I predict today’s writer will be writing movies we see one day. So how come I’m not onboard with this skill-rich script?

Genre: Drama/Coming-of-Age/Comedy
Premise: (from writer) Fatherless Copywriter, Nick Adams, uncovers a stash of immaculate love letters dated the year he was born and post marked from Key West and Havana, Cuba. Convinced he is Hemingway’s bastard love child, he travels to Key West with teenage son in tow to usurp his birthright.
About: This is an amateur script that came referred to me by one of my consultants.
Writer: Eric Brown
Details: 113 pages

hqcityPaul Rudd for Nick?

Now that we’ve proven there’s undiscovered talent out there just waiting to be found (Patisserie baby!) I’m back on the amateur bandwagon, hoping to bring more scripts to Hollywood’s attention. Hemingway Boy, I’ve been told, has a shot at being one of those scripts. The script was given to one of my consultants for notes and later recommended to me (which doesn’t happen very often).

In the time it’s taken me to finally read and review it on the site, it was picked as one of the coveted “referrals” on The Tracking Board’s site. One person recommending a script can always be a fluke. Two? Means we probably have something good here. And since my taste matches up well with Christian’s (my consultant), I figured Hemingway Boy might be able to bring me to my screenwriting happy place.

40 year old Nick Adams feels trapped. As writer Eric Brown points out, he’s like “all of us” in that respect. You know when you’re a kid and you plot out where you’ll be in 30 years? Yeah, well, Nick’s at the opposite of wherever that is. How opposite? Well, he writes advertising slogans for baby food. And while he gets paid a lot of money for it (he’s even in line for a promotion!), how excited can you get when you’ve won over a target audience who’s not only illiterate, but hasn’t learned their ABCs yet?

In addition to the career stuff, Nick has to take care of a chirpy mother with early onset dementia. He must contain an increasingly rebellious teenage son (Sam). And he must learn to be civil with his irritating ex-wife.

Well at least one of those problems gets solved when Nick’s mom kicks the bucket. But just when he thinks that’ll calm things down, Nick stumbles upon an old box of love letters written to his mom from a mysterious man. After doing a little research, Nick becomes convinced that that man is Ernest Hemingway, and that his Mama Mia’esque mother made him the bastard child of the famous author.

Feeling some purpose for the first time in his life, Nick grabs his son and heads to the town in Florida where Hemingway spent most of his life. He hopes to ask around, find out if anyone saw Hemingway and his mom together, and go from there. When he gets there, he’s greeted by his tour guide Joe Jack, a step-father of sorts who dated Nick’s mother for awhile. Back then he was a pretty selfish prick, and now he wants to make up for that phase in his life by helping Nick however he can.

Once set, Nick meets a bus driver named Charlie (noooo – not the female love interest with the male name!) who he starts to fall for, while Sam ends up meeting a too-cool-for-school hottie named Stacee who he falls madly in love with. We jump back and forth between these relationships as they equal parts sputter and sparkle. With time running out before Nick has to be back in Detroit for work, it’s looking like he’ll never find the truth. That is until he locates an old friend of his mom’s who lives in Cuba. Going there is a risk, but Nick HAS to know. So grabs a boat and endures the final leg of his journey.

Here’s the thing about Hemingway Boy. It’s written by a real writer. It’s not one of those amateur scripts you read and say, “This guy isn’t even ready to be judged because he doesn’t know how to write yet.” Brown knows how to write. He’s very comfortable in this medium. For that reason, I see this more as a professional script than an amateur one. And for that reason, you’re going to judge it like a real movie, not on its mistakes, but rather its choices.

While I can understand why people responded to this, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. Let me try and explain why. I don’t react well to scripts that are high on quirk. Scripts that feature the kooky grandmother, scripts where billboards are talking to our characters, scripts where every other character is flamboyant or over-the-top. I’m a big believer that the story always comes first. So if I feel that the writer is more interested in coming up with a wacky character than they are pushing the story forward in an interesting way, I start to turn on the script.

I do this because I’m now focused on the writing instead of the reality the writer’s created. In other words, I’m out of the story. And you don’t want your reader to be outside the story thinking about YOU, the writer, writing this. The spell is broken once that happens. And I found myself increasingly reacting to things other than the story.

The first moment this happened was Grandma Janice (I say “grandma” if we’re looking at her through Sam’s p.o.v.). As soon as she came in and started acting kooky and quirky, I said, “Uh-oh,” under my breath. I’m not going to lie. I hate the unpredictable “says whatever’s on her mind” grandma character. I see it so much. I think it’s so cliché. It’s kind of like screenwriting kryptonite to me (ahh, I can’t seem to forget Man of Steel!). And I’m not saying you should never write the character. Obviously people respond to it (who doesn’t like Betty White in The Proposal?). But that character kills me so much that when she showed up, I instantly turned on the script.

And if that was all, I might have rebounded. But it felt to me like every character was over the top. For example, Joe Jack, the grandfather character, almost seemed like a male version of Alice. He was big, loud, over-the-top, and always said embarrassing things. So again, we’re favoring quirkiness over reality. And I get that that’s a choice. I’m not saying it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work for me.

On top of this, I couldn’t pinpoint why exactly Nick wanted to know if Hemingway was his father other than it would’ve been kinda cool. He mentions a couple of times that he just wants to know where he came from, but we seem to be missing out on a potential bigger story here. I wanted to know exactly why Nick needed this answer because it was the question driving the entire story. And if I’m not even sure on why he’s going after it, it’s hard for me to 100% engage in that quest with him.

With all that said, there’s definitely something here. While I didn’t like how extreme the characters were, there was a lot of depth to them. And all of them stood out, which can’t be said about the majority of amateur screenplays out there – which struggle to come up with a single memorable character. That’s a big-time writer skill. I thought the stuff with Sam and Stacee was interesting (although I was hoping he would end up with Stuckey, her younger sister). There’s definitely a goal here (trying to find proof if he’s Hemingway son). There’s some urgency (he’s only got two weeks). There’s plenty of conflict in the scenes, with characters meeting obstacles in whatever goal they’re pursuing. The 3-Act structure is in place.

So it’s clear Eric knows what he’s doing. My preference was just that the script be a little more grounded in reality and less proud of itself. I wanted more people who acted like people as opposed to caricatures of people. That would’ve pulled me in and made me believe in everything more, instead of concentrating so hard on the person writing the script. Then again, the same thing can be said for writers like Tarantino or Shane Black, and they’re doing all right. So maybe I’m just being Grumpy McGrumperbottoms. What did you guys think?

Script link: Hemingway Boy

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me (but this writer shows a lot of promise)
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: I’m a firm believer in the hero going after the goal hard. If he’s not going after the goal hard, that tells me he doesn’t want it that much, and if he doesn’t want it that much, then why should I want it for him? Nick’s actions never matched up with his words. He always felt a bit too casual in his pursuit. I wanted him to be dedicating more time to this endeavor. I wanted to feel more urgency and desperation.

  • Poe_Serling

    Just zipped through the first ten pages…

    Though it’s not exactly my cup of tea, I enjoyed the writer’s breezy writing style, early dialogue banter, and his character descriptions – “His boss, GERRY (50’s) is held together by his suspenders.”

    Also, I kept picturing this Nick Adams while I was reading the script:

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0011244/

    He was a B-movie/TV star from the ’50s and ’60s. I’d be curious to hear from the writer if his main character is a knowing nod to the actor or just a really cool coincidence.

    • Ken

      Nick Adams – star of Frankenstein Conquers the World!

      • Poe_Serling

        Good call. That’s one of the films I remember watching and starring Nick Adams. When I was a kid, it used to play quite often on those creature feature progaming blocks on Saturday afternoons.

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    I haven’t read it, but I’m going to take it you’re not a fan of Juno? ;-)

  • jaehkim

    this was one of my favorite scripts I’ve read on this site.

    I was immediately reminded of #6 from yesterday’s article “…a character who is unique because of the extensive “real” life he’s lived in your imagination…’

    the characters in hemingway boy are just pop out of the page. I know you’re not supposed to go overboard with characters, but I thought these characters would be awesome to watch on screen.

    • Awescillot

      I didn’t have any trouble picturing the characters. Would be awesome to watch them on screen, totally agree with you there.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Hemingway has been in the news lately, outed as a ‘failed’ soviet spy.

    http://m.guardiannews.com/books/2009/jul/09/hemingway-failed-kgb-spy

    That particular article is from 09 but theres been more info about it hitting the newswire.

    http://stevenhager420.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/earnest-hemingway-was-a-spy-for-the-kremlin/

  • Jovan Jevtic

    There weren’t many film ambles here that could say this is a movie. You can’t sell sun and beach. The rum diary failed for me at least as the story didn’t bring much. Same here. This is no Oscar material, so it can be classified as a small indie movie. Not big profits there as an element is missing here. Just don’t know what.

  • Marlin

    I like the characters. I like quirky too. It works for me and my preference in film doesn’t lean toward comedy. I do love a good comedy. Just not a favorite genre of mine. When I do watch it, however, I would rather see quirky, off-beat characters playing off other serious characters or vice versa. I like the premise too. Hemingway is an interesting subject to incorporate in a story. He’s interesting in so many ways. For me, some personal irony here is that I was born the very day he blew his brains out. A bit macabre but I like it. Anyway, I agree with Carson that Nick’s goal should have more urgency, more focus to it. Maybe exploit the issue about growing up fatherless. Weave that with Sam’s needing more patriarchal guidance. Sam’s stepfather could be meaner, less caring towards Sam, only smiles on the outside and Nick sees right through it. Just thinking out loud. I liked the script and the writing. I thought it worked.

  • Tschwenn

    Hemingway Boy.

    I thought the general concept had some promise – and set itself up
    for a neat structure (active protagonist, clear-cut goal, some urgency).
    However, the script didn’t really exploit its concept. It’s simply a
    lot of talking and internal conflict. But there’s really nothing in
    regards to plot or active goals or scenarios/situations. In order for
    this to work, the writer needs to go back and see how they can get Nick
    active much earlier and keep pursuing his goal. In addition, they have
    to make it clear WHY finding out his father’s identity is important to
    him. In addition, they have to make Nick interesting. I’m sorry, but
    this guy is not interesting at all. He has elements that should make him
    interesting. But if we’re to spend 2 hours with this guy, we’re all
    falling asleep.

    The writing is fairly good. But they overwrite. Most scenes start way too early, lack conflict and do not advance the plot.

    My basic suggestions would be to introduce the question of Nick’s
    father’s identity (in the background, fleeting jokes, etc.) early, then
    April dies. It has to be important for Nick to find his father’s
    identity. Once he and Sam get to FL, the writer needs to plainly state
    how Nick thinks he can find (active protagonist) out whether Hemingway
    was his father. How is Nick going to get definitive proof (or event
    circumstantial proof)? He needs a plan – which makes him active, gives
    the story structure and puts him into comedic/desperate scenarios. As
    things stand, this script is way too much talking and little in the way
    of development.

    Suggestions:

    page 7: I’m not picking up a proper tone. Seems to fluctuate between
    very serious, ironic, dark comedy, slapstick. I base this on Janice’s
    advance on Nick. Why be attracted to him? He’s a loser. It seems they
    had a relationship in the past (which may have broken up his
    marriage…? But it’s too unclear. Make it clear.)

    page 7: typo “lanky”

    page 9: I’m noticing that this is really just a lot of talking, yet
    we’re not really getting much insight into their lives or personality.
    No conflict at all. In addition, the writer seems to over-write – they
    detail every little movement which is unnecessary.

    page 9: This scene with Sam & Nick is only 1.5 pages, yet is way
    too long. Ther’s no need for the back & forth. If these guys are
    both in a funk, they would be more tight-lipped.

    page 11: typo:

    APRIL
    Cute. Desperate to. (should be “too.”)

    page 11: typo in Aprils’s diaglogue: “Well, when she ask you if you…” Should be “asks”.

    April is a pretty great character. But all of the dialogue is written
    as if they are all just meeting for the first time (giving advice,
    etc.)

    page 18: typo in April’s dialogue. Should be “What? She is.”

    page 19. No real conflict at all yet (just internal) and we’re not
    picking up on a theme for Nick to have to overcome eventually.

    page 24: I’m noticing that most scenes start way too early with a
    back & forth, before getting to the point of each scene. The writer
    needs to examine each scene and find the conflict, and start there.

    page 26. I would suggest cutting this up to:

    NICK
    Pack your bag, kid. We’re going to find out who I am, to find out —
    CUT TO:

    INT. AIRPLANE – DAY

    SAM
    –if you’re the bastard love child of Ernest Hemingway?

    page 27: It seems like Nick should have more than the letters to make
    his claim. He (and we) should have more hints from April before she
    dies. Then a sort of “eureka moment”. Establish early on that the
    father’s identity has always been a question – and now that April is
    dead, it NEEDS to be answered – because family is important for him (and
    Sam.)

    page 30: I like the Joe Jack character and he fits in this story, but
    again – these scenes are way too long and lack any conflict. They’re
    just kooky people talking back and forth.

    page 32: I would end this scene just after Nick says “I don’t think anyone’s made a kinder offer in all my life.”

    page 36: We should be into the main plot by now. But Nick hasn’t
    established or stated a plan yet. The writer should establish Nick’s
    plan for how he even thinks he’s going to find out if Hemingway is his
    father.

    page 48: there’s no need to start the scene with the argument. Simply start with Nick meeting TS.

    page 50: still nothing regarding a basic plot. If Nick’s goal is to
    find out his father is Ernest Hemingway, why hasn’t he done anything
    about it? He’s only talked to 1 guy.

    page 60: This scene between Nick & Joe Jack is indicative of the
    entire script – they are talking around the ideas that have nothing to
    do with Nick’s goal(s).

    page 64: Still nothing towards Nick’s goal.

  • Logline_Villain

    Mr. Brown excelled at initial character description – never underestimate the power of that intro to make your characters stand-out! If done well, it gives the reader the immediate sense that he/she is in professional hands…

  • Acarl

    I’ve only read the first twenty but I must say– So much in so little. This writer puts so much across in so little space that I am 1.) Impressed. 2.) Envious.

    In the first ten I already feel like I know Nick very well because…well, as his description reads-‘he is all of us’. I am very tempted to blow off my morning so that I can continue reading this to the end in one shot. Will check back in later. Great job Eric.

  • http://www.twitter.com/esporter Evan Porter

    Character descriptions were great. “All of us”, “Held together by his suspenders.” Dialogue is sharp and clever. There were some familiar elements – the Mom with dementia. The troubled teenage son. Reminded me of that indie drama “People Like Us” in some of those ways.

    I agree that his reasoning for going on the journey is on the weak side. I think I zoned out for a few lines and all the sudden he was dead-set that Hemingway was his father and he and his son were out the door. I’m with Carson on that one – I know he’s trying to find himself, but what does he REALLY stand to gain if Hemingway is/isn’t his Dad?

    The writer is really talented, though. This could be a great little indie flick. And, again, I agree with Carson — I’m judging this more on choices than mistakes. That’s a good thing.

    • Jonathan Soens

      Haven’t had time to read it yet today. But, question: Does the main character want to be a writer?

      Based on Carson’s description (saying his career in advertising is unsatisfying because he’s winning over illiterate babies who don’t even know the alphabet), I took that as meaning he wanted to be a writer.

      If he wants to be a writer, I understand wanting desperately to establish he’s Hemingway’s kid.

      I mean, let’s be honest — I understand wanting to establish he’s a celebrity’s son just because it would be a neat thing to happen to a person (and be a cool story to tell) regardless.

      • Acarl

        I got the same impression: that he wanted to be a real writer.

      • jaehkim

        i thought it was more than just wanting to be a real writer. he wanted to reach his potential. of course in the end he realized he had already reached his potential with baby food ads. I didn’t know if that was a happy or a sad thing. but since he was happy with himself, I figured it was all good.

      • http://www.twitter.com/esporter Evan Porter

        Yeah, I guess. But he’s only shown casually working on some kind of novel. It’s not like it’s established that he can’t get published anywhere. That would make sense – “if they find out I’m a Hemingway, they’ll have to pay attention to me.”

        Granted, I stopped reading once they set off on the journey. My iPad died on me. My questions may have been answered later.

      • Awescillot

        I had the feeling that he has an idea of what direction he wants to head in, in life (writing). Eventually, he fell back on being a copywriter.

        When he’s on his search trying to find out if Hemingway is his real father or not, maybe he’s also trying to find an answer to the question whether he should be anything more than being just a copywriter. Should it be established that Hemingway indeed is his father, he would maybe get some sort of acknowledgement that he is indeed – destined – to do something bigger, and he should continue writing a novel.

        Nick is unhappy about his job, and where he is right now, but he isn’t about to just quit his job and become a novellist. I think he wants some kind of confirmation that he should be doing better (apart from the question whether he really cán do better). Being a son of Hemingway would have given him a sense of direction, in my opinion. He wouldn’t dare to make such a big decision on his own, but this would give him the push he needed to do something he truly thinks might make him happier.

        Nick finds a typewriter and starts typing. Around this time, I’d say he’s still a bit hopeful of Hemingway being his dad. When he realises Hemingway probably isn’t his father, he rejects his aspirations of being a novelist (and throws his papers in the bin). In the end, I think he came to the conclusion that he doesn’t need this search to establish some sort of goal in his life, because he realises maybe, that he can be quite happy as it is.

        So in the end, does he want to be a writer? I guess he wanted to at first, and this search being an opportunity to validate his true calling, but in the end, he takes comfort with the fact that he can be happy with just being a copywriter.

        But I could be wrong :)

  • Maggie Clancy

    I’m on about page 30 right now, and it is such a good read. I will admit, I was turned off by the talking bill board at the beginning, because everything else feels based in reality. I feel like the writer was like “I need to catch their attention,” so this was a bit of a gimmick/attention grabber.

    But as it’s been said before, a lot being said in a very succinct manner. It only takes Brown one or two sentences to convey a character, and that is a skill I am trying to hone myself. Will definitely post more once I finish the script.

    • Maggie Clancy

      OK, after finishing the script, I was content. It seems like a cute little indie flick or something in the vein of The Descendants – a location based, family comedy/drama. Then again, that wasn’t a movie I got too excited about, either.

      I really like the premise and think it is well written, but it wasn’t my favorite script I have read on ScriptShadow. I’ve been getting to read some pretty interesting amateur scripts from readers on here, which has been nice – even if the writing isn’t on par with Brown’s, the concepts are new and fresh.

      THE OVEN – When a death-obsessed young boy discovers that his funeral director father is burning bodies for extra cash, he can’t help but be sucked into the criminal world and its consequences. http://bit.ly/12Hm7yQ (Thanks to Malibo Jack for the logline tips!)

      • gazrow

        Hey Maggie –

        Just read the first 15 pages of THE OVEN (busy working on my own script).

        First some small stuff. You open with a camera angle – not good! A DEAD OLD MAN in a coffin reads a little awkward imo – Maybe rewrite it.

        You use the dreaded “We see” – lots of folks hate “We see” with a passion! (doesn’t bother me personally, but why piss people off unnecessarily?)

        Some action passages are six lines or more long – try to keep them to three or less.

        Lots of “ing”. Freddie is standing. Tom is eating etc. Get rid of “ing” wherever possible. So Freddie eats. Tom stands etc – Even that could do with being punched up.

        I’m guessing from what I’ve read, that you’re one of those writer’s who writes down everything you see/hear in your head word for word. That makes for a depressing read – you need to edit the boring stuff out!

        In other words, don’t gives us a blow by blow account of how Freddie puts on his pajamas! It’s not important to the story – Write something like: Freddie throws his pj’s on – dives into bed.

        Now, some bigger stuff!

        The logline suggests the script is a crime thriller. Yet, reading the first 15 pages I have no idea what the genre is? It reads part comedy, part drama, but definitely not part crime thriller!

        The script has some pretty big tonal issues. Having a wise-cracking Jesus (described as looking like a zombie!) and a head chopping Robespierre appear from nowhere, literally made me go “WTF? ”

        That stuff, (if it belongs anywhere?) Belongs in a dark comedy not a crime thriller!

        None of this stuff is meant to depress you – I think your writing shows promise. Unfortunately, you, like the rest of us, just have to work at it more.

        Hope this helps? :-)

      • jaehkim

        hey maggie. I also happened to read the first 35 pages (just a coincidence) of the oven. my notes are pretty in line with ‘weekend read’.

        things I liked:

        good descriptions. it’s written with clarity and easy to understand language.

        things I thought could use some improvements:

        1) the characters don’t really stand out.

        Weekend read pretty much nailed it with the dialogue, so I won’t repeat. if you read the dialogues without the names, it’s very hard to figure out who’s speaking.

        2) scenes lack drama/conflict.

        most of the scenes are talking scenes, and there are lot of sitting talking scenes. in the house. in school. in cars. the most exciting thing that happens in the first 30 pages is that the family gets a dog. you threw in some imaginary friends to spice things up, but it didn’t feel right. I’ll get to that later.

        3) slow story.

        I stopped at p35 because the story didn’t seem to develop, when by p35 the story should have gone way into the second act. what is the difference between p5 and p30 in terms of story development? the only thing that comes to mind is that they bought a dog, and the dog peed.

        4) long scenes.

        most of the scene are longer than necessary. example: end of p30. freddie catches tom on the phone. this scene goes on for 3 and 1/2 pages. that’s a really long scene. one of the reason is the slow dialogue, but the other is that it does not get in late and get out early. I’m guessing the purpose of the scene is freddie figuring out tom is doing something illegal/killing people, but how in the world did he come to that conclusion? plus the way the scene is written, all the drama and conflict that should be there, isn’t.

        If I had to write this scene, I would have freddie listen in a bit longer to tom’s conversation. tom is angry because someone is asking him to take another body and he doesn’t want to. he’s already done more than they asked for. and burning multiple murdered bodies wasn’t part of the deal. the conversation implies that he’s in over his head with people he shouldn’t be in over his head with.

        then he sees freddie at the door, and before tom can say anything, scared freddie runs way. tom chases him, and freddie locks himself in his room. tom bangs on the door for him to come out, but he won’t. linda comes by and asks what’s going on. freddie comes out and hides behind linda. tom tries to talk to him, but linda takes him away.

        now there is tension. they sit down for dinner, and tom is wondering if freddie already told linda what he heard, or if freddie will blurt out what he heard.

        5) theme/mood

        when I read the logline, I imagined a much darker story. especially freddie’s obsession with death. when he imagines jesus and the french guy, it seems he’s obsessed with historical figures more than death. I was thinking maybe he picks up road kills, he reads the obituary, maybe tries to kill himself (that might be too morbid maybe, an 11 year old trying to kill himself).

        anyway, you do have the writing chops, so I’m sure the story will only get better from here. good luck with the re write.

        • Maggie Clancy

          Thank you so much for the in depth feedback! I know what my plans for the weekend are. Expect a much more focused and kick ass script in the next week or so.

    • ElectricDreamer

      Haven’t read the script yet…

      But that billboard thing reminds me of Steve Martin’s L.A. Story.
      Anyone else get that?

      • flipflopfury

        Ding. Ding. Ding.

        Not that it’s a bad thing. Nothing new under the sun.

  • ArabyChic

    “But this, Sam, this is monumental. A chance to be somebody. Someone important.”

    Sounds like a pretty strong need to me.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    I grew up in the keys and it was nice to see “Sloppy Joe’s” featured in the script, as well as the Key West trolley. The only things missing were ‘Rum Runners’ the Tiki Bar, and maybe the glass bottom boat.

    • Acarl

      And Hog’s Breath, The Green Parrot and Captain Tony’s Saloon(the site of the original Sloppy Joe’s) I too lived in the Keys before moving west.

    • ximan

      Me and my frat bros ended up at a place called “Slimeys” where many an embarrassing memory was formed. But it might have been in one of the other Keys.

  • Poe_Serling

    Hey Bifferspice-

    Thanks for clearing that up for me. Looks like the writer did his homework and it’s nice to see that he incorporated the name into his script.

    And speaking of Hemingway, he was ‘quite cynical’ in regard to how his novels were adapted into films:

    “…the best way for a writer to deal with Hollywood was to meet the producers at the California state line: ‘You throw them your book, they throw you the money. Then you jump into your car and drive like hell back the way you came.”

    • James Inez

      That’s hilarious.

      • Poe_Serling

        From the same article:

        “Although Hemingway did not appreciate Hollywood’s portrayal of his
        classic novels, he did enjoy the way their paychecks boosted his bank account. He earned $80,000 for A Farewell to Arms (1932) which was an enormous sum to be paid for an adaptation film. The highest Hollywood ever went was in 1958 when Warner Brothers gave him $150,000 for the rights to The Old Man and the Sea.”

        • James Inez

          It should be a rule that writers always get final cut. The message or theme sometimes ends up totally different than what the writer intended. It’s like if they took Orwell’s “1984” and turned it into a pro establishment film.

          Kind of in the same vein, I read an article today about the movie “Rated X” with Charlie Sheen. It’s based on a true story of a couple of brothers in the 60’s or 70’s that were pretty big pornographers known as the Mitchell brothers. Well one of the brothers killed the other and ended up going to jail for 4 yrs. Apparently he got out and took control of everything the brothers had owned. The film business and all the strip clubs they owned, and screwed his brothers kids and family out of all their inheritance, (he knew a lot of lawyers and judges). So Sheen and Emilio Estevez get the story for the movie from the brother that killed the other. He painted this picture of his brother as being the bad guy. So that’s how the movie was made. The killed brother is portrayed as some scumbag. The son of the killed brother is now an MMA fighter, and he tells the story and how they rewrote history and that if he ever sees Sheen or Estevez he would give em a smack or two. He says his uncle is the scumbag and murdered his father because he wanted everything for himself.

  • AJ

    Reading tons of produced screenplays in comparison with amateur screenplays has taught me that maybe the most important thing to giving your script a chance to succeed, is the ability to get into a scene late and leave early. Nearly every produced writer is a master of this skill. Eric Brown is a master of this skill.

    • http://www.twitter.com/esporter Evan Porter

      Do you watch Downton Abbey? You should. It’s a master class in this exact thing.

      The whole series is basically talking heads. Very little action, even minor action within scenes. Basically two people stand, sit, walk & talk.

      But the dialogue is fantastic. It’s clever, layered, full of conflict and character, and they NEVER repeat anything. Lots of scenes where someone runs into a room going “I have to tell you something (about X thing that just happened)” and then cut away.

      Not only does it keep you from getting bored hearing things you already know, it leaves you wondering how the other character reacted. So you’re anxious to see that thread picked back up in a later scene.

      • witwoud

        True, although that’s standard soap opera style, which is what Downton Abbey is. (Not that we can’t learn from soaps.)

      • AJ

        I’ve never scene it, but I know it wins every award they give and a wide range of people love it. I really have to check it out now.

  • leitskev

    Seems like the script is getting a positive response, so congrats to the writer!

    I have to admit I only got a few pages, and I think it might help this obviously excellent writer to know why. From the log, I knew this was going to be about the main character trying to discover if his father was indeed Hemingway. That had some appeal, Hemingway opens up all kinds of possibilities. But this also led me to expect a certain type of script, more drama, perhaps with light comedy.

    When in the opening scene we find the main character talking to a billboard, this really threw me off. Not because talking to a billboard is a problem…hey, whatever keeps one awake! The issue is that this type scene creates a tone that is at odds with the description of what the story is about.

    So maybe if you want to use the talking billboard it might be better to slip it in in later. That first scene is prime real estate when it comes to establishing the tone, which I was expecting to be a bit more serious.

    Also, when the billboard stuff began, I was willing to give it a chance. If the dialogue knocked me off my feet, it would start to draw me into the story. It did not succeed in that. It felt like a trick to reveal the flaws and issues facing the main character. In other words, a gimmick. Which is fine if it puts a big smile on one’s face, hard to do anytime, but especially hard of the reader senses something gimmicky.

    Sorry I didn’t get to the rest of the script, because from the remarks it sounds like it really picks up nicely. I just wanted the writer to consider that the billboard scene could be causing problems, and it’s kind of a big risk to put something like that so early in the script. Best of luck, and it sounds like this script really connects with people!

    • witwoud

      Puzzled. You seem to be saying that the first scene should be changed to reflect your mistaken preconception of the film.

      • leitskev

        Let’s put it this way. If several people say something similar, then yes. But if I am the only one, no. And here’s the thing: I thought about not leaving the remark. It’s not fun leaving something negative. But the only thing that helps the writer, any writer, is to get honest feedback. So I gave that very thing. Hopefully this alleviates your puzzlement.

        • witwoud

          Perhaps it needs a new title to make clear it’s a comedy. I’d suggest “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST (Jr)”

  • rosemary

    it was ok

  • J.R. Kinnard

    There are some strong writing chops on display here. Much of the dialogue is first rate, and there are some big laughs.

    However, this script has all the hallmarks of a ‘man-child on his journey to become a man’ script. Which is to say: we meander from scene to scene with no real sense of purpose (like the protagonist), there are lots of people standing around talking, things drift dangerously close to sentimentality, and people make profound self-realizations seemingly out of nowhere.

    We start out with a bravura sequence in Nick’s car as he chats with the billboard model. Sadly, the rest of the script never delivers on the originality of this opening salvo. About 10 pages in, I began to realize that all of the characters sounded the same. All of the kids were wise beyond their years, all of the oldsters were wacky and cool, and all the middle-aged folks were hopelessly adrift and looking for purpose.

    The second half of this script became a real slog for me. It felt as though things were happening because they NEEDED to happen. Gruff people suddenly became helpful. Scenes with potential conflict suddenly resolved themselves. In fact, all of the urgency and conflict seemed to dissolve before it even got started.

    I’m really getting to the point where I dismiss any idea of mine if it includes a protagonist looking to ‘find himself’. It seems virtually impossible to write a compelling script with an aimless hero. You have no idea how much it pains me to say that. lol

    If this script is going to work (for me), there needs to be some tangible reason for Nick to find out the truth about his lineage. Something to carry us through the quest, and some real tension along the way. I really love the premise, but Nick was just too passive for me.

  • apw3

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the movie “Flirting With Disaster” in this review. In that movie, the adopted Ben Stiller feels like he has to meet his real parents before he’s able to give his newborn child a name. And the kid is starting to get a little old to not have a name. Something simple here would do as well.

    Oh, and this script also brought up bad memories of that Jennifer Aniston movie “Rumor Has It…” Where she thinks her grandma was the inspiration for Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate.” That movie was definitely hampered by a lack of purpose.

  • Citizen M

    This script only works if you fall in love with the characters. I didn’t.

    One problem is it is set in 1993. It has to be to match character ages and Hemingway’s life. That’s only 20 years ago, but I think that already makes it a costume drama and thus much more expensive to produce.

  • witwoud

    No, Michael’s not after fame and fortune, he’s a serious actor trying to find paid work so he can finance his roommate’s play. That remains his goal from beginning to end (in the final scenes we see the play in production.) The Tootsie gig is a well-paid job and an acting challenge, that’s all. I agree that a second goal (get the girl) appears, but Michael never abandons his original ambition of doing serious drama, and he torpedoes Tootsie because her life’s become a nightmare on every front, not because he’s learnt some lesson about the hollowness of fame.

  • ChristianSavage

    Hey, Nick. You’re definitely passionate about the craft, and I admire that. I also think that nearly every screenwriting rule can be bent, or even broken, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

    IMO, the intro of a major character is one of those times when you can get away with telling us the basics of who that person is. You have two or three lines, tops, to give us that character in a nutshell. Obviously everyone has their own tastes, but I find descriptions that are purely physical don’t do the best job conveying a character’s essence. So, when a writer gives us a baseline for a character in one paragraph that gives us both physical and personal traits, the first impression of that character can be deeper and more accurate.

    Here’s one of my favorite intros ever. It’s for Herbie Stempel, from Quiz Show: “HERBIE STEMPEL, Herbert the Great, early 40s and overweight. Marine haircut and shabby suit. A Job for his generation — exiled to the Boroughs, flayed by grey-flannel insults, scourged by lowly status, grudge-laden before God.”

    Some major unfilmables in that intro, but we get a very clear picture of Herbie in three lines. If it gets the job done, it works. Rule, or no rule.

  • Will Vega

    This had a great start, I thought. But the thing that got to me was the dialogue. It’s good dialogue, don’t get me wrong, but it goes on too long sometimes. Characters speak full paragraphs in every other exchange which makes it kind of a chore to shift through to get to the point.

    I feel this work would alot better if it was cut down and presented some things just visually (him in the baby food factory for instance, I think it’d be better if there was no dialogue and we just see him looking HORRIBLE when faced with the monotony of his job).

    I’m thinking it’d be interesting if he was stuck in traffic in the very beginning, then it looks like he has the opportunity to exit instead of trucking on forward, then the billboard overhead will talk him out of it. Use the dialogue exchange to indicate he’s thinking of bailing or driving his car off the overpass but instead convinces him to go to work. Then we’re faced with the PURE UNFILTERED HELL it is to work in there, and he just utters a single line: “Fuck you, billboard…”

    The very premise itself is interesting. But with any self-discovery adventure, I find less is more. I would also get to the point soon as possible, it takes about twenty pages before the Hemmingway thing is introduced.

    ===============
    bOUNTY (TV Pilot) – After a night of heavy drinking, a devil-may-care Gambler wakes up in the middle of the desert finding himself in debt, hired by a Mexican Cartel to pay it off…and wanted by Nevada police for murder. http://bit.ly/14EuytF

  • Midnight Luck

    I totally agree.
    1) a cop out. might as well have said:

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

    2) I thought the same thing when I read that Carson (and others) liked “he’s all of us”. What does that mean exactly? (i assume the writer is trying to say: “he’s an everyman”)

    But it doesn’t work. Every being is different. If we have one Military Frat boy reading it, and a 70 year old Transvestite reading, does it still mean “he’s all of us”? or only “some of us”?

    I guess I would get top stars if I wrote “She’s a Dame, a Dame like every other Dame”? I guess it does say it all…..

    Show Me. Too.

  • AJ

    I was also not a fan of that character description (for main character). It took me completely out of the story and made me think to myself that I would rather not have any description at all than one that seemed like there was no effort put into it/didn’t help me discover anything about the character. Why put words on a page that say nothing? Saying something is everything, is saying nothing.

  • jlugozjr

    Story aside, Carson said “I see this more as a professional script than an amateur one.”

    Hmm.

    I want to be as constructive as possible, but man, I read the first 25 pages and felt it was very…

    Well here’s what I would work on.

    Yes, the talking billboard felt like a gimmick. If Nick had multiple conversations with other advertisment photos throughout the story, it would feel more organic. But that didn’t happen in the first 25.

    Nick is a copywriter. He writes slogans for the company. Why is he at a FACTORY that packages the baby food. It’s confusing.

    For example: Let’s say I worked for Coca-Cola in 1993 as a copywriter and I came up with the slogan “Always Coca-Cola”. Would I show up to work at a Coca-Cola bottling factory. Come on. This is an advertising position.

    But my main issue with the script was the dialogue. I felt the story was heavy on dialogue (as opposed to images or actions) which is fine if it’s interesting. But here’s what we get –

    pg . 1
    Woman on Billboard
    “Don’t look at me like that.”
    Nick
    “Like how?”
    Woman on Billboard
    “Like I’m some piece of meat.”
    Nick
    “I didn’t mean–”
    Woman on Billboard
    “I’m a twenty five foot bikini model, Nick. Some things are expected.”
    Nick
    “Can I ask you a question.”
    Woman on Billboard
    “Sex shit?”
    Nick
    “You always say that–”
    Woman on Billboard
    “Creatures of habit, darling.”
    Nick
    “I’m predictable. I am. AM I?”

    I mean, this dialgue was making me cringe and it’s only the first page. This continues for 25 pages —

    The conversation with Nick’s boss Gerry, at the strip club. Oh, man.

    pg. 4
    Gerry
    “I’m talking diapers. Adult diapers.”
    pg. 5
    Gerry
    “You talk to Janice. She’ll give you the poop on what we’re after.”

    And then we meet April.
    pg. 14
    April
    “Love is a peach, boys, only as ripe as the rain.”

    My suggestion for this writer is something I use myself, if dialogue is not your strongest skill then use images or simple action scenes to drive your story.

    Oh, and the “inciting incident” on page 25 —

    Nick
    “Pack a bag, kid, we’re going. To find out who I am, to find out–
    (deadpan)
    –if I’m the bastard love child of Ernest Hemingway.”

    Ouch. I’m done. Not my cup of tea.

  • Midnight Luck

    It shocked me, deeply.
    Just like the day Tony Scott killed himself.
    And, oddly the two worked together on True Romance, one of my favorite movies of all time.
    Just harsh.
    Two amazing, creative, awesome people gone in a year.
    Makes me Really Sad.

  • Citizen M

    …he travels to Key West with teenage son in tow to usurp his birthright.

    u·surp
    Take (a position of power or importance) illegally or by force.
    Take the place of (someone in a position of power) illegally; supplant.

    I think claim his birthright is more correct.

  • Spitgag

    As someone who worked as a Copywriter (CW) for 15 yrs in advertsing, I’ll speak for all professional creatives when I say…. GROANNNN.

  • K.B. Houston

    I was nervous about this script. Judging from the logline and premise, it’s the type of script I could easily see myself writing. Carson criticizes it heavily for many stylistic elements that I can related to. But once I started reading, it was clear Carson had valid points.

    Yes, this person understands how to write, but there’s a huge difference between understanding how to write and doing it well. I felt this script fell short in this regard.

    I give props to Carson for making it as far as he did because I couldn’t get past the first few pages. The dialogue with the billboard was just so cheesy. You can’t open a film like that. When people talk to inanimate objects, there’s a reason they do so. It’s usually after they’ve had an exhaustive period in their life or a dream or they’ve ingesting hallucinogenic drugs. Either way, we always understand why it’s happening. In this case, we have absolutely no clue or reason as to why this is occurring. It makes no sense. None.

    I totally see what Carson was saying about the writing taking away from the story too. If there’s one thing I can’t stand in a script, my one pet peeve, it’s being too cute with the reader. The last thing I want to do is read a script where the writer is consciously talking to me! Your job in a comedy script is to make me laugh either through dialogue or action. If you’re trying to make me laugh by talking to me, I’m done. I’m sorry, but I just can’t read 100-plus pages where half the comedy can’t be transferred onto film for the viewers to appreciate.

    This writer has talent, mostly in the dialogue department, but I think he needs to refocus his writing style in order to be successful. Drop the cute stuff and show rather than tell.

  • blue439

    The story is almost exactly the same as Allen Loeb’s Only Living Boy in NY. Except OLBINY is about a 20-something searching for his father, not a 40-something who acts like a 20-something. They both share the same whimsical style. But the Loeb is much better because it’s grounded in a recognizable reality, not indie world where every character talks the same and is quirky, quirky, quirky. The writer mistakes quirks and self-conscious dialogue (the script is 99% dialogue) for character development. It suffers from disposable character syndrome — characters invented to serve the purpose of a scene or two, then discarded. Nick’s motivation doesn’t seem terribly believable or urgent. Like most of the characters, they’re not terribly happy but neither are they unhappy. Nick’s reason to find his father seems more intellectually driven than a real emotional need — he needs to find his father because someone told him he needs to to find himself? The script seems perpetually stuck in character behavior, but not character deepening. Story really seems to be a problem with the writer, to the point that Nick and Sam end up basically experiencing the same things female acquaintances, quirky of course, fights, and finally, too late in the script to care that much, self awareness. Brown can write, but his writing is the antithesis of Hemingway, who created depth and meaning from the slow but steady accretion of incisive detail. Hemingway Boy is detailed, but so disposable.