Friday, December 14, 2012


When a deranged high school janitor goes on a rampage at Saturday morning detention, an unlikely pair of survivors must stop him.

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.


  1. You're doing a great job hear robert, build it they will come.

  2. First, lets start the script out with action. The v.o. is a huge data dump. i love voiceovers, in mho they can add a personal feeling to the script that twenty pages might not be able to accomplish. with that said i'd start the movie out with action. Just show us something cool, possible the death in the jail cell.

    I think a closed quarter killing of a jail mate is a real visceral scene and can frame your character right off the bat. It's just real clunky right now, robert said take another pass, sure, do that, but you're still trying to learn the craft here, so while i would go back for another pass i'd finish the script first, then go back.

    Is the script finished?

  3. here's just some thoughts, for me this is a screamesque movie, small budget, creepy the log line suggests that. so, how about starting the script out with an establishing shot of the school, basically your set piece then go into your janitor, maybe he's lost amongst hundreds of rich kids in this school. Instead of literally telling us through talking heads, show us.

    How do people react to him? Is he working and people bump into him. is he an afterthought. is he isolated? does he interact with the students? right now you have one of the basketball players just walk by him, a kind of foreshadowing obviously, but since we haven't seen him yet, he means nothing to us.

    Frame him for us so in our minds eye we are paying attention to the subtext you're tying to show us. Pretty much the first ten here is talking heads, the first ten is about our introduction, you don't need to tell us stuff, show us. is this a gritty 'silence of lambs type movie' or is it a teen horror? Really have to set the tone of the movie from the beginning.

    Maybe the boys have already finished the game and the janitor is hanging around after the game and you can SHOW us how he's treated, because in reality the students should already have a backstory with him.

    Is he a voyeur? Do you want us not to think he's bad from the beginning so you give him an endearing quality at first, then show us in the unraveling that what we first thought was an endearing quality is part of his psychosis. like, he knows where a purse is, because he's the one stealing them so he can go through the stuff. But at first we think it's something good.

    Could you give some detail on the tone, horror, thriller, if it's written?


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