Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Bridge

Genre: Biopic
Premise: The story of how Washington Roebling built the Brooklyn Bridge.
About: You might know Tomasi, writer of “The Bridge,” from all his comic book work. He started as an editor at DC in 1993, working on Green Lantern and Batman. A decade later, he was promoted to Senior Editor. A few years after that, Tomasi left his post to pursue a writing career, working on such titles as “Green Lantern Corps,” “Outsiders,” and “Nightwing.” During that time, he also wrote a screenplay titled, “The Bridge,” that ended up on the 2005 Black List. Whenever I passed over the synopsis, I was always intrigued. I’m not a huge biopic guy (as we all know) but I love stories about impossible pursuits, and there aren’t many pursuits that seemed more impossible than the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, which was the largest ever conceived bridge at the time by 50%, and took thirteen years to complete.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Details: 123 pages (undated)

As I pushed through the first 30 pages of “The Bridge,” one script kept coming to mind: “The Muppet Man.” Now if you go back to my review of that script, you’ll remember I had a big problem with the first couple of acts, that problem being I felt like I was reading a history book, that important information and events were being provided, but not dramatized. Sure, we were learning all about Jim Henson, but the education wasn’t nearly as entertaining as it could’ve been. That’s the same way I felt here. We learn about Washington as a child. We see him in the Civil War. We watch him interact with his father. But outside of some rare flashes, there's something too straightforward about it all. Once again, I felt like I was cracking open the history books. However, this script really finds its groove at the midway point, and like Christopher Weeke's script, entertains in its own way, turning a simple life into a complex and sometimes impossible journey.

Back in the late 19th Century, John Roebling was one of the premiere bridge builders in the world. He had built some of the biggest bridges in the United States. So when New York wanted to do the unthinkable and build a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Roebling was the first engineer they called. The assignment would be the most difficult in history, requiring skills and methods that, up until this point, had not even been attempted. In many ways, it would be just as much of an experiment as it would be a job.

Unfortunately, John had his foot crushed in a boat accident and died after refusing to have it amputated (thus incurring a severe infection). With construction on the biggest bridge in history not even yet begun, the committee had to make the impossible choice of finding a replacement to complete John’s vision, even though his vision was revolutionary to the point where others might not understand it. Did they start over? Did they scrap the project? With heavy reservations, they went with plan C, hiring John’s son Washington, to realize his father’s vision. Although young, Washington had studied under his father for years and was the most familiar with the design his father had created.

“The Bridge” is about Washington’s pursuit to get something done that, for every reason in the world, couldn’t be done. It’s about how impossible pursuits can break a man down, both mentally and physically, about never compromising your morals and methods, and most of all, about never giving up. And for those reasons, it’s a pretty damn good story.

Once we get past those first 50 pages, which are plagued by that “history text” feel, the building of the bridge begins. And that’s where the story really takes off. I think the moment I got roped in was when I realized just how fucking crazy building a bridge is. Particularly with 19th century technology! One of the things they had to do was use a relatively new method of digging with huge inflatable structures called “caissons,” which would stretch from the surface to the sea floor, blocking out the water, which allowed the workers to dig into the rocks sans scuba gear. In addition to this method being extremely dangerous (a sudden fire or flood could kill everyone instantly) nobody knew about decompression sickness back then. So men were climbing up and down constantly through sea level, and terribly sick and dying as a result. And nobody understood why. And that was just the first of many obstacles Washington had to find solutions for.

On top of the physical building of the bridge, it’s 19th century New York, so of course every politician in town is angling in pursuit of their own interests. So you had ferry businesses paying politicians to try to scrap the bridge. You had steel companies paying committee members to choose their steel for the bridge. You had a bridge being built through multiple terms of mayors and committee members, each elected official posing their own unique challenges for getting the bridge finished. Because of all these unforeseeable problems, what started off as a 5 year endeavor, turned into a 13 year ordeal.

But where the script really shines is in the story of Washington himself, who became so physically ill because of the decompression sickness and overwhelming requirements of the job, that he eventually couldn’t be on site anymore. He retired back to his house, where he observed and advised the building of the bridge from his window through a telescope! The fact that the builder of the biggest bridge in history was doing so from his living room window was, not surprisingly, quite controversial at the time.

Much like The Muppet Man, which has a great third act, this script also has a great finale. If you don’t tear up when Washington Roebling, beaten down and crippled after 13 years of the hardest work any man has ever had to endure in a lifetime, walks across his bridge for the first time, well then dammit, you don’t have a soul.

Check this one out. (fun fact: The reason that the Brooklyn Bridge still stands over 130 years after it was built, while every other bridge from that time has been destroyed, is because Washington accidentally overestimated how strong it had to be, building a bridge 6 times stronger than is required by today's standards)

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

What I learned: I’ll start with something technical, since I rarely use this section to do so. I’ve noticed, after reading as many scripts as I have, that when you’re jumping forward in time a lot, simply telling us the current year isn’t enough. Because we don’t remember what the past year you listed was. It was 20 pages ago. So when you write, “1863,” on page 17. Then “1871” on page 37, I don’t know how much time has passed unless I begrudgingly go searching back through the script to find the previous year. A better option, unless the previous year you listed was a few pages ago, is to maybe put in parenthesis “1871 (8 years later).” That way, I immediately know how many years have passed. May seem trivial but it’s a big difference if 2 years have passed as opposed to, say, 7.

But the big lesson here is obstacles. The best stories provide a character with a strong goal, and then throw obstacles at that character in his pursuit of that goal. The obstacle has the effect on the reader of, “Oh no. He's screwed! There's no possible way he can beat this!" "The Bridge" has building methods that don’t work, impossible delays, not enough money, politicians trying to kick our hero off the project, ill-health, fires, death, everything you can imagine. 12 years into the building of the bridge, the mayor of New York tried to say Washington was mentally unfit to finish the bridge, recommending a new engineer come on. At that moment I practically burst out of my chair. Are you fucking kidding! After 12 years he’s not going to get to finish his bridge! How’s he going to beat this?? That’s the power of the obstacle.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Your New Top 25 Favorite Scripts List

As many of you know, today we’re revealing your Top 25 favorite scripts! The list we’ve been going by over to the right (below my own Top 25) is somewhat dated, so I felt it was time to give it a makeover. Just like last time, over 400 of you wrote in with your votes, and while I wouldn’t say there were any surprises ON the list, there were a couple of scripts that didn’t make the list which surprised me. This list would probably be more varied, but some writers/producers don’t want links to their scripts on the site and if scripts aren’t downloadable, people can’t download and fall in love with them. Cough cough.

I tallied the scores the same way I did last time. I assigned 10 points to every number 1 choice. 9 points to every number 2. 8 points to every number 3. And all the way down to 1 point for a 10th place vote. I then added it all up, and ranked the scripts by total number of points. Below you'll find the script ranking, point total, the writers, the premise, and the status of the script. Before we get to the Top 25 though, let’s look at the scripts that just missed the cut (in no particular order)…

Aaron And Sara (Chad Gomez Creasy and Dara Resnik Creasy) - A nerd and a cheerleader explore four years of high school as best friends.

Pawn Sacrifice (Steve Knight) - The life story of chess legend Bobby Fischer leading up to his historic world championship match against Boris Spassky.

RED – (Erich and Jon Hoeber) A retired Black-Ops Agent must reassemble his old team to fight the new generation of high-tech assassins hunting him down.

30 Minutes Or Less – (Matthew Sullivan and Michael Diliberti) A slacker pizza delivery guy is forced into robbing a bank with a bomb strapped to his body.

The True Memoirs Of An International Assassin (Jeff Morris) - After a publisher changes a writer's debut novel about a deadly assassin from fiction to nonfiction, the author finds himself thrust into the world of his lead character, and must take on the role of his character for his own survival.

The Many Deaths Of Barnaby James (Brian Nathansan) - A teenage apprentice in a macabre circus for the dead yearns to bring his true love back to life, but not before encountering the many dangerous and gothic characters that stand in his way.

SALT (Kurt Wimmer) - A CIA agent discovers there's a Russian spy deep inside the organization.

Cedar Rapids (Phil Johnston) – A small town insurance salesman heads off to the “big city” of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to try and save his company.

And now on to the official list! (If you have updates on the status of any of these projects, please e-mail me at

25. TELL NO ONE (183 pts.)
Writers: Robert Orci & Gary Kurtzman
Premise: A widowed social worker receives a strange message that forces him to reevaluate what happened the day his wife was murdered.
Status: Made into a famous French Film that won a ton of awards, but it looks like the American version is stuck in development hell.

24. DEAD LOSS (184 pts.)
Writers: Josh Baizer and Marshall Johnson
Premise: A crew of crab fisherman rescue a drifting castaway with a mysterious cargo.
Status: Dead Loss was optioned and made last year’s Black List but I believe they’re still putting a package together to sell it to the studios. Chris Gorak (“Right At Your Door”) is attached as director.

Writer: John Raffo
Premise: Renko Vega, a disgraced cosmonaut, has resorted to a life of thievery with his best friend and partner, a sentient spaceship called the Jennifer 9. When a group of space pirates called the Augmentics take hostage the passengers and crew of The Starlight Revolver, Renko has the chance to redeem himself as he’s forced to choose between self-preservation or saving the people onboard.
Status: Recently entered the development phase. Don’t think anyone is attached yet.

22. MIXTAPE (216 pts.)
Writer: Stacey Menear
Premise: A thirteen year old outcast finds a mixtape that belonged to her deceased parents, accidentally destroys it, and uses the song list to find all the music.
Status: Hot director Seth Gordon will be directing Chloe Moretz (“Kickass,” “Let The Right One In” remake) in one of my favorite scripts of the year. I believe they’re still looking for financing so if you got the cash, call these guys up. This movie needs to be made.

21. SHADOW 19 (224 pts.)
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Premise: Captain Conrad Vance, of the Offworld Marine Corps, is selected by the Special Science Agency to travel to a hostile planet to repair a super-intelligent machine.
Status: I believe this project is currently dead at the moment. Though I’m sure Spaihts’ Alien Prequel screenwriting gig will have some people taking a second look.

20. GOING THE DISTANCE (248 pts.)
Writer: Geoff LaTulippe
Premise: A comedy about a couple trying to overcome that most difficult of hurdles: the long-distance relationship.
Status: Geoff’s comedy, starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, is already finished shooting and will be hitting theaters, I believe, this August. Where’s the trailer for this thing??

Writer: Joe Nussbaum
Premise: A former high school nerd who's finally achieved success in the world, finds out that his company is hiring the most popular kid from his old school. Before he knows it, the company turns into its own high school, and once again, he's the nerd.
Status: At the moment, I don’t believe anything’s happening with this project. Great comedy though so I hope someone revitalizes it.

18. THE MUPPET MAN (272 pts.)
Writer: Christopher Weekes
Premise: A look at the weeks leading up to Jim Henson’s death. Henson is the creator of the most famous puppet franchise of all time, The Muppets.
Status: The Henson company bought this script and I can’t help but wonder if they ever plan on making it. My guess is that if they do, they’ll rewrite it into something a little more upbeat. Chris’ draft obviously touched people’s hearts, but I think the Hensons want something more happy smiley? All speculation of course. I have no idea if any of it is true.

17. THE DAYS BEFORE (333 pts.)
Writer: Chad St. John
Premise: A man who possesses a time travel device uses it to go back in time to prevent an alien invasion.
Status: This was purchased by Warner Brothers last year and I don’t think there’s been any recent movement on it.

16. PRISONERS (379 pts.)
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Premise: A Boston man kidnaps the person he suspects is behind the disappearance of his young daughter and her best friend.
Status: Prisoners, arguably the hottest spec of last year, looks to have DiCaprio leading the charge. Listed as in pre-production over at Warner Brothers, there’s an outside chance we’ll see this movie by the end of this year (but more likely next).
No review.

15. SUNFLOWER (410 pts.)
Writer: Misha Green
Premise: Two women are held hostage in a prison-like farmhouse.
Status: The script that everybody loved so much has gotten a page 1 rewrite. I refuse to read the new draft as I can’t handle such tomfoolery. Why change what worked? William Friedkin (The Exorcist) was attached as director for a long time, but horror superstar director Wes Craven has recently come on board. Since Craven has announced his intent to direct Scream 4 next, with Neve Campbell in a nursing home, I’m wondering when Sunflower will get to the screen.

14. PASSENGERS (465 pts.)
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Premise: A spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant planet has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger is awakened 90 years before anyone else. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he wakes up a second passenger who he's fallen in love with.
Status: Originally written for Keanu and always listed as a favorite among Hollywood insiders, this project doesn’t seem to be going anywhere at the moment. I think Keanu’s production company owns it so it’s all a matter of if/when he decides to make it.

13. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (479 pts.)
Writer: Richard LaGravenese
Premise: A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a traveling circus as their vet.
Status: With I Am Legend director, Francis Lawrence, on board, along with the “bothered” one, Robert Pattinson, Academy Award winner, Christoph Waltz, and Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, this film should be shooting soon.

12. THE F WORD (497 pts.)
Writer: Elan Mastai
Premise: A young man and woman try to stay friends after developing intense feelings for one another.
Status: There’s no denying The F Word has a thin premise, but it’s the execution that sets this apart from all the other clones. Right now it's set up at Fox Searchlight with Mr. Mudd (the production company behind Juno) set to produce. Word is it's moving fast. So hopefully we'll be hearing some casting/director attachment news soon!
No review.

11. SMOKE AND MIRRORS (504 pts.)
Writers: Lee and Janet Scott Batchler.
Premise: The reclusive "Father of Modern Magic", Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, is called upon by the French government to debunk an Algerian sorcerer who is using his feats of magic to spearhead a civil war.
Status: The last time this project had heat on it is when Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas came onboard back in 2000. But it’s a script everyone seems to love, especially Roger, who gave it a genius rating, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone took a chance on this in the near future. And I mean, why deny a great adventure flick? There are so few of them out there.

10. THE BEAVER (520 pts.)
Writer: Kyle Killen
Premise: An extremely depressed man finds a beaver puppet in the garbage. When he puts it on, his life takes a dramatic turn for the better. Or does it?
Status: Starring Mel Gibson, with Jodie Foster directing, this film has already wrapped and is currently in post-production for a release later this year.

9. DOGS OF BABEL (521 pts.)
Writer: Jamie Linden
Premise: When a dog is the only witness to a woman’s death, her husband tries to teach the dog how to talk so he can find out what happened to her.
Status: They still haven’t attached anyone to this script. This is another project, like Mixtape, that needs someone to swoop in and finance it. Because you have the potential for something great.

8. THE GREY (527 pts.)
Writers: Joe Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Premise: A group of oil drillers on a plane ride home, crash in the arctic tundra, where they become hunted by a vicious pack of wolves.
Status: Recently securing Bradley Cooper for the lead role, this project has some heat on it. The key will be Carnahan convincing Cooper to make his movie before he makes his 1800 others. Hopefully he will, cause this is too cool of a script to pass up.

7. THE VOICES (545 pts.)
Writer: Michael R. Perry
Premise: A disturbed man with a good heart is tormented by his talking pets, who convince him to do things he'd rather not do.
Status: Michael Perry is hot right now, and although there’s been no official announcement, word is Ben Stiller wants to play the lead in this dark tale. Get to it Ben. It’ll a great role.

6. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (549 pts.)
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Premise: A look at the rise of Facebook and the effect it's had on its founders.
Status: This is currently in production with surprise helmer David Fincher for a release either later this year or early 2011.

5. BURIED (564 pts.)
Writer: Chris Sparling
Premise: A man wakes up in a coffin with no idea how he got there.
Status: Already finished shooting. Played at Sundance. Was purchased at Sundance. Should be getting a release sometime later this year.

4. EVERYTHING MUST GO (565 pts.)
Writer: Dan Rush
Premise: A recently fired salesman comes home to find out he’s been kicked out of his house by his wife. So he takes his things, which she’s left outside, sets them up in the front lawn, and starts living there.
Status: Will Ferrell is playing the lead part. I’ve heard this is either very close to production or has just started production. So it’s another project we’ll probably be seeing later this year hopefully.

Writer: Travis Beachem
Premise: In the city of The Burgue, a police inspector pursues a serial killer who is targeting fairies.
Status: Everybody loves this script, and yet it doesn’t even have an IMDB page. I’m assuming the high price tag of the movie has scared a lot of financers off, but this is one of those scripts that seemed to be on everybody’s list.

Writer: S. Craig Zahler
Premise: Set in the days of the old West, a sheriff and a doctor seek revenge against three ruthless thugs who robbed them and terrorized the town.
Status: I believe this is still over at WB and for whatever reason, they don’t seem to know what to do with it. Westerns are a hard sell and this script has been criticized as more a novelization than a script, but it’s got great characters so just find some big actors who want to be in a Western. There are more than you think.
No review.

1. SOURCE CODE (1539 pts.)
Writer: Ben Ripley
Premise: A man wakes up on a train that is being targeted by terrorists, a train that has already blown up hours ago.
Status: I think they just started shooting this. Moon director Duncan Jones is at the helm. Jake Gyllenhal is playing the lead. My guess is an early 2011 release date, possibly in April, where films like “The Matrix” debuted?

THOUGHTS: If you want to see how this compares to the original list, check out this link. What we have here is three scripts really dominating the race, with Source Code once again pulling away as the clear winner. After Killing On Carnival Row (which I still haven’t read, believe it or not), there’s a sharp 300 point drop. So if you want favorites, Source Code, Brigands, and Carnival can’t even be touched. A little surprised to see The Grey that high. Didn’t know others liked it as much as I did. The Voices isn’t a surprise. It’s a deliciously dark script, yet still retains an element of fun. Water For Elephants is another one I’m surprised to see so high. Guess the dark love story played just as well for you as it did me.

Falling out of the Top 25 were Salt, Winter’s Discontent, I Wanna F___ Your Sister, Fuckbuddies, Ornate Anatomy Galahad, Nightfall, and Passengers (Pruss). The biggest surprise is obviously “Salt.” What happened to the Salt lovers? I guess they moved on to pepper. Winter’s Discontent is a really fun script, but I was always surprised at how high it was on the last list, so I’m not shocked that it’s gone. Ditto with Ornate Anatomy. Passengers suffered from everyone clarifying this time around that they meant the SPAIHTS draft of Passengers – which makes me wonder if anyone liked the Pruss draft at all, lol

So there you have it. If you haven’t read some of these scripts, definitely check them out. There are still links in some of the reviews. And I’m sure people can point you in the right direction if you can’t find them there. Just ask in the comments section (use Firefox if you're having trouble seeing comments). I'd like to keep opining, but it’s time for me to go read tomorrow’s script. Who knows? Maybe it will be on your next Top 25. :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Clash Of The Titans

Come back for script on Saturday.

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Premise: (from IMDB) The mortal son of the god Zeus embarks on a perilous journey to stop the underworld and its minions from spreading their evil to Earth as well as the heavens.
About: After discussing the original Empire Strikes Back draft before Kasdan came along and turned it into a classic, I decided it would be nice to look at something Kasdan wrote today. And it turns out he wrote a couple of drafts of Clash Of The Titans, the long rumored remake which is finally making its debut in theaters this Friday. The writer who worked on Titans before Kasdan and who is said to have really taken it to the next level, is none other than Travis Beachem, who broke onto the scene with his much beloved “Killing on Carnival Row” (which you’ll be seeing on tomorrow’s Top 25 list).
Writer: John Glenn & Travis Wright – Revisions by Travis Beachem – Current Revisions by Lawrence Kasdan
Details: 120 pages (May 28, 2008 Draft) – This is not meant to be a review of the movie. We are critiquing an early draft of Clash Of Titans, and that is all we’re critiquing, just the script.

There are a lot of shitty ideas as far as remakes going around these days. They’re remaking “My Fair Lady,” for Christ’s sakes. I’ve never actually seen My Fair Lady. But even as someone who’s never seen it, I know it shouldn’t be remade! Clash Of The Titans is not one of those ideas. It’s actually the perfect film to remake. The effects in that 1981 film were so brutal as to be unwatchable. And what better film to remake than one whose hopes and ambitions were so much bigger than what the budget and special effects could afford at the time?

But man, I did not expect to actually be wowed by the trailer. And that’s what happened. My lips parted and went “wow.” No sound was actually emitted. It was a silent “wow.” A “wow” without sound. And as everyone knows, those are always the most powerful wows.

So good it was that I decided it should have been an official summer release instead of a wimpily served up pre-summer appetizer. But eight years ago when the studios staked their 2010 summer movie plots, the biggest thing Sam Worthington had done was a “Beware Of Dingos” PSA, and thus left the studios unaware that they’d be promoting a film with the hottest movie star on the planet. All this is not to say Clash is a slam dunk. There aren’t many things I remember about the original, but one scene that’s stuck with me over the years is the Medusa scene. Not sure how it would play today but that shit terrified me as a kid. The remake must not only top that scene, but tap into the charm and heart the original, even with all its deficiencies, somehow managed to muster. Does Kasdan's draft of "Clash Of The Titans" succeed?

Rape. That’s how Clash of The Titans starts out. With the god Zeus raping a mortal Queen. There’s a plan to all of this, of course, but this is not the Zeus I know. If he isn’t careful, he’s going to end up in a bad bad place, or worse - Celebrity Rehab.

Flash to 25 years later and we’re hanging out with the Olympians, a.k.a. the gods, who are distraught over this endless war between them and the mortals. Too many people have died and Zeus wants to put an end to it, a truce. So he calls upon his half-son, the village fisherman, Perseus (who, if you’re keeping score, is the result of the aforementioned rape) to marry Princess Andromeda, thus ensuring a bond between the land dwellers and cloud surfers that will solidify peace.

Only problem is, the snotty Princess would rather go bungie jumping without the chords than marry this half-God stick-flinger. Perseus isn’t so high on the Princess either. He’s too busy trying to figure out when he became a half-God responsible for the biggest truce of all time. A few days ago his biggest duty was deciding between worms and bait.

Complications ensue when the Bitch God Of The Ocean, Tiamut, hears the Queen tell her people that her daughter, the Princess, is hotter than Tiamut. In what may be the most jealous overreaction of all time, Tiamut charges through the gates and lets everyone in the kingdom know that unless they sacrifice the princess to the ocean, she will unleash the Kraken on the city in 30 days. Yikes. Talk about self-worth issues. Did they have shrinks in 805?

Naturally nobody wants to sacrifice the Princess, even though it’s been well-documented that she’s worthless, so they entrust Perseus to go off and find an elusive but “300-worthy” army to protect the city against the Kraken. Perseus and his Fellowship head off into the desert, navigating strange lands and strange creatures to find these modern-day marines and get them back to Jobba before the 30 days are up! Perseus isn't keen on the journey and is way out of his league, but it’s not exactly like he has a choice.

Along the way the crew encounters beasts, elephant-sized scorpions, eye-less witches, and of course, Medusa. And with each new obstacle, the reluctant Perseus is expected to more aggressively find the leader within himself. Will he? What will the team do when the army they came for can’t fight? Will the city, and more shockingly, the king himself, buckle before the Kracken shows, offering his daughter up to save the city? Aggghhhh! You’ll have to wait until Friday to find out.

Clash of The Titans takes its cues from…well from the very times its set in since that’s when the whole “Hero Journey” thing was born. This well-tread approach, which you might recognize from movies like “Star Wars” and “The Matrix” has a “chosen one” character plucked out of obscurity and thrust into a leadership role before he is ready. He must find the strength within himself before the final battle arrives or risk losing everything…for everyone!

What was strange about Clash Of The Titans, and something I bet they addressed in rewrites, was just how uninvolved Perseus was in the story. I mean full-out blocks of script would go by without him so much as saying a word. Everyone else is dictating the journey, occasionally looking back at Perseus and going, “This okay with you?” I understand he’s not ready yet, but for the first three-quarters of this script, the guy could’ve been a painting and exuded more presence. Of course once we get to Medusa and the finale, that changes. But is it too little too late? Not sure.

The script itself was fairly straightforward, but made two interesting choices. The first was the dilemma the writers put the king in. We routinely cut back to the city during the journey, and each day they get closer, the king has to make the impossible choice of whether to save his daughter or save the city. Remember what I always say. Your script is most interesting when your characters have to make tough choices. And when I say “tough choices,” I mean choices where the consequences are extreme. What’s more extreme than the death of a city vs. the death of a daughter? So that was a nice surprise.

The other interesting choice, and one I’m not as on board with, was telling us how Medusa became Medusa. She was a pretty girl who was also raped by a God (man, those Gods are not nice – I tell ya), and it led to her becoming this hideous cursed ugly thing. And when Peseus goes in to kill her, it puts a whole new spin on the battle, since we have some sympathy for how Medusa ended up in this predicament. It was just a strange unexpected touch that added some complexity to a situation I wasn't thinking would be complex.

So there's definitely some good stuff in here, enough to distract us from Perseus being a fairly passive protagonist at least. Nobody nailed the story, but the hammer and the wood are within arm's length. And really their job was to just not fuck this up. Gods and warriors and beasts and krakens inside a vessel that actually makes sense is pretty hard to fuck up. And they didn't.

What's great about Clash, is that it feels different from everything else being released right now. And that’s such a big advantage in this superhero-obsessed market. This could be a massive hit, sneaking (if it’s lucky) into a coveted Top 3 spot for the summer. That’s a big prediction but outside of Iron Man 2, what’s coming out this year? “Cheech and Chong’s ‘Hey, Watch This.” ???

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

What I learned: What do you want your audience to feel at a given moment? This is a question you have to ask yourself if you want to convey the right emotion at the right time. Leading up to the big Medusa fight, the writers had a choice. They could tell you Medusa’s horrific backstory, in which case you’d sympathize with her. Or they could tell you nothing, allowing Medusa to symbolize pure evil, in which case you wouldn’t sympathize with her at all. In the last decade, writers have been pushed to exercise the former choice. Give your villains a backstory. Make them real and complex. And in most cases, that's good advice. But know that it is not a blanket rule, and sometimes you don't want your audience feeling sympathy for the bad guy. Sometimes it's okay for the bad guy to bad. I bring this up because I'm not sure I would've wanted my audience feeling bad for Medusa in this scenario. I want her to be terrifying, cruel, evil, and mysterious. Giving up that backstory erases some of those intended reactions. Always consider the emotional ramifications of your choices, as it’s up to you to decide what you want your audience to feel.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Roger's here to review...a romantic comedy? Well, you know it has to at least have an interesting hook for him to take a chance on it, so I'm going to trust this will go well. Tomorrow I'm reviewing the script for what I consider to be the first big summer release, even if it's opening at the beginning of April. Wednesday we're going to go over you, the readers', Top 25 list. Friday I'll be reviewing another past Nicholl winner which I've been hearing great things about from everyone who's ever read it. I only haven't reviewed it yet because the subject matter isn't my cup of tea. But you can only ignore recommendations for so long. Thursday is still a mystery. But I'm sure I'll figure it out. Here's Roger with the review...

Genre: (Anti?) Romantic Comedy
Premise: Cynical best friends Amelia and Ruth love nothing more than to ridicule romance. When they take it one step too far at their friend's wedding, they are sentenced to a fate worse than death –- becoming heroines in their own romantic comedy.

About: According to the UCLA Writer's Extension Blog, Annabel Oakes was working twelve hours a day at her advertising job and felt that her "relationship with writing was going to slip through my hands if I didn't start treating it as a more structured part of my life". So she enrolled in the UCLA Extension Writer's Program and three years later she placed third in the 2007 UCLA Extension Screenplay Competition with her script,
My Invisible Savior. A year later she won the competition with Lovestruck. Apparatus is producing. It was also on last year's Black List.
Writer: Annabel Oakes

I feel like this is a review Abby McDonald or Erica Kennedy should be writing. You know, a smart female writer who knows the genre better than I do. My idea of a romantic comedy is watching Dr. Who and his plucky female companion (that Amy Pond is so hot I'm openly weeping right now) save an alternate Earth from robots and disembodied heads in jars. What can I say? Unless it's The Wedding Singer or Wedding Crashers, the romantic comedy genre (and Chick Lit genre in general) is something I prefer screwball as opposed to straight up.
And why not?
I have a writer friend who once described the entire RomCom genre as, "Steven Seagal movies for girls with brain damage, artificial films full of loathsome characters that promote retardism." He shall remain anonymous to protect his identity, to spare him a cloistered Salman Rushdie-like existence, where he would surely be living in fear from all the Type A career girls hunting him with garrotes fashioned out of the finest pink chiffon.
I pushed him to see why he thinks scribes are attracted to the genre.
"It's the safety of the formula and conventions."
Which is a sentiment I can rally behind, and it was with this mindset that I sought out Annabel Oakes' Lovestruck. I needed a primer on the genre, and what better instruction manual is there than a script that questions and subverts the lighthearted RomCom staples, clichés and conventions?
I'm here to report that Lovestruck embodies the Kaling ethos with humorous and clever results.
So who are our Type B heroines?
Amelia is a professor on surrealist art at NYU, a woman who has "embraced intellectual as a personal aesthetic." Ruth produces a music show for NPR (who ironically hates musicians). She listens to Bowie and The Kinks, and she can "both drink you under the table and kick your ass at Trivial Pursuit".
Girls dolled up in hipster chic? Nah, not really. They're not Williamsburg trust fund kids living in their own stupid caricature of poverty. These gals are counter-culture ladies in their late thirties who happen to crave substance.
They're real to a fault, cynical and quick to judge others and form opinions, perhaps defense mechanisms to protect themselves from getting hurt.
For some, this violates the number one cliché when it comes to RomCom heroines: That they must be likeable.
As their wacky friend teaches us, "The modern romantic comedy heroine is not a cliché. She is a collection of hundreds of clichés."
So automatically, Amelia and Ruth are characters with real flaws, existing in stark contrast to heroines whose flaws are really a list of "weaknesses in a job interview", such as a)
I work too hard, b)
I'm too nice, c)
I'm in debt because I have an unusual affinity for gift giving and d) I'm clumsy.
So how do these ladies get trapped in a romantic comedy?
When we meet Amelia and Ruth, they're walking through the streets of New York, recklessly acquiring all manner of damage and stains to their hideous bridesmaid dresses.
At their friend Mindy's wedding (their old African American college roommate), they spend most of their time engaged in snarky commentary, de-valuing the "J. Crew asshole" groomsmen and pointing out that The Wedding March is a song from a Wagner opera where "the marriage is doomed to fail."
They cross the line when they make a toast to, "Fairy tale bullshit, just like this wedding!"
The bride overhears them and runs off to the bathroom, crying. In the bathroom, while they are trying to apologize to her, two flower girls named Karma and Destiny arrive and have to potty.
But Amelia and Ruth, instead of letting them in, decide to spray the flower girls down with Dom Perignon.
Big mistake, as these flowers girls may or may not be cupids.
All bets are off when our heroines are hit between the eyes with red rose arrows.
So what kind of things happen to them?
Strange things are afoot at the Circle Amelia & Ruth. (Was I delighted to discover a Bill & Ted reference in this script? Of course I was!)
First, they clumsily collide into Chad and Skip whilst trying to flee the wedding. Chad and Skip are impossibly gorgeous brothers. One is a struggling musician and the other works in advertising. Bewitched and enamored, they take the guys home and have one night stands to the music of Coldplay.
They hate Coldplay.
In the morning, they pow-wow and discover a carton of Chunky Monkey icecream in the freezer. Although they're attracted to these dudes, they know something is not right. Even though they decide these guys are like cheeseless pizza, sugarless chocolate and decaf coffee, they go out with them again anyways.
We're treated to a montage of the dates through New York City, and strangely, the city seems cleaner than usual. Something is happening to New York. Like clues in the first ten minutes of a zombie flick, we notice things like flyers for missing couples.
Other clues: They're wearing four-inch heels and their waists are smaller. Their apartments have magically grown bigger and have sprouted breakfast nooks.
And the biggest clue that ultimately tips them off?
Their gents call them Mel and Rudi, plucky unisex names, which, according to their wacky friend, is Cliché No. 6. A unisex name denotes a trustworthy and likeable heroine.
Who is the wacky friend?
Reid, a dour and unstylish gay film studies professor. He was my favorite character, and I'm not even gay. I laughed out loud during all of his scenes.
At NYU, he's being forced to take over a class he loathes, The Romantic Comedy: Love and Laughs in the REEL World.
"I will NOT cancel my graduate seminar on Psychosexual Asian horror films of the 1960s for a trifle."
This is a professor I can get behind (in a totally non-gay way, of course).
Reid is the guy they go to for answers. He tells them, "A lead female in a romantic comedy is rarely over 29. Unless they had to adjust it to 30 because Meg Ryan was too old to pass for 29. 35 is pretty much the max unless Dianes Keaton or Lane or Sarah Jessica Parker is involved."
He's the one who helps them figure out what's happening to the missing couples.
"True love in the movies is as inescapable as 'Happily Ever After' and 'The End'".
So these missing couples are disappearing?
Yep, romantic comedies always end like a fairy tale. We never see what follows Happily Ever After, we never see what the ups and downs of a relationship are really like.
So all these happy couples that are finding true love?
They're disappearing, and Amelia and Ruth have to stop it.
Not only that, but Reid is fully transforming from gay misanthrope to the wacky best friend, which we realize when he acquires an Italian Greyhound in a pink dress that daintily pees on rugs.
It's name?
Xena Warrior Princess.
Also to their horror, they finally find the missing bride Mindy, who is transforming into the Token Sassy Black Girl.
So, as a ticking clock, all of our characters are slowly losing their free will.
So, how do they stop it, Rog?
They have to become the anti-Julia Roberts. The anti-Meg, the short?
They have to become the worst romantic comedy characters ever to scare off the gents courting them.
Except the stakes are upped when Ruth can't resist her suitor's proposal for marriage, and Amelia, Reid and Mindy have to go on a quest to stop the marriage and not only save New York City from turning into a Hallmark Card, but to save Ruth from disappearing.
Is this an Anti-Romantic Comedy?
No, it's more like a deconstruction. Here's an analogy for you fanboys: Lovestruck is to romantic comedies what Grant Morrison or Mark Millar comics is to superheroes. Or, this accomplishes what Scream does for horror movies.
It's fun, and although it skewers the genre, it does so with love.
I think you have to love the genre to know it so well, and it manages to inject something that is absent from the genre: Irony and Commentary.
And that's fun to see.
Scenes where the characters find they can't curse because they've been PG-Thirteened to navigating their way through a fun musical number are just charming and clever.
It's easy for a guy like me to make fun of an entire genre, but never do I whole handedly dismiss it. It would be a double standard for me, a guy who loves many an action flick that could be criticized for its lack of subtext, to say I don't find pleasure in wish-fulfillment. I'm obsessed with Entourage, which is basically Sex & the City for guys.
I think knowing all genres makes one a storyteller with range, and we should all learn how tell stories in a plethora of genres.
If I have any criticism concerning Lovestruck, it's that Amelia and Ruth's dialogue is very Juno-esque. Based on the other characters and the prose, Annabel Oakes has a unique voice all her own and she should just let her protags speak sans the Diablo Codyisms.
If you want to learn everything there is to know about a romantic comedy, this is the script to read.

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

What I learned: Even if you're not satirizing a genre, you must have a command of your genre. Know the ins and outs. Seriously. Really study the genre you're working in. Know the narrative formulas. In Lovestruck, there are so many references to other romantic comedies, and such an in-depth deconstruction of the clichés and patterns, that you really get the sense the writer knows everything there is to know about her genre. She's not fucking around. How do you do this? Easy, you just watch every movie you can get your hands on and read books that explore the mechanics of the particular genres.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weekly Rundown

Here's the Weekly Rundown, one day late. Don't kill me! A couple of things. If you haven't already voted on your Top 10 favorite unproduced screenplays, go check out the original post and do so. I'll be announcing the results this Wednesday. Also, if you didn't see Michael Stark's Top 10 favorite books that should be made into movies, go back and check it out. A week after we ran the article, Warner Brothers optioned one of the books, Carter Beats The Devil. Coincidence? Hmmm. And finally, for those interested in Script Notes on their latest screenplay, I'm having a special from now til the end of April. $80 for 3 pages of great notes. Take advantage and e-mail me ( while there are still slots open. Now on to Jessica Hall's Weekly Rundown!

David S. Ward (THE STING) will adapt Margaret A. Weitekamp's book "Right Stuff Wrong Sex" for Producer Scott Mednick (300). Story follows the confrontation between two of aviation's female titans, Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb, in a battle to send the first woman into space. (

Keir Pearson (HOTEL RWANDA) and producer Larry Meli have optioned life rights of civil-rights activist and labor organizer Cesar Chavez for Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna's Mexico-based Canana Films. (

Cook and Weisberg’s (THE ROCK) 2009 spec BLANK SLATE sold to Bold Films. In the female driven action thriller, the CIA investigates the murder of a female agent and implants the agent's memories into the damaged brain of a female convict. The agent's lethal abilities also are implanted, and soon the convict goes rogue to discover the truth about the murder. (

2009 Black List writer Chad St. John (THE DAYS BEFORE) will adapt SPY HUNTER for Warner Bros. and Dan Lin. The videogame had recently been in development at Universal, where John Woo and Paul W.S. Anderson were attached to direct at various points and Dwayne Johnson attached to star. Past drafts have been written by Brandt & Haas (WANTED), Zak Penn (X-MEN 3) and Stuart Beattie (3:10 TO YUMA). (

Scribe Mike Jones (MINOTAUR TAKES A CIGARETTE BREAK) is in negotiations to adapt POPEYE for Sony. Logline for the 3-D CGI project is being kept under wraps, but Popeye's love interest Olive Oyl, nemesis Bluto and adopted child Swee'Pea will be part of the adventure. (

Jennifer Lee will adapt John Steinbeck's "The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights" for Troika Pictures. Published posthumously, "The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights" is Steinbeck's retelling of the Arthurian legend, based on the Winchester Manuscript text of Thomas Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur," first published in 1485. (

DreamWorks has picked up an untitled action comedy pitch in a bidding war from director Ruben Fleischer (ZOMBIELAND). Arnold & Poole (BEAUJOLAIS) will write the buddy cop comedy for producers Nick Stoller and Gavin Polone. (

Paul W.S. Anderson is directing a feature based on classic 1950s hero BUCK RODGERS. Marcum & Holloway (IRON MAN) wrote the script about a fighter pilot who awakens in the 25th century, is credited with helping turn outer space into a setting for exploration and action-adventure stories, and getting the public used to space-age technologies during the Space Race. (

Mandate picked up Diablo Cody’s (JENNIFER’S BODY) spec YOUNG ADULT, about a thirtysomething, divorced, young-adult fiction writer in Minneapolis who returns to her hometown to chase the ex-boyfriend, who’s now married with a kid, that got away. Studio is looking to fast track the project once a director is attached. (

Shawn Christensen’s 2010 spec ABDUCTION will be directed by John Singleton (FOUR BROTHERS). The thriller, with Taylor Lautner attached to star, is focused on a young man who discovers his own baby picture on a missing persons website. Shooting is set to begin in July. (

Paramount is looking to option WONDLA, a new children's book series by Tony DiTerlizzi, author of The Spiderwick Chroncles. Story is about a human orphan girl is raised in a hi-tech subterranean home by a mother who happens to be a robot. (

First time writer Greg Russo’s spec DOWN sold to Relativity. Script is said to be 1408 meets BURIED set in an elevator. (

Spec script UNHITCHED by Will McArdle sold to Radar. Comedy is about a wedding planner who is forced into not planning her own wedding. (

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Alternative Draft Week - Back To The Future 2 (1967 Draft)

It's the final day of Alternative Draft Week, where we look at alternative drafts from the movies you loved (or hated). In some cases, these drafts are said to be better, in others, worse, or in others still, just plain different. Either way, it's interesting to see what could've been. We started out with Roger's review of James Cameron's draft of "First Blood 2". We followed that with my review of "The Last Action Hero." Then came Ron Bass' draft of Entrapment. Thursday was a big one, as I reviewed the original Leigh Brackett draft of "The Empire Strikes Back." And today we have another big one, the "1967" draft of Back To The Future 2!

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy
Premise: When Marty McFly realizes that his trip to the future has resulted in 1985 becoming an alternative Biff-dominated universe, he must travel back to 1967, where Old Biff first triggered the time shift, to restore balance and reestablish the space-time continuum.
About: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale were originally going to set their Back To The Future sequel in 1967, but later decided to move it to ’55 (again). This is the ’67 version.
Writer: Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Details: 146 pages (first draft)

To me, Back To The Future is the best popcorn movie ever made. It was that rare bird that could hang with all the big summer movies, yet still have you thinking and talking about it after it was over. Zemeckis has gone on record as saying that he’d never worked harder on a screenplay than he did with Bob Gale on Back to The Future. And it shows. That screenplay is airtight, which is hard enough to do under normal circumstances, but nearly impossible to do with a time travel script. It’s the best example of setups and payoffs in the history of movies. It’s the best execution of heavy exposition in a movie I’ve ever seen. It’s three of the best characters ever written. And it’s just one of the most entertaining movies ever.

Back To The Future 2 though……….

Ehhh……..Not so much.

And that’s because there were a lot of things working against it. First of all, Zemeckis and Gale didn’t even want to write a sequel to the film. The whole “Continued” thing at the end of the first was a joke, and forced them into a beginning they didn’t necessarily want (what do you do with Jennifer, the girlfriend, when you don’t even want her in the movie?). On top of that, Crispin Glover was becoming public lunatic number 1, making all these bizarre demands and wanting to be paid as much as Michael J. Fox.

This made writing the script extremely tricky. How do you write a script if you don’t even know if one of the main characters is going to be in it??? In retrospect I’d actually argue that they should’ve paid him. I mean, he’s one of the most unique and memorable characters in history. How do you replace that? Add on to that that the team clearly didn’t have as much time to figure out the story and clean up all the time travel holes as they did with the original, and you realize why the movie feels half-baked.

I know that some of you are hoping this “1967” draft contains the magic pill that would’ve made the perfect Back To The Future 2. But that’s simply not the case. It’s clear that the two Bobs are still trying to find their way here, and hadn’t yet zoned in on the sweet spot of having to go back to the original Back To The Future. Had they figured that out earlier, and had time to really hone in on it, we may have gotten a better protagonist flaw than Marty getting upset when people called him “Chicken.”

Suffice it to say I would LOVE to know the exact timeline of all this (when they started this draft, when Glover dropped out, when they decided to turn it into two movies, when production officially began) because it would allow me to know just how much time they had to write Back To The Future 2. If anyone has that info, please leave it in the comments section, because I thought the Crispin Glover debacle went right up to the start of filming. But Geoge McFly is not in this draft, so they obviously knew it already. And since the decision hadn’t even been made to turn part 2 into two movies yet, I’m assuming this was relatively early on. It would just be nice to know the details.

But let’s get to the script, shall we?

Back To The Future 2, the ’67 draft, starts off exactly like the film. Marty, Doc, and Jennifer fly into the future, where Doc alludes to the fact that something’s happened to their children. After they land, instead of Jennifer being put to sleep, the three get split up, and both Marty and Jennifer start looking around the Courthouse Square. This is where Marty first spots the sports almanac, and decides to take it back to the past. In this version, Marty’s obsession with money becomes a much stronger driving force behind his character. Both his future and present self are looking for any way to make a quick buck, and that central flaw informs his choices in a way the final film only touched on. While this unifies the future and present storylines better than the film does, it feels forced, which is probably why the Bob’s ended up downplaying it.

Just like in the film, Old Biff spots the time-traveling Delorean and steals Marty’s sports Almanac to travel back to the past. However this time, he travels back to 1967, the year a 30 year old Biff inherits 20,000 dollars. The idea is that *that* would be the year he could start betting a lot of money. Then, exactly like in the finished film, Doc, Marty and Jennifer go back to 1985, only to find out it’s an alternate universe 1985, where Biff rules Hill Valley, and that Biff must have found Marty's almanac, traveled back, and gave himself the book.

So BACK to 1967 they go!

It’s clear that the Bobs were really trying to figure shit out here, and weren’t entirely sure how to do it. Marty disguises himself as a John Lennon type hippie, only to find out that everyone in Hill Valley hates hippies. When Marty is found roaming the streets without a draft card, he’s arrested and thrown in jail, only to be rescued by who? Why, a Flower Child Lorraine, who’s since married George and has two kids (but not yet Marty!). George, unfortunately, is studying writing at a faraway college, so Lorraine still lives at home with her parents. We then get a recreation of the scene in the original film, where she brings Marty back to her house for supper, and there’s some nice additions with Marty’s brother and sister, all of 2 and 4, being thrown into the mix, but obviously without the sexual tension between Lorraine and Marty, it doesn’t come close to the genius of the original. But everyone will be happy to know that Uncle Jailbird Joey is…in jail!

The crux of Marty’s problem is that Lorraine, who for some reason doesn’t recognize Marty even though she met him 12 years ago, bailed Marty out with the money she was SUPPOSED to use to go visit George that weekend. Marty does some quick math, figuring out when he was born, counting back 9 months, to realize that…THAT VACATION IS WHEN HE WAS CONCEIVED! So now Marty, in addition to having to find the Almanac, must also find the $500 to give back to Lorraine so she can go visit George and conceive…him!

Yes, finding $500 is a little easier than having to convince your hopeless dweeb Dad to muster up the confidence to ask out the girl of his dreams. But that’s only the beginning of this script’s problems. The Bobs must create a finale to rival one of the greatest finales ever. And they’re obviously having a hard time doing it. The fusion reactor (“Mr. Fusion,” which Doc acquired from the future) has been destroyed, and it’s still not easy to create 1.21 jigawatts of power in 1967. So Doc’s plan is to utilize the center of the state’s power grid, which happens to be hanging over a canyon. Marty will have to fly into the canyon and hook the grid right as Doc centralizes the entire state’s power system, a dangerous method which only produces 3 seconds of usable power. If he misses that window, his car will short circuit and he’ll plunge to his death. Yeah, not exactly BTTF 1 material. But in one of the rare truly funny moments of the script, Marty asks Doc, “Exactly how did you conceive of this plan?” And Doc responds, somewhat absently, “I took some LSD and it just came to me.”

There is one aspect of the draft that worked really well though, and that’s bringing 1985 Doc back to 1967, and having to hide him from 1967 Doc, who is himself a hippy and who is also helping Marty. There aren’t enough scenes with the two Docs together. But what there is is hilarious. Here’s one of the only scenes in the script that matched the magical tone of the first film. In it, Marty and Present Doc are at Marty’s house trying to figure out a way to make sure Marty gets conceived.

Now comes ANOTHER RAP on a different window. Marty turns and sees

DOC BROWN---the DOC OF 1967! This younger Doc is dressed like a cross between an Indian guru, a rock star, and a scientist. Marty is shocked!


(to 1985 Doc)

Oh my God, Doc, it’s you! I mean, the you of 1967! He must have seen the newspaper, recognized me and tracked me down!


Of course he did---he’s a genius, just like me. He is me.
(ducks behind a couch) But don’t let him see me---don’t even let him know I’m here in 1967.

Marty gestures to the younger Doc to wait a minute.


Then should I just blow him off?


No, we need me---him. The only way I can repair the time machine is to use my---his lab. Damn these pronouns!


Let me see what I can do. Jeez, look at what you’re wearing!

Marty goes over to the other window and opens it. The younger Doc climbs in; he too has the newspaper article.

’67 DOC

Marty! It is you! I knew it! Good to see you---it’s been 12 years! What brings you to 1967?


It’s kind of a long story, Doc---

’67 DOC

Wait, don’t tell me! Having too much knowledge of future events can be extremely dangerous.
a beat)
I remember that from 1955.

Right. Well, the bottom line is that we need to get the time machine over to your lab so that he---we---I mean you can repair it.

’67 DOC

You want me to repair it?

(from behind the couch)
Not him. Me!


Yes---no---I don’t know.

’67 DOC

What’s the problem?


Uh, nothing, I’m just a little confused.


No, I mean with the time machine.


Well, it doesn’t fly properly…


Don’t tell him that!

’67 DOC

It flies? Far out!


Yeah, and Mr. Fusion’s shot, too.

’67 DOC

Who got shot?


Tell him we need a power source!


What, Doc?

’67 DOC

This Mr. Fusion, does he need medical attention?


Get over here!

Marty wanders over to the couch, drops down on it and throws his head back so he can hear ’85 Doc.


Tell him we need a power source for the flux capacitor.


We need a power source for the flux capacitor.

’67 DOC

You mean to generate 1.21 jigowatts of electricity energy? Again?




Precisely---I mean, yeah.

’67 DOC

Great Scott! I don’t suppose you know about any upcoming lightning storms?



’67 DOC

So where is the time machine now?


Tell him to go home and you’ll bring it over to the lab.


Uh, actually, the best thing would be for you to go home, and I’ll bring it over to the lab.
Marty ushers him to the window.

’67 DOC
Well, I suppose that makes sense. But what about poor Mr. Fusion?


Mr. Fusion’s history, Doc.

’67 DOC

History? Why of course! Future history! This will all make sense to me sometime in the future! I have to remember to think 4th dimensionally. To get into the groove of the continuum.


Doc, please: go home.

’67 DOC

Very well, Marty. Hasta luego!

’67 Doc goes back out the window, but as he’s climbing through, the window drops down hard on his LEFT HAND.

’67 DOC

And ’85 Doc grabs his own left hand in identical pain.


Later on, in another funny moment, Doc finds himself trying to hide from ’67 Doc again. But he runs out of places to hide and the only thing between him and his ’85 self is a mirror frame minus the mirror. But ’67 Doc doesn’t know the mirror is no longer in the frame, and so ’85 Doc realizes the only thing he can do is pretend to be ’67 Doc, who’s confused about why he looks so awful, and the two engage in a classic “mirror image” routine. In any other form, this is juvenile ridiculously silly comedy, but imagining Doc from Back To The Future do a mirror image routine with himself is comedic gold.

Another great part that didn’t make it to the finished film was the character of Peabody (the farm owner who shoots at Marty in the first BTTF when he thinks he’s an alien). In this version, Peabody’s just been released from the nut house because of his insistence 12 years ago that he’d seen an alien. Of course, over the course of the script, Peabody keeps seeing Marty and Doc’s Delorean, even though everyone else seems to just miss it.

Unfortunately, the ending is a big mess. Marty has to go to this anti-war rally, which is obviously this film’s version of the dance, but there’s no tension to it, no real connection to the story. That dance was so heavily entrenched in the plot that we were hanging on every moment. Here, the war rally just feels like something to go to, and Marty’s existence never truly feels like it’s in jeopardy.

What surprised me though was that, despite the convoluted Electrical Grid finale, I was totally into it. This whole time, ’67 Doc has calculated the jump to account for one person (since he doesn’t know that ’85 Doc is jumping back with Marty). Marty realizes this just as he and ’85 Doc are about to jump back to the future. Since ’85 Doc is another 200 pounds, the already damaged propulsion system of the Delorean is in jeopardy of not getting them up to the height of the electrical box. So in a last-second freak out, the two must start dismantling and tossing out various parts of the car as they’re moving, trying to shed 200 pounds before they get to the edge of the cliff! I was shocked at just how into this I was and, if I’m being honest, thought it was more memorable than the end of the original sequel.

So even though this script was all freaking over the place, in the end, I’m happy I read it. But there are a few things we can learn from the read.

The other day, in my “Last Action Hero” post, I mentioned that one of the things you should do before you start your script, is make a list of all the scenes and characters you can create that will best take advantage of your concept. And I felt that’s exactly how Zemeckis and Gale worked. They set this in the 60s, and they asked, “How do we best take advantage of the 60s?” And they thought about hippies and the Vietnam War and war rallies and everyone freaking out about “the commies.” And they tried to create a bunch of funny scenarios around those elements and they did the best job they could. But one of the most important qualities in a writer, is realizing when something isn’t working. It’s one of the hardest choices you ever have to make because sometimes you’re talking about axing months (or even years!) of work. But if something isn’t working, it isn’t working. And you have to be honest with yourself and look to take the script in a new direction. That’s exactly what the Bobs did with the later drafts and it paid off.

Another thing this script teaches us is to be aware when your plot is working too hard. I often tell writers when I’m giving them notes, “We can hear the gears of your plot moving.” And what I mean by that is, it’s taking too much effort to keep us engaged. Characters are routinely telling other characters what’s going on, what just happened, what needs to happen. Too many complex storylines are happening at once and instead of just allowing your characters to exist inside your universe, they exist only to convey information. The gears underneath this draft are louder than a 747. Between Marty’s future kids being in trouble, Biff stealing the almanac and creating an alternate universe, Jennifer being in trouble back in alternate 1985, having to fix the Delorean in time, Marty trying to make sure he’s conceived, the Anti-War rally, the two Docs, and even some things I didn’t get into in the review…it’s too much information. And because it’s too much, there’s no naturalism to the story. There’s no time to entertain.

If you look at the original film, there’s definitely a lot of plot gong on as well, but in that film, we only had to worry about two timelines, whereas in this one, we have to worry about four (the future, normal 1985, alternate 1985, and 1967). And that proved to be the breaking point. But just like the Empire Strikes Back experience, all this is fascinating because it’s another look at a couple of iconic characters in a slightly new scenario. So even if everything’s a little half-baked, it’s fun to come back to this “alternate’ universe.” Not a great script but a groovy read.

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

What I learned: One of the choices you’re faced with as a writer is whether to make the plot in your screenplay simple or complex. Each choice poses its own unique challenges. If you make your plot simple, it allows you to spend more time exploring your characters and your theme. Up In The Air is about a guy dealing with a difficult work transition. There’s no huge driving force. Therefore we can spend most of our time digging into the characters. The downside of a simple plot is that there may not be enough twists and turns and revelations to keep your audience interested. “Too simple” may translate to “Too Boring.” And there are definitely people who feel there wasn’t enough going on “Up In The Air.” The flip side is creating a complex plot, which has a lot of twists and turns and multiple storylines going on. A recently reviewed script on the site, “Tell No One,” is plot heavy, but nails it because it’s such an engaging mystery. The downside to taking this route, however, is potentially creating too complex of a story, like what happened here with “Back to The Future 2.” If you cross a certain line, you will lose the audience, because it’s more information than they want to keep track of. There is no simple way to solve this problem. The best you can do is ask, “Which type of plot am I writing?” and then through trial and error, keep moving the complexity gauge up and down until you find the sweet spot that works for your story. But always be aware of it. And ask your readers. “Is the plot too simple?” “Is it too complex?” Ultimately, they represent your audience.