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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Action/Adventure Scripts  ›  No Jonestown Redux Moderators: bert
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  Author    No Jonestown Redux  (currently 494 views)
Posted: July 23rd, 2018, 9:41pm Report to Moderator

So, what are you writing?

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No Jonestown Redux by Mathew H Emma - Action, Adventure - A tormented Dutch diplomat must thwart an evil cult leader from recreating one of the world's most infamous mass suicides.  119 pages - pdf format

Writer interested in feedback on this work

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Posted: November 28th, 2018, 3:14pm Report to Moderator
Old Timer

A helluva long way from LA
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“History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot.”


Before there was the Titanic, there was Tek Sing.

British guarantees to Belgium and Poland against German aggression leading to her entry into WWI and WWII respectively.

The over-the-top regimes of Idi Amin Dada and Jean-Bedel Bokassa.

Lincoln became president in 1860. Kennedy- in 1960.  Both were assassinated on Friday, shot with a fatal bullet to the head after being warned not to go out.  Lincoln was murdered in a theater named “Ford”, Kennedy was murdered in a car, made by “Ford motor company” and the name of the car was Lincoln. Their successors were both named Johnson; Andrew was born in 1808 and Lyndon in 1908.  And, most peculiarly, Booth escaped from a theater and was captured in a warehouse (okay, a tobacco shed), and Oswald fled a warehouse and was caught in a theater...

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it..."


The invasion of Russia by Napoleon, and then, a 100 years later by Hitler, only to go down to defeat, too... the ironic thing is that Hitler actually read about Napoleons failed advance on Russia.

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce..."


And so we come to your script.... 'No Jonestown Redux' where we meet Jerick Janssen... the founder of JANSSENDAM.  And on top of  that, it just happens to be the anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre.

I don't know how your script ends, but I know how it begins.  So I'll start there:

I was initially struck by the tone.  You say Action/ Adventure, but it read more like a bad spoof.  But I kept going... now that I understand this story a little more, I think you have really set up some obstacles for yourself.

If you've ever watched any documentary on Jonestown.  You'd see Jim Jones giving a sermon. Between the things he said and the charismatic way he delivered the speech -- it was very revealing and gave insight into why he could get people to follow him into a jungle and then drink the kool-aide.

Secondly,  we know Jones started out with good intentions, but what ultimately did him in... it was his obsession with the "social gospel" and its inherent socialism (i.e. communism with a smile), as well as his deviation from sound Scriptural hermeneutics, his many adulteries and his increasing drug problem destroyed him and any positive impact his ministry had in the early years.

But here -- not so much.

POP QUIZ!!!  What do the Dalai Lama, Elon Musk, Barrack Obama and Winston Churchill all have in common?   They’re all natural leaders in their own way, and they possess charisma by the ton.

Sadly, can't say the same for Jerick Janssan --he's not terribly convincing,  didn't seem to capture Jones' charisma.  Sure, the arrogance is there, but fell short pun intended...the spirit.  So, I have no idea how he bamboozled these folks into drinking his kool-aide.  I wanted to see his rise to power... didn't get it.  Methinks do you explore Jerick's motivations enough?   Therefore, I had no invested interest in his character.  It appears you went the route of the last 24 hours... it wouldn't hurt to sprinkle a bit of back story.

That said, a good actor could probably capture his spirit.

How about a bit of creative wrangling, why not show a sermon.  Make the sermon dialogue very compelling. To the point that we buy into him and want to watch him for 119 minutes.  Show his followers reacting to him more.  Show us why we should keep reading.  No, make us keep reading. That's your job as a writer.

A caveat; this is just my opinion, I could be missing the mark.  My notes are base off the first forty-seven pages.

At any rate, you choose to state your characters' race, hair, skin color, HT, ect...  Well, for the majority of them.  For most of us, race isn't mentioned unless it's going to affect the story.  Maybe your lead's race will become important, but are his follower's race important?   Is he, "MIKAEL VERBEEK, 40, white with short, blonde hair -"--as opposed to something like" MIKAEL VERBEEK, 40, a relic of 60’s radical politics..." -- makes me think race is going to be crucial, but it's not.

You mimic the Port Kaituma airstrip. What are you bringing to the table as a writer that will make that scene stand out?  if you're going to do something like this,  or pay homage to certain screenwriters, or movies, you have to one-up them, not fall short of their successes.  Not that I ever would, but If I was going to pull a Shane Black I'd work my damnest to do it in such a fresh way I get the reader on board with me.

If this retelling serves as a warning of the dangers of cultism, then maybe some good can come out of such a dark and harrowing time.  If its message is to tell us to beware of cults, you have to figure it's preaching to the choir. If it serves as a catharsis for survivors, more power to it.

All of the above is my long-winded way of saying I saw some real gems here stuck amid some sloppy writing choices. Clearly you can write but the quality is inconsistent. Hope this helps.

In summary, this might be worth reading, if only to keep in mind one of the truly horrific events of the 20th century.  Not to let it be repeated again. Like, ironically, the inscription in Jim Jones' camp: "Those who do not know the past are bound to repeat it."

"When I dive... I go deep, only to surface the hub when necessary."

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