I don’t even want to write about this it’s so depressing. John Hughes died of a heart attack today. He was 59. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is in my Top 5 movies of all time. It was one of the first scripts I ever read and it’s just as hilarious on the page as it is on the screen. If you haven’t read it, go read it now. There are even a couple of scenes that didn’t make the film that are just as funny as anything in the movie. Another sad day. I’m tired of sad days. Let’s bring on some happy ones.
Script link: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Review link to “Bumped” (the unofficial remake of The Breakfast Club): Bumped
For those who have forgotten, this is number four in a series of five scripts I’ll be reviewing this week from represented writers who have not sold a script. The exercise is meant to explore the level of quality it takes to obtain agency representation. Enjoy!
Edit: So it turns out (all my fault – not the writers) that Bear and Thomas had sold a spec before – their script “Mental.” I received the script from someone I assumed was their agent, but turned out to be someone who was affiliated with the project when it went into the marketplace last spring. He was a big fan of the script and just thought I’d like it. There was no malicious intent there. In a way, I’m kind of glad this happened. I went into the script believing that these two writers had never sold anything before. So the fact that I really liked it before knowing that they *had* sold something, validates that there’s something to be said for the quality of screenplays from those writers who have broken in and sold a script before. Wow. Anyway, enough with the nonsense. Sit down, enjoy the review, and enjoy the script. :)
Logline: A straight laced guy finds his life thrown into turmoil after he agrees to become the “emergency contact” for a guy he barely knows.
About: These guys are repped at Paradigm.
Writers: Bear Aderhold & Thomas F.X. Sullivan
Jay is just an average guy preparing for an average life. He works under the safety of a company that builds elevators, a company that, if he plays his cards right, will be his employer for the next forty years. His girlfriend, Debbie, is safer than a Sunday stroll to the ice cream shop and the kind of woman who gets antsy if you’re not in bed by 10 o’clock. Jay is preparing for a long no-frills life of stability. And he’s pretty sure that makes him happy.
Enter Russell, the mailroom guy. Russell, a bit of a weirdo, is the man you go to when you need good weed. When Russell saves Jay’s ass at work, Jay kindly asks if he can return the favor. Sure, Russell innocently replies, I was wondering if I could make you my emergency contact. And that’s when our story officially begins.
On an ordinary weekday night, after Jay and Debbie are asleep, Jay gets a phone call. Something’s happened to Russell and Jay needs to come immediately. He stumbles out of bed to Debbie’s dismay and heads off to the address in question. But strangely, the address is for a gay nightclub. And the gay nightclub is having a “no shirts night”. So Jay has to take off his shirt before shimmying through a warehouse full of man meat until he finds Freddie, a porn producer who’s just made the Titanic of porn films. Problem is Russell stole the master copy. Jay is completely dumbfounded as to how this involves him, so Freddie lays it out for him. Russell made the idiotic mistake of leaving his wallet behind. And in his wallet is a card that lists JAY as his emergency contact. And of course, as everyone knows, you only list your closest friends/family members as your emergency contact. Hence, if anyone knows where Russell is, it’s Jay.
Jay runs for his life, somehow escaping the gayporium. Thinking he’s just going to waltz back into bed, he’s surprised to see two police officers waiting outside his house – Glibby and Briggs. These are the kind of officers who taser first and ask questions later. Which is exactly what they do. So the recently electrocuted Jay wakes up in an interrogation room. What the hell is he doing here?? Well, it just so happens Russell is fucking Glibby’s wife and he’s none too happy about it. In trying to find Russell, he’s learned that Jay is his emergency contact. And in Glibby’s world of vigilante justice, the one who knows about the cheating is just as guilty as the one who’s doing the cheating.
Jay’s rescued when an officer passes by wondering why an innocent man is sitting in an interrogation room. Jay once again tries to get home only to run into the man of the hour – Russell. Jay curses him out for ruining his “perfect” life. Russell points out that Jay’s life is actually pretty boring and sucky. Life advice from a man who’s never used an alarm clock. Unfortunately Jay realizes that neither of them are getting out of tonight until they find and return that porno. The question is: Where is it? The answer is a mystery that takes them all over the city. To make matters worse, Jay has the mother of all presentations in the morning. If he doesn’t kill it, he’ll be out of a job.
What Aderhold and Sullivan do really well in Emergency Contact is create a host of hilarious secondary characters. Briggs and Glibby can star in their own spin-off movie as soon as this one’s over. Their clueless banter is one of the highlights of the script. And one of my favorite sequences is when Jay and Russell meet up with Russell’s friend, Captain Kirk, a former pilot turned crackhead who hasn’t worn pants in over a year. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, he tries desperately to remember where he left the porno.
But what really makes this script sing is anything that happens as a result of Russell being Jay’s emergency contact. A flippant decision early on by Jay turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life – over and over and over again. The only time the script runs into trouble is near the end when Aderhold and Sullivan try to tie a neat bow around Jay and Russell’s friendship. I liked the idea, but it comes on too fast and is resolved too quickly. That needed more work. Plus it replaced the potential for more emergency contact stuff. Any way these guys can plant more storylines that arise because Jay gave Russell permission to be his emergency contact I’m highly in favor of. That’s where the gold happens. And I feel that as we get closer to the end, those moments should increase anyway, not decrease, as that’ll make things even harder (and therefore more funny) on Jay.
Emergency Contact reminded me of another script titled The Sitter which sold earlier this year. This script is nearly as good as that one and, I believe, has more potential. I honestly think with a couple of rewrites, this could be the next Hangover. It’s a hilarious ride. I’m actually surprised no one’s snatched it up yet.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: When you think you’ve put your character in a terrible situation, make it worse. The writers do a great job of not only barraging Jay with the worst night ever. But on top of it all, he’s got the presentation of his life to give tomorrow morning at 9. That added dynamic introduces an additional level of tension to every situation Jay’s in because we’re always thinking, “Even if he gets out of this, how is he going to give his presentation??”
For those who have forgotten, this is three in a series of five scripts I’ll be reviewing this week from represented writers who have not sold a script. The exercise is meant to explore the level of quality it takes to obtain agency representation. Enjoy!
Premise: Train wrecks. Plane crashes. Sinking ships. The Fixer silently removes evidence from these accident sites, shielding powerful men from blame. But when he is caught in the act, he must find a way to save himself before he becomes the next problem to be “fixed.”
About: Motlong is represented over at Paradigm. He is managed by Kaplan/Perrone.
Writer: Craig Motlong
The Fixxxxxxxxxer. I saw that title and was like, “It’s done! That’s the one I’m gonna read.” See stuff breaks down in my place alllllllll the time. Light bulbs, ovens, fake fireplaces. If anyone needs a fixer, it’s me. Needless to say I was stoked that someone actually wanted to write a script about this phenomenon. Things randomly breaking down in houses is something the people in this country have had to deal with for years. Just the other day my DVD player stopped working. Why?? Who the hell knows?? That’s why you call in The Fixer!
Errrrrr……….. well, maybe not so fast. It turns out The Fixer wasn’t about fixing random household items after all. Which sucks because how am I going to get the motivation to fix my DVD player now? I’m not going to hold this against Motlong. His premise is still fun. But it sure would be nice to sit in front of the fire again. :(
The Fixer (the “real Fixer”) works in the shadows. Whenever a catastrophic accident occurs – an airplane crash or a tanker collision – our calculated craftsman arrives immediately afterwards and fixes everything up, erasing all evidence of fault before the proper authorities arrive. They call him, The Fixer. Problem is, Montana, an attractive NTSB agent I imagined looking a lot like that woman from Fringe, is almost as quick on the scene as The Fixer. Apox? How can such a thing be possible?? The Fixer is the fastest! But with each monumental tragedy, she gets there quicker and quicker. It’s like the bitch has cheetah in her bones.
When a disastrous train crash occurs, the two race their way to the accident site and this time, Montana catches The Fixer in the act. What Montana doesn’t know, and what The Fixer knows all too well, is that this means they’re both fucked! See there’s a blond bombshell known as “The Cleaner”. The Fixer may fix problems. But when problems can’t be fixed, The Cleaner cleans them up. And let’s just say that The Fixer and Montana are in the mother of dirty bedrooms. Oh, and in case you were wondering where the orders are coming from, they’re coming from The Canadian. Just like those Canadians. Pretending to be all prim and proper. It’s good that the truth is finally coming out. Mayonnaise on their fries. How dare they.
The Fixer and Montana go on the run, enacting a shakier truce than the US and Cuba. The only way for the Fixer to ensure he’ll live is to kill Montana. The only reason Montana doesn’t kill The Fixer is because he holds the lone evidence proving what she’s suspected all along, that a corporation has been covering up these accidents for years. Actually, if we’re being honest, the one constant in all these disasters is a 1977 bolt that was manufactured at an enormous steel company. That bolt is being insured by one of the biggest companies in the world. And it is that company that has employed The Fixer to go in and erase all of their problems – the idea being that a major lawsuit against them would cost billions, whereas employing The Fixer never reaches more than 8 figures. — Hey man, the economy. (side note: Don’t you love how you can now use “economy” in any excuse now? “Where were you last night Carson? I waited at the movie theater for 45 minutes.” “The economy Sarah. The economy…”)
See here’s the thing about insurance companies: They have every angle insured. They have insurance for their insurance. And their insurance against The Fixer are The Cleaners – yes, plural – who fan out over the countryside looking to “ensure” that The Fixer and Montana don’t get enough evidence to prove what this gigantic corporation has been doing. They’re totally going to take them down: by killing them!
The Fixer felt a bit like a Bourne movie with more of a hook. Did I like it? Well, the concept didn’t play out the way I had hoped. Making the bad guys a giant insurance agency didn’t exactly have the same weight as, say, a governmental body. Although that’s been done to death so I can accept the ‘original’ argument. I also thought Motlong showed his cards too early. One of the interesting things about The Fixer was the mystery behind these special bolts that had been found all over the accident sites. The way the characters talked about them gave them a mythical quality. I thought the revelation behind them was going to be much more spectacular and I didn’t think we’d find out what they were until the very end. But Motlong lets us in on the bolt secret at the mid-point, leaving no more mysteries left to solve. That was disappointing. Finally, I have a problem when dialogue sounds almost exclusively like it’s supposed to be in a trailer. There are a lot of snappy comebacks here. Too many. And when you cross that line, reality becomes but a distant memory. I wanted these characters to talk like real people so I could get to know them. And they did sometimes. But those times were few and far between. I think this might be my problem though because I bring it up to a lot of writers and they don’t seem to think it’s a big deal.
Still, I love Motlong’s crisp writing style. He’s got such a breezy way about him, reading his stuff felt like I was riding up PCH, top down, hair blowing in the wind. And his action scenes are top-notch. They read like you’re right there watching the movie. The man’s definitely got the goods. I just couldn’t get behind The Fixer.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Bolded sluglines! Use’em? Don’t use’em?? Oh the humanity! No more than six months ago, I saw about one script with bolded sluglines for every hundred I read. Now, that number’s up to maybe 7 or 8 per hundred. Opponents say that it disrupts the natural reading flow of a script. Proponents say it helps distinguish and divide up scenes better. I was always on the fence about this, but I’m starting to think bolded sluglines are our future. Just behind our children. They rarely affect my reading, and it does help clue you in – especially when you’re reading fast – when a new scene or location has arrived.
I’ve had a lot of people e-mailing me telling me that Blake Snyder died of cardiac arrest this morning. It is indeed very sad news. Snyder was the first person since Syd Field to break screenwriting down in such a way that anyone could understand it in his bestselling book, “Save The Cat!” Every person who wanted to write a screenplay, I recommended they read that book first. Snyder’s core approach was to put just as much emphasis on prepping your screenplay as writing it, and he was gung-ho about going out and testing your concept on anyone who would lend you an ear. “Go wait for a movie to end and poll the outgoing audience,” he would say. This completely changed the way I approached screenplays as I realized you can spend six months crafting the perfect screenplay, but if you don’t find out ahead of time if anyone will see it, it’s all for naught. He famously published his e-mail address in the book and challenged anyone wondering if their concept was good to e-mail him and he’d give you his opinion. I picked up the book two full years after it was released and sent a handful of loglines expecting never to hear back. Within two minutes I got a response, endorsing two and telling me to ditch the other three. I thought that was pretty cool. Blake Snyder will be missed.
Blake Snyder 1957-2009
For those who have forgotten, this is two in a series of five scripts I’ll be reviewing this week from represented writers who have not sold a script. The exercise is meant to explore the level of quality it takes to obtain agency representation. Enjoy!
Premise: A down on his luck Jr. High teacher is shocked when he finds a real live money tree growing in his house.
Writer: Ryan Belenzon
Malcom McCree And The Money Tree gets my Title Of The Month award. And the concept is great. How many times have you heard, “Money doesn’t grow on trees”? But what if it did? What if you had your very own bank with no withdraw limit? No fees? No deposit slips or Quicken entries. Just pure endless money. This modern day Brewster’s Millions could easily star Jack Black or Will Ferrel prancing around buying everything in sight. But I had some substantial problems with Mr McCree and his money tree. Enough so that a couple of rewrites may be in order before this is legitimately “spec-ready.”
Malcom is a junior high teacher who’s just lost his girlfriend, Daisy, a science teacher and the very definition of marriage material. The West Side Story superfan can’t make it through a single day without realizing how miserable his life is. To add salt to the wound, the school’s having a budget crisis and decides to cut back on Malcom’s salary. Malcom heads to a local bar with his insane postman friend, Jerry, and laments about how being poor has ruined his life. If only he was rich…all his problems would go away.
So after meeting a strange Indian Man at his local 7-11, he buys a lottery ticket and heads home. The lottery ticket turns out to be a dud, but it slips through a crack in his living room and the next morning a tree sprouts through the floor, a tree filled with 100 dollar bills. After Malcom realizes he isn’t dreaming, he quits his job and goes on the world’s wildest spending spree (hey! That sounds like a reality show in the making). Malcom experiences cars and clothes and trashy women galore. A world with money is exactly how he envisioned it would be. What a life.
But alas, too much of a good thing gets old no matter what that thing is. I remember when I first discovered Cold Stone. I went there every day for two weeks… I haven’t been back since. That was three years ago. So yeah, Malcom becomes so numb to money, he doesn’t even know what to do with it anymore. It gets so bad he actually conducts experiments such as filling up his pool with horse manure and seeing how much money it will take for people to swim in it.
Once the money has seeped into his veins, Malcom completely loses a grip on reality. The onetime nice guy has turned into the world’s biggest sleazeball. So he shifts his attention to getting Daisy back – as he realizes she’s the only thing that can offer him true happiness. But she’s moved on to an asshole politician running for office named (I have to admit, this made me laugh) “Scott Scotterson”. Scott ups the ante when he becomes Daisy’s night in shining armor – offering to save Malcom’s former cash-strapped school. But Malcom finds out Scott’s got more on his mind than giving Mikey and Tina nicer science books. Looks like Scott’s embezzling a huge chunk of the incoming budget and funneling it directly into his campaign.
But before Malcom can expose Scott, Scott does some investigating of his own and becomes very suspicious of Malcom’s tightly guarded house and newfound wealth. He believes Malcom’s counterfeiting money (which, essentially, he is) and threatens Malcom with a counter-threat. “I’ll tell on you if you tell on me.”
There are three things that bothered me about Malcom McCree and The Money Tree. The first is the lack of a goal for Malcom. I’m a strong believer that in these high-concept comedies, the protagonist should be trying to achieve something. Take Liar Liar for example. Jim Carrey is trying to win the case that’s going to get him partner. Without that, the main character wanders away from the story and we keep forgetting what the point is. Second, I wasn’t convinced that Malcom was ever *really* in need of money. Sure he had a low-paying job. But there’s no evidence that money played any part in Daisy leaving him, or is responsible for any of the major problems in his life. Therefore the appearance of this money tree doesn’t have that “save the world” effect I think it’s supposed to have. Finally, all the stuff with Scott and Daisy felt more like an attempt to flesh out the story than to create a plot that actually meshed with the movie’s theme. To me, everything should’ve revolved around money. That’s what we’re talking about here. So why we were delving into politics and saving schools was a mystery to me.
Malcom McCree And The Money tree is a great concept with a great title that needs a little more focus. But I want to thank Ryan for being brave and allowing me to read his script. Check out Malcom McCree yourself and tell me what you think.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Malcom McCree And The Money Tree has a great premise. What would you do if a money tree started growing in your house? But a concept like this isn’t as much of a slam dunk as you think. High concept comedies always feel genius when you first think of them. But veteran writers know that all the funny stuff in those ideas is going to last 15-20 minutes of screentime tops. What are you going to do with the other 90 minutes? The question shouldn’t be, “How many funny scenes can I get out of this?” But rather, what am I trying to say with this story? What kind of character do I want to explore? Will he have enough depth to take us through a 110 page screenplay? What characters and sub-plots can I add to ensure this story warrants an entire movie? If you have strong answers to those questions, then maybe you have a screenplay. If you don’t, you might want to move on to the next idea. I’m not sure Malcom McCree And The Money Tree falls into this category because I think a rewrite can improve the script a great deal. But more than a few times I asked myself, “Is there enough here for an entire film?”