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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Congratulations to Matias Caruso (Mr. Z) 2014 PAGE Awards Grand Prize Winner - posted by Don

2014 page awards imageCongratulations to Matias Caruso (Mr. Z) 2014 PAGE Awards Grand Prize Winner for his script Three of Swords.

Three of Swords started out as short about a tarot reading that exposes an undercover FBI agent who must escape a traveling carnival full of criminal freaks. Needless to say, it grew into something.

Congratulate Matias and talk about it on the Discussion Board.

The Devil’s Toy – Bonus Feature Length Script (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Imagine… A hideous evil, hidden in the most innocent of places – a simple, unassuming children’s jack-in-the-box. Mix in a generous dose of Lovecraft, and a backstory that involves Nazis, the Dark Occult and an abandoned concentration camp…

Voila. You’ve got the Devil’s Toy. Penned by writer Chris Keaton, this worthy horror short has already found a home. Produced by Sprocketboy Films, the script’s won several awards. (Check out the full short film here!)

…and now it’s spawned a full-length script. While not an official pick (yet) for the STS feature of the month, the Devil’s Toy is a note-worthy horror that shouldn’t be missed. Especially near Halloween:

An old man lies dying. Before he passes away, he calls his estranged son, John, to his side. You see, he’s got a few souvenirs from the war upstairs. Ones that must be kept locked away.

Needless to say, things don’t turn out quite so easy. Before John can carry out his father’s wishes, his two sons open the box. Releasing a terror that can’t be contained.

Directors and producers take note: if you’re a fan of Lovecraft, and looking for your next project – Devil’s Toy has a lot of treasures locked away, ripe for the taking. A reasonable budget. Spectacular gore. And a premise that begs to be explored…

About the writer: Chris Keaton is an Air Force veteran living with his family in sunny Arizona. He’s primarily a screenwriter, but he does love diving into prose. He has had several short screenplays produced and go on to win awards. He’s optioned a few features screenplays and currently has a thriller feature in pre-production. A young-adult novel based on one of his screenplays is soon to be released. You can see some of his projects on his website, (www.Chris-Keaton.com) or follow him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Keaton/456096811068609).

Pages: 86

Budget: Within the reach of an indie budget. Some wild effects – but nothing that can’t be done with blood, and a touch of animatronics/stop motion.

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Original Script Sunday for October 12th - posted by Don

Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are 22 original scripts for your reading pleasure.

And speaking of original scripts. It is that time of year for the October One Week Challenge. It is a free exercise to see if you can write a 6 to 10 page script on a specific theme and genre. The theme and genre will be announced this October 17th at 10:00 pm edt.

-Don

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A drum, - posted by Don

…a drum!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Don’t Feed the Trolls (P.J. McNeill) - posted by P. J. McNeill

Don’t Feed the Trolls

If you’ve ever joined a message board, read the comments on a YouTube video, or really just used any form of social media, odds are you’ve met a troll. Trolls are people who pick fights just for the sake of picking fights. Someone who’s just living in a bubble of constant negativity. You will never win with a troll. It usually ends up being a waiting game to see if the troll will get deleted or banned. And it’s not usually personal because they don’t know you, and the best they can do is hurl vague (yet vulgar) insults.

It’s different with screenwriting. If you’re a screenwriter, and you make your work public (which you most likely will), they’re going to attack your work; which will, at times, feel like an attack on YOU. But then again, some trolls will make it about you to try and get under your skin. They won’t just attack the work, they’ll attack the writing: “You are a bad writer. You are not funny”.

The odd thing about screenwriting trolls is that a lot of them claim to be “just helping”. “Hey man, I’m just trying to help!” you’ll hear them say in defense. And that makes the most sense, right? You always belittle and mock the people you’re trying to help. That’s what makes helping so much fun! Whenever I give to the homeless, I always like to think of a few zingers before I toss a quarter in their can.

The truth is, they’re not helping. Trolls are an infestation of almost every place they inhabit. I’ve seen good message boards turn to shit because a couple trolls hang around, attacking everyone (especially new members). It’s always awful to see a young, new writer post their work, only to be torn apart by a troll. “Hey man, this is how it is out there! Those Hollywood producers aren’t going to coddle you, so why should I?” Oh, shut the hell up. You are not a Hollywood producer. You’re a failing, bitter writer who has to take out their frustrations on the world.

So what can you do to deal with trolls? Well, let’s start with what you shouldn’t do: 1) Don’t yell at the troll. It’ll feel good when you’re typing it out, but it won’t have the impact you’re going for. Remember: you can’t win. Whatever you type will just bounce right off the troll and be fodder for their next response. 2) Don’t try to reason with the troll. Trolls have no reason. They will talk past you, not to you.

So what should you do? 1) Ignore the troll. I really wish more people would do this. Just don’t engage, period. The troll wants attention. If you deny them attention, they will wither and die. Or log off. Either or. 2) Kill them with kindness. Remember the movie Ernest Scared Stupid about a group of trolls that attack a small town and they can only be stopped by Ernest P. Worrell? Of course you do, it’s a classic! Anyway, Ernest figures out that the way to stop them (SPOILER ALERT) is with love. Awwwww. At the end, Ernest grabs the head troll and gives him a big sloppy kiss on the mouth. He disappears and the town is saved. Consider doing this (sans the kissing) with trolls on the internet. I once had a troll attack one of my shorts. It was quite clear from his rant that he had not actually watched the entire short. I was upset, but I responded by thanking him for watching it and saying I was sorry it wasn’t to his liking. To my surprise, 10 minutes later the troll wrote back saying he felt bad, went back, watched the whole short, and loved it. But that is the ONLY time that has happened to me. 9 times out of 10, it’s better to just ignore them.

So, to recap: if you see a troll, just ignore them. If you are a troll, feel free to leave some of that classic troll vitriol in the comments section below. I’m fairly certain if a troll trolls an article about trolling, it would be so meta it would cause the internet to explode. Sure, we’d be out an internet in the process, but we would also never have to listen to you again.

About the writer: A talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry, “P.J. McNeill” has seen it all (and he’s ready to kiss and tell.) Got a question, a comment or just general bile /praise you want to spew?  Email PJ at pjscriptblog@gmail.com. New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

 

 

Monday, October 6, 2014

No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Script Review (Memories) - posted by wonkavite

One week ago, we reviewed Marnie Mitchell Lister’s Memories – our fourth (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 Memories. 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.

******

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NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

 

Title:   Memories

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author:  Marnie Mitchell-Lister

Number of Pages: 98

Submitted To: Simply Scripts

Circa: Present

Location: NJ/TX/Memphis/Grand Canyon

Genre:  Dramedy/Road Trip

Coverage Date:  10/1/14

Budget Range:  Low

________________________________________________________________________

 

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

The family road trip movie has been a tried and true successful genre in film for years. From National Lampoons Vacation to Little Miss Sunshine, The Guilt Trip to Road Trip, RV to We’re the Millers. And I think overall, your script follows in their quirky tradition but with an interesting twist. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a Winnebago with your parents – except perhaps being trapped in a Winnebago with your divorced parents, your dad’s new yoga-loving girlfriend, her spiritualistic protective father, your eccentric grandfather, and his white trash crooning love toy…all while suffering from amnesia. It’s certainly a strong recipe for comedy and conflict, and I think you deliver both. It’s kind of Little Miss Sunshine meets The Ref but with amnesia and yoga.

It’s a nicely written, quirky, low budget, character-driven dramedy/road movie that tackles a few important themes including the importance of family, the timely message of living in the moment instead of trying to capture it in a photo, and the importance of self-discovery and moving on. And while I think you do a nice job of bringing these themes out through your character arcs and plot, I do think it becomes a bit heavy-handed in the third act. For me, the symbolism is laid on a bit too thick and a bit too often.

Road trip movies are often comprised of a series of set piece scenes in interesting locations where at each stop, an action occurs that helps advance the character arcs and builds towards a reveal, a lesson, or a major payoff. And I think Memories fits that mold quite well while still having its own original hooks to it.

Since this is a character-driven dramedy, the success of the script really comes down to your characters, their dynamics and dialogue. I think you do a nice job of giving most of them their own distinct personalities and voice and originality, which is great, however I’m not sure that most of your characters (other than the surprisingly grounded Sierra and the very ungrounded Jake) are that likable. And I think that while some of their dynamics are strong, we don’t really find out the reason behind those dynamics.

Abby is our protagonist, though she’s actually also the antagonist to the rest of this family. She falls more under the basket case archetype, like the ladies in First Wives Club or Cate Blanchette in Blue Jasmine. She kind of vacillates between being pity-able and being delusional, but neither of these really make her likable. I will say that I grew to like your characters by the middle of the second act, but it took me a while to invest in Abby or care because she seems pretty obnoxious, overbearing, in denial, and sometimes delusional. It’s not completely clear she and Mack are actually divorced (as opposed to separated), and we don’t know for how long they’ve been separated or what actually caused his heart attack and if that was the catalyst for him leaving her, if she caused it, or if it happened after the divorce? Also, it’s not so much Abby’s goal to get Mack back as it is her belief he’s already COMING back. The steps she finds and takes to win back her ex are OK, but it doesn’t really come into play until the end of your second act.

A small note, but I don’t really understand why Mack calls Abby “the strongest woman I have ever known” on page 12 – this doesn’t seem to be true, but it also doesn’t seem to be something he’d say. Certainly not to her.

While I do like that the story is about Abby’s road to self-discovery and realizing how she needs to change and move on in order to move forward and forge the relationship she wants with her daughter, and that makes for a very strong character arc, I think there’s also a version of this story where Julianna is actually the protagonist and she has to try to remember her life while forced on a road trip with her whole family that she doesn’t even remember.

Mack is certainly introduced as the more likable parent and character, and we do see a couple flashbacks through his POV even though he is not the protagonist. However, unlike Abby who becomes more relatable and likable as we go on, Mack has a period in the second act where he becomes very spiteful and unlikable and shows some of his true colors wanting to exact revenge on Abby for ruining his relationship with their daughter, Julianne. However, it’s never really explained HOW she ruined their relationship or how she kept Julianne away from him, especially since HE seems to be the one that left HER. This seems to be a very important piece of the puzzle and motivation for Mack, so to help us connect with him, maybe we could get just a line or two of more specifics of HOW Abby accomplished that (at least in his mind), and maybe Sierra can once again be the voice of reason and explain that Mack was just as culpable.

The other major issue with Mack’s feelings and motivation is that Abby never learns of it. They never actually talk about what happened between them or why he’s so angry, or why she is how she is or what happened between them. It’s really never explored what bits of backstory or issues made her so horribly neurotic, overbearing or obsessed with the perfect photo. And so for me, I think you could use a couple more of those moments.

As Abby tries to reconnect with Mack and win him back, she seems to do all the things that almost killed him the first time – donuts, bread, coffee, peppers, etc. So it actually underlines the fact that these two are not right for each other – she’ll just kill him again.

Julianne, for me, was the most unlikable character of them all. Yes, she has amnesia, but she seems to be purposefully hurting her parents and being a pretty obnoxious bitch throughout most of the movie (at least to them). Why is she SO cold to Abby and why can’t she stay in her bedroom? Why can she stay with Mack but not Abby? It feels awfully cold. Also, I think the moment that Julianne wakes up on page 16 needs to be a bit bigger of a moment.

I think you could set up Julianne’s love connection with Duncan a bit more as right now, they feel more like f-buddies than boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s also unclear if Abby or Mack even know about Duncan, though Abby does say “I knew you’d get her into trouble” on pg 11. But I assumed Julianne was keeping Duncan a secret.

I am unsure why Duncan and his existence is never mentioned to Julianne after she recovers, especially since he’s the thing that seems to bring her memory back. No one ever mentions him, he never calls or checks in and they never seem to let him know how she’s doing. It makes us feel like he wasn’t REALLY in love with her, or that the parents didn’t care. On page 83 when she does start to remember and Marshall suggests Jake, Bea and Sierra tell her about Duncan, those are the three people who probably know nothing about him. And when Duncan does finally show up again, I’m a bit surprised that Julianne isn’t mad that he totally left her or that her family never mentioned to her that she even HAD a boyfriend, etc.

On page 62, I’m not sure why Julianne’s answers to the cop seem so clueless. She may have amnesia, but she knows what a police officer is. And she knows who her mother is even if she doesn’t remember. She knows what they are all doing there, but she seems to answer like she has no clue. I like the thought of them all getting into some legal trouble here, but there’s not a great deal of comedy that comes from it – just the reveal that Abby actually bought the RV instead of rented it.

I think your supporting characters of Marshall, Trina, Jake and Bea all play their parts well and bring quirk and comedy to the story. However, I didn’t quite understand why Abby just walks into her father’s house in the middle of the night and then just leaves and waits for breakfast. It’s a bit of an odd scene and Marshall doesn’t really react much. He doesn’t even ask to see his ailing granddaughter who almost died and has amnesia.

I like the mini-climax of Mack being rushed to the hospital at the same time Julianna passes out and is taken to the hospital, but Abby doesn’t seem to spend time with her – she never even goes into her hospital room. She’s too busy worrying about Mack. Though I do like her turn at the end of this scene where she realizes he is Sierra’s responsibility now and she has to let go. It’s a strong moment for her arc.

I have read a number of scripts lately promoting the virtues of Yoga. It’s the weirdest trend I’ve come across in scripts, but this is the 5th script I’ve read this year that had a heavy yoga influence or plot point. For me, I think yoga can be a great setup to a very funny scene (like in Couples Retreat), but it’s not something that can drive a story.

It’s not exactly a cinematic hobby.

I think the dialogue has some great, hilarious moments, mostly from Jake who provides some great comic relief especially in his “cock” conversations. There is definitely a voice that comes through the pages, and you have some nice quirky subversive moments.

But while there were some laugh out loud lines, I think the project could still use a bit more comedy. A family road trip drama is a hard sell, but comedies and dramedies usually do better in this genre. There were numerous dramatic moments in Little Miss Sunshine, but the outrageously funny climax is what everyone remembers. There was a huge payoff in comedy in the climax. In this story, that doesn’t really happen. The climax and ending is much more of a drama, and I’m not sure it should be.

Abby actually falling off the cliff is funny, but it’s hard to tell exactly how trapped she is after that or what kind of cavern it is that takes a rescue team to get into. For me, the last 10 pages of the script take too long and are lacking in comedy. The dragonfly being dead, the bats signifying change, is really nailing the symbolism home a bit too much – we get it, she’s not “stuck” anymore. And then Doug’s line “You’re stuck in a dark place. I know it’s scary but we’re going to get you out” is really on the nose especially when paired with all the other symbolism. Then the rebirthing ceremony with Mildred Eagle Feather drawing the comparisons between the cavern and a womb, and then once again with Jake on pg 97 screaming about the dragonfly and transforming – it’s just all very heavy handed and not really necessary.

I think you could actually cut all of it and just let the actions and Abby’s change in personality and disposition speak for themselves. She falls, we see the dead dragonfly, her emerging from the cavern, her apology to Julianne – that’s enough. Though what’s really missing while she’s in the cavern is a conversation with Mack and/or Sierra. Something that explains the feud between her and Mack and will allow them to be better parents and lead healthier lives…apart.

I like Doug, but I think perhaps you could show him on page 10, in the background, fixing something perhaps so we at least make some visual recognition to him later on. Abby’s reaction to Doug rescuing her could be a bit funnier as well.

Overall, I think this last sequence with Abby being trapped needs to be much funnier, and it’s odd that all of a sudden Julianna remembers everything, even her class parties as a child. When did that all happen? When Abby went into the cavern, she didn’t have all those memories. And now that she does remember, does she also remember how much she hated her mom? Julianne never really becomes that likable in the end, and since Julianne’s amnesia is really the catalyst and hook for this trip (and the story), I think it may need to play a bit more into the resolution of the script and be a bigger moment when she gets her memories back. Some realization moment of her own so that SHE can grow a bit like her mother and father have by the end of this trip.

I have just a couple specific page notes or questions –

Pg 43 – Is Mack fat in this flashback? Or regular size?

Pg 80 – It’s a funny beat, but I didn’t understand why Melvis and Trina got together if Melvis was with Bea, and she doesn’t seem to react to the news at all.

Overall, I think you have an interesting and potentially very funny twist on the family road trip genre. A road trip to make one of them remember who the rest of them are, but everyone has their own agenda which causes conflict, comedy, and almost kills them. I think that can definitely work, and you have some nice quirk and comedy, but if you can increase the comedy quota throughout and make your main characters just a little bit more likable, maybe shed a bit more light on the backstory, etc., I think it would be much stronger. And I think if you examine the last 10 pages with Abby being stuck in the cavern and make them a bit funnier and have a bit more resolution between she and Mack, and tone down the on the nose symbolism, that could also help. It has potential though. Stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Marnie for submitting your script “Memories” 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 X
Resolution X
Overall Characters X
Protagonist X 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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Original Script Sunday for October 5th - posted by Don

Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are twenty-one original scripts for your reading pleasure.

– Don

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Movie Poet announces winners of annual feature length contest - posted by Don



MoviePoet.com is proud to announce the Winners of our Annual Feature Length Contest.

“The Question” by Rick Hansberry ~ First Place
A reckless equestrian struggles through personal and professional setbacks as he tries to make history as the youngest winner ever of the elite Rolex championship, but his destructive personality poses the biggest obstacle to claiming the title.

“Grimm Reapers” by Michael Berg ~ Second Place
After witnessing a werewolf murder their father, two scholarly brothers vow to eliminate any mythical threat they discover while traveling under the guise of fairy tale collectors.

“Jesus Freaked” by Kirk White ~ Third Place
To save his crumbling relationship with “the one”, a desperate atheist does the ultimate sacrifice for love: he joins her crazy church.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Is Film School Really Worth It? (P.J. McNeill) - posted by P. J. McNeill

Film School – Is it Worth it?

Should I go to film school?”

It’s a question I’ve answered many, many times; asked by friends, family members, and total strangers. They ask because they (or someone they know) are eager to launch into a career in film. They ask because they worry if the expense (and looming debt) will be worth it. And finally, they ask because I went to film school, and they want to know “Hey, how’s that workin’ out for ya?”

There’s one big asterisk I should get out of the way before discussing film school: My parents paid for my college, in full. I have no debt to speak of and never had to worry about paying any bills. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I was given, and am not ignorant to the fact that the college experience is not like this for everyone. A lot of people have to get scholarships, go into debt, and pay their tuition out of their own pocket. Because of this, some of you might think I have no right to talk about whether or not to go to film school, and you might be right. I can’t say with great certainty that, if tasked with paying for it myself, I would have done the same thing. All I can do is lay out my thoughts on the matter (as always), and you can take them as they are.

First, the hard truths: your BA in Film probably won’t mean a whole lot once you leave. In fact, a friend of mine who moved out to NY told me that “BA in Film” on your resume was shorthand for “Don’t hire me.” So, right off the bat, no one’s going to pat you on the back for your accomplishment. (You can play a game: tell people you’re majoring in Film (or majored in Film), and then see how quickly the interest fades from their eyes.)

Another hard truth: if you fail at film, and all you have left to fall back on is your BA in Film, you might have a hard time finding work. When I was trying to find work NOT in film, I know for a fact people had a hard time seeing I had majored in Film. It was right there on my resume, like a big waving flag: “HEY! This guy doesn’t want to be here! He wants to work on movies!” I remember a job interview for a police department (light office work, not officer) where I let it slip that I wanted to be a screenwriter, but tried to cover it up with “But that won’t impact my job.” I could feel a chill come over the room, and needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

Ok, enough hard truths. The positives:

1) You need connections. If you’re lucky enough to live in NY or LA, great. You can find unpaid work as an intern at any number of places. BIG places too. I remember, when I first got to LA, I was so disenchanted because people who lived out here already had a leg up on me. I was going up against people who worked on stuff like Lost (for FREE!), and the most I had worked on were some small, independent projects. They say this industry is built on connections, and film school really was a great place to make them.

2) You need time to grow and get all the garbage out of you. Film school really can act as a great purging of all the garbage inside of you. All the hitman shorts…all the writer’s block stuff…it all comes out in film school. (That’s why you see so much of the same stuff there.) It also gives you the opportunity to see what other people are doing. Learn from both your and their mistakes. Granted, you could do this with an iPhone and YouTube today (and not spend a cent), but the atmosphere and the application is much different. Workshopping in a classroom is just plain different than the comments section on YouTube.

3) You will be given the equipment and crew to make some truly great stuff. The best short films I made were in film school, and it definitely helped that I had access to amazing equipment and a readily-available crew of eager students. I always tell people: When you’re in film school, treat every-single-project like it will be screened for thousands of people. I saw so many people blow off projects, and I never understood why.

I don’t remember who, but some filmmaker (Kevin Smith or Tarantino or whoever) is famous for saying something like “Take the money you would spend on film school and spend it on a film.” And don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that sentiment.   But I can say this: I needed film school….or the film I would have spent that money on would have been about a screenwriting hitman with writer’s block being called out of retirement to do one last hit. The twist? His last hit…is himself.

About the writer: A talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry, “P.J. McNeill” has seen it all (and he’s ready to kiss and tell.) Got a question, a comment or just general bile /praise you want to spew?  Email PJ at pjscriptblog@gmail.com. New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

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