amateur-offerings-weekend

You know the deal. In between writing scenes for your Scriptshadow 250 entry, sample today’s amateur offerings and help the writers with some constructive feedback. Also, vote for the winner at the top of your comment.  If you only have time to read and help one writer this week, check out I Shall Be Released.  I don’t think I’ve ever known someone to be so passionate about a screenplay.  Greg really cares about making this script the best it can be and he’s a dedicated Scriptshadow reader and fellow commenter.  Good luck to him and everyone else!

Title: I Shall Be Released
Genre: Drama / Biopic
Logline: Losing his voice to cancer, Levon Helm reflects on his life with The Band, and how their meteoric rise to fame comes with a heavy cost.
Why you should read: I grew up listening to The Band. Not from the dull playback of a stereo, but from backstage at the concerts my parents would bring me to, and from the comfort of Levon’s living room when we went to visit. My family shared a close relationship with Levon, Rick, and Richard for over thirty years. When I left college, Levon told my father that he would do anything for me, and suggested I consider pursuing a book or film with him. Now that our friend has passed, I want nothing more than to secure his legacy, and bring the personal insights I have into the man to the silver screen, so that he, his music, and the impact he had on a generation of rock and rollers can live on.

Title: The Beard
Genre: Sex Comedy
Logline: After landing a reality TV show on Bravo — the gayest network on television — a straight YouTube star, whose popularity hinges on the world’s belief that he’s gay, hires a “beard” to keep up the front. Suffice it to say, things don’t go as planned.
Why you should read: In the wake of R-rated comedies like Neighbors, 21/22 Jump Street and This Is The End — films that absolutely cracked me up — I set out to flip the bromantic comedy on its head while sending up reality TV shows for good measure. Thus the concept behind THE BEARD was born, and I gotta admit, it was a shitload of fun bringing it to life. I wrote the first draft pretty quickly and submitted it to Carson for a consultation. He thought there were some issues with the execution, but overall, he thought the script was “very funny” (which he says is rare). The biggest problem he had was that he didn’t care for any of the characters. So I’ve revamped the structure and streamlined the execution, and tried my best to make unlovable characters lovable. Now I need a second opinion! :) Basically, I need to know if the humor and execution of the story makes up for its unsympathetic characters. Please give it a read and let me know what you think. But be forewarned: This script is VULGAR with a capital V.

Title: Thy Enemy
Genre: Action/Thriller
Logline: After learning his estranged brother is a spy, a disgraced FBI cadet goes rogue to stop his sibling from detonating an experimental nuke in New York City.
Why you should read: 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 of Scriptshadow’s contributors. Readers here deserve a lot more back and forth from candidate writers. Don’t see enough of it. So, if picked for AOW, I 100% guarantee that I’ll be available to interact with readers. No excuses. It’s the least I can do for a community I’ve benefited so much from.

Title: Blind Curves (AKA “The Shot”)
Genre: Crime/Thriller
Logline: After accidently killing a female hostage during a botched robbery, LAPD Officer Michael Egan is exiled to a small desert town, where he’s forced to deal with his estranged daughter and face his greatest fear come true.
Why you should read: This script has tortured me for the past four years. Just when I thought it was “finished”, I’d get feedback that would prompt another rewrite. Last year, this script made it to the quarter-finals in the Bluecat competition (Top 5% of over 4,000 submissions). I was elated but knew deep down why the script didn’t place higher. It became my poster child for the adage “learn to cut your darlings” and I shelved the script for nearly a year. The script continued to plague me, I knew what needed to be fixed but resisted making the change. Finally, I broke down and dismantled the whole thing and did what needed to be done. This script is the result of letting go, listening to your gut and not being content with just getting to “Fade Out”.

Title: Be a Hero
Genre: Action-Comedy
Logline: After accidentally killing a beloved vigilante superhero, a smartass slacker takes over as defender of the city to cover his tracks, but soon finds himself being hunted by a psychotic crime lord.
Why you should read: Well, I’m a young, fairly inexperienced screenwriter looking to kickstart my career. I believe you should give my script a shot because have you ever met someone from Ireland who wasn’t talented or awesome? No, of course you haven’t. We’re a wonderful people. But while we have a talented, artistic and creative population of ginger alcoholics, we’re also a country that often gets overlooked on a global level. This is especially true in the film industry. We have so much to offer, with so little opportunity. So, this struggling ginger alcoholic would kindly ask that you do his career a major favour by checking out his little screenplay. I would be ever so appreciative, and I think you’ll enjoy the script if you give it a chance.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    First and foremost, and I’d like to thank Carson for the very, very kind shout out, and also congratulate the other authors for making it to AOW.

    It’s also important for me to note, that I do have the rights for “I Shall Be Released,” and I have a fantastic music attorney ready to procure the music rights once the script is properly packaged.

    As far as AOW is concerned: This is one hell of a week.

    Ron Hollis is a top-notch writer, who has been very generous to me in the past with his incredibly helpful advice while I was writing my book. His script, “The Beard,” is hilarious, and I encourage others to check it out. This guy cares about his writing as much as I do, and the fact he has the good sense to professionally consult with Carson goes to show that his script will reflect the dedication put into it. I can’t say the same for the other writers as I don’t know them, but this a serious business, and writers who have both passion and dedication will end up rising to the top.

    I’d also like to add that I’ve read the first ten of Thy Enemy, and Be a Hero, and I’m really impressed with those two scripts as well. Thy Enemy’s opening action scene is very exciting, and also quite believable. Something about opening with serious military jargon and writing that takes itself seriously really sets the tone for a script of that magnitude.

    And the beginning of Be a Hero is really funny. I actually laughed outloud for a good minute when the Manager passionately delivers the line, “Those other waiters would die for this restaurant.” I just… I just can’t… It’s too funny, and you know that character truly believes that. Of course… would they?

    Best of luck again to everyone. This is a strong bunch of scripts.

    • ximan

      Thanks for the shout-out, Greg! And I echo your sentiments. This is a tremendous opportunity for all writers involved. Your level of writing (scripted AND prose) speaks for itself, and it looks like the other writers came to play as well! Good luck to all! :)

    • walker

      Hey Gregory, I am going to try not to let it affect my evaluation of the scripts this week, but I just wanted to say that a Levon Helm bio is a great idea. I worked for many years as a musician and though I never met Levon, I worked with many people who knew him and played with him or recorded him. He had an absolutely stellar reputation in the business, was a true American original, and remains a legend.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Kind words walker. Everyone who knew him loved him.

      • Citizen M

        I never knew much about The Band. Then I went to a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert at Wembley Stadium in the ’70s, supporting acts The Band and Joni Mitchell. I’ve always hated Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y were too stoned to be any good, but The Band were superb. They stole the show.

        • Gregory Mandarano

          I don’t want to detract from the focus on the SCRIPTS, which is the reason we’re all here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share a few videos that highlighted the vocals of Levon, Rick, and especially Richard, as well as their music. I’ve chosen one for each!

          Here’s Levon singing Ophelia – which is taken from The Last Waltz.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Here’s a heartbreaking acoustic rendition of “When You Awake” by Rick from a few months before he passed away. I actually highlighted him playing this song in the script.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            And here’s Richard singing I Shall Be Released, the song chosen as the title for my script.

    • Bob Bradley

      I read to page 51…and now have to go. I agree with the critiques below. I don’t see how this can be realized in a movie, without using real footage. Eg, Watkins Glen: how can this be staged?
      I love The Band. I was reading and enjoying just because it’s The Band. Love the behind the scenes aspect. Listened on Youtube as I read. Never heard the Ed Sullivan gig before. I went to The Letterman Show once and by chance Levon was the guest. He had a real peaceful presence to him. Loved him the movies as an actor too.
      But this project seems like it should be a book. It’s very well written I just don’t see how you’re going to pull it off.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Thanks for your comments Bob!

        Sure Watkins Glen was the largest concert ever, but I don’t think it would be too difficult to film these days. Large crowds can be handled with special fx. Overall the period nature of the script contributes heavily to the budget, but I don’t think it’s any one individual scene that would rack up the price tag, but rather the sheer volume of different locations requiring shifting wardrobe and set design. I was quoted an estimated budget of 8-10 million, plus 1 for the music rights, plus attachments.

        • walker

          A few years ago I had a fascinating conversation with former Grateful Dead sound engineer Betty Cantor Jackson about her career, and she described the huge challenges of the Watkins Glen concert.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Yeah Jerry Garcia and the Dead were totally there. An early draft of my script had The Band trying to get pot from JG, but it got cut in favor of keeping the plot on track, and not getting distracted by drugs.

            Plot > Pot

          • walker

            Oh man I have been getting that equation backwards for years.

        • Bob Bradley

          I liked the Bob Dylan dialogue. I felt like this script was short on dialogue. I’d want to spend more time in a room with them, just talking and recording. If you were to focus the screenplay why not write it centering on the time spent recording the Basement Tapes? Spin your story out from there.
          I don’t want to see a movie where Richard and Levon die, and Levon gets cancer.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Great instincts, but The Basement Tapes were recorded in 1967, and I only have the rights to the Band’s history 1969 and on.

    • Citizen M

      For those with slow connections, the Look Book is a 4.3MB pdf.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        It downloads for me as 11.6?

        • Citizen M

          Oops. Looks like it only partially downloaded. Appeared to download normally, but now I try to open it it reports an error.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            I’ll light a candle for your lack of fiberoptic internet.

  • ripleyy

    My vote has to be “I Shall Be Released”, though my vote IS a little biased because I helped Gregory with this current draft and it’s great to see the script has come along so well. This is a script that has evolved so much since its original draft. I’ve never really met someone so passionate about a script before, and it definitely shows through his work, so I wish Gregory all the luck.

    Although, I have to say, all of the entries this week seem to be pretty good so it’s going to be a tough one and, I bet, this week this is going to be the tightest yet.

    Good luck to everyone. :) I’m excited to see how all of this pans out.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      And I can’t thank you enough for your contributions ripleyy. You’re amazing, talented, and very generous.

  • Scott Chamberlain

    My vote: The Beard.

    Short comments on each.

    THE BEARD: Lot’s of energy. Easy to read. Thought the Tiffany sequence was too long and wrongly placed. An expo dump. Maybe riff off Casablanca and leave it until Tiff appears on screen. 121 is long for this kind of comedy. Definitely could lose twenty pages.

    BE A HERO: Not sure the concept can work – are these real super heroes with real super-powers? Why would they ask a slacker to be Red Dagger? And why would he say yes? Where’s the goal and lock that stops him from walking away? Stopped because I couldn’t get into the main character. Slacker, looking for his passion. Loses job. Loses girlfriend. Seen that before. You need to go further – dog dies, cat throws up on him, mum comes out, dad’s got cancer – keep going until it gets funny.

    THY ENEMY: Well written (a little too much CAPS and underlining and CAP and underlining with !!!). Has a weird feeling of seen it all before mixed with the utterly implausible and kitchen sink. Started to lose me towards the end of the Globemaster heist scene (because the pilots seemed stupid/inauthentic) and the clunky graphene/weaponized anti-matter (shark jump!) expo-dump, and I bailed after the 3D printer gun (because that seemed obvious and old hat in the world you have created)

    I SHALL BE RELEASED: Just not my thing. Checked out after first scene.

    BLIND CURVES: This suffered from being the last I looked at. I felt it lacked the energy of THE BEARD and BE A HERO. Characters sounded the same. Nothing “popped”. Checked out on page 3.

  • Will_Alexander

    Very little time for me, today, so I’ve only looked at the first 10 of I SHALL BE RELEASED (one of the greatest live moments ever recorded).

    I wanted it to grab me more. I think I’m your target audience, in that I know who Levon Helm was, and I know some of The Band’s songs, but I don’t know so much about him that there’s nothing left for me to learn. Also, I’m VERY interested in seeing the story.

    But ten pages in and I haven’t gotten anything to really sink my teeth into. It feels like you’ve just skimmed over the beats and haven’t dug too deeply into them (which I understand could be very difficult considering you’re writing about a man you knew).

    I think you need to look at this beginning as a way to get people to understand exactly who Levon was and why we should care — what he wanted out of life, what stood in his way, what made him special. I know he was highly revered by all the top musicians who were more famous than he was (or at least, that’s an assumption I have that you could play with). That could be a great way in: show us someone super famous whom we know more readily being impressed or intimidated by Levon, maybe. I mean, if Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan think he’s great, then we’re gonna want to get to know him.

    Grab us. Show us a guy on a journey, with a dream, who is complicated and talented, who could be us at our best, who is destined for great things and darkness, who has a gift that the world needs more of…and show us all that in the first three pages.

    • Felip Serra

      Excellent comments. I completely agree.

    • brenkilco

      The script is well written. But is there really a compelling, original story here? It’s a problem with most bios about artists. Watching somebody write, compose, paint or practice a song is not inherently dramatic. Unfortunately for a screenwriter what’s most important about such people is what’s inside their heads, not what they do outside their work. Am thirty pages in. A band struggles and finally meets with a degree of success that dazzles them. Internal tensions- ego and drug use are threatening to break them up. Basically nice guy deals with aging, ill health and failing powers. I know it really happened but fact or fiction it’s stuff we’ve seen many times before on the screen. And just because it has music we love on the soundtrack doesn’t necessarily make it more interesting. If there is a uniquely compelling, dramatic there there I think the writer needs to make it clear sooner.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      In earlier drafts the script began with ripley’s dreaded “in media res’, starting in 1976 at The Last Waltz, the final concert that the original Band ever played. With a scene where Levon was pissed that they were trying to cut Muddy Waters out of the show because of time constraints, and he refused to take part unless they kept him in. Some previous feedback was that the time jumps were a bit jarring, and starting in the thick of things made it a bit more confusing. Ultimately we decided to start in 92 with the house fire, and lead, very early on, to the cancer diagnosis, which was actually Carson’s idea to have it so early.

      We considered a few varied starts, but ended up sticking with the gas station scene, a solid save the cat moment that stresses the type of person Levon really was.

      Adam Walker, above, made an on-point comment about the first scene as per script rules, where Blondie or the other initial characters have to play a pivotal role in the story in the future, or that the beginning scenes need to tie in thematically. The theme for the script was first identified by Rich Song, one of the SS script consultants whose services I would recommend to anyone, in that Levon is seeking a a place where he can both have his need to perform, and his need for home and family all met. We toy with the theme throughout the script, in the idea that right at the beginning his house is lost in a fire, and only a few scenes later, he’s first digging the well on that very property in preparation for building a house. The theme plays heavily into the climax of the script, which is very spoilerific, and culminates with Levon founding the Midnight Rambles in his own barn, fusing together his need to be on the road, and his need for home.

      It’s of herculean difficulty to get the beginning right with such a slow burning, emotionally fueled, and somewhat familiar story.

      I truly appreciate every bit of feedback I get on the script, because every perspective holds valuable insights into how the project can be improved.

      • davejc

        I read your script. I agree with Will about the opening. On a personal note I was disappointed to discover there was no mention in this story of that iconic and ironic moment in music history in 1966 when Dylan and the Band faced an extremely hostile and heckling crowd in Manchester because the folk singer had gone electric — Ironic because Rolling Stone Magazine would label “Like A Rolling Stone” the greatest ever. Dylan, after trading barbs with the hecklers turned to the Band and told them to “Play it loud.”

        • Gregory Mandarano

          Dave, I whole-heartedly agree with you. Unfortunately it’s a rights issue, and I am unable to include scenes prior to 1969. Levon’s decision to leave the Band, was the thematic core of a previous script on the Band, though I do make mention of it on the top of page 55, when Rick heckles him if he’s gonna quit the Band again if the audience throws fruit when they perform with Dylan on stage.

          However, you have given me food for thought as to whether it would be worthwhile to bring up that topic in further detail in dialogue.

          • davejc

            Well you’ve got my vote and I wish you the best of luck. I know how hard it is to write a biopic(I’m working on two) even without all the legal hurdles. I admire you for taking up the gauntlet.

        • Bob Bradley

          I believe he said, “Play fucking loud.”

      • Will_Alexander

        To introduce that theme, my instinct would be to start with a scene early in his career when he’s placed in a dilemma where he has to choose his home life or his work. Didn’t he divorce his first wife? Is there a moment that was the final straw for that marriage that may kick you off thematically that would also give you an active character we root for and sympathize with?

        • Gregory Mandarano

          Spoilers:

          In 1962 Levon got married to Connie Orr, a friend of his from Toronto. It was platonic, and he only did it to dodge the draft that wanted to send him to West Germany, like Elvis.

          Levon never married Libby Titus, who is a character in the script, with whom he had his daughter Amy, and it wasn’t until 1981 that he married his wife Sandy.

          Levon did meet Sandy while he was with Libby, and early outlines for the script focused on their marital problems, however over time the primary focus of the script shifted towards the buildup leading to The Band’s breaking up, and Richard’s suicide.

          I’m drawn to the idea of having a scene where he has to choose his home life or his work to stress the decision, but should that decision take place at a time other than 1992, it would require an additional time jump. There seems to be general concern about the relevancy of the save the cat opening. but overall I still think it’s stronger than opening at The Last Waltz. Mostly because I have to be very careful about how often time jumps take place, and where they occur.

          Clearly the issue needs a lot more careful thought and consideration, and your instincts could be right.

          • walker

            BTW Libby Titus is a movie unto herself.

          • Will_Alexander

            Because I think this could be even better for you than it will be for me, give me your intention behind how the script is structured. What exactly motivates the time jumps? Why are the things at the beginning part of the beginning, and the things at the end part of the end? What’s the reasoning? Can it be summed up in a sentence or two?

          • Bob Bradley

            My opinion, I thought the opening was interesting until it went nowhere. I thought the rest of the script would be somewhat like it. Personal moments. But you wrote more brushstroke moments. And now that you say it was a save the cat moment, I hate it. It looks cheap and forced.
            I read that Richard’s suicide was called into question. You might want to look into it.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Do you have any idea where you read that Bob? If you’re interested in gossip, I heard that Joe Forno said it wasn’t the first time Richard tried to kill himself, whether seriously or as a cry for help. One time I do know about is he tried to jump from a window. The man was deeply depressed, and struggled with being alive. Are you implying that it might not have been a suicide, but something else? In any event, I certainly didn’t leave any ambiguity about what happened in my script.

          • Bob Bradley

            Sorry, I don’t remember.

      • Will_Alexander

        Another thing that hit me about the beginning as I got back to the script: it could be anybody. It’s just a guy at a gas station taking up for a random woman. How could you start things off by showing us a scene that could ONLY come from Levon’s life?

        What would you say Levon learned about himself in his life? Or maybe, what did he stubbornly refuse to learn about himself? The answer to that question can give you an ending. And an ending can give you a place to start.

        For example, if what he ultimately learns is that when he’s playing music, he’s never “away from home” because music IS his home, then you can start by showing him struggling with a performance or in the studio because he’s distracted by something that he feels like he should be doing back home. If he ends up in unity with himself, begin by showing him divided against himself.

  • http://gophergold.wordpress.com/ Dave Lerner

    This is my first time, so feel free to critique my critique.
    I’m reading Be a Hero because it looks like my type of movie. I’m only on page 30, but here are a couple of things I’ve picked up.
    Do you even NEED the scene in the restaurant? Max just reiterates it in the next scene w/ Jenna. It looks like you’re taking two or three scenes to do what can be done w/ one. Though it would be a shame to lose that half-ass/full ass line.
    I’m sure a lot of people will mention this, but it’s a BIG problem. The major superheroes just grab this random shlub and say, “You’re the new Red Dagger”? A guy who, if he’s not a killer, at least was willing to improperly dispose of a body? A guy who has NO signs of physical ability? Then they give him ONE DAY of training and have him join them to foil a robbery? Even Marge Simpson got more training than that when she became a cop.
    My thought is this: Max kills Red Dagger, and decides to take his place himself, to cover the killing. He superheroes for a while, without the other heroes knowing. Then they find him.
    It makes Max more active. It also means he has to fight crime w/out the help of the other three.
    Otherwise, it’s a funny and enjoyable script. Good luck.

  • Randy Williams

    THE BEARD

    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    There’s a manic energy to this which I found very appealing. Read to page 33 and the flashback.

    Loved the beginning. Jayce and Dylan have a funny rapport that only close friends can have and it’s nailed.
    What’s a Sauron and a Sarlacc pit? Maybe some less obscure references?
    p.10- typo- “their yours”
    p.14- I’m not big on AIDS jokes especially referencing death. Hollywood players 50 and over have been through a death march. Their loved ones dying like flies around them, working their tails off at charity events, coping with survival guilt. I have so much sympathy for those who went through that and I just can’t see them finding this funny at all.
    p.15- I’m starting to feel that this leans a bit toward “dated” Dolce & Gabana, btw, has two “b’s”
    Also on page 15, there has been no visual or introduction on any hot young chick. Who is the audience for this movie?
    p.33- the Heath conversation here seems odd and has taken me out of the story, a real downer. Reminded me I haven’t laughed since the beginning of the script, too.
    Finally on page 35, the introduction of a hot young chick but it’s a flashback and gives me an excuse to stop.

    Like I said, the energy is great, I laughed out loud several times. I love the dynamic between Jayce and Dylan. I wanted so much more of that. Give me the Jayce and Dylan show and rearrange everything around that.

    • Guest

      Sarlacc pit eluded me, but the Eye of Sauron ref is from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ – evil Lord Sauron’s vast, all-seeing eye looking out on Middle Earth from Mordor.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Victims of the almighty Sarlacc: His Excellency hopes that you will die
        honorably. But should any of you wish to beg for mercy, the great Jabba
        the Hutt will now listen to your pleas.

  • pmlove

    From a very cursory glance, my vote goes to THE ENEMY. Probably should only be a half vote.

    BE A HERO: Feels like you’ve figured out what you need to happen, but haven’t quite mastered the how. All the key scenes seem fairly by the book in their execution (losing job/being dumped/getting superhero job). That said, I am very curious as to why Red Dagger wanted to kill Joey and kept reading longer than I planned to mainly because it was so quick.

    BLIND CURVES: Not doing it for me. A lot of reported action where there could be just action.

    THE BEARD: Entertaining enough, as Randy says there’s a good energy but I worry that it is at the expense of the story.

    I SHALL BE RELEASED: Not my thing, sorry.

    • Eddie Panta

      RE: “A lot of reported action where there could be just action.”
      I think I know what you mean… but not sure. Can you clarify?

      • pmlove

        Sure – first three scenes are a) main character talking about his divorce followed by b) cops talking about how he’s a hothead then c) main character talking about his relationship with his kids. [IIRC]

        Doesn’t have to be every scene but if there was a script that opened with a raid gone wrong/divorce room battle/fight with kid it might have a bit more zip and convey the same information. Not saying it’s what this script should do, just as a comparison.

  • Felip Serra

    I’m going to give a reserved vote for “I Shall Be Released” (good title, BTW)
    Of the offerings it was the only one I could get past page 10 (though not much further). I have no knowledge of the subject matter but the writer’s story (in the “Why You Should Read”) with his personal connection to the material piqued by interest.
    And it still does! However, as it is, there’s little focus and really nothing to hook you into the story from the get-go. But there’s a beating heart somewhere in there and I think its deserving of some solid criticism. I wish the writer the best of luck!
    “Be A Hero”, right from the gate, has problems. From page 1:
    “A burly ARMED GUARD walks among crates of surely illegal goods.”
    “Red Dagger is a masked vigilante superhero probably around 30.”
    Ok. Fine. But how do you film that? How are we supposed to receive this information?
    There’s no build up, no atmosphere. 60 seconds into your film we have security guard who shits himself at a noise, a costumed person who assaults him, and another security guard who (out of fear?) offers to suck his dick. Too much and too fast… And: Really?
    Which brings me to “Beard”. 3 pages this is all I read:
    “fag…fucking…jerk-off…duh…bro…hipster…douche…fuck dudes…”post” fuck look…jerk it…brah…pussy…eat a dick…”
    I’m going to be polite here and ask a few questions: Are you serious about writing? Do you want your material

  • cjob3

    One thought about BE A HERO. A main character in a comedy is often loses his job in the beginning. Fair enough. But your firing scene is too straightforward. He’s a waiter, he’s mildly rude to a table, so he’s called into the office and let go by the manager. Compare this to the ‘losing the job’ scene in STRIPES. Bill Murray (a similar slacker) drives a cab, but tells his obnoxious fare what he really wants to do in life is be an “action photographer.” He starts snapping pictures of his customer, while driving, then eventually stops the cab in traffic, throws the keys over a bridge and walks away. Your guy is fired after not getting a table their water. See what I mean? I think your Losing the Job scene needs a similar shot of energy and creativity. Maybe a less general job, and a funnier way of losing it.

    • Malibo Jackk

      This is something Carson has harped on over and over.
      Something that amateurs can’t seem to learn.
      It’s the reason they have to beg people to read their scripts. The reason readers can’t get beyond the first few pages.
      Sometimes I think it’s caused by OUTLINING.
      They need a scene where someone gets fired. So they write a scene where someone gets fired. Then they move on to the next scene.
      Not good enough.
      Where is the mystery, the irony, the surprise, or comedy? The thrill, horror, or heartbreak? The intelligence, sophistication, fantasy or anything else to capture our imagination?

      • BellBlaq

        I agree; the issue boils down to the difference between “writing” and storytelling.

      • mulesandmud

        To be clear, are you suggesting that outlines make a writer complacent?

        Or, to put it another way, that by designing the beats of a story in advance, a writer is tempted somehow to deliver only the minimum requirements of those beats, rather than turning each one into a worthwhile scene?

        If that’s what you’re saying, then I strongly disagree and think it’s a point worth debating. If not, would love to understand what you meant by that bit about outlining (the rest I agree with wholeheartedly).

        • Malibo Jackk

          Outlining can make an amateur writer complacent, yes.
          That is not to suggest that they should not outline.

          Amateurs buy the books, attend the classes to learn how to write screenplays. Started that way myself. Thought that if I just took a few courses, I could write my own screenplays.

          But soon learned that it’s not about just filling in the blanks.
          Learned — not by listening to people who gave me encouragement.
          But by listening to the pros talk about how hard it is.

          • mulesandmud

            Gotcha, thanks.

            As long as the lesson is ‘don’t be complacent’ rather than ‘don’t outline’, we’re in great shape here.

      • davejc

        Speaking of someone getting fired, i watched Locke last night (penned by the guy who wrote Eastern Promises) an I recommend it to anybody who is thinking of being a screenwriter. Beauty in simplicity.

      • T Johnson

        I call these kinds of scenes placeholders because, as you mentioned, he got the beat right, but it didn’t do much for the story aside from get us to point B.

        My first drafts have a lot of these scenes — and when I say first draft, it’s more like a third or fourth draft. After I get all the beats “right” I figure out what they’re supposed to accomplish and whether or not the current scene is the best vehicle for that.

        In this case, the writer was creating a character who doesn’t have his shit together. Getting fired can still be a way to do that but how about you tie in some irony too and make the scene funnier? (And I would also tie in the girlfriend since her break up scene suffered from the same straightforward beat problem.) Since the premise is he’s gonna end up replacing the main superhero of the city… what if his girlfriend has dropped by his work and a criminal robs the place? He’s the opposite of a hero so he could use a customer as a human shield (they don’t have to get hurt, you’re just showing his willingness to sacrifice someone else’s life), which not only gets him fired but gets him dumped for being a huge wimp.

        Great job to all the writers for having well written scripts so far (I’m only 15 pages into each to see which ones I’ll finish). I’m gonna keep going on The Beard, although I was hoping it would start out a little more grounded — how would someone fall into pretending to be gay in real life? Maybe they’re mistaken for gay and get suddenly popular and have to really play into the gay thing. The over-the-top start of hiring someone to be your boyfriend didn’t draw me. The idea is phenomenal though, especially at a time when places like HBO are saying they’re specifically looking for gay writers, the idea definitely strikes close to home…

        So far Blind Curves makes me want to keep reading the most, although it wasn’t my favorite logline.

      • Citizen M

        What I typically see in amateur scripts is scenes that go on too long.

        The characters banter, they talk about someone else, they smoke, they have a drink, they throw their toys out the cot, whatever. What they don’t do is move the story forward at a minute a page.

        And I believe this comes from not outlining. The writer comes to a scene they really enjoy writing, so they write more of it and spend more time on it. Later, to keep the page count down, they zip quickly through other scenes.

        Often these hurried-through scenes are the big dramatic moments that should be played for maximum impact. They need a lot of thought and effort to extract the most tension and emotional mileage, but they get short-changed.

    • Andrew Parker

      Nice points. That’s why the American Beauty almost firing is such an iconic scene. It’s going one way — very traditional firing — and then completely subverts. He still leaves his job, but he flips the power dynamic so he gets what he wants.

      If you lead the reader to think one thing is happening, but then subvert the cliche, the reader will love you forever.

  • Randy Williams

    I SHALL BE RELEASED

    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    A bit of dialogue…”I told you son, there’s a dip in the back that floods up every time it rains” It ruins things back there, makes it all muddy, kills the plants…”

    I really loved that. To me it reflected perfectly what I read of the script so far.
    This is a slow burner, like a dip filling with rain. You can feel it building and know you’re in for a spilling of sorts, in this case, no doubt by the integrity of the writing, with emotion.

    I only read to page 45 and the scene with Garth playing during the rain storm, the clap of thunder signaling his triumph. That was a powerful scene to end on for now.

    A bit “wikipedia” in the dialogue at times informing us of their history, however, I thought. I wasn’t familiar with The Band until the song references clued me in. Still, I found Levon a sympathetic and intriguing character. Watch perhaps that famous people are outed by name by characters so we know who they, or reminded of who they are if the face is familiar.

    Scripts like this remind me of the smell of belt leather. Manly and sad.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      “The Smell of belt leather. Manly and sad.”

      Is it too early to suggest that be quoted in the trailer, should this script get made?

      • Randy Williams

        If you don’t grab it, some French cheese company will.

  • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

    Here we go!

    MY VOTE: pending

    currently working on “Sunshine Pack”

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      I Shall Be Released (pg 37)
      Theme: Strong (but varying)

      I barely know anything about rock history. I don’t know who The Band is. But I’ve probably heard a song or two but just don’t know them. So that’s where I’m coming from.

      BRIEF THOUGHTS ON BIOPICS
      The thing I look for in a biopic like this is if this person’s story is somehow metaphorical in a unique way. I say this because everybody has a life story. What you’re saying with a biopic is this person’s life story follows such a strong thematic spine that it’s worth being told and able to resonate with people everywhere.

      Another thing I look for is if it’s visual. Would a novel be a better fit?

      And lastly I look for narrative flow. If this person was fictional, would I still be interested?

      THOUGHTS ON THE SCRIPT
      It felt extremely authentic and specific.

      Right now, it’s feeling like a highlight and lowlight reel. The scenes work great episodically but I didn’t get the sense they were building to a cohesive unit. Like tracks on an album, there were a couple of sequences I felt like a could skip without it affecting my understanding of the whole story.

      Maybe this is a stylistic choice that we’ve boxed movies into or maybe it is a natural requirement of a narrative medium – but the need for all previous plot points to affect future plot points is a pressing issue.

      Example: Levon saves a Blonde in the opening and has a conversation with the store owner. Film narrative says either:
      1) Blondie has to be his future wife/girlfriend or his attackers future enemies/band mates OR
      2) That this event is a metaphor for the WHOLE story/theme
      I personally got neither. I just understood that Levon is a pretty nice guy.

      Example 2: The “Rehab” sequence.
      This stuck with me as something going in the right direction. He opts to leave his family to get clean at his dad’s house. There’s a WHOLE MOVIE here, in just this premise (at least a 15 page sequence): What does his daughter think? (wife, band mates, etc) Does his father know he was using? How does he feel about that? How is his money situation? etc. I want go deeper but I keep getting montaged.

      It’s easier to have a stationary goal over a long time (Forrest Gump) or a changing goal over a short period of time (an example escapes me). It’s hard to get invested when both the goal and the time is changing.

      MY ADVICE
      I can feel the passion in this project so it’s hard to suggest anything (plus I haven’t read it all). Plus it’s a true story. But if it continues in this episodic form, I would suggest that you pick 7-10 mini-stories that affect each other, label them in your script, and let go of anything that doesn’t relate to those sequence themes. And you have the throughline of Richard being a hindrance to the group but Levon refusing to let him go because he sees himself in him. I think it’s in there, but it didn’t feel quite focused enough.

      All that aside, all these suggestions are just to increase your awareness, if you haven’t thought about these things before. If you’ve fully considered everything I said, please continue pushing it to get made.

      Thanks for letting me read it!

      • Paul Clarke

        “Maybe this is a stylistic choice that we’ve boxed movies into or maybe it is a natural requirement of a narrative medium – but the need for all previous plot points to affect future plot points is a pressing issue.”

        The human brain is hard-wired to look for causality in the world (even when it doesn’t exist). When it can’t see any it gives the impression that what we’re witnessing isn’t real life.

        I haven’t had the time to read I Shall Be Released, but it sounds like it needs a central spine to hang all the scenes on. Something that they all relate back to. A movie should be about the main character’s problem, not his life.

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      Thy Enemy (pg 14)
      Theme: Strong

      I like how you subverted expectations whenever possible. You think it’s a man – it’s a woman… You think it’s a friend – it’s a spy… You think it’s a baby – it’s a tape recorder… You think it’s a real gun – it’s a paintball gun… You think he’s scolding an agent – he’s kidding with his son. If this continues throughout the script, as well as good solid characters you’ve got something on your hands.

      No criticisms thus far, it seems to be locking into a main character as soon as I checked out so I would have to read more. This is looking strong so if another script challenges this for the spot, I’ll check some more of this out.

      Thanks for the read. I may read further.

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      Blind Curves (pg 15)
      Theme: Moderate

      It’s solid but nothing is grabbing me. The setup seems to be going in the familiar direction of a procedural and the main character seems to be a regular guy. If you’re going to show the setup I need something unique to happen. Otherwise we can start the story after he’s been released. Did the divorce distract him from his duties? Make him reckless? The way you have it now these seem like two unrelatedevents.

      Take Big Hero 6 for example, Hiro’s invention sets the stage for tragedy. I need your protagonist to believe that stopping this robbery will somehow bring him some peace as it pertains to his divorce.

      Thanks and keep writing!

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      Be A Hero (pg 20)
      Theme: Strong

      This is my favorite premise of them all. I wanted more from him avoiding the situation but after telling him that it was a legitimate accident they threaten to tell the police. Ok, tell them. And they also force him to be a superhero. Unbelievable. I really thought he was going to try to fool the heroes by posing as Red Dagger. You’ve missed the sheer power of the DOUBLE LIE. Sweet narrative irony Batman! You left a lot of tension on the table, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. I like how you made Red Dagger a crook. I just hope it was a good reason that he was outside of Max’s window.

      Thanks and keep it up!

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      The Beard (pg 25)
      Theme: Moderate

      Right now it’s all “Want” for Jayce and no hint of “Need”. I need more emotion mixed into the comedy. If you want to start a story off with your protagonist lying to the world just for fame and fortune, he either has to be misunderstood, in a moment of weakness, or we have to have the sense that it will come crashing down and ruin his life. I think you’re going for the last one, but if they catch him lying, what does he lose? It has to be an emotional loss. The stakes need to be higher and tied to something emotional to pull me through.

      There’s some nice comedy, but I think you can cut some of the back and forth and get us along sooner. I don’t see the need for the awards. I think we can get to the 2nd act sooner. I don’t know. This is a tough one. To give any more accurate advice I would have to know where this is going emotionally. Right now I can’t tell.

  • klmn

    I Shall Be Released. We get to the cancer on p9. That casts a pall over the whole story.

    [XX] Not for me.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Cancer Page 2 in the new draft. No beating around the bush this time, it cuts right to the chase.

      • klmn

        Good luck with it.

  • Craig Mack

    I have some time off this weekend from assignments and the baby. I’m going to crack the first 10 of 4 these… Looks like an interesting bunch.

    • Craig Mack

      THE BEARD: I read through the first 10… I really enjoyed your intro to Jaycee. It was unique, funny and caught my interest. Beyond that, the humor wasn’t really my thing. That’s fine. There is definitely an audience for it. The CONSTANT use of JUMP CUT: is something you should definitely avoid. If you are looking for a way to break up those pages of dialogue give us some facial expression changes. Additionally, no need to BOLD certain dialogue and UNDERLINE others. If you are going to use one, pick it and stay consistent.

    • Craig Mack

      BE A HERO: Made it through 10. Well written… but I’m still waiting for the inciting incident here. I’m sure it’s on 11 or 12 but I’m not waiting around to find out.

      pg5 gets to his (feet)

    • Craig Mack

      THY ENEMY: REALLY enjoyed the opening scene. Well written and executed. I know it is far fetched but WOW! Talk about an opener. A+ transition into the clean nuke scene… a great introduction to a character (a nice nod to Silence of the Lambs)… I’m REALLY interested in where this thing will play out… Looks like we have an expert world builder here. I’ll read more later. I’m in.

    • Craig Mack

      I SHALL BE RELEASED: I just finished working on a biopic for someone… I know how tough they can be. I can only imagine how hard it is to write about someone you knew. That being said, this wasn’t for me.

  • klmn

    The Beard. We get masturbating on the first page. Fatties was able to overcome the same opening and actually be good, but the subject matter of this one doesn’t interest me enough to read on.

    [XX]What the hell did I just read?

  • klmn

    Thy Enemy. I read four pages. It’s easy to read, so this one has potential.

  • Randy Williams

    THE ENEMY

    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    I started reading this, was interrupted repeatedly for various reasons. I kept going back to it. Why? Wyatt. He’s a sympathetic character. You don’t make it easy for him. It worked for me.

    The beginning is a kick-ass start, yeah, implausible on many levels but I was thrilled. Maybe put a bit more focus on sound to really put us there on the plane. I would suspect it’s rather loud.

    P. 6-7, it got a bit too technical for me. I’m not sure it works even visually. How do we know what we’re seeing? After a great start, I started having doubts that I’d continue. Then, Wyatt shows up…

    I’m going to stop on page 30. I definitely want to read more because as I said, Wyatt is a good character, good actor bait, too, in my view. Dietrich and Mila are a bit boring here on page 30 comparing cars. I’m wondering what Wyatt is doing. Perhaps give them some visuals, a few words and move on.

  • klmn

    Blind Curves. Read four pages. Well written. Another possibility.

  • klmn

    Be A Hero. Read one page. There are too many amateur superhero scripts.

    [XX] Not for me.

    My vote: one half vote for Blind Curves and one half vote for Thy Enemy.

  • Randy Williams

    BLIND CURVES

    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    Read to page 35. Nothing stopped me there, just need time to look at the remaining script. I’d actually like to continue reading and I’ll comment more if I can. There’s nothing new here as far as the subject matter so far, I thought. I’ve seen this scenario before, cop contributes to the death of an innocent, exiled, either literally or psychologically. This script, however, has an effective economy of words that makes it so easy to read and digest and the writer knows how to elicit suspense, I thought. I really found myself engrossed. Loved the teens on the desert road for instance.
    Hopefully, there’s some fresh twists coming soon.

  • mulesandmud

    On top of being a music legend, Levon Helm was a damn fine actor, value added to any film he showed up in, particularly as Ridley, the sidekick and narrator of THE RIGHT STUFF, which harnessed Helm’s amazing voice and mannerisms to set the tone of a modern American myth.

    I opened up I SHALL BE RELEASED because I was curious about how the perspective of someone with real-world ties to Levon would translate to the page.

    Would the script reveal intimate, previously unseen layers of Helm, making him a complex and compelling protagonist? Would it find unique moments in The Band’s rise to fame that separated it from other rock biopics? How would the script treat figures like Robbie Robertson, the quasi-frontman of the group whose relationship with Helm contributed to the Band’s demise.

    Twenty pages in, at the risk of being presumptuous, the writer’s intimacy with his subject seems more like a problem than an advantage. There’s a refusal to say anything bad or even complicated about Levon as a person, which feels like a refusal to say much at all.

    We open with Levon as an older man defending a blonde girl from dirtbags and getting beat up for it. Then we live with him as a wise old man for a while, before jumping back in time to meet him as a wise young man, a rock star uninterested in fame or recognition.

    This approach borders on hagiography. So far, Levon is alway right, always the voice of reason. The fact that he gets cancer doesn’t add complexity or conflict so much as turn the whole thing into a passion play, walking through the inevitable steps toward a great man’s death while recapping the highlights from his life.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Helm at one of his Midnight Rambles, and he did indeed seem like a great guy. That doesn’t mean there should be a movie about him. We need to feel more purpose in this story, more shape. As is, the tone feels authentic but the structure is a jumble:

    pg 1 – we’re in 1991, where Levon buys beer, gets beat up, and goes home for dinner.
    pg 5 – a short flashback to a week earlier, to watch Levon’s friend Stan die.
    pg 5 – back to 1991, where Levon’s house burns down.
    pg 6 – we jump forward to 1998, when Levon gets his cancer diagnosis.
    pg 9 – back to 1969, for The Band’s big Ed Sullivan performance
    pg 12 – flash forward two months, as Levon deals with fame and settles in Woodstock
    pg 17 – a music-making montage
    pg 21 – forward to 1999, with Levon in full cancer mode

    Strangely, aside from the page 5 flashback, these time jumps don’t seem particularly motivated by Levon reflecting on his past, which at least would place us inside our main character’s head. Instead, it feels like we’re just sort of browsing.

    There is powerful imagery and great history to build from here, and I know Levon has the potential to be a complex character, but at present the whole thing feels adrift.

    I suspect the writer needs to create some distance between himself and the material, to think of ‘Levon’ as a character who needs a fitting story rather than thinking of Levon Helm as a person who deserves a legacy. That distance might provide more direction about which story he wants to tell, and why.

    Best of luck with it.

    • BellBlaq

      Your critique reminds me of the comments/praise people gave for the film Selma and how Ava DuVernay chose to center the story on an EVENT, making Dr. King a real character to the story instead of letting him be the focus. Maybe Gregory should think of that kind of angle (if he hasn’t–I wouldn’t know directly as I haven’t read the script).

    • Citizen M

      That distance might provide more direction about which story he wants to tell, and why.

      I felt the same way about this script. Then I started thinking, many of us who actually saw The Band live and had their music as part of our lives are getting old. Imagine you’ve got grandchildren who think Britney Spears is some ancient old hag, and the ’70s was when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

      Under what circumstances would you tell them about The Band?

      I’m not thinking about the typical inter-generational rivalry arguments we all indulge in, like The Band could wipe the floor with One Direction and wear stupider hats than Pharrel, so there.

      I’m thinking, some issue in their lives comes up, and instead of giving them advice or telling them what to do, you tell them the story of The Band and let them draw their own conclusions.

      I don’t know what that might be, since I don’t know much about The Band, nor do I have grandchildren, but it is an approach that might provide an organizing principle.

  • Linkthis83

    Congrats to this weekend’s writers. I belive that with the announcement of the SS250 we are likely to see more scripts from SS regulars be presented (or maybe it has to do with the push for more scripts from regulars from a few weeks ago).

    This will most likely be my last weekend doing notes for a while. Got my own shit to focus on. Clock’s a’tickin. However, if I see an SS regular getting an opportunity, I may chime in from time to time on specific scripts.

    (NOTE: I read only title/genre first, then I read pages, then I check out your logline and WYSR)

    I need to be honest here, none of these scripts had me wanting to read further. None of them got me invested. So in order to vote, I’m going to vote in this manner…if these were already movies, which one would I choose to go see?

    My vote: I SHALL BE RELEASED

    BE A HERO would by my next choice at the cinema. And I hugely dislike superhero movies. This pick is based on premise/concept alone. Not because the script delivers. Much work to do here.

    I SHALL BE RELEASED (drama/biopic)

    Gregory, you are sitting on something fantastic. What an opportunity. That first scene though, with Levon at the gas station, doesn’t fit for me what I think you are trying to do here. It’s one of those scenes that beginner writers put in that feel forced and not truly thought out.

    The scenes that follow have this mixture of “too much too close” and simple awesomeness. The scene with Levon playing the mandolin along with the stereo cutting back to the previous week with Stan’s heart attack. Beautiful man. Really well done. But mixed in with the previous opening scene and followed up by the house burning down – it hurts this beautiful moment and what it brings.

    Your script/story also had me looking up all kinds of stuff. Videos on YouTube and the history of The Band on Wikipedia.

    I feel like the script should be the physical manifestation of a song. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be so close to something, to try and pick these moments and order them in a way that delivers whatever the sentiment is you want the viewer/reader to feel. I’ve bet you’ve had countless discussions about it. If you ever want to have one more, let me know. I think it would be great to hear your overall intention for this story and why you’ve chosen to tell it the way you have. Or at least that opening scene. I don’t get it (which is understandable since I didn’t read the whole thing).

    There’s so much conflict, tension, emotion, tragedy, drama, excitement, fanfare – there’s so much to pull from. Good luck man, sincerely.

    I saw that Levon has an autobiography on Amazon. Are you related to that in any way?

    Couple notes as well:

    p2 = Are you alright miss = alright, Miss

    p4 = Lavon = Levon

    BE A HERO (action/comedy)

    Yeah, I picked this one as my second vote, but it’s not because of the script. Not trying to be crude, just honest. I like the premise because I like superhero movies that are more real world and less…superhero-y? I fucking love KICK ASS. This is not KICK ASS nor its somewhat attractive cousin that it could make a strong case for making out with because she’s more of a 2nd cousin…but the premise is good.

    p1 = hate the sucking dick line by the security guard. Too effing soon. I feel I understand why it’s there and it’s intention and why it could be considered funny, but really, it’s either too bold too soon, or honestly, not enough.

    **You’ve got this security guard who states that he’d suck the superhero’s dick to stay alive. Sure, that simple concept could be amusing. Who talks to a super hero that way. However, he then just continues whining and crying. Thus, it’s a gag. Either lose it, or indulge it. And no, that doesn’t mean have Red Dagger test whether the guard will or not (which gives a whole other meaning to Red Dagger – Where’s Punman when you need him – ammi right?) Make that guard scene an actual moment. Don’t have him just say that one off line. make him mutter on about the different things he could do. And don’t be boldface blunt about it either. Otherwise, it’s just a gag and will probably turn away a lot of those you want to enjoy what you’ve created. Today will be a good test for that.

    p7 = no one can finds themselves = find

    p11 = stopped

    So a loser loses his job, loses his girl, and mopes at home like the loser he is – this isn’t feeling inspired, unique, original, etc. You’re a creator man, create the shit that’s interesting about Max and his situation. He’s a waiter who gets sacked for something really uninteresting. He gets dumped by his girl who just shows up at another eatery and says he’s holding her back. But she’s an effing reporter and Max is watching the news.

    Have her covering the warehouse story on TV. Have Max working at his job being rude to customers because he always watches when his girl does a report. Jenna’s on TV talking with Red Dagger and she’s swooning over him. She has her epiphany moment and breaks up with Max while she’s reporting. on TV – and she knows Max is watching because…well…we already know.

    After I stopped on page eleven I read your logline and your WYSR – this got me to read another 10 pages.

    p21 = stopped for real.

    Set up and delivery of your premise is really weak. Your mystery box is strong. Your concept is strong.

    Before I realized that Punman was terrible at puns, when you had him say that he’s “Dead Dagger” I immediately thought – man, that sucks. But I was excited about Punman because if you delivered on the puns, it would be fucking fantastic. So my suggestion for Punman’s line after learning of the death of Red Dagger would be to have him say:

    “I guess you could say that he’ll no longer be the Knife of the party.”

    Anyway, good luck. Love Ireland and the Irish. Hope to get there someday for a visit.

    THE BEARD (sex comedy)

    RRROOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNN!!!! Congrats for getting into AOW. I’m a huge fan of you as a person and a writer and…I couldn’t get into this at all. What a giant leap from DARK MATTER this is. Congratulations. I know you’re a funny guy so I was really wanting to love this.

    I like what I feel you are trying to do here. I like how your showing different perspectives of the world we live in today. I’m just not digging this delivery method. I am not entertained by Jayce at all. I’ve never wanted to even use the phrase “Eat a dick” and yet, I would probably say that to Jayce. Because of his personality and this set up, I have no interest in learning about what he is up to and why he is doing it.

    p20 = stopped

    I tried, man. I really did. I sure hope others love it. Keep after it, bro.

    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.

    BLIND CURVES (crime/thriller)

    p13 = stopped

    Not really sure how I feel about this one. In those first few action lines, I loved the choice of the locker slamming and not closing, and then the character closing it slowly, quietly. To me, I thought it was representing the fact that he’s accepted what has happened in that moment, and is at peace with it. And then the rest of the scene happens which doesn’t really represent what I thought I was being shown with that locker action by the character.

    Also, totally disliked the first line of dialogue being from a guy wearing a towel asking about pee in corn flakes. sets an off putting tone/intention for me. If anything, I’d be okay if his first words were “fuck her” and the main guy’s line being “I’m the one being fucked” – that isn’t the dialogue I want, just dialogue that I think sums up things well enough to be acceptable.

    I also felt like this set up and dynamic regarding Michael and his wife and daughter was confusing. somehow Michael is the bad guy in all this and we don’t learn how/why. But he’s set up to look like a victim of sorts. And he’s all butt hurt about it but not saying anything about his role or responsibility in the matter. I assumed the daughter would be the clear gauge for us, but she’s acting all hurt and jaded as well towards Michael – I don’t know. Probably would’ve like this clarified a little better. Relationships are key, but if I don’t know what to key in on, not sure what I care about.

    I thought the scene with the mini mart robbery was handled well. But then him choosing to go to Nowhere Town seemed off a little. Again, could just be me. Good luck with this. I’m hoping you get a lot better notes than I could offer here.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Link, thanks a million for your comments and notes. I’ve always been a fan of how much thought and effort goes into your feedback for people’s scripts, and your active presence providing notes will be missed in the future AOW to come. I am always available to discuss the project in more detail with people, and I’m positive that your insights would be valuable.

      Insofar as Levon’s autobiography, ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ is concerned. Levon and I, together, actually co-wrote a screenplay directly adapted from the autobiography, and I am more than willing to share it with you if you’re interested. Unfortunately that script got mired with legal difficulties in the circumstances surrounding Levon’s untimely and unfortuntate passing, and it lead to the birth of this script, and project, as it is now.

      It’s also of note to mention that Levon’s birth name is ‘Mark Lavon Helm’, and when JD called him Lavon, it was his real middle name, rather than a typo. It does beg the question if, since it was pointed out, that it should just be omitted and changed to Levon, since it’s more of a trivia, and can bog down the read if someone thinks it’s a careless error.

      Thanks again for your comments, and I hope the other writers appreciate the time you’ve spent to give detailed feedback. Please feel free to e-mail me at GregoryMandarano at AOL dot com if you care to discuss the project further.

      • Will_Alexander

        If Lavon is his real middle name and a character is going to call him that for authenticity’s sake, keep it in, but make a parenthetical note right after it or right before it that lets the reader in on what’s going on and why.

        • Gregory Mandarano

          Is this what you mean:

          JD
          Lavon…

          (Levon’s real name)
          I put the leftovers in the ice box for you.

          That seems clunkier. I think I might just omit the line, since it only comes up once, and it isn’t too relevant.

          It found its way in only for authenticity’s sake, since one of the few times I met JD (which coincidentally was the day after the house burned down) he said Lavon, not Levon, and it stuck with me.

          • Will_Alexander

            No, I mean a very obvious note to the reader. On its own line:

            (NOTE: JD knows Levon well enough to call him by his real name, Lavon.)

            Instead of omitting it, you may want to really think deeply about what it could mean if there’s only one person in the entire story that calls the man by his real name.

            PS, just getting back to the script now.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            I will do this. Thank you.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            And I mean include the note into the script, not think about it. :-D

      • Linkthis83

        Wow, Gregory, those are some extremely kind words and they are much appreciated. If I could work full time working with people to develop their scripts/stories, that’s what I’d do for sure.

        I’ve basically been consuming Levon Helm and The Band today. Watching videos, listening to the music, interviews, and I even watched the documentary AIN’T IN IT FOR MY HEALTH.

        This lead me to reading some more of the script and for me, the narrative just isn’t there.

        When you mention the first scene being a Save the Cat moment, my first honest reaction is: Why? You don’t need it. The personality of Levon is his Save the Cat. Hell, the first scene could be Garth and Lee dowsing for water and you make them have the conversation they had in the car while dowsing. People will identify with a man who wants to make his home and his music in the same place. Plus, this is based on a real person with a legacy. There’s no major controversies to speak of. No scandals. Based on who Levon is at his core, I think people will like him. And those who don’t will most likely fall into the category of not being interested in a biopic of this man and The Band.

        I’m not suggesting to open with the dowsing scene, just saying you could. I know you’ve worked out a transition of events that you like thus far. But for me, they are like highlight reel snippets. Without having a truly sincere set of scenes to open with, it’s hard to “feel” what transpires in those early moments (with the exception of Stan’s heart attack and Levon playing the mandolin). But even in the scene with Stan, you have people rushing to him, then the house burns down, then the studio guy rushes to Levon. I don’t feel the weight of these moments like I should.

        I will send you an email with my cell number and if you wish to discuss stuff further I’m certainly open to it. Regardless if you use anything we talk about, talking about scripts/stories/intentions with those who write them is always fun. Kind of like members of a band hanging out talking music :)

        **Also, the note about JD using Lavon, I did note it because a document scan revealed that was the only usage. If JD was in the story more and called Levon “Lavon” more often, then I think you should totally keep it. To show that relationship is special.

  • Randy Williams

    BE A HERO

    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    Got to about page 21 in this one. Tone is spot on for the subject matter. Comic book, almost animation feel. Had a big smile on my face the whole time. Stopped on page 21 because the concept of him killing a super hero by mistake and trying to hide that fact was of secondary concern and only lasted a second, while him replacing that super hero was accepted on the spot and would seemingly become the focus. I just didn’t think that first concern was the funnier of the two and would be enough to keep me reading.

  • brenkilco

    Got to page 10 of Enemy. But I know I’ve already read the key line of the script “The anti-matter supernovas”. After that line you’re either in or your’re out. God this writer loves his fantasy high tech. Batwings, and exo suits and graphene, positron supercollider experiments. Throw in physics defying action, to wit and a skydiver who can free fall thousands of feet, intercept a jet in flight and land unscathed; and a scientist who engages in wooden, exposition laden dialogue suited to a sixties sci fi tv show and I’m afraid I’m out. On the positive side a bad guy circumventing the security of a lab by hacking a 3D printer and having it make a weapon for him is a nifty idea that could have been sold better. And if I were sixteen I’d probably be in heaven with this.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Are you NUTS??
      If I was Ed Wood, I would jump on this script!
      And the toy franchise could be HUGE.
      (Selling invisible guns to kids — that alone has to be worth millions.).
      ENEMY gets my VOTE.
      Has all the makings of a cult classic.
      Doesn’t anybody remember that British spy spoof? The Lego Movie? Or that maybe Mattel wants to get into the movie business?

  • fragglewriter

    I”ve downloaded all of the scripts. It might be that Daylight Savings time is still kicking my ass, but it was so difficult to concentrate, even on my work, so don’t take the below too hard.

    I Shall Be Released – read until page 9. The time jumps and continuous scene cuts got me dizzy, which means it’ll probably film better.

    The Beard – read until page 17. Although it’s funny, I can’t understand why he wants a TV show? I understand about money, but it doesn’t seem that he’s doing too shabby.

    Thy Enemy – High five for talking to Shane Black, even if it was only for advice. read until page 7. Although I love action films, all of that going on got me tired. And the science talk didn’t help.

    Blind Curves – read until page 6. Maybe play around with the introduction as it’s been done many times before. I say wrong a few more scripts, and come back to this one with fresher eyes.

    Be a Hero – read until page 3. I got bored.

    • charliesb

      I felt the same way, though you got a lot further than I did. I couldn’t get past the first couple pages of any of the scripts. I don’t know if it’s Carson’s article on opening scenes in the back of my head, or if they were just not very engaging, but I was unable to connect with any of the scripts today.

      I’ll try them each again tomorrow.

      • fragglewriter

        I want to try reading them again when my brain calms down and my body acts better.

  • Raphael Howard

    I just read “I shall be released”. It’s a great story, and I would like it to be AOW, if only for the site’s opinion on biopics such as this.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    I don’t want to detract from the focus on the SCRIPTS, which is the reason we’re all here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share a few videos that highlighted the vocals of Levon, Rick, and especially Richard, as well as their music. I’ve chosen one for each!

    Here’s Levon singing Ophelia –

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Here’s a heartbreaking acoustic rendition of “When You Awake” by Rick from a few months before he passed away. I actually highlighted him playing this song in the script.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        And here’s Richard singing I Shall Be Released, the song chosen as the title for my script.

        • walker

          RIP Richard Manuel, a great singer and musician. I love the way his voice is always threatening to crack, but never does.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Freaking disqus sucks. I deleted these comments cause I meant to have them in a response to a thread on the bottom, not at the top of the thread, but it didn’t delete them, it just made it so I can’t edit the comments anymore. WHAT THE HECK DISQUS

  • andyjaxfl

    Vote: TBD

    THY ENEMY. Nice opening. Agree with other comments about condensing page 6 and eliminating the exposition/science dialogue. I love the 3D printed gun and its subsequent melting. Read to page 10 but will go back and read more once I check out the others. Good job!

    THE BEARD. I like the concept and the WYSR but I just couldn’t get into this one. I don’t mind crass and vulgar, but I just didn’t connect in the first 10 pages. Might try this one again after a nap though.

  • Howie428

    My vote is for THY ENEMY. It was a close run thing with a couple of the others also opening well. The following are my notes from reading the first 10 pages of each of these…

    THE BEARD

    Funny quote on the opening page. Also, I now get what this will be about and I guess I’ll have to contain my disappointment that it’s not a Brett Kiesel biography!

    The opening scene is amusing, although it might be a bit too complicated. It’s a lot to keep up with and some aspects of it are puzzling.

    I got to page five and I guess the comedy in this isn’t really working for me.

    THY ENEMY

    The opening scene is very exciting stuff with some nice technology aspects. The scene after that is a bit exposition heavy, but I guess a story like this needs some of that.

    The nuclear explosion stuff is fun, although it might be that the details of how the new bomb works are a bit superfluous to the story.

    Ten pages in, I’ve seen lots of good stuff, fun technology and action. I’m not sure you’ve yet got me oriented within this story, but I can see that happening as the main character goes forward.

    BLIND CURVES

    The first five pages sets up the guy’s situation and career position well, and it triggers the case that I assume will be a big part of this. Some of the dialogue on page five felt a little generic to me.

    I like the drama of the robbery scene. I’m not sure that a police officer who has taken a bullet would be criticized for the outcome of this kind of shootout.

    It’s a good clean opening that works well.

    BE A HERO

    The opening scene is some simple fun.

    The first ten pages went by smoothly. You’ve set up a decent character situation and I like the edgy superhero thing.

    I SHALL BE RELEASED

    The opening fight scene is a solid bit of drama.

    I’m on page five and I get that this is a moment of transition in this guy’s life. I guess I’m not sure that I see why this is the point at which we must cut into this story.

    The cancer diagnosis makes for a good moment for a retrospective viewpoint.

    And on page ten you cut back to them already famous, about to appear on the Ed Sullivan show, which presumably is a highpoint.

    There’s some interesting stuff in those first ten pages, but I guess you haven’t quite succeeded in the key ingredient of a biography, which is to convince us that this is a person worth knowing about. I’d suggest bringing some special moment into these pages, perhaps a performance, or someone else saying how great this guy was and why we should care.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Howie, thanks for your comments regarding the script, though I am a little confused at your suggestion. There is the Ed Sullivan show performance, followed by the interview that Levon and Richard give with a journalist. I’m curious if you got that far (the interview starts on page 12) and whether you think the interview sufficiently provides that reasoning, as to why we should care about him, and the Band. Thanks again.

      • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

        I understand your conundrum. There’s just a lot of stuff you’re trying to pack into a feature. Imagine if Breaking Bad tried to be a 2 hour movie. I personally feel you’re either trying to compress a mini-series-worth of ideas into a feature or your spine needs straightening.

        Let’s look at the first scene. (I briefly went over this but I want to go deeper).

        Your goal is to have a ‘save the cat’ moment. But if this script is about the death of a friend due to suicide – this scene HAS to relate in some way to suicide, brotherhood, self-destructive behavior, self-hatred, loss of hope, ignoring warning signs – all the things that somehow relate to suicide. And not only this scene but EVERY scene. This is why I think the drug addiction thing worked – drug addiction is like slowly committing suicide.

        It doesn’t have to be literal either – it can be symbolic:

        How about he plays an old tape so much that it disintegrates? Which could be symbolic of him thinking about what he should have done to help Richard that it’s eating him up. Or that the good old days have ended.

        You have to find your theme. Then every scene MUST relate to it.

        Does this mean he has to save a girl from committing suicide in the first scene? No. But if that’s your theme, it’s better than the choice you have now.

        • Gregory Mandarano

          There’s actually a scene in the script where Levon listens to a song until the radio runs out of batteries, though he’s reminiscing of Rick at that point, not Richard.

          The purpose of the opening scene was to establish Levon’s character, but also to highlight some of his self-destructive somewhat masochistic behavior brought about by grief, which comes to a head in the 1996 scenes later on. It also establishes that he’s no longer so popular, nor relevant in the music scene, as shown by the division of respect shown to him by someone in a rolling stones shirt, vs the lack of respect shown to him by someone with more modern bands represented. It also saves the cat, and establishes that he’s a musician, as well as show that his strength is failing.

          i recognize your concerns, you’re not the only person to express them. I will have to speak with my co-author regarding an alternative opening, but I’m wary of whether changing it would be an improvement.

          • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

            I love your attitude Greg. I also want to stress that the scene may be completely fine. Here’s an analogy:

            Suppose a man is wearing cowboy boots, spandex, suspenders, and a hard hat. What’s wrong with his outfit? Well you can point to one piece and say “change that” but that’s not the root. You ask the man “what are you trying to dress like?” If he says a cowboy, then the boots are fine, if he says a gymnast then the spandex are fine.

            It may just be one scene that’s throwing us off. It could be that simple. But until we know the the theme we can’t identify it.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Around the same time as I was writing this script, my uncle was passing away from lung cancer. He was even staying at my house while I was doing the outline, and he went back home by the time I was working on the draft. While he was on his death bed, unknown to me, the cd player which had been playing The Band got stuck on It Makes No Difference, and my mom let it repeat over and over while my sister sat at his bedside. Meanwhile I was half the country away, writing the end of the script, which has a scene where Levon listened to that song until the radio ran out of power. Suffice to say I was struck by the sychronistic nature of the universe when my mom told me the story of his passing.

            Some scenes in this script are harder to edit than others.

          • Bob Bradley

            I’m interested in this kind of story. Maybe you should tell it from your point of view, with you weaving in and out of Levon’s life.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Honestly, I cringe at the thought of ever writing myself into a screenplay. It borders on narcissism. I’d rather write fantasy.

      • Howie428

        No, I only read the first ten pages. By way of full disclosure I’ll admit that until today I’d have not known who this guy. On the face of it there are three challenges that you’ve got in general for a biography. You have to give the fans their fodder, educate the ignorant, and lift the curtain. I’m in the ignorant category!

        I took a look at the Wikipedia page on Levon Helm and being honest it seems like a challenging story to tell. I’m going to play devil’s advocate and describe this challenge… It doesn’t seem to give you the traditional tropes of the musician biography – sex, drugs, abuse, controversy, rivalries. To his credit he seems to have been a talented hard working artist with a love of music. The throat cancer element and his come back from it is compelling, but it’ll be a hard sell to get people to be that broken up about it since he was fairly old when it happened and had performed successfully for a long time. There doesn’t seem to be a defining relationship. His career had highs and lows, but proceeded pretty well overall without providing obvious story beat moments. The danger becomes that the story ends up being anecdotes from the life of a talented man, and that as such it mimics a documentary.

        I carried on reading and I’m afraid the Ed Sullivan appearance seems to fit with the concerns I just described. They appear, they play good music, they chat with Ed, so what? Why does it matter? Lots of music acts did that, and I’ll bet they were nervous before they went on, and they all wanted to perform well.

        The interview that follows does deliver on telling us how great they were, but just to prove how contrarian I am, I’d say it feels like a clunky way of doing it. Also, why do we see this interview, other than because you have backstory you want us to hear? What is the conflict of that scene?

        The next scene is Levon moving to Woodstock because “it’s the place for me.” Again, why is this an issue? It doesn’t seem like Garth objects, or that it involves any hardship.

        Then they strike water, a bit like the guys who drilled the well in my backyard must have done. And it is Garth who insists they keep drilling, not Levon. I’m not trying to be rude here, but I can’t see why this matters.

        The next five pages have some insight into their creative process and show some conflict within the band. That’s all good stuff, even if it’s a relatively tame version of that compared with other band depictions.

        The scene with Amy on page 25 is good stuff, but it would be much better if we had met Amy before and we had a context for Levon’s drug abuse. Also, the scene of him singing to her is great stuff.

        His recovery from the drug issue is good stuff. I recently saw the movie “Ray” which based the whole movie on his struggles with these issues.

        The thing about him needing Richard on page 31 is also good stuff. However, it would be better if we had seen their relationship form. If this is going to be a pivotal relationship in your story then it might make sense to build it up. A way to do that might be to switch Garth to Richard in some of the earlier scenes. I know that’s a cheat, but amalgamating/switching characters is a common biography trick.

        The revival music and the big festival are fun events. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I know how they fit into a wider story. It makes me think, “Great musicians made music and played to big crowds, so what?”

        On page 43, “Levon throws away his cigarette and walks off in a huff.” In the world of rock and roll stories I’m afraid this plays as mundane for me.

        The big moment on page 45 is great stuff. I’ll be surprised if you’ve got something bigger for the finale.

        On page 51, after the concert this sequence is feeling like the letdown that might be expected. At this point I’m also finding that Levon seems to be a bit peripheral to his own story. As a character he is a bit bland. He participates in things but doesn’t lead them, and actually I’m not sure that so far I have much of a sense of what kind of guy he was. At times he is one of a crowd, and doesn’t seem distinctive among them.

        Page 61 makes me think that any producer that looks at this will want rid of a lot of these location jump montages. They are large numbers of shots to set up and I’m guessing they’d prefer you summarize things rather than use this technique.

        Page 81, having read Wikipedia I had figured this was going to be the famous last concert. I see that I’m wrong on that. The path towards the end of The Band is another cool story element that fits as a big story beat.

        Pg 90, the 20 year jump has me wondering if the story is restarting after a point at which it could have made a good finale.

        Pg 101 – There’s some fun stuff in these bits, but it’s feeling like an extended wrap up. Since we’re now solidly in act 3, I guess I’d be looking for the story to be building rather than falling. This is a classic challenge of biography writing, most subjects peak early and the trap is to depict their progress into old age, which is by its nature a decline.

        Structurally it might make sense to weave this old age story, including the cancer and comeback, in with the The Band story. Two interweaved stories about the same guy that reflect on each other. One starts in around 1960 and runs to 1976. The other starts in the 1980s and runs to 2012.

        Pg 116 – While the events in this part are fine, I guess I’m not seeing how they form a finale.

        Pg 117 – The death on this page again makes me wonder about that two story structure. It would juxtapose this death with the point when Richard was at an earlier high or low, and would probably fall at the Dark Night of the Soul.

        Pg 125 – And ending on the Midnight Rambles works well.

        Overall there’s a lot of good stuff here.

        For me the challenge is to take the solid material and structure it so that it punches as a movie. That includes focusing in on Levon and figuring out what you can say by telling us his story. Most likely it’ll be something about the contrast between calculated packaged performance and free musical expression. The Last Waltz as the ultimate package, and the Midnight Rambles as the free expression. Both having value, but each being different.

        To make that work you need to depict Levon as strongly driven to each position at different times. The others characters are forces in support of those contrasts. We’ll also need to get in close on the personal side of Levon and see him struggle with a free life versus an organized life. Make the screenplay echo the philosophy of the man.

        As to the opening of the script, I’d say keep it simple. Give us moments that we’ll recognize as the beginnings of things rather than glimpses of the middles. Show us Levon joining The Band, and have him be the one who drives the abandoning of Hawkins. For the other story thread the opening is when they tentatively try to reform in the 80s. Those two stories would make for a solid first act, most of it set in the 60s, with paralleling glimpses of the 80s.

        I hope that helps and sorry about getting pretty negative. Good luck with it.

        • Gregory Mandarano

          Great notes and I’ll have to compile them, but for legal reasons I cannot use anything prior to 1969. Levon and I co-wrote a script together, which got lost in a murky legal mire after he passed away. I’m not allowed to reference any of my previous material, and the previous script was 1946-1969.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            I think I should just write a movie, about trying to write this movie, and make that. In the end I’d give up and write the movie about writing it, which as the finale would get made, paralleling real life if it gets made.

          • Howie428

            An alternative to that would be to write the story of your relationship with the guy. An “Almost Famous” story where your interest in his earlier art helps him to return to music, rediscover the joy of it, and leads to the ultimate form of musical expression, the Midnight Rambles. Of course, if you’re anything like me you’ll need to fictionalize your own part of the story, because this would hinge on your character also going through a life shaking arc, i.e. you have to be as compelling and broken as him! Perhaps you change yourself into an aspiring musician teenage girl!!!

            That format would let you dip back in and out of his earlier career as different elements become relevant and he describes them to you.

            As to your issues with the opening and the script as you have it now, I can see how that would be a problem. Thinking about it, I’d suggest opening with the Ed Sullivan Show. Make a bigger point of highlighting the restrictive branding and musical constraints. Have them argue about it, with Richard or Garth not wanting to perform, Robbie wants to go on, and Levon sides strongly with him about the need to package themselves. Under that approach Levon begins the story in favor of constraints and musical discipline. That also immediately gets these guys into conflict and sets up the core conflict of the story. The story ends with a Midnight Ramble, which is shown to be the exact opposite of the Ed Sullivan format, and Levon has completed an arc on which he has been able to embrace free expression.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            This is a great suggestion, and I’m incorporating it right now.

            PS – I’m talking about the Sullivan branding / argument. NOT changing myself into a teenage girl.

  • IgorWasTaken

    No vote from me (yet), but as for “The Beard”, it read well, and the premise is interesting. Also, I think your use of the insert page for a definition is perfect, though the “also see” kinda ruins it.

    Suggestions. Start with the Andy Cohen scene. Then do the scene with Dylan and Jayce, and so in their first scene, have them do a new video for the Youtube channel. Two reasons: One, it builds the suspense for when we do meet the protagonist. Two, let us merely imagine what his winning Youtube video was like.

    And about all of those Youtube reader comments, cut the number by half, and even then just show us 3-5 words from each comment. (Unless you want to do it as a crawl and run the Star Wars theme under it.)

  • Kirk Diggler

    Be a Hero – note the action lines;—– ‘surely illegal goods’ —- and ‘this is RED DAGGER, supposed guardian of the city.’,—– and ‘probably around 30.’, and —– ‘Even with a mask on, he’s charismatic and arrogant.’ and —–‘The guard nearly shits himself.’

    The writing here is strangely unsure of itself. ‘Surely’, ‘supposed’, ‘probably’, are not good descriptive words. If the guard actually shit himself we wouldn’t know unless Red Dagger pointed it out by saying something funny about the smell. But if the guard ‘nearly’ shits himself, why bother writing that? What does that look like?

    Others have pointed out the weakness of Max the waiter getting fired, nothing we haven’t seen before. But moreover, the scene makes no sense. First, Max claims he’s making minimum wage. Only really really bad waiters make that little, which apparently Max is. Which begs the question, why wasn’t he already fired? I mean, how long has Max been telling customers that if they want water they can go fill up at the tap on their own? That’s a fire-able offense the first time you do it, and you know, goes against the whole notion of WAITING on a customer. So the scene exists simply so we can see him get fired from a job he doesn’t want and was never good at in the first place. It’s not organic real world behavior. Max hasn’t been set up properly. It’s a cold intro to his character that lacks motivation. I could be nit-picking here, but these things usually carry over further into the read.

    We follow the ‘Max loses job’ scene with ‘Max loses girlfriend’ (a woman that is in all likelihood, above his pay grade that he will work the rest of the script to win back, no doubt), and the two of them just repeat the conversation Max just had with his boss.

    But then there’s more, Max has the exact same conversation with Joey his roommate, telling us (or Joey) EXACTLY what we just saw in the two previous scenes (just in case we weren’t paying attention). The first ten pages are full of tropes. Now this thing looks like a script and reads like a script and seems the right length for this type of story, and there is always a chance that there might be an original idea bubbling under the surface that will burst out soon enough, but almost nothing happens in the first ten to indicate that could happen (even if it does).

    I read a little further, to where Red Dagger is killed by a rock to the head. Really? A rock from Max’s rock collection kills him? Noggins are pretty hard. Baseball players have been beaned with 90 mile an hour fastballs and lived to tell the tale. It seems forced to me. They just declare him dead on the spot without an examination.

    So I stopped reading and would guess many others will too because Max’s opening story just feels too damn familiar.

  • klmn

    OT: Gene Gene, The Dancing Machine of Gong Show fame has died.

    • Kirk Diggler

      And you just ruined a perfect day.

  • Kirk Diggler

    The Beard – I thought the opening three pages were pretty funny. The next three seemed like overkill, like you were hammering home the point of the first three by going completely over the top with, well, the butt fucking stuff. Hopefully the first and last time I write the phrase ‘too much butt fucking’ on AOW.

    This is funny, for sure, but it may go over some people’s heads. “And the nominees are…The Fine Brothers in “Teens React to Elders reacting to…Two Girls One Cup… Reactions”? Haha.

    Okay, the big problem with this script is that’s it’s over written dialogue-wise. Jayce (or the writer) is trying too hard to be funny with every utterance. The scene where Jayce pitches his show to Andy Cohen goes on forever (5 1/2 pages) and follows a too long Youtube awards ceremony. We don’t get to your basic premise, Dylan being asked to beard for Jayce until page 20. Some people might see this as a natural act break but I think Dylan needs to be presented with this a lot earlier, by page 10. There is a lot of waste leading up to that scene, and this script being 121 pages only confirms that fact.

    I’d stick with your opening 3 pages, cut the redundant next three, seriously shorten the Youtubes award ceremony (3 pages) have Jayce pitch his show to Andy Cohen (3 pages) and then have Dylan presented with Jayce’s offer on page 10. The next 10-12 pages should be used for the ‘debate’ process before Dylan goes all in.

    Part of the problem is that we don’t know who Dylan is. You’ve established Jayce as someone who seems loud and flamboyant (maybe there needs to be times when Jayce is ‘out of character’, only because I see him becoming horribly grating as this story progresses)
    Jayce could have one public persona and one private, but to me he seems the same in both. Loud and talky all the time. What if he was a little more reflective off camera?

    Dylan is a blank canvas at the moment. He is presented with a choice to beard for Jayce but we don’t know anything about him other than he probably isn’t a homophobe since he was willing to play a small part in Jayce’s videos. But what dilemma is he facing that would prevent him from doing Jayce’s bidding? He was easily swayed with money in the first scene, so is he really that bothered with the whole idea? It appears he has a price and that’s it. That’s why I feel you can really do some major editing of the first 20 to establish Dylan’s wants, fears, desires, etc.

  • Kirk Diggler

    I’m aware of that. But tips are income. So most waiters make above minimum wage when tips are factored in.

  • Felip Serra

    Thanks for the second. And I’ll raise you a third…
    You’re correct. It’s seems increasing on this site that we we’re presented with scripts that would not pass the most rudimentary of filters; this is not pretention or taste but CRAFT pure and simple!
    I’m no prude either; I read my fair share of Henry Miller with absolute relish. HOWEVER. There’s an art to this shit. And Ron can defend himself however he likes, but at the end of the day, I prefer looking at pornography rather than read it. (And I call it so, not due to so-called “dirty” words, but because its base; this is not only looking at the toilet paper post-wipe, but sniffing it as well…)

  • charliesb

    Not sure what kind of computer you are using, but if you are using a Mac, use Safari, I don’t have any of the pop up issues other people have described with Sendspace. If you’re using anything else make sure you have a good popup blocker installed.

    Second only click the link that say, “Click here to download the file” in blue text. All the other links on the page (buttons and etc) are usually ads.

    Worst comes to worst feel free to post your email address and ask someone in the comments to send you the scripts.

    Welcome and good luck.

    • Sean Reardon

      Thanks for the advice. I have a Windows laptop and tablet. Seemed like I was getting barraged with pop-ups, to the point where i had to reboot,just to stop the insanity.

  • Somersby

    The Beard

    This is an idea, not a concept.

    Damnit, people. Write a screenplay based on a stellar concept, not an idea you came up with in a beer-induced haze after a college football game.

    Look, the writing here is probably okay—but I found it so difficult to get past the profanity-laced banter that did NOTHING to endear me to any of the characters,

    I had to wonder exactly who this script is aimed at. Porky’s, American Pie and the multiple other horn-dog-type offerings (and their innumerable sequels) did okay at the B.O… but, if I remember correctly, they all had heart, characters you could relate to and, despite their ribaldry, a sweetness that had you rooting for the main characters.

    I found none of that here.

    The humor is juvenile, unpolished and, at times, offensive. But the main sin is that there is no one character to root for. Jayce is not interesting enough, deep enough, or genuine enough to want to spend more than 10 minutes with him… and that’s problematic in a two hour film.

    Pass.

    The Enemy

    Excellent writing. The writer knows the genre and he/she are clearly capable of delivering the type of story that fans of this type of flick enjoy.

    Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

    I’m not a scientist, but gravity boots that hold a person on the wings of a speeding plane won’t give you the freedom to walk around the fuselage planting little bombs while it’s still in flight.

    Not that fans of this sort of story are looking for any sense of realism (Iron Man anyone?) But there’s a thin line that sometimes separates engaging action films from Saturday morning cartoons. If this was based on a Marvel comic, I’d be more lenient. But since it’s not, it’s really important to be convincing with all the action stuff. And as is, it’s not.

    Consider.

    Be a Hero
    Love the Irish (them’s my roots), but despite their penchant for self-deprecating humour, this one just doesn’t cut it.

    I sense the writer is young and this may be a first or second script. There’s lots of writing talent on display here, but the scenes aren’t tight or nicely developed, the characters have difficulty rising above the types we’ve all seen in hundreds of movies prior, and the concept is… well, been done before and done a lot better.

    Pass.

    Blind Curves

    I didn’t get very far into this one. The exposition dump on pages two and three were enough to turn me off. The writing seemed capable enough—it’s just that if you are presented with the easiest way to tell the story by literally telling the story instead of showing it, I’m not that interested in tagging along.

    Again, I think it’s a matter of asking yourself how can I get this information across in an original, engaging way… Having Lt. Daniels give me the whole backstory in dialogue by page 3 was enough to show me that I’m not going to get much originality here.

    Doesn’t mean it can’t be a really strong script with some rethinking. I encourage the writer to go at it again and to FORGET all the stuff he’s learned about being a cop in movies. Make it unique. Create something really vibrant, strong and unexpected.

    Pass.

    I Will Be Released

    I love the passion behind this project. Well done, Greg and Adam.

    But as others have pointed out, your reverence for Levon Helm might be working against the dramatic tone of the script.

    I’m very familiar with The Band’s music and much of their history—especially their association with Dylan. I kind of felt I was watching Scorcese’s No Direction Home, the PBS doc on Bob Dylan. Lots of integral moments of a great artist’s life catalogued on film.

    As a documentary, it works. As a narrative story, I’m not so sure.

    I got a sense of Levon’s character from the first couple of pages. He seemed like a fine, thoughtful, noble, caring person.

    But if you start there, what’s his journey? I didn’t get a sense he changed. He remained a fine, thoughtful, noble, caring person—sure, one who had to deal with adversities (and very compelling adversities, at that), but he pretty much remained the same man. I just didn’t feel he struggled internally because his inner resolve was so strong.

    Those are admirable characteristics in a man. Even enviable. But dramatically, they’re not quite as interesting if the challenges to them aren’t significant.

    And I’m not sure if they are in this script.

    Consider.

    Verdict: I’m splitting my vote between The Enemy and I Will Be Released

  • 21BelowZero

    “I think an article on outlines, and, more particularly, the different KINDS of outlining, is long overdue.”

    +1

  • 21BelowZero

    I Shall Be Released

    For all you The Band and Twilight fans: http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/robert-pattinson-says-hell-be-starring-in-a-movie-about-seminal-rockers-the-band-20120524

    The Band and Twilight, that’s got to be a HUGE crossover, right?

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Articles about that project were based off an interview Robert Pattinson gave to a french magazine back in 2012 one month after Levon’s passing. He said it was a beautiful script about the nature of songwriting, and it spurred a hundred articles across the internet. To this day I haven’t been able to find anything out about that project. It looks like it never got traction, because it didn’t seem to exist anywhere outside that comment he gave. A lot of people in the Band community seemed upset at the prospect of Robert Pattinson playing a member of the Band, but I think he’d make a handsome Robbie.

      • 21BelowZero

        THANK GOD!

        • Gregory Mandarano

          RP if you’re reading this. Call my attorney. Let’s do lunch.

  • Linkthis83

    “…we all know, some screenwriters will do anything to get out of writing an outline. It’s still the case, 90-something % of dodgy screenplays are dodgy because the writer – the author – has no idea what their story is going to be when they start writing. And the reader knows as they’re reading that this script is going nowhere.”

    SC, I’ve been around these parts for two years now and I’ve never experienced this anti-outlining attitude you always seem to be battling against. The only reason I speak up now is because you say that screenwriters will do anything to get out of outlining and follow that up with unsubstantiated facts that the reasons a script has failed is because the writer didn’t outline (and lots of time you haven’t even read the script – you are basing your assessment off of others reactions to scripts and your own biased presumptions).

    I am pro outlining.

    I am pro going through the process of mapping out your story and testing its strength/stability.

    I am anti statements that are presumptuous about writers and their efforts (talent/ability always seem to be forgotten).

    Outlines are an “option” to story creation, not a mandate.

    I end up outlining by default when I’m breaking my story. I want to know what I’m writing towards and what early choices help towards that intention.

    I’m also pro outlining because I don’t like writing unless I know why I’m writing something and what it is I’m supposed to be writing.

    I very much dislike writing just to get to the next thing and then always having to go back. Nope. Just want to write the thing as close to fitting as possible (it also makes the re-writing part kind of enjoyable actually – unless I’ve really got to cut then we’re back to aggravating – lol).

    Not ALL writers work this way. Take it from some pros:

    John August

    The correct way to write your screenplay is whatever gets it written.

    My original one-page outline for Big Fish is really an anomaly. I rarely go into that level of detail.

    Most scripts begin more the way you describe, with a few key moments and characters that gradually chain themselves together. I’ll always have a sense of where the story is going — I can write a third-act scene before I’ve written the end of the first act — but I won’t necessarily know how I’m going to get there.

    Don’t beat yourself up over outlines. Save the self-flagellation for the scenework.

    Neil Simon

    When I started, I got out the yellow legal pads and I outlined the entire play. Then I started to write the play, and the characters started to want to drift off where they wanted to go. So I pushed them back into the outline, and they say, We don’t like it in this outline, we want to get on another yellow pad. This yellow pad stinks. So I just kept trying to force them there, and I realized I couldn’t do that.

    At this point, I don’t make outlines at all. I make an outline only in my mind. If I can say two or three sentences about the play, then I have a play.

    That’s as much of an outline as I need, because when I write something I want to be as surprised — and this goes for screenwriting too in terms of the original screenplay — I want to be as surprised as the audience is. If I know everything beforehand, it becomes a job. Just let it happen and see where it takes me.

    And to be fair, a side that’s pro outlines:

    Paul Schrader

    Question: Do you still outline it in one page?

    PS: Yeah. And then re-outline it. On this one I went right from the outline to the script. But usually, if I have any concerns about whether the idea is really going to work, I then go into a sequential breakdown.

    All a sequential breakdown is…. let’s say in an average movie there are anywhere 45 – 55 – 60 things happening. That’s your outline, the list of things that happen. That’s not the list of shots, or the list of scenes and drive-ups, just the things that happen. Like, they meet at the Chelsea Hotel, returns to office, make phone calls, whatever.

    So you take each one of those items on your outline and make it into a paragraph. So now you’re starting to include dialogue.

    Question: 5 – 8 lines?

    PS: Yeah. So now, instead of a one page outline, you have about a 15 page, single-spaced breakdown. And if your idea still survives all of that, then there’s a pretty good chance it ll work. I’ve had idea that have worked at an outline stage, but died at the breakdown stage.

    And when an idea dies on you it is, in fact, one of the best things that can happen. Because you’ve just saved yourself an enormous amount of time and grief. Some ideas just don’t want to be written. They don t want to be written by you. Some ideas have fooled you into thinking that they have more power than they, in fact, do. If you find that out after writing a first draft, you’ve wasted a lot of time and you’ve also lost faith in yourself because you believed in something and you couldn’t pull it off.

    Scott Myers

    …a writer must find their own approach, there is no “right” or “wrong,” just what works for you.

    —————-

    Here are some resources/articles regarding outlines:

    http://scriptshadow.net/screenwriting-article-outlining/

    http://scriptshadow.net/screenwriting-article-character-outlining/

    http://johnaugust.com/2011/scriptnotes-ep-3-kids-cards-whiteboards-and-outlines-transcript

    http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2014/09/reader-question-how-long-should-an-outline-treatment-be-before-starting-a-first-draft.html

    http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2014/02/check-out-a-very-early-outline-for-the-worlds-end.html

    http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2014/12/writing-a-script-part-6-outline.html

    http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2015/02/importance-outline.html

    • Name or Scott Crawford

      I totally agree with you there is no ONE way to outline a script, and that’s why I mentioned in my comment that we need to discuss the different ways to outline.

      I also point out in my comment that simply writing an outline, a list of, say, 60 scenes, isn’t enough, especially if most of those scenes are completely unnecessary.

      I disagree with you that there ISN’T an anti-outlining faction; I encounter it every time I mention it. AND I see it every weekend, here, on AOW (I’m not really able to give this weekend’s scripts the best attention they need, so I’m speaking more generally).

      I appreciate you going posting all that information, and I would reply with my own input, but I fear it would get lost in a back and forth between you me and possibly mulesandmud. Let’s wait until there’s a Thursday article about outlining then we can put all this stuff down and have a proper discussion about it.

      Have a great weekend and good luck with your script!

      • Linkthis83

        Thanks, man.

        Where I land in all this is that I just don’t believe you have the ability to tell which scripts aren’t outlined. And furthermore assess that it’s because the writer has refused to do so.

        I’ve showed up to a lot of weekends. I’ve done a lot of reading and note giving. I’ve interacted with a lot of writers. I have NEVER had any of them show a disinterest, let alone an absolute refusal, to the outline process.

        I mostly think when you bring up outlines the reactions you get are from those who say that outlining isn’t a must. However, I do believe that outlining helps way more than it hurts. But like all things with writing, it’s one possible component of an overall intention/creation.

        And I linked all that stuff to show there was an article about outlining on SS previously. But I mostly did it for anyone who might be reading our conversation and needing/wanting info on outlines but not knowing where to go to find information on them. And I especially didn’t want them to have to wait until Carson decides to do another outlining article.

        Hope you have a great weekend yourself and good luck on your projects.

    • Kirk Diggler

      My feeling on outlining is this and it’s quite simple; the more you know about structure and the tighter you adhere to it the less you have to outline.

      I think it’s important to jot down the various structural highlights, i.e. know your character goals and inciting incident, midpoint, low point, and act breaks before you start writing. If you know these things in advance you don’t need a full outline as long as you know you need to get from A to B to C to D in X amount of time. I like what Neil Simon had to say, he likes to surprise himself along the way.

    • Malibo Jackk

      (That Dustin Lance guy is NUTS!)

      BTW, You need to save this post — include it in you book on screenwriting. Good Stuff. (Hey, I kinda like that. Could make a good title.)

      I’m a big fan of “do what works.”
      I also understand SC’s point.
      No doubt he’s read a lot of amateur scripts with no structure.

      • Linkthis83

        No doubt we all have :)

  • ThyEnemyWriter

    Hooray. Looks like I’m out of moderation. I did make a big sappy thank you post this morning, I encourage everyone to scroll down and read far below. I also address the popcorn nature of the story I chose to write. The post’s a tad personal at times, but so is screenwriting. :-)

    I’m grateful for all the reads, long or short. It’s invaluable to know why readers will trash a script early. I will definitely be revisiting the opener and finding a better way to relay that data and streamline the tone. I admit that I likely over-explained the Clean Nukes, instead of letting their “guilt-free nuclear” destruction speak for itself. Next time, I’ll trust the reader more.

    All the votes and half-votes are greatly appreciated. It’s a unique reward to be “understood” by regular contributors here whose note-giving efforts have fueled my inspiration.

  • Citizen M

    My vote this week goes to BLIND CURVES.

    I notice many of the scripts are longer than the usual 105 pages. 124 pages, 120, 124, 115, and 104 pages respectively. I wonder why?

    I SHALL BE RELEASED

    Read to page 21. This is all over the place. I don’t see any unifying element. This seems to be more for die-hard fans of The Band, which I am not, who want to see the record set straight on significant events in the life of the band.

    Niggle: Grand Marnier, not Marinier.

    THE BEARD

    Read to page 27. Concept has potential for humor, but not realised here. There are too many scenes with just talking without being funny. The gay stuff isn’t outrageous enough to be funny. I can’t see a great butt sex debate getting 20 mil views. It’s boring. What’re you gonna do if you’re gay and you don’t butt-fuck? (No, don’t tell me, I don’t actually want to know.) The title is The Beard, but we haven’t even met the beard yet. We’re still setting up. I thought at first Dylan was the beard, now it turns out he won’t be. So what was the point of showing him? This needs to be structured a lot better.

    THY ENEMY

    Read to page 23. Not sure of the tone, whether it’s straight action or comedy action. The airplane hijacking and blowing up CERN scenes were so over the top it’s hard to believe this story is meant to be taken seriously. The scene of Wyatt getting fired takes five pages. That’s too long, and why the comedy bit with the kid? What’s he got to do with it. The interrogation by Agent Lau goes on too long. The plot is not unrolling fast enough.

    BLIND CURVES

    Read to page 28. Not bad so far, maybe a little over-described, but that adds to the realism although it slows things down a bit. Apart from the dream sequence on page 23 which you could lose, I have nothing much to say. So far, the best.

    BE A HERO

    Read to page 25. Too slow-moving and not enough laughs. Could lose ten pages out of the beginning. Far too much emphasis on booze (well, what did we expect from an Irish writer ;o) and not enough on story development. Since Joey has no goals and nothing to lose any more, having lost his girlfriend and his job, there is by definition no GSU. Not interested in reading further.

  • carsonreeves1

    It’s a discussion we should probably have on the site at some point. Insult and low-brow humor really divides audiences. The people who don’t like it REALLY don’t like it. The people who do, do.

    I mean, I watched my friend laugh for 5 straight minutes in the south park episode where a character writes the names of a bunch of sex acts in front of a classroom full of pre-schoolers. Kevin Smith may be the king of this kind of humor in the movie world. So I guess the question is, where’s the line? If there’s “good” low brow humor and “bad” low brow humor, what’s he difference?? I’d definitely like to know!

    • Will_Alexander

      “Good” low-brow humor, in my opinion: comes from character, serves the finely-tuned engine of a meaningful story, is delightfully surprising, spares no one, feels childish in a nostalgic way as opposed to an annoying way, still contains insight, and reveals rather than obscures truth.

      Examples: The Big Lebowski, Dumb & Dumber, South Park, Team America: World Police, 30 Rock, 21 Jump Street.

      “Bad” low-brow humor is like bad anything: a failure. It attempts to do a thing — tell a story, get a laugh, reveal character, surprise — but isn’t crafted well enough to accomplish the task. This is most anything with Adam Sandler or any of his pals, Two and a Half Men, etc.

      Obviously, there’s as much or more money to be made in the bad stuff. And yet, fuck those fuckers.

  • http://simplyscripts.com/ Steex

    Congrats to everyone that made it this week. I read 10+ pages of all the scripts. But, hands down, I have to give my vote to
    THE ENEMY
    Although it does have some descriptions that most won’t understand, I managed to get a decent picture through context (The CERN stuff). That didn’t stop it from being a quick and fun read.
    I’m going to go out on an extremely long limb here, and claim this to be 2015’s The Disciple Program. Kudos.

  • Malibo Jackk

    BLIND CURVES
    Quick brief notes: (Only read 2 pages.)

    The job of the screenwriter is to make your scenes interesting.
    You’ve done that with your dialogue — but smothered it with description, IMO.
    What you’re doing is laying everything out like you’re setting a table.
    That can work in some cases, but here its not interesting.
    There is no mystery to engage the audience (for example). We are told about the
    picture, Told about the divorce papers. We don’t have to figure anything out.

    Not sure introducing characters with a picture is a good idea either.
    Nor is doing it with a single — four line sentence.

    .

  • Levres de Sang

    My Vote: I SHALL BE RELEASED

    I’m afraid my vote is somewhat by default this week as none of the other premises appealed.

    I SHALL BE RELEASED [Read: 21 pages]

    As per his fascinating WYSR, Greg’s love for this material is never in any doubt and reading the opening pages a second time I was far less bothered by the time jumps. However, I don’t think enough is made of the fire. Surely, Levon’s house burning down (consuming valuable recordings in the process…?) was a huge life tragedy? I’d consider starting with this, in fact. Also, as others have noted, a genuine story is yet to emerge… while the montage sequences make for some dense pages. [N.B. There’s only one “i” in “Grand Marnier”.]

    I don’t have time to read further at the moment so skipped ahead to the scene with Bob Dylan playing Go. It was a really nice touch, but illustrates an inherent obstacle: Namely, that Levon seems like a down-home ordinary guy by comparison; whereas there’s always that mystical, tarot-card side to Dylan — one that allows for fictional speculation. Indeed, people are always fascinated by mysterious interludes in the lives of the famous (i.e. Agatha Christie going missing for a few days). The wonderful Joan Baez song “Diamonds & Rust” is another great example:

    “I can still see you with leaves blowing all around and snow in your hair
    looking out the window of that crummy hotel over Washington Square…”

    We know these lyrics refer to Dylan, but we’re intrigued by the freshness of the imagery and its allusion to an episode we otherwise know nothing about. And while such interludes would move you away from your intended autobiography, they do feel more resonant with possibility. The straitjacket is off and all of a sudden Levon could be smoking a joint on his back porch and having strange flashbacks to the Civil War… Either way, this seems destined to be a project whereby its AOW appearance raises an absolute ton of questions for the writers. Best of luck in sifting through them all!

    • Gregory Mandarano
      • Levres de Sang

        No, in all honesty I’ve never heard of this film… I guess it was a combination of The Band’s image together with “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down” that made me think of the Civil War as a ‘natural’ fictionalization for Levon’s character.

        N.B. I’m a huge admirer of the music from this era, but haven’t listened to that much by The Band. Your passion for them makes me want to take a closer look at their catalogue!

  • mulesandmud

    A few more thoughts about I SHALL BE RELEASED.

    Gregory, I see you grappling some of the notes you’re getting. I hope these thoughts bring some clarity, but apologies if I’m just adding to The Weight, so to speak. I know the sheer volume of feedback here can be daunting.

    Regarding your gas station opening, the biggest reason to remove it is this: nothing changes if you take it out. Any scene that can be wholly plucked out of a story without affecting the other scenes is unnecessary, plain and simple.

    Just because a scene is indicative of theme or character does not make it necessary, since that theme and character are already present elsewhere (if they aren’t, then you need to rethink their relationship to your story). For a scene to be truly necessary, it needs to propel your story forward in a way that could not have happened otherwise.

    Here’s how you yourself describe your first twenty pages:

    “We go from save the cat and establishing character – to mourning a loss – to a thematic burning down of his entire life – to an ironic cancer diagnosis – to the high point of his life introducing the band with a performance – to an interview establishing who they are – to establishing conflict in the band with the question of credits while symbolically showing the foundation of Levon’s home – to creating the essence of conflict between Richard and Robbie, and setting up the seeds for Richard’s suicide.”

    The problem with that sequence of events is that there’s not much causality. One does not lead to the next, and no coherent drama develops until we’re in 1969. Before that, the scenes feel narratively disconnected, just snapshots.

    Irony and theme are important tools, but to really get the most from them, you need to make sure you’re telling a story.

    An example of the problem: at present, Levon’s house burns down on page 5, unrelated to the scene before, and then we immediately flash forward a seemingly-arbitrary seven years to his cancer diagnosis.

    These scenes do not tell a story, and so the fire is neither ironic nor metaphorical. We can’t see any of the irony yet, nor can the burning house be a metaphor for the havoc cancer is wreaking on Levon’s life, since the cancer hasn’t happened yet. All that meaning you’ve hoping to communicate gets lost. At present, the fire functions at best as vague foreshadowing of bad news to come.

    On the other hand, by switching the order of those scenes – if Levon was diagnosed with cancer, then his house burned down shortly after – now there’s a huge irony there. It’s a cosmic insult; when it rains, it pours. Also, your metaphor for a person’s life coming undone becomes much clearer too, since we now have all the information we need to see the metaphor.

    You need to play this same game with every single one of your scenes. Put them in an order creates a dramatic progression and actively reveals meaning, rather than just documenting a series of moments and hoping the audience will find the meaning hidden there.

    Another example: the scene where Levon mourns his dead friend. Currently, that scene is apropos of nothing; Levon is just sitting in his basement and happens to think of his friend. It’s an incidental memory, relevant only because the friend died in that basement. The fact that he’s thinking about this doesn’t tell us much about Levon, or our story.

    Instead, let’s say your story started with Levon in the studio recording, until he starts coughing. Something’s wrong. He goes to the hospital, and learns he has throat cancer. A tragedy for a musician.

    He goes home, and now, with mortality firmly on his mind, he remembers his friend dying in that basement. Suddenly your mourning scene, which was mildly touching but mostly arbitrary before, feels deeply relevant to our character’s present situation.

    Now we know why he’s thinking of his friend’s death – because he himself is dying. The order of scenes is now driven by the character to create meaning.

    Don’t take these as literal suggestions for how to restructure your story (though I do think they work well). Rather, try to understand the kind of logic demonstrated by these examples, and apply that approach to your entire script.

    Good luck with it.

    • Malibo Jackk

      “Just because a scene is indicative of theme or character does not make
      it necessary, since that theme and character are already present
      elsewhere (if they aren’t, then you need to rethink their relationship
      to your story). For a scene to be truly necessary, it needs to propel
      your story forward in a way that could not have happened otherwise.”

      Not going to suggest that I know everything, but I would love the scene if it was something like the diner scene in FIVE EASY PIECES.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        I’m going to omit scenes from the beginning and reorder the beginning and see how it looks.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Your instincts about the metaphor having more meaning with the house burning down after the diagnosis are spot on. I think it works better as a dream sequence, and I had reverse foreshadowing, as in, remnants of the fire, burned cassette tapes, instigate the dream. And now, also inspired by your comments, his remembrance of Stan is accidental, as he didn’t know exactly which cassette he was listening to, and when it comes on he fumbles to shut it off. So it becomes a reversal, he didn’t want to think of his friends death.

      • mulesandmud

        I took a quick look at your new pages. The new opening is unambiguously the story of someone dealing with a life-altering illness, and reflecting on his life as a result of that. That a big step forward; I think you’re on to something.

        Glad my thoughts were helpful, but remember, I’m just some shmoe who read your first act and had an opinion, so ignore me whenever necessary. You’re the boss here, and you have your work cut out for you.

        I’m sure that lots of these changes will have to echo forward to the rest of the story, so keep asking yourself the tough questions, and stay willing to kill those babies all the way to the end.

  • walker

    Hey why would you feel bad about making a bunch of pronouncements on a script you have only “glanced through”?

  • GoIrish

    Sorry I don’t have detailed notes this week, but my vote is for Thy Enemy.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Regarding the beginning to ISBR – Here’s my tentative solution to the beginning of the draft.

    http://www.filedropper.com/newdraft

    I omitted scenes, and reworked the whole start.

    Better? Comments?

    The things changed are up to page 7.

    • Casper Chris

      Yea, definitely better. Cuts to the chase.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        It also gets rid of a scene people couldn’t identify with, no matter how much I loved it, and it eliminates 2 time jumps.

    • Caivu

      I like this opening (first 3 pages) a lot more. We immediately see Levon’s profession, some of his motivation/characterization, his name, and then right into the cancer diagnosis. Very fast. My only suggestion for these first pages is dropping Levon’s “They must’ve been pretty bad, huh?” line; just show him biting his lip and shifting nervously. It’s a small thing, but I think an audience could infer from that action and the sound guy’s next line that the reviews weren’t good.
      Nicely done!

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Good call.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Special shout-out to LINK who was generous enough to have a long convo with me about the project, and who masterminded the brilliant idea to start at the hospital. I think the current draft now has way more impact.

  • Citizen M

    Epic set of notes, Caivu.

    • Caivu

      Thank you! I’m pretty new at giving script notes, though, so I haven’t figured out the best way to go about it yet.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        I recommend sweeping generalizations, complex metaphors, and personal insults directed at the writer. Nothing says feedback like your mom jokes.

        • Caivu

          Noted! Next week’s gonna be *fun*.

  • Nathaniel Bannister

    My vote goes to I SHALL BE RELEASED. I read the first ten of everything and read ‘I shall be released’ in full. Feedback on them all:

    THE BEARD: not my bag really. This could be a clever satire of the online generation and homosexual/heterosexual relations, but I just found it a bit offensive. I didn’t really see where the story was in those first ten either.

    THY ENEMY: that opening was pretty cool. But in both that scene and the following scene at CERN I found the technical/scientific terms really disrupted the scene. The CERN scene also had some heavy-handed expositional dialogue which put me off.

    BLIND CURVES: there was nothing in the first ten I hadn’t seen before. And it annoyed me that the main character disobeyed a direct order for no good reason? Find a compelling reason to make him go in that store.

    BE A HERO: the extortion twist on the superhero was interesting. But a main character ‘lacking direction’ doesn’t really compel me to read any more than ten pages.

    I SHALL BE RELEASED: firstly, I should admit that I am not really familiar with The Band or their story. It says a lot about this script that I’m now going to check out their back catalogue.

    I enjoyed this. The writing style is one that lets the story and the characters breathe, and it felt like a movie. It was also nice to read something character-driven on AOW. However, I think with some structural changes this could be better.

    I appreciate that Levon was a close friend of the writer’s, but to me he was a cipher. The most interesting characters were Richard and Robbie. Levon himself obviously went through difficulties with drug abuse but these were revealed and resolved within 30 pages.

    More generally, I think the writer needs to tighten the focus here. There are a lot of characters (Levon himself has partners in Libby and Sandy that come and go with little or no signposting; at one point some characters called Lisa and Carmine turn up that it was hinted at that we should know?) and a lot of flashing back and forwards in time. There is a trend in biopics at the moment towards examining one concentrated moment in an individual’s (or individuals’) life and drawing conclusions about them from that. I think that is a template that ‘I shall be released’ could follow. Every scene seemed to have some form of major conflict that had to be quickly introduced: it led to some on-the-nose dialogue and too-quick resolution. I feel like if there was a little less going on story-wise, then we could have just spent more time hanging out with the band members and exploring their relationships a little more which might have lent the recurring conflicts more impact. For instance, I’m not sure how much impact the first few scenes (Levon at the garage, Levon mourning the loss of another band member) had. I’m a little tired so I’m not sure I’m expressing myself clearly here.

    Perhaps the writer could have the most recent chronological section (i.e. the establishment of the midnight rambles) as our anchor point, with flash backs to one point in The Band’s history (maybe the tour with Dylan? Or the period just before Richard commits suicide?). It’s difficult because there is a lot of interesting material in there, but it feels like a series of vignettes at the moment that needs to lose a bit of weight.

    Good luck to all involved!

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Nathaniel, thanks for your notes on ISBR. I have just finished rewriting the first 11 pages of the script, and if you have time, I’m curious if you think the issue of the beginning of the script has been solved for this draft.

      I will be going further into the script for more changes, but I spent the most time concentrating on how the beginning should be changed, and the new version is linked below.

      • Nathaniel Bannister

        Looks much better Greg (and the phone call with Carmine definitely does smooth his later entrance). I feel that the fire itself could also be a candidate for exclusion – but I think that is more a personal taste matter. Mulesandmud’s notes pretty much summarise what I was getting at, so kudos to them!

  • Randy Williams

    Finished the script. Vote still stands. The only suggestion I’d make at this point is to let us enjoy the escapism and not include current events, world leaders, and especially the mention of ISIS in this. Make it a threat perhaps from a powerful family to mirror the family theme. Still liking Wyatt too, but “right of way much” made me cringe as those “much” phrases usually do.
    Glad to see I wasn’t the only one to see the talent bursting from this script.

  • walker

    Congratulations to all the writers for being chosen this weekend. Based on reading at least 30 pages of each script, my vote goes to I Shall be Released by Gregory Mandarano. I have to say that I feel all of this week’s scripts need major work, including the one I am endorsing.

    • walker

      Be a Hero. Read to page 44. Pro: The script has good energy and the kernel of a clever comic concept. Con: Reads like an early draft of an early effort, inconsistent tone, a lot of unfilmable jokes to the reader. “Punman” a huge missed opportunity, page 44 and no actual puns yet. General wordplay is not punning. Technical: Basically clean, a lot of wrylies and repeating the slugline info in the first line of description.

    • walker

      Blind Curves. Read to page 36. Pro: The writer has a feel for action sequences and sets up his main mystery and apparent B story well enough. Con: The writing is unnecessarily obtuse and it becomes an impediment to the read. The protag is hard to root for as he is presented as careless and insubordinate, and then when he is given a second chance, he is careless and insubordinate again. Technical: Clean but too dense for action, slugline stuff that is more from production scripts.

    • walker

      Thy Enemy. Read to page 30. Pro: Very competent action writing and the writer martials a ton of info pretty well. The setup with the two brothers is intriguing. The title is actually very good even though a substantial number of people seem to misread it as The Enemy. Con: Some huge expo dumps without even an attempt to break them up via some sort of pope-in-the-pool or spill-the-coffee tricks. I know this is action broken up with science lessons but the character work is very thin, and the character intros unwittingly sexist. Technical: I don’t know if you need both boldface and underlined slugs, and just generally the formatting is too busy.

    • walker

      The Beard. Read to page 50. Pro: This is several galaxies from my personal taste but it was impressively high-energy over the 50 pages I read and I found a respectable percentage of the jokes to be funny. There are also some pretty decent underlying skills on display. Con: Repetition of beats, main character basically unlikeable until too late. Technical: Relies on a lot of trickery to propel the read, a few typos. I think the opening title card (the definition) should go. Also, I guess you know there is a project with this title in development already.

    • walker

      I Shall Be Released. Read to page 62. Pro: Biopics are inherently challenging, but the story of Levon Helm is full of dramatic events and iconic moments and is more than suitable for a feature film. The writer has a great understanding of and passion for the subject matter. Con: As mulesandmud was the first to mention, the personal connection to the material has to this point resulted in a reverential approach that is not conducive to locating the drama in a biography. I wonder if focusing on a handful of key, thematically related events might be the route to go. Technical: A few minor typos, the complexity of the structure is handled well in the formatting, but it does add another layer of difficulty to the read. Far too many montages.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Well so far I have deleted one of those montages, and am working on the initial structure. I will endeavor to work on the next points.

  • Levres de Sang

    Incredibly perceptive thoughts/analysis here, Will. I hope Carson enshrines them on the next newsletter.

  • Caivu

    My vote this week: I Shall Be Released
    Second pick: Blind Curves

  • HRV

    Congrats to all chosen this week. And kudos to all those who are regular commenters and for their instructive insights. My schedule means I’m usually late to the comment field, but I think I’m one of the few who actually reads complete scripts. The time to do that usually comes Tuesday and later, and depending on when Carson makes his review decision, my commentary impact is either moot or enough has already been said by the rest of you.
    As Linked83 is finding out, it also becomes a choice of: Does one spend their time reading and commenting on another’s writing, or working on their own? If the latter, one might be considered a selfish non-contributor, so it becomes a bit of a balancing act, and yet, if we don’t write… That said; I haven’t had a chance to read more than the first page of Thy Enemy thus far and this week will be less conducive to reading than usual. Good luck to all.

  • 21BelowZero

    My choice: Thy Enemy (even though I really hate the highly over-used, even cliche, choice of “rogue” to describe someone).

    Close 2nd: Blind Curves.

    Both of these have the best chance of actually getting made — IMHO.

  • Chris Roberts

    After reading all the comments and suggestions (For which, I’m truly grateful), I’ve managed to cut five pages from the script. I’m going to keep taking everyone’s advice and continue to trim and tighten. Thanks again, this has really been an eye-opening experience.