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Don
Posted: January 4th, 2017, 6:16pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Duck Soup by Ben Clifford - Dramedy, Tragicomedy - A teenage boy's crush on his irresponsible mother's boyfriend is complicated when his father returns from rehab.  - pdf, format

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AlsoBen
Posted: January 5th, 2017, 7:50am Report to Moderator
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Thanks Don!

This is a hard read in terms of content. Just a warning


MY SCRIPTS:

I Don't Even Think About You Anymore (Short) 5 pages

Hera (Mystery/Drama) 83 Pages

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James McClung
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Hey Ben,

First batch of notes for you. Taken in real time and generally not edited (try to get it right the first time). Proper review will follow the final batch.

Pg. 1 - “Oi, noongah?” - What's a “noongah?”

- I feel like the opening scene would work better with less dialogue, namely as little as possible. You could easily keep Rick’s second line and scrap the rest. Most of the lines seem intended to clue the reader/viewer into what’s happening in an obvious way rather than just letting the events play out naturally (plus the later lines come a little soon for my taste, perhaps before either of the bullies would really pick up on Harmony’s reactions). I think the aberrant nature of the beating would be a little more evocative with a gleeful, perhaps bloody grin from Harmony or a grimace/recoil from either of the bullies than the “What else?” and “This is so fucking weird” that essentially replace the images.

Pg. 2 - PATIENCE – Good name. I appreciate names that are thoughtful/non-generic but not so rare that you can’t imagine meeting someone who would actually have it. Barring the possibility that Patience is indeed habitually patient and that’s way you named her as such... kudos.

- "un-sexily” - I think I know what you’re after here, but consider this can be read in two ways: either Patience tries to be sexy but fails or doesn’t try at all (and perhaps is completely disinterested in doing so). In the case of the latter, could be she’s a big burnout or something and is trying but is so inexpressive that it barely registers. Seems you’re going for the former, though. In the case, I’d clarify.

Pg. 3 - "...an elderly rehab support worker...” - unfilmmable... in the most classic sense. These days, I try to let them slide, but this offers nothing to the scene (his occupation is revealed in the following scene). Not like these guys have special uniforms that we’d recognize from a mile away, e.g. police, nurses, etc. You could really use the space for a better description anyway.

Pg. 4 - “GROUP THERAPY” - Doesn't describe the room. Surely this isn’t a mini slug and they’re having a meeting in Kingsley’s room (?). I’d come up with something more descriptive.

- JOHN, ELLIE – Are these characters sticking around? If so, I’d give them proper intros with descriptions.

Pg. 7 - “...in such a way we know she’s inexperienced.” - I think you can be more descriptive here. Perhaps “she doesn’t inhale” (or something to that effect) instead?

Pg. 8 - "clichéd, teenaged passion” – The clichéd part throws me off. It sounds like she’s supposed to be mocking “teenaged passion” or something, not exhibiting it herself. At the very least, I’d dropped the “clichéd,” but regardless, I think you can come up with something clearer and more descriptive, e.g. “angsty” or “melodramatic.”

- “No pussy grabbing Trumps.” - Awkwardly phrased. That may in fact work in that it sounds like something a teenager would say, i.e. awkward. Even so, stuff  like this dates your script. The “grab her by the pussy” jokes are already dated, so I’d personally hope you chuck this line. It doesn’t even make sense in the context of what the character is talking about.

In the event that you decide to keep it, though, stick a dash between “pussy” and “grabbing.” Not even trying to nitpick here; this is actually funny. Without a dash, you’re describing a single pussy grabbing multiple Trumps, which is, of course, wonderfully ridiculous... seriously, though, I’d reconsider the line.

Pg. 10 - "...but aside from the carnival-like sounds from the machines, the place is quiet.” - The “carnival-like sounds” tell me there’s no way this place is quiet... like, just reading the sentence by itself, I can hear the noise in this place. Seems what you’re really suggesting is this ain’t a hoppin’ place or at least at this time of day, it’s “quieter.” Why not say the place is “dead” or “empty” or what gamblers there are are “glued to their machines?” Think something along those lines would paint a more accurate picture.

- I’m not sure I buy this exchange with Trish. She seems to attack Kingsley over nothing, which suggests she’s totally unhinged. At the same time, she makes mention of “community” and “bein’ a real part of this supportive group.” Not to say someone who values those sorts of things can’t be unhinged, but I feel like if that were the case, she would’ve attacked him for something specific rather than nothing at all (she does mention a few things but none of them seem to relate to each other). Rather than try to deconstruct the scene using my own logic rather than the characters’ logic, I’ll simply ask what’s supposed to be happening here, because I can’t really tell.

Pg. 15 - "mid-1960’s” – Awfully specific. Is this supposed to be set in the 1960s?

- Also, how “disgusting” is this bathroom supposed to be? Is it the “perfect breeding place for mildew” the same way any high-school (?) bathroom might be the “perfect breeding place for mildew?” I’m not sure if I should be picturing a garden-variety public bathroom on the dank end of the spectrum or tiles flooded with pissy water and feces smeared on the walls. Somehow your description strikes me as simultaneously open and specific.

Pg. 16 - "Harmony is deriving some sort of pleasure from this.” - Not necessary. Stating the obvious. I’d cut.

- “He spies the sex...” - Read a little goofy, don’t you think? I don’t know. Just a nitpick. Disregard if you like.

Pg. 17 - No resistance from Harmony on this “pasta thing?” I’d expect there’d be some if he has a place to go. You could always end the scene with him saying no then cut to him chopping the vegetables in the next scene. That’s always fun, albeit common.

Pg. 22 - Not sure how I feel about the exchange with Jeremy. It starts off fine but towards the end, it feels like there’re too many red flags as to Harmony’s age. By the time Jeremy is asking if Harmony’s a virgin, he seems sort of dense.

I think they’re a few ways you could remedy this. For one, Harmony could say “uni” instead of “university classes,” so as to sound more colloquial and authentic. He could still pause before he says it. In response to “vers,” he could try to say something smart instead of saying “right” in agreement. Such responses could disarm or at least confuse Jeremy before he has time to be suspicious, slowly but surely throwing him off the trail or at the very least leave him thinking Harmony’s just weird as opposed to underage.

This is all assuming Jeremy’s a regular guy with regular wits about him. I’m reviewing this in real time, so of course it’s possible later scenes will reveal him otherwise. That said, I understand Harmony’s just a kid, but I think some thinking on his toes would benefit the scene. Beyond mere believability, you could also potentially raise the tension as a result.

Pg. 24 - "detritus” - Awfully specific word choice. Makes me think of rubble or sewage contents, not something you’d find in someone’s home (unless they were just hit with an earthquake). I’d say “trash” or something similar. I think that’s what you mean.

- “...BILL, the rehab manager, a charmless obese man, Reginald, and Kingsley.” - I know exactly what you mean here, but it reads a little awkward. Someone could interpret this as five people occupying the room instead of three. Perhaps a little nitpicky but I think it’s an easy fix: introduce Bill in one line then establish Reginald and Kingsley in the following, e.g. “Reginald and Kingsley sit across from him.”

Pg. 25 - "continuing anyway” - Awkward/unnecessary. Even so, I think it’d simply read better if you ended Kingsley’s “Yes” with a dash cutting him off.

- “gesturing to document” - Also unnecessary; implied by Bill’s flipping through the document.

Pg. 26 - "When you relapse, I mean.” - Strange thing for the manager of a rehab facility to say. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be funny or ice cold. Either way, I don’t think I buy it.

Nevertheless, if you want to keep the dramatic beat, maybe have him say the first line (“I’m happy for you to return next time”) then have him backtrack when Kingsley responds. He could stammer or try to clarify his statement, realizing his mistake (if not the sentiment itself, surely saying it out loud was a mistake). Of course, you could leave the line as is if you like; just my thoughts.

More later...


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AlsoBen
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James! I assure you I read all of this and appreciate it. When I'm not at work, I'll talk about this a little more with you


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I Don't Even Think About You Anymore (Short) 5 pages

Hera (Mystery/Drama) 83 Pages

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James McClung
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Second batch...

- Baljeet's story seems pretty heavy to dish out to a stranger right off the bat. Not that personal conversations don’t happen in taxi cabs (on the contrary) and not that he wouldn’t notice the fact that the place is a rehab center, but the exchange feels a little rushed/forced somehow. Perhaps Kingsley lets a few personal things slip out casually (he’s had a shitty day, so he might not care) before Baljeet starts. Might feel more natural.

Pg. 28 - "Probably just heroin.” - Awkward. Who says, “just heroin?” Makes it sound so inconsequential. I’d go with a definitive “Heroin” from Kingsley, even if he’s wrong.

Pg. 31 - Corona seems pretty damn light for an alcoholic, especially for a go-to drink.

- Not crazy about this exchange regardless. Why not have the bartender outright guess his drink and have Kingsley say, “You got it,” or something to that effect? Sparse *and* natural.

Pg. 32 - "But some old the old flies at the RSL...” - Seems like a typo here.

- The exchange between Kingsley and Frank feels a little rushed. You haven’t seen your friend in ages and the first thing you’re gonna do is tell him some bad news? Plus Kingsley just leaves? He didn’t even finish his beer.

Easy fix here, I think, in the form of the old “come in late, get out early.” Somewhere towards the beginning of the exchange, cut to the two sitting together, either at the bar or in a booth or something, showing that they’ve taken a moment to catch up. At that point, you can lay right into the reveal about Patience as it’s currently written. Personally, I’d cut after Kingsley says, “Fuck,” but couldn’t hurt to linger. Your call.

Pg. 35 - This scene between Kingsley and Patience has similar issues. Those issues are magnified by the amount of significance the scene is meant to have dramatically. I mean, Patience’s initial reaction and Kingsley’s line, “I got kicked out of rehab,” Kingsley’s aggressive turn during sex, and Patience’s revelation (presumably about Harmony’s brother) – all fine dramatic beats in and of themselves. But the scene is so 0-60, it all feels rushed, unnatural, and, as a result, ineffective.

Again, I think some transitions could help the scene. I’d make the first after Kingsley says he’s kicked out to him and Patience having sex (in another room, so as to establish the passage of time) and a second after Kingsley asks about Derik to Patience on the ground, wailing, “I’m just so unhappy.” You could add/remove a few things to add some finesse to the transitions.

Of course, this is just how I’d do it. I think transitions would help, but hard to say if they’d really solve everything. Perhaps you could keep it all as one scene and add some content to make the escalation a little more natural/gradual. You could do this, of course, as your script is only 80 pages, but perhaps you run the risk of the scene becoming bloated. Tread carefully with this one, I suppose, since it does seem to be an especially important scene.

- Related to both this scene and the bar, be careful with scenes where people show up someplace only to arbitrarily leave a minute or two later. You need look no further than Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” to see how problematic this can be. Of course, it works in context (a character goes someplace to pick something up or deliver a quick message), but both these scenes suggest someone sticking around for a while. Plus “come in early, get out early” (as I’ve illustrated above, a good remedy for this type of thing) as a general principle takes a lot of pressure off you as a writer in that you can get straight into the nitty gritty of a scene without all the greetings and bullshit chit-chat that would presumably precede/follow it.

Pg. 39 - Aight. Third time someone’s mentioned Kingsly “got kicked out of rehab.” First two times are justified, but this time, it’s obvious -- not necessarily to Harmony, sure, but he doesn’t seem to give a shit anyway. Repeating the line again might run the risk of being unintentionally comical.

- “Go to bed.” - Surely, you can come up with a better way for Patience to skirt the question... or is this supposed to be funny?

Pg. 46 - "INT. SUBURBAN “ALL YOU CAN EAT” - DINING ROOM - I don’t know what this is supposed to mean. I wanna say it’s a restaurant, but the DINING ROOM throws me off. The descriptions that follow make it sound like a food court, but again... DINING ROOM (not to mention a food court ain’t exactly suburban). Not sure why the “ALL YOU CAN EAT” is in quotes either (nothing wrong with it, per se, but it doesn’t help). Honestly, I’m at a total loss as to what kind of place this is supposed to be.

- “Swanky fuckin’ place - I can’t tell if this is supposed to be funny or not. That would be due to the slug, I expect. I’d definitely try to clarify.

Pg. 47 - “So you chose here, this place...” - Wasn't the first line supposed to be “genuine?” Patience’s turn here seems to suggest otherwise.

Pg. 49 - Is John supposed to be completely full of shit or what? He puts on heirs whilst reading Diane’s paper like he’s gonna say something worthwhile then just states, “It’s good. Not great. Could be better.” Maybe that’s his character, i.e. a pretentious phony. Obviously, he’s supposed to be a hardass, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still have a good head on his shoulders. Being a phony’s something else, and if that’s not his character, I’d rethink some of his dialogue.

Pg. 55 - A 12-year-old who likes Courtney Love. Is this supposed to be as peculiar as it sounds?

- “family buffet” – Honestly would’ve been a better slug for that particular scene.


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AlsoBen
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Hey James, thought I'd respond to some of these. Thanks for all the feedback, and your thoroughness. Most of this is thoguhtlessness on my part, but you asked a few questions I thought I'd answer for you.


Quoted Text
Pg. 1 - “Oi, noongah?” - What's a “noongah?”


It's a racial slur.


Quoted Text
...an elderly rehab support worker...” - unfilmmable... in the most classic sense. These days, I try to let them slide, but this offers nothing to the scene (his occupation is revealed in the following scene). Not like these guys have special uniforms that we’d recognize from a mile away, e.g. police, nurses, etc. You could really use the space for a better description anyway.


Why would he not wear a uniform? I used to have the exact job and I absolutely had to wear a branded uniform haha. Name tag? Lanyard? I'm not a fan of "show don't tell" as gospel anyway, so this might be where our minds don't meet.


Quoted Text
Pg. 4 - “GROUP THERAPY” - Doesn't describe the room. Surely this isn’t a mini slug and they’re having a meeting in Kingsley’s room (?). I’d come up with something more descriptive.


It's a mini slug because the main slug describes INT. REHAB FACILITY - KINGSLEY'S ROOM. Hence the Mini slug is the same facility, in the therapy room. I dont change main slugs unless the building changes.


Quoted Text
"...but aside from the carnival-like sounds from the machines, the place is quiet.” - The “carnival-like sounds” tell me there’s no way this place is quiet... like, just reading the sentence by itself, I can hear the noise in this place. Seems what you’re really suggesting is this ain’t a hoppin’ place or at least at this time of day, it’s “quieter.” Why not say the place is “dead” or “empty” or what gamblers there are are “glued to their machines?” Think something along those lines would paint a more accurate picture.


You're probably right, but a pokie/slot machine room with perhaps three or four people in it would be quiet aside from the sounds of the machines? I don't fully understand the issue here.


Quoted Text
I’m not sure I buy this exchange with Trish. She seems to attack Kingsley over nothing, which suggests she’s totally unhinged. At the same time, she makes mention of “community” and “bein’ a real part of this supportive group.” Not to say someone who values those sorts of things can’t be unhinged, but I feel like if that were the case, she would’ve attacked him for something specific rather than nothing at all (she does mention a few things but none of them seem to relate to each other). Rather than try to deconstruct the scene using my own logic rather than the characters’ logic, I’ll simply ask what’s supposed to be happening here, because I can’t really tell.


I don't know how to explain this one besides the fact that people in rehab facilities are unhinged and have a cult-like focus on community. I have seen the exact exchange go down so many times, with the same intensity.


Quoted Text
- Also, how “disgusting” is this bathroom supposed to be? Is it the “perfect breeding place for mildew” the same way any high-school (?) bathroom might be the “perfect breeding place for mildew?” I’m not sure if I should be picturing a garden-variety public bathroom on the dank end of the spectrum or tiles flooded with pissy water and feces smeared on the walls. Somehow your description strikes me as simultaneously open and specific.


I don't quite get why that description of the bathroom would in anyway evoke feces smeared on the wall. It's just gross and dank like any public high school's bathroom.


Quoted Text
No resistance from Harmony on this “pasta thing?” I’d expect there’d be some if he has a place to go. You could always end the scene with him saying no then cut to him chopping the vegetables in the next scene. That’s always fun, albeit common.


He doesn't have anywhere to go specifically, he plans to use grindr to pick someone up (see: next scene). It's not time sensitive. I thought it was an important aspect of the mother/child relationship that not only is it normal for Harmony to cook for Patience, but that he doesn't even eat it. Idk, that's just me.


Quoted Text
Pg. 26 - "When you relapse, I mean.” - Strange thing for the manager of a rehab facility to say. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be funny or ice cold. Either way, I don’t think I buy it.


I think the issue here is that the entire narrative is incredibly absurd so I don't see why this joke "doesn't work". It is both a joke and "ice cold".


Quoted Text
Pg. 31 - Corona seems pretty damn light for an alcoholic, especially for a go-to drink.


Kingsley is explicitly not an alcoholic.


Quoted Text
Pg. 35 - etc


You're 100% right about this scene, which is a shame, because it was fun to write. I'm trying to work on making the change more gradual. Thanks

I'm sorry to go through your points like that, but some of it was questions you asked and others were things that I think might have been cultural barriers that needed explaining. I hae definitely taken all this on board and greatly appreciate it, dude


MY SCRIPTS:

I Don't Even Think About You Anymore (Short) 5 pages

Hera (Mystery/Drama) 83 Pages

What A Good Boy Does (Short/Drama) 10 Pages
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James McClung
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Quoted from AlsoBen
Why would he not wear a uniform? I used to have the exact job and I absolutely had to wear a branded uniform haha. Name tag? Lanyard? I'm not a fan of "show don't tell" as gospel anyway, so this might be where our minds don't meet.


I didn't just say uniform; I said "uniforms that we'd recognize from a mile away." A name tag and a lanyard doesn't explicitly identify a rehab support worker, as there're tons of other jobs that use them. Everyone can identify cops, paramedics, or firemen, for example, based on their uniforms, regardless of variation, is the distinction I was trying to make.

The uniform is irrelevant, though, since you didn't mention one anyway. I'm just using it as an example. That said, the line isn't a big deal and you could probably leave it in, no problem. I'm not necessarily a stickler for "show don't tell" either. I just try to mention anything that catches my attention and might benefit the writer one way or another, even if it's strictly personal on my part.


Quoted from AlsoBen
It's a mini slug because the main slug describes INT. REHAB FACILITY - KINGSLEY'S ROOM. Hence the Mini slug is the same facility, in the therapy room. I dont change main slugs unless the building changes.


That makes sense. I'd still change the slug to LATER or something. GROUP THERAPY doesn't work, since it describes neither a time or place.


Quoted from AlsoBen
You're probably right, but a pokie/slot machine room with perhaps three or four people in it would be quiet aside from the sounds of the machines? I don't fully understand the issue here.


I think slot machines would be noisy no matter what. You also use the phrase "carnival-like," which suggests even more noise than there very well might be. For better or for worse, I'm fascinated by word choices and what each one implies. Just nitpickin', though. You can leave it.


Quoted from AlsoBen
I don't know how to explain this one besides the fact that people in rehab facilities are unhinged and have a cult-like focus on community. I have seen the exact exchange go down so many times, with the same intensity.


I believe you. To be honest, I couldn't put my finger on exactly what stood out to me in this scene. It just felt clunky somehow.

Still, you may have seen this sort of thing before, but you still have to translate it to the page in a way that feels natural and authentic. That's difficult to do, even with the life experience, and it doesn't always work (for a variety of reasons). Not saying your scene is inherently unnatural or inauthentic (honestly, it's one of my lesser gripes with the script thus far); for me, this is more about the argument of having experienced something in real life justifies what's on the page when really, in the end, the page is all that matters. It's an argument I see a lot and one I'd would be wary of in the future.


Quoted from AlsoBen
I don't quite get why that description of the bathroom would in anyway evoke feces smeared on the wall. It's just gross and dank like any public high school's bathroom.


Your description doesn't evoke that image; I'm just using it as an example. Again, I read a lot into word choices (admittedly at my peril). "Disgusting" is a strong word. Certainly not a bad choice, but it can definitely conjure up some extreme images. I think "dank" would be more specific and along the lines you're looking for, but that's just me.


Quoted from AlsoBen
He doesn't have anywhere to go specifically, he plans to use grindr to pick someone up (see: next scene). It's not time sensitive. I thought it was an important aspect of the mother/child relationship that not only is it normal for Harmony to cook for Patience, but that he doesn't even eat it. Idk, that's just me.[quote]

My point is he probably wants to get out of there and meet up with Jeremy. Cooking for his mom sounds like a drag, *especially* if he doesn't eat. "Normal's" got nothing to do with it; nobody likes to hear, "Can you do me a favor?" I don't know, though. Maybe he likes it.

[quote=AlsoBen]I think the issue here is that the entire narrative is incredibly absurd so I don't see why this joke "doesn't work". It is both a joke and "ice cold".


Didn't work for me. Could easily be that it'd work better onscreen than on the page. Comedy's subjective. What are you gonna do?


Quoted from AlsoBen
Kingsley is explicitly not an alcoholic.


You're absolutely right. My bad. The result of reading the script over the course of two days, I suppose. The scene sorta reads like the quintessential "alcoholic returns to the bar" scene is all, but that's only because he's been away.


Quoted from AlsoBen
I'm sorry to go through your points like that, but some of it was questions you asked and others were things that I think might have been cultural barriers that needed explaining.


Understood. I definitely considered that. Admittedly, when I started the script, I assumed it was set in the U.S. (otherwise I wouldn't have asked about the racial slur), but that turned out not to be the case, so I've been keeping that in mind since. I'll actually get more into this later, as the Australian angle, as it relates specifically to Korine and Solondz' films, was intriguing to me.

More later...



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James McClung  -  January 7th, 2017, 7:34pm
Typos big time!!!
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AlsoBen
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Thanks James. You're the best!


MY SCRIPTS:

I Don't Even Think About You Anymore (Short) 5 pages

Hera (Mystery/Drama) 83 Pages

What A Good Boy Does (Short/Drama) 10 Pages
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Third and final batch of notes. Typos, probably. Will gather my thoughts and post a proper review either tonight or tomorrow. Mixed feelings, but don't sweat it. Didn't hate it.

Pg. 62 - "stoney-faced” - Another typo. One of only two I’ve seen. Well done. Anyway, “stony-faced” is what you want.

Pg. 63 - “...the body of a small boy...” - How small? Baby? Toddler? Older? An age would help, I think.

- “The legs of another corpse...” - I can’t really put my finger on what’s wrong here, but it reads awkward. I would write something like, “A woman’s legs jut out lifelessly from behind the shower curtain.” For one thing, I don’t know if you mean the legs jut out from behind the curtain like I said or if the curtain is translucent somehow and the legs can be seen through it. Also having an issue with the characterizations of “corpse” and “adult woman.” Might have something to do with the fact that you can’t see her or affirm that she’s dead visually (although I suppose we can assume). Perhaps the issue’s in my head and I’m just in a weird mood at the moment, I don’t know.

- Something genuinely strange/unnerving about this scene. I’m intrigued. Well done.

- “You’ll understand when you get older.” – Strictly my opinion, but not a fan of this line. For one, it seems like it should be directed at a much younger person. Second, there’s an element here of everything being out in the open, what with Kingsley being there at the same time as Derik and everyone knowing what’s going on. Dramatically speaking, it’s cool, but the platitude kinda kills it, especially coming after the line, “I hate her for this,” which feels so transparent and defeated, i.e. poignant, between father and son.

Pg. 64 - "I guess.” - This is sorta Harmony’s catchphrase, and for the most part, it works. Here, though, it’s a little awkward, like you didn’t have another line you could’ve used but had to fill the space. I get Harmony’s supposed to be noncommittal, but really, there’s nothing to “guess.”

Pg. 65 - "Kingsley has a look of almost longing.” - Nothing wrong here. I’d propose, though, it might be cool to leave this out and let the reader infer/speculate on Kinglsey’s reaction. It’s a loaded image in and of itself. Maybe let it breathe.

- “Kingsley walks out the front door.” - This has an awkward effect followed by the line, “Kingsley storms out.” For one, it’s almost like you repeat the same action twice. Second, it’s as if Kingsley isn’t storming out until he gets outside, like, “normal walk... normal walk... storming.” Third, it almost reads like Kingsley either didn’t even notice or willfully ignored the two kissing (if the latter, storming out almost seems like self-betrayal). I’d either cut the line or have Kingsley stop/notice the two before storming out.

Pg. 67 - "...drinking their respective beers and smoking their receptive cigarettes.” - Longwinded. “Drinking beers and smoking cigarettes” works just fine. In the event you wanna keep it as is, though, I believe you meant “respective cigarettes.”

Pg. 71 - "Whatever, Nando.” - Isn’t she supposed to be “taken aback; shocked?” Doesn’t sound like it.

- This scene seems to reference an earlier one. I don’t remember Diane and Nando ever breaking up. I can’t seem to find such a scene skimming back through the script either.

Pg. 72 - I’d reconsider THERESE’s intro. Technically, I don’t think it’s incorrect, but it feels problematic in that we don’t see Therese onscreen. We also would have no way of recognizing her voice. I hope you address this later if there happen to be any reveals down the road.

- “gurrgles” - Typo.

- Are you sure you mean “the 12 Steps novel?” If so, is there such thing as the novel? You mentioned you used to do this kind of work, so you tell me. In any case, for the sake of clarity, I would state the book’s title explicitly.

- “...slither of light.” - You mean “sliver.”

- “darl” - I was ready for you this time. Urban Dictionary’d this motherfucker. Australian term of endearment, as I correctly deduced.

Pg. 75 - How would Ian know what Kingsley is talking about? Kingsley doesn’t make any distinct references to anything at all, really. Even if he had an inkling, why would Ian risk revealing his guilt in any way on the off-chance he’s wrong about why he’s being confronted? I think Kingsley should mention Maya outright. Otherwise he’s being too vague for Ian to know what he’s on about, and frankly, his “rage” doesn’t seem forceful enough for the circumstances anyway.

- This scene with Harmony and Diane is dramatic and along the lines of what I expected for a climax, but it reads a little too hasty. I get that that’s kinda the point and it’s supposed to feel sudden and awkward, but the pacing feels off somehow. It’s a delicate balance you wanna strike here. Perhaps it’s an issue of a scene working better onscreen than on the page or rather that I’m simply scrutinizing a bit too much at this point, but I’d reread it and see if you don’t think it could use some finesse.

Pg. 80 – Once again, the time to mention Rebel’s age would’ve been in the flashback.

- Also, going back to that scene, are we to assume that the bathtub was full of water? If so, wouldn’t the water be tinged red with Therese’s blood? Maybe there isn’t that much water at all. Maybe there was a struggle and a lot of it got thrown out whilst Rebel thrashed his limbs around. All details that don’t appear in the flashback but would be important to include if indeed they’re meant to be there.

Review soon...


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James McClung
Posted: January 13th, 2017, 11:56am Report to Moderator
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Forgive the typos and perhaps (hopefully not) lack of clarity in some of my responses. This was something of a slog to write, as there were frequent interruptions this week. Still, these are basically my raw initial thoughts. Anywho...

I suppose I'll start by addressing the concerns you raised in the "My Work In Progress" thread. First off, is the script too extreme, i.e. too graphic or too strange? Maybe to some. Not to me. It’s certainly not as extreme as you might think it is.

I think you underestimate the number of offbeat or transgressive scripts out there. Pedophilia and incest are both common, not to mention easy, go-to's to hit those marks (to be fair, your script didn't feature incest explicitly, but some of the content does bring it to mind). Others -- broken homes, domestic violence, child abuse, bullying, murder/suicide, etc. -- are also common in these kinds of scripts. I neglect to mention drug/alcohol abuse because those themes are mainstays in all genres. Practically speaking, scripts that focus on (as opposed to simply including) any/all of the above probably aren't going to get as much traction as your average high-concept/genre fare when it comes to getting picked up, but they're around and I've read plenty of them over the years.

What perhaps sets yours apart from the others, at least the ones that I’ve read, is their focus on drama and, more specifically, suffering. Take the fight between Kingsley and Patience or the penultimate scene with Harmony and Diane. I’ve read a lot of scripts where it seems like one of those scenes after another, and when they’re written by amateurs, it gets to be a drag quick. This one seems a little more varied, with many scenes feeling more mundane/matter-of-fact (in a good way) or perhaps absurd/humorous. These scenes make the world feel lived in and give the script overall a more tempered approach, which makes the more dramatic scenes stand out more.

Also, not every character feels like a fiend or a victim, another common trope of many scripts in this vein. Arguably none of them are either. Even though many are a mess, all the characters seem genuinely interested in making connections with others and tend to do so with some confidence, or at least a general lack of anxiety. They didn’t feel real, per se, (which is fine, since the story takes place within a slightly heightened reality), but they did feel human. As a result, the script gets to breathe a little so I don’t feel like I’m being banged over the head when something fucked up happens.

I mentioned some issues here and there, but overall, the writing is easy to read and flows. The dialogue was more or less natural and straightforward. More importantly, it didn’t try too hard to sound harsh or depressing, which could’ve easily sunk the script completely. Really, nothing on the page itself tended to take me out of the story. I think some of it could use some work, but overall, I found the writing more or less did its job, which is good.

Still, there’re some problems...

For starters, the logline doesn’t represent the script itself. I suppose you could argue there are hints that Harmony has a crush on Derik, but if there are, they’re so subtle that it doesn’t even matter. Even if that weren’t the case, Kingsley’s return doesn’t complicate Harmony’s life (if anyone’s life is complicated -- which it’s not -- it'd be Patience’s). I’d come up with a new logline.

Really, nobody’s life seems to be complicated by anything, even though plenty of things happen in the script that could complicate them.
This is the most apparent with Harmony. I mean, he loses his virginity to an adult stranger when he’s fourteen and both of them know this could get them in serious trouble -- arguably the most consequential event in the story -- and not only does it never come up again, it barely seems to affect Harmony at all (do you really think “They sit in serious, unaffected silence” is enough for the end of this storyline? The beatings/masochism plotline doesn’t go anywhere either, I mentioned the lack of intrigue between him and Derik, and while the scene with him and Diane is interesting, it occurs at the very end of the script. This is all compounded by the fact that Harmony is generally apathetic to everything that happens to him. In the smaller moments, this attitude is actually pretty effective, but while it doesn’t necessarily hurt the heavier scenes, it arguably hurts the script at large from a narrative perspective.

Speaking of characters, I found Kingsley to be a little inconsistent. During his confrontations with Trish and Patience, he explodes with violence, almost uncontrollably. But when it comes to confronting Ian or Patience provoking him, Kingsley’s reactions seem lacking. The latter scenes demand stronger responses, which would seem to make sense for Kingsley, and the lack of such responses makes him seem like he’s holding himself back (when Patience makes out with Derik and he storms out, he seems practically emasculated). His reaction to Ian especially needs to be stronger (I expected violence).

Some of the scenes with smaller characters don’t seem to go anywhere at all, e.g. Harmony/Glen, Diane and her family, Harmony/Derik watching TV, etc. The last one seemed like it was intended to convey sexual tension or something and the dream sequence before the flashback seems to further suggest that, but it’s completely undercut by the flashback, which is dramatic in a completely different way. I would’ve liked the transition if you made more of Harmony’s supposed crush, but as of now, there’s not a lot to go on. The other scenes are sort of day-in-the-life kinda stuff, but I’m not sure if they’re really all that interesting. I guess Diane’s home life is supposed to reinforce her move on Harmony in the end, but I can’t tell for sure.

Overall, a lot of setup, but not a lot of payoff, neither narratively nor thematically. That’s not to say there’s not potential; there are a number of interesting themes to unpack here. I just don’t think there’s enough to go on yet to say any one theme is central to the story. As far as narrative, you do have some distinct threads, but most of their denouements, however dramatic, seem to occur randomly with no precedence, if the storylines are resolved at all. Other times, it seems like you’re going for more of a day-in-the-life angle, but if you’re gonna go that way, I think you still need some kind of thematic anchor.

I should note that I’m not opposed to day-in-the-life kinda films at all, even if they happen to feel especially loose. There are a lot of moments in Gummo that I enjoy. Point is I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to this sort of thing. You could very well get slammed by others for not having more action or a tighter narrative.

Still, I think the tone helps temper some of these issues by keeping things odd and unexpected. I’m not sure how vital Harmony’s V.O. is to the story, but maybe that’s the point; they’re complete non-sequiturs with a bizarre edge and did make me think of films like Gummo and Ken Park. A lot of what happens in the story does seem tied, one way or another, to Kingsley being bit by a horse. Reading the script, it didn’t quite resonate with me, but upon reflection, there is something darkly humorous in the wreckage of certain people’s lives being kick-started by complete randomness. It’s an interesting counterbalance to the script in the sense that without it, you’d be left with Therese’s murder/suicide, which casts a much more tragic light over what transpires.

At the same time, I didn’t find anything to be outright funny, just odd or random. I liked the vibe anyway, but I mention this for the sake that I don’t know how funny you wanted this to be. It’s not funny the way Solondz’ films are funny; your comedic approach feels pretty mellow and casual overall, whereas I think Solondz’ lines are actually pretty sharp and calculated, even though the deliveries may be flat. If you’re going for a satirical angle, I think the humor needs to be more biting, whereas if you’re going for something else, you might just need to figure out what that is and hone in on it (all of this, of course, in the event that you’re not getting the reactions you want). As of now, everything feels more peculiar than anything. Take that as you will.

In any case, I think there’s potential here, and I think you more or less captured the vibe you were going for. Certain aspects of the writing could use some tightening up, though, and the narrative threads might run a little flat for some. On the Australian angle, I just wanted to say I thought it was cool that you were inspired by Gummo and Happiness among other references, as the films are somewhat overlooked (Happiness more than Gummo, for sure), but also because I think those films are distinctly American (not because of the tone or structure but because they focus on really specific parts of America and specific cultures within those places). It was intriguing to see those influences implemented from a completely different angle and perspective, while the overall work still felt like its own thing. So kudos.

Anyway, hope this helps.


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Marcela
Posted: January 13th, 2017, 4:47pm Report to Moderator
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Hey Ben, I really like your style of writing. I also found the logline intriguing, that's why I started reading. Good start - I was really curious why Harmony gets beaten up and doesn't bat an eyelid. The explanation was disappointing for me - he gets off on getting beaten up. That's very offputting for me. There was also a scene where he masturbates. Are these aspects of your script necessary? I mean, for example many people pick their noses, but would you include it in a script?  Some things are just not appealing for people to watch, even if it's  a comedy. I stopped reading on page 10 but I would like to know the story so hopefully I will be back for more.


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AlsoBen
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Quoted Text
Anyway, hope this helps.


James, I literally LITERALLY could not have paid for more helpful feedback. Thank you. I hope I can do half as well with your feedback. I will be basing my next draft almost entirely on your notes.


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For starters, the logline doesn’t represent the script itself. I suppose you could argue there are hints that Harmony has a crush on Derik, but if there are, they’re so subtle that it doesn’t even matter. Even if that weren’t the case, Kingsley’s return doesn’t complicate Harmony’s life (if anyone’s life is complicated -- which it’s not -- it'd be Patience’s). I’d come up with a new logline.


You're right. I have no idea what to write for a logline for this. The initial concept for the script was to focus on the fact that he has a crush on Derik, but I kind of sidelined that as you can see. I don't even know where to start for something like this in terms of writing a logline.


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Speaking of characters, I found Kingsley to be a little inconsistent. During his confrontations with Trish and Patience, he explodes with violence, almost uncontrollably. But when it comes to confronting Ian or Patience provoking him, Kingsley’s reactions seem lacking. The latter scenes demand stronger responses, which would seem to make sense for Kingsley, and the lack of such responses makes him seem like he’s holding himself back (when Patience makes out with Derik and he storms out, he seems practically emasculated). His reaction to Ian especially needs to be stronger (I expected violence).


I agree, especially with Ian's scene. I can't justify why he wouldn't respond with violence in that instant. With Patience, I think, I'm trying to establish that this has happened a few times and its just not shocking to him. Not too sure. I think if I had Kingsley, who, IMO, is the only truly likeable character, punch everyone he has conflict with it would be too "loud".


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If you’re going for a satirical angle, I think the humor needs to be more biting, whereas if you’re going for something else, you might just need to figure out what that is and hone in on it (all of this, of course, in the event that you’re not getting the reactions you want). As of now, everything feels more peculiar than anything. Take that as you will.


Well, I'm not really satirising anything here. This is more of a representation of lower-socioeconomic people in Australia. I guess I wasn't going for laugh out loud funny either, more in the sense that this is a strange world these characters inhabit.


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A lot of what happens in the story does seem tied, one way or another, to Kingsley being bit by a horse.


I am so happy you picked up on this! The randomness in the events leading to the scripts narrative was one of my intentions. I wanted to have these quirky, almost non-issues (being bitten by a horse) being a catalyst for everything that happens in all the acts.


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Overall, a lot of setup, but not a lot of payoff, neither narratively nor thematically. That’s not to say there’s not potential; there are a number of interesting themes to unpack here. I just don’t think there’s enough to go on yet to say any one theme is central to the story. As far as narrative, you do have some distinct threads, but most of their denouements, however dramatic, seem to occur randomly with no precedence, if the storylines are resolved at all. Other times, it seems like you’re going for more of a day-in-the-life angle, but if you’re gonna go that way, I think you still need some kind of thematic anchor.


I don't know. You're right, though, that there's a lot that happens in terms of set-up, and I don't think I paid it off correctly. I don't doubt that it's kind of a blue-balls situation here with the way the story ends, and you're not the first person to say that. I guess, along with the randomness of events, I wanted the story to be as nihilistic as possible. I don't know how to explain it, really just that there's so many people in the story and they amount to nothing, just as they would in real life. Glen is just background noise for Harmony's shitty life, Diane's mother is just an aspect of hers, etc.


Quoted Text

I suppose I'll start by addressing the concerns you raised in the "My Work In Progress" thread. First off, is the script too extreme, i.e. too graphic or too strange? Maybe to some. Not to me. It’s certainly not as extreme as you might think it is.


You're right again, and that concern was based on an earlier draft where the ending was more clear. (The intention was that Patience and Kingsley invite Harmony to join them in the group sex with Derik, which I toned down/did not explicitly reference with the ending after all). But looking at Marcela's response, it kind of makes me know that not everyone has as strong a stomach as you and I, haha.

Again James, I sincerely appreciate the effort you've gone to here. So much to pore over and learn from. Thankyou <3


Marcela:

I'm glad you felt intrigued enough to open the script and I appreciate your thoughts wholly. I mean I disagree that the masturbation is unncessary, and it's a fundamental part of the world the story is set in. I totally get it if it's a hard slog, though


MY SCRIPTS:

I Don't Even Think About You Anymore (Short) 5 pages

Hera (Mystery/Drama) 83 Pages

What A Good Boy Does (Short/Drama) 10 Pages
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