Friday, April 20, 2012


A mysterious woman with amnesia must reconcile her past as a lethal spy for a black ops organization who will stop at nothing to make sure she doesn't discover the truth about why she lost her memory. Bourne Identity meets Point of No Return. Inspired by true events.

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.

*** Dan Dollar and Amy Suto have joined Feedback Friday as regular reviewers. If you are interested in doing a guest review contact Rob via Email or Twitter. ***

This week Rob read the 1st 10 pages of Amy Suto's DYALTOV'S ENCORE.

The logline is pretty solid and enticing as is. Could it be a little tighter? Perhaps:

An amnesiac must reconcile her past as a lethal spy before a black ops organization makes sure she doesn't discover the truth about why she lost her memory. 

The first scene is an active, establishing one in which a violent storm assaults an island. Amy's verb choice is excellent. Words like slam, tear, ripping, and rise give the reader a very visual image of what is going on. Right from the start you've got a movie playing in your head.

We then move to a high tower office with a panoramic view of "the battle below" where we meet Erick Prince and his subordinate Chynna. There's a sense that they belong to some sort of paramilitary operation and it's very clear that Chynna is accustomed to being the one calling the shots. We also learn that she's after a weapon that she's been tracking for years.

Page one begins with a cinematic opening, tension between characters and some dramatic questions: Who are these people? Whom do they work for? What is this weapon and what happens if they don't find it?

Another cinematic sequence follows in which Chynna narrates events (that unfold on screen) that occurred in the northern Ural Mountains in 1959. I won't go into detail here, but let's just say it was a bad day for Yuri and an even worse one for his buddies.

When Chynna's voice over ends we are back in the tower office. There is an exchange between Erick and Chynna that sets up the stakes. Whoever was behind the Dylatov incident plans to strike again. But this time they will be coming for Yuri and they won't stop there. In order to stop them Chynna will need, "the one we left behind."

Next, we smash cut to a Russian town where we meet Dale, an American novelist. He's not given an age, which is a huge screenwriting no no. It's essential to give some indication. Marlon Brando, for example, can conjure up two very different images. Is it Brando from Street Car or Brando from The Island of Dr. Moreau? (By the way, don't use actor's names in your character descriptions. It doesn't hurt to have an idea of who's playing it in your head, but leave the casting to the casting director.)

I go into detail about the next couple of pages in my notes. But to sum it up, this is where we meet the protagonist, Alexia. The biggest problem I found here was too much dialogue and too little action. When getting exposition out there it needs to be done in a visually interesting way. 

Amy's got a solid, commercial premise (as evidenced by someone else selling a similar script). She's also got a great opening sequence. With another pass this one could be a contender.

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


What did you think of Amy Suto's DYLATOV'S ENCORE?

Next week Dan will review the first 10 pages of Cillian Daly's Actual Death Experience.



  1. i saw amy was up for the next friday and i was psyched!

    - first off, i LOVE the opening location. a high-rise tower on the edge of a rocky shore on an island. very visual and intriguing.

    - a couple minor grammar nitpicks ("towards the desk" and "his tongue cut off") but that kind of stuff isn't really important anyways

    - liked the two investigators in the office, but why is there a mirror in there? it's not a bathroom. maybe she could just catch his reflection in the window?

    - now that you've set up such a cool investigative team, i hope they come into play later in a big way

    - would the russian authorities/government really make an official statement that there was a "mysterious force" behind a mountain tragedy?

    - there were some great descriptions here, but my absolutely favorite was the "marshmallow coat"...i don't know why, just loved that little bit and it made me giggle

    - you have two attractive young women in the opening tavern scene (i think) - it's kind of redundant, maybe make the bartender fat?

    - i started to get confused right here - what's with the blue handkerchief? is it the american girl's or the bartender's? why is she giving it to dale? hopefully that's explained later on.

    - the confrontation in the forest was really bizarre to me. he's chasing this mysterious stranger girl, she slings a knife at him, and two minutes later they're in some kind of training scenario? once that knife hit the tree, and dale reacted with a joke instead of being genuinely startled, i kind of lost my trust here. hopefully there is something about these two that i don't understand that will be explained later, because just reading it at face value, it seems like two strangers should definitely not be so quick and cozy with each other like they are (not to mention the light-hearted tone of it doesn't seem to match the ominous opening). the whole mentor-student thing feels like it should be second act stuff. but like i said, maybe there's something here that we don't understand yet. maybe dale deals with these kinds of amnesiacs all the time and has some kind of special understanding of them?

    - the dialogue was pretty good, but the low point for me was when dale talks to himself before deciding to chase after the girl again. didn't seem realistic, and it was spelling things out for the audience to me. did he really have to figure out the girl was beautiful and worth chasing after by saying it out loud to himself?

    overall, some great stuff, particularly your locations and descriptions, and i might continue reading a little bit more just because i'm a bit baffled as to what's going on between dale and alexia. someone else might see it totally different, but i just felt their confrontation and immediate bond was a bit unrealistic.


    1. Thanks so much for your comments, Dan! Definitely going to use them to guide my rewrite :)

    2. no problem, and don't worry i'm pretty certain people will be stopping in with more stuff throughout the week. just gotta give them time :)

  2. I posted these comments to Reddit and Dan Dollar asked me to post them here:

    Obviously, this is purely opinion:

    First, for me, this {Dyaltov} already hurts this story.

    It's D y a t l o v. It shouldn't have bugged me so much, but it really did.

    But on to the meat...

    I didn't find it especially compelling. It's too much rambling and not enough happening. A despite the mystery of what happened, the portrayal here sort of sucks the spookiness out of it.

    I think it'd work better if Chynna just handed to Erik the file on the incident and then it played out on the screen from Yudin's perspective with minimal voice over. Then the deaths are mysterious and bizarre and we know there's a survivor. Then segue into the Alexia bit.

    I don't really care for the dialogue, reads a little on the cheesy side for me. And the connection between Dale and Alexia is weird and weak... not guarded enough on either side... she's obviously dangerous... and he's a nosy stranger to her. Not much conflict either. Not that the conflict has to be between characters, but the way it reads I just feel like the one "internal" conflict isn't as strong and interesting as it could be -- Alexia is just annoyed by her amnesia, not actually disturbed by it.

    And maybe it's just me, but is she really not going to get pop culture references like Swiss Family Robinson and Tarzan, but still get Spark Notes and Somali Pirates? Maybe she would, but it doesn't feel right to me... I don't know.

    Anyhow... this is all based on 10 pages... maybe it works in the grand scheme of things.

    Nice start, but I think it needs a major rewrite.

    1. Thank you for your comments! Already have plans for strengthening the Alexia/Dale relationship and reworking the beginning.

  3. Hi Amy,

    This was a game of two halves for me... Enjoyed the first section a lot, with the mysterious island and eerie flashbacks, but the Dale / Alexia scenes were a little off. It seemed you were forcing these two characters together too quickly - Alexia opens up to Dale within a couple of scenes, though I would imagine she's a very untrusting person at this point.

    Like others, the pop culture references didn't true for me either.

    That said, there was solid writing here - you're just rushing the Dale / Alexia relationship too much.


  4. I couldn't make it past the beginning of page 4.

    There were four main reasons for this:

    1) " is aviolent scene." instantly takes me out of the whole thing. It's telling, not showing, and utterly undermines the tone you've set with the previous two lines. It stops the reader like a concrete wall.

    2) The conversation feels forced and wooden. "You think you own this place, don't you?", " work for me," and "...I may have to..." It reads like spy thriller fanfic, not realistic conversation. YMMV.

    3) It's (V.O.), not (O.S.), unless you're showing 1959 on a monitor in the room with them. I noticed Robert mentioned this, but from what I've read, it actually does matter. Which makes sense, really- it's a shorthand way to describe the setting of what we're seeing without explicitly stating it.

    4) "...and lethal traces of radiation..." No. Is it a trace, or is it a lethal level? Traces of radiation aren't lethal.

    5) "SMASH CUT TO:" ...Aaand I'm out. There's no such thing as a smash cut. One frame is one scene, the next frame is the next scene. You can evoke the feeling of "smashing" into the next scene with VFX, sound design and score, but it's impossible to perform a cut shorter than one frame. The same goes for "JUMP CUT," although I think I heard somewhere that jump was used to denote significantly contrasting scenes but now it's deprecated. IIRC. Anyway, this was the final nail in this script's coffin.

    ...Which is a shame, actually, because I was enjoying the actual story and wanted to know what happened to the Russians, how she knew that it was going to happen again and what the consequences would be. But it felt like one basic writing mistake after another was pushing me out of the story.

    I don't know a hundredth of what script readers and producers know, so they'd probably have passed on it after that first paragraph. You constantly have to prove to them that it's worth their time to continue reading, that you have the ability to entertain and make sense throughout. Those kinds of errors do not inspire confidence.

    So, naturally, I voted (*) Take another pass. Because I DO want to read this, with improved writing. :)

    1. And by four, I mean five. Who said I could count? :D

  5. I think it would be cool if you started the beginning with her waking up in the hospital not remembering anything, and then a someone posing as her boyfriend shows up and takes her home to get her memory back. The only thing she has is that locket. When she is in the car, she opens up the locket and finally sees her name and the message in it saying she was betrayed. She starts interrogating the boyfriend until she realizes, it's not him and then she discovers that she knows martial arts and escapes. Then later, she can bump into the novelist and they will forced together on escaping the people trying to kill her.

    That's just something that popped into my head. I don't know if you need the two people in the beginning yet. Maybe they show up later in the story?

  6. Thanks for your insightful comments everyone! I really do appreciate the time you took to read my pages.

    Back to the drawing board :)

  7. Hi Amy,

    Sorry for taking a while to read your 1st 10 pages. My thoughts? The premise is intriging, at leaset what's suggested by these pages. I understand it's based on true event, though I'm not familiar with them, so the mystery set up on the first few pages is good.

    I have to agree with some of the other commets above; It's a little bit overwritten. Though that is easily fixed, with a hard copy and a red pen!

    One thing that struck me, and it's a personal pet peeve, is using two names for a character - ERIK PRINCE. It's too long to have two of them, and really does arrest the eyes as they read. In this case, ERIK is enough. The same with REDHEAD BARTENDER. My opinionated opinion!

    The difference between (O.S.) and (V.O.) really is a problem for a spec, and is a major red flag to professional readers - it suggests that the writer is unfamiliar with the form. This needs to be right.

    Something to be careful of is during the explanation by CHYNNA of the murder scenes, that you don't have characters say too much about what's on screen at that time. Use the V.O. to compliment the visuals, not describe them. Remember we will see what is being described. Maybe try writing the dialogue here as if from the characters memory, it may just come across more authentic, and do justice to the visuals. Though in relation to that dialogue, if there was no ssign of a struggle, then the tent probably would not be ripped open from inside? That kind of does suggest a struggle of some sort.

    Smash cut to: not so much. Simply Cut to: is fine here.

    Your intro of Dale happens in the 2nd scene he's in - he's not a shock identiy or anything, so intor him straight off - don't keep his name from us, or intro him as AMERICAN (which we wouldn't know just by looking at him). "DALE, in a marshmallow coat, waddles up to the Bearded Gentleman Inn. A sign above the door, displaying the name in Russian, swings in the breeze." Or something like that. You can then put the description of Dale here too, before he walks in - as we'll have seen him by then.

    Italics is not adivsed, especially in dialogue blocks. Just by having the parenticl (In Russian) is fine - now we know that character speaks that way from then on. You actuially have it correct later on in the interaction between Dale and Alexia. Changing style like that, for no apparent reason, is also another red flag.

    After the slug EXT. RUSSIAN TOWN - DAY you go straight in with "He" rather than Dale. It could be quite easy for a reader, reading fast, to miss the fact that the HE in question is in fact Dale. That entire scene only describes him as HE. Make sure the characters name is mentioned, if they're in the scene.

    The forest scene has a little too direction - she looks conflicted - that kind of thing. Have the actions suggest this insofar as you can.

    And try and reduce the use of "-ing" words. You've too many in the action. Make it more direct -- I know I used an "-ing" word in the suggestion above, but they have their places!!!

    There is also too much back story in the conversation between Alexia and Dale - might need to work on this. Hide some things from characters and readers until later, it's allowed!

    These pages do read quite well, but while it's ok to hide stuff from readers, to reveal later, we should at least have some idea of the plot at this stage, there should be something that snaps us into the story - now that could happen on page 11, but I'd be worried that I'm not engrossed yet. Maybe a dialogue cull is needed, shave some of that, and work on pulling more from the mystery of the mountain slaughter, and this could be a winner. For now though, I'd take another swing at it, hit hard, fast and with intent!

    Hope this was of some use to you.



  8. Amy, I am intrigued by the premise, but the title is too obscure and obtuse. There's got to be a better title there somewhere.

    Very strong opening setting up the flashback. But I agree with some others who have suggested that some of the dialogue is a little on the nose and even unnecessary in spots. I'm not sure about the whole voiceover thing. You might even consider opening with the flashback and then cutting to the present.

    Alexia is reminiscent to me of the Geena Davis character in The Long Kiss Goodnight, which I loved. That was a Shane Black screenplay and you could take some gudiance from that, in the way he revealed the amnesia and the lead character's past life as an assassin through images and not dialogue. And also over time.

    I also agree with Dan's comments that the initial encounter between Dale and Alexia is awkward, with seeming danger one minute and verbal sparring the next and then outright intimacy. That part to me seems most in need of a touchup.

    But definitely some good writing here and a good enough tease to have me reading more.

    Good luck with this!


  9. Thank you everyone for your comments!

    Also, a big thanks to Rob for taking time to review my script!




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