Premise: (from Black List) With America’s first viable independent presidential candidate poised for victory, an idealistic young journalist uncovers a conspiracy, which places the fate of the election, and the country, in his hands.
About: The Independent made the semifinals of the Nicholl Competition in 2013 before later finishing high on the 2013 Black List. Parter is new on the scene. This is his breakthrough screenplay.
Writer: Evan Parter
Details: 114 pages
Guess what day it is??
It’s ellllllllection day!!!
It’s time to vote for one of these two wonderful fault-free candidates we’ve decided are the best options to represent our country. And what better way to fire up those voting fingers than to review a political script?? Cause we all know how much I love politics. I talk about it all the time on Scriptshadow. Clintons, Bushes, Obamas. Sometimes this blog is so political, I might as well be blogging atop that big spire-like thing in Washington.
In all seriousness, I know very little bout politics, starting with what that spire-thing in Washington is named. In fact, I just learned a few months ago the purpose of voting for the Independent. I always used to wonder, “Why do people vote for this guy if nobody knows who he is?” But now I’ve learned that voting for the independent candidate isn’t a vote for them. It’s a vote against the system. You’re making, like, a statement with your vote that you don’t like America or something.
Might that be what The Independent is about? No idea. But who cares! I get to review a political script today. YAHOOOOOOO!!!!
Last year Nate Sterling wrote a book that sold 40 million copies and shot in him into the likability stratosphere. Sterling has used that buzz, as well as his innate charm, to climb the polls and become the favorite to win the United States presidency. The catch?
Nate is an independent candidate.
The United States has never had an independent president. So this is pretty unpresidented (heh heh – joke).
Across town, 28 year-old Eli Brooks isn’t exactly moving mountains like Sterling. But he’s an up-and-coming star at the Washington Tribune, the only paper in town that hasn’t succumbed to the evil internet news machine.
The chief editor at the paper implores his writers to hit hard and hit big. It’s the only way they can keep killing trees. And Eli’s got a story that’s going to knock out a rain forest. Eli believes that Republican presidential candidate and Sterling’s main rival, Roger Turnball, is siphoning money out of the state’s lottery coffers to pay for his campaign.
Eli lassos senior editor and mentor, Nate Sterling, into his conspiracy theory, and the two set out to prove Turball is a nasty dude. But just when the story’s coming together, they’re hit with a bombshell that will throw everything everybody thought they knew about Sterling on its head. The question is: Can they report it? And what will happen to them if they do?
This was so not a Carson script.
It had politics, politics, and… more politics! Had I paid more attention to the logline, I probably would’ve realized that.
Regardless of my personal feelings about politics, here’s my big issue with The Independent: It ignored its strange attractor.
Remember guys, your first order of business is to identify the strange attractor in your story. What is it that you’re bringing to the table that’s never been brought to the table before? I’d never seen the matrix before The Matrix. I’d never read a movie about a soldier who refused to use a gun before Hacksaw Ridge. I’d never seen a movie about magicians who pulled off bank heists before Now Your See Me.
However, that’s only THE FIRST PART of the equation.
The next part is that you must EXPLOIT THAT ATTRACTOR. In other words, you must show the soldier not using his weapon. You must show fighting that defies physics. You must show people using magic to steal money.
In The Independent, the independent candidate is your strange attractor. It’s what makes your movie unique. Yet there is nothing in here that exploits that. In fact, had you turned Nate Sterling into a Democrat, absolutely nothing about this script changes.
That’s when you know you’re not exploiting your concept. When you can change the attractor and nothing else in your script needs to be rewritten.
This script is more about a journalist trying to prove a presidential candidate is corrupt. I don’t know what that has to do with independent presidential candidates. And, quite frankly, that bummed me out. Because I don’t know much about the independent sector, and I was hoping that by the end of this script, I would know a lot.
Even if that wasn’t a problem for you, I was baffled by the fact that this script is titled “The Independent,” and yet 90% of the movie focuses on a journalist. Why aren’t we focusing on the most interesting part of your concept?
It just seemed odd to me.
As for the rest of the script, it was a mixed bag. I found the dialogue to be great when it was quick and punchy (“Listen up, buddy. Only eyes on that story are the ones you’re dotting.”), and insufferable when the characters couldn’t shut up (“There’s many wonderful things about a choir. Intimate friends, tight community, beautiful music. But, if you only sing in one choir your whole life, you’re only listening to one preacher… you’re only meeting one God.”).
There were so many lines like that last one, where characters would talk talk talk then summarize their thoughts with a famous quote or philosophical life lesson, that I felt like I was stuck in a Princeton Lecture Hall during some kind of Pretentiousness Competition.
That’s where this script lost itself, in its middle act. The characters couldn’t shut up, we the reader got bored, and both sides forgot what the movie was about.
The Independent almost saves itself with a wowzer of a late-story twist, but a lot of the impact of that twist came simply because I was bored. It was like, “Oh! Finally! Something’s happened!”
The Independent needs a lot of work. For starters, it needs to include its subject, Nate Sterling, more. It needs an investigation that’s more exciting than a corrupt lottery board. It needs to better explore its one interesting dynamic (spoilers) – that Eli’s fiancé works for the secretly corrupt Sterling. More time with her and more time with all three of them would be nice. And it needs to stop indulging in these endless 8-10 line pretentious dialogue exchanges that are more about sounding smart than pushing the story forward.
If The Independent can do all those things, maybe it makes it through the primaries.
Good luck to your candidate, everybody!
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: One of the more common mistakes I see with new writers is dialogue that’s written to make the writer look good rather than to serve the story. The Independent is full of characters who talk forever but don’t actually say anything. It’s okay for a character to ramble on about something every once in awhile, but remember, even in the talkiest of movies, it’s more important to show than tell. And it’s more important to keep the story moving than listen to yourself talk.