Genre: Dark Comedy
Premise: The discarded heir to a billion dollar fortune decides to kill all his family members to inherit the money.
About: Screenwriter Ford is a new kid on the block, but that didn’t stop him from landing at number FIVE on the 2014 Black List. He’s repped at UTA and managed by Black Box Management. He also had a short film play at Sundance in 2010 called Patrol.
Writer: John Patton Ford
Details: 126 pages

tumblr_ls3tb9dqfp1qf8r8uo1_500I’m thinking Ryan Gosling for this one.

Wow.

This is quite the screenplay. I can’t remember the last time I finished a script so… angry.

Not because the script is bad. Oh no, this is not Moonfall 2: Moon Tornadoes. Far from it. This script purposefully orchestrates your anger. To that end, it’s a success. But man, it’s not an easy success to embrace. Never has a villain seemed so casual yet ignited feelings of such rage in me.

Before you read it though (for those who have the Black List scripts, you have this), note that it’s not an easy script to get through. You’re not going to find me supporting its excessive 127 page girth. But I can promise you this. This parallel world version of Wolf of Wall Street is crafted well enough to leave you feeling rewarded when you finish. Even if that reward is a kick to the groin.

When we meet Becket Rothchild, he’s on Death Row. In fact, he only has hours to live. So he’s giving his “confession” to a priest, a confession that doubles as our narration of the story. Becket explains that 30 years ago, his mother, a teenager at the time and member of the Rothchild’s, one of the richest families in the world, got pregnant.

Her father told her that she could either abort the baby or leave the family and never come back. She decides to leave, which led to Becket’s birth, and the two hustled through life with no money at all until his mother died of cancer, a death that could have been prevented with some financial help from the family. But even then, her father turned his back on her.

This is what led to Becket’s hatred of his family, and kickstarted his desire to kill each and every one of them. Truth be told, revenge wasn’t the only reason Becket became a killer. Becket liked the idea of having all that money. As he tells us at the beginning of his narration, that old saying that money doesn’t buy happiness is bullshit.

There are nine Rothchilds to kill and they include frat douches, hipsters, reality star twins, and the big tuba himself, the man who kicked his mother out. Becket’s murder weapon of choice is a bow and arrow but the Rothchild killings come in all shapes and sizes, including poison, fire, even dynamite!

As Becket gets closer to his goal, his childhood crush and now bitter enemy, Julia, wises up to his plan. She blackmails him, telling him that if he doesn’t give her 3 million dollars, she’s turning him in. As we all know, a blackmailer never stops after they get your money. They always keep coming back for more. And Julia does come back for more right when Becket’s at his lowest point. (spoiler) It turns out she has something that can set him free. However, he’ll need to give her the entire fortune to get it. Whatever will Becket do?

Before we get into the meatier aspects of the screenplay, I want to point out a “show don’t tell” moment to remind all the screenwriters out there how important it is to look for these opportunities.

Early on, Becket’s mother becomes sick with cancer. After exhausting all their options, they make one last Hail Mary pass and return to Daddy Rothchild to ask him for money. Now, I want you to think about this scene as if you were about to write it. What would you write?

You could, of course, write a scene where Becket’s mom sits down with her father and pleads for his help. The high stakes of the situation would dictate, at the very least, a decent scene. But since the directive of the scene is so simple (she asks, he says no), it’s the perfect scene to look for a “show don’t tell” alternative.

And that’s what Ford gives us. He shows Becket wheel his mother up to the mansion in a wheelchair, Becket talks into the call box, and then the gates close on the both of them. In a matter of a few lines, you’ve given us a much more powerful version of the scene (and in 1/10 the space it would’ve taken to write a dialogue scene).

I don’t know what it is but there’s something about an ACTION that really does speak louder than words in screenwriting. A huge iron gate closing on this helpless soul packs so much more punch than a series of (likely) predictable lines between daughter and father. As writers, you should always have your “show don’t tell” goggles on when writing. Always look for those opportunities.

Now, as for the script, I’m not going to pretend this was a smooth ride from start to finish. Once I realized that Becket had to kill nine people, I was like, “I have to sit around and wait for this guy to kill NINE PEOPLE!?” It’s hard enough to make one killing interesting.  How is this guy going to keep our interest for nine?

Indeed, once we got into some of these middle-killings, I started getting restless. That 127 number staring at me from the top of the document wasn’t helping. But I’ll tell you when things changed for me. There’s a moment where Becket is about to kill the Televangelist Rothchild. He poisons his glass when he turns away. But when Rothchild turns back, he says, “So which poison did you use?” He then turns the tables on him and ties Becket up.

It was the first time I was legitimately surprised by what happened. Up until that point it was: Meet a Rothchild, spend a shit-ton of time with him, and FINALLY kill him. This one caught me off-guard. And it reminded me that one of the reasons you set up goals in screenplays, is to create expectations. You say to the reader, “Hey Reader – my character is going to go do this now.” The reader then relaxes and says, “Okay, let’s watch the character do this now.”

Once you lure them into that sense of security, you turn the expectation against them. That’s exactly what happened here. We figure, hey, he’s going to kill the televangelist just like he’s killed everyone else. But now the televangelist flips it around and the hunter becomes the hunted. Building expectation is a powerful tool. But it only works if you fuck with the expectation.

And yes, I get that to fuck with the expectation, you first have to lure the audience into a sense of security, which is why Ford would argue the previous Rothchild killings needed to go according to plan. But there were a few too many of them and each of them lasted a few scenes too long. We needed to get through that section quicker. I’d even argue that we don’t need 9 people. We could get away with 7.

Anyway, after that, the script was less predictable, and the increasing frequency of our serpentine villain, Julia, added another x-factor to the story. We were no longer on that predictable “get to know a Rothchild, then kill him” train. We were on busses, planes, sidewalks, bikes.  Shit, we were in an Uber at one point.  All of this made me less sure of where the story was going.  I was kind of surprised, being so apathetic at the midpoint, how into the ending I was. And when that big bombshell hits, it’s something else. As in, it kind of makes you want to kill yourself.

“Rothchild” left me with mixed feelings but they were feelings nonetheless. I’m still thinking about it. And that’s usually a good thing.

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

What I learned: We’ve discussed the page number thing to death. But if I can, I’d like to recap. It’s true that page length doesn’t “really” matter. A well-written 120 page script can read like it’s 90 pages and a terribly written 90 page script can read like it’s 140 pages. Here’s why keeping the page length down helps though. It forces you to make tough choices – to cut out stuff unless it’s absolutely necessary. A lot of writers are the equivalent of motor-mouths. They like to hear themselves type. Well, as you know, it doesn’t take long for somebody to eventually tell those people to shut up. Don’t be a screenwriting motor-mouth. Choose your words carefully.

What I learned 2: A serial killer main character gives your script a 20% better chance of getting on the Black List. I’m not kidding.

  • masteryas

    Totally agree Carson. Funnily enough I just finished reading Rothchild last night and I can’t remember the last time a script resonated with me so much.

    I thought the ending was powerful as it was delivered with a masterful slight of hand. As you point out, I thought Ford expertly uses our expectations against us. From the killing of Steven and MacArthur to the ending.

  • Matthew Garry

    Another thing about high page count is that you’re stuck in the corner you wrote yourself in to. If you need to make any more serious changes, you usually can’t without going even further overboard with the page count.

    In “Rothchild” this is felt with one of the final plot points(spoiler): the murder he’s on death-row for is the one murder he didn’t commit; it was actually a suicide. This is great irony, but it is set up so hastily it breaks the narrative. We suddenly have the protagonist, a white and now insanely wealthy man, convicted and put on death row on the flimsiest of pretenses. And the whole plot hinges on him being on death row and spilling the real story.

    With a little more care in the final scene between the protag and the suicide victim and some extra attention to the trial it could have been a believable setup, a believable conviction, and a believable scenario, but at 120+ pages you have nowhere left to go, so leave yourself some breathing space for additions and clarifications.

    On the other hand:

    What I learned 2 2: A high page count gives your script a better chance of getting on the Black List. I’m about half way through the list and so far most of the scripts are about 5-10 pages longer than average for their genre.

    • Andrew Parker

      Re: What I Learned 2…

      None of the voters, whoever they may be, read every script that comes across their desks. It’s like Oscar voters. They watch the movies that they like the premise of or have heard good things about. Then they skip the rest.

      So I wouldn’t get too hung up on page count (keep it under 120, if you can). But I would get hung up on things like: Title, Concept, Logline, First 30 Pages.

  • Darkline

    Good review Carson and I totally agree on you’re reasons for shorter script length.

    But I’ll tell you why I really loved this screenplay :

    We have a hero (Beckett) who we’re immediately with. He’s an outcast, we can all relate to hating greedy fat cats with no morals. Taking revenge on the family who pushed their daughter out because she might destroy their image. He’s like Dexter. He has a twisted moral code to his killings (for 99% of the film). It can be interpreted as revenge for his mother’s death as much as it’s for the money.

    He’s a charming hero too, on the outside he’s polite, educated, dressed like Gatsby, talks like Orson Welles with a sharp wit. Inside he’s a ruthless killer. When an explosion containing one of his victims ignites in the background, everyone staggers and gasps, except him who orders symapthy lillies from a street flower vendor.

    Throughout this script the writer toys with how it will all turn out. Beckett spares one Rothchild simply because he’s a good man, even takes a job offer from him. He falls for a woman who’d love him even if he was poor. There are 2 love interests, we all know you can’t have 2… In Bond films we say “ok so she’s the one who will try to kill him later”, but this took that to a whole other level and really made them both integral to the plot and his character choices.

    Without giving away too much, it’s beautifully strucutred, has a very strong theme, the dialogue sharp and witty, the writer has a real grasp on cinematic language. We even have a credit sequence 20 minutes in with a bow flying
    through the air punching through the rothchild family painting, through walls, buldings, a relentless force
    bursting finally into a pile of money.

    Above all, it’s huge fun.

    I agree with the mid section, there could have been less Rothchilds,
    but it’s a small patch in an otherwise fast and punchy read. But you stick with because it’s earned. What audience isn’t going to love seeing a string of fat cats murdered in succession? This section is the “pay off’ which audiences will love, even if it’s predicatble for us screenwriers. Give the audience what they want in a script that ultimately, does not.

    Beckett’s character will play extrodinarily well onscreen. It’s only in the final moments we realise we’ve been seduced by him too.

    It’s the one of the best I’ve read in a while. One of those moment where you go “Ahhhh. I’ve got work to do”

    • kenglo

      Really? That good huh? Guess I’m reading this one tonight!

  • brenkilco

    I’m not so sure that to Carson movies before 1960 aren’t just some undifferentiated smear of black and white. This does appear to be an undisguised ripoff of Kind Hearts and Coronets as noted by several commenters when the initial list was posted. Wasn’t going to read this script on principle but I guess now I will. As described it seems to raise all kinds of questions about lifting material. How much of a plot or premise can be safely stolen? There have been countless variations of Vertigo. And Ira Levin lifted the central gimmick of Diabolique when he wrote Deathtrap without creating any backlash. The plot of The Spy Who Came In From the Cold is really a clever reworking of Witness for the Prosecution though I never seen that noted. So maybe the writer here is absolutely safe. But you really must have chutzpah to think you can improve on one of the most literate and fondly remembered black comedies of all time.

    One other thing. It’s described as a dark comedy. But the post doesn’t seem to indicate whether the thing is actually funny.

    • leitskev

      I have to admit I could not get through Vertigo. I think I got to about the midpoint when my frustration finally boiled over and I smashed every TV in the house(maybe I fantasized that last part). I love Hitch and I had been trying to further my limited and amateur film education by going through the top ranked classic films, and I just could not get through it. I later looked up the ending, and yes, that’s nice and twisty, but I found the journey to be too torturous.

      • brenkilco

        You’re bucking the tide. As I’m sure you know, in the most recent, big deal, once a decade, sight and sound poll Vertigo was voted best film of all time, supplanting Citizen Kane. I think it’s great though I’d rank a couple of other Hitchcock films as objectively better and there are a couple more that I personally like better. As a thriller it’s pretty implausible. And since you only made it to the midway point you may not know that the big twist is revealed well before the end, with only the resolution of the characters’ relationship to take us the rest of the way. But as a story operating on the deeper level that critics love; a dark critique of romantic love as destructive, fantasy projection, for instance; it’s fascinating and worth more than one viewing

        • leitskev

          Oh, yeah, I know I am bucking the tide. As I mentioned, I did read about the big twist, and that’s a cool twist, but this is a long film. The long, go-nowhere-we-are-eager-to-get scenes were torture.

          I am like this with literature too. I will read something the critics adore, but make up my own mind, and if I am not enjoying the experience, I won’t finish, because there is too much out there that I know I will enjoy.

          I loved Citizen Kane, and that surprised me a little. I found it strangely powerful, and I seemed to come away with a different interpretation than the experts I read after seeing the film. From my perspective, Kane’s problem was that emotionally he became locked in an undeveloped state because of the wealth and from being sent from his family. He desperately wants to connect with people, but he can’t because he is emotionally stunted. Like a child, he only understands connecting in terms of acquiring, which he identifies with controlling. It’s sad because under it all he is a decent human being. He just is not fully human because he doesn’t know how to connect.

          • walker

            That description of Kane’s tragic isolation could be applied to Scottie Ferguson, James Stewart’s character in Vertigo.

          • leitskev

            Maybe, but with Kane we watch his descent into this and it’s chilling.

          • brenkilco

            I have to confess that while I don’t agree with Pauline Kael’s opinion of Kane as a shallow masterpiece the movie to me is more about narrative and visual dazzle than emotional depth. As an actor Welles is effortlessly larger than life, but in no film do I find him touching.

          • walker

            Not even as a broken Hank Quinlan?

          • brenkilco

            No, love the movie but I’m not even touched by Touch. A moment or two in Chimes when he comes close.

          • Levres de Sang

            How about his potrayal of the old man in THE IMMORTAL STORY…?

          • brenkilco

            That’s a point. Have only seen it once and that was a while back. Can only say that I recall the actor who played his clerk more clearly than Welles.

          • klmn

            It helps to see Kane on a large screen. On a television (at least a normal sized one) it doesn’t have the same impact. I’d say the same thing for Welles’ Macbeth (1948).

          • leitskev

            Astute. I think it’s much more the narrative that creates the emotion. Another impressive thing is how much motion it creates with such non-traditional narrative. And by that I am not referring to the narration through the reporter. I am talking about how the standard devices such as having strong goals or creating character dynamics that run the length of the story. We never get to know how wife, and barely get to know the girlfriend/second wife. The youthful friendships are the most important and most moving, but their power is reduced to a few scenes. And yet the story manages to create a strong emotional reaction that lingers. Very original.

          • mulesandmud

            Great reading of Kane.

            Too bad that you didn’t connect with Vertigo, but I must say, even if it feels like work to watch the rest of it, it’s work worth doing. For people interested in cinematic storytelling, and all the ways that character psychology can intersect with narrative structure and visual motif, Vertigo is the gift that keeps on giving.

        • filmklassik

          My three Hitchcocks for a desert-island are probably — in no particular order — NORTH BY NORTHWEST, NOTORIOUS and VERTIGO, with at least 9 or 10 runners up. The guy had a body of work that is arguably second to none in the annals of cinema.

          • brenkilco

            North by Northwest and Vertigo are also my top two. In fact, North by Northwest is my favorite movie. While I know Vertigo should come next, I’m sometimes more partial to Strangers on a Train or even the charmingly creaky Lady Vanishes. I also am starting to think that The Birds is becoming more and more impressive as time goes on.

          • filmklassik

            Yeah, THE BIRDS has some terrific stuff in it. Does it drag in places, particularly where Hitch decided to personally rewrite Evan Hunter? Absolutely. But it also features some truly astonishing set pieces.

            And the more I see of Rod Taylor’s work throughout the 1960s, the more I’m convinced that he shoulda been a contender. That guy really had the goods: Masculine, compelling, restrained… and always believable. Whatever his fellow Aussie Russell Crowe has (which is a lot), Taylor had even more of.

          • filmklassik

            And no, I’ve never seen DARK OF THE SUN, which I’ve read boasts some of Taylor’s best work.

          • brenkilco

            Yes, Taylor is sort of a mystery. He could do drama. He could be humorous. He could be tough.He was invariably likable, never forced. In the early sixties he seemed to be on his way but by the end of the decade he was into B stuff like Darker Than Amber and then bad TV. And then pfttt. When he popped up for two minutes in Inglorious Bastards I wondered where he had been for thirty years. Caught Dark of The Sun on TV not too long ago. Taylor and Jim Brown as mercenaries. No classic but pretty good, demonstrating that mano a mano fights to the death were one more thing Taylor could do.

          • filmklassik

            Talking about mano y mano fight scenes, DARKER THAN AMBER has — and I’m sure you already know this — one of the best ones ever committed to celluloid, because the two combatants (Taylor and the always frightening William Smith) were allegedly really going at it during the shooting.

            William Smith said in a interview years later: “Rod Taylor… I don’t ever want to fight him again. Toughest guy I ever fought in my life. He’s a bloody Australian, and they are tough. We had the stunt guys there to set up the fight but once we got started, he didn’t pay any attention to that. He backed me into this little room and just pounded away.”

            “Bob Clouse just kept filming. In fact, before shooting started,Taylor said to me, ‘You think you’re a big tough guy, don’t you?'”

            “We worked on that fight for a day and a half, and when it was over, I felt like I’d been beaten by twenty guys. But it’s the best fight scene I’ve ever done.”

            By the time it was over, Smith had two or three broken ribs and Taylor had a busted nose.

            And you’re right, pal — DARKER THAN AMBER is definitely a good-but-not-great B-movie (although it’s based on a very good novel by John D. MacDonald) but Taylor is characteristically wonderful (did he ever give a bad performance?) and that fight scene is harrowing. And, pointedly, the hero is clearly overmatched there — which always makes for a better contest (you listening Paul Greengrass?)

            Here it is.

          • brenkilco

            Funny John D. Macdonald churned those color coded Mcgee novels out for decades but don’t recall another adaptation of any of them. Too bad Taylor couldn’t get a few more movies out of the character. I only think of Smith playing thugs, villains and psychos but some cable channel that reruns old westerns was showing episodes of the show Laredo with young Smith as the laid back lead cowpoke, the one who gets the girl. Really weird. Clouse wasn’t the most graceful action director- I think Amber took a lot of flack for its sadism- but he earned a bit of B movie immortality with Enter the Dragon.

          • filmklassik

            Regarding the McGee books… there was a TV movie with Sam Elliot back in the early 80s that was meant to serve as a back-door pilot for a possible McGee series, but it tanked in the ratings and was apparently awful. Never saw it though. I think it was an adaptation of “The Dreadful Lemon Sky,” which isn’t even one of the better McGee novels (My own favorite: “The Green Ripper.” Sublime.)

            And William Smith… big, burly and menacing as he is… is apparently a bona fide intellectual. I think he taught for a while at UCLA and speaks several foreign languages — including fluent Russian, German, French, and Serbo-Croatian.

            So, not only can he kick my ass seven ways from Sunday, he is clearly a lot smarter than me, too.

            Discouraging.

          • brenkilco

            Just read the announcement online that Taylor died. Seems like it just went up. Did you know it when you posted this? I’d no idea.

          • filmklassik

            Just went to Google and Jesus Christ! No, man! I heard that he died from YOU.

            Too weird.

            What’s even more weird is that, in one of my posts up above, I was talking about the guy in the past tense —

            “And the more I see of Rod Taylor’s work throughout the 1960s, the more I’m convinced that he shoulda been a contender. That guy really had the goods: Masculine, compelling, restrained… and always believable. Whatever his fellow Aussie Russell Crowe has (which is a lot), Taylor had even more of.”

            — and when I wrote that post earlier today, I was deliberating on whether or not to change it to present tense, but I left it as-is because I figured since Taylor was in his 70s or 80s and hadn’t had a substantial role in 15 or 20 years, he was basically retired.

            Wow.

            Just saw that he was 84. A good long life. Hope he didn’t suffer.

            RIP.

          • brenkilco

            Very weird. Do me a favor and never write about me in the past tense.

          • filmklassik

            Word up. You ARE 100% correct. And you ARE never going to have to worry about that. Pinky swear!

            Holy crap, though! Still can’t get over that we were talking about the guy (at considerable length too!) just 4 or 5 hours before the announcement that he passed.

            Hope he went peacefully, in the arms of someone who loved him.

    • Levres de Sang

      Talking of Vertigo: I finally saw Brian de Palma’s OBSESSION at the weekend. Wow!! Usually I’m one of the first to cry “rip-off”, but I absolutely loved everything about it… Perfectly cast, too. Shame it appears to have been so derided all these years.

      • brenkilco

        I like it too. Robertson and Bujold are very good. Though you don’t want to spend too much time thinking about the creepy, central gimmick. And why is everything so damned misty?

      • Poe_Serling

        Double de Palma: A Film Study with Brian de Palma by Susan Dworkin.

        Available on Amazon.

        I read it several years ago. If you’re a De Palma fan, it’s a fun and telling look into his filmmaking methods back in his heyday as both writer/director (Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, Body Double).

        • Levres de Sang

          Thanks Poe. I have to confess that the only other De Palma film I’ve seen is Dressed to Kill (now high on my rewatch list…) but he’s clearly a master of atmosphere as well as suspense technique so I imagine he must have some interesting things to say. Certainly, as I was watching Obsession, I just kept thinking “this seems like the perfect 70s film”.

          • Poe_Serling

            By far, my favorite De Palma film is Blow Out. Really love the whole premise of the story – a sound effects guy being an ‘ear’ witness to a murder.

            Best sequence: when the Travolta character matches his recording of the car crash to the Zapruder-like film of the same event.

            **And speaking of influences, this film is more than a knowing nod to Antonioni’s Blow-Up.

          • gonzorama

            I love what De Palma did with Carrie. And one of my all-time guilty pleasures is Phantom of the Paradise. He’s one of my favorite directors.

          • Levres de Sang

            Blow Out sounds amazing! I will add it immediately to my list… Needless to say, I love Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Those scenes in the park are incredible. For me, it’s the perfect intersection of the European auteur movie and mystery thriller.

          • brenkilco

            I have a soft spot for The Fury. Though it’s dimwitted, pulp nonsense it has some of De Palma’s best set pieces including the stunning- for the time- demise of smarmy villain John Cassavetes.

    • filmklassik

      This is nuts. I can’t believe people aren’t more up-in-arms about a writer doing what you’ve indicated this dude did so shamelessly: RIPPED OFF — WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION — THE PLOT, NARRATIVE ENGINE AND FRAMING DEVICE OF “KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS.”

      He only got away with it because the movie he’s stealing from is older than most of our grandparents, but if we saw him doing this with, say, “Memento” for example — as in:

      #3 on the Black List: SOUVENIRS. Logline: A man with a rare neurological condition that deprives him of any short term memory attempts to solve his wife’s murder. Told in reverse chronological order.

      If a writer tried getting away with THAT kind of larceny there’d be a goddamn pile-on. In fact it’d be a friggin’ Rugby scrum. More “WTFs” than you can shake a stick at.

      But because he ripped off a brilliant but now-mostly-forgotten gem from the late 1940s, well, no problem. Steal away! And if the cops come around here asking a bunch of fool questions, well, none of us saw a thing.

      Unbefuckinglievable.

      • brenkilco

        I don’t think it’s any big deal. Anyway, don’t have time to debate it. I’m hard at work on this clever thriller of mine. See there’s this woman who gets murdered and she works for this big media company and the detective who’s investigating ends up falling in love with her from all the videos she posted on instagram. And all the suspects are these creepy, rich metrosexual, Manhattan friends of hers. And there’s this big twist. Looking for a title. What do you think of Maura?

        • pmlove

          Can’t figure out on what level your joke is working.

          http://www.stack.com/2014/11/06/laura-movie-remake/

          • brenkilco

            Jesus, this business is beyond parody.

        • filmklassik

          Fine. Whatever. Just don’t take all century to shoot it, huh? I wanna use your lead actor for an intense, outlaw-cop thriller I just finished writing called WHERE THE SIDEWALK BENDS. You’ll love it. It’s all about this big city detective with a violent streak who… aw hell, why give away the whole story? I’ll let you be surprised at the premiere! See you on the red carpet!!

          • brenkilco

            Wait. Had that idea a year ago. You’ll be hearing from my attorney.

          • filmklassik

            Yeah, right. And I suppose you’re gonna be a witness for the prosecution. Give me a brea-

            Hold the phone. I think I feel another idea coming on…

  • leitskev

    Have not read the script. Reading the review I found myself not understanding the appeal of the plot. Do we root for this guy to kill his family? Is it just because they are rich and presumably obnoxious? And because he did not inherit millions? If someone had suggested that plot to me my question would be why would audiences really care if the hero succeeded? Reading the comments below it seems maybe the story worked just because the main character was so well done. I don’t know, I just find this premise lacking.

    • brittany

      Yeah, I felt the same way. I wondered how the audience could go for a ride with this character if he’s just going around killing innocent people, even if they are a part of his “evil” family. But then I thought maybe the victims are portrayed in the most spolied/obnoxious way possible, kind of like the Goldthwait dark comedy film “God Bless America”. So, when he kills those assholes the audience doesn’t really care, so they can keep going on the ride with Ford. Of course, I haven’t read the script either, just my best guess.

      • leitskev

        Glad you said this. Was wondering if it was just me. Hard to build a revenge motif when it was the father that did the deed, and when the hero was only an infant when it happened. And nine is the number of people killed? Sounds tedious. As you point out, there is a difference between not caring if a victim dies an WANTING that victim to die because of some reason of justice or vengeance. I think if a story begins with a premise where the audience won’t care about the hero’s goal that’s a major handicap. Maybe I’ll see things better if I read the script.

      • hickeyyy

        I’d say this is pretty accurate. I spent the morning reading it. Of all the people he kills, they are all not just spoiler and obnoxious, but terrible human beings. Makes it easier to swallow.

    • Gman

      I understand your concerns about character here. For me I went with the main character mostly because I identified with the mother-son dynamic. Let’s just say the protagonist’s mother is outcast and lonely and dies an early, miserable death. All because she followed her heart. This naturally traumatizes our “hero.” Hard not to identify with someone who’s been through the ringer like that with a parent. This (expertly in my opinion) counterbalances the other more unsavory aspects of our protag.

  • walker

    It takes a special sort of audacity to essentially steal the plot and structure of a famous and well-loved film and call the result an original screenplay. The same audacity that it takes to misspell the name of one of the most celebrated and influential European families.

    • hickeyyy

      What is the film you are talking about? Would love to see it as I enjoyed this screenplay.

      • walker

        This script is a reworking of the well-known Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. Wikipedia notes that the film is listed in Time magazine’s Top 100 films and also in the British Film Institute’s Top 100 British films. It is particularly notable for Alec Guinness’ portrayal of eight different characters. “Rothschild” is the name of one of the most important banking families in the world; it contains an “s”, sort of like the Biblical name “Mordecai” does not contain a “t”.

        • Gman

          Oh yes, I thought Rothchild felt familiar. Now I know why.

          • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

            Oh maybe you’re a Doors fan and thought about Paul Rothchild, their producer.

          • brenkilco

            Or a Boogie Nights fan and you were thinking of Reed Rothchild.

    • brenkilco

      Audacity or a well founded belief that few today would remember Kind Hearts? Or House of Rothschild for that matter. The tip for writers today. Find a nifty film from the forties. Change the title, some names, add a couple of cell phones. Presto.

      • klmn

        The Rothschilds aren’t covered very much by the American press, but the Brits do better. A few years ago the Daily Mail won a lawsuit from Nathanael Rothschild when it called him a “puppetmaster.”

        Wikipedia has an overview of the family.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rothschild_family

        • brenkilco

          One site lists the family’s net worth as 400 billion. Not sure how many ways that has to be split but I guess they’re all pretty comfortable.

          • klmn

            Somewhere I read that Nathanael inherited $40 billion openly, and perhaps as much as half a trillion hidden in trusts.

      • davejc

        I’m on it!

        A self loathing reality TV Producer keeps a little girl trapped in a well during Nielsen Ratings Week with unintended results.

    • Pooh Bear

      Maybe the copyright expired or it’s now in the public domain. Nothing new. Sleepless in Seattle – An Affair to Remember – Love Affair comes to mind.

      • Pooh Bear

        Oops, I meant You’ve Got Mail vs The Shop Around the Corner. Same/same.

        • walker

          Never thought I’d find myself defending Nora Ephron, but both Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail do give explicit credit to their respective antecedents.

          • Suggest Otherwise

            Nora Ephron was/is a genius… takes a special sort of audacity to call yourself a screenwriter and suggest otherwise.

          • walker

            Hey now all I said was I was surprised to be defending her, and then went on to note that she duly acknowledged her sources. My limited familiarity with her work is insufficient to judge her genius. On the other hand I am going to call myself a screenwriter all day long without feeling particularly audacious about it.

    • andyjaxfl

      That’s good old fashioned hubris for you, especially since no credit or acknowledgement to the older work is mentioned. Dare I say cinematic plagiarism? Maybe I can’t because I have not read the script and I don’t remember the movie beyond the fact that Alec Guinness pulled an Eddie Murphy 50 years before Eddie Murphy pulled an Eddie Murphy, but I can’t help but think the writer thought the movie was obscure enough (it is black and white, after all) to pull this off. And I don’t think this is an homage like Star Wars or any of Tarantino’s films.

  • UrbaneGhoul

    A serial killer who is also a secretly depressed public figure like a TV host would also get you on the blacklist.

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

    This script is designed to SUCKER industry folk that aren’t versed in classic film.
    Some exec’s been had by a writer with a Criterion collection and a keyboard.

    If you’re going to RAPE one of Time magazine’s Top 100 Films of All Time…
    For fuck’s sake change the opening scene at least just a little.

    • kenglo

      I don’t get it, you and walker’s posts about how this screenplay, the writer ‘stole’ the idea or raped the original? Most stories are reworks of other stories, most people are influenced by other people? Right?

      Star Wars was born of Kurasawa’s visions and films. Can’t say enough about Tarantino’s influences. Magnificent Seven was almost scene by scene of Seven Samurai. What I mean is if the writer wrote it in his/her own way and it turned out pretty good, how can we knock that?

      I don’t understand the angst here…..’splain…

      • brenkilco

        There’s a big difference between cobbling together a bunch of pop culture detritus a la Star Wars and a scene for scene remake of an earlier film. That’s why the makers of The Magnificent Seven had to buy the rights to the Kurosawsa film and specifically acknowledge Seven Samurai in the opening credits. BTW the western is hardly a scene for scene remake. And the writers deserve a lot of credit for the first rate dialogue and the clever way they were able to transpose the story elements.

        • kenglo

          The scene where James Coburn tells the guy he can kill him with the knife before he can draw his gun came to mind….as in 7 Samurai where the swordmaster fights the other guy first with wooden swords and when he tells him he would have lost, the guy insists on doing it for real, then gets killed. I dunno, that’s pretty dang close as a scene. Maybe I should have said beat for beat?

          In any event, you just validated my thoughts on the debate. ‘American’ film makers almost always think they can do one better than a ‘great’ foreign film (Dragon Tattoo, Let The Right One In most recently). Rothchild may be a great script, worthy of it’s praises and a valid Black List finalist. On it’s own merits. When Star Wars came out, there were no people screaming at the top of their lungs what a rip-off! Although, I remember in my teenage years watching Empire Strikes Back I scoffed at the use of Chi/the Force!

          So an original script. I read here too many times how someone comments on a script “How Many Times Have we seen THAT scene?” like how many different ways can you write a scene saying the same thing? Like the writer didn’t have enough in him to dig deeper? Nine times out of ten the scene itself it changed and morphed on set!

          Was Magnificent Seven better than The Seven Samurai?

          NIMHO.

          • brenkilco

            Yes, the scene you mentioned is a direct crib. But the switchblade vs. gun was a nice touch. And there are later scenes that show the writers adding stuff of their own. One of my favorite moments: Coburn shooting a bandit out of the saddle with a handgun from a mile away.
            Bucholz: That was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen
            Coburn: The worst. I was aiming for the horse.

            Which is better? Well Magnificent Seven is great entertainment and Seven Samurai is great art. Pick your poison.

          • kenglo

            Hmmm…I have more of an Asian lean…..they are both great films though. But of course they have to add their own flavor and nuances, they are from totally different cultures. Some stuff just doesn’t work when transferred from east to west or wherever. Imagine a western where they pull out samurai swords. Ahh….RED SUN!!!

            I haven’t read this script yet, and I don’t have a reference point to compare it to having not seen the aforementioned film. If it’s good writing and an intriguing story, then let it rest on that. Who cares where it came from? Like saying Karate is better than Gung Fu.

            All I’m saying is to crack on a writer because thier story came from somewhere else or another film is being, I dunno….a-holish? Afterall, they must be doing something right, they are there, we are not.

            Just my opinion….I could be Wong…

          • brenkilco

            I don’t have a blanket objection to remakes or reworkings or reimaginings of prior properties. After all, The Maltese Falcon that we all know was actually the third screen version of the story. But there’s a point at which, without attribution, something that’s inspiring you becomes something that you’re plagiarizing.

          • kenglo

            I had an English professor during finals in college who blurted out, “If you haven’t learned to plagiarize by now, you don’t deserve a degree!”

            Thought that was kinda funny…but true.

          • filmklassik

            Me’thinks you’d be less forgiving if the writer had lifted — without attribution — the central premise, narrative engine and framing device of a far more recent movie that you personally love.

            But our tendency is to dismiss works or art that we haven’t seen or even heard about… and indeed, that were produced DECADES AND DECADES AGO… as if they barely even exist.

            But stealing wholesale the plot, narrative engine and framing device of an inventive movie from 1949 should be every bit as off-limits as doing it with KILL BILL.

          • kenglo

            You are correct. Just was curious as to why you are so upset. :)

          • filmklassik

            Ha! Good question. Maybe it’s because… I’m correct.

          • Magga

            The Magnificent Seven is a remake. Yes, they changed the title and setting, but it’s usually explicitly cited as a Hollywood remake

      • SteveParadis

        “You see, Mr. Craster, these things mostly happen unintentionally. That’s why it is worth remembering… that it is much more disheartening to have to steal… than to be stolen from, hmm? Good morning.”

  • Gman

    While I generally agreed with Carson’s review, I nevertheless found this one a page turner, even at 127 pages. I liked the creative ways in which Beckett killed. The romance between Ruth and Becket felt real. And Julie made for a decent second tier baddie.

    However (isn’t there always a however), as the murders kept coming I kept wondering how Beckett kept getting away with it with such ease. Seems like the police or FBI would have been more invested in him as a suspect much earlier and with greater intensity. I hate to say it but this smacks of laziness on the writer’s part to me. I also think this circles back to Carson’s point about having too many murders: the more people Beckett has to kill, the more openings there are for the logic police to swoop in and poke holes in your perfectly crafted baby.

    Overall, it just feels like Beckett is getting away with too much too easily.

    I also found that many of Beckett’s actions in some of the murders strained credibility. For instance, starting on page 47 Beckett attempts to shoot Noah with the crossbow. But Beckett and Noah have just left a party where there were plenty of witnesses who could tell police that Noah and Becket had gone together to the roof and, from there, it wouldn’t take the police long to finger Beckett. But Beckett apparently never entertains that possibility.

    All in all I really enjoyed this script but ultimately view it as a very good draft than can only get better.

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

    Today’s author reminds me of another recent success story worth mentioning…
    It’s about two teen screenwriters that recently broke in and somehow brought the funny:

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/students-comedy-script-optioned-by-744947

    How did those kids come up with an awesomely kooky ice cream truck turf war plot?
    Simple. They ripped off the entire story from a well-liked, but obscure film:

    • walker

      As an admirer of Bill Forsyth, I noticed that too.

    • S_P_1

      I really don’t need to start the new year reading an article that’s about collusion / nepotism.

      This also verifies “It’s who you know, not what you can prove”.

      The icing on the cake.

      “You can work on structure, you can learn craft, but you can’t teach funny,” says Gitter. “And these guys just had it. It’s a rare thing.”
      The plan is to now to develop the script and then package it before taking it out to financiers.

      So basically all the alleged requirements and industry standards of basic screenwriting conventions didn’t apply to this screenwriting team. Being funny is sufficient enough.
      Due diligence. – I officially stopped taking the BLUE PILL as of today.

  • Logline_Villain

    Guess it’s a good thing I have not seen Kind Hearts and Coronets!

    I enjoyed this script – but it could use some polish…

    Particularly as it relates to the MURDERS of the Rothchild clan.

    SPOILER ALERT: In many instances, there were simply too many witnesses who could place Becket at the scene of several murders – and there’s the related issue of any forensic evidence he left behind (as one example, fingerprints on the jet ski which security guards saw him speed off on before killing Taylor) – not to mention all those incriminating purchases he made at the Sporting Goods Store (heck, he’s brazen enough to ask Harvey if he can get phony passports!).

    Funny how the power of modern CSI techniques are completely ignored when beneficial to the story – and remember that FBI Agents Pinfield & Matthews are (supposedly) on his trail.

    Becket needed to be more competent at murder; and the FBI Agents needed to be MUCH MORE COMPETENT in their INVESTIGATION of these murders. The FBI agents conveniently want to know where Becket was on the morning of ONE of the murders, the very same ONE where he conveniently had set up an alibi, and a questionable one at that.

    What about all of the other murders? Members of the richest white family in America are dropping dead like flies; and the investigation appears to be little more than a passing thought. Come again?

    There was great irony present in that Becket was incarcerated for a murder he did not commit. Problem is: He would have been nailed for other murders he DID commit, ESPECIALLY the one involving the Chinese SWEATSHOP workers who we’re supposed to believe he illegally smuggled into the US after traveling to China (presumably under his own name) and somehow convinced them to go all machete on the reality tv twins – that particular attempt to get away with murder was so ridiculous it completely severed whatever goodwill I had left re: that aspect of the story.

    Otherwise, this script worked on many levels – and made a statement about class/wealth in the modern world.

    Great ending…

  • tgraham22

    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder which is playing on Broadway right now seems to be a very similar plot also. That is a musical comedy, but it’s a cast aside relative trying to kill all the living heirs to a family fortune because his mother was spurned.

    Jefferson Mays does an amazing job playing 8 members of the D’Ysquith family.

    • brenkilco

      Both the new musical and Kind Hearts and Coronets were apparently based on a novel called Rank by Ray Horniman published in 1907. Had always assumed Kind Hearts was an original. Presumably the book is now out of copyright so I guess we’re all free to swipe this plot without fear.

  • kenglo

    ” Building expectation is a powerful tool. But it only works if
    you fuck with the expectation.”

    I have heard that before – it went something like this –

    “…play with us, lead us up blind alleys, drop seemingly obvious clues, then violently
    wrench us around, reversing meanings and shattering expectations. That’s the
    fun of the movie. Just when you think you’re trapped in a cliché, the entire story melts and morphs into something else.”

    I really try to write like that….really. But I have yet to master it.

    • Eddie Panta

      This is all true, but remember, this is much more difficult for a writer without credits under their belt. Readers might think your script IS actually cliche. You run the risk of people disliking the movie only in the effort to subvert expectations. So you’re walking on a thin line.

      You a lead character down a clear genre path, but keep their true intentions hidden until the right moment.

      The trick is to seemingly reveal them to the audience making decisions that are expected, then one crucial decision that is obviously wrong. . Audiences enjoy characters that make the wrong decisions, they sit their thinking that they would of made the right choice. But later, they are taken down when they realize the character has been in control all along.

      Make us feel like we know the character but don’t know what decisions he’ll make.

  • drifting in space

    What I learned: There are no rules to anything. Steal ideas. Copy scenes. Make your screenplay 120+ pages.

    You just never know what will get you on the list!

    • kenglo

      BUT……write a good script!

      • drifting in space

        That seems to be debatable at this point.

        • kenglo

          okay…write the RIGHT SCRIPT!

          • drifting in space

            Now that I can get on board with!

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

            lol

  • brenkilco

    Miller’s crossing is actually a fairly seamless blend of two Hammet novels. The Glass Key deals with a political boss, his right hand man, a woman they’re both involved with and naturally a murder. In Red Harvest a detective works for two rival gangs to pit them against one another. Interestingly Red Harvest inspired the classic Samurai movie Yojimbo, which was remade as the spaghetti western Fistful of Dollars, and finally returned to American soil in the nineties as the Bruce Willis vehicle Last Man Standing. I’m doubting Hammet’s estate ever saw a dime from any of these. So there you are.

  • crazedwritr

    carson included a link in his most recent newsletter

  • Tyler Givens

    Can anyone send me this script? Pretty please. tlrgivens@gmail.com

    • kenglo

      If you got Carson’s last newsletter……

      • Gman

        Oh, does Carson’s newsletter contain lots of scripts?

        • kenglo

          Lol…he had a link to the BL…..here I’ll send it to you….

          • Gman

            I just sent that person the actual PDF.

          • kenglo

            I sent him the whole list…. :)

          • Gman

            Great. I also have them all on pdf but at home.

  • mulesandmud

    I also bailed on this one after the first twenty. For a script that seemed to be in such a rush to get to the murder plot, it sure took its time getting to the damn murder plot.

    Considering the shortness of the scenes (the whole thing reads like a montage) and the density of the voiceover (too much description, not enough insightful commentary), we should have plowed through all that backstory in half the time.

    • Bob Bradley

      I read a bit and skipped ahead. I wonder if the writer agreed with his protagonist…causing the script, as G. said, to lack depth.

  • jw

    I just have to say, if you haven’t read ECHO on the Black List, holy shnikies, Batman! Why on Earth hasn’t this been made? It’s like Justin Lader, writer of The One I Love, wrote Source Code. I get there may be comparisons to other films here, including the bomb that was The Island (and there are slight tweaks I’d make), but the skill and slight-of-hand Christopher Macbride writes with is engrossing and inspiring. Well done, sir. I’m a fan. In the right hands, this is an easy $50 million dollar opening! Someone wake the studios up!

    • kenglo

      Will give it a go. Have you read DODGE? I thought that was pretty good too!

      • Gman

        I’m not that familiar with the Hit List. If you subscribe, can you download all scripts that make the list?

        • kenglo

          nooo….gotta find someone with the list and hopefully a link to it….

          That being said…. ;)

      • jw

        I haven’t yet, but will give it a go. Thanks for the recommend!

    • Eddie Panta

      Agreed.

      Was this reviewed on a SS newsletter?

      ECHO is a great example of a script with a complicated plot that is written in a simple and clear sentence structure. We are in Bob’s shoes so to speak throughout the story. What Bob doesn’t see or encounter is not relevant or remains a mystery.

      Everything is seen through Bob’s eyes, which is part of theme and plot.

      We strive to create well-rounded complex characters, but in ECHO, we are limited to Bob’s viewpoint. Other characters such as his wife are only truly revealed by Bob’s memories. There is no objective viewpoint which gives us the expectation that Bob may be a unreliable narrator of sorts. At the midpoint in the story we begin to doubt Bob. Our faith in Bob is tested. He begins to doubt himself as well.

      To me, the important lesson was that the writer chose a specific viewpoint to tell the story and was consistent with it.

      • jw

        I didn’t find the reveal about Bob as satisfying as I did about the reveal on the PERSPECTIVE. That was a PRO reveal. I felt like that’s maybe what I would change a bit — the heavy focus on the wife made me immediately think something was up with Bob, so in making it I might balance that out a bit to provide some give and take around that area and play more of a poker face on that hand. Otherwise, hand this to a Bradley Cooper-esque actor, a Marion Cotillard-esque actress and open your umbrella ’cause cash is about to rain down from above!

  • Levres de Sang

    I read the first 15 pages and was surprised (considering the page count) at just how smoothly it all flows. The montages are very visual, with a tone that even reminded me of Woody Allen… until all of a sudden we’re in the middle of the Iraq war!? Maybe it’s a blip and representative of the downward turn the protag’s life has taken, but all the same it felt like a jarring tonal shift.

  • Nicholas J

    This sounds like an interesting script. I wonder if it’s similar to any other movies out there. Haven’t heard anybody bitch about it yet so I guess not.

    Anyway, you’ve been on a roll so far in 2015 Carson. This and the Toy Story post both have some great insights. Keep this train chugging.

    • Eddie Panta

      You’re being sarcastic… right?

      • Nicholas J

        First part yes, second part no.

  • Eddie Panta

    Apparently, Kind Hearts and Coronets was loosely based on a 1907 Novel “Israel Rank” The Kind Hearst title is a phrase from a poem.

    BTW I didn’t find Miller’s Crossing ( my fav movie) that much like The Glass Key, but it’s been awhile since I saw Glass Key.. I don’t think any of those stories have a character as mysterious as “Tom”.

    The point of the Coen Bros film is that is an obvious tip of the hat to those films.
    Oh. Brother was a complete spin off of SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS. There are also strong similarities between the Big Lebowski and Cutter’s Way which both star Jeff Bridges.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Have been thinking a lot lately. (Mostly unfocused.)
    About the forest for the trees problem.
    Are we writing a script or a movie?
    Maybe you read the first fifteen. But this didn’t happen. Or you think he should do this.
    Sometimes that is a lot of noise.

    Recently listened to a podcast.
    A whole mess of suggestions were made to improve the first pages of scripts
    that were said to be quite good. Yes, the suggestions were thoughtful, helpful, and at least in one case might help the movie. They were things to think about. And some would add more clarity for people who stumble over every word. But I read the pages and could visualize the movies.
    Which is what I think you should expect from a script.

    People sometimes have strong opinions which can go beyond what the movie will look like.
    And then there’s the critic. He may be the reader of a script — or reviewing a movie.
    He goes in looking for what’s wrong. Yeah, it’s his job. (But how many people go to a theater to find out what’s wrong with a movie?)

    People tell me there is no such thing as a perfect movie.
    Have always thought SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is pretty damn close.
    Now Google Siskel and Ebert and that title to hear what they had to say.
    Amazing.

  • Somersby

    I haven’t seen “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, but I did check out the synopsis and reviews for it on Imdb. It does sound remarkably similar–especially with the almost equal number of legitimate heirs the protagonist must kill before claiming his inheritance.

    It’s a great premise… so I can see why the writer of Rothchild would be attracted to it. That said, I’d like to believe the writer fashioned his own story from the premise (though, clearly, I don’t know for sure.)

    I really like this one. It’s an engaging read–despite the fact its 126 pages.

    I agree with Carson. The number of people Becket has to kill is… well, overkill.

    Mind you, I loved the choices the writer made in dispatching the twins. Silly, yes. Funny, yes. Memorable, yes.

    If the writer brings the target number down to five or six, that leaves him room to explore more of some of Becket’s core relationships: Mary, Julia and Ruth.

    The women aren’t particularly weak at present… they’re just not fully developed.

    I, too, was totally taken by surprise by the ending… But for me, it worked. To quote Carson, “…it only works if you fuck with the expectation”. And, yes, what I was expecting was NOT what the writer presented.

    I thought the ending was great. It was unpredictable, it was in line with the tone of the character the writer had created (given his incredible drive to be rich)… and it was off-putting enough to make it really memorable.

    I’ve read a number of the Black List offerings and not a lot have overly impressed me. This one impressed me. I’d like to see more from John Patton Ford.

    • Dan B

      I looked at the Wikipedia, and they seem extremely similar. Both start in prison, and I think some of te kills are the same

  • fragglewriter

    I don’t think the 127 page count is that much of a big deal as opposed to killing 9 people. Even if the writer was to shorter it to a 7, the writer still has to entertain the audience and the body count seems like it would drag the story.

    Does anyone have all of the 2014 Black List scripts? If so, I would love to get them at fragglewriter at yahoo dot com

  • peisley

    The question of ripoff reminds me of Disturbia and Rear Window. The screenwriter was sued, but the judge ruled in his favor since Disturbia was too generalized a remash of the Hitchcock film. I guess there are levels of rewarded unoriginality.

  • HRV

    Shouldn’t he have been caught after the first murder? The guard was all over him and the cops would have looked into that. Also: It’s a Ford Pinto, not a Dodge. I did enjoy reading it and the ending does leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. To think there are people out there like that.