Genre: Found-footage Horror
Premise: A young man finds himself “marked” by a witch who lives below him.
About: Feeling that their franchise was getting stale, Paranormal Activity decided to take its newest entry in a different direction. The Latino audience for PA has always been huge, so they decided to create a PA movie specifically for them. Writer/director Christopher Landon scripted PA 2, 3 AND 4 (if you want to talk about “series fatigue,” I actually thought the fourth one was the third one until I wrote this review). Landon’s break-out writing credit was 2007’s Disturbia. It’s just coming to light now that Shia LaBeouf plagiarized his entire performance from the film. Landon is the son of famous TV star, Michael Landon, who headlined one of the biggest TV shows ever, Little House On The Prairie.
Writer: Christopher Landon
Details: 87 minutes long


The last Paranormal Activity was really bad. It’s hard to remember anything about it because it was so terrible, but what I do remember is that ¾ of the movie went by before anything happened. No story, no scares, no nothing. The creators of Paranormal Activity finally realized that their format was broken and they needed to look in another direction. I mean come on, how many times can you show a clip of someone sleeping with a counter in the bottom corner?

Here’s the thing though – the found footage genre is not dead. Oh no, my friends, it’s not even close. Any time a found footage film makes 19 million its opening weekend, its genre isn’t dead. That’s because of found footage’s unique advantage over other genres. It can be made with no name actors (who cost nothing!), and is super-cheap to produce. In fact, writer/director Christopher Landon defends the format best (in an interview he did on Crave Online) – “You know, it’s funny. I don’t think found footage is in danger of running out. I think it’s in that process now where I think we’re going to obviously start to see more and more movies that are tackling different genres through that lens. I think you’re going to see more comedies. I think we’re going to see a lot of sci-fi movies. I don’t think it’s going away entirely.

“Sometimes it reminds me of when reality TV first really hit and was growing. There was a lot of pushback and people saying, “Oh, it’s going to go away, it’s going to go away.” But it didn’t go away. It just changed a lot. That’s kind of where I see it going because there’s a thing that’s happened in our culture, a thing called YouTube which has completely changed the way that we experience movies because people are out there making stuff all the time and capturing moments, so there’s a certain language that I think we’ve adopted. So I think that the found footage format connects to that. I think it’s very relatable to people, even if you’re not necessarily making a “found footage” movie. I think the style of it connects with the audience in a way that traditional movies don’t.”

So what was The Marked Ones about? Well, the good news is we’re not stuck in a freaking house the entire running time. Best friends Jesse (the straight guy) and Hector (the funny one) have just graduated high school. They live in a lower-middle class apartment complex on the East side of Los Angeles that for all intents and purposes seems to be a group of chirpy, happy people.

That is except for Anna, their mysterious first floor neighbor. There have been rumors going around forever that Anna is a witch, but we never get her side of the story because she’s KILLED by one of Jesse and Hector’s friends from school. Being the high school trouble-makers that they are, the two investigate Anna’s now-abandoned apartment, and find a lot of spooky witch shit laying around.

Soon after, Jesse begins experiencing mood swings, as well as super strength and exceptional skate board ability (no seriously!). Hector, being his eternally cheery self, has to get it all on video, and even uploads the feats to Youtube (in one of the funnier lines of the movie, the youtube crowd belittles the tricks as mere “cheap effects.” Disappointed, Hector says, “Man, the people who comment here are so negative,” in a way that only fellow internet posters can truly understand).

After awhile, it’s clear that with these new found abilities, Jesse is also losing control of himself. When he’s finally kidnapped by a witch coven that plans to take advantage of his powers, Hector and some hard core gang members head to the coven’s home to get him back. As you might imagine, it doesn’t go well.

The biggest lesson of this movie is that people get tired of the same old crap. So after awhile, you can’t keep dishing it to them (Paranormal Activity 4). By adding a Chronicle aspect to the franchise (gaining powers) combined with a different culture (than the boring middle class white family) as well as getting out of the damn house, made The Marked Ones “fresh” enough to be enjoyable.

See there was a time when the claustrophobia of staying inside the house the whole movie worked. But not after four damn movies. That’s one of your jobs as a writer – to recognize what the general audience is getting bored of and adding a fresh angle to it. But this review isn’t so much about breaking down the movie as it is helping you write your own found footage film. I’ve read a good 50-60 found footage scripts and seen probably 20 found footage films. This is what I’ve discovered.

It’s becoming more and more accepted in these found footage movies that someone is holding a camera the whole time, even if it doesn’t make complete sense. Why hold a camera towards a monster that’s chasing you? Wouldn’t it be shaking by your side as you pump your arms running? But we still see it. Despite this practice becoming more common, it’s highly advisable that you motivate the reason why your characters are holding a camera. The thing with found footage is that it’s supposed to feel like REAL LIFE. So anything your characters are doing that doesn’t follow logic, alerts the reader/audience that it’s not real life. And their suspension of disbelief collapses.

You gotta bring the funny in FF. If you watch any family or friend’s video, someone (the cameraman, the person in front of the camera) is trying to be funny. It’s that age-old belief that once the camera comes on, you’re supposed to entertain. Paranormal Activity works best when it has that joker character (the husband from the first one, Hector from this one) making fun of shit. If someone isn’t joking around at least periodically, something about the “found footage” is going to feel off.

There should be no traditional character arcs in a found footage film. This isn’t Titanic where Rose finally learns how to enjoy life and follow her dreams. This is supposed to be REAL LIFE. People don’t typically change in real life. So if you try these big sweeping character arcs, they feel false, and expose the ruse of your “found footage.” Instead, let your characters change through the circumstances surrounding them. For example, Jesse changes because he’s marked, and starts losing control of himself. Hector changes because his best friend is acting weird and he’s scared for him.

Keep the script short. When it comes to found footage, the audience treats it almost like watching clips on Youtube. Their attention span for watching “real life” is shorter. So you can’t have these big long found footage movies. And really, the thing that creates screenplay bulk is complex storylines and lots of character development, something a found footage film should traditionally have none of. The Marked Ones was only 87 minutes.

This may seem like a small tip, but it’s an important one. Have at least ONE SCENE in your found footage script where the camera is used in an inventive/clever way. Or maybe a better way to put it is, make your camera become part of the story. One of the best scenes in The Marked Ones happens early on when they’re hearing strange noises coming from Anna’s place below them. So they tie the camera to a rope and lower it down the heating vent, looking at the video feed through Anna’s vent to see what’s going on. It’s an exciting scene because the camera’s now an actual part of the story. This is FOUND FOOTAGE, so you have to use that hand-held camera in interesting ways.

I think the hardest thing about writing Found Footage is that in real life, nothing happens. In movies, things constantly happen. So you’re trying to make a format entertaining that shouldn’t be entertaining. I mean who’s ever been stuck watching your Aunt Carol’s videos of her daughter’s figure skating lessons?

The great thing about Found Footage, though, is that it doesn’t have to be so perfectly linear and connected. You can use the power of the “Cut to black” (which The Marked Ones does constantly) and jump forward a week in time without the audience being jarred. You just can’t do that in a traditional film. A jump in time must be nuanced. In many ways, and I especially noticed this with The Marked Ones, Found Footage is just a bunch of selected vignettes tied together with “Cut to blacks.” Find the interesting scene that best tells the story. Then jump forward in time to the next interesting scene that tells the story.

I think whereas it was once okay to take the Paranormal Activity approach and have “nothing” happen for the first 60 minutes, audiences are getting more impatient with this format and so want the fun quicker. I don’t remember exactly where it happens in The Marked Ones, but Jesse and Hector’s friend from school kills Anna at around the 20 minute mark, a much earlier “inciting incident” than happens in any of the previous Paranormal Activity films.

Finally, I think it’s worth noting that this genre is still relatively young and therefore open to new ideas. If you’re not willing to play with the format in some way upon writing a FF film, don’t expect your FF script to stand out from the pack. And that’s exactly what producers interested in this format are looking for. Found footage films that are a little different in some way.

What about you guys? What have you found are the necessary components for a good found footage script?

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

What I learned: Emotional anchors. Every film, whether it be traditional or found footage, should have an “emotional anchor,” an emotional centerpiece the story can keep coming back to. As Landon points out in his interview I linked above, he wanted the emotional anchor of The Marked Ones to be this friendship between Jesse and Hector.

  • Poe_Serling

    “… it’s worth noting that this genre is still relatively young and therefore open to new ideas.”

    Plus, found footage films are potential goldmines for studios/producers. No name actors + Limited sets + Hand-held camera work + Very little or no CGI + a barebone script with a lot of improv during filming = modest budget.

    I’ll admit it – I’ve enjoyed the Paranormal Activity films. I feel there’s something inherently spooky about strange things happening in your household when your sleeping, away at work, etc.

    Just recently I caught the Paranormal Activity ripoff Paranormal Entity on the Chiller network. And to be honest, I found it to be creepily effective time killer too.

    • Acarl

      I found Paranormal Entity to be very effective as well.

      • Poe_Serling

        Yeah, it’s one of those straight-to-video flicks that you just happen to catch on TV and think to yourself ‘I’ll watch it for a minute or so.’ Then two hours later… you find yourself saying, ‘Hey, that wasn’t half bad.’

        The writer/director/co-star of PE is Shane Van Dyke (grandson of Dick Van Dyke). He had a recent spec sale with another project called The Watching Hour.

    • Matty

      I’m shocked to hear you say you thought Paranormal Entity was effective, in any way. I haven’t seen it, but it was made by The Asylum, who if you don’t know, capitalizes on the success of other films by very quickly making shitty straight-to-DVD movies and altering the title just slightly to confuse people. It works too, they’ve never lost money on a film (even including some lawsuits). But I’m shocked if they made something with even a hint of value.

      They are the guys who made Sharknado, after all. Which actually isn’t a complete ripoff piggybacking on the success of another film, like pretty much everything else they do (Paranormal Entity obviously included).

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey Matty-

        Oh yeah, I’m familiar with Asylum’s output… I’m wearing my Mega Piranha t-shirt and drinking from my Transmorphers 2 mug as I’m typing this (just kidding, of course).

        When I watched PE on the Chiller network, I wasn’t aware that it was an Asylum production. To be perfectly honest, it thought it was just one of Chiller’s low-budget horror efforts.

        And when it comes to PE, I’ll stand by my ‘glowing’ review: creepily effective and not half bad. ;-)

        **Thanks for the link to The Vatican Files. I’ve been looking forward to that film for quite a while.

        • Matty

          I was first acquainted with them when I rented “Terminators” (off the release of Terminator Salvation) at blockbuster. Though, I purposely rented it – my friends and I used to watch shitty movies all the time because they’re funny and it looked shitty.

          And then I’ve seen some others, but honestly most of them aren’t “so bad it’s funny” like The Room or Birdemic, they’re mostly just bad. So we moved on to other films. The horror genre is the best place to look if you want “so bad it’s funny” movies.

          And yeah, I really want to see The Vatican Tapes if they ever make it. I’m not a fan of exorcism movies at this point, but that’s one I could get behind.

      • John Bradley

        Sharknado was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Not sure why everyone involved hasn’t received an Oscar yet.

  • John Bradley

    I’ve only seen one of the PA movies and it was okay. My favorite found footage flick is Cloverfield, great graphics, plenty of GSU, JJ Abrams produced. There was definitely some character arcing going on in that one. Chronicle was also another great one. I just always have such low expectations for these types of films, so I’m glad to here this one got a good review. I might check it out.

    • klmn

      Have you seen Cannibal Holocaust?

      • John Bradley

        I have not, is it good. Perhaps on Netflix?

        • klmn

          If you like exploitation films. Don’t use Netflix, you might check.

          • John Bradley

            Sweet I’ll remember the name and keep an eye out for it.

        • davejc

          You can find the whole movie on Youtube. There’s not another movie like it because the story (which is about exploitational filmmakers who stage gruesome events and pass them off as real) mirrors the real life experience of the actual filmmakers who after making this exploitation film found themselves charged with murder and had to prove in Italian Court they only staged the murders in Cannibal Holocaust, making the film a satire of itself. Pretty slick!

          • John Bradley

            Well now I’m more interested in the court case! That’s pretty fascinating.

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        The first FF movie ever, I believe ? I rewatched it last summer and while I’ve turned away from that much gratuitous violence since discovering the horror/gore genre +20 years ago, it still works very well in that format. I still can’t watch the animal snuff, though, which is a lot worse in Deodato’s Ultimo Mondo Cannibale/The Last Survivor but I still find it a better movie than CH.

        • klmn

          I think it might be the first FF movie. But I can’t be sure.

          • Matty

            It is

      • davejc

        The interesting thing about Cannibal Holocaust is it’s a satire of itself. Only an Italian director could have pulled that off.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Another great FF to check out is Barry Levinson’s THE BAY. I’m really not a fan of FF for the reasons that Garrett_h mentions below but this really exploits the format in such a way that you forget you’re watching a FF movie (much like CHRONICLE, in my opinion). I’m toying with the idea of writing one myself but not until the right idea comes along and especially the reasons for why it should be filmed as FF and not in the standard way.

      Oh, reminds me of another FF movie I liked, The Dyatlov Pass, except the director’s hand was too obvious at times which gives the movie a very clean feel. The story is a little messy and only makes sense at the end but still, it’s worth watching.

      • John Bradley

        I always figured if I were to write a found footage, I would also make it a contained thriller. Combine the two. Maybe a birthday party gone wrong lol. Maybe something in a dark place where they need the camera for light.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Exactly. Or maybe have a protag whose eyes are so sensitive to light they need to wear sunglasses all the time and are only really comfortable in the dark. Maybe they get stuck in a place where there’s no darkness or something… Just floating ideas around :)

          • John Bradley

            Ooh a movie in Google glasses would be kinda cool!

        • Matty

          REC did that (and of course its not-as-good but still decent remake, Quarantine). As did the first Paranormal Activity (I never watched any of the sequels/prequels/whatever the hell they are). Obviously not nearly as contained as Buried, though ;-)

          • gazrow

            “Obviously not nearly as contained as Buried, though”

            Buried was great. That and The Disappearance of Alice Creed are what inspired me to take a crack at the contained thriller. Though after several rewrites, my own effort, Offline ended up as a murder mystery/supernatural horror rather than a straight up thriller! I did however manage to keep it contained – 99% of the story takes place in the protags bedroom! :)

          • Poe_Serling

            “Offline ended up as a murder mystery/supernatural horror rather than a straight up thriller”

            Offline was one of my favorite projects from last year’s batch of AOW/AF selections. I thought it was a very clever reworking of Rear Window for the internet generation.

            Like today’s topic of found footage films, I could picture someone scooping up Offline and producing it on a shoestring budget.

          • gazrow

            Hey Poe – Thanks for the kind words about Offline! I must admit I did think it would attract more industry interest – particularly, as you rightly say, it could be produced on a “shoestring budget!”

            But then, you’re one of only a handful of people to have read the rewrite and seen the improvements I made!

            Hmmm… maybe I’ll take another crack at AOW with it?! :)

          • Poe_Serling

            “… maybe I’ll take another crack at AOW with it.”

            You should. I don’t think there’s any strict rules against re-submitting a project for another go at the AOW.

            And if I remember correctly, Offline and a couple of the other projects back then were in quite a heated race for the one AF slot.

          • gazrow

            “And if I remember correctly, Offline and a couple of the other projects back then were in quite a heated race for the one AF slot.”

            Yeah – it was almost a dead heat! One of the other scripts that narrowly missed out ‘Where the Butterflies Die’ was a good script and would also be worthy of Amateur Friday imo.

          • Linkthis83

            Okay, okay. I know you’re looking straight at me when you say that. I know I still need to read the rewrite. I’m sorry. But I don’t need you putting me on blast on the internet for my lack of consideration regarding your awesome idea!! Geez.

          • gazrow

            Ha-Ha! Good to hear from you….at last! Seriously, though. You put that much time and effort into the earlier draft that if you never get around to cracking open the rewrite it’s fine by me. :)

          • Linkthis83

            No way, man. I love the premise. It needs some freaking momentum.


            were you politely saying that there’s no chance you’d use my notes because the last time they were awful and that I shouldn’t bother? Hmmmm????

          • gazrow

            Well, if you’d read the rewrite you’d see that I actually incorporated some of your notes!! :)

          • John Bradley

            Yes I have seen 2 of the Quarantine movies, they weren’t that bad actually. Good call Matty!

          • gazrow

            I really liked the first Quarantine – Though the fact that it starred the lovely Jennifer Carpenter who I’ve had a major crush on since seeing her in Dexter might have something to do with it?!

      • ripleyy

        Man, “The Bay” was scary as shit. I loved it, because it was FF but it used a documentary approach to tell its story. Plus, the story literally changes as it goes along.

      • Poe_Serling

        Gotta agree… The Bay was a solid entry in the found footage category of filmmaking. I really liked the whole eco-horror aspect of the project.

        Also, the Dyatlov Pass incident has always been a fascinating mystery to me, so I’m happy to see that the film gets your ‘still worth watching’ stamp of approval.

        Over here, the film is entitled Devil’s Pass.

        Actually, I’ve been kind of shying away from it because of the Renny Harlin factor. Now, based on your recommendation, I’ll definitely give it a spin on Netflix. ;-)

  • John Bradley

    I was just watching Man on the Moon and came up with a Scriptshadow conspiracy theory. I believe that Carson is like Andy Kaufman and that Grendl is his Tony Clifton. They are one in the same aNd that Grendl is a character Carson created to drum up controversy and tell off people without people knowing it’s him. All their back and forth is really just a cover. Brilliant move Carson, brilliant move.

    • ximan

      LOL, I don’t think so. Their writing styles are COMPLETELY different!

      • John Bradley

        That just means he is really dedicated to the ruse!

        • Trek

          You know, in all seriousness, one of these days Carson should stick one of his scripts into an AOW so we can get an idea of what his own script writing style is. And, if it gets selected, he should let Lauren write the review. :)

          • klmn

            Or let Grendl write it.

          • John Bradley

            Haha oh god both those ideas would be amazing!

          • Trek

            Ah! Grendl approves! Such an epic idea. :)

          • John Bradley

            Yeah that would be gangbusters. I bet you could sell tickets to view it and the thread.

          • Trek

            For that matter, you could sell this on DVD! Just screen capture the website and BAM! Instant money! With royalties split between Grendl and Carson, of course. :)

          • Donnie

            Awesome idea.

            A guy who doesn’t know the first thing about writing a Hollywood spec reviewing a guy who couldn’t write a really good one.

            All tinged with the Irony that neither of them has produced anything remotely sellable.

            Sign me up!

          • gazrow

            What’s even more ironic is that you Done Deal Pro Carson haters can’t seem to stay away from this site!!!!

          • Donnie

            Hark, what’s that noise I hear?

            It’s probably just the wind!!!

          • gazrow

            Yeah – And it’s coming outta your own ass!!!

          • Donnie

            There’s nothing to this writing lark!!! No talent needed!!!! Just lots of exclamation points!!!!

          • gazrow


          • Donnie

            Exactly how I felt trying to get through “Offline.”

          • drifting in space

            Stop feeding the trolls, y’all.

          • gazrow

            Damn! I knew I should have thrown in a few more exclamation points to liven things up!!!!!!!! :)

          • drifting in space

            When I read it, that is exactly how I felt.

            A beautiful brunette flashes up on the screen.


            Should have been:

            A beautiful brunette flashes up on the screen!!!!!!!!


          • gazrow


  • garrett_h

    Glad to see ScriptShadow tackle found footage again!

    FF gets a lot of hate and I don’t really understand why. I guess people just assume it’s “easy” to do? Just film a bunch of crap and throw it up on screen! Well let me tell you, the FF I’ve been writing with my bro has been quite the task and has gone through several revisions. Not just a bunch of jump scares. It may not be period epic hard, but it is a task. Especially if you want to do it right.

    Or they claim that every FF film is a knockoff of Blair Witch Project? Which they aren’t. Look, it’s a trope. A tool. You’re manipulating the audience into thinking it’s real because of the camera. Does that make every slasher movie a knockoff of Friday the 13th because, “Hey! He used an axe! Now a chainsaw! Now a butcher knife!” Or every mob movie a knockoff of Godfather cause someone gets whacked? Nope. Other types of films share similarities but are never dismissed for them like FF.

    Look, I’m not saying it’s high art. Leave that to Wes Anderson (and if he every makes a FF film, I’ll be first in line!). But don’t dismiss it just because it doesn’t suit your taste. And don’t expect it to die when it can be filmed for $1 million, marketed for $20-30 million (or even less, if you use the viral approach), then gross $80-100 million worldwide. Studios would be INSANE to turn down that kind of potential return. It’s not going anywhere.

    As for Carson’s suggestions regarding how to make one good, he’s already hit on a few of the key points I considered when plotting our script. First, you HAVE to give them a reason to hold the camera. To many times I want to say, DROP THE CAMERA AND RUN. It’s the most annoying thing. Some scenes are unavoidable. Like the “looking at the monster” one Carson cites. The audience has to see the monster. I’ll forgive that. But in some cases, it’s like, “Why is this being filmed?”

    Also, I’ve read a few FF scripts where it’s literally impossible for ANYONE to be filming. Like, who’s holding the camera? And where? And how?

    There’s a couple other things, but the MAJOR one for me is, before you sit down to write one, ask yourself if this premise would work just as well as a standard film? A few of the scripts I’ve read, I’m like, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this movie already, just without the camera, and it was 100x better. WHY IS THIS BEING FILMED?

    The first PA answered that question. The guy wanted to figure out wtf was going on in his house. A bunch of FF I’ve read (and I’ve read at least 20+), that question never gets answered. And now you’re just groaning through the read wondering why.

    OK, time to shut this post down. Haven’t seen Marked Ones yet, but it’s been on my radar. Another is Devil’s Due, a FF of Rosemary’s Baby of sorts. And can’t wait to see what other genres take the FF approach.

    • Matty

      I don’t mind FF at all. But many people dismiss it/dislike it because, in certain ways, it is a gimmick, kind of like 3D (not that bad though). And, as you have pointed out, some films only use it as a gimmick – they barely give any reason at all that the person is filming this stuff. Which, like you said, you need to give the person a good reason to be holding the camera rather than running the fuck away. “Why is it being filmed?” If you can’t give a solid, non-debatable answer to that, it shouldn’t be FF.

    • A Tribe Called Guest

      Good post, dude. It’s easy to dogpile on something relatively new to the industry and ignore the changes and innovations its brought.

      How has the writing process been on your FF project? Sounds difficult :-S

  • Dan J Caslaw

    LaBeouf ripped off his performance in Disturbia? What’s all this about? Google’s not helping me find this story.

    • Wes Mantooth

      I think ol’ Carson was yankin’ yer chain with that one, Dan.

    • Chris Mulligan

      Yep. He sky wrote an apology to Jimmy Stewart.

      • gazrow


  • Panos Tsapanidis

    Carson, I think the way you wrote this article, combining the movie’s review with the “How to write a found footage film” is brilliant. You’ve managed to pack way more useful information in it then you usually do.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Michael Curtiz was a Hungarian-born director who spoke broken English.
    I love this exchange from the making of Casablanca:

    Michael Curtiz, director, arranging a scene during ‘Casablanca’: Wery nice, but I vant a poodle.
    Prop master: But you never asked for one. We don’t have one!
    Curtiz: Vell, get one.
    Prop master: What color?
    Curtiz: Dark, you idiot, we’re not shooting in color!
    [A few minutes later, Curtiz is called out to see a standard poodle.]
    Curtiz: Vat do I vant with this goddam dog!
    Prop master: You said you wanted a poodle, Mr. Curtiz.
    I vanted a poodle in the street! A poodle. A poodle of water! The next
    time I want some dumb son of a bitch to do something, I’ll do it myself.

    (Thanks to Cinephilia and Beyond.)

  • ximan

    Thanks for the article, C! No kidding, I just changed the genre of my latest script idea to FF after reading this!! You’re an inspiration bro. (Sometimes, lol)

  • ThomasBrownen

    Off topic, but I finally got around to seeing Saving Mr. Banks yesterday, and I absolutely loved it. I really liked the script, and liked the movie just as much… if not more.

  • Alex Palmer

    Has anyone seen the short film “Noah”? It’s an ingenious short, and it points to a really fascinating direction FF could take.

    I’m calling it: there is going to be an NSA internet FF film that will be like a cross between The Lives of Others Man Bites Dog. And it will win a load of awards,

  • Matty

    One of the best found footage scripts I’ve read – and just simply one of the best horror scripts I’ve read – is The Vatican Tapes. Carson reviewed it a good while back. Not only was it FF, but it was yet ANOTHER exorcism story. But I’ll be damned if none of that mattered; it was a hell of a scary script.

    Vatican Tapes is not just my go-to example of fabulous horror writing, but a go-to example of great visual screenwriting period. With horror especially, your word choice in the actions/descriptions is SO important; you have to be able to conjure up those creepy visuals, that disturbing atmosphere… when someone writes an effective horror script like that, it’s quite an accomplishment. Not undermining the value of great visual writing in any genre, but I’ve read dramatic scripts that had fairly average descriptions/action lines, but still moved me greatly. Horror is a different animal, because no other genre (usually) ever strikes the emotional chords it does.

    If anybody is thinking about writing a FF script (which most of the time tends to be horror), or even just a regular horror script, I HIGHLY suggest reading this. It’s a great example of how to format FF, and a great example of how to use visual writing, precise word choice, and scene structure to create effective scares.

    I uploaded it to sendspace:

    • gazrow

      Thanks Matty! Will definitely check this one out! I see it’s only 80 pages too! Sweet! :)

      • Matty

        Yeah, it’s a damn fast read.

        • drifting in space

          I shall read as I have a FF idea on the back burner.

    • Fistacuffs

      Thanks, dude! I was just about to search for the script until I saw you posted it.

    • Jim Dandy

      Hi, that upload site wouldn’t let me download it (maybe it’s an international thing). Can you please send that script to me at

    • Bfied

      Thank you!

    • TruckDweller

      Thanks so much!

  • RoseAngelus

    Nice Review. I enjoyed it as well. Step up from that last one.

  • andyjaxfl

    Completely off-topic, but Steven Spielberg and Steve Zaillian are rewriting a 50-year old script about Cortes and Montezuma and the Spanish Conquest of Mexico in 1519 for Javier Bardem. I studied the time period extensively in college (I still obsess over it today, reading any new book or article I can find) and I’m pretty excited at the possibility of this tragic story making it to the big screen. The story is loaded with GSU with an endless amount of interesting historical figures that should translate into memorable supporting characters — some tragic, some heroic, some villainous.

    It will probably take a three hour movie to do the story justice, but there’s enough gripping drama to make that three hours seem like one. Ron Howard and Brian Helgeland tried a few years ago (The Serpent and the Eagle) and Nicolas Kazan wrote a script called Cortes that was almost made about a decade ago with Antonio Banderas. Both are pretty good, though I’d give Helgeland’s script the advantage with its more interesting supporting characters.

    Anyways, I’m pretty excited for this one if it comes together.

    • TruckDweller

      Sounds great to me. I hope it’s found footage.

    • A Tribe Called Guest

      I saw the news yesterday! Sounds like an awesome idea.

  • fragglewriter

    Even though I love comedies, I’m not a fan of found footage movies. Hated “Chronicle” but loved “Project X.”

    The emotional arc in found footage is interesting What I Learned tip.

    1) Would a secondary plot be necessary or is the time jumping suffice?
    2) Even though comedy, sic-fi and horror seem to dominant the found footage, do you think action or even drama has a place in found footage?

  • A Tribe Called Guest

    Good call posting the Crave interview, man! This article had some interesting points.