Thursday, 21 January 2016

REAGAN - FICTIONAL BIOPIC

LOGLINE: When Ronald Reagan falls into dementia at the start of his second term, an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander in chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.

WRITER: MIKE ROSOLIO

SCRIPT BIO: 25 votes on the 2015 black list.

INITIAL REACTION:

This script felt like it's almost there, but not quite. The writing is good, but not exceptional. The idea is fun, but not great. The characters interesting but not poping off the page. Everything about it felt like it just fell short of what it wanted to be. 

I think one of the major problems with the script lies in the concept side of things. This is a fictional biopic. It's loosely based on some real world events. Reagan did have dementia, there were nefarious dealings going on in the white house under Reagan's nose. 

The problem with fictional biopics lies in the word 'fictional'. People tend to enjoy biopics because the events really happened. Or at least the majority of the important events did. We, as an audience will allow a writer a certain amount of creative license,  but when that artistic freedom veers the story too far off track we start to check out.

There are circumstances where you can take artistic license to an extreme and the audience will allow you, but that only works when it's obvious that what you're doing is fiction, and that fictional element had better be entertaining. 

Audiences don't like to be lied to. There is a big difference between not telling an audience something for the sake of suspense or mystery, and presenting something as true when really it's not. 

There's different levels of lying. When a story is set in the real world with real characters, audiences expect a level of authenticity. 

You might say Inglorious Basterds lied to the audience in that sense, but it was still successful. That's correct, but IB never claimed to be a factual retelling of events. In fact it's a dark comedy in a lot of ways, and it set out to be a revisionist retelling of events. 

Reagan never quite goes far enough with the idea. It stays too safe, and consequently the reader is constantly asking, 'Is this real? Should I take this seriously? Or is this just a fun revisionist piece?'


THE STORY:

Reagan has just won his second term in office but his brain checked out long ago. He is no longer aware of reality on any level. He thinks he is an actor, not the president of the U.S.

We join FRANK CORDEN (20s). An underling on capitol hill using his Princeton degree to make coffee for low rung political folk. 

He comes from a relatively wealthy family. His father is suffering from early stage dementia, and his brother is a TV commercial director. 

Dismayed with his political career  Frank spends a day on set with his brother and gets a crash course in directing petulant actors.

This comes in handy the very next day when President Reagan has to give an acceptance speech but refuses as no one has told him where his 'mark' is. 

The 'mark' being the place the actor is supposed to stand to deliver their lines.

Seeing that Reagan is suffering from dementia, Frank takes a chance and yells at Reagan as though he were his director commanding him to get out there for another take. 

Everyone thinks that Frank has gone too far. The secret service men are ready to shoot him, but lo-and-behold, Reagan reacts to the voice of an authoritative director and  does as he's told, delivering a great speech.

Franks is then quickly enlisted as Reagan's handler. His job is to coax Reagan through the rest of his term in office, convincing him that he is an actor playing the role of president.

All the while Reagan's chiefs of staff are using his dementia to their own ends, importing cocaine by the tonne and selling weapons to insurgents around the world for profit.

The question becomes, will Frank be able to keep the charade going, and what will he do when he learns of the corruption going on at the highest levels.


CONCEPT:

The idea here is a mixed bag. Ask yourself, would you pay money to see a fictional biopic about Reagan's dementia? Sure, there is a demograph for this concept, I just don't feel that it's large enough to justify this getting made. 

If the Cohen brothers were behind this and some serious A talent, then it could fly well. But this idea feels very execution dependant. 

CONCEPT RATING: 5/10

CONCEPT TIP: Be sure your idea is so strong it will fill seats on the premise alone. The idea here is niche at best. If your idea isn't a seat filler then you've stacked the deck against yourself from the start.

FORM:

Form here was fine. It wasn't too over written. It could have been trimmed 10% but then most scripts could and often are in the production process. The writing is clean and clear, and there is a good adherence to all the screenwriting formatting rules.

FORM RATING: 8/10

FORM TIP: Keep it clean and clear. This script an easy read  (for one reason) because there 
was no bold. No unnecessary use of CAPS or underlining, and the paragraphs were kept to three lines or less the majority of the time. 

STRUCTURE:

Structure here was well executed. There was a clear journey for Frank. His flaw could have been amped a little. His flaw is that he's too meek and mild for the world of politics. He needs to grow a pair (politically speaking) if he's to survive in this world. His journey is well crafted. 

One element that was a problem here was that Frank's flaw didn't endear us to him. He was too meek and mild. It was hard to like a character that had so little spine. 

STRUCTURE RATING: 8/10

STRUCTURE TIP: Make us like your hero before you show us their flaw. If you show us their flaw and that trait makes the hero unlikeable, then it's a hard slog to win the audience over to feeling empathy for your hero. 

CHARACTERS: 

Characters here felt like they could use another pass. While there was nothing terribly wrong with any of them, there wasn't one character that really jumped off the stage. There wasn't one that made you sit up and pay attention. 

Frank was interesting, but he had no edge to him. There were no chances taken with any of the characters here. When you play it safe, odds are your characters will come off as vanilla.

CHARACTER RATING: 6.5/10

CHARACTER TIP: Do  a 'Character Pop Pass' of your script. Once you have your structure down and you're happy with where the script is sitting, go through and see if you can re-work each scene to add more spice. 

DIALOGUE:

Dialogue leads on from character. There better you understand your characters, the better their dialogue will flow. 

Again, here, the dialogue was sufficient. But there were few lines that were pause for reflection. There were one or two humorous moments but not as many as a script like this could have. 

This could have been a dark comedy, which in some ways it is, but the comedy elements were left wanting. There is a lot of room for comedic moments that were missed.

DIALOGUE RATING 6/10

DIALOGUE TIP: Think about the tone of your film. What genre are you writing. A lot of writers don't ask this question until after they've written their script. Knowing what your genre is from the get go will dictate how you write the tone of the script. 

This script felt like it started out as a political drama, then slowly edged it's way into comedy as it was written. If it was written with a dark comedic edge from the get go it could have been more than it is in this current draft.

VOICE:

The voice here didn't stand out at all. The writing, while proficient, is not memorable in any way. 

VOICE RATING: 5/10

VOICE TIP: Voice stems from the chances you take. If you take no chances in any way shape or form in your script, odds are your voice will blend into the din. 


PROUDUCTION:

No VFX is good.

It's a straight forward drama, which is easy to shoot.

Will need A list to get it up - negative in some ways.

This would be a 15 mill piece. A good producer could get it done on less than 10, but being that it's a character piece dependant on talent, it couldn't go much below the 10 mill mark.

Political dramas don't fair too well at the box office. Fictional political dramas even worse.

To that end I wouldn't put money down on this.

SUMMARY:

A fun idea that could use a stronger execution. The structure is fine here. No real need to change anything on that level. It's the scene level execution that could use some electricity. 

Also the characters and dialogue could use another pass. 

But these elements are easier to rework than structure. To that end I applaud the writer. Structure is the hardest element to nail. Once you have that in place, all the rest is cosmetic. 

OVERALL RATING 6.5/10