amateur-offerings-weekend

Read as far as you can and vote for your favorite script in the comments.  Feel free to help the writers out with constructive criticism.  And please make your vote clear at the top of the comment.  Enjoy!

Title: The Baltimore Plot
Genre: Thriller
Logline: Based on true events. When Allan Pinkerton discovers a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration, the legendary detective and his most trusted operatives must race against the clock to prevent the murder of the president-elect.
Why You Should Read: When we came across this story, we were amazed it hadn’t been made into a film yet. Starring the most famous American president in history, the most renowned of real-life sleuths, and the first female detective in the United States.

Title: The Dead and the Drawn
Genre: Western/Horror
Logline: In Texas, 1887, a lone gunslinger reluctantly escorts survivors to sanctuary during the aftermath of a zombie epidemic.
Why You Should Read: It’s the tried-and-true, harrowing, horrifying tale of random people working together to survive the zombie apocalypse. Only this time, it just so happens to take place during the era of six-shooters, lawless individuals and colonization of the American Frontier. I’ve always been fascinated by Westerns, particularly because they involve adventurous characters actively moving from one location to the next. Those are the kinds of movies I love, and that’s the kind of movie I envisioned this script to be. Hope you enjoy.

Title: Rough Head
Genre: Crime/Drama/Sport
Logline: Irish Fighter Rory Wilson has absorbed so much punishment in the ring he is now more monster than man. On the run from the IRA his estranged brother follows him to America where they crash head on into Boston’s underworld.
Why you should read: Battle of the Fight Films! When I saw the review for Southpaw posted i just had to have a shot at it. As a writer I’m at the top of my developmental curve. As the years pass I’m no longer improving at any great rate – so if I can’t get this going I am pretty well stuck in amateur armageddon. Probably it’s a bit like a sprinter than does the 100 meters in 11 seconds – it’s fast but not fast enough to make it. It’s not like you can get new legs – or in writing terms a new brain… Carson I give you the privilege of putting me in the game – or knocking me out!

Title: Once Upon a Time in the North
Genre: Family/Adventure
Logline: A gritty origin story of Santa Claus, in which Old Nick, a grumpy, reclusive miner, goes up against Krampus, an evil goat demon and ruler of a fantastical North, who steals a child every year on December 24th. Frozen meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Who We Are and Why You Should Read Our Script: We’re both playwrights and performers. We’ve been co-writing comedies for the stage since 1998. Our most notable credit is Toothpaste and Cigars, which was adapted into the feature film The F Word/What If – which featured on your site before it was produced. — Once Upon a Time in the North has some similar comedic sensibilities, but belongs to a radically different genre, which makes it harder to get people to read the thing. It’s adapted from a stage version we wrote of the same story, which enjoyed great success. Our goal was to capture the excitement of the adventure movies we loved growing up – Star Wars, The Goonies – with jokes both adults and kids would enjoy, all grounded in a solid story, a la Pixar.

Title: The Devil’s Footprints
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Logline: In 1850s England, a condemned criminal joins an expedition to defeat the supernatural force behind a string of grisly murders — a killer suspected to be the Devil himself.
Why You Should Read: This screenplay recently won the grand prize in the 2014 ScreamCraft Horror Script Contest and has also earned a score high enough to be featured on the SpecScout website. Despite these accomplishments, The Devil’s Footprints has had some polarizing reviews and I would love YOUR take on it. I honor and respect your opinion and believe a review would be immensely helpful.

  • Citizen M

    Three period pieces. Must be a record for AOW.

    • Kirk Diggler

      It’s just that time of the month.

      • Citizen M

        Okay, …Hysteria Week.

  • LostAndConfused

    My vote: Once Upon A Time In The North

    THE BALTIMORE PLOT:

    – I liked how it started off with Lincoln getting all this hate mail. Helped set the tone of the story that there are people that are out to get Lincoln.

    – If there’s ever a time to show and not tell, it’s character descriptions.

    “A slender woman with an air of steady composure, KATE (30), watches the CONDUCTOR at the front of the car.” No idea what “steady composure” is supposed to convey.

    – Felt like you guys were doing too much with the prose. Some passages came of as “trying too hard.”

    “KATE WARNE looks at him, and all pretense has somehow melted away. Her calm and strength ever more apparent.” Pretense melting away, I just can’t imagine that.

    “Ager rises from his seat, looking down at Lambert with piercing directness.” Again can’t visualize this either.

    Stopped at page 12. I like the premise, but the descriptions was making me work harder than I would have liked to. I wanted to push on, but then I ran into a big expository dialogue exchange and that did it for me. As for the logline I’d try to incorporate the first female detective in US history there. That one line in your WSYR stuck out to me more than your actual logline did.

    THE DEAD AND THE DRAWN:

    – I don’t like to be that person that harks on grammar, but this one was troublesome for me, especially early on.

    “The sound of approaching HOOF STEPS.” Sentence fragment. The sound of hoof steps were approaching the house.

    “HARLAN ELLSWORTH, a twenty-something knight in shining spurred boots. His face and clothes filthy.” I don’t know what I’m supposed to imagine when I’m told Harlan is a twenty something knight in shining spurred boots. And again, the last sentence, sentence fragment.

    Stopped at page 4. Sorry, but the sentence fragments just made it hard for me to focus and even harder to understand what was going on. I try to overlook these things in amateur scripts, I mean it’s no use expecting it to be edited like a published novel, but the fragments were in like every description in the first 4 pages.

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH:

    – Liked how it opened up. Pete is looking to offer his services to people by cleaning their chimneys, people don’t want his services.

    Stopped at page 7. Only because I’m dead tired at the moment, but I’ll read more when I wake up. I like what I’ve read so far.

    • Somersby

      In fairness to the writers of The Baltimore Plot, I’m not sure how you can “show and not tell” character descriptions without describing what the reader is seeing.

      I don’t see anything that’s overly prosaic or difficult to understand in the examples you’ve given. “A slender woman with an air of steady composure” and “looking down…with piercing directness” seem pretty straight forward and nicely descriptive.

      As for fragmentation in the action lines in The Dead and the Drawn, it’s common to reduce full sentences to heighten the momentum and speed the flow of what’s going on. I didn’t have a problem with those opening pages
      at all.

      …Just my 2 cents worth. Be interested to see if others had the same reaction as you.

      • brenkilco

        Also thought piercing directness and steady composure were perfectly serviceable phrases. Likewise the line about pretense melting away. She’s dropping the pretense of being a nervous accomplice and revealing herself to be an assured undercover detective. Nothing to see here. Don’t get the problem, and I was involved in those endless posts yesterday carping about the word forefront.

        • LostAndConfused

          Hey they’re serviceable, they’re also a case of telling and not showing. If you can’t imagine it, then it’s telling. Steady composure can mean a thousand different images, and piercing directness is just made more complicated than it really is. As for pretense melting away, it’s a case of the writers trying too hard to sound sophisticated but ends up being clunky. If they were to use any word in that case it would be facade, not pretense.

          • Bifferspice

            Character descriptions are the one place you can tell and not show. Those descriptions are fine.

          • LostAndConfused

            But they’re trying to describe the character through action.

          • Matthew Garry

            Sparse character descriptions give me confidence in the writer. Sure you can just tell me a character is “dark and broody,” but if it’s that important to the story, it will be pervasive in their words and actions anyway.

            Not every character will have the room for being fleshed out that way, so I can see why for secondary characters writers sometimes put such hints in the description to lean on existing archetypes.

            For the main characters, just an age and gender will do for me (augmented by things that stand out visually anyway and are important to the story); it’s like the writer challenging me: “I will give you nothing, but by the time you get through you will know exactly what this character is all about, and I don’t need to prime you with a description to establish him or her in your head; the story itself will do that.”

          • Nicholas J

            Different strokes I guess. I need that initial description. I mean, yeah the writer better show me that a character is dark and broody in their actions, but I need an image right off the bat. It takes time to figure out a character by their actions, and if I’m a reader that has a pile of scripts in front of me, I don’t have time.

            One of the main reasons I passed on Rough Head today was for this exact reason. It makes the read confusing if all I have to go by is a name and age.

            On top of that, if you don’t tell me what type of character to imagine, I’m probably going to make one up myself. Do you really want that?

            EDIT: Going back and looking at Rough Head, the writer did provide descriptions eventually. So I guess my problem was that they were all similar. Big fit tough guys that are dark and stressed.

          • Altius

            Hey LostandConfused, thanks for weighing in. I don’t necessarily agree that “pierced into his eyes” is a better choice, but I appreciate you taking the time to point out the things that didn’t work for you. We can hear all opinions, no problem. Though I assure you, we weren’t trying hard to sound sophisticated at all ;)

          • LostAndConfused

            Thanks for the reply. I was a novelist before I was a screenwriter. Showing not telling, proper grammar, all those things have been drilled into me before the essence of good storytelling was. So I’m more critical of these things than others are. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t though. I liked what I read, it’s just I can never drown out the voice of the english major in me.

            Good luck to your story :)

      • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

        The fact that he brought them up just shows that some people may be thrown off by them.

        While I don’t have problems with them either, and I don’t necessarily think they are wrong descriptions, I also don’t particularly see them either.

        What does steady composure look like? Does that mean she’s not biting her nails? Or twitching? Or constantly looking over her shoulder? It gives me more of a feeling about her than a visual of her. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

      • LostAndConfused

        Steady composure? That could mean a lot of things. Pretty vague.

        Piercing directness? That’s clumsy. Why can’t he say “pierced into his eyes?”

        And the fragments are clunky. I’ve read a ton of screenplays and have never encountered a screenplay as fragmented as that, so I don’t see how it’s common at all.

        • Nicholas J

          Steady composure? That could mean a lot of things.

          What else could it mean besides a character having steady composure?

          I’ve read a ton of screenplays and have never encountered a screenplay as fragmented as that

          Not to be condescending, but I really doubt you’ve read a ton of screenplays. Fragmented writing is extremely, extremely common. The writing in The Dead and the Drawn is perfectly acceptable. I could send you 100 scripts sitting right here on my hard drive that have similar action lines.

          • LostAndConfused

            Does steady composure give you a visual? It does for me, a thousand different ones. She could be completely still, holding her breath, her gait could be straight, her posture could be fixed, her chin could be up, her eyes could be calm…pick one, not all of them.

            And I have. I’m not saying that I’ve read screenplays that are free of fragments, but when I do see them they’re in the heat of the action, usually thrillers, a car chase, a fight. When they’re trying to convey a horse approaching a house? It’s not needed.

          • Nicholas J

            “Steady composure” tells me everything.

            “Chin up” tells me nothing. Is she pompous? Does her neck hurt? Is she smelling a fart?

            Plus, an actor wants to know that they should have steady composure, but not how to act it.

            I see you on your fragment comment. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “wrong.”

          • LostAndConfused

            Steady composure tells you, not shows you, which was why I got on it in the first place.

            It may not be wrong, it was just bothersome to me, especially when it’s one of the first sentences in the story. And then it kept on fragmenting sentences every other sentence even when it didn’t need to.

      • OddScience

        In fairness to ALL screenwriters, screenwriting ISN’T “proper English/Format/Grammar.” They’re completely filled with sentence fragments, slang, etc. LostAndConfused would HATE my scripts, I live and breath sentence fragments — yet they are complete thoughts, but that’s all you need in screenwriting.

    • Rick Hester

      ‘No idea what “steady composure” is supposed to convey.’

      ‘Pretense melting away, I just can’t imagine that.’

      ‘”Ager rises from his seat, looking down at Lambert with piercing directness.” Again can’t visualize this either.’

      ‘I wanted to push on, but then I ran into a big expository dialogue exchange and that did it for me.’

      REALLY?!!

      • LostAndConfused

        Yeah.

  • Paul

    VOTE: The Devil’s Footprints

    Read the first ten of the others but this one was the one that gripped me most. With dialect from the time period, good descriptions, mystery and an easy to follow story. Only 20 pages in and the characters remind me of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl Will-Elizabeth-Norrington love triangle but different enough to stand on their own, especially Blackthorne & Prof Owens. Really enjoying the ‘is it supernatural or not?’ debate too.

    • ericjeske

      Thank you so much!

  • Randy Williams

    Yesterday’s discussion was really disheartening. Rarely do we get substantial input from the writers as their scripts are discussed. Most of the time, it’s a polite, “thank you”. I wish instead of coming down so hard as they defend their choices, we delve into why they made those choices.
    It’s a brave thing to show your work here, and even braver to show your face afterwards.

    On to some more bravery…will get to these as time allows. Congrats to all for making it on AOW!

    • Trent11

      Totally agree.

      I’d hate to feel the burning need to respond to so many people’s input on one of my scripts. As far as I’m concerned, I look at script notes like sand from the Colorado river. Much of it is just mud, but if i look hard enough, I’m bound to find that tiny nugget of gold!

      • Shawn Davis

        Trent,

        It seems like you are wanting your cake and eating it too.

        If you feel like the majority of the feedback from those who read your work is “mud” or useless, then perhaps that’s another way of saying you’re simply looking for the people who agree with your story and dismiss those who disagree?

        If that’s the case, then you are missing the point of feedback. It’s the negative feedback that is SOLID GOLD.

        If your story is good, there is very little “mud”.

        That said…

        I’ve posted scripts that have garnered great reviews and although it feels great, it leaves me little in the way of where to improve.

        But…

        The ones I’ve been roasted on (and yes there have been a few) have been the ones I’ve mined pans of gold from.

        It’s in the spirit that’s it’s given and most importantly, the spirit in which it’s received.

        My two cents.

        Shawn…..><

        • LostAndConfused

          Yeah, handpicking which critiques you yourself decide is worthwhile kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing.

          I think some people dismiss critiques because they can’t understand why they were made to their stories. The process of receiving critiques is understanding why they were given to you in the first place.

          • Bifferspice

            handpicking which critiques you yourself decide is worthwhile is one of the most important skills a screenwriter can possess. What are you meant to do? Assume everyone who reads it knows more about what works than you do? You read it all, thank people for the time they took, take the stuff you agree with and discard the rest. Each point each person raises should be considered separately too.

          • LostAndConfused

            That’s an awful way to handle criticism. You’re pretty much only accepting the critiques that you’re only able to comprehend.

          • Bifferspice

            well yes. why would you change your script when you don’t understand what the advice is telling you?? i don’t understand what you’re looking for in notes. you sound like you have very little faith in your own work.

          • LostAndConfused

            That’s a loaded presumption that you’re dead wrong about.
            It’s up to the writers to understand why those criticism were made in the first place before implementing those changes so they can better expand their knowledge of their own story. Making the adjustments without understanding them doesn’t do anything for the writer.

          • Bifferspice

            fair enough. i didn’t actually think you had very little faith in your own work. just that the comment sounded that way. anyway, apologies for that. you just seem awfully keen to implement suggested changes, whether you understand them or not. with your last line, i agree entirely. as for the rest, either we are miscommunicating or we come from very different viewpoints and are unlikely to form agreement.

          • LostAndConfused

            Think it’s just a miscommunication. Maybe I didn’t phrase my intent properly. I have a bad habit of not doing that on forums, like what happened with my critiques I made of some of the entries yesterday. I always read what people say to me and I think “that’s not what I meant…” but I only have myself to blame for my lack of proofreading lol

        • brenkilco

          I love the definition of a critic I read once. It’s somebody who knows the way but can’t drive a car. Of course, even that definition may be too flattering. The majority of critics would not be able to improve a script by technical suggestions. They simply know what they like. I like best the comments here that suggest structural or character changes, the mechanical stuff if you like. It’s generally the most constructive. But writers have to keep in mind that reactions to scripts involve the readers’ tastes. And taste is a different issue than quality. I’d never offer an opinion on a romcom because I detest the genre. So my thoughts would probably be useless to a writer.

    • Steffan

      Randy, I read yesterday’s discussion and found it unfortunate, too.

      I’ve come to find that accepting people’s advice about writing (or anything for that matter) takes time. And, being willing to implement that advice takes even more. It might be asking a bit much for a level-headed discussion about a script only moments after it has been taken to task.

      I wrote three different scripts before taking Carson’s advice about Inhuman. And that’s mainly because I wasn’t ready to listen to him. In the same manner, it took me until the middle of this week to actually open my ears to grendl’s issue with the opening page. And, I still don’t know if I totally agree.

      In light of that, a polite “thank you” goes a long way. We’ve all felt cornered in a meeting where the notes feel more like barbs than help… and I’m sure we’ve all reacted in ways that were somewhat unbecoming.

      I’m not defending or damning anyone. I’m just saying that we’re dealing with people’s egos and art here and I don’t know much that’s closer to people’s hearts.

      And finally:

      I wanted to personally thank your for the kind words you wrote about Inhuman last week. That you said the first draft of Inhuman inspired you to write touched me.

      • Bifferspice

        The beginning of your post suggests all advice is worth taking and if a writer doesn’t implement someone’s suggestion its down to stubbornness. The best advice is trying to help you better achieve your goals regarding your vision of the script, not theirs. If a writer says ‘here’s an orange’ the advice he wants is ‘this might help make a better orange’, not ‘it should be a banana’.

        • Steffan

          Oh no, Biff. There’s an assumption in my post that the advice be “good” or “actionable” or whatever the word is that you would want.

          Even implementing good advice is hard because a) you don’t want to do the extra work b) you don’t realize it’s workable at the time c) you have to admit you’re wrong etc. etc.

          I’m going to edit my post to reflect that assumption.

    • Nicholas J

      I like the sentiment Randy.

      Some writers show true thanks for you taking the time to read their script, even if they disagree with the feedback. They are open to changes, they listen, they’re nice and appreciative, and while they might defend some of their choices, they do so in a tactful way. Most importantly, they show an overall willingness to improve and a legitimate respect for your opinion.

      Other writers say thank you, and then proceed to tell you in excruciating detail why you are horribly wrong. Anyone that doesn’t like their script is a “stupid reviewer” or a “hack reviewer” or an “imbecile producer” or has a bias against your script or just doesn’t “get” great writing that’s comparable to Moliére.

      Which writer would you rather give your time to?

    • Howie428

      You’re right that it wasn’t one of the better discussions. For me it was extra depressing, since I had just missed out on having my script reviewed.

      I think it had something to do with there being a broad consensus on the script being discussed. Carson’s comments agreed with most of the people who looked at it before, and those who looked at it yesterday also said the same things. If there isn’t much else to say about the script then the comments will go in other directions.

  • Poe_Serling

    Quite an interesting lineup of AOW scripts this week. The two that caught my eye were The Devil’s Footprints and The Dead and the Drawn.

    The Devil’s Footprints.

    >>I think it’s a really fun and intriguing premise to craft a story around the famous 1855 mystery of what left the bizarre trail of footprints in the snow in Devon, England.

    The Dead and the Drawn.

    >>Zombies in the West. Count me in. One of my favorite novels is Dead in the West by Joe R. Lansdale, which also features the walking dead in an Old West setting.

    • ericjeske

      Thank you, Poe. The Devil’s Footprints is one of those stories that’s been rattling around my head since I first read the tale when I was a child. Since it was such a mystery, I thought it would be a great jumping off point and see where it took me. Would love to hear your thoughts if you get to reading any more.

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey Eric-

        I highly enjoyed The Devil’s Footprints, and I agree that it’s a ‘great jumping off point’ for a story.

        >>Title: Perfect. A real eyecatcher… even for those unfamiliar with the famous incident involving the footprints back in 1855.

        >>Style/format – Very professional. A clean read from start to finish. Solid descriptive and action lines. Effective transitions from one scene to the next, especially the one on page 10 where Ambrose is arrested and convicted in a flash.

        >>Characters – The main players all had distinct personalities and quirks, so it was easy to keep track of who’s who as the tale unfolds.

        >>Dialogue – Had the ring of authenticity to me. The exchanges among the characters had a natural flow… a gritty give and take… and enough conflict to keep things interesting.

        >>Storywise – Ambrose’s plight kept me turning the pages. Anybody vs. the Devil raises the stakes in a story.

        For fans of films such as Sleepy Hollow and their ilk, this is the script to read to this week.

        >>Minor issue: Like a few others, I did find the rape scene at the beginning a bit jarring. I think you could tone it down and still get your point across to the audience.

        Well, good luck anc continued success with your project. I can see why it won the grand prize in the 2014 ScreamCraft Horror Script Contest.

        • ericjeske

          Wow. Thank you, Poe. It means a lot that you would take the time to read and give such a glowing review especially as a fan of this tale. Best of luck to you as well!!

    • Lucid Walk

      Thank you, Poe.
      I’m happy The Dead and the Drawn was enough to grab your attention. It was just something I really, really wanted to write. The success of The Walking Dead made it all the more challenging, but I think that was a good thing. I’d appreciate any additional feedback should you ever feel the desire to read on.

      • Poe_Serling

        The Dead and the Drawn

        I read the 1st Act.

        “It was just something I really, really wanted to write.”

        Your time, effort, and obvious passion for the project was evident from the pages that I did check out.

        Just a few quick thoughts:

        >>Title – Echoing ElectricDreamer, I’m not sure what the title means, but he’s right – it still does have a cowboy movie ring to it.

        >>Style/format – No problems here for me. I thought the fragmented action lines worked and didn’t take away from the reading experience at all.

        I liked this character intro:

        “PERCIVAL DOUGLASS above him… His steely eyes colder than the cavalry saber grasped in his hand.”

        >>Dialogue – Again, no problems here. Pretty solid overall from the 20+ pages that I zipped through.

        A suggestion or two:

        Page 1 – Instead of hoof steps, I might go with hoofbeats – the sound made by an animal’s hoof in walking, running, etc.

        So perhaps change…

        The sound of approaching HOOF STEPS.

        to…

        Approaching HOOFBEATS.

        This way it still keeps your descriptive line short and sweet and to the point. ;-)

        Page 1 – “Harlan swats the flies away. Pouts at the disgusting food.”

        The word choice of ‘pouts’ seemed kind of odd to me. How about ‘grimaces’?

        Finally…

        Page 5 – “Twenty GANGSTERS gallop around a burning barn.”

        The word Gangsters makes me think of the 1930s and beyond.

        Maybe…

        Twenty OUTLAWS or RIDERS gallop around a burning barn.”

        Once more, there’s a just a few suggestions.

        Thanks for sharing your work, Scott.

  • brenkilco

    Twenty pages into the Baltimore Plot. Decent but unspectacular. All the expected scenes you would get in the first part of this kind of story. Its success or failure will be totally dependent on how cleverly the plot develops so will keep reading. If the writers feel they’ve latched on to an untold story they’re going to be disappointed. A good, if fictionalized, version of this incident was made by ace director Anthony Mann in the fifties. A sort of period noir. It was called The Tall Target.

    • Altius

      We’re not disappointed ;) The Tall Target is a largely fictional story from the perspective of the NYC Police Superintendent. We went straight to the heart of the investigation by taking up Pinkerton’s story instead. Thanks for the read, brenkilco!

  • Nicholas J

    MY VOTE: Once Upon a Time in the North

    It only took me 8 pages to know that this would be getting my vote. Very well written, unique, creative, and entertaining. The setting is cool, the descriptions are great, the characters are interesting and set up well, there is mystery, comedy, atmosphere, and nostalgia. I got all that in 8 pages.

    It all felt very professional. That’s because it is. Not sure where you want to draw the line with AOW entries, but the writers here aren’t exactly amateurs. They seem to be accomplished playwrights apparently with representation, and one of their plays was even turned into one of Carson’s favorite scripts (if I remember right) The F Word, which went on to become a produced film.

    Anyway, it’s one of the bunch right now and it gets my vote. Will probably post brief thoughts on the others in a bit…

    • Lucid Walk

      I appreciate your honesty. I can understand seeing the zombie story one too many times. You enjoy your weekend as well

      • Nicholas J

        Thanks! Good luck in the AOW circus.

    • Altius

      Thanks for the read on The Baltimore Plot, Nicholas. Lincoln is a great character to write about, but DAUNTING!

  • ThomasBrownen

    Off topic, but I’ve been listening to a bunch of podcasts after listening to Serial, and it’s easy to enough to find the podcasts about screenwriting, but I wanted to point out that Writing Excuses is also really good. It’s mainly about writers working on books (instead of screenplays), but the episodes are concise and sometimes funny, and each episode I’ve listened to so far has contained some really good writing advice. Anyhow… just thought I’d pass that on.

  • Midnight Luck

    post-it

    • OddScience

      note?

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

    The only two I could get past page five on was The Baltimore Plot and Once Upon a Time In the North. So those get my vote.

    It actually shows me that you don’t always have ten pages, or twenty pages, or a first act to get your reader wanting more. Each page, starting from page one, should want to make the reader need to turn the page to see what happens next. Or at least intrigued enough to want to turn the page to know more about this world and this journey the writer is taking us on. Not always an easy task.

    Good luck on your scripts :) may the writing gods smile down on your work

  • Randy Williams

    THE BALTIMORE PLOT

    Glad to see all these period pieces and collaborations at that. My co-writer and I finished the first draft of our first collaborative effort, a thriller. One of our first readers is a regular commenter on here and as always his notes are priceless. We’re now outlining a period piece based on history, with a central character a detective of sorts, so The Baltimore Plot script pulled me to read it first.

    Read to page 12. I’d like to read more. There’s a delicate ease to the writing that goes down well. Nice sense of period atmosphere. The writer has gained my trust that I’m in good hands and in for a story. But, am I in for a ride? It’s a thriller, after all. It’s pretty staid at the beginning, not a whole lot of action. Lots of talk of accents and mulled cider, loads of children. The “first female detective” Kate was the most intriguing character of those first 12, for me, yet there wasn’t much of her. I’d have preferred an approach where the reader is grabbed by her character first and then the plot thickens. It seems the plot is thickening and then she’ll join the plot.

    • Altius

      Thanks for the comments, Randy. One of the valuable but difficult things about AoW is getting such a variety of feedback from so many people. It’s challenging, and gets my brain cranking in a different kind of gear. Appreciate your points, and am thoroughly processing them!

  • ripleyy

    I stopped reading “Rough Head” early. I… just had no idea what was going on? And then the main character bit into a glass cup. Huh? That was the last for me (it was just so frantic and the main character – Rory – was just… I don’t know, a little too much for me to handle.)

    I did read a little bit of the others, but I have to say I’m quite undecided. It’ll be interesting to see who wins.

  • scriptfeels

    Sorry I haven’t been reviewing the Af’s recently, hopefully Grendl isn’t angry at me haha. I’ll try to do a five script review for the last af of the month, best wishes to the ss community!

  • Randy Williams

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH

    Thought this was very imaginative beginning. Full of humanity and charm. The door knocking business may have gone on a bit too long, not sure about babies being stolen away as family fare, but on that note, you did warn us it was gritty, but I really enjoyed what I read. (up to page 14) I thought there the introduction of Befana was a bit too much to digest when I was just getting to know the villain. Gave me a reason to stop.

  • Eddie Panta

    The Devil’s Footprints

    Two horror entries this week on AF, both period pieces, both start with HOOF FOOTPRINTS.. strange.

    Devil’s Footprints starts with an exploitation opener that sets up a back story for the lead, a young man named Ambrose, but referred to as Jamie by his mother.

    In a viscous scene, meant solely to shock us into reading the following pages Ambrose, finds his father, (unnamed) abusing Ambrose’s mother ( also unnamed ) in some sort of sadistic punishment ritual involving a pentagram.

    The father is about to rape his wife when out of nowhere, Ambrose clocks him over the head with a fire poker. In the midst of all this, somewhere outside, we hear the footprints of a unseen figure who crunches over the snow while the “blood moon” glows in the night sky. I’m not sure how these simultaneous events connect up But the footprints in the snow turn out to be hooves.
    Hmmm…

    Smash cut fifteen years later, and the story becomes quaint, and rather tame. Ambrose is now 20 years old and not doing much of anything in this two-horse town. After he’s tossed out a bar, he meets up with a comely woman, Ms. Sinclair who takes him in.

    It’s unclear what happened to Ambrose’s father and mother. Not sure if he killed his father. But the story leads away from Ambrose and turns to a young girl LUCY, who is Ms. Sinclair’s maid. Lucy becomes the most defined and complex character, little is learned about Ambrose, who I believe is the lead. But in each scene sets him up as a victim. He doesn’t make any choices, nor does he seem all that interesting.

    The script’s tone is uneven because the opening scene is so brutal. By page ten we still haven’t learned much about Ambrose. There are some ruff time jumps that force the story along. It appears that we are in a whodunit crime investigation more than a horror movie.

    • ericjeske

      Thanks for taking a look, Eddie. It might be too much of a slow burn but all will be revealed! I agree that it tilts more towards thriller than horror but there are moments of blood and gore later on that help it spill over into horror territory. I think.

  • Tony

    Based on the opening twenty-five pages, first and second place honors go to:

    1.Once Upon A Time in the North

    The writers show a good imagination at work. The execution in the opening twenty-five could do with some work, but with the right input and feedback. The story could be taken up a level or two. Especially when it comes to developing Pete, and Nick’s characters in the opening scenes, and pages.

    2. The Devil’s Footprints

    Congratulations!

    ***Notes based on opening thirty-five pages.***

    THE BALTIMORE PLOT – thriller

    Page one, interesting setup.

    Page five, has touches of Sherlock Holmes at this point. Not sure if cracking a case so easily is the way to go. What if the story starts with them messing up, and failing to catch the bad guys?

    Page twenty, not many notes so far. That’s mot to say that things are going well with the story. It may not be an adventure/action story, but things are moving along very slowly. It’s written well, and the dialogue seems to fit the time period, it’s just the overall pace so far. It’s in need of some momentum.

    Page twenty-five, while written well, as mentioned above, the story reads quite slowly. Not
    to mention, Pinkerton comes off as too smug in those opening scenes. It might serve the story better by giving him serious motivation for taking on this case. What if he screwed up his previous case, and this is why he agrees to take this one on?

    All the best!

    THE DEAD & THE DRAWN – western/horror

    Page one, you could just write. The sound of a galloping horse.

    Why does he pout at the food?

    Page two, no need to underline.

    Page four, we’ve already been told this information in the dialogue. No need to repeat.

    Page five, gangsters?

    An interesting genre mash-up, but we still don’t know who we should be following at this point.

    Page nine, this reads awfully similar to The Walking Dead, with their jaws removed, in the hopes of tricking the undead.

    Page thirteen, does Ringo need a name, if he plays no part in the rest of the story?

    Page fifteen, the main issue so far is that Harlan comes across as too damn good. Apart from finding his mother is a zombie, he doesn’t appear to have any real problems. He’s already living in this zombie infested world, but what’s the real problem that he has to overcome as this story unfolds? What’s he trying to achieve?

    Page twenty-five, while the genre mash-up is an interesting idea, the execution up to this point needs more work. Especially when it comes to figuring out Harlan’s character. What does he need and want as the main protagonist? At this stage, he comes across as too good, and smug. Will he actually learn anything through the course of this story?

    All the best!

    ROUGH HEAD – crime/drama/sport

    Page five, there seems to be a lot of lines on these pages. As for the story, it seems overly familiar. A sibling gets into trouble, and the other comes along to figure out what’s happened. The IRA/boxing angle has been done to death.

    Page eleven, generally when you shake your head, it means no. And when you nod, it means yes. What else are you going to nod with?

    Page fifteen, this is all too familiar territory that’s been done countless times before. The
    writing style is good, despite the overall layout.

    Page twenty-five, tried to get into this, but couldn’t. It’s just such a familiar setting and story.

    All the best!

    THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS – horror/thriller

    Page one, when a character isn’t in a scene, use (O.S.) to indicate this.

    Page two, slightly confused.
    Who’s Jamie?

    Page four, so his name is James Ambrose. Why not introduce him as JAMES AMBROSE to begin with?

    Page five, reading quickly. Probably the best of the bunch so far.

    Page fifteen, as the main character, we still don’t really know what Ambrose wants or needs at this stage in the story. We should have a rough idea as to what he’s trying to achieve in the story. And why is his surname used? Why not use his first name, JAMES?

    Page twenty, the main issue here is the lack of an active main character. Ambrose really hasn’t done anything up to this point. He’s not taking his character through this story with his choices and actions. He’s mainly been passive, and reactive to the world around him.

    Page twenty-five, lack of a proactive main character that’s driving the story forward is the main issue here. The writer needs to consider who the main character really is in this story. At the moment, Ambrose is playing second-fiddle to everyone else.

    All the best!

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH – family/adventure

    Page one, nice clean opening page.

    Page five, the writer seems to missing out the word ‘the’, why?

    Page fourteen, why is he going to get the baby back for Clea? What’s Pete’s motivation behind this choice?

    Page fifteen, a lot of pages and time is spent with Pete and company before Clea’s baby is taken by Krampus. This could quite easily be halved, and more time spent in developing Pete’s character, as he appears to be the main character at this stage in the story. Setting up why he wants to help Clea, and rescue Mary from Krampus.

    Page nineteen, this seems like a little late to be bringing Nick into the story. We may have seen him earlier, but, if he’s the main character, he needs an earlier introduction, as it’s a little confusing as to who we should be following at this point. Who is the main character? Is it Pete or Nick?

    Page twenty-five, confusion as to who we should be following at this stage in the story. More clarity and focus is needed in making sure the reader knows who the main protagonist is.

    As far as creativity goes, and showing a good imagination at work, this is by far the strongest contender out of the bunch. The execution needs work, but this has the most potential as far as originality goes.

    All the best!

    • Tony

      Notes based on opening twenty-five pages!!

    • Altius

      Hey Tony, thanks for the notes on The Baltimore Plot. It does start pretty methodically. Perhaps too slowly. Pinkerton = smug is something I haven’t heard before, and we’ll keep it in mind as we go back to it.

    • Lucid Walk

      Thank you, Tony, for your feedback on The Dead and the Drawn. I didn’t consider Harlan being “too good” at first. I’ll take that to heart in the rewrites.

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

    Here we go!
    Currently Writing: Sunshine Pack – SUBMITTING NEXT WEEK!!

    MY VOTE: (pending)

    The Baltimore Plot ()
    Theme:

    The Dead and the Drawn ()
    Theme:

    Rough Head ()
    Theme:

    Once Upon a Time in the North ()
    Theme:

    The Devil’s Footprints ()
    Theme:

    • Somersby

      Hi Adam. I notice you’ve been prepping us for your script “Sunshine Pack” which you’re currently writing. Just wondering if this is a first draft you plan on submitting?

      I only ask because one of the major recurring problems we see with AOW submissions (not all, but some) is that they are clearly early drafts. Writer(s) haven’t taken the time to go at it a second, third or fourth time–or to even proof read it properly.

      This may not be the case with “Sunshine Pack” — and I apologize for the assumption if I am wrong. If it IS a first draft, wouldn’t it be wiser to run it by some friends, give it some time, go back at it again and really hammer out the very best script you can before you submit it?

      …Either way, I gotta give you props for your promotional chops!

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

        Thank you Somersby. This is not a first draft. I wouldn’t think about wasting anyone’s time with that type of tomfoolery :-). It’s more about giving myself a deadline and less about promotion. If I didn’t I’d keep working on it forever and not put it out there.

        • Somersby

          Thanks, Adam. Good luck with it!

  • Randy Williams

    ROUGHHEAD

    I’m not a fan of boxing stories but this grabbed me. I think it’s because there is a central character that takes up most of the real estate in what I read that I cared about. He felt real. I like these stories of men who are victims of their own baser instincts for violence. That was captured well here, as was the atmosphere and particulars of a foreign place. I felt I was there. Yeah, it’s nothing new so far, hopefully there are some surprising angles in store as they move to New York. Liked this angle, the feel that a move might rescue someone from themselves…I read to page 30 when they do make that trip.

    Watch your “too’s” page 3, to aggressive, page 7 to good, page 17, to much.

    Page 21-22, I didn’t like Kevin’s tale here. I thought it took away from the momentum. Wanted more of Rory here, maybe his take on how it began and short and sweet.

  • brenkilco

    Finished Baltimore. Nice period detail. Solid
    characterizations. Not that distinctive but they serve the plot. Generally
    interesting story. Well told. Some history painlessly shoehorned in, though
    sometimes a bit obviously( Better Angels. That’s a good phrase). As a docudrama
    that I’m assuming hews pretty closely to the facts it’s fine. But it hardly
    qualifies as a thriller. There isn’t a single suspense set piece, a reversal, a
    twist or a moment when any of the protagonists is in mortal danger. The story
    is simplicity itself. There is a plot to assassinate Lincoln when his train
    stops in Baltimore. Private Detectives infiltrate various strata of Baltimore
    society, confirm that the plot is genuine and convince Lincoln to sneak through
    the city on a different train. That’s it. That’s all. There’s hardly any climax to speak of. A bit of tension as some rowdies nearly discover Lincoln’s alternative mode of transport. But it’s
    nothing much. And there’s no comeuppance for any of the conspirators.

    How’s this for a plot. An assassin climbs over the White
    House wall, enters through the unlocked front door, wanders up the stairs,
    finds the president and shoots him. Too stupid for words? Well, as we know it
    very nearly happened not so long ago. A guy did get over the wall and the door
    was unlocked and the alarm system was out of order and he did wander around a
    while before the secret service discovered him and then chased him around the
    house. The guy apparently meant no harm and Obama wasn’t there but I think the
    point is clear. In movies truth is nice. Plausibility is better. And excitement
    plausibly created is best of all.

    I’ve no idea whether the Pinkerton operatives in real life
    were able to locate and ingratiate themselves with the conspirators as
    effortlessly as the characters do in this movie. Nearly everybody they meet
    seems to be part of the plot and all they have to do is buy someone a drink or
    slap down a cash contribution and they’re instantly admitted to the innermost
    counsels of these secessionist radicals. Maybe everybody in Baltimore was
    convinced that everybody else in Baltimore wanted Lincoln dead. But it’s not
    exactly edge of the seat stuff. I realize that the writers seem committed to
    the facts.

    I liked the script but I would have liked it more if I’d been expecting The Day Lincoln Was Shot and not The Day of the Jackal.

    • Altius

      Thanks for this feedback. It skews much more toward drama than a thriller, as incorrectly noted up top, but maybe that’s a shortcoming in itself. Weighing up more fictional choices for excitement is the wise next step, I suppose. We can push it more. Appreciate the read!

  • OddScience

    Very first paragraph of The Devil’s Footprint, “Heavy snow falls from the heavens blanketing the rolling hills and farmland below. A blood-red FULL MOON rises above a sign which reads…”

    If it’s snowing heavily, how would we see the moon? Heavy snow leads me to believe that clouds are covering the sky.

    Maybe that’s nitpicking, but it’s also confusing…which a script shouldn’t be.

    (continuing)

    • OddScience

      Once Upon a Time in the North, impatience got me on this one. I bailed after reading FOUR pages of the same thing: “Knock-knock, go away. Knock-knock, go away. Knock-knock, go away. Knock-knock, go away…”

      I’d open with and Action sequence = last year’s abduction.

      Plus, Winter’s Knight (a Santa Claus origin story) recently sold in a bidding war. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/winters-knight-sony-picking-up-684529

      So, at best, maybe this one has a chance in another 5-6 years.

      • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

        I agree… there were way too many knocks… you don’t need more than three to get a point across. Anything more than that is overkill.

      • OddScience

        My vote: The Baltimore Plot

        You can tell these guys have written a few scripts. Extremely clean and polished.

        Though I do agree with others, I’d like to see the opening heist expanded some more. Maybe a little bit of horse riding to the moving train, small shoot out (though it’s Ager doing the “fake” shooting (he misses the guards but they play their part = dead), safe-cracking, etc.

        The reveal was great, but a bigger set up would make the reveal even greater.

        • Altius

          Great points…thanks, OddScience. Definitely food for thought on that heist opening!

      • OddScience

        Be the Beast: Viking Santa Claus

      • LostAndConfused

        This is what I enjoy about reading AOW critiques, you get to compare how you view the same material with others to gauge different view points and expand on your own perspective.

        I didn’t have a problem with all the knock knocks because I enjoyed how the main character was persistent in trying to sell his business no matter how many times he was shut out by cliental after cliental. I liked that beginning, I like it when we’re introduced to characters right off the bat that are pursuing a goal and have a strong desire to reach it, but I can see how it can get repetitive and annoying to others. It was predictable and didn’t incite much excitement.

  • jw

    My vote: THE BALTIMORE PLOT

    A couple notes: you’re both clearly solid writers as this moves with the crisp, fresh pacing of a professional script. Characters solidly developed in a short period of time. Plot moving nicely with a direct understanding of what is happening. Solid setup of the surroundings and environment we know will exist during the story. All nicely done.

    Couple things to consider:

    One, I would have liked to have felt the difference in the dialogue. Which isn’t to say what you have now is bad, but is to say I didn’t exactly “hear” the time period. I’m not sure if this would add a level of “authenticity” to the script, but I would definitely consider taking a look at that for future rewrites. Give these characters a distinct voice.

    Second, I would like to see Pinkerton introduced in a little more of a clever fashion. I feel like the series of scenes which introduce him could be done so in a more creative way. For instance, create a way for the “accomplices” to believe they’ve outsmarted everyone, made it off the train, have the gold and then boom — the reveal. The way it sits right now, there’s a heist, they get the gold, it looks as though there are no cops, SPOILERS — the train stops in between stations, the cops come aboard, the reveal is had and all is thwarted with little tension, nor interruption. I’d like to see a bit more there.

    Third, just be careful as you’re going through that you’re not allowing things to find an easy resolution, similar to the Pinkerton introduction and the fairly free movement in which the plot advances. I haven’t read the entire script, and I will, but my experience tells me that if early scenes find easy resolutions the likelihood for others to find them just as easy is quite high. So, just pay attention to this stuff moving forward.

    I plan on taking a look at the entirety later on.

    Nicely done!

    • Altius

      Thanks for the feedback, jw. We were going for “smooth professionals” in the opening, but it seems to be coming across instead as “too easy.” These are really solid notes that we’re certainly going to use as we move forward. Enjoy the rest.

      • Rick Hester

        I agree with what jw’s saying above re the opening Pinkerton heist, but I’d suggest a different solution. Maybe start the heist scene a bit earlier, showing them actually breaking into the safe. Showing their mastery of the craft. After that, I thought it was a clever reveal.

  • Eddie Panta

    The Dead and The Drawn
    Read 18 pages, easy read, good visual descriptions.

    This one cuts right to the chase, zombies + the old west. A switch up of a standard genre fare. Pacing is good and the lead intro works well but the audience is asked to read lines in a letter that are a bit too long. V.O. in this scene is well done, kept simple. Harlan, the lead, a marshal, is well established, his temperament comes through and is consistent. He’s not a super macho gunslinger, a bit more subdued.

    But Harlan, our hero doesn’t seem to have much purpose, he needs a goal, besides survival.
    This isn’t a contained thriller, so the urgency that should come from the possibly being killed at any moment isn’t there. There just seems to be too much open space for the slow-moving zombies to conquer. There is a scene when a villain sees a group of them coming over the hill. The villain says: ah don’t worry about them, we’ll be long gone before they get here.” And that’s exactly what happens. Ah, okay, well why have them there then?

    The zombies and the graphic violence they inflict are well described, but again overly simplified and too similar to what we’ve seen before.

    If you’re going to redo this genre, one that World War Z took to the blockbuster level, without ever mentioning the word “zombies”, you’re going to need to bring a lot more to the table.

    As a B-Movie it works well. But the budget on this period piece western is out of reach for a small production.

    From the script:

    EXT. FOREST – CLEARING – MEANWHILEZombies everywhere. Clustered together like mall shoppers.

    This is a real broad stroke, why call them zombies? This is an opportunity to define your zombie, to create something you can copyright.

    Mall shoppers, in the old west? Also, haven’t we seen this description literally in another famous zombie flick?

    The tone of these two simple lines suggests that this is going to a campy genre flick.
    But I’m not sure what the writer is after.

    The script needs a theme, besides vengeance. Harlan does have a internal struggle as well as an external struggle. But what does he really want, maybe it comes in later.
    But there’s too much down time with the characters for survival to be the main premise.

    • Lucid Walk

      Thank you, Eddie. You’re not alone with your concern about Harlan’s muddled motivation. It goes to show what needs improvement, and your honesty makes that possible for me to achieve. Thanks again

      • Eddie Panta

        Thanks. I’ll read on, still very curious as to what happens with Harlan.

        Harlan’s mission, his true goal could be a mystery, it’s not something we have to know. But could he be on a journey towards it, stubbornly headed in the opposite direction, away from safety. A place where no one else will go.

        I really like the zombie horses, which means that other animals could be zombies, I suppose this comes later, but it gives you a greater opportunity to have some scares and conflict in scenes where there are no human zombies. Especially, when there’s downtime, peaceful moments, interrupted by zombified vermin. Perhaps a ZOMBIE RATTLE SNAKE, maybe one that has venom that turns zombies back to normal…

  • Randy Williams

    THE DEAD AND THE DRAWN

    I don’t think I’ve ever read an opening where I was touched and freaked out at the same time. Nice job, there.
    I read to page 25. Neither westerns or zombies are my thing but after the opening, I was definitely intrigued to move forward.

    My chief desire with what I read was the need for more characterization. Harlan and Isaac seemed more two dimensional than three, often cartoonish, especially Isaac, although that may be purposeful. I did laugh at Isaac’s lines, especially a laugh out loud moment when he said he was “in a traveling circus…”.
    Another is the cave scene and the introduction of Wendy. A bit dry. Needed more of that energy of the beginning. That’s where I stopped.
    Also, more power words especially with verbs. A zombie STEPS forward? See Carson’s article on just such.
    Cool title but under that needs more character than cool.

    • Lucid Walk

      Thank you for your thoughts, Randy.
      I intended for Isaac to be a comic relief character, but I still wanted him to have goals. And I know exactly which of Carson’s articles you’re referring to.

  • Rick Hester

    My vote: THE BALTIMORE PLOT

    I stopped reading after the drawing of the red ballots twist, only so I could vote. This is a fascinating historical drama that would easily appeal to audiences.

    I’d go see this movie tonight.

    Best of luck to the writers: Parker Jamison and Paul Kimball.

    • Altius

      Thanks for the comments, Rick!

  • Rick Hester

    Is that a vote?

  • Andrea Moss

    My pick: The Baltimore Plot.

  • Randy Williams

    THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS

    This had the same ring of authenticity as did The Baltimore Plot. Richly planted in its time. The writing intrigues and keeps you turning pages. Glad I got to the hanging scene. That was great.
    I wanted a bit more visuals in this one, however. Visuals seemed to be connected mostly to dialogue exchanges. I wanted more on their own.
    Again, I read to the hanging scene and I’d read more.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brett-martin/52/702/72 ElectricDreamer

    I hope the AOW candidates get their stockings stuffed with great notes!
    This may be the last AOW of the year, so let’s make it a good one.
    Without any fear, and h8te posts. Very tight race this week…

    My AOW Choice: THE BALTIMORE PLOT.
    Honorable Mention: THE DEVIL’S FOOTSTEPS.

    THE BALTIMORE PLOT:
    Read to page 20.

    This is a standout logline. Plenty of GSU to spare.
    Even though I think the lady detective should be mentioned in there.
    The first female law officer and Pinkerton race to save the president.
    Female action protags are so big right now, get her in your logline.
    However, that title doesn’t compliment the fast-paced scenario.

    Reads odd that Lincoln went to the blacksmith to burn hate mail.
    Doesn’t the President have a fireplace in his own office?
    Almost feels like an obvious plot point being set up for later.

    The opening heist reads too tepid. No conflict, a theft and an arrest.
    No chase. Or subterfuge. A little tension and suspense would sweeten the deal.
    The baddies could take hostages, then your female detective dramatically intervenes.
    Misdirect reveal + save the cat + conflict = happy readers. We love you long time.

    The dinner scene feels superfluous. Three pages of domesticity.
    I didn’t learn anything about your two protags there.
    The “too busy for family” trope doesn’t need this much real estate.
    You could use these valuable early pages to show — villainous activities.
    Reader urgency skyrockets if we see formidable baddies doing evilness.

    The stakes mentioned by Felton on p. 11 are very unclear to me.
    If baddies destroy the railroad, then Maryland leaves. Got that.
    Dunno what that has to do with the assassination plot in your logline though.
    Ok no train. So what. Lincoln can travel to Washington many other ways.

    There’s no sparks between Pinkerton and Kate. They agree on everything.
    She’s the perfect second in command, always able and willing.
    Wish you’d spend more time coloring in her character.
    I want to know why she NEEDS to be a detective. What drives her ambition.
    Unclear stakes, alt. plots and bland scene choices hamstring a dynamic concept.

    THE DEAD AND THE DRAWN:
    Read to page 22.

    Not sure what the title means, but it sure sounds like a Western.
    There’s been a few low budget takes on this genre mash-up.
    Find some irony to inject into your logline for your gunslinger.
    How does your protag RELATE to the plot you’re forcing them through.

    Doesn’t Harlan know about the Apocalypse that happened 3 months ago.
    The way he enters the house suggests that zombies are a huge surprise to him.
    His approch seemed casual. I feel like he’d be more panicked coming home.

    Percival’s speech reads like backstory and also poor exposition.
    The Marshal knows all this, it’s only mentioned for the reader’s benefit.
    I don’t get what any of this has to do with your protag.

    Why don’t the zombie horses eat the humans that ride them?
    One of the guys is bleeding. Logic gaps undermine believability.
    It sends the message that this world isn’t very well thought out.
    And also it’s a surefire way to alienate readers from all your hard work.

    Only later do you reveal that your zombie mounts are mutilated.
    Even then, they’re still zombies that can HOOF STRIKE and kill.
    Why aren’t they berzerking. Muddy rules tend to sink most horror movies.

    Isaac is all over the place. He’s part simpleton, part dream interpreter.
    These contradicting qualities mixed with his exposition numbs the scene.
    Harlan has no clear goal other than survival. No personal needs/flaws.
    We finally encounter someone that knows Harlan at the end of Act One.
    Meeting someone like her sooner would help ground me in your tale.

    ROUGH HEAD:
    Read to page 23.

    Not sure which brother in your logline is on the run from the IRA.
    The prose moves down the page pretty well. But it’s not saying enough.
    Give me some clue as to why Rory’s so pissed off and lost in thought.
    Other than the IRA giving Rory the stinkeye, I’m adrift in your story.

    P. 11 Father’s dialogue: “Let’s all stop what WE’RE doing…”

    The writer is skilled at manufacturing pacing with efficient prose.
    But the reality is, all that’s happened is a boxing match and a funeral.
    No one mentions the reasons why Rory’s under fire, but they all know.

    I might EMPATHIZE with Rory if I knew more about his plight.
    Completely obscuring obvious facts makes readers feel kinda dumb.
    When you cut us out of the information loop we tend to put down scripts.

    The Guy Ritchie-style banter reads old hat here. Distinguish it somehow.
    Your scenes deflate once things devolve into drunken snark.
    Switching gears to comedy kills the tension the reader got invested in.

    There was no real danger between Rory and Gareth, they’re chatty mates.
    Reader feels cheated out of a legit solution to the promised conflict.
    I know you don’t do this on purpose, but that’s the message received.
    Diffusing a deadly confrontation this way was unsatisfying to read.

    I would like Liam more if he yelled at Rory for missing the funeral.
    Liam tags along to America on a whim. I have no clue as to why.
    Doesn’t Liam have a life. He takes off with a brother he hardly knows.

    I had a hard time believing Rory was on the run. He seems pretty chill.
    If he’s not worried for his life, then I certainly won’t be either.
    Unnatural hiding of big motivators prevents me from EMPATHIZING with Rory.
    It’s one of many reasons why I can’t get a fix on your story.

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH:
    Read to page 23.

    Logline is missing some irony sauce. Connect Nick to your plot.
    Does Nick know the kid that’s been abducted. Has he lost a kid too?
    I want to know how a hostage rescue turns someone in Santa Claus!
    Give me that personal connector and watch the irony pop off the page.

    Enjoy the general flow of your prose. It paints a vivid picture.
    Reads a bit artificial that no one INFORMS Pete what the big deal is.
    Someone should say, “Be gone! You’ll attract the beast!” Pete gulps.

    Tease the monster that eventually poor Pete will run into.
    Use the townsfolk to get that mythos delivered to the reader pronto.
    We will trust them, since they “live” in your world on the page.

    Reads odd that we were outside Nick’s place, then detoured away.
    Why show us a sleeping Nick at all if we aren’t visiting with him now.
    You can just have Pete show up at the nice lady’s house, cue the Small Man.
    Pete doesn’t seem upset that his new weird looking friend disappears.

    This is a movie specifically for kids, a family adventure. There’s a big problem…
    There’s absolutely NO KIDS in your story that’s aimed at kids.
    Huge red flag and a CARDINAL SIN for a family movie.
    I don’t see anything on the page that your intended audience would latch onto.
    But in The Goonies, little Mikey anchors us into a world of children.

    Add ballsack jokes and I don’t know who this story is aimed at any more.
    Your logline-featured protag doesn’t even show up until page 20.
    We should be getting to know Nick sooner, see the world through his eyes.
    Pete isn’t even part of your logline, but we follow him everywhere.

    THE DEVIL’S FOOTSTEPS:
    Read to page 23.

    Is there a personal connection for the condemned to the supernatural story.
    Have they been framed for these murders? How does your plot affect them.
    Try to address those points in a revised logline.

    The prose moves my eyes down the page pretty well.
    Wild opener seems a bit harsh punishment for an off-screen infidelity.
    Maybe if she was caught in the act, a crime of passion I could see.
    But here it reads largely as just exploitation. Shock to be shocking.

    Why would the townsfolk tease Ambrose. It was a clear case of self-defense.
    Don’t they know his dad was a Satanist? Town gossip would leak that deet.
    The pentagram on the floor would tell that to whatever authority found the kid.

    It’s not cinematic to learn about Lucy’s crush through talking heads.
    Let us see her secretly concealing her feelings for James.
    Start with Ambrose & Lucy, instead of Mrs. Sinclair. Show chemistry.
    Now we see how he feels for her. Things are happening. Connections made.

    Man-sized wolf is describing a wolf, not a man named Blackthorne
    I thought you were describing an actual animal. Confusing intro.
    Fifteen in. Disconnected events aren’t beginning to add up yet.
    Psycho dad. Slacker kid. Puppy love. A random unseen murder. And Satan.
    Ambrose has been soundly shafted by the law twice already.

    I can’t empathize with Lucy & James, I’ve never seen their relationship.
    You’re not going to lure in readers by just TELLING us about their love.
    No idea what to make of the divine intervention on the trapdoor.
    And Ambrose’s smarmy attitude does not endear me to him at all.

    Once the trapdoor opens, why don’t they bring back Ambrose.
    He just left, they could leave the trapdoor open and hang him right now.
    There’s got to be a better way to save your protag from the gallows.
    Basic logic failure here snaps my suspension of disbelief.

    • Altius

      Thank you so much for these notes on The Baltimore Plot. That first scene with Lincoln is actually a true story. The letters shown in the opening are many of the letters that cabinetmaker actually kept. Alas, no setup for anything later…

      We’re going to have to go back into the heist scene and the one that follows. Heard several good comments about those. Clarity about the stakes: to be improved.

      Great comments about Kate, especially as she relates to Pinkerton. You’ve given us a lot to think over and incorporate into our work. Really appreciate your time!

  • ASAbrams

    My vote: Once Upon a Time in the North

    This was a good bunch of AO’s. Good luck.

    Tired and getting over a bug, so keep that in mind.

    The Baltimore Plot: Read to page 13. I really like your logline and WYSR. Very succinct and with intriguing details that got me looking forward to the reading the script. However, though this is well written, I felt no sense of urgency here. The stakes were laid out very clearly, but I didn’t feel like the consequences were real. This might happen or that might happen, but I didn’t feel like the events were inevitably propelling in the direction of destroying that railroad. I also didn’t quite get how this was so dire.

    The Dead and the Drawn: Read to page 6. I was wanting to find something new here. But for the pages I read, the protagonist finds his mother (he doesn’t really do anything about this situation) and reads a letter. Then we’ve got some villains torturing a marshall. I stopped right before Percival’s speech because–no. That long monologue stopped me cold in my tracks.

    Rough Head: Read to page 1. I couldn’t figure this one out. Stopped halfway down the page. I’d probably get in the groove if I got past that first page.

    Once Upon a Time in the North: Read to page 29. I stopped when ole Nick started singing. That kind of cut into the urgency of the matter, there. Otherwise, I found Pete and Rupert to be charming. Nick could be distinguished a bit more, and Krampus, though he amused me, could be a bit less foolish. Overall, I enjoyed what I read.

    The Devil’s Footprints: Read to page 30. I stopped at the constable get-together at Lucy’s. A little too cozy there. The dialogue for the first ten pages was not so good. It was stilted and I couldn’t figure out the characterization. I mean, this big brutish drunk (the father) is speaking in such a convoluted, formal way? The mother gently tells her son she loves him while being attacked? Why doesn’t she tell Ambrose to run away? Then their speech smoothed out a bit and was less distracting. Also, some of the description was off-putting. Sounds taking steps and all that. But, after I read on, I found this to easier and easier to read.

    • Altius

      Thanks for the feedback about The Baltimore Plot. Given some of the comments, we can sharpen the sense of urgency and stakes right off the bat. Appreciate the read!

  • Shawn Davis

    My vote goes to–

    Once Upon a Time in the North

    Really clean opening and I plan on reading more.

    Shawn…..><

  • Steffan

    MY VOTE GOES TO: [WILL FILL IN AFTER I HAVE READ EACH OF THEM]

    The Baltimore Plot (First Ten Pages)

    Starting with Lincoln is smart. Everyone loves their Lincoln. I think, and this might go against the very reason why you started with Lincoln in the first place… you should hold off and intro him on page 8 or something. So that when he gets the “call” he’s floored and they’re all like, “Who needs our help?” And Pinkerton’s like: “The President-elect. Senator Lincoln.” (He was a Senator first, wasn’t he?)

    The opening reminded me of National Treasure a bit. I don’t know if you want that.

    I enjoyed the general gist of this, but I wanted something deeper in terms of verisimilitude. The only thing I see of the train robbery is them swapping lead for gold. I dunno. I want more. I wouldn’t mind seeing how they got to the safe in the first place.

    The scene that follows the train robbery… before Lincoln is reintroduced lacked tension or conflict–unless I missed it. I was bored by it because it was filled mostly with the characters congratulating each other. I’d cut it unless it’s introducing a piece of info that the audience desperately needs and, if so, I’d try to figure out a different way to get it to the reader than that scene.

    • Altius

      Thanks for the comments, Steffan. A few people have called for seeing more of the heist scene, so it’s definitely something we can address. Filler scene: noted. I see what you’re saying about starting with Lincoln vs. introducing him later. Pros and cons to each, I think, and there’s space to play with each to different effect.

  • Altius

    Thanks for your support, Matthew! That was actually a goal pretty early on for this script, but we know we can improve it. We’re looking forward to getting back to work with some of the terrific feedback we’ve gotten here. It will definitely be entered, though!

  • Malibo Jackk

    Good point about slimming down descriptions.

  • OddScience

    I just checked out Specscout and couldn’t find any reference to TV Pilots. So their service is strictly for Features?

  • drifting in space

    Just getting to these now, but I wanted to warn the writers of the Punkerton project:

    Both a TV series and movie are in the works. There have been a few adaptations on the story, as well. Pinkerton was also included in 3:10 to Yuma.

    Not that any of that matters, just wanted to let you know that the market may be saturated with this story here soon.

    That being said, I love the story (first female detective in US history) and will definitely check it out!

    • Altius

      Hey drifting, thanks for that. I’m aware of the Pinkertons TV show (which-last I knew-had unfortunately been shelved), but what movie is it you’re referring to?

      • drifting in space

        Looks like you’re right. TV series is shelved for now.

        I can’t find anything on the film, but I recall seeing it when I was writing something about the Pinkertons (not “Punkertons,” as I said above haha).

        In the end, don’t listen to me and good luck. Definitely a great part of history. The plot itself has been a part of other films, but never a feature by itself. I think the lead female detective would be a major Oscar bait role if written well.

        Good luck!

  • B.S. Eliot

    This is how you give notes. Much more deserving of upvotes, especially more than someone who just says, “I’ll give my notes later!” Lol

  • Zero

    I wanted to like Once Upon A Time in the North. The concept and genres were right up my alley.

    Unfortunately, I was bothered right away by one big thing – where the hell does this take place? Some fantasy kingdom? Britain? Viking-era denmark/finland?

    The script says ‘A Nordic village’, so it’s got me thinking of something like the primary setting of How to Train Your Dragon. But from that, and the articles I’ve read online on Viking/Norse villages, they’re not all that dirty.

    If this were a british town in Victorian England, than it’d be very believable. It’s hard to believe there were chimneysweeps in Viking society.

    Further, very few – well, none – of the names are remotely Nordic. Pete, Nick, Rupert? ‘Wellsy Jenkins’? Again, if this were England, that’d be good. But it’s not.

    I tried to force myself past it, and read up to p23. Pete speaks really formally for an itinerant travelling chimneysweep.

    I found Krampus to be a much funnier and more interesting character than Befana or Pete. He does things unexpected, and makes quips.

    I think the reason that I put it down was that too little of it made sense. It was not a cohesive world – it didn’t even have the comedy that glues many kids’ fantasy stories together. Santa as a violent drunk = unfunny, at least for me, and I would even venture a little spirit-crushing for younger kids.

    I’m going to try to get to another script tomorrow. ‘The Drawn and the Dead’ looks to have the second-most interesting logline.

  • klmn

    Anything featuring the devil is okay by me.

  • klmn

    Whichever script Carson chooses, he should also review The Star Wars Holiday Special this season.

  • ericjeske

    Haha!! Small town, huh? I believe a lot of the feedback from Specscout is in this draft. I’d love to hear what you thought if you get a chance to take a look.

  • ericjeske

    Appreciate you giving it a read and agree with the “evil men do” angle. It will be something I explore in a future rewrite.

  • ericjeske

    Thanks for the great notes and kind words. Let me know if it leads you to a good place or leads you astray.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Sorry about the confusion.
    Not the writer.
    I can understand though how someone sees the movie in their head
    and wants to convey everything. Or thinks they’re enhancing the script when they may be doing the opposite. The waterwheel, for example, does it come into play later in the story? Otherwise, why is it there?

    Like so many things in screenwriting, it’s a balance.

    (BTW, I’m assuming Carson is picking these scripts. Awhile back he was going through his unicorn phase. Now it’s Nick and his reindeer.)

  • Malibo Jackk

    My vote — ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH.
    Only had time to read 10 pages. Have to cast my vote for the CONCEPT.
    I like where this could be going. And am less bothered by the rules broken because, on reading it, it seems to work for me.
    There are some elements that remind me of FROZEN.
    Some suggest Burton’s NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
    And then there is THE PURGE.

    Done right, this could be huge.

  • Levres de Sang

    My Vote: THE DEAD AND THE DRAWN

    In all honesty, though, Carson might want to consider the second-placed script from last week’s exceptionally strong contingent. Let’s find out why…

    THE DEAD AND THE DRAWN [Read: 15 pages]

    The most cinematic of the bunch (a zombie version of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER…?) although the writing feels uneven across those opening pages (i.e. Harlan’s boots remain shiny although his clothes are filthy; as well as unnecessary repetition with the letter). The initial zombie action also feels too blase — almost as if it’s being played for laughs. As well, I’m having a hard time with character motivation in that I’m not altogether sure why Harlan is going where he’s going? Having said that, Camp Albatross is a nice mystery box and the dialogue shines for the most part. Needs a clarity pass to make it Carson-ready, though.

    THE BALTIMORE PLOT [Read: 16 pages]

    This idea has a lot of potential and the writers clearly have a feel for the material, but I just couldn’t concentrate on those opening pages. It certainly feels authentic for the most part (although I’m sure they wouldn’t have used the phrase “on it” in the 1860s), but there’s something very stop-start about the plot/character introductions. Why do we need Lincoln’s exchange with the cabinetmaker on page 2, for instance? Moreover, that whole double-identity reveal was really confusing to read. I’m sure it would play much better on screen, but by page 9 my head was spinning with all the dialogue exchanges… How about starting with Lincoln planning his rail itinerary so that we know the essence of the plot immediately?

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH [Read: 16 pages]

    Perhaps my reaction would be different if the writers hadn’t revealed the stage origins of their story, but I can’t really see this as a movie. It’s very inventive in the dialogue department, but in a children’s theatre “Oh yes he is…!” kind of way. That’s not to be disparaging. I’m fond of children’s theatre myself. I’m just not sure it would translate well to the screen? Having said that, full marks for originality and having a clearly defined goal. I’ll be interested to see what others make of this one.

    THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS [Read: 22 pages]

    From the loglines this one looked the most promising, but I’m in full agreement with Nicholas J. as to that extremely unpleasant opening. Moreover, the writing feels a little too simplistic: I’m just not getting that snowy Devon atmosphere and horror vibe that could be amazing. As it stands, this reminds me of a lesser 1960s Hammer film full of bulging-eyed yokels. In short, it needs more depth and atmosphere.

    ROUGH HEAD [Read: 15 pages]

    Sorry, but this is just not in my wheelhouse. I read the logline and felt like I’d seen the film countless times before with its Irish brothers, boxing, bookmakers and family feuds. Indeed, after 15 pages it did feel like it was going around in very familiar circles. I’d maybe consider starting with the funeral so that when the old woman says about Liam “At least he’s here”, we can THEN cut to the boxing/brawling with Rory. (I’d also insert some white space around those CUT TOs.) Having said all that, these kinds of stories are still very popular in the UK.

    • Lucid Walk

      Thank you, Levres. You address some interesting points regarding my script that I hadn’t even considered. Much appreciated

    • ericjeske

      Thanks for taking a look.

      • Levres de Sang

        No problem. I love the idea, but I wanted more atmosphere… However, you did say it had been polarizing!

    • Poe_Serling

      “…a zombie version of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.”

      Good call.

      And you wouldn’t even have to change the original HPD logline very much.

      “A mysterious gunman signs on to protect a small town from zombies.”

      • Levres de Sang

        That’s a great log line, Poe. You’ve inspired me to pick up Halliwell’s and see where else this trick could be applied.

        • Poe_Serling

          I can’t take credit for the logline – I found it over on the TCM site and just changed ‘bandits’ to ‘zombies.’

          Another great site to browse for films to watch on a rainy day:

          http://www.movieretriever.com/

          • Levres de Sang

            I will bookmark the link. And TCM, too. I’d forgotten what an amazing resource that is…

            You might have only changed one word with that logline, but that’s where great ideas can be born.

      • Lucid Walk

        That is a phenomenal logline, Poe

        • Poe_Serling

          Like I mentioned to commenter Levres de Sang, I can’t take any credit for coming up with the logline. I just used the one I discovered over on the TCM site for High Plains Drifter and switched out the last words in the sentence.

          But who knows – when Hollywood does remake High Plains Drifter – it could always use the zombie angle for a way different take on the original. ;-)

  • brenkilco

    Overall, the material is probably more suitable for a History Channel cable movie than a feature film. I’ve also got the impression just from skimming the Wiki article that the real Pinkerton a was far more fascinating and contradictory figure than the PC straight arrow depicted in this script. He worked for the Spanish government to repress an anti slavery revolution in Cuba despite styling himself an abolitionist, and of course the anti-labor activities of his organization are well known. He also apparently penned an autobiography. If I were these writers I’d try to get my hands on that

  • Lucid Walk

    I want to thank all of SS readers for their feedback. And I want to congratulate my fellow writers on their work. Job well done, everybody

  • Richard Trenholm

    I got cut off reading ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH, but I’m pretty sure it has my vote – the language is cleverly done and it seems a lot of fun.

    Didn’t get too far through ROUGH HAD but I liked it a lot – it felt uncompromising, Rory seems like a tough bastard an actor would want to play, and it’s the sort of film I’d watch. Main criticism of the opening scenes though is that the bar scene is repetitious – We’ve already seen Rory cut himself and confront the IRA guys, do we need to see him do it again? Also, it’s about boxing – where does the horse racing come from?

  • Richard Trenholm

    Read all of THE DEAD AND THE DRAWN.

    Love the zombie horses. Night-mare, that’s funny. And the zombie circus / zombie animals are fantastic (although did they have circuses in the west? Would it have been a medicine show?).

    I like the set pieces – the circus, the bridge, the whip scene. The final fight. Love how epic Percival’s death is. Doesn’t quite nail it though.

    > My main problem is that the zombies aren’t threatening. The first one appears on practically the first page and is killed immediately. Then by page 6 the villain looks at a crowd of zombies and shrugs them off. Our heroes ride through them talking loudly and kicking their heads off. Four zombies block them in a cave and Harlan just shoots them down.

    > In the first couple of pages we hear “As you might have noticed…” Ring the Here-comes-a-chunk-of-Exposition Klaxon! There’s a lot of telling rather than showing throughout the script. The story starts with an exposition-heavy letter/voice-over and then in the next scene there’s ANOTHER exposition speech. Later Harlan TELLS us about a guy who cauterised his bitten wound, which is an important plot point, and it would be way more interesting if we saw it. Percival TELLS them about Fort Shepherd, but it would have been more visually interesting and tense if they found it.

    > It’s great that the story gets going with a zombie attack straight away, but having the zombie awakening described in a letter/voice-over is a real disappointment. The dead are an important part of the Western aesthetic, so there’s loads of cool stuff you could do — a wave of zombies bursting out of Boot Hill, for example. A guy shot down in a gunfight lurching horrifyingly back to his feet. A corpse in one of those open coffins displayed by the undertaker opens his eyes and lurches back to life (maybe even with the moment captured in sepia by the flash of a camera).

    And to be honest, Percival’s story that we only hear is more interesting than Harlan’s that we actually see. A hanging interrupted by a zombie uprising sounds really cool, why not make THAT the opening scene?

    Other notes:

    > Not sure about the title. Is it meant to be a play on Dawn of the Dead? Doesn’t quite work for me.

    > Lucky Earp: Why tap the iron when you can spin the chamber? Or put a practise round through a tree? Something more visually dramatic.

    > Some more Western language might help this stand out (compare with the language in The Baltimore Plot – “To champagne and horses and keeping the band out ‘til dawn”). “Gangsters” doesn’t feel like a very Western word. Or “video game” or “mall shoppers” as @eddiepanta:disqus pointed out. Or “borderline orgasmic”, or “Ha! Wasted.” and a few other bits of Isaac’s dialogue. A cool Western word for zombies would be a nice touch too.

    > Although…

    ISAAC
    (excited)
    Yee-haw! Hot damn, Partner!

    ….is possibly a bit too Western.

    > We’ve seen “guy gets bit and covers it up” a million times.

    Still, entertaining and pacy with some good set pieces and lots of potential.

  • Richard Trenholm

    I read the opening of THE BALTIMORE PLOT. Love the language – “To champagne and horses and keeping the band out ‘til dawn.” Kate seems like a choice role for an actress.

    Wasn’t sure about the opening scene though. The reveal of Kate is cool, but could she be more active in this opening scene? Actually have a hand in the robbery in some way? She just sits and waits and then says “surprise!”

    Also having Pinkerton reveal himself AND the conductor reveals takes away from Kate’s moment. It felt funny instead of dramatic, like everyone on the train is an undercover detective. “I’m Pinkerton.” “I’m Pinkerton too!” “And me!”

    • Altius

      Thanks for the comments, Richard. We’ve gotten a few notes this weekend on that Pinkerton and Kate reveal. It will be improved!

  • Richard Trenholm

    THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS

    Love the image of the cloven footprints, the CRUNCH CRUNCH motif. I enjoyed the journey and genuinely wanted to know how it turned out.

    > I if had a major criticism it would be that the evil beings are a bit all over the place… one minute giant wolves, then undead corpses, then possession, then the devil firing magical bolts out of his pitchfork… and that’s not counting the people straight-up murdered in their homes. I think it should ESCALATE, from unusual (murder) to plausible but weird (normal-sized wolves, say) with the possibility that it’s a human scheme (fake demons to con the town), to full-on supernatural demon shit. It really stands out when Whitnall is smothered, which is boring so late in the movie. That late on, people should be getting dismembered or spontaneously combusting or something. On the consistency front, I like the devil firing murderous crows, but I hate that he can fire magic bolts.

    Some small points:

    > I like Blackthorne a lot (his wife, his vow to catch the beast, his Quint-style bargain with the town), but the trapper thing doesn’t quite feel right to me. I’m not sure Britain would have had trappers in the same way they would in the old west, say. He’d more likely be a poacher – which would make him more interesting. He’d have reason to sneak around, and the villagers would suspect/reject him, adding more tension to the question of whether or not he’s going to steal the gold.

    > Also his dialogue is a bit on-the-nose at times: On p22 he says “I didn’t say it was the devil” – that’s all he’s been saying since he turned up! Could he hint at it in a macabre way?

    p26 “You don’t. I’m not” Could there be a cooler, more ominous way of denying it?

    Instead of saying “My trapper’s knowledge could prove useful if it was an animal attack.” why not have suddenly appear at the murder scene all mysterious and do his cool trapper shit.

    > Why is the magistrate sentencing Ambrose in the jail? How can Blackthorne just wander into the middle of all this? This scene doesn’t really make sense. Also British courts don’t use gavels (and never have, according to this:

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/nov/23/writ-large-courtroom-drama-bbc).

    > Whitnall admits to his scheme too readily. Couldn’t he be more mysterious at first to build tension in his scenes, then perhaps admit as he dies? I also think he should be in it earlier, so when he admits his scheme and the others set off there’s still a possibility in our mind that this isn’t a supernatural situation, so we half-suspect that Backthorne or Ambrose have stolen his trick and are conning the village.

    > Can Lilura be more active? Actually save them from the corpses? Maybe it’s she that sets them alight rather than Blackthorne’s convenient kerosene. That would also bridge those two scenes more smoothly.

    • ericjeske

      Really great notes, Richard. I think they’ll definitely tighten up the script in the next pass. Appreciate you taking the time to read it.

  • Altius

    One of the writers here. I haven’t read any of the fiction books…we used several different sources, including Pinkerton’s own records. All historical. Then added and amended with our own ideas. I’ve heard about the TV show that’s in the works/shelved, but nothing about any other scripts. Interesting to know, thanks!

  • Altius

    Lincoln was a complete tee-totaler, so that just struck me as funny…Thanks for your input, Hokey. Criticisms noted!

  • Eddie Panta

    My VOTE: ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH

    This was the script that I expected to like the least it’s not my genre. Turns out, the concept works, it’s a fun read.. There’s room for a new Christmas classic in the market, eventually there will be one. Is this it?

    Minor criticism.
    Long sentences structure that at times comes off too story book or past tense. ( the dreaded ing ending verbs) There some repetition as well. But this doesn’t really affect the script read until the fight sequence in the woods, at the campfire, with Tall Bandit, Fat Bandit, and Short Bandit. Ah, this gets a little confusing. I’d go with Tall, Fat, and Fred.
    Either way, there’s a trio of bandits around a small campfire when our lead Peter arrives, looking for help to save a kidnapped child, one he’s just met.

    In terms of pacing and suspense, I like the opening with all the slamming, but later, when Peter is with Clea, she warns us of what’s coming with dialogue that spells it out too well. Her action alone states her condition. Fear. Krampus would have a bigger, more suspenseful entrance when he kicks in the door and proclaims his name and purpose without her explanation.

    But meanwhile, Pete is still stuck up the chimney.. These events could appear more simultaneous, and Pete’s struggle, his cries for help, could overlap Clea’s response to the approaching Krampus. She could tell him to stay quiet or something…

    When Krampus and the Witch enter, we’ve lost track of Pete, who is still up the chimney. I thought the script could use this for some more comedic moments.

    I shall continue to read.

    Good Luck to the writers.

  • ximan

    THE BALTIMORE PLOT *My vote!!* (based on loglines, this was the only script I opened)

    Nice intro, but with just one more polish it could be GREAT! Lincoln’s scene is fine. It’s our introduction to Kate, Pinkerton and Lambert that needs a little more TLC. For example, when the Plainclothes Detective arrives and addresses them all by name and says they’re under arrest — even though only Lambert is actually under arrest — reads sloppy. Also, when you abruptly switch to addressing Kate as Warne in the action, I was confused. I had to stop reading and go back to find out who Warne was because there was already a lot of double-named characters by this point. But the dramatization of the scene is EXCELLENT. Just needs that last polish.

    I would also simplify the scene in the Pinkerton home. No need to talk about frivolities and accents. Just Mrs. Pinkerton serving cider and Timothy coming in with the telegram. Those are the only essentials. Everything else just slows down the read.

    I read to page 24. Overall, very solid writing. I do wish more was happening, and happening more quickly. The little aside scenes where Lincoln is being warned about the South, and where Pinkerton is buying then furnishing his office seemed redundant. I’d keep the scene with Mary Todd and cut the one with Judd. And I’d just use the scene where Pinkerton is furnishing the office and cut the one where he buys it. Otherwise, it really does slow down the read and not much is happening.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. Good luck to both the writers!

    • Altius

      Solid suggestions, ximan. They’re going into the rewrite this week. Thanks for the feedback!

  • ericjeske

    I really appreciate your time and feedback. Thanks!

  • Citizen M

    My vote goes to THE BALTIMORE PLOT with THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS as runner-up.

    THE BALTIMORE PLOT

    Read to page 42. Interesting, but a little slow and a high character count. Of course, you are bound by the facts, but I wish Pinkerton were a bit more proactive. For instance, if Felton were to hear about a plot against his railway and Pinkerton in Baltimore to discover it was actually a plot directed against Lincoln, not against the railway. Also, I wonder whether Pinkerton would have such strong political sympathies? A man in his position needs to take clients of all political stripes.

    A good period feel, but I wonder if it properly captures the tenor of the times. here must have been a great deal of fear and uncertainty about. At the time, they would not know how things would turn out, and there should be all sorts of speculation. I think you need a few waverers and doubters and worriers among the characters. Still, I’d like to read on.

    THE DEAD AND THE DRAWN

    Read to page 33. I would have preferred a darker, more realistic tone. The loopy Isaac and anachronistic dialogue make this more of a spoof than a serious movie.

    I don’t see this as more than a series of incidents with not much of a plot. Presumably there will eventually be a showdown with Douglass’s gang for the death of McQuail, but i see no sign of that developing.

    Dramatically, I think it would be better if Harlan’s ma mentions Wendy in the letter, and Harlan heads for the ranch and discovers McQuail’s corpse and wonders what happened to Wendy, then finds her headed for the ranch and breaks the bad news to her. Surely one of Harlan or Wendy look for clues as to who killed McQuail and burned the ranch?

    p. 15 – Harley says McQuail’s ranch is just a couple of miles out. That implies a ride of an hour or two. But they have to camp overnight. He should have said, “Could get there by noon t’morrer” or something.

    p. 12-18, 24-32 – Mostly dialogue. We need more action.

    ROUGH HEAD

    Read to page 35. Individual scenes are well written but there are too many of them conveying the same information. A lot of the time it was unclear just what the issues were that the characters were reacting to. Rory Wilson is a bad-tempered, bloody-minded Irishman and boxer who has used up all his goodwill in London and is now trying his luck in Boston with his younger brother in tow. We got it. That’s the setup. Now we should be on page 12 or thereabouts and the Inciting Incident should happen. You are using three pages where one should do. Get on with the story. The logline says he’s on the run from the IRA but so far there’s nothing in the script to suggest that’s the reason he’s leaving London. Why should he be on the run? He’s Catholic, the IRA’s Catholic, there shouldn’t be a problem. Is the IRA going to chase him or are we going to start again from Square One in Boston? I don’t see a story developing.

    Niggles: ‘to’ instead of ‘too'; ‘sparing’ instead of ‘sparring’. Both several times :o(

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH

    Read to page 21. Couldn’t get into it. Not my thing.

    THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS

    Read to page 43. I enjoyed the mystery of what is making the strange tracks and I’d like to know how it turns out. There were some period details that seemed wrong, such as gambling games of the period, and one or two turns of phrase.

    My main problem is the writing failed to bring the setting and characters to life. Descriptions were very basic. i couldn’t really picture the scenes. The characters didn’t seem to have realistic emotional reactions to the mysterious events. I didn’t feel Ambrose’s fear of dying, or relief at not being hanged (for the mean time).

    • Levres de Sang

      “My main problem is the writing failed to bring the setting and characters to life. Descriptions were very basic. I couldn’t really picture the scenes.”

      Yes! This is exactly what I was trying to say (albeit less succinctly) about THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS. Excellent note, Citizen.

    • Altius

      Thanks for the notes on The Baltimore Plot, Citizen M. Pinkerton was actually an operator on the Underground Railroad, and immensely admired John Brown. He lived in a slave-free state, so neutrality wasn’t quite the imperative that it might have been down south. If anything, we probably need to push his dilemma with this undercover…I hear you about him being proactive, though. What you suggested about discovering the plot against Lincoln is in fact exactly how it happened, and how we were conveying it! But if it isn’t clear enough, we have to sharpen that up significantly. Appreciate the read!

    • ericjeske

      Appreciate the feedback.

    • Lucid Walk

      Thank you for your thoughts

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

    Sure, I may sometime. Which one did you write?

    • ericjeske

      The Devil’s Footprints.

  • MJ86

    The Dead and the Drawn: I’m on page 16 and I’m pretty sure this is just Django Unchained with zombies. No thanks.

  • Guest

    Allan Pinkerton’s story was made into a film called “Saving Lincoln” in 2012.

  • Nathaniel Bannister

    I’ve now read the
    whole of ‘The Dead and the Drawn’.

    The positives first: I
    think this is a well-conceived screenplay that feels like a movie. The
    language is visual, the visuals themselves are interesting, and the characters
    pop off the page. The visuals and overall world that Scott has created are
    really interesting and unusual. That final act in the burning forest – the
    lightning, the rain, the animal zombies – was excellent. Similarly, the set
    piece at the circus was well-written.

    However, there is a
    better movie hiding away in here somewhere. The small stuff:


    The words ‘ganders’ and ‘timbers’ either ruined the flow of action lines
    or just felt entirely wrong.


    The dialogue is also saddled a little with some overly formal grammar
    and vocabulary (particularly Isaac’s) – I often found myself thinking, “would
    they really say that?”

    The big stuff:


    Structure: I felt it was 10 pages too long. There is some weight that
    could be cut from the middle. For instance, I think we spend half a page
    watching the zombie gorilla and bear fight – that’s cool, but it doesn’t do
    much for the story. I think having Fort Sheperd as the goal, then switching that halfway through (and not even seeing Fort Shepherd destroyed – we’re just told by a character) destroyed momentum. Why not
    have Moon Willow as the goal all along? And I think we would really want to see
    what went down at Albatross/Shepherd. I would have that as the opening (it
    would be a shame to lose the opening at the house but you gotta kill your
    babies) – introduce all our main players there – then create a situation that
    means they need to stick together on the road.


    Characters: too many for me. I would be tempted to cut York – I found him annoying and clichéd. I didn’t
    really get to know Harlan, and I found he was very reactionary. Percival was
    the one making the choices and taking action, and as a result he was the most
    interesting character. On that note, he is away from the screen for too long. I
    think Harlan/Percival , Harlan/Wendy and Wendy/Percival are the key
    relationships. I wanted to see Harlan as a bit of a Clint Eastwood badass too,
    but he’s pretty soft – cries, agonises about his past. You can infer depth
    without having him display it so openly


    Tone: this is where I think a little more thinking would really benefit
    the script. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was reading a comedy/horror (first
    act), an adventure film (second act) or a balls-out zombie thriller (third
    act). For instance, the scene over the rickety bridge was pure Indiana Jones,
    but then you have a lot of cursing and violence which takes it away from that
    comfort zone. Then there are samurai-like elements when Percival and Harlan go
    and chop up some zombies together. I felt like I was reading a zombie version
    of Kill Bill at times – auteurs like Tarantino can write that stuff because
    they are making it themselves, as amateurs its not a luxury we have.

    All of that said,
    there is a lot to work with here and I think with another few drafts this could
    be a really slick, pacey, visual movie that is very marketable.

    • Lucid Walk

      Wow, Nathaniel. This is some outstanding feedback. Since you were so thorough with your comments, I will happily clarify a few points.
      -it’s not supposed to be a comedy. Sorry if that was confusing. It’s meant to be a dark, gritty and realistic tale of what would happen should the undead take over the Old West.
      -Isaac speaks the way he does because he took a bullet to the head. He’s going to have unpredictable, irrational things to say. The reason being he’s supposed to be the comic relief. I wanted a funny guy to counterbalance the terror and give the audience a false sense of security, so that when the scary stuff happens, it feels even scarier.
      -I didn’t want Percival joining the group from out of the blue. The bear/gorilla fight scene was intended to make his entrance more exciting
      -showing Fort Shepherd destroyed is a great suggestion. Even better, and to give Percival more screen time, I could have him be the one to find it destroyed
      -The Dead and the Drawn: Albatross….it’s a prequel I have in mind that centers on Harlan experiencing how the zombie apocalypse began, and the horrible things that forced him to do what he had to do.
      I appreciate you taking the time to read my story, and I’m honored that you would consider marketable. Thank you again

  • HRV

    Was able to read all of Devil’s Footprints. Pretty easy read.
    Here are some notes. I jot down first impressions/thoughts even if they might be cleared up later.
    1. Is kid’s name Ambrose or Jamie (clarified on pg 4) Topic of use of first and last names in screenplays comes to mind.
    2. Pg. 14 if you (have) any…
    3. Pg. 22 wood contracts (as do other elements) in cold.
    4. Pg. 34 Shouldn’t Owens and Mulgraves’ lines be reversed, or is there some kind of irony going on here?
    5. Pg. Fresh fire? Gunpowder would flash and be gone.
    6. Pg. 51 each man (is) entitled (to) his opinion.
    7. Ambrose seems to have a lot of mobility for being in shackles.
    8. Pg. 87 Mulgraves crucifix… mute kid? Who is the mute kid anyway?

    • ericjeske

      Thanks for reading and the notes. The Jamie/James/Ambrose confusion in the opening pages has been mentioned before so it will definitely be cleaned up in the next draft. Thanks again!

  • Mhocommenter

    I thought the intent of the blacklist was listing of unproduced scripts YET, a good portion of these have been sold and in production. Please enlighten. Thanks.