Monday, 18 January 2016

THE ROCKET - SPORTS BIOPIC

LOGLINE: Roger “The Rocket” Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, has 4672 strikeouts, 354 wins and a record 7 Cy Young awards. This is the story of why he is not in the Hall of Fame.

WRITERS: Jeffrey Gelber & Ryan Belenzon

SCRIPT BIO: Tied for 3rd place with 37 votes on the 2015 Black List.

INITIAL REACTION:

This script was excellently written. Right away you can tell that the writers have a great grasp of how to tell a story. It's interesting how easy it is, after reading just one page, to tell if the writers actually know how to write to not.

But the problem with this screenplay, the question I kept asking myself as I read, is - why do I care?

That's a huge hurdle for any script. No matter how great the execution of your story, if your reader isn't interested in the subject matter, it's not going to go well. 

This screenplay is about baseball. Or rather a recent 'scandal' that happened in baseball. I'm not a baseball fan, and the whole while as I read, I was bored. 

Now here's the thing. I'm not into baseball in anyway, but I LOVED Moneyball.

Why? Because there, the story was about more than baseball. It was about an underdog against the system. A guy who went outside the box and was laughed at by his peers. So for the whole film we were rooting for his success.

There was no one to root for here in The Rocket... not in the way that we got behind Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball.

Let's get into it.

THE STORY:

Rocket is written in a dual timeline format. In 2008, we find BRIAN (40s) testifying against ROGER the ROCKET CLEMENS at a congressional hearing into steroid use.

We then cut back to 1998 and meet Brian and Roger before it came to this. 

Brian follows his dream and goes to work for the Blue Jays. Here his job is to get an out of shape Roger the Rocket into shape and make sure that he makes 10 starts. 

At first there's a small amount of conflict between the two. Roger puts Brian through a series of commitment tests, all of which he passes with flying colors, and finally a respect develops between the two.

They train and work hard, bringing Roger The Rocket back into shape. 

As the years roll by and their relationship develops, Roger starts using steroids of his own free will. In fact, he enlists Brian to be his go-for boy, sending him out to buy them for him. He also makes Brian inject him with them. 

Even though Brian knows this is not going to end well, he keeps doing it regardless, so is his infatuation with Roger The Rocket.

Jumping between the two time lines, we know that this ends terribly. The question that drives this story is how?

And also, what will the outcome of the congressional hearing yield.

Let's break this down...

CONCEPT:

This script falls apart in the concept department. 'A biopic about alleged steroid use in baseball.' That is not an idea that excites me. Maybe there is a select audience out there that will be interested in this, but outside of that demograph, this idea is a very hard sell.

CONCEPT RATING: 5/10

CONCEPT TIP: If the backbone of your idea only excites a small audience, think of a way to execute your story that will broaden the appeal to the masses. Moneyball was not a story about baseball. It was a story about an underdog against the system trying to prove his peers wrong. Trying to succeed in the face of sever opposition. That is a universal theme. 

There was no universal theme in Rocket.

FORM:

Form was tight here. Though it does use bold, a huge no-no. And it is a little over written. This script was 117 pages long. Could have been 105 and still told the same story.

The writing was strong enough for you to over look any form mistakes.

FORM RATING 7/10

FORM TIP: If your writing is strong, readers are more likely to forgive your form errors. If you are breaking form rules, make sure you know that you are, and you're doing it for a reason.

STRUCTURE:

This is a biopic, and biopics don't necessarily have to follow the Hero's Journey structure as the truth of the story is more important than adhering to the HJ beats.

With that said you need to make sure that there is a strong enough engine driving the story. Here the engine are the two questions - HOW did they come to be enemies. WHAT will the verdict of the hearing be?

Here, the engine just was't enough. It ran out of steam half way through. 

STRUCTURE RATING: 6/10

STRUCTURE TIP: Ask yourself, do you have enough intrigue to keep an ever increasingly fickle ADHD prone audience engaged for 100 minutes? If the answer is 'maybe?' You need to reevaluate your story engine. 

CHARACTERS:

Characters here were well executed. They were consistent, well rounded and felt very real. This is a testimony to the writers chops. 

If these writers were to turn their hands to a more universal story, something with a wider appeal, I'm sure they could create something memorable. 

CHARACTER RATING 7.5/10

CHARACTER TIP: Once you have established who your characters are, and what we expect of them, throw us a curveball. Have those characters go outside their predefined constraints. It will make the reader sit up and pay attention. It will make the audience reengage with your story. Don't be afraid to surprise us.

DIALOGUE: 

Dialogue ties back into character creation. This was done very well here. While the characters didn't explode off the page, they definitely had a sense of clarity and reality about them. 

There were a lot of ancillary characters in this script, but it was always clear who they were because of the great execution of their dialogue.

DIALOGUE RATING: 7.5/10

DIALOGUE TIP: Make sure your TWO MAIN characters, hero and antagonist, have uniquely different ways of speaking. When these two characters are homogenous your story is going to read flat. 

VOICE:

Voice here was okay. The writers' style is nothing compared to Brian Duffield, but they do have a quiet confidence to their writing.

Brian is all show and flair, something that he nails. These two writers are those quiet guys at the back of the class that don't contribute to discussion time but always get 95% on the exam.

VOICE 6.5/10

VOICE TIP: Establish your style then stay true to yourself. Don't imitate. If these two writers had attempted to add more flair it could easily have distracted from the story. Make sure your writing style suits the story your telling. 

PRODUCTION:

This is not a script I'd put money into.

Aside from the large charter count and multiple locations, you have the problem of getting the copyright approval of all the major baseball teams. 

That's not going to come cheap. 

And being that this is essentially a sports drama, not a genre with a good financial yield record, you would need A list names to get this one financed.

You'll be look at upwards of 40 million. 

Not a safe bet.

SUMMARY:

While it is well written, the story just doesn't engage. I don't really feel that this story warrants being told, not in the big screen format. Sure, it could make an interesting TV movie, put it together for under 3 million and you would have a hit. 

OVERALL RATING 5.5/10