Friday, December 21, 2012

ONE BY ONE by Corey Swim

Faced with the systematic slaughter of his former team, a retired American Martial Arts assassin must uncover the truth before it's too late.

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 our reviewers (or guests) 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 comment on your work.

On the first Friday of every month, we'll feature some short films and visual pitches in lieu of posting pages. 

This week Eric looked at the 1st 10 pages of Corey Swim's ONE BY ONE.

Corey Swim's ONE BY ONE
Review of the first 10 pages
Logline: Faced with the systematic slaughter of his former team, a retired American Martial Arts assassin must uncover the truth before it's too late.

Cory!  Thank you for allowing me to enter into the world you've imagined.  You are clearly a fan of the action genre, and your passion bleeds through these pages as if it were blood flowing from the bodies of the assassins cut down by the bullets of your heroes. :)

That said, the biggest improvement you can make right now to the script is in the writing.  There are action scenes, but they can be described in much, much, MUCH greater detail.  Instead of pulling out a "gun," can he pull out a Glock 9mm?  When someone is shot, tell us where they are hit, if they go down, crashing into the grandfather clock, shards of glass digging into their skull...get dirty with those deets!

Especially in that opening sequence, man.  This is the opening of your script!  This is where you demonstrate how bad ass of a writer you are!  It's also the one spot where the general reader will give you a little leeway to play around.  You don't have to launch the story, but the action has to be some of the coolest, most well-described action out there, if you want to get our attention.  

Because your story, well, it is not the most original in the bag.  But heh, I wouldn't worry because in your genre - action - the story of MOST action films isn't what sells it.  As we all know, we come for the ass kicking and we stay for the ass kicking.  

With that in mind, my biggest advice is to READ action screenplays.  Right now.  Three scripts a week.  Go read what right now and come back and finish this review.  (I'm serious - when you're done, email what you learned from that script to - and THEN keep reading.)  

Because if we were going to create the plans to build a house, we wouldn't just look at completed houses and think we knew how they were constructed, would we?  Heck no!  We'd examine blueprints, build models, study everything that architects do to design the thing...after all, in a way, we're writing a blueprint.  (I know it's not a perfect analogy, but hey, it works in a way.) 

For example, have you read THE MATRIX?  Some of the best action description is in that script.  Quentin Tarantino's scripts are fun, and you can probably borrow a few structural tricks from him, but be careful with the writer-directors - they often play by their own rules.

So read, read, read, and then work on your writing.  I highly recommend BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, ON WRITING by Stephen King, and ON WRITING WELL by William Zinsser.  They're not for screenwriting specifically, but they're on the craft of writing in general, which is technically, half of screenwriting...and I'd argue, more like 75%.

Well, that's it for comments.  The notes should be posted by Bob either before or after this review...

Hope the notes on the script help.  Those are they type of detailed, page-by-page notes I write for my clients who order my Ultimate Service.  You'll see that I gave a lot of alternative ways to write certain lines.  I know you didn't order the notes, so perhaps you weren't expecting them - I hope you don't feel as if I'm stepping on your toes. To me, a note of "this is wrong" isn't that helpful - I like to have some examples of potentially better ways to write it.

I hope the notes at least give you a concrete starting point on the areas that need the most attention, and fast ways to improve your writing.  Again, your passion really flows out of this script, and so I don't doubt that you have the potential to create something great in the future.  If I had read this script for an agent, I would have told them, "Let's wait and see where this writer is in 6 months," which, believe me, is a helluva lot better than a "No thanks."  

So keep on writing and kicking ass, man.  And please contact me with any questions over these notes, your script, or anything else.


If other screenwriters out there found this analysis intriguing, and wonder how your script would stack up, just check out  On the site you'll find write post after post dispensing free screenwriting advice, and screenwriting services for every type of writer.  

If you're a screenwriter out there whose work I don't ever get the pleasure of reading, I hope you take advantage of fun screenwriting events like "Feedback Friday," and for goodness sakes, don't ever stop writing and creating.

Seriously.  And...




  1. I didn't mention this in my notes, but if you're writing action, John August also has a great tutorial on his site:

    Hope that helps!

  2. i don't understand why the writer doesn't chime in? Anyway, the pages read pretty good, nice pace. The problem I have, and it seems the person who read it was how it was framed. To us this is just an action scene, and it's basically ten pages.

    While it is important to reveal character through discourse and action, this over did it. There's a tricky balance between starting with a big action sequence and revealing character before you show us the action.

    In this particular case it's a scene we'd see later in the script and a lot of it would read better by default because we know the character.


  3. How do you edit? I need an edit button for sure. me without an edit button is a tricky proposition, sometimes it's hard to decipher what I said. i guess that goes without saying... anyway... another thought i had was the very last page i though were notes from eric, but it turned out to be more of your pages.

    Think of a script as a first date. i want to know my character before he starts blowing up and killing random GUY #2., insert foreplay metaphor for the first date.

    Anyway, this was just so impersonal.


  4. Hello Corey,

    Well done on getting onto Feedback Friday. Here are the notes I wrote:

    p.1 No introduction to him, so why should we care about Sykes?

    p.1 "Mines explode. Men evaporate. The men relentlessly advance." - Well, these guys are idiots then; simply computer game targets waiting to be mowed down; why fear or respect them?

    p.2 Sykes: "What are you f**k-holes up to?" - Nobody serious talks like this.

    p.2 "Sykes kills five men before he empties the clip" - The normal clip size for an AK47 is about 30, so that means six bullets for each man. Cartoonish.

    p.4 Man in Shadow (to his men): "Find the others..." - How? Are they also in the building? Make it visual, have him gesture at a computer or a pile of documents.

    p.4 Alex is... "intelligent, fast-talking, sarcastic but lovable" - How do we know this? We certainly don't see much evidence in these ten pages. Show, don't tell.

    The dialogue in the dinner scene feels too obvious and too generic. It is also too obviously exposition. What do killers talk about at dinner? Surprise us.

    p.9 So Alex retired from being an assassin because an innocent was killed during one of his hits? An over-used and tiresome cliché.

    Overall, I thought the writing was good, with crisp action slugs and a noticeable lack of mistakes. But the story feels very clichéd, the characters aren't very compelling and, most importantly considering the genre, the action felt generic. Video game baddies, shadowy villains, back-and-forth gun battles, kung fu and snipers are all de rigeur. Where is the innovation, the humour (a single cheesy one liner doesn't count) and the thrill of it all? I'd suggest you watch DESPERADO in order to observe how clever the action scenes are, how unique the protagonist is and how much fun it is.

    Good luck!

  5. desperado was great.

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  7. Sorry for not responding sooner guys, I totally missed the feature on the site! Obviously, I am a newbie to the Feedback Friday site... My bad.

    I very much appreciate the advice/notes I received and have already made changes. A NOTE: I changed the beginning of the screenplay to start with the dream sequence. This will visually introduce you to most of the characters in the entire screenplay, (Except for the two main characters ALEX and XURI, aka "man in shadow," who will be revealed soon after. I also altered my character descriptions (Thank you Eric, for the specific examples) and overall feel that the 1st ten pages are much better. Generally, as the 1st ten relate to the entire screenplay, I would say that the interconnections continue to develop and are fully expressed throughout the screenplay. The "cliches" that appear to be present fall away as the undercurrent of love and betrayal unfold.

  8. Hey GYAD, I'll try to respond to a few specifics. I changed the order, so you will see Sykes in the dream sequence (he will appear later as well). I altered the mine wording, it's really more like one or two to be specific. Sykes is an all american redneck and survivalist, he would definitely talk like that (I am from a small logging town of 2,500 people in Oregon, I have experience). He doesn't hit a man with each shot in the fire fight, so 1 kill per 6 shots isn't bad for a guy who just woke up. I adjusted my character descriptions, it took me a while to completely iron out my personal understanding of how to properly write them. The dinner scene is 3 former killers and 2 neighbors that know nothing of the others past, so it is difficult to be too specific. You find out that Alex had recently decided to leave the love of his life at the alter weeks before the girl gets killed (Leaving HER devastated him, but he did it to protect her) and he decides to "walk away" from it all. Of course, leaving her and the job creates additional problems for him later in the screenplay.I would agree that the initial action is less than unique, but it progresses throughout, leading to full on Kung Fu fights (Think a darker version of Jackie Chan action) by the climax.


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