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Archive for April 6th, 2012

Script Notes: THE USUAL SUSPECTS 2: BEAR TRAP Apr 06

The Usual Suspects 2?An Official Sequel Script?

No.

A while ago, I posted an article discussing the protagonist of The Usual Suspects. In the comments section, a “couple of people” had written about a sequel script that was “leaked from CAA.” So I became curious.

As suspected, both comments were written by the same individual trying to promote his own unofficial script. Can’t blame a guy for trying, but it reminded me of all the times I’d heard from amateurs who’d written a script based on someone else’s material (without permission), who were actually hoping to sell it.

It’s not gonna happen.

Anyway, the author of The Usual Suspects 2: Bear Trap (who goes by the pseudonym: “Blink”) had a special kind of moxie, so I decided to contact him. He turned out to be a good sport, who fully admits that he never expected anything to come of his script, and that it was mostly written for fun.

However… Here’s where it gets interesting

He claims that his script, as a writing sample, landed him a six figure step deal to write another script!

BOOM! (That’s the sound of my head exploding!)

Yup, according to Blink, his unorthodox approach landed him a professional writing gig.

Now, of course, I can’t confirm there’s an actual deal in place. And the pseudonym doesn’t help. He claims the pseudonym is being used out of fear of being sued for using characters he doesn’t own. Personally I don’t think he needs to worry on that front. As long as he doesn’t try to sell the script, it’s just fan fiction. I think he’s probably more concerned about the spurious claims of his script being “leaked from CAA.”

But if it’s true, congratulations! It was a bold ploy (or a whimsical pursuit) that seems to have paid off big.

I don’t recommend anyone else follow his lead though, as you’re much better off focusing your efforts on an original feature film spec. If you knock it out of the park, chances are you’ll sell or option it — AND find yourself in contention for writing assignments.

Script Notes and Thoughts

Regardless, Blink seems pretty open about his script and marketing efforts. He even agreed to let me publicly critique the first few pages. I thought it could be a very worthwhile exercise to show screenwriters what runs through the twisted minds of script readers (or at least mine) while they’re reading your  script.

I’ve included images of each page, so you can play along…

Remember, these are all things that I’m thinking in my head, and wouldn’t necessarily cite in my official script notes.

Cover Page

Yes indeed — the mental critique starts on the Cover Page! First impressions can often be quite revealing.

The Usual Suspects 2: Bear Trap - Cover PageCover Page
(Click image to open/enlarge in a new window)

THE GOOD

  • I really like the subtitle of the script — “BEAR TRAP.” (Note: If this were an original spec script, it’s rarely a good idea to use a subtitle.)

THE QUESTIONABLE

  • “Screenplay by Blink” is not centered correctly. It looks like there’s an extra space or two in front of Blink which is throwing off the symmetry. [Sloppy? Intentional?]
  • The revision number. Unless you’re writing a shooting script, never put the revision number on your script. Producers, agents, managers, etc. know your script has gone through many iterations, but they still need to believe it’s a fresh script that’s hot off the presses. It’s a weird thing, but trust me on this one.

After the cover page, we’re already inside threat level 2. Let’s see how the first page goes…

Page 1

The Usual Suspects 2: Bear Trap - Page 1 Page 1
(Click image to open/enlarge in a new window)

THE GOOD

  • An exciting pirate attack to kick things off!
  • Decent use of verbs and evocative language (e.g. churns, scramble, scuttle)

THE QUESTIONABLE

  • Why doesn’t the quote have a period at the end of it?
  • “T-MINUS 976.54.02” — What does that mean? 976 days? 976 hours? 976 minutes?
  • A monster sentence right out of the gate! — ”Three modern 15 meter open launches, bristling with deck mounted cannons and machine guns, and black men dressed in singlets, assault rifles, and ammunition belts, power through the water towards the container ship about 1000 meters away.” — Perhaps it can be broken up a bit, to give emphasis to the different shots that would no doubt be used. It also took me a second to know that we were now looking at separate boats, and not part of the container ship. Maybe if the phrase “15 meter open launch boats” was used instead of “15 meter open launches” then dummies like me could more readily visualize things.
  • A quick scan shows a 6 line paragraph. That’s probably a couple lines too long for an action sequence.
  • There’s duplication of action. In the 6 line paragraph, there’s this sentence: “Others stand observing in-board navigation and GPS screens, holding on tight as the vessels crash through the water.” But then in the next paragraph we repeat the information: “Onboard the lead launch, the men are intense, but calm, as they watch the screens on the dashboard, or tightly grasp their weapons as they brace themselves on the squabs.” We already know they’re watching screens and bracing themselves.
  • In the action lines there are a couple uses of single dashes (-) instead of double dashes (–). It’s something you commonly see in amateur scripts, and rarely in professional scripts.
  • The last sentence of the opening scene: “A few crew members scuttle for cover on the deck, as shells continue to spray the vessel.” — I thought the use of the word “spray” was an odd choice for cannon fire. How fast and frequently can these cannon’s fire? Perhaps there’s a better word. “Bombard”? Or perhaps changing the sentence to: “… as shells, bullets continue to spray the vessel” would work better.
  • The first sentence of the second scene: “The 60 meter luxury super yacht, the ‘ISIS’, lies moored, inconspicuous amidst the indulgent opulence all around it.” — I’m being told that there’s “indulgent opulence” all around the yacht. But what does that mean? Are there obese men in floating lounge chairs eating caviar in the water? Is it referring to the opulence of Monaco? The other boats? How is it opulent? What are we seeing? Be careful when using vague conceptual descriptions.

Okay, let’s see where we’re at after page one in my mental and completely subjective assessment:

Uh oh. It’s creepin’ up (and so is the length of this post)! I think that’s enough for today. I’ll look at a couple more pages in the next post.

In the meantime, if you’d like to take a peek at Blink’s unauthorized sequel script in its entirety, you can find it here: The Usual Suspects 2: Bear Trap (302 KB PDF)

Do you find this kind of critique helpful? Let me know.

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