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.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Bangers & Mash by Crystal S. Adaway

Welcome back for my second review for this week's Feedback Friday. If you haven't had the chance already, please scroll down below for today's earlier review! 

In case this is your first time here, here is how Feedback Friday works. Email Robert Dillon a pdf version of the first 10 pages of your script and one of our reviewers will rate it based on the following:

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!

Bangers & Mash
by Crystal S. Adaway
Reviewed by Erman Baradi

Logline: A brokenhearted Brit and a frustrated graphic designer are brought together by destiny. Almost. They must navigate the perils of their insecurities, and the horrors of DC traffic, to find each other.

If you would like to take a read of the script please check out this Google Doc.

Greetings, Crystal!

Thank you for submitting your script for review. One of the hardest parts of being a writer is letting others critique your work, so thank you for granting this learning experience for both of us!

I noticed on your title page you had put your email underneath the title. I suggest placing it on the bottom where the contact info usually goes (address, number, etc.). It is just common routine and you would hate to have a studio rep toss out the script based on one page. I've seen it happen sadly, so it something to be aware of!

I like your logline to be quite frank. The two troubled protagonists must overcome an emotional (and physical) obstacles in set location. I can't remember getting a hint of Grace being a graphic designer though. We only read the first ten pages here but perhaps we can get a glimpse of this somewhere of her being a struggling artist. After reading we do get a sense she would rather be doing something else other than help out at her mother's restaurant. Still, I would like to understand more of her goals. 

You were clever, in my opinion, in how you opened up with Stewart and his now ex-girlfriend Ann in the middle of their break up. In addition, it is at the airport so we already know change is in effect. We immediately see Stewart (who is written as British, tall and geeky chic - pretty marketable nowadays for girls who are into those kinds of guys) as his heart is breaking. We get the opening image, and as the story progresses we learn more about the history of their relationship and connect more with Stewart, so good job there. I also like how you wrote Ann with underlying intentions. You characterized as "unburdened" as she delivers the crushing blow, coming up with logical explanations as to why the break up is beneficial to them both. Yet, we understand a few pages later that a third party might be involved!

At the end of page 1, Stewart leaves his old life (visualized by him boarding the plane and staring back at Ann, who simply keeps on walking) and enter his new "world." In this case, it is America. Culture shock, I assume? Thus, his journey begins. 

Page 2, we are introduced to the inevitable love interest, Grace. She is in trouble of her own: late to work. Cutting back to Stewart, he is on the plane and has a shift in perspective. He doodles all over an image of Ann. I believe this is the period of numbness we go through after break ups. He may not think it here but he definitely isn't as over her as he wants to be. I suspect this becoming an issue later on in the story!

By the sixth page I suggest your theme should be stated by now. Maybe since we are introduced to Stewart's lovable sidekick, Jake, the best friend can say something smart and relevant in reference to love and life, especially since Ann is brought up. 

So far, you have a good hold of your characters, even the charming supporting cast of elderly women. Horny older women, might I add? That's always a vehicle for humor! Still, we see them more in the beginning than we do Grace, so you may want to write more scenes that include Grace. You definitely understand the minds of your characters, as seen with Stewart's evident culture shock. He acknowledges having to drive on the right side of the road and correcting colloquialisms ("biscuits" to American "cookies").

By page 7 we get more of Stewart and Ann's backstory as we are still in the set up stage. They were together for almost four years, so I can understand Stewart's emotional anxieties. Finally, on page 10 we are teased with the destined meeting between Stewart and Grace. She catches the backs of Stewart and Jake just as they leave the restaurant. With that said, their paths colliding is something they will achieve. Now the question ism What makes them interesting in "navigating the perils of their insecurities" and DC traffic to find each other? How will they learn more of each other to want this in the first place? I am definitely curious!

Between Take another pass and More please. 

Overall, I enjoyed your writing very much! There are several details to go back to and tweak, but you have interesting dialogue. a variety of characters, and a story that sappy romantics would definitely see. We have seen guy meets girl plenty of times, and unique romantic comedies are hard to write! But in this case, it seems like they DON'T meet as things get in the way. On a side note, I am not sure what Bangers and Mash means. Maybe I'm just not hip enough!


Flesh and Blood by Jeffrey Nieves

Welcome to the April 5th edition of Feedback Friday.

Email Robert Dillon the first 10 pages of your script and one of our reviewers will be more than happy to provide you notes. There is a rating system that goes accordingly:

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!

Flesh and Blood
by Jeffrey Nieves
Reviewed by Erman Baradi

Logline: A dark serial following the life of a teenager, who happens to be a shapeshifter.

Check out this Google Doc if you would like to read Jeffrey's script!

Hello, Jeffrey.

Thank you very much for allowing me to read your first ten pages. As a fellow a writer I learn a lot from reviewing others' works, so I appreciate your reaching out to FF.

Before we begin I have a very minor note. Correct me if I am wrong (hey! I'm no established professional myself!) but I know most readers don't want to see that you're sending them a "draft 1" of your script. They want to think you have sent them your very best version possible. I suggest removing it from submissions.

What I noticed just a few pages in is you have a very ENGAGING writing style! The action is short and vivid - not too wordy but enough detail to understand the world you set the characters in. May I add that the dialogue and action are never dully written either?

On page 1 we get the dynamics of the two protagonists: younger, lanky brother Liam and older brother Adam. Adam is giving Liam a pep talk, and what I like here is Adam is not speaking "on the nose." As the conversation picks up we realize that Adam is really pep talking Liam about women. When Liam is ready to confront his fear, he suddenly SHAPE SHIFTS into a better looking muscular man! Whoa! That came out of left fiend. What I love here is you broke expectations. It did not take too long for us to be thrusted into this supernatural world and now I am hooked. Questions arise that I want to see answered, like how, where, what, when, how. Great start. By the way, kudos to your description of the shift: "Dude looks like he's having a Richter scale 5 Ashtma attack."

Just a small, nit-picky thing though. I suggest keeping your sluglines consistent on these first 2 pages (EXT. DINGY STRIP CLUB PARKING LOT vs. INT. STRIP CLUB). Or are you suggesting just the outside of it is dingy?

The end of the teaser comes half way through page 3. Good. It's not too far into the story. Page 4 or 5 would have been cutting it. The introduction of the masked and seductive Miss Misery and her dialogue with Liam further proves your ear for dialogue and description. Sentences like her mask was "a delicate porcelain shroud - feminine perfection" allow me to visualize her appearance in my head. Just another note though: you hyphenated the words each other twice and I don't believe they need to be, and Liam's first line on page 4 should be "I want to see you" instead of "I want see you." Also, I prefer the "100%" line from Liam on page five to be written out. Small stuff. When Miss Misery exposes Shift-Liam's bodily scars it intrigues me to learn more of his back story. Or maybe the scars are a direct effect of the shift? We will see. Finally, Miss Misery removes her mask, a juxtaposition of beauty and horror as she, too, is scarred. Now I am starting to really be interested invested in these characters. Also, according to Snyder's beat sheet, by page 5 we should have a theme stated. I could not quite find one.

The next morning we see the affect of Liam's transformation from the night before. When he shifts he is a better version of himself, but at what cost? We see the consequences in the morning. Maybe this will be a constant challenge throughout the story?

By page 6 the boys' father comes into play and we see a nice change in relationship dynamic. He talks to Adam like he is the golden child and Liam appears jealous. We have seen the younger brother envious of the older brother many times before, but here I think it works considering it is a stark contrast to how we saw them the night before. It is like a tug and pull battle. 

Soon enough we find out two things that really amp the story up! First, a video projection in a high school class reveals that shape shifting is more commonplace than we originally imagined. Liam is not the only shape shifter in this world, further solidifying the type of world you have structured for the reader. Also, Miss Misery happens to be a teacher...Liam's teacher! 

The tenth page ends with the introduction of two more teen characters. I don't know yet their roles in Liam's lives but their dialogue and character description make them interesting so far. I am curious as to their purposes. 

More Please

I am definitely hooked! You have written a compelling story that has more territory to be treaded. We don't see too many stories on shape shifters so this is a nice breath of fresh air. So far, with a glimpse into Liam's world we understand the travails of being a teenager (they have enough problems) who is also a shape shifter. Your logline is concise but I would like to know more about what he is facing for the remainder of the series. I would love to see more!