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Genre: Drama/Thriller
Premise (from writer): When a professional contract killer discovers he’s become the target of an assassination himself, he teams up with the would-be killer to figure out who set them up.
Why You Should Read (from writer): Been a screenwriter for a certain number of years, written some amount of screenplays, placed in various categories of various competitions, and done other unspecific things. But why should you read this specific script? I don’t know. Because I think it’s a decent script. Because I’m genuinely curious what kind of bashing Carson gives it. Also, this was a top 10 script in the Industry Insider Competition – Roger Avary round. No, it did not win the coveted honor of first place, but Fargo also lost best picture to The English Patient, so clearly people do make mistakes.
Writer: Matt Williams
Details: 114 pages

brad-pitt-se7en-gunI don’t use Brad Pitt lightly for these posts, but he’d be perfect for this.

Ugh. Another hitman script.

In the immortal words of Darth Vader: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-OOOOOOOOO!”

Has there ever been a hitman script that didn’t follow the exact same formula as every other hitman script? A cursory glance through my memory banks says, “Nuh-uh.” And thus I’m stuck eye-muscling my way through yet another generic story with yet another generic outcome.

Unless! Unless, The Savage South locates the hitman-script-miracle-serum and injects itself before it’s too late. Maybe with the help of Kevin Costner? Hey, didn’t I just write an article about positivity yesterday? Shouldn’t I have hope? Shouldn’t I be channeling the sweet-sounding hum of Nutty Australian Lady’s soothing voice? Please, I want more money to show up in my mailbox!

40-something Jeff Hollis is a hitman in New Orleans haunted by his gangster father’s murder of his mother. He works mainly for a group called the Dixie Mafia. And while you’d hope there was something unique about this deep south band of criminals, they’re really no different from any other mafia. They do unsavory things. They make a lot of dirty money. And if someone steps out of line, they call on old Hollis to put a bullet in their cranium.

Except one day, all of that changes. Hollis’s boss, Myron, tells him to make a pick-up for him, a job he doesn’t typically do. When Hollis gets there, he meets Eddie, a pathetic sort who confesses that he’s been sent here to kill Hollis but can’t go through with it. By whom, Hollis asks. Hollis is shocked to learn the trail leads back to the man he trusts the most, his boss and friend, Myron.

So Hollis grabs Eddie and they go to kill Myron. But just as Hollis is about to pull the trigger, Myron asks Hollis why he (Myron) would send the most inadequate hitman in history to kill him? Hollis takes pause. It does seem rather strange. Myron goes on to say it’s because he wanted Hollis to live. He was actually following an order from the leader of the Dixie Mafia, the reclusive Dominic, an order he couldn’t refuse unless he wanted to end up sans life.

So Hollis and Eddie go to find this guy, only to learn that Dominic has sicked the number one hitman in the country on Hollis, a bad motherfucker known as The Irishman. And if that weren’t bad enough, there’s a cop named Kessler who’s chasing Eddie for another murder entirely. In other words, there ain’t a lot of wiggle room in this pursuit.

Along the way, Hollis learns about the elaborate string of secrets and lies that led to his mother’s death, and how they had nothing to do with his father, but rather all point back to Dominic. Problem is, finding this guy is impossible. That is until an unlikely ally joins Hollis at the last second, prepared to help him achieve the justice he deserves. on this picture in a second.

What the hell. This was really good!

To be honest, I was a little dreary-eyed at first. The script took its time getting started. And that’s its biggest weakness. I eventually realized that all the early scenes are setting up the cast of characters, which eventually pay off. The thing is, I’ve read so many scripts where writers do this only for things NEVER to pay off, that I didn’t trust they would here either. Once I realized this was the real deal, I actually went back and re-read a lot of the early scenes.

The strength of this script is in its incredible plotting. Every piece of information is important. Every twist and turn has a purpose. And every character is in the script for a reason. There were two hook points for me. The first was when Hollis gets set up. That’s when I sat up (literally) and said, “Hmmm, okay, I’m intrigued now,” (around page 27) and the second is when Myron explains to Hollis the much bigger plan going on (around page 60 – the mid-point shift). That’s when I officially said, “Okay, I’m in it now.” I honestly haven’t read a script this well plotted, amateur or pro, in a long time.

In fact, I want to do something today that I don’t usually do. I want to speak directly to the writer, because I feel like if he can fix some of this stuff, he can really have a special script here. So these are the things I felt needed work.

The first act – The opening scene was good. It catches our interest and makes us want to find out who these guys are. But after that, I was bored for 25 pages. I just kept meeting people who didn’t seem important at the time. Hollis kills a man who seems insignificant. Hollis talks to a bunch of people in rooms. Kessler talks to people in rooms as well. I think readers are going to zone out somewhere in the first 30 and start skimming on you. Either move these scenes along faster, condense this section, or make it more entertaining. I don’t know if the scenes need more conflict, a bigger mystery box, more suspense, or what. But I didn’t get hooked until Hollis and Eddie met.

You can do more with Eddie – I think I know what you’re going for here. You’re trying to make Eddie the lovable loser. The guy who we’re hoping we’ll figure his life out. While the backstory with Eddie and his family is good, Eddie is eventually relegated to the “question-asker” character (see Ellen Page in Inception), someone to have around so our main character, Hollis, can bounce exposition off him. I don’t think Eddie needs to be the outrageous comic relief or anything (Kevin Hart), but he needs more personality. He needs to stand out somehow.

The Irishman must be bigger – As I was writing the above plot synopsis, I started writing this line: “The Irishman is a hitman that would make even Quentin Tarantino blush.” But then I realized that wasn’t true. He wasn’t unique enough. Wasn’t big enough. The Irishman is a solid bad guy, but he’s nowhere near as nuts as he could be. You need to think Anton Chigurh territory, maybe not that bizarre but definitely that memorable. This guy slits the throat of a patron who mouthed off to him. That doesn’t even make sense (he’s endangering his mission, since the waitress would’ve tipped off the police on who to look for). I believe you’re capable of writing someone a lot more original.

Kessler – While I understand that Kessler’s cutaway storyline adds a sense of urgency (someone chasing Hollis), I never really believed he was going to be a problem for Hollis. Maybe it’s because of that opening scene, when we see that Hollis clearly has him under control, or maybe it’s because Kessler’s too “light.” That and his scenes aren’t very interesting. You can boil them down to a dozen variations of “Do you know where Hollis is?” Just like Eddie, just like the Irishman, Kessler’s gotta have more shit going on. I don’t know if he needs to be reckless or dirty or unpredictable, but if he’s this perfect polite cop who only exists to give us something to cut away to, I’d rather not see him in the story. We have to make this guy more watchable. (crazy thought: Maybe make him a woman instead?  Pitch it to Brad Pitt’s people as a way for Brad and Angelina to work together?)

The Dixie Mafia – Finally, I want to know more about and feel more of the Dixie Mafia. What’s different about these guys? What do they do that other mafias don’t? Find out what’s unique about them and exploit it. Remember that if you’re not exploiting the very things that are different about your story, then what’s the point of including them in the first place? Why not make them the Russian mob or the Italian mob? Do a little research, find out what makes this mob tick, and then slather your story in it. Because that’s one of the reasons I was checking out early. Things felt too generic – like every other hitman/mafia script I’d read.

Matt Williams, thank you for surprising me today. I had a long day (met some great Scriptshadow readers for 3 hours but they tired me out!) and was three-limbs into bed before this nice little gem pulled me back out. It’s not quite there yet, but dammit it could be. This was a cool script, and something that’s certainly worth checking out.

Script link: The Savage South

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

What I learned: Remember that if all the good stuff happens later in your script, you’re probably in trouble. Readers love to start skimming once they get bored. So you gotta grab them from the start and never let go. If you have a heavily plotted script like The Savage South and you need that first act to set up a lot of stuff, that’s fine, but REMEMBER TO MAKE THOSE SCENES ENTERTAINING AS WELL, AND NOT JUST SET-UP. Each scene should be a story in itself that you’re trying to entertain a reader with. If three scenes go by that are all set-up and no entertainment, that’s pretty much it for you. Whether they keep reading or not, the reader has mentally given up on you.

  • Rick McGovern

    Haha this is what happens when you don’t go to bed at a honest hour, fiddling your thumbs, and… uh, never mind…

    but you also get to be the first commenter, AND you also you get to congrat your buddy for not only making the AF review, but being able to pull off a coveted XX, it ain’t porn (XXX), which I guess would technically be an impressive… which I admit I had my doubts about…

    Let’s face it, we all know how unpredictable Carson is with his reviews, like I swore to God he was going to like Our Name is Adam, or whatever the hell it was called, which I admit I really liked. Like a lot. And so yes, I am looking forward to the movie :) AND which I emailed him and said, man, what a great script… And it got a not for me…. Awwww :( either I have crappy taste, or our preferences just vary.

    I can’t remember, Carson, did you say you do or you do not like Sci-Fi?

    Though, having a smoothie and coffee with you and Lauren, and the other awesome people at the table, I’ll have to stick up for you from now on :) you’re a good dude.

    Anyway, Matt, congrats! ! And I’m glad you went back and changed that part we talked about over the last couple months!

    He also picked up a writing gig, which is cool. I hope this review helps you, and also gets your ass back to LA sooner than later.

    Half of this comment is sleep deprived induced, so apologies, as it feels like I’m wasted. Which I’m not. I did have a chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream topped with fudge (no whip cream unfortunately)… so that could be partly to blame.

    So good night (which will be good morning by the time people read this, on which case, have a great day!!)

    And sorry for helping tire you out today Carson haha actually I’m not, but you can ignore that part.

  • David Sarnecki

    I didn’t think Carson was ever going to give another Amateur Friday over a “Wasn’t For Me.” I’m in shock.

  • gazrow

    Great so see one of Scriptshadow’s nice guys get a [xx] worth the read! Huge congrats, Matt! :)

    • Matty

      Very kind of you to say, thanks a bunch! :-)

  • Ange Neale

    Congrats, Matt, on winning a coveted [XX]!
    Right on the title page, you made me laugh: ‘Based on an actual idea.’
    Who’d have thunk it?!
    Are you by any chance the Matt Williams who wrote the article last year called ‘Thoughts from a script reader’?
    ‘Cos you know that if you are, someone’ll go through your script line by line to see if you’ve broken any of your own rules.
    (Not me, btw; better things to do.)
    That said, I’m gonna turn to page 1 and see how far I get…

    • Matty


      And yes, I am the same Matt Williams who wrote that article…. hopefully I didn’t break any of my own rules :-)

      • Linkthis83

        Fuck the rules ;) (I’m still allowed to shout that, right?)

  • Robert M

    I agree with Carson, it’s a bit to generic and boring start. When he “puffs” them to death was almost the stopper for me.
    If I were you, I’d cut the first 20 pages all together. Start with a nervous Eddie calling home, promising a birthday present to his kid, promising to be on time, from where he is supposed to meet and kill Hollis.
    Then cut to Hollis visiting the mansion. We’ll get it that Hollis fixed what’s showing on the news by that scene alone.
    Then you’ll have those two going places together direct for the start. You can work it in that he has to see his father, with Eddie. Make it that we know he visited just a couple of days ago, now he’s back for the final answer. The connection with the father can play out in a more subtle way, we the audience would be given pieces throughout the script. Maybe we won’t know exactly what’s wrong with their relationship until Myron tells him it wasn’t his father who kille his mother. Like a double twist turn in once, we, the audience will go What? What?
    To be a loner, he speaks very openhearted about his father killing his mother. Maybe have Eddie do 90 percent of the talking. Now, after Hollis “Funny, I don’t feel that way at all”, it’s almost 50/50. Doesn’t make sense. Maybe have him more annoyed with Eddie. That he talks, that he’s such an obvious loser etc.
    I’d cut out showing Hollis anytime in his apartment to. I’d make us care about Eddie in the beginning, he’s the underdog. Then, as it plays out Hollis is being framed and all and that he’s been wrong about his father killing his mother, we’ll care for him. Then you can show something within his apartment that shows the soft side in him so that we start to route for him. Or maybe that’s to cliche.
    He let’s Eddie go quite carefree. Seems unlikely for a contract killer. Eddie has seen him commit murder, that is reason enough not to let him go. Have Hollis need to have him with all the time. Maybe use him to get in to Myron without suspicion.
    Also, is it likely that Hollis would just flee from Eddies house. Thye have the advantage of knowing, waiting. Why don’t have a struggle instead. Here you could have Eddie save Hollis, forming them as a team.
    I didn’t have time to read more than til p67, but will finish later. I hope you find some of the comments constructive. I liked your script.

  • Stephjones

    Congrats Matty! Haven’t read TSS yet but hope to.

  • astranger2

    Nice job, Matt. Need to dig a little deeper in and explore to see if Carson’s view of your portrayal of the Dixie Mafia needs more of the Boyd Crowder/Daryl Crowe flavor infused. But, regardless, earned the Dos Equis mark of double X! Congratulations.

  • Magga

    Nice to see a spec script get a good review. I have a train ride tomorrow, this will be my companion

  • Matthew Garry

    Congratulations, Matty!

    Looks like the Industry Insider managed to mentor another Scriptshadow winner.

    With regards to the pacing: strangely enough I actually enjoyed the original 15 page more than the first 15 of the finished script. But then again, only the first 15 is the easy part. So good job on the outlining and plotting and keeping it interesting for the whole 114 pages.

    For those who enjoyed “The Savage South”, I recommend “From here to Albion” from the last blacklist. It’s a different story (set in the UK) but with a similar “vibe”.

    • Rick McGovern

      Those original 15 pages are kind of set up as a contest wet your thirst first 15, revealing stuff you normally wouldn’t.

      But the one great thing about it, is that it really makes you think, and is a great exercise in, how can I grab your throat so you don’t get away and make you have to finish reading? It’s hard to do. I think everyone should do the writer’s store contest… maybe not even to enter, but for the practice, can I turn this logline into something cool?

      Pitch meetings, you get sent for an assignment on their idea, or for an adaptation, you have to for the most part stay in their realm of the logline, but the playing field within that logline is completely open. For me anyway, because I usually write three for the logline… Each trying to be completely different. For the one I submitted for Matt’s contest, which I got honorable mention instead of the top ten :/ it has stretched me (though my ideas don’t always work, and I suck miserably, and I fail with the best of em, though you almost learn more from your failures than you do your successes).

      And it was fun (though this last one was frustrating as shit, one of the worst loglines you can work with, but still great practice. This is the world, how can I make it work so I can work and put food on my table and take that trip around the world
      I always dreamed of, and oh yeah, that Lamborghini I’ve been drooling over….)

  • Casper Chris

    Wow, congratulations Matt. Just broke a long streak of [x] wasn’t for me’s. And with a double WTR.

    Carson wrote:

    I think readers are going to zone out somewhere in the first 30 and start skimming on you. Either move these scenes along faster, condense this section, or make it more entertaining.

    I have to admit, I was one of those people who zoned out early. The script just didn’t grab me. And it’s not that you need big set pieces and shit to grab me. Breaking The Chain grabbed me.

  • Craig Mack

    I’m a sucker for a good hitman movie… this has all the makings for one. Lots of moving pieces but they all seem to come together nicely at the end.

    Best of luck,


  • Linkthis83

    Congrats, Matty. What a great SS day! Please don’t forget the little folk. (beat) What do you mean you don’t know me? Matt, seriously, what are you talking about? It’s me, Link. Matt? Matt!

    I agree a lot with Carson’s review. Especially with The Irishman. I was actually disappointed in this character. Not the set up, but the role he played and HOW he played it. He wasn’t very impressive actually :) Although, Matt could’ve changed it since I read this a couple months ago. Here are some notes from that read:

    P29 = I think that Hollis would want to make sure Eddie was alone. That they weren’t being watched or something. It’s already obvious it’s a set up, but Hollis handles business like there couldn’t be any other surprises.

    NOTE: I think there should’ve been a lot more tension in the picnic table scene. Eddie
    bails pretty quickly. Plus, Hollis also just received that warning text. You’ve set the stage for some tension and then diffuse it just as quickly. I think this scene should be a lot more
    intense (in my opinion).

    THOUGHT: Eddie reminds me of the character Wade from GTA V (I hear that guy’s voice when reading Eddie’s lines).

    p62 = I feel Declan’s intro could’ve been done better. Slicing the throat of a random, drunk diner patron is a stretch for me. However, it does show he is brutal and unpredictable.

    NOTE: I don’t really like Hollis and Eddie hiding in the closet. Especially if Hollis now
    has the jump on Declan, why not just shoot this mofo here while you have the element of surprise. Like shoot him in the back when he goes to talk to the landlady. Just playing devil’s advocate here.

    THOUGHT: Sometimes I feel like Hollis’ character is too open. He reveals too much of himself when I would think he’d be quite the opposite.

    **I’m extremely glad you removed the waiting area scene at the prison. That makes that much more interesting now and doesn’t rob you of your “What does he know” tension.

    LOVE THIS LINE by Archie: “What’s the Dixie Mafia?”

    I think my main issue with Declan’s intro is that I think I expected him to be the MOST CALCULATING out of all the assassins. The way he shows up and is carried out through the rest of the story is that he is like a BLUNT INSTRUMENT. I was anticipating a guy who is “next level thoughtful” when it comes to killing. It’s hard for me to believe that he is the assassin legend and his style is just walking right through the door and killing folks in cold blood – or maybe that is his style.

    Take the drunk diner patron. If he must die in order to introduce Declan, then I would think that he might show this person a false compassion. Showing that he is taking the high road and offers some assistance to the patron. Maybe he offers to pay for a cab at first, then insists on taking him home. Walks over to the booth and sits down to have a chat. As the patron gets a little mouthy he “cleverly” handles it (kills him or incapacitates him). The patron is lying face down on the table. Declan tells the waitress that it looks like he is down for count and is going to need a cab. He throws some cab fare on the counter. As he is getting into his car, we can see from his perspective the patron at the booth with blood beginning to pool under the table.

    Sorry that wasn’t a better example, but I’m sure you get what I mean. Like Declan plays on the initial formalities that people will give one another. If a guy is saying the correct pleasantries with the correct tone as he politely advances towards you, you don’t suspect that he is about to kill you. IDK

    • Nate

      ”THOUGHT: Eddie reminds me of the character Wade from GTA V (I hear that guy’s voice when reading Eddie’s lines).”
      I thought he was a mash-up of Wade and the antagonists son from Hitman: Absolution, who, ironically, is also called Eddie. Our video game nerd is showing.

      • Matty

        It’s funny that some people say this. I’ve never played any of these games, just a bizarre coincidence. I’m not a gamer type… at all.

        Just kinda funny to hear people make that comparison… however close they are is simply a coincidence.

        When I wrote this I always imagined, for whatever reason, Eddie being played by Spike Jonze. I think probably because of his role in THREE KINGS. But he just has that soft-spoken demeanor, and does a great redneck accent.

    • Rick McGovern

      Let’s give some applause to Mike (Link), too, having those conversations and helping him, along with the mentor, get it better. :)

      I agreed with him hiding in the closet. I think I gave the same note when I read it (has it really been two months already?? lol) Hollis isn’t a pussy and could have taken him out easily, and it didn’t match his character.

      I think I also gave that same note as well about the talking. But I can’t remember now, as it’s been too long. But it was definitely a thought I had. Eddie needed to gain a little more trust, and plus, I think a lot of that would come out slowly throughout, not just all blurted out at once.

      I also agree with him cutting the guys throat in the car… A little overboard, and I also think with a little thought he could find something more interesting to show his brutalness.

      You know, in some ways it might be better that he doesn’t kill him… it just seems to easy, and also too one the nose as a character introduction (I think action, as much as dialogue can be too on the nose), and I think that might be the problem.

      I think he does something yes, takes him into the alley and has a talk, or something, and he knows he’s a god, someone lives because he chooses it, dies because he wills it. Sometimes a killer leaving someone alive, but scared to fucking death, is more powerful. Now sure exactly how to do that here, but I think it would be a better choice.

      Or, he scares the shit out of the fucker, maybe brakes something, then leaves. Then maybe he changes his mind and comes back, and then shoots him in the head. Have no idea, only a couple hours sleep doesn’t really help your brain function.

      • Linkthis83

        Thanks, Rick. I was really only involved right after Matt made the top ten and he was trying to make a story plan. We just discussed possible story options, obstacles and I made some suggestions. Once he felt good about it, he took off with it.

        • Rick McGovern

          I’m sure it still helped make it better than it would have been. The outlining stage is an important part lol so don’t cut your contribution short. Is writers, without people like you to read our shit and point important stuff out, would be submitting shit a lot of times. Writing really isn’t as solo as we think it is… when we incorporate other people into our work, using notes, or ideas, or ideas to launch other ideas we would never have came up with otherwise, a lot of times it makes our stuff better.

          At the coffee shop with Carson, one of the things that was brought up is when we’re approached to give notes, and we do, then the person comes back pissed that we didn’t love it and have all these problems with it, and call idiots because we obviously don’t know a masterpiece first vomit draft when we read one! lol those people never grow, and their stuff remains the stuff that flows out of your ass when you’ve had too many bad tacos and beans.

          So, I feel, people like you are invaluable, which is why I appreciate our group. It’s not easy taking notes, because we do want to produce masterpieces. But like Rome being built, it’s a process.

          So you did, and do, along with everyone else in our group who takes the time to read and give notes, make us better writers. And time is valuable, and to take time to read someone’s stuff says, hey, I think you’re important enough for my time. And for me anyway, I think that’s huge. And being in a group of writers is so valuable and important in the growth of our craft.

          • Randy Williams

            Is this Coffee Shop Klatch With Carson a regular thing? I may be visiting Los Angeles this month. I’d like to tip the waitress to serve my script to Carson along with his pie.

          • Rick McGovern

            Unfortunately not. I think he’s a man who likes his cave.

            Why not just submit to AF? Easier. Cheaper. ;)

          • Rzwan Cabani

            Mike/Link is someone I’ve had the pleasure of getting notes from. Brutal. Honest. Intelligent. — and not in that order ;). He elevated my work, and his generosity I will never forget. A class act.

          • Matty

            Truer words have never been written!

          • Linkthis83

            Thanks, man.

          • Linkthis83

            Thanks, Rz. Sincerely.

            I don’t mean to be brutal. I just see the awesome things people create and I just want more from it. Lol.

      • Matty

        Mike is a great dude. His help was invaluable in writing this. I struggled for a good week and a half during the outlining phase, just thinking and thinking about the concept, and how to make it all work within the world that I had created. And Mike was kind enough to read all of my outlining and thoughts and bounce emails back and forth, and spend several hours on the phone talking about it. While I didn’t take every single idea he gave me, I did take a few, and no matter what, his time and effort was essential in finally cracking the story.

        I am forever indebted! :-)

        • Linkthis83

          Another humble thank you.

          Discussing story is the best way for me to be helpful I think.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    Congrats to Matty! Best of luck!

  • Brainiac138

    Here is a little bit of trivia, one of the first instances of the word mafia used in American newspapers was about organized crime in New Orleans. The Dixie Mafia is one of the longest-living organized crime syndicates in the country, composed mostly of people from Italian heritage at its top levels, but not exclusively – much like Chicago Outfit. You will find folks of Irish, Cajun, and Native American descent within their ranks. The great pulpy novel Galveston, from True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, also about a Dixie Mafia enforcer, does a great job of painting a picture of their diversity in crimes and members.

    • Rick McGovern

      I didn’t think about it originally, but I think Carson makes a good point, if you’re going to use a real life mafia we’ve never heard of, why not exploit, or show us what makes them different than the others.

      I know is street gangs and bike gangs, most have different bibles they live by, different ways of encorcement… The small gang in walking dead in season 4 had a bible they lived by that was pretty brutal. But I think adding some color to a black and white painting might bring some extra life into the story.

      I actually remember very little of the Irishman (I guess that’s not a good thing), so maybe he needs some brushstrokes of color as well like others suggested.

      With some work, it seems you can have a strong sample to send out, and maybe, if Circle still hasn’t read the draft you sent them, you can resubmit a stringer draft addressing some of these issues, because we all feel, in our group anyway, that you have what it takes to make it all the way :)

      • Brainiac138

        I agree, especially since the only real portrayal of the Dixie Mafia right now is in Justified, and it is pretty cartoonish. One little area of history that may be fun to exploit is that many conspiracy theorists have long thought the Dixie Mafia played a role in the JFK assassination, since Jack Ruby had Dixie Mafia connections. While I don’t think this script needs to have that can of worms opened completely, just open it enough to add color, as you stated, Rick McGovern.

        • Rick McGovern

          I believe that’s where he got the Dixie Mafia. I think it was Matt who said he loved that show.

          I still haven’t seen it, even though I’ve worked on the show several times. Whenever Jon Avnet directs, he seems to always bring me on. Though I haven’t worked the show in months. But I still have to check it out. Heard season 4 was the best so far.

          But I think it Matt lets it sit a couple months, maybe while he’s writing the western, I think he will be able to spot the softer parts, and create something that could possibly sell down the road. And if he got Brad Pitt, that would be amazing, even if he’s not someone who draws a crowd to the movies like he used to :/

        • pmlove

          Once American Tabloid is finally made it I’ll be a happy man.

  • ScottStrybos

    A double ‘worth the read’… WORLDS ARE COLLIDING!

  • Jarman Alexander

    Congrats Matt!
    While I haven’t had a chance to read past the first 10 of your script, I do have a suggestion for the Irishman (if it suitably works into the plot). Carson said that he didn’t like the motivation to kill the pedestrian because it may interfere with his mission. So what if…

    The Irishman whips a blade out and surreptitiously holds it against the mans femoral artery, as he removes the mans I.D. from his wallet. He then reads the name and address from the I.D. aloud and says “I’ve got something I’m to be doing now, but go home and hold the ones you love, and I’ll be seeing ya in a while.”

    Again, I’m not sure if this is a good fit for the character/plot/story, but I would love to watch whatever psycho that does this. I hope big things come from your review!

  • Nick Morris

    Congratulations, Matt! So glad to see THE SAVAGE SOUTH earned a “[xx] worth the read”! That’s awesome. Runner-up status feels like an honor. Best of luck and I can’t wait for the movie!

  • SendHimtoBelize

    With such a generic premise my expectations were already pretty low and the first 10 pages didn’t do much for me.

    The opening scene is too short and uneventful with too much unearned exposition for the main character considering all he does is sit a chair and drink whiskey. Then we open again in Hollis’ apartment with a typical waking up and getting ready scene plus vice of choice (prescription pills). There is no dialogue apart from the single expletive in this scene. But wait a minute. Who is Hollis? Why should I give a shit? That doesn’t matter because it’s set piece time. Hollis’ idles near an upmarket hotel preparing a piece of fictional technology (a medical jet injector does not function like this in the real world). He enters the hotel, incapacitates various people with the jet injector including a staff member who is repeatedly called Staff or the staff. Why not just call him the Porter or something? He goes to the top floor and carries out the assassination of an FBI informant. Huh? So no cameras in this hotel I’m assuming. Then there is a scene about Hollis obtaining some prescription pills.

    All in all, damn sloppy, generic and uninvolving. Presumably the rest of the script is far superior to have earned such high praise.

    • Casper Chris

      While this might sound harsh, this was very similar to my own reaction, reading those first ten pages or so.

      However, I’m glad to learn the writer rallied later and brought the goods (assuming Carson knows what he’s talking about ;-)

    • Ken

      So… you only read ten pages?

    • Rick McGovern

      It may need a little more spice, but I definitely wouldn’t call it sloppy.

  • Nicholas J

    First of all, good job Matt, xx worth the read is certainly nothing to sneer at!

    I made similar notes in AOW, saying that while a good script, it was a little by the numbers, but still got my vote. There are so many of these types of scripts already, from every scale of writer, from the Coens to faceless amateurs, you really have to make yours stand out so it doesn’t get thrown in the “seen it” pile. But how?

    One way I think you can do this is simply by execution of scenes. Your story doesn’t have to be off the wall, but you need to end your scenes different. Give us a result or obstacle we haven’t seen before. (Not talking specifically about SAVAGE SOUTH as I haven’t read it all yet, but in general.) I’ll take the opening assassination here as an example.

    Everything goes very smoothly for Hollis. I get that we’re supposed to see that he’s amazing at what he does, but he doesn’t encounter any obstacles really. Nobody throws a wrench in the works. Even the best hitmen have unexpected things happen. (I assume, I’ve never met one.) He gets in, does the job, and gets out. No old ladies wander into the hallway, no hookers emerge from the bathroom. (Even these aren’t very unique.) The inhaler device is kind of cool, but not enough.

    Apparently stuff gets better as the script goes along, but those opening pages are so important. It’s your chance to promise the reader that you will show them something different. So in those opening scenes, there better be something different!

    And here’s a whole post about it over at Wordplayer, using none other than a hitman as the example!

    Not knocking the script here, as it sounds like Matt did a hell of a job, I just think with some extra effort it can really be brought to the next level.

    Anyway, congrats Matt, go eat some over-easy eggs and drink a nice glass of scotch to celebrate.

  • shewrites

    Congrats, Matt. It’s nice to see a frequent contributor to the site get his well deserved success. Best of luck with the script.

  • Kosta K

    Congrats! Gonna give it a read this weekend. Made sure to download it before it got bought and pulled off the site! :)

  • jw

    Congrats Matt! And, welcome to an extension of a previous post where I point out how others chime in and tell you what “needs” to be done. Blah, blah, blah. Thanks for validating my post about this guys. It’s like you saw the door and just ran through it as fast as you could.
    And, in general I think this is why it takes some of us longer than others in our journey. We get feedback based on the first 10 pages. Imagine if everything in your life was based on the first 10 minutes of something… what about the first 10 minutes of your day being indicative of the remainder? And, those around you not allowing for further insight because of it. The first 10 minutes of a party, family gathering, function, even as we can all relate, the first 10 of a film being indicative of the whole? Think about this the next time you’re sitting in a theater and take note of your impression 10 minutes in and then see if that changes by the end. You’re likely to surprise yourself.
    This is what you don’t get from producers, directors and talent. While yes, a reader not tasked with reading your entire script or even a competition may take a glance at the first act to see how it plays out, what I’m always struck by here is the “perfection” of analysis of 10% or less of something. It has to be the strangest way to even remotely make decisions. And yes, of course someone may say, your 3rd act needs this or that or needs to be scrapped altogether, but when they are commenting, it’s at least based on the entirety of a project. Not the half-assed, first 10 pages, I’m a genius, you should listen to me, I maxed out my credit card at Barnes & Noble, changed my last name to Snyder, mantra.
    There’s really just a better way to do this in my opinion than saying, although I have no clue about your second or third act, you should definitely get rid of the first. Another way that writers just make it harder on other writers. Listen, but follow your gut.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Perhaps AF writers should include a synopsis for readers who want to comment on third act choices but sont have time or energy to read past act 1.

      • jw

        I think it’s good to open up the dialogue for solutions. I’m not sure that works as it would be intended, only because if the offering is going to be a synopsis, then we could just read the synopsis without the script and comment. I guess there is no easy answer, other than to say, comment when you have time to read the whole thing and that may not be too often for some people. Potentially, if AF selections were sent out further in advance, that would allow people more time to read?

        • Paul Clarke

          The solution is easy – make it so good they can’t put it down.

          • Midnight Luck

            I always try to take the easy route.

    • mulesandmud

      Whether people read an entire script before they comment or not, it’s up to the writer to exercise discretion on how they value and interpret those comments. A grain of salt is an essential part of a writer’s toolbox.

      Sure, some comments will be delivered with more certainty than they have any right to claim. Others will apologize profusely while offering the perfect solution to all the screenplay’s problems. It’s all helpful, so long as the writer takes the time to interpret and synthesize.

      The real question is this: is it more useful for writers to get at least partial comments, semi-ignorant or not, from those willing to post them, or no comments at all because no one stuck it through till the end?

      I myself am uncomfortable holding forth on large-scale story decisions when I’ve only read a fraction of someone’s story. So generally I only speak up regarding localized issues, if at all. It’s very respectful to the writer, sure. But helpful? Not so much.

      • jw

        I think the point of comments on a certain section of the story is valid. Potentially the way it made you feel as a reader when you jumped in. Those are valid points and should be discussed. It allows the writer to weigh whether or not they are receiving A LOT of feedback in that section of the story and therefore should realistically take a second glance.
        I think this post largely comes from my experience and I had a script on here that received comments on basically just the first 10 or so, with a few people moving to the end (and that was appreciated). The script got picked up by a Manager / Producer who is unbelievably legit and when this guy blew up my phone attempting to get in contact with me and we finally spoke for almost 2 hours, he said absolutely nothing about what was commented here. No joke. Nothing. Not a SINGLE iota of an opinion shared here did he even speak. There wasn’t a single thing this guy said to me along those lines and he has Denzel on speed dial.
        I think I just always like to ask the question, “how could we be doing this better” especially for all of us as writers who are attempting to accomplish the unimaginable.

        • Casper Chris

          The script got picked up by a Manager / Producer who is unbelievably legit and when this guy blew up my phone attempting to get in contact with me and we finally spoke for almost 2 hours, he said absolutely nothing about what was commented here. No joke. Nothing. Not a SINGLE iota of an opinion shared here did he even speak. There wasn’t a single thing this guy said to me along those lines and he has Denzel on speed dial.

          Does that mean the comments have no merit? No. And stop thinking it does.

          Often a producer is looking for certain projects with certain aspects, whether it’s a certain demographic appeal, a certain character for a certain actor or whatever. When they finally find a script that has one of those aspects they’ve been looking for, they get so excited about that one aspect that they end up with blind spots. They don’t see other aspects of the script which, from a writer’s point of view, might be flawed or lacking.

          • Eddie Panta

            Yes, I’m not sure why ppl would post their script to AOW and NOT care about the comments. Carson’s review doesn’t pinpoint the mistakes in the scene headings or the typos that are invariably found by the commenters here. That’s not useful?

            Carson’s review has a lot to do with story, and not much else outside of GSU, even the story structure is rarely critiqued or advised upon.

          • Randy Williams

            I like this, and thank you.

            I wonder if there are any actors on this board. Do they read scripts and find “flaws” from an actor’s point of view that we, as writers, might not see?

          • Nicholas J

            I’m not an actor, but as a writer, I have been paying much closer attention to the art of acting recently, and have picked up some reading material on the subject. I feel it’s already enlightened my writing a ton and is a pivotal part of movie making that we should learn as writers. Too often we concentrate on just the writing aspect, when we should be learning about all facets of film, whether it be acting, editing, directing, producing, etc.

            The two biggest acting-centric things I’ve learned are:
            1. The importance of subtext. Making sure the scene allows for emotion under the words. Subtext IS acting. Without it, you’re not really acting, you’re just reciting lines.
            2. Consistence and progression of emotions. Always be aware of what the characters in a scene are feeling. Then make sure their emotions are progressing in a realistic manner, both within the scene and between scenes.

        • Citizen M

          The script got picked up by a Manager / Producer who … said absolutely nothing about what was commented here.

          Okay, fair enough. Now tell us about the Manager/Producers who DIDN’T pick up your script. What did THEY have to say about it?

          • crazdwritr

            Who cares? All that matters is the one that was interested!

      • Eddie Panta

        Well said… And actually something I thought goes without saying.

        Look this is from a LOGLINE CONTEST in which you submit the FIRST 15 pages. So, to me it’s a little odd that ppl are complaining about comments from those who have not read the entire script.

        Besides that, I’d be happy to have someone read the first 30 of my script.
        First Impression comments from readers are great to have.

        Let’s face it, the first 30 pgs are the hardest, I spent way more on the first 30 than any part of the script, and for good reason, you can’t go forward unless you’re standing on solid ground.

        It’s amazing just how much needs to go into the first 30pgs. You can’t underestimate how important it is.

        • Randy Williams

          I think I come at it from my own experience of spending so much time, sometimes too much time, on those first pages. I had to break a bad habit of sitting down and rewriting at “Fade In”every time , it never left me energy to concentrate on other sections. I’d never get past ten pages or so in rewriting. Then, slog through other sections. I come to this blog with that mindset, the writers here having that same habit and spending so much time on those first pages, they are probably the best part of the script. So, it’s weird to hear that Scriptshadow scripts are different, it’s the “teasers” that are weak, don’t flip that channel.

        • Jarman Alexander

          This is especially true if you are setting a lot of your story elements up in these pages so that the payoffs “write themselves”.

          • Eddie Panta


    • Nicholas J

      DISCLAIMER: This comment has little to do with Matt’s script, as I think it’s a solid script and well deserves Carson’s rating.

      I get what you’re saying, and agree that people shouldn’t be commenting too much on the PLOT after only reading a page, 10 pages, an act, whatever.

      But we can certainly comment on many other things.

      Prose. Dialogue. Scene structure. Character introductions. Concept. Formatting. Etc.

      As amateur writers, we hear all the time of the importance of your first 10 pages. So if you have crappy dialogue and scenes that don’t turn in those first 10, what’s that say to the reader? Why should I stick around for 90 more pages when you’ve given me no promises?

      Given that 1 in 100 amateur scripts are any good, we’re just playing the odds by quitting if we don’t like it early on. We’re not getting paid to read and we only have time for so much.

      Let’s say you are starving and I have 100 boxes of Cheerios. Only 1 is full, 9 are a quarter full, and most are empty. You watch me reach into each box once, grabbing what I can, and showing you what I came up with.

      90 times I came up with nothing. But 10 times I came up with a handful of Cheerios.

      You now have 5 seconds to grab as many boxes as you can. Which boxes are you going to grab first?

      Probably the boxes that had some Cheerios in them, hoping one of them is full. Because when I pulled out a handful of Cheerios, that was my promise to you that the box had Cheerios in it.

      In case you haven’t figured out my horrible metaphor, the boxes are amateur scripts, and the Cheerios are elements of good scriptwriting.

      If you let me reach into the first 10 pages of your script, I better find some Cheerios, or else I’m moving on to find a script that does.

      And please, name some movies that suck for 15 minutes and then turn amazing. Sorry, but if I start your film and I don’t like it after a certain point, I’m shutting it off. I’ve got a billion other choices for entertainment.

      • Michael

        My food metaphor would be: You are at a restaurant and your food comes. You take your first bite and something is off. You may take one more bite to confirm it, but you wouldn’t eat the whole dish just to be fair to the Chef or see if the dish gets better. Your dish has to be right from the first bite or your dining experience is ruined.

        I’m with Grendl on this one; a good script is good from page one. Period. Blaming the reviewer for not giving a script its due has no legitimacy.

  • Eddie Panta

    Congrats to Matty for getting for getting high marks here.
    These comments are based on the 30+ pages I read and the SS Review

    Hollis is rather likeable and sympathetic, he’s got the HITMAN with a HEART syndrome.
    But it wasn’t a lack of excitement or conflict in the first 30 that through me off.
    It had more to do with the fact that I didn’t think that Hollis, Eddie, Kessler, or Jimmy were capable characters.

    Other commenters have already pointed out some of the plot holes in the first hit job.
    These plot holes are forgivable, but what’s left is a character who doesn’t seem great at his job.

    In THE AMERICAN, Clooney plays a strong silent character, who we know little about, besides what the Tattoos on his back tell us. But we do know he’s damn good at building a sniper rifle from scratch. He’s the hitman with a heart who meets a prostitute with a heart, and it turns out she’s damn good at her job too. Clooney trusts her, likes her, they’re both hiding from the past.

    SImilarly in THE DRIVER, little is known about the main character, he’s the classic Clint Eastwood “man with no name” strong, silent type. His intentions and history are mysterious. “Driver” is very unemotional, but boy can he drive. When you have a character that’s not well-rounded, show us his skillset, what he’s good at and passionate about.

    THE SAVAGE SOUTH does it differently, It uses past and present to give us background story on all of the hitmen so that we are both sympathetic and invested.

    Even if I stick with it as the review recommends and get to the good parts, I’m still not invested because the characters don’t seem to stand out because neither Hollis, Kessler, or Eddie, seem talented.

    To me your plot can be unrealistic, but the characters can’t. The more wild the premise, the more you need your characters to seem real.

  • JakeBarnes12

    Read the first fifteen.

    Great to hear you made the top ten in that competition, Matt, but man, you gotta take some risks, make some fresh choices.

    So far it reads like an average episode of “Miami Vice.”

    Standard hitman, boring gangsters playing cards — I zoned out when you were describing the hands they were playing.

    Dressing as room service waiter to get to the protected witness — seen it a million times. Pulling the alarm and walking out in the confusion — ditto. Gets into his car conveniently parked nearby and drives away; so, so generic.

    Sorry, I’m not paying $12 to watch tired TV stuff like that on the big screen.

    Opening scene was the best so far, but lemme tell you, Matt, I grew up in Belfast. I know guys who’ve gone into rooms to shoot cops. You know what the targets all do, Matt? They shit their pants, lie down on the ground like they’re told, and they get a bullet in the head. No one, no one, talks “cool” movie dialogue when they’re looking at their own death, and no one drinks fucking Macallan.

    I’m not saying you have to go the realistic route, but why not dig into that scene, look for some emotional or psychological truth, not this naive, media-based idea of how such terrible actions play out?

    At the very least, play with expectation. Make us think one things gonna happen, then flip it.

    Sorry, man, wish you all the best with the rewrites, but I’m just not seeing anything fresh or imaginative so far.

    ADDENDUM: In response to the “read the whole thing or don’t comment” posts, like some other commenters I stopped reading because I didn’t enjoy it. Since I’m being paid fuck-all to comment, Matt can read my thoughts on those fifteen or not, and he can discount my impressions or not.

    Personally, I’d want to know a reader wasn’t into my early pages because those pages need to work on their own.

    • Casper Chris

      ADDENDUM: In response to the “read the whole thing or don’t comment” posts, like some other commenters I stopped reading because I didn’t enjoy it. Since I’m being paid fuck-all to comment, Matt can read my thoughts on those fifteen or not, and he can discount my impressions or not.

      Personally, I’d want to know a reader wasn’t into my early pages because those pages need to work on their own.


      Honestly, I strive to entertain a reader from beginning to end. If I fail to entertain/intrigue for the first 30, 10 or even 5 pages, I’ve failed.

    • Paul Clarke

      Feedback is feedback. I’d take notes from anyone who’s ready any part. Doesn’t mean I have to listen to them.

      If someone points out an issue which is later resolved, but they never read that far. That’s fine. I know, therefore I don’t worry. If no one wants to read past page 10 then that’s something else to be addressed. I think the worst case is for people to hold back on their comments. Notes should be critical, not personal, but they can all be useful. It’s all how the writer takes them. And that’s a big part of writing. Understanding and taking notes.

      If someone only read to page 15 and they tell you that and more importantly why, that’s a good thing. They’re trying to help.

  • Randy Williams

    In my comments on AOW, I said, quote, “It really sparked when he (Hollis) and Eddie were together”

    Scriptshadow- quote,”But, I didn’t get hooked until Hollis and Eddie met”

    Ahem…Great minds think alike.

    Congratulations on the [XX] worth the read!

  • ThomasBrownen

    Congratulations Matt on getting a [xx] worth the read!!

  • pmlove

    Matty – first up, congratulations on the script and the XX

    Second, some comments on the script. I’ll start with a caveat.
    Carson knows what he’s talking about. So I’d weigh his commentary
    over anything I (or some others here) have to offer. Also, there are
    a lot of positives about the script, the plotting (as C mentions),
    general structural beats hitting.

    But I fall into the camp of those who don’t love the script as
    much as Carson. I think the first problem is the concept itself,
    which is obviously nothing to do with you and a lot to do with Roger

    So, humbly, I submit the following. And I have read more than 10

    Issue one: too much scotch. Lots of Macallan this, scotch that.
    It’s not a big thing, but I don’t think it adds anything and just
    falls into the ‘cops drink scotch’ trope. A quick scan of the other
    top ten entries and it seems at least one other mentions Macallan

    Issue two: A few too many beats we’ve seen before. I’ll quote
    lines but it’s more the tone, plot that I mean – this are just
    indicative of that.

    Eg #1 – Sonofabitch knew where every single camera was.

    Eg# 2 – I just figured if we gonna be in the car together we might as well make
    [especially post-TD; that whole scene felt long.]

    Eg #3 – If I was here to kill you, I’d have killed you.

    Issue three: The hospital shoot out. Felt like well worn territory. A suggestion –
    why not have it so they know they are all safe in open territory.
    Declan won’t do anything stupid like start a shoot out. So then you
    have these scene with two killers who will kill in any opportune
    moment but they are mainly safe in big reception areas etc. And Amy
    doesn’t know the threat immediately. That would feel different.

    Then, once Eddie is hurt, have them go back to the hospital to save him, despite the

    Issue four : I’m unconvinced that the Dixie Mafia is crippled by this. The only person
    actually removed from the equation is Myron. Presumably Dominic can
    succession plan to his heart’s content unless there are no willing
    lieutenants, which seems odd.

    Anyway, take it or leave it. And congrats again!

    ps – sorry for formatting, OpenOffice does not compute.

  • ElectricDreamer

    Best calling card for a staff position on Justified that I’ve ever read.
    If much more smatterings of that Elmore Leonard flare land in Act One…
    I do think this script will find its place in the film industry.

    For the AOW review, I stopped at p. 26. About as far as I go when I have 5 scripts to read.
    Picked up the script again this morning and sure enough, it takes off on p. 29.
    Beelined to the end and enjoyed the read. Act Two onward has plenty of narrative thrust.

    I do have a couple of Second and Third Act suggestions I wanted to make:

    Didn’t buy it. Really weakened him as a character for me.
    He’s so easily riled up by some diner hobo. Really? Declan comes off petty to me.
    Instead of over-expression, considering rethinking the scene with: REPRESSION.

    Repression sets the tone for boiling violence that readers will remember.
    It’s a VISCERAL SET UP that readers will salivate waiting for you to PAY OFF.
    When it looks like Declan’s gonna do him in, he doesn’t. Why?
    That’s a fine time to make a first impression with his best asset: his mind.
    The way Declan talks about life and death should UNSETTLE Patron #4.
    It was too easy here to end in death. From then on, I thought Declan was inferior.
    Your plot mechanics are tight, the momentum makes it easy to gloss over this flaw.
    But it’s sore spot still the same. One of the few in last two thirds of your tale.

    Handling this as an off-screen surprise provided me with a laugh at first.
    The smash cut to Hollis coming out of the prison empty-handed was funny.
    But then it sours, and suddenly, we’re seeing the movie from Eddie’s WTF eyes.
    And it threw me, there’s something dramatically clogged the way it’s written.

    I think going for the SUBTEXT SUCKER PUNCH is the way to go…
    Hollis and Eddie are on their way to the prison.
    Cut to Jeff Sr. he’s about to be prepped for his “visitor”.
    We think it’s Hollis, but it’s not. All too late Jeff Sr. realizes, this is it. Bring it on bastards.
    Then you have Hollis talking about forgiveness on the way to see his dead father.

    We should be EMPATHIZING with Hollis, because we know his daddy is already dead.
    With all due respect, Jeff Sr. and Arlo Givens are cut from the same cloth.
    So, I wouldn’t pull punches with the dramatic impact of the doomed father and son.
    This gives the reader even more reasons to get behind Hollis.

    And on the last page is some grammatical weirdness.
    P. 114 You start two sentences in a row with, “The sun is just beginning to…”

    That’s all I have for you Matty, hope it helps. Best of luck with your project.
    I’d like to read the next draft of the script: soleil dot rouge13 at gmail dot com

    • Matty

      Thanks for the notes!

      And oh man, how I would love to be a writer on JUSTIFIED. Only one season left, though :-(

  • pmlove

    OT: Bifferspice – Nigel’s line in the pub is one of the only lines that has genuinely made me laugh out loud. Well done! Pacing excellent too.

    • Casper Chris

      The undone line?

      • pmlove

        Yeah, exactly the one. Immediately screams Bill Nighy.

      • pmlove

        Yeah, exactly the one. Made me think of Bill Nighy.

  • Nick Morris

    Some of the most valuable comments I received on AOW were from those who had only read the first act or less. After all, it really doesn’t matter how awesome the ending is if a percentage of your readers just aren’t getting that far.
    As a reader with no vested interest, I’m bailing as soon as I’m bored. As a writer, it’s my responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen.

    • Randy Williams

      You’re the writer of “The Harvester” aren’t you? You got quite a number of votes. I know I voted for you. You held your own against the mighty fine writer of The Savage South” with a popcorn movie against his more weighty story. Good for you. Hope to see you up here one day.

      • Nick Morris

        Thanks, Randy. Your notes have been very helpful as I continue my revisions on THE HARVESTER and AOW was a great experience all around. Cheers!

        • Rick McGovern

          You can always resubmit in a month or so. Maybe you’ll get a second chance. ;) sounds like you have enough fans!

    • Matty

      I hope you get your shot at AF soon! I read the first 15 pages of THE HARVESTER and definitely thought it had a lot going for it. I especially enjoyed the nods to Bergman (I’m assuming those were indeed intentional, but even if not… good stuff). Hope to see it get reviewed soon! :-)

      • Nick Morris

        Thanks, Matty. The Ingmar Bergman nod is indeed intentional and, interestingly enough, you and Poe are the only ones ever to point it out (even though it’s not exactly subtle and I’m sure others have noted it). There’s a fair amount of inspiration from THE SEVENTH SEAL in there, particularly for an old-school slasher, lol! Congrats again on the review and best of luck with this!

        • Matty

          I’m actually one who finds THE SEVENTH SEAL slightly overrated (don’t get me wrong…. great film… just not close to my favorite Bergman). Iconic imagery in it, though, which is exactly what I saw when I read this. I hope you get the AF shot! Keep submitting every week and I’m sure you’ll be back in AOW in no time.

          And thank you!

  • fragglewriter

    Congrats on making AF.
    I haven’t had a chance to read more than 10 pages, as I was finishing my script for the Nicholl. I’ll definitely give your script a read over the weekend.

    • Eddie Panta

      Good luck with the script contest.

  • Midnight Luck

    Awesome Job. Congrats on getting AmFri and a double worth the read! that is awesome.

    I have to admit though, I didn’t get to the pg. 27 part that peaked Carson’s interest. I checked out earlier. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it didn’t retain my interest. It was definitely a slow burn.

    I know the back story about the contest, I wrote one for it also, however didn’t get it done in time, and or, wasn’t happy enough with it yet to enter it.

    So I know that those first fifteen were for the entrance. They were very low key though.

    When I think of an effective, low key entrance, I think of it having explosive POPs here and there. Not that everything has to have the same structure or layout or whatever. Ultimately I keep going back to the HUNNY-BUNNY scene from PULP FICTION. The two are quietly chatting back and forth a lot of Puppy Dog talk, they kiss and suddenly “If any of you bitches move, I kill every last mother fucker in the place”. I mean they hop up and (unexpectedly) SHE mouths all this to the startled customers. This of course sets off the cascade of happenings throughout a lot of the rest of the story. Now I know the scene probably isn’t 15 pages or even 10 minutes worth of screen time, more like Five minutes, but still, opening on them was very slow, but had a Big Pay Off.

    I didn’t feel that in the opening 10 to 20 pages of your script. And I was hoping for something to grab me in there. The writing was top notch, I could “feel” the script was good. Yet it didn’t hold my attention enough. It might very well have just been my problem not the script’s though.

    Also, just an idea, but, I was looking at property out in the scrubs of the United States, and came across property that was selling cheap and was an enormous SCAM that went down in the ’60’s I believe. The two Jewish Mop guys bought up a ton of land and sold it as an “almost finished” new Suburban housing project. They showed the roads and the street signs and such. They gave house plans to choose from, all that suburbia b.s. before you buy a house in a neighborhood. But this was just property. So these two guys end up selling EVERY SINGLE PLOT OF LAND to buyers in other states, in Other Countries even, many, many from Europe. In today’s dollars they made off with BILLIONS for nothing but SCRUB BRUSH. Then they did it again 20 years later. Well when people from the county began checking into it, when a woman who bough land there and was a newspaper or magazine writer began investigating, they, you guessed it, ended up DEAD. He Blew Up in his house, she Froze to death in a car, many, many other people died in car fires and all kinds of crazy shit. This story of how these Jewish Mob guys functioned was just crazy. I believe they were from a Mob in Europe, who came to the states and made a crap load of money from the sale of b.s. scrub brush property. Just a few thoughts on a perspective for the Dixie mob. You can check into it more also. I am sure you have done your own study of how mobs work, but the more I found out about this one, it just got freaking weird.

    On an Off Topic note though: wondering if you can talk at all about the experience of being a finalist in the Insider contest. Did you write the whole script you have here in 12 weeks, 10 pages at a time with a writer you were checking in with? That is a pretty fast write for most people. It says on the site you are getting notes from other people for each of those 10 pages. Did this affect your writing in any large way? or did they give you lots of room and space to do whatever you wanted? Mostly just wondering how the REAL experience of being in the top 10 was, and going through that process, one-week-ten-pages at a time, was. If you can’t talk to it, or don’t want to, that is cool too, but I would love some insight into how it was to work with them, and what your writing process was like, if you are willing to share.

    Way to go Matty. So happy you made a great script and you got a great review.

    • Rick McGovern

      Well, the first 15 for the contest aren’t necessarily what ends on the page in the final script…

      • Midnight Luck

        yes I do understand.
        Though I find it unlikely he would make it Slower, AFTER the contest as he wrote it. Or that the people giving him notes would say “slow the first fifteen down”. So i was just wondering what Matty’s thoughts were on his writing of the first 15 before it got a top 10 coveted spot, then after it was rewritten, how the whole thing worked with the people giving notes and the writing contact he was working with.

        • Matty

          It is actually “slower” in this “final” draft (the final draft I turned into the contest, anyway, not final draft of all time) than the original 15 I wrote.

          It was my first time entering the contest, but I figured the best way to get into the top 10, knowing that I could change my first 15 after I got in, was to tailor those pages specifically for something like this. So my main strategy was to a) write something simple – I didn’t introduce all three hitmen in the first 15, just one of them, there were only three major scenes, etc. and b) to end with some kind of reveal that would make you want to keep reading. So originally, I had the “flashforward” that I have now, except rather than Hollis going into Kessler’s house, Hollis turned himself in at a police station, asked for Kessler, and admitted to killing two other people. Then was the hotel assassination, and then the meeting with Myron (both of those are the same), and after the meeting with Myron, we find out that Kessler had set this up. So obviously (if you’ve read the whole script), it’s totally and completely different in concept, as to who the bad guys are and whatnot.

          • Midnight Luck

            I remember that one. I believe you posted it at one point before you entered it. I remember him going to the police and turning himself in. It did give a great feeling of “what is going on?” that kept me intrigued. I liked your writing style a lot, and liked the story. I remember being a little unsure, because I had to keep going back to remember who was who. I am not sure why that is. Kessler and Hollis are different names, yet for some reason I had troubles keeping each of them straight. I did with this draft as well. Very well could have just been my own oddity.

            Great job, and so happy for you. You found one of the endangered species: a [XX] Worth the Read!

          • Matty

            Thanks! Yeah, a couple people have interchanged the names of Kessler and Hollis when giving me notes back…. I clearly knew which one they actually meant, but they used the other’s name. And I’m also not sure why that is, because nobody has said that they had trouble remember who is who throughout, and as you say, the names are totally different…. it’s weird.

            Carson did it above, he said Eddie instead of Hollis at one point, but that’s a simple mistake.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Maybe it’s the ‘s’ sound. Or perhaps because Hollis sounds like a good guy and Kessler sounds like a bad guy.

          • Rick McGovern

            I have to admit, even though they don’t sound anything alike, they are the same kind of name, and I always got them confused, too (maybe change one?)

    • IgorWasTaken

      I’ve never heard about this one in particular – with a series of mysterious deaths/murders. And I’m interested in reading about it. Do you have any of the names, any links, etc.? Thanks.

      • Midnight Luck

        It honestly creeps me out quite a bit. Of course a lot of it is people’s conjecture, a bunch is now story Lore. But, seeing what they had done with the land, it was obvious it was a MASSIVE scam. nothing there, then you would have a sign post with signs, Real Ones, just stuck haphazardly where ever to designate “streets” and cup-de-sacs and such. It was ludicrous what they did.

        Maybe it is all B.S. who knows. But it didn’t matter who I talked to, people at City Hall, people who lived out there, everyone told the stories the same. Especially the one about the County worker who mysteriously died when they were trying to shut down the guys so they couldn’t sell all the properties. As soon as he was gone, it all continued without a glitch, they sold every parcel and vanished. (supposedly. though “problematic” people kept dying mysteriously for a while)

        • IgorWasTaken

          Oh, so this wasn’t something that you read, maybe a news story. This was locals telling you the story directly. Interesting. And interesting that, wherever this happened, the locals attributed it to “Jewish Mob guys… from a Mob in Europe.” I know there were lots of scams like this over the years, but if so many people died so mysteriously, I would have thought it would be chronicled somewhere. Ah, but “local lore” is good enough to spark some story writing. Thanks.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yeah, I didn’t delve into it by looking up articles or anything, all I had to do was go to the vast wasteland of scrub, see the signs, hear what people said, talk to the local City Hall and governmental people and I got it. I am the first to say, all the horror stories could have been made up or exaggerated easily. A long game of “telephone” with each step being more extreme over the years, and with 40-50 years of playing telephone, who knows how much the stories have been mutated. Who knows if it was the “Jewish Mob” (whoever that is) or if they were a “European Jewish Mob” (ok, that is starting to sound made up), but an hour out in the middle of nowhere, these weird signs stuck in the ground of scrub brush, and they are still standing like they were new, is quite disturbing. I could see the massive scam so easily, I could feel the bullshit they must have spewed far and wide. I have heard of these kinds of things throughout my life many times, but never seen it. The “sold me a bunch of swamp land in Florida” kind of thing. But this just blew me away to see it up close and personal, for real.

          • Midnight Luck

            also, the more recent “happenings” that people still throw around as possibly being connected to these guys, well they made me laugh. People turning up dead, tons of people being shot that others think committed suicide. People dying of gas asphyxiation, people blowing up. All under suspicious circumstances, not one ever being figured out by the police. Well, I met some of the “neighbors” (way out in the distance you might see a dilapidated trailer. Seriously, like one neighbor every half mile to mile away. They all were missing teeth (which hey, it happens), visibly drunk while driving the dirt “roads”, all paranoid like I couldn’t believe. Just seeing someone driving on “their” land, made them come over and try to intimidate you. Well, from the City people I find out there was a bunch of Meth setups found out there, and that was most likely the cause of feuds and weird explosions, and even murder (the recent happenings over the last 5-10 years) not the supposed Mob.
            Really makes you understand and appreciate just how Wild the Settlers of America actually are and were. We are a Crazy, Wild bunch. I could tell if I said something wrong, one of these drunk, possibly high neighbors would just kill me.
            I decided to look somewhere else.
            Hate to think their bullying worked on me, but in the end, I felt there had to be something better out there.

    • Matty

      Hey! First of all, thanks for the notes and comments.

      Second, re: the contest. Yes, this was written in 12 weeks. The first two weeks were spent just outlining. Note that when I wrote the original 15 (which were more exciting than they are now – they were tailored specifically for the contest, and there was a big reveal at the end of the 15…. about 75% of it is still the same, however) I had no plan as to what this story was going to be about. I just had a few characters in mind, and of course, the concept that was given by the contest.

      So the first two weeks were all outlining. I ended up with about a 15 page outline. Detailed character bios for all the major characters, the backstory of the Dixie Mafia (quite a lot of stuff that doesn’t directly manifest itself on the page, but personally I think was crucial to know in my mind), and then a five-act (I prefer five-act to three) outline of the entire story. It wasn’t exactly scene-by-scene, but it was close.

      And then I just started writing, about 15 pages a week. I would write those pages, turn them in on Sunday, talk to my mentor on Monday, and she would give me her thoughts about them, any suggestions, and then most importantly we’d talk about the next 15 pages. And then I’d do those. etc, repeat for 8 weeks. So then after 10 weeks (2 weeks outlining, 8 weeks writing) I had a first draft. I turned that first draft in, had about a 10 day break while I awaited notes from the contest (from someone other than my mentor), and then once I got those notes I had two weeks to do a revision. Now, luckily, the notes I got back on the first-draft were extremely positive. They really only had one major complaint, and the rest of the stuff was either very minor, or not a problem at all for them (it got the highest marks possible in formatting, dialogue, structure, and character). So then over the next two weeks I did the rewrite, which really wasn’t that big of a rewrite. It mainly consisted of smoothing out a lot of the scenes and rough edges, and some edits to the second-act climax and the third act climax. Those were the biggest changes.

      So, really, what you see here isn’t that far off from my first draft. At least in terms of some of the rewrites I’ve done, where I’ve done major overhauls to the story, this one didn’t get that. This draft isn’t too far removed from the first draft at all…. just more polished and with a more exciting climax.

      Now, since the contest ended, I’ve done a few (VERY few) changes to it, based on notes I’ve gotten here and there. And actually, I have a slightly newer draft than what is posted here, that I actually sent to Carson on Tuesday, but I guess he didn’t get it or something. My changes in that one were just changing Hollis killing the innocent people in the beginning (Hotel staff and FBI agents) and removing some of the more boring daily routine stuff at the beginning.

      Anyway, yes this was written in 12 weeks, outlining and rewrite included. And the contest was a FANTASTIC experience that I highly recommend to everyone. The mentors really know their shit (or at least mine did)…. they don’t tell you what to do or anything, they just make suggestions based on where you want the story to go. It really changed the way I approach the writing process altogether. It was, of course, slightly disappointing not to win, but I wasn’t all broke up about it – the process of the contest itself was invaluable.

      And during those 12 weeks I got the flu twice, a kidney stone, my brother had brain surgery, and my aunt almost died. It was a crazy three months ;-)

      • Midnight Luck

        Thanks so much Matty, I really appreciate you talking about the contest and your experience with it. I wish there was more of this kind of thing out there. We are all flying blind, and so many people seem to not want to discuss how things happen, or what really goes on.

        I have written for a couple of the different log lines so far, haven’t entered though, until this last one. I loved that your description of why we should read yours included that you were one of the ten chosen to get the 12 weeks of writing assistance. That is a MAJOR accomplishment, I feel. Even without winning the final prize, I think that says a ton about you as a writer, and about your story. If it were me, I would be so happy and jazzed it would be the same as winning the coveted spot.

        It sounds like a great experience. I wish we all could get some kind of similar chance. A mentorship, a tiny peek behind the curtain, someone in our corner some how, some way.

        I want to thank you for the in depth reply. Both your comment was honest and kind, and that is really amazing. I wish you well in whatever comes next for you. Sorry to hear everything seemed to come down on you when this was happening, life seems to enjoy that kind of thing, I know personally. You made it through and look to be doing well.

        Thanks and hoping the best for you.

        • Matty

          Thanks for the kind words, and good luck with the competition! As you say, just making the top 10 is winning in itself. The entire process over the course of the three months will teach even the most seasoned writer quite a bit about screenwriting, I guarantee. It’s an invaluable experience.

      • astranger2

        Thank you for sharing. I think some here feel that when you present your work it should come sans “excuses,” and that whether it took you 12 weeks or 12 years, be judged with the same standards. I don’t necessarily agree, and think given your time parameter that this is a great read. I also think most here would be challenged in that time frame to produce something of this quality based on a someone else’s idea.

        I entered the recent contest. It’s creatively challenging in that it starts with an idea I would have never initially embraced. Like getting assignment work. Was this story far removed from a concept you would’ve come up with on your own? Or like myself, was it solely for the contest?

        I can see why you’d want to get all the bones in place before adding the flesh, and you did a nice job here. Like others, I feel you can add more complexity, and character to Kessler and Hollis, but for me anyway, that’s easier once the structure’s in place. I think MaliboJackk mentioned it, but it could be the names themselves. Kessler has the “sssss” Nazi sound to it, even though I know it’s the name of a bourbon, and Hollis sounds like the detective. But, sure once you add more dimension to them it will sort that out.

        Maybe that’s one of the board’s major criticisms — that this isn’t your final product. And you received Dos Ecces on your self-described work in progress. SS 1.5.

        Regardless, phenomenal job and nice placing in Top 10, and the WTR!

        … I Eddie quoted Lucas Jackson in there too? ; v )

        • Matty

          I wasn’t trying to make any excuses…. I apologize if it came off that way. Midnight asked if I “wrote the whole script I have here in 12 weeks” and I was just saying, in a more verbose manner, yes. I think it should be judged just as any other script.

          I liked the contest because yes, as you say, it’s similar to getting assignment work. Sometimes assignments are literally just that – being given a concept and you have to write based on that. That said, this is the type of script that I generally like to write (drama/thriller type thing), so the subject matter (hitmen) isn’t something I wouldn’t normally write. The only difference was that I had to fit it to the specific constraints, which in that round was a little difficult.

          Every script is a work-in-progress. I don’t think anyone submits to AF thinking that they’ll never rewrite anything in their script again. And how many drafts are there until it’s ready to go? It depends. CHINATOWN went through something like 20 drafts. Other films, RESERVOIR DOGS (most Tarantino actually), most Woody Allen, most Coen films… they don’t undergo super-major rewrites from first draft to finished film.

          Anyway, I just don’t think it much matters what draft anybody’s script is… they should all be judged on the same level. A good script is a good script, a bad script is a bad script, whether it’s the first draft of the fifteenth.

          Thanks for the kind words!

          • astranger2

            I apologize. I wasn’t saying you were making excuses. And you certainly deserved the kudos. Others have mentioned the time constraints, and I was truly impressed with your results. Yes, works should stand on their own. But, as Carson mentioned with Sixth Sense, it wasn’t until later revisions did M. Knight come up with Willis being dead also.

            Didn’t mean to imply this was a scratchy draft — hope you didn’t take it that way… ; v )

          • Matty

            Oh, gotcha, my bad. Lost in translation there.

            Honestly, the time constraints were a good thing. It really wasn’t that difficult to do – there were a few times when I was running close to the deadline for the week, but in general it wasn’t super hectic. But it’s nice writing on deadlines like that because if you get assignments and whatnot, that’s what you’ll be doing… except for money.

            And I did not know that about The Sixth Sense. Interesting. I’d be curious to read one of the early drafts.

  • Matty

    Hey, just wanted to thank Carson, and everyone else, for all of the notes, suggestions, tips, thoughts, etc. that you all have provided. And of course, thank you to everyone who took the time to read any of it, whether it was 5 pages or all of it. There are a lot of comments to go through for a rewrite, but this is so far an excellent start to moving toward that!

    Thanks again everyone! This was great!

    • klmn


    • Joe Marino

      Dude, a HUGE congrats on this!!! This is definitely a movie I’d pay money to see in theaters. A much deserved XX. Keep it up!!

  • Casper Chris

    So while Matty’s script here appears to be one of those scripts that start out a little slow, maybe even a bit unconvincing (even if the writing itself is solid enough), one will occasionally stumble upon a script that does the opposite.

    I once read a script that had a fantastic opening, great promises were made in subsequent pages, things were moving along at a brisk pace, smooth-sailing all the way… then we hit the first speed-bump… then another… and then all hell broke loose. Kind of like this:

    • Randy Williams

      The “teaser videos” when this thing is on “stand by” is SO not safe for work. LOL.

    • MaliboJackk

      Thought that was the trailer for ALL IS LOST.

  • Kirk Diggler

    Congrats to Matty on the great review. Ignore the people who sit in wait, sharpening their claws. No one ever said this was the final draft in perfect form, ready to roll cameras tomorrow. It’s just the ‘current’ draft. It’s always a work in progress. You have a nice command of the craft of screenwriting and no doubt will work to make it even better.

    • Rick McGovern

      Exactly… it was something that was written in 3 months because of the constraints of a contest… and everyone knows the real work comes after the first or second draft, which for the most part, this is still an early draft in retrospect. Some people get lucky, I suppose, like Tyler’s script which got a lot of things right the first time around…

      I also wish people would be more supportive and give more constructive, honest, no bullshit feedback that actually helps a writer grow and make their stuff better instead of coming off as a Nazi attack.

    • Matty

      Thanks, Kirk! Appreciate the kind words :-)

      And nope, definitely not a final draft. It’s actually very close to what the first draft looked like. A few changes to scenes here and there, but structurally and overall, exactly the same. Definitely the best first draft I’ve ever written, which is entirely due to the extensive outlining I did on this one, which I had never done prior to this.

  • Casper Chris

    OT question:

    What’s the word I’m looking for here… when someone has their hands tied above their head with a rope, the rope secured to the ceiling.. not hogtied obviously… there’s a word for it right?

    Help a brother out.

    • astranger2


    • Citizen M


      “The Strappado is a form of torture in which the victim’s hands are first tied behind his or her back and suspended in the air by means of a rope attached to wrists, which most likely dislocates both arms. Weights may be added to the body to intensify the effect and increase the pain.

      “Other names for strappado include “reverse hanging” and “Palestinian hanging” (although it is used by neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority). It is best known for its use in the torture chambers of the medieval Inquisition.” — Wikipedia

    • Kirk Diggler
    • klmn


      • astranger2

        Tomas de Torquemada, There’s a biopic begging to be made. Even in deference to Carson’s article in naming memorable characters — what a perfect name for the Grand Inquisitor. Torture/Troquemada. His name trips off the tongue like Cruella de Vil’s.

    • Nate

      Strung up?

      • Casper Chris

        Yes, I think that’s actually the word I was looking for (in this case two words). Strung up with a rope. Nice and simple. Thanks.

        Thanks guys for your input (klmn, Diggler, Citizen, astranger2). I had already considered ‘suspended’ and ‘dangling’ and was using ‘shackled’ as part of a rather long-winded description.

  • Rick McGovern

    You should have bought the cake

  • Kirk Diggler

    In Bruges. Love that fucking film.

    • Linkthis83

      Great freaking film.

  • brenkilco

    So far have reached page 40. You have a sense the writer knows where he is going so I will definitely finish the script. But what we have by page forty is a situation in which a hitman has been double crossed and set up, it appears, by his employer. Pretty conventional for this sort of thing. The murder of the rich snitch in the pent house by a disguised waiter. Didn’t we see this in Lethal Weapon 2? Wasn’t this more or less how De Niro took out the turncoat Waingro in Heat? Again, pretty conventional. Our hitman protagonist is also not that distinctive. He’s obsessed with the murder of his mother but seems unaware of the irony that he kills people for a living without any concern for who they are or who they’re leaving behind. Be nice if he had a little more depth and complexity. In fact all the characters feel fairly stock. The glass blower confidant, for instance, does something unusual but when he speaks just seems to be there to act as a sounding board and to provide the hitman with necessary info. The dialogue alternates between exchanges that attempt a Tarantino like flair and those that come off as just functional or plain flat. For instance I dont think the hitman would say to his buddy, “He still maintains his innocence.” And when the hitman says more than once to his father” I just want to hear you admit it” we’re getting close to soap opera. Think the dialogue needs a polish.

    Now if the plot twists and turns cleverly, as Carson is suggesting, and all the balls the author has in the air come down on cue I’ll be more than happy to eat any carping comments.

    I would suggest though that more needs to happen sooner. Do you really need the flashback opening? Its not really that intriguing. And by the way when the copy asks the hitman if he knows who he is and the hitman responds with a mini bio of the cop’s exploits an amateur bell goes off. Do we really need to see the hitman’s morning routine? Why not start in the hotel lobby with the hit? Establish the hitman’s medical problems and whatever other basic things you want to show about his personality in the scene with his sister. I thought the scenes of Eddie losing the card game, interacting with his ex and kid were conventional, rather weak, and time consuming. Is there a way to set up his character faster?

    Ok enough monday morning quarterbacking. The writing is solid so Ill keep reading and see whether it all comes together. Oh one last tiny thing. Screenwriters write scripts. Doctors write scrips.

  • leitskev

    Reading your post and giving some thought to Pulp Fiction’s hitmen scene. The quarter pounder discussion humanized them, yes, by showing us hitmen as everyday people rather than exotic creatures. But then the discussion about Marceles and his wife and the foot massage is what really bonded us to them, because we got a sense that these guys had a sense of right and wrong, even a little compassion. It made them dimensional characters. And the dialogue was clever, and we’re always eager to follow clever characters. Look at House of Cards. We’ll follow scoundrels if they’re clever. Not disputing your point, just adding to it.

    • grendl

      lol you can dispute my points.

      I don’t bite. Males.

  • MaliboJackk

    When Elvis Presley heard Roy Orbison sing, he turned to his manager and said–
    ‘Don’t ever book me on the same stage with that guy.’

    And here’s what’s interesting. Compare the opening scene here with the recent AOW script A CINEMATIC END. Both begin with a guy who enters a residence and finds someone unexpected waiting for him.

    Having said that, Like the writing style. Only had time to read the first 10 of each but have downloaded both scripts.
    Congratulations on the Carson double X. (Quite an achievement for three months work.)

  • Wes Mantooth

    Congrats to the writer on grabbing the coveted double X. You’ve broken the AOW Spring slump. Bravo on that.

    Gotta say, I had the same response as Carson to your first act, and I just didn’t feel compelled to read beyond page 20, despite Carson’s assurances that the story eventually catches fire. Every scene up to that point had a “seen it before” vibe about it. The man who walks into his house, only to find a deadly stranger calmly greeting him. The old chestnut of the hitman dressing up as a room service guy(How about a window washer next time? Just a thought.) And then the visit to the prison. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the writing itself flowed well for the most part, but the story had a glacial pace and it felt like too much backstory was being revealed through dialogue.

    With the hotel scene, I had a hard time buying this hemlock mist device. No doubt hemlock is fatal, eventually. But to have these people instantly drop dead seemed far-fetched, even for this kind of flick. Your hitman with a heart committed a fatal sin — he killed an innocent. Slaughter all the FBI agents and mob men you want, but when you kill a guy who’s simply doing his job, suddenly I don’t give a damn about your protag or his problems. Also had a hard time buying that there were no hallway cameras in a hotel this modern. That seemed awfully convenient for the story.

    Looks like you’re getting plenty of notes on the rewrite, along with Carson’s endorsement. Best of luck with it.

  • Citizen M

    Read the whole thing but I didn’t make detailed notes. A couple of observations:
    – Similar names. I got mixed up between Hollis/Kessler and Dominic/Declan.
    – Get to the story quicker. There’s too much flab in the beginning.
    – Do we need Hollis’s pill-taking? It doesn’t lead to anything. It’s just a means to introduce his sister. Figure out a different way of introducing Ann.
    – I expected more trash talking. These are tough guys from the streets, but they talk like middle-class “let’s be reasonable about this” type people.
    – A pro hitman would not advertise his presence nor leave traces e.g. diner scene, shootout in hospital, and kicking Eddie’s door down.
    – Ann would phone her brother straight after the visit from Kessler.
    – Hollis says to his father in prison “You destroyed my life.” I don’t see it. Little has changed in Hollis’s life after the death of his mother.
    – There were some long bits of exposition-y dialogue.
    – Generally, not bad, but needs a bit more: tighter plot, more vivid characters, crisper dialogue, more tension and suspense, worse problems for the hero (I thought he had it too easy).

  • GYAD


    Nice to see a nice guy doing well but – sorry Matt – I don’t agree with Carson.

    Take the opening (the tease and the first hit) which is indicative:

    It’s played completely straight with Kessler just coming home. There’s no tension at all. I’d suggest showing glimpses of Hollis’s forced entry occurring in the background without Kessler seeing: the burglar alarm blinking off as it gets cut, the lock moving as it gets picked, the door opening, the brief flash of a hand wielding a gun…

    The prose is a little flabby for an action script – lots of words could be trimmed in ways that would make the script punchier. The flashes of haiku-like prose show the way forward.

    There’s also repetition: we know the house belongs to Kessler because we read so in the scene heading, so we don’t need that information repeated in the action slugs.

    Drinking (old) scotch is now officially so cliche that it shouldn’t be used. Pick an unusual drink – after all, everyone remembers what James Bond drinks…

    The dialogue is a little too cute. These are hardened cops and crims but they all sound far too nice and meek. Hollis’s banter w/ Kessler is the sort of thing that only works with 1930s gentlemen heroes like Bulldog Dummond or the Saint.

    There’s nothing characterful about either Hollis’s or Kessler’s houses, despite us getting the full tour. They need props – like, say, Kessler’s being full of law books, commendations and photos of old cops; which would suggest his determined, legalistic nature.

    The opening hit itself is pretty generic. We’ve all seen the pretend-to-be-a-waiter trick before. Using hemlock is kinda different but not enough.

    It doesn’t help that its such a walk through. No resistance or tension building means no drama. Imagine if Drive started with Ryan Gosling evading the cops in the first few seconds and then casually driving the armed robbers home.

    Also, killing the Feds – without them putting up resistance – loses the protagonist a lot of sympathy (in my book). Why not just knock them out? If Hollis was worried about his face being seen he could wear a cleaning mask.

    I can see what Carson likes: this is definitely a movie. I just don’t think it’s good enough yet – although with your talent I think it will get that way. I like that it combines the usual hitman plot (get betrayed, seek revenge/answers) with a sort of personal murder mystery but it wasn’t enough for me.

    Good luck Matt and congratulations on the [xx].

    • MaliboJackk

      Some good suggestions.

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey Malibo-

        Just saw this…

        Thought it might be of interest to you. A bit pricey but the list of speakers is quite impressive.

        • MaliboJackk

          Doesn’t fit into my game plan for this year.
          Will definitely try to gate crash next year.

  • PoohBear

    I read it and liked it. It was an easy read. I wasn’t confused or bored. I could keep track of all the characters and locations. I think you could’ve done a lot better with Declan, punched him up a bit or made him extra unique. I kept thinking a mix of Stanley Tucci from the Pelican Brief and the Irish guy from Smoking Aces. There was something a little too vanilla about your story. I think you could’ve put a lot of southern pride or southern values into things with the Dixie Mafia. I’m a fan of Justified and Winter’s Bone so I think you have something special here with your country hit man. I think you’re 90% there. Great job.

    There were two typos I saw, they were in the dialogue, and I don’t remember where.

  • IgorWasTaken

    Seems to me that one way to deal with the slow-opening “problem” is to start with a later scene and then (yes, I’m gonna say it)… Flashback.

    I’m not opining that that is the right answer/fix here, but just thought I’d throw it out there.

    And, consider “The Usual Suspects”. That had lots of “standard” characters to set up. One could even say that those characters’ very “standardness” was important to the success of that story – making its weirdness all the more startling (and easier to follow).

    • Matty

      Haha, interesting that you mention this, because that’s exactly what I do in the script ;-)

      Perhaps, however, that “flashforward” or whatever you want to call it, needs more oomph. In my original 15 for the contest it was definitely a lot more impactful, but there was so much I changed in writing the rest that the first 15 were largely affected as well.

      “The Usual Suspects” is a good example of this, however. It does the same thing, except it’s bigger and more “exciting.” Perhaps I need something along those lines (more “oomph” as I said) along with some revisions to the first act scenes themselves.

      • IgorWasTaken

        As I mentioned in an AW post, I stopped early on with your script. And while I did get to FOUR DAYS AGO at the bottom of page 3, one thing that made it seem wrong (? – not the right word, but…) is that you didn’t indicate that that’s a SUPER or such. IOW, no mention that the audience would be told it’s now “FOUR DAYS AGO”.

        In “The Usual Suspects”, Verbal tells us “It all started back in New York six weeks ago…” The script copy that I have doesn’t call for a SUPER. Yet, even though Verbal has just told us, when the film cuts to Stephen Baldwin’s character being rousted from bed, there is a SUPER: “New York City – 6 weeks ago”.

        So, yeh, if that’s your route, then punch it up.

      • PoohBear

        I personally think you should ignore anyone who didn’t read the whole thing.

        • IgorWasTaken

          Rather bold statement, Mr. or Ms. anonymous Guest. And it makes good sense, when applicable.

          See, but I didn’t say that the script is bad and this is what it needs to make it work – after not having read the whole thing.

          What I said was: If the script has a slow-opening problem, then than a big start, then a flashback, is one possible solution.

          Maybe I should ignore anyone who hasn’t read my whole post.

        • Casper Chris

          I find it ironic… the people suggesting Matty ignore feedback from people who haven’t read the entire script… when the script was written based on the following procedure:

          Quote-unquote Matty:

          And then I just started writing, about 15 pages a week. I would write those pages, turn them in on Sunday, talk to my mentor on Monday, and she would give me her thoughts about them, any suggestions, and then most importantly we’d talk about the next 15 pages. And then I’d do those. etc, repeat for 8 weeks.

  • Casper Chris

    Glad I read your post before you deleted it.

    • Michael

      Rrrr… Disqus. I’ll repost.

      • ElectricDreamer

        The comment’s in moderation.
        You have a good take on the script’s shortcomings.
        While the narrative tug pulled me down the page…
        I’d like to see Matty write a script that takes a few more chances.

        • Matty

          I would like to see him write a script that takes a few more chances as well ;-)

          In my next rewrite, I plan to change some stuff up quite a bit…. taking some of the stuff to more original places. This is, honestly, almost a first draft (I’d call it like draft 1.5), and my main concerns in that first draft were nailing down the characters and the structure.

          I was also concerned, in regards to the contest, that maybe I took a few too many chances. From reading the first 15 of the winner, that may well be the case. Mine was unconventional in that the third assassin isn’t introduced until half-way through (I guarantee most of the other 9 writers introduced all three assassins in the first act), and my script is, in some ways, slightly anticlimactic (on purpose, but still).

          In my rewrite, I will be mostly focusing on the first act (spicing it up, more originality, etc.) and the character of Declan. Other things too, of course, but those will be my main areas of concern. Fortunately, I think the structure and story itself is largely pretty solid, which means we aren’t talking about a page one rewrite or anything like that.

          • ElectricDreamer

            Sounds like you’re excited for the rewrite.
            And yeah, you did nail solid sign posts for the narrative structure.
            I’ll be happy to take a look at your next big swing at the story.

            soleil dot rouge13 at gmail dot com

          • Rick McGovern

            I personally liked that we didn’t get to meet our main villain until the end… we meet all these other minor villains first, all badder than the previous before it, until we finally get to the last guy.

            This isn’t Die Hard, it’s a different kind of story, and it’s not necessarily an action movie. Die Hard in some ways is a contained thriller, so the format makes it work the way it does… we have to see the villain over and over and over again for it to work, so we don’t get bored.

            I do agree with the dialogue, which I think I brought up in notes before… I didn’t quite see it as he saw it, but I did think there was too much of it… and if he’s right, that everyone is explaining everything vs showing it, and if it’s a repetitive beat, then I would change it. Try not to keep using the same beat over and over again. And of course, the golden rule is, if you can show it, don’t say it :)

            But really, this is still an early draft… not that you’ll go through as many drafts and revisions as say Billy Ray or even the girl who wrote Mr. Banks, who went through a whopping 40!! Mainly because there’s no director attached, and no money coming in, though still make it as best you can, and then just move on… which I know you plan on doing.

      • IgorWasTaken

        You say we should see the villain, early and often…

        I guess this is my own Movie of the Day as a reference point, but in “The Usual Suspects”, when do we meet Keyser Söze?

        • Michael

          You see Keyser Soze throughout the entire film in the character of Verbal Kint. The Usual Suspects is a who-done-it mystery and the only reason it has a satisfying payoff is because it’s Verbal and not some complete stranger we are meeting for the first time at the end of the film. It is one of the best twist endings of any film.

          • Linkthis83

            It is a great twist and people get aggravated and call him an unreliable narrator. Well…of course he is, his character is a criminal giving his version of a story. Criminals make up shit all the time. It’s a great angle.

          • IgorWasTaken

            Well, assuming that Verbal is Keyser Söze (and even Kevin Spacey won’t say if that is/isn’t true), that still wouldn’t meet your Hans Gruber test. IOW, I think your Hans Gruber test is no test at all; rather, it’s one way to go. And Die Hard is a straight-up action movie; it seems that The Savage South is a crime/thriller.

            With The Usual Suspects, as far as we, the audience, know, we will never meet Keyser Söze – well, except that his presence is so strongly felt throughout the film. There are constant reminders of his existence, and then his ruthlessness. And so, in a sense, and using your word, in TUS there is a “constant back and forth between hero and villain” – even though the person of the villain isn’t there for the first 113 pages of a 116-page script.

            The “fact” that Verbal is Keyser Söze doesn’t inform your enjoyment of the film before that reveal. And that film was highly enjoyable throughout. Well, at least after we meet Kobayashi.

            It’s not as if TUS was lame throughout… but then, once we get to the reveal, suddenly the 90 minutes of the preceding movie becomes good retrospectively.

          • Michael

            Sorry it’s taking so long to respond, I’m traveling this weekend.

            I wouldn’t go so far as to characterize my advice as a test or rule; it’s only a suggestion. I find films with stronger conflict between protagonist and antagonist tend to be better films.

            There are exceptions to every rule. And as you point out, if your antagonist isn’t going to be present for most of the film, you better make sure “his presence is so strongly felt throughout the film” and “there are constant reminders of his existence.” I didn’t find that to be true in Matty’s script, consequently, the ending didn’t pay off for me.

            I think the strong interplay of protagonist and antagonist is a core principle in story telling that transcends genre. Straight-up action movie vs crime/thriller vs drama, etc., it doesn’t matter. When I see a movie that has weak interplay between the two something always feels like it’s missing. Last year’s scifi Oblivion felt that way. Even though it had a nice twist, defeating the Tet at the end of the film just doesn’t pay off because the Tet was too removed from the entire film, despite the Tet causing everything that happens in the film.

            So, rather than compare any more apples to oranges, I’m curious if the end paid off for you? Was having a talky scene with a guy with one foot in the grave, a guy we know nothing about, lecturing us on business (when The Godfather already did it better and more succinct), the best climax for this script? Did the scene eclipse all the scenes that came before it to be worthy of being the climax of the film? Did you feel it had sufficient drama, tension and satisfyingly wrapped everything up and didn’t leave you asking, “This is what I read to the end for?”

          • IgorWasTaken

            Thanks for the reply. Somewhere in this long thread, I mentioned that I only read the start of the script, when it went up for AW.

            Based on your comments about the ending, I see you point about its weakness; and overall, about what you feel the bad-guy’s lack of presence means to the effectiveness of the story.

            That said, I was simply trying to say that whether we see the antagonist/villain early, or not; and often, or not; and whether he interacts with the hero early, or not – those are things to look at when figuring out how to make a script better.

            But with this script, it seems to me – again, just from the Carson’s review and people’s posts here – that the writer’s story is rather committed to “the unseen antagonist” approach. And because I think that approach can work, I was expressing my skepticism that Die Hard is a good comparison for this script.

  • Casper Chris

    Carson, isn’t it time for an AOW post?

    • Casper Chris

      Hmm, get the feeling he’s making an open slot for Breaking The Chain instead…

      • Kirk Diggler

        Hmmm. Maybe. Might have to finish reading it.

  • Rick McGovern

    Good notes. That could be one of the things missing in the first scene… a little personality. I suggested that he change the order of the hit, and put his sister’s scene first… though it still doesn’t really give us anything to latch onto as far as caring goes… he’s just a guy with a drug problem… so maybe show the love he has for his little sister a little more.

    He doesn’t ask her really anything about her, he only cares about himself… which is what happens with a lot of druggies, but if something poked out, even just a little, that we can latch onto, for us to root for this guy, that would definitely help.

    The other part that’s a little problematic for me is the sidekick is the more likable character. I felt for him, and wanted him to succeed, to man up and get back with his family, to make something of himself.

    I never was able to get there with Hollis, and then Eddie dies, and a part of me dies, in the sense that the one thing that kept me in the movie is no longer present… so the only thing left is wanting to see Hollis get revenge for him… he does take care of his family in the end, which was a nice touch for Hollis, though of course, not unexpected.

    More stuff to think about.

  • fragglewriter

    I’ve been trying to read this script since Friday, but no dice. I got to page 50 and had to bail. I think maybe it has to do with me being a fan of cartoons, comedies (slapstick/frat boy) and action flicks, that I find most dramas slow and boring if nothing interesting happens.

    I know that now, were in this era of an influx of slow-burn dramas, which are fine, but definitely not for everyone. Unfortunately, I’m that one.

    -From page 50, I don’t think Eddie is interesting, maybe it shows in latter pages,
    -Too much talking. Can we shorten this just a bit as the conversations become redundant. Not only in the scene, but in adjoining scenes.
    -I did confuse Kessler with Hollis. Too similar in mannerisms.
    -This script reminds me of “Killing Me Softly” with that slow burn. I didn’t like that movie except for Ray Liotta.

    Congrats for making it in the Top 10 winner for the Writers Store contest.

  • Matty


    You’re basically saying that anyone who submits here has no intention of rewriting their script again. Part of the reason people submit to AF is for the comments and suggestions, both from Carson and from commenters. What I submitted was my latest and most polished draft TO DATE. Whether that’s a second draft or a tenth draft, it doesn’t matter. It’s the draft that I was currently happy with. It’s the draft I would have – at the time (aka before getting all this feedback) – sent to anyone else. In fact, I did send it to some people to read.

    People are taking the fact that this is an “early draft” to mean way too much. It literally means nothing, other than I’ve spent less time on this script than I have on some others. That doesn’t inherently make it worse, or better. It means nothing. And the biggest reason I’ve spent less time actually writing this script than any of my others is because I spent considerably more time outlining it than I have before.

    It would be one thing if I submitted a script that I knew had tons of problems but I didn’t give a shit to fix them first. Not the case.

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely why you should never include a draft number on your title page. Or, apparently, even mention it to people. Because somehow the draft number has an impact on the quality of the script. It can even retroactively make a script lesser.


    • grendl

      My comments on your script had nothing to do with the draft number. I didn’t even know it until you and Rick mentioned it on this board, after the fact.

      Is that what you think? Your script is being punished for its draft number?


      • Matty

        Then what’s your point? You say it “opens a Pandora’s box” for people who want to “workshop early efforts.” Which isn’t what I was doing anyway, at least not any more than everyone else.

        I submitted an early effort. An early effort I was happy with. An early effort that got a good review as it happens. So, I ask, how is the fact that it’s an early effort even relevant? What is the point of your comment?

        If you accept that one of the reasons people submit to AF is for the feedback – which I think most people would agree with – then I have literally done nothing differently from everyone else on AF, including yourself.

        And I’m not sure where you get the idea that I think my script is being punished at all. I’m just asking why you’re complaining in the first place. You’re acting like there is some kind of requisite x number of drafts a script must go through until it’s okay to submit it.

        • grendl

          Best of luck with it, Matty.

        • Kirk Diggler

          This was also a Top Ten script in a contest that draws thousands of entries. No easy task. If anything, this script was vetted FAR MORE than your typical AOW script.

  • MaliboJackk

    Given the recent news:
    Is there anyone else who is not into the — ‘drug me, rape me, steal my script’ scene?

    Man, this is a tough business.

    • Citizen M

      What news? Some of us are out of the loop. Google “news steal script” and there are many entries.

      This is the most recent: Did P Sheshadri steal the script of December 1?

      • MaliboJackk

        Google Hollywood drug & rape allegations.

        • Citizen M

          “The twink dancer said that Bryan Singer and his fancy Hollywood friends always throw parties like that and when I asked him to take me to the next one, bitch said, “Uh, you’re not white, skinny and cute enough, though.”

          And I always thought I didn’t get invited to the parties because I was a writer ;o)

    • Midnight Luck

      is this a Bryan Singer thing?

      • MaliboJackk

        You can read some of the allegations in the Hollywood Reporter.
        Seems symbolic of how Hollywood treats people.
        And there’s also this — in a press conference, the victim’s mother rattled off the names of at least four FBI agents who refused to return her phone calls.

        • astranger2

          Sad… as humanity goes… the more things change, the more they stay the same… suppose that’s the grist for screenplays though. Human foibles. Once we achieve Hawking’s fear of AI Singularity — and THEY take over, like HERS, we can be free of moral lapses… not trying to make light of it… have always found incomprehensible, man’s treatment — of man…

        • Midnight Luck

          This whole thing is just vile.

          Now, what do I do with the fact that I really like The Usual Suspects?

  • Citizen M

    As long as the script is actively in development I don’t have a problem commenting on it even if it is an early version. Presumably the writer feels he has rewritten it to the point where it is good enough to be seen outside his immediate circle.

    It’s when the writer says, “Oh, this was an old script I have no further interest in. I just wondered how it would do on AF.” that I get annoyed that I have been asked to waste my time.

  • Paddy

    I read this based on the recommendation and really enjoyed it. I thought the ending was a little anti climatic and was expecting a twist revealing Archie to be Dominic (especially since he knew where Hollis’s sister was staying) but maybe that was a bit too obvious.

  • Lucid Walk

    Just read it. Definitely entertaining. My only complaint is the dialogue. Characters saying exactly what they’re thinking, lengthy monologues, and didn’t sound like how people would speak in real life. But aside from that, Savage South can definitely be a movie and not just another story