Genre: Horror
Premise: A young woman inherits a curse where she’s followed by an entity that cannot be killed. The only way to get rid of it is to pass the curse on to someone else.
About: “It Follows” has been playing the festival circuit for a year, gaining momentum via ecstatic reviews from both critics and festival-goers alike. The film opened this weekend in four theaters across the U.S., grossing an average of 41,000 per theater. That’s the highest per-theater average of the year. It’s set to expand next weekend, and if it continues doing well, will continue to expand. Writer-director David Robert Mitchell is an unconventional choice for the most buzz-worthy horror director of the year. His only previous film was an indie comedy coming-of-age film titled “The Myth of the American Sleepover” and he claims that he’d like to keep jumping from genre to genre instead of being pigeonholed into horror.
Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Details: 100 minutes


A few people planning on submitting horror screenplays to The Scriptshadow 250 Contest have asked me, “What makes a screenplay scary?” And I reply, “Bad dialogue.” Haha, Carson. But seriously. You mean what makes a scary screenplay? Well, that’s a little harder to quantify. But I’ll tell you where it starts. It starts with making the reader believe in the characters and the world. The more realistic you can make the people inhabiting your story, the more we’ll believe they’re “real” like us. And thus, whenever they encounter dangerous situations, we won’t just be scared, we’ll FEAR for them. And I think that’s an important distinction to make. Being “scared” is fleeting and cheap. Genuine fear strikes deeper.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that that paragraph is somewhat gibberish without context. Anyone can say, “You have to make it more real n stuff!” So let me put it another way – If you’re trying to write a scary movie, you’ll fail. If you’re trying to write a movie about people in a scary situation, you’ll succeed. Do you see the difference? One is about cheap scares. The other is about a person experiencing fear.

And that brings us to It Follows, one of the more fascinating horror films I’ve ever seen. Now I’m not here to proclaim this film perfect. Actually, the screenplay is somewhat lacking, which I’ll get to later. However, the writer-director, Mitchell, seems to be aware of his limitations as a writer, and camouflages them in a way  where they’re practically invisible. It’s borderline miraculous how he pulls it off. And it goes to show the advantage the writer-director has. He can hide weaknesses in a script inside the filmmaking, a luxury the spec writer doesn’t have.

The plot here follows 19 year-old Jay (a female – I’m ready to give up trying to stop writers from giving their female characters male names), who’s trying to navigate the uncertain world of post high school. She meets a hot dude, Hugh, goes out with him, has sex with him, only to then be strangled by him until she passes out.

She wakes up strapped to a chair in an abandoned building where Hugh promptly apologizes, and informs her that he had sex with her to transfer this “curse” to her. The curse, he explains, means you will be followed by something, an entity of sorts, who will try to kill you. The only way to get rid of the curse is to have sex with someone else, passing it on to them. But if “it” gets to you, it will start going right down the line of the curse. In other words, if it kills her, it will come back and kill him, and so on and so forth. So please find someone else and transfer it quickly.  “It should be easy,” he encourages her.  “You’re a girl.”

That Hugh, what a charmer.

So Jay starts seeing people follow her that nobody else can see. And these people seem to be taking the form of past curse kills, people down the sexual line. This is where It Follows gets interesting. As we see the people following her (an old man, a mother, her father) we get these glimpses into the underbelly of this town and who’s had sex with who. It’s clear, in some cases, that rape was involved. And in others, it’s pure speculation – such as where did Jay’s father, who’s already dead at the beginning of the film, fall into this line? Who did he have sex with? It’s all rather mind-trippy, and the secret sauce that makes this horror story unlike any other – and that’s the thing we’re all trying to achieve – creating something unlike anything else.


Okay, let’s start with the screenplay here. This screenplay is suuuuuuuper-minimal. Which wouldn’t have worked on the page as a spec. Everyone would’ve said, “We need to explain this curse better. We need a scene where we explain the backstory of the dad,” and to be honest, I probably would’ve been one of them. On the page, it would’ve seemed like barely anything was going on.

But here are the things that directing can bring that screenwriting cannot. Cinematography, score, and overall vision. And in these areas, Mitchell knocks it out of the park. This is the first “real” horror film I’ve seen in forever where it doesn’t look like a Hollywood costume designer dressed all the characters. The characters are all wearing what real people wear and that went a long way towards making the characters feel authentic (see the importance of that back in the opening paragraph). Ditto the locations. We were never on a set or a perfectly chosen house in the perfect neighborhood. It looked like REAL America. That went a long way towards suspending my disbelief. That’s what I mean by vision.

Then there was the score. Which was really eeire. There were just these long drawn-out horns that never seemed to end and they added an unease that’s pretty much impossible to add on the page. Coupled with the amazing cinematography, these shots set a mood for the film that was like no other, which is one of the reasons the film is playing so well. It doesn’t feel like anything else you’ve seen. I mean, at one point, there’s an 870 degree shot. That’s right. Mitchell places the camera down, and slowly spins it around as we catch one conversation going on in one room, while one of the entities keeps getting closer and closer every time we pass the window. It’s super-freaky.

Because you’re so pulled in by these atmospheric touches, you’re not thinking about the fact that the story is far from perfect, or even logical for that matter. Jay’s mother lives in the house where Jay’s loudly attacked a couple of times, but seems to sleep through all of it. She’s also never around to offer support after Jay is essentially raped. The focus is squarely on the kids, which I think it should be, but this oversight was borderline ridiculous.

The minimalistic writing approach does help in some cases though. Paul, the geeky best friend who’s in love with Jay, engages in a satisfying emotional arc with her that’s spared from the overwriting that plagues most Hollywood scripts. We don’t exaggerate the big plot turn where she finally falls for him or anything like that. It’s all a lot more subtle, and helps the relationship achieve exactly what the rest of the script has achieved – a sense of realism.

So does this mean you should all go start writing minimalistic screenplays with barely any plot beats and parents who don’t know that their children exist? Assuming you’re not writing the next Peanuts movie, I wouldn’t recommend it. Actually, It Follows has an ace up its sleeve that allows it to pull this risky move off. It’s something I’ve brought up a lot recently: Come up with a concept that does the work for you.

The concept here – this notion of someone following you, trying to kill you, that in turn can’t be killed – is what keeps the story moving without Mitchell having to do much. The scenarios write themselves. Girl in a house, friends don’t believe her, then one of these things walks in, even though the friends can’t see it, and she must run for her life. This is the basis for most of the scenes in the screenplay, which are just set in different locations. But they work because the situation is freaking scary! Imagine being in a public place and anyone you see could be there to kill you. You’d go nuts!

On the flip side, I’ll read a script where there’s a ghost in a house and it runs out of juice quickly because the concept isn’t providing enough for the writer to work with. So you always want to make sure you have a concept that creates scenes for you. That way you won’t be sitting there on page 50 going, “Uhhhhh, what do I write next?” A good concept will fuel the majority of your scenes for you.

I’d recommend everyone go see this movie. It’s definitely “indie,” but it’s way more accessible than, say, “The Babadook,” which resulted in me losing recommendation privileges with a couple of my casual moviegoing friends (“That was borrrr-ing” said one. “I don’t get it.  There’s a children’s book that attacks people?” said another). What’s cool about It Follows is it still has a little camp left in it, a little bit of John Carpenter’s Halloween, so it feels more mainstream in that sense. Oh, and one last thing. If you come out of this film wondering where you can find a clam-shell reader, I’m sad to say I checked and there is no such thing. You’ll have to see the movie to understand this. Let me know what you think when you do!

[ ] what the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: “Concept” is the alcohol at the party. It does the hard work for you. If you’ve ever been to a party without alcohol and you feel the strain in the room as everyone tries really hard to talk to each other and look interested, you know what I mean. Give everyone drinks, however, and they loosen up, stop worrying, and start having fun. In other words, alcohol takes the strain out of the party. A good concept does the same. It lubricates the story so that everything just flows naturally. Of course, you can also bypass this analogy and just get drunk.  Which should help your writing as well.

  • hackofalltrade

    I’m not a horror fan, but this is intriguing and I want to see it. If anyone has this, I would love to read it. I’m also curious what you guys think about writing something like the “870 degree shot.” I wrote an opening scene with a similar concept, and when I asked for feedback multiple people said I was directing on the page. The scene didn’t work without “direction on the page,” and as the opening scene it was crucial to my overall plot. Is something like this only feasible to be pulled off by a writer/director? If so, that seems like such a shame.

    • Name

      When “they” say don’t direct on the page, I think they mean this don’t write EVERY camera move in there. One or two camera “flourishes” is fine.

      Just bear in mind that not everyone enjoys reading camera direction.

    • Matthew Garry

      Like Name says below, a couple of should be okay.

      One of the reasons you shouldn’t be using them a lot is that it takes a lot more time to read. Try and find the shooting script to “The Shining” (that should be readily available somewhere online) and read a couple of scenes/pages. Now read them again but take into account and interpret all the directions.

      You’ll probably notice it takes at least twice as long because you have to imagine everything very specifically. Where before you had a character entering a room, you now have a character entering a medium shot from the left. It adds a significant mental burden to a faithful read without adding much to the actual story.

      There’s also the matter of, if a story element doesn’t work when not presented
      in a very specific way, is it really a story element? That is, as a writer your primary responsibility is the story. A story should preferably have the same impact when told around a campfire as when it’s being told in a well funded production.

      And finally, camera directions are also a bit lazy. They’re often a shortcut for doing the hard work of making the eye follow along with a scene. Always try and see if you can creatively describe the equivalent camera direction in prose. Describe it in such a way that it plants a seed of and idea for a shot in the reading director’s mind so that they can feel they came up with the idea of that tracking shot themselves.

      Now if all of the above is not applicable or possible for the camera direction you need, by all means, put it in there. But hopefully it’s clear that it’s not actually needed all that often if you go about it creatively, and is actually detrimental to a read when overused.

      • brenkilco

        Agree. Careful action description most of the time will suggest the manner of shooting. The fewer camera directions the better. And personally, though I know others may disagree, I prefer phrases like he sees, we see and we move rather than Tracking, POV etc. Seems to preserve the sense of storytelling better.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Have to agree.
          Also use things like “Moving past” and “Seen through the window” or “Seen from”
          If you mix it up a bit, readers are less likely to notice. And you avoid the “we” haters.

          • Bifferspice

            bollocks to the we haters. if your script is good nobody will notice. write how you like.

        • ripleyy

          In the script version of DOOM, the first-person’s sequence is referred to, in script, in first-person (as in, “I see”, “I walk”). I haven’t read the Maniac script (the recent one with Elijah Wood), but it would be interesting to see how they write in first-person.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Interesting :)
            I just finished the first draft of my DEMON script (yes, literally 10mns ago – hooray for me!) and I experimented a bit this time with the POVs. Each time I had one, I’d write the directions in the first person (but not with “I see”, just briefly describing the action as seen through that particular character’s eyes, keeping in mind who they are and how they would perceive the situation). I don’t know how it’ll come over with the producer and the director but I think it adds a little something nice. Well, yeah, I would, I wrote it :D Anyway, it’s not something that bothers me per se if used sparingly and if it makes sense.

          • Poe_Serling

            Instead of POV/WE SEE/WE MOVE, I always liked how John Milius used the technique of ‘THE VIEW” to engage the reader and nudge us in the right direction.

            From Apocalypse NOW:

            “The VIEW widens to reveal…

            “The VIEW MOVES ACROSS the burning trees…”

            “The VIEW pushes deeper into the jungle…”

          • ripleyy

            I’m currently writing a horror that takes place in real time, completely in POV, which is a challenge but I’ve been basically writing it in third person, with a few “we see” and whatnot. I don’t to venture out too far and have it being unreadable.

            And congratulations. Now look forward to the empty feeling where you spend a few days being like “Now what can I do NEXT?”

            Screenwriters can get away from so much as long as the “style” is critical to the story. :)

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            I have two brand new ideas that I’ve been developing for a few weeks now ;) I like switching to another project when I’m stuck and it definitely helps that “Oh man, empty days ahead” feeling.

            Good luck with your script in writing. Feel free to send the first draft along :)

          • Ninjaneer

            What’s the premise for your script?

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Sorry for answering you this late – I was so tired last night that I switched off my computer after stopping by here…

            The premise for DEMON: Elisa and Marc move into the family home that she has inherited from her mother. The young woman’s presence stirs up her repressed childhood memories, awakening a horror far beyond simple thoughts…

            I’d love for you guys to read it and give me feedback but once more, it’s in French. One of my two new ideas will be written in English, though.

          • ripleyy

            Lucky you for having two ideas waiting. I wish I was fortunate like you. :( I’ll be sure to send you the script when I’ve finished it.

            As for “Demon” – it sounds really good! Looks like I have to take French lessons just to read it before anyone else ;D

    • Bifferspice

      “The scene didn’t work without “direction on the page,” and as the opening scene it was crucial to my overall plot.”

      there’s your answer. write what you need to write to get the thing across.

  • Name

    On concept: As I see, there are three components of a concept.

    The characters.
    The world the characters inhabit – location, subject matter, etc.
    The situation the characters find themselves in.

    Most concepts (loglines) focus on one element. Action-orientated stories usually benefit (my feeling) from making THE WORLD more interesting. An action movie that takes place on the Eiffel Tower will grab my attention more than an action movie that takes place in, say, a generic US city.

    Horror stories like IT FOLLOWS benefit from an unusual SITUATION, the irony that many people think should be in every logline (I disagree, though I understand the point they make).

    Focusing on characters is noble, but interesting characters in a dull situation in an all-too familiar world can make for a weary read.

    My feeling is that many screenwriters focus on situation (or maybe characters) but not enough on world. World (location or subject matter) stands out, and an awful lot of recent spec sales I would say are based on interesting subject matter more than anything.

    And it’s difficult to get too excited about someone’s script when it sounds just like everyone else’s.

    I don’t know, what do you think?

    • brenkilco

      On the contrary think of a concept as something that exists independent of character and context. A concept is even less than a premise which in turn is far less than a plot. A concept can be sold with a poster image and a bit of ad copy. The concept here – a deadly curse that the victim can only escape by passing it on to another- isn’t even original. In fact, it’s very, very old. It was the premise of The Ring fifteen years ago, and a well remembered Night Gallery Episode forty years ago, and The Night of The Demon Sixty Years Ago, and The M. R. James ghoster Casting The Runes a hundred years ago. What’s new here and potentially queasy- haven’t seen the movie- is that the curse isn’t passed by way of a runic parchment or a VHS tape but via sex. More calculated than clever but workable. Where it’s happening and to whom it’s happening and why it’s happening and exactly how the curse gets foiled, if it does, is all the province of plot. The concept doesn’t care. Part of the reason a concept can be endlessly recycled.

      • Ninjaneer

        “What’s new here and potentially queasy- haven’t seen the movie- is that the curse isn’t passed by way of a runic parchment or a VHS tape but via sex.”

        I think the strongest part of their take on this old concept is captured in the title, It Follows.

        You don’t have 7 days to wait around like in the ring. No matter where you go it follows you. It’s not a stupid haunted house you can just leave. It’s everywhere. That is creepy.

        • brenkilco

          But how closely is it following? Can’t criticize something I haven’t seen. But how is it horror movies about unseen, unstoppable, evil entities that they always give their victims scads of time to deal with the problem? You’ll die in seven days. Why seven days? Why not right now?Get off your ass, evil entity. What are you, a teamster?

          • Bifferspice

            you know what it’s like when you’re an evil entity. always with the procrastinating. “i should be going out to slowly follow that girl who slept with that bloke, cos, well, you know, but damned if i don’t suddenly really feel the need to reorder my CD collection…”

  • Cfrancis1

    Heard about this movie a while ago. The concept seemed cool if a little vague. But after reading your review, it makes more sense. Will definitely have to check this out.

  • Brainiac138

    If you have friends and acquaintances who said such things about The Babadook, Carson, then I think you need to find new circles to run in.

  • Pooh Bear

    I was hoping this would have more paranoia on who was the follower like John Carpenter’s The Thing or Fallen. But it sounds like it’s pretty effective.

  • Scott Strybos

    I’m confused by the concept. “if it” gets to you, it will start going right down the line of the curse. In other words, if it kills her, it will come back and kill him, and so on and so forth.”

    So if person D gives the curse to person E, and person E gets killed, the thing goes and kills person D. But does it then go and kill person C and B and A? Or does it only kill the last person in the curse line?

    Also if it kills person E and then it kills person D… how does it transfer to someone else?

    • klmn

      You’ll have to wait for the sequel, What Follows It Follows to find out.

      You follow?

      • brenkilco

        The confident producers shot the sequel simultaneously and it’ll be out by summer: Following Too Close.

    • Midnight Luck

      Man, you have to go and be a party pooper, getting all logical and complicated-y*.
      Come on, just go with it.
      Horror isn’t “Deep thoughts with Jack Handy”, they use less brain power, and more suspension of disbelief.
      All horror flicks have one giant illogical step, which if you think too much, will destroy the entire concept. But if you don’t, and you just go with it, well, everything works out splendidly.


      • Bifferspice

        not sure there’s anything illogical about this as it stands, but i’ve only heard what i’ve read here

    • Bifferspice

      i assume it keeps going back, and if it kills e and d, then person c has to sleep with someone else again.

      • Eric

        Yeah, it didn’t seem that complicated to me. The curse just reverts back to the previous person.

        • pmlove

          Sounds like a good romcom. Woman sleeps with lonely guy to get rid of demon, just to have him fall in love with her and not want to / can’t sleep with anyone else. Hilarity ensues.

    • Eddie Panta

      “IT” all started with Robert Durst.

    • Citizen M


    • davejc

      This is exactly the kind of thing I would be wondering out loud during the movie.( I have trouble getting people to go to movies with me)

      • Midnight Luck

        Me too.* The first thing I thought when Carson did his coverage of the movie, is exactly what Scott Strobes said above.
        I also analyze too much.
        But it was hard not to say “yes, but what if?”
        At that point, the logic of how this “curse” works, starts breaking down.

        I remember seeing the Trailer, and the movie did look interesting, and I really like how they are playing off the idea of this “Curse” being basically a Venereal Disease. That is actually a good concept.
        Add in that this VD is stalking those who gave it to the person who gave it to the person before you, and I really like the idea.


        *I have just given up on going to movies with anyone else. Plus, I like seeing them on my own best anyways.

        • Bifferspice

          i don’t understand people’s problems with the logic here. how does it begin breaking down?

    • BellBlaq

      And if person E is being stalked by the ghosts of persons A-C (which implies persons A-C have already been killed by “it”), when “it” finally gets person E, and then gets person D, will the curse just be over? Seems like person E should just take one for Team Humanity.

      • Bifferspice

        possibly, which makes it a good moral dilemma!

    • klmn

      It’s titled It Follows, not It Logically Follows.

  • shewrites

    Great post, Carson. Brilliant coment on the whole “pick a concept that does the work for you”. Not easy but if you can find one, like this writer/director did, what an edge this gives you.
    I’m far from a horror fan but I will definitely see It Follows when it hits my local theater. Thanks for the review.

  • brenkilco

    A script with a line like She sits camera right strikes me as very odd. Is this the original script or something created later, like a cutting continuity?

    If you read the script for Eyes Wide Shut, or even better read writer Raphael’s memoir, it becomes clear that Kubrick hated camera directions in his scripts. Raphael posited that Kubrick rather resented writers, not really being one himself, and preferred to get the minimum necessary from them so that there would never be any question that he was the ultimate creator of the film.

    • Name

      I think the danger – particularly for newcomers – is they find scripts on line, or buy published scripts, and they’re shooting scripts, or – worse! – in this case a POST-production script:

      Fortunately, these days there are more sample spec scrips (pro and amateur) available for people to look at.

      But I think people can see from this how an excess mention of camera angles slows down the read and distracts from the script (if you’re like me, you end up just reading the dialogue, which means you could miss important information).

      • brenkilco

        Yes, there is natural tendency to ignore camera directions esp if they are set off from the dialogue or description. One more reason to try and do without them.

    • Malibo Jackk

      It always bothers me when writers talk about movie making as being a collaborative effort.
      Why? Because the writers are often the fixers.
      A director says — I don’t like this. Fix it.
      An actor says — It’s not working for me. Fix it.
      Studio says — It’s too expensive. Fix it.

      And by the time the movie is released, everyone has forgotten that there was even a writer.

      • brenkilco

        What was it Goldman said? A producer would never dream of telling a sound guy how to record or a cinematographer how to shoot a scene or a production designer how to construct a set. But everybody thinks they can write.

  • Citizen M

    Interesting how Mitchell got the idea:

    ‘The germinating idea of the film – of Jay being followed, slowly but consistently, by a monster – came from nightmares Mitchell had as a child. “I remember having nightmares where something is following you, and in the nightmare it’s sort of slow and persistent. In the dream I was at the school playground. I looked over across the parking lot and saw this other kid walking towards me. Somehow I knew this was a monster. Then I started running away. I would run down a whole block and wait a moment, and then it would step out and keep walking towards me. It’s about the idea that something is consistently coming after you and it always knows where you are. The nightmare always sat with me. Somewhere as an adult I had the idea to build it into a film. I wrote it really quickly – it took about a week.”‘

    • ff

      “I wrote it quickly in about a week?” I’m sorry but that pretty much says it all. Again, not expecting much regardless of the praise.

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        The actual short writing time is not surprising at all but as has been discussed here before, that does not include the time spent thinking about the subject, developing it consciously and letting the unconscious take over when we’re working on other things, and also rewriting.

        • ff

          Of course. We’re all writers. This seems like it should be taken for granted.

          • Bifferspice

            so why does it say it all?

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for the review, Carson. I’ve been excited to see this one ever since I saw the trailer for it back in 2014.

    Every year, it always great to see these low-budget horror projects (The Babadook, The Innkeepers, and so on) bubble to the surface and find an audience.

  • Sean Reardon

    Nice joke at the start of your post! As I started to read about the concept of It Follows, my first tthought was that it was brilliant to make a vengeance seeking curse take the form of an STD. I will be giving this film a chance. I got burned by the last horror film (The Conjouring) I invested my hard-earned, discretionary entertainment dolars in. I agree that having a solid concept is important. I think sometimes, at face value, a concept may come off as too off-the-wall, yet still end up being a good screenplay film. When I first read the concept of Cinemax series Banshee, I watched the initial episode more out of morbid curiosity than thinkng I would like it I ened up loving it and getting hooked, I remeber thinking, I have to see how they try and pull this off.

  • ff

    The concept ain’t that exciting or original I’m sorry to say and I’m not expecting much…even after all the praise.

    • Ninjaneer

      What are some examples of movies/scripts you think are exciting or original or both?

  • mulesandmud

    Concept is the alcohol at the party?

    That’s two misfires in one thought. Not just a dubious screenwriting metaphor, but a lousy life lesson too. Bravo.

    Concept isn’t the lubricant of a screenplay, it’s the occasion. There’s no party without it. You don’t decide to write a script, and then pick up a six-pack of concept on the way to the typewriter. If the concept isn’t there to begin with, you probably shouldn’t be throwing this shindig at all.

    And hey, I have a bourbon shrine in my apartment just like any other god-fearing American, but folks who still think that alcohol is necessary to make a party fun need to move out of the screenwriting frat house ASAP.

    • davejc

      I’ll drink to that!

  • Kirk Diggler

    “But here are the things that directing can bring that screenwriting cannot. Cinematography, score, and overall vision.”

    Combine this with your ‘What I learned” and it adds up to the notion that screenwriting isn’t all that important.

  • Name

    I remember reading this old script a while back. Found it again, in pdf form:

    OK, it’s about 60 pages longer than a modern screenplay, and you can lose all the camera directions, but… I love the economy of the stage direction. It’s mostly dialogue. And bear in mind, this was a BIG movie, lots of action. Sometimes I think people don’t give readers enough credit to realize what’s happening in the scene.

    • Citizen M

      That’s a post-production script. It’s a record of the movie as shot, prepared for copyright purposes. It’s not Silliphant’s original draft.

  • Eddie Panta

    Great Post!

  • brenkilco

    But is a concept analogous to a strong foundation on which you can reliably build your story? Or is it more like the expensive siding you put on the house that catches the eye but may disguise termite infested wood and engineering defects guaranteed to bring the whole edifice down? A lot of seemingly killer concepts have resulted in lame movies. A premise isn’t a plot, which is really more akin to the architect’s design. And why am I continuing to beat this dead metaphor with a two by four?

    • mulesandmud

      I suspect this conversation is the real alcohol at the party. Tempting, sure, but the longer we stick with it, the hazier things are gonna get.

  • Citizen M

    Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

    Werner Herzog claims to have written the screenplay in two and a half days. He wrote a good portion of it while traveling with his soccer team, during games and on bus rides. Following one game, the team was very drunk, and the player seated behind Herzog vomited on his typewriter, ruining many pages of the script. Herzog was unable to salvage the pages, and tossed them out the window. He was also unable to recall what he’d written on them. — IMDb trivia

    • brenkilco

      Not sure how much of this kind of stuff to believe. Noel Coward claimed he wrote Blithe Spirit in a week. Ben Hecht supposedly completely rewrote the script of Gone With The Wind in Three Days. And R. L. Stevenson after having a nightmare supposedly both wrote and revised Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

      • Eric

        There’s also rewrites to take into account. I noticed none of these examples say, “I wrote it in 3 days and didn’t have to touch it ever again.” Hell, I’ve written a feature length screenplay in 9 days. Guess what? It mostly sucked and would take quite a lot of work to make it something worth showing. But if I ever did work into something great, you can bet I’ll tell people, “I wrote it in 9 days.”

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        I don’t think it’s all that exagerrated. This has only happened to me once, unfortunately, and, granted, it was for a short film but I woke up with the whole story in my head (out of the blue, I had never given it a single thought before that day) and wrote the 17 page script in half an hour. It was just there, pouring out on paper. And I wish it would happen more often :)

        • brenkilco

          Did you ever read the story about the poem Kubla Khan by Coleridge? You know In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree etc. Supposedly Sam woke up from an opium dream with the whole thing in his head and started banging it out. But he got distracted or called away and when he got back he’d forgotten how the rest of it was supposed to go. So he never finished it and didn’t allow it to be published for twenty years. Gotta get those dream ideas down quick.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            I didn’t know about this but it’s not surprising. I’ve noticed that myself which is why I start writing as soon as possible after waking up. the mind seems more open, less prone to doubts or start questioning this or that :) I used to keep a notebook on the nightstand because I often woke up in the middle of the night with an idea or an answer to a problem. Then I read n article about training your unconscious to not wake you up but hold on to the idea until you wake up at the time you’ve decided. It works but you still have to be quick :)

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      “He was also unable to recall what he’d written on them.”
      Well, this does explain that :D
      Just kidding, I think that AGUIRRE is a masterpiece (brilliantly reworked by Refn with VALHALLA RISING).

      Computer glitches happen to all of us nowadays, including losing paragraphs or, worse, pages that we’ve written. Supposedly, we only remember the good stuff when rewriting so it’s not so bad. I read an itw with a screenwriter (sorry, forgot who >.<) who said that after finishing the first draft, he put it away and rewrote the script completely, from memory. Good for him but that's a little scary :)

  • Darkline

    Good review Carson, I would argue minimal is better for horror. Some of the most seminal horror films have very simply plotted scripts that reside outside the traditional beats of screenplay structure. Texas Chainsaw, Halloween, Evil Dead, Alien, love or hate it -Blair witch, Paranormal activity, most have very basic plots and charatcers.

    A horror film builds often in the silences, and this is where a director gets to have fun. If the plot is constantly moving there’s no room for the foreboding to breathe, for the dread to build. You’re going for a raw emotional reaction and it’s often done by connecting to our fears and not by going on a fully fledged character journey. It’s a primal connection to the things that scare us, a reminder of our mortality.

    In fact I think if you do try to go too deep into character for a horror film, you can often dilute and ruin it. There’s a reason why most horror films have fairly generic surface characters, and that’s not because the people making them are unskilled, but rather they know where they want your focus to be, and it’s not on creating a protagonist like no other that jumps off the page, it’s about the average Joe (you) coming face to face with fear.

    It follows is a good reminder to keep things simple to be effective in this genre.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Feeling sick now.

  • Pugsley

    Someone may have already mentioned this, but Kevin Williamson was supposed to have written SCARY MOVIE – whose title was changed to SCREAM – in three days.

    The speed, or lack thereof, in the writing of a script is rarely a reflection of its quality.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Yes, I agree with this. I think it entirely depends on the story and our relationship to it.

      A few years ago, I wrote a first draft in two weeks after having spent only a month developing it (never happens to me – I need several months of prep before writing FADE IN), but it felt like I just had to start writing, that I had no choice in the matter. I sent it out to lots of people intrigued by what they thought was an interesting idea and despite its (many) flaws, they all loved it. Why? Because it’s one of the most personal stories that I’ve ever written and when you tap into universal feelings, people respond.

  • Mike.H

    I’ll be shallow and say typical coming of age trope.

    • JakeDubb

      Yeah, I’m sure. 80% on the Tomatometer isn’t bad though, even if it’s only out of 46 reviews.

  • Citizen M

    Chronicle is very fast. It’s a found-footage script. Two conventional fast scripts I read last year were Holland, Michigan and 37th Dimension.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Hate to say this.
    None are — “Damn. Wish I had thought of that.”
    Three strike me as movies I would like.
    Two others have me curious.
    (Maybe the ones kept under wraps are great.)

  • brenkilco

    Amazing work. I mean by Joe’s agent.

  • brenkilco

    Never said it wasn’t the concept that sells. It generally is and that’s one reason movies today are the way they are. Maybe some of these things will turn out well. Tough to tell anything from loglines. Still your post depressed the hell out of me. Great ideas?

    Arcadia: I don’t even want to know.

    Burning Woman: Dreary and generic

    Damsel: Kick ass Snow White worked. So here’s kick ass Rapunzel. Wouldn’t she keep tripping over her hair?

    Descendant: Village of the Damned remakes never make money.

    Extremis: Remember that fifteen minute bit in Die Hard 3? Let’s inflate it into a whole movie.

    Hunt, Capture kill. Escape from New York but more rural.

    Repeat Year: Groundhog Day but 365 times better.

    Solitary: Didn’t Stallone and Schwarzenegger just do this?

    Sisters: Actually this one sounds a little intriguing. Still not a high batting average.

  • HRV

    Started watching the movie. It’s interesting, but so sloooowwww.