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Genre: Spy Thriller
Premise (from writers): Based on true events. When Allan Pinkerton discovers a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration, the legendary detective and his most trusted operatives must race against the clock to prevent the murder of the president-elect.
Why You Should Read (from writers): When we came across this story, we were amazed it hadn’t been made into a film yet. Starring the most famous American president in history, the most renowned of real-life sleuths, and the first female detective in the United States.
Writers: Parker Jamison & Paul Kimball
Details: 119 pages
Note: The writers sent me a new version of the script implementing notes from the Amateur Offerings post. I thought I was reading that draft.  It wasn’t until I put this post together that I realized I had read the original copy.  I apologize about that.  But it’ll be interesting to see if I noticed the same problems as you guys.  And I welcome Parker and Paul to tell us what changes they made in the comments section.

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I’ve never found Lincoln to be an interesting character due to him being wholeheartedly honest and good. These traits, while making him ideal to run a country, unfortunately make him a pretty boring subject. Movies (and books) like characters with flaws – characters who have amazing qualities which are offset by terrible ones. This creates an inner-struggle where the two opposing energies constantly work to balance each other out. An external conflict arises out of this struggle, which ends up making the character his own biggest enemy. Which is why the best stories usually require the hero to defeat himself to achieve his goal.

Bill Clinton would be a good subject for a movie. Here was a man who genuinely wanted to help the people of the world, yet wasn’t against breaking the heart of the person he loved most. Steve Jobs may end up being a good subject for a story. He built a series of products that gave people all over the world the power to be great. And yet by many accounts he was a horrible human being to the people who worked for him.

Unfortunately, the portrayal of Lincoln in The Baltimore Plot didn’t do anything to change my opinion of him. He still is, by and large, boring. He wants to do the right thing, which is great, but with every other aspect of him being perfect, there’s no dimension to his character. However, I think the writers can put Lincoln in a situation that’ll better bring out the most in the man. I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, here’s the plot.

The year is 1860. Abraham Lincoln has become president but hasn’t yet been sworn into office. While the North is pumped by Lincoln’s win, the South is pissed. With Lincoln threatening to rid the country of slavery, more and more southern states are seceding. A war is brewing.

It isn’t just the southern states that are pissed though. Baltimore, Maryland is wreaking havoc up in the North’s Eastern cluster, threatening to align itself with the South. There are rumors that a plot is forming to blow up the Baltimore railroad, which would hamper the North’s ability to ship supplies should a war break out.

To get to the bottom of these rumors, private detectives Kate Warne, Timothy Webster and Allan Pinkerton are hired to infiltrate Baltimore’s society and find out what the plan is. The stakes are raised when Lincoln himself announces that he’ll be taking the train up through Baltimore to Washington, where he’ll be giving his inauguration speech.

What the group finds is a small hive of terrorists who plan to assassinate Lincoln when he passes through Baltimore. But because the defiant Lincoln refuses to operate on rumors and fear, our group must come up with convincing evidence that the plot is real before Lincoln hits the city, a task that proves much more difficult the deeper they dig.

I’ll start by saying there’s definitely something here. This well-written logline caught my eye immediately and the writing is pretty good all the way through. These are also the writers of Barrabas, another script I liked. So I had my Baltimore Plot pom-poms on and believe me I was shaking them.

But as it stands, I’m not sure this script takes advantage of its premise enough. I feel like this idea was the Autobahn and we were puttering along in the right lane at 30 miles per hour. I think the first change Parker and Paul need to make is to think of this as more of a thriller. It reads way too casual at the moment.

The biggest reason for that is the Lincoln storyline. Kate and Timothy and Allan – they were the ones with the strong goals – to find the assassination plot in time to save Lincoln. So when we were with them, they were always acting. They were always trying to get something done.

When we came back to Lincoln (who we came back to A LOT – like 20 times) he had nothing to do but ride to his next destination and share a few expositional details with his campaign manager. His scenes were completely dead and they killed all the momentum whenever they came up.

I understand the need to include Lincoln. This screenplay is about an attempted Lincoln assassination. If we don’t get to know and sympathize with the guy, we won’t care what’s going on in the other storyline. But that doesn’t mean you can just plant him on-screen and let him mumble away. You need an exciting storyline for him as well.

That’s the way I like to look at parallel storylines (or subplots). Ask yourself, “What if I didn’t have the other half of this story to tell? Would this storyline be interesting enough?” If you cut out the Pinkerton assassination investigation, this would literally be about a guy travelling in a cart talking about the difficulties of campaigning. There’s not enough there.

So that’s the first change I’d make. Give Lincoln something he’s after, something that makes him active instead of reactive. I know you include him writing his speech but that’s a very malignant goal. It’s hard to make writing interesting in a film anyway (ironically) and we don’t even see him deal with that problem. We just hear him every once in awhile say, “I don’t know what to say.” It’s not enough.

The next problem is that there’s no character development in the story. Nor are there any interesting relationships in the story. It’s appropriate that this is called The Baltimore PLOT, because that’s all it is.  Plot.

For example, there’s a moment near the middle of the script where Kate starts to tell Allan about how difficult it is to live a lie. It’s our first genuine moment inside a character’s head. But instead of a conversation emerging from that charged statement, there’s a vague acceptance from both characters and the scene is over.

And then there’s the relationships. This frustrated me the most because these kinds of movies allow for the most interesting relationships in film – relationships built on lies. Each of our three spies must get close with one of the terrorists in order to find out about the plan.

When you have a setup like this, you want the good guys to really connect and (at least on some level) LIKE the bad guys because that makes working with them all the more complicated. They like them but they have to deceive them.  Not one of these relationships ever gets past the point of polite conversation. There are no true connections made.

Now I’m guessing Parker and Paul might argue that there wasn’t enough time for that. The script is already 120 pages and I’m asking for more. I’m going to let you guys in on a secret. It’s easy to find pages without bulking up your screenplay. You simply steal them from the subplots that aren’t as important. In this case, there are way too many scenes with Lincoln. We could get rid of half of those and have 15 new pages to play with.

Finally, in any spy movie, as the movie goes on, it’s essential that the spies find themselves in danger of getting caught. We have to get that sinking feeling that the bad guys are onto them and that they’re about to be discovered, for which they will surely be killed. I never felt anything close to that here except for ironically, at the very beginning of their infiltration (page 35 – when Hughes is onto Davies).

This scene embodied the script for me. Davies had made up a backstory that he was from Charleston, and one of the men he was with suspiciously says, “I’m from Charleston [too].” The man then starts questioning Davies about the town, of which Davies knows nothing about. Finally, we had an intense scene brewing here. I’m into it! But then, not more than 2 questions later with Davies’ lie ready to be exposed, another guy butts in and says, “You guys can deal with this later!” Right as we were revving up to 60 on the speedometer, we slammed on the breaks.

All of these things are fixable but they’re things writers need to know. You can’t write a story unless you keep an engine revving in all the storylines (not just one), unless you explore the character’s inner lives, unless you explore the relationships, unless you kick your character when he’s down instead of helping him back up (as was the case in the scene I just mentioned).

I like Parker and Paul. They have a knack for finding period stories that could make good movies. They still need to work on that storytelling though. I hope they take these notes to heart because if they stick with it, I think they have a real shot at working in this industry.

Script link (old draft): The Baltimore Plot
Script link (new draft): The Baltimore Plot

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

What I learned: A great flaw to explore in “spy” movies is a loss of identity. You play the part of so many other people that you’ve forgotten who you are. I thought this is what we were going to see from Kate, but it didn’t happen.  Might be something to look at for the next draft.

  • bruckey

    ‘Baltimore’ was a black list script from a few years ago.
    Interesting to do a compare and contrast

  • bruckey
    • Malibo Jackk

      Cool. More good news for television.

      (Interesting that it was sold 10 years ago and shopped around with no luck.)

    • leitskev

      First read this script years ago an was not as blown away as much as everyone. But the idea behind the story has grown on me since. It could make a pretty cool TV series. It would not be good network TV, but if Amazon does it HBO or Netflix style, yeah, I think it would be cool.

    • Frankie Hollywood

      Awesome, LOVE that script.

      I was interested in seeing Beacham’s TV series Hieroglyph (I have a script where hieroglyphs play an important part). Curious to know why Fox really pulled the plug after shooting the pilot.

      Hieroglyph was another feature script taken to TV. Good to know those features we’ve written can have 2nd lives…even 3rd lives. An Ink Tip posting the other day was looking for a Web series: ten, 10-12 minute scripts. If you’ve got some good plot points in your feature, break that 100-120 page feature down to a web series.

      The options keep rolling in. 1 script = 3 mediums.

  • Altius

    Thanks for the review, Carson. Can’t say this isn’t frustrating, though, as we addressed and improved all the noted shortcomings (I believe) except for those about cutting Lincoln/giving him a stronger goal. So the new draft is – well – better. Bummed out that that wasn’t the one reviewed, but an understandable mistake.

    I’m traveling between Israel and Jordan today, so I won’t be online as much as I’d like, but want to say ahead of time we appreciate anyone who gives this one a read and contributes with comments, criticisms, or even praise! Hope to check in sooner rather than later.

    • mulesandmud

      If you do find time to post, would you mind talking a bit about your rewrite process?

      How much time did you give yourselves? How many drafts had you been through already? How did you sift through SS or other feedback and prioritized the changes you wanted to make? Were there any interesting notes that you rejected? Any fixes you wanted to make but couldn’t for lack of time/solution/etc? How aggressively faithful were you to history record, and did that change at all during the rewrite?

      Just some sample questions; feel free to ignore any or all of them. I only ask because having two drafts side by side gives us an unique opportunity to discuss the nitty gritty of the rewrite process.

      And regardless, congrats for being selected. Best of luck.

      • Altius

        Those are great questions. Let me see if I can break it down…

        First rewrite is cleaning up the crappiest parts, really. I don’t know how many drafts we’re in right now…maybe 3? And writing a 4th? This is really a challenging script for an unusual reason: the actual history was so intriguing that it was difficult to separate true story from dramatic need/purpose. Wanting to keep as many historical details and accounts as possible without compromising the story as it could be told in film structure. It’s been a hell of a learning experience, and still going.

        As for SS feedback: this is always an interesting and anxious time. Soooo much feedback all at once from so many different people. It’s kind of mentally draining and yet creatively stimulating all at once.

        First level: INSTINCTUAL REACTIONS. Often we’ve had nagging thoughts/doubts/concerns in the back of our heads about the script, and we just somehow need that extra push to confirm them. This is the easiest.

        Second level: REPETITION. If 7 out of 10 people have the same note, you better damn well pay attention. You don’t have to listen to their advice for fixing the problem, but you have to take the suggestion that there is a problem. So this is harder. Takes a lot of consideration.

        Third level: REJECTING. You can’t use every note. Read with a super open mind, but you have to know how to be judicious and filter the useful. If you used every note, your script would be a hot mess of indecision. Filtering feedback is key. But swallow your pride until you choke on it. It has no place in rewrites. Rewriting is only about learning, improving, and seeking to make your script better, whether that’s through your own ideas or someone else’s suggestions.

        Right now we’re going much further off-script, so to speak. We’re writing an alternate draft that gives us far more freedom to make stuff up. It’s liberating to step away from the real account. It’s easy to say we should have done this from the start, but I don’t think we noticed the problem at the start. We were too wrapped up in it.

        So anyhow, there are some thoughts on it all. We’re working to get more efficient about rewriting.

  • leitskev

    The real Lincoln actually was very flawed. For one thing, he was extremely ambitious. He was a ruthless politician. For another, he suffered crippling bouts of depression all his life. Suicidal, even. He wrote some amazing poetry in these periods, though it’s dark and obsessed with death. The Lincoln that came down to us was sanitized by history, largely because of the manner of his death. But the real Lincoln was very compelling.

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      I’ve only read to pg 28. old draft.
      Great point. There’s always different perspectives on a person’s life. You have to use what’s useful to the theme of the story. For this story, his obsession with death might be interesting to explore. But it’s hard since we know he doesn’t die from this event.

      BUT

      I say (don’t hit me Parker and Paul lol) try a draft with Lincoln only in the opening. Do we even need him? “Lincoln’s here and he’s traveling and he won’t call off the speech” – that’s all we really need to know. Right? Or am I wrong.

      • leitskev

        You bring up a great point, that basically there is a stakes problem, same as we saw in yesterday’s Episode 1 discussion. Namely, we already know when Lincoln really dies, so he is in no danger here. This is probably why this story has never been done before. The stakes are too difficult to build when we know what happens.

        I have not read the script. Thinking about it now, if presented the challenge of coming up with a story like this, I think I would look to add stakes some other way, with a fictional character. I don’t know, it’s damn tricky. Maybe the assassins try to frame our hero, and he not only has to save Lincoln, but prove his innocence. Maybe the assassins take Lincoln’s secretary hostage, and she is in love with Pinkerton. I mean those seem Hollywoodish ideas, but you have to do something. Otherwise, to be frank, Lincoln fighting vampires or zombies might be more interesting. It’s all about the stakes(especially if it’s vampires…sorry, couldn’t resist).

        • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

          Exactly, that’s why Carson mentioned the relationships between the characters – it’s really all you have to hang your hat on. There has to be some deep friendship and/or betrayal between these detectives.

          We know they’re going to win but at what cost emotionally.

          Again, maybe it’s there in the new draft. I’ll give it a go and report back.

          • leitskev

            I got my degree in history, and before I began screenwriting a few years ago, I had a major problem with films that fudged history, especially historical events and characters that are well known. When I heard about Inglorious Bastards where Hitler dies in a movie theater I was annoyed. But when I finally saw the film, I loved it, and I came to this conclusion: if you’re going to fudge basic history, it should be done in a way that every reasonably educated person understands it’s just entertainment. So basically, I think films should either try to get the history right, or they should be so “movieish” that no one confuses the film with history. So the film JFK I am against, because it falsifies history while fooling audiences into thinking it’s real. Inglorious I approve of because once one knows the plot, no one sensible with ever confuse it with history. If you’re going to fudge the history and at the same time try to seem like a serious film, I’d rather you threw vampires in!

          • Eddie Panta

            Wait a second… What part of Inglorious Bastards wasn’t true to history? Hitler was machine-gunned to death in a Parisian theater.

            I’ve learned more about history from film than books.

            History, like the JFK film, is all about your perception, and the film includes many different perspectives at once.

          • leitskev

            See, that is my very fear. Look at the film out now, Selma. They have LBJ as the antagonist. It’s become a controversy. Because it’s the very opposite of what happened. In reality LBJ was 100% behind the march and it seems he even pushed King into it. LBJ was a very flawed man, but he was fully behind civil rights. How does the director of Selma defend this butchering of history? She basically says it’s her perspective and she has a right to it.

            Well, yeah, but not really. You can’t just rewrite history. Of course, films sometimes have to do this for the sake of the narrative, but there’s only so far one should go. Especially since some people apparently learn more history from film. That means the film makers have a responsibility.

            JFK is a fun film to watch. Stone is often brilliant in his work. But it’s an irresponsible skewering of history.

            I mean can you just chalk up the killing of Hitler in a Paris movie theater as “perspective”? No, because it didn’t happen that way. And not even close. Hitler went to Paris once, after France fell, in 1939. In the film, it’s after D-Day, so the Americans would have been a few miles away, with American air controlling the sky. No way for Hitler to get to Paris.

            But Bastards is not presented as representing real history. So it’s fine. JFK is presented as docu-history. So it needs to be responsible with the facts.

          • Eddie Panta

            Adolf Hitler made more than that one trip to Paris with Albert Speer. That one you know of was solely for propaganda footage. Hitler made secret trips to Paris. Everyone knows that. He couldn’t keep his hands off the art.

          • leitskev

            You jest. He made one trip to Paris, in 1940. That’s it. No secret trips, unless you have some secret inside information. The only other time he went to France was in WWI…and they never reached Paris.

        • brenkilco

          It is possible to overcome the apparent lack of suspense in a film with an inevitable outcome. The Day of the Jackal and The Eagle Has Landed are the two most obvious examples.

          • leitskev

            Good points. It is a pretty big handicap though. In my comments yesterday, I mentioned that it’s done all the time in the oldest story form: the tragedy. Greek audiences already knew the Oedipus story when Oedipus Rex was written. Elizabethan English already knew of course how Julius Caesar had his life end when Shakespeare wrote. It’s been said that these stories work because audiences are aware of the dark ending and the destruction of the hero becomes like a sacrificial ritual. Lincoln doesn’t just die in the theater at the end. He becomes a sacrificial lamb so that the sins of a nation might be purged. The heroism of Oedipus saves Thebes, but for the sins of the city to be purged the hero must be sacrificed. Caesar’s ambition built the world’s greatest empire, but he had to be sacrificed to save Rome’s institutions. For Christians, Jesus had to be sacrificed to purge our sins and Easter celebrates that death, Christians experiencing this ritually through the stations of the cross and through communion. Campbell and others have explored this stuff. In the script above, Lincoln does not die and we know this, so there is no tragedy, no ritual sacrifice.

            If Grendyl checks in, I would argue that Godfather II has an element of this. We know how Vito Corleone ends up, which has a sense of the tragedy as he is the head of a crime family, his oldest son is killed, and his youngest son is forced into the family business. So watching the innocent and pure young Vito take his first steps down this path is filled with this feeling of ritual sacrifice, his soul being darkened so that his family might be protected.

          • crazedwritr

            I don’t know — I knew the outcome of The Perfect Storm, but I was sitting on the edge of my seat, hoping the guys on the boat would “make it.” LOL. The suspense truly comes from the writing and development of people we grow to care about.

          • leitskev

            Yes, good point, and I think what it requires is some suspension of disbelief where the audience knows the outcome but pretends it doesn’t for the sake of experiencing the story.

      • Altius

        Hahah no hitting here. You’re actually right on here: we’re writing an alternate draft with more shenanigans in Baltimore, and Lincoln only in the opening! Tp be continued…

    • Eddie Panta

      Abe Lincoln’s main flaw was that he wasn’t that good of a Vampire Hunter.

      Also, he can’t tell lies, which makes him a very flawed politician.

      • leitskev

        Lol, yes, my history book said that too!

    • Midnight Luck

      And he had wooden teeth. (Flaw)
      Come on, who has wooden teeth? And how could they lead an entire country correctly?
      Would anyone watch or listen to a Kardashian or Britney Spears if they had wooden teeth?
      I didn’t think so.

      • leitskev

        lo, that was Washington. But Lincoln would not have succeeded in the TV age with that mug for sure!

        • Midnight Luck

          Really?
          Wow, I have always pictured it being Lincoln. I would have sworn I have read many times about Lincoln and his Wooden Teeth.

          I guess it was that Discount Double-Coupon Education my parents bought me that resulted in this terrible faux pas. (my education was bought with 500,000 Betty Crocker tops from Brownie Mix boxes. I ate a lot of brownies as a child. Many of them Enhanced* as well).

          *Enhanced: see: psychotropic.

          • leitskev

            All those brownies you’re lucky you don’t have wooden teeth!

            There is a story about Lincoln. In 1963 at the height of the war, he spent a night on a warship. The Captain met Lincoln in his quarters. The President had left his shoes outside the door. The Captain was shocked to discover the President had holes in his socks!

          • Midnight Luck

            too true. luckily, now we have plastic teeth! or porcelain! what will people say about us in a few hundred years?

            I have heard of his holey socks though. Though I thought it was Lincoln who had holes in his socks, AND wooden teeth.

            Good to hear of a leader who isn’t all image, has more depth and actually has more pressing things that are important to them.

  • Pooh Bear

    For some reason the Mission Impossible soundtrack was blaring in my head during the opening train sequence. Maybe stuff from yesterday had to do with it. Dang it, I should’ve kept reading because that scene put me all in and then I was curious what the rating was so I came here. I might come back to this guys.

    Anyway, ‘a great flaw to explore… is loss of identity.’ <—THIS!!

    It IS in every good movie. The main character starts out with one identity. It's obviously not working out with him/her, some trigger throws them into a new world and they struggle with losing that identity throughout most of act two. They eventually embrace the change (or not) and come out of act two into act three, for better or worse, with a new identity by the end of the movie. In fact, loss of identity (figuratively speaking) should be in every script each one of us writes.

  • Eddie Panta

    I don’t want to take away from the Baltimore Plot, but I think we really missed a gem of a script with Once Upon A Time in the North. Not a great title, and we’re all well past the holiday mood. But it has a style all its own and a interesting take on the Santa story.

    It appears that there was some resentment to the fact that the Once Upon A Time in the North writing team have a produced credit. I’m actually not sure what the protocol is here on AOW, or how the site defines “amateur.” But it did get picked.

    Your thoughts / clarifications welcome…

  • klmn

    Yeah, but you gotta love it when someone names a yacht after a Chuck Berry song.

  • Eddie Panta

    THE BALTIMORE PLOT

    Maybe the problem is that now we prefer historical or crime stories from the criminal perspective, not from the flawless Nigel Bruce type Sherlock Holmes perspective.

    There actually was a brilliant film ( name of which I can’t remember ) about a innocent woman hanging for the crimes of her son in connection with the assassination of Lincoln. Really heartfelt and realistic film.

    Baltimore Plot was a bit too stodgy for me. I felt like I was reading about characters from a book, not from real life. The characters are just too damn polite. Now, this may be the case with historical characters, but I think that pleasantries can be cut from the script here some more.

    The second draft punches up the opening scene, a train robbery with a gun
    fight and a the criminal calling Kate a Whore. But I’ve read both drafts now and I’m still confused about what is happening on that train with the those damn gold bars. Now, it may very well be that I’m not that sophisticated a reader, but I think the problem, at least for me is in the verb action, or that fact that pivotal moments are left out.

    From the Script:

    INT. LUGGAGE CAR – TRAIN

    In the back of the car, amidst rows of tightly packed luggage, two MEN in immaculate suits work with efficiency.

    What is it that they are doing with “efficiency”. What are they working on? Moving luggage.

    LAMBERT – 30’s, clean-cut, shifty – kneels in front of the safe.

    We have an intro to Lambert and the action is: kneeling. How does he open the safe?
    Kneels is just positioning Lambert in front of the safe. The cracking the safe action is left to a parenthetical in Lambert’s dialogue.

    Later, once this safe is opened: “Their gloved hands fly, replacing the gold bars with lead.”
    This means their hands have wings.

    Descriptive, specific action verbs are needed here to lock in the scene. The adj. that describe the characters are quickly forgotten. We remember what they’ve done.

    How did they get back to the Luggage car? Why isn’t a guard there?

    How does Lambert open the safe?

    I prefer the first draft without the gun shooting blanks. If Kate knew that there were blanks then why didn’t she just call it out.

    T

    • Poe_Serling

      “There actually was a brilliant film ( name of which I can’t remember )
      about a innocent woman hanging for the crimes of her son in connection
      with the assassination of Lincoln. Really heartfelt and realistic film.”

      Is it The Conspirator? Directed by Robert Redford. Starring James McAvoy.

      • crazedwritr

        Yep, that is it. I saw it and really liked it. Evan Rachel Wood was surprisingly good in it.

        • Kirk Diggler

          Evan Rachel Wood being good doesn’t surprise me every since she was excellent in “The Wrestler”.

      • Eddie Panta

        Yes. That’s it. Thanks. Didn’t know Redford was behind it.
        It was brutally realistic, and gritty. I don’t think there’s a better portrayal of the Lincoln assassination on film.

        • Poe_Serling

          Another film in the same vein that you might want to check out:

          The Prisoner of Shark Island

          “After setting the leg of John Wilkes Booth, Dr. Samuel Mudd is sent to
          prison as a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.”

          Directed by John Ford. Written by Nunnally ‘The Dirty Dozen’ Johnson.

          A compelling story from beginning to end.

          • Eddie Panta

            The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd 80’s tv movie… is the one that remember.

          • Malibo Jackk

            The big problem I have with both movies is the (what to show
            and what to leave out) spin. In the case of Redford’s film, does he have a liberal bias? Not only that but ask yourself if there would even be a movie if she or ‘The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd’ were portrayed as guilty.

            An unbiased historical account would present all the evidence and leave it to the audience to decide. But most movies have neither the time nor the interest in doing so. They want the audience to have an emotional experience.

            Even documentaries are aware that they have to appeal to an audience. Consequently, they frequently bend the truth. .

          • Kirk Diggler

            “In the case of Redford’s film, does he have a liberal bias?”

            No, but the truth often does.

          • Malibo Jackk

            (Critics cited the film as an analogy to the post 9/11 atmosphere.)

          • Poe_Serling

            The production company behind the Redford flick was The American Film Company. The company specializes in ‘entertaining, engaging, and historically accurate feature films culled from American history.’

            Past projects include:

            >The above-mentioned The Conspirator.

            >Parkland – ‘recounts the chaotic events that occurred at Parkland Hospital in Dallas on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, November 22nd 1963.’

            Coming soon:

            >Against the Sun – ‘ the 34-day odyssey that has become a Navy
            legend. Dixon, Aldrich, and Pastula cast adrift on the high seas,
            assaulted by sharks and storms, burning in the relentless sun, starving
            to death.’

            Future project:

            >The Arsenal – ‘story of militant abolitionist John Brown, his band of armed raiders, and their daring assault of a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia.’

            *****Today’s AF script seems right in this company’s wheelhouse. Perhaps the ‘Baltimore’ writers should try to contact them in the near future and see what happens.

          • Malibo Jackk

            The Arsenal sounds like a cool project.

          • brenkilco

            Starring the utterly forgotten Warner Baxter who actually was an Oscar winner.

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, you’re right. Over a hundred film credits to his name and Shark Island is still the only one I remember ever watching.

          • brenkilco

            He’s also the Broadway director in 42nd Street who gets to say the line, “You’re going out a youngster. But you’ve got to come back a star.”

          • Malibo Jackk

            There was a CBS national news anchor named Roger Mudd, the great great grandson (or something) of Dr. Mudd. Given his status at CBS, he supposedly tried to get the conviction overturned or pardoned — but they ruled against him.

            Will have to check to see if he was later pardoned.

  • Eddie Panta

    Ah, this is solid advice. Why start the film with Lincoln at all? Besides who wants to follow Daniel Day as Lincoln.

    Ritchie’s Holmes is flawed. Nigel Bruce’s Sherlock Holmes is perfect, never does anything wrong. Baltimore Plot leans more towards a classic type story.

    • brenkilco

      Ritchie’s Holmes isn’t Holmes. He’s Robert Downey doing his Robert Downey thing. Nigel Bruce’s Holmes isn’t Holmes either. Bruce was the peerlessly dithery Dr. Watson to Basil Rathbone’s incisive Holmes.

  • carsonreeves1

    I don’t believe in semi-colons. They are the devil.

    • klmn

      ;

      ;

    • pmlove

      I’m by no means an expert but I don’t think they belong before a conjunction.

    • Matthew Garry

      Kurt Vonnegut Jr. agrees:

      “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

      So yeah, you’re in good company.

    • Midnight Luck

      semi-colons are just wannabe’s.
      They try so hard to be a Colon. A partial colon is no colon at all.

      Down with the Semi-Colon!
      ….with
      Up the Colon! (oh wait, that sounds odd)
      …^
      We don’t need no fakers or wannabe’s!

    • Citizen M

      I love semicolons; so will you, if you learn to use them correctly.

  • Midnight Luck

    Great movie. In the Line of Fire was top notch.

  • brenkilco

    I read and commented on the old draft on AF. I will read the new one. But from the other comments, and from what the writers seem to care about, it’s clear the central problem has not been addressed. This is not at bottom a story about Lincoln any more than The Day of the Jackal is a story about Charles De Gaulle. It’s a story about thwarting an assassination attempt. Lincoln is essentially a macguffin and from a suspense angle any time spent with him is time wasted. The writers would like this to be both a carefully researched docudrama and a tense thriller but they simply can’t have their cake and eat it too. As it is, despite the attention to detail, the script, at least the old draft, falls somewhat ineffectually between two stools.

  • carsonreeves1

    I could see it placing at the Nicholl.

  • Midnight Luck

    How do all of you know it was Washington, and I’m stuck here looking like a dolt with my Lincoln Wooden Teeth reference?

    Damn you Parents and the terrible Skid Row education forced on me!

  • Midnight Luck

    How do all of you know it was Washington, and I’m stuck here looking like a dolt with my Lincoln Wooden Teeth reference?

    Damn you Parents and the terrible Skid Row education forced upon me!

    • leitskev

      He grew up dirt poor. Probably was used to holes. Even now, a lot of our Presidents have humble beginnings. Clinton, Reagan, LBJ, Eisenhower, Truman, Nixon, Carter…pretty humble beginnings.

  • Midnight Luck

    EXACTLY why I enjoyed it so much.
    People don’t seem to realize, that the more something is an “Action” movie, the more it tends to be BORING.
    In the Line of Fire, is as you say, full of TENSION without having to fall back on “Action” to try to drum up interest.
    I have to say John Malkovich was absolutely awesome and creepy in his role as the bad guy. Why? because you couldn’t tell what he was capable of, or what he might do.
    I love movies that work mess with the psychology of something, and rely less on pure Action.
    Those are the ones that really tap into something deep down.
    If a movie is able to tap into both Action and psychology (rare) those really are keepers.

    • PeakofFear

      The original – La Femme Nikita

  • scriptfeels

    OT: One of my favorite scripts, The Voices, is actually getting made and has Anna Kendrick and Ryan Reynolds as the leads!!! Its a dream come true. Here’s the trailer!!!!

  • Kirk Diggler

    ” Davies had made up a backstory that he was from Charleston, and one of the men he was with suspiciously says, “I’m from Charleston [too].” The man then starts questioning Davies about the town, of which Davies knows nothing about.”

    Yeah, I loved this bit the first time I remember seeing it in….

    “There’s Something About Mary”

    Norm: Really? Where would I have seen your work?

    Pat Healy: Well, have you been to, uh well, let me see… Santiago, Chile?

    Norm: Twice last year. Which building’s yours?

    Pat Healy: Are you familiar with the soccer stadium?

    Norm: Did you build the Estadio Olimpico?

    Pat Healy: No, just down the street the Celinto Catayente Towers. It’s quite a fine example, in fact. I recommend that next time you’re up that way that you drop in and take a gander at it yourself

  • Malibo Jackk

    Some people have mentioned the problem of everyone knowing Lincoln’s ultimate fate.

    It reminded me of the problem faced by the movie TORA! TORA! TORA!.
    What do you do after you have shown the Japanese mission to bomb Pearl Harbor?
    Everyone knows who won the war. How do you bring the movie to a satisfying conclusion?

    In the case of that movie, they used a coda.
    The Japanese Admiral remarks — “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

  • Citizen M

    It’s a competent script. I have nothing of a substantive nature to add, just a few suggestions that can be ignored.

    I know they say not to include maps in scripts, but it would have helped having a map showing the rail system of those years and Lincoln’s planned route. Felton surely would have given them a map of his railroad they would have referred to.

    There’s a very high character count. Consider cutting all scenes with children. And maybe one or two of Lincoln’s whistle-stops (which would be expensive to stage, anyway).

    I found it slightly heavy going. Around page 58 it became a bit of a slog to keep reading. Consider adding a bit of comic relief. Harry Davies, the Jesuit forced into a drinking and whoring lifestyle is the obvious candidate.

    I wasn’t sure just what the Southerners planned to accomplish: stop Northern troops from reaching Washington, or stop Lincoln. Maybe a bit of both? Were there several different groups with similar aims, or was it a unified effort?

    Several things seemed like setups but led nowhere: e.g. Davies speaking French and Italian; suggestions of romance between Pinkerton and Kate; Ward Lamon’s banjo playing.

    Some comments while reading:

    p. 6 – I’m confused as to each character’s real accent. Is Pinkerton Scottish? Is Kate English?

    p. 7 – What is the point of Davies speaking French and Italian?

    p. 10 – I’d have Felton’s briefing in reverse. First the specific threat to his rails, then speculate on the wider reasons why. Could be labor troubles or politics. He should mention likely suspects.

    p. 13 – Ironic that the bad scene of slavery takes place in the north not in Baltimore.

    p. 13 – I’m not sure of Pinkerton’s motivation for taking the job. For money? To strike a blow against slavery? Why doesn’t he consult his associates on the chances of success? What happens if he fails: will Felton pay him? What are the terms?

    p. 13 — Kate: “Infiltration is the easy part.” Oh yeah? How will they know who to infiltrate?

    p. 14 – Maybe show a briefing with them all their natural selves, then show them catching the train in character, so we see the transformation.

    p. 19 – When was Lincoln’s itinerary finalized? It has been published in the paper yet still seems to be under discussion. Felton knew about it days ago. How much time has passed? (Indicating time passed was always a bit of a problem with this script. Six weeks is an awkward time period to deal with.)

    p. 87 – Dynamite was only invented in 1867. They would have used black powder as an explosive before then.

    p. 90 – What’s the plan? If we don’t know what it is we don’t feel suspense.

    Also: What were Lincoln’s alternatives? Could he have avoided Baltimore by e.g. catching a boat in New York and sailing up the Potomac to Washington, or taking a road around it? If so, why continue through Baltimore?

  • leitskev

    Good point on In the Line of Fire. Saw that at the movies back when it came out, good movie. I don’t recall how they handled the stakes with that. But now that I think about it, saving the President still were legit stakes because it was not about any particular President, if I remember. Of course, the main character had been there for JFK and felt responsible, but for the story line, the killing of the next President still is a possibility for the story.

  • leitskev

    Agreed on all points. But GFII does still have the long prequel scenes, and they have nothing to do with Michael’s story line. The fascination is purely in watching Vito’s evolution from innocent young man to head of a crime family. The one way it connects to Michael is it shows the powerful force of the culture and the family’s history pulling on Michael. He of course is unable to resist them in the end. Juxtaposing those two story lines together was brilliant, and the Vito story line does show how stories can have power even without true stakes, if done in the classic tragedy form.