How It Works
You email me the first ten pages of your feature length screenplay (in pdf. format) along with a logline and title. Every Friday, I post one writer's work along with notes and a:
Trash It (Start over.)
Take Another Pass (You're onto something, but it needs more work.)
More Please (I'm hooked. What happens next?)
Readers will also be able to vote and leave comments on your work.
This week I read the first 10 pages of THE BOY IN THE CASKET by Dan Dollar
Dan didn't send me a logline, but I'm going to let that slide in light of the fact that I solicited him for his submission. (Thanks Dan, that was very cool of you). I'd also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, comment on and submit pages. This doesn't work without you - so keep those pages coming folks. This review is also unique in that I'd already read a draft in it's entirety. However, I'm going to ignore what I know about the rest of the script and address the first 10 pages.
It starts off strong with a powerful opening image, “A hearse meanders down a windy road on the edge of a cliff.” We get right into the action when a collision ejects the coffin at the top of page 2 and sends it crashing down into the river. In the next scene we meet Thomas Whitmore, (70s) “small, sweet and drooping - - a human Eeyore.” He's further fleshed out by a few lines of dialogue in which he reads to his dog from a cereal box. We immediately get a sense of who Thomas is and what he's all about. Lonely and bored as all hell.
In the next sequence, Thomas takes a trip into town in order to pick up supplies for the shed he's building, as well as some bait for his next fishing trip. He then gets his mail from the post office, which is where we meet Rose Dalton, (60s). She's got a mouthful of cookies, but doesn't let that stop her from greeting Thomas. Dan does a great job here in getting across a sense that Thomas is sweet on her.
However, this sequence could use some work. We get a good sense of the characters, but there is little conflict. I think it would be more compelling if we met Rose in the midst of an argument perhaps, maybe with a co-worker, supervisor or crotchety patron. This way we could see how Thomas and Rose react to the situation. As it is, it reads pretty flat. But, we are introduced to the ENVELOPE.
We don't realize it's importance at this point (perhaps that's best?) as he casually "stuffs it in his pocket," but we soon learn that Thomas is torn as to whether or not he wants to open it. There's some suspense here. We start to wonder. It also helps to give us a sense of the world before the story, which is necessary so your characters don't seem to exist in a vacuum.
On page 8 Thomas goes fishing. And on page 9 we have the moment where the story takes a turn. Call it what you like (inciting incident, call to adventure, catalyst) it's a moment of decision. In this case Thomas discovers the casket, along with the young man's body inside, and has to make a choice. Does he call the police, or take it home and prop it up in his kitchen? Obviously, if he goes with the former we don't have much of a movie. Is it believable that he brings it home?
I think so. There's clearly something off about Thomas and I'm willing to believe that he would make such a bizarre decision. I'm hooked to a point. I'm curious about the letter and I'm thinking what is this guy's deal? However, it could also use some tweaking. The trip to town sequence needs more oomph to really leave a reader no choice but to continue. I give this one a
( ) Trash It
(*) Take Another Pass
( ) More Please
What do you think?
Addendum (3/10/12 3:20 EST)
Dan has some questions for you guys. What do you think of (and how might he solve)
1. the fact that Thomas decides to haul back the body instead of notifying authorities
2. the fact that he probably could not get a large man in a wooden casket into his truck bed, especially in the rain
3. the fact that he brings the casket into his house of his own free will.
Read my notes on the page for more thoughts on Dan's script and please submit comments below.
Next week's pages from Paul Salvi's Snare of the Fowler.