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Dishes of Color by Fausto Lucignani - Drama - After learning from an elderly Italian woman the secrets of Italian cooking, a strong-willed African-American home aide opens a small restaurant in an Italian neighborhood, unaware that the†local Mafia bosses deeply abhor the color of her skin. 107 pages - pdf format
I read the whole script. It has a lot of issues, way too many to make any sort of coherent story.
We have discussed this before, but I love your writing, just the way it is. It has a very Tommy Wiseau feel to it. I know you donít like to hear that, but I've given you quite a few pointers on your scripts and you seem to be making the same mistakes.
I can only assume you have embraced this way of writing.
I will review it from the stand point of what I think is technically wrong with it. But like I said I loved it, but not for the reason you probably wanted me to.
So here we go...
Have a look at the five character descriptions below; you will quickly see the issue. Mix it up a bit. "good looking" is extremely vague and bland.
ETTA, a good-looking African-American woman
JENNY, a good looking blonde
MARCELLO, long hair, good-looking
A good-looking saleswoman in her 40s
The tenor sax player, a good-looking African-American
This is the first of a hell of a lot of general racist ideas. They practically litter the script. I donít have an issue with that if it has some sort of payoff in the story, but it doesnít. The racistís opinions arenít changed. Etta doesnít win the day, no one learns anything. Itís basically an excuse to be racist for no reason.
ETTA Yes, ma'am, I'm a good cook. ROSA What you cook? ETTA Fried chicken, black beans, corn bread...dishes like that.
So Joey, seems like heís a major character early on. A story is built around him. Heís the son of Rosa, married to a cheating wife Jenny whose lover he kills. He uses Etta as an alibi and then he vanishes into obscurity? What on earth happened and what does any of it have to do with your story. Itís one of a few subplots that lead nowhere and have no purpose.
Joey, tall, muscular, in his 60s stands on the kitchen doorway.
Several times I thought you were being lazy with your information. "woman's infection"? what is that? Why not do a quick google search and find one that fits your purposes. This is so general.
JENNY I don't have any guy, the infection came by itself...a woman's infection.
Many occasions where you change the subject so quickly itís jarring. They are having a conversation and at the end she throws in, letís make love.
STEVE You've to decide. JENNY I'll talk to him. STEVE When, Jenny when? JENNY Soon... STEVE Swear. JENNY I swear...let's make love.
Savagely rapes her? Two things, when is a rape ever not savage? You canít loving rape someone. The other thing is, what do you actually want us to see here?
He uses his strength to overpower her resistance and savagely rapes her.
What does this have to do with anything?
Joey calmly points the pistol at Steve's head and pulls the trigger.
This was a great line.
JOEY (whispering to himself) She'll follow you soon. You're going to fuck in hell.
Almost every conversation in the script is on the nose. Detectives arenít going to talk like this. Instead of them saying absolutely everything they are thinking, make it look like a mob hit in some way. They say so many things that are just obvious to everyone. Your audience doesnít want to be force fed.
DETECTIVE #1 (to detective #2) Looks like a Mafia hit. 38. DETECTIVE #2 He was jogging. No documents. DETECTIVE #1 He must be from around here. DETECTIVE #2 Yeah. DETECTIVE #1 One shot and he died, no suffering. DETECTIVE #2 His family is waiting for him...what a fucking life. DETECTIVE #1 You don't full around with the Mafia, who knows what he did. DETECTIVE #2 Let's start working on this.
How would you film this? And why is it relevant?
As every day, she needs to be at the restaurant early to receive the delivery from the wholesale food market and for organizing the daily menu.
Why is this random man giving Etta all this information about a crime boss? Never going to happen.
A MAN in his 60s looks at her. 41. MAN Did the owner do something? Etta glances at him with sadness in her eyes. ETTA I don't know, I just work here, I'm a waitress. MAN He should have paid the PIZZO (protection money in Italian slang). ETTA Why? MAN Because it's the law of the bosses here. ETTA ...And if he doesn't want to pay? MAN (laughing) Next time the place will be on fire. ETTA Who gets the money? MAN Who gets the money...who gets the money...why you want to know? ETTA A few night ago, two men came to talk with the owner, they asked for money. MAN They are just soldiers, they don't keep the money. ETTA Who does it? A long silence. The man stares at her with a cryptic glance. MAN In this neighborhood is VITO...VITO SACARA. ETTA Where does he live? 42. MAN I don't know...but you can find him at the Italian Club on 14th street.
Just an example of more exposition. People just donít talk like this.
ETTA That don Vito is not as bad as I thought. WENDY What happened? ETTA Well, he agreed to reduce the protection money...now, I pay only two hundreds a week. WENDY Did he ask anything in return? ETTA That I don't go to the police...I had told him I was going to denounce the rape. WENDY Smart...Did you have the impression he was against blacks? ETTA The usual disparaging remarks but nothing more offensive. WENDY To have his okay is good for your business. ETTA I hope, who knows.
Why is it definitely the work of an interior decorator? Does it matter in some way thatís important to the story?
Definitely, the work of an interior decorator.
What does this have to do with anything?
VITO Talk. MAN #1 SAL wants to know what he has to do with GENNARO, the Hunchback. 55. VITO Whack him., he's a rat. But tell Sal to be careful, the body must disappear, capisce?
You keep laying it on thick.
VITO (CONT'D) You're a fucking good businesswoman...I wish you were white.
VITO No, he's a musician...he plays black music.
So jazz is black music. So much of this generally racist stuff.
ETTA Your father told me you are a jazz pianist.
So this is their second date, I think, and Marcello is telling her that her dad orders the killing of many people.
MARCELLO My Dad ordered the killing of many people. If you refuse to pay, first they burn your place and then they kill you.
Every relationship you have in this script is under developed.
Etta and Rosa, one minute she hates blacks a few pages later she gives her $200 000.
Etta and Wendy, Wendy is like a prop for Etta to say expositional comments to, she serves no other purpose. Who is she? How does she fit into Ettaís life?
Joey and Jenny, I honestly donít even understand the point of these two.
Etta and Marcello, one minute they donít know each other, and in a few pages they are deeply in love, getting married, sharing a business, heís composing songs for her. All of this comes out of nowhere; you have to develop the relationships so they have meaning and depth.
MARCELLO Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Now, I would like to play a song I composed for a woman very dear to me. Etta, this is for you.
Why is Marcello dating Etta such a big deal that literally all the crime family bosses need to meet?
Around a large tables sit Vito Sacara, SANTO PANELLA (70), SAL CATANIA (50), ERNESTO (Big Ernie) TONELLI (75), FILIPPO (Judge Phil) MODESTO in his 80s and Marcello. Vito stares at the group and offer a conciliatory smile. 70. VITO Thank you for coming. Today, we have to discuss a very serious matter, my son Marcello, how should I say it, is "infatuated" with a black woman--
Brenda, who's she? My thoughts exactly. You introduce her to tell us she makes salads, why is this important?
ETTA BRENDA. MARCELLO Who's she? ETTA A good friend of mine from home...her parents are Italian-American, she came to New York looking for a job. She is a good cook, for now she's helping me with salads and other things.
Why do they love each other, what has happened between them to form this bond?
MARCELLO You know that I love you... ETTA I love you too but--
Emotionally annihilated? What does that look like visually?
Marcello remains emotionally annihilated. His eyes shows an immense pain.
What does an emotional blackout look like?
For a few seconds, the room falls in an emotional blackout.
A whole conversation about the wedding ring, why? It doesnít progress the story, it supplies no conflict or tension. Like many of your scenes it just exists to exist.
SALESWOMAN These are very classic. Do you know the size? MARCELLO Well...no. SALESWOMAN Not a problem, we have a laboratory, we can adapt the ring. MARCELLO I'll give you the size...how much time you need for the adjustment? SALESWOMAN About two days. MARCELLO Okay, I'll buy it now and I'll come back tomorrow with the size.
We donít care about the song because we donít care about their relationship, it has to be developed. This whole record deal subplot is another one that has no bearing on the story.
MARCELLO Very well, the owners wants to renew the contract...the people like the band. Last night, a big record producer came, we're negotiating an album, a vinyl. All jazz compositions from the sixties, with one exception... ETTA Which one? 83. MARCELLO The song I've written for you. Her sweet gaze caresses his eyes. ETTA My love... MARCELLO The producer loves the song, he said that it can be a hit. ETTA That's great, congratulations. I'm so happy for you.
Followed by a whole discussion about the record. It serves no purpose.
RONNIE Financially, this is how it's going to work. After we recoup the recording, printing and other miscellaneous expenses, you'll will have ten percent of the sales. Of course, we're not take anything from the royalties of your original song. For that, you'll get money from ASCAP. Do you have a publishing company?
The abyss of immense lovemaking? I donít know what Iím seeing, and not sure I want to.
MARCELLO (CONT'D) Sweetheart, let's stop talking business... He begins to caress her tantalizing breast. She reacts moaning with pleasure. They kiss ardently then fall into the abyss of immense lovemaking.
Another pointless discussion, about the wedding dress this time.
SALESLADY I agree. You don't need a ball gown, I would suggest a column dress style. It tends to hug the body and show any and all of your curves. Or you can try the mermaid silhouette contours to the body from the chest to the knee, then flares out to the hem. ETTA I'll try the mermaid. SALESLADY Good choice, you see, this is a very sexy look that highlights the curves of your body. For this reason, you must be confident and comfortable in your skin to pull off this dramatic style.
Is late-late later than late? What does it matter and how would we know this as an audience.
Etta and Marcello sit around the table having a late-late supper.
Luigi - Italian, Pedro - Mexican. Does it change the story significantly that he is Mexican?
Etta stands in front of a group of workers, Otello, Brenda, four new waiters, LUIGI, (30), EMMA (40), ROBERTO (50), CALOGERO (30) and one busboy, PEDRO (20). All ItalianAmericans with the exception of Pedro, who's Mexican.
Another general conversation that doesnít advance the story.
ETTA (CONT'D) Any questions? OTELLO Do you have in mind who's going to be the maitre d'? ETTA I was thinking of you, but we'll see how it goes in the first couple of weeks. 94. BRENDA How are you arranging the kitchen. We need at least two dishwashers. ETTA I was thinking about this, I have called the agency, they will send me two Dominicans with experience in volume restaurants. BRENDA Are you staying in the kitchen? ETTA Of course, but you'll prepare most of the dishes. ROBERTO One busboy is not enough, we need at least other three. Tables must be cleaned up fast. EMMA How many sitting are we going to have? ETTA No sittings, customers will need to make a reservation, the street customers will be accommodated when we have free tables. They can wait at the bar.
They say I love you so many times and it never feels real.
MARCELLO I love you. A radiant smile illuminates Etta's wonderful face. ETTA (softly) I love you very much.
This is the entire final scene. so the script just ends. its completely jarring. There is no resolution, no charater arcs. Things happen then the main charaters die. We think? I dont know how you tell the differencce between a burnt black and white person.
INT. WENDY'S APARTMENT - KITCHEN - DAY Wendy sits at the table sipping from a large glass of orange juice. A small TV is tuned to a New York station. It's news time. Wendy pays no attention to the ANCHORMAN reading the news. She appears pensive. The anchorman continues with his monotonous voice to read a medley of news when... ANCHORMAN BREAKING NEWS, the ill-famed mob boss Vito Sacara has been found dead in his car with a single gunshot to his head. An investigation by the New York Police and the FBI is underway. We will keep you informed about any new development. Wendy instinctively stares at the TV screen. Her expression shows astonishment and trepidation. INSERT - TV SCREEN ANCHORMAN We have another BREAKING NEWS, two charred bodies have been found by a fisherman in the New Jersey Meadowlands...RICK BONO reports from New Jersey. A panoramic view of the New Jersey Meadowlands. A NEWS REPORTER (30) stands a few yards away from several policemen, police cars with flashing lights and two ambulances. REPORTER The bodies have been completely burned. (MORE) 106. From the first investigation it seems REPORTER (CONT'D) that the bodies are of an AfricanAmerican woman and a Caucasian man. The Medical Examiner will provide more information after the autopsies are performed. From the Meadowlands, RICK BONO reporting. BACK TO SCENE Frantically, she calls Etta on her cell phone. The line is dead. In hysterical desperation she leans against the wall. WENDY (screaming) NOOO...
The whole thing is passively written. Lots of grammar and spelling issues. I know English isnít your first language, and that is really low on my list of concerns anyway.
The first thing you need is a story. You donít have one, or at least one that makes any sense, or has any characters or relationships to get invested in.
My advice is to really work on your relationships and characters. Make them realistic, make them engaging, give them personality and depth. If we donít care about the characters we will struggle to get invested in the film.
Work on your character descriptions, they are all very generic and quite boring.
Cut all the conversations, or almost all of the conversations that donít move your story forward. An audience isnít going to be happy to pay to watch people have every day conversations about the size of wedding rings, how many dishwashers a restaurant needs, or which wedding dress is the best.
I think you need to address the race issues, give it a point and resolve it. Like I said, at the moment it feels like you are being racist for the sake of it. I know you arenít, but you need to tie it all up.
Long story short, this need a hell of a lot of work.
The good news you donít want to hear is that I loved it for what it was. A movie so bad its good. I laughed a lot. Comedy writerís donít get me to laugh that much. Love it or hate it thatís what I enjoy about your work. I donít read many features, but I stuck with this, I think that says something.
Hi Warren what can I say...I'm speechless! I thank you very, very much for your precious analysis...it's invaluable. I will adjust the script (too many "good looking etc). Regarding the writing style, this is the way I write and I don't think it can change a lot. Maybe, I should write more comedy stories, all "on the nose" What do you think? After all, people need a good laugh. Especially nowadays here in the USA... Again, I thank you very much...you did a great job and I deeply appreciate it. My best, Fausto ."
Hi Warren, I have to add that I have nobody to read the script after it's completed. I cannot "see" the mistakes and correct my own writing...what seems good to me, to a second pair of eyes, it's not. You did a wonderful job by reading the entire script and giving me so many helpful suggestions. Maybe, I should try to write a script in my original language, Italian, and see what happens. The problem is that Simply Scripts has no international members who can read in other languages. Thanks again. Fausto
Not a problem. As I said, I enjoyed it as is and would watch a filmed version.
Just concerning the reply below. I fully understand your intent. My issue is more that as an audience member I would prefer to see some kind of resolution. This may be a personal preference. But Iíd like to see them accept Etta, or for them to pay for their sins in some way. At the moment there is no feeling of closure.
Warren, I see your concern...a logical resolution to racism. They way I saw it was the killing by the Mafia of Etta and her boyfriend Marcello. In other words, the Mafia (racism) wins. But, I'll try to make the ending more favorable to Etta (acceptance is a good resolution) After all. these Italian-American are not so bad... Warren, I really appreciate the time you're spending with my script. Your knowledge is an asset to all the scriptwriters. Thank you very much. Fausto