Genre: Violent Drama
Synopsis: Two men relentlessly terrorize a group of partiers.
About: Honestly, I was tired of reading recommended scripts so I opened this one up on a whim. Knew nothing about it. Found out later it was on the 2006 Black List and is being made into a movie that’s coming out this year (edit: The movie was on the Blacklist but not on any production slate)
Writer: Scott Milam
Chalk another one up to the dreadful title but awesome script collection. Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this script. I have never read anything as relentless and crazy and sadistic and exploitative as this screenplay. It’s like Helter Skelter mixed with Funny Games mixed with…….someone who really needs to be placed in a mental institution! Wichita falls somewhere between real life and total absurdity. Despite its relentless and tasteless violence, it succeeds because even though it comes from the imagination of a writer, you know that there are actually people out there like this. As awful as it is, this feels like something that could really happen.
Look, I’m no Indian hater. I grew up in Illinois. We were the birthplace of some 25 different Indian tribes. I’m reasonably sure that I’m at least 13% Ojibiwe. But I have to admit, when a Native American is the first character I meet in a screenplay, I don’t jump up and scream, “This is going to be awesome!” So when DAN, a Navajo Indian, walks into a convenience store on a cold deserted winter night in Wichita and starts chatting up the checker about how much life sucks, let’s just say I was eying my Quantum Of Solace DVD.
But as soon as Dan gets in his car, two men make a surprise attack. They have guns and they want money. Dan explains that his step-father has a lot of money and he’ll take them to his house. A quick check of his wallet and they realize they already know where the house is. Which means Daniel, a man we thought was our hero, is disposable. They take him into the forest and shoot him in cold blood. Welcome to Wichita.
We cut in on what we realize is the house Daniel was heading to. It’s a huge estate out in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of well-off friends are having a Christmas party. Everyone’s waiting for Dan so they can start their gift exchange. With a couple of exceptions, this happy giggly group has been living their lives blissfully unaware of the hardships going on in the rest of the world. They don’t even know what the dark side looks like. That’s about to change.
The bad guys show up and within seconds tell everyone to strip. They want money and they want jewelry. Scared and a bit ignorant, a couple of the guys try to act tough. They learn quickly that these are the wrong people to act tough with. The bad guys grab Brooke (Dan’s girlfriend) and tell her she’s making a choice. One of these people is going to die. And she has to choose which one. She begs and pleads not to make her do it but they explain it’s either one of them or all of them. She chooses the guy who’s the most well off – with his girlfriend sitting right there. The bad guys instantly shoot him in the head. This is on page 20 folks. And it only gets worse from there. Way. Way. Way worse.
How Wichita keeps up this relentless pace for 120 pages is one of the things that makes it such a good script. You’re gripped by how horrible these two men are. There are a few times where their actions venture into absurdity, but for the most part, it feels like two very angry demented men getting their “revenge” on the world. This is not for the weak. And if any sort of violence offends you, I’d probably skip this read and wait until tomorrow’s review. But this was such a page-scroller, it broke my top 25. Everyone say goodbye to Pictures of You. :(
[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned from Wichita: The power of a great villain. The thing that kept me invested in this film was how bad the bad guys were. And when the bad guys are this bad, you’re dying to see them go down. I would’ve given my left arm to see the protagonist, Brooke, kill these men in the most horrifying awful fashion possible. This may seem like obvious advice but it really isn’t. There are many genres where you the writer have a choice to add a villain or not (romantic comedies for example). My suggestion is, if it fits, always add one. And make him someone we want to see pay. Audiences love to see the villain go down.
Synopsis: A single father tries to reconnect with his college daughter and teenage son on Spring Break.
About: Comedy spec that sold a couple of weeks ago. From what I heard, it spun around for awhile and nobody bit. Then it got scooped up at the last second.
Writer: Christopher Baldi
The first fifteen pages of the screenplay are always the toughest. Because, as every good screenwriter knows, you’re trying to set up a lot of information in a very short period of time, you’re trying to do it without drawing attention to it, and on top of all that, you’re trying to entertain the audience. That’s why when I started reading Call Me Rusty, I was convinced I was reading some lucky amateur who conned a producer into paying his rent for the next couple of years. Christopher Baldi seemed like he concocted the first 15 minutes of his screenplay on his way to work. Nothing anybody does rings true. The basic set-up of the film is that the boss tells Rusty: “If you want me to give you a promotion, you have to bring me back a picture of you and your family on vacation.” That is the set-up to a script that just sold to mid six-figures.
Needless to say, I didn’t expect much from Call Me Rusty. And for a while, I didn’t get it. RUSTY (who may or may not be Clark Oswald’s son from National Lampoon’s Vacation) is a workaholic who hasn’t paid attention to his family since his wife left them 10 years ago. He’s got a hot 21 year old daughter and a horny teenage son. When he’s denied a promotion for not being enough of a “family man”, he begs his boss to give him a chance to prove that he is. Begrudgingly, his boss says if he spends a vacation with his family and shows him a picture of them together, he’ll think about giving him the promotion.
In the meantime, Rusty’s daughter and her slutty BFF are getting ready for Spring Break. Rusty barrels in and informs them that their party just doubled (the son’s coming along too). Again, wait a minute. Hold up here. Are you asking us to believe that a daughter is going to allow her father to join her on Spring Break? Do you think that in the history of the naughtiest nastiest sickest STD-producing week of the year that any daughter of any father in the world – even Pakistan – is going to say, “Sure dad, come along”? This is the problem with Call Me Rusty. On page 15 your characters are making nowhere near realistic choices. How am I, the reader, supposed to go along with this? This only furthered my suspicion that Baldi had no idea what he was doing.
And then slowly, ever so slowly, after they get to Spring break, I noticed that I was laughing more. Even though the scenes were somewhat episodic, the situations and conversations were making me laugh. To my surprise, Call Me Rusty became one of those rare scripts that got better and better – the savior being Baldi’s dialogue, which was fun, snappy, eccentric, yet never Juno-esque.
The highlight of the script is a silly but lol scene where Kristin is forced to play a game of truth-or-dare with her father. The whole time I’m thinking, “This is so stupid. This is so dumb”, and yet I couldn’t stop laughing. It had the potential to go to some really bad places (the dad and Kristin’s slutty friend hooking up) and even though it would’ve been funny, that’s not what the script is about. It’s about a father trying to reconnect with his family, and Call Me Rusty kind of succeeds. Sure, the script doesn’t break any new ground and it’s hardly one for the ages, but it’s a good solid comedy script and I can see why it got bought.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned from Call Me Rusty: Iron out your set up (first 10-15 pages). It’s the hardest part of the script because you’re setting up so much information in such a short period of time. But if you don’t put the effort in, it’s going to come off feeling forced. Even though Call Me Rusty recovered, with some effort it never would’ve had to recover in the first place. “Bring back a picture of you and your family and you get the promotion.” Are you serious? Had this issue been solved from the get-go, it wouldn’t have taken 2 weeks for this to sell.
Well, I totally went off-book last week. But you know, the great ones always do. This week, I promise to get to that recently sold comedy spec that surprised me annnnnnnd a new script breaks my top 25. Maybe even TWO scripts. I don’t know if I want to post both in the same week though because that would mean that Pictures of You and Prisoners would have to say goodbye. And since I don’t want to upset Mark Wahlberg’s people I simply can’t do that. Be prepared for me to totally disregard this outline as well. I’m so unpredictable. Have a great week!
Okay folks, just like before, here are the script summaries for the latter half of my top 25 scripts (except for the ones already reviewed on the site). Almost every single one is available to download. Just click on the link in the top 25 list. There’s some great stuff here. Hope to help you find a good read.
Genre: Dark Comedy
This was numero 2 on the 2008 Black List behind that silly Badger Puppet script, and in my opinion, a much better read! Taking place in suburbia, a man falls in love with his neighbor’s (and best friend’s) college daughter. But instead of trying to hide it, they come clean to their respective families. Usually, these movies are about sneaking around. So the twist of it being out in the open allows them to explore a whole new area of comedy.
Genre: Very Dark Comedy
I’ve actually had some arguments with people about this one. It’s about a married man whose wife is pushing him to start a family. He doesn’t want to so he…pretends to have cancer. Yes, you heard that right. Watching this character delve deeper and deeper into his lie makes this read both horrifying and fascinating. You simply cannot look away. I loved this script but understand why it might turn others off
Genre: Wild Fucked-up Action/Gangster
I read this going on the title alone and was not disappointed. This script is what would happen if Guy Ritchie had sex with Quentin Tarantino and their baby grew up on a steady diet of heroin and acid. One of the most original scripts I’ve ever read. There is a turtle-man. Yes, a half-man, half-turtle. Nuff said!
Untitled Vanessa Taylor Project
Talk about going from one extreme to the other. This is about as anti-37th Dimension as you can get. Despite the single most boring title in the history of script reading, there’s a lot to like here. It’s about a couple in their 40s on the brink of divorce who attempt to save their marriage. It is very slow. It is mostly depressing. But if you’re like me and are interested in relationships and how people who start out loving each other can grow so far apart, then this is a great script. Black List 08.
I Want To F___ Your Sister
Moving from the single worst title in the world to the single best title, is there anything that really needs to be said about I Want to F__ Your Sister? Other than that we’re all kicking ourselves for not thinking of the title first? I mean, if a script was ever going to sell on its title alone, this would be the one. A guy’s hot sister starts working with him at the stock exchange. He must fend off the 11,000 crazed horny co-workers who want to fuck her.
This is the script you want to study if you’re trying to come up with a strong smart concept. From IMDB: “A guard for an armored truck company is coerced by his veteran coworkers to steal a truck containing $10 million.” But that’s just the beginning. It’s best to go into this one knowing little. Contact me if you’re interested.
Another great concept. Four modern-day knights (and by “modern day” we mean knights who have been knighted for things like acting and bacterial analysis) find themselves called upon to save the planet from an ancient evil force. It needs a rewrite but this *is* the modern day Ghostbusters. The wax museum scene alone is worth the price of admission.
Pictures Of You
A high school kid finds a camera on the beach that belongs to the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. He decides to find her and profess his love. This one lacks some focus (it takes the entire movie for him to go after the girl), but I’m such a fan of the “found camera” premise and there are some hilarious scenes (accidentally getting stuck in his twin sister’s closet when she’s changing for example). The writer assured me he’s addressing these problems in the rewrite.
Behold……the passive hero. In screenwriting, to even mention the words “passive” and “hero” in the same sentence can get you blacklisted (and not in the good way). Development execs have been known to kill screenwriters who turn in screenplays with passive heroes. And yet here we are with Charlie, the hero of Breaking Irish, who’s about as passive as they come. Somehow, it all works. What??? Blasphemy you say!!! That’s impossible. All scripts with passive heroes suck. Yes. Usually that’s true. But not here.
First of all, I should probably explain what a passive hero is. No, actually, let me explain what an active hero is. A well-known screenwriter once said, “a great hero is one where when he turns left, the movie turns left.” In other words, he’s driving the action. He’s determining the outcome of the film. How is this achieved? It can be boiled down rather simply: Give your main character a clear goal and have him try to achieve it. By that very definition he has to be active (since he’s *trying* to achieve it).
A passive or “reactive” hero reacts to everything around him. You usually find these in big conspiracy movies. Like Eagle Eye for instance, where someone’s chasing our hero. Obviously, since he’s being chased, he has to “react”. How did I “react” when I saw that movie? I reacted by throwing my drink at the screen. See? That makes me a “reactive” hero.
How does this all relate to Breaking Irish? Well Charlie’s grown up with a gift, a gift to “see” the odds. He’s a number-cruncher with a photographic memory who can always find that one stat to sway the odds in his favor. Charlie wins at poker, he wins at horse races, he wins at blackjack, he wins on basketball games. 70% of any bet Charlie enters into, he wins. But Charlie is reluctant to use his talent for anything other than making it through the day. He’s not interested in the cars and the bling. He just wants to get by, marry his sweetheart (AVERY) and have a normal life. Ahh, but if he had a normal life, we wouldn’t have a movie now would we? Soooo… JACKIE, the local Italian mobster, discovers Charlie’s talent, and ropes him into predicting games for him. Charlie decides to take the job to pay his and Avery’s way through college. But when the money is no longer needed, getting out isn’t as easy as Charlie thought it would be (is it ever?). Jackie has the Super Bowl of meal tickets and an endless appetite. He’s not letting Charlie go anywhere.
As a result, Charlie’s only “active”goal is giving the bets to Jackie and staying out of trouble. He’s as passive as can be. Yet we still like him. Why? There are people out there who will tell you that your hero can be passive AS LONG AS at some point he becomes active. Even if it’s within the last 20 minutes of the film (and Charlie does eventually become active). But I don’t buy into this theory for this reason: You’re saying that for 90 minutes (3/4 of the movie) we can hate our lazy ass hero, then the second he comes up with a plan, we forgive him and think he’s the coolest cat on the block? Surely, if we’re still invested in the screenplay at the 90 minute mark, we had to have already liked our main character, right? My opinion is that nobody knows why passive characters work (Forrest Gump being the most famous of them all) and so they try to justify them by throwing a bunch of screenwriting mumbo-jumbo at you. I personally believe that if a character is interesting, people will want to watch him no matter what. And Charli is interesting. Breaking Irish is a very well-constructed screenplay, and a great addition to your digital library, if only to study how to create a successful passive hero.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned from Breaking Irish: The passive hero *can* work, but it’s still very hard to pull off. I would recommend staying away from them if you can. But if you must, offer us someone that we like. An easy way to make people like your character is to have him be great at something. People like people who are good at things. I don’t know why. They just do. It’s probably for the same reasosn that we don’t like people who aren’t good at anything. Charlie is so awesome at betting, we can’t help but root for him.