Genre: Dark Comedy
Premise: The aftermath of a bank robbery told backwards.
About: This script was originally a finalist at the Austin Film Festival where it gained the attention of producer Barry Josephson. Soonafter, the script was sold to Fox Atomic. So for those of you wondering where to allocate this year’s screenplay contest money, AFF might be a good place to start!
Writer: Oren Uziel


Man, I am on a rolllllllllllll. Reading some solid scripts lately. Today’s entry is a little dark comedy thriller called “Shimmer Lake.” So let’s all get naked and go script skinny dippin!

This particular entry is a special 4am review of the half-asleep variety. So if you notice any spelling mistakes or random tangeants, I’m totally not apologizing. Speaking of apologies, I want to apologize to anyone who viewed my latest Facebook entry (not my Scriptshadow Facebook account but my real person Facebook account). I started this thing called “Late Night Facebook Confession” where anytime after 2am, you can post anything you want about your life on Facebook and no one can judge you on it. Well, I guess my latest confession was just a little too “disgusting” (as some said) and “perverted” (as others said). Whatever that means. Needless to say, nobody seems to understand the concept of “CAN’T BE JUDGED”. Once it’s past 2 a.m. man, you can write anything you want. And not be judged. EXCEPT FOR – apparently – Himalayan teenagers with down-syndrome. Jeeeeez.

What are we talking about? Oh yeah! Shimmer Lake. This script was sweeter than a mouthful of gummy bears. It’s about a group of dimwitted frustrated small town dudes who decide to rob the town bank. The twist here is that we start with the aftermath of the robbery and work our way back, day by day, to the night of the robbery. Now even though this is the internet, I can hear some of you already screaming “Gimmmmick!” And you know what? You’re right. This is a gimmick. But it’s a damn good gimmick, cause Uziel knows how to write.

Our main character and town sheriff, Zeke, is three days removed from the robbery, desperately trying to find his brother Andy, who for some reason left his family to involve himself in this moronic heist. He’s hoping he can locate him before he ends up like Dawkins, the owner of the bank, who Zeke finds naked and dead with a huge hole in his chest. Apparently Dawkins was connected to the robbery too. But why? He owns the damn place. Also missing are Ed, an ex high school football star who accidentally blew up his kid during an experiment gone wrong in his self-made meth lab. And Chris, a half mentally retarded loner who lost all his friends when an accident blew a few fuses in his brain. Rounding out the group is Ed’s hotter-than-the-inside-of-a-hotpocket wife Steph, who very well may know more about this robbery than she’s letting on.

Shimmer Lake’s structure takes us back one day at a time in order to show us what happened to who and how. Along the way we learn more about the characters involved and more about why they’re doing what they’re doing. You may think you know why they’re doing it. But you don’t. Well, in some cases you do. But in others you don’t. Most of the cases you do though. Instead of the script suffering from Prequel-itis (this is how I refer to the Star Wars prequels – which basically filled in the missing gaps at the expense of a providing us with a story) it actually thrives inside the structure. The big heist is still at the end of he film. It’s just at the beginning. So we’re still anticipating how it’s going to all go down. I think in a lot of scripts, there’d be plenty of dead time before the ending, but Uziel’s strength is his amazing grasp of character, and pretty much anybody he introduces us to we could watch for hours on end and never get bored. I wish I had all day to just chat with this guy and ask him how he comes up with these people. He’s truly got a gift. They’re so fun to be around and listen to that you forget all about those silly screenwriting mechanics – like story. And plot.

I think to give you any more would cheat you out of a fun read. I will say this: Shimmer Lake has that wears-its-indiness-on-its-sleeve arthouse quality to it that has a habit of unsettling some picky cinephiles. But what I love about The Lake (that’s what I’m calling it now. Keep up.) is that it’s like an Ethan and Joel Cohen film, without all the alienating choices that scare away mainsream audiences. It’s funny, but not 3% of the population only funny.

Originally I was going to write this review backwards but changed my mind for two reasons. One, it would’ve taken way too much effort. And two, it was a stupid idea.

This baby is an early contender for mid-to-high Black List 2009. Check it out…

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Character descriptions character descriptions character descriptions! If you’re writing a comedy, you should have fun with your character descriptions. Don’t describe anyone as “Square-jawed and tough as nails.” It’s a comedy. Have fun with it. Here’s an example from Shimmer Lake: “Ed Burton is the kind of guy that if he walked into a bar and falsely accused you of stealing his seat, you’d get up and apologize.” How awesome is that? It’s fun and it tells me exactly who this character is.

  • Carson Reeves

    A note to all. There are spoilers in the comments that you might want to avoid. You've been warned.

  • Anonymous

    I read this one recently. The writing is good, but it feels too small town- straight to DVD like Red Rock West (even though that was theatrical) – but those small town con/heist/adultery/murder plot movies all feel like Red Rock West. And I could see the big twist coming from a mile away. Sorry. Still, it has it's moments and fun surprises.

  • Carson Reeves

    I did not see the twist coming. I definitely knew something was amiss (SPOILLLLLERRRS) when he pointed out the arm tattoo. But Uziel had me so convinced that Zeke was a good guy, I never suspected him. That and I didn't see him shooting his own brother. So I was gotten.

  • David

    I'm going to give this a read later, but I feel I must comment on the Facebook incident. I was totally not judging you. :)

  • Carson Reeves

    There should be a law. Between 2 and 5 am, there are no laws.

  • Anonymous

    by the way: i just hope that i never have to read the phrase "riding shotgun" again. Twist ending or not, i stop right here (page 20), not another page of this tripe. This is one of the biggest yawns ever, cheesy dialogue, cut-out characters and twenty pages of hard hitting non-action. The premise sounded nice, though.

  • Anonymous

    That was terrible. The dialogue: bad. Totally tone deaf.
    And it’s like the writer hated the characters, the world. Why write about them then? Starting off with crap town, etc…

    That’s just something that says hey this is interesting!!!!!! 20 pages could and should get cut from that script.

  • Carson Reeves

    Ouch. Shimmer Lake getting battered. Did anyone else like this besides me? Show yourselves!

  • martinb

    I disagree with the Anonymice — I think it's a great script with interesting characters that kept me guessing all the way to the end.

    The indirections followed by the reveals were well done, and some of the dialog was pretty good — droll and funny.

    The backwards structure was rather hard to follow, not helped by the names being so similar — Zeke, Reed, Brad, Steph, Andy, Ed, Chris. I had to draw a diagram to help me follow them. At least Kurt and Kyle were easy to remember as FBI. More variety in the names, please, guys.

    Petty niggles: full boar/full bore, breath/breathe, thrown/throne, one's/ones, who's/whose. Learn the language, dammit!

    While I'm complaining, Carson, please, I beg of you, ditch this godawful blog service provider, or simplify your scripts. It took me literally twenty minutes, eight or ten page refreshes, and two different browsers, to get a comment box I could write in. Right-click "view page source" and you'll see your page is 90% code and 10% content. I don't know what it all does, but if you can get a more responsive web page I think you'll find you get a lot more support.

  • Anonymous

    I agree – it happens to me all the time. I have write the comment, then copy it to the clipboard because I know it won't take the first three times. I also have to block "no pop-up" windows. Something is really fucked-up here.

  • Carson Reeves

    I do plan to move the website over at some point, but it's a big operation and I don't have time at the moment. I do apologize for the stupid commenting situation. I'm not entirely sure it's the code because people were having the same problem with the old – and simple – layout. I think it's just crappy Blogger. In the meantime, for those of you having trouble posting, try posting as anonymous or posting with a different browser. That might help.

  • Anonymous

    Damn, lost my entire comment.

    Gist, unbelievable characterizations, the little girl was THREE and they dropped her off at school? Even if it was pre-school she'd be checked in, and the baby talk ended when the writer forgot how old she was, and went to ballet lessons yada yada.

    Typos bugged me, details, the Judge went to Brad then back to Judge, I saw the twist a MILE away, that one comment did it. Glad you posted spoilers but I figured this one out and I never figure anything out. Thanks again for posting these newer scripts, Carson. Great site.

  • Anonymous

    what happened to reviewing 'Conviction' and 'Brooklyn's Finest'

  • Carson Reeves

    Been a little busy this week. Have to resort to posting from my backlog. Conviction possibly Friday though. BF will have to be next week. E-mail me and I'll send you a copy if you want to read it early (BF – not Conviction).

  • Anonymous

    *** BEWARE, SPOILERS. ***

    I think the idea of the story told in backward scenes is not a bad one, but maybe it has been already done?

    Small oddities in the script or things not quite clear could be easily taken care of — Ed Jr. killing? Some characters could be improved I think — the banker? Chris? Ed. Jr? [We never see him.]

    What about rising the stakes [at times I got the feeling that the characters are a bit too much static.]

    What about having the opening scene in which Zeke and Andy are seen [not Steph yet] together?

    Then the shot. So one is lead to think it is Zeke who shots his brother.

    Agreed with Carson that the author leads us to thing that Zeke is a good guy — food scene / scenes with Andy's daughter.

    What about adding a scene amidst the lake? The lake is in the title, after all. What about having Steph drop someone's corpse [Ed's, but we do not know it's him, because he's in a bag] in the lake?

    M.

  • Jim Endecott

    As for comments…

    I type in a letter, select an account then hit preview. That reloads the page with my signed into my account.

    As for the story…

    I would argue that Zeke was and still is a good guy. He didn't want the money. He wanted revenge and the turds that did him wrong got it. Besides, "…all the money is federally insured so why do I care?…" Oren dropped hints that Zeke was indeed still a good guy.

    Some of the early dialogue took me out of the story but I forged ahead and I think the plot took over.

    Reed was hilarious, a young John Goodman would have rocked that role.

    I caught on around page 100 but it was still a good ride.

    Well done.

    -Jim

  • Anonymous

    I gotta say, I loved reading this script. I thought it was entertaining as hell. Really funny and the told in reverse structure made it really fun to read. Sure, I did have a few issues with a couple of things. Mainly the very last scene. Zeke should have killed his own brother. It's a cop out to have Steph do it. There were a couple of other things, but really a solid read. Best script I've read in a long time.

  • Josh Floyd

    finally got around to reading this one. I thought it was a pretty good script, and I liked the concept of working backwards.

    But could someone explain the whole penis thing. I don't remember reading why the Judge had to have a missing penis.

  • davidmelkevik

    Not as impressed with the script as Carson but I did think it was pretty solid with interesting characters and a backwards narrative that really adds to the story. I did see the twist coming though as I thought that one line Zeke says about he had a child once was a total giveaway.

    More importantly regarding the "missing penis", I may be wrong but I don't it was actually missing. It was just tucked firmly in between his legs like in Silence of The Lambs when Buffalo Bill dances around the room in his skin cape.

  • Josh Floyd

    ok, but why did it have to be tucked? I don't know. It seems like it was just done to have another laugh from the two Feds.

  • Anonymous

    Testing to post a comment… This never seems to work… Why??

  • Anonymous

    Ahhh… Hates firefox but likes Explorer.

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