Monday, 29 February 2016


LOGLINE: After negligently killing a hunter with their patrol car, an alcoholic Sheriff’s Deputy and her superior officer must decide what to do with the only witness to their crime – a death row inmate only days from execution.

WRITER: Andy Friedhof

SCRIPT BIO: 11 votes on the 2015 black list.


STAN and JOSIE are two highly unlikeable state troopers in GREAT FALLS (near the Canadian border) who are entrusted with transporting BERNIE HOULE to his execution some 2 hours drive away. 

Bernie is a native American, convicted of first degree homicide. There's no doubt about his innocence, even Bernie confessed that he killed a couple in cold blood. Ironically, Bernie is the most likeable of all the characters in the script. 

As they drive to his final destination, Bernie bates Stan so much that he takes his eyes off the road for a moment - just long enough to run someone or something over. 

When they check the body they hit, they find the remains of a human - very much dead. 

What to do? 

Josie wants to confess, but Stan, in his infinite wisdom, decrees they'll both be up for vehicular manslaughter - a minimum of 2 years. 

You see, Josie grabbed the wheel during the crash, so it's just as much her fault as it is Stan's - or so Stan argues. Oh, yeah, and Josie is 'high' on Adderall, so Stan uses that to leverage her into abetting him scoop the dead man up into the trunk of the police car.

Now the main problem is Bernie. He's witness to what they did. 

After much conjecture, Stan convinces Josie that Bernie was about to be killed by the state, so what's the difference if they do it themselves - before he has a chance to tell authorities about what they did. 

Josie agrees reluctantly - and enlists her brother Kyle to help. But rather than just shoot Bernie they decide to kill him in the same way the state had planned - death by lethal injection. 

The question becomes - will they manage to do it, or will they be caught... 


There's a lot of good writing in this script to recommend it. But at the same time, there's a few decisions that aren't that great. Then there's the dialogue that reads like cardboard. 

The main problem with this script is EMPATHY - or rather - the lack of it. 

It's imperative we CARE for ONE of the characters in the story you're telling.

A HUGE mistake sooooo many writers make is to assume we're automatically going to LOVE the character you put in front of us just because you put them on the page.


In the world of film we judge characters by their actions. If your characters don't DO anything that makes us like them, we're not going to feel connected to them. 

Successful films create a VICARIOUS connection between the viewer and the main character. This is done through empathy. No empathy = no connection. 

This is another reason why it's important to focus your film with ONE clearly defined main player. 

When you have two or more (as this film has) main characters, the viewer doesn't know who is supposed to be their avatar in the film. When that happens, the viewing experience becomes objective, rather than subjective - we're watching, rather than experiencing. 

Let's break this one down...


The logline didn't grab me. I almost didn't read this one based on the logline. There's something about it that seems contrived - it's a 'what if' scenario that would only ever happen in a film. 

The concept here is - what would you do? Kill someone who is going to die anyway to protect yourself? 

It's a very gray moral question. Arguable on both sides.

The execution of this concept is what saved it. The execution goes places I really wasn't expecting, and did it really well. 

But on the concept alone - "Two unlikeable police officers must decide if they should kill a death row inmate to protect themselves," - this isn't something I'm excited to see as a film. It's not an idea that explodes off the page as a must-see film. 


CONCEPT TIP: Before you commit to an idea, whittle it back to its core. What is the story about? What is the big idea? Imagine the poster, the trailer - then try to be objective - would you want to see that film if you hadn't created it? if not - move on to the next idea - or develop that idea into something that makes it a must-see.


Very interesting here. The writing is exceptionally good. The form is very different, unorthodox, but it works - the reason it works is because the story IS NOT over written. 

If the writing here had been denser, no way the form would have worked. 

The writer doesn't use SLUGLINES. He uses BOLD on a new OBJECT every time he switches scenes. 

I wouldn't recommend writing like this - but it does work really well when done properly - as it is here.


FORM TIP: Study this style - if executed well it adds to the flow of the story. Sluglines can break the flow of a script. I mostly don't read sluglines anyway - I usually skip over them and let the scene tell me where I am. But when the scene is muddy, unfocused, as often happens, a slugline is a great anchor to reorient yourself. 


Characters here were bountiful - which was good and bad. The concept felt contrived - a movie-idea that would only happen in magic-land - but when we get into the development of all the ancillary characters there's a depth to the writing and the story. 

It becomes more a character drama with this weird scenario tying all the players together. 

To this end, the characters are fairly well realised. They're all a little cliche - but not too over the top. 

Dialogue is where these characters fall down. They all have exactly the same voice. If you took away the character name, there's no way you could tell who was speaking. 


CHARACTER TIP: Beware the trope. If you're writing a character we've all seen before, try to write them in a way that's new. Think about the way you would expect someone else to write them, then flip it. Write the opposite. But always go for the subtle version of your character. When you OVER WRITE your character, no matter how well you do it, they won't come across as real.

DIALOGUE TIP: Differentiate the WAY your characters speak. There's countless different ways people speak. Everyone you know has their own peculiar linguistic style. If you're stuck trying to create a unique way for your characters to speak - look at the people you encounter daily - use their traits in your characters. 


Well written, with an intelligence behind the execution gives this script a voice of some sort. It didn't explode off the page, but it left a very clear picture of the story in my mind. When a script stays with you after the read, the voice is usually something to do with that. 


VOICE TIP: This script could have had a more powerful voice if the DIALOGUE had been really developed. To that end, it seems that dialogue is really important to defining your voice. 

All the scripts I've read this year that have had a strong voice have also had exceptional dialogue. 


I wouldn't put money into this. It's essentially a drama. Sure, there's a crime in there, but crime dramas are what we watch on TV for free - we don't want to pay $$$ to go and see them at the movies. 

It's got multiple characters in multiple locations.

The budget would be around 15 mill. Hard to see a return on this unless you got A listers involved, but that would hike the budget way up - closer to 40 mill. 

Prisoners - was an example of a great DRAMA that made money - but the idea there was bigger than here. It was - WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO PROTECT YOUR DAUGHTER?

That's a much bigger question than two unlikeable cops tossing up whether or not they should kill a prisoner to save their ass. 


A so-so concept executed really well. Dialogue needs a complete re-write - and the characters need to be re-thought - they're just too cliche as they are.

I doubt it'll make money. 


Thursday, 25 February 2016


LOGLINE: Two CIA agents must overcome their opposing worldviews to evade the Soviet and Chinese armies during a dangerous mission to Tibet in 1950. The true story of the first CIA agent ever to die in the line of duty; the “first star’ on the CIA Memorial Wall.

WRITER: David Coggeshall

SCRIPT BIO: 12 votes on 2015 black list


Mongolia/Russia border - 1949. Douglas MacKiernan - aka Mac - is the CIA agent on the ground that witnesses the Russians test their first nuclear weapon. He takes the photo of the mushroom cloud that ends up on the front page of every newspaper in the world with the title 'Russia has the bomb.'

CIA headquarters are rightfully fearful of communism taking over the world. 

The Red Russians have taken communism to China where it's flourishing at a murderous rate. The one main enemy of communism (it's argued) is religion. Under communism The State is to be the peoples' religion. The ruler their god. To that end Tibet - being an overwhelmingly buddhist country - is seen as an enemy to China wth her new found communism. Therefore Tibet must be invaded, and its spiritual leader the Dalai Lama must be killed. 

America (the CIA) want to prevent the spread of communism, but rather than fighting it head on and risk nuclear war, it's better to arm the Tibetans and let them fight for themselves.

The only person that could convince the Dalai Lama to take up weapons and fight is the ex-CIA agent FRANK BESSAC (29). 

But Frank will be an even harder sell to go on the mission as he himself is disgusted with the way the CIA operates. 

Mac is ordered to get Frank from Mongolia and take him 500 miles south to Tibet where he's too convince the Dalai Lama to accept CIA armament.

The journey takes them through every obstacle imaginable - and as they fight their way through communist China, Frank and Mac butt heads every step of the way. 

The question becomes: Will they succeed? Or will Tibet fall to China?


Loved it.

This story is exceptional well told. Not a dull moment. It did flair over into the world of unbelievable at times - we have Mac swimming with a back-pack full of gold bars??? I'd like to know how that works?

But save for a few minor logical problems like that - this script was brilliant. In fact, I'm surprised it didn't garner more votes than 12...

I think maybe it's the concept that held it back... 


The story of the first CIA agent to die in the field.

Is one way to sell this concept.

The second is...

Two CIA agents journey through communist China in 1949 to warn the Dalai Lama of an impending invasion. 

Both are good in their own right - but neither really jump off the page. The idea here is something that I'd love to see, as I love CIA films/stories and I think it's an interesting historical event worthy of being put to film -- BUT -- I wonder how many others of the film going public would be excited to see this film?

I've got a feeling it'd be a hard sell to anyone under 25. 

Also, we know that China did invade Tibet and that the Dalai Lama has been living in exile ever since. So to that end we know the long term outcome of the story. 


CONCEPT TIP: Keeping the wider audience in mind when thinking up your ideas will help. Here we have a great concept, but will it hit with the masses? When a film is an action thriller set in 1949 you're going to need a big budget to realise it. When you need upward of 40 million to make a film you need to be sure the idea will grab enough people and make them pay to see it at the cinema. 

I just don't think this idea is big enough to warrant the budget required to make it, and to then in turn recoup that investment. 



Read this script. Quite possibly the best written and formatted script I've read all year.


FORM TIP: Read this script. Pay attention to everything the writer's do.


Again - this is an amazing script for structure. EVERY CHARACTER HAS A FLAW. 

Very few writer's will write even ONE character with a flaw. Here there are 2 main players - both with very well defined and realistic flaws. But even the ancillary characters have flaws!

To this end, the script is very focused. The structure is well executed -- but they manage to keep you guessing as to what's going to happen next.


STRUCTURE TIP: Go with your fourth idea. When you're thinking up how to execute your scene - don't go with your first idea, or your second idea or your third idea. Odds are the audience has already thought about these scenarios - go with that fourth idea the audience hasn't thought of yet. 

It will be hard - thinking up even ONE way to execute a scene can be a bitch, but trust me, when you go that extra mile and really surprise yourself as a writer - it will surprise the audience (and the reader - who will then recommend the production company he/she work for buy your script.)


Another near perfect script. Every character pops right off the page. Every character is as different from  the other as you could possibly imagine.

My only minor gripe is that the bad Russian guy played just like every other bad Russian guy we've ever seen in a film. 

But the writer's still rocked it here. 


TIP: When you put loads of effort into your main character/s - it's easy to think you've done your work as far as characters are concerned. You feel like, hey, my main guys pops, I can phone in the other smaller characters -- BIG MISTAKE. 

Sometimes it's your smaller characters that MAKE your film. Cuba Gooding Jr in Pearl harbour anyone? 

You get my point. Develop ALL your characters before you write.


This script was near perfectly written, but it's voice was lacking. I recall the story well, but the style it was written in didn't explode off the page. 

Which isn't really a problem as they nail every other aspect of the script. it's just interesting to note that their voice wasn't very well defined. 


VOICE TIP: Don't be afraid to take a chance every now and then with your writing style. When you have the story written as well as you can, a VOICE PASS off your script is worth doing - where you try and add some flair to your writing. 


As much as I love this script - it'd be a risky financial investment. As I said in the concept section - the idea here I don't think is big enough to get enough bums into the cinema to make this film a financial success. 


Incredibly well written  - a great HOW TO script for everyone. Much to be  learned here. 

But alas - I don't think it'll make money. Not unless it gets heavyweights behind it - ala Spielberg or Fincher... 



Monday, 22 February 2016


LOGLINE: A local Phoenix newscaster at the pinnacle of local celebrity slowly descends into the depths of madness as he sees his world around him start to crumble piece by piece all while trying to become a game show host in Los Angeles.

WRITER: Brett Conrad

SCRIPT BIO: Finished with 15 votes on the 2015 black list.


COLIN WESTON (43), is the biggest news anchor in Phoenix. As far as the rest of the US is concerned, that means jack-shit. 

Colin is in the running to be a game-show host in LA. This is his dream job. He wants the nation-wide fame, he wants the money... yeah, that's about it, he's in it for the money and the fame.

His agent tells him that if he wants to secure the position as game show host in LA, he needs to do something that will gain him notoriety - something that will go viral and make him an internet star. 

So in the opening scene we have Colin punch a councilman in the face. Not on live TV, but still while the cameras are running. He gets a hold of the clip and uploads it to the internet, where it quickly gains a million hits and counting... 

That's just the first of a myriad of crazy things that Colin does in the hope of securing his position in LA. 

Meanwhile in his personal life, Colin is up to his ears in debt, he owes money to the Sand Vipers - a bad ass gang of bikers. He is also cheating on his wife with his personal assistant, who he gets pregnant. 

From there, things only get worse, and Colin's life spirals out of control.

The question becomes, will Colin see the errors of his ways before his life completely falls apart...


I loved this script.

It's great writing from the word go. There's no 10 page preamble to something mildly interesting happening. Bam! On page 2 he punches the councilman in the head. 

Right from there the script takes off and doesn't let go. 

That's a sign of good writing right there. 

It shouldn't take you a while to get into a story. Either a story grabs you right away, or it doesn't. The same goes when watching a film or a TV show. It should immediately grab you. 

If your opening shot is a long, slow pan up from the ground, over a scene, then up to a person's face and they're looking at something that doesn't really have anything to do with anything, you need to rethink WHY you have that shot. 

Likewise when writing a film you need to think WHY you're writing a scene. What does that particular moment do for the story. And if that moment isn't absolutely imperative to tell the story, you should cut it. 

A great example of lean writing in a film is THE DEAD POETS SOCIETY. There's not a scene in that film that doesn't NEED to be there. Every beat is a part of the story. Every beat is dependant on the previous beats. It's like a line of dominos. If you pulled out even just one brick (or scene) then the whole film will fall apart. 

Let's get into it... 


Concept here is pretty damn dull.

News anchor does crazy things to try and secure a job as a game show host. 

Firstly, that's a new idea - I've never heard of that story line before - but in the same breath, just because something hasn't been done before doesn't automatically mean it NEEDS to be made into a film.

There's pretty damn low stakes here. Who cares if a news anchor gets a job as a game show host or not? No one really gives a shit. 

But when you get down to the execution of this idea, that's when the story pops. 

Here you have a news anchor who SPEAKS HIS MIND.

That's something all human's long to do. (Well most - if not all).

I'm sure the majority of people have wanted to be able to say precisely what's on their mind but haven't for fear of breaking social taboos. 

So the execution of the concept here saves the story  but when we look at this purely on a concept level, it's not very strong. 

Can you imagine the reaction you'd get from your friends if you were to say, 'hey do you want to see this new film? It's about a news anchor who wants to be a game show host.' 


CONCEPT TIP: Don't rely on your execution of your idea to prop up your concept. While the execution in this script saves the story, it could have just as easily failed. Start from the strongest place possible - ensure that your CONCEPT is something that people WANT to see. 



Read this script for a great example of how to format a screenplay.


FORM TIP: Screenwriting formatting is the EASIEST thing to learn in the world of film. Read How Not To Write A Screenplay, THEN start writing. 


Structure here was great.

The hero has a very obvious flaw, so the story has focus. He has a goal, which again focuses the story.

It is lacking for a MAIN shadow. There is the side player of the Sand Viper bikers, but they're not in the story from the get go. They appear a third of the way into the story. 

Until then Colin is his own worst enemy. But that's cheating. 

There's a great sense of tension in every scene. In fact, in EVERY scene, there is conflict. And not just the 'two people yelling at each other conflict' - there's different types of conflict. 

I like the way this film wraps up as well. I won't say it, but it's not what you'd expect. 

This if a great example of a writer KNOWING when they are breaking the screen writing rules. (As apposed to novice writers breaking the screenwriting rules through sheer ignorance.)


STRUCTURE TIP: If you choose to eschew the hero's journey beats, as so many writers do, then be sure that every scene has conflict in it. There is nothing more boring - cinematically speaking - than two characters agreeing with each other. 


This is where this script explodes off the page. 

Colin is ACTOR BAIT! He is such an incredibly desirable role to play I can see this film getting made pretty damn easily. I can see many really good actors chomping at the bit to play this role.


Because the dialogue is sooooo freakin' good.

There is an intelligence behind the humor here. It's hard to explain.

I wasn't laughing out loud so much, as I found myself compelled to read on for the sake of the delicious dialogue.


CHARACTER & DIALOGUE TIP: Read this screenplay and look at the way the dialogue is written. It's a great example of well written dialogue. And also look at each of the characters. They are ALL so well rounded and formed. 


Voice was strong here. Strong in a different way to yesterday's post - THE WITCH. 

Here you have a writer who has studied screenwriting and has a great ear for dialogue. They also have a great sense of timing and humor. 


VOICE TIP: Subtly in humor. A lot of comedies go as far to the edge as they can to be funny. Here all the humor arose from scenario. But every offbeat moment was tempered within the bounds of reality. There's not a moment in this script that you couldn't imagine actually happening in real life.


I wouldn't put money into this - simply because of the concept. 

I don't know many people who would want to see a film about a news anchor trying to get a job as a game show host. 

It just doesn't pop.

Which is a shame as this is a great story and script. 

To get this off the ground it'll need a serious actor at the helm. Which I could see happening. 

But no matter who you get leading this film - I seriously doubt it'll make any coin. 


Really simple concept executed incredibly well. 

Sadly, that simple concept will hold this script back from being a film that makes money.