Genre: Drama/Comedy
Premise: (from IMDB) After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother.
About: Today’s script was written by Ben Falcone, a character-actor who happens to be married to the biggest female comedy actress in the world, Melissa McCarthy, who also happens to star in Tammy. The two enjoyed working together on Bridesmaids so much (Falcone played the air marshal on the plane), that they wanted to extend that into a full-on feature. This looks to be Falcone’s first produced screenwriting and directing effort. Tammy comes out this summer.
Writer: Ben Falcone
Details: 90 pages – (undated draft)

tammy-poster

Recently, I gave an amateur writer notes on his comedy script which, he hoped, would become a future acting vehicle for Melissa McCarthy. The general gist of my notes was that it wasn’t ready. I told him he needed to exploit the concept more, improve the co-lead, and move things along quicker. The writer came back frustrated. He had seen and read “The Heat,” McCarthy’s film with Sandra Bullock, and didn’t see how his script was any worse than that one.

I didn’t agree. The script wasn’t delivering on the promise of the premise, and the co-leads weren’t active enough until way too late in the story. But then I looked at The Heat. That screenplay wasn’t lighting the world on fire either. It was a bit sloppy. The story lagged in the middle. And while it was an above-average execution, there was nothing exceptional about it. In short, the writer had a point. “Hey, mine’s not perfect. But neither was theirs.”

This is the part of the business that frustrates me. I tell writers to write something exceptional, then something mediocre (like, say, Ride Along) gets purchased and made. And does well! I’ve seen Ride Along. I wouldn’t say it’s “bad” but it sure is generic. Which leads us back to that question: If that’s getting bought, why isn’t yours?

Well, I want to get into that. But first I should probably tell you a little about today’s script, another McCarthy vehicle. I fully intended to bring Tammy into the conversation, but it turns out this is an indie film (which are made under different circumstances) and was directed by McCarthy’s husband. So I’m pretty sure we know how it got made. So let’s get into Tammy and then we’ll get back to that troublesome question.

Tammy is a woman approaching middle-age who doesn’t have her shit together. She drives a piece-of-shit car, which she ruins when she plows into a deer. This makes her late to work, which results in her getting fired. To top it all off, she comes home to find her husband cooking a meal for another woman (her husband’s never cooked a meal for her ever).

Tammy stomps out and decides she needs to take a road trip. Where? Anywhere that’s not here. So she goes to her parents’ house to get another car, which also happens to be where her Grandma lives. Her Grandma is sick with diabetes and a major alcoholic. A winning combo. And she’s tired of being cooped up so she demands that Tammy take her on the trip.

Away they go, off to Mr. Rushmore of all places (because Grandma was supposed to go there as a kid but never did). Along the way, the grandma drinks a lot, Tammy eats a lot, and they occasionally experience some hijinks, like Tammy picking up a guy in a wheelchair only to find out he’s a total douchebag.

Anyway, things end up exactly how you’d expect them to, which is the kiss of death in any screenplay, as Tammy and Grammy come back home, both slightly better off spiritually than they were when they began. The End.

The-Heat-2013-film-large-movie-poster

I don’t like to knock indie films because they’re more a labor of love than their big shiny Hollywood counterparts. But since we’re trying to learn screenwriting here, there’s a lot to be said about Tammy’s misgivings.

Tammy violates rule #1 in any movie, but especially road trip movies – give your protagonist a strong goal. The only goal here is to get to Mount Rushmore. But there’s no importance attached to it so it doesn’t resonate with us at all. We don’t care if they achieve the goal or not, which means we’re not onboard with anything that happens along the way.

An easy way to know if you have a good goal driving your story is to ask, “If my characters don’t achieve their goal, are they any worse off than when they started?” In this case, if they never get to Mount Rushmore, their lives are no different than if they did. That’s the kiss of death. If there are no consequences to failing, than the goal is too weak for the story.

Occasionally, these movies can survive IF their characters are great. Sadly, Tammy’s characters are only marginal. Grandma has diabetes and is an alcoholic, which provides some character depth. But it’s a pretty standard execution of alcoholism, so nothing feels very new or enlightening about it.

Tammy starts off with a vice of her own, overeating. But for some reason that stops early on and never comes back. Outside of that, the character is hard to tab. She’s vulgar sometimes. Swears a lot. Unpredictable. Then out of nowhere she’ll become really dialed back and straight-laced.  Massive unexplained tonal shifts in characters is a huge sign of amateur screenwriting.

But Tammy’s failure can mainly be attributed to two “must-haves” that it didn’t have. First, the characters in any “buddy trip” or “buddy cop” scenario must contrast. The heavier the contrast, the more entertaining their interactions will be. Almost always, one of the characters is a version of conservative, and the other is a version of “crazy/weird.”

Here, Grandma was the crazy one, and Tammy was the crazy one. There was so little contrast between them that there was zero conflict, and therefore no drama. Go watch The Heat to see this done right. Sandra Bullock was uptight. Melissa McCarthy was loose and crazy. They clashed on every decision, which made them a funny pair.

The second must-have is the central relationship in the movie. These only work if there’s a significant unresolved issue between the characters that needs to be resolved. This is ESPECIALLY important if there isn’t a strong goal, because the resolution to that conflict will probably be the only “goal” we’re looking forward to.

Tammy and Grandma didn’t have any problems. Tammy was a little concerned about Grandma drinking too much, but it was explored with kid gloves. Other than that, they seemed to be pretty cool with each other. Agreeable people going on an unimportant trip with zero consequences if they fail isn’t a movie. No matter how you look at it, it isn’t a movie.

I’ll circle back to the original question now. If your script is just as good as an average Hollywood movie, why doesn’t it sell? I don’t think Tammy can help here, since the writer/director is married to the star. But what about The Heat or The Other Guys, two movies with imperfect plotlines and hit-or-miss jokes that didn’t always stay story-relevant?

The answer to this question is extremely complicated, but I’m going to try and simplify it for you.

Say a producer knows that Seth Rogen just went on a canoeing trip and had the time of his life. And the next day, he hears about a canoeing script from an agent friend. He reads it. It’s not very good. But he knows how much Seth loves canoeing, so he sends it to him. Seth’s a good writer and knows the script’s lame, but the bones of the structure are there and there’s a few funny scenes. He can easily buy the script then hire some guys to rewrite it and a year or two later, have a project ready to go.

There are also times where a studio is dying to make a certain kind of movie but doesn’t have a script for it yet. So say Warner Brothers needs to fill that vacancy left by the Harry Potter franchise. And they find a script about a young girl who goes to a Ghost Academy. The script is average, but they see this filling that same Harry Potter demo, so why not take a chance and develop it into something good?

Then of course there are actor attachments. A big actor likes a script and attaches himself to it. At that point, the studios can’t say no because any project an A-list actor is in has the potential to make money. The catch is, the script sucks. Maybe because the actor’s ability to judge material sucks. Maybe the actor loves the character he’d play, despite the rest of the script sucking. Maybe the script was written by one of his friends. Who knows. But that’s the scenario. In those cases, a studio will almost always buy the script because it comes with the potential of a movie that will make them money.

Here’s the problem with these scenarios. First, this almost exclusively happens to people who are already repped, which you aren’t. Why? Because those writers have agents sending their scripts out to a wide berth of people with buying power. You, on the other hand, have nothing. You don’t have any control over something like that happening to you.  Second, bad-to-average scripts selling are almost always luck-based, a script getting in the right hands at the right time (like Rogen’s canoeing scenario).  And unless you know what everyone in Hollywood wants at every moment, selling a script this way is a crap shoot.

So forget these scenarios. Put them out of your mind. Never think “I’ll write something as good as that average movie I saw and then sell it” because you’ll have a better chance at winning the lottery. Seriously, you will.

The world you’re operating in is much different. You’re competing against all the guys trying to break into Hollywood. And because there are between 50,000 and 75,000 scripts being written a year, an average script isn’t going to stand out. You’ll have to write something much better than average. Typically, if you look at every year like a giant screenwriting contest, you have to finish in the top 30-40 of those 75,000 to get a SERIOUS look from Hollywood (the kind of look that leads to a script sale).

If you’re writing something that’s just “okay,” nobody will care. EVEN if it’s as good as a movie that made 40 million at the box office last weekend, like Ride Along. I know that thinking sounds backwards, but that’s the reality. Like I always say, the only thing you can control in writing is writing the best script you can possibly write at this point in your life (not 60%, not 70% not 80% – but 100%!). If you’ve honestly done that, you’ll have a shot. If you’re writing anything less than that, you shouldn’t expect much.

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

What I learned: If you’re writing any sort of road trip movie, build conflict in one of two ways. 1) If your characters already know each other, create a deep unresolved problem between them that they need resolved by the end of the movie (Little Miss Sunshine). 2) If they don’t know each other, create a deep fundamental difference in their philosophies on life (Due Date, Rush Hour). If the opportunity presents itself, do both (Sideways).

  • MaliboJackk

    There’s a true story about two guys who were auditioning girls for a part in a movie.
    After seeing a number of them, one guy turned to the other and said –
    ‘You know, any of those girls could play this part. It’s near lunch time — let’s just pick the next girl who comes through the door.’ And they did.

    As they were walking out, they overheard a couple of the girls talking. One said — ‘I knew I should have worn my yellow dress.’ The other said — ‘I was going to wash my hair.’
    But, of course, it had nothing to do with that.

    Sometimes I think scripts are picked the same way.

    • carsonreeves1

      There are times where this does happen in the script world, but it’s very much the exception. For the most part, the cream rises to the top. I’ve yet to meet some brilliant screenwriter with an amazing script (or two, or three) who everybody’s ignored.

      • MaliboJackk

        There are so many ways to answer that.
        Max Landis had 71 scripts before 72 hit. And the next thing you know, he’s juggling 12 and a directing gig. As if someone threw a switch.
        Nora Ephron said she had wonderful scripts in her closet that she couldn’t get made. What if those scripts were written by an unknown?
        We all know stores of amazing scripts that almost didn’t get made. Isn’t it likely that others didn’t?
        I think it was Pila Alexander who tells the story of an executive who took the names of 300 writers with him when he was hired by Disney. These were people whose scripts impressed him over the years. When he began calling the people, he discovered that all 300 had left the business.
        It doesn’t surprise me that anyone who has read thousands of bad scripts would say what you’ve said.
        I’ve heard 5 professional readers on a web site panel state openly that they never give a script a “Recommend.” They’re afraid to.
        This business has all kinds of hurtles. I’m not saying this to complain. I’m saying it because it’s a fact.
        I once attended a pitch fest just for the experience. Pitched to a producer. Totally unexpected, he burst out with excitement in the middle of the pitch. Gave the same pitch to 9 assistants. Got no response — and these are the people who keep scripts from reaching producers.
        I’m not talking sour grapes here. I haven’t tried pitching since. And I haven’t tried marketing any of my scripts other than entering a few in contests. I guess you could say I’m too busy writing.
        Everyone says the cream rises to the top. I’m just not totally convinced. It’s a very strange business.
        Michael Crichton used to say the people in Hollywood are as dumb as bricks.
        Harold Ramis complained that Hollywood executives have a hard time recognizing a good idea. This from a guy with his track record?
        And we’re supposed to believe that cream rises to the top.

        • mulesandmud

          What’s true, almost without exception, is that strong writing gets noticed. The larger subject that you broach, however, is what happens next, because being noticed is barely even the beginning of the road.

          Can you deal with the politics? The doublespeak? The idiocy? The glacial lack of progress interrupted by spurts of frantic, useless activity? The backhanded praise? The outright deceit? Can you collaborate with someone whose ideas you hate? Or, sometimes more frustratingly, someone whose ideas are fantastic but whose bedside manner is horrendous?

          A screenwriting career is a complicated beast, and many of those complications are either irrelevant to writing or actively hostile to it. The fact is, people who are truly serious about storytelling often quit the business because telling stories in the studio system (and even in the indy world) requires constant compromise, and even after you’ve contort yourself into awful poses for the sake of a project, you sometimes watch helplessly as outside factors drive that project toward failure, abortion, or the limbo of turnaround.

          Very quickly, people who get a bit of traction start to realize that the rocky road they’re walking is the only reward they’ll ever get. Some people make their peace with that because they love enough of the game to play through the rest of it. Others draw a line and turn back.

          The cream certainly rises, but it may curdle before it gets to the top.

          Nobody ever said this was a life for everyone, right?

        • klmn

          “Harold Ramis complained that Hollywood executives have a hard time recognizing a good idea”.

          I think that’s true mostly with comedy. Many people can’t recognize humor when it’s written flat on the page. That’s why television uses laugh tracks.

          As an experiment, try watching Seinfeld with the sound off. When you see the characters jumping around, turn on the sound and you’ll hear the characters screaming and the laugh track cranked up.

          • klmn

            Addendum. I think people find drama easier to judge.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Agreed. Just look at the AOW scripts labeled as ‘comedy’. The first thing out of most reader’s mouths is “I didn’t laugh once”. Yet the writer is convinced he’s writing comedy, and maybe he/she did write a comedy. But once you announce you’ve written one, expectations go through the roof. Comedy, to me, is more in the performance of it. Which means it takes a reader with a great imagination to bring the comedy alive from the written page.

          • MaliboJackk

            … and studios hate dramas.

        • Midnight Luck

          I think, for the most part, it takes a combination of:

          1) Being a Skilled Writer
          and
          2) knowing how to: get noticed. get your work read by those who can do something with it, being interesting once you get in front of those people.

          Basically, I don’t believe the majority of the Hollywood Producers or Money people know what talent looks like or reads like. They do however light up when Charmed, are Shown Enthusiasm, or they have a Personality which gets them noticed.

          Now, yes, the first part (writing well) is important, but the second part tends to be where many people are chosen / discovered.

          Ultimately though, I don’t think most people can recognize a good script or writing or story by reading it. It takes someone ELSE recognizing it, and then one after another will follow their lead, without knowing exactly what is good about the script.

          Like TAMMY.

        • carsonreeves1

          I’ve read almost every supposedly “great” script that Hollywood’s afraid to make, and you could tell in all of them why they weren’t made. When people discuss these scripts that are amazing that haven’t been made, they’re either referring to really good scripts that are impossible to market and therefore won’t make money (Origin of a Species), scripts whose budgets are just too big to take a gamble on (Killing on Carnival Row), and scripts where the word “great” is being used liberally (these scripts are often more along the lines of decent or ‘better than average’). The thing is, almost every person who writes one of these scripts is doing well in the business writing other things. So something good happened to them.

          Max Landis – I don’t know where to begin with him. What was he, 25, when he broke in? If he wrote 70 screenplays before the age of 25, he’s writing a new script every 2 weeks. It’s not difficult to figure out why none of them were any good.

          • Bfied

            “If he wrote 70 screenplays before the age of 25, he’s writing a new script every 2 weeks. It’s not difficult to figure out why none of them were any good.”

            This.

          • Citizen M

            “I’ve now written sixty-eight features by the time I’m twenty-six… Yeah, sixty-eight features. Not all of them are sold. Only eleven of them are sold, which is still way more than you want to work on at once.”

            Poor guy. What problems he has created for himself. [/snark]

            On teaching someone to write good scripts:

            “With scripts, it’s all ‘who’s reading it?’ Who’s viewing the art? Case in point, Chronicle. It’s my first movie being produced (I’ve had a couple of forgettable things on TV). Chronicle is the first thing I’m palpably proud of. It’s really my baby. People think Andrew created the storm. He doesn’t have the ability to do that. He’s Professor Xavier. He’s not Storm. And yet, you can’t argue with them. Because it’s something I made for them.

            “When you hang your art in a gallery, when your movie goes into a theater, it suddenly is the property of everyone viewing it, right? The ideas they have about it, the theories they have about it, the weird gay fan fiction they write about it (there’s so much of it!), that– there’s an indelibility to the subjectivity of art.

            10:00. “Story comes from inside. Screenwriting is something you learn from the program Final Draft. So what do you tell a group of people who want to be screenwriter? Structure?
            (ironic)
            AT THE BEGINNING THE HERO IS MISSING SOMETHING. THROUGHOUT HIS JOURNEY HE FINDS WHAT HE WAS MISSING.

            “Being a screenwriter… that’s my boring job.”

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXQaloVftFs

          • Midnight Luck

            agree, agree.

            2 weeks a screenplay, no way.
            3 weeks, well, ok.

          • MaliboJackk

            Everyone under 25 is mad at you.

      • Midnight Luck

        I hope so. ( about rising to the top)

        It is a nice thought that this is reality. But for every reality one way, there are just as many the other way.

        There are as many stories where a brilliant writer did some amazing work, hit the pavement hard to get it out there, and FAILED (or whatever term you want to use, Gave Up?). Yet we don’t hear those stories. EVER.

        We hear the stories of success, because the industry loves to push them, the People themselves love to push them. Who WANTS TO hear about the Failures? Who WANTS TO talk about Failing? Or NOT MAKING IT? Who WANTS TO hear the stories? (I do, but that is just me. I like hearing about the loss and tragedy, but I am a dark character, and there’s always something to learn from it).

        Everyone only wants to hear the uplifting story, the success story, they all want you to be Positive. Being Positive is tiring. Especially if you aren’t making it.

        • Franchise Blueprints

          ….Darlene Conner is that you? Becky and David no longer exist. D.J needs you.

    • Scott Strybos

      I thought this anecdote was going to end with “And that girl was….” and then you were going to name a huge Hollywood actress.

  • leitskev

    “But then I looked at The Heat. That screenplay wasn’t lighting the world on fire either.”

    The best part about Carson’s approach is that he’s like a mechanic tooling around under the hood. He’s heard some things about what makes a car run well, has some ideas of his own, but in the end all he wants is the car work. So he’s ever-willing to adjust his theories. Unlike many in this business.

    And I think he is moving into a sense that there is a huge disconnect between people who analyze scripts and movies that actually get made. Between script theory and script practicality. Many of the comments I see from script analysts about what a script should be sound logical at first, but when you get down and really look at films…not just the handful of films the theorists use to support their case…you find that these theories don’t hold up so well. That the majority of films, even very good films, don’t fit these models or ideals.

    I don’t have time at the moment to get deeply into it, but I would challenge the theorists(and I am an amateur theorist myself) to take any one of their favorite film maxims and test against the top films of the last year. Or against the top critically acclaimed ones. See how the theory holds up. I mean isn’t that the real test of a theory?

    For a good novel, you need three things: an appealing jacket to entice someone to pick up the book, a turn the page quality to keep the reader going, and a satisfactory conclusion so that the reader passes along a good word about the book, and hopefully buys the next book by the writer.

    Is a good script or film different than that? The rules and ideals we come up with for making a film story work are really just ways to do those things. To hold our interest and leave us satisfied at the end. Those rules, such as having an active or likable hero, are just means to an end. And not the only means. It’s important to recognize that and not becomes subservient to them.

    I think when one reads a script, the first test is – could you see it as a movie? The second one is – did you want to keep reading to see what happens with the story? If there are problems with either of those tests, then you start looking under the hood to try to figure out what the problem might be. Maybe we don’ care what happens, or don’t care about the hero, or we don’t care about the relations between the characters. Then we start asking why. But we shouldn’t ask those questions unless there is a problem. If the story seems like it would make a movie, and it holds our interest, that’s probably enough, and maybe we’re better off looking at why that works than trying to figure out whether it conforms to our theories.

    Just a thought, have a great Monday! I’ll check back and see if anyone has any followup.

    • carsonreeves1

      I think this is true. I am adjusting my approach a little. I know that scripts in certain genres get made into movies without the script having to be perfect. The problem is that if you promote this approach, writers everywhere think they can get by with a less-than-stellar script. While that’s true in a very tiny capacity, for the most part, trying to write the perfect script (or the best script you’re capable of writing) gives you the best shot at success, particularly because everybody’s measurement of their ability tends to be higher than what is reality. So yeah, no script is going to be perfect. A script’s imperfections are actually what set it apart. But, regardless, you should still strive for greatness. :)

      • leitskev

        I think often the perfect script just doesn’t conform to the rules. In fact, over the years you have identified quite a few great scripts that demonstrate unique voice and compelling story telling but which don’t hit the rules. I’m not advocating weak scripts. I’m saying that sometimes we miss a script’s strength because we’re checking off a list against our expectations. Over the last decade or so, most of the top TV series involve characters that are in many ways unlikable. House of Cards, Mad Men, Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, and many more. This went against the conventional wisdom. We want to break the craft down to general models, but it’s not something that is conducive to that. Models are comforting, they help us think we’re learning, getting closer. For those in the teaching industry, models are necessary. But the models are pretty limited.

        • Michael

          Could you please site some examples of successful films that fit your model?

          • leitskev

            what model? I didn’t propose one. My point was anti-model. I both like studying models, and at the same time think they are very limited. Or actually, it’s more that there are many very different types of models that can work. There is nothing even close to a one size fits all. Even a brief survey of films will probably be enough for anyone to conclude that.

            I can share one insight I experienced where the models could have led the story tellers astray had they followed them too strictly. In the Coen Brothers version of True Grit, I remember watching Matty cross the river, desperate to catch up to the lawmen. Had this been filmed with the Hero’s Journey in mind, she would have arrived on the shore and seen the silhouettes of the men on the horizon, leaving her to hurry and catch up. If the scene had been envisioned through the eyes of the protagonist, that’s how the scene would have played out.

            But that’s not what happened. Instead of watching Mattie struggle for the whole scene, the camera shifts to Cogsburn watching from the shore. For long moments it lingers on his face. The whole thing was brilliantly set up in the first act of the story. We see both Matty and Cogsburn need someone strong enough to stand up to each other. Matty has lost her father and Cogsburn is a lonely figure. So we want to see them bond. The first moment of this happening is when Cogsburn watches her cross the river. It’s powerful.

            There are many standard structure elements that can be identified in the film. But the most important parts of the story revolved around the bonding between characters. And bonding is seldom if ever discussed in film theory. Ever since that moment, bonding between characters has been my focus in constructing most stories.

          • Michael

            I’m looking for context to understand your comments. Having some specific examples is a help.

          • leitskev

            Your question was what films fit my model. And my point had been that many films don’t precisely fit a one size fits all model. I had proposed no model. But I guess what you really meant to ask was show how the films don’t fit the models.

            And I said in my post I really don’t have time. I challenged others to, on their own, take their favorite script maxim and apply it. Test it. See if it fits. For example, many people advocate the “active” hero as opposed to the reactive one. Look at this year’s films and see if that fits to most of the films. Another thing many say is that the hero should be the most interesting character. Again, apply it. A few weeks ago I talked about that here, we looked at the films, and that rule crumbled into dust.

            And I’ve discussed above the “likable” hero(in the TV world anyway), and this rule has been completely turned on its head.

            And please keep in mind…I am not advocating a lack of structure. The opposite. But things have to be done for their own reason, not because of a model. Let’s look at the Godfather. After a very long wedding scene, we follow Tom Hagen to Hollywood where he tries to influence a producer. This scene is there for a perfectly good reason…and yet it has nothing to do with the spine of the story, which is Michael’s fall from the law abiding son to the one who runs the family. So why the Hollywood scene? For balance. The wedding scene showed the Corleones as a nice family that does favors for people, is reluctant to kill even for justice. It becomes necessary to show the dark side of the family before continuing with the story. That’s why the scene is there. The story has it’s own need, which determines the structure. Not some model.

          • leitskev

            Furthering the discussion with Michael – I have not seen the Heat, nor read the script. But I would suspect the story centers on conflict and bonding between the two main characters. The buddy film done in the model of Midnight Run. The idea is to get the audience to want to see the two buddies bond, but there is constant conflict between them that gets in the way. That’s where the humor comes from, as well as the emotional center.

            But how do models like the Hero’s Journey deal with this structure? While one or both of the characters may be and usually are on a journey of growth, that’s NOT the center of the story. The story revolves around our wanting to see them bonding together.

            In the recent Sherlock Holmes, Watson wants to grow and Holmes needs to so they can become adults and move on with their lives. But we DON’T want them to grow. Because growth means ending the partnership…and we don’t want to see it end. We’d be perfectly happy(as would Holmes) if Watson’s fiance left him, forcing him to return to Holmes. It’s the bond that matters…not the growth. And the growth in this case is what’s in the way of the bond. Now one might make the quibble that they need to learn how to grow and maintain their partnership…buncha blarney. That has nothing to do with the emotional center and the comic entertainment which fuels the story. All that matters to the audience is that Holmes and Watson maintain the partnership. If that means they remain like bachelors living in a party pad apartment, we’re all for it. The conflict comes from Watson wanting to grow up, but it’s the bond that matters.

            Films like The Heat succeed or not based on whether the conflict and the bonding succeeds. If the story makes us want to see the two characters bond, adds sufficient obstacles that create conflict and comedy, then the story will succeed. Individual growth, hero’s journeys, active protagonists…all that stuff can be useful, but it is secondary and not necessary for this type of film.

          • pmlove

            When’s your book out again?

          • leitskev

            Aw, come on, there’s no need to be a smart ass. I thought this was a good place to discuss ideas about script and film. Do you not like discussion? You don’t have to agree with me. Give an opinion, I’ll read it and respect your thoughts.

          • pmlove

            Sorry, didn’t mean it to come off like that. Was meant as a genuine compliment – everything you say has merit and is well thought through. I’m English, we don’t do well with straight up feelings and compliments.

            Translation – I’d very much like to read more of your thoughts as I find them both relevant and informative.

            See, I can’t even do that and not make it seem sarcastic. But, nevertheless, it isn’t.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I thought this was a good place to discuss ideas about script and film.

            Yeah I was under that impression as well. I guess I went into a gray area with one of my posts. Funny how reaction to Michael Sam mirrored what I posted prior.

          • leitskev

            Hey, PM, sorry if I misunderstood. I’m definitely just a rank amateur throwing his hat into the conversation. I’ve actually switched to prose writing instead of screen, but I come here still because I like the discussions and reviews. And learning story principles is useful for prose also.

          • pmlove

            I’d go as far as to say some of my favourite films appear to completely ignore the standard rules laid out. Recently(ish):

            The Great Beauty – a film with a protagonist who has no real goal, has an opening first scene that is purely for tone/mood (a choir sings as a group of tourists get off a bus), then follows that with a 7 minute club scene with very little dialogue, just lots of dancing.

            Lots of other scenes that just involve characters sitting around and talking, characters come in and fall out as the film progresses in a seemingly ‘chapter’ based structure, one long beautiful meditation.

            Why does it work? Character, I suppose. I think the structure gives the arc more flavour, subtlety, which if you compare to a film like ‘Don Jon’, which just gives you an arc shown through – he goes to the gym, he goes to the gym, he goes to the gym, he tries basketball instead, resonates a lot more with the viewer.

            Little vignettes that show the character in different but similar situations, slowly resolving, changing, shifting – I suppose like American Psycho (the book, at least), which is compelling for that very reason. The script version chops it around obviously, going with more of the standard rules.

            Assassination of Jesse James: page one of the script literally just writes – “Action as per voiceover”, both showing and telling the same information.

            Then, a long protracted fall out at the end. I’d guess (and could be disputed) that many people would want the film to end with the death of Jesse but that last segment almost stands alone as a film. My wife came home when I was re-watching and was in tears just from that bit alone.

            There’s little in the way of momentum driving the story forward, obviously it is more about the relationship between the two and you could (and I’d agree) argue that the final segment works solely because it IS still about that relationship.

          • leitskev

            Reply feature turned off for me. Not sure what happened.

          • leitskev

            Unfortunately I have not seen those movies. You mention momentum, and I think that might be the single hardest things to create and maintain in film. Especially for the modern film, where audience patience is much less than it used to be.

            I think what you’re doing is the right way to go. Look at films and break down why they work or don’t work. Look at their own story logic, not just whether they conform to some model. I mentioned the Godfather. The Hollywood scene is actually start of the set up. The story begins after that. Once the story begins in earnest, momentum needs to be maintained. So first the Godfather turns down the rival who wants his help. Then he’s shot. Then Michael visits him in the hospital and is forced to save his life. Then Michael takes on the task of killing the family enemies. Then Sonny is killed. So things keep building.

          • leitskev

            Just read half of the Heat. And it perfectly illustrates why film theory is leading many script gurus astray. It follows a tried and true model. But not the model which most gurus use,which is centered on the journey of the protagonist.

            The Heat is silly. And it works. Because what matters is the relationship between the two characters. As in Midnight Run, Lethal Weapon, etc. The key is in the set up: we see that both characters have a great need – they are alone in the world. Both characters are difficult, though they are in many ways different from each other. So the story creates a desire in the audience to see these two characters bond as friends or partners…and at the same time it sets up the obstacles in the way of this. So the emotional center of gravity is created and the source for the conflict which will fuel the humor. It’s very simple.

            Can we find standard elements of story structure? Yup, sure can. The characters have flaws, will have to change. But that secondary. The main thing is that it’s set up so we want to see these two bond, and there are inherent obstacles in the way. Simple. But most gurus will miss that. And because of that many would pass on a script like this, a script that was a clear box office success waiting to happen. You can read a script like this and pick apart the flaws. But if you understand what makes a simple story work, you’ll recognize the potential right of the bat. The script is not genius. It simply works.

      • leitskev

        I decided to get the Heat script and read it. After 25 pages, I can honestly say I laughed almost constantly. It’s goofy, but funny. Maybe that’s because I can picture McCarthy in the role, that helps. But I think it’s hilarious.

    • Midnight Luck

      Well there is the argument that ALL the pic companies and movies are becoming the same. Because they all hit the “CORRECT”, or APPROPRIATE or Corporate Satisfying beats. There is a Formula, there is a Recipe, and it is called “Save The Cat”. I agree with this article, that almost all the movies of any size nowadays take no chances. They follow the story beats, hit the right sections at the right time. Yet they are all as boring as hell. They lose their lifeblood, their individuality, that “Thing” which intrigues the viewer and audience.

      It is sad and striking to me that a movie like SEVEN would never be made today. Not in this climate, not how people look at movies. If it had more cheap scares, a bit of humor thrown in, and a Wayans brother it might be made. Then they could just call it a Horror story and be good with it.

      The approach being taken by the majority of the majors is so tiny, so claustrophobic it is horrible. I have seen so many of the newest movies since the beginning of the year, and the only ones that have stood out as being good, worthy or interesting are: BAD WORDS and PHILOMENA. None of the other movies had me caring about anyone in them, caring what the story was about (usually there was no reason), or laughing or interested in any way whatsoever.

      Watching all the other movies is like watching someone write down each story beat on an overhead projector in pen. Then crossing it off. Boring. Opposite of creative. What is the one thing you DO NOT want to do in Screenwriting? Be Boring.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        Basically this forum represents uncompensated insiders. I’ll make an assumption the average board member has read 50 or more scripts. Because we have an intimate insight at stage one of the movie making process its easy to become jaded and distracted at what’s being put out. When I happen to see a movie I’m not particularly interested in I don’t immediately say I can do better. I start mentally writing what is happening on the screen. Similar to the advice cover your ears if you want to write great action or vice versa for dialogue. Even if you’re not vested in the film, doing mental challenges keeps you vested in the industry. Perseverance and attrition sometimes come into play on the rise to the top. When you get there does it matter the road you took? The end goal is to be successful.

      • Citizen M

        If a non-formulaic movie MADE A LOT OF MONEY, you might see more non-formulaic movies made.

        You can’t blame the industry for churning out what the public appears to want more of.

        • Midnight Luck

          I can blame the viewers, the industry, and education system.

          It is all a circular vicious cycle intent on making the public easier to control, less educated, and easier to strip of their dollars.

          It has been proven that over the years (many, many years) the use of alcohol (drugs), entertainment, and bigotry, actually lead to an easier to control society. We see it now more than ever.

          I use my dollar to support what I want to support. Others do as well, and it is saddening what they choose to support. If there is a movie I want to support (and have already seen) and one I decide I am going to go see, even though it is most likely going to be bad, I will pay for the one, and go see the other (don’t tell anyone).

          Yes I saw this stupid movie (and payed for the other one), sadly there was nothing else opening here. I try to watch as many movies of all walks as I can (though I am done participating in the vapid Spandex movies anymore, haven’t seen any for a long time now), even if they are not what I would normally see. I keep up with most of the films out there. Had CHEF opened here I would have gone to see it instead.

          The way it is going, however, they’re as focused on the lowest common denominator as I have ever seen. The level of film has never been lower. The intelligence is non existent. The creativity is, where?

          Here are the options (or lack of them) we are offered in a Large College town. There are no other theaters (the only interesting and decent choice? BEARS).

          And it isn’t even the beginning of Summer yet, is it?

          I am getting…..sick

          Neighbors‎ 1hr 36min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Comedy‎ –
          The Amazing Spider-Man 2hr 22min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Action
          The Other Woman‎1hr 49min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Comedy‎
          The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 3D‎2hr 22min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Action
          Heaven Is for Real‎ 1hr 40min‎‎ – Rated PG‎‎ – Drama‎
          Rio 2‎1hr 41min‎‎ – Rated G‎‎ – Animation/Comedy‎
          Captain America: The Winter Soldier‎2hr 15min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Action
          Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return‎1hr 27min‎‎ – Rated PG‎‎ – Animation
          Brick Mansions‎1hr 30min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Action/Adventure/Drama‎ –
          Moms’ Night Out‎1hr 38min‎‎ – Rated PG‎‎ – Comedy‎
          Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return 3D‎1hr 27min‎‎ – Rated PG‎‎ – Animation
          Bears‎1hr 18min‎‎ – Rated G‎‎ – Documentary‎
          Noah‎2hr 18min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Drama‎

        • leitskev

          I agree a hundred percent. What I think I’ve been trying to say is two things: there is no one size fits all model; and the main models and rules people often apply can be misguided. For example, to construct the buddy movie or its twin the rom com through the formula of the hero’s journey is a mistake. That’s not to say that there can’t be elements of the hero’s journey, or whatever other protagonist focused method we use. But the driving force in the buddy movie is the bond between the characters. I think I’ve read all the major books and none of them talk about the bond being the central focus.

          The Heat works. I laughed reading it. It’s silly and even stupid, but it works. I just wonder how many people in the script reading world would be able to recognize that if the script came across their desk. That’s the troubling part about this industry. At a certain level, there are people looking at scripts and subjecting them to the wrong tests.

      • leitskev

        Hi Midnight. Sexy name! I probably don’t see enough films, but I actually don’t think they are all the same. I mean there are common elements we’ll recognize, but I disagree with the Snyderites who think every film follows that model religiously. I’ve even seen Snyderites brag that they know what type of event is going to occur on what minute. But I don’t think they’ve tested that in the real world. Because I have. I never take anything for granted. Someone tells me something is a certain way…I listen, I’m grateful, I’m intrigued…and I test it. From my experience, few films actually conform to the Snyderite model. I mean sure, there’s always an excuse to stand up and scream “promise of the premise!” or “fun and games!”, but it becomes kind of silly. Those things are in stories.

        One thing I have found is that many films, possibly the majority, follow the sequence method. You can check your watch by it. Usually the sequences are about 12 minutes. But bear in mind, the sequences fall apart at some point, usually after the midpoint. And this is how it should be! Because as we approach the third act, several story lines may be coming together and the story needs to be building momentum toward the conclusion. So sequences in the third act are much shorter, and often less clear, than they are in the first.

        I think the biggest problem with the one size fits all models is at the lower levels. And that includes the teaching levels, and the people who have learned in those schools. These are usually people that have studied making film…but have never made film. Some of them become David Mamet’s “suits”.

        Another problem with the script/film guru is that it seems they only like one or two scripts/films a decade. That’s no way to build an industry. People should not expect every film to be classic. Films like The Heat are just good fun. Most of my own scripts have not been like that…just plain fun. Maybe I should have done more of that, or tried. I had one script that I wrote when I was just learning, I cranked it out. It wasn’t serious. Had Prohibiton gangsters and zombies, a lot of cheap humor. For the heck of it, I through it in a horror contest and it made the finals. Sometimes fun is better than serious, and we all need to remember that.

    • Midnight Luck
      • astranger2

        Good article. Art imitates life… life imitates art… or everything just imitates itself… a cookie-cutter world… Members jackets only…

      • Citizen M

        its a shame really (Score:5, Insightful)
        by TheSkepticalOptimist

        “All movies are coming out the same? Realize that the major demographic for movies are teenagers and early 20 somethings and you understand that this demographic has not yet developed the maturity or patience for investing any thinking power into changing their derivative lifestyles. Eat, sleep, party, fuck, get a tattoo, is about all they can handle so taking 90 minutes out of their “busy” schedule can’t be over-complicated by something that challenges or inspires an actual original thought.”

        • Midnight Luck

          This is Fucking Depressing
          and possibly true

          I saw the movie on Friday at 12 noon.

          Now they planned the release date right I guess, since it happened to fall on graduation weekend. In this smallish town with a huge university, timing made a difference.

          I did not know that was happening last weekend. I didn’t pay attention to that. Normally the theater would be pretty slow at that hour. Instead, it was crazy busy and raucous. Bad Move.

          The three guys sitting behind me spit chew into an empty cup the whole time. Cheered for the preview of The Purge : Anarchy like they had never heard of it or seen it but were ready to participate if it ever came to reality. Me, I saw the first one opening weekend, knew all about it, and am quite saddened they made a second one. Their conversation let me know that this was going to be a loud, retarded, insipid viewing to be a part of.

          The movie delivered all that you are referring to for the viewer. Took NO brain power to follow. Had the requisite Pot humor (surprisingly no nudity (other than a shot of swollen fake boobs)). Could be understood with a 1.0 GPA or less.

          I have no idea if the theater was filled with Graduates, or Drop Outs, but it seemed like the latter.

          I get they are blowing off steam, partying with their release from prison. Excited about not being in school, or having to go back to school (at least for a few months, or possibly forever). But this was different. It was as if there was no intelligence in the room at all.

          But if this is any small snapshot of the people being released into society this generation, well, it is more doomed than ever.

          This isn’t the normal kind of worry about our future that happens as one group looks at another. As one party reflects on what is to come from another.

          No, there really is a difference. A bigger difference than ever before. Maybe it is what we put in the water. Or the tacos, or the pop or booze or Twinkies. They say this is the first generation that won’t outlive their Parents. Who will be LESS healthy than their Parents. Who won’t make as much money. Who will be WORSE OFF than those who came before. Well I don’t think it is just about Money or Health, I believe it is about Intelligence and brain power.

          I think IDIOCRACY may have been a Documentary. Because, things are getting damn scary.

          We are so Fucked.

  • ripleyy

    I think, in most cases, you know it in our bones that you’re onto a winner. There’s something about the story, or the characters that make you think “I’ve got something here”. It’s vain, I agree, but I think you need a certain degree of vanity to survive in this hostile environment.

    The thing with this is, is that you have thrown all-in in a script that barely work or you can also gamble a lot in a script that actually does have potential. The thing is, is that you need to keep working at it and working at it. You also need fresh eyes. I can’t tell you how great it is to have a fresh pair of eyes looking at your work – I’m sure most of you already know.

    In the end, it honestly is completely blind luck. It’s gambling. If this landscape is a shark-infested ocean, a large majority of us aren’t going to make it. The ones who do only make it to safety because they’re thinking smarter and they’re writing smarter, too.

    As with the rest of the article, it’s a pretty great lesson.

  • Andrew Parker

    I agree with all that you wrote, except the part where you call this an indie — it’s produced by New Line, the comedy division of Warner Bros that put out Hall Pass, We’re the Millers, Horrible Bosses, etc.

    As for nepotism, look no further than “Neighbors”. It was written by two friends of Seth Rogen who had never really written a screenplay before. Seth and writing partner Evan Goldberg helped their friends shape the idea, punch it up, etc. That actually worked out great, so nepotism isn’t always bad.

    Nepotism exists in all facets of business. So either get busy making friends in Hollywood, marry someone with connections, or write a great script which transcends whatever respective genre you write in. Ironically, the third way is probably the hardest.

    • Midnight Luck

      worked out great money wise for them,
      and getting them a name,
      but story wise? Nope.

      I saw it, and wish I didn’t.
      So lame and sub average.

      Don’t remember laughing, except maybe once, but can’t remember why.

      (in my opinion)

    • carsonreeves1

      It wasn’t true nepotism. These guys worked in the same circles as Rogen, which is how they knew him, but so do a lot of people. Just knowing someone doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. You still have to deliver. And that was an all-star premise, so I’m not surprised Rogen wanted to do it. But yeah, Rogen’s a writer, so I’m sure he helped a lot (I think the writers said it took them a year to write the script).

      • Andrew Parker

        There’s a good interview here with Seth: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/seth-rogen-reveals-rigorous-joke-687401

        A big takeaway was they didn’t think to focus on the Rose Byrne character until a later draft when Rogen’s wife suggested it. So get the idea down on the page, and maybe on the rewrite you can come across a golden nugget that takes an idea from good to great.

  • shewrites

    Tammy feels like a money grab after seeing the trailer.
    Even in it, Melissa McCarthy didn’t sound like she was owning up to her character. She sounded unconvincing and unconvinced to me.
    I totally get that she wants to cash in on her recent successes but it makes me sad for her and Hollywood that she couldn’t take the time to make sure she if not over-delivered at least did not disappoint. She’s an incredibly talented actor.
    If we accept that Hollywood is all about marketing, then it’s easy to see why flicks such as Ride Along, such a disappointment, Tammy, even though it’s an indie, get on the screen with mediocre scripts. It’s all about getting people in the theatre THE FIRST WEEKEND because there’s no going to be any positive word-of-mouth about them.
    I saw Ride Along because:
    - I write comedies
    - the trailer seemed fairly funny
    - I want to support comedies so more are made
    I won’t go see Tammy because enough is enough.
    The upside of watching these movies is that it motivates me to push myself to write better. I mean, if this is the competition, then there’s hope for me.

  • Kosta K

    Is it better to have ten mediocre screenplays and one really good one or is it better to only have that one, good 100% screenplay? If someone loves that one and asks “What else you got?”, is it better to reply “What else do you need?” or to hand over the ten other shitty screenplays.

    I recently realized that spending too much time polishing a single script wastes way too much time. Before you know it, another year has gone by and you’re still nit-picking at the same old story.

    As an amateur, my focus this year is on prolificacy – get a screenplay to a good place and move on to the next one. Easier said than done, though, because of my terrible procrastination problem :

    I recently entered the Sheldon Turner competition that requires you to only hand in the first 15 pages. When I looked at it from that perspective, I realized how important those first 15 were. My recent AOW submission had a really slow start and even though there’s exciting shit that happens later, it’s after the first 15, and that’s just too late.

    My goal for this summer (if I don’t win the competition) is to get at least three good concepts going and get them all up to page 15 in hopes that I’ll know which concept is worth beefing up after that. I’m also trying to reach level 60 in Grand Theft Auto 5, so it’s gonna be a busy summer ;p

    • Eddie Panta

      Of course in a contest where you submit the first 15, you’ve got to get to the inciting incident quick. But otherwise I find that if the script is an easy and entertaining read, I won’t be looking at the page count so much. I thought LOWLIFE moved very quick.

      I think this is why you see a lot of people putting in a past or future action scene in the opening sequence.

      • Kosta K

        I’m not saying you have to necessarily hit the inciting incident in those first 15, but you definitely have to have a movie in your hands by then, right?

        Thanks for reading LOWLIFE by the way :)

        • Eddie Panta

          To me, I hope to have the script feels like a movie/story from the opening image. I don’t think ppl demand the main plot point in the first 15 pgs. But you want to show them what kind of movie the script is going to be asap. My goal is to make sure that someone is embarking on a journey by pg 15. I actually like to take it slow at first, give them something to settle in to. Then pick up the pace.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      I recently read telling people in the industry you have a catalog of un-produced scripts can work against you. The work-around is go forward with your best script and mention you’re working on something new. That gives the impression you’re constantly producing fresh ideas.

  • Eddie Panta

    “You’re Stuck In A Metaphor”

    I haven’t read or seen TAMMY – But judging by the trailer is looks like a series of unrelated YouTube video fails. Crazy stuff will happen. The camera will linger on embarrassing awkward moments. The leads will be humiliated. It’s spectacle over story.

    One of my favorite ROAD TRIP movies is THE TRIP w/ Steve Coogan.

    The two characters here are very different. There is contrast and it’s immediately clear these two guys have known each other for a long time. Backstory is not in the forefront of the film. It rises to the surface slowly, information is leaked out little by little. Unlike say: SCENIC ROUTE where the characters spew emotional details about each others early childhood in the first scene.

    In The Trip, Steve and Rob have unresolved issues between them, but as soon as this gets going you know these issues won’t be resolved on THE TRIP.

    They’re stuck being friends and there’s nothing they can do about. Even if they’ve become very different then they use to be. They’re not going to delve deep into each others souls, try and kill each other, or reconfigure their friendship.

    The film/series has a clear goal, the duo need to review several restaurants in a certain amount of time. But neither seem very involved or interested in this task. It doesn’t really supply any urgency to the story.

    Coogan’s character; Steve doesn’t really have a clear goal. Actually, he has no idea what he’s going to do next. A hard decision hangs over him. He’s floating along. Steve doesn’t know what he wants.

    There is conflict in the form of a relationship, Steve is supposed to be on the trip with his girlfriend not Rob. But he never really shares this conflict with Rob. They’re not dealing with it and neither is he.

    Neither character has a immediate goal, neither seem to want anything, other than get back home.

    To me, the reason this still works is because each scene has a challenge. Steve and Rob are constantly challenging each other like teenagers, inventing games on the fly to see who will win. They dare each other to do stuff, and are constantly competing. But these mini-challenges/conflicts have no obvious meaning to the plot. They invent characters and scenarios to lash out at each other in a make-believe way. The real conflicts are being avoided.

    You never get the feeling that they’re trying to entertain us. They’re just doing what they do. Behaving like old friends would.

    Steve doesn’t resolve a problem, in the end he realizes he has a problem. Steve, like Little Miss Sunshine, doesn’t win, he doesn’t figure everything out, but he realizes he has a problem and he perseveres

    • Kirk Diggler

      “She was only sixteen! You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFIQIpC5_wY

      • Eddie Panta

        Bloody Doors Off is from The Italian Job.
        But I still don’t know where: “She was only sixteen yrs old” is from?

        • Kirk Diggler

          Not sure either, but it sounds like something a tough talking Michael Caine character might say.

        • JakeBarnes12

          Get Carter.

          Not with Sly. The brilliant 70s British original.

          Michael Caine is a hard, hard man.

          • Eddie Panta

            I thought is was Get Carter, it would make sense, but I never found the line in that movie.

          • Citizen M

            The line isn’t in the transcript. Possibly Caine ad-libed it. He does kill someone who messed around with a sixteen year old girl.

  • fragglewriter

    I thought this movie was written by Melissa. Interesting to know that this is an Indie movie. At least they’ll be able to recoup.
    I didn’t see The Heat as it didn’t look interesting from the trailers or clips online. I think buddy films are mostly a miss nowadways as there has to be a fresh angle to it. I think having a contrast is good, but you also don’t want it to be predictable.

  • Guest

    No Screenplay is perfect.

    I love the story, hate the writer.
    I love the writer, hate the story.
    I love the premise, hate the ending.
    I love the Hero, but the Villain needs a lot of work.
    Etc…

    Aim high, shoot low may not be the best approach for screenwriting, given the competition.

    I have a person screenplay that aims for perfection and another that aims to please.

  • Stephjones

    Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon? Sign me up. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

    • Midnight Luck

      Sounds awesome. Good combo.

      Love Susan Sarandon.

      I want to see a little indie named

      Ping Pong Summer

      with Susan Sarandon.

      I don’t think it is playing anywhere, says it was released in Jan 2014, but

      Saw this image, simple as that, and I wanted to see it….

      • Franchise Blueprints

        Five pound fish, blue collar neighborhood, 1990′s camaro. It’s the new Viaducts of Newport Rhode Island.

      • MaliboJackk

        Don’t mess with her.
        She’s got a fish.

        • astranger2

          had to laugh out loud at that… lol, didn’t even see the fish before… too funny…

        • astranger2

          That’s funnier than anything I saw in The Heat — too bad Leslie Nielsen isn’t around to deliver that line…

        • Stephjones

          And check out her vest.

        • Citizen M

          Look at that determined stride. She’s gonna put someone in his plaice.

    • Kirk Diggler

      When did Susan Sarandon get old enough to play Melissa McCarthy’s grandmother?

  • Eddie Panta

    No Screenplay is perfect.

    I love the story, hate the writer.
    I love the writer, hate the story.
    I love the premise, hate the ending.
    I love the Hero, but the Villain needs a lot of work.
    Etc…

    Aim high, shoot low may not be the best approach for screenwriting, given the competition.

    I have a personal screenplay that aims for perfection and another that aims to please.

    • Casper Chris

      No Screenplay is perfect.

      I love the story, hate the writer.

      What does you hating the writer have to do with the screenplay?

      • Eddie Panta

        Hate the writer’s style I mean

  • Randy Williams

    I thought the trailer of Tammy was hilarious. Yeah, it’s spectacle over story but in this case the story is US.

    Everybody I know is struggling including me. We’re all turning into white trash. In the trailer, there’s that older veteran working at a fast food joint. How pathetic is that? Tammy tells her grandma, “I don’t know where I’m going” Grandma has her bottle, what does she care? Rings a bell to me.

    That one joke with Tammy and the police about running from the bees, I’ve never seen that joke before and found it very original and funny, even pertinent if you think about it. Police harassing us, running from bees. Nonexistent bees. I don’t see original humor much in amateur scripts on here. Give me unique jokes like that and I’m halfway on board your script.

    • Casper Chris

      Yea, the bee line cracked me up too. Simple but funny.

    • Andrew Parker

      Have you seen “Tommy Boy”? That scene is straight out of that movie.

      • Randy Williams

        Wow, you’re correct. Thieves! Although I thought it played better much simpler with Tammy.

  • Citizen M

    WTF? The comments have disappeared!

    (Grendl strikes again.)

  • Mike.H

    per what Carson’s written up top:

    A star vehicle doesn’t have to be puurfect, as long as the Stars say it’s fine, script’s locked and into production. Their goal — butts in the chair and an attractive trailer. Cash the check, next project.

  • jw

    Agreed. One of things that’s never talked about around here is the business of movies, which if you ever talked to a studio head or someone really looking to make money, they would say, “give me 2 1/2 minutes I can put in a trailer that puts asses in the seats, and I don’t give a sh!t what your movie’s about.” Everyone’s in this game for a different reason, but all angles are rarely explored around here. And, the honest truth is that there is a lot of pontification around “screenplays” that will never go anywhere. I don’t remember the last script on an AOW that I thought would ever actually be made. I don’t think the absence of such “reality” in the game of writing is really beneficial to any writer as it doesn’t address the area in which the writer begins his/her journey, which is the topic of the script and directional approach.

  • astranger2

    Thought it started nicely, setting tone. “He’s been better” cracked me up. Joy’s kind of a combination Maude and Frank Galvin as a funeral crasher. Just there for the food and “gluten-free” offerings? Flowed well. I can picture Melissa futzing around the casket…

  • Unfinishe

    A network TV writer I know says it’s better to be connected than talented, but those discussions are as depressing as they are pointless. It’s a fact that there are creative talents in all endeavors who will never achieve any recognition. Such is life…

  • Ambrose*

    Carson,
    Thank you for fulfilling my request to review the script for ‘Tammy’.
    When I read the script a while back I was completely underwhelmed. I thought story-wise it had all of the substance of tissue paper.
    No strong GSU. Unlikable characters. No one to root for. It was a chore just to finish reading it.
    You hit the nail on the head with all of your comments, especially the fact that this weak script got made because McCarthy is currently hot at the box office.
    She and her husband wrote this, they get to co-produce it (hey, more power to them if they can get any movie made; I just wish it had been a much better script), but I think audiences will be disappointed. Word of mouth may kill this film rather quickly. Not that I’m wishing any bad luck on them or the movie.
    I hope she doesn’t make it a habit in her career of playing the loud, obnoxious, almost white trash nightmare, as she did in ‘The Heat’, because her character in ‘Tammy’ seems almost to be drifting precariously in that direction.
    The real test will be her work in ‘Spy’ (pka ‘Susan Cooper’). There is a considerable amount of physical action in that movie and as I read that script I had a hard time imagining Melissa McCarthy, with her weight, actually being believable in some of those scenes. Running after someone (at least if we’re to believe she actually has a chance to catch the person) is not her strong suit.
    Again, I have nothing against her and her success, and it’s rather refreshing to see someone other than the 100 lb. ingenue getting leading roles. That’s no small feat in Hollywood. This ain’t Ibsen. Dollars rule at the box office.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      McCarthy equals the modern day Roseanne for the silver screen. She typecast herself into a loud, obnoxious comic actress. Does she have a greater range, who knows? Will she be allowed to explore that range probably not.

  • MaliboJackk

    His dad “discovered” him when he was 18.

    • Midnight Luck

      took him another 71 scripts to get noticed again.

  • Midnight Luck

    Speaking not of Tammy
    Here is a cool NOIR trailer for BLADE RUNNER

    for no reason at all, except, well, it’s kinda cool.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JXFqPzAFv8o

    • Franchise Blueprints

      I’ll take your Blade Runner and raise you one Akira.

    • DavydSC

      It’s very cool. Thanks for that. One of my favorite movies but I’ve never seen this trailer. It makes Blade Runner look like Casablanca. …Which, I guess, it is.

  • Franchise Blueprints

    .

  • Mike.H

    Grendl: I get the feeling most of your genre are either church themed, Irish or horror types. No dramas or comedies from you I suppose.

  • ElectricDreamer

    Joy drawing attention to herself by wailing wasn’t funny for me.
    If your goal is to schmooze meals, why not try for a modicum of public discretion?
    That’s par for the course for a Harold & Maude intro type situation.
    But Maude can’t keep her trap shut because she’s intrigued with Harold.
    And her blissful ignorance in the face of a potential new friend is endearing.
    Even Gus van Sant used the same tactic in 2011 for his tween reworking, Restless.
    The terminal cancer groups in Fight Club, the same discretion and connection.
    Instead of random wailing, maybe she fakes a — spastic blood sugar episode?
    If she’s going to draw attention to herself, go big pal.

    Like that you called her Joy. Appreciate the irony there.
    But what Father Maloney described was funnier to me than the actual scene.
    I’d rather meet Joy at a reception. She eats her way through the service.
    Talking with her full mouth at the estranged and bewildered bereaved.
    Show the priest’s growing suspicions as he conducts multiple services.
    Montage your way up to the old man’s funeral. Then fire away.

    Same with her clunker car. I’d rather know the car’s junk.
    Joy tries to pop it into gear, the transmission grinds. She fights it. Curses it.
    Practically jumps on the shifter to force it into gear.
    Than blam! Off she goes on a collision course with a corpse.
    As written, I thought Joy intentionally took out the corpse. Out of anger.
    It would be much funnier to me with the SET UP in place before the PAY OFF.

    For me, trickster comedy works best when the reader’s in on the trick.
    If we’re in on the protag’s secret, that juicy SUBTEXT keeps us turning pages.
    Your concept is solid, it’s just a matter of mining it for pure comedy gold.

    And yeah, your protag screams Melissa McCarthy or Rebel Wilson.
    Her plump Tammy co-star, Sarah Baker, crushed it on Louie last night.
    I think she would be a killer 30s take on Joy. Good luck, hope this helps.

  • Kirk Diggler

    I think this riff on Wedding Crashers has promise. Melissa Mc would be perfect. I disagree with E.D., I don’t think you should start at the reception. Appearing at the funeral and crying would at least give her some cover when she shows up for the food. The ‘drawing attention’ to herself could be the real hook of the story.

    Yeah she might have a food addiction, but she also might be extremely lonely, one of those people who has to strike up a conversation with a mailman or UPS guy every day. Her desire for human contact of any kind supersedes her desire for pastry and potato salad, so if she makes an ass of herself bawling over a dead man she doesn’t know, it brings her the human contact she craves. She’s an attention whore AND a food addict. Maybe she purges after every reception out of guilt at what’s she’s done. A way to give a comedic character some layers.

  • Kirk Diggler

    MM has cultivated a very specific archetype. The loud obnoxious woman. I guess you mean ‘easy to write for’ in the sense that she has more or less limited herself to these types in her movie roles. But yeah, it was very ‘easy’ to visualize her as Joy. (irony alert!)

    The one thing that I’ve tried to do with my writing is to incorporate conflict as much as possible, especially in a comedy. Jokes are never enough. I think it’s a mistake many amateurs make, they think their writing and jokes are so good that they forget the character conflict. It seems that Joy vs Calvin is ready made for conflict right from the get go, one born out of disparate personalities.

    Good luck with it.

  • Stephjones

    Maybe when she is confronted about her behavior instead of rudeness you could reveal her flaws by having her binge eatting something low calorie…like ” sugarless gum”. Have her unwrap and shovel gum into her mouth until it’s an enormous gumball. This could be her “go to” behavior for her social anxiety. She fills her mouth so no one can expect her to speak or understand her when she does. The sugarless aspect adds an even more pathetic/comedic element.

    Complicate her further and have her adverse to wastefulness. Maybe she recycles the gum balls into ” art”? Maybe the art she generates from the gum balls is sought after and is how she makes a living.

    Just spit balling. :)

  • shewrites

    I’m with Carson on this one. The conflict between the two protag was completely fabricated for the sake of conflict.

  • mulesandmud

    Don’t switch the POV, I beg you. The bit when she climbs out of the car is the best moment of the whole thing.

    Maybe write the car as a touch more out-of-control before it hits the casket. Fishtailing or whatnot. That implicitly answers the question of whether she’s doing it on purpose or not, and lets the audience focus purely on the natural disaster quotient of this person.

    Are you considering writing the whole script? You’ve done a fat chunk of prep on these boards already. Call it an exercise, an SS art prank, whatever. Two weeks and you’ve got a draft. If you have the time, why not?

    • ElectricDreamer

      Yeah, if I knew the car was more out of control on the page…
      I think I wouldn’t have had the payback reaction.

      A tweak in the prose would suffice.

  • ElectricDreamer

    Mulesandmud had a good point about a slight prose adjustment.
    Just a hint more prose the car is out of control would fit the bill.
    As written, it came off a bit confusing to me. I’d like to read more.

  • ElectricDreamer

    Before I recently parted ways with a certain prodco…
    I was working on a vehicle specifically for McCarthy.
    So, when I saw Sarah Baker last night, I went. She’s the one!

    Your scene is funny, I just misunderstood a key moment.
    Maybe the Priest confronts her too quickly for me.
    Perhaps I wanted more shenanigans before she got dressed down.
    Should you continue, I’d like to read more.

  • ElectricDreamer

    The emotional neediness didn’t quite pop for me.
    But I can see why Kirk went there.
    Perhaps there’s a few prose tweaks that could make it clearer.

    Regardless, I think the project is worth pursuing.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    I think this is the reason screenwriting is so damn hard. You can’t start making money until you reach a pro level, while in almost every other profession, the difficult is an ascending line, that’s relative to your current position.

    Add to that the fact that in other professions you can make a living even when you are at the bottom. In screenwriting the bottom is unpaid, and the only way to move out of there is by catapulting yourself to pro level; there’s no in-between level. Which is insane!

  • ElectricDreamer

    I don’t presume tricksters are brilliant people, Joy included.
    But they do tend to be fairly nimble at their “grift”.
    Since they do it a lot, it’s becomes refined over time.

    Tricksters typically do think they’re smart though.
    That flaw tends to be hotwired into their other shortcomings.

  • ElectricDreamer

    Calvin seems a dead ringer for the currently white hot Kevin Hart.
    But he’s about four inches shorter than your DMV dick.

    I revisited part one and figured out why the car gag stumbled for me…
    There’s zero mention in the prose of Joy’s grinding transmission.
    The engine revs and that’s it, then the car beelines for the casket.
    So, I assumed it was intentional and her transmission excuse was a lie.
    If that was the honest truth, we’d hear those gears grind.

    The “Engine Revs” prose sits on a line all by its lonely self.
    Consider adding that transmission sound effect to avoid confusion.
    No need for any radical POV change to achieve that.

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