amateur-offerings-weekend

Note: The Newsletter has JUST BEEN SENT OUT.  Check your spam and promotions tabs if you didn’t receive it.  E-mail me at carsonreeves1@gmail.com if you didn’t get it.  If you want to be on the newsletter, you can sign up here.

This week’s amateur picks are linked below. Offer your constructive criticisms and then vote for the best one of the bunch in the comments!

TITLE: Spooked
GENRE: Horror-Comedy
LOGLINE: Two slackers with dead-end jobs try to turn their haunted past into reality TV stardom.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: This was my first attempt at writing a feature-length screenplay and it became a Finalist in the 2013 PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.  It also garnered a Fresh Voices nomination for “Best On Screen Chemistry.”

I’m not a comedy writer, but always thought ghost hunting shows lent themselves naturally to humor because
they take it so seriously — just like my protagonists.

After a year of rejections, I feel like I’m ready for whatever reaction you (and the SS community) can offer.  Plus, I’m more
than a little annoyed about a recent TV web series springing up with the same name and subject matter.  What
do I have to lose now?

I should also note, that a certain character quirk was written LONG before I ever watched Zombieland. (It took me a while
to get this one finished.)  And I think my version plays out funnier anyway.

My 2nd feature is in a completely different genre (historical fantasy) and took 6 months of research/developing, 1 month to write.  It’s currently placed as a semi-finalist for this year’s PAGE Awards.

TITLE: NERVE AND SINEW
GENRE: Action Thriller
LOGLINE: When an ex-UFC fighter reluctantly accepts a kidnapping job from the Russian mob, he sneaks into an upscale apartment complex to capture the target but finds himself in a high intensity hostage situation when armed terrorists simultaneously take over the building in a Mumbai-style attack.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Been hacking away at this craft for several years now. Have written several scripts, read countless others. It can be a frustrating grind — writing scripts and trying to find success with them. Sometimes I’d love to quit. But I just can’t. Nothing else even remotely interests me the same way.

This is a classic blood-pumping action thriller with a modern touch that should be a fun ride if it ever makes it to the screen. But don’t take my word for it. One reviewer had the following to say: “Although there are big budget explosions and gun fighting scenes, the script never feels cliche in its execution of plot. It doesn’t lean on the violence and pays close attention to staying original and dark throughout. This could be a big, blockbuster film that would attract a broad audience and potentially an A-list actor.”

Also, it’s a quick 105 pages with sparse, vertical writing. At the very least you won’t get a headache reading it.

It’s done well in contests (initial draft was top 15% in Nicholl) and on the Black List (revised draft recently received an overall rating of ‘8’), but I’d love to get it some more exposure. The more eyes on it, the better, right?

TITLE: THE SANDMAN
GENRE: period thriller
LOGLINE: In 1940’s LA, an orphan young man must unravel the mystery of “The Sandman” – a legendary lost film – before the beautiful blind girl he loves falls victim to the sinister forces who seek it
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: because it is a story for anyone who loves movies with a passion and finds in the cinema not only escape from life but life itself. If a young Dickens or Poe would have written a script in collaboration with Roger Ebert, I’d like to think they would come up with something like this.

TITLE: Goodnight Nobody
GENRE: Contained Thriller
LOGLINE: Besieged by “monsters” that have emerged from their toddlers’ closet, a couple must keep their wits about them if they hope to escape their house alive.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Whenever you read in a release from a prodco that they may have independently developed a similar idea, I’m the guy they’re talking to. Ten years ago I wrote a script about a lonely boy whose stuffed animal comes to life, and is still around when he’s an adult. I’m not saying that I was ripped off – my script would never have been in the same zip code as Seth McFarlane to have even seen it – but I had a similar idea once upon a time that just didn’t find its way up the chain despite my manger-at-the-time’s best efforts. Five years ago a script I wrote with a partner generated a little heat. It was a reinvention of the King Arthur saga. Then three other Arthur scripts sold before we could cash in on that heat. Our script withered on the Hollywood vine and died. This summer I almost sold a script to “Lifetime”, but turns out they had a too similar project already in the works. And, just this week, “Pivot” sold which has a very similar idea to a sci-fi spec I wrote earlier this year, so it’s another labor of love I get to throw into a drawer. I just need my luck to change. I always feel like I’m on the precipice, and just need to figure out what it is that’s holding me back. Maybe you guys can help me figure out what that is.

TITLE: Hellscape
GENRE: Horror
LOGLINE: When a teenage Scout troop becomes lost in the Utah desert, they experience terrifying hallucinations that point to a supernatural stalker.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Hellscape was actually inspired by a real-life event. A few years ago, I learned about a group of Boy Scouts who found themselves in a brutal heat wave while hiking the Grand Canyon. Before long, they were suffering bizarre, disturbingly realistic hallucinations. And that’s when the idea struck me – what if those hallucinations were something else, something paranormal? What better place for demonic mind games than a sweltering, Mars-like wasteland far from civilization?

  • klmn

    I read the first 5 of SPOOKED. IMO, it’s overwritten. Hope the rest of the script isn’t like that. Moving on, may come back to it.

    • Scott Crawford

      Not disagreeing necessarily, but could you clarify what you mean by overwritten, in your opinion?

      • klmn

        From the beginning

        FADE IN:

        EXT. HOLLOW GROVE – NIGHT

        Flying through a starless sky under a full moon illuminating

        the tree-lined suburban neighborhood below.

        Look at the elements in that one sentence. Flying, full moon, illuminating, starless sky, tree-lined, suburban.

        Is all of that really necessary for what follows? A starless sky implies clouds. And we have a full moon. If you’re shooting in natural light, you might have to wait months for those conditions. I suppose it could be done with CGI, but that would be expensive.

        And most suburban neighborhoods in America have street lights, so that’s another point. Unless it’s a werewolf script, why the full moon?

        In yesterdays AF review, Carson noted the 17 elements on one page. I think this is going down the same road.

        • Scott Crawford

          Good point, totally agree. Unless it’s CRUCIAL to the success of the screenplay, don’t mention it.

          • Sullivan

            Although there is such a thing as creating atmosphere.

          • Scott Crawford

            It’s a fine balance. Avoid unfilmables, Director’s Traps.

          • LiberalSkewer_SCPatriot

            Every great screenplay has a certain amount of unfilmables. Every single one. Like everything else in life, moderation is the key.

          • Scott Crawford

            Complete agreement, although another point here is the importance of not BOMBARDING people with unfilmables on PAGE ONE.

          • klmn

            There’s atmosphere and then there’s quicksand.

            Know the difference.

        • brenkilco

          Ext. Suburban Neighborhood – Night

          Tree-lined streets bathed in moonlight.

          Nineteen words become nine. What’s lost? Somebody can mention the name of the town later. Betting the story doesn’t involve two different suburbs. Shorter is almost always better.

  • Casper Chris

    ATTENTION:

    Remember to send in your votes for your favorite amateur scripts. Deadline tomorrow.

    http://scriptshadow.net/vote-for-your-favorite-amateur-scripts/

    • peisley

      According to the newsletter, Carson has extended the deadline to Sept. 7th. To be honest, Carson, even that isn’t enough time for me to give them all a going over. I’d like to participate since I know this could be really important for some and for that reason, I’d like at least another week.

  • Scott Crawford

    GENERAL OBSERVATION: A lot of scripts submitted to AOW over the past however-long, they want to get straight into the dialogue and/or voiceover on page ONE. And then the rest of the script appears to be mostly dialogue too. Easy to read, sure, but… unsubstantial?

    Difficult to say what this means: do some writers just prefer writing dialogue?; or do some writers feel that dialogue will stretch out a thin script?

    Scripts aren’t plays.

    • Erica

      This always seems to be the challenge in writing scripts. How much to put? Are you going for the fast read, the white space or are you trying to hook your reader. You want to describe your world and characters, but not in too much detail that it reads like a novel. I find myself doing the same thing all the time.

      As “beginners” and I use that term loosely, it’s the constant “too much/not enough” battle. Finding the middle ground is experience (or the ability to sell a few scripts).

      Some stories I think lend themselves to lots of “White Spaces”. Those told in the present. If you think about a movie like Avatar, there needs to be descriptions to describe the fantasy world of James Cameron. This would not be a fast read script.

      Some stories need more detail to show the world they are in, while other, simply don’t. A coffee shop is a coffee shop.

  • Sebastian Cornet

    Read the opening pages, here are my comments:

    “The Sandman” starts with derivative lines like “The first time I saw the Sandman…” Then this part in the description of our main guy, David, that says he has “a distinct lack of self-confidence.” That’s lazy (plus, I’m not sure what that looks like). You’re better off showing it in the story.

    When the bully, Jimmy, turns up the description goes “a bully if you ever saw one.” Didn’t exactly lift my hopes.

    Did surprise me when David lunged at the bully, so that’s a thumb’s up. Then again, it kind of contradicts the lack of self-confidence bit.

    Ditch the voice over. It adds nothing.

    Opening is too reminiscent of The Neverending Story. Dialogue is too on the nose, especially when Doyle comes in. David gets the job with Doyle too easily. Where’s the conflict?

    That’s where I stopped. It’s not a horrible execution, but it’s nothing different or outstanding, either, so I’ll pass.

  • Sebastian Cornet

    I was already hesitant to check out Nerve and Sinew because it sounded like Die Hard. That not much happened in the opening pages didn’t encourage me, either. But when I pulled out was on page 7, when Roy says “I’m not sticking my neck out for anyone.” Don’t know if it was an intentional nod to Casablanca, but amid all the interesting stuff that wasn’t going on, that one was the last nail in the coffin.

    • Scott Crawford

      Logline was interesting – I like the idea of a man on a mission who becomes trapped. Read a little bit of the END, oddly enough, see if the ending was promising enough. I don’t know, I think the writer may need to aim higher, even than Die Hard. PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION: would Die Hard work if it was released now?

      • Sebastian Cornet

        You think it wouldn’t work?

        • Scott Crawford

          It’s a stupid question, really, I mean if there was no Die Hard, there’d be no Die Hard-type movies. It’s just the sort of mindbending questions I like to think about. Would Jaws – with it’s SINGLE shark – work now that we’re used to films about LOTS of sharks?

          I think most people would agree that Die Hard – and Jaws – work because of the plot and character, which is why when I watched Die Hard again recently it really worked. But not so much as an action film. Couple of shootouts, a great fight scene with Karl, cool explosions. But nothing compared to other action films that have come out since. I wonder if it’s still worth trying to out-Die Hard Die Hard.

          • Sebastian Cornet

            It’s all quality over quantity, and the writers of the first Die Hard knew that.

          • brenkilco

            Funny how movies evolve or decline. In their day Bullit and The French Connection were both considered breathless, action films. Each had about the same amount. A shooting at the beginning, a chase in the middle and a shootout at the end. Less than any five minutes of Die Hard 5. So why wouldn’t I trade a single frame of either classic for all of Die Hard 5?

          • Scott Crawford

            I think that doing another Bullit or The French Connection would benefit a writer rather than doing ANOTHER Die Hard. Great films all, but I think you’re better off doing the former.

    • ripleyy

      I really think “Nerve and Sinew” has appears on the site before, probably in the comment section. I also know “The Sandman” is ringing a bell as well, though I can’t place where I’ve seen it either.

      • Bill Anthony Lawrence

        Definitely not my NERVE AND SINEW. Not sure if someone else had the same title, but I have not posted it here before (either for Amateur Friday or in the comments section).

  • Sebastian Cornet

    Checking out “Hellscape.” Afraid that too many not-distinctive-enough characters will damage the story. Not really sure who the main character is, either. Will try to read more later.

  • Cuesta

    My vote goes to NERVE AND SINEW, cause that’s a genre I like and the logline looks cool.

    However i cannot agree with “This could be a big, blockbuster film that would attract a broad audience and potentially an A-list actor.” when , to be honest, I picture it more like a straight-to-dvd cheap action flick starring an 80s star like Van Damme, or a WWE guy, which no female ever will see it.

    Also, and of course this is my opinion, everybody stop bragging about a low page count. You sound like a teacher making you read some shit and telling you then “don’t worry, at least its short”. Mr. Confidence over here.

  • Randy Williams

    GOODNIGHT NOBODY

    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    Read the whole thing. I write thrillers. Always looking to learn something.
    I must say at the beginning that the log line here is a bit misleading. SPOILERS abound.

    The beginning reminded me of that script we had recently with the mother going off the deep end with concern for the safety of her child. This also started off a slow boil for me although it picks up the pace where it should around the 30 page mark. It was a challenge to maintain my interest until then. I was on page 18 when I started thinking that the writer really is making me reflect on these parents and their children and their relationship and most specifically the children’s handicap to the exclusion of any real events. On page 22, however, the question of how the kids both had fear of something at the same time yet could not communicate with each other did perk me up somewhat and made me want to continue. Mystery questions are always good to string the reader along.

    Then, the “monsters” appear. I think the concept itself is good. We’re all heard of stories of snakes getting loose and entering a neighbor’s home and killing someone. In this story, at least they get to fight back with the snakes and their neglectful owner. But, in a single detached home, are loose pet snakes, no matter how hungry they are, such a threat to four wide awake people? You have to buy into that idea to buy into this script. Maybe some readers here will. I found it difficult to buy into.

    The tone was difficult to get a grip on. The jokes between the couple were not tension releasers but more of a stand up routine entertainment. I laughed more than I should in a “thriller”, I thought.

    Again, I felt the logline was misleading. The title giving no indication what this was about.

    Are “snakes” a concept that needs to be kept under wraps to this extent?

    Not unless they’re on a plane.

    • ChadStuart

      See, this is exactly what good notes are supposed to do. I was editing the script and thought to myself, “maybe the first 30 goes on too long. Maybe they go back into the kids’ room too many times.” But, then that evil writer’s devil on my shoulder appears in a poof of smoke to say, “No! You need all that information. It’s character building! It’s so important!” So, I left it in there.

      And then the first note I get is that the reader almost loses interest in the first 30. So, shit. It does go on too long. Why do I alway’s listen to the writer’s devil on my shoulder?!

      Thank you so much for the thoughts. They are deeply appreciated and I will definitely be applying them.

      • Paul Clarke

        Hi Chad,

        I haven’t had a chance to read your script yet, but with regards to character building slowing the story down – could you possibly move some of it to the second act?

        I find most writers (especially amateurs) tend to try to fully establish their characters in the first act, but it is in fact more interesting to give us a little taste and leave some mystery that slowly unravels throughout the second act. It even helps to drive the story forward.

        For example – Silence of the Lambs doesn’t start with young Clarice saving lambs, it starts with her as a grown up and we can see through her actions that she is strong and driven. It is not until much later that the internal motivation for the drive is explained.

        If I get a chance I’ll read yours and see if I can be more specific.

  • Bluedust

    First 15 of Spooked: For a horror comedy, this felt light on both laughs and scares. Not sure why this story needs to take place in 1997 instead of present day, where these types of ghost investigation shows proliferate. Only reason I can think of is so the writer could get those 1984 Ghostbusters references in.

    I’m assuming that first page with the driver and his unseen backseat companion comes into play later in the tale, but it felt like this story should have started out with the three kids. I wanted more chills/laughs out of that scene. We’ve all seen the “dare you to go in the old haunted house” trope, so I was hoping for something really fresh — a backstory to this house we’ve never seen before. But alas, it was one quick shock and we suddenly flash forward.

    I do like the concept of some shared terrifying experience bonding these three kids, and how that experience shaped them into the adults they’ve become. But the three characters felt rather interchangeable, as kids and adults. And by page 15, the story bogged down in the studio. Had to bail. Now, if you’re going to compare your script to Zombieland in WYSR, and claim that yours is funnier, then you best deliver the goods. But IMO, Spooked fell short.

  • For The Lulz

    Got some free time this weekend. Taking a short break from my supervillain duties. So I gave myself the aim of reading at least half of every script this round.

    I could only manage 30 pages of Spooked.

    I’ll say this, the script is extraordinary. I’ve never read one so sparsely written, with so much white space, that was such a CHORE to get through. You said I wouldn’t get a headache reading it. I didn’t, I got annoyed.

    Thirty pages in, and I don’t know who the main protagonist is. No one has stood out. Even if they did, I don’t give a cr*p about them. There are no stakes. There’s no reason for me to sympathize or empathize with any of them. They’re ALL dull and boring.

    The characters names are WAY too similar. Chris. Frank. Liam. Karl. On page 21 you have a scene with Brooke, Nadine, Morma, Bobby. Too many character names look similar-ish on the page. I had a hard time tracking who was who. Especially in the action lines. Made me have to backtrack a few times. There a few obvious character stand outs like Vikram, Carolina and Sharon, but these are peripheral characters. You should use some longer/unique names for the main three/four characters as well.

    I didn’t get many of the references used in the action lines, and many times they’re quite specific. People that don’t get them will be thrown, like I was. Also, some of the action lines were a bit strange. For example,

    Pg. 21 ”NADINE, 47, Proper wife and timeless beauty”

    Okay, I get timeless beauty, but what’s a ‘Proper Wife’?

    The dialogue too was quite bizarre. I don’t believe that people talk/act like these characters do. It almost seemed like ”going through the motions” dialogue. Stereotypical, forced and false on many occasions. Nothing unique about the way the characters talk. Except for Vikram…but that was cringe. Just cringe. Not funny…at all. Liam just came off as annoying. Is his defining attribute that he’s British, or pretending to be British? Why? Just for the fun of it or because there’s nothing else there in this character?

    I’m not sure what to say here. Thirty pages in and….I just don’t care. That about sums it up. No characters I care about. No story worth sticking around for (to be honest, 30 pages in, and I don’t know if the story has even started yet!!!). Nothing unique. Ten times more references than memorable moments and amazingly, it’s difficult to read.

    Now, looking at your WYSR, and your talk of constant rejections, I’m going to suggest that while you can offer good, original concepts, maybe you need to work more on crafting a story with more substance, where things actually HAPPEN, not simply hinted at, and creating characters I actually give a s**t about. Maybe more happens later on. But I’m not going that far. You’ve lost the reader.

    Also, sorry to be mean here, but…..THIS IS A PAGE AWARDS FINALIST SCRIPT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m not gonna lie. I’m P****d off! If I didn’t enjoy writing scripts so much, I wouldn’t even bother any more.

    • For The Lulz

      Read all of Nerve and Sinew. I happen to be a huge action movie fan, so this was of special interest to me. A very strong contender here, for sure.

      It’s a fast read. Laid out well on the page. Quick pace and lots of action right from the off.

      The characters are generally well done. Roy is a strong protagonist. His motivations throughout are clear and powerful. His abilities are well explained. Though he could use a little more personality, humor or a weakness of some kind. He serves the plot very well as a protagonist, but he could use some seasoning to make him a more memorable character. John Mcclane came off as very human in his battle in Die Hard. Not just a generic action hero. Aside from the initial meeting with Marat and the daughter reveal, there aren’t many other human moments. Touching the photo every now and then is not enough. He needs to bounce that daughter-pain off Sandra and compare it with her own pain over potentially losing Oksana. It will create more tension, and humanity in their interactions enhancing both characters.

      Sandra’s story with the love interest was well done. She serves the plot well in her role, and as conflict with Roy. While in the last act where her love interest is revealed, she becomes more of an emotional investment with her sympathetic reasons for her actions. everything before that shows her as quite stale and boring. Her goody-goody, ‘must help everyone’ attitude fits her fed role, and allows certain plot developments to take place, but we’ve seen those characters a million times.

      The main weak link in regard to characters here is the antagonist. He seems quite tame in comparison. Movies like this need a quality villain, I’m not sure Toly measures up, and his own motivations seem vague and generic. The fact we see him get pwned by Roy within the first five pages doesn’t help his image as the main bad. He needs to be more formidable. It might also help to make it more personal between him and Roy. Maybe have Toly know something about Roy’s daughter. Or maybe Toly is now with Roy’s former wife, and is therefore Roy’s daughter’s stepdad. If Roy kills him, he’s once again depriving his daughter of a father. It raises the stakes and makes it more personal, calling his whole mission into question and challenging how far he’ll go to get his daughter back.

      The twist with the decoy in Khamad was great. Didn’t see it coming. Unfortunately I saw the Holmesdale betrayal and eventual execution by the bad guys coming a mile off. It is cliche, cliche to the extreme. A change, or original spin here is advised.

      Agree with some of the other posters here. You need to change the name. Blood and Sinew is an AWFUL title, and I don’t see the link between the story and the title.

      Now all this said, is this a good action script. Absolutely. Is it good enough to get to the screen….the jury’s out. Yes it’s very well written and does everything you’d expect of an action movie. But the general stakes aren’t that great. In the end it all comes down to one informant’s life. There are no massive repercussions to wider society if she dies.

      Now if there was an imminent terrorist attack, and she has vital information, and Toly is trying to silence her, then you have the personal stakes for Sandra (still wants to keep her safe, but with added incentive), increased stakes for Roy (Can get his daughter, but will potentially be aiding a major terrorist attack), and yet the stakes in general have increased massively (thousands of innocent people will die if Roy and Sandra don’t sort out their issues and decide their loyalities).

      You can write a damn good action script, but would I risk $50-90m to make it in it’s current form.

      No. No I wouldn’t.

    • Randy Williams

      I agree with everything you just said except I really liked Liam.

  • peisley

    For Chad re. Goodnight Nobody. The good side of your predicament is at least you’ve proven yourself adept at marketable ideas. The thing that strikes me right away is the title and how, frankly, bad it is. I’ve heard from many producers that a script’s title is as important as the concept and should grab attention and be as relevant to the concept as possible. Goodnight Nobody says nothing about your story. If the title doesn’t grab, then there’ll be doubts about how the concept is executed, even before they read the first line. Also, I suspect you may have your finger on the pulse of what’s marketable, but perhaps your approach to the subject matter isn’t unique enough. I’m only speculating here, but you asked for any reasons why and maybe another glance at your material might shed some light on this. I could be wrong and you’re probably in that effed up timing thing we all have to deal with. I’ll take a look at your script and comment later, even if it doesn’t get chosen.

    • ChadStuart

      Yeah, I”ve always struggled with titles. My managers have always changed the title before they send it out. I thought this one has an air of mystery. I was wrong again. Le sigh…

      Thanks for the feedback. It’s much appreciated.

      • walker

        Chad, I think you should be heartened by the fact that you seem to have no trouble coming up with marketable concepts.

      • peisley

        Snake House. A demented snake collector is evicted from his house for back taxes. He exacts revenge on the new owners with his “pets.”

      • Randy Williams

        If you don’t want to expose snakes in the title, you could use a scientific term like the movie arachnophobia did with spiders.

        How about “Ophidia”?

        or going off Peisley’s idea of the protagonists buying the snake owner’s house. It could not only be a money pit but a
        “Snake Pit”

        • klmn

          And now for a little snake music.

        • peisley

          Oh, that’s pretty good. Some people fall into a money pit, this family fell into a snake pit.

    • peisley

      Ok, I’ve read it. Sort of like Snakes on a Plane in Full House. Randy Williams summarized it very well. All I can add is, this is a dialogue heavy read, which is deadly for a reader. They talk way too much when they’re in dire straits, instead of taking action. Don’t know why they can’t get the kids out of the place, let alone themselves. See, they’re too able-bodied to just be so victimized. Maybe if one parent or kid was immobilized, then there would be more urgency. The phones also just happen to be out of reach all the time. There’s also not much real suspense involved. Maybe if you started by showing the neighbor dumping the snakes? Then there would be a proper set-up. Thought of having them buy his house instead and move in from the very beginning? It’s a buy as is sale due to back taxes. Meanwhile, the snakes could’ve started breeding all the time before that. Don’t know if so many breeds would stay in same place, but you could have it expand eventually to other neighbors. Good luck whatever you decide.

  • ThomasBrownen

    I read the first few pages of NERVE AND SINEW, and although I was a tad confused, I think the script has potential. But I just want to point out that I’m not fond of the title… it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. Maybe it’s the fact that “sinew” is a rather unusual sounding word, for me at least. But I could just be weird. :)

  • Andrew Parker

    “WHY YOU SHOULD READ” don’ts:

    – Don’t tell me if you were a finalist in multiple contests. Just pick the best one. If you tell me multiple ones, all you’re saying is you have disposable income and a need for constant validation.

    – Don’t tell me who stole your idea. I’m not a lawyer. And even if I was one, I’d probably advise you not to sue because you’re not going to win.

    – Don’t tell me if you had your idea before a very similarly plotted movie came out. When you came up with an idea doesn’t matter. Just make your script better than that movie or move on to your next idea.

    – Don’t overwrite your “Why You Should Read” section. If you do, I’m going to go into reading your script with a negative preconception of your writing style.

    – Don’t invoke “Roger Ebert” as a like-minded screenwriter. I love Ebert, but he wrote exactly one produced screenplay, and it wasn’t exactly “Casablanca.”

    “WHY YOU SHOULD READ” do’s:

    – If you have a special set of skills — e.g. you are a former CIA operative — and that is somehow applicable to your script, then please tell me that.

    – If you have a personal connection to your subject matter — e.g. you too are a slimy car salesman and recently found out you have a brother with autism — then please tell me that.

    – If your story was inspired by certain real events — or a person you knew — the please tell me that.

    – And most importantly… If you can make me laugh or cry or surprise me — please do that. I will definitely give your first couple pages a shot.

    That is all. Now please go watch “Party Down” on Hulu if you have never seen it before. Because the “Ron Donald Do’s” and “Ron Donald Don’ts” are absolutely genius.

    • Scott Crawford

      I think one can be humble in the WYSHR without being weak: “I just hope you enjoy reading my screenplay.”

      Keep it short. Couple of lines.

      Tell me where you got the idea from.

      Never apologize for your screenplay; if it’s not as good as you think it can be, then why is it here?

      • walker

        I let my screenplays apologize for themselves.

        • Scott Crawford

          I apologize for ALL my comments. In advance.

    • Scott Crawford

      I thought your original post was fine, Andrew. It’s your choice to change it, of course, but don’t be afraid of telling people a few “home truths”.

    • Linkthis83

      If I get the chance to read AOW scripts, I only look at the title and genre before I read. I don’t want anything else to muck up the experience for me. Plus, it gives that writer and their story a chance to get me invested without any interference from my personal biases.

      I have no issue at all with your approach, I was just offering up mine.

      I also think it was fine to stand by your original post, but I get why you edited it as well. Been there myself.

      • Scott Crawford

        Some loglines MAY not lend themselves to instant approval, or may need to be rewritten, so I see WYMR as a backup. Some MAY be leaning on it a bit too much.

        • Linkthis83

          I get it. Everybody has their reasoning for spending their time on an amateur script.

          I look at making it into AOW as a big deal. A truly valuable opportunity for various reasons. And I’m nobody special, so I want them to have a real fair shot with me and how I approach reading a script.

          When I read to much of the other stuff, including the logline or the WYSR, it alters my expectations. When I only know the title and the genre, they are free to tell their story to me however they choose and I will react more naturally – I hope so anyway. I know the title can create expectations as well, but this is the approach I’ve learned I like best. For me and the writer’s story.

    • Midnight Luck

      I typically really dislike the WYSR part of almost everyone’s AoW posting.
      They seem so Egotistic, or childish and lame. They pretty much make me not want to read the script, and here is why:
      While the log line may give an idea what the story is about (though many times the log line is actually WRONG and has nothing to do with the story, or is telling you only a small sliver of the story) and the Title might excite you, the WYSR gives insight into who the writer is, what is important to them, and shows you if they are a good writer on many different levels.

      I cannot count how many times the WYSR has something misspelled in it. Isn’t that a place you REALLY want to make sure you have checked everything before sending it off to Carson you are making your case for him to choose yours over others? Most of them are just messes of punctuation, spelling and grammar.

      Then there is the ego part. I remember reading at least one book about writing, and sending in Query letters, that said: “Do NOT tell me why your script is great, because I will make that decision. Telling me just pisses me off and I will throw your script away. Show me your script is good as I read it and I will become your biggest cheerleader.” Almost all these WYSR fail for me EXACTLY for this reason. They tell the reader “my script is great because of X, Y, Z”. And all I think is, “yeah right, I will be the judge of that”, and sadly I am even harder on judging your script. Because now you have set me Against you as a writer, strictly because of your Ego in telling me the reasons why it is so good, why I am going to like it, and not letting me decide on my own.

      In the end, the Best WYSR letter, ends up being the BEST script. Almost EVERY time. This time, the best written WYSR was The Sandman. And in the end it was the best written, the cleanest on all levels. Overall the writer had a better idea how to tell a story ( I do think the “Dickens or Poe collaborated with Ebert” thing was a little too much, but, compared to the other WYSR entries, I let it slide). And I was correct. The WYSR was the best, and The Sandman was the best writing and story of the five.

      • davidgrant37

        Thanks for the kind words about my WSYR of THE SANDMAN. I wanted to convey my script is a loveletter to the magic of movies.
        By the way, I wouldn’t dream of comparing myself to giants like Dickens or Poe, I thought of them more as inspiration (especially “Great Expectation”).

    • Midnight Luck

      Oh, also, I love, and completely agree with your 3 points on why a WYSR works, and what makes them effective.

  • Randy Williams

    HELLSCAPE

    Congrats on making it on AOW!

    I really loved the beginning of this. It held my interest, thought the writing on display was clear, well constructed, top notch, then the great writing didn’t help as it quickly went off the rails for me in terms of focus. I read until around page 54, when it became so muddled for me that I started skimming until around the last ten pages which I read completely.

    The concept itself is inviting but it’s a very tricky tightrope to walk. Hallucinatory scripts are difficult challenges, I would have to believe. Add to that the concept that these hallucinations the boys are experiencing could be supernatural forces attacking them, implanting visions in their minds off their memories. What is real and what isn’t? It’s a lot to grasp.

    Memories of loved ones are used by the skinwalkers as the devil uses them in “The Exorcist” to pull at a person’s emotions, to weaken them. I didn’t think it worked as well here as it did in that film. I thought the dead dad’s visions only pulled me away from the horror because it pulled me into the brother’s relationship with each other and their relationship with dad, all wrapped up as it is here with saccharine sweetness..just a damper.

    Caleb seems to ennunciate the rules of the skinwalker’s universe without question in what I read. How does he get to those conclusions so quickly? Was there enough foundation for that discovery and knowledge?

    I think bookends might help with focus. If we knew at the beginning that thirst could cause hallucinations, and that the boys were spooked by them and their minds carried away with stories of the skinwalkers then we would be prepared. Say, for instance, Daniel is in the present speaking with authorities telling them what happened in the desert. He’s the only one to come out of that desert. Flashback to the desert story. Daniel at one point finds water, but hides it from the boys, so he survives. But the water was an illusion too. Caleb and his brother figured out the skinwalkers and how to survive them and survive the desert itself. (no dead daddy) but they haven’t been discovered yet. Finally they are. They explain what they’ve learned, especially not to drink the water. Daniel in the last scene gets his horrific reward at the hands of the skinwalkers. Send the audience out with a chill and not a heartwarming family tug?

  • Randy Williams

    NERVE AND SINEW

    Congrats on making it on AOW!

    I’ve commented on “Goodnight Nobody” and “Hellscape” so far. Both scripts, I thought, failed to nail their genres but their concepts were great and I felt comfortable that the writers had it in them to possibly do so. “Nerve and Sinew” totally nailed its genre, I thought, some of the best action writing I’ve seen on this site, my heart actually racing at times, but the concept, for me,
    alas,
    was weak.

    I bailed at page 47 which was a snark fest, felt like a different script altogether. Skimmed a bit after that, hoping that was just an anomaly.

  • hickeyyy

    MY VOTE: THE SANDMAN

    SPOOKED

    Read 10 pages.

    Logline Interest: Medium. I like the idea of haunted slackers for some reason.

    Review: We are really, really jumping around time in the first 10 pages here. It’s hard to keep track of all the changes. I feel bad for jumping out this early, but I’m not really laughing at the jokes and I’m not sure I’m going to. Comedy is often times subjective, so don’t give up; could just be me. Page 1, the comment about “a love child of Huey Lewis and Wham” makes sense, but at the same time, could be confusing for a younger reader. I know what that looks like, for the most part anyway, but at the same time, it’s a bit obscure.

    I think the premise is there, it’s the execution that’s bothering me. I think the biggest problem is that things you think are clear on the page here are hard to follow. It’s because you’re invested in the product so you know what you’re seeing in your head. However a reader isn’t as invested so making it more clear to those of us reading is priority number 1. Good luck!

    NERVE AND SINEW

    Read 12 pages.

    Logline Interest: Medium. This doesn’t sound like something I would particularly go see in theaters unless the trailer was killer.

    Review: This is quite well-written, I’ll give you that. You know what you’re doing. I just think that your review was wrong; it feels cliche. Although I will admit I expected our hero to jump in and save Bogdan, so maybe I’m wrong. Just feels like I’ve seen this before? I’m not sure what it is that’s keeping me from getting invested. I guess I just expected something left field based on your WYSR and I’m getting centerfield.

    THE SANDMAN

    Read pages 35 pages.

    Logline Interest: Very High. This sounds like something I’ve never seen before.

    Review: You have something absolutely unique and fun here. You can tell this is a loveletter to film and what it makes you feel. Your characters are interesting and unique enough. I wanted this to maybe less violent than it is as I got further along, but it doesn’t bother me; that’s just personal desire. Although no one does violence like the movies, so it makes sense. You definitely have my vote, assuming the next scripts don’t blow me away.

    GOODNIGHT NOBODY

    Read 16 pages.

    Logline Interest: High. Sounds like an awesome premise.

    Review: You do a great job of making me care about the characters. I’m really intrigued by the kids not making any noises at all. You have a lot of fun, interesting mystery boxes here. I am really enjoying this and if this was any other week, you’d get my vote, but The Sandman intrigued me just a hair more, and we’ve seen some contained thrillers here before. I may end up reading this on all the way to the end anyway and will update this post if I do. Good luck!

    HELLSCAPE

    Read 18 pages.

    Logline Interest: High. Poor scout kids stuck with mirage monsters sounds like fun.

    Review: I gotta tell you; the dialog here is excellent. I loved the exchange between Gregory and Daniel. The kids come off as real. Daniel is a nice little unexpected antagonist. Although even though he is a cocky son of a bitch, I’m not sure even he would go out into the dangerous area without a first aid kit. I’m excited to get to the meat of this story so if you win, I’ll definitely finish this out. It’s got a fun vibe to it. Congrats.

  • hickeyyy

    For the record, I knew what you meant!

  • brenkilco

    Really wanted to like The Sandman. A 40’s mystery revolving around a mysterious lost film and a Hollywood murder. Just my thing. Plucky orphans, not so much. But any writer who sticks his chin out by comparing himself however indirectly to Poe and Dickens deserves a shot.

    Ten pages in and I’m less than enchanted. The prose needs to be more polished and less purple. “The stranger falls silent but the dire threat is clear.” Feel like I should be twirling my moustache when I read a line like that. And there are a lot of them.

    And the action is not well grounded. When the kid enters the archive it’s described like another world. But surely we’re just talking about a theatre a couple of blocks from the orphanage. Wouldnt he be familiar with it. The owner practically adopts him after two minutes. That’s not kindly. It’s creepy. The theatre owner has to take the kid to a friend to get the details of the murder. But everybody in LA would surely remember the details of a celebrated case like that after less than a decade, particularly a movie loving theater owner. And these film prints being burned. Did this all happen after the arrest of the director? How did the police square that circle?

    With the appearance and almost immediate disappearance of the Sandman I really get lost. If this is really happening it makes little sense. This movie has been gathering dust for who knows how long and suddenly on the day the kid shows up this costumed guy wants it? Are we supposed to believe that the owner has never mentioned to anyone that he had it? Again, he would surely have heard of this bizarre series of arsons. And the Sandman, a homicidal or at least rather disturbed individual, backs off cause he likes the kid’s moxy? C’mon

    Suddenly, inexplicably, its ten years later and we’re into a jaw droppingly cliched it’s all just a dream scene. Sorry, I’m not feeling the urge to read further. I dont think you have to provide much in the first ten pages. But you do have to provide a direction. I don’t know whether this story is a thriller, a fairy tale, a horror item, or a case study of a young guy with psychological issues.

    If this actually is a thriller I’d suggest you get rid of the first ten pages altogether. Start with the protagonist as an adult coming across the film and discovering it history. the encounter with Sandman really is more irritating than intriguing.

  • Andrew Parker

    I was being kind of a dick, but I am trying to help. It’s a vicious world out there and people will look for any excuse to say “no”. Gotta make it undeniable.

    If I was pitching your script, I’d focus on the genre elements. Say it’s “Sinister” mixed with a little bit of “LA Confidential”. Designed for fans of elevated horror who wish Hammer Films would do a movie set in the US. With a protagonist navigating the grimy underbelly of 1940s LA to protect the woman he loves from an unspeakable terror that will be unleashed if he can’t find it first.

    Granted, I haven’t read your script, so I have no idea what it’s about.

    • walker

      Oddly enough it’s about Roger Ebert going on a murderous rampage.

    • davidgrant37

      Actually, pitching THE SANDMAN as “Sinister” meets “LA Confidential” is a great idea! I did have old Hammer horror films in mind while writing the more Gothic sequences in the script.

  • walker

    Don’t overkill yourself.

  • Randy Williams

    THE SANDMAN

    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    I thought this was a unique piece, a perfect serenade in a room of blaring disco.

    I read it, hearing in my head the tin of violin, the clop of pedestrians on Hollywood Blvd and Plymouths whizzing along Sunset. My heart jumped at the possibility of romance between a reclusive young cinephile and a blind girl.

    Reading it online dulls its effect, however. One needs a darkened space, red velvet curtains and Jordan Almonds at the ready.

  • Randy Williams

    SPOOKED

    Congrats on making it to AOW!

    I read 30 pages of this. Honestly, I loved the first 4 pages with the teens and was angry we suddenly jumped ahead in time to when they were adults. I could see the first 4 pages being a finalist in a contest. (by the way, I am against any contests unless you have money to burn and like to gamble, I don’t) but the rest of what I read wouldn’t win any funny or horror contests in any world I recognize. I didn’t laugh once and saw no hint of horror.

    Charming? yes. Cool cultural references? Yes. Techie Indian guy who mimics black gangsta speak? check.
    Comedy is hard and hard to please everyone with it? Oh, certainly, so take everything I say with that adviso. And maybe I just didn’t read enough.

  • carsonreeves1

    Hey guys! Just a quick reminder that the Newsletter has JUST BEEN SENT OUT. Check your spam and promotions tabs if you didn’t receive it. This one is PACKED, so find time to check it out. :)

    • Scott Crawford

      Thank you for posting a picture in your newsletter of one of my favorite movies! I won’t say the title because that answers the trivia question, but thank you, pleasant memories. Also, I have the screenplay for Brilliance but not Three Mississippi, if that makes any difference to your choice of script review.

    • GoIrish

      Just so you know, some people have very fond memories of Remo Williams.

      • Scott Crawford

        “Chiun, you’re amazing!”
        “No! I am better than that.”

        • brenkilco

          Yeah, that casting and character would fly today.

          • Scott Crawford

            Trouble is, the character’s meant to be old, so even if you found a Korean actor to play a Korean, he would have to be young enough to do the martial arts then be aged up with makeup. I’m not saying it would “fly”, but… just think of all the ANIMATED characters voiced by people from different ethnic groups.

  • Erica

    I gotta know, was it a full moon before you went off the cliff?

    I did read part of the script. I found myself asking why a lot, then going back and forth looking for answers.

    I get the pizza box in trying paint the scene in our minds, but some of the points others made here are bang on.

  • Andrew Parker

    A good point Guest. Here is my script feedback:

    SPOOKED: Structurally, it seemed pretty good. The main characters were distinct and easy to follow, but then I think you piled on a few too many other characters. Got hard to keep track of them all. Reminded me a bit of 2008’s STRANGE WILDERNESS. I’d focus a bit on tightening things up — if you watch GHOSTBUSTERS, you’ll see that every scene early on is a setup for a later payoff or is designed to get you to empathize with the guys. You seem to be a good writer, and this is a decent first effort.

    NERVE AND SINEW: Nice contained location and easy to follow action. Some of the dialogue blocks get a little long, which is a pet peeve of mine in action movies. I could maybe see a WWE Studios taking a liking to this. I agree with another poster’s comment about needing a unique villain — I know Carson loved WHERE ANGELS DIE’s villain cause he was a HIV-infected cross-dressing murderer. So feel free to go crazy with the villain!

    THE SANDMAN: Unique premise, though I wouldn’t think very commercial. A bit too much of the story is given through exposition in dialogue. I would have liked more horror to it. But I think you set the scene well, had some period authentic dialogue and made your characters unique. A very pleasant reading experience.

    GOODNIGHT NOBODY: Mr. Reeves isn’t going to like a girl named Matty. I like your dialogue — very authentic — but having these long conversations between Toby and Kat in Act One would get tiring on the screen. For how short the script is, you maybe wait too long to get to the monsters. It’s a very lean and fast read, but my concern is that it’s a little thin and sometimes repetitive. Not sure how you can fix that though — maybe branch out from snakes into other creatures, possibly ghosts?

    HELLSCAPE: Some nice authentic dialogue. Good use of physical space and nature in the script. I liked the different manifestations of hallucinations. Overall, I think this was pretty well executed. My only suggestion — and I might have missed this — would be to add a new character at the midpoint to mix things up. Maybe a hiker they come across, who seems friendly at first, then they think isn’t, so they attack him and kill him, even though he was friendly after all.

    My pick(s): THE SANDMAN because it’s something different and HELLSCAPE because it seems closest to a movie.

  • Guest

    Is Caron’s email for submitting for AOW carsonreeves1 or carsonreeves3? I’ve submitted about 6-7 weeks in a row now to no prevail.

    • carsonreeves1

      Not everyone gets picked, G. Go ahead and post your logline here and if it’s good, we’ll put it up next week. If not, these guys will help you with why it probably wasn’t picked.

      • davejc

        Well, Carson, I’ll give it a shot.

        LOGLINE: “A father finds himself outgunned an
        international custody battle to save his family in a story of the
        supernatural that questions issues of morality, justice and finally
        reality itself.”

        Btw anybody ever play the drinking game watching Shane. I did tonight. You get really plastered really quick.

        • scriptfeels

          After I read the logline I was confused, here’s some of my thoughts! (hopefully this is constructive):

          What type of father is this and how would you summarize this character in your logline? If this father is your protagonist I think there be a defining characteristic so that I can have some understanding of who this character is and what he does.

          For example, Micheal’s script spooked got picked quickly by Carson based off of his comments, lets look at his logline:
          Two slackers with dead-end jobs try to turn their haunted past into reality TV stardom.

          The only description of the protagonists are the term ‘slackers with dead end jobs’, but from that alone I have an idea in my head of who these characters are. I think defining your protagonist in the logline will help readers understand your story as well because they will grasp whose journey the script is about.

          “…Outgunned in a international custody battle to save his family…”, does that mean the father is in a firefight with someone who wants custody in order to save his family? What is this father fighting custody over? I’m assuming he’s fighting custody of his family, but this isn’t clear to me.

          “… in a tale of the supernatural”, What is specifically supernatural about this firefighting custody battle? Is he fighting ghosts? Is his family in danger from international people who have supernatural powers? I would try to specifically state what is supernatural about this script if possible.

          If someone approached you in a starbucks with the logline of “a tale of the supernatural that questions issues of morality, justice and finally reality itself” would you want to pick up the script and immerse yourself in that story? This part of your logline could work if the first section was clearer on who the protagonist is and what their goal for the story is.

          I rambled for a bit there, but that’s my feedback, hope it helps!

          • davejc

            Thank you so much SF! Based on your insightful notes I came up with this logline:

            In an old New England house with a cryptic history a reclusive
            at-home-dad caught in the grip of an international custody battle
            begins to see strange things. Is it just stress? Or is there really
            something in the cellar?

            The only problem is that this is a well worn trope that doesn’t stand out on its own. But taking a time honored trope as a template and infuses it with original choices and unique characters can raise it to a new level. But it’s difficult to relate all that in the logline. Which is why I added:

            “a tale of the supernatural that questions issues of morality, justice and finally reality itself.”

            But that’s not proper info for a logline as you pointed out. But that’s where my story really stands out above all the thin haunted house stories.

          • Linkthis83

            In danger of losing custody of his children, a stay-at-home dad must battle his inner demons, as well as the one hiding in his cellar.

          • davejc

            Hi Mike! I like that logline. But are we letting the cat out of
            the bag since the demon in the cellar isn’t introduced till page 60.

            Then again as long as you deliver the goods and don’t make promises the script doesn’t fulfill, I guess it doesn’t matter how many spoilers are in the logline. I would only add to your logline a descriptive characteristic of the demon:

            “In danger of losing custody of his children, a stay-at-home dad must battle his inner demons, as well as the nihilistic one hiding in his cellar.

            I hope this doesn’t cause people to start their read on page 60. I
            mean, there is a reason for the first 60 pages :)

            I wonder if Carson likes it enough to give me a shot at AOW?

            Carson? What do you think? :)

          • Linkthis83

            Hey Dave. I was trying really hard to find a way to simplify your logline and still create a HOOK. It definitely gives away something, but I only chose that route to play on the inner/outer demon aspect. Maybe just simply saying:

            “In danger of losing custody of his children, a stay-at-home dad must battle his inner demons, as well as whatever is hiding in the cellar.”

            That way it lets us know “something” without telling us specifically. I think those that are astute will understand the dynamic of a man trying to keep/gain custody of his children while trying to maintain his sanity. That would be an extremely difficult task :)

        • Paul Clarke

          Personally, I have a few issues with it. If there was a list of loglines and I was going to pick a script to read based on them I don’t think this would catch my attention.

          Some questions/notes:

          What does custody of a family mean? You get custody of children, not your entire family. And having father and custody is repetitive. If it is in fact custody of his entire family including wife then you’re going to have to explain how that situation arose. In fact I would explain it anyway. The situation that causes him to have to fight for custody is more interesting and possibly more specific than the fight itself.

          Supernatural is too vague. Be specific. What is the supernatural element here? Ghosts, demons, zombies. You need to make it stand out, so be as specific as possible.

          And cut the morality and justice part altogether. The lesson’s learnt and themes are not part of a logline. I’d much rather see specifics so I can identify what the story would be.

          For example:
          When his Indonesian wife flees the country with their children, a struggling journalist must fight for custody while battling the supernatural forces of her native land.

          *** Random story choices selected ***

          • davejc

            Thank you Paul! That is some solid advise. It’s easy for me to think up loglines for other stories. But I’ve had a lot of trouble with this one. Some films lend themselves perfectly to loglines. Example:

            A self-loathing down on his luck reporter keeps a man trapped in a cave in order to boost circulation. (Ace in the Hole)

            Other’s don’t:

            A man and his son must find his bicycle or lose his job.

    • Randy Williams

      Maybe because he’s not “Caron” ?

      6-7 weeks? Some of us here have been trying for years!

      I’ve been trying for months, refining my logline, changing my WYSR, including that I’m allowed to pee in my pants on one of my jobs which inspired my story, to I bought a nocturnal animal to keep me company when I can’t sleep which inspired my story to, hell, nothing inspires me.

      Good luck!

      • Scott Crawford

        What’s your logline, Randy?

        • Randy Williams

          It’s a twisted romantic thriller.
          A young female chemist recruits the boyfriend of her jealous sister to protect a lab mouse that was part of an experiment on extraterrestrial life.

          I’ve already gotten great feedback from members on here. It’s my last solo script, and my writing partner doesn’t seem warm to the idea of submitting anything ever on here. I’m working on him, though.

          • Scott Crawford

            I think that’s a good logline, like Flowers for Algernon but focused on the mouse!

            However, I personally would keep the focus on the leads and the plot. Let people discover the sister when they read. Also more specific:

            A young female scientist and a (boyfriend’s job – motorcycle courier, helicopter pilot, freelance assasin, etc.) must protect a laboratory mouse from (villains – neo-Nazis, a doomsday cult, etc.) before (consequences if mouse dies or is not returned to lab – alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, etc.).

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

        I see you reading and giving notes almost every saturday. I think the big commenters and readers (which I am not one of lol) who give a lot of time for other writers like you do, should be given a shot.

    • walker

      Caron: Carson; submit: 3; 6-7 weeks: scratching the surface; prevail: avail.

    • For The Lulz

      Yeah, I’ve been submitting too, but only for the last few weeks, so I guess I’m way down the queue, might see mine up for AOW next year, lol.

      Figure if I’m going to judge other people’s work, it’s only fair that they get to judge mine (as long as it’s all positive and I agree with everything….).

    • davejc

      6-7 weeks? Try 2 years:) But they say Patience is a virtue.

  • Kirk Diggler

    Another AOW, another bunch of scripts that are in the “same but same” category. Honestly, none of these really make me excited to read. It appears everyone is pitching the same type of script;

    contained thrillers (i.e. “the urge to ‘The Purge’), also known as “This can be made dirt cheap and oh if you are looking for a director I’m available!” …..

    horror comedies (take it from experience, call it one or the other but not both, there is always some wise-ass waiting to say he found it neither scary nor funny)…

    and the requisite ‘action/adventure/noir/dystopian/cop-buddy thriller’ that is often a throwback or shout out to better films, all I know is YOU’LL NEED MORE BODY BAGS because characters gonna be dyin’ or killin’ or murderin’ and such.

    I read a little over 20 pages of Spooked. I’m not going to say the problem is too many characters (definitely too many characters) but what having too many characters means to your story. It’s hard to get invested in your main trio, the guys you introduce as young boys (Chris, Frank, Liam, although they seem antagonistic toward Liam so I’m no sure whether he plays in any of this) because you keep throwing new characters at us every few pages. The people over at the TV station, the co-workers of both Chris and Frank at two different job locations, then suddenly we are 20 pages in and you throw a bunch of new characters that have something to do with Brooke, who I believe is Liam’s assistant but we barely know her in the first place so i’m not sure and can’t be bothered to backtrack several pages just to find out. Okay, you absolutely have too many characters, and as someone else pointed out, your story has not started yet because you keep asking the reader to meet and keep track of all these different people who apparently have some connection to the main plot but it’s not very clear what because you can only get away with so much exposition in the early going and well, yeah….

    Look how simple your log-line is (a good thing):
    “Two slackers with dead-end jobs try to turn their haunted past into reality TV stardom.”

    TWO slackers….. don’t need 12-13 supporting characters in the opening 20 pages. Why do we need a scene with Frank’s boss Cyrus? You can SHOW us that Frank and Chris have shitty jobs in HALF a page without having any new speaking parts. Your story is relatively simple, but the execution is overwrought. And do we honestly need another AOW script that opens with a flashback that then flash forwards a decade or more? No, no we don’t. Hell, the kid ghostbuster idea in the opening 4 pages might be the way to go with this story. Just a thought. Good luck with it.

  • Scott Crawford

    Putting on my Criswell hat, here are the next five loglines for AOW:

    The Day the Music Died
    LOGLINE: A young couple with a mutual love of music come to terms with the breakup of their favorite band.

    House of Blood
    LOGLINE: A newly-married couple think their new house has been possessed by the evil spirit of its former owner.

    Faceless
    LOGLINE: Male and female cops chase a serial killer who uses plastic surgery to change his appearance.

    Handle Like Eggs
    LOGLINE: Two ne’er-do-well removal men discover a stash of “blow” while moving house for a known mobster, but soon find themselves knee-deep in shit when they try to go into business for themselves.

    Seal of Approval
    LOGLINE: An ex-Navy SEAL’s family is kidnapped by terrorists who want him to blow up the Pentagon, forcing him to load-up his MP5 one more time.

    That took me just ten minutes to come up with those ideas. Coming up with loglines is easy. I just don’t care about any of them. Nothing original. Nothing PERSONAL. And yet you will find writers who submit such scripts for consideration every day.

    • lesbiancannibal

      erm, Faceless sounds pretty cool though :)

      • Scott Crawford

        Faceless written by James Patterson, maybe, but a spec writer submitting it… besides, you can always track a guy by his fingerprints and DNA, even if he changes his looks.

        • Malibo Jackk

          In a world were DNA has been discredited — and everyone has the same fingerprints…

          • Awescillot

            That would sound funny in a trailer. Then again, you can get away with anything as long as it starts with “Iiiin a whhoooorrrrld…”.

    • Randy Williams

      You could take any of these, however, and add a small twist and make them more original.

      I’d take “The day the music died” and make the young couple actually, ghosts.

      • Linkthis83

        I’d make them kill the band members for splitting up :)

        • Scott Crawford

          That would add some much needed GSU.

        • klmn

          Maybe just kill Yoko…

          • Scott Crawford

            The Day of the Yoko: After listening to Linda MacCartney singing in “Wings”, a music fan hires an international assassin to kill Yoko Ono and reunite the Beatles (maybe not Ringo).

          • klmn

            TITLE: OHMYGODNO!

        • Paul Clarke

          Love it. The horror version.

          The thing those loglines are all missing is the wonder of IRONY. So what if the band broke up because the lead fell in love with the guys girlfriend. The only way they can get back together is if he lets his girlfriend date the guy. So he has to chose between the two (Indecent Proposal with music). Of course being a movie he would have to chose both and try to have his cake and eat it.

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

            Yeah, they were all generic loglines.

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

          Something similar already happened with the Pantera breakup, when that asshole upset at their break up, shoot Dimebag in that club a few years back.

      • Scott Crawford

        That was really my point. But I feel that SOME people are still working purely at this level, and none of these loglines would stand out among a crowd of similar ideas.

        • Erica

          So then something like:
          Seal of Approval
          LOGLINE: Jake, ex-Navy Seal who battles a dependency on pain medication, discovers his family has been unwillingly dragged in by terrorists who wish to blow up the Pentagon, forcing Jake to choose.

          I’m struggle to write a logline myself without sounding like the hundreds before me.

          • Scott Crawford

            Major thumbs-up giving the character a flaw and an inner conflict to struggle with; makes the lead much more interesting. Maybe if he had an interesting support character, like a former terrorist who agrees to help the hero or a magician who can make it look as if the Pentagon has been destroyed, buying the hero some time.

            Sometimes you have to combine two ideas: Jonathan Hensleigh combined an idea he had about man who has a premonition of an asteroid with an idea about oil rig workers. Armageddon made $553.7 million worldwide in 1998.

          • Erica

            You might be on to something here. I do love Armageddon!

            If you combine “White house down with Now you see me” you could have one hell of a story,

            A Magic Seal of Approval
            LOGLINE: Jake, ex-Navy Seal who battles a dependency on pain medication, discovers his family has been unwillingly dragged in by terrorist who wish to blow up the Pentagon, forcing Jake to call on a old army friend “Oz” to work his magic.

            Now it’s a summer blockbuster flop, but at lest it’s commercial enough. lol

          • Scott Crawford

            There was a magician, I forget his name but you can do the research, who helped the allies in World War Two by making it look as if they had hundreds of tanks when they only had a few, and disguising submarines, etc.

            Not everyone loved Now You See Me, and I felt it went over-the-top a few times, but you can’t doubt that the writer LOVES magic, and you can see that in what he wrote. Write what you love, baby!

          • brenkilco

            The British deceptions were fascinating stuff. Everything from staging false fires and camouflaging factories to look as if they’d already been bombed to stringing flares to networks of cables so that at night from overhead empty fields would look like aerodromes with planes landing.

            Now You See me was glossy, witless crap. Juvenile and implausible from first to last. Why make a movie about magicians where the magic is nothing but CGI effects impossible in the real world? What’s the fucking point? It’s possible the writer loves magic. It’s certain he plots with the attention to logic of a ten year old.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Spot on about ‘Now You See Me”. Utter drivel.

            Gene Shalit says, ‘They should have called this “Now You Don’t See Me” because that’s what i wish I had done.

          • Erica

            lol, now I’m embarrassed that I kind of liked that movie. I’ll be it, I watched it for fun and not to study the story or script. Maybe I was drawn in by the actors. Had it been different ones I may not have watched it.

            I like most movies for that matter, it takes a lot for me not to watch it. I could not however get through 15 minutes of “Super Cyclone”. It’s not often I will turn a movie off.

          • Scott Crawford

            I liked it, I just thought it would be more real, more believable. Still, better than a lot of movies I’ve seen in the last few years.

          • Scott Crawford

            Yeah, I thought it was gonna be real magic too. There’s a micro-budget ($200,000) movie about magic called Desperate Acts of Magic. It got promoted a lot on the On the Page podcast:

    • brenkilco

      An ex navy seal will need all his skills when he and his young wife, in an effort to get over the breakup of their favorite band, remodel their house and uncover an ancient stash of drugs, unleashing the murderous spirit of the dead dealer who can change his appearance at will to resemble anyone. It’ll write itself.

      • Scott Crawford

        I don’t read scripts for a living, but I’m sure people who do will tell you that they read scripts like that (too many ideas at once) ALL THE TIME!

        On page 70, they discover a time machine!

        • Erica

          Page 90 everything reboots and starts again…

          • Scott Crawford

            There was this crazy treatment for Superman III where they included EVERY idea they had:
            https://www.sendspace.com/file/yqjggw

            1. Superman
            2. Supergirl
            3. Braniac
            4. Superman goes bad, fights himself
            5. Time machine to medieval England
            6. Mister Mxyzptlk

            In the end they just stuck with 1. and 4.

          • Erica

            Wow, very cool. I will read. I love the fact it was was actually typed out. Of course if I went back to typewriter, I would have to order crates of whiteout.

        • LV426

          The big twist ending… They use the time machine to become Adam and Eve.

    • brenkilco

      I wonder if there is much relationship between an effective logline and the quality of a script? Little more than a premise can be described in a single sentence. How about these classics.

      A son reluctantly assumes control of his family’s criminal business activities when his father becomes incapacitated.

      A private eye learns that greedy land speculators are trying to exploit a drought in order to get a dam built

      A depressed man who blames himself for the death of the woman he loved becomes tragically involved with a lookalike.

      Clearly all deadweight. Toss em and let’s get back to that cool sounding contained thriller about zombies in a morgue.

      • Paul Clarke

        A good logline doesn’t necessarily equal a good script. It merely means you have a solid premise with which to build your story on. And probably a marketable one. The filmmakers you mention didn’t have the same battle to be noticed that we do.

        In the end your examples only demonstrate an inability to write a good logline.

        “When the head of a powerful mafia family is gunned down, the only man who can step in and save their empire is his civilian son who despises their criminal ways.”
        – I don’t know about you, but I would watch/read that any day. Never underestimate the power of irony.

        • Scott Crawford

          It’s the specific details that are missing, such as the 1930s setting of Chinatown or the acrophobia of Vertigo, and that are often missing in amateur loglines too. I think people are afraid of giving away too much in their loglines, but you have to hook people in.

          • LV426

            I think the issue is trying to keep the logline short and efficient. Yet doing that sometimes pares it down too much. There is that worry a long winded detailed logline might scare off readers/agents/producers. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

          • Scott Crawford

            Four loglines from recent sales. I’ve bolded the original elements (as I see them) and crossed through the less original ones:

            PAST IMPERFECT
            Logline: Finally settled into a normal life, a suburban man rediscovers his violent past when his estranged drug mule daughter is kidnapped by a former rival.

            RUN & GUN
            Logline: After a bank heist goes disastrously wrong, a robber, a vigilante, and a cop go toe-to-toe over the course of a day-long manhunt through the streets of Los Angeles.

            REAL TIME
            Logline: Andy McKnight wakes up from a car accident to discover that his past, and the world he knows, have changed. Now he has to find out when, and why…and how to switch back to the time he thinks is real.

            HEARTSICK
            Logline: A police detective returns from retirement to head up a task force searching for a serial killer. But the investigation forces him to ask for help from the now-jailed serial killer who captured and tortured him years before.

            As I see it, each of these loglines is one or two original ideas (or hooks) away from being a bland, bog-standard logline. But none of them are too long, none of them BURY their hooks, nor focus on less standout elements.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Excellent point.
            What’s also missing is — what have the writers accomplished before.
            Other considerations: luck, budget, skills at storytelling & writing.
            (None of the ideas set the world on fire.)

          • Scott Crawford

            I just picked four recent spec scripts in order to have a random sample. I agree, I’m not blown away by any of them, but they have the kind of strong HOOKS that most AOW loglines don’t have. As to who wrote them:

            Craig Sabin who wrote PAST IMPERFECT also wrote and sold HUNTING SEASON, SOUL HEIST, LIFELIKE, and CLAUSE 13.

            Richard Tanne and Travis Baker who wrote RUN & GUN also wrote WORST FRIENDS, THE ROMAN (about Julius Caesar), INTO THE DARK, and SWAMP SHARK.

            HEARTSICK is based on a novel, part of a series of novels by Chelsea Cain. They tried to turn it into a TV series (scuppered by The Following?) The film will be produced by Ridley Scott.

            Robert Cholette who wrote REAL TIME is currently a Nicholl Quarterfinalist – top 5% (where have I heard that before?).

            So the three (arguably) least promising ideas are either based on a novel or written by writers with lots of sales behind them. The most (arguably) original idea (REAL TIME) is from a writer who HASN’T got those advantages.

        • brenkilco

          “It merely means you have a solid premise with which to build your story on.”

          Obviously, or maybe not so obviously, my drab log lines were intended to be facetious. They could all be sexed up to some degree. The point is that the richness of the scripts can’t be conveyed in any log line. A premise isn’t a plot and a plot isn’t quite a story. And the story determines the quality of the film. While you can put the premise on a poster it’s ultimately irrelevant. But usually the premise is what sells. Which, is one reason, despite all the creative energy around, most movies are so disposable.

          BTW while your logline for Godfather clearly improves on mine, it makes it feel more like a soap opera than a shoot em up. If I were a producer I might still toss the script. Not to mention that it’s completely inaccurate. Michael doesn’t win the gang war. He consolidates the family’s power after the Don dies.

          • mulesandmud

            Personally, I thought that Vertigo logline of yours sounded like a hell of a story.

            It’s true that the loglines of many great movies would be an embarrassment by the modern industry standard. It’s also true that the modern industry standard is its own kind of embarrassment. The prevailing logline formula works hard to force every story into the mold of Who Fights Who, with a hint of Where and Why if you can manage it.

            Reducing your own script to a logline can be informative in many ways, and can even help gauge the strength of your premise. But never forget the nature of the beast: loglines are marketing tools. They exist to pique the interest of a narrow subset of people whose job is to vet scripts while reading as few of them as possible (talk about irony).

      • LV426

        How about a zom-noir about a smart zombie detective? He hunts down rogue zombies that have gone berserk (this would be set in some post zompocalypse society where all the remaining zombies where given a drug that turns them into vegetarians). So instead of booze and cigarettes, our zombie detective is always craving carrots and broccoli or other such healthy snacks. Because of all the zombies being veggie fiends, there would be a shortage of fruits and vegetables. This has caused a sinister green market (veggie black market) to crop up. These criminal farmers grow all manner of freakishly mutated genetically engineered plants in underground hideouts. This gives us a “Little Shop of Horrors” vibe with giant talking man eating mutant plants.

        Set the final act in the morgue as a sort of contained thriller within the film itself.

        I’m also getting the feeling there needs to be martial arts fight sequences and maybe a musical number.

        • Scott Crawford

          Probably work better as a TV show: The Walking True Detective Dead.

          • LV426

            I was thinking it might also work as a TV show. A detective procedural with horror elements and some slight dystopic sci-fi with all the post zombie apocalypse background texture.

            As for the title, I was mulling over “Green Thumb.” Although maybe something like “Stiff City” if I ever write it as a TV pilot/series.

            I can picture McConaughey walking down the mean streets munching on a carrot, “we’re all just zombies man… always were even before the whole damn world went crazy.”

        • brenkilco

          I’ve got Ian Ziering’s and Tara Reid’s agents on hold. Do you want to take the calls?

          • LV426

            Sure.

            I might have the next Sharknado here!

            We should give Uwe Boll a call as well.

    • Midnight Luck

      Wasn’t THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED once called “Can A Song Save Your Life”, then retooled with a new (supremely BLAND) title “Begin Again”?

  • Bill Anthony Lawrence

    If helpful, I’ve also made NERVE AND SINEW available for download on the Black List site at https://blcklst.com/members/scripts/view/20634 (I know I’ve had trouble downloading from MediaFire in the past). Would love some more insightful, helpful comments like the one from For The Lulz below. Many thanks if you have a moment to check it out!

  • klmn

    Based on the first few pages, HELLSCAPE, GOODNIGHT NOBODY, and NERVE AND SINEW look to be well-written. Any of the 3 would be suitable for AF.

    But knowing how apeshit Carson is for contained thrillers, he might want to pick GOODNIGHT NOBODY.

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

    Congrats to tall the Labor Day holiday weekend AOW.
    Though I suspect there’s not much chance of the U.S. authors chiming in.
    I’ve got my rogue salivary gland on the run, but it’s not down yet.

    AOW Winner: NERVE AND SINEW.

    SPOOKED:
    I see this so much in AOW scripts lately, I’ve gotta name it:
    MOVIE-FU? It’s the best I got for now. Rampant trivia going on here.
    Your opener is a litany of pop culture, but where are the characters.
    All I see in here is a profound love of the 80s, not a story.
    How many pop references will I have to wade through to get to the plot.
    Even though it’s kinda nifty that Ghostbusters turnred 30 this weekend!
    But all you’ve accomplished is to remind me of fun films.
    Which means, I’m not thinking about your script at all.

    Twice in a row you’ve used editing to hide the goods from the reader.
    It would be nice if we had something to start enticing a mystery.
    But instead, the burden of investment rises before we can have fun continues.
    Why not REWARD THE READER instead of isolating us from juicy reveals?
    Give us something so the reader can start to ruminate on your story.

    Three time periods in the first ten pages. And I don’t have a clue as to why.
    You had a kid pick a lock in a spooky house and some pool cues move in a bar.
    And there’s some guy in a car that probably talks to himself.
    Where’s the connective tissue between your story elements.
    The author needs to GUIDE THE READER by bread-crumbing the plot.
    As written, it’s all disjointed pop culture reference mania.

    I’ve seen enough by page 13. This script’s still mired in backstory.
    It’s brit-style wit slathered with Movie-Fu instead of plot and character beats.

    PASS.

    THE SANDMAN:
    David seems to have found his self confidence in a mighty hurry.
    Perhaps if the reader saw him ESCALATE the scene would play better.
    And if we had a clue as to why he would muster some courage, it would help.
    Why the book is so important to David can help me EMPATHIZE with him.
    Can’t help but think you wholesale borrowed The NeverEdning Story set up.
    Which would be OK, if this wasn’t a dreamy story about a bullied kid.

    Doyle comes off a bit pedo here. He’s showering a strange kid with amazing gifts.
    In The NeverEnding Story, it was Bastian that impressed the shopkeeper first.
    Then the protag was rewarded for being a book reader, not a TV head.
    But here David is given a golden ticket w/o the slightest bit of effort.
    The romance for cinema is thick here, but the set up isn’t very cinematic.

    If Doyle runs a cinephile shop, how does he not know this Sandman legend?
    Wouldn’t he research his own merchandise? As written, it makes no sense.
    And it makes Doyle look incompetent, or he’s lying for some reason.
    The string of coincidences pushing your story forward are mounting up fast.

    I can’t get behind this loony orphan ready to die for a can of film.
    Where’s Doyle, by the way. He just let David take off alone with the evil film.
    Didn’t Hawthorne say The Sandman wanted the film for himself.
    I was hoping that Doyle was actualy pranking David here. Funny reveal perhaps.
    But apparently the real Sandman let David keep the film just cuz.
    This beat completely undermines the entire legend you’ve set up.
    Now, I don’t know what to believe about the exposition that your tale needs to survive.

    I’m bowing out here on page 12. The peril comes off comedic to me.
    Doyle’s fond staring reads creepy and everything comes easy to David.
    He’s the most confident kid with a distinct lack of self confidence ever.
    I enjoy your love of cinema and prose, but you need more to fuel a story.

    PASS.

    GOODNIGHT NOBODY:
    I hate the title. Sounds like a story about someone with zero self esteem.
    Don’t get anything vaguely horror related from it at all.
    You’re laying the parental incompetence with a broad slapstick brush here.
    This is starting to feel a bit like RAISING ARIZONA.

    Why would dad leave the babies alone just because he heard a BANG.
    Don’t they have a crib for the twins? No one leaves a baby on an open bed.
    Two is fairly young for a toddler to be on a free-roaming mattress.
    They must still have a crib around from when the twins were younger.

    Putting on my producer hat for a moment, the baby interaction is super-specific.
    The plot turns on unique things they do, but getting babies to act is like wrangling cats.
    Let alone finding a pair you can rely on to perform in EVERY SCENE. Yikes.
    That sounds like a directing nightmare few would want to wade through.

    Ten pages in. The writer can turn a phrase, but the parents read odd.
    Kat and Toby exclusively talk about the babies. As if they have no life.
    That makes it a lot tougher for them to pop as characters.
    I know this is a contained tale, but the reader needs something to ground the story.

    Seventeen pages in, and the thriller elements are yet to surface. The towel’s cartoonish.
    The closet hasn’t even made an appearance, the focus of all the evil stuff.
    Yet, the author’s burning up a lot of real estate on SMALL TALK.
    The tone here is all off. The cartoon evil laundry cockblocks the horny couple.
    This reads more like a sitcom than a feature length thriller.

    PASS.

    HELLSCAPE:
    This was the only logline that caught my attention. Kudos there.
    I also tend to like stories that have some basis in fact/history.

    You’ve given the description of a veteran Navy SEAL to a tween.
    The super-stacatto style to describe the weather and gas pumps isn’t helping.
    I’m currently reading “Stephen King: On Writing,” so I’ll let Stevie take it from here:

    “One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is dress up your
    vocabulary, looking for long words because maybe you’re a bit ashamed of your
    shorter ones. This is like dressing up a house pet in evening clothes. The pet
    is embarrassed and the person who committed this premeditated act of cuteness
    should be even more embarrassed.” P. 117

    Vans do not have trunks. Ever. But they do have rear doors you can open to store items.
    Way too many of your character intros focus on EYES. Switch it up.
    Hawk-like eyes. Bright eyes. Soulful eyes. Puppy dog eyes. All in 4 pages.
    I’m sure you can find other ways to describe your all-important characters.

    We’ve spent 10% of your script stuck at this gas station.
    So little has happened, I wonder why we’re here at all.
    The most interesting exchange was among the adults inside.
    You’d think enthusiastic Seth would be up to speed on the local legends.
    Then you could smartly deliver exposition while he engages his aloof brother.
    When exposition is smuggled into character motivations, readers dig the multitask lots.
    Something like that would be more fun to read than the adults alone.

    Daniel is a dick to rangers. Does he feel threatened by women or something.
    I feel like there should be a DRUG ADDICTION to explain Daniel’s behavior.
    Even the kids are pointing out how ill-prepared they are for the trek.
    If there was some DRAMATIC IRONY to indicate Daniel was off, I’d be intrigued.
    Maybe he ignores calls from someone, gives us a red flag to justify his behavior.

    I’m bailing out on page 20 here. No sign of ANY SPOOKY stuff at all.
    Had I not read the logline, I would’ve assumed this is a tween melodrama.
    Consider adding a COLD OPEN to tease horror to help orient the reader.
    Nailing the genre of your script is mission critical to success.

    PASS.

    NERVE AND SINEW:
    Flat opener with the sauna lock-in. The break-in had no tension.
    Also you only revealed in the fourth sentence that is was winter, strange.
    I don’t know why that wasn’t mentioned in the establishing shot of NYC.
    Go from the sauna to the break-in, then the reader would be CLUED into the action.
    And if you clue us in, we’ll want to turn pages to see what happens next.
    You can have the target in the sauna start to tease the plot somehow too.

    Roy heard muffled screams through the floorboards?
    Is the sauna in question directly under his office? If so, establish it.
    If Toly knew Roy would be mad, why go after this guy in his club?
    And why would he break into Roy’s club if he knows him.
    Why not have Toly DISTRACT Roy in his office while his thugs go to work?
    Something like that gives you inter-cutting TENSION to play with on the page.
    Perhaps Roy can even touch on why this place is neutral ground here.
    Roy and Toly should have a conflict-boiling chat that reveals character points.
    If you want your characters to reveal themselves — make them face CONFLICT.

    How did Roy screw things up for Marat? The mob still got Bogdan in the end.
    Roy let them carry out Bogdan, so the mission was accomplished.
    But then they amputate his hands and BLAME Roy for their choices.
    How is Roy responsible for them disabling their mission specialist?

    The daughter motivators works fine, but how we get there doesn’t track.
    Fargo called, they want their wood chipper scene back.
    And that’s followed up by a maintenance man scene very close to the one in Speed.
    Then we segue into a Nakatomi-style breach a la Die Hard with all the big cases.
    The point is: I’ve seen every inch of your scenes in classic films.

    And the poor exposition on page 13 is going to send me packing.
    Sandra and Holloway know how long they’ve been working together.
    And I’m sure she remembers putting her career on the line for this mission.
    If Holloway truly felt Sandra was losing it, he would’ve intervened before now.
    The set up is good enough for DTV, but the scene choices aren’t there yet.
    And compared to the other scripts, I felt you at least NAILED your chosen genre.
    I’ll gladly give you a full round of notes if you get the AF nod.

    WEAK CONSIDER.

    • Bill Anthony Lawrence

      Thanks for the vote for NERVE AND SINEW. Hopefully it’ll make it through. Would love to get a full round of notes from you.

    • brenkilco

      You’ve seen every one of these scenes in better movies but at least it it’s not lying about the kind of thing it is. And this is the pull quote for the script you chose. Not exactly making me want to dive into these.

    • klmn

      “MOVIE FU” is a great term. We should start our own glossary for this site.

    • davidgrant37

      Thanks for the comments about THE SANDMAN, really insightful!

      Maybe I was too subtle with the meaning of the book of paintings for young David and thus its taking didn’t garner enough empathy. As an orphan, he has never seen a movie in his life, so his only way to “see” one was by flipping his paintings and creating the illusion of film (which parallels with the plight of blind Alexa – his love interest – who can only “see” in her dreams).

      And maybe I wasn’t clear enough about the Museum of Lost Souls, which isn’t supposed to be a shop (Doyle makes his living from the movie theater), but rather an archive for old movies so they will not be lost (they’re not for sale, Doyle is its keeper as a labor of love and not for profit). So theoretically, Doyle might not be aware of the history of all the numerous movies kept there (the idea is another cinephile might have been the Museum’s keeper years ago).

      I know that it seems the Sandman lets David go too easily, but the reveal of his identity in the script’s climax explains his behavior and motivation. I did try to plant little clues hinting at – spoiler alert – a secret connection between the two

      By the way, you’re the second one to comment on the opening’s similarity to The NeverEnding Story, which I loved as a kid. I know I wasn’t thinking of it consciously while writing, but now I wonder if it lurked in my subconscious…:)

  • davejc

    Spooked: I kinda agree with others
    here. By page 30 I still didn’t feel the character or have an
    investment in the story which is a shame because kids sneaking into a
    haunted house is a favorite trope of mine. A Note: If you’re trying
    to tap into the readers nostalgia, use obscure references. References
    that we can see and hear just by turning on the TV or radio in 2014
    doesn’t get it. Something they haven’t heard or seen since 1980
    really does the trick.

  • davejc

    Hellscape: I was really enjoying this when the site stopped loading pages @ pg 35. Huh? I never had that happen before. I will go back, and thank you! You have a great ear
    for dialogue which is so nice to find when reading amateur scripts.

    A Note to save space: The ranger doesn’t really need to mention cell phone coverage because the audience can deduce there will be little or no coverage(Moloch
    doesn’t have any Sprint customers:).

    A Note on authentic characters: Your characters were very authentic btw. Kaleb may have been a little too goody, but then some kids are :) Daniel doesn’t need to be that
    incompetent because these kids are already in very real danger, and I don’t mean Skinwalkers.

    A thought: If this was my script I would lose Daniel in the first act(sprained ankle or whatever) And then I’d definitely go the whole Lord Of The Flies route :)

    Btw this happened to my family two summers ago in NM: a 7 mile day hike, 116 degrees. My brother was hallucinating big time and the rangers didn’t get him off the mountain til 3am the next morning. They gave him 5 citations LOL!

  • Scott Crawford

    Sometimes dialogue-heavy scripts are quick and easy to read, sometimes you need a break from all that information. Personally, I didn’t feel that your Code Black script suffered from that problem.

  • Scott Crawford

    It’s all yours, I don’t want it!

    (Remember, you can’t copyright an IDEA, only the EXECUTION of an idea.),

  • klmn

    Maybe there should be another twit-pitch contest, or another scene week contest to change things up a little.

    • Scott Crawford

      From what I’ve read the past few weeks, they’ll be little support for that. Carson’s gonna give a speech on Thursday about what makes a great idea; maybe that’ll help.

  • brenkilco

    Read first ten pages of Nerve and Sinew, which a lot of people seem to be choosing for AF. So far about as generic an action setup as you’ll find. Bad Russian mob guys. Check. A scene in a sauna. Check. Tough but sensitive hero with family sorrows. Check. Villain who likes to threaten with exaggerated civility. Check. Do this job or you’ll never see and/or we’ll kill your wife/child/dog. Check. Competent but not exactly inspired. BTW don’t suppose there’s ever been a UFC fighter who’s used the phrase “Do as you will.”

    As with most amateur scripts, more care could be taken with the wording. A few examples just on the first page”The top of the Empire State Building stands visible in the distance.” The top can be visible and the building stands but the top of the building doesn’t stand. “The thugs crouch through the window.” You can climb, squirm and wriggle through a small window but you can’t crouch through one. “…places a 2 x 4 between the door frame and handle.” you’d be better advised to put the board through the handle and over the frame if your aim is to wedge the door shut.

    Last thing, if four hulking thugs are attempting B and E on a commercial building in broad daylight think they would have chosen to jimmy a window in the rear not the front. Not to mention that this seems an unnecessarily complicated way of cornering a mobster. Couldn’t they just hide by his car?

    If this gets selected I will read the rest. Not seeing a lot that’s original so far.

  • Poe_Serling

    My pick this week: HELLSCAPE.

    So far, I’ve zipped through the first 30 pages. First impressions…

    I really dig the title, the logline, and the overall basic premise. Another deciding factor for
    me —

    Just recently I had the chance to explore some of the Grand Canyon and Goblin Valley State Park. Plus, I did a bit of rafting down the Green River.

    — so I guess I was already primed for a hike into the Utah desert.

  • brenkilco

    Great Expectations? So the confrontation with sandman is like Pip meeting Magwich? Well, maybe I’ll read on. But I’m hoping it’s more film noir than Cinema Paradiso.

    • davidgrant37

      Yes, the confrontation with the Sandman is very much in the vein of Pip meeting Magwich. I know it seems he backs off and lets David off the hook too easily, but the reveal in the script’s climax explains his behavior and motivation.
      And it’s definitely more film noir than Cinema Paradiso, except the protagonist is not a cynical detective who falls for a femme fatale (I feel this was done to death – no pun intended…), but rather a recluse young cinephile in love with an unattainable girl (very different from Estella, though…:)

  • Somersby

    You just e-mailed Carson on Friday?? I’ve been e-mailing Carson for YEARS (no, really, YEARS. Numerous scripts. Numerous times. Okay… Guess I’m outta here.

  • Mike Caggiano

    MY AF PICK: GOODNIGHT NOBODY

    SPOOKED: stopped at pg 13.
    Nice mystery box and scare in the opening scene. The references were a bit dated. Ghostbusters might be timeless, but I don’t know what the love child of Wham and Huey Lewis looks like.
    The next scene was too repetitive, again with the hidden scare.
    The main reason I checked out was that the goal didn’t feel organic or realistic enough. I didn’t buy that they’d dump $120K into a show because it was the best of a bunch at public access. It may work better if there’s a legitimate interest in the show from producers.

    HELLSCAPE: stopped at pg 45.
    Excellent, professional visuals and imagery.
    High, early character count increases the level of difficulty. Might help to introduce Caleb, Noah and their mom in the car, on the way to the gas station. Also, consider finding ways to hide the exposition/backstory of Caleb’s father. The majority of the time, the writing was top-notch, but whenever the father was hinted at, it felt a bit too on-the-nose for me. Maybe add more conflict between Caleb and his mom. Caleb doesn’t want to go on the trip, but mom’s making him. It’s easier to hide exposition when we’re focused on the conflict in the present. Or maybe Daniel could mention something about it to the scouts, so they’ll be nice and accepting, that way it’s not two characters discussing something that they both know.
    Daniel came across a bit inconsistent to me. First, he seems like the nerdy scout leader, then changes to an off-the-path rebel who doesn’t bring a first aid kit. Might work better if he’s set up from the start as someone trying to toughen up his kids.
    I’d like to know if Matthews concerns were valid. Who is an appropriate person to be hiking this terrain? Do grandparents actually it? Or has Daniel brought kids that have no business being out there? Since Daniel has hiked it before, maybe there could be some kind of history between him and Matthews.
    My reason for checking out…. a personal taste, but I was hoping for more straight-up monster, as opposed to all the hallucinations and supernatural elements. The hyena-spider monster was cool, as was evidence of it in the photos. I’d have like to have seen and learned more about it.

    SANDMAN – read to page 20.
    Nice world-building and dialogue. Solid relationship between Daniel and Doyle, perhaps show more sizing each other up, before actually trusting the other. Nice mystery about the movie as well, but my reason for checking out was…
    The Stranger lets Daniel go, even after he refuses to give up the film. And then the 10 year time lapse zaps the tension you’ve established from the start. I didn’t feel like Daniel was in enough jeopardy.

    NERVE AND SINEW: read to pg 17
    I really enjoyed Ray’s decision to stay neutral and not help the victim. It’s a lot more interesting that the typical action hero helping the victim. A great choice to use “not sticking my neck out for anyone” as a character flaw in a modern action/thriller. It did feel a little heavy handed as the story progressed though.
    I though Sandra’s backstory was either too much or not unique enough. Unless this is truly a dual-protaganist piece, I think her divorce backstory is going to distracting us from latching on to Ray and experiencing the story through his eyes.
    Why I stopped: I wasn’t invest enough in the goal of hitting the informant in the penthouse. I like the idea of using Ray’s daughter, but the audience hasn’t seen/become invested in this relationship. I’d rather see Ray actively tracking his daughter, which leads him to Marat, which leads to the unappealing job offer in exchange for info on his daughter.

    GOODNIGHT NOBODY: stopped at pg 42
    Had a nice feeling of authenticity to the family life. Very ominous that the twins couldn’t talk, I can see this becoming a major handicap later on. Plus, there’s a backstory hinted at, one of the parents did something to cause this and will have to redeem themself.
    I was pleasantly surprised at the compressed time frame (to this point), all taking place in a single night as the twins adjust to their new beds.
    I made a note that it loses steam and gets a bit repetitive as the parents continually go back into the room to check on the toddlers. But continuing on, I think this may be a strength, as it lulled me into a false sense of security just as the snake scene hits.

    • davidgrant37

      Thanks for the comments for THE SANDMAN!
      I know that it seems the stranger lets David go too easily, but the reveal of his identity in the script’s climax explains his behavior and motivation. I did try to plant little clues hinting at – spoiler alert – a secret connection between the two.

  • LV426

    CODE BLACK 3: SIGNED, SEALED & DELIVERED

  • ChadStuart

    Yeah that’s exactly what it’s from. It’s even read in the script. And I agree, it’s a creepy page. But, I guess it’s not as well known as I thought it was.

    • davejc

      It’s very well known, it’s just that quiet majority effect.

      • peisley

        I’m in the majority, I guess. It does bring up an issue, though. There could be a copyright infringement.

  • Logic Ninja

    GOODNIGHT NOBODY

    I’ve read this script before, thought it was awesome and very creepy. A couple of new thoughts:

    I think the first page, the bathtub scene, could use the tiniest tweak. The kids aren’t laughing and playing, which is our clue they’re mute–but I think a theater audience might not get it right away. The scene might come off as weird, or a mistake–like the director couldn’t get the kids to cooperate or something. Maybe have the kids sign something, give a special nod or hand gesture. Something like that.

    Second, I think the logline could use tweaking (in answer to your question about traction). You’ve got a fun, original concept in your mute-toddler conceit. But it doesn’t appear in the logline. Maybe something borderline-cheesy, like “When two mute toddlers face real, supernatural evil from their closet…it would help if they could scream.”

    By the way, that title is badass! Electric Dreamer be hatin’, but remembering that last page in “Goodnight Moon” sends shivers down my spine!

  • Citizen M

    Very little time this weekend so I couldn’t read as much of each script as I would have liked. I like (in order) GOODNIGHT NOBODY, HELLSCAPE, and NERVE AND SINEW.

    SPOOKED
    Read three pages.
    Clunky first sentence. Too many adjectives.
    Don’t know what Wham and Huey Lewis look like.
    Is Vacuous Voice in the back seat or a following car or some spooky manifestation? ‘Wailing radiates…’ Does this mean the driver is singing or the fanbelt is slipping or the radio is playing Eastern music?
    ‘Warped porch steps creak…’ Start with the main action. This is novelistic writing. Better: “Three boys sit on the warped porch steps.”
    ‘Wicked’ wasn’t used in that sense in 1984.
    ‘Flashlight’ Does this scene take place at night? I imagined daylight. Put DAY or NIGHT in scene headings and the writing should make clear it’s at night.
    Generally, this was much too difficult to read. You are directing on the page by describing the way you would film it. You are not telling us in plain language what is going on, which is what a script should do.

    NERVE AND SINEW
    Read to page 12. Writing is a bit too vanilla. All conversation is spoken in a calm manner, no change of tone for dramatic situations. I found it a bit hard to figure out what was happening with the maintenance men in the apartment basement. Some dialogue could be Russified. Everyone sounds the same.

    “You get this two-faced rich fuck,” Does this mean kidnap, or kill? Clarify.

    Things are moving along at a reasonable pace and the stakes are clear. Ex-fighter Roy must do wet work for the Russian mob to get his daughter back. I would read further if I had time.

    THE SANDMAN
    Read 13 pages. Well written and an easy read. Personally, I’m not feeling any tension or fear, possibly because I have no idea what the Sandman wants from David or what dangers he might face. It’s not a genre I like, but I’m sure the script will have its fans.

    GOODNIGHT NOBODY
    Read to page 18. Well written and an easy read. Scenes are too long. The pace needs to be faster. Kids should see mound of clothes move by page 12. Page 13, clunky exposition talking about neighbor.

    So far, very sweet. I love this family and their silent kids. I’d read on if I had time.

    HELLSCAPE
    Read to page 18. Lots of characters so it’s hard to get to know each one. They haven’t gelled in my mind yet. (Physical descriptions don’t help. You forget them as soon as you read on.) Daniel I get. He’s an irresponsible asshole leading them into trouble.

    Some evocative descriptions and a good amount of pace. Not really my genre but I wouldn’t mind reading on.

  • jw

    It’s interesting now to see those jumping on the bandwagon of “AOW needs to be better” after I’m sure some of my comments garnered displeasure. Reality is eventually hard to deny. And, I’ll take this one on my back and follow up with a request that we do some “guest reader” AOW for readers of the site. IE: Carson sends the AOW scripts for a particular week to a specific email and that person decides which scripts go up. If Carson wants to do the review, all good, but let’s mix this up a bit and see what comes of it.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Change is good.
      Keeps it interesting.

    • klmn

      Good idea. I think whoever currently picks the week’s offerings doesn’t have much time to devote to it. Hopefully the “guest reader” will have several days to accomplish the task.

    • Kirk Diggler

      I was thinking the same exact thing.

    • Craig Mack

      I really don’t see what the ‘problem’ is… we are reviewing amateur screenplays — they are seeking advice from other writers.

      It shouldn’t go to the ‘BEST’ five… sometimes it’s good to see what DOESN’T work. That can be more helpful.

      I’ve read AOW scripts that are better than some of the ‘optioned’ and ‘produced’ screenplays I get sent… This is all subjective.

      That being said — your idea is not a bad one. I’m just not sure it’s NEEDED. AOW and AF serves it’s purpose…

      • klmn

        There are other sites for peer-to-peer reviews. Triggerstreet, Zoetrope, Amazon still has that function.

        Supposedly Carson is looking for good scripts – at least he has in the past. If not, what’s the point of the recent poll to rank Amateur Friday scripts?

        • Craig Mack

          There are other sites that review screenplays as well… that’s not the point.

          Getting GREAT notes from some of the readers on here is priceless. As a writer, reading a discussion on why a screenplay works and DOESN’T work is priceless.

          Furthermore, interacting with the actual writers and digging into their thought process is priceless.

          If Carson puts up 20 screenplays a month… and 1/4 are WTR that’s defying the odds. It’s HARD to find good screenplays… It’s even harder to find GREAT ones.

          Dissecting FLAWED ones make you a better writer.

          • klmn

            With all these “GREAT NOTES” you mention, the submissions should be getting better. I don’t think it’s happening. If anything the quality has regressed.

          • Craig Mack

            Are you saying ‘notes’ from people like Mules and Electric aren’t helping EVERYONE that are reading them? That’s a bold statement.

            It’s EASY to find flaws in ANY screenplay — especially if that’s what you are looking for. If you can do better than these screenplays — please submit so we can see how to do it.

            The quality CERTAINLY hasn’t regressed (other than my terrible screenplay!) There have been a TON of great scripts in the last 3-4 months…

            But, to each their own.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Think you may be overusing the term “great scripts.”
            (There have been a TON of great scripts in the last 3-4 months…)

            I remember asking a producer at the former Screewriters Expo
            if there was a shortage of good scripts. He said yes but was quickly corrected by another producer who said — shortage of great scripts.

            With AOW, we see a lot of “Not For Me” scripts that with proper work can become good scripts.
            Great scripts — could be a different classroom.

          • Craig Mack

            GREAT point MJ… Agreed. ;)

            But do you really think the reason we are not finding GREAT scripts on AF is because of the initial vetting process?

            Statistically speaking — I think we are right on track.

          • klmn

            http://scriptshadow.net/amateur-worth-the-read/

            One on June 27 of this year.

            One on Nov 8 of last year.

            One on May 24 of last year.

            One on March 28 of last year.

            One on March 22 of last year.

            A few shorts from last year.

            And Joe Marino’s script got an impressive in 2012.

            It looks to me like the process of June 27 and before worked better.

            But maybe you can explain your answer?

            And the saying is, “To each his own.”

          • Craig Mack

            Explain what? That I don’t judge whether I think a script is good or not based on a WTR rating? I find the current process helpful to both the writers, and the readers.

            But again, to each THEIR own. (*actually a perfectly common use of the term, especially when the gender of the recipient is unclear)

          • klmn

            “There have been a TON of great scripts in the last 3-4 months…”

            Explain that. Which scripts from the last 3-4 months are great?

          • Midnight Luck

            It seems most of the people sending in scripts for AoW are drive-by’s. They don’t post on SS. I doubt they follow much after they haven’t been picked for Friday. Their names aren’t recognizable as posters. Many of them say they are “long time followers, first time responders”, but when not picked for AF they’re never heard from again.

            So I think there’s a larger group who hear about what Amateur Friday is and hope the script they wrote can beat the odds and maybe capture some heat. So they send it in and move on.

            I don’t think they are actively reading and following the articles nor participating in dialogue with others.

            Basically, I think they are lookie-loos.

          • Craig Mack

            Probably true, and I’ll be honest… the reason they are lookie-loos is because they are outclassed in the discussions. Honestly, it’s part of the reason I don’t post as often as I like is because someone often articulates my thoughts far better than I could have…

            Or, I’m actually writing… and don’t have time.

    • Midnight Luck

      I have had problems with the writing on AoW as well. Yet, in the end it doesn’t bother me, because, as I have stated numerous times, ScriptShadow is just a small cross section (a microcosm) of the Hollywood world overall. Hollywood has an incredibly difficult time finding quality stories, writers, writing, and ideas. They have found a work around recently by only buying IP (pre selected successful properties) so they don’t have to do as much digging around to find their own stuff.

      So, the numbers still will work out the same for us as they will for Hollywood. They have a HUGE number of very unsuccessful scripts. A tiny group of decent scripts, and then a one in a million Top Notch scripts.

      It is the same here and there. SS is no different. We don’t have a higher number of low caliber work, it is just more visible, as all of us see everything going through. Whereas in Hwood, you only see what has gone through whatever Prod Co you work for, or whatever Agency you are connected with, etc.

      It is tough, but that is just how it works. Have to dig to find the diamonds in the rough.

  • Midnight Luck

    My Choice: THE SANDMAN

    Before even getting started, it seems a huge percentage of the writers on here (or just “everywhere”) have troubles putting sentences together in understandable, logical, timely, or just plain coherent order. So many of the writers this week have sentences that are a jumble of images, thoughts, characters and action which make NO sense.

    Also, the idea of GUIDING someone’s attention by describing what we are looking at is very important. You can basically “Direct” on the page, without actually putting in Directing directions. Think about how the camera would move. When you enter the scene, where you want the readers attention and focus. What we are supposed to be noticing as we enter a room, see a person, what part of action is highlighted. Don’t just give some vague overall idea.

    SPOOKED (Pg. 3)

    Ok, right off we open with:

    EXT. HOLLOW GROVE – NIGHT

    Flying through a starless sky under a full moon illuminating
    the tree-lined suburban neighborhood below.

    Are we actually “Flying”? if not, I would find a different way to describe what you are trying to show. This immediately causes an unsureness of where we “are” and what is going on. NOT what you want to do. The opening is first to give us a lay of the land, let us know where we are, what the environment we are in is, and possibly who our characters are (most likely Protagonist).

    And I also have no idea what is meant by “a love child of Wham and Huey Lewis”. Your job is to SHOW us what you want us to know. Not just slap down some vague images that you think we will interpret correctly. So many people will have no idea who WHAM is, let alone what they looked like. And I really doubt anyone knows who Huey Lewis is, or what he looked like. I know you are trying to say we all need to reference the ’80’s feathered hair retro image, but, there is nothing in this sentence to give us an idea of who this person is, or even what they “actually” look like. If instead you said something like:

    “DRIVER sports a single silver hoop earring in his left ear, bushy feathered brown hair, snakeskin Cowboy boots,, and a Jean jacket over white t-shirt with a picture of GEORGE MICHAEL.” This is all accented with a single fingerless black leather glove on his left hand. “

    I know that is a bit long winded, but my point is that Maybe, just maybe, we would begin to visualize an image in our heads.

    Next up:

    EXT. HOLLOW GROVE – VICTORIAN MANOR

    WAILING radiates from the Cutlass as it careens past a
    decaying and boarded up mansion.

    Warped porch steps creak under the weight of three TEENAGE BOYS

    From the scene right before this I was already confused going into whatever might be happening with a new scene. All that is said is “the driver glances in the rearview mirror—“

    and then we move to EXT HOLLOW GROVE – VICTORIAN MANOR, yet we are outside, I assume in the same place we were before? because it also was called HOLLOW GROVE. And what does Hallow Grove mean? I have no idea if that is the name of a suburbia housing complex, a neighborhood, A thick forest where the Headless Horseman might run by, a dark deep crevasse between two hillsides with massive amounts of dead decaying foliage? I immediately think it is this last choice. But there is a guy in a car on the street, and then a bunch of kids coming out of a house, so obviously I was wrong. Sounds more like an average Suburbia neighborhood.

    So, let’s push in and look at this more:

    WAILING radiates from the Cutlass as it careens past a decaying and boarded up mansion.

    WAILING radiates from the Cutlass – does this mean the CAR is making a loud screeching noise? or is the guy who looks in the rearview mirror supposedly wailing? The boys have no reaction whatsoever, so, from what I am guessing no one can really “hear” it from outside. So why is it there? And if it is necessary, why aren’t we “seeing” what is happening? why aren’t we “closer” to the events?

    Ok, next, this is where I have a lot of troubles:

    So after this wailing something in a car (which by the way doesn’t crash or have something happen with it, because if the guy were being attacked it would have crashed, yet nothing) we have a sentence like this:

    Warped porch steps creak under the weight of three TEENAGE BOYS

    This is a perfect example of the confusing, misguided, problematic word structures created in all these scripts.

    WARPED PORCH STEPS

    is what we see in our minds’ eye first as we begin picturing the scene. Then

    CREAK UNDER THE WEIGHT OF

    we then imagine an old wood porch with brittle steps, and some kind of Heavy people

    THREE TEENAGE BOYS

    and we finally reach the important aspect of this scene. The writer wants to introduce us to 3 Teenage Boys, yet waits until the END of the sentence to get to them. Their weight on the steps is more important, the Warped Porch Steps are more important. Yet as our minds try to picture what is happening in the scene, it keeps having to rewind and drop information back into the picture we created in our heads. If the CREAKING wood porch were important here, MAKE IT SO. If the WARPED PORCH STEPS were of utmost importance, MAKE IT SO.

    I pushed myself to get to PAGE 3. Even though the pages look rather white, it was an incredibly difficult read. Most all of the difficulty came from the cumbersome sentence structuring and placements of images and ideas. It took so much work to understand what was being described, and a lot of time to get a clear picture in your head.

    I could go on, but I am pretty sure everyone gets the idea. This is only a bit from the first Three pages. I haven’t read any of the rest either. I would have a hard time reading further if the whole thing was like this.

    GOODNIGHT NOBODY (Pg. 2)

    I understand this title is referencing that Children’s book or nursery rhyme or whatever it is called “Goodnight Moon”. Though I worry that using a title with NOBODY in it gives an impression of empty or uninteresting happenings. I could be wrong about this, but it feels like it could be a word that stops readers, as opposed to opening readers.

    I am continuing with this discussion of how images are laid out in the text, and how sentences are structured.

    The ENTIRE opening sequence makes zero sense. I believe you are trying to give us an impression of what is going on, and then Surprise us when our impression is incorrect. The problem is, you need to give us a simple sleek image that is easy to “see”. This opening is a massive jumble of things which make no sense.

    You OPEN on the Downstairs, yet are referring to things Upstairs. You have words like “Someone” without anyone being there. Then refer to “Down here”. Even though we were already Down Here. Then you are trying to tell us what to think and what you want us to mis-understand. “By the sound of it, though, that someone is too old to be playing in the bathtub”. “Unless that someone is playing with children. But why can’t they be heard?”

    So far we have gotten an INT. HOUSE slug line to tell us where we are – DOWNSTAIRS. Yet the whole opening doesn’t tell us ANYTHING about what we are SEEING. You are telling us what we “might” be hearing, “might” be assuming or understanding from all “THIS”. But there is no “This” in anything going on.

    WE NEED to be SHOWN what is going on. We get to another slug of

    STAIRWELL-CONTINUOUS

    Yet overall all we have “seen” is a HOUSE with no description.

    Then we are going upstairs, and then finally a slight bit of layout of the house is described.

    All I am saying is, if this is an extremely important opening scene to draw the reader in, to convey some very important information, then it needs to read PERFECTLY. This opening, as it is, isn’t very effective. I think with some tweaking you could give better images of what you want the reader to be seeing, and even what we are to be hearing. A slight of hand can be used to throw us off of what you want to tell us and what is actually going on. The thing is, you need to be describing what the reader is seeing and hearing, very specifically. In a way that they can picture straight forward. Then the big reveal will be even stronger.

    HELLSCAPE (Pg. 11)

    OK, so, I get to Pg. 11 and all I can think is…. Was ANY of this necessary? We spend 10 pages “getting to know” all these kids and Daniel the Scout master, I believe? Yes we learn a few things about them, but I can’t tell you who ANY of them are. HOW MANY people are there?

    Paul, Alexander, Seth, Eli, Daniel, Caleb, Noah, Lillian, Gregory.

    Now Lillian was the only Woman introduced, so she becomes a bit more memorable. She was the mother of two of the boys I believe, but couldn’t tell you which ones. Gregory is a bit more memorable as he is a Native American, yet looking at all the names, I couldn’t have picked out his name at all. He doesn’t have a name that would fit him. Why does everyone have such nothing names? they are all interchangeable and have no reason to stand out. Also, in 10 pages having 9 names and individuals thrown in front of the reader is almost impossible to remember much of anything about any of them, without very specific, very orchestrated “items” which make them memorable. As well as interesting names.

    So, for the 10 pages we have kids bickering, doing this and that, simple complaining, someone acting like they are pissing in a bottle and everyone laughs. I understand this is basic stuff real boys would probably be doing on a journey like this. And that is fine, for REAL life. For a Documentary. But we need something to grab onto and to remember. Something to tell us there is a REASON to be paying attention. Vague references to “spooky” things from Native Elders doesn’t elicit any feeling of anything.

    I will say it wasn’t difficult to get to page 11, as the writing was light and easy to read.

    NERVE AND SINEW (Pg. 2)

    Need to again reference the Structure of sentences and placement in them of important images you want us to focus on.

    I am not a fan of the Title overall. I think there enough people who won’t really know what SINEW is. It also has a very negative sound to it. A dirty, unpleasant image. Maybe that is what the writer is going for. Nerve has multiple meanings or connotations so I get it. It also is an interesting word. Not sure about Sinew.

    Again, the OPENER has confusing imagery and makes it difficult as to what the writer wants us to be seeing.

    EXT. BUILDING – DAY

    A hulking man stands in front of the basement window of a
    brownstone rowhouse, repurposed for commercial use.

    Ok, we are at a “Building”? While I understand there are huge arguments about what is really needed in a script, I am of the impression that at least “some” info helps us understand where we are, what might be going on, and gives us a “PLACE”. I don’t feel this does.

    As the script goes on, the writer tries to make up for this by placing necessary info in the Action lines, but it just confuses things further.

    Let’s get back to the Action line though. So next:

    A hulking man stands in front of the basement window of a
    brownstone rowhouse, repurposed for commercial use.

    Why does “repurposed for commercial use” come at the end of this intro? I have no idea what this means or why it is necessary. It is a confusing bit of info, that actually isn’t needed and jumbles up the sentence. It is separate from the idea you are presenting about a MAN in front of a basement window.

    Then, it gets more problematic:

    Behind him — four thugs pry the basement window open.

    Two simple sentences and I have no idea what I am supposed to be seeing. A Hulking man is standing in front of a basement window. Are only his feet in front of the window? or is he level with the window? Does he know the 4 thugs are breaking through? Are they coming after him? Is he with them?

    How can four thugs be prying open the window when they are BEHIND him? If he is in front, we should have been told all 5 of them were in front of the window, with him as a “lookout”, if that is in fact what is happening. If they are on the inside trying to pry it open to get to him, waiting on the outside, but still “in front” of them, well, the whole structure of how this image is created in the readers mind should be reconstructed.

    Now we get to the writer changing what we are seeing:

    Up above, over the front door, sits a sign that reads:
    ‘RUSSIAN BATHS AND HEALTH CLUB.
    EAST VILLAGE, NYC’

    So only now, do we learn that this is actually a Russian Bath house. Now again the sentence doesn’t flow as it begins, “Up above, over the front door, sits a sign that reads:”. It would have been much quicker, with fewer mental gymnastics of what was going on to say

    “A sign hangs over the front door: RUSSIAN BATHS”

    Again, another sentence needing to be orchestrated a bit better:

    The pack of four thugs crouches through the basement window.

    They approach the door to the sauna.

    I am not sure what exactly it means by “Four thugs crouches through the basement window”. The images are a bit difficult to put together mentally. I get the overall understanding of what the writer “wants” the reader to understand from the words they are typing. But I think so much of this could be structured better. Simplify, show us what we need to see. Don’t try to impress us with odd sentence construction, or by adding unnecessary “flair” where it confuses as opposed to showing.

    THE SANDMAN (Pg. 10)

    This was a good read. Has interest and intrigue from the beginning. I think some of the very first half page could be tightened up and written a bit better. The scene in the Orphanage courtyard could be smoother with the altercation between the boys. But overall this was a solid story so far and worthy of coverage. Don’t feel I have read enough to give good coverage yet. Will need to read more.

    • davidgrant37

      Thank you for choosing THE SANDMAN and for the kind words, I really appreciate it!

    • charliesb

      This comment needs to be turned into an article. Confusing, over or under written action and description makes even the most interesting script near unreadable.

      Great notes Midnight!

      • Midnight Luck

        Thanks, I appreciate that.

  • ASAbrams

    I choose “Goodnight Nobody”

    …After reading this script, I have issues with the title and logline. They both give the impression of a supernatural presence, but that’s not what this story’s about. And it seems that this is intentional because I can’t connect the heart of the premise to that line in the children’s book the father read. Okay, “Goodnight nobody” is creepy…what does this have to do with the plot, characters, theme…anything?

    The situation felt too small–like, it would do for an episode of a television show (I’m imagining The Walking Dead), but it doesn’t seem like there’s enough here for a whole feature-length film. I also had problems with the snakes being enough of a threat to the family. Lastly, why are the snakes so angry? They are initiating attacks on these people for no reason.

    After the first act and a half, things get moving. Beyond this part the script was solid enough to read through it at a good pace. Yet the tension in the situations didn’t build for me. For example, after the snakes arrive, the script went…The snakes attack…someone gets hurt…they retreat and come up with a plan. The threat doesn’t get more intense during this series of scenes–they just come across another venomous snake.

    So, the father gets hurt physically the worst, the mother gets hurt but not in a way that would mar her physically, and the kids remain untouched. Those were my expectations going in, and this is exactly how it happened. (These are the unwritten rules of horror, suspense, and thrillers that involve families) I think that a more unpredictable situation is in order here.

    Like I said, this is solid, but right now it seems kind of throwaway. I’d watch this and forget it the next day. Either the characters, or the premise, or the situations need to be bigger to be more memorable.

  • Malibo Jackk

    How about those Jennifer Lawrence photos…

    • Craig Mack

      Amen.

    • Midnight Luck

      I feel bad for her.
      she should’ve put them on a jump drive instead.
      never back up all your important Private Bits to the cloud.
      a hard drive’s a better choice.
      lesson learned.
      Hopefully.

  • Bill Anthony Lawrence

    Hey thanks for the vote for NERVE AND SINEW (didn’t see this until just now). Appreciate the comments as well. LOVED the Equalizer script (really dig Richard Wenk’s style). Excited to see the movie in a couple of weeks.

  • ChadStuart

    Hey, guys. I know I didn’t respond to everyone individually who was kind enough to give me notes, but I did read them. I’ve spent the last few days absorbing those notes and making the necessary changes. So, thank you to everyone that left notes, your thoughts are deeply appreciated.

  • davidgrant37

    Wow, Raphael, that’s a great review! As the writer of THE SANDMAN, I’m really glad you liked it and appreciate your insightful analysis very much. Thank you!