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Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Eulogy – Feature Length Review (Available for Production) - posted by KP Mackie

Ruby (98 pages in PDF format) by Dena McKinnon

When a cantankerous woman is given only months to live, the town scrambles to see who will write her Eulogy – and inherit her vast fortune.

The Eulogy surrounds its readers in a rich tapestry of characters, which envelop you like a warm blanket.

The main protagonist is Ruby Mae Morgan: wealthy spinster, and owner of Morgan Textiles factory. An isolated figure, she lives out the remainder of her years behind the perpetually locked gates of her lonely Southern mansion. Despite her riches, she has no friends. Only employees (lots of them), who test the limits of her patience daily. Ruby’s miserable personality hints at some trauma in her past… but she isn’t interested in reminiscing or telling tales. Business takes priority over the personal. Always. Even when Ruby discovers she’s… dying. But rather than give up, she goes into high gear, determined to wrap up loose ends. Especially regarding who will get her factory and take the reins. Within days of her diagnosis, the old woman announces a contest: whoever writes the best eulogy for her (while she’s still alive and able to judge) will get her full estate… and company.

Needless to say – game on! As soon as the proclamation’s made, all the factory workers scramble to life, each determined to win the prize.

Among the contenders: Violet (24). Though young, she’s already had a hard knock life. Estranged from her husband (sleazy factory manager Sherman), Violet’s been abused, kicked out of her home, and forced to live with five year old daughter Abbey in their beat-up car.

Then there’s Catfish – Miss Ruby’s gardener – who readily admits he’s in over his head. Not only is he not a writer, he’s got more pressing issues on his plate. Like watching over two grown drug-addicted daughters, and caring for seven year old granddaughter, “Tadpole”. But still, a man can dream. Especially when his precocious granddaughter’s future is at stake.

Then there’s Miss Ruby’s greedy son Brent – a man who has had little to do with his mother his entire life. At least, until he hears about her eminent demise. After which point, Brent arrives with attorney in tow: clearly not interested in reunion. But hell-bent on inheritance.

Then there’s the rest of the colorful, quirky town – all desperate to grab for the brass ring that Ruby’s dangled before their eyes. Even if they have to brown-nose, cheat and lie.

Of all the characters that march across Eulogy’s page, it’s young “Tadpole” that stands heads and tails above the rest. “Seven going on Twenty Three”, Tadpole is perhaps the only one who truly feels sorry for Miss Ruby, and sees redeeming qualities in her. As Tadpole herself states: “Miss Ruby could be right mean. But I just figure she must be feeling really bad inside. Maybe she was scared about dying. She was like one of them suckers with the hard candy on the outside and the delicious bubble gum on the inside.” Ahhh, out of the mouths of babes.

Take our word for it. Tadpole will steal your heart…

As Miss Ruby’s illness accelerates, the contest reaches crisis point. Everyone’s needy – but who will win? And will Miss Ruby find peace of mind – or take decade long secrets to her grave?

You’ll care about the characters in The Eulogy. A lot. Honest, organic portrayals, this odd assortment of personalities will capture your attention, and hold it hostage to the end. This feature length will tug at your heartstrings, and win big at the festivals. And drama doesn’t get much better than that. J

Budget: The Talent. Get the best actors money can buy. Then let the script work it’s magic!

About the Writer: Dena McKinnon has had four shorts produced. One of her shorts, The Box, directed by Sascha Zimmermann, has racked up numerous awards and was screened at Comic-Con in San Diego. Dena has optioned one feature, Doggone, a buddy script cowritten with Kevin Lenihan. Currently, Dena has one feature in production, The Last Call, with Leo-PR, and is writing on assignment for an undisclosed TV producer. Dena just finished directing her script Kill Your Demon. Check out Dena’s IMDB credits and website at DenaMcKinnon.com/.

About the Reviewer: California über reader/reviewer KP Mackie is working on a historical feature.

Read Ruby (pdf format)

Find more scripts available for production

This screenplay may not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Based on a True Story – Feature Length Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Laptop Features

Based on a True Story

A fictional film about non-fictional events that are entirely fictional.

Senses of humor vary radically. Some people think Porky’s is the height of hilarity. Remember that one, folks? Others prefer Woody Allen’s neurotic wit and TV shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm. One thing’s for sure… humor’s changed a hell of a lot over the years; with the focus veering towards over-the-top gross outs. This is the End anyone? Whatever happened to smart, character based comedy? Is there anyone out there still writing intelligent humor?

Yep. His name is Matt Dressel. The script in question is Based on a True Story. (That’s the title, folks. Not the description. The script itself is completely fictional.)

Smart, funny and low budget, BTS revolves around protagonist Bill, a screenwriter that can’t seem to get his big break. (Gee, I wonder how often that happens in real life?) Demoralized, Bill pays the bills working at a 911 crisis center, and most of his nights hanging out with incompetent actor pals Tim and Sam. (Okay, Sam’s not exactly a friend, more of an unfortunate acquaintance.) They live in Quigley Quagmire’s hotel… a depressing little 80’s reject hovel that’s only one step removed from the Roach Motel. In other words, life ain’t going well.

That is, until Bill has his brilliant idea. Hollywood likes reboots and movies based on True Stories, right? Why not stage a bank robbery themselves….and then cash in on the press with a best selling screenplay? Between Bill and his crew, they’ve got creativity, actors and props on their side. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

How often has that question been asked? With the logical answer. Everything.

What follows is a highly intelligent – and yet goofy – romp through an escalating comedy of errors: from “Auditioning” the other bank robbers (and other theoretically important stuff, like how to handle guns and bank vaults) to the actual caper. And the inevitable complications that ensue. A master of understated comedy, Matt Dressel populates the script with colorful characters… not just the protagonists, but walk-on supporting bits as well. Not to mention rioting Nazis, pizza delivery men, and David Bowie groupies. (Don’t even try to ask. Just read the script and see.) Sound over the top? In Dressel’s hands, this script actually maintains comedy balance … peppering the script with wonderful lines like that of Crusty Detective Vic Cardigan: “I’ve been chasing (these robbers’) sorry asses for nearly 25 years of my life – ever since I was a rookie on the force.” Police officer: “They appear to be about 30 years of age, sir.” Cardigan: “Damn, they’re good.”

You know what’s really good? This script. It’s an indie breath of fresh air in a world populated by dick jokes and vomit gags. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those… in moderation.) But if you’re an up and coming director looking for a comedy with intelligence and staying power, check this one out. Fast. Before it gets away like a bank robber with the loot…

About the writer: Matthew Dressel recently wrote/produced/acted in his own web series Let’s Kill John Stamos! One of his feature films, Killing Daniel, has been optioned by Darius Films. You can catch more of Matt’s work at http://www.matthewdressel.com.

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

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.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Congratulations to Marnie Mitchell-Lister – Getting to Know You Optioned! - posted by wonkavite

You know, like loving parents… we at STS love all our babies (read “scripts we review”) equally.

But when one particular script stands out – and gets grabbed by a lucky director that’s sure to do it justice…  Well, don’t be surprised when we jump up in the stands and cheer.  And – we’ll probably even treat that script to ice-cream cake later. That is, when all is said and done.

So please join us in congratulating Marnie Mitchell Lister on the recent optioning of “Getting to Know You”from Day One, it’s been a witty, sharp script with an evil twist.  We’ll be thrilled to see this one on screen!

In the meantime, we very much recommend you check out Marnie’s other work, all of which is available at her website Brain Fluffs.com here!

And here are a few reviews of her work to check out as well:

Honey Do (Short) – A woman confronts her lazy husband with a long list of things he’s promised to do around the house. When he doesn’t budge, she decides to do them herself.

The Creation of Oz (Short)- Sometimes, the most beautiful dreams emerge from the most modest beginnings…

Letting Go – (Short)  After a horrible accident, a young girl’s mother has a very hard time letting go.

Memories – (Feature) – A control freak struggling with her recent divorce attempts to recreate a family road trip with her bitter ex-husband to help their amnesiac daughter regain her memory. A wonderful dramedy that made the top 15% at Nicholl!

But make SURE you check out her website.  Because Marnie’s got much more!

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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Tim Westland’s For the Love of God – Available for Viewing (but wait, there’s more)! - posted by wonkavite

Awhile back, STS announced that Tim Westland’s reviewed script For the Love of God had been optioned.  As you all know, that’s the first step.

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that the script has been shot by talented director Randy Smith – it’s distributed and looking… fabulous!

So take a peek at it on Youtube here…!

In the meantime, we highly suggest you look over Tim’s other work. The man writes in a variety of genres – each intelligently nuanced, and available for production as we speak:

Shorts

Better Be Good – (Holiday Fantasy Short) – When a young boy finds Santa’s lost bag of toys in a nearby forest, his first thought is to return it. His big brother has other ideas though, which might prove life changing for both of them. https://simplyscriptsreviews.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/better-be-good-short-script-for-review-available-for-production/

Balls Out (comedy) – Legendary Surfing Pioneer, Mick “Balls Out” Shelly, hasn’t hit the waves in five decades. But an opportunity to reclaim the spotlight takes Mick and people from his past on a trip down memory lane that none are likely to forget. https://simplyscriptsreviews.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/balls-out/

Careful What You Wish For (comedy/fantasy) – Magic genies and bottles. Such things never end well.  Or DO they? https://simplyscriptsreviews.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/careful-what-you-wish-for-short-script-review-available-for-production/

A Line in the Sand (Hard Political SF/Drama) – Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. https://simplyscriptsreviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/a-line-in-the-sand-short-script-review-available-for-production/

TV Series

Loose Screws (TV Pilot/Drama/Thriller with writer John Robbins) – A successful psychiatrist finds himself losing his grip on reality – and turns to an old patient – a girl with a mysterious mathematical talent, that he used and betrayed years ago. https://simplyscriptsreviews.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/loose-screws-featured-television-pilot-review-available-for-option/

Features

Hunted/Stitched (Feature Horror with writer Rod Thompson) – After accidentally shooting a girl in the mysterious Ozark mountains, five hunting buddies must battle for their lives and their souls when a backwoods hillbilly taxidermist invokes ancient supernatural powers to bring his monstrous patchwork creations to life to exact his revenge.  Note to Directors who focus on contest winners… Stitched has been wowing the big ones.  Quite well! https://simplyscriptsreviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/hunted-feature-length-script-review-available-for-production/

About Tim himself: Tim Westland, co-writer of the acclaimed graphic novel Chasing the Dead, received first place for Balls Out in the NNYM 15 page contest. An outstanding writer with an eye for the details, his IMDB page can be found here. And he can be reached here (when not subsumed in writing throes): timwestland “AT” hotmail

Thursday, November 26, 2015

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

Recently, we reviewed Chris Shamburger’s horrific new slasher, Red Light. 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 – for your Thanksgiving-reading pleasure – please find Danny’s scoresheet for Red Light. (Please note: for this posting, we’ve broken with tradition and redacted the actual coverage notes.) TRUST US: Danny’s notes – as always – were insightful and detailed; an invaluable read.  But we’re allergic to spoilers here at STS. So we’re keeping THAT under our Turkey table today!

But a Strong Consider from No Bullscript?  You better damned well grab this gem while you can! 🙂 Contact writer Chris at cshamburger “AT” live dot com for a copy of the script!

**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: Red Light

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author:  Chris Shamburger

Number of Pages: 102

Circa:  Present

Location:  Arizona

Genre:  Slasher/Horror

Coverage Date:   11/19/15

Budget Range: Low

LOGLINE: When three teens challenge a local ghost story by running a red light, they find themselves the next targets of a seemingly supernatural entity bent on revenge but the truth behind the legend may be even more deadly.

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: STRONG 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/

Ending

  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    

About the writer: Chris Shamburger was a finalist (Top 10) in the 2013 Shriekfest Film Festival for his recently-produced script, Hiccups. He has been a semi-finalist twice and has also been published in Twisted Dreams Magazineand Horror in Words. Chris lives in Marietta, GA with his partner and their Chow-mix rescue, Walter. Aside from writing, Chris has been teaching pre-kindergarten for the past six years. You can find him on IMDb here:  | Comments Off on No BullScript Consulting – Danny Manus Script Review (Red Light)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Danny Manus No Bullscript Analysis – Thistles - posted by wonkavite

Recently, STS reviewed Mark Lyons’ very raw, and very real dramatic script, Thistles.  (Script available here.) 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 Thistles. 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.

About the writer of Thistles: Mark Lyons is a screenwriter from Youngstown, Ohio. He’s written several scripts, most notably ‘Best Film’ award winner “God’s Empty Acre”, which was filmed as ‘Girl(s)’, at the 2013 Winter Shorts Film Festival and Best Drama at the 2013 World Independent Film Expo. He has also written the feature “Thistles” which was a Quarter-Finalist in the 2013 Bluecat Screenwriting Competition and the short “Ginger” which was a Finalist at the 2013 Shriekfest Film Festival. He can be reached at markielyons “AT” yahoo

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

Title: Thistles

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author: Mark Lyons

Number of Pages: 92

Circa: Present

Location: Ohio/Urban City

Genre: Drama

Coverage Date: 8/12/15

Budget Range: Low

LOGLINE: A junior high school student’s crush on her teacher leads to seduction, murder and brutal and shocking consequences that neither of them could have anticipated.

COMMENTS: Mark, thank you for submitting your script “Thistles” to Simply Scripts. In the subsequent pages, I will go through the things that work well and what still needs to be worked on, developed, or changed to make this a more viable and commercial script and series.

I’m going to be as blunt in the notes as you are in the writing of this script. I’ve read many thousands of scripts and this is easily one of the most disturbing, twisted, upsetting, and brutal scripts I’ve ever read. And I love films like Hard Candy, Kids, Bully, Precious, etc. that tackle disturbing topics in interestingly dramatic or artistic ways. But if Precious met A Serbian Film, this script might be the result. And while a disturbing and unsettling tone is set up early on, with the young girls talking about what they’d do to grown men on pg 9, it really goes so far over the edge in the third act that there’s no going back. I could list maybe 3 scripts I’ve ever read that viscerally made me want to gag, and this is one of them. It’s nicely written overall, but very simply, there are just some things no producer would touch or want to film. And your third act fits that bill.

The story of a disillusioned urban teen’s seduction of her alcoholic yet very caring and supportive (white) teacher is already pushing the envelope, but in a good way. That concept can work if done well. An African American Lolita meets Precious. And you have a few very intriguing plot points and shocking twists pushing the story forward, including the death of Sazha’s brother at the hands of her teacher because of the assumed affair going on. When Sazha finally seduces him in his inebriated state and gets what she wants, I actually assumed she was going to turn on him and use that to destroy him to get vengeance for her brother…but this story takes a very different direction.

It’s a morally complex story, and I do appreciate that. It gives us enough twists and turns that the reader and audience is constantly being challenged to be at odds with our own thoughts and expectations. That can be very powerful. But for me, it just. Goes. Too. Far.

Structurally, you have a very interestingly told story. Each major plot twist really pushes the story in a new direction. An unexpected direction. You have major moments that really stand out (some for good reasons, some not), and you have a solid inciting incident, end of your first act, turning points, a hell of a midpoint, and then a build in your third act (which I’ll discuss in a moment). The opening of the script made me wonder what year this movie takes place in because the use of VHS makes it seem pretty dated, and even the school and the English lesson and the pop-it’s the kids throw at him feel a bit dated.

Crandall is set up as this pitiful character with a sad backstory who clearly has his demons but wants to do the right thing. And his story is really a tragedy, with his suicide at the midpoint being another shocking and pretty unexpected moment that jars the reader and makes us continually wonder – where could this story be going next? Crandall is somewhat of the protagonist of the story despite his actions or interactions with Sazha. We do pity him and feel for him, and even forgive his illegal transgressions, which makes us question ourselves. But once he’s gone, the script becomes something else.

Crandall is an interesting character in that he invites his 12 year old student to his home for tutoring, but then rebuffs her. But then gives in, but then feels guilty. And then with Crandall’s letters/notebook that Sazha finds, I at first thought that he had written letters to ALL the students he had molested and that he really was a bad guy and she was discovering this while reading the letters and realizing that she’s not as special as she thought she was. But in the end, they turn out to be really sweet, kind, redeeming letters to his students that show how good of a guy he was.

A small note with Crandall, but you introduce him twice on page 4. His physical description at the bottom of the page should come at the top when you tell us about his receding hairline.

Turrell sees what he assumes is Crandall taking advantage of Sazha through the window, but he doesn’t go right over there and kick his ass or do anything. He waits until a couple days later to actually kill him. Why?

With Clyde, he seems like a very supportive friend but we don’t meet him until the AA meeting and suddenly he and Crandall are talking about school and the kids and curriculum. We need to see him at the school first to set up that he even works there. And it’s not clear that he’s the Principal until later.

One of my favorite and most emotionally tense scenes in the whole script is when Crandall gets on the bus that Cora is driving after Turrell’s murder, and she realizes who he is and confronts him. It’s a very cool way for them to cross paths, and it’s a powerful moment and a strong scene. However, I don’t believe that a woman who could do what she does in the third act to a baby and her own pregnant mother, wouldn’t at least PUNCH Crandall and go crazy on him in this scene. It’s also a little odd that Cora doesn’t know who he is as soon as she sees him. Doesn’t she know what the killer looks like and who he is? Doesn’t she know that Sazha’s teacher IS the killer? Doesn’t Crandall know that Cora is the mother? Wouldn’t this have all been on the news or at least around the neighborhood? They live directly across the street from each other!

Similarly, it’s unclear if Cora knows that Crandall is dead or killed himself in the third act because she seems to not address this on page 76 when Sazha tells him who the father is. She connects the dots to him being Turrell’s killer, but she seems to care more about the fact that her daughter is sleeping with a grown white man than her son’s killer.

It’s almost always a good thing when a script and a story can get a visceral and emotional reaction from readers…but if you take it too far, you will lose them and then the connection is over. The sex on page 52 you could probably shoot around and if the actress is over 16 and just looks younger, it could be okay. But not what happens on page 74 and continues thru to the end. For me, the fine line between cinematically disturbing and edgy and unfilmable is crossed and then goes even further, and I could no longer tell who would watch this movie.

And it’s not just the action that Cora takes at the start of this sequence, which would be enough to turn a viewer off. It’s really the quadruple-beat of; the hardcore beating of a pregnant 13 year old, the incest reveal of her brother raping her, the stabbing of a premature baby as it’s coming out of her vagina by her own grandmother, and then seeing the actual aborted birth and taking PIECES of the chopped up baby and putting it in a box and carrying it around? There is very little that truly disturbs me while I’m reading – but these 13 pages were almost unreadable because of its truly graphic nature.

There are a number of strong themes and societal issues that this story tackles in truly disturbing albeit original ways. Obviously abortion, teen pregnancy, teachers sleeping with students, the lack of education and the growing amount of violence and sexuality in urban cities, parenting, etc. But thematic films or message movies that are too on the nose or too graphic will not find an audience (at least not a large enough one) because people go to the movies to be entertained first and foremost. The abortion protests are very in your face and I’m not sure why Cora is SO hardcore against it. Clearly she does a 180 in her feelings, but it’s so out of character for her and SO extreme, that it doesn’t feel very believable. She was vehemently against safe, medically-induced Planned Parenthood abortions in the first trimester, but has no problem stabbing an 8 month old premature baby in the head as its being born with a wooden stake and mutilating her daughter on the kitchen floor? I just don’t buy it no matter how mad she gets.

The urban market is growing and there are a number of producers, directors and actors looking for projects that connect with many of the messages and themes confronted within this story. And actresses love to play dirty, ugly and mean. But I honestly don’t know an actress who would want to play the role of Cora. There are some things actresses just won’t do and I worry this is one of them.

Turning to the dialogue, I think it feels genuine to the characters and the world, and there are a number of well-written lines throughout. The writing is strong, and it’s obviously very visceral and impactful on the page. Taking that ability and bringing it to a more commercial concept I think would really make your voice stand out.

I do have a few additional page/line notes:

Pg 20 – Crandall’s dialogue at the bottom is awkwardly worded and doesn’t quite make sense.

Pg 34 – Maybe you don’t have to tell us that it’s Turrell on page 33 that jumps out and that Crandall kills until the next page when Sazha comes in and sees the body and runs towards it and THAT is the moment we realize it’s Turrell’s and that’s why he’s there. I think that might create a stronger moment and reveal.

Pg 66 – Why doesn’t the OB Nurse advise her to abort?

Pg 67 – The egg, making sure not to break the yolk is nice symbolism. It does not go unnoticed.

Pg 69 – It’s unclear how far long Sazha is by now. You have to track that. And she’s not set up as being big boned, so I didn’t know how it wasn’t obvious and showing.

Pg 87 – Patton’s dialogue is pretty racist at the bottom.

Pg 91 – Smithers has some serious self-control. I would have looked.

Overall, the script is well-written and visually written, and the first half of the script is disturbing in an intriguing and dramatic way with nice unexpected twists. It presents timely themes and issues and in morally complex ways. But the last 20 pages just go so far over the edge that I’m not sure who could or would want to watch that on film. It’s so brutally and disgustingly graphic that even if this script were perfectly written, I couldn’t send this to executives because I don’t think they will enjoy the read. And I could only imagine the phone calls I’d get. As a writing sample, I worry that you will turn more execs off than impress them. Plus, you have a slutty black 12 year old, a creepy white adult, and some truly dark and depressing storylines, so I’m not sure what the demographic is for the movie. There are some really strong moments in this script and I can appreciate your writing style, but it’s not a commercial concept the way it plays out and I don’t know any producers who would make this. I’d give a CONSIDER to the writing, but the last 20 pages would make it a PASS for me. But keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Mark for submitting your script “Thistles” to Simply Scripts, and congratulations on being the featured script of the month!

NO BULLSCRIPT 20 POINT GRADING SHEET AND RECOMMENDATION:

PROJECT: CONSIDER W/RESERVATIONS

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/Ending 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

 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Thistles – Feature Length Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Thistles

WARNING – STRONG ADULT CONTENT

An introverted white teacher tutors a gifted black student in a violent urban neighborhood.

Once you’ve been in the script reading business for awhile, you’ll realize genres are just labels. Broad categories that only partially describe. You like science fiction? What kind? Action fantasy? Cyberpunk? Dystopian societies? And then there’s horror, a genre even more difficult to define. There’s slasher, gothic, torture porn. Creature features abound as well…

Then there’s Drama: a genre about regular people. And that’s easy enough – isn’t it?

But chat with a few seasoned script writers. They’ll tell you writing Drama’s a bitch. FX, Fantasy and Horror provide lots of flash and distractions. But strip that window dressing away, and you’re left with no place to hide. Just reality. Emotions. People’s lives.

And that’s a pretty complex world – impossible to classify. Biographies. Romances. Medical dramas. Each  strikes a chord in its unique way.

Some dramas are meant to uplift the spirit. Others bring historical eras to life. But some dramas don’t try to make a grand statement. They simply shine harsh, unapologetic light on a life. What you see may be ugly. But you can’t tear yourself away.

Thistles is one of those scripts. Brutal. And effective.

The life illuminated in this case belongs to Sazha Davids. African American and thirteen, Sazha lives in a broken down, urban neighborhood – with an equally fractured family. Her father? Deceased. Her older brother Turrell’s been getting in deep with the local gang and drugs. As for mother Cora? She has other things on her mind. A bus driver by day, Cora’s passionately involved in pro-life demonstrations… spending most of her time picketing Planned Parenthood clinics, rather than with her kids. A single mother – venting her frustrations. In perhaps not so healthy ways.

Which is fine with Sazha. This is, after all, her normal world. She’s got her friends… and that new English teacher at school, who lives in her apartment complex:

Philip Crandall, mid 30s. White. The complete opposite of urban hip. And very clearly burned by life. Philip’s an easy mark for most of his students, but young Sazha is intrigued. Unlike her other teachers, Philip’s recognized her potential. Just a few kind words here and there – but when a girl’s starved for water, a few drops go pretty far.

And there’s an emotional vulnerability about Philip, as well. Some tragedy that draws the girl to him.

During an after school reading session at Philip’s apartment, a confused Sazha pursues her interest – in the only way she knows how. Philip pushes her off, but the damage is done. Turrell spots his half-naked sister crying in Philip’s bathroom. He draws his own conclusions. And makes plans…

Soon, things spiral out of control… a Shakespearean urban tragedy. But there are no Royals and Jesters in Thistles. Just flawed human beings, with difficult choices and painful lives. And an ending that would make the Bard himself squirm. Titus Andronicus not withstanding.

Brutal and polarizing, Thistles is a dramatic limited location gem – one that’s already won kudos in several script contests. It could be done to perfection on a limited budget, given the right director: one with vision, guts and raw cinematic skill.

You want a film that’ll set fire to festivals? This one’s it. It’s a stark script that will make audiences wince. With just the slightest sweet ray of humanity, and (dare we say it?) hope.

Pages: 93

Budget: Limited sets, urban locations. Very affordable.

About the writer: Mark Lyons is a screenwriter from Youngstown, Ohio. He’s written several scripts, most notably ‘Best Film’ award winner “God’s Empty Acre”, which was filmed as ‘Girl(s)’, at the 2013 Winter Shorts Film Festival and Best Drama at the 2013 World Independent Film Expo. He has also written the feature “Thistles” which was a Quarter-Finalist in the 2013 Bluecat Screenwriting Competition and the short “Ginger” which was a Finalist at the 2013 Shriekfest Film Festival. He can be reached at markielyons “AT” yahoo.

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

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

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.

 

 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

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

Recently, STS reviewed Gary Rowland’s ultra limited location horror, Offline. (Script available here.) 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 Offline. 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.

About the writer of Offline: Gary Rowlands cut his teeth writing sketch comedy and was a commissioned writer on the hugely popular Spitting Image broadcast on national television in the UK. He has since branched out into writing features and is actively seeking representation. He can be contacted at gazrow at hotmail dot com.

NO BULLSCRIPT ANALYSIS

 

Title: Offline

Type of Material: Screenplay

Author: Gary Rowlands

Number of Pages: 89

Circa: Present

Location: Bedroom

Genre:   Supernatural Horror/Thriller

Coverage Date: 4/14/15

Budget Range: Low

LOGLINE: When a young, bed-ridden hacker with a tormented past meets a girl online who turns out to be dead, he realizes nothing is as it seems and the girl’s murderer may lie closer to home – and she may not be the only victim.

Warning: Spoiler Alerts!

COMMENTS: Gary, thank you for submitting your script “Offline” to Simply Scripts. In the subsequent pages, I will go through the things that work well and what still needs to be worked on, developed, or changed to make this a more viable and commercial script and series.

Overall, I think this is a nicely written, easy to read, and potentially commercial script. It’s Rear Window-esque with a Psycho and supernatural Sixth Sense twist. It can certainly be produced for a very low budget with basically 1 location and a handful of characters, and you set up a nice creepy tone immediately and it remains consistent throughout. You’ve got a couple nice twists in the story and there are some strong visuals and moments, though I do think there are a few issues that need to be addressed still.

There is a strong supernatural feel to the whole story, from page one, and that continues throughout. However, I’m still not quite sure what supernatural entity is possessing his computer which types out messages to him and makes it go on and off randomly, etc. Or what entity makes the vase and nightstand levitates. His phone is possessed, his computer is possessed – but this story isn’t about the devil possessing technology. I think it COULD be – especially with the title being Offline – but it’s not really about a Hacker who caused deaths, and now possessed technology is taking revenge. If the supernatural elements were more directly tied to technology (especially since he’s a hacker), that might make it stand out even more. But I’m not totally sure what Dave killing all those women has to do with his hacking or technology or Satan.

The biggest issue for me, is that I knew pretty quickly that Dave was probably dead and that this was some Sixth Sense situation. I suspected it by page 20 and was pretty sure on page 24 as soon as he starts talking to Nichola. There are just too many obvious clues and hints along the way, and there are too many other logistic issues for it to be anything else. So while the MOM being dead already is a nice twist, and the hero turning out to actually have been the killer is interesting, I knew he was dead almost the whole time. I also knew there was a dead body in the closet, which I think is pretty obvious as soon as the fly comes out of there on page 27. And because of that, I think the story gets a bit predictable and repetitive and we’re just waiting for the reveal I knew was coming.

Lucy and Nichola’s characters are obviously evil and not really human because logistically, what they are doing and saying just don’t quite ring true. I knew Lucy was likely Lucifer from the start. What they are asking David to do doesn’t make sense unless they are something much different than they appear, and the random and awkward way they just appear doesn’t feel real or plausible. How would Lucy get in? His mother doesn’t notice? And if she is the cop on the case, wouldn’t she be on TV or seem more professional? If Lucy is a cop and Nichola is a psychic, would Dave really need to tell her that some serial killers take trophies? Wouldn’t they know that? I know that, and I’m not a cop or psychic.

With Nichola, I don’t get how Dave just picks up the phone and she’s already on the line (seemingly). She never gave him a number to call. I think Nichola feels so over the top and desperate and clearly out for her own reasons – and without any proof she is who she says she is – that I don’t know why Dave believes her. I didn’t believe her from the get go. I think that much like Ruth, they have to feel more convincing at the start. Nichola starts feeling childish and too obvious, especially on pg 44, and it made me wonder why Dave keeps believing her or talking to her. Then Nichola tells him “We’ll take you with us” on pg 44 and that makes it very clear to me that Nichola and Lucy are going back to hell and are going to take him with them because he was already dead.

The second thing that made me very quickly think Dave was already dead (or dying) is how he simply turns on the computer or just picks up the phone – and Clare and Nichola are instantly there. He doesn’t go to a website or any specific place or program where a girl would even BE on camera to talk to him. She’s just magically there. And I’m not sure how/why the computer dies and then suddenly comes back to life. It all feels very suspect. You tell us on pg 14 that “Clare’s offline” – but what program is he looking for her on? Skype? Instant Messenger? Gmail chat? A website? Women don’t just appear when you turn on your computer. And if she’s offline, then she must be from a specific program he’s looking at. The lack of specifics makes us not believe.

With David, I like the way you set him up and describe his room with the Star Wars figures as it helps him seem the young innocent, though with the big rat he sees in the room it paints a picture of David and his mother living in a dilapidated shithole. It’s a great visual and it does make us wonder if he’s having delusions or not, but it makes us think he lives in a hovel.

David’s backstory with his father’s suicide could be sad and impactful, but I am not sure what a child could steal from a Church that would lead to their father killing themselves over it. I mean, he could kill a Priest and I don’t think it would make a child’s father kill himself over it unless it’s set up that the father was incredibly religious. David’s crime didn’t feel important enough to force his father to do that. Yes, he stole money from the Church that was set for a mission, but it’s really his mother who is the bad guy. If there is a strong religious connection in this family, I think that needs to be set up and clear.

One of my biggest issues with Dave is that I have a hard time believing he’s a good hacker. His Google searches are incredibly vague and simple (“shyness” “psychics” etc.), and he’s not doing much on the computer before this whole thing happens and I would think he’d be all over it trying to hack something, find something, do something, etc. The Star Wars figures might make him seem a little nerdy but it doesn’t make him feel like a hacker. He doesn’t show off he has those skills until he suddenly needs them, and I would suggest you set that up earlier by showing him trying to do some serious hacking online – maybe even trying to find out who hit him or something that can connect later. Also, I’m not sure why he needs to look up “haunted house” on Wikipedia – does he really not know what one is? I’m pretty sure it’s self-explanatory.

My other major issue with David and his connection with Clare is that they never speak for more than 30 seconds, and every single conversation they have ends abruptly with David slamming his computer shut and just ending the conversation. It seems very rude and immature, and I’m pretty sure that you only get to do that to a woman once – maybe twice – until they never speak to you again. Yet she never seems to care. But the even bigger issue with him doing this, is that it stops them from ever REALLY creating a connection or chemistry that’s more than just instant physical attraction. And for US to connect with them and feel a connection, I think we need to see them talk a bit more and a bit deeper. Then you wouldn’t have to tell us that the chemistry between them is palpable because we’ll see it on screen.

While Dave’s willingness to sacrifice himself for Clare is sweet, and perhaps that’s part of him subconsciously seeking redemption for his crimes, it feels forced. They don’t seem to have a deep enough connection for him to do this, plus – he KNOWS she’s already dead! Why would he sacrifice his life so that a dead girl doesn’t find out she’s dead? It just doesn’t quite make sense. It would be one thing if he was sacrificing his own life to save her from dying, but just finding out she’s dead? I’m not sure those are big enough stakes.

A small note, but the way David tries to find out who Clare is seems to be a bit silly. He doesn’t know anything about her or where she lives, but he’s going to search through online yearbooks of every high school in the state? He doesn’t even know what state she’s in. If he was a real hacker, wouldn’t he be able to take a screen capture of her face and run it through some face recognition software or google images software to find a match? If she WAS killed or kidnapped, her face would have been all over the news and pretty easy to find on Google, wouldn’t it? It just feels like there’s a SMARTER way to find her and who she is online than looking at ever yearbook in the unnamed state.

Clare’s a nice girl but we know she’s dead by page 15. It’s a solid moment, but again he reacts to seeing her scars by just slamming his computer shut. The fact she’s a ghost is fine, and it makes sense with the witching hour being when she comes online (though you don’t have to keep telling us it’s the witching hour – we know!).

Ruth is an interesting character because her introduction is as the doting, caring mother who seems to genuinely love and care about her son. But it very quickly becomes unclear what type of relationship they have – even by the second time we see her – and then with each subsequent time she comes in, she seems more and more cold and insane. I appreciate that she’s bipolar and she makes a great red herring for the killer, though perhaps too obvious to actually BE the killer. I think perhaps she changes a bit too quickly – by page 10 she’s already psychotic. I would suggest stretching out a bit longer her downward spiral into psychotic behavior and her mental illness so that it takes a little longer for her to reach that point.

The ending is exciting and visual and I like how Dave’s story ends, however, it’s not clear who hit him in the first place and killed him. Was it Clare’s mother? Was it someone involved in the story or just some random person at the wrong place at the right time? I think you need to find a way to tie everything together and perhaps the way to do that is to reveal who killed him. I keep wondering why Nichola and Lucy need to put him through all of this stuff with Ruth and Clare and everything else instead of just taking his soul and sending him to hell from the start.

Turning to the dialogue, I think it’s nicely written but it’s not very subtle, and with supernatural/paranormal mysteries and thrillers like this, subtlety is important so that the audience doesn’t suspect what’s going on by page 10. I think that even though David is 18, his actions and words feel a bit young, as does Lucy and Nichola’s and that’s part of the reason I knew exactly what they were from the start. So, I think that while it’s great to place those little breadcrumbs in the dialogue so that when we look back, we recognize all the little nuances and hints that make us realize the truth, if they’re giving it away then they ruin the mystery.

Pg 61 – You can cut the INT. BEDROOM scene heading because we’re already there.

Pg 68 – Why are the clocks in military time and not regular time? Shouldn’t it be 11:45?

Pg 70 – Can cut the Scene heading at bottom – we’re still in the same location.

Pg 71 – For me, the maggot scene is really gross. Not just the maggots, but the puking all over himself, etc. It’s visual for sure, but it’s a visual that would make me gag.

Pg 72 – I thought Ruth smashed the computer. It’s ok again? I’m also not sure why he thinks he can amputate a leg with basic scissors? I’m not quite sure what that would do anyway, but it’s a dumb idea to try and cut your leg off with scissors.

Pg 82 – Why is Clare calling out MOM?

Pg 87 – I get the visual, but I’m not sure why the disgusting bugs are needed in this supernatural thriller.

Overall, I think the concept and premise is commercial and visual and works for a low budget horror/thriller with a recognizable Rear Window/Sixth Sense hook, but for me I think some of the major elements of the mystery are too obvious. It has to be much less obvious that Dave is dead, it has to be less obvious that Nichola and Lucy are evil and not who they say, and it has to be less obvious there’s a dead body in the closet. There are logistic issues and some character issues that I think need to be addressed with Dave and Ruth. It needs to come together a bit better and use the supernatural elements to stand out more and make it LESS obvious that Dave is dead instead of more obvious. It’s got potential and these types of projects are always getting made, especially since this could probably be produced for $100-250K. So stick with it! Keep writing! And best of luck! Thanks again Gary for submitting your script “Offline” 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/Ending 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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hunted – Feature Length Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Hunted

After accidentally shooting a girl in the mysterious Ozark mountains, five hunting buddies must battle for their lives and their souls when a backwoods hillbilly taxidermist invokes ancient supernatural powers to bring his monstrous patchwork creations to life to exact his revenge.

Horror – a genre both beloved… and maligned. Those who love it, know what it can accomplish at its best. Churning out metaphysical creeps that last far into the night – long after final credits roll. The genre’s created true classics: The Shining. Jacob’s Ladder. The lesser known Changeling.

But not everything horror need be sublime. There’s more than a little to be said for fun, gore. Pure mayhem. Gremlins. Tremors. Reanimator. Child’s Play. These films may lack intellectual cache… but they’re classics all the same. And what happened to those rockin’ times? Horror these days is so… mundane. Possessions. Slashers. Tons of jump-screams. But – sadly – little else.

Which is why scripts like Hunted are so DAMNED fun.

The script starts as many horrors do. A bunch of buddies head into the woods, bound for a hunting/camping trip. Some are jerks. Others good guys. Already, you know most won’t survive. Though in this case, the victims to-be are Iraqi veterans. At least that means they’ll fight back. The most respectable of the bunch: Zion Edwards. African American, battle scarred, weary… and (thanks to an IED) – missing one of his legs. Along with comrades Will, Sean, Craig and Bo, Zion’s looking to commune with nature, and enjoy some long-overdue peace. Too bad he won’t be getting either.

Losing their way*, the team pit-stops at a decrepit mobile home. The owner – Hillbilly Earl – intercepts them at his door. The place looks like Frankstein’s castle – Animal Planet style. Earl’s into taxidermy. The weird, backwoods variety. The lawn’s littered with his creations: strange amalgams of multiple species, sewn together crudely. Jackalopes. A two headed dog. Badgers with Hawk Wings, and Frog Legs spliced everywhere. Needless to say, the meeting doesn’t go well. Especially after Craig swears in front of Earl’s wretched daughter, Sesame… and gets a punch in the mouth as a lesson.

Dodging the inevitable confrontation, our buddies head on their way. But before you can mutter Deliverance, things take a turn towards something far worse. You see, Earl’s been dabbling in Olde Magick. The creatures on his lawn are alive. And Sesame’s not his daughter. She’s his soon-to-be sacrifice.

You see, Earl’s been preparing for a big event. The reanimation of his ultimate creation – kept in his living room, under a tarp. But before Earl can sharpen his hooks and knives, Sesame escapes into the forest, wearing a mud-drenched fur coat. And gets accidentally shot by Craig…

Things go to Hell from there. Bo and Will race with a critically injured Sesame into town, leaving the others to clean up the mess. And that’s when Earl’s mixed up minions descend. After all, good ‘ole Earl needs a replacement for Sesame. Not to mention revenge…

How to explain what happens next? Well picture the chaos (and humor) of Gremlins, mixed with Jim Hensen… on acid. Fur and feathers fly – and blood rains. You want a horror with a large body count, that stands heads and furry shoulders above the pack? Then consider Hunted for your next feature. It’s a script that serves up more than its share of craziness. The wild, gory, memorable kind.

Pages: 107

Budget: Hunted can be done two ways: Animatronic or CGI. Either way, you’d want to be sure you do them critters up ‘jus right.  ‘Cause a beaver with Hawk wings?  That’s something we just have to see!

About the writers:

Rod Thompson: Rod Thompson is an award winning, produced screenwriter of both shorts and features. His tally includes one produced feature length film, four produced short films, a Table Read My Screenplay genre win for Best Drama, a BlueCat Quarter-finalist placing, two NAFF Quarter-finalists and one Semi-finalist placing. Contact Rod at RodThompson1980 “AT” gmail.com.

Tim Westland: co-writer of the acclaimed graphic novel Chasing the Dead, Tim received first place for Balls Out in the NNYM 15 page contest. A moderator at Moviepoet, he’s an outstanding writer with an eye for the details. His IMDB page can be found here.

* What is it with horrors, and losing one’s ability to read a map?

EMAIL ROD AND TIM FOR THE LATEST VERSION!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

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.

 

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