Friday, July 1, 2011

Amateur Friday - Frankenstein 90210

Genre: Comedy
Premise: Dr. Frankenstein runs a successful cosmetic surgery practice which quickly begins falling apart.
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 Keep in mind your script will be posted in the review (feel free to keep your identity and script title private by providing an alias and fake title).
Writer: Kenneth L. Kleeman
Details: 87 pages

Is there really any way to analyze this script? It’s called “Frankenstein 90210.” I mean, you pretty much know what you’re going to get before you open it, right? Goofiness. Silliness. Ridiculousness. Well you’d be wrong. Or right. Depending on your point of view. Or not? The truth is, there’s no way to categorically explain what happens inside the pages of Frankenstein 90201. Of all the scripts I’ve read this month, this one stayed with me the most. Stayed with me how? That’s the question of the moment. And a question the alien species who finds our remains 2 million years from now will also be asking. “Bekjleira eaja;kj; aalkes? [I do not understand. What is this Frankenstein 90210?].” The script bounces back and forth between off-the-rails sit-commish comedy and Mystery Science Theater 3000 audio track worthiness. I’m not quite sure what I’ve read here, but I can’t deny that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Dr. Tim Frankenstein, who’s, um, Frankenstein, has moved into a plush office space and is one of the 90210 area code’s top cosmetic surgeons. A chimpanzee has torn your face apart? Dr. Tim Frankenstein ts the guy to fix it for you. Kinda.

He’s accompanied by his bitchy secretary, Kelly, who provides a running commentary of all the freaks who walk through the door (and there are plenty), and Tiffany, Dr. Frankenstein’s head nurse, who’s a little grossed out by the job.

Across the hall is, um, well, hmmmm, how do I say this? Well, across the hall is Dr. Frankenstein’s psychiatrist, Dr. Phildrew. Oh boy. You’re going to want to sit down for this one. Are you sitting down? Dr. Phildrew has two separate heads placed on the same body. One of those heads is Dr. Phil (yes, the real life Dr. Phil) and the other head is Dr. Drew (yes, from Celebrity Rehab). If it’s too difficult for you to comprehend why Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew’s heads have ended up on the same body, you might want to avoid this script like facial reconstruction surgery. Cause having two heads is probably the MOST sensical thing about Dr. Phildrew.

Anyway, Dr. Frankenstein’s business is so stressful that he’s often required to unload his problems onto Dr. PhilDrew, who, of course, gives him conflicting advice.

Part of the reason Frankenstein’s so stressed is that his wife is a major pill-popper. She uses Frankenstein’s practice to score free pills, and in just about every scene we see her in, she’s barging into his office demanding more narcotics. Frankenstien’s just a big pushover so he always lets her have her way.

Also joining the fray is Hunchback Yvette. Hunchback Yvette is a sweet young ambitious nurse with a dream of straightening out her life. Um, literally. Some women have to worry about camel toe. Yvette has to worry about camel….back. So she’s come to Frankenstein, offering her services, if he’ll get rid of her hunchback. Despite the other women in the office being disgusted by the large lump on top of her back, Frankenstein hires her and agrees.

During this time, Frankenstein, his employees, and his patients, all seem to double up on appointments with Dr. Phildrew right after their surgeries, resulting in us moving from one office to the other and back again in an endless pattern. In fact, I’m not sure we ever leave this building during Dr. Frankenstein. These appointments are complicated by an ongoing court battle between Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew for possession of their body. Naturally then, every time we pop in, one of them has the body and the other is relegated to sitting atop an inanimate object, like a box of wood. Also, Dr. Phil likes to slap Dr. Drew around a lot. There’s a lot of slapping here.

Are you confused yet? I know I am. Welcome to Frankenstein 90210.

Okay, I’m going to take a wild stab at this and guess this is Kenneth’s first screenplay. I say that because, obviously, there’s no real attempt at telling a story here. It’s more about stringing together a bunch of silly scenes long enough to get us to the end of the race. This can be seen in the length of the script, which barely meets the spec requirement at 88 pages. We talk a lot about screenplays that are too long, but when a screenplay is under 95 pages, it’s usually a sign that the writer doesn’t know how to flesh out his story.

And that’s beyond clear here. Nobody’s going after anything. There’s no character exploration. There’s no central problem that needs to be solved. I mean there are minor issues, like Yvette’s hunchback, but a story needs a central problem, like the practice being in trouble or something. We don’t have that. So the story just wanders aimlessly.

Also, the scope of the story is too small. If you have only two locations and it’s a comedy, you’re probably better off writing a play. A movie needs scope. Characters need to be going places and doing things. Nobody lives in a world where they spend 99% of their time inside of two rooms. Unless you’re writing a contained thriller with a tight time frame, you need to open your story up.

As for the comedy itself, I’ll get to that in a second, but let me say this. The “anything goes” comedy is not a good avenue for a spec script. You’re putting too much emphasis on the jokes and while those are obviously important, the real stuff, building an interesting story with believable characters, is what agents and managers and producers care about. You have to learn the 3-Act structure. You have to learn how to build a character arc. Even if you’re a really funny guy, industry people want to know that you can CONSTRUCT a story. And that’s where I think Kenneth has to go before writing his next script. Read Michael Hauge’s “Writing Screenplays That Sell”. Read “The Sequence Approach.” Read a hundred screenplays. Then build an actual story around this premise as opposed to just writing one long extended scene off the top of your head.

All that being said, I have to admit that I was giggling despite myself throughout Frankenstein 90210. Kenneth is definitely a funny guy, and every few pages, before I could get worked up about the lack of direction or the total disregard for structure, there’d be a joke that made me forget about it. For example, one of the patients who comes in is a woman who’s had her face torn off by a chimpanzee. We never see her face. Only Dr. Frankenstein’s reaction to her face. After she insists that she needs facial reconstruction surgery, Dr. Frankenstein calmly responds, “While I'm sure having a face would give you a temporary ego boost, I don't think it would solve your real problems. I think you would be happier if you learned to accept yourself as you are.” Very funny stuff. And then when she’s leaving, Kelly, the bitchy secretary, sends her out with, “So long chimp chow.”

And while the Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil stuff is completely ridiculous, I admit that for some odd reason I looked forward to going back to them. I mean, I just had to see who was going to win the custody battle for the body!

Frankenstein 90210 is born out of the Family Guy pool of humor so if you like that sort of non-sequitor no central idea type of humor – but like, like it so much that NOTHING has to make sense – then you might want to give this a try. Cause it will make you laugh. Otherwise, I’d probably stay away. Stay very very far away.

Script link: Frankenstein 90210

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: You have to figure out which vessel is the best vessel to tell your story through. Who has the clearest most interesting goal? Who has the most going on internally? Who’s dealing with the most issues? Who has the most to gain? The most to lose? Then, make that person your main character. And if you don’t want to make that person your main character? Then build up the person you DO want to make your main character until they’re as interesting as that candidate. Here, Dr. Frankenstein is our lead, but he doesn’t have anything going on. Our most interesting character is actually Yvette, the hunchback. She’s the one who has the big problem. She’s the one who has the most drive. She’s the one with the clear goal. She’s the one who has the most to gain or lose. She’s the underdog. The story should probably be told through her eyes. And yet she’s relegated to supporting role status. Try to tell your story through your most interesting character if possible.