Friday, June 15, 2012

MAD DOGS by Chris Hicks & Francis Lombard

A repressed teen werewolf tracks down her estranged father -- the sheriff of a resort that caters to the hedonistic pursuits of werewolves -- but an outbreak of weaponized rabies turns their bittersweet reunion into a fight for survival.

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  1st 10 pages of Chris Hicks & Francis Lombard's  MAD DOGS.

Normally when I receive a submission I thank the submitter for their contribution, forward it to Dan and Amy, then file it away. But after reading the logline for Chris and Francis's grindhouse horror- I read their pages immediately. Biological warfare and werewolves? How could you not? Great concept. Do the first ten pages deliver on the premise? Let's find out.

We start off in Mexico's Baja peninsula with 17 year old Cassie Youngquist cruising along Route 1 in her Subaru Outback. Not only is she lost, but something has left four claw marks along her driver's side door. Right off the bat I'm wondering who is this girl, where is she going and what the hell did that to her car? Okay, so I'm pretty sure it was a werewolf, but still- I'm along for the ride.

Cassie comes upon an "adobe Catholic Church" and gets out to ask for directions. She meets a "short, frazzled PADRE" and explains that she's looking for her father, Roy Barton, who lives in Moonshine. He tells her that the map is wrong and takes her inside so that she can pull up another map. They enter an anteroom where a "feverish twenty-something man" is "lashed down to a heavy wooden workbench." Cassie sees a "syringe, IV bags and numerous vials" next to him. Naturally, she freaks out. She manages to escape, but during the ruckus the Padre knocks one of the man's restraints loose. A nice little plant that I suspect will lead to a gruesome pay off later on.

After driving a good distance away, Cassie pulls over because she's having a panic attack. She pops some pills, gets back on the road and follows a motorcycle caravan and two pick up trucks to Moonshine.

There's a bunch of rules posted on the way inside but the two most striking are:


Moonshine is a veritable Mexican Mardi Gras for werewolves, where Cassie quickly encounters a host of characters. I got a little confused here and I think it was because of two things: too many characters introduced too quickly combined with the switching back and forth between events in the bar and events on the street. I think it may help to cut out some of the characters, or depict each scene separately in it's entirety. Despite some confusion, there was some intense action and good characterization. I'd just like to see it play out a little slower.

If you read my notes you'll see how I believe these pages could benefit from another pass. Still, an overuse of capitalization and parentheticals can easily be fixed. The writing itself is very good. 

I'm itching to read more. The writers have done an excellent job of setting up some dramatic questions. I'm curious as to what Moonshine is all about. I also want to learn more about Cassie and her relationship with her father. Why is she looking for him? But even more compelling, as I mentioned earlier, is the premise. And concept is king. It's no easy task to put a new spin on a tired genre. With good writing, a resort for werewolves and the promise of weaponized rabbies I've got to ask for ...

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

What did you think of Chris and Francis's 1st 10 pages?

Next week Dan gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Michael Scott Reese & Adam Oliver Schwartz's LOCO

Please comment on the 1st 10 pages of Chris HIcks & Francis Lombard's MAD DOGS below.


  1. Chris Hicks here.

    I just wanted to thank Rob and all the FF folks for the opportunity! Feedback like this is invaluable!

  2. I love the idea of the hidden town of werewolves, but things are proceeding much, much too fast in these pages. I have no idea who this girl is, so I don't care about what happens to her.

    Take your time, let your story breathe instead of trying to shove so many things onto the page so quickly. Also, too many words. And what was the point of that first scene? It didn't seem to serve any purpose except to tell us that this girl is looking for her dad, and also I didn't enjoy the moment where the kid whispers "run" and then she all of a sudden figures out she should fight instead of just squirming around in that priest's arms helplessly. Didn't make sense. And then the scene ends and we're now chasing down a bunch of bikers, there's no link between the two.

    If it were me, and it wouldn't kill your story completely, I'd get rid of that first scene, open with just a minute or two of getting to know the girl and her story and the world by just having it be her, then have her visit the town.

    But, again, I like the werewolves and the town. Cool!

    Thanks for sharing,

  3. Posted earlier, but it seems to be lost in the wind....

    Anyhow, just wanted to say big thanks to Rob and the rest of the folks at FF.  Feedback like this is invaluable!

    Regarding the frequent CAPS, Francis and I feel that slugging key words generally makes for an easier read by calling out the key words, and calling out the key information.  Although I'll agree we might get excessive with it ("TALL, LEAN MAN" instead of "tall, lean MAN".)

    Incidentally, if anyone is interested in checking out the full script, you can find it here:
    (with concept art!)

  4. i posted this morning, so i'll post again and hopefully it doesn't pop back up again later when rob fixes things (or are things already fixed? i dunno)...

    anyways, i love the idea of a hidden werewolf community. very cool. though, my first thought at reading the logline was the rabies twist was unnecessary, and would probably just overcomplicate things - but that remains to be seen.

    the biggest problem i see with this is that there is way too much stuff crammed into these first 10 pages, too many characters, and things happen way too fast. i don't know who this girl is, we just jump right in to her search for her father without any alone time with her. there's too much physical plot going on and no getting to know characters.

    also, there is stuff here that doesn't need to be...example: i know you want to introduce whoever that bedridden kid is in the church, but that first scene should be cut completely. it's not linked to the biker chase/werewolf town at all, so the transition seems very forced between the two of them. 

    also, minor quip: when that kid in the bed says "run" and the girl is finally inspired to head butt the priest who's been grappling her for some time - that was really confusing, why didn't she decide to break free before?

    if it were me, i'd go back and open the movie with the girl arriving at the gates of the werewolf community, and proceed from there. and also, maybe even a bigger issue: her finding her dad so soon really just kind of kills the flow. does she even have to be searching for him? it feels you might have two concepts mashed together here - a girl searching for her dad, and a rabies outbreak. maybe you could simplify things, or if you absolutely have to keep it the way it is - separate the two stories. maybe rework the outline, say FIND THE TOWN P. 10, FIND DAD P. 30, OUTBREAK P. 60, or something like that. space things out.

    anyways, i guess if i could sum it up, i'd say let your story BREATHE some. take your time. work on your concept, because it's there, you just have to do some whittling down.

    also, this is one man's opinion.

    thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks everyone for reviewing and voting on this.  And thank you Rob for giving MAD DOGS a chance to get some eyeballs looking at it.


  6.  Hey Dan,

    Thanks for the feedback.  This is indeed a dense screenplay.  We had a lot of ideas and character development we wanted to work in, so things move quite fast.

    The kid in the church (who returns later, nicknamed "Arizona", hence the call outs to his T shirt and license plate) becomes pretty significant later on.  We wanted his early story to intersect with Cassie's early on so his origins were more clear.

    We also wanted Cassie to find her father relatively quickly.  The real juicy character drama and chemistry really couldn't happen until she finds him.  We wanted to use an "ammunition not exposition" approach to these character's histories.  History and baggage emerge as characters conflict with each other (hopefully!)

    The rabies angle can seem a bit after-the-fact, but it plays into Cassie's biggest issue (which unfortunately we don't get to completely expose in the first 10) - that she sees werewolves as mindless, carnal and savage.  Her experience in Moonshine teaches her some depth and beauty to the experience of being a werewolf, but the rabies virus brings her worst nightmare to life; werewolves as brutal, psychotic and base.

    Anyhow, all of that stuff is HOPEFULLY how it should work.  If anyone takes the dive and reads deeper (, Francis and I would love to hear their thoughts!

  7. cool, thanks again for sharing - i believe writetoreel does full-length amateur reviews, might be worth checking them out, they're nice guys!

  8.  Sweet tip!  Checking them out right now!

  9. I agree that the pace could probably be slowed down just a bit. What if you have Cassie enter the church and come upon the captive Arizona before encountering the priest and the woman? Maybe she loosens one restraint before having to flee from the priest. This way you don't have the on the nose exposition when she tells the priest she's looking for her father.

    Regarding the motorcycles, I thought that was a good choice. We  know (or will soon learn depending how you rewrite it) that she is in the vicinity of Moonshine and that a large gathering is taking place. So, it's believable that she would draw the conclusion that they are headed in the direction she wants to go.

  10.  I love the idea of Cassie finding Arizona first and loosening his bonds.  Makes her more active, and tells a little more about her.

    It does make some other details tricky, like showing what the priest was trying to accomplish (ie. that he trying to CURE werewolves, not simply torture them.)

  11. What if she observes the priest and the matron (is the matron necessary?) prepping Arizona for the surgery from the shadows (an alcove, balcony etc.) ? For some reason they leave for a moment (does she cause a distraction?) and that's when she seizes the opportunity to attempt to free him.

  12. From the comments one thing popped into my head --  How many answers do you really need in the first 10 pages?  Those first 10 pages are the hook.  You're supposed to get the audeince thinking and involved. The best way... By raising questions.  I've always looked at the opening as a roll out and moment to raise potent questions.  Cassie's lack of fear are explained later.  She's a werewolf so there's not much in this world that is a true threat to her.  But no way are we going to reveal that in the first 10 pages. How many answers did The Matrix provide you in the first 10 pages?  

  13. I agree completely. I think you might even be better off waiting until Cassie reaches Moonshine to reveal that Roy Barton is her father. Either way, you hooked me. I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

  14.  Hey Robert,

    I tried to link but I got this error:
    "there doesn't seem to be anything here"

    Do I need to create a login to see it?

  15. I'm late to the party with this script, but hopefully I can add to the discussion!

    My notes:
    -The establishing shot felt a bit overwritten. I had to re-read it a few times before I realized it was just an establishing shot. You might want to start with the Subaru scene to begin with. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's the director's job to add establishing shots if necessary, and we should omit them when possible to preserve clarity.

    -'Youngquist' interesting name. Maybe too strange. But a good description, I can see her in my head.

    -Great beginning so far. Love the mystery set up here.

    -Why is "ARIZONA" in caps, but "State University" is not? Feels a bit arbitrary.

    -Great opening scene. But she smiles and gets over her incident too quickly, it seems. I don't know, it feels too abrupt, like two different beginnings.

    -Whoa. Way too much happened at once here.

    I think the dramatic question of, "Where is Cassie's father, why is she trying to find him?" is enough to propel you through the first ten pages. All of the other stuff going on is too much. Like Rob said, there are too many characters and it's too chaotic.

    In the first ten pages of the Matrix, we get the dramatic question of "who is Trinity and what's her story?" We see her in the opening scene that spans like six or seven pages, and then we see her enter Neo's storyline. We meet Neo, Trinity, and Agent Smith. All of the other characters are only heard over voiceover so far. It's simple, packed with action, and driving toward how Neo will enter Trinity's world.

    Your script could benefit from simplification in these first scenes. Maybe make the first scene longer? It feels a bit disjointed and random. Hey! Here's a life and death situation! Now she's okay -- now let's move on! I feel like the narrative is pushing me along too quickly. What might work is if you have her run into somebody she knows -- a sidekick, or friend, that knows where her dad is -- right as she escapes. Maybe this friend helps her escape? Just a thought.

    Also, a thought on simplifying the logline: what are weaponized rabies? To me, that phrase sounds silly. However, this isn't my genre and I don't know too much about werewolves, so weaponized rabies could be all the rage and I wouldn't know.

    Okay, my notes are pretty thorough but it's only because I think your script has serious potential! I love your writing style and your character descriptions are succinct, unique, and cinematic.

  16.  Thanks for the feedback, Amy!

    >>"But she smiles and gets over her incident too quickly, it seems. "
    This is a really good point.  I think some of the feedback from from Dan and Rob below could be worked with this to resolve all the issues.  Hmmm, I'll have to has that out with Francis.

    To your other points:
    We slug ARIZONA because that becomes his "name" for the rest of the script.  We never learn his real name, and I'd hate to just call him YOUNG MAN or DUDE.

    Man, I hope weaponized rabies aren't all the rage!  We were just looking for a way to make it superlative.  This isn't "Old Yeller" rabies.  This isn't even "Cujo" rabies.  This is some kind of coked-out super rabies.  Some way to show that this is some serious next level shit- and avoid using the cliche "on steroids!"

    Thanks again for the great feedback!  These are easily the best- and most actionable- notes we've gotten on this script.  Thanks again everyone!

  17. Indeed, weaponized rabies aren't all the rage. That's why it's such a great concept! These aren't just werewolves, they're rabid werewolves. I thought it was very clear and it's what enticed me to read the pages immediately.


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