Genre: Horror
Premise: When a family moves into their new home in the country, they find a hidden room with a terrifying secret.
About: If you’re anything like me, you were there every Monday night for another episode of Prison Break. Imagine The Great Escape meets Lost meets Orange is the New Black with men. At the head of it all was our hero, Wentworth Miller.  But once Prison Break ran out of prisons to break out of, Miller disappeared, and didn’t reappear until a couple of years ago when he came out with two super-specs that took over the town. To ensure he didn’t taint anyone’s opinion, he sent the scripts out under an alias. The first script, Stoker, went on to a not-so-successful indie run.  The Disappointments Room is Miller’s second script, and supposed to be more traditional. The last I heard, it will star Kate Beckinsdale and be directed by DJ Curoso.
Writer: Wentworth Miller
Details: 126 pages (1st Draft)

wentworth-miller 1Wentworth Miller

The Disappointments Room was about to be one big disappointment until Wentworth Miller went all Travis Bickle on us the last 20 pages. Rarely have I witnessed a script go from so average to so memorable in such a short period of time.

I’m not saying this script is great. I’m just curious why Miller played it safe for so long before he channeled his inner serial killer. Instinct tells me it may be a first draft issue, although everything else in the script is so polished, it’s hard to see why the structure isn’t.

The Disappointments Room starts out a lot like The Conjuring. You have a normal family, led by wife Dana, with husband David and son Jeremy rounding out the cast.  They’re moving into a giant house in the middle of the country with plans to start anew.

But something about the house’s energy is off. At least to Dana. An architect who’s trying to get back in the game, Dana notices an attic window from outside the house that isn’t there on the inside. She goes up to inspect it, and finds a hidden room that only locks from the outside. Someone was kept here.

She starts doing research on the house and learns it was home to a prominent couple known as the Blackers. The Blackers never had any kids. But Dana’s noticing some strange things around the house that indicate otherwise.

She eventually realizes this room is a “Disappointment” room. Back in the day, if you were a prominent family and had a freak child (with like Elephantitus or something), it was too embarrassing to bring your kid into the community. So these families would lock up these “disappointments” in their own little room where they’d live out their entire lives.

Naturally, Dana wants to find out who lived in the room and so continues her sleuthing. Her journey reveals a dark secret from Dana’s own past, that is so horrifying, it makes disappointment rooms look like 80s arcades. But it isn’t Dana’s shocking reveal of this secret that does her in. It’s what her husband tells her after the revelation. That’s the true shocker.

I experienced déjà vu today, as it was JUST YESTERDAY we were talking about not exploiting your premise properly. Once again, we have this strong uique set up (a “disappointments room,”), but very little is mentioned about it.

There’s the reveal of it as a disappointments room, which happens halfway through the script. Then it works its way back into the plot at the very end of the screenplay. But between all that, we have your typical “something’s making a spooky noise in the other room, let’s go check it out” generic horror flick.

I started to wonder if Miller made Fatal Screenwriting Mistake Number 7. Did he pick a concept that didn’t have enough meat on it to build an entire movie around? Admittedly, the disappointment room is a scary idea, but there’s only so much you can do with one room.

Actually, when Dana got stuck in the room early on and nobody could hear her screaming, I thought we were going to stay there with her for the entire movie. She’d be stuck in the creepy Disappointments Room, where she’d almost certainly die. I’m not sure that would be a better script, but at least we’d be exploiting the premise. But she gets out immediately, and it’s back to your typical procedural storyline. Head to the scary library, look up books on who these Blackers are, and see if you can figure out who this child was.

Then I realized this was probably an exploratory first draft. Miller’s figuring things out as we are. It’s the only excuse for why we don’t find out until page 90 that Dana lost a daughter six years ago. That doesn’t work as surprise information. It needed to be known earlier.

Which is why we rewrite. Rewriting is often the practice of moving the exciting things up earlier and earlier in the story so that your script stays exciting the whole way through.  In the next draft, Dana’s lost baby will probably be moved up to page 60. The next draft, page 30. And I’d bet in the next draft still, we’d open on it, sort of like they did in Dead Calm (Nicole Kidman). A dying baby is the perfect inciting incident to get them to move to a new home. And it sets up the ending better.

Outside of the glacially paced story, I can see why this got Hollywood all hot and bothered. Miller’s got a talent for pulling you into the page, forcing you to hear and feel the things he’s describing, then spitting you back out. In particular, he’s got a strong sense of atmosphere he builds into his prose (“It’s now pitch black and pouring rain. The car SLIPS and SLIDES along a muddy single-lane road, branches SCRAPING the sides as they pass. David hunches forward, squinting through the wipers”).

Or take the opening scene, a presumably boring packing scene that reads anything but boring.  We hear the SQUEAL of the packaging tape as it rolls. Miller increasing the pacing by compressing the description with each box packaged, giving the scene an almost frantic feel. Faster and faster it goes, until BOOM, we’re done. You can’t believe it but you actually feel exhausted. After boxes being packed! That’s good writing, my friends, when you can make boxes interesting.

But if Miller is going to compete with the likes of The Conjurings, he can’t just depend on atmosphere and a creepy hook. He needs to look at this script (if he hasn’t already) as an accordion. The whole thing is stretched out from end to end. He’s got to SQUEEZE it together as tight as he can, pushing the first 100 pages into 30, and then he’s got to give us a second act that’s more concept-focused. Jump scares are fun, but Miller’s proven he can knock your socks off with his ending. He’s got to bring that imagination to the middle act as well. I hope he gets there. Because this could be a really good film if he figures it out.

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

What I learned: When trying to come up with scares in your haunted house movies, instead of focusing on the house itself, look to other characters – characters eccentric or unique or who make your hero uncomfortable in some way. One of the most memorable threads in The Disappointments Room is they hire a plumber to fix a mysterious leak in the home. The plumber is intense and scary, but Dana finds herself strangely attracted to him. He senses this, and aggressively puts her in uncomfortable situations, letting her know that if she wants it, he’ll give it. And while she doesn’t do anything with him, she hates that she considers it. That to me is a memorable situation, something I haven’t seen before. It sticks with you a lot longer than, say, the 630th creepy girl in a horror movie trope.

  • andyjaxfl

    OT: Reader Top 25. A few SS readers have requested a new Top 25 poll in the past few weeks. Carson did quite a bet of legwork last time (it consisted of readers sending in their top scripts and Carson tallying up the results). Having said that, I understand why Carson has not expressed any interest in updating the list.

    There are several “free” websites that offer online polls, including write-in options, that we may be able to utilize to make this process significantly easier. I’d be more than happy to set it up if that is okay with Carson and the SS community.

    If we get the go ahead, what rules for listing a script should we use? My suggestion is nothing that has started filming.

    • Scott Crawford

      I think nothing that has so much behind it that production is a near certainty. No Star Wars VIII for example (unlikely I know). Difficult to judge, but I think a Top 25 unproduced has two purposes, to illustrate great screenwriting and to PROMOTE unproduced screenwriters. Maybe that’s the solution; top 25 unproduced screenplays by unproduced writers.

      • Sullivan

        And best amateur, too.

        • Scott Crawford

          Unproduced could include amateur. Tricky one. A script SALE doesn’t mean someone is making most of their money screenwriting (my definition of professional screenwriter). A produced screenplay MIGHT indicate professional status, or at least not amateur.

          Example, Eric Warren Singer’s first sale, The Sky is Falling, was never produced but Singer got LOTS of assignments off it, including what ultimately became his first produced script, The International. Same with Travis Beacham. A quick check on tracking board should reveal whether an unproduced writer is in steady employment.

      • andyjaxfl

        I like the original format of unproduced scripts. Doesn’t matter who wrote them, as long as they had not been filmed. The list will probably need quarterly updating as selections are produced or new SS community favorites emerge, but it can work with a bit of elbow grease.

        • Scott Crawford

          Yeah, I think too many rules spoils the poll, but I think it’s near worthless to promote to the top of the poll a screenplay that is near-as-as-toucher filmed, that is has major talent attachments, a “go-project”.

          • andyjaxfl

            Yeah the rules are going to very tough to define for this one. And I had a complete brain cramp on the most obvious of problems: access to scripts. In my defense, I did make the post at 6:00 AM after a terrible night’s sleep (though not sure that counts)…

    • carsonreeves1

      The main reason I haven’t updated the list is the increased difficulty in getting scripts out to readers, which sucks. But that means that people haven’t read a lot of the scripts that should probably be on the list, skewing the list a bit. But it’s something I’ve thought about doing. If you guys can get access to the scripts, it would help.

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

        I don’t think we’ve ever had a AF where none of the scripts made the cut

        And I think you have the wrong draft of Black Autumn. Should say 4 at the end instead of 1. He also posted it to the comments in AF.

        And I haven’t read any of the scripts on the readers Top 25 lol except for D’Jango. I do have Smoke and Mirrors because I know the writers, but haven’t read it yet. And I think I have the Untitled Chef Project somewhere, too, but haven’t read that one yet either.

        • Scott Crawford

          I never read Smoke and Mirrors but I read the description of the plot in David Hughes’ book “Tales from Development Hell”, and I have to say I know why it didn’t get made. I can’t remember exactly why, but I remember after reading that chapter I realized why. Still, the Batchlers seemed to have made a successful career out of it.

          Kind of brings up a point about the need to update these list of great unproduced scripts periodically; what seemed like a great script THEN might not seem so NOW, given how times have changed.

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

            Producers are still trying to get it made. They’re doing okay. Janet still has to teach at USC so they can send their kids to college.

          • carsonreeves1

            I still haven’t read Smoke and Mirrors since it’s been reviewed on the site and technically I don’t need to. Everybody loves it though.

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

            I did start it once, but it was so dense at the beginning, I was like, nope, not today!

            There really is something to a screenplay looking like a novel on the page, vs a lot of white space.

          • andyjaxfl

            The first ten pages are tough to get through. It starts with a bizarre ceremony at the villain’s palace, followed by a raid that introduces one of the leads. But it gets really, really good once they introduce Robert Houdin, the French magician that Sean Connery was originally going to play.

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

            It’s on my list to read… I just have to be able to get through those first ten pages of huge blocks of description first :/

          • Scott Crawford

            I think S&M was probably very well written and the subject matter a breath of fresh air in a sea of early 90s Die Hard clones (though I do enjoy reading those scripts!). But I don’t think there was quite enough in the story for a movie. It also seemed to suffer the same problem as Crusades (the Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger one) in that it seemed set out to make white Christians, or Americans, or religious people look foolish, and that’s most of your modern audience.

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

            They are actually a very Christian couple… but that’s not what got in the way of it being made. From what I remember, there was some legal battle or something (between producers?) that got in the way. I’ll have to ask when I get back to LA next month, as it’s a total blur now.

          • Scott Crawford

            Yeah, I need to reread that chapter of David Hughes’ book. I just remember thinking “This isn’t Romancing the Stone; I can see why people cooled on this.”

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

            All I know is producer’s really tried to get it going… and the script has not been forgotten and still has fire behind it. I’d like to see them get it made.

          • andyjaxfl

            Smoke & Mirrors fell victim to rewrite after rewrite that took away too much of what attracted all that talent to begin with. Ironically, it was Sean Connery, who was playing the lead, who demanded many of the rewrites. I’ve read the draft that made the rounds back in the day and it’s pretty damn good.

            I don’t think Crusade set out to make white Christians foolish. It shows both sides, warts and all. Besides, Django Unchained did a helluva job of making white people look foolish to the tune of $500 million in box office.

          • Scott Crawford

            I think ANY story about the Crusades in this day and age is going to be a bit dicey, and I think this particular script, didn’t so much set out to make Christians foolish (wrong word) as foolhardy, and blood-thirsty, which of course they were. But $100 million (then!) for a movie about how Christians (of which they are over a billion right now, and many go to the movies) slaughtered Muslims (also more than a billion potential moviegoers) is the definition of noncommercial, and though Kingdom of Heaven got away with it, I think that film wasn’t quite as harsh as Verhoeven’s Crusades.

      • Linkthis83

        Access to scripts was a concern of mine. Plus, with actually writing, I don’t have time to read all these scripts.

        I would like to see an AOW TOP 25, if we could do that.

        • Scott Crawford

          I’ve got to page 44 of Catherine the Great and I haven’t given up… yet (the laziest written battle scene you can imagine!), but I’ll have to return it when I’m more awake.

          Reading screenplays CAN be HARD.

          • Linkthis83

            It’s certainly time consuming. Especially from a craft perspective. Once I read and then hopefully understand the story, then I have to understand HOW the writer did what he/she did to make it happen.

            Sometimes I read for fun…but hardly :)

          • Scott Crawford

            I’m not paid to read, so I have the luxury of stopping reading if I’m not hooked. I want to finish reading Catherine the Great because I want to be able to comment on it having read all of it, and not just the beginning (which I have already commented on – “eminent war”.).

          • andyjaxfl

            Sorry for the millionth message I’ve sent you tonight, but trying reading John Milius’ Conan: Crown of Iron. Talk about dense text. Holy shit. I’ve been dying to read this script for ten years and finally got my hands on it and haven’t been able to get past page 30.

          • Scott Crawford

            Loved Conan the Barbarian, but, yeah, THICK TEXT! I skip it. Get the gist of it, but skip it. That stuffs for the crew.

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

          I don’t know if there’s enough good AOW scripts to make a TOP 25. Might be able to do a TOP 10 or 15… but 25 may be stretching it. But I actually have no idea hehe

          • Linkthis83

            Well, when I say top 25, I mostly mean that the top 5-10 would be good, the others would be “would like to see these developed.”

            We know all this is subjective, but I think it would be another possible avenue for AMATEURS to get discovered on here. If there was a list of the top 25 on the right, then interested parties could click on the script and it doesn’t just disappear into the SS histories.

          • Scott Crawford

            Exactly.

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

            I think that’s a good idea. I just don’t know if there’s 25. But there could be 25 worthy contenders ;)

          • andyjaxfl

            I’m starting to get convinced that an Amateur Top 10, 15, 20, or whatever would be a better idea than a reader Top 25 of pro scripts.

          • Linkthis83

            It’ll be challenging, regardless, to make any of these lists happen :) But, for us amateurs, I’d like to see it. It could be the ghetto of the Black List ;)

        • carsonreeves1

          This is something I’d like to put together soon. We’ve had enough AOW entries where this might be a possibility.

          • bex01

            I’ve only just seen this but top 25 AOW is an awesome idea!

      • Scott Crawford

        I’m on the Tracking Board, so I should be reading more scripts. But it’s a bit like Top 10 movies of the year; If I’ve only seen eleven new films that year (can happen, circumstances), then all I’m doing is sorting the films I’ve seen into order and then leaving one out in the cold.

        • carsonreeves1

          Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of. Although that’s kind of how the Black List works. The scripts that get the most votes are typically scripts that have gotten the most reads. A lot of the lower level scripts haven’t been read by 75% of the town.

          • Scott Crawford

            That might explain Grace of Monaco. Though I did like The Last Stand; I could see how people enjoyed reading that and maybe the movie just went OTT. So many scripts people never remembered were on the Black List.

      • pmlove

        Why not have a batch of initial submissions that form a ‘pool’, then have a pause whilst we scrabble to find and read (if we want) then we can vote once there’s been time for the scripts to bounce around.

        • carsonreeves1

          I thought about this, but even this is skewing the voting. Even if I mentioned 100 scripts, which is a stretch to think that everybody is going to find those AND read them, I’m still leaving out 500 potential scripts that potentially deserve to be on the list. It’s a tricky situation that I’ve thought a lot about but can’t seem to come up with a good solution.

          • pmlove

            I don’t know – what if the readers sent in their nominations, top 100 of those are picked (and this also probably means that they are available), then I’m sure someone can whack together a zip file that can do the rounds. It’s always going to be skewed anyway by scripts that featured on the site and got impressive/worth the read.

          • Scott Crawford

            How about “Unproduced Script of the Year”? Not 25, just 1.

      • andyjaxfl

        While I’m starting to lean more toward an Amateur Top 10 (or whatever), the Reader Top 25 introduced me to quite a few scripts/reviews that I may have passed over when rummaging through the archives when I first joined the SS community. Is is possible to monitor the clicks on archived reviews and use that instead of a traditional Top 25?

  • leitskev

    I haven’t read the script, enjoyed the review. I want to respond quickly and generally to the complaint about the first 20 pages.

    I believe a good way to describe a film’s set up(act one) is as the INVESTMENT. The second act is the struggle over the goals and stakes established, but for this stuff to matter, a story needs a strong set up. In an ideal world, that set up consists of scenes which are compelling themselves, but it is absolutely critical that the set up achieves this: it makes the struggle matter to the audience.

    An an audience understands this and is willing to “invest” in the story by experiencing the set up.

    A story with set up scenes that are compelling and exciting and interesting…but where the set up does not succeed in making us care greatly about what happens in the struggle part of the story…is a failure.

    Sometimes, and I’m not saying that;s the case here with Carson, I don’t know…but sometimes script readers are less willing to “invest” in the set up necessary to make the story effective. They want their socks knocked off right away, and they don’t want any let up.

    Of course, the modern audience has a much shorter attention span, so the investment period must usually be shorter nowadays.

    And for unknown writers, the investment period allotted is much shorter, as no reputation has earned it yet. However, it remains worth considering that the effectiveness of the opening act really should be judged by how much it made the rest of the story matter to the audience.

    • Sebastian Cornet

      “Sometimes, and I’m not saying that’s the case here…but sometimes script readers are less willing to ‘invest’ in the set up necessary to make the story effective. They want their socks knocked off right away, and they don’t want any let up in the sock knocking.”

      But it’s the writer that’s courting the script reader, it’s a given the writer will do all the heavy lifting. Just like a random girl has no reason to go out with us because we ask, a reader doesn’t have to read the script all the way through just because we went through the trouble of writing it. Knocking their socks off is the one tried-and-true path to wooing strangers.

      Investment is essential, and we make the reader care by throwing our main guy/gal into some kind of trouble right away. Then these problems will escalate until we’re in Act II, which you appropriately describe as the Struggle phase.

      There still needs to be a level of struggle in Act I, it should grab the reader right off the bat and not show signs of amateurism at any time.

      • leitskev

        To be succinct, yes Sebastian, I agree. That’s the great challenge of a screenwriter if he is selling spec script. But the script reviewed today was not a spec.

      • carsonreeves1

        There’s a middle ground here I think a lot of writers forget about. You can take your time building up that investment, as long as you’re keeping me engaged. I’m more willing to let a writer take his time if he adds a little mystery, or an intriguing character I want to know more about. But having a slow burn for the sake of having a slow burn rarely works. The reader will get bored.

        • Sebastian Cornet

          And it makes me wonder why anybody would willingly write a beginning like that (assuming they know the basics of storytelling). A friend was surprised when I told him I don’t like slow movies when I’d spent an entire weekend praising The Godfather. In his mind, the Godfather is a slow movie.

          I told him, “man, it’s a slow build to the main conflict, but that doesn’t mean nothing is going on before that.” Most people are so caught up in the main conflict that they don’t get any mileage out of peripheral ones.

          But, like you say, and this is true for mostly anything in life, people always forget about middle grounds.

    • brenkilco

      This is the essential catch 22 of so many scripts. There is a great deal of heavy lifting that has to be done in the first act. The more interesting and involved the story the more setup is required. And masking the mechanics, making the setup seem natural can be still more time consuming. If one assume the reader has no patience then the urge is to pump artificial action into the beginning which results either in a simplistic plot because insufficient setup is permitted or and extremely contrived plot because a great deal of exposition must be crammed in quickly. Creating first act scenes that are interesting in themselves yet contribute to the overall structure is tough.

      • leitskev

        Outstanding Brenkilco, if I could have put it that well I would have. That is the problem and the challenge.

  • charliesb

    Would love to read this if anyone has it. (Very curious about the last 20)

    birdieey at gmail dot com

    thanks

    • Rzwan Cabani

      Like-wise — r.cabani@hotmail.com — would really appreciate this. Thanks.

    • Somersby

      Ditto.
      anvil [at] total [dot] net

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      I would like to read the whole thing as I loved STOKER – both the script and the movie. So if anyone’s feeling genereous, pretty please and thank you :)
      marija dot nielsen at gmail

      • Mike

        Same. Big fan of the Stoker script (the movie too). If anyone would be so generous… :-) bb6634 at Hotmail.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Hey :)
          Your email address seems to be invalid…

          • Mike

            Try Filmgeek1 at live dot com

          • ff

            Would you mind sending to me as well at frankmckeown at yahoo dot com? Thanks so much!

        • caesarblues

          Would like as well-caesarblues at hotmail dot com

      • silvain

        Would someone please send it to me as well.

        Jessereeve at yahoo dot com

        Thx!

      • carsonreeves1

        Were they similar Marija? I never read the script.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Yes, they were very similar, actually. I really liked the slow-burn rhythm of the script and I thought director Chan-Wook Park did a great job maintaining that. Lots of people were put off by the overall cold tone of the movie but I think it perfectly suits the very Hitchcockian story (Miller has said that he was inspired by SHADOW OF A DOUBT which is quite obvious).

          As you say in your review, Miller is great with atmosphere and pulling the reader in. I haven’t read this one yet I’m looking forward to reading a first draft from him.

    • jw

      Would love to read as well if anyone has… jwright226 at Hotmail

    • Mike.H

      please send to —

      yokejc100 AT yahoo dot com. Thanks~!

    • kent

      please add me to the list. kentlmurray at concast dot net

      Thanks.

    • Bluedust

      Add me to the list, please. This review has got me intrigued.

      risingseeker at yahoo dot com

      thanks in advance.

    • carsonreeves1

      Did everyone get the script? If not, e-mail me and I can tell you where to find it.

    • ff

      Please send to me as well at frankmckeown at yahoo dot com

      Thanks so much!

  • jw

    This sounds intriguing in a way. Most, if not all, of these “haunted house” mystery films realistically end up being duds because there’s no art to it. The Others, for me anyway, is one of the more memorable and well put together “haunted house” films, but that’s obviously because it’s shot unbelievably well, has really interesting characterization and has that cool little Sixth Sense ending where it flips the perspective at the end. What intrigues me about this, based on your review, is that the writer chose to connect one of the characters to the house in a way that made sense – they’re an architect. Now, to me, that’s a smart decision from the standpoint of character. We’ve all seen the family who shows up and the kids go hunting in the attic for something and blah, blah, blah. But, to have a character with a general interest in the “construct” of a home is refreshing. I’m not sure why there is an audience fascination with contained thrillers inside of the home, I’ll leave that to the psychologists, but this review leaves me interested in finding out more…

    • carsonreeves1

      See the architect angle isn’t played up that much in the script, but it should be. I’d be interested to see if they changed that in subsequent drafts because you’re right, there is an intriguing connection there to explore.

  • Nicholas J

    OT: I’ve recently gotten into commentary tracks on movies, and don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize how great they can be! Does anyone know of any DVDs/Blurays with good screenwriting-focused commentary tracks? The ones on True Romance, Lord of the Rings, and Shaun of the Dead are great, and I’ve heard people say Pirates of the Caribbean and Rain Man are also fantastic listens. Any others?

    • IgorWasTaken

      Anything by Alexander Payne.

      • Scott Crawford

        Not movies, but absolutely WONDERFUL – The Simpsons audio commentaries. Some of the funniest people in America, and Dana Gould, provide insight into every aspect of how a great episode came into being, and where they made mistakes. A lot of the commentaries are funnier than the episodes.

        • charliesb

          I second these. Season 6-8 specifically. Some really funny behind the scenes stories. The one about Lawrence Tierney is hilarious (and my favourite).

          • Scott Crawford

            How they put together the baseball stars for “Homer at the Bat”. The writers and animators doing impressions of James L. Brooks on the commentary for “Marge vs. the Monorail”. Jon Lovitz doing commentary on an episode he isn’t even in. More recently, Dana Gould’s adventures adopting babies in China and how it inspired him to write an episode. Great, great stuff. Can’t wait for season 17 and the Master and Commander – the writer of that episode (Jeff Westbrook) was actually IN Master and Commander.

    • Linkthis83

      These are fantastic. I’ve started listening to them recently as well. Writer/Director ones are good. Obviously it depends on what you are interested in, but the ones I’ve liked that I’ve watched recently:

      DONNIE DARKO: If you get the 10th anniversary edition that has the Director’s Cut, you get commentary from Richard Kelly on the new cut. Plus it should come with a DVD with the original cut and that also has commentary from both Jake G. and RK.

      WOLF CREEK: this is good.

      SE7EN: great

      IDENTITY: This one has a track for James Mangold’s director’s commentary as well as commentary from writer Michael Cooney.

      THE LAST SAMURAI: enjoyed this one too.

      I think picking the movies/stories you love/like is a great start. I love the stories behind the stories as well.

      • Scott Crawford

        Ridley Scott’s commentary for Hannibal is great, particularly because he shuns technical facts and sticks explaining some of the thinking behind his STORY choices as those choices unfold. For example, he considered not shooting the market shootout, cutting it from the script, and simply referencing it in dialogue.

        Then again, if you DON’T LIKE Hannibal, then you won’t bother listening to the commentary. But I liked it, I think it shows why Sir Ridley should be commended as much for his storytelling as his visuals.

        (You may not have liked the story in Prometheus – I didn’t mind – but, like Hannibal, that movie moved from scene to scene like lightning and held my attention right up to the credits. And on repeat viewing. One of the FASTEST movies I’ve seen, and that’s great STORYTELLING.).

        • Linkthis83

          Ridley is a good reference. I completely forgot about the MAN ON FIRE commentary. I love MOF — think it’s a great film.

          Even if I don’t love some movies, their commentaries can be just as valuable. There’s something to learn from them all (just like scripts).

        • Linkthis83

          I got my Scott’s mixed up. MAN ON FIRE was Tony, not Ridley. My apologies.

    • charliesb

      If you’re looking for a laugh and are a fan of Del Toro, his commentaries are some of my favourites. He can be insightful, but he’s really funny as well. His comments about one of the vampires looking like Michael Bolton on the Blade 2 commentary killed me.

    • carsonreeves1

      Stop everything and listen to the screenwriter/director commentary for The Limey. Most entertaining commentary track ever.

    • Paul Clarke

      The Blu-ray version of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE has commentary by Michael Arendt. Very enlightening.

  • Mike.H

    The last 20 pages description has me drooling. Please share, and to —

    yokejc100 at Yahoo dot com. Thanks!

  • klmn

    I’d like to read it too.

    kenklmn AT yahoo. dot com

    Thanks in advance.

  • klmn

    Haven’t read it yet, but the premise sorta reminds me of the Dodge family (the car builders).

    One of the brothers wives gave birth to Siamese twins. They were successfully separated, but the parents didn’t want to deal with the rumors. They kept one of the twins and raised her. Their chauffeur adopted the other and raised her as his own.

    IIRC, the adopted girl later received a settlement from the birth parents’ estate.

  • Abdul Fataki

    Hey man, we don’t have access to the script, what’s the twist! It can’t be that she lost her kid? What else is there/

  • Malibo Jackk

    Loved STOKER.
    Would like to read TDR.
    malibujackk at gmail dot com

  • Paul DeWolf

    Same. pmdewolf at gmail

  • fourjacks

    Sounds cool. Great, creepy premise. Hook me up, please. Thanks.

    asieger@yahoo.com

  • leitskev

    Of course, Adam, I am not suggesting the first 20 pages/minutes should be dull or have no ability to draw the reader. What I am saying is that this period of the story asks the reader/audience to make an investment that it hopes will pay off later, and we have to keep that in mind. That’s all I’m saying. The reader must be willing to allow for this investment, and often today script readers are not.

  • carsonreeves1

    man, Duchovny Line 1 does not like a lot of things. — Here’s where I’d make a counter-point. There are THOUSANDS of actors with their own screenplays and they’re terrible. Beyond terrible. I know because I’ve read a lot of them. He definitely had some connections, but being an actor on a mostly-forgotten show from 7 years prior is hardly a surefire way into the produced screenwriting world. He’s better than almost all actor writers, and a pretty good writer when compared to the general pool of screenwriters as well.

    • Midnight Luck

      I agree with Duchovny. It sounds all great for him to say he didn’t want others to be tainted by his name, so he sent it out with a pseudonym, but come on, it isn’t that easy. So he just happened to get multiple scripts bought under a pseudonym?

      He automatically has a leg up. His Agent, other Producers, who knows who else, KNOW it is him. It just takes his Agent saying “Hey I got this incredible script you HAVE TO read!” and others will read. They are waiting for someone else to say they have something great. The Agent doesn’t have to tell anyone it is the Actor from Prison Break, but just the referral from a top Agent is light years more than a nobody without an Agent has. He has an Agent because of his acting work, and he has somewhere to take his script that others don’t.

      I am not saying he isn’t an incredible writer, he could be, haven’t read his work. But to say he did this on his own and didn’t want the work or the reads to be affected because of his name, well, it isn’t the whole truth.

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        Having connections, whether family members, agents, managers, producer/director friends or Michael Bay’s cat may open doors but has never been a guarantee of writing capabilities. I get that someone wouldn’t be interested in the subject matters that Miller writes about – each to their own – but judging the screenwriter on the people he knows because he’s an actor isn’t very fair. Granted, I haven’t read this one yet but I’ve read STOKER – twice. And damn, it’s good ! Yes, Miller can actually write. Plus, the fact that he’s been an actor since 1998 and that his first screenplay got made in 2013 kind of says something, don’t you think ? That maybe, just maybe, Miller loves writing and has been at it for longer than just to satisfy a narcissistic actor’s whim, getting good enough over time to finally show his work. I seriously doubt that STOKER was the first screenplay he ever wrote in his life. And I completely understand why STOKER was sent out under a pseudonym. I didn’t take the actor-turned-screenwriter seriously, either – who remembers him from anything other than PRISON BREAK ? Then I read the script. While it may not blow anyone’s mind, I believe its qualities are easy to see.

  • carsonreeves1

    that’s a good point. I’m freaking terrible with metaphors. People always have to explain them to me afterwards (i.e. Safe House was also about the main character’s safe house in his head or something like that).

  • carsonreeves1

    ENDING: (SUPER SPOILERS) – Okay, here’s the shocking ending. We start off the script with our main character, the mom, packing all the boxes for the move. But we’re only seeing the packing tape zip along over and over again. We hear it being wrapped hurriedly over and over and over again. But we don’t always see what it’s wrapping around. There’s a wild intensity to it that doesn’t befit a person packing moving boxes. We later learn the parents’ 6 month old daughter died in her sleep from (that disease young babies die from where they just stop breathing). This traumatic event is partly what motivated them to come out to the country and start a new life. In the end, the mom finally breaks down to tell the husband the truth. Their daughter didn’t die naturally. She used packing tape to wrap around her daughter’s crib in order to suffocate her to death (this is what we were seeing in the opening scene). So she sealed the entire crib up with the tape. The more fucked up twist, though, is the father tells her he knows. He never left that day. He came back around, saw her through the window, and watched her do it. And didn’t stop her. — There are a few other fucked up things tagged on to the very end, but that’s the gist of it.

    • hickeyyy

      I’d say that definitely qualifies as fucked up.

  • jw

    First 22 – initial impressions are solid writing, if very slow moving. First 20 could likely be reduced to 10. The onset is not very original in terms of plotting — the requisite, family moving, dilapidated home with local history, in a small town out in the middle of nowhere, noises, things moving in the brush (people named Mortimer)… blah, blah, blah. Been there, done it and in terms of getting the audience interested, I’m not sure how this does it?
    From a characterization standpoint, I’m a little confused on this relationship. Every time Dana & David speak to each other they’re always on opposite sides and I don’t see any congeniality whatsoever. Dana seems to be a downer, while David seems to blindly be an “upper” and it feels like you can see the writer’s hand for the sake of the writer’s hand, rather than the story.
    I don’t know. To me, audiences really want ORIGINALITY when it comes to their stories and this isn’t it (so far). I guess the question really is, if “readers” rarely give “amateurs” the benefit of the doubt within the first 5, why are we extending that to 22 for someone who “has a name”? I do like the writing, unfortunately for the writer, the audience isn’t going to be reading (at least for the film).

    • carsonreeves1

      There are enough sparks of originality here (once you keep reading) to see that he’s got the capacity to write an intriguing original story. But you’re right. The opening feels “been there done that.” That’s why I’m so interested in seeing the final draft of this. I want to know if he can structure a tighter story. I’m inclined to say this first draft represents him exploring the story and that he planned to tighten it up later, but maybe “exploratory” is his style. Only way to know is to read the final draft. Wentworth? You out there? Can you send? :)

      • jw

        I don’t even know if it will actually come down to him to be honest. It reminds me of many scripts I read and then watch the film and you can tell what the editing team has done and why. I don’t know why, and it must be a rarity, but I get bitched at all the time because I write like an editor. Wentworth seems to write like a writer, even if it seems slowly trotted and not as original, but maybe it seems slowly trotted and not as original to me because of the way I write?

      • Bluedust

        According to a recent article on deadline, “Caruso has done the most recent pass on the script.”

  • Poe_Serling

    “Back in the day, if you were a prominent family and had a freak child, it was too embarrassing to bring your kid into the community. So these families would lock up these “disappointments” in their own little room where they’d live out their entire lives.”

    The wonderfully spooky film The Changeling with George C. Scott has a major plot point that hinges on a similar type of room up in the attic of a secluded mansion. If my memory serves me right, I don’t think they call it a ‘disappointment’ room in that particular ghost tale.

    >>Speaking of things that go bump in the night, I just finished reading Black Autumn. It was quite the creepfest and a breeze to read. I encourage others to check it out if you get the chance.

    • brenkilco

      Changeling is one of those forgotten, small films that will keep you watching to the end if you happen to come across it on cable. Some genuinely creepy moments. And like an even older movie I really like The Uninvited it ties the eradication of a ghost to the solution of a terrestrial mystery, so it has a solid story and isn’t just built on a series of random scares.

      • Poe_Serling

        The Uninvited… yeah, one of my favorites too. Just recently I purchased my own DVD copy for my collection when it hit the market earlier this year.

        • ElectricDreamer

          This stunner got the Criterion BluRay treatment not too long ago.
          And they’re remastering The Innocents this fall for Criterion!

          • Poe_Serling

            “And they’re remastering The Innocents this fall for Criterion!”

            Christmas just came early for me. ;-)

          • ElectricDreamer

            If you’re a big fan of that fine film…
            Perhaps you’d like to check out a short script I wrote.
            The story’s inspired by The Fog, The Changeling & The Innocents.

            It’s a ten pager called — The Widow’s Walk. ;-)

          • Poe_Serling

            Hey ElectricDreamer-

            Your short script seems right down my alley. But here’s the thing – I don’t really like giving out my email address… nothing personal… I just like to keep it private to avoid spam, etc.

            However…

            If you post a quick link to it, I would be happy to read it and give you my thoughts on it.

            or

            If it’s too much time/energy and you don’t want it exposed on such a public site, I understand completely.

            Thanks so much for your generous offer to read your work!

          • ElectricDreamer
          • Poe_Serling

            Just finished it. Wow! What a great homage to those above films.

            Love the title. It’s just about perfect for a chiller like this and the story that unfolds.

            Style/format, descriptive lines/character intros, pacing, dialogue and so on… it all clicked for me.

            Storywise: Though your story is inspired by those other cinematic sources, it still shines with its own unique spin on the classic ghost tale.

            I felt invested in Miles and Deborah’s plight, which is good in such a short format.

            Others things that stood out for me:

            >>The setting and the atmosphere of dread it created.

            >>The dying candles device really added a real sense of urgency to the proceedings.

            Well done, ED. Thanks again for sharing.

            **Just curious – Is this short script something you plan to film on your own someday?

          • ElectricDreamer

            Thanks for the quicksilver fast read of my foggy tale.
            I did sell another of my shorts to a prodco here in town though.
            But, The Widow’s Walk is still available for production.
            I’d love to see it come to life in Inverness, CA.
            That’s where Carpenter shot The Fog & Village of the Damned.
            He loved the town so much, Carpenter bought a house there.

            I’m pleased that my little love-in to those films worked for you.
            There’s buckets of cinema easter eggs in the brief narrative too.
            Dunno if they’re your thing, hope they didn’t take away from the story.
            Hard for me to resist, I unabashedly adore the source material.
            Great call on bringing up The Changeling. You’re a movie rolodex.
            Thanks again for sharing your time and thoughts with me!

  • Midnight Luck

    OT:
    Carson,
    Just wondering if you have read the script for WILD by Cheryl Strayed (Nick Hornby)?

    Has anyone else on here read it or have it?

    I think Reese Witherspoon is an intelligent person and chooses her projects carefully. But for some reason this one scares me. I have a feeling it looks good as a concept and an idea, but the actual story and most likely execution are going to be bad. It reminds me of EAT, PRAY, LOVE in that regard. Everyone on Planet Earth was reading that book and a friend gave it to me and said I “Have to Read it”. I was going through my own Apocalyptic, Horrific, Terrible, Terrible, Bad Years of life. It ended up being so melodramatic, ridiculous and lame (in my eyes). Then the movie was even worse.

    I would love to hear if anyone else knows anything about this and their thoughts on it. (or a copy of the script if you have it?)

    Thanks
    – Midnight
    m [[at]] blackluck [dot] com

  • charliesb

    Ok Carson, I’m going to accept the [x] worth the read, but this is a terrible screenplay. I think there is a chance you’re right though, it’s a first draft, a get it all on paper (computer) and edit and edit and rewrite later.

    My first problem was Jeremy. Clearly Wentworth doesn’t spend a lot of time around 5 years olds (or he’s spending too much time with the dumb ones). The way this child spoke was excruciating. Funny enough when we first meet Jeremy he describes his face as thoughtful serious and adult like, and then we are treated to 125 pages of annoying repetitive and whiny dialogue.

    Despite my issues with Jeremy, dialogue is something I think Miller does well, the scenes you described between Ben and Dana were a little unsettling and well done. And there were times when the back and forth between Dana and her husband felt really natural, like I could believe they’d been married for years.

    Unfortunately nothing else about this story works, the big reveal falls flat because it comes out of nowhere, has a very weak connection to the disappointments room and has not been set up at all. Finding out what she did, and what David said in response was as effective as if she had told us that Justin Bieber slept with Miranda Kerr. Ya it’s surprising, but who cares.

    There is a small reference to her being on medication but that wasn’t supported. The paintings, the “haunting”, the cat, all stuff that happened but didn’t connect. The friends stopping by felt pointless.

    It reminded me of another “scary” we bought an old house movie, Cold Creek Manor except Cold Creek had a more concrete storyline. It will be interesting to see the final product, because right now it’s very weak.

    • Bluedust

      Leading up to the ending, I thought the reveal was going to be that Dana’s baby was seriously deformed or handicapped, just like Laura, and that’s why she killed her. Unless I missed it, there was no real reason given for Dana killing her baby. She said she “never wanted any baby, ever”, yet they had Jeremy just a year later? And why would David just watch his wife kill their child? I agree with you, charlie, the ending didn’t connect with the rest of the story.

  • klmn

    OT. Just found out my neighbor has a stash of underground comics from the early 70s, which I’m starting to read.

    In DR. ATOMIC #1, there is a story, “Dr. Atomic Invents The Iron Pig”, about a robot policeman.

    Shades of Robocop!

  • Malibo Jackk

    OT — Something interesting about another actor/writer:

    “Disillusioned with acting, (Tom) Tryon retired from the profession in 1969 and began writing horror and mystery
    novels. He was successful, overcoming skepticism about a classically
    handsome movie star suddenly turning novelist. His best-known work is The Other
    (1971), about a boy whose evil twin brother may or may not be
    responsible for a series of deaths in a small rural community in the
    1930s. He adapted his novel into a film released the following year,
    which starred Diana Muldaur, Uta Hagen, and John Ritter. Harvest Home (1973), about the dark pagan rituals being practiced in a small New England town, was adapted as The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978), a television mini-series starring Bette Davis.”
    — from Wikipedia