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.”
Premise: A fly fisherman lures his victims in with bait and guts them like fish.
About: Nicholl Fellowship winner 2007.
Writer: Michael L. Hare
This is going to cause some of you to have an orgasm. Seriously. If I had to describe this script, it would be a cross between The Strangers and Donnie Darko, two movies I’m not very fond of, but am sure a lot of you are. For the record, I watched Donnie Darko a second time a few years ago at an obscure boring party. I sat down and watched the entire thing to the sounds of ambient music and party noise. I realized how taken I was with it just from a visual perspective. The photography in that film is freaking awesome. It’s when people start talking or the odd musical choices kick in that it all falls apart (for me at least).
Anyway, The Fly Fisher is like the unofficial non-sci-fi sequel to Donnie Darko. It’s a story about a seriously fucked up Fly Fisherman who lures his victims in, does God knows what to them in his stream-side abode, then guts them like a fish.
After he mutilates a sweet little skater chick in the opening scene, we’re introduced to our hero, Jack. Jack is a bit of a high school nerd. He’s into theater. Plays chess. Not exactly hanging in the VIP section. Jack’s got a bit of a strained relationship with his father, Frank, who’s been favoring work over family time lately, and is upset when his dad can’t come to a chess tournament. His mom, Chris, takes him instead and after a 45 minute drive to the location, they find themselves lost in the middle of Swampland USA. How could this have happened, they ask? They followed the GPS.
Ooh, I might know. He LURED YOU HERE YOU IDIOTS! He used some sort of fish oil or something to hack your GPS. God you guys are stupid.
A grimy muddy old station wagon pulls up – always a positive and fruitful sign. But Jack and Chris shrug their shoulders and hop in when The Fly Fisherman (who likes to whistle) offers them a ride. When the Fly Fisherman tries to drive his catch back to the grill though, Chris and Jack fight back and escape, able to swim deep into the river to safety. Later, Frank laments the fact that he wasn’t there for them, and mentally promises to spend more time with his son. But it ain’t going to happen because that night The Fly Fisherman actually BREAKS INTO their house and kidnaps Jack!
Two years pass. Not a word. Not a peep. Frank and Chris assume the worst. Their son is dead. But then the cops get a call and the news comes back that they’ve found Jack! He’s alive! Yaaaayyyy!
Or is it yay?
This time, Frank’s going to make damn sure that he spends some time with his son. As the family tries to get back to a normal life, the secret of what happened to Jack over those two years hangs over them. His parents ask. But Jack doesn’t talk much anymore. He doesn’t do much of anything anymore. He seems detached. Tortured. Is there something else going on here?
You bet your ass there is! The Fly Fisher has programmed Jack to kill his father is what happened ! He even shows up at night in the yard calling to Jack: “Do it” he says. “Do it.” The Fly Fisher has convinced poor Jack that his father is evil for ignoring him and that the only solution is to kill him. Will the Fly Fisher win? Will Jack kill his father? Or will Jack break free of the Fly Fisher’s fish-like mind control over him? That’s the question.
Hmmm, where do I begin? I’ll give The Fly Fisher this. It keeps you guessing. Pretty much ignoring the 3-Act structure, the first 60 pages took so many detours, I had no idea if or when we were ever going to get back on the main road. I don’t even know if there was a main road to begin with because the focus of this takes awhile to become clear. We experience an unrelated murder. We then experience Jack and his Mom seemingly getting kidnapped. But they escape. We then see Jack kidnapped out of his own house. And then we see a “Two years later” title, where Jack is found and rejoins his parents. After all this happens, we still don’t know what the story is about. Needless to say, I was a little frustrated.
But the script is funky and different (like Darko and Strangers) and I have a feeling people will respond to that. It’s just that I, personally, prefer a strong narrative over a string of weird occurrences, as is the nature of The Fly Fisher. It does eventually get to the story (Will Jack kill his father?) but I had a hard time hopping in the boat on that one. Jack’s been brainwashed to think his father is a terrible person because of the way he’s treated Jack. And the movie becomes this emotional journey where Jack is trying to come to terms with whether his father cares about him or not. The problem is, from everything we know, Frank has just been busy at work . In every other respect, he’s a loving caring dad. So he hasn’t shown up to a few chess tournaments recently? That’s grounds for murder? I don’t know. I had a hard time buying it.
I was also curious why the detectives, who knew that The Fly Fisher’s previous victim attempted to kill his father under the same conditions, didn’t warn Frank about it. They were in constant contact. It seems like a piece of information you would want to hear – “Oh, by the way Frank, your son might try to kill you in your sleep.”
But the script has its admirers and the person who suggested it has solid taste so who knows? You might love it. If you do, please contribute your thoughts in the comments section. I’d like to know what I missed here.
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: The Fly Fisher has an intense first 10 pages and that got me thinking about the ubiquitous screenwriting rule: “Make Your First 10 Pages Great”. While I believe in the first ten pages rule in principle, it’s kind of a crock of shit. On the one hand, you want to grab the reader’s attention right away. And that’s definitely important. But just in case you forgot, uh, THERE’S STILL ANOTHER 100 PAGES OF STORY LEFT TO TELL! It’s kind of like talking to women who are obsessed with their wedding. Who have been dreaming their entire lives about this one moment that’s going to be the most perfect day in their entire lives and if they can just have the perfect day then there’s nothing else they need…you want to say to them: “You know there’s 50 years of marriage after this, right?” Same deal here folks. It doesn’t matter if your first ten pages are bang-up awesome if the rest of the script sucks. I’ve actually seen a lot of this, where the writer clearly focuses only on the first ten pages – making them the best ten pages I’ve ever read….. and then page 11 sucks balls. So make your first ten pages great. But make the rest of them great as well. No one’s giving you a 3-picture deal for ten pages.
Since last week was Thriller/Bank Heist week, this week is going to be a little lighter. I’m predicting at least a couple of comedies. Although I say that having just read a horror script. What, you say? You read a horror script?? Yes, I did. And I just know some of you are going to love it. What did I think? Hmmm. Tune in to find out.
So listen, I’m thinking of starting a Scriptshadow Message Board/Forum, but I don’t really know what I’m doing. My initial research has led me to a vague understanding of the requirements, but I know if I could just talk to someone who knows what they’re doing, it would be a lot easier. For instance, I don’t know how much space I’m going to need, what features I’ll want, or where all the best deals are. So if you’re a fan of the site and know what I need to get this thing started, please e-mail me. (By the way, this is a good 2-3 months down the line – so don’t get too excited).
The spec market is pretty crummy right now. Nothing’s selling, so there are no new scripts to request (as if I don’t have enough to read already). In the meantime, keep those suggestions coming. Haven’t put anything in the Top 25 for a long time now and I want that to change.
Genre: Action/Heist (sort of)
Premise: A bank robber must go undercover to sell out his old partner.
About: For those of you with sharp memories, Herman wrote the impressive Rites of Men, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. Loved that script. But it was Conviction, his bank heist screenplay, that was his first sale. The second I finished Rites, I went searching for this one.
Writer: Johnathan Herman
Herman is such a good writer that he almost saves this. Almost. But instead of a tight thriller in the vein of Rites Of Men, we get an unfocused bank heist film that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.
Patrick is the king of all bank robbers. He’s got a special system down, one that doesn’t even require a gun, which allows him to steal a good chunk of that Federal stimulus package all the banks seem to be hoarding. His partner in crime (literally) is “Bomb,” a 20 year old kid who Patrick plucked from the ghetto when he was 15, and spent the following years mentoring and training to be the best bank robber without a gun evvvverrr. After a little make-up action, the two calmly walk into a bank, threaten one of the customer service reps using pictures and details of the their family, and get a special escort right into the vault.
But today’s heist does not go well. That’s because their over-caffeinated dimwitted driver freaks out at the site of a guard and blasts him to pieces. Retaliatory shots are fired, people start dying, and poor Patrick is hit bad enough that he’s on the street lying in a pool of his own blood. Bomb tries to grab him but the sirens are in the distance and Patrick tells him to go. “Go!” Bomb’s loyal to the end but he’s not stupid. Taking his cue from GTA, he steps on the gas and leaves poor Patrick to the sharks.
Flash forward a few weeks and Patrick is in the hospital, then in court, then in jail. It’s not all bad though. He’s eligible for parole when he turns 110. Five years go by (in the form of a fadeout) and Special Agent Plant pays Patrick a visit. Apparently, Bomb’s become a Heist superstar, the P. Diddy of robbing banks. He’s perfected Patrick’s methods and even added a few twists of his own. Intel says Bomb’s gearing up for something big. ‘Explosion’ big. And there’s only one man in the world who can stop him – the man who knows him best. Plant offers Patrick freedom if he’ll go undercover and take down Bomb – his best friend. Duh-duh-duhhhhhhhhhh. There’s nothing worse than selling out your BFF, but Patrick can’t resist the opportunity to be with his baby girl again. He accepts.
I don’t know about you but this all felt a little….B-Movie to me. Like something Ice-T or Common would play the lead in. The choices aren’t bad. They’re just uninspired. I have something called “The Straighten Up.” It’s when something happens in a script that’s so cool or so interesting that I straighten up before I continue reading. An “impressive” usually gets at least 2 Straighten Ups. And a “worth the read” usually has 1. But I was slogged down in my couch for the entirety of Conviction. And that’s too bad cause I was really looking forward to this.
Where are the problems? Well I knew the script was in trouble when I had to post a genre and I couldn’t figure out what to put. Is it a drama? A thriller? An action film? A heist film? It could be any one of those, and yet at one point or another it’s all of them. My biggest frustration was figuring out where Herman was going with all this. We get these weird flashbacks where Patrick first meets Bomb and we see him teaching him and helping him and they’re just so…unnecessary. Even Herman seems to think they don’t work cause he stops using them halfway through the script. And it’s not like the great Lawrence Fishburne movie, Deep Cover, since Patrick really doesn’t spend a lot of time “undercover” at all. We never really feel like we’re inside Bomb’s world. And maybe that’s because it never was Bomb’s world. It was Patrick’s. So it’s hard to believe that Bomb’s the one now in control. /Sigh…
I love Herman as a writer but this one fell flat for me. It needed direction. It needed an identity. I’m hoping the rewrites accomplish this.
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
WHAT I LEARNED: Conviction was a good reminder to flesh out all your characters, even the supporting ones. Agent Plant is so obsessed with work, his private life is non-existent. He’s forced to pay for hookers just to experience human interaction. Another one of the agents has a father with Alzheimer’s, and we can see how much this weighs on her. These are bit players and although Herman doesn’t spend too much time on them, he gives us just enough to show that they’re real people. I’ve been discussing this with a lot of writers lately because it’s an area that’s easily overlooked. But in almost all of the professional screenplays I read, the characters from top to bottom are packed with depth. I don’t think that’s an accident.