Genre: Crime/Thriller
Premise: An inmate slash former Ranger gets a 48-hour furlough to attend his son’s funeral, but uses it to get revenge on the men who killed him.
About: This script sold a few years back to the production company with the best name in town – Lava Bear. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because they just produced the biggest surprise of the season, Arrival. However, the script seems to be stuck in development at the moment. I hear Colin Farrell is looking for a John Wick project. Could this be it? (Sherman Payne, the writer, is credited with some indie films, but still looking for his big break).
Writer: Sherman Payne
Details: 122 pages (6/9/12 draft)


It’s a happy time for those of us in Earthquake Land (and those of you living in that Arctic Tundra known as the East Coast). We’ve got Rogue One coming out in less than two weeks. We’ve got a Guardians of the Galaxy 2 trailer with Baby Groot. We’ve got a Mummy trailer with everything in it but mummies. And to top it all off, we’ve got Sony igniting the internet’s social justice warriors and trolls with the announcement that Amy Schumer is playing Barbie. Let the comment battles begin!

Oh, and we’ve also got a script review. Yippidee-skadoodle!

39 year-old Shawn Dianellos, a former Ranger in the Army, got stuck doing odd jobs for bad people after the war. As a result, he killed a man and is now doing time for it. The only thing that keeps Shawn going is the thought of seeing his son, Michael, now 20, once he gets out.

He gets to see his son all right, just not how he planned. Shawn gets word that Michael and his girlfriend were killed in their apartment over drugs. The warden awards Shawn a 48 hour “furlough” to attend the funeral and the wake, with the stipulation that he’s escorted by two badass cops, tough guy Sheehan and big burly Malcom.

Once home, Shawn starts sniffing around, and learns from his Greek buddies that his son was killed by the local Albanian gang, run by some dude named “Bad Rites,” named after his proclivity to turn right when he should’ve turned left (that’s a lie – I just made that up). Shawn easily dispatches of his detail, who turn out to be anything but badass, then starts his investigation of revenge.

Along the way, he learns that the Albanians are shaking down his old girlfriend and her shop, so he’s got to take care of that as well. But can he do that along with taking down one of the most powerful crime chains in the region all within 48 hours? Methinks he’s got a good shot at it because I’ve read the ending and I know what happens.

Ahhh! This one started off so fucking good!

My hopes were high.

There’s a wonderful opening sequence where we see this young couple get killed in their apartment, then we cut to Shawn, in a prison group session, reading a letter his son just sent him, the son, we realize, who was just killed in the previous scene. The juxtaposition between his joy and us knowing that these are the words of a dead man is heartbreaking.

I was in.

But the longer the script went on, the more plotty it got, and ultimately that’s what killed it. I mean we’ve got Greek gangs, Albanian gangs, Mexican gangs… I’ve seen less gangs in a Grand Theft Auto game.

Whenever I see a script that’s 120+ pages in a fast genre, I’m waiting for the moment when things get bogged down. And once Shawn got to the wake, it was one character introduction after another.

Worse than that, there were too many “people sitting around in rooms” scenes. You guys know how I feel about “sitting in rooms” scenes. You’re writing a movie. Movies need active characters. Active characters don’t sit around in rooms and talk. They go out and do shit!

There are exceptions to this. Certain genres or plot set-ups are more favorable to it. But not this one. I don’t remember John Wick sitting around and talking in rooms with people. Do you? He was always on the move. Always taking care of the next guy he had to kill.

Now if you’re writing this kind of movie and you do have a “characters talking in rooms” scene, make sure it has TENSION in it. For example, Revenge Protagonist walks into a car garage, catching his next victim by surprise, the owner. We know Revenge Protagonist is going to kill him, but he needs some information first. So we milk the tension through the dialogue before, finally, he blows his brains out.

What you DON’T want is a bunch of “characters talking in rooms” scenes where all that’s being talked about is exposition or backstory. Those scenes are almost always boring. And that was my problem with Furlough.

Instead of, say, the two escort cops hurrying after Shawn, we’d be in a motel room with them as they talked about if they should alert their bosses and what should the next step be.

I’m not saying you can never write these scenes, but you should actively avoid them if possible. And if you can’t avoid them, figure out a way to add tension or conflict or ANYTHING to make them more than just an exposition or backstory scene. Cause I’m telling you: THEY ARE SCRIPT MOMENTUM KILLERS.

Something else I want to talk about here. It’s important in these simple setups to EVOLVE THE STORY at some point. Otherwise, the audience gets bored. Being subjected to the same thing for 2 hours is boring.

But some people get “EVOLVE” mixed up with “RAISING THE STAKES.” Raising the stakes is still good, but it doesn’t change the story in the way that EVOLVING does. So in Furlough, around page 65, the media gets wind that Shawn is at large. Which means everybody’s now looking for him. This is good, as it makes Shawn’s job tougher. And we always want to make the hero’s job as tough as possible.

But it doesn’t change the story in an interesting way. Evolving, however, does, and I’m going to give you a recent example. This example kind of dropped the ball, which I’ll talk about, but it was the right idea.

The movie is Don’t Breathe (spoilers). It’s about a trio of kids who sneak into a man’s house to steal his money. When the man realizes they’re in the house, he locks the place down and starts hunting them.

That’s the setup. Now, we could’ve played this plot out the whole film. He hunts them, they try to escape. But is that going to be interesting for 100 minutes? Probably not. So you EVOLVE the plot. And what happens is that our protagonists slip down into the basement where they see that A GIRL IS BEING HELD CAPTIVE DOWN THERE.

This is a new element THAT SPINS THE STORY IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION. That’s what evolving does. We’re no longer thinking just, “Escape.” We’re thinking, “Who is this and how does this change things?”

Now they don’t take this captive storyline in an interesting direction (spoiler – they kill the girl off quickly and her inclusion isn’t as mysterious as it could’ve been). But if they had, it would’ve been exactly what I’m talking about. You want to evolve simple stories with some kind of twist at some point, less we get bored doing the same thing over and over again.

Furlough is a script with potential but it gets in its own way with too much plot and too many characters. Too many scenes are passive instead of active. If you promise us the urgency of a 48 hour timeline, the script has to feel like time is running out in every scene. Until the last 40% of the script, the characters here felt like they were relaxing at Club Med. And that ultimately doomed the story.

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

What I learned: Once again, concepts that have a natural built-in tight time frame are perfect for screenwriting. One of the toughest things to do in writing is to come up with a time frame that adds urgency to a story that doesn’t want it. The great thing about Furlough is we never question the time frame (48 hours) because it’s built into the concept.

What I learned 2: Familiar situations breed familiarity. Like I said at the beginning of the analysis, we’ve seen the “Sit down in a room to receive bad news” scene so many times, that when presented with the moment in our own scripts, we’re like, “Yeah, we’ll just do the old sit-down in a room to receive bad news thing.” It’s these scenes SPECIFICALLY that you must identify and resist. These scenes are “cliche land mines” just waiting to be detonated. You must ask, in these moments, “How can we do this differently?” Backing up, showing us the son getting killed, then cutting to the incarcerated father reading a letter from his son to the rest of the inmates, thinking he’s still alive? That’s a much more interesting way to explore that scenario.

  • Scott Crawford

    Thinking that casting Amy Schumer in a Barbie movie is a bad move makes me neither a troll nor a SJW. Third biggest toy brand in the world (behind Lego and Fisher Price), couldn’t they have picked someone less divisive. Hillary Clinton?

    Mmmm… I suppose we better start working on ideas for a Fisher Price movie next, problem is I know nothing about it. I think I had the multi-storey car park (“parking ramp”) when I was a kid, the one with the elevator you hand cranked.

    Nerf is easier… squad of super soldiers, rangers, seals, forced to use less-lethal weapons to bring in a terror suspect for the UN (and not start a war).

    • andyjaxfl

      Margot Robbie would be my choice, but if I were her, I wouldn’t touch this movie unless I was offered a huge upfront paycheck and 20% gross. And even then, I hope Robbie wouldn’t do it. She’s way too talented to waste time on this.

      I like Schumer’s sketch comedy show, but I prefer her writing to her acting. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Barbie movie written by her because she’s too smart and talented not to subvert it in some way.

      • Scott Crawford

        So many stories about Shumer, some must be true, ripping off other writers. I’ve managed to avoid her, but I saw a bit of her when she was on GRaham norton show and she was just so schticky and not a natural comedian, just telling joke after joke with no break – all about sex.

        Trouble is, it rubbed off on Jennifer Lawrence, and now I can’t watch her either. Far too forced.

      • peisley

        Schumer isn’t playing Barbie. She’s part of Barbieworld, or whatever, and is rejected because she doesn’t fit the stereotype. So, it’s a take on body image. Like Barbie is an ideal anyway. If she actually existed, she’d be quite freakish looking.

        • Scott Crawford

          It’s not that Schumer is or isn’t playing Barbie. It’s that she has ANYTHING to do with it. Why risk a billion-dollar potential franchise on someone so divisive?

          • peisley

            It could be a very interesting choice, though. Barbie has been criticized as an icon of beauty to little girls but also impressing unrealistic expectations on them. If you cast the closest actress possible to the Barbie ideal, then it could be kind of a snoozer because that’s what everybody expects. Casting Schumer is an interesting choice. It’s making it clear Mattel is aware of the problems associated with Barbie and is trying to deal with them in a humorous way. What does puzzle me is what audience they’re targeting. Schumer is pretty raw and randy. Underage girls are going to be attracted to this movie. The humor is going to have to be in the g rating. Sort of like Will Ferrell doing Elf. You have to admit their choice is causing a stir, which wouldn’t be the case without Schumer. Hell, what am I writing about? I’ll give them props for taking a different route.

  • Lucid Walk

    What are your thoughts?

    • Scott Crawford

      I’m in love with Sofia Boutella. And I love London (I’m there now, in Stratford) and London double decker buses and there’s a bit where Cruise is in one and it flips over (because he was filming it on the streets of London). I love that Russell Crowe is becoming a really useful character actor in his old age. And it looks a bit less Indiana Jonesey and a bit more modern relevant. Cool, fun.

      I guess American MAde is a bit shit since we never hear anything about that.

    • andyjaxfl

      Solid trailer, and I like the mystery around Cruise’s character with the bodybag reveal — Dorian Gray? Van Helsing?

      • Bacon Statham

        It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up being one of those characters. I know he plays a Navy SEAL, but I have a feeling he’ll end up being a descendant of Van Helsing. Wasn’t he rumoured to play the character at one point long before this was even an idea?

        • Scott Crawford

          Right, so… this is the second attempt to do a Universal Avengers-type universe of characters. After the mummy and van helping and scorpion king in the 1990s and 2000s.

          The first one in this series, I think, was Dracula Untold. Of am I wrong?

          • Bacon Statham

            I think Kurtzman just confirmed that Dracula Untold isn’t canon. I’m kinda glad about that. I think they need to update Dracula for present day, get a better actor to play him and don’t make him sympathetic.

            As much as I like Cruise, there’s a part of me that doesn’t really want him to end up being Van Helsing or his descendant. It’d be better if he’s already an established vampire hunter working with a young Jonathan Harker to kill Dracula.

            This one is probably gonna set it up in a way so Cruise could crossover into the other films, but I don’t particularly want him to come back, unless his character turns out to be one we already know. The problem being that if Van Helsing does come into it then they’re gonna overshadow him with Cruise’s character.

          • andyjaxfl

            Yes, Dracula Untold is the first in the Universal Monsters Universe. Luke Evans said he was signed for multiple movies, including those with other Universal monsters.

          • Lucid Walk

            Their universe will include Van Helsing, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man (Johnny Depp), Frankenstein (Javier Bardem), and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

        • andyjaxfl

          He was attached to a Van Helsing solo movie before he signed on for The Mummy. Maybe they merged scripts?

      • Poe_Serling

        There is even some chitchat about Cruise being the Mummy.

        When asked that about it in an interview, the director didn’t
        deny it or confirm it.

        It would make for an interesting twist.

        • Scott Crawford

          But like many twists, only so effective. If cruise is playing…. Cruise, then he can fight the werman and franstein in the sequel. Nah, Sofia is the mummy.

          • Poe_Serling

            Remember there can be more than one mummy. Even in the
            Karloff classic, he attempts to bring back his own mummified

            I wouldn’t be surprised in this latest version that the Cruise and
            Boutella characters share a past… stretching back across the centuries.

        • andyjaxfl

          That would be one helluva a midpoint turn.

      • Lucid Walk

        I read the script. The body bag scene wasn’t in it, so hopefully that has something to do with the shared universe (i.e. Russell Crowe playing Dr. Jekyll) and wasn’t thrown in just for shock value.

        Also, his character’s name was Tyler Colt, but according to wiki, his name will be Nick Morton. Truthfully, that doesn’t sound as cool.

        Oh, and the mummy was a man. A man named King Ashurbanipal, who was a real person. I’m hoping they took his authentic backstory and just gave it to this new mummy, Princess Ahmanet, instead of coming with a whole, new, fictional version for her.

    • Zack Snide Err

      I like it. Alex Kurtzman is the director so I’m not 100% sold yet.

      Sofia Boutella, even under heavy makeup, was so lovely and watchable in Star Trek Beyond. I wanted to root for her.

      With that in mind I hope this reboot has her playing a sympathetic monster.
      Love Cruise and Crowe but this is exactly the kinda movie were I really don’t need or want to root for either one.

      Leave the mummy and her sarcophagus be. Or get wrecked.

    • ShiroKabocha

      I’m in :)

      Whatever you think about his personal life, Tom Cruise has been consistantly delivering for the past 15 years. He knows how to pick movies, movies that play to his strengths and that end up really entertaining without being dumbed down like many other blockbusters.

      The movie seems to promise a simple, tested narrative, but very effectively done, with great action and FX, and good pacing / editing. Can’t wait :)

      • Lucid Walk

        Gotta admire the guy. 54 years old, and he’s still churning out action movies like they’re no big deal

        • wad_d

          makes him 3 years older than Wilford Brimley was when “Cocoon” came out.

    • Lucid Walk
    • Malibo Jackk

      I think that chic is serious.

  • andyjaxfl

    OT: finally saw ARRIVAL. I was riveted the entire runtime and I’ve been thinking about it nonstop for the last two days. It’s nice to see a hard science fiction story movie with a decent budget not only make it to the big screen, but make some money as well.

    • OCattorney

      What was the point of exploding a bomb inside an alien space ship?
      I mean, what are the most likely results?
      I’m thinking there were script notes saying “audience dozing off, let’s blow up something.”

      • andyjaxfl

        The soldiers were influenced by the militant radio personality, who called for destruction of the heptapods in the one scene he was in. They were aiming to destroy the ship, but they appear to have underestimated the strength of the mystery element the ship was constructed of.

        I do think it was a bit of a stretch to include the bomb plot though. I find it hard to believe that the military, or whoever, wasn’t monitoring everyone and anyone who went inside that ship specifically for that reason.

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for the review, Carson.

    Revenge flicks are a dime a dozen. Kinda hard to get excited about
    another one.

    You really need a story with a unique angle or strong performance from
    the lead for it to stand out from the pack nowadays.

    • Scott Crawford

      Both Captain America Civil War and Jason Bourne were revenge stories. It’s a really POWERFUL feeling if you’ve ever had it, revenge. I’ve had it, at least once, fortunately did nothing about it… but it really eats into you. The thought that someone is alive and well who’s done you wrong, wanting them to suffer at YOUR hands. I’ve no wonder it’s such a common theme.

      Obviously, Monte Cristo is a great example of revenge destroying the man. Murphy War too, with Peter o’toole. But I like justice and a good film where justice replaces revenge is Fear is the Key. Putting the bad guys in jail, seeing them tried in court… that can be better than burying them alive. Maybe.

      • JakeBarnes12

        They’re both established characters, Scott.

        They could be in a plot about a soufflé failing to rise and they’d made big money.

        • Scott Crawford

          Yes, but it’s interesting that for these two movies,this year, they went for revenge as a motive – for both the villains AND the heroes. Remember with Mission Imposi le 5 ( and some other recent films) confusion over Exactly what the villain wanted. So it’s telling that this year we had two blockbusters where the motive couldn’t be clearer.

          • JakeBarnes12

            And what exactly does it tell us, Scott?

          • Scott Crawford

            Well…. you could argue that studios are dumbing things down for the audience!

            As I said in another comment, revenge is a very familiar yet very REAL feeling. No wonder it’s so used. The other great motivation (for villains) is money.

            Of course you can have both – Jeremy irons in Die Hard 3 gets gold AND revenge, although in a delicious twist, turns out he doesn’t even like his brother.

            For heroes, more complexity perhaps. Duty. Redemption. Love. Friendship. All strong motives. And money too.

          • JakeBarnes12

            Yes, revenge is and has always been a major human motivation in stories as in life.

            My new spec logline: A man seeks revenge on another man who did something bad to someone the first man knows.

            That idea’s dead in the water it’s it not featuring a major franchise character.

          • Scott Crawford

            True, although even with a major character there would have to be some spin. I mean, in Civil War the villain doesn’t want to destroy the Avengers, even if he could, he wants the Avengers to destroy each other. And that’s at LEAST the level modern audiences and studios expect from these stories.

            A mildmannered accountant teams up with a computer nerd to seek revenge on the cyberbully who drove his son to suicide.

            A dentist seeks revenge against the manufacturer of the car that killed his wife in a traffic accident (that longline could be better phrased).

    • Zack Snide Err

      Couldn’t get through that one. And I’m usually pretty good with long movies, for a millennial. For example, I loved Dances with Wolves.

      Even though it’s not an out and out revenge flick Return of the Jedi is my favorite revenge ending.

      Darth Vader gets revenge on the emperor for having lured him into the dark side, which cost him his humanity and family, and for presently trying to kill his son.

      I guess that goes to what you said about the revenge story needing a unique angle. Part of that might be to not have the revenge story be the “A” story.
      And maybe a surprise. They’re hard to pull off but always welcome.

      • Scott Crawford

        Hard to pull off but always welcome. My Tinder profile.

        • Zack Snide Err

          Haha. I’m figuratively (and literally) NOT touching that one.

      • brenkilco

        Yeah, OUATITW is somewhat languidly paced. Even by the standards of its own time. But it’s also pretty much a masterpiece by a unique talent. Some would say the greatest western ever. So get yourself in a patient mood and give it another try.

        • Zack Snide Err

          Yeah, I definitely will. It’s not so much impatience as it was trying to watch it at the end of a long days work. I think.

          More than likely though, I think I’m just not naturally inclined to enjoy movies that aren’t trying to meet me halfway but rather, asking me to do the bulk of the heavy lifting.

          And I’m definitely not hard wired to WANT to project myself onto an escapist western canvass either. I prefer my westerns grounded. For example:

          My love of Star Wars is due to the space opera and its story. I enjoyed the prequels despite the scuttling of the dirty and languid western atmosphere.

          I just need a great story and want to feel like I’m having a dialogue with the author/artist.

          Leone was a sorta force of nature though, so I won’t deny that it may just be my bias at play. And a blind spot in my tastes.

        • Bifferspice

          i’m one of those that would say that, but I’d go further. I’d say it’s one of the greatest films ever, let alone westerns. the performances, the music, the story, atmosphere. and especially the look of it. what’s the name of that youtube channel? every frame’s a painting? very apt description of that film. it’s nigh on perfect.

  • brenkilco

    Evolution means that the story gains in interest as it goes along. If you set up a situation and it plays out exactly as you think it will, you don’t have much. Guy wants revenge, escapes his keepers, asks around, locates his quarry, avoids the police, chase, shootout, confrontation. The end. Not sure if that’s what this script is but it sounds like it.

    I don’t know whether John Wick is a good template or not. Personally I’ve totally forgotten the plot, except for that interesting but utterly ridiculous hotel for hitmen. Seemed to succeed mostly on speed and superior action choreography.

    One interesting, failed revenge movie is the Steve Mcqueen western Nevada Smith. Steve’s parents are murdered and he vows revenge against the three bandits who did it. Now the movie is pretty involved. He has to join a gang of desperados to get one and get himself arrested and sent to a swamp chain gang to get near another. There’s time for a doomed romance and scenes with a mentor figure who tries to get Steve to renounce revenge etc. But at bottom it’s just I gotta kill this guy then this guy then this guy. So despite all the frills the movie is ultimately dull and just doesn’t work.

    Great revenge stories? Well, the great granddaddy is the Count of Monte Cristo. And since it keeps getting remade every twenty years it shouldn’t be dismissed. The question is since I want to kill X, why don’t I just kill X. Sometimes the impediments are physical. Sometimes the nature of the revenge requires elaborate planning-these are typically the best. The Count of Monte Cristo wants to spiritually annihilate his betrayers, not just kill them. And sometimes the target is unclear so that he story contains a mystery element. But without interesting second act complications and surprises, chances are the story is just going to lie there.

    • andyjaxfl

      Monte Cristo is a favorite of mine. I enjoy the last remake (a decade ago?) but I really love the Gerard Depardieu mini-series, and I am holding my breath waiting for the day it comes out in blu ray.

      • Scott Crawford

        I liked the Richard Chamberlain 1970s TVM. Short but effective. It was on YouTube for a while but I’m sure it’s still there.

        • andyjaxfl

          I was not aware of that one. I love CRISTO, so I’m going to spend some time tracking that one down.

          • Scott Crawford

    • Lucid Walk

      I’ve got the sci-fi version of Cristo if anyone wants a copy. Really engaging read

  • ripleyy

    I haven’t been as active on here as I would have liked, but I have been reading everything (ev-rey-thing!) and I want to congratulate everyone who has reached this far in the Scriptshadow Tourney. I may never have gotten around to partake in it, but know I’m super proud of everyone who has gotten this far, especially the familiar names!

    Also, has anyone received the newsletter? I’m worried in case I never got it and that would depress me.

    This is an interesting one, but it feels far too sluggish. This should have been 95 pages at the very least. We’ve seen these sort of ideas before, but just because the time-frame is 48 hours, doesn’t mean it’ll work any better. HOWEVER, if it was 24 HOURS, then I would be far more invested in it.

    24 hours to get the guy who killed your son? That’s a pretty good premise, and it would help the page length as well.

    • Poe_Serling

      No newsletter. Carson usually makes a point of letting everyone know
      when he actually sends one out.

      • ripleyy

        Yeah, I know. I was just worried in case I missed it somehow (don’t know how but…)

      • klmn

        I’m hoping C spills the beans on the upcoming short script contest.

        • Poe_Serling

          Yeah, there could be some new info regarding it in the
          upcoming newsletter.

          Or maybe he’ll wait until after this current tournament comes
          to an end before filling in all the short contest blanks.

          As we know, Carson often likes to play his cards close to
          his vest.

        • Scott Crawford

          You could do an adaptation of the short story on which 310 to Yuma was based. Elmore Leonard I think. I know you’re not all westerns, but you don’t see many western shorts. Adaptation or original, might be different.

          Maybe I’ll do Die Hard in 711! Not enough for a feature, make a good short.

          • klmn

            No adaptations for me. I don’t want to get into rights issues.

          • andyjaxfl

            Ben Stiller spoofed Die Hard 7-11 on his old TV show. Worth tracking down on Youtube. Very funny stuff if you have a few minutes.

  • brenkilco

    Best time restricted revenge pic ever. DOA. Ordinary guy without an enemy in the world finds he’s dying from slow acting poison and has only a day to find out why he has been murdered and nail his killer. Furloughs are for wimps.

    • Scott Crawford

      What did you think of the remake? Gimmicky, but I quite liked it. One of a kind. Don’t do it again.

      • brenkilco

        Decent but unnecessary. Though as I recall the motive in the remake held together better than one in the original- something about the protag having notarized some document that proves a death wasn’t suicide or something. But the original is as noir as it gets. No more remakes please.

  • Avatar

    Unless this script is executed flawlessly, I don’t think the concept will track with people. It sounds like well traveled territory – a stew of many of the same crime movies mixed together. I doubt there’s a beat in there that we couldn’t predict.

    • Scott Crawford

      It’s a great SETUP but – perhaps – shows the danger of having a great setup but nothing really to say in the middle. There’s a point when writing a script, before the first draft, during or after, when you start to get a sense that you’re doing something different and then it starts to be surprising, surprising even for you… and your writing it.

  • Scott Crawford

    Oh, sure, script got a lot of love. Tom Cruise gained a lot of weight. But we’re just not hearing anything about it. No photos, no trailers. Instead we’re hearing about the mummy which, I think, comes out afterwards.

    • Andrea Moss

      I heard something about problems during the shooting, leading to more reshoots. And yes, that level of radio silence for a blockbuster starring Tom Cruise isn’t a good sign…

  • deanb

    “It’s important in these simple setups to EVOLVE THE STORY at some point.”

    This was already done with this same concept 34 years ago. That’s how we got awesome scenes like this:

    • Kirk Diggler

      Quite a provocative scene. Wonder how this would play today with the uhh… current outlook in America.

      • Scott Crawford

        Well, they close Torchys a long time ago. It was in LA, I want to say Ventura blvd? You can see it Brewster Millions and some other Walter Hill films.

        Good point from Pilar Allesandra: racism remains but the language of racism changes.

  • garrett_h

    I love the tip about EVOLVING the story Carson. And I somewhat agree that the scenario in DON’T BREATHE wasn’t milked to its full potential. But, it does set up some creepy shit that happens in the final act (Don’t wanna spoil it). But you’re right, it could have been used better.

    Want a movie that does use it well? Check out THE GUEST. Also, YOU’RE NEXT.

    Both are written by Simon Barrett, and I think I’ve mentioned them both here before. Now, I guess it’s a spoiler since I’m mentioning them in this context, but both films go in entirely different directions at the midpoint. You think you’re watching one movie, but it turns out you’re watching something completely different.

    They’re probably on the extreme scale of what Carson was suggesting, but I think they are two very good examples.

  • klmn

    ‘…Like I said at the beginning of the analysis, we’ve seen the “Sit down
    in a room to receive bad news” scene so many times, that when presented
    with the moment in our own scripts, we’re like, “Yeah, we’ll just do the
    old sit-down in a room to receive bad news thing.” It’s these scenes
    SPECIFICALLY that you must identify and resist. These scenes are
    “cliche land mines” just waiting to be detonated. You must ask, in
    these moments, “How can we do this differently?””

  • Levres de Sang

    “What you DON’T want is a bunch of “characters talking in rooms” scenes where all that’s being talked about is exposition or backstory.”

    “You guys know how I feel about “sitting in rooms” scenes.”

    Maybe we could have a Thursday article on this topic? Instinct tells me there’s a fine line somewhere. For instance, 1940s melodramas often had their romantic protags STANDING in rooms while they wrung their hearts out. I’m certainly not trying to come up with exceptions to the rule, but I maintain that REBECCA (the ultimate 1940s melodrama) could not exist without the kind of scenes Carson finds boring. Moreover, they’re scenes choc full of exposition and backstory. Having said that, Carson does acknowledge that these things are largely genre-dependent and it makes perfect sense NOT to use them in no-nonsense actioners.

    • brenkilco

      A movie can work with verbal drama. There are scads of movies that are nothing more than people talking in rooms: Laura, Twlve Angry Men, Glengarry Glen Ross, virtually all Jane Austen adaptations. But you’ve got to care about who’s talking and what they’re talking about.

    • Poe_Serling

      Hey Lev-

      This film just came onto my radar a few weeks ago.

      Strangers in the Night

      “When a WW2 soldier returns back to the States, he goes to look up his
      pen pal, and is told by the “mother” that the daughter has moved away.”

      Of course, that’s just the beginning of things.

      An isolated mansion … family secrets… etc. I haven’t seen it yet, but
      I thought it might be film that might interest you, especially since you
      just mentioned Rebecca in your post.

      Directed by Anthony Mann. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Westerns over the

      Story by Philip McDonald. He also came up with the story for another
      somewhat interesting mystery film:

      The List of Adrian Messenger

      That flick was directed by John Huston. Starring an all-star as they
      used to say back in the day: Lancaster, Mitchum, Douglas, Sinatra,
      and so on.

      • brenkilco

        Never heard of this. But I know Mann did a few good noirs in addition to
        his westerns. Love Adrian Messenger. A sort of classic, Victorian detective thriller set rather oddly in the sixties. As for the all star cast, well, it’s basically a gimmick. Mostly cameos with the actors in elaborate makeup. But fun.

      • Levres de Sang

        Like brenkilco I’ve not heard of this one — and neither have my THREE film guides! Still, it does sound very intriguing and I’ll definitely make a note of it… Actually, there were some interesting films built around the psychological fallout of returning WWII soldiers: William Dieterle’s Love Letters (which I haven’t seen in years) and Shock — an early Vincent Price vehicle that beats Rear Window to the punch by eight years.

        ** I’ve heard of Messenger, but never seen.

        Thanks again for the recommendations!

        • brenkilco

          Also the Chandler scripted The Blue Dahlia in which Alan Ladd and his army buddies arrive back stateside just as Ladd’s unfaithful wife gets herself murdered. Chief suspect is shell shocked pal William Bendix who has a steel plate in his head and in typical noir fashion a habit of blacking out at inopportune moments.

          • Levres de Sang

            Ah, that’s another famous pic I haven’t seen! Amnesia definitely oiled the wheels of many a plot in the 1940s.

  • GoIrish

    OT: saw Eddie the Eagle over the weekend. Sure, it was predictable and filled with cliches, but I tell ya, it was like Niagara Falls in the GoIrish household when the dad unzipped his jacket.

    • Linkthis83

      It’s a good movie. Which seems to be an unacceptable disposition towards films anymore. They either have to be “amazing” or they are all things negative.

  • Malibo Jackk

    My answer:
    1.) Put them in an interesting room.
    2.) Have more motion than talk.

    • Poe_Serling

      “Put them in an interesting room.”

      I recall in the Neil Simon comedy about a bunch of famous detectives
      trying to solve a crime…

      That the main dining room itself keeps disappearing, reappearing, and
      changing – depending on which door the characters opened or closed
      at any given moment.

      • brenkilco

        Don’t know how Carson feels about Neil Simon. I mean I know he doesn’t like rooms. But maybe he likes suites.

    • klmn
  • Room 303

    BIG CONGRATS to ACarl who made the Tracking Board’s 2016 Hit List. The Live Ones comes in with 12 votes.

    Pitched as being in the vein of THE SKELETON KEY, story centers on a San Francisco attorney who inherits a house in upstate New York that not only contains the dark secrets of the family she never knew, but may also be occupied by unwanted guests.

    • Scott Crawford

      Great news about Carl!

      As for the rest of the list… this isn’t the same as the Black List as it only includes specs and not scripts tha began as pitches or commissions. Having said that, there’s the usual mix of scripts the will never get made (like Jim Cameron’s Titanic), true stories, TWO scripts with the same name!

      Also, some of the scripts have already been reviewed here… and didn’t get a very high score. And thats not just Carson, that’s on the comments too. 17 Bridges? Really?

      In no way to take away from ACarl, and I think he’s done well in other lists too, but this list – in my opinion – reflects a general… low quality in specs. I think many of these scripts could be easily beaten. It’s actually amazing, people who read for companies will tell you, it’s amazing what bad stuff is sent out by agents. It’s a rare thing for a truly great script to come along.

      But it’s not impossible.

      • ShiroKabocha

        Some loglines feel familiar, though some of those may just be similar ideas (but I definitely remember Orb and Stuber and the Landis scripts).

        On the whole, not many premises that sound exciting to me. O2, Women in Business, Let the Evil Go West, Free Guy, and Soul Mates are the only ones that grabbed me. Would definitely check those movies if they’re made.

        • Andrea Moss

          Too much “Based on true events” scripts, in my opinion. Or “Recently released blockbuster A” meets “Recently released blockbuster B”. Where are the original ideas, I question?

          • Scott Crawford

            Oooh, now, hang on… on the subject of “Recent released blockbuster A” meets “Recently released blockbuster B,” this is EXTREMELY common practice. Almost every new script that comes out is described that way or “in the vein of recent successful movie.”

            A while people said stop doing that, and whether you decide to that yourself is your decision. But your agent may do it ANYWAY because it’s widely done.

            My script HARD KNOX could be called “Die Hard at Fort Knox” or “Olympus Has Fallen meets Goldfinger.”

            THE BAIT might be called “a gender-reversed HITCH” or a “raunchy comedy in the vein of Judd Apatow: (or something).

            HELLFIRE ALLEY would be “a revisionist western in the style of Django Unchained and Bone Tomahawk” and maybe that would be WRONG. But it does make you want to read it… and ultimately that’s all they’re talking about.

          • Andrea Moss

            Sad, but true. I wish the “elevator pitch” trend was a thing of the past… Something good? The western is back according the number of scripts in the list! The bad news? Max Landis is still working. This man has a pact with Satan or Ari Gold is his agent, because otherwise this is a mistery for me.

          • Room 303

            That’s funny, I almost developed an idea I have called Taking Knox. A disgruntled former Colonel and his men attempt to empty the vaults. Never really got much past that. Care to share your logline?

          • Scott Crawford

            “A soldier and a senator fight terrorists who have taken over the gold depository at Fort Knox and gained control of a secret weapon system.”

            The soldier is the military assistant to the agent in charge and is bored with his liaison job and would rather be soldiering for real. The senator is obsessed with revealing government secrets and has managed to get a tour of the vault, the opportunity the villains need to get the gold.

            I tried to pull all THAT in the logline, but it was too long.

            The secret weapon system… well, that’s gonna be my secret! When I finish the script.

          • ShiroKabocha

            At least there aren’t as many special Ops / professional hitmen / drug cartels scripts as you could fear.

            Shame there aren’t more comedy and adventure scripts really (or family-friendly scripts in general).

  • carsonreeves1

    I thought the script was slightly above average. The movie, however, wasn’t good at all, unfortunately.

  • Dallas Cobb

    OT: Any screenwriting podcasts recommendations?

  • Scott Crawford

    i think Carson’s holding it back so he can put more stuff in it. Patience… not just another name for Solitaire.

  • Poe_Serling

    As already mentioned in this post…

    Kudos to Acarl for scoring a spot on this year’s Hit List with his latest
    horror script. He’s having quite the year!

    I had the opportunity to read this particular project behind the scenes.
    I’ll just say this – it’s a real page-turner… with thrills and chills galore.