Genre: TV Pilot – Sci-fi
Premise: In the future, after the elimination of the faulty “pre-crime” program, a veteran cop and a former member of the program team up to solve a murder… that hasn’t happened yet.
About: Max Borenstein has had the career path most writers dream about. Write a small script that makes the Black List. A couple of years later, write one of the biggest movies of the year (Godzilla), then get commissioned to write the sequel, then jump onto as many other high-profile pics as you can (Skull Island). But Borenstein got the memo. He knows that these days, if you want to buy that mansion in Hidden Hills, you gotta get into the TV game, and he’s doing so in a big way, attaching himself to one of the highest profile projects of the season – this sequel to the 2002 feature film of the same name. Minority Report will premiere later this year on FOX.
Writer: Max Borenstein
Details: 59 pages (Revised Second Network Draft) – Jan 8, 2015

screen better

I know you guys are all prepping for the Scriptshadow 250 Contest and therefore aren’t thinking much about pilots, but I’m telling you right now: Have some pilot ideas ready in case you win or place.  The great thing about winning this contest is that you’ll have access to someone in the industry that you already know likes your stuff.  So you should have ideas to pitch him if, or when, the time comes.  And who knows?  You could end up optioning another idea right then and there.  Even if that isn’t the case, you’ll likely get other meetings around town where you’ll want to pitch pilot ideas as well.  So don’t discount TV Pilot Tuesdays.

I still remember reading about the deal for Minority Report back in 2000. I thought to myself, “This has got to be the single greatest idea for a movie in history.” It was that high-concept hook every writer in town was looking for. A future where criminals were arrested for murders they hadn’t committed yet. And with Spielberg directing? And Tom Cruise starring? I’d been burned by high expectations before, but this felt expectation proof. How could the film go wrong?

Well, it did go wrong. Not in spectacular fashion. But watching that movie was an exercise in what could’ve been. In my opinion, the script made one enormous misstep. It took a very simple idea and complicated it. Murderers being arrested for murders they hadn’t committed yet? Genius! New-Age water-nymphs astro-projecting the future via tri-tandem mind links? Ehhh… not so much.

And yet I’ve never forgotten the film. Whether that’s because it left an impression on me or I’m still obsessed with what could’ve been, Minority Report remains an important film in the sci-fi universe. And for that reason, I couldn’t help but wonder what they were going to do with a Minority Report TV show. Maybe they were going to ditch the pre-cogs and go back to the core of the idea. Or maybe, with the extra time that TV provides, they would demystify our bathwater fortune tellers and actually give them purpose.

Lara Vega is a detective in the year 2065. That would be ten years after the “pre-cog” program went awry. For those who didn’t see the feature film, “pre-cogs” are special human beings blessed with the ability to see the future. The police used this power to predict murders and arrest the perpetrators before they could commit the crime.

But some high profile dude was using the program for his own gain so they had to go back to the old fashioned way of busting criminals – waiting until they killed someone and then using the evidence to catch them.

But what ever happened to those pre-cogs? Well, it turns out they’re quietly living amongst us. The problem is, their “gift” hasn’t gone away. They still see the future. But now, instead of helping, they must accept the horrible things they know will happen and ignore them.

Dash is one such pre-cog. And he’s trying hard to stick to the script. But lately, he’s been seeing a lot of murders, and he’s tired of standing by and doing nothing. So he decides to stop one. He gets there a fraction of a second too late, but runs into Lara in the process. After a little investigation, Lara realizes that Dash is a pre-cog.

Never one to play by the rules, Lara figures she can bring back the pre-crime program by herself. As in, she’ll secretly enlist Dash as her personal murder-predicting concierge. Since Dash is a water-nymph with all sorts of issues, he initially resists. But when he has a vision that the mayor himself will be killed, he decides to team up with Lara to save him.


Today I’m going to talk about something I don’t talk about much because it’s not related to story or character. But when the mistake is this egregious, I can’t ignore it. I’m talking about WRITING STYLE. Now usually when we talk about writing style, we talk about getting the most out of it – using it to bring the page to life – to show the world your voice (read any script by Brian Duffield to understand what this means).

But that’s only when you’re trying to write something edgy, stylistic or in-your-face. Most of the time when you tell a story, the goal of the writing is to be invisible. Yet for whatever reason, some writers become obsessed with choking their story with unnecessary style, killing any chance the story has at being enjoyable.

Now in small doses, style can be effective. Say you want to emphasize the sound of some nasty pipes inside a haunted house. Well then, CAPITALIZE THEM. Or maybe you want to describe an elaborate room full of eerie puppets in that same house. You might break protocol and write a couple of 6-7 line paragraphs so that you can lock the reader’s focus in. Or maybe you want to highlight a gun on the wall that will be used later by one of the characters. So you underline it.

Taken on an individual basis, all of these things are fine.

But they become a PROBLEM WHEN YOU start doing ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. This pilot was SO UNPLEASANT to read because every other page had a 7 line paragraph with tons of CAPITALIZED WORDS next to a bunch of italicized words followed by a bunch of underlined words. And let’s not forget all the………. ellipses………. and dashes ——– to make the read even more disjointed.

What really matters in writing is the story and the characters. But if the reader must go to war every time he reads a paragraph, he’ll never get a chance to appreciate either of these things.

I’ll never forget when a friend of a friend invited me to an LA Kings hockey game. This guy couldn’t stop bragging about his “floor level season tickets.” Okay, I thought, this should be fun. I get there, and the seats were right at the corner of the rink, where the glass is curved. It was like trying to see the action through a coke bottle. The final score was 2-1. By everybody’s account, it was an amazing game. But I didn’t see one minute of the action clearly. This is what reading Minority Report felt like.

Okay Carson. You’ve made your point. The writing was annoying. What about the pilot itself? Was THAT any good? Maybe the best way to answer that is to say it wasn’t bad. I mean, there’s a cool idea in here somewhere. A detective has herself her own personal future-murder detector. So each episode, I’m assuming, will entail learning about a future murder and Lara and Dash trying to prevent it from happening.

The problem is, I feel like we’ve seen this before. Wasn’t there that show on CBS a decade ago about a guy who gets tomorrow’s newspaper a day ahead of time? So he essentially finds out all the bad things that are going to happen and he must prevent them? And haven’t we seen variations of this idea a few times since then? Specific examples escape me, but my point is, the idea doesn’t feel very fresh. I mean heck, the film itself is 13 years old now.

The only unique aspect of the story is the pre-cog stuff, and as I stated earlier, that’s the stuff I was least interested in. But if you are a pre-cog fan, there’s a mystery subplot about where Dash’s pre-cog twin brother is. We later learn that he might be playing for the bad guys. That could lead to some interesting storylines.

But, unfortunately, Minority Report didn’t speak to me. It wasn’t the disaster TV remake that was 12 Monkeys or anything nuts like that. But there’s something missing here. A lack of freshness. Maybe they’ll find an awesome director with vision who can change that. I hope so. We’re in desperate need of some good sci-fi TV.

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

What I learned: The first commercial break (end of Act 1) is a HUGE MOMENT for a TV pilot. You’ve managed to get people to tune into your pilot because they’re intrigued. That’s a tremendous feat. But these days, they’re ready to turn you off at the first commercial break if you don’t deliver. That’s why, especially in a clever-concept-driven show like this, you want to end the first act with some clever twist/surprise. You need to make it IMPOSSIBLE for the viewer to turn your show off. This is where Minority Report runs into its first issue. During the entirety of the first act, we keep seeing Dash’s drawings of the killer he sees in his visions. So the end of the first act has him bumping into Lara and dropping his drawings. She picks them up, sees that he might know the killer. Cut to commercial break. – Was there anything clever or surprising about this? Sure, Lara’s never seen these drawings before. But we have. Several times, in fact. If you can’t come up with something exciting to hook us at the very first commercial break, why would we think you’ll be able to keep hooking us as the show goes on? You absolutely have to nail that first commercial break to prove to the viewer that your show is worthy of their time.

  • Patrick Sawyer

    So it’s like Person of Interest but in the future? They should at least detach from the case of the week format.

    • charliesb

      It’s FOX, so they won’t. After ALMOST HUMAN, I’m surprised FOX is willing to jump back into the serial “cop catches bad guys in the future game”.

      The story is so generic that they will have to just keep showing us cool “futuristic” gadgets and ideas to keep people interested, and when that stops working, they’ll shit can it. I guess they figured with the brand recognition they couldn’t lose. But if the success of “Empire” should have shown them anything it’s that people are looking for more “humanistic” stories.

      People seem to like Sci-Fi stories set around a group of people with very human problems, STAR TREK, LOST, BSG. Not cops running after criminals, week after week. I’ve already added MINORITY REPORT to my 2016 death watch list.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Great article, especially when it comes to the importance of act breaks in a TV Pilot. I have one I’ve been tossing at AOW to see if it can stick, and with today’s article I went back and revamped my act breaks to make sure they’re as strong as possible. Maybe this new draft will be the one to make it through to next Saturday, and I’ll be happier for it.

    Also, that show about the guy with tomorrow’s newspaper was called “Early Edition.”

    I only ever watched the pilot, but I occasionally think about it to this day. Talk about a great concept in wish fulfillment.

  • Andrea Moss

    I can’t avoid to question me what happens with all these unaired TV pilots that don’t pass the cut. Like Hieroglyph, The Vatican, Mission Control, or Emerald City, (I remember seeing a lot of advertising for this one in the last Comic-Con, with posters and decorated buses, so at least a whole season seemed a sure thing)… I mean, networks put a lot of effort and money in order to hire the biggest talents in this business for their shows, and they simply abandon the most promising pilots because what? A bad review by a focus group? Not enough hype? That’s crazy, man!

    • brenkilco

      Yeah. I want my Fox Force Five.

    • JR

      The old idea was to make a feature-length pilot, then if the series didn’t go ahead, you had a TV movie you could air and sell. EARTH 2, TIME BOMB, …AND MILLIONS WILL DIE and many, many more.

    • UrbaneGhoul

      In the case of Hieroglyph, previous head of Fox entertainment Kevin Reilly, dropped pilot season altogether and was picking up shows for 13 episode orders. Then he got demoted first, I think, and the people who replaced him looked at his shows and were like WTF, this show is a mess and very, very expensive like another failed Reilly show Terra Nova.

    • Nicholas J

      A successful TV show brings in mountains of money for a network. Pilots aren’t all that expensive to make (depending on the show) and so it’s worth it to film ten of them even if nine turn out to be complete duds, as long as one is a hit.

    • Eddie Panta

      They end up here on this website, well as long as they’re 50yrs old.

      Never before scene pilot tv episodes.

    • LV426

      We need a separate channel to air them. Dead Pilot TV (DPtv). The networks could sell ‘em off cheap to recoup some cost. Then the ones that get good ratings could become a new series on DPtv. Maybe have a website and app where viewers can rate these pilots and vote on what they’d like to see turned into a series or miniseries. Amazon basically does this. They put the pilot up on Prime Video, then let members watch it and rate it.

      DPtv could show both new and old music videos as well.

  • Bifferspice

    commercial breaks are the reason i feel no interest in writing for TV. what kind of artform gives any thought to commercial breaks for God’s sake?

    • Gregory Mandarano

      On the contrary, I think if you’re writing a feature, it’s a good idea to IMAGINE commercial breaks every so often. It forces you to put the beats of the story in perspective. Like Carson wrote yesterday about the Disruptor. If you aren’t having some turnabout and twists every so often, the script can come off as boring. If you’re worried about your audience changing the channel and fix the script to prevent that, it’ll ultimately serve to keep a reader more invested.

      • JR

        Agree. In Old Hollywood they were called WHAMMIES – a murder, a fight, a kiss, etc. every ten pages.

        TV adopted a lot of Old Hollywood ideas – contract players, outlining/treatments, whammies – and many of those ideas are still in TV today.

        • Gregory Mandarano

          Wait wait I’m confused.

          I thought we wanted BIG MONEY – and NO Whammies?

      • UrbaneGhoul

        Not necessarily thinking of commercial breaks when I do it, but when I write a feature I always look at making something happen every 10 or so pages.

      • Bifferspice

        still completely disagree, but it’s all semantics. if you need to think of commercial breaks to make your story interesting, then do so, but i don’t understand why you would. make your story exciting because it’s an exciting story. i won’t watch anything with commercial breaks in it.

    • Magga

      Write for HBO or Netflix, then

  • grendl

    Did I dream those Oscars?

    What a great night.

    I especially liked watching Dakota Johnson snap at her mother for not watching “Fifty Shades of Grey”. How cute and human a moment that was. ( did anyone ever show Dakota her mom’s lusty turn in “Body Double”?)

    And for those of you who hated or disliked “Birdman”, the public education system has failed you, or the people who raised you have failed you, or you suffer from ADD, or you’re just not that bright.

    Don’t argue about it. Own it. You’re not intelligent. You probably stand in line for Adam Sandler movies, and Transformer movies, and you’re the ones to blame for the current sad state of cinema, the lowest common denominator that Hollywood targets because you’re such gullible rubes you’ll buy anything.

    I don’t have to tell you why “Birdman” is a good film, because it’s self evident. If you watched it and couldn’t follow it, it’s because it didn’t follow the Popeye formula Save the Cat paradigm you’re used to. You probably actually thought there was going to be a supervillain in the film and grumbled when there wasn’t.

    It’s because you’re stupid. Don’t pawn your ignorance off on anyone else. And even if you’re not an Adam Sandler dolt, and think you’re some kind of cool rebel for liking “Nightcrawler ) ( I love the self proclaimed loners who attach themselves to one artistic vision and deride another just because they chose to, as if they’re the arbiter of cool. Fucking idiots. You’re not. )

    Now “Birdman” dealt with themes like ego, specifically the ego of the artist, which is paradoxical as an artists fate lies in the opinions of others and therefore can be both created or destroyed by others. One cannot build a bulletproof ego in art when Rotten Tomatoes can pin a 25% on your film and say it’s a piece of shit.

    And that’s Riggan Thompson’s conundrum, trying to feel relevant, important, in a world in which billions of people are trying to feel relevant. In a world where Carson Reeves is trying to feel relevant.

    And he couldn’t empathize with Riggan’s dilemma? I don’t buy it at all. He blogs daily to feel relevant and any comment to the contrary is a load of horseshit on his part.

    The troll who posts here under fifty different names a day is trying to seem relevant too. He pretends he doesn’t care what people think of him, but why would he bother changing names and hiding if he didn’t. He’s terrified people will find out his identity, and has embraced this sniper persona, attacking people relentlessly because he was attacked at some point in his life and is trying to reconcile his own feelings of powerlessness by becoming the anonymous asshole attacker.

    You’re all trying to be relevant in some way as am I. And that’s what “Birdman” was about, as well as the war between commercial and art, and other things.

    People who say they hated “Birdman” are allowed to have their opinions. But if your opinion is that it didn’t deal with themes like self esteem, and how one defines oneself ( or allows others to do it for them ) then you’re not very literate or bright. Because the movie clearly dealt with that. In fact, Emma Stone’s character calls her father out on that very thing.

    Maybe you don’t like to see such things in movies. Maybe watching Tony Stark punch CGI images is more your cup of tea. But that’s just a cartoon. If you’re over the age of fourteen and that’s all you demand from movies, or art, then you really have clung to prolonged adolescence for far too long. If that’s the extent of your intellectual curiosity, then you my friend are the problem and not the solution.

    Inarritu’s film is not perfect. It plays a little sloppy at the end, like free form jazz that just sort of dissipates with no clear coherent finale. Riggan’s fate seems to suggest the quest for perfection is a futile one, when in fact it isn’t. We’ve seen perfect movies for instance. Films like “The Godfather”, “Bull Durham”, “All the President’s Men”, “Young Frankenstein” are, in my opinion, perfect.

    The problem with “Birdman” is we don’t ever get a sense of Riggan’s dilemma. Is he a vastly talented actor or just some charlatan deluding himself he has the chops to make it on the stage, where real talent is king as opposed to on a movie set flanked by green screens and tennis balls on strings.

    We get a sense that he is supposed to be a talented actor when he fools Mike Shiner with the brief story about being hit by his father, so there’s that. But the movie could have used a scene on stage where Riggan really knocks it out of the park, if in fact he is as talented as Norton’s character.

    What makes the last scene on stage where he shoots himself with the real gun and bullet unsatisfying is we don’t know where he’s at emotionally or intellectually. Is he an unappreciated genius, or a hack who’s in over his head, and that’s my only problem with the film. The writer’s left just a little too much open area for interpretation.

    Is actually hurting yourself on stage an expression of real art? Art is not reality, its reality in a funhouse mirror. No one expects an actor playing Hamlet to actually kill the actor playing Claudius.

    I don’t know if Inarritu and the other three writers believe stage acting should be that real or not (even though Mike Shiner does apparently ) but Broadway would shut down in an hour if that were the case.

    But that didn’t detract from the great ride the movie was up until that point. It was riveting in the way it was shot, acted, paced, and I can’t say the same about “Boyhood”, or “Whiplash”, or “Foxcatcher”. There were times in those films where my attention began to drift, not because I have ADD but because of unnecessary scenes, or one too many cliches or the fourth wall was being shaken by the films’ self conscious attempts to seem important.

    “Boyhood” was redundant. I went through it. I don’t need to sit through and watch someone else go through that, where there is no subtextual thread. Everything was what it was.

    Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” was a far superior film. Number one it was entertaining from start to finish, it captured a specific time that was fun, it had HUMOR, it had depth. The series of events did not strike the same chord over and over again, and it created a feel of universality. This could be any high school, any students. “Boyhood” felt so specific, it felt claustraphobic and insular. “Dazed and Confused” presented so many archetypes, the audience was bound to empathize with one of them.

    “Breakfast Club”, “American Graffiti”, “Fast Times and Ridgemont High” these are all movies about a time in life when people are trying to find their identity. But they work because they show all kinds of different kids. “Boyhood” showed one kid and his sister. It wasn’t wide enough in scope to have any universal impact. It couldn’t transcend the bounds of its own personal story.

    “Birdman” did. And “Birdman” wasn’t dealing with teenage years, and all the different roads which are available during that time. The themes are different, and thus all those archetypal characters from school, the bully, the nerd, the jock, the basket case and prom queen have been sublimated to a great extent.

    And it will be remembered five years from now, unlike “The Artist” I think. Michael Keaton brought his own experience to the role, having been a superhero actor who turned down big bucks for the third installment and then was cast aside by the industry for a few decades, relegated to playing CGI snowmen and police captains.

    “Birdman” wasn’t a perfect movie. But it was good enough. “Under the Skin” should have been nominated alongside it, because that was close.

    In my humble opinion. You don’t have to agree with any of this. But this shit is subjective remember and contrary to what Hollywood and Madison Avenue have convinced you, you’re opinion is not objective truth. Nor is mine.

    Get over it. You’ll live a happier life.

    • mulesandmud

      One critic, I forget who, said that BOYHOOD is the kind of sincere work of art that Riggan wishes he could make. I think the critic meant it as a dig at BIRDMAN, but it cuts both ways, suggesting what a full character had been created.

      I wonder if BIRDMAN could have just ended with him on stage. He pulls the trigger, the curtain drops, the audience goes wild, the end. Too cute maybe, but the coda adds so little that I don’t see the harm in losing it.

      The other recurring thought I’ve had about the movie is that the camera should never have left Riggan’s side. Filming it as a continuous take only means something if that choice remains tangled in our hero’s mental state: we can’t see the cut between reality and fantasy because he can’t. When we leave Riggan to go have a scene between two other characters, the thought gets lost.

      Anyway, a great movie to discuss, and for that if nothing else it merits the win.

    • drifting in space

      You can state your opinion without calling everyone an idiot.

    • hackofalltrade

      Man, so much anger! I love Birdman AND I have ADHD. It kept my attention the entire time despite the “one long take” format, which frankly can be very difficult to do. In a world where MTV changes camera angles every 4 seconds(a real strategy) to keep audiences attention, Birdman should be commended on its originality alone. But I hardly think someone is “stupid” for not caring for it. Birdman, without a doubt, came in as my favorite movie this year. If it had nailed the ending, I enjoyed it so much it might have even edged into my top 10. But IMHO it didn’t unfortunately.

      Grendl, I think you love to hear yourself type. And you love to hear your opinions. And you love to see those upvotes pile up regardless of how nasty and insulting your tone.

      I for one, don’t. Quit calling people stupid for disagreeing with you. Please.

    • cjob3

      Eh, I liked Birdman but I don’t think the script is as smart as everyone thinks it is.

    • Nicholas J

      Man, why are all the Birdman fanboys so angry? You’d think the movie didn’t win anything.

      This is reason #127 why I’m not a big Oscar fan. It turns art into a competition. Can’t the films just stand on their own merits without having to be compared to each other? Birdman and Boyhood are two completely different movies. The success of one does not depend on the failure of another. This isn’t a sport.

      It’s like people who argue over which cell phone is better. No, you’re both wrong, because it’s a cell phone. If you like iPhone, buy one. If you like Galaxy whatever, buy one.

      If you like Birdman, cool. Good for you. It’s a good movie. But let others like Boyhood. You’re not superior just because a meaningless awards show says so.

      • brenkilco

        Birdman fanboys.

        That might just be the ultimate oxymoron.

        • LV426


          • Nicholas J


          • LV426

            I’m getting Birdlash from all this.

            I need to get back to my script, Chappie Nighthawk. It’s about an aerial drone that flies around at night filming violent crimes and auto accidents, then selling the footage to news outlets. I’m thinking Maggie Gylenhaal would be a great choice to do the voice of the aerial drone. We need more female robots in film.

    • FilmingEJ

      Hey, I’m an idiot and I loved Birdman! Take that Grendl!

    • Bifferspice

      Grendl, your thoughts on art and the artist are interesting and lead me to wonder if you’ve seen Synecdoche New York? If so, what did you think? One of the greatest films ever made on the relationship between an artist and his art, and the choices faced by anyone who wants to create. One of the greatest and most ambitious films I’ve ever seen is a directorial debut, for God’s sake, and he hits it out of the park. And it flops, making it almost impossible for one of the greatest writers of all time to get funding for any future projects. So a film about art might stop an artist making future art, due to nobody going to watch it (because it was one of those films, like the weather man, that gets marketed as a hilarious comedy, when it’s clearly anything but. marketing people fuck all sorts of films up by getting the wrong crowd in. i think it got called the smash hit comedy of the year or something. completely insane.

  • LiberalSkewer_SCPatriot

    Conventional wisdom should pan out on this one: What seemed like a fresh idea for a movie a dozen years ago simply doesn’t get the blood flowing for a 2015 TV series.

  • mulesandmud

    I have some issues with MINORITY REPORT, but the pre-cogs were never one of them.

    By making the future-predicting device into a person instead of just some gadget, the story found an interesting way to question the morality of its pre-crime premise. It also created a unique character to tag along with Tom Cruise – Agatha, a woman who can barely function because she can’t tell whether she’s in the past or the future.

    As for the TV show, the idea that the pre-cogs are being co-opted for private use is great; I’m betting that was the pitch. If the whole thing boils down a standard murder of the week format though, I have exactly zero interest.

    For those who are curious, the writer Max Borenstein talks about GODZILLA and how he got started here:
    He’s a young guy who fell backwards into writing blockbusters even though his personal tastes run very differently.

    I thought GODZILLA was more interesting than most people gave it credit for. It had great visual and thematic ideas, and was willing to take interesting chances. Among other things, you could feel the script actively rejecting the idea of a single protagonist, intentionally making its main character irrelevant or marginal to the plot.

    That ended up being frustrating because the script didn’t fill the void it created; it used that anti-protagonist strategy as an excuse to avoid building real characters. Instead of multiple protagonists, we got a handful of caricatures in orbit around a nonperson, and so the whole thing collapsed under the weight of the monsters.

    The lesson there shouldn’t be ‘don’t take chances’. Rather, take them, but realize that whenever you make a risky story choice, you’re obligated to deliver more and better material than you would have otherwise.

    If your big story twist is an excuse for you to do less work than you would have done otherwise, then you’re probably doing something wrong.

  • Brainiac138

    Out of curiosity, do most you still write your pilots with traditional act breaks? Maybe it is just the pilots I’ve had to read lately, or maybe they all have high hopes of getting on HBO, but it seems like more and more are leaving act breaks behind completely. I don’t know if either is write or wrong, unless there is a request for them from the network you are sending them to, I just wondered if it was a rookie thing, a cool new thing, or something else.

    • Nicholas J

      I write according to the type of network the show would air on. NBC, FOX, CBS? Absolutely I put in act breaks. AMC, F/X, Comedy Central? Same. Something like HBO or Netflix? Not so much.

    • Magga

      I know that on Mad Men they ignore act breaks and let AMC figure out where to put them. This has something to do with a large portion of the audience watching on netflix and DVD

  • Eddie Panta

    If there really was a pre-cog, oracle type, mutant human with the ability to see events well into the future they would be hired by Hollywood executives to figure out which movies attracted the largest audience. Executives would then green light only those projects and immediately start jostling for power positions, credits within them as well as invite other “producers” to invest, thereby assuring that the film will bomb. But After it does, they can always blame the pre-cog.

    Oh… wait, that’s already happening.

    • LV426

      Change it from a pre-cog to a clairvoyant super computer (named CLAiR) and I’ve got the perfect title for you… FLOPS.

      Birdman just won best pic satirizing Hollywood and superheroes. Maybe you’d have a shot at a nom and potential win with something like this?

      CLAiR = Commercially – Logistical – Assessor – in – Risk

      • Eddie Panta

        Hmmm… Very interesting.

        Love the acronyms. Great title too. Kinda reminds me of a 70’s comedy spoof satire flick. CLAiR has developed a beat sheet that guarantees a script’s success, but once her algorithm is exposed, she comes up with a devious plan to make “herself” useful again.

        Birdman satirizes actors far more than it does the Hollywood system, staging the story in a Broadway Play keeps it from being a movie about movies.

        As I explained in my post yesterday, I’m still not sure if BIRDMAN is actually satire. In the end, I don’t know what commentary they are making about the excessive need for approval, ego, or social media. Are they celebrating it as much as satirizing it.

        Didn’t Birdman get what he wanted… Fame, relevance in the new world of social media, one which he can now occupy alongside his daughter.

        At his lowest point, drunk on the street, Riggin needed to call upon his
        alter ego BIRDMAN for a burst of energy, confidence in order to get through the big night full well knowing the critic will decimate the play.

        Too me, it appears to be a sadder ending than if he had actually killed himself on stage. Riggin isn’t rid of the Birdman. He’s there, on the potty, However, Riggin no longer needs him for a jolt of confidence, now he’s able to reference his latest achievement to boost his ego. But at what price? Did he kill the ego monster, tame it, or become it. Riggin’s future is uncertain and he might of done the play for all the wrong reasons.

        • LV426

          Yeah, I guess I just meant how Birdman sort of deals with the idea of current day Hollywood being so into making the big money on the superhero craze.

          I like your idea of CLAiR and how she could fall from grace after her “movie success algorithm” is exposed. The (super)villain, a crazed studio exec.

          The Pitch: it’s like S1MONE meets THE PLAYER.

          You should write that and enter the 250. Hint: add a character based on Carson, who is one of the people that exposes CLAiR’s secret formula. He could be a caffeinated hacker-script consultant who goes by the name Scripthood.

  • walker

    Oh man I just opened this script and PULL BACK TO REVEAL that it confirms what Carson says about the formatting. All-caps, boldface, italics, underlining, all-caps italics, (V.O.), (O.S.), camera directions, parentheticals, we-sees, shifting POV, calling characters by two different names… all on page one.

  • ElectricDreamer

    OT: Another AF winner makes his mark in Hollywood! Let’s give it up for JOE MARINO!

    “Gorlitsky Group Productions, a new North Carolina-based production company and financing/studio, has locked a spec deal on Joe Marino‘s A ROSE IN THE DARKNESS. The in progress-to-production deal places this contained horror/thriller in a trajectory toward 2015-production. The project marks twenty-five year-old Marino’s first feature spec deal.”

    • walker

      Hey congrats to Joe!

      • walker

        Also thanks to Electric Dreamer for keeping up with the trades for us.

    • ximan

      Awesome!! Well deserved for good ole Joe! :)

    • Poe_Serling

      Joe is a stand-up guy… with some real writing chops. I knew it was only a matter of time before he struck gold.

      A short time back, I had the opportunity to read his TV pilot that he wrote with another talented writer. Great horror vibe to it. Creepy as hell.

    • klmn

      Congrats to Joe.

    • hackofalltrade

      So cool! I’m not a huge horror fan, but I thought this was one of the best I’ve read on SS. Congrats!

    • NajlaAnn


    • Midnight Luck

      Way to go Marino!
      Great job.

    • Casper Chris

      Big grats to Joe. ROSE was in my amateur top 3.

      • Malibo Jackk

        What were the other two?

        • Casper Chris


          We weren’t allowed to vote for THE DISCIPLE PROGRAM or WHERE ANGELS DIE, as you may recall

    • Malibo Jackk

      ROSE is one of those scripts that was going to be made (IMO).
      I know Joe said he was originally told that it was too similar to another project.
      But it just didn’t make any sense not to make it — if not then, then just wait a few
      years and someone would make it.

      btw, GUEST is another.

    • ThomasBrownen

      Huge CONGRATS to Joe! I look forward to watching it!

  • Adam W. Parker

    This is a feature premise. I don’t see enough thematic meat for them to feed more than one season. Time-travel falls apart if examined for more than a few hours.

  • drifting in space

    More like the human decency police. You’re just a normal troll who happens to have above average intelligence. Nothing special.

    • Bacon Statham

      ”You’re just a normal troll who happens to have above average intelligence.”
      Sure doesn’t seem like it, what with the way he carries on. And I honestly don’t think he’s a troll. Trolls act a certain way for shits and giggles, but you’ll always come across that one person who has all the characteristics of a troll, yet isn’t one. Those kind of people believe everything they say. They actually like the smell of their own bullshit.
      Every now and then he makes really good points that I happen to agree with, but they’re always overshadowed by his constant negative contemptuous attitude. He’s a fucking know all. If something doesn’t go his way or someone doesn’t agree with him, he throws a wobbly and calls everyone else idiots. He needs to grow up.

  • jw

    Honestly, when I heard about Scriptshadow 250 I didn’t get it. Specs are WHATEVER these days and TV is ruling the land with even more outlets coming on board for original programming everyday, so I couldn’t help but feel that this was a bit too little, too late. And, then BOOM, confirmed by the following day when Carson says, “have a TV idea in your back pocket” and then reviews a pilot. Ouch.

    One of the interesting things to me is when people write about a subject they don’t know a whole lot about. So, in this case, this show already exists — it’s called Person of Interest and has been solid now for about 4 years.


    Former CIA agent Reese (Jim Caviezel) — now presumed dead — and billionaire software genius Finch (Michael Emerson) join forces as a vigilante crime-fighting team. Using Finch’s program, w… Morehich employs pattern recognition to determine individuals who will soon be involved in violent crimes, they combine Reese’s covert-operations training and Finch’s money and cyberskills to stop crimes before they happen. Former Army Intelligence Support Activity operative Sameen Shaw joins the pair in their quest.

    If you’re going to take something like this, and do it right, then it has to be done on a premium network, or a different platform, which throws out the gripe of commercials and act breaks. Jesus, for someone ALWAYS complaining about the shit in Hollywood sucking, every time I come around here, which is becoming less and less, I sure do hear a lot of “follow these Hollywood rules minions”… followed by a complaint about how the show that followed those rules sucks… hmmm…

    • charliesb

      Regarding PERSON OF INTEREST: I find your synopsis interesting because while that’s definitely the show they sold to the network, you didn’t mention at all what the show is about. And in fact the reason it’s been solid for 4 years is that it’s not at all what it seems to be. Hiding an extremely complex serialized plot line in a surfacely procedural show is a big part of why it’s so good and successful.

      Though recently I’ve been a little worried with the addition of the kid.

  • Ryan Sasinowski

    I just glanced at this pilot, and was showing my non-savvy brother all the things I was seeing done wrong in terms of style.

    I wish there were a couple more articles ON style so we could get an understanding of what pisses off readers, so we can avoid it.

    Like, for instance I don’t like how Final Draft adds an extra line above a Scene Heading; would it be so wrong to change it to one blank line instead of two?

    • Eddie Panta

      No it wouldn’t be wrong. One line space after scene heading is done quite often, you just need to bold the scene heading.

      Pilot scripts have a different style in which they can actually include notes/ hints to production within the description. Props or locations will be stylistically described so production can understand their importance to the overall series.

  • fragglewriter

    I watched “Minority Report” years ago as the hook was interesting, but after the opening scene and Tom Cruise goes back to headquarters, I got bored. It seems like the energy fizzled. I think if the TV show takes a look at why there were a few problems in the film, they can fix it in the show to make it seem fresh.

    Carson, should we consider turning film into TV shows? I know a spec TV show would be great as everything has been done before, but with the rehash of TV shows into movies, I think going the opposite route as others (12 Monkeys, Fargo, Beverly Hills Cops, Smallville, etc.,) we might get a chance to produce as most film companies are hesitant (but now that Netflix and AMC are agressive, the TV shows have changed) to put an original show on the air.

  • E.C. Henry

    Carson, I respectfully disagree with you about the movie, “Minority Report.” I think they did a GREAT job maximising the idea’s potential. And how cool was it when Tom Cruise gets Mr. Yakimoto’s eyes so he can function in society amidist all the eye scanning being done. Currious to know how you would have liked to seen things done differently, ie. what new ideas would have brought to the table?

    On very related note the Sci-fi channel has a “12 Monkeys” series–and it totally SUCKS!! (in my opinion) And I LA-OVED the movie.

    I love the fact that their interest in sci-fi, it just seams misplaced in trying to re-create past movies into functioning TV series.

    Did anyone out there like FOX’s “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”? I don’t think I ever watched an episode, did I miss anything worthwhile?

  • drifting in space

    So we can’t even get original ideas for TV shows anymore, eh?

    • Buddy

      they are doing the same thing they did with the features after the 90’s.
      “Play it safe”. so sad…

  • NajlaAnn

    “…that was 12 Monkeys…” And I so loved the movie. I stopped watch the TV episodes after the third. :(

  • Midnight Luck
    • andyjaxfl

      I’m surprised there aren’t more. Either that or the Den of Geek folks got bored and cut the list off.

    • Nicholas J

      Marley & Me?! So, a TV show about people having a dog? Riveting.

      • LV426

        How about The Mist & Me?

        A show about a lovely couple and their giant murderous pet spider from another dimension.

    • LV426

      I’m a big fan of The Mist. So I’d be down for a show, even though most seem to hate it though. I doubt it would pass the greenlight stage, but maybe do it as a seasonal anthology much like American Horror Story. Focus on a different group of people each season trying to survive all the creepy crawlies and other nasty humans.

  • andyjaxfl

    Gotta say I’m disappointed with the plot summary. I, for one, loved the movie Minority Report and I think it’s a classic as well as one of Spielberg’s finest efforts. My issue with this TV show is that it ignores the simple premise behind the film’s ending: Agatha and the twins get peace and quiet away. There’s a reason why they are miles from civilization at the end of the movie and it’s so they won’t be burdened with the thoughts of others for the rest of their lives. Having them move to the city completely contradicts that measure of peace they earned at the end of the movie.

    Now I think Minority Report could make for an excellent TV show, but please let the twins keep their peace. They earned it.

    • wlubake

      Contained thriller sequel – Agatha wakes up from a dream of her own murder on the secluded island. Only Arthur and Dash are around – and they are twins. Can she piece together who the murder is in time?

  • Scott Strybos

    “It wasn’t the disaster TV remake that was 12 Monkeys or anything nuts like that”

    Is 12 Monkeys the television series terrible? It looked bad from the trailers, really bad. But then surprisingly I heard good things about it. Even great things. I remain skeptical. The pilot I still waiting on my PVR.

    • LV426

      I actually like it so far (about 4-5 episodes in now). I thought it would be poop, but gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised. I think it probably helps that I haven’t watched the Gilliam film in a long long time.

  • Poe_Serling

    I didn’t realize Philip K. Dick was such a prolific writer. 44 novels, 121 short stories, etc.

    I knew that the feature films Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report were based on his works, but I was surprised to see Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau, and A Scanner Darkly on the list as well.

    A guilty pleasure…

    Imposter – ‘In the future, an alien race uses androids as bombs to attack Earth. A
    government weapons specialist is accused of being one such android and
    sets out to prove his innocence.’

    Starring Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, and Vincent D’Onofrio. Screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, Ehren Kruger, Caroline Case, and David Twohy. Based on Dick’s short story.

    Just a really fun B-movie in my opinion.

    • Casper Chris

      Philip K. Dick’s influence stretches far and wide. I doubt we’d have movies like Brazil, The Matrix, Terminator etc. without him. I tried reading his work The Zap Gun not that long ago, and I must say I found his writing a bit… well… not so accessible. Still, can’t deny his genius.

    • Midnight Luck

      I don’t think I’ve seen Imposter, have to check it out.

      I love that Philip K. Dick was so revolutionary. His work should be studied by all writers, and I think, specifically Screenwriters.

      He was brilliant, and totally unique.

      I love that no one ever uses the titles he creates for his stories/books. TOTAL RECALL was called “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”.

      BLADE RUNNER, as everyone knows, was a story called “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.

      He had such wordy, strange titles, I think they are so unique and interesting. Hollywood replaces it with such basic, obvious titles. Though, they are memorable, so they have been effective.

      I picked up his book “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” (1974), and all I can wonder is what someone would retitle it. I have a feeling the title would be so creative it would resemble ROBOCOP.

      • LV426

        The Policeman’s Tears (Wes Anderson version, written by Charlie Kaufman)

        Explode My City (the Michael Bay said)

        Blade Runner 2: Flow My Tears In Rain (Sir Ridley Scott’s version)

        Flo’s Tears: Account of a Mad Black Policewoman in the Rain (Tyler Perry’s)

        I guess the title would depend on who directs it.

        • Midnight Luck

          –Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974) concerns Jason Taverner, a television star living in a dystopian near-future police state. After being attacked by an angry ex-girlfriend, Taverner awakens in a dingy Los Angeles hotel room. He still has his money in his wallet, but his identification cards are missing. This is no minor inconvenience, as security checkpoints (manned by “pols” and “nats”, the police and National Guard) are set up throughout the city to stop and arrest anyone without valid ID. Jason at first thinks that he was robbed, but soon discovers that his entire identity has been erased. There is no record of him in any official database, and even his closest associates do not recognize or remember him. For the first time in many years, Jason has no fame or reputation to rely on. He has only his innate charisma to help him as he tries to find out what happened to his past and avoid the attention of the pols.

          POLICE STATE
          That’s what I’m going with. (Action Title)
          POLS AND NATS (Funky Title w/ an Indie Bent)

          • LV426

            “Police State” seems likely in terms of Hollywood changing it to a shorter, easier to digest title.

    • LV426

      I’m a big fan of Dick.

      Uh, wait, that didn’t sound good.

      I like most of the films you mentioned Poe. The big three being Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report. I’d also add A Scanner Darkly to the list of good to great Philip K. Dick movie adaptations. Screamers was neat, but the original short story Second Variety was better. I kind of want to see someone take another stab at Second Variety (much better title than the B-horror-movie sounding Screamers). It’s of a similar line as that of Terminator and the new Battlestar Galactica series, but I think it could make for a solid military sci-fi/paranoid thriller.

      Now VALIS… Whoever adapts that novel will possibly go insane trying to make it work as a film.

      Also, check out a little film called Cypher. It’s directed by Vincenzo Natali of Cube and Splice fame. It’s a smaller scale sci-fi thriller that features some really strong Philip K. Dick style paranoia.

      • Poe_Serling

        I’ll definitely check out Cypher.

        I noticed the writer Brian King and the director Natali recently reunited to do the horror film Haunter.

        • LV426

          I haven’t seen Haunter. Natali’s Cube and Splice were also very nice ;)

          I believe he only did the first Cube, which felt like a nice updating of a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits style sci-fi thriller done cleverly on a limited budget. Splice felt very Cronenbergian to the point where it seemed like an homage to a certain extent. I think he pulled it off though. It still worked pretty well on its own terms. I suppose I should check out Haunter to see how it fits into his current filmography. Hopefully we’ll see more from Natali again soon.

    • charliesb

      I loved A Scanner Darkly, but ya the rest were pretty generic. I didn’t realize Screamers was Dick though. That’s the one with creepy kid/bomb who keeps saying he’s cold right?

      • LV426

        That’s it.

        Also stars the original RoboCop, Peter Weller.

  • Nicholas J

    Meaningless in that it shouldn’t be the end all be all of what movie is the “best” anything.

    Certainly if you win an Oscar, you’ll have done something right, as it’s one of the highest achievements one can earn in this business. I’m not taking that away from those who have won them. But in my mind, winning an Oscar and being nominated for one are the same thing, because the voting process is problematic at best.

    And while it’s great for someone to be recognized with an award, the real achievement is the film on the screen, not what someone says about it. One of the core themes of Birdman, I believe.

    And by “letting” someone have an opinion, I mean is it really necessary to call them “stupid” “ignorant” or “the problem” for having a different one than you?

  • Midnight Luck

    sounds good. and an interesting change.
    would love to read more pilots, and see what other people are also writing out there.

  • Andrew Parker

    Very few tv shows come from spec pilots.

    Most are pitched to a studio. Then the studio and writer pitch to a network. Then an outline is commissioned. Then a writer’s draft is created. Then after notes, a network draft is turned in. Then the network decides which script commitments it will turn into pilots (provided it wasn’t already guaranteed a pilot creation — essentially a “put pilot”).

    Why am I saying all this? Because if people get caught up in perfecting the writing style of their pilot (bolds, underlines, italics), they’re not seeing the forest for the trees. You must must must must write something extraordinary that exceeds what we’ve seen before.

    The Act Breaks you mentioned — absolutely essential. Some showrunners and exec producers just scan the beginning and ending of act breaks once they get a sense of your writing ability and your ability to craft characters.

    But don’t spend too much time overthinking your underlining and capitalizing. Do overthink larger story, logline, unique characters and how will this show run 80 episodes. In fact, that last question — how will you stretch out the story over time — is probably the most important question if you want a spec pilot to get picked up (like EXTANT was). But generally you’re just trying to get staffed — so have a ridiculously good hook to a story, some unique characters and an idea of how a season arc would look, and you’ll be in good hands with your pilot.

    ***Disclaimer: I do dislike excessive writing flair like underlines/italics, so I think it’s better to completely leave them out of your first pass on a script and only add them when you read through your final draft before sending it out for others to read.

  • Bifferspice

    she is a depressed loser in that scene.

  • carsonreeves1

    I agree. Boyhood was so humorless.

  • Cfrancis1

    “Minority Report” the movie went wrong? Er, not according to me and a lot of other people I know. I loved the movie. Saw it twice in the theatre. Okay, granted, there were a few missteps (Sammantha Morton’s monologue climaxing in “Ruuuuunn!” was a bit over the top and kind of cringing-inducing). But, man, the movie moved at a great clip and had some terrific twists.