It’s one of the biggest breaking scandals in the history of civilized society. But the real question is, can I stay civilized when breaking down this screenplay?

Genre: Drama/True Story
Premise: The story of how a group of reporters at the Boston Globe exposed the Catholic Church pedophile scandal.
About: Can the man who directed “The Cobbler” direct an Oscar-winning film? That’s the question of the day since Tom McCarthy co-wrote and directed “Spotlight” after the Adam Sandler Netflix classic. Josh Singer co-wrote the film with McCarthy. Singer’s resume includes stints on The West Wing and Fringe, with his lone feature credit being about international narcissist Julian Assange. Spotlight is peppered with a cast that makes my man-panties drop. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liv Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Billy Crudup, Stanley Tucci. I just want to lick those names, they look so yummy. You can lick them too, on November 6th.
Writers: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
Details: June 5th, 2013 draft (132 pages)

rs_1024x759-150729120922-1024_spotlight-movie

There isn’t a picture that more appropriately conveys what this movie is about than this one.

I suppose it’s appropriate that we’re warming up for Oscar season since it was freaking 99 DEGREES OUT TODAY. Dammit-to-Tinley-Park. Holy hell. I’ve seen cooler days inside of a Chicago pizza oven.

Despite the heat, I’m always lukewarm this time of year. Because let’s be honest. Half the Oscar wannabes believe the key to getting nominated is to put a bunch of serious-looking men in rooms talking about serious things.

They forget that the number 1 ingredient to a good movie is to ENTERTAIN. I’m reminded of Zero Dark Thirty a couple of years back. It was the prototypical, “Serious-looking men in rooms talking about serious things” film. I’m not sure anybody working on that film ever asked, “Hey, do you think people are going to enjoy this?”

And Spotlight is the prototype for “Serious men talking about serious things” films. I ain’t hatin on you, Spotlight. But dude. You gonna need to add some color to your wardrobe if you want audiences to let you into their apartment.

Whether you have a noble message or not, nobody cares unless they’re entertained. Let’s see how well Spotlight achieves this.

Spotlight’s fifteen thousand protagonists are led by two in particular, Mike and Robby. The two worked for the Boston Globe back in 2001, and start investigating a rumor that there are pedophile priests in the Catholic Church.

Their research is encouraged by the Globe’s new editor, Marty Baron, a Jewish man who just took over the job from a stalwart Catholic.

Mike and Robby are joined by many other journalists including Matty and Sacha and Ben. Our only hope of remembering who’s who lies in the fact that Sacha is a woman. That leaves us with a fighting chance to distinguish the remaining four.

Through his research, Mike finds out a local lawyer used to help the church settle a lot of pedophilia matters behind closed doors – as in, the state wasn’t even involved. This was the first sign to Mike that something big was up.

After putting out some feelers, Mike learns that priests raping children isn’t the only part of this scandal. It turns out the head of the Catholic Church KNEW this was going on, and actively created a system to deal with these matters, which amounted to sending the offending priests to other churches, where they would just abuse more boys.

Mike’s main challenge is to find the public record that will ‘smoking gun’ this story. Because if it’s just a bunch of conjecture, the church will say it’s a lie and the nation will believe them. You have to remember, they have the man who created the universe on their side. That’s pretty persuasive.

Somehow, Mike finds out about a lone public record file that confirms everything. The question is, can he get it before the church finds it first? Because if he doesn’t, the story is dead and gone forever.

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While reading Spotlight, I found myself asking a very specific question: “Can a great story survive bad writing?” Because this scandal is, without question, a great story. You have a gigantic institution covering up a huge scandal. You have hypocrisy on the highest level. You have thousands of child victims. This kind of story writes itself.

Unless, that is, the writing is so bad that the amazing story gets buried. And that’s what happened here. I don’t even know where to begin. I guess we’ll start with the character count.

There were probably 60 characters introduced in this script. That’s 1 every 2 pages. This made it impossible to keep track of what was going on. Our characters would be flabbergasted on page 60 by the actions of a character that hadn’t been mentioned since page 15. Every time a name came up, you were saying, “Wait, who is that again?”

And I get that this isn’t a problem onscreen when you can see faces. But the laziness in which characters were introduced here was so bad, it felt like they weren’t even trying. Robby, for example, is introduced in a bland setting with the description: He’s a “Boston everyman.” WTF DOES THAT MEAN? How does that tell me ANYTHING about who he is?? I didn’t even know he was a reporter until I saw him working at the Globe 20 pages later.

Mike was introduced the same way. His big introductory scene is walking into a slummy apartment. What is this supposed to mean, exactly?? What does this tell me about Mike?? I didn’t know if Mike was an out-of-towner who just moved into this apartment, if he’d been kicked out of his house by his wife and had to stay here in the meantime. I didn’t know what he did for a living.

That’s what really bothered me. When you write characters, good writers know that the first thing you do – ESPECIALLY in a script with a ton of characters where it’s easy for the reader to get lost – is to introduce that character in a setting that tells us WHO THEY ARE. Look at how Jules and Vincent are introduced in Pulp Fiction. You know exactly what those characters do and who they are after that first scene.

There wasn’t even the tiniest attempt to clue us into who these people were when we met them. This forced me to make educated guesses throughout and only later put the pieces together on who this person was in relation to the story, well after key plot points regarding that character were mentioned, forcing me to mentally rewind and try to remember what those plot points were, now that I knew they were relevant.

Ironically, introducing any characters here was pointless. Because there are no characters in Spotlight. Oh sure, there are people who are pulling us through the story, but there are no CHARACTERS. Spotlight is one big investigation where we don’t know the difference between ANYONE.

I couldn’t mention one quality that was different between Mike and Robby. They were the same person – two reporters investigating a story. This extended to all the characters throughout Spotlight. They were all bland automatons trying to get a story for the Globe.

Why is this a big deal? Well, one, we don’t care about people we don’t know anything about. But the thing with character is, the more you know about a person, the more you can use that to connect plot and character.

For example, why don’t we have a single reporter here who is a diehard member of the Catholic Church??? That would’ve made them infinitely more interesting. Of course a character with no connection to the church is going to go after it. But if a reporter had, for example, an extremely religious wife? If their family went to church every Sunday? That person is going to be much more conflicted when it comes to investigating this story. That’s how you connect character and plot. But no attempts like that were ever made here.

And believe me, they had plenty of opportunities. The new editor of the Globe is Jewish. That was ripe for all sorts of conflict. Do the hardcore Catholics point to this editor as having an agenda? Do they pin all these accusations on that agenda? Does that begin to test the investigation? Does the editor start to back off as a result?

No. We don’t get anything like that. In fact, there is so little conflict in a story that might be the most conflict-filled of the past 20 years, you wonder if McCarthy even knows what conflict is.

There’s not even a real villain here. There’s this guy Cardinal Law, who’s mentioned a lot and who we see briefly a few times. But it’s always from afar. This guy could’ve infused this story with a shot of heroin if he started pressuring the paper to back off. We get none of that!

Why didn’t someone from the paper have a child who went to church? Who was directly in the line of fire. It’s as if the church and the paper lived on two completely different planets. Which was SO the wrong approach to take here. Connect your damn stories. Create more complexity between your elements. Why is this investigation so easy for everyone doing it???????

I don’t know how this movie’s going to play out at the box office. The real life story it’s based on is so good that I’m sure people will want to see it. I just think you’re going to have audiences leaving this film and feeling empty, not because it isn’t delivering an important message, but because after you leave the theater, you’ll realize you never knew a single character in the film.

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

What I learned: Find something everybody hates, then give us the worst version of that for your antagonist. You know something everyone hates? Bullies. “Spotlight” puts the spotlight on the biggest bully you can imagine, the Catholic Church – an institution that allows its employees to rape your children and then cover it up. No matter which way you look at it, that’s going to get people riled up and wanting to see that antagonist go down. And beyond making your hero succeed, that’s the other side of the equation you want to get right – making sure the audience wants to see your antagonist go down.

  • Bifferspice

    Sounds like a bad screenplay, but that’s a cracking review.

  • Thomas Anderson

    Some of my friends who saw it at TIFF were praising it heavily, specifically Michael Keaton’s performance.

    Also, kind of off-topic but does anyone have a copy of “Story of Your Life” by Eric Heisserer. If you could be kind enough to send a copy to “misformabuse@gmail.com” I would be very grateful.

    • Scott Crawford

      Sent!

  • Scott Crawford

    Looking at those pictures of Rachel McAdams frowning, I’m reminded of Elliot and Rossio’s advice:

    “here’s “Wordplay’s Iron-Clad Rule of Box Office Success”: let your hero smile. Most films, and all bad ones, have the hero striding along wearing dour expressions, looking like their teeth hurt. But think of any movie you love, and I bet you can remember a shot of the hero breaking out in a grin. And hey, if you want a really big hit, let your hero smile in Act I, Act II and Act III. Works every time.”

    http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp32.Plot.Devices.html

    http://media2.popsugar-assets.com/files/2013/11/15/871/n/1922398/33809d58cafd8de4_thumb_temp204441301353122090.mlarge/i/Rachel-McAdams-Smiling-Pictures-Over-Years.jpg

    That’s better!

    • Malibo Jackk

      Sold.

    • brenkilco

      I thought Mcadams was surprisingly good in TD 2. And the fact that her adorable dimples still have a few more years of useful life but she’s refusing to trade on them is commendable. As for the smile thesis, dunno. Can’t think of too many thrillers where the hero smiled much after the first act. And while Steve Mcqueen used to grin constantly in his early movies, in his biggest hit Bullit he stayed pretty stone faced through the whole thing.

      • Scott Crawford

        Point is, people don’t go to the cinema to be miserable, at least MOST people. And one of the surest ways to be miserable is to watch other people be miserable. Of course they’ll be exceptions, plenty of films with so many pratfalls, explosions, car chases and scenes of human intercourse that the characters don’t need to flash their pearly whites.

        But if your story is a bunch of people in room talking (as per Carson’s review) and they’re not smiling, and there’s no conflict… Yes, not giving your hero a moment to smile is a good INDICATION that something is wrong.

        • Midnight Luck

          I’m miserable when I watch a spandex movie that relies too much on spectacle and not enough on character, intelligence, and creativity.
          Or any movie for that matter.

          • Scott Crawford

            But do you deliberately seek out miserable experiences? Are you secretly a goth?

          • Midnight Luck

            I think I think too much.
            But not necessarily in a goth way.

      • klmn

        I can’t remember Clint Eastwood ever smiling onscreen. Maybe in Paint Your Wagon,

        • brenkilco

          Actually, though he deploys it far more sparingly than his trademark squint, Eastwood’s wry grin is used to good advantage in a number of his films. It doesn’t always mean he’s feeling friendly.

          • Scott Crawford

            The squint, I’m sure you know, is because he can’t take a lot of light. Shit out of luck he was born in California then!

            (He’s also allergic to horses. And a vegetarian, but that’s not a problem.).

        • filmklassik

          COCA-COLA COWBOY, by Mel Tillis

          I called collect on the phone
          You say you’re tired and alone
          But it sounds like someone else is lying there
          She said don’t call me no more
          Don’t you knock on my door
          Its too late now, and I know you’ll never change
          She said….

          [Chorus:]
          Youre just a Coca Cola cowboy
          You got an Eastwood smile, and Robert Redford hair
          But you walked across my heart like it was Texas
          And you taught me how to say I just don’t care

          She said just leave me alone
          And let me hang up this phone
          Cause he’ll see me cry, and think I still love you
          Please don’t call me no more
          I changed the locks on my door
          Its time you understood that we are through
          She said….

          Youre just a Coca Cola cowboy
          You got an Eastwood smile, and Robert Redford hair
          But you walked across my heart like it was Texas
          And you taught me how to say I just don’t care

          (Guitar solo)

          She said…
          Youre just a Coca Cola cowboy
          You got an Eastwood smile, and Robert Redford hair
          But you walked across my heart like it was Texas
          And you taught me how to say I just don’t care

          Yes she taught me how to say I just don’t care

  • Magga

    Based on the awards-class chatter, I think you might just have slammed the best screenplay winner at the Oscars again, since this is currently number 1 on the power rankings. Not that awards are always right, of course, in fact the opposite is almost always true (RIP Golden Age of TV, 1999-2015)

    • Scott Crawford

      The people who vote for best screenplay don’t have to READ the screenplay, at least not before seeing the film. If they did, their opinion might be different.

      • brenkilco

        Hey, you generally have everything. If you happen to have Spotlight could you send it to brenkilco@gmail.com. Thanks.

        • Scott Crawford

          Sent!

          • brenkilco

            Thanks again

  • Eric

    Anyone remember this…

    That’s Sinead O’Conner singing a cover of Bob Marley’s WAR. At the end she rips up a picture of then Pope John Paul II. It’s a performance that destroyed her career and it was all done to protest the Catholic Church’s covering up of sexual abuse allegations.

    It happened in 1992.

    This was a worldwide problem that could’ve easily been on our radar for decades. But you can’t break a story that no one wants to hear about. No doubt I’m glad the Boston Globe raised awareness. Better late then never, and something had to break at some point. But it does strike me as ten years too freakin’ late. A story about their reporters “discovering” this should emphasize how completely ignorant the media must have been for not already being aware of it.

    I’d be much more interested in a story that explored what internal mechanisms allowed American news media to ignore this story for ten years (even as it received major coverage in other countries) before finally growing a pair.

  • Ana

    An amazing movie about the subject in question is “El club”, 2015. It’s a chilean movie where the priests who are child molesters, are excommunicated from the Church and sent away to this house as not to harm the Church’s image instead of being put in the public eye. A very powerful movie with the most beautiful cinematography.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4375438/

  • brenkilco

    Early word is that audiences are loving this just the facts approach to a fascinating subject and the movie is a lock for a best picture nom. Different strokes. But what honestly is the difference between this and an acknowledged classic like All The President’s Men? Sure it was just two reporters doing the digging in the Watergate picture. But we were never told much about them. They were dogged and that was about it. Except that they were Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. So we watched them. And that movie had about sixty characters to keep track of and no villains. Nixon and his cohorts remained deliberately off screen And somehow it worked. Most of the time characters carry the story. But once in a while the story is so strong it can carry the characters.

    But I don’t entirely disagree with your point. About thirty years ago heavyweight director Sydney Lumet who specialized in this sort of complex, mutli-character, based on fact material delivered a movie that was supposed to clean up at the Oscars and catapult its lead actor to the big time. A three hour long epic on police corruption, meticulously researched, and with about a hundred speaking parts, every one perfectly cast. It opened and it died. And today hardly anybody remembers Prince of The City. Star Treat Williams didn’t make the big time and gradually descended into B movie oblivion. It is arguably a great movie. So why did it fail? Too many characters, too many points of view, too much factual info delivered too quickly, too realistic and low key, too many shades of moral grey, too open ended. All or none of the above. Who knows? Perhaps because unlike President’s Men and Spotlight threre was no goal we desperately wanted to see accomplished. Complex, real life stories are tough.

    • Scott Crawford

      All the President’s Men may have played a part in scuppering Gerald Ford’s 1976 run for president.

      Will this film do the same for Hilary Clinton next year?

      • brenkilco

        In a world where Donald Trump is a viable presidential contender and Michael Bay is influencing our political discourse……

        • Scott Crawford

          I don’t think Michael Bay is trying to be political, I think he just wants to tell a good story about military heroes (the sort of people who have been helping him make movies for the past couple of decades).

          But there are some stories that some people with an extraordinary amount of power don’t want to be told. What happened in Benghazi in 2012 is one of them. The Catholic Church and pedophiles. Scientology. Steve Jobs.

          In other words, this isn’t Zero Dark Thirty, this isn’t the Obama administration passing classified documents to the filmmakers to get their movie made. This is Hilary Clinton, who stopped Path to 9/11 getting a DVD release. (Even the Wikipedia article on that TV show seems to have been edited by the Clintons!).

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Path_to_9/11

          • Magga

            How extraordinary is their power when every subject you just mentioned has had major productions concerning the themes recently? Benghazi is probably the event this decade where the amount of talk is the most disproportionate to the level of political importance.

          • Scott Crawford

            This isn’t a political website so I’ll just say, if the assassination of US ambassadors at an under-protected foreign consul had occurred when a Republican was in the White House, it would have been more discussed issue and not pushed aside until after the president was reelected (re: the 60 Minutes interview). Even if 13 Hours doesn’t blame Hilary Clinton or the Obama administration, if it’s a success – and I think it will be after Act of Valor, Lone Survivor and American Sniper – then it will put into the spotlight an event that Hilary Clinton (and to a lesser extent Joe Biden) does not want illuminated.

          • Kirk Diggler

            “if the assassination of US ambassadors at an under-protected foreign consul had occurred when a Republican was in the White House, it would have been more discussed issue and not pushed aside”

            I have a feeling you aren’t familiar with how things work in this country. Benghazi was a 24/7 news story for months on every single Rupert Murdoch or conservative-owned media outlet. Right-wing members of congress, who have no real interest in being legislators, wanted to hold endless hearings on Benghazi, the same ones who would never point a finger at the myriad of Bush administration failings.

            In fact, had Benghazi occurred under a Republican administration it would have been a perfect opportunity for them to gin up more war and put boots on the ground in a foreign country.

          • Scott Crawford

            Actually, I know quite a bit about American politics. Every single Murdoch or conservative-owned media outlet. So, like, Fox News? And the town hall debate “moderator” taking Obama’s side when he was questioned about Benghazi?

          • Kirk Diggler

            Umm… she didn’t take anyone’s ‘side’. Absurd comment. This clip, if anything, just illustrates the semantic bullsh1t that people were willing to engage in regarding the Benghazi story.

          • Scott Crawford

            Final comment ’cause I’m bored: If nobody has a problems with “the Benghazi story”, I look forward to the political reaction when 13 Hours is released in January.

          • Eric

            If by “taking Obama’s side” you mean confirming a stated fact. There was video of what they were talking about. Romney’s assertion (that it took Obama 14 days to call it an “act of terror” was just flat wrong). Now I’m guessing Romney didn’t know that, or else he never would’ve said it. There was still a case to be made about the White House’s statements being conflicted in the days after (kind of expected after an attack, but…), Romney was apparently incapable of making that case. That’s an unfortunate consequence of never peeking outside the bubble of your own argument. But would you prefer moderators to allow politicians a bold-faced lie or factual inaccuracies when they know otherwise?

            Maybe you could argue only one side’s facts would be checked, but that just means there needs to be more of it. These politicians hate going off script, so it shouldn’t be hard to anticipate what they’ll lie about next. But the idea that moderators simply allow debaters to lie even if they know better is the reason Presidential Debates aren’t taken seriously anymore. It’s no longer an honest debate that uses facts as the groundwork for an argument. It’s just a slightly different venue to try to make the same talking points you’ve been making all along.

          • Scott Crawford

            Calling something an “act of terror” while continuing to blame the attack on a You Tube video.

            http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/oct/17/mitt-romney/romney-says-obama-waited-14-days-call-libya-attack/

            You’re right, Romney was wrong to get caught up in semantics. You can never win on semantics. But we all know what Obama meant. Like I said, I’m bored of this now. Just wait until January.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Yes, just wait, because we all know the Michael Bay version of events will be the standard bearer on the subject for years to come.

          • Eric

            Yeah, but the reason for the confusion was because there was an actual YouTube video that did result in violent demonstrations around the Muslim world. That story hit first. Muslims protest over video. Then, on that very day, Benghazi was attacked, and the administration had to address two separate issues while not even knowing whether or not they were really two separate issues. Even if they knew that the incidents were unconnected, they couldn’t just be silent about the video protests. Those were real things that were really happening. You can’t just ignore it because it makes your talking points less linear. Even today there is speculation that the attack was intentionally coordinated with the video protests to confuse response teams. It took some unpacking and in the meantime, the White House seemed confused.

            The only salient point is that Clinton’s State Department denied requests for additional security. But that point wouldn’t get better if the attack had actually been a protest, it’d get worse. The idea that a spontaneous demonstration overtook embassy security seems more damning to me than the idea that a planned terrorist strike did, so I’m not sure what Obama would’ve gotten out of that lie.

          • Magga

            I wrote an answer, trying to not start a political debate here, and I guess it’s impossible. Hard to resist (COUGH 87 deaths in embassy and consulate attacks during the previous admin COUGH) but let’s just focus on our common goals as writers.

          • Scott Crawford

            Oh, totally agree. I don’t want to spend hours pouring through online documents trying to write a thesis on the subject. But just a cursory glance shows many attempts to bury the story.

          • Magga

            Our discussion is becoming a metaphor for how to bury exposition :)

          • Scott Crawford

            Well, think about recent film Everest. Is it as critical of the (real-life) characters as it might be? No. If you want truth, watch a documentary. I think.

          • Magga

            Agree. I was just joking about how the way we talk around the political points we might want to make while dropping them in is how Carson insists we should treat exposition in dialogue.

      • Lucid Walk

        Funny you mentioned All The President’s Men.
        It bored the crap out of me because, like this script, it didn’t have any characters. Every one was the same. The only one who stood out was Deep Throats, the dude who met the reporters at the parking garage and kept his face hidden in the shadows.

        • Scott Crawford

          I liked it but it was quite dry at times. I don’t think that’ll be the case with 13 Hours – I think it’ll fire people up.

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

      This applies to another Goldman-penned script: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Take away Paul Newman and Robert Redford and it becomes, not a boring movie, but a lackluster one. You just loved seeing those guys because you wished you could be buddies with them, or maybe because they reminded you of a buddy of your own, that’s how great the chemistry was. I never thought the story itself was terrific enough to grant the movie classic status.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Serpico came out in 1973
      before Prince of the City (1981).

      Lumet was repeating himself.

      • brenkilco

        I don’t necessarily think Lumet was repeating himself. Prince was far more complex in every way than Serpico, which at bottom was just a heroic guy against the system movie. And yes, the movie had no hero. One of it’s many problems from a box office point of view. Funny how our deeply ingrained, schoolyard aversion to tattling makes it incredibly difficult for a film maker to set up a whistle blower as a sympathetic protag. You have to kill his brother as in On The Waterfront or shoot him in the face as in Serpico to make it work.

  • Randy Williams

    Sometimes an audience realizes an antagonist cannot “go down”. Us little people understand the influence of large organizations, money, power. Even absolution. What leaves us satisfied is seeing and understanding how the protaganist lives with it.
    When I was a kid I ran away from home. My mother didn’t know my whereabouts for one month. The only clue she had was that someone saw me talking to a nun. You can imagine what horrific scenarios that brought to the imagination. (For the record, she was just being friendly). Years later as an adult I asked my mother how did she cope, not knowing whether I was alive or dead. She responded, “I was dead for you.”

  • Joe Marino

    As one of the people who saw the film at TIFF, I can say that it’s a very good film even considering that it’s 99% exposition. I think Ruffalo and Tucci walk off with the best performances of the film, but it’s not a film about performances. It’s definitely trying to be like “All the President’s Men” or “Zodiac” in terms of “it’s all about the investigation, not the characters.” Also, I have to say, they were kinda trapped in keeping things true-to-life (so none of the obvious drama tropes we’d use were able to be implemented). So considering the “Spotlight” is 100% keeping with the true story, I enjoyed myself. Even without a full-on antagonist, we’re rooting for these guys to nail the church.

    • Scott Crawford

      That reminds me of President’s Men, where people praised the film for its accuracy, and William Goldman pointed out that they HAD to be accurate because they had so many people threatening to sue them!

      • GYAD

        I was going to say, in response to Carson’s review, that of course it has to stick close to the facts or else they’d get sued to hell (pun intended).

        In retrospect, Zero Dark Thirty is quite amusing because of how that film is so matter of fact when actually they were getting used by the administration as a new version of Argo.

    • Will_Alexander

      I don’t think ZODIAC is “all about the investigation, not the characters.”

      I think it does a truly brilliant job of finding the right balance, and ultimately becoming ONLY about Gyllenhaal’s obsessive character, after scratching at the core of Downey Jr.’s cynical reporter and pulling back a layer of Ruffalo’s detective.

      I just love that movie. If you really feel that it’s lacking in the character department, I’d encourage you to give it another view. It is not a character piece in the classic sense, no, but I believe it does do the job necessary for the kind of movie it is when it comes to giving you multi-dimensional characters to follow and identify with. I’d say pay particular attention to the final act. It doesn’t have an ‘investigation’ to wrap up in any conventional way, so those characters and their personal revelations are all the story can rely on for any real conclusion.

      • Magga

        I’ll say it again, best movie of… What do we call that decade? The noughties? The aughts? Did we ever land on something? Anyway, stone-cold masterpiece with GREAT characters, including the character of San Francisco

        • brenkilco

          What’s most fascinating about it is that it really has no business working. But it does beautifully.

          • Magga

            It actually just hit me that one of my absolute favorite kinds of scenes is when a bunch of characters discuss documents, hearsay and evidence and piece together a theory. It’s very non-visual, I guess, but it has that feeling of elation that you get from a prison break-out or whatever, but with detail and a bit of co-writing from the viewer. They’re also great bonding moments between characters

          • brenkilco

            Also love these kinds of scenes especially where the audience is allowed to piece things together along with the characters. One of my favorite seventies thrillers is The Day of The Jackal where we spend a lot of time just observing the mechanics of creating a false identity. Cool, fascinating stuff. Not the kind of thing you see much in today’s impatient, dumbed down film culture.

          • Scott Crawford

            One of the cleverest bits of info I found in a Frederick Forsyth story was in The Devil’s Alternative where he explains how you send a postcard in Soviet Russia by taking a flight to Japan and changing at Moscow (allowing you to post mail internally). Goes on for several pages. THAT’s detail.

            Trouble is, such scenes are silent, and there’s an opposition to silence in scripts/movies. Has to be talking.

            Massive Frederick Forsyth fan. Reading his autobiography, The Outsider, which includes his real life exploits like trying to find out what South Africa was going to do with its nukes when Apartheid ended (trouble was, many of the people in South African government were CRAZY, but Forsyth knew one of the good ones). Make a good movie.

          • Levres de Sang

            I watched this only the other day! It’s absorbing on every level and Edward Fox as the Jackal is casting perfection. Just that you’re rooting for him so much, the end does fall a little flat; but its a minor quibble in an otherwise superlative picture. I also suspect Zinnemann had been influenced by the likes of Rohmer, Truffaut et al for the brilliantly naturalistic verité-style scenes…

            ** I’m also a huge admirer of Zodiac for the reason that it seems to be one of the few modern films that achieves this same level of fascination.

          • brenkilco

            Amazing that Fox was so good since his specialty thereafter was playing stiff necked or silly ass brit types. And yes, given Zinneman’s long Hollywood experience the movie does have a very European visual style.

          • Will_Alexander

            That kind of scene, which I also love, can be as visual as you want it to be. Remember, the camera can go literally anywhere at any time. We can watch anything happening onscreen as those people are piecing together the puzzle on the soundtrack.

            Sometimes the best thing will be to just stay with the characters, but you don’t have to.

          • Magga

            I know, it’s just that I really like it when they do stay with the characters.

  • Scott Crawford

    I think Room might win best adapted. My gut feeling is the winners/nominees next year will be about ethnic minorities, gay and transgender characters and made by or simply starring women.

    I might be wrong, but I think there’s a PC brigade that wants to promote social issues over quality film making. Don’t get me wrong, if they deserve to win they should win. My feeling is, with no CLEAR winner on the horizon, that’s the way its heading.

  • brenkilco

    Got the script courtesy of Scott and plowed through the whole thing. Carson isn’t just wrong on this one. He’s completely deluded. This script isn’t just good. It’s bullet proof. After a somewhat slow start it is absolutely compelling every single scene for its duration.

    Yes it’s an ensemble piece and the narrative is the star. And yes it would take good actors to make he most of the few emotional opportunities they’re given. And yes, the nuts and bolts investigative action is perhaps not as riveting as it would be in a fictional detective thriller. And yes, the key piece of evidence is essentially lying in plain sight from early on and the legal hurdles preventing its acquisition are a little fuzzy. But all that said, it is still awfully damned good.

    There is actually a montage involving excel spreadsheets that if done right will have audiences clutching their armrests. Excel spreadsheets for God’s sake! This script is an object lesson in how to fashion real life events into compelling drama. The way tidbits of suspician ultimately develop into a vast web of conspiracy. The structure is first rate. If you truly don’t think this script works I don’t know what to say.

    • Scott Crawford

      You know… I DO love a good spreadsheet!

  • Cavil

    Well, I’m neither Jewish nor Catholic, but to be honest that sounds exactly like the sort of sentence paranoid-conspiracy-theorist-anti-semites would write. ‘Oh no! The Jews have taken over Hollyweird and are corrupting our youth with their love of money and superheroes!’

    If that’s not the sort of sentiment you had in mind, I’d politely suggest you could edit your post…

    It it is, why don’t you grow up or go away.

  • fragglewriter

    I’m having trouble posting on my end so sorry if I post duplicate comments.
    Side note:
    1) I’m thinking of getting Final Draft and not using Celtx as I can’t find a reliable internet provider. What should I consider before downloading?
    2) Is there anyone submitting to the Insider Screenwriting Contes? I’m trying my best to do it and Good Luck to all who enter.
    3) I got advance tickets too see The Martian, 141 minutes – in 3D next Tuesday and The Walk, 124 minutes – in IMAX 3D , next Monday. Both movies are long running times. I went to an advance screening of The Intern with Robert Deniro andAnne Hathawy last Friday and walked out of the theatre 15 minutes later. I thought the film was cute but about 40 years too later. The older audience members lapped it up though.

    • ripleyy

      “Fade In” is the future (in my opinion, but I’m pretty biased seeing as I have it) and cheaper than “Final Draft” from what I can remember when I was searching for something good. That is, if you want to be different. I’m sure “Final Draft” is a fine piece of software.

      • fragglewriter

        I’ve read about both. I’d rather get a users experience then plow down money for something that I would give me buyer’s remorse.

        • SandbaggerOne

          I use both FD and MovieMagic for work. Yes, 85% of all shows use FD, but I feel that is mainly due to inertia and the hassle of making a change. I’ve found (and this applies to myself as well) that most people seem to prefer MovieMagic once they make the change. Lots of TV series (and all the Jerry Bruckheimer ones from what I’ve experienced) use MM as it is so good for outlining and planning so that makes it very useful on a series when you may have multiple episodes going at once. (Also MM’s additional scheduling software is the industry standard, but that doesn’t matter much to writers).

          I’d say it doesn’t matter what software you use as long as it does nice, clean PDF’s as that’s what most people will ever see. And if/when you ever start selling scripts or getting assignments, then you’ll probably end up buying both as you’ll never know which one the producers might prefer.

          • Scott Crawford

            FD is VHS and MM is Betamax. Sort of. MM works great, maybe better than FD, but few(er) people use it. So if you want to collaborate with another writer, you really want to be using the same software. Not impossible to do it otherwise, but could end in a lot of rewriting.

      • fragglewriter

        Other than needing the Internet to download the program, will I need it throughout my auditing process such as for saving or can I just save to the software?

        • Scott Crawford

          Not quite sure of the question. What I can tell you is, what you buy is a LICENCE, not the software. The software you download from the website. You enter the LICENCE to activate it. That means you can put FD on multiple computers (you’ll need internet connection to activate, I think).

          After that, it’s just like any other WP software.

          • ripleyy

            Same with Fade In. You buy the license and put it on anything, even tablets.

          • fragglewriter

            Great. I just want to make sure that I only need to internet infrequently and not for saving the document (versions) each time.

          • ericjeske
          • fragglewriter

            I noticed that and that why I asked about reviews. Fade In crashed my hard drive and I need to pay $900 to restore it back to my computer. I’m not looking to go through that again.

          • ericjeske

            dang, that sucks. sorry about that. I don’t have much to compare it to since I’ve only used final draft (no complaints tho) but like Scott mentions below, it is (for now) industry standard and it DOES export to .pdf wonderfully.

          • fragglewriter

            That’s good to know. I have a Mac. What operating system do you have?

          • ericjeske

            I use a mac – OS X Yosemite

          • fragglewriter

            Ok. I’ll download it tonight.

          • CCM30

            How did Fade In crash your hard drive?

          • fragglewriter

            The program stopped responding and couldn’t close nor could the computer shut down. It stalled and just crashed.

            Genius couldn’t fix my computer and sent me to one of there 3rd party tech people. They gave me a blank computer and told me not to accept any upgrades to my computer, no matter how many notices that I receive to update.

        • Midnight Luck

          You can just save.
          Internet is only needed for help functions or to record your script with wga, or to add or remove the number of computers you have the program attached to.

    • Scott Crawford

      Don’t quite get the FULL hatred for Final Draft. It’s not perfect, but I still recommend it.

      Haven’t used Celtx in a while, but the older versions I didn’t think did a good job when it comes to page breaks, etc. Maybe that’s been fixed. Definitely been fixed on Final Draft.

      Buy Final Draft when it’s on offer and you won’t want to upgrade for several years. You won’t NEED to upgrade for over a decade, so it amounts to just a few bucks a year.

      I like the final result, the PDF you get with Final Draft, it’s clean and looks like everyone else’s script (a good thing). All the formatting is done right.

      Biggest problem for me: Tricky to import a script from another program, so if you’ve written a script on your favorite word processor and THEN want to to open it in Final Draft, you’ll want to run it through Screenplain and the Fountain markup language first. Even then you have to fix the page numbers. Other programs you don’t have to that.

      Another plus of Final Draft is that a lot of people still use it. Maybe the figures will change over time, but for now FD remains “standard” (almost every pro script I check out was written on Final Draft. ALMOST. EVERY. ONE).

      I appreciate Nancy Myers for what she does as a writer/director, but I don’t care for her movies. I think the movie will be a success though. Can’t watch movies in 3D or on IMAX – burns my eyeballs!

    • Kirk Diggler

      Anyone hear Amy Schumer’s joke about Final Draft at the Emmy’s last night? Something like, ‘we didn’t own Final Dratt, but once the show became a hit we had to go out and buy it’.

    • hickeyyy

      I will forever sing the praises of Writer Duet. It’s the best out there, in my opinion.

      http://www.writerduet.com

    • Midnight Luck

      I find Final Draft incredibly simple and easy. You don’t have to do anything while you write, except write. I hate when more of your attention needs to be focused on working with a program than doing the work you need to do.
      I found Illustrator and Photoshop to be that way, back in the day.
      Final Draft?
      Easy peasy.

      As for the insider contest, it can be fun, but it has been going downhill since they stopped have pro screenwriters coming up with the loglines.
      Now the loglines are so average and boring they are just tedious.
      Good luck if you enter. I found the latest round of loglines to be way too generic.

  • GYAD

    “The new editor of the Globe is Jewish. That was ripe for all sorts of conflict. Do the hardcore Catholics point to this editor as having an agenda? Do they pin all these accusations on that agenda? Does that begin to test the investigation? Does the editor start to back off as a result?”

    Can you even imagine making that argument IRL? Could you say “blood libel” before the NYT got in there? The Catholic Church would have got hammered even worse than they did if they’d tried that line in public. It’d be PR suicide.

    Of course, there is a certain irony in Hollywood making a film about sexual abuse…

  • Cfrancis1

    This must have gone through some extensive rewrites or it just plays better when acted out because I’ve been hearing some fantastic things about this film.

    • Scott Crawford

      Both those points are valid, in particular – given the multiple protagonists argument – seeing the actors would make it easier to distinguish the characters.

  • fragglewriter

    While reading this script, I imagined the cartoon “Scooby Doo.” The Spotlight team is looking for the bad person and the clues are laid out for them in clear sight. Now I understand the difficulty in having a secure and unthinkable hiding place, but for the Priests records, I would try my best to either use a different annotation for the sick time, hide the books, or if I’m really brave, no books at all. so no trace.

  • brenkilco

    I’m on the fence on this. The script is flashy and clever, full of cute reversals etc. But I too wonder if without the two stars, the music, the impressive lensing and editing, it would have succeeded,

    You could also argue that stylewise But Cassidy is the Ur text of modern screenwriting and that given all the lesser writers who have copied him, Mr. Goldman has a lot to answer for.

    • filmklassik

      The “Ur text of modern screenwriting” — love it! You’re right, a case can definitely be made that Goldman was the first person to say of screenplays, “Jesus Christ, these things are as dry as the Sahara. Why can’t they be breezy and readable, and, if possible, FUN?”

      I adore William Goldman. And even on his worst days (and he’s had a few) his screenplays are always fun.

  • klmn

    Today’s food reference, “Hotter than a Chicago pizza oven.”

    I’m not sure what to make of, “… I just want to lick those names, they look so yummy. You can lick them too, on November 6th…” That’s just disturbing.

    • Scott Crawford

      Never write a script review when you’re hungry.

  • Midnight Luck

    I saw the trailer just the other day for SPOTLIGHT when I was at the movies seeing A WALK IN THE WOODS.

    • hickeyyy

      This looks fucking awesome. Not sure how that trailer could end in a terrible movie.

  • Midnight Luck

    As I watched the preview and as I read your coverage of the script, all I can think of is ERIN BROCKOVICH.

    Why did that movie work? Why was it so damn good? It all hinged on her finding that ONE PIECE OF PAPER that showed the link and proved the company knew what it was doing hurt and killed people. And she had to find it before the company found it and either buried it 6 feet deep never to be found, or disappeared it forever.

    The reason it worked was, the Protagonist was a BIG CHARACTER. Larger than Life.

    She captivated on screen. You loved watching her. You pulled for her. You cared about all the characters involved. They each had things they wanted and you wanted them to get.

    • Scott Crawford

      It was also not quite true. And the story about what happened afterwards is a little depressing:

      http://www.cracked.com/article_19564_6-based-true-story-movies-with-unpleasant-epilogues.html

      But that’s what movies are.

      • Midnight Luck

        I so do not want to know this info. Now you’ve burst my bubble about the movie and Erin B.
        If the article is true, I cannot believe they would act so malicious and kind of evil toward all these sick people.
        Ugh, I am disgusted now.
        How do I get this bad taste out of my mouth?

        • Scott Crawford

          I am honestly sorry if I’ve ruined anything for you. Not my intention.

          I just want to highlight the fact that movies are FICTION, even the true ones.

          • Midnight Luck

            I have no illusions that movies are “true”.
            But I sure want them to be sometimes.

    • Malibo Jackk

      “I always wear panties.”
      — Erin Brockovich
      from her phone message to Susannah Grant
      after reading her first draft of the script.

  • klmn

    Speaking of covering up child abuse, this just hit the web yesterday.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/world/asia/us-soldiers-told-to-ignore-afghan-allies-abuse-of-boys.html?_r=1

    “KABUL, Afghanistan — In his last phone call home, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father what was troubling him: From his bunk in southern Afghanistan, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.

    “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture…”

    • GYAD

      Everyone’s known about that since 2001. The only new stuff is about the SOF guys who got busted for trying to put a stop to it. It’s depressing…but that’s American foreign policy for you.

  • http://the-movie-nerd.com themovienerd

    Here’s where I strongly disagree with you Carson. And where I think you garner most of your criticism from “Industry insiders.”

    Here, you use “serious looking men talking in rooms” as a criticism of a film based on what you’re seeing in a trailer. That somehow because this is what the trailer is showing, the film itself must then do something exceptional to really reel you in – these serious men talking are going to struggle to “entertain” you.

    There are two avenues that to me, prove your criticism “wrong” (as far as an opinion can be wrong):

    1) There is an audience who is entertained by serious men talking in rooms about serious things. They appreciated nuanced acting, writing and direction. They appreciate films that challenge. They appreciate films that go on to be seen as “classics.” Is the “Godfather” not mostly serious men talking in rooms about serious things, sprinkled with violence? Is not “All the Presidents Men?” There is a definite place for these films in our lexicon.

    2) While the audience above is not “huge” (these movies will not ever be “tent-poles”), and while these movies will never make hundreds-upon-hundreds-of-millions dollars at the box office, it does not mean these movies cannot be profitable or successful. Now. Yes. As a STARTING screenwriter, if you are going to undertake this type of screenplay, you had best hit a grandslam-homerun, or forget about it. Studios are probably not ever going to buy one of these screenplays on spec, let alone buy one on spec from from a first time writer, barring that grand slam home run. This reality does NOT mean however, that these types of films should simply be written off, or be placed in a race wherein they must “Entertain” in the same way as a “Bourne” or “Guardians of the Galaxy.” They are filling different spaces, and it is possible for these films to be financially viable opposite a big opening. Which means, if a given Studio (or smaller distributor) is interested in competing with those types of films, a great strategy that can work is to put out these types of films that fill those different spaces and draw different audiences.

    My 2-cents.

    • Scott Crawford

      If I was a starting screenwriter – and I guess I am, just very slow and easygoing about it – I wouldn’t write a screenplay about Catholic child abuse. Or Benghazi. I’d stick to “entertainments” – but maybe more in the Graham Greene sense.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Greene

      • Monique B

        Begs the question of whether “based on a true story” should be avoided by rookies as a general rule. Which would mean I’ve just wasted the last 5 months of my life …

        • CCM30

          No lol. That’s definitely not a general rule I would abide by.

          Most, if not all, “general rules” or absolutes in screenwriting are not worth heeding.

          • Scott Crawford

            Heed but don’t necessarily obey.

        • Scott Crawford

          Inspirational, amazing, shocking, life-affirming true stories, yes, definitely write them. Look at Catherine the Great or this year’s spec The Virginian about George Washington. Controversial true stories, the one’s where you could get sued or blackballed I would probably avoid at least until you’ve got your foot in the door. Which I haven’t.

  • jw

    These types of films happen all the time though. Look at something like LIONS FOR LAMBS. This was a play shot as a film. We watched because of Cruise, Redford, Streep and the like, but realistically it was talking heads. Personally, I agree that it isn’t difficult to do these films justice. I mean, look at the number of examples you have to choose from, even if just from the last few years – THE INSIDER and ERIN BROCKOVICH come to mind as the most commercial, but very well done at the same time.

    If you aren’t already reading the Steven Brill real-life big pharma expose, you should be! Head over to the Huffington Post for that one! That should be the next INSIDER!

    • Scott Crawford

      That’s a lot of information!

      http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/miracleindustry/americas-most-admired-lawbreaker/chapter-1.html

      Trouble is, THE INSIDER was a box office FLOP, earning just 2/3 of its $90 million cost.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Insider_(film)#Box_office

      You’d have to find a way to make the story more of a thriller (not car chases, but really tense).

      • jw

        I have to say that maybe I take a less cynical view on WHY FILMS ARE MADE than maybe even Carson, or yourself. I’m the first to admit money makes the world go ’round, but at the same time, I think there are people with deep enough pockets who actually just want to see a decent/different story told. Now, that doesn’t excuse the film Carson’s referencing here in terms of execution or professionalism, but to say that every film “has to have x, y & z in order to be considered a success” is something that I don’t agree with. There have been plenty of films and television shows that have been “off-center” that have been “successes” or found a different way to be categorized as such (some of them won last night). I don’t happen to believe the “powers that be” release real-life, true stories for the sole purpose of creating commercial success (we have franchises for that). The Insider was nominated for 7 Oscars, so while you’re absolutely right that commercially it was not an explosion, if you asked the actors, directors and writers what they felt about the project, odds are they’d say it was a huge accomplishment. I don’t think they’re wrong.

        • Scott Crawford

          I take the Truffaut approach that, if a film is not successful, it means that not enough people have seen it. Not enough people saw The Insider for it to have a huge impact.

          Studios DO make movies for the critical acclaim, knowing they won’t make much money, but they WON’T spend on a movie that is likely to lose money (not that they can always predict that). Such “powerful” stories thus become the domain of the low-budget. In which case, will people go an see it?

          • jw

            A bit late to this comment, but I think it’s worth pointing out that at one time your hypothesis was true. If a film wasn’t seen in the theaters then it was hardly seen, however, we’re now in a day and a time where viewers are consuming media in non-traditional manners. Because of this, your hypothesis is less valid. Of course, the measure of box office success is still filling the seats, but the “success” of a films “reach” and viewership is now defined in so many other ways.

    • Scott Strybos

      The Insider and Erin Brockovich are your examples of films “from the last few years”? I hate to do this to you, but both these films were released over a decade ago, in the 20th century. We’re currently in a whole new millennia.

      • jw

        Tru that! Totally aged myself there, and you are correct dear sir.

        • Scott Strybos

          I am pretty sure we are close to the same age. Or at the very least, I am old enough to have been old enough to watch and appreciate those films when they were released.

          • jw

            No doubt! And, realistically we’re probably very close to Carson’s age as well. Your comment made me pause though and wonder why I hadn’t come up with a more recent true story and to be completely honest, I just couldn’t think of one with the amount of reverence I have for those 2, so either that’s a comment on me as a viewer, or a comment on film and its lessening impact. Maybe both?

          • Midnight Luck

            Shattered Glass with the hat kid from m the New Crap Star Wars movies.
            That’s newer-ish.
            And it takes place in a newspaper or magazine environment I believe.

          • jw

            And, there’s definitely a reason I didn’t remember that one! Ouch! (Hayden Christensen)

          • Midnight Luck

            Hayden was actually decent, or possibly even good in it. I actually enjoyed it.

          • Scott Strybos

            Fire in the Sky

            Although, technically, that film is older. And not true.

    • kent

      Just read an article in The Manhattan Contrarian that says the Brill article is completely untrue. Hard to know what to believe.

      • jw

        Not sure what you’re talking about because the entirety of the SERIES that makes up one GIANT article hasn’t even been released. I think they’re only on Chapter 8 of 15 at the moment. And, contrary to most articles these days, which often cite “anonymous” sources, Brill opts to do the complete opposite and actually include links to the emails and documents he’s referencing, which means as a reader I can view an email where an executive is basically saying “fuck the public, we’ll do what we want.”

        Quite a nice touch and if anything of substance actually penetrated the walls of this country it would be causing a firestorm at the moment. Unfortunately, our intelligence has been replaced with reality TV and talking heads (or toupees). Johnson & Johnson has nothing to worry about because no one will go to jail, no one will take the fall, all of the grilling will be posturing for the camera and consumers will still continue to purchase their products.

        Disassociated consumerism is an interesting topic and one that defies logic on so many levels.

        • kent

          Read it here: http://manhattancontrarian.com/

          It’s titled: “When falsely shouting “crime” pays.”

          Basically, it is a review of the first 6 chapters of the Brill article saying that the FDA is breaking all kinds of laws in what they are doing, but they have the ultimate deep pockets. They also point out that the FDA OK’d the drug for kids in 2007, then kept going after J&J to protect their fiefdom. They writer clearly hates the FDA and feels they cause more deaths by keeping good drugs off the market than they save but also makes it clear that J&J are no heroes. His take so far is that the Brill piece is crap looking for a Pulitzer.

          • jw

            It’s a very interesting thing that has happened to our society during the “age of the internet”. We read “rebuttals” to articles that dismiss their credibility (or worse, headlines), rather than reading the actual article and figuring it out for ourselves. And, I’m not saying you did that, but if you did, well…

            My interpretation of Brill’s work so far is actually the opposite of what this person states. The FDA has a level of culpability in it all, but at the end of the day, any regulating body that has less power and money than the industries they are tasked to regulate, will fail the people they are there to protect EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. It’s just common sense. Vioxx anyone?

            Brill’s focus, from my perspective anyway, is a look at HOW a powerful organization goes about circumventing the truth when pushing a drug to market. Pharmaceutical organizations no longer create drugs for common illnesses, they are now designed to create illnesses that don’t exist, in order to sell them to people by saying they actually do. “You could clear up your acne, but here’s this little side-effect known as cancer.” Well, why not? Sounds like a good trade-off to me!

            Ahahahaha! Such a joke.

      • Citizen M

        Read Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science and you’ll come to doubt everything Big Pharma says.

        Stanford professor John P. A. Ioannidis has extensively researched the false and misleading claims the drug companies make. It’s pretty horrifying the lengths they will go to to make a buck.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/308269/

        • jw

          Then, check out Ben Hirschler’s article today over on Reuters about the cost of cancer patients’ drugs for Americans versus Europeans. Then, head on over to http://www.globalcancermap.com and look at the “health expenditure per capita” by country. That basically tells you everything you need to know.

        • kent

          Already read it. I don’t have a horse in this race. There’s a lot of disinformation out there, on both sides of the pharma issue. Back to script talk, please..

          • jw

            Kent, you’re absolutely right in terms of disinformation or even misinformation. The airwaves have purposely been filled with BS, in order for people to have to dig through with a shovel, just to find an ounce of truth. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. And, a vast majority of people don’t have the time, energy or drive to actually sift through it all (who could blame them?). Because of that, the tendency to drift to headline watching and the reading of someone else’s interpretation as a standard baseline for the truth ends up being all too prevalent. Everything should be questioned, which is why I say the best defense against BS is reading the article yourself, putting it through the smell test and then coming out the other side with your interpretation of what is actually being said. I tend to think my BS meter is pretty finely tuned. After all, I only live about 20 minutes south of Hollywood! Aha!

  • Monique B

    Call me boring, but I loved ZERO DARK THIRTY. Yes, it was a bit triumphalist, but it was also a wrenching inside look at the dysfunction of the U.S. intelligence community. The protag was artfully drawn, the moral compromises were compelling, and the stakes were insanely high. When you’re dealing with real-life GSU (like the world’s most wanted terrorist blowing the heads off CIA analysts from the comfort of the Pakistani suburbs), there’s less need for gimmicks.

    The idea of a Jewish newspaper editor having some sort of “agenda” against the Catholic church … really, Carson? Because that isn’t the oldest canard in the book. See: at least 8 centuries of Catholic passion plays, which featured the yellow-robed, hooked-nose Jew as the sponge bearer to a dying Christ … inciting mobs of European peasants to organize regular Easter Sunday pogroms. Count me as one of the grateful few for the writers’ choice not to turn that idea into “entertainment.”

  • Scott Crawford

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I couldn’t watch Man on the Wire. All that jumping back and forth in time lost it for me.

  • Kirk Diggler

    Or “The Magdalene Sisters”.

  • carsonreeves1

    What bothered me most is that this is hinted at throughout the script from the Catholic-church side. My frustration, like much of the script, is that they didn’t do anything about it. Why even insinuate it if you’re not going to explore it.

    But all in all, I was more upset that the church didn’t put more pressure on the paper to stop. That’s where they really missed the ball, conflict-wise.

    • Monique B

      Where did you find the insinuation? Maybe I was multi-tasking too much and missed it.

  • Name

    “Why didn’t someone from the paper have a child who went to church? Who
    was directly in the line of fire. It’s as if the church and the paper
    lived on two completely different planets. Which was SO the wrong
    approach to take here. Connect your damn stories. Create more
    complexity between your elements. Why is this investigation so easy for
    everyone doing it???????”

    When you’re depicting a true story, sometimes you’re stuck to a certain narrative that might keep you from more interesting screenwriting choices. That’s why Zodiac was so scattershot because the real story didn’t fit a time pressured 2 weeks, but was spread out over a decade by numerous characters that weave in and out for no reason. For a true story, you face the dilemma: change the facts for a more dramatic story and face criticism the way From Hell and Inglorious Bastards did or stay faithful and not fully exploit the potential of the story.

    • ChadStuart

      But they’ve already changed some of the facts. It’s not a documentary. The second the writer put his dialogue in the character’s mouths, he’s changed the facts. Dramatized movies about true events aren’t about facts, they’re about truth. So long as you retain the truth of the situation, you’re good.

      “Inglorious Basterds” lost the truth of the story and veered into alternatee history – which is a genre well explore in literature but not film. The same goes for “From Hell.” But none of the suggestions Carson made are of that magnitude. They’re reasonable changes. So would compositing characters to make the story smoother.

      • Monique B

        Second the bit on compositing characters.

  • Monique B

    Oy. So it’s no longer “those dirty Jews, they killed Jesus.” Now it’s, “those scoundrels must want revenge because we treated them so badly!” Which is just the other side of the same coin. Sorry to disappoint you, but despite centuries of persecution, there’s no global Jewish conspiracy to “get” anyone.

  • Monique B

    Different side of the same coin.

  • Golden Man

    Place your bets. If Carson hates it, the Oscars will love it.

    15 Early Oscar Contenders Coming Out of Toronto, Telluride, and Venice

    #1 on the list, you guessed it…Spotlight

    https://www.yahoo.com/movies/2016-early-oscar-contenders-toronto-telluride-129376993312.html

  • GoIrish

    Since religion and politics have been introduced to the dinner table, I feel compelled to discuss money. I need it. I like. Martin Shkreli, I think you hear me knocking. I’m faxing my resume over as I type (note the multi-tasking capabilities!). I think we could do some wonderful things with ibuprofen.

  • filmklassik

    I know Goldman was acquainted with Paul Newman from their doing HARPER together a few years earlier, but I’m not sure he knew Redford prior to Redford’s signing on to BUTCH CASSIDY in 1968.

    I agree that Goldman’s a genius. I adore his work (including most of his novels) but “the greatest screenwriter of the 20th Century”? Any “all-time greatest” list would have to include William Goldman, but shouldn’t we leave a little room on there for Ben Hecht and Wilder & Brackett and Powell & Pressberger and Robert Bolt and Ingmar Bergman and Robert Risken and Dudley Nichols and Paddy Cheyevsky and Woody Allen and Robert Towne — and presumably 10 or 15 more?

    • Malibo Jackk

      no.

      • filmklassik

        10 or 14 more?

        • Bifferspice

          absolutely. and i say that as someone who loves goldman, his work, his books, and his attitude.

    • brenkilco

      Samson Raphelson and Jules Furthman and Peter Stone etc. Not to mention all the hybrids and writers for whom screenwriting was a sideline: Preston Sturges and Harold Pinter and David Mamet and Burt Kennedy and Raymon Chandler and Joseph Manciewicz, on and on.

  • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

    I haven’t read the screenplay in question, but everything Carson says applies perfectly to EVEREST for me. Saw it over the weekend, and while the 3-D Imax shots of/from Everest are pretty astounding, the purportedly exciting tale is a snoozefest. Far too many underdeveloped characters, glacial pacing, and a slavish devotion to the facts. Our protagonist is personified by an entirely drab conversation where he tells his pregnant wife he wants to name their daughter Sarah. “Sarah?” she says, laughing, “Oh yeah, Sarah,” he says, as if he wanted to name the baby Mephistopheles or something.

    It was such a slow, plodding, methodical march through the “real facts” that I was basically praying for the characters to die by the end. “Please god,” I prayed somewhere around hour fifty seven, “please let friggen Syl Stallone come over that ridge with a hand grenade in his hand.”

    Never happened. Instead, I got Kiera Knightly, as the aforementioned pregnant lady (who’d only been in the movie five minutes), going for Oscar gold, crying her eyes out as she talked to her dying husband on the phone. The scene was telegraphed from a mile away, completely meaningless in that I knew basically nothing about the characters (other than they really liked to pick wacky names for their kids), and mind-shatteringly long. “Please god, kill him!!”

    A slow boat to factually correct boretown.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      I was looking forward to this movie because I love anything mountains and have read the book of what was a most harrowing event. But from the first reviews, it sounds as if it’s the kind of movie where you need to check the book for facts all along which makes for complicated and unsatisfactory viewing.
      (If I recall corectly, “Sarah” is the name of one of the baby’s grandmothers.)

  • carsonreeves1

    This is silly. I recently read and loved one of the primary Oscar contenders – Trumbo.

    There is very little to no writing skill going on in this screenplay. Everything good about it is dictated by the story itself, which the writers are basically copying and pasting.

    • Levres de Sang

      One thing I will say is that the writers appear to have obsessively watched All the President’s Men and Zodiac to the extent that they have all the micro-beats of the genre perfectly nailed: characters doing the no hands thing with phone receivers; the character sighing as he leans back in his car seat; and the character who will often use the other person’s name at the end of the dialogue line (“that’s not what I said, Phil”)…

      I love both President and Zodiac so certainly not having a go at the genre, but do think the Spotlight writers have at least done their homework.

    • brenkilco

      Copying and pasting? I don’t think you’re giving these writers their due. In real life the accumulation of stray facts that eventually led to a Pulitzer Prize was doubtless a plodding, methodical process full of dead ends and blind alleys, without a traditional dramatic arc and certainly without a convenient climax. Shaping this kind of stuff into a script, a compelling script, has got to be hard fucking work.

  • Scott Crawford

    Sent!

  • Citizen M

    I read the screenplay some months ago and I thought it was pretty good. These are the notes I made at the time.

    “A tough read because of the very large number of named characters (about 50). Will probably be easier to follow on the screen. Also rather talky to start with. Takes a while to get going. But once the investigation gets under way the pace picks up, and as the full scale of the abuse and cover-up becomes apparent, you have to keep reading.”

    Incidentally, apart from Cardinal Law, a bunch of lawyers also come across as sleazy villains.

  • Midnight Luck

    I think everyone loved Rooney Mara in Girl w Dragon. I don’t think she ever cracked a smile.
    And she was the greatest thing about the movie.
    Just a rebel rock star.
    And it made her.
    I think articles like that are just Hollywood ego bullshit .

  • klmn

    Where’s Carson?

    • Midnight Luck

      I found him for you.
      Cheese is consuming him at the moment.

      • klmn

        Actually, he mentioned this in an old review.

        http://scriptshadow.net/movie-review-the-skeleton-twins/

        “…I actually saw two movies this weekend. The Skeleton Twins and The Maze Runner. For The Maze Runner, I tried to bring a little of that “opening day enthusiasm” typically reserved for movies like The Avengers and Star Wars. So I lugged in a big block of cheese. ‘Cause it was a maze? Like rats in a maze? The theater ushers didn’t understand the joke and told me I either needed to eat the cheese, throw it away, or not see the movie. I sighed and threw it away…”

        • Midnight Luck

          that’s what i’m sayin’.

          I found him, holdin’ a sign out front of the wine and cheese event in Santa Monica: (a few days early)

          Wine Expo’s Wine 101 (includes Wine Tasting & Charcuterie Plate)
          http://www.localwineevents.com/events/detail/607386/#details-section

          • Scott Strybos

            I’ll be honest—he doesn’t look how I imagined he would.

          • Midnight Luck

            yeah, I never imagined he’d wear a goatee. So 2001.

          • Scott Strybos

            He’s also a little better looking then I expected, in better shape too.

          • Linkthis83

            For a guy who preaches white space…

    • Scott Strybos

    • Citizen M

      He’s the one without the hat. (He doesn’t want to hide such a magnificent hairstyle.)

  • Nobodyphilip

    This film is currently number one on Indiewire’s safest best for a Best Picture nomination.