Thursday, 28 January 2016


LOGLINE: Based on the true story of marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, who in 2013, after 4 failed attempts and at the age of 64, became the first person ever to open-swim from Cuba to Florida (55 hours non-stop) overcoming impossible odds, personal tragedy, and 103 miles of open ocean.

WRITER: Robert Specland

SCRIPT BIO: 13 votes on the 2015 black list


There's not much more to this story than the logline. We meet Nyad in her 60s. There's nothing wrong with her life, but she feels like there is something missing.

You see, many a year ago, when she was half her age, she tried to swim from Cuba to the US, but failed. No shame in that, the swim is 103 miles. 55 hours of non stop swimming.

The majority of us would have trouble staying awake for 55 hours just sitting on a sofa, add battling sharks and venomous box jellyfish that can kill you within minutes and huge waves threatening to drown you and odds are any normal person wouldn't even consider the swim.

But Diana is apparently no ordinary person. She is obsessed with making the swim.

I wasn't going to ruin the ending to this story. I didn't read the logline before diving in here, and wasn't sure if she'd actually make it in the end, which made the read more interesting.

The writer here chose to give away the ending in the logline. On that, our first tip of the day would be to make sure you don't give away too much in your logline. Entice the reader, make them want to find out what happens. 

I guess that you could argue that this being a true life story the outcome is there in the public record (aka intergoogle) - but not everyone is going to know Nyad's story. And for those that don't I think a little suspense and intrigue could go a long way.

After 4 unsuccessful attempts, Nyad finally makes the swim. 


This present day storyline of her making her 4 failed, then one successful attempt at the crossing, is intercut with flashes from her childhood.

We learn that Nyad was abused by her father and raped by her swimming coach. 

The writer posits that this is the reason Nyad's obsessed with long distance swimming. It's her way of taking back the control she lost by those violations.


This is a very interesting script. 

The writer has done a great job. I must applause him for that. The story moved at a fast pace. The characters are interesting, the dialogue, while not crazy good, still does a great job of carrying the story. 

I'm sure there is an audience for this story. I've no doubt there's loads of people out there that will see Diana's story as one of inspiration. A strong woman battling the impossible. 

I can understand why people would get behind this script. 

I'm just not one of them.

I think this is a very subjective thing. 

People are applauded for attempting to do the impossible.


I know the automatic pop-psycho analytical answer to that. 

"It shows the strength of the human spirit. Never give up!" Etc etc... 

But really, let's think about what this really is.

A person puts themselves into a situation where they could very easily have died, for no reason other than they are obsessed with doing this one thing. 

There was no reason why Nyad had to do this swim other than she wanted to.

Do you applause people who play Russian roulette? 

No. We label them sick. Stupid. 

On a fundamental level what is the difference between Russian roulette and attempting to swim 105 miles.

Both are about over coming the odds. Both you risk dying unnecessarily with nothing to achieve other than proving the point, "I can do this."

All the while I was reading this incredible well told and written story I couldn't help but think, 'why are we supposed to celebrate this person?"

What she's doing is completely pointless. How will the world change when she succeeds? 

Here's the kicker, she spent well over a 1 million dollars on her swims. 

Someone who raised $1mill to help the disadvantaged (take your pick - homelessness, terminally ill children, abused animals, refugees, orphans from war zones, the list goes on...) would be a person worth celebrating.

Nyad spending over 1 million on her obsession with going for a swim, and then society cheering her on and saying what a powerful, inspirational person she is, is the essence of what is wrong with the world. 

Her story shouldn't be lauded, she should be shamed for wasting such money on such a narcissistic endeavour. 

Your initial gut reaction may be, 'you're wrong.' 

But really think about it. Think about what I'm saying here.


True biopics are the zeitgeist at the moment. To that end this is a great concept. I feel that the majority of the world will see this as an inspirational story and will therefore find an audience.

The back bone of the story here is missing a few things. 

The hero is obsessed with doing the swim. But there's no reason other than to feed her own narcissism. So, to that end there's no real stakes.

If she fails, she will have failed at doing something everyone says is impossible. No big deal.

Remember, this is not one of those stories where she is being told she can't do this because of her gender. This is not a story about over coming bigotry or small mindedness. This is not a story about proving to an oppressed minority that if you just stand up to the establishment you can over come the odds and change the world

This is a story about a person obsessed with achieving an unnecessary personal goal. 

If this had been the story about Nyad losing her legs, being told she'll never walk by doctors, then finding the determination to walk again, then that would be an inspirational story. 

There's nothing like that here. 

This is a story about clinical obsessive narcissism. 

I don't think there's enough of a hook here to really justify this story being made into a film. 


CONCEPT TIP: If you're writing a biopic, think about the importance of the story you're telling. Are there any stakes? Is there a consequence to the hero not achieving their goal? If you can find a biopic that has these two elements in it, you'll be streets ahead of an idea like today's.


Beautiful. The writer knows form, and his writing is elegant.


FORM TIP: Read this script for an example of how to format and write a screenplay. It's well formatted and the writing is clear and concise.


This being a biopic it doesn't adhere to the traditional Hero's Journey beat sheet. But the writer does a great job of making sure the story is always ticking over. There's very little here that you will want to skim read, which is a great sign that structure is working. 


STRUCTURE TIP: Don't linger on any one scene too long. One of the problems with The Fisherman was the length of time we spent on scenes, they dragged on and on.

Here, the scenes are broken into smaller bites which keep the story moving. 


Great work here. While none of them really popped, they all felt real.


CHARACTER TIP: If writing a biopic, it's better to keep your characters grounded in reality. If the writer were to try and add too much flavor to these characters he'd've run the risk of making them come off as unreal. Sometimes, especially in biopics, it's better to err on the side of caution, rather than going all out and trying to create exaggerated characters.


Again, a really nice job was done, but again, there wasn't one character that really stood out. But again, this being a biopic, it doesn't hurt the script in anyway. The way all the characters spoke felt real. 


DIALOGUE TIP: Much the same as the character tip above. If the writer had chosen to make the dialogue more flamboyant it may have made for a more interesting read, but it would also have risked making the characters seem unreal. 


A nice voice here. Good writing goes along way toward clarifying your voice. I opened another black list script and read 3 pages before I read Nyad. I stopped reading the other script because the voice was so garbled and messy, after 3 pages I wasn't really sure what was going on. 


VOICE TIP: Clarity, I'm coming to learn is a huge factor in voice. The clearer your writing, the better formed your sentences, the more your voice shines through. 


Largely shot on water. 

That's a bitch for any film production. Film crews, electricity etc... do not fair well on water for any period of time. 

The way around this is with water stages... but they cost dollar.

Cast - medium sized. 


Multiple locations. 

This would be a 20 mill production. 

I wouldn't put money into this film as I don't feel the story is strong enough to get the bums in seats that would turn the 60 mill profit needed for this film to break even.

Remember, break even in film = production cost x 3 at the box office. 


An incredible well written and well told story. 

A story that I don't feel should be written to be applauded, but written to be ridiculed. 


Wednesday, 27 January 2016


LOGLINE: A female urologist and a retired hooker form an unlikely friendship when they team up to take down a notorious sex trafficker in Miami.

WRITER: Zoe McCarthy

SCRIPT BIO: 14 votes on the 2015 black list


Anna is a 34 year old successful urologist. Described as 'lovably neurotic and romantically frustrated'. The writer gives us no clue as to her looks, which is where the terrible writing begins in this awful script. 

Even though Anna is witty, fun, clever and successful she can't seem to lock the right one down. In fact, she can't even get a date. 

We join her on another 'date' where she's been stood up. She gets drunk and talks herself into a one night stand with a random guy called Eddie.

Back at Eddie's mansion, Anna vomits on his cock. Eddie then dresses her up in a My Little Pony outfit and films her singing the My Little Pony Theme song.

The next day Anna wakes to discover that the video has been put on an ex-girlfriend revenge porn site. 

Anna's My Little Pony performance has gone viral.

She's immediately fired (really? All she did was sing the My Little Pony Theme song?)... 

Anna goes out to drown her sorrows. She meets Angel (screen writing 101 mistake #2 - don't name your two main characters with the same first letter as it makes the read confusing) - who is an ex-protistute who actually still turns tricks, so not an ex-protitute, but a prostitute (sigh).

Anna invites Angel home, thinking she's just a friend, but after Angel quickly goes down on Anna, she demands 500 dollars for her services. 

I could probably stop the story summary here and just write 'hilarity ensues'  but that'd be an insult to the word 'hilarity'.

Finally after some seriously bad dialogue, Anna and Angel tell each other everything that the audience already knows (screen writing 101 mistake #3) and they decide to go and confront Eddie as they both have beefs with this punk.

When they get to Eddie's mansion they find him in the middle of an initiation process for his latest arrivals of international models hoping to make it big in America. 

Eddie has a model from the Ukraine sucking on his dick, and when Anna and Angel burst in, they startle her into biting Eddie's dick clean off. 

Anna and Angel then take Eddie's dick hostage, unite with the Ukranian model and flee.

The trio then use Eddie's dick to ransom him into... well, I'm not quite, sure. Their goal isn't really clearly defined, as I mentioned, this is a terrible screenplay. 

I think they want him to apologize for being horrible to women, or something to that affect.

Honestly, the moment I finished reading this script I started to erase it from my mind. It's that bad.



Is it politically correct to call a script retarded? Is that okay? Or should I call it story and writing challenged?

There, that's nicer isn't it.


Where to begin with this...

First off, the script doesn't start with our hero - Anna. Is starts in an airport where all the hot models from around the world are getting off the plane and being rounded up by Eddie's henchmen.

Why this is the most important scene to start your screenplay with I have no idea? But there it is.

All these models are from around the world, Germany, Australia etc... the writer later has these models in a scenario where they're standing around waiting to suck a dick to hopefully get their faces on Vogue.

I'm sorry what?

Can you imagine if this screenplay was written by a man? How fucking insulting that is to women? But no, it's written by a woman so sexist stereotypes are a-okay!

Stereotypes - that's one thing this script does really well. EVERY character is a stereotype. 

Every character is BLACK AND WHITE. There is no grey area here. No depth to personality what so ever.

The bad guy is really bad for no reason. 

The ex-prostitute who is actually still a prostitute plays like a six year old thought her up. 

Going back to the 'dumb model' angle here. I'm going to assume that the writer has NEVER EVER MET a model in real life. 

Models from Australia and Germany are really savvy. In fact models from all around the world are smart. They're not so desperate or stupid that if a guy put his cock in their face and said, 'suck that and you're next on the cover of Vogue' that they'd believe him. 

They'd slap him, walk out, then probably have a sexual harassment case on him before the hour was out.

I understand this is supposed to be a comedy. But there's nothing funny here. It's just plain old stupid. 

Enough with my reaction to this drivel... let's break it down... 


I don't even know what the concept here is. Maybe it's 'Urologist who has been shamed on the internet teams up with an ex-protitute who is really still a prostitute and a model from the Ukraine, not Russia, and cut a guy's dick off, then hold it for ransom.'


That's pretty much what we're dealing with here.

I don't need to say anymore do I?


CONEPT TIP: Actually thinking your concept through will help your story no end. 


Terrible. The writing here is appalling. There are countless words missing. Not even just spelling mistakes, of which there are myriad, but whole words that the writer couldn't be bothered writing. 

It's like they wrote it, did one pass, then went, there you go, sell that sucker. It's about women being funny, it must have a market!

It uses BOLD, there's italics in the dialogue, there misuse of underlining in the descriptions. 

Oh, and my favourite, the writer loves telling us what the character is thinking. 


'Cause that's easy to see on the screen.



FORM TIP: Actually learning the basics about screen writing formatting will go a long way. 


What structure?

The writer doesn't understand form, how the hell do you expect them to understand structure? 

Structure - as we know - stems from the character's flaw. 

Anna doesn't have a flaw here. 

I can hear the writer arguing that she has a bad love life and that's a flaw. 


It's the consequence of a flaw. 

Here, Anna has no flaw. In fact, she's witty, intelligent, fun, successful, pretty much every personality attribute that guarantees you at the very least a date that will turn up.

But no.

For no reason, Anna can't get a date. Which is just poor writing. And being that the writer omitted telling us what Anna actually looks like - even in the most basic form - I'm going to have to assume that she's soooooo ugly no person on earth would want to even date her.

But, that's an assumption as the writer conveniently forgot to tell us anything about her appearance. 

The goal here is awful.  Get the bad guy to be nice to women, or something like that? 

Really not a concrete goal you can set your sights on, let alone try to build your structure around.

Oh, I almost forgot. 

Eddie, after having his dick cut off, continues to run around trying to get Anna and her team as though nothing has happened to him. 

Excuse me? The guy's had his cock severed. I don't know about you, but having your dick cut off would pretty much knock you the fuck out. Also, there's that problem of maybe bleeding to death?

Wouldn't Eddie's mission be to get to hospital to have the bleeding stopped? 


Nah, that wouldn't be funny, let's just keep him running around doing stuff n shit, that'd be way funnier - even if it is completely and utterly illogical. 


STRUCTURE TIP: Understanding even the very basics of structure will go along way.


What characters? Oh, you mean stereotypes. Right.

Well, the stereotypes were great here. Every one of these people were a stereotype through and through. 

Less thought couldn't have been put into these characters if they were thought up by a drunk mouse with cancer.


STEROTYPE TIP: Don't write in stereotypes. 


Why write each character with their own unique voice when you can just use one voice for all you characters?

No brainer right?

Why waste all that time trying to figure out the differences between your characters when you could be, I don't know, thinking up scenarios that aren't funny in the slightest then writing them into a "story". 

Please note the use of inverted commas around the word story there.


DIALOGUE TIP: Actually trying to create some sort of a difference between the way your characters speak will go along way.


I'm sorry what?


VOICE TIP: If your screenplay fails on every front, odds are your voice is going to suck. 

That was the case here. 


The writer evidently wanted to write a strong female driven comedy.

Awesome. I applaud that.

But what they ended up with is a piece that's overtly degrading toward women, it paints them as complete idiots left right and center.

There no VFX - positive.

Cast is mid range - not bad, not good.

It's a female driven comedy - positive.

It's really, really badly written - negative.

I wouldn't put money into this. 

It'd be a 15 mill production minimum.


This is one of those scripts that if it became a film, you'd see the trailer and think, 'how does shit like this get made?'

This is the film that's sooooo bad it inspires others out there who have never thought about writing a script to start writing as they're sure they could do better. 

And they'd probably be right.


Tuesday, 26 January 2016


LOGLINE: Based on real events, the story of the writing of Fatal Vision, the 1983 bestselling true crime classic that chronicles the summer journalist Joe McGinness spent with “Green Beret Killer” Jeffrey McDonald while he was on trial for the brutal murder of his wife and children.

WRITER: Matthew Scott Weiner

SCRIPT BIO: 14 votes on the 2015 black list.


Castle Drive recounts the story of the esteemed true crime writer Joe McGinnis (37) as he covers the trial of the 'Green Beret Killer' Jeff MacDonald.

Jeff was acquitted of the first degree murder of his wife and two children 9 years earlier, but now he is being tried again as his case didn't fall under the double jeopardy law because of a technical loop hole.

Joe has his own share of problems. He is a 'once-was' writer. He's been trying to get a new project off the ground for years, but with no success. His publishing house are on the verge of dropping him. He has a new baby on the way with his new wife, he's a nasty alcoholic, and he's a terrible father to the children he has with his ex-wife.

Jeff allows Joe full access to him and the trial in order to write a book. 

As the trial proceeds Joe comes to learn that Jeff is a socio-path, and he believes without a doubt Jeff killed his family. 

The judge ruling over the trial is prejudicial against Jeff, not allowing key testimony and character witnesses to support Jeff's case.

Despite Joe believing that Jeff is guilty, he is torn as to how to write the book as it it plainly evident that Jeff was not afforded a fair trial. 

The question driving the story becomes, will Jeff be found guilty or not guilty? And in what way will Joe write his account of events. 


This story is great. Notice I say the word 'story'. The writing couldn't be more overloaded. Almost every single form rule was broken here, but despite the clunkiness of the writing, the actual story is fantastic. 

I'd highly recommend this one as a read. And to that end I'll try not to spoil the ending. 

Joe's character is set up at the start of the film with several great flaws. He's an alcoholic, he is estranged from his children with his ex-wife. He is motivated, his career is on the verge of collapse, so the stakes are high. 

When you set up a hero with a good flaw, or in this case, several flaws, there's room for that character to experience change. Change is one of the most interesting things about cinematic stories. 

There's nothing more dull than watching a character that doesn't really have any flaws go on a journey, and at the end of it, that character is pretty much the same as they were when we first met them.

But this seems to be the way with sooooo many of these black list scripts. 

When a character doesn't have a flaw it feels like they are two dimensional. Flaws give a character depth. Joe has a great sense of depth.

Flaws also tie into reality. Show me a person who believes they are not flawed, and I'll show you their flaw. (Hubris? Narcissism?) -- Everyone is flawed in some way or another. 

When you write a character that doesn't have any flaws causing problems in their life, they won't come across as real. They'll come across as manufactured. 

The two main characters here, Joe and Jeff, both have incredible flaws. 

Jeff is a sociopath. Flaws don't get much bigger than that. Sociopathic personalities make for incredible characters. They understand that what they do is wrong, but they don't feel any emotion about it. 

The main problem (aside from the clunky writing) is the relevance of this story.

Sure, it's incredibly well told, the characters are great and the structure is great, but ultimately do people still care enough about this killer to warrant this story being made?

For what ever reason, society in general has a morbid fascination with serial killers. The Green Beret Killer is not a serial killer. He's a father that is accused of flipping out and murdering his family. 

As horrific as that is, I ask again, is there enough 'weight' behind that killing to justify a feature film being made? 

Sadly, I'd personally answer no. 

In Cold Blood was incredible for a number of reasons. Foremost because it was the first of its kind. Capote invented True Crime with that book. The film Capote was about an iconic writer and his battle with alcoholism. 

Here we have a writer also battling alcoholism, but is he iconic? Nope. Not in the way Capote was. Also, the book made it to number 6 on the New York Times best seller list. 


Not 1.

But 6. 

Says a lot about public interest in the story at the time (1983). Imagine public interest in this story today.


Concept here is pretty low. It's true crime about a murder. A family murder. 

That's it. If this were a serial killer I could get behind the idea more. But it's not. 

The story behind the Zodiac Killer made for a great film. The story of the Green Beret Killer is nothing in comparison.


CONCEPT TIP: Is your story relevant? Is it really worthy of being made into a film. If your honest answer to that is 'no', no matter how well you write it, it's going to be a hard sell.


All over the place. CAPS are used in dialogue. The descriptions are SOOOOOO over written it's not funny. Which is a shame as the actual writing is great, but there is literally 4 times too much here.

Really needs a trim.


FORM TIP: Learn the freakin' rules. There are some really simple formatting rules for screen writing. You're only going to help yourself if you take the time to learn them.  Buy How Not To Write A Screenplay. It's a great book. 


Structure here was pretty damn good. That stemmed from Joe's fantastic set of flaws. He had a lot to work through. When your hero has flaws you have structure beats that you can use to guide your story. 


STRUCTURE TIP: If you have flaws in your hero, be sure to resolve them in some way. Giving a hero a flaw at the start of the film, then having them kind of confront the flaw, only to revert to their old ways by the end of the film is almost as bad as not giving your hero a flaw in the first place.


Really well developed characters here. Even the ancillary players popped. They all had their own distinct way about them. If anything, this script is worth the read as a character study. 


CHARACTER TIP: Be careful to make sure your main characters stand apart. This film would have failed if Joe and Jeff's personalities had crossed over too much. They crossed over to an extent, which made their friendship seem genuine, but there was enough clarity of difference between the two for their unique identities to shine through.


Dialogue was well written. There weren't too many 'hold the phone' moments, but there was never a piece of dialogue that dropped the ball, that felt unwarranted or out of place. 


DIALOGUE TIP: Until you are sure you're really good at writing dialogue I would suggest playing it on the safe side. That's not to say you shouldn't try to give your characters their own unique voice, what I mean is to watch how far you push the way a character speaks. Err on the side of caution when trying to write spritely dialogue. 


Drowned out by the over writing. Which is a shame as I'm sure the voice could be significant here. The story is incredibly well told, the characters, the dialogue, if only the descriptions were 1/4 the size, the voice of this writer would have had a chance to shine.


VOICE TIP: Give your writing a chance to be read. If you're writing descriptions that are 7-10 lines long, very few readers will take the time to read them. When a reader is skim reading they don't get a chance to fully appreciate your writing style. They're only getting snippets of it.


I wouldn't put money down on this.

There just isn't enough gravitas to the story for it to warrant drawing a big enough crowd.

It's period - negative.

Multiple locations - negative.

Cast - medium sized - kind of negative. 

No VFX - positive.

Not much in the favor of this script when you look at it from a commercial stand point. 

It'd be a 20 mill + production.


Despite the writing being super dense, this is a brilliant story well told. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough 'weight' to the concept to make this into anything like Capote or Zodiac.