Friday, March 16, 2012


A young man with supernatural abilities roams the country on a mysterious mission, pursued by a feisty reporter and agents of a billionaire televangelist determined to manipulate his Christ-like power to devastating effect.  

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 ten pages of Paul Salvi's SNARE OF THE FOWLER.

That's a solid logline. I can see the movie. Could it be tightened up? Maybe:

A young man on a mysterious mission is pursued by a determined reporter and agents of a wealthy televangelist, determined to manipulate his Christ-like power to devastating effect.

Not much different, but this way you're only describing his powers once. Also, it seems odd to have a billionaire televangelist. I think most folks who attain that degree of wealth have a better scam going than simply bilking believers out of their hard earned cash. Anyways...

we start off outside a church with a voice over of children singing. Inside, we meet 7th grader Tate Simonson who has clearly got the hots for an older woman, 8th grader Sophia Moessinger. Then we cut to the present day (10 years later) where we find Tate in a shitty motel with a woman named Ellie. He's got a photograph of Sophia with him that has, "survived years of hell and abuse."

I'd suggest one of two things here. Spend a little more time on the church scene. Let us see the kids in action. Does she return a glance? Or does she barely register his existence? Give us a sense of what he was like as a child. Or, cut the church scene entirely. Let us wonder about the girl in the photograph. Who is she? Why is she important to him? Sometimes you can show your audience more about a character by not revealing something, giving them just enough so that they want to know more.

The scene in the hotel does this successfully. I'm left wondering who is Ellie? What is her relationship to Tate? What happened to his hands and why all the pills? Though again, a little more time could have been spent here before moving to the next scene.

This is where you lost me. I couldn't get passed the fact that he gets taken into the prison and that he is able to smuggle the blade in beneath his bandages. I go into this is in more detail in my notes, but it seems that things happen here because you need them to happen for the story. That never works. Events need to happen because the characters dictate they happen. Also, there were too many similarities to Tyler Marceca's THE DISCIPLE PROGRAM (the desert prison, the captive serial killer and the slashing of the doctor).

I did like how Tate whispers something to Bankard, to which we are not privy. This creates suspense. But the whole means by which he enters and exits the prison took me out of the story. When writing your next draft I'd ask, does this scene have to take place in a prison? If the answer is yes, then come up with another way of getting Tate in and out. You've got an interesting premise. There's a story here. But in regards to these 10 pages:

(*) Trash It
( ) Take Another Pass
( ) More Please

What did you think?

Next weeks pages from Patrick Sweeney's DEVIL'S DUE.


  1. i think robert and i pretty much have the same general opinion of your pages, but i'm not quite sure about how to rate -- i think this is the start of a good concept, but definitely needs some rethinking. does "trash it" mean trash the whole script or just these ten pages? i wanna make sure i'm rating correctly. in any case, the prison scene requires a major rehaul.

    as i'm reading:

    - first thing that jumped out at me was too many spaces - in your sluglines, in between your sentences. not a huge deal, but it was a little distracting for me

    - the first hotel scene was a little confusing - who was bandaging who, whose hands were whose, etc.

    - eileen and ellie -- no no. your characters shouldn't even have the same first letters. confusing.

    - they just let this random strange guy into their isolated desert prison? and they didn't unravel his bandages??? what's going on? like robert said, don't bend common sense just so it fits to how you want your story to play out

    - this pleading doctor seems pretty lucid for just having a "lethal" cut to the wrist

    - do SWAT teams actually work at prisons? i don't know, but that jumped out at me

    overall thoughts:

    i seriously wonder if you've read "the disciple project" - i HOPE you have haven't, because if you're just straight lifting that opening scene, you can do better than that.

    i like the general idea. (i didn't know the logline when i read it, but it intrigued me anyways) the strange religious guy with healing powers, with a mysterious interest in a serial killer. the bargaining scene is pretty cool, but you need to do some research on how a prison operates/functions. i just didn't buy for a second that the prison would admit a stranger from the desert, unless he used mind control or something. and then not checking his bandages just because they passed through the metal detector? not realistic. you might have to get more creative to avoid these kinds of cliches (dumb guards, lazy security measures). for instance, in the disciple project, the villain PUKES UP A SHIV, which he uses to attack the doctor interviewing him. that's new. rethink this scene, or like robert said, see if you can do without it.

    writing was okay, dialogue could probably be trimmed in places. only have lines that are absolutely necessary. make sure your characters talk the way people really talk.

    like i said, the start of a cool idea. just need to keep writing, and write truthfully. let your characters be real people responding to real situations.


  2. I'm still getting a handle on the rating system myself.

    I think it's going to be pretty difficult to get a 'More Please!'. I'm going to save that rating for pages that are pretty much near perfect, with little or no room for improvement.

    A 'Take Another Pass' means just that where as a

    'Trash It' doesn't necessarily mean trash the whole idea as much as it means start again. (God knows I've come to the same conclusion with my own pages often enough.)

  3. okay thanks, that makes more sense. i think i'm going to have to change my vote to "Trash It" - on the sole grounds that there is no way you're going to have any partakers if you open it with such a similar scene to "the disciple project".

  4. Honestly, thank God for men like Robert. Criticism is one thing constructive criticism is another. Unfortunately, unlike Roberts, mine isn't very constructive. I thought the 10 pages, especially after the church, were very messy. I struggled to follow what was happening. Also, from the log line, I don't really see a story worth telling. I understand the possibility of the boy with the God-like powers being pursued by evangelist agents but I don't really see the point in the reporter.

    Finally, you were telling us how we should feel or read the scene rather than showing. Eg instead of...

    "Bankard takes a few steps. From outside, we see him
    block the spectators' view of Tate and Bock. Tension."

    you should create the 'Tension'. instead of saying "A perfect day" you should create the perfect day. My 'perfect day' outside of a neighborhood church would look totally different to yours, Roberts or anyone else. For me all meaning was lost when you kept things vague.

    I would rate (Trash it) to the 10 pages and the idea as it stands. I think more work should be done on the story.

  5. These 10 pages need a lot of work. They aren't terrible by any means, but there are a number of format, writing, and story issues to address.

    Lots of passive voice in these pages. I seem to say this in every review, but it's a problem for a lot of writers. Passive voice (is, are, etc.) sucks the life from your writing. Active voice brings color and vibrancy to your writing.

    I.e., from this script: "Bock is shivering now, in shock. Tate is crouched down,taking cover behind her" vs. "Bock trembles in shock. Tate crouches behind her."

    Or, for a sillier but better example, "The Bogeyman is stabbing Jennifer. She is screaming and is bleeding" vs. "The Bogeyman guts Jennifer, who shrieks like a banshee as her blood fountains over the killer's coveralls."

    Passive voice keeps the reader at a distance. It's cool, removed. Active voice shoves the reader right into the action. That's where you want him. (There are times to use passive voice, like when you want to structure a sentence to deliver a surprise twist at the end, but use it sparsely and deliberately, not as a default).

    Minor note, possibly just personal preference, but one space between sentences, not two. We don't write on typewriters anymore.

    Line notes:
    p1 CUT TO no longer necessary in non-found footage specs. Dump it.

    p1 Like the transition from church to grubby motel keyed on photo. Good.

    p1 Don't need CONTINUOUS or LATER after each slugline. Show us that time has passed (or hasn't) in the scene. Also, by using CONTINUOUS instead of DAY, you leave me disoriented.

    p1 How can a pill be "shady-looking?"

    p2 Intro your characters when they are first introduced, not a few grafs later. Otherwise, I'm confused. Who's this Ellie? The young man? The "surprise" that the young man is Tate isn't enough of a surprise to make us wait til the end of the scene to find out, either.

    p2 Don't understand the business with the pills.

    p3 Not buying they'd bring an unknown guy in a heavy coat who refuses to identify himself into a high-security prison rather than tell him to screw off. They'd definitely not let him in without checking his bandages - prisons have seen that trick before, even without his weird behavior.

    p4 Under these circumstances, the doctor would never be left alone in a room with him. Also, do prison doctors do medical checks on random people who wander past? I think not.

    p4 [something something]? No. Maybe break it up with a parenthetical, "I'm at the..." (he mumbles something)"State Correctional Facility." However, it seems like a dodge not to give the place a name.

    p5 A highly educated doctor says "wanna?" Different characters should speak differently.

    p5 Where did the glass shard come from? Presumably the bandages, but we have no indication that Tate's been working it loose or whatever, it just appears like magic.

    p5 This is not how prisons work at all, i.e., giving in to a hostage taker. Also, if Bock is already lethally wounded the guard has no reason to wait for her to bleed out. He's going to pop Tate in the head and hope for the best.

    p5 What are "serial-killery paintings?" I'd think a prison would frown on a prisoner creating a shrine to his own crimes in his cell.

    p6 Don't need (CONT'D) on dialogue slugs anymore.

    p7 The implausibilities compound on each other. They're going to give a condemned killer unlimited Internet access? I really doubt this, regardless of the circumstances, which are already too far out.

    p9 There's a hostage situation? Nobody thought he'd go out the window? This is the worst prison ever.

    p9 You've got a hostage situation inside the prison and the car that dropped off the hostage-taker's just sitting there outside the gate waiting for him? No way. She's in custody and the car's either moved or under a dozen sniper rifles by now.

  6. Thanks for the notes, everyone -- really appreciate you taking the time and I'll definitely address the plausibility concerns and prison protocol snafus.


    I'd never heard of The Disciple Project until now, but I'll check it out for sure. >.<

  7. Might wanna rethink the title. Off the bat there's two words of the four I don't understand. What's a Snare? What's a Fowler?
    If I'm confused before page 1, probably not going to be a fun read for me.


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