Monday, 25 January 2016

THE FISHERMAN - DRAMA

LOGLINE: A fisherman sails out of Martha’s Vineyard in search of the shark that killed his fellow sailors while they were stranded in the water for four days after their ship was attacked by a Japanese submarine.

WRITER: Will Dunn

SCRIPT BIO: 18 votes on the 2015 black list.

STORY:

This is the genesis story of QUINT from Jaws. How he came to have such an incredible chip on shoulder when it comes to sharks. 

The story is told in dual time line, jumping between 1945 and 1946. In 1945 Quint and his comrades deliver the first atomic bomb to an island near Japan, but shortly after delivery their ship is sunk and they spend four days floating in the sea waiting to be rescued. 

All the while the sharks are having a feeding frenzy. In 1945 we also meet Laura. Quint's love interest. It's not a natural fit, these two are from different worlds, but there's chemistry enough to make it happen. 

In 1946. Quint tries to reintegrate back into society but he's plagued by day light hallucinations of the horrors he witnessed during those four days in the water. 

Laura wants to marry Quint, her wealthy and powerful father is even okay with this, but Quint knows he is damaged goods beyond repair. 

The only way he's going to be able to beat these hallucination demons is if he goes back out there and kills a shark. The bigger the better. 

The question becomes, will Quint survive the ordeal, and will it do anything toward quelling his terror visions.

INITIAL REACTION:

There's a lot of good here, but there's just as much bad. I'll start with the good. 

This is a very deep story. We are taken into the depths of a mind suffering from some pretty heinous PTSD. It is almost a horror film in that sense. A good chunk of the film is set in the water, with Quint and his men being picked off one by one by the sharks. 

The psychological terror reminds me of Jacob's Ladder, while the real life terror of being eaten alive by sharks echoes Open Water. 

There's definitely a market for this story if executed well. 

It also doesn't go into any cheesy areas. None of the moments come across as contrived for the sake of story, none of the characters, none of the dialogue - everything feels genuine, which only adds to the sense of terror throughout. 

It's not a happy ending either. I could imagine a lesser writer trying to wedge some happiness into the close of the film, but it's not like that, which again, only adds to the authenticity of the piece. 

Now the negatives --

It's very slow moving. I mean molasses slow. And that comes back to the nature of the story itself. There's not a huge amount going on. 

Quint meets Laura. Small affair. Quint goes out to sea. Deliver bomb. No problem there, then boom, they're hit by torpedoes, they go in the water where they float about for 4 days then get rescued. 

Quint then suffers from PTSD, ruins his relationship with Laura, and goes and kills a shark to exact revenge and hopefully clear up his daylight hallucinations.

That's the entire story in a nutshell. 

The story really gets into the minutiae. Quint spends a huge swathe of the story in the water trying not to be eaten, and a huge swathe on the boat hunting the shark. It felt like we were in the water and on the boat for about 80% of the film.

Put simply, things got dull. There's only so many daylight hallucinations we can endure before the effect of them start to wear off. 

Like wise, watching people float in water while sharks are after them, is scary at first, but soon grows tiresome.

The problem here lies in the lack of goals. 

When they're in the water the goal is - avoid getting eaten. But the problem with that goal is it's open ended. If they had a focus, get to that buoy then get to that small shoal, then get to X, then try to do Y, then their time in the water could have been broken up into smaller bites, each bite with its own goal. This would have focused their time in the water and made it far more interesting. 

The second goal is 'go out and kill the shark'. The problem with this goal is that it's a self imposed goal. While it could be argued, that unless Quint goes out and kills a shark he'll be tormented by his PTSD the rest of his life, we all know that killing a shark isn't going to put his demons to bed.

Again, this final goal is just one long goal. It's not broken up into increments. He goes out. Lays some chum, waits, reels in the shark. 

The original Jaws did an incredible job of breaking up their time on the water. There are very clear stages in their attack on JAWS. 

There's also the problem with knowing the outcome of the story. Quint is an iconic character. Pretty much every film goer knows about Quint.

So when we see him go down in the water, we KNOW he survives. We also know, because he's in the film Jaws, that he survives his ordeal when he's hunting the shark.

When we know for sure that a character will survive an ordeal, it makes the ordeal that much less interesting to watch. 

CONCEPT:

The concept here is fifty-fifty. It's clever because Hollywood LOVES stories that revolve around existing intellectual properties. It saves them having to market the hell out of the story. 

You say 'the genesis story of Quint form Jaws,' and a lot of your marketing is done for you. The problem is, the speech from Quint in the original Jaws is so famous, when people clue into the fact that this entire story is a dramatisation of that one monologue, people already know the story through and through. There's not much intrigue left. 

With the pre-existing IP angle aside, this concept becomes, 'a soldier must hunt and kill a shark to try and beat his PTSD, after seeing hundreds of his fellow soldiers eaten alive when his ship went down in WW2.'

That's a messy concept. It doesn't pop. The story line is muddied. There's also two very clear time lines set way apart from each other. 

Film concepts work better when they're set within one linear time line. 

The concept is also straight character driven drama. There's no unique hook here. 

It's basically, 'Soldier deals with PTSD after horrific incident in war.' That's not a high concept. 

CONCEPT RATING: 6/10

CONCEPT TIP: Break down your concept. If you have a hard time coming up with a short sentence that encapsulates your idea and SELLS it in an easy way, odds are your story will be messy and convoluted. The easy to understand ideas make the best films.


FORM:

Not so great here. Bold sluglines. Over use of parenthesis. Directing the actor in the dialogue. Use of italic in dialogue. 

All of these are no-no's.

Also, waaaaaaay over written. This script is 110 pages long. Seems short huh? Nope. It's very densely written. 

There's a lot of prose writing here. What do I mean by prose? The kind of writing you'd find in a novel. 

FORM RATING 5/10

FORM TIP: Keep your writing lean and clear. Don't get into flowery descriptions. It slows the read down.

STRUCTURE:

There was no real flaw here, well at least not for the first half of the film. His flaw developed after the event in the ocean. 

The structure would have been stronger if Quint had a flaw earlier on. Perhaps something that leads into his PTSD flaw later on. 

because of that lack of flaw, and the story jumping between two time lines - the structure was unorthodox here.

Does it work? Yes, to a degree. But it could be a lot better.

STRUCTURE RATING 5.5/10

STRUCTURE TIP: If your hero doesn't have a clear flaw then your story will be meandering. Also, if your story doesn't have clear goals that keep it focused, your structure will come across as disjointed, as it does here.

CHARACTERS:

When you have a pre-drawn character such as the iconic Quint from Jaws, you have a lot to live up to when writing their genesis story. Alas, the character composition fell short here. 

It only felt like Quint was really half of who he could have been. There is a lot of room to move with his character, but there were no real chances taken. Consequently he comes off as vanilla.

The same goes with the ancillary players here. They all sort of blended into one. There was very little distinction between them.

Laura, also came across as vanilla. She was a YES character. She said yes to anything the hero wanted. That means the hero doesn't really have to fight for what he wants. Imagine in Star Wars if Princess Leia had been a one scene push over? How that would have resonated throughout the story? 

CHARACTER RATING: 6/10

CHARACTER TIP: Don't make it too easy for your hero. If they want something, put as many obstacles in their way and hold off letting them get that something until the final minute. 


DIALOGUE: 

Swing and a miss. Especially given the pedigree of writing that setup this character in the original Jaws. Quint in the first Jaws spoke in a very unique way. I would have hoped that they studied how he spoke, then brought that particular style to this story, alas his voice didn't shine through here. 

DIALOGUE RATING 5/10

DIALOGUE TIP: Understand how it is your character is going to speak before you start to write. If you feel your character out as you write, odds are your character will have one voice at the start of the film and a different voice toward the end as you have developed their style. 

VOICE:

This script was too over written and too slow moving for the voice to really stand out.

That said, there is a consistent tone of terror here which elevated the writing somewhat. 

VOICE RATING: 6/10

VOICE TIP: If your script is overwritten with dense description, unless the writing is incredible, odds are the reader will start to skim read. Don't give them that opportunity. Trim back your script and let your voice shine through.

PRODUCTION:

This is a war drama. Only when done on the Saving Private Ryan scale of things do war dramas make money. 

This would be a HUGE production.

Shooting on water - massive negative. Pushes the budget through the roof.

Huge ancillary cast. In the hundreds - negative.

VFX - negative.

Period - negative. 

Low concept character driven drama - negative.

I sincerely doubt this film would make money. 

I wouldn't invest, that's for sure. 

SUMMARY:

There is a dark sense of dread and terror throughout this script. To that end I applaud the writer. But the story is too slow and over written for it to really get going.

Factor in the open ended and arguably unnecessary goals and this script fails to find its focus. 

It's a character driven drama that could work if the characters and the dialogue were given some more focus. 

OVERALL RATING 6/10