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Friday, October 31, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – “Will You Read My Script?” (P.J. McNeill) - posted by P. J. McNeill

“Will you read my script?”

A few years back, Josh Olson, the screenwriter of A History of Violence, wrote a scathing piece for the Village Voice titled “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script”. It was a complex piece with a subtle thesis: I will not read your fucking script. Needless to say, it made waves within the screenwriting community and generated a lot of discussion. Some people thought Olson was a dick (::raises hand::) and some people thought the guy had a point. To be more specific, I did think he had a point, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was being a dick doing it.

What the article failed to acknowledge is that, as budding young screenwriters, there is A LOT of pressure put on us to hustle our scripts. When I first moved out to Los Angeles, I immediately gained a connection to a VERY successful screenwriter. I used that connection simply to chat the guy up, ask a few questions and enjoy the rare chance to talk to a professional writer. Later on, I had coffee with a young producer, who chastised me for not pushing my latest script on him. I told her that I didn’t think it was right to push my script on such a tenuous connection, but she pushed and argued to the point where I came around to the idea. That night, I contacted the screenwriter and asked him if he would read my script. I never heard back. I immediately felt very stupid for doing it, and to this day, regret severing that connection with such a request. I acted as if the guy owed me something…as if I was the ONLY person who had ever met him, and then – within a week – asked him to read something. I treated him like an opportunity, not a person.

It doesn’t help that this is how it’s done. In my very first blog post, I wrote about a guy I knew who gave his script to someone and then watched it get passed around like wildfire, only to end up in the hands of a Sony executive, who then bought it. When you hear a story like this, you can’t help but want to share it with everyone you see. Any person could be your big break. And really, what other option do we have? We have connections or we have cold calling/querying.

I think the problem is two-fold, and it’s on both sides of the equation. First, the person you’re giving the script to: odds are they’re a professional, and doing much better than you. They’re most likely so far gone from the time when they were an amateur, that they don’t remember what it’s like. And most importantly: they don’t HAVE to remember. That part is over for them. Also, a lot of them develop a kind of “I had to claw my way to the top, so you do too” kind of attitude. They forget that, in almost every case, their success was probably achieved by someone doing them a favor. But like I said, they don’t have to think about that anymore.

The other side of the equation is you. The obvious part of your side of the equation is that you probably don’t realize just how many people ask them to read their screenplays. The not so obvious part of the equation is the dream. What is the dream? It’s that nagging little feeling in the back of your head that this – will – be – it. You’re going to give them your screenplay, and they’re going to like it so much, they’re going to pass it to their agent, a producer, an executive, whoever. You may give it to them under the guise that you want “feedback” or you “just want to know what they think of it”, but we all know what you really want. I’ve done it too. You want praise. You want success. You don’t want to hear what’s wrong with it. I’ve had many people ask me to read their screenplays under this guise, and get REALLY PISSED (or break off communication entirely) when I’m mildly critical of it. So you – the screenwriter – must come to terms with what you’re asking for. Because the person you’re giving it to sure as hell knows.

Giving your screenplay to people is a MUST in this industry. It has to be done. But like I’ve always said, it’s better if you treat the person you’re giving it to AS A PERSON, not an opportunity. Be real with them. Don’t hide your intentions under something you don’t really want. And most importantly, if you see Josh Olson, ask him to read your screenplay. Because seriously, fuck that guy.

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.

 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You’ve Finished the Damned Script – Now What? (Anthony Cawood Primers for a Networked World) – Part 3 - posted by Anthony Cawood

A writer’s work is never done. Let’s see, where were we? Oh – that’s right. Marketing you and – most importantly – your SCRIPTS.

You got yourself an online presence. TICK.

You’ve used some of the handy sites we mentioned last time to garner feedback, and improve upon perfection. TICK.

So – here you stand (or more likely sit): armed with a finished, polished script. But now who’s going to make it? And how will they learn of its existence?

Well, our third article is here to help you out – providing you, the writer, with a host of sites and services especially geared to get your script out there. To be seen – and hopefully filmed. After all, that’s what we’re writing them for!

Isn’t it?

A few tips before we dive in.

  • On Forums and Message Boards, make sure you follow their rules and post in the right place. Nothing’s more offensive than a writer who barges in, and doesn’t bother to get the “lay of the land.”
  • Keep posts short and sweet – and watch them for responses.
  • As part of the “getting to know you process”, mention any achievements you may have. EG: My script won XXX award was filmed by John Doe Director in 2014. You know, that sort of thing.
  • Post your logline, and make it zing. After all, it’s the first thing a reader will react to.
  • Link to your website or IMDB page etc. That gives people a chance to check out your work.
  • Please note: I personally specialize in shorts, so the resources listed may be biased that way. But I’ve mentioned sites that focus on Features, too.

*Speaking of “getting to know you”, I’ve included in these listings the number of short scripts I’ve managed to option/sell/get made from the various sites. Just so you can get a sense of how active and successful they could be for you.

So onto the resources. And what better place to start, than …

Simply Scripts (SS)http://www.simplyscripts.com/submit_your_script_new.html

Submit a logline and your script. When you do, it’ll appear in two places.

The Discussion Board – lots of screenwriters frequent SS. It’s here that they’ll take a look at your work, and offer you their thoughts. These are great free reads. Perfect to use for your next revision.

Unproduced Scripts – A round up of all scripts submitted in the previous week.

TC Note: Your script will also be findable via the sites’ search engine, various genre links and (potentially) through SS’s ‘Random Short Script of the Day’.

Simply Scriptshttp://www.simplyscripts.com/category/scripts-available-for-production/

Between SS and STS I’ve had 3 scripts sold/optioned so far.

Inktip http://www.inktip.com/

Inktip is primarily for indie, lowish budget Features. From what I’ve heard it’s got a pretty decent track record of connecting screenwriters with producers and getting things made. They also provide a host of other services including script tracking, an online magazine, a competition portal and a whole lot more. Some things are paid for, others free.

To date, I’ve gotten five shorts sold/optioned through Inktips. Submit your short for free via http://www.inktip.com/sa_short_script_listing.php

Blacklisthttp://www.blcklst.com/

A site definitely geared for the Feature screenwriter. My experience of it is non-existent, but some writers have had success. Blacklist takes the approach of evaluating and scoring scripts by at least two of their readers (the site’s reader evaluations are paid for by the individual writer. Any resulting industry reviews are free.) This allows prospective film makers to get an opinion of a script in advance – though some writers have taken issue with evaluations and scores.

Reddit, Produce my scripthttp://www.reddit.com/r/producemyscript

There’s a forum for everything you could ever think of on Reddit, and that includes Screenwriting. The ‘Produce my Script’ forum has been set up to connect writers with filmmakers. The filmmaking side tends to be students and gifted amateurs. But give it a try. You never know where the next Tarantino will emerge from. I’ve had three successes here thus far.

WinningScriptshttp://www.moviebytes.com/ws/

Sister site to MovieBytes (Great competition portal). WinningScripts offers writers a great opportunity to get their scripts listed and seen by industry professionals. One can list an unlimited number of scripts on the site for a modest annual fee (currently $29.95). Included in that is a logline, synopsis and script excerpt. Interested film makers can contact you to request full scripts. There’s also a Top 10 section based on scripts that have won or placed in competitions. I’ve not had a script success from here yet, but I remain optimistic.

Stage 32http://www.stage32.com/

A great online community for all aspects of film making. Once you’ve joined, you can upload loglines. People can check them out and contact you if interested. I’ve had two shorts optioned by other Stage 32 members to date.

International Screenwriter’s Association (ISA)http://www.networkisa.org/

Upload your script’s logline and other details, which are visible via the site’s database. The site also has a ‘Jobs’ section – more on that in the next article. I haven’t had any success with this site as yet, but I have had a few read requests.

Script Boutiquehttp://www.scriptboutique.co.uk/

A relative newcomer from the UK. It’s similar to Inktip in that as you can list your logline and synopsis for viewing. Script Boutique is free for screenwriters from all round the world. No successes so far, but it’s a new site which will probably grow over time.

There are also some other sites/forums that I regularly post on. No luck with these so far… but then again, you never know! 😉

Screenwriter’s Market http://bproducersseekingscreenplays.runboard.com/f2

Indietalkhttp://www.indietalk.com/forum.php

Student Filmshttp://www.studentfilms.com/

Done Deal Prohttp://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/index.php

Screenwriting Goldminehttp://www.screenwritinggoldmine.com/forum/

Film Maker Forumhttp://www.filmmakerforum.org/script-marketplace/

Happy writing to the STS community. And until next article – get those damned scripts out there!!

About Anthony: Anthony Cawood is a new(ish) screenwriter from the UK with two produced short films, two in post production and another seven sold/optioned. His script, A Certain Romance, recently won in the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (short script category), and two other scripts have recently placed 2nd and 3rd in the FilmQuest Screenwriting Competition and Reel Writers Screenwriting Competition respectively. Links to his films and details of all his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

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.

******

No-Bullscript-Web-Banner-160x85-Final

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

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!

Friday, September 26, 2014

You’ve Finished the Damned Script – Now What? (Anthony Cawood Primers for a Networked World) – Part 2 - posted by Anthony Cawood

Part Two – Getting Feedback

At the beginning of this series, we discussed writer promotion basics; how to establish you (and your work) as an active on-line commodity. Assuming you’ve been a busy marketing beaver, you’ve now got your new website all set up and ready to go. And you’re all over Facebook and Twitter like ants at the proverbial picnic table…

So what’s next on your journey towards screenwriting world domination?

Well, you could use some of the great resources out there to get coverage (aka, feedback, notes etc) of your cinematic baby. Rewriting and polishing it until it shines, for that day when you get that oh so precious email: “send us a copy of your script…”

As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So you want that script to be perfect.

Don’t you?

Okay, so you’re not going to get professional coverage without paying for it. (Though when you’re ready, don’t forget to take a look at STS’s very own talented and detailed script consultant, Danny Manus, of NoBullscript Consulting!

But there are some great places to get your screenplays read without shelling out your limited dough, complete with feedback and notes.

Below you’ll find a list of sites where gifted amateur screenwriters – and the occasional pro – congregate and provide useful recommendations.

A few words of caution before we dive in: it’s worth pointing out that you’re putting your work (your baby!) online for others to see and comment on.

1) Make sure it’s copyrighted – either through the Library of Congress or at least WGA. And no, not everyone’s out to steal your script or idea. But there are always some bad apples lurking around. Somewhere.

2) Bear in mind: on the net, free expression reigns supreme. Barring any board limits and moderations, people can and will voice their opinions as they see fit. Feedback is usually respectful, but inevitably some trolling and flaming occurs. Following are a few helpful ideas to keep it to a minimum:

3)   Check your grammar and spellen. (Um, “spelling”) And then check it again! Readers quickly get distracted with error strewn scripts… and often leave choice comments before they move onto other things. Besides, if you can’t be bothered to run an easy spell check and read through the pages, why in the world would you expect a stranger to do so. For free?!? (An extra tip, if grammar isn’t your thing, there’s some online help… check out Ginger for example.)

4)   Make sure the screenplay’s formatted correctly, using screenwriting software to ensure the basics are right. Final Draft is the standard for pros, but a bit pricey. For the cash strapped, CeltX is free, as is the web version of WritersDuet. Making sure your formatting’s up to snuff removes another reader distraction.

5)   Save or upload your docs as PDFs. People don’t like seeing screenplays written in Word. It screams amateur.

6)   The vast majority of these sites work on – and appreciate – reciprocity. So if you ask for a read, make darned well sure you give thoughtful ones in return.

7)   Consider all comments and feedback. No script is so perfect that it can’t be improved on. That said, don’t forget it’s your script. So use the recommendations to improve and polish your work. Not change it into something else.

8)   Don’t limit yourself to asking for script feedback. These sites are the online homes of tons of helpful fellow writers. Reach out to them with other questions as well. How to get through a tricky piece of writing, logline reviews, etc. You name it. People will have thought about it, and will be willing to share.

Now for the online resources themselves:

Simply Scripts – http://www.simplyscripts.com/

Kind of an obvious choice, given you’re reading this off the homepage. But it’s a fact that bears repeating: the SimplyScripts discussion board is populated by a bunch of talented writers, most of whom are happy to help fellow scribes out. The site has two primary sections for getting script exposure: 1) A general discussion board for unproduced works – divided by features/shorts and genres, 2) The script Showcase “Shootin’ the Shorts” (STS), where selected short scripts (and one feature a month) get fantastic exposure through in-depth reviews. Please note: STS is for shorts ready to shoot, not first draft works in progress!

Reddit – http://www.reddit.com/r/ReadMyScript/

Reddit has a few different areas (fondly known as sub-reddits) for writing, and two or three that focus on screenwriting in particular. I’ve found that the link provided above is the most suitable one for your needs. The feedback is usually decent. Not as good or in depth as SS – and there’s the occasional troll or flame war. But you’re on-line. You should be used to that!

IndieTalkhttp://www.indietalk.com/forumdisplay.php?f=43

A movie making Forum with a relatively healthy screenwriting section. If you ask for script feedback, you’ll generally get 5-10 responses. Not to the same depth as SS, but pretty decent all the same.

AbsoluteWrite – http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=12

A broader forum that contains a wealth of info on a number of writing specialties (including Screenwriting, of course.) It’s worth a look – but less detailed than some of the other options here.

The Black Board – http://theblackboard.blcklst.com/forums/forum/screenwriting/

This is the Forum site for the Blacklist. Yes, the Blacklist. As such, it’s pretty active with five screenwriting boards. But it’s more business related – less on the “how-to” of the craft, and more on the “getting things made” end of things.

Stage 32 – http://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting

A great resource for connecting people involved in film making, in all the various disciplines. Acting. Directing. Cinematography. Producing. And, yes, Screenwriting. It’s a little like Facebook or LinkedIn, but specifically for film makers. Each discipline has it’s own “Lounge” for discussion and online interaction. There, you’ll find a variety of exchanges: requests for feedback on scripts, loglines and more. As is true everywhere, there’s a ton of opinions on S32… so please remember Rule #5. It’s your script. Take constructive criticism and value it. But remain true to your vision.

Screenwritinggoldmine Forumhttp://www.screenwritinggoldmine.com/forum/forums/screenwriting.14/

There are extensive sections on screenwriting in this active site. Definitely worth looking at for advice and reads.

MoviePoet – http://www.moviepoet.com

This one shares several members with SS – and has generated some serious talent. Scripts are limited to five pages or less. They’ve got a great monthly competition, where everyone gets to vote and comment on your script. The only downside: that you don’t see anything until the results are announced, then you get all the feedback at once. More on Movie Poet in the Competitions article.

Zoetrope – http://www.zoetrope.com

Yep, Copolla’s site! You need to join officially. But then you can post scripts and get them read. And you do need to read scripts in return. This is one site that I’ve limited experience with. More notes on it at a later date…

Screenwriter’s Utopia – http://www.screenwritersutopia.com/

Has a Script Swapping Forum for people to exchange scripts, get notes etc. The forum doesn’t seem very active, but the site has other resources worth checking out, too.

Established and respected resource for all things film, including an active screenwriting community, who are always happy and quick to help. Check out the other sub forums too, there’s a wealth of info here covering the gamut of film making subjects.

Well, that’s enough sites to start with (search on-line and you’re sure to find even more!) If you do find a gem, please let us know.

In the meantime, start digging around in these sites – they’re all essential tools to improve your script, your craft… and provide valuable networking opportunities too!

Next up: Where to publicize your scripts, once you’re good and ready…

About Anthony: Anthony Cawood is a new(ish) screenwriter from the UK with two produced short films, two in post production and another seven sold/optioned. His script, A Certain Romance, recently won in the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (short script category), and two other scripts have recently placed 2nd and 3rd in the FilmQuest Screenwriting Competition and Reel Writers Screenwriting Competition respectively. Links to his films and details of all his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk

Friday, September 19, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Development Hell – Part III (P.J. McNeill) - posted by P. J. McNeill

Welcome to Development Hell

Part III: Game over, man. Game over!

Over the last 10 years, I have optioned nearly every single script I have written. And outside of a few short scripts, I have NEVER seen a feature script make it to production. I have watched each script painstakingly go through the development process, only to fall apart with little to no warning. That means that I’ve done years of re-writes multiple times for multiple scripts, with next to nothing to show for it.

Thankfully, as mentioned several posts ago, I no longer work for free (and you shouldn’t either). My last option that collapsed lasted for THREE YEARS. And think about it honestly: would you do ANY job for three years with absolutely no pay? Sure, I could go on a tangent about how it’s my passion and the joy of writing should be good enough for me, but screw that, I have a family, and three years is a long time. I can’t imagine if I looked back on the entirety of that time and realized I literally had nothing to show for it.

And THAT’S why they’re paying you. Not only for your time (and the time the script is off the market), but for the off-chance that NOTHING happens with your script. If nothing happens with your script and you have no money to show for it, what can you actually say about the last three years (give or take) of work you’ve done? I’ve done $0 options before, and when the years have passed and the project collapses, you look back and realize that is time you can’t get back. And worse, your idea might be outdated by that time. Several years ago, the three year option script was original and had a unique selling point. Now, when I try to pitch it, I get responses like “I’ve had two people try to pitch a script like this in the past couple months.”

The biggest thing independent filmmakers love to fall back on are points, instead of pay. The very first option I had was for one dollar, but man, oh man, did I have lot of points on the back end. I remember feeling pretty damn proud of myself, negotiating the percentage of my points higher than what was originally offered. Unfortunately, the filmmaker held onto the script for a couple years and eventually gave it back to me, thus making my points completely and utterly worthless. You can have a million percentage points, but it’s pointless (heh.) if you don’t end up with a film. (Add that to the fact that even if you DO get a film, those points are probably worthless. Seriously, get cash up front.)

It’s going to be hard to tell people your option fell apart. You know how I said, in the last entry, that you’ve probably told your friends and family, and they’re most likely always asking for updates? Well, now you get to tell those same skeptical people that your project fell apart.   It will come to the point, if you’re like me and have had several options that didn’t work out, that the people you know will become skeptical of optioning/development. It’s like how people get less and less excited with each kid you have. Everyone’s pumped with the first one – sending you congrats and what not – but by the forth, it’s like “Alright already, you can have kids. Hooray. Let me know when they do something worthwhile.” Same thing with optioning. I can see it in people’s eyes now. I tell them I optioned something, but all I see is “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me know when it’s a movie.”

The biggest fear you will have is people thinking your script didn’t get made because it isn’t good. That YOU’RE the problem. Let me just say: that’s bullshit. It’s not your fault if your script doesn’t get made. There are so many factors at play in securing funding for a film, that it is horribly simplistic to blame it entirely on the quality of the script. It’s not just the good scripts that make it to production. Don’t believe me? Take a look at ANY section on Netflix Instant. If it WAS your script, odds are it was because your script didn’t fit a particular mold. Your script isn’t the type of script you can point to and say “THIS is why it will make money.” And when you’re trying to secure funding, it’s all about finding out what is “sellable” about your script. Your script being “good” sadly isn’t enough. My last story session with the director concentrated more on “what would sell” than what would make for a good story. (Spoiler alert: any scene over two pages – doesn’t sell)

I’m more confident about my current project in development than I have been about any project before it. I would be shocked if I received an e-mail telling me they were pulling the plug. I fully expect it to go into production. Which is great, because they told me I could have 125% of the film’s profits. Suckers.

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!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Development Hell – Part Two (P.J. McNeill) - posted by P. J. McNeill

Welcome to Development Hell

Part II: The Waiting Game Sucks, Let’s Play Hungry, Hungry Hippos

The production company I’m currently working with has (at least) 12 other projects in development; ranging from television to feature films. And only one – count ‘em – one development executive. Granted, he has a slew of interns working for him, but the bulk of the work rests solely on his already heavily weighed down shoulders. So what does that mean for me? It means, when I send in the latest draft of my script, I have to get in line. It might be days, weeks or even months before I hear back. And you, as a writer, have to really become OK with that: the waiting.

One time, I turned in the latest draft of my script, and started the process of waiting. Two weeks later, I received an e-mail from the executive apologizing and telling me it would be awhile before they would get a chance to read it because they just entered production on another film. Production time: TWO MONTHS. That meant, for two months, I was being pushed to the back of the line. (NOTE: So think about THAT when you’re waiting for a production company to get back to you while querying. You know how I’m at the back of the line? Well, you’re not even IN the line.)

Most companies won’t talk in depth about what they have in development, and it is certainly not your place to ask (unless you’ve developed a good relationship with them). You’ll start to wonder where your project ranks. And even if you had the gall to ask them (which you shouldn’t), they’d most likely tell you that ALL their projects are equally important. Which is BS, just like when your parents say they love you all equally. (Spoiler alert: they love your sister more.)

The worst part is that you’ve most likely told your friends and family that you’ve optioned a script. And what do they want? Updates. And why wouldn’t they? It’s exciting, and they’re excited FOR you. But what they don’t understand is that development is a slow-going process every step of the way. Even in the studio system, most films spend YEARS in development, unless they’re the lucky few to be on the “fast track”.

So whenever you’re at a party or a family function and every-single-person opens with “So, what’s going on with (insert script name here)?” and you have NOTHING to tell them, it’ll start to nag at you after awhile; especially as the months go by. And every time you talk to that person, and have no updates to give, you’ll start to see their interest fade and give way to good ol’ skepticism. You’ll try to think of things you can tell them that put a positive spin on it all, but if someone doesn’t understand development, it just sounds like a lot of nothing.

Because of this all, you’ll be tempted to contact the company. Don’t. If they have something to tell you (about your script drafts, the state of financing, actors attached, etc), they’ll tell you. You don’t want to become the needy writer they quickly become sick of working with. Because REMEMBER: you want to keep a good working relationship with them. They just might make your next film. But they won’t if they remember you as that writer who wouldn’t leave them the hell alone. If you do e-mail them, make it short and sweet and only do it EVERY SEVERAL MONTHS. But I really would advise against this, unless you have the type of relationship that merits it.

The best thing you can do – and the thing I even have a problem with – is to throw yourself into something else, like another script. It’s tough though. Having your script in development IS exciting. You want to know what’s going on with it. After all, this could be your big break, and the “green light” could happen any day…in a couple years.

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, 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

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