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So it happened again.

What’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about?


I had another meet-up with a writer.

Which resulted in another, “What the HELL are you thinking?????”

A sweet well-intentioned guy. Very nice.

But then it happened. He pitched me. Told me what he was working on.

I listened. I tried to be patient. But before I knew it, I was shaking my head. I asked him if he read my site. Because he said he was inspired by it. But if you’re inspired by my site, why are you doing the exact opposite of everything I talk about?

That may seem like a harsh reaction but I used to stay quiet in these situations. Nod my head and smile. But what good does that do anyone? Is it better for me to let this gentleman waste the next six months of his life or tell him right then and there that his ideas…well… suck.

What was the problem with this young gentleman’s ideas? None of them were movies! There wasn’t a single cinematic idea in the bunch. I’m not going to expose those ideas here for the world to laugh at. But let’s just say they were the equivalent of a man struggling through a job he didn’t like. Very basic, very “un movie like” premises.

Hearing him talk about these ideas, you could feel his passion. But passion without a good idea is about as useful as a slurpee without a cup. It’s going to spill all over your clothes, leave a stain, and result in a very angry Indian man yelling at you.

Okay, so it’s not exactly like a slurpee without a cup but the point is, this is amateur mistake numero uno. The thing that keeps 90% of aspiring screenwriters on the wrong side of the Hollywood wall. Their ideas are BORING! They don’t promise us anything exciting.

How does the saying go? A cat sitting on a blanket isn’t an idea. A cat sitting on a dog’s blanket is.

And there are a lot of things that go into it but basically you want to give the audience an idea that promises a lot of conflict. I mean look at the setup for Fury Road. A woman steals the most powerful man in the region’s five wives and tries to run away. We can see how that’s going to end up in a lot of conflict, a lot of problems, a lot of “shit going wrong.”

The reason I’m babbling on about this is because I’m tired of seeing writers waste their time on boring freaking ideas that will never go anywhere. I read them all the time in the Amateur Offerings’ submissions and I think, “What are you thinking??? How could you possibly think anyone would want to see this movie?”

For awhile I thought these were just hopeless writers who didn’t have the talent to come up with a good idea. But then I started thinking, maybe no one’s sat down and taught these people the difference between a good idea and a bad one.

So I came up with 7 questions to help these writers determine the value of their idea. If they can say yes to at least four of these questions, they probably have a story worth telling. Any less and they may want to go on to the next idea.

Now I’ve ranked these in order of importance. So the top questions are weighted higher than the bottom ones. In other words, it’s more important that you answer yes to the first few questions.

A couple of things to remember. The game changes if you’re going to direct your script yourself. That’s because when you direct, you give yourself another opportunity to differentiate your product. So if your script seems mundane on the page, but you plan on shooting it in a really unique or weird way, that still allows you to stand out. Like Gregory Go Boom. That script probably looked mundane on the page, but the director gave it a truly fresh feel on the screen.

Also, don’t try and defend your idea by putting it up against similar ideas that were a) book adaptations or b) director-driven projects. As a spec screenwriter, you will never get the benefit of the doubt a New York Times best seller does, nor will producers care when you plead with them, “I know not a lot happens but it’s going to be like a David Lynch film.” Since you’re the unknown spec writer, you have to be bigger and flashier to get noticed. So here are the seven questions you’ll hopefully answer “yes” to. Good luck!

1) Is your idea high concept?

I’d say that this is probably the most helpful thing you can do to get your script noticed. I read ARES, Michael Starbury’s script about a special division created to recover the extraordinary and supernatural. Truth be told, it wasn’t very good. But the idea was so big, so “you could totally see this as a movie,” that it sold for mid six figures. High concept is not synonymous with big budget either. A high concept could be a therapist who takes on a child patient who sees ghosts (The Sixth Sense). Or a couple who runs into their doppelgangers on their vacation (The One I Love).

2) Are you writing in one of the six marketable genres (horror, thriller, sci-fi, comedy, action, adventure)?

These are the genres that sell best on the spec market. Dramas don’t do well here. Westerns. Period pieces. Coming-of-age stories. If you’re not writing in one of these six, you should be probably be worried about your spec’s chances.

3) Is your idea marketable?

This would appear to be the same question as number two, since the reason those genres are celebrated is because they’re marketable, but there are plenty of non-genre movies that can still be marketed. One of the ways you can figure this out is to find three movies (within the last decade) similar to yours that have done well at the box office (relative to their costs). The biopic is a good example of this right now. Studios have proven they can market these movies and people will show up.

4) Do you have a fascinating or extremely strong main character?

Actor bait can work as a sort of Hail Mary for smaller ideas. Think a meaty juicy role where an actor gets to do a lot of stuff. It could be anything from being a schizophrenic (A Beautiful Mind) to being bitter and having scars on your face (Cake, Vanilla Sky).

5) Does it have a unique angle?

We just talked about this the other day. Once you choose your idea, try to figure out what your unique angle is going to be. If you don’t have a unique angle, it’s likely your script is going to feel just like everything that came before it. Take one of the unexpected hits from a couple of years ago, “Now You See Me.” The writers decided to write a heist film. But everyone writes heist films. What was different about theirs? Well, they made the heisters magicians. That’s an angle we haven’t seen before.

6) Is your script thick with conflict?

A premise that promises a lot of head-butting between characters, a lot of tension, a lot of sides pulling at one another, a lot of uncomfortable interactions, is an idea that’ll likely make a good screenplay. A perfect example is Gone Girl. A woman disappears and we follow the husband, who everyone suspects killed her. Every situation this man steps into is going to result in some kind of conflict. Contrast that with, say, a movie about a man who’s grieving the loss of his life. I guess there’s some inner conflict in that idea, but it’s minimal, and we’ll grow tired of it quickly, meaning the idea is weak. A man who grieves the loss of his wife, only to find out she used to work for the CIA, and now people who were after her are now after him? Okay, you might have an idea there.

7) Does your idea contain irony?

If you’re writing what many would consider to be an “independent” movie, I consider an ironic premise almost essential. It’s really your last ditch effort to make your tiny movie stand out. A king who can’t speak must give the most important speech in history (The King’s Speech). When an older man meets a minor online, it turns out to be the minor who’s the predator (Hard Candy).

Don’t worry if you don’t get an affirmative on every one of these questions. That’s unlikely. But as long as you get more yes’s than no’s, you should be in good shape. Also, there’s a final component to all of this, and that’s your own creativity, your own voice. You have to add those creative flourishes and ideas that only you can bring to the table. For example, I could write a movie about a group of teenagers stuck in a town full of zombies that would get yes’s to most of these questions. But if I’m not bringing some creativity to the story, it’ll still be a dud. Nobody wants to be a dud. Be a stud. And never ever roll in mud.

  • S.C.

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

    Passed the test. Wow, better go and write my script now.

    • romer6

      hahaha, I also got “yes” for all of them (except, maybe, the first one, since it seems a little pretentious to acknowledge your own script as being high concept). But the more I think about my script (the one I’m actually working on), I realize its selling point is conflict. Man, did I pack that thing in conflict. I guess reading Carson write about conflict all these years really paid off.

      • S.C.

        Probably right… I don’t tend to use the term HIGH CONCEPT anymore as I think it lost all meaning from overuse. I just think inspired or UNinspired idea.

        What I think Carson is getting at is don’t start writing without an inspired idea.

        • romer6

          Agreed. I mean, a movie about a tornado made of sharks could have been considered high concept somehere in time…

          Love the graphic, by the way. Very inspiring. :)

      • The_Shadow_Knows

        There’s nothing pretentious about calling your idea “high concept”. “High concept” is just a Hollywood euphemism for “understandable by the dumbest moron ever to draw breath”. It certifies your idea as suitable for even the stupidest of viewers, so it’s really the opposite of pretentious.

  • S.C.

    OT: Never mind the plot, doesn’t he look GORGEOUS?!

    • brenkilco

      Since when did they decide that this guy’s mug alone would sell tickets? And there’s poor Uma Thurman listed seventh. Remember back in the day when it was a no brainer to put her face on a movie poster? Tempus fugit. And it fugits fastest in Hollywood.
      Know nothing about this movie so I googled it. A chef assembles a team to create a great restaurant. Who says Carson’s message isn’t getting through?

      • S.C.

        Erm, Bren…

        It’s currently at number three in the top right-hand corner.

        Agree about the rest:×727.jpg

        • S.C.

          Trivia question: Who took this photograph?

          • Randy Williams

            Who cares? I’m wondering what Hugh Jackman is playing with in his left hand. ;)

          • S.C.

            His “joystick”.

          • BellBlaq

            *searching memory*
            John Travolta…check.
            Halle Berry’s boobs…check.

            There were other things/people in this movie?
            Where are The Wolverine’s claws?

          • S.C.

            It was Helmut Newton. Jeez…

        • brenkilco

          Wow, an impressive. But Carson admits he never even would have read it if Fincher hadn’t been attached.

          • S.C.

            Yes, and like I said your point still stands: this logline wouldn’t have attracted much attention from an amateur.

            I don’t think it’s the wrong decision, from a box office point of view, but I think they want to sell this as a Bradley Cooper movie and not a cooking film.


            What’s it about? Who cares….

          • brenkilco

            And it worked. How dull was the movie? No one has voluntarily sat through it since 1945.

      • Nicholas J

        The poster says “with” Uma Thurman. That probably means she has a very minor role.

    • Nicholas J

      Reminds me of the poster for Seven Pounds with Will Smith.

    • tyrabanksy


    • Citizen M

      Jeez, couldn’t they at least put a stick of celery dangling insouciantly from his lip? I didn’t realize he was supposed to be a chef from that poster. I thought he was a surgeon in scrubs or something.

      • Mike.H

        Another Chef movie?

        • S.C.

          Couldn’t use that title. Whole Lee Daniels’ The Butler thing they almost got into.

    • S.C.

      OT: Never mind the plot, doesn’t he look…. gorgeous?

      • S.C.

        I’ve given up masturbating for a month. Porn sacrifice.

        I thought I’d be the first one to make that joke.

      • Randy Williams

        Looks like he missed the Proactive kiosk at the mall.
        I wonder if this is based on the Fischer bio, “Endgame”
        Damn, that was a good book.

    • BellBlaq

      I hopped over to IMDB to see what this was about (never heard of it before) and the second I got back here to continue scrolling down the comments, I saw the photo again and had already forgotten what this movie was about. Movie dey-nial vu?

  • LostAndConfused

    “It’s going to spill all over your clothes, leave a stain, and result in a very angry Indian man yelling at you.”


  • S.C.
    • Ninjaneer

      Definitely bath salts involved there.

    • maxi1981

      Chinese restaurants will agree to disagree with you ;)

  • andyjaxfl

    OT: This is a long shot but I’ve been trying to track down Walon Green’s original draft of the unproduced script CRUSADE that would have starred Arnold had the production company not overstretched their finances. I have the Gary Goldman revisions draft (dated January 24, 1993). Many thanks and here’s hoping someone out there has it!

    • Poe_Serling

      That might be a hard one to track down… here’s a site for eBook (PDF) of the script for sale. The cover lists only Green as the writer.

      • S.C.

        Con job. It’s the same 134 page script EVERYONE’s got. For free. Not that I haven’t bought a few scripts in my time. But this one’s been “out there” for years.

        I support Andy’s campaign – find the originals!

      • andyjaxfl

        Thanks for the link. I’ll email the people selling it and see what version they have. Agreed that this will be a tough one to find, but I’m patient and up for the task!

  • leitskev

    I have nothing interesting to add to Carson’s thoughts today, so I’ll just say this: everyone have a nice freaking day! Your life is your own narrative, may the second act last forever! Oh, and note to NFL fans: Tom Brady will haunt you next year, man on a mission.

    • S.C.

      From Britain: Have a Good Day!

    • Randy Williams

      Joel Osteen and Robert Kraft, thank you.

    • Jai Brandon

      Go Bills!!!

      • leitskev

        Could be a very good year to be a Bills fan. I’ve been to games in Buffalo. Always liked the Bills and the fans up there. Can’t go now, though, it’s become a little too dangerous for Patriots fans.

        • Jai Brandon

          I’m definitely looking forward to the upcoming season! We’ve been bottom dwellers for well over a decade (15 year playoff drought), but barring injuries, this team will compete with the top dawgs in the AFC. QB will always be an issue, but it’s still an extremely deep and talented roster. It’s a shame Brady will be out for week 2, but he brought this all on himself. Honesty is the best policy.

          • leitskev

            He will probably get the suspension reduced to 2 games…possibly to one.

          • S_P_1

            Just remember the Bills went to FOUR straight Super Bowls. They had multiple opportunities.

            For the record Brady didn’t win 49. Pete Carroll made the absolute most ridiculous, insipid, brain dead play calling in all the history of sports.

          • Jai Brandon

            I agree, worst call ever, given the situation and the down & distance. Probably the worst call in any of the four major sports.

            And Super Bowl XXV is when I first heard about the Bills, but didn’t start following them until the 1997 season, so all I’ve known is misery & heartbreak. The playoff drought ends this season!

  • Malibo Jackk

    #1. Not sure it’s that easy.
    Yes, 90+% fail at coming up with a high concept idea.
    But an amateur with a high concept script is not a sale.
    First off — FURY ROAD was not written by amateurs.
    Second — People did not go to see the movie because it was about a woman stealing away five other women. They went because it was a remake of an AWESOME movie with an AWESOME trailer.

    High concepts sell all the time because a.) they’re high concept and b.) they’re written by someone who has proven himself.
    Studios don’t want to settle for half a loaf.

    The easiest way to get noticed — write an awesome script.

    The hard way is to write a marketable script that can be produced for a reasonable budget.
    (There are no guarantees.)

    • S.C.

      Hard to make a script awesome unless it’s born of awesome ideas.

      Big problem: generics.

      A man
      goes on the run
      after being falsely accused of murder.

      instead of…

      The President to the United States
      takes the Capitol Building hostage
      after being falsely accused of rape.

      Generic characters (a man, a woman, a cop).
      Generic locations (small town, big city, anywhere).
      Generic situation (accused of murder, seeking revenge).
      Generic conflict (outnumbered, isolated).
      Generic plans (go on the run, go undercover, team up with arch-enemy).

      Not all these ideas are bad, but a surfeit of generic ideas results in a generic screenplay, no matter how much effort you put into the writing.

      And that’s not even taking into account the value of catching someone attention with a showstopping logline…


  • brenkilco

    Well, they made the heisters magicians. That’s an angle we haven’t seen before.

    Yeah, Now You See Me was high concept. Very marketable .Always room for a cool heist picture. And making the super thieves magicians was a clever angle. Big characters: super arrogant master magician, obsessed cop. malevolent billionaire. And it had twists and surprises. Lots of conflict among the teams of competing Houdinis. And the production was first rate and the cast was great. Yeah, it had everything. And yet it sucked!

    • Randy Williams

      I could rattle off the endings to countless movies I’ve seen in my life, but I don’t recall a thing about the ending to that movie. Was it so good that it blew some brain cells?

      • S.C.

        It kept me watching. I enjoyed it. But I understand why it rubbed some people up the wrong way.

      • brenkilco

        You probably fainted from excitement before the big reveal.

    • romer6

      Agreed. Everything was in the right place, but it just didn’t work for me. I guess the problem was the lack of conflict. I mean, I never quite felt that the magicians were in a position of being caught.

      • brenkilco

        Think it had all kinds of problems, from the gratuitous plot twists to the excessive number of characters. But the biggest problem for me was the robberies. A heist picture lives or dies by the ingenuity of its crimes. And none of the crimes in Now You See Me involved a shred of plausibility, let alone genuine cleverness. For me this transformed the movie from an inoffensive time killer to an insulting time waster.

        • BellBlaq

          For me this transformed the movie from an inoffensive time killer to an insulting time waster.

          I think that as writers, we subconsciously break down the stories we see/read to a greater extent than the general public, so perhaps another major thing that (mentally) rubbed you was the fact that the core (initially hidden) conceit of the film (SPOILERS–haha, really?–Ruffalo did it) ultimately rendered several scenes irrelevant and downright asinine.

          Since Ruffalo knew he was the dude, why did he ACT LIKE other people were the dude, even when there was no one else around (but us, the audience) to witness his “crime solving?”

          It’s the storyteller lying to us in the most disingenuous way. And that, as you said, is insulting.

          • IgorWasTaken

            I think that as writers, we subconsciously break down the stories we see/read to a greater extent than the general public

            That’s my one regret about getting into screenwriting.

          • Casper Chris

            Same. I don’t enjoy movies nearly as much as I used to.

    • BSBurton

      Yes, thank you! It did suck. Tired of seeing so many people praise it.

  • Randy Williams

    5) Does it have a unique angle?

    I read scripts all the time where I believe the writer has introduced a unique angle but
    doesn’t exploit it, doesn’t surround everything in the script around it, often even mutes its’ power terribly in the log line so it’s not a draw at all.

    An example. A script I read last night. I enjoyed this script. I thought the writer had a “voice” but I felt the most interesting angle was not exploited and as for the log it is…

    “In a near-future where legal prowess equals power, a luckless criminal refuses the Yakuza’s demand to murder a beautiful attorney and her hacker daughter. Now he must join them to pull off the greatest cyber-heist in history.

    Where’s the unique angle? Not the Yakuza. How many even know who they are? Not murdering a beautiful attorney. Not a hacker daughter. Not a cyber-heist. For me, the unique angle?

    “In a near-future where legal prowess equals power”
    Doesn’t sound very unique, nor exciting as written in the logline.

    But open the script, and wow. In this near-future, knowledge of civil and criminal law gives one not “power” but “street cred”. Life is a constant battle against being ruined by law suits. Upstanding people are routinely made penniless. Judgement , a drug as addictive as crack.

    • charliesb

      her hacker daughter = unique angle

      • S.C.

        Only maybe in the sense that she was her daughter. But hackers…? Soooo twenty years ago, dude!

        • charliesb

          Exactly, hacker “daughter” is rarer. It’s been done, but not often, I think the one we all remember is :

          If someone can write one that isn’t that lame, I think that’s unique in itself. Furious 7 tried, but I didn’t think she was very convincing. Plus I think the actress was cast for her other… skills.

          • S.C.

            Yeah, I actually really liked that bit from JP. I felt it made sense; a young smart girl probably could work UNIX.

            It’s the sort of WATCHDOGS, hack-the-planet type scenes that don’t work.

            Fact: You can’t hack everyone. Iran’s nuclear power plants run off an intranet, not internet. They’re in a bubble; can’t be accessed from outside.

            However… USA has a novel approach. Drop loads of USB sticks on the ground.


            Studies have shown that 80% of people who find a USB stick lying on the ground will plug into their computer to see what’s on it.

            Leave one outside a nuclear power plant and there’s a good chance someone will pick it up and plug it into their desk computer.


            No more dropping bombs… dropping USB sticks!


          • pmlove

            I remember Elisha Cuthbert in 24 – she was somewhat unconvincing.

          • Eric

            Yeah, but she didn’t really do much. The writers basically said to themselves, she’s either got to work at CTU or we ditch the character.

            Chloe O’brian is the definitive female hacker for me. But let’s not forget Lisabeth Salander.

          • Kirk Diggler

            But the mountain lion wasn’t.

          • Casper Chris

            The funniest part is how she holds the mouse at 0:57. For a so-called hacker, she sure does look like a complete computer retard.

            Granted, a mouse was probably still a fairly novel piece of equipment back then, but still…

          • Midnight Luck

            I also find it funny that most of the time, what the person is “doing” in front of the computer – punching keys, moving the mouse, whatever – rarely has anything to do with what they show happening on screen.

        • brittany

          Hahaha, wow, that makes me feel so old. Nostalgia attack!

  • tyrabanksy

    ALIEN 3 — Man, am I the only person who FUCKING LOVES this movie? As far as the Alien quadrilogy is concerned, my favorites are: 1) Alien: Resurrection 2) Alien 3 3) Alien 4) Aliens. I dunno, maybe this means I’m gonna end up like the writer mentioned in the article above. Just feel like A:R and Alien 3 had more personality than the other two. (I still LOVE Alien, but Aliens is my least favorite by a landslide.)

    + Anyone got the Deadpool script?

    • Citizen M
      • tyrabanksy

        Thank you!!! :)

    • Bacon Statham

      I wouldn’t say I love it, but I like it. Killing off Ripley was a ballsy move. I don’t like that they killed off Hicks though. I’m a big fan of Michael Biehn and I really hope he comes back for Alien 5 like the concept art suggests he will.

      Aliens is my favourite, followed by Alien 3, Alien and Alien: Resurrection.

      • tyrabanksy

        Yeah, I love Michael Biehn. I would love it if he was in Alien 5. I’m going to have google the art now. I love the entire franchise. More, more, more! I fucking loved Prometheus, but I know a lot of people didn’t. I like it more every time I watch it.

      • Casper Chris

        Where’s that concept art of which you’re speaking?

    • charliesb

      I’m more worried that you put ALIEN RESURRECTION as your number 1. I’m just going into a meeting, but I’ll be back in a bit to yell at and berate you later. ;p jk

      • tyrabanksy

        Ha! There’s gotta be someone on here who loves Resurrection, too. It had everything for me. I love the basketball scene and the swimming sequence. And the BABY! The baby was genius. I loved all of the characters so much. I know Joss Whedon basically disowned it but I think it’s so good. I even have the paperback of the screenplay, haha.

        • S.C.

          Sigourney talks Alien Ressurection, Alien 5, Chappie, Avatar 2…


          • S.C.

            OT but, Zoe Saldana on how to speak Na’vi.

          • tyrabanksy

            I couldn’t bring myself to watch Chappie. I felt like it would be like watching a feature about Jar Jar Binks.

      • cjob3


    • S.C.

      I feel like, when you’ve watched ALIENS quite a few times (which I have), it’s given up all its goods, while the original ALIEN still has a lot to discover.

      One more thing. Let’s get out some weapons.

      But they’re only on-screen briefly.

      Fashion in the future.

      And much, much more.

      • tyrabanksy

        I agree with that. Aliens just didn’t have any “magic” for me. I understand why they used Newt – but as far as I’m concerned, there was no place for a kid in the film. I wanted her to get eaten, ha.

        • Casper Chris

          Careful. I can hear Grendl gnashing his teeth.

  • tyrabanksy

    OT: Did anyone find the IT FOLLOWS screenplay?

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Leave your email address and I’ll forward it to you :)
      If anyone else wants it, please pass it along among yourselves as I won’t be here very often the rest of my day (3pm here) nor tomorrow. Am writing. Thanks :)

      • Eddie Panta


      • tyrabanksy

        AMAZING! I LOVE YOU! tyra (dot) banksy (dot) wins @ gmail (dot) com
        I’m so freaking excited to pore over every last page, then re-watch it in theaters before it’s done.

        • Midnight Luck

          could you send it along to me as well? Thanks.

          m (at) blackluck -dot- com

          • tyrabanksy

            Sent! :)

          • Midnight Luck


      • aDriveAway

        Hey Marija (or anyone else that has it), could you send it to me if you don’t mind. I’d really appreciate it… Good luck with your writing.

        aterribleplanet at gmail dot com

        • tyrabanksy

          Let me know if you don’t have it and I’ll send it.

          • Linkthis83

            Would you be willing to pass it on to me as well? Thank you in advance.

            linkthis83 at yahoo dot com

          • tyrabanksy

            Sent :)

  • Randy Williams

    The unique angle is the bulldozer and the baby and grandmother are complicating factors. One can imagine what hijinks may ensue. Baby crawls up onto it. Grandmother has a stroke and the boys have to get her to the hospital and the only transportation is the bulldozer and it destroys everything in its path. That’s the problem for me. Anyone can imagine these things, you’ve made me do the work, too, but it was easy.
    Give us something or the hint of something that we would never have imagined.

  • brenkilco

    You’ve left out your story. First is this a comedy? I assume something horrific happens or nearly happens to the baby or gran. What? The kids are going to have no time to monkey with a bulldozer if they’re babysitting? Are they under some time pressure? Is there a goal? Or is the repair job just an excuse for them to neglect their responsibilities and let chaos ensue? Ya gotta give us some more.

  • spencerD

    When you get down to it seven questions removed, it comes down to the point plain and simple of… it an interesting story on the basic level of human emotion and action. Does it teach a lesson, make one laugh or cry and in the end is it something like we’ve been doing around the fire since the dawn of time?

    If you read one line longline and it can make you want to see it or hear it a friend what it is…or you can get sucked in while watching the story unfold via TV you win. Again, a story, beginning, middle, end wants and struggles, achievements. That’s all that is wanted or needed.

  • charliesb

    It’s not an elephant in the room. In fact if you went through the comments yesterday you’ll see that a lot of people agreed with you.

    But if one “IMPRESSIVE” that you don’t agree with is enough to make you question Carson’s ability to detect quality, and not the list of his 25 top films on the right, or the few projects he’s helped find producers, or the few writers he’s helped find management, or the hundred and hundreds of articles he’s posted on the craft, business and how he see things, then why are you still here?

    I mean really, tear down the script if you need to, people do that here everyday not everyone is going to find merit in the same things as everyone else. He HATED BIRDMAN, and TRUE DETECTIVE, he thinks the PIXELS trailer has a funny joke in it. (it doesn’t). He’s not infallible.

    To quote one of my favourite movies:

    “Scriptshadow is like a salad bar – take what you want, and leave the rest.”

    • walker

      What projects has CR helped to “find producers”?

      • S.C.

        How many projects has CR found impressive?

        The Disciple Program.

        Secret script from guy in Thailand.


        All very hush-hush. You’ll see.

        • walker


      • charliesb

        Withdrawn. I was thinking Disciple Project and thought there was another one. But I couldn’t find it, and Disciple project is a touchy one so…

        • S.C.

          There have been other scripts where Carson (like other consultants) has SOMETIMES helped a guy get representation or management. Bit like getting a recommend on Script Shark. It’s not a golden ticket, but it’s better than a paper cut.

      • Midnight Luck

        I think he posted WHERE ANGELS DIE as an Amateur script with an *Impressive* and then had to pull the link down when it was inundated with interest and then got picked up (or something like that).

        I remember that day had a ton of conversation happening, but what really happened was behind the scenes. We all heard about it later.

        Also, I think that ROSE script might have gotten the writer rep. The one where the kid is kept in a cage upstairs in a farm house, I believe? Not sure if it was bought to be produced, but I do think the writer(s) got representation.

        • S_P_1

          Do you happen to have WHERE ANGELS DIE?

      • Matthew Garry

        The winner of Scriptshadow 250 of course!

        It’s true that it hasn’t been chosen yet, but likely it’s already been written. And if I remember correctly, that script will have a real producer ready and waiting due to Carson’s tireless effort.

        So there is at least one script in existence that Carson helped find a producer for. It’s just not known which script it is yet :)

    • Casper Chris

      he thinks the PIXELS trailer has a funny joke in it. (it doesn’t).


    • S_P_1

      I had the same sentiments about an amateur script Carson rated IMPRESSIVE.

      I was bored before I read the first 10 pages. I read 10 more just to see.

      Because Carson has a longer track record in the volume of scripts he’s read, I’ll give him credit for recognizing a script that hits all the major points needed to become a film.

      • charliesb

        I don’t always agree with him either, but I like the discussion he sparks, and there are enough people in the comments who can disagree with him (and others) in a well thought out and intelligent way that I find something helpful for my own writing almost everyday.

        The fact that so many different types of writers read this site, I think is a big part of it’s strength. That people with very different opinions on what is great and what is drivel, and what will sell and what will be trash binned is (IMO) a big part of why this site works.

        At the end of the day we’re only going to take the lessons and suggestions that we think work for our projects to heart. But hearing multiple perspectives is always a good thing. And understanding what sells and why (despite what we think of the actual product) is good information to have.

        I’ll give him credit for recognizing a script that hits all the major points needed to become a film.


    • klmn

      No, you have to eat it all. After all, there are children starving in China.

  • tyrabanksy

    I’m about 40 pages in, and I’d agree so far that it’s not that great. But I’m a big horror fan, so this doesn’t feel fresh in the slightest to me. From what I can tell (I haven’t read the review yet, I wanted to wait until after) it’s like Hostel meets The Good Son, haha. I’m too tapped to come up with a better “meets”.

  • S.C.

    8) Some people must not like or HATE your idea.

    There’s no such thing as universal acclaim, but it’s probably better if a few people hate your idea than if most people are indifferent to it.

    Take AMERICAN HOSTAGE. A lot of people, yesterday, LOATHED the idea of it, even before reading it. But at least that’s a reaction.

    Not everybody loves TRANSFORMERS.

    Michael Bay’s accountant love ‘em.

    Where did HOT PURSUIT go wrong?

    Maybe, maybe… it was trying too hard to be liked? Not sure.

    But you’re not going to please everyone when you tell them your idea, and you’re not supposed to.

    Otherwise you’re not pushing the envelope, you’re licking it!

    (Not sure if that’s going to catch on.).

  • Shawn Davis

    I’ve often followed 6 of these 7 guidelines to ask whether of not my story is worth telling. I call it–

    S – trong Character

    T – hick Conflict

    I – rony

    G – enre

    M – arketable

    A – ngle

    If I’m doing my job as a writer, it should have STIGMA written all over it.


    • S.C.

      Add “tits” and “ass” and you get STIGMATA!

      Just kidding, I think that’s a great cross acrostic, Shawn!

      Here’s another, from Dr. Phil Hammond:

      Communicate with other people
      Learn new things every day
      Active lifestyle
      Notice things around you
      Give back to others
      Eat well

      CLANGERS will add years to your life.

      • Shawn Davis

        Love it!!!

      • davejc

        Ok. STIGMATA was funny. I was thinking about the word stigmata too when I read Shawn’s post.

    • brenkilco

      But why can’t you generate drama with urban characters?

      • Shawn Davis

        I’m not sure I follow…

        • brenkilco

          A joke. Just read all the words in your post.

          • walker

            Funny brenkilco.

        • S.C.

          Me neither. And I’ve looked several times.

  • S.C.

    Trends don’t always translate to other media. Not always that crossover:

    Trends come and go. Youth is fickle.

    But I think strong female characters WILL continue to be popular, as long as there are still strong female movie stars.

  • brenkilco

    Yes, it’s just you.

  • ChadStuart

    Okay, so this is how delusion works: Somewhere out there a person is reading this article and comparing it to their new script. The longline to that script is, “A middle aged man, unhappy with his wife and family, finds his old high school sweetheart on Facebook and rekindles a romance.” The script is probably partially based no true events in the writer’s life, but he changed the names so it’s totally fiction.

    So, he takes Carson’s quiz and comes up with his answers.

    1. Is it high concept? Yes! It’s about Facebook! Everyone in the world is on Facebook! Impoverished kids in Ethiopia have a Facebook page, right?

    2) Are you writing in one of the six marketable genres (horror, thriller, sci-fi, comedy, action, adventure)? Well, my script has elements of all these genres. There’s the horror of realizing that you’re unhappy with your family. There’s a part where he’s almost caught in his affiar by his wife; and that’s like a thriller! Facebook is so advanced it’s like we’re living in the future, which is sci-fi! The main character is funny at work – BOOM it’s a comedy! There’s a scene where my character swerves his car to avoid a squirrel so it’s like “Mad Max”! Action and adventure, baby!

    3) Is your idea marketable? Well, they made a movie about the kid who started Facebook.
    And my script has 20 scenes with my character talking with his high school sweetheart on Facebook. And again, EVERYONE has Facebook. It’s a verb for Christ’s sake!

    4) Do you have a fascinating or extremely strong main character? My main character is very relateable because so many people are unhappy with their lives and they have Facebook. That makes him an “everyman”, which was one of Hitchcock’s go-to main characters.

    5) Does it have a unique angle? Yes! His high school sweetheart lives in the next state! It’s a long distance romance just like “Sleepless in Seattle”!

    6) Is your script thick with conflict? There’s the possiblitiy that his wife will find out he’s virtually cheating on her. His kids may find out. His parents will be disappointed he’s a failure at being a family man. He’s got a gay neighbor who encourages his relationship, but that gay neighbor can’t get married because they live in Arkansas. It’s loaded with conflict.

    7) Does your idea contain irony? His high school sweetheart has a family of her own. Get it? It’s ironic that he’s unhappy with his family and she has one as well. Get it?

    And that’s why this article will be falling on dozens of deaf ears today.

    • S.C.

      “A middle aged man, unhappy with his wife and family, finds his old high school sweetheart on Facebook and rekindles a romance.”

      I don’t think that idea is too bad. A little execution dependent, perhaps. There’s detail missing, and you fill some of it in in your breakdown of the idea.

      You’re right: with any of these tips there’s always the danger that someone will say “But my story IS original. Guy can’t stop farting, THAT’s original!” It’s original, but it’s not marketable. Few people want to go and see a movie called METHANE: A LOVE STORY.

      (If you do want to see it, then please, the idea’s yours).

      A lot of people don’t want to think about how uninspired their central idea is, convinced that, by the time they’ve filled the script with “witty dialogue” (mainly insult humor and swears), people will think it’s a wonderful script.

      And that’s why Carson made this list today: to stop people pitching him terrible ideas.

      He’s doing the Lord’s work.

      • ChadStuart

        And thank you, sir, for illustrating the point.

        • S.C.

          What point? Is that a shot at me? Oh well. Keep trying.

          Nicholas, this is why everyone is off-topic: no-one wants to admit that 90% plus of all scripts fail at the conceptual stage.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            I’m skipping the seven questions, and writing a script adapted from Carson’s submarine concept. SO I ALREADY KNOW the answer to all the questions is a resounding YES!

            Also – The outline for my script is KILLLLERRRRRR

        • Casper Chris

          *incoming Scott missile*

      • Mercutio

        METHANE: A LOVE STORY may not be a movie in itself. But put Arnold Schwarzenegger in the main role and you got yourself a movie. “Get down”!

        Or, you could have Danny DeVito as the man who can’t stop farting and Arnold has to take a roadtrip with him.

    • S_P_1

      You’re probably closer to the truth than you speculate.

    • Casper Chris


  • Panos Tsapanidis

    Is there a set of questions that help you see if your idea is high concept?? #meta

    • Matthew Garry

      Is the core concept strong enough to carry the story by itself? That is: if you take just the main idea, and fill everything in according to the rules, is it still entertaining?

      The definition of “high concept” may vary though.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        To me, a good test is the logline. Can you get me interested from a one-phrase description of your premise?

        Of course, this isn’t foolproof.

        • S.C.

          25 words or less. OK, 26, 28, maybe 30 words, OK. But if a logline goes on and on, you’re not selling the idea.

          “A kid hacks into the US military’s new supercomputer and almost starts World War Three.”

          15 words. I didn’t even have to shorten “World War Three” to “WWIII”. Which is nice.

    • S.C.

      *Compelling characters.
      *Clear conflict and resolution.
      *Three easily identifiable “acts”.
      *Universal themes that could be summarized—that is, marketed—in a sentence or two.

      • brenkilco

        I always think of high concept as simpler than this. Less than a plot, even less than a logline. It’s a poster image. A single, theoretically irresistible idea. Something that makes you say I want to see a movie about that even if you don’t know what the story is or even if there is one. A high concept is seven or eight words max. Killer shark at Beach resort. Condemned criminals released to fight Nazis. Future cop tracks criminal androids that look human. Marvel superheroes team up. Scientists recreate dinosaurs for amusement park. And most of the time- my examples notwithstanding- this idea has no bearing on the quality of the finished film.

        • romer6

          Just out of curiosity: “future cop tracks criminal androids that look human” relates to Terminator?

          • brenkilco

            Blade Runner actually.

          • romer6

            Of course. Shame on me. The word future fooled me.

    • S.C.
    • Ninjaneer

      High Concept: The basic description of the story premise makes it sound interesting and intriguing enough for people to want to go see it, before they even know who made it or who’s in it.

      Here’s a Michael Haugue lecture on High Concept

      • S.C.

        Love Michael Hauge! Writing Screenplays That Sell (original edition) still the best screenwriting book, in my view.

  • Nicholas J

    What is going on in today’s comments section? I feel like I stumbled across the Tumblr of an attention deficit teenager that just figured out how to use HTML and Google images.

    And what happened to Mad Mules week? It was going so well…

    • Casper Chris

      Scott Crawford happened.

      The fastest picture-embedder in town.

    • Ninjaneer

      Er’one gather round for the new SS feature: Scott vs Nicholas

      • Nicholas J

        Lol. I’m not engaging in that. Just thought it was funny how off-topic everyone is today.

        Today’s another writing day for me. Or at least, that’s the intention…

        • S.C.

          Not entirely my intention. I’d love to talk about ideas and loglines, but you know how funny people can get about concepts.

          I’m sure Mules will be along soon with more Mad Max stuff – I was just keeping the seat warm for him!

          I think I’ll get down to some writing and let other people take over, now that we’ve started a few conversations going.

    • Cyarax

      Yeah, it’s like I can’t even scroll on my phone without accidentally opening a pic or link.

    • mulesandmud

      Sorry to leave you hanging, brother.

      The comments seemed a little intense yesterday and today, so I decided to steer clear and save my eyeballs for other work.

      Don’t want to post a whole big thing tomorrow since an AF writer will have the spotlight, but hopefully more folks will see the movie over the weekend, so expect a fresh round of FURY ROAD love next week.

      I live, I die, I live again. Witness me!

      • S.C.

        Yeah, sorry about that Mules. I actually thought you might post today, but you’re right – more people might see the movie by next week.

        Keep posting, but also keep up your own writing.

      • Nicholas J

        Sounds good. I’ll bring the chrome spray paint, but you’ll need to bring your own blood bag. If you have trouble, I know where you can find one…

      • Scott Chamberlain

        Shiny and chrome

  • fragglewriter

    Glad for this article as I’m writing a Thriller/Mystery and need to find ways to make my protagonist more ironic.

    “The Fugitive” TV series embodies all of the above questions. The Decades channel has a binge of different series and this one is airing. I just starting watching a few shows and wow, you talk about suspense, irony, tension and so much conflict. A doctor on the run but has good-nature always in the way and nearly getting him caught by either the cops or a stranger.

    • S.C.




      and many more! When I think of them!

      • Buddy

        talk about a “save the cat scene”… this one is really powerful because completely organic to the character. He’s on the run, but he can’t just let a child without help. Strong scene…

    • wlubake

      Feel free to post info here, I’m sure plenty of people could give you ideas to add irony. If you want to keep it private, feel free to hit me up at my comment handle

  • Ninjaneer

    Just had a baby girl Tuesday! Tired.. and happy

    I think the best step towards making sure your next script meets most of the above criteria is constantly coming up with new script ideas.

    For one, you’ll be more likely to actually have a great concept if you have hundreds of others. Two, you will be more objective about how good your concepts are.

    When you only have a few ideas (or even a few dozen) you’re more likely to lie to yourself about how viable that concept is as you begin developing/writing it.

    • Casper Chris


    • brenkilco

      Congrats. You should have plenty of material for a thriller about sleep deprivation shortly.

      • Casper Chris

        And then onwards, a gross-out horror about diapers and feces. Gotta be an audience for that.

    • S.C.



      Screenplay Baby!

      A frustrated screenwriter discovers all the best ideas in town are being written by his baby.

      Congrats, Ninjaneer and your partner!

    • Fish Tank Festival

      Definitely congrats!!! And good luck, because if you thought writing was difficult before kids, it’s 100x’s worse. We recently bought a house with an extra room for my “private office” and I still have no privacy nor time to write because of dem lil whippersnappers! Oh yeah, exhaustion too…

      • Ninjaneer

        Thanks, yeah I have a 5 year old boy too so I already know about not having time :)

      • Felip Serra


    • IgorWasTaken

      Just had a baby girl Tuesday! Tired.. and happy

      What a coincidence! I just had baby-back ribs at TGI Fridays! Tired… and full.

      (Where’s a rimshot when ya need one?)

      Now, when you open up a diaper, you’ll know what “reader trepidation” is when opening up a script. (Not your script; other people’s scripts.)


      • Ninjaneer

        Literally LOL :)

      • Mike.H

        Igor: Rimshots have been replaced with Bazzinga. Sheldon Cooper.

        • IgorWasTaken

          Except from what sort of instrument does a Bazzinga emanate?

      • BSBurton

        That was a good one Igor! lol

    • Will_Alexander

      Congratulations, Ninja!

  • ff

    I’ll take something original with a fresh voice over these 7 rules all day long.

    Of course we all know Hollywood won’t buy that until it’s made by someone else first. I think rule #1 should be write the film you want to see/make.

    Again, not gonna sell so thats the decisions you need to make. Want to sell something to someone else that probably still won’t get made? Or want to write something that pleases you and not worry about just pleasing someone with the money.

    Let’s be honest 99% of everyone here or everyone that writes a script/book whatever will never have that thing bought and/or made.

    Write what you want to write, because theres a good chance you’re tearily only writing for yourself. And that’s totally cool!

    • S.C.

      I hear what you’re saying and – yes – write what you want to write. Hopefully it’ll be something that other people want to read as well. Don’t blame others if they don’t want to read it.

      99% of screenplays are no good, and the majority are no good at CONCEPTUAL level. No inspiration, no good ideas. Just generics, hoping to bluff their way with overwritten dialogue and scene description.

      Almost every script that sells, almost every one, has a strong concept. QED.

      Best of luck writing!

  • S.C.

    I actually think it’s probably the RIGHT title and campaign from the studio point of view. It puts the emphasis on the main character and on Bradley, who I think they are hoping might pick up some awards (nominations).

    I don’t think the movie would benefit from being called TOO MANY COOKS and having a meat cleaver in his hand.

    • brenkilco

      But this meaningless poster could at least use a tagline

      • Nicholas J

        It has one. It’s the one that reads “Bradley Cooper.”

      • S.C.

        “He’s not married.”

        “Air conditioning.” (thanks to Josh Fadem for that joke)

    • Midnight Luck

      you mean like this…?

  • S.C.

    That’s my sequel idea!

    U.S. Marshal Sam Gerrard is accused of murder and goes on the run, using all his knowledge of how to catch fugitive to escape capture, while simultaneously trying to catch the REAL fugitive.

    Check please!

  • Nicholas J


    • S.C.


  • Joel

    Not to pick on Carson, but I think six of his top seven scripts would struggle with his top seven questions.

    • S.C.

      Maybe some of the questions but not all. Besides, a lot of the writers of those scripts also wrote more marketable stuff to get the foot in the door.

      You’re not picking on Carson, it’s an excellent point.

  • S.C.

    How an idea evolves. They don’t all start out fully formed.


    A spy mistaken for a man who doesn’t exist (inspired by real events in WW2).

    A murder at the U.N.

    A chase across Mount Rushmore.

    A final confrontation in Alaska.

    Scrap that. End with Mount Rushmore. Now, how to kill the hero in the middle of the desert.

    With a tornado!

    Erm, how about a cropduster, Hitch?×471.jpg

    Oh, if you say so, Ernie.


    Treatment: General Luke Skywalker.

    First draft: Death Star

    Second draft: Luke Skywalker

    Third draft: Story finalized!


    A high-tech helicopter

    flown by a cop who goes mad and kills everyone.

    Studio liked the copter, but had the writers change the story.

    Read the original screenplay here:


    Two ideas by two different writers: one about a robot cop

    one about a genetically-enhanced cop.

    The two writers got together and…

    I, ROBOT

    Spec script “Hardwired” about a cop investigating a robot who commits a murder.

    Story expanded to global robogeddon

    and given branding.

    and many, many more.

    • Casper Chris

      Lovely, more pictures. Can’t have too many pictures.

      • S.C.

        You do realize that film is a VISUAL medium.

        This is my “look book” approach to posting. Very contemporary.

        • Casper Chris

          Do you fill with your screenplays with pictures too? :)

          • S.C.

            Maybe, in the future.

            Look, I’m trying new things. I would encourage you to try new things. And try and comment on the content of my posts. There’s some interesting ideas in there (I think NORTH BY NORTHWEST came off best).

            I’ll adjust my style for the next I do something similar.

            But I have to try.

          • Casper Chris

            I did actually find some of it interesting. But the constant barrage of pictures is off-putting.

          • S.C.

            Like I said, I’ll do it differently next time!

            Think of it as a rewrite (guests can’t edit their posts).

            How an idea evolves.

            They don’t all start out fully formed.


            A spy mistaken for a man who doesn’t exist (inspired by real events in WW2).

            A murder at the U.N.

            A chase across Mount Rushmore.

            A final confrontation in Alaska.

            Scrap that. End with Mount Rushmore. Now, how to kill the hero in the middle of the desert.

            With a tornado!

            Erm, how about a cropduster, Hitch?

            Oh, if you say so, Ernie.

            STAR WARS

            Treatment: General Luke Skywalker.

            First draft: Death Star

            Second draft: Luke Skywalker

            Third draft: Story finalized!

            BLUE THUNDER

            A high-tech helicopter flown by a cop who goes mad and kills everyone.

            Studio liked the copter, but had the writers change the story.

            Read the original screenplay here:



            Two ideas by two different writers: one about a robot cop, one about a genetically-enhanced cop.

            The two writers got together and… ROBOCOP.

            I, ROBOT

            Spec script “Hardwired” about a cop investigating a robot who commits a murder.

            Story expanded to global robogeddon and given Isaac Asimov branding.

            Hmmm, still would have liked a few pictures in there.

          • klmn

            You could skip over these posts if they bother you.

          • Casper Chris

            It’s a little annoying for people on phones and slow connections. And just annoying in general. Because it’s not necessary.

          • klmn

            None of the comments are necessary. Mine, yours, everybody’s.

          • S.C.

            Thanks… I think!

            I have put some good tips on here today! Check out the J.J. Abrams’ outline clock.

          • Casper Chris

            Okay, Mr. Nihilism. Nothing is necessary. My life, your life, his life.


            I find a lot of value in the comment section. Even in the comments that don’t contain 10 pictures.

          • klmn

            None of the comments have anything to do with whether you live or die. But I suppose I could post the Hungarian Suicide Song (English translation). In fact, I think I will.

            First some background:


            Now the song. Don’t click if you can’t handle it.

          • Casper Chris

            I never said they did. The point was that you can call anything unnecessary and not neccesarily be wrong.

            Great song.

          • Casper Chris

            And if we expand our criteria to include classical music, I would mention these two piano pieces by Chopin and Beethoven.

            Chopin – Prelude No 4

            Chopin – Funeral Marche

            It’s amazing how much emotion these masters manage to generate from what is two fairly simple compositions. No voice is needed.

          • Midnight Luck

            I love HURT by NIN. I have to say though, I may love Johnny Cash’s version of HURT even more.
            it is just full of painful, agonizing sadness and desperation.


          • Midnight Luck

            I remember that song. Sarah McLachlan I believe? Great song.

    • scriptfeels

      great job using pictures to illustrate your point. goes to illustrate its all about the process. Having a great logline can save you a lot of time though in the story department imo.

  • Casper Chris

    Woah, top 10 amateur scripts have finally been added to the side column.

    (might’ve been a while ago and I just missed it)

  • wlubake

    Ok, as to #3, would you consider a mostly contained space action thriller marketable? Just saying it, I think “hey, contained sells, space sells, action sells, thrillers sell!” When I think of movies my concept may be like, there’s a toss up. Alien could match that description (plus), but I don’t have creatures. Pandorum could also match it (minus), but I think I am a little more high concept. It’s based on a short story heavily influenced by Firefly/Serenity (minus), but I’m downplaying some of the fanboy from the short story. Sunshine I love, but it didn’t make money.

    What do you guys think? That sub-genre worth a go?

    • S.C.

      Space is in, baby!


      Spot the connection? Scroll down for the answer.

      GRAVITY – Sandra Bullock
      INTERSTELLAR – Anne Hathway, Jessica Chastain
      PASSENGERS – Jennifer Lawrence
      PALE BLUE DOT – Reese Witherspoon?

      Strong female leads. Strong female leads in space at LEAST merits a read.

      Contained is also good as long as – in my opinion – it doesn’t get repetitive.

      Contained adds atmosphere but it can also result in sameness. However, I’m sure you’ve watched enough movies to spot the difference!

      So, in conclusion, space good, strong female lead or support good, contained good but watch it’s not all on one level.

      Best of luck!

  • S_P_1

    PIXEL script review

    [xx]what the hell did I just read?

    I requested and read this script completely because of the high concept hook. Carson overrated this script by far. I completely agree with his review on the aspect of nothing was truly funny. I believed I smirked maybe 2 or 3 times. The main reason I’m reviewing this script again is because Carson missed the boat. Carson only penalized this script on not being funny and generic choices. The flaws of this script are much greater and this is the work of a paid professional.

    The formatting structure of this script, grammar/syntax, and technical flaws are BENEATH the average AOW submission. This was an opportunity for Carson to highlight how even a paid professional isn’t up to par.

    Reviewing only up to page 20 because the pattern (inside joke) is consistent.

    pg 2.

    Don’t think of this like a comedy

    This is the very first line of the script. This couldn’t be a truer statement.

    pg 3.


    Keep this time reference in mind.

    pg 3.

    Its like going into another world. All the classic games are

    Paperboy release date 1985
    Dragon’s Lair release date 1983
    Anachronistic, the writers didn’t do their homework.

    pg. 4

    (never looking up)
    Yeah, there’s a pattern to
    everything. Like every day when you
    say you’re going on a diet at noon,
    then you’re eating four Milky Ways
    at 3 o’clock – that’s your pattern!
    (Cooper laughs, then
    punches his arm)
    Whoa, don’t make me lose my guy!

    This is the first example of parentheses embedded within character dialogue. This is consistent throughout the script.

    Just wondering what 13 year old in 1982 talks about dieting?

    pg. 4
    – MONTAGE of Brenner playing: Centipede, Q-Bert, Galaga,
    Defender being played at a high level, high score after high
    score, crowds growing, “BNR” taking over the entire top ten
    scores. Cooper hands Brenner a flyer – “WORLD VIDEO GAME
    CHAMPIONSHIPS”. Brenner looks intimidated, but Cooper nods

    Montage incorrectly formatted.

    pg. 5
    Brenner looks over to the next machine to see LUDLOW MCNALLY
    (13, rail thin, acne, glasses. Genius, no social skills).

    A kid named LUDLOW. I guess MARTOK and GARCHAN are overused names in scripts.

    pg. 6
    Get out of here; you’re good at
    other stuff, Chewie. You’re good at
    talking people into things… You
    have good hair… You’re a good

    Semicolon within dialogue is a consistent syntax / grammar error throughout script.

    pg. 6
    Welcome, gamers, to the First
    Arcade World Championships. We have
    a representative here from the
    Guinness Book of World Records. As
    well as a representative from NASA,
    who will be videotaping tonight’s
    event, to be included in a
    compilation of 1984’s news events
    and popular culture. That video
    tape will be placed in an orbiter
    sent out into the solar system to
    search for proof of Extra-
    Terrestrial life.
    (ET voice)

    ET phone home!

    This is the first example of large blocks of dialogue. Second it’s still 1982.

    pg. 7

    -Brenner plays BREAKOUT super-fast and zen-cool.
    -Ludlow is in a zone playing GALAGA.
    -Eddie steals a glance at his palm as he annihilates PAC MAN.
    -ONSTAGE, the M.C. addresses the crowd dramatically.

    M.C. (CONT’D)
    Ladies and gentlemen…
    Congratulations to Eddie Plant, who
    is now officially the high-score
    holder and world champion of both
    Breakout and Pac Man!
    And, the world champion of Galaga
    and Centipede is… rookie
    sensation Julian Brenner!
    (shocked applause)
    Gentlemen, since we’re tied at two
    games apiece, it’s time for the tie-
    (a beat)
    Donkey Kong!!

    The words and action beats don’t match.

    pg. 8

    MATCH DISSOLVE to the front cover of People Magazine’s June
    5, 1982 cover. The caption reads: VIDEO GAME CHAMPS: READY TO

    Proof that the events all took place in 1982 and is the basis of a huge plot hole.

    pg. 9

    Brenner installs a 70 inch 4K Sony TV to the wall of a
    gigantic living room. As Brenner adjusts the TV’s wall mount,
    he glances outside, through a large picture window.

    Interesting, SONY is producing this picture and this is the first of multiple SONY product placements in the script. I’ll cut to the joke premise Brenner drops a 70 inch tv. RMAOTFL!!!

    pg. 10

    Yeah, you’re right, the second one
    wasn’t really a “date:” we never
    left the house.
    (Cooper looks infuriated)
    I’m kidding, big man, mostly
    kidding. How’s work?

    The syntax / grammar errors are consistent throughout the script.

    From this point on I’m only pasting examples without highlighting the error.

    pg. 11

    …But then, Mittens jumped up on
    to the table, and knocked over the
    whole bowl of soup! Mrs. Pickles
    gassed – gasped, and the whole room
    fell silent. “This is casta…
    (struggling with word)
    catsa… catsatatsastrophic?…”

    pg. 12

    AN INDIAN TEENAGER is with a TEEN GIRL outside the Taj Mahal.

    pg. 13

    The Girl, finally noticing what’s going on off-camera, starts
    screaming. The Boy thinks she’s screaming about the ring box
    and tries to soothe her, but then he sees what’s going on and
    starts screaming, too. He abandons the Girl and runs for the
    camera. He grabs it, but never gets a clear shot of what’s
    going on, just quick low-rez images of lights, smoke, himself
    and – is that a hole in the Taj Mahal?

    pg. 14

    So what am I installing?

    A new 85 inch SONY 4k 3D TV. Playstation
    4. 7.1 Surround sound speakers. Really,
    if you guys sell it, we bought it.

    My Dad cheated on my Mom with his 18 year
    old Filipino pilates instructor. Her name *
    is Sinnamon with an S. I shit you not; that
    is her name. I mean I should be dating an
    18 year old pilates instructor not him.

    pg. 15

    …Yeah. Um, it’s just when your son
    told me that your husband left you for a
    younger woman I kinda thought maybe you
    were one of those hot-when-we-met-in
    high-school, but then got-older-letherself-
    go and now has like neck fuzz
    and a pot belly with cottage-cheese
    thighs. But that’s clearly not what you
    look like. So more like whoa, I should
    have probably brushed my teeth before I
    left the house, or crappy apartment, if
    we’re getting real here.

    pg. 17

    The entire page.

    pg. 18

    The entire page.

    pg. 19

    The entire page.

    pg. 20

    The entire page.

    A few freebies.

    President Cooper sits in the sit room with the JOINT CHIEFS.

    This leaves Brenner flummoxed.

    pg. 28

    pgs. 34 – 36

    bottom of pg. 43 – top of pg. 44

    HAL BOVERT, a caustic commentator, is bloviating.

    • S.C.

      Nice review! Don’t assume a pro script is going to be a prototype of everything great a screenwriter should do.

      Learn from the best, skip the rest.

    • Malibo Jackk

      I think it’s been said before
      — producers, directors, actors are interested in story, character, dialogue, drama.
      Readers — a well written script.
      (Big picture focus vs the small.)

      There are many exceptions.
      Most top writers will obsess over details.

      • S_P_1

        My main reason for giving a secondary review is because Carson didn’t mention the formatting or syntax errors / technical errors.

    • gregthegreg

      While these might be things that cause a script to read poorly to you, this is the wrong script do draw examples from.

      This is a giant studio assignment. The writer(s) of which are under strict deadlines, are rewritten, constantly implementing studio notes, etc.

      Not everything is going to be perfect perfect perfect in something like this. That’s just the facts. If you have ever read the first or second draft of a big studio tent pole, they don’t always read great. It’s not necessarily because the writer is bad. But because there are a lot of people to please (and not just one, the writer) drafts can turn out pretty crazy and uneven.

      Also a lot of the formatting “errors” you point out are just stylistic choices.

      Grammar can be incorrect in dialog. That’s totally okay.

      Perhaps try reading more scripts. A good place to start: NIGHTCRAWLER. Not classically formatted and an original screenplay by a writer/director.

      It’s not about following strict rules. It’s about writing an interesting script that holds a reader’s/viewer’s attention.

      • S_P_1

        We have to agree to disagree.
        One thing I can’t verify is whether this was a spec script that sold or a studio assignment.
        Lastly reading more scripts or more properly formatted scripts has no bearing on the quality of this particular script.

        • gregthegreg

          Actually you can verify that. It was all over deadline when Adam Sandler’s company (along with Sony) bought the short film from which the feature is based. So yes, studio assignment.

          Reading more scripts like this one (or not this one) won’t change the quality of PIXELS, but it will color how you view it. Context does matter.

  • jw

    Carson, sometimes reading your stuff is enlightening, while other times I just sit and wonder how in the hell you’ve fallen into this industry without actually being able to discern how and why things happen. You’re looking at Hot Pursuit versus Pitch Perfect and wondering WHY one fell flat on its face and another did not. Let me save you your ever changing theory on “are female comedy films” dead routine by answering this in a way I’m surprised I have to…
    Casting – Reese Witherspoon’s last 52 films (okay, that’s an exaggeration), but it’s at least 5, have been action, indie, drama, Oscar-nominated, and the like. Sofia Vergara’s roles consisted of bit parts in Fading Gigolo, Machete Kills, Chef and other films obviously no one cares about because frankly she’s known as a TV actress.
    So, let’s just recap what this equation is:
    An actress who has spent the last 5 films convincing us she’s a dramatic Oscar contender is now going to team up with a woman best known for her TV roles. Let’s be honest, those roles happen to be ensemble anyway, so there is no “pure” focus on her. Within that equation we’re going to attempt to believe that Witherspoon is the ding-bat character of 5’2” saving the TV model at 6′ – and oh, no trust me, audiences will buy this… ahahahahha Really?
    Contrast this with Pitch Perfect if you like, but the better contrast is The Heat and here’s why it worked: before this film we saw Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, This is 40, Identity Thief, and The Hangover 3. All very much solidifying the fact that she is a ZANY comedic actress who goes completely balls-to-the-walls. Sandra Bullock is frankly America’s Sweetheart, so she can do whatever the fuck she wants, but prior to The Heat, she does The Proposal, All About Steve and The Blind Side, mixing up comedy and drama and then giving us a character that is dramatically comedic. Icing on the cake.
    I know this is a “screenwriting” website and everyone loves to discount anything other than the writing, but ladies & gents, there is SO, SO, SO much more that goes into WHY something is a hit and why something else is not, and looking at what should be 2 identically performing films (The Heat vs. Hot Pursuit), and understanding why they didn’t even come close to performing identically is to really understand the process as a whole.

    • S.C.

      First of all, jw, great post!

      Second of all, cut Carson a LITTLE slack. He does this website for free and he’s quite a busy man. Most of us appreciate that he at least does his best to post every day.

      Anyway, enough of that… my theory, my best theory on HOT PURSUIT is based on listening to an interview with the co-writer of the script. Nice guy.

      The whole thing was developed by Witherspoon, with Vergara as co-star (they wanted to work together).

      They then sold the whole thing as a spec with talent attached. It didn’t cost a fortune ($35 mil vs. PP2’s $28 mil) – really, making it was a no-brainer.

      But the whole process was too nicey-nice, too easy. In another post, I showed how movie ideas DEVELOP, often going through bad versions before reaching the good one.

      Maybe, just maybe we have to write a bad version before we can get to the good version. If it’s too breezy, maybe it’s no good.

      That and the casting.

      • Casper Chris

        He does this website for free and he’s quite a busy man.

        For free? It’s his business.

        • klmn

          Yeah. Without this website, how many of you would have heard of him?

  • Midnight Luck

    I will do a short version of this article using only one step, showing how to make sure your script does what it needs to, and avoids any and all problems:

    #1: Picture your script as a film; see if it might land on HONEST TRAILERS

    check and double check your script cutting out ridiculous nonsensical things everyone’ll make fun of or be baffled by:


    • Casper Chris

      Even great movies end up as “honest trailers”. LOTR for instance.

      • Midnight Luck

        yes I know (though I didn’t like LOTR, but that’s another story)

        maybe I should say: Make sure your Honest Trailer doesn’t end up being JUPITER ASCENDING’s HONEST TRAILER (or something, but you get the point).

        • Casper Chris

          I actually tried watching JUPITER ASCENDING for the first time two days ago. I lasted 15 minutes. My thought going in was….

          “I know people were disappointed, but it’s the Wachowskis… makers of The Matrix… it can’t be THAT bad.”

          And it wasn’t.

          It was much worse.

          • Midnight Luck

            I was laughing so hard as Honest Trailers breaks down the storyline of JA, and it just goes on and on and on and it just makes so little freaking sense.

            I cannot give JA a chance, as it just looked so bad, and the Trailer was terrible, and all the Wachowski’s movies have been just awful (I know, I am alone in thinking this, but, that’s my opinion; with V for Vendetta being the only one which barely scrapes by, yet they didn’t Direct it, which makes sense, but they did write it, but actually they didn’t write it, so never mind, it doesn’t pass either).

          • Casper Chris

            Just watched it. Sounds like a complete clusterfuck of incongruous elements slapped together.

            The funniest part is Bean’s reaction to the line “your people killed the dinosaurs?” (2:40)

            It’s almost as if you can see him thinking “What the hell am I doing here?”

          • S_P_1

            minus MATRIX 1 & 2

    • S_P_1

      This made me smile. :)

    • charliesb

      I laughed like crazy when I saw that, sometimes these ‘Honest Trailers’ can be a little grating, same with ‘Everything wrong with’, but I really liked this one.

      Especially when it started flashing “THIS IS ACTUALLY THE PLOT OF THE MOVIE”.

  • S.C.

    OT: talking to someone about J.J. Abrams’ “clock outline”.

    This is where you write your scenes starting at the middle and then moving out towards the edge at the moment you think that event will occur in the story.

    Midnight is both the beginning and end of the story. Each minute division here represents two pages of a 120 page script.

    Of course, you could do a simpler version on paper or using a spreadsheet (my preferred method) like this.


    and so on until


    If you can fit all that on one page, that might be nice. But certainly you can see huge gaps in your story, see the need to speed up as you get to the end, oh the possibilities are endless.

    So what are waiting for? Worked for Jeff/Jeffrey/J.J. so it should work for you?

    Or are you allergic to money?

    • scriptfeels

      Never heard of this method before. Thank you, definitely going to try this one out. Curious how you stumbled upon it, and what other outline techniques are out there aside from the ones discussed on ss in past articles.

  • BellBlaq

    Today’s is the kind of article that makes me question everything about my current project. And I can’t be alone there.

    If anyone wants to swap movie concepts offline, just to more objectively gauge if we’re really deluding ourselves, hit me up: bell.blaq atyahoo dotcom

    And by “concept’ I mean, the idea, angle, audience, etc. Full on elevator pitch. Not just, A group of strangers must work together to survive a zombie apocolypse.

    Let’s show/share our passion…?!
    *whispers* I’m new, I don’t have any friends yet.

    • S.C.

      Check you email… friend! I’ve sent you my idea, you can send me yours.

      (But as I say, let’s keep it between ourselves. If there’s a story leak, I’ll know who to blame!).

    • Matthew Garry

      I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

      Questions 1,2 and 3 are really important to make a splash, but if 4, 5 and 6 (and 7, but I think it’s a subcategory of 5) are in order, your screenplay can basically be about anything or anyone and still work miracles.

      Case in point: “Where Angels Die.” It’s not really splashy or high concept, but it got Carson raving about it all the same.

      In fact, for any long term plans for a career in screenwriting, I’d say focus on 4, 5 and 6. That’s where gradual learning and improvement lies, making the whole affair far less prone to fashion and luck.

      • S.C.

        I’ve said this a thousand and I’ll say another thousand times, because it’s THAT important, you should have at least one splashy script in your portfolio, up your sleeve. Has to be good, sure.

        But you can have good, meaningful, seriously intention understory with a dreary, po-faced, unentertaining surface story.

        A man comes to terms with the death of his son.

        OR you can take the same themes, issues, character and not make it such a gloom fest.

        A father decides to honor his dead son by taking his place in the New York Marathon – which gives him just a month to get into shape.

        So have your serious drama script, but make sure you’ve got a marketable comedy, action, horror, thriller, etc. as well.

        Same writer. Different genres.

    • scriptfeels

      welcome, to ss

      • BellBlaq

        Hi! Thanks! Is your avatar Kou from “Blue Spring Ride?”

  • spencerD

    Any one ever read/have a copy of the script…..

    Harrow Alley?

    • brenkilco
      • spencerD

        Anyone ever read LEONE’s Script to a place only Mary knows? If not the script the treatment that was published a few years back in italy?

        • brenkilco

          Honestly, until you mentioned it I’d never even heard of it. The synopsis I just read online makes it sound like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly part due. Wonder where the title comes from?

          • spencerD

            The girl friend of one of the main characters who robbed a bank and hid the gold in a place only she “Mary” knows.

          • spencerD

            The title comes from the girlfriend of one of the main characters with whom robbed banks. the girl friend Mary put the loot in a place only she knows hense the title. Also the movie was more him redoing/rein visioning TGTBTU. Kinda

  • Midnight Luck


    OT: the very cool TOVE LO and her awesome song HABITS (STAY HIGH)

    just because.

    along with the fabulous HEROES with ALESSO and TOVE LO. Amazing song.

    in case anyone wants a musical interlude.

    • Midnight Luck

      or the B-side video version of HEROES, which I actually like better, even though it is filmed in that dreaded B&W. ;}

      • scriptfeels

        always enjoyed the hippie sabotage remix, but the song habits has been out since april last year, btw. seeing her this summer, should be good.

        • Midnight Luck

          Yes I do know, I’ve been listening to her for quite a long time. Just wanted to, in the spirit of posted pics and vids, present these for anyone who wanted to take a break and possibly discover a new artist.
          I was listening to her in the background while I worked, as mood music.
          I don’t think she is coming anywhere near my neck’s of the woods. I think she’s only playing European concerts, correct? Could be wrong, but that was my impression.
          You’re lucky if you get to see her.

  • Jai Brandon

    Do you still have this, Kilg? Please send if so! Jai.Brandon[at]

  • Caivu

    This was a really helpful list. I’ve been having some doubts/difficulties with one of my scripts lately, and I found it encouraging that I could answer yes to most of these questions. It’s a relief to know I’m at least on somewhat of a right track.
    Thanks, Carson!

  • davejc

    If the purpose of a logline is to define a protagonist with an adjective to tell us what he is like, then to state his goal, the ticking time clock and the antagonist who is keeping our protagonist from achieving that goal, well, then your logline needs some work.

    However if the real purpose of a logline is to generate interest then you’ve already succeeded with this individual audience. I love the idea of kids having their own bulldozer if they can rewire it.

  • brittany

    A Mash-up of my favorite show (Kimmy Schmidt) and movie (Mad Max) at the moment… The Unbreakable Imperator Furiosa.

  • Andrew Parker

    “What the Hell Did I Just Read?” is reserved for only the worst screenplays known to man. Scripts like Looper and Birdman.

  • Malibo Jackk

    There is this from Michael Eisner while he was working at Paramount.
    (From his 21 page mission statement. Part of which appeared in Disney Wars and was posted by S.C. after one of his comments below — and [xx] well worth the read.)

    “Not even the greatest screenwriter or actor or director can be counted
    on to save a film that lacks a strong underlying concept.”

    • Citizen M

      Before Eisner there was Jeffrey Katzenberg who wrote in 1991 in a 28-page memo:

      With success came bigger budgets and bigger names. We found ourselves attracting the calibre of talent with which “event” movies could be made. And, more and more, we began making them. The result: costs have escalated, profitability has slipped and our level of risk has compounded. The time has come to get back to our roots…

      Passion is the only word that can explain why one would choose to burrow through 10-15 scripts every weekend on the chance of uncovering something great. Passion is the only word that can explain why one would spend a 60-hour week at a studio and then, for fun, on the weekend go see three movies. Passion, however misdirected, is the only word that can explain why a lot of otherwise rationale individuals would get caught up in the blockbuster mania that has engulfed our industry to such lemming-like effect.

  • klmn

    I think he’d have his bodyguards beat me up.

  • charliesb