Well, it was pretty much inevitable. Scriptshadow started off as a small intimate blog whose purpose was to review and make available recently sold spec scripts for amateur writers to study so that they could improve their own writing. Fortunately/Unfortunately, the blog has grown to a place where me posting scripts has become impractical. I’ve received enough legal urging to convince me it’s not worth the risk. As a result, from this point on, I’ll only be reviewing scripts and not linking to them.
I am, however, open to ideas if you readers have them. If you believe you have a way where we can still make these scripts available legally, I’m up for suggestions. Also, it should be noted that if you’re a resourceful person, you can find these scripts yourself online. There are writer’s messageboards and other places where you’ll discover people willing to exchange scripts with you. Google and perseverence are your best friends.
I’m sure that we’ll get the occasional go ahead from writers to include a link to their script, but by and large, unless someone comes up with an amazing idea, reviews will be link-free. I know this is terrible news. But my response is “Scriptshadow without links is better than no Scriptshadow at all.”
Hello to all you repped writers. Don’t forget to submit a script for Repped Week. Let’s give an awesome script some exposure. Also, I wrote another script review that they posted over at Latino Review. Although for some reason they seem to think there’s a “3” in my web address. Maybe you’d like to head over there and point that out. What’s the script? Let’s just say that a certain bald-headed car-racing movie star is involved.
Genre: Indie Comedy
Premise: A lonely journalist finds love and inspiration in a quirky, unlikely manner –covering the misadventures of a young boy’s ‘protest’of an animal rights movement.
About: New Line picked this up. Energy Entertainment and Broken Road Productions will produce. This was Sachs’ first screenplay. The script landed him on the 2008 Black List with 5 votes.
Writer: Adam Sachs (Draft 5/5/08 — 110 pages)
Animal Cruelty is one of those scripts they tell you not to write because it’s not mainstream enough and it’s too weird and quirky and the comedy’s too “intelligent” but you ignore everyone, write it anyway, land yourself on the Blacklist and get enough buzz going that Lionsgate takes interest and then they’re like, “You know what? What do we have to lose?” and the next thing you know your tiny screenplay that never should’ve made it past the first reader is now paying for your new 2000 square foot loft on Venice Beach…. Well, maybe not Venice Beach. But between 11th and 18th street in Santa Monica.
Animal Cruelty is a strange little beast – a munchkin of a satire that pokes fun at both sides of activism. And let’s be honest. Activism is ripe for being poked at. Hell, I’m all for standing up for what you believe in, but there’s definitely a line activists cross. Most of the time, it’s more about the activist than what they’re activing about. Full disclosure: I used to work next to the Federal Building where someone was protesting every single weekend. It made it impossible to find a parking spot! I grew to hate those damn protesters. I even considered protesting their protests. And if I were someone who took initiative, I very well might’ve done that. Which is why I enjoyed Animal Cruelty. It finally allowed me to live a little bit of that dream.
Paul Nemser is 45, balding, and makes his living writing angry articles at the Vanguard Newspaper. Nemser is haunted by his father, a great reporter who won the Pulitzer. When The Vangaurd decides to cover an Animal Testing Laboratory protest, Nesmer sees a chance to write about something meaningful – something that will finally get him recognized. But instead of giving him the story, his boss gives it to the younger better-looking Mark. Nemser seethes but can do nothing.
All the way across town we meet Georgie, a 16 year old kid who’s so smart he dropped out of high school. As he tells his only friend, Rajiv: “I’m an autodidact, Rajiv. Do you know what that means? It means I teach myself. Do you know how I know that word? I taught it to myself.” Georgie drifts around aimlessly, spending most of his time at McDonald’s throwing french fries against the wall for his own amusement.
Lynda, a local reporter who’s abnormally obsessed with Paul McCartney, wants the local Animal Testing Laboratory shut down pronto. Because, like, animals get hurt in there and stuff. So she stages a protest in front of the building that somehow attracts almost everyone within a five mile radius. This hapens to be the same event The Vanguard newspaper was sent over to cover. But as she pounds out phrases like “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy!”, the fry-flinger Georgie is drifting by. Seemingly out of boredom, he yanks off his shirt and writes on his chest, “Pro Animal Testing!” and begins screaming out his own catch phrases, which admit that Lynda is hot but that what she’s saying sucks. For this oh so brief period of time, Georgie becomes the face *for* animal testing. Nemser, who sneaked here against his newspaper’s wishes, sees the potential for a great story.
Nemser follows Georgie home and asks him if he can write a story about him protesting. But since Georgie hates protests, he’s annoyingly appalled by his own protest, and therefore refuses to go along with it. Nemser, glimpsing the end of his career, makes the drastic decision to write the story anyway. It ends up being a huge success that spurns all sorts of controversy. Nemser is catapulted to the top of the reporter totem pole and ordered to do a follow-up. In the meantime, the public reacts by congregating around Georgie’s house and holding up signs that call for his death.
No matter how hard Nemser begs Georgie to continue his protest though, Georgie refuses. He can care less if all those animals are saved. A little later we learn that Georgie’s father was one of those batshit crazy activists, the kind that live for anything that allows you to fight the system. And so instead of raising his son and providing for his wife, his father tied himself to a tree for five years. So no thank you, Georgie says. He won’t be protesting anything…
Or will he?
Animal Cruelty wins points for its original premise alone and most of it is pretty unique. But it’s not without fault. The quirkiness that works so well in the first and most of the second acts, wears thin as we approach the latter parts of the screenplay. I see this a lot with scripts that forgo traditional storytelling in favor of humor or “quirkiness”. Playing everything up for laughs leaves little room to advance the story. And if you don’t have enough story at the beginning of your screenplay, there’s not going to be any at the end either.
Still, it was nice to read something different for once. And Sachs has a unique sense of humor that leaves you laughing most of the time. Lynda’s strange obsession with Paul McCartney was particularly funny. And when Nemser pisses her off by telling her that John was a better songwriter than Paul, the script was running on all cylinders. In this scene, one of the scientists is showing Georgie and Nemser around their testing laboratory:
INT. HUNTINGDON LAB – LATER
Bergstrom takes Georgie and Nemser on a tour through the lab. Everywhere they go, scientists and ASSISTANTS are packing things into boxes, preparing to leave.
(walking and talking)
Here we were developing a drug to treat Alzheimer’s…This was a rat experiment for a novel Parkinson’s treatment…This was a comprehensive monkey trial of a new multiple sclerosis vaccine.
He opens a cage and a MONKEY grabs hold of him.
And this little fellow is named Mr. Gibbs. He’s been with us for nearly a decade, and he’s one of our favorite pals around here. He and I have become very, very close.
(to the monkey)
Say hi, Mr. Gibbs!
An ASSISTANT looks up from his desk a few feet away.
Mr. Gibbs died during an experiment yesterday. That’s Boris. Bergstrom doesn’t bat an eye.
Say hi, Boris!
A great change of pace in a pool of scrips that seem to be written by the same hand. If you’re into stuff that’s a different and are searching for a few laughs, check this one out.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Never forget the power of showing and not telling, especially when it involves a potentially melodramatic backstory revelation. We discussed this in Due Date already. But the ideal way is always to *show* instead of *tell*. Nemser’s dad used to be a great reporter. But instead of Nemser disclosing this to another character, or another character disclosing it to him, we see Nemser sifting through some old black and white photos. And there’s his dad, marching with Martin Luther King. That tells us everything we need to know about him. And we don’t have to endure some cringe-worthy dialogue in the process.
So I’m doing something different next week. I want to give four writers a chance to get some exposure. The only catch is you have to have agency representation and not yet have sold a script. If you meet those requirements, send me your script, your agency, and a logline. I’ll take the four most interesting loglines and review those scripts Monday-Thursday. If you don’t want your script posted or you won’t be able to take a potentially negative review, then you shouldn’t participate. I know a lot of you unrepresented writers are crying foul here but there’s a reason I’m only allowing represented writers. First, I don’t want to be inundated with 10,000 e-mails. But more importantly, this is an exercise to review scripts from writers who *were* able to land representation, but have not yet been able to sell a script. What’s the difference in quality between a represented and an unrepresented writer? What’s the difference in quality between a represented writer and a represented writer with a sale? Is the difference merely a matter of luck? That’s what I want to explore. Who knows? Maybe we’ll find something great. Send the scripts to this e-mail: Carsonreeves2@gmail.com. There is no guarantee your script will be chosen but you have my word that I will delete all scripts I don’t use. Deal?
Okay, now let’s make one of you guys a millionaire.
Edit: I’ve decided to allow Manager representation as well. Though the choices will be weighted to favor agency representation.
Accepting submissions until: Saturday, August 1st
Genre: Conspiracy Thriller
Premise: A SETI worker receives a mysterious signal from space that motivates a secret organization to try and kill him.
About: Media Rights Capital purchased this preemptively in May. Potter and Stravitz are big fans of the genre as they also wrote the script for the remake of “The Boys From Brazil” about the revival of the Third Reich.
Writer: Richard Potter & Matthew Stravitz
Signals has a solid, if not wholly original, premise for a thriller. Nick Freeman is an average 30-something who works at SETI (Search For Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). SETI, as many geeks know, analyzes signals from all over the universe, looking for patterns that may denote intelligent life. Most people see SETI as a joke. I mean, if an advanced civilization is out there, thousands or millions of years ahead of us technologically, are they really going to be transmitting in radio waves? That would be like us transmitting to other civilizations by clicking two rocks together.
But if anyone’s going to find life in the universe through SETI, it’s Nick. He’s a signal samurai who searches for meaning and patterns in signals, from music to speech to the everyday noises that the majority of us ignore. On what should’ve been just another routine day at work, Nick hears a signal that’s unlike any he’s heard before. He’s so overcome by its uniqueness that he copies it over to a jump drive. As the day winds to a close, he heads home, and that’s where, for lack of a better phrase, shit starts going crazy. When Nick stumbles into his apartment, he finds his landlord (who popped in to grab something and was mistaken for Nick) primed for a toe tag. A second later a SWAT TEAM screeches to a stop outside the complex. They don’t look too interested in due process. Poor Nick has no idea why these people are after him but he’s pretty sure that an open dialogue is out of the question. So Nick runs.
The thrillerness of the thriller ramps up and Nick zips around town like a chicken with its head cut off. Thinking that one of his coworkers might have some answers, he goes back to work only to find that his entire floor’s been leveled and everyone’s dead. Nick’s signal prowess apparently doesn’t extend into common sense since it takes him a good 20 pages to realize that maaaaybe the reason these people are trying to kill him is because of the signal he saved. With no one in the world left to turn to, he turns to the last person in the world who wants him, his ex-wife. Lindsey, a reporter, is all business and clearly has an issue with Nick’s slacker-like ways. Apparently the reason these two separated was because Nick never grew up (Hey, since when is looking for alien signals not a respectable job?). Unfortunately for Lindsey, she’s in this for the long run cause anybody Nick talks to dies a few hours later. You gotta give it to Nick. While everyone else talks about killing their ex-wife, Nick actually does something about it.
The two of them are off on a race through the city while whoever’s following them get closer and closer (though if I were the bad guys, I probably would’ve posted someone outside the ex-wife’s house the second Nick went rogue). At some point Nick figures out that they’re after the signal. Lindsey’s reporter instincts kick in as she realizes she might be sitting on the story of the century. Luckily, she happens to know a guy who knows a guy who’s a world class conspiracy theorist. So they speed off to his trailer out in the middle of nowhere and Crazy Dude tells them exactly what they’re dealing with. Or at least after we have the obligatory Illuminati reference. Apparently, the people who want Nick and his signal dead are known as “The Foundation”. Although not much is known about The Foundation, they apparently have ties to the “New World Order”, which is a supposedly behind-the-scenes worldwide organization of high-powered people preparing to create a single unifying government.
I think you already know what I’m going to say about Signals. It wasn’t bad so much as it was predictable. We just read Umbra and the two are similar in more ways than one. Of course here we have two people running from the bad guys, which at least allows us to explore a troubled relationship. Having someone to play off of as well as a relationship with an uncertain future gives Signals a complexity that its thriller cousin, Umbra, couldn’t match. Then again, part of the fun of Umbra was the fact that we were seeing a conspiracy through the eyes of a single man – making us feel that we ourselves were being chased. So which is better, it’s hard to say.
But who cares about that stuff, right? The piece de resistance is always the ending in these scripts. Where was the signal from? What did the signal say? In this respect, Signals gives us something we haven’t seen before. I wouldn’t say that I loved the ending, but the writers definitely put some effort into it. The New World Order is kind of the bastard child of conspiracy theories – the kind of thing you hear the Hickory Homeless Club babbling about on 4th street and Santa Monica. But Potter and Stravitz’s interpretation is actually kind of cool and at least gets you thinking.
Signals very well might be a serial conspiracy theorists dream. It mentions enough of the conspiracy catch phrases to give the doomsayer population their fix. I actually think the younger readers might have a blast with “Signals”. It’s got a nice edge to it and a few interesting tangents. But for someone who’s seen Three Days Of The Condor and all the conspiracy movies since, there’s not enough new stuff here for me to personally get excited.
Link: No link
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: In these films there needs to be a big twist around the mid-point of the story. Your protags have been running around for thirty minutes now, and if you don’t do something to change it up, or throw everyone (characters and audience) for a loop, you run the risk of your reader getting bored of the repetition. I don’t think Signals ever included that twist. Conspiracy thriller stories thrive on surprises, so make sure you have a big one near the middle.