Genre: Period/Biopic
Premise: The story of how a simple girl became one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world.
About: There were a couple of weeks a few months back where Catherine The Great was the big script on Hollywood Campus. Writer Kristina Lauren Anderson was feeling that love all screenwriters dream of, as everyone in town swooned over her script and wanted desperately to know what she was doing next (so they could be a part of it!). Period biopics aren’t my thing so I never got around to reading “Catherine,” but now that it’s placed on the top of The Hit List, the best-of-year screenplay list for spec screenplays, you can say I’ve officially taken notice. While this may be Anderson’s breakthrough on the screenwriting front, she did produce an independent movie called “Girlfriend” a few years ago that did well on the festival circuit. So she’s far from a stranger to the industry.
Writer: Kristina Lauren Anderson
Details: 128 pages (Draft 5.1)

443208-emma-watson-in-london-premiere-of-film-noahScriptshadow Suggestion: Emma Watson for Catherine the Great?

As I put feelers out for this script a couple of months back, I wasn’t getting the best responses. “Boring period piece” is what I heard. “It’s okay I guess, but nothing special.” Not exactly the kind of endorsement that makes you rush to double-click a PDF.

Indeed, whenever I’m tasked with reading a period piece, I find myself doing all sorts of things I supposedly “never have time to do.” Clean the apartment? Yeah, I should do that. Laundry? I guess I haven’t cleaned my towels in awhile. Alphabetize my dust-covered DVD collection? I mean, you never know when you might need to watch a DVD despite not owning a DVD player anymore.

Heck, I’ll do just about anything to avoid that dreaded page 1 of a period piece.

But none of that was necessary today. That’s because today, I learned that Catherine the Great was a fucking badass.

We meet Sophia Augustus at 17 years old, masturbating, an exercise she’ll also use a horse to achieve later in the story. Not really sure what masturbating had to do with this movie, but I think it’s to clue us in that Sophia isn’t a slave to the expectations of women at the time.

Not a beautiful girl, but extremely smart, Sophia’s mother had her do everything under the sun as a child (ballet, music, horse-riding) to prepare her for landing an important man, about the only way a woman could move up in society at the time.

Never in her or her mother’s wildest dreams, though, did they expect to be chosen by Elizabeth, the current ruler of Russia, to wed her nephew, Peter. Sophia (whose name would later be changed to “Catherine”) was about to become a princess.

But what’s that thing they say about “if it’s too good to be true?” Something about “it probably is?” Yeah. That happens here. Turns out Peter is a sickly puny ugly simpleton of a man, the 18th century equivalent of an autistic nerd. The whiny 17 year-old would rather play for hours with his toy soldiers than be lured in by the touch of a woman.

And so begins years of torture, as Catherine realizes that there is no way to please this man, to get her to like him, a task complicated by the fact that she’s expected to give the country an heir. But how can you give your country a child when your husband is more interested in his male barbies than the female anatomy?

As Catherine grows up, she begins to realize that maybe pleasing her husband in order to be the Queen of Russia isn’t the play here. Maybe the play is to rule Russia on her own. And thus begins a complicated game of the throne (so to speak) where she waits for Elizabeth to die, all the while plotting the downfall of her husband. If the cockamamie plan works out, she’ll become one of the most powerful people in the world.

22292_keira_knightley_the_duchess_press_stills_367_122_879loKeira Knightly to play someone since it’s a period piece?

Wow, this script was unexpectedly top-notch!

Biopics are tricky. You can try to create three acts out of them, but it never quite works. Biopics do not have a universal template. Some start at the beginning of the subject’s life and take you to their death. Some only cover a few important years. For this reason, if you try and squeeze these scripts into a Blake Snyder beat sheet, you’ll find nothing but frustration.

So if there’s no template for biopic structure, how does one write them? Well, I can give you some basics. Just like any great story, try to come in as late as you can. So here in “Catherine the Great,” we don’t start when Catherine is born. We start when she’s 17 and looking to land a husband. That’s a good place to start since the movie centers around her marriage to Peter.

Also, remember that unlike a normal screenplay, with a biopic, the star is on the title page. This isn’t called “War in Russia.” It’s called “Catherine the Great.” That means a CHARACTER is the subject. Which means ALL YOUR FOCUS in a biopic should be on character. Creating fascinating characters. Creating troubled characters. Creating characters with flaws. Creating characters with contradictions. Creating characters who are unique. With a biopic, you have to kick ass on the character front because you’ve made a character the center of your story.

From there, you naturally extend your great characters into great relationships. The biggest reason this script is so good is because of the conflict-fueled dynamic between Catherine and Peter. At first the conflict is Catherine trying to please the aloof Peter. Then it’s her frustration with him. Then it’s her anger at him. Then it’s him leaving her for another woman. Then it’s about her getting rid of him. This is great writing. Not just constant conflict, but constant EVOLVING conflict in the story’s key relationship.

Finally, with most biopics, you want the life you’re following to BUILD. If a character is meandering, we get bored. But if every few scenes, we feel like our character has taken another stop up the staircase towards an important destination, we not only get the sense that progress is being made, but we invite the possibility that our character can fall, which add those all important stakes.

And keep in mind that you want multiple staircases to add variety to the story. As soon as your character gets to the top of one staircase, introduce another.

So here, the build starts with Catherine trying to impress Peter in order to marry her. Then we’re building towards her needing to deliver an heir. Then we’re building towards Catherine trying to take out her nemesis, a woman who steals Peter. And finally, we’re building towards Catherine taking over the crown.

If we don’t feel like our character is building up towards something, then the story remains level. It’s just a series of flat scenes, one after another, that ultimately feel directionless, because, once again, you don’t have a traditional plot to hang your story on. This is a person’s life. Not three acts of a character journey.

All this is easier said than done. You still have to come up with these interesting characters. You can’t just decide to write an interesting character and your day is over. You have to find them within yourself, in your everyday life, or do what Anderson did here – find them in history.

Where Catherine the Great really shines is that it has two great characters anchoring the story. And I want to make something clear. If either of these characters weren’t great (no pun intended) you’d have no screenplay. EVERYTHING would fall apart. Because, again, you don’t have a traditional plot supporting your story. You just have your characters and that means the characters anchoring the story have to be amazing.

And what’s so cool is that Catherine and Peter are fascinating in different ways. Catherine is smarter than everyone else, an adulteress, a heartbreaker, a schemer, and someone who struggles with what she ultimately wants. Does she want to rule Russia or doesn’t she? She’s also a classic underdog (readers always love underdogs!). She’s a nobody when she comes to this kingdom. She has no allies. No friends. And she’s a woman at a time when woman were looked at as property. So we want her to succeed and rise up against these misfortunes.

But it’s Peter who truly stands out as one of the weirdest characters you’ll ever read. He’s a grown man who likes toys. He’s sickly and horrifying to look at. He’s socially ignorant. He doesn’t have any interest in females unless they enjoy his trivial boyish hobbies. He loves the army but is a coward. He throws rocks at his own people. He gets excited by the tiniest of things, like winning meaningless card games. He’s just a grade-A weirdo. And part of the attraction of this script is watching Catherine have to deal with this nut.

This one I wasn’t expecting. It’s got that big 128 page price tag on it, but it doesn’t read like a bulky period piece. The writing is so sparse and pleasant that your eyes glide right over the words. Catherine The Great is the real deal. And I encourage all of you to read it, even if it’s just to see how someone writes a screenplay that doesn’t follow the traditional 3-act structure and accepted beat sheet of a Hollywood script.

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

What I learned: For biopics – Create characters that are even more fascinating than characters in “regular” scripts, create captivating conflict inside the key relationships, and create a constant sense that our character is building towards something.

  • Steffan

    I always have felt that biopics do their best work when you, as the audience/reader, walk away feeling smarter.

    • Blackwell_Z

      I agree with you. I think the best biopics are the ones which focus on less successful characters, the ones which doesn’t have a happy ending. I’d rather watch a movie about Nixon than Roosevelt.

      • Magga

        Is there a movie about Roosevelt? Ironically I’d love to watch it, but I agree Nixon is one of the great movie characters of all time, and I just remember I have Secret Honor lying around somewhere, which I gather is mostly Nixon rambling drunkenly into a tape recorder, alone. Even that could work. I wouldn’t mind seeing a new Nixon biopic every couple of years by different directors, and I hate remakes. And any year of LBJ’s life would work as a great drama

        • brenkilco

          FDR or TR? Perennial movie chump Ralph Bellamy had a late career triumph playing FDR in the Broadway hit Sunrise at Campobello. It was made into a movie in 1960.

  • Steffan

    Really quick OT comment that I wanted to post yesterday, but didn’t have the chance:

    I’ve been thinking about the conversations about “purple prose” on Sunday and yesterday’s script excerpt which was, for lack of a better word, pretty fucking “hip”.

    Why do we all jump on any snippet of dialog that’s “on the nose;” but, if an action line doesn’t get straight to the point it opens itself up to being called “purple” or circuitous?

    Shouldn’t there be a phrase for action lines that are too OTN? Other than “bad writing” that is?

    • Bifferspice

      huh? why wouldn’t you want OTN action descriptions?

    • Andrew Parker

      You want subtext in actions. Not subtext in the descriptions of actions.

      • Casper Chris

        I’d rather bronze this one.

    • brenkilco

      Sort of apples and oranges. People are inarticulate and eloquent, verbose and tightlipped. They use slang, talk around things. They don’t exist to deliver exposition which is the worst sort of OTN dialogue. Action writing on the other hand exists to convey to the audience exactly what is going on. It can be expressive. But when expressive becomes merely wordy or worse confusing it’s a problem.

      • Steffan

        I want to thank everyone here for commenting.

        I have seen your point and am beginning to agree with you all.

        The only thing that totally holds me back from agreeing completely is that language can work on many levels simultaneously and I think the best descriptive language does just that.

        But, if it’s not working on the most basic level–that is so say, a literal one–then the writer has failed.

  • mrl72

    If anyone has the script could you be a champ and email it to me? abrit1203 at gmail dot com. Much obliged!

    • uncgym44

      This is the script I would LOVE to read as well (currently writing a period piece). If you don’t mind sending it, please email it to: b.buffignton44@gmail.com.

      Thank you!

      • uncgym44

        whoops – that should be b.buffington44@gmail.com.

        Thanks!

        • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

          me too, Thanks! adam@alumni[dot]vcu[dot]edu

          • Eric

            Ditto that. And thanks in advance. e_wall1498(at)yahoo(dot)com

          • Film DieHard

            Hi Adam, could you PLEASE mail it to me? THANKS. elyonsown at yahoo dot com

        • crazedwritr

          Since I’ve written my own biopic, id love to see what an impressive looks like. I’d like a copy too, please — moviegurl at me dot come. Thanks in advance.

      • AST

        Same here, outlining and getting ready to write a period piece! Very eager to read this, plz kindly email to: jordana544@gmail.com

    • Blackwell_Z

      I’d happily enjoy the reading of it: blackwell.mks (at) gmail

      Thanks!

  • brenkilco

    The thing about real lives is they don’t have a tidy dramatic structure, convenient act breaks and a climax at the end. I don’t mind period pieces but nothing depresses me more than a movie advertised as being based on a true story. I know I’m going to be expected to swallow a slack or even shapeless narrative because, hey, it actually happened. If your historical drama is tight and satisfying chances are it’s been seriously fudged. Which sort of defeats the purpose. Tough to win. That said, Catherine the Great is a pretty tried and true subject. Shaw got a play out of the character and Von Sternberg his craziest and maybe best movie. So I’m curious about this script. As described the dimwitted Peter sounds sort of one note. Does he change in the course of the story?

  • Somersby

    A period piece? And an impressive from Carson? Wow, this gotta be worth reading.
    If you wouldn’t mind sharing– Thanks in advance.
    scriptwriter[at]total[dot]net

  • ThomasBrownen

    Congrats to Kristina! Always encouraging to see new talent break into Hollywood.

    But I’ll be curious to see if this gets made. Hasn’t Randall Wallace been trying to get a movie made about Catherine the Great for years now…?

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brett-martin/52/702/72 ElectricDreamer

    Just in time for the 80th anniversary of one of my fave Dietrich films.

    THE SCARLET EMPRESS never ceases to dazzle me.
    A film so stylized, it would make Fellini green with envy.
    Marlene’s depiction of Sophia into Catherine is nothing short of mesmerizing.
    Here’s the scene when she meets her new squick-worthy hubbie, Peter.

    • brenkilco

      Crazy great. Though the only slightly less stylized Dieterich Sternberg Shanghai Express may work better today.

      • Levres de Sang

        Always loved SHANGHAI EXPRESS, but it’s almost silent quality does render it overly stylized in places — especially the dialogue scenes between Dietrich and Brook.

        • brenkilco

          Legend has it Von Sternberg wanted the rhythm of the dialogue to mimic the motion of the train. Who knows. When I first saw it I thought Brook impossibly wooden but subsequent viewings reveal that he’s doing all sorts of subtle stuff and his stiff upper lip parody is really pretty great. And for someone who has only seen Dietrich in her older death mask phase and doesn’t get her, this is the movie to see.

          • Levres de Sang

            Yes, I think legend may be right as to the train/dialogue thing. Haven’t seen it for quite a while so I’ll look out for those subtleties you mention. What I do always associate with it though is the glistening b&w camera work by Lee Garmes. Not sure there’s ever been anything comparable… You’re right, though, it is the Dietrich picture to see.

            KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR is another delirious Dietrich in Russia outing, but it’s rarely shown.

          • brenkilco

            Garmes’ lighting is amazing. Don’t know what shape the original film is in, but a Criterion Blu Ray would be nice.

          • davejc

            “Legend has it Von Sternberg wanted the rhythm of the dialogue to mimic the motion of the train.”

            Do you mean something like this?

          • brenkilco

            Correct, with a capital C and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool.

    • Levres de Sang

      I too recalled this brilliant film while reading Carson’s review — especially his describing Peter as “one of the weirdest characters you’ll ever read”. Haven’t opened CATHERINE yet, but THE SCARLET EMPRESS is a mesmerising act to follow.

  • drifting in space

    The plot to this (I am reading it now) is so similar to the Lysa/Robin Arryn and Sansa Stark storyline from Game of Thrones.

    I understand it is history and that GoT May have pulled from this story, I’m just noticing the obvious similarities.

    • Logline_Villain

      Haven’t seen a single episode of GoT, yet was wondering as I read Carson’s review whether there might be any overlap between GoT and CTG …

    • brittany

      Well, let’s just hope there’s not a moon door involved…

      • drifting in space

        She’s gunna go flyyyyyy.

  • Illimani Ferreira

    “We meet Sophia Augustus at 17 years old, masturbating, an exercise she’ll also use a horse to achieve later in the story. Not really sure what masturbating had to do with this movie, but I think it’s to clue us in that Sophia isn’t a slave to the expectations of women at the time.”

    http://cdn.hark.com/images/000/107/147/107147/original.JPG

    • klmn

      They didn’t have vibrators back then, so women had to use horses.

      • susanrichards

        ha. only the more creative ones used horses. pretty much all women have fingers. and im pretty sure that even back then there were vegetables….

  • walker

    I knew war with Prussia was well-regarded, but eminent?

  • jw

    So, there’s something I continue to see around here and I think it should be addressed because it’s not helping anyone. Yesterday a script from a guy who gets paid millions for his words and his lens has a script reviewed where people find a way to either hate the script concept or hate the descriptive passages within page 1, and then choose to go on rants about both, rather than actually read the script and comment on its entirety. The same thing happens today and an equal amount of “this doesn’t work for me” gets spread across the airwaves as though it actually means something.

    And, really I have to say that I don’t understand it. I know, the life of a writer can be miserable, leading to miserable people on boards who have little to offer other than the misery they are experiencing, but is there ever a point where you ask yourself, “why is it I continually comment in a negative fashion about EVERYTHING?”

    You want to have a comment about why you don’t like the writing style? Okay. You want to have a comment about the concept? Okay. But, don’t you owe it to yourself, others and the writer who is in a position you could only dream about, to actually give them the benefit of the doubt and read their stuff front-to-back? Maybe you would actually learn something about why other people pay these guys for their words. You want to comment on its entirety afterwards? Great. Have all the opinion you want one way or another, but I see this here all too often and it’s pretty ridiculous.

    Being in the position we all find ourselves (as “amateurs”) should mean that we soak up any information we can at any moment in order to become better. Not spend our time telling others about why writers who get paid millions don’t deserve it. That just means one thing — you stay where you’re at, and so do they. A really, really big difference.

    • drifting in space

      I can sum it up on one word:

      Envy – A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

      • jw

        But, shouldn’t that make you want to work harder and learn the tricks of the trade, so you can get there? Rather than dismiss everyone who is ALREADY there?

        • drifting in space

          Oh, absolutely. I agree 100%.

          But that isn’t how most people operate. It’s a lot easier to sit back and bitch and moan, rather than put in the hard work it takes just to break in, let alone sell your work for large sums of money.

          Determination is the counter to envy. It’s the biggest difference between “professionals” and “amateurs.” At least, that’s what I believe.

          • Doorknob Envy

            This from you, Pie Face, is a bit rich, Sir. You constantly have something negative to say about sold scripts; why just last week you were up on arms about the believability factor with regard to a boxing story; and I’m sure you took issue with the phrasing in ‘Death Wish’ yesterday. Your cup of contradictory tea I can be sure.

            And the only thing in this life that’s 100% is the love for your children as and only liars say/write 100%: ‘I get my check Friday. Front me the weed, I promise 100% to pay you back. I got you…’

            Sound familiar Pie Face?

            In my eyes you’re nothing but a walking/taking/crap-script-spewing contradiction… and I’m willing to be that’s 99% accurate.

            You’re comment fits your MO perfectly…

          • drifting in space

            You used the wrong your.

        • susanrichards

          yeah. i just feel really confused, thats all. i really hate it when someone totally disses a script because of a small inaccuracy or because one small thing isnt described well, or maybe too well.
          cos if that will make or break a script getting sold, well then im totally fucked.
          personally, what i look at is THE WHOLE THING. does it have a beginning, a middle and an end? do i like the protag? did it tell me a story that id like to see?
          i dont get much into the technicalities.
          sometimes, the discussions here just totally blow my mind.

          • grendl

            Pointing out flaws in a script, even minutiae is what writers do.

            Maybe not you. But its like looking at the Titanic and saying isn’t that a perfect ship.

            Nope. Turns out it wasn’t.

            Its hard for me to believe people exist that don’t care about the English language, and they call themselves writers.

            You’re supposed to care.

            Don’t be bitter susan. Just care more.

          • susanrichards

            wait…one thing.

            pointing out flaws is what CRITICS do.

            writing, is what writers do. and everyone has their own style. their own voice.

    • Bifferspice

      Hey JW. haven’t really seen any of that happening for today’s script? seems to be getting praise from the few people who have given it a look. i read the first few – seemed crisp and fast moving. the logline doesn’t really sound my thing, but i will probably take another look when i have a spare hour.

      I guess I was one who wasn’t keen on the opening of yesterday’s script. I did read the whole thing though. I pretty much stick to my opinion. though the guy can clearly write, and it was full of passion and fire, it seemed somewhat flabby, and I’m really not sure a straightforward revenge flick could stand to be 2 and a half hours long. I also thought that whole mid-section, the attack, was completely unfilmable as is. i don’t know the story, was he looking to direct it himself? and i found the 1st person, and some of it 3rd person, and some of it 2nd person, utterly confusing. at least pick one! that said, some of it flowed great, there was some good dialogue, and plenty of bits to like, but overall, I don’t know, it just didn’t work for me.

      anyway, while i do get annoyed on how willing people are to be negative rather than positive, so go with you on your overall post, this place would be pretty quiet if the only people who could comment were those who had read the entire script, or had earned/achieved more than whoever wrote the script. you said yesterday he’s a friend of yours. are you sure you’re not just taking yesterday’s comments personally, and that we wouldn’t see any past comments by you doing exactly what you’re accusing others of doing? and when did money earned for a script dictate the quality of its writing, by the way?

      • jw

        Biffer, it’s not the first time I’ve seen this, which I stated. It happens not only to the pro scripts on here, but amateur scripts as well, and rather than always coming up with reasons as to why someone won’t read a script, I’d rather see people talk about the script itself, even if it’s just Act 1. The point being, regardless of whether I know Joe, his level of writing has earned him where he is today, so while critique of anything is warranted, I believe the people around here should be looking at a guy like Joe, who is the true epitome of “started from the bottom, now we’re here” (thanks Drake!), and look at why his stuff gets the play it does and those around here don’t have a single credit. There has to be a time where writers need to evaluate themselves and they can’t do that if they’re sitting back on their thrown constantly TALKING about how they’re so great, while others are out there SHOWING why they are. Hmmm… I think we know that from somewhere… SHOW don’t TELL…

        • Bifferspice

          not sure i’m constantly talking about why i’m so great. i also don’t think we should just accept everything any sold writer does is something we should aspire to, either. i think we should constantly read, watch, evolve, and question everything as to what works and what doesn’t, and whether we can add/eradicate such qualities if we lack them/see them in our own work, should such things be applicable in our chosen genre, etc. which i think is often what happens here. Like i say, I agree this place can come across bitchy and negative at times, but I also see plenty of what we’re talking about happening as well. I’m not sure the picture’s as bleak as you’re saying, and I’m not sure working out how to write based on what scripts get sold is a valid approach to honing your craft. it has to make sense to your ethos as a writer and a craftsman/woman. not, how can i make my script more like this one, because this one sold. scripts come in all shapes and sizes, and you have to find what works for you, and do that.

          • jw

            Biff, you know I love you, but when I say, “writers need to evaluate themselves” I’m literally talking about writers. Why does this happen so often here — someone says “writers” and the person immediately believes it’s about them? It’s just strange to me. I’m literally JUST saying WRITERS IN GENERAL. That’s it. And again, putting words in my mouth — I’m not saying “how can I make my script more like this one” I’m saying, “how can what this person does in their writing be transferred to what I need to do to elevate mine?” When I read a script from Joe there is one thing that happens over and over again, I am inspired to write. Period. I read his stuff and it’s like, “holy shit, my adrenaline starts pumping”. Period. That, I believe, is something you can take from someone else and use yourself. Inspiration. Adrenaline. Style. Anything. It’s there. I appreciate your conversation.

          • Bifferspice

            ah shucks ;) i know you weren’t necessarily aiming it at me, but you do seem to be aiming it at those who were critical of the opening of yesterday’s script, and i was one of those. anyway, i get your point, and i get why joe’s script got you feeling like that. it’s an intense style, and that gets people flicking through the pages. that’s clearly a great quality to have in your writing. :) all the best.

          • jw

            At the end of the day you and I want the same thing — to improve. How we get there is our own style, but I happen to believe we would all be better off if we truly paid attention to those who have gone from working for a local radio station and furniture moving company to being in the presence of the Ridley Scotts’ of the world. It may be my naivety, but I look at situations like that as a true learning experience. And, isn’t that life in general? A series of true learning experiences?

    • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

      At the end of the day, none of these kinds of discussions (or arguments) that I see that this post started (not your fault) help with making ourselves a better screenwriter.

      Instead, in arguments like we see here, we see people fighting with each other about who is right and who is wrong. Not all the time, but enough. And it’s almost never about actual screenwriting.

      People should use the time they use to fight with others on this site, the time they use throwing out their opinions that nobody really cares about, or trying to prove others wrong, and write. These argumentative opinions never changes anybody’s mind, they just puts them on the defensive.

      Which means, at the end of the day, all people did was waste their time, and not get anything worthwhile writing accomplished.

      My friend said something a teacher of his said to him in the 70’s before he passed away in a plane crash. He said, “If you are having a fight with your neighbor (or anyone else), bake them some chocolate chip cookies. Or a velvet cake. Or an apple pie.”

      How can they fight back to that?

      And as far as people not really talking about anything constructive that they learned by reading a screenplay they didn’t care for (or don’t want to admit they like)… just have to ignore them. They are in every board you go to, whether it’s about screenwriting and cake recipes for upset neighbors… they roam around looking for people’s time to devour so they can help make themselves feel something other than what they are feeling. Doesn’t usually work.

      You can’t get rid of ‘em, so might as well just ignore them until they realize nobody is replying back to their hateful rants, and then they eventually move on to another board where people will feed into their anger and hatred and rage and depression (or whatever is getting them to lash out).

      Yup… I should be writing. Time to go lol

  • Casper Chris

    Looking forward to read this script now. Actually sounds pretty exciting, biopic and all.

  • drifting in space

    “When a contractor asks to see the blueprint of the building he’s been hired to build from the architect, he doesn’t need a finished photo of the building. He needs to see the specifications, what to build.”

    I really like this. Along with:

    “As an architect you have to allow the contractors to do their job too. Don’t overstep your bounds. Just provide what we need to see and hear.”

    • brenkilco

      But you’re not selling your plan to an architect. You’re selling it to an owner who needs to be able to visualize the finished product. Truthfully, scripts are a lot more than blueprints and a lot less than novels and their ultimate quality lies in how the writer navigates the gap.

      • drifting in space

        I like it as a metaphor, not as a literal interpretation.

        Bare bone, “blue print” scripts sell.

        Overly dense “novelistic” scripts sell, too.

        Ones in between sell as well.

        Right time, right place.

        No one here, contrary to their steadfast beliefs, absolutely knows what will ultimately be their ticket in.

        I have my preference and it leans toward the “blue print” model.

        • brenkilco

          And you can find successful ones that fit the bare mold. Grendel talked about Alien above. That script sort of fascinates me. As writing it’s pretty awful. Except maybe it’s not. The descriptions are at most borderline adequate. The dialogue is dull. There’s barely any characterization. What it has is a nifty premise, one great shock scene-the chest buster, and a couple of good surprises like the robot reveal. But it knows what it’s selling and it sells it in the fewest number of words possible. So maybe it isn’t lousy. Maybe it’s actually the greatest modern script.

          • drifting in space

            Every time I’ve read the script to Alien, I scratch my head at it. I feel the same way you do above.

            Honestly, if I was a reader back then and received that script, I’d be checking the internet (though, not around then) every 10 pages or so out of boredom.

            But the final product? Great movie.

      • Levres de Sang

        That last sentence is brilliant! Just captures the sky-high difficulty level of writing an engaging script.

      • Malibo Jackk

        “Truthfully, scripts are a lot more than blueprints and a lot less than
        novels and their ultimate quality lies in how the writer navigates the
        gap.”

        Have been thinking a lot about this lately and fully agree.
        There are a lot of contradictions and half truths being thrown around.
        — Scripts are blue prints.
        — Never direct on the page.
        — Scripts are not stand alone works of art.
        — Never use unfilmables.
        — Always show, don’t tell.
        What it comes down to: Readers want clear, clever, smart writing. They want surprises. They want drama. They want emotion.

        Presentation matters.
        Great scenes can come off as boring
        — if the presentation (the writing) does not impress the reader.

  • Magga

    Please, me too! velkjent@hotmail.com

  • Scottie

    A lot of people have asked for this script, but does anyone actually have it?

    • crazedwritr

      yes. a lot do

  • aaronboolander

    can I read please!
    b(dash)rooks@hotmail.com

    thax

  • jw

    Grendl, you can have all of the opinions you want, talk about all of the “mistakes” that everyone makes and yet, at the end of the day when I say to you, show me your credits, what is the response going to be?

  • susanrichards

    lol. man, i dont wanna meet YOU in an alley :)
    look. i think it boils down to…we all have different standards, thats all.

    i dont assume people are jealous, but i do sense a sort of frustration.

  • brenkilco

    On the other hand if some safe studio hack from the seventies, say John Guillerman the auteur of the seventies King Kong, had directed Alien it would likely have turned out to be pretty much what it was on the page, a big budget remake of Zontar, The Thing From Venus. A great script is a piece of material that allows great filmmakers to be great. Which suggests a script is a contingent thing that ultimately can’t be judged on it’s own. It’s close to saying that there is really no such thing as a great script. Maybe so.

    • drifting in space

      Man, I couldn’t agree more here.

      Sometimes, while writing, I think of the final products of the scripts I like and get anxiety attacks. How did they get all of that on screen! It wasn’t in the script! What the heck! THE PRESSURE!

      Then I remember that FILMMAKERS (and others) played a part and brought it to life. I could not imagine creating that final product until I think of all the people involved to give us the MOVIE we all love.

      I like to rate scripts as “solid.” They can never be “great” (in my eyes) because we will always compare it to the movie and realize the script simply cannot contain every single detail we see and hear.

      And even then, sometimes it’s a crap shoot. Plenty of “good” scripts have been made into terrible movies. And vice versa.

      • Malibo Jackk

        “Plenty of “good” scripts have been made into terrible movies. And vice versa.”

        George Clooney has said —
        “You can make a bad movie from a good script. But you can’t make a good movie from a bad script.”

        Love George Clooney.

  • hackofalltrade

    There’s a huge difference between being wrong and being stupid.

    Much of the time, I agree with much of what you are saying Grendl. But come on man, are you really stooping to calling someone stupid because they have a difference of opinion? This time of nonsensical, internet buffoonery should be limited to the trolls you (and I) despise. Calling someone stupid for a simple difference in opinion is the same type of low-brow bullshit that plagues modern politics.

    There is a reason voter turnout is terrible in America- each side wants to paint YOU, the voter as STUPID if you don’t vote for their guy. So guess what? Voters stay at home because nobody wants to be stupid.

    If you value SS, you’ll man up and learn how to accept another’s opinion that differs from your own. I like the articles and reviews from Carson. But SS’s value to me is in the community that helps each other learn screenwriting. And if you scare people off-people that might be able to help me learn- people who are worried about being called stupid if their opinions are “wrong,” then you are just a troll yourself.

    • klmn

      “There is a reason voter turnout is terrible in America- each side wants
      to paint YOU, the voter as STUPID if you don’t vote for their guy. So
      guess what? Voters stay at home because nobody wants to be stupid.”

      That makes no sense at all. Ballots are secret in America. No one knows how you vote.

      • susanrichards

        “you voted for a democrat? you yellow bellied commie bastard!”
        “wtf? youre a republican? what rock do you live under? what an asshole!”

        its kinda like that.

        idc. presidents are supposed to be leaders. i need a good strong leader, even if he is a liberal bastard or an asshole republican.

        • drifting in space

          I don’t vote because it’s such a scam.

          “Ignorance! You won’t change the system if you stand idly by!”

          Oh well, politics are a scam and we’re 17 trillion in debt. Nothing is changing about that in my life time and soon we’ll all be controlled by robots anyway.

          • klmn

            Actually, it is changing. In two years we’ll likely be $20 trillion in debt.

          • drifting in space

            In two years, America will be a crater after North Korea nukes us due to Seth Rogan and James Franco.

          • klmn

            If you really believe that you should forget about screenwriting and just enjoy yourself in the time you have left.

        • klmn

          You don’t have to tell anyone how you vote.

          • susanrichards

            yes i know. personally, idc what anyone thinks about what i choose, what i say, or anything like that. but people are people. they want to feel like they are doing the right thing and get all caught up in nonsense.

            i used to vote. felt proud to.

            now i dont cos i feel like it simply doesnt matter.

      • hackofalltrade

        Hah. Really? I suppose I could offer you a detailed hypothesis of why America lags other countries in this area, why Belgium’s voting turnout rate is double ours, and how political strategists employ this exact “don’t be stupid” strategy when up in a race, and NEVER when down in a race, but that seems pretty boring right?

        • klmn

          Your hypothesis doesn’t matter. If people don’t care enough about the issues to vote, they shouldn’t vote.

          And yes, really. No one knows how you vote. Even if you tell them, you could be lying.

          • hackofalltrade

            “you don’t have to tell anyone how you vote.”

            True. Though the point is, there’s an enormous difference between wrong and stupid. If you study behavior, people are far more comfortable with being wrong if no one knows they were wrong(voting).

            But they DON’T want to FEEL stupid. They don’t want to feel that they are somehow intellectually incompetent and will take drastic steps to insulate themselves from that emotion.

            Whether someone KNOWS who you voted for is irrelevant. America is inundated with talking heads who employ the “you are stupid if you don’t agree with me” argument. So potential voters would rather not vote than take the chance on feeling like “the idiot” who voted for (x).

            Whether or not you like the idea, this is a hot topic in politics. I certainly wouldn’t call you stupid for disagreeing, but you probably shouldn’t dismiss the concept so quickly.

  • carsonreeves1

    that has to be one of the most bizarre things I’ve heard. what animals do guys get off to?

    • susanrichards

      i guess youve never heard of the shepherd games, eh?

    • Illimani Ferreira

      I’ve heard that bestialism is legal in the state of Washington, so maybe you should ask your brother?

      • Illimani Ferreira

        You know, because he lives across the border, not implying anything.

        • Illimani Ferreira

          Please don’t remove Super Epic from the slot for this Friday in case you were considering reviewing it. :p

          • Illimani Ferreira

            Your brother sounds like a nice guy, really. I’d totally have a beer with him.

          • susanrichards

            yeah. me too. like an Old Milwaukee or a Schlitz. :)

      • drifting in space

        I can’t imagine that’s true here… Though with how many farms we have, I wouldn’t doubt it. HA.

  • fourjacks

    Can someone please hook me up with this script? Thanks.

    asieger at yahoo dotcom

    Thanks again!

  • jw

    Grendl is probably right though! I do frequent alleys, but that’s my second job and I’m told I’m quite good at it. Wink-wink! And, no Grendl this original post was not specifically about you. It was just about what I was seeing in general. The fact you thought it was specifically about you may say more than anything else… but I have to run because I just got a page and someone needs their ass kissed! Movin’ up in the world!

  • Rick Hester

    ‘But just stop posting this shit. It makes you sound stupid.’

    I would take a dose of your own medicine, Grendl.

    Yesterday you responded to me asking ‘Is there anything that doesn’t drive you up the fucking wall?’ by writing ‘Perfection.’ Perfection is subjective. I would suggest a bit of humility.

  • kenglo

    Throw me in the mix…whomever may have it, AND yesterday’s script (DEATHWISH)

    Heck, how about the whole HITLIST????

    glover_13000 AT YAHOOOOO

  • bex01

    Me too pretty please!

    babelfish79 at gmail dot com

  • susanrichards

    aww grendl, youre bitter. dont be. i GET IT. you expect perfection. youre striving for it, why not others? why not the pros?

    believe me, ive read your comments. and a lot are very helpful. you make me think. make note. so i thank you.

    i know this. this…need for perfection…it even controlled how i was going to write. when, where, with what…i HAD to have color coordinated note cards. HAD to have tigconderoga number twos with an additional pointed eraser…had to have the perfect amount of distraction in the background.

    and then one day i realized, i wasnt writing at all.

    so i just grabed the first already been used notebook and any old pen and started writing. sticky notes, napkins…didnt matter. I WROTE.

    i just want to get my story out. then go over it again and again and again. i dont want to be hung up on whether or not my surgeon is going to use a 15 blade or what.

    thats what editors are for.

    i want it to be good. really good. good enough to catch someones eye. but striving for perfection….i wont write word one.

    as far as ass kissing goes…..well nobody likes an ass kisser.

    but then again….youve read death wish?

    yeah.

    • Midnight Luck

      Perfection Quotes from Writers:

      “If I waited for Perfection, I would never write a word.”
      ~Margaret Atwood

      “I think Perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.”
      ~Yohji Yamamoto

      Perfection Quotes from Artists:

      “The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”
      ~Eugene Delacroix

      “… have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”
      ~salvador dali

      and (oddly) one from a supermodel….

      “Perfect is boring, human is beautiful.”
      ~Tyra Banks

      • Kirk Diggler

        I love Atwood.

  • Cjv95

    If anyone has this, can you send it to me? Thanks in advance!

    cjvick95 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

    I think she’s cuter (and she actually looks like royalty in that picture), but I think Chloë Grace Moretz may actually be a better choice. At least I’ve seen more range in her acting than I have with Emma.

  • Postfan

    Could anyone please send me a copy postfans@gmail.com. Thanks!

  • Calavera

    After this amazing review, I’d LOVE to read it as well !
    If you can send it to me, our respective first child will bear the same name :)
    benoit(dot)herrmann(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Gman

    Just finished “Catherine the Great.”

    Wow, that was something. Beautifully written and a fascinating character study. At first I wondered what was at stake, and I initially found Catherine too passive. Then I realized that
    Catherine’s very ascendency to greatness was what was at stake, with Peter the primary
    foil.

    Vivid characterizations all around. Peter the mentally ill man-child really pops. Catherine is real and multi-dimensional.

    I think this works in large part because, at root, it’s about an abused woman who reasserts her feminine power and identity and overcomes the societal forces who oppress her. A theme that will forever resonate.

  • manjowithane

    Could someone please send me this script? manjoechan@gmail.com

  • Kathyface

    I’d love to read this if someone has it. kacharles11 at gmail.com. Thanks!

  • bruckey