Friday, April 27, 2012


In the future, death is the new drug. So perfect are these "Actual Death Experiences", they are made illegal. Now one scientist must risk her life trying to figure out how an impossible death experience even exists, and stop the slaughter of millions of innocent lives.

How It Works

Email Rob the first ten pages of your feature length screenplay (in pdf. format) along with a logline and title. Every Friday one of us (or a guest reviewer) posts 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.

*** We did not receive any submissions for the Write For Each Other page, so it was taken down. ***

This week Dan read the 1st 10 pages of Cillian Daly's ACTUAL DEATH EXPERIENCE.

Hello everyone! My name's Dan and I'll be doing my thang this week. When Rob asked me to write a review, I was so psyched because I love giving people script notes! ...and then I realized... "Oh crap, I have to write a review."

Never done this before, so bear with me...

Okay, so I'm gonna come clean right off the bat and say I was so intrigued by the first 10 pages that I contacted Cillian for the full version...I actually read pretty much the whole first act, so I've gotta hand it to him. Very picky reader here, so for an amateur script this is pretty rare...

So, without further ado:

We open inside an air vent. Something thumping - a big fan. Ha, and there's a Japanese guy inside it: quirky. Oh, and now he's falling backwards, and oh huh he's smiling that's weird and then oh my god this guy just got chopped and blendered into human mist!

What is going on?!

But then, this same Japanese guy wakes up in a recliner in a spa-like laboratory room. All in one piece. Apparently, this was just some kind of simulation. A technician comes over and gives the man a sampling of gourmet peanuts. She hands him an aftercare package, then sends him out the room with genuine tears of joy on his face.

Here's where the concept of the film becomes clear: in the future, the greatest thrill, the most transcending high is not from any drug or roller coaster or extreme sport. The most exciting experience a human being can have in the future is the experience of death. In fact, people pay to have someone else make them feel like they just kicked the proverbial bucket, i.e. our Asian man's little party with the vent fan. However likely this concept is, it's just so bizarre and new to me. I loved the premise right from the start.

The other thing that immediately jumped out to me was just how visually interesting this futuristic world was. The great thing about sci-fi is the fact that there are no restrictions placed on one's creativity. If you can imagine it, you can have it. Cillian takes this to heart. From the spine-less chairs with their robotic armatures, to the glass walls with scrolling orange and blue text, to the employee shirts which diffuse colors at the touch of a cuff, I was just having a blast seeing this world through Cillian's eyes. These are the kinds of touches that really put a movie into the reader's head.

So what about the actual story? Well, we are centering this plot around Elena, one of the technicians who orchestrates the "actual death experience" procedures, or the "A.D.E.s". Right after Elena is finished with Mr. Fukiama, our grateful paying customer, she heads down to the basement of Loacyte Laboratories to help out with Research & Development - apparently this corporation hires test patients to come in and subject themselves to the A.D.E.s. for the bettering of the technology. Regarding Elena as a character, unfortunately for me there's not much that really popped off the page about her the way the world does, and I'll get to that in a moment.

However, something else happens during one of Elena's test procedures that dropped my jaw to the floor. A young anxious college student named Kelly, low on funds, came into the story at this point, volunteering to undergo a test A.D.E. for some quick cash.

The test procedure is running smoothly. Elena and her partner/love interest Ben are true pros it appears. But then, just as a mass of fibrous needles is routinely inserted into Kelly's spine, feeding her nervous system with the "death experience", something goes horribly, horribly wrong.

I won't go into all the gory details, but suffice it to say that Kelly doesn't have quite the same experience as Mr. Fukiama. She ends up dead. Literally dead. Blood all over the actual floor kind of dead. And apparently, this sort of thing has happened before.

I will say at this point, and even in the next twenty pages or so (I know I'm cheating here), I don't get a good sense of why something is going wrong in these tests. And also, if people actually can die in an A.D.E, how is Loacyte Laboratories still doing business? Not only is this an extremely dangerous procedure, it's also illegal, and yet this is still a thriving, wealthy corporation. Some explanations are hinted at, but it is a bit of a confusing picture overall.

We close out our first 10 pages on a meeting between the young baffled technicians and the elderly head of Loacyte, Harold Aignes, and his creepy assistant John Paver. Harold Aignes is a man of ideals. He's not quite as affected by the death of a young test subject as Elena and Ben are, because after all: "accidents fuel scientific progress". He's a cold, compassion-less man, and we are right to surmise that something is not right with him.

The scene ends with us learning that Elena is planning some kind of vacation, and then a contemplative monologue from Walter about the relationship between man and science.

So, I said before that I wasn't too connected to Elena, and part of that just has to do with the nature of only being able to read 10 pages; but also I think it's because we don't get any sense of who she is. What does she want? What is fueling her? Right now, and again it's still early, but to me: she's just an employee, not a person. Switch her out with any other technician in the facility, and you could tell the same exact plot. I don't think anything about Elena's actual character is even really hinted at in these first ten pages, it's pretty much her just going through routine work procedures. And even then she don't have a whole lot of flavor. I would love for Cillian to ask himself, "Why did Elena take this job?" and "How does she feel about what she does?" and "How does she feel about herself?" And then, see if you can give us a small taste to some of those answers. She just doesn't have much personality for me at this point, and I have trouble even visualizing her as a real person.
Creepy old Harold Aignes, however, in his pursuit for nothing else but scientific glory: now that was someone who we understood and maybe even empathized with right from the get-go. He was like an actual dude.

My other complaint was the dialogue. I provide a tip to Cillian in my notes to read his dialogue out loud. Hell, act your scenes out even. There were a few lines that just didn't sound very natural, and other parts just felt dry (this may be partly why I was having trouble "seeing" Elena). I know from personal experience that sometimes there's just so much content you want to get onto the page, especially with a premise like this, but you have to make sure that your characters are real people talking in real confrontations, and not just heads spouting off their beats.

Also, it's very possible these complaints are coming from feelings I got after these first ten pages when I continued to read the script, so I apologize - I kind of have that whole picture though, hard to separate it now. 

But, anyways: I think if Cillian works on his protagonists, fleshes them out and trusts them to lead his story (and not the other way around), then he could really have something great here. I will give this one a "More Please", but with the strong caveat that your concept can only take you so far if we don't care about the plight of the people in your story. As it is, this is still a very bad-ass script for me, and I had a great time reading it.

Please guys, add your own thoughts below! No right or wrong answers here.


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

Dan's Notes

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

Next week Amy will give feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Martin Dolan's ROCK NOT DEAD.



  1. Nice job guys, both with the review and pages. I love the opening scene. Intense!

  2. Very interesting first 10. This kind of genre and concept is right up my alley so I was hooked from the get-go. As far as Elena is concerned I agree she could stand out more in the first 10, though I have no idea what happens later on in the script. For instance, what is her true goal? Is she trying to take down the facility? Perhaps if we saw her trying to sabotage the operation and free the girl before her ADE it would make her stand out more. Try putting in some indicator (hopefully visual) that Elena is not just some employee going through the motions. Hope that helps.

  3. that's a neat idea! yeah i would think that elena, after seeing a gruesome death like that, should be inspired to do something about it. as it is now though, they've had several of these incidents before but everyone's still going along like it's no big deal.

  4. Good opening, it kept the pages turning. Nice job explaining the procedure to us by having Elena explain it to Kelly. It’s a good way to get the exposition across without being obvious.

    Nice hook with Ben and the scar. Definitely piqued my curiosity.

    I didn’t see what the others were saying about Elena. She seemed disturbed by Kelly’s death and even embarrassed that she was still taking her vacation. If I were reading the entire screenplay, I wouldn’t expect a major shift in Kelly’s character until the first act break. As is, we see what type of person she is by how she reacts to Kelly’s accident. She doesn’t stand back, removed from the situation. She panics. I think the writer has made her human and relatable.

    Overall, I thought the writer did a great job of setting up the plot and pulling us in. I’d read more.

  5. thanks for your comments! i get what you're saying about elena, i think it's just the fact that this has been going on for a while apparently, and it's all on elena and ben, but they're still doing it everyday. it's a little surprising that no one's taken action before like quitting or refusing to do the tests, but maybe there's the fear of losing your job, etc.

  6. Thanks for the comments so far guys. I've received character notes on Elena suggesting that we don't get to know her or see her motives from the start. I'd hoped to get that across as the story unfolds rather than start her day at home alone with her cat etc. but I do have some simple improvements I want to make that should help clear up the issues raised above, of which I'm hugely appreciative. The ambiguity, in relation to the situation at the company, I hope, pays off later in the screenplay, but I could do more to aid that early on. There are a few very good points made that I hadn't noticed, Dan's point about the dialogue is well made.

    Again, thank you all for the comments. Glad ye liked it!


  7. Hey Cillian! Great job again. Really did enjoy it. Yeah, I'd say the most important thing is just making sure Elena comes across as a real person. Holding plot points back is totally fine and usually a great idea, as long as we want to know what happens to her and so we keep reading.

  8. First of all, LOVE your concept! It's fresh, unique and very original!

    The opening scene was intriguing albeit confusing-- which actually worked in your favor because I wanted to read more to find out what the hell was going on! I thought it was strange that the man said it was the first time he cried. That was inauthentic in my opinion. Everyone has cried at some point in their lives, and that line took me out of the story.

    I loved the character of Elena, all though I think you might benefit from giving her character more discernible traits. Maybe base her off of an archetype? Can someone really be eager and strong at the same time? What are her flaws?

    I have a minor qualm with her description: "pretty enough to be a poster girl for some cause." What does that tell her about what she looks like? Isn't EVERY actress pretty in some way? Too generic. Give us something we can picture in our mind. We can picture 'angular face' or 'lithe figure' or something other than 'pretty.' I had the same problem with Kelly, but she had NO physical description whatsoever, and I couldn't picture her at all. This is in contrast to Ben Garland who gets his own hefty paragraph.

    Also, don't forget about giving us an idea of HAROLD AIGNES' age! I know you said he was "waist deep in the grave" (clever!) but it's not enough. There's a world of difference between people who are 50 and people who are 110, and the variations of each decade are enough to color an entire characters' demeanor and personality.

    I hit page 8 and I was hooked. You have a very strong story here and with another pass it can sparkle!

    Thanks for sharing this with us,


  9. Hi Amy,

    Thanks for reading! My intention was to show that this was the first time that Fukiama cried after experiencing an ADE procedure, (this one really affected him) rather than the first time he ever cried. I can see where this may have been confusing though. Maybe a little twist of his dialogue would fix it?

    Elena is the one area that I think does need a bit of work in the rewriting. I would hope that by the end of the story, her character is well drawn, but in truth, I should lay some sort of foundation to that early on, and make the character grip the audience as much, if not more, than the concept and events.

    The reason I left Aignes age ambiguous was that it does indeed pay off later in the story. I try to suggest that he looks frail, ancinet even, by describing him as elderly and geriatric. But equally, there's no doubt a better way to suggest that ambiguity. Maybe "ancient" is the way to go?

    Really appreciate your comments, it's all valuable, and very welcome!

    And if you want to read more, just give me a shout.



    1. Cillian,

      I'd love to read more! My email is:

      And my comments are subjective, of course-- you know your story best! You've got a great concept here and it's your job to pick and choose which feedback works the best for what you've got going.



  10. Cillian,
    Sorry I didn't get in before the poll closed, but add another "more please". This is a badass concept and really well executed.

    Very visual writing style. Lots of promise here. Great turns of phrase, "tech head's wet dream," buildings not reaching for the sky, but for space". That's the kind of thing that makes a reader see the story. I have a feeling that with a little work on the characters, as Dan mentioned, we will see someone pick this up and run with it.

    I'll be first in line to buy a ticket.

    Great job!

    Wayne Nichols

  11. Hi Wayne,

    Thanks a million for the comments, and kind words. I agree with you (and Dan) about the character work - it's all well and good having concept that hooks the reader, but great characters hold them. Back to a rewrite for me!

    Thanks again,



Please make constructive comments. Anything mean spirited or malicious will be removed.