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All Highways Lead Downtown by Greg Baldwin (greg) - Action, Adventure, Thriller, Fantasy - An amnesiac must unlock his memory in order to end the tyrannic rule of a post-apocalyptic government. - pdf, format
First I want to thank several writers here for helping me out with this; Michael, Gabe, James, Kevin, Steve, Stevie, Pia, and Bill (and a couple others who aren't on the boards anymore it appears). At its peak this script was 156 pages and for a while I had trouble getting it below 140, but the critiques I received were more than helpful in chiseling this down.
Honestly I'm not expecting a huge response since I've been in one of my silent-lurking modes but I like the feeling of completing another feature and getting it posted.
This is a story I've had for a while. The original idea was from my entry into an OWC that also dealt with a post-apocalyptic world. I thought the short was a cool idea so I expanded on the concepts and imagery.
Gave the first 10 pages a look and thus far a solid read. Nothing much to point out except for some spaced action lines. At the bottom of page 3 for example, you've got four lines which are spaced. I would suggest that you at least group them in twos. It'll save you some space. It's really just nit picking but thought I'd bring it up.
On the same page, you have, "Her pursuers...have her cornered." I think it's a bit redundant and obvious that they're her pursuers. Again, nit picking.
It's all I've got thus far. A strong hook that's got me reading more. I'll definitely read on. Great job so far.
Pg. 2. The cover sheet for Project X states that it's ,TOP SECRET, with a ,CONFIDENTIAL, stamp across it.
"Top secret", is a higher classification for sensitive materials than, "Confidential". To say it's ,Top secret, and ,confidential, is redundant.
Pg. 3. Guy has a fire going but you didn't show how he started it.
If he started it by rubbing a couple sticks together, then that means he has some survival skills. If he started it with a lighter, then you should show the lighter or some other fire starting item in the briefcase.
1. What language is the guy speaking in the beginning? I think many film producers and directors would like to know this if they are not aware of the language.
2. The head shoulders, knees and toes part is ridiculously funny. lol I almost thought this was a comedy until I looked at your genre selection and said no way.
3. Seriously you should take that part out of your story.
4. Your scenes are unrealistic between Xenia and Guy and the Troops. The Dialogue seems forced as well.
5. I'm having a hard time not laughing at this script. The doctor name is Dr. Dusty Sandstorm. I mean are you serious?
All in All. I think the concept of your script has potential. I think that many of your scenes could be created in a more executed way. A more serious approach you know. This way I will laugh less and be more focused on the premise of your story. The positive note here is that I think the idea of this script has potential but needs more thought into what should be done and why it is being done.
I've tagged this script for a while, but never found the hour or two to sit down and read it front to back. Finally, I was able to get to it.
I like the action right away in the beginning. As a Sci-Fi/Action flic, you need that opening to set the tone and get right into it. I also like how action was sprinkled every 15 pages or so to keep it going.
The plot reminded me of a mish mash between the Matrix and the LOTR. The travel to San Diego reminded me of the first LOTR. In fact, the circumstances that led to the choice to go to the underground city reminded me of the Fellowship of the Ring's choice to go to Moria - the dwarf city. Then the doctor reminded me of Gandalf and he even died in a fire as well I think, with the gibbick dragging him down.
The Matrix elements - Persephone was sort of like the Oracle when she was talking to Guy. The Schindler (interesting choice of name for Guy's "final solution") character was similar to the ARchitect - even the "key" and the "only you can go through that door" was very Matrix.
Maybe, I'm alone in seeing these parallels but I think some of these plot choices should be modified to avoid these similarities. Right now, it reads as if you've borrowed some of these concepts and rehashed it into your story.
I made a guess in beginning of Act 2 that Guy falling out of the sky reminds me a bit of Planet of the Apes. And it did end up being that way -- in suspended animation in space, until the time came for him to come down. Again, if you can, it might be better to find another possible way for Guy to be in suspended animation rather than coming from the sky.
The characters are distinguishable. Jade, Heydrich, Orion and Sandstrom all have distinct voices. Guy was okay - but I liked the others better.
Other smaller notes:
pg 15 "At last we meet again" Heydrich says this again in another part of the script. It stuck out at me because it's so cliche. Might be best to nix this or replace it.
pg 22 "hightail it outta here" another cliche that stuck out at me as it's in every forgettable Steven Seagal/Van Dam movie.
pg 42: "Gather the ammo of our dead. Leave the bodies." It felt stilted to me. How about "Grab the ammo. Leave the dead."
pg 44: Orion has a big dialogue block explaining the choice between Salt Flats and the mountains. This reminded me of the choice in LOTR of going to Moria or not. Might be best to break this up and tell us the ramifications of either choice in a "smoother" way. Right now, it feels on the nose and forced to tell us the pros/cons of either choice. Then you follow it up with several "Need a decision", "the choice is yours" (another cliche alert) "Make a decision". I think this section can be revised to be a smoother read.
pg 53: "It's on a need to know..." Another cliche alert screaming at me. I would change or nix this.
pg 99: Guy -- "No, it can't be..." Cut it. Again too cliche. Flashback still works without this line.
pg 108: Back to Heydrich's favorite line - "So, we meet again.."
It's a very ambitious story. Probably big budget and a setup for sequels. I liked how the action flows. Most of the characters are good/distinct. On the next go around/rewrite, I would think about different ways to avoid plot points that felt (to me at least) eerily similar to other films (Matrix, LOTR, Planet of Apes)
Congrats on finishing a feature script. It takes a lot of time and energy and it shows in your script. It was a quick read for 117 pages.
As for the story itself I liked it a lot. I never felt the story getting boring and you did a great job with the action flowing nicely. It had a Escape from New York feel to it (great movie by the way) and the characters all felt believable in their own way.
Pg. 3. I'd add a new slug before "A set of legs draped in rags...". The way it reads now, I was picturing Guy's legs were dressed in rags.
Pg. 3. "A woman scream is heard." I'd change it to, "A woman SCREAMS.".
Pg. 4. Remove, "You there." from Stoop's line.
Pg. 4. "You're not in a position to negotiate." This sounds stiff and unrealistic. "You're in no position to negotiate.", sounds better to me.
Pg. 4. How did Guy get close enough to Stoop to hit him with the case? I pictured them farther apart, which would mean Guy would have to cover some ground before hitting Stoop with the case. Plus if someone shot a case that I was using as a shield, I'm pretty sure I'd drop the case or get knocked back.
These are things I would do if it were my story. I'll comment on the story as a whole when I finish it.
Hi Greg. Overall the writing's good. There's a couple of minors here and there re. grammar, but a pretty low count considering that there's almost always something that gets missed.
Set-up wise, I think it worked well, putting us straight into a world that Guy neither knows, nor appears to understand.
I wasn't too sure about the dialogue. Sometimes it came over a little wooden.
On page five, Guy meets Dr Sandstorm (I like the name). I get the sense that you are building to the inciting incident, but I had the feeling that this scene was a little 'thin' - I'd have liked to have seen the two men try and suss each other out a little bit more - for the scene to have been given a bit more complexity, an opportunity for developing the charaters a little, maybe?
On the point of Dr Sandstorm, on his very first introduction, he's not doing anything ... often characters like this are up to something (the mad professor-esque type) - would he just be 'taking shelter' or would he be active in some way that Guy would interrupt?
P8 Guy repeats the 'who am I line', which we have already established. There's opportunities to go in other directions here, as he has not really yet questioned the 'saviour' bit that everyone seems to think he is - that is a more obvious line that's asking to be explored at this stage.
I think a description of Jade would do good as she appears to be a central character.
I wonder if Jade needs to be a bit more resistant to the quest? She seemed a little too ready just to go along with the idea, and there was a chance to stick some conflict in that could have played out later, if she had been hostile to the idea of going to San Diego.
So, by p11 it's all fairly nicely set up. I liked Heydrich's line in releasing the child, but dispatching the mother - true to his word, but still deeply evil - and the child gets the sympathy. From here we (think) we have a fairly good idea of what we are likely to be involved with, so it's pretty solid.
P14 Heydrich: "Find our men" "man..."?
P15 Heydrich: "... at last we meet again." either "We meet again." or "At last we meet."
P19 GUY We have to get my friends. ORION Gotta find ‘em in this mess. -- not too sure I get this ... Orion appear to be just agreeing with Guy, and I'm not sure why - conflict dictates that Orion should try and get Guy away from here.
P24 SANDSTORM Yeah, well, you sound like a jerk to be honest so obviously we’re on the same page. -- sounds like it should be Jade's line.
By p25, I'm looking to see Guy's character arc start to develop. I think some of the other characters are fairly well drawn - Heydrich is the most interesting (and he's doing a good job at keeping things 'alive'); Orion has a clear personality; Jade needs underpinning a little; and Sandstorm is okay, but he appears to be a little inconsistent as a person - I don't get a clear picture of who he is.
Guy at this stage appears to be a little bit 'along for the ride'. He's also trembled a lot, even though he has clear skills that he was not aware of. At this stage, I think he needs to start his growth, and begin to lead the action somewhat.
Stopped at p35. It's well written overall, but does, to my mind, have Syfy written all over it, and to some degree I have to blame that on the dialogue. Apart from Heydrich, I think that there was something else that was needed to bring the dialogue up a notch or two.
You might want to check your semi-colon use ... ?
Structurally, it's good feature length material, and you've obviously thought it through very well.
Good luck with it - I'll try and give the rest of it a read.
Wow, thanks guys. This is great stuff and great feedback all around. I'm glad to hear it's largely been enjoyable. If anyone has anything they'd like read please PM me.
Jeff, I will e-mail you a PDF. I thought Dropbox was open to anyone. I may have a weird setting on or something is conflicting with your system.
Several common questions I think may be answered by the end. The Ravensburke's dialogue was especially challenging and I purposely tried to make it kinda robotic but still not crappy and there is a reason for that. Another is Guy's activity in the beginning including the use of multiple languages - I think that will be answered later on but if is not then that is good feedback to know.
King Cooky - Sorry, I don't know your name. Great notes! Syfy would actually be good enough for me
Varshawn - Actually, everything you laughed at was laughable material. I thought Dusty Sandstorm was a funny name so I used it. Even in a post-apocalyptic world someone has to have a sense of humor
John, Dirk, Jordan, and Simon - thanks for opening this up and for the notes! This is all great stuff!
I liked the payoff starting right around page 100 concerning Project X. Heck of a lot of dialogue, but oh well. I see a rewrite in your future if you ever send this to Babz. I imagined Gerard Butler as Guy. That worked. Honestly I dislike these "dude loses his memory, trying to figure out who he is" kind of movies, so I skimmed over parts, but all in all, nice beginning, middle, end.
Your writing flows well. All the best with it.
My favorite line:
ORION Wars that were started by man but won by God...and His house still stands.
Just finished The Fellowship of the Briefcase...I mean, All Highways Lead Downtown. I kid a bit of course but this was pretty much, as kingcooky pointed out in his review, a mashup of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Matrix (and a little Mad Max thrown in there). And I must admit I didn't really care for it. However it wasn't that bad cos' I did finish the script.
Maybe I am wrong - and please correct me if I am - but this felt like it was deliberately written very toungue-in-cheek, almost to the point where it felt like you weren't taking this too seriously.
Pros: - Pretty lean script. Short sentences. Looked good. Lotsa white. An easy read. - Clean script as well. I think I counted only a couple of typos but nothing that hurt the script overall (btw. it's called an F/A-18, not F-18, F/A as in Fighter/Attack. Sorry but I'm a stickler for getting military hardware correct). - Good action sequences (maybe too much but I'll get to that later)
Cons: - Weak on structure. Couldn't really tell when the first, second and third acted ended/started. - Too much action and too little character development. And what little there was toward the end with Guy felt forced and almost irrelevant since it hadn't been set up properly. This is basically a road trip movie and in those movies you usually learn a lot about the character as the journey progresses. Here there was little to none. - Wash-rinse-repeat. The same things happened over and over again just in different settings. Felt almost like a video game. - Simply too close to LOTR in terms of template. I have no problem with taking a kernel from one story and putting into another story but it simply got too predictable in your script. - Too over the top baddies. Not enough motivation to justify that much senseless brutality. One thing I never understood was why Heydrick brought the briefcase with him in the first place. Felt contrived. - Weak ending. Sorry but the whole notion of putting the President into some form of suspended animation and then wait for him to fall back to Earth really didn't connect with me at all.
So there you have it, Greg. I'm sorry I couldn't be more possitive but I hope I relayed why the script didn't work for me. Good luck on future projects.
Down in the hole / Jesus tries to crack a smile / Beneath another shovel load
Pg. 5. Just have Xenia saying, "It's you! It's really you!". The other lines aren't needed, especially Guy's lines.
Pg. 5. I'm not sure if you want a "fury of ash and fire" or a "flurry of ash and fire." Flurry makes more sense to me, but fury works too.
Pg. 7. Sandstorm saying, "Where's my assistant?" Doesn't sound natural. I think he'd just say, "Where's Jade?"
Pg. 7. Sandstorm: "The look of a hero is undefined. It can be anyone, anytime." Way too, on the nose. Something like, "What does a 'hero' look like?" sounds better to me.
Pg. 7. Sandstorm: "My word...just had a heart attack." Cheesy.
Pg. 8. Sandstorm: "Our future now rests on the shoulders of this man." It seems a bit soon to rest his fate on a guy he just met.
Pg. 8. Xenia: "No. They took my son. I'm not about to let him grow up to become one of them." Way too much is said here. A simple: "They took my son. I'm not leaving here without him.", would work. Plus it becomes true. She doesn't leave there without him.
Pg. 8. Remove, Jade: "They'll burn the village..." Xenia: "They can try." It's pretty clear that the Ravensburke are killing everyone. There's no need to say it in dialogue.
Pg. 8. "They start down the hill covered with dense terrain." Dense brush sounds better. Dense terrain, would be really hard ground.
Pg. 9. "A squad of SIX RAVESBURKE OFFICERS fire from the building." This sounds like they're firing from the building that just exploded in a fireball. That leads me to believe that the building is destroyed or engulfed in flames. How are they firing from it?
Pg. 9. Jade: "Then kill someone!", is too much. "Then shoot!" sounds better.
Thanks for the words! I was out of town this weekend so I apologize for the delay.
If I were to list the movies that were "inspiration" for this I'd be laughed at. The real back story in writing this was while I was taking a course on the Holocaust. The class went into great detail about the Nazis' motivations and perceptions so likewise there's a lot of WWII imagery and analogies here, i.e. the idea of super humans, a gestapo-like task force, using fear as a tool of power, Kristallnacht, and of course the names of the officers. The Bielski Brothers, who relentlessly fought against the Nazis to protect other Jews, was an early source of inspiration for this one as well. Defiance came out shortly after I started writing the early draft, but the idea of rebels going up against the Nazis still interested me.
So thanks again guys. Not everyone's cup of tea, but that happens.
Hey, Greg. Since I gave Varshawn a read, I figured I sort of owed you a read as well. I kinda got sidetracked, but it's here now.
The writing here is very clean, and I was hooked from the get-go. I will say though that this really isn't my kind of movie… Hollywood-y fantasy adventure set in a different world… but I enjoyed this nevertheless. It feels like a movie... a blockbuster type thing is the vibe I got from it. In a good way. It's hard to describe.
It's not often that I encounter a script around here that actually plays out like a real movie in my head as I read. So, serious props for that. You put a lot of work into this, and it shows.
But I'm going to agree with the others that this has some similarities to other fantasy movies, like The Matrix and LOTR. The whole "guy on a journey, ruthless bad guys on his trail" is executed in a way that's a lot like things I've already seen before.
A problem I have with fantasy is, you have to make it your own world. It can't be like some other world in another book or movie. I'm not saying it has to be totally original, but you have to make it your own. And… I dunno, to me, this doesn't really feel like an entirely new world. It's got bits and pieces from other things here and there, but most of all, it just doesn't feel like it's your own. It's not particularly new, either.
So basically the government collapsed and was taken over by an evil dictatorship. You've got the "chosen one" archetype. He's on a journey and has the help of a wise "master" who gives him the info he needs. Also, the aforementioned evil government is after him, and they're ruthless and will do anything to get the hero.
Of course, most fantasy and sci-fi follows this path, and the biggest difference is the world it's set in. But like I said, the world here isn't really anything totally different.
(Not that you have to make it completely original, either. When you think about it, The Matrix isn't really that different than a bunch of other fantasy/sci fi films. Bad government controls people, chosen one has to stop them with he help of his mentor. It's just the execution-- and the addition of the whole "control your dreams" thing-- that sets it apart from many other films and books).
My advice, disguise the plot points, change things around so it isn't similar at all to LOTR and The Matrix… like kingcooky said.
But then again, that's just my opinion on the genre. I don't write fantasy, so take this with a grain of salt.
Pg.1: Might want to italicize the first few lines, since they're spoken in a different language.
I'm not sure what audience you're going for here-- but regardless, I think the CONFIDENTIAL book with things crossed out is a bit cliched, even slightly cartoonish. Especially if this is geared towards an adult audience, you might want to get something subtler than crossed out words and CONFIDENTIAL on the cover.
Wait, so his name is "Guy", right? It’s not referring to him as a guy (i.e. man, person, guy), because he has no memories? At first I thought you meant like “man” or something, but as it went on, I began to think it’s his name.
I thought Stoop and Drexler were a bit over-the-top, especially at the beginning. "He's not even a year old!" "Then the death of his mother will be all the more forgettable." Again, I'm not sure whether you're going for a Hollywood movie vibe (if that makes sense) or something more gritty and "real".
I think things happen way too fast in the first ten pages. The first few pages of GUY on his own were paced perfectly, but the doctor Sandstorm scene seemed a bit out of place. I dunno… to me, it reads more like a scene that would happen later on in the first act, when we already kind of know the characters. I mean… Guy just woke up and saved Xenia, he has no memories, but for some reason he's in a hurry to get to San Diego.
Basically, at the beginning I felt like I walked into a movie and missed a good 30 minutes. This is paced more like a second act than the opening 15 pages, if that makes any sense.
I'm not saying you need to make the first 15 uneventful, but you spend a little more time on characters before everything else happens.
Also… You named the doctor "Dusty Sandstorm"?! The name really stood out. Took me out of the story for a second. I like the Sandstorm part, but the whole “Dust” thing isn’t very realistic at all. It’s almost like naming a character “Justin Time” or something. Just my opinion. Jade Sandstorm is a cool name, though.
Okay, man, I’m out on page 20. It’s not that it’s unoriginal or anything-- because it’s not. Aside from some similarities to other films, you have a pretty cool story here. It’s just that fantasy really isn’t my cup of tea.