Friday, May 4, 2012

ROCK NOT DEAD by Martín Dolan

In less than a 24 hours zombies rise all over town. A teen rock band struggles not only to survive, but to play the show of their 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.

This week Amy reviewed the 1st 10 pages of Martin Dolan's ROCK NOT DEAD.

LOGLINE: In less than a 24 hours zombies rise all over town. A teen rock band struggles not only to survive, but to play the show of their lives.
The best loglines contain the following: a clear goal, a sense of urgency, and high stakes. "Rock Not Dead" satisfies all three conditions!

Could it be improved? Perhaps:
When zombies rise in a small town, a teen rock band struggles not only to survive, but to play the show of their lives.

What I like about this concept is that it is "the same but different." It's a zombie movie with a twist, and it reminded me of Zombieland.

So did this script do its winning concept justice? Let's find out!

The script opens with a group of teenagers playing the Rock Band videogame. But they're playing too loud, so Leonard's sister pulls the plug on their jamfest. Tyler leaves to go do homework, and then Leonard's creepy old neighbor comes out of nowhere and tells them they're playing too loud.

Then it's the next day and Leonard walks to school and sees a woman through said creepy old neighbor's window. At school Lynch and Leonard talk about logos and commercials and sing jingles. They ogle their female classmate, and talk about Nazism and some other things.

Then, in what might be the inciting incident, a postman gets pulled into the creepy old neighbor's home.

I really wanted to love this script. I did. But unfortunately there were too many problems and the story just wasn't engaging enough.

English isn't the writer's first language (he's from Argentina), so this could account for the numerous grammar and spelling errors. However, as mentioned by Carson Reeves on Scriptshadow, it is critical for these writers to find someone to proofread your script before you send it out. Another disconcerting red flag were the numerous semicolons that were used incorrectly.

Another problem was that the first ten pages moved too slowly. The dialog is leaden and feels unnatural, and there were strange references to obscure musicians and commercials that did nothing for the story.The conversations had no consequence, and the characters all act and sound the same. Try this test for the dialog of your script: cover up the names of your characters and see if someone can guess who said what. If they can't you have a problem. Give each character a style of speech! Some can be ramblers, some might speak in clipped phrases, some can have accents, some might always be misquoting famous people, and others might only pop in here and there to say something cryptic. Give your dialog (and your characters) texture!

As I mentioned in my notes, I had an issue with the description of Victoria. She is "blond" and "pretty." can we think of another adjective other than "pretty"? Aren't all actresses pretty unless otherwise stated?​ Instead, how about describing a particular trait that creates an image in our mind? The other characters have watered down, generic descriptions and it is hard to visualize them.

Something else that is critical lesson we've all broken at one point or another is the paragraph rule. In spec scripts, paragraphs should almost never exceed four lines. Lean writing is professional writing! When script readers pick up your scripts, they will hate you if they see giant blocks of text because you've just made their job harder. Make sure your script reads like a dream! 2-3 lines per paragraph is ideal. Make every word count!

Unfortunately, I have to give this script a "trash it" rating simply because the writer might want to consider getting a fresh start on this script.

Still, the premise is great! The writer should consider re-outlining the characters and coming up with another way to approach the execution of the script. Maybe moving the postman scene further to the start of the story and trimming down the conversation? Everything that does not advance the story or develop characters should be cut. Also, when he is done writing, he should ask someone else to proofread it.

Screenwriting is a difficult craft to master and feedback is intensely subjective, so I wish the writer best of luck!

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

What did you think of Martin's first 10 pages?

Next week guest reviewer Script Quack gives feedback on the first 10 pages of Alex J. R. Durham's £80 Per Week.


  1. - my first thought at that long paragraph on the first page is "i reeaaallly don't want to read this". your paragraphs shouldn't be longer than four lines. go easy on the reader.
    - the introduction of the characters is very bland. it's a cold description of what they're wearing and what they look like. gotta spice things up!
    - you have way too many words that you don't need. here's an example: "Tyler and Lynch laugh about it. Conrad fakes a smile and he blushes a little" - this should be something like, "Tyler and Lynch laugh as Conrad blushes." be leaner.
    - were they playing rock band? if so, then say it. it's confusing what they're actually doing.
    - this first page has a few pretty obvious lines of exposition.
    - there are a lot of grammer mishaps here. your first is in the very first line of the very first page: "In a 24 hours..." you have to be on top of that stuff.

    okay, i read about four or five pages. the stuff i mentioned above is important, but what really made me lose interest was that these characters were just bleh. they didn't feel like real people to me, just like four pretty similar kids spouting off lines of exposition and forced wisecracks. honestly, i think you just gotta keep writing and reading good scripts, and you'll start to see these kinds of things yourself.

    keep writing! thanks for sharing -

  2. I have to agree 100% with Amy and Dan on the critiques. And I'd also like to repeat KEEP WRITING. Don't be discouraged by this feedback. It's good feedback and it's accurate. Learn from it and your next screenplay will be stronger, and the one after that will be even stronger.

  3. Let me start by saying, I'm no authority on screenwriting. But I thought I'd give my two cents, for what it might be worth.

    I liked the concept. I'm an avid fan of the zombie genre and have been for ten or so years, but it does get real tedious when people make the same kind of films over and over. Your idea kinda reminded me of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World mixed with Zombieland (like Amy said). Definitely keep working on it. Hone it, change it, write, write, write. Writing is rewriting.

    Also as Dan Dollar and Amy said, I also found the first ten pages a little slow. At the end of the day, sometimes it works to strip a scene down to the bare bones. What the reader wants is crucial information. I think there's such a thing as over writing a scene, and I've been guilty of it more times than I'd care to mention. Some advice given to me was "Get to the scene as late as you can, leave as soon as you can." - just show the reader what they need to see to keep the story moving. Keep it interesting and try not to use up too much time on small details or things that might go over looked any way.

    It's our job as writers to get the reader excited and to give them something worth reading. Readers put their time in to reading what we write, so we have to make it worth their while. Shock and amaze them.

    Also as Amy said, the dialogue did feel a little unnatural. Again, I've been guilty of unnatural dialogue countless times. I still am from time to time (I'm by no means perfect). When you write dialogue or finish a scene, read it all out loud to see how it flows. If you can't get the words out in a way that feels comfortable or makes sense, it's likely that an actor won't be able to (cause at the end of the day, we all write because we want to see our work on a screen). It might feel a little stupid to start with, but it works. If the dialogue doesn't flow when you're reading it out, then rewrite it.

    Apologies for the essay.

    Keep at it, man.


  4. Hi Martin,

    I have to agree with the others above, while the premise is good, the first 10 pages of the script do not live up to it. Part of that is undoubtedly the language barrier, spelling, grammar, but it is also overwritten. I think by going through it, and chopping things like "He holds the microphone with both hands as he sings the song." which is unnecessary, and "He has kind of longish hair..." it may reduce the length of these 10 to around 8 pages. But you'd probably be better off doing a page 1 rewrite, use your existing script as a template of sorts, and go from there. You need to cut each scene down to it's essence - what do you want to achieve in the scene, what do your characters want in the scene, and what do they discover that moves your plot forward. A lot of what you wrote here doubles up on its self. you have explanations of sorts for all the teen angst and flirting going on, but you have it in most scenes. Cover it with one, introductory scene, where we meet the whole band for example. Have them argue over a missed flick of the Rock Band guitar (assume it's Rock Band, not clear) during practice, this then shows us their individual characters and traits, and who likes who. A snide comment in the heat of an argument to Leonard from Lynch could set up tension later on, when hoards of zombies arrive.
    Another thing is that there are no zombies in these pages at all. None. Horror movies need great set-ups, opening scenes that shock the hell out of the audience. You don't have one of those at the moment.
    So, while I do like the potential of the premise, I think you execution of it needs a lot of work, as it doesn't show up in the first 10 pages.
    Make each scene exciting for the reader, don't just show us a room, garage, kitchen or school. Show us one or all of these that we'd want to spend time in, as it's new, different or exciting. Or show us these places filled with our worst fears, that we need to get out of but can't, as we're hooked by the story.
    And make sure your writing matches this. Spelling and grammar mistakes just don't cut it, regardless of first language.

    Hope you get to rewrite it and knock it out of the park. :)

    Kind regards,



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