Genre: Dark Comedy
Premise: A young actress, frustrated by her lack of success, uses the web to announce her upcoming suicide, becoming a worldwide celebrity in the process.
About: Every Friday, I review a script from the readers of the site. If you’re interested in submitting your script for an Amateur Review, send it in PDF form, along with your title, genre, logline, and why I should read your script to Carsonreeves3@gmail.com. Keep in mind your script will be posted (feel free, however, to use an alias and a fake title).
Writers: Brent Delaney and Illia Svirsky.
Details: 97 pages
If I’m being honest, this idea sounded a little dated when I first read it. The whole webcam thing has been explored heavily on the indie and low-budget front, mostly in the horror genre. But what attracted me to this one was the black comedy angle. There’s definitely some untapped potential there, and I wanted to see if the writers could pull it off. And yes, I’d be lying if I didn’t point out that the sub 100 page count influenced me as well (get those page counts down people!). Anyway, how was Webicide?
24 year old actress, Molly Morton, isn’t getting any callbacks from Martin Scorsese. Such is the life of a starving actress in LA. However, Molly was lucky enough to get onto an acting competition reality show, hoping it would finally lead to her big break. Unfortunately, when the episode finally airs, the judges, behind the scenes, call her a talentless hack. Not exactly food for her resume.
Back home she’s consoled by her sweet but way too conservative boyfriend, who seems to be unaffected by her unending series of failures. If something doesn’t change soon, Molly is going to go insane.
So one night, after a little Youtube experiment of hers goes viral, Molly realizes that in this new “gotta have it here, gotta have it now” world, that people don’t want acting. They want spectacle. They want shit to point at, to talk about. And they want pain. Good deeds don’t make the 7 o’clock news. Car crashes do.
So Molly comes up with a plan. She will broadcast, on a webcam, her suicide, five days from now. Molly gets the project up and running immediately, and it’s an instant hit. Soon people from all over the world are tuning in to see who this sick girl is. Viewership is quickly in the millions. News stations are reporting on it. Molly is finally the actress she’s always wanted to be.
But Molly quickly learns that always supportive Craig has a breaking point. Girlfriend sets up online suicide in five days? Ehh, not getting behind that one. Nor is he into Molly keeping her webcam running 24 hours a day (in some cases, wanting to broadcast them having sex). So Craig gives Molly some space, forcing her to find something new to do. So Molly comes up with an impromptu bucket list (suggested by her viewers of course) for what she should do before she dies. The list includes destroying something beautiful, an act of revenge, sleeping with a random guy, and buying a coffin.
As S-Day approaches, religious leaders begin to speak up, counselors try and intervene, even cops are notified of Molly’s plan. But for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, nobody really does anything about it. They just allow it to happen. In the end, Molly will need to decide if killing herself is really worth her ultimate goal of fame.
While the writing was good and the script itself was lean (and mean), there were a number of issues that kept me from enjoying Webicide. And this is a great reminder of how seemingly small things can have a huge impact on a script. Right from the start, I wasn’t clear on what Molly’s intent was. Was she really going to commit suicide or was she pretending she was going to commit suicide for the fame? It seemed like the script would vacillate between these two motivations whenever it was convenient. When the story needed the suicide to be real (for us to feel the stakes of her impending death), it would be real. When the story required it to be pretend (assuring her boyfriend that it was all an act), it would be pretend. Because I was never clear on whether what Molly was doing was real or not, it was tough to get emotionally invested.
Another early problem was the character of Molly herself. She just wasn’t a very sympathetic person. First of all, she’s pursuing a vain and selfish career choice – acting. I don’t think you’re going to get too many average folks crying tears over a pretty girl whose acting career isn’t taking off. This is not to say never make your hero an actor. Dustin Hoffman plays a struggling actor in Tootsie. But the big difference is that that character was funny. In contrast, Molly comes off as whiney and entitled.
Compounding that, when she starts her webcam experiment, she turns into a bitchier angrier version of herself, making her even less likable. In the end, I struggled to find anything to like about Molly. And obviously if we’re not sympathizing with or rooting for or liking your hero in some way, it’s going to be really difficult to keep us interested in her story.
There were also a number of shaky plot points guiding this story. First, nobody tries to stop Molly. A suicidal person with less than a handful of friends would have to fight them off if they knew she was going to commit suicide. Here, six million people know, and outside of some angry debate, nobody does anything about it. Also, as I just mentioned, Molly turns into this weird heartless character once the cameras start rolling, and I couldn’t ever figure out why. What did becoming a bitch have to do with wanting to commit suicide? Then there was the “sleep with a random guy” subplot. This required the story to address the boyfriend issue. So for no plausible reason, Molly becomes convinced that Craig is sleeping with their other roommate, just so her character can now sleep with someone else “fairly.” This sloppiness riddled the script, making it hard to take anything seriously.
On the more nitpicky front, I would stay away from movie business related plots and anything that has to do with reality TV in your screenplays. Screenplays exploring Hollywood and the movie business can work, but the self-referential problem always rears its ugly head, making for an odd viewing experience. You’re trying to believe that the story you’re watching is real, yet you’re constantly reminded that movies are make-believe. The one genre you can get away with this in is comedy. But even then, it’s tough.
And reality TV? Producers just don’t like anything that has to do with reality TV. When’s the last time you saw a movie that broached reality TV? That awful Chris Weitz American Idol parody? When I saw the ACT NOW reality completion thing here, I grimaced. And I feel like producers would grimace to. I don’t know why, but including reality TV in your movie in any way just doesn’t seem to work for some reason.
Now I’ve been pretty harsh here, so I should point out that there’s some good stuff to build on. Structurally, this script is a solid piece of work. I love the condensed time frame, adding urgency to the story. I love that we’re pushing towards an obvious goal. While I wasn’t thrilled with the bucket list idea specifically, I did like the attempt at creating smaller goals to keep the main character active and the story focused.
If I were giving notes on this, the three things I’d definitely suggest are 1) Make Molly a more sympathetic character. 2) Give her a job besides acting. Maybe she’s one of the many people who have been laid off recently (in the real world) and can’t get a job. That’s more relatable. And 3) Clarify her motivation and what’s going on. It can’t be that sometimes Molly wants to kill herself and sometimes she’s pretending. It has to be one or the other.
Hopefully that helps a little. And if you do take another stab at it, let me know how it goes. :)
Script link: Webicide
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: This is a little discussed but important tip. Before sending your script out, update all the dates in it. If I see a reference to “March 2nd, 2010” as the current date in the story, that tells me the script has been around for over a year. Subliminally I’m saying to myself, “Well obviously no one’s liked it enough to pick it up since then, so how good can it be?” An easily overlooked but simple to fix problem! :)