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I really liked the atmosphere here. For a while it had a Carnival of Souls feel about it. I would have liked it even more if you continued on in that vein. But it suddenly went Carnivale, which I guess is cool too, and the whole thing was peppered with a pinch of David Lynch.
However, there wasn't much of a story here. Was it Gothic, sort of, more surreal than anything else. Some of the dialogue was quite good. I kept hoping this script would really distinguish itself but it never really quite made it to that level for me.
I think a large reason is you kind of lost me in the middle because it kind of dragged and didn't really seem to have any point. Would it look cool on film? Probably. But looking cool isn't the only thing a movie needs to do.
Good work. Maybe focus a bit more on what you are trying to convey with the story - give it more depth.
Great beginning, super beginning! I guess "misdirection" is being deliberately used, but it's overused for such a short piece, I think. The dialogue, although awkard at times, is useful to the story, and the character Charles is superb. For me the beginning of this script is thrilling, the middle is muddled and the ending is satisfactory. For a OWC this is a very good effort, indeed.
I enjoyed this for the most part and felt that the writing was good with only a few hiccups.
My main issue is that I feel William and Bethany's relationship, "from a future/past" perspective is not properly told. They enter the Carnival, which is a metaphor for life. That's really good and solid from my definition of gothic needing atmosphere and the atmosphere needs to act like a character in the script. The whole surrealistic atmosphere boils down into the dwarf who entices William onward, searching, as it were for answers to the loss of his dear Bethany...
The trouble is though, at the end, after the whole dream like chase, (and I really appreciated that because that's exactly how dreams are: you're here and then you're there) they wind up together on the train with bullet holes in their backs; so that just kind of happened, but we don't know why. It felt like you ran out of pages and you had to wrap it up.
I really liked the part where Bethany and William were on the carousel and Willian says, "I think I saw a ghost". That really sets the stage.
A very memorable script. It's definitely in the vein of a Twilight Zone or our lovely Soulshadows here on Simply.
Locations & Sets - 1890 London skyline (matte), period train and track, full period circus set up incl. carousel and big top tent, circus entrance, custom built hall of mirrors, high wire, INT caravan Actors - Dwarf (40), Circus folk, long line/crowd of extras, WILLIAM (23), BETHANY (21), Yelling MAN, Two burly men, RAILROAD WORKER (-), ANGEL OF DEATH, SNAKE CHARMER (21), SHOWMAN (48 ), WOLFMAN, Clowns, pit orchestra w/ Costumes - Dwarf's dusty red velvet coat and top hat, period clothes for extras and circus folk, William and Beth's period dress, Beth's dress will become blood soaked and bullet shot, RAILROAD WORKER's outfit, ANGEL OF DEATH skeletal costume with great black wings, SNAKE CHARMER costume, SHOWMAN costume, WOLFMAN costume, clown costumes Props - Dwarf's cane, torches to "light" the fairgrounds, sledge hammer, lunch pail, carved huge wooden framed mirror, mirror to break x 2, curtain, violin, animated "black asp", showman's stick, neck collar and chain, juggling sticks, high wire pole, glowing crystal ball, small table and chairs, tarot deck Audio FX - train whistle and engine steam, barkers yelling for fairway games, fairway clatter, violin music, TWACK! of hitting wolfman, big top music and drum roll, hushing crowd, drum beats, Visual FX - train pulls into frame (Hmm... ), RR worker walking though man, transition from wirework flight into CGI ANGEL OF DEATH/Bethany flight into sky, spurting blood, Other - build a great bonfire (probably will need local fire dept on hand), wirework to pull ANGEL OF DEATH and BETHANY out of hall of mirrors, albino boa and animal wrangler, MUA for WOLFMAN, spotlight Comments - Turn off your program's page (CONTINUED) and dialog (CONT'D) features. Bare breasts - you just got booted from PG to R. Doing pretty good until right up to that cat-out-of-the-hat ending. WTH? This is NOT a cost effective short to produce, entertaining as it is, and it is, or was until that end.
In this corner, we have the champion, Open Casket, waiting for someone to step into the ring, but it looks like no one...ah, wait a minute. Wait a minute, a little fella over here with name that does not draw interest, Last Stop. A contender for the title! Yes, step into the ring.
Open Casket is chiseled, fleet footed, graceful. Last Stop has heart. Who deserves my choice for the title?
Last Stop held my interest from beginning to end, every word of dialogue, every action line. It is intriguing and original. It challenges our imagination, and does it with consistently applied tension. Unlike most of these entries, the protag has a clear goal, actively pursues it. There are stakes, a sense of urgency. This is how a story is crafted!
But there are problems too. I like these stories that have a dream like quality, where you are invited to question the nature of the reality we are experiencing. I was wondering if this was reality, or a dream, or a death like state, right up until he awoke on the platform in the circus tent. Then there was no longer a question of this being a real conscious state. Everything seemed a little weaker after that, the stakes diminished by the fact we are now in a dream or something similar.
We reach the final round, the ending. Does it work? Hmm. I am assuming that his wife cheated on him, and her lover, the rail worker, shoots them both. She dies, and he experiences a near death like experience, and at the end, has a choice, to live or die. To be with his flawed wife, he must choose death. He does. Pretty powerful.
Only flaw is I'm not sure if I have guessed right. Not saying you have to spell it all out, but there should be some more clues. Maybe the rail worker, if he is the shooter, has a gun. I only read this once, maybe there are more clues. I think some of this should be addressed on rewrite.
I tell you, I could get in to helping analyze this more deeply if the writer wants. This could really be made into something even more special than it is. Would love to see it filmed.
But there we have another problem. Can this ever be filmed? It would cost more than a feature to make, it seems to me. A whole circus, with multiple settings within. This short will cost hundreds of thousands to make! Should I consider that in choosing a winner?
Open Casket vs Last Stop. Perfect execution vs true originality. Do we have a title transfer?
Yes! We do. Why? One word: magic.
This story has it. Magic is rare. Hard to find, let alone create. Magic beats execution like rock beats scissors. Every time. Nice job.
And the new heavy weight champion, by TKO, Last Stop!
EDIT: It occurs to me I may have misinterpreted one part. I believe they are probably both dead, and the choice is whether to go to hell with his wife, or at least wherever it is she is going. If that is the case, it actually reminds me of a story I wrote called the Station. Anyway, I still enjoy the story, whatever the intent is here, and look forward to hearing more.
When introducing Charles, the slugline should have looked more like:
CHARLES, 40, a dwarf, enters frame...
Or, CHARLES, a dwarf (40) enters frame...
Something like that.
When writing a screenplay, its honest intention is to be viewed on screen. That is why when formatting, you should immediately disclose pertinent details such as name, so as to eliminate confusion for potential actors / directors about what's going on when the script is in their hands.
I like the hall of mirrors, but I'm easily seeing that as a potential cameraman's nightmare! With that said, it's a pretty nifty setting.
I thought you captured the circus setting as wondrous, strange, and surreal quite well. It was a pleasant world to get wrapped up in, and I thank you for it.
Very interesting and wonderful piece here. I thought the end was lovely. Top notch stuff, especially considering the time constraints, and page length constraints; you managed to fit a full story into twelve pages without overloading the reader / audience with too much information. I dug it.
I enjoyed this, the setting of a circus is an interesting change of pace from the typical haunted house. I dig the whole bad dream vibe it gave off, and I liked the ending, not saying too much, without saying to little.
I'm partial to carnival stories. :-) I'm still looking to write that one great carnival story that out-trumps all other carnival stories. (I have it cooking, but not all the elements are there to make it exceptional yet.)
This one was good. A very well written fever-dream. Terry Gilliam probably wouldn't mind directing this one. In fact, it was very reminiscent of the Bazooko Circus part in Fear and Loathing.
Which was cool, but at the same time, brought me out of any gothic tones I was feeling for this one. I don't know. I'd have to probably examine my own personal definition for gothic, again, though.
You definately have the misunderstood ghost. Ghosts, even. Sixth-sense style, complete with the bullet holes and everything.
A pretty good story, but the fever-dream pace of everything was kind of losing my interest once in a while. My mind wasn't scared to wander during those parts because I knew it would all be explained in the end and the middle parts were just done for style. Maybe even filler.
I really liked this one. It seemed William went from one crazy place to the next. After a while I started thinking this must be a dream or something and in the end he'll wake up and I'll get pissed, because I hate when stories turn out to be just a dream. Therefore I liked the ending myself.
Great atmosphere. Sometimes I felt the dialogue didn't match the time and place.
I wished I had read this one earlier. Great stuff! Congrats!
Don't let Jeff hear that! He'll think I influenced you, Pia.
As you know, Rene, from my review, I liked this one a lot. Seems like it would be impossibly expensive to film, but it's great work. I hope you chime in on the ending. I hope you're not one those that thinks if the audience doesn't figure it out, oh well! I had a couple of interpretations in my head, and I would like to see what you had in mind.
Thanks to everyone who posted comments. I greatly appreciate the praises and fully acknowledge the faults. I was a little too quick putting this together and made two gross errors which became quite obvious in the reviews. For the sake of clarity, I'll try to explain, so hold onto your hats because it's going to be bumpy.
First off, everybody's dead right from the start. The railroad worker is the only living being but seems to be a ghost to those who are actually dead. The purpose of the train is to ferry the dead to the underworld (think the rivers Styx and Acheron if you will). But first, the dead are tested to determine their worth (the Egyptian Walk of the Dead). Charles (or Charon, if you please) serves as guide through the tests. Everything William goes through from the Hall of Mirrors on is designed to test different aspects of his soul. The Hall of Mirrors tests his love; he runs off to find his wife, clearly out of his depth, and thereby passes. The snake charmer is temptation which he passes when she fails to seduce him. The black asp isn't part of the test. The wolfman tests his compassion, a test he passes when he pauses in his quest to intervene. The highwire tests his courage and his will. He risks his "life" to save Bethany and passes. The final test is two-fold; the fortune-teller tests his reason and also prepares him for what's coming.
And so, at the end, because he passed all of the tests, William is entitled to enter Heaven. His wife is not. Charles tried to appeal to his reasoning but in the end William's love wins out and he foresakes Heaven to be with his wife. The bullet holes are how they died, shot dead together. Charles's comment about "not even consummated yet" is a hint that they died on their wedding day.
As I said, I made two gross errors. The first was being too subtle, trying to be clever for the sake of it. It only served to confuse and blur the details. The second error was about focus. I'm trying to communicate two distinct ideas in this short: the idea of being tested after death in order to gain entry into Heaven and the idea that even those who have earned passage to Heaven can still choose to go the other way because of love.
I'm obviously pleased with what I wrote in three days (it took three days just to come up with something). Thanks to all the very helpful comments I know what I need to do in the re-write, and I will definitely re-write it.