No amateur script to review means we’re going to see what a future Star Wars director is working on!

Genre: Sci-fi
Premise: When an older man uses a mysterious ancient device to go back in time hundreds of years, it’s up to his son and grandson to save him.
About: I LOVE Force Awakens. But I have to admit, if I read ONE MORE article about how it just broke some innocuous box office record, I am going to stab my eyeballs out with lightsaber crystals. However, since The Force Awakens is still the hottest flavor in the store, I’ve decided to review a script from the director of the NINTH installment of the franchise (after Rian Johnson does the EIGHTH), Colin Trevorrow. This was a project Trevorrow was working on right before he shot Safety Not Guaranteed, and I believe he still wants to make it. Since he’s finishing up an indie film now and will jump into Star Wars prep right after, I’m guessing we won’t get to see it until after Ep 9. Still, it’s always nice to get into the mind of a future Star Wars director!
Writer: Colin Trevorrow
Details: 110 pages – 3/18/2010 draft


The Colin Trevorrow ride has been almost as interesting as the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios. The man went from making a pretty decent debut indie film, to directing a new film in what was thought to be an extinct franchise, to unexpectedly turning that film into the biggest hit of the summer, to being informed by the internet that his directing and storytelling were bland, to a bafflingly low-key announcement that he would be directing the 9th Star Wars movie, to now going back to directing indie films.

One thing’s for sure. Hollywood loves Colin Trevorrow. Every industry titan (Spielberg, Zemeckis, Kennedy) who comes into contact with Trevorrow falls in love with him. He’s like the Ryan Reynolds of directors. And in this expedited “don’t have to prove yourself cause that would take too long” society we’ve created, we give the keys to these directors having ZERO idea if they’re capable of handling the job. I think that’s the biggest shock about Trevorrow’s rise. Despite him being the second hottest director in Hollywood (behind JJ, of course), we still don’t have a feel for what he’s capable of.

Today’s script should give us a little more insight. It starts off with a rather cool jaunt through time as famous scientists such as Galileo, Issac Newton, and Thomas Edison, all try to recreate a device Archimedes found called The Antikythera Mechanism. I think this is a real thing. And it’s said to be a very complex sun-dial like mechanism that may have been created by an ancient civilaziton even smarter than we are.

Cut to the present day and 68 year-old Solomon Grant now has the device. At this point in time, everyone thinks this thing is just some wonky clock. But Solomon thinks it’s more. And when some men try to steal the device from him, Solomon triggers the machine, sending him back in time 500 years.

Not long after, Solomon’s estranged son, Michael, a futurist, and Michael’s son, 15 year old Max, receive some message about Solomon missing. Keep in mind that nobody likes each other in this family. Michael doesn’t like Solomon. Solomon doesn’t like Michael. Michael does’t like Max. Max doesn’t like Michael. I think Solomon might like Max but I’m not sure.

When evidence points to Solomon communicating to Michael through diaries written 500 years ago, Michael must get over his skepticism and admit that his dad is a time-traveller. And when the nasty folks who tried to steal the device in the first place catch on that Michael may now know where to find it, they start chasing him and his son.

At a certain point we learn that, in order to keep the device from getting into the wrong hands, Solomon has spread the device out into four pieces and left a bunch of clues that only Michael and Max would be able to decipher. So father and son must put their differences aside to find the device and use it to bring their granddad back to the present who they don’t even like. The end.

This script is a big fat reminder of how difficult it is to write a good screenplay.

Look, from an objective point of view, there’s a lot of good here. We have a clear goal. We have lots of urgency. The stakes appear to be high. Trevorrow’s playing in a sandbox that’s been proven to work in Hollywood (The DaVinci Code, National Treasure).

He’s encased the key players in a family so that there are personal relationships that need to be fixed. We’ve got the strong female cop character who joins the journey as both a skeptic and someone they’re forced to work with, adding another layer of conflict within the group.

If you’re placing this script up on a USC black board, the professor could use it as a template for many of the things you want to do in a script.

So then why didn’t I like it?

Because it was The Da Vinci Code.

Sure, the God stuff was switched over to a sci-fi device, but it’s the same movie. Someone’s leaving someone a bunch of clues that are sending them all over Europe and they’re being chased. We’ve seen this already!

This is the eternal struggle a screenwriter must battle with. Using a formula that works, but changing it enough so that it feels fresh. Trevorrow doesn’t inject a single – and I mean not one – fresh variable into this equation.

And I’ve been here before. As a writer and as someone who’s watched other writers make the same mistake. In your mind, you love sci-fi. And you liked those chase movies. And technically the idea of this magical time travelling National Treasure type adventure hasn’t been done before. So you think, “That’s all I need to change. The McGuffin!”

But it isn’t. You have to create some unique character we haven’t seen before. You have to give us a handful of scenes we haven’t seen before. You have to deviate the plot once in awhile from that beat sheet of the similar movie that inspired you. Or else we’re ahead of you. If I’m ahead of you as the reader/viewer for more than three scenes, you’ve failed as a screenwriter. You’ve failed. You have. One of your jobs as a script writer is to predict what I, the viewer, think is going to happen next, and then give me something I’m not expecting instead. (see Wednesday’s review)

Now the keen lot of you may have been thinking to yourselves, “Wait a minute, Carson. Didn’t a movie just come out that’s going to be the biggest box office movie of all time that was basically the same movie as Star Wars? How does your theory hold up there?”

Here’s the difference. The Force Awakens had good characters, particularly its main character, who was one of the most likable characters of the decade. A derivative movie can survive, even end up being good, if it has characters we like and care for.

Stealing Time doesn’t have that to fall back on. Michael is just some corporate guy who has a problem with his dad for I don’t even know what reason. Because this is a movie, I guess (always have REASONS for character conflict – don’t just have conflict cause it’s a movie!!!). Nor do I understand why he and his son have an issue with each other. All the dynamics here appear to have been inserted because it fits into what Robert McKee says you should do (Robert McKee Robot: “Boooop, must include conflict-filled relationships.”) and not because the writer tried to get into the characters’ heads and understand them.

JJ, on the other hand, seemed to build his characters from the ground up. He wanted to know how they lived, how they struggled. That’s what people don’t understand. There have been complaints about Rey. Some people think she’s a Mary Sue or whatever. You have no idea what a bad character really feels like. I do because I read them all the time. A bad character is someone who’s forgettable. Who has nothing going on. Who has no presence outside of the beat sheet they were born from.

And for the record, the reason the original Star Wars is the most beloved movie of all time is because it’s an example of what happens when you do both – when you come up with something original, continue the original choices throughout the movie, and build them on top of great lovable characters. That’s the dream every screenwriter should be aiming for. Do both.

I will continue to shout this from the rooftops: If you are writing a scene, a character, or a plot beat, and it seems familiar? Like you’ve seen it somewhere before, likely in one of your favorite movies? Delete it and come up with something different. It’s the only way you’re going to write something that feels fresh.

I’ll finish by giving Trevorrow this. While that isn’t present here? It is present in his current indie project, The Book of Henry. I may not have liked that script, but one thing that script was was original. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Time.

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

What I learned: Be willing to move away from the original idea you started with if your script takes you somewhere more interesting. I couldn’t help but feel like Solomon being sent back in time to Galileo would’ve been a way more interesting movie than National Treasure 3. One of your jobs as a screenwriter is to never have a one-track mind. Always keep your mind open, ready to deviate if the deviation sounds more appealing. Ixnay to tunnel vision.

  • charliesb

    Trevorrow doesn’t inject a single – and I mean not one – fresh variable into this equation.

    No surprise here. It’s possible that he will eventually become the filmmaker Hollywood is making him out to be – he’s surrounded by the right people anyway, but he’s not there yet. His second film becoming the third highest grossing movie of all time (despite it being a completely forgettable waste of time) probably isn’t gonna help though.

  • Doug

    I don’t mind Trevorrow – at least his stories are coherent. I’m dreading when Rian Johnson gets his hands on the next Star Wars movie. Looper was the most incoherent, derivative, flat, plodding, full of plot holes piece of crap I’ve ever seen in my life.

    Mark my words, the next two Star Wars movies are going to make The Phantom Menace look like a work of art.

    • The Colonel

      Doug, Kathleen Kennedy is sitting on a diamond throne right now telling Johnson and Trevorrow EXACTLY what to do, and if they don’t like it, they can get the Trank out.

      The next installments will be very similar to this.

  • Paul Schellens

    Sounds like a great way to take all the fun out of time travel. You gotta put the fish out of water/clash of cultures SOMEWHERE in a time travel story!

  • Wijnand Krabman

    I see a minor problem here; “Solomon triggers the machine, sending him back in time 500 years.” and than: “Solomon has spread the device out into four pieces and left a bunch of clues that only Michael and Max would be able to decipher.”

    How did he do that? He used it to time travel and than in the past he took the device apart? Meaning he can’t have used it in the present because it was not there.
    Why would Michael and his son max go after him since they don’t like him. Better is to do nothing and take the heritage.

    • fragglewriter

      What I don’t understand is that if he call do all of it, why can’t he figure out a way to ditch the people who are after him?

      • Wijnand Krabman

        yeah go to the archives and find out all about their families and do than some minor changes in the past, easy peasy.

        • The Colonel

          Kidnap their great-grandmothers and raise them as his wives; etc.

  • Lucid Walk

    Speaking of future Star Wars directors, Rian Johnson of LOOPER is making Episode 8.

    Carson, as someone who loved FORCE AWAKENS but hated LOOPER, what are you thoughts on this?

    • Buddy

      I really don’t know what to think about Johnson.
      I think he’s a good director. He’s work is visual, dynamic, interesting.
      But as screenwriter I have mixed feeling. I never loved his movies but neither hated them. I generally love the the concept and how he twists the genres (brick, looper) but I’m never sure about the execution, there’s always something that bothers me, a part where the movie feels boring to me…

      • Dimitri

        Johnson made some great Breaking bad episodes though. I thought the first half of Looper was great, the latter half was a little sucky.

      • The Colonel

        It’s my impression, though, that none of these guys are being given free reign to go off and draft a script, right? There’s a master plan, and they have to write within it? Seemingly that would ensure he can’t go too far off the reservation.

        I friggen WISH somebody would come give me a plot and tell me to fill it, that’s the hardest part for me.

  • Randy Williams

    Maybe Trevorrow is working through some personal family issues; a bad relationship with a father, etc.

    Spielberg has said that most of his movies go back to his childhood. E.T. his parents’ divorce, for example.

    Those story locations could be interesting, too, since Europe has changed a lot since Robert Langdon was last there.

  • Dimitri

    I didn’t like Safety not guaranteed and I hated Jurrasic World.

    I listened to an Empire Podcast with Trevorrow once. He said he liked his characters to be unlikeable in the beginning, but you come to love them over time.
    That’s exactly what I think is wrong with his story telling. Because I never started loving those kids in Jurrasic World and I never started loving the couple that were the main focus of safety not guaranteed. They were all bad whiny characters.
    They’re not going to let Star Wars IX fail, but I think Trevorrow will not go down in “great directors” history.

    Seems like a nice guy though.

    • Randy Williams

      The story defined them as kids bereft of the wonder the first movie kids had because performing dinosaurs were already long a staple of entertainment. So, the focus shifted to family relationships. The poor boys were saddled with that. They did the best they could. Personally, I hoped they drowned in that river before they had the chance to repair an old jeep with some string and a BoyScout knife.

      • Dimitri

        I hoped they got eaten after they ignored a warning, a phone call and deciding to roll into the hole of a destroyed fence. If you’re that dumb, you deserve to be eaten.

      • The Colonel

        I really respect them because they were hyper-intelligent enough to not only Macgyver a thirty-year old jeep, but also to figure out how to drive a theme park ride out of the ride and through the woods.

        Truly, I have a difficult time deciding which of those characters I love most, they were all so amazing.

    • The Colonel

      He’s perfect for the “Return of the Jedi” of the new series. Get him some ewoks and watch him go!

  • ripleyy

    The team-up alone at the end of Jurassic World is reason I love it. I’ve seriously never had THAT much fun watching something. I don’t care what he does — but that sequence alone will always make me like Trevorrow.

  • brenkilco

    From the description it almost seems that the time travel element is irrelevant. The professor needs rescuing and clues have to be put together to find him. If he were stuck in a vault and the protags were looking for the combination would it really make that much difference? Is it just that time travel seems cooler? Do the characters ever wrestle with all the head ache inducing conundrums that thoughtful time travel movies confront? At the point the chase begins Granddad has presumably lived the remainder of his life and died in the sixteenth century. Are the protags living in the future he helped to create? Are they in an alternate time line? What are the potential consequences if they bring him back? How could he possibly have planted clues or secreted components with any assurance that they would be discovered half a millennium later? Why would the granddad feel the device ought to be kept secret for so long? The whole thing sounds childish and stupid. Sub national treasure dumb. Without even the historical or theological mumbo jumbo that gave Da Vinci code some zip.

    Based soley on Jurassic World- a completely synthetic corporate product- there’s no way to judge Treverrow at all. His lack of track record is astonishing. Maybe he doesn’t exist. Code for a committee of Universal Studio execs. The Alan Smithee of the twenty first century.

    • The Colonel

      “Maybe he doesn’t exist. Code for a committee of Universal Studio execs. The Alan Smithee of the twenty first century.”

      lol, classic

    • Randy Williams

      “Maybe he doesn’t exist”

      Trivia about Safety Not Guaranteed…

      When Jeff (Jake Johnson) approaches Kenneth (Mark Duplass)
      about the time-travel ad, he mentions that he would like to go back in
      time to see living dinosaurs. Kenneth later mentions being a fan of Star
      Wars to Darius (Aubrey Plaza). Director Colin Trevorrow’s next movie would be Jurassic World
      (2015), which deals with an amusement park that features living
      dinosaurs and starred Johnson, and he has been announced as director of Star Wars: Episode IX (2019).

      He exists, all right, and he’s discovered the power of having your characters
      ask for what you personally desire in your life.

      I need to get off this board and start writing.

      • brenkilco

        In your next script have one of your characters wish he could hit the powerball jackpot. Couldn’t hurt.

        • Randy Williams

          I know, huh? 800 million so far and counting….

  • Shawn Davis

    “But I have to admit, if I read ONE MORE article about how it just broke some innocuous box office record, I am going to stab my eyeballs out with lightsaber crystals”.

    I totally agree and don’t even get me started on the marketing atomic bomb that’s got STAR WARS on EVERY SINGLE ITEM out there.

    I was just at the store…

    How much is too much?


    • Citizen M

      As endorsed by Va-JJ Abrams.

      • Shawn Davis


  • suminator

    JJ and Trevorrow being the new Hollywood hot – read something along these lines: Safe directing with so much emotional flatness and predictability, for the widest possible appeal while they play with beloved franchises… Meaning they are THE GO-TO studio boys.

    Doesn’t it sound like a Nicholas Cage gigs, gimme just one more to pay the bills, for sure they are not entering echelon of greatness like Lucas or Spielberg?

    Rian Johnson on the other hand showed much more courage with The Brick and Looper even I didn’t love the latter, but at least he showed some balls. But The Mickey factory will not allow room for experiment and I expect another TFA bland rehash, maybe with a little more ketchup on it.

    • The Colonel

      “The Mickey factory will not allow room for experiment”

      The put Kathleen Kennedy in charge, so I wouldn’t be too critical of their judgment. So far they’re batting a thousand, in my book.

      • suminator

        It’s just that I am grumpy for TFA not being what it could’ve been… Yeah, it is now a global family entertainment magnet/money factory and I can just stay miserable.

    • Dan B

      With JJ – I feel like people see him as the next Spielberg… Maybe he’s not really the next, but he’s a guy so heavily influenced by him that everything he does as some “Spielberg” in it. Super 8 felt like a tribute to that 70/80’s era with Close Encounters, Goonies, ET… There might be a lot to bitch about with these guys… But they tell fun stories, even if it’s a bit of a copy of what someone else has done

      • suminator

        I know, and I understand the Hollywood machine and that it is soooo hard to have control over a hundred mill. project but what Spielberg has is pure talent and child like innocence which is written all over his films.

        What worries me is that there is nobody in close sight that can be another James Cameron or better.

  • Trent11

    I saw The Revenant last night. Leo’s character was a classic Mary Sue.

    On a side note… who the hell is the dumbass studio executive that greenlit that director to make a one hundred and forty million dollar NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARY???!!

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Probably the same exec who got the story that you missed :)

    • suminator

      Can’t get pass Leo’s pretty face, and I think he’d be more demonic in Tom Hardy’s role.
      I wish they’d switched the roles of Leo and Hardy…

      • James Inez

        I didn’t even realize that was Tom Hardy until it said his name at the end! That was kind of cool.

    • James Inez

      That’s kind of the only thing that bothered me in the film. There were many times where I was thinking, ‘he’d be dead.’ Other than that, I really enjoyed it. I thought it pretty epic.

  • JakeBarnes12

    “If I’m ahead of you as the reader/viewer for more than three scenes, you’ve failed as a screenwriter.”

    Great point.

    I’m getting that tattooed onto my penis.

  • The Colonel

    Great article, and agreed across the board.

    “The Force Awakens had good characters, particularly its main character, who was one of the most likable characters of the decade. A derivative movie can survive, even end up being good, if it has characters we like and care for.”

    This. Why is my three year old daughter obsessed with the Force Awakens, a movie she didn’t begin to understand? Because the characters are so strong. Just like when I was five chatting incessantly about C3PO and Luke, she won’t stfu about Rey and Finn. She even talks about Kylo Ren, because she knows him.

    This is the also the reason Jurassic Work is such a flabby turd. Is there a character in that movie? Or just moving cliches onto which they draped the plot?

    • suminator

      Wow, you took your three year old to the TFA!? I think my five year old boy wouldn’t sit through it even he is into animated transformers and super heroes and head-bangs to AC-DC and Motorhead, and for the music I am not to be blamed I didn’t push him – he got it from You Tube :)

      • The Colonel

        It may just be a girl thing–we have two girls, 3 and 6, and they’re more patient than I am. Also, they’ve never watched much TV, but are definite movie fans, so they’re into it. (The 6 yo presented me with her first treatment the other day (for her “new movie Ghost Future”), my head almost exploded, lol.)

        Honestly, I’m worried with the theater volume than her attention span, so we take noise muffs for her.

        • suminator

          Cool, you have creative girls :)
          English isn’t our first language and my kids aren’t yet even close at watching the English film with full understanding so I didn’t bother taking them to TFA. My younger one is 4 years old and he is crazier for Supers and AC-DC… lol

        • witwoud

          That’s beyond adorable!

          But I hope you said, ‘That’s swell, sweetie, but what else ya got?’

          They have to learn, right?

          • The Colonel

            While not terribly coherent, her ideas are totally fresh. I’m going to keep her going–lately I’ve been asking her questions like “what happens at the very beginning?” and “what do the bad guys want?” to try and help flesh our her wild ideas–and then at some point help her organize everything into a plot and draft it up.

            My goal is to help her achieve a finished product that she views as all her own. I think maybe if I had ever been presented with the idea of an “artistic project” as a kid, it wouldn’t have taken me until my 20s to stop talking about it and actually start creating.

            Bottom line, if she’s got a “screenplay” under her belt at 7, then she won’t be daunted by the idea of turning another one. If I can give her that–the power and ambition to create her own art–I figure I’ll have achieved at least one success as a dad.

    • Linkthis83

      While I understand where Carson is coming from in this article, I disagree with so much of it that I can’t even type about it. :)

      I don’t believe you or your daughter cared for these characters because they are so strong, but rather, because kids heads aren’t filled with a ton of nonsense that comes with adulthood and so called “wisdom”. I feel that children can get so wrapped up in these characters because of the following:

      1) A movie like Star Wars has a clearly defined line of good and evil. Kids want the good guys to win.

      2) Because children don’t have a lifetime of experience and jadedness built up, they can experience these scenarios from an emotionally pure place. Rey is a good guy. She’s in trouble. A child can see and feel her emotions based on her disposition in every situation. She’s not questioning whether or not Rey should be scared, or if the writer did a good enough job setting her up so that when she is scared the audience will be scared. Your daughter doesn’t give a shit. She’s on board with Rey because she’s on board with Rey…no questions asked. Because she’s a human who hasn’t been corrupted by all the nonsense that comes with life experience. She accepts what she is seeing as is, without exterior, critical judgement. Just like you did with C3PO and Luke. Like a lot of us did with all the movies we loved when we were younger. When we just accepted them and weren’t constantly offended or concerned about what it said about our intelligence.

      Finally, there is one character in Jurassic World. That character is Blue. Blue is the only character who had a story worth caring about.

      • brenkilco

        Honest to God, I watched Jurassic World for the first time on VOD less than two months ago, and I don’t remember which character Blue is.

        • suminator

          Only thing I remember is that there were some glass orbs in which tourists go sightseeing…

          • Randy Williams

            You’re confusing the movie with your ride on the London Eye.

          • suminator

            Hahahah, long time since I’ve been there.

          • The Colonel

            Magical glass orbs that power themselves, don’t run on a track, can four-wheel through the woods and nearly survive a T-rex attack.

        • Linkthis83

          This is Blue:

          • brenkilco

            So you say the CG dino had the best arc. Sounds about right.

          • garrett_h

            Blue was awesome.

            YOU MY BOY, BLUE!!!

            (for the record, I liked JW)

          • Linkthis83

            When Blue was staring down Hoskins and Hoskins was pleading for his life, I was internally begging for Hoskins to say “You’re my boy, Blue.”

            And learned today that Blue is female.

          • garrett_h

            LOL right, I should have said she’s my girl!

        • Kirk Diggler

          Same thought in my head.

      • Malibo Jackk

        TFA is a fairy tale to them.

        (Hey Link.
        You’re ruining the moment again,)

        • Linkthis83

          It’s my character flaw.

        • Eric

          Star Wars is a fairy tale in general, I think. That’s why there’s such a concentration by George Lucas on mimicking the monomyth. The monomyth isn’t the one-size-fits-all structure that a lot of gurus would have us believe. It’s a specific structure that works best when it’s used to create hero-centric mythology stories. Even if it’s a modern day setting, or a sci-fi futuristic one, the concentration on mythological elements makes any story using that structure, at heart, a fairy tale.

      • The Colonel

        Much of what you say is probably true, but then she doesn’t respond the same to every movie–most of the time she can’t even remember their names.

        So, sure, kids are more accepting, but the Force Awakens, like Star Wars, did something with its characters that most movies can’t manage to achieve.

        • Linkthis83

          My opinion is that other movies can’t achieve it because they don’t take place in the Star Wars universe. To a child, there are so many cool influences that are present in a SW movie. The visuals, the sounds, the music, the costumes, spaceships, robots, the weapons, Chewbacca…who would scare the shit out of a kid, except he’s with Han and a big scaredy cat :)

          I think the only way to test this would’ve been to have your children watch Phantom Menace first. Because if they would’ve enjoyed it and loved the characters, then we’d know for sure. But then you’d also be charged with endangering a child and possibly abuse.

          • The Colonel

            I’m telling you: my kids have seen lots of movies, and they’re pretty saavy. They think Despicable Me is good (it is) and Minions was shit (which it was). They insisted upon watching the prequels (I tried to dissuade them), and promptly fell asleep.

            It’s not just that the Force Awakens “takes place in the Star Wars universe.” It has strong, well-written characters the leap off the screen.

          • garrett_h

            People really underestimate (or flat out disregard) children’s tastes and skills of discernment, even though they’re young.

            For example, my nieces are 1 and 2 years old. They love Yo Gabba Gabba and Sesame Street. They love the best videos. The ones I’d even say were good.

            Then there’s the ones that shall not be played. As soon as one comes on, they start screaming and crying. We skip to the next video and they’re singing and dancing again. For whatever reason, they think those videos/songs suck. And to be honest, they aren’t that great to me either.

            We tested it out, just to see if they really hated the bad videos. And they do. We can leave the room, put on a random order, whatever. Without fail, there’s a couple of em they just HATE. Even at 1 and 2.

            It’s uncanny…

          • Linkthis83

            After reading some of your writing, I’d state that their story saavy is more a result of your influence upon them. (That sentiment also has nothing to do with the fact that I refuse to say that TFA has strong, well written characters.)

    • AstralAmerican

      No need to justify it. TFA is an excellent adventure. I went with a posse of nine or ten, ranging from ages 66 (mom) to 3 (son). My daughter (5) and her female cousin (5) loved it, as did most of our group! My son is beginning a collection of the new action figures.

      My mom is planning a second viewing; the wife and I a third in true IMAX (70mm), San Jose.

      People can gripe all they want. What other movie/phenomenon has gripped the entire world like STAR WARS?

      • jw

        Astral, I love everyone here, but that is the worst “success” arguments in the history of arguments for one reason and one reason only — when your film has a $250 million dollar marketing budget YOUR PUNK ASS BETTER CREATE THE GREATEST GROSSING FILM OF ALL TIME because if not, you’re a fucking clown. FYI – this film HAD to get to $1.5 billion just to make a profit. Just sayin’ — marketing is WHY this film did well. If every film had a $250 million marketing budget you’d be seeing this all the time. Some people like the film, and I’ll cut them some slack. After all, 49 million people voted for Mitt Romney. I mean, if that doesn’t tell you a portion of your population is dumb as a rock, I don’t know what does?

        • AstralAmerican

          Tough shit. I stand by it, as a cultural/worldly phenomenon passed down to generations unlike any other.

          But then again, you couldn’t convince me if you tried that GotG/FURIOUS 7 were good films, or the Beatles are as talented and praise-worthy as the world beholds them.

          To each his own. Yet luckily for me, I spend no time defending STAR WARS versus discussing it and its merits.

  • garrett_h

    Sometimes I wonder how reactions like this from readers/viewers should affect my choices as a writer.

    For example, I’ve only seen the first 30 mins of DaVinci Code. Never read the book. For whatever reason, it just bored me to tears. And I couldn’t get past Tom Hanks hair.

    So what if I pick this up, and being a lover of time travel flicks and a fan of National Treasure, I miss all the DaVinci Code stuff and end up loving the script? It wouldn’t be predictable to me. It’d be fresh. An amazing new concept!

    Let’s go back to Wednesdays review like Carson said. I saw several moments coming a mile away. I knew the wife was having an affair and had a guy upstairs. I knew he’d get pulled over. I knew the cop would get shot in the head during the traffic stop. I knew Angel the cartel henchman was an undercover agent. None of these things caught me by surprise (I read/watch a lot of crime and thriller films). But Carson was totally caught off guard and loved it. (for the record I still thought it was entertaining despite predicting these moments)

    So I guess my question is, how often do you write for the audience? Or do you write for them at all? “Oh, they’ve seen a crop duster shoot at a man before, so I can’t do my big set piece with a drone shooting at a guy running around.” What if they haven’t seen North By Northwest?

    It’s a thin line. I’d say stick to your guns. If it feels honest and true to your story, keep it. Otherwise it’s a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    • suminator

      Good stuff, I feel the same regarding Bump and about our writing choices/intentions in general :)

    • brenkilco

      Two different questions. Given the core audience today for movies are you safe lifting elements from anything made before say 1990? Absolutely, it’ll all be brand new to most ticket buyers. So go ahead. Have your villain rob Fort Knox and your hero carry an antique .44 magnum. Hell, tie your heroine to the railroad tracks if you want to. Nothing wrong with the occasional homage or a new twist on an old trope. But should you want to be producing cut and paste jobs? That’s the other question.

      • garrett_h

        Honestly I haven’t read this script yet (I wish Carson would give us a heads up like he used to so we could read beforehand and chime in again!) so I’m just going based on the review. Not sure if this was a cut and paste job or not. I’ll have to give it a read first and see. But hopefully none of us are here to do that.

    • Randy Williams

      “Sometimes I wonder how reactions like this from readers/viewers should affect my choices as a writer”

      How about the gatekeepers’ reactions? We’re always warned about them.

      Are they those film-school fountains of wisdom who if they ask you about Truffaut, you better not answer, sounding wise, “the mushroom or the dessert?”

      Or, are they the recent Business school grads who haven’t seen a movie older
      than the Red Bulls in their mini-fridges and you’re safe with the disposal of a dead
      body in your script and protagonists accidentally involving themselves in a police operation and getting off the hook?

      I’m going with the second one.

      • garrett_h

        Exactly Randy. And when I say “readers” I’m referring to the script reader gatekeepers, like you said.

        Take today’s review. If Joe Reader at ProdCo Productions has never seen DaVinci Code, he’ll think Stealing Time is genius! And pass it on to a producer! But if he has? REJECTION. Into the trash bin!

        I guess it’s the luck of the draw…

        But we can’t control that part. Guess it still comes down to writing the best script you can and hope it gets into the right hands.

    • jw

      To be completely honest, you’re absolutely right. The problem is that all of this is a crap shoot to begin with. When you sit down to write you’re playing the fucking lottery, because even if you’re exceedingly dope at the craft, you write Snow White & The Huntsman and it sits in a drawer for 3 years collecting dust until serendipity comes along and hands you a life-changing event. And, let’s be honest, the vision of that script far, far, far, far exceeded its plot, characters and overall outcome. This is a crap shoot ladies and gents, even if you’re supremely good, so write for yourself, take advice that resonates with you to be realistic and just try to get so good at the craft that those taking a look can’t take their eyes off. In the end, we’re all buying the tickets and waiting for the numbers.

      • garrett_h

        Wow, funny you bring up Snow White & The Huntsman. I was just reading the story of how he had to write Shrapnel before getting noticed and then sold Huntsman. Remember reading it years ago, such a good script. Then I saw the movie and they butchered it. But hey, they’re coming out with a sequel, so he’s got a franchise out of it. And a $3 million payday. Not bad.

        Just wish there was a more definitive road map to getting to the top. It’s not like sports, or even corporate jobs, where the hard workers and the talent rise to the top. And then there’s a few that stay around just because they’re professional and do their job. Sometimes it seems COMPLETELY random.

        • jw

          Ahaha! As someone IN “the corporate world” let me be the unfortunate soul to break it to you that the work hard = reward mantra isn’t always reality either. Really, what I talk about above applies to just about the entire world now. I work with people who have more money than I do, who have way bigger egos and who would be considered “above” me in “title” and yet can actually accomplish about half of what I do (and that’s being kind), so really it’s just about keeping your head down, not getting distracted, not letting other shit cloud your judgment and then honing, honing and honing the craft, so that when the opportunity arises you make the most of it! That is about as close to a road map as it gets.

    • suminator

      Thanks for Landis script mate, love ya :)

  • suminator

    Hey Carson, is there going to be a review of Story of your life or is it a problem as it is in VFX kitchen now and coming out this year?

    Loved that script so much and I know you disapprove the ending but in that script there are so many emotions going on that I actually cried (I am a cry baby obviously)…

    I love the aspect of faith in the humanity and remembered how I loved Childhoods End years ago. Hope it will be a great film as Denis Villeneuve is directing it.

    • Altius

      I absolutely loved that script. Thought it was gorgeous and sublime and brimming with emotional power.

      And while I’m not a fan of the Jeremy Renner casting, Amy Adams could not be more perfect, and Villeneuve should give us something wondrous.

      • suminator

        Same here – I adore Amy and am not so sure about Jeremy but let’s see :)

  • suminator

    OK, I am in if there is someone to fetch me Stealing Time script.



    • Randy Williams

      Me too! I loved both National Treasures.
      touchthermo at g mail.

  • Mike.H

    Please send STEALING TIME: may1msg at gmail dot com. Thanks in advance!

  • Poe_Serling

    Stealing Time

    “When an older man uses a mysterious ancient device to go back in time hundreds of years, it’s up to his son and grandson to save him.”

    As I was reading Carson’s review, I kept thinking to myself – Didn’t I just watch this movie? Then it hit me:

    Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

    A teenager partners with his stepdad on a mission to find his grandfather, who is thought to be missing on a mythical island.

    This one also had the Iead characters (son, stepdad) ‘deciphering’ hidden codes in order to track down the missing grandfather and save him.

    The major difference between the two: the time travel element.

    • smishsmosh22

      The one that came to my mind was Frequency. “An accidental cross-time radio link connects father and son across 30 years. The son tries to save his father’s life, but then must fix the consequences.”

      • brenkilco

        A movie everybody likes because of the nice emotional rapport between Quaid and the then unknown Jim Caviezel. But to say it plays fast and loose with notions of altering past and future would be an understatement.

        • smishsmosh22

          It does but you’re right, it was the relationship between father and son. I was a teenager when I first saw it but pretty sure I was a blubbering mess.

          • garrett_h

            My brother and I used to watch Frequency all the time in high school. It was on HBO around the clock. Really like that movie. It most likely resonated with us because we lost our dad at a young age. Definitely some plot holes looking back on it, but we didn’t care! He had to save his dad!

      • suminator

        Wow, I’ve completely forgotten about it and loved it so much when it got out. Such a gem :)

    • Levres de Sang

      Once again you’ve illustrated just how advantageous it can be for screenwriters to watch LOTS of material — and to recognize those narrative and relationship structures that recur time and again. Indeed, back in the 90s I recall turning off a Martin Scorsese TV profile because all he wanted to talk about was ultra-obscure B-movies from the 1950s. “Oh, he’s just nostalgic for his childhood”, I thought. “These films mean nothing to me.” Clearly, I was very wrong. Like Tarantino with his encyclopaedic knowledge of 60s and 70s B-movies, you can be sure that Scorsese was absorbing those tried and tested narrative structures — in films that didn’t have so much time for profound character work.

      So with that in mind…

      You’ve often mentioned how you watch a ton of B-movies and I’m wondering if you own any of the DVD multi-packs put out by labels such as Mill Creek or Pop Flix? Mill Creek have several 50-film sets in the horror genre that work out to around 25 cents per flick! Needless to say, the quality is meant to be variable at best!

      • Poe_Serling

        I do own the Horror Collection (250 movies, 60 DVDS in total) from Mill Creek Entertainment. It was actually a gift to me from a very kind family member.

        And you right, the story quality of the pics in the set varies greatly. I’m pretty sure most of the titles are public domain movies.

        As you dig through pile…

        You’ll find some gems (Night of the Living Dead, Phantom of the Opera, Nosferatu, etc.)… some above average surprises (The Amazing Mr. X, White Zombie, The Wasp Woman)… and a truckload of misfires (Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules. Attack of the Giant Leeches, Revolt of the Zombies).

        • Levres de Sang

          That’s an amazing set to have on hand! (I should have been clearer in my original post as I was referring to the apparently variable audiovisual quality.) I’m late to the party with Mill Creek, but am excited to pick up one or two of these sets.

          I presume “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” is lurking somewhere among that “truckload of misfires”… ;)

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, the audio/visual quality does vary from pic to pic. And I’m not sure if it’s the transfer process or just that some of the original prints of these movies must be getting extremely old by now or perhaps a combo of both.

            The only grey matter horror movies in this particular box set are ‘The Brain Machine’ and ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.’

            It kinda makes sense on the part of DVD company – they wouldn’t want to put all their ‘brainy’ movies into one collection. ;-)

        • brenkilco

          Two horrible, grade B, fifties horror movies that may or may not be in this set but deserve mention. ‘Giant From The Unknown.” A giant, homicidal, Spanish conquistador is brought back to life by lightening and goes on a killing spree in the southwest. ‘Curse of The Faceless Man’. A Roman soldier totally encased in lava is excavated at Pompeii but comes back to life and goes on a killing spree in Italy. I know what you’re thinking. I buy the reanimated, homicidal conquistador but how does a guy encased in hardened lava even walk? Well, he just does. That’s all.

          • Poe_Serling

            I’ve got ‘Giants of Rome’ and ‘Curse of the Headless Horseman’ but no ‘Giant From the Unknown’ or ‘Curse of the Faceless Man.’

            Some company must be saving those two for its own special collection. ;-)

          • brenkilco

            You may not believe this. Not sure I do. But just checked Amazon and a new copy of the 2005 DVD of Curse of The Faceless Man is going for $497.00

  • Poe_Serling

    Hey Carson-

    A quick suggestion: I don’t know if you have plans for posting the first 2016 AOW scripts tomorrow, but if you do —

    Is it possible to include some of the projects from Scriptshadow 250 – 10 Scripts That Almost Made The TOP 25?

    Of course, I understand it all depends on the willingness of those writers to share their work with the rest of the SS community.

    • klmn

      OT. Hey Poe, did you see this?

      It sounds like something from your menu.

      • Poe_Serling

        There’s a classic foreign film that touches a bit on this subject:

        Fires on the Plain (1959)

        “In the closing days of WWII remnants of the Japanese army in Leyte are abandoned by their command and face certain starvation.”

        Directed by Kon Ichikawa. Probably best known over here in the states for his ’56 film The Burmese Harp.

        I think Fires on the Plain got released on the Criterion label just a few years ago.

        • klmn

          Haven’t seen either one. Thanks Poe!

  • BigDeskPictures

    This sounds exactly like Crichton’s ‘Timeline’ (A group of archaeological students become trapped in the past when they go there to retrieve their professor. The group must survive in 14th century France long enough to be rescued.) Great book. Movie was okay.

    After I read ‘The DaVinci Code’ I sat down and wrote a script about a stolen ancient artifact with good guys vs bad guys and thought it rocked. After I wrote it I re-read DaVinci Code and realized it was way too similar. I threw it out and started again. It did well in contests, but is way too expensive, so in the drawer it sits until I get the question, “What else you got?”

  • James Inez

    Sounds a little too complex. Haven’t read it but your explanation makes it sound that way. About ‘the same, only different’ comments, do you think that depends on what the writer wants. Wouldn’t it be different with a writer who just wants to make a living compared to a writer who wants to make a piece of art that will win an Oscar and go down in history? Like, the writer who just wants to make a living will write something sellable whether it’s the same as everything else but it hits the points producers want it to hit, let’s say for television or Netflix, or whathaveyou. And I’m talking about stuff that is actually good, but just similar to something else.

    With most writers whose stuff gets made, I think there is a balance between art and commerce. You have to write something that producers think will make them a profit or the story doesn’t get made. So I think there’s usually a combination of the two. I just think what’s good and bad in a script for a writer depends on what that writer is after. If I just wanted to make a living at writing, I can’t rule out hitting certain plot points and making something a producer would likely want to make in my stories. So those things would actually be good in my eyes. I think there is a delicate balance. You can’t be too extreme on either side of the spectrum.

    • Paul Schellens

      Unless you’re a genius, I think it’s better to learn the craft by getting as many films made and scripts sold as possible. THEN you can do the art.

  • NajlaAnn

    Good points to ponder. And, yay, an idea just clicked into my brain that I think will solve a story issue I’ve been wracking my brain to death over after reading this review. I’m happy. :)

  • suminator

    Repeated post…

    OK, I am in if there is someone to fetch me Stealing Time script.

    I was begging for Max Landis Victor Frankenstein script all over the
    board, have to go to see the film these days, so I am grateful if you
    guys could fetch me.

    Humble Thanks


    • Mike.H

      Me as well, please. May1msg at gmail thanks!

      • suminator

        Did you receive my e-mail? I guess you’d reply if so, maybe look up in your spam, sometimes new mail can end up there?

  • suminator

    It was because of her corny reaction, so we just had to know she had something other on her mind. Regular reaction would be some serious freaking out… It was telegraphed but you were probably skimming through that part so you missed it, no worries :)

    • Divdiv

      It was more than telegraphed… after the guy gets home and his wife questions him, she goes upstairs and finds her lover (Rick/Dick) hiding under the bed, half-naked.. He says he was hoping to get laid again or tonight or something like that, at which point she urges him to get the hell out of there before her husband finds him…

      I don’t know, seems pretty clear to me…

  • suminator

    Yeah, thank you great Scriptshadow people for sending me the Frankenstein script. Love You All :)

  • suminator

    I don’t have it, was referring to Max Landis script…