Genre: Thriller/Drama
Premise: A safari tracker who’s long since given up on life races home to look for his brother, who’s gone missing in the wilderness.
About: While this is Spencer Mondshein’s breakthrough script, he’s not a stranger to the industry. His father was an editor, and he was working as an assistant on Boardwalk Empire when he penned the thriller. He was lucky enough to convince Boardwalk Empire director Allen Coulter to give him guidance on the screenplay. The script made last year’s Black List and was picked up by Voltage Pictures.
Writer: Spencer Mondshein
Details: 98 pages

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Shia would be perfect for this.

If you’re coming into the Scriptshadow 250 Contest, you’re most likely thinking like a lot of Scriptshadowers – “I need to have GSU.” Indeed, it’s a favored approach around here because it works. You want to give your main character a focused goal. You want there to be high stakes attached to that goal. And you want there to be urgency behind his pursuit.

But GSU can be dangerous in the wrong hands. If that’s ALL you’re adding to your screenplay, you’re going to find you have a really simplistic screenplay.

Some of the ways to avoid this are to add rich compelling characters, a rocking high concept, some clever twists and turns, and – the most dangerous but potentially rewarding route: Break the rules. Introduce something into the script that’s not traditionally done.

This is the scariest thing to do in screenwriting. You know you’re gambling when you eschew convention, but the rewards are much greater when you take the risk. Today’s writer gambles away, and you’ll have to read on to find out if he succeeds.

27 year-old Henry Davis hasn’t been the same since his father died. Henry’s been on some sort of failed spiritual journey ever since, medicating himself with booze and pills, trying to find a reason to go on.

Probably the only reason he hasn’t killed himself yet is his older brother Sean, who he hasn’t talked to in ages, but who he still loves very much. The two were close as kids and almost started a business together. But eventually Henry flew off to Africa to help rich English families track big scary African animals like his father used to do.

Henry’s been filled with even more rage than usual lately and he’s about at the end of his rope. Who would’ve thought that he’d be saved by his brother, some 5000 miles away, who’s gone missing in the wilderness.

Sean was doing an exploratory run for his mountain biking business when he slipped, fell, and became seriously injured. The script takes us over to Sean, where we see that he has stomach and leg injuries that leave him with about 36 hours to live at best.

Sean’s wife, Jessica, doesn’t trust the local clueless cops, which is why she calls Henry. For the first time in a long time, Henry has purpose. He arrives and immediately starts tracking, and as he does, we cut back to a series of flashbacks from the brothers growing up. These randomly sequenced flashbacks cover everything from when their father first taught them how to track to the brothers’ eventual break-up after Henry left Sean’s business.

As Henry gets deeper into the wild, nature throws more and more curveballs at him, and we begin to wonder if he’s going to make it. In the meantime, Sean is holed up in a cave, his health deteriorating rapidly. If Henry’s going to save his brother, and probably himself, he’ll have to pull off a miracle.

Ahhh, the flashback.

The evil infatuated-with-the-past demonic entity known as the flashback.

Screenwriters and screenplay professors everywhere will tell you to avoid it like the plague. But should you?

The answer, of course, is yes.

But there’s always an “unless.”

And the “unless” is if you can make the flashbacks matter. If they’re essential to telling your story, then include them. The thing is, they’re usually not. And writers don’t realize that.

What I’ve found is that flashbacks are either used to convey backstory that could have easily been conveyed in the present, or they’re utilized to fill up space when the writer doesn’t have enough story.

And that’s exactly what I was worried about here. The core storyline for The Search is bare-bones. You have two characters. One is looking for the other in the forest. It’s hard to turn that into a 100 page screenplay and not add filler.

So I was skeptical when the flashbacks began. I thought, “He’s just trying to get this to a respectable page count.” Because the thing you have to remember with a flashback is that it’s almost always detrimental. If you’re going backwards, it means your story isn’t moving forwards. And moving your narrative forward is THE ONE UNIVERSALLY AGREED ON component in screenwriting. Everybody agrees that if you’re moving your story forward, THAT’S GOOD.

But here’s what flashbacks give you when done well. They give you depth. In this case, depth to the main characters. If you stay in the present only with Henry and Sean, you don’t learn anything about their relationship. You don’t learn what happened to their father, what happened to their business, or how they drifted apart. And when that’s the case, you get that dreaded “GSU and nothing more” I was talking about at the beginning of the review.

But, see, the only way that you can justify adding all that depth, is if you deliver with your climax. All that setup you stopped your story cold for to go back to and show us, needs to be paid off in your finale. Or else what was the point of it?

So everything about The Search hinged on its finale.

And let me tell you this: The Search delivered in its finale.

One of the things I was frustrated with while reading this script was there were no surprises. I was always a bit ahead of the story. I know when I’m able to skim down a page and get to the end of a scene, and that scene finished exactly like I thought it would, that the writer isn’t challenging me enough. So I kept waiting for that one unexpected moment. And I finally got it at the end.

I’ll just admit to you right now that I wept like a little girl. I wasn’t expecting the script to go to that place. And I also realized that it was all those flashbacks that helped bring me there.

So I’d say The Search is a great example of a writer who risked breaking the rules (Rule #137 in screenwriting: “Avoid flashbacks!”), and found a way to make it work for the script. It also goes to show that people are much more likely to remember your script if you write a great/powerful ending. I’m not going to say that everything about this script was great. But the ending made up for a lot of its weaknesses.

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

What I learned: Flashbacks are like making a deal with the devil. They add depth to your story (creating deeper characters). But that depth comes at a cost (slows your story way down). So you have to weigh that every time you’re tempted to use a flashback. I will say this: If flashbacks become a consistent part of your story structure like they are here (they’re brought in repeatedly at regular intervals), that always works better than just randomly stuffing a few flashbacks into your story, which often feels hackneyed and lazy.

  • 3waystopsign

    This was a good script. The ending pissed me off so it certainly got under my skin.

  • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

    Sounds interesting.

    Can someone send? adam @ alumni . vcu . edu
    Thanks. I’ll edit this comment when received.

    • S.C.

      Sent!

  • carsonreeves1

    This is a BLACK LIST 2014 script so if you were on my newsletter list in December, you got a link for the scripts. If you didn’t, you need to sign up for my newsletter people! carsonreeves1@gmail.com – SUBJECT: “NEWSLETTER.”

  • carsonreeves1

    Also, I put up a draft version of the review by accident. All typos should be taken care of now. Sorry to the early readers!

  • ff

    Don’t say wept like a ‘little girl’ that’s freaking sexist. Just say baby. Come one dude its 2015.

    Guessing he’s actually already dead in the end, am I right?

    • klmn

      Have you ever seen Carson cry? Maybe he doesn’t cry like a baby, but a little girl.

      I’m going to believe him until someone posts contradictory evidence.

    • davejc

      It’s also sizist (sic?). Little people have feelings too.

    • G.S.

      Having grown up with five sisters and currently raising a daughter has taught me that whatever year it is, little girls still cry a lot.

      • ff

        I have 5 sisters as well and as my own kids. Not trying to be a nitpicky PC dork just trying to say there are better choices we can make with our words.

        I saw a really good video done where they ask boys what it means to say throw like a girl and they acted silly and prancy and dumb and then they asked young girls what it means and they throw really hard and work hard. It was sad.

        That’s a bad stereotype just like any others and needs to be quelched.

        • charliesb

          This one?

          • ff

            Yeah good stuff.

        • Ninjaneer

          It’s interesting that you think of the phrase “cry like a little girl” as offensive.

          Wouldn’t it only be offensive if you assign negativity to the action of crying and also to the fact the different sexes/ages approach crying differently?

          First off women cry more than men. That is just reality. There is nothing wrong crying more or less than anyone else, so that statement shouldn’t really be offensive.

          Second little girls cry even more than women and there is nothing wrong with that. It seems strange to think that is a negative thing to say, at least to me.

          Third, there is a different quality to a baby’s cry and a little girls cry and a grown ups cry. Saying that he cried like a little girl probably more aptly describes the way he cried.

          Just my opinion, I don’t mean to be offensive :)

          • Gregory Mandarano

            She cried like a race-neutral slave on the way to the market.

    • Citizen M

      When she dropped her ice cream cone, the little girl wept like an empowered, gender-neutral member of the human race.

      • ff

        I’ll fix it for you.

        Her cone hit the cement as if in slow motion. The scoop splattered like a broken egg. Tears followed, mixing with the chocolate and sprinkles…

    • Nicholas J

      Just say baby.

      As someone who knows a baby, I find this offensive.

    • Eric

      Carson doesn’t cry like a little girl. Little girls cry like Carson.

  • Man of a many ideas

    Thought at first it going to be a review of the remake of the montgomery clift film of the same name. Wrong was I…

  • 3waystopsign

    I sent you the link to all of them. Have fun.

    • ff

      So cool man would you mind passing along to me as well?!

      stabsteer@yahoo.com

      Thanks so much!

      • 3waystopsign

        Done!

        • ff

          Thanks for the good will. Really appreciate it!

      • 3waystopsign

        Done.

  • Mike.H

    I had THE SEARCH pdf but changed computer, :( Please send: MAY1MSG at GMAIL DOT COM. Thanks!

    • 3waystopsign

      Done.

  • 3waystopsign

    I sent it. Slow day at work so trying to take the burden off S.C. who is always sending stuff out.

  • 3waystopsign

    Done.

  • mulesandmud

    Looking forward to checking this one out.

    What Carson says here about flashbacks is true for most screenwriting taboos: if you make these elements a truly essential part of your script, they can work.

    Voiceover, dream sequences, passive protagonists, unlikeable protagonists, protagonists who don’t change, ambiguous endings, lack of traditional villain, sprawling casts of characters, walls of text, directing on the page.

    These are all risky moves. Some would call them mistakes. However, if they are used in a way that becomes purposeful and necessary – if your story is built so that it could not happen without them – then those moves graduate from mistakes to calling cards.

    Bold choices can give your script personality and announce you as someone with serious craft, someone who knows how to execute unusual or difficult gambits. The industry is always looking for people like that.

    The hard part is being honest with yourself about whether you’ve actually pulled off your gambit or not. Chances are, you haven’t. Chances are, it needs work. Probably a lot.

    Most taboos get a bad rap because they’re often used as easy fixes by folks who haven’t learned or can’t be bothered with their fundamentals. These things aren’t shortcuts, though: they’re advanced techniques. A great chef’s knife looks clumsy in the hands of someone who never cooks. That doesn’t mean the knife is the problem.

    Do the work, and you’ll get to the place where those taboos are assets, not liabilities.

    Fact is, you have to prove to the industry that you’re a screenwriter, as opposed to just another guy who wrote a script. Everyone in the business assumes that everyone else has a script, so they’re skeptical when you says you’re a writer, regardless of how many scripts you’ve written. A writer? Sure you are. Me too. So what?

    Your script has to be more than functional; it has to make an impression. That means taking chances, yes, but more than that, it means challenging yourself, and then rising to the challenge.

    • Poe_Serling

      Great post!

  • walker

    Forest flashbacks are tricky because you have to make all the trees look younger.

    • pmlove

      I love a good Forest flashback. I can pretend that we’re still good.

      http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/05/21/article-1280305-0064F1A200000258-637_468x309.jpg

      • gazrow

        Clough was a genius!!

        • walker

          You mean Radio 4 personality Gordon Clough?

          • gazrow

            Lol. No – Brian Clough the greatest England manager that never was. :(

          • walker

            Oh I know Gary, I am just going one deeper on the British references with you and Peter. Not everybody over here thinks House of Cards is an original series. Some of us even remember Rik Mayall as B’Stard.

          • gazrow

            Yeah – I knew your comment was tongue in cheek!

            Though for the record I think I should point out that I am a huge Everton F.C. and not a Nottingham Forest F.C. fan like Peter. I just happen to believe, like many others, that Brian Clough was a footballing genius. Oh, and in case you guys don’t know, none other than Tim Howard is the Everton goalkeeper! :)

          • walker

            Nil satus nisi optimum.

          • gazrow

            Exactly! “Nothing but the best is good enough!”

            Now, if I can adopt that same mantra where my own scripts are concerned…

          • walker

            I could be a writer with a growing reputation
            I could be the ticket man at Fulham Broadway station

    • klmn

      If it’s a mature forest, I doubt if anyone would notice.

  • Poe_Serling

    “What I learned: Flashbacks are like making a deal with the devil. They add depth to your story (creating deeper characters). But that depth comes at a cost (slows your story way down).”

    I know that flashbacks often frowned upon in most screenwriting circles, but personally I don’t mind them if they accomplish a couple of things:

    1) Fill in a needed piece of the plot puzzle for the audience.
    2) Supply a satisfying twist/reveal for the audience.

    Just a few of my favorite films with a memorable flashback scene(s):

    >>Casablanca
    >>The Terminator
    >>Angle Heart
    >>High Plains Drifter
    >>Once Upon A Time In The West (one of the most rewarding flashback endings in movie history… in my opinion)

    • Levres de Sang

      Someone mentioning Montgomery Clift reminded me of a truly flashback-dependent pic: Suddenly Last Summer. Here, of course (and reiterating mules’ point), the flashbacks are essential being that Clift is attempting to reconstruct the events of “last summer” — events rendered ambiguous by the supposed insanity of the person recollecting them.

      ** Check out Halliwell’s review: despite him trashing a film I love, it’s deliciously done!

      • Poe_Serling

        Just recently watched Suddenly, Last Summer on the Movies! TV network – it’s one of my top Monty Clift pics.

        Even though I’ve seen the film on numerous occasions, Sebastian’s demise is still shocking to me.

        • Levres de Sang

          Agreed. A film that retains its mysterious power no matter how many times you’ve seen it previously. I’m not familiar with Clift’s other work, but for me Katherine Hepburn is nothing short of extraordinary. Guess the writing helps a bit, though!

          • walker

            Knowing your tastes to the extent that I do, I think you would enjoy Clift as a tortured black-and-white priest in Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess (1953).

          • Levres de Sang

            Thanks. It was on TV recently and for some reason I “passed”. Next time I’ll make sure to see it.

          • brenkilco

            Clift’s work really has two sections separated by the car accident which wrecked his face. Sensitive leading man to weirdly interesting character guy. He was approaching the end of his tether by the time of Summer. And it showed. Hepburn is great in this and except maybe for Lion in Winter I never much liked her in anything.

          • Levres de Sang

            Many thanks for the Monty Clift background as he’s someone I feel I should know more about. Actually, I recall reading years ago that Hepburn was unable to watch the film back precisely because she felt that Clift had been exploited. (Knowing now that he’d been in a car accident, her comment makes more sense.)

            ** I adore Hepburn’s dialogue when she claims “People would always say Violet and Sebastian or Sebastian and Violet. Not Sebastian and his mother…”

      • brenkilco

        Summer is really jaw droppingly sick for its day. And that flashback may be the best visual stuff Manciewicz did. Though that’s not saying much. Love Halliwell. So anglocentric and narrow minded. His film guide is both great and useless.

        • Levres de Sang

          Absolutely perfect encapsulation of Halliwell…! :)

    • brenkilco

      OUATITW. Who else but Leone would have had the nerve to place a flashback in the middle of a climactic showdown? I also like the flashbacks in Wild Bunch. Esp one that is presented as a memory being shared by both Ryan and Holden. Some find these scenes extraneous. The slap in the face flashbacks in Point Blank are cool. And everybody should have to watch Bogart’s Passage to Marseilles to learn about bad construction. A movie that contains a flashback inside a flashback inside a flashback.

    • NajlaAnn

      Yes, The Terminator.

  • Brainiac138

    Carson, just curious why having a brother be subject of this search worked but you feel it doesn’t work to have a male kidnapped?

  • 3waystopsign

    Done.

  • hickeyyy

    OT: Does anyone happen to have the screenplay for the 2009 film Funny People they could pass my way? My next screenplay is going to involve standup comedy and I’m curious how it was handled in that script. I wonder if Apatow allowed the comedians to do their own jokes or if the jokes themselves were heavily scripted.

    benjamin.m.hickey@gmail.com

  • Michael

    2014 Black List link, one more time:

    https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B98ZdIxoETG5UWNwOWZhV1N6Uk0&usp=drive_web

    Download all of them, you can bet Carson will be reviewing more scripts from this list. Enjoy.

    • HAKKev

      Thanks so much for this, Michael.

  • Citizen M

    As a white South African I want to protest against the rendering of the South African eksent in this script. Most of us don’t talk lark that, and anyway writing accented dialect as it is pronounced is not normally done.

    CITIZEN M
    (Strong South African accent)
    This kind of writing makes me the moer in.
    It slows the read down as the reader tries to
    decipher the meaning of the mutilated words.

    • andyjaxfl

      I agree about not writing accented dialect. Write it in plain English (maybe include a parenthetical to let the reader know the accent to have in mind) and let the actor do the rest.

      • klmn

        Shutta you face.

    • IgorWasTaken

      Don’t be such a Boer.

    • Mike.H

      Citizen M. I’m a big fan of yours based on your professionalism and maturity.

      Perhaps the write put in the Afrikan accent to LEND A READING lens to the ears and brains? Just sayin’. Thanks.

  • andyjaxfl

    OT: IP strikes again! There are now four competing Robin Hood projects in development at various studios despite the last Robin Hood movie not doing that well at the box office and with the critics.

    What I Learned: Even if someone has just sold a similar idea or concept to your own, keep writing! Who knows what road blocks may potentially stall those other projects.

  • Scott Strybos

    OT: SIRENS was cancelled. And I don’t blame the USA network, I blame all of you for not watching. Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell.

  • jw

    Script is worth the read, but some definite takeaways here:

    1. When opening your script in a familiar place, do something that makes the reader pay attention. In this case, the writer does a good job of pulling the reader in initially, but quickly finds himself in familiar territory when he chooses to use the vultures. This is a true missed opportunity because it’s largely the difference between a writer who you know is on a professional level and someone who may be in the transition, but isn’t quite there. How crazy would it have been if he cut to a section of the forest where a snake was slithering on the ground? Or, even opted to go with two mountain lions off in the distance sniffing the air? This would be a great opportunity to make the reader go, “holy shit”.

    2. If you’re going to write action, holy mary mother of God, write the fucking action. PUT US in the place of your character. Give us something to feel like we are there. Sean does this, Sean does this, Sean does this — does not make action that flows for the reader.

    Example:

    Sean grabs the thigh of his broken leg and pulls it over. He SCREAMS, once again.

    Sean drags himself along the ground. Once he has moved a body length away, he sees the ground behind him is soaked in DARK RED BLOOD.

    Sean checks his head and other body parts before noticing the large damp ring of blood on his shirt over his rib cage. He is afraid to look underneath.

    Rewritten as:

    —–
    Sean carefully grabs the thigh of his broken leg with both hands, intently stares at it. Silently counts to three, grits his teeth and SCREAMS in pain as he drags it across.

    Exhausted from even the slightest movement, he closes his eyes. His labored breathing pounds the air. His eyes open and he looks around, but with blurry vision struggles to really see. His fingers dig into the ground as he slowly pulls himself away from the scene.

    At a large rock he pulls himself up, grimacing the whole way. Glances back to see the ground soaked in red blood. He touches his head, checking. Nothing apparent. Feels his back. Stomach. Cringes when he gets to his rib cage. The blood on the outside of his shirt thoroughly soaked through. He looks at his blood soaked hand, afraid to look under his shirt instead.
    —–

    I’m not saying anything other than PUT THE READER IN THE SHOES OF YOUR MAIN CHARACTER. Don’t write action like you’re a passive observer watching this all go down.

    • IgorWasTaken

      I disagree.

      Yeh, the original could be punched up a bit, but IMO the writer only gets a 5% overage allowance for that kinda stuff. And only on one page in 10.

      • jw

        Of course you disagree, it wouldn’t be ScriptShadow without writers disagreeing that writers need to write better. ahahah! Classic stuff. But, I guess we know now why it was so easy for Darwin to come up with his grand theory.

        • IgorWasTaken

          It was “so easy” because…?

          • walker

            Because he just gathered an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of Macbooks and then sat back and had a drink.

  • carsonreeves1

    You know, I’ll tell you why it hit me. Because I was positive this was going to be a safe story. I was convinced. And then when I realized he wasn’t going to make it back to his wife, that was totally unexpected. I also loved it when he said that even though he wasn’t going to make it, he knew his brother found him. That was intense!

    Part of it, unfortunately, is that I read the script bare. No preconceived notions. No idea where it was going to go. Everyone reading the script off my recommendation knows something big is going to happen at the end, which kind of ruins the surprise.

    • mulesandmud

      I was also surprised that the script went there, but even though I’m a total crybaby, the death of the brother didn’t affect me at all.

      Here’s why: his death seemed arbitrary. It didn’t mean anything, didn’t add a new dimension to the story, didn’t bring Henry’s character to a new place, just left him in a shitty spot.

      I love it when stories aren’t precious about killing off their characters, but the death needs to mean something. Had the brother survived, this would have been a pretty solid redemption story, about a haunted loner who reconnects to people by saving the only person he loves.

      With the brother dead, what the story’s about? Where does this tragedy leave Henry? He’s already a sad dude wracked by personal tragedy. Isn’t this whole story just redundant, then?

      I’m genuinely confused about how to feel, aside from sad. Is that confusion supposed to be the point, or is it just sloppy? The downer ending didn’t reveal or reinforce any ideas; it was just a downer.

      The final warm-and-fuzzy flashback revealed the ending’s lack of meaning; the script’s only parting thought is to wring a few more tears out of us. Might as well have shown us a neon sign saying FEEL BAD NOW.

      Too manipulative and not thoughtful enough to earn its tragedy. A frustrating ending to an overall pretty solid script.

  • Matthew Garry

    With 5 or so left to read:

    The Man In The Rockefeller Suit.
    I found the mystery here very compelling, and just when you feel you’re finally getting a grip on the main character, something happens that turns that upside down and gives you a different perspective on him.

    Possession: A Love Story
    I really wondered how this odd premise could be drawn out to a full feature, but the writer managed to do that with ease for no less than 105 pages.

    Money Monster.
    became a bit sloppy with the story in the end, but had some enviable character work.

    (Black Winter:
    Nothing truly exceptional here, but I found it a solid old school thriller.)

  • Magga

    I’m desperately trying to solve a flashback-problem right now. There’s a backstory that explains a character, and I can’t show it in the beginning because it takes away a lot of mystery, but everything flows so well that there’s nowhere I feel like I can put the flashback, as good as I think it is in itself. But at a certain point the character makes no sense, and is very unlikable, because we don’t know the tragic explanation for some of her behavior, and it’s a really tough thing to figure out. i keep moving the flashback back and forth and around in the story, but it just breaks up the pace wherever I put it. I wish there was some technique or something to solving this pickle, but I don’t think there is one, and I’ll have to live with slowing down in the middle of the story.

    • Matthew Garry

      Consider dropping it and let character bear the pure exposition. This is not an easy task since you need:
      -a very strong character
      -a compelling mystery that makes the reader want to know what’s going on

      As a simple example: suppose you have a character that is mortally afraid of water. You can have a flashback where she went out swimming with her sister and her sister drowned because of her actions.

      Now instead push your character into a situation where she has to face that fear on the penalty of everything she has worked for to resolve her obstacles falling apart: everything depends on her getting in the water. She can’t; people die; survivors are outraged. Now you have a high octane situation. Something has got to give.

      What first might have been a momentum stopping character fill-in is now needed to progress the plot; it’s part of the ongoing story and a make-or-break moment for your character. Other characters want to know what the hell is wrong with her, and so does the audience.

      If you handle it correctly, any exposition is now buried under drama. It’s characters interacting on top of the exposition.

      Sufficiently interesting characters can basically monologue pure exposition, because you’ve created a need, a curiosity, in the audience to have a more complete view of the character, and the character’s voice is just too good to not want to hear it.

      And if all goes well, it should be easy to turn it into one of those flashbacks that starts with a voice over, and that’s your flashback right there: at the right moment, with the right impact, and afterwards you can still decide if you want the straightforward dramatic version, or the one with the nice supporting visuals.

      Just pretend someone wants to produce it, but is adamant about it being produced as a stage play. If you can make it work with just words and acting, it surely will work with all the extra avenues that are available get when filming it.

  • fragglewriter

    It depends on the flashback, but I think they’re mostly used to tug at a reader’s/viewer’s heart. There are some that do provide the pay off, but it’s used mostly to care about the helpless person. I also don’t think flashbacks are really that necessary when you have a simple story to make us care.

  • Michael

    I didn’t enjoy the use of flashbacks nearly as much as Carson. They were chronologically all over the place, which made them jarring at times.

    Putting that aside, this script is emblematic of a problem I have with so many scripts. The writer picks a protagonist; who usually comes with a talent or skill that defines them, which is tied to their flaw and will be heavily relied on to save the day in Act 3. In this case, that would be Henry’s skill (and Sean’s as well) as an outdoorsman. The local professional search and rescue folks aren’t up to the task of saving Sean, and Henry has to fly half way around the world to save his brother. He better be one hell of an outdoorsman.

    And yet, all the drama created in the script undermines the premise that either of the brothers have any skills in the woods. Sean’s problems start when he gets lost in the woods. What, he gets lost, on his own? He almost falls down a ravine? He falls off a cliff? He’s on a one-day mountain bike ride, but has a full backpack on? He’s going to be home for dinner, but packed a tent? Henry falls down a ravine? He’s lugging a rifle with him on a search and rescue? A bear attacks Henry and he fails in the use of his rifle (he’s not just a hunter, but a Professional Hunter from Africa, double what?)?

    The writer is so busy throwing obstacles at the protagonist, he doesn’t notice how he is undermining our perception of the character and the premise of the script. In the movie Rocky, Rocky can use his boxing skills to make collections for the mob because he doesn’t have faith in himself to achieve his boxing dreams. That’s a choice Rocky makes, it’s his flaw, but he’s still a dangerous guy because he was a boxer. If every time he went to make a collection Rocky got beat up by the person he was collecting from, that would undermine Rocky’s skill as a boxer. The first characterization adds depth to Rocky, exposing his flaw, the latter tells us he’s not a boxer and that’s not what the writer would have intended. Meryl Streep’s character in The River Wild is an expert at river rafting and running class 5 rapids. You never see her accidentally grounding her raft and punching holes in it, which would undermine the premise that she’s an expert and the only chance to get down the river safely. The characters actions need to reinforce our expectations, not erode them.

    All the choices for conflict in The Search felt like first choices that failed to enhance the characters. If your protagonists are life long outdoorsmen, they know the difference between what to pack for a day trip or backpacking for a week. They don’t get lost. They don’t fall down ravines or off cliffs (unless it’s a comedy). Mishaps can happen to them, but they can’t be the cause of the mishap if it’s directly related to the skill that makes them heroic. The writer of this script needs to watch of season of Survivorman, Man vs Wild or 100 Miles From Nowhere, then go on a few backpacking trips.

    The real lesson to be learned: is clear, clean and lean writing helped the reader to blast through the script and get to the emotional climax between the brothers in Act 3, shed some tears and earn a [xx] worth the read, because the “read” didn’t slow down enough for the reader to ask “Does any of this really make sense?”

    • IgorWasTaken

      Excellent.

      Funny thing is, while you point to Meryl Streep’s character in “The River Wild”, Roger Ebert had major plot plausibility issues with that movie – the very same sort of issues you have with this script. http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-river-wild-1994

      Michael, that is not a rejoinder to your post. You specifically cited Streep’s character in your post, not the “The River Wild”, itself. (And Ebert’s problems had nothing to do with her character.)

      I mention Ebert’s objections because, combining his comments with yours, I see this possibility: With adventure tales, in particular, it just may be extra tough to hit the dramatic notes required for commercial scripts and yet remain plausible.

  • klmn

    Kinda strange that Sean was riding a Trek bike, seeing that today Trek recalled one million of ‘em.

    http://money.cnn.com/2015/04/22/news/trek-bike-recall/index.html?section=money_topstories

  • Bob Bradley

    I didn’t like The Swim suit issue, Rothchild, Aether and The Babysitter, were ok, Echo was pretty good. I liked Mena, but CR’s critique was right, but but I liked it anyway, just because it was interesting in itself, without having to hit all the right beats. I read Dodge, I liked something about it to have read the whole thing. But I would pass on it. I lost interest in Matriarch quickly. Same with the Long Haul. I liked Berliner, but afterwards I think I remember thinking it was predictable. I’d say The Founder and Gifted were my two favorites.

  • drifting in space

    Fun read but only because I love the outdoors, seeing as how I live in the PNW.

    The main issue I had is that these guys have to be the worst “expert” outdoorsmen. A lot of the story choices didn’t fit organically and the flashbacks were too scattered.

    I assumed the brother was going to die when he had gangrene near his heart. That is typically a death sentence.

    The ending also was awkward and didn’t pay off for me.

    I will say this, though… Shia would be perfect for Henry.

  • Dan B

    Interesting take, the script combined the “hopelessly alone thriller” we’ve seen from 127 Hours, Buried, The Wall, and In the Deep with a sentimental story about two brothers and how they drifted apart.

    I found the writing and dialogue to be strong. The scenes were well crafted as well, starting late and the character interactions felt organic. I thought the scene with Lauren and Henry in his room was especially strong. His monologue about girls coming in to “help him” was great, and I could see an actor being interested in the role based on that scene alone.

    The story as a whole though didn’t impress me as much. I think the majority of screen time was spent on these flashbacks. I don’t think Henry even starts searching for his brother until the mid point of the script. I was interested in finding out what was the cause of this rift and guilt for Henry, and we get that at the end.

    The ending: while unexpected, I didn’t find it that moving. The brothers get a bit of closure at the end, and maybe I’m missing something, but I didn’t really see the pay off of the last flashback.

    The Blacklist had several of these scripts on 2014’s list, but I would find The Wall and In the Deep to be more thrilling movies if made, and I would bet they would be much better box office draws.

  • Citizen M

    Sies, jong! Jy moet leer om jou vuil bek te hou ;o)