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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    One Week Challenge    April, 2009 One Week Challenge  ›  OWC - Brother Joe
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  Author    OWC - Brother Joe  (currently 3218 views)
Posted: April 11th, 2009, 9:41am Report to Moderator

So, what are you writing?

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Brother Joe by Yue Fei - Short, Drama - A guilt-ridden young boxer confronts his abusive father. - pdf, format

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- Wayne Gretzky
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Posted: April 11th, 2009, 3:18pm Report to Moderator
Been around a while

Toronto Ont.
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Weird aging going on. Tony is in his 20s and his mother is in her 30s. When did she give birth? His father, Pops is in similar state. he's in his 40s yet when Tony was 6 he was in his 30s. Strange.

Why does Tony's mother say "We called him Joseph"? Wouldn't he already know that? Please don't use your characters to explain to the audience...

Family Picnic 10 pages.

After the Trade 3 pages

by T. Jasmine Hylton
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Brian M
Posted: April 11th, 2009, 4:56pm Report to Moderator
Been around a while

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Good effort. Very dramatic when the secret is revealed on page five and the aftermath after the visit to pops house.

A few times I had to re-read back because of the jumping from scene to scene, maybe it was the jumps in time that got me. Don't get me wrong, it made sense in the end, I just had to take my time reading, that's all.

As a drama, it was great. Well done!
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Posted: April 11th, 2009, 5:53pm Report to Moderator

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An angry, young man blames himself for the death of his brother at the hands of his father.  Because of his guilt he cuts himself off from his mother who has moved on with her life and remarried and had another child.  After he reconciles with his mother he decides that the only way to free himself from his nightmares is by killing his father.

But getting to the point where I could write that summary was not easy.  The structure's throughline is Tony's emotional journey and he's all over the place.  That's not necessarily a bad thing to have a conflicted character but this one reads like a teenager without much self-awareness. He's angry, he's guilty, he's violent, he's hurt.  But all those beats fail to form a complete person.  The writer hasn't stitched the individual events and Tony's reaction to them together.  Movement from scene to scene just feels abrupt as opposed to fluid and natural.

One of the biggest emotional beats in the script is Tony's admission to his Mother and the writer doesn't bother to give her a name.  It makes the whole scene feel hollow.  It also makes the next section of the script even harder to buy where he goes off to find and kill his father.  It's been established that Tony can be violent but if what turns him murderous is knowing that his Mother blames herself then she should at least be a person and not a composite.

And what plays out as an attempt at a sort of emotional blitzkrieg in the closing pages feels artificial. There are these structural ticks of montage and flashback and intercutting in the closing pages.  The writer doesn't have the dexterity to make those work in his favor and the reader is further removed from Tony.
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Posted: April 11th, 2009, 6:27pm Report to Moderator
Of The Ancients

Yes, that is my real hair...

Cave Creek, AZ
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Compared to many of these OWC's, this is written pretty well.  Lots of typos though, and the killer is Caster/Castler...which is it?

I didn't like this was extremely dark, ugly, and very hard to follow.  Although I recall a picnic of sorts, I don't see how this met the challenge.

Agreed that the jumps in time were not handled well and the ages of the characters didn't make any sense at all.

To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
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Posted: April 11th, 2009, 11:54pm Report to Moderator
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Ages has been covered, jumps in time covered though I'll be more specific. The flashback at the end with the cops took multiple re-readings to gain a faint idea of what was happening though I'm not completely sure I got it all until I read some of the comments.

Aside from that, the script was well written and very descriptive, the first few pages especially. I think you met the challenge because there was a picnic (atleast an attempt at one) and a secret revealed as well as drama and I really liked the direction you took in meeting the challenge compared to most of the other scripts I've read so far.

The ending though was a bit rushed (maybe the time limit?) and I think could be re-written for clarity. Overall good job.
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Posted: April 12th, 2009, 7:06am Report to Moderator
Been around a while

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I loved this, although I would rearrange some scenes. I think it would be better if Tony visisted his father while everyone is waiting on him at the picnic. Just as thunder rolls and everyone starts packing up, Tony arrives with that look in his eye--he can finally sleep at night.

Just a suggestion. Please don't think I'm saying your script doesn't work, because it does. Very well, actually.

Tony is an excellent character. He's so multi-layered and real, he transcends the page and becomes a person of flesh and blood. Think of it this way: a guilt-ridden guy that once existed in your mind only now exists in mine, almost perfectly. It takes some serious skill as a writer to do something like that.

Along with The Weekend Break, this is the strongest script the OWC has produced.

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George Willson
Posted: April 13th, 2009, 12:23pm Report to Moderator

Doctor who? Yes, quite right.

Broken Arrow
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Ok, I know what you were going for, but it was a bit confusing to read through. I had to go back and forth a couple of times to figure out what was going on. When I hit the end, I had to go back through and figure out who Peter was again. You might say "well, her husband, obviously." However, "pops" name was Castler, she was addressed as Mrs. Castler by the police (I assume in reference to pops), but you also call her current residence the "Castler House" which it wouldn't be if she remarried. It would be the Felps House. She would also be Mrs. Felps at this point.

You also misspelled Castler as Caster in one of the sluglines. The crappy thing there is the spell checked wouldn't catch Caster, since it's a legit word.

The scene where Pops' body is discovered was exceptionally confusing as well to read since you have a policeman o.s. and a policeman v.o. Yeah, I know the difference, but neither is on screen at the time, so it would be hard to follow.

The haunted kid due to the circumstances of his brother's death is a nice enough tale and the story itself is ok. However, you failed to meet the challenge which is a secret revealed AT A FAMILY PICNIC. You had the picnic scene, but nothing happened in it. Tony hid behind a tree and then bolted after a line. He goes from macho boxer to whiny kid quicker than a democrat passing a spending bill. I got whiplash from that scene.

During the flashback, you have something in the description about Joe protecting his younger brother. This isn't a novel. At this point in the story, we don't know squat about these people. Tell in the description what the audience knows, not what you think the reader should know. If it's that important, show it somehow.

I think there's some potential for the script but it needs clarity and probably some reorganization as well as filling out some of the scenes for that same clarity. It's not bad, but needs work.

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The boy who could fly
Posted: April 13th, 2009, 12:26pm Report to Moderator
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British Columbia, Canada
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This one was pretty good but I thought it was a bit flat...I think with what had gone on in Tony's past and how he is in the present it would have more of a punch to it.  I do think the writing was fine and fit the challenge and the idea was good, I could tell someone put effort into this which is always a plus.

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Posted: April 14th, 2009, 6:15pm Report to Moderator
Old Timer

Cut to three weeks earlier

London, UK
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This was a tricky story to follow.  I'm in two minds at the moment.  Not sure if I like it or not.  May have to give this another read.

This is a very dark drama with an excellent opening page.  Quite a good visual picture you've built and it sets the tone for the rest of the script.

The secret wasn't quite a secret.  There was a picnic so that's good.  The montage could do with getting reduced or rewritten.

Not sure about the ending too.

Overall, a tricky read but interesting nonetheless.

All the best.

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Posted: April 14th, 2009, 8:44pm Report to Moderator
Old Timer

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There's definately one thing that can be said about this story:  The writer definately put a lot of serious thought into it.  And that's always a plus.

I actually did like it, but at the same time...  I think there's a lot of room for improvement.

For one, it gets very confusing with all the timejumps, and I'm someone who loves to fuck around with timeleaps in my stories, but I really think this would work much better as a straight up linear story.  One of the things that was really confusing was Joseph.  Both, the dead Joe and the new Joe.  I thought maybe you had just messed up with announcing one person's proper age, especially since other people's ages were messed up along the way, but they ended up being two totally seperate people.

Another thing was, the fact that Tony was estranged escaped me.  True, you had it open in Tony Castler's flat, but then you have it go to the Castler house.  Then, when he goes to his mom's and Pete's house, you still call that Castler's house.  Shouldn't it be the Felps' house, for Peter's name?  And the way you introduced Peter, you pretty much introduced him as Tony's trainer if you look real close.  That's why I still thought Tony was still close with his mother and Peter and the 'new' Joe.  That's why it came as a shock to me that his mother was introducing him to Joe for the first time.

Yes, it's a good story, but it really needs cleaned up a lot.  Once polished and everything straightened out, it will make a much better and smoother read.

And I really like how you had Tony take the high road and not kill Pops.  I was glad to see this story end like that.

As for meeting the criteria of the OWC...  eh...  the producer would probably be bitching at you for all the different sets and the park would actually be out of the way to shoot for this script, but you definately got family and a secret, so it's still not totally out of the realm of what the OWC was asking for.

Still a good job writing.  Just need everything explained a little further so people don't have to go over and read it several times just to get the picture.

- Mark

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Posted: April 15th, 2009, 5:53am Report to Moderator

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I got the impression that you ran out of time to review and refine your story. I think you have a solid concept with plenty of potential to emotionally engage the audience and now need, if youíre going to rewrite, to reconsider some story elements, and clear up a few stumbling blocks.

Style and description
The thing that struck me first off is the look of your script. You open with one-and-a-half pages of description. And of course itís your call if thatís your considered creative decision. I do think, though, that you risk losing some readers Ė say, contests and studio Ė with this approach. One contest reader told me she, and others, skip over blocks of description that appear too lengthy. You might want to consider two possibilities here:

-- Substantially reduce the amount of description. I think you have the opportunity to do this without compromising your story or losing the flavor of the scene. The first paragraph, for example, could possibly read something like:
TONY CASTLER (early 20s) lies in bed, curled up in the fetal position. The only light creeps through the blinds of the roomís sole window.

I reckon you could cut about 30% - 40% off your existing descriptions without any loss to your storytelling. Weíre writing a screenplay, not a novel.

-- Insert some dialogue. Maybe 6 y.o. Tony calls out to his big brother, or Joe yells at Pops before he jumps him, - something that provides a measure of visual relief.

Iím guessing you wanted to play around with a few techniques here, the montage sequence being one example. Iím not sure how well it works. For me, it came across as too disjointed/jumpy.
I think you did a good job with the overlapping V.O. dialogue and the O.S dialogue. It was helpful as a learning exercise to see this laid out. And although I enjoyed it, I think you run a high risk of losing the readerís attention because it takes a few attempts to get a grip on it. Thatís one aspect of the OWC I enjoy Ė it encourages experimentation. Good on you!

Maybe itís just me, but the character I could best get a handle on was Peter. His action and dialogue were sufficiently consistent to convey his personality/traits. I had no trouble imagining Peter responding in many different situations before and after this story. I canít say the same about the Tony, or his Mother. Tony particularly seemed to change character. I donít mean conflicting traits Ė which are helpful Ė but his whole being. I understand that you wanted to convey his inner turmoil, guilt, confusion, rage etc., but he still needs identifiable core drivers and responses that are consistent to just a few, select traits Ė otherwise weíll never get to know him, or care sufficiently about him.
Similarly with Pops. If we believe Tony, Pops topped himself. But do we care? We see him belting the living daylights out of a young helpless boy, but we donít see any redeeming quality first hand. Maybe thatís what you wanted. The alternative is to give us a reason to feel some sympathy, or at least recognition, for this flawed human being who makes, in his view, some attempt at penance.

If you were rewriting, you might want to reconsider:

-- Tony hiding, and then bursting from behind a tree. This seems melodramatic, too sudden, and not believable.  

-- Tony searching the phone book for his father. Presumably they live in the same close vicinity given subsequent events. Wouldnít he already know where Pops lived?

Dialogue you might want to review:
Iíve never understood the problem between you two.
-- Doesnít ring true. Peter seems to know all about the history of this family. Previous and subsequent dialogue bears this out.

Yes, whatís this all about? Whatís
he done?
-- Tony is presumably the ďheĒ. This confused me because the preceding dialogue by the Policeman was asking about Mrs Castler. I get your intent Ė I just donít think it works.  

Other details you might want to address have already been covered by others.

You have a strong concept that can become an engaging story by reworking some of the components and tidying up the details.  

The journey is the reward.
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Posted: April 17th, 2009, 2:35am Report to Moderator
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I didn't find this difficult to read...and I am easily confused! Anyway, it's well written but there are a few lines here and there that could be removed without effecting the story, making for an quicker read, like "Tony watches him turn and walk out the front door". Not a big deal.

I liked the story. The only part that bothered me was when Tony burst from behind the tree and then ran off. Bursting from behind a tree is, i think, maybe too dramatic. To be honest, it seemed comical. I understand why you set it up as you did. But when you couple that with his running off shortly thereafter it's imo too much.

I think most people believe Tony's dad killed himself, I'm not gonna give him that much credit. I think it's uncertain. I like that we're left ...or at least I am... wondering.

Rly enjoyed it.
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Posted: April 18th, 2009, 4:45am Report to Moderator

Newcastle, England
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Thanks for all the reviews to this. This was written in about 3 hours as I was pretty busy that week. That's my excuse for the age problem. Obviously the parents should have been older but was just an oversight.

Astrid's post above is exactly what I went for to be honest. The ending, with Tony's knife at the scene, is supposed to lead to an open ending. Did Pops kill himself or did Tony do it and make it look like suicide? He's obviously much stronger than his dad so he could have...

I don't really see the confusion with time switches. I was going to have it all at the same time with the dead body and the police calling at the house, but if the police were there they'd obviously found the body, so they'd have cleaned it up. Maybe if I just lose either the police V.O. or the O.S. so there's only one person speaking. Will that make things clearer?

The picnic scene is porbably the worst one in the script but it was key to both the challenge and to the script. To be honest I think that scene will be changed completely in a rewrite so there isn't actually a picnic.

Again, thanks for the reviews.


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Breanne Mattson
Posted: April 19th, 2009, 10:13pm Report to Moderator
Old Timer

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I didnít read the other reviews.

I found this choppy and muddled. I had to reread several parts, especially early on, to try and understand what was going on. Transitions were rough.

Other than that, it was a fairly straightforward drama. It didnít really grab me. It carried an incompleteness with it all throughout. The mother needs a name if sheís that important. Why does her (new) husband merit a name but not her? She came off as a type rather than a character.

Iíve read other stuff from you that was far superior to this. Maybe I just expected more but this one was just okay for me.


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