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


  1. did not read review first. i think this concept has great potential. hardly any cooking films out there, in fact i can only think of "julie & julia" off the top of my head. "untitled chef project" is one of my favorite scripts, but it's unproduced. 

    the formatting in this was good. the writing was lean, but i seemed to have constant problems with it. confusing things like a restaurant "oozing with attitude" or a character described as "rock and roll in an easy listening world (that took me a few seconds)". unbelievable stuff like a flying pan (this is supposed to be a "dumb and dumber" unrealistic type movie, right? even then that seemed to come out of nowhere) or a chef immediately being able to assess the cost of water damage in his kitchen thirty seconds after an accident. a phone call to a credit card agency in which if we go by david's dialogue, apparently the credit card employee at the other end of the line is teasing david, saying "i'm gonna freeze your account now...i'm gonna do it...aaaand done!" and also, do people still use job agencies like the way it's shown here? that just seemed really 90s to me. 

    the structure was weird, and i don't think in a good way. things happen way too fast, it opens with a fast-paced scene but then right after that it just keeps going with the job agency sequence. we need to take time to get to know our character at least a little bit, not just throw a constant barrage of jokes at us (btw the first thing i genuinely thought was funny was the "i'll take two" line about page 5 or 6). comedy is both tough and subjective, so take that how you will.

    i would suggest that after the first time, you give the protag some down time, let him reassess his life at home, deal with his mother, etc. give us a little chance to sympathize with how he feels about losing his job FIRST, then go on to trying to fix the problem. also, if it were me, i'd suggest cutting out all the different chef jobs he tries out. at the job agency, he should be getting jobs that are NOT cooking jobs, and so you show him more depressed that his career is not panning out. and THEN, the chinese place opportunity comes up, and he jumps at the chance. it also might be a good idea to show him going to other fancy restaurants for a job initially and getting turned down cold. 


  2. To Chris's "its 2012" comment. Why does it have to be 2012 in the script? Could be any time period.
    These 10 pages really worked for me, while I agree that the pacing was a little quick in areas, the multiple "David destroys things" scenes made me laugh. To me David comes of as affable but i agree we need to know more about him.I gave this a more please because the script hooked me with its humour.Cheers!

  3. Thanks for being our guest reviewer, Craig!

    So, I had high hopes for this script because the name and concept are so fresh and original. "Wok and Roll"? Fantastic title. My biggest issue for this script was that it was too much of a disjointed collection of scenes than anything else. It's like I'm being propelled down a hallway by an overeager host whose throwing open doors and saying, here's something! Now laugh!

    I'm still a fan of the concept, but it needs a total rewrite.

  4. When reading the script, the first thing that caught my eye was the title. I chuckled when reading it. The thing that jumped out at me the most that needed work were the characters. Right now to me, the characters are one dimensional and cliched. I think Dan needs to be much more fleshed out. The chef in the beginning was also really cliched. We've seen that character before. Give that character a slightly different twist that we haven't seen before. Another thing that jumped out at me was that he goes to an employment agency to get work. Do people still do that? That wasn't quite realistic to me.
    Some of the dialogue was a bit on the nose. When speaking with his mom, what I think could improve that scene is if he was lying to his mom, telling her how great everything is going even though the reader knows it's not. That would have added some subtext to the scene to make it more interesting. Also, there are too many clumsy moments. I feel like they need to be more organic. I think Craig nailed it when he said they needed to be more creative.
    I also feel like the scenes felt a little too repetitive. I'm not sure how to fix that but it's also really predictable because we know he's clumsy and will do something stupid.
    Hope these comments help.


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