I was going through the Talkback of last weekend’s Amateur Offerings, and I came upon this comment which unabashedly ripped into the entries. I don’t necessarily like comments like this. I prefer feedback to be more constructive. But if I sense a raw truth to the comment, like the commenter really feels this way and isn’t just trying to stir shit up, I think that’s worth discussing. The truth is, some of the things 7 Against 7 says here, are true. And maybe by talking through them in a calmer more productive fashion, I can help some of you improve the types of ideas you come up with and the scripts you write. So I’m going to go through 7 Against 7’s entire comment, piece by piece, and give you my thoughts along the way. Some of this might be hard to hear. Prepare to be triggered. But hopefully, we’ll all be better writers in the end.
I’ve often wondered why writers couldn’t make a career out of selling spec scripts. These amateur offerings have shown me why.
If a production company had 50 million dollars to spare and wanted to spawn a successful film and possible franchise, these offerings would make them cringe. I imagine these offerings are akin to what’s circulating around Hollywood, and wow, are they bad.
7 Against 7 makes a great point here that writers often forget. If someone has 50 million dollars to spend, and every line of Hollywood box office data suggests that buying a pre-existing property is a better investment than buying an original spec script, why the hell would they buy your spec script? You need to imagine you’re in a room with a big time Hollywood executive and he’s asked you that exact question. Why your script? You better have an answer. The only three answers I know of that hold weight are… 1) You’ve come up with a kick-ass concept that everyone agrees is good. 2) You’ve hit on a current trend, finding an angle just unique enough to separate your script from the pack. 3) You’re an awesome fucking writer who can execute any story, no matter how mundane it sounds. Sadly, if you’re a nobody, people might not even read your script to find out if you’re 3. Logan Martin told me that before Meat landed on Scriptshadow, only 1 guy on Reddit would read his script because the logline wasn’t anything special. So it’s best, even if you are a great writer, to nail number 1 or 2. Increase your reads. Increase your odds.
1) Title: Plummet
Genre: Horror/Thriller/True Story
Logline: Lured by a sadistic killer, a young woman fights for survival in Central Park during the dead of winter. Based on true events.
Based on true events doesn’t negate the fact that it’s the same often retreaded story of a woman being stalked by most likely a male killer.
In this age of Hollywood revelations about stalkers and rapist terrorizing women at work, home and in hotel rooms; this story will motivate no one to go to a theater. Especially not with it taking place in Central Park, NY where there has been many women raped while jogging and walking. Why even write something like this?
“Because this is a contained thriller that really happened about a real serial killer you’ve never heard of?”
I want escapism when viewing movies, not a bludgeoning from reality.
All the complaints about “lack of originality” that ring out from writers whenever Landis makes a sale; yet every week the amateur offerings on this site are terribly unoriginal and uninspiring.
You say “Plummet,” terrible title by the way, is about a woman being stalked by a serial killer. I say it’s just another crumby slasher pick. And I’d rather watch the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “Friday the 13th” or “Halloween,” or “Sleepaway Camp,” or “Black Christmas” or “Fear,” or “Scream,” or “P2,” etc.
If you’re writing contained thrillers why not tweak the genre like “Get Out,” and “Split” did? If you had an idea like one of the aforementioned, it would be easier to sale; because it’s what producers, managers and agents are looking for right now.
I’m not sure I agree with everything 7 Against 7 is saying here. There is an audience for this kind of movie. There’s something primal about survival and overcoming evil that will never go away in cinema. And something as simple as seeing the girl get away from the killer can be exhilarating. But I agree that the specific concept shaping this getaway isn’t that original. And I like the movies he’s suggesting you look to instead. Get Out and Split. Be a little more creative. A girl running around a park… I suppose that could be okay if it’s executed realllllly well. But the ho-hum setting mentioned in the premise implies that the decisions being made in the script will also be ho-hum. I can’t know for sure. But that’s where my mind goes after reading a logline like this.
By the way, I agree with him about Max Landis. Guys – NEVER use Max Landis or anything he sells as a reason for why your like-minded script should sell. Max Landis is an enigma. There’s never been anyone like him. He posts insane videos on Youtube that go viral. He has a following. He openly trashes major blockbusters then gets hired by the studios that released those blockbusters. He wrote scripts for something like 10 years before he sold anything. There are too many factors going into his success that you can’t quantify or replicate. Don’t worry about Max Landis. Worry about becoming the best writer you can be.
2) Title: MONSTER ASSASSIN
Genre: Supernatural Action
Logline: When the love of his life is murdered by a group of demons, a legendary monster assassin sets out to exact revenge.
There are no stakes, and I can’t figure out who the main character supposed to be exacting revenge against. Some random group of demons? Who is their leader and did they do this for a specific reason? If so, that needs to be mentioned in the logline; otherwise it seems like this will be a pastiche of action scenes with no clear goal and tons of flashbacks divulging backstory. Typical amateur stuff.
Also, demons and angel as warriors has yet to translate well into boxoffice success, religious people don’t like seeing their religion displayed in such a manner. And none religious people think of angels and demon combat as being silly.
“Constantine,” “Dogma,” “Legion” “Ghost Rider,” and “End of Days” all flopped.
I don’t see how any producer or production company could get excited about an idea like yours; which would be better compared to “Constantine” than any of the aforementioned. And that failed as a movie and tv show.
“I poured into it my passion for the Gothic and macabre, my love of wildly imaginative action and my heart’s yearning for a magical world hidden within our own.”
Cool, but what about stakes? Conflict? Conflict resolution? Irony? An antagonist with an coherent goal? Urgency? Set ups and payoffs?
This feels unnaturally harsh, like me reviewing a Rian Johnson film, even though I still don’t understand why the Cinephile community gave this guy a pass for using Photoshop 6 to digitally alter his actor’s faces in Looper. I can only imagine what weirdness he’s going to employ in The Last Jedi. But I digress. 7 Against 7 is right that the logline here is a bit general. I like specificity in loglines because it’s what identifies your script as unique. Still, I understood the problem and goal just fine. Kill the demons. And something about this feels more fun than the failed movies 7 Against 7 listed. “Fun” means a broader audience. Not sure what he means about no conflict. What’s more conflict-filled than taking on demons?
3) Title: Righteous Anger
Logline: A 17-year-old Syrian refugee becomes entwined in a dangerous world of deceit and human trafficking in his Atlanta community.
Hey kids; let’s skip that live action version of the Lion King and go see this rousing movie about a Syrian refuge and women forced to be sex slaves…it’s in 3d!
Why would I pay to be shown fictional misery, when I can walk down the street and see it in reality? Movies about human trafficking have a terrible track record of not only being snubbed by the Globes and Oscars, but poor box office returns. Which production company would dip into their hard earned coffers to fund this knowing it will neither win awards or be boxoffice hit?
I have to admit I snickered at the idea of choosing between Lion King and a Syrian refugee movie. And 7 Against 7’s sentiment is correct here. This sounds really fucking depressing. However, we have to remember that not every script is vying for a 4000 theater release. If you want to make a more serious movie, you just have to make it cheap. With that said, you have to understand that these types of “heavy subject matter” scripts don’t do well on the spec market unless they’re tapping into an existing hot button topic. Almost everyone who writes this kind of stuff has to raise the money and shoot it themselves. On top of that, Righteous Anger’s logline trails off into obscurity instead of telling us what the script is about. It would be like, if I was writing the Raiders logline, I wrote, “An archeologist who searches the world for rare artifacts goes off and encounters a wild adventure…” You have to give us a more definitive goal, not summarize the general “feeling” of your script.
4) Title: Two-Time
Genre: Crime Drama
Logline: After allegations of game fixing derail his career, an ex-college football star is recruited by a disgraced university booster to steal the three National Championship trophies they helped win.
Why is it called “Two-Time,” if there are three titles being sought-after?
There are no stakes. What happens if they don’t get the trophies back? Nothing, I presume. So they’re willing to be arrested, and have their reputations further ruined, just to get trophies that have no true value?
This idea makes no sense.
Seven Against Seven is right on this one. It’s a script that I resisted posting for a long time for the very reasons he brings up. The story doesn’t make sense. What if he doesn’t get the trophies back? Nothing. He’s in the exact same spot as before. That’s stakes guys. If your character ends up in the same place whether he succeeds or fails, that means there are no stakes. Not to mention, what’s the point of getting these trophies back? You can’t make money off trophies. The only thing they’re good for is displaying. And you can’t do that since it would prove that you stole them back. The more you dig into this idea, the less it makes sense. But at least there’s a story with a goal. And that’s more than a lot of entries offered. So I gave the script a shot.
5) Title: …’Scape The Lightning Bolt!
Genre: Dark Comedy
Logline: Henry has the purest intentions. All he wants is to see his sister happy, but when he accidentally sets her up with a violent psychopath with a peculiar motto (‘Scape the Lightning Bolt)… his life takes an unexpected turn for the worse.
Did you write an entire screenplay around a phrase?
Bazinga! the movie.
What is the main character’s goal? Weather the storm? Kill the psychopath? Couldn’t he just tell her the guy’s a crazy person, show her some footage, and be done with it? I mean, the psychopath isn’t married to his sister.
Now if the guy found out that his sister’s longtime husband was a psychopath that would be more interesting. There would be more attachment and a harder goal of breaking them up. But, as is, your logline is weak and confusing.
Harsh critique but he’s right. Producers would pick this up and think the same thing 7 Against 7 did. The screenplay is about a phrase? How did that end up for Waboom Guy on The Bachelorette? The bigger problem, however, is that you’ve built a movie around the phrase, then don’t tell us what the phrase means. At the very least you’ve got to give us that. But I’ll tell you why I picked this anyway. It sounded different. And sometimes, that’s enough. Readers see so much of the same day in and day out, that something unique will catch their eye. So even with the concept’s limitations, I thought, “Why not?”
Reeves man, stop wasting your time and effort reviewing amateur offerings that aren’t market ready, or saleable. You’re not doing yourself any favors. Find another “Disciple Program,” and get yourself some production credits or something. ‘Cuz this crop of script here, are disheartening.
Just last month Amateur Offerings led to the beginning of a writer’s career. And I’d say we’re consistently finding better material on Amateur Offerings than at any other time. It’s still the best place on the net to discover new talent, in my humble opinion. :)
7 Against 7 is also forgetting something – the power of execution. If a writer has a strong sense of craft or a really unique voice, you can’t always see that in logline form. Also, there’s a bit of a secret involved in logline creation that’s never talked about. When you become a professional, you no longer have to write loglines. The funny thing is that it usually takes the same amount of time to get good at writing loglines as it does to get good at writing screenplays. So by the time we finally have a writer who can write a good logline, they no longer need to. Which is why all the loglines we see in the amateur world are, for the most part, flawed. It’s because they’re not ready yet. They’re still learning.
I think what 7 Against 7 is really railing against here are the ideas. They’re not exciting enough. They’re not the kind of idea where you go, “Oh my god, I have to read that.” Granted, that’s not easy to do. But that should be what you’re aiming for. Also, it’s a hell of a lot easier to write a good logline when you have a good idea. You do that by coming up with a fresh concept that we haven’t quite seen before. Add an interesting main character who encounters a compelling problem. This leads to the primary goal that will drive the story. Then just throw a lot of shit at them to make it hard. There ya go. Now let’s see some kick-ass Amateur Offerings entries!
Carson does feature screenplay consultations, TV Pilot Consultations, and logline consultations. Logline consultations go for $25 a piece or 5 for $75. You get a 1-10 rating, a 200-word evaluation, and a rewrite of the logline. I highly recommend not writing a script unless it gets a 7 or above. All logline consultations come with an 8 hour turnaround. If you’re interested in any sort of consultation package, e-mail Carsonreeves1@gmail.com with the subject line: CONSULTATION. Don’t start writing a script or sending a script out blind. Let Scriptshadow help you get it in shape first!