Thursday, 28 January 2016

NYAD - BIOPIC

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

STORY:

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. 

Hooray!

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.

INITIAL REACTION:

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.

Why?

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.

CONCEPT:

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 RATING: 6/10

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.

FORM;

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

FORM RATING: 9/10

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.

STRUCTURE:

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 RATING 7/10

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. 

CHARACTERS:

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

CHARACTER RATING: 7/10

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.

DIALOGUE:

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 RATING 8/10

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. 

VOICE:

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 RATING: 8/10

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. 

PRODUCTION:

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. 

No VFX.

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. 

SUMMARY:

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. 

OVERALL RATING: 7/10