Friday, October 12, 2012

MULL BURN by Andrew Horne & Chris Webster

Three Aussie mates risk it all by embarking on an urban Odyssey to score a bag of green, in a City which is mysteriously dry.

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Review of “MULL BURN"
 Reviewed by Jim Newman (posted Oct 12th, 2012)
(Screenplay | Comedy, First 10 Pages)

“Confusing delivery, scenes feel irrelevant from each other, and the story lacks purpose.”

Let’s kickoff with the logline:

Original Logline: “Three Aussie mates risk it all by embarking on an urban Odyssey to score a bag of green, in a City which is mysteriously dry.” 

Let’s take a few moments to dissect this:
The logline hits these chords:

o    Protagonist – the three Aussie mates

§  However, can you tell us a tad more about them? Are they school age? Adults? Fathers? Crooks? Potheads?

§  Goal/Mission – searching for a bag of weed

·         IMPORTANT: What happens if they don’t accomplish their mission? Does someone die? Does a town suffer? Does the world end? Or is it they just can’t get high? There needs to be a clear life changing purpose here.
The logline lacks the following essential elements:

o    Antagonist – who’s trying to stop the protagonists (presumably the “three Aussie mates”)? A rival gang? A politician? Each other? Some internal conflict? Specify.

o    Irony – there’s no irony here. For instance, Jim Carrey’s character in “Liar Liar” is a dirtbag attorney who suddenly cannot lie! Attorney < > cannot lie = IRONY.

o    Time – is there a time clock for the protagonists to achieve their goal.
Other notes:

o    What’s a “bag of green”?

§  I guessed it would be marijuana, but it could be a colloquial term for “money” … so if you keep the “bag of green” reference, then it’s important to give the characters a specific description mentioned above that could be used to infer what this means.

o    What / Where is “the City”?

§  Why is this capitalized?

§  Which city are you referring to? In Melbourne? Outside of Melbourne? A mystical place that’s outside the realm of our world?

o    Use of “risk it all”.

§  This is overused, generic, and lacks drama.

§  What’s being risked? Their lives? Money? Friendship? Love? Their sanity? Need to clarify/specify what’s at risk so we understand what’s on the line if they do not accomplish their mission.

o    Odyssey

§  Why capitalized?

I typically try to stick to one line, but two lines is acceptable (but no more than two). Furthermore, I’m a fan of closing it with a question to pique the reader’s interest and help focus their attention, but in this case I believe the one-liner works. Without knowing the full storyline, I suggest the following – hopefully it falls into place, but if not, then it should serve as a guideline to follow: 

Tweaked Logline: “Doomed to live out a life of sobriety, three Melbourne potheads embark on a stoned journey (or “odyssey”) to score the last source of green (or “weed”) known to mankind.”


The story begins with setting the place/world we live in (for the sake of this story): Melbourne, Australia.

High above the world below, two oddly dressed characters – Fairy Penguin and Koala – are participating in a strange sexual experience. Presumably dry humping while dressed in costumes …

Page two introduces several more strange animal characters; that is, humans dressed as animals like some sort of masquerade party.

At the end of page three through the start of page five, we’re introduced to Steve, a medical student and owner to Barry, his Kelpie dog as they walk through a park of some sort. We see a graffiti artist creating a marijuana leaf motif, which reminds Steve that tonight’s “smoke night” … and he needs to get in touch with Roman, presumably his drug dealer of choice.

Pages five through seven shows Steve going into a convenience store to pick up some cigarettes and milk for his father after he ties Barry to a sign outside the store. Steve speaks with the clerk, who is familiar to Steve. After some discussion about Australian football teams, Steve sees the headline of the newspaper: Roman has been arrested! His only source of weed is now gone. Terry and Steve express concern over the recent crackdowns in the city. 

Pages eight through ten introduces us to a group of 11-year old school girls who apparently haven’t lived a hard life from the likes of their iPhones, high priced coffees, etc. Super spoiled! Dorothy, a psychotic and over-caffeinated Asian girl, gets in Steve’s face because he smiled at the group of girls.

Last half of page ten introduces us to Belinda and Mark. Mark is having a hard time getting out of bed despite Belinda’s attempts and threats. She blends a healthy concoction and mentions that she’s going running with Karl. But before she can leave, she sees a black object on the back patio, scoops it up, but doesn’t show it to Mark.


It’s my impression that this is an adventure comedy with a large dose of Cheech & Chong. However, the first ten pages are muddled, lacked direction, littered with irrelevant scenes, and failed to connect us to the main character, Steve.

Firstly, the format does not meet standard rules.
Title needs to be in the same font and size as all other print.
Headings are way off. It should follow this format:
                                                              i.      Don’t use PROLOGUE
                                                            ii.      Omit “Act” and “Scene” references.
                  > Page numbers need to be same font (Courier) and start with page 2 (not 1).
         > Don’t use camera angle or statements such as “we see”. 
                                    Only established writers can get away with these, especially if they’re the producer/director of the movie.

The conflict is identified: Roman, the preferred drug dealer (presumably the only one in town) has been arrested in a series of recent drug busts. Access to weed has been cut off … thus the mission for our protagonist(s). So this is good! But in order for there to be an effective conflict, we need to know the other side of the coin. What will the protagonist lose or risk if he cannot successfully navigate his world and reach his goal? Does he die? Does he lose his lover? Or in this case, does he just not get high and live a sober life (which can be funny if executed properly, a la Cheech & Chong)?

As expressed in last week’s review, the character descriptions are non-existent. Each character must be introduced with an age along with one or more of the following: physical description, what are they wearing, doing – what actions can show that reveal 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.

At the page three cutoff – a growing standard to hit certain marks leading up to the ten page guidance – there’s still no purpose. I wasn’t sure what I was reading – is this a Halloween party? Is it a strange world? Why are people dressed like animals? Who are these people and why should be care about them? Where /Who is the protagonist? Is the genre established: comedy, sci-fi, both?

Pages three through ten don’t reveal much. Steve and his dog, Barry, walk through a park, “talk about” tonight’s smoke night, needs to find Roman, goes to a convenience store, buys some milk and cigarettes, sees Roman has been arrested in the paper, then gets verbally assaulted by an 11 year old girl. I shook my head and said, “Huh? What?” I thought if I light up a joint, then it may make better sense to me. Alas, I don’t smoke, so I was still confused.

Overall, Mull Burn’s first ten pages don’t give much to us in terms of a story or its characters.
   > There’s conflict that falls short of identifying what’s at risk.  
   > The characters are one-dimensional: no sense of who they are, why they’re in the story, and how will they contribute or assist the protagonist.
   > Dialogue in nearly every case feels irrelevant to the story, is on-the-nose, and subjects the reader to exposition.
o    See my website – Screenwriters Anonymous – click on VIDEOS and watch the first one. Robert McKee (3 minutes) gives ten high level pointers regarding ineffective dialogue. Number seven: Talking Wallpaper. “The humdrum, chit chat of “Hi, how are you.” “Oh, I’m fine.” and number eight: Forced Exposition – will help you identify and help clean up in a rewrite.
   > What’s the black object? You don’t tell us much to create a sense of mystery, but I only found it frustrating because why would Belinda see it, go outside to pick it up, then hide it from Mark? And what does it look like other than “black object”. Is it soft, hard, round, square, heavy, light, large, small, etc etc?


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

And if you can’t read my chicken scratch handwriting, then please let me know. I apologize in advance for my sloppy writing.


Trash it (start over).

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  1. Small note re the line on page 6 "I may look and sound like an old Wog"; I know that in Australia that phrase can be used to refer to a post-WWII foreigner (particularly of eastern European descent), but in some other English speaking countries - such as the UK - it is an EXTREMELY offensive racial slur.

    I would recommend altering that one to be on the safe side :-)



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  3. I have & had screenplays optioned with producers. I have also read and helped revise work with producers -- and here this:


    It's not about "Oh, pro writers can get away with it." -- So, it's OK for a Nascar racer to speed on the highway because he can drive professionally? If there is even one exception to any rule, then it can't be a rule.

    Whatever works to get across to the reader your story and help them visualise it, GREAT! That is your goal.

    If it doesn't work, valid to say "Get rid of it."
    If it does work, then by all means use it.

    "Whatever works". Ask any pro.

    Stop giving out bad advice.


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