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The One Page Challenge Nov 25

First Impressions

Most people who read scripts for a living (producers, agents, managers, etc.) will agree — they can usually tell whether or not a script is any good by the end of the first page.

“What?! But my script really gets going around page 12!” you might say. Unfortunately, the reality is that scripts with poorly written first pages rarely improve.

In fact, if the first page doesn’t impress a reader, it’s more likely that the subsequent pages will be even more disappointing. Why? Because most writers will tweak and revisit their opening page again and again, fine tuning and improving it.

That’s why it’s so important to impress and grab a reader from the get go. For this reason, your first page is the most important page of your script.

Taking the Challenge

Last month, Mark M. — from my Linkedin network — asked me if I’d read the first page of his script and give him some feedback. I said I would as long as I could post my feedback here on Scriptwrecked.

Being the good sport that he is, Mark agreed. So without further ado, let’s dive into his script’s first page and see what we can discover.

MarkM-1

“FADE IN:”

Well, it’s left justified — a good start. But it also has two line spaces between it and the first scene heading. Ideally, it would be one line space. Many pros deviate from this standard, so it’s a minor detail these days… but a detail that still may bump some readers.

“EXT. PLANETS ORBIT.”

Hmm, unusual formatting with the period at the end of the scene heading.

“Five stellar remnants…”

The writing in this paragraph is actually quite good. Although, I’m having a hard time picturing a “stellar remnant” jutting out through a cloud. A plantary remnant perhaps, but a remnant of a star? Hard to picture that? Have I ever seen a stellar remnant? Aren’t stars contained fusion reactions? Don’t stars end up as black holes?

MarkM-2

“A jagged moon…”

I like how Mark has broken up the paragraphs into shots. He had provided a wider, general shot first, and is now focusing on one of the moons in the second shot.

Hmm. Is the blue dwarf sun one of the stellar remnants mentioned earlier?

“EXT. PLANET ATMOSPHERE.”

Now I’m confused again. We went from a general graveyard of stars and moons, then we focused on one of the moons, and now we’re suddenly in a planet’s atmosphere. Perhaps instead of “a blue dwarf sun” the moon should eclipse the planet we’re now looking at. Then it would flow better.

“appear’s”

Like an Engineer ship rumbling menacingly through my brain — these typos take me right out of the read! Should be: “appears”

“deep space”

If a ship has just left the atmosphere of a planet, how is it suddenly in deep space? Perhaps just “rumbles menacingly toward space.” Because if it actually made it into space, we wouldn’t hear any rumbling. (No sound in space.)

MarkM-3

“EXT. SKY- DAY.”

Oh no. So much for the hip new heading formatting I was starting to dig… Where’s the space after “SKY”? It should be: EXT. SKY – DAY.

If you’re going to use unconventional formatting (like a period at the end of a scene heading) everything else better be on point, otherwise it just looks sloppy.

“planets”

Another typo! Should be: “planet’s”

“early Earth purgatory”

It’s an interesting image… One that I have no idea what it looks like. Is “early Earth purgatory” an actual thing I missed in science class? Does he simply mean a primordial Earth? Or perhaps there’s some sort of new spiritual component he’s introducing here. Either way, it requires a more vivid, explicit description of what we’re seeing.

MarkM-4

“EXT. PLANET – DAY.”

I am so over the funky formatting with the period at the end. Perhaps if he went for something like: “EXT. PLANET. DAY.” I could probably get behind that for something innovative and consistent with the space/futuristic vibe. But even then, I would’t recommend it unless the writing is “stellar.”

“Black mountains jut out…”

Ohhh, using “jut out” twice on the same page in such close proximity. Tsk Tsk. To impress a reader, you need to demonstrate variation in your writing.

“… that covers the planet.”

Why are we getting this information. We already know from the scene heading we’re looking at a planet. What else would the ocean be covering? If the ocean completely covers the planet then the line should probably read: “… that covers the entire planet.”

Also, why is it “the” black ocean? It hasn’t been introduced before, so it should be “a” black ocean. And why use “black” twice in the same sentence? Black mountains and a black ocean. Surely there’s another word or words that can take the place of “black.”

“Seven ships rise slowly into orbit…”

When you’re establishing an environment, whether it’s a star system or a bedroom, you typically want to start with the high level stuff and then move in on the important details.

We started out pretty well going from space through the planet’s atmosphere and then down to the surface. But now we’re back up at the edge of the planet’s atmosphere with these ships rising into orbit.

Perhaps the writer believes that ships can orbit within a planet’s atmosphere. At any rate, it’s jarring to bounce around so much. Can’t the ships simply hover or rise into the air reeking of dread?

MarkM-5

“… retract into the ship…”

The writing is quickly deteriorating here…

We are told that the arms retract into “the” ship. Which ship is that? We were previously told there were seven ships. Better to use “one of the ships” or “ships” — plural — instead.

“a bellowing burble SLURPING noises”

Should that be “a bellowing burble of SLURPING noises”?

“A black syrup substance falls back to dead planet.”

There’s that word “black” again. And is it actually syrup or is it “syrupy” or “syrup-like”?

Shouldn’t it be falling back to “the” dead planet?

“ocean organism”

We were previously told that it was a “dead planet.” But now we’re being told that there’s an ocean “organism.” That’s confusing.

MarkM-6

“INT.ENGINEER SHIP LAB.”

More carelessness. Where’s space between “INT.” and “ENGINEER”?

“Vast corridors of darkness”

I like the image. But if we’re inside a lab, are we looking out at these vast corridors? How do we see more than one? Perhaps the scene heading should just be: “INT. ENGINEER SHIP” That would allow us to move from the corridors into the lab.

“A strange illumination glow emanates…”

“illumination glow” is redundant. It’s either an illumination or a glow, not both.

“a open doorway”

This should be “an” open doorway.

“A biology lab…”

We already know we’re in a lab and it’s really the hydrothermal vents that belch the blue mist (great verb usage). So the sentence might be better as: “Artificial hydrothermal vents belch blue mist over thousands of suspended LIFE FORMS.” It also eliminates that awkward “vents belches” construction.

MarkM-7

“Pristine machine BOTS tirelessly study their DNA.”

It sounds nice, but what are we seeing? Are the bots looking at DNA on a big screen? Are they examining blood samples? Reviewing hovering holograms? Hopefully the next sentence will help with the visual…

“The bots dissect each species entire building blocks.”

Nope. Again, I have no idea what I’m seeing. I’m picturing dissection, but how do you show the building blocks of each species? What are we seeing?

Also, there’s another typo — “species” should be written as: species’ (with an apostrophe at the end to indicate the possessive form).

“The door seals seamless to complete darkness.”

I like the visual of the seamless room, but does that mean we’ve exited the room? Or is it completely black on the inside of the room?

“Hyper-drive engine reverberates throughout the ship.”

Should it be: “A” hyper-drive engine? Also, why is this attached to the same paragraph? It’s a completely unrelated beat.

I like the verb “reverberates,” but is it being used correctly? The sound from the hyper-drive engine, or the hyper-drive engine noise, may reverberate throughout the ship, but I’m not sure if the engine itself does.

MarkM-8

“EXT. ENGINEER PLANET.”

Again, another sloppy mistake (missing space between “EXT.” and “ENGINEER.”

“The ENGINEER’s eyes glitter entirely black he surveys cold and detached.”

Oh boy, there’s that word again — black.

The sentence itself is also confusing. Perhaps if there was an “as,” or some punctuation between “black” and “he,” it would be more coherent.

That’s a lot of issues for one page!

As a script reader who is paid to give feedback, I’d be required to read the entire script. But a producer, agent or manager (that you’re not signed with) doesn’t have that kind of covenant with you, so it’s entirely possible they’d never make it to page two — nevermind that reeeeeally good part on page 12.

Hopefully Mark can correct these issues and allow the story to shine through. There are definitely some intriguing elements here that are, unfortunately, undone by the writing.

Would you have made it to page 2?

10 Page Torture Test – Open To Submissions Jun 11

10 Page Torture TestThere are many writing achievements that I’m proud to have accomplished: placing in/winning script competitions… having my first script optioned… getting my first paid writing gig…

And now I’ve been asked to be the first guest script reviewer for the 10 Page Torture Test!

While my previous achievements were grand, I can say without hyperbole that this one is at least a billion times better than the others. ;)

What is the 10 Page Torture Test?

It’s a site where a mysterious and talented guy, who goes by “Pitchpatch,” takes the first 10 pages of mostly amateur scripts, and digs deep into their nooks and crannies. In doing so, he offers fantastic (and hilarious) insight into what works, and what doesn’t, complete with suggestions for improvement.

And what’s more, he does it for free! All for the love of screenwriting, and the recognition of the importance of the first 10 pages of a script. As you should know, if your first 10 pages don’t impress, the reader will likely have permanently checked out by page 11.

How good is this guy, Pitchpatch? Here’s a hint: Guess who I beg for notes when I need one of my scripts critiqued?

Send me your scripts!

For the next edition of the 10 Page Torture test, I’m going to take the reins and provide the feedback.

But I only get to choose one script. So if you’d like the first 10 pages of your script critiqued publicly, FOR FREE, send it to me, with its associated logline, by Friday, June 20th at Midnight.

I’ll be choosing the script based on two things:

  1. The intrigue of the logline. (Is the concept compelling? Is the movie marketable?)
  2. The potential for readers to learn from my notes. (Are there things the writer has done really well? Are there common mistakes to point out?)

It should hopefully go without saying by now, but any constructive criticism will be provided with an aim to enlighten — not embarrass.

So send me your script (and logline) for consideration!!!

Have you ever changed your mind about a movie? Aug 03

Second Looks

Have you every been wrong about a movie? You know, you’re flipping channels and happen across a movie you saw a few years ago that you thought sucked, only to be suddenly drawn in by it.

For me, that movie was Starship Troopers – Edward Neumeier‘s adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s military sci-fi classic book, directed by Paul Verhoeven.

When I first saw it, I thought it was campy and ridiculous. When I later saw it, I suddenly realized it was a brilliant satire and social commentary. How did I miss that the first time through?

Has that ever happened to you? What movie was it?

5 Things to Consider When Incorporating Feedback Nov 18

I have a few friends who have a hard time knowing what to do with the feedback they receive on their scripts. So for all you similar screenwriters out there, this post’s for you.

(Note: This post has little to do with the development phase where you’re incorporating notes from executives. It deals with the rewriting phase of your script where the only people who have seen it are friends, family, peers, script consultants, etc.)

5 Things to Consider When Incorporating Feedback

Script Feedback1. Does it resonate with you?

If the note you receive on your script doesn’t make sense to you, you should never incorporate it. There has to be some recognition of its inherent validity for it to be considered. Never follow a note blindly, no matter who’s giving it to you.

2. Is everyone saying the same thing?

While it’s important to stay true to your artistic vision, ultimately you want a script that appeals to your audience. If you consistently get the same note back from your respected readers, you need to seriously consider incorporating it.

3. Does it hint at an underlying or alternate problem?

Suppose you’re absolutely sure that some story beat needs to stay in your script, yet your readers keep flagging it. It’s entirely possible that the setup to the beat, or some other aspect of the scene or script needs tweaking. Part of your job is to read between the lines of what people are saying.

4. Are you resistant to a suggestion because of the work involved in correcting it?

Sometimes we’ll bristle at a suggestion, and immediately think, “No frikken way!” Usually that happens when the suggestion involves a major change.

When you receive such a note, take a deep breath, let the feedback wash over you for a couple of days, then try to evaluate it as dispassionately and honestly as you can. If you decide the feedback is valid, it might take you a few extra weeks, even months, to rewrite your script, but that’s a much better alternative than hoping no one else will see the problem… because I promise you they will. You’ve come this far, you might as well give your script the best chance of selling.

5. Who’s giving you the note?

If you’ve just written a raunchy teenage comedy and your grandma thinks some of the lines are too offensive… you should probably take that with a grain of salt.

But that’s an easy call. Often you’ll have peers who are accomplished in one particular genre, but may not have expertise in your genre. Or maybe you’ve given them harsh criticism on their last script and they’ve been itching for some payback.

On the other side of things, if someone who’s been around the block for a number of years tells you something that no one else has told you, it’s possible they’re bang on with their feedback and they’ve seen something that more casual readers have missed.

Either way, make sure you run the feedback through all five of these litmus tests before you start incorporating it. And remember, no one knows your story better than you do.

How do you process feedback?


$39 Script Notes – 1 Day Sale Jan 14

I’ve just finished the first draft of a new script. Now it’s time to put it away and not think about it for a few days. That will allow me to get some distance from it, so when I start the rewrite I’ll be able to look at it with more critical eyes.

To keep away the temptation of returning to it too soon, I’ve decided to have a crazy sale and immerse myself in scripts for a while.

So here’s the deal. It’s a one-time only event.

I’ll read your feature film script and provide you with professional notes for $39.

Seriously, $39!

If you haven’t quite finished your script yet, I’ll even let you purchase this bargain rate now, and submit your script when you’re done.

But you have to act before tomorrow night (Saturday, January 15th at midnight).

Don’t let your script go out with a key problem that I could have easily identified for you for 39 bucks.





Click here for more information.

Any questions? Let me know!

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