Genre: Sci-fi/Horror
Premise: Inspired by a true story, after a young couple finds a strange orb in the forest, they learn that it may have come from another world.
About: It’s Halloween folks! So what better way to celebrate than reviewing the number one script on Kailey Marsh’s Blood List! Oooh-oh-ah-ah-ah-ahhhhh (those new to the site, this is my go-to Dracula impression). Writing team Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman are quite new on the scene and have, thus far, written and directed a few short films.
Writer: Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman
Details: 98 pages

orb-3-gallery

I’ve had a weird week.

I’ve been on my death bed with some rogue illness that I’m convinced will eventually turn me into a Walker. I’ve noticed that when you’re sick, everything in your life falls part. Your place goes from sparkling clean to a pig sty within a matter of hours. Your friendships come next, dissipating by the end of the day. And work becomes nearly impossible. I’d read a script for an hour earlier only to look up and see that I was on page 4.

It hasn’t helped that my Chicago Cubs have sucked worse than a Ron Howard movie. However, they somehow won last night’s game to keep their hopes alive. How is this relevant to today? Well duh. The Cubs are in the midst of a 108 year curse. And it’s Halloween. So, like, curses are what today’s all about.

The good news is, this idea is right up my alley. So if there’s anything that’s going to knock my flannel Cubbie socks off today, it’s going to be Orb. Let’s see if it succeeds!

“Orb” follows David and Claire Morgan, a young couple who are trying to put their lives back together after tragically losing their child.

Claire used to play piano professionally and David is a professor at the local University. Despite the loss, he’s moving up the ladder quickly. And he’s excited by the prospect of Claire finally moving on from the loss, possibly even looking to have another baby.

After a meteor shower, Claire goes for a stroll in the woods, and that’s when she finds a bowling ball-sized orb. She takes it home, only to realize that when she plays piano, it can mimic her.

She excitedly shows David, who’s also intrigued by the prospects of this thing, and the two discuss bringing it to the local scientific community. However, the orb starts communicating with Claire, telling her it doesn’t want to go anywhere.

To sweeten the pot on that request, it promises Claire that it can bring her baby back to life. That’s when David realizes this thing is dangerous, and begins concocting a plan to destroy it. But the orb is one step ahead of him, and will do anything… TO STAY ALIVE.

This was an interesting one. Orb starts off too breezy. A couple finds an orb and it starts acting weird. It’s like the adult version of E.T. without the benefit of a cute alien to fall in love with. It all seemed rather simplistic.

But once Claire started getting attached to the orb and became convinced it was going to bring her baby to life, it brought back shades of Rosemary’s Baby, that sort of dark “am-i-losing-it” tone centered around the love for a child that made that 70s film and others like it such classics. I was back in.

With that said, I want to use this review to talk about scene-writing, since good scene-writing is an essential skill for all screenwriters. And I’m going to highlight a scene early on in the script to make my point.

Now I don’t want you to think that all the scenes in the script were like this. Actually, the scene-writing gets really good as the script goes on. But I’m highlighting this problem because I see a lot of writers make the same mistake in their scripts and IT’S GOT TO STOP.

It’s got to stop people.

The scene takes place on page 12, following our introduction to Claire and David. It’s the next day and David is at work at the University. While he sits in his office, his friend Josh peeks in. Josh makes a comment about David being newly promoted, then indicates that the two have been friends for awhile, then David updates Josh on Claire’s well-being, filling us in on a little more of the backstory between David and Claire. And then the scene ends.

So what’s the problem here?

This isn’t a scene. Newish writers believe this is a scene because characters are talking to each other and a few jokes are being made. But nothing ACTUALLY HAPPENS during the scene. There’s no drama. There’s no conflict. No problem. Nobody’s trying to accomplish anything. It’s purely a collection of expositional snippets designed to fill us in on relevant story and character information.

So how would we make this a scene? Well, for starters, I don’t think we have to. Since all this is is information, we can simply get rid of the scene and insert those pieces of information in other already-established scenes in the script. For example, in the scene we learn that Claire used to play for a symphony but doesn’t anymore. However, in the very next scene, we see a montage of Claire, at home, teaching a series of students how to play piano. With a little extra info, we could easily convey Claire’s history with the symphony here.

That should always be present in your mind. Sometimes when you’re trying to make a scene work, the answer might be to get rid of the scene completely.

But we do have to introduce Josh, the friend, somewhere, so let’s say we needed a scene, at the very least, to accomplish that. One thing to keep in mind is that the exposition-driven conversation between characters should almost never be the primary engine driving the scene. Some form of drama should be driving the scene and the conversation should be sitting shotgun.

One of the easiest ways to turn a non-scene into a scene is to add a problem.

I’m reminded of the way the two main characters meet in my favorite film of the year, Swiss Army Man. The boring way to write their introduction would’ve been for Hank to be walking on the beach, find Manny’s dead body, and merely drag it up onto the sand and start their friendship.

Instead, the writers create a problem. Hank is trying to hang himself. And he spots Manny’s dead body just as he’s about to do so. He slips, accidentally choking himself, all while the first person he’s seen since he got stranded on this island is merely 100 feet away. But he can’t get to him because he’s choking to death!

Now whether you like that moment or not, you have to admit that you’ve gone from NO SCENE to SCENE. Something is HAPPENING. There’s a PROBLEM that needs to be OVERCOME.

Take another film that had the job of introducing two characters who were long-time friends, just like David and Josh: Ferris and Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Imagine if that movie would’ve introduced those two with Ferris and Cameron recounting old times together while setting up relevant exposition regarding the school and the other characters they’d be hanging out with. Boring, right?

Instead, the introduction to their relationship plays out in a series of scenes where Ferris is trying to get a sick Cameron to come over and ditch school with him (by the way, one of the best uses of irony in a movie ever – the guy ditching school is perfectly healthy, while the friend he forces to ditch with him is legitimately sick). That’s the problem that needs to be solved. That Cameron doesn’t want to come.

But honestly, it doesn’t even need to be that involved. Getting back to Orb, maybe someone Josh gave a failing grade to is causing a shit-storm and David and Josh are trying to figure out how to resolve the issue. While they’re talking about that, they’re dropping bits of relevant exposition. By creating this simple problem, the exposition will be more invisible than before, when it was the primary focus of the scene.

Outside of that issue, Orb was a fun script. It was a late-bloomer. I wish it’d been less predictable throughout its first half. But once it hits that midpoint, it turns into an entirely different screenplay that takes way more chances. It’s worth reading for that second half alone.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: To figure out if you have a scene or you’re just using a scene to convey information, imagine that scene playing as a short film, with none of the movie playing before it or after it. Would it be entertaining to an audience? I know that most scenes in a film rely on context that’s been set up beforehand. But ignore that for a second. Does the scene play out in a dramatic interesting way that would work on its own? If so, you’ve got a scene. If not, it probably means you need to add something extra (a problem, conflict, a goal, drama).

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    I read this last night and while the pages kind of flew by and I’d also give it a Worth the read, I found the plot kinda disappointing in the sense that there’s literally nothing in there that we haven’t seen before. Granted, there are some cool visuals but the idea of the sphere rolling around on its own and playing music was repeated too many times, for instance. The ending was cool and I liked the characters of Fletcher and Mitchell (there was a mistake in the opening pages: it’s a family of FIVE. The father and one boy survive so that should leave THREE bodies, not FOUR as stated by a police officer. Small potatoes, sure, but some irritating person somewhere will pick up on it ^^). Overall, a cool, quick, enjoyable and very well written script but to me, it was more a case of something beautiful on the outside being kinda empty on the inside. Still, it’s on the Blood List so huge congrats to the writer :)

    Speaking of said list, I compared the loglines/concepts of the winners to those on the Fresh Blood list and well, they do feel more amateurish, not quite there yet. We often talk about concepts here and what’s a high one or not. And these two list highlight the difference between pros and amateurs quite well. Just a personal thought there, probably because I’m deep in my own search for a higher concept for my own script-in-writing which highlights just how damn difficult it is :)

    • Stevetmp

      Hey Marija, would you be up for sharing the script? stevetmp (at) gmail (dot) com if you’d be so kind?!

    • Citizen M

      Count me among the irritating persons. I also worried about the body count in the beginning. There were two parked cars in front. I assumed one was Liz’s and the other was maybe a couple who had joined them for dinner, so that would make FIVE bodies.

      These little discrepancies really slow the read down if you’re a careful reader.

  • ripleyy

    Personally, I would have loved it if this was a dark comedy and she got attached to an actual bowling ball. She still thinks it’s speaking to her and giving her instructions, but it’s all in her mind (tonally, it could be like “Lars and the Real Girl”).

    Still, the premise sounds interesting and of course, Carson’s effortless advice is always great. If you’re writing a scene for exposition – like so many of us do – then we’re not really trying. It’s fine for a few drafts through but eventually you have to think more outside-the-box :)

  • witwoud

    Mysterious orbs in the woods were a clickbait favourite a while ago. I wonder if that’s where they got the idea from.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6557210f955c0bbb8b5f1cba5b1fd0da1dd129f38b64dcd470454f7631da4978.jpg

    On an unrelated note, if anyone’s thinking about writing a script about Celebrities Who Don’t Realise They Aren’t Famous Anymore … Forget about it! I called dibs!

  • Scott Crawford

    Sending this from a pub in Gloucester with my mum (mom).

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c9987883fda6469696ea02878e0081f45e9a99518a313f78da05105629d23dad.jpg

    The British idea of Halloween!

    Here’s today’s script and the rest of the Blood List:

    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BybNvm-CX6dkcjktVzdGMUdsQkk?usp=sharing

    • jeaux

      Scott, is it me or do all British pubs look exactly the same? (Shaun of the Dead, Wild Bill, etc)

      • Scott Crawford

        The Wetherspoons ones do, yes. There was a brief surge in white walls and neon lights and plastic furniture, but most people – including myself – like dark wood and paisley carpet.

    • BMCHB

      This is what becomes of all boybands once the big money and bright lights disappear. Scary.

    • witwoud

      Scott, you should be working for VisitBritain — your photos make the place look so damn glamorous.

    • BoSoxBoy

      Is there an ordinance that requires a minimum space between standing patrons?

    • Erica

      Now I want to watch Shaun of the Dead,

      Happy Halloween all!

      • Scott Crawford

        Shaun’s mother, Penelope Wilton, sitting quietly, it wanting to make a fuss, the glass of sherry, the Kleenex up her sleeve – that’s my mother. I don’t know how they did it, but that my mother to a TEE. Such a great observation.

    • klmn

      No bar stools?

      • Scott Crawford

        No, I don’t think they want you to drink at the bar; you have to find a seat.

    • More Blood…lists

      Mr Crawford, thank you for providing the link to the ’16 Bloodlist. I saw a couple weeks ago you provided links to all your Blacklist scripts, is it possible to do the same for all your Bloodlist scripts? I’m going to write a horror movie next, the more scripts I can read in that genre the better–I hope. Thank you.

      • Scott Crawford

        Here’s last year’s one:

        https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B98ZdIxoETG5eWo0VlVEWDJGbGs

        I’ll see if I can get hold of the others.

        • More Blood…lists

          Spectacular. Thank you.

        • More Blood…lists

          Much appreciated. Thanks Scott.

        • Emotionoid

          Thanks scott. Can you please send They repair us by Craig S Zahler to mazhar dot mohd at gmail dot com. Thanks

  • carsonreeves1

    I’d say it’s more like, if E.T. turned into a sphere, and then shit went nuclear.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Ah, the nuclear thing… Maybe I read this too fast but that somewhat important plot point was never developed which is too bad since it could lead to some very tense situations.

    • klmn

      Nuclear shit – that reminds me… If you want to feel better, I recommend a patent medicine called RADATHOR.

      You might have a hard time finding it, but that’s why we have the internet, right?

  • Evangelos

    OT: Thanks for everyone who opened and critiqued The Cheater. I learned so much. And congratulations to Jean Roux for your victory. You deserved it sir. Good luck moving forward.

  • Scott Serradell

    Happy Pagan Candy Day Everyone!

    OT: Just wanted to share this in the spirit of the festivities: The YouTube channel “Lessons from the Screenplay” tackles “The Shining”. It’s about 10 minutes long and though nothing too earth-shattering it, for me, brought up a few interesting points on why the horror in that film was so effective. Bon appetite.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dv8KroxoAhk

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpjCroELCew Carmelo Framboise

      To me it’s weird that the youtuber found it suprising that the supernatural element came early in the film.

      Well, otherwise it would be out of the blue, wouldn’t it? It would have been exactly what Diane Johnson warns against: “use no cheap tricks”

      • Scott Serradell

        I agree. I wish he’d qualified that comment just a bit further — especially since, just before saying THAT, he makes a good point in that by (Kubrick) revealing the story’s evil early on (i.e. the murders at the Overlook and Jack’s alcoholic/troubled history) we don’t ask “what” is going to happen but now have to think “how” it’ll happen. To tie into a post from a few days ago this, to me, is a strong definition of anticipation.

        But again, nothing too earth-shattering here; just a fun analysis. But I think the middle section — the discussion on the nature of “creepiness” — is very interesting. And that Kubrick used the set-ups to effectively mirror the reactions of our own anxieties is (I think for a lot of people) why the film just gets under your skin.

  • BMCHB

    OT: This week I finally make it to Hollywood… sort of.

    A documentary film that I produced, Thou Art: Dublin, is having its American premiere as part of the Pembroke Taparelli Arts and Film Festival this Thursday November 3rd at Raleigh Studios, Hollywood.

    Unfortunately, I won’t make it over, but it’s great to be a part of it.

    http://www.ptaff.org

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4e388455262e04ef3723c37d737c79d216af469c23131bd30986fd58f4947a93.jpg

    • Scott Crawford

      You gonna do a Skype link? “Sorry I couldn’t be there…”

      • BMCHB

        Ha. ”…but if I went, I’d never come home.”

  • fragglewriter

    is conveying their friendship necessary in this script? I think it might be useful if one of the characters betrays another, but for a conversation where its only use is for exposition, then it doesn’t seem necessary, IMO.

    OT: Has anyone watched I am the Pretty Little Thing that lives in the House? It’s gotten mixed reviews. I did watch Foreign Correspondents last night. It was eh. I thought it would of been funnier.

  • Andrew Parker

    I think you work your ways backward to figure out how to first introduce your characters. What is Josh’s point in the story — David’s confidant? His potential threat who might turn him in for having an orb? His nemesis in the department? His boss?

    Once you know that character’s point, you can easily create a dynamic and scene setting where you can slip some exposition in more organically, but also define character.

    Since he’s Josh’s friend, it could be at some sort of assembly they don’t want to be at, or post students vs. teachers basketball game, or grabbing food at the cafeteria. Through their non-dialogue actions, plus their interactions with others, you can convey more character too.

    Love the scene in Election where we get exposition on Tracy Flick from Matthew Broderick’s teacher friend at the school describing how… well, you kinda have to watch the scene for yourself.

    • BMCHB

      Yep, location is so vital to a scene.

      A meeting in an office?? We know the scene before we read it.

      ALL IT TAKES is to change the slugline and the scene is immediately better.

      An immediate scene in my head is Nicholson and Spader in WOLF. They don’t chat in an office, they chat at a urinal. Now maybe the ‘marking his territory’ pissing was why the scene was set there but it just felt like something new and relevant to me.

  • brenkilco

    ‘Sometimes when you’re trying to make a scene work, the answer might be to get rid of the scene completely.’

    I think this is great advice. In fact I think it should ordinarily be your first answer. Ask yourself why the scene is there. And if you don’t have a good answer, lose it.

    But early in a story that can be problematic. It’s tough to avoid the get acquainted portion of your script. You’ve got to establish who’s who and what’s what. Set up the relationships and provide some semblance of real life that unfortunately doesn’t provide small, dramatic crises on cue. How do you maintain interest? If it’s an action thing you can dump exposition while the protag and his buddy foil a bank robbery or fight a three alarm blaze. Or you could do what most writers do and just write that lets get it over with, breakfast scene to introduce the family before all hell breaks loose. Was thinking about how they did it in the old days as I’m wont to do.

    Take the greatest movie ever made. According to Sight and Sound that’s now Vertigo. You’ve got this tremendously exciting opening. And then a solid fifteen minutes of exposition. Two extremely lengthy two character scenes with nothing but talk. How does even Hitchcock keep us from zoning out? Well, in different ways. In the first scene Stewart discusses his acrophobia and his plans. But then at the end he decides to lick his problem. He tries ciimbing a stepstool, suffers a terrifying bout of vertigo when he looks out the window. Nothing is resolved but the situation is intensified. That would probably be enough for the scene to work. But the script does something else. It subtley weaves in the unrequited feelings Stewart’s gal pal has for him which provides some underlying tension to support all the info we’re getting.

    In the second scene the villain hires Stewart to follow his wife. This really is pure exposition. But kudos to the screenwriter for framing the bad guy’s monologue as a sort of ghost story. When he says- in a looming Hitchcock closeup- that the threat to the wife comes from “someone dead” we’re pretty well hooked.

    So i think a scene can work without resolution so long as the characters are in a different position at the end and the dramatic situation has been intensified. And an expository scene can work so long as the delivery raises questions, increases tension, creates mysteries or simply peaks our interest. But if the scene is just lying there definitely think about tossing it as a first option.

    • Scott Serradell

      You bring up an interesting point Bren by your example of “Vertigo” — and it’s not so much of whether a scene should exist or not exist, but rather it’s asking “how can the design or shape of the scene help emphasize the overall theme of the story?”

      One of the more famous motifs for any film is what I call the “Saul Bass Spiral” that is associated with “Vertigo” — it’s an immediately recognizable symbol that defines the film’s theme and ties directly into Scottie’s acrophobia (Is it really a fear of heights? Or is it really a fear of falling?) In fact when you step back from the story you can see the entire structure is made to look like the “Vertigo” spiral.

      But Hitchcock does this with individual scenes as well, as you point out with the beginning with Scottie in Midge’s apartment. Notice the subtext of Scottie talking about how he’s going to solve his acrophobia: First he’s nonchalant about; then he has a theory about “how to lick it”; then he puts his theory into practice (using the step stool); then, finally, his theory goes to shit when he looks out the window. Each time he tries to get closer to a solution, the reality of the problem becomes worse (like the act of falling).

      Also look at when Scottie is following Madeleine in his car. And first glance it’s a boring sequence that seems to go on forever and the casual view might likely say “What the hell? They’re just going round and round…”

      Well, isn’t that kind of the point?

      • BMCHB

        ”Well, isn’t that kind of the point?”

        I would say yes. There can be thematic reasons for scenes, actions, and dialogue in a script. I swear, there can be.

        It’s an issue with the GSU paradigm that scripts are read on a page by page basis. An understandable issue, but an issue nonetheless.

        A screenplay is a piece unto itself. It is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a series of pages or scenes that add up to a screenplay.

        Why would you read or listen to the first two words or a sentence and decide to form an opinion or make a decision based on those two words…?

        • brenkilco

          There are propulsive scripts and immersive scripts. But the latter require both patience and faith on the part of the reader. Good luck finding that.

          • BMCHB

            If one declares himself/herself a reader, then surely one should read?

      • brenkilco

        I don’t suppose it’s the first script to cite when discussing commercial paradigms. Would something like it even make it past the first reader today. Theme, Shmeme. You don’t reveal your big twist two thirds of the way through. Rewrite it.

        • Scott Serradell

          To be honest I find the film a slog to get through; a relic from another era of filmmaking. It provokes some intellectual curiosity but on an entertaining or even emotional level I find it very cold.

          • brenkilco

            I find it endlessly fascinating. But since, among various other things, it contains the cinema’s most damning critique of the very notion of romantic love – as dangerous,sometimes deadly, identity annihilating fantasy projection; it ain’t exactly warm and fuzzy.

          • Scott Serradell

            You know, it’s weird. For some reason it plays better in the little movie theater in my memory; I can remember whole stretches and scenes, and when I play them over I can really appreciate it. But when I’ve tried to ACTUALLY watch it I have next to no inclination in wanting to go very far with it. In fact I usually shut it off and put on “Rear Window” instead.

          • brenkilco

            Hah. I sort of have the opposite reaction. I like and admire Rear Window but truth be told, for a supposed exercise in pure cinema it is awfully damn talky. And not all the talk is that great.

        • klmn

          Do the old paradigms and associated theories even work anymore? (Formulas, theories, hero’s journey, etc.)

          All the books and film school theory is decades old, yet the same stuff is in mass production. Okay, maybe the products are slightly differentiated. But by this time, the audience has seen it all.

          • brenkilco

            You might as well throw in Aristotle’s Poetics. I think what makes a story a story doesn’t really change. But there are new variations to be found. However, Hollywood certainly believes the old forms work or so much of what we get wouldn’t be so formulaic.

            Tell you what bugs me more than the repetition of formula. The failure to execute formula well. There are four heavily promoted thrillers in theaters right now: Girl on The Train, Accountant, Inferno and Jack Reacher. And if the critics are to be believed- haven’t seen em myself- the one thing they share in common is that they’re somewhere between lousy and downright awful. That’s depressing.

        • Levres de Sang

          I was thinking about that giving away of the “big twist” as I happened to rewatch most of Vertigo the other day. From a pure screenwriting perspective it did feel somewhat questionable.

          Or maybe it was designed solely to switch audience sympathy (a dry-run for Psycho?) so that we’re safely identifying with Judy as Scottie spirals into obsession?

          • brenkilco

            I think absolutely that Hitchcock wanted to switch sympathies and was far more interested in the suspense of what Scotty would do when he found out than he was in the mechanics of the murder plot, which honestly were pretty damned implausible. Quite apart from the uncertainty of whether Scotty would make it to the top of the tower and why he wouldn’t stay to view the body, there was the little matter of how Gavin manged to haul a corpse up a hundred foot bell tower without collapsing or being seen. Or did he lure his wife up and kill her there? How? Who knows.

            In retrospect it was fortunate that Hitchcock had Stewart in the lead role. Scotty was really a domineering, grade A sicko. And most other actors would have lost every vestige of audience sympathy long before the climax.

          • Levres de Sang

            I guess it was a trade-off between character and mystery (“mechanics of the murder plot”). That Hitchcock went for character is probably why the film has hovered around the top of those best-of lists for fifty years.

            BTW. Scotty presumes that Gavin broke his wife’s neck before flinging her body from the bell tower. I guess he lured her there on the pretext of sightseeing.

            You’re right as to Stewart’s character: I didn’t remember the innate violence of his dragging Judy up the steps of the bell tower — all in the name of being “free of the past”. Would that be enough GSU in modern screenwriting terms? Indeed, you could argue that the sudden entrance of the nun is kind of a deus ex machina designed to conceal the vagueness of Scotty’s actions. Then again, who am I to argue with the “greatest film of all time”!

    • Magga

    • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

      Poisoned Dates. If you have to have two characters lay out exposition, throw in a plate of poisoned dates. And a monkey.

      • brenkilco

        Today’s audiences demand more. So I try to use two monkeys.

  • Citizen M
  • Poe_Serling

    Happy Halloween!

    Glad to see Carson getting into the spirit of things with today’s
    review.

    Orb

    People acting a bit strange after finding something weird in
    the woods – hmm, sounds just about right for this type of
    sci-fi/horror scenario.

    *Here’s hoping everyone has a fun evening – even if it’s just
    watching a scary flick on TV.

  • Linkthis83

    “…we can simply get rid of the scene and insert those pieces of information in other already-established scenes in the script.”

    I truly wish this advice would stop being given. Or if it must be given, explain the complexity of removing a scene, and stop acting like there’s a quick, simple solution.

    I believe scripts are complex organisms and this is harmful advice. To literally illustrate my point, I made a crude diagram:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d88c55cb8b2ce814c633a0a270984642566b027ff3b0441e9031e5468c5436de.jpg

    • BMCHB

      Ha. I just posted nearly exact same.

      • Will_Alexander

        Yep, I posted before reading any other comments because, as you suggest in your comment, I really believe one of the first things you should try to do with ANY scene is get rid of it.

        Then, only the strong will survive.

        ::Dramatic, meaningful eye contact…::

        • BMCHB

          //winks

    • BMCHB

      Does anyone in Hollywood think about screenplays on a macro level anymore?

      That’s their problem, right there. Illustrated.

      EDIT: Hey, exec’s… let’s hire someone to rewrite/punch up act 2. Pay them half a million.

      Hey, guys. you can’t JUST rewrite Act 2. Or any act alone, for that matter…

      • Linkthis83

        And yet they do and they still make money. Maybe we’re doing it wrong!

        • BMCHB

          The money is inflation.

          I do believe, I wouldn’t write or make films if I didn’t, that most involved in film, know a good story.

          A good story will always sell.

          I have no idea what my point is now… Ha.

          • Linkthis83

            I believe a lot of them know a good story too. But the business of Hollywood cares more about their bottom line. Which they should. Studios going out of business for the sake of better storytelling isn’t better for storytellers. They are going to take their gambles on what’s most likely to get return on their investment, not what’s best for the story.

          • BMCHB

            WRT to the use of Guns ‘n’ Roses in Orb and Hollywood executives…

            It’s these prejudiced illusions
            That pump the blood
            To the heart of the biz

    • Linkthis83

      And the scene that really needs work is from pages 32-36. I found most of this script to be uninspiring and familiar. I do not begrudge the writers though. Mad props to them for creating content people liked/loved.

    • Will_Alexander

      But what if, as seems to be the case here, the pages do not actually constitute a scene?

      If, as he describes, a supporting character enters to facilitate exposition and fill us in on backstory — and that’s all — then he’s right, and that is NOT a scene.

      Even in a great script, not everything is a scene, of course. You’ve always got those quick in-between bits that show something that needs to be shown, or provide a running joke, or whatever. But if you’ve got something like is described here, cutting it out completely IS the best first approach to fixing it, I think.

      • Linkthis83

        I don’t take issue with him saying it’s not a scene. He’s right, it’s boring (I found most of the script boring).

        I take issue with the suggestion that it’s simple to lift it out and sprinkle the info elsewhere.

        There’s an intention to the scene (or non-scene if someone deems it that). It’s doing more than just giving info, it’s just not doing it effectively.

        I drew the illustration to show that if you literally cut the scene out, you’re severing threads you’ve created. Important threads.

        The fallout from this advice can be catastrophic. If someone thinks that they now have a non-scene, they’ll cut it. And add the info elsewhere. So now you’ve removed one piece of your structure and are repurposing the content into 2-4 other scenes. So what you couldn’t effectively do in one scene, you must ADD IN to other scenes effectively. That’s naive.

        And with ORB specifically, you’ve taken the bits of info out that you’ve chosen to put here specifically and placed them elsewhere. But now you still need an intro scene with Josh that is effective and organic to the remaining structure of the screenplay.

        I think the intro of Josh is weak. but I think the character of Josh is weak and I think the relationship between Josh and David is weak. I think Josh’s purpose in the story is weak and his utilization ineffective. I think his death is extremely weak and blood coming from his nose when the orb begins humming is uninspired.

        I think fixing the Josh intro scene solves nothing. I think adding bogus conflict doesn’t enhance the overall story. Complex organisms :)

        • Will_Alexander

          I’m about to read the first pages of ORB even though I have absolutely no interest in it because I DO have an interest in this discussion, and I want to be able to have it intelligently.

          I’ll get back with more after I read.

          BUT, I would also argue that what you’ve outlined in this comment is a strong supporting case for MY position:

          “I think the intro of Josh is weak. but I think the character of Josh is weak and I think the relationship between Josh and David is weak. I think Josh’s purpose in the story is weak and his utilization ineffective. I think his death is extremely weak and blood coming from his nose when the orb begins humming is uninspired.”

          THIS sounds like a whole bunch of stuff to cut.

          My basic argument would be that removing a “non-scene” will not affect your structure, because its “non-scene” nature means it was never structurally necessary in the first place.

          But let me read a bit and come back with deeper considerations…

          • Linkthis83

            Haha! Will, I’m with you!

            I take issue with the suggestion that it’s easy to lift a scene out. Even if it’s a non scene (who gets to decide that?). Because to the writers, it’s not a non-scene. They’ve created it for a purpose. So for them to remove it, there are consequences to their overall intention.

          • Will_Alexander

            Yeah, actually, after reading five pages of ORB, I’m out. There’s no point for me in even getting to the scene on page 12.

            I have very strong negative opinions about most everything I’ve read so far, and I think pretty much all of it should be cut and rewritten.

            So, on the macro-level of this overall discussion, I simply don’t trust these writers to know what a scene is or isn’t, and I’m not gonna stick around to see if they figure it out. I think you’re probably correct that the writers don’t know when they’ve written a “non-scene,” and that is exactly the problem with this one.

          • Linkthis83

            Agreed

    • Will_Alexander

      I’ll also add this just because I don’t want to ONLY seem grumpy and disagreeable:

      When you’re collaborating with someone you have to listen to, and they want a necessary scene or storyline or character cut, then there is absolutely no quick or simple solution.

      The difference is between what is necessary and what isn’t, I guess. But, for instance, if you have a great, necessary scene that IS working, but it has to be cut because you can’t get the location, or you can’t afford to shoot it, or whatever, then there will certainly be much more work in dealing with the repercussions of cutting that scene than if you cut something that isn’t necessary.

      And your solutions would likely always come back to that word, “necessary.”

      What made the scene necessary? Was it the location? Tough shit, you ain’t got the location, anymore. So what was so important about the location? What was necessary about it? You’d have to dig into all those questions to arrive at a solution, and that solution will answer the same questions of necessity that the original scene answered, it will just answer them in a different way.

      • Linkthis83

        I agree with your overall sentiment about scenes and the reasons you keep or cut them. I think we are only in disagreement if you believe you can SIMPLY removes scenes from scripts and put the info elsewhere.

        ORB is a bad example for this discussion because we both agree on its overall ineffectiveness.

        BACK TO THE FUTURE had a completely different ending originally. It wasn’t until the budget stage of the process that the writers were told it needed to be changed. Their original ending took place at a nuclear test site out in the desert and was deemed too expensive. That’s one of those things I will always keep in mind because I feel we got the perfect ending for that movie.

        (and the original time machine was refrigerator at one point in the early stages of the script – just an example of the evolution of that story)

        • Will_Alexander

          I’d heard about the changed ending, but not the fridge.

          The changed ending is exactly what I’m talking about. They needed something to generate a lot of power, something that could be timed based on knowing the history, something that would be spectacular, something that had been remembered in the town…

          It started as a nuclear test and wound up as a lightning strike that fulfilled all the same necessities. Perfect example, yes.

    • Wijnand Krabman

      I think each scene must have an intention and a function. The intention in carson’s scene is fill us in with X exposition the function is to keep the plot moving. I agree with carson that if this is the only reason this scene exist it sucks. Probably the whole scrips sucks? I didn’t read it. You can see what happens if you omit the scene, may be the house of cards collapses? If so you need the scene but you don’t want toe bore us to hell. I always try to make it a simple: somebody wins or loose, something succeeds or fails. If you have two characters in a room give them a target, somebody wins and the other looses, it can be big; the shark attacking the boat and killing quint, shark wins quint looses or small quint telling the story about the uss Indianapolis, quint wins because he is the man, Hooper looses. Or even smaller James Bond who tosses his hat on miss moneypenny’s coat rack.

    • Jaco

      Script A looks like a pro script.

      Script B looks like an amateur script and needs to calm down.

  • Miss Ma’am
  • klmn

    OT. On PBS American Experience will examine The Battle of Chosin this week. Check it out if you’re interested.

  • Zadora

    Happy Halloween everybody! Made this with a friend of mine. We shot it, along with another short over one crazy weekend four weeks ago. Enjoy! :)
    https://vimeo.com/188484288

    • Wijnand Krabman

      I would say leave the pumpkin alone!

      • Zadora

        This was actually a sequel to another one I made five years ago. Kind of the same idea. I would say, leave the human alone! :p

    • BMCHB

      Your DOP is excellent. Some wonderful lighting there.

      I think you should, if possible, change the aspect ratio to be more cinematic…

      Great job, though. Well done all involved.

      • Zadora

        Thanks! I’ll tell him you said so. That’ll make him happy. DPs usually don’t get called out for praise. :)

  • Citizen M

    Finished it. Very easy read. I was quite impressed. How do you make an ordinary shiny silver ball into an evil character? This script managed it. It’s actually more psychological thriller than sci-fi, continually putting characters on the horns of a dilemma, playing with their emotions, building up the threat. It kept me interested the whole way. The “exorcism” scene near the end was particularly gripping, although the final fade-out scene was a little weak for an ending.

    As to the bit of conversational exposition, I hardly noticed it. My feeling about exposition is, if you have to have it, get it over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. In this case, it takes only a page and a half and is quite entertaining as we see the two friends joke with each other. It not only gives us backstory, it also introduces Josh, so I think it does enough to justify its existence. Anyway, as long as the story as a whole has a decent pace, you don’t notice the odd flat spot.

    What really annoys me is when the writer is so afraid of being accused of exposition that he or she concocts a whole artificial and unnecessary scene to get across in a roundabout way what could be said in a couple of lines of dialogue.

  • Dan B

    I just checked out the Blood List website, and noticed a couple familiar names have their scripts posted on the website. Brett Martin and Rachel Woolley – have these two writers signed on with Kailey? Or does she post scripts that are submitted like the BlackList for reading?

    Kept reading – I guess they these were scripts listed as “Fresh Blood Selects” – anyone know what that refers to?

    • Wes Mantooth

      The Blood List is compiled by votes from agents and managers. I think the Fresh Blood is a new thing this year where amateurs could submit their scripts directly to the website and Marsh selects the best ones.

      • klmn

        Yeah, I think it’s a contest. Good to see E.D. kick ass.

  • Mayhem Jones

    GUYS! I’m going as a WRITER for Halloween. Do I need anything else, or is a “MY DREAMS ARE DEAD” t-shirt enough?

    • BMCHB

      Some amateur loglines, mine will do, are bound to scare them and make them run away…

    • Nick Morris

      Maybe add half a bottle of whiskey. Pants are optional.

      • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

        Sorry, you beat me to it!

        • Nick Morris

          Vodka will work too!

          • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

            Now if can finally figure out which number drink it is that transforms me from Max Landis into a guy looking out the window . . .

      • Scott Serradell

        This!

    • Citizen M

      Stick a pencil through your nose.

      Alternative phrase: “WASN’T FOR US”

      • Mayhem Jones

        OMG! EVEN BETTER:
        “[x] WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST READ”
        Once Carson gets off his death bed (can ANYONE here make him chicken soup???) he needs to MAKE THAT SHIRT, STAT!

    • Linkthis83

      The Writing Dead

    • klmn

      Thick glasses.

      Uncombed hair.

      Mismatched socks.

      A constant stare at the ground.

      • Mayhem Jones

        I once worked with someone like this who said he was “ONE PHONE CALL” away from Brad Pitt signing on to star in his script. I was like–“How long have you been waiting for this phone call?” He goes: “Three years.”

        • klmn

          When I was still active on Zoetrope, someone posted that he was a cousin or something to Billy Crystal, and that he just needed to polish up his screenplay before sending it to him again and would someone read it for typos and such.

          So I downloaded it and it wasn’t a screenplay but 300 pages of solidly packed text. So I z-mailed him and told him that I wouldn’t read it and why. He replied something like, “God forbid you’re too busy to help a fellow writer.” A real snotty bastard.

          So, I guess we’re all one phone call away from Brad Pitt signing on to star in our screenplays.

    • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

      Carry a half-empty bottle of vodka?

    • More Blood…lists

      I’d say lug around an old typewriter, but that might get in the way of your bottle of bourbon–writers using an avatar of a typewriter zoomed past cliche years ago.

    • Miss Ma’am

      Step it up a bit with a bathtub costume, add a fake typewriter, and go as Dalton Trumbo.

    • Stephjones

      scribble lines of dialogue on your nose.

    • Stephjones

      scribble words on your nose.

    • Midnight Luck

      I went once as a “crazy angry Screenwriter”, or maybe it was a “generic paranoid Producer”, I can’t remember, is there a difference, or does it matter? and I did was put this on:

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1661afc6114c1c4eb3d53d8896c2c628a8d2bfebb233fd2be57a0f32d690747b.jpg

      It came from a Producer I met on THE PLAYER set. He gave it to me as a present. Talk about the greatest gift ever!
      As you can see, it has seen way better days (as have I), the world takes a toll.

      But I still have it, and my filmmaker/screenwriter/geek self goes elatedly happy/crazy when I think about that wonderful time in life, rubbin’ elbows with the hollywood elite.

      Now i’m back to being a nobody.

      oops, sorry drifted off into nostalgia land, somewhere between Greenland and Nigeria, so back to your question:

      So wear this hat, as an “in joke” between writers, about hollywood, and screenwriters and famous people and producers and directors and actors, or, well, as a reminder to yourself, if you haven’t seen the movie, go see it!

      • Mayhem Jones

        Hahahah I freakin’ LOVE THIS!!!!!

    • witwoud

      Stand in a corner looking cynical and amused, and occasionally make notes.

  • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

    ““Orb” follows David and Claire Morgan, a young couple who are trying to put their lives back together after tragically losing their child.”

    Ugh, let me stop you right there. I’m so completely and totally over the sad backstory in horror movies. Can’t horror happen to people without problems (Poltergeist, Alien)? I get it, I get it: the dead kid motivates her to do irrational shit that can be exploited in the horror context. But it’s just so fucking dreary, not fun-scary, and has become such an easy trope to skip past the problem of reasonable behavior (if people are making smart decisions, they can escape the monster).

    Babadook and the Orphanage are the worst offenders (because they sad backstory IS the monster), but consider a movie like the Descent, which is totally badass the whole time, and has a great monster, but then farts all over it by introducing the sad backstory. Everything fun about that movie is leveled by the sad mom, boo-hoo. Sack it up, lady.

    Or Aliens. Aliens was the shit, and Ripley had a great relationship with Newt, until the director’s cut revealed Ripley’s dead daughter. Now, everything Ripley does to save Newt has a 1-to-1 correspondence with her loss that drains the intentionality out of Ripley’s actions. She’s not there because she’s a stone cold badass, now she’s sad mom acting out of maternal instinct. Totally cheapens it.

    Plus, too, it’s just so easy to kick people when they’re down. Of course sad mom makes dumb decisions, her fucking kid is dead. Show me happy mom, show me Jo Beth burying birds and smoking J’s and THEN terrorize her. To my mind, it makes it scarier because she had so far to fall.

    • Citizen M

      I don’t know about other movies, but in this case the dead kid is an essential part of the plot. It provides an emotional lever the orb exploits to drive a wedge between husband and wife.

      • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

        I understand, and I’m not saying that the sad backstory isn’t useful, I’m saying it’s overused. This writer was like, how can I inject some high stakes into this thing? Ah, yes, dead child.

        I’m complaining that it’s a cheap trick. It’s Caron’s cancer in the horror movie context.

      • BMCHB

        Hell knows, I’ve had my run ins with the colonel here before, but he’s damn right here.

        Losing a child as backstory???

        Atrociously cliched. The least that a brave writer would do is to make a child dying the inciting incident.

        As a backstory it just reeks of a hack writer to me.

    • Dan B

      I agree on the cliche of sad backstory, but I’ll disagree on Aliens. First, the daughters death adds a huge gut punch to Ripley. It’s also much more original than just having a daughter die. Ripley’s daughter spent her life without a mother, because Ripley was drifting through space. When Ripley is finally found, her daughter has already lived and passed. The emotional connection with Newt and Ripley feels organic because of this. Without this relationship you also lose the motivation for Ripley going back to find the Alien Queen… it basically just be Rambo 3 in space.

      • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

        I get it, but for me, before Ripley became a mom, it was her innate goodness and unspoken connection to Newt as a person that drove her to go and save her. That seems much deeper and more organic to me. But you flip the switch to sad mother and now BAM! she’s just sad mom going what sad moms do. If Ripley’s shitty self-centered brother had died, she’d be trying to save Burke, lol.

        • Dan B

          Yeah, well that’s just like your opinion, man

          • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

            Actually, I’m motivated by the recent loss of my film critic child and I’m not thinking straight. :)

          • Dan B

            Lol

    • BoSoxBoy

      Right, it’s been overused ad nauseam since Don’t Look Now (’73).

    • Wijnand Krabman

      I thought about it and you are right, all that horror shit has sad backstories. The horror script I wrote I intended to put a sad backstory in it, but at the end I didn’t use it, it was only a sidestory which didn’t affect the character or the story. Therefore my characters stay on top behaving rational in an irrational world. I didn’t understand why until I read your post, thanks for this insight.

  • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

    LOG 2: BALL

  • BMCHB
  • Poe_Serling

    HEY-

    With nightfall fast approaching…

    Does anyone have a ‘under the radar’ horror flick to recommend?

    During Halloween…

    Besides the usual classics, I always like to watch a film or two that I haven’t
    seen in the past. It can be new, old, or somewhere in-between. ;-)

    Oh, I tend to favor foreboding atmosphere over heavy violence/gore.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

    • BMCHB

      ”Threads”.

      1980s Cold War turns nuclear ‘what if’ film.

      Scare be shite out of me to this day.

      Should be on Youtube.

      • Poe_Serling

        A big fan of British horror… Dead of Night, Village of the D, Night
        of the Eagle, Wicker Man, Woman in Black, and a good deal of
        the Hammer pics.

        Appreciate the suggestion.

        • witwoud

          The Enfield Haunting? A TV mini-series from last year with Timothy Spall. It’s based on the same 1970s poltergeist incident as The Conjuring 2, but it’s more low-key. Worth seeing if you haven’t already and can find it.

          • Poe_Serling

            Just recently I read a bit about that particular haunting. Quite
            an interesting case – whether you believe in spirits or not.

    • Levres de Sang

      I thought of this one for you last night as I happened to rewatch one of your all-time fave pics — The Haunting. I’d seen it twice before and on those occasions I’d merely enjoyed it; but last night (seeing it on a much bigger screen, for one thing), I thought it was a supernatural masterpiece. The b&w cinematography is richly evocative (all those low angles are very Kane-like!) and it’s a mood that’s sustained wonderfully throughout.

      Anyway… a rather long-winded way of recommending The Night Child (aka. The Cursed Medallion) — an Italian production from the mid-70s. Yes, I’ve recommended it to you before, but back then I didn’t make the Richard Johnson connection! Even better, he virtually reprises his supernatural investigator role from The Haunting. That aside, it’s a wonderful film with Johnson once again caught between two women (three if you count his daughter) while making a documentary on a cursed painting. Also, the Arrow Films’ transfer is utterly gorgeous!

      ** Insubstantiated pet theory: De Palma must also have seen this film…

      • Poe_Serling

        You can’t go wrong with the original The Haunting, especially
        this time of the year.

        Lev, I always look forward to your insightful thoughts on cinema
        in general.

        • Levres de Sang

          Thanks Poe! :)

          ** Richard Johnson wasn’t the only British actor in mid-70s Italy reprising a classic role from a decade earlier. David Hemmings did Blow-Up all over again in Dario Argento’s Deep Red.

    • Acarl

      ‘I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House’ by Oz Perkins. Should be on Netflix rn

      • Poe_Serling

        Thanks for the heads-up. I’ve been waiting for that one to
        show up on Netflix.

        • Acarl

          Let me know your thoughts.

    • BoSoxBoy

      The Chicago Bears are playing on Monday Night Football. This year’s team is an epic horror show.

      • Poe_Serling

        i’m glad my team is ‘safely’ in the AFC. ;-)

      • Dan B

        Pleasantly surprised how well they played. Brian Hoyer does not win that game.

        • BoSoxBoy

          I was shocked, which is better than frightened. You are correct about Hoyer, though let’s face it, Cutler needs to go after this season. Too much bad history there.

    • Midnight Luck

      If anyone can ever find BLOODY WORMS, let me know. Scared the living shit out of me as a kid, but have never since found it.
      I think it must have been someone’s own indie film they played for some unsuspecting viewers at the drive in that day.
      Saw a double bill of HAROLD & MAUDE (which was just as terrifying to my little brain) along with BLOODY WORMS.

      It was as tragic and scary and awful as it sounds.
      At least for a young one https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9743cad9f93461d136e0da2631a74b8dbffba358f55d329fab6454fe8755476f.png .

      • Poe_Serling

        Perhaps you’re remembering the film Squirm… a ’70s flick.

        • Midnight Luck

          Nope. It was called Bloody Worms.
          It has been so burned into my brain since a child. I remember it splashing across the screen in terrifying goopy letters.

          -Unless they renamed it at some point or something.
          Maybe I was, without my knowledge, being a test child.

    • hickeyyy

      Every single year on Halloween, I have a tradition of watching Trick R Treat.

  • klmn
    • Poe_Serling

      The right film score can definitely up the chills/thrills
      factor and become a memorable part of the movie
      watching experience.

      Like the article mentioned, John Carpenter is on a world
      music tour proving that above point.

      • klmn

        It’s funny when he talks about how limited his musical skills are.

  • More Blood…lists

    On a day celebrating Death, here’s a little Life. Looks pretty interesting.

    http://scriptshadow.net/screenplay-review-life/

    • Malibo Jackk

      Hate it when I keep seeing trailers that remind
      of unfinished projects.

      • HRV

        Looks like another version of Alien to me.

  • klmn

    OT. Check this out, sports fans…

    • Malibo Jackk

      Kung Fu Panda.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Carson, that script you reviewed a while back, “Life”, FINALLY has a trailer. Saw it on Twitter and at a U-tube link, and it looks AWESOME! Kinda like “Gravity” meets “Prometheus”. Anyway, check out the trailer, it doesn’t disappoint. Can’t wait to see it May of 2017 IF the U.S. continues to exist as a nation in the aftermath of this year’s presidential election.

  • HRV

    Watched the thriller “Within”. This movie should not even exist based on the fact that houses are simply not constructed with double walls and ceilings. Air ducts are closed systems and generally too small for even children to fit in. And cabinets… The house had to be custom made for this movie to work. It was pretty good otherwise, but isn’t fully enjoyed if you’re aware of major technical issues.

  • jbird669

    figure out if you have a scene or you’re just using a scene to convey information, imagine that scene playing as a short film, with none of the movie playing before it or after it. Would it be entertaining to an audience?

    This is great advice!