Friday, March 23, 2012

Screenplay Review - Movers (Amateur Friday)

A long time Scriptshadow reader makes sure we never look at moving companies the same way again...

NEW Amateur Friday Submission Process: To submit your script for an Amateur Review, send in a PDF of your script, a PDF of the first ten pages of your script, your title, genre, logline, and finally, why I should read your script. Use my submission address please: Your script and “first ten” will be posted. If you’re nervous about the effect of a bad review, feel free to use an alias name and title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every couple of weeks so your submission stays near the top.

Genre: Thriller
Premise: A moving company specializes in moving humans.
About: Nick is one of the very first Scriptshadow fans. He’s been here since the beginning. I knew at some point I was going to read one of his scripts. Well, that time has finally come! Nick also went out and had a poster made for his script (which is becoming more and more popular!) utilizing our resident graphic design master, Brian Kelsey.
Writer: Nick Oleksiw
Details: 100 pages

I think this is a GREAT idea for a movie. A kidnapping operation masquerading as a moving company? Human cages in the backs of trucks? I don’t need much more than that. I’m in! BUT, we’re still talking about an amateur writer here. As much as I love Nick, I was worried. Would the script live up to the promise of its premise? Would there be enough here for a feature film?

Hmm, the first page had me concerned. Yes, the very first page! Our main character is introduced…without an age! A page later her sister is introduced…without an age. Now I know some of you think giving characters ages is pointless, and I admit that there are instances where it doesn’t matter. But for the most part, we should know how old your characters are! For example, here, Jessie and Kelly are heading off to college. But is this their freshman year or is this their junior year? That’s a HUGE distinction. If they’re leaving home for the first time in their lives, that’s a different movie than if they’ve done this a few times before. So it was strange that neither of their ages were listed.

Anyway, a little hiccup, but not a dealbreaker. My mind was still open. As we already covered, Jessie and and Kelly are sisters (twins actually) prepping for a roadtrip to their Arizona college. Jessie is the organized one. She’s got the schedule, the plan, and most importantly, her shit together. Kelly is the opposite. You wonder just how this mess of a girl made it into college in the first place. While Jessie is using college to start her life, Kelly’s using it to see how many boyfriends she can tally up.

So off they go, having the kind of arguments you’d expect two sisters on totally opposite ends of the spectrum to have. And when they hit their first pit stop, a motel in the middle of nowhere, Kelly decides to go have some fun at a local biker bar (always a good idea for a lone college girl). Jessie disapproves but she’s out of her jurisdiction on this one. Kelly does what Kelly wants. It isn’t much of a surprise then (to us at least) that Jessie wakes up the next morning minus one sister.

Freaking out, she charges over to the biker bar but details on her sister are scarce. Going to the cops isn’t much help either. Your sister didn’t show up last night. So what? She probably ended up with some dude. But Jessie’s twin powers unite instincts tell her something more is going on here.

Eventually this leads her to the heavy-side-burned Carter, a mover who may or may not have been seen with Kelly last night. Jessie confronts him, demanding to look in his truck, and since a few locals are curious about the uproar, he has no choice but to oblige. But guess what? When he opens it up, it’s just a bunch of moving junk. Total fail.

But Jessie doesn’t give up easily. There’s something suspicious about this moving company, “Mom’s Merry Movers,” so she starts following another one of their trucks. In the meantime, we meet Mary Wells, the rather sinister looking president of this moving operation. When she gets wind that a girl is snooping around her business, she’s not happy, and does a little “moving” herself, as in moving to find this bitch and take her out.

Jessie finally corners another one of these movers, and this is where we learn Jessie isn’t your average Calculus major. Girl’s got some moves on her and is able to take the mover down. She’s then able to get some info about the elusive moving company. And it terrifies her. They don’t move things. They move people. And yes, they moved her sister. The question is where? And how much time does she have left before her sister’s been moved…permanently?

I’m kind of torn on Movers. A part of me loves the idea and the potential for a movie. The other part thinks there’s not enough meat here. At least not yet. You know me. I’m always babbling about how everything I read is too thin. And Movers unfortunately keeps a lot of its story surface-level.

For example, the sister relationship is way too basic. They’re sisters…who don’t see eye to eye. That’s about as generic a treatment as you can give a relationship. And you can’t make the excuse that this is just a fun little movie so it doesn’t matter.  Because it DOES matter.  The entire movie is predicated on one sister trying to save the other. So if we barely know anything about their relationship, why should would care if Jessie saves Kelly or not?

Let’s look at a couple of other key film relationships. In Die Hard, John McClane and his wife weren’t having a run of the mill fight. It was way more complicated than that. She’d taken a work opportunity in another state that he assumed she’d fail at and come back home. But that didn’t happen. She thrived. And now their marriage is on the rocks because he doesn’t want to move and she doesn’t want to move. So it’s a very specific conflict. It’s not just “basic marriage problems.”

Or look at Taken. People say that’s one of the thinnest thrillers out there. But the conflict in the main relationship is actually quite detailed. This is a man who’s put his work above his family his whole life. His family basically gave up on him. Now he’s trying to make amends, moving close to his ex-wife and daughter so he can spend more time with her. When she wants to go on this trip, his instincts tell him it’s a bad idea. But his need to be loved – to make up for not being there before - forces him to give in and let her go, which of course results in the worst situation imaginable. It’s not just “daddy and daughter don’t get along” or “daddy and daughter are happy.” I wanted to see something like that here in Movers. And because I didn’t – because their relationship didn’t feel complicated or authentic - I didn’t really care if Jessie saved her sister or not.

There were definitely some things I liked though. I really liked Mary, the head boss. She was sort of an untraditional villain. And I really liked the scope of the operation. I thought it was neat that there were tiers and that the lowest tier didn’t even know what they were delivering and the successive tiers only had the specific information they needed to do their job. Nobody but the top people understood exactly what was going on.

Having said that, I was a little disappointed in the reveal. (Spoilers) When we find out that this is essentially another organ harvesting operation, my heart kinda sank. I’ve read a lot of “organ harvesting” scripts before, as well as read a couple of books on the subject matter, so to read yet another one was a letdown. I was hoping for something grander and more imaginative, and would actually encourage Nick to rethink his ending as a result. It kinda sucks that the logical choices for these kinds of operations (sex slavery and organ harvesting) have been done to death and are therefore unavailable. But that’s what writing is all about! It’s about going that extra mile, no matter how difficult or headache-inducing it is, and finding that NEW THING that no one’s ever thought of before!

I sat here for a long time wondering what I was going to rate this. I was about to give it a “worth the read” but then I wondered, “Am I just giving this a ‘worth the read’ because it’s better than most of the amateur offerings? Or am I giving it a ‘worth the read’ because it legitimately stacks up with the pro competition?” I felt I was being too generous. Movers has potential – no doubt. And Nick is a writer who can hold his own. But those two big problems I mentioned above need to be shored up before this gets a solid endorsement.

Will be interesting to see if you guys agree!

Script link: Movers

[ ] Wait for the rewrite
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Guys, your relationships are your movie. Don’t just drop some generic conflict in there and think you can get away with it. Think about all of the things that have happened in your relationships up until this point that have created the unique dynamic that they have. Your relationships need that specificity to truly feel genuine.