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Genre: Action
Premise (from writer): After learning his estranged brother is a spy, a disgraced FBI cadet becomes a fugitive to stop his sibling from detonating an experimental nuke in New York City.
Why You Should Read (from writer): In 2011, I met Shane Black. We were both waiting at a crosswalk after a lecture he gave. I dared to ask him a question:”What’s your biggest fear when you open up a script?” He thoughtfully replied: “Interchangeable action scenes that don’t affect the story or characters. I see it all the time and it saddens me. Set pieces must have consequences or what’s the fucking point.” The light changed. Shane was gone. I never forgot his words while I wrote this beast of a script. Thanks, Shane. — And thank you to all the Scriptshadow readers from last week’s Amateur Offerings. I wasn’t a regular around here, but you gave me great feedback and always treated me with respect. I’m very grateful for that. Readers here deserve a lot more back and forth from AF winners. If picked for Amateur Friday, I 100% guarantee that I’ll be here for comments. No excuses. It’s the least I can do for a community I’ve benefited so much from. I can’t wait to learn what you think of the small but key revisions I was able to make to the opening pages this week!
Writer: ThyEnemyWriter
Details: 124 pages

thy_enemy_dietrich_sizedPoster from writer.

I gotta give Thy props for asking Shane Black a question in the middle of the street. Most writers would not have had the guts to do that. Props to Shane for, on the spot, coming back with a great answer too! The real question, of course, is did Thy execute the advice? Let’s find out.

Wyatt Crane is trying to make it as an FBI agent but fails the big field test and is sent packing. Bummed out, he heads to the bar, only to get a call from his estranged brother, Nathan, who asks Wyatt to hop on a plane and come meet him in New York. The two clearly have a strained relationship and Wyatt isn’t too sure, but what else does he have to do? It’s not like he has to show up to work tomorrow.

Once in New York, Wyatt is grabbed by TSA and questioned about his bro. It turns out Nathan’s working for the CIA, or some other clandestine agency, and is involved in a nasty plot to hurt a lot of people. Wyatt tells them the truth, that he got a call from a brother and that’s all he knows, but they’re not buying it.

Eventually, a mysterious alcoholic named Ridley rescues him, and Wyatt trusts him for awhile. But it turns out Ridley’s not who he seems. He’s working for this crazy Ukranian chick named Dietrich who’s trying to buy up the newest fad in terrorism – clean nukes – to blow up… well, something. We don’t know yet. And who is she getting these nukes from? You guessed it. WYATT’S BROTHER NATHAN!

Meanwhile, Wyatt runs into someone else who’s looking for his brother, Karen. Karen wants to find out what Nathan had to do with her father’s death, as he gave clearance to a plane he piloted that was attacked by terrorists. In order to get Karen to stick around, Wyatt pretends he’s someone else entirely. And the two race to stop Dietrich – or is it Nathan! – from destroying the world.

Thy Enemy has two things going for it. It reads quickly and it’s fun. Extremely important for an action spec. It had some fun characters too. I thought Dietrich and Mila were a hilarious duo. The running joke of Mila wanting American hot dogs had me laughing. But something big was holding this script back here, and we have to get into it. Thy, I love you, but I also want you to become the best writer you can possibly be. So I hope you take this as constructive criticism and not an attack. Let’s get into it!

The big thing holding Thy Enemy back?

Authenticity.

Instead of reading like a script where the writer intimately knew how the FBI worked, or the CIA worked, or how physics worked. It read like fan-fiction.

It’s kind of like the difference between how James Cameron treats special effects and Uwe Boll treats special effects. James Cameron goes in there and learns how all the things he’s going to write about work, even down to the plants in the jungle. Uwe Boll figures people don’t care about that stuff, and only passively pays attention to those details.

The difference in the resulting films, however, is striking. There’s an authenticity to Cameron’s worlds. Whereas you always feel like Uwe Boll is cutting corners. And that’s how Thy Enemy felt to me. There were a lot of fun sequences, but too many of them felt cartoon-like and unrealistic. And therefore it was hard for me to engage in and believe in the story.

I’ve talked about this before but writers always think they can take the shortcut and “fool” the reader. If you’re going to write about the FBI, you need to learn how the FBI works. If the CIA is going to be a central component to your story, you need to learn how the CIA works. Having only a cursory understanding of these bureaus based upon other movies and TV shows you’ve seen isn’t enough.

I try to explain it this way. Take your job that you have now. Do you think that a writer who’s never done your job before would be able to write as convincingly about it as you could? Of course not. They wouldn’t even come close. Because you know all the little details that make that job REAL. The only way to even the playing field, then, is research.

If you looked into the Sony e-mail leaks, you might’ve seen an exchange between Amy Pascal, head of Sony, and Aaron Sorkin, the writer of The Social Network. Pascal was trying to get Sorkin to write Flash Boys, based on the book about computer trading. Sorkin denied the request specifically because he knew how much insane research he would have to do to get the story right.

This is what the big million-dollar-an-assignment writers do. This is what separates them from amateur writers. They know that if they commit to something, they’re going to have to do the work.  Just being an appreciator of film isn’t enough. Throwing big scientific words out without any real context isn’t enough. You have to give us details that the average person doesn’t know. Not details that the average person just saw in Captain America: Winter Soldier.

It comes down to suspension of disbelief. If all the action set pieces feel cartoonish, born solely inside the writer’s imagination, there’s no way I can believe in the story. I need to feel that authenticity, those real world details that make me think that I’m seeing something that’s really happening.

Unfortunately, the story itself was in line with this approach. It felt too simplistic and too cliché. Things happened because they needed to happen to fit the action-thriller paradigm, not because they’d happen in real life. Take Karen, for example. Why is she in this story other than the need for a female lead? I didn’t see why Wyatt needed her at all. She had way less information on where his brother was than he did. Yet he tries to keep her around. Also, her reason for finding Nathan amounted to a curiosity – why did you exchange some paperwork to put my dad on a plane that was attacked? I’m not sure I’m willing to get shot at and risk my life to find the answer to that question. You need to be more convincing on why these characters are involved in the story.

The script is also 125 pages when it shouldn’t have been a page over 110. The section where Wyatt first gets to New York and looks for his brother takes FOREVER before it gets to the next story beat. We just keep talking to people and asking people where he is. At one point, Wyatt calls his parents asking for Nathan. They say they don’t know where he is. Then he goes looking again. Then, a couple of pages later, he calls them and asks them again! It just seemed like there wasn’t enough thought put into it.

Finally, I didn’t understand the significance of the big weapon of the story – the clean nuke. From what I understood, clean nukes leave no radiation. Doesn’t that make them LESS scary? Less effective? Lingering radiation is what kills all the people who weren’t killed in the blast. To eliminate that seemed to make the weapon less dangerous. Therefore, I was never that wowed by the attention the clean nuke was getting.

What Thy has here is a desire to write a kick-ass fun action movie. And I admire that. The problem is, writing a fun movie is often never fun. I hate to be the one to say it. But it almost always takes a level of deep commitment to do the work – as far as research, as far as character development, as far as everything making sense – to create a fun finished product. That commitment wasn’t made here, which is why Thy Enemy didn’t resonate with me. I wish Thy the best though. I hope he benefits from these notes and from any other notes he receives in the comments. Good luck, man.

Screenplay link: Thy Enemy

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

What I learned: When writers come to me with a movie idea centered around the FBI or CIA, I tell them, don’t you dare write a word until you’ve read three books on the FBI (or CIA). I can tell within one scene whether a writer truly understands how the FBI works or if they’ve just watched a lot of movies before. And the second I determine they don’t really know that world, I give up on the script. Right there. Which may sound harsh but I’ve read enough scripts where I know the entire rest of the story is going to feel fake.

  • Eric

    Unfortunately the weekend is often when I’m busiest and I rarely have a chance to give all the AOWs what I would consider a fair shake. Often times I give it a shot, then the real world tells me to cut it out and get back to work. I did however, collect some notes for…

    Thy Enemy

    The pilot calling this crazily skilled attacker “boy” doesn’t make sense. It’s really only there to support the reveal, which also doesn’t work in my opinion. Wouldn’t an exo-suit like the one described have revealed her frame long before this?

    Cut down on the caps. Is there a moment later on where I’ll say, “Oh my God, that’s the same UNEARTHLY AURA from before”? If not, it doesn’t need caps.

    Fifty square miles vanish, but Kurtz and Nathan are okay? The sequence is rushed. They’re standing together talking, then Nathan’s shooting things, than a bomb detonates, but it’s over fifty miles away. I expected them to both be incinerated, but instead neither is hurt.

    “That’s where the Suspect is hiding!” If only there was an image to go with that aside.

    “No one’s there anymore.” No one was ever there as far as I could see.

    “He lunges for the PUSH BUTTON STARTER, but it’s just out of reach.” What kind of asinine position is his seat in that he can’t reach the starter from the driver’s seat?

    Finally, the dialogue seems to go in circles. For example, “Why would I care about some junk bond trader?” This from a man who just spent the last page and a half grilling a suspect on the whereabouts of said junk bond trader.

    Wyatt is detained on suspicion of terrorism without being told why, but chooses to flee the police because some dude in a cowboy hat says so. Despite some neat ideas and a cool opening sequence, there’s just too much stretching going on in this one. If I can detect so much logical stretching going on at the surface level, I have to assume the problem penetrates to the deeper levels of your story. As a result, I’d be out here.

    • BMCHB

      ”The pilot calling this crazily skilled attacker “boy” doesn’t make sense. It’s really only there to support the reveal, which also doesn’t work in my opinion. Wouldn’t an exo-suit like the one described have revealed her frame long before this?”

      I think this may be one of those occasions where it plays better than it reads, so benefit of the doubt here for me.

      TBH I quite enjoyed this script. Time I’m glad I spent reading. Visually it’s very cinematic. I suspect another draft incorporating some notes gleaned from SS and this would be of sufficient quality to sell. Only problem being it reads to need a minimum 80 million budget. But why not?

      Good luck with it, Thy Enemy Writer.

      • Eric

        I suppose it could work. But then you have your hot female spy running around in clothes that aren’t form-fitting, when does that happen? ;-)

    • Citizen M

      Re the starter: Someone in the back seat is pulling him back by his tie so he can’t reach it.. At least, that’s the way I understand it.

      • Eric

        I’ve just never sat in a car where the seat was so far back that I had to stretch to reach the steering wheel. And if I did, I would adjust it so I didn’t have to. This is supposed to be his car, but he positions his own seat so that he’s effectively driving on a stool (no backrest). Does anyone actually do this?

  • Randy Williams

    Glad to see the script I voted for making it here. “I Shall Be Released” really seemed to get the love as it well deserved.

    Congrats to the writer!

    After reading the entire script, I commented on AOW that I craved LESS realism. No mention of current politics, political leaders, movements, especially ISIS, to really make this escapism but reflect those current concerns in the story. Still, with that direction, it still needs what Carson pushes as authenticity.

    I loved the family angle, how we are split in ideologies even within families. How quick people are to take arms against their own countries and against the values they grew up with. (those current concerns).

    Dump Karen?! …..Carson needs another trip to Paris. Every story needs a romance.

  • fragglewriter

    I thought the writing was good, but the introduction of the takeover of the plane and tech talk kept me from getting into the script.

    The What I Learned Tip is a great idea. I think what intrigues most writers, well for me that is, to write a script on subject matter other than what I do for a living. Why? Because it lacks the excitement. For example, I want to write another cop movie, but even though I know of people who are in law enforcement and read articles, I don’t have their insight, for the nuances in the job, that I do with my day job. I work in the financial sector, and to put a fresh twist on a troupe is ideal, something about writing action movies that center around the FBI/CIA/Cops I still find most appealing.

  • Linkthis83

    Congrats to the writer of THY ENEMY. Major condolences to the writer of

    I SHALL BE RELEASED.

    My notes from that weekend regarding this script (and hey, look at that, Carson and I shared a similar note :)

    THY ENEMY (action/thriller)

    p14 = stopped

    Loved the opening scene. Very cinematic. Like a movie.

    Didn’t understand a lot of the scene at CERN. Enjoyed some of it.

    Hated the scene at the rural village. Mostly because I’m tired of the idotic FBI agent trope. I know he doesn’t become an actual agent, but this scene felt very comedic. This is an action/thriller, I don’t expect a scene to be this cartoonish. I love the advice you got from Shane Black and you actually delivered on that advice in this scene, but I feel this set up robs you of story credbility and tone you’ve set thus far. For me, anyway.

  • ximan

    WHAAA….?

    I thought I SHALL BE RELEASED was the clear winner! Although, I admit, I didn’t actually count the votes. At the very least it seemed close.

    Carson, are we ever going to get an I SHALL BE RELEASED review?

    As for THY ENEMY, I really liked what I read. Carson is right in that it denies physics and believability, but so does FAST & THE FURIOUS and a shitload of other money-makers, so I’d keep my head up if I were Thy! :)

    • Poe_Serling

      “Carson, are we ever going to get an I SHALL BE RELEASED review?”

      It’s coming right after the Let Us Touch the Sun review.

      • ximan

        Hmmmm. Seems like Carson has a bias against complete-sentence titles.

        Take note my fellow SS250 writers! :)

        • Linkthis83

          Looking forward to a future review of:

          I BE RELEASE

        • carsonreeves1

          I prefer contractions and half-words, all in single-word titles.

      • Kirk Diggler

        He can do a double review, “I Shall Touch the Sun”, sounds scorching.

        • brenkilco

          Or mash the scripts together, in which case Big Pink is going to be more like a frighteningly livid carmine.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Or he can review “Let us be Released”, but outside of Shawshank not a big fan of prison fllms.

          • klmn

            You should check out I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang.

      • Levres de Sang

        Thanks Poe! The name-checks are always appreciated! And maybe with Easter on its way Carson might want to deliver a few golden eggs to some of us AF near-misses. :)

        • gonzorama

          Yeah, I’m for that. I kept recounting cuz it sure looked like I’d won yet my script was not reviewed a few months ago. I know it’s the luck of the draw and Carson’t choice, but there have been a lot of near-misses reviewed, and close-calls not reviewed. I’m so shaken I’m typing in clichés!

          • Levres de Sang

            Was that the one where the boy lived with his dad in a trailer and they had all these science projects?

          • Linkthis83

            I believe Gonzo is the author of REEDS IN WINTER.

            (hope that’s correct)

          • gonzorama

            Thanks for remembering, Link. I did put up Reeds last year and had Rocket Surgery up sometime around last November. I’d love to be featured on a Amateur Friday, but even if I never do the things I’ve learned here are invaluable

          • Linkthis83

            You had a second one?!?! Congrats!! Lol. I must’ve missed that weekend.

          • gonzorama

            I try to write at least one script per year, but it’s not that easy. I’m working freelance at 3 jobs currently and I’m also taking a sketch writing class through the UCB, and it’s tough finding time to write my 3 to 5 page homework assignment. But I am compelled to push forward – even if I never make a splash here.

            Keep writing everyone!

          • gonzorama

            Yes sir – Rocket Surgery. I kept counting 10 to 8 in my favor, but didn’t challenge it. I guess I had too many wishy-washy votes.

          • Zero

            Liked Rocket Surgery. I’ve been thinking about making a list of close-call AOWs like Carson said, and Rocket Surgery would definitely be on there.

            Probably wouldn’t count my own Firewake, though. It was a clear second to another one on the AOW, and was only technically a close-call with Ariel.

          • gonzorama

            Thanks, Zero. I remember reading the first few pages of Firewake but I can’t find it on my hard drive. Love to read it if you’d like to send it to me: gonzorama@hotmail.com

          • carsonreeves1

            It does get a little vague at times. If a script is a clear winner that everyone loves, I’ll always review it. Otherwise, I factor in a lot of different things.

            For instance, say the vote is close, with one script having more votes, but the second place script is a much more interesting discussion from a screenwriting point of view (more can be learned from it), I might go with the second place script.

            There are also always a number of wishy-washy votes, where someone’s voted for something, but by default or without a lot of confidence behind it. I don’t always count those as clear endorsements.

          • Citizen M

            I’m often surprised by what gets chosen for AF. In many cases they are scripts which are quite obviously nowhere near professional level.

            I tend to vote for scripts which are the nearest to “shovel ready” pro scripts. Often they are not terribly original, but I figure there are plenty of producers and directors out there who want to cut their teeth on a safe, routine type of movie as a stepping-stone to something more edgy or unique.

            But most commenters seem to vote for the script that would result in an imaginative movie they’d like to see, if all the script problems were worked out. The trouble is, a lot of the time I don’t think these scripts are fixable, given the inexperience of the writers.

          • gregthegreg

            However, this is how the business works most of the time. Specs are bought (or get a ton of attention) on concept alone, not the professional nature of the writing.

            Since most studio level scripts are rewritten many times over, awesome prose and genius dialog don’t always move the needle.

            Sure, I think this is a sucky state of affairs, but knowing this can help how we approach scripts. A strong hooky concept can get you noticed, maybe a little money in your pocket. Great execution can keep you employed for years to come.

          • Citizen M

            I know this is the prevailing mythology — you sell the sizzle, not the steak. So as long as you have a great concept you don’t have to worry about the hard work of producing a great script.

            But I have my doubts.

            Firstly, concepts are cheap. They are just ideas after all. And the guys with the power to buy scripts can have their own ideas, so why should they pay to buy yours? Plus, they are probably bombarded with concepts all day long.

            “It’s Gone With The Wind — on the MOON! Just think. There’s no wind! So how can she be gone, huh??? Mystery box!!! It sells itself!!!! Yadda yadda yadda…”

            They probably have concept fatigue. Anyway, there are so many concepts floating out there, how do you pick out the one that can best be developed. I’d say the one with a professional script to go along with it would be the most promising.

            Secondly, all those guys rewriting the scripts with great concepts: they are the ones picking up the steady paychecks. You should be aiming for that charmed circle. And the only way to get in is to be a writer of good screenplays.

        • carsonreeves1

          We may be up for a Second Chance Showdown at some point. If someone wants to e-mail me a list of close-call contenders (with no biases), I’d be open to that.

          • Howie428

            The AF where my script lost out began with, “The competition for this weekend of Amateur Offerings was CLOSE.” That was back in December when you picked Super Epic over my script Midas. That was also when I realized the supreme importance of having an avatar image with a memorable picture of a head on it!

    • LostAndConfused

      At the same time the Fast and Furious franchise was built on authenticity. The first Fast and Furious had a lot of scenes just talking about car parts and it was an orgasm for a lot of car enthusiasts back in the day (I was one of those and admired the talking scenes just as much as I did the racing ones because it was authentic and down to earth). The past couple of ones have abandoned its roots in favor of an over the top comic book like action thriller, which I can’t argue; the franchise was getting stale and needed to be injected with new life, and it’s worked for them.

      • carsonreeves1

        Sorry, Lost. I missed this comment before writing mine. But yeah, we’re on the same page.

    • carsonreeves1

      F&F has gotten progressively goofier over the years, but you knew in that original spec that the writer (David Ayer) did his research on street races. Rushed sequels are a bad bar to go by for specs.

      The thing is, I’ll give a script leniency, as will most readers, if it’s fuzzy in one area, as long as the rest of the script is awesome. It’s when multiple areas get abused that I lose confidence quickly.

  • Eric

    Excellent What I Learned by the way. About an hour later and I’m trying to figure out the logistics of changing all the FBI agents in a script of mine to DSS (Diplomatic Security Service).

  • mulesandmud

    Will try to give this script a look later, but for now a general thought on research.

    It’s certainly important to study up on practical information relevant to your story – FBI procedure, nuclear tech, etc. That’s just one aspect of research, though.

    Practical knowledge won’t elevate our material all by itself; it just provides us with raw material for smart storytelling, which is an advantage, sure, but that’s not enough.

    To elevate a story beyond the level of just-plain-functional, we have to think laterally (not to be confused with thinking literally). We need to find the not-so-obvious applications for all of those facts you’ve collected, and make connections that go beyond conventional logic.

    Research is part of that lateral thinking process. We need to look in unexpected places and seek out unlikely perspectives that might add dimension to our material.

    Personal example: a few years ago, I wrote a script based on a true story, about an abusive relationship in which one person gradually forces another into a life of violent crime. As you’d expect, I did countless hours of research on the actual events, and on the legal/social issues surrounding those events.

    I also spent time studying two topics that were more or less unrelated to my story: dog fights and African child soldiers.

    This was a serious drama, and I wanted to understand the ways in which a person could be conditioned to become violent. The process by which dogs are bred to attack on command, or by which barbaric warlords conscript and brainwash innocents, both seemed relevant in distant but powerful ways.

    In the end, those research threads contributed not just to themes and character psychology, but also gave me ideas for specific scenes. (“What if the one guy treated the other guy like a dog here?”)

    All that to say, in research, as in every other aspect of writing, we need to push ourselves. Think harder, reach further, do more, never settle.

    • Kirk Diggler

      (“What if the one guy treated the other guy like a dog here?”)

      — reminiscent of the Reek/Ramsey Snow storyline on Game of Thrones.

  • 21BelowZero

    No more beat-to-death “rogue” in the logline. Very nice, thank you.

  • ThyEnemyWriter

    Thanks for giving me the AF spotlight, I’ll do my best to improve my script. I take my popcorn very seriously and I want my pages to reflect that. I’m excited to dig into notes from your very generous community.

    It was awesome to watch the community also support, I Shall Be Released. The notes he got on his passion project kept blowing me away. Greg workshopped his fingers off and I’m honored to have been in competition with him. For the record, I’m a huge fan of The Band.

    Carson, it was such a close vote. Please consider giving I Shall Be Released the Amateur Friday slot next week. My thanks to you and your kick-ass readership for your time!

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Thanks for your kind endorsement. I will read Thy Enemy soon, and provide some feedback in a post here.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Thy:

        I recognize the issue that Carson had with your script when it comes to authenticity. You certainly have an excellent grasp over the conceptualization of cool action sequences, but I think that you are writing yourself, rather than your characters, into a trap.

        The beginning of the script sets up expectations for something larger than life, and the transition from that to Quantico severely dampers those expectations. The way i see it, the script is existing in two worlds, and I’m not sure they can co-exist. If the first section of your script is retained, up to the pseudo-oppenheimer’s I am become death, the destroyer of worlds / clean nuke speech, then what *I* want for the remainder of the script, are cool corporations vying for control of the technology. Let’s see you play in a world of high tech gadgetry separate from the mundane, and difficult to get right, world of realistic alphabet soup agencies. of course just that alteration to the concept requires a total rewrite, so it might not be the direction you want to go.

        But authenticity isn’t the main problem I found with this script. The real problem is clarity.

        Take a hard look at what made the Bourne movies so desirable. It isn’t about the plot, it’s about how clear the concept is: A man who has amnesia was really a spy, and now everybody is after him. The REASONS behind why they’re after him play second fiddle to the excitement, drama, and suspense that surrounds the initial premise.

        You’re great with reversals, which people have pointed out, but it’s not just the reversal, the switching the script in a scene, that makes a good scene. One thing lacking was a genuine feeling of suspense, and I think the reason is because of the plot. It is a grand-arcing plot involving numerous characters, with separate goals, all surrounding a very world-changing concept. But with so much going on, you do yourself a disservice by starting so far away from the action.

        The beginning sequence was cool, but it felt disconnected from the following scene, and by the time we got to quantico, seemed even more disconnected. I dare say the problem with this script is its protagonist.

        What if Dietrich and Kurtz were the only main characters, and every scene in your entire script revolved around them at odds with each other? Can you envision that as a script? You take the time to set up the creator of the technology, but he never again appears in the script. You take the time to introduce us to Dietrich on page 1, but she doesn’t appear again until page 28!

        You have a very, very direct style of prose, and your formatting is exemplary, which is not to be underestimated. But your dialogue reads as very formal in places, and you don’t let your scenes breathe. This is probably coming across as cryptic advice, and I’ll admit I never really considered myself great at notes. But I get the impression that at times you were actively trying to avoid real emotion in your script. The closest thing I got to real emotion was when Wyatt was practicing in the mirror – but it begs the question – if he’s at quantico training – then why is he practicing? A man might practice into a mirror before the big speech – but if it’s just a training exercise – wouldn’t his mind be elsewhere? My fix? I’d have him practicing his speech while he was working out. Maybe jogging, or lifting weights. Though if I were writing the scene, I would have him saying it with his eyes closed while toast was in the toaster behind him, then when the toast popped up, he’d spin around, gun drawn, and aim at the toast, then read his breakfast its rights.

        In that case, the toast in the toaster should represent a building suspense that you should try incorporating into many of your scenes. Then when the toast pops, this particular character springs into action, because it’s literally, in his character to do so.

        I guess overall – my advice is – avoid the authenticity angle by giving us something further removed from the formed expectations readers have around alphabet soup agencies. Give us something in the private sector.

        Work on developing more suspense, and an emotional presence in your scenes, and if you’re set on having so many characters, focus on making the plot crystal clear, and giving characters tangible, definable goals early on.

        • ThyEnemyWriter

          Thanks so much for this! I’ll gladly return the favor on any draft of your project you;d like. :-)

    • Magga

      Sorry for not having time to read and therefore offering an opinion that could be worth absolutely nothing, but my gut instinct from reading the log line and review is that the brothers shouldn’t be estranged. It’s much more emotional if someone you’re super close to does something terrible right under your nose. As I said, an opinion based on very little, but I remember from reading the pitches last weekend that I would have been more likely to pick up the script had it had that promise of emotional conflict

    • pale yellow

      This script is much improved since the last time I read it.

  • 21BelowZero

    “From what I understood, clean nukes leave no radiation. Doesn’t that make them LESS scary? Less effective?”

    That’s exactly right. I looked this up for an idea I was considering a couple years ago. A clean nuke is actually considered more “peaceful,” more “humanitarian.”

    Nathan should have a new, highly advance dirty bomb that quadruples the radiation zone. A death sentence to ALL the 8+ million living in Gotham.

    And as for Karen, how about it was her father (a scientist) who developed this new dirty bomb and Nathan killed him to get it?

    • Craig Mack

      Nuclear weapons can be traced back to their country of origin. So, a ‘clean’ nuke would allow a country to nuke someone with out leaving a fingerprint… Thus, you can nuke someone without fear of reprisal. Or, in the case of this story (if I’m remembering correctly) you can NUKE someone and blame it on another country.

      • Eric

        It sort of defeats the purpose though if only one country has them and they’ve been stolen mysteriously anyway.

        In the script the destruction is described as “fifty-square miles” which is an odd way to describe a circular destruction. Radius is more commonly used. I’m not great at math, and someone can feel free to correct me, but when you convert you appear to get something in the range of a 12-13 mile radius. This would make it about the 2nd or 3rd most powerful nuke, not factoring in radiation.

        Then again, it was detonated underground and not at optimal altitude. However it goes, the ‘specialness’ of this bomb is vague to me.

        • klmn

          Actually, the area of a circle is equal to pi times the radius squared. So fifty square miles divided by pi equals the radius squared. So without hunting up a calculator I estimate the radius as about four miles.

          • Eric

            Yeah I realized later that I’d accidentally calculated for 500 square miles instead of 50. That’s the story of me and math. Right work. Wrong numbers.

  • Frankie Hollywood

    Looking at Redbox for a movie to rent.
    Dracula Untold rates a 4.0
    The Hunger Games: Mockingjay gets a 3.5
    Birdman is right there with Dumb and Dumber To, a 2.5

    Birdman, do I go with 45 pages of public opinion/reviews or the Academy Awards?

    Yeah, I know, the public is stupid, this is about ART.

    • Eric

      But the Rotten Tomatoes user rating is 4/5.
      Metacritic has a user rating of 7.9/10
      Netflix user rating is 3.5/5

      Not all public polls are created equal. The type of audience that even bothers to rate on Redbox is likely a different type of audience than would rate on RT.

      • Frankie Hollywood

        Yep, I agree with that. I’d guess:
        Redbox = Walmart
        Metacritic/RT/IMDb = Macy’s

        Not sure about Netflix…JCPenney, maybe?

    • Poe_Serling

      With Redbox, you can have your cake and eat it too – rent both Dracula Untold and Birdman for three bucks and some change. In the long run you still end up saving $$ when compared to buying a single theater ticket at ten dollars or more.

      • Frankie Hollywood

        Exactly. That’s why all my “on the fence” movies are always Redboxers.

      • Frankie Hollywood

        Poe_Serling, I’m tired of you not having an Avatar.
        Happy first day of SPRING!

        EDIT: not sure why the top one showed up, I DELETED it (Poe’s head wasn’t wide enough). Ignore it, the bottom one is the PB&J.

        • Poe_Serling

          I gotta say the whole split personality aspect of the Poe/Serling avatar is pretty cool, but it will always pale in comparison to your awesome monster head. ;-)

          • klmn

            Damn, now I have to come up with a better avatar. ) It won’t be a photoshop, but the work of an actual mad scientist.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Thought he complained of being only a pitch man on that show.
            (Could be wrong.)

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, something along those lines…

            “Serling was unhappy because the show soon degenerated into
            shock stories with little depth, yet he was contractually bound to “front” each show, even if it was not his script.”

          • Levres de Sang

            Another fun fact: Repeatedly say the name of Japanese mystery writer Edogawa Rampo and you get… Edgar Allan Poe! Actually, I’d certainly recommend checking out Rampo’s short stories (in translation) as the few I’ve read have a weirdly memorable quality. The Chair, especially, comes to mind.

    • Casper Chris

      Birdman has a rating of 8 on IMDB. That’s also based on public opinion (215,000 user reviews) and up there with movies like The Imitation Game, Jaws, Shutter Island, Terminator, Rocky, Jurassic Park, Groundhog Day, Twelve Monkeys, Prisoners etc.

    • Citizen M

      If you’re looking for a seriously good movie, rent The Flowers of War, a Chinese movie starring Christian Bale. Don’t know if it’s available on Redbox, but I rented it at our local DVD store and rate it one of the best movies I’ve seen for the last several years.

      It’s about an American mortician stuck in a church with a bunch of convent girls and a bunch of prostitutes in Nanking when the Japanese overran the city in 1937 and committed atrocities like ISIS was to do many years later.

      • Somersby

        Thanks for the recommendation, CM. Happened to run across this one today… so I guess you know what my Friday Nite at the Movies choice will be.

    • carsonreeves1

      The Woman Who Walked Home in the Dark (the Iranian female vampire movie, which has a title that’s similar to what I just wrote but not exactly) just came out on Itunes to rent. I’m debating whether to watch it or not.

  • Garrett

    I’d like to say congrats as well to the writer. Try and remember to not take the criticism personally. While that is way too easy to do, fight to stay objective about the process and LEARN something from it. I’m sure some things Carson said came off brash and hard, but the intent is to be honest – another’s perspective – and feed you ideas about what isn’t working. While I can tell you worked your ass off on this current draft, make a game plan for how you want to change things for the next draft after you’ve thought about how to solve these problems. That’s all screenwriting is: the best way to solve story problems and tell an effective story. Keep at it!!

  • walker

    Sorry but I am just not buying Levon Helm wingwalking in an exo-suit.

  • Citizen M

    Read to page 54. I’m sorry, I can’t face another seventy pages of this. I have almost no idea of what’s going on or of who’s trying to do what, and what’s stopping them. Every twist in the story just makes me more confused.

    I read the newest version, which is almost identical to the AOW version. No significant change there.

    Tonally, I was never sure if this was supposed to be taken seriously or was a light-hearted spoofy kind of spy story. There were a few comical bits, and the initial raid on the airplane was way over the top, but otherwise it wasn’t funny enough for a spoof, but also not dramatic and gritty enough for a serious action drama.

    The writer has some good ideas, some effective reversals, gets his hero into tight spots, and writes concisely, so he or she has promise. But I don’t think he’s found his genre yet. I recommend shelving this script and moving on to the next one.

    Many of the location descriptions were too sketchy. Take a bit more time to set the scene the fist time in a new location. Also, when we meet new people, have them doing something characteristic only they would do. For instance, more detail of how Karen reacts to learning Nathan has never worked where he said he does.

    The names Nathan and Wyatt are too similar. They both have that dah-dah rhythm. If the one is two syllables, make the other one or three syllables, like Bill or Gregory. Note also Rid-ley, Ka-ren, Die-trich, Mi-la, Glea-son, E-lise, Tho-mas. That two-syllable trap is easy to fall into.

    I have no suggestions, since I have no idea what the writer is trying to achieve.

    p. 4 – The cargo plane has lost it’s tail and is in a power dive, yet the pilot goes into the back with his Glock to check?! Dietrich still bothers to blow the wing off the crashing aircraft?!

    p. 18 – Good reveal Ben is talking to his son. But is this comedic moment tonally right?

    p. 27 – How can one pile of luggage block an entire taxiway? Can’t they just drive around it?

    p. 30 – What’s the plot? Nothing seems to be connected.

    p. 36 – Another good reversal with the janitor. But again, is it tonally right?

    p. 37 – What’s with the land lines and pay phones? Is there a payoff to using ancient technology?

    p. 39 – Describe the rooftop scene a bit more. Presumably he’s jumping to a flat roof a bit lower than the one he’s on. But don’t leave the reader to figure it out. The mental effort is too much. Describe it so we get the picture immediately, like we will when it’s on screen.

    It’s not easy to describe the geographic layout adequately in a few words, but it is an essential skill to master. This really only applies to stunt scenes; generic locations like diners etc don’t need more than an adjective: dingy, classy, old-fashioned, whatever.

    p. 41 – I had to read this several times. The motion detector activates the atomizer which sprays geo-location microdots on whoever walks past. Am I right?

    p. 49 – You can’t see if a Beretta pistol magazine is empty or not. No need to conceal it.

    • Somersby

      I want you to proofread EVERYTHING I write!

    • carsonreeves1

      “Tonally, I was never sure if this was supposed to be taken seriously or was a light-hearted spoofy kind of spy story.” This was a problem I had as well. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be over-the-top or not, in which case we should just go with the ridiculousness of some scenarios. When I can’t get a handle on the tone, that’s usually a bad thing.

      • Casper Chris

        The poster gives me the impression this was either intended as an anime or anime-style live action movie, in which case a certain level of over-the-topness is to be expected. I mean that poster looks like something straight out of Final Fantasy. Maybe the writer can clarify…

        • Caivu

          I was getting a Metal Gear Solid vibe from the poster, which would also work for that over-the-top feel.

          • Casper Chris

            Yea, or Appleseed. I’m sure there’s many others that fit the mold.

  • Citizen M

    The nearest thing we have to a clean nuke is the neutron bomb. It is not very powerful so it is not unthinkable to use it near population centers to ward off mass tank attacks with armor-penetrating neutrons. Which is why the Soviets didn’t like it. It negated their tens of thousands of tanks ranged against NATO forces.

  • carsonreeves1

    It was hard to count the votes this week because I told everyone to read “Released” at the top of the post, which means more people read that script than the others and most of the conversation was on Released. Also, some people e-mailed me regarding some suspect voting, which further muddied the waters.

    I love Greg. He’s one of the most earnest hard-working guys out there. So maybe that review is coming at some point. But honestly, I think a lot of you covered what I would’ve said. I think if Greg applies those notes, his script could be resubmitted with a shot at a much more favorable review. So don’t count out Released. :)

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Just as an FYI – I already applied every last drop of the notes over the past week, and resubmitted.

    • davejc

      It seemed to me I SHALL BE RELEASED had won the day, er, weekend, but on closer examination it does appears THY ENEMY did have the edge.

      ” some people e-mailed me regarding some suspect voting”

      Ahhh, intrigue and deception for the coveted AF. Will we get to hear more about that?

  • carsonreeves1

    Okay, now I’m in your head a little more and I understand what you were thinking.

    That’s a tough one though. Whenever you have to convince the audience that the weapon is bad, you’re bargaining from a place of weakness. Why not just come up with a weapon that sounds terrifying without having to go into a lot of exposition?

  • Casper Chris

    The real question, of course, is did Thy execute the advice?

    Come on, Carson. You can’t have a setup like that without a payoff. Writing 101.

  • Paul Clarke

    I found enough time to read this week’s AF selection, and found myself pleasantly surprised. A very well written script that wouldn’t be out of place as part of the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise.

    I personally prefer more intimate personal tales, but I can also appreciate fun and spectacle. I doubt something of this budget would be made when not based on IP or another franchise, but the writer shows the ability to work on such a project. This could be a very nice example piece to get some writing assignments.

    And a nice piece of artwork to go along with it.

  • Craig Mack

    I’ve been on a lot of “meetings” lately… the one thing that keeps coming up is, “What type of BIG ACTION screenplays do you have?”. Why? Because younger writers are NOT writing big budget action… WE are writing small budget contained scripts trying to get a credit…. Credits are fun, but do not pay the bills.

    Re-read that opening sequence… and TELL me you wouldn’t LOVE to see that played out on the big screen.

    I still give this script a XX WTR.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Speaking my language.

    • kenglo

      The opening is definitely dope! VERY well written first few pages! Love the writers style. Like someone else mentioned here, could be a great sample!

  • Malibo Jackk

    The idea of a CLEAN NUKE will most likely be dated by the time this script could be made into a movie.

    By then, the world’s terrorists will be excited by the prospects of cheaply made E-BOMBS.
    And Iran is already absolutely giddy about the prospects for their EMP BOMB.

    The conversation two years from now is likely to be completely different from what we’re hearing today..

  • IgorWasTaken

    Carson, I agree with you about authenticity – research, and/or having lived/worked in the world you’re writing about.

    But…

    I’ve written such things – about things that I know from substantial, personal experience – and sometimes readers will say that it’s not the way things really happen.

    Not because the readers know what they claim to. Rather, because they think they know from their own second-hand “experiences” – i.e., from the movies they have seen or the novels they have read.

    In other words, true reality on the page will not work if the conventional fiction has so permeated the culture.

    • davejc

      I’ve had that happen. After thoroughly researching a subject and spending hundreds of dollars on reports a reader will tell me this could never happen, when in fact it not only happens, but it happens every day.

      • IgorWasTaken

        One way to respond to that sort of stuff (and I’ve had to do this myself) is have some character say in so many words – “That never happens”, and then another replies, “Oh, but it does.” Before I started writing screenplays, I never noticed this in films. But since then, I’ve noticed it in both new films and old ones that I’ve re-watched. If nothing else, it tells the reader that you know maybe, to this reader, some element doesn’t seem authentic. IOW, “Hey, idiot reader. This stuff IS real.”

    • klmn

      I’ve had it happen, too. It’s maddening when you do extensive research on a subject only to be shot down so casually.

      My feeling is that – in practice – the established tropes trump authenticity.

      What I learned is to not write any more fact based scripts.

  • Eric

    I also have a fondness for hot female spies. It overlaps with my fondness for hot female mercenaries who can wield an M16 Assault Rifle like they’re in the movie Heat.

  • carsonreeves1

    Tarantino is one of those guys you can’t compare anything to. He basically goes against every rule and makes it work.

    You’re right, though. It’s because of his unique voice. However, for those who don’t have that special talent, they have to get a leg up everywhere they can. And research is one of those areas you can get a leg up.