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Genre: Action-Thriller
Premise (from writer): When an ex-UFC fighter reluctantly accepts a kidnapping job from the Russian mob, he sneaks into an upscale apartment complex to capture the target but finds himself in a high intensity hostage situation when armed terrorists simultaneously take over the building in a Mumbai-style attack.
Why You Should Read (from writer): Been hacking away at this craft for several years now. Have written several scripts, read countless others. It can be a frustrating grind — writing scripts and trying to find success with them. Sometimes I’d love to quit. But I just can’t. Nothing else even remotely interests me the same way. — This is a classic blood-pumping action thriller with a modern touch that should be a fun ride if it ever makes it to the screen. But don’t take my word for it. One reviewer had the following to say: ”Although there are big budget explosions and gun fighting scenes, the script never feels cliche in its execution of plot. It doesn’t lean on the violence and pays close attention to staying original and dark throughout. This could be a big, blockbuster film that would attract a broad audience and potentially an A-list actor.” — Also, it’s a quick 105 pages with sparse, vertical writing. At the very least you won’t get a headache reading it.
It’s done well in contests (initial draft was top 15% in Nicholl) and on the Black List (revised draft recently received an overall rating of ’8′), but I’d love to get it some more exposure. The more eyes on it, the better, right?
Writer: Bill Anthony Lawrence
Details: 105 pages

andrew-lincoln-walking-deadIs Andrew Lincoln ready to make the jump to the big screen? This might be the perfect vehicle.

Yesterday’s late posting (sorry about that guys) stirred up a bit of controversy in the comments section, with someone saying, “Is this all ya got?” In five years of reading Amateur scripts on Scriptshadow, is this really the best you can come up with?

Now personally, going off all the professional and amateur scripts I’ve read, I think yesterday’s top 10 is AT LEAST better than the bottom 25% of the Black List, with the only difference being the Black List writers have agents blasting their scripts all over town, to the very voters who vote on the list.

However, I will admit that we haven’t found anything world-changing. But that’s because no one’s writing anything world-changing. Not amateurs, not pros, not anyone. A world-changing script (which I’d consider “American Beauty”) comes around once every few years. “Genius” scripts, maybe once a year. Really really awesome scripts, maybe 3-5 times a year.

It’s really hard to do.

And I do think there’s a bit of a “lightning in a bottle” thing going on when it comes to writing a great script. Something you only realize you’re onto once you’re 40-50 decisions deep into the process. There’s no real way of knowing you’re there until you’re there. And there’s no way of really going back if you aren’t. You’ve already committed a ton of time to the script.

I’m a Chicago Bulls fan. Which has been hard since Michael Jordan left the team. We have zero talent on our team. The kind of situation where if a player goes down, we’re asking people on the streets if they know how to dribble a ball.

But the Bulls have this coach. And the coach only requires one thing from his players. That they give their all every single second of every game. And I don’t mean that in some vague “try your hardest all the time” kind of way. I mean literally EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.

So while the other team is strolling up, dribbling the ball, the Chicago defender will be right up in his face, waving his hands around, dancing his feet back and forth, non-stop high energy ball all the time, making that other guy miserable. If a player stops moving for so much as a second, the coach calls a timeout and benches him.

And you know what? They’ve been one of the best teams in the league because of it – finishing way higher than they have any business finishing. And it all has to do with effort. They just outwork the more talented teams. Finding lightning in a bottle is near-impossible. But effort is something all of you have control over. You may not be the best in your class. But if you give your all on every single element, if you work your ass off, you can hang with writers a lot better than you.

Where does that leave us? Oh yeah, reviewing a script! Roy Spence Jr. used to be one of these badass MMA fighters who could choke people out with his legs and stuff.  You know, one of those cool cage-fighting guys that laugh at boxers because they’re such pu*&ies.  Now he runs an honest business while occasionally looking for his Russian wife, who deserted him and took their only daughter.

When a local Russian crime boss tells Roy that he knows where to find his daughter, and he’ll offer that information to Roy if he does a job for him, Roy’s in. Of course, Roy has no idea what he’s in for. Turns out he has to find and bring back an FBI informant, who’s hiding in one of most heavily secured buildings in the city.

Roy suits up and heads over to the building, gets all the way up the 30th floor, where the informant, Marat Dementyev, is located, only to find that Marat’s being guarded by a powder keg of an FBI agent named Sandra Packard. Packard neutralizes Roy, but before she can take him down for good, explosions start happening all over the building.

After looking into it, they realize a terrorist organization consisting of 40+ men, is coming up the building to get that informant. Roy and Sandra are now forced to work together to get Marat, and themselves, out of the building in one piece. Wouldn’t you know it though, there are a lot of unexpected surprises along the way. Let’s just say other people have thought way further down the road than Roy has. And they’re going to make sure he’s not walking away with Marat.

You know how everyone pitches their action script as “Die Hard on a plane,” “Die Hard on a bus,” “Die Hard in a 5 star restaurant.” The funniest thing I’ve ever heard is this producer who said that he was once pitched, “Die Hard in a building.” So ignorant had people in this town become, that they didn’t even know what movie they were referencing anymore.

And indeed, one look at Nerve and Sinew, and it appears to be the embodiment of that pitch! Die Hard in a building, right? That’s certainly what you’re worried about going in. Another action-thriller clone, so many of which gum up the script airwaves to the point where Hollywood has to cough them out on a weekly basis. Maybe that’s why we have so many earthquakes.

But I’ll tell ya this. Nerve and Sinew is not your average action-thriller. This is good! I mean, it’s kind of formulaic, but it’s got its own thing going on as well. One of the hardest things to do in screenwriting is to have a simple plot, yet keep your audience guessing. And that’s what I liked most about this script. You think you know what’s going to happen next, but you don’t.

The first thing Lawrence did right was the opening. Instead of only following Roy’s storyline, we’re following Sandra’s also. And with Sandra, we’re not quite sure what’s going on with her. So there’s a mystery box quality to her storyline. Eventually, near the end of the first act, the two storylines meet up, and we get some semblance of what she’s up to.

But at that very moment, a third entity, the terrorists, show up, and neither Sandra or Roy know who they are or why they’re here. That’s good writing. As soon as one thread is settled, you want to introduce a new one. The audience always has to have a carrot dangling in front of them.

The script then segues into one of my favorite devices, the “temporary truce” between two enemies, who now have to work together. This allows conflict (them each needing to do things their way) inside of conflict (having to maneuver around the terrorists). Thats’ the “fresh piece” that separates this from Die Hard.  It’s two people, both of whom don’t like each other, forced to work together.

The only problem I had with the script was that it may have tried getting too cute. Spoilers abound. Halfway through the script, Lawrence made the daring choice to have our hero escape the building. But it’s a false escape. It turns out the informant was a fake. The real informant is back inside. Which means Roy must go back in.

The problem I had with this is that you basically say to the audience, “Getting out of the building isn’t that difficult.” Because they already did it once. And there’s something about completing the goal and then having to go back in and complete the same goal that feels a little repetitive. I just thought, “Haven’t we been here already?”

Also, from that point on, the story and the elements weren’t as clever. And how could they be? We’d already been down this road.

It’s one of those 50/50 choices that are really hard to gauge as a writer in the moment. I can see why Lawrence made the choice (Roy getting out of the building at the midpoint is completely unexpected, and the detour informant is a nice surprise). But in making it, you force the story into a weird corner where everything feels kind of sleepy. Like giving kids cake at a birthday party, having them go outside and play around for awhile, then bringing them back in for more cake. No matter how you cut it, the enthusiasm for the cake is never going to be as high the second time around.

But I’ll give it to Lawrence, this is really solid writing. I can totally see him writing a big action flick assignment in a few years if he keeps at it. And who knows, he might even get this one made. All the elements are there for a movie. No doubt about that. If he can pull off something a little more exciting with that second half, I may be in. Oh yeah, and this needs a new title! Scriptshadow Nation – Help him out!

Script link: Nerve And Sinew

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

What I learned: Never weigh your twist on the twist alone. What’s more important is what the twist does to your story afterwards. A great in-the-moment twist is worthless if it saps the air out of the balloon for the next 30 pages.

  • Bill Anthony Lawrence

    Awesome. Thank you for selecting it (I know the voting was close), and thank you for the review, Carson. What a great way to start the day! Looking forward to additional comments throughout the day.

    • Casper Chris

      Congrats Bill! You just bucked the trend of Wasn’t For Mes.

      This is not really my genre, but I might take a look later.

      • Bill Anthony Lawrence

        Thank you. Glad to buck that trend!

    • Erica

      I haven’t read all of it yet, was there any thought on some of the feed back about the beginning? Possible a re write or re think?

      Oh and Congrats!

    • For The Lulz

      Hey, Congrats!!!!!

      As someone who read the whole thing, I’m glad to see it got the AF spot and rating. Well earned. Well done!

      • Bill Anthony Lawrence

        Thanks, man. Really appreciate it, especially the full read. Hopefully we’ll be seeing THE HENCHMAN up here in a couple of weeks!

    • Scott Crawford

      As other people have said, TRUE congratulations on the Worth the Read. Just think: the first draft of Raiders scored a Worth the Read a few weeks back – and went on to score an impressive. Alternate titles, all from the word of UFC:

      Counter-Punch
      Dirty Boxing
      Fight Camp
      Hammer Fist
      Single Leg Takedown
      Superman Punch
      Technical Knockout
      Whizzer

      Not all gold, but you get the idea.

      • Casper Chris

        Triangle Choke

        Triangle = Roy, Sandra, The Terrorists (third entity, as Carson calls them).
        Choke(point) = the building

        • Scott Crawford

          I don’t know much about UFC – I just did a quick Google search. It MIGHT be worth Bill’s while to spend some time thinking of a new title… but I do quite like NERVE AND SINEW. It has a gritty feel. This is somewhat odd praise I know, but remember that old Hulk Hogan vehicle NO HOLDS BARRED. Terrible movie, probably, but terrific title, especially for wrestling fans (target audience).

        • Panos Tsapanidis

          Congrats to the writer!

          I wouldn’t put so much weight on the UFC part of the character. I assume it’s there to justify that he can kick ass.

          I would try to come up with words that describe the dynamic duo. If we imagine what the poster would look like, I assume Sandra and Roy would be on it occupying its prime real estate, so the duo part makes sense to me.

          • Scott Crawford

            It’s not so much the UFC part, but the kick ass part.

            Bullet to the Head? Means nothing. Great title. Tell you nothing about the PLOT, but it gives you an idea of the type of movie to expect.

          • Casper Chris

            I haven’t read the script. I was just going along.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Me neither. :)

          • Scott Crawford

            I’ve had a flick through it. It’s well-written, fast-paced. Kinda like The Raid more than Die Hard.

            The American Raid?

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Okay, spitballing here:

            1. Bodylock
            2. Something with the word ‘Bout” in it? (alternative name for a fight or contest.)
            3. Ground and Pound (nice ring to it, kinda B-movie cheesy though)

            hmmm…though one…

        • GoIrish

          I like the title “Chokepoint” (I’m getting the red squiggly line, so that may be two words).

          • Scott Crawford

            No, it’s one word.

            Suez Canal is a chokepoint. So is the building in this story. So is the hero throttling someone to death.

            CHOKEPOINT

          • brenkilco

            A word the military invented because bottleneck wasn’t macho enough.

          • GoIrish

            Good to know – it looks better as one word for a title, so I would have suggested keeping it that way even if incorrect.

        • Stephjones

          Anaconda Choke ( a variation of the triangle choke) Nicki Minaj in the role of Sandra.
          Easy to see that poster.

    • klmn

      Congrats on the worth the read. They’ve been too sparse recently.

    • Linkthis83

      Congrats, Bill. I managed to check out the first 25 today and have skipped around the script as well looking for answers to some of my questions.

      The opening scenes didn’t have me invested, but before I take you to task for that, I must pause and ask myself why. Is it because of your script/story or because of my personal interests? The answer is both.

      When DOWN TO THE WIRE was up for AOW it was compared to being a LETHAL WEAPON type story. While I love that movie, I’d never want to write that script, and I didn’t enjoy reading LW either . I think N&S falls under this category for me: a movie I’d watch, but not a script I’d want to read or a story I’d want to write. So that’s on me. But I also feel that yours conjures up too much DIE HARD for me.

      True there are many things in there that aren’t DH, but I feel too many elements that keep making me think DH. However, after looking at your script, I checked out DH. If that script was on here as an amateur offering, I’d probably not make it after the first 15 pages – I probably wouldn’t be invested. However, because I can HEAR the movie in my head as I read, it’s somewhat entertaining in script form. Which sucks, because that’s what a lot of readers on here forget at times when disliking scripts and comparing them to movies that exist.

      Things that reminded me of DH:

      -A building tower being wired with C-4 (the basement though)
      -The person is on the 30th floor (same as DH)
      -Hodder going to “negotiate” = Ellis
      -Holloway threatening Sandra’s career = Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson
      -The maid (+daugher) = Argyle

      I thought the opening scene could be much more interesting. Especially when Roy lets Toly and his THUGS off the hook. This whole scene felt like tension for tension’s sake. You could get the same result using REAL tension. Have Toly come straight in the front door with his thugs. You already have Roy not doing anything anyway, at least this way, it’s bold. This doesn’t muck up Marat’s motivation either. Make the set up around Roy’s choice more interesting. There are no real consequences to them sneaking into the bath house (not from Roy I mean).

      I want to be picky and say “Really? Marat was going to go with Bogdan, who can get jumped in a sauna, and because this is Roy’s sauna, and Roy let it happen, now Marat is going to make him take Bogdan’s place?” – Roy is ex special forces and former UFC light heavyweight champion AND Marat’s already done his homework – seems like Roy would’ve been the choice anyway. — But this all happens so early in the story, that people probably won’t put all that together and will just go along for the ride. The necessary suspension of disbelief.

      Does the UFC part really matter? When I read the logline, it made me wonder why you’d ever choose this guy to be a kidnapper. It’s not like being an ultimate fighter makes you able to commit crimes better. And it turns out he has to break into a high security apartment skyrise. This assignment is especially not built for Roy – I had to read the script to learn that Roy is ex special forces – well that sound a lot more relevant than former UFC fighter – I think it’s just piling on too much. Or falls under the category of “well, I want him to be a former UFC champ, but I NEED him to also be ex-special forces.”

      Also for me, what makes DH great is that it takes a regular Joe and puts him in a scenario. He has skills and training, but not for something like this, and it’s based on his ability, motivation and pure stubborness that allows him to succeed. This is what’s also great about COLLATERAL – you have the super killer, but then you have the average taxi cab driver that gets the best of him.

      One other nitpick = Holloway, Hodder, Holmesdale – maybe change at least one to something else.

      –I like your writing. Some of the visuals were hard for me to follow, but sometimes I’m uber dense as well. I didn’t read the whole thing, but did want to check it out. Especially for getting a WTR – congrats again.

      –I don’t mind when writers explain their choices. In fact, I love it. I hate that there’s this bullshit belief that a writer can’t defend their work. That’s crap. I’m here to learn. If writer’s don’t explain their goals/intentions, then I can’t I understand what I missed, or I don’t have the ability to offer suggestions that might help.

      Good luck with this.

      If you are struggling finding a good title, then just explain to somebody what you think is great about your main character, or characters, or what you think the highlight of this concept is. And in that explanation, you will use a phrase that might just sum up the title exactly as you need it to.

      LETHAL WEAPON is a buddy cop film, but the main character IS the lethal weapon. Murtah says it, and Riggs is this way because of the loss of his wife. So it’s true, and we learn why.

      DIE HARD is a major exception to me and also why I think it’s a great title. Nobody ever uses that phrase unless they are talking about the movie. If fact, it really makes no sense, but it’s great and sums up the character of McClane. I’m really surprised they didn’t call this one HARD TO KILL (which came out after DH).

      Perhaps someone already said the title of your movie somewhere in the dialogue. If not, I promise you, try explaining what makes this story great and unique and you’ll find your title – I even thought of highlighting Carson’s statement about enemies being in a TEMPORARY TRUCE – but I don’t think that quite works here.

      Sorry for the epic. Congrats and good luck.

      • Bill Anthony Lawrence

        Thank you for the read and comments. Very much appreciated. If you have time to read on, that would be great because you seem thoughtful and I’d appreciate any other notes you can provide (even if I disagree with some of what you say ; )).

      • mulesandmud

        Another DIE HARD connection:

        John McClane goes by the name ‘Roy’ for most of the movie, as in Roy Rogers, to keep his identity hidden from Hans.

    • Jeremiah

      Hey there Bill, great work! Would love to ask you some questions over email but noticed it wasn’t on the script. Name is Jeremiah, I’m a filmmaker in LA. Please email me at your convenience: jonesjcj@yahoo.com

  • JA

    While I think Carson you have a solid point in terms of “quality” or what is being written in the sphere that surrounds us, I have to say the difficulty in getting a script to this site and then having it judged by those around is the most difficult process. I’ve tried to get my action / war drama on here, without any avail and yet to this day on the BlackList it remains in the top 3 for war, and the top 10 for both Drama and Action. Thus, I have to be honest with that and say that maybe it isn’t the submissions that are the problem, but the process in which the submissions are vetted? Are the scripts actually out there, but being missed? C

    • Erica

      As others have done. post an OT logline and script here, maybe some will be able to read and provide a little feedback.

      • JA

        Thanks, Erica. I think more than anything else I was really just referring to the “quality” comment Carson was making at the beginning of his piece today. I have 7 reviews from readers over on the BlackList and even some going as far as to say that not only could it attract a-list talent, but be “awards fodder”. I’m not necessarily agreeing with that perspective, but the topic of “quality” submissions came up and I thought I would weigh in because with the difficulty in getting this script on the site, but then it being called “quality” by others, I’m sort of sitting in that unique spot in between both sides…

        • Erica

          Yeah, that makes sense what your saying. I think a lot of it comes down to how your selling your script. That said, the same sales pitch on BlackList may not work for the people who read here. I’m sure there are a lot of scripts that are passed over that could turn out to be “worth the read”.

          It kind of reminds me of a crime scene. You need to have the right people at the right time to connect the DNA for everything to work.

          The only way into this business is to keep trying and keep pushing. The more you believe the more others will believe you.

        • Randy Williams

          JA, did you write the Forest Brothers script? Something in your comments reminded me of that writer’s comments during that AOW free-for-all day. I read some of that and hope to finish it when I have time. I’ve read books on that history before. It is a unique story. I can see how that script received the praise it did, however, I didn’t see a hook that separated it from other historical perspectives on that period. Most of all, I’m not sure it will get traction from our usual AOW crowd to push it along to Carson. Take a look at this review on a well done WWII history script, The Cloud Factory, and comments after it. In my opinion many of these thoughts would apply to the “brothers” script.
          http://scriptshadow.net/amateur-friday-the-cloud-factory/

          • JA

            Randy, I appreciate the feedback and I think you’re right in that this likely isn’t for the “aow usual crowd” script but I guess that speaks to a larger issue then if over the last 5 years the AOW crowd pulled those scripts into the top spots and that has left a few head scratches. I will also say that much like any script half-way through and not fully read, the full scope has yet to be seen, so I’d be interested in your take once you finished, because that SO FAR seems to be everyone’s favorite part. Thanks again! I appreciate your comments.

          • davejc

            Wait. What’s being said here? That the “aow usual crowd” values certain type scripts over “quality”? I wasn’t aware there was a consensus. And quality can be subjective.

            I ignored Five Years posts yesterday considering it the opinion a lone dissenter. I thought the list pretty good. But it seems Carson(based on today’s review) took those opinions to heart.

            I checked out the Cloud Factory review, but the focus seems to have center around “drama” and “structure”.

            “Structure” is like the “Holy Trinity”. People reference it but nobody wants to explain it.

            Can somebody explain the structure of “American Beauty”?

          • JA

            davejc, I think with the “aow usual crowd” comment, that was actually referring to genre. Just that maybe the very topic of such a script wouldn’t be interesting for others at first glance, which is pretty understandable because that’s largely how most of us pick out the films we watch — first looking at a title, genre, and then trailer, so that I think is a valid point. My point in that though, was to say that maybe because those “voting” or writing in or whatever it is they’re doing, they could be missing some sort of quality because of a focus on just a single genre or perhaps 80/20 for two genres (maybe 3?). ahahah

          • klmn

            There are genres that are more popular, both here and in the marketplace. Action is popular, horror is popular, especially supernatural horror. Scifi is popular.

            Found footage is popular here, probably more so than in the current marketplace. Same with contained thrillers.

          • davejc

            Well I have no doubt there are “impressive” scripts buried in Carson’s inbox. But it can’t be helped, the vetting process here is as good as can be. And one thing about this site that keeps me submitting is I believe Carson is fair and even handed. And I don’t believe anybody is gaming the system like they do on BL.

        • klmn

          Of course, Carson’s day job is doing script notes. If you really want his opinion you can retain him. I’ve done that on one script.

          Of course, he does have his favorite genres, like everyone else.

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      Hmmm…that’s a tough but good point that should be examined by Carson. For example, the logline of today’s script definitely doesn’t get a ‘worth the read’, but the script, different story.

    • klmn

      All this site can do for a script is get it exposure. It sounds like your script already has that.

      Hasn’t the BlackList led to reads from producers/managers/agents?

      • JA

        KLMN, to be honest, I have no idea. I’ve been pretty busy with work and some other stuff, so I know it’s been on the site for, I don’t even know how long… a month or so or two or fro, who knows? Who’s read it? I have no idea. I can look at the stats or number of reads for a certain category of “person” but beyond that, I haven’t had anyone contact me directly. Do you know of anyone who has been contacted directly by industry people based upon how a script fares on the site? I do know that scripts and such get “featured” and I think I’ve read a few articles of scripts that have gone places, but for the most part, I haven’t read of a “no name” such as myself just putting a script up, having it score fairly well with some solid feedback and then garnering interest that way. All a crap-shoot I guess…

        • walker

          Yes there have been a handful of instances where an unknown writer has secured representation and eventually assignment work through exposure from the Black List script evaluation service. With the success you’ve had, I wouldn’t doubt you have garnered a few reads. I also think if you query your script and highlight those BL numbers you will get a few more reads.

          • JA

            Walker, much appreciated and I was actually floating this idea around in my head because I felt the same as you — pointing to the site could be valuable, but then I also thought maybe those in the industry would be like – who cares? ahahah But, as they say, if you don’t try you’ll never know, so I’ll give it a shot some time soon.

          • walker

            Hey JA, have you ever queried before? Because it would be in your interest to go about it carefully, so as not to waste any opportunity. My questions would be: what are your BL ratings like? and is this your first script, or do you have others that are in decent shape? I ask as a guy who has wasted a few opportunities.

          • Casper Chris

            Why is JA replying to JA? I’m confused.

          • JA

            So am I. I’m not sure where you see that?

          • Casper Chris

            Like davejc said, it’s a Disqus glitch, apparently. Refreshing helped.

          • davejc

            On my screen Walker is replying to Walker. I’ve seen it before. It’s a glitch. Reload your browser and it will correct.

          • walker

            That’s not a glitch, that’s just another day at the office for me.

          • JA

            I feel you. Most queries I think are a waste of time as well, although I’ve never had anything to point back to in a query. The last query I did got one of the creators of the show Boss blowing up my cell phone, but after more than an hour conversation and what I thought was left on a fairly high note, ended up going nowhere.

          • walker

            HW is a town where your successes are ethereal and your failures are set in stone. From the comments above it seems that your script may be in the amorphous “Consider Writer” zone, that is why it would be a good idea to have something ready when they ask what else you’ve got. If you mention that you are in the BL top scripts in your query, they will probably at least go look at it on the site. This is both a good and bad thing about the BL, it is convenient for them but it eliminates the need for them to interact with you personally, and such interaction can be beneficial to the writer.

          • JA

            Sounds about right. And, the script I was referring to with the guy from Boss is an entirely different script as well. I have about 5 or so I could probably send. I’d rather have just 1 kick-ass saleable, but at the moment I’m still working on that. Next stop: TV.

          • walker

            That is a good idea. You will find that most of the managers that will have anything to do with unknowns will also be highly biased toward pilots as opposed to features. Call it Mickey Fisher syndrome.

          • Jaco

            Queries are definitely not a waste of time! Why would you think that? It’s just a combination of having a great concept, getting the query to the right person on the right day, and, then, hoping your words on the page do their intended job.

            If a writer is sending out queries and only hearing crickets – it probably means a few things. (1) The concept sucks; (2) the query sucks; and/or (3) the writer’s timing sucks.

            From what I’ve been told – some industry pros do care about the Black List – though it really only does you good to mention it in a query if you’ve received an 8 or above. For a 7, you might just mention it was “highly received” or “a Black List reader really connected with the script” kind of thing.

            Be proactive!

          • JA

            Jaco, you’re right and that was probably a bad choice of words on my part, which leads me to think of the House of Cards Spacey quote when he’s talking to Mara in his house and she flippantly disregards the difference between words. His response: “you should really care more about them given your chosen profession.” I’ll take that same advice now. Thanks for the retort!

        • klmn

          I was under the impression that the BL has led to a number of signings, but maybe I was wrong – or maybe the BL has overhyped its success rate.

          If you’re not being contacted, you should do like Walker suggests and start querying.

    • carsonreeves1

      You probably pitched it in last Saturday’s thread. But pitch the logline again here where there’s less noise. If it’s good, I’ll put it in the next batch. If not, Scriptshadow Nation will help.

      • JA

        Alright, although I’m not convinced it’s this site’s cup of tea, I’ll take you up on the offer…

        Title: The Forest Brothers
        Genre: Action War Drama
        Logline: A young man reluctantly joins the underground resistance of the Forest Brothers movement to avenge the loss of his family and defeat the Soviets as they attempt to take the country of Estonia and its people off the world map forever.
        Someone prior mentioned needing a better understanding of the time period and while they mentioned WWII this is actually at the end of the WWII. I was probably presumptuous to think people would know about it, considering the last Soviet soldier didn’t leave the country until 1991, although I can definitely see the point there. However, it applies directly to today as we saw with President Obama’s traveling to Estonia recently, given that everyone fully understands the diabolical nature of the Soviets (past and present) and the fact that Estonia, just 1 of the 3 invaded Balkan countries, would be susceptible to a Soviet invasion even in today’s world.
        Also, someone mentioned “how does this stand apart” and for me, that’s an easy one (outside of the fact that people flip out today when one person dies — we were celebrating the “end” of WWII while MASS genocide was taking place and no one was doing anything about it – pre-twitter), as the people of Estonia were pushed into the forests and therefore had to create underground safe havens and a life that existed primarily in the forests themselves, that’s where the setting for this story resides.
        I’ll also point to the ending and how that is also different.

        • ChadStuart

          I can try to help a little. I’d consider moving some stuff around in your logline to make it more impactful.

          For instance, he reluctantly joins the resistance to avenge the loss of his family. That reads like he’s reluctant to avenge his family. I’m pretty sure that you mean he’s just not interested in the resistance, but rather more interested into just going after the soviets for killing his family. But it doesn’t read that way at first blush.

          I think it’s also a mistake to not mention the time frame. WWII sells because we’re very familiar with it. With that said, I’d leave out the idea of it being in Estonia. Let’s be honest, most people aren’t that familiar with Estonian history. If you do a quiz on the street, most people would think Estonia is a fictional place.

          I’d try to focus on the identifiable parts of your story. Revenge is a universal feeling. So is fighting for freedom. I’d concentrate on that. This is my suggestion:

          At the tail end of WWII, a Northern European freedom fighter seeks vengeance against the invading Soviets who murdered his family.

          Broadening Estonia to Europe will click better with more people since Europe is obviously better associated with WWII than Estonia. Beyond that, it’s about revenge. It’s personal. People can put themselves in that character’s shoes.

          I hope this helps you out.

          • JA

            Great advice! Thanks for your time. Much appreciated.

        • Randy Williams

          It’s Baltic, not “Balkan” countries. I’m sure that was just a slip.

          Your “how does this stand apart” still doesn’t do it for me. Estonia has produced several films on this tragic history, a stunning mini-series. How can you do it better than the Estonians themselves? Maybe you can, but they’ve covered the basics. Again, not to say the writing isn’t good, I enjoyed the read. You may well be some day the go to guy for historical treatments, I don’t know.

          This genocide occurred in differing degrees in other Socialist invaded countries, too. What sets it apart in some way for Americans is it’s something most of us have never heard of. Most Europeans know this history. I was educated a great deal in American schools about Nazi atrocities against Jews but hardly anything on Socialist atrocities against Christians. Men, women and children, blond hair and blue eyes loaded into rail cars if not shot first and sent to Siberian labor camps to die of hard labor and cold. (I think I read somewhere 10,000 Estonian children made that journey?) A friend of mine is Polish. Her relative was sent to Siberia the same way, the small son of a teacher. The train had to be averted and derailed in Iran, where he settled!

          • JA

            Thanks for the comments, Randy. Much appreciated! Honestly, it wasn’t something I was setting out to write, but when I visited the country years ago there was an amazing juxtaposition between the beauty of the surroundings and the brutality that the people faced. Should I ever get it to AOW I’d like Carson to post the photos I took of the country as they are some of the most loved photos I’ve ever taken (I’m also a photographer). I didn’t really set out with the intention of being the “go-to history guy” but just to create a fictional story inside of a historically accurate one. And, one of the first things I thought was, “in terms of character, who would literally be the most opposite character I could create versus those that surround him?” And, that’s where Paavo came from. From there I pulled in the family and put them in their setting. Obviously, this is Paavo’s story and his evolution into a man, but his arc I find more interesting because it doesn’t end the way everyone thinks it will. Thanks again for the feedback!

      • davejc

        Well Scott seems to think an outline or a synopsis is a better way to evaluate a script than a logline (see yesterday’s thread),

        I can’t say I disagree with him.

        • klmn

          Let’s see how next week’s Scene Showdown goes. At least you can evaluate the writing.

          • davejc

            That’s right. Dialogue Week is coming up. Hope mine gets picked:)

          • klmn

            I hope your scene gets picked too.

            Right after mine.

      • JA

        Alright Carson, I’ve sent the pitch in… now it’s in the hands of the almighty and powerful… thank you to everyone who provided feedback! So much appreciated! It’s great to have the quality feedback! Thank you again.

  • Randy Williams

    Congrats to the writer for a rare “Worth The Read”!

    The beginning I read on AOW, I praised as some of the best writing I’d seen on here. I didn’t think the concept would present me anything new, however. Glad I was proved wrong as the writer had plenty of surprises up his sleeve.

    As for a new title, some UFC terminology utilized, perhaps. “Lay And Pray”?

    • Casper Chris

      Lay and Pray has very negative connotations for UFC/fight fans. Might as well call your movie “Boring” then.

      • Scott Crawford

        I put down a few UFC terms above/below. I think that’s the best title hook, rather than emphasizing the building or the plot or the theme. Like:

        Hotel Raid
        The Russian Job
        Desperate Actions

        Not good. Titles CAN be tough. It’s good to have a HIVE MIND for things like this.

        • Bill Anthony Lawrence

          Thanks, guys. The original title was INCURSION, but it seemed a little bland, so I switched it up. But I’m certainly open to suggestions. There really aren’t too many UFC elements to the script (other than Roy being a former UFC fighter), so I was thinking something more along the lines of capturing the events or who these characters are.

          • Scott Crawford

            Onslaught
            Condominium

            99 to 1

            The less clever the title the better. Better to call it something bland and generic like REDEMPTION than something too-on-the-nose.

          • Randy Williams

            Referring to the building and the sauna at the beginning and remembering a Russian female friend of mine called a skyscraper a

            “Cloud Rub”

          • klmn

            Language evolves. I believe “skyscraper” was previously a term used for sailing vessels, now sometimes called “tall ships.”

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Try to imagine what the movie poster would look like. It might help.

          • mulesandmud

            Somebody mentioned CHOKEPOINT above. Better write that one down; it’s perfect. Plot-relevant for sure, and even though it has nothing to do with UFC, it almost feels like it does, so you get the connotation without the easy pun.

            TAKEDOWN would also be good; has layers of meaning in both the grappling and a crime world, and is general without being totally generic.

            Best of luck with it!

          • Nicholas J

            Takedown sounds badass and seems like it fits nicely. I like it. Chokepoint sounds alright, but doesn’t make much sense to me.

          • Bill Anthony Lawrence

            Yeah I really like CHOKEPOINT. Strong Consider for that title.

          • Casper Chris

            I think Chokepoint is really strong as well (not just because I suggsted it).

        • Nicholas J

          That’d be like naming Jaws “Under Arrest” because Brody’s a sheriff.

          Why wouldn’t you want to reference the building or the plot or the theme in the title? That’s exactly what a great movie title does.

          • Scott Crawford

            Because the “Die Hard in a Building” bit is less original than the UFC bit. When I look at most modern movie posters, like The Equalizer, the emphasis is on the lead actor, gun in hand, explosion behind them (usually), rather than the location or plot. I can see (say) Andrew Lincoln, face bloody, Glock (or whatever) in hand. The tagline: HE WANTS OUT. THEY WANT IN.

            NERVE AND SINEW

            Or whatever.

            Anyway, what’s your title?

          • Nicholas J

            I don’t have one because I haven’t read it.

            Carson is right, Nerve and Sinew needs to go. It’s awkward and sounds like it’s a medical movie or something. I like to imagine people walking up to the ticket counter to pay for the movie, and envisioning them saying the movie title. “Two for Nerve and Sinew.” Sounds a bit silly out loud, no?

            I doubt most people even know what “sinew” means.

            Die Hard. That’s a title. Jaws. Network. Star Wars. Back to the Future. Jurassic Park. Robocop. Mars Attacks! Those are great titles. They perfectly represent the films and you can envision what you’re getting yourself into if you go see it.

            Nerve and Sinew. Say it out loud. It doesn’t even sound like a thing. Nervinsinew. What the hell is a nervinsnew?

            Maybe I’ll read it and come back with some suggestions. The script sounds pretty cool from the review. Nice work getting the worth the read Bill Anthony Lawrence!

          • Scott Crawford

            The “Two for Nerve and Sinew” is a good point, and I’ve said it before with scripts with titles like, I don’t know, The Rural Juror or Silly Goose. But I think NERVE AND SINEW may be right for the target audience.

            I wasn’t “having a pop at you”, I just want LOTS of people to submit titles. We need 100 titles, then Bill can pick his favorite (if he wants).

          • Nicholas J

            Lol Rural Juror. Exactly what I’m getting at. Forgot about that joke.

          • Scott Crawford

            The sequel was going to be Urban Fervor.

          • Casper Chris

            Agreed. Nerve and Sinew is a terrible title.

            Although “Two for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue either.

          • Nicholas J

            Yeah, but I’m not a fan of that title either. Or Lucky Number Slevin. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Coriolanus. See, it even happens to Shakespeare! Hell, The Shawshank Redemption is a pretty bad title as well.

          • Casper Chris

            Yea. I suppose Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels captures the tone of the movie. That might be its saving grace.

          • Meta5

            Morgan Freeman was on Jimmy Kimmel last night, saying the reason he thinks Shawshank didn’t perform at the box office was because nobody wanted to figure out how to pronounce the title. So they went to whatever other easy to pronounce title was playing instead.

          • klmn

            Of course. It should have been called the Shaw ‘Nuff Redemption. Somethin’ everyone can understand.

          • Scott Crawford

            I think – I THINK – Ritchie and Vaughn came up with that title as a joke and just stuck with it. Four Weddings and a Funeral (originally Four Weddings and a Honeymoon until Helen Fielding urged him to drop the honeymoon and add something darker) was a working title. In the published screenplay, Curtis lists ALL the alternate titles they had. It came down to:

            The Best Man
            Four Weddings and a Funeral

        • Erica

          What about

          UpperCut
          Make No Mistake

          This is Real
          Kill Cam

          Ruskie

        • Kirk Diggler

          “Thirty Floors to ________”

          I wonder if the writer has seen “The Raid”? Instead of fighting his way up, he fights his way down? Not sure if that is what happens here in “N&S”, but if the thirty floors come into play it might be something to consider..

          • Linkthis83

            I was going to suggest something like:

            THIRTY FLOOR TAKEDOWN

          • Paul Clarke

            Also sounds like the latest Judge Dredd movie. Except there were heaps more floors.

          • Bill Anthony Lawrence

            Thank you for the suggestion. I actually have not seen The Raid (am ashamed to admit that). I really need to, as N&S has been frequently compared to it.

          • Nicholas J

            Little known fact, Die Hard was originally called Thirty Floors of Ass Kicking, but then they realized the building only had 27 floors, and Twenty-seven Floors of Ass Kicking didn’t quite have the same ring to it. It’s true because I saw it on IMDB’s trivia page once.

          • davejc

            The Raid was what I was thinking as well.

      • Randy Williams

        This is not a pure UFC story. Lay and Pray in my suggestion refers to where the protagonist is at the beginning of the story and what he fights as he goes from ground up in this building.

        Kind of like a baseball story called “Strike Out”

        but, for UFC fans, yeah, it may suggest boredom.

    • Nicholas J

      Lay and Pray sounds cool, but it’s so passive. Am I going to see a movie about a guy that just lays there as he gets his ass kicked?

  • Dan B

    Just touching on the Bulls commentary – the try hard Bulls who can dominate during the regular season only to get whooped by a more talented team in the playoffs. I love the Bulls effort, love that T has them revving at redline levels all season – until the playoffs when Noah looks like a hobbled AARP member. I hope this season has some change – they’ve got the Spanish Invasion and sharpshooter rookie. Wish I could be more excited for Rose… he’s been looking… err…. okay in World Competition.

  • Dan B

    Congrats on the WTR – havn’t gotten to this one yet, hopefully this weekend.

  • Scott Crawford

    Actually, now that I think about it… I LIKE the title NERVE AND SINEW. It’s gritty.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dump it, not unless you get a lot of negative feedback.

  • ChadStuart

    Always the bridesmaid…

    Congrats, Bill, on the good review. You deserve it.

    • Bill Anthony Lawrence

      Thank you, sir. It seemed like the voting was very close. I really wasn’t sure what to expect this morning. I would not have been surprised to see yours up here instead.

      • ChadStuart

        Actually, the same thing happened to me last year. I lost out to another script, “Submerged” that similarly got a good review. I’d rather lose out to a quality script because that means I’m at least in good company.

  • cjob3

    “This is just like Speed 2! Only on a bus instead of a boat.” – Millhouse

    • hickeyyy

      “I saw this movie about a bus that had to SPEED around the city, keeping its SPEED over fifty, and if its SPEED dropped, it would explode! I think it was called “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down”.

  • Paul Clarke

    “I’m a Chicago Bulls fan. Which has been hard since Michael Jordan left the team. We have zero talent on our team.”

    D. Rose is back this season, Carson. Fingers crossed.

  • rickhester

    The story about the Bulls coach reminded me of Steve Jobs’ ‘Reality Distortion Field.’

    ‘You did the impossible, because you didn’t know it was impossible.’ – Debi Coleman, one of Apple’s earliest hires.

  • steveblair

    Excellent job, Bill. I was riveted. I especially liked how you were able to give empathy to small characters with little screen time. And, of course, nothing says GSU like watching a beheading! Good luck with this. Perhaps a new, potential title should tie into why you named the building Montross in the first place.

    • Bill Anthony Lawrence

      Thanks for the read and the kind words. Glad you liked it!

  • Nicholas J

    self delusional egomaniacs everywhere

    AKA writers.

    • guest

      No one sells but a very very select few who manage to be in just the right spot at just the right time.

      My script “Undertow” is just as good as “Upstream Color”. Or “Under the Skin”.

      That’s not boasting, because those scripts have major problems.

      I’ll go on any stage in the world and dissect any argument you had to the contrary.

      • Nicholas J

        what

  • Bill Anthony Lawrence

    Haha, I know. Bad timing, right? Maybe next year if it’s an annual thing.

  • Stephjones

    Agree. I was also unimpressed by the opening and had zero desire to read on. It all seemed a bit silly and camp. Lost me when the protag, an almost mythical bad ass, opened the door and was tasered. Easy peasy and off we go to the bad guy’s house.
    Sorry, man. I would definitely rethink that first 10.

  • Stephjones

    Who only listen to the voices in their head?

    Okay, man. Since you’re struggling so…I’d change Undertow to Undertoad and be done with it.

    • klmn

      Yeah, like Underdog but with an amphibian.

  • Bill Anthony Lawrence

    To each their own, I guess. But thanks for the read and comments. Would be great if you read the whole thing, but if the first 10 didn’t do it for you, I understand. Am tempted to address a few points, but I have enough experience and battle scars to know that’s pointless.

  • carsonreeves1

    The opening is one of the weaker parts of the script (although I didn’t see it nearly as bad as this). I think Bill’s trying to get a lot of exposition in and setting up characters and it probably needs a “smooth out” rewrite or two. The script really does pick up though.

    I laughed at the wood-chipper moment. Thought it was a funny cut. But I guess it is a stretch that it would be used in NYC.

    • Bill Anthony Lawrence

      That was actually one of the things I wanted to address. The wood-chipper scene takes place at an enclosed outdoor garden center in the far reaches of Brooklyn (hard to believe, but there are parts of NYC where something like that would be possible without drawing too much attention). In my head, it’s pretty clear, but if I was someone reading it from outside of NYC, I guess I can understand the confusion/improbability of it.

      • Linkthis83

        This is one of those scenes that I wanted to respond to with “logistics” first, but then realized, sometimes these scenes need to exist. And should. That’s the fun of creating these stories. Creating things others might say “couldn’t” happen. — Plus, as you’ve already stated, it is possible. :)

      • mulesandmud

        It would help if you mentioned some of this context in the actual script. I live in Brooklyn, and the chipper beat still gave me pause.

        As written, you don’t say ‘Brooklyn’ at all. You cut from the East Village to the inside of a van. There’s a mention of the Verrazano Bridge (could mean Brooklyn or Staten Island) and the Belt Parkway (Brooklyn, but even some New Yorkers won’t know that). Then hardware store. Then a scene back in Manhattan.

        Since you clearly imagine a significant change in landscape (dense downtown Manhattan to sparse industrial outer Brooklyn), you should say so. If you don’t write it, then readers won’t see it, they’ll just assume nothing’s changed and think of it all as The City.

        • Bill Anthony Lawrence

          Definitely see what you’re saying. This is why I wanted to share the script. Notes like this and others are very helpful when you’re so “in your script” that you can’t see otherwise.

  • craze9

    You are nitpicking in an unconstructive (and kind of obnoxious) way, which undermines the point you’re trying to make — that the first 10 pages could be better. I read the first 6, and I agree they could be better, but the way you make them better is by focusing on STORY and CHARACTER, not technical quibbles that no one in the industry actually cares about. Can it work as a movie? How well? Those are the questions that matter, and even readers who go through 5 scripts a day know that — if they give a pass because of non-caps characters or too much description when the story is good, they get fired.

    • august4

      I seem to recall a CHAINSAW in MIAMI during the day in an apartment in Scarface…. I wouldn’t be too worried about it.

  • peisley

    Title: “Strike-Point.” It’s in the dialogue. Sounds action-y.

  • Midnight Luck

    Congrats to the writer on the AmFri coverage and nabbing the good rating.

    TITLE:
    Dirt Nap
    Smile: With Teeth
    The Last Nerve

    So I haven’t read any further than I did when this was up on AoW the other weekend. If I have time I will read more, as it sounds to get better and more streamlined as the story goes.

    I do feel like the beginning needs a complete reworking, if for no other reason than to help it be easier to understand and smooth.

    This brings up more points though. Maybe the writer didn’t realize or have anyone to read this script. But if the readers on here almost unilaterally found the first pages to be the least effective in terms of cohesiveness, why not change them? I have to assume the writer just didn’t realize these pages didn’t work as well as the rest of the script. It does go to show though, that those first 10 pages, MUST be absolutely top notch. If they aren’t, many, many of your readers will be out. No matter how great the rest of the script is. The reader NEEDS to be completely hooked by your first 10, or I would even say first 15-20 pages, in order to reach those more effective pages later on.

    In case you (the author) didn’t get my comments from the other week, I will repost them.
    Take or leave (of course) whatever you please. All these notes are just gut feelings and responses as I read.

    My PREVIOUS NOTES:

    NERVE AND SINEW

    Need to again reference the Structure of sentences and placement in them of important images you want us to focus on.

    I am not a fan of the Title overall. I think there enough people who won’t really know what SINEW is. It also has a very negative sound to it. A dirty, unpleasant image. Maybe that is what the writer is going for. Nerve has multiple meanings or connotations so I get it. It also is an interesting word. Not sure about Sinew.

    Again, the OPENER has confusing imagery and makes it difficult as to what the writer wants us to be seeing.

    EXT. BUILDING – DAY

    A hulking man stands in front of the basement window of a
    brownstone rowhouse, repurposed for commercial use.

    Ok, we are at a “Building”? While I understand there are huge arguments about what is really needed in a script, I am of the impression that at least “some” info helps us understand where we are, what might be going on, and gives us a “PLACE”. I don’t feel this does.

    As the script goes on, the writer tries to make up for this by placing necessary info in the Action lines, but it just confuses things further.

    Let’s get back to the Action line though. So next:

    A hulking man stands in front of the basement window of a
    brownstone rowhouse, repurposed for commercial use.

    Why does “repurposed for commercial use” come at the end of this intro? I have no idea what this means or why it is necessary. It is a confusing bit of info, that actually isn’t needed and jumbles up the sentence. It is separate from the idea you are presenting about a MAN in front of a basement window.

    Then, it gets more problematic:

    Behind him — four thugs pry the basement window open.

    Two simple sentences and I have no idea what I am supposed to be seeing. A Hulking man is standing in front of a basement window. Are only his feet in front of the window? or is he level with the window? Does he know the 4 thugs are breaking through? Are they coming after him? Is he with them?

    How can four thugs be prying open the window when they are BEHIND him? If he is in front, we should have been told all 5 of them were in front of the window, with him as a “lookout”, if that is in fact what is happening. If they are on the inside trying to pry it open to get to him, waiting on the outside, but still “in front” of them, well, the whole structure of how this image is created in the readers mind should be reconstructed.

    Now we get to the writer changing what we are seeing:

    Up above, over the front door, sits a sign that reads:
    ‘RUSSIAN BATHS AND HEALTH CLUB.
    EAST VILLAGE, NYC’

    So only now, do we learn that this is actually a Russian Bath house. Now again the sentence doesn’t flow as it begins, “Up above, over the front door, sits a sign that reads:”. It would have been much quicker, with fewer mental gymnastics of what was going on to say

    “A sign hangs over the front door: RUSSIAN BATHS”

    Again, another sentence needing to be orchestrated a bit better:

    The pack of four thugs crouches through the basement window.

    They approach the door to the sauna.

    I am not sure what exactly it means by “Four thugs crouches through the basement window”. The images are a bit difficult to put together mentally. I get the overall understanding of what the writer “wants” the reader to understand from the words they are typing. But I think so much of this could be structured better. Simplify, show us what we need to see. Don’t try to impress us with odd sentence construction, or by adding unnecessary “flair” where it confuses as opposed to showing.

  • Bill Anthony Lawrence

    Thanks for all the suggestions on the title. As I said earlier, my original title was INCURSION, but it just wasn’t doing it for me (and thanks to a Black List review for confirming that). So I switched it to NERVE AND SINEW, which is from the Kipling poem ‘If’ (“if you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to force their turn long after they’re gone”), but I can accept that it doesn’t work under the circumstances.

    As was suggested below, I think CHOKEPOINT works really well. I am strongly considering it as I work to further improve the script.

    • Kirk Diggler

      I like Chokepoint too. It conjures up visceral images, which I think complements your story.

    • Citizen M

      Chokepoint is a good title, but not for this movie. There is no chokepoint in the movie.
      TAKEDOWN would be my choice.
      Or something with “block” in the title, like DOUBLE BLOCK.
      Or something with “defense” in the title, like DEFEND AND ENGAGE.
      Or something with the notion of “escape” or “rescue”. RESCUE KILL.
      (Don’t like the last two.)

  • lesbiancannibal

    http://www.totalfilm.com/features/50-best-movie-screenplays

    Sorry to dump this here NAS writer, but it’s a fun read.

    I’d love SS to expand the forums so there were actual forums rather than just blog comments – it would give you a hell of a lot more clicks/advertising and we could post links etc.

    It could become a full on internet screenwriting link-led resource/college type thingy.

    • klmn

      You can post links. Just paste ‘em in.

      • lesbiancannibal

        no I understand that, it’s just it’s always in the context of something else, rather than say, a structure thread, or characters thread etc, no what I mean?

    • Malibo Jackk

      Love the comments about the scripts.
      (Some of the best Why You Should Reads I’ve ever read.)

  • klmn

    Are you the writer of Origin Of A Species? I know Carson liked the first draft of that.

  • Tom

    Congrats on the positive read, Bill!

    The script really moves. You have a great skill at action and pace.

    However, I feel the script undercuts the most intriguing aspects of your premise. Two things hooked me in your log line – “A UFC fighter” in a “Mumbai style attack.”

    That’s a solid combination. A guy who can win any one-on-one, hand-to-hand fight is thrown against a swarm of heavily armed terrorists. Suddenly, his greatest skill is rendered obsolete. It’s nicely ironic. I expected to see a man who has always punched his way out of problems be forced to use skill and endurance to evade and, ultimately, outwit his adversary. I was therefore surprised when, early on, you say that he’s ex-special forces. With that one character trait, you undid his major selling point. Every action-thrillers stars a retired special forces operative going back for one last mission. Suddenly, Roy wasn’t that unique of a character anymore.

    Then there’s the other half of your log line – “Mumbai style attack.” The terrifying thing about Mumbai was the ruthlessly calculated way in which it was performed. Room-to-room, killing everyone. Systematic. Their mission was body count. Cold and terrifying. That’s truly scary because you can’t just give them the McGuffin they’re chasing and make them go away. You can’t reason with them. You can’t threaten them (a Mumbai terrorist would never give false intel to his comrades, asking them to activate the elevators). The way that Toly was portrayed as this calm, suave, Hans Gruber-esque bad guy with a master plan ultimately made him less scary. It was a villain we’ve seen before.

    I would have been more interested in watching Roy try to complete his mission during a true Mumbai-style massacre. This would give Roy very tough choices. Innocent people are being slaughtered around him, and every time he helps one, he’s putting his own goals at risk. He can’t save everyone… can he?

    I don’t know if it’s politically feasible to do an action movie against the backdrop of a realistic terrorist attack, but it’s something I haven’t seen. It would be a dangerous choice. And dangerous choices are what get scripts noticed.

    Ultimately, there was too much familiar ground being trod in this script. Carson often laments familiarity. I see that being played out here, especially in the first 10 pages. I’ve seen saunas and tanning beds being locked shut as a means of torture. I’ve seen the so-calm-he-must-be-scary mob boss in his bland-yet-sinister front company, giving our hero an offer he can’t refuse while someone gets tortured in the background. I’ve seen people scamper up chutes and ducts. I’ve seen the bad guys sneak into the building by pretending to be maintenance workers. I HAVEN’T seen someone shoot out the elevator cables so they can drop down a few floors. That was cool. I HAVEN’T seen a grotesque beheading. I don’t know if I’d call that cool, but it was different. It was a dangerous choice.

    It’s not that every choice has to be unique or dangerous, but there were too many safe choices in the first act for this script to really stand out.

    The style is definitely here. The pacing is there. Your ability to add immediate CROW (character-relationship-objective-where) to even minor characters is great. But I feel you need to really embrace the hooks in your premise, and show us some real “Wow!… I can’t believe he did that” moments.

    (Also, I’d cut out all the constant reminders of his daughter. He doesn’t need to pat her picture every 10 pages. We’ll remember why he’s there.)

    Good luck!

    • Bill Anthony Lawrence

      Thank you for the read and feedback. These notes are very helpful. I’ll admit one lingering doubt in my mind (ok, of course there’s more than one) has been whether I truly exploited what I thought was the true hook here — the Mumbai-style attack. You make a great point that it would be quite ironic for this larger than life UFC fighter to be completely neutralized in such a situation. Everything I’ve read about the Mumbai attack was terrifying, and to have someone who’s normally the baddest of bad asses rendered helpless is pretty compelling. Anyway, again, thanks for the read and notes. Glad (it seems) you enjoyed it for the most part.

  • Guest

    What about THE ROY FACTOR as the title?

  • Malibo Jackk

    Page 1, Scene 1
    seems to begin without a logical progression
    — and the scene leads to an awkward transition with Scene 2.

    First you begin with a reveal. (Why not build to the reveal instead?)
    1. You show us a bulking man and four thugs prying a basement window

    2. Then a sign.
    3. Then icicles hanging from a door frame.

    (Is this now more important than the sign?)

    4. Then the Empire State Building visible in the distance.
    Scene 2
    5. Now a man inside a sauna room
    (What is the connection between the Empire State Building and the man in the sauna?)

    6. Then back to the four thugs entering through the basement window.

    Think about changing the order: 4, 2, 3, 1, 6, 5
    and returning to”Toly” to complete scene 2.

    Just a suggestion. And hey — it’s from a guy who can write his way out of a paper bag.
    (Not sure what that means.)

  • Citizen M

    Worth the read. Some muscular action and plenty of twists and turns, but I had reservations.

    I read all 105 pages, but it read long, more like 120 or 130 pages. There were a couple of reasons for this.

    1. The writing does not follow the “one minute, one page” rule of thumb. For instance, climbing 30 stories up a garbage chute takes, what, an hour? It gets half a page. The three escaping to the apartment below via the elevator shaft would take many minutes. It gets half a page.

    2. I felt it was over-plotted. Eventually the plot intricacies get in the way of the action. The story was never allowed to gain momentum and pace for the big finish. There was always another twist to be worked in. There seems to be some sort of FBI conspiracy, which adds nothing to the action, and I literally rolled my eyes at Holmesdale’s treachery. Perhaps you could leave him out altogether.

    Some general comments:

    The dialogue was too even-toned. No one got excited or shouted. Everyone was calm and reasonable, even when all hell was breaking loose.

    The building itself has far too many shafts, tunnels, mazy corridors etc for a “magnificent glass skyscraper apartment building”, which suggests a modern building. Maybe if it was a remodeled old government building it would fit the bill. And doesn’t it have parking?

    The timing confused me. Toly’s men plant explosives in the basement and kill the super at night. Next day Sandra picks up Khamad from the airport after a mystery trip, and that night the main attack happens. Did no one discover the C-4 or the dead super during the day? What happened to the fake maintenance men? Did they leave or stay concealed?

    The attack by Toly’s men confused me. What was the plan? I’m guessing a visible attack as Chechen militants to cover the real purpose which was to exfiltrate Khamad, but I don’t see how they could have pulled it off with all the attention from SWAT teams etc they attracted. The plan seems doomed to fail. Was Toly actually a Chechen? We don’t know much about him.

    There’s talk of killing Americans, and they shoot people in the lobby, but do they go door to door killing people in a systematic way? It’s all rather confusing.

    Sandra and her boss Holloway confused me. They seemed to have some sort of secret plan, but I never figured out what it was. Is Khamad bait for… who, exactly? What were they hoping to accomplish by keeping him in the apartment.

    CI’s (presumably Confidential Informant, it’s never explained) normally carry on their daily business, or they are guarded and debriefed then given a new identity, but not both. Khamad seems to go off alone on an airplane and earn money for whatever he’s doing.

    Weaponry is not fully identified. What is a Sig Pro 2022 — pistol, assault rifle, something else? In general, introduce weapons by type and designation on first mention. I’m not online as I read this so I can’t quickly google it, and most readers are probably too rushed to do so anyway.

    Wouldn’t a Chechen informant be of interest to the CIA, not the FBI?

    There were quite a few things that confused me. I think maybe the writer knows his story too well and doesn’t explain it enough for the reader. He should sit next to someone reading the script for the first time and note all questions, then amend the script so everything is perfectly clear.

    Some comments made while reading:

    p. 1 – Describe the setting after the scene heading, then the people and what they are doing. Not the other way around.

    p. 1 – Toly needs to be introduced with age and description.

    p. 5 – Roy squeezes Toly’s arm. Make more of this. make it personal between them.

    p. 6 – Make clear Marat is not part of Toly’s group. I thought they were connected. Who cut Bogdan’s hands off, Toly or Marat? Make clearer Marat expected Roy to defend Bogdan. Put Roy under more pressure.

    p. 9 – Why does Marat call the informant a “rich fuck”? What does Khamad do to get rich that is so offensive to Marat?

    p. 10 – So what does the informant look like? It’s an obvious question and Roy should ask it. Also ask to be briefed on what is known about the security setup.

    p. 12 – I don’t like this formatting style of putting new people on a single line. Stick to convention. Anyway, it’s not used consistently throughout.

    p. 13 – Show Sandra’s apartment is on the 15th floor in the Montross (I presume it is). Wouldn’t the FBI rent one big apartment for all its people?

    p. 18 – Finally, daylight. Consider more daytime action. Night shooting is expensive. How is Khamad allowed to go off on his own? Who is watching Sandra?

    p. 18 – Sandra in the car talks to Khamad in the terminal. How? Via radio? That’s something that could maybe be used later.

    p. 20 – Make more comedy out of Nobu theft. For instance, when he’s climbing garbage chute someone tosses food over him and says O.S. “I’m not eating this canned shit. Where’s my Nobu I ordered?” Maybe later someone asking the doorman if he’s seen her Nobu when the raiders attack.

    p. 23 – We should have seen the two FBI agents guarding the door earlier, on page 12 when Sandra leaves the apartment and tells Holloway all is secure. Maybe there could be a bit of comedy with the two agents when Marla the prostitute arrives.

    p. 24 on – Plenty action, but we should be able to discern the raiders’ plan from the pattern of their movements. These “shock and awe” tactics will quickly attract security forces. Seems counter-productive. Are they on a suicide mission? If so, why not just blow the building?

    p. 31 – How can they cut to C-4 live without editing the tape?

    p. 32 – “Sir, if we escalate, they’ll know something’s up.” I don’t understand why Sandra says this. Does she think it’s a terror raid, or does she think Khamad is the real target? What is Holloway’s secret plan?

    p. 33 – Hard to keep elevators secret. Rather call it a “private elevator” available to the top five floors maybe. At least to the apartment underneath.

    p. 33 – I think a grinder or thermic lance or acetylene torch would be better to get through a steel door.

    p. 36 – How does this gondola work — with battery power?

    p. 38 – HOLLOWAY (PRE-LAP) not (V.O.)

    p. 39 – “Khamad lunges for the cable, inches down.” This sounds like the cable is inches below Khamad. This is a big, tense scene. It should get a couple of pages. How do you get a fatty to grab a steel cable 30 stories up then swing himself to a lower door? Tricky. (Aside: don’t try this without industrial gloves. These cables have lots of little spiky metal hairs sticking out. They will shred you. I speak from experience.)

    p. 41 – Roy needs the bounty. Interesting twist. Make a bigger scene of the conflict between them.

    p. 44 – “those fuckers” Unclear if he’s referring to bedbugs or Toly’s guys.

    p. 45 – There were fifty raiders. Surely there’d be more than four chasing Sandra and co?

    p. 47 – Confusing. Make clear they go down one flight, stop on the landing, then down the next flight to reach the floor below.

    p. 47 – Dry ice bombs. Have on shot of the plastic bottles expanding under pressure.

    p. 48 – Say they pressed “2” for the gym floor.

    p. 49 – Write more excitingly. “7… 6… 5… 4… GRRT!” Milk the tension.

    p. 49 – The door is 8′ up? From one door to the next would be the height of a story, say 10′ plus concrete floor thickness. Maybe 12′.

    p. 50 – “Toly’s operatives race down the stairs to the fourth floor.” We need a scene where they see the “4” lighted in the elevator lobby.

    p. 50 – “mere minutes away from possibly triggering its destruction.” Show us the C-4 in the basement to remind us of consequences of storming the building. We also need to see how it is triggered and who will do it, otherwise it doesn’t contribute much to suspense. The explosive was a bit of a let-down, anyway. It never really featured. Was it even necessary?

    p. 71 – How can champagne bottles explode in a fish tank. Why doesn’t Roy just shoot the glass? The tank should have been shown when we first went into the lobby, when Roy steals the Nobu. We’ll know what to expect later.

    p. 72 – say that Sandra’s still cuffed.

    p. 73 – “Lights a torch” Are we in the middle ages now? And when dis they bring guns and cans of gasoline into Hodder’s room? That should have been shown.

    p. 74 – I’m getting tired of reading. Not enough pace.

    p. 75 – Why set the third floor alight? What is Toly’s plan? And BTW what about the security forces outside? They’ve been do-nothing wonders. Don’t they have a plan?

    p. 77 – Not much of a panic room if they can bust the door down bare-handed.

    p. 78 – Holmesdale turned — a twist too far.

    p. 79 – “The front door crashes open.” I thought they already broke it down.

    p. 87 – “vial” not “vile”

    p. 96 – Don’t Sandra and Roy see the dead agent Toly shot in the laundry room?

    p. 98 “Toly just about to his Glock,” Word missing.

    p. 105 – How can Sandra be in Canada and in new York at the same time? Who sends the letter? Who knows what? I’m confused. This seems deus ex machina.

    • Bill Anthony Lawrence

      Thanks for the full read and taking the time to make detailed comments. Very useful and very much appreciated.

      • Citizen M

        It struck me this morning there is no mano-a-mano showdown between Toly and Roy.

        A more conventional story would have Toly holding Sandra hostage and Roy holding Khamad, and Roy having to use MMA skills to defeat Toly and get the girl and the hostage.

        Final scene:
        Roy is packing for Russia/Ukraine/wherever.
        Sandra: You coming back?
        Roy: You staying?
        Sandra: I’m staying.
        Roy: Then I’m coming back.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brett-martin/52/702/72 ElectricDreamer

    Great to see my pick swipe the AF spotlight this week.
    Much props to the writer, despite a shaky start he nailed his genre.
    As promised to the author, here’s a full round of notes…

    NERVE AND SINEW:
    Flat opener with the sauna lock-in. The break-in had no tension for me.
    Also you only revealed in the fourth sentence that is was winter, strange.
    I don’t know why that wasn’t mentioned in the establishing shot of NYC.
    If you started in the sauna, then the reader would be CLUED into the action.
    And if you clue us in, we’ll want to turn pages to see what happens next.
    You can have the target in the sauna start to tease the plot somehow too.

    Roy heard half-muffled screams through the floorboards?
    Is the sauna in question directly under his office? If so, establish it.
    If Toly knew Roy would be mad, why go after this guy in his club?
    And why would he break into Roy’s club if he knows him.

    Why not have Toly DISTRACT Roy in his office while his thugs go to work?
    Something like that gives you inter-cutting TENSION to play with.
    Perhaps Roy can even touch on why this place is neutral ground.
    Roy and Toly should have a conflict-boiling chat that reveals character points.
    If you want your characters to reveal themselves — make them face CONFLICT.

    How did Roy screw things up for Marat? The mob still got Bogdan in the end.
    Roy let them carry out Bogdan, so the mission was accomplished.
    But then they amputate his hands and BLAME Roy for their choices.
    How is Roy responsible for them disabling their mission specialist?

    The daughter motivator works fine, but how we get there doesn’t track.
    Fargo called, they want their wood chipper back.
    And that’s followed up by a maintenance man scene very close to Speed.
    Then we segue into a Nakatomi-style breach a la Die Hard with all the cases.
    The point is: I’ve seen every inch of your scenes in other films.

    And the poor exposition on page 13 clunks hard.
    Sandra and Holloway know how long they’ve been working together.
    And I’m sure she remembers putting her career on the line for this mission.
    If Holloway truly felt she was losing it, he would’ve intervened before now.
    The set up is good enough for DTV, but the scene choices aren’t there yet.

    As written, the delivery guy reads as an amazingly fortuitous coincidence.
    Was the bum in on it from the start? Cool move, but the logic baffles me.
    Which, in turn distracts from your story’s momentum.
    If we knew Sandra had the drop on Roy, that would generate SUSPENSE.
    We’d pull for Roy to put it together before it’s too late.

    Was there some foreshadowing of the terrorist attack?
    Other than the Speed prologue-style scene earlier.
    Rafts just read more recreational than tactical. More beach party than raid.
    There must be a more impressive entrance to be had in your action world.
    And where’s the charismatic villain to anchor the strike team?

    Looking back at the first 30, Toly needs to be the opener’s anchor here.
    Toly’s stubborn attitude and hidden agenda that leads to the break-in.
    Though I’m not sure why he’s doing that while Roy is going in “soft”.
    Toly’s agenda should be bread-crumbed somehow to the reader a bit.
    I think if Roy knew Toly better, this might feel more visceral. Not personal enough.
    Which goes back to the revised opener proposal, more conflict w/Toly.

    Beheadings are all the sad media rage these days, guess that’s good for you.
    I’m confused as to how Marat is connected to Toly.
    And more importantly, why didn’t Marat have a clue about Toly the terrorist.

    Roy & Sandra talking about working together is a snooze.
    Why not have them in conflict, then a BIGGER conflict upstages them.
    Thus they’re FORCED together, lose the diplomatic jibber-jabber.
    COMPEL this pair together through overwhelming odds and some quick gun play.

    Looking back from page 40. The dialogue isn’t rocking my world.
    Especially since we’ve arrived at the Montross. All very demonstrative.
    Look out. Over there. Get down. Move. Move. Move. Need some color here.

    Or the rest of it pushing backstory, exposition and plot across the page.
    But the TENSION and conflict between the leads isn’t sparking.
    Sandra and Roy are far too sympatico from their all too smooth pact.
    They’re from opposite sides of the law, like Midnight Run or Red Sun.
    Roy and Sandra shouldn’t agree on much of anything. That’s the CONFLICT.

    We’ve seen the FBI chatter, but where’s the CIA on this one?
    I mean, the intel about the attack should’ve come down from them.
    Homeland Security should be briefing folks about Toly already.
    The FBI should be jumping up and down on the CIA in their meeting.

    And it stinks that your big bad, Toly, APOLOGIZES to the hero in your opener.
    That’s gotta go. It totally emasculates Toly. That’s our first impression.
    I was a more than a little disappointed that he was the ringleader.

    The crux of why Roy won’t leave isn’t quite winning me over.
    I mean there’s gotta be more than one way to find out where his kid is.
    Why not cut a deal right here with the feds to locate her?
    Give me information about my kid, then I’ll give you the target. Simple.
    Overlooking this option saps the logic away from your story.
    It may not work out that way, but Roy should be asking.

    Knocking on the door, causing the operatives to fire reads off to me.
    There’s so much SUSPENSE you can milk if they sweep the hall. Mumbai style.
    A stack of papers topples in the apartment, then the operatives close in.
    It’s a huge risk, luring the baddies in with a knock on the door.
    Where is all that Mumbai-style action that your logline PROMISED?

    Also tramples any potential suspense by using the slow sweep option.
    I can see… Carl’s at the door, everyone else hides in the smelly place.
    Buckets of tension you can have as the operatives question Carl and search the room.
    Will Carl crack while he talks to them? Nail-biting stuff to be had here.
    TENSION comes from plans going wrong and how the characters cope.

    Why should have Roy guessed it was Toly on page 47?
    There was zero set up for Toly being a terrorist as far as I can tell.
    Why is everyone picking on the old man except for Sandra.
    If it wasn’t for Carl they would all be dead by now. Roy is a dick to old people.

    There would be TENSION with the dry ice bombs if we saw Roy set them up.
    Personally, I’d like to know how they work and see them constructed.
    We see them set and eagerly await the goon-splattering kaboom.
    When you deny the reader that set up, you’re dialing down the fun.
    And that sums up a lot of how I feel about the first half of the script.
    The plot elements are all present, but the cake isn’t cooked yet.

    55 pages in and CARL is the only hint of a HERO in sight.
    Old heroic Carl is much more of a protag here than passive Roy.
    And this scene glaringly points it out to the reader.
    Is Roy ever going to do anything decent for anyone?

    P. 57 Roy is a moron for not taking away Sandra’s comm link.
    He’s seen her use it. Roy needs a head start, take that away from her!
    If Roy abandons Sandra, then the feds will never let him see his daughter.
    It’s pretty obvious that Roy NEEDS to serve TWO MASTERS here.
    He must help the feds (decent man) and save his daughter (decent dad).
    This strategy makes the feds a MINI-QUEST to solve.
    These GOALS should be in sync with a proactive protag.
    Sure, it’s a burden to a man of conscience, but that’s what heroes must do!

    Wonder why Roy is a UFC fighter. Doesn’t come into play in the script.
    It’s an ironic twist that’s been bone-crunchingly unsatisfying so far.
    From your set up, I expect incapacitating moves that would make me cringe.
    Like watching a pro athlete bust a limb on live TV, ouch.
    Makes no sense that the terrorists would not trap the beach.
    It should be rigged with lots of deterrents/traps OR armed guards.
    No strategist would let the cops gain the tactical advantage that easy. Boo.

    The plot twist on p. 62 reads cocked up to me.
    If that was true about Kahmad, the reader should know up front.
    We should be in on Sandra’s secret. She’s holding out on Roy. We know it.
    If these two worked together more, that SUBTEXT would elevate your tale.
    Will Sandra tell the guy that saves her life the truth to save his daughter?
    You see how the subtext of my proposal gets the reader asking questions.
    And those questions are part of a MORAL DILEMMA for a character.

    Roy gets caught an awful lot for someone that brags that he’s Special Forces.
    Again, this really undermines your protag’s credibility.
    Sandra is much more of HERO here than Roy, she’s protecting her ward.
    Roy is the most NEUTERED action hero I’ve read in a while.

    The Operative’s speech feels like it should’ve been delivered upon arrival.
    I believe there’s a similar beat in The Raid.
    Set the “ground rules” for your villains much earlier for the reader.
    Hans Gruber didn’t wait until 2/3rds of the story to address his hostages.

    Wait, if Sandra lies about the C-4, what about all the residents?
    Won’t they get blown up if the feds breach, this sounds reckless as hell.
    Sandra’s sacrificing all the tenets for her alt lifestyle asset.
    The surrender was meaningless! Marco came in and rescued Sandra.
    It seems when someone’s being heroic, your story finds a way to undermine them.
    I’ve noticed this in several places in the script.

    Maintenance Man needs a NAME, even if it’s a fake one.
    So sick of reading that phrase throughout the script.
    Saw Holmesdale coming as the SHAPE SHIFTER. His arrival was far too convenient.
    And it makes sense that he’d get a contract for himself.
    More than a little surprised that Roy wasn’t ready for that.

    The coincidental reveal of Roy’s daughter is eye-roll inducing schmaltz.
    Why not have these to FIGHT then reveal they BOTH have PERSONAL STAKES.
    If they worked together, this story would be much more worth telling.
    You’ve given them similar trajectories but they disconnect too much.
    Take some of that unsatisfying disconnection and SMASH these characters together.
    The tepid back and forth as written doesn’t add up to any READER FUN.

    Roy continues to REJECT being a hero, even when it’s a little girl!
    I mean, doesn’t that remind him of his own DAUGHTER at all.
    His reluctance reads borderline sociopathic here. Not a cool hero trait.

    Toly just takes that insult from Oskana, what a wimp of a villain.
    I think every good guy in the script BUT Roy has saved an innocent tonight.
    It also seems as if you deliberately did this, but to what end. I dunno.
    Super coincidence the kid they save knows the villain’s escape plan. Boo.
    That’s a big black mark. Coincidence should aid villains, not heroes.

    Wouldn’t the Agent be BRIEFED about Oskana and the FBI safe house?
    Makes no sense to me they wouldn’t be prepared for straggler baddies either.
    Way too many “faceless agents” doing a lot of the shooting.
    There’s many action scenes where the hero is passive and slinks away.
    I can’t get behind Roy as written, but I think he could be a solid protag.
    The ending BAFFLED me. Was Sandra in Canada or at Roy’s place?
    I think you know this convoluted plot way better than I do.
    Perhaps a rewrite can refine it down some for the reader. Finished.

    There’s no real GAME-CHANGING Third Act moves in this script.
    Once we’re in the building, it all feels like a super-extended Act Two.
    Action films tend to REINVENT themselves as they go along.
    But here the action feels the same level, it never POWERS UP as we go.
    There’s not many SET PIECES to speak of. It all blended together for me.
    And that’s a cardinal sin for action movies. This one needs lots of rewiring.
    That being said, I think Bill’s a good writer and I’ll read more from him.

    Script: [x] Wasn’t For Me.
    Writer: [x] Worth the Read.

    • Bill Anthony Lawrence

      That’s too bad it just didn’t connect with you, but I really appreciate the full read and the detailed notes, which will be helpful going forward. And I also appreciate the “writer worth the read” comment — that’s always great to hear when you put your work out there.

  • Michael

    I desperately wanted this to be good, to be “worth the read.” I wrote an action script very similar to this and wanted to see how Bill covered the same territory. I read the entire script and can’t agree with Carson on this one.

    Just a general comment to start. As of late, the best we’ve been able to say about a lot of scripts on AF is that “the writing is clean and fast” and , therefore, the writer has talent. Well, that should be a given and I’m finding that to be a low bar by which to praise a script. Bill is clean and fast for the most part, but as others have commented, he’s not all that clear, especially in the first 10 pages where it counts the most.

    The clarity that people are having a problem with in the descriptions, extends to the story, which is a much bigger problem. The story is very thin. It is not clear why the characters are taking actions or behaving as they are. The goals and stakes are not clear for all the characters. Ray wants his daughter back, yes that’s clear, but why does Marat or Toly want the informant so bad. There is conflict between Sandra and her boss Holloway, the source of which is never made known and the extent to which it grows is without logical justification. We don’t know what the government wants from the informant or the villains want from the informant and all our hero cares about is his daughter. The informant is a MacGuffin. Okay, we don’t need to know what the MacGuffin is, but you have to be very clear about why people want it or we won’t care about it, then you’ve lost the reader. Knowing a characters motivations is paramount in these scripts. The script is only 105 pages long, which is short for an action film. Use another 5 to 10 pages to give us some backstory, add depth and let us get to know your characters before you throw them into the meat grinder of the action.

    The most accurate comment about this script is LiberalSkewer’s: “NEAT VISUAL at the EXPENSE OF ALL REALITY.” This says it all. This script is a collage of cool action ideas cobbled together that have no logical reason for being in the script. Yes, this is where I launch on one of my rants to be logical.

    The terrorists arrive the day before as maintenance workers, kill the super (who isn’t missed for some reason) and wire the building with explosives. That night they raft up the East River in five combat rafts and dock next to the building. Then there is a large explosion that rocks the building to the 30th floor (why, we don’t know?). Finally, the terrorists charge in the front door through the lobby. Now, I get the cool image of five attack boats cursing up the river with the Manhattan skyline in the background. But you have to ignore that, in reality, all but one apartment building along the East River is separated from the rivers edge by a park and the FDR Drive. That even at 9:00 PM there are hundreds of people jogging and enjoying the park, hundreds of cars on the FDR Drive and thousands of eyes taking in the river view from their pricey apartments, not to mention the Home Land Security patrols and countless cameras installed after 9/11, all watching the East River and our five attack rafts full of terrorists. It doesn’t sound very covert to me. “Hey honey, take the dog leash while I make a phone call.” “Who you calling.” “911.” Why do you make this choice, when the terrorists could drive up to the front door (using limo service would be nice) and walk into the lobby to be greeted by one or two unarmed doormen at a residential building?

    You should ask what is the easiest way to accomplish a task, what is the most logical solution. Oh, it’s boring, seen it a hundred times already? Yeah, that’s why this is hard. You can’t just through in the first cool idea that enters your head if it doesn’t make sense, either. Sorry, it sounds condescending, but needed to be said. We have to put our characters in new and interesting situations. That’s hard. The situations should create conflict for the characters. Harder yet. Put the characters in impossible situations we can’t imagine them getting out of. The hardest, rarely accomplished even by pro writers, but best writing there is if you pull it off.

    Here’s a list of the questions I asked as I read:

    Why in this or any residential building? Is the informant that high value (think high stakes and goals) if they’re kept in a residential building with easy access?

    Why is Khamad allowed to travel by himself if he’s so important? Doesn’t this undermine his importance?

    Ray fakes his way past the doormen as a delivery boy, but Holmesdale just shows up at the base of the garbage shoot?

    Laser beam security in a garbage shoot, really? But it’s only on part of the time?

    A hooker just walks in and Sandra doesn’t know? What kind of security measures are in place? Wouldn’t the other agents announce her arrival at the very least?

    Sandra locks Ray in the “safe room.” Isn’t the safe room for the person you’re protecting and not the perpetrator?

    Better character descriptions. Khamad is too obese to escape down the garbage shoot?

    Why is there a high-tech fortress at the top of this residential building?

    Why disable the elevator and install your own pulley hoist and gondola, in effect making it into an elevator again? Why don’t they just use the elevator that is in place?

    P26 “metal cutting power saw” Why not just add: “like the one in Die Hard they cut the phone lines with.”

    P27 Mother in laundry learns of the attack on the TV, why didn’t she notice the explosion that rocked the building to the 30th floor?

    P28 Daughter playing in the tunnels… Hmm, think those little on-the-nose tunnels will be needed later on?

    P30 Mr. Hodder tries to negotiate with the terrorists, suspiciously sounding like Ellis from Die Hard?

    P31 Mr. Hodder is decapitated while Toly gives a speech that is scary close to being plagiarized from Hans Gruber’s speech in Die Hard?

    P38 Faisal Shahzad’s failed Time Square attack was not foiled, please don’t change history.

    P33 Secret elevator? Again, really? This is why this is hard. You can’t have a secret elevator to the on-the-nose tunnels. Besides, the terrorists brought their own pulley hoist and gondola to install in your not-so-secret elevator.

    P23 …grabs his empty Sig Pro 2022… Don’t reveal in description lines, the gag you are doing on P34. Why are you spoiling your own set ups?

    P37 Drop piano down elevator shaft. Okay, dropping something down the elevator shaft to disable the bad guys. Hmm… what film did I see that scene in? Oh yeah, Die Hard.

    P47 GPS locator system is turned on? What? We don’t want to make the terrorist do any work to find these guys?

    Why is it taking Sandra’s FBI team so long to respond to this attack?

    P50 Elevator door can’t be eight feet up, that would be almost a whole floor? It would be splitting floors. Most of the third floor door is staring him in the face.

    P57 Why are they able to escape, then reenter the building through a wide open courtyard of a building that’s been under siege by terrorists? Should anyone be able to openly walk on and off the perimeter of the property at this point?

    P68 Sandra tells Holloway she cut the C-4, which she really didn’t. Do we want one of our heroes putting at risk the lives of her fellow agents and everyone in the building, so she can pursue her own goals? This choice turns me off to the character.

    Why does Holmesdale know this building like the back of his had? Isn’t that too coincidental?

    Why is the mother sweating and in physical distress, I don’t recall her getting injured?

    Why is Toly or any of his team hanging around in Hodder’s apartment for no reason? Oh, so the daughter can overhear they are headed to the on-the-nose tunnels.

    Why would Sandra go to jail?

    P80 FDNY would not respond until the siege is over, the building would burn.

    P81 Cut a guy up in the shower? Scarface?

    P95 Just before heading into the tunnel, Toly acts like a helpless victim. Is this not a variation of the Hans/McCane scene in, you guessed it, Die Hard?

    So, given what the terrorist’s goals really were, why didn’t they try to get the informant without raising alarms? The full-on Mumbai attack can follow later to cover their escape.

    Overall, the premise is good, it just needs to be utilized to it’s fullest. Ray needs to use his MMA skills more and be more active, Sandra is the more interesting character right now. If Holmesdale’s betrayal is going to be your big twist he needs to be developed more and not just show up out of nowhere. Also, we need to see more of Sandra and Oksana’s relationship to care about what motivates Sandra. The skeleton for a good story is there, you just need to flesh it out.

    Hope you find these notes helpful. Good luck with the rewrites.

    • Linkthis83

      So apparently the Die Hard similarities didn’t stop after I quit reading :) Nice review!

  • Poe_Serling

    Wow! Even though Michael, ElectricDreamer, and Citizen M arrived at the party a bit late – talk about some detailed notes/suggestions/etc.

    Great job, guys!

  • astranger2

    ped·ant (pĕdnt)
    Share: ped·ant
    n.
    1. One who ostentatiously exhibits academic knowledge or who pays undue attention to minor details or formal rules.
    2. Obsolete A schoolmaster.

    • astranger2

      I’ve always loved Carson’s glib, incisively-imformative off-the-cuff articles. Since discovering SS over six months ago, I’ve missed very few.

      He approaches the industry with a singular purpose and clarity — and manages to add much needed humor to the chum-infested waters of this large dorsal-finned business.

      I love the SS articles. And, for the most part, I have always enjoyed and learned so much from his posts.

      But what the eff is happening now??

      The SS board is discussing word count?? Word count? We’re now judging screenplays on total word count?! Wow, mom, wow…

      I really believe some of the discussions here on the value of Outlines and loglines are valuable, although somewhat rudimentary. I do think structure has a place — maybe a more important, and fundamental place than some here give it… including myself.

      I do believe IF you can’t compose a one sentence logline effectively describing your story, you don’t know your story. It’s not THAT COMPLEX — trust me. It isn’t. You just don’t know what it’s about –which is scary…

      I can see that side of the argument. But unless I missed the sarcasm… are we really talking “word count?” How vacuously insipid.

      Is Miss Universe writing these posts???

      If it was all tongue-in-cheek, like the late great Gilda Radner repeatedly said on SNL… “never mind…”

    • Citizen M

      Sloppy: Not paying attention to minor details or formal rules.