LOGLINE: A mistreated elderly Inuit (Eskimo) woman is forced out of her village to survive alone on the savage arctic tundra.
SCRIPT BIO: 9 votes on the 2015 blacklist.
WRITER: Michael Lee Barlin
Set in the arctic region within a community of Inuits (Eskimos).
We start the story some 80 odd years ago - when ISHA is a five year old girl. She witnesses her 80 year old grandmother banished from their community for being old.
She walks out of their camp into the frozen wilderness to die alone. The idea behind this bizarre ritual is that those that are no longer an active contributing member of the Inuit society must sacrifice themselves for the good of the others.
Food is scare - as you can imagine, living on a glacier. I don't know if this tradition extends to the males of the Inuit tribe.
We jump to 80 years later, when Isha is her self in her 80s. She has a bad case of arthritis and has great difficulties performing her chores.
She is soon banished from the tribe.
A ritual is held, where the others of the tribe give thanks for Isha's sacrifice.
Thing is, this is a forced sacrifice - Isha doesn't want to die yet. She doesn't want to walk out into the frozen nothing.
There's something very fake about the tribe's 'praise' they have for Isha as she walks out onto the frozen glacier to fend for herself.
Out in the frozen tundra, Isha soon meets TATO a 14 year old boy from a different tribe. They don't speak each other's dialects, so communication is back to basics.
Tato has come forth from his tribe, alone, to hunt down a polar bear. If he can do this by himself and bring it back to his tribe he will have proven himself to be a man.
The question from here becomes - will Isha survive - and what will become of Tato?
Which is the first problem for this script --
I really liked the logline - at first I thought it could be interesting - it's different. I've never seen a story about a traditional 80 year old Inuit woman.
But then, in the back of my mind I knew that the goal in the logline was open ended - and my fear came true as I read the script.
There is no goal.
Or rather - there is no closed ended goal.
There is no -- we have to get to X before Y happens or we're dead. That's a closed ended goal. There's a focus - get to X.
There's a ticking clock - before Y happens.
There's stakes - or we're dead. The stakes are the character's lives.
But here - the goal is an open ended goal - survive.
When a story has an open ended goal - it will wander. It will be unfocused. It might look like things are happening, and those things that are happening can keep the audiecene engaged - for a time. Usually no more than 20 minutes.
20 minutes seems to be the maximum amount of time we'll watch a film that doesn't have a goal, before we get restless. Our attention starts to wander.
On this note - I was watching THE LAZARUS EFFECT last night - A Jason Blume horror film. I normally love Jason Blume's horrors - but this one failed to keep me engaged - again - because there was no closed ended goal.
The characters were trying to medically 're-animate' animals. That's a goal, sure, but there's real stakes and there's no ticking clock. So essentially we were just watching characters 'doing stuff' with no foreseeable end in sight.
Enough of The Lazerus Effect - let's deconstruct FINAL JOURNEY
There's no doubting the kernel of the concept here is unique. It's soooooo different, that when you read it, it makes you think twice about it.
Before I read this logline I read three others. I can honestly not even remember what the other three were they were so dull and generic. I think one was about a cop that has to investigate a -- and that's when I stopped reading.
How many stories have we seen about a cop investigating... it's been done to death.
Unless the cop is half human, half banana, I'm not interested. I'd watch a movie about a half human, half banana cop investigating... something. But that's my point - to inject something fresh into that genre you need to go waaaaay out into left field to stand out.
The problem with the concept of Final Journey - is the execution. It's about an 80 year old woman wandering out into the frozen wilderness to die.
It's really passive.
If the story had been more active. If Isha was going out to rescue someone, or their tribe had been attacked and she was trying to get to the next village to warn them about the attackers coming to attack them - then there's a goal, there's a ticking clock.
The story would have been way more engaging.
So while I like the idea of a story told about an elderly Inuit woman - this execution doesn't go far enough to make it engaging.
CORE CONCEPT RATING 9/10
EXECUTION OF THAT CONCEPT 5/10
CONCEPT TIP: I think you know what this tip will be --
-- when you lock on a great kernel concept - don't run with the very first execution of that base idea.
So, the base idea here that's great is - an 80 year old Inuit surviving alone in the arctic. When you have that - then take your idea further - write down 5 - 10 possible executions of that base idea.
Then do a rough 1 page outline for the top 3 or 4 of those ideas and see which one works the best for you -- keeping in mind - GOAL, TICKING CLOCK and STAKES.
Form here was okay.
There's very little dialogue. When you have a screenplay that's 90% descriptions - it can make it a very slow read.
Michael spaces his descriptions well, and keeps his sentences to two lines maximum most of the time.
His writing style is a little too flowery for me. Focusing in on the really small details that you don't really need in a script.
FORM RATING 6/10
When writing a description based screenplay such as this - think of your reader. Most readers are extremely time poor. Don't give them ANY EXCUSE to skim read.
While you may think that this opus of a script that you've been slaving away on for the last 18 months will be given the same amount of dedication when it comes to the read - the sad fact is most readers will try to devour your script in under 60 minutes.
If the screen writing is really good and the story is also great - then they'll slow down and give it a better read - but if your writing is too dense, and the story isn't moving fast enough, they'll start to skim read.
To avoid that - keep your description as lean as possible.
Structure here was okay. If there had been a goal established earlier on, then it could have been better. And also there was no flaw for Isha.
So there was no 'journey of change' for her to go through.
As far as we can see at the start of the film there's no real lesson that Isha needs to learn to live a better life.
Without a goal, without stakes, without a ticking clock of some sort and without a flaw - structure can only ever be a series of events that happen one after the other.
The above mentioned screen writing devices are what give your story its structure. Without - your story will meander. As is the case here.
STRUCTURE RATING: 5/10
STRUCTURE TIP: Use the screen writing devices to give your story a sense of structure. If a character doesn't have a lesson they need to learn, odds are your story will be unfocused. It might seem, on the surface, that loads of 'things' are happening - but if those things aren't directly affecting the 'inner journey' of your character - odds are the audience won't engage with the emotional aspect of the story.
CHARACTERS AND DIALOGUE:
Dialogue is very fleeting here. As said, it's 95% script. When we do get dialogue it reads like cardboard - despite the writer saying twice at the start of the film that dialogue is to be spoken in natural Inuit dialects. - He then writes it in dry, dull english.
Michael also tells the reader that there will be no subtitles.
That's a huge no-no. The writer doesn't get to decide if there are subtitles in a film or not - that's a producer's decision. Fine, if you're writing AND producing - but that's not the case here.
In fact, it's arrogant to put that kind of a statement at the start of a script - it's also very rookie. It shows that you don't understand how a film is made.
Characters here are also very flat. Not too mention that there are about 80 characters (only a slight exaggeration) introduced, all with names that we're never going to remember.
If you have a large amount of characters, only introduce those that are relevant to the story.
At the start, we are introduced to Isha's extended family - but only a few are of any importance to the story. All the other names we get are just confusing.
CHARACTERS AND DIALOGUE RATING: 5/10
CHARACTERS AND DIALOGUE TIP: Only introduce characters that are relevant to the story. Make sure their names are distinctly different enough that the first time reader can tell them apart.
When writing dialogue with a dialect - write in the dialect - don't just say that they're to be spoken with a dialect, then leave it up to the reader to imagine a dialect we've never heard before.
Create the texture of the world you want the reader to experience.
Voice here was okay. The writing was nice. Slow and a little dense, but to that end, it was different to a lot of other scripts I've read recently.
Different can go a long way to defining your voice.
VOICE RATING: 6.5/10
VOICE TIP: No matter how you choose to execute your story - be confident in your choice. You can tell by the writing style and choices, when a writer isn't sure of the way they're writing their story.
The writing here, while not necessarily my thing - is written with a distinct confidence. That confidence shines through in his voice.
I can see this being made. As it is. Without goals, stakes or urgency.
It'll probably attract good talent to the title role.
A-listers love a challenge. They love making a film that breaks the rules. They love playing 'character pieces' - which this film attempts to be.
You know why they love doing that? Because no matter if the film makes money or not - they get paid.
Plus they get to do something that can be seen as 'real acting'. Something that all good actors covet.
I doubt this film would make any real money. If the budget was kept below 5 million - which is totally possible - it would make its money back - not much more.
But who would play Isha? How many big name 80 year old female actresses are there out there that look Inuit?
I guess Ben Kingsley played Ghandi, so why couldn't Streep play the lead here? Ah, the magic of cinema.
I wouldn't put money into this.
Great core concept poorly executed.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10