Genre: Mystery-Thriller
Premise: When a group of boys turn up dead with their skulls surgically detached, a broken down FBI agent must use a mysterious 50 year old short movie to find their killer.
About: Mark Heyman wrote Black Swan for Darren Aronofsky and if I had to guess, the producers here hired him in hopes of tempting Aronofsky to direct this film as well. It’s very dark and “Aronofsky-esque” so we’ll see what happens. The book the script is based on was written by French writer Franck Thilliez. The 41 year-old author spent 10 years in a computer engineering job he hated before he began writing (those of you in a dead end job that you hate – let this inspire you!). Syndrome E placed in the middle of last year’s Black List.
Writer: Mark Heyman (based on the novel “Syndrome E” by Franck Thilliez)
Details: 123 pages – March 6th, 2014 draft


Clooney for Sharko?

Syndrome E has all the makings of one of those bad books that could turn into a good movie. From everything I’ve heard, the book is a mess, but it does have a lot of cool ideas in it. We have weird 8mm films, kids with their heads sawed off, and a 50 year-old mutli-government worldwide conspiracy. If someone could wrangle the best parts of the book into a cool serial killer script, you might have yourself something.

And I could see Aronofsky coming on-board, lending his one-of-a-kind voice and turning this into a sprawling cornucopia of visual mastery. However, if he doesn’t, I could just as easily see this going to some scrub who turns it into a straight-to-digital Girl With The Dragon Tattoo rip-off starring John Cusack.

Isn’t it funny how that works? That two people could take the exact same script and create two totally different experiences? But Syndrome E is that kind of script. The kind of thing that could turn into The Ring or Pulse depending on the talent involved.

Agent Frank Sharkovsky (Sharko) stumbles upon the kind of case every Federal agent dreads. Five dead kids dumped in a river. All boys. Each around 12 years old. To make matters worse, the top of their skulls have been sliced off and their brains removed.

Meanwhile, across town, local cop Lucy Brennan visits her fuck buddy, Dominick, only to learn he’s purchased an old 8mm film at a yard sale and after watching it has TURNED BLIND. Lucy watches the film herself and is shocked when it depicts boys having their eyes slit open and being placed in front of live bulls trained to maul them to death.

Lucy and Frank eventually find each other when their cases overlap, and start chasing leads all over the world. Sharko finds out that a similar case of boys with their scalps sliced off occurred in Egypt. The resistance he gets there tells him that they’re definitely on the right track.

Their clues eventually lead them to an orphanage in Canada of all places, where they suspect the movie was made. It’s through this revelation that they realize what someone’s been doing to these poor children – inducing something called “Syndrome E.” But what’s happening to these kids pales in comparison to how long it’s been going on…… and what it’s being used for.


I like mystery scripts.

They’re perfect for spec writing (even though this isn’t a spec) because what’s one of the easiest tools you can use to keep a reader around? Mystery, right? Or, as JJ Abrams calls them, “mystery boxes.” The very nature of this genre is to provide the reader with a constant flow of mystery boxes that he’ll want to stick around to open.

The question is, does Syndrome E provide too many mystery boxes? Are there so many mysteries that we forget or stop caring about what the ultimate mystery is?

I’d say… no. And credit goes to Heyman here. He kept something together that could’ve easily fallen apart in a lesser writer’s hands.

The structure for the first act shows why Heyman is one of the big screenwriting guns in town. Instead of setting up a traditional problem with a single protagonist, Heyman sets up two problems with two protagonists. The first is Sharko, who’s been assigned to this case of murdered boys. And the second is Lucy, whose boyfriend’s just found a reel of film that’s turned him blind.

As we follow these parallel storylines, they eventually collide at the end of Act 1, allowing the characters to head into Act 2 as a pair. This seems simple from afar but whenever you’re messing with time-tested storytelling structure, you risk losing your audience. Remember, the audience has been conditioned with a certain level of expectation. Break that expectation and they can be confused. Or worse, angry.

It’s like throwing a birthday party and instead of serving cake, you serve pie. That pie might be great. But if everyone was expecting cake, there’s going to be some disappointment.

However, once the two detectives start working together, the script eases into more traditional territory. We have a clear goal ahead of us: Find the killer. And even though we have two protagonists, their objectives are the same, so the story’s never at risk of losing focus.

Syndrome E also thrives on something I call the TURBO MYSTERY BOX. Standard mystery boxes have an excitement ceiling (and are so 2011). So why not create a bigger badder version of the mystery box? For example, at one point, our detectives get a lead. Is this lead downtown at a local church? Nope, that’s so “standard mystery box.” Instead, it’s in EGYPT! That’s the kind of weird but flashy mystery box that can amp up a story.

Despite Heyman’s best efforts, Syndrome E suffered from its own version of Syndrome E. And that was its dated subject matter. We’ve seen the whole “people strapped to chairs with their eyelids pulled open, forced to watch a film” thing before. And the reveal of why these kids were being used as test subjects was pretty heavily telegraphed, robbing the script of a shocking finale. I wish the mythology behind the whole conspiracy was more original.

But you can’t deny that the screenplay is a page-turner. The Mystery Box formula is used so effectively here that there’s always a plot point to look forward to. The story’s a little confused at times (Is this a horror mystery or a thriller mystery?) but if you liked The Ring or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, there’s a good chance you’ll like this too.

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

What I learned: If you’re going to use an analogy in your description, make sure it’s there to convey information, not to show off. I see this with a lot of new writers, who try to impress the reader at every turn. They write analogies describing pointless things, like how the sun is setting. Just like anything in writing, the analogies you use should serve a purpose – to further the reader’s understanding of the moment. So in Syndrome E, when Sharko is in Egypt, he realizes his handler is part of the conspiracy. So he has to find a way to ditch her. This is what Heyman writes:

He starts going before she can protest. She watches him, anxious. Like an owner whose dog has slipped its leash.

You see how the analogy provides a detailed visual of how the handler reacts when Sharko gets away? The analogy visually conveys the level of desperation in her eyes. Compare that to a writer who uses an analogy for no other reason than to write an analogy.

The sun rises up from the horizon, like a wild horse who’s just woken up from a long slumber.

How does that sentence improve the reading experience?

  • GoIrish

    OT: (Can I start the day with an OT?) I’m having a love-hate relationship with my script. Anyone want to set me on the path to enlightenment and spiritual bliss? In return, I will gladly read your script and offer notes and suggestions that will frustrate you to no end (I know what they say about deals sounding too good to be true, but this offer is legit).

    Genre: Comedy
    Title: The Frostback
    Logline: When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) decides to produce a documentary marking the 20th anniversary of an accidental flag-burning during the Olympics, the former torchbearer flees the country, but can he learn to navigate the streets of Boston as an illegal immigrant and achieve his dream of becoming an American citizen before the CBC and immigration authorities close in?
    Skill level: Let’s just say no one is going to confuse me with Aaron Sorkin any time soon…we honestly look nothing alike (why are you booing?).

    • S.C.

      OK, so, logline criticism first… I think I may have read this pitch before. Doesn’t matter.

      Logline’s too long. Logline should be around 25 words. This is 59 words. So…

      20 years after an international incident when he accidentally set fire to a flag with the Olympic torch, a Boston illegal immigrant finds himself hounded by a Canadian documentary crew.

      31 words. Better, I think, not perfect, though I’m sure others here can improve upon it more.

      Some details missing, like what nationality flag was burnt, specific stuff which might emphasize the comic nature of the plot (at the moment it sounds a bit serious).

      Next step is reading the script. Post a link to your script and let’s see what the first few pages are like.

      • GoIrish

        Those dreaded loglines…thanks for the feedback. The main character is Canadian. I was trying to avoid the use of Canadian twice, but can see that may have resulted in lack of clarity.
        Maybe: 20 years after accidentally setting a flag on fire during the Olympics, a Canadian seeks refuge from a documentary film crew by fleeing to America, but can he learn to survive as an illegal immigrant?
        35 words!

        • S.C.

          Read the first ten pages, just to get an idea of the script. It’s well-written, no immediate nitpicks I can spot. Quite funny in places – in fact, the first few pages are pretty funny. But I don’t see how it all ties in with the rest.

          The script continues like that. Some funny dialogue. No nitpicks. Lot of talking, long scenes. Not much plot.

          I guess Guy is the lead character. You introduce him with another character, Lloyd, so it’s difficult to tell which is the flagburner/frostback of the title, that is until the old lady calls him a flagburner.

          Would it have made more sense to start with the flagburning? That’s what I was expecting.

          Need to establish the hero’s situation. He plays hockey with his friends and his elderly neighbor doesn’t like him. It’s not the greatest setup for a comedy film I can think of.

          Maybe later I’ll read some of the rest… I’m sure the story will kick in later. It’s not really “my thing” but I’m sure others will be able to contribute as well.

          • pmlove

            Is he/she a xenophobe/right wing anti-immigration at the start?

            What`s the fish-out-of-water element, assuming it’s that kind of fare? That`s he`s rich -> poor (a la Coming to America)?

          • GoIrish

            For me, the fish-out-of water element is (at least in part) he’s white and rest of the illegal immigrants he comes into contact with are not. That’s kind of what the script is getting at. Is there a racial component to why we’re really only concerned about illegals coming from one direction? (obviously, money/wealth plays a role in that as well.)

          • GoIrish

            Thanks for reading. The goal with the opening scene was primarily to show the contrast between life at the southern border and life at the northern border. At the southern border, they want to build fences; illegal immigrants will get chased by border patrol agents on horse. At the northern border, it’s obviously not quite the same situation. So, the premise of the story is a Canadian who generally behaves rationally (for a comedy) with the noted exception of believing he must behave the same way as illegal immigrants from the southern border.

            As far as the elderly neighbor, she was supposed to be representative of the Canadian population as a whole – the entire country has never really forgiven Guy for his flag burning. When the CBC shows up, he’s finally had enough and decides to set sail for America.

        • pmlove

          Send me an email with it and I`ll take a look over the weekend. lovepeterm – gmail

          • GoIrish

            Thanks for the offer – happy to read anything of yours in return.

        • ArabyChic

          One problem I have is “Learn to survive” is vague and probably indicative of some focus problems in the goal and stakes (sorry to go all GSU on you). Here you are only really giving us the want of one of the antagonists (the documentary film crew). What is the want of the main character and how does he go about doing that? If his only want is to be a normal guy in Boston — that’s fine. But that must be stated front and center. Maintaining status quo is a fine goal as long as status quo is something not easily maintained, especially when something comes and shakes everything up. In that vein I think this should be…

          “Happy family man (or however you choose to describe him; it should be the status quo he is trying to maintain — dream job, dream family, etc) has his life overturned when he is tracked down by a documentary film crew set on uncovering a past shame he has been running away from his whole life… (and then make that shame something that can really upset his status quo).

          Maybe burning the flag just isn’t embarrassing enough as a secret (especially for a comedy). Hope this is more help than a monkey wrench in the gears.

          Final note — it sounds like the way it’s structured now we know about what he running from from the get go. I would take time and set him up as a character and why we love him and what’s important to him before a documentary crew descends. And play it out for a little while. What secret is he hiding that his loved ones and co-workers don’t know about? Use the mystery box. We’ll be interested to find out once we see him be scared shitless that a film crew has found him and could tell everyone his secret.

          • GoIrish

            Thanks for the thoughts! Agree that “learn to survive” is a little vague – I’ll see if I can come up with something better (I may suggest to the CIA that they consider adding logline-drafting to their interrogation techniques now that waterboarding has been banned – probably would’ve found Osama 10 years ago!).
            As currently written, the main character has essentially been treated like a second class citizen since the flag burning. When the CBC shows up, it’s the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. He wants out. He views America as a chance to get a second chance at life. The mystery element is a little lacking in my current script and would probably be good to add in some fashion. I don’t think it would be difficult to change it so that the main character is living a normal life with a secret until the CBC shows up, but as you note, it may not be big enough of an embarrassment if people had forgotten it over the years. I’ll have to think about that a little bit. Thanks again.

        • BellBlaq

          I’m basing this solely on what you and others have already said, but the first thought that came to my mind was to consider making the protag an American citizen who accidentally burned a Canadian flag and just so happens to be on the Canadian side of the border (vacation? kidnapping? drunk prank by friends at Niagara Falls?) when he finds out about the documentary (thus passions are stirred, a manhunt ensues, etc). You get to keep your desire to show a fish-out-of-water, man on the lam comedy while exploring a fresher take on the negative side of the “immigrant issue,” i.e., from another country’s perspective (haven’t we seen enough American hate for immigrants?).

          • GoIrish

            Thanks for your suggestions. Typically, immigrants come to a new country illegally to escape something (e.g., persecution) or to have more opportunities (e.g., jobs, education) or both – something pushing them out of their old country and something drawing them into a new country. I’d probably need to think a little bit more about what’s drawing him/keeping him in Canada after learning about the documentary. Is there something on the American side that’s worse than being pursued by Canadian immigration officials and facing an outraged Canadian population? There could be. As you note, there may be benefit to exploring immigration issues in another country (did someone say sequel…to a nonproduced script?!).

    • klmn

      I’ll be happy to read your script and offer my thoughts – no guarantee that you will find value in ‘em. I can’t promise a quick turnaround.

      kenklmn AT yahoo dot com

      If after reading my notes, you still want to read my script, I’ll send you one of mine.

      About your logline. I’d cut most of the details. How about, “The former torchbearer during the Olympic opening ceremony tries to live down the shame of accidentally burning his country’s flag.”

      That’s still too awkward, but in the words of Eero Saarinen, less is more.

      • GoIrish

        Thank you! Here’s a slight revision to your logline:
        “A former Olympic torchbearer tries to live down the shame of accidentally burning his country’s flag.”
        I may need to do some more research on the goal/format for logines, but I kind of like that one.
        Happy to read anything of yours. Thanks!

        • klmn

          I’d go with that logline. Got your script. I’ll get to it ASAP.

  • mulesandmud

    Some more thoughts about analogies, comparison, and prose in general.

    –Make sure the style fits the subject. If you’re writing a decadent period piece, then the descriptions can feel florid, even purplish at times. If your script is a hard-boiled mystery, you want to keep things lean, so your comparisons should be terse and minimal.

    –Mix it up. Know the difference between a simile and a metaphor (even if you forget which is which) and make sure you’re not using the same one all the time. For similes, vary your connecting words. If every sentence you write has the same structure, e.g. hinges into comparison with ‘like’ (“…like a puppy in a pet shop…”, “…like an Irishman on St. Paddy’s Day…”), then your prose will feel lazy.

    –Don’t repeat yourself. If you find yourself stating something bluntly, then repeating it in a metaphor, chances are you’re being redundant, or that your comparison lacks the relevance to stand on its own. Either way, not good.

    –Clarity above all. If you read back something you wrote, and all of your clever language makes it harder to understand what we’re looking at, then you did something wrong. Stay out of your story’s way.

    Everyone’s process is different, but I’d recommend not obsessing over these things your first time through a draft. Nothing kills the momentum of crafting a story like getting bogged down in word choices.

    However, once you circle back to edit and clean up your draft, you should be tireless and ruthless about cleaning up your prose. That means more than just putting every single line under the microscope; it means cross-referencing it with every other line until they combine for a smooth read.

    Some folks here get a little riled when people pick apart the specific wording of a script. For those people: close your eyes now.

    Here are the first few lines of SYNDROM(E):

    “A crew of YOUNG SKATEBOARDERS (BOYS, ages 12-17) hang out in their graffiti and trash strewn haunt.

    They attempt tricks. Fall. Scrape elbows. Bust lips. Crack up laughing. Make jokes. A fight erupts. It’s broken up. Bottles are thrown and smashed. More laughter, more shoving.

    There’s a subtle violence simmering beneath all of it. The sort unique to adolescent boys. Rough housing always a thin line away from actual harm.”

    The first line of the third paragraph should never have made it to the draft. It’s not only redundant, but it’s incorrect: there’s nothing subtle about the violence of kids fighting; the violence is overt. And it’s not simmering below anything, it’s right there were we can see it.

    That’s not a terrible stumble, but it’s a stumble. The fact that pros do it too reminds us that no draft is every perfect, but we should still be aiming for perfection and working toward it as best we can. Good enough is not good enough.

    Get used to spotting flaws like that in even the best work, if for no other reason than to get better at find those mistakes in your own writing.

    • brenkilco

      Clarity above all.

      Yeah, I prefer screenplay prose to be economical and precise. Metaphors tend to be expansive and vague. So unless the simile in question is perfectly judged, conveying by way of literary comparison what would otherwise take a lot more words, well, it’s going to stand out like a sore thumb.

      That whole third paragraph from Syndrome bugs me. As you point out we’ve already had violence shown and describing the simmering violence as subtle is really just bad wording. How bout ” Real violence simmers beneath the casual teen roughhouse.” The “thin line away” reference bothers me too. The line is what separates the present behavior from actual violence. Not the element that’s going to create real violence. Sort of sloppy. The last thing a script should be.

    • Eric

      Obviously “A fight erupts. It’s broken up.” clashes with “There’s a subtle violence simmering beneath all of it”, because if a fight has broken out, there’s nothing subtle about it. However I like the third paragraph’s attempt to articulate behavior that lies in a grey area between playing and violence. That’s interesting to me. More interesting to me then a grocery list of things the kids are doing.

      So I’d actually cut out “A fight erupts. It’s broken up”. Now what you have left is ‘Tricks, laughing, jokes, smashing bottles, more laughing and some shoving”. Now when the author goes on to articulate a grey area between rough housing and fighting it makes more sense because all the actions he listed actually exist in that grey area.

      Same problem. Multiple fixes, I believe.

    • Michael

      The interesting thing about the lines everyone has a problem with is they are more important than they seem.

      Given what this script is about, the writer’s intent is to emphasize how innocent play can quickly morph into violence, not the actual violence. The lines, “There’s a subtle violence simmering beneath all of it. The sort unique to adolescent boys. Rough housing always a thin line from actual harm.” is the writer’s first hints at the plot and the underlying theme. The writer wants us to sense the unpredictable menace lurking below the surface.

      The lines come across as clunky because he showed us the violence and than discusses his point, making it repetitive, instead of making the “play portion” of the scene seem threatening. I like Eric’s fix and might add the fight in after the lines to emphasize the point.

      There’s a fine balance between what we see in the scene and the subtext the writer wants us to interpret in the scene and he hasn’t struck that balance yet. Now, a lot of people reading these comments will think, “You got the point and are being nitpicky.” You are right, but others will miss the point or have to stop and reread the lines to get the point or break the pace of the read to contemplate what point is being made, all taking the reader out of the read. A well written script is an effortless experience like listening to great music.

  • jendecott

    My Thoughts on Syndrome (E)

    The Ring only gentler and funded by the government.

    Thinking back on what I read, the script felt like a lot of different movies blended together. I can’t remember an original scene which is not what you want when someone finishes your story. I think it’s okay to steal (or pay homage, whatever lets you sleep at night) just make it your own.

    The writing was solid and it was a smooth read. The story decisions made it unremarkable in my opinion.


  • S.C.

    Sent! It was a Black List script so most people should have it by now.

  • Eddie Panta

    Mark Heyman was one on THREE writers credited on Black Swan. The script to Black Swan was based on a story by A. Heinz that was optioned years prior to the movie release.

    In arbitration A. Heinz was awarded both story by and screenplay by credit from the WGA.

    I don’t remember any Heyman script that was his original story.

  • Mike.H

    I’d love to give it a read: yokejc100 AT yahoo dot com THANK YOU.

  • Poe_Serling

    “How does that sentence improve the reading experience?”

    I think that ? also touches on a writer’s style/voice.

    When you plow through a ton load of scripts, it is always rewarding to find a writer that can pull off the high-wire act of creating a script that tells both a compelling story and makes for an entertaining read.

    If it’s a gritty thriller, certain writers (really talented ones) will be able to convey some of the story’s grittiness in their descriptive lines (without over doing it). Ultimately, a win for the project and a win for the reader/audience.

    The one screenwriter that I felt got a lot of mileage out of his style/voice – Scott Rosenberg. For me, all his projects have a somewhat playful and very inviting tone to them. Whether it was…

    Action (Con Air)

    Romantic comedy (Beautiful Girls)

    Horror (Disturbing Behavior)

    Old Spec (Bad Moon Rising)

    New Spec (The Hauntrepreneur)

    On a very personal note, if a writer can take my enjoyability level up another notch or two during the reading experience, I’m with them to the end and look forward to their next project.

    • S.C.

      I’m in favor of anything that makes reading a script more enjoyable!

      Imagine if novels were written the same way screenplays were…

      The room in which the boys were fed was a large stone hall, with a copper at one end; out of which the master, dressed in an apron for the purpose, and assisted by one or two women, ladled the gruel at mealtimes. Of this festive composition the boys had one porringer and no more – except on occasions of public rejoicing when he had two ounces and a quarter of bread besides. The bowls never wanted washing. – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens


      The room in which the boys are fed. At one end is a copper pot. The MASTER (40s, face like saddle-leather) ladles gruel out of the pot into the bowl of one of the unfortunate street urchins.

      Beside the Master, WOMAN #1 (20s, beautiful) and WOMAN #2 (30s, beautiful but she doesn’t know it) supervise the ladling, ensuring that each boy has a hunk of bread to go with his gruel.

      CUT TO: – Oliver Twist by Hack Screenwriter

      The problem seems to be unfilmables. Dickens – or Patterson of Flynn or whoever – can write about things that can be seen (visuals), things that can’t be seen (internal thoughts), and things that we haven’t seen yet (flashforward).

      Lines like “The bowls never wanted washing” are brilliant – but I don’t think you put could that in a script.

      My attempt to adapt Dickens, while I was a bit stupid, it’s adequate. But it doesn’t convey the atmosphere very well. So I can understand writers wanting to expand their prose.

      For some people, the best idea might be to write a treatment, that is a fairly lengthy treatment, more than fifteen pages double-spaced. In a treatment you can write all those unfilmables, all those internal thoughts. Then when you write the screenplay, you have those ideas written down, you can figure out what works on the page and what doesn’t.

      Just an idea.

      • brenkilco

        Lines like “The bowls never wanted washing” are brilliant – but I don’t think you put could that in a script.

        But in that case you could find a simple visual alternative. The undernourished kids ravenously licking the bowls clean.

        Course Dickens was a genius and he got paid by the word. How would he have fared if someone had forced him to reduce the length of one of his novels by 80% ?Screenwriting, by its nature, is really the most inelegant kind of writing. The writer is deprived of all the advantages of the novelist, and you’ve listed some. Creative description, the elaboration of internal states, just the number of words necessary to adequately tell the story. He hasn’t the room for many metaphors or colorful turns of phrase. So he has to pick his spots. The best screenplays to me are the ones that obey all the rules yet seem to make the fewest concessions to the screenplay form. That maintain a bit of the fluidity and grace of a good novel. Bolt’s script for Lawrence of Arabia would be one example.

        • S.C.

          Would it surprise you to know that I wrote that scene in a couple of minutes?!

          If I – or someone better than me – had longer to work on the adaptation, they could have thought of a better way of conveying the atmosphere, as you say, visually.

          I better check out that Lawrence of Arabia script:

          Is this it?

          • brenkilco

            That’s it. I’m not certain whether it’s the original screenplay or some sort of modified shooting script with camera angles added. But the quality of Bolt’s prose is still evident. His ultra precise attention to the characters’ emotions and attitudes may seem a bit extreme by today’s standards.

    • tyrabanksy

      God dammit… I’ve been working on a script similar (but probably not) to The Hauntrepreneur. Worst.

      If anyone has it, can I get it? I’m going to have to read it before I proceed with mine. WORST!

      • Poe_Serling

        Unfortunately, I don’t have it… I just included it in my comment for the following few reasons:

        1) It’s one of Rosenberg’s latest spec scripts.
        2) I think the project got sold to Paramount, so it must have a lot going for it.
        3) In hopeful anticipation on my part that the script reads as fun as his other scripts.

  • NajlaAnn

    I’m reading it right now. And yes, so far (to p.30), it’s that good.

  • Kirk Diggler

    “He starts going before she can protest. She watches him, anxious. Like an owner whose dog has slipped its leash.”

    How come no one has slammed Heyman for his passive writing?

    “He goes before she can protest.”

    • Kirk Diggler

      OT: Anyone see Ex Machina yet? Thought it was great. Oscar Issac was perfect as the edgy genius. Some nice twists at the end. Well worth seeing before we’re hit with the mindless summer onslaught.

      • Michael

        Perfect casting, great acting, writing, design, cinematography, etc. And yet, the pace moved slower than the glacier they flew over in the beginning of the film. That’s not to say it didn’t hold my attention and fascinate me at times. Also, I didn’t find the payoff at the end to be big enough. This is one of those films I would look forward to enjoying at home on a large flat screen and avoid the distraction of munching popcorn and crinkling candy wrappers while trying to enjoy all that is beautiful and subtle about this film.

        • Ninjaneer

          I didn’t have a problem with the pacing.

          I think most pacing issues arise from too much fat. Though it was “slow” it didn’t have much fat . From what I remember it usually cut in late to a scene and cut out early.

          • Michael

            Agreed, no fat, every scene perfect. Yet somehow the overall feel was slow, but one of the best slow movies I’ve ever watched.

          • Kirk Diggler

            I think your comment about pacing is interesting. It’s certainly not a kinetically-paced thriller, but the one thing made me think less about the pacing was the SUPER over BLACK: First AVA session, 2nd AVA session and so on.

            Gave the impression that the story was building toward something, which made each new session more and more interesting, even if the scenes themselves were more or less ALL talk. I actually think the screenplay is Oscar worthy. And yes, the ‘no fat’ comment is spot on.

      • Nicholas J

        I might go see it. Can you describe it without getting into plot? I hate watching trailers. Thriller? Sci-fi thinker? Slow burn mystery? Seizure-inducing visual masterpiece?

        • Kirk Diggler

          A slow-burn psychological drama with sci-fi and philosophical elements that concentrates on three main characters, one who may or may not be a self-aware A.I. It’s a combination of the elements you mention, but not a pure sci-fi or a pure thriller. It’s really good though.

  • Zadora

    I read the script in one setting. Couldn’t stop. I thought it was great and would love to see this on film. I wish I could write and plot things out like that. Definitely one of the better scripts I’ve read in a long time. I read a lot of them.

  • S.C.

    OT: Some of these resemble things you might find on a serial killer’s wall, nonetheless, here’s how some famous writers planned their work:

    Personally, I like Joseph Heller’s outline best!

    • tyrabanksy

      Ha. Makes me feel better about my wall.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Except in Westeros.

  • Dan B

    Good point on analogies. I feel they help convey human emotions that could otherwise be called out as “un-filmables” as long as they are well done. I’ve received contest notes before that suggested using terms like nervous, anxious, or other states of mind was the wrong way to go. Instead, they suggested writing all the possible physical cues that would make the reader understand how that character felt. To me this feels like overkill. I’ve read both amateur and pro scripts that bypass this advice, and a well done analogy is often smoother and I can understand the mood or emotion they were trying to convey.

    • Eric

      “I’ve received contest notes before that suggested using terms like nervous, anxious, or other states of mind was the wrong way to go. Instead, they suggested writing all the possible physical cues that would make the reader understand how that character felt.”

      To me that’s just bad advice. Physical cues can mean multiple things when they’re isolated from an individual’s overall body language. Nonverbal cues are very complicated things that, for the most part, can’t be expressed by simply describing the action seen. A character who folds their arms or hugs themselves could be stand-offish, projecting power, feeling vulnerable or cold. Until you deconstruct everything around them the physical cue is near meaningless.

      Futhermore, actors don’t want you to tell them specific things to do with their bodies. They want you to give them an emotion to play so that they can interpret it in their own way. Sometimes they’ll disagree with the emotion, but they’ll almost always disagree with the body language. To say that a character being nervous is unfilmable is like saying the actor won’t be able to act nervous on camera. Of course they can. It’s their job. That’s filmable.

      Now there are actions like smiling or glaring at someone that more readily convey emotion without having to be on the nose about it, but in lieu of that I’d much rather have the emotion flatly told to me than have to struggle through painful descriptions of body language that aren’t plot relevant and will just be ignored by the actor anyway.

      • Dan B

        Great notes. I think some get the “show, don’t tell” message so jammed in their head they think everything needs to be “shown.” An emotion can be shown, it’s the performers job on camera to do it. Readers should be able to get where the writer is going with it just by seeing words like “nervous.”

      • Odogg32F

        Cheat as they say… Nervous, he pinches his brow at what he’s hearing.

  • Dan B

    OT: Does anyone have The Final Broadcast or Shangria-La Suite? I finally got around to reading When the Streetlights Go On, and loved it. Would like to read the other scripts O’Keefe and Hutton have written.

    • S.C.


      • Dan B


  • brenkilco

    Wasn’t so very long ago that Cusack was kind of synonymous with smart, wry, alterna-cool. Middle age can really bite like a bitch in tinsel town.

  • Pooh Bear

    Anyone remember the AOW script New Coke?

    Not sure if this is the same. But looks like a story on the New Coke marketing blunder is in development.

    • Dan B

      It says that it’s the writers from Deadpool who have optioned a book on the subject. It’s a different project than the AOW.

  • Andrew Parker

    Ever seen The Help?

  • Kirk Diggler

    Brock? Brock Landers? Is that you? No sorry, i don’t have the script. Would love to check it out too.

    • Linkthis83

      You have it now.

      • Kirk Diggler

        Thanks Linkster! Much appreciated.

      • Ninjaneer

        Hey Link, would you mind sending it my way?

        • Linkthis83


  • Zadora
    • Bacon Statham

      It’s amazing how many interesting scripts you miss out on because the logline didn’t grab you. It’s happened with Syndrome and The Search. The thing is I don’t ever remember reading the logline for this on the Blacklist. I’m surprised I don’t remember it really, because the title is something I’m not likely to forget.

  • klmn

    Just finished reading this. SPOILERS AHEAD.

    The eye cutting is straight from Un Chien Andalou. I’m wondering if the bull being killed is from another classic film. I don’t think it’s from Le Sang des Betes, but it might be.

    The storyline reminds me of classic detective movies, with the detective being drugged, abducted, or beaten. This has two detectives, one male, one female so it’s a little different.

    And it’s high damned time Carson reviewed a mad scientist script. Thanks, C.

    • ff

      I just glanced through it and don’t even get it. So what was the point of the experiment anyway? Did you understand it? Thanks!

      • klmn

        The way I understand it, the experiment was to see if watching violence would cause the viewers to become violent, and if it would create physical changes in the brain.

        It does seem a bit muddled, but it’s good enough for government work – and for a movie. :)

        • ff

          K thanks

  • klmn

    “The sun rises up from the horizon, like a wild horse who’s just woken up from a long slumber.

    How does that sentence improve the reading experience?”

    One more thing – horses usually sleep standing up.

  • tyrabanksy

    Really enjoyed reading this but it felt like an episode of Fringe or X-Files. (Probably why I enjoyed reading it).