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-

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