Friday, April 13, 2012

1601 by Louis Sangalli

A shut-in, losing his grip on reality, struggles to evict his twisted roommate and conquer his fear of the outside world, in order to win back the woman he loves.

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 (or a guest reviewer) 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?)
Somebody Shoot This!

Readers then vote and comment on your work.

This week Amy Suto reviewed the 1st 10 pages of Louis Sangalli's 1601

I think Rob read my mind, because I'm madly in love with scripts where characters have to face huge internal obstacles with external consequences. (Like schizophrenics conquering their internal delusions, a la the John Nash biopic, A Beautiful Mind, or a man with a stutter who must make the most important speech of all time like in The King's Speech). So when I read the logline for 1601, I was thrilled. There's a few punctuation changes I would make so it reads smoother:

A shut-in losing his grip on reality must evict his twisted roommate and conquer his fear of the outside world in order to win back the woman he loves.

1601 begins very cinematically, with a bone-chilling voiceover and a committed crime. Openings like this make you feel that you are in the hands of a skilled writer, and I was sucked in immediately. We then find out that Paul is a lonely shut-in whose girlfriend walks out on him. On top of that, he is struggling with his rent along with his inability to make it down the stairs of his apartment.
This is a lean script, which by itself is a huge compliment. Too many times writers provide a gluttony of description instead of the bare essentials. Just read RED, Taken, or Alien. Description in these scripts are sparser than the surface of the moon, but that's what makes them work! Another thing I really loved about this script was the writer's skill with words. Paul “darts about like an irate dog” in the beginning, which shows us that he's anxious instead of telling us.

Stylistically, this script is nearly perfect. There are way too many double dashes. Punctuation is key in a script, because as writers we need to direct the reader's eyes. Ellipses are great for slowing down the pace and building suspense, and double dashes speed up the pace or segue into another log line. If you abuse the double dash, the reader may begin skimming and not absorbing what is really happening. I know picking on punctuation sounds silly, but double dashes are to writers as jump cuts are to editors. Use your tools wisely!

As I wrote in my notes, I would stay away from mentioning brands. “Phone” instead of “Droid.” Sure, specificity is good (Porsche instead of car, for example) but the difference between Porsches and Droids is this: a Porsche is a brand that is stigmatized with wealth. With that one word a writer can communicate exactly the kind of person who would own this car. But Droid? What does that do for the story? The character? In my opinion, just say phone and move on.

The character Paul is described as “skinny jeans sexy,” but that doesn't tell us anything about his character. So he's a pathetic shut-in that we feel sorry for... but what else? I know it's only the first ten pages but I had trouble getting a read on him. He's anxious, irate, and Emily Dickinson-esque. If he's going to be painted as a Recluse archetype, there needs to be another dimension to his personality, and he must have some sort of rich inner life or secret hobby. I just need some sort of texture to this guy. What are his likes/dislikes? What does he do in his apartment all day? What does he do for a living? He's a bit bland.

This leads me to Elona. Paul doesn't want to talk to her in the hall the night after giving her a place to stay. I'm unsure of her purpose in the story. Maybe keep her around when Angelica breaks up with Paul? When in doubt, add a third person to an argument! Awkward situations and heightened conflict are storytelling gold.

The title threw me for a loop. When someone is pitching you a movie, what does the title “1601” bring to mind? That's right: the dreaded historical piece us new writers should avoid like the plague. I would recommend changing the title to something that encompasses the entire plot (and doesn't mislead readers on the genre!)

Overall, I really enjoyed these ten pages. I can tell that the writer knows what he's doing, and there's talent within these pages. The story just needs some polish to make it shine!

( ) Trash It
(*) Take Another Pass
( ) More Please
( ) Somebody Shoot This!

What did you think of Louis Sangalli's 1st 10 pages?

Next week I'll give feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Amy Suto's DYALTOV'S ENCORE.

Please comment on Louis Sangalli's 1st 10 pages below.


  1. formatting was fine. writing was okay. the worst offender was on the first page: "pull some severed soul ascending". what does that even mean? don't write that kind of stuff.

    i didn't buy the lead character. the ex-girlfriend i could visualize definitely, she was consistent and strong. your lead however, is a man seemingly stricken with fear and phobia, and yet the first thing he does when he sees a girl laying on the hallway floor of his apartment is 1) immediately go outside and check her out 2) immediately go through her purse 3) try to carry her back to her room 4) when that fails, bring her into his apartment. that's a whole lot of brave social risks for someone who is attached enough to his therapist to have regular phone sessions with her. at least have the guy hesitating about what he's going to do regarding the drunk girl. it would make it a whole lot more believable for me. not to mention the idea of bringing a strange female into your apartment when you already have a girlfriend who you know will find out about it. i'd think he would be paranoid about that, especially given how attached he is to his future ex.

    also, what is the point of this encounter? just to introduce them to each other? this can be done in other less confusing ways.

    the last thing that struck me as strange was the immediate jump from getting a notice for rent and then putting up a craigs list ad for a new roommate thirty seconds later. feel like there should be some steps in between there.

    i did like that the theme was clearly presented by the therapist early on: "you have to face your fears in order to conquer them". the murder opening is interesting, although what the hell kind of lawyer is this? "there are no facts, only interpretations"?? doesn't sound like an actual attorney to me.

    so to sum up, i think your lead character needs more work. the way he is now, i don't believe in him and i don't feel like i know him well enough to keep reading. don't just fit pieces of plot together like a puzzle, have your character be authentic and guiding the story.

    thanks for sharing!

  2. Though I agree with the above comment ("pull some severed soul ascending". what does that even mean? don't write that kind of stuff.) I think the writer has slipped in enough hooks to keep the reader interested.

    Just an assumption, but since the writer made a point to show the attorney had an iPhone and Paul has a Droid that perhaps the phone is important later in the story.

    I agree that it needs to be tweaked but it's interesting enough that I'd keep reading to see where the story goes.

  3. While I would echo previous comments about it being a touch rough around the edges, there's definitely a hook in there - I would like to read the rest of it!

    I just hope that the lead character "takes the reins" more as the story goes on, but the premise suggests that he probably will.

  4. Logline comment:

    -Lose the last comma. sentence might read much smoother.

    -Also, after "shut-in" in, give us another word to describe your character. A shut in what? Programmer, artist? It's a good opportunity to give more information about your character.

    -You might want to delete the "losing his grip on reality" part; it gives too much away. I think that knowing he's a shut is enough to show that he's disturbed. It might be better to let viewers find out gradually, as the story unfolds, just how precarious his mental state is.

    Here's an alternate logline which takes the above points into consideration:

    "A shut in programmer must evict his twisted roommate and conquer his fear of the outside world to win back the woman he loves."

    Now as to the script, I did not understand whom the following sentence was referring to:

    Pull back, up and away like some severed soul ascending.

    Is this a directing instruction for the camera or is it referring to the cops in the previous line? The description itself is wonderful as are most in this script. I was just at a loss who was meant here; probably entirely my fault.

    It's a very interesting script and I like how it starts, like a classic psychological mystery thriller.

    Some points:

    - It seems to me that there may be too many women: the lawyer, the girlfriend, the neighbor. Of course I have no idea what the rest of the story is so there might be an intentional theme there. But you might want to make the lawyer a man just to have a gender balance.

    - Who is the lawyer addressing? If its Paul, you might want to be show us his face when she asks what his interpretation is.

    Again, I have no idea what the idea behind this decision was. Maybe you want the ambiguity to retain an element of surprise. Or maybe the lawyer is in fact addressing an entirely different person. It's just something you might want to think about.

    As to the characters:

    -I'm just not feeling Paul. His dilemma is very sympathetic and his behaviors have been very well written, but I'm simply indifferent to him. I feel more towards Elona (interest) and Angelica (derision). We need to know more about him, maybe more about his relationship with Angelica. He has a dart board, that's good. Why not show a picture of him and his girlfriend together? Or have him show more emotions after she leaves him? For someone who panicked so much when Angelica was only gone for a day, he sure took her leaving him forever quite well. You might want to work on that.

    -Why does he have two beds? (I understand futon to be a Japanese bed). Does he just use it as a sort of pallet instead of a sofa? If so you might want to show him typing while sitting down on it. As to his bed, is it single or double?

    If the latter, then viewers might make the connection that he's used to having his girlfriend sleep over; more clues about him.

    I think it's a great start, and I'm certainly interested to know who the injured(dead?) woman is, Angelica, or Elona.

    Best of luck!

  5. The writing is sharp and economical, as Amy mentioned. Nice description and word choices. But I have to agree with the other commenters that your lead character is not well defined.

    First of all, shut-in to me implies someone who can not physically handle the demands of the outside world.

    Your character is apparently emotionally constricted, and yet he has a girlfriend, which seems to indicate some level of sociability. In fact, he has interactions with at least three people in this one day, one of whom he goes out of his way to help. That's not very shut-in like.

    You tell us very little about the character, other than a sparse appearance related item. What does he do? I think we should know more in 10 pages.

    Still, it's an overall strong opening scene, and I would want to read more. But I would also need to see a lot more in the next 10 pages to go a lot further.

    It's good writing, but I need more story and less confusion.


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