Friday, December 31, 2010

Amateur Friday - On The Corner of Rue St. Aloise and Rue Du Cheval

Genre: Drama/Period/Thriller
Premise: November 1944, Strasbourg, France. A Solider wakes up with amnesia in "La Zone Occupée". The only thing he remembers is his duty to deliver a package on the corner of Rue St. Aloise and Rue Du Cheval at 10:30pm. No name, no date, and under no circumstances is the package to be opened.
About: Every Friday, I review a script from the readers of the site. If you’re interested in submitting your script for an Amateur Review, send it in PDF form, along with your title, genre, logline, and why I should read your script to Keep in mind your script will be posted.
Writer: Samuel Clark
Details: 97 pages (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).

Samuel’s been a Scriptshadow reader for a long time, offering up very well-thought out responses whenever he joins in on the discussion. He’s submitted a few entries for Amateur Friday but none of the loglines really caught my eye - until this one.

I know they say amnesia is one of the most overused devices in screenwriting, but for whatever reason, I never get bored with it. Now of course if you apply it in a really stupid way or don’t attempt to do anything different with it, it gets lame fast. But in no way does a story that begins with a character who’s lost his memory turn me off.

And that’s exactly how “Rue Du Cheval” begins. It’s 1944 France, and Pierre, a soldier in his late 20s, wakes up in a makeshift church/hospital with a bandage over his head and no memory of how he got there. With him is a package that reads: “Deliver the package. AT ALL COSTS! 10:30p.m. On the corner of Rue St Aloise and Rue Du Cheval. DO NOT OPEN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.”

Confused but determined to carry out his duty, Pierre heads over to the address a couple of nights in a row, but both times gets there late. Eventually, he stumbles into a nearby bar run by the pretty but sad manager, Hannelore.

When one of the nastier German generals stops by the empty bar for a late drink, he notices Pierre’s package and starts asking him about it. It gets to the point where Pierre has no choice but to shoot and kill the man, as well as the officer who’s with him.

After this shocking turn of events, Hannelore and Pierre look at each other, realizing they’re in this together til the end now.

Pierre starts splitting his time between Hannelore’s place and the church, continuing to try and deliver the package every night, but he’s always too late or the area is too well guarded. During this time Pierre is also having dreams about the package, remembering bits and pieces of how he became involved and why it might be so important. However the dreams always end before he can find out all the answers.

As more German officers start snooping around the bar, looking for Ullrich, Pierre and Hannelore realize they’re going to need to get rid of the bodies soon, and start planning to take them to a far away river, which will require passing a couple of German checkpoints, not an easy task.

Pierre continues to try and deliver the package in the meantime, but the stars continue to misalign and he’s never able to accomplish his mission.

Samuel Clark noted to me in his e-mail that this script was very European in nature and I agree with that. This definitely doesn’t take the obvious route that a Hollywood version would explore. However this is both a blessing and a curse for the story, as I think the Hollywood approach could’ve helped solve some of the more redundant problems in the script.

My big beef with Rue Du Cheval is the repetitive nature of the screenplay, starting with Pierre’s continued missed attempts to deliver the package. The way I envisioned the story when I saw the logline was that it was going to be one long extremely difficult journey to deliver this package to its destination. The fact that the destination is only a couple of blocks away presents some problems.

First, you have to figure out a reason why the main character can’t just deliver the package right away. And that reason turns out to be that he gets there a few minutes late. I wasn’t thrilled about this reasoning (10-20 minutes difference in the delivery time being a major obstacle that prevents our hero from achieving his goal feels a little too simplistic) but I went with it. My problem is that this obstacle repeats itself over and over again throughout the story. The combination of – what was in my mind – a thin obstacle, along with our protagonist conveniently missing the drop over and over again was simply too difficult to buy into. To be honest, it felt like we were stalling the story so it could last a full 100 minutes.

Another aspect of the script I had a problem with was the dream sequences. I’ve always felt that dream sequences were kind of film-schooly, an excuse to create trippy visuals that didn’t need to make sense. To Clark’s credit, he uses the sequences (at times) to reveal backstory about Pierre’s situation, but he ended up killing one of the best mysteries in the process.

I think we’re all wondering what the hell is in this package. When we’re told that it’s the key to ending the war, that takes a lot of the mystery away. You can make an argument that this information raises the stakes for our hero (a package that ends the war is a really important package), but to me, sacrificing the biggest mystery in your script was a lot to give up for those added stakes.

As for the good stuff, there’s plenty of it. I thought all the Ullrich bar stuff and the killing and suqbsequent hiding of the bodies was good. I really liked their trip out to the river where they stashed the bodies in beer barrels and the subsequent checkpoint scene. It was an easy script to read.

It just took an adjustment to get used to the fact that THAT story (dealing with the aftermath of the killings) was the real story, and the package stuff was secondary. I think I would’ve preferred the package story being the star, since that’s what lured us in and that’s what we were originally excited about.

Samuel’s a good writer. Everything is succinct, descriptive, there’s plenty of conflict here. In the end it comes down to the treatment of the idea being a little different from what I was expecting. Will be interesting to hear if you guys agree or not.

Script link: On The Corner of Rue St. Aloise and Rue Du Cheval

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

What I learned: Get on message boards. Comment in the comments section. Develop relationships with people online. Throw them a nice e-mail every once in awhile. People are more likely to read your script if they’ve heard of you in some capacity and that takes time. It takes getting to know someone. I’ve seen Samuel on here forever. He’s e-mailed me a few courteous e-mails before, asking me to read his scripts. So when he finally came up with something that sounded good, I was more than happy to oblige.