Premise: After finding and rescuing a famously kidnapped young girl from a camp high in a desolate mountain range, an aging backpacker has to navigate the rugged terrain to get her to safety while being hunted by her abductor.
Why You Should Read: After Elizabeth Smart was found and returned to her family after nine months of captivity we all found out she had been living in the mountains with her abductors not far from her house. Multiple times she thought she might be rescued by nearby hikers. I always wanted to write an abduction story where the hiker that stumbled upon the abductee actually attempts to rescue her, only to be hunted through the harsh wilderness by her captor. This, my eighth feature length screenplay, is that story. It has a strong goal: rescue the young girl and get her to safety. It has real stakes: a return to captivity for the young girl and death for the hero. And urgency: getting the young girl to safety as they run out of food, water, and resources. This is a non stop thriller that never lets up on the main character, making each hurdle he encounters more difficult and brutal than the last. It has a strong main character with a fully fleshed out back story and takes time to create an emotional relationship between he and the young girl he tries to rescue. Please enjoy.
Writer: Chris Rodgers
Details: 92 pages
It’s funny. In almost all the cases where an Amateur Offerings writer lays out the screenwriting reasons for why their script is good – from the GSU to the structure to the dialogue – none of it turns out to be true.
It’s gotten to the point where when writers use screenwriting jargon to explain why their script works, I know it isn’t going to work. And that’s because screenwriting tools are just that – tools. They aren’t plug and play puzzle pieces that automatically make something good. Just because you’re using the same brush as Picasso doesn’t mean you’re going to paint The Weeping Woman.
But Deep Creeks may be the first time where the writer actually delivered on his promise. Well, I should temper that. Deep Creeks isn’t without issues, specifically in the character department. But it’s probably the best amateur script to come through Amateur Friday since Meat. Let’s check it out.
13 year old Jaycee Miller is getting ready for bed when a strange man enters her room and tells her that if she doesn’t leave with him, he will kill her whole family. Terrified, Jaycee does as told.
Five months later we meet Tom Carpenter, a 50-something dude who works in an office and who’s starting to lose business for his company because he’s a dinosaur. After losing out on a particularly big deal, his boss tells him to go home early for the day.
Tom heads home to be with his husband, but when he enters their bedroom, he finds another man sneaking out the window. You get the sense that the end of this relationship was a long time coming so Tom doesn’t freak out. He just grabs his things, gets in his car, and heads for the mountains. When he was younger, Tom used to love camping. Heading back to the wilderness seems like a great opportunity to clear his mind.
Once in the mountains, Tom proves to be a skilled outdoorsman. He heads for one of the most remote lakes you can get to so he can be completely cut off from the world. But along the way, he notices smoke. When he comes upon a camp, he’s shocked to see the girl whose face has been plastered across the news for the past 5 months – Jaycee Miller.
Tom explains to Jaycee that they have to run but she’s, of course, been brainwashed to believe that the world is doomed and her captor, David, is the only one who can save her. Tom has to drag her away kicking and screaming, which alerts a nearby David, who starts chasing them.
What follows is a pursuit through some of the most naturey nature nature can provide. And it becomes clear that David is ten times the outdoorsman Tom is. When Tom gets injured during a moose attack, it only slows them down more. And both she and Tom begin to question if angering this psycho was the right idea. However, as their bond grows, they become determined to escape David at all costs.
Every script has a ceiling. You can usually tell how high that ceiling is after the first draft. It pains me when I read a script with a low ceiling because I know that while every new draft will technically make the script better, it can only be so good.
Deep Creeks is that rare script with a high ceiling. I don’t think the writer realizes how high. On the surface, the story is simple. People chasing each other in the woods. And I think the writer, Chris, believes that because that’s all that’s going on, he doesn’t have to do much more than execute that chase.
But this script can be so much more. And should be.
(major spoilers) We get to this ending where a severely injured Tom and Jaycee have escaped in his car, driven down the hill, are almost back in civilization, and Jaycee looks over and Tom is dead. I could feel the tears at the base of my tear ducts WANTING SO BADLY to come out. But they didn’t. And the reason they didn’t was because all I know about Tom is that he’s not very good at his job, he’s gay, and he used to like camping.
For a script with this much one-on-one character time, I need to know a lot more about Tom.
Jaycee is a little better constructed, but that’s less about her character and more about what she’s been through. She’s been brainwashed by this psycho and he’s led her to believe that God will hate her if she disobeys what he says. It’s a head-trip for a little girl, and so in this strange fucked up way, God has become her only friend out here, the only other person she can turn to besides this terrible man who’s kidnapped her.
This is what your story is. This is where you have to dig deeper. You have to create a relationship between Tom and God as well, and faith must become the dominant theme in the movie.
Chris tries to do this. But he only scratches the surface. Tom is gay. So there’s this assumption that he doesn’t believe in God. Or that God doesn’t like people like him. But it’s alluded to vaguely and therefore misses an opportunity to become a meaningful conflict.
I get the sense that Chris is scared to go FJ (Full Jesus). But I think that’s the direction the story wants to go.
The best thing to do is probably to have Jaycee believe in God and Tom not. And Tom’s basically like, listen, don’t you realize everything that psycho told you is a lie? He’s using God to control you. There is no God. Despite that, she believes in him. It’s the only thing that’s gotten her through this. And Tom’s perception changes over the course of the story. In the end, he believes.
This is one way you can go. Some people don’t like to explore faith in movies – it doesn’t interest them – and I understand that. But that SEEMS to be the conflict that the script is hinting at. And you need SOMETHING for the characters to explore on this journey. Because if all they’re doing is running around, they’re video game characters. They’re not real people. And we won’t feel close enough to them to care when one of them dies.
I’ll give you an example where character exploration resulted in one of the most famous movie deaths of all time – Titanic. The reason that Jack’s death caused so many tears in the theater is because he had made Rose a better person. He’d changed her from this prim and proper lady who believed she had to live life by everyone else’s rules, to someone who enjoyed every second of life, who lived in the present. Had that been taken out, and the two characters had only fallen in love, nobody’s crying at the end. They’re just two automatons going through the motions.
That’s what’s needed here. One of these characters has to teach the other character something and they have to change. I think it’s more interesting if the younger character teaches the older character something because it’s the opposite of what usually happens in life.
Either way, more time needs to be spent on the DETAILS of this story. Everything’s too general. For example, the writer has no idea idea what Tom does for a living. He works in an “office.” He didn’t get the “account.” What does he do????? This drives me crazy for a script with so much potential. The more you know about Tom, the more you’re going to be able to inform his character and his actions in the mountains.
I know writers hate doing this but I would strongly recommend Chris write out 3-5 page biographies for Tom, Kaycee, and David. Figure out where they grew up, what the biggest challenges in their lives were, what they love, what they hate, their biggest fears, what their jobs are, what their bank account looks like, what their biggest flaw in life is. We get the vaguest of hints that Tom used to have a family? I want to know more about that. The reason all of these characters feel so one-dimensional is because no time was taken to learn about them. That needs to change.
It may sound like I didn’t like this script but I actually did! I’m just frustrated because it could’ve been so much better. You have to do the extra work. I could TOTALLY see this as a movie. It’d be insanely cheap to shoot and it’s got a good hook. So let’s make it as great as it can be!
Script link: Deep Creeks
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: If you have a 2-3 character movie, you have to do a lot of work on the characters. Who they were. Who they are. What they’re battling inside. What their flaws are. What the nature of conflict is in the main relationship (what needs to be resolved between Tom and Jaycee). So here, maybe that’s faith. That’s the thing with movies like Deep Creeks. They seem to be about the action. But what they should really be about is the characters.