Starting off the New Year with a VERY important screenwriting concept, especially if you write comedy!

Genre: Comedy
Premise: After she gets accepted into an expensive college, a young woman’s parents decide that the only way they can pay for her tuition is to open an illegal casino in their friend’s house.
About: This one comes from Brendan O’Brien and Andrew Jay Cohen, who took their careers to the next level after writing the surprise hit, Neighbors. They immediately capitalized on the buzz, selling this pitch with Will Ferrell attached. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe these two were assistant writers for Seth Rogen before pitching him Neighbors and getting to write a full script for him. “The House” title is said to double as not just the title, but what each writer was able to buy after selling the pitch. That was a joke. Now you know why nobody pays me a million dollars to write comedies.
Writer: Brendan O’Brien & Andrew Jay Cohen
Details: 115 pages – 2/3/15 draft


To start 2016 off with a comedy script may seem odd. The readers of this site aren’t huge comedy fans. Comedy is the least respected genre in the business. And let’s not forget that studios aren’t nearly as big on comedy as they used to be, as the genre doesn’t travel well.

However, there are a few reasons why I embraced a comedy review. First, I noticed how well Daddy’s Home is doing at the box office (it’s tallied 93 million dollars in the wake of The Force Awakens somehow). Second, the standout scripts in the Scriptshadow 250 Contest so far have been comedy scripts. And finally, over the holidays I binge-watched the best half-hour comedy show on TV since Seinfeld, Broad City.

Despite all this, I continue to be baffled by the genre. It seems to only reward the unfunny. When I tell a writer that to succeed in comedy, he has to be genius-level funny, all he has to do is point to The Goldbergs and say, “Well then how did that get on the air?” And what can I say? I don’t have an answer to that. Does anyone?

This leads us to two of the hottest comedy writers in town who are trying to establish themselves as major players with this, their second big studio effort. The pitch sold quickly. But did the script turn out well?

Life seems to be going well for Scott and Kate. They love each other, they have a nice house in the suburbs, and they’ve somehow created a beautiful human being, Alex, who’s smarter than both of them combined.

But the problem with these smartie-pants kids when they grow up is that they need to go to smartie-pants colleges, and smartie-pants colleges cost a lot of dough. This is the predicament Scott and Kate find themselves in, and when Scott loses his job and Alex loses her scholarship, the couple are facing the prospects of their baby girl not going to school.

And they ain’t gonna let that happen.

During a weekend trip to Vegas with his degenerate best friend, Frank, Scott realizes that the casino “house” always wins. This leads to an idea. What if THEY were the house? He rushes back home, convinces Kate with little resistance, and the three open a casino in Frank’s house.

At first, things are fine, with local closet gamblers throwing money at them left and right, but then the realities of casino ownage rear their head. What do you do with cheaters? How do you handle fights? Where will people get more money to gamble when they run out? Should you extend lines of credit?

As the casino grows in its success, everything starts to fall apart. Scott and Kate spend less time together. They don’t hang out with their daughter as much. Frank becomes meaner and focuses all his energy on the casino. I think it’s safe to say this isn’t going to end well. The question is whether Scott and his family will end their little illegal business before the cops find out and they go to prison for 20 years.

I’d like to discuss something today called ease-of-setup. To do this, I need you to put your imagination hats on and imagine a boulder. But not just any boulder. The boulder on The Raiders of the Lost Ark. A perfectly round boulder. Now I want you to imagine having to push that boulder across town. Okay? Are you imagining that? Fun, right?

Next, I want you to imagine the same thing. But this time with an imperfect boulder. It’s still sort of round, but it has some flat parts, some big divots, and, to be honest, it’s kind of lop-sided. Now I’m going to ask you a question. Which boulder would you rather push across town? Hopefully this answer isn’t difficult.

Ease-of-setup is when you come up with a concept that’s so natural, it sets the story up and moves things along effortlessly – like a perfectly round boulder – as opposed to a situation where every roll requires an immense amount of effort on your part, due to your ugly-ass time-consuming lop-sided boulder.

Ease-of-setup is especially important in comedy because people don’t come to comedies to languish through a bunch of prep scenes. They come for the concept they saw on the poster.

A good place to start with this is O’Brien and Cohen’s previous screenplay, Neighbors. Neighbors is the embodiment of ease-of-setup. A young family moves into a house. Then a frat moves in next door. We don’t need any complicated series of events to prep us for this moment to work. We instantly understand: new family vs. frat house = trouble.

Contrast this with The House. The House needs A LOT of setup to get to where its concept kicks in. We show them having their daughter. We show the daughter growing up and how great of a relationship the family has. We set up that she’s going to college. We set up Scott being fired. We set up that the daughter’s scholarship has been revoked. We set up a visit to the financial advisor so we can learn they have no savings. We set up a trip to Vegas so they can learn that opening a casino is an option.

Do you see where I’m going with this? One scene of a frat house moving next door versus a dozen scenes to establish that this family had a kid, she grew up, she’s going to college, they don’t have a lot of money, they come up with a casino idea.

This becomes an issue for a few reasons. First, every second you’re spending “setting things up,” is one more second your script feels manufactured as opposed to real. Setups are mainly exposition, and too much exposition kills the suspension of disbelief. Second, setup is boring. Everyone tries to make it not-boring but it’s always boring. And finally, you’re creating impatience in the audience.

Now could they cut a lot of this out and make the setup shorter? Maybe we open the movie on a shot of the daughter excitedly getting into college and the parents looking worried, then move to them trying to figure out where the money is going to come from. Sure, you could do that. But you go that route and you lose some of the connection to the family and maybe we don’t care about their situation as much. And you still have to come up with a plausible scenario by which they’d think starting a casino is a good option, and that definitely needs setup.

I haven’t seen Daddy’s Home yet but that concept strikes me as having an easy set-up. Step-dad’s life with his family is great. Then it’s announced Real Dad is coming back home. Boom, setup over. What that ease allows you to do is to move into the story more naturally. Because you don’t have to force all these artificial “issues” into the first act, you can just let it evolve organically. If you want to put in a scene where the step-dad and the wife have a great day out with the kids, you can do that. But you don’t HAVE TO DO THAT, and that’s the power of ease-of-setup. It leads to a very natural-feeling story experience.

The only time when I’m tolerant of bulky setups is when the concept is so damn good, I’m willing to wait. Take The Matrix. It takes awhile to set things up there. But because the promise of the Matrix is so compelling, we’re willing to wait around for it.

This is rarely the case with comedies, which these days aren’t as concept-driven as they used to be. And The House is no exception. I suppose illegally opening a casino in your home is sort of funny. But is it “I’m okay waiting through a bunch of boring-ass exposition to get to it” funny? Not even close. It’s like a novelty idea you’re slightly curious in.

There’s some kind-of funny stuff with Scott expanding the casino’s offerings (they hire comedians and have ring-fights), but if I’m being honest, there’s nothing here that any of us couldn’t have come up with. If you and I were outlining this, we’d naturally come with the idea that someone would cheat at some point. And how should our main character deal with that? A great comedy writer either through talent or hard work, comes up with choices that the average person wouldn’t be able to think of. And I didn’t see enough of that here (although it should be noted there will be more drafts of this).

I wouldn’t say The House is a flawed concept. There’s some comedy to be had here. But there’s something about the idea that doesn’t feel creative enough. For that reason, I never got into it.

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

What I learned: Consider ease-of-setup when picking your next script to write, especially if it’s a comedy, where attention spans are short. If it seems like you need to set up a ton of stuff before you get to your hook, consider that the premise isn’t worth it. I won’t say a complex setup is a script-killer. Skillful writers can weave setups in effortlessly so that they don’t seem like setups. And certain genres, like mystery, can actually make complex setups work for them. But in general, why would you take a boat when you can fly? An easy setup isn’t just easier on you. It’s easier on the viewer.

  • Kimmel

    First comment, bitches.

    • Scott Crawford

      That’s, like, 6 in the morning in England.

    • Citizen M

      Well, you had a snappy new year.

    • gazrow

      I’m still waiting for the day when someone who posts first has an actual comment to go along with their boast about being the first to comment! :)

      • Altius

        Can I be the first to comment on your avatar? Because even as a City fan, I like Everton, and tend to like Everton supporters. Although I’m hoping we can hijack Deulofeu off you in the next few years ;) Martinez has done some impressive work in his development.

        • Kirk Diggler


          Don’t care for City but that call was epic.

          • Altius

            One of the greatest sporting moments of my lifetime. I get chills just thinking about it!

        • Kirk Diggler

          On another note, I believe Barca has a buy-back option on Deulofeu.

          • Altius

            They do :) And they’re watching.

        • gazrow

          I generally like City fans too. But I’d like us to hold on to Deulofeu along with Lukaku, Stones and Barkley for several more years. Martinez is building an exciting young team that will surely win things if he can keep them together and the fans give him time instead of calling for his head. :)

          • Altius

            That really is an incredible core of young talent, which does make them hard to hold onto! I like Martinez a lot. Classy guy who’s brought some verve to Everton. Though he can frustrate me with impracticality at times, so can Pellegrini!

  • Sebastian Cornet


    Anybody else checked out The Hateful Eight already? SPOILERS ALERT. Liked the movie, but I don’t think I’ll watch it a second time, even when it’s on TV and I happen to catch a rerun. When it was good it was excellent, but then it could be indulgently slow and ponderous, making me wish for the urgency and rapidity of Reservoir Dogs.

    What saved most of the first half for me were the performances. Brilliant acting through and through. Hard to believe Walton Goggins has come a long way, and this movie does him justice. I don’t think the movie really picked up speed until the moment where Kurt Russell begins suspecting there’s a mole in the group. Second half of the second act is mostly brilliant and the third act is fantastic. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the flashback that shows Channing Tatum’s gang arriving at the inn. Ruined the pacing a bit for me, but didn’t hate it, either.

    Oh, and anybody else thinks that Oswaldo’s role was meant for Christoph Woltz and for some reason Tarantino had to settle for Tim Roth, and then Roth was asked to act and sound exactly like Woltz? I can’t blame the people who believed that was actually Woltz on the screen.

    Enjoyed the movie a lot, but I think some editing would have turned it into an outstanding classic.

    Just my first two cents of 2016.

    • Jason

      Off topic, already? Damn, 2016 is off to a shaky start.

      More to your point… I’m kinda looking forward to checking out Hateful 8.


      A Guy, Days Away From Giving New Point Break A Chance.

    • klmn

      After reading the script, I’m in no hurry to see it. I might wait for the video.

      • Sebastian Cornet

        By all means, do yourself a favor. Not sorry that I watched it, but I sure as hell am not happy that I paid theater prices for this.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Oh man. On my Shit List 2015. Seriously, WHAT in the holy hell is this, a movie? No, it’s a stage play. In completely useless 70mm. I’m not going through TWO HOURS AND FRIGGING FORTY-FIVE MINUTES of VOID to count but I’m not sure there’s even 15mns of EXTERIOR SHOTS in there. It’s all shot/reverse shot and shame on QT. NOTHING happens for TWO HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES except characters talking. And talking. Oh, and they also talk. And in between the very unfunny and uninspired “dialogue”, they beat up the ONLY FEMALE MAIN CHARACTER in scenes clearly destined to be FUNNY. Even more seriously, WHAT?????

      From a screenwriting point of view, it’s embarrassing. Each and every character get a 15mn exposition scene with Russell moving from one to the next. When a character isn’t needed, he just disappears and is then brought back 15, 30mns later. And what is up with Jackson’s icy BJ story? How old is QT, 13?

      Damn. Even Kurt Russell and Ennio Morricone left before the end. And QT never even noticed ‘cos he was obviously too busy checking his phone for what the internet was saying about him than directing.

      • Midnight Luck

        I am having a very difficult time getting myself to go see this. How can QT have fallen so far? Is he really in love with his own importance so much that he can no longer see?

        Now your review makes me sure I don’t want to see it. (maybe VOD someday)

        I have seen the trailer in the theater about 15 times, and every time I see it I want to watch the movie even less.
        If your trailer is 80% full of exposition and bores the audience to tears with bad jokes and terrible dialogue that goes on and on and on.
        Imagine what the 2+ hour movie is going to be like.

        How can QT be boring?
        Django was the beginning of the bad dialogue, boring monologue style.
        This just seems to amp it up to level 12.

        There was nothing in this preview that made me interested in seeing this at all. Except that it had Kurt Russell in it, and I would love to see him in something again.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          This movie made me so angry, as you can probably tell :) What makes it worse is reading hyped-up reviews about it by people hating on THE REVENANT and Inarritu for directing it. Well, at least he did direct what is clearly a movie that tells a story through its visuals.

          Despite you not having seen HATEFUL EIGHT, your comparison with DJANGO is spot on. This is the badness from DJANGO amped up to 12 indeed.

          • Midnight Luck

            I could tell, and I so understand.
            It is hard when those we love let us down.
            I was so bothered by Django. There were parts in the beginning that were decent, there was stuff in the middle that was decent-ish, i guess.
            I will say I liked Kerry Washington for the most part.
            But when they all descended upon the plantation house in the last part, everything just stopped. Yet the movie just kept going and going. When Sam Jackson and DiCaprio and the rest just sit around talking and talking and talking and everyone seems to think that everything pouring out of their mouths is Tarantino gold, it was painful. Because it wasn’t gold. It wasn’t even aluminum. It was boring. And the fact no one knew it, pissed me off. How could no one tell him, why would no one fill him in, and if they did happen to, why would he not listen? Because he’s Tarantino is all I can guess.

            And that is the death of a Director. (and a writer)

            I can honestly say, the last third of Django was some of the worst work in direction I have ever seen. And I could tell, quite possibly we had seen the end of QT.

            Unless he has a complete overhaul of himself, unless he takes a deep look inside and sees himself clearly, we are only going to get more of this, not less. It will get ugly.

            Unless of course he does stop making movies like he says he’s going to. But I doubt that. He’s Too in love with his own words.

            Now, bringing up REVENANT. That I really do want to see what Inarritu has done. Looks interesting in many ways. Not sure I will like the story, maybe I will, but I can tell some impressive visual storytelling is going on, just as you said. There really is some artful, masterful visual work on display.

            Definitely will be checking that out.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            I wholly agree with everything :)

            THE REVENANT is a fascinating film. Visually stunning, gruesome and heartbreaking – the world won’t ever need another Survival or Revenge movie… And for the first time since GILBERT GRAPE, I was once again impressed with DiCaprio’s acting skills. He’s good – no doubt about it – but I always had that impression of seeing the actor and not the character. In this movie, he shows emotions that I have never seen on his actor’s face before. So check it out if it interests you :) To me, that’s what Cinema is.

          • gazrow

            Looks like we’re both agreed that THE REVENANT is a far superior film to THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Knew you had great taste! :)

          • Randy Williams

            Visually, going off the trailers, they look the same but I don’t think I’m prepared emotionally (usually all soft-centered after the holidays) to watch something as visceral as The Revenant right now. I’m going for the more comic-book, have fun movie with The Hateful Eight. Sometime before Valentine’s Day I think I’ll be ready.

          • gazrow

            Well, I hope you find it worth the wait! :)

          • Midnight Luck

            I will definitely be there to see REVENANT when it comes out.

          • Midnight Luck

            I finally saw Revenant. I definitely liked it, but sadly don’t think DiCaprio is there with this one. I still liked him much more in Basketball Diaries and Gilbert Grape, both of which should have been Oscar worthy. Also Romeo &Juliet I thought he was phenomenal.

            Can’t quite say what wasn’t quite up to the same level with this one, but I felt stronger about Hardy’s performance.

            I will have to consider it more. This may sound lame, but I think I could just FEEL DiCaprio TRYING really hard and it was off putting.

            But the movie was something. Especially from a cinematography perspective.

          • The Colonel

            “How could no one tell him, why would no one fill him in, and if they did happen to, why would he not listen?”

            And, more important, why do so many critics continue to polish his knob?

            I think there’s an odd social psychology going on, whereby QT was so “cool” for a while that people think they’re cool for liking him, and therefore defend his movies to the death. To my eyes, Basterds was a longwinded piece of schlock, but christ, people act like it’s a triumph.

            I loved Dogs and Fiction with every fiber of my being, but then I was 20. Today, if I saw QT coming up the block, I’d spit at him.

        • Mallet

          Kurt Russell is the best part of the film. Steals every scene he is in. Just outright commands the screen.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Absolutely. Always.
            (Snake Plissken is my fantasy husband ^^)

          • Midnight Luck

            I don’t doubt it. I thought he was great in QT’s Death Proof. Just wish the story would’ve been a bit better.

        • leitskev

          Thank you! Someone with the common sense to realize Django was nowhere near as good as people think. I’m a fan of QT, but each movie should be judged on its own merits. I saw Django at the movies(after reading most of the script) and I cam away with mixed feelings. So I watched it again months later at home…or tried to. I couldn’t get through it. None of those characters feel real even in a Tarantino reality kind of way. The reactions don’t make sense, the dialog is self indulgent to the point of foolishness. It’s not an awful movie, I still admire QT and not every movie will be great, but come on, an Oscar for that?

          I read Hateful up to the blowjob scene, then I was out. Not do to squeamishness, it just felt juvenile and pointless, like tying to get shock for shock’s sake. I mean who wants to whip it out in the cold and have some soldier that wants to kill you put his mouth….I mean it makes no sense. Up until that point, the story did a great job of building tension with a story that could be shot with n budget if they wanted. That’s great work. But then it comes off the rails I think.

        • klmn

          Didn’t Tarentino’s long-time editor die a year or so ago?

          • lonestarr357

            Sally Menke, RIP.

            While I did like them, Django and Hateful both suffer from needless dragging. There’s a superb two-hour movie lurking within the three-hour frame of H8. I look forward to the fan edit.

        • The Colonel

          “Django was the beginning of the bad dialogue, boring monologue style.”

          No, no, he’s been doing this since the beginning. Did you see Four Rooms? His segment is one long, stupid-ass QT monologue (that he thinks is clever and funny). The Kill Bill movies, which I utterly despise, are constantly bogged down by people speechifying at each other in totally unrealistic voices. And then Basterds, holy fuck will the people in that movie STFU?!?

          Bottom line, if you were at a bar at someone started giving you a QT monologue, after about five minutes you’d take a call, or go to the bathroom to make it STOP. Shut up, nerdy old man, you’re not funny and you’re NOT. COOL.

          • Midnight Luck

            You are right. He was at the height of popularity and was exploding with success, and I was dumbfounded when I saw his story in Four Rooms.
            Bad doesn’t even cover it. Nor does boring. Just cliche and long winded and banal.
            Don’t know how he could’ve come off Pulp Fiction and then made Four Rooms. It is like he has 2 personalities. One who knows how to write impact full kick ass stuff,and the other who cannot setup a scene, intro a character, or carry a single good bit of dialogue. And all his worst work always seems to take place in one room.

            I only got a 1/3 of the way through the 1st Kill Bill, and I hated it. I never tried the second one. By then what was the point? It was all supposed to be a single movie in the beginning, so it wasn’t like part 2 would be any different.

        • andyjaxfl

          Skip this one, Midnight. It’s not very good and not worth waiting for DVD when you can fast forward through the first hour.

          • Midnight Luck

            Never thought I’d see the words “skip this one” connected with a Tarantino movie.
            But seriously, I was shocked how much I disliked the trailer. And couldn’t believe a trailer could be so boring.
            I will see it at some point I am sure, but when? Don’t know.

      • Magga

        The blowjob scene was quite brilliant IMO. It was all about what it would take to make it too much to take for an honored man of the confederacy. In true QT fashion he added that character’s most human moment right before this starts, when he appears to warm to the idea of himself and the legendary, confederates-killing black soldier as fellow veterans of the same battle field. There were a lot of great, politically subversive ideas in the film, it just seemed, on first viewing, to not work one hundred percent dramatically, which is always the key to making a great movie

      • Poe_Serling

        I feel that you’re holding back. What do you really think of the movie? ;-)

        Extra bonus points for mentioning Scooby Doo and The Thing.

        • brenkilco

          QT’s Scooby Doo. Well, at least if he did it we wouldn’t be bombarded with the n word. I don’t think Scooby can pronounce the letter n.

          • klmn

            He’d call them “riggers.”

        • Eddie Panta

          Wow, those are two really good analogies Has someone already done it?

          Hateful Eight reminds me of Scooby Doo because at the end everyone stands around and explains how they’ve come to their conclusions, what they’ve been doing all along, and how they’ve figured everything out.

          And yes, it’s kinda of like the orig. THING because they’re snowed in, inside a cabin, and something keeps coming through the door,

          Then it’s like remake of the The Thing w/ K. Russell, because no one knows who’s who and they keep switching sides.

          • Eric

            “…at the end everyone stands around and explains how they’ve come to their conclusions, what they’ve been doing all along, and how they’ve figured everything out.”

            Isn’t that a pretty standard mystery trope? It didn’t originate with Scooby Doo so much as Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. The film is billed as a Western/Mystery so I’m not sure it should be faulted for including a mystery story’s most basic beat.

            Now if the explanations are ridiculous and illogical, then there’s a problem, since a mystery’s number one job is to weave a puzzle that makes logical sense once it’s been unraveled.

      • Eddie Panta

        You are correct on all fronts. Hateful Eight was a self-indulgent mess.

        As you mention, H8 is a play of a novel. It even has useless chapter breaks. It’s nothing like a screenplay. It’s clear that the story came from QT’s attempt at a Django paperback. The script has that exact feeling that things were made up as the writer went along, running his character up a tree too fast, then creating another character on the spot to keep the story going.

        Suspense came from a nonlinear story structure, but the only reason it wasn’t told chronologically was to deprive information from the audience. Had in been told linearly none of it would of made sense.

        The entire movie was a prolonged version of the bar scene in Inglorious Bastards. But with H8 the characters get to spout out all their intentions, explain their though process, not unlike an old TV mystery.

        Can you imagine shooting in 70mm, the widest frame format, and still having to stop the story to explain via narration that some very important action in the background went unseen! Tarantino chimes in as narrator, breaks the fourth wall, and tells the audience what he couldn’t fit into frame! That’s ridiculous!

        The camera itself is detached from the characters, it’s neither reliable or unreliable, it represents another viewer, like a person watching a stage play, you’re never seeing/feeling what a character experiences through the camera, you’re watching the action from afar, but at the same time, it’s not an objective point of view. So none of the camera work makes sense.

        Unlike most other Tarantino films, H8 isn’t based on a film from the 70’s, it’s one of his most original scripts, and it shows, the story has no backbone, this is Tarantino stripped bare of aesthetics that usually inform his stories. What’s left is only the misogyny, revenge, and empty violence.

      • The Colonel

        Thank you for this, well said.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Well ranted, you mean :p
          Seriously, though, I get very angry and disappointed whenever an otherwise talented filmmaker sticks his head so far up his own derrière that even his shopping list would get prodced. If anybody but QT had written this script (and DJANGO before it), it would’ve gotten rewritten down to 100 pages and every useless scene cut out or cut down. And we would’ve had two decent movies.

          I watched this because I kept hearing that QT was back to ’90s form. With an Exploitation Western? I’m in! Well, I should’ve stayed outside :(

          I’m not a QT admirer per se – I think he’s great at recycling and he used to write well. PULP FICTION, to me, is perfect. RESERVOIR DOGS is the last twenty minutes of Ringo Lam’s CITY ON FIRE dragged out to feature length (complete with the Mexican stand-off). After that, it all started going downhill.

      • andyjaxfl

        Well said. I sat through this movie last night and it was tough. It feels more like a QT imitator wrote it than the QT most people love.

    • Mallet

      I saw it, and I think Quentin Tarantino has finally crossed over to believing his own hype and praise. He showed signs of it with Django and IB but at least those films while not great, had momentum, tension and pacing.

      Like you said, this film had excellent moments and great acting, but they could have easily cut an hour out of the film and it would have been vastly better.

      If he really wanted to please himself and his die-hard fans they could have shown the full length version as the “roadshow” 70mm version and then released an edited/cut version for the standard release. Then on Blu Ray they could have released the full version as the “directors cut”.

      But as it plays now found it way too long and over written to be more then a “meh” rating. Parts were great, but not great enough to make up for the rest of it.

      • Sebastian Cornet

        Amen. Yes, if there was ever a time when I believed QT got lost in his own mythology, this is it. There have always been moment sof indulgence in his films (Mr. Orange’s flashback in the 3rd act of Reservoir Dogs, everything pre-basement/gimp in the Bruce Willis story in Pulp Fiction, etc), but in H8 he had moment after moment after moment like that. It was just too much.

    • hickeyyy

      Seems like I’m the only other one other than you who enjoyed it.

      I agree with the sentiment that the extended flashback killed the pace for me. Seems like it was only placed to show which of the 8 were in cahoots with the Domague girl. Which we could’ve found out easily by staying exactly where we were through actions. Did we really need to see them show up and kill an entire family? Seemed like it was there to toss violence on the violence.

      That said, I did like the twist of the mystery of who was there for the girl turning out to be everyone. Not sure I’ve seen that before.

      I think Russell’s performance and, storywise, the Lincoln Letter were my favorite aspects of the film.

      I’m glad I saw it, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.

      • Dan B

        I guess the flashback is a bit of a nod to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I haven’t seen that one in years, so I had forgot about it.

        • brenkilco

          Course the flashback in Valance lasts all of ninety seconds. Takes QT longer than that just to nail that broken door shut in Eight.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Oh wow, the door joke >.< Each. And. Every. Time. Someone. Went. Outside. And each and every time it lasted several minutes. Even the first time, it wasn't funny. Maybe that's why we got in on repeat. "Guys, keep watching. It'll get better each time."

      • Magga

        I liked the movie a lot too, and I’m going to see it again as a roadshow presentation. Based on first impressions I think I like all the other Tarantino movies a little better

        • hickeyyy

          I believe my order of preference is as follows, and is likely to change on a day-to-day basis:

          Reservoir Dogs

          Pulp Fiction

          Inglorious Basterds

          Kill Bill

          Django Unchained

          Hateful Eight

          Jackie Brown

          Death Proof

          • Magga

            Guess this is mine:
            Pulp Fiction
            Inglorious Basterds
            Jackie Brown
            Django Unchained
            Kill Bill
            Reservoir Dogs
            Death Proof
            Hateful Eight

            As I said, I liked Hateful Eight, so his filmography is pretty steller for me. I should also say that Reservoir Dogs is one of my formative movie experiences, and had a profound effect on my tastes. I just think he’s actually improved, and I find myself returning to some of his newer ones more often

          • Sean Reardon

            Although I’m a big fan of QT, I think Guy Ritchie has done some films I liked more than some of QT’s. Out of my top 5 GR has 3 QT 2

            Pulp Fiction
            Jackie Brown
            Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
            Inglorious Basterds
            Reservoir Dogs
            Django Unchained
            Kill Bill 1 & 2
            Death Proof
            Hateful Eight (have not seen)

          • Midnight Luck

            True Romance / tie/ Pulp Fiction
            Reservoir Dogs
            Inglorious Basterds
            Death Proof
            Django Unchained
            Jackie Brown

            haven’t seen
            Kill Bill (I saw about 1/3 of part 1, none of 2)
            Hateful 8

      • S. Douglas

        I think a lot of people here watched Hateful Eight by downloading it and not seeing it in the theater. If you saw the roadshow presentation, this “flashback” sequence is right after the intermission and works very well to get the viewer back into the story. Anyway I loved Hateful Eight but like any other QT film, people will love it or hate it. That being said, people who hate it and then think that they have some objective reason why it’s terrible, are completely wrong. There are as many objective reasons as to why the film could also be considered a masterpiece imho.

    • Dan B


      I really enjoyed it, and had read the script previously so that took away from some of the mystery, but I felt they did a good job building up untill the moment of reveal.

      I thought all the characters were great except for Madsen who was a bit of a bore.

      Kurt, Walton, SLJ, JJL, Tim Roth, Demin Birchir were all great. Also, I don’t usually make a big deal about a score, but the the music in this was haunting. The perfect tone for this kind of flick, I can see why Ennio Morricone is considered a genius.

      • Eddie Panta

        Madsen got the role cause he owes QT a lot of money.

      • Sebastian Cornet

        I am still not sure if I liked the characters per se or the performances. The actors were fantastic to a man, but when I read the script they didn’t feel very alive to me. The acting was certainly the best part of the experience.

      • writebrain

        I really liked it too, and I do believe that people are uncomfortable with the racial aspects of the film, especially the ‘dingus’ scene. No black man has ever won on camera in that way before; I don’t believe there’s ever been a character in mainstream movies quite like the one Sam plays.This film is a classic example of a cult film, much like the film that inspired it.

    • Sean Reardon

      Hateful Eight, The Revenant, and Creed are the three films I’m hoping to see at the movies, whenever I can find the time. I have rarely been let down by a QT film, but have never seen one at the movies. Odds are I won’t be able to see all three, so I’m thinking based on your post, The Revenant may be the first one I see and the big screen might do that one the most justice. I really like Christoph Wolts, especially in Inglourious Basterds. Noticed Lee Horsley is in Hateful Eight. QT has been good to him. I have been a fan of Goggins since The Shield. Thanks for the heads up on HE.

      • Sebastian Cornet

        By all means, check out the Revenant first. Should be a superior film. I liked Creed, too. It bothered me a bit that at times it felt like a retread of Rocky I, but it still had plenty of heart to make it a satisfying film. I didn’t dislike H8 as much as Marija did. I’d say a Tarantino fan should watch it at least once to make up his/her mind.

        Goggins was underrated for a long while. I watched The Preacher a few weeks ago, and even in his brief scenes theres Goggins shows so much power and emotion, it’s surprising it took him so long to get some profile.

    • The Colonel

      ” indulgently slow and ponderous”

      Describes most everything QT has done since Pulp Fiction. If I see one more of his “characters” monologue the others for 15 minutes in his voice, I’m going to kill myself.

    • suminator

      Hi all, some nice points here in this OT H8 discussion.

      I am a huge QT fan, and enjoy his over the top characters and dialogues. I consider him a deviation in HWood as most of his scripts wouldn’t have passed, but when he directs it all falls into place and his casting and music adds much to the final flare.

      H8 was OK for me but not a standout film. I look at it as purely QT fantasy and don’t judge it by standard merits. I delve into his world and let myself go. Kurt Russel was the best in it and JJ Leigh was a surprise casting choice which I liked, and Walton Goggins was also brilliant.

      Marija – The Thing parallel was a brilliant touch :)

      The BJ flashback scene to me worked because I looked at it as an imagined event just to provoke general into shootout. I was a bit surprised when Sam actually said there is a BJ going on but after he ranted about it then I knew it was a prank as it wasn’t in his character…

      Sam pulled the Abe Lincoln prank too, so the BJ flashback surely is a prank too. He wants something and then he creates a diversion to get it…

      Yeah, Tarantino is my guilty pleasure even when he is not on top of his game.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Not crazy about the concept.
    (Sometimes I wonder why these scripts sell.)
    But this apparently began as a pitch and here’s my guess at studio think:

    1.) We’ve got the guys who wrote NEIGHBORS.
    2.) We can get Will Ferrell.
    3.) The budget works.

    (Only slightly better than playing with dice.)

    • Jason

      Asked and answered.

    • Andrew Parker

      Not sure there was a whole lot of effort. You can shoot this quickly in a tax refund state with very few locations, and pretty much guarantee breakeven at worst.

      • Malibo Jackk

        That’s budget.
        But here’s the thing: You want movies to make as much money as possible.
        Why not give the actors and everyone involved a script that they can get excited about?

    • Orange Pop

      This as a movie will most likley make a decent amount of money. I can see it doing well. The second half of the script was far better than the first, but a lot of the issues with this script can be fixed in editing. I actually expect the movie to come out well. I mean, if I remember correctly, act one ended on page 25 on this. Which is pretty standard, but it felt like it took a LONG time to get there. That’s an easy fix in editing.

      • Malibo Jackk

        Haven’t read script, so really can’t say.
        Hope it does well.

  • Jason

    A damn fine article to start the year off; although, your ‘buying a house’ gag bought the farm.


    Not a Comedy Writer

    (Ps When I typed ‘comedy,’ I accidentally typed ‘vomedy.’ Is that funny?)

  • Lucid Walk

    Speaking of setups, does anybody else struggle to write Act One of their screenplays?

    For me, it’s not a matter of introducing the characters. That part’s easy.

    Introducing the story world they inhabit (especially for sci-fi or fantasy)? Easy.

    Introducing the main conflict that threatens everything? Easy.

    Doing all of that WHILE telling a story so that it’s not all just obvious setup? Challenging.

    • klmn

      Sometimes I struggle. I throw away more starts than I complete.

    • Malibo Jackk

      1. Start telling the story.
      2. Introduce character, worlds, conflict as needed.
      3. Add a pinch of salt.

    • SandbaggerOne

      Just guessing, but maybe you are starting the script too early (or too late) in the story, so that is making it challenging?

      If the 3 of main components of the story (characters, setting and conflict) are easy then it sounds like the problem could be structure.

    • Wijnand Krabman

      Start with act 2; the first plot point, because that’s the ‘fun and games’ section the engine of your story. For me that is my thirst thought of a story, there are the things, the set pieces you want to happen badly. Trailer material! Don’t mean writing it already, think of it, or write parts of it. Than go back to act one and organise.

    • Scott Crawford

      The challenge is where to put the inciting incident. Yes, I said inciting incident. Call it what you will, at some point you’re going to stop setting up the characters and world BEFORE they are propelled into the story, and just propel them into the story.

      There’s no one way of doing this, it’s just a case of seeing what works and what doesn’t. But generally, I’d say don’t throw the characters into the main story in the first few pages. Take some time to set them up, and the world they live in.

      • Wijnand Krabman

        as early as possible like in Jaws; the shark killing the girl in the opening sequence. Gives you a possibility to reveal the theme and the actors to react on it.

        • Scott Crawford

          If the main character is a police officer or a private detective, then such a character requires less of a setup than a more unusual character. Similarly, a shark killing a woman requires less setup than some ideas (like this script, The House).

          • Wijnand Krabman

            I’ve been searching the internet for movies where the inciting accident comes real late. Do you know such movies?

          • brenkilco

            A movie that bombed on initial release but has recently been released on blu ray and is now widely hailed as one of the best movies of the seventies is Sorcerer. A remake of the great French thriller The Wages of Fear. A lot of people have an issue with the structure. The story deals with four criminal refugees living in a South American hellhole who for a price agree to drive trucks full of nitro through a jungle to put out an oil well fire. The inciting incident is them winding up in this hellish place. So how long does it take them to get there in screen time? Nearly an hour. We get four lengthy vignettes detailing the circumstances that caused them to flee their various countries. And the critics are basically right. This endless prologue is pretty indefensible plotwise. But the movie is still great.

          • Wijnand Krabman

            Yeah I saw that one, liked it a lot. Thinking the start of the oil well fire is the inciting incident, after that they are starting to find drivers which happen to be the four man.

          • The Colonel

            Ooof, I wanted to like Sorcerer so much, but it just never delivers, and the intros are interminable (and most irrelevant to the central story).

          • brenkilco

            Like I say, the first hour really is sort of extraneous. But the whole thing is just so damned well directed. Better directed IMHO than Friedkin’s more celebrated early seventies combo of French/Ex. I’ve read how they did that bridge scene and I’m still amazed nobody died. So once it gears up I think it does deliver but many over the years have felt like you.

          • Poe_Serling

            Over the years I’ve watched Friedkin’s Sorcerer from start to finish on several occasions.

            Just recently I’ve started to fast forward to when they start up the trucks and head off into the jungle. I guess it’s a become a time-saving thing on my part.

            The bridge scene is a real highlight and quite unforgettable.

            Once read an interview where Friedkin said that particular scene alone supposedly cost a cool million and the damn trucks kept falling off the bridge during filming.

          • brenkilco

            After Sorcerer that was pretty much it for Friedkin. I think it was the the universally condemned Cruising that really sent him into a professional tailspin- never seen it myself- but he never became a pariah. He continued active till very recently. Bad luck with material, a loss of collaborators like Roizman, the turning of the zeitgeist . Whatever. After the seventies he was just another director. To Live and Die in LA has its champions. But it’s no French Connection.

            I’ve read that the water in the bridge scene was only four feet deep and that a damn was constructed upstream so that the area could be drained in only a few minutes and that a crane was there to lift the truck back onto the span when it went over the side,which it did frequently, but I still wouldn’t have wanted to be the driver.

      • brenkilco

        Even though I’m kind of leery of these labels I do think it’s worth drawing a distinction between the inciting inciting incident and the first act break.The inciting incident generally gets us going in a particular direction but doesn’t really create the story. So the way I look at it in Murder on The Orient Express for instance the inciting incident is getting on the train. But the first act break is the murder. If you combine them and your first act essentially ends on page ten or fifteen then the second act is likely to be really thin.

        In Jaws the story seems to start right away. But recall only we know there’s a shark. The protag is told there isn’t and the first act break is the kid getting killed which happens around the half hour point.

        Maybe it’s heresy but I think most really good stories require that first half hour of setup.

        • Scott Crawford

          Yes, I’m using the “inciting incident” term in a loosey-goosey way. The example of Murder on the Orient Express is a good one since there are two elements people are expecting based on the title (Death on the Nile too).

          The example I often use are heist movies and where the actual robbery takes place: at the end, focusing on the how (Ocean’s 11); at the beginning, focusing on the getaway (Quick Change); or in the middle (Riffifi), and being a bid of a hybrid.

      • Lucid Walk

        I usually have the inciting incident as the very first scene. After all, the first scene has to both grab the audience’s attention and be relevant to the story.

        So I do this…
        Page 1 — opening scene/inciting incident
        Page 15-20 — first act break

        …instead of this.
        Page 1 — opening scene
        Page 10 — inciting incident
        Page 25 — first act break

    • brenkilco

      Good point. Basically, how do you keep things interesting on the way to the story. Because however you shake it the first act is mostly heavy lifting. And dry wall and scaffolding have a tendency to be dull. A few thoughts based on movies I’ve watched.

      1. Start with a bang if you can make the bang essential. The chase and death that commence Vertigo tell us how Stewart got/discovered his condition. In the original Planet of The Apes we need to get the astronauts on the Planet and we need to trap them there. So how about having them land in water and almost drown while losing their ship. Even in Casablanca, a great but somewhat talky movie, we start with a man being gunned down.

      2. Set up questions right away that are either answered or altered by the first act break. Roman Polanski starts his movies slow but not dull. Chinatown really doesn’t kick in till Mulwray is murdered. But before that we have the mystery of his strange, water related behavior and the big reversal that the woman who hired Gittes is really not Mulwray’s wife. All before the death which is really the formal first act break. In Rosemary’s Baby the first scene is just a couple touring an apartment. But even there we have the question of why the former tenant blocked off a door to a closet with heavy furniture and what the mysterious letter breaking off some relationship means. We’re a long way from the protag being the devil’s baby mama but we’re already curious and a little uneasy.

      3. Introduce you protag when he is most himself/herself and most active. Dirty Harry foiling a bank robbery. Howard Beale threatening to blow his brains out. Or maybe just a perfectly tailored Cary Grant in North By Northwest striding down Madison Avenue giving witty dictation to his secretary and generally being master of his urban domain.

      4. Make the exposition interesting. Even in our dumbed down culture people still like to learn things. And the plan for a caper can hold our attention. In the old Clint Eastwood robbery movie Thunderbolt and Lighfoot, Eastwood has an uncharacteristically lengthy monologue where he talks about different kinds of bank vaults and security systems and it’s just interesting.

      Hey, if making the first act riveting were easy everybody would be doing it.

      • Lucid Walk

        How do you feel about “in media res” scenes?

        Personally, I’m a huge fan of opening the movie with a later scene, and then revealing everything leading up to it. I don’t think it’s lazy screenwriting. As long as the opening is interesting, I’m always guessing how things turned up.

        Two great examples are The Usual Suspects and Mission Impossible 3.

        • garrett_h

          I think you’re referring to flash forwards.

          Personally, I dislike them. But that might be due to the fact that a bunch of scripts had flash forwards in recent years. IMO it rarely works.

          Not saying it can’t work. Breaking Bad is an example of it working. There are others. But more often than not, I find that the writer just couldn’t find a way to write a compelling opening, so they just dumped their best/favorite scene in the beginning.

        • brenkilco

          Per Garrett’s post if you’re talking about individual scenes the device is a flash forward. Traditionally in media res refers to starting a narrative at some point after the natural opening, going back to the beginning, reaching the point at which the reader came in and then continuing the story. In general I consider the flash an unnecessary device designed to create artificial mystery and suspense in a narrative that told conventionally doesn’t have enough of either. Don’t think Usual Suspects really qualifies. That is simply a story told in a single, interrupted flashback like No Way Out, DOA, Murder My Sweet and lots of other movies. The story is essentially over at the point we fade in and all that remains is the final reveal. I’m having trouble thinking of a really good movie that employs the technique. There’s Memento of course. But that is really its own thing. Can’t comment on MI3. Saw it but don’t remember a thing about it except a lot of running around the Vatican. Which suggests that at least for me nothing in it really worked.

          • garrett_h

            Yeah regarding Usual Suspects, it’s more of a framing device than real flashbacks. Kinda like how The Notebook goes back and forth from the present to the past with the husband telling the story.

    • leitskev

      Actually I find act one the easiest. I can set the story up, but then it gets harder as the second act progresses because all it takes is one mistake to throw everything off.

  • klmn

    “…Second, the standout scripts in the Scriptshadow 250 Contest so far have been comedy scripts…”

    How close to the finish line are we?

  • Midnight Luck

    Yet DADDY’S HOME has a 29% on Rotten Tomatoes.
    Seems high to me.

    But it has done $93 million so far? In 2 weeks?

    Wow. Really?

    Can’t imagine anyone will remember this movie a year from now.

    ROOM has done a total of $5 million so far. $5 million in 12 weeks! And it was on the list as the #1 best movie!
    Would Daddy’s Home even rank?

    Amazing. I am Just, well, you know…Constantly.

    • Malibo Jackk

      What are you writing these days?

      • Midnight Luck

        I really keep that stuff close to my heart. (chest?)
        Sadly (maybe?) I don’t let it out much in public.

        I am sure one of these days something will be let loose though.

        How about you?

        • Malibo Jackk

          Thought you might mention a genre or theme.
          Maybe something with great world significance :)
          (I’m not that talented.)

          There’s something to be said about the guy who’s writing a novel and doesn’t tell his friends. That way they won’t be asking — finished yet?
          As if they have now given you some sort of deadline.

          Action/Adventure and Thrillers mostly.
          More entertainment than deep meaning.
          Concepts that play better in theaters than on iPhones.

    • Buddy

      daddy’s home is a family movie, that’s probably why is doing so great at the BO.
      Honestly the movie seems lazy, like many will ferrell’s movies, but he’s so good at it (not like adam sandler) that you buy it anyway.
      GET HARD was the same kind of story concept. It wasn’t a great movie obviously, but I’d say it was “watchable”…

      • Midnight Luck

        I feel sad for the “family movies” then. And the audiences watching them. How far the 4 quadrant hast fallen. (then again we did have Home Alone way back when, and it did HUGE numbers. This feels Home Alone Humorish. Not much my thing)

        I saw Get Hard. Wow was that a stinker. Watchable, yes, but so is the Weather Channel.
        For me it was painful. I find that kind of forced humor and laughing one of the most painful things in film. If they can’t come up with honest humor and just force it down the audiences throat, well, they shouldn’t bother.

        I can’t remember the last really funny movie I saw. Oh wait, actually, it was HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS. Maybe just because Simon Pegg is just hilarious. No. There was some actual good humor in it, and some honest HEART.

        I think that is the problem with movies like Get Hard and Daddy’s Home. No Honesty. And no Heart.

        • The Colonel

          “I feel sad for the “family movies” then.”

          Yeah, most “family movies” these days are 97% the same as adult comedies but with less F bombs. Still the same number of pooped pants and gay jokes; etc. It’s a mess.

          I agree with you that the problem is the lack of heart, which is another way of saying they’re all cynically packed “concepts” with no real story to tell.

    • leitskev

      It’s a family movie showing on Christmas week. That’s what Adam Sandler does every year. Families are looking for something to do and a movie that the kids can go to. No one is expecting the movie to be all that memorable. If it generates some cheap laughs it’s a success in the minds of the family.

      Star Wars is somewhat family friendly, but not for little kids, and even a lot of young teen girls have no interest in it. So Daddy’s Home was a good alternative.

      • Scott Crawford

        Watched a lot of TV this Christmas babysitting my Dad, not much else to do. In the UK, soooooo many family movies, and soooo many of them are animated (CGI, mainly). It felt a relief when they started showing some (during the day) that WEREN’T animated.

        • leitskev


          Someone gave me a kindle for Christmas. At first I was like what am I gonna do with this, I already have kindle on my laptop. But now I like it because I can carry it around in my pocket and open it if I’m stuck somewhere.

      • The Colonel

        I haven’t seen Daddy’s Home, but I’m guessing there are X number of raunchy incidents that are absolutely not appropriate for kids.

        Star Wars, on the other hand, hits the sweet spot of being exciting enough for adults, but never too intense or inappropriate for the little ones (though, watching in IMAX, it is often too loud).

        • leitskev

          I’m not taking a side in which one people should see, I’m trying to theorize about the success of Daddy’s Home. It’s not that Star Wars is inappropriate for kids, though there is violence. Not all kids will be interested in it, especially girls. My nieces are 13 and 10 and my brother couldn’t get them to go, they wanted no part of it.

          Daddy is PG13 if that helps

    • klmn

      Room sounds more like a stage play than a movie. Movies are moving pictures. No matter how good the performances are.

    • E.C. Henry

      Hollywood cranks out a ton of “disposable” comedies, of which Will Farrell is the king. And you’re right, Midnight Luck, TWO MONTHS from now “Daddy’s Home” will be forgotten–though it will now available for DVD purchase.

  • rodneybr23

    Ideas like this will always sell in Hollywood. It sounds like it has the potential for lots of laugh, and its something that lots of people would leave the house to go see, myself included. The majority of movie goers want to go to the theater to see something big. Big laughs, big action, big mystery. This sounds like the perfect vehicle for Will Ferrell, and say what you want about the guy, but not only can he deliver big laughs, he can also fill a theater.

    Also, if anyone has a copy of the script, I would love to read it. Email is

  • Stephjones

    Comedy is my preferred genre but Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler put ants on me.
    Since I try to write comedy I’ve become very interested in the subjective nature of it, including my own response to what I find funny. Since I’d rather laugh than not I’m always looking for the chuckle. There are clever folks on this site who make me laugh and aside from the screenwriting share that goes on here, I come back for them. Their humor is generally wry and witty but sometimes a bit non-PC. I like when bullshit is called on some sensibilities.
    But, my taste in comedies can be sophomoric and runs to crude. My husband sometimes looks at me as if I’m an alien life form after he watches a movie that made me laugh out loud. Its like he needs to reasses the intelligence of the woman he’s living with, even though our ability to make each other laugh is one of the strengths of our relationship.
    Comedy is a tough nut to crack…no doubt about it. I watch the special features sections of all of my favorite comedies and the same producers, directors and actors which share a comic sensibility align themselves with material which suits them and keep cranking out movies. Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy ( and other bridesmaids) Jason Bateman/Seth Gordon. Their movies make me laugh so I try to write those sorts of comedies. Some of them score abysmally on RT. I could give a pig’s fart about that.

    • jw

      I think one of the most interesting things about comedy and where it can be similar to horror is in its natural emotive response. Horror is meant to scare and Comedy is meant to induce laughter. Thus, if you have either not achieving those goals, but with a great story, then you likely don’t have much of an audience. On the flip side to that, this is where I can often disagree with people who review comedy and it’s this — I absolutely loved ‘In The Loop’. Hadn’t laughed that hard in a while at a comedic film and yet I could tell you nothing about the characters, about their arcs, about the mid-point, or even the resolution, but just that I had to pick myself up off the floor (and I’m not even British). It was a group of funny ass people with brilliant comedy at their fingertips and they delivered two helpings and a pint on the side. Sometimes this “push” to make everything SO formulaic means that you end up with an Adam Sandler film 52 times, and that isn’t something any of us want! I’d take his money, but you couldn’t pay me to be him.

      • Stephjones

        I agree. But, I’m as mystified by the appeal of horror as I’m sure some folks are mystified by my penchant for a certain sort of humor. When it comes to being a screenwriter I’m sure the more boxes you can check genre-wise the more versatile you are, hence the more employable you become but I’m not sure I have any choice in the matter because the only stories I want to tell have a comedic element. I do know that it’s hard as hell to get a consensus on comedy scripts. Why can’t everyone see how fucking funny I am?

        • jw

          Word! And, why won’t someone let me run development tomorrow? Bitches.

          Comedy is hard, but I don’t think it’s as hard as everyone makes it out to be. Sometimes you have to have a gut or an intuition to this sort of stuff and when someone said, “oh, there’s going to be this comedy show about working in a Walmart type store,” I just went, NOT gonna last. Opened with 7.5 million viewers and by week 3 had 2.5. #bye

          Vision is hugely important in this stuff and how many times do you hear about a script getting passed on by every major studio in town and then going on to win Oscars? Every day of the week. You have to actually find someone who can see level with you and that is one of the HARDEST things EVER.

      • Doug

        Glad someone mentioned In The Loop. That was my favourite comedy of the last ten years.

      • brenkilco

        I agree. Horror and Comedy are the genres in which structure is the least important. Funny and scary are the bottom line. Good luck finding the character arcs in Duck Soup, It’s a Gift, Montly Python and the Holy Grail and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.

  • Guest

    Since this and Daddy’s Home seem like things that won’t be remembered in the future, well this has yet to come in film form, my question is this: What helps make a comedy script something that stands the test of time and stays fun when and where ever. IE (ANNIE HALL, which comes up now and again but hasn’t really faded away).

    • Andrew Parker

      Timeless theme (love, friendship, cops who don’t get along).

      Memorable, original scenes (Bridesmaids airplane scene, Office Space destroying the printer, Wedding Crashers dinner table scene).

      Quotes you can use in everyday life (“just a bit outside”, “it’s not a tumor”, “our birds heads are falling off”).

      But above all, a timeless theme where you really care about the characters and want to follow them on their journey.

  • Dan B

    This scripts shares a lot with their previous hit Neighbors. The formula is similar — put a Husband and Wife in a tough situation, and let them figure they’re way out. Both stories have a similar male friend side kick as well. For me, I noticed this and wondered if that’s the style these guys like. Do their personal experiences drive them to write stories about married couples in funny situations?

    I think they have done a good job with concept because a lot of people could relate to this. Lot’s of people are married, have kids, and or have money issues. This concept can reflect on a lot of people’s lives and then take it on a crazy adventure.

    That said, I don’t think this was as good as Neighbors. I felt that Neighbors did a lot that was really creative (Frat making money back selling dildos), the constant back and forth between the frat and the couple meant status was always changing. Also, Neighbors had a strong theme. This was a “Coming of Age” for new Parents who are still in that gray area area of their pre-child life, and what responsibilities a new child brings. Right from the getgo, we can see that these parents feel like they are missing out. Our villans have arcs as well, as they come to terms with the fact college life has a life expectancy as well.

    SPOILER — THE HOUSE — felt a little more cartoonish. The concept is great, it’s a perfect “WHAT IF?” Log line. And I feel like you need the longer set up to sell the audience on something so “crazy.” However, from there the script just seems to go on with Fun and Games for the entire second act. There’s some subplots with their freind Frank and the Daughter, but they don’t really push the story forward. The daughter’s subplot finally crosses over with the parents near the third act, but it doesn’t really add a whole lot.

    I think one of the biggest lessons here is that a really good pitch and an okay script can get you someplace, but If your concept is just okay, then the script really needs to kick a bunch of ass. People will go see this movie because they see a big concept and they get to watch funny people be funny. Some people don’t think Will Ferrell is funny, but I would say that his fifteen plus years as a professional comedian would object. Just because someone doesn’t enjoy his work, doesn’t mean millions others love it.

  • lonestarr357

    Was that shot at “The Goldbergs” really warranted? Granted, the mom is fucking Looney Tunes (and seldom in a good way), but muscle that past your gag reflex and you’ll find, bar none, one of the best sitcoms currently airing.

    As for this, what does it matter reviewing the script when they’re just gonna improvise the shit out of it? (Just what cut the legs out from under NEIGHBORS, as far as I’m concerned.) This is the current state of movie comedy.

    I don’t know. If comedies are what people want to write, maybe try for a script that’s so good – and so bulletproof – that the talent can’t smother it with improvisation.

  • Randy Williams

    Going off the logline, why do they set up the casino in “their friend’s house” and not their own?
    Their friend is already a “degenerate” so that seems to weaken the conflict to me.

    Neighborhood “Casino nights” to raise money has been done many times before in movies and TV shows.. Crayoned roulette wheels. Neighborhood alcoholic watches over the proceeds box. Usually some unseemly relationship is revealed between hands. Seems a bit old fashioned. But I guess Neighbors does too with the college frathouse angle. That movie was fun. Loved it.

    I’d put it on an amateur offshore gambling speed boat. As long as everyone is wearing life jackets and their speed doesn’t sink to less than fifty miles an hour, they’re good to go.
    Is that Keanu Reeves as the croupier?

    • Dan B

      THey have a daughter living at home, and the friend’s wife moved out (his love life also is a subplot… not one that adds much to the story though).

  • Citizen M

    The final movie should be a lot funnier than the script because they try all sorts of stuff on set then cut out what doesn’t work.

    Seth Rogen and his longtime writing, directing and producing collaborator, Evan Goldberg, on boundary-pushing humor (my underline):

    Goldberg: Like in This Is the End, Seth pees in his own face at one point, and then we filmed a poo joke, and we looked back at the crew and it was like, “Nope.”

    Rogen: The fact that we scaled something back to me peeing in my own face shows we’re always willing to try. So we’ll always push the envelope. If we have an idea and it makes us laugh, we’ll film it. That is pretty much the rule we have on set. When we were making Pineapple Express, I said to James Franco, “You know what would be funny? If I said the weed smells like God’s vagina.” But I was like, that’s too crazy a joke — you can’t say that. Then the next take, he said it! And it was probably around that moment that I realized that if we think of it, we should do it, because that honestly ended up being one of the biggest laughs in the whole f—ing movie, and my first instinct was like no, we can’t do that, it’s too far. Now we’ve trained ourselves so when you have that thought, it’s when you do it. There’s a good chance it won’t work, but in case it does, it’s an awesome joke. We test the movies a lot — I mean a lot. We’ll test the whole movie for one joke.

    Goldberg: And if it’s a risque joke and the audience doesn’t like it and we love it, it’s out.

    Rogen: We always say it’s way worse to have jokes that miss than to have no joke. We try to make it that every joke works. We really look at everything that could be a joke attempt, and we don’t want any swings and misses. Sometimes you can’t cut around them or you need it for some mechanical reason, but we try to screen the movies to the point where there’s no swings and misses. Where everything that feels like we’re trying to make you laugh will make you laugh. You have to be really hard on it, and you lose a lot of stuff and you have a lot of conversations with directors, or our executive producers are sitting with us as directors, and you record the laughter so there’s no arguing it. I say, “I think that joke’s funny.” They say, “No it isn’t.” So we listen, and no one laughs. So I go, “OK, I guess it’s not funny! No argument from me here.”

  • Eddie Panta

    Based on the article, this sounds like RISKY BUSINESS in reverse. Parents go off the deep end in order to afford college. Instead of a whore house, it’s a casino, the concept is the same but the roles are reversed.

    • Randy Williams

      Good observation! But, please don’t tell me Will Ferrell dances in his underwear.

    • Scott Crawford

      ” the concept is the same but the roles are reversed.”

      And so you have discovered the secret of screenwriting. Appropriation. Not so much imaginination as REimagination.

      “Give me the same thing, only different.” Sam Goldwyn

    • Sean Reardon

      Great observation!

  • fragglewriter

    I’ve never thought of set-ups that way until you explained it. I struggled with my previous script after I got to about 20 pages, and just said “it’s writers block and don’t force it.” Now that I’m putting it on hold and doing a Romantic Dramedy, I feel that the set-up is already there without me having to explain as much. I’ve mentioned to two friends about my writing, and they push it to the side. I told one of the two friends about this Romantic Dramedy as she knows that I hate anything Romantic, and asked for the premise. When I told her it was based on my not finding/pushing away love and one of my parent’s homosexual angle, so was so excited and said she’ll pay money to see that LOL. She also wants to read the script, which she has never asked to read any of my scripts as she can’t be bothered with it.

    I guess reviewing loglines with friends does work.

  • Andrew Parker

    Happy you reviewed a comedy. Sad you invalidated your views on comedy by disparaging The Goldbergs.

    This premise is pretty deeply flawed. There’s not a great antagonist, the motivation is pretty sketchy, and there just aren’t many good set pieces.

    That being said, the first draft of Neighbors was pretty blah. Whoever re-wrote it — possibly the original writers — greatly improved it. Could be the case here, but they’re already at a bit of a disadvantage, as you point out, from the tough set up.

    • Midnight Luck

      I agree. Yes Goldbergs is hit or miss sometimes, but overall, it is one of the better comedies on TV.
      Tapping into the 80’s is great. And the writer is basing it off of his life, and there is some good stuff there. His older brother alone is what keeps it afloat. He is a comedy gold character. Mom? not as much. Dad has some great stuff, but mostly it is the brother.

  • Scott Crawford
  • jw

    Carson, that was really funny what you just did – “people on this site don’t really gravitate to commercial comedy, so I’m going to talk today about commercial comedy.” ahahahah

    I feel like commercial comedy is only for a very, very select few and the honest truth is that it really takes a marketing background (or a very, very clear understanding of why people see comedies) to understand how to create a concept that is going to work. The second I get my commercial comedy in Rogen’s hands is the second it sells because honestly he’s the type of guy that would look at the title and go “it sells itself”. And, he would be correct. This is all about getting close enough to the comedy players so you can actually take a swing. In the trenches you stand little chance.

    Now, with that said, I felt Neighbors left A LOT to be desired and many of the people in the theater where I saw it couldn’t stop yawning. Haven’t seen Ferrell’s latest, but the trailers were half-way decent and they easily showed the plot, as Carson mentioned, dad versus step-dad. Easy enough to see the comedic value in something like that, especially with the juxtaposition of Ferrell versus Walhberg, a pair of pretty opposite individuals.

    I wish people on this site would actually embrace comedy from time-to-time. It would be a nice change of pace and something that isn’t too far off of what we generally converse about, but in a different genre.

    What I find interesting about the “lack of comedy” paradox is that many of the reasons posed by people here about why they don’t like those types of films also applies to horror, which coincidentally or ironically, they do actually like. And, even more interesting is that they’d likely make up 22 reasons why a horror character committed another cliché violation and it was okay to do, but if your comedy character made one false move the Fade In PoPo would pounce!

    2016 resolution – laugh a bit more ya’ll!

    • The Colonel

      “I wish people on this site would actually embrace comedy from time-to-time.”

      I embrace it fully, but DAMN is it hard to make a screenplay funny. Even comedies that you love look flat on the page.

      • jw

        No disagreement there. But, I will say that VISION is everything and part of what can really baffle me here is a “primary” vision for horror or thriller that seems to be very second nature, and a complete lack of any vision whatsoever for comedy. I guess that really makes sense, considering most writers get branded with a specific genre, but I tend to find myself understanding vision, no matter the genre, and no matter if I like the material, so it is a bit confusing when that doesn’t seem to extend to others.

  • CCM30atWork

    Is it me or does Will Ferrell get something lodged in his head somehow every time he’s in a comedy? Maybe it’s just recently, or it’s just me. Could’ve sworn I’ve seen it a few times before.

    Anyway happy first week of 2016. Started off great for me by spilling my soup all over the office kitchen, hadn’t even been in the office for more than five minutes. Then the guy I’m covering for a week now took another week off so I gotta do all his work, too.

    Hope everyone’s having a better start than I am haha.

    How about to cheer me up and make my 2016 a bit better, everyone cranks out five pages tonight on whatever project they’re currently working on. That’d ease the pain a bit. ^_^

  • wlubake

    To me, comedy works best when you put your characters in an uncomfortable situation and watch them try to work their way out of it. Meet the Parents is a great example. Curb Your Enthusiasm also worked this to great effect. That type of comedy seems to have fallen by the wayside over the past few years.

    And the setup for it isn’t even that tough (just see Meet the Parents). You have one character who wants to impress someone. But things just don’t work out. And no matter what they do, they just dig a deeper hole.

    Works in romance, work environment – most everywhere really.

    • Aaron J.

      THE OVERNIGHT – watch this one. Excellent comedy that puts two people in an extremely uncomfortable situation.

      • Buddy

        I’m going to give a shot to this one…

    • Dan B

      Meet the Parents is the Gold Standard for me personally

  • The Colonel

    I’ll be honest: Neighbors was pure shit. It was old Love Boat levels of comedy, with enough bad words and drug references to win that R rating. But at no point was it believable, or scandalous, and basically made its money on the fact that people assumed that if Rogan was in it, he wrote it.

    This sounds about the same, with a concept that my mom might think was naughty, but the rest of us see as contrived. As with the new Vacation (another snooze fest with occasional laughs), it’s a screenplay written by nerds who purport to be edgy. They’re not, it’s not, and the whole thing is a waste of time.

    Also, you can smell the stench of an Apatow “emotionally resonant third act” from a mile away. Haven’t read it, but let me guess: at the end they decide they’d rather be poor, honest and spend time with their kid than continue with the casino? Or, like, they work with the feds to help them topple an even bigger casino bad guy? There’s ZERO chance that the end of this thing is anything but a giant fart.

    • Kirk Diggler

      Yep, Neighbors was awful. It was just a concept. Frat moves in next door to a married couple with newborn baby. Cue a series of stupid jokes and sight gags with almost zero story or character development. Terrible.

      And they are making Neighbors 2. Sad.

      “you can smell the stench of an Apatow “emotionally resonant third act” from a mile away.”

      Haha, true!

      • CCM30atWork

        Didn’t see Neighbors but the Robert DeNiro party scene is pretty funny, enough for me to consider watching it. Hope there are more scenes like that.

        • Dan B

          Talking about the Dirty Grandpa flick coming out?

    • Midnight Luck

      This does sound about the same. I saw Neighbors in the theater, and was just appalled at how bad it was. Lame jokes, obvious story. I didn’t see any appeal. At the time there was nothing in the theater at all, and the few things there were I had already seen.
      This one looks even worse, a mix of GET HARD (which was so terrible) and NEIGHBORS.
      Not a good mix.

      I think Will Ferrell was phenomenal on SNL. Really great work. But other than a great bit here and there, he hasn’t reached a good level in movies. Maybe just choosing the wrong projects? Not sure. Everyone loved ANCHORMAN. I never could understand it. Honestly it was rough, and not funny for me. Again, mostly obvious jokes. And A2 was painful.

      The only movies he’s done where I thought something was good, is when he just appears out of nowhere, does his little surprise visit bit, and is gone.
      Much like an SNL skit.
      I don’t think he can carry a movie, and I don’t think the movies he chooses are better than a 10 minute or less SNL skit.
      Yet they try to carry it out to 90 minutes.

      • Buddy

        I understand your POV.

        But I think that why Ferrell created is better than sandler or any other comedy actor today is that he managed to create A CHARACTER, HIS character.

        A 45 yo men with the brain of a 10 yo. He did the same thing in a way, that Woody Allen did with HIS character. he always plays the same thing, they just change the plot. But for me it works because he’s so good at it that I always enjoy the film in a way even when the story feels lazy (get hard, daddy’s home, the house…)

        But honestly, tell me this isn’t funny :

        • Midnight Luck

          I am not saying I don’t like Will, I actually really like him. I think he is one of the funniest people around. I just have difficulty with the projects he has chosen in the film world.
          I don’t think they elevate or work with his skill set the best they could.

          He could be phenomenal. Right now, I feel he is still in 2nd gear.

          • The Colonel

            I feel like he’s regressed into a sad copy of his former self. I applaud him for cashing checks, but he’s less than a one trick pony these days.

          • Buddy

            yeah, can’t disagree with that…

        • Kirk Diggler

          The outtakes are hilarious too.

      • The Colonel

        Get Hard was embarrassingly terrible for everyone involved. The central thesis is stupid (there is no way you will ever quickly “get hard” enough to survive in the federal pen) and the movie played out as a series of racist and homophobic tropes that weren’t even done well.

  • Malibo Jackk

    You might find some good videos (comedians talking about comedy) online.
    Worth watching at least.

  • The Colonel

    ” I think in general that a mainstream audience yearns for light-hearted and positive stories (witness the popularity of Star Wars, which is a positive story about achieving your potential).”

    Totally agreed. I saw Star Wars twice over the holiday with my daughters, ages 3 and 6, and while they LOVED it (in large part because they connected with the characters so much), they almost couldn’t sit through the trailers beforehand. Superman v. Batman, Warhammer, Independence Day 2, Captain America–all of them are five minutes of explosions and people getting punched in the face. Superman is the grimmest thing I’ve ever seen, but even Cap, which is ostensibly aimed at a younger crowd, is sold as non-stop, hardcore violence.

    We’ve been servicing the Ain’t It Cool crowd so hard for the past five years people have forgotten about actual KIDS. Star Wars shows they are a hungry audience.

    • CCM30atWork

      Idk if people have forgotten about kids. Minions? Inside Out? That’s all kids stuff.

      Look at all the movies you just listed – Superman v Batman, Warhammer, Independence Day 2, Captain America (you could throw Jurassic Park in there, Mad Max, etc.) — they’re all not meant for kids. They’re meant for young adults/adults who enjoyed these franchises as a kid, and now want more of those franchises.

      Same thing with Star Wars, except its fundamentally less gritty and crazy because it’s science fantasy. Everything you listed is straight up action or superhero (except Warhammer) even if they do have sci-fi elements. But new Star Wars still really isn’t for kids, it’s for all the adults that once were kids and now have disposable income. As it turns out, kids also love it, but they aren’t necessarily focused on drawing the youngest of crowds. They want the teens and young adults. And that’s what the big action flicks want, which is why they’re filled with explosions and non-stop action, because that’s what teens and young adults want.

      • The Colonel

        I meant to say that when people say “family” movies these days–Avengers, Jurassic World; etc.–they’ve cut kids out of the equation. Sure, there’s Minions for the kids (which is an interminable piece of shit, by the way), but it’s not for the rest of the family.

        Star Wars is definitely for everyone, and there’s no point in the movie that’s too extreme for young eyes/ears. That’s a seriously rarity these days for a purportedly family movie.

  • Sean Reardon

    OT: Huge fan of Rod Serling. Been watching the TZ New Years Marathon with my kids for a lot of years. It amazes me how many influences I see in movies that I believe were inspired by TZ episodes. I saw one titled “The Hitch-Hiker”. I kept thinking it was very M.Night / Sixth Sense with the use of mirrors and the “MC is really dead” twist. Even Serling himself borrowed from his own work. Watch the opening of the TZ episode The Rip Van Winkle Caper and it is almost the exact same opening as the first Planet of the Apes, except one is in a cave and the other in a spaceship.

    • Eric

      Vince Gilligan once co-wrote an episode of the X-Files called “Monday” where Mulder and Scully repeatedly die in a bank heist gone wrong, only for the day to reset and they have no clue about it. A critic accused Gilligan of ripping off Groundhog Day, to which his response was, “We didn’t rip off Groundhog Day. We ripped off The Twilight Zone.”

      Also of relevance to the whole “time loop” plot is a short story called 12:01 PM, which was written in 1973, adapted into an Oscar nominated short film in 1990, and made into a feature in 1993. But of course none of that prevents people from gushing over how original Groundhog Day was, also in 1993.

      • Eddie Panta

        Next stop Willougby… All aboard for Willoughby

  • The Colonel

    Oh, and about Broad City. I saw you tweet about it over the holiday Carson, and I agree: it has the biggest laughs of any show in recent memory. But I’ve noticed the show almost always shits the bed in the third act, and either goes off on some weird tangent (like the speakeasy Jazz club singing thing, which made no sense), or loses momentum (like when Ally falls into the hole in the park).

    I’m not mad at it, because the show is such a riot, and I’m also acutely aware of how hard it is to maintain a bonkers idea (eventually you have to settle down into some semblance of a plot), but I have noticed they have a hard time keeping the plates spinning.

    • witwoud

      I find the best episodes (such as Working Girls) are those with a lot of plot — and I mean traditional, Scriptshadow-style plot — goals, stakes, urgency, etc. The less enjoyable episodes (such as Fattest Asses) don’t have much plot at all, and just try to wing it with the two girls being all cute and clueless and raunchy. The moral is: even if you’re going for a surreal, freewheeling vibe, story is your friend.

  • pale yellow

    Starting out by saying that Daddy’s Home is GREAT if you want to laugh your ass off. BUT going in you know there is going to be natural conflict an a conflict we can all relate to knowing about marriage/divorce/families. There is nothing to teach the audience. The natural conflict allows for really funny moments that do not feel forced. It’s hard. I cannot do it. I’ve recently worked on a comedy script with a cowriter and OMG it was tough. I think The House will be funny. Anything with Will in it is funny almost. I believe also that the actors will change it up some along the way before we see it on screen too…so it may come out better than the script(I haven’t read BTW).

  • Stephjones

    Vin, further down Scott Crawford has supplied a link.

  • Midnight Luck

    I 100% agree with you about the comedy stuff. Comedy is based in darkness, not light when it is good. To make humor funny, you have to tap into the deepest darkest parts of humanity (drama) then flip it on its head and surprise the audience. And what do they do? They LAUGH.

    Cheap jokes and such may get a preteen to laugh every once in a while, and an adult who doesn’t want a movie with ANY depth whatsoever, but if you are looking to make a 90 minute GOOD comedy, you need to start with the dark, and THEN find the light.

  • jw

    S D, one of the most undervalued, underutilized, least thought-out aspects of comedy (& writing in general) is the CONCEPT. DO NOT start writing before you have this put together in a way that screams “noteworthy”. And, even then, don’t write until you have the outline taken care of. Why don’t you pitch the concept here and see what others can provide in terms of feedback?

  • The Colonel

    If you’ve already started, I’d say just keep writing until you finish, then figure out what to do in revision.

  • ABHews

    Spot on about writing out the story first as a drama, then going back to rewrite as a comedy. It’s way easier this way, in fact the more serious the first draft the funnier the second draft (in my opinion). But, reading about what other people think is funny or using someone else formula to funny will never work. Write it out, if it makes you laugh then it’s funny, at least to you, if not try again.

    Remember, comedy is inordinately subjective. So, do what you think is funny, if people get it then great, if not, write dramas. Point being, someone like Tracy Morgan didn’t need to learn techniques, Larry David never had to ask anyone what was funny, Steve Martin didn’t have to read about comedy, he was born with it. Sure they tweeked it over the years but in my opinion comedy is something you have or you don’t. So I say write your comedy for you, then give it to your friends, see if they laugh.

  • Daivon Stuckey

    Hidden Tools of Comedy by Steve Kaplan is the ONLY, I repeat the ONLY comedy writing book worth reading.

  • Jason

    Off topic Carson quote, circa 2010, regarding Star Wars…

    ‘So, you have a main goal that’s a mystery being driven by a non-human
    character, who doesn’t speak. Yeah, try to throw that into your next

    Nicely said.


    OT Don’t care

    Lucky enough to catch an early screening of The Revenant yesterday. Won’t be released until January 15th where I live.

    Wow, Funking, Wow.

    Film experience of the year without a doubt for me.

    I predict a clean sweep of the Oscars.

    Best Film: The Revenant
    Best Director: Alejandro Inarritu
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Alejandro Inarritu and Mark L Smith and Michael Punke
    Best Actor: Leo
    Best Supporting Actor: Tom Hardy
    Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki

    Music and Costume Design could win too.

    This will be a film school Class 101 in the future. My faith in cinema has been restored.

  • Dan B

    speaking of Comedy — does anyone have Brad Cutter Ruined My Life Again?

    dblixbreen at


    • Citizen M

      Sent. Note: 4.1 MB file.

      • Dan B

        Just finished it. Funny stuff, don’t know why this hasn’t been made.

  • Daivon Stuckey

    It goes in depth in a way I’ve seen no other comedy book or class do.