amateur offerings weekend

Again, Amateur Offerings is when YOU the Scriptshadow readers submit your own scripts in a Battle Royale format. The script that gets the most votes in the Comments section gets a Friday review, where, if the script is good, good things are known to happen. And it’s a special Amateur Offerings post since one of the scripts comes from an idea of mine! Shadows Below is based on an idea I threw out there in an earlier post. Gregory took that idea and he and his partner ran with it. I don’t want to weight script reads though. Try to read as many scripts as you can. Then vote for your favorite in the comments!

Title: Shadows Below
Genre: Action Thriller
Logline: After terrorists attack China on the 4th of July, a submarine commanded by the President’s Daughter and a team of Navy SEALs are all that stand between the US and Nuclear Armageddon.
Why you should read: Hidden around the world are submarines with only one mission: Nuclear Counter-strike in the event of war. Known as doomsday subs for their ability to destroy the world, redundancy protocols give their Captains absolute authority to launch ballistic missiles if communications with command ever stops. — SHADOWS BELOW is a modern day action / thriller that revolves around the President’s Daughter and the US submarine she comes to lead. After American terrorists nuke China’s Naval Command on the 4th of July, a Chinese doomsday sub Captained by a legendary Admiral goes rogue and has just under four hours to start a war by nuking Washington DC. — SHADOWS BELOW highlights every aspect of our Navy, from SEALs to Top Gun Pilots, submarines, and aircraft carriers, all engaging in a desperate battle just off the coast of DC to save America. — It is INDEPENDENCE DAY meets THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER with a female protagonist.

Title: Nerd Got Game
Genre: Teen Comedy
Logline: A high school science prodigy attends a State science convention where he meets a local girl who turns his world upside down.
Why you should read: Nerd Got Game has been through ten plus drafts, including a page one rewrite. The end result is a lean 90 page script that’s ready to go. I love the old John Hughes films from the 80’s and more recent teen comedy efforts like Sex Drive (2008), Easy A (2010) and The DUFF (2015). But teen comedies, like romantic comedies, seem to be a rare bird these days. Time for a comeback.

Title: Sessions of Lead Belly
Genre: Biopic
Logline: A Southern black folk singer walks the line between a violent criminal life and becoming a great American musician.
Why you should read: Inspired by the likes of “Raging Bull” and “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould”, “Sessions of Lead Belly” is stylistic bordering on surreal and strives for quality even at expense of authenticity. — The nonlinear structure throughout different periods in Lead Belly’s life of the early 1900’s is patterned to best draw interest and convey information, exploring who Lead Belly is and why, as well as the futility of triumph and meagerness of survival against all odds. — Every sequence is nearly standalone, playing out as ambitious mini-stories and innovative short films, each with a calculated build and unique style.

Title: The Feed (based on the novel “Feed” by MT Anderson)
Genre: Sci-fi
Logline: In the 22nd century, a complacent teenager’s life is thrown into disarray when a rebellious girl shows him that his Utopian world isn’t as perfect as it seems.
Why you should read: Yes, this is another teen dystopian sci-fi story. In 2100s America, our brains have been supplemented with “Feeds”. Feeds are amazing sources of information, communication and connectivity. Yet people are further apart than ever, unable to express anything but boredom and materialism. It’s a script full of big ideas like dependence on technology, corporate control, and big-brother paranoia. But more than any of those things, it’s about people. People who are still people, despite being profiled as consumers, targets, and cogs in the machine. — This is my first attempt at a feature-length script, something I finished working on last summer but was just inspired to submit (as I think adaptations are ineligible for SS250). I’ve written two shorts; one was made into a tiny indie and the other was the recipient of a large cash award within my university. The Feed is based on a novel I truly love, and I hope that the script shows that love for the core story and characters.

Genre: Horror
Logline: A newlywed discovers her family has secretly been hunting down werewolves for centuries and must now choose between the life she has and continuing the family legacy.
Why you should read: This is a dark monster tale with some humorous character interactions to ease the ride. It is a telling of how secrets and betrayals can remold us while perpetuating the cycle of revenge no matter how desperately we fight against it. We are, after all, human. I am a nobody putting my spec out there hoping for an “Immaculate Reception” just to get it read. I have submitted this before to you, and you are probably sick of hearing from me however, I am persistent. Although I thought it was ready for contests, and I did send it to Scriptshadow 250, I highly doubt it will make the cut in any contest, because after I sent it, I found errors (I truly suck at proofing), but there may be other reasons it won’t make Carson’s list, or any list this year. However, since that time, it has gone through some revisions that I believe have removed these reasons, while painfully proofing it, and:

— In June 2015: LEGACY was requested by 2 production firms to read.
— Has nabbed a Wildsound contest WIN for a screenplay read, and is scheduled for August 2015.
— Made the semi-finals for 1/2015 “Table Read My Screenplay” Park City, Utah contest.

So, that’s progress, which I would like to continue by having it reviewed here by the SS community, so I have to ask, Carson, are you my ‘Franco Harris?”

  • HRV

    Wasn’t expecting to see any on a holiday weekend.

    • Scott Crawford

      Did the Pilgrims take the 4th of July off work?

      My history may be a little funky.

      • Frankie Hollywood

        4th of July = 1776
        Pilgrims = 1620

        156 years later…all the Pilgrims were dead.

        America, fuck yeah!

  • Scott Crawford

    You did it, Gregory, yeah!!! Happy 4th, baby!

  • Scott Crawford

    My vote:


    Longtime Scriptshadower Gregory Mandarano is someone who takes screenwriting seriously and never skimps on the effort it takes. He and his writing partner David Max Bluestein have written a serious script – not without humor, I mean, but a serious contender. A very well-written, commercially viable blockbuster. Script is a little long, and occasionally hard to follow, but these are fixable problems.

    I haven’t finished the whole script yet… if it’s picked for Amateur Friday, I’d like to give the script a proper read and give this SERIOUS writer some SERIOUS feedback. Here are some observations so far:


    I love reading military fiction, like Stephen Coonts and Tom Clancy. Technothrillers (as they are also known) haven’t always translated brilliantly to the big screen, so interested to see how this fares.

    First impressions

    Great title page! Smart.

    The lack of sluglines makes this a quick read, and less confusing than one might think. Script is LONG – both in terms of pages and words – however, as I said yesterday, I’d rather a script was too long (at this stage) than too short.


    Lot of characters to keep track of: Davenport, Harrison, Walter Smith, Mary, Brian, Steve, Alvarez, Zhun Fei in the first ten pages. Might be an idea to have a character list on the first page? Just for THIS script.

    Lots of locations to keep track of too, and ships. It’s a lot to get through, if I’m honest, and I haven’t made it to the end (yet). But I will.

    Scene direction

    Excellent. It would be so easy to get over-technical with a script like this. But scenes like this are clear and easy to follow:


    launch from Expedition Nine’s aft torpedo tubes.

    They drift into the waters trailing behind the submarine.


    crest the hill and descend into the valley.


    A MASSIVE EXPLOSION rocks out as the mines detonate.



    Waves of explosions scatter across the entire zone!

    Or this fight scene:

    Rith raises the KNIFE, ready to slit the man’s throat, when at the last moment the Ranger grabs Rith’s arm and THROWS into the wall where he falls to the floor in a heap…

    But the KNIFE never leaves Rith’s hand.

    Rith leaps his feet and wildly swings at the Ranger, who KICKS the KNIFE across the room and PUNCHES Rith in the face.

    Rith falls back with a bloody nose, totally stunned.

    But when the Ranger turns to pick up the KNIFE, Rith grabs a nearby SPOON, and a TOWEL, and stands.

    Rith LEAPS onto the Ranger’s back and uses the spoon to GOUGE HIS EYE OUT while muffling his scream with the towel. Rith drops to the ground, grabs the KNIFE, and seconds later the Ranger is dead, his blood pooling on the floor. Rith climbs out through the window, and runs.

    I’ve not seen writing like this in many pro scripts.


    Technical detail is well-handled. It would very easy (Carson was talking about this earlier this week) to have characters talking constant techno-babble. Instead we get this exchange:

    Once he’s out in open water, we’ll come up behind him through his wake, cut to his port, and ping him.

    A sounding from that distance? It’ll damage his ears as much as his pride.

    Not that loud of a sounding. We don’t want to alert the Americans. No. We’ll just softly ring his bell, and quietly let him know he was out-matched.

    What’s a “ping”? Simple – it’s a sound so loud “It’ll damage his ears as much as his pride”. But “Not that loud”.

    Not a fan of these lines:

    “You know as well as I do that our nuclear redundancy protocols allow for Type zero nine four Captains to take their boats anywhere without oversight”

    “You know as well as I do that the redundancy protocols were only put in place as a deterrent for nuclear war.”

    I’m on the fence as to whether people in real life talk like this… probably they do. I think you can cut the “You know as well as I do” and just have:

    “Our nuclear redundancy protocols do allow for Type zero nine four Captains to take their boats anywhere without oversight… He must like to live dangerously.”

    “The redundancy protocols were only put in place as a deterrent for nuclear war. We didn’t get first-striked Captain! We got attacked by terrorists!”


    Haven’t finished it yet, but… a serious and weighty script, brilliantly written. May need more focus – really needs to get the length down. But a tremendous effort. Well done!

    • brenkilco

      “But when the Ranger turns to pick up the KNIFE, Rith grabs a nearby SPOON, and a TOWEL, and stands.

      Rith LEAPS onto the Ranger’s back and uses the spoon to GOUGE HIS EYE OUT while muffling his scream with the towel. Rith drops to the ground, grabs the KNIFE, and seconds later the Ranger is dead, his blood pooling on the floor. Rith climbs out through the window, and runs.

      I’ve not seen writing like this in many pro scripts.”

      Know we maybe shouldn’t apply too much real world logic to this kind of stuff but I find this passage irritating.

      The ranger turns his back to Rith for a fraction of a second but he has enough time to grab a towel and a spoon(a spoon?) stand up and leap onto his back. Don’t think so. Anyway now he’s on his back. Not sure how he’s holding on since he has a towel in one hand and a spoon in the other. Am assuming Rith completed all his collecting and standing before the Ranger was able to pick up the knife. Quick little bugger. But the writer does not make this clear. So why is the ranger allowing his eye to be gouged out instead of generally punching and choking his opponent who can’t fight back cause both of his hands are full? And wouldn’t muffling the guy’s screams be a low priority at this point in a life or death struggle?

      How about forget the spoon and towel. He leaps onto his back. A forearm vise crushes the ranger’s larynx. The free thumb finds an eye socket, gouges and twists.

      • Scott Crawford

        Yeah, I didn’t really think about the choreography. I just like the word choice, the use of white space (ha, ha!), just very easy to read.

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        “Rith LEAPS onto the Ranger’s back and uses the spoon to GOUGE HIS EYE OUT while muffling his scream with the towel.”

        Not to mention the fact that it’s very very difficult to gouge an eye out with an ordinary spoon. I know this because I once wrote a short for a screenwriting course about a killer who collects eyeballs. My teacher, who was a former paramedic, told me that they use special instruments for gouging out eyes, spoon-shaped but with very sharp edges to cut through flesh, optical nerves and whatnot. So it’d be better for my killer to first use a knife and then a spoon just for the effect. It was filmed that way. Grossed me out :)

  • hickeyyy

    I’ll edit this post as I go on…


    Shadows Below

    Logline Interest: Medium. I’m not much a military person, and it sounds like that’s going to be very prominent, but I trust in your skills.

    Read: 27 pages.

    Notes: So your logline here states that ‘After American terrorists attack China…”, however, I read 27 pages and we haven’t gotten to the attack yet. I was a little concerned that we weren’t going to even have time for any of the fun submarine fare, but then I checked the page count – 137! That is a heavy page count!

    Regardless – 30 pages of 140 is still 20 percent. One fifth of the screenplay and we haven’t really gotten to where your logline begins. That is a lot of setup. My thought process here is that we should cut some stuff out. I think making just a couple alterations can get your page count lower, which is good, as well as get you to the action faster, which is good. I do have a couple suggestions for you…

    1) I would either have Mary getting on the sub in either her first scene, the first scene of the script itself (since, per the logline, she is the protag here), or prior to the starting of the screenplay. I think cutting a bunch of the earlier scenes will help us get to her story (logline) sooner, despite the fact I’m suggesting cutting HER scenes. It seems counterintuitive, but we need to get to the thick of things quicker. This would also involve cutting the scene of Jackson with the Admiral, which is a foregone conclusion anyway.

    2) I like the political contrast between Davenport and Jackson, but I think this would work better if the bombing happens, and we don’t know who is responsible. Adds a mystery box to keep pages turning. As of right now, it appears that Davenport is the clear villain and perpetrator setting it all up. I’d make it more ambiguous.

    I will say I breezed through that nearly 30 pages and the writing is awesome. It’s a good story. I just was hoping to get in the water sooner and I’m still dry. Best of luck!

    Nerd Got Game

    Logline Interest:

    Read: pages.


    Sessions of Lead Belly

    Logline Interest:

    Read: pages.


    The Feed

    Logline Interest:

    Read: pages.



    Logline Interest:

    Read: pages.


    • Casper Chris

      Re: Shadows Below length. The wide dialogue formatting makes it even longer. It’s probably close to 145-150 pages with standard formatting. (Only saying this because Carson complained about the length of a 125-pager yesterday).

      Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great story. If I were into u-boats, I’d dive right in, all ahead, full rudder.

      • hickeyyy

        You know, I didn’t notice the dialog formatting at all. That is even more concerning.

        • Scott Crawford

          I pasted it into Screenwriter, and although I haven’t corrected everything, it came out at about 140 pages, so I think the formatting is fine. Word count is 24,959 which is about the limit for a feature film script. I think the script could be tighter, and that’s something we can help Gregory and David with.

          • hickeyyy

            Yeah, definitely. I gave my suggestions that would make me feel better about the script. I’m sure I could get more detailed but I want to check the remaining screenplays out as well as push to finish mine by the end of SS250 deadline.

    • carsonreeves1

      Ouch. A protagonist setting animals on fire???? Yeah, not good.

      • hickeyyy

        He’s sitting depressed at his kitchen table, depressed, and has a mice trapped in a cup, and he is burning it. His sister walks in and calls him a nerd. She SHOULD call him a psychopath.

        • Jarman Alexander

          “you have no empathy for pain or respect for life… YA NERD!”

        • Nicholas J

          I don’t know what made me hate the protagonist more. Lighting a mouse on fire or wearing a t-shirt that says “I’m smarter than you.”

    • Scott Crawford

      On the right to adapt FEED into a screenplay… just did a Google check and there are no – and don’t appear ever to have been – major plans to do an adaptation of MT Anderson’s book. In my view, this is a different situation than if an amateur screenwriter decided to write their own adaptation of BLACK CITY by Elizabeth Richards… which IS in active development.

      Don’t know if I’ve told this story before: Young screenwriter Erik A. Venema wrote to Stephen Coonts asking for permission to adapt his second novel, FINAL FLIGHT (an aircraft carrier is hijacked by terrorists) into a script. Coonts said, sure, no problem.

      The script doesn’t seem to be online anymore… Coonts wryly observed that Under Siege was like an unofficial adaptation of his book.

      Still, why not write to the author and ask permission. The worst they can say is no.

      • hickeyyy

        Recently, I saw an online comic that was on Kickstarter. I loved the premise but not so much the execution and wanted to write it into a pilot. I sent the guy an email and he respectfully declined stating he had no interest. I moved in and saved myself an insane amount of work. Glad I did.

  • Andrea Moss

    Shadows Below. Nuff said!

  • pmlove

    I hope walker weighs in on the Lead Belly script.

    Although it appears to already have been done:

  • IgorWasTaken

    Horror is so not my genre, but kudos for the logline for “Legacy”.

    I’m not sure what convention is, but with werewolves I’d like to see the story’s location stated.

  • pmlove


    I read about 10 pages, then skimmed a few more.

    I can’t agree with hickeyy’s comments below enough. Take out the mouse burning, this guy needs to be likable. I’d extend that to the masturbation scene too – and the scene where he fantasizes about driving his prof to suicide!!!

    The whole thing about films like Easy A, which I think is great, is that they are charming. Your set-up should work, in theory, but for it to work, you need to make me feel heartbroken that Jeremy’s experiment didn’t work.

    A couple of quickfire thoughts:

    a. Give the big science fair more of a build-up and establish the stakes beforehand. Make us feel crushed that Jeremy bombs. Might help if you established he really likes animals too, so we get the double whammy of him killing something he loves.
    b. Throw in more jokes! There’s hardly a gag in sight.
    c. I’d revise the v.o. – it makes him sound so smug/full of self-belief that it doesn’t help the likability factor. Gifted is great, as long as you’re not smug. The first thing he does is belittle another.

    Best of luck. I’d love a new Easy A.

    • pmlove

      Wow. I put a lot of work into that sentence.

    • IgorWasTaken

      If the nerd has a small snake that eats mice, some owners kill the mice before feeding them to their snake – to prevent the mice from biting the snake.

      So the nerd here could be masturbating with a dead mouse in his hand… and then feed that mouse to the snake. Then it’s weird, but not cruel. Just sayin’.

      • Rick McGovern

        And that’s when I would be putting down the script and moving onto the next one.

        • IgorWasTaken

          Coulda been an outtake from Dinner for Schmucks.

          • Rick McGovern

            Masturbating with a dead mouse in his hand? Was there even a masturbating scene in that movie? lol (and that movie didn’t really do it for me either (from what I remember of it)… I hate movies with such obnoxious and annoying characters. Was why I didn’t like Cable Guy, though I haven’t seen it since the 90’s probably).

  • Scott Crawford

    “He reminds me too much of Charlie Sheen in Navy SEALs. He needs to be more like Michael Biehn’s character.”

    Greatest! Scriptnote! Ever!

    Seriously… Gregory, this is your audience. This is someone who really wants to like your script, so I would take heed of his editing advice.

    • Bacon Statham

      The strange thing is I really liked Charlie Sheen’s character in it until I saw Act of Valour and I realised that Navy SEALs wouldn’t act the way he does in that film..They come across as more restrained and calm, rather than raucous frat boys, which they actually do in Shadows Below.

      And I really do wanna like it, I just can’t at the moment. Not how it is now.

  • IgorWasTaken

    “Sessions of Lead Belly” – I wanted to like this, but the writing style just put me off. I thought maybe the “just the facts” staccato style might break after the first page or so, but it doesn’t. It’s like reading computer code.

    As for the use of “colored” in the action, I think that can work. It does help put us in the time period of the story. But I would like to see the caption “1930” before we see “COLORED MUSICIAN”.

    This is a biopic of a blues legend. If there’s going to be a writing style, a voice to the action writing, I’d have thought it would be bluesy. Instead, the style is cold and clinical.

    BTW, re the opening scene: I’m not sure, but I doubt there’d be paper towels in a 1930s restroom. Most likely the towel for drying your hands would be a cloth towel in one of those roll machines. So for paper he’d have to use toilet paper.

    • Rick McGovern

      Goes to show that you have to research whatever time period you are writing about… because even something as small as the towels they used says, the guy doesn’t really know what he’s writing about. Gotta put the work in.

      • Scott Crawford

        I remember reading about Oliver Stone on the set of NIXON asking if the word “pussy” (meaning what you think it means) was used in the 1960s.

        I could have told him, yeah… think of Ian Fleming writing Pussy Galore in the 1950s (he knew what he meant). In fact, connections between the ladyparts and cats goes back a long way. It used to be referred to as “chat” (French for cat) in medieval times.

        So now you know.

        • scriptfeels

          la chat est fantastique!

    • klmn

      I read 10 pages. There are too many caps. Only the first appearance of important characters need to be capped. Sounds don’t need to be.

      And I question the inclusion of a scene of drying dishes.

      I like the idea of a movie about Leadbelly, and I encourage the writer to keep at it.

      Here’s a little history lesson from Mr. Belly, including the battle on Bunker’s Hill.

      • Scott Crawford

        I always figured capitalization was a shooting script thing, but it seems to have bled into spec scripts now. Are people trying to impress by capitalizing everything?

        • hickeyyy

          Stylistic choice. Flash over substance. I can enjoy a solid CAP or bolded word if it REALLY needs my attention. Otherwise, leave it out.

        • HRV

          I always understood it was used to convey sounds.

          • Scott Crawford

            Yes, the sound and the thing that makes the sound… in shooting scripts. Oh, I don’t object if people want to write:

            Scott hears the CHOO-CHOO of the steam train as it gets nearer.

            I’ve capitalized a specific and important sound effect. But do we really need:

            Scott hears the WHISTLE of the KETTLE in the kitchen.

            That’s just for the soundman and the props guy. For a spec script you could just write:

            Scott hears the whistle of the kettle in the kitchen.

            Or write a better script.

          • HRV

            I would just put the emphasis on the Whistle. Apparently it carried over to be acceptable in spec scripts as well. Most of mine have sounds in caps.

      • IgorWasTaken

        And listening to that now… If the action-writing is to have a distinctive voice (not that it needs to), I’d suggest it be like that music – strung together, lyrical.

        Simplified, I mean not “He does this… He does this… He does this…”, which is the current style. But instead, “He does this… and then that… and then so on.”

        • klmn

          Here’s another one of his songs, covered by a band you may have heard of.

    • Eric

      Oh, the places you’ll go…

      “In 1907 , the Scott Paper Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, introduced paper tissues to help prevent the spread of colds from cloth towels in restrooms. Popular belief is that this was partly accidental and was the solution to a railroad car full of long paper rolls meant for toilet paper that were unsuitable to cut into rolls of toilet paper. In 1919, William E. Corbin, Henry Chase, and Harold Titus began experimenting with paper towels in the Research and Development building of the Brown Company in Berlin, New Hampshire. By 1922, Corbin perfected their product and began mass-producing it at the Cascade Mill on the Berlin/Gorham line. This product was called Nibroc Paper Towels (Corbin spelled backwards).”

      And the picture ( which is apparently “protected” :-P ) looks an awful lot like what you’d load into a modern dispenser.

      I say it’s possible.

      • IgorWasTaken

        Yes, I knew that. And I knew it was possible. But I still say unlikely – in 1930, in a night club, and in a bathroom a black man was allowed to use.

        I also know that Scott family (their descendents, to be sure). Saw one of them just this past May.

        • Eric

          Good points, particularly bringing up that it’d be a ‘colored’ bathroom. While seven years is probably enough time for new towel innovations to spread in “normal” places, I can’t imagine many establishments would spend much money updating the colored restrooms, or even fixing them should they fall into a shambles. Having him use toilet paper would probably fit the down and dirty tone of the scene better anyway.

          So, possible… but I’d change it.

  • Randy Williams


    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    Maybe because folks are tearing into picnic barbecue today like ravenous werewolves, I thought this might be a good one to start with.

    And if someone writes “ravenous” well, it’s this writer. Very impressed with those gory attack scenes. Each time they come up, the blood and guts just fly from the page. So, well done, I thought.

    The other stuff, I felt, bogged down in the introduction of too many characters, not a single one to really grab hold of. The first character that felt three dimensional for me was Julio and the poor kid is quickly snuffed out in a horrendously explicit and heartbreaking scene shortly afterwards. Wanted to quit there.

    A few mystery boxes kept me reading, will the beast be found, what is in that trunk? (maybe get that trunk mystery box in sooner?)

    Because I’m trying to process all these characters, the sudden twist in the cabin revealing the “undercover” activities of this family felt abrupt and confusing. Not only that but it is quickly discussed with attempts at a character understanding what they are doing. I feel it should be more of a piece of a puzzle that we can fit together.

    Read to page 22 until the “silver plated knife”. I’ve just been told something extraordinary and then I’m supposed to notice the wardrobe? Back up….

  • IgorWasTaken

    Secondly, it took way too long to get into the story. The attack didn’t
    happen until page 61 when it should have happened on page 25-30.

    Wow. From Hickeyyy’s comments about nothing by page 30, and now your comment, that’s a problem. At least for me.

    As to whether page 61 is OK with a different logline, I don’t know, but it does seem the logline sets things up and so the script has to deliver – at least based on normal expectations, script conventions.

    • Bacon Statham

      When Gregory first sent it to me, I actually had to stop by page 30 and read the logline again just to see if I got it wrong about the terrorist attack. It’s a major problem for me. I still consider myself a novice at this, but I like to think I know exactly when and where I need to get into the story by. It pains me to cut something I like, especially during the first thirty pages, but if that thing stops the story from getting into gear faster, I know it has to go.

      The opening prologue in one of my scripts that I’m still writing, but have taken a break from is seven pages long. Unfortunately, it’s necessary and I can’t think of a way to cut it without confusing people. It doesn’t introduce the protagonist, it introduces the villain and I think it has to start that way for it to make sense, the downside is that it will take too long for the story to kick in.

  • Nicholas J


    This script will not win AOW. People will stop reading early. It’s going to get written off because it’s ugly to look at. Improper formatting. Fragmented sentences. CONFUSING sentences.

    But guess what? Formatting and prose do not show up on screen. Story does. Conflict does. A scene does. CHARACTER does!

    And this script has those four things in spades. You know, the important stuff.

    The other scripts this week may be prettier to look at, but reading through them I see the usual offenses. Telling and not showing, boring exposition, not getting to the story, no conflict, too much excess, etc. Stuff that will kill a movie on the screen, no matter how good the formatting is.

    So if you’ve got the patience, I encourage everyone here to read Lead Belly. I haven’t read the entire thing, but so far it has a fascinating protagonist, intense conflict, great scenes, and precise, focused storytelling. The dialogue needs quite a bit of work, as it can be redundant and very on-the-nose, but other than that I think it’s a damn good [x] worth the read.

    Hopefully this comment will get a few of you to give it a chance when you otherwise wouldn’t, because I think the story deserves it.

    Good luck to the rest of the writers, and have a good holiday to the rest of you ‘Mericans.

    • hickeyyy

      I really want to like it. I loved the opening scenes. I love the story. The writer himself turned me off with his consistent reference to Leadbelly as “the negro”. Is that necessary?

      • Rick McGovern

        Sounds like he’s trying to be politically correct. I doubt it’s racially motivated. You can say black man and people will be offended… just depends what part of the country, or world you come from.

      • Casper Chris

        he writer himself turned me off with his consistent reference to Leadbelly as “the negro”.

        Harking back to yesterday’s conversation, I was myself wondering whether Grendl was going to blow a fuse over that as well. It’s in the action lines after all.

        I’m fine with it, personally.

      • Nicholas J

        It’s fine because it’s relevant. Of the pages I read it was only used twice I believe. And it’s because that’s what the scene was about, color and racial difference. The writer described the race of the white couple in the same sentence.

        If I’m reading a romcom where race plays no part then yeah, that would be a little uncalled for, lol.

        • hickeyyy

          I suppose that’s fair. I’ll pick it back up and look past that, as I loved where the story was headed.

      • klmn

        I think Negro should be capitalized, but I think it’s okay and true to the period. As is Colored People, whatever the current fashion is. After all, we still have the NAACP, and the United Negro College Fund.

        • BellBlaq

          I wasn’t going to say anything (cuz…why bother?) until I saw this. Please don’t capitalize the n in negro or the c in colored when referring to actual people. It’s obnoxious. And draws attention to the self-awareness of your anti-offensiveness.

    • Scott Crawford

      It shows how important presentation is, as Carson pointed out on Thursday. I haven’t looked at the script yet, but already it’s racked up a few negative comments for inconsistent formatting and questionable word choice.

      I appreciate your willingness to continue reading this script, but as Carson has often pointed out, readers will pick on any reason to stop reading a script if they’re not enjoying it. Whose fault is that?

      • Nicholas J

        I agree presentation is important. I’m a presentation Nazi in my own scripts. But I also think it’s about 10% of a good script, and the other 90% is story. Obviously I’ll take a good story with solid presentation over a good story with poor presentation.

        But I’ll take a good story with poor presentation over a poor story with phenomenal presentation any day.

        • Scott Crawford

          The problem is – and this is not me, sitting here typing in my armchair, but people in the real filmmaking world – they’ll see a sloppily presented script and think the writer is sloppy too. If they have that option, they’ll stop reading – so the presentation needs to be good AND the script has to have a good beginning.

          SESSIONS OF LEADBELLY actually has a good beginning. And the presentation didn’t bother me (10 pages in) except in two respects:

          1). The one-line, space, one-line, space scene direction is a little distracting (to me).

          2). I don’t really get the atmosphere of the piece. Feel the writer could be a TAD more poetic in his descriptions. Very functional, as others have said.

    • brenkilco

      The dialogue needs quite a bit of work, as it can be redundant and very on-the-nose, but other than that I think it’s a damn good [x] worth the read.

      But this is a character piece. Other than that how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?

      • Nicholas J

        I’m not saying it’s perfect, or even great, just that it’s worth my vote over the others. Maybe I’ll read the whole thing and post my thoughts later, if I have time. But right now I’m off to celebrate liberty by blowing shit up.

    • IgorWasTaken

      I think it’s great you posted that. And what you found, I was hoping to find.

      Just to be clear, my “formatting” concerns aren’t rule-based. It’s formatting in an aesthetic sense. Actually, I suppose it’s formatting as this writer’s style choice. The style is in such conflict with a story about a blues legend… And it is a distinctive action-writing style – which, if anything other than “standard”, I think it should somehow evoke the blues.

      But for me, it’s as discordant as trying to read a script “Kind of Blue – The Miles Davis Story” while listening to a John Philip Sousa record.

      • Nicholas J

        My comment isn’t directed at yours, I hadn’t even read any comments before posting. I just know how a script like that is read, because yeah, all those problems are a turnoff. And usually they are a good sign that the story is no different. But here I don’t think that’s the case, which is rare, so I wanted to point it out so others might look at it more closely.

        I think, too often, we screenwriters put too much emphasis on presentation over story, when it should be the other way around. Obviously presentation is important in getting your script read and taken seriously, but I don’t think it should kill a good story.

        • IgorWasTaken

          I think, too often, we screenwriters put too much emphasis on
          presentation over story, when it should be the other way around.
          Obviously presentation is important in getting your script read and
          taken seriously, but I don’t think it should kill a good story.

          Agreed. Especially if someone here is objecting to presentation as a rule thing.

      • walker

        Kind of Blue is one of the greatest recordings ever released.

        • IgorWasTaken

          So, we can agree on something. Something important. Huh.

          • walker

            Igor I agree with the vast majority of the comments you post. Moreover, I think of you as one of the most valuable members of the SS community, and, incidentally, I enjoy your sense of humor. I am also a former professional musician and, based on your of admiration for KoB, you might even have enjoyed my playing back in the day.

          • IgorWasTaken

            While I once played a Sousaphone.

    • brenkilco

      Read thirty pages. Definitely has something. The dialogue is repetitive, though I suppose this could be justified by the fact that these are somewhat inarticulate characters portrayed mostly in agitated emotional states. The impressionistic descriptions- very specific images and sentence fragments- sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Do we really need a whole page containing bloody details of the hospital team working on Will? Would it have made any difference if he were just DOA? And after thirty pages not quite sure there’s much story here. The fact that the protag is a musician seems incidental. All we really know about him is that he flies into murderous rages when others display disrespect for him. But the writer should definitely keep at it.

  • hickeyyy

    OT: Anyone ever hear anything about the guy getting called from writing that zombie comic book from a while back? That was the last adaptation from around here and I can only assume it was a cease and desist. I can’t imagine throwing another adaptation without rights on this site without knowing more about that.

    • Scott Crawford

      I got an email from him around about that time, then nothing since. And he hasn’t been on this board. Make of that what you will!

      I never heard what was the nature of the message he got – I don’t THINK it was a cease and desist. If the writer of THE FEED gets a similar message, maybe we can read something into that.

    • Dan B

      Damn Nation? He didn’t want to share details, but he gave the impression that he received a positive reaction.

    • Bluedust

      I asked him that question and his response was “I will say that the call with them was very promising, and that there’s no issues or problems with the legalities.”

      But I have no idea if the project has moved any further.

  • Randy Williams


    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    Honestly, my eyes were glazing over a bit in the first pages of this. I was so distracted that the straight line which included “Je ne sais quoi” elicited a huge laugh from me, because my mind went immediately to those great commercials with the two guys advertising Sonic Drive-Ins. It wasn’t until page 13 when I finally sat up and took interest.

    My advice, start with page 13.

  • klmn

    SHADOWS BELOW. Read the first ten and scanned the next ten. We were promised a submarine script and it’s page 20 before we see a submarine moving. Can’t we get to the action a little sooner?

  • klmn

    LEGACY. Starts with action, good. A battle axe hanging on the wall, I can see where this is going.

    Cancer on p8, not for me. I’m out of here.

  • LaughDaily

    It needs a lot of work especially on a much tighter structure ( thriller right?) buty vote goes to SHADOWS BELOW. I like the premise. It’s a movie.

    Good luck!

    Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Americans.
    She looks good for 239 years.

  • klmn

    Nerd Got Game. Read to p3. Cancerous cells. Pass.

  • klmn

    The Feed. Read to p6. I’m not into techno-gibberish. If there is a story there, I’m not interested enough to wade through this to find out.

  • klmn

    My vote: Sessions of Leadbelly. Leadbelly was an interesting person and I appreciate the ambition of tackling the subject. A movie would have the benefit of his music.

    I think this could benefit from Carson’s touch and have the best chances of being produced.

    • Scott Crawford

      I like the way you play the game, klmn; read each script for as long as you can, then bail when you don’t like it.

      People should take note: this is how a lot of producers read scripts. Except they’re less forgiving.

      • CCM30

        I thought that’s what everyone was doing around here. Reading until bailing. Maybe I’m wrong? I got the idea that was everyone’s intention.

        • Scott Crawford

          People do it differently: some pick the best logline and only read that script, some read a set amount (usually 10 to 30 pages) of each script. I think klmn’s approach is probably the most sensible, and ultimately the most fair.

          • CCM30

            Well I hope you like my approach as well. Just posted my feedback up. ^_^

          • Scott Crawford

            I do, I do!

  • Randy Williams


    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    I pretty much liked what I read of this, bright, funny, charming. I did, feel, however, it was taking too long to get to the meat of the story. Isn’t this a love story according to the logline? It bounced around too long and I quit after 30 pages.

    Okay, I laughed out loud at the exploding mice. And it showed me the writer has imagination. I thought it would add to the funny by giving mom a line there maybe, covered in mice guts. “Who needs cats?”

    Didn’t laugh at him burning the mouse in the cup. That was a WTF moment.

    Loved, loved the chemistry between Patty and him and then she dismissed him because he didn’t get into Harvard and I thought, well, she’s not the girl in the logline. When do we see her?

    Absolutely loved the business with mom taking the day off so he can have the car and giving him her credit card and he says, “Do I have to”? This showed me the writer is trying to give me something new. Lots of other business showed me the same thing, and if time allows, I’ll continue but get to the girl, already.

  • Poe_Serling

    My pick this week: LEGACY

    I usually don’t read the WYSR, but this caught my eye right away:

    “I am a nobody putting my spec out there hoping for an “Immaculate Reception” … so I have to ask, Carson, are you my ‘Franco Harris?”

    Love that imagery of Carson dashing toward the end zone with a script tucked under his arm like a football.

    Back to the project…

    I really liked the title and logline.

    Read the first ten pages…

    There’s a lot to like here – an attention-getting opening, some snappy dialogue, the character Larry Talbort (a fun reference to Uni’s The Wolf Man), etc.

    What needs some work:

    >>Way too many characters to keep track off – I suggest eliminating or combining a few of them.

    >>Also, the character intros all sound exactly the same: Character Name, 20s,….. Character Name, 30s…. Character Name, 40s….. I would try to mix it up and be a bit more inventive with the intros.

    Bottom line: I think this script would benefit greatly from a Carson review and more feedback from the SS community.

    I try to read more later and edit my comments.

    Thanks to the writer of Legacy for sharing his work.

  • Randy Williams


    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    Limited in time today due to the holiday and other things. Sorry for the brief comments and lack of time to devote to all these writers’ efforts.

    I will take the time to finish this one at some point. I was mesmerized from page one. until page 30 where I left off. The writer quickly wiped away the world around me and set me someplace else, in someone else’s shoes, in some other time.

    I loved the writing style. The simple, terse, capitalization like a drum beat. It was like a room of children’s alphabet blocks where a window shutter kept time with the wind.

  • Randy Williams


    Congrats for making it on AOW!

    An ambitious undertaking. I think, for the most part, I read the first 20 pages, it almost succeeds and just needs some fine tuning to get there.
    A cool concept to begin with. I didn’t read the logline before and I was kind of blown away. Teens on the moon, how cool.
    The thing is, that it’s so cool that it almost seems forced, like, look how we talk now, look what it is that interests us, instead of focusing on characters and by the way, this is how we talk now, etc. Some great lines, like, “We’re going to the bathroom, hairstyles have changed” It really is a rich landscape with so much room for social commentary, it’s outrageous.

    Watch the descriptions that don’t really tell us what we’re seeing. For example, what are we seeing here?

    “The colonized commercial MOON of the future. Everything seems to pulse with energy and malls and restaurants flaunt their products through aggressive video and audio ads”

  • ElectricDreamer

    Very pressed for time today due to holiday travel plans.
    There were two standout scripts from this batch for me.

    Honorable Mention: SHADOWS BELOW.

    Each of these scripts kept me reading through page 30. Even though I’m pressed for time.
    I enjoyed the intense focus on Ledbetter. We get a lot of juicy human behavior pronto.
    However, I found the thriller-like vertical read hindered the overall tone at times.
    The dialogue was the weakest link for me, but even that redundancy didn’t deter me much.
    I want to know more about this character and how his life fuels his music.

    Greg is a vital member of our fraternity of amateur screenwriters.
    Sorry I don’t have time to offer you more input on your script right now.
    I agree with the general consensus about the early draft feel of the overall story.

    However, I was AMAZED with how well this mammoth action spec reads!
    Tons of moving parts in the early going. The pages read super smooth though.
    But the content of those early scenes didn’t pull me enough into your world.
    I didn’t feel like the story was active yet, but I enjoyed the craft on display a lot.

    I read the first dozen pages of the other three candidates.
    Legacy has some promise but seemed mired in backstory.
    The Feed’s world-building was nifty, but the characters felt static.
    The humor in Nerd Got Game didn’t land with me, I’m an animal lover.

    Happy Fourth of July to my fellow yanks!

    • Scott Crawford

      Even in a hurry, those are some good notes!

  • CCM30

    (Note for writers: this comment contains feedback for all of the scripts in order as they are presented in Carson’s post, so please read all the way through to find your script).

    Ooh, very excited for another AOW offerings. Finally a sci-fi story and no weird older man/pre-teen girl relationships. I woke up early for this, only to fall asleep accidentally. So my apologies to the writers – I meant for this to come earlier in the morning. Hope you don’t miss any of the feedback.

    Oh, and Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Americans and anyone wanting to celebrate otherwise. xD

    My vote: Sessions of Lead Belly
    Runner-up: Legacy

    Ended at:
    Shadows Below: Page 12.
    Nerd Got Game: Page 8.
    Sessions of Lead Belly: Page 33+.
    The Feed: Page 4.
    Legacy: Page 22.

    Lead Belly is far and away the most in-control, focused, entertaining script of the batch. All of a sudden I was on page 15, then 25, then 33. It sucks you right in and never loosens its grip. I can’t wait to get back in and finish it later this weekend.

    1) Shadows Below

    Alright, starting with an action thriller. I’m always curious why people go for the “President’s daughter” thing when…I mean, how often the US President’s offspring involved in international crisis? It just feels so…movie-ish. I was kind of hoping for a more original premise.

    Oh, also, the random capitalized words in both the logiline and WYSR aren’t necessary. “Nuclear Armageddon,” “Daughter” in “President’s Daughter,” “Captains,” “Captained,” all don’t need to be capitalized.

    Anyway, onto the script:

    -The formatting is a bit weird. I’m not a fan of the capitalized phrases being separated from the rest of the sentence. Just put it all on the same line. You’re already emphasizing the subject by capitalizing it. It’s over-doing it to make it its own line (like in the case of “THE AMERICAN FLAG” for example).

    -The dialogue can be a bit on the nose at times. Characters giving information very plainly and matter-of-factly when they wouldn’t otherwise. Like Harrison pointing out that he’s never gone against his party except twice, and never for the current administration. It doesn’t feel natural for him to say this. It feels more like a comment a news anchor would say about him.

    -I assume the “killing the President’s baby” line means…sending his daughter off to war?

    -Why introduce Feinstein and Harrison at all? They are introduced, then never seen again. I thought Feinstein would be some persistent character constantly annoying our MC. I expected him to show right up again the next scene or the one following that. But he just disappears for no good reason.

    -There’s an evident mundaneness to the writing. Just telling us what’s happening as it happens. Like when Davenport switches phones for the call to Walter. You could show him flipping out the battery of his smart phone with a sigh, maybe showing some exhaustion. Something like that. It just feels too plain otherwise.

    -I like the imagery of the Chinese cigarette burning. I get that it’s supposed to signify that the character is literally in China, but also it somewhat foreshadows the attack on China, kind of like a symbol for China burning. So it works here. That means you don’t have to point out, in the very next shot, that the shaving cream is also Chinese. We get that he’s in China. And the imagery of the lit cigarette works for more than signifying location. But the shaving cream being pointed out as Chinese isn’t necessary. We know where he is now and we don’t find any special significance with knowing who made the shaving cream.

    -There’s a continuity error here. Before doppelganger Walter attacks, Walter Smith is at the mirror applying shaving cream and chatting on his cell phone. Now, how you, the writer, sets up this scene makes us think that he’s lathering his face with one hand while talking on the phone with another. There’s nothing that tells us the phone is on speaker – not explicitly, nothing showing us that its not in his hand, etc. – so we’re led to believe that his hands are full.

    Then, moments later, we get “the razor slips…blood follows suit.” Where did this razor come from? When was he holding it in his hands? You go from one action line of him having his hands full to another, moments later, of him holding yet a third item (which we assume he was doing because the wording implies the razor was being used until it was dropped, hence the blood).

    I’d rework this because visually it doesn’t make sense.

    -“Mary’s blue SUV drives through the gate” makes it seem she’s literally driving through the gate, which I’m sure wasn’t your intention.

    -Insert dead parent and other parent that is trying to be a good father despite things cliche.

    -Dialogue between father and daughter is supremely on-the-nose.

    -At this point (page 7-8), I’m still not really sure who the protagonist is. I’m guessing it’s Mary, but how the story is being told doesn’t make it very clear.

    -How is Steve sycophantic? Show us, don’t tell us. Show us through his actions. Don’t tell us how to feel about a character before we’ve actually got sound reasoning to believe it.

    -More characters being added and dropped like flies. There’s too many characters to keep track of and I’m never sure if it’s even worth it because I have no idea if they’ll return (where’s Feinstein?).

    -I stopped at page 12. Too many characters. Too much set-up. Literally no action happening. I’m getting super bored and I really haven’t seen any semblance of plot yet. The script needs to have more focus. Make the protagonist and their story clearer. Give us more relevant information, cut out all this unnecessary stuff and characters.

    -Also, btw, the title font is super cool. Make sure you keep that.

    2) Nerd Got Game

    Just not my kind of film. “Prodigy” is far from a character I want to follow. And teen comedies just never stuck with me. I tend to pass more often than not. But I’ll give this a go.

    -I don’t know how I feel about this introduction. I like showing the progression of his science fair career I guess, but why does it need to be stretched across so many pages? This could be condensed into a montage or just made more concise. Show us a bunch of science fair victories with a little voice over before we get to the Hynes Convention Center scene, which is where we really want to be in this introduction because it’s the active story.

    -“Bay state” not “bay area?”

    -The dialogue seems fine, though at times it feels like Jeremy is wording things weird. He could be dumbing it down for the audience. But as far as I know you cant just inject enzymes into an organism and expect it to do anything. most enzymes are taken orally. How do you expect the enzyme to circulate if you’re just injecting it into the flesh of the animal? And nothing would happen if you inject it into the bloodstream. I know this is a comedy but it’s a premise for what seems like is the inciting incident and doesn’t make sense.

    -At least, so far it’s written well and Jeremy is a likeable protagonist.

    -i certainly didnt expect the mice to blow up, I’ll give you that. It’d probably be funny if you saw it on screen, though it doesnt really make much sense at all in retrospect.

    -pg 6 – “singeing” not “singing”

    -So wait now Jeremy is like some weird mouse sadist? The mother has like no problem with her kid burning this mouse? Why? And why would Jeremy do this? And why is nobody taken back by this? Everybody goes about their day as if Jeremy wasn’t abusing an innocent animal. plus it probably smells horrendous. and mouses have diseases, why is this kid playing with one. Unless he bought a clean mouse and decided to kill that, which is even more screwed up. For establishing a likeable protagonist, you really went out of your way to strip away all the work you put in the first 6 pages or so.

    -Mrs. Goldstein is the worst parent in the world apparently because her 15 year old daughter takes beer from the fridge right in front of her. and she does nothing about it. Hey, maybe you’re you’re a bad parent letting her drink beer without any repurcussion. Maybe she’s not like Jeremy because you’re not parenting your kid. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be funny that she reacts in this way, because it just feels not thought out.

    -Stopped at pg 8. This scene in Jeremy’s bedroom is just not executed well. First, the jerking off isn’t realistic. Who’s making all these comments at the video while they’re jerking off? Nothing has even happened yet in the video to warrant that kind of response. The writer makes it seem like they’re only idea of how jerking off by yourself works was gotten from movies or television. It’s just obtusely silly.

    Also, why would the cord be pulled out from the door being shut? How would the power cord for his computer be anywhere near the door? Why wouldn’t it be affected by the door opening if it’s affected by the door shutting? If this kid is a science prodigy, how did he set up his room so horrendously that this would happen? And is he not emotionally stable or something? Why would he start crying? Sure, he can be sad or whatever, but I figured a prodigal kid would try to hold his emotions in, maybe have a little pride, idk.

    -Stopped at page 8. It’s just not funny to me. I can at least i can see where the film is going. Jeremy is up high, falls, now trying to keep moving forward. I’d probably keep going if this were my kind of film. Intro could still be tightened up though.

    3) Sessions of Lead Belly

    This seems interesting. Very intriguing logline and WYSR,

    -I understand this is a screenplay set in the 1930s. But our narrator, the writer, you, you’re not in the 1930s. The voice of the story isn’t in the 1930s. So I don’t think you need to change the vocabulary of the action lines to match. If the narrator or voice was also from the time-period, it would make sense. But that’s no the case here. So like “negro” and “caucasian” don’t seem very necessary to me.

    -I’m iffy on the staccato and stilted nature of the writing. on page 1, it’s very overbearing. a ton of really short lines and sentences, some only a word or two long. a ton of capitalized words and italics. the first page itself, formatting wise, is a mess and really needs to be reworked. But then in the second scene, it works because there’s more tension. i think you need to find the threshold of when it works and the amount it works at, and when it doesn’t work and there’s too much of it.

    -I really love this interaction between the officer and our main character. At first, we’re definitely on the musician’s side – he’s dancing, he can do that at a concert. and the officer may be acting on some racial prejudice but we’re not entirely sure. however, it becomes clear as the scenario goes on that the main character is being belligerent and not mindful of others, and the officer even tones it down a bit to keep things settled, stopping himself before making a big deal out of things. i love this reversal and seeing it happen.

    -i love that we’re still with the main character, following his story. The protagonist is clear. His relationships are clear and concise, not over-abundant. I love it.

    -“Ready to pluck away.” thats some good stuff right there.

    -Thank you, we’re still following these two characters and their relationship. not a ton of characters dropped on you all at once.

    -I’m stopping at page 33 only because I want to get to the rest of the scripts before heading out for holiday festivities. But I plan to read the rest of this script to the very end by tomorrow or Monday, so I’ll give this a pg 33+.

    4) The Feed

    At first I was excited because it’s science fiction. Hoo-ray! That’s my bread and butter. I love me some good sci-fi.

    Needless to say, I was disappointed when I read the logline and WYSR. The premise seems like as much “sci-fi” as The Host or Divergent. Aka, not really sci-fi at all, just a story set in the future. Plus, “yes, this is another teen dystopian sci-fi story,” that’s the first impression you want to give? Yeah there’s a lot of teen dystopia sci-fi fiction, but there’s a lot of good in there too. Yet you’re opening just makes it seem like its any old run-of-the-mill genre story. Why give us this impression? Do you not want us to read?

    The logiline and WYSR feel very unoriginal. I was hoping for a more original premise. Eh, alright let’s get into this.

    -Immediately…the lecture hall opening. I don’t know what it is about writers but they love starting their stories in a boring lecture hall with a boring monologue from a boring point of view. Why start us here? And what kind of class starts exactly on New Year’s Day? I get that it’s supposed to be significant because it’s literally the first day of the new century, but what leads you to believe that this would ever happen? Did people have school on the first day of the year 2000? 1900? I don’t think so. I doubt in a hundred years anybody is gonna want to go to school or work on NYE or New Year’s Day. If anything, more holidays are added to the calendar every year that involve no work or school. What makes you think this scenario would ever happen?

    -This first scene is completely unnecessary as far as I’m concerned. Start us on the Moon, an actually interesting setting.

    -“Titus” and “Link.” Not sure if you could try to make these names sound more fictional than you already have. I would just avoid using the name “Link” all together because of the Legend of Zelda. Plus it’s super obvious when you make this big thing about connecting with people and time periods…and a character’s name is “Link.” That’s kinda the reason Link’s name is Link in LoZ. So I would just not do this. I guess, since this is an adaptation, you don’t have much control over this, though.

    -He’s 19 but radiates high-school alpha authority? Is he still in high school? He’d be someone held back if that’s the case. which doesn’t really make him very alpha male.

    -There’s all these weird names and then a kid named Marty? lol.

    -What is a moon lesion. Does that have to do with radiation because there’s little atmosphere on the Moon? So you’re saying if anyone even goes near a wall that interacts with the outside atmosphere, their skin bubbles? That’s extremely unsafe and not very logical. Nobody would allow that. And they’d be in pain, right? Yet they just react like “oh cool my skin is just bubbling off my flesh no big deal.”

    -Why are people spraying Gatorade?

    -“Apparently the moon has been so colonized that no gravity is a paid experience.” What? What do you expect otherwise? For people to just go out onto the moon and do stuff out there? Plus you just established that people get lesions from interacting with walls, why would you expect anybody to go outside to experience no gravity. Of course they have this experience available, why wouldn’t they?

    -Stopped here on pg 4. This feeling kinda feels like the opening to Jurassic World, showing us this awesome place blah blah blah. But that was cool because dinosaurs. Here, this is just silly future nonsense, half of which doesn’t even make sense. Plus there’s still no sense of story. no idea who the protagonist is. kinda bored even though all of this stuff is supposed to fascinate me.

    5) And finally, Legacy.

    The logline is pretty interesting. It’s a horror, which I’m not a fan of, but I do like monster stories. So I’ll give this a try.

    -This opening is pretty good, it just feels too short, too plain. I would’ve liked to see more between the two characters because I like their dialogue. I would’ve liked to see some struggle against the monster instead of “oh no they’re definitely dead immediately.”

    It’s horrific, sure, but there’s a missed opportunity to lay down a ton of tension. maybe have the guy die, leaving the girl to run through the woods trying to survive? It’s super tense when the guy dies out of nowhere, but then the scene just kind of abruptly ends not too long after, getting rid of the tension. I’d like to see this opening expanded and added to.

    -“Emily’s lifeless stare drinks in the stars.” It’d be better if maybe the stars reflected off her lifeless stare, that would be easier to visualize and would make more sense. you can’t really drink in the stars with your eyes if you’re dead.

    -But then, after this…very little happens. Seems like a ton of set-up when we could be getting into more monster action. but by page 12 I’m like alright when’s more action gonna come, when’s more action gonna come, and it’s been ten pages since the last hint of action. If I look ahead, there’s still no action happening. It takes until like page 16 or 17 to get back into the action.

    -When we do, it’s alright. tense, exciting at some points. But I’m still not sure who the protagonist is. It feels like I’m just watching the monster kill people. which I guess is cool. but it takes until like page 22 for someone to finally show up to do something.

    -The writing is good. The script is easy to read. But for a horror film, it’s falling a bit flat for me. I’d like the tension to ramp up and stay there. I don’t need all the set-up. Just give me the monster and the struggle against it.

    Anyway, I think all and all a pretty solid chunk of scripts here. It always seems like the case that there’s a stand-out script out of the bunch and this week is no exception. Legacy comes close, and Shadows Below has potential, though. But beyond Lead Belly, things kinda peter out.

    Congrats to all the selections and good luck to the writers, not only on a potential review but with your scripts and the rest of your career. Hope to see more from you all.

    • Scott Crawford

      Excellent set of notes!

  • IgorWasTaken

    A random thought for “Shadows Below” –

    What if the sub commander is the President’s daughter-in-law?

    I don’t know the President’s back-story, but a President with a daughter old enough to be a sub commander…? He’s probably been in politics for some time – suggesting that during her whole Navy career she’s been, “And you know who her dad is, right?”

    But if she’s his D-I-L, it’s clearer that she did this on her own, creating her own career trajectory that was in place by the time she met and married the President’s son. (Could be she married the President’s daughter, but that’s probably a plot-issue too far.)

  • HRV

    Had to work today, but that gave me time to read. Read all of LEGACY, NERD and started SHADOWS. Legacy was a slow read and there were a lot of characters to digest. I liked the nods to LRRH and Hansel and Gretel, although having Vince be a witch killer seemed somewhat out of place in a werewolf story. Caught the reference to THE HOWLING.
    NERD was a quick to read, fun little story. Shouldn’t it be a hyperbaric chamber?
    SHADOWS: Are we trying out a new format here — one with non-existent or incomplete location lines and lots of CUT TOs? Made it a weird read. Looks like an involved story though. I’ll try to read some of the others later. Glad to see there are others with time for in depth replies. Congrats to all who were selected this week.

  • Citizen M

    My vote goes to SHADOWS BELOW with LEGACY as second choice.


    Read to page 28 of 137 pages(!). A bit slow to get going with a high character count. There are 22 named characters so far in some sort of conspiracy so it’s necessary to keep track of who is who, which is wearisome. I would appreciate an introduction to the international situation. The Chinese being disrespectful to the US VP suggests that things have changed from today’s relations. I’m not an expert on Congress, but I thought the Speaker was neutral; he doesn’t make pro- or anti- speeches.

    Also, the dreaded dead wife, the most over-used trope in scripts these days. Let me guess, Mary carries a photograph of her mother and puts it on her dressing table in the submarine. But I digress. Despite these observations, the script is gaining momentum and I wouldn’t mind reading further.


    Read to page 23. A few smiles but no laughs. Cliché scenes. Nothing much that is fresh. Things are not developing fast enough. It’s basically similar situations repeating themselves. We get it — he’s a science geek with a proud mama and a crush on a girl out of his league. It doesn’t need 20 pages to set that up.


    Read to page 31. Interesting style. The action is repetitive and described in such detail it results in scenes reading much longer than they will appear on screen. I don’t think there’s enough meat in this script. I’m also not getting a period feel. I would like a bit more scene setting so we can feel what it’s like in 1917 and 1930. State Lead Belly’s age in each scene. We shouldn’t have to do mental arithmetic to work it out.


    Read to page 31. Not enough is happening. They are teens out on a spree, some mystery guy shouts something and they all fall down and wake in hospital. Titus and Violet are growing closer. What’s going to happen next? I have no idea. I can’t pick up any sort of pattern of plot developing, so I’m not feeling tense or curious as to what is going to happen next. The scenes and adverts are interestingly different, but sometimes a little confusing, especially the repeated references to ‘unit’. I’m not sure what that’s about.


    Read to page 23. I had a hard time figuring out who was who. Presumably Rose is the protagonist. We should see things more from her POV. We need to know more of her backstory and where she is in life. Nevertheless, things are moving at a reasonable pace and I wouldn’t mind reading further.

    • IgorWasTaken

      When the US Speaker speaks from his “podium”, his comments are administrative, and by custom he rarely speaks from the House floor. But otherwise he’s his party’s leader and is as partisan as he wants to be. Not the same as in the UK.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Hi everyone and Happy 4th of July! Thanks to Carson and to everyone providing comments, and congrats to the other contestants who have a chance to have their script featured. I look forward to going through everyone’s scripts and comments later when I have the time!

  • Frankie Hollywood

    OT a bit. I just read every word (mostly) about the Scriptshadow 250 contest.

    I didn’t see anything about the movie’s budget. Yet I coulda sworn Carson mentioned that at one time or another they’re looking for something around $5-10 million.

    Does anyone know if there are budget limitations? If I’ve got a $150 million+ Jurassic World meets Godzilla script, is that even going to be considered?

    • Scott Crawford

      I never heard anything about a budget, low or high. I would think you’re better off writing some medium-budget (less than $70 million, excluding the costs of the star). I don’t think Grey Matters is looking for PACIFIC RIM (i.e., it will look good, but only if you have a mega-budget), nor are they necessarily looking for a quota-quickie.

      Think about OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN and WHITE HOUSE DOWN. Same subject matter, but one cost $70 million and the other $150 million.

  • andyjaxfl


  • Frankie Hollywood

    Weird, your comment disappeared for like 20 minutes.

    Yeah, I remember reading your post about Lights Out.

    I don’t think Winter’s Knight is going to be cheap, maybe $50+ million. Then again, an epic Game of Thrones episode is nowhere near that, soooo….

    I just swear I remember Carson posting something about budget and thinking, “That eliminates the script I was gonna enter.”

    Hidden, is that the one where the family (SPOILER) turns out to be the “monsters?” If so, that was an awesome script.

    If Carson doesn’t chime in, I might as well enter my monster movie / creature feature. What have I got lose but sending in an email?

    • Reader1

      Given that you have the opportunity to enter up to TWO scripts, why not submit both?

      Problem solved.

    • Scott Crawford

      Sorry, I didn’t realize you had actually written a creature feature, I just thought that was example. Yes, I would definitely enter that, if it’s your best script.

  • IgorWasTaken

    About “Shadows Below” –

    Gregory, you may not care about this stuff, and that’s fine. Lots of movies are made about Washington (and all sorts of other places) that are wrong on the facts. But FYI…

    That opening scene is wrong in a number of ways.

    (I also don’t get your insistence to never use a slugline. Just for example, when you do a CUT TO in the opening scene… CUT TO where?)

    The opening scene is “wrong” in that the Speaker does not make speeches from his podium. If he gives a speech (and, by tradition, he rarely does) he’d give it from the House floor (from “the well”) – i.e., where other Members stand when they speak to the House. But in a movie I don’t think that mistake needs to be fixed.

    But a different mistake should IMO be corrected: I don’t know that the Speaker would ever give such a speech with Senators on the floor. As a rule Senators may enter the House chamber (and vice-versa), but never the whole Senate except for a formal Joint Session, and at a Joint Session the VP (or a Senator serving in his stead) presides.

    If Senator Harrison has to be there, he could be there off in a corner. Or after the Speaker exits the House chamber, he could be just off the floor in the “Speaker’s Lobby”.

    Unlike when the President leaves the House chamber and “works the crowd”, the Speaker just leaves out “the back”. So there is no working the crowd for him. The discussions in that scene would more likely be in the Speaker’s Lobby.

    Lastly on this topic -


    an old Democrat who should have retired twenty years ago.

    That may read fine to a general reader; I don’t know. But to anyone who’s spent time in Washington, there’s no such Senator. Maybe he shouldn’t have run the last time because he’s now 84, but “retired 20 years ago”? Made me laugh.

    Speaker’s Lobby:

  • klmn

    He also produced Last Vegas, which had about a $30 million budget.

  • Bluedust

    Shadows Below was the only logline that grabbed me. But fifteen pages in, I can’t help wondering where the submarines are. You mention Red October in the WSYR, but think how that movie started — on a sub. And we were never off the subs except for a few quick scenes.

    I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to start an action movie with two pages of Congressional hearing, as nothing is so mind numbingly boring as politicians pontificating.

    The doppelganger thing had an odd retro feel to it, like something you might see in a 70’s TV show. But still no submarines. Really, these first fifteen seem like a prelude to the actual story.

    Finally, we get to the sub…the USS Jimmy Carter. Uh oh. This has got malaise written all over it. I scanned ahead to page 20 but only saw more piles of dialogue and no action, so I had to bail. For the next draft, I’d suggest having the President’s daughter already on the sub. And as for all the expository dialogue, see if you can find a way to pack it into action scenes.

  • bl2d

    My vote: Shadows Below.
    Shadow Below: Oh the slow burn. This script isn’t perfect, and I’m not just talking about the formatting. (rest of notes will be emailed) However with that said, you can tell from the first page that there’s something potentially great about it. It’s not there yet, but when compared to the other scripts, this one was the only one, that I felt, knew exactly what story it wanted to tell.

    Legacy pg. 6: Read well, but I’ll be honest. Not a huge fan of gore, or werewolves for that matter. As I was reading, I started to drift around page five. I know it’s early, and you want to set everyone up, BUT werewolves, gore, fantasy, any element that exists in your screenplay is secondary to story. This story, according to the logline, is about a woman having to choose between the life she has, one I assume she also wants, and the life that has been placed before her. That’s a good story. Now the first thing you have to do to tell that story, is show us what makes her present life hard to give up.
    Anyway I thought the writing was good, I you just need to focus more attention on the relatable story. Oh and thanks for formatting correctly. It was a breath of fresh air this week.

    The Feed pg.7: Maybe it was just me, but other than page one, I was just lost. I’m usually not a fan of heavy description, but this needs more clarity. Sorry I couldn’t give anymore, just one of those “not clicking” things.

    Sessions of Lead Belly pg. 9: I stopped on page nine because the story hinges on me being invested in the character. It’s what all biopics live and die on. It’s hard to place these scripts into standard structure, not that you have to. One way is to focus on the most important event in their life and lead up to it giving backstory. If that’s not what you had in mind, which so far it doesn’t seem that way. Then you’ve got to give the character opportunities. Then we’ll want to keep watching to see if he succeeds or fails or even better does something unexpected. With that said, you do a really nice job of bringing to life your own vision; not an easy thing to do. It felt authentic, and lucid. Good job.

    Nerd Got Game pg 8: I’ll start by saying I rolled my eyes at the logline. Sorry, it’s just a little generic. Anyway, the script flowed well, but I never really got sucked in, plus no laughs. Now I wouldn’t worry about the latter too much; comedy is subjective. You’ve got a strong voice, that’s clear from the start. There just wasn’t anything making me want to read on. Maybe try taking the first five pages and rewrite them, but this time, make sure that when you reach the fifth page, something happens that makes us have to keep reading.

  • Citizen M

    There’s a common problem with all these scripts — not getting to the point quickly enough. Look at the early pages of all of therm:

    Submarine action thriller — no submarine, action, or thrills yet, just politics
    Nerd meets girl — nerd hasn’t met girl yet
    Musician biopic — no music yet, only boozing and cuckolding
    Scifi world not perfect — still describing perfect world
    Girl must choose family business — doesn’t know family business yet

    • Scott Crawford

      I think by page 10 we should be able to identify the SUBJECT of a script. So 10 pages into Ghostbusters, I think, we don’t know they’ll be busting ghosts, but we do know this is a screenplay about GHOSTS.

      I like – it doesn’t always apply, but it works well – this three-scene opener.

      Scene #1: Some outside action. A murder. A chase. Someone getting arrested. We don’t know EXACTLY what these characters are all about, but are attention has been grabbed.

      Scene #2: Introduce the hero(es), possibly in action.

      Scene #3: Connect the hero(es) to the events in scene #1, for example asking them to investigate the murder.

      I re-watched this recently, so…

      Scene #1: Some outside action.

      Scene #2: Introduce the hero.

      Scene #3: Connect the hero to the events in scene #1. This happens when Tommy Lee Jones (who escaped from prison) goes after Jeff Bridges. I don’t have a scene for that, but I hope you’ll agree, after those two scenes, you’ve got people’s attention.

      • HRV

        I agree completely. Get the reader’s attention in the first page and keep them interested in the first ten. We’ve heard of and seen, over and over again the opening scene of someone waking up — hitting that alarm clock, BLAAA!
        I generally like to open with some action:
        Stranded: Cops chasing criminals leads to the crash that strands the Protag. Other character intros, followed by the alien ship’s crash.
        Barn Find: A bank robbery that leads to a car chase — backstory of a main character.
        Plot Point: Stealthy heist of antiquities from a German manor — plot hinges on this event.
        Alien Bunker: Historical battle scene between warring alien races — followed by character intros.
        The character intros all include internal conflict, or external provided by another person(s) or circumstances.
        Some people say there should be conflict in every scene, but I don’t think that it always has to be between characters (cops fighting with their superior or between agencies has gotten so cliché) People don’t always fight and one can still have conflict via an outside problem looming in the background. There is also false conflict, which would be the verbal jabs that commonly go on between friends.

        • Scott Crawford

          Some writers think a reader will sit through several pages of non-action, non-humorous character introduction or plot exposition… they probably won’t. So – pains me to! – but I agree with grendl; bring forward some of the intrigue and villainy from later in the story and put it at the beginning. Then – my opinion – show the hero doing what the hero does best. Defusing bombs. Skydiving. Insurance assessment.

          • HRV

            It could also be from history that leads to the story, or going on currently and used as the starting point of the story. The nice thing is there are different ways we can do this for variety’s sake.

  • Scott Crawford

    Totally agree. However, I acknowledge that – sometimes – a poor logline might hide a rather good script. So it’s not a bad idea to read the first few pages of each script. Then you’ll know if they’re no good or not.

  • jeaux

    My vote: Sessions of Lead Belly.

    While the formatting was indeed unusual, I agree with other comments that the story is what matters. When I read McCarthy’s The Road for the first time, I almost didn’t get past the first dozen pages as the writing style was so odd, but I pushed through, eventually getting used to it and by the end, not only was it a non-issue, but it became the only book that made me want go back and immediately read again. Although I understand some folks here may be a stickler for formatting, I don’t think it trumps story.

    • Scott Crawford

      Although I don’t necessarily disagree with your assessment, I would simply point out that it is not up to a reader to “push through” a script (or novel). I appreciate your experience with The Road, but I’d say that’s a rare event.

      For me, the problem with Sessions… is not formatting so much as a story that (10 pages in) is not particularly interesting to me, coupled with unspectacular writing. A script like this needs atmosphere (‘specially since we don’t have the music to accompany it).

  • Eddie Panta


    The audience should know that they’re in for a horror movie the second the film starts.
    The same goes for a screenplay. We need to know this is a horror flick before the first kill.
    Even if the OPENER is a campsite with a couple doing regular stuff… And the kill scene is on the first page, the first image should be either thematic, ironic, or suggest an eerie, voyeuristic, or otherwise unique point of view suggestive of a creepy or moody tone..

    My main issue with the opening is that the prose doesn’t jive with the gory action.
    It didn’t come across as split second action.

    Also, Mountain, New York, Night, Campsite, didn’t help — too generic.Upstate New York would be a bit better. This needs to be more specific, settings are key to a horror movie.

    I’d like this to read with a sense of what is unseen, or only exposed from the light of the campfire.

    pg 3. “healthy chest” — let’s just come right out and say buxom. But more to the point, , see if you can do it with out getting specific about body parts. What’s her overall style, disposition.

    By page 10 I’m having a hard time with all these characters. There’s a lot of nuanced behavior involving eyes, toothpicks, hugs, kisses, silent stares, but nothing really dramatic.

    I’m getting a 70’s b-movie vibe here with the campsite, a ranger, and a murder mystery etc. I think the writer needs to bring a stronger voice into this to make sure the reader knows this is not going to be a generic journey.

  • HRV

    Good points. Start with the situation, in a way that draws the reader’s attention, and set the tone.

  • Scott Crawford

    OT: Angelina Jolie to play Catherine the Great… but not the script that topped the Black List last year.

  • hickeyyy

    This is one of my favorite pieces of advice I’ve seen on this board. More examples to support this:

    – In Jurassic Park, we see a raptor in captivity attack an employee and kill him before Dr. Grant appears on screen.
    – In Independence Day (appropriate timing), we see the alien craft hover over the Earth and scenes of some low-level government employees trying to decode what the hell is going on before Goldblum and the Fresh Prince ever pop up.
    – In the Departed, we get to see Frank Costello build a criminal empire from the ground up before Billy Costigan is even born.

  • IgorWasTaken

    “Hunt for Red October” starts slow, if (perhaps) subtly ominous. And opens with the co-protagonist –



    beneath slate-grey sky. Frigid rock and stunted trees fall to an
    ice-choked coast. Congealed sea on a desolate beach.


    bare-headed in cold wind, studies the inclement coast. Bottomless
    eyes move slowly acrcss the landscape, missing nothing.

    Soviet Submarine Base on the Barents Sea
    500 miles north of Murmansk

    Ramius wears a tar black winter uniform of Captain First Rank in
    the Soviet Navy. Behind him, out of sight, someone SPEAKS:

    VOICE (OS)
    Cold this morning, Captain

    Ramius shivers. When he replies, he speaks not about the weather,
    but of the land:

    It is cold.
    And hard.

    The very next scene introduces Jack Ryan.

    • Scott Crawford

      There’s also a lot of exposition. But it’s well-written exposition.

      What are these doors?

      Those doors, sir, are the problem. I don’t know what they are. Neither do the British. Perhaps our friends in Murmansk have come up with something new. With your permission, I’d like to show these to someone. Do you know Skip Tyler?

      Sub driver.

      Was. Clipped by a drunk driver. Lost his leg. He’s teaching at the academy, consulting for Navy labs.


      Top secret or better.

      “Do you know Skip Tyler?” Ryan isn’t telling Greer something he doesn’t know – he’s clarifying that they both know which person they’re talking about. Slight difference. Of course, really, Ryan is explaining who Tyler is for the AUDIENCE, but it’s skillfully done.

      Another bit from later on:

      I’ll be… This… This could be a caterpillar.

      A what?

      Uh, a caterpillar drive. Magneto-hydrodynamic propulsion. You follow?


      It’s like a… a jet engine for the water. Goes in the front, gets squirted out the back. Only it’s got no moving parts, so it’s very, very quiet.

      Like how quiet?

      It’s doubtful our sonar would even pick it up. And if it did, it would sound like whales humping or a seismic anomaly. Anything but a submarine. We messed with this a couple of years ago. Couldn’t make it work. They really built this? This isn’t a mock-up or anything?

      She put to sea this morning.

      When I was 13 I helped my daddy build a bomb shelter in our basement because some fool parked a dozen warheads miles off the coast of Florida. This thing could park a couple of hundred warheads off Washington and New York, and no one would know anything about it until it was all over.

      Submarines detect other submarines by their sound, so a silent submarine is deadly. How deadly? Compare it to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  • HRV

    Good discussion this week and a good example of how it should be done — look at the works offered, then come up with viable solutions that will facilitate improvement, not just for those on that week’s AOW, but for the rest of us as well.

  • Noah

    Hey guys, writer of The Feed, know I’m coming in a little late…thanks to those who gave it a read and good luck to the other scripts this week. For those asking on adaptation rights, I tried to reach out to the author but didn’t get a response. It is unauthorized in that sense but going off of other’s previous comments seems like that shouldn’t be a problem if I’m not trying to do anything big with it.

    • walker

      When you say “it is unauthorized in that sense” what do you mean by “in that sense”?

  • HRV

    But she only shows up briefly and isn’t the main love interest.

  • Citizen M

    I wouldn’t call it a hard and fast rule. Your model is
    – here’s the problem, and… here’s the hero who will solve the problem.

    But it’s just as good to structure things as:
    – here’s the hero, and… here’s the problem he has to solve.

    e.g. Here’s J.J. Gittes, and… here’s Mrs. Mulwray walking into his office.

    FWIW I might have opened Shadows Below something like this:

    An attractive woman in naval uniform walks along a quay. Her cell phone rings. She answers, “Dad?”
    Reveal: Her father is the President, sitting in the Oval Office.
    Prez: “I’m also your Commander in Chief and I can order you deployed elsewhere.”
    Woman: “No, you’re my father and I’m your independent-minded daughter and you can’t order me to do anything. Love you, goodbye.”
    Reveal: She is standing by a submarine.

    • Malibo Jackk

      LOVE your opening.

      On a side note — Pixar’s formula starts with the protag. Then throws a problem at him/her.

  • Zero

    Legacy was the first one I read today, as it has a neat concept. However, I stopped reading at page 12. With what I felt was a high amount of characters introduced so far, it was difficult to keep up as it kept switching between them. I couldn’t really figure out who was the protagonist, and why I should care about them.

    Part of it was that they are all stereotypical upper-class characters that haven’t shown any warmth or anything to really make them unique yet.

    Another – and for me, almost as important – issue was that there were many lines that are in dire need of proofreading or editing for clarity. Among them are:
    -I had a hard time picturing a woman of 20 still ‘hiding baby fat’. Either she’s pudgy or she’s not.
    -Is it really necessary to mention the urine flowing down her leg? I’d think you’d need to zoom in just to be able to see it on her leg, and it’s a bit much.
    -I didn’t understand Emily’s bowl ‘floating’. Is there water around? But if you just wanted to get across that she drops her bowl, keep it simple and say something like ‘Emily drops her bowl. Just before it hits the ground, BLOOD spatters her.’
    -‘You promised me pool’? As in, billiards? I know what’s meant, because of her swimsuit, but it sounds really awkward.
    -What did Rose think ‘looked important’?
    -‘You’re acting, weird.’

    Though naming the butler Giles was neat. A reference to Buffy, maybe?

  • Nicholas J

    Sometimes it’s better to establish the norm first, or maybe what is important to the protagonist, so that way when the norm is disrupted, or the important thing is taken away, it matters more to us. (Also it’s fun to be the contrarian.)

    Silence of the Lambs starts with Clarice Starling, not Buffalo Bill.
    Raiders of the Lost Ark starts with Indiana Jones, not the Nazis.
    Toy Story starts with Woody, not Buzz Lightyear.
    Die Hard starts with John McClane, not Hans Gruber.
    Rocky starts with Rocky, not Apollo.

    I think the decision to start with the antagonist is usually based more on the fact that it makes for a more entertaining opening, not because it relates us to the protagonist’s journey. That seems backwards to me.

    Starting with a shark attack is more exciting than starting with a police chief getting a phone call about a shark attack. I’m not sure it’s any more complex than that.

    • IgorWasTaken

      Very well said.

    • Malibo Jackk

      In screenwriting, the rules are always right.
      Except when there’s another reason why they’re not.

  • Levres de Sang


    I’d be happy to see either of these get the Carson AF treatment. They’ve both got something the other hasn’t and would make for an interesting ‘double AF’ experiment (whereby Carson reads the first 50 pages of each). Just a thought…!


    Firstly, congratulations to Greg on taking this from concept to AOW in 6 weeks!! For me, that’s nothing short of extraordinary. I also like the NIGHTCRAWLER and HOLLAND, MICHIGAN-esque formatting choice (if the whole thing took place on a sub then the logic of this choice would probbably be more apparent).

    As others have noted, it reads very smoothly and I could imagine those opening scenes as the prelude to some old-school political thriller. And yet, tonally, they’re a world away from the “doomsday subs” of the logline and WYSR. I also agree with this script’s predominant notes: Namely, too many characters early on; as well as a sense of dialogue endlessly drifting once we hit the 20-something and 30-something page marks. I skimmed through to around Page 50 or so, but still felt that while it was good dialogue (for the most part), it really requires some trimming so we can get a sense of its narrative resonance.

    This script has a nice veneer of professionalism, but could do with a dose of the “weird energy” Carson talked about some while back… and which we DO find in our next script:


    I’m not a fan of biopics and although this lacks that professional veneer designed to get me past the opening pages, that “weird energy” I just mentioned is unquestionably present. It’s difficult to describe, but for that reason alone it deserves a shot… [But please consider excising that TWO-PAGE “washing dishes” scene BEFORE any Carson review!]

    ** I didn’t download the teen comedy, but just a quick word on both LEGACY and THE FEED:

    LEGACY: I really wanted to like this horror offering, but a combination of some awkward turns of phrase and having to constantly move between the various characters meant that I just couldn’t get grounded in those early pages. It’s likely a wider TONAL issue that the author should address before any further proof work.

    THE FEED: I’m sorry, but Page 1 felt pointless. Surely, you can just as easily start on Page 2 and nothing is lost? Have to say I bailed very shortly afterwards: any intrigue created by the moon-world setting was quickly dispelled by the line “A group of six teens…” Sorry, teenagers are just not my thing! :/

  • ripleyy

    Late to the party, but I’m giving my vote to Shadows Below. It’s a really slick thriller and I’ve never really seen anything like this since the 90s. A great throwback to the genre that made The Fugitive and the Peacemaker famous.

  • IgorWasTaken

    “Shadows Below” could open with —

    The Speaker giving his speech… as seen on a TV in a kitchen, watched by a mid-30s woman wearing running clothes… CUT TO her running with a guy who says, “That can’t be good for your dad”… she replies, “What the Speaker said…? If it wasn’t a violation of the UCMJ… Ugh, he’s such an asshole”… then pull back and we see her being followed by her SS detail as she runs on a Navy base.

    Then cut back to the Speaker talking to the Senator.

  • brenkilco

    Read to page twelve of Shadows Below. Two dozen characters in half a dozen pages is a bit much. So far generic, political blah blah. And the old we’re killing a top government whatever and replacing him with an exact duplicate gag wasn’t even new when they used it in Thunderball and The Prize fifty years ago. Also it’s hardly believable that the vice president on a state visit would be greeted by a foreign rep who would insult him to his face. Even in China. And maybe I’m out of touch but I think pilgrimages to grave sites are something movie characters do more than real people. I think even a James Bond movie opened with one once. This is all proficient enough but so far I’m not that excited. Lines like “I have a duty to my country and so do you” don’t help.

    • IgorWasTaken

      I disagree on one point: Insults? That’s what Vice President’s are for – to take insults (and go to funerals, etc.). Israel did it to Biden – though not directly to his face, but the equivalent (they announced a settlement expansion as he arrived), and Israel is an ally.

      • brenkilco

        But isn’t that what makes diplomacy diplomacy? There are a thousand ways to say fuck you without actually saying fuck you.

        • IgorWasTaken

          Yeh, but I’m saying, based on what I know, as well as what I’ve seen, I can totally believe the insult-scene with the VP. And sometimes the best way to communicate FU is to say FU. (Unless the insulter is British, because they are masters of this, in another league.) Still, it has to be credible to readers.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            To put it in perspective, Zhun Fei is later found out to be in the cabal, and smuggles the nuke onto the base which ends up killing both the VP, the Chairman of China, and the Chinese General. He didn’t want to be there, and it didn’t matter if he was a dick or not, because he knew that in less than 12 hours, the VP was a dead man.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Ended up deleting 15 pages of various scenes, and wrote 3-5 pages of new ones.

  • Casper Chris

    It’s not always either/or though. Mission Impossible III, for instance, opens with both the antagonist and the protagonist. Not only do we immediately know who the antagonist and the protagonist are (as well as their goals), we get suspense/anticipation (will Davian kill Ethan’s fiancée Julia?), we get mystery (what’s the Rabbit’s Foot?) and we get dramatic irony in spades for the subsequent engagement party scene. Sure, it’s a flashforward opening, but that doesn’t make it any less effective.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Hi folks

    I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who took the time to take a look at our script. I also wanted to apologize for not creating open dialogues about the script here on the blog. My screenwriting career is very important to me, and I want to maintain a positive image. Historically I have a tendency to come across defensive and start arguments, and it is absolutely not my intention to dismiss or diminish anyone’s opinions or feedback. I’m literally afraid of shooting myself in the foot and coming off in a way I didn’t intend. If anyone wants to have a private discussion about the script they can e-mail me. I’m grateful for people’s comments and consideration

    Thanks again.

    • HRV

      I can relate. That’s why I’ve continued to stress that as critics of each other’s work we try to provide constructive feedback. It makes for a much better forum experience for everyone.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Also just as a take-away – I am going to have a sit-down with my co-writer tomorrow, and write a 2-3 page teaser sequence from the perspective of Isis terrorists that get destroyed by Rith Phay’s submarine. Then it satisfies people’s lust for action, and ties with a plot beat later on.

  • brenkilco

    But Hitchcock, and who knew structure better, virtually never started his movies with anyone other than the hero or heroine? Strangers on a Train is the only one I can think of where the villain even appears in the first scene.

    One size can’t fit all. But if you start with the antag and a bang you’ll probably need to backtrack to provide exposition which may result in a dramatic sag. There are tradeoffs either way.

  • Midnight Luck

    My Vote: SESSIONS OF LEAD BELLY (with reservations)

    Page 4: The Feed
    Page 6: Legacy
    Page 13: Nerd Got Game
    Page 15: Shadows Below
    Page 16: Sessions of Lead Belly

    My vote is for Lead Belly, however I need to point out that the script might need some serious overhauling. It kept my interest more than all the others. However the others had some serious uphill battles for me just based on the Loglines alone.

    1. Not a big fan of the Werewolf genre as a storyline.

    2. I am an animal rights activist and lover of all creatures, so the purely despicable display of cruelty in the beginning of Nerd, really turned me off straight out of the gate. Plus, it needs some work.

    3. Not a huge fan of Military, or Submarines, or War flicks. So, again, sadly, I wanted to give as much support as I could to Gregory, but this kind of story just doesn’t start my engine in the least. And, the opening 20-ish pages of Political / Politician talk felt long and dull. I couldn’t tell you what the story was about, even by page 15. A bunch of Senators (or whoever they were) taking the Senate floor gabbing about whatever they were. I have no idea what anyone was talking about. Now some people might love it, and I love HOUSE OF CARDS, but I didn’t feel any intrigue here. There was no heavy handed shifting of power or manipulation between anyone in the story, and that is what keeps HOUSE oC interesting. It is always about the POWER shift, the Manipulation going on, it is always a balance of “who is screwing who”, and it works. Not sure why there is this super long Political stuff going on as an OPENER of a Submarine movie. A short scene or snippet might be OK, but this feels incredibly out of place, and too long. That said, again, I am not exactly the target for this, as I have yet to see a movie about Submarines which held any interest for me. So even if the beginning was different, and we were thrust onto a Sub immediately, I can’t say my feeling about it would be any different. And that would have nothing to do with writing, but all about subject matter.

    That left yet-another Dystopian / Utopian kind of story involving teenagers, and it just kept me on snore as I read. We have had Hunger Games, and Resurgent, and Giver, and maybe that Maze Runner movie, though I didn’t see it. All these teens fighting to survive in a future dystopia. In order for this to stand out, well, it REALLY needs to bring something interesting and different, and I didn’t find it.

    The other script then was about a Southern Black Folksinger. Now that sounds pretty interesting. As I read, it kept me interested, though the extremely stilted way in which it is written caused some problems for me. I feel like the writer needs to BREATHE. Open up, spread your wings, stretch their arms out, and let the words and music FLOW.

    The entire script (or at least beginning, but I am going to bet the entire thing) is written like this, these are actual lines from it:

    Hardy Man looks up.
    Huddie closes the door behind him.
    Huddie turns.
    She turns to Will.
    Huddie turns to the young girl.
    Huddie turns to Will.
    Will looks up at Huddie without hospitality.

    This is in the space of a page or less. And 90% of the action lines are written like this.
    It is SO passive, and doesn’t actually seem to tell us anything. It keeps the read low-key and rather boring, honestly.

    Do you really need to tell us so-and-so turns? So-and-so looks up? they turn back? they look down?

    None of it has much reason to it. IF there was something revealed by the character looking up, or whatever, then Yes, it would be necessary, but none of it is. This is superfluous extra details which bog it all down. Give us the PUNCH behind the scenes. HIT us with what is important and engaging, not with each and every slight head movement, arm movement, eyebrow shake, etc.

    This is my biggest issue while getting to page 15. It makes me so I am not enthused to keep reading this kind of description until page 126. Sounds long at this rate.

    So, my advice, would be to STREAMLINE this script in Every Way possible. Cut all that kind of action line out and get the scenes down to the bare minimum.

    I think it will flow better, and make the reader happy.

  • S_P_1

    My favorite genre is sci-fi. So I always check the competition.

    The Feed pg 24 stopped

    I’m on the fence with this script the same way I was on the fence with Damn Nation. I haven’t read the book so the material is completely new to me. The future slang requires a lot of patience to read through. Even if teenagers speak 100% slang, you need to pull back as the writer and write in plain English. You wrote a massive exposition dump pg 19-21. All scripts have a level of exposition and yours was extremely baldfaced.

    I would like to credit the writer with going with a Utopian future setting, but this is an adaptation. I may continue to read.

    Legacy pg 3 stopped

    I read this script based on prior winning credentials. I find that hard to believe. This script has several incoherent sentences within the first 3 pages. The “hi, how are you” conversation over the campfire, the focus on urination and breasts. I’ve read too much. And I do like all levels of horror films. Super gory to super natural.

    Sessions of Lead Belly pg 6 stopped

    I was really hoping this script was on the level of Marlowe, it isn’t. THE random CAPITALIZATION of random WORDS took me OUT of the SCRIPT.

    Shadows Below read completely

    I’ve had early access to this script prior to AOW.

    I’ve read the other comments to this script. Essentially I voiced the same concern in the first 10 pages. I previously mentioned that the formatting style in this script is a distraction as well as bloating the page count.

    If anyone has read Gregory’s posts you’ll know this script was written in a short time frame. That may have hurt this script.

    This script doesn’t move until literally page 35. The action sequences are extremely intense. I also was totally convinced by the military procedure.

    Grendl mentioned introducing the antagonist upfront. The problem with this particular script is the antagonist is extremely compelling and will easily overshadow all the other characters.

    IgorWas Taken explained the logistics and protocol of Washington politics. I expressed a similar concern through email about the diplomatic relationship between the United States and China.

    There are several other issues I had with this script that I previously expressed by email.

    I’m voting for this script based on one reason alone. RITH PHAY!

    This character is on the level of Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Tommy DeVito, Gordon Gekko, The Joker (Jack, Ledger) and Jack Torrence. This is an iconic movie villain. If this script were made whoever played RITH PHAY would clean up during award season.

  • Scott Chamberlain


    Man, I TRIED. I really did TRY to READ this SCRIPT. But all those BLOODY caps and NON-SENTENCES just got in THE WAY. The only THING I come AWAY with is THE sense that the PROTAG is a COMPLETE WANKER who gets whatever IS coming TO him, like I even CARE.

    Seriously, lose the CAPS. All of them. And add some extra words. It’s not like it will add to the count.

    I didn’t mind the opening sequence that finishes with our hero beating up a man for no reason having just cleaned up from a previous beating. That sets up a “how did this talented man get to this point” kind of story. But it should have been followed with scenes of his genius and talent and promise. Instead, we get a creepy dishwashing scene with his cousin, a creepy dick-measuring candy scene with his counsin’s kids against their Dad’s wishes, and then he murders (premditated) their husband/father.

    There’s an audience for this type of story about a loser whose life just gets worse. It’s a small one, and I’m not in it. But its a larger audience if you begin by showing us what in the hero is worthy of redemption. He should “have it” before he “loses it”, or at least we should sense the potential for him to have it all, before his flaws undermine everything.

  • Malibo Jackk

    The subject of unauthorized adaptions keeps coming up.
    If that’s your thing — check out the recent On Story podcast.
    (It’s cool.)
    The screenwriters’ Planet of the Apes movie was written without permission
    and sold to the studio.
    (But they weren’t amateurs. They had previous credits.)

  • Jeff D

    Doing a live review of the scripts! Tune in:

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Super cool idea! Never thought about using twitch like that. I think the downside to writing your notes out is that it makes for a better watch if you don’t write notes live, but just discuss it live with the viewer!

      • Jeff D

        True — probably the next step is to get an external mic so you don’t have to hear the clunk clunk of the keyboard. Still, I like at least typing some notes out so that the writer has a hard copy of the edits.

        I do like the live video, though, since when people have read my screenplays, watching where they cringe or scratch their heads was almost as useful to me as the notes themselves, still, want to try to have the best of both worlds haha. Keep the feedback coming though, we just started this, and I bet there’s a better balance between written and live notes that we can strike.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Stefano met Hitchcock to discuss the script of Psycho, he confessed to
    having a problem with the material; principally, he disliked the
    character of Norman Bates. In Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel, Bates is plump,
    balding, bespectacled and 40 years old. “I really could not get
    involved with a man in his 40s who is drunk and peeps through holes,”
    reflected Stefano. “The other problem was that there was a horrendous
    murder of a stranger I didn’t care about either.

    I just kept saying to Hitch, ‘I wish I knew this girl. I wish Norman were somebody else.”‘

    Consequently, Stefano suggested that the screenplay begin with the
    character of Marion Crane, who steals $40,000 from her Phoenix, Arizona,
    employer to begin a new life with her lover but is murdered after
    stopping at the Bates Motel. “Audiences would be sucked into a character
    who did something wrong but was really a good person,” Stefano said.
    “They would feel as if they, not Marion, had stolen the money. When she
    dies, the audience would be the victim. With so much early emphasis on
    Marion, no one dreams she’ll get killed. Killing the leading lady (Janet
    Leigh) in the first half hour had never been done before.” Or since…”

    • brenkilco

      Or since.
      Hasn’t De Palma done it more than once? i.e. Dressed to Kill

  • Midnight Luck

    Great song.
    I always really liked that song.
    Had no idea it was a cover of a Lead Belly song.

  • Casper Chris

    No strawman. I upvoted your comment because I agree with the general sentiment. But reading the preceding conversation, a beginner could easily get the impression that it is either/or. I’m just presenting an alternative.

    Speaking of tricks of argument:

    but the good movies, no the great movies more often than not follow the rule.

    I’m not suggesting how. I’m just saying that’s the way successful movies start.

    And this isn’t mine or anyone else on this boards theory, its how things have been done since the beginning.

  • Casper Chris

    Hitch’s best movie didn’t start with the protagonist.

    Yes, yes it did. Rear Window started with the protagonist.

    • brenkilco

      You mean North by Northwest or Vertigo.

  • readmoredolt

    “Why is it ALMOST ALWAYS BETTER [my emphasis] to start with something less specific than a protagonist?” — grendl.

    Look up “strawman.” You obviously don’t understand what it means.

    People are reacting to your vast overstatement quoted above.

    Almost always better not to start with a protagonist?


  • brenkilco

    That’s an interesting semantic argument. But if so he was also the antagonist momwise. In any event that movie, so unique for its time, didn’t fit the structure you’re championing where we start with an antagonist clearly laying out the story conflict. For the first forty minutes of Psycho the audience is sure supposed to think that Janet Leigh is the protagonist.

  • walker

    Well around here most people seem to think they can do what they want with others’ intellectual property, and the proof they offer is that this guy or that guy got away with it. I disagree on both points. Not having to face consequences is not the same as being within your rights. Legalities aside, in the context of AOW/AF it is just cheating.

  • walker

    1.Yes. 2. No. 3. I disagree with Carson on this.

  • kidbaron

    For SHADOWS BELOW — Except for one interesting moment that was presented a little confusingly — the murder of Walter Smith by his doppelgänger — the first 8 pages introduces a whole bunch of characters. Mary Jackson’s intro had a few scenes that I’ve seen many times before, and that’s when I looked up at the script’s page count and saw 138! I gave up at page 10. I really think the murder of Walter Smith was a great hook that was diluted by yet another character intro and a lot of talking. I was confused with what the first 12 pages were trying to accomplish.

    LEGACY starts with a bang. I loved how it hits you over the head with the attack. No teasing just a big shock. It had me because it eschewed the typical approach to these kind of scenes. Then the script started introducing a whole bunch of characters. I couldn’t keep them straight. It really needed to introduce a POV and introduce all the other characters that way. The way it is now is confusing. By page 10 I still didn’t now whose story this was. I’m guessing Rose and the two rangers, but my focus was overwhelmed by all the intros and gave up with Janet.

    I guess for the opening scene my vote for AF goes to LEGACY.

  • ximan

    My vote: SHADOWS BELOW

    So what if it’s a slow burn? It’s IMPECCABLY written!! There’s something very old school about the action set up here. Something GRAVELY missing from most (read: all) of the action films we see today.

    And don’t even get me started on the VISUALS. The forced perspective of it all? C’mon! The writers have written the fcuk out of this script. It’s the most professional read I’ve come across on the site in a whiiiiiiile.

    Good luck Greg & Co-writer! :)

  • Scott Chamberlain

    My Vote: Sessions of Lead Belly. Despite earlier notes, it’s the most promising.
    Shadows Below – I know this has been blitzed together following Carson’s call for a submarine script. and it shows. The opening feels too generic and too talky. Not even George Lucas at his worst opened with the politics The Chinese official is moustache-twirlingly cliché. Everyone runs in Washington now (thanks to House of Cards and Winter Soldier).

    The Feed – On principle, you shouldn’t be adapting stuff you don’t have the rights to. It’s illegal. And, as a writer, you should see it as wrong. Submitting samples for TV shows is different. you’re submitting to the owner of the material for the right to e engaged to write and the owner of the material has agreed that this is what you should do. I did read the first several pages from the book. The book begins better, getting straight to the moon instead of beginning with lecture-disguised exposition.

    Nerd Got Game – This should be re-titled. Empathy-Deficient Animal Torturing Genius Seeks Same. Seriously, we don’t want this guy to meet a chick because we don’t want him to breed.

    Legacy – Stopped at page 25 which is when the story starts only to find its doesn’t. We leap from the cabin back to the mansion. The opening scene is okay, but the word choice is weird. Had a hard time working out what was happening, what I was meant to be seeing. This weird word choice thing continued “quick breaths disturb the dry earth” “heavy BREATHS explode into the open” “Rose turns fetal (foetal)”. You need to review your choice of verbs. They’re just… off. “Rose spurts from the path” for example.
    And not enough happens until we get to the cabin in the woods and the foreshadowing of the family’s true legacy is hammered home too often. Pages 2-23 could be a lot leaner and lot more focused on setting up Rosy and Vince – if the central moral dilemma is werewolf hunter vs new family this conflict should be established through the strength of her relationship with Vince – and yet we get no scene of her with Vince.
    So… skipped to end. This is a reimagining of little red riding hood. THAT IS YOUR HOOK. and its is a good one. Don’t bury it, put it front and centre. I would consider going back to page 25. You slow your story down too much – and have too many giant leaps. She conveniently passes out ad we skip over the death of her mother and father, the fact her fiancé knows there’s werewolves and her family hunts them, a miscarriage and the death of her baby. Come the training montage on page 41 Vince and Rosy have been together in almost no scenes. There is no relationship established. And I think you’re just not interested in this aspect of the story. Probably the audience for this type of film isn’t either. How about this: make the cabin in the woods the place where all the family secrets are. Make this all play out over a single night. Make Vince and Rosy not happily married but she’s been banged up out of wedlock and they are NOT okay and he doesn’t know about the baby. This is the relationship that is tested and made whole through the ordeal. Cut out the random deaths and the Ranger. Begin with her Mum and dad heading up for a “hunting” trip. She goes to surprise them. Vince tags along. The werewolves attack – it is all a big trap. And as the pack closes in everything that needs to be revealed can be revealed.
    You get a much more intense movie: Lured into a trap and cornered in a remote cabin, the direct descendant of Little Red Riding Hood has 12 hours to save herself, her family and her unborn child from vengeful werewolves.

  • walker

    Oh dude you can’t see the difference? In the case of the TV specs the owners of the IP have given their consent for their characters to be used in PRIVATE SPEC SUBMISSIONS. In the case of fan fiction, the owners have not even been consulted. Carson knows how I feel on this matter, we have exchanged emails on the issue. In my opinion submitting a script to compete with other amateur scripts when you have not even created the characters or plot is cheating straight up. BTW why doesn’t Carson allow adaptations into his contest? Why doesn’t any reputable contest accept adaptations?

    • walker

      And one more thing, who the fuck are you? I have been commenting regularly on Scriptshadow since 2011 and I have never even heard of you before. Go to school.

      • caplet

        Nope. Wrong . no consent was given by owners of a property when writers decide to write a spec based on an exisiting tv show. None. zero. nada . You just made that little “fact” up. Doesn’t exist. Just a lie . only exists in your head. Someone here needs to go back to school, but I don’t think it’s me.

        If you knew anything about how the tv industry worked, you wouldn’t have to make stuff up like this, to support your hypocrisy.

        And there’s a real simple reason why Carson doesn’t allow adaptations in his contest. Because Lawrence Grey can’t option a script that he doesn’t own. Duh! But what has that got to do with your false accusations?

        And your continued false accusations of someone ‘cheating’ when the creator of this website says it’s not gives me a lot of scary insight into your overall thought processes.

        And I’ve been posting here for almost three years, so what are you taking about?