Welcome to the first ever Scriptshadow Interview. I want to apologize in advance for how lame my questions are. See, I only asked Geoff things that I wanted to know. So you may or may not get anything out of this. But the good news is, there’s a link to a more helpful interview at the end of the post. Just remember, this is my first time. So be gentle.
Geoff LaTulippe is currently one of the hottest writers in Hollywood. His script “Going The Distance” sold to New Line late last year and was recently greenlit with Drew Barrymoore and Justin Long in the lead roles. Standing strong at number 9 on my Top 25 list, the script is a hilarious account of two people in a long distance relationship. Since the sale of Going The Distance, Geoff signed with Sarah Self at Gersh, has sold a couple of pitches, and is currently adapting a book for Diablo Cody titled, “Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament.” One of the reasons I asked Geoff for this interview is that he used to be a reader himself. This allows him to have a unique perspective on how a script gets sold. As much as that would be a good starting point, I wanted to begin this interview with a very relevant and topical question that I think gets to the heart of what screenwriting is all about.
SS: What was it like when you found out you were in Scriptshadow’s Top 10? How does that affect your day-to-day life?
GL: My first thought was, “Who is this Scriptshadow motherfucker and why is he illegally trading a script that is the copyrighted property of New Line/Warner Bros.?” And I meant to get really worked up about it, but then I just went off and did…anything else, really.
No, in all honesty…it’s flattering whenever you make a Best Of list, especially one that comes from someone who reads so many scripts and doesn’t seem to enjoy any of them. I’m glad that for a lot of people the script connected and it made them laugh. When you’re writing comedy, those are really the only two things you want to accomplish. The fact that you have it ranked ahead of 500 DAYS OF SUMMER is lunacy, though. There’s a simple, brilliant scene in that movie that I’m SO fucking jealous that I didn’t write that I can’t even explain it to you.
SS: You’ve read a million scripts, half as many as me. What’s the most common mistake you see writers make?
GL: There’s a macro answer and a micro answer to this one, and we’ve all made (and continue to make) both, even the best guys.
On a macro level, too many writers lack originality. They either parrot ideas that have been done a million times and fail to inject anything new or fresh into it, or they take a concept that could work and just write it in the most boring way possible. Most writers simply lack that innate element that gives them the ability to stand out, to be different, to (ugh) “have a voice”, and that’s why there are so few great scripts written.
On a micro level, the mistake I see the most is…well, kind of the same answer. It’s a little to easy to say “most writers are boring”, but that’s what it comes down to. Most scripts just aren’t interesting. They don’t engage. Of the scripts that are decent but lacking something here or there, I think a lot of writers don’t understand how to take strong first act and thereby project a solid second and third act. How many scripts have you read that you were digging up to page 30 or 40…and then it just fell apart? Some of that is not understanding how to develop character, some of it is not understanding how to keep upping the “tension” (in quotations because that can encompass a lot of things), and some of it that writers put all their good ideas into the beginning of the script and then have nothing left over.
I don’t think there’s a great generic answer here. I think, obviously, the macro is much easier to identify than the micro as the micro is more script-specific.
SS: Of all those scripts, can you give us a handful that you loved that never got made? And can you complement that with an e-mail to me with those scripts attached?
GL: I will send you NOTHING! All the PDFs I had went the way of the Dodo with an old hard drive that crashed on me, so I no longer have a stable of scripts to dump on you guys. Which is a shame. But you seem to do a pretty good job of finding all the stuff you need on your own, Dr. Networking McScripty, so quit panhandling.
I’ve mentioned this in a couple of different places, but my favorite script ever is called FOOLS RUSH IN (used to be UNTITLED BILL CARTER PROJECT). I think it’s beyond Oscar-caliber if they can ever put it together, which will be hard considering you have to recreate war-torn Sarajevo. Another script I loved is called PAPER WINGS. It’s a story about a rodeo cowboy and a country singer who fall in love. First of all, if you can engage me in a romantic drama, kudos to you. But if you can engage me in a romantic drama with a Country-Western theme, you are a goddamned magician. I would sell my mother’s dead ovaries for that kind of ability.
I love comedies about summer camp, so I’m always rooting for those to get made (if they’re good). One of the first scripts I recommended was called THE PNEMONIST, which was about a guy who, literally, couldn’t forget anything he’d ever seen. That was pretty sick, especially in the way the writer executed it. And just the other day on DD (Done Deal Message Board) I was talking about two scripts I really loved: one was REAPER by Gary Whitta (of BOOK OF ELI fame) and another was a vampire western (a genre that DESPERATELY needs to happen now) called BLOOD AND SILVER. Oh, also, there’s a script floating around out there called NINTENDO CHRISTMAS that doesn’t have the best execution ever, but it’s basically A CHRISTMAS STORY set in the 80s, and Nintendo is the Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. And then that one reminded me of maybe the funniest script I’ve ever read called SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO GET ME. I can’t imagine it ever getting made. Picture an R-rated comedy in which Santa is a total bastard who steals the wife of every male generation in an American family that he put a curse on…and then one man in that family has had enough, and he teams up with a gun-toting, bomb-wielding Easter Bunny to hunt Santa down. I swear to God this script exists, and if you can find it, it will blow your mind.
SS: Who do you think is better at reading? Me or you?
GL: Just at the act of reading? Probably me. But reading scripts? Me. Although, I will give you this: you’re only slightly worse at BLOGGING about reading scripts than me, and that’s because I don’t blog about scripts I’ve read. So you’ve got that going for you.
SS: Going the Distance is a town favorite. It got 14 votes on the Black List. But occasionally someone will come up to me and say, “Carson, what’s up with that Going The Distance script?” Of course I punch them in the face. But it is a type of humor that doesn’t appeal to everyone. How do you deal with criticism of your material?
GL: That’s a nice thing to say. Here’s the deal: comedy is, by gigantic leaps and bounds, the most subjective of all film genres. If you want to be a comedy writer and you don’t have an almost preternatural understanding that you’re never going to please everyone, you’re swimming without floaties. My writing is, always has been, and hopefully will always continue to be polarizing; I write bluntly, I tend to prefer mean humor, and I’m not afraid to push the bounds of taste. To me, there is little difference between, “Wow, that was great,” and “Jesus Christ on the cross, I fucking hated that!” Both of those are inspired reactions. On the contrary, the worst thing you can hear is, “I just didn’t get it,” or, “Eh, I didn’t really care about it either way.” That’s a lack of connection and, generally, that’s your fault as a writer.
I’ve had the good fortune that a vast majority of the people whom I’ve interacted with have really liked GOING THE DISTANCE. And I’ve talked to plenty who didn’t; these people don’t bother me at all. Negative reactions to popular material come from two sources: people who genuinely disliked it (probably about 75% of the group) and people who are just contrarians/followers/speaking out of turn (the other 25%). It’s ALWAYS important to listen to negative criticism because you get a chance to understand what about your writing didn’t work…and a lot of times the people who loved what you wrote won’t bother to tell you that stuff. All the same, if someone isn’t into your shit…what can you do? Be glad they gave you a shot and hope they dig the next thing you put out there. That’s it.
SS: You currently share representation with and are writing a script for Diablo Cody. Has she let you touch her Oscar? What’s it like working with her (if the answer is boring, please embellish)?
Unfortunately, my interactions with Diablo have been limited to a pair of story meetings. I didn’t get within ten miles of her Oscar, but I can say that we spent about 45 minutes discussing the intricacies and general genius of ROCK OF LOVE BUS. Incidentally, Bret Michaels went to my high school. And I didn’t even need to embellish that. So suck it.
SS: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the industry since you sold Going The Distance?
GL: This will be my lamest answer of the interview (a tough competition, no doubt), but I couldn’t even pick what might be the biggest thing, and it wouldn’t even matter because I still have way too much to learn. I will tell you my FAVORITE thing that I learned: when I started taking general meetings with studios and production companies, I called my manager and asked what was accepted attire for such. He laughed at me and said, “No no no…you’re the TALENT! You wear whatever you want!”
He may or may not have been slightly joking or mostly joking, but I took that and ran with it. I have worn flip-flops and shorts to like every meeting since. It’s fucking great. I look at my poor bastard button-down shirts in my closet and just think about how bored they are. A couple of months ago I was in a meeting and John Cusack came in. He, too, was wearing just like a t-shirt and jeans, and I felt awesome, like, “Yeah, you CAN wear whatever you want.” And then I thought for a second and realized, “Geoffrey, you’re an asshole. That’s John Cusack. You’re still you.” It was one of my few “I’m Keith Hernandez” moments and hopefully one of the last.
SS: The closest I’ve gotten to a green light is driving to my local grocery store, and even then it’s almost always red. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to not only get your screenplay sold, but to then get it into production. It really is a one-in-a-million shot. Knowing that, how did you react when you got a green light for Going the Distance?
GL: You know, we had actually thought for a couple of months that we had a good shot to get a greenlight. The studio’s been really behind it since day one, talent responded surprisingly well, and the guys at WB had it on their radar. That said…when it actually happens…it’s awesome. I don’t know how else to describe it. I was SO fucking hungover the morning I got the call, but as soon as I heard the words I felt like a trillion dollars. I jumped up, took my dog to the park for an hour, and the smile hasn’t left my face since.
And I’ll say this and say it in all honesty: though I did write a script that a lot of people responded to, I never expected it to even sell, much less get a greenlight in nine months. The confluence of events that has to happen to get to a point that even APPROACHES the greenlight stage is daunting beyond belief. It takes a lot of people doing their jobs really well and a tremendous amount of luck. In reality, I’m easily one of the most fortunate people to ever walk the face of the earth.
SS: Why do you think your script sold?
GL: I think there were pretty much two factors, one of my perception and one of others. From the people I’ve met with, they all claim my “voice”. It’s a term I hate in general because I think it’s overused in the industry, but I get it. I don’t get that MY voice is special, though, because it’s always been mine. It doesn’t seem alien to me. I’m just consistently glad that people find me funny in any capacity. It also amazes me when people say that the script has “heart”, which I’m happy to say I get a lot, because that was one of the major things I was sure I hadn’t nailed when I wrote it.
For me…I think the script sold because of the universality of the concept. We were really, really lucky (again, I’m telling you, that’s not just lip service) that no one else had really broached the idea of the long distance relationship. We were doubly lucky because just a couple weeks after I sold the script I found out the two showrunners for THE OFFICE were planning on writing one of their own, and I’m sure that would have put mine to shame.
But it’s one of those things like KNOCKED UP – how many people do you know that have had a surprise baby? But how many films have approached that concept from such an observational angle? I think when people read the script it was one of those times when they thought, “I can’t BELIEVE there hasn’t been a movie made about this yet!” Everyone’s been in a relationship, and everyone’s been in or known someone in an LDR. It’s a profound yet shared experience (in that if you haven’t been in one, you’ve heard the stories of someone who has, so you feel like you know), so everyone can get into it.
SS: I saw in a recent Facebook update that you had to kill a 4 inch cockroach in your bathroom. Don’t you have enough money to pay for an exterminator now? And how do you plan to spend all this new money anyway?
GL: I am not in a place, psychologically, where I can yet talk about my run-in with the cockroach. Suffice to say that it was huge, it hissed at me, I spent thirty-five minutes running around my apartment like a crazy lady before I had the nerve to kill it with an aforementioned flip-flop, and I had to use the neighbor’s bathroom the whole next day because I literally didn’t have the nerve to go back into mine. I’ll thank you to never speak of this again.
I’m a big fan of spending money on experiences rather than things, though I have a compulsion with Blu-Ray and I did buy a ridiculous plasma. But mostly I paid off college, made some donations and use the surplus for various things. Dave (Neustadter, who developed GOING THE DISTANCE with me and who bought the script at New Line) and I hired a cover band to play a Christmas party for our friends. I bought ten tickets to the Rose Bowl and cried with friends and fellow PSU fans as we watched our mighty Nittany Lions get the shit kicked out of them. I’ve been to Vegas twice. And then I’m saving a massive chunk of it just in case that luck we talked about runs out.
SS: Once you sold Going The Distance, you did “the rounds” in Hollywood. I understand you sold a pitch or two. What’s the key going into those things? Cause if you’re smart, you can parlay one script sale into several.
GL: Unfortunately I can’t say too much about the pitches I sold, but one was a pre-existing story idea that I had with an exec at a studio. The other was just an idea that I mentioned in a couple of rooms and wasn’t even a quarter of a pitch. It was just another one of those universal themes that I wanted to tackle that I can’t believe hasn’t been done right yet. Another exec took a liking to that one and it sold.
Seriously – I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m doing. I just know it’s working right now and I just want to keep it working. Someone tell me how to keep it working. I don’t want it to stop working.
SS: So all these big doors opened when you sold the script. Once your script got greenlit, did a whole new set of even bigger doors open? How does that work?
GL: I honestly don’t know. It happened so recently that there hasn’t really been any fallout yet. What do I want to happen? I want Emmanuelle Chriqui to hear the news and fall in love with me. What will probably happen? People will keep asking, “How long have you been growing your beard?”
SS: Can you tell us what you’re working on now? In the future?
GL: Just the projects I mentioned above, which are keeping me more than busy enough right now. In the future I have a couple more ideas in the hopper. I’ve got a concept I’m really excited about that’s pretty much the polar opposite of the observational comedies I’ve been writing, so it’ll be fun to see the new and absurd ways in which I can fuck that up. There are also a couple of remakes I’d really like to look at – but not of stuff that already has a rabid, loyal fanbase.
SS: I hear in certain circles that you dated Script Girl. Are these rumors true? Can you get that bitch to mention Scriptshadow in her next video?
GL: Sweet Christmas, I wish that was really a rumor. Can we start that rumor here? I would love for that to happen. Is that really a rumor? Fuck, that would be awesome. Did she say that? What did she say? Can you find out if she was being serious? Ask her if she likes me. Find out! I like her, but don’t tell her I like her. OK, I’m gonna have a juicebox and ride my bike to the arcade.
SS: And that’s it! I can’t believe Geoff took all that time out of his busy schedule to throw me a bone. Thank you Geoff! Hopefully we can do it again sometime. For those who want more Geoff, he gives another great interview over at Done Deal where he answers more questions pertaining to breaking in and stuff. So if you want to read it, here’s the link.
Premise: The Dirty Dozen in medieval times.
About: This sold to New Regency for 800k against 1.6m in March of this year. McG is attached as director.
Writers: Mike Finch and Alex Litvak
edit: I just wanted to APOLOGIZE to Scott and you guys. This is what happens when you read a script at 4 in the morning, try to cobble a review together, paste in someone else’s analysis, do your first “scheduled” blog post (as I would be asleep when I was supposed to post it). The formatting of Scott’s review was not his fault, it was mine. Anyway, it’s now been fixed. Sorry!
Welcome to the very first Scriptshadow Challenge. Scott Myers (from Go Into The Story) and I will each conduct a monthly analysis on a recently sold spec script and let you participate in the discussion. We gave you the script “Medieval” last Friday. You damn well better have read it. Now all you have to do is read our reviews and give us your thoughts in the comments section.
So I’m going to let you guys in on a secret but you can’t tell anyone. I…..I might’ve lied a little. Well, not “lied” lied. But a tiny minuscule white lie. I actually tried to read Medieval when it was sold. Yes. Yes. If you’ve been following the blog, you may have picked up that I do this a lot. I start reading a script and if it’s just dreadful, I can’t continue. I hurl it to the floor, scream obscenities at it, curse it for disrespecting my time, pray that the next script will be better, and move on. Which is why I am writing this review at 4:30 IN THE MORNING! Because I couldn’t bring myself to read it again. It was like that paper in that obscure history course you took in college that you just couldn’t bring yourself to write. That’s how I felt about going back to Medieval times and reading Medieval. But here I am. The city’s asleep and I have a deadline. Damn you Scott Myers. Damn you for forcing a deadline on me!
Okay, let’s try this again. The *idea* for Medieval is actually pretty cool. A monk, a knight, a samurai, a zulu, an Arab, a gypsy and a viking are all in a jail cell a la The Usual Suspects. But, like, you know, 500 years earlier. They’re bitching and moaning about how they got here and how they’re all going to be hanged tomorrow and whatever can they do to save themselves?
As if on cue they are visited by the “lawyer” (the writers aren’t keen on names if you haven’t noticed). Although this lawyer is sleazy, it turns out he’s even sleazier than your average sleazy lawyer. If the 7 of them can infiltrate the King’s castle and steal the crown, he says, he will let them all go free. Unbeknownest to the group, the food he’s given them is poisoned and the only one who has the antidote is him! If they don’t get the crown within 24 hours, they’re all dead. Did I say he was sleazy or did I say he was sleazy?
So they go on this Medieval Mission Impossible to steal the King’s crown, performing numerous badass slow-motion ass-kickings while evading Indiana Jones-like traps. But when they get to the throne room, there is a man in the process of assassinating the King. No! They’ve been set up! This man is supposed to kill the king while all of them take the rap!
This forces our group of seven to go on the run and escape the wrath of whoever’s plan this is – which looks to be the King’s extremely jealous twin brother (who missed out on Kingage by 40 seconds), Richard.
And there’s your movie.
Now here’s the thing with Medieval. The script is not all that bad but it’s not all that good either. It never takes itself seriously, proudly offering visual cues like “Imagine the Cantina in Star Wars” to set the tone for a location. Kinda shameless but it works in it own way. Really the whole thing is an excuse for as many sweet fight scenes as possible.
And that’s why it sold. Really cool f*cking fight scenes. And I’m not going to take that away from Medieval. It’s a director’s wet dream. I don’t know if anyone’s seen the very stylized Christopher Gans film “Brotherhood Of The Wolf”, but I imagine Medieval being directed identically to that film. And if it is, it’ll be one hell of a fun ride.
As for the story, to be honest, I had no clue what was happening after they escaped the castle. They try to get to this boat but then they’re attacked at the docks and then who knows where they were going or why…??? I didn’t care. You know what I did care about? A Sumo fights a monk. I cared about that.
So did I like Medieval? Kinda. But what I really like is the potential this has to be a great summer flick. I’m one of the few people who think McG’s a solid director and I think he’d do something fun with this. Oh, and you gotta love writers who, within the first five pages, have the audacity to use a flashback within a flashback. That’s worth 50 grand right there. :)
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned from Medieval: If you can tap into a director’s imagination (God I hate saying this) you don’t need to execute your spec perfectly. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! All I’m saying is that this proves it’s possible.
Although I yelled at Scott for trying to make me look bad, keep in mind that I write 5 reviews a week, and Scott writes 1 a month. Which is why his review is just a liiiiiiiiiiiiiitle longer than mine. And for context, neither Scott nor I see each others’ reviews until after we’ve written our own (especially Scott, who has to wait until literally the last second). Reading through Scott’s review now, I think he brings up a lot of great points, particularly about why the movie probably won’t be made. Here’s Scott:
When I plowed through “Medieval” — written by Mike Finch & Alex Litvak — last night, I had a strange sense of déjà vu. Because it felt like I had read this script before. Way back in 1990, I remember reading another spec script “The Last Boyscout” written by screenwriter Shane Black. And although the two stories have nothing much in common re their plots, they have just about everything in common re their narrative voice, tone, and style. Right there on P.2 with this example of scene description in “Medieval” — “Yep, he’s that good” — flashed me back to Black’s opus and some of his scene description from right up front — “Yes, honey, that’s your butt”. And immediately, my stomach twisted into a little knot. Not the whole breaking the 4th wall thing again! Thanks to Shane Black and “The Last Boyscout,” a spec script that sold for a then record $1.75M dollars, Hwood was flooded with Shane Black wannabes. That went on for way too long. But evidently with “Medieval,” the ghost of Shane Black wannabes is back.
Now there’s no real inherent problem with commenting on the action with SD like, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage” or even breaking the 4th wall and addressing the reader like, “well, how would you feel if you were about to go on a suicide mission? Yeah. Kinda like that.” Indeed, writing like that can make a script a more entertaining read. And when Hwood’s threshhold guardians — script readers — their eyes bloodshot and souls savaged by reading one bad script after another, light upon something like “Medieval,” which actually provides them with some laughs in SD, you can understand why they might be more inclined to say “Recommend” or at least “Consider” when they turn in their coverage.
However, here is the problem: I’ve started off my analysis of the script by spending the first two paragraphs talking about the script’s narrative voice — not the plot, characters, theme, dialogue or anything else which is more important to the success of the story. But then, Messrs. Finch & Litvak are doubtless laughing all the way to the bank to the tune of $800K / $1.6M on the sale of “Medieval.” And Mr. Finch is writing this project for Bryan Singer, so I doubt very seriously they care what anybody thinks about their impersonation of Shane Black. For that matter, Shane Black probably doesn’t care either.
So let me sum up my thoughts on the writing style in “Medieval” thusly: It fits with Finch & Litvak’s iteration of this genre piece, and that’s finally all that matters. Their concept is an outrageous story in that everything about it is comic book big. Or more precise, videogame big. And make no mistake: “Medieval” reads like a great videogame. The plot, the characters, the dialogue, the stakes, twists, turns, and yes, even the narrative voice are over-the-top big, that kind of hyper-reality you find in a videogame. So bottom line, the writers’ choice of narrative voice fits in with their vision of the story. You may not like it, but it is an extension of what the overall mood, tone, and style they were going for — and in that they succeeded.
On the whole, it tracks a pretty traditional three-act route with a couple of nifty variations. There are also a series of plot twists, some of which I anticipated and a few I did not.
P. 1-16: The introduction of the seven Co-Protagonists: Gypsy, Zulu, Monk, Viking, Samurai, Arab, Knight. The fact that the story takes this long to go through each characters set-up and backstory is noteworthy because it is unusual. Even the choice of using flashbacks — typically frowned upon by Hwood readers — adds to the psychological impact I got when reading the first several pages: “These writers are going to go balls-out in this story.” Of course, most of the backstory incidents do that right there in the action, but their choice as writers to take 16 pages and use flashbacks to intro their core characters underscores the writers’ ‘outrageous’ slant on the material.
P. 17-29: When the herald character (Lawyer) arrives, that marks the beginning of what I call The Hook, a plot point that spins the story in a direction that gives us a sense of where the plot is going. In this case, Lawyer makes the 7 an offer they — literally — can not refuse. Then comes the first sustained action sequence, which the writers note with “Chapter II: The Heist” (following Chapter I: The Gathering). In general, I found the action writing to be quite good. The writers make a conscious choice not to use SHOTS / SECONDARY SLUGS which would have made the action more readable, but I suspect they didn’t do that in order to keep the page count down (that might also explain why most of their parentheticals were placed within sides of dialogue, not on their own separate line).
P. 29 – 36: Realizing they have been set up and stuck with the Pageboy character, the 7 determine that “together we might have a chance,” seven against an army. And at that point, we have the end of the first act, what I call The Lock – because now the plot is locked down: It’s the 7 plus Pageboy against the Nemesis (Edward) and his enormous mix of bad guys in his armed forces.
P. 36 – 47: This is the first of five extended sequences which comprise the second act. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Finch & Litvak used the sequence methodology in cracking the story’s plot. Here the 7 and Pageboy visit the Gypsy’s nephew (Frederick) in a local tavern. This is essentially ‘down’ time, a change of pace from all the preceding action, and an opportunity to lay out some exposition and provide some additional beats in subplots, such as Arab and Knight. I should point out that the writers make good use of callbacks throughout the script including one between Gypsy and Frederick, as when Gypsy forces his uncle to drink poison, killing him: “You’d think you were the one who fucked my mother.”
P. 47 – 59: A big action sequence tagged by the writers as “Chapter IV: The Getaway.” Again quite good SD in general and a nice plot twist (which I guessed): That Pageboy is actually a female, the Queen-in-waiting Amelia. But I must say where the Shane Black approach in the first act didn’t bother me that much, there were several times in this sequence where the specific modern cultural references — “Bruce Lee vs. Odd Job” / “‘Black Hawk Down’ time” — and directing lingo — “CAMERA slingshots” / “We CRANE UP” — really lurched me out of the story. As compared to the very first pages where the writers used ‘modern’ lingo in dialogue — “Hey! I’m innocent! Hey! Hey! I was judge-fucked!” / Are you going to whine all night?! / Any time, gyppo” — to tell the reader, “Hey, this isn’t going to be one of those frumpy medieval language jobs, we’re taking poetic license and having some fun here,” I began to grow weary of the contemporary references in action description. Now let me point out that it’s the midway point in the script, and I don’t care about any of these characters all that much. Oh, I get what’s going on, what the stakes are, and I’m mildly amused by Gypsy, generally sympathetic to Viking, and somewhat curious about Monk, but none of these characters has approached anywhere remotely near three-dimensionality. But again, I think this is a conscious choice on the part of the writers because their inspiration for the story is the world of videogames. And per the type of videogame, the writer is responsible to give characters just enough to generate empathy and understanding toward them, as well as distinguish between them.
P. 59-67: The first scene in this sequence is actually my favorite in the script. There’s some good dialogue between Gypsy and Amelia that actually opens up these two characters, allowing a bit of their humanity to show through. Plus, befitting a scene in the middle of the script, what I call a Transition, we see a transition with Amelia: Where Knight begins to instruct her in the way of using a sword. This scene is followed by others to take advantage of another ‘down’ time: Viking and Samurai swap talk and ideas, as do Monk and Arab. These are all beats in subplots that we can expect to play out in the script ahead.
P. 67 – 81: Apart from the introductory pages, this is the longest sequence in the script, and it’s virtually all action. It also includes the worst (best?) Shane Black-ism in the script with this SD: “Remember the place we first met Zulu back on pg. 6? Deja vu.” If I’m not mistaken, Black did the exact same thing in “The Last Boyscout.” Amidst all the action — again well-written and visual — the writers drop in a critical bit of exposition: Monk’s confession of the truth about his background (P. 78: “I am a monster. I am a plague. I am the Devil”).
P. 81 – 90: The final sequence of the second act. It begins with Edward all pissed off. I should note the cuts back to Edward are a traditional device to (a) check in with the Nemesis to remind the reader they’re still around and (b) to provide a break by cutting away from the Protagonist ‘team.’ Two interesting things in this sequence. First, how Monk gives himself up to save the others. I wasn’t so much surprised by him doing that — his character’s arc would be to do something self-sacrificial — but I was by the specific circumstances involved: Poor people who only want one of the seven so they can get a reward in order to have food to eat. I thought that was a rather novel idea. The other thing is the suddenly budding romance between Gypsy and Amelia. Yes, they had their rather philosophical discussion back around P. 60 and a few other bits of business, but apart from them being forced to have their bodies clamped together in this action sequence, I didn’t really buy the chemistry.
P. 90 – 98: What I call On the Defensive. And true to form, the group loses Knight. Beyond that, Edward confronts his would-be challengers and uses a bit of Gordon Gecko ‘greed’ logic to spin their initial estimation of what to do, eventually (and quickly) choosing to support him as King. But what really distinguishes this sequence is after what’s left of the 7 reaches safety, Amelia demands to go back — a nice twist. There’s her appeal to the remaining Co-Protagonists on P. 97, which you either buy or don’t. These type of speeches are tough to handle and after Blutarski’s broadside in Animal House (“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor”), really what can you have a character say that can convince a cynical jaded script reader that those words would energize the other characters. But at least they had Gypsy hold out at the end: That was a measure of respect for the character’s inner conniving self and at least the writers let one soul not be immediately swayed by Amelia’s call to arms.
P. 98 – 109: On the Offensive. Once we realize that the group’s entire goal throughout Act II — getting to the boat to escape — was a Maguffin of sorts, we are in new territory as they head back into the jaws of danger. The requisite ticking clock — Edward’s ordination — then Amelia’s entrance and, what I thought, was some very smart dialogue, ticking off one piece of logic after another. All ending with Amelia assuming her rightful place on the throne. Or so we think.
P. 109 – 116: This may have been the niftiest bit in the script. Where we would typically be seeing The Final Struggle taking place, followed by the Denouement, what we get instead is an elongated variation of M. Night Shyamalan did at the end of The Sixth Sense: A series of flashbacks to show how Amelia set up the good guys. Topped off with an even niftier twist: The revelation of the Lawyer being “Niccolo Machiavelli.”
All in all, I thought it was an entertaining read. Moreover, I can see why the script sold:
* It’s a videogame wrapped in a screenplay. That means it can be turned into a videogame. And it will appeal (in theory) to all those godzillion of young male videogamers. Assuming that they cast Amelia with a hot voluptuous actress, they even got some eye-candy who kicks ass for the gaming fans.
* It’s an entertaining read. Perhaps too much of the Shane Black thing, but I suspect the writers in going balls-out decided that the script would not not sell because there was too much of that. They erred in the direction of having fun and being entertaining.
* It’s definitely big enough to be a movie. Potentially a really big movie.
* Since the plot and plot twists are big enough, the studio doesn’t have to hire A-talent (with gross profit participation deals), but a bevy of B-talent to fill the roles of the 7. As much bang for less bucks.
* It will make for a kick-ass trailer. Easy marketing campaign.
* Spin-off possibilities: Comic books, sequels, prequels. Clean it up substantially, you could at the end of its movie life turn it into a kid’s animation series.
I’m sure there are other reasons, but I’ll leave those to you.
Now let me go out on a limb here and make a prediction: This movie won’t get made. Why? First off, the studio has to make a critical decision: Shoot the film like it’s written, which is a definite R-rating (this would be going after hardcore teenage and up gamers, but would cut out a huge target demo of younger males), or pull out all the F-bombs and do mostly simulated violence, not the gore-fest as described in the script. If the studio goes that route, then they run the risk not only of losing the older gamer types, but also gutting the script of its edgy sensibilities.
That is the kind of fundamental choice that can drive studio execs crazy. They may hire one set of writers to de-fang it. Not like that result. Hire another set of writers to bring it back to a soft R. That may satisfy nobody. And going down this route can be the fast-track to Development Hell.
Another reason the movie may never get produced: As noted, the characters basically work for “Medieval,” the videogame. But as yet, a videogame is still not a movie. Even an over-the-top action flick like this needs characters with more depth than is currently written. Now I’m not even sure I believe that. But knowing development execs, I can virtually assure you that Finch & Litvak got notes on providing depth and texture to most if not all the seven lead characters. And again, that can be a slippery slope to Development Hell, too.
But chances are I’ll be proven wrong and the movie will get produced if only because New Regency is on the hook for $800K right off the bat (the purchase price). They hire one, two, or three more writers to rework the script, you’re looking at $2M in development costs. At some point, a director will get involved. And they’ll want their own writer on the project. Throw in a pay-or-play deal for the director and pretty soon, the studio starts getting real ‘pregnant.’ Plus, at any given point, their execs just need to step back for a few seconds and look at the project from the Big Picture standpoint and realize, they could probably shoot the thing as is and make back their money on B.O. and primary ancillary revenues alone.
note: Medieval review will not be posted until 9am PT.
Remember everyone: Tomorrow, Scott Myers and I from Go Into The Story are reviewing Medieval which we gave you last Friday. You should have read the script and prepared your comments, which you will post on either mine or Scott’s blog tomorrow after our dual-review. So, if you’re late to the party, go back and read this post where you can find a download link to the script. And then read it! READ IT I SAY!
Also, don’t forget to tune in Saturday for an interview with one of the writers on my TOP 10 list. Very excited about that and it’s a great interview. So you better be there.
Genre: Buddy Cop
Premise: Two veteran LAPD detectives attempt to track down a stolen, mint-condition, 1952 baseball card.
About: Kevin Smith became interested in directing this which makes it – I believe – his first directing gig on a film he didn’t write. Once Smith hopped onboard, Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis signed on. Yes, you heard that right. Tracy Morgan.
Writers: Robb and Mark Cullen
10 years ago they were cloning sheep. Now they’re cloning buddy cop movies.
The generic buddy cop movie has a very simple structure. Give two cops something to do for 90 minutes and while they’re doing it, have them make fun of each other. Ideally you’d like a story or something new in there but if you don’t care about such pithy things, A Couple Of Dicks is for you.
Hey, look. I understand that not every script requires an original idea. But if you’re going to use a template that’s been used before, you have to fucking nail the execution. You have to hit it out of the park. And I laughed during A Couple of Dicks. I did. I thought the stuff about Paul thinking his wife was cheating on him was funny. But that’s not the same as feeling an emotional connection to what you’re reading – which should be every writers’ goal.
So what is this about, you ask? Jimmy (Willis) and Paul (Morgan) are partners who get along but not really. They’re more interested in bickering than solving most of the crimes they go out on. In order to pay for his daughter’s wedding, Jimmy must sell his most prized possession, an extremely rare baseball card. Except while he’s selling it, the store is robbed and his card stolen. Him and Paul find the thief, a Mexican Gang Lord, who has lost something of his own, a Mercedes with a very important payload. He’ll give Jimmy and Paul their card back as long as they find his car within 24 hours. When they do find the car, they also find an extremely attractive Mexican woman in the trunk. The woman explains to them that the reason she’s in the trunk is because she witnessed the murder of a high ranking Mexican official. So there’s your story.
But as I already mentioned, you didn’t come to A Couple of Dicks for the story. You came for the lol banter between the cops. So let’s read some, shall we? Here, in one of the funnier scenes, the two are transporting a robber whose signature move is shitting in people’s houses before he robs them. Paul is calling is wife, who he’s convinced is cheating on him.
Come on, Paul. You gotta stop thinking like this. It’s making you nuts.
I know. I know.
DAVE (THE ROBBER)
Does she vacuum a lot?
Vacuum. Does she always have the vacuum out.
Paul looks at Jimmy.
Then she’s doing something. My buddy used to vacuum his bed all the time to get his bitch’s hair off the sheets and stuff before his old lady came home.
Is that what they do?
I don’t know. That’s what he did.
I’m looking for answers from a guy who shits in people’s houses.
It’s my calling card!
Shut your mouth…
I’ll be quiet.
Hey, maybe your wife suffers from that CCD thing I heard on the news.
Cock Craving Disorder. It’s when they crave the cock, any cock, every cock. She’s probably in the middle of a DP right now.
Paul looks to Jimmy not knowing what “DP means.
Paul spins aorund again to Dave.
I’ll…I’ll kill you! I will shoot you right fucking now!
OK, OK… I’m sorry. I’m just playing. I’m going to jail for chrissake.
Not another goddamn word.
Dave “locks” his lips and throws away the key. Silence, then…
Jimmy can’t resist.
Paul shoots Jimmy a “What are you doing?” look.
Orange you pissed your wife is taking it in the ass from some other guy right now?
That’s it! Pull the car over!
So yeah, it’s not a stretch to figure out why Smith connected to the material. Besides the, um, highbrow humor, if you’ve ever listened to Smith’s interviews, he’s one of the most insecure dudes on the planet and openly believes his wife is fucking around on him.
I’m going to reserve judgment on this as a film until I see a trailer because there’s always the chance that Morgan and Willis will have unbelievably awesome chemistry together. Sort of similar to what happened on Rush Hour. My fear is that it’s become acceptable to treat these buddy cop movies as templates and leave it up to the actors to elevate them. The script has to stand on its own! And for me, the damn thing kept falling over!
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Maybe I made myself out to be the third Dick here, but I want to point out that I don’t think the Cullens are bad writers. They didn’t win the originality contest this time around, but fundamentally they know what they’re doing. One thing I liked about this script is that by page 15, we know both these characters’ problems. Paul thinks his wife is cheating on him and Jimmy needs to come up with 28 grand for his daughter’s wedding. This is not to be confused with the overall goal, which is to get the baseball card back But I want to point out that I read a lot of screenplays that don’t give their main characters problems. As a result, the characters just sit there with nothing to do. Do the characters in your current screenplay all have problems? I would make sure they do.
note: The interview originally slated for today has been moved to Saturday. Wanna make sure you guys get 5 reviews this week.
Premise: Two college students who’ve experienced recent loss fall in love and heal their fractured families.
About: Landing on last year’s Black List with 6 votes, this was just recently picked up by Summit. Also Rob Pattinson of Twilight fame is attached (for context’s sake, I knew none of this while reading the script)
Writer: Will Fetters
Memoirs is a strange little script that was pushed on me by one of our readers. She kept saying “You gotta read Memoirs. You gotta read Memoirs.” I looked at the 50 or so scripts I wanted to read *before* Memoirs and said, “There’s no way this is happening.” Of course I didn’t tell her that.
Well after a long day of reading 4 scripts – yes 4 – I was about to go to sleep when I said, “You know what? I still got something in me. Why not?” (sadly, I really did say this out loud) So I grabbed Memoirs and started reading. After 10 pages, something familiar started creeping over me. I felt like I had read this script before. And it was because I *had* read this script before! I had given it a shot six months ago and absolutely hated it. I never made it past page 20.
It’s about a guy Tyler (I envisioned him as a sort of Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting type) who pretty much leads a miserable existence. He’s depressed about the world. His father doesn’t have time for him. He’s got a step-father he doesn’t get along with. He’s got an 11 year old sister with no friends. His older brother died at the World Trade Center. About the only thing he’s got going for him is his friend AIDAN, who is so over-the-top, you feel he’s written that way just to compensate for the fact that everybody else is so damn depressing. He’s still pretty funny though. Here’s their first scene together, after Tyler wakes up with some random girl…
I sold your girlfriend a toothbrush.
You sold my who? …What?
That voluptuous, delightfully oblivious little blondie you left in your bed this morning… I sold her a toothbrush. Got three bucks.
Are in order, yes. Because that sale inspired our newest business venture – “The SLUT”
Tyler stares blankly.
The ‘Single Lady’s Universal Tote’
Tyler stares blankly.
It’s the one-night-stand travel pack for women. We throw in some make-up, toiletries, cell phone charger, cab numbers. Retail it at S19.95, maybe do an informercial.
And you think women would buy this? With money?
Hey one-night-stands happen… It’s a part of life… like stubbing your toe. Sometimes you misjudge a corner and bend back your pinky toe, other times you wake up in a freshman dorm wearing a field hockey tee shirt wondering why your balls smell like cinnamon…
Tyler gives him a peculiar look.
And that’s completely hypothetical.
(quickly moving on)
Don’t underestimate the novelty gift market. Think about it…instead of giving that token slutty friend a ten-inch black dildo for her birthday, you hook her up with “The SLUT.” Everyone has a laugh and the implication that she’ll probably use it someday remains. What do you say? Are you in?
You need help.
Tyler finishes his cigarette.
OK… fine… be cynical… just remember at some point in history two people had a conversation just like this about the light bulb. One of them went on to fame and fortune and the other one probably went to work at Denny’s or something.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t have Denny’s in the 19th century.
A funny scene and yet I had no idea what to think because up until this point, there wasn’t a single laugh in the script. Did I miss something? When did this turn into Swingers? Anyway, Tyler and Aidan get into a late night scuffle with some street thugs that results in a police officer pulling a Rodney King and giving Tyler the beat down. Aidan insists he sue but another opportunity presents itself when Aidan finds out that the officer’s daughter, ALLY, attends their college. Aidan insists that fucking over the daughter is the perfect way to get back at the officer. Tyler’s reluctant at first but eventually makes his move. The two begin a relationship and start to fall for each other – the conflict of course being that sooner or later Tyler will have to meet Ally’s father and the truth will come out.
Although the relationship feels manufactured at first, it eventually finds its rhythm, and you have yourself a cute little story about two people falling for each other despite their respective fucked-up-ness. It’s not bad but what bothered me is the misstep it made before the relationship even started. One thing I don’t like is when an important decision is made by someone other than the main character. In this case, Aidan pushes Tyler to date Ally to fuck over the officer. Tyler reluctantly agrees and, of course, later falls for Ally. When the difficult decision comes on how to tell Ally that he knew her father from before, it doesn’t have nearly the punch it would’ve had had Tyler been 100% responsible for starting their relationship. This way it’s wishy-washy. The spot he’s in is kinda his fault but kinda not. You never want this. Always have your protagonist driving the story. It makes him stronger and it makes the story stronger.
Now up to this point I was thinking, “Why did she want me to read this script so bad? It’s just a basic love story.” There was nothing about the script that stood out. And then…………the ending came. I am a SUCKER for a good ending. I loved The Sixth Sense. I loved The Others. I love anything that makes me rethink the movie I just saw. For its ending alone, Memoirs gets bumped from a “worth the read” to an “impressive”. Even though I’m telling you it’s coming, you won’t figure it out. Trust me. So don’t even try. I’m not even sure it completely fits with the story. But it’s so shocking that you can’t help but……….well, run out and tell someone about it. Someone told me. Now I’m telling you. Check out Memoirs. It very well may shock you. :)
edit: Lest I mislead you, this script has nothing to do with ghosts.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned from Memoirs: I said it right at the end of the review. The ending of this script bumped it up from something I probably never would’ve mentioned to anybody, to something I’m now reviewing on my site and would encourage you to check out. Twist endings are tricky and they’re hard to pull off. But if you have a script idea with a good one, write it, because there’s nothing quite like a reader finishing a script and going, “Holy shit.” They absolutely have to tell someone. Now! Here’s a real-world example for you. The reader who suggested this to me would not leave me alone about it. Talk about the ultimate marketing tool.
note: If you are going to discuss the ending in the comments section, please precede your post with *spoiler*. Thank you.