Friday, January 25, 2013

RRH by Marc Johnson

As a biochemist dives into a secret project she’s forced to confront the family legacy and a werewolf’s desire for supremacy over mankind.

Marc W. Johnson's RRH
Review of the first 10 pages


First, thank you for giving me the privilege to explore the unique world you have created.  Every screenplay is a personal and intimate creating, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to experience so many as a script reader and consultant.

The title is the first impression a reader has with a script.  What is "RRH?"  A biological term?  An acronym of some sort?  It creates a bit of mystery - as I'm wondering what it is - but you may risk confusing the reader, and missing the opportunity to hook them with a title that fits the kind of script they are looking for.  

If "RRH" is actually a bit scary, then you're probably better off writing out the full name of whatever it is.  Or choose another name the gives us the genre of the script by the title, such as "Werewolf Killers" or "Monster Hunters" or something better than those names I just came up with off the top of my head.

The script starts of strong, with a violent, exciting opening scene.  Entrails!  Werewolf!  Katana?  Yes, a katana!  Nice.  I can't wait to see what happens...

But then...we're in a mansion...and it's after a party?  There's some talk of some project...but I'm not really sure how that's related to the opening scene.  

They just shot a werewolf!  All the talk should be about how they are going to go out an hunt this sucker down!  Maybe Rose wants to go, but they don't want her to.  Or Alex is planning the next stage, and needs Rose's help?  Whatever it is, keep the monster hunting story going, (with conflict!  verbal sparring!  opposing interests!) even when they're not out in the wilderness hunting monsters.

The other large note I had was, by this time, it should be clear who our protagonist(s) is.  But I'm not sure.  I thought it was John and Alex, but when we begin to follow Rose, now I'm thinking it could be Rose.  The script will vastly improve if you pick ONE main character, and really make it about their quest.  I'd choose Rose - she seems the most interesting.  But get her in the script faster (maybe she's in the car while Alex and John fight the werewolf?).

Also, a few writing choices pulled me out of the script while reading.  One is the lack of description or age when a character is first introduced.  If we don't know an approximate age, or what they look like, it is going to be tough to picture them as the story goes along.  It's an easy fix.

Lastly, and this is big... there is a huge overuse of semicolons.  That's a punctuation mark you rarely see, and for good reason - it's difficult to use correctly.  I'd consult Strunk & White's Element's of Style pronto.  (I don't get any money for recommending them...but I should!)

Also pay attention to comma usage.  And a few punctuation choices.  And some awkward grammar.

Because in the end, half of screenwriting is writing.  

In fact, it's probably more like 75%.  

Good start!  Keep it going!

Seriously, and...




Notes on the first 10 pages of Marc's screenplay
by Script Doctor Eric
(Known as "SDEric" in this document)

Friday, January 18, 2013

BEAVER DAMNED by S. de Waard

A closet porn starlet, who sides as a contract marriage terminator, is sued for alienation of affection. Sentenced to community service at the ex-wife's church, she rouses the rookie Reverend and all hell breaks loose.

This week guest reviewer Jeremy Sheldon takes a look at the 1st 10 pages of S. de Waard's


I guess we all know that the first ten pages are crucial: they need to gain the confidence of the script-reader in a script-development situation; they need to hook the audience should the piece eventually be filmed and distributed. For these obvious reasons is it essential that they “go” like the proverbial “clockwork” when it comes to establishing plot, character, theme and tone.

This having been said, I think it’s unfair to “pronounce” on anyone’s script if only the first ten pages are available, so I’ll simply record my thoughts, trying to balance out (a) what I think works or has potential against (b) what I think doesn’t work or what I think diminishes that potential as far as anyone can guess at this stage. I’ve added some annotations on the script itself, responding to dialogue, scene action and so forth. So I think I’m going to use this comment section to discuss the concept more generally (though this may mean I have to refer back to annotations from time to time).

To begin with the logline: I think this works potentially and seems to offer the necessary constituent comic elements (e.g. intelligent irreverence in the face of dumb, lumpen indignation). But success obviously lies in the execution.

For instance, how you handle the “legal mechanics” of the sentencing to community service is important; goof your way through this clumsily and you probably consign what follows to feeling more superficial than you plan. The resultant piece might still be funny, and even successful, but it might also lead to a different kind of comedy film to the one you’re envisaging.

Similarly, control of Reymee’s characterization and process of character development is going to be pivotal if this isn’t going to feel like just another lazily lewd comedy. Hopefully, you know where you’re going in relation to character development and which unconscious flaws Reymee is wrestling with as she prosecutes her plot-line with the rookie priest.

On the subject of character, I think your protagonist is immediately “likable”, by which I simply mean that I think the audience could empathize with her and be prepared to follow her on her narrative journey. She’s “damaged”, sure (and I say this not as a result of an automatic assumption about all adult entertainment starlets, but in recognition of that fact that your storyline doesn’t present her circumstances as positive, plus she implies she was abused). But she needs to be, or there’s no story, and this damage sits in engaging counterpoint to her positive qualities: her intelligence, her self-awareness and her winning dark irony. 

In this sense, she reminds me a little of the protagonist of Young Adult played by Charlize Theron. Okay, that character’s damage was manifest within much more conventional life situations than the porn industry, but there’s the potential here to portray a similarly punchy, unrepentant and dysfunctionally layered female lead "acting out" in the company of more suburban and straight-laced folk. I guess we also can’t forget thatYoung Adult was written by Diablo Cody whose precision of dialogue and characterization earned her one of those little golden statuettes for Juno

So, for me, notes on this section of the script need to help you see where possibly you’re not operating with a sufficient level of precision. I’ve pointed out a few moments that I think are worth more of your attention in my annotations: slightly fluffy (excuse the pun) lines of dialogue such as Jimmy Paged’s, and moments where the logic of the situation feels opaque, even if we acknowledge the wisdom of “Show, don’t tell”. For instance,why is her money stored at her father’s? If the script satisfactorily explains this later (will it?), then this could be all to the good. But it still might not explain why she isn’t more angry with her father (a wonderfully gruff character, by the way) or, at least, why she allows him to mollify her so easily (and he might have to work harder on this act of mollification in my opinion, as I’ve mentioned in my annotations).

To continue in this direction, I like the scene in the doctor’s office. Her glance at the diagram of fallopian tubes on the wall was a perfectly pitched moment of deadpan irony (Reymee’s most affecting dramatic gear?), as was her line about counseling women to “embrace their vaginas” and other nuances. But, again, consistent precision is key here when it comes controlling the comic tone of the piece, and I think you need to be careful you don’t fumble certain moments. For instance, I’m not sure the moment the doctor drops the “PAP apparatus” isn’t a little too obvious in a piece that already seems capable of a sharper kind of comedy.

As I’ve mentioned in the annotations, I also think the title is another example of a comic element that’s pulling in the wrong direction. It’s confrontational, which is great, but the punning element on “Beaver” just feels like it can’t escape echoes of a more crudely sluttier kind of comedy (American PiePorky’sAnimal House). In the end, I can’t get images out of my head of Priscilla Presley handing Leslie Nielsen a stuffed beaverThe Naked Gun. out that more obvious jokes don’t take over, nor that the raw “attitude” of your character supplants tightly controlled character development. Attitude is desperately important, of course, but if the logic of the story doesn’t hang together, attitude probably won’t carry the piece. As Alexander Mackendrick (another comic writer with a little golden statuette) writes: “Comic structure is simply dramatic structure but MORE SO: neater, shorter, faster.” - JS 

Rating: Take Another Pass (You're onto something, but it needs more work.)

Jeremy Sheldon (@JeremyRSheldon) has worked for over a decade in film development. He has read scripts for several major production companies and currently works as a writer and script-editor for a number of producers.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I AM CARLY CHEN by Jimmy Zhang

No review this week, but Jimmy Zhang is looking for feedback on the 1st 10 pages of
I am Carly Chen.

Friday, January 4, 2013


A dark and re-imagined Cinderella where after the downtrodden woman gets her wish she struggles with court life and escaping her fairy godmother’s sinister demands.  Loosely based on historical figures amid the growing unrest of pre-revolution France. 

Please check back tomorrow 1/6/13 for Jim's review of the 1st 10 pages of Katherine Botts's Cinderella: After The Fairy Tale