Friday, May 18, 2012

THE THRONE by Wayne Nichols

Two struggling plumbers hatch a plan to steal Elvis Presley's toilet from Graceland to sell to an eccentric Japanese collector.

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 Rob read the first 10 pages of THE THRONE by Wayne Nichols.

The logline is pretty succinct. It conveys a good sense of what the story is about. The problem I see is with the premise itself. Why do these plumbers need to steal the King's toilet? Plenty of people are struggling out there. But these guys are employed, as plumbers! The last time I had work done on my toilet I got hosed. I need a pretty compelling reason to believe that these guys would be willing to risk everything and commit grand larceny.  Let's see if Wayne was able to pull it off.

In the first scene we meet Randy and Russ. Randy's description could use some work, but this line about Russ is brilliant. He's, "a forty watt bulb with gigawatt ideas." Wayne neglects to indicate his age however, which leaves me clueless as to how to envision him. Also, having both their names start with the same letter made it difficult to follow. You need to  eliminate anything that could potentially confuse your reader.

I go into more detail about this scene in my notes, but one thing I didn't mention was when Randy gets covered by a geyser of feces. Comedy is about as subjective as it gets, so maybe other people will laugh at this, but I'm just left shaking my head. It came across as way too obvious and expected.

Next we move to a bar scene, where we meet yet another character whose name begins with the letter R. I really got confused here and had to read the page a second time. I think this scene fell flat because there was very little conflict in it. Also, does it need to take place in a bar? I feel like I've seen this scene countless times before. It's where you'd expect to see a plumber after work. Since this is a comedy I'd put them somewhere you wouldn't expect, maybe a pottery class or a weight loss session?

Then we move to a scene where Randy is working on an old acquaintance's toilet. I didn't see the purpose of this scene. It seems that removing it would have no impact on the rest of the story. There was some emotion and conflict, but no purpose. I'm not sure if I coined this acronym (or if my subconscious ripped it off from someone else) but every good scene must have PECs: purpose, emotion and conflict.

We then find Randy and Russ visiting the Rock Museum. This is where the inspiration to steal the toilet comes from, but again there's no conflict. Maybe introduce a security guard, tour guide or another visitor to stir things up. Also, I'd send them to the museum on a plumbing job. Otherwise, it seems as if they arrive there simply to serve the plot. 

The final scene of the first ten pages takes place back at Swank's Bar. This is where Russ reveals his plan (to steal the toilet) to Randy.  Is this the best place to plan a felony? I'd consider having this discussion start in the museum scene and then move to a more private locale. 

Comedy is a tough genre. I'm sure others will disagree, but I just didn't find this funny. The jokes seemed to rely primarily on clique word play and one liners. A bigger problem is the lack of an inciting incident. Russ comes up with this plan to steal the toilet, but why? It's not like they've lost their jobs or been left by their wives, not that you want to go that way either. But I need something to happen. Something that will lead me to believe that their hatching and acting upon such a crazy scheme seems plausible.

There is some good writing here and I think Wayne has potential as a screenwriter. I considered giving this one a Take Another Pass, but the premise killed it for me. I just don't think it's worth spending your time and effort on this one.

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

Rob's notes on the 1st 10 pages of Wayne Nichol's THE THRONE

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

Next week Dan gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of  Lizz-Ayn Shaarawi's BINDS THAT TIE.

Please comment below on the 1st 10 pages of Wayne Nichol's THE THRONE.


  1. - russ' character description is one of my all-time favorites, i think. hope he lives up to it.
    - two "R" names is confusing, change one
    - why is randy explaining the process? haven't these guys done this before? or is russ brand new?
    - cell phone "mistake" is not believable
    - Okay, three "R" names...i see now that it's a joke, but i think this is still a bad idea. i was confused with two names. might not be worth it.
    - so far, the only thing i've found funny was the aspirin joke, but that was a good one
    - some of this dialogue just doesn't seem right... for example, why would questioning wearing a white suit be a "diss"?
    - russ' elvis story is pretty blatant exposition. no reason randy wouldn't already know it.
    - randy keeps talking about his wife, it's dull and forced. show us what their relationship is like, don't tell us.
    - why would they go to steal elvis' toilet? unless their business is about to go bankrupt, you need a motivator. otherwise there's no urgency

    okay, finished. i like the idea of something so specific like stealing elvis' toilet, but the concept needs work. make it so they have to steal it. also, this just wasn't very funny when i feel like it needs to be. there's way too much dialogue in the first 10 pages, you need to cut that down by quite a bit. stop with the exposition'y bits. work on making your characters pop, make them real, give them clear flaws and goals. i'd say focus these first 10 on showing that randy is about to lose his business, and there is no possible way he can save it except for winning something like the lottery.

    oh, and lose the three R's!!! :)

    i'd say keep at it, you might have something pretty sweet down the line.


  2. First off, I love the logline. It immediately piqued my curiosity.

    The characters are likeable and the dialogue is hilarious and works with one exception-- on page eight when Russ says “I Thought you guys were hot to trot. Since high school.” It comes off as blatant exposition. You may want to rewrite it to sound more natural.

    The names Randy and Russ are too similar, it’s very easy to confuse the two characters. You give a great character description of Russ (a forty watt bulb with gigawatt ideas) but Randy’s description is bland (He has a beard. ) Plus, other than one’s married and one isn’t, they feel very similar, almost interchangeable.

    However, the writing is strong and the jokes work. I’d read more if the characters were a bit more distinct.

  3. Hey Wayne. As everyone else has said, I loved the logline.

    But like Rob said, they're working plumbers and in this day and age a steady job is a god send. They've got it made!

    This is just my opinion, but maybe raise the stakes a bit. I was told to always treat your main characters like crap. Don't give them an easy ride. Maybe start the script with them getting layed off. One (or both) of them could be in debt. The bank is gonna seize their house or their wives are going to leave them or the mob is after them if they don't get their money.

    They need a "get rich quick" scheme but they're also against the clock. They've gotta keep a roof over their heads. You have motive then and a reason for them to succeed and to put the pressure on. All or nothing. If they fail at this task, that's it. Game over. They're screwed.

    These days, I doubt anyone is alien to the feeling of losing their job or having to tighten their belts because of money. Utilise that. If you put these characters under some kind of financial strain just like everyone else then you make them relateable and the audience is gonna want them to succeed. They're likeable characters, they seem like good guys, but you've gotta put them through hell. Don't go easy on them at all. Though with that, don't give the audience an easy ride either. "Always make the audience suffer as much as possible" - Alfred Hitchcock.

    Hope that's helpful. Just a theory, cause I like the premise.


  4. Hello Everyone,

    Well, I guess I’ll begin with a thank you to Rob and all who have voted and commented thus far. Clearly, something about these pages has not resonated with this audience, and that’s fine. As Rob mentioned, comedy is subjective and people have different tastes. I looked at Rotten Tomatoes for The Wedding Crashers (75% w/ critics, 70% w/ audiences,) The Hangover (78% critics, 87% audiences) and Borat (91%critics, 76% audiences.) Myself, I loved the first two, but Borat struck me as a one-note joke, and I would not watch it again.

    The point being that with comedies especially (and every other genre, really) there will never be 100% agreement as to whether something is funny or worthwhile. Even in a small sample like this, one comment says not funny and another says hilarious.

    I actually have had the first act (28 pages) read at a cold table read in front of 45 writers and actors. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with loud and consistent laughter, with some of the actors having trouble reading their lines from giggling.

    I have also heard offline from two different professional script consultants whom I did not previously know who did not understand the “harsh” (their words) criticism and thought it was great.

    So, although I totally appreciate the points of view of everyone who has weighed in (and special thanks to Rob for his analysis,) sometimes you just have to go with your gut and trust your instincts. By the way, Rob, the “right-hand” thing is a reference to masturbation. If I wind up with a script that falls flat or fails to generate interest, at least it will be a learning experience and I will likely be better next time just for having gained the experience.


    1. Thank you for your submission. I know first hand how it feels to get a less than stellar review.

      Just went back and read the "righ-hand" part. I think I might have missed it the first time because of Russ's reaction to it. He seemed so hurt by it that I didn't recognize it as one buddy ragging on another.

      You're absolutely right about going with your gut. My opinion is just that, my opinion. Take what works for you and throw out the rest.

      I'm glad to hear that you got a positive response from the table read. Hearing your work read by others is a great way to get feedback, especially when it comes to comedy where performance is paramount.

      I guess my biggest problem was that I didn't get a sense of urgency. While it's true that the first 10 pages are a good place to show the characters in their ordinary world, you also need to get your reader to connect with their plight. I think a scene where we see Randy interacting with his wife (and her despair) might be more effective than the guys talking about it.

      Good luck on your next draft.

    2. hey wayne - thanks again for sharing, and you're right, in the end you gotta go with your gut. i would say though, in my experience, i've always, always had very positive feedback from table reads of my work also, but the actual notes i get from my writer friends on the same material is much harsher and ultimately much more helpful. i think people have a tendency to be more polite in person, and even if you were to try to put strangers on the spot and ask for critiques, they're less than forthcoming.

      here's a pretty good thread on what to do with notes:

      and this is my favorite comment from it:

      "Here's one thing I've learned about notes. If you get them from people that have experience and know what they are doing, the notes will all more or less sound the same and touch on the same issues. If you ask a handful of randoms they will be confusing, all over the map, and completely useless."

      i think what to get out of this is if you're getting the same note over and over, even if it doesn't gel with you, it might be a pretty good one to consider thinking about. i had some pages put up here a couple months ago, and i was amazed that for once, everyone's biggest complaint about them generally seemed to be the same exact thing (and it was something i'd never even thought of!).

      maybe show your script to a few more people you really trust to be honest with you, and if there're things they're bringing up that match what you've seen here, it might be worthwhile to consider it. but, like i said, in the end, this is YOUR script. do what you gotta do with it.


    3. Dan,

      It has been shown to several other writers, and as I mentioned earlier, two script consultants have approached me offline with contrary opinions to some of those expressed here. Even among the four who have commented here, there is little consensus as to whether it's funny or not.

      I take seriously all notes. But the only real thread here is that we should show the conflict with the wife (done on page 12,) that three R's are confusing (acknowledged and agreed,) and that the plumbers lack motivation (addressed below.)

      In the Hero's Journey, there is often a period when the protagonist wrestles with a decision. That is the case with Randy, who must be convinced to go on this journey by his crazy friend Russ. The final push comes in what many have told me is a hilarious scene where Russ builds a model of Graceland and illustrates to Randy how they will swap out the toilets. He uses two tiny toilets to demonstrate and equates it to Indy Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, referring ultimately to themselves as Raiders of the Lost Crapper. That scene brought the house down at the scene read, and I don't feel it was just politeness.

      There are three problems as I see it with this kind of forum, and I don't mean it to sound defensive, because as I said, I value all criticism, both positive and negative.

    4. One is the fact that 10 pages may not be enough to answer questions that some may have that in some cases are answered very quickly in subsequent pages.

      Second is the extremely small sample size. I have gotten perhaps 30 different opinions on the pages from 30 qualified writers. More than 20 have been very positive, and I will take those odds. But in a small sample, you won't see that.

      Which leads me to the last point, and I have been guilty of this myself in comments on this site on other's work. That is a kind of bandwagon effect. When the lead reviewer comes out one way or another on a piece, it is often difficult for the subsequent commenters to stray very far from that opinion. It almost becomes a matter of criticizing the criticizer, and that takes guts. Often, people will look at that lead review and assign it some kind of authoritarian status that it may not be due, and be reluctant to go in the opposite direction. After all, as Rob himself pointed out, it's just one man's opinion. I am almost certain that was the case with the two consultants that approached me offline and did not comment here.

      My suggestion would be for the main reviewer to go ahead and write his or her review, but save it for the end of the week, or at least the middle. I think that would allow others to comment more freely without the influence of the lead review. As I said, I know I for one have tempered some of my own comments about pages on this site, so as not to seem like I am dissing the so-called expert.

      Just a thought. But once again, I value all the comments here and elsewhere. None are ignored, many are valid, and some have just not been addressed yet in the ten pages you get to see.


    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. about the "bandwagon effect" of commentators following the review's lead, i definitely agree - that is why i always write my comments now before reading rob's/carson's.

      have you tried submitting for amateur friday on script shadow? if you're able to get posted there, you will get a lot of GREAT feedback, and on your full-length, not just the first 10 pages.

  5. Hey Guys,

    I did want to respond to some of the particulars.

    There seems to be this presumption that these guys would not do this because they are in the glamorous, lucrative plumbing profession. The median plumber salary in the USA is about $40K, or somewhat less than a teacher. And as a teacher, I can tell you that it is barely enough to make ends meet. Plumbers are not wealthy, or in a lot of cases, happy.

    To the point of their motivation, the next line of the screenplay has Randy telling Russ he’s crazy and he’s not going to do it. But ultimately, he will because (1) he did not really want to be a plumber (2) he is having problems at home with his yoga teacher wife (3) he is having money problems because, as I have tried to hint at here, they are not really that great at their jobs and (4) a million dollars will convince a lot of people to break the law and (5) Russ’ plan is to replace the toilet with the same make and model so it will appear that it has not been taken.

    As to making life difficult for your protagonists, that will come in bunches later. The first ten pages are to set up the normal world, and the second act, after the inciting incident, is when you start throwing rocks at the main characters. Many funny and crazy things will happen to these two poor saps as they attempt to pull this off, including getting stiffed by the Japanese guy (who is himself a nutty character.)

    There are several scenes that some of you thought were missing that come in the next five pages. The conflict with the wife comes less than two pages later, at the top of page 12. But as with all of my scripts, I don’t want to reveal everything in the first 10 pages. If I did that, it would be a short, not a feature.

    I do think there are some valid points being made here. I have gotten the comments before that all the R names are confusing, and I will definitely be changing that in a subsequent rewrite. I also acknowledge some on-the-nose dialogue. Again, that’s what rewrites are for. One thing I have already done is to have Russ speaking in sports metaphors.


  6. As much as I love the clever concept behind this, the script fell short in a few areas: the lack of conflict, the questionable "movie logic," and the characterization, all that were mentioned by other reviewers.

    Professional script readers will make up their mind about your script within the first ten pages. Sometimes it only takes them one page to form snap judgements. Unfair? Yes. Is this how Hollywood works? Absolutely. That's why you need to make your first pages so well-crafted that the reader needs to read more. Saying that the problems other commenters mentioned just "aren't in the first ten pages" is valid, but you have to make sure things unravel in a way that is as simple and smooth as possible. You only get one first impression.

    "Randy" and "Russ": one of those names has to be changed. People in Hollywood read at a rapid-fire pace, and the moment they get confused on who's who, they're done. Your script is toast in their mind. Don't make the reader hate you! Keep things as readable as possible!

    Comedy is especially tough because it's so subjective. I didn't laugh once during the entire ten pages, but this is based on what I think is funny. But I did think some of the scene and character descriptions were stellar!

    Keep working on it and you'll get there :)


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