on this thread about what was meant by “writing” in screenplays — did it principally apply to well-written action lines and dialogue, or to the structuring of a compelling story.

    Well, of course it can mean both, but this screenplay makes clear that literary action lines and realistic dialogue don’t mean a thing when they’re not in service to a COMPELLING, WELL-STRUCTURED STORY.

    • jridge32

      p. 19 – haha

    • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

      Jake I have to tell you I am glad you stopped at p. 20…I was reading your detailed critique to a friend. We were laughing so hard I was crying and couldn’t breathe….It was one of the best laughs I have had in a couple of weeks….any more pages and I would have needed CPR….

      • JakeBarnes12

        Aim to please, R.W.

        Best of luck with this and future projects. :)

        • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

          Thank you kindly Jake…You too sir…..

  • Kay Bryen

    Whoa, congrats JEB on being *this* close to hitting the big time! I know you don’t want to count your chickens yet, but 99% of us never even get to the “egg” stage, so I’m really happy for you and crossing my fingers and toes.

    • ThomasBrownen

      Yup. Let us know if (when!) things come together for you!

  • MrTibbsLive

    Never a dull moment when Grendl is in the house :)

  • Dane Purk

    So I felt bad giving up on this script 7 pages in, because I normally don’t do that (usually try to at least break into what I perceive to be the 2nd Act so I get the “meat” of the story). What can I say, I’ve been busy. But I feel better knowing my instincts are somewhat justified, because most of the comments on here from people who read all or most of it seem to be saying the same things that I inferred.

    Definitely could’ve done without the hostility, though. I tried to be as harmless and constructive and HONEST as possible last weekend, and some dude just fell out of the sky and started yelling at me, haha. I guess the harshest thing I said was about how smaller “niche” competitions don’t have a wide demographic and therefore aren’t always a good judge of a script. But Carson is echoing these sentiments, so why doesn’t someone yell at him?

    I swear, religion brings out the most intolerant people on Earth, no matter what side of the fence you’re on. Jesus Christ! :)

    It’s worth pointing out, however, that the writer himself has been the most cooperative, patient, and least hostile person in the comments, so everyone here should commend him for that.

    Then again, he’s probably busy spending $25,000 on Amazon, or arguing with an over zealous salesman at the local dealership. Good luck, sir. With future writing projects and the car salesman. Show me the Carfax! :)

    • Malibo Jackk

      My foot fell asleep on page 7.
      (That’s never a good sign.)

    • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

      Ha! You sir are kind and gracious…..As a someone who really wants to do this for a living I realize what I do is not going to resonate with everybody. Not everybody is going to like it…In fact, some will hate it….I’m okay with that because I love what I am writing…

      I love the Story that Gideon is….It is a simple story that has a lot of layers. On a casual read it will just strike people as a religious story…but it is so much more than that….It is a story of hate and unforgiveness…of love and redemption…universal themes that no matter what you believe they have touched your life in some way…everyone has offended somebody in their life….everyone has experienced some sort of prejudiced….it is how we choose to deal with it that defines us…forgive or hold a grudge…you will be shaped by your choice….
      Gideon is about a town that chose to hate and hold a grudge until a small boy entered and reminded them we are all GOD’s creation….

      Some may not like the vehicle it was presented in…but I know others have loved it…

      I do appreciate the time everybody took to read Gideon…for me, if it just touched one person positively it did what I had hoped….Thank you again Carson….And thank you to all that wished me luck, and congratulated me…believe it or not….It does mean something to me….

      • Dane Purk

        If you keep that classy attitude, believe in your work like you do, perfect the art of self-criticism, and always get better, I don’t see any way you can fail, or at minimum, enjoy the journey every step of the way.

        I paid a lot of money to let Carson give notes on one of my scripts and the review was “lots of talent, lackluster story” and after a few email exchanges we basically agreed that I should move on from the script and write something better. But you know what? I didn’t. I realized that I believed so strongly in the CHARACTERS and the THEME that I just need to PUT THEM INTO A DIFFERENT STORY. And I have moved on, and I am working on bigger and better things, because it helps me learn. But I’m also outlining a completely new story so that the best characters and themes from my failed project can still see the light of day. Because I believe in them.

        So maybe you should do that. If you truly believe in Gideon as a character, and the religious themes of his story, then take the best characters and themes and put them inside of an entirely different story. Because the characters and themes are your voice, but the story is what sells it. So find the right story for your voice. Even if it’s a novel. Or a completely different script.

        Hope that advice helps.

        • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

          It does….thank you…And I am definitely enjoying the journey…

      • sweetvita

        Hey RW,

        I started this a few times throughout the day. And each time I didn’t make it much beyond the first 15ish. But the last time I gave it a whirl, I skimmed to the end instead of walking away. While I have nothing against spiritual/religious stories, this one wasn’t for me. But I’m a nobody, so you’re safe – lol.

        I do want to congratulate you on your win, writing a story you love and your gracious spirit that flows from your replies to your peers.

        Happy trails….

  • http://twitter.com/OntPoli Ont Poli

    I’m only upset at the person that held a gun to your head and made you read the script.

  • grendl

    Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

    Thank you Linkthis83…I really appreciate your thoughts and kind words.

    You are right, when I hear that name Jenny, I hear Forrest saying it…but that memory invokes a good connection or a positive vibe in me….a subliminal message perhaps?

    Swanson’s doubts weren’t about GOD but about the things of GOD…He had a childhood loss that he could never reconcile until he began telling this story….by the end he has not only reminded himself about GOD’s goodness, but come to a realization he never understood before because he had tried to reason it out as a child and as time passed, like many of us, he became jaded and buried his pain…In the beginning he tells the congregation…”This story isn’t as much about me as about some others.” By the end, the story was as much about him as the others and he finally recognized it…

    I think what may be lost in the translation of this script is that I wrote it for my nephews and nieces, at the time they were ages 4-12, hence the simplicity of the story…I wanted it to capture their imaginations but I also had to write it so adults could read it and see it as a movie…

    The blessing for me is how so many adults are moved by it….Sort of spoke to their inner child…

    So with that age group, a Christian market, and a family oriented story I truly believe GIDEON has great potential as a movie…..

    Thank you again….

  • Citizen M

    Just finished the script, and Carson’s review, and I think Carson pretty much nailed it. Well written, dialogue sounds authentic, but missing a central character striving for a goal. I would add, it reads way longer than 117 pages, a result of not having a story as the central spine. Although I liked the ending with the final twist.

    The two Christian-themed movies I have seen in the last couple of years are Faith Like Potatoes, a local South African movie, and Chariots of Fire. One forgets, I think, that Chariots of Fire was about a committed Christian wrestling with his conscience because he was expected to run on the Sabbath. Also, it was about anti-Semitism. Faith and prejudice. The themes of this AF script. But we remember the spoonful of sugar of young men striving for Olympic gold rather than the moral medicine. And, incidentally, it was based on a true story.

    Faith Like Potatoes is more overtly religious. Also based on real life, it is the story of farmer/preacher Angus Buchan who tried to make a new life for himself and his family on a farm in KwaZulu Natal. Basically the theme is “Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) or “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!” (Mark 9:24). And of course there was the goal of raising a crop despite difficulties. And it was quite a good movie.

    So that is two movies dealing with religious themes enjoyed by a non-religious person because they had strong stories to back them up. And the issues were clear: keeping the faith in the face of disaster, and doing the right thing even at great personal cost.

    Two big problems were: too many people; and too many flashbacks. Paging through the script, I see the following time periods: 1909, 1912, 1939, 1942, 1949, 1964, and present day, which is around the year 2000, certainly not 2013. I count somewhere around 36 characters.

    I’m sorry, but that’s too much. Not only are they tough to write, they are tough for the reader to keep track of, particularly when we’re bouncing around in time. Simplify. Fewer characters, fewer flashbacks, more intense focus on characters with difficult decisions to make where faith or lack of it can influence the outcome. God works through people, not through history lessons. Less on what happened in the past, more on dealing with the legacy today.

    The actual moral problem you’re dealing with is a little murky.

    – Church apartheid is not good, of course, but you need to show how it affects people in a way the reader can emotionally experience.

    – Gideon’s miraculous abilities should get people to question their fundamental beliefs. ATM he’s more like a carnival sideshow, roll up, roll up, see the healing. In 2013 he’d be going viral on YouTube.

    – Kids throwing rocks at each other? We did that too, in apartheid South Africa, only we threw rocks at the Afrikaans kids, and they threw them back at us. It’s what kids do.

    – Jenny concealing Gideon is a crime, although not a moral one. I don’t see the reason she keeps him hidden. Number one, it’s impossible to keep secrets in a small town; you are asking too much of your readers to expect them to believe she could do it . Number two, it contributes nothing to the story, it just take up running time. Let her keep him openly and he develops his powers as he gets older.

    Some nitpicks:

    p. 7 – “Why you calling, Jenny?” Comma shouldn’t be there.

    p. 8 & 18 – Sound effects. Little bells above doors DING or TINKLE. Goat bells CLANK.

    p. 43 – “Snake bite”. I don’t know this expression. Googling, it seems to mean “that’s bad luck”.

    p. 45 – “Parents of Weasel. I mean Samuel Norico and Charlie Lefter called…” I think that should read “Parents of Weasel — I mean Samuel Norico — and Charlie Lefter called…”

    p. 46 – “As they pass under the other two…” Confusing. “As they pass under the tree…” better.

    p. 46 – I made a note: So far, no sign of racism.

    p. 46 – Josey is fishing, yet he asks, “Hey, where’s my pole?” I don’t understand. How can he be fishing without his pole? On p. 48 Butterchurn (?!) finds it. With ten fish tied to the hook. They should make more of this. It is amazing. Josey accuses Petey of pranking him. Why does Petey not defend himself saying he was in the tree the whole time?

    p. 81 – I made a note: Taking strain reading this. far too long.

    p. 86 – Walking on water should be a test of faith.

    p. 89 – “Cut it out Josey your choking him to death.” should read “Cut it out Josey, you’re choking him to death.”

    p. 92 – Would Tunney really stand in the main street shouting “God’s fire’s on the mountain.”? It’s my impression that some time has passed since Gideon healed his hand, so how does he even know Gideon is still there?

    EDIT: Forgot to mention, the body of the story should explain the origin of the prophecy that the new preacher would run out of gas and walk in the church door, and why the parishioners would do such a damn fool thing as to sit in church Sunday after Sunday without a preacher.

    • Malibo Jackk

      To answer the last part of your last sentence —
      Because it’s a small town, they’re simple people, there’s little else to do on a Sunday morning, and they think it’s the right thing to do.

      I’ve traveled some back roads through rural country at night. There’s no houses for miles and all of a sudden you come upon a small collection of old homes on either side of the road. Less than a dozen, it can hardly be called a town. There’s a sign that asks you to cut your speed to 35. Some of the homes have tall towers with tv antenas. But otherwise, you’ve traveled back in time. Who are these people? Why do they live here? What do they do? All the houses are dark now. There’s a sign up ahead, Resume Speed. You’ve just passed through The Twilight Zone.

      • Poe_Serling

        “I’ve traveled some back roads through rural country at night. There’s no
        houses for miles and all of a sudden you come upon a small collection
        of old homes on either side of the road.”

        I hear you…

        That pretty much sums up my experience growing up in rural Pennsylvania. Here’s a true story from my college days…

        It was around midnight and got off at the Brookville exit of the Penna. turnpike (Interstate 80) and headed south on Route 119. It was the classic country rollercoaster of a byway… mostly treelined… up one hill and down another… with a few twists and turns to keep you from falling asleep… and a scattering of small towns along the route. I drove over 75 miles to my parents’ house without passing a single car on the way. Kinda cool but weird.

      • Citizen M

        I spent a year in a settlement where there was one shop, one hotel and one service station. The sort of place where you stop your truck in the middle of the road and chat to the guy in the truck coming the other way.

        One midnight coming back from the hotel I saw a couple of guys carrying expensive patio furniture walking along the road towards the local township. I called the cops to report them. “Why are you telling us?” they asked. “Just grab them and bring them in.” Needless to say I went straight to bed. I don’t know what happened to the thieves.

        • Malibo Jackk

          They’re probably relaxing in that furniture.

    • Citizen M

      You never say whether Gideon is black or white. Maybe this is deliberate. I just assumed he was white, but if he was black it would make things much more powerful. It would explain why Jenny wants to keep him hidden and why the townsfolk shun her, and it would be a major dilemma for the local racists if they needed his healing powers.

      • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

        I have left that up in the air and have thought about it since the beginning…but you are right those were my thoughts as well….I have even thought about him being mixed which at that time meant he didn’t fit in either shoe

        • Citizen M

          It’s tricky. My impression is that you are aiming for a magic realism/nostalgic small town tone. Everything bathed in the golden light of memory. So you don’t want to get too harsh or confrontational. Maybe a black Gideon is too edgy.

          • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

            Maybe…but I have always kicked it around…I think when it gets to the production stage a choice will have to be made….I like your thinking though

    • ThomasBrownen

      My mom had us watch Chariots of Fire as a kid, and I was extremely disappointed in it.

      I remember being all excited. There would be chariots! And they’d be on fire! It all sounded so cool!! I couldn’t wait.

      And then we watched the movie. And it wasn’t about chariots. It was about people running.

      But not on Sunday. And that was the story.

      Biggest. Letdown. Ever.

      That said… I really should go back and rewatch it. I continue to hear great things about it, its music is famous, and it seems like it should be a good movie. One of these days I may give it another shot.

      • Somersby

        It’s definitely worth looking at again. I remember it as having a pretty profound impact on me… course that was more than 30 years ago. I should probably see it again too, if for no other reason than to see if it still packs the emotional punch I remember.

        • Citizen M

          I rented it a couple of months ago and it wasn’t as good as I remembered it. For one thing, that marvellous Vangelis theme is only heard right at the beginning (and the end? Forget.), the rest of the time the sound track is rather ordinary. And social concerns have moved on. It’s still a very good movie, but of its time, not of our time.

  • Citizen M

    In this script the first and last scenes bookend the movie which is told as a long flashback. It’s a commonly-used and uncontroversial story-telling device. But unfortunately, within the long flashback are many other flashbacks, and it gets confusing.

    I think the writer is following the advice to “show, don’t tell”. But there is the danger of the tail wagging the dog. Say it’s a story of a lonely war widow. You could have a photo of her with a smiling soldier as she twists her wedding ring and says, “I can’t bear to take it off. It’s all I have of him.” Or, (the Spielberg option) you could have a montage of them getting married in 1930s clothing; headlines War Is Declared; him waving goodbye as he goes off to battle; the Normandy invasion; the black-edged envelope delivered to her; and finally a photo of her with a smiling soldier as she twists her wedding ring and says, “I can’t bear to take it off. It’s all I have of him.”

    You have to decide what is absolutely necessary to tell your story, and focus your attention there. The rest is decoration and should be kept to a minimum.

    • Linkthis83

      Thanks Citizen M. I think for me, if I like the story being told, then I don’t mind the flashbacks if I get to see and experience the backstory. But again, that’s only as long as it’s good and relevant.

      In your example I completely understand. If the only thing the story is trying to convey is the impact of the loss, I think your suggestion works. But if there is another layer to the story, then I think it has more impact if we get to see/experience those events. But again, I also think this just may be my preference.

      I still blame ‘Lost’ for overuse and then every subsequent show that realized “Hey, we don’t actually half to tell anybody a REAL story until they are 5 seasons in!!”

      Thanks again for the advice.

  • Xarkoprime

    Did your script sell? That’s awesome.

    I’m assuming it did considering they’re already casting…

  • Xarkoprime

    I didn’t know that. I guess that answers the question lol.

  • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

    Taarna….If you were the only one to read it I am humbled and thankful….If there is anything I can do to help you with your story please feel free to hit me up…..Thank you for your comment…..Now I am inspired….

  • Midnight Luck

    my impression

    first, I have to agree, you are a very good writer.

    I wasn’t as impressed with the story though.

    First I think the story should be called STORY OF GIDEON

    Then make the story about Gideon.

    Have the preacher arrive and only be called PREACHER, though have him be a mixture of black and white, his ethnicity a little unsure. Have the people of the church rail against him being the Preacher they are waiting for, not taking him with loving open arms (create SERIOUS Conflict from the start). Leave it so we are unsure throughout the story if Preacher is Gideon or if he is not. Then from the way he takes over and wants to tell them all the Story of Gideon, it must be about himself. However he never will give enough definitive assurances about it. He knows the story so well though, it is like he lived it.

    Have it be that time is repeating itself, much like how all the people of a small town were against JENNY. I like someone else’s idea of having Jenny’s baby be Black or a Mixed race baby to keep the feuding alive. Now the people of the town are against Preacher and his race, his way of being, etc.

    I really had trouble with the story in the beginning seemingly to be about Swanson. To begin so focused on him, then it should have been about him. The entire beginning was him running out of gas, then being invited into a church and being THE ONE they are waiting for. How could it NOT be a story about him? Then you take the whole story away from us by bringing it to a halt as, no, he is now going to tell us the ACTUAL story we are going to be following. WHAT? if that is the case we could have just started at the Backwash Motel in 1939. ENTER LATE, LEAVE EARLY. It made that entire intro worthless and honestly infuriating.

    Now, I didn’t make it through the whole story, but from the sounds of it, the story never figures out who it is about. We NEED a Protagonist to draw us through a story. Someone to CARE about. Without that a movie will feel meandering and we don’t care.

    So if you must keep the beginning of the story, it must then immediately focus on GIDEON, since we have already gone through a jump of This is the Story, no wait, This is actually the Story. Then give us meat and potatoes about Gideon. Have us be in some tense awful time where they are trying to stone him as a teenager or burn him as a boy. Something that makes us stand up and take notice. Ultimately though, it needs to be about Gideon. Otherwise the Title should be changed.

    The script could end with the Preacher finishing his story and all the congregation either being so riled up they start tearing the church to the ground, or trying to kill the Preacher. Something with Conflict (with a capital K), something very visual.

    I know, since I am as far from a Religious person or Christian etc, and you are writing this to instill in people a certain belief or feeling, maybe it does what you are intending. It doesn’t do it for me. This didn’t excite me or get me into the story. Not enough conflict involved. The real trip up though was not having that central person and thing to care about. I feel you should really ponder that deeply.

    Big congratulations on winning 25k and the contest, and for getting Carson and SS to present it for all of us. Hope you get good things from it.

    • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

      Thank you for your thoughts….I appreciate you reading it…I believe “good” things are definitely coming….

    • Citizen M

      It’s not about Gideon. He is the catalyst, the MacGuffin, and doesn’t change. But he changes others. It’s like The Maltese Falcon which inspires the actions of others but is itself an inert statue.

      • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

        Excellent Citizen M…I could not have explained it better…

        I know Carson also mentioned the story should have featured the narrator(Swanson) more because he was the one telling the story…but before Swanson began the story he said –

        “It is not as much about me as others. But I know it good as I know my own life”

        …..That was the tip that Swanson was about to tell a story that did not focus on himself but on everyone else who was touched by Gideon.

        A good story works on many levels and has many layers. That kind of story gives people the ground to dig in to to mine the nuggets….but you have to be interested enough and want to dig…otherwise the surface is whatever you first glance it to be….and that becomes how you judge the field….

        • Hem

          RW, you seem gloriously unaware of the major structural problems that plague your script as a screen story.

          None of your responses indicate that you have learned anything not just from Carson’s justified critique but from those of other thoughtful readers as well, all of whom have told you that your story does not work.

          Instead you seem to believe that the fault lies with the reader who can’t recognize what you deludedly allude to as the “many levels and layers” of your story.

          I urge you to lose the smugness and open your mind to the mistakes you have made in this script.

  • klmn

    A darkness has fallen over the shadow. I hope he didn’t look at the amateur loglines and commit seppuku.

  • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

    No. When Christ comes again…if you have survived what happens before HE comes…You will definitely know HE has come…

  • Guest

    I meant the script.

  • Jonathan Soens

    I’ll be up-front: I didn’t read the entire script. It wasn’t a problem with the writing or the subject matter. I just have a hard time getting into stories where kid characters are so prominent, so it’s really more about my own preferences than about anything the writer was doing. I will say, though, that once I made up my mind not to read the whole thing, I still found myself skimming ahead because I was curious about how some things would play out — which tells me the writer did good enough to make me curious about some things, even if I had a hard time with the kid characters.

    So, the fact that I didn’t read it all might invalidate my opinions. But here are my opinions, anyway:

    I didn’t have a problem with the mystery of why everybody in town hated Jenny. I understand the complaint that, once it was solved, you felt left without enough driving your interest in the story. However, I don’t think it was meant to be a story-driving mystery — otherwise, it would’ve been dragged out and milked longer. Just because something interesting happens which makes you curious, it doesn’t mean it’s supposed to be a big mystery that drives the whole story. Not every story with some mystery has to be a story about that mystery.

    Knowing the script was about a boy with healing powers (which, to me, plays like supernatural sci-fi stuff more than religious material) had me on the lookout for other bizarre supernatural stuff. So, with a whole town united in hating this woman, I half suspected it was something else supernatural at play. For a moment, I thought maybe she (or somebody in her family) had the opposite power of the boy, harming people rather than healing them. Because I guess I was just expecting the reason the town hated her to somehow be tied to the gifts the boy had. If I were writing it, I’d have probably been tempted to make the girl’s family’s back-story be that they profited off of harming people somehow (either supernaturally or not), that way the woman would’ve seen the boy as a way to balance out the bad her family had done to this town.

    Still, I liked the “colored church” thing, because it just makes sense for the world this story takes place in. My instinct would’ve been to contort and twist things so that there was a whole complicated backstory to the girl’s family that coincidentally is the opposite of what’s going on with that healing boy. Instead of a convoluted route like that, the writer just gave a simple explanation that made perfect sense for this story. My idea would’ve felt forced, the church idea felt more organic. Good writing, in other words. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

    I’m not sure how well all the racial angles play, though. I like the ideas, but there are just too many white characters driving the story for me to connect as much as I normally might. Carson’s question of why wasn’t the black preacher the main character makes sense to me. Although, if you want to explore religion and race in this setting, the simplest answer to me would be for the boy with healing powers to have been black himself. So when a bunch of bible-loving white people in a racist town are confronted with miracles and evidence of God, it would conflict more immediately with their racial views. More, anyway, than the conflict from the healing boy happening to be friends with a black boy. I just think the racists would’ve been tied up in knots inside if the healing boy himself had been black. The turmoil they feel over a young boy choosing a black boy for a friend? That’s okay. The turmoil they’d feel over their own God choosing a black boy to bestow those gifts upon in the first place? That’s better, I think.

    Anyway, I like the idea. I had no problem with the writing. Definitely would love to read more b the writer.

    • http://twitter.com/randallwhahn r.w. hahn

      Thank you Jonathan for your thoughtful analysis…I really appreciate your honesty. I deliberately had not indicated whether the boy is white, black or mixed…I have considered all possibilities and like them all….So for now it is ambiguous…when it gets closer to being produced and we have to cast the boy I believe the boy we actually come up with will determine his race….so for now it is open ended….

      Thank you again for taking the time, not only to read GIDEON but comment on it as well….All the best….RW

  • fragglewriter

    Congrats to the writer for winning in a script writing contest.

    As far as the storyline, it’s not my cup of tea, but there seems to be someone out there who loves it.

  • Hem

    This is why commenting on this guy’s work is a waste of time; you’ll notice that in none of his responses does he recognize what most of us have pointed out — his story has major plot and structure problems.

    from his blog:

    “This is the verse the LORD gave me to speak over GIDEON. I have been speaking it for many years now….

    “And the LORD answered me and said, ‘Write the Vision, make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.

    For the Vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie: Though it tarry, wait for it. For it shall surely come, it will not tarry.”

    I truly believe I am at the “he may run that readeth it” point of this journey…and the “appointed time” when GIDEON is on the BIG SCREEN is coming quickly….”For it shall surely come…..IT will NOT tarry”……

    These next couple of weeks are going to be extremely invigorating and exciting to see what the LORD is going to do……

    GOD Bless all who are “reading” GIDEON, and “running” with it……”