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 



  1. It says thriller but this concept seems more like a comedy at first. For some reason I just couldn't help thinking Dumb & Dumber about the serial killer who keeps escaping due to blind luck. The physics guy who can't die seems just a weird thing to mash up with the premise, even though they will end up being connected I'm sure.

    There is waaaay too much talking in these first ten pages. And it's all about the case, don't know any of the characters as a result. There's no drama, no conflict, just lots of 'splainin, Lucy.

    Also, this doesn't feel realistic at all, when it needs to. A five minute friendly conversation that follows a guy just letting another guy cut him in line? Even moreso, the murder investigation - the lead detective meets a previous victim's father and doesn't recognize him? Wouldn't the parents of the victims have been the first people they contacted and interviewed?

    Another thing to keep in mind is how COMPLETELY over-saturated the procedural genre is. it has been done to death on cable shows already, inside and out, so if you want to do a film, it better be in the top 1 percent of what's out there - fresh, clever, thrilling, unique, etc.


  2. Amy's spot-on with the showing-not-telling and first-draft dialogue points, and I agree with Dan about the occasional lapse of realism (in the parts that need it) and the procedural oversaturation (not that I don't love me some Castle).

    Having said all that, I actually rather enjoyed the conversation. The longer it went on and the politer it got, the more creepy it came across, and it was quite clear that we were seeing the serial killer, and of course what the pipe was for. What interested me was if the tree falling story was a lie to fake sympathy for the old man, or if it actually happened. Because the luck factor was believable with the addition of the woodchipper story, but something about the "me too" aspect of his tree-falling story came across as... Well, Joker-esque. It wasn't mentioned at all when he pulled into "his" (I assume it wasn't his house, or it'd be a big clue as to his identity) driveway, which made me more sure that it was made-up. But... Why? Potentially a fascinating character here.

    The immortal physicist is an intriguing concept, but I'd work on making the detective more than a limp-and-an-eyepatch. I don't even remember his name now.

    While it certainly needs polishing, I'd be wary of making it too fast and modern, because the pacing of this beginning really works well for the most part.

    (I know, I didn't shred it... What's wrong with me?! ;) )

  3. Big . . . BIG chunks of dialogue turned me off on this early. Which is a shame as the actual story looks pretty good - I liked the twist with the kind old man to set the tone - but the dialogue needs to be razor sharp for this genre.

    I don't want to comment on pacing when I've only seen ten pages but from what I have seen it needs to step on the gas quick for a reader to stay involved.

    "Take another pass" for me.


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