Tuesday, 5 January 2016

105 AND RISING - TRUE WAR

LOGLINE: Amid the chaos of a failing nation on April 29, 1975, the objective was clear: safely evacuate all remaining Americans from saigon. But to Major Jim Kean and Ambassador graham Martin, the moment represented something else: the final opportunity to uphold promises and obligation to the people of South Vietnam. 

ABOUT: Received 7 votes on the 2015 BlackList. 114 pages.

WRITER: Andrew Cypiot

AGENCY: Verve - Parker Davis, Adam Weinstein

CONCEPT:
America has lost the war in Vietnam. An ageing diplomat, Graham Martin, an ineffective troglodyte is sent  to oversee America's withdrawal. Captain Jim Kean lives in Hong Kong with his wife Rosanne. He's completed two tours and won medals. He's done his time, but a guilt over the war finds him a willing hero to return to Vietnam and assist in America's withdrawal. 

As the North Vietnamese Army encroach upon Saigon, Martin and Kean butt heads over the best way to deal with America's withdrawal. Martin buries his head in the sand as Kean does everything he can to prepare for the evacuation of nearly 7000 people. 

THE IDEA:
America's withdrawal from Vietnam. 

Simply judging the concept alone, is this something I'd want to see? If someone said to you, 'so, do you want to see a film about America's withdrawal from Vietnam?' Outside of cinephiles and history buffs, I doubt this concept would elicit a positive response. 

It's the emotional angle that works in this story. The underdog, (Kean) fighting against the red-tape imposed by his superiors (namely Martin) that makes the story. 

But judging this story purely from its concept, it's not an easy sell.

CONCEPT RATING - 5/10

CONEPT TIP: If the shell of your concept isn't an easy sell, find the hook in your story and focus your longline on that. In 105 - the hook is Kean fighting against the bureaucracy. Focus on the angle in your story that is most likely to engage who you're pitching to. 

FORM:
Form is how the writing is presented on the page.

105 uses BOLD for its sluglines. As a general rule of thumb, never use bold in your screenplay. It is tempting to use bold for sluglines, but ultimately it makes the page look messier, and as you read it causes your eye to drift away from where you're reading. 

105 has a lot of paragraphs that are 5 lines long. You never want to have a 5 line paragraph in your script. Allow yourself a handful of 4 line paragraphs, otherwise keep it to 3 lines or less. 2 lines is ideal. 

Spelling was pretty good. Only a handful of spelling mistakes. 

105 has a lot of over description. Unnecessary detail. Keep descriptions pertinent. 

FORM RATING 6/10

CHARACTERS

Martin and Kean are the two primary characters. There was a good opportunity to create two distinctly different characters here, but they're only separated by their goals and the way they pursue them. The make-up of each character was fairly thin.

As for supporting roles, none of the characters were really brought to life. They all blended into slightly different versions of the same. 

CHARACTER RATING 6/10

CHARACTER TIP: Give characters unique eccentricities to help define them and create a sense of three dimensionality. 

DIALOGUE

A great way to differentiate your characters is through the way they speak. Here, again. 105 missed the mark. It has two main characters from very different walks of life, which gives an opportunity to define them by the way they talk. But 105 missed that boat. A good test of your dialogue is -- if you removed the character name from the script, would you be able to tell who was talking at any given time simply by the way they speak? If the answer is no, you need to rework your dialogue. 

I had a screenplay optioned by a production company where this was the very problem. The producers asked that I revise the script, making each character distinctly different from each other. 

The script had 5 main characters. It forced me to me go back to understanding the essence of what motivated each character, what their background was, who they really were, in order to discover the way they spoke. 

This process was incredibly helpful. It not only improved the dialogue manifold, I learnt more about my characters in general, about their lives and back story, which fed into the decisions they made. 

I can't recommend this process enough. Understanding why your characters speak the way they do will feed into your entire screenplay.

DIALOGUE TIP: Each characters voice must be distinctly different. Understand who your character is and why they speak the way they do.

DIALOGUE RATING 6/10

VOICE
Voice is the x-factor. The verve and style with which a writer writes. 

Some writers take a while to get used to their style, but when you do it becomes enjoyable. Others are easy to read, others more complex. Each writer has their own unique style. 

The voice of 105 was functional. It felt like we were in the hands of someone who had done slightly more work on creating this world than your average screenwriter. 

This screenplay was an instance of writing that takes a little while to get used to, but once you're in the vein, the reading becomes easier. 

105 doesn't have a hugely unique voice, but it's not bad either. 

VOICE RATING 6/10

VOICE TIP: We're all capable of writing in many different styles. Finding your voice is incredibly important. Voice shines through in your confidence of your style. Sometimes I read a screenplay where the writer is finding their voice as they write. They incorporate many different styles as they write. 

I recommend finding the style that you feel most comfortable with. I have a fellow writer-friend who has an incredible voice. It's the best of his writing skills. Which is lucky for him, as all the other aspects of screenwriting can be taught/learned. 

The one aspect that comes from within and can only be refined by you, is voice. 

Some writers are able to write perfectly well with no errors, but they write in such a way that every line, while perfect in its form, leaves no impression on the reader. 

PRODUCTION
105 is an epic war film with multiple locations and cast of literally thousands. 

A minimum production budget on a film like this would be 40 million. I'm sure it could be 'cheated' on a production budget of around 20 million, but for a decent job to be done and to attract the right level of talent to actually get this film off the ground, you'd be looking at 40 million plus.

War films typically don't make money. Combine that fact with the not so easy to sell factor of the concept, 105 would be a hard film to get made. 


The core of this story is what I really enjoyed about it. The human battle between Kean and Martin. That's what made me feel something. 

Remember, film is all about emotion. With that in mind, I could see a low budget version of this film written where the entire story takes place within the grounds of the US embassy in Saigon.

You could still focus on the battle between Kean and Martin. The core of the story would still be there. The one thing that really hooked me about the story would still be there. 

If this were re-written as a contain thriller it would have a much better chance of getting off the ground. It could potentially become a 5 million dollar film. A much easier figure to float to potential producers. And if you managed to secure two decent lead actors it could really become a profitable production. 

This story has heart. It has emotion. It made me feel something about a subject matter I'm not connected to. If it were re-written with a more contained setting it wouldn't lose any of that which engaged me. 

BUDGET RATING - 40 million plus.

BUDGET TIP: Look for the core of your story. Is it possible to write that core story in fewer locations that you presently have? If so, do it and it'll give you a production boost. 

BIG SCREEN/SMALL SCREEN
Some films just aren't made for the big screen. 
More and more, with the changing way of the film market, movies that play at the cinema are becoming more cinematic, more spectacle. 

Ask yourself when the last time you saw a brooding drama at the cinema was? Now think of all the films that are currently playing at the cinema. Odds are they're mostly high spectacle, high concept pieces. 

War films play well on big screens. But when your subject matter can't guarantee those bums on seats, such is the case with 105, this would be a hard film to get into the cinemas. 

If this film were re-written as a low budget contained thriller, it could still have the scope to play well on the big screen. 

BIG SCREEN/SMALL SCREEN? - This story, how ever told, would play well on both. 

SUMMARY
An over all enjoyable read when I settled into the writing style. Form was a little distracting, the characters could use some development, dialogue could use another two or three passes. And for feasibility of production sake, the story could use a page one re-write focusing on that human conflict between Martin and Kean. 

OVERALL RATING 6.5/10

SCRIPT LINK for educational purposes only: 105 and Rising