Today’s amateur zombie screenplay poses the question – What is character development really?

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Genre: Drama/Zombie
Premise: (from writer) In a quarantined post-viral New York City, Elaine and Cora, two survivors with a strong stance against killing the infected, collide with two brothers who take the exact opposite approach.
About: Today’s writer used this zombie short to get into NYU, which was shot in a couple of days with minimal help.
Writer: Avishai Weinberger
Details: 109 pages

mila-kunis-3
I know what you’re saying. “Another zombie script?” Well there might as well be an echo in the room because that’s exactly what I was thinking. The good news? We’re not alone. Today’s writer began their e-mail with, “I know what you’re thinking. Another zombie script?” So we’re all on the same page here. We’re all worried that this is going to be “just another zombie script.” But! Our guest of honor promises that they’re doing something different, focusing more on character development than zombie slurpage.

And that’s a big reason why I picked this. When writers want to write character pieces, they all have different ideas on what that actually means. Some think it means all of their characters should talk about deep issues and traumatic childhood experiences’n stuff. That’s not character development. That’s boring. What DOES character development entail? Read on to find out.

The Last Ones Out starts with two friends in their late teens stuck in a post-apocalyptic Brooklyn. There’s 17 year old Cora, a mute, and 18 year old Elaine, an alpha female. The pair spend their days looking for food and fending off the occasional zombie. The zombies here are a little different from the kind we’re used to. They look confused, almost afraid. But when they get hungry, they have no problem turning you into a four-course meal.

But as strange as the zombies are, it’s not half as strange as how Elaine deals with these gimpy goofballs. Instead of shooting these bastards square in the forehead like our zombie-killing ancestors have taught us to do, she lures them out into the open and sets them free. She lives by a Terminator 2 no-casualties mantra.

Back in their apartment, Elaine does her best to care for the ailing Cora, who it appears still hasn’t recovered from the trauma of the apocalypse (hey, can ya blame the girl?). So her main focus outside surviving is bringing loopy Cora back to the land of the living, so to speak.

Just as Elaine’s about to give up on a rescue, the duo are visited by two brothers, 24 year old Joseph and 20 year old Ben (Surviving the apocalypse appears to be a young man’s game). While there’s some initial reluctance from the girls, the guys seem pretty genuine, so they let them in. The real point of contention in the group comes later, when Elaine finds out that Joseph is a shoot first and ask questions later kind of guy. Or in other words – a zombie killer! Elaine is not cool with this and gives him the John Connor speech about how you can’t just kill people. Err, Joseph points out, but they’re not people. They’re zombies.

Despite their differences, the group will have to work together when they find out an army is awaiting survivors on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. All they have to do is make a trip to an abandoned hospital, get a few things the military is requesting, and hope they don’t run into any zombies along the way. Yup, I’m sure that’s going to happen.

There’s a lot to learn from The Last Ones Out. Avishai definitely did some things right. There’s a really smooth easy-to-read writing style here and a solid third act. But the first two acts move way too slow and simply don’t have enough direction or meat to keep the reader riveted.

Let’s go back to that question about character development. That’s what Avishai wanted to do here – explore the characters. Was it a success? Well, in my opinion, the characters here weren’t that interesting.  I was kinda annoyed by how Elaine wouldn’t kill zombies.  And I was frustrated (and often confused) as to why Cora wouldn’t talk.  The relationships weren’t that interesting either. There was only minimal conflict between anyone, and the key relationship, between Elaine and Cora, was more confusing than anything (although I’ll admit the confusion was alleviated via a 3rd act payoff).  I felt the characters’ frustration and loneliness and fear.  But because the interactions were so static and neutered, I didn’t feel like anything was developing on the character front.

How can this be fixed? Well, one of the best ways to explore your characters is through their choices. Put difficult choices in front of characters and you’re going to see them develop right in front of our eyes. Let me give you a generic example. What if Elaine and Cora are running out of food and they’re both on the brink of starvation? Elaine knows this. But she’s indicated to Cora that everything’s fine. Does Elaine sneak the food for herself, letting Cora continue to starve?  Does she share the food, even though it’s not enough for both of them?  Or does she selflessly give all the food to Cora?  How she reacts to this problem gives us insight into who she is.  Then maybe later,  when circumstances get even more dire – when they’re literally down to their last piece of bread – does she change?  Whereas before she shared the food, maybe now she fights for it.  What we’re seeing before our eyes is a character developing.  She’s changing.  Choices are a great way to show this.

Or we can use one of the most common zombie tropes there is. Someone gets bit. They’re going to transform soon. Do our characters kill them or save them? This is a compelling CHOICE because it gets down to the core of who a character is. Are they selfish or loving ? This was kind of explored later on with Ben but it was 70-80 pages into the script. We needed compelling moments like this in the first and second acts as well.

Which leads me to probably the biggest problem with The Last Ones Out. There’s no goal for 60 pages. There’s no direction, no plan, outside of occasionally spray painting messages to fellow survivors. As I’ve said before, it’s not that a lack of a strong goal can’t be done in a screenplay. It’s just that it becomes infinitely harder to tell your story because your characters aren’t actively going after anything. They’re sitting around. And there’s too much sitting around here. The only time that really works is when there’s a TON of conflict within the group, creating lots of drama . But as I said before, there’s no real conflict inside of any of the scenes in the first and second act.

How do you fix the goal problem? Just give them a goal that’s important. In the story, Elaine’s cell phone works (for the record, I didn’t think the cell phone storyline made sense. It created too many questions). But it’s a mystery why it works. So maybe their goal is to find the cell towers, or find the cell headquarters, so they can see if there’s anyone running the system. That’s their current search. Now, instead of just wandering around for the occasional (and cliché) food hunt, they’re looking for something more concrete. Remember guys, characters ALWAYS NEED A PLAN. A plan means action. And you want to keep your characters active.

When your characters are NOT actively going after things (when they’re home at night), you need to figure out other ways to keep your reader interested. Readers don’t give out “mulligans” when they’re reading. They don’t say, “Oh, you just had that big outdoor scene so I’ll let you write two slow boring scenes now.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. If a reader’s bored, they check out. Which mean EVERY. SINGLE. SCENE. has to be interesting in some way.

(Spoilers follow) So, for example, let’s say we establish Cora as a zombie early on. But Elaine has been using a combination of medicines to keep her from turning all the way. When the boys show up, she has to hide this secret. She knows if they find out, they’ll kill Cora. So now there’s way more tension during the scenes because Elaine is hiding something. And the boys (who should probably be older and more sinister in the new version – they’re too docile here) are starting to get suspicious. That way, even your slow scenes have something going on in them. I know this is kind of explored with Ben later in the script, but again, it was too late. This direction would also allow a more logical reason for why they raid the hospital. Elaine needs more meds for Cora (the whole “military needs us to get meds” thing was obviously only thrown in there to create a late set piece at the hospital.  Be careful not to unnaturally force plot points into the story.  Good readers always spot them).

(major spoiler in this paragraph) There are a bunch of other little things I wish I had time to get into (I’m kind of preoccupied figuring out what the posts are going to be next week) but let me say a couple more things. I think you need to change the relationship between Elaine and Cora from friends to mother and daughter. I just never bought that Elaine would become so obsessed with nursing a zombie back to health who she never knew in the real world, to the point where she refused to kill any other zombies. But if it was her daughter, that would be different. I’d buy that.

Despite some fairly extensive criticism here, I wanna point out that the final act of The Last Ones Out was quite good. You have to do a better job setting up the army’s introduction, but the revelations and the urgency and the intensity of the final act – all of that was done quite well.

Going forward, I would also ask yourself, “What’s different about my zombie movie?” I think you need to find a more unique hook here. You’d probably counter, “Well my zombie script is more character driven.” Yeah but really, any good zombie flick should have character development. The “not killing the zombies” angle is sort of hook-y, but I don’t know if it has the weight to make a producer go, “I want that now!.”  So I’d try to improve the hook.

Congrats on finishing this, Avishai, and thanks for letting me read it. Hopefully my notes will help improve the next draft. :)

Script link: The Last Ones Out

[ ] Wait for the rewrite
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: In any movie, you want the climax to be the hardest thing our protagonist battles through. Every possible way you can make things more difficult for your characters during the climax? DO IT!. For example, I didn’t like how that they got to travel to the army base during the day, where it was easy to spot and avoid zombies. Why not force them to go at night, when the zombies are the most active and it’s harder to spot them? You gotta make it difficult!

  • tom8883

    “I think you need to find a more unique hook here.You’d probably counter, ‘Well my zombie script is more character driven.’ Yeah but really, any good zombie flick should have character development.” Exactly. Really, no character piece should be without a powerful concept and engaging plot all the way through, just as no horror or action or thriller or sci-fi with a killer hook should be without well constructed characters.

  • yeebarr

    Good notes Carson; I really loved Avishai’s take on the zombies but had the same issues with the story (i.e. needed more goals happening to drive it). As it is, it read as a good indie zombie flick but i think with another draft, taking your advice, this could be a great zombie movie.

  • yeebarr

    That would be great Avishai; I would love to see how you incorporate new ideas into our future drafts.

    I like the concept of making a non-horror horror movie but there’s still a great opportunity to build more tension/drama/mystery into your script. Good luck!

  • Kay Bryen

    To avoid flogging an undead horse, I’ll zero in on another improvement that hasn’t yet been suggested: the dialogue.

    But before that, I disagree that your characters need to be older. If you want to give the girls some history, let Cora be Elaine’s step sister who she always treated as an outsider, and who was “dead” to her. Now she realizes that when the apocalypse leaves you understaffed, you have to multi-task as sister, mother, BFF, guardian angel and assassin.

    Now, dialogue. This demographic (teens, early 20s) is notorious for being incredibly sarcastic, snarky, obnoxious and abrasive — but also funny, creative, expressive, resourceful and wiser than their years. But really all of that is just a mask to hide their fears, insecurities and sensitivity which they’ll never admit. Point being, all that needs to shine through the dialogue, because (mostly) your characters say exactly what they mean and mean exactly what they say.

    So for example we have Joseph saying: “You think you’re being altruistic…? This is about you, and your loneliness and what you want and your head’s too far up your ass for you to see the harm you’re doing… My brother died because of you.”

    Now this should be one of the most tension-filled scenes in the movie, but the dialogue robs it of that. For once, the words speak louder than actions. I hope I’m making sense, and wish you all the best with the revisions!

    • JakeBarnes12

      Great comments on “youth” dialogue, Kay!

      The lines you quote from the screenplay are dire — on-the-nose scene killers. And yet we all write lines and scenes like that. Trick’s to take them out in later drafts.

      “Breaking Bad” is a great example of a show where the writers simply refuse to have lines like that; they will go to any lengths to show and not tell, which is what leads to so many funny/powerful/unique scenes.

      • Crazdwrtr

        That line wasnt a scene killer to me. I liked it. On the nose or not. Could you suggest something else to better illustrate your point?

        • Crazdwrtr

          I hate the “don’t write-on-the-nose dialogue” mantra. I think overall this is a good rule, but to say never do it is crazy. Sometimes the audience wants to hear a character say what they are thinking, and we sometimes think in on the nose soundbites, not esoteric ones.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

      I agree the more you can intertwine the main characters personal history, espeacially past conflict, the more you open the story to all kinds of wonderful things.

  • thescreenplayman

    Hey, Avishai. Just curious, how old are you? Also, how did you get into screenwriting?

  • ripleyy

    First of all, I want to think Avishai for sending it in and while I had time to read 20-ish pages, I enjoyed what I read. I’m definitely going to read it on my own even if I know what happens.

    Secondly, it all depends on the TYPE of Drama you are going here. Are you going for an emotional driven, character piece or simply a light-on-drama Character piece?
    —-

    If you’re going with an emotional-driven script, then here’s my idea:

    Have the script built on one single premonition and what I mean by that is that Elaine has this dream – perhaps out of fear – that Cora will eventually get bit (she’s human).

    Elaine, as her mother, is controlling – that’s her flaw as a person – but since the apocalypse has caused her to be emotionally-connected to her daughter, she allows this dream to manifest. So now you give the audience something to worry about: is this premonition (a thing that will happen but haven’t just yet) is real, when will it happen and how will Elaine react to this. Now we’re not going for a whole insanity thing here, Elaine is simply afraid. Cora, on the other hand, is reckless but not out of a cliche choice and by reckless it means she doesn’t think, she never had to think for herself because back in the day, she was perhaps spoiled – Cora’s personality, I am sure, can be more detailed than this. As long as Cora has a flaw that threatens Elaine then that’s good enough.

    Enter Ben and Joseph, son and Father who it turns out Ben has the cure in his bloodstream but they’re just passing. Elaine needs Ben and Joseph to stay because if Cora is going to get bit, she needs Ben to stay because he has the cure – this is related to her flaw, she’s controlling. I’m just snowballing but perhaps Elaine – at least to some extent – hears the Army is on the other side of Brooklyn Bridge and they all need to move there but this is all based on a lie because not only have they no food, they’ll starve. Perhaps that lie spirals out of control and things go bad from worse all because of Elaine’s flaw.

    I was just snowballing and snowballing there but it’s emphasis is on flaw – on Character – that manifests itself. If you want an Drama like that, that’s fine but perhaps you might want something lighter. Anyway, that’s all I can think of but your siding with Elaine but also judging her motives as a person – she is, in the end of the day, afraid of losing the one thing that matters to her and through that control she ironically loses control. Does Ben have the cure? Who knows.

  • Xarkoprime

    I hate to take away from the topic just because my schedule is getting busier lately and I haven’t had a chance to read this screenplay yet, but it seems like an opportune time for me to ask this..

    I listened to an interview with Damon Lindelof on the Kevin Pollack show (yeah, apparently he has a show?) and he recalled his time at NYU. I have semester left in my BA, but I’m seriously considering film school after I graduate. He described his experience in a “not for me” type Carson review in which he said that most of the students there were into artsy direction and camerawork as opposed to focusing primarily on creating story and writing screenplays. I was just wondering, since Avishai attends NYU, if that experience is accurate. Are they known for their screenwriting courses? Or would a place like USC be better? I live in Canada, so either way, attending one of these schools is a little ways from home, I’d just prefer to choose the best one.

    • ArabyChic

      NYU is not known for screenwriting. It’s better known for visual directors (who, in my opinion could also benefit from lessons in screenwriting). I think the best school in NY for screenwriting is Columbia. I think the NYU has always been best known for their acting and directing programs, and Columbia for their screenwriting and producing.

  • Michael

    Great review Carson.

    This is not my genre. Admittedly, I’d rather be eaten by a zombie than read a zombie script. The script is slow and I can’t add to the criticism. What got me to read it was, I watched your short. The short really impressed me and I think Avishai displays a lot of talent. I’ll look forward to following his career. Good luck.

  • Sandro DeSantis

    “What we’re seeing before our eyes is a character developing. She’s changing. Choices are a great way to show this.”

    Great point Carson. Back your characters against a wall and show how far they’re willing to go to fix the problem or achieve their goal. Give them traits earlier on that make us think we know how they’ll react, and then twist / turn us in another direction. This also gives the character a chance for redemption and transformation.

  • ArabyChic

    Great review and “fixes”, Carson. I find all too often, a crit only mentions the problem, rarely offering solutions (or good solutions). I think yours are pretty sound.

    I’m paraphrasing Neil Gaiman here, but “Always listen to your friends and family when they tell you something isn’t working. Never listen when they tell you how to fix it.”

  • Poe_Serling

    “That’s (his) great weapon – words. He uses them the way other men use their fists.”

    Some great dialogue… at least I think so. Where is it from? We’ll get to that in a
    moment.

    Another week here at SS… and another zombie script lumbering toward us. Is that a good thing or bad?

    In this particular case – I say good. I applaud writer Avishai for getting a review on AF and focusing on character development. And a high-five for challenging yourself and trying something a bit different in the unglamourous and passionless world of these particular movie monsters.

    And as for me…

    I thought it would a great time to mention one of my favorite zombie flicks:

    I Walked with a Zombie – Here a nurse in the Caribbean resorts to voodoo to cure her patient, even though she’s in love with the woman’s husband.

    This ’43 classic was directed by Jacques Tourneur. The same man behind Cat People, Curse of the Demon, and even the classic Twilight Zone episode ‘Night Call.’

    What makes this one special is the elevated literacy of the script by Curt Siodmak. He used the structure of Jane Eyre to construct this story of voodoo and the walking undead to the West Indies.

    Great plot, compelling characters, memorable dialogue, a few real scares… another must-see in my horror book. Quick note: Yes, it’s slow by today’s standards but it only gets better with repeated viewings.

    So, if you’re looking for an intelligent zombie tale, I’d start with this one first.

    .

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      “I Walked with a Zombie”.

      This movie is a masterpiece. Beautifully shot, great story, incredible atmosphere, unforgettable visuals, amazing score – well, you get my point :-)

      • Poe_Serling

        Glad to see you back in action. ;-)

        • New_E

          Ditto. That must mean you finished your novel, Marija.

          E

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Hey ! Yep, my novella is done and the rewrites as well. All that’s left is a new scene to be added at the end. Since we’re in literary B-movie territory, my editor suggested a sort of teaser, like the open endings of some movies – you know, “This ain’t over, yet !” Should be fun :-)

          • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

            Congrats on finishing the novel! (almost at least) that’s really cool

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Thanx, John :-) 22 000 words, I’m proud of myself !

          • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

            When I first started writing, I tried writing a novel (I was like 20) I actually made it 145 pages before giving up. I got into screenwriting cause it was shorter, and I mistakenly thought easier.

            You should be very proud!

          • AstralAmerican

            No sh*t, same here!

          • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

            haha screenplay=110 pages, novel=200-400 pages…that’s why I got into screenwriting

          • Kay Bryen

            Whoa, take a bow girl! You’re our inspirational mascot.

            When you said 22,000 words, I checked the word count of the research and preparatory material for my current script — and it weighs in at a morbidly obese 64,000 words! I’m not sure if I’m over-thinking this script, or if I just talk too much :-(

          • AstralAmerican

            Hey, I have one of those in my new script!

          • Crazdwrtr

            Congrats, what a huge accomplishment. Please let us know when/where we can purchase it! Any novel plans on the horizon?

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Thanks :-) Well, it’s in French…

            I’ve already written a few novels but have no plans for a new one. The first was “published” (via the internet) and the second had been accepted by a publishing house but they closed shop, so to speak, a few months later :-( But I have a few other writing plans in store for 2013…

          • New_E

            Congrats, Marija!!! Wishing you much success with your work!
            Keep us posted!

            E

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          When life kicks you down, always get back up…

          Thanx ;-)

    • Keith Popely

      I remember that one. Good reference, Poe.

      • Poe_Serling

        Thanks, man.

        • Malibo Jackk

          (Not sure about that last paragraph.)

          I understand that George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) ran into Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) in a restaurant. And the first words out of his mouth were — “The movie didn’t make any money.”

          • Poe_Serling

            “The movie didn’t make any money.”

            That makes perfect sense….

            From a 2007 interview with Matheson:

            ‘… hopes the new Legend movie will serve his novel better than Hollywood’s two previous attempts, 1964’s The Last Man on Earth and 1971’s The Omega Man. ”They’ve never really done the book as I wrote it,” he says. And that’s not counting uncredited homages like George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie flick Night of the Living Dead. ”’Homage’ means ‘I get to steal your work,”’ says Matheson. ”George Romero’s a nice guy, though. I don’t harbor any animosity toward him.”

            Of the three I Am Legend based films, I tend to favor The Omega Man. I always thought that was a cool opening image of Chuck Heston in a sports car riding through downtown LA with zero traffic… or is it just wishful thinking on my part?

          • Malibo Jackk

            Damn you’re fast.
            Took me twenty minutes to edit mine.

          • Poe_Serling

            Not much to edit on my side…. mostly the quote from Matheson.

            But it did remind me of an interesting Matheson story… an interviewer asked him about the similarities between his novel Hell House and the classic The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson… his response? Something along the lines of his story being a ‘homage.’

          • New_E

            I just bought the Blu-Ray because I don’t think I’d ever seen it before & while I love the opening, I just couldn’t continue past a certain point. It got a little too silly (visually & otherwise) for me.

            E

          • Poe_Serling

            Omega Man does fall squarely in Heston’s cycle of sci-fi and disaster films, which started off with a bang – Planet of the Apes.. followed by the interesting Soylent Green and from there things sorta went downhill with things like Skyjacked, Earthquake, and Airport ’75.

            But I agree – Omega does suffer from a dated look and stylistic choices of ’70s filmmaking.

          • New_E

            Didn’t see SKYJACKED, don’t remember EARTHQUAKE, & I don’t believe I saw AIRPORT either. Like SOYLENT GREEN though.

            As for OMEGA MAN – that dialogue! That acting! Those costumes! That makeup! Lord help me.

            I haven’t seen I AM LEGEND but it HAS to be better than that.

            E

          • carsonreeves1

            Hey, that was cutting edge at the time!

          • New_E

            I know, but damn. It’s just one of those films that looks dated. Didn’t age well at all IMHO. Looked like some Blaxploitation flick.

            If I want to see Blaxploitation, it better not star Charlton Heston! I want Richard Roundtree, I want Fred Williamson. I want WILLIE DYNAMITE. I want THE LEGEND OF NIG*ER CHARLEY (yes!).

            Beyond Romero, I think Italians like Fulci & Deodato did the whole zombie thing better in the 70s/80s. ZOMBIE, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, etc… no masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination (trashy, cheap, exploitive), but there was something to them. Can’t put my finger on it.

            E

          • carsonreeves1

            Yeah, it’s so hard to go back to those movies and suspend your disbelief. There are just too many things screaming at you that what you’re watching isn’t real.

          • Poe_Serling

            E-

            You bailed way too early… Chuck Heston making love to Foxxy Cleopatra…. both groundbreaking and delightfully kitsch. ;-))

          • New_E

            Wow Poe, you know some of that dialogue by heart… impressive. The Blu-ray is still there, sitting on my shelf. Will get back to it, eventually. Doing some shots will help.

            E

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, I like to memorize bad scripts in my spare time… just kidding, of
            course. ;-)

            I actually found that gem of a line from Omega Man by just typing in ‘memorable quotes’ from the film… afraid to see what some of the unmemorable quotes from that film might include.

          • AstralAmerican

            OMEGA MAN — awful! I AM LEGEND — awful! Spare yourself the agony of wack VFX and a idiotic script.

          • New_E

            Ok, I won’t see it then! Never really wanted to.

            E

          • ArabyChic

            Hmm. I’d have to say The Last Man on Earth is the best and most faithful of the three adaptations.

            I think Matheson must have been seriously let down with the Will Smith “Legend”, being that the movie had very little to do with the book. Don’t even get me started on that ending…

          • Poe_Serling

            Courtesy of Wiki:

            “Among the film’s creators, Price “had a certain fondness for the film” and felt it was better than The Omega Man. Richard Matheson co-wrote the film’s screenplay, but was unhappy with the results. In order to keep receiving residual income from the film, though, he had to be credited, and so used the name “Logan Swanson” – a combination of his wife’s mother’s maiden name and his mother’s maiden name.

            Matheson remarked, “I was disappointed in The Last Man on Earth, even though they more or less followed my story. I think Vincent Price, whom I love in every one of his pictures that I wrote, was miscast. I also felt the direction was kind of poor. I just didn’t care for it.”

            Personally, I’ve enjoyed watching all three versions for a variety of reasons. Can’t wait for the fourth remake…. whenever that is. ;-)

    • Xarkoprime

      I picked I Walked with a Zombie up at the CNE (a big 2 week carnival in Toronto) at a discount movie sale not knowing anything about it.

      Loved it :)

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey X-

        I encourage you to check out the other Val Lewton productions from this time period, especially Cat People and The Seventh Victim.

        Seventh Victim – A girl’s search for her missing sister puts her in conflict with a band of Satanists in New York City (I guess zombies aren’t the only ones calling the Big Apple home).

        Cat People- A newlywed fears that an ancient curse will turn her into a bloodthirsty beast.

        Both are topnotch horror films with creepy atmospheric touches in almost every
        frame.

        • ThomasBrownen

          Cat People is one of my grandmother’s favorite films. It really has a creepy atmosphere throughout and does a great job keeping the suspense up.

          • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

            Telling someone that it is one of your grandmother’s favorite films is not a great way to sell a horror movie=) just kidding ya, but that is kinda funny

          • ThomasBrownen

            Haha. Too true. (This is where she would jump into the conversation and insist, “But it’s a classic! When they had movie stars–not just actors. Not like those newer movies.” And then the conversation would devolve into quotes from Sunset Blvd.)

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            I love your grandma :-)

          • Poe_Serling

            You could always go the other route… the ’82 erotic remake of Cat People.

            This update was directed by Paul Schrader and starred a very nubile Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell. Filled with heavy doses of sex, nudity, and violence.

            Fun fact: theme song by David Bowie. You got to love the ’80s.

          • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

            That is very disturbing!!! haha

          • Malibo Jackk

            I guess you don’t know grandma.

        • Xarkoprime

          I’ll mark those ones down. Thanks :)

    • New_E

      From now on, I’ll just +1 and agree with all of Poe’s posts. It’ll just be faster.

      Great recommendations on I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE & Tourneur & Siodmak movies though I generally prefer their film noirs THE KILLERS / SPIRAL STAIRCASE / CRISS CROSS / THE DARK MIRROR & especially OUT OF THE PAST.

      E

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey E-

        All great films – one and all. I just gave some ScriptShadow love to The Spiral Staircase just a few days ago.

        • Acarl

          Hows about SHOCK WAVES and CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS? Love these two oft forgotten gems. I personally think Shock Waves should/could be re-made.

          • Poe_Serling

            Shockwaves… a hell of a lot of fun. Best scene: When the zombies rise out of the ocean, goggles still intact.

          • Acarl

            And that sound effect when they walk on the ocean floor.

      • GraemeMcPhail

        “From now on, I’ll just +1 and agree with all of Poe’s posts. It’ll just be faster.”

        I frequently feel this way too!

        • New_E

          +1

          E

  • Crazdwrtr

    Good for you. To be so young, your short had a lot of heart. Are you in the short? I can’t remember the name of the actresses.

  • The_haze

    Here’s a tip, and it’s just a tip I wish someone told me years ago when I was doing it. If you’re script is over 110 pages, or in this instance 108 or more and you are newbie the script isn’t going to be structured right.

    This isn’t a one fitting, fits all, but it is pretty damn close. The beats need to be tighter. Scenes need to be tighter. In this script for instance the writer used all the things that carson said to do. Put a spin on your characters. Put a spin on the genre conventions. Give your pro tags quirks that make it harder to achieve their goal. External and internal goals that eventually intersect.

    So what the writer did was listen, he/she listened and what we got was ANOTHER ZOMBIE movie with one protag that can’t kill them for moral reasons and the other one, doesn’t talk.

    Seems to be something that could be very funny, but when it comes down to it, there isn’t that threadline, that innate sense on how to move in and out of scenes that comes with writing multiple scripts. The harder you make it on your pro tag, the better writer you have to be; and what i’m noticing over my years on this site is a dogmatic adherence to cartons GSU’S, and the like. At the end of that assembly line is ‘that’ same script with the same clumsy reveals and payoffs and static scenes.

    So in essence your teacher is teaching you things that might actually hinder you beyond the rudimentary mechanics of screenwriting. The lessons you learn early are almost impossible to shed from your writing. It’s something to think about.

    Writing is about discovering other points of views so your characters can be three dimensional. This isn’t a horserace where the blinders are on and your whipping the horse. It’s more like equestrian, you’re on your horse and your surveying the land. There’s a meandering pace to screenwriting that comes through experimentation, not dogma.

    Rustin

    • carsonreeves1

      But my complaint was that there wasn’t enough GSU here. And that the characters needed more development. Which means we’re agreeing that those areas need to be improved. I don’t understand what you’re saying.

      Also, your comment is sort of rambled and unfocused. (“This isn’t a one fitting, fits all, but it is pretty damn close” – what does that mean?) Your critiques used to be better thought through. Now they’re confusing.

  • Poe_Serling

    Hey Avishai-

    It’s always nice when the featured writer chimes in early… it seems to make for a more rewarding experience for all parties involved.

  • Mb

    Good point about the action. For a 2 hour zombie movie, you need that. A TV show like The Walking Dead can get away with less action in an episode to further develop some character angle…Having said that, this season has been much better with more zombies per episode than season 2, which spent too much time on the farm talking.

  • courlo

    be thankful and fully motivated to drill down deeper and frack that black gold that awaits you, avishai. however, do recall this saying while you work: There will be blood (metaphorically). anyway, your spec was chosen and posted, and that says a whole heap of good things about your writing (Carson said as much), so i know that, with his notes, and the helpful advice from the rest of this community, your revisions will go weller than well, and turn out better than before. so, as we say here on oahu, happy aloha friday!

  • Dustin T. Benson

    Cool script.

  • Guest

    This is a great suggestion! The best stories are the ones that play against stereotypes because tehy create unique and inovative situation we have never seen before. I would strongly recommend Avishai consider a stereotype reversal such as this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

    This is a great suggestion! The best stories are the ones that play against stereotypes because they create unique and inovative situations we have never seen before. I would strongly recommend Avishai consider a stereotype reversal such as this.

  • Keith Popely

    “Their” and “them” are plural. They are not non-gender, singular substitutes for “his” or “her” or for “he” or “she.” In the future, when unsure whether a person being referenced is male or female or when not referencing a specific person, please use “his or her” or “he or she.” For example, “When he or she submits his or her script to Amateur Friday…etc.”

    Thank you for your cooperation in not destroying the English language.

    Sincerely,

    England

    • Citizen M

      “Their” is acceptable. I quote the Oxford Dictionary as authority:

      “Some people object to the use of plural pronouns in this type of situation on the grounds that it’s ungrammatical. In fact, the use of plural pronouns to refer back to a singular subject isn’t new: it represents a revival of a practice dating from the 16th century. It’s increasingly common in current English and is now widely accepted both in speech and in writing.”

      http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/he-or-she-versus-they

      • Keith Popely

        You are right on the cusp of getting a thumbs down, my friend. Watch it!

        • Malibo Jackk

          Is it possible that war will break out between Alaska and South Africa…?

          • Keith Popely

            People generally go to war with their neighbors: India and Pakistan, England and Ireland, Germany and France, Japan and China, Israel and Egypt. Know what I’m saying?

          • Malibo Jackk

            Then it’s Russia?

        • Citizen M

          Agreed it is debatable. The Economist style manual deprecates the use of “their” with a singular subject, but is not helpful in suggesting non-clunky alternatives.

          When the authorities disagree, we must make up our own minds. I’m happy to use “their’ and take the occasional brickbat for it. But in future I won’t contradict anyone who says it’s wrong.

          PS. What happened to the spell check? It’s gone.

          • Keith Popely

            Well, no one dislikes a brickbrat more than I.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.ryan.509 Charles Ryan

    I agree, if you’re going to continue to use NYC then use NYC. MSG, the Met, the buildings, the subways, the “Bronx Zoo”. I think it’s much cooler when it’s Zombies in bumblefuck where there isn’t easy access to things.

    • crazedwritr

      That was the beauty about Zombieland. Would not have been the same movie if set in New York or if they were traveling to New York.

    • garrett_h

      I agree. Everyone goes for NYC because the empty streets are “cinematic” but for me it’s more terrifying when you’re in a deserted area, low population, and all of a sudden a zombie horde comes marching toward you. When you send that horde of people through NYC, it just looks like Tuesday.

      • crazedwritr

        “When you send that horde of people through NYC, it just looks like Tuesday.”
        LOL

  • AJMockler

    Agree with the thrust of this review – the writer is certainly articulate, and the characters did feel real (if a little generic). I also like this take on zombies/infected, with them more like panicked animals/mental patients than shambling, slavering predators – it was a fresh approach. I also like the twist re. Cora.

    However, it is slightly overwritten with unnecessary action lines that could be combined and significantly shortened, and this slows the early pace right down. Also it does need a lot more incident in the first couple of acts, because I never really felt any sense of danger for the girls and boys involved until far too late in the script.

    But the writer should take heart – they can clearly write, and there is a lot of potential in this story for a nice take on the genre. I think Carson’s advice on making Elaine and Cora mother and daughter is spot on.

    Overall, one of the better written amateur Friday scripts, but still needs work to make it a compelling read. Great start though and good luck.

    AJM says: [X] Wasn’t for me.

  • Keith Popely

    Regarding a hook:

    I agree wholeheartedly that any movie in a crowded genre has to up the game in some unique way. As a viewer, I’m not interested in seeing another zombie or vampire movie unless you can make me think, “Oh, that’s new. That looks like fun.”

    For example, 48 HOURS LATER made the first significant improvement in the zombie game simply by changing one thing: Boyle made them fast. Before, you may or may not remember, zombies were slow and shuffling and rather dull. But the zombies in 48 HOURS LATER are dangerous. They’ll catch your ass. The entire zombie genre changed with that one idea.

    I AM LEGEND made a more minor change, but it made the movie interesting: the zombies had rudimentary intelligence, some basic organization and the ability to learn. In addition, the movie introduced the idea of a cure.

    It looks like WORLD WAR Z simply does a more intense version of 48 HOURS LATER: the zombies swarm. It’s like the super hot version of a salsa. Same but better.

    Here, the zombies in THE LAST ONE OUT are uniquely different, as well, in being somewhat confused and frightened. They retain an element of humanity. But, unfortunately, I think that works against the script. It’s an interesting concept to think about and talk about, but I don’t want to sit for two hours watching that. A frightened zombie is a less dangerous zombie. A movie like this calls for real threat. It calls for fast, aggressive, swarming zombies. (For the record, I didn’t like the added intelligence of I AM LEGEND. That seems like a cheat to me. I don’t want a lion that can read. I want him to be a brute, a maneater through and through.)

    I don’t have a recommendation here, but I think an important key to making this story work and making this script sellable is to come up with a way to, once again, reinvent the zombies themselves. Cool zombies = cool zombie movie = movie I will pay to see.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

      Just a random thought, but what if the zombies were made to be sympathetic figures that the girls were set on protecting against the army which was trying to destroy them? What if the goal of the protagonists was to save the zombies from being killed? This is probably the dumbest idea ever, but it has never been done before and it would fit with the way the zombies are written here.

      • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

        Damn…Now I kinda want to write that story! lol

      • Keith Popely

        I don’t think it’s a dumb idea. I just think a zombie movie should be about killing zombies who are bad ass and dangerous.

        • http://www.facebook.com/john.bradley.71066 John Bradley

          I agree…I just think there is so little room left for originality that the only thing left is to make a movie about a pro-tag trying to save zombies…writing the zombie genre is practically a no-win situation

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Keith, my dear, you’re mixing up 48 HOURS and 28 DAYS LATER ;-)

      • Keith Popely

        Ha! No shit. Thanks, Marija. But what if there were zombies in 48 HOURS? Now that’s a concept!

        • AJMockler

          Nick Nolte wouldn’t need much time in the make-up chair these days. ;-)

    • Citizen M

      Personally i like the classic slow, shambling zombie. But I agree they shouldn’t be confused or frightened. They should be dangerous and act on instinct, but in a shuffling, zombie way. Once they see you they should pursue you single-mindedly. Nothing should stop them except getting their heads blown off, or getting distracted. And they should have a certain amount of cunning, enough to do elementary stalking and trapping. I’d give them a good sense of smell as well.

  • Citizen M

    Zombies & New York = Mental Real Estate

  • sbbn

    “Today’s amateur zombie screenplay poses the question – What is character development really?”

    I don’t think that was supposed to make me laugh but it did in an esoteric, “What is life? Really?” sort of way. But I got me thinking about the question and honestly I’m not sure I have an answer except to say I know it when I see it and know when it isn’t there. It’s clearly more than quirky characters in weird situations. But it’s also more, I think, than just how a character changes. We’ve all seen the movies where bad guy becomes good and everyone is screaming bullshit! And I was thinking about Homeland – amazing characters and great show – and the changes aren’t dramatic. I think the amazing stuff in the show is more how the characters struggle with what happens and how it affects them than something as formulaic as “this character learns something…” I don’t think character develop means that the characters have to “develop” into something else or even overcome their struggles as much as they need to be affected by them and react in very real ways, in very human ways.

  • carsonreeves1

    Yeah, that one looks a bit different, which is what you need to do.

  • NajlaAnn

    I think Carson’s idea of changing Elaine and Cora from friends to mother and daughter is excellent. It raises the emotional stakes, establishes a long term connection leaving plenty of room for backstory, conflict, and character development. If this were my story, I’d make the change.

    • dianuj

      I disagree. We care about them plenty. They are alone, surrounded by danger and they care about each other. Their action prove their feeling not blood. I don’t think we need pages of daughter whinning about how she wasn’t loved enough. this isn’t the descendents.

      • NajlaAnn

        >> “I don’t think we need pages of daughter whinning about how she wasn’t loved enough. ” A mother /daughter relationship need not be about how the offspring wasn’t loved enough and whining about it. There are many other backstory possibilities like friendship, sharing blissful moments, suppose one was ill and the other cared for her, the mother loved her daughter but they had difference of opinions on things, etc. Ultimately, it all depends on what the creator wants. >> “this isn’t the descendents.” I never said it was. Please note: I stated what I would do if it were my story.

        • carsonreeves1

          I know what you mean Dianuj. I would avoid a whiney mother-daughter relationship. You’d want to go against the cliche and find something interesting in their dynamic. But if you didn’t go that way, I’d still look to improve the motivation for why Elaine cares for Cora so much.

        • dianuj

          But all that can happen between two unrelated individuals. Bonds can form in dire situations. 6 months spent with someone where you are 24/7 worried about their survival is a very powerful emotional attachment. At this stage, Cora and elaine’s relationship is stronger than any mother daughter relationship. Ben and joeseph are related, is their bond stronger than Cora and elaine’s? I would venture no. In a situation like this, blood bond means very little. It would matter if the story started with the four meeting for the first time, then loyalties would come into play, but this far along, they’ve “evolved” beyond simple blood loyalties.

    • Citizen M

      I think if you change Elaine and Cora to a mother-daughter pair the whole dynamic changes and you’d end up with a very different movie. Plus, and I mean no disrespect to Avishai, I don’t think he’s old enough to tackle a mother caring for a stricken daughter. Write what you know, and he knows the teens/20s age group.

      To digress a little, when I think of Cora I think of my sister’s cat. She found it as a kitten on the street sheltering under a car and took it in. It was the normal cute kitten, but grew into a cat with spots and stripes. That means it’s half wild. The stripes are from a domestic tabby, the spots from wild cats that live on the mountain nearby and sneak into town to forage and make whoopee.

      The thing is, you can clearly see its two natures. It enjoys being petted and stroked like a domestic cat, but only up to a point. Then something inside it seems to send out danger signals and it vanishes outside. It will sit near you, but never on your lap.Don’t try to hold it because it will rip your face off. It is old and scrawny now, but still as dual-natured as ever.

      I see Cora as the same. Half-turned. Wanting the comforts of civilization but feeling the lure of the wild. An internal conflict that could be explored more.

  • dianuj

    It was…okay. the biggest problem is lack of conflict, without which you can’t really tell a good story on screen. There is conflict in the basic premise of the genre, but that’s been neutered by the characterization of the zombie/infected/patient. The characters don’t fear them, not the way one expects to fear a living embodiment of a disease, then how can I? Elaine treats them like a pest and simply has to clear them out… Not because it’s hazardous to her existence but as a mercy to them, to alleviate their fears and discomfort.

    Now, since you taken out conflict from the premise, it needs to be supplemented by either character dynamics or dramatic irony, or for best effect, both. You have dramatic irony with Cora being infected, and I don’t know how Carson failed to pick up on that and had to wait for the payoff in the 3rd act. She is bitten, and Elaine acts like it’s no big deal, she can’t write, talk, and has primitive emotional responses. She’s infected. Avisahi gave ten times as many clue as need. He need to plant the seed and let us water and grow it, organically. He instead did and the work and just didn’t tell us what the plant’s Latin name was. That’s a mistake. Elaine has to freak out. More bites may mean regression. So to her, it’s about losing the work she’s put it, but to us it’ll be a fear or the transition up ahead. Avisahi neutered even that conflict.

    He has dramatic irony going with Elaine hiding the bite, but it never reaches a boiling point. The boys take it all at face value and refuse to investigate, thus removing any conflict and existing Page turning as Ben tries to confirm his suspicion by coaxing Cora to show her true colors. There needs to be irony in Elaines teaching about the nature of the patients. She tells them how they behave/function and this knowledge is used by them to discover and kill/hurt Cora. But instead, see get a cheap reveal of a characters being infected and Elaine spilling the beans. Once again, neutering the conflict to half a Page.

    If you aren’t going to scare us like 28 days later did with their most intimidating zombies/infected to date, where just their existence makes us fear for our protagonist, you need character conflict and dramatic irony.

    There are other problem, but they stem from what i just talked about. There is good writing in the opening pages but it never builds.

  • Deaf Ears

    Hey Avishai,
    if you want to check out a “horror movie that’s not a horror movie” try TROUBLE EVERY DAY, directed by Claire Denis and starring Beatrice Dalle and Vincent Gallo. It really is a horror movie in art-house film clothing. It’s pretty slow, but since it doesn’t depend on a lot of usual horror movie tropes like scary music or funky camera angles, paradoxically when the horror starts emerging it’s unbelievably intense. Also, MAGGIE, a script that was reviewed here a while ago, also comes at a zombie story from an unusual angle. Good luck!

  • DeepCoverage

    Not read the script. Don’t do Zombie (unless it’s The Walking Dead comic book).

    Read the script up to the spoiler alert. Mentioned a twist- I’m gonna hazard a guess-

    POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT

    Cora is a zombie?

    The moment I read Cora is a mute and the fact there’s a third act twist, that’s where my mind is going. Before even reading the script.

    You make Cora a mute, I’m already wondering the reason behind that creative decision.

    If I’m wrong, fair enough. If I’m right and this does get made, and the word twist get’s plastered over all the promotional materials and posters.

    There’s a problem there.

    In any case, following the whole Slaughter debacle, I intended to provide helpful notes to counterbalance all the heated debate from that now deleted post, but I’m not going to read a Zombie script unless it hit the motherload of a hook. And this hasn’t.

    But good luck with any rewrites regardless. I’m not your audience.

    • DeepCoverage

      I meant I read the ‘REVIEW’ up to the spoiler alert. Damn Zombies took my brain!

  • kellisays

    I really like the idea of people having to buy their way out of the city. That’s some strong motivation, and if it was revealed earlier it could apply some serious pressure on the characters & maybe force them into some more intriguing situations.

  • KT

    Initially, when I read the premise, it sparked my interest because I liked the whole “not killing
    zombies”. It’s different; and in a genre that’s been done to death you have to strive to present your story in a new and engaging way to get people’s attention. I liked the idea of telling another story WITHIN what appears to be a traditional zombie movie by not just telling a simple survival horror tale but instead focusing on someone’s rehabilitation of another in the midst of all this chaos – but I didn’t understand Elaine’s motivation for helping Cora… and ultimately it felt somewhat forced. We see two brief flashbacks that are supposed to give crucial insights into what lead to both of their situations, but neither of them were comprehensible… we supposedly Elaine escaped on a stalled subway train (???) and Cora saw something that caused her current state; I must have overlooked it because I was never sure of what that was.

    Also, there are too many, how do I say… “quiet moments” – and in a zombie script that
    usually sets up for a “big scare” but rarely if ever was I at the edge of my seat reading this. 

There were also too many times when scenery is just blandly described in the middle of action when the writing should have been more focused and kept the reader engaged. And there was definitively a not enough going occurring often enough; I never felt like the characters were ever really threatened and the tension between Elaine & Cora and Joseph & Ben isn’t nearly as palpable as it should be. Considering their situation, there was no sense of urgency to propel the story and there was more telling than showing. It got to the point where I began to feel more sympathy for the “patients” than the protagonists. I think placing the quartet in a situation where they were forced to rely on the strength of the pack to survive (probably by being underwhelmed from an onslaught of patients) whilst Elaine had to knowingly protect Cora from an impending attack from Joseph would have upped the stakes; but the goals need to become much clearer (or perhaps stronger) and this will allow the writing to become more concise.

    And who would have fresh eggs and milk in a city overtaken by a viral outbreak… ? That didn’t make sense to me. Especially considering the length to which Elaine and Cora had been surviving on their own.

  • garrett_h

    Just now getting a chance to comment…

    I liked this script, it was an interesting take on the zombie genre. And I can see what you were going for, Avishai. But in the end, I’d have to agree with Carson. Things moved pretty slow. The writing read fast, but nothing was happening. Things really picked up with the military storyline around the midpoint, but before that the story kind of dragged in places.

    I think this has tons of potential. And I also think Carson’s notes were spot on. All of them. I don’t agree with Carson much, but here I do 100% with just about every change he suggested. Ratchet up the tension. Speed things up. Spice up the dialogue. And this could be pretty good.

    Good luck with it, and congrats on getting picked for AF!

  • Poe_Serling

    Hey Carson-

    Before you changed gears, this one would’ve been right in your wheelhouse:

    Interstellar – The story involves time travel and alternate dimensions and sees a group of explorers travel through a wormhole.

    Written by Kip Thorne and Jonathan Nolan. With Christopher Nolan producing and possibly directing.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah I know. The Nolans keep their scripts in a vault though. We probably wouldn’t have found this one til two months after release. Having said that, I do have the old draft that Spielberg was going to do. :)

      And script reviewing might not be dead yet. It can’t be what it was. But I’ve been developing a few ideas over the last 72 hours. :)

      • Poe_Serling

        Oh, one other thing… a possible idea for a future article. After the Slaughter review, I started to think about the importance of having an eye-catching and meaningful title for your script/project.

        I can’t recall if you ever tackled that topic in the past, or if there’s even enough meat on that bone for a full article.

        Take M. Night’s films for example… The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Both titles are unique in their own way and tie in nicely with the major storyline of the scripts.

        On the other hand:

        The Happening – sounds like something to do with hippies, not eco-horror.

        The Village – generic and vague.

        After Earth – pretty dull and uninspired for a sci-fi thriller.

        A couple of recent amateur script titles that I think really work and capture the mojo of their storylines: Fatties and Zombie Res-erection.

  • Citizen M

    *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

    I like the way zombies might be slow and shuffling, but they can attack fast and viciously once they are within range. This is typical predator behaviour.

    Why is the word “zombie” never used in the script? They are “patients” or “infected”. I don’t think “patient” is an appropriate word unless they are under some sort of care.

    However, the zombie in the shop on p. 3 puzzles me. “she’s wracked with fear.” She’s a “terrified, diseased wreck”. If she’s so frightened why doesn’t she run away from Cora? But she follows her into the shop and attacks her. This is inconsistent. A predator stalks then attacks. A frightened creature only attacks when cornered and there is no other way out.

    To me a zombie spotting a human is like a dog with only one leg after a bitch on heat. It has no chance but it will never give up.

    Another thing. Zombies don’t eat their own. I’d expect them to attack Cora, then stop before biting her when they realise she’s not quite human.

    Why does Elaine spray-paint her address? What is she hoping or expecting will happen?
    – expect someone to comment: Remember the internet? The last thing on earth you’d do is give out your address. Too many crazies. Now it’s okay, because there really are too many crazies.

    BUT, on p. 68 she says “Volunteers. Disaster aid. Scientists. Soldiers. Reporters. So many people still come to the city.” If she knows all these people, how come she hasn’t asked them to help her out of the city? There’s something about the backstory I don’t understand.

    Soccer intervenes. More later…

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for pointing this one out… it looks like a camp classic. And what a wild and crazy cast! The montage of people smashing things was hilarious – pity the poor set decorator on that production.

    Last week I watched Mr. Hobbs takes a Vacation with Jimmy Stewart on TCM… another comedy from the ’60s. What I learned from that pic is teens and young adults from that decade are energetic to say the least.

  • Citizen M

    Soccer over. Shame. One guy scored two own goals plus missed a penalty. I bet he wishes he was eaten by zombies. Luckily he played for the opposition. Up the Blues! Ya-boo, Potters.

    Back to matters at hand. I have scads of notes on this script. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. If it only needs a tweak and a polish it’s worth making detailed notes. If it needs a complete rewrite there’s not much point. And this is almost there.

    For me, the main elements of the story are all in place. Two girls surrounded by zombies, two boys join them, a journey to the hospital, final escape. The one girl is deeply caring, the other needs help. The boys are killers. Good scope for conflict.

    So what’s missing?

    A coherent backstory, humour, sexual tension, goals and suspense, and theme.

    Theme. I’m not sure what the writer is trying to say. The script deals with issues of compassion and self-preservation, but if I have to sum up the moral of the story in a sentence, I can’t.

    Sexual tension. Two guys and two girls in an apartment in a beleaguered city. There’s gotta be sexual tension. Nothing needs to happen, but you have to know the guys are thinking about it. Especially when they split up to search for the guy from Apartment 4B (p. 57). Ben is alone with Cora, and Joseph with Elaine. We have to wonder if the guys will make a move on the girls.

    Humour. This could be snarkiness or gallows humour (see Kay Bryen’s comment), but young people will always try to find something funny to say. You missed a great opportunity on p. 33 when they raid the supermarket. The guys should go together and the girls together and we see how their shopping carts differ as each considers different things important. It could lead to running jokes later on as goods laughed at turn out to be valuable.

    Suspense. Basically, what this comes down to is we have to know there’s a bomb under the table. So I think we have to know Cora’s true status, and how protective Elaine is towards her, before the boys arrive. We’ll have the tension of wondering how Elaine will conceal the fact from them, and how they will react when they find out.

    Goals. Obviously one goal is simply to stay alive, which means finding food and water and avoiding zombies. But Elaine mentions people coming to the city and hints that they help her and Cora. I think this is a mistake. They should be truly alone and struggling.

    Another goal is for Elaine to keep Cora from turning. But she seems to do it by psychological means, i.e. being supportive an encouraging. I don’t see how this can prevent an infection taking its course.

    The boys are just drifting. They don’t seem to have any goal.

    This is not fully worked out, but I thought a backstory something along the following lines:

    A plague hits the Eastern seaboard of the USA. Many die, some die and resurrect as zombies and spread the plague by biting. Cora is one of the first infected via her father who works at the airport/harbour/govt lab. He brings her to the hospital where Elaine works and makes Elaine promise to look after Cora and gives her the keys to their apartment. Elaine tries a rare drug on Cora but within days it becomes too dangerous to leave the apartment. When the boys finally discover Cora’s condition they smash the drugs in anger.

    Meanwhile the electricity supply fails. Internet dies. No radio or TV. They have no idea what is going on elsewhere. There is water at reduced pressure (it is gravity fed from reservoirs). Maybe cellphone during the day from a solar-powered tower, but I don’t think you need it. Then, miracle. An aircraft flies over and pamphlets flutter down, say around p. 25. All survivors to gather at XX. That’s when the boys arrive. They are on their way to XX and they see the address written on the walls. It makes sense for them to join up and head for XX. But Elaine needs the rare drug for Cora before they leave and must persuade them to raid the hospital for a fresh supply..

    • Malibo Jackk

      Don’t know this script. (Usually not my thing.)
      Like the idea of the boys being shoplifters. Looters. Smashing windows. Having fun.
      And shooting zombies like they’re clay pigeons.

      Your post also suggests a scene —
      They’re watching a soccer match on some fading channel,
      when all of a sudden — zombies attack the field.

      You want a script that has the reader going to the window
      — to make sure zombies aren’t walking the street.

    • Kay Bryen

      Blues?? Didn’t know you’re a member of the Russian Mafia. Maybe you should sign Jon Walters to replace El Nino. Torres has no urgency, no stakes and certainly no goals :-) Anyway I have unfinished backstory with you guys for stabbing AVB in the back. But your loss is this Spursgirl’s gain. “Audere est Facere!”

      • Citizen M

        “Torres has no urgency, no stakes and certainly no goals”

        LOL!

        • rafasreds

          I have to say I am intrigued by Rafa at the helm, however brief it may be. But I also can’t wait for Mourinho’s return (Man City?). As for Liverpool, well, at least we picked up Sturridge – Looks like he’s got his shooting boots on. I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpasses Torres’ tally for the campaign. YNWA

  • Poe_Serling

    Here are a couple of how-to articles on using scene headers and slug lines:

    http://www.storysense.com/format/headings.htm

    http://www.storysense.com/format/slugs.htm

    Hope these help a bit.

  • Citizen M

    Last post, because I’m sure you’re sick of me.

    Frightened zombies. I could buy some people half-turning for some genetic reason. They would be frightened and confused and needing comfort and support until they either recover or turn.

    The writing is too unemotional. It is like director’s notes: stand here, do this, use that prop. But actors read the script too, and they need to know how they should be feeling. Are they curious, hesitant, frightened, confident, etc. Similes are useful. “She creeps up the stairs like a [whatever].” Also we need to know their reactions to circumstances. I have no idea how Cora felt about the boys arriving, for instance.

    Infection via cup. Please do not use this. It reminds me too much of the apartheid days when whites wouldn’t let blacks drink out of the same cups, and even today when people with AIDS are not allowed to use the same cups. If the infection is via blood there is no medical basis for it. It just reinforces hurtful behaviour.

    Using a handgun as a club is a bit un-girly. What if Elaine carries a baseball bat like a ninja sword on her backpack and most of the time uses it to fend off zombies, smacking them when necessary, She also carries a handgun as last-ditch defence.

    p. 26 – Too much exposition when questioning the boys. If we need this info some of it can be kept back until we’re stalking the zombie in 4B. They can chat while creeping around in the stairwells.

    p. 59 – Joseph and Elaine in Cora’s old apartment. I never understood why Cora would be frightened to go back, or why Joseph mustn’t tell Cora they were there. Also, he now has a hold over her because he knows her guilty secret. He doesn’t use it. Mistake. (Gun on the mantelpiece theory.)

    p. 60 – Good reveal of Cora.

    p. 63 – “A fresh bite. Right next to the other one.” Add “…she got while spray-painting.” I had forgotten about that bite and had to page back to find it.

    p. 67 – Inconsistent slug lines. INT. BATHROOM – DAY
    INT. ELAINES’S APARTMENT – LIVING ROOM – DAY
    I would use ELAINES’S APARTMENT when they enter, thereafter mini-slugs LIVING ROOM, BATHROOM etc.

    p. 71 – A solar charger that works at night. I don’t think so.

    p. 71 – The shopping cart in the apartment. Wouldn’t she normally leave it downstairs and carry the goods up? A shopping cart is an awkward thing.

    p. 77, 82 – Cora’s seizure/panic attack is unmotivated. If she has a history of them it should be set up earlier in the script.

    p. 80 – Patients banging on their windows. Good scary moment.

    P 102. Cora walking into 2C. We never saw her fear earlier, we were only told about it. So the scene does not have the impact it should have.

    • Somersby

      Martin, I always love your insight and voice. When you say “last post”, you’re meaning for this thread only, right?

      Gotta admit that if things change on Scriptshadow as I fear they may, I will miss all the regular voices that inhabit this space. Perhaps yours the most. :-)

    • Avishai

      All great notes… though I have to admit, I’m a little confused about your issue with the infection-by-cup. Why would the rules of a fictional zombie virus be offensive? There’s no medical scientific truth to it, but again, there’s no medical scientific truth to my zombies at all. I think I need to understand this more.

  • noelcs

    Quite easy to read Avishai and I like the way you set up mood.In upping the stakes maybe their inner sanctum apartment can get invaded because of the boys living there, a bit of time has been invested telling us how well it has been set up with secret keys, chair barricades etc. Would be nice to see their only safe place get violated.

  • Poe_Serling

    I never heard of Gone With the Pope… gotta love that logline though:

    Four ex-convicts journey to Rome to attempt to kidnap the Pope, planning to charge a ransom of a dollar from every Catholic in the world.

    1.2 billion Catholics = 1.2 billion in cash… wonder if you could pay by PayPal or if you have to send cash to a PO box somewhere. ;-)

    If you like Duke Mitchell’s stuff, you might enjoy the work of guys like H.B. Halicki and Early Owensby.

    H.B.’s work includes Gone in 60 Seconds (remade with Nic Cage) and his classic car crashfest Junkman.

    Here’s some of Earl Ownensby’s stuff:

    http://www.earlowensbystudios.com//Movies.html

  • Avishai

    My idea with the ending was that Elaine was respecting Cora’s wishes (it was Cora’s decision to return) and accepting the fact that Cora just couldn’t be saved and it was a fruitless effort.

    It didn’t quite work as well as I had hoped. I’m going to try and fix that in my rewrite (which, I think, will also address your other criticisms.) Thanks for giving it a read and for the great notes.