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amateur offerings weekend

This is your chance to discuss the week’s amateur scripts, offered originally in the Scriptshadow newsletter. The primary goal for this discussion is to find out which script(s) is the best candidate for a future Amateur Friday review. The secondary goal is to keep things positive in the comments with constructive criticism.

Below are the scripts up for review, along with the download links. Want to receive the scripts early? Head over to the Contact page, e-mail us, and “Opt In” to the newsletter.

Happy reading!

TITLE: GRIPPER
GENRE: Horror
LOGLINE: When a young geneticist attempts to save the world’s forests from a rabid insect infestation she unwittingly unleashes a plague of apocalyptic proportions.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: A new, original monster for the horror/nature gone wild sub-genre based on real science and current environmental concerns – and its a pretty swift read at 103 pgs. Plus, the first and last lines of dialogue are ‘fuck’ and ‘beautiful’ ;)

TITLE: Gone
GENRE: Supernatural Drama
LOGLINE: A woman’s past affair with a married writer haunts her in unusual ways.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: I’m a huge fan of the 1986 French film “Betty Blue”. Even though it’s really quite terrible. I remember reading about some arthouse theater in Houston doing a retrospective screening back in the mid-90’s. Perhaps it was being a teen with hormones running amock, along with a burgeoning interest in all things cinema — especially movies I could never see growing up in Crockett, Texas — but those notorious opening 5 minutes of “Betty” had me intrigued. So, while not a great piece of work by any means (it’s a rambling mess, especially the longer three-hour version, with a goofball denouement and incredibly stilted dialogue throughout)… still holds a special place with me.

I think I like the idea of the thing more than the thing. Thus, wanted to pull central story elements and play around with them. Pay homage.

Also, I wasn’t aiming for a surprise at the end, but I’m kinda tickled it’s there.

TITLE: The Cloud Factory
GENRE: WW2 romantic drama
LOGLINE: Torn between family and college or the love of an aristocratic lesbian doctor, a badly-injured American pilot grapples with her burgeoning sexuality and WW2 Britain’s rigid social order.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: ‘The Cloud Factory’, is based on the true story of the women’s section of Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary, with fictional protagonists. Now, I get that Hollywood seems to think period romances and period dramas are so boorrring. Let’s take ‘Philomena’ (part period drama, and part contemporary). Probably made for less than $10 million; its global box office gross to the end of January was $68 million. Making money’s so boorrring. ‘Atonement’ – made for some $30m with global box office of $120m+. Boring! ‘The English Patient’ – production budget in the high $20m region; global gross of around a quarter of a billion dollars. Really boring! They all had strong female leads involved in a romantic relationship that didn’t end well, in common. Women over 30 especially turn out in droves for relationship dramas with strong female leads because we get to see so darned few good ones. See Lindsay Doran’s TED talk on relationships in movies – women get it! It’s not rocket science. So that is what I’ve written. I’ve just given the period romantic drama a little twist to keep things interesting. And I could be wrong, but as far as I can see, the last time a period drama seems to have gotten a run on Amateur Offerings Week was ‘Templar’ back in August, 2013. Long overdue, surely.

TITLE: The Triennial
GENRE: Action/Thriller
LOGLINE: An elite Israeli secret agent is on loan to the US teams with an unlikely civilian in a race to infiltrate and eliminate a terrorist cell in Chicago.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: During the last couple years, I’ve had three comedy scripts show up nicely in the contest circuit, yet none gained any traction with agents, managers, or producers. Apparently, I crack myself up. So I changed lanes and wrote this action/thriller feature, because… it’s a business, right? Bottom line – I had a blast writing this one, so I’m really glad I left my comfort zone and tried a new genre. Only question – will anyone else be glad? Would love some scared straight feedback.

TITLE: Fantasy Man
GENRE: Comedy
LOGLINE: A fantasy footballer must convince a sports star to play, or else a mob boss will have him killed.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: The story. Period. Even if you’re not into fantasy football, there’s a heartfelt story here about friendship, love and going after your dreams. And it’s also pretty fucking funny. Happy reading and we appreciate everyone’s comments in advance. Thank you.

2013 has been an okay year for movies.  Not great.  Not terrible.  But decent.  For me, the year was marked with high expectations on a few choice picks that crashed upon viewage (which, funny enough, rhymes with “sewage”).  I was preparing for movies like Elysium and Pacific Rim to be great.  When they were only okay, I sat in the theater stunned, dogged by memories of The Phantom Menace premiere, when I learned that fateful lesson that movies can crush your dreams if you expect too much from them.  Oh well, we can’t win them all, right?

I’m sure my picks today will, in some cases, stun you.  That’s because I don’t conform to the reviewing consensus.  I never look at Rotten Tomatoes before I see a movie.  I want to form my own opinion, something fewer and fewer people seem to be doing these days.  Just because something was made by an acclaimed filmmaker doesn’t mean that filmmaker will succeed.   And just because an Oscar marketing campaign says a movie is great, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong when you think it isn’t.  Like what you like, hate what you hate, and don’t be apologetic about it.

I should note that there are a few movies I haven’t seen this year yet. Those include Her (can’t wait to see), Walter Mitty (very excited to see), 12 Years A Slave (do not like this director so probably won’t see), Dallas Buyers Club (maybe DVD), American Hustle (will probably see), so factor that into these choices.  Can’t wait to hear your reactions as well as what you guys liked.  Oh, and some of these movies may have come out in late 2012.  Hope you have your “Carson, you’re insane!” comments prepped and ready to go.  Let’s begin!

 

THE 10 WORST MOVIES I SAW THIS YEAR

10) Drinking Buddies – No script?  No problem!  Who needs a script when you can have four actors mumble endlessly about really boring shit?  Oh, don’t forget to record the audio with bad microphones so the ambient noise drowns out 20% of the dialogue.  Speaking of dialogue, this movie was a freaking advertisement for why we need writers.  Without them, dialogue is general, cliche, rambling, and dull.  I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that a movie without a script made a screenwriting site’s “10 Worst” list, but come on, I mean this is basic knowledge.  A movie needs a screenplay.

9) All is Bright – Wanna watch a holiday movie this Christmas?  Don’t rent this one!  I’m not lying when I say at one point, I thought the writer was purposefully trying to make the most boring choices possible for some sort of social experiment or performance art.  There wasn’t a single interesting moment in this script.  Not one!  The two main characters were beyond dull.  The dialogue was on-the-nose and boring.  The story was way too basic.  And everything was laced with this over-the-top depression that sucked any and all energy these two great actors could’ve provided to save some percentage of this film.

8) The Hangover 3 – I thought that the prerequisite for doing comedy these days was that you had to be funny.  Who wrote this again?  I wish people would’ve seen this poster before they walked into the theater, read that tagline at the top, assumed it literally, then left.  That’s the only thing that would’ve saved this film – people not seeing it and imagining funnier versions of the scenes that actually happened.  I mean, I’ve seen cash grabs before, but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen one this blatant.  Nobody working on this film seemed to care AT ALL.

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7) The Counselor – Rule number 1 when writing a movie: Make sure it makes sense!  Rule number 36: Don’t write 10 page scenes that don’t have a point.  Rule number 95: A movie should build in momentum until it reaches its climax, not slow down until nothing’s happening.  The Counselor could’ve been a cool movie if it had a professional screenwriter come in and rewrite this vague treatment of an idea Cormac McCarthy came up with.  This was never a script to begin with, so it serves everyone right for not dealing with that problem ahead of time.

6) Iron Man 3 – I don’t know what to say about these superhero sequels anymore.  It’s not like they didn’t know they were making Iron Man 3 as they were making Iron Man 2.  So wouldn’t you take advantage of all that time, get a writer to start writing the third film, and that way have a decent script by the time production started?  Iron Man 3 was so damn MESSY and so tonally off, I could never get into it.  This movie, with its juvenile humor, was so obviously made for ten year olds, they might as well have had everyone get slimed by Kenan Thompson at the end.  And hey, I have no problem with films made for 10 year olds.  Just don’t sell it as a film for adults, conning us out of our money.

5) Man of Steel – Okay, so maybe Superman doesn’t deserve to be so high on this list.  In a vacuum, it’s probably mediocre (as opposed to “terrible”).  But I had such high hopes for this one, I was devastated by what unraveled.  The number one problem with this film?  Melodrama.  Scenes (Clark hiding in closet, Clark’s dad getting swept up in a tornado) were taken so over the top, milked so far beyond their saturation point, that you threw up a little each time they happened.  It was also too long and too messy (why spend so much time on a planet that isn’t a part of the main storyline?).  I wanted this to be so awesome, and it so wasn’t.  I’m devastated.

4) Escape from Tomorrow – The only escape you’re going to find in this movie is the exit door you’re looking for ten minutes into it.  Such an amazing idea flattened by the thinnest script this side of Michael Cera’s biceps.  Literally, the plot was: follow the teenage girls.  That was the plot!  Two young girls in a park and a guy follows them for 90 minutes.  Random things happen for no reason.  Writer wraps it up ambiguously, even though it’s clear he did so because he had no idea how to wrap it up because, OH YEAH, there was NO PLOT!

3)Movie 43 – I really only need to say one thing here.  Hugh Jackman has giant testicles hanging from his neck in this movie.  Whoever wrote this needs to be shipped to a far away island with no return ferry.

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2)Upstream Color – Aha!  You guys thought this was going to be my number 1 most hated movie of the year!  You were wrong!  Yes, yes, I didn’t think it was possible I’d find something worse than Upstream Color either.  But lucky for Shane Carruth, a woman named Stephanie Meyer exists.  Here’s my issue with Upstream Color. If there was a poster boy for pretension, Shane Carruth is on that poster (Wait a minute, Shane Carruth IS on that poster!) This work wants to be taken so seriously and exudes such a false claim of depth and complexity, that it’s impossible to take it as anything but a joke.  I would love to see the version of this movie where Shane simply tells a story as opposed to trying to impress the uber-snobby independent film scene.  I’m guessing it wouldn’t be half-bad.

1) The Host – Okay, I’m actually laughing as I write this because this movie was sooooooooooooo bad.  I mean it is so bad.  And I don’t know what the heck happened to Andrew Niccol, who I’m pretty sure penned Gattaca before he had a cinematic lobotomy, but how could he not see that there was no way this movie would work?  We have a girl running around having valley-girl like arguments with an alien, who’s fluent in English mind you, stuck inside of her.  A girl is having arguments WITH HERSELF the whole movie!  And it’s not a comedy!  And it’s an alien!  And we’re supposed to take it seriously!  And someone thought this was going to work!  It’s just so bad, you have to see it to believe it.  Grab a case of beer beforehand.  Trust me, you’ll need it.

 

THE 10 BEST MOVIES I SAW THIS YEAR

 

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10) You’re Next/The Call/Admission – Expectations work both ways!  There are some movies you’re sure will be terrible, yet end up being way better than logic dictates.   You’re Next is the best B-horror film you’ll see all year.  The Call was the tightest written thriller of 2013 (it’s “Taken” for the world of 9-1-1 operators) and Admission has some really great character development wrapped in an unexpectedly fun story.

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9) Oz The Great and Powerful – Expectations definitely played a part in this one as well.  I thought this was going to be horrrrrr-ible.  But James Franco found a role that fit him perfectly and ran with it (or floated on a balloon with it).   I just remember sitting there at the end of this film and feeling happy.  No, there wasn’t as much imagination as its sequel, which premiered 74 years earlier, but there was enough to feel like your money was well spent.

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8) We’re The Millers – We’re The Millers surprised the comedy space this year by beating out its much more heavily-hyped counterparts like Hangover 3 and The Heat (as the best comedy – I don’t know if it beat them at the box office).  Every once in awhile, the actors understand the material so well and have such amazing chemistry together that if you do your job as a writer and guide them with a great story, they’re going to deliver for you.  That’s what happened here.  Especially with Will Poulter.  I mean this guy tore it up.  Can’t wait to see what he does next.

7) The Great Gatsby – Dream scenario for a producer: Get some great source material and a director with vision who wants to take that material to a new place, and you got a shot at making something special.  See this is the problem with this book.  It’s too old fashioned.  It doesn’t translate well to modern audiences.  But Baz Luhrmann seemed to know all the little nooks and cracks the film could’ve fallen into and went about filling them with his genius caulk beforehand.  He focused on the glitz, the glamour, the drama, the betrayal, the scandal, the anger – the things that get people’s blood flowing no matter what decade they’re in.  A nice early-year treat!

7) The Spectacular Now – I’m not sure this movie is as great as everyone wants it to be, but it’s good.  And I think what makes it good is the honesty of the performances.  This is the funny thing.  This script and Drinking Buddies essentially tried the same approach, to “let its actors go” and create these “honest performances.”  The big difference is that THE SPECTACULAR NOW ACTUALLY HAD A SCRIPT.  It had lines for its leads to speak, which they could then improvise off of, instead of having to make up everything on their own.  The difference was quite spectacular.

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5) Don Jon – Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s smile kinda creeps me out sometimes.  But it didn’t bother me here.  With so much on his soldiers, he knew this was going to be a pivotal role in his career, and he nailed it.  This is a great film for writers to study when it comes to character transformation.  We see Don’s character arc, but not in that obvious in-your-face amateur screenwriter way.  It feels natural and real.  Add a story that never quite goes where you think it will, and that’s why this film cracked my top 5.

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4) Mama – Mama!  I don’t know what it was about this movie that got me but something about it was just… different from other horror films I’d seen.  Not only did we get a creepy ass ghost in this Mama character, but we saw a superb character piece about the intense bond between a mother and her daughters.  Note to horror writers – focus more on your characters than your scares!  Oh, and freaking Jessica Chastain tore up this role as a reluctant girlfriend who gets stuck with two girls she doesn’t want after her boyfriend goes into a coma.

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3) World War Z – World War Z and Lindelof haters — LOOK AWAY NOW!  This is two Lindelof scripts in my last two Yearly Top 10s.  From everything that I’ve heard, this man SAVED this movie from being a total disaster.  Ironic since it was a disaster movie!  Not only did I love this film, I loved how the producers got it right.  I read the early draft WITHOUT the urgency (everything was being investigated AFTER the zombie infestation was over) and it was so not going to work.  They brought another writer on, added that immediacy, and we got the best blockbuster of the year.  Thank you, Brad Pitt, for saving me and the rest of the world.

2) Gravity – Could they have made Sandra Bullock’s character more interesting?  Sure.  Were there some aspects of this script that were repetitive?  Sure.  But once you put on your 3-D glasses and sit down to watch Gravity, none of that really mattered.  This is pure GSU.  It’s ticking time bombs on top of ticking time bombs.  If you want to write a great screenplay, start by putting your character in a situation that’s IMPOSSIBLE to get out of, then keep throwing things at them to make it impossibler.  That’s what they did here and dammit if they didn’t execute it flawlessly.

1) Searching For Sugar Man – Okay, if you don’t know anything about this movie, I’m begging you, DON’T READ ANYTHING ABOUT IT (including the rest of this mini-review) and go see it.  I know some of you are like, “Artsy documentaries.  No thank you, Carson.”  You guys know me.  I hate artsy for artsy’s sake.  I hate pretension.  The reason why this is different is because it isn’t so much a documentary as it is a STORY.  It evolves.  It grows.  It surprises.  It’s both tragic and uplifting.  If it doesn’t make you cry, you are not a real person.  Not only is this film number 1 on the year for me.  It’s NUMBER 1 by 50,000 miles!  Sandra Bullock and Imaginary George Clooney weren’t even close to it.  Come on, jump in my Scriptshadow Van and go search for Sugar Man with me!  I promise to give you lots of Scriptshadow candy!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!

amateur offerings weekend

This is your chance to discuss the week’s amateur scripts, offered originally in the Scriptshadow newsletter. The primary goal for this discussion is to find out which script(s) is the best candidate for a future Amateur Friday review. The secondary goal is to keep things positive in the comments with constructive criticism.

Below are the scripts up for review, along with the download links. Want to receive the scripts early? Head over to the Contact page, e-mail us, and “Opt In” to the newsletter.

Happy reading!

TITLE: Dead Woman Walking Free
GENRE: Drama/Suspense
LOGLINE: A teacher’s obsession with a boy who is the spitting image of her recently-deceased son escalates into a deadly confrontation with the boy’s mother – a former midwife with a dark secret.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ (from writer): “You’ve been complaining lately about writers ‘rehashing their favorite movies in one form or another, copying their favorite writer’s style, instead of looking for new ideas and telling stories in new ways.’ Point taken. Dead Woman Walking Free attempts something different. You be the judge of it.”

TITLE: The Twin
GENRE: Crime, Thriller
LOGLINE: After looting one of two priceless statuettes known as the Twins in Iraq, a couple of down-on-their-luck veterans must traverse the U.S. criminal underworld on a quest to sell it — not realizing that the owner of the other Twin is a high-ranking intelligence official who will stop at nothing to get his hands on their statue.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ (from writer): “Ever since uploading my short “J-W-G” at the tail end of Shorts Week, I’ve been fielding a surprising number of requests from ScriptShadow readers for a feature-length script of mine. So here it is — a classic crime road movie in the vein of “True Romance” or the original “Getaway.” I don’t think there was a single decent example of the subgenre written in the 2000s, let alone in the 2010s.”

TITLE: CROSSFIRE.pdf)
GENRE: Action/thriller
LOGLINE: A thief discovers a mysterious girl in the trunk of a stolen car and must help her escape from a relentless pursuer who wants her dead.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ (from writer): “I’ve flirted with success but haven’t quite been able to get over the hump. I had a short stint with The Onion News Network. Placed in the 2011 PAGE Awards. Landed a low-level manager. The PAGE winning script went out to the town and did absolutely nothing – no sale, no option, no meetings – which crushed me because I thought I was ready when I was still a long way off. It took me a long time to pick myself back up off the floor and start writing again, but here I am — better than before but wondering if I’m better enough.

TITLE: Soul Catcher
GENRE: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
LOGLINE: A wayward priest hunts menacing souls by exploiting a woman in a constant vegetative state. The woman serves as an empty vessel for spirit possession but morality is questioned when she becomes conscious and aware.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ (from writer): “This story plays out like a more serious version of Ghostbusters. In addition, the Soul Catcher role would be a challenging part for an actress to play with all the different spirit possession characters. Finally, exorcism/horror scripts are typically easier to produce and generally have a higher return on investment.”

TITLE: Didact Twelve
GENRE: Sci-fi
LOGLINE: As he fights to preserve the legacy of the human race, a peacekeeper on a generational starship experiences a devastating personal crisis.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Writer didn’t provide one, but his email claims he holds a PhD. That’s gotta mean something, right?!

Today I take a train ride to Confusionville. All aboard!

Genre: Sci-fi
Premise: (from writer) After witnessing UFOs and other strange phenomena, an insomniac on a cross country train trip suspects an alien invasion is underway, beginning with his fellow passengers, but when no one believes him, he must team with a fugitive stowaway to unravel the sinister agenda.
About: This is…. Amateur Week SMACKDOWN – 5 scripts, all of which have been pre-vetted by the SRF (Scriptshadow Reader Faithful), vie for the Top Prize, an official endorsement from whoever the guy is who runs this site. Good luck to all!
Writer: Brefni O’Rourke
Details: 105 pages

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Holy Shozers.

Am I still alive? Am I living in the correct dimension?

I feel like my brain’s just been pulled out, sent to Planet Claxor, studied by several alien species, then placed back in my skull sideways.

I’m 83% sure that only 5% of what I just read made sense.

Okay, I have an assumption here and I may be totally off base, but I think a European writer wrote this. Why? Because it’s set on a train in America. And while trains are big in Europe, they’re dead in the U.S. I mean, it can cost twice as much and take 1000% as long to take a train from New York to LA. So people just fly. Whereas in Europe, train travel is much more evolved and makes much more economic sense. It’s part of the reason why Observation Car feels so weird. Nothing quite seems logical, or real for that matter. It’s like a daydream after drinking a case of Coke then crashing from the sugar high. You’re dehydrated. You’re confused. And your brain goes to Crazy Town.

Observation Car (we HAVE to change this title. I assumed it was about one of these new Google cars) is about a guy named Trevor who’s travelling on a train from the East Coast to the West Coast. He’s taking with him his lovely wife, and the two seem to be trying to escape something. It’s just not clear to us what. I often got the impression it wasn’t clear to THEM either. Every character here seems to be very… confused.

Anyway, on the first night of the train ride, while in the Observation Car portion (upper deck) of the train, Trevor sees a freaking UFO swoop down and nearly hit the train. What the! He starts barking to anyone who will listen, “Did you see that!?? Did you see those lights!!?” But no one knows what the heck he’s talking about, including his own wife.

That is until he randomly bumps into another passenger named Kowalski who says, “I saw that!” And the two begin considering all the alien possibilities. A little while later, Trevor falls asleep, only to wake up at some hospital, where he informs a doctor that he just had the strangest dream. He was travelling on a train with his wife. And it all felt so real!

Soon Trevor finds himself BACK on that train, where things get even crazier. Apparently, there’s a convict named Victor running around who the police want really badly. In fact, every time the train stops at a station, cops board to look for Victor. But these must be really incompetent cops because they can never seem to find the guy.

Then, while moseying down on one of the bottom floors, Trevor runs into Victor, who hands him a device and informs him that the world is being infested with aliens. They are the ones trying to capture him. However, this device keeps them from reading minds, so Trevor won’t have to worry about aliens stealing all his thoughts.

Back up to the Observation Car Trevor goes, where he sees the same UFO swoop down over the train car. But once again, nobody seems to be able to see this except for him (and Kowalski of course). To make things worse, all the policeman/agents looking for Victor on the train start focusing on him. There are references made to some government program Trevor may or may not have been a part of (it’s hard for him to remember and us to understand) but before long, it’s implied that Trevor may actually BE Victor.

What this means is that Trevor knows there are aliens and, for that reason, the aliens want to take him down. Or Trevor, in order to deal with this mind-numbing reality, has created this conspiracy involving all the people on this train, who aren’t actually real. Or Trevor may have been part of an experiment by aliens (and/or the government) and he’s escaped. Or he’s in a mental institution and is simply dreaming this all up. Got all that?

There are a lot of questions when one reads Observation Car, but I’m afraid not a lot of answers. I’m not going to lie. I don’t respond well to this type of material – the type where eighteen different realities exist at once and it’s up to the reader to determine which is real. Particularly when I don’t have the confidence that the writer knows the answers to all the questions he’s posed.

That’s the thing with this kind of script. They only work if the writer has total command over the page – if you get that confident feeling they know exactly what they’re doing. That’s not what I got from this. It felt too much like a writer making something up as he went along, and stopping about 9 drafts short of where he should’ve. This script just feels… shapeless. Government terrorist conspiracies and characters who are possibly dreaming and a UFO cover-up… Individually, all of these things make for good movies. But when thrown together in a blender, they feel like they’ve been thrown together in a blender.

Things looked bad from the beginning. From the overly on-the-nose title to the ill-advised use of an American train setting to the fact that I never even knew why my main character was on the train in the first place. A simple, “He’s just been given a new job in California,” would’ve helped.

If I were the writer, I would set this on a train in Europe. And I would get rid of all the conflicting conspiracy possibilities. Settle on one. Tell us more about our main character (I know nothing about Trevor). What’s his backstory? What are his flaws? Where is he going now and why? You gotta give us SOME SORT OF foundation – SOME facts – about our people involved, or else nothing will feel real, and we’ll just be confounded the whole time. Also, map out your story ahead of time. Outline it. It shouldn’t feel like every story twist was thought up on the spot. There has to be purpose to the choices. Each one can’t feel like the writer trying to write himself out of a corner.

Mysteries work best when there’s structure, logic, and purpose to them. Because I didn’t see any of that here, I turned on the script quickly. However, if you’re into shows like Dr. Who (which I only know from someone explaining it to me) or you’re a David Lynch fan, you may find more value in this than I did. It’s a trippy script, and some people don’t need the sort of story conventions I do to enjoy a film. So I’m hoping it finds some fans. But since I was so confused so much of the time, and since I never got that big payoff that tied all the confusion together, Observation Car just didn’t do it for me.

Script link: Observation Car

[x] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: I think one of the most dangerous things a mystery writer can do is make everything up as he goes along. 99% of the time, it will feel to the reader like it was made up as it went along. Readers like writers who can craft a story, who can create a series of clever setups and payoffs that show a plan. It implies a writer who knows what he’s doing.

Why this script isn’t ready for a script sale: Lack of structure. More preparation (outlining) needs to be put in at the beginning of the writing process so things don’t feel so random. The writing here, like all the scripts this week so far, is solid. The sentences are well-written. They’re descriptive, clear. I don’t remember a single spelling mistake. That was never the problem. It was simply that the writer didn’t seem to know where he was going with the story, and that lack of planning implies someone who doesn’t understand the value of structure. In this business, structure is everything. Because you often won’t be writing for yourself. You’ll be writing for someone else. That’s where all the money is. And when these producers come to you and say, “What’s your plan for adapting this novel?” you need to be able to convey, from a structural (often 3-Act) standpoint, how you plan to wrangle in the story. You can’t just say, “Well, I fly by the seat-of-my-pants and just see where it goes.” They’ll have you out the door before you’re able to thank them for the opportunity.

amateur offerings weekend

This week is a bit special: below are FOUR of the ‘almost’ picks for Amateur Friday from the last several weeks, the ones that got a lot of buzz but didn’t quite get to the review stage. I’m reposting them to see which of these can beat out the rest in an “Almost Amateur Friday Deathmatch.” The last script is a wildcard.

This is your chance to discuss the week’s amateur scripts, offered originally in the Scriptshadow newsletter. The primary goal for this discussion is to find out which script(s) is the best candidate for a future Amateur Friday review. The secondary goal is to keep things positive in the comments with constructive criticism.

Below are the scripts up for review, along with the download links. Want to receive the scripts early? Head over to the Contact page, e-mail us, and “Opt In” to the newsletter.

Happy reading!

TITLE: Pâtisserie
GENRE: Drama
LOGLINE: A young Jewish woman in occupied France escapes the Nazis by changing places with a shop owner. But as her love grows for the other woman’s husband and child, so does her guilt.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ (from writer): My screenplay finished in the top 6% of last year’s Nicholls, perhaps you can tell me why it didn’t crack the top 5. It was also the Screenplay of the Month on both Zoetrope and TriggerStreet.

TITLE: Ship Of The Dead
GENRE: Vampire/Thriller
LOGLINE: After their medical rescue aircraft crash lands above the Arctic Circle, a terminally ill flight navigator must lead the crew to survival in the face of plunging temperatures, the impending arrival of 6 months of permanent darkness – and a horde of vampires taking refuge in a nearby shipwreck.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Finalist in the Peachtree Village International Film Festival.

TITLE: Observation Car
GENRE: Sci-Fi / Suspense-Thriller
LOGLINE: After witnessing UFOs and other strange phenomena, an insomniac on a cross country train trip suspects an alien invasion is underway, beginning with his fellow passengers, but when no one believes him, he must team with a fugitive stowaway to unravel the sinister agenda.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: In an unfortunate newsletter mixup, this one didn’t get its official Amateur Friday ‘win.’ It got a lot of attention in the comments a few weeks ago and even “Rose in the Darkness” writer Joe Marino was impressed: “Just a fun, fast read with lots of professionalism and class. Great genre piece. Brefni is a very talented, ambitious writer and this script really shows off his strengths.”

TITLE: Fortune Cookie
GENRE: Contained-Dark Comedy/Suspense
LOGLINE: A young woman opens a fortune cookie with the prophecy that she will die if anyone leaves the restaurant. When the fortunes of her dinner companions come true, she takes the restaurant hostage.

TITLE: In Lieu of Flowers
GENRE: Dark Comedy
LOGLINE: A man sets out to to plan himself an epic funeral, only to find himself falling for the woman he hires to plan it.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ (from writer): It received a couple of favorable reviews from Blacklist readers (two 8’s), and was referred by the Blacklist folks to the Sundance Institute for possible consideration in the January Screenwriter Lab. Also? There are jokes, and I’ve been told they don’t altogether suck. So that’s nice.