amateur offerings weekend

TV Pilot edition! Play nice.

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TITLE: Shrapnel
GENRE: Crime Drama
LOGLINE: An ambitious junkie and his severely traumatized war veteran sister, struggle with working for their manipulative crime boss father’s drug trafficking business.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: The Sopranos meets Breaking Bad…. Could the bar be set any higher? Back in February when I uploaded Shrapnel to the Black List, it was ranked no. 2 overall on the monthly list. At its core, Shrapnel is about a brother and sister fighting their true identities trying to be people that they’re not in order to please those around them.Anyway, with the main goal of becoming a TV writer, the purpose of Shrapnel is to serve as a convincing staffing sample for similar genre/tone shows. It is not the most high concept of ideas and as a consequence I don’t expect to become the next Mickey Fisher with this project. I simply wrote the show that I want to watch. But concepts aside, the reason why we tune into our favourite shows each week is because of the characters, and hopefully the dried blood of my passion for the characters/story world is evident on the page.

LOGLINE: A woman posing as an IT security specialist lives a secret life as an assassin for hire.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: I’m an aspiring screenwriter from New York. You should read JANE because it’s only 50 pages. It’s also very divisive. Two notable amateur Friday alums had this to say about it:

“Until the very, very end, the script has a few storylines that vie for attention but seem inconsequential to one another. Jane’s mission in the pilot doesn’t really give us further insight into her character despite her resourcefulness and how lethal she can be.”

and …

“I want to read it again tonight because, for the second time in a row now, I enjoyed it so much I came away with no constructive notes whatsoever. It’s making me feel like a fanboy.”

TITLE: Cartella
GENRE: Drama
LOGLINE: After her father dies in a shootout, a single mother finds herself to be the unexpected heir of a Mexican drug cartel.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Let me ask you something, AOW vets. When’s the last time you wrote an hour-long pilot in a week? I’m talking pitch to polished draft. Well, that’s the story behind “Cartella.” I was a finalist for the Television Academy Internship in the TV Writing Drama category, and had a week to submit an original script. For months I’d been searching for an opportunity to get this project off the ground, and this was it. After six grueling days, I busted out 49 pages of blood, sweat and tears. Even though I didn’t get the internship, I’m damn proud of the result.

I’ve been doing paid script coverage for almost a year now, while attending school full time as a screenwriting major. So when I say I know this pilot is good, I know it’s good. I wouldn’t have submitted it to the illustrious Scriptshadow if I didn’t believe it had a shot. This is my second original pilot and third TV project.

LOGLINE: Based on true events.  At the beginning of World War 2, America scrambles to assemble the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime intelligence agency and predecessor of the CIA.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: My writing partner and I are huge history buffs and we think the story of the OSS should be told, and would make an excellent hour long cabler.  You should read this, because it has Nazis!  But seriously, check out the opening Teaser and see if it hooks you to read more.  We appreciate all your constructive criticism.
TITLE: A War of Gods
GENRE: Sci-fi, Action
LOGLINE: In the faraway future, a bitter hitman is sent aboard a sentient space station to kill his next target, but finds himself embroiled in a complex time loop among a series of psychopathic characters all hunting him down for his new found time machine.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: This script has grubs the size of cars, cannibalistic priests, cults that worship machines, androids that kill, a civil war, an Abbé Faria, and finally… A John Titor. What more could you ask for?
On a more serious note. After finishing a little less than a dozen features, I decided I’d finally try my hand at a pilot. More importantly, one dealing with time travel and greed set amongst the depths of a poverty ridden space station. I tried to blend techniques like Primer’s bulldozer approach regarding time travel, whilst mixing in the visuals of Enter the Void, coupled with the action and world building of sci-fi films like Total Recall and Blade Runner.
This was simply the result.
  • pmlove

    I’m only a few pages into SHRAPNEL but looking good so far. I was wary about ‘another gangster show’ but great opening – all visuals, thematic overtones.

    Hope the rest is as good.

  • pmlove

    SHRAPNEL – You’ll have to look beyond my advice because, quite frankly, this is way beyond my ability to add any relative advice. The meth / Tommy storyline is not that original but you know that already. And I’m not even sure I care. It’s got compelling drama. Action. Good dialogue. Conflict. I got to p20 and will happily read on, just got to give the others a chance.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Read the teaser.
    It seems too scripted. Lacking in tension.
    I think we would have to see RED SCARF three times
    to get the audience invested that something bad is about to happen.

    Is it good enough for television?
    The characters seem shallow. Many of the choices – birthday, pregnant wife – are uninspired.
    But I’ve seen worse on television.

    (Only read the teaser. This is not a review of what could be a great idea.)

  • pmlove


    Well, hello, I need to write a script with lesbians and meth it seems. Two for two. Not feeling this quite as much as Shrapnel. Jane’s character feels flat somehow – it’s like she has a bunch of characteristics but no character. It feels like I’m learning facts about her – she’s a hard ass killer, with snappy lines. She’s a lesbian. She’s a vegan. She lacks any fragility to make her seem human. She’s in control in every scene she’s in.

    We love Walter White because he’s so helpless at the beginning. But she is totally in control, which you can get away with more if the show is light hearted (eg Bond / Mr and Mrs Smith etc). Here it just seems like she lacks depth.

    I enjoyed the stoner story line until Keith bashes the neighbours head in. The neighbour conflict felt forced for me – I can’t imagine most neighbours being so aggressively nosey – give them more of a reason to be suspicious, then I’d build some tension towards Keith killing him. Unless Keith turns out to be an assassin too, in which case, fine.

    • Guest

      “But she is totally in control”

      Maybe she’s the equalizer :D

      • pmlove


        But… the Equalizer had a human side. He wasn’t domineering in the way that Jane felt in those opening pages. He has an equal relationship with the guy at the DIY store and the prostitute. He wasn’t controlling. Jane felt controlling (and the wife character says as much), which just makes her less likeable. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I just don’t like her.

        • Randy Williams

          You might not like her, but the girl gets a lot of dick. Knifing one, trapping one in a metal vise, stuffing a severed one in a dude’s mouth.

          and I probably missed one somewhere.

          • BSBurton


          • kenglo

            Oh wow….I’ll have to read this one then!!

            All of the loglines seem intriguing I might add. Nice picks…

  • pmlove


    Not sure if I’m getting gangster / drug fatigue at this point but something isn’t clicking (read to end Act One). Maybe it’s too close to TYRANT, which seems to be the exact same plot line to this but I think that offers some good lessons. Set-up, then payoff. This crams it all in so quickly it doesn’t grab you. There’s no push-pull (so far) or resistance from Ximena – as soon as her dad is shot (which seemed contrived – not sure why someone else wouldn’t spot the guy he just shot in the arm pointing a gun at him, what are his bodyguards for?), Ximena is barking orders like the boss.

    Part of the reason it lacks pull is that I don’t know what she wants. I’m assuming she doesn’t want this. Maybe she does? She enjoys teaching the recruits how to cut and slice the cocaine at the start. So is this her dream? Her worst nightmare? I’m not sure, but this is what I need to know before she is thrust into the situation of being ‘the boss’ so I can either cheer her on to her dream or feel the tension of her taking on the role.

    p7 – XIMENA is re-capitalised and re-introduced.

  • pmlove


    Malibo’s right – this is too safe at the moment, too generic. I’ve seen the betrayal scene before, executed almost exactly as it was here.

    Everything felt like it needing ‘exceptional’-ising. For example:

    “No, but we think something big’s
    about to go down, possibly even on American soil”

    This needs a re-write. It’s not there yet. But, on the plus side (sorry), no drugs in this one. It’s definitely got a TV show in the idea. Just needs tightening on the execution.

    I’m curious about where you see it going long term. We know the Allies win the war. We know the CIA is eventually formed, so that’s successful. Is it just going to be a episodic show? What are the longer arcs going to be?

    This might be answered later on – but what is the central question in the show?

  • pmlove


    typo – ‘en route’, p1

    other minor niggle – you open on a bullet and a rifle. This places me firmly in the present. Only a bit later, it’s hi-tech alien weaponry and glowing bullets. Are they both? Or is one side using old school rifles in the future? Then you mention we are in a warehouse – this is where two armies are rushing against each other. How many? I’m struggling to get a sense of how many people are here and where we are.

    typo p1-
    You haven’t got the slightest clue
    what you’ve yourself into it…

    Not filled with confidence thus far.


    There’s a lot going on here – it’s a full world. After Edge of Tomorrow, I might be interested in some more time looping. I’m interested to know how you deal with it – EoT employed some unique devices (ie he needs to die (irony alert!); then he stops looping and we know the true extent of the impossibility of his situation (stakes alert!)). This seems like a more continuous looping. But it can, and has, been done before.

    Some of the scenes have interesting angles – Icarus for example. It starts off as a fairly rote ‘violent-off-the-wall’ character but then you flip it at the end as he is put down by a chubby fifty year old. Then you have the GoT-esque bit where he watches his mother in the shower. That’s creepy, far more effective than the violence with the priest and the eye-patch (which feels a tad campy).

    The constant… addition… of… ellipses… is… a… little… off-putting…. The first scene needs an edit for clarity.

    I think this will struggle due to its scope. I read around 13 pages and I feel like I’m waiting for it to click. It’s always going to take a while to get into the story as there’s so much we need to know.

    So, I’m not fully in, not fully out. As it were.

  • MGE3

    Was OSS: Office of Strategic Services hosted on the Black List for a while?

  • Randy Williams

    Maybe someone could educate those of us lacking in pilot review experience what we should be looking for in a pilot? I’m a bit lost, here.

    My thoughts on reading the first acts of all of them. I didn’t feel a compelling urge to read beyond that for any of them. Cartella was fun, though. Elevated life when the others seemed mired in depression. Maybe might continue with that one.

    The only one I’d deliberately watch from a commercial would be O.S.S. Like this sort of thing and it was an Okay read, nice and jaunty to reflect the times. Needed more bite, though, I thought.

    The only one I’d watch beyond the teaser would be Jane. The teaser really escalated. Hated her though.

    Suggestion to the writer of Shrapnel. The deer head being pulled off the wall is a great visual. Maybe add a line of dialogue so when office workers the next day reenact it at the water cooler they can spout the great line along with the pantomine.

    Congrats to all for making it here! Good luck!

  • BSBurton

    Wow… only 5 choices and none of them jump out from the Loglines. I also submitted to the pilot contest and I’m pretty surprised that there weren’t six, seven or even ten entries…

    considering pilots are shorter than features… ??? WTF CARSON?

    OK, read the first bits. Nothing jumps out as strong but I was interested in Shrapnel just because of the blacklist stats. Sort of strange it didn’t get any traction. Did the authors not pay for reviews ?? I know you have to have two 8/10’s or better.

    Anyway, strange weekend…

    • Malibo Jackk

      Post a link.
      We’ll be happy to tear it apart.

      • astranger2

        You’re a funny guy, Malibo… that’s why I’m gonna read you last. ; v )

      • BSBurton

        Don’t really need the feedback, would just like a win and recognition on the homepage. If you want to give me your email, I’d be happy to send to you

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Hm. I’m sorry for being a little direct, here, please be assured that there is no meanness behind my words, just a desire to understand what seems to me to be unnecessary disappointment.

      Just what exactly is the problem ? It’s not because someone was featured on an AF (or that one of their AOW submissions got a lot of positive feedback) that their following submissions get a free pass to subsequent AOWs (feauture or TV). Sure, this place has a lot of long-time followers but there should be a place for everyone (and, as others have said before, Carson’s decisions are his own – obviously, not everyone will agree with them but so what ?) The fact that BLACK AUTUMN wasn’t reviewed on Friday on account of another of the writer’s scripts having been reviewed only a few weeks back was perfectly understandable to me (I still hope he gets his shot one day in the near future but in the end, it all comes down to Carson’s choice).

      Five TV pilots instead of ten ? I don’t recall this being a problem before. Plus, we don’t all have the time to go through even five (5 scripts times 50-60 pages each equals 250/260… People start yelling when feature scripts are over 120 pages long).

      I fail to see what is so strange about this but hey, that’s just me :)

      • ripleyy

        She speaks the truth, yo. I think it’s good that Carson is mixing it up with pilots. As with “Black Autumn”, I think it’s okay for a writer to come back to AF… but only if a year or two have passed. I don’t think we should be selfish here. Give those who have either been long-term followers or newcomers a chance to put their work out there.

        • BSBurton

          Ripley, I’m not worried that my pilot wasn’t good enough. They don’t even read them, they just select a handful at random. And comeback after year or two, that’s pretty funny. I’m pretty sure the same writer won AOW back-to-back weekends.

          A lot of the scripts posted to this site are absolute drivel. Filled with formatting errors, typos, and just poor writing. I personally like reading the works of previous winners, because it’s usually better.

          Unless we do a pilot month, I think this should of had 10 entries.

          • Randy Williams

            Maybe with ten entries, we would have gotten a bit more variety.
            I had just come off watching that ISIS propaganda video out of Iraq that is making the rounds. Full frontal brutality in HD as they go around drive- by machine gunning people on the roads. Then I come to this and the scripts are full of the malaise of mankind, violent brutality that would never make the screen and I yearned for some comedy, romance, a private eye with a sense of humor. Where are they?

          • BSBurton

            I had the private eye with a sense of humor, but I guess it wasn’t to be lol.

          • ripleyy

            I, too, think AOW should be taken a lot more seriously. I think it should only be used if you are absolutely 100% sure your script is ready. But on the flip-side, I sadly can’t do anything if a writer truly believes that he, or she, is indeed ready. It just means when it comes time when a serious writer comes around and thinks he has what it takes, and his script is indeed polished, it’ll make a good read. I do think AOW has been getting a lot better, gradually. That’s just my two cents, and as long as the writer who ends up winning the AF spot leaves with a better understanding for the craft, then that’s all that I care about.

      • BSBurton

        My only point that pilots are half the length of full scripts, so why not have more? Unless we do a whole pilot month, I feel like it’s a waste of time to just do five. God only knows how many people submitted.

        But I don’t think that I should get a free pass lol. :)

        • pmlove

          Keeping to 5 scripts maintains the 1/5 chance. It’s the same as every weekend. You of all people should know that sometimes people struggle to even choose one out of five, let alone ten.

          Do many people actually read the whole script of every entry each time? I doubt it. Even you’ve only read the first bits of each of these pilots (well, according to the above at least).

          So the fact that pilots are shorter doesn’t make any difference if you only read the first 30 pages anyway.

          I’m not sure why it’s a waste of time either. You’re surprised that there weren’t six entries, or seven etc but it’s completely arbitrary (granted if there was only one, you’d have a point). It’s only a waste of time if you wrote the script only for this (see Star Wars week).

          Re: random selection, I think Lauren has said she goes through and makes sure that the scripts aren’t complete garbage too; I don’t think it is a completely random selection of five.

          But if you’re upset at missing out (I appreciate everything isn’t always as it seems on the internet, but that’s how it appears), why not just post the script and if it gets a following, Grendl will burn a path of fire and brimstone en route to getting you an AF slot.

          • BSBurton

            Good points :-). I have no intention of posting in the comments, I don’t want to detract from these five entries

      • Poe_Serling


        • Marija ZombiGirl

          I say what I mean and I mean what I say :)
          I’m frank that way, never mean. I’m used to not being very popular ;)

          • astranger2

            “Used to not being very popular?” … well, at least on SS, that seems to have changed… ; v )

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Well, one thing I’ve noticed is that when people tell you to “Be honest, please !”, they never want the truth. I’m probably just too frank for my own good :p

            Thing is, we have it pretty good here and nothing to complain about. There’s an article posted once a day and we also have the AOW where we can even post our own scripts. When threads deviate from the main topic, there’s no moderator to tell us to stop and get back on track.

            Actually, I’m of the firm belief that C has found a way to build a cloning machine. Flying around on unicorns ? Stalking Sean Penn ? Confronting bloodthirsty wabbits ? Moderating Grendl ? Running this place ? In addition to having a life ? :)

            No, seriously, I think we have it pretty good and should stop complaining.

          • astranger2

            Well, you are obviously well-beloved here.

            And, you are Fonzi absomundo-correct. People ask for the truth, but in reality abhor it. It is a human foible. A blind spot in the rear view mirror.

            And “C” absolutely does do a phenomenal job with this site… although — I have a feeling “L” is the one carrying that “Myth of Sisyphus” boulder up that mountain every day… and the next… and the next… and the next…

            God Bless you, L!!! (Does C even leave the toilet seat down?) Sheesh… least he can do… ; v )

          • astranger2

            I’m fairly detail-challenged in many ways… but, is that a new “do?”

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            My avatar ? Yeah, I like change :)
            I love yours – A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was one of the cinematic shocks of my life. I first saw it when I was 18 at a Kubrick retrospective (double bill with THE SHINING). I left the theater at midnight, wide-eyed with shock and wonder…

          • astranger2

            A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is such a wonderfully layered film.

            And the Anthony Burgess novel is even better. But as Burgess laments, the novel and film is misunderstood as a simple glorification of violence. Nothing can be further from the truth.

            It is much more complex than that, incorporating the classic determinism/free will discussion. The language is so rich, and lively. It is an unforgettable film in so many different ways.

            A real acid trip of a movie. Glad someone else here thinks highly of it. ; )

            Like your new look. Elegant goth zombie — not that I didn’t love the other. I’ve learned prior not to show too much enthusiasm for a “new look,” lest it is critical of the former… lol

            So, if you took it that way, as Alex the droog would tip his derby, and politely reply, “many apply polly loggies…”

    • kenglo

      The SHRAPNEL from Evan Daugherty is not the same as this Shrapnel is it?

  • Zero

    ‘A War of Gods’ was the one that attracted my attention, as it was a sci-fi series floating amongst a sea of drama/thrillers. As an aside, ‘A War of Gods’ is a clunky title.

    Page One – where the hell are we? There’s no slugline! And if the bullet’s suspended in midair, it can’t be exiting the barrel of a gun, now can it? Please think through these kind of things.

    It’s good to encourage these kind of shots, and specify certain sequences, but some things should be left to the directors and editors of your series.

    Is Sirona afraid of something, or does Sirona inspire fear? ‘Fearful’ has both meanings, so you have to be careful.

    And would you stop it with the…

    ELLIPSES, please!? A few times, to provide emphasis is good, but it loses any effectiveness when done this much. It really became annoying as the pages went on.

    Sci-fi series with full nudity are rare. They can’t draw as much of an audience with the nudity, so see if you can cut it.

    In general, R-rated sci-fi sceries are rare. They need to be done very, very well if they’re going to go ahead, and this just isn’t there, imo.

    It’s not a requirement to do so, but I’ve read it really helps when you start a new page after an Act Break. I mean, when you have the ‘End of Act One’ buried in the middle of text, like you have on page 16, it can be easy to miss.

    What does ‘Sure don’t peeps thinking that’ mean?

    I finally stopped skimming at page 28. One of the biggest problems here was that there wasn’t enough exposition. I didn’t understand anything, and very few rules of the universe were communicated. From what I did read, it seems like the series has a lot of ingredients and themes – space station, class warfare, time travel, religion, family drama, aliens, and possibly post-apocalyptic life.

    I mean, having a lot of ingredients isn’t a bad thing – sometimes it’s a good thing – but you need exposition, and hopefully a character the audience can relate to, to have any of it make sense.

    I think I’ll try on the other pilots later tonight.

    • Ange Neale

      Just started ‘A War of Gods’ and oh, Gods, I can see what you mean by “stop it with the…”

      And — I’d add — them too.

    • ripleyy


      Trapped in a series of time-loops that will never end, a hitman on-board a sentient space station is sent to kill his target, only to find others are after him instead.


      As with the script, I found the first page really gripping. Like the confidence in the writing pulled me in. Personally I thought the “–” was fine.

      The first page is full of missing words. “You haven’t got the slightest clue what you’ve GOTTEN YOURSELF into…” and my personal favourite out of the first second page “Dante’s fingers envelope AROUND her neck…”

      Look, I’m speaking from experience when I say I know it’s easy to overlook missing words and typos. Even in printed books I find typos and missing words, so I have came to the conclusion they’re never going away – but you can find them if you look hard enough.

      That all said and done, I had no idea what was happening in the first five pages. I think everything needs to be slowed down (pun intended?) and give us a clear image.

      After a couple of pages, I unfortunately closed it down. I think it has potential.

  • Ange Neale

    OSS: read teaser to ‘The End’.

    Apart from ‘Wild Bill’, is this based on real characters (i.e. Daniel, Richard, Henry?) as well as the real organization? I’m assuming you did know that the OSS wasn’t actually established until mid-1942, not December, 1941 (pp. 51 – 52)?

    Daniel has a promising character arc, and I like that Gina’s not just a bimbo secretary.

    Under different circumstances, I’d give it a couple of eps to really get going if it were on tv.

    Slightly effete British double-agent; who’d have guessed? Smallest problem re this, imo: the ‘my dear boy’ thing’s stereotypical and cliched.

    Bigger problem with plot implications was I could see Henry coming a mile off. If the author’d had the Gestapo kill Henry for real and then Daniel’s approached and groomed by his trusted lieutenant, that would’ve been less obvious. The betrayal would then have been of Henry as well.

    The third and biggest problem for me (it’s mostly re historical accuracy so I imagine it won’t be for many) is WTF?! I’m not British, but British subjects (servicemen and women, merchant seamen and civilians alike) had been dying by the tens of thousands while the jerks in Congress sat on their isolationist pedestal and pontificated that the US was above it all (but were happy to vaunt ‘their’ success at ending the US’s economic woes by bleeding Britain’s Treasury dry with the Lend-Lease program). Japan made them look stupid, yet somehow they kept their jobs!

    The British actually went to the mat to help the OSS get itself equipped and set up, and trained its early operatives in tradecraft, so it seems pretty ungrateful to not give them some credit for it. Instead you set the only two British characters up as bad guys and Nazi collaborators. Shame.

    • pmlove

      You come to SS with a WW2 script, you better have your shit correct.

      • Casper Chris

        Ange, our resident WW2 nazi…

        • Ange Neale

          Peevish, huh? LOL.

          • Casper Chris

            Smart and articulate!

  • Scott Chamberlain

    Let’s start with Logline

    PROTAG: broke businessman:
    FLAW: Honest
    GOAL (& LOCK): Blackmail wealthy serial killer
    ANTAG: rival con artists
    STAKES: everything cherished in life.

    So… not quite seeing the story concept here. An honest man must cheat a wealthy serial killer to… not sure. The goal is unclear. How will we know when he has achieved it? And how, exactly does it save everything he cherishes in life. And what is it that he cherishes in life. Or is it life itself?

    If this is a psychological thriller then what we want to mess with most is not his life, but his view on life. There are living hells worse than dying. If honesty is his flaw within this story world, then the nature of the goal seems well set up – and honest man is not well-placed to be a blackmailer. And the stakes are raised because the person being blackmailed is a wealthy serial killer. But this guy isn’t the antag – the people who presumably want him to fail at the goal are the con artists – are they the ones who make his blackmail difficult to pull off? Or are they irrelevant? And the does the tension come from always at risk of being discovered by the serial killer?

    What’s lacking from the logline is specifics about what he most cherishes. What he cherishes might be something he can’t have if he’s dishonest. Need to be specific because there’s about eight different possible endings, each promising a different story.

    So you can have:

    Overcomes Flaw, Succeeds At Goal, Gets What He Wants – Heroic. The honest business man becomes a sharper shrewder man and, as a result of this ordeal is now better placed to be a businessman – a rich one who does not allow others to take advantage of him.

    Overcomes Flaw, Fails at Goal, Doesn’t Get What He Wants – Tragedy. Becomes a dishonest man, but in a world of even more dishonest men he simply becomes owned by them and descends into a life of crime, losing his loving family.

    Overcomes Flaw, Succeeds at Goal, Doesn’t Get What He Want – Ironic Tragedy. Becomes a dishonest man, cheats the serial killer, now rules a crime boss, but loses the love and respect of his family and friends.

    Overcomes Flaw, Fails at Goal, Gets What he Wants – Ironic Hero. Becomes a dishonest man, bonds with the serial killer rather than cheats him, revises his business with lies and brutal force using his dishonesty to keep his loving family oblivious.

    Retains Flaw, Fails at Goal, Loses Everything – Deep Tragedy. Stays honest, caught by serial killer. Wife and family brutally murdered.

    Retains Flaw, Succeeds at Goal, Gets Everything – Ironic Hero. Stays honest, still finds a way to overcome the serial killer through duping the other con artists, saves business and emerges a better man.

    Retains Flaw, Succeeds at Goal, Loses Everything – Ironic Tragedy. Stays honest, still finds a way to swindle the serial killer of his money, but discovers how meaningless his existing materialistic life/wife is and walks away from it all.

    Retains Flaw, Fails at Goal, but Gets Everything. Stays honest, and doesn’t swindle the serial killer. His honesty tested and made invincible, he returns to his loving family a better man.

    So which is yours? And what, specifically does he stand to lose if he fails or succeeds in cheating a serial killer?

  • Malibo Jackk

    How many scripts have you written?
    (I seem to recognize the style
    and the type of script.)

    • David

      Ten, but none have been posted here.

      • Malibo Jackk

        Would not bother me if you had.

        Like the title as I mentioned.
        Was not grabbed by the logline or the first few pages.
        (Did a quick read. Could have missed a lot.)
        Thought the writing was competent.

  • Ange Neale

    I like Trelby, too. Keeps things nice and simple. (I.e. it’s idiot-proof so I can’t easily screw it up!)

  • Casper Chris

    y concern — isn’t 71 pages long for TV?

    Yea, I think it should be closer to 50.

    • BSBurton

      You’re absolutely right!

    • pmlove

      A few pilots for comparison:

      Sopranos is 69; House of Cards 65; Wire 63; Justified 65; Walking Dead 60; Nip/Tuck 60; John August’s ‘Ops’ 60; Tyrant 68.

      So, maybe slightly long.

      • Cuesta

        Lost, 97.
        Dexter, 67.
        House, 67.
        Revolution, 66.
        Prison Break, 65.
        Nikita, 62.
        Game of Thrones, 61.
        Desperate Housewives, 60.
        Breaking Bad, 58.

        But, this is Reader Land, my friend…

      • Casper Chris

        Well, you can find many professional feature scripts that are 140 pages or more. Probably not what we should be aiming for.

        Anyway, I’ve never written a TV episode so I just did a search and came up with this:

        The industry standard for the page count of a one hour-drama is between 45 and 63 pages.

        – The Blacklist


        So indeed 50 would’ve been more proper than 71.

  • ripleyy

    120 pages is 2 hours, 70 pages is 1 hour 10 I think. It’s long, sure, but in some cases pilots warrant longer running times. You have to keep in mind pilots are sink-or-swim, so the longer your pilot is – if your story warrants it – the better change it has for floating because you’re taking the time in setting-up the world.

    Firefly’s pilot is 1 hour 40 minutes I think, which it deserves because we’re setting up so many things. After? Each episode is roughly 40 minutes, which is very average. So if your pilot is long (Fringe’s pilot is long as well, it’s 110 pages I think which is average feature length) then go ahead. As long as you are setting everything up in your pilot and making it the best it absolutely can be, page length doesn’t matter.

  • BSBurton

    Are you a true detective Fan? Lol

  • cjob3

    Since these TV scripts are all dramas, any chance for a pilot SITCOM week next week?

  • ripleyy

    I’m so conflicted. On one hand, Jane would have been my pick but I just didn’t get a feel from Jane, and Shrapnel was good, too, but I just couldn’t get into it.

    In the end, my pick has to be CARTELLA. At first, it seems like “Weeds” for the Cartel, drug-smuggling kind, but in truth Cartella is pretty strong. The dialogue is really good, and the writing is confident. Ximena is a really sassy protagonist, and I instantly fell in love with her. She has a certain charm that I can’t ignore.

    It’s also properly formatted for a pilot, too, which was nice. Also, let’s not forget how well-polished this script is. I just think this script sings a little better than the others.

    It was just an exciting, really enjoyable read. “Breaking Bad” meets “Weeds”. If it were made (by AMC of course) I would definitely watch it every week.

    Brianna definitely has talent.

    • Randy Williams

      I agree. CARTELLA gets my vote, too. (my comments somewhere above)

      It’s time to show women can write more than unicorns. ;)

    • ThomasBrownen

      “The dialogue is exceptional and delicious (I thought, anyway) and the writing is confident.”

      I only read the first ten and last five pages, but I definitely agree. Confident writing, and the dialogue seemed authentic. I’m concerned that Ximena is already too corrupt and dirty for a whole show to be based on this pilot, but the writing’s good.

      • ripleyy

        I’m half done and I can say the writing is on-par throughout. It’s very authentic. As with Ximena being too corrupt, that’s quite a good point, but from what I’m reading she seems to be the morally good one. She’s got a soft heart which is why I think people will connect to her.

        • ThomasBrownen

          Also, I meant to add: I LOVE the title. Cartella. I like it so much, I’m jealous.

          • ripleyy

            Yeah it has a ring to it which is definitely what you need for a show!

          • Casper Chris

            Yea, makes me hungry for a bit of… Nutella.

  • mulesandmud

    In defense of Zero: Either the bullet is suspended, or it’s in motion; it can’t be both. This is a minor detail, for sure, and a reader would certainly get the idea, but if you have to infer the meaning of a sentence despite its conflicted wording, then that’s a fault in the writing, not a pet peeve of the reader.

    Even if it’s something that only other writers or literati would notice, that kind of attention to detail is the difference between communicating exactly what you mean and presuming that a ballpark description is good enough. The writer should be grateful for the catch and adjust the sentence accordingly.

  • TomG

    I love the challenge of TV pilots: you get half the time of a feature to convince viewers they have to participate in these NEW characters’ lives. I’ve never written one but it
    seems like great training, every scene has to compress and disguise character
    and plot exposition while serving multiple purposes.

    = I enjoyed the windshields as metaphor for obscuring what’s inside the characters
    = I loved the diner scene with Rene and the grandparents — brilliant
    = Multiple story lines and characters clearly (and tightly) developed. Tommy was the only character I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t believe the infidelity twist (they would’ve discussed it). So why would someone wanting to escape make such a terrible choice instead of going to the police and witness protection? It feels like he needs a darker back story.
    = Overall — a fantastic writing sample. As you already know, it needs at least one
    more structurally original element to stand out. Hope it gets you get noticed! Well deserved.

    = Read Act1. I’d love to see a conflicted female crime boss, but Ximena seems like she has everything under control. Also, I didn’t feel like the dialogue added much depth. But this seems to have the most commercial potential.

    The other premises didn’t entice me. I’d like to see more choices. How many submissions were there?

  • Cuesta

    My pick is A War of Gods.
    Because I like action, nothing more. I read to have fun and learn the language.

    Although I would’ve chosen anything but Cartella. The writer does paid coverage and knows it’s good. She clearly doesn’t need anyone’s opinion, much less a spot in AMATEUR friday.
    If she’s pro enough to pick people’s money, she’s pro enough.

    • Casper Chris

      Meh, most professional readers are amateur writers (take Carson for instance). Shouldn’t disqualify her

    • Rick McGovern

      Yeah, it came off as a little snooty lol

      I think you can have a good feelings about something you’ve written, but I don’t know if you really know what you’ve got until you send it out. Of course, even if I knew it was Oscar worthy, I would never say it.

  • witwoud

    It’s been a crappy day at the office. I’m tired and irritable. All I want to do tonight is make like a cabbage on the couch and see if there’s anything on TV — maybe there are some new pilots coming up? Remote control at the ready, I check out the teasers …

    SHRAPNEL — I see a guy hosing down a blood-stained car. A clearing in the woods at night. A couple of older guys, one of whom is the obvious ‘Boss’ character. A dead brunette in the trunk, naturally. Some talk about loyalty, which I’m guessing will be a major theme. Looks like another crime-family drama. It doesn’t seem at all bad. The business with the dying fawn was nice and ironic. On the other hand, there’s nothing here to make it stand out from the crowd. It’s professionally done, but so far it seems a bit routine. Maybe I’ll check out another channel…

    JANE — Maybe not. Yuk. A crass revenge fantasy involving a guy getting staple-gunned through the hand and then burnt to death by our feisty heroine. Jeez. Immediate turn-off. Or rather, turn over, to …

    CARTELLA — This is more like it! A woman teaching a bunch of teenagers how to pack cocaine. I’ve never seen that before. The stuff about the microgram scales is good and convincing, and so is her ‘save the cat’ moment with one of the teenagers. (Though I don’t understand how or why he’s already pocketed an eighth of cocaine. Wouldn’t he wait until the induction is over, at least?) Then comes the revelation that she’s also a sandwich-making mom. Looks like this is going to be a clever, ironic take on the ‘working mom’ genre. What’s more, it all feels very plausible. I like this character already and I’m already kinda hooked. Unless the other channels give me something good, this is what I’m watching tonight.

    OSS — Within the first five minutes we get Nazis, spies, microfilms, marital lies and people tied to chairs in the Gestapo cellars. Not bad! Actually, it feels like it’s all going a bit too fast. Eventful though it is, there’s nothing here really pulling me in. It all feels slightly generic, and I’m not getting much sense of who any of these characters really are. The Nazis just feel like TV Nazis. So, this is probably a pass. (Also — and I hesitate to go up against a couple of history buffs — but would the Gestapo really have dragged an American diplomat and his wife off to their torture chambers in 1938? I find it hard to believe. But I’m willing to stand corrected.)

    WAR OF GODS — Sorry, but I really don’t have a clue what’s going on here. I’m sure this is going to have its fans, but this sort of sci-fi which is big on concept and small on characterization is not for me.

    So I’m switching back to Cartella, my vote for the evening. It’s worth noticing how it’s the only teaser that doesn’t try and hook the viewer with blood and violence. (It promises these things, of course.) Instead we see a woman calmly performing a couple of routine activities, one after the other. That’s all it takes. It’s her we’re invested in.

  • mulesandmud

    You’re absolutely right: it’s not too confusing. Readers will understand. That said, the writer’s word choice is contradictory and could be improved.

    Confusing zero people seems like a pretty low bar. Instead, let’s aim for precise control of our language and storytelling skills.

  • peisley

    Cartella sounds intriguing. A hint of Breaking Bad and Weeds. I’ll give it a look and post later.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Had only time to read parts of the scripts.
    Seem to favor SHRAPNEL.

    Would not mind seeing mini-reviews of it
    as well as JANE and CARTELLA.
    There’s good talent on display.
    (but also a few problems).

  • Casper Chris

    Again, I don’t write TV pilots myself, but…

    Also, the guidelines for all major TV writing comps is a 70 page limit so why not go for it?

    Is that any different from all those major feature screenplay comps that have 150 page limits? (we all know not to write 150 page feature scripts).

    The pilot for The Americans is 75 pages

    And Lost pilot was 97, apparently. Like the Lawrence of Arabia of TV pilots.

    But that’s pro land. This is amateur land. And look at the script that’s winning here. 49 pages of lean mass.

    Anyway, I don’t wanna get dragged further into this page length discussion as it’s not really a big peeve of mine either way. In fact, I tend to write long myself (bad habit).

  • bex01

    I have been so looking forward to a pilot
    AOW but then I chickened out on entering… my pilot definitely needs at least
    one more draft if not more so hopefully it will be ready for the next pilot
    AOW! Maybe we could have one a month, or one every two months, or one whenever
    Carson feels like randomly shaking things up? Anyway, looks like there’s some
    talent on display this week!


    This seems quite well written, and has a
    lot of praise in the comments already. For me, though, I just didn’t get on
    board with it. And I really apologise, because I feel like this is going to be
    incredibly vague feedback – I just can’t figure out why I didn’t love it as
    much as others have. I can’t think of anything glaringly wrong with it. I’ll
    try to narrow it down –

    Characters – OK. This may have something to
    do with it. I really didn’t love Ximena. I didn’t dislike her, I just didn’t
    have any strong feelings towards her either way. I didn’t feel like her
    character was big enough for how major her role is in the story. My favourite
    character, I have to say, was Ximena’s mother. I just felt like I connected
    with her better – and you know why? It was that little point of how she hated
    being called ‘abuela’ by the kids. For some reason this just humanized her for
    me. And when she comes out of the house (spoiler) with the shotgun, she was
    definitely my favourite character!

    Maybe Ximena needs another characteristic
    that will specificially define her. It doesn’t have to be something major, just
    something like the Grandma and her reaction to the word ‘abuela’. I don’t
    really ‘get’ Ximena at the moment – what does she want? What is she afraid of?
    What is her flaw? I feel as though she needs to be more defined. Ximena has so
    much potential to be one of those TV characters that people never forget, but I
    don’t think she’s quite there yet.

    Dialogue – The dialogue seems to have got a
    lot of praise in the comments already, but I’m sorry, it just didn’t do it for
    me. It was by no means bad, I didn’t find it to be on-the-nose or anything like
    that. It’s competent. But I feel it could use some spicing up. It comes off as
    a little bland. Just my opinion. Maybe the right actors would make it sound

    Plot – I don’t have any huge issues with
    the plot. What I think the plot would benefit from is having a clear arc for
    Ximena over the course of the episode. At the end, she tells her mother that
    she’s out. Maybe if we had a clear sense from the beginning that Ximena did not
    want to be involved in this life? Then that could be more effective. Or maybe
    there’s a specific point during the episode where she decides she wants out?
    Was this what the death of her father was meant to represent? It’s entirely
    possible I’ve missed plot points and these things were obvious to others.

    Anyway. In conclusion, I think the reason I
    didn’t connect as much with the script as I could’ve is because of the
    characters, specifically Ximena. She’s on the way, but I think she could be
    fleshed out a little more. At the moment I’m having a difficult time imagining
    her as anything more than a 2 dimensional character on the page.

    But good job to the writer! Clearly has
    writing talent and I think this is definitely a commercial idea. It’s easy to
    see all the possibilities for where the story could go from here. And also I
    love that the protagonist is female – this makes the show seem different and
    fresh. Good move. Would love to see where this project goes in future. Onto the
    next pilot!

    • bex01


      I loved the opening scene of Jane, the
      script definitely started with a bang. Unfortunately, as I read on, I found the
      rest of the script didn’t pack as much of a punch. I didn’t feel like I
      connected with a single character – particularly Jane. I felt like there was a
      lot more time devoted to Jane killing people rather than revealing her
      character. I mean, there’s a whole scene whose only purpose, it seems, is to
      tell us Jane is vegan. Being a vegan does not add anything to us really KNOWING
      Jane, her traits, her personality, her fears, her flaws, her desires etc etc.
      Vegan didn’t seem to have any relevance to anything! I felt like the writer was
      trying to make her seem ‘different’ by making her a vegan lesbian. But you
      can’t just chuck labels in there and hope it makes your character ‘deep’. It
      doesn’t work that way. Compare this to Shrapnel, where one of the female
      characters has a wife and child. This influences everything she does! She is
      trying to make enough money to support her family. The relationship feels real.
      Here it did not, it just felt tacked on.

      I also found the different plots very
      jarring, and a bit confusing. I mean, wasn’t there a 3 year old boy who dies at
      the pool when we first meet Sara and Keith? Who is this 3yo? He just came out
      of nowhere! There was no explanation. And all of a sudden we’re killing another
      man? This is moving way too fast. We need to slow down a bit so the reader can
      figure out what’s going on. And we haven’t learnt enough about Sara and Keith’s
      characters to get invested in this storyline. All of a sudden Keith is a psycho
      killer – this doesn’t feel earned. I don’t believe it. Also I felt his dialogue
      at the end, when he is talking about the thrill he feels when killing people,
      was very on the nose.

      I sort of felt the same about Pooka’s
      storyline. A lot of people make the mistake of starting a scene too early, but
      I think this is a case of starting the scene too late. When we first meet Pooka,
      I had no idea what was going on in the scene before Keyla was running away. It
      all happened way too quickly. Give us a bit of an idea of what’s going on in
      the scene first. Particularly if you’re going to end the scene with people
      getting shot, lull us into a false sense of security. Make us comfortable. Then
      turn that on its head. If Pooka is going to be a key part of the episode, which
      he does end up being, he needs a better intro.

      Perhaps some of the characters could be cut
      down to help avoid confusion? I feel like Adonis and Keyla could’ve been
      condensed into one. Perhaps the kid is left on his own, and Keyla is racing
      back to get to him before Pooka does. Or something. Adonis didn’t add much to
      the story.

      And lastly, the ending. The last line of the
      script describes to us that the woman we are seeing is Jane’s mother. But on
      the screen? We’re not going to know this. I think Tim actually needs a line
      where he says, “Mum” or somehow reveals to us he is in fact referring to his
      mother. As it is, we’re going to be wondering why the final shot is showing us
      some random middle aged woman. Maybe the mother should have more of a presence
      throughout the episode (maybe she’s got a bit of a reputation or something), so
      the reveal is more effective.

      With all of Jane’s different disguises, the
      show has a certain Alias feel to it. Man I loved Alias back in the day. But
      Jane has a long way to go to get to that standard. I think some characters need
      to be condensed and we need to spend more time getting to know them. The script is only 50 pages at the moment, so there’s room to play around a bit. Also I
      think the different plots need to be streamlined – they mostly came together at
      the end but I’m not sure it was a good enough pay off as the different stories
      felt quite random throughout.

  • mulesandmud

    That distinction you made, between ‘not too confusing’ and ‘not confusing’, is the kind of attention to word choice that the script’s first sentence lacks. You’re not nitpicking – you’re being articulate, and holding me to the same rigorous standard. Why apply that standard to a web comment but not a screenplay?

    Sure, prioritize. Doesn’t make Zero’s note less true.

    • Unfinishe

      Your response is the sort of thing that may sound clever to people who refuse to think about it. Since I’m charging that the original description is not at all confusing, there’s nothing to fret over. Your argument, which seems to be “well, we can always make the writing more precise” is a vacuous cliche. By the way, make your characters more fascinating, your plot more original, and your dialog more quote-worthy.

      Take today’s script for instance. As I recall, Carson criticized the protagonist’s weak introduction and her general passivity. Can all the other stuff he praises after p. 35 get better with hard work? Of course. Without even reading it you could argue that it can always get better, and no one will dare disagree because you’re not saying anything meaningful. Instead, identify and fix the parts in most need of repair.

      And the original note *is* incorrect. The writer’s drawing a picture of the sort of thing that routinely appears in a graphic novel. There’s no confusion if we understand the context, which is that this is a work of fiction, not a news article. We know bullets don’t hang in real life, but they do on TV shows and in movies.

      When it comes to prioritization, time as a non-renewable resource, we encounter opportunity costs in every aspect of life, and I’m questioning my sanity for indulging this shameful digression.

      • mulesandmud

        Hey man, I’m just trying to have a conversation, and assumed you were as well. No need to be rude; no need to hit reply at all, in fact. If the discussion isn’t worth your time, just move on with your life, and best of luck to you.

  • Casper Chris

    Based on what I read, both Cartella and Shrapnel are really good and worth reviewing. It’s hard to pick one over the other. If someone put a gun to my head, I’d probably choose Cartella as I liked the opening more, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either (note: I didn’t have time to finish either of them).

    Incidentally, I also had the same gripe with both. The unshakable Breaking Bad vibe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Breaking Bad as much as the other guy, but frankly, I don’t want to watch a cheap imitation of it, and that’s most likely what you’re gonna get if you stray too far into its territory.

    Good luck to both writers.

  • ElectricDreamer

    I read the opening ten of them all. SHRAPNEL felt the most like a show.
    CARTELLA has potent writing, but the “Double Life Protag” (DLP) formula clunked for me.
    Not only did Mad Men & Breaking Bad RE-DEFINE this DLP dramatic sub genre…
    But now you have The Americans doing a stellar job in the same vein of storytelling.

    Undercover Russian nuclear families are more compelling than drug lord moms.
    They’re embedded spies balancing two power struggles: the Cold War and raising kids.
    I find that conflict far more compelling than following a “Wendy White” type.

    Two very talented writers, but the inspiration for both tales feels a little too obvious.
    In order to stand out, these two pilots need a conceptual twist.
    That twist must stand on the shoulders of successful DLP shows and add a fresh spin.
    Breaking Bad changed the white collar occupation to a SECRET CRIME LORD.
    The Americans takes the DLP formula and plugs it into a SECRET SPY FAMILY.

    If an amateur writer is looking to INNOVATE within the DLP formula…
    I think finding a different OCCUPATION to exploit may be the best way to go.

  • Logline_Villain

    My Vote: CARTELLA

    Read both Cartella and Shrapnel in their entirety and these two writers, Brianna & Cameron, both evidence great skill in their craft. That Brianna was able to pen this in a week tells me she has a bright future – and Cameron clearly has the chops to succeed as well.

    I gave the edge to Cartella as the premise of a daughter (Ximena) taking the reins of a crime family resonated more with me than one where a son (Tommy) was next in line for the throne.
    I also felt that Cartella held more promise in terms of having legs as a series.

    Make no mistake, both of these pilots are worthy of being reviewed on SS!

    Congrats to the writers…

  • S_P_1

    A War of Gods

    read to pg 10

    I couldn’t follow what was happening. I honestly felt I was reading a script to King Star King episode.

    I stopped when I read this.

    I want the money wired to me. No,fuck her, Winter, she already has too much to notice his part missing. You don’t know this gold digging bitch like I do. She’ll get her share soon, and I don’t mean the money.

    This is how Greek / Roman demi-gods talk??

    Minus all the syntax / grammatical errors. I could not get aboard. I noticed the newer style of action beats and character descriptions that flow immediately from the slug line. Even from writers at the top of the writing profession I don’t care for this style.

    If this pilot was more substantive I could accept the oedipus complex.

    If I read any further I feel it would just get more anachronistic and nonsensical.

    ***I know I posted before about finding the voice of the script and not comparing it to other works but this script is highly derivative. And the closest comparison I could think of is a Cartoon Network animation.***

  • bex01

    SHRAPNEL is definitely my vote for the pilot review! Really hoping it wins, I would love to see what Carson thinks of this one

  • Malibo Jackk

    You may want to consider going back to college
    — or re-writing that last sentence.

  • august4

    “Let me ask you something, AOW vets. When’s the last time you wrote an hour-long pilot in a week?” “I’ve been doing paid script coverage for almost a year now, while attending school full time as a screenwriting major. So when I say I know this pilot is good, I know it’s good.”

    I’m not sure if you’re aware of this… but you sound a bit full of yourself here…. probably not the best way to go about an introduction… Lol