Genre: Adventure/Comedy
Premise: After two fame-seeking Millennials are outed for their plans to fake a sailing adventure blog, no one believes it when they really are ship-wrecked and lost at sea.
About: The first half of the story pokes fun at our obsession with fame and lampoons our dependence on smart phones. In the back half I play with what might happen when you take away the phones. Do we remain tethered to societal whims and expectations? Or do we gain clarity about who we are and what we really want?
I took some chances with the back half. Yes, indeedy. Curious if it works.
Thanks ahead of time to all who check it out!
Writer: Stephanie Jones
Details: 89 pages (this is an updated draft from Amateur Offerings)

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 6.49.36 AM

The weekend is only hours away!

Unfortunately, so are those box office receipts for The Dark Tower, which, by all accounts, is dead on arrival. I’m surprised they made The Dark Tower, actually. I always found it to be the least appealing of King’s work, a mish-mash of an experiment masquerading as one giant story. In my experience, when something isn’t clear in written form, it doesn’t translate well to movie form. Movies need focus.

Which is actually a great segue into today’s script. Let’s Be Famous tackles the ubiquitous millennial desire to be famous without having to earn it. The question is, does it focus enough to convey that theme? Let’s find out, mateys!

Susan works at an office downtown where she spends the majority of her time watching Youtube videos of internet-famous people. Fred, her boyfriend, hangs out all day at home with his cat, “Cat,” and the two occasionally make videos for his Youtube Channel about cat communication.

Susan and Fred yearn for a better life, a life that includes actual excitement.

That’s when Fred gets an idea. Why don’t the two of them hop on a boat, travel around the world, and vlog about it? They’ll be famous. Susan isn’t into it, but it sounds better than staring at Youtube videos all day. So the two hit up their parents for money, buy a boat, and quickly learn that they have no idea what they’re doing.

No problem. They’ll just tell everyone they’re traveling the seas, go out just far enough to make it look like they’ve left, then sneak back to shore when no one’s looking. Take a few sea-selfies, post them on the site over time, and “voila,” it’s like they really are traveling the world!

Unfortunately, a huge storm hits the second they leave harbor, and they’re forced onto a life raft. Soon after, the man who sold them the boat, “Captain Caboose,” arrives to save the day, but not really, since he kidnaps Susan and boots Fred back onto the life raft (with his cat). Susan then begins an S&M relationship with Captain Caboose (no, I’m not kidding). Will Susan come to her senses? Will Fred and his cat survive? Will the two of them ever become famous? Check out Let’s Be Famous to find out!

Whoa.

This was a wild ride.

Okay, where to get started…

This isn’t the movie I thought I was being pitched. I thought this was going to be about two friends who want to be famous. Like young versions of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Instead, it was about a couple. I don’t know why that didn’t work for me. But something about a relationship felt less funny.

Maybe if Fred and Susan’s relationship were easier to grasp, I’d change my mind. But I could never get a handle on it. Did they like each other? I never read a genuine moment between them. And, if anything, Susan seemed to despise Fred (there’s a moment early on during a dinner date where she’s annoyed by pretty much everything he says).

So I kept asking, why is she even with him if she doesn’t like him?

This had a ripple effect on the rest of the script because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be looking for from their relationship. For example, had we established at the beginning that they were on the verge of breaking up, but they decided to go on this trip as one last attempt to fix their relationship, I’d understand the dynamic. These two are either going to figure it out or not.

Instead, the relationship was vague, to the point where you could’ve easily categorized them as friends. In my experience, when relationship dynamics are unclear, the rest of the script is unclear. And that’s kinda what I felt.

I mean, at a certain point, Susan starts an S&M relationship with Captain Caboose mere hours after her “boyfriend” (again, I’m reluctant to use that term since I’m still not convinced what they are to one another) is booted back out onto a life raft. Susan did hit her head. And I think it’s implied that that’s the reason she’s not being herself. But, like a lot of the script, I was never 100% sure.

That was another problem. The writing was so manic, the story never has a chance to breathe. This was particularly problematic in the setup, as I would constantly find myself a couple of minutes behind the writer. We’d arrive at a scene and I’d be asking, “Wait, how did we get here?”

For example, there’s a moment where Fred and Susan are about to begin their voyage, and out of nowhere, there were these – I guess internet reporters? – there to document the event. I realized, “Oh, they must’ve told these guys to come here to get it on record that they really did leave on this trip.”

But why was I only finding this out now? We needed that scene six pages ago where one of them said, “We need to document this so that people believe us.” “How do we do that?” “We’ll call some people. From the smaller Youtube channels. Get them here so that they see we’re really leaving.”

But virtually none of the script is set up like that. We’re just SLAMMED into scene after scene and it’s our job to keep up.

I can’t figure out if this is Steph’s writing style or if she simply wrote this script too fast. Whatever the case, this would be the first note I’d give her. SLOOOOOOWWWWW DOOOOWWWWWNN. Take your time setting up the characters. Take your time setting up their relationship dynamic so that we understand it.

I mean we don’t even get a proper scene where we see that these two desire fame above all else. Without that scene, it doesn’t make sense that they’re going through all of this hubbub in the first place. And I suspect that that scene wasn’t written because this script was written too fast.

For me, personally, my checkout point was the S&M stuff. While comedy has no rules (whatever makes someone laugh makes them laugh), I need some logic to my comedy. If it’s literally ANYTHING GOES and there’s no rhyme or reason to any decision whatsoever, I don’t think that works. Why would a woman let her boyfriend die in some lifeboat while simultaneously agreeing to engage in sexual fantasies with some disgusting old weird man she’s known for 30 minutes? It’s just odd.

Something tells me this script wasn’t properly outlined. And when you don’t outline, you just go wherever the pen takes you. And while that can feel exhilarating as a writer, it rarely feels that way for the reader.

A friend of mine growing up used to love going out on a boat and dragging an inter-tube along the back. He’d send me back on that tube then drive around the lake like crazy, whipping and snapping, zigging and zagging, desperately attempting to get me to fall off. That’s exactly what I felt like reading Let’s Be Famous. Being dragged around like that can be fun for 2-3 minutes. But longer than that and it gets exhausting.

If Steph wants to continue with this script, I would build the story around friends, not a relationship. I would take time to set the story up. I’d let the scenes breathe. I would establish what each character’s main issue was (they want fame). And I would focus more on the theme of fame and what it does to people, rather than bring in a joke character (the captain) who works at the expense of your script’s theme.

That’s just me though. What did you guys think?

Script link (new draft!): Let’s Be Famous

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

What I learned: The other day we talked about saying NO to your characters. When you say no, it creates conflict. That forces your character into action, which almost always results in a better scene. So in Let’s Be Famous, both characters need money to buy a boat. They each go to their parents and what do the parents do? They hand over money without hesitation. They said YES instead of NO.

  • Scott Crawford

    The good news is that I think that there’s plenty of rewrite opportunity here. At 89 pages it’s more than a bit spare, so there’s a lot of room to add new stuff in there

    • Ashley Sanders

      The first thing I would do if I was Steph, is not get disheartened.
      I’d collate all the feedback from the community as well as Carson into a word doc and have a read.
      I’d mull it over for a few weeks, and then use what you begrudgingly know in your heart is true in the feedback, especially stuff about structure, and ignore the rest.
      I’d then take my time with the rewrite.
      It’s what I did when Carson (pretty fairly) savaged something of mine a couple of years back. That script ended up massively better for the SS community feedback, but it took me another 3 or 4 months.
      Steph is properly funny – and that’s incredibly rare. I’ve only ever read one other AO script that made me laugh out loud.
      Comedy I’m sure is the hardest thing to write and Steph makes it feel breezy and easy.

      • Scott Crawford

        Agree! Butt… I wouldn’t leave it TOO long for the rewrite (unless Steph wants to move on to something else); the longer you leave it the more difficult it’ll be to come back to. My experience.

        • Ashley Sanders

          Maybe. It depends on the person. I often find that if I put something aside for a couple of weeks and then go back to it, I can see all the flaws I didn’t spot at the time. A wood for the trees sort of thing. Still … there’s a lot to be said for momentum too.

          • Scott Crawford

            I put aside my Fort Knox script thinking I’d quickly work on something else then come back to it… I got sidetracked. I got sidetracked by other stuff, the stuff they call LIFE (getting a new job, moving house, medical emergencies), but mostly I got sidetracked by the “maybe another story might be better” problems. Instead, you need to focus on ONE story, what works, what doesn’t work, what needs to be fixed and how.

            Oh, and best of luck, Ashley, on WHATEVER you choose to work on!

          • Ashley Sanders

            I hope you sorted out a flat btw scott. I can only write one thing at a time, my brain isn’t agile enough to skip between multiple projects. I’m currently doing a coming of age feature thing. Early days …

          • Scott Crawford

            I THINK I’ve got a flat (apartment), it’s just a question of my references getting checked. You should see it, it’s the world’s SMALLEST flat. It’s TINY. I’m kind of excited about the idea of making a fresh start in such a contained environment.

      • Stephjones

        Thanks, Ashley! I’m not disheartened at all. I’ve been here many times before with folks not properly appreciating my genius. ;)
        I really needed feedback on this script. I just couldn’t get any definite what doesn’t work stuff. So this is a real positive for me. I promise I will get plugging!

    • Stephjones

      Hey Scott, great tips.
      I did set-up Susan’s interest in S&M. that’s what she’s watching on a youtube video in her intro, but maybe it wasn’t clear enough. I also tried to indicate that she was a bit of a ball-buster by nature. She just didn’t really own it until later.
      The buying the boat choice of yes, instead of no, was to establish they were spoiled and entitled. They had a yes when they should of had a no because I resist inserting predictable plot points. It never seems to work to my advantage.

  • Bifferspice

    a Steph Jones script? sign me up! i’ll be reading this later. congrats on getting the read – i’ve been on holiday so not read much of this site over the last couple of weeks. love the logline

    • Stephjones

      Can’t wait. Thanks!

  • JasonTremblay

    Great premise, though.

    • Scott Crawford

      Yes, Carson really liked the premise as well. Not being a mean, I mean this in a good way, this is like an R-rated CAPTAIN RON.

      • Stephjones

        Kinda is, Scott.

  • James Michael

    when this was posted on AF last weekend I commented that the logline was a little unclear and confused – mainly to the point that the’re lost at sea but no one believes them. The writer commented back, saying that this realization happens once they return from being lost. which is fine, but it isn’t clear.

    Either way, as Carson’s review confirms, the proof is in the logline(pudding). get the logline right first. its amazing how much you can tell about a script from these 25 words. Usually working on your logline will help you work through what your story is actually about, and not just what you want it to be about

    • Scott Crawford

      A logline often doesn’t fully form until you’ve finished writing your story, maybe the whole script. What you start with is a PREMISE or an IDEA. When you work out what your story is about – and what you want to SAY about it (see yesterday) – then you’ll be able to better articulate a logline.

      I forget to mention it yesterday, but William Goldman’s idea of the SPINE: the central notion of a story that runs throughout, deciding where the story should start, where it needs to end, what scenes should be included and which should be cut. That’s the theme is expressed, within that spine.

      The spine of this story is… well, Steph can maybe tell us herself. The gist is “Two people try to make themselves famous but instead discover who they truly are.” Or something. You could then put THAT or part of that into the logline.

      • James Michael

        totally true! I will usually write a logline when im outlining, so I have an idea where my story is going – but only after I finish my outline. Then I revist it at the end and make the changes needed, depending on what has changed and been built on

        It doesn’t so much matter if the logline changes either. This is probably a good thing. You could have a totally different story by the end than what you expected. Just so long as you can still create a clear logline from the new story. if you can’t do that, and find yourself adding irrelevant information to try and dramatize or spice up the logline, than you might need to go back and find out what your story is actually about.

      • Stephjones

        Agree, Scott. My story spine doesn’t seem clear to readers probably because the goal changed at the mid-point. It switched from two people who were focused on the elusive goal of fame to the more concrete goal of survival, which led to self-knowledge, albeit in an unconventional way. I personally like shifting goals in stories but it needs to be a natural offshoot from what came before. I might’ve stretched that aspect a bit. :)

        • klmn

          Your logline doesn’t suggest a man/woman team. It might work better with two women, and it might be more saleable as well. I’m just about to dive into the new version, so I’ll post more comments later, maybe over the weekend.

          I suggest waiting till all the comments come in, then writing a new outline. Make sure something happens every ten pages or so. Know your ending before you start the rewrite.

  • Malibo Jackk

    “Why would a woman let her boyfriend die in some lifeboat while
    simultaneously agreeing to engage in sexual fantasies with some
    disgusting old weird man she’s known for 30 minutes?”

    — Obviously, Carson. You don’t understand women.

    • klmn

      Disgusting old weird men – every woman’s fantasy.

      • klmn

        “I’m leaving you, Roger. You’re old and you’re weird, but you just aren’t disgusting enough.”

        • Stephjones

          In the case of my character:

          I’m leaving you, Fred. You’re young and dumb and boring in bed.

          • klmn

            That sounds like it should be the start of her journey – without him.

  • Stephjones

    First, many thanks to Carson for hosting and reviewing my script and to the folks who took time out of their day to read and give feedback. It’s an amazing gift to a writer, as its impossible to guess how the ideas in your head, transferred to script form, will ever be received. So, its a wonderful day, despite my story not being to Carson’s liking. I’ll just take everything on board that’s been said in the past week and try again. I don’t see this as a set-back but as a way to continue to move forward and that’s a thing to be really grateful for.

    • Avatar

      Don’t be discouraged. I think the topic of “Let’s be famous” would be very interesting. A lot of writers take many drafts to fine tune their project. M. Night Shyamalan says he does over a dozen drafts and he’s one of the most gifted writers out there.

      • Stephjones

        Thanks, Avatar!

  • Brainiac138

    I think the couple angle could work if 1) it was better established that they actually like each other and 2) don’t just let Fred off on a life boat. What is Caboose was internet famous and had millions of followers of his adventures and exploits, then Fred and Susan could start to conspire against each other for screen time. You could do a whole thing where they fake rescues, set the boat on fire, etc.

    • Stephjones

      Yeah, I’m kinda with Carson now on the couple thing setting up Rom-com expectations and I’ve had others say that confuses things.. I might have them just be friends, which could smooth away some of the issues. I thought I had to say something about the assumption that just because two people are a couple they are meant to be together. These two are so wrong for each other, hence I didn’t go with a typical rom-com template…uh…at all. :)

  • JakeBarnes12

    Steph, I’ve never cracked open the script because I’ve never seen a version of the logline that articulates a compelling central concept and without that a script simply isn’t going to work.

    It’s thus no surprise to me that Carson finds the characters, their relationships, and the plot unfocused.

    The way to fix what is, based on Carson’s review, clearly a page one rewrite, is to return to the central concept.

    I suggest a logline such as the following: “When two fame-seekers who fake a sailing adventure end up really shipwrecked, they must…” So. What must they do to solve the plot problem?

    You need to fill in the rest of that sentence with a clear goal for your protagonists. Keep it simple. This is where theme can help you. What is your basic “message”? That technology promises us a happier life but in fact makes us miserable, perhaps? That technology offers us fame without real accomplishment which is a hollow goal to pursue? etc.

    Such questions could help you shape your story. In other words a clear logline helps us structure our scripts. For example, maybe your protags are stuck on a desert island and keep trying to use technology to get off the island. It is only when they abandon technology and accept a more “closer to nature” life that they find the solution to this plot problem which leads them to a more fulfilling way of life.

    The above is just an example suggesting how concept, theme, and structure work together, but I feel that clarity on these points must be the basis of any successful rewrite.

    Good luck.

  • carsonreeves1

    That was a worrying point for me as well. If you’re going to start with a teaser, the teaser needs to feel fully formed and end with a bang. This felt more like a scene fragment. And that became a theme throughout. Not enough scenes were allowed to breathe. They were all fragments.

    So Steph, make sure you’re giving us mini-stories within each scene. Have a beginning, a middle, and an end.