Friday, January 6, 2012

Amateur Friday - The Wreckage

To submit your script for an Amateur Review, send it in PDF form, along with your title, genre, logline, and why I should read your script to Keep in mind your script will be posted in the review (feel free to keep your identity and script title private by providing an alias and fake title). Also, it's a good idea to resubmit every couple of weeks so that your submission stays near the top of the pile.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Premise: (original 6th place logline) A wild young woman gets seduced into a high tech, storm chasing motorcycle gang that loots and murders under the chaotic veil created by natural disasters.
About: For those of you with bad short-term memory, The Wreckage was unfortunate enough to finish one spot out of the top five of the First Ten Pages contest a few weeks back, just missing a review. Well what a sweet consolation prize. Today, we’re reviewing the entire script!
Writer: Michael McCartney (story by Laton and Michael McCartney)
Details: 102 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).

When Michael McCartney, the writer of today’s script, was pitching his premise some months back, producers told him that no one was interested in purchasing a storm flick. Not too long afterwards, Hollywood purchased two big storm projects, one a heist film similar in vein to The Wreckage. Just goes to show that nobody likes anything until they like it. But I can assure you The Wreckage is nothing like those scripts. McCartney, the eldest grandson of Beatles legend Paul McCartney, does something quite different here. The question is, did he go too far with it?

I was just joking about the Paul McCartney thing by the way. Michael’s not really McCartney’s grandson. Anyway, the wily 24 year old twister known as Maddy is sick of living a lame life in Wichita Falls, Texas. She’s way too unchained for this place. I always tell you guys to introduce your characters with an action that tells us who they are. Well, Maddy’s introduced having sex with her boyfriend while he’s driving. Yup, I think we know who this character is right away.

Afterwards, Maddy heads back to her parents’ jewelry store on the eve of an approaching storm. Things look so bad, in fact, that they have to board up the windows. But apparently it’s not one of those “you only have to board up the windows and you’ll be okay” type storms. This is the type of storm that rips buildings down.

And that’s exactly what happens. While Maddy survives the destruction, her father dies and her mother is injured. As Maddy tries to figure out what to do, a crazy ass motorcycle gang pulls up, led by a creepy sonofabitch named Scarecrow. Scarecrow and his gang wait for storms to hit towns then ride in, when no police are around, and start looting. Once Scarecrow sees Maddy though, he realizes he’s found the loot of the century.

Scarecrow and crew grab Maddy and drive off into the sunrise, Easy Rider style, and at some point poor Maddy realizes she’s been kidnapped. Cut to FBI Agent Leo, whose since-deceased sister used to be friends with Maddy in high school. He’s tasked with finding and saving Maddy.

Problem is, Maddy starts to like it with this group of vagabonds. They’re as bonkers as she is. Shit, even moreso! They rob places to survive. And that’s probably the life she was heading for anyway. So she figures, “What the hell Charles Manson wannabe. I’ll join your cult!”

The rest of the script follows the motorcycle gang around as they beeline into tornadoes and rob everything in sight. Scarecrow preaches a life of freedom, of not having to live by society's rules. Of course, the impressionable Maddy loves this at first, but eventually realizes she isn’t free at all. She’s Scarecrow’s puppet, just like everybody else in this gang. And she wants out. I think it might be too late for that though, Maddy. This is The Family. Once you’re in, you’re in for life.

The Wreckage is kind of like a wild college night. You know what I’m talking about. Those nights that are filled with both the best and the worst of you? I have to give credit to McCartney. He’s not making any obvious choices here. But I think his story’s too unhinged.

I mean we have a sort of heist/robbing/looting film, a motorcycle/Easy Rider/travel film, a storm film, a cult film, a kidnapping film. I felt like ideas were competing against each other left and right, and I’m not sure that the best of those ideas was featured. In The Wreckage, the motorcycle gang theme actually takes precedence over the much cooler idea of robbing places during storms.

The robbing, in fact, felt secondary, something the group did to pass the time. Since I never got the sense that they were hard up for money, I wasn’t convinced any of the robbing was even needed. And if you’re writing a movie about a crew going into storms to steal things and the crew doesn’t have a strong purpose/reason to do so, I’m not sure you have a movie. There needs to be stakes attached to each robbery, or else they feel meaningless. In Fast Five, Paul Walker needs to steal all that money so he and his fiance can go off the grid for good and never worry about money again (or at least until Fast Six). Now there’s purpose to the heist.

Something else that worried me was Maddy liking the group. She actually began enjoying herself. So when we cut to the FBI chasing after her, we’re not really interested in whether they save her or not - because Maddy doesn’t want to be saved. If would be like if that chick in the basement in Silence Of The Lambs became BFFs with Buffalo Bill and they were chilling on the couch and smoking pot all day. Would we still be interested in Jodie Foster saving her?

But the biggest thing that needs fixing in this script, by far, is the FBI agents. These two have to be two of the most inadequate FBI agents in history. They’re never anywhere CLOSE to catching Maddy. And they spend half the time sitting in rooms talking about shit. These are your agents! They need to be out there DOING SHIT. They need to be ACTIVE. I don’t remember a single scene in The Silence Of The Lambs where Jodie Foster was sitting down.

I think Michael also needs to be aware of going *too* on-the-nose in places. At one point his partner says to Leo, “You know they're different people, don't you? Your sister and the Dylan girl.” This is followed not too long afterwards by Leo, drunk, staring at a picture of his dead sister. Talk about hitting us on the head. Yes, we know: he’s really trying to save his sister. I dig that Michael made a personal connection between Leo and Maddy, but all you needed to sell this was the picture scene, particularly because it’s *showing* us and not *telling* us.

I will say this. There’s a beautiful, almost poetic, quality to these deranged cyclists barreling into monster storms. You also have a diabolical villain in Scarecrow, who I thought was well-crafted. But the engine driving this Harley needs a major overhaul.

I think it starts with the premise. We need to streamline the direction so there aren’t so many competing elements. If we’re not going to properly utilize the “storm-heist” angle, I think it should be a kidnapper flick. After the storm, Maddy sees the bikers kill someone. They spot her, snatch her up, and bring her with them because she’s a witness. They plan to kill her, but for a number of lucky reasons, she stays alive. Now you have a girl in peril, which gives the FBI pursuers (assuming they actually pursue in this next draft) a lot more weight. She’s also no longer chumming it up with everybody – which provides the script with more conflict. I think that would work better.

If this is a “storm-heist” movie, however, I say you drop Maddy. Just focus on the gang and the FBI pursuing them.

The Wreckage was an interesting read. But the plot needs some streamline soup before I give it a “worth the read.” Still, I wish Michael the best with it. Tell your grandpa I love his music!

Script link: The Wreckage

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

What I learned: Beware the movie concept that contains competing ideas, as those ideas will be fighting for attention the entire way through, leading to an uneven story. You can’t make a prison break movie, for example, that’s also about a boat race. Know when an idea requires its own movie. That’s what threw me here. Going into dangerous storms to rob towns is the star concept, but it takes a back seat to the cult-motorcycle-kidnapping storyline.