Monday, 1 February 2016

TRUE FAN - SPORTS DRAMA/BIOPIC

LOGLINE: After interfering with a foul ball during a Chicago Cubs playoff game, Steve Bartman was tortured and stalked by die hard Cub fans for potentially costing them their first National League pennant since 1945. Years later, in a new town with a new identity—but depressed, overweight and working a dead end job—Steve meets a woman who gives him a new lease on life and reason to live.

WRITER: John Whittington

SCRIPT BIO: 28 votes the 2015 black list

STORY:

This is an odd one. It's half true story, half fiction. The event that sets up the story really happened. In 2003, Steven Bartman was unfortunate enough to be the one fan out of a dozen trying to catch a foul ball at a Cubs' baseball game, who managed to get his hand to the ball.

Simultaneously a Cubs fielder was trying to catch the ball. Had Steve not touched the ball, the fielder would have caught it, which could have potentially led to the Cubs winning the World Series. 

What happened instead was that Steve fumbled the catch, the fielder missed the ball, and the Cubs went on to LOSE the World Series. 

After the incident, Steve was singled out as the SOLE reason that the Cubs lost, and literally thousands of fans found out where he lived gathered in a mob and threatened to kill him until he was forced to leave Chicago.

All that is true, and takes up to page 50 in a 105 page script.

The second half of the story is a fictionalised account of what happened to the enigma of Steve.

In this imagined world, Steve has changed his name to that of his father, Ron, to avoid being recognised. He's let himself go, works a dead end job and has no friends.

He meets Annie in a supermarket and they hit it off.

A relationship develops, that blossoms at first, but when Annie learns Steve's past, things bottom out. Not because she thinks that what Steve did was wrong, but because Steve refuses to let go of his past. He's let that one incident ruin his entire life. 

The question becomes, will Steve be able to let go of his past and move on, or will he let it destroy his entire life.

INITIAL REACTION:

This is an interesting one. The writing here is sleek. Very easy to read. With some writers it's the reading equivalent of a 2000 mile hurdle race. Every sentence is clunky. Even the point of what the writer is saying is lost in the murk. 

But here, it's crystal clear. 

I see-sawed between liking and disliking this script. There's much to recommend it, but it doesn't nail everything.

Firstly, the setup take 50 pages. That's far too long. To me, the interesting thing about this story is not the incident, but the emotional journey of Steve after the incident. I was really hoping that journey would start at page 25-30, then take up the rest of the story.

But unfortunately, we don't get to the second half of the story until page 50.

And when we do get there, there's no goal to drive the story. When you don't have a goal, the story gets unfocused, and it becomes boring quickly. 

A great way to drive a story when you don't have a goal is with conflict. But in the second half of the film, Steve and Annie get along really well for the first half of their time together. 

That means for 15 pages of their relationship we have no conflict and no goal. 

That gets dull really quickly. 

On the plus side, this script highlights a disgusting event in the world of baseball that is just plain sickening.

A man's entire life was ruined because he almost caught a foul ball in the stands at a game of baseball.

Wow.

Just wow.

That says volumes about the mentality of the masses. It also says huge amounts about the newscasters that hyped the pandemonium. There were literally sports newscasters calling for Steve to be beaten to death. 

Take at look at Rwanda, the priests preached murder from the pulpits and on the radios and half a million people were slaughtered for no reason. 

You might think that a stretch of an comparison, but look at what's happening - in both situations, those with the power, those with the voice used it for ill, used it to incite the masses to murder.

While Steve wasn't killed, it took dozens of police working 24 hour watch around Steve's home to protect him. 

If there were no police there, this would be a story about Steve's murder for sure. 

Another great thing about this script is that it is a story about the universal theme of accepting your past, letting go and moving on. 

To that end, this is a story that will resonate with many people.

CONCEPT:

The concept is okay. It's based on a very well known event. The story is so macabre and unbelievable that it's engaging. But the later half of the story is not developed enough. 

CONCEPT RATING 6.5/10

CONCEPT TIP: If you find yourself creating an imagined world around a real world event, be sure to execute that imagined world as best you can. It really feels like the imagined world here is only half-thought through.

FORM:

Beautiful form here. Worth the read to see how to format a screenplay.

FORM RATING: 8/10

FORM TIP: Don't use bold. Don't direct the actor. Don't direct the camera. Keep your writing lean. Don't write anything that can't be seen on the screen. Don't write what a character is thinking, show how they feel through action.

STRUCTURE:

Structure was off here. Despite it being a biopic, which normally allows for more structure rule bending than a normal screenplay. 

The event should have happened within the first 7 pages. Then the aftermath of the event over the next 12 pages. By page 25, he should have gone off to Baltimore to start his new life in hiding. 

Then the story should have unfolded from there as a normal story would.

STRUCTURE RATING 5/10

STRUCTURE TIP: Understanding even the basics of the 3 act structure will go a long way toward focusing your story. There are countless books that teach it. Buy them, read them - THEN start writing.

CHARACTERS:

Characters were okay here. None of them popped off the page. But in the same breath, none of them were unbelievable. 

CHARACTER RATING 6.5/10

CHARACTER TIP: It feels like Steve's character wasn't really thought through properly here. This is a great setup for a deep investigative drama into someone's life and psyche. If you find yourself writing something similar, be sure to delve deep. Really know and understand your characters before you write up their fictionalised life.

DIALOGUE:

Again, dialogue was in the same boat as character creation here. It was suffice, it wasn't bad, there was never a moment when I read a piece of dialogue and thought... hmm that's off, that doesn't work. But in that same breath, there weren't any take-away lines. Any moments that made me laugh out loud or think, 'hey that's some damn good writing'.

DIALOGUE RATING 6.5/10

DIALOGUE TIP:  Once you have a safe execution of your dialogue that 'works' on a functional level. Do a dialogue pass and see if you can add some spice to the spoken words, without making it sound out of place.

VOICE:

The clean and lean writing here made for an easy read. To that end, I was focused on the story, and it being so macabre it's something I will remember for a long time. But that's the story. The actual voice that told the story is in the same vein as the character creation and the dialogue execution... just enough to get by, but nothing memorable about it.

VOICE RATING 6.5/10

VOICE TIP: Again, once you have functional version of your script. Do a pass to see if you can add some flair to your writing, without going to far and creating an odd tone.

PRODUCTION:

I wouldn't put money down on this.

It's a sports drama biopic. While these can work when done about a BIG player that once was - these don't fair so well when it's about a fan, and only half the story is real. 

You've got stadium scenes. That means huge VFX expenses. 

Pretty damn large cast - negative. 

You'd need A level talent to get this off the ground - big expense.

I'd say this would be a 30 mill plus venture.

Very hard to see a return on that investment with this story.

SUMMARY:

Great clean, lean writing. Interesting, strange and true story. But it's just not executed right. The structure needs to be re-worked, and the character study needs a lot of work. 

OVERALL RATING: 6/10