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Premise (from writer): A closeted superhero wrestles with both of his secret identities, as the world embraces his superhero alter ego but his friends and family can’t accept the man behind the mask.
Why You Should Read (from writer): I saw that The Almighty Stud got really negative reviews based on the fact that it conveys a misogynistic message and displays a gay character that perpetuates the flawed association between homosexual men and predatory inclinations. So, why not offer a superhero screenplay that does the opposite of all that? My protagonist is a gay superhero that challenges the stereotypes, it has a cool feminist superheroine and the villain, although in a first moment seems to be just like The Almighty Stud villain, actually hides a secret that mocks through subtext the current trend among certain men of demonizing feminism and feminists.
Writer: Illimani Ferreira
Details: 103 pages
The competition for this weekend of Amateur Offerings was CLOSE. I don’t know if it’s because all the scripts were too weak or all of them were too strong, but going through the comments gave me a headache as the second I’d think I’d found a winner, the next three votes would be for something else.
The leaders seemed to be Midas and Super Epic, with Intelligent Design clipping at their heels. I had to make a decision though and when it’s decision time, I typically go with the premise that has the most potential. I do this because it’s what a producer would do as well. Unfortunately, I could make the case for all three of these premises turning into money-makers. But the one with the most innovative premise was clearly “Super Epic.” So that’s the one I went with.
Moving forward, when you vote for Amateur Offerings, please state your winner up front and clearly. I don’t always have time to read through every comment, so if your answer is to be discerned through your general reaction, I may not catch it. And with that, let’s grab our capes and swoop in on Super Epic!
Eric has a secret. He’s a superhero with super-human strength. He spends his afternoons hanging out with his dude friends, the psychotic Corey, the short in stature Butch, and the overweight Stockwell. And then at night, he battles the city’s evil villainess, Feminazi, who doesn’t so much push a feminist agenda as use it as an excuse to wreak havoc.
Eric occasionally teams up with a superhero named Butterfly, a skinny cat-lady who can fly and has a crush on Eric. Butterfly has good intentions, but always seems to take too long coming up with a solution to Femanazi’s evil plots, forcing Eric to save the day.
Unfortunately, Eric has another secret. He’s gay. And he’s so damn tired of being in the closet that he’s decided to tell his parents the truth when they bring their daughter to town for a beauty pageant.
And that’s pretty much the whole movie. Feminazi keeps threatening the peace and Eric keeps having to stop her. I guess there’s also a thread where Eric and Butch stop being friends when Butch finds out that Eric is Super Epic. But yeah, there isn’t really a plot here. Just a series of things happening.
Okay… this was not what I expected.
I really loved this idea but the execution… how do I put this… wasn’t very elegant.
There were a lot of first-timer mistakes that prevented “Super Epic” from becoming the awesome movie I think it could be. So let’s dive right into them.
First, the screenplay should only be focused on two threads, just like the logline lays out – Eric should either be dealing with protecting his superhero identity, or he should be dealing with protecting his sexual preference. That’s what we came to see. So if there are large chunks of the story that aren’t dealing with one of these two issues – which there are – then the story will feel unfocused – which it does.
I think we go 24 pages in the script before we reveal that Eric’s gay. There are just too many wasted scenes that aren’t dealing with the script’s key issues.
It would be like if you read the logline for The Hangover – Three groomsmen try to find the groom the day after his drunken bachelor party when none of them remember anything – and then you had scenes where the characters went and took golf lessons. We’d be going, “What does this have to do with the premise?” That’s how I felt a lot during Super Epic.
On top of that, there were no STAKES attached to either of these secrets. The power in a character hiding something comes from our fear of what will happen if the secret is discovered. I didn’t get the feeling that much would change in Eric’s life if he revealed he was Super Epic, or gay, and since keeping these secrets was the point of the entire movie, I’m not sure how it can work without those things in place.
Take Eric’s family for example. These are the people we’re supposed to be afraid of Eric coming out to. But they’re a cartoon. They’re the Honey Boo Boo family. They hold no real weight as characters because they’re caricatures. Who cares if a caricature doesn’t accept your sexuality? If you want the closeted angle to work, you have to make the family real people. They can still be funny, but they have to be grounded. And we have to fear their reaction if Eric were to tell them the truth, which we don’t.
On top of this, there’s no real structure to the story. There’s no clean plot. Nobody’s trying to take over the city or has some big master plan. Feminazi just keeps occasionally wreaking havoc, and since there’s no escalation or focus to these attacks, we don’t feel like we’re gearing up towards anything. These characters need more of a plan and this plot needs more focus.
Then there are some obvious oversights. I mean, this is a movie about a guy trying to hide his homosexuality, but there’s no love interest! There’s no guy he likes or is going out with. How can we adequately explore a gay man’s hidden life if we don’t explore his relationship with men?
Let me give you an idea of how to solve some of these problems. I’m not saying this is the only way to fix this screenplay, but it should give you an idea of which direction to turn the boat.
First, create some real stakes in Eric needing to hide his sexuality from his family. Make them real people, not a silly joke. Make them conservatives, probably religious, and unaccepting of homosexuality.
Next, I don’t think you get the most drama if Eric plans to tell his family that he’s gay. I think it works better if he’s planning NOT to tell them. He wants to hide it because he knows his family couldn’t handle it.
Next, have it so the family’s coming in for the weekend for some event, and they’re staying with Eric. This is important. We need them AROUND HIM so it’s hard for him to HIDE his secrets. The time limitation also gives your plot focus (you’re only covering three days, which gives us a clear ticking time bomb for the end of the story).
And make the family REAL. What’s the point of exploring the difficulty of hiding your sexuality from an unaccepting family if you don’t take it seriously? If it’s one big joke, then we won’t care if they find out or not. That’s not to say you can’t make jokes AROUND this issue, but the issue itself must be dealt with honestly so that we FEEL the weight of it.
Then, give Eric a boyfriend, someone who he kicks out for the three days while his family is there. Maybe this is someone he’s seeing secretly so even his friends don’t know. I’m not sure how you’d deal with that. My gut tells me there are too many friends anyway. Maybe drop the other two and just keep Butch.
Finally, make this the weekend that Feminazi (although I personally think you could come up with a better villain) drops her ultra plan to destroy the city.
Now you’ve got a scenario that really takes advantage of your premise. For three days, Eric must entertain his family, all the while keeping from them that he’s gay and a superhero, all while trying to maintain his relationship and battle the world’s biggest super-villain on the weekend she decides to take down the city. You see how much more focused that is?
Even then, there are still some things to shore up. For example, how did Eric get his super powers? We just see him as a kid pretending to be a superhero and then cut to him as an adult where he is a superhero. What happened to give him his super strength?
You may think that because this is a comedy, you can skimp on these things. You can’t. The details are what make the audience suspend their disbelief. If you graze over things and just figure the audience will “get it,” you’ll watch helplessly as they turn on you. A lot more thought needed to go into this world and how these people have powers. It didn’t seem well thought out at all. And when you combined that with a slip-and-slide narrative, it’s no surprise the script felt messy.
Illimani is really nice and really eager to get better at screenwriting. So while these words may seem harsh, they’re written with love and the hope that he uses them to improve. I hope your comments will do the same for him.
Script link: Super Epic
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: One thing a reader will dismiss your script immediately for is if you haven’t thought through one of the key variables of your story. They know if you’re not going to do the work required to get the important stuff right, then you’re definitely not going to work hard on the rest of the script. There was so little thought put into how Eric became a superhero that I immediately knew the script was in for a rough run.
What I learned 2: Comedies tend to work best under tight time frames. A big reason why this script didn’t work was that it wandered. If you put in a tight time frame, you immediately focus the story.