As I was combing through all the amateur scripts I read this year to come up with this list, I realized I was looking at scripts in a way I rarely do. As a distant memory. Which led to an unexpected question: What did I remember about the script? Was it amazing, terrible, strange, not bad but had potential? Or was it the word which shall never be mentioned in screenwriting circles? Was it… forgettable? In the case of half these scripts, I didn’t remember a single thing about them.
I bring this up because I want you to imagine someone coming across your script four months after they’ve read it. What would they remember? If your idea is similar to a lot of other ideas, if your characters are, for the most part, like every other character we’ve seen in films, or if you’ve given us nothing new or different, there’s a good chance your script won’t be remembered at all. To that end, I challenge you to write the “Instantly Remembered After 4 Months” script. You should either have a big idea, take lots of chances, have a really unique voice, or create an eccentric unique character.
Nearly all of my Top 10 list from yesterday falls into this category, but I’ll give you another example from a script I actually didn’t like. It was an amateur script I reviewed called Game of 72. I didn’t like it, but as soon as I saw the post, I remembered everything about it. That’s because the writer took chances and had a unique voice. The same holds true for The Libertine. Hated it. But I’ll never forget it. The point is, it’s better to write something people remember, even if they don’t like it, than something safe that people won’t remember at all. And achieving that usually comes down to taking chances.
Below are my Top 10 Amateur Reads of the year. They came from Amateur Friday, script consultations, and scripts that landed in my hands one way or another. Take note that there are no Scriptshadow 250 scripts in here. That will all be separate. Ready? Here we go!
Logline: When a law student’s girlfriend mysteriously vanishes from a truck stop diner, he suspects a shady trucker is to blame. But as he races to save her life, he discovers that the only thing more terrifying than her captors is the reason she was taken.
Writer: Michael Morra
I believe that one day, Michael Morra will be writing horror movies that we plop down good money for. I’ve read three of his scripts now, and they all show a technical skill way beyond the average amateur. If Insatiable has a flaw, it’s that it’s too familiar. And that may be an area where Morra wants to push himself in the future. Even so, this script starts big and doesn’t let go. For those of you who love a good creature feature, you’ll want to check Insatiable out.
Script link: Insatiable
Title: The Runner
Logline: Back-stabbed by his employer and marooned in Mexico, a tough, drug-running pilot struggles to fly himself and the family that rescued him back to America alive.
Writer: Jeffrey Doka
The Runner feels like one of those easy-going 70s-style movies someone like Sean Penn or George Clooney would like to make. Pair one of them up with a European director who hates Taken-obsessed Hollywood and you may have yourself a movie package. I didn’t fall in love with The Runner, but both times I read it, there felt like there was something there, both in the story and the writer. I feel like a good producer could guide this into something with a little more punch, while keeping its European-style roots firmly in place.
Script link: The Runner
Title: Damn Nation
Logline: Five years after a vampiric plague has overrun the United States, a Special Ops unit from London is sent back into the heart of the US in an attempt to find the cure.
Writer: Adam Wax (Based on the comic, “Damn Nation,” written by Andrew Cosby and illustrated by J. Alexander)
More than any other script on this list, Damn Nation screams “movie.” It helps that it’s based off some high quality illustration work by J. Alexander, but there’re more to Damn Nation than studio dollar signs. The story has some nice plot twists, and the characters feel like newer upgraded versions of their 80s and 90s inspirations. Damn Nation also happened to be one of the most controversial entries of Amateur Friday, due to some believing the script was a straight copy and paste job from the comic book. My take? If turning a comic like Damn Nation into the page turner we get here is that easy, studios wouldn’t hire writers, they’d hire typists. But I’m sure the controversy will live on!
Script link: Damn Nation
Logline: When her older brother — a notorious NYC graffiti writer — is murdered, a teenaged fine arts student must infiltrate this underground world in order to find her brother’s killer.
Writer: Mystery Writer!
The funny thing about Ivy is it’s a movie I’d never see. But that’s when you know a script is good – when it’s keeping you invested despite the fact that you’re not interested in the genre. The target crowd here is teenagers, and Ivy builds an exciting story for that demo based around infiltrating a dangerous graffiti gang. It’s like Veronica Mars meets Save the Last Dance meets Step Up, but actually done well. If you’re a producer trying to tap into this demo, you’ll definitely want to check Ivy out.
Script link: Ivy
Title: Time Upon a Once
Logline: A film crew follows a medieval servant as she searches for the princess who can save a cursed prince — a prince she secretly loves herself.
Writer: Angelo Campos
Don’t bother looking for this one on the site. It came to me via a consultation. Easily one of the more inventive scripts I read all year, Time Upon a Once reminded me of a cross between Enchanted and What We Do In The Shadows. What I liked most about the script is how much it turned clichés on their head (for example, instead of a princess that needed to be kissed, it was a prince). Usually mockumentary scripts turn out awful. The writer’s over-reliance on the interview cutaway becomes a death trap of “cutting to an annoyed face for the 30th time isn’t funny!” But Angelo is more interested in telling a story here, and that’s what sets this apart from the rest.
Script link: Contact Angelo at email@example.com
Title: Wars of Eternal Spring
Logline: A rebellious-minded woman in ancient China seeks the help of Shaolin to save her village from a love-obsessed General and his bloodthirsty Captain.
Writer: Elizabeth Barilleaux
When I started today’s post, I talked about memory – what comes into your mind the moment you think of a script. With Eternal Spring it’s “beauty.” I remember, more than any other script, feeling transported to this time and place. And the reason Elizabeth was able to achieve this was because she is obsessed with every word she writes. You can tell she’s thought about how each word will affect the reader. The story itself feels like a cross between Crouching Tiger and Braveheart. The only reason this didn’t finish higher is because it’s not really my thing. Add a few jedis and then we’d be talking. But even Force-less, Eternal Spring is a force to be reckoned with.
Script link: Wars of Eternal Spring
Logline: A troubled detective operates outside the law when he buys an underage prostitute to perform “favors.” But when a 16-year-old girl goes missing and he must use her diary to reconstruct the events that led to her disappearance, an unimaginable truth emerges.
Writer: Carver Gray
Reviewed back in June on the site, Unlawful would later go on to make The Blood List and The Hit List. And I’m not the least bit surprised. Carver understands that if you’re going to do dark thrillers, YOU HAVE TO GO DARK. You can’t go PG-13-dark or repackage the dark from previous thrillers. Carver goes full-on with his tortured drug-abused hero and doesn’t let up until the last page. Not to mention this is a mystery that will keep you guessing. Congrats to Carver on all his success!
Script link: Unlawful
Logline: Shelby, a 40-something woman still trying to figure out how to be an adult, heads back to her hometown where she finds herself regressing even further into her juvenile tendencies.
Writer: Beth Rigazio
I’m going to get pummeled for this but I don’t care. Rigazio has some produced credits. But they’re from so long ago that I feel like she has to hustle as hard as everyone else on this list. And I’m not sure anyone’s going to find out about this script otherwise. The reason this screenplay made the list is simple: Shelby Wood. Shelby is one of the top 5 characters I’ve read all year. You WILL NOT forget this character, I promise you. Rigazio has sort of a Diablo Cody voice going for her, but where Cody has limits, Rigazio is just getting started. Take, for example, our 45 year old female hero starting a sexual relationship with a 15 year old. I mean, it gets dark. But the thing is, you NEVER STOP LAUGHING. It’s clear that Rigazio knows Shelby inside and out, and that’s what makes this script unforgettable.
Script link: Contact Beth Rigazio at firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: The Only Lemon Tree on Mars
Logline: When recent, inter-global events threaten to disrupt the idyllic life on the first Mars Colony, a woman with a secret to hide must do all that she can to prevent neighbors in her small town from taking up arms against each other.
Writer: Chad Rouch
There are some scripts that stay with you. You find yourself periodically remembering them, like a good vacation or an old friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile. The Only Lemon Tree on Mars is one of those scripts for me. Maybe it’s the title, which is so original, you instantly remember the screenplay when you read it (never forget the power of a unique title!). Or maybe it’s Rouch’s deft ability to paint this struggling alien planet a billion miles away in a way we haven’t seen before. I think that’s the key. This isn’t The Martian. It’s much deeper. There’s a lot more going on. And while it’s not perfect (the ending needs to be bigger), I would love to see what happens after Rouch goes through a couple of rewrites and really irons out the wrinkles. This was the nicest Amateur Friday surprise of the year.
Script link: The Only Lemon Tree on Mars
Logline: After a genius self-destructive orchestra conductor falls from grace, he sees his way back to the top in an inner-city teenage girl with more musical talent than anyone he’s ever met.
Writer: James Thoo
Every year, Sundance celebrates one music-focused feature. I have no doubt that Sonata will one day be that feature. It’s just too darned good. James writes his main character, William Garland, as a smarter-than-everyone-in-the-room alcoholic, drug-addict, prostitute addict mess of a man who you could imagine a young Paul Newman playing. This man’s version of Trainwreck would make Amy Schumer look like Thomas the Train. So when he’s scraping the bottom of the barrel, ordering his umpteenth whiskey shot at the bar, and he hears the most beautiful soulful voice he’s ever heard outside, free-styling with some random homeless guy, you know you’re in for one hell of a ride. I’ve always been a sucker for heavily contrasting main characters, and a classically trained 40-something white orchestra conductor teaming up with a 14 year old black inner city girl is about as contrasting as you can get. I see this as the next Hustle & Flow. I absolutely loved this script.
Script link: Contact James here. email@example.com
That’s it ya’ll! I’m down for the count. See ya in the new year!!!!!