Friday, June 29, 2012

A MASS EXODUS by Gene Levitzky

In a future where uploading one's consciousness is legally tantamount to suicide, a man must help find his ex-wife's mind before the authorities find out what has happened to her and she loses everything she has worked so hard for.

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's review (of Gene Levitzky's 1st 10 pages) brought to you by Amy Suto

I picked this submission out of the stack because the logline intrigued me. Uploading consciousness? A treasure hunt for somebody's mind? Sounds like a movie. I'm in!
The story begins in a futuristic "loading void" where we hear a heartbeat. A female voice greets a mysterious Bridgette, and a fiery serpent appears as the voice tells us "Loading, please wait." A fleshy orb travels across cities with strange names as it turns into human form. It is "Brie's Avatar."

Cut to: a riotous Washington D.C. that is up and arms over a virtual reality system named Barbelo, where people's avatars live. The Hive, which is Facebook's predecessor, appears to stream status updates and news feeds into this virtual world.
First of all, the world building in this script is top-notch. The writer knows how to create fantastic cinematic imagery, and I have no doubt that should these first few pages be filmed, they would be spectacular.

However, the exposition dump via the news is cliche and boring. When it comes to dialog, less is more, because dialog takes much more screen time than action lines do. Brie's monologue is equally arduous, and I found myself skimming and mentally checking out because I didn't care for this character and I didn't understand the implication of her words. What are pneumatics and why should I care about their enfranchisement?

Another change I would make is naming Friends #1-3. I have no mental image of them. Are they men? Women? Young? Old? These characters have a page worth of lines. Even something like, "Stout Man" or "Loud Redneck" would be better than no description at all. It might even inform their dialog and help give the characters a distinct voice. Right now, they sound identical.

I get that the writer is trying to get across a political message with this script. The problem is that it's too obvious. We have characters talking about government and philosophy every two pages. I think Samael's monologue -- although eloquent -- is too wordy and doesn't serve an immediate purpose. Political undertones are fine, but entertainment should always come first. Even political thrillers like Ides of March put the 'thrills' before the politics.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about these pages. All of the scenes feel so disjointed and unrelated that I don't have time to become invested in the plot or the characters. Just as I'm about to see why Brie wants to talk to this wise prophet-like man, we get pulled elsewhere. It's disorienting and tough to follow.

However, I do think the concept is interesting and there are some compelling mysteries being set up! I'm intrigued, and I think another pass could help make the story stronger and more cohesive.

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

What did you think of Gene's 1st 10 pages?
Next week Craig Mazin gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Paul Zeidman's


Please comment on Gene Levitzky's 1st 10 pages below.


  1. I just didn't have the patience to finish this one. It's not that the writing was bad, a lot of the prose was very nice and imaginative. It was just too confusing, dry, and disjointed as a whole. I feel like this writer is smart, has a good grasp of language and science, but maybe is still learning how to tell an actual, compelling film story. I'm sure that will come with just reading other scripts and continuing to write. 

  2. First off, I think this is a very interesting premise – b/c
    one day it’s probably gonna happen (or something similar).


    Buuuut, trouble starts with the logline. IMO an “ex” is
    someone who invokes a negative reaction – someone you try and stop, not help.
    I’d make them husband and wife, but they have conflicting views/opinions
    putting them on opposite sides – but, respectively (so they’re still in love,
    they just disagree). Plus, they appear to be living together, they’re both in
    dentist chairs in the same house/den.


    I’d got to Options and uncheck: “(continued) / continued.”
    There’s really no need for them. Until we read FADE OUT we know it’s


    I think I’m a pretty smart and edukaded (I’ve got TWO
    g.e.d.s). But when you make someone stop and: Highlight / Right Click / Search
    Google for ‘Truncheons’ b/c you want to use a $10 word, it doesn’t make the
    writing better, it disrupts the flow (that’s not good and kind of annoying). I
    read the definition and thought, “Oh, it’s a baton. Why didn’t he just use
    baton? Or even better, riot baton?” “Truncheons are disengaged from their holsters.”
    How about, “Riot batons are ripped out of their holsters.”


    Same thing with “ourborus” (isn’t it: ourboros).
    Again, had to look that up, why not just stick with snake?  If you wanna keep the word, I’d a least
    capitalize it so we know it’s a noun. This hits my next point (overwriting),
    you’re using SEVEN + lines to describe a “status bar.” That, my friend, is


    The entire riot scene should be written in short, choppy
    descriptions – like a bunch of headlines thrown together.


    And, I agree with Amy, the Newscaster is one HUGE info
    (exposition) dump. Instead, why don’t you have quick video clips of the
    opposing sides. The President starts to explain his side, but is cut off (by
    your writing) with a video of the opposition, who’s cut of by a video clip of…


    One of the best things a writer can do is set up questions.
    With the huge info dump we’re given too much. Spread it out, save some for


    I think it’s safe to lose “appears to be” in the
    (description) too. If you write BRIE ROSS (late 60s) we know you’re talking
    about her appearance. Maybe a word or two of description/personality. Like
    Amy’s suggestion on the friends. BRIE ROSS (67, elegant, self-assured). With just
    this little bit we already know how to “read” her.


    Again with the wording, “pneumatic.” Every time I read that
    my first thought was air compressor. KISS = Digitals. And “somatic” (had to
    look that up too, arrrgh) = Natural. Digitals vs Naturals.


    I agree, SAMAEL is also overwritten. Kinda got a Morpheus
    vibe from the Matrix: Reloaded sermon before the dancing. But everything
    Morpheus said was important. A lot of what Samael says is just flowery or
    unnecessary.  First sentence (which is
    27 words long)


    A man whom I met walking
    the Merah desert just south of the Garden City told me of a dream he once had
    while sleeping off a hangover.


    Rewritten (exact same info
    conveyed, yet only 16 words)


    A man I once met walking
    the Merah desert told me of a dream he had.


    Bottom line: great premise, but way overwritten. I bet this
    10 pages could easily be rewritten, sharpened down to 6.


    I know hearing criticism of your work is tough and aggravating.
    You’ve got a great idea and a great handle on description, but I think the next
    wrung you need to climb is “less is more.” A HUGE leap in screenwriting is
    moving from the writing that you “like” to the writing you “need.”


    Good luck!

  3. My main issue with the script was that I didn't know who the main character was. I was up to page three and asking myself, who is the main character? I had no one to identify with or push the story forward.

    I do agree with Robs review though about the dialogue. I had no idea what they were talking about and couldn't follow the conversation.

    The premise is kind of interesting but I honestly couldn't read past page 6 because there was no main character yet.


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