Genre: Thriller
Premise: Pinned behind a wall on the battlefield of Iraq, a sniper’s only communication is the enemy sniper who’s intent on making him suffer before he dies.
About: Dwain Worrell recently found success selling this script to Amazon (their first feature spec purchase). It then finished number 5 on the Black List. Worrell has an interesting story in that, hurting for a job, he moved to China to teach English. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when he finally found success at screenwriting, and has since moved back. On the flip side, many Chinese children will never be able to read Scriptshadow because of his success.
Writer: Dwain Worrell
Details: 86 pages

Bundeswehr_sniper_team_in_position

I’m not a sniper fan. I thought the 2001 sniper film Enemy at the Gates was the equivalent of watching the Yule log on repeat. I thought the American Sniper screenplay was a government experiment designed to make anyone who read it fall into a deep 24 hour hibernation. And while both of those stories suffered from script issues, I couldn’t help but think that the sniper subject matter was the real problem. Snipers as side characters – as, say, a problem for our hero when he’s trying to make it across a battlefield – that’s interesting. But as the main character, as someone who sits still for a long time and who’s at a safe distance from the action? – there isn’t anything exciting about that.

At least, I thought there wasn’t before I read “The Wall.” Finally, someone has figured out a sniper-centric situation with some actual drama.

The year is 2009. The war in Iraq is over. But as we all know, a war is never really over until the invading side leaves. And the invaders, the Americans, haven’t left yet. They’re at that messy stage of having to take the country they just bombed and build it back up. Which is where we meet our hero, Locke.

Locke, a sniper, and his partner Hobbs, his “spotter,” have been sent to a recent construction zone where the U.S. has been trying to build a school. But when they get there, they find a dozen dead workers, all of whom, clearly, have been shot by a sniper. The only thing that remains of their efforts is a 16 feet wide 6 feet tall brick wall.

After waiting forever to see if the zone is still dangerous, Hobbs inexplicably gets up to go check on the deceased. Surprise surprise, he’s shot by enemy sniper fire, and goes down. Locke tries to go save him but must take cover by the wall to avoid getting shot himself.

Soonafter, Locke is contacted on his radio by a superior who wants to know his position for extraction. It doesn’t take long for Locke to detect a fake accent, and identify the voice as Iraqi. This is “Ghost,” the sniper who has him pinned down.

What follows is a psychological battle of wits, as Ghost questions Locke on everything from American slang to a previous incident where Locke’s former friend and spotter mysteriously died on Locke’s watch.

As a deadly wound slowly bleeds out, Locke has an hour at most (URGENCY – YAY!) to figure out where the sniper’s hiding, as killing him is his only chance at getting out alive.

This is a really clever spec idea. Something we talked about recently was the difference between a “script” and a “movie.” Sometimes something reads really well on the page, but it doesn’t transfer well to screen. And the knock on the Black List is that it has a lot of good scripts, but not many of those scripts are “movies.”

When you contain your story, it becomes even harder to write a movie because you’re limited to one place. Movies like lots of places, lots of action, movement, changing scenery. So something where, say, three people are locked in a room during the apocalypse, might read well, but visually it’s going to get pretty boring on the big screen.

With The Wall, even though it takes place in a single area, it’s a very cinematic single area. It’s a battlefield. And the threat of our main character being sniped at any moment gives it the same kind of intensity you would feel in your typical scene from Mission Impossible 5. Put simply, despite its small scope, this FEELS like a movie.

And Worrell mixed in a couple of clever devices to heighten that intensity. Another writer may have made Locke the lone character in this script. That’s the “first idea” version of this story. Instead, we have Hobbs, who gets taken down on the battlefield. But the clever part is, Hobbs isn’t dead. And Ghost doesn’t know he’s not dead. So while Locke is having this conversation with Ghost, Hobbs uses minimal movements to scan the area, to try to locate where Ghost is hiding.  The whole movie we’re desperately hoping he locates Ghost before getting caught.

Worrell also uses a mystery box of sorts with Ghost. Ghost knows who Locke is. He knows his rank, his experience, even specific details from his life. So this whole time we’re trying to figure out who Ghost is and how he knows these things.

Finally, Worrell gives Locke an unresolved event from his past that the two characters can discuss – the death of his former spotter. What starts out as a straightforward story of a soldier dying on the battlefield turns out to be a lot more complicated. If Locke and Ghost only have surface-level things to talk about (sniping, their religious beliefs, their opinion about war), the dialogue’s going to get boring fast. We need that thread that we can keep coming back to, that the audience is going to want an answer to. That’s what the spotter thread did.

There were a few things I thought could’ve been done better though. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why Hobbs would walk out into a group of 12 dead guys who had been shot by a sniper. I’m not a soldier but something tells me that’s a really dumb move.

I wished Worrell would’ve better explained who and what a spotter was. I’m not familiar with the army so I wasn’t even aware there were spotters. This becomes very important (spoiler) later on when Ghost’s spotter comes into the mix and he’s in a different location. My understanding of spotters was so limited that I didn’t get how a spotter could not be next to his sniper.

Yes, it’s tricky to figure out how to convey details like this without getting too exposition-heavy. But that’s one of the requirements of being a writer. You’re counted on to find creative solutions to tough problems.

Finally, I wanted more from the ending (reverse spoiler). There were all these hints during the story that the enemy sniper may have been one of their own (an American sniper). I was expecting a big twist at the end, one that possibly tied into Locke being responsible for his old spotter’s death (was he still alive? was he behind this??). I guess this was based on a real story though (Ghost was a real Iraqi sniper) so Worrell wanted to stay true to that. But something about this script was begging for a last second twist, and I was a little disappointed when we didn’t get one.

Still, this was a well done job by Worrell and a really cool little screenplay. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

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

What I learned: The inner monologue versus the outer dialogue. A conversation is never a straightforward thing where the world stops while words are exchanged. Characters are usually thinking about something else when they speak, and what they’re thinking about can help inform the scene. You may be talking to your boss, for example, but thinking about your date with his daughter later. You might be at a party talking to someone you don’t like, and therefore scanning the room, looking for someone to save you. You may be talking to a teacher in a parent-teacher conference, who’s telling you that your kid isn’t paying attention in class, and all you’re thinking about is, “That’s because you’re the worst teacher in America.” In The Wall, Locke spends almost the entire conversation with Ghost looking for a way out. He’s never just having a conversation. He’s strategizing, manipulating, hunting for a clue as to Ghost’s whereabouts. That’s a huge reason why the dialogue pops here. Because the inner monologue is contrasted against it.

  • Dimitri

    This really sounds great. Sounds like an idea if executed right, would be (it never is, but almost) an easy sell.

    Does anyone have this by any chance?

    • LV426

      I can send it to you.

      email?

      • Dan B

        Hey LV, can you send it to dblixbreen(at)gmail.com

      • bl2d

        Hey if you wouldn’t mind… bl2d21(at)yahoo.com
        Thanks

      • Dimitri

        Ooh thanks!
        dim_janssen(at)hotmail.com.

      • peter

        If you could send to brandocatt@hotmail.com. Thanks!

      • BenO

        Thank you LV, I would love to read this. bendriscoll81@gmail.com

      • susanrichards

        Hello LV.. can you send it to susanrichards63 at gee mail dot com?

      • kevin thomas

        If you get the chance, I’d like to read it as well:

        kevthomz@gmail.com

  • Will_Alexander

    Has anyone here ever walked out of a movie they liked and thought, “That was really good, but you know what would’ve made it even better? If it had been contained entirely to one location?”

    Serious question. Because – absolutely nothing against this writer or script (I haven’t even read it and it may be perfect) – I just don’t understand the appeal of contained thrillers to prodcos and financiers OUTSIDE of the obvious reduction in budget (but there are lots of ways to reduce budgets: don’t hire stars, make it 20 minutes long, have no special effects of any kind, don’t hire a costumer, etc. – things they wouldn’t do to save money). I’m the farthest thing in the world from a businessman, but I would be thinking, “We can make it for a million or two if we set it at one location, and maybe make 20-30 million on it if we hit it out of the park (that seems to be where a lot of these better contained thrillers land), OR we can open it up, make it for 10, 20, 30 million, and maybe make a classic that goes over 200 million if we hit that same home run.” Because it seems to me that movies that DON’T feel contained for the entirety of their running time have broader appeal.

    They could’ve done JAWS entirely on the Orca. I don’t think it would’ve been an improvement. I can’t think of a single movie I love that would benefit from being restricted like that.

    Of some of the highest-grossing originals, would Inception, Star Wars, E.T., 2012, Gravity – any of these have made more money had they been contained and confined to one location? I doubt it. Could there box office have suffered if they had been? I think so. Any of those good movie ideas would have made into worse, less-profitable movies had they been contained, I think.

    So I understand that it’s a money thing from their POV, but I’m wondering if there’s any audience out there craving contained thrillers more than just good thrillers. Because it seems to me you want to cater to the audience, and I don’t know where this particular audience is. Are you out there?

    • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

      It’s a sub-genre. Have you ever walked out of a movie and said “That was really good, but I wish it could have been found footage”? And yet, FF has proven pretty popular (Paranormal Activity, Chronicle, etc.).

      I think some stories lend themselves to certain structural models. Star Wars is an epic. 2012 is a disaster film. How would you contain those to one location?

      • Will_Alexander

        I HAVE walked out of a movie and thought, “That could’ve been so much better if it HADN’T been found footage.” Cloverfield. The IDEA of Cloverfield is not found footage, it’s “Godzilla from the worm’s-eye-view.” You can do that idea a number of ways.

        Godzilla did 200 million. Cloverfield did 80. I think found footage probably hurt Cloverfield more than it helped it.

        Which is more to my point. Why make a contained thriller (or found footage) when you can do the same idea in a more traditional way and probably make more money?

        You could do 2012 as just a family in an RV in Yellowstone. You could do Inception as all inside one dream in one hotel. You could do Star Wars entirely on the Death Star. Those would be cheaper. I just don’t think they would be better or make more money.

        • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

          Firstly, how can you compare a brand name internationally recognized monster that’s been around for 60 years to the one whatever it was that appeared in Cloverfield? Secondly, Cloverfield made 170 mil on a 25 mil budget, while Godzilla (2014) made 530 mil on a 165 mil budget. I don’t think Cloverfield was hurt by its format.

          Regrading those other films, if you tried to make them into contained thrillers, they obviously would not be the same stories with the same characters. Which makes my point (that you miss) that some stories lend themselves to particular models.

          • Will_Alexander

            I’m not missing your point; I’m disagreeing.

            I think Cloverfield could’ve made much more money if it hadn’t been found footage.

            As for contained movies, I think you can take any story and reduce the locations and character count. And I think that particular kind of penny-pinching rarely if ever leads to better movies or more profit potential.

            I can compare Godzilla and Cloverfield because they are the same premise. Giant monster attacks. One of those put its monster front and center in the promos and shot in a traditional way. The other kept its monster hidden and shot with found footage. The Godzilla name is worth a lot, no doubt, but my unprovable contention is simply that Cloverfield could’ve been a better movie and made more money if it had been shot in a more traditional way. I also think it could have been shot in a traditional way for a similar budget.

            All stories lend themselves to particular models. I just don’t see where the audience that prefers contained thrillers to thrillers that explore larger canvasses exists. It seems to me that the evidence shows it to be the opposite. Containing a movie limits its profit potential.

          • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

            There are plenty of examples of both commercially and critically successful contained thrillers. So, there’s your audience. And in terms of profitability vs investment, Cloverfield did a lot better than Godzilla. How much did Paranormal Activity do versus The Exorcism of Emily Rose?

            I get that you think it’s just a financially based studio contrivance, but I think the maxim “less is more” holds a lot of weight. By your logic, Jaws would have been better had we seen more of the shark (something we didn’t due to budget and mechanical issues), when the opposite is true.

            Do you mean to say that it’s impossible to write a good, compelling story as a contained thriller?That a movie would automatically do better all because there’s more locations? Tell me how 12 Angry Men or Rope or Buried would be better movies based on your assertion.

          • brenkilco

            Rope is one of Hitchcock’s weakest films and but for the ten minute take gimmick would barely be watchable. Twelve Angry Men is not a thriller by any stretch of the imagination. It is essentially a superior dramatic play though it originated on live tv. Have not seen Buried and nothing I have heard suggests that I need to. Are these the best examples you have? Contained dramas, particularly those adapted from superior plays can work on screen if the acting and writing are good enough though they seldom seem quite at home in the medium. Thrillers are a different matter. Sleuth is about the best example I can come up with, though even it is more dependent on wit and expert playing than edge of the seat suspense

          • Will_Alexander

            It’s not exactly about seeing more of the shark, it’s about not artificially limiting something to a single location just to do that.

            Haven’t seen Buried, but that’s also part of my point: I had no desire to. No desire to be in a coffin for an hour and a half. Doesn’t even seem like a movie to me.

            Rope falls flat for me. No desire to see it a second time. If it were updated, the thing to keep would be the single-shot conceit. The thing to change would be the single location: have the camera go all over the place – inside, outside – even though it’s all one take.

            12 Angry Men’s a classic. To me, that’s more about the value of limiting POV than it is about limiting locations. 12 Angry Men as a story could still work I think if we got some of the courtroom, or even some of the jurors lives outside the jury room. But it was best to limit the audience POV to that of those characters.

            It’s not impossible to write a good contained thriller. I just don’t think limiting your locations is going to give you the best version. If you’re writing something set mostly at one location and see that you need a scene at a different location – but you don’t write it because you’re doing a “contained thriller” so you end up with some awkward exposition or something, then you haven’t written the best version.

          • http://j.nelsonleith.com/ John Leith

            How on earth could one justify the “worm’s eye view” of Cloverfield outside of found footage? The criticism then would have been that a film about the destruction of a city “seems obsessed with the lives of this one group of kids.” The ground-level focus would have seemed forced and artificial.

            It’s also worth pointing out that, while world-famous and massively pre-marketed Godzilla doubled relative unknown Cloverfield’s domestic opening weekend gross ($93m to $40m), it also suffered a 66% drop the second weekend. (The 1998 Godzilla mess suffered a similar second weekend drop.)

            We could attribute that decline to Days of Future Past, or we could attribute it to the Godzilla screenplay not really having much focus beyond simply trying to bank on the well-established Godzilla franchise. Cloverfield made nearly six times its production cost; Godzilla 2014
            cost $225m and grossed $525m worldwide. It’s not even a contest.

            As Bravano said in The Barefoot Contessa, “To make 100 dollars into 110 dollars, this is work. To make 100 million into 110 million, this is inevitable.”

          • Will_Alexander

            I think the worm’s-eye-view could still have been the hook. We’d seen the monster movies that involve the military, scientists, and politicians. How about a monster movie that’s just about the regular dude on the street with no idea what’s going on, no way to find out, and is just trying to get out alive?

            And as a percentage, Cloverfield made more money relative to its budget, yes. But $300 million profit is still more than $150 million profit. Part of what I’m saying is it can be worth more to pay more.

            I thought the Godzilla script was a missed opportunity – could’ve been much better and would’ve made even more. I just think there’s a “gimmickiness” to things like found footage and artificially contained settings that audiences sense and therefore holds movies back from what they could be if they were simply good stories well-told.

        • Montana Gillis

          I’m alway aware of when I’m watching FF. It has (for me anyway) the effect of “taking me out of the story” like a cheap filmmaker’s trick. I focus on the “jostling around” and am no longer involved in the character or story — much like a “Commercial Break” on network television. I’m hoping it’s a fad that will go away soon.

          • Montana Gillis

            BTW, I avoid “Contained” Anything movies like the plague. When I pay 10 dollars, I want a “Cinematic Experience”. A guy in the box/booth/room/toilet/hole/van/car/truck/on a phone/behind a wall/in a plane – that doesn’t go anywhere else- will never get my ten dollars to begin with – I’ll just never know why Collin Ferrell didn’t get an Oscar for spending two hours in front of the camera in a phone booth, or how Samuel Jackson defeated a snake on that plane for a Golden Globe ………

    • Bifferspice

      it sounds an excellent synopsis for an intense play

    • brenkilco

      Funny but in the old days producers who bought the rights to successful plays used to sweat bullets in an effort to “open up” the material. Inducing claustrophobia was thought to be the kiss of death. And when Hitchcock sought to challenge himself by limiting the action to an apartment or a dinghy the results were two of his weakest movies. And if he couldn’t make this kind of thing work in a suspense context, nobody can.

      Haven’t read this yet, but really don’t see how the writer provides enough dramatic development to stretch this situation out to feature length. If he’s succeeded I would think he’d deserve at least an impressive rating. But if the method by which the protag ferrets out and eliminates his opponent isn’t pretty damned clever I don’t think I’m going to be happy when I finish reading.

      • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

        Wait, are one of those movies “Dial M for Murder”? Because I thought that one did pretty well at the box office and still had a bunch of suspense.

        • brenkilco

          No, was thinking of Rope and Lifeboat. Though Dial M is also essentially a one set play and also pretty subpar Hitch, admittedly I’ve never seen it in 3D. Except for the knife in the back it’s all chat. Supposedly the director, coming off a flop I Confess, didn’t feel confident enough to monkey with such a well known stage property. And he wasn’t comfortable with the Volkswagen sized 3D cameras. I think getting out of that drab flat would have improved the movie.

          But speaking of Dial M, there is one contained thriller from a stage play I think works pretty well. Frederick Knott, the author of Dial M had one other Big Hit, Wait Until Dark. The movie was blind Audrey Hepburn being conned and finally tortured by psycho Alan Arkin, nearly all in a basement apartment. The climactic moment where Arkin comes leaping out of the dark probably worked better on Broadway. Still, a solid movie.

          • LV426

            While I get what you’re saying here, I have to mention Rear Window.

            Hitchcock knocked it out of the park on that one while keeping it in a contained setting.

          • brenkilco

            Yes, Rear Window is great. No, it doesn’t take place in a contained setting. The sense of confinement is illusory and a prime example of Hitchcock’s genius and belief in pure cinema. While it is true that Stewart and “we” do not leave his Greenwich village walkup, much of the action which he and “we” observe takes place outside, and in fact necessitated the construction of what, at the time, was one of the largest interior sets ever built for a movie. The extraordinaryy range of point of view in that film- what Stewart sees with his eyes, his binoculars and ultimately with the telephoto lens of his camera- makes the visual experience of Rear Window something unique and apart from what we generally consider a confined thriller.

          • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

            Damn, if diplomats knew as much about their job as you do about films, there would be peace on Earth.

          • Bifferspice

            I loved dial m for murder! You take that back!! :)

          • brenkilco

            The plot is fairly airtight. Milland and Williams are fun to watch. Dawson is peerlessly slimy. But it’s a play and Hitchcock, of all people, doesn’t do much to make us forget that.

    • Scott Chamberlain

      “I’m the farthest thing in the world from a businessman, but I would be thinking: “We can make it for a million or two if we set it at one location, and maybe make 20-30 million on it if we hit it out of the park (that seems to be where a lot of these better contained thrillers land), OR we can open it up, make it for 10, 20, 30 million, and maybe make a classic that goes over 200 million if we hit that same home run”

      The businessman is thinking: “I only have the $2m. Let’s look for a film we can make for $1.5m and market for $.5″ Or she’s thinking “I have $20m (yay!), but I want to spread it across a slate of films to reduce risk, ’cause nobody knows what’s going to hit. So let’s look for 7-10 films we can make for circa $2m”

      • Will_Alexander

        True. I don’t understand how that side of things works to a sufficient degree.

        In my experience, budgets for even small independent films bounce around all over the place based on what director, stars, locations, and producing partners you can get. The same script could be looked at as a $5 million production with one package, and a $30 million with another. And when you start playing with that larger budget, the script gets more room to breathe: I can add that scene with the crowd. I can go over 120 pages. I can have one more confrontation between the two leads…

        And everybody on board supports those things when they make the movie better. Because they see the profit potential going up, even though we’re now spending more money.

        So I guess if I only had a few million to use, I’d be looking for bigger scripts and partners with deeper pockets…unless I was just trying to build something of my own from the ground up and wanted to be able to keep all of the profit even if it was smaller…

        Hmm…

        • Scott Chamberlain

          Sure, and I can’t claim to be any expert at this, either.
          There’s a big difference between making a $20m film on a $2m budget and making a $2m on a $2m budget. It’s like the difference between a massive game park and a zoo: both let you see the animals, but with a zoo you’re always conscious it’s a zoo and you can see where the magic begins and ends.
          One benefit of contained thrillers is that you’re not trying to stretch $2m over a $10m hole. You can invest every cent of the $2m in high quality sound, production design, effects etc and get it all right because you only have one location and two (non-star) actors. It makes a virtue of your lack of funds, instead of a constraint.

          • Will_Alexander

            It’s one of those times I have to remind myself that not everybody’s trying to make the absolute best movie they possibly can. They’re often trying to make the one they can afford, or the one they can control. Which makes perfect sense.

            I get impatient with things like contained thrillers and found footage that feel to me like cheap gimmicks as opposed to the best way to make a classic movie. I feel like it’s something being pressed upon writers. But even if there’s a limited audience for those movies, there obviously IS a market for writers who pitch to those companies looking to do with their money exactly what you describe.

    • Midnight Luck

      No viewer is craving to see a contained thriller. They are dying to see great films.
      The production Co’s just seem to be enamoured with the concept, or the “idea” of a contained movie. (Of course yes they also are interested in doing it on the cheap)

    • Paul Clarke

      The story must match the location(s). It’s redundant to say the Star Wars or E.T. would have been worse if they were in a single contained location, their story doesn’t suit it.

      A more suitable question is – Would Die Hard have been any better if it was across multiple locations? The answer is no, as demonstrated by its sequels.

      Like said in another comment, not everyone is trying to make Star Wars or win an Oscar. And it’s not only budget that’s reduced but the entire filming process is made simpler and quicker. As someone who aspires to make their own shorts, the idea of limited environments allows me to focus on the specifics. Too many options can lead to a jumbled mess.

      Plus I enjoy the challenge. I do like watching contained thrillers like Buried to see if they can actually hold my attention for the duration. Kind of like fancy chefs who cook horrible stuff like octopus just to see if they’re good enough to make it taste nice.

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

        I liked the sequels, thank you very much! :P

        • BSBurton

          They were good haha, i’m back on an old ass post

      • BSBurton

        Good points. I’m wayyyyyyy back in time ha.

    • Cfrancis1

      I like contained thrillers. If it works for the story, why not keep it in a contained space? Of course “Star Wars”, “E.T.” and “2012” wouldn’t work in one location. Because those stories are bigger. I would argue that “Gravity” is pretty darn close to a contained thriller.

      But, “Die Hard”, “You’re Next”, “Buried” (Yes, I like Buried. Sue me), “Evil Dead 1 & 2″ and others all work because they take place in one location, not in spite of it.

      I’m working on a thriller that mostly takes place in one location. I’m doing it because I think it’s the best way to tell the story I want to tell, not because I’m trying to be cool or cheap.

  • Sullivan

    Just another glorification of war mongering. Enough already.

    • http://j.nelsonleith.com/ John Leith

      Showing the suffering and just sheer messiness of war is not war-mongering.

      An example of war-mongering would be, say, a knee-jerk aggressive stance against something you don’t like and don’t understand with an eye toward putting a definitive end to it.

      • Sullivan

        It’s war mongering when the screenplay makes the soldier a hero without any shades of grey or any question as to the legitimacy of the war itself.

        • Deaf Ears

          How do you know the screenplay does those things? Have you read it?

          • Sullivan

            How do you know it doesn’t and that I haven’t read it? Your assumptions disqualify you from responding intelligently.

          • Deaf Ears

            Easy there, son. No, I DON’T know if you’ve read it. That’s why I asked. If you can’t answer a simple question, maybe you’re the one who’s disqualified from making an intelligent statement. If you have read the screenplay and can make a case for what you claim it does, then I will happily stand corrected. Until then, take a seat.

          • Sullivan

            Ya, I read it. That’s why I made my original comment. Thanks for doubting me though. That shows a high level of discourse. Blame the messenger.

        • Bacon Statham

          I’m not gonna spoil it for those who haven’t read it, but the protagonist is far from a hero. Read it and you’ll see.

          • Deaf Ears

            Thanks, Bacon. See, sully, that’s how it’s done. You actually read the thing and find a basis for your opinion.

  • Andrea Moss

    ‘I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why Hobbs would walk out into a group of 12 dead guys who had been shot by a sniper. I’m not a soldier but something tells me that’s a really dumb move.’

    Maybe he’s looking for mines or explosive traps planted by the enemy (remember, Hobbes and Locke are trying to secure the zone)…

    • drifting in space

      Would a sniper and his spotter, not trained to look for mines/explosives/traps, do that?

  • The Spy

    “Locke” and “Hobbs [sic]”? Seriously? LOST doing that was one thing, but that sounds intrusive in a movie like this.

    • http://screenplayamonth.tumblr.com FilmingEJ

      Lol yeah, that’s exactly how I felt reading the summary.

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      But what if Locke is called that because he is locked down behind the wall, and Hobbs because if he survives he’ll hobbling from now on?

      Am I thinking this too much?

  • Somersby

    It’s a pretty solid script. Yes, it’s contained… that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A good read. And if I was a producer looking for a doable, appealing script, this would definitely fill the bill.

    I wanted a little more info on Locke’s relationship with his father because it seemed to be such a flashpoint with him–and then it got jettisoned for no apparent reason. If you introduce a dramatic element, do something with it!

    Oh, and the reason Hobbs walked towards the wall and the 12 dead guys is because he was sure, after 5 hours, the sniper had gone. Clearly, he hadn’t.

  • Midnight Luck

    The fascination with a SNIPER as an idea or image or movie trope really took off with SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. When that movie came out people became fascinated with the “sniper” character. Barry Pepper did a phenomenal job, but because this image, this idea, was so powerful, it took on a life of its own.

    Next enter ENEMY AT THE GATES and SHOOTER. More recently we have JACK REACHER and soon AMERICAN SNIPER.

    Obviously the people with money are fascinated by these characters, as much as the viewer seems to be, and are willing to gamble on it paying off.

    I agree with you Carson, I wonder how much it can really work to focus on the Sniper character in these movies. I find it hard to believe most of the shows can extend it out to a full movie, AND keep it interesting the whole time. I fear THE WALL is going to struggle with this, especially when you also add in a restriction like making it a contained space.

    AMERICAN SNIPER is being pumped hard, and looks like a big movie, however I have also heard it is painfully slow, and the script was boring. I wonder if focusing on a silent, non moving character, and possibly on limited locations could be at the heart of it. In Saving Private Ryan, the Sniper character was definitely a side character, in the background. It worked quite well as such.

    • S_P_1

      We’re on the same wavelength.

    • Casper Chris

      There were lots of sniper movies before Saving Private Ryan. Sniper (1993) and The Jackal (1997) immediately comes to mind.

    • Dan B

      First Sniper movie that comes to mind for me is Full Metal Jacket… It turns war into horror…

  • S_P_1

    I think its very interesting two Black List scripts get [xx]worth the read.
    I’m going to make an uninformed biased opinion on a script I don’t plan to read. Can a movie about a sniper be extremely good? In my opinion – YES.
    This script doesn’t motivate me to read it. The outcome is overtly obvious. An American Army sniper vs. (it doesn’t matter). It doesn’t matter that Ghost previously killed 12 soldiers. I don’t foresee any build up of believable tension.
    In Saving Private Ryan the scene was played up by the endangerment of the child and Private Carpazo’s reckless endangerment of his squad. Everyone’s life was at risk. Private Carpazo died the exact moment the enemy sniper was killed.
    In Full Metal Jacket one female Vietcong sniper with no scope chewed up two soldiers and almost a third before eating lead.
    The Deadly Tower Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded 32 before a lone policeman with a revolver killed him. The danger was constant anyone within range of his rifle was fair game.
    The Jackal (1997) The stakes involved in attempting to kill the first lady is more gut wrenching than trying to kill the president.
    Blue Caprice – On my to view list.
    Sniper Tom Berenger (series) – Popcorn B-movie flick.
    Leon The Professional – Classic.
    Assassins (1985) – Popcorn Hit.
    Silent Trigger (1996) – Popcorn Hit.
    Jack Reacher – Up until the point they allowed Tom Cruise to win, technically he was overmatched. Robert Duvall had to even the playing field. The logistics of sniping people in broad daylight in an urban environment is incredibly difficult to get away with. Yet I believed in the premise of the film which allowed me to enjoy it without over-analyzing.
    Wesley Snipes was in a sniper movie I can’t recall the name. He was trying to kill his former boss, a international (ex-CIA) gun shipper. I believe that was the first time I saw someone use a video camera and a laptop to snipe someone.
    Anaconda – Cult classic. Jon Voight with his sniping rifle was incredible in a cheesy believable way.
    Enemy at the Gates – On my to view list.
    I’m sure I missed some obvious ones.
    Back to the topic of screenwriting. I read ALL IS LOST by J.C Chandor. A 32 page contained thriller. I know absolutely nothing about sailing or boating in general. I will say one thing, I have total TRUST in the writer. Literally that’s the level of command the writer had in his/her script. It read more like an autobiography of basic human survival. I seriously doubt The Wall in 86 pages is remotely compelling or believable.

    • S_P_1

      Hmm all of my spacing disappeared??

    • Midnight Luck

      I am not sure which movie you are referencing with Wesley Snipes, I think the only movie I have ever seen him in is White Men Can’t Jump, but I saw a very similar thing happen in the movie LAW ABIDING CITIZEN with Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, where someone uses a computer (and maybe a camcorder) to take someone out with a very high powered rifle (in a cemetery? maybe?). I don’t really remember it that much, but I do believe they used the same idea you are describing.

      • Bacon Statham

        I think Law Abiding Citizen used a ground drone with a machine gun attached to it, but Shooter used the sniper rifle hooked up to a computer idea.

  • Howie428

    This was entertaining, well written stuff, although I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d find it hard to stay interested if it really did play out to feature length. If I was producing this I think I’d ask the writer if it’s possible to make it a bit like 127 Hours, by including a few cutaway scenes. That would help by adding variety and also address the question of whether this is a bit thin to fill a feature.

    A couple of minor comments: The bit where Locke makes anti-gun comments feels a bit silly and probably doesn’t make sense if this movie is to bring in people who like military based stories. Similarly the part where Locke asks why the voice would shoot Hobbs seems odd. It’s a war, why wouldn’t he shoot the enemy?

    Also, I love it when a screenwriter hangs out a sign post for readers. The ALL IS LOST moment in this story is literally flagged up as such. What are the odds that this is in response to some reader making a note that it needed to be clearer?

  • leitskev

    Have not finished this script yet, but I really dig the writing style.

  • harveywilkinson

    Interesting that Carson says the concept feels like a movie, because to me it feels more like a contrived and carefully-engineered set-up that borders on contained thriller parody. It reminds of the contained thriller concepts mocked by that Black List parody a few years ago (was it called Santa’s List or something?) — I think there was one called “Escalator,” about a woman trapped on an escalator in a shopping mall and stalked by a serial killer. This honestly doesn’t feel that far off.

    The premise just doesn’t feel organic, at least to me, and feels very intentionally “built” as something to be packaged and sold as a contained thriller.

    But a cautionary side-note regarding the presumed commercial viability of these types of scripts: they’re actually not as produceable as you might think, and aside from Blumhouse (who develop everything internally, and who insist on turning everything into Spielbergian domestic dramas) not that many people are making them (yes there was the recent shark buoy sale to Sony, but that was an outlier — and it will still be a fairly expensive movie). It’s also very hard to get reps engaged on these projects, they require just as much legwork on their end for a very limited payoff — they’re always going to be scale, and even if they “do well” it’s not going to result in a windfall for the writer.

    Also, the number one factor which determines a film’s budget is above-the-line costs, not number of locations. So, if you want a proven director and experienced producers and name actors, those elements cost you big bucks regardless of the number of locations (127 HOURS cost something like $20M).

    The proverbial contained thriller may be attractive to hustling, independent producers, which is fine, but most people in the system (reps, directors, producers, etc…) are still chasing the bigger fare. Not that many of them want to take a whole hand off their life working on a 1 million dollar movie. Again, aside from Blumhouse (which is a special animal), hardly anyone is making these movies with any high-level talent involved. Which is not to say there’s anything wrong with writing these kinds of scripts — great writing is great writing — but I wouldn’t choose to write one based on the assumption it will be commercially viable just because it can be done cheaply.

  • Will_Alexander

    I’m not sure of the exact relationship between Sony and Columbia, but I’ll take a lot of Columbia’s lesser output to get to the Social Networks, Moneyballs, Captain Phillipses, and American Hustles, if that’s what it takes.

    Oh, and Breaking Bad.

    If Paul Blart and the Smurfs helped pay for those, then God bless ‘em.

  • Ambrose*

    Merry Christmas and/or Happpy Hannukah to all of the Scriptshadow army.
    And a belated Happy Festivus (for the rest of us)! to those non-believers amongst us.
    Let the airing of grievances continue.

  • shewrites

    Well executed contained thrillers make for a fun read. I tremendously enjoyed BURIED and ATM on the page but when it came to watching Buried, I begged off half way through. As a movie goer, I don’t relish contained movies.

    • bruckey

      and ATM got some awful reviews

  • WHO ARE YOU SPOT?

    Wow… tough to believe CR does not know what a spotter is (when in doubt refer to the prefix of the word). WOW!!! I think you have to come into these stories with a certain amount of life-knowledge, not expect the writer to hold your hand all the way through. Much better for the writer to teach- to inspire. Not cool to have everything upon everything explained and an insult to those of us who have a varied interest in many things (and not just football as many seem to know about that thug sport).

  • HRV

    I’d like a copy too, if someone would be so kind. Thanks in advance, websleuth@hotmail.com

  • Bfied

    Happy Holidays to everyone on SS!

    I was curious, does anyone happen to have access to the 2014 Black List scripts? I’ve been looking desperately for them but have had no luck. You can reach me at bfiedler21atgmail.com. I’d be extremely grateful and appreciative of the gesture!

    Thank you, take care

  • Citizen M

    It held interest right to end. Good twist near the end, resolving why sniper wants to talk to Locke. I had some problems picturing the scene, particularly the eponymous wall. About to fall over yet still standing? How does a sniper scope prevent wall collapse yet still can be looked through?

    It’s good that truth comes out under these circumstances. For instance, the truth about how sniper Dean died. But I’m not sure I understand exactly what happened and how Locke caused the death. Did he himself shoot Dean? Surely it would have been apparent from forensics? Or was he making up a story, stringing the ghost sniper along? I think this aspect needs clarity.

    An inconsistency:
    p. 18 – GHOST: Captain Isaac Keyes trained both of you.
    p. 48 – GHOST: Who is Isaac?

    Dramatic high point:
    p. 73 – When Ghost says “Stand up.” Very dramatic moment. Can Locke risk it?

    Clever plotting with Locke gradually realising the ghost’s plan and the raven giving away his position via cawing over the mic (or was that the spotter’s position? I wasn’t quite sure of who was where.)

    The writing needs a polish. It had too many random commas, and commas used where periods are more usual e.g. “Stop, avoiding, the question.” In any case, leave the decision how to say the line to the actors.

    On the other hand, the Ghost’s almost-good American idiom was well done.

    Maybe a little slow and thin at only 86 pages, most of which is dialogue so it’s more like a 80-pager, and only one person supplying visual interest, and he’s wounded. It’s more like a stage play or a long short. Suggest a second story of support crew scenes back at camp. Added tension: will they realize Locke’s in trouble and evac in time?

  • Ken

    I enjoyed reading this script. My only problem with it was that the wall itself was so unstable: we’re told that this prayer wall has stood, supposedly, for many hundreds of years, so why is it ready to fall apart so easily?

  • Lucid Walk

    Next to ROSE IN THE DARKNESS and KEEPING TIME, this is my favorite script I’ve come across on Scriptshadow.

    A script like this could absolutely be a movie. If you’ve seen GRAVITY or 127 HOURS (survival movies, less than five characters, one location), a script like this should be a movie.

    If you want a copy, send me your email and you’ll get a copy. Scouts honor.

    • BSBurton

      Are you still on SS and do you have this script still lucid walk? If so, my emails is
      b r o n b u r t o n at yahoo dot com