Genre: Action/Thriller
Premise: As an ex-soldier interviews for a cushy corporate gig, the unstable Security Chief she’s there to replace seizes control of the high-tech industrial complex.
Why You Should Read: Hollywood’s overstuffed with Jane Wick specs, it’s time for Jane McClane to get her shot. In his recent article, “How to Jump Start the Spec Market”, Carson claims that a fresh spin on real world action can fire up the film industry. I believe a contained modestly budgeted female driven take on the original Die Hard hits that bullseye. Part of that fresh spin includes modernizing the setting. I chose the baffling Agile Scrum anti-privacy open space office design that’s been made popular by Apple and Google. I hope it achieves the same effect of an old school cop feeling out of sorts inside a high-tech skyscraper.
Writer: Brett Martin
Details: 90 pages

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A little Kristin Stewart in badass mode for Noami?

Excited to read Brett Martin’s latest. He always has a great attitude and is very professional. For those who read his script two weeks ago, note that this is a new draft he sent me where he incorporated your notes. So if I bring something up that you don’t remember, that’s probably why.

Also, before I get into the review, I encourage all of you to watch The Disaster Artist this weekend. I’ll be reviewing it on Monday. I CAN’T WAIT to see it!

20-something Naomi has just learned that she’s pregnant. Which sucks. Because she doesn’t want to have kids. That’s despite loving her boyfriend, Marcus, with all her heart. This is also the worst time to learn she’s pregnant, since she has a big job interview at a company called Poly Vac, which has figured out a way to airdrop portable surgery packs that allow doctors in isolated areas to perform complex surgeries.

But Naomi senses something is off the second she gets there. There are a bunch of soldiers in the waiting room, presumably up for the same job, and no one will tell her anything about the fired guy whose job she’d be replacing.

A former computer tech in the army, Noami stays professional, going to each and every station in the company to get interviewed by the company heads. But as she’s finishing up, the entire building is locked down, and everyone is locked in.

This is when we meet Griffin (well, sort of – more on that later), the disgruntled former employee no one would speak of. Griffin wants a pound of the CEO’s flesh, several million pounds of his money, and he’s not afraid to kill anyone to get it.

Oh, and those soldiers who were “up for the job?” Yeah, they’re on Griffin’s pay roll. Griffin then steals the CEO’s laptop and does one of those “money transfer from offshore accounts” downloads, which unfortunately takes awhile. This leaves time for people to act up.

When people start dying, Naomi has no choice but to get involved and fight back. She’s able to steal the laptop and isolate herself in another part of the building, temporarily preventing the money transfer. So Griffin sends his goons after her with next to zero success. It’s looking like Naomi will come away the victor until her boyfriend shows up to pick her up from the “interview.” Once Griffin gets his hands on him, the leverage pendulum swings back in his favor. And that means Naomi, as well as everyone else in the company she’s been protecting, is dead meat.

Let’s start with the good.

This is a very competent screenplay. It’s professionally written. It’s tight. It moves quickly. There’s a “writer who knows what he’s doing” sheen on the script. This isn’t someone who picked up screenwriting last week.

However, there were issues, some small and some big. On the small side, the script starts oddly. We have this weird opening scene where our villain, Griffin, basically tells another character what he’s going to do. It was difficult to understand the reason for this. It would be like in Die Hard if Hans Gruber showed up a week early, strolled up to the front desk, and said, “Watch out. Next week? I’m going to hold this building hostage. Here’s my resume, by the way. In case you want to know more about me.”

This was followed by Naomi’s job interview, which I spent half the time re-reading because I didn’t understand what was happening. Why are a dozen soldiers hanging out in the CEO’s office? Oh, wait. They’re job applicants? But… why are they dressed in their soldier uniforms? If that’s a requirement, shouldn’t Naomi be dressed in her military uniform as well? But again. This isn’t a military company. It’s about doctors and airdrops right? So what’s with the whole military job applicant theme? It was confusing to say the least. I got over it. I just hate when things are unnecessarily confusing, espcially early on in a script.

After that, the script gained clarity. But then it ran into its big problem. And I want to frame this in a way where it helps Brett. Because I know Brett wants to get good at this. But here’s the issue: There aren’t any original ideas in this script. It was almost shocking how by-the-numbers everything was. And I say that because Brett reads this site all the time and one of the dead horses I’m constantly beating is to ask yourself, “What’s new that I’m bringing to this concept?” “What’s new that I’m bringing to these characters?” “What’s new that I’m bringing to this scene?” To this set-piece, to this plot choice, to this dialogue, to this genre? And I can’t imagine any scenario where you’d evaluate this idea and say, “I’m bringing something new to this.”

If this were a court case, I suppose you could argue that some of the plastic-making rooms were original. And they were. But a couple of fun action scenes in unique rooms isn’t enough to save a script where everything else was so predictable. It was so straight-forward I actually thought I was being set up for a monster twist that was going to turn everything on its head. But it never came.

Contained location
Ex-military protagonist
Learns she’s pregnant
Angry ex-employee
Motivation is lots of money
Offshore accounts
The infamous “downloading” bar
Mindless minions with guns going after our hero

You gotta take chances. You gotta try new things. You can’t be too formulaic. One of the things I say here is that you find greatness through how you break the rules. This script never once stepped outside the lines and if you don’t do that, the reader gets ahead of you. They’re waiting for you to catch up to them. Cause they already know what you’re going to do 30 pages down the road. Your lack of surprises has guaranteed that no surprises are coming later either. The reader knew, for example, the boyfriend was going to come back and get mixed up in this.

One of your big jobs as a writer is to place yourself in the mind of the reader and ask, at every step, “What does the reader think I’m going to do right now.” And every once in awhile, you HAVE to give them something different from what they expected. And that never happened here. Which is surprising since Brett has been reading the site for so long.

So I’d like to ask Brett that question for the comments. Is that something you didn’t consider? Or did you think you had made original choices? And if you did, what were those choices? I know you said the rooms were different. But did you think that was the only difference you needed?

Maybe the community and myself can help you recalibrate what constitutes a unique choice. Because there isn’t enough imagination here. And that’s it really. I could go into more detail but everything from the concept to the execution was too formulaic. If that issue isn’t fixed in this or future scripts, you’re going to get a lot of the dreaded “polite no’s.”

I can’t stress this enough for ALL aspiring screenwriters. You need to write something THAT GETS PEOPLE EXCITED. The kind of thing that makes them want to leap out of their seat and go tell someone, anyone, what they just read. A by-the-numbers contained action thriller isn’t going to do that. You need a new angle, as well as a more adventurous approach to the plot.

Screenplay Link: Wrongful Termination

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

What I learned: If you want to get noticed in Hollywood as an amateur screenwriter, probably one of the top 5 ways, if not top 3, is to consistently make original choices. It doesn’t seem that way because of the formulaic movies Hollywood puts out. But that’s not how new writers are judged. They’re not judged by their ability to also make formulaic choices. Producers are looking for writers who bring something new to the table as they represent the only opportunity to write stuff that stands out from the pack.

  • Scott Crawford

    Ooh… tough.

    • carsonreeves1

      I think these movies are in your wheelhouse, Scott. And that needs to be said. There are people who love these types of movies and they’ll be more forgiving than me. My word is not gospel. Just opinion.

      But to add context to my review, I read A LOT of these scripts. They’re all over Hollywood. So you really need to bring it to stand out from the pack. That’s a big reason my review was so harsh. “Okay” isn’t going to get you anywhere in a crowded genre.

      I am curious though. Was the lack of originality not a problem for you? Or did you not see it as lacking originality? If so, what elements did you feel were fresh. I’m genuinely curious because I want to know if I’m not giving credit where credit is due.

      • BMCHB

        One aspect that did read as fresh to me was the villain’s mobility. He was active, too, throughout. Most villains seem to remain stationary, as a “final boss” for the protag to reach. Unfortunately the character of the villain was a fairly bland with the standard motivations in this case.

  • BMCHB

    Congratulations, Brett, on getting review.

    This one was too generic for me to vote for this time. Absolutely loved GOLDIE which I think was Brett’s last review.

    I’d love to see how such a vivid and memorable (for me, at least) character as Goldie would play out if adapted slightly to act as either the villain or antihero in a setup like this. I think it would really elevate it.

  • Mayhem Jones

    Question for Brett… there are sometimes underlying darker themes in your work that you’re capable of going deeper with, but don’t. Why?
    Your work is always so good and so polished but each time it feels like you’re writing “just to get sold”. Which is smart, and you should always have those in your repertoire. But have you ever written anything with ZERO intention to get sold, just to enjoy/explore/offend/discover your depths, etc?

  • Myster82

    Congratulations to Brett on winning the epic battle. Fun and scary to be part of. I’ll look forward to reading your script over the weekend and emailing you some notes.