Friday, October 5, 2012

BERNIE BUMSEED by Jack Hudkins

Bernie Bumseed, a desperate, blundering TV field reporter meets his match when an eccentric, old lady moves into the apartment next door.

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Reviewed by Jim Newman (posted Oct 4th, 2012)
(Screenplay | Comedy, First 10 Pages)

“Logline is a generic read and first ten pages fall short of delivering on the essential elements.”

Let me begin by saying that I will never, EVER deter any writer from not delving into their story. The writer has a story to pen, a theme to present, and an art form to present both in an entertaining fashion.

In this case, there’s work to be done on BERNIE BUMSEED, but it CAN be done!

Let’s begin with the logline:

The logline needs to be restructured and nail some of the elements needed to deliver the punch that draws a reader in. The logline provided is flat and generic.

Original Logline
: “Bernie Bumseed, a desperate, blundering TV field reporter meets his match when an eccentric, old lady moves into the apartment next door.” 

Let’s take a few moments to dissect this:
What I like
: we can see the basis for irony between characters
What needs work
o    Let’s answer the following questions to help flesh out the concept that’s residing in your mind and needs to get down on paper:
§  “Meets his match”: How? In what capacity?
§  What’s the obstacle or goal/mission that the protagonist – Bernie – will pursue?
§  Can we paint the location or world the story takes place in? Is there an added stressor of a time limit?
Without knowing the path your story is travelling, here’s a suggestion to start massaging your logline: 

Tweaked Logline
: “Los Angeles-based small time reporter, Bernie Bumseed, has a week to meet his editorial deadline and deliver the story of his journalistic life, but must convince his eccentric, elderly neighbor to cooperate with his story’s lead.”


The story begins with introducing Bernie Bumseed chanting before a Buddha – a shrine established around his toilet.

Page one continues to reveal Bernie driving past LAX while Floyd rides along.

Page two sets the tone whereby Bernie is in the doghouse with his paper’s editor, Mashburn. He’s been given a small time story, but feels he deserves better. \

Page three introduces Ava, Bernie’s love interest, which is revealed on page four.

Pages six through twelve cover the dialogue between Bernie and Floyd and their news story centering around Gus Pitts, an extraordinary (yet bumbling) golfer from the deep South. The scene presumably ends with Gus whacking the ball off tee and into Bernie’s … ahem … junk.  


The format generally meets industry standards. No formatting concerns besides some overuse of dialogue action, use of numerical values in dialogue, and using CAPS when introducing new characters (that is, characters with dialogue). 

Regrettably, the first ten pages (twelve in this case) do not convey the intended story of its logline as evidenced by the summary provided.

We meet the presumed protagonist, Bernie Bumseed, but the assumed antagonist (neighbor or is it Mashburn) is not clearly identified … or identified at all. This needs to be added to the first ten.

What’s the conflict? The logline and submission lack any conflict. You may say that his assignment to a small time gig is the conflict, but how? And how is that a conflict to be resolved later?

The character descriptions are non-existent. Each character must be introduced with an age (check – you have that) along with one or more of the following: physical description, what are they wearing, doing – what actions can show how can would describe your character internally and/or externally. We need to see the characters in our mind’s eye. We want to draw up our own cast. We want to root for our protag, but first, we need to know who he/she is.

There’s overuse of actor direction – this needs to be used sparingly. I counted nine instances, so please replace these directions with action lines. For instance, on page two, Bernie says to Floyd, “Not a word!” Instead of saying (to Floyd) which is bland, use a preceding action line such as, “Bernie thrusts his index finger centimeters from Floyd’s face.” This indicates who is speaking to AND the mood – Bernie is embarrassed and overly aggressive. And Floyd’s lack of response reveals that he’s the submissive sort.

At the page three point – a growing standard to hit certain marks leading up to the ten page guidance – there’s still no immediate purpose to the preceding scenes. We’ve met a few characters, assume Bernie is the protag, Mashburn may be the antag (or one of them), it’s a comedy based on the absurd dialogue and action, but it lacks any notion of a brewing conflict worthy of wanting more. Pull the conflict up!  See what happens to your story if you move some scenes around and cut out any banter. Always remember – criticize each scene and say to yourself, “What’s its purpose? Does it propel the story forward?” If it moves the story sideways or back, then cut it!

Pages three through seven don’t reveal much other than Ava and Bernie have some sort of love relationship. All other dialogue feels like unrelated banter. Feels scattered and serves no purpose to the story. If it does later on, then it’s necessary to bring that purpose up to the forefront … otherwise, it feels illogical.

Page ten, regrettably, follows the same path as pages three through seven: missing the essential elements, i.e., conflict and inciting incident.

Overall, this script needs to be overhauled. There’s no real conflict, no hook, missing an inciting incident. The first twelve pages could probably be pared down to three pages, so there’s plenty of room to slice and dice … bring up the later scenes that push the protag out of his comfort zone and onto the journey of challenges and obstacles.

It's important for every writer to digest feedback and take what works and disregard what doesn't work. Only the writer knows the heart and soul of their story. Some comments may resonate with you - perfect - use them! Some may not - that's fine - ignore them! But it's absolutely necessary not to give up and keep working at it. Every writer needs to ... even the established ones.


CAP characters as they are introduced only if they will have dialogue. Page one introduces Floyd who has dialogue, but is not capped.

Pg 2: “Bernie’s answers” should be “Bernie answers” (Also show us that the phone rings before Bernie answers his “ringing phone”.)

Pg 4: The driving scene is a long shot despite only using 2 ½ lines on page. Not sure how this contributes to the story. Show this another way. For instance, since this is a comedy, perhaps you would consider “leveraging” from Indiana Jones and have an aged map that shows the route Bernie/Floyd are driving. Envision upbeat and adventurous music (because we cannot include such directions in our script). Does Bernie drive around one of the many loops off the highway over and over again, does he stop for a potty break, etc?

Pg 4 vs Pg 6: First you say PCH, but then spell out Pacific Coast Highway. This should be reversed in order OR just use PCH consistently.

Pg 8: Remove the “And” from Bernie’s last line in order to bring the “dude” from pg nine up.

Pg 10: Dialogue has 20 and 3 … replace with twenty and three.

Pg 11: Second action line – need to add a comma in between “front” and “but”.

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!

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


  1. There's clearly a unique voice here, but by page 5, I had no idea what was going on. Why is everyone referring to themselves in the third person? A goat crapped on the mayor because of an elevator? And Bernie comes off as the eccentric one - we meet him swaying in front of an incense covered toilet, tossing matches into the bowl - so I can't imagine how far gone the old lady must be.

    Which makes me wonder - is this purposefully supposed to be avant garde? I ask mainly because the voice of the script seems consistently obtuse, confusing in the same way.

    Either way - thank you for sharing. And don't stop now.

  2. A lot of seemingly meaningless scenes in this. I'd be curious to know the page count of the full script (we've all done it! My first screenplay last year was a cop buddy movie that ran over 200 pages :-) ).

    Continually ask yourself "How does this scene change the story?" If it doesn't make an impact, does it need to be there at all?


Please make constructive comments. Anything mean spirited or malicious will be removed.