No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Script Review (Red Light)

Recently, we reviewed Chris Shamburger’s horrific new slasher, Red Light. As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list.   Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.  This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!  Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below – for your Thanksgiving-reading pleasure – please find Danny’s scoresheet for Red Light. (Please note: for this posting, we’ve broken with tradition and redacted the actual coverage notes.) TRUST US: Danny’s notes – as always – were insightful and detailed; an invaluable read.  But we’re allergic to spoilers here at STS. So we’re keeping THAT under our Turkey table today!

But a Strong Consider from No Bullscript?  You better damned well grab this gem while you can! 🙂 Contact writer Chris at cshamburger “AT” live dot com for a copy of the script!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

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NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

 Title: Red Light

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author:  Chris Shamburger

Number of Pages: 102

Circa:  Present

Location:  Arizona

Genre:  Slasher/Horror

Coverage Date:   11/19/15

Budget Range: Low

LOGLINE: When three teens challenge a local ghost story by running a red light, they find themselves the next targets of a seemingly supernatural entity bent on revenge but the truth behind the legend may be even more deadly.

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: STRONG CONSIDER

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/

Premise

  X    
Story   X    
Structure   X    
Conflict/Drama   X    
Consistent Tone X      
Pacing   X    
Stakes   X    
Climax   X    
Resolution/

Ending

  X    
Overall Characters   X    
Protagonist   X    
Antagonist     X  
Dialogue   X    
Transitions   X    
Format, Spelling, Grammar, Pg Count   X    
Well Defined Theme   X    
Commercial Appeal/Hook   X    
Overall Originality   X    
Production Value X      
International Appeal   X    

 

About the writer: Chris Shamburger was a finalist (Top 10) in the 2013 Shriekfest Film Festival for his recently-produced script, Hiccups. He has been a semi-finalist twice and has also been published in Twisted Dreams Magazineand Horror in Words. Chris lives in Marietta, GA with his partner and their Chow-mix rescue, Walter. Aside from writing, Chris has been teaching pre-kindergarten for the past six years. You can find him on IMDb here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6420891/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Danny Manus No Bullscript Analysis – Thistles

Recently, STS reviewed Mark Lyons’ very raw, and very real dramatic script, Thistles.  (Script available here.) As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list.   Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.  This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!  Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Thistles. Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

About the writer of Thistles: Mark Lyons is a screenwriter from Youngstown, Ohio. He’s written several scripts, most notably ‘Best Film’ award winner “God’s Empty Acre”, which was filmed as ‘Girl(s)’, at the 2013 Winter Shorts Film Festival and Best Drama at the 2013 World Independent Film Expo. He has also written the feature “Thistles” which was a Quarter-Finalist in the 2013 Bluecat Screenwriting Competition and the short “Ginger” which was a Finalist at the 2013 Shriekfest Film Festival. He can be reached at markielyons “AT” yahoo

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

Title: Thistles

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author: Mark Lyons

Number of Pages: 92

Circa: Present

Location: Ohio/Urban City

Genre: Drama

Coverage Date: 8/12/15

Budget Range: Low

LOGLINE: A junior high school student’s crush on her teacher leads to seduction, murder and brutal and shocking consequences that neither of them could have anticipated.

COMMENTS: Mark, thank you for submitting your script “Thistles” to Simply Scripts. In the subsequent pages, I will go through the things that work well and what still needs to be worked on, developed, or changed to make this a more viable and commercial script and series.

I’m going to be as blunt in the notes as you are in the writing of this script. I’ve read many thousands of scripts and this is easily one of the most disturbing, twisted, upsetting, and brutal scripts I’ve ever read. And I love films like Hard Candy, Kids, Bully, Precious, etc. that tackle disturbing topics in interestingly dramatic or artistic ways. But if Precious met A Serbian Film, this script might be the result. And while a disturbing and unsettling tone is set up early on, with the young girls talking about what they’d do to grown men on pg 9, it really goes so far over the edge in the third act that there’s no going back. I could list maybe 3 scripts I’ve ever read that viscerally made me want to gag, and this is one of them. It’s nicely written overall, but very simply, there are just some things no producer would touch or want to film. And your third act fits that bill.

The story of a disillusioned urban teen’s seduction of her alcoholic yet very caring and supportive (white) teacher is already pushing the envelope, but in a good way. That concept can work if done well. An African American Lolita meets Precious. And you have a few very intriguing plot points and shocking twists pushing the story forward, including the death of Sazha’s brother at the hands of her teacher because of the assumed affair going on. When Sazha finally seduces him in his inebriated state and gets what she wants, I actually assumed she was going to turn on him and use that to destroy him to get vengeance for her brother…but this story takes a very different direction.

It’s a morally complex story, and I do appreciate that. It gives us enough twists and turns that the reader and audience is constantly being challenged to be at odds with our own thoughts and expectations. That can be very powerful. But for me, it just. Goes. Too. Far.

Structurally, you have a very interestingly told story. Each major plot twist really pushes the story in a new direction. An unexpected direction. You have major moments that really stand out (some for good reasons, some not), and you have a solid inciting incident, end of your first act, turning points, a hell of a midpoint, and then a build in your third act (which I’ll discuss in a moment). The opening of the script made me wonder what year this movie takes place in because the use of VHS makes it seem pretty dated, and even the school and the English lesson and the pop-it’s the kids throw at him feel a bit dated.

Crandall is set up as this pitiful character with a sad backstory who clearly has his demons but wants to do the right thing. And his story is really a tragedy, with his suicide at the midpoint being another shocking and pretty unexpected moment that jars the reader and makes us continually wonder – where could this story be going next? Crandall is somewhat of the protagonist of the story despite his actions or interactions with Sazha. We do pity him and feel for him, and even forgive his illegal transgressions, which makes us question ourselves. But once he’s gone, the script becomes something else.

Crandall is an interesting character in that he invites his 12 year old student to his home for tutoring, but then rebuffs her. But then gives in, but then feels guilty. And then with Crandall’s letters/notebook that Sazha finds, I at first thought that he had written letters to ALL the students he had molested and that he really was a bad guy and she was discovering this while reading the letters and realizing that she’s not as special as she thought she was. But in the end, they turn out to be really sweet, kind, redeeming letters to his students that show how good of a guy he was.

A small note with Crandall, but you introduce him twice on page 4. His physical description at the bottom of the page should come at the top when you tell us about his receding hairline.

Turrell sees what he assumes is Crandall taking advantage of Sazha through the window, but he doesn’t go right over there and kick his ass or do anything. He waits until a couple days later to actually kill him. Why?

With Clyde, he seems like a very supportive friend but we don’t meet him until the AA meeting and suddenly he and Crandall are talking about school and the kids and curriculum. We need to see him at the school first to set up that he even works there. And it’s not clear that he’s the Principal until later.

One of my favorite and most emotionally tense scenes in the whole script is when Crandall gets on the bus that Cora is driving after Turrell’s murder, and she realizes who he is and confronts him. It’s a very cool way for them to cross paths, and it’s a powerful moment and a strong scene. However, I don’t believe that a woman who could do what she does in the third act to a baby and her own pregnant mother, wouldn’t at least PUNCH Crandall and go crazy on him in this scene. It’s also a little odd that Cora doesn’t know who he is as soon as she sees him. Doesn’t she know what the killer looks like and who he is? Doesn’t she know that Sazha’s teacher IS the killer? Doesn’t Crandall know that Cora is the mother? Wouldn’t this have all been on the news or at least around the neighborhood? They live directly across the street from each other!

Similarly, it’s unclear if Cora knows that Crandall is dead or killed himself in the third act because she seems to not address this on page 76 when Sazha tells him who the father is. She connects the dots to him being Turrell’s killer, but she seems to care more about the fact that her daughter is sleeping with a grown white man than her son’s killer.

It’s almost always a good thing when a script and a story can get a visceral and emotional reaction from readers…but if you take it too far, you will lose them and then the connection is over. The sex on page 52 you could probably shoot around and if the actress is over 16 and just looks younger, it could be okay. But not what happens on page 74 and continues thru to the end. For me, the fine line between cinematically disturbing and edgy and unfilmable is crossed and then goes even further, and I could no longer tell who would watch this movie.

And it’s not just the action that Cora takes at the start of this sequence, which would be enough to turn a viewer off. It’s really the quadruple-beat of; the hardcore beating of a pregnant 13 year old, the incest reveal of her brother raping her, the stabbing of a premature baby as it’s coming out of her vagina by her own grandmother, and then seeing the actual aborted birth and taking PIECES of the chopped up baby and putting it in a box and carrying it around? There is very little that truly disturbs me while I’m reading – but these 13 pages were almost unreadable because of its truly graphic nature.

There are a number of strong themes and societal issues that this story tackles in truly disturbing albeit original ways. Obviously abortion, teen pregnancy, teachers sleeping with students, the lack of education and the growing amount of violence and sexuality in urban cities, parenting, etc. But thematic films or message movies that are too on the nose or too graphic will not find an audience (at least not a large enough one) because people go to the movies to be entertained first and foremost. The abortion protests are very in your face and I’m not sure why Cora is SO hardcore against it. Clearly she does a 180 in her feelings, but it’s so out of character for her and SO extreme, that it doesn’t feel very believable. She was vehemently against safe, medically-induced Planned Parenthood abortions in the first trimester, but has no problem stabbing an 8 month old premature baby in the head as its being born with a wooden stake and mutilating her daughter on the kitchen floor? I just don’t buy it no matter how mad she gets.

The urban market is growing and there are a number of producers, directors and actors looking for projects that connect with many of the messages and themes confronted within this story. And actresses love to play dirty, ugly and mean. But I honestly don’t know an actress who would want to play the role of Cora. There are some things actresses just won’t do and I worry this is one of them.

Turning to the dialogue, I think it feels genuine to the characters and the world, and there are a number of well-written lines throughout. The writing is strong, and it’s obviously very visceral and impactful on the page. Taking that ability and bringing it to a more commercial concept I think would really make your voice stand out.

I do have a few additional page/line notes:

Pg 20 – Crandall’s dialogue at the bottom is awkwardly worded and doesn’t quite make sense.

Pg 34 – Maybe you don’t have to tell us that it’s Turrell on page 33 that jumps out and that Crandall kills until the next page when Sazha comes in and sees the body and runs towards it and THAT is the moment we realize it’s Turrell’s and that’s why he’s there. I think that might create a stronger moment and reveal.

Pg 66 – Why doesn’t the OB Nurse advise her to abort?

Pg 67 – The egg, making sure not to break the yolk is nice symbolism. It does not go unnoticed.

Pg 69 – It’s unclear how far long Sazha is by now. You have to track that. And she’s not set up as being big boned, so I didn’t know how it wasn’t obvious and showing.

Pg 87 – Patton’s dialogue is pretty racist at the bottom.

Pg 91 – Smithers has some serious self-control. I would have looked.

Overall, the script is well-written and visually written, and the first half of the script is disturbing in an intriguing and dramatic way with nice unexpected twists. It presents timely themes and issues and in morally complex ways. But the last 20 pages just go so far over the edge that I’m not sure who could or would want to watch that on film. It’s so brutally and disgustingly graphic that even if this script were perfectly written, I couldn’t send this to executives because I don’t think they will enjoy the read. And I could only imagine the phone calls I’d get. As a writing sample, I worry that you will turn more execs off than impress them. Plus, you have a slutty black 12 year old, a creepy white adult, and some truly dark and depressing storylines, so I’m not sure what the demographic is for the movie. There are some really strong moments in this script and I can appreciate your writing style, but it’s not a commercial concept the way it plays out and I don’t know any producers who would make this. I’d give a CONSIDER to the writing, but the last 20 pages would make it a PASS for me. But keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Mark for submitting your script “Thistles” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month!

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: CONSIDER W/RESERVATIONS

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise                    X          
Story                           X  
Structure                                   X    
Conflict/Drama    X    
Consistent Tone        X              
Pacing     X    
Stakes          X    
Climax                             X  
Resolution/Ending           X  
Overall Characters                         X    
Protagonist                   X    
Antagonist                    X  
Dialogue                   X                
Transitions                 X    
Format, Spelling,   Grammar, Pg Count                     X      
Well Defined Theme                      X      
Commercial Appeal/Hook                                    X  
Overall Originality                            X    
Production Value          X    
International Appeal                                     X  

 

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Script Review (Mile 42) – RECOMMENDATION!

Recently, STS reviewed John Dowgin’s desert thriller, Mile 42 (Script available here.) As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list.   Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.  This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!  Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Mile 42. Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

About the writer of Mile 42: John P. Dowgin is a playwright, screenwriter, director and actor, as well as a founding member of the production company The Porch Room (porchroom.com) for whom he directed the original work ‘Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives” at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival. Two of John’s plays have been published in the compilation “Accidents Happen” by Samuel French, and have been performed in New York, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Toronto, Dublin, and Australia. A number of his screenplays are also in ‘development’, which he suspects to be a theoretical dimension like Oz. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and son.

**********

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

Title:  Mile 42

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author:  John P. Dowgin

Number of Pages: 96

Circa: Present

Location: Arizona Desert/Border

Genre: Thriller

Coverage Date:  6/20/15

Budget Range:  Low

LOGLINE: When an extreme distance runner encounters a human trafficking ring during a desert ultramarathon, he must battle a corrupt group of Border Patrol Agents and his own mental and physical exhaustion to save innocent lives – and himself.

COMMENTS: John, thank you for submitting your script “Mile 42” to Simply Scripts. In the subsequent pages, I will go through the things that work well and what still needs to be worked on, developed, or changed to make this a more viable and commercial script and series.

Overall, I think this is a very well-written, easy to read script with some strong action scenes, memorable dialogue, and a likeable protagonist in Victor. The Latino market is growing considerably and there are a number of Latino actors that are becoming more bankable and if you can bridge the demographic gap through a commercial action/thriller concept, it could do well. It certainly feels like it’s something that could sell to an international audience if cast right.

I think the story is pretty straight forward for the most part, and while there is an ever-expanding conspiracy, we basically know who is involved and who isn’t pretty quickly and we know exactly what they’re doing other than the whole Russian angle. I do think that there could be more inklings of this larger mystery or operation so that the Russian coming in at the climax answers some questions instead of just feeling like another guy in the mix. And while I do think the backdrop of this race is very interesting, I don’t think it’s a race anyone has really heard of and so a bit more set up could help especially since we only see 2 other people running this race.

Structurally, the script is very strong. The opening scene is visual and tense, though I didn’t know why there would be a bridge in the middle of the desert. You have a solid inciting incident that pulls us into the story, a great exciting midpoint, and some really strong individual scenes and turning points with a number of deaths that get quite extreme and gory, starting with Jeter and his severed arm. The subject matter of the story is dark, but it’s really only in the kills (and Victor’s feet) that the tone gets gruesome and graphic. Decapitations, venom poisoning, gangrene, shootings, etc. It gets pretty hardcore for a thriller that doesn’t seem quite as hardcore as the murders within it. But it makes it visual and shocking and it works.

You hit all the right beats at the right moments, and your midpoint definitely stands out as you cut back and forth between the action with Victor as well as Borden and Carlos until they come together. The red ants were unexpected and it feels like a strong mini-climax that gives the story a nice boost and puts our characters back together. The only issue I have with the scene is I kept wondering where Somes is, as he seems to disappear.

The Shadow Wolves find the same group of immigrants that McCaffrey and Otilio are looking for, but how did they know the rest of the immigrants were hiding there? It’s not totally clear where THERE is in this scene other than in the desert. When the Shadow Wolves drop off the immigrants at mile marker 30 for catch and release, do they do anything or literally just drop them off? It’s not really clear since minutes later it seems, Somes, McCaffrey and Otilio find them there and tie them up again.

I think Victor’s mental state could become even more tenuous. The delusions he has and seeing Timson is great, and it puts us in Victor’s head, but we could get a bit more of that and see his downward spiral mentally as he’s trying to survive. It isn’t clear at first on page 71 if the bombs dropping on this mocked up town are real or if that is all in his head. We realize it in the next scene when Somes and McCaffrey are discussing it, but this bombing feels out of nowhere.

With the bombing, I’m not sure how Victor lived, but more than that, I don’t know who dropped the bomb or from where or how they knew to drop the bomb there. It feels like there’s a much bigger story going on here once the bombing occurs – perhaps with the Russians – than just some corrupt agents and minutemen or an immigrant trafficking scandal. But who is calling the Russians to drop the bomb (if it was them)?

One important scene that seems to be missing is when McCaffrey apparently shoots Carlos. We don’t get to see this – we only see him drag Carlos’s body to the SUV having already been shot. Yes, in the previous scene he seems to line up his shot, but it still feels like there’s a moment missing in between. The shot itself, Toraidio’s reaction, how they got down there and found them and tied him up, etc. If Carlos is shot, it’s a moment that could create a moment for Toraidio of if he runs or stays with his dad. Carlos still moving is a great moment, and his subsequent death is emotional and a strong scene.

The way Somes kills McCaffrey with the rattlesnake is definitely original and awful (in a cool way), but how did Somes grab the snake and put it down his shirt to begin with?

Victor is a likable and castable hero and it’s nice that he wants to save the immigrants he comes across, but I’d love to get a bit more about him to know why. We get backstory on him and why he’s doing these races, but is there anything in his personal history or family that makes him connect with Carlos and his son?

Victor’s backstory of being in the army and killing that young boy because he didn’t have a choice is certainly powerful and gives us some insight as to his deeper need and want and the redemption (or perhaps punishment) he’s seeking by doing all these crazy sports and races. And his dialogue in this scene is quite moving as well. But his list of extreme sports and activities/events he’s done is insane. What kind of person could do ALL that?

He’s virtuous and wants to do the right thing, but almost to a fault. I’m not sure why he confesses to the killing of Jeter, especially since he’s trying to run this race. Does he really think he can confess to murder and then just keep on running without having to go talk to cops or fill out reports, be interviewed, etc.? I don’t quite get this. And Somes’ response of “you’ll have to fill out a report” seems pretty flippant considering he just confesses to killing a Minuteman. Is that all you have to do when you kill someone? Fill out a report? This was an odd moment and reaction.

Perhaps one of the more surprising moments is when Victor gives Carlos and Toraidio over to the authorities even though it will save Toraidio’s life and he does it for good reasons. But his relationship with Toraidio becomes quite sweet and is a driving force in the story and in Victor’s motivations. And I think in the end, the fact he and Cynthia have seemingly adopted him is a great end.

Cynthia is a likable character, but I had no idea they were together until later in the script. She seems like a friend and a caring volunteer, but I didn’t feel any true LOVE between them in their first few scenes together. She blows him a kiss on page 19, but it felt more flirtatious than loving or like they were in a relationship already. There’s the “ove yo” message on pg 24 and that’s where I realized they might be in a relationship, but I think this could be a bit clearer, sooner.

You have created this quite large conspiracy and it’s interesting to watch it crumble not only from the outside, but also from the conflict that erupts from within the group and that it’s all over simple greed instead of the principle of the horrible things they’re doing. None of them really take issue with that.

Cutter makes for a solid secondary hero, though he’s mostly a desk jockey throughout the story until the climax. You do set up a suspicion around him so we’re not TOTALLY sure if he’s a good guy or not until the second half of the script, which is great. But if there’s one thing that could be set up a bit stronger, it’s Cutter’s relationship with Somes. Because while they seem like partners and they’re friendly, they are really only together in the very beginning of the script. I think their friendship could be seen a bit more, at least in the first act, so that when Cutter has to bust him in the end (and shoot him dead) he’s at least torn about it and the moment resonates not just as the good guy killing the bad guy, but a good man who had to kill his friend.

The Shadow Wolves sound like they could be a movie unto themselves (it’s a great title anyway), and could have their own agendas and motivations, storylines and rivalries, but right now they don’t bring anything DIFFERENT to the table than regular federal agents or border patrols. Even their names are pretty white-angle sounding. The fact they are Native American and working on the reservations is an original hook, but I’m not sure it actually pays off or makes a real difference in the plot. I’m also not totally sure you need THREE of them in a story where there are a large number of characters already, but it’s fine. I just think Terrence, Tom and Chris (and their personalities) get a bit lost in the story when really they should stand out more than anyone.

The climax is exciting and action-packed without it being huge budget and it really creates nice tension and builds well as everyone converges. Cutter finally takes a more active role while Victor still gets enough revenge on Somes and saves Toraidio. It’s a really tight and nicely written climax that tracks a large number of moving pieces, and that’s not easy to do in a visual and clear way.

Turning to the dialogue, I think this is where the script stands out nicely. There’s some very strong dialogue throughout and a nice voice. Some of the banter and the way you get across your themes in subtle ways in most scenes is quite strong. This type of story could have gotten very preachy or message-heavy, and it’s not. The “limits are there to be tested/limits are there to limit” conversation stood out, as well as a few other lines listed below. You even have a few nice moments of levity in a story that’s awfully dark and serious. You walked a really fine line very well, and it was an enjoyable read.

“Your feet only get you into the desert. Your mind gets you out.” Another great line.

A small note, but after 22 miles, how has Victor only burned 800 calories? Feels like it should be way more than that.

I do have a few additional page/line notes:

Pg 35 – Victor’s reply “Fuck would you know” is pretty rude in the moment. Not sure why he’s so harsh.

Pg 45 – You can cut the scene heading EXT. COTINUOUS and just say MINUTES LATER.

Pg 47 – Typo – THAT’S=THAT’D

            “You’re just a citizen” is a weak line that caps off a really impressive and powerful 2 pgs of dialogue. It doesn’t quite feel like what Somes would say. Plus, while there is a nice callback to this line on page 92, Victor was out cold when Somes said it.

Pg 51 – I keep wondering where is Somes?

Pg 65 – I don’t know what the phrases “who cut sign on foot” and “cut so much sign” means. I’m not sure if it’s a typo or just a saying I’m not aware of but I didn’t get the context.

Pg 75 – “You could’ve lived a hero. Now you’ll die an alibi.” – That’s a great line.

Pg 79 – The line “He just wanted to pick cantaloupe” almost comes off as funny in this moment even though I know it’s not meant to. But it’s kind of a comical line.

Pg 81 – Good angle Victor brings to his dialogue here to Cynthia.

Overall, I think the concept and the action is commercial and exciting, and at is budget level I think this could be a successful project if cast correctly. It tackles an issue without becoming an issue movie, it could bridge the gap between Latino demographics and mainstream thrillers, and it’s an enjoyable and easy read. The story is a bit straightforward, but the structure is strong, it keeps moving nicely and tosses in some gory, gruesome deaths for flavor. I do think there’s a bit more you could do with the Shadow Wolves or with the larger operation involving the Russians, and I think Cutter could seem a bit move active and connected to Somes. But generally, the story is strong. There’s some great dialogue moments throughout, and a nice voice that knows how to write visual action, economically. And knows what level of levity is appropriate at what times. There are many companies out there looking for a good $1-$2M thriller and many companies looking to cater to the Latino demographic, and I think this could easily be optioned if it’s not already. So stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again John for submitting your script “Mile 42” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month!

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: RECOMMEND

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise   X        
Story        X                       
Structure                    X      
Conflict/Drama        X    
Consistent Tone          X              
Pacing       X    
Stakes          X    
Climax   X                
Resolution/Ending        X        
Overall Characters                  X    
Protagonist            X    
Antagonist                    X    
Dialogue      X                
Transitions              X    
Format, Spelling,   Grammar, Pg Count               X      
Well Defined Theme                      X      
Commercial Appeal/Hook                           X      
Overall Originality                         X    
Production Value   X    
International Appeal        X                        

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Script Review (Offline)

Recently, STS reviewed Gary Rowland’s ultra limited location horror, Offline. (Script available here.) As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list.   Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.  This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!  Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Offline. Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

About the writer of Offline: Gary Rowlands cut his teeth writing sketch comedy and was a commissioned writer on the hugely popular Spitting Image broadcast on national television in the UK. He has since branched out into writing features and is actively seeking representation. He can be contacted at gazrow at hotmail dot com.

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

 

Title: Offline

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author: Gary Rowlands

Number of Pages: 89

Circa: Present

Location: Bedroom

Genre:   Supernatural Horror/Thriller

Coverage Date: 4/14/15

Budget Range: Low

LOGLINE: When a young, bed-ridden hacker with a tormented past meets a girl online who turns out to be dead, he realizes nothing is as it seems and the girl’s murderer may lie closer to home – and she may not be the only victim.

Warning: Spoiler Alerts!

COMMENTS: Gary, thank you for submitting your script “Offline” to Simply Scripts. In the subsequent pages, I will go through the things that work well and what still needs to be worked on, developed, or changed to make this a more viable and commercial script and series.

Overall, I think this is a nicely written, easy to read, and potentially commercial script. It’s Rear Window-esque with a Psycho and supernatural Sixth Sense twist. It can certainly be produced for a very low budget with basically 1 location and a handful of characters, and you set up a nice creepy tone immediately and it remains consistent throughout. You’ve got a couple nice twists in the story and there are some strong visuals and moments, though I do think there are a few issues that need to be addressed still.

There is a strong supernatural feel to the whole story, from page one, and that continues throughout. However, I’m still not quite sure what supernatural entity is possessing his computer which types out messages to him and makes it go on and off randomly, etc. Or what entity makes the vase and nightstand levitates. His phone is possessed, his computer is possessed – but this story isn’t about the devil possessing technology. I think it COULD be – especially with the title being Offline – but it’s not really about a Hacker who caused deaths, and now possessed technology is taking revenge. If the supernatural elements were more directly tied to technology (especially since he’s a hacker), that might make it stand out even more. But I’m not totally sure what Dave killing all those women has to do with his hacking or technology or Satan.

The biggest issue for me, is that I knew pretty quickly that Dave was probably dead and that this was some Sixth Sense situation. I suspected it by page 20 and was pretty sure on page 24 as soon as he starts talking to Nichola. There are just too many obvious clues and hints along the way, and there are too many other logistic issues for it to be anything else. So while the MOM being dead already is a nice twist, and the hero turning out to actually have been the killer is interesting, I knew he was dead almost the whole time. I also knew there was a dead body in the closet, which I think is pretty obvious as soon as the fly comes out of there on page 27. And because of that, I think the story gets a bit predictable and repetitive and we’re just waiting for the reveal I knew was coming.

Lucy and Nichola’s characters are obviously evil and not really human because logistically, what they are doing and saying just don’t quite ring true. I knew Lucy was likely Lucifer from the start. What they are asking David to do doesn’t make sense unless they are something much different than they appear, and the random and awkward way they just appear doesn’t feel real or plausible. How would Lucy get in? His mother doesn’t notice? And if she is the cop on the case, wouldn’t she be on TV or seem more professional? If Lucy is a cop and Nichola is a psychic, would Dave really need to tell her that some serial killers take trophies? Wouldn’t they know that? I know that, and I’m not a cop or psychic.

With Nichola, I don’t get how Dave just picks up the phone and she’s already on the line (seemingly). She never gave him a number to call. I think Nichola feels so over the top and desperate and clearly out for her own reasons – and without any proof she is who she says she is – that I don’t know why Dave believes her. I didn’t believe her from the get go. I think that much like Ruth, they have to feel more convincing at the start. Nichola starts feeling childish and too obvious, especially on pg 44, and it made me wonder why Dave keeps believing her or talking to her. Then Nichola tells him “We’ll take you with us” on pg 44 and that makes it very clear to me that Nichola and Lucy are going back to hell and are going to take him with them because he was already dead.

The second thing that made me very quickly think Dave was already dead (or dying) is how he simply turns on the computer or just picks up the phone – and Clare and Nichola are instantly there. He doesn’t go to a website or any specific place or program where a girl would even BE on camera to talk to him. She’s just magically there. And I’m not sure how/why the computer dies and then suddenly comes back to life. It all feels very suspect. You tell us on pg 14 that “Clare’s offline” – but what program is he looking for her on? Skype? Instant Messenger? Gmail chat? A website? Women don’t just appear when you turn on your computer. And if she’s offline, then she must be from a specific program he’s looking at. The lack of specifics makes us not believe.

With David, I like the way you set him up and describe his room with the Star Wars figures as it helps him seem the young innocent, though with the big rat he sees in the room it paints a picture of David and his mother living in a dilapidated shithole. It’s a great visual and it does make us wonder if he’s having delusions or not, but it makes us think he lives in a hovel.

David’s backstory with his father’s suicide could be sad and impactful, but I am not sure what a child could steal from a Church that would lead to their father killing themselves over it. I mean, he could kill a Priest and I don’t think it would make a child’s father kill himself over it unless it’s set up that the father was incredibly religious. David’s crime didn’t feel important enough to force his father to do that. Yes, he stole money from the Church that was set for a mission, but it’s really his mother who is the bad guy. If there is a strong religious connection in this family, I think that needs to be set up and clear.

One of my biggest issues with Dave is that I have a hard time believing he’s a good hacker. His Google searches are incredibly vague and simple (“shyness” “psychics” etc.), and he’s not doing much on the computer before this whole thing happens and I would think he’d be all over it trying to hack something, find something, do something, etc. The Star Wars figures might make him seem a little nerdy but it doesn’t make him feel like a hacker. He doesn’t show off he has those skills until he suddenly needs them, and I would suggest you set that up earlier by showing him trying to do some serious hacking online – maybe even trying to find out who hit him or something that can connect later. Also, I’m not sure why he needs to look up “haunted house” on Wikipedia – does he really not know what one is? I’m pretty sure it’s self-explanatory.

My other major issue with David and his connection with Clare is that they never speak for more than 30 seconds, and every single conversation they have ends abruptly with David slamming his computer shut and just ending the conversation. It seems very rude and immature, and I’m pretty sure that you only get to do that to a woman once – maybe twice – until they never speak to you again. Yet she never seems to care. But the even bigger issue with him doing this, is that it stops them from ever REALLY creating a connection or chemistry that’s more than just instant physical attraction. And for US to connect with them and feel a connection, I think we need to see them talk a bit more and a bit deeper. Then you wouldn’t have to tell us that the chemistry between them is palpable because we’ll see it on screen.

While Dave’s willingness to sacrifice himself for Clare is sweet, and perhaps that’s part of him subconsciously seeking redemption for his crimes, it feels forced. They don’t seem to have a deep enough connection for him to do this, plus – he KNOWS she’s already dead! Why would he sacrifice his life so that a dead girl doesn’t find out she’s dead? It just doesn’t quite make sense. It would be one thing if he was sacrificing his own life to save her from dying, but just finding out she’s dead? I’m not sure those are big enough stakes.

A small note, but the way David tries to find out who Clare is seems to be a bit silly. He doesn’t know anything about her or where she lives, but he’s going to search through online yearbooks of every high school in the state? He doesn’t even know what state she’s in. If he was a real hacker, wouldn’t he be able to take a screen capture of her face and run it through some face recognition software or google images software to find a match? If she WAS killed or kidnapped, her face would have been all over the news and pretty easy to find on Google, wouldn’t it? It just feels like there’s a SMARTER way to find her and who she is online than looking at ever yearbook in the unnamed state.

Clare’s a nice girl but we know she’s dead by page 15. It’s a solid moment, but again he reacts to seeing her scars by just slamming his computer shut. The fact she’s a ghost is fine, and it makes sense with the witching hour being when she comes online (though you don’t have to keep telling us it’s the witching hour – we know!).

Ruth is an interesting character because her introduction is as the doting, caring mother who seems to genuinely love and care about her son. But it very quickly becomes unclear what type of relationship they have – even by the second time we see her – and then with each subsequent time she comes in, she seems more and more cold and insane. I appreciate that she’s bipolar and she makes a great red herring for the killer, though perhaps too obvious to actually BE the killer. I think perhaps she changes a bit too quickly – by page 10 she’s already psychotic. I would suggest stretching out a bit longer her downward spiral into psychotic behavior and her mental illness so that it takes a little longer for her to reach that point.

The ending is exciting and visual and I like how Dave’s story ends, however, it’s not clear who hit him in the first place and killed him. Was it Clare’s mother? Was it someone involved in the story or just some random person at the wrong place at the right time? I think you need to find a way to tie everything together and perhaps the way to do that is to reveal who killed him. I keep wondering why Nichola and Lucy need to put him through all of this stuff with Ruth and Clare and everything else instead of just taking his soul and sending him to hell from the start.

Turning to the dialogue, I think it’s nicely written but it’s not very subtle, and with supernatural/paranormal mysteries and thrillers like this, subtlety is important so that the audience doesn’t suspect what’s going on by page 10. I think that even though David is 18, his actions and words feel a bit young, as does Lucy and Nichola’s and that’s part of the reason I knew exactly what they were from the start. So, I think that while it’s great to place those little breadcrumbs in the dialogue so that when we look back, we recognize all the little nuances and hints that make us realize the truth, if they’re giving it away then they ruin the mystery.

Pg 61 – You can cut the INT. BEDROOM scene heading because we’re already there.

Pg 68 – Why are the clocks in military time and not regular time? Shouldn’t it be 11:45?

Pg 70 – Can cut the Scene heading at bottom – we’re still in the same location.

Pg 71 – For me, the maggot scene is really gross. Not just the maggots, but the puking all over himself, etc. It’s visual for sure, but it’s a visual that would make me gag.

Pg 72 – I thought Ruth smashed the computer. It’s ok again? I’m also not sure why he thinks he can amputate a leg with basic scissors? I’m not quite sure what that would do anyway, but it’s a dumb idea to try and cut your leg off with scissors.

Pg 82 – Why is Clare calling out MOM?

Pg 87 – I get the visual, but I’m not sure why the disgusting bugs are needed in this supernatural thriller.

Overall, I think the concept and premise is commercial and visual and works for a low budget horror/thriller with a recognizable Rear Window/Sixth Sense hook, but for me I think some of the major elements of the mystery are too obvious. It has to be much less obvious that Dave is dead, it has to be less obvious that Nichola and Lucy are evil and not who they say, and it has to be less obvious there’s a dead body in the closet. There are logistic issues and some character issues that I think need to be addressed with Dave and Ruth. It needs to come together a bit better and use the supernatural elements to stand out more and make it LESS obvious that Dave is dead instead of more obvious. It’s got potential and these types of projects are always getting made, especially since this could probably be produced for $100-250K. So stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Gary for submitting your script “Offline” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month!

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: CONSIDER

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise             X        
Story                                 X  
Structure                      X    
Conflict/Drama                  X    
Consistent Tone   X              
Pacing              X    
Stakes                        X    
Climax          X                  
Resolution/Ending            X        
Overall Characters     X  
Protagonist                       X    
Antagonist        X  
Dialogue                  X  
Transitions                    X    
Format, Spelling,   Grammar, Pg Count          X    
Well Defined Theme      X    
Commercial Appeal/Hook                                   X      
Overall Originality                                   X    
Production Value   X    
International Appeal          X                        

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Script Review (Lowlife)

In November, we reviewed Kosta Kondilopoulos’ Lowlife. As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list.   Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.  This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!  Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Lowlife. Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

******

No-Bullscript-Web-Banner-160x85-Final

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

 

Title:  Lowlife

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author:  Kosta K.

Number of Pages:  94

Submitted To:  Simply Scripts

Circa:  Present

Location:  Any City, USA

Genre: Thriller/Noir

Coverage Date:  12/1/14

Budget Range: Low-Medium

________________________________________________________________________

LOGLINE: Trying to protect his friend, a criminal is forced back into bed with a dirty cop and the Russian Mob after a job gone wrong but this time he may lose everything he has left.

COMMENTS:  Kosta, thank you for submitting your script, “Lowlife” to Simply Scripts. The following notes and comments will go through what works well and what still needs to be worked on or changed in order to make this a more viable and commercial script.

Overall, this is a solid script and story, and a pretty fast and easy read. There are a couple strong action scenes, nice visuals, and you’ve crafted a likeable anti-hero that we root for even though we’re not sure why. The killer with a conscience story has worked many times before, and can certainly work again, but the story and tone needs to feel really original to stand out. And while this is a nice read, I think the biggest issue is the originality and making it truly stand out. Right now, I’m not sure what really makes Lowlife, and Ritchie’s character, seem much different than Ray Donovan on Showtime or films like Jack Reacher or Drive. In fact a couple scenes feel very similar to those films.

The script could use a stronger specific hook to it. I like the noir feel, but I would suggest going even more noir with it and that would make the voice seem even stronger. The writing is strong, but I think it could feel a bit more mysterious and suspenseful – a bit sleeker or sexier – and perhaps the scope of the story could feel a bit bigger. For me, the porn angle seems a bit comedic and it doesn’t seem important enough or dark enough for these mobsters, dirty cops, and killers to all turn on each other. One mobster gets the hotter girls for their videos, so the dirty cop wants him dead? It sounds a bit too petty for stone-cold killers and “business” men. It’s more original than drugs or weapons, but it adds a more comedic slant to the danger instead of a noir or action feel.

The twist or reveal that Pete is a Detective and the dirty cop they’ve been talking about, is unclear. We are never told when we meet him in Trent’s office that he is a cop, and we don’t even know it for sure when he is at Dimitri’s house after Gwen’s murder. We’re actually not told this until later in the second act, and I think this could be revealed and made clear much earlier in the script. On page 45, Nikki and Ritchie talk about “that cop” and on pg 46 Ritchie asks if she knows who “HE” is and she says “some dirty cop,” but we still don’t know for sure it’s PETE they are talking about until Pete says it on page 61. And Pete is never around any other cops, he’s never dressed as a cop, he’s never seen as a cop. I think it could be even creepier to see that character in his police uniform at some point, and it could make for a visual and more shocking reveal of whom he is.

Structurally, I think you have some wonderful turning points in the second act that keep the story going, first with Nikki killing Gwen and it being Pete who finds her phone and calls them; and then on page 71 when they get double-crossed at the party. Your midpoint is exciting, but the action scene with Mike, Franky and Rocco isn’t really connected to the story – it’s just a random fight sequence. But as far as “filler” scenes go, it’s a fun and exciting one.

I’m not sure where the first act actually ends though and the opening scene seems a bit muted and I’m not sure it’s totally necessary. You could start the script in the rain in the dark alley as the car pulls up. Without dialogue or interaction, I’m not sure what the opening scene with the sleeping girlfriend really gets you, or what it tells us. The threat Sammy makes against her only means something if we really feel a connection between them, and from the opening scene the blonde could be a wife, girlfriend, or just some one night stand he’s watching in the morning. The relationship could be defined a bit better in that first scene to show how important the girlfriend character is to Ritchie.

It’s unclear if the girlfriend is pregnant in the opening scene. Perhaps if you’re going to open with the girlfriend, showing her as pregnant and maybe seeing Richie touch her stomach or just look at it, without any dialogue in the scene still, would set up a much deeper and clearer connection. It would also set up a bit more of a clear time frame as we don’t know how long ago she gave birth, was killed, or when he killed Sammy. Plus setting up that she’s pregnant will make us wonder if it’s the baby in the hospital, or the girlfriend or someone totally different and make us wonder what happened to her. Then perhaps the dialogue in the hospital scene could be even stronger on page 4. Something like “Any update?” “Still fighting.”

We learn that the girlfriend died by being run over by a car – seemingly on purpose. Who was this blast from the past and was it the guy Ritchie killed? Hard to believe that Ritchie didn’t get vengeance for this “accident.” Or if there could be some greater connection between her death, the man responsible, and all the mob guys and killers he’s working for/with?

After the double-cross when Dimitri takes Ritchie and Nikki, the third act brings us plenty of fun action and revenge and is pretty non-stop to the end. I love how Nikki’s death seems to reignite the killer in Ritchie and make him realize that being a nice guy wasn’t getting him anywhere and everyone must die, save one – Heather the innocent porn star – to prove he only kills guilty people. And I really like your last beat where we think Ritchie might be leaving the bag of money in the Church but then last second realizes that’s not who he is and goes back and takes the bag back. I think that’s a great moment that nicely defines that Ritchie knows he has nothing left to live for, so he might as well be the person he has always been.

The one bit I didn’t quite understand or believe is why Ritchie would go to such lengths to destroy all the evidence and not get caught, but then wear bloody dirty clothes with evidence all over them to the hospital. As a professional killer who has cleaned up crime scenes before, this doesn’t sound like something he would do. He would probably throw his shirt into the fire at the cabin. I like that the cops let him go because they all hated the dirty Pete, though perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch since Ritchie did kill like 6 people. But if the cop told him that the reason is because exposing Pete and everything he was into would reverse dozens of cases, put criminals back on the street, and destroy the reputation of the police force – then there’s more of a rational reason to let Ritchie go.

Projects like these usually get made when a big enough actor wants to play the lead role. Anti-heroes have been a growing trend in TV and film, and those types of protagonists usually are attractive to actors because it allows them to play different layers and emotions. And Ritchie feels like he has SO much churning inside of him right under the surface, but very seldom does any of it come out. I like that Ritchie has something innocent driving him as motivation – his dying baby – and I like that he has a rough backstory that he’s been to prison for 5 years and refuses to go back. It gives him a bit more of a moral compass and shows that he has compassion and a fear, but I’m not sure what Ritchie’s goal is in the story.

He goes on these little jobs given to him by other people and he wants to clean up after Nikki to clear her from Gwen’s murder, but there’s no clear case or goal or THING that Ritchie needs to accomplish by the end except survive. I would think that with his deeper need of getting redemption or vengeance for what happened to his girlfriend and Sammy, and with everything that’s happened to him, he’d have his own personal mission but there isn’t one set up. And then that goal or mission would be ruined by what he has to do to save Nikki and by working with Pete again.

Ritchie’s connection with Nikki is likable and they have a nice chemistry, but we never get much depth or backstory about them. There is a line that intimates they possibly used to sleep together or date, but we never get any real information about them or their connection. She’s a likable character who brings energy and levity to the script, and her death is definitely the emotional strong point of the story – perhaps the one true emotional moment in the script for the audience. I kept waiting for her to pop up and still be alive.

However, she does sometimes feel like this little neurotic Chihuahua constantly yapping in Ritchie’s ear. She tells other people she’s not his girlfriend, she’s not his friend, and she’s not his partner. So what is she? Where did he find her? Why does he keep her around? I actually think it’s pretty funny that after being told by Mike that she’s about to get beaten and raped in front of her boyfriend, her only response is “he’s not my boyfriend.” It makes her seem like a tough girl, but we already know she’s not really because of what happened with Gwen and how freaked out she is.

It’s clear Ritchie has this history with Pete and this anger or guilt over what he did to Sammy in the opening scene because of Pete, but other than knowing they “used to run together,” we don’t know anything about Ritchie’s relationship with Sammy or why this affected him so greatly. Did he have to shoot his best friend? After Sammy, has Ritchie been searching for some sort of redemption? Because he’s still doing the same things he was doing when he killed Sammy, so I’m not sure exactly how he’s trying to change.

Overall, the dialogue is pretty strong. You have nice moments of levity, the description is sparse and clear and easy to visualize, and your characters do have personality that comes through their dialogue. I think the biggest note in terms of dialogue is that it doesn’t always feel as NOIR-ish as it could, especially in Ritchie’s voice. His cadence and the speed of his dialogue and his delivery should basically set the tone of the script. It’s a solid thriller, but to make it stand out, I think giving it more of a noir slant could help.

Just a few specific page notes –

Pg 36 – Typo – It should be BOBBY who says the line, “He doesn’t get through that door again” instead of Richie.

Pg 40 – Can cut the scene heading at bottom as it’s the same location she’s already in.

Pg 43 – We don’t know immediately that Dimitri is the husband, as we’ve never seen him before.

Pg 54 – This scene with the 3 against one (and even Ritchie’s line about it) is pretty reminiscent of the Jack Reacher scene outside the diner.

Pg 55 – “I’m the one who got the fucking brain facial” is a great line.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable and fast read with a castable lead character. It’s a perfectly serviceable script. I think the biggest issue is just making the story and tone stand out against so many other thrillers about killers with a conscience. Stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Kosta for submitting your script Lowlife” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month.

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: CONSIDER

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise            X    
Story                X    
Structure          X    
Conflict/Drama            X    
Consistent Tone                      X    
Pacing        X    
Stakes                  X    
Climax   X    
Resolution                           X    
Overall Characters             X    
Protagonist         X    
Antagonist                X            
Dialogue                                 X    
Transitions                                 X    
Format, Spelling,   Grammar, Pg Count                      X    
Well Defined Theme                      X    
Commercial Appeal/Hook           X           
Overall Originality                                           X  
Production Value              X     
International Appeal              X    

         

 

 

 

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Script Review (Bad Penguin)

One week ago, we reviewed Phil Clarke Jr’s Bad Penguin. As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list.   Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.  This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!  Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Bad Penguin (a recommend!) Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

******

No-Bullscript-Web-Banner-160x85-Final

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

Title:   Bad Penguin

Type of Material:  Screenplay

Author:  Phil Clarke

Number of Pages: 97

Submitted To: Simply Scripts

Circa:  Post WW2

Location: Clover City

Genre:  Action/Drama

Coverage Date: 12/4/14

Budget Range: Medium

________________________________________________________________________

LOGLINE: When a lone penguin with an arsenal of weapons and an axe to grind against Christmas befriends a blind sax player with a drug habit, the two must evade the cops, bring down the local drug kingpin and his goons, and discover what Christmas is about.

COMMENTS:  Phil, thank you for submitting your script, “Bad Penguin” to Simply Scripts. The following notes and comments will go through what works well and what still needs to be worked on or changed in order to make this a more viable and commercial script.

I can honestly say I’ve never read a script like this one. Utterly original and with a voice, tone and genre seemingly of its own, Bad Penguin is one twisted, fun ride. It’s Tarantino meets Bad Santa meets the Penguins of Madagascar. And somehow, it works. In what would surely be an amazing graphic novel (and I would HIGHLY suggest you look into that), Bad Penguin gives us laughs, emotion, voice, and gruesome bloody action all in one. It’s steeped in strong, relatable themes of true friendship, good vs evil, that everyone has two sides to them, and the spirit of Christmas which makes it a bit more universally relatable than it would otherwise be.

I must admit, I have a not-so-secret love of penguins, so I enjoyed this on a pure penguin basis. However, Hollywood loves penguins too. From the iconic Penguin in the Batman movies to Mr. Poppers Penguins, March of the Penguins, Farce of the Penguins, Happy Feet, Surf’s Up, and the aforementioned Madagascar Penguins, they are a box office draw – and not just for children. And I appreciate the dichotomy of the innocence of a penguin – as opposed to other animals you could have chosen – and the type of character and personality you’ve created with your naughty penguin. It is much more like the cartoon book Evil Penguins by Elia Anie.

It feels like you took a basic concept of an angry penguin coming to get vengeance for Christmas pasts, which is funny and original enough, but then you examined each aspect, element and character of the story and to find a way to give it a twist to make it even more dark and original. You could have set this in contemporary NYC, but instead you set it in the post-World War 2 era in the fictional Clover City. You could have paired your angry penguin with a child with ADD or a reporter who needs a story or a wisecracking cop – but you chose COOPER, a blind, 60 year-old African American sax player with a heroin addiction. Does this make it less commercial and much darker? Maybe. But it also gives it a depth and originality that most wouldn’t have dared try.

The absurdist tone is fresh and well-executed, with lots of little intelligent jokes, gags and moments that may go over the heads of many audiences. I absolutely loved the running gag of Wee Billy’s Grandma, as well as the “eating bad fish” line on page 15 where Penguin scrapes his tongue. It’s wonderfully inappropriate and funny. The script never takes itself completely seriously, but acts like it does.

All that being said, I have no idea who makes this movie. It feels like one of those scripts that everyone loves but no one really knows what to do with except make it a graphic novel and then maybe adapt that into an animated series for Adult Swim or Netflix, which might be a more naturally-suited medium for the character and visuals. I do like that this is live action, with just one penguin being either CGI or motion capture. If done like the apes in Planet of the Apes, the penguin could be pretty amazing. But this would be a challenge for any marketing department to figure out how to sell and to whom. It’s almost Sin City-esque with shades of Hobo with a Shotgun – but with a penguin and Christmas.

You could have turned this into a shoot-em-up ridiculous cartoon – and in parts, it is – but you also grounded the penguin character in an emotional backstory that made us understand him and his motivations. And you made the script much smarter than it could have been.

The Penguin actually has a great character arc, possibly even better than Cooper’s. We know what is lacking in Penguin at the start and he finds it by the end. It’s not completely clear what is missing in Cooper’s life that his relationship with Penguin satisfies, other than his eyesight. Does he give up his heroin habit by the end of the movie because of what they’ve been through? At the very least, he could try, and maybe throw away the spoon. The moment they crack up laughing on page 29 at the end of your first act, I think that’s the moment the audience really falls for these two and their connection.

Obviously the suspension of disbelief involved with reading (or watching) this story, is enormously high, and you play it off with comedy. No one thinks twice about the fact that a walking, talking, shooting Penguin is even THERE, like it’s a totally normal thing despite the fact that there are no other animals in this world that can do that. It’s never really even a topic that is brought up – all the characters just accept that a Penguin is doing all of this. It’s also just accepted that this Penguin, who has no fingers, is able to grab things, count money, shoot weapons that just appear out of nowhere, etc. It’s like then animated quality of the story is never questioned, which at first is odd but once you accept that, you just have to go with it.

However, you answer most of the other major questions any logical person might have while reading this by giving the easiest excuses possible – “I don’t know” or “Because.” Why do none of the cops searching for this penguin recognize him just because he’s wearing a hat? Because they don’t. Where did this penguin come from and why did he show up in this town, now? Nobody knows.

And while these excuses matches the tone and style, I think it would help if we got a FEW more details, especially why the Penguin suddenly comes to THIS town. It could have been because he was trying to track down his long-lost parents. Or because some of the people who wronged him were living there. But it’s never really stated what Penguin’s ultimate goal or purpose is, just that he hates Christmas. And while we do learn WHY he hates Christmas, the other questions still go unanswered. Even if his point was just to ruin Christmas for as many children as possible, I think there still needs to be a reason. And over the course of the story, his friendship with Cooper dissuades him from that goal or at least allows us to find out what it is. Similarly, since he just shows up in Clover City, it makes me wonder what kind of trouble he’s caused in other cities. This can’t be his first stop, so perhaps we could find out other anti-Christmas incidents he’s been responsible for recently.

On page 62, Cooper narrates that Penguin tells him about all the weapons he has and what he’s capable up, but that he can’t repeat where he got it from or where he keeps it. It’s another example of the glossing over of the answers we’re all wondering but just have to swallow and accept.

Having Cooper be the narrator of the story and also basically be the voice of Penguin, is an interesting choice. It takes a few pages to understand what you’re trying to do, and to realize you’re not just writing novelistically. But it’s unclear if the penguin is ACTUALLY speaking and we just don’t hear his voice – but Cooper does. Or if he’s mouthing words sometimes, and not other times? Or if it’s more of a telepathy thing? It’s not clear because Cooper tells us what the penguin says, but we don’t actually see him speak or even have MOS conversations with Cooper very often.

I’m not sure how Cooper narrates the opening mall Santa scene though as Cooper is not there to see it play out or hear what Penguin is saying. I think it’s the only scene where Cooper is not narrating or repeating something he’s actually seeing or hearing Penguin say. We also have no way of knowing that the Sax player we see on page 1 IS actually the narrator or what his name is until the bottom of page 6 when Mickey says it. But there’s still no direct connection between Cooper and the Narration until the next section of narration on page 15. Perhaps there could be a bit of a stronger introduction of Cooper to connect him to the narration (so the audience knows he’s narrating).

It’s also not clear in the first scene between Cooper and Penguin if they had already known each other somehow or if they were meeting in that bar for the first time. And if everyone knows (or at least Cooper), that the cops and everyone is looking for this Penguin, why is he just hanging out in a bar like nothing happened? While I do love the friendship they develop, it’s not clear where they start in the opening scenes. They have an almost Seymour/Audrey 2 relationship from Little Shop of Horrors except the action and what they must do brings them closer together instead of pulls them apart.

Chinny and Wee Billy are pretty fun secondary antagonists. They’re the first obstacles that Cooper and Penguin have to deal with, but they’re not truly bad people – they’ve just lost their way. I like how you underline their good sides in criminal ways. They steal money from Daphne – but they only steal what they’re owed and give back the rest. There is a great chemistry between them and a certain bumbling, Home Alone quality to them, and it’s clear that they are just trying to seem tough more than actually being so. I like that they’ve known Cooper for many years and there is a history there, but we don’t get any real inklings of this until page 48 when Cooper tells us. There could be a bit more evidence of this earlier, even in how Cooper talks about them to Penguin.

Structurally, I think the script is strong. You have an outrageous (though very random-seeming) introduction, a strong end to your first act that solidifies their friendship and sets up that the Penguin is wanted by cops and crooks alike, a strong midpoint with a great mini-climax scene between Penguin and Cooper and Chinny and Wee Billy which further develops the unlikely bond between the leads. The second half of the second act gives us the backstory we need to understand Penguin, though it would be nice if that was more directly related to why he’s there. And the action builds nicely to the climax, which is a fun and emotional scene I’ll discuss in a moment.

In the opening mall sequence, it’s not clear if the Penguin actually kills people or if he’s just shooting into the air. He shoots the one man in the knee, but other than that, we don’t know if he’s actually killing people.

I think the visual of the penguin with Terrence’s sliced off face is pretty twisted and gruesome, but then we see Terrence and I would have assumed he was dead. I am not sure that the scene between them prior to this is as clear as it could be, plus it’s unclear what happens with Chinny and Wee Billy after this scene on page 76. They disappear from the story – but it turns out they are not dead, and somehow later end up in jail. But there’s a big gap there and I’m not sure what happened to them for 15 pages.

The big climax where Penguin is shot is actually a really emotional scene. It’s tender and sweet, exciting and visual, and it underlines the tragedy of the story while also bringing out its theme and heart. I did not see it coming that Penguin would give Cooper his eyes to allow him to see and there is a twisted gruesome but funny, heartfelt quality to that moment. And I think your last line and visual, and that last beat, is perfect. It felt like the right end to this very twisted story.

Writing screenplays is about writing visually, creating moments on the screen that people will remember. And I think you show that skill consistently throughout the script. From the opening with the mall Santa to the one-night stand and subsequent towel-wrapped regret, to the Katana and bazooka-wielding scenes. You are constantly jumping from the more graphic and adult tone of violence to the more playful moments like the snowball fight with the kids on page 14. And then you mix the tone in many scenes like when Chinny discovers Penguin with a katana sword on page 75.

The dialogue is sharp and funny, and you know how to create big comedic moments as well as quirky, dark, subversive moments. Even your throw-away lines are pretty funny, like “Thought I was talking to you yesterday. Turned out it was a fire hydrant.” You have some great deadpan lines as well which help highlight the absurdity of the story and paint all the other characters are so clueless that a penguin actually could just walk in and no one would notice (like in the bar scene on pave 28). Even Wee Billy’s line “I blame it all on the Jews” feels like a random deadpan line, but it feels apropos for the tone and world you’re creating and made me laugh, especially when mixed with the grandma running gag.

If there is one moment I think maybe could be taken out and is unnecessary in dialogue, it’s where Chinny calls Wee Billy a “nigger.” It’s not clear that they are both Black (until much later in the script), but even so – it feels very out of nowhere and harsher than the rest of the script. It took me out of it for a moment, and I feel like there are more clever derogatory names he could use. The only other moment that felt forced and not quite consistent is the farting moment on page 85. This is a toilet humor gag that just feels more sophomoric than the rest of your script and felt almost beneath the material.

I’m not sure if the Deerborn Tavern scene on page 89 is necessary, feels like you could cut it. And there are a couple typos on pg 91 you should look at.

Overall, I really enjoyed this script. It is a twisted, original story and blending of tones and genres, and the writing and voice pop on the page with every bullet and every joke. I can’t say it’s an incredibly commercial script or an easy sell with an obvious demographic, but I think it’s a wonderful writing sample. Stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Phil for submitting your script “Bad Penguin” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month.

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: RECOMMEND

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise   X    
Story            X    
Structure   X    
Conflict/Drama            X    
Consistent Tone   X    
Pacing             X    
Stakes                  X    
Climax   X    
Resolution                      X                   
Overall Characters        X    
Protagonist      X    
Antagonist             X              
Dialogue                    X    
Transitions                    X    
Format, Spelling,   Grammar, Pg Count                      X      
Well Defined Theme                   X      
Commercial Appeal/Hook          X           
Overall Originality          X              
Production Value              X     
International Appeal              X    

         

 

 

 

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Script Review (Memories)

One week ago, we reviewed Marnie Mitchell Lister’s Memories – our fourth (but far from final) feature showcase. As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list.   Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.  This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!  Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Memories. Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

******

No-Bullscript-Web-Banner-160x85-Final

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

 

Title:  Memories

Type of Material:  Screenplay

Author: Marnie Mitchell-Lister

Number of Pages:  98

Submitted To:  Simply Scripts

Circa: Present

Location: NJ/TX/Memphis/Grand Canyon

Genre: Dramedy/Road Trip

Coverage Date:  10/1/14

Budget Range: Low

________________________________________________________________________

 

COMMENTS:  Marnie, thank you for submitting your script, “Memories” to Simply Scripts. The following notes and comments will go through what I think works well and what still needs to be worked on or changed in order to make this a more viable and commercial script.

The family road trip movie has been a tried and true successful genre in film for years. From National Lampoons Vacation to Little Miss Sunshine, The Guilt Trip to Road Trip, RV to We’re the Millers. And I think overall, your script follows in their quirky tradition but with an interesting twist. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a Winnebago with your parents – except perhaps being trapped in a Winnebago with your divorced parents, your dad’s new yoga-loving girlfriend, her spiritualistic protective father, your eccentric grandfather, and his white trash crooning love toy…all while suffering from amnesia. It’s certainly a strong recipe for comedy and conflict, and I think you deliver both. It’s kind of Little Miss Sunshine meets The Ref but with amnesia and yoga.

It’s a nicely written, quirky, low budget, character-driven dramedy/road movie that tackles a few important themes including the importance of family, the timely message of living in the moment instead of trying to capture it in a photo, and the importance of self-discovery and moving on. And while I think you do a nice job of bringing these themes out through your character arcs and plot, I do think it becomes a bit heavy-handed in the third act. For me, the symbolism is laid on a bit too thick and a bit too often.

Road trip movies are often comprised of a series of set piece scenes in interesting locations where at each stop, an action occurs that helps advance the character arcs and builds towards a reveal, a lesson, or a major payoff. And I think Memories fits that mold quite well while still having its own original hooks to it.

Since this is a character-driven dramedy, the success of the script really comes down to your characters, their dynamics and dialogue. I think you do a nice job of giving most of them their own distinct personalities and voice and originality, which is great, however I’m not sure that most of your characters (other than the surprisingly grounded Sierra and the very ungrounded Jake) are that likable. And I think that while some of their dynamics are strong, we don’t really find out the reason behind those dynamics.

Abby is our protagonist, though she’s actually also the antagonist to the rest of this family. She falls more under the basket case archetype, like the ladies in First Wives Club or Cate Blanchette in Blue Jasmine. She kind of vacillates between being pity-able and being delusional, but neither of these really make her likable. I will say that I grew to like your characters by the middle of the second act, but it took me a while to invest in Abby or care because she seems pretty obnoxious, overbearing, in denial, and sometimes delusional. It’s not completely clear she and Mack are actually divorced (as opposed to separated), and we don’t know for how long they’ve been separated or what actually caused his heart attack and if that was the catalyst for him leaving her, if she caused it, or if it happened after the divorce? Also, it’s not so much Abby’s goal to get Mack back as it is her belief he’s already COMING back. The steps she finds and takes to win back her ex are OK, but it doesn’t really come into play until the end of your second act.

A small note, but I don’t really understand why Mack calls Abby “the strongest woman I have ever known” on page 12 – this doesn’t seem to be true, but it also doesn’t seem to be something he’d say. Certainly not to her.

While I do like that the story is about Abby’s road to self-discovery and realizing how she needs to change and move on in order to move forward and forge the relationship she wants with her daughter, and that makes for a very strong character arc, I think there’s also a version of this story where Julianna is actually the protagonist and she has to try to remember her life while forced on a road trip with her whole family that she doesn’t even remember.

Mack is certainly introduced as the more likable parent and character, and we do see a couple flashbacks through his POV even though he is not the protagonist. However, unlike Abby who becomes more relatable and likable as we go on, Mack has a period in the second act where he becomes very spiteful and unlikable and shows some of his true colors wanting to exact revenge on Abby for ruining his relationship with their daughter, Julianne. However, it’s never really explained HOW she ruined their relationship or how she kept Julianne away from him, especially since HE seems to be the one that left HER. This seems to be a very important piece of the puzzle and motivation for Mack, so to help us connect with him, maybe we could get just a line or two of more specifics of HOW Abby accomplished that (at least in his mind), and maybe Sierra can once again be the voice of reason and explain that Mack was just as culpable.

The other major issue with Mack’s feelings and motivation is that Abby never learns of it. They never actually talk about what happened between them or why he’s so angry, or why she is how she is or what happened between them. It’s really never explored what bits of backstory or issues made her so horribly neurotic, overbearing or obsessed with the perfect photo. And so for me, I think you could use a couple more of those moments.

As Abby tries to reconnect with Mack and win him back, she seems to do all the things that almost killed him the first time – donuts, bread, coffee, peppers, etc. So it actually underlines the fact that these two are not right for each other – she’ll just kill him again.

Julianne, for me, was the most unlikable character of them all. Yes, she has amnesia, but she seems to be purposefully hurting her parents and being a pretty obnoxious bitch throughout most of the movie (at least to them). Why is she SO cold to Abby and why can’t she stay in her bedroom? Why can she stay with Mack but not Abby? It feels awfully cold. Also, I think the moment that Julianne wakes up on page 16 needs to be a bit bigger of a moment.

I think you could set up Julianne’s love connection with Duncan a bit more as right now, they feel more like f-buddies than boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s also unclear if Abby or Mack even know about Duncan, though Abby does say “I knew you’d get her into trouble” on pg 11. But I assumed Julianne was keeping Duncan a secret.

I am unsure why Duncan and his existence is never mentioned to Julianne after she recovers, especially since he’s the thing that seems to bring her memory back. No one ever mentions him, he never calls or checks in and they never seem to let him know how she’s doing. It makes us feel like he wasn’t REALLY in love with her, or that the parents didn’t care. On page 83 when she does start to remember and Marshall suggests Jake, Bea and Sierra tell her about Duncan, those are the three people who probably know nothing about him. And when Duncan does finally show up again, I’m a bit surprised that Julianne isn’t mad that he totally left her or that her family never mentioned to her that she even HAD a boyfriend, etc.

On page 62, I’m not sure why Julianne’s answers to the cop seem so clueless. She may have amnesia, but she knows what a police officer is. And she knows who her mother is even if she doesn’t remember. She knows what they are all doing there, but she seems to answer like she has no clue. I like the thought of them all getting into some legal trouble here, but there’s not a great deal of comedy that comes from it – just the reveal that Abby actually bought the RV instead of rented it.

I think your supporting characters of Marshall, Trina, Jake and Bea all play their parts well and bring quirk and comedy to the story. However, I didn’t quite understand why Abby just walks into her father’s house in the middle of the night and then just leaves and waits for breakfast. It’s a bit of an odd scene and Marshall doesn’t really react much. He doesn’t even ask to see his ailing granddaughter who almost died and has amnesia.

I like the mini-climax of Mack being rushed to the hospital at the same time Julianna passes out and is taken to the hospital, but Abby doesn’t seem to spend time with her – she never even goes into her hospital room. She’s too busy worrying about Mack. Though I do like her turn at the end of this scene where she realizes he is Sierra’s responsibility now and she has to let go. It’s a strong moment for her arc.

I have read a number of scripts lately promoting the virtues of Yoga. It’s the weirdest trend I’ve come across in scripts, but this is the 5th script I’ve read this year that had a heavy yoga influence or plot point. For me, I think yoga can be a great setup to a very funny scene (like in Couples Retreat), but it’s not something that can drive a story.

It’s not exactly a cinematic hobby.

I think the dialogue has some great, hilarious moments, mostly from Jake who provides some great comic relief especially in his “cock” conversations. There is definitely a voice that comes through the pages, and you have some nice quirky subversive moments.

But while there were some laugh out loud lines, I think the project could still use a bit more comedy. A family road trip drama is a hard sell, but comedies and dramedies usually do better in this genre. There were numerous dramatic moments in Little Miss Sunshine, but the outrageously funny climax is what everyone remembers. There was a huge payoff in comedy in the climax. In this story, that doesn’t really happen. The climax and ending is much more of a drama, and I’m not sure it should be.

Abby actually falling off the cliff is funny, but it’s hard to tell exactly how trapped she is after that or what kind of cavern it is that takes a rescue team to get into. For me, the last 10 pages of the script take too long and are lacking in comedy. The dragonfly being dead, the bats signifying change, is really nailing the symbolism home a bit too much – we get it, she’s not “stuck” anymore. And then Doug’s line “You’re stuck in a dark place. I know it’s scary but we’re going to get you out” is really on the nose especially when paired with all the other symbolism. Then the rebirthing ceremony with Mildred Eagle Feather drawing the comparisons between the cavern and a womb, and then once again with Jake on pg 97 screaming about the dragonfly and transforming – it’s just all very heavy handed and not really necessary.

I think you could actually cut all of it and just let the actions and Abby’s change in personality and disposition speak for themselves. She falls, we see the dead dragonfly, her emerging from the cavern, her apology to Julianne – that’s enough. Though what’s really missing while she’s in the cavern is a conversation with Mack and/or Sierra. Something that explains the feud between her and Mack and will allow them to be better parents and lead healthier lives…apart.

I like Doug, but I think perhaps you could show him on page 10, in the background, fixing something perhaps so we at least make some visual recognition to him later on. Abby’s reaction to Doug rescuing her could be a bit funnier as well.

Overall, I think this last sequence with Abby being trapped needs to be much funnier, and it’s odd that all of a sudden Julianna remembers everything, even her class parties as a child. When did that all happen? When Abby went into the cavern, she didn’t have all those memories. And now that she does remember, does she also remember how much she hated her mom? Julianne never really becomes that likable in the end, and since Julianne’s amnesia is really the catalyst and hook for this trip (and the story), I think it may need to play a bit more into the resolution of the script and be a bigger moment when she gets her memories back. Some realization moment of her own so that SHE can grow a bit like her mother and father have by the end of this trip.

I have just a couple specific page notes or questions –

Pg 43 – Is Mack fat in this flashback? Or regular size?

Pg 80 – It’s a funny beat, but I didn’t understand why Melvis and Trina got together if Melvis was with Bea, and she doesn’t seem to react to the news at all.

Overall, I think you have an interesting and potentially very funny twist on the family road trip genre. A road trip to make one of them remember who the rest of them are, but everyone has their own agenda which causes conflict, comedy, and almost kills them. I think that can definitely work, and you have some nice quirk and comedy, but if you can increase the comedy quota throughout and make your main characters just a little bit more likable, maybe shed a bit more light on the backstory, etc., I think it would be much stronger. And I think if you examine the last 10 pages with Abby being stuck in the cavern and make them a bit funnier and have a bit more resolution between she and Mack, and tone down the on the nose symbolism, that could also help. It has potential though. Stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Marnie for submitting your script “Memories” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month.

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT:  CONSIDER

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise           X    
Story              X    
Structure             X    
Conflict/Drama              X    
Consistent Tone           X    
Pacing            X    
Stakes                      X    
Climax                   X    
Resolution                       X    
Overall Characters                     X    
Protagonist                       X X  
Antagonist                      X              
Dialogue                                   X    
Transitions                             X    
Format, Spelling,   Grammar, Pg Count                    X      
Well Defined Theme                    X      
Commercial Appeal/Hook          X           
Overall Originality                             X    
Production Value            X     
International Appeal                      X    

 

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Introduction and Script Review (Static Town)

One week ago, we reviewed Kevin Revie’s Static Town – our third (but far from final) feature showcase. As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list.   Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.  This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!  Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Static Town. Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

******

No-Bullscript-Web-Banner-160x85-Final

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

 

Title:  Static Town

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author:  Kevin Revie

Number of Pages:  84

Submitted To: Simply Scripts

Circa: Present

Location: Linden Mills, Suburbia

Genre:  Comedy/Teen

Coverage Date:   8/22/14

Budget Range: Low

________________________________________________________________________

COMMENTS:  Kevin, thank you for submitting your script, “Static Town” to Simply Scripts. The following notes and comments will go through what works well and what still needs to be worked on or changed in order to make this a more viable and commercial script.

I think overall the writing is strong and there is definitely a voice and a timely message that comes through the pages, and it’s a generally enjoyable and fast, easy read. A quirky comedy about a teen who is so sick of the disconnection that exists between people these days due to technology that he causes a severe blackout in his town, is a strong set up and premise. It’s not an insanely original theme or message but it shines an LED-Screen on our society and how tech-obsessed we’ve become and how we have suffered for it in a fun way, and certainly this is a theme we can relate to these days. It presents a strong question of what would happen if a town was suddenly without power and had to start reconnecting on a personal level.

Your characters are largely likable and I think there are a number of strong lines and very funny moments within the script. That being said, I think there are some ways to make this feel like the story has a bit more depth and MEAT to it, perhaps flesh it out the plot a bit more. For me, what’s missing most in the story is conflict. And because conflict is generally really what drives plot, the lack of conflict equals a lack of plot and stakes. I think the voice and tone feel like a nice mix of Juno, Safety Not Guaranteed and Perks of Being a Wallflower, but without the major stakes, twists and drama those projects had

Your concept could lend itself to a more satirical feel, and I wonder if there’s some more comedy that could be mined from that. This town is without power and computers and cell phone towers – but we never really see what happens to the people in this town other than Wyatt and his close group of friends. Yes, we see people go outside and play and start enjoying each other’s company later in the story – but that probably wouldn’t be the immediate reaction. There should be a larger downside and a level of chaos before the people begin to embrace it. I think you could take the level of satire up a bit by showing some funny extremes or people reacting or what people in this town resort to, to try to get power. Right now, the only moment we get of that is on page 24-25 when people try to get water and duct tape. I think you could have this type of panic last a little longer. Even without power, you figure you have 18-24 hours before everyone’s phone battery goes dead. So when that happens, it could be like a countdown to phonemageddon.

There’s a totally different version of this story where it is full-on satire and you have people becoming almost cannibals and zombies because they can’t text, and just looting and murdering for batteries while this kid did it just to try to get the new girl to notice him. I think then you could go even more over the top with the message and the comedy if it was wrapped in more satire. But that is a different tone and story..

With quirkier small comedies and dramedies, it’s really about three things – character, voice, and a situation or hook that presents enough opportunities to bring out character and voice through plot. I think you have these, but I do think Wyatt’s character, while likable, could be just a bit stronger and more consistent in his set up and the things he does (or discovers) throughout the story could also be a bit stronger to add more plot.

Wyatt says things like “I’ve never been able to really express how I feel” on page 7 – but that’s not really evidenced in the plot. If that’s one of his flaws, we need to see how that actually affects his life.

With Wyatt, while I think he is relatable and sweet, his place within the world of his high school hierarchy is a bit unclear. He doesn’t seem like an outcast, and I’m guess since this is a TINY town his graduating class all knows each other and has since birth. So, it’s not clear where he ranks in the popularity/clique levels. He’s already slept with the hot slutty girl in school, so that tells me he’s not a total loser. But I think it’s odd that he is nervous about going up to Jennie on page 7 and talking to her, even though he’s already slept with her and has been hanging out with her, and he already knows she’s seeing other people. Clearly her boyfriend Barry is not really an obstacle for her sleeping with other guys, but I didn’t quite get the connection between Wyatt and Jennie and what he actually wants from her.

It’s also odd that he sees the new girl on page 6, seems to be enchanted and attracted, but then totally forgets about her and goes back to sighing over Jennie and her boyfriend on the next page. I might suggest switching those two scenes so that we actually meet Sophie a couple pages later but his reaction will make more sense because he’s already been turned down by Jennie and all the sighing over her is over. It would also give a bit more meaning to the scene of Wyatt, Geordie and Dale talking on pages 8-9 if it lead to seeing Sophie for the first time.

I also was curious what video Sam posted of him last year that scarred him so badly. What did he do? Did it go viral? Is that why he doesn’t like technology much anymore? I was waiting for a bigger reveal on that.

Wyatt’s reasoning for wanting to stay off of social media needs to connect more to his character and what’s going on in the story. He tells Dale he’s going to stay off social media because they don’t take chances or risks anymore and he’s lacking spontaneity. But that really has nothing to do with social media or cell phones. Then he says everyone is just living through screens and not looking around them and people are just advertising themselves as they want to be seen. But that’s a totally different issue. Not taking risks and lacking spontaneity is different from people living their lives through technology and putting out or creating false senses of selves. And this is why his true motivation for knocking down the power lines is unclear.

While I love that Wyatt knocks down the power lines, I feel like there needs to be a stronger catalyst or motivation for him to do so. There’s no specific PROBLEM that Wyatt is facing or situation he needs to fix or deal with that would inspire him to do this.

For instance, if he couldn’t get the attention of the girl of his dreams because everyone else was trying to get to her thru social media and texting and he was more of an old school romantic, then it might make more sense. Or if there was a video sent out about him that went viral and ruined his social life or his chances with the girl he loved, then that would be a great reason. I just don’t think it should feel like an off-the-cuff, spur of the moment decision without some catalyst or reason for knocking the power lines down.

Seconds before he does it, he sees a montage of “tech” things – kids glued to phones, Sophie dismissing him for a text message, his mother driving off with a man she met on the internet, no one paying attention at graduation, etc. – but only a COUPLE of these things actually happened and the rest are fantasies and projections of what COULD happen. I think these things he thinks of should be what actually happened to him that inspire him to do this. Let him give a speech at school where everyone is on their phone or replaying the viral video of him doing something stupid, let Sophie (or Jenny) totally dismiss him for a text and not pay attention to the guy actually talking to her in person, have his mom actually meet a guy off the net – these are strong motivations. Right now, though, they are all hypothetical. And so there’s not really a catalyst to make him do this. Whatever that catalyst is could be the inciting incident.

Sophie’s character is strong and she has a great introduction when she talks with Wyatt the first time. Her line “Somewhere in between get me out of here and maybe I can stay sane for like a year, max” is a great way to show her mindset about this town and a strong inciting incident for Wyatt.

I really like the twist that Sophie goes for Dale instead of the predictable Wyatt, though it does seem to be a bit of a bro-code violation. It’s a good reveal on page 58 that she’s there with him. It’s a heart-wrenching little twist on the love story, but also adds irony in that even without the power and the social media, he still can’t get the girl. Their scene together on page 64 is a bit harsh from both of them only because I don’t think there’s enough build-up to really earn those feelings. A couple more instances where she might have seemed to be leading him on would help.

The point Sophie makes in this scene is also the major issue with the second act. She asks Wyatt – ‘Okay, the power’s out but what have you done differently?’ And drawing this to light makes the reader realize – she’s right, Wyatt hasn’t actually done anything in 40 pages. It makes us realize we’re just watching things happen thru Wyatt instead of really experiencing things happen with Wyatt. And I would suggest that’s the biggest issue with the second act. Other than being sad about Sophie, there hasn’t been any conflict for him to face. He pretty much gives up on his goal of winning Sophie’s heart, so what else is left for him to accomplish the rest of the story? Maybe his lack of taking chances could be set up a bit more and this becomes his other goal, but it’s not really connecting enough currently.

Sophie gives him his cell phone back on page 67, which is great, but would be even more important if you were tracking the police investigation to finding out who was responsible. He didn’t seem worried about the phone until she gives it to him.

I like the subplot of Wyatt’s parents being pulled apart and then coming back together. It’s sweet, but is it really technology’s fault they’ve pulled apart? Also, on page 23, it’s odd that Karolyn doesn’t mention the blackout but only the car.

Turning to the story and structure, the other general issue for me with the script is that some of the scenes themselves are a bit lacking in purpose or are unnecessary. I think some of the scenes could feel like they have a stronger purpose in regards to progressing the plot or characters or revealing some new information.

For instance, even the opening party scene. It has a couple funny moments and we meet Jennie, but nothing actually happens at this party and it’s unclear what Wyatt’s struggle actually is if he’s already slept with the hot girl in school. I think this scene could show us a bit more about just how transfixed everyone is to their devices, and that people aren’t even talking to each other at the party – they’re just texting each other and snapchatting each other.

The scene with Wyatt and his buddies after they leave school on page 33-34 also doesn’t have much purpose. It’s just hanging out and mentioning the party, which they could do anywhere, and feels more like a filler scene to lead to the grandparent’s scene. The scene with Wyatt and his grandparents is nice, but I think it might actually be stronger in the FIRST act before he knocks the power out. He sees how they are without using technology, and looking at pictures and writing letters – that could be more inspiration for him to do it in the first place. Otherwise, I’m not sure it serves much of a purpose here and we never see his grandparents again, so they don’t really have any effect on the story if not as inspiration to go back to that simpler time.

Structurally, the first act I think could be a bit stronger. Right now, the inciting incident is really Wyatt meeting Sophie and realizing people are tech-obsessed. But if there was more set up and an actual catalyst as to why Wyatt rams the power lines, that could be the inciting incident. Then Wyatt rams the lines, and the first act basically ends on page 24, which is a bit early even for a short script. But I think there are a couple scenes you could move to the first act, as stated, that would beef it up a bit more.

The investigation into what caused this power outage might be an interesting subplot you could work into the story a bit more. It might add some tension and higher stakes and a bit more worry and conflict for Wyatt, who is hoping not to get busted for what he did. The cops come talk to him the morning after, but then we don’t hear from them again.

The third act, much like the first act, is quite short and not that much happens. The kids going exploring into the abandoned house is cute, but it has nothing to do with the rest of the story and nothing important really happens within the scene. There’s no real point to it other than giving them a quick nostalgic adventure to go on. This is what I mean by the scenes need more purpose and connection to the plot. It’s great that they go there, but how does that affect or change anything.

Generally, I think the dialogue is quite strong. There are some very smart and funny lines throughout the script that showcase the change in how people think because of technology. When Wyatt asks Dale if he wants to go play catch and Dale says “I have Wii? If you want,” that’s a great moment. Natalie’s response to experiencing a black out on page 27 (and the teacher’s comment) is hilarious. Same on pg 33 with the hashtag daddy issues lines. Wyatt’s VO lines on page 55 are not making new points, but they are very well-expressed in a funny way. Even Dale’s stoner thoughts and dialogue made me laugh out loud. And the line on pg 74, “I feel like I just watched a Mythbusters episode of my own childhood” is such an insightful and clever line, I really enjoyed it.

That being said, I do think there are a few scenes or lines that could feel a bit fresher and genuine to teens. It’s really small things, like Geordie’s line “All right, let’s get out of this place” could easily be a bit quippier – “All right, let’s bounce this bitch.” It’s just about bringing different characters voices to their dialogue.

On page 28, I like the idea of this ice breaker, but these kids have been going to school with each other for 12 years and if it’s one thing social media does, it makes you know everything about a person without even knowing them, so I’m not sure they need an icebreaker. It’s a small class in a small school in a small town – they probably know everything there is to know. And if any of the kids had ridden an elephant, they would’ve posted pics of it on Facebook, so everyone would already know the answers based on people’s timelines. The question of eating Octopus – they would’ve Instagrammed the food pics. Geordie’s point about no calls home and no emails is well-taken though and pretty funny.

There is an odd line on page 38 that stands out, I think it needs rewording or there are typos – the wine cooler description line.

On page 76, Dale fears what would’ve happened if YouTube was around when they were kids – they’re 17. YouTube WAS around when they were kids. The internet and cell phones were already a thing by the time they were in 2nd grade. Facebook started getting popular in 2006/2007 – they were 10. So, they’ve already grown up with it.

SUMMARY: I think this is a well-written, fun read with a strong, relatable, timely message and some smart, funny dialogue. It has a voice, but I think if the actual plot and conflict were a bit stronger, and the stakes a bit higher, it would bring the voice out even more. I think there are other things you can work into the story to flesh it out a bit and create a stronger catalyst and clearer motivation for Wyatt to do this, and stronger consequences from doing so. He needs a specific problem, goal or issue he thinks this might solve. Some of the scenes could have a bit more purpose and progress the plot/character arcs more, there needs to be more conflict throughout the script, and the first act could have a bit more set up. The second act could have a bit more satire, and the action of the third act could have a bit more to do with the rest of the story. But I think there are some great moments and with a bit more work, it could be a very strong writing sample for you and the low budget will definitely make it more produce-able. Stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Kevin for submitting your script “Static Town” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month.

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT:  CONSIDER

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise   X    
Story                        X  
Structure                 X    
Conflict/Drama                      X    
Consistent Tone      X    
Pacing          X    
Stakes                        X  
Climax                           
Resolution              X      
Overall Characters                 X    
Protagonist            X    
Antagonist                                X  
Dialogue                       X    
Transitions                       X    
Format, Spelling,   Grammar, Pg Count                         X    
Well Defined Theme            X      
Commercial Appeal/Hook          X           
Overall Originality                               X    
Production Value            X       
International Appeal                      X    

         

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Introduction and Script Review

And lo, a new era at Shootin’ the Shorts begins….

One month ago, we at STS began Stage 2 of the site’s development: reviewing features. On June 1st, we showcased the first of many future feature length scripts, Based on a True Story by Matthew Dressel. Today, we are thrilled to announce that we have finalized plans with a partnership that we strongly feel will enhance both the feature showcase, and provide our writers with a double-helping of what they need and want – and what we aim to provide. IE: assistance with making their scripts the best they can be, and getting those scripts exposure when they reach that oh-so-blessed point.

To that end, please welcome Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list. As part of the new partnership, Danny will be providing wonderfully detailed notes once a month for the chosen STS showcased feature length script. These notes will be provided free to the writer, and can be posted on STS or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. Oh – and did we mention? Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Based on a True Story. But first.. a few words from the man himself.

******

From Danny:

Welcome, writers, to the new ‘Simply No Bull’ Zone. Getting notes and professional feedback is a vital part of the writing and development process, and Simply Scripts and No BullScript Consulting is now bringing this part of the process to YOU for free. Every month, from YOUR feature film script submissions to Simply Scripts, a Featured Script of the Month will be chosen and that script will get the No Bull treatment from me. With each set of notes, I will go through what works wonderfully about the script, but also what still needs work or more development for it to become a stronger, more commercially viable project.

Not only will the project get notes, but also a 20-Point Grading Sheet and Recommendation. Any script that gets a ‘Recommend’ from me will also be featured in my monthly newsletter and may be sent out thru my No Bull Hollywood Connection, where scripts that are truly ready get their logline and query letter sent to over 65 production companies, managers and agents by way of personal email from me.

Submit your script today HERE and it may be the next feature project chosen. Don’t forget to read and comment on the scripts yourself. If you wish to contact me directly, I can be reached via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus. Now, without further interruption, here’s a sample of what to expect:

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

 

Title:  Based on a True Story

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author: Matthew Dressel

Number of Pages: 112

Submitted To:   Simply Scripts

Circa: Present

Location: Los Angeles

Genre:  Comedy/Heist

Coverage Date:  6/18/14

Budget Range: Low

________________________________________________________________________

COMMENTS:  Matthew, thank you for submitting your script, “Based on a True Story”to Simply Scripts. The following notes and comments will go through what works well and what still needs to be worked on or changed in order to make this a more viable and commercial script.

The old adage “write what you know” usually hurts more writers than it helps. This is for the very simple reason that most writers don’t know what that actually means. However, this script takes that adage and gives it a strong, elevated kick to the nuts. The single most cliché setup/concept/goal I have read in scripts (other than saving the world) is where the main character is a writer trying to break into Hollywood and sell their script. It is what far too many new writers choose to write about, because it’s “what they know” and this always leads me to ask the question – “Is that ALL you know?” Because 99.8% of the time, these stories are cliché, boring, unoriginal, and not very visual or compelling.

However, your script seems to be an exception. It takes the very cliché character motivation and set up and takes it into an original, over the top, funny, and well-written direction. It takes the question “What could possibly go wrong?” and repeatedly shows us exactly what the answer is to nice comedic effect. There is a thin line between over the top farce and spoof, and your script stays just on the right side of that and the writing shows off a level of skill and voice I think would appeal to many managers and producers. It feels in the vein of films like Trapped in Paradise and 30 Minutes or Less.

While I do think the concept itself might work even better as a short film than a feature (or it feels like perhaps the concept started as a short), you do a great job at every plot turn of increasing the stakes and finding new directions for the story to go in that elicit even more comedy. It’s hard in a comedy of errors to constantly find more errors that create comedy, but you use all the tenets of strong comedy to do so and advance the plot – miscommunication, mistaken identity, misdirection, miss-timing – and of course Nazis.

It’s likewise difficult to make characters with pretty superficial goals and little forethought into consequences feel likeable and castable, but Bill and Tim both become quite likeable.

Tim has a nice arc in his shyness and when he finally overcomes it, it is to hilarious results with the Nazi supporters. But what I really like about Tim is that he’s gay but you never ever play up that fact. It’s an off-the-cuff comment on one page thatclues us in, but it’s never made a big deal of. He just happens to be gay, and that’s something I don’t see often enough in scripts.

My biggest issue with Bill and Tim is that they are actually willing to go to jail for this plan. They know it’s a possibility and they are OK with that. I don’t quite buy this from two guys who are NOT criminals and are just trying to become famous. There would need to be a better reasoning for them to just accept this, like if they got convinced that going to jail would give them street cred or more experiences to write about. They could list all the movies/TV shows about jail or writers and actors who have been to jail who went on to become mega stars. It has to play into their motivation instead of just being dismissed like it’s no big deal.

At some points, Bill seems genuinely delusional about what they are doing and what it will get them, especially once the robbery is already going on (and going badly). It becomes unclear what Bill thinks their actual endgame is once the cops show up. How does he THINK this will actually end and how did he plan on giving himself up?

Terry is a questionable character for me because when they ask in the audition montage if he’s ever been convicted of a felony, he seems lost and quite innocent, but then on page 33 he seems like a totally different character, drinking, gun-toting and starting a crime spree. He becomes this violent psychopath, but it’s not clear where this comes from. On page 34, I’d suggest changing his line at the top to “A little dress rehearsal.” Likewise, the series of shots of his crime spree are a bit unclear as we don’t know what establishment he’s holding up. It’s not clear why they hire Terry in the first place and why they don’t fire him. Perhaps Tim could want to, but they are both too scared to do it and they can comment on how “I think we broke Terry.”

The audition montage is funny, but I think some of the characters they meet in that audition need to be the ones we see later on in the “roles” involved in their heist plot. Otherwise, it’s just a meaningless montage gag. Yes, they find Nancy, but she seems to be the only one they hire from a two page montage.

The structure is quite strong and your opening scene blends both comedy and action nicely and sets up an interesting glimpse into the tone and madness that is going to come in the story.

Your subplots, each seemingly more over the top than the last, connect well with your main storyline and help elevate the general concept and theme. If you had told me that Nazis, David Bowie, Rick Moranis, bank heists, fake detectives, and Hollywood could all come together cohesively, I would have bet against you. But you make it work.

However, there are a number of characters or parts of Bill’s plan that aren’t set up or explained enough. Bill says that they will hire actors and script it all out, but it’s not really clear which parts he’s hiring actors for and if THEY are still going to be the ones actually robbing the bank. As I said, maybe some of the actors playing “roles” inthe heist – like Carl and Vic – should be seen in the audition montage because right now, they are just random people.

The robbery before the robbery with Vin and Lonny, for me, is quite confusing. While it’s hilarious in the opening scene, it becomes unclear as they are leaving the bank and Bill and Tim are entering, if that was part of their plan. Were Vin and Lonny in on it with Bill? If not, their brief interaction as Vin leaves doesn’t make much sense. Bill’s dialogue on page 45 confirming that the bank is already being robbed makes it seem like both groups are in it together, especially since he acknowledges that Sam will be asked to leave. In the bank, Vin says “who the fuck is Bill?” But then as they cross paths, Vin says “thanks for the clean get away” so this sequence created a “HUH?” moment for me where I was no longer sure how/if these two were connected. Page 52 with Bill’s seemingly forced questioning that the bank had already been robbed furthered this confusion, especially since he just saw them leave with bags of money. He seems to know it’s already being robbed, but not sure by whom. This was the biggest sticking point in the plot for me. I think you need to make this plot point clear, and perhaps show a scene of Vin and Lonny later on in the script to see what happened to them. Are they watching this craziness unfold on TV? I think there needs to be a button scene with a bit more payoff and explanation for this other robbery.

Also, the initial robber is named VIN. The fake cop that is part of Bill’s plan is named VIC. I actually thought the whole time that they were the same person and that VIN had come back to play the “role” of the cop, which confused me greatly. You should never have two names of two different characters that similar as many readers may not turn back to make sure it’s not the SAME name. I kept wondering why the bank robber would come back to the scene of the crime and chance being caught, and also how the first robbery was connected to them.

While I love the Nazi bit in the script and how it pays off, the leader TERRENCE needs a bit more set up as I didn’t remember seeing him earlier in the script before page 90. We only get the incredibly brief background mention that Neo-Nazis are planning a rally on page 20, and I’m not sure this is enough set up for that. Also, again, you already have a TERRY character, so now having a TERRENCE character makes it very confusing on the page. Terry/Terrence, Vin/Vic – these little things confuse your story where there need not be any confusion if you just used different names.

Rick Moranis’ cameo is hilarious, and he could be switched out with any other actor, which is smart. You have a great set up and pay off for this, but there’s a line on page 28 about “How is he supposed to get into the bank?” that I didn’t quite understand until later when Moranis shows up and tries to get in. I didn’t get why Moranis wouldn’t already be IN the bank for his role. Why he’dhave to come in half way through if he was playing one of the bad guys. This little logistic issue was a “HUH?” moment for me on page 28.

One thing that impressed me throughout your script are your wonderful transitions. This shows a visual eye and a finessed voice that many scripts are lacking. Strong, seamless transitions between scenes is one of the signs of a writer at the “next” level.

Similarly, strong writers know how to craft strong reveals in their script. Whether it’s a hidden plot reveal or a comedic reveal of a visual or gag, it takes a talented hand to craft strong trailer moment-worthy reveals, and you have a number of them. One such example is the reveal that Bill works as a 911 phone operator. Great build up, great reveal, and it’s unexpected, which creates great comedy.

There are a number of great set ups which are almost throw-away lines or actions, that come back to pay off in big ways later on in the script, including mentioning the CAMEO by a big actor and Tim stealing the props from the set. And I really enjoy the irony that Tim (and Bill) become famous and the footage goes viral for all the wrong reasons. Creating strong irony in your story is also a sign of a mature writer.

That being said, perhaps my biggest issue with the script is the logistic and time jump issues in your third act, as well as tying up some more of the loose ends and plotlines. To jump 20 years later after your climax is a huge jump that causes some logistic issues. For instance, no one WOULD care about this “true story” 20 years later, and Rick Moranis would be almost 80 years old. I didn’t BUY the conversation Bill has with the producer on page 110 because it’s just been too long since the robbery happened. I would suggest re-examining the last couple of pages, perhaps making the time jump only 5-8 years? And include a bit of dialogue that ties up some of the other characters and storylines – Nancy, Terry, Vic, Sam, Cardigan, Vin, etc. And I think Bill’s last line of the script could also be a bit stronger. I wouldn’t end the movie on a fading show of tem driving away arguing – I think it has to be an exact beat and a sharper last moment.

I still wanted to know a bit more about what happened to Nancy, their female accomplice, in their story. I thought she might have been used more in the plot, either as a romantic interest or as a pivotal plot device. Terry approaches her and tells her she’s going to have to make a choice, which would create a great moral dilemma for Nancy – but that moment never really arises and is never used.

The dialogue is sharp and funny, and you know how to create big comedic moments as well as quirky subversive moments. After reading this script, I’m not SURE that it is an easy sell given the goal of the characters. Most people in the broad viewing audience don’t really give a crap if someone sells a script or not – it’s not a goal they can relate with enough (which is why more stories about breaking into Hollywood don’t get made). But I think this makes for a great writing sample and I would absolutely be interested in seeing what you could do with a different concept and story.

Stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Matthew for submitting your script “Based on a True Story” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month.

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: STRONG CONSIDER

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise           X    
Story   X    
Structure      X    
Conflict/Drama                      X    
Consistent Tone      X    
Pacing          X    
Stakes                        X    
Climax      X    
Resolution                    X  
Overall Characters              X    
Protagonist              X    
Antagonist                   X              
Dialogue                    X    
Transitions                    X    
Format, Spelling,   Grammar, Pg Count                      X      
Well Defined Theme   X    
Commercial Appeal/Hook          X           
Overall Originality                      X    
Production Value               X     
International Appeal                  X