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 Bob took a look at the 1st 10 pages of Erik Wolter's RIGHTEOUS KILLER
Review of “Righteous Killer”
Reviewed by Bob Schultz
(Screenplay / Thriller First 10 Pages)
Original Logline: When a deranged high school janitor goes on a rampage at Saturday morning detention, an unlikely pair of survivors must stop him.
Hi Erik. Thank you for the opportunity to read the first ten pages of RIGHTEOUS KILL. I fear that it has some issues that need to be addressed. I don’t know how many rewrites you have gone through on this one, but I think it would really benefit from at least one more, perhaps two or three.
For starters, I recognize in your first ten pages one of my own personal issues when writing: Over-writing. The old maxim about starting every scene as late as possible and ending it as early as possible holds true on a more macro scale (enter your script as late as possible, finish it as early as possible), and on a more micro level. Every paragraph and line of dialogue ought to be tight, tight, tight.
The real meat of “Righteous Kill” hasn’t started yet in the first ten. Let’s see how we can tighten this up.
I think pages one and two can be cut entirely. It seems like it has become easy screenwriting shorthand to get backstory introduced through a news report. It feels a little lazy, and all of these details can easily be introduced later in the story in more subtle ways. Likewise the prison rape on page two. It’s gruesome and unnecessary. After all, everybody knows what goes on in prison. Presumably, Charles will play a critical role later in the story. He can exhibit PTSD and the haunted look of a tortured soul, and it can be revealed he hasn’t been the same since prison. The audience will connect the dots.
If we’re going to allude to his history later, the scene with Robert Hart and the Atari 2600 can be cut too.
The mystery surrounding Shadow will make the movie better. His motivations and backstory don’t need to be clear to the audience at first, as long as they are clear to Shadow, and to you, as you write him.
Having avoided the cliché of the newscast and shrouded Shadow in mystery (can one shroud a shadow?) The introduction of the detention students is right up front. If this is going to be a classic thriller (or horror), these changes bring your victims right up front, ready to earn some empathy from the crowd.
I think they benefit from some reworking as well. It seems that we are meant to see them in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. The good news is that each character is introduced quickly and easily, rat-a-tat-tat. At first, anyway, each seems to be a bit of a stereotype. Presuming you are intending to add layers and gray areas as the movie goes on, this is a fine start.
The only other concern I would raise, Erik, is that school shootings are such a hot-button issue that it might be difficult to put the thrill in this thriller. That “roller-coaster” joy that comes from watching a thriller or horror stems from the audience’s ability to experience the danger without actually being threatened. I fear that a school shooting hits a little close to home for all of us. Is the movie going to be “Final Destination” or “Elephant?” I think it’s important you decide and commit. As it stands now, the script starts with realistic torture and horror, then moves into lighthearted jocularity in the detention.
I hope my comments haven’t discouraged you, Erik. Rest assured, these problems are all easily fixed through rewriting, with an eye toward keeping the story tight and the characters interesting.
Thanks again for the opportunity to read it, and keep on writing!
TAKE ANOTHER PASS. Or two. I think you’re on to something here. Your logline is a solid foundation. We just don’t have a house yet.