Friday, July 27, 2012


A former race car driver becomes the target of deadly jealousy when a ruthless diamond smuggler fails to steal the heart of the woman who loves him.

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 Bill Machin's 1st 10 pages is brought to you by Amy Suto

I picked "Diamond in the Rough" for my review this week because it sounds like it could could be a fun action romp.

The logline is a bit clunky and vague. Becoming the "target of deadly jealousy" doesn't clue me in to what the main character will be doing in this movie. What is your character trying to actively achieve?

And the part about a ruthless diamond smuggler failing to steal the heart of a woman who loves him? Why do you have to steal the heart of somebody who already loves you?

Here's a possible way to rewrite it to make clearer: "A former race car driver steals the heart of of a ruthless diamond smuggler's woman, only to face the consequences."

It's still convoluted and needs work, but at least there's some clarity here.

Now onto the first ten pages. The beginning is interesting. We see the diamonds being smuggled, and then we cut to the Los Angeles international airport, where Hakim, a limousine driver, is driving Charlie, his passenger, to his terminal. Cut to: an FBI field office where Hakim's criminal files are open on a computer. Back at the airport, Charlie is in the security checkpoint line when he's pulled aside, and kidnapped! Now we cut to Joe, the race car driver, who arrives at his home and dreams of his accident.

And then, we're hit with "TWO WEEKS EARLIER" where some people are hanging out on a yacht.

There are several problems with this script. The formatting is incorrect, there are several typos, the dialog is cliched and flat, the situation is unbelievable, and the characters are cardboard.

At the airport, when asked his name, Charlie responds with "Charlie Springfield. Charles L. actually." Incorrect punctuation aside, this line feels wooden. Who informs people of their middle initial?

Another strange exchange is on page three. "Is it always like this?" Charlie inquires about the traffic. "That depends," responds Hakim, "what made you decide to go on short notice?" Since when does traffic depend on how you far in advance you plan your flight?

Also, writers should make themselves aware of cliches so they can avoid them. "She's one in a million" is a groan worthy line because the cliche doesn't expound on Charlie's sister.

Another strange line of dialog occurs at the security check in, where a musician inquires if this is Charlie's first trip to Rastaland. Oh my god! He's a mindreader!! So the interesting thing about security checkpoints is that there are dozens of flights leaving past each checkpoint. And since there is nothing in the scene to indicate that the musician saw Charlie's ticket, he must be psychic!

Another questionable line is when the TSA agent informs the musician that Charlie has been pulled aside because of "Illegal Contraband." I may not be a TSA expert, but I'm pretty sure gossiping with random passengers about who may or may not be a smuggler is a big no-no. And with the kind of strict, no-tolerance airport security nowadays, it's somewhat unbelievable that a kidnapping scheme could take place. You do know that even the bottled water that's to be sold inside the checkpoint has to be vetted by security teams? And some random smuggler just happens to be able to miraculously pull off a kidnapping? In order to get us to suspend our disbelief, you have to show us how such a kidnapping is pulled off. Show us all of the mechanics. This requires research into the details of airport security.

If you're going to use the "Two Weeks Earlier" gimmick, you've got to at least start out with some kind of puzzling mystery that's so strange or action packed that we spend the whole movie trying to figure out how it got to that point. Remember how The Usual Suspects began? With the murders and the boat being set alight prior to the flashback? It takes that kind of explosive beginning to reel people in. We don't have this in this script. Instead, we see some people we don't know being suspicious and then a guy gets kidnapped. So what? Why is this flash-forward worthy? Why do we care?

Here's a quick list of what you can do to wrangle this story back on track and improve the quality of the writing:
  1. Use a script formatting program.  If you don't want to shell out the big bucks for Final Draft, that's fine. There are two great free alternatives, notably Celtx and Scripped. I would suggest Scripped, because Celtx can do some funky formatting unless you toy with the settings. But both will be a step up from a word processor.
  2. Zero in on your concept. Is this a heist movie? A love story? A crime thriller? Figure out exactly what story you want to tell. Then, test your loglines out. What I like to do is to send my friends a list of loglines-- some from obscure movies on IMDB, some of my own. I ask them to rate the loglines in order of which they like best, without telling them some of the loglines are mine. This way, you get honest feedback about which loglines work, and which don't. 
  3. Study the art of writing dialog. Read lots of scripts. Listen to conversations and take notes. And give your characters distinctive voices!
  4. "Could this happen in real life?" Keep asking yourself this question. Do not cave into "movie logic." Just because you need someone to be kidnapped doesn't mean you can't do it in a way that makes sense. Look up news stories about kidnappings. Try and figure out the logistics of airport security. Research.
Unfortunately, I have to give this script a "trash it" rating. Does this mean you give up? Of course not! We're writers because we love this craft. So keep at it and approach everything as a learning experience.

Good luck and happy screenwriting!

Amy's Notes

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

Next week Script Anatomy's Tawnya Bhattacharya gives feedback on the first 10 pages of Cheyne Curry and Chris Westfield's ANYBODY'S SON.

Please share your thoughts below on William's 1st 10 pages.

Friday, July 20, 2012

ANACHRONISM by Peter Kissick

At the instant of apocalypse, four people from the present day find themselves trapped in Victorian England. Soon, they see the entire history of the British Empire changing, as they clash with an increasingly insane and politically powerful Lord Byron.

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 Dan read the 1st 10 pages of Peter Kissick's ANACHRONISM.

Today I believe I'm reviewing the first TV script we've done on this blog, and it's honestly one of the few that I've read overall. That's part of the reason I picked it, to do something new, and also partly because I sort of liked the concept. Here we go...

So this is a time travel show, made possible by a present day apocalypse in Great Britain (which we'll get to). We don't get to see the time travel stuff in the first 10 pages, but we do get a neat little intro/foreshadowing scene where our female hero, Annie, is singing a folk rendition of "The Times They Are A-Changin" in a tavern in December of 1840. Of course, being that Bob Dylan wouldn't write that song for another century or so, it's a clever little hint at the show's concept, and the fact that Annie is most likely not from the nineteenth century. I liked the intro scene very much.

Fast forward to modern times, and we are in December of 2012 now. There is some kind of global uproar in progress. Riots in the streets, violence, fires, protests, etc, etc. From the blips that we catch on scattered newscasts, we are able to discern that people are anticipating the END OF THE WORLD, and this is the cause for widespread panic. Why? Well...because it's 2012...which, of course, is the year in which the MAYAN APOCALYPSE is supposed to take place. Hynnnnnnuuuhhhhhh...


This was the biggest issue I had with these pages. I was just so confused as to why there is global unrest over it being the year 2012. You know how many people believe in the Mayan apocalypse? No one. Certainly not those in modern day Western civilizations. And yet that was exactly the impression I was getting here. Perhaps there is something later on that clarifies the issue, but for now it seems like this is some alternate universe where an old myth, laughed at for centuries, suddenly turned millions of educated people ape-retarded scared overnight, for no apparent reason.

The good news is, there wasn't much else I had to complain about. The central story follows a young couple, Jacob and Annie (Annie from the intro scene), who make their way to the same tavern (still in business) we saw in the 1840 scene. They're there for some kind of get together with Annie's grandfather and some friends. There is also a charmer named Matthew at the tavern who seems to have some sort of history with Annie. She's clearly still smitten with him in some way, and it bugs the hell out of Jacob, who is actually planning to propose to Annie (incidentally, in the intro scene, a mysterious man named Calvin also proposes to Annie in 1840, so there's another hook to keep you reading).

Anyways, I immediately understood the dynamic between Annie, Jacob, and Matthew. Jacob wants Annie, sees Matthew as a threat. Matthew's a cool cat, just having a good time. Annie is with Jacob, but maybe would rather be with Matthew if she's being honest. And so far in these pages, this is all in the subtext pretty much. For example, Matthew offers to get Annie and Jacob a drink at the tavern, but when he returns, he forgot to get Jacob one. He apologizes and smiles charmingly, but of course what Matthew was really saying to Jacob was: f*** you, mate (or at least that's how Jacob interprets it). 

I thought the drama there was well done, and it kept me interested to see how things would play out. I also felt like the writer was confident overall for the most part, he had a voice, and he could "see" everything going on in his head. And he could make it clear to the reader as well. That's a really good sign. Make things easy to see and understand.

There were a couple scenes with a weird occult dude named Kip who is planning on opening a mysterious letter at midnight, and presumably this is going to have something to do with the time travel concept getting started. Those scenes were pretty much just Kip staring at a clock at a wall, talking to himself, which honestly was kind of dull. I would have liked if Kip had another character to antagonize him, or at least talk to. Maybe a stupid assistant? An overbearing mother? I don't know, something to spice things up. Also, I wasn't sure of the tone in those scenes: is it supposed to be creepy or kind of silly? Minor complaints though, I was still compelled with the overall picture.

Another thing I'd like to point out, and this is going in line with how I thought the writer knew what he wanted, but I definitely pictured this as a BBC/British kind of TV show (I'm assuming the writer is English). I'm not a huge consumer of British TV, and it's mostly for the comedies, but I had no trouble visualizing this as something they would show over in the U.K., and not necessarily in the States. Not sure exactly what it was though. Could have been the clever premise, or maybe the sensible shooting locations and budget awareness, or possibly it was just the fact that the story takes place in England. Either way, it was not terribly hard to see this in its intended (or what I assume was intended) format.

So, keeping in mind I still think the Mayan stuff was ridiculous, and should be seriously attended to before showing these pages around some more, I am giving this a "More Please" based on the good writing and the fact that I want to see what goes down between Jacob and Matthew, if anything at all.


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

What did you think of Peter's 1st 10 pages?
Next week Amy gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of William J. Machin's DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH.

Please share your thoughts on Peter's 1st 10 pages below.

Friday, July 13, 2012

THE GIFT OF FIRE by Reginald Beltran

Forbidden from continuing her life's work in the U.S., a linguistics professor accepts an invitation from a Nigerian dictator to continue her research with apes.

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 Reginald Beltran's 1st 10 pages is brought to you by the Cranky Intern.

We open on a sniper keeping his eye on a mansion.  Various targets cross his eye, a gorilla, Patty.  We’re then thrust into a protest taking place outside the U.N. were the President of the United States addresses the General Assembly.  In the back, Samuel Taylor carefully listens.  Soon after, the President and Samuel meet, where it’s revealed the President backs whatever endeavor Samuel’s pursuing.  
We’re then back at the Mansion, surrounded by law enforcement.  Detective Stephen Walsh quickly arrives and tries to take control over the situation, but instead butts heads with an FBI Agent.  Peter Walsh, Stephen’s & Patty’s father, arrives.  Stephen and Peter make it past the police barricade and enter Patty’s mansion, hoping to resolve the issue.

It appears that Patty stole the primates  from somewhere and is holding them unlawfully.    Why’s the FBI involved in something like this?  The FBI Agent says they’re involved because Patty demanded to speak with the President of the United States and declared she had a bomb.  Conceptually, I don’t see that as a plausible reason.  Even so, why not just bust in the mansion and do what must be done, they’re the FBI.  I doubt they care if monkeys  are involved or killed.  
The descriptions are okay, the world in “The Gift of Fire” needs to come to life when I read it.  I want to feel like I’m in the mansion with Patty, in the U.N. with the President and Samuel Taylor.  Describe the surroundings in detail, dig deeper.
Who is Samuel Taylor?  Only important people get into the U.N., why is he there?  A lot of writers feel that this builds a type of climax, but it really doesn’t.  It just leaves the reader wondering, who is this guy & why is he in the story.
I don’t really get a sense for these characters.  Nothing draws me to them.  I should feel sympathetic for Patty, I’m guessing she’s trying to save the monkeys.  The same holds true for her brother.  Show the readers that Stephen loves his sister, but can’t help her.  He should be more torn.
My rating: 

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

What did you think of Reginald's 1st 10 pages?
Next week Dan gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Peter Kissick's ANACHRONISM.

Please comment below on Reginald Beltran's 1st 10 pages.

Friday, July 6, 2012

WOK & ROLL by Paul Zeidman

A Caucasian chef in a struggling family-run Chinese restaurant takes on a sleazy powerhouse competitor determined to shut it down.

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 Paul Zeidman's 1st 10 pages, is brought to you by Craig Mazin

Craig is one of the writers from The Hangover Part II as well the upcoming movies Identity Thief (with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman) and The Hangover Part III. He also does the popular screenwriting podcast Scriptnotes with John August.

So here's the thing.

Writing broad comedy with goofy idiots isn't for everyone.

You have to truly love it and understand the science of it to have a prayer of making it work. In short, you need to be smart to be stupid. I've written a bunch of broad comedies... the one that this reminds me of the most is my first movie, which was about a lovable idiot who goes on a mission to Mars.

Two things about that lovable idiot.

First, he was LOVABLE.

Second, he was a brilliant idiot.

Broad comedy must be grounded in some kind of logic. The character is goofy, loopy, clumsy, odd... whatever you wish... but the world around him must be somewhat grounded or everything seems ridiculous and the audience loses interest.

By the way, that's my biggest problem with the way my first movie turned out. The director went too broad with the world around the main character, and the whole thing got very juvenile very quickly.

I've given the writer a ton of specific notes in the pages themselves, but here are my basic thoughts.

1. CHARACTERS! I get no real sense of the people in these pages. Here's what I can tell you about David. He's in his 20's, he's clumsy, he loves cooking, I'm not sure if he's any good at it, and he's broke.

That's it. I can't tell you why he wants to cook, I can't tell you if he's passionate or just weird, I can't tell you if he's a dreamer or a creep.

2. COMEDY. You have to be more inventive. Want to light a restaurant on fire? Come up with a more interesting way. Want a sassy comeback? Surprise us. There's just not enough creativity in these pages. They feel generic... I've seen all of this stuff before a million times.

3. ECONOMY. Many of the beats in these first pages feel superfluous.

4. ROOTING INTEREST. Make us love this guy. We want to root for him... or at least, we should. Right now, he's coming off like someone I'd probably take a restraining order against.

5. IT'S 2012. No libraries. No scrawled index cards. No friendly neighborhood employment ladies...

6. KNOW YOUR SUBJECT. You're writing about kitchens and cooking like someone who just discovered this weird new "food" thing last week. Be true to the world and the subject. The idea that an ambitious young cook would dare work from a MAGAZINE??? You have to be more informed...

Comedy is hard. Broad comedy is very hard. Maybe the hardest. Getting the tone is difficult. You're not making any new mistakes here, which is the good news. Get them all out of your system quickly, and then right this ship. I'd start over, and I'd start over thinking, "How do I make an interesting human that our audience can identify with and root for?" Use that as your jumping point... NOT "how can I make a wine rack fall over?" Don't let the jokes drive the characters and story. Always character and story first, and the jokes come out of that!

TO THE WRITER: was I hard on you? Yes. Was I harder on you than the business will be? No. I want you to succeed. I love broad, silly comedy. I love physical comedy. I believe in it, and I know that there's an audience for it. Take what I've said to heart. You're attempting a genre that most people think is so easy, it's beneath their contempt... and they're wrong. Know that you're writing something that's very, very tricky and very, very easy to mess up.

Watch some of your favorite broad comedies, and really think about how they establish their characters. Watch what they take "seriously," and watch how they establish their world, villains, obstacles, etc.

Good luck!

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

Craig's notes on Paul's 1st 10 pages.

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

Next week Cranky Intern gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Reginald Beltran's The Gift of Fire.

Please comment below on the 1st 10 pages of Paul Zeidman's WOK & ROLL