Get Your Script Reviewed On Scriptshadow!: To submit your script for an Amateur Review, send in a PDF of your script, along with the title, genre, logline, and finally, something interesting about yourself and/or your script that you’d like us to post along with the script if reviewed. Use my submission address please: Remember that your script will be posted. If you’re nervous about the effects of a bad review, feel free to use an alias name and/or title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every couple of weeks so your submission stays near the top.

Genre: Action/Thriller/Comedy
Premise (from writer): A team of disabled vets reluctantly reunite when their former commander drops a bombshell on them: the terrorist who caused their disabilities is in America to pull off a devastating attack, and they’re the only ones who can stop it.
Why You Should Read (from writer): It’s a 2014 Page Awards Semifialist, a 2014 Creative World Awards Quarterfinalist, and it made the top 15% of 2014 Nicholl fellowships. There’s a wide array of reactions to the script, and I’m really curious at to what the SS readers (and you) will say. As for the script? Action galore, fast-paced, complex female characters, wild twists, dark humor, and a strong theme. Oh, yeah, GSU up the wazoo.
Writer: Will Hare
Details: 107 pages

mark-wahlberg-earns-his-high-school-diploma-at-age-42Mark Wahlberg for Pops?

In the comments section of this batch of Amateur Offerings, readers remarked about a few of the entries gaining traction on other sites (being optioned, finishing in the semi-finals of contests, and in the case of Will Hare, having an indie movie probably going into production). The general consensus was, “Wait, if a guy doing this well has to come to Scriptshadow to still get help, how hard is it out there?”

It’s hard. Will has done great. He keeps writing and he keeps hustling and getting this far is a huge achievement. But people finishing high in contests and waiting for their first indie movie to get made are still a far ways away from being able to make a living at screenwriting. Heck, I know people who’ve sold scripts for 6 figures who are now back in their home towns bussing tables.

That’s why I don’t have any qualms putting these “higher amateurs” in the mix for Amateur Friday. You’re a struggling writer until you start getting consistent work. And for those who think it isn’t fair, my message is simple. Write a better script than these guys. If you’re going to compete with people like Travis Beachem and Dan Gilroy, you first gotta beat the guys finishing in the semi-finals of big contests (and actually, the guys who are winning those contests).  So bring it!

It’s 2008. Afghanistan. Tough guy Major Fenton leads a group of young soldiers with cool nicknames (Gurps, Pops, Coldbeer, Sanjuro, Ikiru) into an Afghanistan town. Everything seems to be going fine as they drive up, until an evil female terrorist named Afshoon appears amidst the dust. Before they realize they’ve been ambushed, a firefight begins.

Cut to six years later and that government who so dutifully called for their services no longer seems to give a shit about them. Pops is missing a leg and has agoraphobia. Coldbeer (a female) has begun an online service focusing on physically abusing deadbeat dads. Sanjuro is still reeling from her sister’s death on that fateful day. And Gurps is in a mental ward sucking down Dr. Feelgood pills.

But when Fenton finds out that Afshoon has snuck into the U.S. and is preparing for an attack bigger than 9/11, he decides to get the band back together for an impromptu terrorist assassination, so the people of this country can finally see the group for who they are, heroes.

Of course, not everything goes as planned. Their journey takes them from Deadbeat Dad organizations to drug warehouses to The Taste of Chicago to the streets of Philadelphia. When it’s all said and done, will they kill the terrorists, save the United States, and become heroes? Or is this group destined to be a band of clueless misfits forever?

Berzerkers was kind of like if you took the sequence from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” where the mental patients go on a boat trip, combined that with Rush Hour 2, then dropped that combo into the F5 tornado from “Twister.”

I will give Bezerkers this. It lived up to its name. This thing was NUTS! There is more shit packed into this script than any script I’ve read all summer. You gotta be on your game when you pick this thing up because it bombards you with information. Here’s a typical page from Berzerkers:

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 3.24.15 AM

Let’s count all the elements on this page.

1) Anita
2) Pops
3) AR-15 guns
4) A sedan
5) Kitchen Killers
6) Happy Halal Tent
7) Sanjuro
8) Gurps
9) Fenton
10) Lenny
11) A cooler
12) Thoroughfare
13) Ionesco
14) A Lexus
15) Four dudes
16) 357s

This isn’t even a full page, actually. It’s ¾ of a page. And there are 17 elements to keep track of! Imagine trying to juggle that many things in your head for an entire script. I was trying to keep everything straight but by page 20, I was doing that thing where I would get down the page and realize I didn’t remember anything I just read. So I had to go back and reread it again. And once I did this 5 or 6 times, my brain called “Uncle.” It needed out.

So I enacted my “Tough Cookies” policy. This is where if I don’t understand something or if I’ve made it halfway down the page and realize I haven’t grasped any of what I just read, I don’t go back and reread it. I charge forward.

My logic for this is that it’s the writer’s job to make it easy for me. It’s not my responsibility to want to read something. Of course, once you reach the “Tough Cookies” point, you’re only grasping a portion of what you’re reading, and by the time I reached the end, I didn’t know what 30% of the stuff being mentioned was. Maybe more.

This brings up an important question. How much information is too much information? How many characters can there be? How many plot twists? How many villains? How much jumping around? How extensive can the protagonist’s plan be? How crazy can each scene get?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as finding a number. The number of elements a reader allows correlates directly with how well you’re telling your story. Is the concept intriguing? Do we like the characters? Are the scenes exciting/fun? Is the story fresh/original? Is the dialogue strong? The higher you rank in all of these categories, the more leeway the reader’s going to give you as far as complexity.

And if you step back and look at the individual elements in Bezerkers, there’s definitely some good stuff going on. I like the idea. I think it’s funny. Some of the characters are well-conceived (Pops, an agoraphobic amputee). There are a lot of female characters in traditionally male roles, which was nice to see. It’s just that when crammed together along with all this other stuff, those little gems got buried.

One of the pieces I think was misconceived was the opening. It goes by way too fast. We know these characters for all of two seconds. They come upon some silhouette of a person in a dust storm. Somehow they know this is an evil enemy of theirs. Then, bam, the scene is over and we cut to present day. What?? The scene’s over before it began!

Sometimes, in our desire to get to our story as quickly as possible, we speed through important early scenes. This opener should’ve been milked. Get to know all these characters so we like them. Don’t just have them shooting the shit either. Give them choices to help define their characters for the audience (a driver can either go towards two sketchy looking men or take the long way around them – this would show whether he’s brave or a coward).

Then put us in that town and have the characters do whatever they’re supposed to do there (deliver supplies?). Build tension as we sense something is wrong. Some of the soldiers start to get worried. A few of them float the idea of ending the delivery early and heading back to the Humvee. But it’s too late. It’s a trap. And at the center of the trap is our villain, Afshoon, who we should get to know way more extensively in this version.  This way, we feel like we know who these guys are, so when they get the band back together, we care about these folks.

I just want to conclude this by saying I love Will’s hustle. I love that he keeps writing and networking and pushing his work out there. That’s what you gotta do. If you keep doing those things, sooner or later it WILL pay off. And finally, I just want to part with this Pixar quote, yet again, since I keep seeing writers make this mistake: Simple story – Complex characters.

Script link: The Bezerkers

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

What I learned: Do not shorten an opening scene (or any scene for that matter) just to meet some beat sheet page number. If your scene needs time, it needs time. Would the famous opening scene from Inglorious Basterds have worked had it only been two pages? No. I think the opening scene in The Bezerkers needed that extra time to build tension and suspense, as well as to introduce us to everyone.

  • Will Hare

    Hi, everyone. Wanted to take a moment before the commenting begins to thank Carson and everyone on this site for taking the time to look over my work. I will be reading the comments today, obviously, but I might not catch everyone. So a big, up front “thank you!”

    One thing I try to avoid is “defending my work,” and by that I mean “get into arguments over what something means or doesn’t mean.” I have no trouble answering questions, and I do love debate and invigorating conversation. We’ve all seen what can happen when people take things personally, or get into a “pissing match.” That’s not me (nor is it most people on the site). Don’t take my silence to mean I disagree: I take all notes people give into account. Whether I incorporate them or not, well, that’s up to me (until someone buys this thing, then it’s a different ballgame).

    I know Carson gave the link to the script, but I wanted to give my own link. I was working on the Page semifinal draft when this was put up for AOW. One note (repeated a few times) on this site made it into the new version (it has to do with the first page!). Who knows if it made a major differerence or not– the finals aren’t announce until Sept. 15th. But I wanted to give people a chance to see the latest version:

    So I look forward to today. This is a great community that I should contribute more to. I do read this daily, and enjoy most of the comments. If we don’t speak today, have a fantastic weekend!

    • Casper Chris

      Hi Will,

      Your link doesn’t seem to be working.

      • Will Hare

        Hi! I fixed the link (I used Mediafire). Just checked it, and it downloaded for me.

    • Will Hare

      I’d also like to invite anyone who wants to have an offline conversation to email me (the address is on my cover page). I’ve had a few of you do that already. You’re welcome to do so.

  • Logic Ninja

    I dunno, it seems to me if the characters are complex, the story can be every bit as complex as 2 hours will allow.

    A script like AMERICAN HUSTLE, for example–you’ve really got to work just to keep up. If you enacted a “Tough Cookies” policy with that one, you’d be lost by page 3. But the film turned out great. It’s much easier for an audience to keep pace with a story when it unfolds before their eyes (barring too much shaky-cam and quick-cutting).

    On the other hand, of course, what we do on SS isn’t about making films. Not really. It’s about selling a script, or getting positive attention by way of a script. And in that vein, I can see how making things easy on the reader would be a positive. It just seems a darn shame to sacrifice elements of what could be a great movie for the sake of a “quick read.”

    Maybe I’m full of it this morning. What do you guys think?

    • Paul Clarke

      I like the 2 hour movie – should have 1 hour of plot rule.

      In Carson’s defense, he’s not talking about complex story, but complex details that need to be explained. Explaining stuff is boring, you have to work real hard to make it interesting and dramatic. But each time you explain stuff you put the story on pause. Therefore, the less time spent explaining the more story, drama, jokes, excitement you can fit in. So try to write stuff that doesn’t need so much explaining. Things that are inherent from the idea and story so far.

      • Casper Chris

        Carson wrote: “Simple story – Complex characters.”

        I think that’s what Logic Ninja is responding to.

        • Paul Clarke

          I think it’s going to boil down to people’s idea’s of what is the story. I find most of those to be simple stories (everything but Donnie Darko), usually with a tricky idea. Fight Club is pure character story with a twist. Memento is a perfectly normal story told backward – not complex. Shutter Island – normal story with a twist.

          The stuff Carson was talking about was character count and new tech and stuff required to understand the story. Your examples all have a lean cast. Some have tech, but it’s usually one big thing established early.

          I too enjoy films where I get to work stuff out. It leaves me with a sense of accomplishment. But that’s very difficult to the annoying feeling of not being able to keep track of all the details.

          • Casper Chris

            Yea, I know what you mean. It was just because you wrote,

            In Carson’s defense, he’s not talking about complex story

            And I think he was, with that line I quoted (basically “complex story, no, simple story, yes”) — a mantra he has stated before. So I’m just wondering what’s “too complex”? Like you said, Memento is fairly straight-forward when you break it down (but then again, most stories are), but the immediate reaction of someone watching or reading could be quite different.

            If I was a professional reader reading scripts day in and day out, I would probably hate stuff like the stuff I just mentioned. Why? Because it’s extra work. I would probably have to go back and re-read stuff… a lot… to make sure that the dots are in fact connecting.

            But as for the other point, yea… my reaction to reading the first few pages of Berzerkers (on AOW) was exactly the same as Carson’s. Tons of characters being introduced in a very short amount of time. My mind was struggling to keep up. I ended up putting down the script and picking up one of the others (hoping for an ‘easier’ read). Still, had I been watching it on screen, it probably wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker, so I don’t know if it was fair of me to dismiss the script on those grounds…

          • Randy Williams

            My reaction was the same and I said as much in AOW about this script. If I was watching it, I might have given it my vote.

            In school, we’re taught to read passages and digest the information to be able to answer a few questions about the passage. Educators would never include so many elements to make it impossible to do so or make our brains hurt.

            When my writing partner and I write, he tends to throw in lots of elements into a scene. I always take the role of the camera in our discussions and continually ask him, what am I focusing on? He realizes the camera can’t keep up with everything, can’t even process some things unless it’s a long slow study of it, and, thus a process of elimination begins.

          • Malibo Jackk

            John Ford’s mantra was that every scene should serve ONE purpose.
            Maybe that was his way of keeping it simple.

          • walker

            This is the old Ernst Lubitsch idea: “Let the audience add up two plus two and they will love you forever.”

      • Linkthis83

        Damn I’m going to miss some good conversation today :)

        • Paul Clarke

          Not from me, I’m going to bed.

          And Mulesandmud summed up my thoughts better than I could, so it’s time for me to move on.

    • Awescillot

      I can see what you mean. Basically, what you need when someone passes you a thick script is someone saying ‘Trust me, it’s good, but just bare with it’.

      • readmoredolt

        Love it when girls bare with me.

        • Awescillot

          Lol I hope my bit didn’t get lost in translation.

    • Craig Mack

      In the end, it’s tough to compare ‘American Hustle’ to an Amateur Spec… because as stated, you get a lot more ROPE on a ‘paid writing gig’. A spec has to be to the point, hit the beats and GRAB the reader. Many screenplays produced by major production companies wouldn’t stand a chance on the spec market. Catch 22.

      • Paul Clarke

        Strange example – American Hustle (formerly known as American Bullshit) was in fact a spec sale.

        • Craig Mack

          I realize that — I was just using LN’s example from above. and comparing AH to anything on Amateur Friday seems… a tad unfair. Something to shoot for, yes… but it can’t be the ‘starting point’.

        • Andrew Parker

          The original spec was more of a straightforward take on ABSCAM, if I recall correctly, while David O. Russell’s re-write was akin to a screwball throwback to “The Sting”. But what it did do great was get Russell’s interest and admiration.

          All a spec really needs to do is either get a producer, a director or a studio excited for the material. There are many ways to accomplish that. The best way is to write something interesting with interesting characters that gets you turning the page, in my opinion.

    • mulesandmud

      Which guru is it that talks about ‘complicated vs complex’? McKee?

      The words are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to make the distinction.

      Complexity in storytelling suggests that there are layers of meaning or contradiction woven into the character or drama, or else buried beneath them.

      Complication in storytelling suggests that lots of shit has been piled on top; even if it adds drama or danger, it almost certainly adds clutter as well.

      Depending on the nature of a story, there’s room for either or both, though complexity has more potential to strengthen your foundation, while complication is more likely to distract from it.

      The key to getting a reader through your script – and the key to a good script in general – is clarity. Give people a through line to follow; even if the story is dense, you can still create signposts that move readers forward with confidence as they process everything else you’ve got going on.

      It doesn’t matter whether your engine is madcap action, mystery boxes, or existential meditation, you need to give people reasons to keep reading. Make them trust that the answers are coming and they don’t have the urge to flip back.

      Know where people are looking on every page, and know where you want them to be looking. If you can make those two the same thing, then you control the focus of the story, and you win.

      • Casper Chris

        Yes, I think that is an extremely important distinction to make.

      • Logic Ninja

        Great point! I’d never heard that distinction before. Thanks!

      • Nicholas J

        Know where people are looking on every page, and know where you want them to be looking.

        This is such an important yet overlooked part of screenwriting. Choose what you will focus on and keep it limited. Trying to focus on too much is a good way to instantly lose trust with the reader.

        One of your many jobs as a screenwriter is to simulate the movie experience as much as possible. Reading a script should not be work. I shouldn’t need to take notes. But doing that with a complicated story and a large cast of characters is easier said than done.

      • brenkilco

        Absolutely. There is nothing wrong with a complex plot so long as it is intelligently fashioned and clearly presented. Confused and tangled plots are what should be avoided. Stories with new problems and elements tossed in at random to pad out a second act as opposed to cleverly engineered twists that turn the plot inside out. Some of the best movies have had complex plots: Chinatown, Out of the Past, The Big Sleep, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

        And I don’t much care for a mantra that demands simple plots. When was the last time a movie had a really memorable plot? Primer? And before that Memento, the Usual Suspects. And suddenly you’re back decades. I’m not counting things like Sixth Sense and even Fight Club which are more gimmick pictures. The fact is that clever plots are damned hard to come up with. And should be appreciated and not tossed off as undesirable.

  • leitskev

    Excellent review. And it highlights some of the real problems with the spec script as a way of promoting a story. Sometimes what will work in film does not work very well in a spec script. The visual images in the film, for example, might be enough to hold our interest long enough until we have a sense of the story. But that doesn’t happen in a spec script. Especially if the writer is unknown, the patience for the reader to see if the journey is worthwhile is limited.

    Fortunately there is a new solution screenwriters are exploring! The spec script problem has always been there. In the past, there were two options: avoid writing scripts that don’t immediately capture the reader with a simple story, or write a novel. A novel can be a daunting challenge, and generally requires substantially more material than a script.

    But now there is the option of e-publishing. And e-books can be any length. Of course the virtual universe is filled with e-books that no one reads, so you have to find a way to stand out. But that’s just as true in screenwriting. And with an e-book, if you have the writing chops(and no reason you can’t develop them if you don’t), it’s easier to grab the reader’s attention. So for example what is confusing here in Will’s story(I have not read, this is based on the review) might be less confusing and more compelling in prose.

    It doesn’t take long at all to convert a script into prose. It’s an option worth trying, especially in work that requires some exposition to make things clear to the reader, and to entice the reader. Just food for thought. Enjoy the weekend everyone!

  • walker

    Well I guess congrats to Will, but I don’t know if having two “[x] wasn’t for me” reviews within a year can really be called effective self-promotion. One thing for sure though, the title of the script is misspelled in the headline, and throughout the review.

    • Craig Mack

      [x] wasn’t for me — doesn’t mean it’s a bad screenplay — it just means it wasn’t for Carson. Some like chocolate, some like vanilla — the key is getting your product in front of someone that DOES like it.

      When one door is locked, knock on another.

      • walker

        I agree that a “wfm” doesn’t mean it’s a bad screenplay. I actually thought this one was pretty good, but I liked Second Place Hero better. And while I was writing this and telling my dogs to calm down, Will weighed in with his take, and he feels that it is worth it for the exposure. I definitely feel that not all exposure is positive for writers and their scripts, but that is just my opinion.

        • Will Hare

          If this were an absolute trashing of my script, I would agree that it wouldn’t look so good. But, as far as I can tell, it wasn’t a trashing.

          Oh, and thank you very much for your kind words on Second Place Hero. Once my first movie is in the can, I’m gonna get on my producers to do it.

          • walker

            I’ll take a dime bag of that confidence.

          • Will Hare

            Wouldn’t it be great if we could take a pill to get that invincible feeling? By the way, I am the opposite of invincible. Years of acting and writing rejection have trained me on how to separate the note on the work from “they don’t like YOU.” I think that’s the important part. If I don’t take things as a personal attack (and I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, I’m speaking solely for myself), I will grow and get better.

    • Will Hare

      While on the surface, this may seem like “bad news,” I don’t see it that way. Due to the reviews, I’ve made some great friends and contacts. I won’t get into what I discuss offline. All I’ll say is that, in my opinion, it’s not the review, it’s how you handle the review that matters. People get notes all the time. You must learn how to be gracious, accept them, digest them, then see if they fit into your vision (I’m speaking of specs, now, since they are, as of this moment, under my complete control).

      I struggled mightily with the “gracious” part. I still do. All writers do, really. But the more I connect with people on Twitter, or have phone calls with producers and the like, the more I’m learning how to be… well “good in a room.” In other words: I don’t act crazy, I don’t throw stuff across the room, and I try my absolute hardest to be civil to everyone I speak with.

      I also realize that this business is subjective. The last “wasn’t for me” you speak of was Second Place Hero, which was reviewed last year. I’m only bringing up the following to illustrate the subjective nature of script reading: I received two overall 8s o the Black List, and made the 2013 Nicholl Semifinals with that same script. It connected with some people, and it really didn’t connect with others.

      The same goes for this script. It’s doing well in contests, and there is a contingency that really connect with it. In my opinion, that’s why Carson worded his scoring system so carefully and wisely. “Wasn’t For Me” does not mean “This is a bad script.” It means he didn’t connect with it. I’m cool with that, I’m digesting his notes at the moment (I take about a week before I do changes (or decide I’m gonna stand pat).

      As for the title, I made an artistic decision to write it that way. I know it’s not correct, but, for me it’s correct for this script.

      But I thank you for taking the time to comment!

      • walker

        Actually Will, you are the author and it is your title, so any way you want to spell it is ok. The review should respect that.

        • Will Hare

          I know I was taking a chance. But the title, to me, looks much better with the Z. But I can’t say I wasn’t worried for a bit.

          • walker

            And I am actually referring to Carson dropping the first “R”. Or maybe I should say “Cason”.

          • Will Hare

            Ah! Didn’t notice. Oh, well, what’re ya gonna do.

  • Craig Mack

    Excellent screenplay, William. I finished it a few weeks ago and thought it was well written, well paced and socially relevant. I can see it doing well at PAGE.

    Thank you for your service.


    • Will Hare

      Thank you for the kind words.

  • jw

    Congrats, Will. And, to be honest, I think Carson brings up a good point here without even knowing he’s bringing it up — contests don’t mean shit. I hate to burst the bubble of those out there submitting, but I’ve placed in the top 8 of competitions, I’ve placed in the “semi-finals” of more than 5, my name has been on websites, my first script was a Nicholl quarterfinalist and over the years I’ve actually tried “experiments” with these contests where I’ll submit a script that placed high one year, take the exact same script and submit it again and watch it not even break the quarters. After I did this a few times, as a test for myself, I realized that much like any creative industry, the big money that is to be made comes from the 97% of people who will never get there, but will die trying. These are contests. Now, you have your Evan Daugherty anomalies, but that’s exactly what they are. You notice that there hasn’t been anything of that “magnitude” since, and that was a while back. If you do place really high and are able to get reads, then that is obviously the goal, but I have to say that, although it’s not fair for writers because we’re looking for any and everything to tell us “we can write” the reality is that 99.5% of what is submitted to a contest (no matter the placement) won’t go anywhere or do anything and truly isn’t indicative of the skill of the writer at all (unfortunately). Like Carson says, you have to win the contest. Hold on to “top 15%” and try to build from that, but I remember these days and I remember thinking it meant something, touting it around like a badge of honor, only to walk into RSA and have the guy I was meeting with go… “what the fuck does top 10% mean?” ahahahah!

    • Will Hare

      My Nicholl Semifinalist script got me a lot of open doors. Lots of major and minor companies read it (they requested the whole script from the jump as soon as the list went out). From that, a lot of those same agencies told me to send anything new I’ve written to them. I wrote emails to those people this year, and they not only remembered me, they happily asked me to send the new script over. And one of those people really connected with it. He’s waiting to see what happens in the Page.

      One of my other scripts, the one that is in pre-production, came about because of a contest placement. The reader really freaked over the script, and, about a year after several plane rides and meetings, we got the deal done. It’s been another year, and now, things are closer than ever (myself and the producers are conferencing this afternoon to hash out some final details and talk about casting).

      I’m not saying all this to be “show-offy” or be arrogant. I wanted to give a counterpoint to the “contests don’t mean shit” argument. Most contests, yes, they don’t have much pull.But a couple of them do. I’ve been blessed enough to do welll in two of them (and I’m still in the running for the Page, so I could still win that one).

      Open doors with agents, managers, and producers are nothing to sneeze at, in my opinion. I have good relationships with them, I don’t bug them, I just do what they asked: if I have something new, write me and I’ll read it. To a one, they all have. And though all but one passed, they still said, “you have talent. Please send me your next script so I can read it.”

      Like Carson said, it is hard. But I don’t let it get me down. I keep going, keep writing, keep meeting new people. It takes one person (with money or pull) to champion your script. I found it once. It looks like I might’ve found it with this one. And I’m working on the next thing as we speak, with two ideas in the hopper waiting to be written.

      I thank you for taking the time to comment today.

      • jw

        And, I think that’s a great attitude to have, and I have to provide a caution here in that let me categorically state that NO producer on the planet is waiting for a contest placement, so be careful with someone who is telling you that. And, I probably should have prefaced by saying that the response I’m talking about is from “mainstream” Hollywood. Producers and all that are EVERYWHERE. Shit, there’s even producers in the middle of North Dakota. Plans go into motion each and every day, but until something sticks we keep chucking. Again, just be careful of who is around! And, you’re right — agents and managers are needed at some point, but rarely until something big happens.

  • Linkthis83

    Congrats for another AOW showing, Will.

    I didn’t have time to read scripts that weekend and I don’t have time to read today and give feedback (some sort of newsletter heads up would’ve been nice – I think someone even suggested a “bare bones” newsletter with just AOW scripts and the AF review for moments like this – so interested parties can prepare :)

    I did check out the early pages to see what all the confusion was and I get it. It’s like it’s so clear to you that the details just spill out onto the page. Which can be great, but it seems might work against you as well.

    What’s great about the details you’ve included is that they aren’t arbitrary details. They aren’t details chosen for the sake of choosing things that fit the element. They have a specific purpose. An intentional thoughtfulness. I guess what works against it is that when so many things are so specific, it’s hard to know what’s important. I guess the simple reply would be = it’s all relevant :)

    It’s refreshing to see pages so specific and so certain. A lot of scripts I read on here are in the “I’m not quite going to give you specifics because it’s mysterious so I must be vague to hold your interest but to also leave room for me to pull off my twist and not be accused of cheating to do” type.

    I like the dialogue I read as well. Feels authentic. One of the things I believe helps create authentic dialogue, is keeping in mind that character’s personality + their paradigm. It’s probably more prominent with soldiers in the shit, but that’s exactly what we get from these characters early. I appreciate that.

    Wish I had time to read and give some other feedback. Good luck with the reviews today.

    I personally like it when writers defend their work. For the sake of conversation. Not when it’s to the point of absurdity. I believe it either strengthens the work, or helps the writer realize why something might not actually be working the way they intended. However, I completely understand not wanting to “defend” it on a site like this.

    I think if this were a movie, then the opening becomes something you appreciate more on a re-watch. However, it is a lot of info to try and remember. If you think it works best this way, then effing keep it. It’s your story.

    –Thank you for your service.

    –To everyone else, I’ve got work and 11 hours of driving to do soooo….have a great Labor Day weekend!!!!

    • Will Hare

      Stay safe while you drive! And thank you so much for taking the time to look at even some of it. Any eyes on the script are useful! Happy Labor Day to you (and everyone else) too!

  • Will Hare

    Oh, just for fun, this is who I had in mind for the parts as I was writing:

    Fenton– Timothy Olyphant or Idris Elba

    Pops– James McAvoy

    Sanjuro– Devon Aoki or Jamie Chung

    Coldbeer– Michelle Rodriguez

    Gurps– Michael B. Jordan

    Calliope– Taraji P. Henson

    Ionesco– Jay Baruchel

    Hank– Walton Goggins (can you tell I watch Justified?)

  • Logic Ninja

    By the way, the last couple of times I’ve downloaded an SS script from SendSpace, my antivirus software has “blocked an infection.” Has this been true for anyone else?

    • Will Hare

      Hasn’t happened to me. But, if you’re interested, if you look down the comment thread, you should find the first comment I made today (perhaps if you sort by “best” instead of “newest,” you might find it easier. I provide a mediafire link to my script.

    • charliesb

      Yes this happened to me yesterday. Today I got the script off Will’s media fire and had no problem though.

  • charliesb

    Congrats on getting chosen Will, I only read a few pages when it was offered a few weekends ago, ( I found it a bit overwhelming). but today I downloaded your new draft and got to about page 20 before I stopped. I think you have an entertaining story here, but if you can focus a bit more on your characters you can improve it even more. Here are my notes for what they’re worth and good luck with it.

    Opening sequence:

    I think you’ve improved this in your new draft, but I still think it needs to be a bit longer. You’ve given us snippets of each of the characters personalities, but I’d like to see Fenton and Pop’s a little clearer so that when we jump forward 6 years, I really see how much Pops has changed and how little Fenton has. Action movies love callbacks, where a scene is very similar to an earlier one. When Fenton comes through the door you mention that he’s still a bad ass, but you didn’t show me that he is one in the earlier scene. This would be a great place to throw in a callback where he mimics something he did in the opening scene. I know it may sound like an obvious trope. But tropes are “tropes” because they work.

    I find it hard to believe that Gurps at 20 knows about Capricorn One, I don’t think many people watching will know that movie either so you might want to expand that joke. Also someone born in ’88 might not love Segal, their action stars are from the 90’s and early 2000’s. It’s not that he can’t love Segal, I just think that if your going to have someone that young be into him, you need to use that to make a joke, or reveal something about his character (which maybe you do later on in the script).

    The Afsoon sighting felt weird. And 20 pages in you haven’t really talked about why they knew who Afsoon was, or what they were doing in that village. If Gurps is the only person that knew what Afsoon looks like, you need to speak to that in the opening scene. Explain how he spotted her in a dusty landscape from an Miltary vehicle a few feet away. Would she not be covering her face? These may be details that you get into further along in the script. But I think some of them need to be addressed right way, for believability.

    Pops Apartment

    Instead of having Pops say the standard “Hello everyone, I’m a blank” line, how about they are talking about something he has to deal with because of his agoraphobia. Let the audience work a little for the specifics. It would actually be great if he was talking about last tuesday.

    I probably would have played Fenton disconnecting from the group chat for laughs, with him closing each window individually, and us getting the reactions from each person. Agoraphobics can be quite comfortable when they are in the safety of their homes, so I’d have at least one of them be very interested in what is going on.

    Tasing Pop:

    To me this is hilarious, and should have had more of a build up. Using a taser to get Pops out of the house is cruel and really funny. You need to build to it, have some back and forth. Maybe he threatens a bit, maybe Pops says he can take it. Maybe Pops says it’s not going to work, all he’s going to do is piss his pants. Maybe Fenton responds, “either way you’re still coming.” Whatever you write, I’d make this scene a bit longer. It’s also a good place to hide some exposition about their relationship (how long they served together, etc)

    Ride Along:

    Pops is waaaaaay too calm. Have him sweating, have him uncomfortable. You medicate him later, maybe Fenton medicates him now. Discuss the last time he left the house. That can lead into the talk about Tuesdays instead of Fenton just point blank asking him “what are tuesdays”


    Pops is sweating and holding onto the dash with both hands. He closes his eyes and begins to count backwards from 100, attempting to will himself through this.

    When was the last time you left the apartment?

    Pops breathes like a woman in labour. He flinches as a biker courier speeds past the passenger side window.

    Tuesday… (laughs nervously) about 10 tuesdays ago. Tuesday is attempt to go to the store day.
    end scene

    Also, while the “everyday is Tuesday” is a great line. It doesn’t really work. You need to have Pops say something that makes everyday be about more than attempting to go the store. Like maybe he mentions, “he tries to get a little bit (of his old life) back” or something. To which Fenton then replies with the every day is tuesday line.


    When Fenton tells Pops what he wants, there is something in that dialogue that feels a little off. I don’t think you need to lay all your cards down on the table here. You don’t need to mention that the Pentagon has a leak, just say he’s been given authority to pick his own team, and maybe let the information about the problems in the Pentagon come out later.

    Try to keep the conversation personal. Instead of lines like “we got our clocks cleaned” it should be more about “finding a way back”. I’m not saying remove all the cool lines, I just think whenever you can make it personal instead of general it will be funnier, harder hitting, more genuine.

    For example when Pops tells Fenton that he should find someone with two legs who like open spaces.

    Fenton replies: I can’t trust anyone on the inside. Having all your limbs? Overrated. And as for open spaces? I’ve got leverage.

    Instead of giving us the generic hero speak you could try something like:

    Fenton: There’s only 5 maybe 6 other soldiers with two legs that I trust to guard my six better than you. Unfortunately for you, none of them are returning my calls.

    Pops: You can’t just force me to … nut up.

    Fenton pulls out the taser.

    Fenton: Even with all this leverage?
    end scene

    Anyway, I’m gonna stop now, this got a lot longer and bossier than I wanted it to. :) I think you’ve got something here, I’ll try to finish this up today and report back with a more condensed thoughts on the overall plot.

    P.S. With Tuesday being Pop’s “day”, I expected to see at lleast one see you next tuesday joke.

    • Will Hare

      Thank you so, so much for taking the time to read what you’ve read. I’ll be interested to hear what you think about the rest of the script, because, and this may still not be clear, but there are reasons that they’re acting the way they do, especially Fenton. Like I said, it may not be clear, but we’ll see,

      However, I really appreciate you taking the time to read some pages and give me some ideas to roll around in my head. Have a great holiday weekend!

  • ElectricDreamer

    I’m wrestling with a rogue salivary gland that has plans to take over my face.
    So I won’t be digging into scripts today (AOW come back AFTER the holiday, please?)

    But I’m determined to offer someone with this much talent & drive at least SOMETHING.
    I went back to the AF review for Will’s other script, Second Class Hero.
    And I found a Carson note that I also struggled with in The Berzerkers (keep the “z”).

    “Also, while I loved how much effort Will put into Billy’s character
    development, I’m not sure I ever really believed it. There’s this fine
    line whenever you’re developing a character, where if you’re not
    careful, it comes off more technical than real. I mean I can make my
    hero a schizophrenic orphan with face blindness and OCD, but if it
    doesn’t feel honest, if it doesn’t feel truly embedded into the
    character, then it’s no different than giving your character no depth at
    all. In fact, it’s worse, because it feels false…. Once I detect falseness
    in a script, whether it be through the story or the characters, I start to pull away.”

    When sussing out a character, I look at EXTERNAL character traits like post-it notes.
    So, I draw a HAPPY FACE on my white board and then stick a post-it note on it.
    Every time I want to add an external thing, another post-it note goes on the face.
    But after a while, there’s no face left. That’s when I turn to HUMAN BEHAVIOR for help…
    Uber power writer Tony Gilroy’s quote hit me right in the brainpan:

    “You have to know human behaviour … And the quality of your writing is
    absolutely capped at your understanding of human behaviour. You’ll never
    write above what you know about people.”

    That’s the moment I realized something that would take my craft to a new place…
    I had to become a student of human behavior so my characters would track on the page.
    That meant casting aside my screenwriting books for some psychology tomes.
    Using human nature to fuel the characters helps me make better scenes choices.
    If I know my protag’s psychology then I can throw MUCH BETTER ROCKS at him. :-)

    Take Ordinary People, for instance: I would remove all those external post-it notes.
    And give young Timothy Hutton’s flawed protag just one post-it note:
    He’s a kid that lives in the shadow of his dead brother.
    That psychologically sound flaw drives EVERYTHING he does in the story.

    In closing, I think Will knows the psychology of his characters very well.
    But perhaps these ramblings can help him translate it better to the page.
    Good luck Will, I’d definitely read you off-site should you wish to send me pages.

    • Will Hare

      Thank you so much for taking the time to give me some feedback. I do remember that note from Second Place Hero. I tried to take it to heart for this script. But I shouldn’t discount people’s observations about the believability of a character.

  • brenkilco

    So far read to page forty. Well written. The staccato style, sort of de rigueur for action scripts I guess, sometimes sacrifices clarity for speed. And some of the cute descriptions, like a sea of sharpie, for a blacked out report take a second to register. At other times there’s a bit too much detail. Don’t think we need to know every punch that was thrown in that bowling ball scene.

    I didn’t have that much trouble keeping people straight but some additional effort to give each character a distinctive voice might be in order. The banter is sometimes a bit generic. The bigger descriptive problem is logistical. Scenes where a half dozen people are performing separate actions simultaneously are inevitably going to be a bit confusing. My only suggestion here may be a painful one. Could you maybe afford to lose a character? I know the Dirty Dozen had twice as many. But at least half of them had no lines.

    My biggest problem is that although the script moves quickly it seems by page forty we should be further along in the story. It’s really just starting. All they’ve done so far is reassemble the group and fail to secure money? by blowing up the drug warehouse. Only now are they starting off to get an actual piece of information to help them find the terrorist. A journal that’s just being mentioned for the first tine And that appears only to contain a list that will help them find still more characters who will help them find the terrorist.

    What we have at this point are tons of questions and no answers. Who the hell is this terrorist? Why was she in that Afgan town and why did she stage the ambush? Why is it that with hundreds of thousands of employees in the defense establishment and homeland security administration the safety of the nation is riding on a half dozen physically and mentally disabled individuals? It seems ridiculous and the line that the pentagon leaks like a sieve is an insufficient explanation. They need Gurps because he has seen the terrorist. Surely the CIA has pictures of this uber threat, who apparently can’t be kept out of the country though it’s clear when she’s here. How did Gurps originally know who to look for? And isn’t it safe to assume that her appearance has changed so that the value of his addled memory is far outweighed by the danger of attacking a military installation to free him?

    The scene between Kevin and the Doctor suggest dark forces are at work. You may have surprises to spring later but it would be nice to at least have some sense of the threat here.

    Anyway enough carping. Very professional and perhaps my questions and concerns will be answered before the end.

    • Will Hare

      Yes, (most) things will be answered in the next twenty pages, in particular the questions about the Pentagon. It still might not be clear, but I do attempt to answer those questions.

      And, not to spoil anything, but you do find out what happened on that day in Afghanistan. As to why Afsoon is there, etc…

      some questions just won;’t be answered. This comes down to what I think needs to be focused on in the second half of the script. Let me state again that it may not come across to you, and that is very valid and should be listened to.

      One interesting thing about the karaoke scene. It used to be four pages long, with a much longer fight. I cut the actual fight to 1/2 a page. There is a bit of method to my madness in that scene– set ups and all– okay… don’t want it to look like I’m defending my work. I don’t feel defensive. I really appreciate you taking the time to read the pages thus far.

  • Logic Ninja

    Really enjoying the script so far! I did notice one tiny thing–I think (?) the word is usually spelled “Berserkers.”


    Google does say there’s a heavy metal band called “The Berzerker,” and a Marvel character by the same name. And to hell with it, if Tarantino can title a movie “Inglourious Basterds,” what’s a Z among friends?

    Actually, from a marketing standpoint, the difference of a letter would bring the move right to the top of a search engine list.

    So forget I said anything, haha.

    • Will Hare


    • brenkilco

      It’z forgotten.

  • klmn

    Just in the one page Carson posted, it goes from an exterior to an interior to an exterior without master scene headings.

    Is this acceptable now?

    • Kirk Diggler

      I personally wouldn’t do it. Why create any unwanted confusion?

    • Will Hare

      It’s all outside. It’s an outdoor food festival (and the tents aren’t enclosed)– I made the headings, actually, to clear up any confusion, as this set piece, which is the midpoint, has a lot of moving parts. I know that looking at that sample makes it seem like I’m jamming all kinds of stuff in there, but I’ve established all of the locations, and the main characters, long before we get to this scene. The added elements are the goons. (I totally understand why Carson picked that page… I just wanted to give some context).

    • Jaco

      Anything’s acceptable – as long as it’s clear. The technique Will’s used has been utilized in screenplays for years.

  • Tom

    Congrats on all the career momentum, Will! Keep up the hustle.

    I read the first act of Berzerkers. I see that a lot of the comments are focusing on the opening sequence, and I have to agree that it’s not doing you any favors.

    The problem is one of tonal inconsistency.

    When I read the log line, I envision something similar to RED, or other comic book action movies. I see a movie about a bunch of badasses who get their asses handed to them, and now get their chance for revenge. I expected these guys to be tough, larger than life, and yet humbled and psychologically fucked up, itching for revenge. You know, like a comic book.

    But you introduce us to your world by showing us a squad of everyday soldiers, performing everyday escort duty, during the VERY real and VERY recent War in Afghanistan. We don’t see what hits them, but we kind of envision an IED and AK-47 fire. Again, it’s REAL. Sure, it’s not too dissimilar from the Iron Man opening, but that was focused on Tony Stark – a larger than life character. Not the grunts on the ground who get slaughtered.

    In itself, there’s nothing wrong with this set-up. I think a movie about a group of disabled vets who pull themselves together, break the rules, and return to the Middle East to hunt down Osama bin Ladin (or some other uber terrorist) could be a very insightful dark action-comedy that could convey some powerful themes. But that’s not the movie that you have here.

    You have a comic book movie. When you look at all their over-the-top antics and bizarre careers/character ticks you’ve given them, you haven’t written real soldiers. You’ve written comic book soldiers.

    We need a big, comic-book opening to match. These characters need to be huge. We need to have the sense that this rag-tag team is the ONLY group capable of stopping Ms. Super-Terrorist… if only they can manage to pull together. With a title like “Berzerkers,” I expected us to be introduced to a Predator-esque squad of ultra-badasses. Did the Navy Seals just say that this job can’t be done??? Let’s call in the fucking Berzerkers then!

    And then, when the “Berzerkers” get smacked down, we know this villain is for real. A team like this will be itching for payback.

    As it stands, the script is lacking a strong pulse. The motivation that powers the characters is supposedly revenge… yet, no one besides Fenton really seems to care. Without that strong, uniting motivation, your characters are being powered by angst. “Woe is me, people died under my command.” “Woe is me, I lost my leg.” “Woe is me, my sister is dead.” They’re resisting action at every step of the way. They need to be talked into everything. None of them want to be there, and none of them feel the urgency to be there. They’re not having fun, and as a result, the read isn’t particularly fun. The characters are, sorry to say, a little annoying.

    Contrast that with RED (a movie that wasn’t great, but knew what it was). Sure, the heroes are reluctant, but there’s an undeniable sense that being back in action is getting their juices flowing again. They’re having fun. They bicker and there’s conflict, but there’s also a bond between them. I felt that all the Berzerker characters were sad, angsty teens who were rolling their eyes in the backseat of dad’s car.

    My advice is to go bigger. Make the characters bigger. Make the opening bigger. And make them WANT this revenge.

    • Will Hare

      Thank you for taking the time to read some of my pages. I really appreciate it!

    • charliesb

      “They need to be talked into everything. None of them want to be there, and none of them feel the urgency to be there. “

      I think this is a really good point. I was semi rooting for Pops, but we need to like and care about all of these characters right out of the gate.

      Also it interesting that you thought of RED, I thought of THE LOSERS which is incidentally is also a much better comic than movie.

  • brenkilco

    OK Finished the script. At this point I’m feeling a little lost and more than a little irritated. Granted I read it rather quickly, so it’s possible I missed something, and if so anyone can feel free to jump on me. Here’s how I put together what seems to be a really crazy plot

    Fenton is in fact nuts. He is being held legitimately. He does escape with government files. Caliope has a reason to be chasing him. Caliope believe he will try to spring Gurps, but rather than post agents he hangs out at the hospital himself and just happens to be out getting food when the escape happens. Afsoon is in fact dead. But dont we see her in Chicago? Anyway by cosmic coincidence Fenton just happens to look up a potential informant in Chicago who just happens to be planning a terrorist act and a firefight ensues between armed thugs connected to this plot and the Berzerkers. Caliope allies himself with these killers, even though she has no idea who they are or why they’re killing everyone in sight. When they find and capture Fenton the Bezerkers kill them and then convince Fenton that it was all the work of Afsoon, whom they pretend to kill so he’ll feel less crazy.

    Somebody help me out.

    • Will Hare

      Thank you very much for taking the time out of your day to read the whole script. You don’t know me, so it’s very generous of you. I’m gonna step away and leave it to others who have read the whole thing to discuss the script.

    • Citizen M

      So that’s it. I couldn’t connect the dots properly. I thought Fenton was locked up for being mad but was actually sane. Your version makes more sense.

      Meant to add to my review that the ending was a bit of a disappointment. We didn’t get the big action setpiece one normally gets in this type of movie.

      • brenkilco

        I would be more tolerant of all the plot mishegas if this thing were exclusively an action farce where I really didn’t expect it to add up. But the writer keeps throwing in these conversations about PTSD, guilt and alienation; and it seems like he wants us to take these characters at least semi-seriously. Not easy when little that they do can be taken seriously. And what’s with the Tony Robbins stuff? If it’s intended as a running gag I’m not getting it. Or is the author just a fan of the over the hill self help guru?

  • ArabyChic

    Who pissed in your cheerios?

  • Dan B

    All of this talk about Berzerker/Berserker has that song from Clerks stuck in my head

    • Craig Mack

      Do you want to make some fuck?

      • Will Hare

        Love that scene!

  • Will Hare

    Alright, all. Signing off. Nearly all of you have been great to talk to, and nearly all have made interesting/good/excellent points. I’ve enjoyed being here, but I’m stepping away. I’ve gotta get back to my new stories. Once again, thank you all!

    • JNave

      I haven’t had a chance to read the script, but congratulations on the review and accolades. It’s nice to see someone who is gracious and open to feedback find some degree of success.

  • Chris Mulligan

    Bless your heart, Hairy. That is some acerbic “advice”.

  • brenkilco

    One other point about the script. And I don’t mean to be a pain because a lot of it is exceptionally professional. But there is this thing in big scale action movies. Even at the most basic level they don’t take place in the real world. In the real world what would happen if the sort of melee described in the script happened in downtown Philadelphia? A thousand fed, state and local law enforcement officials would descend on the scene. Within hours the victims would be ID’d, their connections to one another established. Video cam surveillance footage of all those involved and all suspicious vehicles would be blanketing the cable news networks which would be yapping about nothing else. Every cop in the country would be on alert. All the characters, both heroes and villains, would be quickly scooped up. And the movie would be over. In the script only the main characters seem in any way interested.

    This flaw extends even to highly regarded movies. In Godfather 3 we witness a scene of gangland slaughter that dwarfs the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Yet nobody even shows up at Michael Corleone’s door to ask him a question. A scene later it’s like… well, that happened.

    • DW

      it’s not a flaw, it’s fiction

      • brenkilco

        Unless it’s outright fantasy, I would argue genre fiction should not ignore physical, social or political reality. The result is apt to look lazy, juvenile and incoherent.

        • DW

          in “The Social Network” mark zuckerberg’s motivation for creating Facebook and expanding it is winning some girl over, and he tries to screw his best friend out of billions of dollars because Eduardo was invited to a finals club and he wasn’t. those are completely unrealistic and absurd motivations (and also not true). but no one complains about that stuff. because it’s a movie. it’s drama. reality doesn’t apply

          • brenkilco

            You think it defies reality that the rich and influential might be motivated by pettiness, jealousy and vindictiveness. You probably sleep more soundly than I do The appeal of drama is that it gives a shape and completeness to reality missing from ordinary life. But the best dramas take pains to convince you of their reality.

          • DW

            it defies reality that he created facebook to win over a girl. In drama, it makes sense. if in real life, mark zuckerberg’s driving motivation for facebook was some woman he barely dated, we’d think he was a lunatic. In “slumdog millionaire” his whole purpose of going on “who wants to be a millionaire” wasn’t for money, but because some woman he loved watched the show. in real life, that would be considered a little extreme. but it’s not real life, it’s a movie. you’re bringing in real world concerns to will’s script. don’t knock him for that. it’s a movie. it’s drama. not real life.

          • brenkilco

            We appear to be at odds here. I really think this “It’s a movie” mantra is dangerous. How do you separate the believable from the utterly contrived? The adult from the childish? What are your standards for judging excellence if your basic inclination is to just go with it? What is the difference for instance, between an old Steven Seagal potboiler and No Country For Old Men? In both cases you’ve got crime, drugs, shootouts, psychokillers? Is there a difference? Hell, maybe the Segall is superior. At least it wraps things up.

  • Citizen M

    I read the whole script, but I had to force myself to keep reading. The plot started falling apart when they learn about Lenny the possible bomb maker from Ikiru’s journal. But she’s been dead six years. What could she know that’s relevant?

    This is an action movie like R.E.D. or The Expendables, where a bunch of over-the-hill misfits get together and pull off an impossible mission. Only, our misfits are psychologically damaged and instead of the wisecracks and one-liners, we get amateur therapy and Tony Robbins motivation techniques. The latter are not an improvement and don’t add to the entertainment value.

    The plot is impossibly convoluted. We are asked to believe that Dr Calliope and Kevin are agents of national security whose sole job is to look after Gurps in a psych ward. That Calliope, a doctor, has access to a top-secret file that Fenton could steal to learn about Afsoon’s latest plot. When Fenton carelessly loses the file he can’t remember what was in it, but they visit Sanjuro and Ikiru’s mother and learn about Lenny the possible bomb maker from Ikiru’s journal. She’s been dead six years. What could she know that’s relevant?

    I couldn’t figure out the bad guys. It’s hinted that the security forces want the bomb plot to come off to justify their existence, so Calliope, Kevin, mysterious bad people in black sedans who follow our crew, four men in a Lexus (never explained who they were), and Afsoon who might or might not exist.

    In an action movie the bad guy’s plans drive the action (per Bill Martell). I never knew what the bad guys’ plans were (or even who all the bad guys were).

    Who was our main protagonist? We rely on him or her to help us through the morass. It should be Maj. Fenton the leader, but he seemed to take a back seat to some of the other more colorful characters. He didn’t seem strong enough. And I never knew what exactly the plan or the threat was. Fenton could be incompetent, but he has to be definite. It was always go somewhere and, uh, do something.

    The gradual revelation as to what happened in Afghanistan just slowed the story down. And anyway, there are gaps, there was the attack, Ikiru threw herself on a grenade and died, Pops stepped on a mine and lost his leg, Sanjuro lost and eye, somehow they ended up in a cave and Fenton rescued them. What happened between the attack and the cave? How did they get away from the cave? Maybe you could leave out the Afghanistan scenes entirely. A couple of lines of dialogue and our imagination could do the job.

    There’s plenty of shooting, well described, but unless you know who’s trying to do what, it just confusion. Going into a scene, you need to know what the plan is, so you recognize when things start going wrong and the story twists. You need a strong central character to be your story guide. You need humor for relief from tension. You need to know what to expect to get tension in the first place. I never once felt that a devastating bomb would cause mayhem if they didn’t stop it.

    One other point. many of the scenes take place at night, but you only realize it when you look at the scene heading. The action is written as if it takes place in bright daylight. We should be able to tell it’s night from the way characters behave.

    Some detail notes written while reading:

    p. 2 – Are sisters permitted in the same unit?

    p. 4 – I feel I need to know more about the ambush. Character is revealed under stress. We don’t get to know these people.

    p. 7 – Nice mystery action with Fenton.

    p. 9 – Fenton should give examples of how the Pentagon’s leaking.

    p. 25 – Need a scene where they discover Afsoon file has blown away. What is their reaction to Fenton’s incompetence?

    p. 27 – Not written like at night. Needs to be for flash to have effect.

    p. 28 – Why baddies just watching? Why not take action if they’re so evil?

    p. 28 – Fenton’s motivation speech not convincing.

    p. 33 – Had to read twice to find out what was going on.

    p. 38 – I don’t like showing nervous state by chewing Ativan. Encourages an attitude that pill are the answer. Can’t you show his mental state by his actions?

    p. 38 – Sanjuro falls asleep suddenly. WTF? I had to page back to p. 36 to discover Fenton had given her pills. HIGHLIGHT Fenton’s action so we remember it for later.

    p. 39 – “Dark figure swirls” Why would Afsoon be watching them?

    p. 42 – Sanjuro, Maori, Kevin, Calliope, journal… getting complicated.

    p. 42 – Sanjuro asleep again. She woke very conveniently.

    p. 44 – Ionesco is too important. He was a lowly meth cooker on p. 30. I thought we could ignore him. Maybe you need to give him a bigger introductory scene.

    p. 46 – Since when does Fenton have radio comms? Last mention of radio was Afghanistan. And who is he talking to?

    p. 47 – Dark sedan. I thought we were in a pedestrian precinct with food stalls. Maybe describe it more completely for non-Chicagoans.

    p. 51 – Calliope is carrying a file in the middle of a firefight?! All very confusing. What’s going on? Who wants what? Who knows what?

    p. 60 – Not understanding issues between team members. Need more information at beginning. If we know what the issues are we can anticipate them cropping up at critical times, which leads to tension, which is good.

    p. 62 – Too much conversation referencing stuff we know nothing about.

    p. 61 – What is an M-80? (Presumably a thunderflash or some non-destructive explosive)

    p. 62 – At this point, finding it very hard to keep going. What’s the plan? What’s the threat? Who cares? What will the mission accomplish? They are relying on Lenny giving Afsoon’s location. He gave it up too easily. How do they know he wasn’t lying? It’s very unlikely that a bomb maker would know a terrorist leader’s location. These things are usually done through intermediaries and cutouts. The whole plot hangs on a very thin thread.

    (There’s more but it’s basically just repetition, not worth transcribing.)

    • Malibo Jackk

      Machine Gunner Martin.
      You took a machine gun to the script.

    • Scott Crawford

      Security forces justifying their existence? What is this, The Long Kiss Goodnight? Is it 1996? Am I back in university (college)?

      There are plenty of real terrorists out there:

      Don’t be afraid to portray the TRUTH.

  • Casper Chris


    Remember to send in your votes for your favorite amateur scripts. Deadline tomorrow.