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Monday, September 8, 2014

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Introduction and Script Review (Static Town) - posted by wonkavite

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One week ago, we reviewed Kevin Revie’s Static Town – our third (but far from final) feature showcase. As readers of Shootin’ the Shorts are aware, our goal at STS is to find new and promising writers, and provide them with the platform they need to get their work seen (then hopefully optioned, and produced!)

One of our not-so-secret weapons in this quest is Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting. Having worked as a development executive in Hollywood, Danny is an in-demand script consultant, named by Creative Screenwriting Magazine at one of the “Top 15” consultants in their “Cream of the Crop” list. Partnered with STS, Danny provides wonderfully detailed and helpful notes for the monthly STS feature script.This coverage is provided free to the writer, and can be posted our site or kept confidential – at the writer’s discretion. But wait – there’s more!Any script that gets a coveted “recommend” from tough but eminently fair Danny will be featured in his monthly newsletter and may also receive further exposure to his production contacts…

Below, please find Danny’s notes/coverage for Static Town. Read, learn, comment…. and don’t forget to submit your best work for possible review!

**To submit a script, please visit STS at the page listed HERE. Danny can also be contacted directly via the No BullScript Consulting website at http://www.nobullscript.net/contact/. Or on Twitter @DannyManus.

******

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

Title: Static Town

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author: Kevin Revie

Number of Pages: 84

Submitted To: Simply Scripts

Circa: Present

Location: Linden Mills, Suburbia

Genre:Comedy/Teen

Coverage Date: 8/22/14

Budget Range: Low

________________________________________________________________________

COMMENTS:Kevin, thank you for submitting your script, “Static Town” to Simply Scripts. The following notes and comments will go through what works well and what still needs to be worked on or changed in order to make this a more viable and commercial script.

I think overall the writing is strong and there is definitely a voice and a timely message that comes through the pages, and it’s a generally enjoyable and fast, easy read. A quirky comedy about a teen who is so sick of the disconnection that exists between people these days due to technology that he causes a severe blackout in his town, is a strong set up and premise. It’s not an insanely original theme or message but it shines an LED-Screen on our society and how tech-obsessed we’ve become and how we have suffered for it in a fun way, and certainly this is a theme we can relate to these days. It presents a strong question of what would happen if a town was suddenly without power and had to start reconnecting on a personal level.

Your characters are largely likable and I think there are a number of strong lines and very funny moments within the script. That being said, I think there are some ways to make this feel like the story has a bit more depth and MEAT to it, perhaps flesh it out the plot a bit more. For me, what’s missing most in the story is conflict. And because conflict is generally really what drives plot, the lack of conflict equals a lack of plot and stakes. I think the voice and tone feel like a nice mix of Juno, Safety Not Guaranteed and Perks of Being a Wallflower, but without the major stakes, twists and drama those projects had

Your concept could lend itself to a more satirical feel, and I wonder if there’s some more comedy that could be mined from that. This town is without power and computers and cell phone towers – but we never really see what happens to the people in this town other than Wyatt and his close group of friends. Yes, we see people go outside and play and start enjoying each other’s company later in the story – but that probably wouldn’t be the immediate reaction. There should be a larger downside and a level of chaos before the people begin to embrace it. I think you could take the level of satire up a bit by showing some funny extremes or people reacting or what people in this town resort to, to try to get power. Right now, the only moment we get of that is on page 24-25 when people try to get water and duct tape. I think you could have this type of panic last a little longer. Even without power, you figure you have 18-24 hours before everyone’s phone battery goes dead. So when that happens, it could be like a countdown to phonemageddon.

There’s a totally different version of this story where it is full-on satire and you have people becoming almost cannibals and zombies because they can’t text, and just looting and murdering for batteries while this kid did it just to try to get the new girl to notice him. I think then you could go even more over the top with the message and the comedy if it was wrapped in more satire. But that is a different tone and story..

With quirkier small comedies and dramedies, it’s really about three things – character, voice, and a situation or hook that presents enough opportunities to bring out character and voice through plot. I think you have these, but I do think Wyatt’s character, while likable, could be just a bit stronger and more consistent in his set up and the things he does (or discovers) throughout the story could also be a bit stronger to add more plot.

Wyatt says things like “I’ve never been able to really express how I feel” on page 7 – but that’s not really evidenced in the plot. If that’s one of his flaws, we need to see how that actually affects his life.

With Wyatt, while I think he is relatable and sweet, his place within the world of his high school hierarchy is a bit unclear. He doesn’t seem like an outcast, and I’m guess since this is a TINY town his graduating class all knows each other and has since birth. So, it’s not clear where he ranks in the popularity/clique levels. He’s already slept with the hot slutty girl in school, so that tells me he’s not a total loser. But I think it’s odd that he is nervous about going up to Jennie on page 7 and talking to her, even though he’s already slept with her and has been hanging out with her, and he already knows she’s seeing other people. Clearly her boyfriend Barry is not really an obstacle for her sleeping with other guys, but I didn’t quite get the connection between Wyatt and Jennie and what he actually wants from her.

It’s also odd that he sees the new girl on page 6, seems to be enchanted and attracted, but then totally forgets about her and goes back to sighing over Jennie and her boyfriend on the next page. I might suggest switching those two scenes so that we actually meet Sophie a couple pages later but his reaction will make more sense because he’s already been turned down by Jennie and all the sighing over her is over. It would also give a bit more meaning to the scene of Wyatt, Geordie and Dale talking on pages 8-9 if it lead to seeing Sophie for the first time.

I also was curious what video Sam posted of him last year that scarred him so badly. What did he do? Did it go viral? Is that why he doesn’t like technology much anymore? I was waiting for a bigger reveal on that.

Wyatt’s reasoning for wanting to stay off of social media needs to connect more to his character and what’s going on in the story. He tells Dale he’s going to stay off social media because they don’t take chances or risks anymore and he’s lacking spontaneity. But that really has nothing to do with social media or cell phones. Then he says everyone is just living through screens and not looking around them and people are just advertising themselves as they want to be seen. But that’s a totally different issue. Not taking risks and lacking spontaneity is different from people living their lives through technology and putting out or creating false senses of selves. And this is why his true motivation for knocking down the power lines is unclear.

While I love that Wyatt knocks down the power lines, I feel like there needs to be a stronger catalyst or motivation for him to do so. There’s no specific PROBLEM that Wyatt is facing or situation he needs to fix or deal with that would inspire him to do this.

For instance, if he couldn’t get the attention of the girl of his dreams because everyone else was trying to get to her thru social media and texting and he was more of an old school romantic, then it might make more sense. Or if there was a video sent out about him that went viral and ruined his social life or his chances with the girl he loved, then that would be a great reason. I just don’t think it should feel like an off-the-cuff, spur of the moment decision without some catalyst or reason for knocking the power lines down.

Seconds before he does it, he sees a montage of “tech” things – kids glued to phones, Sophie dismissing him for a text message, his mother driving off with a man she met on the internet, no one paying attention at graduation, etc. – but only a COUPLE of these things actually happened and the rest are fantasies and projections of what COULD happen. I think these things he thinks of should be what actually happened to him that inspire him to do this. Let him give a speech at school where everyone is on their phone or replaying the viral video of him doing something stupid, let Sophie (or Jenny) totally dismiss him for a text and not pay attention to the guy actually talking to her in person, have his mom actually meet a guy off the net – these are strong motivations. Right now, though, they are all hypothetical. And so there’s not really a catalyst to make him do this. Whatever that catalyst is could be the inciting incident.

Sophie’s character is strong and she has a great introduction when she talks with Wyatt the first time. Her line “Somewhere in between get me out of here and maybe I can stay sane for like a year, max” is a great way to show her mindset about this town and a strong inciting incident for Wyatt.

I really like the twist that Sophie goes for Dale instead of the predictable Wyatt, though it does seem to be a bit of a bro-code violation. It’s a good reveal on page 58 that she’s there with him. It’s a heart-wrenching little twist on the love story, but also adds irony in that even without the power and the social media, he still can’t get the girl. Their scene together on page 64 is a bit harsh from both of them only because I don’t think there’s enough build-up to really earn those feelings. A couple more instances where she might have seemed to be leading him on would help.

The point Sophie makes in this scene is also the major issue with the second act. She asks Wyatt – ‘Okay, the power’s out but what have you done differently?’ And drawing this to light makes the reader realize – she’s right, Wyatt hasn’t actually done anything in 40 pages. It makes us realize we’re just watching things happen thru Wyatt instead of really experiencing things happen with Wyatt. And I would suggest that’s the biggest issue with the second act. Other than being sad about Sophie, there hasn’t been any conflict for him to face. He pretty much gives up on his goal of winning Sophie’s heart, so what else is left for him to accomplish the rest of the story? Maybe his lack of taking chances could be set up a bit more and this becomes his other goal, but it’s not really connecting enough currently.

Sophie gives him his cell phone back on page 67, which is great, but would be even more important if you were tracking the police investigation to finding out who was responsible. He didn’t seem worried about the phone until she gives it to him.

I like the subplot of Wyatt’s parents being pulled apart and then coming back together. It’s sweet, but is it really technology’s fault they’ve pulled apart? Also, on page 23, it’s odd that Karolyn doesn’t mention the blackout but only the car.

Turning to the story and structure, the other general issue for me with the script is that some of the scenes themselves are a bit lacking in purpose or are unnecessary. I think some of the scenes could feel like they have a stronger purpose in regards to progressing the plot or characters or revealing some new information.

For instance, even the opening party scene. It has a couple funny moments and we meet Jennie, but nothing actually happens at this party and it’s unclear what Wyatt’s struggle actually is if he’s already slept with the hot girl in school. I think this scene could show us a bit more about just how transfixed everyone is to their devices, and that people aren’t even talking to each other at the party – they’re just texting each other and snapchatting each other.

The scene with Wyatt and his buddies after they leave school on page 33-34 also doesn’t have much purpose. It’s just hanging out and mentioning the party, which they could do anywhere, and feels more like a filler scene to lead to the grandparent’s scene. The scene with Wyatt and his grandparents is nice, but I think it might actually be stronger in the FIRST act before he knocks the power out. He sees how they are without using technology, and looking at pictures and writing letters – that could be more inspiration for him to do it in the first place. Otherwise, I’m not sure it serves much of a purpose here and we never see his grandparents again, so they don’t really have any effect on the story if not as inspiration to go back to that simpler time.

Structurally, the first act I think could be a bit stronger. Right now, the inciting incident is really Wyatt meeting Sophie and realizing people are tech-obsessed. But if there was more set up and an actual catalyst as to why Wyatt rams the power lines, that could be the inciting incident. Then Wyatt rams the lines, and the first act basically ends on page 24, which is a bit early even for a short script. But I think there are a couple scenes you could move to the first act, as stated, that would beef it up a bit more.

The investigation into what caused this power outage might be an interesting subplot you could work into the story a bit more. It might add some tension and higher stakes and a bit more worry and conflict for Wyatt, who is hoping not to get busted for what he did. The cops come talk to him the morning after, but then we don’t hear from them again.

The third act, much like the first act, is quite short and not that much happens. The kids going exploring into the abandoned house is cute, but it has nothing to do with the rest of the story and nothing important really happens within the scene. There’s no real point to it other than giving them a quick nostalgic adventure to go on. This is what I mean by the scenes need more purpose and connection to the plot. It’s great that they go there, but how does that affect or change anything.

Generally, I think the dialogue is quite strong. There are some very smart and funny lines throughout the script that showcase the change in how people think because of technology. When Wyatt asks Dale if he wants to go play catch and Dale says “I have Wii? If you want,” that’s a great moment. Natalie’s response to experiencing a black out on page 27 (and the teacher’s comment) is hilarious. Same on pg 33 with the hashtag daddy issues lines. Wyatt’s VO lines on page 55 are not making new points, but they are very well-expressed in a funny way. Even Dale’s stoner thoughts and dialogue made me laugh out loud. And the line on pg 74, “I feel like I just watched a Mythbusters episode of my own childhood” is such an insightful and clever line, I really enjoyed it.

That being said, I do think there are a few scenes or lines that could feel a bit fresher and genuine to teens. It’s really small things, like Geordie’s line “All right, let’s get out of this place” could easily be a bit quippier – “All right, let’s bounce this bitch.” It’s just about bringing different characters voices to their dialogue.

On page 28, I like the idea of this ice breaker, but these kids have been going to school with each other for 12 years and if it’s one thing social media does, it makes you know everything about a person without even knowing them, so I’m not sure they need an icebreaker. It’s a small class in a small school in a small town – they probably know everything there is to know. And if any of the kids had ridden an elephant, they would’ve posted pics of it on Facebook, so everyone would already know the answers based on people’s timelines. The question of eating Octopus – they would’ve Instagrammed the food pics. Geordie’s point about no calls home and no emails is well-taken though and pretty funny.

There is an odd line on page 38 that stands out, I think it needs rewording or there are typos – the wine cooler description line.

On page 76, Dale fears what would’ve happened if YouTube was around when they were kids – they’re 17. YouTube WAS around when they were kids. The internet and cell phones were already a thing by the time they were in 2nd grade. Facebook started getting popular in 2006/2007 – they were 10. So, they’ve already grown up with it.

SUMMARY: I think this is a well-written, fun read with a strong, relatable, timely message and some smart, funny dialogue. It has a voice, but I think if the actual plot and conflict were a bit stronger, and the stakes a bit higher, it would bring the voice out even more. I think there are other things you can work into the story to flesh it out a bit and create a stronger catalyst and clearer motivation for Wyatt to do this, and stronger consequences from doing so. He needs a specific problem, goal or issue he thinks this might solve. Some of the scenes could have a bit more purpose and progress the plot/character arcs more, there needs to be more conflict throughout the script, and the first act could have a bit more set up. The second act could have a bit more satire, and the action of the third act could have a bit more to do with the rest of the story. But I think there are some great moments and with a bit more work, it could be a very strong writing sample for you and the low budget will definitely make it more produce-able. Stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Kevin for submitting your script “Static Town” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month.

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT:CONSIDER

Elements Excellent Solid Needs Work Poor
Concept/Premise X
Story X
Structure X
Conflict/Drama X
Consistent Tone X
Pacing X
Stakes X
Climax
Resolution X
Overall Characters X
Protagonist X
Antagonist X
Dialogue X
Transitions X
Format, Spelling, Grammar, Pg Count X
Well Defined Theme X
Commercial Appeal/Hook X
Overall Originality X
Production Value X
International Appeal X

5 Comments so far

1.

Linda
September 8th, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Why are so many readers just touching the surface.
I think it should be mandatory for most readers to write a synopsis or treatment
of each script they read. Only then they should give notes.

You notes is okay but not deep. Go deeper.

2.

Janet Goodman-Clarke
September 8th, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Hi Linda –

Thanks for your comments on SS! It’s good to get feedback on any/all aspects.

FYI – for the coverage provided to STS – due to posting space and available time considerations – we have specifically requested a more streamlined set of notes than Mr. Manus usually provides, which does not include a full summary of the script. It’s our belief that Mr. Manus’ detailed and helpful suggestions – and the availability of the script itself for our readers – will be of great use, even with that aspect excluded.

Best and cheers,

–Wonkavite

3.

Linda
September 8th, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Respectuflly,

I could count enough readers to fill the biggest movie theatre in the world who refuse to write a synopsis or treatment of a script before giving notes.

Please ask the reader to post a synopsis and/or treatment in the future
by posting separately. Or post it on his/her blog or web page or share-space.

No excuse.

The top readers – always – ALWAYS – write a very detailed synopsis and treatment before giving notes. That’s how its done. To understand the script – THERE MUST BE A DETAILED SYNOPSIS.

I worked with some of the best Readers in Hollywood. They all agree with me.

Readers are paid too little to care about a script. That’s the reality.

4.

Janet Goodman-Clarke
September 8th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Linda –

Thank you for your comments! Mr. Manus does provide detailed synopsis for his coverage – however, we at STS have specifically asked that this aspect of the notes be excluded, due to our site’s space considerations, which are different from a situation where a consultant is providing coverage one-on-one. It is our belief that – for the purposes of this particular forum and format – that the exclusion of a synopsis/treatment is not a hindrance, especially since a full review of our featured length script showcase is provided on the first of the month. (Static Town included.)

Best and cheers,

–Janet

5.

Danny
October 13th, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Linda,
While I understand a synopsis might be helpful here, I think you’re confusing a few things. First, I’m not a reader. I’m a script consultant. Top Script Consultants actually do NOT do synopses as we are working one-on-one with the client, who already knows what their project is about. If a client would like to purchase a synopsis service on top of notes, then I do one. In addition, if you’ve worked with the “best readers in town” then you should know that NO ONE writes a treatment as part of notes OR coverage. A treatment is completely different from a synopsis and is a plotting and outlining tool that writers create and use themselves and almost no one will ever ask for. Nor is it a reader or consultant’s job to create one for the writer – That is absolutely never done.

But there is a big difference between a READER and a Consultant. Readers read. And write coverage. That’s it. Consultants do much more. Likewise, there is a big difference between COVERAGE and NOTES. Coverage is 2-4 pages and includes a synopsis, Notes are usually longer and do not include a synopsis. For the purpose of what we are trying to do here at STS, we have tried to blend some of the elements of each. My normal basic NOTES service is 6-8 pages long, which no one is going to read here and there just isn’t room to include. In addition, I am doing these notes for free which would normally cost $299. So, the notes are a slightly condensed version of what a full notes service would be. But not doing a synopsis has nothing to do with the quality of the notes.

I appreciate your passion, and thanks for the comments.

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