Sunday, 17 January 2016

THE BABYSITTER - HORROR COMEDY

LOGLINE: A​ young boy gets more than he bargained for when he decides to stay up late and spy on his super-hot babysitter.

WRITER: Brian Duffield

INITIAL REACTION:

You can't help but wonder at Brian's incredible use of dialogue. That's what sets this script apart from the rest. This story is super simple, but very effective. There's no gray area here, you know precisely what's going on at any given moment. 

Its pacing is lightning fast. It's leanly written and comes in at just under 90 pages. There's a very important lesson to be learned here. If you're dealing with a simple idea, with straight forward characters and pretty much only one storyline, not many stories woven together, then it's imperative you don't over stay your welcome. 

Many screenplays are over written. The Babysitter is not. 

Most of Brian's screenplays are great. Monster Problems is fantastic, as is, Your Bridesmaid is a Bitch. Wasn't a massive fan of Jane's Got a Gun, but I'll be interested to see the film. 

Jane - was a departure from the comedic for Brian, and that's where I feel his edge lies. When you move away from your strength as a writer it's easy to meld back into the great unwashed, which is what happened with Jane. 

No doubt, if the film fails everything but the writer will be blamed. The production has had a bumpy run, but ultimately screenplays are the blue print for the film. If you're working from a mediocre script, unless you have a visionary director it's not going to wow the masses. 

But we're not here to talk about Jane, we're here to look at The Babysitter. 

This script was incredible fun and fast, but it has TWO major bullet holes that I'll get into in the structure department.

For now, let's get into it...

STORY:

COLE is a 12 year old only child. He has a close friend MELANIE that also happens to be his next-door neighbor. Then there's BEE, about 18 years old, Bee is Cole's super hot babysitter.

Cole has trouble with some guys at school who bully him. It's not American History X level bullying, it's just some regular playground push around stuff. 

Bee comes to Cole's rescue then escorts him home.

That night, Cole's parents head off for a night at a hotel and Bee babysits  Cole.

Cole and Bee have fun in a way only made up characters can have. Everything they say to each other is hilarious, everything they do together is super fun. 

Except for the age gap, these two were made for each other. Or so it would seem. To make sure that Cole will get a good night's sleep, Bee gives him a shot of baileys. Cole pretends to drink it, but spits it out when Bee's back is turned. 

Later that night, Cole is having trouble sleeping. He Facetimes with Melanie when Bee invites a gang of her friends over to hang out. 

Cole gets curious to hear what it is that big-kids get up to after hours, so he sneaks down to the top of the stairs, where he witnesses Bee take two huge butchers knives and ram them into the skull of the newest member of their group. 

As Brian writes it so eloquently in his script:

WHAT THE FUCK

Brian fills up an entire page with that.

Cole freaks out. He runs back to bed and hides under the covers, faking sleep. Bee and her crew check on Cole, then take blood samples from him while he 'sleeps'.

After the blood donation, Bee and her gang leave Cole's room. Cole calls 911, then tries to flee, but he faints as Bee drew too much blood from him. 

Cole then wakes, tied to a chair in his own home, surrounded by this murderous cult. 

Will Cole be able to fight his way out of this, or will he go the way of double-knife-in-the-head-guy?


CONCEPT:

The ideas here is one that relies on execution. It's something that could easily be very poorly written in the hands of the wrong writer.

"Cult serial killer babysitter messes with the wrong kid." If someone pitched you that, you can easily visualise the story, but it's not something that blows your socks off.

Brian, being the great writer that he is, does manage to deliver on the premise, but the stronger your foundation, the more sturdy the house of your story. 

So while the concept here is fun and has broad appeal, it doesn't rate as high as many other ideas out there. 

CONCEPT 6.5/10

CONCEPT TIP: Beware the exception to the rule. Many writers will read Babysitter and say, 'huh, I've got a draw full of simple concepts like this, I'll write them up, easy money.' Bad move. Unless you've got uber dialogue chops like Brian, and his razor sharp sense of humor, odds are those scripts will fall flat on their face.

Don't think that just because one writer has managed to get a really simple, not terribly elevated idea through the system that it justifies you not putting in your A game. 

Work on your concept until it's a uniquely great idea that is easily imaginable. If you run with a mediocre idea, odds are your script will not zing.

FORM:

Again, Brian is the exception to the rule.

Brian uses bold. Brian talks to the reader. Brian uses caps in dialogue, he over uses exclamation marks. Brian breaks a lot of formatting rules.

But do you know what? 

Brian's allowed to. Because a) he's established. He has people in the industry that love his work. b) Brian's dialogue, sense of humor and character work set him apart from the rest. 

Don't be fooled into thinking that just because Brian breaks these rules it's okay for everyone else too. It really doesn't work like that.

There are formatting guidelines for a reason. If you're an unknown with poor character development and flat dialogue and a so-so sense of humor, AND your script has formatting issues - your script will be in the slush pile after reading the first few pages. 

Readers will forgive poor form if you have great character/dialogue/story in your screenplay. Brian nails those in spades.

FORM RATING: 5/10

FORM TIP: Form is the EASIEST part of screen writing to learn. Buy a copy of How Not To Write A Screenplay. You'll save yourself unnecessary rejection.

STRUCTURE:

Brian gave our hero a good, relatable flaw here. Not standing up for himself. At the start of the script he's bullied by some kids. It's not hardcore bullying, it's just some regular stuff. You get the feeling that if Cole just threw one punch at this guy the bully would turn tail and run. 

But Cole is too meek to do that.

The rest of the story then plays nicely on Cole's flaw. The inciting incident TESTS Cole's flaw. It puts him in a situation where he either learns to stand up and defend himself, or he'll die. 

Literally.

To that end this script has a solid structure. It doesn't nail every beat of the Hero's Journey, but that's fine. Brian understands structure. He knows when he's veering away from it. And the story as a whole works really well.

There are, as mentioned, two MAJOR bullet holes in this script.

***Serious spoilers...

1) Cole escapes at one point and runs outside to hide. He crawls under the house and uses the light from his iPhone to shine the way.

Stop right there. 

If your hero is in trouble and has access to a cell phone that works. 

MAKE HIM USE IT! MAKE HIM CALL THE COPS!

That's an absolute no brainer to my mind. It's one of those moments you find yourself yelling at the character - 'Why don't you just phone the cops?'

2) Later on, Cole runs next door into Melanie's house. 

FOR NO REASON Cole decides NOT to tell Melanie's dad that there is a murderous cult next door. 

NO REASON?

What?

That's the very definition of a bullet hole. When a character doesn't do something that any normal person would. NO MATTER what the context of your story, you need to follow the LOGIC of the world you have created. 

These are two major bullet holes, but there are easy fixes for both of them.

1) Take away Cole's iPhone. It's not imperative he has it. You could just as easily give Cole a flash light. You can't phone the police from a flashlight. Problem solved.

2) Is a little more difficult, but without getting into them, a couple of ideas spring to mind for a work around for this caveat. I just hope the producers plug these holes before they go into production.

CHARACTERS:

Characters here are fantastic. Every character pops. Every character feels real. This all stems from Brian's unique dialogue.

CHARACTER RATING: 8/10

CHARACTER TIP: Think outside the box. The characters here don't do anything spectacular, they're just one notch above ordinary. But being that most writers write two notches below ordinary, that's all Brian needed to do make his characters stand out. 

Take an ordinary character, then think of ONE CLEVER way you can elevate them, make them stand out.

DIALOGUE:

Wow. Just wow. This is why this screenplay works. This is why Brian is a successful screen writer. He understands humor, he understands dry wit. He understands the importance of having characters pop off the page by dialogue. 

I won't get into the break down of HOW his dialogue works. I suggest you read and listen to the flow of his dialogue exchanges. There's bucket loads to be learnt from Brian's style.

DIALOGUE RATING 9/10

DIALOGUE TIP:  The way you execute your dialogue sets the tone of your film. Star Wars suffered for ill placed humor in its dialogue. Here, the humor is so well placed t's what makes the script. But if this film were going for a straight horror tone, the comedic elements wouldn't work here. Understand the tone you're going for before you start writing, then let your dialogue convey that.

VOICE:

Brian has one of the most distinct voices there is in Hollywood today. If you had no idea who wrote this script but you were familiar with Biran's style, you could tell within two pages that this was a Brian Duffield script.

Read Brian's work. Think about his style. I don't recommend you try to emulate, as that will at best come off as a carbon copy. You have to create a style that fits you. 

Everyone has their own voice. But the good news is that you can refine and change that voice. How you do it is up to you. 

VOICE RATING: 9.5/10

VOICE TIP: Create your own style, but be conscious of why you write the way you do. If you find yourself copying someone else, beware, that will often come across as phoney. Be true to your own voice. 

PRODUCTION:

Low cast count.

One main location.

Dialogue that explodes off the page.

Killer characters.

No brainer. Less than 5 mill easy beans.

This script is made to make money.


SUMMARY:

It's a winner. While the story does have two major bullet holes, these are not fatal wounds. This script will become a fun fast horror comedy. It's almost certainly guaranteed to make money because of the above noted production reasons. 

I look forward to seeing this as a film, hopefully with those bullet holes plugged up.

OVERALL RATING 8/10.