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.
I enjoyed these pages. The writer does a great job of setting tone and mood. He’s got a great visual style, and a good ear for tension and dialogue. That said, I think my biggest suggestion would be that the writer trust the reader more. It’s clear he’s worked very hard at sculpting this scene, but the signs of that hard work are a bit too visible in these pages. The script is over-written in many ways, but still doesn’t quite seem to get at the heart of the story to come.
I think the root of the problem here is that at its core, this scene plays more like a gripping 3 page opening than a tight, effective first ten pages. Your first ten pages need to set up your characters, what they want, and what is going to stand in the way of them achieving that goal. An opening scene sets the tone, raises a few questions, and moves us to the edge of our seats, eagerly anticipating the rest of the movie.
That said, the writer might want to consider cutting these ten pages into 3. In those three pages, they can do exactly what great Tarantino-esque openings do. 1) Introduce lovable cut throats, 2) Kill someone 3) Laugh about it. 4) Tease what’s coming next. It might seem drastic to cut seven of these pages out, but the shorter this scene plays, the better it will work.
I think the biggest place the writer could cut from here is most likely dialogue. As mentioned above, there is great imagery in this script. A door hiding a well lit room. A sudden burst of light. Feet crossing the screen, inspecting a dead body. Let this imagery do the work for you! A lot of the dialogue here pretty much sets up the boss/lackey relationship, which is familiar, and can be swiftly set up in one simple exchange, “Get the morphine.” “Why? I don’t want to.” “Do it!”
That’s really all you need to know about these characters. Everything else can be shown with imagery.
To that end, although it’s definitely a strong choice to keep the camera on the ground for this scene, it seems to be hurting more than it’s helping. In these pages, the action is often confusing because of this. We don’t ever get a description of either Julian or Kev, and they’re occasionally referred to ‘first man’ or ‘second man.’ It’s hard to follow what’s going on. Generally, the script is only intermittently true to the whole ‘camera on the floor’ idea, at times remaining loyal (when we only see feet for instance) but at other times telling us things in the action we couldn’t possibly know from our current vantage point. On the first page we learn that Julian is behind the door, without ever meeting Julian, we also learn that he’s a landlord, although the audience would have no way of knowing that, and so on and so forth. Really, unless there’s a very strong reason for such a limited vantage point, the stylistic points it earns you are not nearly worth how it neuters your story telling. Movies are all about images, so give us something to really latch onto. The only way I could really see this working is if it turned out that the camera was a hand held, and it turned out someone was hiding with it and the whole movie was shot this way. But that does not seem to be the case with this script.
Another symptom of this problem is the term ‘we see’ or ‘we’ anything, really. Every usage of ‘we’ reminds the reader that he is a member of the audience, while they should really feel like they are part of the scene to begin with. The goal is to make the reader feel like he is there, and using ‘we see,’ and putting the unmoving camera on the floor, and telling us things we can’t see not only takes us out of the scene, it reminds us that we’re reading a movie script, and everything becomes less cinematic as a result.
To that end, there are a few additional stylistic quirks that similarly take the reader out of the story. The first – parentheticals. The tone and characters in this script are very clear, so instructions like (his words are quiet but fierce) are unnecessary. Like ‘we see,’ this technique pulls the reader out of the script. This is part of the ‘overwriting’ I mentioned at the top of this review. Much of the action is also overwritten. Lines like “His words are over enforced with a bang as something heavy hits the floor” are confusing because they’re attempting to tell the reader too much about the scene. A simple, “BANG. Something heavy hits the floor,” might be more effective and certainly more visceral.
This script has a lot going for it. It’s creative and exciting. It’s got characters that clearly have some issues between them, and I want to follow them along on a journey. But the first ten pages need to set that journey up more, and really prime me for what’s to come. Set up a bigger conflict, an antagonist, and a direction for the screenplay, and I’m with this script the whole way through.
(*) Take Another Pass
What did you think of Alex's 1st 10 pages?
Next week Rob will give feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Wayne Nichol's THE THRONE