Friday, October 4, 2013

TRUE CRIME (Pilot) by Brandon Marshall

Two brothers working as guns for hire amidst the brutal drug trade of San Arbor begin to attract corrupt police, power-hungry city officials and the volatile drug cartel that runs it.

If you'd like your feature length spec or pilot posted send a logline and publicly shared dropbox link to Specpimp at gmail dot com.

Good luck with your writing,

Friday, September 27, 2013

INFAMOUS (Pilot) by Phil Brody

Read the Teaser and 1st Act of Phil Brody's limited event series pilot ...


Fame becomes a double-edge sword for two aspiring actresses hell-bent on avenging the cold-blooded murder of their friend.

If you'd like your feature length spec or pilot posted (in whole or in part) send it to:

specpimp at gmail dot com

Friday, September 6, 2013

UNDEATH by Nick Morris

After being murdered to advance the development of an exclusive golf resort, a mountain man is offered resurrection as an undead killing-machine to take revenge. But vengeance is only the beginning.


Sunday, September 1, 2013


How It Works

Send your feature length screenplay or pilot script (along with a logline and title) to specpimp at gmail dot com. I'll post one every week for readers to comment on.

Good luck with your writing,

Friday, July 12, 2013

Case #3756 by Lanny Helton

Sorry we have been quiet in the past week! Thank you for checking out this week's Feedback Friday review. This week, Lanny Helton shares the first 10 pages of his screenplay Case #3756.

Case #3756
by Lanny Helton. 

Reviewed by Erman Baradi

Genre: Psychological Thriller

An unlikely pair of seasoned cops are caught in a serial killer’s diabolical scheme to humiliate their department and kidnap the object of his affection.


Thank you for submitting your screenplay for review. It is not very often I get a chance to read a psychological thriller so it was a breath of fresh air to get one. Sometimes they can get a little convoluted and confusing, but the first 10 pages of Case was definitely an enjoyable read.  

Remember to throw in a cover page so that we remember who the reader is and what we are reading! Looking at your logline, what catches my attention is that the two leads are “unlikely” partners, meaning that even though they share a common goal (catching a serial killer) we can expect their personalities to clash, increasing the drama that can cost the entire department. Also, the antagonist has two different problems for the police? Which one will the department care more about: their reputation or the damsel in distress?

I like how we are immediately introduced to the villain in the first scene after painting the seediness of the story’s setting. The character himself has this Patrick Bateman-esque quality to him in that he comes across as a normal guy before surprising us with a few quirks that make us suspicious. He seems like an everyman at first, which is more effective in this instance than a masked lunatic who hides in the shadows. He is out in the open and among us. Here, he has a rendezvous with a prostitute at a motel, which is nothing out of the ordinary until the camera comes into play. He’s not there for sex, instead recording their conversation. Things get odd here and we know things won’t end well for the prostitute! You provide the killer with a sense of voyeurism, relevant to today’s obsession with iPhones, Vine videos, web chats, and this can definitely work in evoking paranoia amongst the audience. The dialogue between the killer, Billy, and the clueless prostitute is pitch perfect as we are sensing a danger that the victim does not, and the payoff is a sudden, violent rage that is contradicted by Billy’s cool manner after the murder. He is the perfect murderer! I suggest extending the dialogue a bit more so we get insight into the way Billy functions –his mannerisms, quips, and especially what makes him reach his breaking point to finally go in for the kill. 

By the way, I noticed this in Billy’s character introduction as well as for the other characters. To really sell a role to an actor you can have witty descriptions in a sentence or less. For example, instead of just mentioning Billy’s name and age you can name drop a memorable pop culture icon such as Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, some type of reference to go by.

We are then introduced to one of the cops who cannot sleep, troubled by a case similar to the opening scene. He watches a VHS tape in which a killer captures a murder on tape. This is apparently now a theme for the story and I would like to see how it is handled in terms of paralleling the modern technology-driven world. We capture moments big and small and immediately share them to the world. In some cases we are anonymous. By the way, I didn’t quite catch this but is the story set in the 90’s or in the present? I noticed the tape watched by Officer Johnson in this scene was filmed in 1991, but I wasn’t sure if he was watching an old case. And maybe the killer himself is an old school VHS aficionado? 

The next few pages introduce more characters. We have Special Agent Corbet (Andrea), the other half of the unlikely duo. It’s always refreshing to see co-ed cop duos. As Officer Johnson (Kevin) is thrown into this partnership, we immediately get that Andrea is a strong-willed woman who is probably married to her job and wears the pants in the partnership. In the way we met Officer Johnson (Kevin), I would like to see Andrea with more depth. We had a glimpse into Kevin’s troubled personal life, and here it feels like Andrea simply shows up on screen. My favorite movie characters are the ones you think you know in the first few seconds. Think Lethal Weapon when we are introduced to Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs. He is drinking, holding a gun while looking at a picture of his (presumably) dead wife. He says nothing in the entire scene but the expression on his recognizably depressed face paints his backstory for us. So far, Andrea is just a hot agent with a rack…and apparently she has a mouth on her. Still, I look forward to seeing how the new partners interact. Maybe teaming up will affect their egos, especially the older and seemingly burned out Kevin? We also meet Wendy who is trying to find her big break in the newsroom. Hmm, could she be the possible object of Billy’s affection?

I like how we see Billy trying to get an upgrade on his camera. He is insistent on having a good quality camera, which I find to be a nice little quirk for a maniac! Showing him interacting with society has that Ariel Castro effect. The killer can be anyone. 

Lanny, I enjoyed the first 10 pages of your script. Page 11 has evident formatting errors that can easily be fixed, but I’m sure you tossed it in there in order for the reader to understand the plot point in which Kevin’s old partner is reassigned. Depending on how the whole voyeurism angle is played, I believe you have a serial killer significant to the times. I hope to read more!

If anyone is interested in reading the first ten pages of Case #3756, please email me at!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Comic Book Heroes by Matthew Arnold Stern

Thank you for checking out this week's Feedback Friday review. This week, Matthew Arnold Stern shares the first 10 pages of his screenplay Comic Book Heroes.

Comic Book Heroes by Matthew Arnold Stern. 

Reviewed by Erman Baradi

Genre: Comedy

Logline: Four college roommates search for a famous comic book author who disappeared. 


It was a pleasure reading the first ten pages of your screenplay. Heroes was a fun read and I definitely would love to see where you go with this. 

Let's start off with your logline. Several ways I can think of to make it stronger and pack more of a punch is:

1. Spice it by letting us know what is at stake for the roommates. What's in it for them? We want to know how we can connect with our protagonists. Do they have a connection with the author?

2. Is there a time constraint? How long do they have to find him? Limiting the heroes' time to find the author would up the ante in terms of consequence. What happens if they don't find the author?

3. Are they overcoming other obstacles (personal, physical, emotional) amidst their search that would hinder their goal?

4. Maybe add an adjective to describe the roommates to let us know what the genre is (ie. Are they "inept" or "senseless?"). Heck, maybe they are fanboys and stoners.

Your first page has me hooked as we dive right into pages of the aforementioned comic. The story within the story is action-packed and makes me want to know more about the comic book. Nice visual aspect in the first scene with the flipping of the comic book pages to produce an animated feel. Here, female protagonist Amy narrates a script she is writing based on the roommates' favorite comic book. I like the surprise here where one of the roommates' interrupts the narration, bringing us into the real world and introducing us to the characters, whereby he expresses his disappointment in Amy's straying from the source material/canon. Maybe a little wink to Hollywood? It made me laugh a bit. There are a few notes here though. In Amy's character description I personally would hold back from describing her as a "21-year-old English major at Fullerton" when all we hear is her voice at the beginning. Perhaps wait to describe her until the narration ends and we finally see her physically. Even then, her choice in major and college is not something we can acknowledge visually. The dialogue a few pages in does, however, help explain that for you. Also, in the narration since Amy is a V.O., I would indicate the character she is voicing by writing AMY/HEROINE or AMY/VILLAIN. Visually, on the script, it would help the reader understand quicker who she is voicing rather than having to read back the action above.

I like the interplay between the four roommates a lot! Total geekdom, passionate about the material. They all have a role in the following week's "ThrillerCon," for which they are trying to complete the story, their costumes, etc. (They are submitting script to fan fiction contest at the convention) Their individual needs and voices are distinct here. 

Page 4 has talking heads. I suggest breaking the dialogue up with small action here and there for the characters. Also, I begin to understand the double entendre in the title. Clever!

I commend you so far on the writing of the character. It is a realistic portrayal of college students from their wardrobes to their habits, from their frustrations to their goals (the superficial and the career-oriented), and from their distresses to their vices. I believe the demographic can really relate to the characters, especially comic book nerds! Personally, I would spread out divulging into Trent's issues. That way it feels like we are growing with him and are on a journey. Letting us know it all in one scene of dialogue feels like it's more explanation than dialogue. Otherwise, the touches with him becoming what his father wants him to be has been seen many times before but is still reality-based. He, like many college students, are at an identity crisis I look forward to exploring as the story progresses. 

Page 10 ends on the introduction of a new character who seems extremely important to the story, and will potentially thrust them into their journey. Good place to introduce her. I am wanting to get to page 11 now!

Thank you for throwing in pop culture references! It feels like a must in this type of story, and you write them in naturally rather than forced, especially during discussions of the movie version of the comic book. 

Kudos for an entertaining read. The characters have appeal and the world you have structured is tailor-made for those who enjoy The Big Bang Theory or Comic Book Men. Maybe there are action sequences in the vein of Kick Ass? We shall see!

Keep writing! I'm intrigued.

If anyone is interested in reading the first ten pages of Comic Book Heroes, please email me at!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Open House

Hi folks, no review today but we should be back with one next week. If you'd like your pages considered please email me (Rob) at dillonscreenwriting at gmail dot com.

If you'd like to post your own pages this week feel free to do so by adding a link to them in the comments. Good luck with your writing!

Friday, May 31, 2013


Hi folks, no review today but I'm excited to share the 1st 10 pages of Sly Ada's IN THE YEARS OF SONDER. 

A sci-fi actioner set in 2045, the story follows two idealistic, advanced humans whose lives get turned upside down when a research doctor hunts them for experimentation.

If you'd like feedback on your 1st 10 pages email me (Rob) at: dillonscreenwriting at gmail dot com.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

UNION by Joshua Lee Andrew Jones

Thank you all for checking in on this week's edition of Feedback Friday. Joshua Lee Andrew Jones shares his futuristic science-fiction inspired by Odyssey and Blade Runner. 

Union by Joshua Lee Andrew Jones

Reviewed by Erman Baradi

Genre: Science-Fiction

Original Logline: The ruling Excelsis, scientifically engineered humans, call upon a natural man with extraordinary talent to help quell an android rebellion on Mars in exchange for permission to marry so he goes on a special operation that cripples the insurrection only to return home to greater challenges as the Excelsis do not live up to their end of the bargain and he happens to foster a special Martian refugee who might be the next step in human evolution. 


I notice right off the bat that you're title page is blank. Make sure not to forget all that vital info next time. Script readers will be thrown if they aren't sure what they are reading and by whom from the get go. Also, your logline reads a little long. I think you can actually cut it in half and leave it as:

The ruling Excelsis, scientifically engineered humans, call upon a natural man with extraordinary talent to help quell an android rebellion on Mars in exchange for permission to marry...

This alone, we get who the protagonist is and what makes him unique enough to be called upon; who is enemies are (androids); and what he is trying to achieve. Notably, it is good to point out that we are dealing with opposing entities (natural humans interacting with scientifically enhanced beings). I personally would mention who the protagonist intends to marry so that we are emotionally involved in the subsequent romance. By doing so, we are also interested in finding out WHY he needs permission to wed. 

Your first ten pages were a brisk, descriptive read that drew me into the story but could use quite a few tweaks. 

With this being a sci-fi set in the future you have done well with creating this universe for the audience. Kudos! You introduced technology common in similar sci-fi films set in the far future such as service robots, laser map grids, etc. Additionally, none of them are written in to be flashy. These cool gadgets so far all have a purpose in this world. I do suggest, however, describing the climate. Very rare do these films have clear skies. I would like to know how the rule of androids have affected the environment. Do they treat the Mother Earth worse or better than humans? Is it generally polluted and smoggy? Furthermore, I know the physical attributes of these characters but what are they wearing? What styles set apart each level of the hierarchy? I hope they don't wear the cliched silver one-piece suits!

You are very deliberate with the way each character acts, responds, and interacts with others. Protagonist Syd is going through a lot of inner turmoil over his circumstances of being low on the hierarchy, whereas scientifically-altered Zelda plays his calmer half and voice of reason. I also loved how the kickass 30-something mother and her catatonic, almost son Bodhi are written in the intense opening scene. I would like to see what role they play in the bigger scheme of things. Bodhi returns on page 10, captured by who appears to be the main antagonist. Safe to see, he is likely the child Syd has to rescue in order to save humanity. Each character so far plays his or her specific role with their distinctive emotional depths. 

One of the things I noticed in your writing is the abundant use of similes. Granted, with the story set in the future it is natural to help us relate to these gadgets and new environments through the use of similes, yet sometimes it can feel repetitive. Rather than use "like" a lot, find a way to creatively switch it up every now and then. 

Despite the intriguing premise, there are grammatical errors that can slow it down. Pay particular attention to minor spelling errors and subject-verb agreements. Examples include:

Page 1 - "A service ROBOT CLEANS" rather than "A service robots clean"
Page 3 -"ITS limits onward" rather than "it's limits onward"
Page 4- "A silvery eye" rather than "an silvery eye"
Page 4: "If Norse god Odin WERE a woman" rather than "If Norse god Odin where a woman"
Page 4: "computer monitor that DISPLAYS" rather than "computer monitor that display"
Page 4: Zelda's line "but with those test results OTHERS will have" rather than "other's"
Page 5: "His EYES narrow in disbelief" rather than "His eye narrow in disbelief"
Page 6: "ITS turbo prop fans" rather than "it's turbo prop fans"
Page 7: "Whoa" rather than "woah" 
Page 9: Zelda's line "That's what MOTHERS do" rather than "That's what mother's do" 
Page 10: "Next to AN alcove" rather than "next to and alcove"

During your rewrite be mindful of these errors as agents and managers will take note of these habits. 

I suggest working exposition into the dialogue without uncovering too much at once. The scene on page 5 when Zelda points out Syd is a "neutral" and the downside of being one in this world, it plays well because Zelda is putting him in his place. However, other times it seems like explaining too much to the audience. Once again, it is difficult in this genre to show rather tell but it is possible. 

On Page 9, the supporting character states the theme of the story: "You don't need to trust technology, only yourself." With that being said, I sense the inevitable showdown between human and robot. Juicy! Perfect timing as the very next scene you introduce the main villains, Android Alpha and Janus. They have strapped up 10-year-old Bodhi. They seem like the perfectly twisted villains by the end of page 10. As stated in your logline we know that Syd's relationship will be at stake. Zelda's mentions his girlfriend Penelope but I wish we are introduced to her earlier on so we have a connection to the love story. 

In an essence, we have a futuristic story where one must save a very important child to save humanity. It is familiar yet I an interested in seeing how this will differ from others. Also, I like the concept of the hero battling BOTH androids and humans. Like in "The Walking Dead," the stakes are raised when the heroes are up against two forces - one of them being their own kind! I do wonder, though, who created the androids and how they rose to power. Hopefully, these questions are answered further into the screenplay. 

Overall, you have an enjoyable first ten pages and I am captivated by the world you have created. The title makes me wonder if the "union" describes the marriage Syd seeks, a revolution against the androids, or a possible relationship between man and robot. Intaeresting title. By the way, you definitely have guts for writing this type of film. They can definitely be hit and miss. When I, Robot was released nine years ago it grossed almost $350 million, yet last year's Total Recall remake only grossed $58 million domestically. There is definitely a market for your screenplay. Fix up the grammatical errors, spice up the dialogue, and flesh out the characters' identities some more and I would be glad to read an updated script!


I would love to read the rewrite!


-Erman Baradi-

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

RECIPROCITY by Michael Gorrie

Reviewed by Jim Newman
(posted May 14, 2013)
(Screenplay | Action, First 10 Pages)

“From what I’ve read, this reminds me of
Gone in Sixty Seconds coupled with Ocean’s Eleven. Clean writing, fast read, but some components fall short – but nothing that can’t be fixed with a second draft.”
Let’s kickoff with the logline:
Original Logline: A bank thief has a debt placed on him after trying to help his friend with a Chicago loan shark. He's forced to pull jobs to repay the debt, but when his sister dies and his nephew moves in, he has to decide which direction his life is headed.
Let’s identify the recommended elements of an effective logline:
  • The logline hits these chords:
    • Protagonist – Bank thief
    • Goal/Mission – Choose between repaying a debt to loan shark or care of his nephew
    • Antagonist – Organized crime boss
    • Irony – A bank thief is conflicted between saving his friend and caring for his nephew
  • The logline lacks the following essential elements:
    • Time – How long does he have to repay the debt?
    • Structure – More than one sentence – will need to cut without sacrificing the other elements
  1. A bank thief has three days to choose between pulling a heist to save himself and his friend from a Chicago crime syndicate or retire to care for his orphaned nephew while in hiding.

Vince cuts up some cocaine, adding some baking soda to skimp on the weight, while David looks on. They pack it up and take it out for delivery to the loan shark. David comes packing heat while Vince works with the shark to clear up a debt with the shark’s enforcer watching over the exchange. After some disingenuous pleasantries, an ambush occurs where the cocaine is stolen. Vince is still responsible for paying the shark back for the money he borrowed to purchase the coke, but with the product gone there’s no other source of cash. After some colorful torture, David agrees to take on the debt after paying a small percentage of the amount owed. Now Vince and David own the debt.

They take off for the hospital so Vince could get some much needed medical treatment after his little run in with the boss and enforcer. David goes off in the opposite direction to visit his sick sister, who’s choosing to stop treatment and accept death where she reveals that her son (David’s nephew) will need a man in his life … and David is the only man she trusts with her son.

Bullet Pointed Feedback:
What I Like:
* Writing is clean, which gives the reader (me in this case) a fast paced read through the scenes.

* Format/structure is aligned with the standards. Plenty of white space – always a plus!

* Yanking out the fingernails gave me a chill down my back. Loved the idea, you psycho. haha

* The dilemma of taking on the debt to save his friend (putting himself out on a limb), but now he must choose: repay the debt or keep himself and his nephew out of harm’s way.
What Needs Work:
* Without having read the logline, I was a bit lost:
> What the story’s backdrop? Wasn’t sure what brought the characters together until much later.
> Who was the main character (Vince or David – not until page 10 do we learn it’s David)?
> Why we should care about the characters?

* The money owed to the Chicago loan shark seems to be small dollars and an easy fix for a bank thief. Make it a challenge and put it in the hundreds of thousands.

* A loan shark appears to be a low level stooge. Make him more authoritative like a
crime boss or top dog of the local drug trade.

* Although dialogue is on point, it felt a bit forced at times … unnatural. Maybe it was just how I was reading it and misinterpreted the tone.

* Give a bit more description of the scene’s location. What do we see around us?


None noted.
Rating: Take Another Pass

Thank you for sharing your work with us! Feel free to send me your rewrite for additional feedback and a review of your outline, if available.

Friday, May 3, 2013


No review today, but you're welcome to post loglines and links to your work in the comments (as many pages as you like.) Maybe some folks will be nice enough to drop in and share their thoughts.

Good luck with your writing,

Friday, April 26, 2013

Belligerency by Tony de Freitas

Hello, everyone!

Thank you for checking out this week's edition of Feedback Friday. This week we will be reviewing
Belligerency by Tony de Freitas, who bravely submitted a script and had it reviewed here not too long ago. Love the persistence, Tony!

Belligerency by Tony de Freitas

Genre: Fantasy/Horror/Drama

Logline: After a vampire is awakened, she give birth to twin hybrids who avenges the death of their werewolf father.


It is a pleasure getting connected with you. As I mentioned earlier, you had another script reviewed in March. Feedback can be a scary thing but kudos for staying committed to your craft!

I will say, though, that there are a number of concerns similar to the review for MEET THE MURPHYS. Please make sure to revise your script for grammatical and spelling errors. Mind you, readers go through piles of scripts. One's interest can easily be killed on the first page if too many errors get in the way of the story. Friendly advice: Take a look at how you wrote the title on the title page ;) Also, note that your logline needs cleaning up. Be mindful of the subject and verb agreements. It should read: After a vampire is awakened, she GIVES birth to twin hybrids who AVENGE the death of their werewolf father. Additionally, I would replace "death" with "murder" as it would deliver more of a vengeful tone.

Based on your premise the story can possibly work in modern cinema. Sure, the "Twilight" saga is over but werewolves and vampires are still in with a show like "Being Human" on air, the "Underworld" franchise alive in theaters, and the upcoming "Byzantium" release in the US. 

The first character we are introduced to in the script is Evelyn, who appears to be the mother vampire. Please revise your character description for her as it reads like one big run-on sentence. Conan's character description on the first page reads better as "a werewolf in his mid 30's" rather than "mid-30's a werewolf..." There is a moment between the two when you write in the action that he "embrasses" her (also please check that spelling). Rather than tell us, SHOW us. As a matter of fact, the two are alone, so rather than embarrassing her it feels more like he is being playful with his woman. He is teasing her in a charming way, which I like. You establish him as a brave, charismatic, and loving warrior who is ready to find for his love...but then it happens. Conan is killed in an attack by Evelyn's brothers without an ounce of fight. It happens all too quickly. We want to care about the twins succeeding on their journey for revenge, right? So draw his death scene out. Have him swinging to the bitter end, battered, bloodied, and not ready to bow down to anyone. Perhaps have him stare into Evelyn's eyes as he bites the dust. Afterwards, we have talking heads between Evelyn and her murderous vampire brothers Paul and Nicholas. Here, I suggest rewriting the dialogue. Even though we are placed in the 1700's the overabundance of phrases like "my dear little sister" and "dear brother" can get hammy. Also, everything is "on the nose." The characters here are basically telling us the entire backstory. Remember that we want to watch a film, not be read a story. 

By page 5, Evelyn awakens from her 200-year sleep somewhere in the mountains in the late 1990's. A climber finds the tomb way too soon. Don't rush this scene. Play it out longer. Feed our imagination. Draw us in by describing the scenery for us. Film is a visual medium. At the beginning it is vital to establish this world. I noticed the first ten pages have an uneven pacing, which makes it difficult to believe or visualize the world you set us in. Characters react and do things on the fly. Let us understand their decision-making. Take for instance the moment at the barn when the humans find a pregnant Evelyn and deliver her baby. Grace, a human, realizes Evelyn is a vampire and completely just accepts it. She lets Evelyn stay with her and her son, John, and, through a series of quick shots to end the first ten pages, we see the humans help raise the twins into their teenage years. Help us get into the minds of these characters. They should never do something just because. 

So far, the screenplay feels more like a novel. Let's look at a sample from page 5 when Evelyn awakens:

"She still feels weak because she hasn't feed in ages. She lurches into the light of day, struggles to open her eyes because of the brightness of the sun.

She caresses her left side of her chest. We see a TATTOO sketch of a sun (it protects her from sunlight). She then caresses her stomach."

As I said earlier, I do believe this can become a marketable project. I recommend heavily revising the content in addition to checking your grammatical and spelling errors. Perhaps sit down with a group of friends and read the script out loud. Does the pacing feel rushed? Do you believe the actions of your characters? I hope this helps!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Chernyy Pearl by Kathleen Wentworth

Chernyy Pearl
by Kathleen Wentworth
Reviewed by Cameron Cubbison

Logline: Based on a true story about the precociously gifted ballerina and Hollywood star of the 40’s, Tamara Toumanova who seeks family and finds secrets she must divulge.

If you would like to read the first ten pages of the script, click here.

Hi Crystal, thanks for sharing your work with us! It's really helpful for writers and readers alike to be able to examine new scripts and new voices and start a conversation.

First, let's start with your logline. Loglines are tremendously important...and tremendously hard to get right. What you need to communicate in one short sentence is your script's premise, the genre, the protagonist and the protagonist's key driving goal.

Your logline tells us that the script is based on a true story and features a famous figure, so we obviously know we'll be reading a biopic...but what kind? Is this a charming slice of life or a wrenching drama? You want to tell readers as specifically as possible what kind of narrative your script offers, so that they'll be in the right mindset when they start reading. If they're expecing a drama and you present a comedy...or vice versa...already they're going to be subconsciously prejudiced against the script, and you don't want that.

The logline tells us who the protagonist is but is very vague about what her quest is, stating only that she "seeks family and finds secrets she must divulge." That sentence doesn't provide any real idea of what the script will actually be about and doesn't convey any emotional urgency. You want to tantalize readers with something juicy and make it impossible for them to not want to read the script. If you can get specific about why Tamara is seeking family and what secrets she might have to divulge, you'll be on the right track.

As for the script, it's great that you open with Tamara doing ballet moves, because that image encapsulates the core of who she is as a character: she was born to dance. How old is she when we first see her though? Always be as specific as possible. Is she a child just starting out or is she well into her adult career? 

The nonlinear transition to Tamara's mother Eugenia fleeing the Bolsheviks in 1919 Russia (while pregnant with Tamara) feels jarring because there is no clear impetus for it, and it's not initially clear who Eugenia is and what her relationship is to Tamara. Because both characters appear right on top of each other and without context, an audience may be wondering who the protagonist actually will be. One idea to fix this would be to have Eugenia watching Tamara dance in the opening with maternal pride on her face, and then show her face erupt in pain as she remembers how traumatic giving birth to Tamara was. In other words, if you can provide a trigger for the flashback that works on a visual and narrative level, the transition will feel more seamless.

You do a great job of detailing Eugenia's escape in crisp, visual economy, but I would encourage you to tell that sequence via old-fashioned prose action paragraphs, rather than as a series of shots. Because it's your first page, you want to immerse the reader in organic story as opposed to visual shorthand.

Also, on the subject of format, you want to try to keep your action paragraphs to five lines or less; this is the unofficial standard that most studio readers want to see upheld. Having two short paragraphs is better than having one long one, because it makes the script appear leaner and more fluid.

Though I found your pages engaging, my overall impression was that they were a little busy and overambitious. You introduce more than six speaking parts and jump back and forth between 1919 Russia, 1923 Shanghai, 1928 Paris and 1932 Paris. We see Tamara at different ages before ever really getting to know her. It's all a little disorienting. When you're dealing with a famous figure and have so many storied biographical events to work from, it can be tempting to try to pack all of it in.

But remember, the fact that you're telling a true story is ultimately irrelevant. You have to tell a fictionalized story that feels unified and focused and emotionally engaging, regardless of the facts. Your priority number one in your first ten pages is to make us care about Tamara (and, presumably her mother) and to convey what her dramatic need is...the thing that she wants the most.

In your first ten pages, you have enough material for ten sets of first ten pages. Eugenia escaping the Bolsheviks and giving birth to Tamara is worthy of ten pages, and Tamara first being exposed to dance via Anna Pavlova is enough for ten pages. I would suggest focusing on either (or perhaps both) of those events and saving the other material (Tamara meeting Olga and being discovered by George Balanchine and Vlad dying) for later in the script. Give an audience more time to get to know Tamara at one age, in the here and now, rather than jumping back and forth so many times.

You have an engaging writing style, a clear passion for the material, and plenty of great narrative events to draw from. Now it's time to streamline your initial approach and set up the story with simplicity and focus.

Nice work!
Rating: Take Another Pass.    

Monday, April 15, 2013


I feel strange making a screenwriting post in light of today's tragic events, but Dan has been waiting patiently since Friday and Jim put a lot of work into this review -- so here it is.

You can read Dan's 1st 4 pages on his site:

Also his Austin Film Festival winner THE P.A.N.D.A. WAR recently scored a 9 on The Black List site. I hear he might be in the market for a manager.

Now, here's Jim.

Reviewed by Jim Newman
(posted Apr 15, 2013)
(Screenplay | Horror, First 10 Pages)

“Prophecy meets the Hills Have Eyes. Great pace, clean writing, and hits on the elements of a ten pager.”

Let’s kickoff with the logline:
Original Logline: When her corporate coal security job drags Iraq vet Eliza back to the mountains she once fled, she must battle a snake cult of horribly disfigured mountainfolk to save a mysterious child.”

Let’s take a few moments to dissect this:
  • The logline hits these chords:
    • Protagonist – Eliza (Iraq War vet)
    • Goal/Mission – To save a mysterious child
    • Antagonist – Mountainfolk and returning to an environment Eliza escaped from …
  • The logline lacks the following essential elements:
    • Time: Is Eliza under any pressure to complete her mission? What happens if takes too long?
    • Irony: One could argue that the irony is that Eliza’s back to the mountains she once fled. But I consider this to be an indirect antagonist. She must fight the obvious and internal challenges: the elements and the fear that pushed her away.
  • Notes/Suggestions:
    • I commend you for getting this completed in one sentence – that seems to be the first and biggest hurdle.
    • Food for thought: if this was pitched to a random stranger, then what do you believe will be their reaction? Could they clearly see the premise, character, the challenge? Are they distracted by any confusing elements?
    • I could see the one sheet – a wide eyed but weary Eliza in the forefront, ghoulish figures in the lower right corner, background is a harrowing mountain where the shadow of a young girl is the focus.
    • Here’s where I was hung up:
      • The “snake cult” made me wonder what/how that was important to the story, but after reading I learned its purpose. However, this should be communicated in a different manner to offer more clarity (otherwise, my first thought was “Snakes on a Plane”).
      • The first line reveals enough, but is a lot to chew on (wordy). Let’s try to truncate this.
      • Mysterious child: boy/girl? What makes him/her mysterious?
    • My shot-in-the-dark at tightening this up:
      • When her security job drags her back to the mountains she once fled, Iraq War veteran Eliza must confront her own atheistic beliefs and save a prophetic young boy from the religious fanaticism of the grossly disfigured mountainfolk before the angels of Heaven and Hell clash.”
        • I don’t believe it’s pertinent to the logline to include “corporate coal”. Likewise, the snake cult should be replaced … the snakes will hold a symbolic meaning during the course of the movie. And I’m assuming the child will have some sort of godly influence.
        • I’m not sold on my own closer of “Heaven and Hell” but I was trying to throw in something that made it time-sensitive. And the use of “Eden Mt” tells me there’s a good dose of religious symbolism in this script.
        • Of course I’m taking some liberties with guessing what’s coming up since I haven’t read past page ten, but hopefully you get my gist. Naturally you can flip me off and completely ignore my notes, too. (

The story begins with young Horace accompanying his father in a coal mine of Eden Mountain. Lacking a respect or holding a disbelief in a greater power, Horace Sr. collects some coal while muttering his defiance. Immediately, a cave-in strikes the mine and traps his father, never to be seen again, while Horace Jr. is slashed across his face.

Morphing into a later stage of his life (65 y.o.) Horace is now conducting a “religious” ceremony whereby the attendees are disfigured missing limbs, eyes, noses, etc. A couple holds hands while a rope is tied around the base of each tongue with the other end tied around a boulder. Based on their transgression, Horace has sentenced them to be disfigured for not holding true to a belief in God. Presumably the others have been disfigured under the same set of circumstances.

Meanwhile Eliza and Buf are moving through the woods when they’re confronted with gunfire from a resident. They are there to force the homeowner from her home, but she is resistant. Meanwhile a shadowy figure watches from the trees above. In the end, the three are set off in a Humvee along with the resident’s dog.

The shadowy figure, Coondog, reports back to Horace – SHE’S back! “That whore Eliza!” This is done in a makeshift temple where mason jars of human body parts and even a head float in a greenish gelatin. Horace is overjoyed at the prospect of seeing Eliza again.

Back to the Humvee, not far down the road a ten foot rattlesnake blocks the path, hissing and threatening. Eliza brings the Humvee to a halt, jumps from the vehicle, and aims her sidearm at the snake.

Flashback to Eliza’s childhood experience in the mountains. Her father and sister participate in a ritualistic ceremony where a snake is considered both God and Satan, its eyes peering into your soul. A young Eliza cries out that he sees what she has done …
but what has she done?

Return to real time: the rattler has disappeared.
Where has it gone? Dumbfounded Eliza jumps back into the Humvee and starts to take off. Suddenly the snake appears between Buf’s legs and lunges at him. Buf quickly grabs the snake and whips it off, but it has been thrown into the backseat where it sinks its fangs into the cheek of the resident.

Eliza moves to grab the snake, but the resident insists that it’s good luck. Eliza ignores her and kills the snake. She checks the resident’s vitals, but she seems unaffected by the poisonous snake bite.
But how?

I like the writing style. Adheres to the industry standard although check the left margin – looks a bit more than the 1” standard. No long expositions, nice spread of “white space”, and enough dialogue to keep the pace rolling. Quick read!

The second scene is pretty damn gruesome (gave me a chill). But I am confused as to why Horace says that one day they will have new bodies. Must be in the afterlife, but felt a bit out of place. Maybe I’m just being dense and not following.

Page 1: Should Horace Sr have “white teeth”? How about stained teeth from a lack of dental hygiene?

Page 2: Omit “intuitive” and “we move down the length of his thin body” – avoid directions at all costs.

Page 3: Remove “(Almost to himself)” – he’s off screen so we can’t see this. Perhaps in a whisper to imply the action. Same with “Angle On:” – try to describe this differently. I know it’s technically acceptable, but best to use at a bare minimum especially during your first ten. Keep your first ten as clean as possible.

Page 4: Neva – perhaps replace “she’s having her period” with “she’s ovulating” – makes me think that she’ll be used as a sacrifice or possibly raped since she can bear children. Remove last paragraph – don’t instruct the producer when the title should come in. Close this out with Horace’s dialogue.

Page 5: I laughed at the pissing on a spider – haha! Remove the “angle up” on Buf.

Page 6 thru Page 10: No specific notes to offer – all good!

In summary I was pleased with the writing style, the fast pace of the read, and some of the nasty shit that’s going on. I’m seeing Eliza as this sort of sexy vixen, Lara Croft type. Buf – still trying to wrap my head around his name. Horace and crew seem plenty nasty – great!

I enjoyed this and will get to reading more. Would like to read the ten pager again after a quick rewrite to see if it still feels the same to me.
Rating: More Please!

Thank you for sharing your work with us! I’ll try to read the rest since you submitted your entire script. Feel free to send a rewrite for additional feedback along with your outline, if available.