Friday, March 2, 2012

Looking for feedback?

Four lifeguards flee a health conscious gang leader and a cross-dressing detective, when they cover up the slaying of a drug dealer and keep his drugs and attache case.

Why should I read another screenwriting blog? You shouldn't; you should be writing. But, since you are here's:

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. I've posted the first ten pages of BLACK WATER to get things started.

What do you think?

Next week's pages from:
The Boy In The Casket by Dan Dollar


  1. hey robert, i've already given notes for your first 10 pages or so before, and it doesn't look like they've changed a whole lot, but i'll comment on what i think of your logline:

    i think the way it is now, it's really wordy. it didn't automatically make sense to me, i had to read it a couple times to get the gist. i think unless the jobs/quirks of the characters are essential to the story or they are ironically related to each other, you should get rid of them. the health conscious and cross-dressing are very funny and very weird, but really don't seem to have anything to do with the core story - which for me, seems to be essentially this:

    -- A group of young people are hunted for after they kill a drug dealer in self-defense and decide to keep the payload for themselves. --

    it's not as interesting this way, but i think it's easier to read and comprehend. of course, if this is a dark comedy that might not be what you want. just my two cents, no right or wrong answer!

    very good work so far though

    1. Thanks! I agree that the logline needs work. Something between yours and mine would probably be best, more concise yet still original.

  2. Awesome writing on the page, Robert.

    Would've like to see a WHOA moment around page 10 that tells me where the central conflict lies and is likely headed. As is, no compelling promise by page 10 that would make me demand the rest of the pages from you. What is it about your story that makes this different to the other "kids stumble into a drug deal" movies? Whatever it is, drop that bombshell around page 10 and I'm yours.

    Flagging a typo: "of what can only be Herion or Cocaine."

    I do a similar 10-page thing over at

    and I'm glad to see others drumming the importance of the first 10 pages.

    1. Thanks for checking it out. Good notes. Hope to see you back next week for Dan Dollar's pages.

  3. Hi Robert,

    The first 10 pages didn't really grab me. Felt very formulaic. Had a bit of trouble following which character was which. Teegan had the strongest character voice, could visualize her in my head reading her dialogue.

    Was confused for majority of pg2. I could assume they were on drugs, but felt a whole lot of "Huh?" until the mushrooms remark. Any way to get that line at the end of pg2?

    Is there a reason the stranger is a Latino in hip-hop attire?

    Who's Warren? A character that hasn't been introduced yet?

  4. Thanks for reading it and giving helpful feedback. Could you elaborate on what was formulaic about it? I think one of the toughest things to do is to give the reader what they expect from the first few pages, while surprising them at the same time(if that makes any sense.)

    I've gotten similar notes on Teegan, which I guess is a good thing considering she's the lead. Clearly I have to work on distinguishing/strengthening the other's voices.

    I can see how you could be confused on pg2. Introducing so many characters at once is always a little tricky, especially when most of them are tripping on mushrooms.

    The stranger is a Latino in hip-hop attire because he is a member of a Latin street gang. Warren is the park's night watchman whom the others are desperately trying to avoid.

    Hope to see you back next week for Dan Dollar's "The Boy In The Casket".

  5. Wasn't for me. For one thing I've seen my fill of films where a stash of drugs is the MacGuffin. And when the characters start off by breaking one of Ebert's basic logic questions ("Why don't they just call the police?") for reasons I don't buy, it's an uphill battle from there. And unless I have some strong rooting interest in a character -- and I don't because they mostly blend together for me -- my interest for sticking around to see what happens during the rest of the film is low.

    There are some good comments above, especially about the characters and the lack of clear conflict at this point. You do get a killing in by page 10 to spark a story thread, but because all the characters blend into one another and don't have clear individual wants/needs, I don't have a stake in anyone achieving anything.

    And maybe I'm getting old (okay, no doubt about it -- I _am_ getting old), I'm not into the descriptions of how hot everyone looks and how they inspire lust. I'd rather know what makes them interesting as characters. The guy who gives us the lecture on the lake has potential, but you don't really want to start a movie with a lecture on a lake and Indian lore. Lilith knowing guns is interesting and want she may do next could be intriguing...

    but I keep coming back to a bunch of similar young people dealing with a stash of stolen drugs who upon killing an intruder decide to forego common sense for reasons I don't buy. It's not just my kind of movie and as of yet doesn't exhibit qualities that make me want to explore it.

  6. Thanks Bill! Great feedback. From what I'm hearing it may be time to put this one down and go back to my psychological thriller. I was going for a black comedy thing, with Teegan as the only sane character. I thought that having the other characters out of their mind on drugs would explain their irrational decision to cover up the slaying. Clearly, however, something isn't clicking.

    Hope to see you back next week for Dan Dollar's "The Boy In The Casket".

  7. It may be a case of what I call "The Tyranny of the 1st Ten Pages" -- writers are so pressured to get something happening by page 10, that they squeeze it in before some effective setup has been done. It might work to have Teegan be the only sane one and the other on drugs, if I was introduced to them not on drugs first and then get to witness their altered behavior affecting their judgement.

    In a situation like that, you'd set up the individual characters' issues as they go to the lake and we see them get wasted (and Teegan not) and then your 1st Turning Point around page 25 is the drug dealer showing up and getting killed. Now you're off and running into the 2nd Act as the focus becomes what do they do with this situation AND how it affects the personal agenda each character has.

  8. Interesting. I do actually go into flashback (shortly after the 1st ten pages) and do some character set up, but I thought it would be more interesting to grab the audience with the action first.

  9. Love the voices of the different characters, and the lines of poetry at the beginning were perfect. I also liked the bit about Blackwater being a swamp, not a lake. Intriguing

    But this script didn't do it for me. Too many characters too quickly, and the premise seems a bit flawed, as Bill Pace pointed out.

    Maybe push the inciting event to page 15 to allow for some more character development?

    Still, an interesting read.

  10. Thanks for reading. I have to disagree about the inciting incident though, page 15 is too far in. I think most readers are looking for it by page ten, if not sooner. Hope to see you back next week.

  11. i agree with you both! i am a firm believer that the inciting incident is most effective between 8-12 pages, but there are exceptions - "the disciple program" hits it at 15 i believe. i've heard other people that it doesn't really matter as long as it's GOOD. as long as it maintains your interest, you want to see what happens to the characters, etc.

    i think in "story", mckee asserts that rocky's inciting incident doesn't come until the last half hour of the film when he gets a chance to fight apollo...don't know if i remember it well enough to agree, but i think the point is, if your script kicks ass, then you should be able to bend the rules a bit.

  12. The writing was crisp, but things really, really fly along. I have to agree that I want more characterization and have a reason to root for these people, even if it is a dark comedy and they're going to do awful things. Call me old fashioned, but this seemed like it should be pages 15-25 and the killing is the break into Act 2. The catalyst would be something that sets them on the path to meet the gangster and end up with the drugs.

    A small thing: Nirvana certainly made "Lake of Fire" well known, but the song was actually written by Kirk Kurtwood of the Meat Puppets.

  13. Wow, I had no idea that Kurt Cobain didn't write that. Not a small thing at all. I'd hate to attribute it to the wrong person.

    I go into more characterization between pgs. 10-25(as well as introduce some other players)because I thought if I laid it out chronologically it wouldn't be as gripping.

    I also have to agree with one of Bill's earlier comments about not believing that they would make such an irrational decision(to not notify the police). It's something that I struggled with while writing it.

    The same can be said of Jerry in 'Fargo' and the group of bachelors in 'Very Bad Things'; the main difference being that you believe it because the characters are set up so well. I guess that's one of the things that makes Black Comedy so difficult to pull off.

    I've decided to put this one down for the time being in order to focus on something more marketable. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts, hope to see you back.

  14. I agree with a lot of what has been said. I liked the logline, mainly because I was beach lifeguard and liked the idea of seeing a movie about lifeguards.
    The main issues:
    1) too many characters up front.
    2) No concrete reason they'd wouldn't call the police. Just have them take the drugs out of greed and that's why they don't call the cops.
    3) Descriptions that tell me how hot people are turn me off. They're young and in a movie, I can do the hot math myself.
    I do think the premise has promise though.

  15. Thanks Matt! Consensus seems to be less hotness, more character development. My only question now is whether or not to tell the story chronologically. I can get more exposition in that way, but It won't be as fast moving (which is maybe a good thing?).

    I think I might just go ahead and write this thing simply for the experience. Worst case, the experience will make my next script that much stronger.


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