Friday, September 28, 2012

SHATTERED by Dawn McCaslin

A seemingly perfect life is destroyed after a wife discovers her husband committed an unspeakable act. As the investigation and trial unwind, she must attempt to put her life back together amidst a shocking revelation that will reveal ugly truths no one could have suspected.

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Review of “SHATTERED”
Reviewed by Jim Newman
(posted Sept 24th, 2012)
(Screenplay | Thriller/Drama, First 10 Pages)

Logline left me thinking of what this unspeakable act could be, but the first ten pages fall short of delivering.”
I feel the logline could use some clean-up. Loglines are never an easy task, but based on the first twelve, there appears to be a gap in description and the language deserves to be as colorful as your character descriptions.
Original Logline: “A seemingly perfect life is destroyed after a wife discovers her husband committed an unspeakable act. As the investigation and trial unwind, she must attempt to put her life back together amidst a shocking revelation that will reveal ugly truths no one could have suspected.”
Let’s take a few moments to dissect this:
  • What I like: we can identify the protagonist, the antagonist, and the conflict.
  • The “unspeakable act” has a hook to it – draws me in and makes me wonder what in the world could have the husband done to completely rattle his wife’s world.
  • I would omit the second line since (1) you want to make every effort to keep your logline to one sentence. I understand that some folks say “one to two” lines, but try to hit your message in one line even if it borderlines on being a run-on sentence. Also, I presume the “unspeakable act” will be met with an investigation and will be shocking revelation, so this simply restates the first line.
  • Here’s a suggestion to clean up your logline:
Tweaked Logline: “A seemingly perfect marriage is shattered after a wife discovers her husband has committed an unspeakable act that reveals vile truths that no one could have suspected.”

The story begins with introducing husband and wife Matthew and Greta Forrester along with their teenage son, Jack. They’re in the middle of getting some photos done for a newspaper or magazine article of some sort.

Sean, your typical football jock, arrives and stays for dinner. He’s has a crush on Mrs. Forrester, but seems innocent enough.

Pages three through seven portray an award celebration where Greta is presented with a sort of humanitarian award. We learn that the Forresters have some connections with folks in “high places”, so they’re obviously socialites among powerful company.

An old friend of Greta’s, Rebekka, shows up at the Forrester house with some bags – she’s leaving her husband and their volatile relationship.

Page ten brings us to the conclusion of this review. Greta returns home, presumably unexpectedly while Matthew works from his home office. She saunters into the house, starts undressing, obviously looking for some play time. She sneaks into Matthew’s office to surprise him, but stumbles upon a shocking moment: Matthew is masturbating to a video of Sean naked, showering. This is where page ten closes.


The format meets industry standards and the characters are given colorful descriptions.
Regrettably, that’s all the first ten pages provide. In general, the first page reveals no purpose or relation to the story except it lays a foundation of a “perfect life”. However, this could be shown with concise imagery; i.e. gorgeous house, pictures on a mantle of a happy, smiling family. The dialogue with the photographer serves no purpose and does not contribute to the story, in my opinion. Without the benefit of having the read the logline, I would have no clue who the protagonist is: the wife, the husband, the son? This needs to be clarified and blunt.
Also, page one should provide a geographic location – where does this gorgeous house reside? Let me see and make a connection to the region.
At the page three point, there’s still no purpose to the preceding scenes. What is the purpose? Who’s the protagonist (still wouldn’t know if not for the logline)? How does this contribute to the story in the form of a hook and push us to the catalyst?
Pages three through seven drags on with the award dinner. Does not reveal anything about the characters, but does give some insight into their world: relationships with powerful community leaders and other socialites.
Page ten reveals the “unspeakable” act”, but it feels forced. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to be on the nose with prior exposition or dialogue, but a character’s actions leading up to this point should foreshadow some sort of surprise in this sense. The masturbation scene feels out of left field. Give us a foreshadowing scene such as Matthew having a borderline flirtatious dialogue with Sean … or something with the dance when Matthew cuts in on Sean and Greta. Also, not sure how Sophia’s character will play into this story. Perhaps as a B story, but this is not clear – I’m guessing she secretly has a shared crush with Jake despite the fact that she’s dating Sean.
Overall, this script needs to be overhauled, but has potential – the logline has a fun dramatic thriller flavor to it. Just remember: be concise, you could benefit from the use of an outline, and “kill your babies” – be sure to start page one as late into your storyline as possible.


CONT’D is arguably no longer considered standard. So adjust your software to remove all CONT’D from the dialogue.

Wherever possible, replace “and” in the action lines with a comma. Just makes the read smoother.

CAP characters as they are introduced only if they will have dialogue. Page three introduces Celeste who has dialogue, but is not capped. Also, page nine introduces Greta’s secretary, but has a speaking line where we learn her name is Sarah. Introduce her as SARAH, not SECRETARY, but form your character description as: “Greta’s secretary, SARAH, early 20’s, pops her head into the office.”

Please refer to PDF with my notes. And I invite you to reach out to me with any follow-up questions or comments.


Trash it (start over).

Thank you for sharing your work with us! And don’t give up on your concept!


  1. Agree with Rob. The writing isn't off-putting, but nothing happens in these pages.

    I don't know if there's an interesting enough concept in there either. Is this about a woman discovering her husband is a sex freak? That sounds like a minor sub-plot or even a single scene. Not an entire film.
    Also, everything about the logline is vague: "unspeakable act", "shocking revelation", "ugly truths". Needs details to hook someone. People need to "see" your movie in their heads when you tell them what it's about.

    Keep at it! You can only get better.


    1. That's Jim's review. I haven't had time to read the back of a cereal box lately.

  2. Jim,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this and share your thoughts. After reading your feedback, I agree completely! Sharing my first script was terrifying, but you're totally right that you have to start somewhere and there's no where to go but up!

    I know I have some strong bits scattered throughout, but as a whole it needs more development (clearly).

    Thanks so much, again, everyone!


  3. I didn't know this was your first script. You're doing totally fine.


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