Genre: TV Pilot – Drama
Premise: The son of an Arab dictator, Barry has fled his past and built a life in the United States. But when his father calls him back for his nephew’s wedding, he will ask Barry to come back into the family.
About: This upcoming FX show has a complicated backstory. The Hollywood Reporter did a wonderful piece on it recently that gets into a lot of the details. Basically, the guys behind Showtime’s breakout show, Homeland, went to market with their next project, Tyrant, and started a bidding war with FX winning due to an on-air commitment. Since then, the writing team, Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff, have split up, due to disagreements over the show’s direction, that eventually led to Raff (the less experienced of the two) leaving. This seems to go back even further, as Raff is the one who came up with Homeland, but had zero day-to-day involvement with the show itself, which, it’s implied, Gordon resented.
Writer: Gideon Raff (executive produced by Howard Gordon, Craig Wright and Gideon Raff)
Details: 68 pages – November 27, 2012

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After reading that Hollywood Reporter piece, I was wondering if I could read this pilot objectively. On the one hand, it sounds like they’d repurposed the show seven times before it finally hit the cameras, then added two more for good measure! So you’re thinking, there must have been a lot wrong with it.

On the other hand, you’re rooting for the underdog tale of the little show that could. Tyrant has so many things working against it – the biggest of which is, will an American audience care about a show centering around a Middle Eastern family? – that you can’t help but hope that it beats the odds and succeeds.

Of course, the terrifying reality of the entertainment business is that the bored consumer who’s just jostled through a 14-hour work day and put the kids to bed, doesn’t give a shit about how your show (or movie) came to be. They could care less that you had Ang Lee and lost him, or that the show had to be moved to five different countries to shoot. All they care about is if it’s a good show or not. Well, if they stay close to the pilot draft I just read, Tyrant isn’t going to be good. It’s going to be great.

40 year-old Barry is a struggling optometrist who works out of a ratty mini-mall in Orlando. Barry has a secret though. His family runs the country of Asima (a fictional stand-in for a Middle Eastern country), and are some of the richest people in the world. You get the feeling that if Barry left that life for this one? There’s gotta be a damn good story there.

Barry’s married to an American woman, Molly, and has two teenagers, the artsy 17 year-old Emma and the excitable 15 year-old Sammy. Unfortunately for Barry, his brother’s son, who lives back in Asima, is getting married, and even Barry, with his myriad of excuses, can’t get out of this one.

So he and the family fly to Asima where they meet the family Barry grew up with. There’s the father and president/dictator of the country, Hassan. Then there’s Barry’s older evil brother, Jamal. The Ferrari-driving philandering Jamal is probably the most evil person you’ll ever see on TV – he rapes underage women with guards in the room to make sure he’s not attacked, he molests his son’s fiancée, and he orders death to anyone who opposes him.

It’s clear Jamal doesn’t want Barry here, which is fine by Barry, ’cause he wants to get out of Asima as soon as possible.

Barry’s son, Sammy, however, can’t get enough of Asima. Instead of living in the strip-mall dominated middle-class suburbs, he’s hanging out in a palace! Not only that, but the brash, confident Jamal is everything Sammy wished his own father could be, and he immediately sees him as a role model. Oh, but Sammy has a secret. He’s gay. And in a world where homosexuality is punishable by death, maybe staying in Asima isn’t the best idea.

I think we all see where this is going. Barry’s father unexpectedly falls ill, and the family has no choice but to discuss who gets the throne once he dies. Everyone assumes it’ll be Jamal, of course, but Hassan shocks everyone when he says he wants Barry to succeed him. Barry wants nothing to do with leading this corrupt country, though. He wanted to get out of here yesterday. The problem is, it may not be up to him anymore.

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Okay, let’s just get something out of the way first. This IS The Godfather, the Arab version. We have a wedding, we have a dying leader. A reluctant heir is chosen. I mean, it’s not a beat for beat remake or anything. But it’s the same auditorium with the seats rearranged. The thing is, it didn’t matter. Because it was awesome.

When you’re talking about TV shows, you’re talking about interpersonal conflict – conflict between characters. Since you don’t have the advantage feature films have (huge exterior conflicts to drive the drama like reptilian giants, robots, Loki, Apes), the best way to keep the drama flowing is via conflict between characters.

For that reason, you want one main heavy conflict duo you can keep coming back to. In Breaking Bad, it’s Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Here, it’s Barry and his brother, Jamal. Not only is Jamal the most evil person in existence, but he has a completely different idea of how to rule the country from Barry. Barry wants to rule through diplomacy. Jamal wants to rule through terror. On top of that, you have a deep history between the two and you have their basic sibling rivalry. As a result, every scene they’re in together is potent.

Speaking of Barry, I loved the complication behind his character. See, when you write a character, you don’t want to craft him too heavily in one direction. Well-constructed characters are complicated. They have other sides to them than the side they generally show the world.

(spoiler) In Tyrant, there’s a series of flashbacks of Barry and Jamal as children. Jamal is athletic and tough. Barry is nerdy and withdrawn. In the pilot’s final scene, their father wants a seemingly innocent man killed, and he asks Young Jamal to do it. Young Jamal points the gun, but he’s too scared to pull the trigger and runs away. As the father goes to deal with this, Young Barry picks up the gun and shoots the man five times. Barry may be against the way his father rules the country, but when he’s called upon to make complicated decisions, he delivers.

Now, since we know that Barry has the capacity to be bad, there’s an unpredictability to him that’s exciting. I think it’s always more interesting if we’re not sure what a character is going to do from situation to situation. Think about it. How boring is it if a character always does the right thing? Or always does the wrong thing? It’s when you’re unsure that the scene is truly charged. Pay attention to “The Governor” in Seasons 3 and 4 of The Walking Dead to see how effective this approach can be.

I’m not sure what this says about Jamal though. This guy is so over-the-top bad and if there’s one criticism I had with the screenplay, it’s that Jamal is so two-dimensional. I’m betting that this is one of the first things they addressed moving forward though.

Another thing Tyrant did well was it made sure there were a lot of memorable moments in the pilot. It’s rare that I see one inventive or original scene in a pilot these days – something you truly haven’t seen before, but Tyrant had 5-6 of them. (spoilers) There was the bite-off-dick scene, the molestation of the daughter-in-law scene, the Young Barry shoots a man dead scene. Raff was not afraid to push the boundaries and write some pretty boundary-pushing stuff.

In another great scene, Barry’s family gets on the their plane to go to Asima, only to find out it’s completely deserted. Barry learns that his brother has bought up every seat on the plane for them. Sammy is thrilled. He flops down in first class, thinking this is the greatest thing ever. What does Barry do? He heads right back to seat 18c in Coach, the seat he was assigned to.

That’s what really sets Tyrant apart. Not only was this a memorable scene, but it used the scene to TELL YOU ABOUT THE CHARACTERS. By staying in his assigned Coach seat, Barry shows us how much disdain he has for his family and the way they go about things. Whereas by showing Sammy take a first class seat, we know he will be susceptible to the excesses of his grandfather’s family.

Will all this mean a big hit? I don’t know. I don’t know how much Gordon has changed the script. And we still don’t know if an American audience will care to watch a show about an Arab family. But I sure hope they do. This series has the potential to be a classic. Without a doubt, I’ll be checking it out when it airs. This is the most excited I’ve been for a TV series in forever.

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

What I learned: When you write a TV pilot, you’re trying to set up as many little threads of conflict as you possibly can, so that the people watching the show will want to tune in week after week to see how those conflicts play out. If you don’t set up any threads of conflict, nobody will care about your show. Nobody will want to see the next episode. I guarantee it. So here, we have the base conflict between Barry and Jamal. We have conflict between Barry and his son (who doesn’t like his father’s style of ruling). We have conflict between Barry and the country he’s ruling. We have conflict with Sammy being gay, and how dangerous being gay is in this country. Barry’s daughter hates the country and doesn’t want to be here. Barry has a former girlfriend he still holds a candle for who’s now married to Jamal. Barry’s wife finds out about this, setting up a conflict between these two women. Probably the biggest conflict of all will be between Barry and himself. Much like how Walter White struggled with his moral compass as a drug dealer/family man, Barry will struggle with all the morally questionable decisions he’ll have to make as a dictator. You look at the future of this show and it’s just drowning in unresolved conflict, which is exactly the way you want it to be.

  • Bifferspice

    Hi,

    I apologise in advance for this. I’m well aware that my script and I have taken up quite a few comment sections now, and it must be quite annoying. This is the last one, I promise, but I wanted to say that I have taken some of the fantastic advice given to me both when I originally posted, and after it featured in that record-breaking (?) AOW last week, and I
    have rewritten the script. It has changed so completely that it is this version that I’d love Carson to review (as it would be a shame if his valuable insight were used to point out the things that the Scriptshadow community have already torn to bits, and that I have hopefully already corrected.) I sent Carson a version of this on Sunday night, because I wanted to get a version to him ASAP, but this one has had a few more bits changed. Either would be preferable to the version posted originally, but Carson, if you haven’t read any yet, this is the one I’d love you to read.

    http://www.mediafire.com/view/7mwaa8ni5y4qeka/Breaking_the_Chain.pdf

    I put a load of rework into this, and it’s pretty massively different. Big key events either happen differently, or don’t happen at all, people’s fates are changed, whole new
    scenes and sections have put in, and the rest of the existing script has been clipped hugely to try and keep the original running length. For example, Sarah has a better intro (dropping the “cutting out magazine clippings” intro), I merged the shop scenes in the first few pages, I put in a 19 page new cut piece section, heavily featuring Martin, in the second half (that I feel really improves the second half impetus towards the end), the ending outside the playhouse has been given more OOMPH!, and yet the script is only 2 pages longer, despite several other new scenes going in as well. Therefore I hope I have addressed the “getting in too early, leaving too late” criticism that applied to the script in
    general.

    I hope, as usual in big rewrites, that I haven’t hurt what made people like it originally, and once again, thank you for all your time and comments that you’ve given me. I’m so grateful to this community for giving the script so much time and comment. I feel this is already MASSIVELY better than the one I originally submitted, and hopefully, if you have another look, you’ll agree that your suggestions have improved it. I hope Carson looks at this one.
    I know it’s not the normal type of script that he reviews, but I hope he might be pleasantly surprised.

    Thanks again,
    Biffer

    • Rebecca

      The opening is hugely improved- real pace that zipped along until the shop scene for me. Very witty- as someone from a small English town whose dad has been doing the premier league accumulator alongside the horses since I can remember, it all felt very authentic.

      I only got to page twenty but will read the rest later. Notes on where I got to- it all fitted well except for me the interaction with Craig at the shop felt a bit strange, I don’t think I wanted Steve to be so assertive with him so early- he felt a bit snipey, I wanted more ‘rock bottom’- he can’t even stand up to the guy. It may add extra conflict/drama for Craig to come in while Steve is being told he will possibly be sacked- the bad news is put on hold while Craig is served by Steve, anxious to hide the fact he is being sacked from his nemesis. For me that would feel like an extra punch in the gut for Steve, and keep the momentum of the first few pages.

      The only other thing I was thinking is if you are looking for UK funding, it may be worth regionalising it- pitching to BBC Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland, for example, and adding in the local slant. It may make it a stronger sell. Good luck!

      • Bifferspice

        That’s a great idea, Rebecca, and thanks very much for the notes. :)

    • Casper Chris

      Big key events either happen differently, or don’t happen at all

      That sounds dangerous. The last part.

      ;)

    • Montana Gillis

      I read the first page, much like a reader would if they had a big stack of scripts to slog through over a weekend. Nothing grabbed me. The execution isn’t quite pro yet but you do show a mid-level mastery. Write and read a few more before begging Carson for your shot at exposure. Scriptshadow seems to be more of a career launching site than a “how am I doing so far” site like it used to be in the early days. Keep at it, there’s no failure if you don’t quit. Cheers!

      • Casper Chris

        Carson has already agreed to review it so I don’t think there’s any begging involved.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Demonstrates the power of word of mouth, rage and whining.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Not saying this to be mean or cruel to anyone.

        • Montana Gillis

          There’s lots of begging for a AF review on this site! Lots and lots and lots! It goes on in a variety ways but it never ever stops. Never.

      • Michael

        I think you got that backwards, Montana. Amateur Friday Review was always highly coveted because it has career launching exposure. But now, so many amateurs are content to post the first draft of their first script to see “how am I doing so far.”

        There should be a place on this site for every amateur to get that feedback, not even a question, but AF Review is not the place. Workshopping your script in public is not a good idea. If you did this with Hollywood contacts, you would burn them.

        That is why I’ve always advocated a “you only get one shot at an AF Review policy.” If writers new they only got one shot to impress, just like in the real world, maybe they would treat this opportunity with the respect it deserves.

        I’m addressing Montana’s comment, which came up in this thread, this is not a shot at Bifferspice and his script. I support his script, read the entire script when he first posted it and am about to read the new draft.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Love the comment.
          And agree with the suggestion.

          But think there might be something else going on here.
          The selection process seems better than in years past.
          Not sure why.
          But it’s possible Carson has resorted to picking more interesting ideas (concepts) which in some cases has led him to pick first drafts and
          other scripts that are not ready.

        • Montana Gillis

          I was thinking about 5 or so years ago. Maybe it was just my perception at the time but I don’t remember anyone getting a substantial launch. I must have missed all the big moments while I toiled away writing some really lousy crap.

      • IgorWasTaken

        You make some good points. I suppose, as with the rest of everything here, it’s up to our host.

        Maybe if Carson published an “AOW/AF Mission Statement”, that could resolve the back-and-forth on this.

      • Malibo Jackk

        Like the comment.
        (Am not judging the script.)

    • JakeBarnes12

      Nicely done, Biff.

      I was gonna ask if you could post an updated version a day before the Friday review to give us all some extra lead time, but I didn’t want to put you under pressure.

      So thanks for getting this out early.

    • Stephjones

      Maybe Carson could compare both drafts? How they succeed/ fail and why.
      Not commenting on Biffer’s script in particular but so many of us can lose our way and write the heart and soul out of our work because of too many feedback voices.
      It would be instructive to see if Carson thought Biffer took this in the right direction. Biffer busted ass to make use of earlier feedback. If Carson reviews only the latest version we’ll never really know which is best as far as he’s concerned. One version might be more likely to get WTR. I would be very curious as to why.

    • ElectricDreamer

      Hey Biffer, I applaud the effort but I’m not feeling the new opener at all.
      What you had before CONVINCED me you are the guy to tell Steve’s story.
      Do what you think is right, but I felt your original prologue NAILED IT.

    • bex01

      Good job Biiferpsice! Looking forward to reading this version. And it’s so good to hear of a writer making major changes in their latest draft, not just a few minor tweaks. It’s difficult to change scenes and characters that you’ve already spent so much time refining, but there’s something really refreshing about realising nothing you’ve written is set in stone and there could be a whole new direction that will work so much better. Good luck for your Amateur Friday!

    • mulesandmud

      Biff, am not going to weigh in on the new draft just now; there’ll be plenty of time for discussion on Friday.

      One small suggestion about how to move forward, though: in case you’re tempted to make a few quick patch-ups and send yet another draft to Carson…DON’T. A reader can be very negatively influenced by that kind of hasty takeback; it usually feels like you’re second guessing yourself, and erodes the script’s credibility.

      If you feel confident about most of the changes you’ve made, then stick with them for now; if not, ask Carson to review the original draft you sent instead.

      Meanwhile, step away from the script until friday, so that your eyes will be as fresh as possible. Then, after the feedback comes in, you can decide what to roll back or rethink without the distraction of deadlines or pending conversations. You’ll be able to focus squarely on what’s best for the script.

      Best of luck.

      • Bifferspice

        Cheers, m&m :)

    • ElectricDreamer

      Hey Biff, is there a verdict on which draft gets the AF treatment tomorrow?

      • Bifferspice

        he replied this morning (UK time) and said he was reading it, but i guess it made him fall asleep :(

        • ElectricDreamer

          Yikes. Did he tell you at least which draft he read?
          Maybe he’d give the other opener a chance.
          Have a hard time believing your original Act One would bore him.

          My fingers are crossed for you, Biffer.

  • Casper Chris

    This does sound really interesting.

    Sounds like Uday Hussein was the main inspiration for Jamal.

  • Bifferspice

    i rarely watch TV, but this sounds fantastic. i’m going to read this. i wonder how they’ll proceed when the writer (and we assume the guy with the original idea?) isn’t around to write the rest of it. sounds a shame that he left.

  • Jarman Alexander

    A Godfather that lasts 100 hours… I’m there.

  • fragglewriter

    Sounds like a combination of The Godfather & The Departed. “Gang Related” tries to do the same but add in more action, but it’s horrible.

    But if the writer got a studio to produce, kudos to them.

  • Awescillot

    Well, you’ve certainly got me excited for this one.

  • Magga

    A fictional country? Sceptical

    • Casper Chris

      Even the characters are fictional!

      • Magga

        But a story set in the United States of Ammo would make it less The Wire and more, well, Homeland, right? “We’ve set this story in the Middle East, nowhere specific but, you know, one of those typical Middle Eastern countries that have, like, tyrants and shit”.

  • ripleyy

    It sounds like it’ll be one of those hidden gems you stumble across without even realizing it. They’re the best kind of shows, I think. It’ll be interesting to see how much has been changed since this draft and the final one.

  • kent

    I would love to read this if anyone has it. Kentlmurray at comcast dot net. Thanks!

    • kent

      I LOVED reading this. Great pilot. Look forward to watching it. Carson’s review was spot on.

  • Wild Bill Donovan

    So what happens when CAIR decides this is a “negative portrayal” of Arabs and Islamic society, and starts protesting? Will all the bad stuff suddenly get blamed on a conservative Christian CIA officer? I’m taking bets on how many episodes it lasts before that happens.

    • Randy Williams

      It could really get dicey when Sammy is shown having more “fun” with the locals than he could ever find at home.

      seriously, though, as Carson describes it, this sounds really involving. Great review! Carson should be on their marketing payroll.

  • Citizen M

    Sounds great. Suggest adding rabid camels.

  • UrbaneGhoul

    The commercials made this worth at least a checkout.

  • shewrites

    This sounds fantastic though I’m not surprised. Homeland is a top notch show IMO.
    I don’t think the protags being Middle Eastern will turn of audiencesf. I even think it may be the opposite. Theirs is a fascinating world where Western culture/behaviors and values are juxtaposed with opposite and ancestral ones.

  • Logic Ninja

    I’d really like to ask the Programming Gods where, if anywhere, the line exists between “bold and boundary-pushing” and “gore for its own sake.” Shows like Game of Thrones have generated so much hype lately by writing really icky rape scenes, but honestly…how difficult are these scenes to write? Compared to real character work? I mean, if gore was all it took to be memorable, check this out:
    “He plunges the dagger into the newborn’s stomach. Gets both hands in there and peels the skin apart. Then up, past internal organs, to the esophagus and breathing apparatus. A quick stroke of the dagger severs the trachea. He puts his lips on its dripping opening and blows. A few red bubbles spill from the child’s mouth. Lubricant. He plunges his d—…”
    I mean, do you really want to hear the rest? But throw me a party, guys! I just pushed the boundaries! I mean, c’mon, there HAS to be a point at which this stops being a good thing! It’s not artistic. It’s not even difficult.

    • Magga

      This is why Mad Men is in a higher league than Game of Thrones. Some people think it’s “daring” to kill a major character, even when it’s done over and over and is the reason the fans tune in. It’s a much bolder move to make the motivations of a major character unclear for episodes on end, or allowing a beloved person to be selfish, or wringing suspense out of situations where the stakes are merely personal

      • Logic Ninja

        Exactly! There’s a scene in “Orange is the New Black” (SPOILERS) where Piper’s fiance gives an interview on NPR, and the whole prison tunes in. He tells each prisoner’s story from Piper’s point of view, as she originally told it to him–bringing at least two inmates to tears–and reveals that he knows Piper’s cheating on him. One of the most brutal scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
        Later, Piper beats a girl half to death. Felt contrived. Half-assed. Not half as powerful as the former.
        The former scene took preparation. Character work. Careful planning. The latter took five seconds and a screwdriver.

        • Nicholas J

          I think in the first episode of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, a character says, “This isn’t OZ.”

          To me, that is the core of the show. They constantly setup situations, where in a show like OZ, some huge “oh shit!” moment would follow involving violence or something crazy happening. But instead, they dial it back and subvert your expectations of a prison show, giving you something unexpected and real without resorting to chaos.

          First thing that pops into mind is when the screw driver goes missing, and you’re waiting for someone to be found in a stairwell with it stuck through their neck, but instead SPOILER you find out one of the women simply stole it to use it as a dildo.

          It will be interesting to see how long they keep that type of angle going before it turns into OZ with women. Hopefully, it never comes to that, but I’m skeptical. (Not that OZ isn’t good, I loved that show.)

      • Nicholas J

        Sure, major characters dying and boobs and violence are what get people talking about GAME OF THRONES, but that’s not what makes the show good. If you think it’s appeal is based solely on superficial elements, you’re not watching close enough. That’s like saying MAD MEN is awesome simply because of Christina Hendricks’s tits. (Though I’m sure to some people it is.)

        “It’s a much bolder move to make the motivations of a major character unclear for episodes on end”

        See: Littlefinger, Varys, Tywin Lannister

        “or allowing a beloved person to be selfish”

        See: Daenerys, Tyrion, Arya Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Jon Snow

        “or wringing suspense out of situations where the stakes are merely personal”

        How about situations where the stakes are both personal and infused with drastic plot implications? See: EVERY EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES

        These aren’t “bold” choices anyway. It’s just good writing. I would call making the audience empathize with a sister-sexing, child-murdering, cousin-killing psychopath a “bold” choice. See: Jaime Lannister

      • drifting in space

        Mad Men jumped the shark and can’t even crack 2 million viewers on their finales. Zzzzzz. But I admit, I’m biased.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        I guess you have to be a fan of the The Walking Dead comic book because that’s where the Game of Thrones takes its cue from. No character is sacred in the comic book. Rick’s wife and newborn baby were killed by the Governor intentionally by a shotgun blast. The Governor cut off Rick’s arm, he also raped Michonne repeatedly until she escaped. I never was on board with GoT but if having a weekly soft rated-R LOTR adventure is entertaining, then enjoy.

        • Nicholas J

          What? The first ASOIAF book, A GAME OF THRONES, is almost 20 years old. How does it take cues from a comic book series that came out 10 years ago?

          But yes, TWD comics pull no punches, and the show is very watered down in comparison. And while I do love the comics, a lot of that stuff is there for merely shock value and does very little to change the story. For example, SPOILERS, Michonne went through torturous hell with the Governor after they fell for his nice guy shtick, and a handful of volumes later they run into a similar situation, with a nice stranger telling them he has a safe community they can live in, and Michonne IS THE FIRST ONE TO SAY LET’S TRUST THIS GUY AND FOLLOW HIM?! Please.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I thought the premise of GoT was based on the book The War of the Roses. I’m unfamiliar with ASOIAF. TWD the comic book has influenced popular media. TWD is a throwback to EC comics. Story lines ahead of their times that resonate far beyond the medium it was created in.

          • Nicholas J

            Well ASOIAF was written by George RR Martin, and yes he’s influenced a lot by history, including war of the roses. Not sure about the roses novel so much as the actual events. But anyway GOT is a direct adaptation of his ASOIAF series.

            And yes a quick google will reveal he is a comic fan. I’ve even heard he bought the first ticket to the first Comic Con ever. This mentions his reading of EC comics specifically: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/07/22/george-r-r-martin-blames-comics-for-his-success-in-tvfilm-at-sdcc/

            So his writing is influenced by old comics and so is TWD, but that doesn’t mean GOT is influenced by TWD. If anything it’s the other way around.

            And if you like EC comics and TWD comics so much, why are you so quick to write-off GOT if they are very similar?

          • Franchise Blueprints

            Thanks for the link. Its ironic I mention EC comics and he’s a original fan of the comic.

            So his writing is influenced by old comics and so is TWD, but that doesn’t mean GOT is influenced by TWD. If anything it’s the other way around.

            You have a strong point. His influence pre-dates TWD. I only get to read fly-swatter versions of EC comics nothing in collector condition. I’m fairly current with TWD.

            I wish I could express why I’m lukewarm about GoT. Clearly George RR Martin reads a lot of subject matter I’m interested in.

      • charliesb

        “It’s a much bolder move to make the motivations of a major character unclear for episodes on end.”

        I can’t tell if this is supposed to be sarcastic…

    • Michael

      Is there some gratuitous sex and violence in Game of Thrones? Yes, but Game of Thrones has generated hype by having overall great writing, plotting, character development, acting and production values. Scenes portraying sex and violence are all about context, so lets see the forest for the trees.

      Watch the scene where Oberyn visits Tyrion in the dungeon and agrees to fight as his champion. Oberyn’s monolog is one of the best monologs ever given by any character in film or literature, a truly great piece of writing. I’m not sure your stand-alone graphic depiction of violence, is an appropriate example by which to make a valid criticism of the sex and violence in shows like Game of Thrones.

      I would always agree that gratuitous sex and violence should be illuminated from a show, so here’s to your point:

      • Nicholas J

        Man, those scenes with Tyrion in the dungeon were phenomenal, weren’t they?! I especially like the ones with Jaime. Every line, every look, has immense weight behind it. So deep and complex yet so subtle and restrained, it’s some great great stuff.

        • Michael

          That’s why I tune in each week. The show is a master class in writing.

          • drifting in space

            Best show on TV in my opinion.

      • kenglo

        LMAO!

      • Logic Ninja

        Yeah, I’m with you, GoT is a great show! Great writing! But I think some screenwriters (and a few critics too) have attributed that greatness, not to the show’s writing or character work, but to the “boundary-pushing” violence that generates so much hype. Then some newer writers assume, “Oh hey, this is easy! I win Dark and Serious prizes every time I spill blood or use the F-word.” I think some newer writers actually feel the F-word will help their work be taken seriously.

      • Logic Ninja

        Also, for whatever reason my work computer blocks YouTube links, so I had to wait and watch on my phone… I literally laughed out loud. Hadn’t seen that before, thank you!

    • Nick Morris

      I’ve read a lot of scenes like this in amateur horror scripts. They set out to “shock” their readers with the most vile and repulsive shit they can come up with in an effort to be taken “seriously”. Trouble is that scripts/movies like this aren’t a lot of fun.

      I’m a horror guy. I’m all about blood and gore. But for me, it has to serve the story and it MUST entertain me. Doesn’t even have to be in good taste, but I do have a “line” of common decency that I’m not really interested in crossing when I sit down to watch a movie or read a script. It’s a balancing act that some writers ignore or just aren’t aware of.

      • Logic Ninja

        Exactly. You earn the right to depict gore by showing you can create believable, entertaining characters and situations. Otherwise, all the F-words and blood spatter patterns on Earth won’t help.

      • Nate

        That’s the reason why I really disliked the recent AOW script about a survivalist who holds a family hostage in his bomb shelter (can’t remember the name) and then proceeds to kill them in various gruesome ways. It was just full of gore with no rhyme or reason to it. You could tell that the writer was going for pure shock value rather than coming up with a legitimate reason why this guy was killing people.

        • Kirk Diggler

          Yeah. They butchered a child in that one. Horrible. Maybe the word devil was in the title? Not worth remembering.

        • Nick Morris

          Ah yes. I remember that one. It also featured a charming rape/vomit scene near the end. No understanding of or respect for the genre.

        • Citizen M
    • Cfrancis1

      Wait a minute, though. Game of Thrones does have real character work. It’s a fantastic show, gore or no gore. Although I think the gore adds to the authenticity and visceral kick.

      Hannibal, however, is another beast (pardon the pun) all together. Yes, it pushed the boundaries of TV violence but it left me cold most of the time. I couldn’t relate to Will Graham on the show (loved the character in “Manhunter”). Mads makes a great Hannibal but everyone else on the show was vacuous. After a while, it became all about the gore and little else.

  • Brainiac138

    Can someone explain to me why people in the United States would have trouble watching a film about an Arab family? Especially when it seems to be really good?

    • klmn

    • kenglo

      Wouldn’t play well in the south…or Idaho…..just sayin’..

    • George Hussein Washington

      Why do you think this is the case? Or are you just bigoted about Americans?

  • http://www.rocheejeffrey.com Rochée Jeffrey

    I’ve read about 30 pilots and Tyrant is by far the best. It’s incredible.

    • guest

      can you send me a copy — moviegurl [at] me [dot] com. thanks

    • kenglo

      I’d like to read it if you don’t mind – glover_13000@yahoo.com

      So why do people put me [at] something [dot] com? I am curious….

      • mulesandmud

        Allegedly, spambots scour disqus for email addresses. Can’t confirm or deny that, but I have noticed an uptick in spam since I started commenting here. Maybe just coincidence; either way, best to take precautions and post with a nonessential account.

        • kenglo

          If your cookies are turned on, you have your email address input when you login….putting a nonsensical email address prevents nothing….I know….it’s my YOB….:)

          • mulesandmud

            So basically you’re saying I’m fucked unless I ditch my disqus account, sell my computer, and write longhand from now on?

          • kenglo

            No, just deal with the spam…it all goes to your spam folder doesn’t it? Or turn off 3rd party cookies….or quit watchin’ so much porn!!

            Okay, the last one is a stretch but, I’m just sayin’…..LOL

          • IgorWasTaken

            It inputs your e-mail address where?

          • kenglo

            Oh, my bad, it’s not DISQUS, that’s a user name you enter. But spam is spam, I wouldn’t blame it on DISQUS so much as just getting on yahoo…..or downloading free movies, wherever you go….just my opinion, I could be wrong….but if you turn your cookies off your spammages will improve….

    • drifting in space

      I read it this morning after I read this article and yeah, it’s quite good. Definitely against the grain and takes chances.

    • Awescillot

      Don’t mind me jumping on this train: awescillot@gmail.com. Thanks!

  • successor

    Tyrant may have an interesting premise, but I don’t think it’ll play in Peoria. Typically, Americans don’t want to watch movies or shows with Middle Eastern themes (Syriana, Body of Lies, Lions for Lambs, Redacted, Over There, etc., all flops). I’m predicting it’ll last maybe for a season or two at most, get some good reviews, then get cancelled because it isn’t pulling in enough viewers.

    • G.S.

      I don’t know. Most of the examples you cite, and the ones I can think of, all had some larger political theme/question rather than having a more basic human theme/question at its heart. If the Godfather comparison Carson made is valid, it sounds like it could have some serious legs.

  • Somersby

    When does pushing the boundaries simply mean going overboard with little regard for credibility and honesty in the story and characters?

    Any one of these push-the-boundary choices might work on its own, but an unending barrage of overdone melodramatics seems more suited a WWE wrestling storyline than to cutting edge television.

    Many of the writer’s choices that Carson describes seem less like memorable moments as they do groan-inducing, indulgent fabrications.

    Fictionalized Arab county. (Groan)
    Hussan, Jamal and… BARRY?? (That produced a groan AND a chuckle.)
    Wealthy dictator’s son is a lowly optometrist in a seedy mini-mall. (Half a groan.)
    Jamal is the same Arab villain we’ve seen countless times before. (Double groan.)
    Jamal is Alpha, Barry is Beta. (Okay. I can believe that.)
    Biting off dicks, raping children, molesting future in-laws… (Really? These are interesting, unique choices?)

    I’m exhausted just reading about it. I suspect watching a full episode will render me unconscious.

    • ThomasBrownen

      One of my big complaints about Homeland was just how preposterous the whole plot seemed to be. A POW returns to America but harbors secret sympathy for the enemy?? But it worked, for me at least. (And this was even before we had that Bergdahl guy making headlines.)

      Carson’s summary has left me really intrigued, and I think the show has a lot of potential. It’s not just the Godfather-like story that has me intrigued, but I think it could be really interesting in the way the show explores the relationship between rich Middle Eastern countries and the West — there’s a huge paradox in our attitudes that can create some great tension. E.g., one moment Vogue is writing up a glowing article on the first lady of Syria, the next were condemning Syria for killing its own people. I wonder how much the show will end up being about the West, even though the plot is about people in a Middle Eastern country.

    • G.S.

      I don’t know about the boundary-pushing, but I can’t say most of those choices you mentioned would get a groan from me. On some level, I understand them completely.

      Fictionalized Arab county. (I can’t imagine what type of research would have to go into using a REAL country, but I’d avoid it if I could too. This way, you get to craft a world that feels familiar enough to be real but still can be made to serve story purposes rather than serve the reality.)

      Hussan, Jamal and… BARRY?? (I kind of chuckled too, but there are lots of Arab names that start with Bar- that this character would no-doubt Americanize. It makes sense that in trying to distance himself from his family, he’d do something like that.)

      Wealthy dictator’s son is a lowly optometrist in a seedy mini-mall. (I can’t see why this is groan-inducing. It seems pretty innocuous actually. If they went full touchy-feely with it, he’d be a heroic doctor in the inner city or something. If they went the opposite, he’d be a cop. This one seems perfectly mundane in keeping with the premise.)

      Jamal is the same Arab villain we’ve seen countless times before. (True. But that doesn’t make him any less compelling as a character in the context of the story. I’d say he’s a common type because of the common reality.)

      Jamal is Alpha, Barry is Beta. (Classic setup.)

      Biting off dicks, raping children, molesting future in-laws… (Can’t say I find these choices ground-breaking, but at least they stick to character… No, you’re right. Groan on this one.)

    • JakeMLB

      Not sure I agree. Have you read the pilot yet? If not, you’re basing your comments only on the few shocking threads that Carson has decided to highlight and are likely exaggerating these scenes in your mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if those shocking threads are well-plotted and organic to the story and script given the hype this script has received.

      Maybe I’m wrong but this script sounds fantastic. I loved Carson’s description of the airplane scene, the fact that Barry is both enamored by Jamal AND gay, the flashback that shows that Barry has the potential for violence but has repressed it all these years. All of these story threads, while seemingly obvious or over-the-top, create an undercurrent of incredible tension and show incredible craft as they all seem organic to the story. And setting this in an Arab country where societal rules are, well, different, only further adds to this tension.

      Besides, this is a pilot script, you have to go big nowadays. Once in production, you can trim the fat and restrict the tone.

      I can’t wait to read this one…

      • Guest

        You meant Sammy is enamored by Jamal

        • Citizen M

          Actually, Sammy is enamored OF Jamal. Enamored WITH Jamal is wrong but creeping in.

          “Sammy is enamored by Jamal” means Jamal fancies Sammy. [/grammar nazi]

          • BFF of Guest

            Oh Snap, you didn’t just go there!

          • IgorWasTaken

            Personally, I prefer to be enamored by Maaco.

          • JakeMLB

            Good catch!

      • Somersby

        Of course you’re right about the threads being well-plotted, and I have no doubt the script is wonderfully executed. But I do stand by my initial point.

        I can give leeway to Game of Thrones (dragons, the army of the unsullied, incest, brutal violence, etc.) because it’s historical-fantasy. Or should I say, historical-FANTASY.

        Tyrant presents itself as reality. The Middle East. A ruling despot. A disenchanted son who has redefined himself and moved to middle America. It’s not fantasy. Yet the choices the writer makes, according to Carson’s description, are fantastical. There’s a line that most viewers won’t jump if the elements of a realistic drama turn to melodrama. And that’s what this one sounds like.

        I haven’t read the script (although I’d like to… hint, hint) And I’m basing my assessment solely on Carson’s review. So I, like you, do look forward to seeing how the pilot holds up when it’s broadcast.

  • kenglo

    I think I’ve seen this already, called THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE…..but I’d like to read it anyway.

  • mulesandmud

    I like the airplane scene. A unique, relatable, and highly visual way to demonstrate power.

    For a very different film that offers a modern take on ‘The Godfather’ with an Arab lead, one that’s less interested in the family drama and more about a reluctant gangster’s rise to power (mostly from within prison), check out A PROPHET, a french film from 2009.

    Powerfully realistic, interesting themes, and one of the best final shots in recent history. A must watch for thoughtful crime genre fans.

  • IgorWasTaken

    To anyone who thinks that certain parts of the US won’t want to watch a show about an Arab family, consider the long-ago show “All in the Family”.

    The producers of that show, as well as liberals on the coasts, laughed at Archie; rednecks laughed at Meathead.

    Yes, that analysis is part simplification, part exaggeration, but that dynamic was a significant part of what made that show work all around the US back in the turbulent 1970s – even in parts of the country where Norman Lear’s politics might garner just a tiny percentage of the vote.

    And so, in “Tyrant” – for example, just supposin’ – if there’s a compelling character who resonates with those parts of the audience who hate “all those ragheads”, then it just might play in parts of the US where some of you think it can’t play. It will just “play” differently.

  • Kirk Diggler

    OT: Wonder if anyone has any strong opinions about Trigger Street? Recently joined, been assigned to read 3 screenplays so far, two of them were pretty bad. The other one had a solid idea but only average execution. The two that were bad lacked any real structure, far below anything I read during AOW. Granted, it’s a small sample size so far.

    Anyone else wish to chime in?

    • pmlove

      Scripts are of variable quality, closer to the lower end. I think it is a bit like a training ground for AOW – many recent entries have been on there. Anything that isn’t solidly hitting 4 stars isn’t going to be a decent read. But some of the stuff on there is worthwhile.

      Something like this is on the better end (from what I recall): http://labs.triggerstreet.com/screenplay/stevend/rehabilitation

      But yeah. I recently read one that had about 50% song lyrics for dialogue.

      • Kirk Diggler

        Hmm. Thanks. Song lyrics huh? You probably felt like you were being trolled or something. I also noticed the quality of reviewers is not always up to snuff.

        • pmlove

          It was more like the music that would be playing, rather than actual dialogue. But written out as dialogue. Not seen that before.

          That said, I’ve not read a great deal on there, so there might be some good stuff hiding away.

          Same thing with the reviews, some just go with ‘I liked it, great screenplay!’ others are more constructive.

      • Malibo Jackk

        Are the 4 stars comparable to AOW scripts?
        Or are the graders being kind?

        Are the 4 stars comparable to [X] worth the read?

        • Kirk Diggler

          California Dream was a 4 star script over at Trigger. It won the week over here but came up short in Carson’s review.

        • pmlove

          It definitely depends on the reader and, I suppose, their own expectations. But if it has a lot of reviews and consistent 4 stars, that’s a start.

          I wouldn’t say you’re in worth the read territory though, still most likely wasn’t for me.

        • Casper Chris

          Adding to what Kirk said:

          To be fair, California Dream was as close to a Worth The Read as you can pretty much get (judging from Carson’s review) and had it been more Carson’s wheelhouse in terms of genre, it probably would’ve been.

    • Midnight Luck

      I joined Trigger way back in their early days. It pissed me off they force you to read the ones they send you, and they only seem to send you the worst ones. I went back a couple times but since then haven’t been back in like ten years.

      I am sure there are good things to it, but i didn’t find it an enjoyable experience.

      • Ange Neale

        You do have the option of rejecting assigned scripts these days, ML. I used to reject horror scripts, but only because I don’t know the genre nor its expectations nearly well enough to provide any useful feedback. Most don’t tell you why they reject, but I always posted a comment to let them know.

        • Midnight Luck

          I thought they might have updated it by now, it couldnt have just been me who was bothered by it. Good to know you have a little control. I assume you only get a certain number of choices you can reject though.

          • Ange Neale

            Couldn’t say, ML. I think the most I rejected consecutively was 3 — I think there may be a limit on how many you can reject in a certain time (as in 1 per 24 hours perhaps), but I don’t know if there’s an absolute limit.

            The only real pressure to do them is if you want your own work assigned — you need to review 2 before you have enough credits to get yours sent out.

            Correction to my previous post, too: a couple I read were little more than rough drafts. Rather than writing down every glaring fault I could find and posting them for all to see, I just did the minimal review and emailed them my detailed comments or a marked-up PDF. Took a lot longer, but hopefully they made use of the notes. I struck one who liked to have his characters ‘stare into space’ and get ‘lost in thought’ — momentum killer and completely boring for an actor. I think I counted 40-some instances in just over 90 pages. It made for a tough read. But I also struck a few that were delightful — they aren’t all dodgy or mediocre. Hope this helps!

    • bex01

      I joined up a few months ago but have been a terrible TS member. I read a heap of loglines on the site because I wanted to choose what scripts I read and was more interested in finding and learning from some good amateur scripts than getting my own stuff reviewed. But I discovered that a lot of writers had difficulty constructing a logline that even made sense. Really highlighted the importance of good loglines to me! Started reading a few scripts, didn’t get too far. And I also felt like the ratings given out were pretty lenient (three or four stars seemed the most common, and the majority of times were not deserved). So I’ve given up for now but would like to go back in future. I’m sure there’s definitely a few gems in there somewhere! BTC was up there. Just might take you a while to find them

      • Kirk Diggler

        I agree, the ratings are pretty lax. I have found myself grading something as average even though it is below average. I guess there is no point in tearing someone apart, but I do make sure to point out all the short comings in the body of the review.

        The place seems like a weigh station for first drafts.

    • Midnight Luck

      There’s also Talentville if you haven’t checked it out. It’s very similar i believe.

  • GoIrish

    “I expected it to be hard. But if you want easy, go to a channel that’s just chasing
    after other people’s work and ripping it off,” said the Arab Godfather network head.

  • thedudespeaketh

    Great review, Carson.

    Anybody in the community in possession of this pilot? Can I have it? Charliebrownfilm@yahoo.com

  • thedudespeaketh

    Let it go!!! I hate when that happens.

  • drifting in space

    Yeah, when he goes to America he chooses to be Barry.

  • pmlove

    Going to have to agree with this I’m afraid Bifferspice, I’m not sure what the new opening adds.

    On a slightly more mundane note, UK bookies tend to have maximum payouts less than £3m. But I’m willing to suspend disbelief on that.

  • Nicholas J

    Damn grendl, you cold.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Lookin’ for the ‘Tyrant!’ script.
    malibujackk at gmail dot com

    (Thought maybe I could learn somethin’.)

    • klmn

      I’d like to see it too. Thanks in advance.

      kenklmn at yahoo dot com

    • Sullivan

      Me three: jasondiggy at hotmail dot com

      Thanks!

  • Nicholas J

    You’re dead on. Sure, killing major characters is meant to be shocking, but there’s more to it than that. We’re all Sansa and GRRM is Joffrey, giving us the slap of reality by killing the ones we love. That subversion of fantastic expectations is a constant theme of the show/books. Every single character loses the thing they love most, the thing they fantasize about. Every single one. Those that move on, win, and those that don’t, lose.

  • Poe_Serling

    I agree wholeheartedly with you… not necessarily on distancing youself from Bifferspice’s script, especially when you worked so hard to get it an AF slot… but on the importance of “ thematic imagery or scenes to start your movie.”

    Just recently I purchased Them for my DVD collection. Yes, the movie about giant ants.

    Though it’s sixty years old, the film still holds up quite well in my opinion. One of the main reasons: it’s stark imagery and how it jumps so effortlessly into its story.

    There’s zero sugar coating from the get-go:

    First scene:

    >>The middle of the New Mexico desert. State Troopers find a small girl walking alone in a state of shock.

    Second scene:

    >>The troopers soon discover the girl’s mobile home…. split open down the middle. No trace of her parents. An unknown footprint nearby. Weird sounds echoing across the desolate landscape.

    Third scene:

    >>It’s night now. The wind howling. Shadows within shadows. A general store ripped apart. The same state troopers arrive on the scene…

    Let’s just say it’s one of the best set pieces in the film. And like the prior scenes, it really sets the tone of the story.

    What makes this film work: the initial imagery, which helps set the right tone and the matter-of-fact way the filmmakers/actors approached the material.

    **Tonal issues could be a Thursday article in itself.

    • IgorWasTaken

      “… the initial imagery, which helps set the right mood…

      Agreed, completely. Though, frankly, it took me a while just to realize this was even an issue.

      “FADE IN:” needs to be a fade-in on something.

      Sure, if your opening scene takes place in a park, the director might open things simply with people in a park. But for a reader, give us some thing or some person that we specifically see.

      Or like going on a blind date, you ring the doorbell and you see… maybe your date, maybe a parent, maybe a sibling. But you see something.

      And while I’m being literal here, the same notion carries over – to the rest of page 1, then at least for a couple of pages. Tell us what we are seeing, and use that, and dialogue, to set the tone.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Cool Hand Luke.
      Drunk and working his way down the sidewalk
      — shearing off parking meters one at a time.

  • Randy Williams

    I, too, prefer the previous opening. An opening for me, tells me how the writer is going to tell his or her story. Is it told as an outsider? Someone dear to the story’s point of view? Intent and warm or at a distance and cold?

    The original opening was intent and warm from someone’s point of view, I thought, and liked that much.

    Whatever version he reads, though. Dude, you write circles around most of us.

  • Stephjones

    If we didn’t need the advice and the opinions of others to help us move forward in our writing we wouldn’t bother with sites like Scriptshadow. Why would you submit snippets of your latest script if not to see what worked and what didn’t? Some of the advice you seemed to accept, some you rejected. Only you, like Biffer, know what works for the story in your head. Biffer is an adult trying to find his way in screenwriting. He has a strong voice and the resilience to try different approaches in his story telling. Doesn’t automatically mean he’s tap dancing to please the crowd.

    • grendl

      There is such a thing as artistic integrity.

      You’re suggesting that writing is a committee endeavor, and its not, not for the pros at least. Yes, in television but we’re not talking about television and workshopping scripts.

      I’m not interested in debating the point with you. My point was made by the “Big Picture” Steph. Artistic integrity and keeping your eyes on your own papers isn’t something I invented. Paul Haggis wouldn’t piecemeal advice on an internet board, because it would be his script.

      Biffer doesn’t need my advice nor does he need yours.

      Speak for yourself about need in the creative phase of a script. Not everyone thinks like you, thankfully.

      • Stephjones

        Heh. Just a gentle nip, Grendl? You must like me.

      • Casper Chris

        You’re suggesting that writing is a committee endeavor, and its not, not for the pros at least.

        That is terribly naïve. This is screenwriting after all. You’ll have to face the committee, especially when you’re a pro.

        If you’re concerned about artistic integrity, write novels.

        • Citizen M

          A pro screenwriter said you should listen when someone tells you there’s a problem in the script, but not listen when they suggest a solution.

          Of course, if your paycheck depends on it, you have to drop your trousers and take it like any other non-independently wealthy person.

        • astranger2

          … really, Carson? … up-voting something an idea as bone-shattering anemic as this blatantly yadda-yadda-yadda tepid thimble full of cliche’ “let’s work together” Canned Lack-of-Heat water in grendl’s face… is… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… oh, sorry, was there some learning going on here…?

          Grendl’s not obtuse… he’s spirited, and most likely found the wrong forum to be heard. This is a forum for aspiring screenwriters. Not to be confused with aspiring “writers.” Unless we’re talking about the type that want to write the descriptions on the back of cereal boxes.

          I respect this site. And, I understand more and more daily what it’s essence is. And, it’s about making it in the business, and making money. And that’s where the focus is. Always has been, as far as my relatively short life here has been.

          And, grendl, and myself, are detractors from SS’s goal. That goal is to be financially viable in the screenwriting biz. I have been a distractor.

          And most likely always will… but I also aim to be a successful PAID writer — it beats slinging hash. Still, I find it hard for any writer, even of a soft drink slogan, not to have at least a semblance of a soul — which will add to a Joe Greene slugging down a 12 oz. Coca-Cola in one gulp… that’s what grendl’s here for… you fucking Phillisitines… ; v )

          grendl about industry basics he’s too obtuse to absorb, we’ll just dully hammer him, like they do in water-softener pyramid schemes…

          I have an idea — I’m opening up a unique ice cream boutique. But instead of something stale like 31 Flavors, or 7 Minute Abs as bandied about in Something About Mary… I’ll

  • Bifferspice

    Grendl, you’ve made some excellent points, all about the opening scene, and I’m inclined to agree with you. I wanted to introduce Sarah better, and yet I think after the GA meeting is probably the best place to do it. I was hoping for you to get past p2 before writing the whole rewrite off though. i think overall the rewrite is far stronger than the previous version, but that doesn’t preclude the odd misstep along the way. thanks again for the thoughts.

    also, i don’t think I’ve had my head turned and am just sitting behind my keyboard asking people to tell me what to type. some of the changes here i’ve been sitting on for months, and i’ve only made changes i feel work for what i want to tell. it doesn’t mean i get it right, but i don’t feel like a ventriloquist’s dummy.

    • Casper Chris

      See my comment to grendl above.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Can’t comment on grendl’s analysis. He’s read more of the script.

      The real problem I have with the new first page is that it’s — boring.
      Plain and simple. It violates the first rule of screenwriting.

      Not sure if the old version was working but it at least created interest and mystery. It begins to draw us in. Who’s hands are those? What is she doing? Why is she doing it?

      Like a number of the suggestions made by Casper.

      (PS: Just an opinion.)

  • Casper Chris

    Let’s not overrate the first opening. People have a tendency to fall in love with something and then when changes are made, those changes are automatically the devil. You see it all the time with fans of a certain novel going to the movie adaptation of said novel, only to be outraged when it doesn’t “match the source”.

    Sarah and those clippings in the first scene was perfect.

    The first scene of the original opening was utterly pointless. You say ‘Sarah’, but it’s not even clear who’s making those clippings. The only thing we’re told is that it’s “an unseen person”. That’s it. Bifferspace even misses the opportunity to establish the gender of this unseen person when he simply writes ‘and a hand brushes them away’ (as opposed to, say, ‘a slender female hand brushes them away’). To make matters worse, he has Steve utter a line of dialogue during the paper cutting. This line is designated ‘O.S.’, giving us the impression that Steve is in the scene (but off screen) and that he’s probably the one making the clippings.

    Note to Biffer: If the dialogue in a scene is actually from the next scene (which I believe is what you were going for), you need to use ‘PRELAP’, not ‘O.S’.

    Now, the original opening did have a certain visual appeal and a charm (love the ‘doesn’t seem very anonymous’ and ‘course I want to change. I want to start winning ‘stead of bloody losing’ lines of the second scene) that is lacking in the new opening (hopefully Biffer saved the therapy scene for later?), but surely it had issues of its own.

    The first scene of the new opening, while lacking the visual impact of the original, certainly does more in terms of setting up the story. It establishes Sarah’s predicament and also introduces us to Nigel. At the end of the day, that brings us further along than the ‘paper cutting’ scene.

    Also, you have to applaud Biffer for now at least trying to show us, visually, the problem that is at the heart of the conflict between Sarah and Steve instead of having Steve simply sit on a chair and tell us. Audiences like to connect the dots themselves.

    Biffer, why didn’t you start the new opening with Steve gambling? It often makes sense to start with the protagonist and in this case it doesn’t make sense not to IMO. You don’t have to do A-B-A here, A-B is sufficient (scene arrangement). I also think it’s an opportunity to create a more visual and interesting opening. Lure us into Steve’s world with the bright, multicolored lights of the slot machines. Seduce us, like he’s being seduced.

    So yea, I’m definitely not writing the rewrite off just yet. I do think Biffer should try to infuse a bit more personality into those first few scenes though.That was the strength of the original opening. Its personality. In terms of sheer story mechanics, the rewrite might be stronger.

    • Bifferspice

      Thanks Caspar. I did start with Steve gambling, if you take the first 2 1/2 pages as an extended scene. It shows Steve’s gambling, the mechanical nature of it, and how it negatively affects his relationship with Sarah, and forcing him into the GA meeting, which immediately follows. I agree there needs to be a bit more personality maybe. I’m currently thinking to go back to the clippings bit (specifiying that it’s a male hand!!) and then the GA, then show him picking Sarah up from her play, so we see her doing what she loves, and they can walk home together. Then go to the shop scene. That gives Sarah a stronger first scene, but keeps Steve and his gambling and wants at the forefront.

      I feel it’s all fine-tuning, like a director would do in an editing suite. it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve lost my original vision or anything, just trying to make it fit the pages as best I can. Thanks for the encouragement :)

      • Casper Chris

        No, I mean have the first thing we see be the slot machines and Steve gambling, not Sarah in the playhouse. It’s a stronger opening image (both visually and thematically) and as we’ll always assume the first person we’re introduced to is the protagonist, it works better. Otherwise we’ll think Sarah is the protagonist until we realize it’s Steve (that’s not a huge no-no by any means, generally speaking, but in this case, everything speaks for starting with Steve and the slot machines). So make scene 2 scene 1 and combine scene 1 and 3 as the new scene 2. Win-win. Then work on infusing some more visual flair and personality into it.

        • Bifferspice

          Yep, I get your point. As per my comment, I’m going to tune the opening some more. :)

          • Casper Chris

            Good luck. Like grendl, I hope you don’t end up making things worse in a mad dash to get the best possible version to Carson (on a tight deadline). The fact that you’re going back and forth now seems like a bad sign. If you’re wobbly, just give him the original version. While I’m sure there’s room for improvement, we all rather liked that one.

            Anyway, you call the shots.

          • Bifferspice

            i’m in no doubt this version is way better. i’m just not sure about the new opening and agree i’m starting with the story, not an image which represents the story. it’s a good point. i’m not going back and forth on the script as a whole. :)

  • Bifferspice

    It was Steve doing the clippings in the first scene, for his scrapbook. Sarah didn’t know about them until she discovers the box near the end of the film.

    • Casper Chris

      Thanks for proving my point (made below). So as it turns out, Grendl didn’t even understand the original opening.

      • grendl

        It’s really easy for me to find out which writers are the most threatened by me.

        They tend to follow me around the board, and pull the fire alarm.”Hey everyone, grendl’s wrong! I got HIM!”/

        Elevating me to some sort of status I don’t deserve. I’m just one person posting opinions, why are you concentrating on me? I’m flattered really.Casper but do you think you’re Batman? Or I’m the Joker?

        Your snark and your constant following of me belies your jealousy or envy or something. What are you trying to suggest that this board is filled with geniuses? I’m in the wrong class?

        I don’t think you read this board enough. Its filled with all sorts of people.

        So he didn’t give the gender or offer a PRELAP, and I believed it was Sarah’s hands. The point is Sarah shouldn’t be in the first scene anyways, and its the Holy Grail of the big gambling win that needed to be there.

        But don’t focus on that. Focus on my misunderstanding. It doesn’t make you look small and petty, honestly. It makes you look like a genius.

        • yupnow

          Consider yourself owned by Casper, be-atch.

  • Bifferspice

    wow, thanks Rachel, great to hear :)

  • Bifferspice

    Hey Brittany, thanks very much. How’s TAoDD going? :) Thanks again, lovely to hear from you :)

  • Bifferspice

    I upvoted people for reading the script, making suggestions, and getting involved. I was really chuffed they had gone to the trouble. An upvote doesn’t mean it’s necessarily getting in the script!

  • Bifferspice

    Thanks Grendl. A miracle indeed. Like I say, I appreciate your points, and agree with them. It is this that I tried to address, but I guess not entirely successfully.

    I don’t “expect” anyone to read anything I write. My saying I wished you had read more than the first page was just showing my surprise that on the basis of reading the first page, you appear to have slated the entire rewrite based on my choice of opening scene, withdrew your support of the script, and questioned my artistic integrity, where a “Your original opening scene was better in the original version!” would have had the same effect.

    But your insights are, as always, well worth reading. (I’m probably just upset cos you didn’t respond to my request to send me an email so I could show you my second screenplay! :)

  • Nicholas J

    Not saying I disagreed with your assessment. Just seems harsh to jump ship on a script you previously endorsed simply because the opening page doesn’t adhere to a rule you discovered a couple weeks ago. Especially for someone who rallies against rules and necessities so often.

  • yupnow

    Undertow is the Plan Nine From Outer Space of scripts for sheer pretentiousness married to lack of talent.

    Hilarious to perform at parties.

  • charliesb

    I agree with you, except about Oberyn. On the show, Oberyn made a big show of questioning Clegane and not finishing him when he had the chance. His death definitely seemed at the fault of his hubris. But I prefer how it played out in the book. In the book his desire to find out the truth behind his sisters rape and death seemed more heartfelt and Clegane seemed all but defeated when he suddenly reached up with the last of his strength and smashed in Oberyn’s face. It was shocking both for the violence of it and because a moment earlier it looked like Oberyn had pretty much won.

    This was not a “when you want to shoot, shoot don’t talk” lesson. It was a lesson that Martin has shown time and time again. A noble cause will not guarantee you victory, sometimes shit happens and vengeance and closure often does not come in the form that we want it to.

  • astranger2

    I haven’t read Biffer’s revision(s), and thought I’d wait for Friday to see the most recent… but I’m a little confused by your comment about “pleasing the orangutans on this board?”

    On Charlton Heston’s planet — they had the highest IQ. So, why wouldn’t Biffer attempt to please this world’s highest order?

  • astranger2

    Regardless of whether Biffer’s script is a vast improvement, or a bend-over, vanilla rewrite, your post will definitely force me to read it. No offense to Biffer, I was interested enough previously… but, now… I’m driven by curiosity; did it lose all the quaint, lovely chemistry that made Breaking the Chain what we championed for.?

    For me, it’ll be… TGIF…

  • ryan

    According to Tvdb, he was born “Bassam”.

  • ryan

    He was born “Bassam”. Probably changed it when he moved to the states.