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The Bunker by Dena McKinnon (pale yellow) - Thriller - During a biological disaster, a family shares their survival bunker with a mysterious couple and their safe house becomes a cell of terror. 105 pages - pdf, format
Howdy, Dena. Congrats on completing another script! And, to think you started 2 different ones in the first week, and then wrote this entire script in 6 weeks is beyond impressive.
You and I are friends, so I hope and assume nothing I say is going to upset you. With that in mind, I read the first 13 pages, and stopped just as the group entered the bunker.
Here are my initial thoughts and observations…
This type of contained thriller is not my cup of tea, sorry to say. The fact that you only have 4 characters (if more get intro’d later, I think that’s a good thing) is even less entertaining to me. I’ve seen too many of these and this starts off pretty much exactly as many do, and feels rather cliché. I understand there is a market for this type of script, as it’s rather easy and cost efficient to film, and actually, numerous such scripts get turned into decent, good, and/or successful little films, so maybe you’re on to something. It’s just not what I find entertaining as there’s just too few ways to go.
Characters – Hard to say, since I’m out after the intro and setup, but no one really jumps off the page for me, even though you definitely gave each person some life and unique (to them within this script) traits and personalities. The problem, again, is that I’ve seen all these types so many times and it just has a cliché feel in that you set out to give each something to distinguish them from each other.
North is the paranoid leader and wants to be in charge, but appears to be a good husband and Dad. Dana has a medical issue and seems to have it together as wife and Mom. Eli is the annoying teen who’s going to film everything, but seems like a rather normal, good kid. Jon appears to be a mystery at this point with his gun, while his wife Maggie is prego and appears to be a nice person. I could be very wrong, but even your logline seems to telegraph that Jon and Maggie aren’t who they say they are or seem to be.
As I said above, the story itself has been done to death and it will be very difficult for you to bring anything new to the table, but who knows…maybe you have? I just have a pretty good idea how this will play out and although I do foresee twists and attempted turns, I doubt I’d actually be surprised by any of them.
Let’s jump into the writing and hopefully, I can help you out a bit here.
You’re a good writer and we all know that. However, you have multiple Slug issues, lots of typos and the like, and maybe most importantly, the writing itself isn’t very visual, and the timing is off throughout what I read.
OK, so we start off with a train rumbling down a “rail line”. You say “army snipers line the roof”, but I don’t know what that really means. Are army snipers on top of every box and freight car? How many cars are on this train? How many snipers? Does it matter? Maybe not, but as written, I have absolutely no idea.
So, then we go to a “ridge”, where 2 teens are on ATV’s. You chose not to name these 2, nor do you give them any life or spend much time on what they’re doing, and I think that’s a mistake, as everything happens way too quickly and really doesn’t make much sense how their game of chicken could wreck an entire train. Sometimes, it’s the little things that either really work or really make it impossible to visualize what exactly is going down…or supposedly going down.
You throw in a few annoying asides, but skip all the visual details that could have given this scene some power, which, again, IMO, is a mistake. I can’t for the life of me picture exactly what’s supposed to happen here and how a train track is right below this steep drop off and how a fallen ATV could cause an avalanche that wipes out the entire train. Nor can I understand why these 2 teens would do such a completely idiotic thing – now, if 1 crashed on accident or the like, it wouldn’t be such an issue, but to play chicken and basically just trash an expensive ATV for no reason is rather foolish..but hey, their kids, right? Kids do dumbass stuff.
But from here, it gets very problematic, as you play director and go to a CLOSE UP of the teen’s faces, and write, “OH SHIT!”. Some may enjoy this, but trust me, others will not. It’s a calculated risk and it’s on Page 1.
I don’t know how 1 of the teen’s takes a picture of “the wreckage”, as I didn’t know there was any wreckage yet. They both get on the surviving ATV and away they go, as if this is all taking place immediately. I mean, as they race off, there’s an explosion, followed immediately by a vaporous mushroom cloud, and in the next line, their faces are blistering – and this is all on Page 1!
My advice is to slow this down and take your time. It can be an exciting, powerful, action packed scene – and most likely, the only such scene in the whole script. Milk it. Work it. Let us enjoy it. IMO, this initial intro could easily play out over 3 pages…and most likely, should.
So, then we go to this generic “office” scene and meet our main Protags. This plays out almost 3 pages and is rather dull, to be honest. Then, you go to an INT car scene that plays out a page and a half before anything of interest happens – meaning, you chose to show your exciting opening scene in 1 page, and then your “get to know you” dull office and car scenes over 5 pages.
This is when the Slug problems raise their ugly heads. On the bottom of Page 5, there are numerous obvious EXT things taking place, but you don’t change the Slug. Then much less than ½ a page later, Dana is back from picking up her scripts. Really? When time passes and you don’t show what’s happening the whole time, a new Slug shows this. Without it, it doesn’t make any sense.
From here, you have both INT and EXT scenes playing out, but we’re still in the same INT car scene we started back on Page 4.
I don’t buy the fact that North would “stash” gas masks under the seat of his wife’s car – what kind of car is this that 3 or more gas masks fit under the seat? Now, if it’s a big SUV, there is plenty of room in the rear for such stashing, but you didn’t tell us what the car looks like at all, which again, is a lack of visual writing that hurts the read.
It’s interesting that this INT DAN’S CAR scene runs from Page 4 to Page 8 and then the new Slug you use, is the exact same Slug we’re already in, which obviously is a mistake. Also interesting is that right before the “new” Slug, you now tell us it’s an SUV they’re in – do this immediately. Always set your scene immediately and you’ll find everything is much easier and clearer, as well.
For me, the dialogue that follows is incredibly OTN and rather weak and unbelievable. Later on , you use “slangs” by omitting the last letter of the word, which is fine, but when you do this, you need to use an apostrophe to show it’s not simply a typo.
On Page 9, you go to another new Slug – BUNKER. Is this really the bunker, or as you say, a silo in a grassy field? I’m not sure, but again, using detailed Slugs helps visualize the setting. Is the bunker on their property? DO they live on a farm? IMO, if this is true, it would be smart to start here, as opposed to the generic office, which shows us nothing at all.
There’s some awkward writing that follows and then more unfilmables and asides that don’t help, IMO.
Just 1 actual example that may help about incorrect Slugs – On Page 10, we’re in INT DANA’S CAR Slug, and the last line reads, “He puts on the brakes, the car skids to a stop.” We can’t see the “car” skidding to a stop if we’re inside the “car”. And, is it a car or an SUV? It makes quite a difference.
The rest of what I read just doesn’t quite work, IMO, as written. The dialogue, the lack of visual descriptions, etc. Nothing terrible by any means, but at this point, I decided I wasn’t going to continue and would stop at the next break.
I don’t meant to be harsh, as you know, and hope this helps and makes sense. Best of luck to you, Dena…hope this works out in another option for you.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
Thanks you guys .... this little script is getting some interest on InkTip as well as the blacklist site...I threw it up on Saturday for the hell of it. Crossing fingers. I know it needs work for sure! Anything you write in six weeks will need some work!
hope the interest in this script pans out. I think you did a pretty good job here. Maybe the best feature I've read of yours so far.
I wouldn't call this a thriller. More like a drama with some exciting stuff at the end. It also felt a little too light for me. That is just a personal preference though. C M seems to love it and I can see a lot of women feeling the same about this. I felt it was sort of like a Lifetime movie when we get to the sobby parts around the middle.
The story is fine. We've kind of seen it before with the big bad government trying to do cover-ups. I thought it was plotted well. It just needs to feel a little deeper IMHO.
Characters need more depth. We see Dana for example being nervous all the time. Getting panicky, but we still don't get to know her or any of the other characters. I would work on them if I were you. Also, I thought Maggie's little acting out and trying to be sexy and kissing the camera was out of place. She doesn't know Jon. He has threatened to kill her if she doesn't do what he tells her. Trying to be this sexpot, just didn't feel right. Also, did Jon really have to dry hump rape her? That seemed off as well. I would've preferred to see him being more of an all business military type guy. This is after all a serious situation.
I don't really have much more to say. You did fine and there's not a whole lot to complain about, other than it felt lite to me. I wanted more meat to up the stakes and characters. Having said that, I still wouldn't be surprised if someone options it. Maybe even Lifetime.
Good Luck my dear...and if you haven't started mine yet, wait till I go over it again. I did some copy pasting yesterday and realized I just made things confusing at times!
Page 1. Great precise action writing.
Repeated us of "rocks and dust go flying" within a short time.
Page 4. Ninety degree weather
Page 6. How come they had gas masks in their car? It's okay, just needs a bit of explaining, I think.
Page 7. All citizens? What about people like me? You're just gonna let us die?
Page 8. He at the traffic...
Page 9. What SUV burns up the dirt road? Dana's?
Cool! Doomsday Preppers! I have one of those scripts too.
Page 10. We're with child sounds clunky and silly since it's obvious by the look of her stomach.
Page 12. Who gets bent out of shape? Dana or Maggie?
Page 20. Not much to complain about. Good going so far. I'm guessing Maggie and Jon are up to something. Keeps me wanting to read on.
Page 27. Right now I'm convinced Maggie is not really pregnant.
Page 29. I thought North's aggression towards Jon seemed a bit out of line. I haven't really seen anything Jon's done yet that deserved that. Makes North look a little unstable. IMHO.
Page 31. Good twist there.
Not a fan of the line "Let's just get through this". Sounds rather cliche'.
Page 32. Seems like Jon got over North's attack rather quick.
What happened in Fall River was an explosion on the train, right? How could that be happening all over the world? Winds don't travel that fast, I don't think.
Page 33. They are eating. I would imagine with everything going on and all the uncertainty about the future that they would wait with eating until they are really hungry.
Page 37. Let's just get through this!!!!!
Page 46. That's not a quick flash. It's a Flashback.
Page 56. Do we need to see leftover vomit on Maggie's face? So far, this hasn't been that type of movie, IMHO.
Page 57. Not sure Jon would be sleeping so soundly after what just happened.
Page 60. Not saying it's bad or anything, but right now it sort of feels like a Lifetime drama.
Page 69. Whiskey delta zero. If zero is meant to be the number 0, fine, but if it is the call name for Z it should be ZULU.
Very cute with Eli's call letters!
Page 74. If the information is on Google, how come North, Dana and Eli need to be killed? I see now. Google says gas not biohazard.
It’s a game of chicken. Let’s see who bails first as they
zoom towards a steep drop off.
Teen#1 looks over at Teen#2. Who will chicken out?
Do we really need this hammered home? As soon as you told me it was a game of chicken near a steep drop off, I got it. I didn't need the 'let's see who bails first part' nor the 'who will chicken out?' bit. Too much, too quickly for me.
A vaporous cloud mushrooms.
That bit lost me.
Eli, under the seat, I stashed gas
masks, grab them!
Come again? Just in case, like. I suppose one never knows when a gas mask would come in handy. Just the sort of thing an ordinary family keeps under the seat of the car. How many gas masks are under the seat? Dana, North and Eli are in the car. How would she know how many to stash? Maybe there are even more than three under the seat.
Maybe there were more than three gas masks and they just left their buddy Ron to die. Nice. So what would have happened if they bumped into a friend at the store? A 4-5 man car, with only three gas masks? What gives?
I think you could lose the gas masks. It would add more to the drama if you did. The stakes would be raised immediately if they needed to get back to fetch the gas masks before they breathed in too much. Rags over faces. Maybe there is a trick. In fact I seem to remember that during gas attacks during WW1, soldiers would urinate on rags and breathe in the fumes. Betetr than being dead, right? Not sure it would work here, but I doubt anyone would research too hard if it did.
North chases after Eli. Drags him from the backseat, leaving
the back door open as they dash for the bunker.
Drags who from the back seat? That part lost me.
So far, despite the gas mask thing, you have a good hook and what could make for an interesting film. Obviously something is going to be up with this couple somehow. But then, it could also be the husband that ends up the bad guy. I'm interested to see how you handle that too.
I'm not getting the thriller vibe from this just yet. But, we'll see how the psychological aspects play out in the bunker. Nice work so far.
North takes off his mask, the others follow suit.
North looks at Eli.
That thing coulda got you killed.
Dana reaches down to take Eli’s mask off.
He pouts, takes off down the stairwell.
North twists the pressure valve.
The door makes a hissing sound, then a loud --12.
In the first sentence you state that North takes his mask off and the others follow suit. There are only three masks. Later you then have Dana trying to remove Eli's mask for him. The second thing that stands out to me is that they shouldn't have removed the masks until the air lock had been clicked into place properly and some type of decontamination procedure applied. They also have no idea what they're dealing with, what type of contamination this is. It could be airborne and they've just allowed two contaminated people into their nice and safe, airlocked shelter.
In these type of things, one of the characters is usually pretty sciency. I wonder which, if any, it will be.
Chocolate, it contains serotonin,
most concentrated of all
neurotransmitters responsible for
feelings of well-being and
contentment, as well as curbing
anxiety and depression.
That was a mouthful.
Degree in food science, don’t ask
how that adds up to my current
career as a surveyor.
This is about where I'd nod at someone agreeably, hiding the fact that I've just sussed they're full of shit. Anyone with a degree in food science would know that chocolate does not contain serotonin. Also, the sentence where she claims serotonin is the most concentrated of all the neurotransmitters, just sounds so stupid (from somebody claiming to have a degree) it beggars belief.
Surprised you don’t know my husband
then. He’s an engineer for public
OK. I think this is bad news. You've got North as the engineer, and it seems the science part is going to go to Maggie. So she's not a bullshitter after all, she's just not very good. I know now why she ended up in surveying.
Six inch air intake pipes with
Swiss-made military grade air
filtration systems pulling in one
hundred seventy CFM.
The engineering part you have down. I hope you don't wing the science as you have done up till now or that will be the downfall of this script, for me, at least.
At a time like this, I’d take one
with you if I wasn’t pregnant.
I'd take two.
I'm at 35 and there hasn't been any speculation on what is going on. Obviously it's some type of disease or gas, that spreads quite quickly. I feel that people would speculate at some point what this could be.
Around page 56-7... Why would Jon think his death threats would work after he's just raped her and she's attempted suicide? She wants to die anyway. Both Maggie and Dana are too nervous to sit.
Did you know he was married?
This catches Maggie off guard.
When you slept with him, did you
know he was married?
Maggie pauses, looks down...then up at Dana.
Please accept my apology. I’m so
sorry. I know you don’t want to
hear it, but we were drunk, he was
lonely, it just happened.
I don’t want to hear it.
Well, she shouldn't have asked then. I think the above conversation needs fleshing out a little.
Would you believe me if I said I’m
a trained agent here to kill you
and your family? None of you will
be leaving this bunker alive.
Quite frankly? No. I wouldn't. If he was trained, the family would have been dead a long time ago. He had the advantage with none of them knowing who he was. He could have, at any moment, waited until North's back was turned and taken his gun. Maybe hit him with some type of improvised cosh.
On page 73, North is behind Jon tying him up, but punches him in the jaw?
The whole thing with the fuel poured over the house doesn't ring true to me. They could just blow the lot up with semtex. Clean, no mess, no fuss. Just set the charge and go. Or maybe even some modern type of chemical explosive.
A bullet through the head.
She falls limp on the floor.
LOL. The whore gets it. If a guy wrote this it probably would have been the annoying, hindrance of a wife that got it first. I did wonder at one point if you would have Dana pull the trigger on her though.
Army Guys stick explosives in strategic places around the
steel door to the bunker.
They run a fuse line away from the bunker. They are
preparing to destroy the bunker and anyone inside.
I didn't really need the extra sentence at the end. Also, would they be using wire? Bit old school.
Jon holds the gun on our family who stands just outside the
Has the voice of a narrator just taken over?
A good story and with some work it could be even better. I noticed a few typos. Wrong sight, you wrote site. There were a couple more that I can't remember now that were similar to that one. Maybe the odd missing letter... but over all the writing is fine.
Plot hole for me is the Agent. If he's there to kill them, why didn't he kill Maggie at the start? Why is he on his own? I know you called him trained.... but, if I was in charge, I'd send in teams. Tear gas, men in masks, night vision and laser sights. In the flashback he was also wearing gas mask, that wasn't there when he bumps into them.
Another thing, is a satellite phone. With North as savvy as he is, that would surely have been in the kit. But also, the Agent would certainly have had one or he wouldn't be carrying one at all. What would be the point if the ordinary masts have been taken out of service?
I'm a little disappointed that there wasn't any scientific explanation... but I understand why you didn't go there. Maybe you were considering it at the time you gave Maggie her degree, but chose a different route. Maggie being pregnant gets in the way a little and doesn't really add anything to the story for me. She also callously taken out with no care for the baby, that probably could still be saved, as they leave the shelter, doesn't sit right with me. I know she's the filthy, husband-stealing, bitch, but that isn't the baby's fault. I think making her slightly younger, prettier, thinner, would be enough. Then you need to work on the Dana character, make her more likeable. Give her some strength. Else, in my opinion, it would benefit the story better if Dana was the one that got it in the head.
Aside from that, it's a good story with potential. The work is int he rewrites as they say... good luck.
Conspiracy theorist, dangerous Government, decent location, inner and outer conflicts.
Get it right and it has a high probability of being picked up.
That being said, there are major problems for me. This is to be expected due to the time frame, but I feel I should point them out.
Leaving aside such issues as Jeff mentioned above:
1. The logline, whilst enticing, lacks a unique selling point IMO. Some irony, or new twist that we haven't seen before.
2. Some of the character reactions were unconvincing. Particularly the idea that Maggie (?) would kill herself after the sex scene. Just felt off-key to me.
As an aside: The dry humping bit, and the rather graphic detail of how men finish was OTT for me.
3. There is an overall problem with the characters in that they don't seem overly concerned with what is going on outside. Their personal problems seem to be completely overriding the fact they're probably going to die.
It's good that you have these issues/themes to play with, but I feel they need to be more of a subtext to the more pressing issues facing them.
4. There's quite a lot of things that made little sense to me:
From the way an agent allowed himself to be disarmed. To the fact the agent was stood there at all.
The idea that a story had been released that was specific enough to name that family was a step way beyond the believable IMO.
I recognise you needed something to incite outsiders to come, but it's too much of a stretch.
This leads me to what would be my biggest problem with the script:
5. It's simply too unbelievable as a whole.
I can just about buy the Government killing a town (we've seen this before: Crazies, Outbreak etc).
However it's impossible to believe that they would do so by sending in single agents.
The town would be blockaded, there would be airstrikes and then containment teams in protective clothing would go in with flamethrowers.
Bunkers would simply be blown up with explosives.
So, I can't buy that the agent is there at all. At the moment it's such an integral part of the script, that (in my humble opinion) it undermines the story.
It's a problem that is compounded by the agent's actions all the way through.
Why is he at the door, why isn't he waiting for them from distance with a rifle, using Maggie as bait?
How does North beat up an agent so easily?
Why doesn't the agent just kill North when he's asleep?
The problem is a big one because it essentially pervades every scene he is in...why isn't he just taking them out from behind?
So, in conclusion...I think you have an excellent, production worthy premise, but I think the actual story has wandered off into a bit of a minefield at the moment.
Still, I enjoyed it.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Take them or leave them, as one may.
Well done for getting a script finished in such a short time!
I have to say, I really liked this. If I remember correctly, one of yours in the first ten section of the challenge was the one about painting the future. I'm glad you switched up to this instead. I remember thinking the other one had potential, but now I've read this, I think back and it all seemed a bit thrown together, like maybe you weren't sure where to go with it. However, this one seemed well thought out and like you knew exactly where you were going and what you wanted to do with it.
Contained thrillers generally aren't something that excite me, and while I had a few problems with it early on, by the end I was totally into it. I have a list of around 30-40 script ideas, none of which are contained stories, simply because I can't seem to come up with anything that would fit. So to do this in 6 weeks is mighty impressive.
As I mentioned, I had a couple of problems with it. I guess the biggest one, and one you may need to think about, is the fact I didn't really care for the characters until somewhere around the midpoint. I think it was when Maggie was raped where things started to change and I started to warm to them. I mean, I did like Eli, but that's kind of cheating cos it's hard not to appreciate kids and their innocence.
Don't get me wrong, I thought each character was pretty complex which is a good thing, I just had a real hard time picking anyone that I wanted to, or could, root for. I was making notes as I went, and basically this is what I had... Dana was irritating. North was a bit annoying with his paranoia, plus he cheated on his wife. Maggie seems like a bit of a b1tch. I can't trust Jon as far as I can throw him.
I get they all had their reasons for being how they are, which ties in with the complexity, but if this hadn't been for the challenge I might of checked out earlier. That would of been a shame as it builds into something I really didn't want to stop reading, but that came from me finally being able to root for the characters.
The other problem I had isn't a major problem as such, this being an early draft and all, but I sometimes got the feeling you were trying too hard to pad out the script. It felt like as this was a contained thriller, you might be trying to add a bit more to the page count when you really didn't need to. I saw Dustin bring up the example of the kids playing chicken, something I noted too. As another quick example, on P58 North says 'what about him?'. Then in an action line it says 'she tries to avoid the answer'. That line in particular stood out to me as it was completely unecessary as her response will tell us that anyway.
I guess what I'm getting at here is you could cut bits out as it wouldn't hurt to lose anything up to 10-15 pages, not for a contained script anyway.
On the subject of it being contained, by the end I actually felt it hard a sort of global feel to it. With the videos and information going viral, it all of a sudden felt a whole lot bigger. That I thought was impressive as contained stuff can often feel quite small, whereas this really didn't. To do that I don't think could ever hurt your script, especially as it still wouldn't add major cost to the budget (not that I know budgets, I'm just assuming).
To finish I just want to mention two little nitpicks. First, I would imagine Eli may know the actual phonetic alphabet. He seemed pretty switched on to all that kind of techy stuff, it wouldn't be out of the question for him to know it. I even think it might make me like him more.
The other nitpick is you say Larry has a 'very British accent'. I don't think you have to say exactly what sort of accent, like a cockney or scouse accent or anything, but please go with the country. Technically Britain can be seen as a country, but it's actually made up of more than one country. In all honesty it probably makes no difference whatsoever, it's just as a Brit (Englishman) myself, 'a very British accent' doesn't really mean much. However, 'a very English accent' changes everything. Just something to think about but not worry about anyway.
To sum up, I thought the first half was okay, but in the second half it became quite impressive.
Nice stab at a contained thriller. Could be done on a moderate budget and, as such, stands a fighting chance a making some noise.
Pg. 1 Breaks screeching is the sound before the wreckage. We need the sound of the wreckage.
Pg. 6 “NORTH: Eli, under the seat, I stashed gas masks, grab them!” This seems like a joke line. Like we’re still getting to know North and how crazy he is, look he even has gas masks under the seat. It’s humorous. Character building. But the scene isn’t humorous, it’s supposed to be terrifying with all hell breaking lose. We can’t learn about funny character quirks in the midst of such a scene.
Pg. 7 I’m curious whether Eli having a camera means you’re contemplating the Found Footage genre for this. It’s a trope of found footage that the characters film everything for no good reason. Eli seems to be doing that here, even though we’re not in a found footage.
Pg. 8 North is a little too flaky to be my protagonist. It’s hard to be down with someone who is essentially putting their family at risk because they have a crackpot theory about everything. I’d try to give us a way to identify with him. He’s got a wife and a kid and a good enough job apparently to build a pretty impressive underground bunker, so he can’t be a complete loon. What does anyone see in him that makes them want to work with him, or spend a life with him? Figure out what that quality is and then show it to us.
“NORTH: Take whatever it is they gave you!” Doesn’t this contradict North’s earlier rantings?
Pg. 10 “North jumps out, rushes around. Pulls a gun.” Rushes around what? He had a gun the whole time? I’m having trouble visualizing this and things are kinda coming out of nowhere every so often. I imagine this stuff will be cleaned up in rewrite.
Pg. 13 You never indicated that Eli actually retrieved the camera. I thought it was outside, possibly still filming. Maybe they’d find it later and see some freaky stuff.
“JON: Every man has a constitutional right to protect himself and bear arms.” If this is a good enough answer, why did North even ask the question? It’s basically the long version of ”because I want to.”
Pg. 14 “…a balloon in his grip.” From where? And cupcakes? Were they going to party in the bunker? These people are too weird.
Pg. 18 “Maggie rubs her belly.” Do pregnant women really rub their bellies this much? I don’t know. I’ve never been.
Pg. 19 “MAGGIE: American Beauty. It’s one of my favorites.” No character in a screenplay ‘just happens to be’ a movie buff. I’d ditch this.
Pg. 24 There’s a shooting range in the bunker? How big is this place? I’m starting to think this should probably have a slower roll out. We need to get to know this family and feel comfortable about their quirks before the **** hits the fan. To discover it all in the midst of crisis makes me fear the family when I think I should be rooting for them. At this point, I’m far more wary of the people who built the bunker than the people they let in.
Pg. 27 “Maggie pulls the homemade gun from Eli’s shoulder. Runs across the room. Ducks behind the TV.” How many months pregnant is she again?
Pg. 29 Okay… maybe North isn’t the protagonist, which would make this more of an ensemble thing. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t start on the family. It highlights them as central when I’m no longer sure they are. If it’s ensemble, maybe just start at the bunker. Just a bunker door with no one around and a mushroom cloud blooming on the horizon. Then Jon and Maggie come from the road, trying to get in, then North and his family show up and then we’re in the bunker. That might send the signal that there is no real main character, the main character is the bunker itself. [or at least that’s what I was thinking at the time].
Pg. 31 Well, that’s a twist. Problem is, I never really felt like there was “something between these two”. They’ve had almost no interaction until this one. Go back and plant the seeds on rewrite.
Pg. 32 “DANA: What if whatever happened here in Fall River, has spread across the whole world?” Why would anyone think that based on what we’ve seen?
Pg. 41 “JON: For God’s sake, North, she’s a real estate agent.” I don’t buy this for a second. That he refers to his daughter as Agent Lorenzo because she’s a real estate agent? I don’t even buy it if it’s true.
I like that a certain level of intrigue and mystery is being layered in now. There’s really no race against time, here. Almost the opposite, they could be stuck down here forever. I wonder if you’ll utilize the lack of food to get the clock going. You’d have to do some jumping forward for that to make sense, though.
Pg. 47 I think Maggie would just cut it at, “I know North.”
And would Maggie really let this happen to her just so her secret isn’t found out?
Pg. 48 “ON THE MONITOR: A Helicopter zips through night sky. A spotlight cuts through the darkness, ands on the SUV(back door still open) then on the bunker.” I dig that Nice little paranoid moment there. Just the right character to see it too.
Pg. 55 I don’t get why Maggie tries to kill herself or didn’t object to Jon more. Not saying she should or shouldn’t, but why? Is she that committed to not blowing North’s cover? What does she stand to gain? Did she think she still had a shot with him? Is he just that great a guy that she’ll ‘take one for the team’ even though he pretty much abandoned her and she realizes that? I never knew her well enough to understand these decisions and it’s a little disappointing because up to this point she seemed like the most stable person there.
Reading on, I suppose that is it, but we should get a sense of it upfront . Of her still pinning. Of North stringing her along. And maybe space it out. Like after the rape, North tells her, “I thought about us and I really can’t be involved with you or the kid.” Now I can see her being distraught enough to do something drastic.
Pg. 60 “MAGGIE: No. You can’t do anything. He said he’d kill me.” It took me a second to think through the reasons why North wouldn’t just force Jon to leave. I suppose I can see it, but you should probably bring them up in the conversation.
Pg. 64 “NORTH: I’m going to use the ham to communicate with the outside world.” I think you should change that line to, “I’m going to force Jon out at gunpoint.” Now that the jig is up, there’s no reason to be tip toeing around it anymore.
Pg. 68 “Jon turns to a gun pointed right at him.” There we go
Pg. 69 “An AGENT in all black jumps down from the helicopter.” I think you mean rappels?
As far as the government cover-up, you might want to make it something a little more unique then a bio-weapon. Or what I mean is, murdering an entire town is kinda hard to keep quiet. Why not just create a chemical spill cover story, rather than kill everyone. Or blame it on terrorists. The only reason I could think to kill everyone is if it’s infectious.
Pg. 74 “A gas explosion to blame for 12,400 deaths” That’s a hard cover to maintain. It’d be the worst disaster in America, ever. And about fifty times worse than any previous gas explosion. Maybe if the town was smaller, or just a small section of the town? And maybe one of the people in the bunker actually knows something or saw something that makes them a target, instead of the mass extermination angle.
Pg. 81 Ah, I get why the camera was around now. Still, some explanation would be nice.
Pg. 82 Why won’t he give Maggie the gun, his wife’s a wreck?
Pg. 90 Poor Maggie.
Pg. 92 The protesters showing up could never happen that fast. And also the media would’ve been all over this place anyway, cause as written now, it’s the worst disaster in American history.
Pg. 94 “NORTH: If I give it to him, we’re all dead.” I gotta say, every single scenario that plays in my head results in them being dead. That’s good, dramatically. But I don’t know why North would consider letting his son be killed here.
Pg. 99 Jon raped Maggie and shot her in the head and he just gets in the car and drives off? No.
I think the spine of the story and the basic premise can work. It’s mostly just the details that are throwing a bit of a wrench in things. One thing I’d look at is pulling the characters of North and Dana back. They seemed to be at ten all the time. Dana was a panicky wreck before anything even happened and North… well there’s a difference between being prepared for anything and being prepared for alien abductions. He doesn’t have to believe EVERY conspiracy, does he?
Maybe personalize it a little. His dad was dishonorably discharged for something he did while following orders, so he never got his VA benefits and when illness came around his dad died before his time. Boom, grudge against the government.
Looking through the feedback, I agree that Agent Jon’s actions don’t add up. But like I said, maybe if there was something he wanted from them, something that was hidden or he needed to know, it might justify him waiting around to play mind games.
Anyway, this was nice work for 7 weeks, especially considering the other avenues you tried. Good luck with it. Hopefully those nibbles pan out.
A paranoia drenched thriller with tight pacing and good characters.
THE BUNKER is rather light on the ticking clock scenario. And feels more like an ensemble piece rather than a 50 year old hero led thriller. That said, this familiar premise is handled rather well so far.
I take these following notes as I read the script, in the hopes you can better understand what one person thinks as they absorb your tale. Here’s my feedback for the FIRST 40 PAGES.
A strong opening image: the train, with snipers. Right away, I’m curious as to what’s the cargo. I’d work a little on the description of the actual crash. I believe the ATV crashed over the cliff onto the railway. Consider slight alterations for clarity’s sake. That said, this was a very effective hook. It seems like the cargo was radioactive or something. These kids took photos as evidence. And in a way they are evidence themselves – poisoned(?) and blistered. I wonder if someone will seek to hide this evidence?
I like the set-up with North and his family. You quickly establish his job and his relationships. There was some good humour in there too. I appreciate the time spent on getting to know North as a family man before we see him bust into action. This helps build a connection with us, especially if North needs to protect them later on.
That was another strong moment as the infected panic in the streets. It was intense and exciting. Watching this would be scary like a horror movie. I like how you suggested a variety of camera work. It seems like North’s son now has some evidence of his own. I wonder if “Big Brother” will come looking for it.
I wasn’t expecting North to be a conspiracy nut. Paranoia leads his decisions to stash gasmasks and drive away from the checkpoint. I wonder if there is a joke to be had when he pulls out the gas masks. Maybe his wife or son is surprised he has the masks. North replies, “Aren’t you glad I’m a conspiracy nut now?” This character trait helps push the movie in the right direction. So kudos on this good writing decision.
I can also see this mistrust somehow harming their survival chances later on. Add Dana’s panic attacks., and it really opens up possible scenarios. For example, I imagine with the title here, they will end up in a bunker. Maybe another appropriate flaw for a character could be the son is claustrophobic. So we’d have that push and pull when they argue whether or not to stay in the bunker. Regardless, this premise is ripe to milk tension. I have a feeling I’m going to break a sweat reading this one. Hehehe.
They arrive at the bunker. And there’s cupcakes(?). I’m not sure the serotonin conversation felt so natural, but it hints at future solutions to curb anxiety. This talk also gets out some necessary exposition. Like North’s job. Consider reworking this dialogue about the twin towers too – perhaps an excision. It seems like this is mentioned so North can talk on conspiracies again. I feel like you handled this well during the establishing scenes already. I like how you dealt with the cellular reception problem quickly though. And I like the AMERICAN BEAUTY bit too. Funny.
I also like the suggestive elements brewing between Maggie and Jon. I wonder if he is the father. Or is she his hostage or something. Jon’s gun throws me off. Maybe he had it for a nefarious reason rather than protection? I wonder if our family will start to suspect something soon? The stuff with the pills makes me suspect Maggie as well. Maybe she’s a drug addict? Let’s say suspicions are brewing nicely.
I’m a little confused as to why Eli’s party was going to be held in the bunker instead of the house? On the other hand, I really like the mistress development. I didn’t see that coming. This definitely complicates the group dynamics. I also like how this answers why North decided to let them into the bunker.
While I liked the little quip in the flashback, it’s such a brief scene I wonder if it’s necessary. The deployment of flashbacks is a controversial subject. Some seem to really hate them. For me, I’m fine with them as long as they reveal something. This one here reveals how they met and how the attraction sparks – but I didn’t find that too revelatory.
Paranoia takes over. Except it’s only paranoia if you’re wrong, right. It seems like North is onto something. A least with his suspicions of Jon – he was sending a message to an Agent. And Jon knows of the affair. This complicates the trust issues, for sure.
I’m still wondering where our race-against-the-clock scenario is. As for the challenge parameters, it also seems like we have an ensemble piece here rather than a lead 50 year old protagonist. The concept is strong, don’t get me wrong. Rather than the ticking clock we get the familiar isolated and paranoid scenario instead. This really reminds me of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
I’m stopping at page 40 for now. I’ll read more and post further notes soon.
SPOILER I think I understand the whole premise- What I would really have appreciated is a visual appearance of the biological poison which was set free. I mean: I wouldn't suggest you to ignore laws of nature, but, what if this would be a new, top secret, area 51 kind of chemical weapon from which the government believes that it is worth it to justify the crazy mass assassination at the school (exaggerated said but it's fiction, right?) - Then, you could send a horrible awful storm of green poison or whatever, coming from the train wreckage toward the Bronson's property. I asked why the agents and military could walk outside without any masks, but then, the poison seems to be already gone. Visuals would help.
I don't like to make those suggestions about another one's script, but the point I want to bring across: I think we need a constantly point of identification concerning the "main problem". You only have the Zombies by now.
I want to have the problem right before their door.
Another example to underline what I mean: If Jon turns out to be a bad guy, I ask, why didn't North send him out of the bunker for a while to check if it's all right outside? On the other hand - If North sees there's poison in the air – he knows he would kill him by doing so. And we know North tries hard to fight Jon without taking Jon's life.
Spielburg, American Beauty, Hannibal Lecter, Doomsday Preppers, The Colony, Walking Dead.
Three different characters call out movie quotes or name titles. That don't work anyway- that's my opinion. And the worst thing that could happen by doing so is that a viewer doesn't know one of those titles or movie quotes. Then he or she would realize it as a bad characterization, because the characters seem to be movie geeks; more than people coming to watch your movie. If you need it for Eli, for him to get a connection with Maggie, then do it once. My opinion.
"That moment when your son realizes the monster within."
It's not a process I experienced, but it reads as I should.
There was a moment, at p 36, I wasn't sure who the protagonist is. Partly I felt Dana is it, because she has the most psychological pressure on her side, cheated, depressed...
"MAGGIE I wouldn’t be so sure.
DANA Really, he isn’t."
Dana has to bite her, here, literally, no matter how Dana truly thinks about it in her head. If you show her "only weak" it's hard to feel for her. Then she's like a puppet or sth. Lost.
"NORTH I’m going to kill that son of a...
MAGGIE No. You can’t do anything. He said he’d kill me. North. Please..."
???? North shall not kill Jon, because Maggie fears Jon would kill her?
"NORTH She doesn’t even know him. He raped her, Maggie.
Her anger turns into fear/anxiety.
DANA Jesus, North, are you serious?? What’re we gonna do? Where is he?"
I'm not sure about that. She seems to believe him one second after she had busted him, and her anger turns within a moment into fear. She acts too passive again, like everyone's telling her what to think and how to act. The quick switch feels unbalanced.
CB-radio from America to England?
P 85 Shouldn't North and Eli try to answer the agent to play for time? Tricking him as if they were Jon.
Why didn't the agents cut down the antenna earlier? They seem to be there for hours.
"MAGGIE I wasn’t going to put my life on hold and play your mistress."
That's an impressive plot point!!!!!! You distracted me here and there, so that I can't say I saw that coming. Well done.
Okay. This critique may read very negative until now. I think you did a great job and all those points above are 1. Easy to fix 2. A personal taste thing or 3. due to the natural process of a first draft plus the brutal 6 weeks timeframe.
There's just so much stuff (like 80%) in here that it makes no sense to point out the positive aspects precisely, so I cap them: DRAMATIC CONFLICTS, CHARACTERIZATION, CONCEPT, STORYLINE, TONE, VISUAL CONCEPT (PLUS ELI'S CAM) ARE VERY STRONG AND EXECUTED WELL. I enjoyed the read.
I think you could balance that whole script to another level. It has great potential.
Especially I think the audience adores movies with a vibe of claustrophobia. I guess it's something a lot of peops fear themselves, so they could greatly fear for the characters. Saw, Panic Room, Cube etc. ...
The location of a bunker which isn't just grey, but rather a microcosm is quite attractive and fresh.
That said, I think your script is better positioned with a length of 85 to 90 p. There's too much drama and repetitive things imo. Look, there are already so many scenes;200?; the characters have so many conflicts, dialogues and action that it might be too much. The bunker setting already makes it very intensive in case of length.
The first ten weren't my thing at all. There were too many questions, leading to more questions and I missed the visuals I described in the beginning – It would have helped to understand where we are, when we are and what's going on.
Well done, Dena. I felt you put a lot of work in here... to handle and keep track of so many scenes... The setting must be very interesting for movie makers. I enjoyed it, still would have preferred a shorter script because those amount of scenes felt very intense right now - and a more visual appearance of the catastrophe. Perhaps a little less drama and more precise points of thrill too.