Tuesday, 30 April 2019


This script landed at number 15 on the 2018 Black-List.

The story follows ATTICS ARCHER. He's a bag-man for Auburn University football team. He's responsible for 'convincing' the most promising new athletes graduating from High School to sign up at Auburn.

His methods are nefarious at best. He is a master manipulator. Capable of coercing anyone and every one to his will.

The story starts with him manipulating a young star quarterback (Ricky Patterson) into signing with Auburn. Ricky is the number one prospect in the country, he had already promised to sign with Alabama university, but Atticus leaks an email thread between the star QB's father and a manager, which is a suspendable offense at this stage of the QB's career.

Ricky has no choice but to sign with Auburn.

Just when it looks like Atticus is about to quit the world of being an NCAA bag-man, he sees footage of a new star athlete defensive linesman. This guy is huge, powerful, fast, agile, he steamrolls whoever is stupid enough to come up against him.

Atticus has promised his wife that he will quit his career and concentrate on their retirement - after he has landed this last white whale.

The NCAA sends a low-level paper pusher (Thomas Kendrick) to investigate how it came to be that Ricky Patterson signed with Auburn at the last minute.

Thomas is an ex-pro-baller who lives for a battle on or off the field. He's a dog with a bone and his investigation unravels Atticus's world. He learns of the bribes and the underhand dealings, he learns of the way that Atticus operates, that he has no moral compass, no line in the sand that he will not cross.

The story becomes a battle between Atticus and Thomas, where there can be only one winner.

I loved this script. This has to be one of my favorites from the 2018 blacklist.

There's so much that this screenplay does well.


The number one thing this script nails are REAL LIFE CHARACTERS.

There were a hell of a lot of main players in this script and every one of them shone brightly. Every one of them was extremely well written.

I normally advise people to steer clear of writing an ensemble film as they tend not to do well at the box office. Ensemble films (being a film with more than one main character) do well in TV format, not film format.

While there are a lot of characters here - the story is still very centrally focused on Atticus. The entire story is focused on Atticus' dealings and the trouble that he gets into. 

Here's the first writing tip from this screenplay - if you are writing a story with multiple points of view, make sure that the story is centered around ONE MAIN CHARACTER. 

Every character here was focused on what Atticus was doing. There really is only one storyline here. Having only one storyline keeps your story focused. 

I recall doing coverage on another screenplay recently where there was the main storyline, then there was a secondary storyline that was the romance. The thing is, there was no real connection between storyline A and storyline B.

A better-written story would have had the love interest be a part of the A storyline. But instead it was completely separate - and consequently, the story felt disjointed. Like it had two different focuses. 

The second major thing we can learn from this screenplay is the importance of developing each character fully. 

A major mistake I see in a lot of screenplays is that the main character is very well written and developed, with great nuance and back story. But then every other supporting character is poorly written. 

Writing a successful screenplay is all about creating a believable world. When ALL your characters have backstory, and nuance, and unique personality traits, then your story will feel three dimensional. 

The best thing to do is to avoid cliches. Make sure that you're not writing in tropes. What's a trope? It's the high school jock, it's the hot annoying bitchy girl, it's the drunk, it's the Emo kid in school, it's the high powered wall street executive. 

Anytime you create a character try to write the opposite of cliche. Why can't the hot girl at school be really clever, really interesting, why can't the hot girl be the outcast for some interesting reason? Why can't the high school jock not want to play sports? Take the cliche and flip it on its head. 

It's interesting writing the summary of this story. Some story summaries are really easy to write and others are difficult. I found summarising this screenplay more difficult than others as there are so many layers. 

You'll hear this in LA often - producers want a screenplay that has LAYERS. 

Layers come about when your story feels well woven. When you have multiple storylines all flowing together. 


A great test I often suggest for your screenplay is to see just how relevant every scene is. 

Go through your script and delete a random scene. Now, read the screenplay. If the story still makes perfect sense, then odds are you didn't need that scene. 

I'm currently reading a new script at the moment that I'll review soon - but this new script suffers badly from unnecessary scenes. I'm sure that almost every other scene could be deleted and the story would still make sense.

That was not the case in Bag-Man. Almost every scene was relevant to another scene. I call them sister scenes. 

You write a scene early on in your script that sets up a pay-off that will come later on. Without the setup, the pay off wouldn't make sense. 


This screenplay nails the flaw perfectly. Atticus is a man obsessed. His obsession is the next great recruit. His life would be pointless if he isn't wheeling and dealing and manipulating people. 

His obsession is his downfall. 

This script makes reference to Moby Dick. It is an accurate metaphor. In Moby Dick, Ahab is obsessed with capturing a giant white whale. It is his obsession that is his undoing. 

The same happens here. Atticus is obsessed to the point of self detriment. It's not until he has hit rock bottom that he comes to see the errors of his ways and then makes amends and tries to do something about it. 

This is the essence of flaw and structure in storytelling. 

Give your hero a flaw - give them a personality trait that pulls them down. Make sure that the flaw is relatable. 

An unreliable flaw will mean your audience isn't connecting with your story. 

Atticus' flaw is obsession. It doesn't matter what the obsession is for or about, it is the human nature of pursuing something with neglect to everything else in your life that is a relatable flaw here. 

Start small and work your way up. At first, Atticus' dealings don't seem that bad. Sure, he's manipulating people, but it seems like ultimately the end justifies the means. 

But as the story progresses, and as Atticus faces the prospect of losing control we soon learn that he has no moral compass what so ever and is willing to do anything to achieve his goal. 

When writing a screenplay I always try to show the hero's flaw in every scene. Constantly remind your audience that your hero is flawed, show us that they have this detrimental personality trait that is causing problems in their life and show us their struggle with trying to overcome that flaw. 

This is the essence of good storytelling and Bag-Man nails it. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019


This script came in at #11 on the 2018 blacklist. 

This script grew on me. At first, I wasn't so keen on it. I read it in two sitting. The first 50 pages were ok, nothing too exciting, then in the final 50 pages the story really came together and I ended up thoroughly enjoying this script. 

Let's look at what was done right and what could have been done better. 


Maggie is in her 30s and works as a PA for an ultra famous fictional singer called Suzanne. Suzanne is in her 50s and hasn't released a new album in over 20 years. She still tours and works really hard, but creatively she is stuck in a rut. Oh, and she is a complete bitch. You can't imagine a more self-absorbed person.

Maggie works really hard, like reeeeaaalllllyyy hard. She does all the shit jobs for Suzanne while being treated like a piece of shit. 

What Maggie really wants is to be a producer. She knows everything about music and she even writes lyrics and can sing quite well herself.

She works her ass off mixing one of Suzanne's live albums but when it's all done she doesn't get any credit.

Maggie decides to go out on her own and try to become a producer, looking for the next Justin Beiber but she discovers there's a lot of really mediocre talent in the world. Nothing that she is really excited by. 

Then, as chance would have it - she stumbles across a young man playing a free gig at a supermarket who has an incredible voice. Like, an exceptional voice. 

His name is  David. 

David and Maggie don't really click. They're polar opposite people. But there is a dangerous chemistry between the two, and Maggie sets out trying to produce him. 

Without ruining the story for everyone, she sets up a huge opportunity for David, only to have him bail on her at the last moment. 

Maggie loses her job with Suzanne and goes into a downward spiral, but then...

... the twist happens. 

I didn't see the twist coming and the twist is what saved this film. It left me on a high note. 


The concept here is great. Remember, when you're setting out to write a film you should think about the end result. Will this film play well in cinemas? Is there a large audience that would like to see this film?

The answer here is a resounding yes!

People love musicals. While this film isn't a musical per se, it does have a lot of singing in it and people love singing and songs in films. 

This story is also female-centric - which is a huge bonus. Female centered films are becoming more and more popular and producers are looking for female empowerment stories. 



Think about when you're browsing movies on Netflix to watch - or what's on at the cinema. What are the type of films that jump out at you and you say, yes, I definitely want to check that out.

You need to work on a concept that will become one of those films. Too many people spend months if not years writing a screenplay that doesn't have a great concept behind it. 

Don't waste your time on a weak storyline. 


The empathy was good in this script. But it could have been better. Maggie leads a hard life and she works really hard. These are examples of PASSIVE POSITIVE EMPATHY. I like Maggie because I feel sorry for her. 

While this kind of empathy works, it is not as strong as ACTIVE POSITIVE EMPATHY - this is where Maggie goes out of her way to help other people. And while Maggie does help Suzanne - it doesn't count as it's her job, and Suzanne is a horrible person. 

If this story could have injected a few active positive empathy beats in the first 30 pages I would have been far more engaged. 


Active positive empathy is the strongest type of empathy there is. Make sure you inject several beats of this kind of empathy throughout your script. 

Having ONE beat of active positive empathy at the start of your script isn't enough though - you need to constantly make the audience LOVE your hero. 

In every scene, you should try to add some kind of empathy beat. No matter show small, every beat keeps your audience engaged in the story and your hero. 


They were well done in this script. My only critique would be that all the characters other than Maggie were a little too cliche for me. There was the megalomaniacal super famous singer, there was the asshole manager. Even Maggie's job seemed cliche. Her work for Suzanne was TOO HARD.

I just wanted a touch more realism for this story to feel more grounded.


Was good, but not exceptional. It had its moments, but most characters spoke exactly the way you would expect them too, and they all sounded quite similar. 

It would have been great if there had been more variety of dialogue styles. 


Make sure all your characters feel very different from each other. When your characters all speak with a similar wit and a similar style then they start to bleed into each other. 

Also, don't write cliche characters. Don't make your 'bad guys' too bad. As they will come as unrealistic. Even the most annoying people you know in real life have a pleasant side to them. Make sure your audience gets to see this side every now and then. 


At first, I wasn't so sure about this story as it isn't a biopic. Suzanne isn't a real person. But something this script did really well, was to inject other REAL celebrities throughout the script. 

Suzanne is working with Billy Joel on a regular basis in his story, which is great. Even if Billy didn't want to do a cameo in this movie, then there would be countless other famous singers who would likely be up for the job. 

When you have real-life celebrities playing themselves in your fictional movie it really helps to sell the world you're creating. 


One of the great things about this script is that there are INNER JOURNEYS for all the main characters. Suzanne goes through a small journey of self-discovery, but it's not too much so as to feel forced. David has the biggest breakthrough, and Maggie finally learns to go from being walked over by Suzanne to standing up for herself. 


Write an inner journey for all your main characters. A lot of scripts don't even have an inner journey for their hero. But when you make sure that ALL your main players are learning something throughout their journey and changing within, your film will come across as having 'layers'. It will feel that it has depth and it will connect with your audience much better. 


Was great here. When you have a clearly defined inner journey going on for your hero then it is easy to create a well-defined structure.

The inciting incident here was when Maggie meets David. The end of the first act was when she decides to break away from Suzanne and produce David. 

There is the second act kiss, there is the dark night of the soul when Maggie feels that all is lost - only to rebuild herself and bounce back stronger than ever before!


If you don't know the Hero's Journey back to front - stop what you're doing and spend the next 6 months learning it until you know it by heart. 


Another thing that this script does really well is to set up expectations and then to break those expectations. There is nothing worse than expecting a scene to go a certain way - and then it does. 

It gets boring very quickly.

When you set up a scene to look like it will finish like X, but then Y happens - that keeps your audience engaged. 


Never end a scene the way your audience would expect it to end. It's a death kiss of boredom. 


Great concept that is executed well. It's not in shooting mode yet - this script could use a couple of more drafts before it's really ready to be shot. But at least here we are polishing a rough diamond. A lot of the scripts I've reviewed recently have been really weak, not even worth polishing or re-writing. 

Monday, 8 April 2019


This script landed in the top ten of the 2018 blacklist. I have no idea why. This is not a great script. Let's look at why, and how to make sure we don't make the same mistakes.


Rory is up to step 9 of the 12 step alcoholics anonymous program. This step says you need to speak with those you have wronged and apologise for what you did to them while you were an alcoholic. 

This takes Rory and his girlfriend Maxine to a horse breeding farm where Kelly (his girlfriend from high school) lives with a strange alpha-male called Todd. 

Rory is somewhat of a weak-spirited person. Maxine is the alpha in their relationship and she is also Rory's sponsor. Rory isn't sure he even wants to confront Kelly and confess that he cheated on her. They were dating when they were 16 years old. He thinks it's better that he not hurt her. But Maxine wears the pants and she insists that they travel to this remote horse breeding farm so he can tell Kelly he cheated on her when they were 16. 

When they get there everything is fine at first. Kelly is really pleased to see Rory. They meet Kelly's partner Todd - an alpha male who is really strange. 

Rory really doesn't want to confess to cheating on Kelly when he was 16, as it's going to cause her more pain than it's worth, but Maxine forces him into it when they're having dinner. 

Kelly is hurt, and Todd gets pissed off. There's an argument, but for some unknown reason, rather than just leaving after that, Maxine and Rory create really weak excuses to hang around at the farm. 

No one forces them to stay. No one. This is where this script starts to fall apart. 

The next 60 pages of the story involves Rory and Todd vying against each other, each trying to prove to the other they are the alpha. 

Maxine has an argument with Kelly and Rory and she threatens to leave but she doesn't. She just goes for a walk. 

Rory is worried that Kelly really wants to leave the farm but Todd is forcing her to stay. Even though he isn't really trying to do that. 

It seems like Rory is more interested in staying around to rekindle his flame with Kelly. 

The story works towards a culmination of sorts where there are a life and death scenarios, without getting into spoilers.


Do the concept test with your script. Does it make sense? I don't even know what this film is about. If I had to summarise it in one sentence I'd say, A man tries to complete step 9 of AA but discovers a weird horse worshiping cult, sort of

This story fails from the word go. The motivation for your story must be strong. The motivation here isn't strong at all.

Rory drives out into the middle of nowhere to tell his ex that he cheated on her when they were 16. 

That's not a strong foundation for a film. 

The sinking of the Titanic is a strong backbone for a film. This premise is not. 



Make sure that the catalyst for your story, the REASON why this story is happening is strong and well motivated. Audiences don't connect well with story concepts that are weakly motivated. 


The writing here is ok. But the writer does use the F-bomb regularly. To use the F-bomb in dialogue is fine, as it may be natural for your character to swear a lot. But when you swear in your descriptions it comes across as weak writing. 

Other than the swearing factor, this script was well written and well formatted. It was a little overwritten, but most scripts are. It could handle a 10% trim easily.  



Don't swear in your descriptions. It's fine to write your descriptions with sprite and personality, but try to do that without gratuitous swearing. 


This story started out as Rory's story. But when we get to the farm we have a bunch of scenes that are told entirely from Todd or Kelly's point of view. 

It is ok to switch POV when writing for TV. 

It doesn't work well to switch POV when writing a feature film. 

For whatever reason, multiple POV films never seem to do very well at the box office. If they do it's an exception, not the rule. 

If you want your film to have the best chance for success make sure you tell your story from your hero's POV at all times. 


The structure was way off here. 

I don't think there was actually an inciting incident. They set out to go to this farm so Rory could confess to Kelly he cheated on her. He gets there. Doesn't want to. But does anyway. Does his confession test his flaw? 

I feel like Rory's flaw is not that he was an alcoholic, as this story isn't about someone trying to beat alcohol, I'm not even really sure what this story is about. 

Rory and Maxine go to this horse breeding farm and some weird stuff happens. That's pretty much the entire story here. 

When you don't have a clear FLAW for your hero, it's hard to identify what your inciting incident is. 

The Inciting Incident tests the hero's flaw. It is an event that starts a journey. Both inner and outer. 

I might guess that Rory's flaw is that he allows Maxine to bully him into doing things he doesn't want to do. But it seems like he is fine with that. And that her presence in his life is actually a good thing. She is helping him get through the 12 steps after all. 

So, yeah, very hard to lock down the structure beats here. 

It felt like it was a really long second act. 

Then suddenly in the final 10pages of the film, there was a life and death scenario that could have been avoided really easily if Rory and Maxine had just left the farm earlier on when they had a chance. 

But no, they stayed at the farm for really weak reasons. 


The characters are actually well enough drawn here. Todd really stands out from the pack. Rory, Maxine, and Kelly all speak with a similar cadence and style, while Todd really has a very different way of speaking. 

The trick to writing successful character and dialogue is to make sure that not one of your characters are too similar. Give each character their own personality, and make sure they have their own distinct way of speaking. 

It's hard, and it's something you have to work on, but the first step is understanding that you need to differentiate your characters for them to feel real. Once you understand that, it's just a matter of working each character until they feel different enough to feel real.

The very worst kind of characters are the vanilla ones. Characters that don't stand out at all. The instantly forgettable characters. Don't write these.


Make sure your story beats are logical within the world you create. I see the opposite happening far too often in scripts. 

Writers NEED a beat to happen so the story can proceed where they want it to. So they force a beat in just to make sure the NEXT beat can happen. 

It is always weak writing to force a story point just for the sake of guiding the story where it needs to go. 

Here, Rory and Maxine had ample opportunities to leave the farm. No one was forcing them to stay. But if they left the farm the story would end. To avoid this the writer came up with really weak reasons for them to stay on the farm. 

Have you ever watched a film where you wanted to shout at the characters, 'What are you doing? Don't do that, get out of there, now!' 

Don't write a story where illogical beats happen just for the sake of the story. 


I didn't like one of the characters here. Why? I wasn't given a reason to like any of them. 

Rory is weak-willed. He lets his GF walk all over him. Maxine is a controlling bitch. Nothing to like about her here. 

Todd is far too alpha male for ANYONE to like him.

Kelly is sweet, there's nothing wrong with Kelly, but there's nothing right about her either. 

Remember, audiences don't like characters just because they're on the screen, we like them for the acts of EMPATHY they enact. 

When NONE of your characters are doing positive acts of active empathy then your audience will have no reason to like any of your characters. 


The goal of the story was for Rory to confess to Kelly he cheated on her. That happens at around page 30. 

Goal one achieved. Rory is then worried that Kelly is in trouble somehow. He wants to stay on the farm to make sure she is ok. 

This goal is an example of an open-ended goal. Rory is going to hang around and see if things are ok. 

Audiences respond well to closed-ended goals. So, say, Rory had to get into a room where he thought he saw something really bad, or he has to get video footage for proof of something really bad happening so he can save Kelly. That's an example of a closed-ended goal. 

Give your hero something tangible to achieve.

The audience can latch onto closed-ended goals more easily than open-ended goals. 


For the first 90 pages of this film I never really felt concerned that Rory or Maxine's life was in danger. 

They had 90 pages to leave the farm.

They chose not to.

So, for 90 pages there wasn't really anything at stake. 

When your story has low stakes, your audience tends to check out.

Take the film TAKEN for example - can you imagine how dull that film would be if his daughter hadn't been abducted until page 90? 

No life or death stakes for 90% of the film?

The higher your stakes the more engaging your film. 


There was no ticking clock here. At all. 

There was nothing pulling the story forward. We were simply watching Todd, Maxine and Rory argue for 90 pages. 

Firstly, the goal was open-ended, so the story was unfocused, but secondly, there was no urgency to the story. Nothing had to be done in a set time frame.

When there is no ticking clock in your story, it will tend to languish. 


A weakly motivated story with an open-ended goal, low stakes and no sense of urgency. I would not invest money into this script, and I sincerely doubt it would make money at the box office.  

Saturday, 6 April 2019


I read a lot of scripts. I see a lot of stories that fail. There are common traits that are done poorly in unsuccessful screenplays and done exceptionally well in successful screenplays. 

It doesn't matter what your story is about. It doesn't matter what your genre. Who your target audience is. All successful films do certain aspects of their story well. 

The first thing to get right is CONCEPT.

A lot of screenplays fail even before they've begun. They fail the concept test. 

A lot of people write screenplays without even identifying what the core concept of their story is. 

A great test is to write down what your screenplay is about in around 10 words. Can you summarise your story in one simple sentence? 

Well done if you can. You've passed the first part of the concept test. Next, is the real test. Is that sentence engaging? Does it make your audience want to engage with that film? Does it inspire people to read your script? 

If you can't distill your concept to one simple sentence it's likely your story isn't as developed as it needs to be. 

Let's look at... 


A young boy sees dead people. That's a powerful concept. The core idea could be executed an infinite amount of ways.

Execution of the concept is just as important as the concept itself. But we'll get to how best to execute your idea in later posts. 


Shark attacks summer vacation town. Or... Man v Shark. 

While this concept is not very new these days, consider how powerful that concept was in 1975. 

A great exercise is to take your top ten films and distill their concepts. Look at these concepts. You will notice that all these films are interesting at their core. 

A great exercise is to do this same process with films that tanked. Films that were unsuccessful. Distill their stories to a simple sentence and look at what you have.

Another exercise is to create a concept using the hook method. Write down as many ideas as you can about anything at all. But make sure that your concepts are really engaging. Think of click-bait. What will get someone to click that link, what will get someone to read your story? 

Start writing down ideas that are ridiculous. Start with anything that pops to mind. Treat this process like a stream-of-consciousness exercise.

There's no right and wrong to it. Just let the ideas flow, no matter how stupid they may seem. 


What do I mean by that?

You don't land on a GREAT idea every time you stop to think of an idea for your next script. If it were that simple EVERYONE would be churning out killer scripts. 

It takes time and work to develop great ideas. 

You start with a stupid idea about an alien that loves hot air ballooning. Then you ditch the idea of the alien and you focus on hot air ballooning, but that doesn't work and you think about flying in general, perhaps that takes you to a story about aviation, but that you can't come up with anything great there, so you take aviation and branch off from that. 

What you're doing here is expanding your thinking scope. You're allowing your mind to jump from one idea to the next in a connected way. 

This process won't immediately yield a fantastic idea, but what it's doing is getting you to think outside of your comfort zone. 

When you start to think outside of the range of thoughts you normally have you'll find that you land of a new subject or a new way of looking at a subject that you wouldn't normally have considered.

Keep doing this exercise for ten minutes everyday. You'll create a lot of terrible ideas, but out of those terrible ideas will likely be the seed for a great idea. 

Friday, 5 April 2019


What an interesting script this was. I don't think I've ever read a script that did so much so right and so wrong all at once. 

This script came in at #9 on the 2018 blacklist. 


Chris Wylie is the creator of a 'psychographic' coding software that analyses facebook likes and purports to know more about your habits than you do. 

In the UK he's hired by a nefarious company with no moral compass. He ends up harvesting data from FaceBook and using this information to specifically target the users and change their opinions. 

At first, Chris is happy that his software is being used and that it's working - really well. 

Using the algorithm he has created, the company Cambridge Analytica, are able to influence FaceBook users and the way they think, act, consume and most importantly vote. 

Chris soon realizes that his software is being used for horrible purposes. Elections in Kenya are being swayed and won by campaigns of 'misinformation.'.

His software is used with great success in the 2014 US election midterms. And also in 2016 to elect president Trump. 

Chris finally takes a stand and goes to the Guardian and New York Times with his story. That FaceBook allowed third-party App developers to harvest their users' information and use it to make huge sums of money and sway elections across the planet. 


This concept is a strange one. While it is a very important story - highlighting corruption in elections across the world and just how amoral FaceBook is - it is very rare that a politically motivated film ever does well at the box office. 

Imagine someone saying, 'what's Analytica about?' and the reply being, 'A guy who created software code that mined FB data and used it micro-target people and sway elections.'

How many people do you think would want to go and see that movie? 

Not many. 

Which is really sad. 

This story is literally about the misuse of private information to sway elections. It's the sort of shit the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels would have given his right arm to use. 

It's fucked up and that's putting it politely. That this is legal goes to show just how corrupt politics are around the world. In particular in America.

The problem with this concept is it just wouldn't get bums in seats. It wouldn't sell tickets. 

CONCEPT RATING 2/10 or 8/10 

2/10 for selling tickets - 8/10 for being a very noble story, well worth telling. 


If you are writing a story that will be a hard sell, something that is important yet  isn't an instant ticket seller - then you have to make sure your execution of the story is exceptional. 

Unfortunately - the execution of this story is weak.

Let's look at why...


Voice over is fine. I love a good voice over - but moderation is the key. There is so much voiceover in this script that it felt more like a monologue than a screenplay. A vast majority of the screenplay is Chris telling us what happened by voice over.

Movies are engaging when things are HAPPENING - that way you are SHOWING your story. 

When you have a character narrate the story it becomes less a movie and more an audiobook with moving pictures.


Excessive use of voice over is cheating. Sometimes you have a convoluted story point that is difficult to show and much easier to just say. Sometimes that is fine. Sometimes it's a crutch, but sometimes using a crutch is fine.


When your script is 30% voice over, you know you're overusing the device. 


Structure is another huge problem for this script. It's literally a beat for beat recount of Chris' life until he whistle-blows on the company he helped create. 

Chris doesn't really have a flaw. 

Flaw is key to structure. Without a flaw to overcome, your hero is only facing external elements. Without a flaw, you only have half a story. 

Some might argue that his flaw is that Chris is egotistical - that he creates this software even though he knows it will likely be used for nefarious purposes. But I'd say that egotism isn't a flaw here as it doesn't hold him back from achieving what he wants to achieve. 


I give structure a 6 as the story does move along, there are things happening - it's just that there is no flaw. No inner journey. 


How to identify your hero's flaw. 

Identify what they want most in the world. 

Now identify their personality trait that is stopping them from achieving their ultimate goal? 

That is your flaw. 


All this script's characters were exceptional. 

Same with dialogue. The dialogue and characters here I can't fault. Except to say perhaps that there is a little too much dialogue. This script could handle a 15% trim and you would have a much tighter script telling exactly the same story. 



Have your character say what they're thinking. 

In life, you are constantly in situations where you think something but you don't say it for fear of being inappropriate. 

When you have a character say what they're thinking you end up with some really exciting moments. 


People love honesty. 

Honesty trumps all else. 

When we hear someone say it how it really is we have huge amounts of respect for them for not sugar coating it. 

It works the same in screenplays. 

When you have a character say something you wouldn't expect to hear then you have an interesting piece of dialogue. 

When a character says what you would expect them to say in a given situation - that gets boring quickly. 

Always try to surprise your reader. A great way to do this is by having your hero speak their mind. No matter how awkward that may be. 


There's not a huge amount of active positive empathy for Chris in this script. 

There's a lot of passive positive empathy - which is where we feel sorry for him because bad stuff happens to him. 

Passive positive empathy only goes so far. 

What really connects an audience with your movie is when your hero goes out of their way to do good things for other people. 

That is the very best way to make your hero and consequently your film likable. 



Make me like your hero BEFORE you show me their flaw. If I already like someone I'm far more inclined to forgive them their flaw. If the first thing you show me about a character is their flaw, then you've got an uphill battle to get me to like them. 


This is a story that deserves to be told. Unlike many stories out there the premise here affects everyone alive today. 

That's not hyperbole either. American elections are rigged. That's been proven in a court of law. The DNC - Democratic National Committee - confessed in court that they can choose who they want to represent them regardless of who voted in the primaries. 

The American voting system - known as the electoral college - has twice elected a president who got the least amount of votes. 

That is not a democratic system. 

This story needs to be told, but in its current form, it will not reach a very wide audience or make money. 

It needs to trim down the use of voice over. Add empathy - add a flaw, and create more of a sense of urgency and raise the stakes. 

While it is implied that Chris' life is in danger if he goes to the press, we never really get to see that danger. 

Thursday, 4 April 2019


This script came in at #8 on the 2018 blacklist. 

It's best described as a sci-fi time-travel comedy. 

This script was a haaaaard read. It's one of those scripts that are really heavily written. The writing is great, there's just too much of it. 


We open in 2076 and the future is an apocalyptic wasteland. The Duke is a tyrant dictator of the entire world. Dixie has been sent to kill him. Which she does. But then she dons a travel backpack and goes back in time to kill The Duke before he became the evil tyrant that he is, in the hope that it will restore peace to the world. 

When Dixie gets back to 2018, she tries to kill Barrett, the man who will become The Duke, but she can't quite bring herself to, as he hasn't technically done anything bad yet. 

There's some serious chemistry between the two, they end up falling for each other and Dixie gets pregnant. 

The story question then becomes, can Dixie save the future by saving Barrett and changing him into a good person, or is his death the only way to save the future?


I'm not really sure what to make of the concept here. I found the idea of the story tiring. I feel that there is an audience out there for this kind of time traveling comedy, it's just that I'm not that audience. 

When looking at a script I try to remove my own personal tastes and look at it as objectively as I can. I'm not a massive fan of rom-coms - but I'm very aware that there are huge numbers of people out there who love them. 

I wonder how many people out there want to watch a time travel comedy? I feel like the concept here would find an audience on Netflix, but I'm don't think people would pay money to see this at the cinema. 



The concept here is clever. It's well executed. My only real comment on this concept is whether or not it would find a large enough audience to justify the budget required to make this film.


Reading this script was an uphill battle. It took me a long time to read it. I didn't enjoy the read. If I wasn't reading it to do a review of it, I would have given up on it a long time ago. There's no way I would have finished it.

As I was about to force myself to read it for the third time, I wondered why I wasn't enjoying the read. The story is well written, and it's very, very clever. 

Then I realized that I didn't like either of the two lead characters. 

Barrett/The Duke is a horrible person. But, he's written as a horrible person. It's all part of his character. 

Then Dixie, while she has 'good intentions' (save the future) there's no solid empathy beats to MAKE me like her. 

The opening scene is a battle sequence that ends in Dixie killing Barrett. 

There's nothing there for me to connect to. There's no REASON to like her. She doesn't risk her life to save anyone, she doesn't go out of her way to be kind to anyone. 

There's lots of action but there's no emotional connection between the audience and Dixie. 

If the writer made an effort to CONNECT me to Dixie, if he showed her doing kind and loving things toward other people I would have had more empathy toward her and consequently I would have been more invested in the story. 



Awesome fight sequences get really boring, really quickly. The more screenplays I review the more I come to understand the importance of creating EMPATHY for your hero. The two scripts that I have really connected with recently have had HUGE amounts of empathy for the hero. 

King Richard is by far the most empathetic hero I've read in a long time. It's hard to not want to read a story about a father who literally risks his life just so his daughters can use a tennis court to practice on. 

Altruism is the highest form of empathy there is. 


The writing here is superb. The humor is great. The formatting is really good. 

My only real comment is this script read like molasses. It was a slow, slow read. I feel like the writer is clever enough to write this script with a third fewer words. That would've made the read a hell of a lot more enjoyable. 



Lean, lean, lean. Being able to tell a story in the most concise form possible is a really powerful skill set.

Take a sentence that is 15 words long. Then re-write it so it's only 10 words long. Most of the time this is possible. If you can do that you're saving 30%!

Your script will read sooooo much faster and be so much more enjoyable. 


Characters are great. Dixie is well drawn and so is Barrett. All the minor characters are very well written as well. They're very different from each other.

Dialogue is also great. The humor is really good and very self-referential.  



Make sure you don't underwrite your minor characters. This doesn't mean you have to develop whole sub-storylines for every character you write, but the more developed all your minor characters are the more real and well written your script will be. 


The writer here has a solid voice. He has a great sense of humor, his characters are all very well written and dialogue is fantastic. 

While this script doesn't work for me, I would definitely consider working with this writer. If I had a concept that I loved I'm sure that he would be able to write in any genre to a very high standard.

Your script doesn't necessarily need to get made for you to break in. If you write a script that a lot of people love that demonstrates your writing ability, it can be a great sample piece that can get you writing jobs. 

I often say that the strength of your overall voice is dependant on how well you execute each individual aspect of your script. The stronger each element, the stronger your overall voice will be.


This film would have a hard time making money. It's sci-fi with all the expensive elements, futuristic wasteland, etc, action sequences, and immense fight sequences, but I'm just don't think there's enough of an audience out there waiting to spend money on going to see a time-traveling comedy. 

As a producer, I wouldn't put money into this script. 


An extremely well-written script that shows off the writer's talents. His only mistake was the lack of empathy for his two lead heroes. Fix that part of the script and it would be hard to fault this screenplay. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2019


Cobwebs landed at #7 on the 2018 blacklist. I really can't tell why it landed so high. This screenplay is a really, really mediocre horror. 

It's almost as though the writer wasn't even trying. There's a lot wrong with this script. Let's look at what elements are done well and what elements are lacking in their execution so we can learn to write better screenplays. 

PLOT SUMMARY (Spoilers) 

Peter, an eight-year-old boy lives in a scary house on top of a scary hill with his mother and father. He hears sounds in his wall at home. 

At school, he gets so annoyed with a bully he pushes him down stairs and puts him in hospital.

He's expelled from school. His mother teaches him at home. While at home he discovers that his mother and father keep his sister in the wall. No explanation given.

Peter kills his parents, gets the keys and frees his sister, only to find out that she is a killer herself. 

Yup, that's about it. 

There's no clever twist here, there's no clever character development. 


I'm not even sure what the concept is? - A young boy with abusive parents becomes a killer and ultimately a victim of his sibling? 

I'd defy anyone to write a decent logline about this story that was actually true to the plot. 



I don't think this story actually has a concept. Every other script that I've reviewed in the past week has had a clearly identifiable concept. 

This script read like a series of jump scares. I love horror films, but I find jump scares cheap. It's ok to use them as a device, but to have an entire script based on one jump scare after another is pretty weak. 

When horror works well it is because it gets into your psyche - it gets into your head. When there's no real plot it's hard to get involved in the story. 

Try to make sure you have a clearly defined concept. When you have trouble writing a clear and concise concept for your script then you know from the outset that your story needs more development. 


This is a huge problem for this script. There is no goal. Peter isn't really trying to do anything. Now, when he first hears tapping in his wall, you'd think the story goal would be to find out what's causing the tapping. But other than being scared by the tapping, Peter doesn't really investigate. Life continues as normal as he tries to convince himself the tapping isn't there. 

He doesn't realize there is someone in the wall until much later on in the script. When he realizes it's his sister in the wall, he has a goal - to get her out - but here's one of the really annoying things about the writing here - just when he's about to set her free he has a change of heart. No reason, just like that he decides, nah, I'm not gonna set her free. Which, really, is just stupid. 

A huge lack of a clearly defined goal here meant this script is not focused.


The goal of the story feeds into the structure of the story. You know when your first act ends and your second act starts by the GOAL. When your goal is established and your hero has set about achieving that goal - that's when act 1 ends and act 2 begins. It's a very clear structure signifier. 

Make sure you have a clearly defined goal set by page 25. 


This is something that was a problem for yesterday's script as well. There were logic errors. Now, it's fine that this script is a weird horror. The realism of your screenplay comes down to how you create the world of your story. So I bought into the parents being weird, sadistic folk, and I bought into the really minimal world created here. But what I didn't buy into was the execution of the central premise. 

Peter's sister is locked in the wall of their house because she has been 'naughty' and it is her punishment. 

That's fine. It's weird, but I'm on board with this as it's part of this freaky horror. 

But what isn't logical is - she's been in there how long? Years? I'm guessing, from what I can deduce from the story. Peter' sister has been locked in the wall for years and only now is she gently tapping on the wall at night.

Why is it only now that Peter is hearing her? 

Why is the sister only tapping gently?

If you'd just been trapped in a wall, wouldn't you kick and scream and try to get out?

If the parents don't want Peter to find out about the sister in the wall why did they put her in the wall of Peter's bedroom? A place in the house where he is MOST likely to hear her.

Later on in the script, the sister starts talking with Peter and yelling to be let out. 

Why did this happen later on in the script and not at the start of the script? 

There's no logic to all these decisions other than they made for a more suspenseful opening to the story. 

And that's the mistake. It doesn't matter how weird and whacky your story is, it still needs to make sense and be logical within the parameters you've created. 



Make sure that your story is logical within the confines of the world that you create. Don't write a beat in your story just because it's kinda cool. It needs to be kinda cool AND make sense. 


This script comes in at 98 pages. great page length. No worries there. The writing is very sparse. The writer puts an entire space between each line. That's fine if the writing is so well done that every small sentence is filled with action and description. 

While I like screenplays that are sparsely written, I feel this script is too sparse. If it were condensed it would be a 60-page script. 

There's not a lot of meat to this story. 

There are a handful of spelling mistakes. There's no excuse to have ANY spelling mistakes in your script. While spelling mistakes aren't a death card to a script, they certainly detract from the perceived ability of the writer. 



There is a very fine line between a verbose script and an under-written one. The best way to find that Goldilocks zone is to read as many screenplays as you can. The more you read, the more you will see what works best.

Word count is a good way to decide if your script is over or underwritten.

Take a dozen scripts you felt that were really well written and look at their word count. Then look at the word count of scripts that felt too heavily written and the same for underwritten scripts. You will soon find a happy medium that works for you. 


There really isn't any discernible structure here. 

There's no real goal. 

There's no real sense of a ticking clock.

And while the stakes are life and death, it doesn't feel like this is enough to make the story feel like it's constantly moving forward. 

The structure here is way off as Peter doesn't have a flaw. He's scared of a noise in the wall and he is abused by his parents, but that's all OUTTER journey stuff. There is no inner flaw holding Peter back. There's no inner detrimental personality trait that he needs to overcome before he can overcome the outer journey problems he faces. 



To have a clear structure you need a clear flaw and a clear goal. When your script lacks both, your script's structure will be waaaaay off. 


The voice here is so-so. The writing is ok, and it is a fast read. The opening hook works, it draws you into the story, but after that opening 20 pages, there's not much substance to the story. 

There is a definite eerie tone to the whole script, which I'm guessing is one of the reasons it made it so high on the Black List. 

The story is very dark, and while it does have a lot of cool moments that could be genuinely scary, it's main fault is a huge lack of structure. When you don't have a clear structure to your story, it simply feels like it is a series of scenes playing together that are loosely connected. 

This detracts from the story in general and it also weakens the perception of your 'voice'.


Another huge mistake this film makes is the constantly changing point of view. The story is mostly told from Peter's POV. But we often switch POV to one of his parents or his teacher's POV. 

In the grand finale of the film we stop following Peter and stay with his teacher for about 5 pages - that's a huge amount of time to be away from our hero. 



For your script to be a successful FEATURE FILM - write your entire story from your hero's POV. It's ok to cut away to your SHADOW's POV occasionally, just to see what they're up to, you can get away with that, but when you start changing your POV to the smaller characters you lose the vicarious connection you've been creating between your audience and your hero. 


Characters were all quite tropey, and the dialogue was really simplistic. 

I don't mind minimal dialogue, but when you're choosing to write minimal dialogue, try to make it as impactful as you can. 


If your audience knows something has just happened, don't write the next scene where a character tells another character what just happened. You're wasting the audiences time.


If you made this current version of the script for under $1m then you could maybe make money. If you got a really good director and some halfway decent actors I can see it finding a die-hard horror audience. 

But if you want this script to be successful on a grander scale - this script will need to do what The Ring did and actually have an emotional story at its heart. It will need for the hero to have a flaw and for all the ancillary characters to be much better written. 

Oh, and a goal wouldn't go astray either. 

As a producer, I wouldn't put money into this film in its current form. 

In fact, I wouldn't even put an option down and get a re-write done, this is a solid pass for me. 


A good title should suggest the tone of the film and intrigue the reader. 

This film is called COBWEB.

I'll leave this one up to you to decide. Does the title suggest the tone of this film and does it inspire you to know more about it?


I don't know what's going on with the blacklist for 2018. So far, from what I've reviewed, over 50% are woefully executed. Some had great ideas poorly done, while others, such as today's entry has a weak concept, also poorly done.

I'm starting to wonder about the quality of the blacklist if this is what is making it to the upper rungs.