note: (9/23/11) Since these drafts, Aaron Sorkin came on to do a final rewrite on the script, which is the one that eventually went in front of the cameras.
To get caught up on what exactly “Moneyball” is and the drama that occurred this week, go here to find out.
Genre: Sports Bio
Premise: A general manager with the lowest payroll in baseball invents a new way of scouting involving little-known but very powerful statistics.
About: Based on a true story. Adapted from the book by Michael Lewis. Moneyball came to the attention of everyone when Sony Exec Amy Pascal shut down the movie 3 days before the start of production due to Soderbergh’s rewrite of the script (episode of Entourage anyone?)
Writers: Steven Zaillian (Dec. Draft)- Steven Soderbergh (June shooting draft) — Edit: I thought I’d mention this because people keep bringing it up. There is a May Zaillian draft that I’ve been told is quite different from the December draft I read. Some of the things I liked in that Dec. draft were missing from Zaillian’s subsequent draft (meaning it wasn’t Soderbergh’s sole choice to get rid of them).
Do you know the kind of balls it takes to shut down the production of a Brad Pitt movie? When Brad Pitt says he’ll do your movie, 20 million dollars or not, he’s doing *you* a favor. And it’s not like Pitt hasn’t picked up and walked off on a whim before. Anybody remember The Fountain? – And that was before he met the baby buyer. Nowadays Brad goes out for groceries and he comes home to two more kids. So the fact that Amy Pascal, Chairman of Sony Studios, halted production on Moneyball upon reading the most recent draft by Soderbergh is a BFD. The question is, what happened? Well, we all know Soderbergh has a seriously off-kilter approach to directing. Given some room, he’ll turn your straightforward sports tale into a series of flashbacks and flashforwards with Spanish subtitles and 97 minutes of voice over. Lucky for you, Scriptshadow’s got both drafts and will get to the bottom of this mess. Did Soderbergh destroy Moneyball? Did Pascal overreact? Read on to find out.
STEVEN ZAILLIAN DRAFT
Baseball is a game of numbers. No other sport in the world depends more on numbers than baseball . From singles to doubles to home runs to RBIs to errors to batting averages to slugging percentages to on-base percentages, the sport *is* its numbers. And it’s those numbers that form the nucleus of Moneyball’s story.
I’m sure when I say the name Billy Beane, it doesn’t mean much to you. But you say the name Billy Beane in baseball circles, and it means a hell of a damn lot. Billy Beane is the general manager of the Oakland A’s. The Oakland A’s are one of the smallest markets in Major League Baseball. To give you an idea of how small, the Yankees payroll is 120 million dollars. The A’s payroll? 40 million. Do the math. So the question is: How do you compete in a league where every other team has at least twice as much money as you do?
Billy is a complicated man. He loves the grind but hates watching the fruits of his labor. Billy doesn’t travel with the team. He doesn’t watch the games. He doesn’t like any of the players. All he cares about is putting together a team that wins. Unfortunately, his 40 million dollar payroll has made that next to impossible. Early on, Billy is with his girlfriend, getting ready to escape to a tropical island. But Billy gets a call on his cell, and that call leads to a few more calls, and the next thing you know, a trade is going down. He smiles politely to his girlfriend, hands her his ticket, and says, “Go ahead. I’ll meet you there in a few days.” And leaves! It’s the perfect introduction to Billy because that action, that sequence, tells us exactly who he is.
You see, Billy just lost the three best players on his team and has been told by his owner that he’s only got a few million bucks to replace them. So Billy heads off to another tropical paradise, Cleveland, to discuss some trades with the GM of the Indians, Mark Shapiro. Billy is particularly interested in a player named “Rincon”, someone so low on Shapiro’s radar that he barely recognizes the name. After Shapiro agrees in principle to a trade, a previously unseen nerdy 20-something on a laptop walks over and whispers into Shapiro’s ear. He slinks back to the couch and Shapiro calmly turns to Billy, “I’m sorry, you can’t have Rincon.” Billy spins back and glares at this mystery kid. “Who the fuck are you??” his eyes say. But the kid is already back to his computer. This kid’s name is Paul.
Billy corners Paul outside the building and demands to know what the hell he told Shapiro. The argument turns into dinner, and Paul lays out his approach to baseball. He’s calculated every single statistic known to baseball and only one is inexorably tied to winning: On-base percentage. Since everyone else is obsessed with home runs and RBIs, this stat has been relatively ignored. Paul believes that if you create a team full of only players with high on-base percentages (A stat so insignificant that you could get the players for dirt cheap) you could theoretically win all the time. Billy thinks Paul might be crazy, but he’s up shit creek anyway, so he hires him.
Billy and Paul then apply this untested strategy in the face of years of baseball experience. The idea that you can look at a spreadsheet, and not at the player himself, when putting together a team, causes all sorts of drama inside the A’s organization. Essentially, Billy assembles a rag-tag motley crew of rejects with high on-base percentages. When Oakland quickly falls into last place, the drama only gets worse. But the stubborn Billy and Paul stick together, and in the end their faith pays off, as Oakland ends the season with a 20-game win streak, the single longest win-streak in American League history.
The only problem with the script is that it gets too wrapped up in its details, too wrapped up in its numbers. We follow the A’s through an entire season and, not unlike keeping tabs on a real baseball season, it’s hard to stay focused. Late in the script I was myself asking that age old question: What’s driving the story? The best I could come up with is: the curiosity of whether the stats system is going to work. But in that black hole where stories go to die known as the second half of the second act, there isn’t enough to remind us of this – to keep us focused – and the story loses some luster as a result. The question is, did Soderbergh address this issue in his rewrite and, more importantly, what else did he address? We’ll talk about that in a second. But in regards to Zaillian’s draft, I’m going to recommend the read. Sure it wandered. But I’ve always been fascinated by the jobs of General Managers, and this gave me some great insight into their world.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
Script Link: Moneyball (link taken down by request)
SODERBERGH DRAFT (dated 6-22-09)
note: Bad news. I cannot post this draft. It’s got Sony markings all over it and you’ll just have to trust me when I say it wouldn’t be a good idea.
So was it *that* bad? I mean, studios go into production all the time with terrible scripts. Particularly when huge actors like Pitt are involved. So what made Pascal put her foot down? What made her embark on a decision that would taint the project from now til release? I’ll tell you what. A bad script. Soderbergh really screwed this up. Moneyball wasn’t Chinatown, but at least it was a story. Soderbergh’s turned it into a mishmash of ideas in search of a point. It’s like he yanked the sail off the boat and let us drift out to sea.
It’s hard to point to any one change that ruined the script, but there are several troublesome choices that were made. Remember that early scene where Billy leaves his girlfriend at the airport? That scene told us everything we needed to know about who we’d be following for the next two hours. What does Soderbergh do instead? He has Billy meet Paul in one of the most basic, uninteresting introductions to two characters I’ve seen in a long time. The two stand around and proceed to tell us (er, I mean each other) exactly who they are.
JP said you’re the guy I should be talking to.
JP is great.
JP is great. He said you just got promoted.
Yeah, I was advance scouting and I was just made Special Assistant to the GM.
Well, Cleveland’s a monster franchise. I think John Hart and Mark Shapiro are super smart. They got a good thing going.
I have to say, it’s nice knowing at the beginning of the year that you’re probably going to the playoffs.
I hear you’re extended.
Yeah, four years. It’s good, you know. I can watch things happen. And we’re close to getting a new stadium.
Which you need.
Which we definitely need. So let me ask you. Can you work spreadsheets and all that stuff, like Excel? Can you manage a payroll?
Great, because I suck at that…
Yes, instead of that great scene where the mysterious Paul walks up and whispers into Shapiro’s ear, we now get, “So let me ask you: can you work spreadsheets and all that stuff?”
The draft was an Exposition Empire, with characters blurting out all sorts of things we needed to know without a hint of subtlety. I kept thinking I was at a museum listening to a tour guide, “And here we have Billy. Billy has discovered a secret set of numbers. He will now try to apply them to his team and hopefully win in the process.” All the fun from the first draft is gone here. The dramatization. The subtext. It’s vanished, not unlike the Montreal Expos.
Also gone are most of Billy’s scenes with his daughter, the only true relationship with another human being he has, and therefore the only thing that humanizes him – Billy’s drifting from woman to woman (Although there’s only scarce mention of it – he appears to be married in Soderbergh’s version), the flashbacks of Billy as a player (replaced by interviews with real people who played with Billy) and that feeling of, “Billy and Paul against the world,” stemming from their unique system and how it flies in the face of 150 years of baseball – probably the most exciting part of the story.
But the biggest faux-pas is the handling of the all-important “on-base percentage” stat. This is what the A’s figured out that everybody else ignored – the hidden statistic that was the key to their success. It’s what allows them to compete with half the salary of all the other teams. This is the movie. Yet here it’s treated like an afterthought. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what the A’s secret to success was in Soderbergh’s draft. It’s implied that there’s a spreadsheet involved but the explanation stops there. A spreadsheet of never-explained numbers? That’s how the team wins? That’s your hook for the movie?
Look, Soderbergh is the kind of director that likes to find his movies in the editing room. Shoot a bunch of stuff, see what sticks. If something doesn’t connect logically , throw some voiceover in there and add a little score. That seems to be his plan of attack with Moneyball. I don’t know what the final movie would look like so I couldn’t definitively tell you if he would of salvaged this, but I do know he turned a solid script into an incomprehensible mess. And that’s why his movie was shut down.
[x] a mess
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Don’t write a sports movie. They’re too difficult to write. If the team ends up winning in the end, it feels overly-sappy and cliche. If you go with a grittier more realistic approach, it comes off as boring and self-important. Lose-lose. If you must ignore my advice, go with either a boxing movie or a true story (like this one). But just know that writing a good sports movie is RFH (really fucking hard) and selling one is even harder. Take my advice and don’t do it.
Leave your pick in the comments section, my e-mail, Scott’s site, or Scott’s e-mail. Please do not e-mail me asking for any of these scripts unless you’re my BFF. How do you become my BFF? By sending me newly sold specs. Duh.
Here are the choices…
“Kidnap” (Knate Gwaltney): After her son is kidnapped at a local mall, a woman embarks on a chase to save him. Genre: Thriller
“Witchita” (Patrick O’Neill): Story revolves around a single chick who has terrible luck with men, but meets a mysterious, handsome man on a blind date. The mysterious man is actually a secret agent who pops in and out of the woman’s life. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz attached. Genre: Action-Comedy
“Father of Invention” (Trent Cooper, Johnathan Krane & Nicole Beattie): Story centers on a humble inventor-turned-egomaniacal billionaire who loses it all when one of his inventions goes horribly awry. After eight years in federal prison, he returns bankrupt, homeless and determined to rebuild his reputation and fortune. Kevin Spacey attached. Genre: Comedy
“The True Memoirs of an International Assassin” (Jeff Morris): After a publisher changes a writer’s debut novel about a deadly assassin from fiction to nonfiction, the author finds himself thrust into the world of his lead character, and must take on the role of his character for his own survival. Genre: Action-Thriller
“The Heartbreaker” (Alec Ward): Comedy about a guy hired to break hearts. Genre: Comedy
Stay Tuned. Today at 3pm Pacific Time, I’ll be simultaneously posting with Scott, the five choices for this month’s Scriptshadow Challenge. Your vote will determine which script we go with. It’ll be fun because three of them are recent spec sales. So pop by and leave your vote. If the comments section doesn’t work for you, feel free to e-mail me.
Premise: Coming-of-age tale about a young man trying to find himself in New York City.
About: Allan Loeb is one of the hottest writers working today. He broke onto the scene with Black List favorite, “Things We Lost In The Fire” (which I’ve been told is a much better script than it is a movie), penned the surprise hit “21,” and most recently finished the job of one of the most sought after assignments in town, “Money Never Sleeps” (aka “Wall Street 2″), and he’s got like six other projects in development. The Only Living Boy In New York is unique in that it’s one of the only drama specs sold in the last 5 years that didn’t have any talent attached (translation: It was really f’ing good).
Writer: Allan Loeb
Like I always say, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. “Living Boy” is basically “The Graduate” meets “Great Expectations” with a pinch of “The Great Gatsby” thrown in for good measure. The coming-of-age stuffy upper-crust 20-something angsty tale in NY is likely to appall as much as it appeals since older folk tend to roll their eyes at insignificant “problems” us young men endure (“Oh, I missed work because I partied too late. What ever am I going to do?”). This attitude reached an all-time fever pitch during the successful run of “Garden State,” a movie “Living Boy” will no doubt be compared to. But while “Boy” definitely has its share of angst, its characters lift it up and beyond Zach Braff’s New Jersey opus. Things feel a bit more meaningful here. And I can attribute that mainly to Loeb’s excellent writing.
20-something Thomas lives in New York City. He’s best friends with a super-hot (in a hip alternative way) college chick named Mimi. In an ecstacy-inspired night of regret and stupidity, Mimi makes the mistake of granting Thomas an all-night sex-a-thon. As a result, he’s fallen hopelessly in love with her. Of course Mimi considers the night a monumental college-level mistake (boy did I have my share of those) and doesn’t see why Thomas can’t just get over it. Thomas spends a good portion of “Living Boy” wondering why a sweet decent-looking guy like himself can’t land a hot girl like Mimi.
That’s the least of his worries though. While wandering aimlessly through New York one day, he accidentally spots his asshole of a father kissing a woman that is definitely NOT his mother. The 30-something icy business woman, Johanna, is easily the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. Thomas is furious. His mother is already on the verge of a mental breakdown and finding out that her husband is cheating on her would surely push her over the edge.
Rounding out the cast of characters is the mysterious W.F. Gerald (it even sounds like someone from The Great Gatsby), a 50-something “unmade bed of a man,” as Loeb puts it. The wise W.F. is always there to dole out his sage advice when Thomas needs it. And Thomas needs it in spades.
He begins following his father’s mistress and when he finally works up the courage to confront her, he demands that she stop seeing him. The woman, who seems not to know of these things called “feelings,” makes it very clear that both she and her father can make their own decisions and that Thomas has no say in the matter. She follows this by accusing Thomas of falsely approaching her – insisting that the only reason he followed her was because he wants her himself. Thomas is appalled at the suggestion and storms away.
Later on, at a swanky upper crust party, Thomas runs into Johanna separately from his father, and she proceeds to seduce him (for the sport of it, of course), taking him home and engaging in a wild night of animal sex. Thomas now finds himself in an affair within an affair…sort of… as he starts sleeping with the same woman that is sleeping with his father. That’s comfortable. Of course Mimi, playing off of Thomas’ new popularity with the ladies, suddenly changes her mind and decides that she wants a relationship with Thomas. But Thomas has long since fallen in love with Johanna, and now cares only that she dump his father so the two can be together alone…and not…with his father (your average 20-something dilemma).
The way Thomas weaves in and out of these storylines is humbling to say the least. Loeb is an incredibly gifted writer. One of the true marks of great writers is how they describe their characters, and Loeb doesn’t disappoint.
wears a double dyed pink wife-beater that stops just short of her bumper sticker… the Chinese symbol of balance. She owns a temple of a body built of feminine mesa-morph and displays small diamond stud in her nose.
All of Mimi’s attempts to hide her beauty fail miserably.
Or the way they write dialogue…
I think… I… August eighth. I think August eighth was real.
It was amazing, Thomas, but it was just one night. We were both on ecstasy, I thought I was a pirate and I was vulnerable because Nick left… and it was just one night.
Well, I’m crazy about you.
And I’m crazy about you. But–
Don’t say “as a friend.”
He pulled the words right out of her mouth…
Why not, Thomas? Why is that so bad?
Because pretty girls like to recruit their rejections and call them friends.
Or just how they can describe something in such a way that you know exactly what they mean…
Howard immediately looks around. This transparent look-through-you gaze that famous and extremely rich people do when they want to talk to someone more important.
The Only Living Boy In New York’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. We’re looking at a character study here. And because Loeb is so focused on these great characters, the story itself is minimal to non-existent. Which is fine. That’s par for the course in this genre. But “Living Boy” stops just short of feeling like something important. It doesn’t make you reevaluate your life the way a viewing of “The Graduate” does. It’s limited to the inter-connectivity of these handful of characters. But it’s a great handful. I wouldn’t mind scooping up a few of them and tossing them in my own screenplays. If you’re a fan of “coming-of-age” films, this is a must read. If not, I would still encourage you to check this out. But I can’t promise it’s going to knock your socks off.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Take your time and describe your main characters people! Look at the way Loeb describes Mimi above. It takes time to come up with that. But it pays off. I know a lot of writers who would’ve gone with, “Mimi, 22, is artsy and hot.” I’m not saying I haven’t seen professional writers do this. I have. But you get so little time in a screenplay to convey the true essence of a character, and if you nail it the description, it makes things so much easier on you and the reader later on.
Premise: A family man on the verge of a mid-life crisis turns his basement into a “man-cave”, complete with all the amenities every man needs. Later he discovers a hidden passage in the cave that takes him into an alternate reality male dreamworld.
About: Man Cave was picked up by Sony in April. Joe Roth will produce. Lutz and Isser have another project set up at Intrepid called “Park Narcs,” a comedy about park rangers.
Writer: Jacob Isser & Paul Lutz
I admit it. I’m a sucker for “Guy feels lost and tries to change his life” movies. Why? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I feel that way every other week! The idea of someone taking charge and doing something about their problem is inspiring because normally, in real life, all we do is sit around and bitch about it. We never actually do anything to change our circumstances. The title “Danny Graves’ Man Cave” doesn’t exactly inspire thoughts of a contemplative exploration of what it means to be a man, but that’s kind of what Man Cave is about. Does it succeed? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s definitely more ambitious than your average comedy. For a script I expected to be a 2 hour beer commercial, getting this unexpectedly complicated look at life was a nice surprise.
Danny Graves is a somewhat-loving husband to his wife Alison, and a serviceable dad to his weird elementary school son, Lucas. But things have been deteriorating in Danny’s life lately and he’s starting to wonder, “Is this all there is?” In a random trip into his basement, a trip that gives him some much-needed downtime- he sees…the light. A cave. A MAN cave. No women allowed. No children allowed. No work allowed. Just peace, beer, and TV. A utopia to celebrate owning a penis.
Upon completion of his Mantopia, Danny discovers a secret passageway which leads to a crawlspace, which leads to a ladder, which opens up to his backyard. Except this doesn’t feel like the backyard he knows. One look around tells us why. There’s a picture of a vagina on the local water tower. There’s a Mustang in the garage. His neighbor is no longer a pussy about everything. His wife actually dresses up sexy for him. His son actually has friends! It’s…an alternate Man Universe! A man-iverse.
Danny gets situated in his new world pretty easily – this world where people drink beer instead of water, where men get tattoos during their lunch break, where women are sex objects and love it, where if you want to make a point at work, you light something on fire dammit! And best of all, Danny is the Alpha Male in this world.
But his alternate universe isn’t a time machine, and whatever time he spends in the “Man-World” is time that goes by sans Danny in the real world. Needless to say, his wife, son, co-workers and boss start to get suspicious. And since there are only so many excuses (I think all us guys know that), Danny must begrudgingly balance his time between the two worlds.
The entire second act is the weakest part of Man Cave because it’s just one long extension of the premise. Danny experiences awesomeness in Man World. Danny experiences suckage in Real World. Man World = good. Real World = bad. It’s frustrating because you’re waiting for the story to take over – but there is no story. Danny’s only goal is to escape the Real World as much as possible. Not until late in the 2nd act when the Man World starts to show its cracks does the story pick up momentum again. But it’s when Alison discovers Danny’s Man World, this terrifying alternate reality, her sluttier hotter dopplehanger, that things really derail for Danny.
I’ll be honest with you, after a great first act, I was really down on this script because nothing interesting happens for the entire middle portion. For lack of a better word it was boring. But I have to give it to Lutz & Isser. The surprise 3rd act sequence brings Danny Graves back from the grave.
In the act, Danny finds a second passageway in his Man Cave, and wonders what a Man World inside of a Man World would be like (come on – wouldn’t we all?). So he crawls through the crawlspace, up the ladder, into the yard to see…Man World 2. In this Man World, his lawn is made of astroturf. His wife is dressed like a hooker and is ready for a 3-way with his hot co-worker. There’s a picture of a shaved pussy on the local water tower. Neighbors have monster trucks parked in the driveway. It’s both horrifying and fascinating. But Danny’s curiosity isn’t quenched. He needs more. So he goes into the basement, through the passageway, and into the 3rd Man World. This world is even darker. His neighbor, Norm, has a cro-magnum face and is dragging his wife by the hair. Women run around the neighborhood topless. Men are beating the shit out of each other. But Danny doesn’t stop there. He goes into the basement, through the passageway, and opens up the vent to enter the 4th Man World. And it’s just darkness. Darkness and shadows. And he sees something coming towards him. Hunched over. Dirty. A monster. And when the creature gets close enough to see, we realize…
It’s Danny. Or some version of Danny.
He slams the lid closed and runs back through all the Man Worlds, back to the main world, desperately in search of his family, because he finally understands just how beautiful and satisfying and worthwhile his real life is.
Does it work? Not really. His wife is so unlikable and his kid so weird, that it’s not clear why he would all of a sudden realize he likes them again, or have ever liked them in the first place for that matter. I kinda wanted Isser and Lutz to grow some balls (ahem – staying with tonight’s theme) and stick with their dark instincts on the ending. If you create a reprehensible living situation for your protagonist, you have to give us a reason why he would go back to it other than that it’s the end of the movie. It makes no sense.
To me, this is an odd script. It starts out like The Graduate, becomes a broad comedy, then hits us with a dark third act. The tonal issues alone probably should’ve prevented a sale. But there is *something* about Danny Graves’ Man Cave, particularly towards the end, that makes it difficult to dismiss. By no means will I say you have to read this. But there are enough interesting choices in here to make it worth the read.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
WHAT I LEARNED: What’s driving your story? I consider this to be *the* most important screenwriting question you can ask yourself. At every point in your script, there needs to be a clear and intense force that’s driving the story. Something propelling us along. A point. A goal. A purpose. The reason Danny Graves’ second act drags is because it doesn’t have that engine. What’s Danny’s goal? What’s the story’s goal? What are we working up towards? Nothing. We’re just waiting to see how extensively Danny’s life can unravel. Personally, I don’t think that’s compelling enough. Sure there’s the rare movie that doesn’t have an obvious driving force (The Graduate comes to mind) but in those cases the characters have to be so incredibly captivating that we forget about the story. Giving Danny something tangible to go after here could’ve helped the script a lot. As it stands, there’s nothing to look forward to other than more “antics.”