amateur offerings weekend

This is your chance to discuss the week’s amateur scripts, offered originally in the Scriptshadow newsletter. The primary goal for this discussion is to find out which script(s) is the best candidate for a future Amateur Friday review. The secondary goal is to keep things positive in the comments with constructive criticism.

Below are the scripts up for review, along with the download links. Want to receive the scripts early? Head over to the Contact page, e-mail us, and “Opt In” to the newsletter.

Happy reading!

TITLE: Winning Isn’t Anything
GENRE: Drama, Dark Comedy
LOGLINE: A struggling baseball team owner must finish the season or lose his lease, while corrupt politicians, small town con artists, and a high stakes wager between rival mobsters conspire to stop him. Inspired by actual events.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Almost everyone knows that feeling of pain so deep that it momentarily becomes laughter before reverting to tears. That’s what it felt like to write this script. It’s not just a “based on true events” story – but it should resonate with readers because it runs the gamut of characters that we know (the suburban guy and his family down the street), to those we’d dare to know (the Mafia). You ever want something so badly that you ignore the signs all around you that say “Stop”? That’s what this script is about, and that’s how it felt at times to write it. Often painful, occasional tears that blurred the keyboard, but in the end rewarding.

TITLE: Day 666
GENRE: Self-Contained Psychological Horror
LOGLINE: A demonic outbreak leads the Smith family into their backyard bunker, where they hope the above threat starves to death before they do.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: I have three brothers, two of whom have degrees in writing, one of whom has degrees in producing, so I am always able to get initial notes from them. Two responses were quite positive and one was mixed, at best. The thing is, I’m not sure who is right. Although I like the script, I don’t know whether it is good enough to continue working on, or whether or not I should move on. Recently, I have become very paranoid about everything I write, and I have reached an impasse with this script. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Really, I’d just like to know if I can write a solid script.

TITLE: A Hand’s Reach
GENRE: Drama
LOGLINE: A crack dealing yet intellectual seventeen year-old must choose between university offers or the only life he has ever known.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: I am not a Page winner nor a Nicholl finalist (I’ve actually never even submitted anywhere except here) but am a writer of honesty and genuineness. I believe it’s necessary for characters such as the protagonist to have their voice heard no matter the decisions they make in life – right or wrong…. or maybe I’m just biased because the script hits close to home. That’s why I leave the rest to you. I sent the script to two script consultants in L.A. who praised the character work, particularly the protagonist. One of them even gave it a rare “Excellent” grade, stating he can sometimes go a year without giving one.

Not bad for someone’s first script.

TITLE: Cipher
GENRE: Sci-fi
LOGLINE: Framed for the murder of a mafia boss, a futuristic courier has four hours to fight his way through hostile gang territories to deliver his message that will prevent an all out turf war.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Yeah, it’s basically a futuristic version of The Warriors but with cyborgs, mutant tigers and four-armed chainsaw wielding maniacs. So, you know, better. Hoping I’m passing the Hollywood litmus test of “it’s X but different” here. I put a rough draft of this up on the tracking-board forums and it ended up being requested by three management companies as well as a producer reaching out to me. This is the latest draft and I’m hoping lightning will strike twice.

TITLE: Moira
GENRE: Supernatural
LOGLINE: A former hard-partying exotic dancer vows to win back the “love” of her life, by supernatural means if necessary.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: So I was living in Seattle, watching a ton of movies — “Near Dark”, “Chasing Amy” and “Closer” in particular — and reading Diablo Cody’s novel “Candy Girl”. One night after a very smoky bottle of sangiovese (ok, maybe two), I hammered out a 45-page treatment of what would eventually become “Moira”.

Something really fascinated me about the idea of a person changing themselves entirely based on what they believed the object of their affection would want in another human being, only to learn that that reinvention was based on a lie. Where would he or she go from there?

  • Paul Clarke

    My choice for the week: CIPHER, with a close runner-up in DAY 666. A little hard to compare given Cipher would require a gargantuan budget while Day 666 seems to be a super-contained thriller (a new sub-genre I’m inventing). The self-imposed restrictions in Day 666 make me wonder if they can keep it fresh all the way through. Either way, both are well written and a joy to read.

    WINNING ISN’T ANYTHING:

    – I like the opening scene. Sparse but clear. Sets the mood well.

    – A minor technical thing, but page numbers should be in the top corner not the bottom.

    – Lookout – page 3 flashback. Well enough written, I just feel there must be a less intrusive, more organic way of revealing the back-story. Why not make it a mystery how Joe could afford the baseball team? Hint at it for a while before the big reveal – The mob helped. Also, last line of dialogue in the flashback doesn’t make sense – “Of all people that know that.”

    – The character count is spiraling out of control. On page 9 we meet the neighbor. Page 10 we meet Bud. Page 11, Alan, Clete, and Marty. Page 12, Mary. There isn’t enough time with each to make a memorable impression.

    – Page 14 – second flashback.

    Stopped on page 15. Well written, the mood is established. But we’re essentially just watching an unmemorable angst-ridden protagonist wander round feeling sorry for himself. He hasn’t taken any action. I don’t know anything interesting about him, and don’t really care about his plight. People are only interested in helping people who want to help themselves. Same goes with the hero of your story. Succeed or fail, we only really care if they try.

    DAY 666:

    Breezed through 32 pages. Very quick easy read. A very contained low-budget idea. Although the 5 and 7 year old actors would be trouble. I’m just not sure it’s enough. The problem you get with a structure that already begins inside the bunker is that where is it going? Where does the story start? Without the baseline of an ‘ordinary world’ to compare to, it’s hard to tell what the story is. The *SPOILER* pregnancy was good, but that doesn’t create a new goal. Without some inciting incident to get things rolling, it’s hard to structure an interesting story. The tendency is to have a series of escalating events.

    Having said that, the mystery of what’s going on outside does drive me from page to page. I’m just not sure where this is headed and if you can keep it fresh throughout. Even at 87 pages, it seems like it would become repetitive. Then again, Buried was one person in a smaller place so maybe it’s possible.

    You wanted to know if you can write – I’d say definitely.

    A HAND’S REACH:

    – P3: You can’t really tell us the topic of conversation. It’s either background chatter or dialogue.

    – The writing’s not quite as smooth and polished as the first two. The characters seem well fleshed out. A touch cliché in spots, but not bland or boring.

    – Quite a few unfilmables – An unborn baby kicking, the aroma of crack in the air.

    Read through to page 25. If this is a first script it’s certainly a good effort. However, there’s a lot of setup and not a lot going on. No story has emerged. It’s all slow-burn character work without the drama. I would think he’d have the university offer earlier, then be told the only way he could get custody of his sisters is to become an upstanding uni student, but the drug people won’t let him go. That would be a story. But at this stage, he’s just got a difficult decision to make. Still, not a bad effort.

    CIPHER:

    – An interesting sounding logline.

    – A daunting, dense first page. First impressions last, maybe break it up a little more.

    – I like the sci-fi world and the Courier character with his Taser ring. But I think stories always lose something when you introduce the ability to shape-shift into someone else’s face. From then on we’re always going to be wary about who’s who. The inevitable twist will eventually come, that someone was someone else. In the end it’s a cheat of sorts. Having said that, it still gets used in the Mission Impossible franchise, and they keep
    making those. So it’s not a deal breaker.

    – The monologue on page 12 is a bit on the nose.

    -Read through to page 30. Takes a couple of extra beats to get going, but that’s often the case with sci-fi. Lots of world building. I’m not sure how cinematic the whole face swapping thing is. It’s hard to build empathy with an ever changing face. But it seems he’s lost his mask. Assuming that’s permanent, that’s a cool flaw to have to overcome. I like the subject matter and where this is going. Very interested to read on.

    MOIRA:

    – 75 pages? I thought Day 666 was short. That’s cable TV episode length. Also, I’d prefer if the ‘supernatural’ in the logline was more specific. It reads as a very vague concept.

    – P3: Black screen – Fade in – Black screen?

    – She’s now a vampire? Maybe that’s why it’s not in the logline. I’m all for zombies, but I’m afraid vampires put me off. Just a personal thing though. Somebody still buys those scripts.

    – P5: “Any Ramada Inn”, “…landscape of. Whatever.” – Make a decision. If you don’t know you story world this well, or don’t care enough, why should we? Writing that sounds cool, but just comes of lazy.

    – P6: You know exactly what type of flowers they have in their garden. That’s more like it. Although probably not as important as describing where in the world we are.

    Writing’s not as smooth as the others. Combine this with subject matter that doesn’t interest me and unlikable characters, so I’m moving on. Could be someone else’s cup of tea.

    • jridge32

      Hmm, “Moira” is actually 87 pages (still short, I know). Not sure what happened in the Mediafire transition that it’s now only 75 pages.
      Thank you for the comments, though!

      • Citizen M

        Is there any reason why some sluglines are underlined and others not?

        • jridge32

          It was intended as a means of distinguishing between which scenes were flashbacks and which were present day.

          A technique Steven Soderbergh used in his script for “The Undernearh”.

    • Paul Clarke

      Okay, read all of Day 666. Very nice. Very filmable. I was expecting another twist at the end.

      Anyway, my main suggestion is to add a singular story thread throughout. And it seems like an obvious one, but wouldn’t they be discussing the demons? I know I would. Wouldn’t be able to think about anything else. What if one parent took a spiritual stance, the other a scientific stance. It would be a great debate that could continue throughout as they try to gather information. Maybe the kids are kept out of it to begin with, but given the circumstances they eventually chip in. Maybe they even give the greatest insight, out of the mouths of babes kind of thing. It just seems odd that they’d jump to the conclusion that these things are going to starve to death given that they think they’re demons. The mystery would keep us turning the already well written pages.

      • Citizen M

        It’s quite short. I wonder if it wouldn’t be worth adding a scene at the very beginning. Show the bunker empty, then the entrance hatch opens, hastily-packed and gathered stuff drops down, Emily scrambles down, the frightened kids get handed to her, James scrambles in, panting and panicked, and slams the hatch closed. All the while with demonic screams and Betsy barking O.S. Fade to black. Title. Then the script continues as written.

        • Paul Clarke

          Excellent idea. Builds the mystery from page one – What are they running from?

          And adds a wonderful cinematic symmetry where the final shot mirrors the opening shot. A fresh clean empty bunker – to a trashed used empty bunker. I love that kind of thing.

    • J-A

      Hey Paul,

      The writer of “A Hand’s Reach” here. Thanks for checking it out, it is much appreciated. My action scenes were rather concise and and a lot of white breaks (at least in my opinion), where do you find it not smooth and unpolished?

      Furthermore, what aspect do you find cliche?

      I thought in my opinion I introduced the university offers early (around page 2 or 3 as they are scattered on his table and is told of the custody issue around page 15. I guess I could quicken that part up)

      Once again, thanks for checking it out. If you do get the chance it would be great if you read the whole thing. Might change your mind.

      Javid

  • Mike.H

    First or second to comment again… what gives?

    Carson, since you review the first 10 pages before choosing which AF script to be further discussed here, there must’ve been some clunker scripts you turn down. [ most chosen scripts are quite generic, cough, cough, quite bland. Not a hater, but the nature of the business.]

  • ripleyy

    “The Divide” and “Hidden” are my favourite examples of “self-contained” horrors. I always recommend “The Divide”. It’s a really fantastic movie that really just goes for it and never tones itself down. It’s pretty brutal in a sense.

    “Hidden” was a great script. I think the twist at the end really sold it. I bring this up because “Day 666″ was the one I picked and I loved it. I breezed through it.

    So my pick is “Day 666″.

    The story is great, it’s contained but it always has that mystery. I do, however, think that there needs to be more of a driving force. “Day 666″ is more of a drama than anything. It could have been given a bit more of a punch.

    I do think that Oliver (who is a fantastic writer by the way, I thought the writing in the script was really simplistic but in a good way and I loved some quips he wrote) should have done a few that should have given us more to chew on.

    Maybe they need to go into their house? Maybe they run out of supplies faster. It felt very structured and the thing about “contained” thrillers is that they CANNOT be structured. They have to go wrong. They have to constantly throw you off.

    The first thing I would change is Tom’s “surgery”. I think we need to see it all. I think it needs to be written, and messy too, because it was over before it began. How do they go through this surgery? Does Emily mess up?

    I thought – when “The Man” came – that was great stuff. I really did. I thought the “Thanksgiving Twist” was excellent as well because I don’t know about anyone else but I really felt for these characters. I wanted them to be safe, but they were TOO safe and I wanted them to struggle and there wasn’t any.

    It just felt so…one-note and I feel sad about that because if there were two twists in this, it would have been great. I think Oliver needs to watch “The Divide” to see how they do it because in that movie – despite the shitty on-the-nose dialogue in some places – is an incredible horror movie to watch if you want to try and do this genre.

    There is rape. There is violence. There’s two brothers who end-up ruling the bunker, turning our protagonist’s boyfriend into their bitch and there is so much shit and crazy, powerful moments in that movie that it’s almost impossible not to want to keep watching.

    That needs to happen here, albeit, on a much softer note. They *need* to run out of food and they need to go their house. They need to struggle and we – as readers – need to be pushed into the position where we *have* to read.

    In conclusion, I do pick “Day 666″ as the contender for this week and I really do love it, I just think it’s too safe. It’s just very cared-for and groomed. Oh, James goes crazy. They have to ration.

    I did try “Cipher” and “Moira” but neither really worked for me.

  • Poe_Serling

    This week I’m taking shelter in the bunker of DAY 666.

    The script title and logline nabbed my attention right away.

    Demons rising from hell… feasting on the living… a family stranded in their backyard bunker… with the real possibility of running out of food and supplies before the crisis ends.

    All compelling story elements in my book.

    What I like so far:

    >>the setup of the bunker. Very organized and detailed. Fits in nicely with the character of James (the father) – the exact type of person who would take the time/money/effort to
    build such a place.

    >>the vagueness of the family’s situation at first. Hints of the demonic outbreak,
    who’s Betsy, etc.

    >>reminds me of an interesting take on such things as Richard Matheson’s horror novel I Am Legend and George Romero’s film Day of the Dead (1985).

    >>a super quick read at lean 87 pages.

  • Matthew Garry

    DAY 666

    an admirable job, given the restraints the writer set himself. But the meticulous
    adherence to these restraints, makes it hard to let the screenplay feel completely fresh.

    Still, there’s plenty of good stuff going on.

    Having the bunker be unfinished was as elegant as it was practical. A simple solution to provide plenty of obstacles and it closes a lot of plot holes before they become an issue. (“Why would anybody ever …? Because the bunker wasn’t finished!”).

    The characters were standard fare but given the premise of a limited amount of characters staying underground for 666 days you can’t really have any improbable or unstable characters and keep it believable.

    I appreciate wanting to have the mother be an active source of survival lore instead of just having the father know all that sort of guy stuff. But the contrast between a mother who knows everything about guns but nothing about bunker building and a father who is the exact opposite struck me as unbalanced.

    Got Demons? Need Zombies? Only one global search&replace away. Neat!

    Some details:
    p1. The bunker could use some more initial description, like for example, how it is
    a bunker we’re being introduced to. The “transistor” and “video camera” lines could go there instead of needlessly breaking up the dialogue. They also should be capitalised since they’re fairly important. The “hollywood darkness” dig is a nice wink to the reader, but it gets repetetive later on.

    p2. JAMES’ parenthetical reads (exhales;unsure) but his dialogue “I don’t know”
    already implies he’s not sure.

    p3. “bare with me” should be “bear with me”

    p12. Sam, being the only one awake, blows out the candles. Given the hardwood floor and the situation, it would be quite an oversight for both the parents to leave
    the candles burning before going to sleep.

    p16. -given the amount of guns available, they’re not really taking any precautions
    when opening up the door. (same thing later on with David’s arrival)
    -“The demons have got […]” we can’t see any of that.

    p26. An indoor bin fire isn’t convincing since they have electrical heat (and huddling together) available.

    p41. “Emily sits _at_ the kitchen table”

    At the end the radio being unambiguous about the threat having cleared up wasn’t really needed. I feel a static filled hint that the situation might have improved would have made the final exit more interesting. Also, in general, the radio was a bit underused, as if the family had no interest in what was going on in the world.

    I’d also reduce the amount of firepower available. That might also explain better why no one was covering the entrance when David arrived. And the heavy guns aren’t really used anyway.

    Overall it managed to introduce new and increasing obstacles with every beat to keep it interesting to the end, but there was nothing new about the overall goal of surviving as long as possible, nothing that made me go “Whoah!” once the ordeal was over. But then again, the next one who figures out how to do something sparkling new with contained protagonists surviving will probably spawn a whole new genre.

    • Matthew Garry

      WINNING ISN’T ANYTHING

      I don’t really care for anything sports related, least of all baseball, but every screenplay should have a story in them somewhere, no matter how it’s dressed up. And stories is something I do have an interest in.

      I found the story (and how it unfolds in the end) in Winning isn’t Anything to be a lot more interesting than I expected.

      There are a lot of formatting errors throughout, and there’s some awkward writing as well.

      I think this needs to be beaten into acceptable shape, and its pitch needs revision.

      From reading the logline and the “why should you read” section I couldn’t help but think Winning was going to be a personal story written in screenplay format to get it out of the writer’s system. Those kind of stories usually don’t make for good entertainment, and I almost skipped it because of that expectation.

      I’d suggest dropping the personal elements and pitch it more like an engaging mob-drama with a baseball background, which isn’t too far from the truth.

      Once you have a compelling pitch together and a rewrite done, I can definitely see this succeed should it land on the right desk.

    • Matthew Garry

      My votes for this week are

      DAY 666

      and

      WINNING ISN’T ANYTHING
      for managing to set up a parallax ending and managing to hide its progression within the dark comedy elements. I hadn’t seen that before.

      as for the other three screenplays:

      “Cipher” was well-written and fun. But after setting up an interesting world it starts following the formula of many animated Japanese series (especially when combined with the “special powers”), which is repeatedly going to a new area and fighting your way to an end-boss. That’s not a bad thing since all that action makes it easy to read through and keeps the plot going, but in my mind it ended up being a live-action Manga instead of a sci-fi action movie.

      “A Hand’s Reach” I read the first 25 but I couldn’t get on board with the protagonist. With him being and a successful drug dealer and a straight A student with offers from multiple universities, I felt there wasn’t really any struggle going on, which reduced the dramatic question to: Will Sac remain a rich popular drug dealer with a heart or will he rise to the challenge of having a successful academic carreer? Either outcome isn’t really that bad (for Sac), and that hurt the stakes.

      “Moira” I read the first 25. An lesbian vampiric exotic dancer with drugs involved; what’s there not to love? Unfortunately found the story progression a bit too chaotic to follow along, so I couldn’t really get into it.

  • Jim Jones Juice

    Day 666… too much exposition… keep it simple… WRITE THIS: They eat breakfast… they add water…

    Lose the needless excess…

  • Paul Clarke

    Congrats on being selected for AOW. Thanks for the enjoyable read.

    I’d go zombies over demons, but in the end does it need to be either? As we never see them, what if it was a mystery. What if they debated throughout, are they demons, are they zombies, are they supernatural, are they man made?

    Best of luck.

    • Jim

      Great suggestion as it taps into each individual’s own imagination and fears – which, as Stephen King would say, is much more powerful than anything one can put on paper.

  • Wes Mantooth

    Day 666. Not a good title, IMO, in that it has a cheesy ring to it and also automatically tells us exactly how long the story will go on for. I understand the writer wanted to stick a ticking time bomb into the story, but one that lasts nearly two years? More than anything, this is what I felt the story lacked: a sense of tension.

    Spoilers will follow. Very similar in setup to “Hidden”, but this script doesn’t compare favorably because Hidden was virtually nonstop tension, urgency and horror from page twenty on. Also, Hidden had memorable bad guys — the Breathers. 666 never really bothered to explain what these demons were, what they looked like or where they came from. If they rose from Hell, why? And what good would the military do against actual demons? Seems like you’d need an army of exorcists. In fact, the demons never really presented any true threat to the family. The closest we get to actual danger was when the stranger showed up, which frankly felt like a rather random event shoved in there to create a midpoint. But, he never had any real effect on the story. We also get an appendectomy and a crib death, but no demons.

    There were also these vast stretches of the story the writer had to account for, presumably because of the title. We’d go from “Day 300″ to “Day 400″ without too much change in the dynamics of the story or situation. At times, this felt more like a family drama than contained thriller. And the ending was, well, disappointing. Way too easy. The threat just…ends, without any effort from the family. When all is said and done, they just remained huddled in their little hole and had very little impact on their own fate.

    If this is indeed the writer’s first script, then it’s very cleanly written. Format and style seemed tight, except for the occasional use of the phrase “Hollywood darkness”, which instantly took me out of the story. Overall, I’d say the writer needs to give this the ol’ GSU treatment to ratchet up the thrills.

  • Randy Williams

    Congrats to all the chosen ones. Well done! I read the first ten of each.

    1. Winning Isn’t Anything – I could not read this file on my cellphone. The letters were all truncated for some reason. Sorry.

    2. Day 666- Interesting title.Cool concept, seems very marketable. Easy read. I thought the dialogue, however, read like the narration to someone’s video. Then the actual narration to a video seemed to regurgitate the same info. Sorry, I laughed out loud at his pointing out the video camera they could use for a video diary to express their thoughts. This sounded so touchy feelly urbane psychology that contrasted to what I know of preppers. (one of my best friends is all about guns, grub and surviving the apocalypse). Because I like the concept, I’d keep reading and probably will.

    3. A Hand’s Reach – Easy read, very visual. It’s not often I see images spinning in my head when I read these and this was one time. Sac is an interesting character, the others, I thought, less so. The gangsta’s were tiring. Nothing really fresh here in the first ten. I’d concentrate on Sac. I’d keep reading to see what happens to him.

    4. Cipher – Logline sounds like a movie. I thought it started off superb, loved it, then at page 7 or rounds about, with the face morph and added complications, things went off track with that and back story in dialogue when I wanted to slow down, savor this new world without having too much to digest.

    5. Moira – I’m a country boy at heart. (while most people have a dog or cat as a pet, I have an Opossum) I felt as much as the description here was creative, fresh, the whole thing felt alien to me. Just didn’t understand any of these people. Maybe something universal is missing in the first ten pages or I’m not qualified to judge this.

    Vote goes to CIPHER.

    .

    • J-A

      Hey Randy,

      The writer of “A Hand’s Reach” here. Thanks for your comments, much obliged.

      The “gangstas” I’m assuming you’re referring to are Sac’s best friends. In what sense did you find them tiring? Off-topic, one might look at them as gangstas and thugs, I look at them as have-nots. :)

      If you do get the chance it would be appreciated if you read further. You might be in for a surprise with Sac.

      Kind regards,

      Javid

  • klmn

    I read about 16 pages of Day 666, and it looks like it could be a winner. But I’m wondering about a few things. Like where does the family get electricity for their various things? Cell phones, the transistor radio, the refrigerator. Would they still have electricity if everything went to hell? Would the demons supply it? Even if the family didn’t pay the bill?

    The demons. Demons have a specific mythology, going back way before Christian times. How much protection would guns be from them? There is a book called The Key of Solomon full of spells and incantations to invoke and control them.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_of_Solomon

    Does everyone get to make up his own rules about demons, vampires, zombies etc. or do traditional rules apply?

    Kinda OT, but a few years ago there was a demon for sale on Ebay. This one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asmodeius

    Supposedly found in the home of a long dead voodoo queen, it was a hollow silver ring. The story went that a Sufi holy man had stabbed the demon with a consecrated dagger and captured blood from the demon in the ring, giving the bearer of the ring power to control the demon.

    And no, I didn’t bid.

    • ghost

      I dont know about anybody else, but its annoying to me when I click a link and another window doesnt open up.

      • klmn

        I guess I didn’t make myself clear. That was the demon that was for sale, as described in Wikipedia. That was not a link to the ebay item which has long been deleted.

        • Montana Gillis

          Clarity is King! I got it the first time when you wrote “a few years ago”. (Everyone knows demons sell quickly)

        • ghost

          Actually I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about how anytime you click a link on this site, it takes you away from the SS page instead of opening up a separate window. I wrote that comment after I checked out one of your links and then had to come back down to your comment just to check out the other one.
          Looks like I was the one who wasn’t clear, talk about irony.

    • Citizen M

      The electricity thing’s a problem. Without people to man them, the main power stations will shut down within hours. If they are preppers they’d already have solar panels on the house roof, and maybe get extra power when the wind blows from utility wind turbines.

  • klmn

    I think he should pick The Wild Bunch (the ultimate guy movie) for his Tuesday article.

    • Montana Gillis

      Just bought the Blu-ray to stuff in my stocking. Yeah Carson, you can pick The Wild Bunch or you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick The Wild Bunch’s noses, ah, er, ’cause they all died killing that fat Generalisimo Mapachi and his minions. Who the hell is “they”?

  • Malibo Jackk

    Read a few pages of CIPHER.
    Big Cipher fan.

  • Kay Bryen

    My clear winner: *Day 666*

    Because I like so many things about it, it’ll be more helpful to the writer to point out areas of improvement:

    *** If you really want a “fresh spin”, ask yourself: what happens to zombies when they die? If we think the ghosts of ordinary people are creepy, imagine what the *ghosts of zombies* would do??

    Also, that title simply has to go. In the 21st century you just can’t use “666” in a horror with a straight face anymore.

    Not to mention you’re imposing a giant spoiler alert in your title, basically telling us to disregard all the dangers that come in these two long years because they’re just false alarms.

    Also, the “Hollywood darkness” should go. When it’s already an uphill task to make the reader suspend her disbelief, why would any writer ever call attention to the fact that this is a fake story??

    I didn’t like that you glossed over the plot hole of how demons can “starve”. What made the family think this was a viable strategy? Presumably if their host bodies starve, the demons can just switch to another form (Betsy the dog perhaps?), or even inanimate objects. It’d be interesting if the family’s dependence on electricity and objects backfired when those gadgets are “infiltrated”. (Can you imagine a demonic baby pacifier choking the poor little angel… Someone save me from my twisted imagination!)

    I loved The Man’s Thanksgiving motivation about how killing and plundering is basically what the Founding Fathers would’ve done. Very convincing. Now if you have another motivation for the demons, you’re golden. I’m sorry but “hunger” simply doesn’t cut it as a motivation. Even in a Man vs Beast survival horror, the beast / alien has more depth if its motivation is maternal, protecting its offspring.

    I loooved the crib death scene. Quietly harrowing.

    James losing his grip on sanity could be explored deeper to show how our inner demons are deadlier than any demons prowling outside.

    But that non-ending has to go. As it is, the protag’s strategy for outlasting the demons was basically to “play dead” in their bunker. They didn’t contribute to the demons’ demise in any way.

    I think I know why: because the writer didn’t have any clue about the demons’ origins, he didn’t know how to kill them off either. Know how your story starts, and you’ll know how it must end.

  • Kieran ODea

    Day 666:
    Not big on contained thrillers but this script had a little bit of hype attached so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
    To be honest, it just didn’t do it for me. The whole first 10 pages is straight exposition. There was even exposition to set up future exposition in the form of the video camera, which the wife used on the first night. And that to me seemed out of character.
    I see what people mean when they say the writer worked well within the constraints he gave himself but those constraints are too limited and as a result the first 10 pages of a very short 87page script are all exposition.

    Cipher:
    The log line’s intriguing, and it sure delivers.
    First off it’s really well written. The dialogue is surprisingly good for a movie with such a diverse world.
    And last but not least those action scenes. Very well written and I like the reverse by making a small Japanese girl into the equivalent of a supersayan.

    My vote goes for CIPHER.

  • ghost

    Day 66 gives me that same but different feel.

  • Citizen M

    No standouts this week. Nothing really bad, either. Any of these should do for AF.

    WINNING ISN’T ANYTHING 107p by Billy Garvin

    After 25 pages: Joe is a family man who starts a baseball team in Oakville. The stadium will be built by the town with the aid of a seven million bank loan secured by the lease on the ground. Only, the stadium isn’t built and the town isn’t paying. A hitman called Cervetti has learned if Joe can’t play a full season of baseball the loan is voided, and he is bribing town officials and the land owner, the oily Wolff, to delay matters. Joe must find money to continue. He is an ex mob lawyer and borrows from the mob. The mafia boss learns of Cervetti’s involvement and stops loaning money to Joe, at the same time betting Cervetti that Joe will play a full season.

    It was a little hard to figure out all the story threads, and who needs to do what. I think the exposition by Cervetti on page 20 should have come sooner, maybe doled out in drips and drabs rather than one big lump, otherwise we don’t understand what Joe is up against. The audience should, as a general rule, know more than the character rather than less. Joe is also looking weak. I’m not sure if he’s going to be a pawn of the Old Man, or stand up and fight for himself. We know he has to finish the season, but what is stopping him? He can play on a half-completed field, he can play without all the scouts and office staff. We need to know more about what “finish the season” means in terms of what Joe has to accomplish, and his financial stakes. Also, watch the character count. Do you need two scouts, three kids, and a dog?

    Niggles: Joe/Jake/Jack too similar; baron/barren; ball/bawl (= cry); nod head ‘no’/shake; page no’s at bottom.

    DAY 666 86p by Oliver Edlin

    After 25 pages: James and Emily are in a bunker with their children Samantha and Thomas. Demons rose from the ground and attacked America, maybe the world. James was building the bunker in the back yard, but it is unfinished. They have guns, electricity and a water pipe, but no toilet or plumbing, no gas, no TV, no internet. The bathroom is a dirt floor and a spade. They have dried supplies that might last a year or two with careful rationing. They have a TV camera, they can talk in private to, like in Big Brother. As they grow increasingly scruffy, they wonder how long they will be there. A crisis moment is wen the family dog appears topside. Do they let it in? The kids want it, but it is torn apart by demons. Emily teaches the kids to use guns. On Day 30, when they are tired of board games, Emily reveals to the children she is pregnant.

    This is too bland. I cannot imagine kids lasting for 30 days without major tantrums. There should be huge arguments about how long to plan for, i.e. how much they can eat. They should be speculating endlessly about the demons, where they came from, what they want, how long they will be there. After all, their survival depends on the demons’ intentions. Gallows humor always crops up in these situations. I see none. Look to the Chilean miners for a guide. The only way they survived was through strict discipline, and mutual support. The big problem for a family in this situation is determining the rules to live by and enforcing them against the inevitable objections. Maybe by Day 666 things have gone bad, but so far everyone is much too well-behaved.

    A HAND’S REACH 107p by Javid A.

    After 25 pages: Sac aka Khaled aka Isaac (?) is a tattooed 17-yr-old black kid in the projects who is making a ton of money selling drugs. His two friends T-O and Ray Ray also sell on the streets for him. Sac fancies the beautiful Isabella in his class at high school, but she doesn’t like his friends. She doesn’t know about his dealing. Sac has two little sisters Sara and Hana in a foster home. One day he hopes to be their legal guardian (their parents are dead). Sac is plenty intelligent, getting an A+ for an essay on Shakespeare. He tells his main drug contact James, a nerdy barista, he is thinking of going to college, maybe studying psychology and business. James thinks he’s crazy. Meanwhile, Detective Stevens worries that his drug-busting team haven’t got a snitch in Sac’s neighborhood.

    The setting is a world I don’t know. I assume the dialogue and scene descriptions are accurate. They seem authentic. The problem is, I don’t see much conflict yet. It’s all still setting up. Presumably Detective Stevens and Sac will clash at some stage, but so far, nada. Remember that often it is the bad guy who drives the story, I’m assuming Stevens looking for a snitch. He should be more present. Also, what, apart from loss of income, is stopping Sac from attending college. i don’t understand the factors he has to consider in making his decision. We need to know more about the world according to Sac.

    Some of the language was a bit awkward. ‘in recluse of other'; ‘deafens out'; ‘belittles in disappointment’. There are better ways of saying these. The scene descriptions could be clearer. For instance, in the warehouse I’m not sure what size the lockers were or how organized spatially. When characters speak in Arabic indicate the Arabic dialogue by putting it in italics or square brackets or something.

    CIPHER 110p by M.D. Presley

    After 25 pages: The Death Mask gang invade a futuristic commuter train. They drag a businessman off, believing him to be the courier they seek. A homeless man tags behind, and in a back alley knocks out the gang members with a taser ring. He takes the businessman’s suit and his face morphs into the businessman’s. This is Manx, the courier. As a businessman he delivers a string of memorized digits to old Cybill, head of the Lookers. Cybill decodes them with her code book and gives him a coded message to carry back to his boss Aquila, head of the Button Men gang. Cybill’s side-kick, Letti, of Letti’s cafe, invites him to drop by sometime. He delivers the message to Aquila, and gets another assignment — a message to the Yaks. This means another dose of the drug Cypher to assist his memory, which he is reluctant to take, fearing a bad crash afterwards. In Little Tokyo, Matsuhiro and Bledsoe lead him to Gomi the Yakuza boss. Also there is Cobb of the police gang unit. Gomi’s coded reply will ensure peace among the many gangs in the city, but before Manx can leave to deliver it, Cobb shoots Gomi, nicks Manx with Gomi’s katana, destroys the code book, and shoots himself, thus framing Manx. Cobb is revives with Bledsoe’s drugs.Manx is captured and stripped of his flesh mask, revealing an ordinary-looking man. Gomi’s lieutenant indicates it is between Matsuhiro and Bledsoe for leadership of the Yakuza.

    Interesting world, with people using extreme body modification. I presume these are the ones on the fringes of society. Businessmen still look like businessmen. The subways are futuristic, but elsewhere things have gone backwards, with littered streets and gangs taking over. Apparently the police listen to everything, that’s why couriers are needed. We need more justification for Manx’s existence, in the shape of an incident that shows what happens if you don’t use a courier. Also, I’m not sure why the Death’s Head gang want to nab a courier if they can’t understand his code. My problem is, I’m not getting a feeling for what drives Manx emotionally. He’s just a guy doing a job. What happens if he fails? Nothing. The gangs continue fighting as before. There are no stakes for him personally that I can see. All there is is the Urgency to deliver the message before the Cipher wears off.

    MOIRA 74p by Jon Ridge

    After 25 pages: Moira’s an exotic dancer with a crush on her psychiatrist Michael Grisham. One evening in a Seattle Western bar she overdoses on the Seconal he prescribed. A stranger who knows her movements takes her home, makes her vomit, then gives her a vampire bite. Apparently she is now half-vampire (not sure about this). At Club Sintill8 dancer Yvonne taunts Moira about Michael. Yvonne and Michael have sex later. Moira ends up in a one night stand with someone at a Ramada Inn, drinks his blood, and notes “Three more to go” in a notebook. Meanwhile Michael’s young wife Nicole comes back to him. He insists she get STD treatment and a pregnancy test. It’s not a happy reunion. At Sunshine Bar and Grill Moira meets a wealthy preppy guy, goes to his mansion, and drinks his blond. “Two more to go”. She has a therapy session with Michael in his fancy Seattle office. The photo on his desk is him and Moira, not him and his wife. They celebrate something with wine. He encourages her to sleep more but she turns down another Seconal prescription. She has a “wish you were here” postcard from her parents. It’s formal, dutiful. Obviously they aren’t close. Michael says they’re trying. She thinks they don’t like who she is. Back at Club Sintill8 she chats to the staff…

    Not sure what to make of this. Only 74 pages seems like there can’t be much story. It’s written in a very terse style. I found it difficult to understand what was going on. I gather that Moira need to drink blood, but I don’t know why. I don’t know if her victims are dead afterwards. We are one third through the script and there is no sign yet of the plan to win back the love of her life (presumably Michael) that the logline promises. Michael’s character is a bit of a mystery. He is married, having an affair with Moira, and sleeping with other women as well, as far as I can gather. I don’t want him and Moira to get together. She might be a boozy blood-drinking slut, but she’s a hard worker. She deserves better. It’s mostly a series of scenes in strip clubs and bedrooms with no sense of a plot developing.

    • J-A

      Hey Citizen M,

      Thanks for reading my script (A Hand’s Reach) and the rest of the nominees whom I will read and promise to review.

      A few misinterpretations you might have made.

      1. Sac’s name is not Issac, rather that is a name of a family friend who observed Sac.
      2. Sac is not black, nor dark-skinned, rather a Middle-Eastern who is ethnically ambiguous to describe.
      3. James isn’t a barista.

      Just in case you might’ve read it too quick or didn’t understand.

      I thought to describe the storage facility would be too descriptive, hence hwy I didn’t.

      Nonetheless, your review is much appreciated.

      • Citizen M

        - Thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t sure about the name. I can understand Isaac => Sac, but not Khaled => Sac. Maybe introduce him as KHALED “SAC” [WHATEVER].

        – As to ethnicity, there it is on Page 1. “Middle-Eastern.” My bad.

        – Since we meet James behind the counter at a coffee shop, I just assumed he was a barista.
        – The warehouse description is probably not important, but I was unsure if we were in the main warehouse section with miles of industrial lockers, or in the employees’ change rooms with ordinary clothes lockers. It’s not easy to capture a scene accurately in a few words, I must admit. It’s something we all have to work at.

        • J-A

          I guess you’re right, Isaac can be interpreted as Sac. I should change that lol. Thanks.

          I can see where you’re coming from with regards to the latter.

          Thanks.

    • jridge32

      Actually, Michael and Moira are siblings. No sex happening there. She fell in love with Nicole, her brother got in the way and wound up with Nicole, leaving Moira feeling betrayed. Distraught, so she drunkenly decided to take her own life — when a vampire came along and ruined that plan.

      “boozy blood-drinking slut, but she’s a hard worker” made me laugh out loud just now, btw.

  • pitchblack70

    So – here we go: Amateur Friday, First Ten to Fifteen Reviews. The clear winner in my mind? Cipher. Based on what I saw, this one should get the shot…

    Winning isn’t Anything – For this script, I got through the first ten. I have to admit, I’m
    not a fan of sports films – which is one strike against me liking this one. But any script can be great… if the writing’s snappy, and the characters deep and engaging. And I will say this: great title! And obviously the writer has passion for the story.

    But a lot of things threw me off when I started the script. It’s not clear from the
    “why you should read” whether this is the writer’s first script or not. But from the pages I read, I’d guess it is. Using supporting character descriptions like man, woman or client; not good. And – overall – the descriptions were too detailed and lengthy. It didn’t flow the way it
    needed to. The characters? Very generic. I’m not saying there’s not possibly a worthy story here to tell; but the craft on this needed polishing, in order for it to shine through.

    Day 666 – Based on the description for this one, I was expecting something akin to “This is the End.” Given that was a fun little flick, I cracked this script open hopefully. And there were good points to it… I smiled on the first page at the description of “Hollywood Darkness”. And the initial banter between Emily and James; also good. Jumping right into the thick of the story – always a good way to start the show. But then… the script bogged down for me. Far much too description of what exactly was lining the shelves, and how much rationing would be required. (The ‘bare with me’ typo didn’t help either.) I *did* find myself curious about what the deal was with Betsy. And there were glimmers of nice writing here (for instance, “it’s not the question he wants to hear”), but sadly not enough to keep reading.

    A Hand’s Reach – I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. You’ve got some dense
    descriptions here that really weigh the story down. As well as a few cases of “show it, don’t tell it’. EG page three: “The topics of last night’s episode, the school dance and today’s exam are just a few of many conversations in the air.” But some of the banter is fun (the conversation between the principal and Ray Ray is probably the stand out example – injecting a needed humorous note into the otherwise serious scene.) The
    characters? Kind of stock, through what I read…although I could see them potentially developing as the story progresses. But they didn’t quite capture my imagination to keep reading on.

    Cipher – Okay.
    Here’s one that I’m cottoning to. Admittedly a little heavy on the description (which is to an extent forgivable with the SF genre, since you’re creating a completely alien world.) And yeah, there’s tons of Blade Runner/Total Recall feel to the first 10 pages. But enough is fresh and different that I do want to know more. And with shapeshifting characters, you’ve definitely got eye candy for this one, too!

    Moira – (Small spoiler) Admittedly, I was disappointed when it became clear that a form of vampirism is involved in this script… that’s a genre that’s been done to death. Gag
    me with a spoon if I ever have to watch another vampire movie or TV show. And the connection between the characters feels confusing and muddled – jumping from Moira to Nicole. That said, the writing is extremely clean, flowed and showed intelligent insight. Particularly the “infidelity” conversation between Michael and Nicole. So – that makes this my second favorite of the bunch, by a decent margin.

    • jridge32

      Thanks very much for your comments on “Moira”! I just think I had a little too much to overcome with this story, genre-wise..

  • Oliver Edlin

    Just an update on some planned rewrites based on responses so far:
    I’m going to retitle the script THE BUNKER for the time being (until I can come up with something better). That’ll make it more tense from the start because the audience won’t already know the timeframe/where the story is going to end.
    I’m probably going to make it last a year, rather than two – I still like the captions, but I might go another way of showing how long they’re down there/it might not actually be important to show the timeframe. In reality, it was 2 years because of the title, and I gave it that title because it was horror related. (I’m more of a drama writer than a horror writer, which I think some of you have clocked on to).
    One of the main problems for people seem to be that I don’t explain/discuss the demon threat enough. That is very true, and it is because they were originally zombies, which, of course, everyone already has an inside knowledge of how they work, want they want, that they might eventually starve, etc. I might elaborate on demons, or I might change it back to zombies – I think both ways will work equally good. Or, we never know what exactly the threat is…
    Finally, I’m obviously going to ratchet up the tension. Other than a coupe of smaller notes from people, that seems to be the main thing I need to do, and you guys have given great suggestions already. I don’t think it needs ratcheting up too much, but I will take the point head on.
    Thanks again.

  • Stank

    Began with DAY 666 and I don’t hate the title… actually kind of like that there is this impending doom. I also like the logline. Seems fun.

    My issue (which may just be me) is that I don’t get James. He annoys me in the beginning. He’s too happy. Demons just rose from Hell and feasted on people and “Day 1″ he’s making jokes in a bunker with his wife. I get he’s trying to stay positive, but if my neighbor just got devoured by a Demon I’d be freaked out no matter what.

    2 years is a really long time… 1 year is still really long… 6 months is pretty long… 3 months is closer to what I think the the time from should be. Just read a script where people go crazy in 6 hours (stanford prison experiment) and I totally bought it.

    I stopped once James said he’d let the dog in, then didn’t let the dog in, then changed his mind to let the dog in, then failed at letting the dog in. Just felt like he’s a weak lead, not someone I want to root for.

    That being said, there was a lot to like. I’m going to try to give all a shot and I’ll give my vote at the end.

    • Stank

      WINNING ISN’T ANYTHING was my second shot. Liked the title a lot. First: I don’t like the genre being drama/dark comedy. Is it a dark comedy or isn’t it? I really think you need to pick.

      First scene had me hooked and I was excited to read. But by page 6 we had met 4 nameless characters: MAN, MAN, WOMAN, OLD MAN. This tells me that in your most crucial pages you are flooding us with character who aren’t important to the story. There was also no real conflict or mystery after the opening page.

      Finally, the page numbers were formatted incorrectly. Wasn’t for me.

  • Christian Zilko

    I would love for him to start picking TV shows for 10 tips as well as movies.

  • RafaelSilvaeSouza

    Based on the genres, I got three to read. No loglines, no “why should you read”. Started with DAY 666. Very contained thriller… easy to read, but I gave up after James kills The Man. The problem is that there’s not enough conflict, and the story really doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I got so far only hoping that something would happen and make me love the screenplay… it didn’t happen.
    Then I read the first ten of MOIRA. Nothing against vampires, but there wasn’t anything that grabbed me.
    So my vote goes for CIPHER. I read the first 15 and really liked it. I can see a movie here. It’s a shame that the dialogue is too on the nose.

  • Malibo Jackk

    WINNING ISN’T ANYTHING
    Small things can leave big impressions:
    Don’t number page one. (It suggests this is your first script.)
    And CAR-NIGHT is not a word. (Better to say CAR – NIGHT)

  • Montana Gillis

    No thanks Reverend, I’m not very thirsty. Ten pages is plenty…
    For anyone to understand.

  • Crcbonjour

    Anyone else having issues with Mediafire? I’m getting many missed pages in scripts, one in particular at a MAJOR moment! (MAJOR!!) I’ll keep reading…be back to post.
    Lots of smart writing so far :)

  • Paul Clarke

    Yea, losing the mask is a nice touch. I really like that idea. Maybe it’s just me, I kept thinking that one of these characters wasn’t who they seemed to be. I kept thinking Cobb must be the girl from the beginning. I will endeavour to finish it tonight and give you more informative notes.

    As for the monologue, maybe just make it sound more natural. It seemed like too convenient a source of information. If you can, withhold the backstory until the audience absolutely needs it. My tip for the day – Wherever possible a character should be defined by his actions and attitudes, not his backstory.

    Good luck. Looks like a tight race between yourself and Day 666. Maybe Carson will review both.

  • sotiris5000

    Busy weekend and haven’t had time to go through all the scripts yet, but here are my thoughts based on the loglines:

    Winning Isn’t Everything: Not really a fan of sports movies, but this one seems to center around the outside components of the game, what with the plethora of antagonists working against the protagonist. The line about losing his lease confuses me though. Lease to what; the team, the baseball field, his own house? It’s got conflict built right in but seems somewhat unfocused/ confusing what with all the antagonists. Also interesting that he just needs to “finish” the season rather than win it though “Winning” is part of the title of the script itself.

    Day 666: I’m with the others that the title has to go. While contained thrillers are hot right now, this one seems almost a little too contained, what with four characters being stuck in one room (I’m assuming). It also seems almost passive in that they’re just trying to wait out the demons rather than taking action for an established goal. I understand from the other comments that they stay within for 666 days, which kind of steals a bit from the suspense since you already know that they’re going to make it two years without too much trouble. Or perhaps I’m misreading this.

    A Hand’s Reach: This sounds a lot like Goodwill Hunting but skewed more urban and younger. It has conflict, both external and internal, built right into it though. But it doesn’t sound like much of a choice – go to university or live on the street where he can be busted while selling crack. Perhaps his indecision can be addressed more in the logline so we know why he’s torn between these two choices other than it “being the only life he’s ever known”.

    Cipher: Yep, that logline sounds exactly like The Warriors with the one exception that he can prevent war by getting home. Still sounds a bit generic though. Wish those lines about “cyborgs, mutant tigers and four armed chainsaw maniacs” were in the logline itself rather than the why you should read. Still, it’s got the goal and conflict established from the onset and sounds promising.

    Moira: Why is “love” in quotes? Is it because the love is one sided? Because it’s not love but infatuation? Because she’s going to realize she doesn’t really love him but the idea of him by the end of the story? Sorry to focus on just that but the quotes seem really out of place for some reason. The story sounds a bit like Young Adult but with magic, and I’m interested in the genre mashup. But what’s the antagonist here? What is she risking when she invokes the “supernatural means”?

    I’m probably going to download Cipher first, followed by either Moira or Day 666. No offense to the dramas on this list, but cyborgs, demons and magic sound a lot more interesting at the moment rather than baseball and crack dealing.

  • Eddie Panta

    As soon as I started reading DAY 666, I wondered whether or not it would be a good idea to include a FLOOR PLAN of the BUNKER after the title page. This has been done many times in the past, often with great results. I’d love to hear CARSON’S thoughts on this.

    Although the first ten pages ( the lay of the land) is very well thought out and readable, it has a lot of “left” or “right” description in regards to where items are in the Bunker. Including action that indicates: James points to his left. ( James points at a lot of things on pg4)

    Items in the bunker including ( 12 guns) are either to the right or left of each other or described as next to each other, on the wall, repeatedly.

    I like that the writer has the space of the Bunker well planned out in their head. This is something I feel lacking in a lot of amaetur scripts. Floating characters, that aren’t grounded in well established physical space. However, too many indications of right and left that will never end up that way in a prod. draft or in the film clutter the read. Details like ( by the right of the wall is a kitchen space.) after the character has already said “Kitchen”.
    And it’s been pointed at.

    I felt that there was a lot of redundant description. It needed more variety. “on the kitchen table.” was over used.. Once established, the reader can figure it out… It’s a small space.

    But that is really minor stuff. After 30+ pages I’m still enjoying the read.
    My only real concern is that the exposition is derived mainly from the radio broadcast. I would think the story would be more realistic if at some earlier point, the parents had a conversation regarding what the threat is. I’m curious to see if anyone will die. I think the writer is on the right track considering the incredible success of INSIDIOUS. A horror movie set in a suburb, made for housewives and parents who will never really watch a horror movie where someone dies. The makers of Insidious created a scary enough film that people who aren’t horror fans would watch. After all, what is a parent’s worse nightmare? Something horrible happening to their kids.

    This script reminds me of the fact that at the core of all great horror movies, is a tale of survival.. Even the SHINNING and HALLOWEEN are really stories of survival.

    I think it would be a great for the writer of DAY 666 to watch Polanksi’s Repulsion. A film that takes place mostly in one room. Watch it to see how the small space, of an apartment becomes such an incredibly big world. For that matter also, watch Rosemary’s Baby, for attention to spacial detail and for how to create the: evil lurks just outside the door tension.

    I will continue to read.
    -Eddie

  • Crcbonjour

    Congrats again to all the writers, looked at all five….lots of possibilities!

    Started with “A Hand’s Reach” maybe because I grew up in a major city, I get kids having had no childhood….trying to survive. Desperation and intelligence make strange bedfellows.

    The “street” scenes/dialogue was authentic and so was Khaled’s intellect; before it was revealed he was in AP classes because while not overloaded with school scenes, the content was high IQ…like that. Also liked how much Khaled wanted to be with his sisters, his relationship with Kwasu and again, my big city take, not ever really getting to see inside a Mosque or see a quote from the Quoran (I’m a woman) showed a deep character stuck in a dark world. Done before? Sure. Didn’t help that Mediafire flaked out on the VERDICT page! Didn’t expect him to connect with Isabella BUT I think that can punch the story up a lot (especially as to that note she sends) and add more tension I if you think:

    Khaled started college full scholarship and got the girls (it seems he’d have the character references; proving income….he’d have had to slowly made deposits into a checking account over time; he’d know the limits and why) one of his “friends” could become an employer; he’d obviously keep the girls local in school?

    Once he had them…..the life. Ray Ray is a huge liability. TO is a bit smarter. James was right. That said, despite him being a drug distributor, I didn’t expect he’d get caught….at least not the WAY he got caught. Don’t know if RR or TO gave him up; were there prints on the crack bags? He had no record. How did Stevens know him?

    • J-A

      Hi Crcbonjour,

      The writer of “A Hand’s Reach” here. Thanks for taking your time to review not only my script but the others as well. I am going to read the second of the other four scripts now and suggest that the other writers chosen this week do the same. Not only to bring forth constructive criticism to other writers but also to thank Carson for choosing our scripts.

      I checked Mediafire and the page you’re referring to didn’t load at first but once I went to the previous pages and scrolled down it came up. If you download the PDF, the page is there. Hope that helps.

      ***SPOILER TO THOSE WHO MIGHT READ***

      1. Nobody gave up James, rather it was a coincidence him and his fellow players got arrested at the same time. It was a totally unrelated investigation. Stevens and his people had nothing to do with the James investigation, rather from James perspective you think he was ratted on by Sac and his friends. I thought it would bring some sort of conflict to what led next.

      2. Surprised you find T-O smart, Ray Ray is definitely dumb (lol) but my intention with T-O was to make him rude and ignorant.

      3. I respectfully disagree with the notion that detectives “usually” go after bigger fish than street dealers. Around 75-80% of police work is usually arresting addict-traffickers for – 1) reducing crime in the area for a short period and 2) to try to get information with regards to bigger fish if possible. Hence, why there is ever a big drug investigation and we see the large array of guns, drugs and money with the Chief proclaiming criminals will be brought to justice, it is rather scarce. If anything, Sac’s was much more serious than your average drug arrest (i.e. 20 piece of crack, 8 ball, etc)

      4. I believe the “runners” aspect you’re referring to is P. 31 – It was said by a cop and majority of cops, as in the script are middle-aged men Caucasians. It is likelier (and from my personal experience) they refer to them as runners or shoes. Kicks is something more of the lines of those living in Montgomery projects would refer to it as.

      As written in my “Why You Should Read” – the script does hit home in most areas.

      Thanks once again for the read.

      • Crcbonjour

        Hi Javid,

        Just wrote a post and lost it….::::grumble::::

        I think most writers include, at some times more than others, parts of themselves. But I get that this hits close to home more than I did before.
        You need to tell the story that is important, that you know.

        I’m sorry to you and all the writers I left out page references; I wrote them but when I was done…my notes were a mess. That’s for me to fix!

        I thought TO had “street smarts” which were essential because Sac would never have hung on to Ray Ray (though I think he was sympathetic to him on some level) without TO. Street smarts can be a handy thing to have for anyone! It made for an essential part of the relationship between the main characters that drive the story.

        I did reread the section where the detective sepsis with the new DA who tells him how weak his case is…..it’s unfortunate the time passed that a Sac accepts the shiv he never used upon hearing James has ordered a hit…….if James wasn’t busted, why order the hit. Sac didn’t give him up. No way Sac ever told Ray Ray or TO about James.

        Little curios about the foster Mom; yes I guess she knew what Sac did BUT that he was on a good path. He can’t see the girls…..
        It ends, they get lots of money……living in foster care; does the Mom save their money? Do the girls end up on the street too?

        Definitely read the other scripts; you’ll enjoy!
        And a big AMEN to what Carson is doing for the screenwriters!
        Colleen
        PS: As per my original post, never meant to marginalize dealing…..it’s the bottom of a giant pyramid. Devastating.

        • J-A

          Hi Crcbonjour,

          With regards to the James/Sac situation. James was busted but released on bail, I might have to make that more clear in the script. P.74-75 might help you further. The person with James ASSUMED Sac gave them up for two reasons – 1) He wanted to quit a while ago and 2) He wasn’t picking up his phone for days which was contrary to a trait of Sac who is diligent and on-point.

          Pertaining to his sisters, I leave that up to the reader to interpret. The lady wasn’t a mom but a worker at the Foster home (if you recall there were tons of kids there)

          Hope that helps. Thanks for the comments/suggestions.

          • Crcbonjour

            Hi Javid,

            Apologies….seems I didn’t do this very well. However, the subject matter hits home for me as well, and others I’m sure.

            I’d remembered the scene with the girls being on a playground….

            There was a character “James” in the gripping “Day 666″ which I read back to back with your script; he’s been on my mind, as has been that story, likewise “Cipher” “Winning Isn’t Everything” and “Moira”

            Don’t know which draft you’re at with your script but I wish you all the best.

            Colleen

  • J-A

    WINNING ISN’T ANYTHING

    This script got a lot of slack just off the logline alone. I guess many aren’t fans of sports films (as I’m not of sci-fi, horror and fantasy). To those individuals, this isn’t one
    that focuses on actual baseball and it’s rule but more from behind the scenes of ownership, similar to Cameron Diaz in Any Given Sunday

    – You should put a comma between a comment and the person it’s being said to (I.e. Thanks, Joe.)

    – You don’t have to describe a character’s clothing unless it stands out
    in the scene (i.e its inevitable he will wear suit in court so don’t write it, however, had he been wearing tattered clothing then, yes, illustrate that)

    – In the beginning there were a lot of character introductions that one might lose count. Either form some characters into one person or just introduce them sporadically.

    – Removes scenes like buying a hot dog. Just show him in the following scene with the food – we’ll get the point

    – Page 18 hold envelope

    -I thought it was pretty funny (I.e. I enjoyed him finding difficulty finding the office, going to get subs, Gary, Indiana, Soriano’s a bum, bar mitzvah, team’s best hitter, 411) – liked them a lot. There wasn’t much humor off the bat (no pun intended) so maybe try to apply that
    early as well.

    – You did a great job depicting how difficult and painstaking running a team was. The reader was sympathetic to Joe’s predicament as the story carried along.

    – P.58 who in the world is Tim? Did you mean Joe? Lol.

    – There are a number of grammar and punctuation mistakes. What I found
    helpful was to print it and fix all the errors and then edit it onto the computer

    – He confides in beer more than his wife. I find this cliche. How about conversations with his wife or just erasing the bar scenes as it is? We’ve seen them before.

    – I think you did a great job with your descriptions. I don’t recall you ever having a –
    paragraph of four lines or more until the fight scene. You were able to show a lot with little. Probably the best from this week’s scripts.

    – I liked the Old Man. His scenes were few but when he came he got his point across and was in control with very few words

    – I liked the twist on the second last page. Didn’t see that coming.

    – I can see this being a possible PG-13 film that could do well. I understand Joe was in a very frustrating position (and rightfully so) yet he always had that “angry at the world” attitude. How has he still been married for fifteen years? I thought the characters were average minus the Old Man. Nothing really stood out from them. In particular,
    Cervetti. Maybe give him a flaw. We’ve seen mob guys like him on countless occasions.

    One of my other concerns was where did all the fans start coming from? What led to them flocking in late into the season?

    Nonetheless, I found it a good smooth read. Don’t see why many didn’t give it a
    chance. You should double-check your formatting (slugs in particular – should be hypens in between with spaces).

    You stated its inspired by true events. Do you have a newspaper article or anything pertaining to the real life story?

    DAY 666

    – I think you made a good choice changing the title to “THE BUNKER” – stick with that

    – Stick with demons over zombies. We rarely see it in film.

    – Aside from the “Betsy situation” there is nothing going on in the first 1/3 with regards to the actual oppressors. They are basically preparing for the “what if” the whole time. I feel as if they are in a paid psychological study rather in hiding.

    – The appendix aspect was good – I can imagine it being more more gut wrenching on film

    – My favorite scene was the initial meeting with “The Man”. Really liked the USA banter. Also the “Congratulations. Now, turn around”. Maybe you can introduce him earlier in the script so he’s there for longer and stresses the family even more.

    – The baby dying was a good twist along with the father breaking down.

    – This might seem too nitpicky but “Smith” is too common and bland of a last name, in my opinion at least. Rather this is a family that has had to persevere, rather choose a name that can show that. Smith is your ordinary family… these folks aren’t.

    – I don’t see the problem with some saying excessive exposition. The fact that it takes place in such an enclosed quarters the whole time, its necessary for the reader to visualize it as they are spending their time here throughout. After the descriptions of the bunker, there wasn’t another large amount – don’t see the fuss

    – You should be commended for being able to write a proper script in under 90 pages

    – The second last paragraph on the last page – I think you meant to write “James is out”

    – I’m not really a fan of sci-fi/monsters/horror type films, however this was cool. I felt though the lack of nourishment derailed James more than the actual demons themselves. We knew the demons prevented them from going outside because that’s what the logline suggests as does the dialogue but I never felt the demons played that much of a role.

    Great job though.

    CIPHER

    – It is fair to say you have the most intriguing logline of them all. Having said that, Sci-Fi is a genre I hate… probably the most out of all. Truthfully, I’ve never read one before this, never had the urge nor desire to.

    I did read this, however, I could only reach to page 35. I never have been a fan of different world/CGI/sci-fi/summer blockbuster/mutants/etc that type of film and stories. I’ve actually only seen 4 of the top 10 most grossed box-office films of all-time (and
    neither of them being the top 3).

    It’s the dense descriptions of having to imagine a new world, a different way of living and the excess of characters. I did find the protagonist to be likeable, actually the
    most likeable of all four scripts.

    The fact you had management companies and producers rushing to you must say something, just not my cup of tea (you might feel the same way about mines or others). Had it been the same story but the different world switched for something like
    “Back to the Future” (real-life setting), I might have read it further and probably enjoyed it. Nonetheless, hopefully you go far with the response you’ve gotten so far.

    MOIRA

    – This somewhat reminded of “Side Effects”. Of all the writers this week, I found you be
    the most talented. I would not be surprised if you’re also an author – you definitely have that feel to it. However, just like CIPHER, the logline didn’t appeal to me but since it was so short I thought it would be only right to read it.

    – I liked the scenes with Moira with her johns and strip club interactions with the others. Outside of work? I didn’t like it. Maybe, Nicole was the reason. Didn’t really have such a
    problem with Michael. Although I found them to be drags yet the protagonist was the drug abuser.

    The scenes at times were a tad bit descriptive, hence why I can see you being great at writing novels.

    My choice: If I had to choose in line at the movies, it would be WINNING ISN’T ANYTHING. I suggest the other users read it. DAY 666 or rather now THE BUNKER was almost equally as good, aside from the lack the demons actually physically harming and oppressing the Smiths, it was well done.

    Great job to all the writers.

    PS – This is the first time I’ve read all the scripts in one week.

  • Eddie Panta

    Hi,
    After as much reading as I could do… My pick goes to Cipher. I like the WARRIORS in the future aesthetic. Although, I wish it captured more of the simplicity of the original early 80’s cult classic. This isn’t the script I thought I would enjoy the most. But the writing is the best out of the bunch. I’m just not a big sci-fi fan. It has a fun feel that is akin to TOTAL RECALL and FIFTH ELEMENT, at least in terms of the wacky, futuristic environment.

    CIPHER moves fast enough.. There’s tons of plot. So, I would of started slower, wider, rather than jump right into it. Let’s see this world first. I thought some pages were too dense and over written, but for the most part, this guy can write.
    I would make a small note here in terms of character dialogue. There should be contrast in the way different characters speak. IF HOMELESS MAN says “Best hurry” Than LETTI can’t say ; “Best look elsewhere.” That’s HOMELESS MAN’s lingo… A question I did have is whether or not his voice changes when he changes his face?. But maybe I missed it?

    MOIRA interested me the most. Although, I was not attracted to the writing style. I felt the choppy fragmented sentences were ill used here since the action is languishing on details.
    Flash backs and having to go back to find out what was going on forced me to put it down. But there is a lot of clever stuff in there. The writer has a voice. It just seems it was spent on areas that were of little concern to the story or plot. I don’t need to know every subtle move the stripper makes. Choppy, fragmented sentences serve the script well, when describing fast, pace action or broad ideas. It should equal less words on the page, not more.

    DAY 666, the contained Bunker thriller. My first read. Pages flew fast. Ideas were sharp. Set-up was as quick as could be. Writing was clean. But by page 40, I wanted to know more… What is out there? And why aren’t they talking about it?. . Don’t hold back the MONSTER, it’s going to be on the cover. Remember, you have no control of the marketing. You can’t keep tugging away that piece of cheese from me.
    The decision that needs to be made in DAY 666 is: Who is this story for adults or kids? I don’t see the current draft pleasing either of those two. Too dark for kids. Too much kiddy time for Adults. I still think there is a solid movie idea here. Just needs to be flushed out.
    If you are in a BUNKER for the whole time. Time fading and cutting to is going to be rough

    . You need something to CUT TO or a transition device. If the sick kid is lying there with his stomach open and you don’t want to show all the gruesome detail. What are you cutting to? Whose reaction are you on? Don’t show me the gore. Show me a character’s reaction to it. Don’t cut away or time fade. OR maybe you should show the gore? Figure out who this movie is for. Then your decisions will be made. If you going to time fade, then choose a still life or a subject withing the bunker to transition time with. Perhaps the side action. The wringing of bloody rags… Cut away to something…

    DAY 666 uses a fail-safe plot device: The FAMILY DOG / pet. Whenever the dog dies, you’ve got the audiences attention and their sympathy. It works in every movie. It takes a lot longer for the audience to warm up to human characters.

    I will do another post with a TIP on how to start DAY 666 opening scene and alleviate the problem of exposition all together. Regardless if its Demons or Zombies. The problem is NOT with the MONSTER.

    WINNING IS ANYTHING,
    Clean pages! Easy to read. The lead character has a plan and a problem. We know who these people are. And the lead is likeable.
    Another reviewer mentioned it was overly detailed. But if you look at the pages there is more white space here than in any of the 5. So, why do I still agree with him. I guess its because we’re reading a lot about hand gestures, and what incidental small things going on. I’m a big fan of those mini-moments. I feel contemporary scripts too often ignore them.
    But the problem is those mini-moments need to serve story.
    We need to already be in the scene when the scene starts.
    Let’s not have the guy enter the room each and every scene.
    We all know what a suburban breakfast morning is like. Let’s jump right into it, with all the characters already in action.
    having people walk in and out of rooms takes too much time. Start the scene with the characters already in play… we’re smart we can handle it, especially if it’s a morning breakfast scene.

    A HAND’S REACH, subject matter wasn’t for me. But I liked the writing style. There were some really nice descriptions here. Although, I found the scenes and the characters hard to believe. I just didn’t “LIKE” the main character. Baggy pants, gold, chains, punks, etc.. Plus, I don’t think kids really talk like that. But again, it wasn’t up my alley. So not the best person to review it. “Husband” needs to be named. His dialogue goes on way too long.
    And when it is interrupted it needs to say CONT. next to the character name.
    It was mostly the dialogue I had a tough time with. I think the other reviewers have already covered some other things I’d mention.It seems they have more helpful tips than I can give you.

    Good Luck to all the Writers.
    -Eddie

    • Matticus Prime

      Hey Eddie, didn’t even notice the similar dialogue between Manx/ Letti. And in the first 10 pages no less. I’m rather embarrassed that made it through my revisions, but that’s why you need a second set of eyes. Thanks for the heads up.

      No, his voice doesn’t change when he’s wearing the mask but that was never addressed. Honestly the mask was such a throw away concept when I initially imagined it for the first act I never conceived of all the issues it would cause to the readers. Almost wish I could get rid of it now and save my self all these headaches from it.

      • Eddie Panta

        There’s a lot of solid work here. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into this story and it shows.
        I think the trick regarding the mask and the changing powers is to stay loose and broad. Don’t lock it down. Let others impose. The MASK should work any number of ways.
        Here is the link to James Cameron’s Strange Days. In case you haven’t read it. But it always references the high-tech or futuristic elements in terms of society implications. The script has massive plot holes, things that don’t make sense, but most people don’t care. They care about the characters.
        It wasn’t a great film. By his simple words here go a long way.
        http://www.scifiscripts.com/scripts/StrangeDays_Scriptment.txt

        • Matticus Prime

          Ah, Strange Days, one of the most underrated sci-fi flicks out there IMO (and Ralph Feines doing his best Bradley Cooper impression back before there was a Bradley Cooper to impress). It was actually one of the inspirations for Cipher, along with The Warriors (obvs) and Escape From New York. Glad we’re on the same(ish) page.