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Posts in Category: Professional Script Coverage

Message from the King

Author: Oliver Butcher & Stephen Cornwall

Genre: Neo-Noir

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Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A mysterious Jamaican arrives in Los Angeles to track the men who murdered his sister.

Synopsis:

JACOB KING, a stoic Jamaican, comes to Los Angeles in search of his sister, who has disappeared. He soon discovers she has been murdered, and his new mission is to track the murderers and find out why she was killed. He goes through an assortment of neighbors, drug dealers, and petty criminals until he is led to WENTWORTH, a dentist who supplied King’s sister with free dental work for unknown reasons. Wentworth is tied to a film producer, PRESTON, who believes King has already discovered the reason for his sister’s murder. Preston sends his own underground thugs to kill King; King slips away and confronts them all at an Oscar party. He discovers that Preston is a pedophile who kidnapped his sister’s adopted son for his own disturbing sexual gain. King kills all of them in revenge, takes the son, and disappears back to Jamaica.

Comments:

This is a good film-noir script in the vein of Chinatown and The Limey. While on many occasions the rich details of the seedy side of L.A. enhance the reading, the script often gets bogged down in tedious geographic details that are both unnecessary and distracting. On the surface, the structure seems tight, but the story slows down to the point of aimlessness on a few occasions. It always recovers, but these slow passages detract from the overall narrative. The idea of the strange, pedophile Hollywood producer is both timely and disturbing, and it succeeds primarily because of the satisfying third-act vengeance.

This script’s strong-but-silent/fish-out-of-water protagonist is always fascinating, and the story falters whenever it shifts out of King’s POV. The mysterious circumstances of King’s sister’s death unravels in interesting and surprising ways, even though it sometimes get bogged down in expository dialogue. A romantic subplot involving King and a prostitute is interesting initially, but it ultimately fails because it doesn’t develop either character much and has no relevance to the main story. Despite these problems, the script takes a great concept and turns it into a decent noir story that should be considered.

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American Contessa

Author: Andy Bellin

Genre: Adventure

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Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A wealthy Bostonian teams up with a French mechanic to race across post-WWII Africa.

Synopsis:

ALICE WILSON has just turned 30 and can’t seem to find a husband. She makes a deal with her wealthy father: she will spend a year in Europe, and if she hasn’t found a husband, she will marry whomever he wants. While in Europe, she meets COUNT LORENZO, a racecar driver, and she is smitten until she discovers he is cheating on her. Angered, she teams up with VALERIE SADOUN, a French auto mechanic, in a race across Africa. Pitted against Count Lorenzo and several other driving teams, Alice and Valerie face everything from sandstorms to engine failure to cholera outbreaks on their way to Capetown. Although she loses the race to Count Lorenzo, Alice learns she was wrong about his playboy ways, and the two of them renew their love and are married.

Comments:

This script tells two stories: the romance between Alice and Lorenzo, and the race across Africa. Unfortunately, neither story begins soon enough. The first act is filled with on-the-nose, expository dialogue, most of which serves only to establish Alice’s motivation to go to Europe. That setup shouldn’t take more than a few pages, but it spends time developing characters we never see again and a complex father-daughter relationship that never pays off.

The romance between Alice and Lorenzo doesn’t ring true. Alice’s feelings turn on a dime, and it’s difficult to believe she’d believe idle gossip about Lorenzo’s many affairs, especially when the gossip comes from a character she hardly knows and has little reason to trust. If fleshed out and made more believable, the romance would add more tension and conflict during the race. The same could be said for the other racers. These teams appear for the first time just as the flag is going down, and they pop up sporadically during the race in moments that should be either tense or poignant. However, because of the lack of development of any of the other characters, the sequences just become tedious.

The story of the race sometimes falls under the category of “truth is stranger than fiction” (notably when the brakes fail and nearly cause Alice and Valerie to drown), but once it gets going, it’s both entertaining and interesting. It definitely needs work, though.

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Monster Truck Madness

Author: David Capper & Kevin Lipski

Genre: Comedy

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

To make money, a disgraced NASCAR champion turns to driving a monster truck.

Synopsis:

Two-time Daytona 500 champion DARRYL “B.M.” BODINE loses dignity and respect in the NASCAR world when he is caught defecating in a trophy cup. Ten years later, he tries to reclaim the title but is defeated by MORTON, who is also sleeping with B.M.’s girlfriend. Depressed, B.M. enlists the help of his best friend, BUDDY, in schemes to get paid to drive without racing. After a series of food-delivery mishaps, B.M. is pulled into the world of monster truck rallies. He meets a woman, TAMMY JEAN, and gradually wins her respect, along with that of the other monster truck drivers. Soon, Morton shows up again as B.M.’s competition in a big monster truck rally, but thanks to the love of Tammy Jean, B.M. wins the title and the respect of every monster truck fan.

Comments:

The story, thin to begin with, sputters from gag to tired gag without much focus. None of the characters are developed enough to care whether or not B.M. wins the championship or the girl. The racing and monster truck action is used solely as a backdrop from lazy, unmotivated scatological jokes. While “gross-out” comedies have proven successful commercially, the better ones at least develop the characters to a point where the audience will cringe with him when he keeps farting inappropriately. This script, unfortunately, lacks development in every narrative respect, and as a result the humor fails, as well.

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Boy Toy

Author: Joe Jarvis & Kirk Ward

Genre: Comedy

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Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A millionaire woman throws out her “boy toy” of 10 years, and he has to re-learn how to live like a poor person while plotting revenge.

Synopsis:

On the day he expects to become the common-law husband of millionaire TAMARA TINGLE, ROD DITMAR is tossed out with nothing. A glowering lawyer, CRAIG HOUSE, falsifies evidence to indicate Rod has merely been a lawn-mower. While on his own, an old friend, LANEY, takes pity on Rod. Although she’s engaged to Craig (a fact unknown to Rod), Laney has always had romantic feelings for Rod, and they haven’t gone away. She helps Rod plan revenge, discovers the truth about Craig, and in the end the start a romance while Tamara and Craig get their comeuppance.

Comments:

The opportunity exists for a funny, interesting story about a lazy, immature man who is thrown to the wolves and has to fend for himself, trying to overcome incompetence and ignorance to get revenge against his enemies. Unfortunately, this script doesn’t tell that story. It misses a lot of comic opportunities by concentrating too much on characters that aren’t developed enough to care about (this includes Rod) and setting up gags that either pay off in obvious ways or don’t pay off at all.

A few of Rod’s one-liners are amusing, but they usually make his character unclear; in one scene, you have to believe he’s very smart and sophisticated, and in the next you have to believe he’s the dumbest person who ever lived. Good jokes could come naturally from a consistent, believable character put into these situations, but it often seems like the writers write the story around the jokes, rather than letting the jokes come organically.

Because Rod is designed as the comic centerpiece of the script, none of the other characters are allowed to be funny. This presents a problem in scenes that don’t involve Rod; they’re filled with expository dialogue and bland conflict, but they’re weak and lack entertainment value. The scenes with Rod aren’t much funnier, but at least there’s a slight effort made.

The writing isn’t good, but it’s worth a look because a good story can come from this premise; it’s just not there yet.

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Blind

Author: Unknown

Genre: Horror

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Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

High school students suffer mysterious blindness and blame a new girl in school.

Synopsis:

MOLLY has recently moved from New York to Tucson, where she’s an outcast. Her only friends are a kindred spirit, ALICE WOODS (who shows Molly the ropes of the high school) and BEN (a quiet boy with a crush on Molly). As Molly’s tormentors go blind, one by one, the students and townspeople suspect the new girl. Even Molly begins to suspect herself, until she learns something about Alice: she’s been dead for a decade, and her mother remains alive but is blind and insane. Molly unravels the mystery of Alice while trying to avoid the persecution of the townspeople. Alice’s “mother” tries to attack Molly, but Molly accidentally kills her.

Comments:

Blind starts out well, with its fish-out-of-water protagonist and the mysterious blindings that happen to a few students at her high school. The first 40 or so pages deal pretty well with establishing Molly, the school, its cliques, and the mystery of what is making the students go blind and why.

Unfortunately, everything involving Alice Woods destroys the story. The fact that she’s a ghost is telegraphed well in advance, as is the knowledge that she’s the one causing the blindness. So, then, the question is, why is it supposed to be surprising and suspenseful when these “reveals” finally come?

The ghost revelation should be upfront; perhaps Molly doesn’t know Alice is a ghost, but the audience should. The real question isn’t what she is; the big questions should be, why is her ghost appearing, why does she make contact with Molly (finding the medallion could work, but as it stands, it makes everything seem too coincidental), and how will Molly react when she discovers the truth? In addition to making the central conflict less generic, this also gives opportunities to properly develop Alice’s character. She reads thin because the story tries to hide what she is by shrouding her personality in mystery.

The idea of the blindness could be used to lend more mystery about who’s behind it. Because of the targets, it seemed like it would end up being a (cheesy) metaphor for adolescent kids—they persecute others because they blind themselves to what makes those they persecute special. Not exactly Shakespeare, but at least it’s interesting thematically. Unfortunately, the ending shatters the idea that there’s any metaphor to the blindness.

The reactions of the townspeople to the blindness, as well as Dr. Alberto desperately trying to find a cause, are both pointless and goofy. The script takes place in present-day Tucson, and a few odd cases of blindness cause everyone to brand Molly a witch? Even in a town smaller than Tucson, this development would be hard to believe. At least it makes a little more sense that Molly’s peers would persecute and scapegoat her; the entire city being out for her blood (and abruptly no longer caring at the end) really is inappropriate for any story that doesn’t take place in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692.

There could be a good, creepy story here, but there needs to be a higher concentration on the development of the characters (including the high school tormentors, who should be more than stereotypes) and their relationships with one another. If the story were confined to the students and their lives, rather than in the various mysteries the script takes way too seriously, the story could be tighter and maybe have some relevance to actual teenagers.

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Max Goes to Camp

Author: Unknown

Genre: Comedy/Fantasy/Kids

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Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A preteen is sent to summer camp and learns to have confidence in himself and control his overactive imagination.

Synopsis:

MAX SPECKLE has an extremely overactive imagination. He often finds himself lost in a fantasy world of his own creation, and as a result his grades and social life suffer. In an effort for him to make friends, Max’s mother sends him away to summer camp, where he meets a group of boys who dislike him at first but grow to see why he’s special. The campers train in anticipation of the Color War, a contest between a rival camp that tests their athleticism and cleverness. This terrifies Max, who is still escaping into his imagination and can’t seem to control when he’ll fantasize and when he’ll remain in reality. During the capture-the-flag game that concludes the Color War, Max uses his imaginative powers to grab the other team’s flag and become the hero he’s always dreamed of being. He also helps an immature counselor, C.J., realize his dream of going to medical school.

Comments:

The story is cute and good for the 10-14 crowd, but the one thing that sets it apart from every other summer-camp movie on the planet—Max’s elaborate fantasy life—is also the thing that destroys the story. There are simply too many of these fantasy sequences, and none of them pay off enough to justify the excess. Some of them are cute, some of them are pointless, but there’s an average of about 1.5 fantasy sequences per page, and the only thing they do is show that Max has an overactive imagination, which is understood by page 10. It might benefit from a reduction in these fantasies.

The other big issue is the Color War sequence, which goes on for far too long. What actually occurs within the Color War could be very interesting, but there’s no time spent establishing the stakes of the competition. Why does it matter if the campers at Roaring Creek beat the evil kids at Camp Victory? This conflict is not established and isn’t portrayed as particularly important.

Finally, another story issue is the subplot with C.J. trying to impress Suzy and considering going to medical school. It’s a little mature for this kid-friendly script, and why does it matter? It exists solely to inflate the page count.

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The Burrowers

Author: JT Petty

Genre: Western/Horror

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Recommendation?

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Logline:

A disparate band of frontiersmen encounter murderous creatures thought to be an Indian legend.

Synopsis:

When a family in the Dakota territories disappears, leaving only a bloody trail, it is assumed that Indians did it. A group of men in the area set out to rescue the family. Along the way, they encounter “Bluecoats,” a racially diverse group of men that include Indians and recently freed slaves. As this large group sets off on the trail of the family, they discover the body count increases as they get closer to whomever—or whatever—is doing this. The group is divided: many of the white men believe it was either the Indians or the blacks, but the Bluecoats and sympathetic white men believe it is something more powerful. They discover that the murders are being committed by creatures called Burrowers, who burrow both in the ground and into the bodies of their victims. The majority of the group is killed, and those who return home could not stop the Burrowers.

Comments:

Setting a horror film in a Western milieu is a great cross-genre concept, and the racial tension between whites, blacks, and American Indians helps to heighten the paranoia that the screenplay tries so hard to build.

Unfortunately, too much time passes between attacks and body discoveries, and the group discovers the truth about the Burrowers far too late. In the interim, the script tries very hard to develop its characters and setting, but there are too many characters and too much detail to successfully pull this off. If it had even half the number of characters, while there would be less of a body count among the main characters, the audience would care a bit more when one of the main characters is killed.

Other than the ambling story and underdeveloped characters, the writing is pretty solid: good dialogue, interesting (if thin) characters, vivid (if sometimes overwritten) descriptions. If the paranoia were heightened and the characters were more fleshed out, this could be a very creepy suspense tale.

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Graverobbers

Author: Brian McDonald

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Storyline: 6

Dialogue: 8

Characterization: 6

Writer’s Potential: 7

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Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

After experiencing his past lives through a hypnotic trance, an ordinary man becomes obsessed with finding the reincarnation of a son his previous self lost in 1720.

Synopsis:

SCOTT TOLSON, a young married man trying to make ends meet working at a mall electronics store, has an odd daily routine of buying lunch for an old homeless man (JACK) who hangs around the mall. He can’t explain why, but he feels compelled to buy this man food. Scott begins having strange dreams of being a Chinese boy who is run over by Japanese soldiers during an invasion. He feels the dream is connected in some way to Jack, who speaks fluent Mandarin. Jack reveals that in a past life, he was Scott’s grandmother. He’s spent his entire adult life searching for Scott, has lost his wife, child, job—everything. Scott is horrified, but Jack is insistent to the point of assault; Scott has him arrested. The dream continues to haunt him, so Scott bails Jack out of jail to find out what, precisely, Jack knows about all this.

Jack takes Scott to meet DEL, a homeless man who has taken over a condemned apartment building in a bad neighborhood. Del has the power to hypnotize people and reveal to them their past lives. Unwilling to trade money for precious hours of his life, Del refuses to get a job; he survives on cash donations of grateful patrons. Reluctant at first, Scott eventually allows Del to hypnotize him. He quickly becomes addicted to the process. When his wife, CHERYL, asks him why he’s keeping such late hours, Scott insists he’s been seeing a chiropractor about his bad back. After awhile, Jack fears Scott’s getting too deep into this hypnosis process. Jack fears Scott is looking for something in a past life, but Scott thinks he’s crazy. They part ways bitterly. He talks to Del about what Jack told him, and Del says there are certain lives that are too horrible to relive; his current mind will avoid them, but if he really is searching for something, Scott should search for that “door.”

Scott does, and discovers life as an 18th-century tobacco plantation owner. After trading away the husband and son of a female slave (MINERVA), “Samuel” (Scott’s past incarnation) loses his wife in childbirth and, nine years later, loses his son to illness. Minerva believes that this is the price Samuel deserved to pay for robbing her of her own family. Grief-stricken Samuel realizes his error and refuses to separate slave families in the future. In the present day, Samuel’s grief consumes Scott. After fighting with his wife, Scott first searches among the people he knows for the reincarnation of his son. When he’s accused of losing his mind, Scott disappears altogether, driving straight through from Tacoma to Virginia. He finds the cemetery where his son was buried in 1720 and takes comfort in the fact that what he saw in his trance was true.

When he returns to Tacoma, he finds his life not unlike Jack’s: his wife wants nothing to do with him and refuses to let him to see their daughter, he’s lost his job, and most people regard him as a bum (rightfully, as he hasn’t shaved, changed clothes, or bathed since going to Virginia). In a last desperate act, Scott withdraws all his savings and is prepared to hand the cashier’s check over to Del in exchange for help finding the reincarnation of his son. In order to do this, he will need to force Scott to relive every tragic moment of every life he’s led with that son.

Jack arrives in the nick of time and convinces Scott not to completely throw his life away as Jack himself did. Scott and Jack spend enough time together, living under a freeway bridge, for Scott to waste his savings on food and coffee. Jack, believing he can hypnotize as Del did, wants to help Scott relive his happiest lives. He leads Scott through, and Scott realized he’s lost nothing but his present-day wife and daughter. He returns to them in the end, realizing the ultimate importance of the family he has now.

Comments:

The idea of these “graverobbers”—folks who can dredge up the accumulated memories of a person’s past lives—is a fascinating idea for a script, but ultimately the author doesn’t do a fantastic job of exploiting such an interesting premise. The most important story element should revolve around what Scott stands to lose as a result of this obsession/addiction: his family and his job. Scott’s family should be his source of happiness; his job, while terrible, should give him the comforting sense of providing for a family he loves more than anything in the world. Realizing what his insane trip to Virginia cost him should devastate him.

However, this doesn’t happen. In the few scenes we get with his family, they revolve around two things: his daughter making creepy references to her own past lives, and Scott lying to Cheryl about why he’s keeping such late hours. Although the author writes that they’re a happy family, the speed with which Cheryl is willing to give up on Scott is pretty alarming. She has no interest in finding out what’s really wrong with him, what’s prompting his obvious lies; she has no interest in helping him, and when he disappears to Virginia, rather than seeing this as an ultimate cry for help, she fully abandons him. Similarly, Scott accepts the loss of his family and his new life as a hobo with an unrealistic rapidity.

If Scott’s family (and job, to the extent that it provides for his family) were shown as meaning more to him, if Cheryl was willing to help or discuss his bizarre behavior, and if their marriage didn’t disintegrate at the drop of a hat, the whole story would really jell in a much more interesting way than it does right now.

While the dialogue rings true and does a better job of developing the characters than their actions, it is unfortunately a little too wordy. There are a great deal of static scenes, where nothing is really happening but Scott narrating a past life, or Samuel narrating as he writes a letter, or Jack reciting depressing monologues to help Scott snap out of it. These characters desperately need to take some kind of action; ironically, when Scott finally does take action, it consists of a montage showing him sitting still in a car for days. As a result, much of the dialogue is expository and would be much more interesting if we were shown actions rather than told about them after the fact.

A note on Del: to use the metaphor the script hints at, he’s like a drug dealer. The first trance is free, but he knows they’ll keep coming back, and they better pay up. It’s implied through the way Scott parallels Jack’s story that most people who stumble on this secret will end up offering Del their entire life savings. So why is he living off scraps in an abandoned building that reeks of decay? He says he refuses to work for a living because it’d take away the precious hours he—what, enjoys the lovely stench of his rotting home? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if he were, if not rich, somewhere in middle class? Living like an average person, but one who has no need to work—full of hobbies and activities, maybe even irritated that these desperate people beg for his help, but he tolerates it because he needs to push them to the point where they hand over that savings check.

The author presents an interesting premise that isn’t exactly exploited to its fullest potential. With some work, though, it could be very interesting.

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The Legend of Fireball Mountain

Author: Evan Kilgore

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy

Storyline:7

Dialogue: 4

Characterization: 5

Writer’s Potential: 5

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Recommendation?

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Logline:

When his parents disappear on the hunt for a mystical gemstone, a high school student is led on a wild adventure on a mysterious island.

Synopsis:

Three men and one woman are in a private plane, approaching an island. JUAN SANCHEZ pilots the plane, COLIN SCUDDER and BEN SHAW are explorers, and BETHANY SHAW is Ben’s wife, tagging along for love of her husband. As they approach the island, huge fireballs shoot from the tip of a mountain. Juan loses control of the plane, and it crashes.

JACK SHAW, 17-year-old son of Ben and Bethany, has a rough time at school. He’s a geek and, aside from TREVOR (his one good friend) and LOREN (his bitter ex-girlfriend), he’s lonely. He’s bullied and humiliated by obnoxious athlete LAWSON SCUDDER. He has a job at the zoo, getting paid almost nothing to take care of monkeys while overseen by a penny-pinching, discompassionate manager. Jack’s befriended a monkey called RUPERT, and after being chewed out by his boss, Jack gets angry and kidnaps Rupert. When they arrive at Jack’s house, Jack discovers an eviction notice posted on his front door. He calls the offices of Scudder Search & Salvage and speaks with PAULO SANCHEZ—Juan’s brother—who has no information.

When Paulo asks MIRIAM SCUDDER—Colin’s cousin, and the mother of Lawson—about it, she gives him an ultimatum: “Help me if you want to see your brother alive again.” She lets him think about that while she goes into a board of directors meeting. The board gives her an ultimatum of their own: either she finds a mystical gemstone—the same one that the team at the beginning are searching for—or she’s fired. With limited resources and the help of Paulo and Lawson, Miriam sets out for the island.

Meanwhile, Jack has called ALAN CARVER, an old family friend and fellow explorer. Carver arrives and explains to Jack the Legend of Fireball Mountain: the island is supposedly the last resting place of a “dark god” called Draccon, who fell in love with a human girl and carved a gemstone for her. If any mortal finds the gemstone, the wedding ring, and recites their vows on this island, they will be embodied by Draccon and have godly powers. It can either be used for the forces of good, or pure evil, depending on the person Draccon embodies. According to Carver, Ben has been seeking these artifacts for most of his career. Ben’s found the ring, which has really set him off on the quest for the gemstone. Loren interrupts, arriving unannounced to complain to Jack that she’s been expelled forced to go to a teen boot-camp. The two of them convince Carver to fly them to the island to rescue Jack’s parents. Jack brings Rupert with them.

Fireballs nearly bring down Carver’s plane on the way to the island. They make a crash-landing in the sea and swim their way to safety. Neither Jack nor Rupert can swim, so Carver and Loren have to drag them both to the safety of the beach. Rupert disappears into the jungle in search of other chimps, who are fierce and frighten him away. The three humans set out into the jungle, where they almost immediately bump into Miriam, Paulo, Lawson, and a group of Scudder employees. As Jack tries to make his way across a rickety rope bridge over a crevasse, Miriam orders her employees to cut the ropes. They do so, nearly causing Jack to plunge to his death. He’s rescued by Loren and Carver, who found a way to the bottom of the crevasse. Lawson is horrified by his mother’s willingness to have nonthreatening people murdered. She explains that the gemstone will make them rich.

The Scudder group is led by IATU, an island native. When Miriam finds and pockets a shard of gem, Iatu explains that the island does not like it when things are removed from his island. Miriam scoffs at island legends, but her removal of the gem causes an earthquake. The quake kills Carver, and Jack and Loren barely make it out alive. Miriam reluctantly puts the gem shard back, and the island settles a bit.

Jack, who studied the maps on the plane ride to the island, leads Loren through the jungle. They simultaneously find Rupert and are nearly killed by a giant fireball. To escape it, they dive into a river. A giant snake slithers toward them, and Loren kills it with her bare hands, impressing Jack. Rupert saves them from another snake. Meanwhile, the Scudder group has found the wreckage of Ben’s plane. They find a fresh grave, which horrifies Paulo. Miriam offers her henchman $1000 for each person they kill, from both Ben’s team and Jack’s.

Jack and Loren get into an argument about their past relationship as they make camp for the night. The next morning, they stumble upon an ancient village built around an amphitheater that, according to Jack, is where the Draccon ritual must be held—there’s an altar specifically designed for the mystical gemstone. They’re interrupted by a Henchman shooting at them. Lawson witnesses this, and watches them narrowly escape death. Jack and Loren are chased into a cave, which is a dead end. Jack insists there should be tunnels. He find hieroglyphics on a cave wall that match a necklace he has been wearing since the beginning. He holds the necklace to the wall, and it rumbles open. They disappear through the doorway, which seals behind them. They navigate the cave tunnels until they come out at Ben’s crash site. They watch silently as Paulo digs up the grave.

When Paulo is safely away, Jack and Loren head through bushes and find Juan Sanchez, murdered by Ben’s hunting knife. Jack is horrified. In the wreckage of a plane, they find a barely functioning satellite phone, which Jack uses to call Trevor. He explains the situation and tells him to get help. Trevor reluctantly agrees. Paulo hears static from the phone and comes running back. Jack and Loren get back into the cave tunnels, but Paulo finds Juan’s body.

In the tunnels, Jack and Loren find Lawson, who says he’s come to warn them about the Henchmen who want them dead. Meanwhile, Paulo has found Miriam. He blames her for Juan’s death. She tells him that once they find the gemstone, they can bring him back to life. They defile a statue of Draccon, which causes another earthquake. Jack, Loren, and Lawson narrowly escape the collapsing cave tunnels, and they come out right at a gem shrine near the Draccon statue. They watch as Miriam approaches to take the gemstone, but Loren realizes it’s an intentional decoy. Paulo fears something’s wrong and tries to stop Miriam. When he’s distracted by the kids running from the cave mouth, Miriam shoves him out of her way and takes the decoy gem. Paulo chases Jack toward a waterfall, where Jack sees the real gemstone shimmering behind the water. Paulo runs past him, gets the gem. Loren and Lawson try to lunge the fake out of Miriam’s hands. She fights them off and rushes away. As the stone bridge across the waterfall crumbles, Lawson tries to save Jack from plunging to his death. He doesn’t, and Jack drops into the raging river below, rushed off and unable to swim. Lawson and Loren realize what the earthquakes are doing: sinking the island. Loren wants to find Jack.

Colin Scudder saves Jack, who forces Colin to take him to where he last saw Jack’s parents. Jack narrowly escapes a fireball, only to discover he’s been saved by his father, Ben. Ben tells him that Bethany died in the crash, which prompts some angst between them. He explains about Miriam and Paulo, and they rush off to stop them, leaving Colin behind. They see Miriam doing the incantation with the decoy, and Ben explains that using the real gemstone without the ring may open a hole to hell itself. Paulo overhears this, threatens them with guns, and steals the ring from Ben as he delivers both of them to Miriam. Miriam finishes the incantation, which causes Paulo—not her—to gain godlike powers. He rushes off into the lavastream, which parts for him. Jack and Ben chase him, and as Paulo is about to transform into a god, Jack bravely swoops out, steals the ring away, which causes both Paulo and Draccon to disappear. Now they’re all forced to run like hell to make it to the Scudder seaplane before the island fully sinks. They narrowly make it, and discover Colin Scudder is already there and prepping for takeoff. Lawson and Rupert barely make it, and against the protests of everyone on the plane, Jack lets down a rope to grab them.

They fly off, but only for a little while. The plane runs out of fuel, so they skid to a stop in the middle of the ocean…where Trevor and a rescue team come to save them. It turns out Ben has taken the gem, which means they’re all filthy rich.

Comments:

This rollicking adventure is a whole lot of fun, but it has two significant problems that keep it from realizing its potential: wooden dialogue and a surplus of characters.

The dialogue doesn’t sound natural. It rings false in the mouths of 17-year-old kids especially, but even the adults’ dialogue is either overloaded with bland exposition or (mostly in the case of the villains) packed with clichés. This problem goes hand-in-hand with the surplus of characters: the main reason the dialogue is all exposition all the time is because the story is so overstuffed with people that there’s no breathing room. Not “breathing room” in the sense of pausing between each action set-piece—just in the sense that every scene fills stiff and on-the-nose because it’s trying to service so many different characters’ subplots at all times. It’s quite a feat that all the different subplots (and their motivations, backstories, arcs, and resolutions,) are clear in the end, but there’s so much going on that individual scenes, especially dialogue-heavy scenes, feel incredibly dull. The script as a whole suffers as a result.

My suggestions for streamlining start, first and foremost, with the Juan/Paulo subplot. When thinking about it, Miriam seems uniquely stupid for suggesting Paulo be her right-hand-man on this mission. It seems pretty clear that she knows Ben, Bethany, and Colin well enough to know what Juan might have been up against. Especially in light of the fact that Juan never came back, it seems irrational that not only would she drag Paulo to the island with her—she’d go as far as to tell him that the power of this gemstone/ring can bring his brother back to life. He obviously knows Miriam well enough to know she plans to screw him over, but she doesn’t realize this? And she doesn’t think he’ll use the information for his own selfish reasons? This whole subplot takes up way too much screen time but doesn’t really make much sense.

Even the story of Juan flying them to the island to kill them doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny. First, Miriam wants them dead so nobody can interfere with getting the gemstone and performing the ritual herself. The gemstone is the most valuable thing to her, so if Juan fails, he’s left them on the island with the gemstone, where Ben can perform the ritual and easily get off the island with newfound godly power. Even if Ben doesn’t plan to use the gemstone—if he just wants it to prevent others from using it—Colin is a trained pilot, and the crash-landing was unforeseen. If they had landed perfectly, killed Juan, and found the gemstone, they could have just as easily left. There are too many holes in Miriam’s original plan; when combined with Paulo’s story, it’s just a disaster.

What if, instead, Miriam has one of her Henchmen perform the incantation with the decoy? She’s supposed to be smart and clever—wouldn’t she suspect that maybe it’s a fake? That way, any harm would be done to the Henchman, and she’ll know to keep looking. From there, the ending can unfold pretty much as it does, but with Miriam in place of Paulo.

The two most unnecessary characters outside of that subplot are Rupert and Lawson. Maybe Rupert’s cute, but he’s extraneous. Aside from saving their lives a couple of times, he adds nothing to the story. Sure, he represents Jack’s own character growth in an unsubtle metaphor, but is that really necessary? Lawson’s pretty much the same way: the school bully redeemed after looking at his mother’s evil and deciding to help the good guys. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s a story that’s been told before and it just adds more convolution to an already overstuffed plot.

With the time gained by losing all the unnecessary characters and subplots, it gives the characters an opportunity to really shine within this story. Instead of spending the bulk of their time either flatly stating their backstories or what’s currently happening in the plot, they can speak like real people, have real conversations, and allow the island plot and the backstory to reveal itself in more natural ways.

It would also help to have a little bit of fun with the ridiculousness of the whole Legend of Fireball Mountain. Everybody pretty much accepts it as fact, despite how insane it sounds. If everybody has a healthy disbelief that’s maybe shaken (both literally and metaphorically) by strange happenings on the island, the goofy nature of the Legend would integrate better with characters who are rooted in reality.

The main strengths of the script are the action set-pieces and the overall adventure story. If the characters and dialogue were as well-written, this could be a great script.

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That Chick

Author: Unknown

Genre: Sitcom

Storyline: 4

Dialogue: 5

Characterization: 3

Writer’s Potential: 4

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A young “urbanista” trying to break into the fashion industry gets her shot when a hairstyler overdoses.

Synopsis:

EMMY, the young assistant fashion editor at an “urbanista” magazine in New York, has one big problem: she desires power and respect in her industry but has very little. She has enough power to get into a trendy, upscale club in Lower Manhattan, courtesy of her DJ brother CIELO. She uses this small amount of power for good, helping others get in, including semi-nerdy grad student MARCUS. Although she’s friends with model NERISSA, she has no actual power in the fashion industry. As luck would have it, celebrity hairstylist CLIFF JONES overdoses on Ecstasy the night before a big shoot for Shine, the magazine Emmy works for. This means bad things for her direct superior, fashion editor CHLOE, whose job is on the line for not lining up a second photographer for this type of situation. Of course, Emmy’s job is also on the line because she was at the same club Cliff was the night before.

VERONICA, the editor-in-chief of Shine, is about to toss Chloe in the street when she notices Emmy’s gorgeous hairstyle. Emmy reveals that her mother, DELCIA, is her stylist. Delcia reluctantly agrees to style the models’ hair, but she’s committed to her regulars and refuses to leave the shop. This leads to the models, photographers, and editors taking a ride uptown to Delcia’s beauty shop. Through a misunderstanding, the slovenly regulars at Delcia’s shop believe they’re also going to be photographed for the magazine. Both Veronica and the photographer see the artistic brilliance of a location shoot at a “gritty” uptown beauty shop, with both models and “gritty” uptown women. This saves both Chloe’s and Emmy’s jobs.

Veronica notices a gorgeous photo of Emmy from the shoot at the beauty shop, and it is implied that Emmy will be propelled to stardom (much to Chloe’s dismay). Later, Emmy finally agrees to give Marcus the time of day, implying a future romance may blossom.

Comments:

First and foremost, probably the biggest problem—being that it’s a sitcom—is that it’s just not very funny. There is some wit to the dialogue, but not enough; if one ignores the dark subject matter (as the author does, playing it mostly for upbeat, network-friendly laughs), the characters and situations created to tell this story are pretty routine. Wacky mishaps abound, dull love interests, all adding up to something that’s not terribly funny or innovative…

…unless you plug in the subject matter itself. The author shows a world that I’ve never seen on television before—a subculture of desperate “urbanistas” trying to club (as in dance, not beat with wooden sticks) their way to a successful modeling career. This is a world loaded with sex, drug use (including an overdose), exclusive dance clubs, jealousy, egotism, even a bit of class warfare when the “downtown” models go to the uptown beauty shop. It’s hard to reconcile the underlying darkness of this material with the attempt at traditional, four-camera sitcom writing. With a great deal of rewriting, this could work as a pitch-black satire of both the fashion industry and the “urbanista” subculture, aimed to a cable network like FX. Lightening the subject matter could make it more appealing to a “Big Four” network, but it would also compromise the story’s only interesting material.

If the subject matter were exploited to its fullest, the author could mine a whole lot of comedy gold from this industry and subculture. Even the class struggle, as the uptown poor girl makes good, has a lot of potential for comedy. Everything that’s already there on the page could be used to create much more original, interesting, and funny situations. However, it settles for a pedestrian storyline about the lowly assistant who saves the day. The title implies that it’s most direct influence is That Girl, a show that left the airwaves 35 years ago—and yet, the bare bones of this plot could be a typical episode of that show. For everything that’s fresh and innovative, there’s an equal amount of derivative dreck. Concentrate on heightening the former, and it’ll eliminate (or at least conceal) the latter.

The other big problem is the characters. Admittedly, it’s a pilot, so in theory we’ll get to know them in time, but all we have here at the moment (with the possible exception of Emmy) are stereotypes. What differentiates these folks from the typical role of the “player” brother, the geeky love interest, the evil boss, or the selfish best friend? How can those stereotypes be turned on their ears, within the pilot, to make these characters necessary to the series instead of existing solely because the conventions of this kind of sitcom require a player, a geeky love interest, an evil boss, and a selfish best friend? Of the characters introduced, how important is each supporting player to the series? What roles will they play in Emmy’s life in the future? Will her parents help keep Emmy grounded in where she came from? Will her brother’s one-night-stands come back to haunt him? Since the characters themselves aren’t fully developed, neither is their importance in the series. This should be at least hinted at in the pilot.

Emmy is an interesting case, because she’s desperate for power in the industry, but she uses what power she gains to help others—which could lead to a very flawed, very interesting character arc. How long will she continue helping others before she’s absorbed in this world of power and turns into Chloe or Veronica? Will she always stay true to herself, and if so, how hard a struggle will it be? This is the kind of interesting throughline that could carry the weight of a series, and it should be used to greater effect in the pilot so that we fully understand the premise of the show

As it stands now, the premise (and to that end, the franchise) remains unclear. Will this be Emmy struggling week after week, under the thumb of jealous Chloe? Will she always save the day? Or is this a show about Emmy’s whirlwind rise to the top of the modeling game? I think ideas for future episodes could be drawn naturally from the life the author has established for Emmy, but it remains to be seen what this show is actually about. Answer that—and the 10,000 other questions I’ve raised—and the pilot could be refined to at least hint at this information, to keep an audience coming back week after week.

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