Friday, August 31, 2012


LOGLINE: After an encounter with a striking aviator, a young man discovers that he needs her help to overcome the forces of evil that have been secretly governing his world.

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.

Want to join Feedback Friday as a regular reviewer? 

New writers' lab for more discreet feedback. ( Email Rob for access)

This week's review of  Ivuoma Okoro's first ten pages is brought to you by Ruth Atkinson.

Let’s start with the log line for BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY: After an encounter with a striking aviator, a young man discovers that he needs her help to overcome the forces of evil that have been secretly governing his world.

Hmmm… my curiosity is piqued. Forces of evil. Striking aviator. Perhaps a romantic relationship. All somewhat interesting. But I’m also confused. One of the reasons for this is that the log line doesn’t clearly establish who the protagonist is. It would seem like it’s the young man but it’s the woman who gets a physical description and a job title. This kind of specific detail about the woman’s character, rather than the man’s, suggests the story is about her (but it’s clear from the pages he’s the protagonist). Furthermore the log line doesn’t tell us what the primary conflict is. “Forces of evil” is too vague for us to get a sense of what our hero is going to be up against. Is this something supernatural, militaristic or are we talking some kind of covert ops like espionage? The end result is the log line doesn’t tell us what the story is going to be about.

Another way to go with the log line would be something like this: An aviator, battling the forces of evil that secretly govern his world, enlists the help of an attractive fellow pilot to help him overcome them. Well, this isn’t really enough to hook a reader (we need more detail about the aviator and what these forces are doing to make his life so difficult among other things) but it’s structured in such a way that we get a better sense of the protagonist and clearly see that they are going to be waging some kind of battle.

But that aside I have a bigger issue with the log line which is that it suggests the story is going to be a thriller (supernatural or otherwise) but the first ten pages don’t hint at this at all. Instead they read like a straight drama. If the piece is about a good vs. evil battle involving some kind of powerful “force” then we need to know this in the opening pages.

So what IS the story about? After reading the first ten pages I’m still not sure.

The script opens with a scene involving a violent love triangle that has the vague feeling of being set in the past (maybe because all the men are wearing military uniforms and waving pistols) though no time period is given. Amelia, who’s just put her infant to bed, and her husband David reconnect after a day apart but are suddenly interrupted by Whitlock who barges in “looking like he’s seen a ghost” and covered in blood. As Amelia and David tend to him Chavez rushes in, Whitlock pulls a gun and within moments he’s the only man standing. With Amelia’s limp body cradled in his arms he sobs hysterically bemoaning her death and professing his love. As a baby wails in the background we notice that Chavez’s body is suddenly missing and we cut to present day.

Here the piece shifts to the cockpit of a grounded airplane and we meet Cassius who’s finishing up his training yet has never flown an aircraft let alone stood in the cockpit. It’s a beautiful day for flying and Cassius is banking on nabbing his first ever opportunity to fly that day. But his hopes are quickly dashed by Major Adams who arrives on the scene. He praises Cassius for his academic abilities but assigns him to a simulator instead of that day’s flight. Though this is a reward for his hard work it’s not the perk Cassius had hoped for.

We then go to Cassius in his quarters studying poetry. His roommate Travis tries to convince him to put the books aside and join him at the bar but Cassius declines. Travis leaves and Cassius’ father Victor, who is also a pilot, arrives. They have a brief exchange where Victor admonishes Cassius’ impatience around wanting to fly and reminds him that “patience is a virtue.” Victor tells Cassius to write his mother more often and with a quick goodbye he’s out the door and Cassius is back to his book. While outside a mysterious aircraft lands in a wooded area.

We can assume from these first ten pages that the incident in the past is somehow connected to the present. Given the log line hints at the “evil” to come we can imagine that Amelia or Chavez might return to haunt or wreak havoc in some way. Or maybe the orphaned baby is the “striking aviator” that Cassius comes to call on for help. Either way there is absolutely nothing in these first few pages that sets up these ideas or tell us how the opening incident relates to Cassius. While the deeper meaning behind an opening teaser (or prologue) is often delayed until later in the script at this point we should still have some sense of how they could conceivably connect. But there’s nothing here to suggest how they relate or even spark our curiosity.

Furthermore there doesn’t appear to be any “evil governing his world” (secret or otherwise) or any conflict to speak of. In addition we don’t meet the “striking aviator” or have a sense of how this character is going to be woven into the story particularly because Cassius prefers poetry to clubbing and doesn’t seem interested in meeting women. Ultimately other than clearly establishing Cassius impatience to fly a plane we know virtually nothing about our characters or the story to come.

On another note the piece has this oddly militaristic feel yet this is not explained. In the opening scene David and Whitlock wear “crisp, militaristic uniforms of blues and deep purples.” While Chavez wears one that is “significantly plainer.” There’s nothing to indicate what kind of uniforms these are and we’re left guessing as to what their significance might be. This is also true of Cassius and Travis who wear uniforms of “pale blue shirts and navy blue pants tucked into shin high brown flying boots.” This outfit evokes Nazi soldiers and suggests the piece is period yet this is not indicated. Both McAdams and Cassius’ father wear uniforms and McAdams is referred to by rank. All of this is so vaguely drawn that it’s impossible to get a good sense of what the uniforms represent and is a missed opportunity to tell us about our characters and the world they inhabit.

But perhaps more importantly there’s little here that draws us in or keeps us hooked. The opening incident comes off as melodrama, the action feels awkward and forced and it reads more like a stage play. This is also true of Cassius and Travis in the cockpit. There’s a lot of exposition and the dialogue feels very stilted. It’s not clear why Cassius isn’t able to fly given his studies are almost complete or why Adams puts him in charge of the simulator which Cassius doesn’t seem too happy about. None of this establishes a character we’re invested in or a goal we care about Cassius achieving. All we’ve got here is an aviator who craves his first flight which simply isn’t that compelling. Unfortunately by the end of the first ten pages I don’t have a clear idea of where the story is headed and I’ve already lost interest. Further work is needed to fine tune what the story is about and set it up more clearly from the get go.

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

Ruth Atkinson is a Los Angeles-based script consultant and story editor with over 20 years of experience in all aspects of the film and television business. Films Ruth has consulted on have won awards and been distributed around the world including My Awkward Sexual Adventure which is having it’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this fall, The Perfect Family starring Kathleen Turner which was theatrically released May 2012 and was the Gala Closing Film at Outfest 2011, celebrated indie The People I’ve Slept With, Genie nominated Who Loves the Sun starring Molly Parker and Adam Scott, and the New Zealand hit Predicament. Ruth also reviews submissions to the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Screenwriting Lab and was this year’s screenwriting instructor for Project:Involve, Film Independent’s (FIND) flagship diversity program, which produced six short films showcased at the Los Angeles Film Festival this June. Ruth recently gave a workshop on screenwriting at The Great American Pitchfest and will be teaching an upcoming webinar for The Writer’s Store. Ruth is available for script consulting and story editing and can be reached at You can also follow Ruth on twitter @ruth_atkinson and on LinkedIn.

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

Friday, August 24, 2012


LOGLINE: A detective playing a game of cat-and-mouse with an impossibly lucky serial killer is aided by a man who is tortured by what he believes is his own immortality.

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 Rocky Lotito's first ten pages is brought to you by Amy.

I picked this script for several reasons. The idea of an 'impossibly lucky serial killer' is an intriguing twist, and this looked like the most promising thriller in my inbox. So does 'Quantum Immortal' deliver? Let's find out...

The story begins at a hardware store, where Paul is purchasing a metal pipe. Paul and an old man have a discussion about their purchases, and Paul claims that he is repairing a section of piping in his roof. Paul also mentions that he's incredibly lucky, and that one time he almost tripped into a wood chipper but his luck saved him.

As Paul leaves the hardware store and heads for home, he encounters a string of occurances that continue to prove his good luck, including one sequence where all the lights turn green for him.

Paul enters his house to see a girl named Melinda trying to escape. He beats her to death with the metal pipe he just purchased at the hardware store.

Meanwhile, Melinda's father sits in his office. He orders flowers for his daughter over the phone, and a strange clicking noise is heard in the background. After he hangs up, we see the source of the clicking noise: Cal is rotating the cylinder of a revolver. He puts the gun to his head, pulls the trigger...

...but the gun does not go off, and he looks disappointed. There were five bullets in the gun, and he managed to land on the only empty chamber.

A few policemen arrive at the scene of Melinda's murder, and mention that they still have nothing on the serial killer that is responsible: Cloverleaf.

Cal then goes to the police and tells them he has a special skill that can help him catch the serial killer.

Do you know what stands out most in these ten pages? The surprises. The kind man at the hardware store goes home to beat his victim with it. The man sending flowers to his daughter hangs up and plays Russian roulette with a revolver. This is one of those scripts that has potential to be an intriguing story-- it just needs to be polished.

The first scene does not draw the reader in because we're witnessing an ordinary, polite conversation devoid of subtext or conflict. So an old man had a tree fall into his house. So what? The exposition dump with Paul just telling us about his woodchipper accident doesn't move the plot forward, and it's another unnecessary reiteration of how lucky this guy is. I understand that this is key to the story, but don't clobber your audience over the head with the same information over and over.

In the spirit of 'showing not telling', the script would be more powerful if instead we saw Paul hold a door or do something polite for the old man, and then we cut to the sequence on page four of Paul making every green light and so forth. Your readers are smart, you don't have to spell plot points out for them!

The script is littered with first-draft dialog, and it needs another pass to make it shine. The pleasantries and 'good mornings' can be cut out-- thriller need to run smooth and lean, and one cop greeting another is pointless unless it reveals character. That's the key. If a scene or line of dialog doesn't reveal character or advance the plot, cut it.

Several of Cal's monologues are also chalk full of showing-not-telling items: "money is not an option," "Melinda, my beloved daughter," and "you cannot begin to imagine my sadness" are all lines that would be better if they were expressed visually.

These pages are an example of a script with an intriguing concept, some superb surprises, but an overall quality of roughness to it. With a set of rewrites and polishes, this piece could shine.

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

Amy's Notes

What did you think of Rocky's first 10 pages?

Next Week Ruth Atkinson gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Ivuoma Okoro's 


Friday, August 17, 2012


LOGLINE: An alcoholic social worker is forced to work the overnight shift at a rehab center for teenage girls. Throughout the night, the unsettling nature of the house and scheming girls test not only her commitment to sobriety, but also her sanity.

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.

*Don't forget to check out Rob's interview with Energy Entertainment's Derrick Eppich *

This week's review of Michael J. Regina's 1st 10 pages is brought to you by Dan.

Today's pages come courtesy of Michael J. Regina. Thanks Michael!

So this is a film that's about a social worker who is forced to stay overnight at a rehab center for teenage girls when the center is understaffed. I'm not sure what "unsettling nature of the house" means in the logline - it almost makes it appear as if this is some kind of ghost movie too, but I didn't get that impression from what I read. From what I read, this movie seems to be just a straightforward drama. Here we go...

After a somewhat confusing intro sequence where we travel from a quiet suburban street into the basement of a neighborhood house/rehab lodge, we find ourselves in the midst of a heated counseling session for teenage girls with substance abuse problems. 

(My first thought while reading this was I wasn't sure exactly what kind of facility this was, and what was it doing in the middle of a "typical, quiet suburban street"? I've spent a good deal of my years growing up in the suburbs, and I don't recall ever seeing any houses that also doubled as rehab centers. More clarification is needed.)

Anyways, we open right in the middle of a spat between two hostile young women, Kylie and Brianna. Apparently Kylie is bisexual and thinks Brianna is too, but Brianna isn't having none of that. Juicy! Posie Penton, our heroine, is the moderator of the meeting, assisted by Meredith, a staff member at the house. 

As the tension and arguing in the room continues between the girls in the room (of which there appear to be five or six), we learn that some alcohol and drugs have been snuck into the facility, presumably to be a source of temptation not only for the girls, but for Posie later on (she is listed as an alcoholic in the logline, but we don't get to see that aspect yet in the first 10).

While some of the dialogue here feels very natural and flows well (and it has conflict, hooray!) this first scene ultimately goes on way too long (about 7-8 pages I believe). I'm not saying you can't have extended scenes like this, as there are no rules in screenwriting, but chances are it better be damn near breathtaking to maintain my interest, especially if you're using it to open your movie. Sorkin can do it, Tarantino can do it, but most people can't get away with stuff like this. All the arguing just gets bland here after a while. I'd cut this opener after 3-4 pages.

Another issue I had was that there are about 7 different characters in the very first scene. Again, you can do this, but you have to make sure all of them are distinct and unique. The reason why The Breakfast Club works so well is that the five students are all polar opposites, and stand out from one another. I think the writer did try to separate her characters some, at least in the descriptions, but it wasn't enough. At the end I just felt like these girls blended together too much, and I had trouble telling them apart. This being a rehab center for girls with a specific problem, you're going to have to work extra hard to make sure these are not all the same personalities.

And finally, this concept, while a bit intriguing, is pretty iffy too. If this is going to be a film about a social worker who bonds with her patients while struggling with alcohol addiction, you better have seriously memorable characters and dialogue and story, because the hook just isn't there. Not saying it can't be done, but as a spec writer it's hard enough to write something interesting with a good premise. This is just starting with a disadvantage right off the bat. Also, I can see this kind of story getting sappy and melodramatic pretty fast.

PROS: Some solid, natural dialogue and conflict
CONS: First scene too long, concept isn't very exciting

I will give this baby a "Take Another Pass". 


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

What did you think of Michael's 1st 10 pages?
Next week Amy gives feedback on Rocky Lotito's QUANTUM IMMORTAL.

Friday, August 10, 2012


An old-school detective faces his final challenge – stop a disabled Afghan war vet who has become a media super-hero by dishing out vigilante-style justice.

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 Erik V Wolter's 1st 10 pages is brought to you by Rob.

There was a miscommunication with Mystery Film Student so Dan will be giving feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Michael J. Regina's GIRLS RECOVERY LODGE next week. 

Today, I'll be sharing some quick thoughts on the 1st 10 pages of  A RIGHTEOUS CRUSADER instead.

I won't be critiquing Erik's logline because after reading it, I had to read his pages. I also won't be making any notes, because his first 10 pages are damn near perfect. In fact, I'm tempted to end this thing right now and tell you to just go read his pages.

Still here? Alright.

We open inside a police station where we meet 64 year old, homicide detective, Thomas Wright. Thomas is set in his ways, as evidenced by his willingness to tote a Bose Wave radio back and forth to work each day rather than learn how to stream music on his computer- as the young criminology intern, Audrey Taylor suggests. She also informs him of "another liquor store robbery and a nasty sexual assault." We learn a lot about Thomas from his response, but you'll have to go read the pages to find out what it is.

Really? Still reading? Okay. I could tell you how Erik has done an incredible job of characterization, setting the tone and conflict, but your time would be much better spent just reading the pages. I could tell you about the introduction of Dante and Kathleen on page 3 and how in just a few short lines their entire interpersonal dynamic is laid out before us in vivid detail. I could tell you about the shake up  at the station, or the funeral for Dante's father- each scene excellently executed and successful in moving the story forward. But you'll see what I mean when you go read the pages!

Erik's writing is better than many of the professional screenplays I've read. I was so impressed by his first ten pages that I immediately asked if I could read the rest of the script. Erik sent me over another 18 pages. When I finished them I asked if he had any representation. It turns out that he has an agent, Barry Perelman, but is not currently represented by a manager.

Long story short, I can't wait to see...

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

Friday, August 3, 2012

ANYBODY'S SON by Cheyne Curry and Chris Westfield

While investigating a popular student's unexplained disappearance, a high school psychologist realizes her stepson is the prime suspect.

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  Cheyne Curry and Chris Westfield's 1st 10 pages is brought to you by Tawnya Bhattacharya

Tawnya Bhattacharya is a writer on USA's, FAIRLY LEGAL and the founder of Script Anatomy, a story consultancy that helps screen and television writers elevate their writing through classes, workshops and private consults. To learn more about Tawnya, click here.

1st 10 pages of ANYBODY'S SON

The first ten pages of a screenplay, as we've all heard many times before, are crucial. If your first ten pages (or even less, in most cases) are not amazing, the rest of your script will not be read. Your first ten pages need to not only be brilliant, but must set up and draw us into the story establishing the following:

* MAIN CHARACTER of your movie
* What the STORY is going to be about
* The CONCEIT of your movie
* The ARENA/WORLD where your movie takes place.
* The GENRE & TONE of your movie
* The THEME of your movie
* The CENTRAL CONFLICT of the movie

Accomplishing all of that in ten pages is a lot to ask. Doing it well is even more difficult. But then, that's why we're here, so let's see how ANYBODY'S SON meets the task.


In these first ten pages, it was impossible to tell who the main character was. If we don’t know who your main character is we don’t know who to invest in and root for. The audience experiences the story through a character’s p.o.v. Who is that person in your story? These pages jumped around and we met several characters. All of them were given fairly equal weight, which made it feel ensemble-y, so I never got a strong sense of who any of these characters were or what makes them distinct human beings. The details of what characters say and do throughout the script help us understand who they are, but the first impression is even more critically important. Don't forget to introduce your character with a little something that really makes them unique. Check out this article about character intros on my site. 


The log line is simple but intriguing enough. The missing girl is the inciting incident and the investigation is the second act journey. My problem with the first ten pages is they do not deliver on the concept or the genre. First we'll talk concept and the first ten pages of story.

We open with the school psychologist, COURTNEY, as she talks to a teenager, JONI about her low P.S.A.T. scores. When Joni cries, Courtney assumes it is over the low score and reassures Joni that she can always get a full ride athletic scholarship. However, Joni informs Courtney that she quit the team. Courtney doesn't understand why she'd do that and wants to escort Joni to her next class so they can discuss it along the way. But Courtney is momentarily distracted by a fight that breaking out in the hall. She handles the situation, then turns back to find Joni's books on the floor but no Joni. For some reason, Courtney is compelled to go to the open window in her office and looks down to see Joni’s lifeless on the pavement. I guess we are to assume Joni jumped. But I digress… Joni can't be the "unexplained disappearance" -- so how does this connect to the overall story? Was it to set up that Courtney is the school psychologist? Was this particularly dramatic scene to establish the tone and genre?

I'm not only confused by this scene but by many of the scenes because if I just read the first ten pages without seeing the log line first, I wouldn't know what this story is about. Nor would I know who it was about.

We move onto Courtney talking to someone -- we don't know who because this scene does nothing but serve as an indicator that Courtney is on the phone before we cut to YOUNG MAX and YOUNG JAKE playing wizards outside. I'm not sure of the point of this scene as it only introduces two characters playing. Nothing HAPPENS in the scene. There is no conflict and the scene does not move the story forward in any way. Every scene must move the story forward. We then cut to BOBBY (20s), drinking whiskey as he watches the two boys from the living room window. All I know about Bobby is that he drinks whiskey, he is the father of one or both of the boys and he's described as charming - a quality we never see in any of the ten pages as he comes across as a jealous, alcoholic jerk. Then we cut to TESS. This is who Courtney is talking on the phone with about Joni's death. The writers are putting a lot of emphasis on Joni, so I'm thinking at this point that Joni's death might be the main storyline -- yet, again, I'm confused, because it's a disappearance that Courtney investigates, not an unexplained death. Besides, Courtney looks to have committed suicide over getting pregnant -- explanation. Why is Joni important? During the women's conversation, Bobby (Tess's husband) enters causing Tess to quickly get off the phone. Bobby's suspicious and wants to know whom Tess was talking to. He doesn't believe that it's just a friend as Tess claims. Things escalate when Tess turns the topic to Bobby's drinking. We cut back and forth between their fight and Young Max and Young Jake trying to avoid the line of fire, but they enter the house (unmotivated) and Bobby yanks Jake by the arm and threatens to leave with him, but backs off when he sees his kid is scared and takes off my himself.

Cut to Tess and Courtney in the living room talking. Courtney wants to know what Tess told Bobby about her to which Tess replies: "Nothing… yet. Because I'm not exactly sure how to put it." Tess then takes Courtney's hand into hers. I think this was meant to be a reveal… though I sensed the two were having an affair before this moment. And I'm not sure why it needs to be a moment with the weight of a reveal, as it doesn't really seem important to the story.

Jump to Ten Years Later…

I'm so not a fan of time jumps in 99% of the scripts that do this. Most the time I find it to be a technique writers used because they don't know how to get into their story. And almost always it's not necessary to the telling of the story. This script jumps to ten years later. Jake is now sixteen and he's in a pick up truck with his father (Bobby) who is asking him which gun he prefers: Rifle, shotgun, pistol? I'm not sure the point of this scene or the talk about guns except maybe this is the set up of a weapon and perhaps Bobby's line is foreshadowing a story point when he says: "Heh, heh. The nine mill. Not as good as the forty-four magnum but still able to put down some poor should who decides to trespass.” Moments later Bobby parks in front of a two-story house. Out front, in the house next door, is Max, now sixteen with SARAH CARPENTER, (16). The two are practicing cheerleading routines. Bobby notes that Jake likes Sarah, before reminding Jake that he needs him to be on his side when he talks to his mom about moving in with him. Jake gets out of the truck and heads for his house, ignores Max…

Okay, so… I’ve met a lot of people and I’m not sure which character I’m following. This is what went through my mind while reading these pages: Is this going to be about the girl who killed herself and why? Courtney’s upset. She’s calling Tess for comfort. Is this about Courtney dealing with the aftermath of one of her clients committing suicide? Wait, no… maybe it’s about this family falling apart (Tess, Jake and Bobby). Perhaps it’s about Bobby’s revenge after he finds out about the affair. But we’re spending a lot of time with Young Jake and Young Max. Is this movie going to be about their friendship? Maybe it has to do with this girl, Sarah, that Jake likes. I don’t know. A certain amount of guessing is good – no one wants to be spoon fed, but these pages were like being on a wild goose chase. I was confused. Every scene needs to build on the next and lead somewhere. I felt like I was spinning in circles.


Nothing happened that hooked me and, per the above, I don't get the story or the conceit from these ten pages. I guess you could argue that the suicide, executed well could grab my attention. But this is not the main concept of your story – at least not from what was told in the logline.


While an action line established Putnam City High School (which exists in Oklahoma) I didn't get a sense of the world through the description of landscape, clothing, food or character dialect. I didn't get a strong sense of how small the town or school was through everybody knowing everybody and local gossip. Wouldn't it be a big deal for a kid to have his mom end up with the female school guidance counselor? Where will we be spending most of our time? LES DIABOLIQUE mostly takes place at the boarding school. A lot of SWIMFAN takes place in the high school. Much of THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE takes place in Claire’s house. Think about all the movies you love. What unique world are we being immersed in: California wine country, Hollywood in the 40’s, NFL Football, British society…? Great scenes and setpiece moments can evolve out of your arena.


From the log line I surmised that this might be a thriller or a drama/thriller, but I don't know for sure because I didn't get a strong sense of the genre from these ten pages. Genre is like the brand: Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Action… It felt like a family drama more than anything else, though I don't believe that's the intention. At times it felt light. This is due to lack of tension and stakes.


Because so much is unclear, it’s not surprise that there wasn’t a hint of theme. Theme is often nebulous for screenwriters. I think it’s an advanced skill, so we won’t focus on that here.


Right now the biggest conflict in the film is between Tess and Bobby. They are a married couple with marital problems. Tess is in love with Courtney. She and Bobby split up. Bobby wants their son Jake to live with him. What does any of this have to do with the missing girl that Jake is the prime suspect for according to the logline? And where is Courtney in all of this? According to the logline, she's the person we are following in the story as she investigates the missing girl and gets closer to the truth -- it might be or is Jake.

I don't know the movie outside of the ten pages, but just from reading the log line, I'd expect to see something more along the lines of Jake begrudgingly moving to a new house with his mom and step mom. I don't think we need to see Tess and Bobby fight. I think we get it. Divorce sucks. Having your mom be cheating on your dad with another woman -- that might be a lot to swallow. I get why Jake is upset. Especially if he really loves and gets along with his dad and has been forced to live with the two moms. In that scenario, I understand why Jake would be having emotional problems and act out. Probably he doesn't get along with Courtney. Maybe that's the main conflict? Jake liked the girl who's gone missing. Perhaps something happens between them and now he seems like the obvious suspect. Maybe he isn't our bad guy in the end, after all. Maybe Courtney is? Or his Dad? I don't know exactly what the writers are going for, so I can only guess, but if I'm guessing, this is not a good thing. If a story is being told clearly and being told well then the reader will go along for the ride. If the story is disjointed or confusing then the reader becomes frustrated and is left fix or criticize.

SCENE WORK & DIALOGUE: One of the major problems with the storytelling in these ten pages is the scene work. There were several scenes where nothing happened. You'll see examples in the pages notes, but for instance, on the bottom of page 2 and top of page 3, there is a scene where Courtney crying on the phone. She has one line: Hello… hey you… What do we KNOW from this scene? I just told you. That's it. Well, that's not enough. Every scene needs to move the story forward. We must learn something new about the character or the story. Hopefully both. Scenes need to be entertaining, have a goal, have conflict, advance story, reveal character… A scene should have a beginning, middle and end. This particular scene accomplishes none of that. I already know she's upset over what happened from previous scenes. WHO is Courtney talking to? We don't even learn that for two more scenes. Why split those scenes up? Setting up a shot takes time. Time equals money. No one is going to shoot a scene that doesn't add value to the story.

Aside from story, structure and formatting problems, I found the dialogue to be very flat, often expositional and on the nose.


Screenwriting is hard work. It takes years to develop and hone the craft and write to a professional level. If that’s your goal be prepared to sacrifice a lot and work your butt off. You must write, read books on screenwriting, write, take classes, write, form a writers group, read scripts, and write some more. I’ve been as honest as I could be reviewing these pages because it doesn’t serve anyone for me not to be. The sooner you know what lies ahead of you, the sooner you can get to work and then ultimately succeed!  

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

What did you think of Cheyne and Chris's first 10 pages?

Next week the Mystery Film Student gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Michael J. Regina's GIRLS RECOVERY LODGE.

Please share your thoughts on Cheyne and Chris's 1st 10 pages below.