Shorts Week Continues: Welcome to Day 4 of Shorts Week, where I cover 5 short scripts from you guys, the readers. Shorts Week was a newsletter-only opportunity. To sign up and make sure you don’t miss out on future Scriptshadow opportunities, e-mail me at the contact page and opt in for the newsletter (if you’re not signed up already). This week’s newsletter went out LAST NIGHT. Check your spam folder if you didn’t receive it. If nothing’s there, e-mail me with subject line “NO NEWSLETTER.” You may need to send a second e-mail address.

Genre: Drama/Thriller
Premise: A sinister man on a bus receives a powerful valentine from a little girl.
About: Today’s short has already been turned into a short film.  It was submitted by longtime commenter, Jaco.
Writer: Rob Burke
Details: 2 pages


So far we’ve read a strong animated short, a strong CGI-heavy short, and a live-action script which I used as an example of what not to do in the shorts medium. What we haven’t read yet is a short that we can actually COMPARE to the finished project. Well that’s going to change today. We’re not only going to read a short, but we’re going to see what it looks like on the big screen (or your small screen).

I actually saw this short before I read it. Rob tweeted it to me a few months ago. I thought it was good. Nothing earth-shattering. But something you remember. And in a world filled with mostly forgettable stuff, that’s saying something.

It was interesting, then, going back and reading the script, because there were some key differences between the two. Those differences are worth discussing as they had more of an effect on the final product than I think Rob knew.

“Love” begins with a man, 38, wearing a backpack, waiting for the bus. This isn’t a friendly fellow. He isn’t the kind of guy you’re going to invite to your son’s Bar mitzvah. He’s a mean looking dude. Nervous, too. He’s clearly up to something.

He wasn’t always this way though, as a quick flashback shows. He once had a wife, a baby boy. He was once happy.

The bus arrives. It’s full. This seems to bring satisfaction to the man. Once on the bus, he sits down, takes a look around. Lots of people, going about their daily lives. Another flashback. More time with his family. A little girl across from him breaks him out of his trance with three simple words: “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

She offers the man a valentine, a little red heart with the word “love” on it. The man takes it reluctantly, bringing a smile to the girl’s lips. But he’s still got a job to do. He stuffs his backpack under the seat and slips out the door at the next stop.

Another flashback – the aftermath of some sort of explosion. His family has been killed. Devastation. Fear. Anger. As he watches the bus drive away, he pulls out a phone – HIS DETONATOR. The valentine slips out of his pocket, floats in front of him. One more look at the phone. Should he press it? Just as he’s about to, he changes his mind, throwing the phone away instead.

Now let’s take a look at how the movie turned out…

As you can see, there were some key differences. First, the bus was changed to a subway. I’m guessing this was done because it was easier to shoot, but it ended up being a better decision. There’s something scarier about this happening underground in a subway setting.

The flashbacks have also been eliminated. I’m guessing this was also a budgetary decision, but this really hurt the short in my opinion. Those flashbacks are the only way into our main character’s head. And in this case, they told us a ton. They told us he used to be happy, that somebody was responsible for the death of his family, and therefore this is probably payback. It’s not that we WANT this guy to succeed, but we at least understand why he’s doing what he’s doing.

The next change was a creative one, and I think it really hurt the film. In the script, the girl gives a Valentine only to him. In the film, he looks around to see that she’s given a Valentine to everyone. I don’t know what this choice was supposed to achieve but the way I saw it was that he wasn’t special. Her desire to give him a Valentine basically meant nothing since everyone else got one as well. In the script, this moment was much more special. It meant something because she targeted only him. Combined with the flashbacks to his family, it shows a man who’s able to feel again, which is likely why he didn’t pull the trigger in the end.

The final big change is the ending. In the script, he doesn’t pull the trigger. In the movie, it’s open. We see him hovering over the detonator and cut to black before a decision is made. To be honest, I don’t have an opinion either way on this. I don’t know if that’s good or bad but as long as he didn’t blow that cute little girl to bits, I’m okay with it.

So how does “Love” hold up overall? Well, here’s what I took away from it. First, it’s possible to tell a big story in a very short period of time. This script was just 2 pages long. TWO PAGES! And in that time, a LOT happened. We had a guy waiting for the bus. We saw moments from that character’s past. We had him get on a bus. We had him making a connection with a little girl. We had him leaving a bomb on the bus. We had him getting off the bus and trying to decide whether to detonate the bomb. That’s over 4 locations in 2 minutes!

Compare that to a lot of these shorts I’ve been reading that just seem to go on forever in the exact same location with very little (to no) progress in the plot. “Love” teaches you how much you can do in a very short amount of time.

Having said that, there’s something missing for me. I’d probably still give it a passing grade because Rob fit such a big story into such a small package, but ultimately the stuff that happened on the bus was too muddled. In the script, I’m not entirely sure what happened to the protagonist’s family. I think that’s important to know. And in the movie, I’m not sure why you’d give everybody in the bus a Valentine instead of just our protag. While watching that moment, I thought for sure there was some bigger meaning to what was happening. But then I realized it was just…he’s one of many people who got a Valentine. Because I couldn’t figure out what the intention was of that decision (it looks like it’s supposed to make him happy seeing all these valentines, yet logic would tell us that the opposite should happen), I had to dock it a few points.

So a solid effort, but I feel that Love had the potential to be something much bigger.

Script link: Love

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

What I learned: Just showing a character’s reaction to things isn’t enough, especially in a short, where we don’t have any time to get to know the character. We need a way into their head. We saw this Tuesday with “Tigers.” Emma had Hobbes to talk to, which allowed us into her thoughts. And we actually saw it here in the script, with the flashbacks. However, once those flashbacks were erased for the final film, you saw how difficult it was to know anything about the protag or what he was thinking.

  • Poe_Serling


    What a page count! I stopped reading this after the first ten words…

    Oh, I’m just kidding.

    A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to read Rob’s awesome script and see the finished short film on the 50 Kisses film site. It was a rewarding glimpse into the whole script to screen
    process… even with a short project like Love. Definitely worth checking out.

    To be perfectly honest, I actually watched the film with Keith Popely on a lazy afternoon… and I’m pretty sure he still owes five bucks for the popcorn and soda.

    Per the SS newsletter…

    A big congrats to the promotion of Carson’s ‘lady friend’ to Mrs. Scriptshadow. So, I guess, it’s
    goodbye lair and hello paranormal pad.

    • carsonreeves1

      lol. yes, she got a big promotion. :)

    • Michael

      He called her Missus, but I her Beyonce singing Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It):

    • Jaco

      Ten words! ;)

      Appreciate you taking the time Poe. Cheers.

    • Keith Popely

      LOL. Good to see you powered through the entire script, Poe. And I make it a habit to always “forget” my wallet. So thanks for ponying up for popcorn.

      Continuing with my week-long policy of disagreeing with Carson, I’m going to say that I think it was a wise decision to eliminate the flashbacks. I think the character is much better explored WITHOUT knowing the specifics of his story. His reaction to the girl tells me worlds about the man. I imagine that he has children in his own family, whom he knows. That he’s not a demented monster, but has rational reasons for doing what he’s doing. The specifics LIMIT his story. Not having flashbacks opens up his character and allows me to fill in the blanks myself, as the viewer.

      And that’s where this is an important point about writing in general: the more we can leave to the viewer’s imagination the better. A consistent analysis of JAWS is that the movie works better because we DO NOT see the “monster” (until late in the film). And I’ve always said that what’s great about J.K. Rowling’s writing is how few details she provides about her world. Go back and re-read a few pages of a Harry Potter book and note how spare her writing is.

      It’s a delicate balance, but the writing needs to give us enough to know what the story is and who the characters are, but without overdoing it. Without being too specific. A story that sparks the viewer’s imagination is much more powerful. Like someone mentioned in the comments recently, the first MATRIX holds up the idea of a promised land called “Zion.” We never see it, so we are free to imagine what it is for ourselves. But in the second and/or third film, we do get to see Zion and it’s hugely disappointing. It’s not that the filmmakers did a bad job with depicting it, it’s that what they present could never match up to what we had in our imagination.

      At any rate, with all due respect and credit to Jaco, I think this is one instance in which the final film actually elevated the script. But that’s the beauty of this business: it’s collaborative. The writer brings an idea to the table and the director improves on it, then the actors bring their own ideas and the editors, VFX folks and composers bring their ideas. One idea is good. But together, all these ideas make something much better. Choclate chips are good. Chocolate chip cookies are great.

      • Poe_Serling

        Some great comments and examples, especially in regard to ‘the more we can leave to the viewer’s imagination the better.”

        Debt… paid in full.

        • Keith Popely

          Thanks. But let’s change the line to “The more we can engage the viewer’s imagination the better.” What say you?

          • Poe_Serling

            It works for me.

        • klmn

          I agree, up to a point. But to build suspense, a viewer superior strategy works better.

          • Todd Walker

            I disagree, I wanted to see the flashbacks. Not all movies/scripts should lack flashbacks. They should be used sparingly but there are plenty of films/scripts where flashbacks only added to the enjoyment of it. And even if this didn’t have flashbacks give us a little more to show us what’s behind that tortured look on his face. Yes, the heart changed him, but why in the short?

      • Jaco

        Appreciate the thoughts Keith. I like your cookie analogy.

    • Mb

      So Poe, does Carson send you a heads-up email right before he posts his review so you can be the first to comment? Or are you just more on top of things than the rest of us?

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey Mb-

        The whole process is kinda complicated… I tried to explain it a couple of weeks ago… two tin cans, some very long string…

        Ahh, I give it up. Perhaps Carson can chime in with all the specifics of how
        it really works. ;-)

  • Citizen M

    Do not accept a cutout heart from Hannibal Lecter.

  • Dan Sarf

    Very nicely shot – particularly the opening – but it definitely needs the would-be bomber’s heartbreaking back story for us to care IMO. Maybe there is another way of telling it? Through remembered sounds maybe? His voice telling his wife and child to wait… the sound of the bomb going off… a newspaper headline, something like that? Don’t know if it would work but it would be cheap to try. Quite liked the girl handing out Valentine hearts to everyone – her innocent joy of life – and why would she just select the bomber anyway? But I much preferred the scripted ending where he makes a decision and bins the detonator. That was the whole point, I thought. Didn’t miss the “all the other bombs have been defused” end scene. Not really credible. And, to me, the story is over when he abandons his mission.

    • Mb

      Good point about the sounds! That would have been a more budget-minded way of giving some backstory, which I feel was missing. Also agree with you about the other three bombs from the script. I am glad that part was cut. It’s better to think that “MAN” was acting alone instead of part of a group.

  • Matty

    Good point, however it does strip it of uniqueness in terms of his character. So while it makes more sense that he accepted it, it makes less sense that it had such a profound effect on him. Something easily could have been written such that it makes sense for him to accept it, but he’s still the only one that gets one.

  • Matty

    I’ll also add, re: the ending… in the script, the news report says that officials were alerted about FOUR busses with bombs on board. What this means is more consequential than in the film (which, as far as we know, is the single subway car). In the script, it means the girl touched him so much that he diverted four different bomb explosions… not simply the one that the girl was on. As it is, not only do we not know what happens, though I would argue the final images actually make it clear he doesn’t push the detonator, it means that potentially he decided against it simply to not kill the little girl. I just think the four separate busses (or subway cars) would’ve been more powerful. Especially if it had the flashbacks, showing us why a little girl could touch him so much.

  • Matty

    Agreed that in the written draft it could’ve provided more original insight (and just more insight period). Disagree about surmising (in this case). Yes, I too love films where it is never explicit what happened in their past (the film SHAME is a great example – in that film, Fassbender and Mulligan were clearly damaged as child siblings, but we’re never told why… a very good thing, imo)… but here, for this Man to be anything more than a shell or vehicle with the intent of bombing a subway train, we need to see something, just a sliver, of what brought him here. In a script and story this lean, it wouldn’t take or need much (it didn’t in the script). Originality of the script’s insight aside, at least it was an insight…

  • klmn

    Take a look at the ad for Carson’s book, with him (presumably) holding Scriptshadow Secrets. Now take another look at the short with the guy in the hoody. It’s Carson.

  • Will Vega

    The script was good, though the flashbacks were too incoherent. I was also puzzled as to why he would be targeting buses (or in this case subways) when his family was presumably killed in the same type of accident? I dunno, maybe I read it wrong.

    It’s a good idea though. Decent short film.

  • JNave

    I love that you used a script-to-screen example. I’m finishing up my first production myself and it’s been an adventure staying true to the script. Nice, powerful script for 2 pages. For the film (I agree, not as good as the script), I think some backstory could be told without breaking the bank just by showing him in a flashback with his happy family, then showing him miserable and alone in the present. I agree with mjr’s assessment of why everyone had a valentine. That’s what I thought too.

  • gazrow

    My own interpretation of this particular draft (though I could be wrong) is that the MAN is a terrorist. He is part of a four man terrorist cell intent on wreaking havoc on London’s buses – in this respect the script mirrors the devastating 7/7 attacks.

    As such, we do not need the flashbacks to understand his motivation for the attack because he is a terrorist!

    As regards the ending, the little girl giving him the Valentine card touches him so much, that not only does he decide not to detonate his bomb, he also tips off the authorities regarding the imminent attacks by his fellow terrorists thus preventing the attacks.

    • Matty

      He’s a terrorist only by the definition that blowing up a bus full of people makes you a terrorist. He isn’t some kind of life-long terrorist, though. He had a family who died, presumably, in an explosion. He’s not like one of the guys that flew into the Trade Center; in United 93, for example, those guys are portrayed as terrorists and nothing more. But this Man is more than that – he was once a family man, turned to this now, FOR A REASON. We need to know that reason so that he’s more than a monster.

      And yeah, I agree about the ending; didn’t say anything to the contrary.

      • Citizen M

        The story isn’t about the man. It’s about love. So we don’t need to know anything about him.

        Maybe he’s bad-tempered because he’s got a toothache. Or he’s been refused treatment for cancer. Or he’s extorting money from the subway authorities. Or he hates the smell of commuters. Whatever. It makes no difference to the central question whether we are sympathetic towards him or not. The question is, is love powerful enough to prevent an evil deed?

        You’ll have to make up your own mind on that.

        • Matty

          Yes, it’s about love. What were the flashbacks about? Love.

          I’m not talking sympathy. I don’t think you can make sympathetic a person about to blow up a bus/subway car. I’m talking empathy (i.e. understanding). What this does is make the payoff – that love can prevent such an evil deed – more powerful and plausible. As it is, I didn’t feel nearly the catharsis or satisfaction in the final product that I did in the script.

          I’m not saying you need some kind of 5 page backstory on the guy. I’m saying the flashbacks – the terse and concise flashbacks – resulted in a more potent story and thematic resonance.

        • Jaco

          You nailed it Martin – that’s the exact question that started this whole thing off for me.

        • Keith Popely

          You can’t ask or answer any of those questions without knowing about the man. A man who grew up viciously beaten every day has a different understanding of love than a man who grew up with a doting mother. There is no story about love or any other general concept without specific, individual characters.

          • Citizen M

            Good point. Love is individual, and not everyone reacts to it the same way, as people who adopt neglected orphans discover.

            But in this short the actor conveyed that the character was a bit conflicted about his actions, so I think we can assume a certain minimum of humanity in him without knowing the details.

      • gazrow

        “He had a family who died, presumably, in an explosion”

        Purely conjecture on my part, but I interpreted it as his family were killed in an allied air strike and so that was his motivation for becoming a terrorist. But it’s all hypothetical anyway.

        As Citizen M aptly put it: “The story isn’t about the man. It’s about love.”

    • Matty

      Of course, however, in the actual film (not the script) you could view him as merely a terrorist. But in talking script to screen, that’s not what he was, and I don’t think what Rob intended him to be. I’m willing to bet Rob stripped the flashbacks because of budget and if he’d had the budget to do it, he would’ve kept them.

  • gazrow

    Nice little short, Rob. It packs a mean punch. Congrats!

  • ThomasBrownen

    Nice short. Congrats Jaco!

  • david_pg

    It’s difficult to achieve more in less pages. Nice piece of work.

  • GYAD

    Well, that was short but sweet. Indeed, in some ways the perfect short. It could have been longer, there could have been more depth to the events, it could have delved deeper into its protagonist’s past…but it didn’t need to. Short, sharp, sweet and memorable. Looking forward to tomorrow’s script.

    I’ll also ask again – I won’t lie, especially now I know my script didn’t make it – if we can have a post on Saturday where everyone who submitted but didn’t get chosen can post a link to their short for others to read and discuss. I’ve heard of one or two shorts by other members of the SS nation that I’d like to read and I’d be interested in feedback for my own (failed) short.

    • Poe_Serling

      “…if we can have a post on Saturday where everyone who submitted but didn’t get chosen can post a link to their short for others to read and discuss… ”

      Sounds like a great idea. I got a peek at gazrow’s short script PSYCHOtherapist – and it’s a wild ride from start to finish.

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        Yep, same here, really liked Gazrow’s script :-)

        I’d also like to read more of these shorts so Carson, if you’re up to it…

        • Poe_Serling

          Hey MZG-

          Happy to see you back!!! … I thought you might be coming this site’s Punxsutawney Phil. :-)

        • gazrow

          “really liked Gazrow’s script”

          Thanks Marija. Good to see my favorite ZombiGirl back!

      • gazrow

        “I got a peek at gazrow’s short script PSYCHOtherapist – and it’s a wild ride from start to finish.”

        Thanks for the kind words, Poe! Certainly lessens the disappointment of my short not being selected!

      • klmn

        All 1000+ submissions? Cool.

        • carsonreeves1

          I might be up for this.

    • gazrow

      “if we can have a post on Saturday where everyone who submitted but
      didn’t get chosen can post a link to their short for others to read and
      discuss. I’ve heard of one or two shorts by other members of the SS
      nation that I’d like to read and I’d be interested in feedback for my
      own (failed) short.”

      Great suggestion! I’d be more than happy to give you feedback on your short if Carson agrees to us posting a link on Saturday.

      • GYAD

        Thanks. I’d love to hear what you think about it.

        • gazrow

          Don’t think Carson’s gonna bite. Happy to swap scripts if you’re up for it? My email is gazrow at hotmail dot com

        • MWire

          Your comments and critiques are always at least [x] worth the read. So in return, I’ll gladly to take a look at your short script.

          You too gazrow.

          michaelawire at g mail dot com

  • MWire

    Nicely done. I’m impressed.

    I have to disagree with Carson that the changes in the movie made for a weaker story. Leaving the motivations of the ‘bomber’ ambiguous let us use our imaginations and insert our biggest fears. In the script the ‘bomber’ had lost his family. Why would that motivate anyone to kill innocent people? Not realistic. Unless it was some kind of complicated “You killed mine, now I’m going to kill yours.” deal (which wasn’t shown) it doesn’t strike the right emotional note. Death of loved ones seems to be a ‘one size fits all’ motivation for way too many stories. It’s a flimsy excuse at best.

    As far as the multiple Valentines, having everyone get a heart just emphasized how much love that this child had to give. The bomber could still feel special. The little girl made a special effort to write ‘love’ on his. But the point made was that you shouldn’t blow up good people. Not, don’t blow up people that suck up to you.

    Well done Rob.

    • Bella_Lugossi

      Nice explanation for the multiple hearts. And most of the terror is in the fact that we don’t know and can’t grasp why people do these things – at random. Good call.

    • Jaco

      Cheers – great comments – I like your thoughts on the multiple Valentines.

  • Kevin Lenihan

    I read this last night without seeing the film. What stood out the most to me was how effective the the writing style was. The two page limit, which was probably for a contest, really forced the writer to use concise phrases and impactful words. It was extremely well done. It would be a real pleasure to read a feature done in this style.

    Also seemingly influenced by the page restraint, the script was written in sharp images. So it was more than just the descriptive words chosen, but the images the writer limited himself to. Again, very effective. Usually when I read shorts that are written to a contest page limit, the style is utilitarian, but too much so. Something is lost. Here, the limit forced the writer to think in sharp images, and something was actually gained.

  • Jaco

    First off – thanks Carson for the read and review. I also want to say thanks to anyone who takes the time to read the script and/or watch the film. Really appreciate anyone who takes further time to comment, good or bad. Needless to say, it’s very cool seeing what people think about your work and how they interpret things.

    Thought I’d provide a little bit of context and commentary here on “Love”.

    As Martin posted below, this short was part of the 50 Kisses project that was run through the London Screenwriters’ Festival. If you are interested at all in what that is – you can read all about it on their site: For those of you who haven’t heard of it, 50 Kisses is a competition that had three phases. The end goal was to be able to create a feature length film via crowdsourcing.

    First, the short script phase. The restrictions were that the script could be no longer than 2 pages (I think my first draft with this was around 5 or 6 pages). The script had to be set on Valentine’s Day. The script had to involve a kiss. If you look around on the site, you’ll see there were more than 1800 scripts sent in covering just about every genre. Sci-fi, zom-com, drama, period piece, fantasy, etc. The 50 Kisses crew then combed through all the script and selected 50 shorts as “winners” – “Love” was one of those.

    The second phase was putting up those scripts and allowing anyone in the world to read them and provide any sort of commentary. The producers of the overall film also provided notes. The idea being that the writers could digest the feedback and offer up revised scripts based on the feedback. You can see how that process went with “Love” here:

    I ended up writing two different revised drafts that reflected suggestions that I thought might help attract a no/low budget filmmaker. As I mentioned on the 50 Kisses site, one version takes away the specificity of time/place and has an ambiguous ending, the other version takes away the specificity of time/place, removes the flashbacks, focuses a little more on the passengers in the bus, and has an ambiguous ending.

    After putting of the revised drafts, it was just a matter of sitting back and waiting – waiting to see if there was anyone out there willing to turn my script into a film.

    I had a couple bites, including one exchange on twitter with a London-based director who was somewhat interested, but had recently done a short featuring a little girl and a bus stop. You can see that short here:

    When I saw the actress in this film I immediately thought she would be perfect for the Little Girl in “Love”. But, I’m on the West Coast in the States, she’s in London. Oh well.

    There wasn’t exactly a stampede of filmmakers knocking down my door to make my short – and in hindsight, I can see why. Subject matter, location, cost, child actor – all things that might turn off filmmaker looking to make something on the cheap.

    Finally, I did hear from a filmmaker. And he was in London to boot. And it turned out he knew the little girl and cast her in the film. We had a nice email exchange about changing the location to the tube (because of cost and ease of filming). I thought it was a brilliant idea.

    So, that was that. A couple months later, I finally saw the finished product and was blown away by what I saw. Mostly because it was the first time I had seen something I had written get turned into a film – but also because I felt it captured a lot of what I had envisioned in the moving pictures in my little brain.

    The third step in the process was to open up the films for commentary and give the filmmakers a chance to edit the shorts based on feedback from the community and the producers. You can read how that went with “Love” here:

    So the last step in the process was for the producers of the 50 Kisses project to choose the best of the 50 films and put together a full length feature. This feature was supposed to include a film from each of the 50 scripts. For various reasons, which I won’t go into here, that’s not going to happen. A full length feature is going to be made – just not with all the scripts. I have no idea if “Love” is included in the final product – won’t know probably for another couple weeks or months. Irregardless, it’s been a fun ride and definitely gave me some much needed energy to tackle a couple full length feature scripts that I’m hoping we’ll all be talking about in the near future. ;)

    I’ll parse through the comments and offer responses if there are any questions – or just feel free to hit me up with any questions in response to this post.



    • Matty

      Congratulations on the project – both the contest and finding a director who wanted to make it, that ain’t easy. I think the director did a fine job with the revised draft of the script. Well-shot, well-framed, editing is great, love the little girl.

      If I can ask – why did you end up going with the version that removed the flashbacks? Did the director prefer that, or did you? Also, why did you decide to have an ambiguous ending in both rewrites? Apologies if these are answered in the links, I’m going to check those out now.

      Anyway, congrats on it all! Think it turned out very well; good production value, good concept, never tries to be more than it should. Best of luck with future endeavors!

      • Jaco

        The ambiguous ending was the director’s choice. I chose the ambiguous ending in the two rewrites based on the feedback I was getting – it seemed at the time that it provided the story a better chance at getting made.

        Thanks for the kind words!

        • Matty

          Yeah I just read some of the feedback on the site. Seems like some people liked the ambiguous ending. I liked the ending in the script, but on the other hand, I also like the open-ended question: can love change this man’s actions?

          • Jaco

            Yep – that’s kind of what’s at the heart of the story. I still remember where the idea came from – I woke up one morning in July and had a question in my head about how powerful love could be. Then the image of a little girl handing a bad man a valentine appeared and it sort of went from there.

    • Bella_Lugossi

      I like the new ending, but I agree with Carson that handing out the heart to just The Man would have been more powerful. Was that changed for believability? “She’s is just a little girl, handing these out – this could really happen?”

      Also: the girl and her mother holding up the back-back when the train leaves. That wasn’t in the script. It did pack an extra dramatic punch this way.

      All in all, very insightful! The script, the filmmaker(s), the proces and the film are all here. Pretty cool. :]

      Oh, and the flashbacks: I didn’t miss them at all. The image of the girl’s face in the tunnel was already too much for me in that department. The actor’s face told quite a bit. (but I read the script first, so I know already. The reverse Carson so the speak.)

    • Mb

      Thanks for posting about the process. It was fun to read and watch (and analyze) all within about a half hour!

    • JWF

      congratulations on the short mate, was tempted to enter 50 kisses myself but couldn’t find the time.

  • Jaco

    Yes. But then it comes to mean something more after he takes it and has a brief interaction with the girl and sees the girl with her mom.

  • Xarkoprime

    I know very little about the short genre, so I haven’t posted at all this week, just been taking notes.

    I really liked the video. 3 minutes and it displayed a pretty clear message in a powerful way. I didn’t read the script. No excuse, I just think it would throw me off my feature reading.

  • JakeBarnes12

    I watched the short first, then read the script.

    Maybe I’m just slow, but watching the short I didn’t figure the guy was planting a bomb until just before he got off the subway. So for me, this was a lot of shots of a guy looking squirrelly while taking a metro ride. Which meant that even though it was short, I was just marking time waiting for something to happen.

    Surely there would have been much more tension if we’d known he had a bomb with him the whole time?

    However, once he got off the subway, I was engaged and felt genuine tension, which was increased by the sound engineering of the train disappearing into the tunnel — I’ll bet a lot of work went into that (also credit my top-of-the-line Sennheisers!).

    So as a finished product, the film needed to establish what this guy was up to earlier to provide tension from the get-go. The valentines thing is a toss-up; I get Carson’s point, but also the idea that everyone on the train is special, is deserving of love.

    The cut-away on will he push the button? That’s just a cheat. If you have a twist, great. Cut away before finishing the story, you got nothin’.

    As for the written script, we don’t need the flashbacks, just what he’s carrying. We’re not morons, like a certain president; we know terrorists are made and not born.

    We also don’t need the four bombs idea; it distracts us from the immediacy of the current situation, the choice here and now.

    Overall, great exercise in seeing the transition from script to screen and how visuals and sound are so important. By the way, the little girl was great — could have been cloying without the right actress, but it really worked.

    So overall, big congrats Jaco for a professional-looking short that packed a punch at the end.

    • Jaco

      Thanks Jake – appreciate the comments – some good points.

  • peisley

    I liked this film. It would be interesting to have a day or two of just what people went through to get their short films made on things like funding, casting, logistics, cameras, etc.

  • GYAD

    I liked that. Not sure I quite get the symbolism of the beard (reflecting internal conflict with the Roissy lifestyle?) but it’s an unusual image that sticks with you.

    The only thing I’d criticise is the exorbitant size of the action paragraphs. I think it would have been better to break them up in more, shorter paragraphs, even if that did increase the page count.

  • besch64

    The fact that everybody receives a Valentine in the movie as opposed to only the man receiving one in the script changes the meaning of the story totally: instead of abandoning his plan because he realizes that he himself is still capable of being loved (as in the script), he now possibly abandons his plan because he realizes it would be wrong to kill a person so capable of loving (as in the movie).

    With this change, the focus of the story shifts from the man discovering value in himself to the man discovering value in somebody else. This is supported by the elimination of the flashbacks, which obviously makes it less of a story of personal crisis. I also think the superimposition of the title “Love” over a crowd of people is hinting at the value of loving all fellow people unconditionally, an attribute that the little girl possesses and is recognized by the man.

    I wouldn’t say that these changes resulted in problems with the story or that it changed the story for the worse, it’s just different. That said, I don’t think the movie was shot in a way that very well supports the new material (the little girl should receive more camera time, and the man should receive less). But as far as I understand the contest that the script was entered into, that’s hardly the writer’s fault.

  • Mb

    I thought he didn’t notice that everyone had a Valentine until after he accepted it. I think he took it because it was the second time she tried to give it to him and he probably figured that (being a child and that’s how they are) she’d keep trying until he took it, and then once he did, she’d leave him alone.

  • MelanieWyvern

    As a script, this is by far my favorite short of the week’s offerings. I strongly agree with Carson on both counts:

    1) The girl should only give him the Valentine, not everyone. If she give it to everyone, it lacks that special touch. It makes it a generic gesture.

    2. The flashbacks should have been included.

    I still like the final version, but it’s so true — the script was orders of magnitude better.

  • ff

    Idea decent but execution could have been better. I like that there was no music though. Just the scene.

  • ChinaSplash2

    So let me just ask this —

    In the script, we see the MAN’s wife and child killed by a bomb.

    In consequence of that trauma, the MAN is now going to blow up a bunch of random strangers.

    Do you guys find that behavior psychologically plausible?

    • carsonreeves1

      I thought the idea was that his family was collateral damage in some kind of attack another nation made on his nation. Hence, he’s now coming to this country (the UK?) to do the same. However, this is just a guess. Like I said, the story was too vague in that sense.

      • Jaco

        Chalk that up, partially, to the two-page limit. I wanted closure to the story and that led to being only able to half-open the mystery box containing the true motivation’s behind the Man’s actions.

        Being limited only to two pages also saw the cut of a very memorable comic relief character – a talking human-sized gerbil that tries to sell The Man a three story condo on a newly discovered planet – Gerbilworld.

      • ChinaSplash2

        If you wanted specificity, then why not simply replace the generic cafe flashback scenes with, say, a Pashtun wedding party getting vaporized by a drone?

        • Jaco

          I guess another reason why there wasn’t specificity in the flashback scenes in the script was because I likely was thinking of ways to attract more filmmakers, i.e., the less specific about location, the broader reach for the script.

          In an early draft, I actually did have the location of the flashbacks being on Edgeware Road.

          • ChinaSplash2

            That’s a fair point.


            “The less specific about location, the broader reach for the script.” — Paradoxically, I think it actually works the other way round. Lack of specificity is not the same as universality. And vagueness is not your friend!

    • Jaco

      Great question – one I asked myself while writing this – also a question asked by a lot of people after they’ve read it.

      Here is an article I came across while looking into this question after I wrote the script:

      Basically – a suicide bomber motivated to kill by the death of someone close to her, but she changed her mind at the last minute.

      • ChinaSplash2

        Yeah, but in that story — as in countless other examples — the would-be suicide bomber was taking revenge on the citizens of an enemy state whose military had killed her friend. That makes perfect sense. But there was nothing like that anywhere in the script . Consequently, as Carson says, it was ‘too vague’.

        • Jaco

          Citizens of an enemy state – but random strangers all the same.

          Could I have spelled that out in this script? Maybe. But doing so may have left out other elements I found more crucial. No doubt it’s a tough row to hoe trying fit so much into such a tiny tiny little box.

          Irregardless, you, and Carson, and others, make a fair point for sure. The script and movie can appear vague vis a vis The Man’s motives. Works for some, doesn’t work for others.

          My “What I Learned” moment from this whole process was: It’s hard to get everything you want in a story in just two pages.

          • ChinaSplash2

            “Citizens of an enemy state – but random strangers all the same.”

            Dude, seriously, you think that doesn’t make a crucial difference?

            You think RAF bombers in WWII would have firebombed Coventry just as readily as they firebombed Dresden?

          • Jaco

            I hear what you’re saying. Looks like I’ve created a disconnect in the conversation. Sorry.

            You read the script and interpret it as the guy losing his family then blowing up complete strangers unrelated to the event that caused him to lose the family. Fair enough. Some people don’t want to guess about this point and want this spelled out better. Others get the connection. Nature of the beast, this writing.

  • Daniel Ofman

    This girl wrote “love” on the heart something she didn’t do for the others, that’s what made his heart special.

  • AstralAmerican

    Excellent job, Jaco. Shorts are extremely difficult to write, moreso than features in my opinion. I’ve written and filmed a few shorts and still couldnt get it right. So go figure I’ve had better success w/ a feature.

    Keep doing what you do, and looking forward to your next works… Even if we did disagree vastly on the TB about Story Of Your Life. ;)

    A.A. aka Shining1

  • Todd Walker

    For starters, that has to be the shortest screenplay I’ve ever read,lol. I found it to be very powerful indeed for such a short script. I especially liked the fact that her giving him the heart changed him in a blink of the eye. But the script is much better than the film. Granted in the film you see his tortured face but we don’t get to see that. Maybe in the film we could’ve seen something without the flashback , since they were adament about not using it, via something in the current. What if he took out a picture of his wife and on the back of it says, “I love you” from her. The flashbacks worked great in the script, so why not use it? That was perplexing. Other than that the action outweighed the dialogue, which shows you can use that in every scene of a script. Granted that’s a stylistic decision but it also makes for a fast read too. It also shows us you only have to use dialogue when necessary, not just to say “hello, how ya doing?”, which can be a bit boring, usually, in scripts. And pointless. But as far as dialogue goes there is no pointless dialogue here.

  • NYANGL23

    Liked the script better because it had flashbacks,but did not mind the little girl giving a valentine to everyone because I felt like that was a childlike thing to do. When I was this girls age you had to give one to the whole class or no one so that could be her frame of reference. Congrats on telling a good story in such a short page length!