Search Results for: mena

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

Night_Photography_Train_by_Shark1217

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.

 

Before Star Trek Into Darkness, before Lost, JJ Abrams wrote a draft of Superman. This is that draft.

Genre: Superhero
Premise: A slightly reimagined Superman origin story which includes an enemy from his home planet coming to earth to take him down.
About: This is JJ Abrams Superman entry, written in 2002, back when JJ was just your average TV show producer, finishing up work on Felicity and starting up work on Alias. The show that would make him a household name, Lost, was still just a twinkle in his eye.
Writer: JJ Abrams
Details: First draft (July 26, 2002) – 138 pages

Superman-justice-league-digital-art-featured

Superman is still stinging from its horrible previous installment, which very well may have destroyed Bryan Singer’s reputation. The film was just so…forgettable. And badly written. Nothing made sense. Superman, who looked 25, had supposedly left earth for ten years? So he left when he was 15? Already I’m confused. Then nothing really happened. I couldn’t tell you what the story was about. There were no stand-out scenes. Superman was horribly miscast, as was Lois Lane.

I think the scene that epitomized the screw-up for me was the shuttle scene. It didn’t have anything to do with anything. What I mean by that is: it wasn’t woven into any sort of plot. It was just this standalone short movie of Superman saving a shuttle.

I said then that if they were ever going to reboot Superman and get today’s audiences interested, they were going to need to go darker like Batman. I know, I know. That’s “not Superman.” But it’s what audiences are digging, and Superman needed a makeover to appeal to today’s youth. I haven’t seen the movie, of course, but Zach Snyder’s version already looks a thousand times better than that previous abomination.

Which brings us to this draft, which I’ve heard at least partly inspired the most recent movie. But let’s face it. That’s not the reason I’m reviewing it. I’m reviewing it because it’s the JJ Abrams draft. I just had to know what he would’ve done with Superman. And the results are both encouraging and…not so encouraging with an ending so sacrilegious and “out-of-left-field” that I’m pretty sure it was born out of JJ’s first experience with peyote.

JJ’s Superman is basically an origin story with a few twists. It starts out with an awesome battle between Superman and an alien baddie named Ty-Zor from his home planet. They’re throwing each other through buildings, that sort of thing. And Superman is basically getting his ass handed to him.

Eventually we cut back to Krypton and get a detailed look at the civil war going on there, with 100 foot tall robot machines shredding up Kryptonians like a top chef. We get the familiar scene with Supes’s dad putting him in the spaceship, sending him to earth, where he lands at the Kents’ farm, where he grows up with them and yadda-yadda-yadda.

Where the script starts deviating from lore is that it makes Lex Luthor the head of the CIA. Lex is obsessed with UFO phenomena and is trying to convince his bureau to spend more time and resources on it, convinced that little green men are going to become a threat to earth at some point and they need to be ready for it. When a young new reporter, Lois Lane, writes an article about Luthor’s exploits, he has no choice but to tell the world that the U.S. has actually FOUND a UFO.

This freaks Superman (now Clark Kent) out, since he figures Luthor may be referring to him. And he doesn’t want any part in being exposed. Eventually, Luthor’s obsession with UFOs starts to piss the bureau off, and they fire him. Well, you don’t fire Lex Luthor and not expect consequences. Luthor eventually finds and teams up with Ty-Zor, who’s come to earth specifically to kill Superman. Superman may be super and all but (spoiler) he’s apparently no match for these two and is KILLED. Yes, Superman dies.

Or does he?

Eventually we learn that Superman isn’t dead at all, and comes back to take down Luthor, who’s since been awarded the planet by Ty-Zor. Finally the truth is revealed about Lex Luthor and the reason he’s so obsessed with aliens. Turns out Lex Luthor IS AN ALIEN. He’s from Superman’s home planet and has been hiding here. Which results in a final flying city-wide battle between Superman and… Lex Luthor? Holy origin-destroyer Batman. What the hell just happened??

Oh sheesh. Where to begin…

First of all, I’m convinced my man-crush JJ Abrams had nothing to do with this bizarre choice to make Lex Luthor an alien. Some producer came up with that idea. I know it. One thing good writers know is when they’ve gone too far. Or when a choice is too ridiculous or not believable. They just have an intricate feel for what works and what doesn’t. JJ had been working as a screenwriter for a decade at this point. I just don’t think he would’ve personally incorporated this bizarre choice into the story. Maybe I’m in denial. But I can’t accept it. And whoever DID come up with that idea needs to be escorted out of Hollywood permanently.

As for the rest of Superman, I think the challenge for this franchise has most recently been about making it current. It was designed in a different time. We don’t have the “aww shucks” newspaper photographer anymore. Heck, we don’t even have newspapers anymore! Combined with this need for comic book nerds to keep Superman “pure,” it’s just really hard to update it. JJ does his best, but the story still seems stuck in the past.

In particular, the gears of the screenplay seemed more focused on getting in all the necessary “lore” as opposed to just telling a story. Gotta get in the introduction of the suit and cape! Gotta get in that Lois Lane-Superman interview for the paper! Gotta get in the kryptonite intro! Instead of just a naturally flowing story, the screenplay seems designed around artificially incorporating these elements.

The truth is, when you’re telling an origin story, you’re dedicating 40-70 pages of your script to setup alone. And no matter how interesting that setup is, it’s still setup. The audience wants to see the plot get going. Singer tried to do this in the last Superman, by nixing the whole origin story in favor of sending Superman home then bringing him back again, but it was the wrong story element to use, as it was simply too confusing and clunky.

When JJ’s plot gets going, it sort of loses its way as well. Part of the problem is we have two villains here. Now I’m all for double the villain-ry. It’s fun to see a superhero have to take down two assholes instead of one. The problem is these villains never quite gelled together. It felt more like JJ was trying to decide which villain he liked best as he went along. And that may have been the case. Remember, this was a first draft. But I didn’t know where to focus my attention. Was Luthor the more important guy to take down? Or was Ty-Zor?

I think what Nolan did with Batman Begins was kind of genius. He didn’t introduce the best villain of the franchise in the movie. He waited until the second movie to do that. While it’s hard to imagine a Superman movie without Lex Luthor, Ty-Zor was a pretty damned worthy adversary. I mean this guy is throwing Superman through buildings ‘n shit. We just should have built a story around him and brought in Lex for the sequel.

Despite the unending amount of setup here, JJ does manage to plug in a lot more action than Singer’s abysmal version. We have the Air Force One scene (which has since been ripped off numerous times), the Ty-Zor/Superman battle, the Superman mech-machine battle, and just some really imaginative cool scenes back on Superman’s home planet. Those things almost saved the script, but in the end, this messy first draft hadn’t figured itself out yet. Maybe JJ did it with the next one. But any script that has Lex Luthor with the same powers as Superman is going to be a fail in my book.

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

What I learned: I love reading scripts like this because they remind me of how influenced we are by the moment. Whenever we write a script, we write through the filter of “right now,” of what the world is talking about, of what movies everyone’s watching, of how the writers of these movies are approaching their stories. JJ’s Superman feels very much like someone writing a script in 2002. It’s an origin story (just like X-Men from 2000 and Spider-Man of 2002). Just like X-Men, Superman’s flaw is that he believes he’s a freak, which is the reason he doesn’t reveal himself. There’s not a lot of originality here. For this reason, I encourage you not to be too influenced by the moment. Don’t write what everyone else is writing, or be swayed by the current trends. Try to write something that’s wholly unique, that, if looked back at 10 years from now, would stick out as its own thing, as opposed to just another version of what everyone else was doing.

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: My Asian Buddy
GENRE: Comedy
LOGLINE: A middle management loser befriends the new guy at work and changes his image.

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.

TITLE: The Express
GENRE: Thriller
LOGLINE: On the eve of World War Two, a reporter traveling aboard the Orient Express must solve a seemingly impossible crime, the kidnapping of a diplomat who has has somehow been made to magically vanish from the speeding train.

TITLE: In the West
GENRE: Horror/ Action Horror/ Period
LOGLINE: In 1704 a squad of English Rangers is sent on a mission to assassinate a French Officer, only to discover something evil in the uncharted wilderness of the New World.

TITLE: B & E
GENRE: Dark Comedy
LOGLINE:Two brothers in need of quick cash to pay off their mothers house, decide to pull a classic B & E on their rich, but arrogant, piece of shit step dad.