Genre: Thriller/Film Noir
Premise: A gunman returns to the crime-ridden city of Fiasco Heights and teams with a degenerate gambler/private eye on the run from a syndicate to look for a beautiful femme fatale.
About: Kyle Ward, all of 27 years old, sold Fiasco Heights to Universal back in 2007. He was an assistant at Dreamworks at the time. The script made the 2008 Black List, landed him at CAA, and got Ward all sorts of high-profile jobs like “Kane and Lynch” and “Hitman 2″. If it does get made, Michael Bay is producing.
Writer: Kyle Ward
What do you get when you mix Sin City, Dick Tracy, and Grand Theft Auto? Fiasco Heights. When Guy Ritchie, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino, and Robert Rodriquez dream of the perfect script, what do they dream of? Fiasco Heights. If you spend the majority of your time debating what your next tattoo will be, dripping sweat from your nearly naked body at the local rave, or dropping acid, what should your next screenplay read be? Fiasco Heights. I never get jealous of other writers, no matter how great they are. I am very jealous of Kyle Ward though. He’s clearly insane, yet possesses the innate ability to capture that insanity and transfer it down onto paper. There is not a single thing about Fiasco Heights that I should like. My 300 and Sin City experiences were the equivalent of being thrown into a dryer for six hours without fabric softener. The only reason I even gave this script a chance was because I had rented Grand Theft Auto a week earlier and had played it so much I’d started confusing the real world with the Grand Theft Auto world. My brain felt like spaghetti and pepto bismol as I stumbled around my neighborhood wondering if I should carjack the Accura or the Audi. Ward’s modern film-noir seemed like a natural extension of this mindset so I gave the Xbox a much-needed rest and dialed up Acrobat. I’m not sure I’d ever go back and relive that week, but Fiasco Heights stands as the defacto bookend to the closest I’ve ever come to committing a felony.
For those of you wondering, Fiasco Heights is a city. Sticking with film-noir tradition, it’s seedy, dirty, rainy, and unpleasant. Atlantic City meets Gotham. Here we join Nick The Saint, a professional killer who hasn’t been to this shithole in years. In fact, everybody thought Nicky was dead. A ghost. But he so wasn’t dead. Now he’s back to find a girl named Hope who’s gotten herself into a bad situation. Across town we meet Lucky – no relation – a former P.I. with a serious gambling addiction. The local bookie (his priest) lets him ride his debt on that evening’s fight and suffice it to say, Lucky’s account gets K.O.’d. Lucky splits and the priest sends out his own personal hitman brigade to take him down. Lucky’s no Carl Lewis so they catch him pretty easily and take him to their own version of confession: If he doesn’t come up with the money, he’s dead.
Lucky for Lucky he spots some men manhandling Hope, the girl Nick’s looking for, and as a result becomes Nick’s only link to finding her. The sleazy Lucky (I don’t know why, but I picture the guy as the real-life equivalent of Leisure Suit Larry) parlays this information into securing the world’s best bodyguard. He’ll help Nick find Hope if Nick helps protect him from the priest. Nick’s not taking to this low-life but it’s not like he’s got a lot of options. Hence, a pairing is born. The thing that Lucky doesn’t realize, is that just about everyone in this town wants Nick dead. Which means this coupling’s annihilation has become the number one priority for every dirty rotten crook in town. Needless to say, trouble ensues.
From then on, every minute of Fiasco Heights is filled with somebody dying, somebody killing, or a bunch of people dying and killing during an incredibly elaborate car chase. In fact, the central chase scene is one of my favorite moments in the script. Here’s the end of it, just to give you a taste of how insane Ward is…
EXT. TRANSPORTABLE HOME – GARAGE – CONTINUOUS
A vertical garage door lifts, revealing a PINK CADILLAC parked inside (the kind your mom drives after selling Mary Kay for ten years). Lucky wires the engine and REVERSES THE CADILLAC OUT OF THE TIPPING HOME BACK ONTO THE FREEWAY.
The house topples to the asphalt, and rolls in direct path of the SEWAGE TANKER. Tanker collides and sputters into a 90 degree skid. As it cuts perpendicular to the other lanes, THE
CONSTRUCTION CARRIER has no choice but to carom into the tanker at full speed…
AN ERUPTION OF PISS & SHIT GOES SKY HIGH!!
WATCH OUT! THE CONSTRUCTION CARRIER hydroplanes across the piss slicked asphalt -and- slams into the median, sending all 6 concrete cylinders toppling onto the highway.
Lucky weaves as the cylinders roll across the lanes. He’s dodging perfectly, until of course the final cylinder rolls directly in front of us!
PINK CADILLAC CHUTES STRAIGHT INTO THE CYLINDER GOING 90… TURNS UPSIDE DOWN AS IT ROLLS LEFT AND GETS SPIT OUT ON ALL FOURS ONE LANE OVER.
Nick signs the cross. Lucky tries too, but fucks the rotation.
And the Cadillac speeds into the clear….
If I need something described from this point on, I’m going to Ward to describe it. I could picture every bullet flying, every body crashing, every color glowing. So much so that I see no point in making the movie. Just read the script a second time. It’ll probably be a more enjoyable experience. If they were going to make this movie though, they should split it up into four pieces and give it to four different directors. Tarantino, Spike Jonez, Tarsem, and Guy Ritchie. Don’t let any of them know what the others are doing. It would be genius! If you’re going to take a shot at this weird creature, why not go all the way?
Is it all buttercups and belgium waffles? No. Buried inside this circus is a pretty ordinary plot. I guess it has to be that way to keep this story from floating off into the stratosphere. But I’m very much a “story” guy and not having something to sink my teeth into kept me from enjoying this as much as I’d hoped. Watching Ward weave words together is fun. And I was never quite sure what was coming around the corner. But I wanted a little more meat on this bone and not even the most lavish description of a bullet entering a man’s body can make up for that. For that reason, Fiasco just misses an impressive. It does, however, get my new favorite rating: the double-star “worth the read”. :)
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I think this script is a good reminder to really evaluate your action description. Make it fun and entertaining to read. A lot of writers are content with just getting it down. Tell us what’s happening in an interesting way. Readers get bored with mundane description.
Premise: Seagal and Van Damme play Los Angeles neighbors in the midst of a long-standing feud.
About: This is an older project I’ve been meaning to read forever. Friends told me it was good and the hook was too hilarious to pass up. The problem seems to be that Seagal and Van Damme won’t do it. Which is a shame because realistically, this is their only chance of getting out of straight-to-dvd land. (If anyone has an update on this project, please e-mail me or leave a comment!)
Writer: da drooz
Remember the good old days when Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal flicks were *the* movies to see? I’ll never forget the day that changed. When a movie titled “Fire Down Below” came out, an “eco-action-thriller.” About 20 minutes into watching this garbage dump of a film, my friend and I turned to each other and said, “What the f*ck is this shit?” You could replay that movie for me right now with Steven Seagal in my living room explaining every plot point in detail and I still wouldn’t know what was going on. It was around that same time I heard a story about Van Damme being a diva on the set of Predator (his first American film) and my love for these two childhood icons died. My only interaction with them since has been seeing their slightly-disheveled mugs pasted on their latest straight-to-DVD release when I peruse through the video store. What Van Damme and Seagal don’t realize is that this movie would completely change all that.
Dave is a struggling writer working on an obscure autobiography of a Bulgarian feminist when he’s informed of a job by his agent that’s a little…out of his comfort zone. Jean Claude Van Damme wants him to write his autobiography. “Jean Claude Van Who?” When Dave finds out it’s some aging action movie star he adamantly refuses. Dave is a “serious” writer who does serious feminist biographies only. But the 175,000 dollar check changes his mind and off to Los Angeles he goes. What Dave doesn’t know is that the only reason Van Damme wants to write an autobiography is because he’s found out that his neighbor, the man he hates more than anything in the world, Steven Seagal, is writing his autobiography, and just like everything else in life, Jean Claude wants to beat him to it.
Naturally, the job of Van Damme’s biographer turns into more than just being his biographer. It requires training with Van Damme, shopping with Van Damme, picking up after Van Damme, and even waxing Van Damme. Not nearly as in demand as he once was, Van Damme spends most of his days spying on Seagal and satisfying a sexual appetite that makes David Duchovny look like Ernest Borgnine. Not to be outdone, Seagal has his own set of spy equipment that he uses to watch Van Damme. He also enjoys sneaking into Van Damme’s house at night and putting up posters of Under Siege or lobbing water balloons into his yard filled with his own urine.
During one of Seagal’s spying sessions, he spots Dave and assumes that Van Damme is building an army to defeat him. The unwritten rules of their feud dictate that this is forbidden so Seagal heads off to see the United Nations of the Van Damme-Seagal conflict, Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris convinces Seagal to calm down, pointing out that an army requires more than one person. But Seagal is not convinced. He goes to his old friend Dolph Lundgren for help, but Dolph is doing something that’s become a bit alien to Seagal and Van Damme – a movie. Not only that, but Dolph is going to direct his first film afterwards. Excited, Seagal inquires about a possible part. But Dolph looks away. He’s sorry but he doesn’t have anything available.
Beat up and depressed, Seagal decides to further investigate Van Damme’s secret one-man weapon and discovers that he’s not a weapon at all, but rather Van Damme’s biographer. Seagal seeks out Dave’s biography about the Bulgarian feminist and reads it. It is so touching – he is so moved – he kidnaps Dave and insists that he write *his* biography. This is after we find out that Seagal wasn’t even writing a biography in the first place. Van Damme had some bad intel. But now that he knows Van Damme is writing a biography, he wants to write one first.
In the end, the former movie stars must team up to save Los Angeles from a group of terrorists who were living right in the house between them this whole time (they were too consumed with each other to notice). And of course, at the very very end, they finally fight each other.
Van Damme vs. Seagal was a nice surprise. I expected a big goofy rompified mess. And it was a big goofy rompified mess. But it was a lovable big goofy rompafied mess with a lot of charm and a surprising amount of story. The scene that everyone talks about is the water-balloon fight (talk about the perfect trailer moment) but this script has tons of funny moments. One of my favorite ongoing gags is that Seagal has slept with 5000 women while Van Damme’s only slept with 4998. In this scene, Dave is taking a pottie (sitting down) when Seagal sneaks in through the window, trying to convince him to write his biography, promising to help him bed women in return. Van Damme walks in and catches them in the act.
But before Dave can say anything, the door opens and VD enters the tiny bathroom.
What the hell is going on in here?
Can you people not see I’m on the toilet?!
Yes. I see you. Sneaking in here, pretending to be on the toilet, pretending to make number 2 so you can talk to your new best friend Steven Seagal.
I’m not pretending. And I didn’t sneak in here. He snuck in to try to get me to help him write his book by helping me win over Theresa.
I can’t believe I called you a great employee.
I said no.
VD is thrilled.
Of course you did. He could never help you win over a woman.
Seagal rolls his eyes.
I could do a lot better job than you, Flemmie. In fact, I could do two better than you.
He sure knows how to press VD’s buttons.
The only reason you have two more conquests than me is because no women were able find me for two days after you changed the name of my street sign.
Seagal laughs fondly at that memory.
I’ll let you read the funniest moment of the script yourself, which happens after Van Damme and Seagal team up. When one of the terrorists spots their position, they must improvise something to stay alive. Let’s just say if it ever happens, it would be one of the the greatest moments in movie history. I don’t know if it’s even legal to give a script named “Van Damme vs. Seagal” an impressive rating, but I’ll tell you, I came Van Damme close (come on, you know I had to go there).
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Gimmick scripts. Scripts with a gimmicky angle usually never get made (or sold for that matter). We’ve seen this with The Gary Coleman – Emmanuel Lewis Project and the more recent “Balls Out” by The Robotard 8000. I remember hearing about a script a long time ago where a frustrated writer wrote one giant ‘fuck you’ to the industry before giving up. Surprisingly, the script was a town favorite and actually got sold (by the way, if anyone knows the title of this script or has it, please send it to me). While selling a gimmick script is the exception and not the rule, their ridiculous nature tends to create a buzz, getting writers into meetings where other work opportunities can be found. Gimmick scripts are a legitimate avenue into the business. Just remember, they still have to be good (I still think VD vs. Seagal could pull in a 25 million opening weekend though. People would flock to this).
Premise: A woman’s 4 year old son is kidnapped. With no way to contact the authorities, she’s forced to chase the kidnappers herself.
About: I don’t know if this makes me cool or uncool but I’ve never watched ‘Jackass,’ the show Knate Gwaltney was on. Gwaltney sold his spec to Fox Searchlight last month. John Moore will direct and exec produce. Di Bonaventura and Erik Howsam will produce via Di Bonaventura Pictures.
Writer: Knate Gwaltney
Someone had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that they were tired of this new Taken takeover trend. And it is starting to feel old. Though you can’t fault Knate Gwaltney for capitalizing on the studios’ desperate bid to create more of these save-or-avenge-my-family-member clones. That’s part of being a writer in this stingy spec market. When the opportunity presents itself, take advantage. My issue with Kidnap is that that’s all it does. It doesn’t push or surprise us in any way (like the highly buzzed about “Prisoners“, for example). It’s solid writing for sure, but I wanted more out of the story.
Kate is the kind of mom who’s popular with the dads at the soccer game. She has an adorable little 4 year old boy named Frank. Frank does a number of adorable little boy things while Kate drives to the local shopping mall. Kate wants to get something sexy for her husband so they head inside the JC Penny where Frank starts playing a little game of hide-and-seek. Yeah, we know this isn’t going to end well. For some reason Kate lets Frank run around outside while she’s in the changing room, and when she emerges to pay for the dress, the game of hide and seek becomes a lot more complicated. Frank is nowhere to be found. Kate starts freaking out, frantically accusing every male in sight. With time ticking off the clock, the saleslady makes a missing boy announcement. But Kate, determined not to let her boy end up on the back of a milk carton (do they still do that?) takes matters into her own hands and goes to find her son!
She barrels out of the mall into the parking lot and there, way way down at the end, she spots two people stuffing her son into a brown hatchback. Fuck! She sprints towards them, screaming for someone to help. But no one’s around and the tactic actually works against her, as they hurry into the car and shoot off. Kate obviously didn’t watch Taken. You’re supposed to call the kidnappers and offer a very calm but threatening ultimatum. Oh wait, Kate realizes her phone is with Frank! Dammit. So she jumps in her mini-van and begins a torrid Los Angeles style car chase through the city.
This is where Kidnap spends the bulk of its time as the movie is essentially one giant car chase. Gwaltney does a good job highlighting the collective apathy our society has for anyone in trouble these days. Even though Kate’s able to get right up next to the hatchback numerous times, scream and yell and honk and tell other passengers to call the police, no one seems that interested in helping her.
There are some solid set-pieces. When the kidnappers near a toll stop – Kate hot in pursuit – they stop their car a few hundred feet short in order to avoid being boxed in. A tepid and awkward showdown begins right there in the middle of the highway, with cars whizzing by obliviously. There’s also a gnarly kill scene when a bike cop gets caught between their two cars and the kidnappers ram him right into the side of Kate’s mini-van, mangling his body into a bloody pulp. Somewhere, Eric Estrada wept.
Watching Kate desperately try to keep the hatchback in site – knowing that if she loses it, she loses her son – keeps the intensity up. But the script starts to get repetitive after awhile. Gwaltney does his best to mix it up, but there are only so many things you can do in a 90 minute car chase. Taken, Prisoners, Rites Of Men, Snatched – they’ve all ‘taken’ me down this avenue before. I didn’t want to see anybody chase each other anymore. I wanted to see people hold hands, kiss, and tell each other that they were swell. Had I read this five months ago? It very well may have been a completely different story. But coming in at the tail end of a trend, it has a ‘been-there-done-that’ feel. Final verdict? Interest barely kept.
Link: No link
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I want to further address what Tarson brought up the other day – trends. But more specifically trying to capitalize on the tail end a trend. If you don’t have an agent or you’re an unsold writer, it isn’t a good idea to try and capitalize on a trend. All the writers with agents and credits? Those are the guys that get the first shot at capitalizing on trends. They’re the ones with an idea or an old script in the current “hot genre” and they’re the ones who get meetings with buyers to pitch these projects right off the heels of a film’s success. By the time you query everyone with your idea, send it out to the interested parties, have them actually read it, and they actually go out to buyers with your script and those buyers read it – it will likely be 5-6 months down the line. By that time, the trend will be over. Like Tarson says, stick with what you love, make sure it’s marketable, keep writing scripts, and when you make your inroads into the business, you’ll have a much easier time capitalizing on the current trend.
Premise: A look at the rise of Facebook and the effect it’s had on its founders.
About: Aaron Sorkin was commissioned by Sony and producer Scott Rudin to write a movie about Facebook based on the book, “The Accidental Billionaires.” Interestingly, Sorkin had little to no knowledge of Facebook when he got the job. He’s self-proclaimed computer ignorant, which makes some of the scenes in the script all the more remarkable. It’s been highly publicized that David Fincher is interested in taking over the reigns for the project. David, if you’re listening to me now, you can make this film. But please make Passengers first.
Writer: Aaron Sorkin (1st Draft)
First of all, Sony’s a little late to the party. There’s already a Facebook movie in production. And I have the exclusive first look!
I think it goes without saying that as soon as Facebook supplanted Myspace as the de facto online time-wasting mechanism, the studios were looking for ways to profit off of it. So they paid Aaron Sorkin 6.2 bajillion dollars to write “the Facebook movie”. An epic story that would capture the drama of late-night status updates, the power of the poke, who and who not to limit profile access to, and of course, the all important and always necessary “delete friend” feature. Okay, well, maybe it wouldn’t be about those things per se. But it would be about computers and software and code and snobby rich kids. Still not exactly the seeds of compelling drama. Which is exactly why Sony decided on Sorkin to tend the garden.
So back in the day I used to work for this producer. He was new to Hollywood – Three years prior he’d created some hot piece of software that sold for a fortune. This left him with a ton money at a very young age and when you’re young and rich, what do you do? You make movies! He was actually a fun guy to work with. Even though he didn’t know a lot, he was smart enough to pick things up quickly. Raised on the first two seasons of Entourage, he liked living the Hollywood life just as much as he liked working in it. So a year into our relationship, he invited me to one of his lavish house parties. It was everything you’d imagine a party in the Hills to be. A lot of great-looking people, pool shenanigans, multiple bars, an overly energetic DJ (this is not me bragging btw; Culver City is much more my scene). As I was taking in the chaos, however, I noticed this quiet little fashion-challenged 30-something in the corner. He had this detached quality to him, like he was at the party but he wasn’t. Whatever his story was, I knew it had to be a lot more interesting than the last ten people I talked to (French Guy: “I’m directing this commercial in Germany.” Me: “Oh yeah? What for?” French Guy: “I cannot talk about it.”) So I made my way over and casually introduced myself. After some small talk I asked him, “So who do you know here?” “Oh,” he said, “The owner of the house.” “Yeah?” I asked. “How?” “I’m his brother.”
This answer was quite puzzling. I had known this producer for over a year and we’d had thousands of conversations but he had never mentioned a brother. I continued to pry and the brother told me the story I’m telling you now: He and the producer co-founded the software company together. The first year was the best year of their lives. They didn’t make a cent but they were doing what they loved and they were doing it together. Then the company started experiencing success. That success led to more success and within a matter of months they were making millions of dollars. The company’s next steps were critical in determining how big they’d become. Millions of dollars were at stake. The brothers could not agree on a direction though. The producer wanted to grow as fast as possible (more money). The brother wanted to retain the quality of the company and slow down (less money). Things got so bad that in the end, the producer, who had a slight majority in the company, fired his brother. The brother told me he hadn’t spoken to him in over 2 years and that these parties were the only times he got to see him (he was never invited. He just showed up). Although he now had more money than he had ever dreamed of, he said if he could do it all over again, he never would’ve started that company. Two things came out of that night. One, I’ll never forget the sadness in that man’s eyes. And two, I never looked at money the same way again.
Naturally, all of this came roaring back to me after reading “The Social Experiment.” Instead of a story about brothers though, this is a story about two friends – one a computer genius, the other a business expert – who began a website that became the fastest growing phenomenon in internet history. Three years later, one was suing the other for 600 million dollars (or 1/30th of Mark Zuckerberg’s worth). It’s a story about greed, about obsession, about our belief that all the money in the world can make us happy. But it’s also unpredictable, funny, touching, and sad. It gives us that rare glimpse into the improbable world of mega-success.
We start out in a campus bar with a young couple. The guy is Mark Zuckerberg, a slightly cooler Bill Gates. The girl is Erica, his girlfriend. The two are having a conversation. Actually, they’re having five conversations because Mark can’t focus on one thing. He’ll occasionally backtrack into a previous conversation within the flow of the current conversation, all while preparing for the next conversation. He’s clearly smart as hell, but the habit makes him incredibly annoying. Add a side of selfishness and an order of condescension and we can see why Erica becomes more frustrated the longer the conversation continues. Mark is so into his own problems, in fact, that he’s completely blindsinded when Erica breaks up with him.
Convincing himself that he could care less, Mark heads back to his Harvard dorm to do what any computer nerd does when he gets dumped by a girl he never should’ve landed in the first place. He starts blogging about it! “Blah blah blah, Erica’s the biggest bitch whore in the world…” But the dumping ignites Mark’s imagination and he comes up with an idea for a website – a sort of “Hot or Not” which allows Harvard guys to compare Harvard women against each other. His best friend Eduardo pops in to help him and they have the site live in less than an hour. Within half an hour after that, the site is so popular, it takes down the entire Harvard computer network. Though he manages to piss off a number of faculty (and Harvard women), Mark earns some ivy league street cred and makes a name for himself (not easy to do on the hallowed Harvard grounds).
The stunt also brings Mark to the attention of Cameron and Tyler: two extremely rich and handsome brothers who are star members of the Harvard row team. Impressed by his creativity and speed, they want him to code their new website – an exclusive Harvard “Myspace-like” network. Mark digs the idea and agrees to help. Over the next month, however, he starts dreaming up his own variation of the site: a social networking experience built on exclusivity. His site would work like real life. Someone could only know your personal details if they were friends with you (unlike Myspace which at the time let anybody know anything about anyone). An exclusive network of friends. He called it “TheFacebook.”
He and his best friend Eduardo come up with the plan – Mark is geek patrol and glues his fingers to the keyboard, Eduardo is business-central and plots the site’s future. The coding wizard needs less than a month to build the site. It goes live a few days later and takes off like a Malibu brush fire. Within weeks everyone at Harvard’s using it. Cameron and Tyler, still in the dark about Mark’s secondary endeavor, are eagerly awaiting their website code. Imagine their surprise when “theFacebook” shows up on every desktop in school. They demand Mark shut down the site but Mark’s already onto the next conversation. He expands into other Ivy league schools and continues to improve the interface. The success is both exciting and terrifying. Eduardo wants to be cautious and look for ways to monetize the site. Mark wants to grow and add more features.
It was only by chance then, that such a crucial juncture in the website’s existence fell upon the end of the school year. Eduardo had to go back to New York for an internship. Mark flew to Norcal to rub elbows with Silicon Valley. Little did either of them know that Mark was about to meet someone who would completely change the game.
Maybe you remember the name “Sean Parker”, maybe you don’t. Parker is the late-nineties time capsule that blew the music industry wide open, exposing their ridiculous CD markups when he co-founded Napster. When Parker falls into Sorkin’s mini-opus, it was like finding some old 8mm film with Jimi Hendrix and Elvis hanging out. You had no idea these guys knew each other! Parker, who at this point had lost every single penny to the record companies, was so poor he was couch-surfing between friends’ apartments. When he sees his ladyfriend playing on this new weird site, “theFacebook,” it’s as if his world’s been turned upside-down. He calls Mark and Eduardo asking for a meeting right away. A week later they meet at some swanky New York restaurant. Parker arrives a good half an hour late, and even without a penny to his name, rides in with the confidence of ten Michael Bay’s. He explains to them that he doesn’t want to crash their party or pitch them anything. He just wants to let them know how awesome they are. With that remark, he’s got places to be, so he’s up and gone as fast as he came, but not before casually dropping a suggestion: “Drop the “the” and just call it “Facebook.” “It’s cleaner,” Once gone, Eduardo turns to Mark. “What a douchebag,” Eduardo’s eyes say. But Mark’s googly giddy expression tells a different story. He’s a 13 year girl at her first Jonas Brothers concert. A mancrush is born.
Needless to say, Parker *did* want to crash the party. He just wanted to make sure Mark’s parents weren’t around (Eduardo) when he showed up with the keg. With Eduardo back in NY, Parker made his pitch: “What are you doing with that guy?” he demanded. “He’s holding you back.” The more Parker points out how little Eduardo is doing, the more things Mark gives Parker to do. And to Parker’s credit, he gets things done. Working for free, he takes Facebook international within three weeks. Mark eventually hires Sean without telling Eduardo, giving him a 5% stake in the company. When Eduardo finds out about the tomfoolery, he makes a bold statement and freezes the company bank account, potentially putting Facebook in major jeopardy. It’s the last straw. Mark and Parker trick Eduardo into signing a contract that screws him out of hundreds of millions of dollars, effectively firing him. In the process, a friendship is destroyed.
The script ends with a chilling and heartbreaking scene. It’s 3 years later, with Mark being sued by Eduardo, Tyler and Cameron, for the full 16 billion dollars the company is worth. We’ve been cutting back and forth to this deposition over the course of the screenplay, and now the long day has ended. Mark sits alone in a dark room, in front of his computer, all the money in the world and not one true friend to show for it. Looking back to the last time he was happy – his relationship with Erica – he pulls up Facebook, the site he invented, slides the mouse up to “add friend” and sends her a friend request. Afterwards, despite the millions of daily operations requiring his attention at that moment, he waits for her to accept. He’ll wait forever if he has to.
The script is sprinkled with a lot more humor than I expected – to the point where I wondered if it should be classified as a comedy. What’s wonderful is that all of it works. Those unoriginal moments you’ve seen in every comedy spec written in the past year (including my own), where couples are arguing over Facebook-related issues (Girlfriend: “Why does your relationship status say you’re single??”) Well Sorkin uses them too. The only difference is that it’s happening to the inventors of Facebook. And so the unoriginal becomes original, the stuid becomes hilarious. — And don’t get me started on Sean Parker – a character that can become iconic if the film is made. The brash techy rock star revels in his own ego, and is a key player in why Facebook is on our computers today (Parker ended up selling his portion of the company for – I believe – a couple hundred million dollars).
Part of my love for this 162 page script is that Sorkin doesn’t use any discernible structure. I was constantly looking for a base, an obvious story or goal. And there isn’t any. 99% of the time when this happens, the script’s a disaster (don’t try it. just, don’t) But Sorkin uses some crazy unknown voodoo screenwriting tricks to keep us riveted. In the end, our curiosity is what drives the story as we’re wondering if Sean – who’s already sacrificed his personal life – will end up getting sacrificed out of a business as well. Did he indeed steal this idea from Cameron and Tyler? Or are these two spoiled brats lashing out because they can’t handle the one time things didn’t go their way?
The Social Network is a either a modern tragedy or a modern success story depending on how you look at it. Imagine going from nothing to a billionaire in less than a year. How do you even grasp that kind of success? How do you live a normal life? How do you address the constant lawsuits that eat into your everyday existence? And how do you do this at 22 years old? When I was 22, just scraping together enough money to buy a case of Busch Light Draft was a victory. Either way it’s fun to put yourself in Mark’s shoes and picture how you’d handle the situation.
I’m sure my attempts to grow Scriptshadow made this read a little more personal. And remembering that lonely brother at the party stirred up some emotions as well. Either way, this script really resonated with me. Which is why it makes it into my Top 10.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: Be inventive in how you reveal character. I loved Sean Parker in this script. Sorkin gives Parker this quirky little obsession with an old business associate who fucked him over during his Napster days. Parker has a stalker-like obsession with getting back at him and brings up his revenge plans at every opportunity. Not only is it hilarious, but it reveals Parker’s character. It takes a certain kind of person who can’t let go – who will stop at nothing to even the score. Basically: an insecure asshole. Normally, a writer will reveal an asshole by having him yell at someone else. How interesting is that? Take a cue from Sorkin and build a little obsession (or other quirk/habit) into your character – something that tells us exactly who they are.
Hope everyone had a Happy Fourth. I’ll be taking the day off today as my cohort Tarson Meads makes his return reviewing a Vampire script. Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing that mysterious high-profile project (which I will warn you in advance – there will be no script link for). If you’re just dying to know what it is, I just started the Scriptshadow Fadebook Fan Page. There are some hints on there :) So stop fooling around and join up! Here’s Tarson…
Premise: Two US mercenaries become involved in a brazen plot to kidnap a beautiful and seductive socialite. However, they soon realize the girl they’ve snatched is an ancient Vampire queen, and her legion is out to get her back.
About: A vampire spec penned by upcoming writer/director Michael Stokes. His indie film “The Beacon” won first prize in a series of horror festivals and comps. Nightfall is currently in development with legendary horror producer Frank Mancuso Jr.
Writer: Michael Stokes
They say don’t ever write a Vampire spec, right? Thankfully, Stokes ignored that advice and wrote one of the most enjoyable Vampire scripts I’ve read in years. I had a lot of fun with Nightfall, there’s a ton of stuff to compliment here, but the real highlight was Stokes’ writing style. I loved it. It’s the kind of style I try to emulate. Snappy dialogue, vivid action, words that pack a punch. The way a great action spec should be.
Stokes doesn’t waste any time at getting to the meat of the concept either. The story begins with the intro of our two protags – Rainford and Denton, two bad- ass, mercs for hire. Rainford is actually on a job to kill Denton when we first meet them inside an Albanian tavern. Rainford’s job has been set up by a couple of local mobsters. The pay is good, but at the last minute, Rainford decides against killing Denton, and all hell breaks loose. This opening grabbed me from page one with strong visuals, and some really cool action sequences.
After the opening bang, the two men decide to work together and soon become involved in a shady scheme to kidnap an exotic socialite from a packed nightclub. They don’t know much about the target – except her name is Aurora, she’s drop dead gorgeous, and their employer is a very rich man by the name of Peter Foxe. Unfortunately his hot-headed and inexperienced son is leading the gig. Apart from our two heroes, there’s a crew of freelance mercs tagging along, who seem to know a lot more about the job than they’re letting on. Things are not adding up. Sparks soon begin to fly. There also seems to be an awful lot of heavy handed hardware and tech in place, just for one woman. Hmmm. You see where this is headed, don’t you.
Another highlight for Nightfall was Stokes’ clever usage of Vampire mythology, as well as his own unique touches that he skilfully adds, here and there. The action is top-notch, and when the shit hits the fan, its balls-to-the-wall mayhem. It’s just a great combination of action and horror, with lots of twists and turns. Overall this was just a really fun read, highly recommended for any scribes who are into this kind of thing.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I Learned: Don’t be so concerned with market trends. Sure, you need a solid understanding of what’s selling and what’s not, but chasing the market isn’t the best course to a success. Writing what you feel passionate about is. But make sure you know what the hell you’re doing. There’s no formula when it comes to what sells. Genre wise, anything can sell, but it has to be unique and commercially viable at the same time. With so many Vampire and Zombie scripts clogging up the spec market, most people in Hollywood yawn at the sight of them, knowing all too well, the majority of them, suck (heh.) But despite this, audiences still crave these types of movies, and despite what you hear, they are still popular with some studios and production companies. They just need to be good. Really fucking good.