Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Amateur Week - Chase The Night

Welcome to Amateur Week!  All week we're reviewing scripts from amateur writers that got the best response from this post.  We've already had one script perform REALLY WELL in "Fascination 127."  Will "Chase The Night" be the next big amateur script to celebrate?  Let's find out!  

Genre: Drama
Premise: (from writer) On his 25th birthday, a troubled orphan receives information about his estranged mother, sending him into a world of corruption as he investigates the circumstances behind her life and death.
About: I knew this one depended on how unique and compelling the choices were behind the main character's investigation.  That's what sorta worried me about this logline - that a specific compelling circumstance wasn't mentioned, but rather a general blanket set of circumstances which were implied.  The logline felt a little cold in that respect.  But I liked the emotional component of the story, so I was interested to see if it connected on that level.
Writer: Thomas A. Schwenn
Details: 115 pages
Status: AVAILABLE

Timberlake for Tommy?

Star Wars Tuesday.  Blood List Wednesday.  Disciple Program finishing #1.  Halloween yesterday. How is "Chase The Night" supposed to follow all this?  Good question.  And I'll tell you my biggest concern reading the logline.  I thought it sounded a little boring.  That's not to say it *would* be boring.  Just that the logline made it sound that way.  Remember, your logline is like the billboard or trailer for a movie.  It's the only thing you have to promote your screenplay.  So like a great billboard or trailer makes us want to see the movie, a logline has to make us want to read the script!  It has to sound exciting!

Just to remind everyone, faulty loglines can be broken down into two categories.  The first is that you haven't adequately conveyed the excitement of your script.  There is no excuse for this.  If your script is exciting, you better workshop the HELL out of your logline to make sure it's perfect and conveys the coolness of your script.  The second issue is much more concerning.  The concept itself stinks.  This goes well beyond workshopping a logline.  It means scrapping the entire script.  Because no matter how you dress up your logline, how many times you reword it, it's still going to convey an idea that isn't very good in the first place.  Which is why I always say, get your logline figured out first.  Because eventually you're going to be using that to market your script, and if it doens't work now, it's not going to work then.

Actually, I've seen this lead to a long-standing trend of trying to dress loglines up into something the script isn't in order to get reads. You realize, "Ooh, if I stress the ghost aspect more in the logline, even though it's barely in the script, it'll sound better!"  This is how I would classify Monday's script, "Pocket Dial," which promised a lot of modern technology relationship humor in its logline, but didn't give us any of that in the actual screenplay.  Not only is that going to piss readers off, but my question to these writers is, "If that makes your logline better, why didn't you write that script in the first place?"

Okay, enough bitching and moaning.  It's supposed to be a happy day, a day in which we gorge on all the candy we accumulated last night.  Oh, not that I went trick-or-treating last night.  No, not at all.  Why would someone my age go trick-or-treating?  That's ridiculous for you to even suggest that.  I'm just saying that if I *was* a kid  and I *did* trick-or-treat yesterday, that I would have a lot of candy that I'm eating right now - or that *that kid* would be eating right now.  Not me.  Cause I didn't go trick-or-treating......Man, is it hot in here?

25 year old Tommy Young is not a happy compadre.  He carries an old picture around with him showing a young woman, who we'll come to know as Mariah, hanging out with two friends, Jack and Sam.  Although we're not sure why yet, Tommy has some business with these guys and that business needs to be addressed pronto.

He eventually finds one of the men, Jack (now in his 50s), washed up, drunk, and demands to know about Mariah.  It's here where we get a little more info on the woman.  It appears that many years ago, Mariah was charged with killing her parents - Tommy's grandparents.  Yes, Tommy is Mariah's son.  He wants to know the truth about what happened that day, cause he's convinced his mom would never do such a thing.

Well he's not going to get that information from Jack because Jack's Daniel (that's my clever way of saying he's wasted).   So off Tommy goes to find the other dude, Sam, who's since become a cop.  Jack ends up kidnapping Sam no problem, then ties him up and starts asking questions.  Sam denies knowing anything about Mariah, but starts to crack a little as Tommy puts the heat on.

In the meantime, Sam's precinct gets word that he's missing and starts looking for him, forcing Tommy to take Sam on the run.  It's here where we're introduced to the main detective on Sam's case, Frank Marshall.  While Tommy and Sam skitter all over the city avoiding capture, Frank interviews friends of Tommy to get a beat on where he may be holding Sam.

At some point, Sam decides to help Tommy figure out what happened to his mom, although this was a seriously confusing part of the script.  Sam is constantly asking to be let go, while also providing details and clues for Tommy to find out if his mom really killed his grandparents.  Is he trying to get away or is he trying to help?  To be honest, I was never sure.

And that's pretty much how the rest of the script goes. It's Tommy and Sam finding clues to help their case while Frank Marshall finds clues to save Sam.  I wish I could provide more plot points but there really weren't any.  This was pretty straightforward.  Which was the first problem of many I had with "Chase The Night."

This was a strange script.  Because from a distance, it had a lot of components that make up a good story.  You have a guy looking into his mother's murder case.  So there's a goal and a mystery there.  And you have the chase aspect going on as well, in that at any moment, Frank could catch them.  You also had high stakes, in that Tommy's trying to free his mother from jail.  But despite all this, the script struggles mightily to keep the reader's attention.

We'll start with the logline, which states that an orphan receives information from his estranged mother. I never saw that anywhere in the script.  So I didn't even know Tommy was an orphan.  And because of that, I coudln't figure out why he all of a sudden needed to do this.  Why didn't he do it earlier?  And to be honest, I couldn't even tell you what Tommy was trying to do!  He just had this picture with these people in it.  It wasn't until halfway through the story that I understood what Tommy's goal was.  I still don't know if that was done by design or by accident.  But plot murkiness is a script killer, and this plot was murky.

But what really bothered me was how detached the writing was.  Everything was so...clinical, so cold.  The main character wasn't very interesting.  The story wasn't very interesting.  And a big part of that had to do with how little "voice" there was to the writing.  All the words were where they needed to be.  And it actually read quite well.  But it was just so...I don't know how to put it..."distant."  And that left me bored.

Also, I'm not sure the information in this story is dispensed in a way as to garner the most drama.  For example, I didn't know why Tommy was looking for Jack at first (other than that he was in the picture) so I didn't care.  I guess you can argue that you're playing up the mystery behind the picture, but if you misjudge how interested the audience is going to be in regards to that mystery, you end up with a really bored reader.

Finally, I could never figure out what the rules of this Tommy/Sam pairing were.  Did Sam want to get away?  Did he want to help?  It seemed like sometimes he wanted to bail ("Just let me leave.  They'll never find you.") and other times he was Watson to Tommy's Sherlock.  There was this vague implication that Tommy'd convinced him to "do the right thing" and help him find out what happened to his mom, but even that was never clearly laid out.  So it just felt comical that these two were running around town together.  Are they friends?  Are they enemies?  I didn't know!

If I were to give Thomas advice for his next script, I would say to add more character and color to his writing.  Let's have it pop off the page more.  Try to be more clear with your plot and motivations as well.  We need to know, definitively, why Sam is hanging around Tommy this whole script.  We need to know, definitively, what this picture is about, how it got in Tommy's possession, and why it's motivated him to become Liam Neeson in Taken.  And try to have a few more unexpected things happen during the story.  This story unraveled way too predictably.  I wish Thomas good luck on his next screenplay.  Sorry I couldn't get into this one.

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

What I learned: Your 3rd Act twist has to have a properly weighted setup, or else you end up with a "WTF" moment. (Spoiler) So the big twist here is that Stan Bell, the chief of police, covered up his son's murdering of Tommy's grandparents, blaming it on Mariah.  Except here's the thing, I hadn't seen Stan Bell since page 15, where he was introduced for .5 seconds, then disappeared until the final sequence.   How is that a satisfying twist?  Shouldn't we know the person who the twist is centered around so that we care?  Shouldn't he have 4-5 scenes of him dispersed evenly throughout the script so his reveal isn't a total "wtf" moment?  Make sure to properly weight your setups people, particularly if they're setups to a big final payoff.


Blood List 2012 - Disciple Tops Them All!

Kailey Marsh's Blood List 2012 is out.  And guess who's at the top of the list!  Go Tyler Marceca and Disciple Program!!!  If you have any of these scripts, send them my way. :)

"The Disciple Program" by Tyler Marceca 25 Votes
Logline: A "Manchurian Candidate"-style thriller in which a man's wife dies and upon investigating, he discovers it was no accident.
Agents: Rich Cook & Phil d'Amecourt (WME)
Managers: Bard Dorros & Michael Sugar (Anonymous Content)
Status: Mark Wahlberg attached to star and produce for Universal, with Morten Tyldum attached to direct.

"Stephanie" by Ben Collins & Luke Piotrowski 19 Votes
Logline: Psychological horror film described as "Paperhouse" meets "Carrie" that concerns a young girl whose strange powers seem to doom her to a world of lonely solitude.
Agent: Emerson Davis (UTA)
Manager: Nate Matteson (Gotham Group)
Status: The Gotham Group producing with Bryan Bertino and Adrienne Biddle of Unbroken Pictures. Jonathan Van Tulleken ("Off Season") directing.

"Lockdown at Franklin High" by Joe Ballarini & Gregg Bishop 17 Votes
Logline: A girl and her brother must break-out of their locked down high school while a monster stalks the halls.
Agents: David Boxerbaum, Ida Ziniti & Tanya Cohen (Paradigm)
Managers: George Heller (Apostle) reps Ballarini, while Andy Cohen (Grade A Entertainment) and Cindy Cowan (Cindy Cowan Entertainment) rep Bishop
Status: Set up at Sony with Benderspink and Platinum Dunes producing.

"Story of Your Life" by Eric Heisserer 16 Votes
Logline: Sci-fi drama about alien crafts landing around the world and Louise Banks, a linguist expert recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat. As Louise learns to communicate with the aliens, she begins experiencing vivid flashbacks which become the key to unlocking the greater mystery about the true purpose of their visit.
Agents: Barbara Dreyfus & Jon Huddle (UTA)
Manager: Julie Bloom (Art/Work Entertainment)
Status: Set up at 21 Laps.

"Country of Strangers" by Sean Armstrong 13 Votes
Logline: Based on true events, thriller follows an inspector during his 40-year search for three siblings taken from an Australian beach in 1966.
Agents: Bill Weinstein & Rob Herting (Verve)
Managers: Peter Dealbert & Susan Solomon (Principato/Young)
Status: In negotiations with unnamed buyer.

"February" by Osgood Perkins 13 Votes
Logline: Horror pic about an unidentified young woman who makes a pilgrimage to the site of a demonic possession at an all-girls boarding school in the dead of winter.
Managers: Scott Halle (Gramercy Park Entertainment)
Status: Bryan Bertino and Adrienne Biddle of Unbroken Pictures producing.

"Interstate 5" by Seth Sherwood 11 Votes
Logline: Described as "Jacob's Ladder" meets "Natural Born Killers," this psychological thriller follows the son of an infamous serial killer and the daughter of one of the victims who go on the road in hopes of tracking the killer down, only to find themselves haunted by demonic forces intent on driving them mad.
Manager: Kailey Marsh (Station 3)
Status: Available.

"Somnia" by Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard 9 Votes
Logline: Horror pic about a couple who recently lost their son and take in a young boy as a foster child. They soon discover that the boy's dreams manifest themselves in the real world when he sleeps.
Agents: Sheryl Petersen, Debbie Deuble & Chris Ridenhour (APA)
Manager: Nicholas Bogner (Affirmative Entertainment)
Status: In negotiations with unnamed buyer.

"Darkfall" by TS Faull 8 Votes
Logline: Supernatural thriller about a group of residents who must survive the night in their apartment complex as they slowly learn that Darkfall (the rising of demons to take over the Earth) is upon them.
Manager: Michael Botti (Industry Entertainment)
Status: Available.

"Viral" by Dustin T. Benson 8 Votes
Logline: A thriler with action and sci-fi elements described as "I Am Legend" meets "Outbreak." Told from the first-person point-of-view via the helmet cam of a bio-safety suit, story follows a scientist who joins an extraction team through quarantined areas of Manhattan while secretly searching for her missing daughter.
Agents: Ramses Ishak & Mike Sheresky (UTA)
Manager: Brooklyn Weaver (Energy Entertainment)
Status: Adrian Askarieh (Prime Universe) attached to produce with Weaver and Energy Entertainment.

"The Importance of Blood" by James Breen 7 Votes
Logline: Horror pic about the mute servant of a modern-day vampire who returns home to her estranged family 20 years after her disappearance. As she grows closer to her family, her loyalties to her master are finally tested.
Managers: Jarrod Murray & Allard Cantor (Epicenter)
Status: Available.

"Shut In" by T.J. Cimfel & David White 6 Votes
Logline: Horror-thriller about an agoraphobic woman who must fend off a home invasion while she protects a dark secret.
Manager: Marc Manus (Manus Entertainment)
Status: Available.

"Peste" by Barbara Marshall 5 Votes
Logline: Sci-fi/horror pic about a 16 year-old girl who begins to record her life for her high school media class just as a terrifying virus begins to spread.
Agents: Debbie Deuble & Lee Dinstman (APA)
Manager: Ava Jamshidi (Industry Entertainment)
Status: Set up at IM Global with Sherryl Clark producing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Screenplay Review - Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho

Taking a break from Amateur Week because it's HALLLOOOOWEEEEEEN and that means Scriptshadow must be spoooooooooky for 24 hours and that means a horror script review but since I don't have any good horror scripts, I'm reviewing a script that is ABOUT a horror film.  Sound fun?  I hope so cause I ain't giving you another choice here.

Genre: Biopic'ish
Premise: The struggles behind the making of Psycho, the project that would become director Alfred Hitchcock's most famous film.
About:  Anthony Hopkins will star as Alfred Hitchcock.  Helen Mirren will star as his wife, Alma.  Scarlett Johansen will star as Janet Leigh.  Sacha Gervachi will direct.  I believe this is Sacha's first feature film as a director (he's made a documentary).  He's best known as the writer of Steven Spielberg's wackadoozy film, "The Terminal."  John J. McLaughlin adapted the book into a screenplay.  You probably recognize him as the writer of Black Swan.
Writer: John J. McLaughlin (based on the book "Alfred Hitchcock and The Making Of Psycho" by Stephen Rebello.
Details: 104 pages, fourth revision, Oct. 19, 2011 draft


First of all, WTF!!!???

Disney bought Lucasfilm yesterday.  Disney just BOUGHT Lucas.  Lucas doesn't get bought.  He buys other people!  And now we're getting another Star Wars trilogy.  And you know what I say to that?  WOOOO-HOOOO!  I love it.  I've been dying to get Star Wars into real writers' hands forever now, and it's finally going to happen!

How does this tie into today?  Well, George Lucas was a bit of a pudgy filmmaker.  And so was Alfred Hitchock!  Actually, to be serious, I was not looking forward to this script.  I don't like when entities try and mine a famous event when there isn't a story there.  Like, oooh, it's Psycho!  Let's make a movie about the making of it!  Err, but the making of the movie wasn't any different from the making of any other  movie.  So what, let's do it anyway!

I hoped I was wrong.  That there was some fascinating story behind the making of Psycho that I'd never heard about.  But something told me this wasn't the making of Citizen Kane.

So here's the story.  Hitchcock is coming off of North By Northwest, which is a monster hit.  But he's bored.  Everyone wants him to make another North By Northwest but Hitchcock, like his movies, wants to do the unexpected.  Something unlike anything he's done before.  And when he reads Pyscho, he knows that's it.  That's his next movie.

But this is a strange move.  Hitchcock doesn't do horror.  Only schlocky talentless directors do horror in 1960.  On top of that, it's not something the studios are interested in.  They think this flick is dead before the end of opening weekend.  But Hitchcock has plans to do something a little different with it. He particularly sets his sights on a shower scene, which he believes he can immortalize.  You see, there wasn't much nudity in films those days, and definitely not from movie stars.  Yet Hitchock had a plan to imply a ton of nudity without actually showing any.  It was going to be unprecedented.

If only the studios agreed.  They tell Hitchcock there's a reason everyone in town passed on Psycho and they're not funding it.  I have to admit, I was a little unclear about this.  Hitchcock makes mega-hit North By Northwest and the studio won't fund his next movie, which he's doing for 800,000 bucks?  But whatever.  The movie business was different back then so I'm probably missing something.  Anyway, Hitchcock pulls a Passion Of The Christ and funds the movie himself.

In the meantime, Hitchcock starts fighting all sorts of battles.  He's the master of suspense, but he's 60 years old, and the establishment wants to know when he's going to retire.  Hitch doesn't like getting old, and he feels that this movie is going to make him young again.  Then there's his weight problem.  The dude cannot stop eating.  And he hates himself for it.  He sees a monster whenever he looks in the mirror, and that kills him.  But the biggest battle of all is his wife, who becomes the almost-star of the movie.

Alma was Hitch's right-hand woman throughout his career and, if you believe this script, someone he wouldn't have been nearly as successful without.  But Alma's getting sick of Hitch's lack of attention so starts paying attention to a dashing but not very talented writer named Whitfield Cook.  They start writing a script together while Hitchcock films Psycho and it starts to weigh on Hitch, who realizes that if he doesn't rekindle his relationship with Alma, she might run off with the hack and Psycho will turn out a disaster.


So what do I think about "Alfred Hitchcock and The Making Of Psycho?"  Well, it's a good enough script.  It includes some interesting tidbits about the making of.  But after I read it, I found myself asking, "Why did this movie need to be made?"  "What new does it bring to the table?"  I suppose the story of Alma is entertaining, but the script chooses to focus on Hitchcock as the main character even though her story is probably more interesting (mainly because it's less known).

At times, the writer seems just as unsure as we are about the point of the story.  I mean, we start with two tightly focused scenes regarding Hitchcock's age.  So naturally, Hitchcock's inner conflict will be his inability to accept getting older.  However, after those scenes, the age thing is never brought up again.

Instead, we seem to focus on Hitchcock's food obsession (in particular his foie gras craving), which is unfortunately quite thin.  When things don't go right, he eats.  There's really nothing deeper to it than that.

Finally, we move to Hitchcock's issues with his wife.  He rarely pays attention to her, despite all she's done for him.  This is what leads her on this quasi emotional affair (one which she never physically acts on) and while I guess it's kind of interesting, it's also kinda not.  Nothing really scandalous happens.  It's just a bunch of stares and devilish thoughts, leaving the storyline without a satisfying climax.  And that summarizes my feelings about the script.  It just kind of stands there with little to say.

What saves it are the few behind-the-scenes looks at Psycho's famous scenes and stars.  A heavy emphasis is put on the shower scene, which had never been done before in Hollywood.  The most interesting thing about that storyline was the Censors Board.  I guess before you even shot your movie back then, you had to go to a "Censors Board" and get approval from this dreadful stickler who decided whether everything was okay to shoot or not.  For example, toilets weren't shot back then. So you couldn't shoot a toilet!  Wtf???

And with the shower scene, every freaking angle had to be approved of.  And it wasn't.  They wanted Hitch to shoot Janet Leigh from the neck up.  How boring would that have been?  So Hitchcock ignores the censors and shoots the scene the way he wants it, because he knew that scene was going to be the one everyone talked about.

I have to admit, there is something cool about being behind the scenes of one of the most famous films of all time, and it is enough for me to give this script a pass.  But I'm left with the very same question I had at the beginning of this review.  Is there a compelling enough story here to build a movie around?    I'd probably say no.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn't for me
[x] barely worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: This is mentioned in the script as one of Hitchcocks' staples and a scene that always works - A character needs to get someplace but is held up by someone who wants to chat (Marion Crane just wants to buy that car but the salesman keeps talking to her).  Write this scene into your script.  It always works!  



Amateur Week - Fascination 127

Welcome to Amateur Week!  All week we're going to be reviewing scripts from amateur writers that got the best response from this post.  Time for you guys to take advantage of the opportunity.  Hope we find something great.  But even if we don't, it should be a great week for learning why screenwriting is so hard!

Genre: Heist/Thriller
Premise: (original logline) A group of men are hired by a mysterious client to remove Jim Morrison’s casket, give it to him for 24 hours and then return the casket into the ground before it is publicly exhumed to be moved to the United States.
About: This was another logline I wasn't very excited about, mainly because I'm not a Jim Morrison fan.  But longtime Scriptshadow reader Poe Sterling went on a endorsement campaign worthy of Lena Dunham in the comments section, touting "Fascination" to anyone who would listen.  Oh well, I thought, I'll give it a shot.
Writer: Alex Carl
Details: 113 pages
Status: AVAILABLE


Yesterday I didn't want to read the script because I didn't like the logline.  Today I didn't want to read the script because I didn't like the subject matter.  Jim Morrison?  Snore.  I knew something about the "conspiracy" behind Morrison's body being buried in Paris, but it sounded like one of those college conspiracy conversations you have when you've smoked too much dope.  "Yo man...like...I bet you Jim Morrison is like...totally still alive n stuff.  Like I bet he owns a record store in Mexico."  "Totally man.  He's probably still making music under, like, the name Jimano Morrison."  "Dude, we should GO to Mexico.."  "And look for him!"  "Yeah, and like go to one of those donkey shows!"  "But we need, like, more weed first." "Yeah."  Long pause.  "I'm tired."  "Me too."  Long pause.  "Let's light another joint."  "Yeah."  "What were we talking about?"  "No idea, man."  Three minutes of pot laughter follows.

That's honestly what i was expecting here - a college take on the Jim Morrison conspiracy theory that had about as much thought put into it as a Poly-Sci essay.  But boy was I wrong.  This is a real f*cking script here!  With some cool characters, cool situations, and a heist unlike any I've seen on-screen before.  I think that's what got me.  You think you've seen everything in a genre before - particularly the HEIST genre - which has been done six thousand ways to Sunday.  And yet this writer still finds a whole new spin on it.

A little background on Jim Morrison's death.  After he died, Morrison was buried in Paris, much to the disappointment of the music world, particularly his fan base.  There was a 40 year lease on Morrison's cemetery plot and that 40 year lease is about to end.  Morrison's coffin will be exhumed and brought back to the United States, where many people feel it should've been buried in the first place.

Enter Eddie Hanley, a 40-something criminal lifer who's riding out the last days of his latest stint in lockup.  It's this latest stint that's gotten Eddie thinking.  Does he really want to do this anymore?  Isn't he getting too old for this?  Now would be a good time to get out.

But there are a couple of things standing in Eddie's way.  The first is Mr. Azadian, an Armenian gangster who's about as sketchy as they come.  He basically runs an underage prostitution ring out of his mansion and refuses to kill anyone who's crossed him without first putting them through the most unimaginable torture possible.  This is a guy you don't want to fuck with, and unfortunately Eddie owes him for keeping him safe in jail.

But Eddie explains to Azadian that he's out of the game, which leads to his second problem - his son is dying.  He can't help his son if he gets thrown back in jail for another job-gone-bad.  So he wants out.  For good.  Azadian looks him over and says, okay, that's fine.  But if he finds out Eddie is involved in any jobs with anyone else, he will find Eddie, kill him, and then kill his family.

Ouch!

So Eddie heads home to his ex-wife, where he learns that his son is actually way sicker than he thought.  He's got a few months to live unless he can get a kidney transplant.  So when an old friend, Chapney, comes calling, saying he's got the job of all jobs with a five million dollar payout, Eddie has no choice but to say yes.  It's the only way his son's going to live.

The job?  Why borrow Jim Morrison's coffin for 24 hours for an unnamed suitor of course.  The catch?  The day they're exhuming Morrison's coffin for transfer to America is only a month away.  That doesn't leave Eddie a lot of time to get the job done.

So he puts together the old team, flies to Paris, and opens a donut shop near Morrison's cemetery (the idea being to develop a cover business that absolutely zero Parisians will be interested in), then start digging a tunnel to Morrison's grave, where they can execute the plan.

Of course, it isn't long before Azadian starts wondering where Eddie is, and starts sniffing around.  When Eddie gets wind of this, he begins having second thoughts.  Azadian is ruthless.  If he finds out Eddie's on the job, he will go straight to his family, rape his wife and probably his child, before torturing and killing them.  However the alternative is just as devastating - the death of his son.

The heist itself seems pretty straight-forward.  Dig a tunnel, borrow the coffin, get it to the mystery suitor, then put it back.  But when everything imaginable starts going wrong, this heist will turn out to be the most complicated job Eddie's ever had to deal with.

I loved this.  I knew I was dealing with a good writer right from the get-go.  The story gets moving immediately, with Eddie leaving jail.  Our really nasty villain is set up right afterwards, adding instant stakes to the story.  We knew that Eddie was going to take a job later, so the threat that Azadian lays down (that he will kill him and his family) fills us with instant fear.

Yesterday I talked about the "Uh-oh" moment.  Today I'm talking about the "Sit-up" moment, where something happens in a script that's so strong, you sit up and start paying closer attention.  Azadian's threat was that moment for me and I'll tell you why.  A lesser writer wouldn't have included the scene.  He would've only included Chapney offering Eddie the job.  But notice how much more interesting having Azadian threaten him first is.  There's a ton of weight attached to Eddie accepting Chapney's offer now - he's risking his family's as well as his own life.  With the second option, saying "yes" to Chapney means next to nothing.  He's just taking another job.  There are no stakes attached.

I also like how Alex includes multiple ticking time bombs.  One ticking clock is good.  Two is better.  Here, Eddie and his team have to dig to Morrison's grave before it's exhumed.  That's the first ticking time bomb.  But we also have his dying son, who needs a transplant soon, another ticking time bomb.  It's preferable to always have urgency behind your characters' goals.   And the more urgency you can add, the better.  

On top of all this, we have a couple of mysteries that need to be solved (Jesus, this is like textbook Scriptshadow scriptwriting!  No wonder I liked it).   The first mystery is what's in Morrison's coffin.  Alex does a nice job of explaining, to those who don't know, the Morrison death conspiracy.  There's also this mysterious box connected to Morrison, titled "Fascination 127," that's been locked up all these years and which will be opened concurrently with the exhuming.

And then there were just little things here and there that made Fascination 127 different.  For example (spoiler), there's this big set-piece shootout inside the underground tunnels at the end, with a great little payoff from an earlier setup.   In most heist movies, we get the big "been-there-done-that" final shootout in the bank.   This was so different!

Having said that, there were some weaknesses that kept me from giving Fascination 127 an "impressive."  The first was Azadian.  The guy definitely oozed evil, but he went over the top a few times.  It became almost comical that every time we saw him, he was with a different underage girl, kicking or torturing her.  That needed to be dialed back.

I didn't like the media stuff either.  I can't get into it too much without getting into spoilers, but there was a Geraldo-like media guy associated with the plan to steal Morrison's coffin who just felt too silly.  I'd prefer that Alex find someone else to associate the heist with, someone more tone-appropriate.  Had his role paid off in the end, I might have been okay with Geraldo, but I don't think it did.  Will be interested to hear what you guys think of that choice.

And then there were a few missed opportunities.  The guys open a donut shop for cover, assuming no one will be interested.  Well, it's hinted at that cops occasionally come in for donuts.  We should've built a way bigger scene or series of scenes around that.  If their shop became an unexpected hit with the local police force and cops were always coming in and out for donuts while, just underneath them, one of the biggest crimes in recent Paris history was taking place, that could've lead to some wonderful scenes.

There was also a scene in the tunnel where they accidentally busted a water pipe and the tunnel started filling up with water.  I thought it was going to be a scene where their lives were in danger as there was a chance they'd drown.  But all Eddie had to do was casually walk back to the shop and turn the water off.  I would've preferred a scene where their lives were in danger.  Also, a city water official should've been called to the scene, having received a report of a broken water mane.  Our team would then have to figure out how to get rid of him without him finding out they'd built a tunnel to Jim Morrison's grave.  You always want to make things difficult for your characters.  That's what creates drama which is what leads to entertainment!

REALLY liked this though.  It's got a few things that need to be fixed, but overall, a VERY STRONG story.  Can't wait to see where it goes!

Script link: Fascination 127

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn't for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned:  You gotta make your lead attractive to an A-List actor and I'm not sure Eddie is quite there yet.  I keep thinking back to the Showtime show, Homeland, and how the main character is bipolar and needs meds to keep her from freaking out and if the agency were to find out, she'd lose her job, which is her whole life.  It's little things like that that actors get a hard-on for, those layers that make them more fun to play.  I'm not saying Eddie needs that specifically, but he needs something extra for sure, something that would challenge and therefore entice an actor.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Amateur Week - Pocket Dial

Welcome to Amateur Week!  All week we're going to be reviewing scripts from amateur writers that got the best response from this post.  Time for you guys to take advantage of the opportunity.  Hope we find something great.  But even if we don't, it should be a great week for learning why screenwriting is so hard!

Genre: Comedy
Premise: (original logline) With temperamental technology thwarting them at every turn, three brothers get tangled up in love, lust and infidelity.
About: For those who remember, I wasn't a fan of this logline.  The phrase "temperamental technology" tripped me up (seemed way too complicated for a simple premise), and I always get nervous when loglines don't lay out a clear objective.  My experience is that when there's no clear objective stated in the premise, there's no clear objective in the script, and we get a wandering story as a result.  However, the people who read the first ten pages of Pocket Dial spoke, and the general consensus was they liked'em.  I was more than happy to be proven wrong, so I pocket dialed Chris Head with the hopes of leaving him some good news.
Writer: Chris Head
Details: 99 pages of script on the wall
Status: AVAILABLE


This isn't going to be good news.

I wanted it to be good news. But we're going to have to turn this review into more of a lesson.  I realized pretty quickly that Pocket Dial was going to dial up my initial fear when I read the logline - that an unclear logline will always result in an unclear screenplay.

When you read a subpar script, you always have that "Uh-oh Moment." It's the moment where you realize the script isn't going to work. And it's a sad moment, because most of the time it happens early, and you still have a hundred-plus pages to go.

In "Pocket Dial," the "Uh-oh" moment comes when one character tells another character he "fuck-ranks" women at work when he's bored.  Not only did the conversation not push the story forward, but it was told to us via flashback.  Why are we flashing back within 15 pages of the opening to an event that seemingly happened a few days ago?  It just feels sloppy, like the writer is more concerned with forcing jokes into the script than moving the story forward.

It's not that you can't put fuck-ranking into your script, but Chris should've figured out a way to do it in the present - in the midst of a scene that mattered.  It seems like the point of the scene is to introduce a hot co-worker to one of our characters?  So why not make that meeting a real scene then?  Something that matters?  Something that sets up a storyline for that character at work (i.e. he's got to close this account or he's not getting the promotion).  Then he and another worker can be trading scraps of paper where they're "fuck-ranking" the women in the room.  Now the "fuck ranking" is happening in the midst of an important scene so you get the joke WHILE pushing the story forward, as opposed to forcing an unnatural 2-days-ago flashback into the first act (in general, you should just avoid flashbacks at all costs.  Unless they're done perfectly, they're usually terrible).

As for the plot, Pocket Dial focuses on three brothers, each with a unique problem.  The first brother is 32 year old Clint, who's trying to date a girl, Amy, who thinks he's boring as hell.  Clint is way too nice, but Amy is kinda desperate so she's going out on these 2nd, 3rd, and 4th dates out of fear that if she doesn't, she's going to end up alone.

Clint's younger brother, Jim, is about to get married.  But his wife is a workout freak and is so obsessed with their wedding, that when Amy's boss, Liz, takes a liking to him, he helps Clint out by double-dating, if only to extend the amount of time Amy gives Clint to change her mind.

Finally, there's Brad, the oldest of the three.  Brad is already married but is miserable because his God-fearing wife won't give up the sexay time.  This has driven Brad to take an interest in his young supple hot co-worker, Padma, an Indian girl who does't seem to believe in traditional Indian values (she purposely mispronounces Brad's name as "Bad") and makes it clear that whenever Brad wants to kama, she's sutra.

If there's a main thread to the story, it's the brothers trying to help Clint man up and get Amy.  Because Clint is so nice and sweet, he has NO GAME whatsoever, which means the brothers have to pull out all the tricks to turn him into a man.  In the meantime, we watch as both Jim and Brad try to resolve the issues with their own significant others, both of whom seem so far gone that there's no hope.

Okay, we'll start with the obvious here.  The title and logline indicate somewhat of a hook, in that we're going to see how present day technology affects realationships.  However, outside of a "butt dial" within the first ten pages, I'm not sure I saw one other instance of current technology affecting these relationships. That's going to be frustrating to a reader - that you promised something and didn't deliver.  And since there's only that one instance of technology affecting relationships, the script really doesn't have a hook.  It's just three guys dealing with relatiopnship problems, which is something we've seen thousands of times before, and done much better, leaving the reader with the question of, "What's the point?"

Another huge issue for me is that the main character goal in the script - Clint trying to get Amy - is one we don't care about because Amy's such a bitch.  She thinks she's much better than Clint.  The only reason she's even going out with him is because her boss wants to hook up with Clint's brother.  So we're watching this guy obsessively try to get this girl who we detest.  If I don't want the main character to achieve his goal, why would I want to read on?

In Chris's defense, though, I feel like there are instances of this approach working.  I just can't think of any (can you?).  Maybe it's just me, but when the main character is going after a goal we don't want him to achieve, it's hard to enjoy the story.

The script also falls into that dreadful "observational comedy" pitfall.  You know, when characters are sitting around, discussing superheroes and their take on Dora The Explorer.  No story is being moved forward during these scenes.  We're literally just watching two people share their observations about innocuous things.  I suppose this can work if the writer is really hilarious and has great unforgettable characters, like in "When Harry Met Sally," but even the observational comedy in "When Harry Met Sally" was theme-relevant.  All the observations had to do with love versus friendship, which was the theme of the movie.  What do Dora The Explorer and superheroes have to do with current technology?

If I were advising Chris on this script, here's what I would tell him to do.  I'd give each of the brothers a strong goal in their storyline, either relationship-related or work-related, something that pushes their story along whenever we cut back to them.  For Clint, that goal is obvious - get Amy.  For Brad, it might be a work goal - to get promoted (then we make Padma the boss's daughter, a direct obstacle to him achieving his goal).  For Jim, it might be that he thinks his wife is cheating on him, so he follows her around to catch her in the act.  Now, whenever we cut back to anyone, they're all going after something, making sure the story is always moving.

Second, we need to make Amy someone we actually want Clint to win.  If she's an annoying selfish "I can do so much better than the main character" type of chick, we're going to be frustrated cause we WON'T want Clint to get her.  I'd also consider making Clint less of a wuss.  He's just soooo nice and so naive and such a wuss.  I kind of detested the guy.  In general, be wary of making your main character a wuss.  Audiences tend not to like wusses.

And finally (or probably firstly) you have to decide what the hook of your story's going to be.  It can't just be three guys experiencing relationships in life.  There's no hook there and you're going to be compared to other movies and scripts that have done this much better.  If you're going to use the hook about technology, then you have to go all out with that hook.  Scene after scene needs to be dealing with the way today's technology affects relationships.  You can't just slap a snazzy idea on a logline to lure people in and then not explore it.  You're going to piss readers off.

I think this speaks to the importance of a logline.  If you go back to the logline for Pocket Dial, you'll see that it doesn't define a clear objective.  It's not surprising, then, that the script tends to wander.  I know this critique was in your face but I'm hoping Chris realizes how the importance of getting all this stuff right is going to vastly improve his writing.  These are the things you need to nail if you want someone to pay a bunch of money for your screenplay.  I'm wishing Chris lots of luck.  Get back in there, apply these changes, and kick ass!

Script link: Pocket Dial

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

What I learned: Writing scripts like these (the wacky misadventures of modern-day relationships) are tough because the writers who are good at them are naturally gifted at finding funny unique current angles to the dating world.  Just read the original spec draft (not the dreadful final movie draft) of "Going The Distance."  Those are the guys you're competing with.  It's probably a better idea to find a unique hook for a story and exploit it.  That way, you don't have to be perfect because a producer might fall in love with the hook and buy your script on the strength of that alone.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Amateur Friday - Luna Found A Dragon

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: Carsonreeves3@gmail.com. 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/or title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every couple of weeks so your submission stays near the top.

Genre: Family/Action-Adventure
Premise: (from writer) A ten-year-old girl finds a dragon egg in the desert behind her New Mexico home. The egg hatches and the girl befriends the creature. After discovering a way to return the dragon to its natural world, the duo embarks on a cross country journey, flying at night, with government agents on their tail.
Writer: Troy Warren
Details: 99 pages.


I know I don't review many family scripts on the site, but a producer was telling me the other day that the two genres that have been the most dependable throughout the years - dating back as long as the movie business has been around - are Action and Family.  Those movies make a ton of bucks and they make a ton of bucks all over the world.  Now I know most family films are developed internally, and the total historic box office is swayed by the ridiculous grosses of all those Disney animation classics, but the comment did open my eyes and is what persuaded me to go with Luna this week.

I'm also really curious because I received two early reactions regarding the script.  One called it charming, cute, and essentially perfect.  The other said it was the worst thing she'd read all year.  Hmmm, which one was right?

10 year old Luna Cruz lives in that magical desert land known as New Mexico.  She resides in one of those adobe houses that sits amongst dust, tumbleweeds, and roadkill, without a hint of civilization in any direction.  In other words, 10 year old Lana lives in a pretty boring town.  But that doesn't mean her life's boring.  She has a brother who thinks he's a young John Travolta, a grandmother who wears a house arrest bracelet, and a little brother who finds pooping his pants to be an almost zen-like experience.

But none of these characters are as wacky as the one who's about to enter her life.  During an Easter egg hunt, Luna's pooping little brother finds himself a giant easter egg that quickly hatches.  But it's no bird that comes a chirpin' out.  It's a baby....lizard maybe??  Oh, she wishes.  It's only when the little ball of scales starts burping out fire that Luna realizes - Holy Baloney - she's found herself a real live DRAGON!

Meanwhile, over in Los Alamos, Californigh-yay, some government types get all uppity about a strange energy blast that occurred down in New Mexico.  The implication is that something other-worldly went on, and they wanna get their hands on this other-worldliness.  So they send agent Sophia Bailey down to get to the bottom of it.

Back in New Mexico, our little dragon friend, who Luna's decided to name "Gordo," is growing faster than Rosie O'Donnel at an Old Country Buffet.  Since Luna realizes she's in over her head, she tells her grandmother about Gordo, and after doing a few Google searches, realizes that Gordo probably got here via some time vortex from the past.  They find a bunch of Ivy League nerds who know all about these vortexes and decide to travel to New York to meet them.

With Sophia, and soon the military, hot on their trail, they make it to New York where the Vortex Nerd Patrol uses a mathematical equation to determine where the next vortex is going to appear, the one that can get Gordo back to mama.  It turns out it's in Nevada (Area 51 to be precise) and they only have 44 hours to get there. If Luna and Gordo miss that window, there's a good chance our little dragon buddy is going to live the rest of his life as a lab subject, something Luna will do anything to prevent!

So who was right?  The extremely negative reviewer or the extremely positive reviewer?  To be honest, I'm not sure either of them were right.  My issue with Luna is that the story is too average.  Those who read the site know I can't stand when I'm 40-50 pages ahead of the writer.  And that's the problem I ran into with Luna.  I always knew exactly what was going to happen 50 pages ahead of time.  And it's hard for me to be entertained when that's the case.

Now I had a discussion with another reader about this and they pointed out, "Yeah but you have to realize, Carson - this is a kid's movie.  To kids, it IS going to be surprising and new because they haven't seen thousands of movies and read thousands of scripts like you."  It was a good point and something I've thought about before.  Is the bar just WAY LOWER for the general audiences out there?  Specifically children?

On the one hand I'd say, yes, it is.  But on the other, I still think it's a problem.  Whenever you write a script, it has to get past the bullshit detectors.  Whether those detectors are readers who have read hundreds of scripts or producers who have made dozens of movies.  These guys are the line of defense your script must make it past to be both bought and made.  And their bar is just as high as mine.  They're looking for a freshness, a new take on familiar stories, an unpredictability to the characters and structure, just like me.

I look at a movie like Up or Wall-E, popular children's movies, and there's definitely an unpredictability to those stories.  I mean, one of them has no talking for 45 minutes and the other has a house that flies around the world via hundreds of helium balloons.  Those are both things I haven't seen before.  And I feel like you need those elements, even when you're playing to a super-young audience.

So moving forward, I believe Troy needs to dig deeper here.  I think the story needs to be more complex and less familiar.  A couple extra subplots could help, just to make the story less linear.  And I think we need to do more with the characters.  Where's the fatal flaw in the main character, Luna, for example?  Luna was a blank sheet of paper to me.  She was cute.  But because there wasn't anything complicated or difficult going on in her life (other than her schoolmates making fun of her) I never felt more than one-dimension with her.  And your main character needs more than one dimension!

Take her family.  Clearly, something's happened to Luna's family.  It appears that her mom and dad are absent?  There's some interesting backstory there which we're not privy too.  Then you have this dragon, who's been ripped away from his mother.  Why not make a connection there?  Why not explore that?  The effects of a child who grows up alone?  Who doesn't have that mother/father figure in their life.  If Luna can get Gordo back to her mother, it's almost like she's able to get herself back to her own mom.

You don't have to go that way, obviously.  But that's the way you need to approach it in order to add depth to your story, in order for it to be more than just names on a page.  You want to make audiences and readers think and this was too simple of a plot, too obvious of a direction, to get us thinking.  Both from a standpoint of depth and choices, there wasn't enough meat on the bone.  Look at Bailey, who had the potential to be much deeper, not unlike Tommy Lee Jones' character from The Fugitive.  Start her off emotionless.  Then, as she gets to know this kid and what she's going through, she starts to turn, and by the end, she's trying to save Luna.  Maybe you tie in that theme of being alone and Bailey herself grew up without that all-importnat mother figure.  There's SOME OF THAT here now, but not nearly enough.

I also think more could've been done with the ending.  And this goes back to many of the choices here being too simple.  As it stands, (Spoiler) Luna has to get the dragon to the Vortex without getting shot down by the military.  So what happens?  Luna gets the dragon through the Vortex without getting shot down by the military.  It goes EXACTLY the way it's supposed to go.  That's not interesting. That's not drama!

What if we establish in the past that the mama dragon is looking for her baby, and when that Vortex opens up, she surprisingly comes bursting through to get her baby back.  So now we're not dealing with one dragon, but two, with the military forced to make a tough decision.  Do they start shooting?  Do they take down the bigger threat?  Every part of the plan is thrown off because the mother dragon has arrived.  And now you have a finale that could go in a million different directions (maybe the mother is killed.  Maybe the mother is injured. Maybe Gordo is injured and the mother has to save him).  That's the way you want to write your stories, by throwing things in there that open up a bunch of fresh options, not just stay on that obvious straightforward path.

I realize I'm being a little harsh here.  Luna is actually one of the better written Amateur Friday scripts I've read, but I think that's why I'm so passionate about its flaws.  I know Troy can do better.  He has the writing chops.  But like a lot of writers out there, he has to challenge himself more.  Your protagonist's journey should feel troubled, impossible and unpredictable.  There were a few speed bumps here, but none of them felt that difficult to me.  I always knew Luna and the dragon were going to be okay.  Do you remember when E.T. died??  Yeah, E.T. DIED!!!!!  How devastating was that????  That's something I DIDN'T EXPECT.  I wanted stuff like that here.  I know Troy can do it, but he's gotta push himself.  And so do the rest of you.  Always PUSH YOURSELVES when writing scripts.  If it's too easy, you're probably not working hard enough.

Script link: Luna Found A Dragon

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

What I learned: I have a rule.  If you feel like you've seen it before, erase it and write something else.  That goes for lines of dialogues, scenes, action sequences, characters, whatever.  If you feel like "I've seen this in another movie," pound that delete button.  Add a little twist to it, go in a different direction, or completely rewrite it.  Do anything BUT write what's already been done.  I specifically kept thinking of E.T. while reading "Luna."  The secret pet aspect.  The military aspect.  Getting the dragon home aspect.  Let's go back, erase all those references, and replace them with something new and fresh.  This should not feel like an E.T. update.  It should feel like its own individual movie.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Choose Next Week's Amateur Scripts To Review!

Those arguing that American Beauty didn't have a great logline shall rejoice! (Well, not really).

Today's post is going back to that age old nightmare - loglines.  When I look through the amateur submissions to see what I'm going to review every Friday, I often find myself saying, "How in the world did this writer think this was a good idea??"  I know that's harsh but spending months (or even years) on a bad idea is one of the worst mistakes you can make as a screenwriter.  So I try to be harsh.   Because I don't want you, the aspiring screenwriter, wasting hours your life on something that nobody's going to read.

On top of this, I continue to get loglines that don't make sense, that are grammatically incorrect, or that are loaded with spelling mistakes.  It's one thing to mistake a bad idea for a good one, but it's another to screw up the one sentence you're using to sell your screenplay.  I mean it's only one sentence!!!  And you spelled a word wrong?  Or worded it in a funny way?  Why haven't you gone over this line hundreds of times?  Why haven't you sent it out to all your friends and have them proofread it for you??  This is your shot to get read.  Don't give anyone a reason to say no.

Having said that, there are logline-unfriendly scripts.  American Beauty is a logline unfriendly script.  The Help is a logline-unfriendly script.  The Kids Are All Right is a logline-unfriendly script.  As are Milk, Babel, There Will Be Blood, and Atonement.  Not every script is going to have that "I have to read it now" logline.  But what I will say is that unless you're a known entity who has worked in this business for awhile, rarely will anyone read your logline-unfriendly script.  They just won't.  They can see from the logline that it's going to be a hard sell.  History's also taught them that scripts from unknowns usually suck.  So why would they waste their time on a script that's probably going to suck and even if it turns out good is going to be impossible to sell?

But Scriptshadow to the rescue!  I'm going to offer up the loglines that you, the readers, have submitted, and let you, the readers, decide whether they're review worthy or not - irregardless of any of those funky industry standards.  I'm going to post the first 10 pages for you as well so that even logline-unfriendly scripts get a shot to pull you in.  Whichever scripts are getting the most heat in the comments section, those are the ones I'll review for next week.  And hey, hopefully we'll find something great!

Now while you're looking through these, I want you to be aware of the "But I'm different" bias.  This is a common problem us writers have where we believe that even though our logline isn't very good, we're different  because we've been writing longer or we're a better writer or we have a cool third act twist.  As you look through these, imagine your own logline in there.  Does it sound as uninteresting as the majority of these?  Try to be totally objective.  Would you pick up your script off your logline if it was sent to you amongst a sea of other submissions?

As a reminder, most managers, agents, and producers gravitate towards three types of loglines.  Loglines with some sort of conflict - note, these are not full loglines, just synopses - (A small beach town must battle with an influx of shark attacks), some sort of high concept (A cyborg is sent back in time to prevent the birth of the man who will one day lead the resistance against his kind), or some sort of irony (A genius MIT janitor is recruited by the university's top mathematician).  The only exception to this is personal preference.  If you're covering subject matter that the receiving party is partial to, they might take a chance on your script even if the logline stinks.  So if you send your otherwise unexciting tennis concept to a tennis nut, they might still read it.  But, as you can guess, that avenue is completely dependent on luck.

So, now that you've ingested all that, here are 30 loglines to choose from, including the first 10 pages of each.  If any of these loglines or First Tens excite you, make sure to talk about them in the comments section, which I'll be watching closely.  Whatever gets the most reaction/interest is what I'll review.  And don't bring in your friends to tip the scales in your favor.  I always get suspicious when a bunch of random new commenters love an idea, that something fishy's going on.  Otherwise, just give us your opinion on these loglines (or pages).  Oh, and I DID NOT filter these ideas.  They're all randomly submitted loglines for my Amateur Friday slot.

The Steps 
Suspense/Thriller/Paranormal 
After moving to a quiet town, a young family's new neighbor; with a disturbing past, becomes instantly infatuated with the wife and young daughter. When his sexual advances are rebuffed, his warped psyche spins frighteningly out of control.

Would I read? - This has some nice conflict built into the logline.  A contained and easy to imagine scenario.  Can see the poster.  Could be good if the writing's good.  I might check this one out.

Against Time
Action/Sci-Fi
To stop terrorists from destroying New York City, a rookie bodyguard must take an experimental drug that reverses time.

Would I read? - Very high concept.  A little confused why they'd send a bodyguard back in time, but this is another idea I can see the poster for.  I'd give it a shot.

The Legend Of Spring Heeled Jack
Horror
An aristocratic woman born for marriage disguises herself as a man in order to join the London metropolitan police force and catch the infamous serial killer known as Spring Heeled Jack.

Would I read? - Hmm, not sure why we're including that this woman is born for marriage.  What does that have to do with the concept?  Also, "metropolitan" seems extraneous.  Makes me think the writing is going to be extraneous.  With that said, serial killer movies sell, so if this were good, you never know what might come of it.  I MIGHT give this a shot.

Zombie Resurrection
Horror/Comedy
When an experimental male-enhancement drug turns all the men in town into sex-crazed zombies, it's up to a rag-tag band of women to survive the assault and stop the epidemic from spreading.

Would I read? - I don't know.  This sounds a little too goofy to me.  It is a zombie take I haven't seen before, so I'll give it that.  But otherwise, it's just too broad for my taste.

Time and Time Again
Sci-fi
Only one man can help fiery-tempered Louis save multiple universes from destruction and rescue his kidnapped wife... her lover.

Would I read? - We do have a high-ish sounding concept here, but some things worry me.  What does being "fiery-tempered" have to do with this story that it's so important it be included in the logline?  It just feels random.  Plus, the ending confuses me.  Who's "her lover?" Is that Louis' lover?  Isn't Louis a man??  I never want to read the script for any logline that confuses me.  

Snallygaster
Horror
While investigating the disappearance of her best friend, a college coed and group of Amish teens on 'rumspringa' encounter a monster out of Penn Dutch folklore that preys on wayward kids.

Would I read? - There's nothing exactly wrong with this logline, so maybe it's just not a genre I'm interested in?  A monster that preys on wayward kids seems kinda random so I probably wouldn't open it up.

Gideon
Drama
A mysterious boy brings together a racially charged small town before the Mayor's son kills him.

Would I read? - I'm not sure this logline was very well thought-through.  It's almost as if it was thrown together right before it was sent.  A logline should tell a story.  But this one just tells us a boy does something good and then he dies.  There is some conflict implied (racially charged town and a clearly unhappy Mayor's son) but it's thrown together so haphazardly that it makes me question if the script itself will follow the same sloppy formula.  Wouldn't pick it up.

Collosal
Horror
An alcoholic mother living in a desolate town must protect her teenage daughter when a man she tormented as a child shows up looking for blood.

Would I read? - The logline implies a sort of "History of Violence" vibe, which could be cool.  There's a clear line of conflict here.  But there's something a bit plain about it.  I might pick this up if I'd just read 15 bad loglines in a row and was tired of looking for something to read, but it doesn't have that 'wow' factor that makes me want to read it RIGHT NOW.

Dark Side Of The Moon
Dark Fantasy
A depressed young writer, spiraling down to a suicide attempt, discovers he may only be a character in a movie – the worst reviewed movie of the year.

Would I read? - First think I notice is how depressing this sounds.  The "may be a character in a movie" thing is kind of interesting, even if it's been done many times before.  What concerns me is the end, which states, "the worst reviewed movie of the year," which places us in comedy territory, something that's not included in the genre.  That worries me.  Probably wouldn't pick this up.

Judgement Date
Contained Thriller/Suspense
A poker pro on death row gets a chance at freedom on the live comeback TV show of a cruel, disgraced Idol judge

Would I read? - This is what I call a "too many disjointed elements" logline.  A poker pro.  Death row. Chance at freedom via a reality show.  By a disgraced Idol judge (American Idol?).  What does an American Idol judge have to do with poker reality shows?  Why would a poker pro be on death row?  This logline is all over the place - too unfocused - which tells me the script will be the same.  Wouldn't pick this up.

Facade
Drama/Noir
A detective delves into an investigation following the murder of a teenage boy in the quintessential 1950's American suburbs, unaware of the secrets buried behind the veneer of this picture perfect society. (*Note: intended to imitate the style of classic '40s-'50s film noir)

Would I read? - Put simply, this isn't my thing.  So I wouldn't pick it up for that reason alone.  The investigation of a murdered boy gives the story some structure, but I'm not sure the murder of a boy in the 50s is unique enough to warrant a read, even if I was a big noir fan.  This idea needs something extra.

The Lasso Man
Genre not given
The protag: Andy, a London kid. Whose passion with the lariat accompanies him through many escapades: Some hilarious,some compassionate and moving, life affirming, life changing and life saving. As the war clouds gather in the late 1930’s. his sister forges his birth certificate at age 17 so he can join the R.A.F and become a fighter pilot.

Would I read? - Whoa, lots wrong here.  Starting your logline with "The Protag:" already screams amateur.  Then you have a period after "kid" when there should be a comma.  That's two punctuation mistakes and an odd sentence beginning all within the first seven words.  Writer needs to go back to basics - study punctuation, grammar and sentence structure before submitting anything.

Recovery
Drama
When a man involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident learns the victim is his brother's wife, he must decide whether coming clean and appeasing his conscience is worth the risk of shattering his family.

Would I read? - An intriguing situation.  Some implied dramatic irony.  There's definitely a story here.  Is it big enough?  Can the writer create a compelling enough second act to keep us interested long enough to get to the end?  That's to be determined but I might give this one a shot.

The Gentleman's Prestige
Comedy
An insecure homeless man puts everything on the line when he enters a male beauty pageant in hopes of proving to his talented family that he's not a loser.

Would I read? - I'm confused by writers who keep placing these trivial adjectives in their loglines to describe their protagonists. What does being "insecure" have to do with this idea?  Had the writer said, "unbearably ugly," that would've had more relevance, since he's entering a beauty pageant.  Regardless, there's something about this idea that feels off.  Homeless man in a beauty pageant.  I can imagine a couple of funny scenes that might come out of that, but not an entire movie.  Probably wouldn't read this.

I, Henchman
Action/Comedy
A henchman for a terrorist group sees a chance at redemption when he's inspired to write a story. But before he can develop his newfound talent, he not only has to flee the group, but also confront his worst fear: the hero hell-bent on eliminating the terrorists, including him.

Would I read? - Hmm, this logline feels unbalanced and confused.  A henchman who decides to write a story doesn't sound very cinematic or interesting.  Main characters who are writers are rarely interesting since writing is (as I'm sure you guys know) pretty boring to watch!  Also, why do terrorist groups need henchmen?  Aren't they, almost by definition, henchmen?  When I have too many confused questions, I'm not picking up the script.

Deux
Action/Thriller
A twenty something signs up as a weapons tester in a high-tech duel to wipe his debt, but to get his pay he must defeat his next opponent--an adversary he can't seem to kill.

Would I read? - This logline suffers from being too vague.  A "twenty something?"  Can we come up with a protagonist we can actually visualize?  How about "A genius computer hacker?" Also, the ending kills this logline: "An adversary he can't seem to kill."  Way way waaaay too general.  You need to be more specific.

Geek and Destroy
Comedy
Two sexy female spies turn the world’s largest video game convention upside down when they are hired to steal a hard-drive containing millions of dollars worth of online weapons.

Would I read? - Clever title.  Very important since if a writer can make me laugh at the title of his script, there's a good chance he'll be able to make me laugh in the script.  I've read these comic-con-type heist scripts before, so that's a strike against the writer, but this is the comedy with the most promise so far.  I might read the first ten pages.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl
"High School" Horror
When indecisive high school student, Charlie, falls for a beautiful, enigmatic older woman she turns out to be a homicidal maniac.

Would I read? - Hmmm, something's not adding up here.  What does a pixie dream girl have to do with an older woman?  Is she the pixie dream girl?  How does that work?  Are we dealing with a "woman" or a "girl?"  Also, there's a comma missing after "woman," which may only be a comma, but there are only 21 words in this logline.  It shouldn't be hard to get all the commas where they need to be.  Finally, the "homicidal maniac" portion of the logline seems to come out of nowhere and therefore feels random.

Bond Of Blood
Drama/Faith
Contemporary telling of the parable of the Prodigal Son, set in modern day South Africa.

Would I read? - This is a very general synopsis of the story, not a logline. There's no conflict or irony implied anywhere. There's not even a main character.  On top of that, it feels really heavy, and therefore boring.  I would rewrite this sucker with a focus on trying to make the story sound as exciting as possible, because it very well might be.  I'd just never know after reading this logline.

Forbidden Fruit
Creature Feature
After a horrifying vision, the town drunk finds a purpose in protecting the locals of a sleepy southern community from a mysterious tree and its fruit that addicts all who taste of it. His resolve is challenged when it appears something more insidious may be using the fruit as a vessel from their world into ours, and the people as the final gateway.

Would I read? - I don't know.  There's something here.  But the ending of this logline really kills it.  It just dissolves into general muckery.  "...the fruit as a vessel from their world into ours, and the people as the final gateway."  Plus, this is pitched as a creature feature and yet I don't see the creature in the logline!  Wouldn't pick it up.

Pocket Dial
Romantic Comedy
With temperamental technology thwarting them at every turn, three brothers get tangled up in love, lust and infidelity.

Would I read? - This is one of the most confusing loglines of the 30.  I'm not sure I have any idea what this script is about.  What's "temperamental technology?"  That seems to be the hook of the concept yet I don't know what it means.  And what does "Pocket Dialing" have to do with what's stated in the logline?  Then the three brothers getting tangled up in problems is way too general.  Wouldn't pick this one up.

Seventy-Three
Sports/Heist
A washed up major league pitcher is blackmailed into a scheme to steal one of baseball's most coveted pieces of memorabilia, Barry Bond's 73rd home run ball, the very same ball he threw to Bond's that fateful night.

Would I read? - There appears to be some irony in that the pitcher who pitched to Bonds must now steal the home run ball he hit off him, but there's something very low-stakes about it.  I start thinking about things like, "Is this ball really that important anymore?"  Hasn't the whole steroids thing destroyed the value of memorabilia like this?  Feels like we need to go deeper into history here - a home run ball hit by Maris or Gherig.  In the writer's defense, my reaction to this feels personal, not so much a judgement of the logline itself.

The Power Of Max
Sci Fi/Rom-Com
Max wants to be with Emma, but first he has to get past Ricardo...and survive an alien invasion.

Would I read? - This is one of those loglines that really doesn't tell us much, but then hits us with the shocking wild ending.  Whether that ending inspires you to pick up the script is up to the individual.   Unfortunately, this sounds a little too random to me.  Why does he have to get past "Ricardo?"  Who's Ricardo?  That information seems important.  And I'd personally like a little more set-up as to why there's an alien invasion.  Wouldn't pick this one up.

The Suicide Theory
Crime/Thriller
A disgraced former New York cop must track down the man who shot the Mayor in order to uncover the truth about an identical case that led to his own downfall three years earlier.

Would I read? - This is not my thing but I do like the idea of a man hunting down a criminal who ruined his life to clear his name.  That personal journey tells me the main character would probably be pretty interesting.  This would have to be written well, but I'd read the first 10 pages.

Like Father, Like Daughter
Sci-Fi
The hunter for extraterrestrial animals has to take his teenage daughter with him in search for traces of an alien civilization. The adventures they experience together give them an opportunity to fix their family relationships.

Would I read? - Some grammar mistakes in this one.  Not "The hunter" but "A hunter."  Not "relationships" but "relationship."  Some of these elements have potential, like extraterrestrial animals and alien civilizations, but they don't really come together in a cohesive natural way in this logline, so I probably wouldn't open it.

Chase The Night
Crime/Thriller
On his 25th birthday, a troubled orphan receives information about his estranged mother, sending him into a world of corruption as he investigates the circumstances behind her life and death.

Would I read? - It's not "must read now" material, but I like the idea of orphans having to come face to face with the lives of their real parents, and this story seems to take that to the extreme.  This is something I'd probably read the first ten pages for mainly because the last 15 options have been so lackluster.  

Breakup Rehab
Dramedy
A broken-hearted young woman is told by a psychic that she'll never find true love if she doesn't get over her ex-boyfriend by her 25th birthday...which is one month away.

Would I read? - The premise feels a little forced, but then these romantic comedy ideas usually do.  I like the ticking time bomb here, which creates a lot of urgency.  If we love the main character and really want her to find true love, this might work.  But if she's just an amalgam of all the other romantic comedy protagonists we've come to know throughout the years, Breakup Rehab could find itself dumped.  I might open this.

Fascination 127
Thriller
A group of men are hired by a mysterious client to remove Jim Morrison’s casket, give it to him for 24 hours and then return the casket into the ground before it is publicly exhumed to be moved to the United States.

Would I read? - Personally, I'm not a Jim Morrison fan, which pretty much takes me out of the running for reading this.  Also, I'm not sure the general mystery of someone wanting to exhume his casket for 24 hours gets me very excited.  Maybe if something was added like, "...to see if his body was really inside," that would at least provide a more specific storyline.  Will be curious to see if Jim Morrison fans think this sounds interesting but it's not my thing.

U.S.S. NIKOLA TESLA
Sci-Fi/Thriller
The American Navy's latest destroyer, the USS Nikola Tesla, disappears without trace. Two years later she reappears with no sign of her crew. But no one realises this ship holds a dark secret that dates back to World War Two and a horrifying experiment.

Would I read? - Hmmm.  I've seen the whole "ship disappears and then reappears years later" idea before.  I mean, we've seen it as early Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.  So I'm wondering if there's anything new here to mine.  I might thumb through the first few pages to see if the writing was strong, but despite this being high concept, the familiar-factor would probably keep me from picking it up.

Maneater
Horror/Comedy
A bottomed-out actor takes a Vision Quest to reasses his life – one week in the wild without women or booze – and is targeted by a sexy forest ranger with exotic, uh, tastes.

Would I read? - Why does the main character need to be an actor?  Wouldn't it be more ironic if he was a businessman who's never left the city?  That would make him more of a fish out of water.  I'm also not sure what a "Vision Quest" is.  Isn't that a video game?  Is the "one week in the wild without women or booze" the definition of a "Vision Quest?"  If so, why is it not placed right after "Vision Quest?"  The elements don't quite come together naturally here so I probably wouldn't open this.


And that's it folks.  Read what you can and discuss your thoughts in the comments section!