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Great and funny. There are scripts that cannot be placed down and this is one of them.
Wonderful job. Your formatting is perfect. Your dialogue is terrific. The giggles were there.
The only thing I would question is the non use of flashback with Joy's past.
Hark had me totally surprised at the end. The transformation was unexpected.
As the story goes, everything starts to happen in October. I assume that is when the gnome must have appeared on the scene. I was wondering about his motives for passing off as an elf:-- was it that he wanted to be loved or was he trying to prove a point or was he there to cause havock?
I would have liked to have known his motives.
I did find myself feeling sorry for Leon; you splendidly portrayed him as a trouble maker but it the end it was all obvious that love was the issue...well done!
But, then again, I am not sure why Stan would have kept him on; considering Leon's work was dreadful. ( so we thought)
Clever little twists with names, such as Noel and the smart remark by Hark with "last noel"
I was wondering why you didn't make more of Joy's name as a joke amongst the elves.
One little spoiler...
I think Joy accepts the challenge to help Stan too eagerly , appearing a little unconvincing; considering, she had dismissed the idea of it, right from the very start and over the next few scenes to follow. I believe she should have warmed up to the idea, a little slower.
But, hey! that's all the negative feed back I can offer. I am incapable of picking anything else out of this script .
Absolutely great script. The joy of Christmas was felt. Great work!!!
I first read this script last year. I just finished reading it for the second time. I really enjoyed this one.
What I like are stories that flow, and this one does. It's structured very nicely.
Another thing I love is dialogue. This script had excellent dialogue in spades! I can easily see this being translated onto film. I recommend this script to those, like myself, who are beginning screenwriters. The formatting is superb. I saw nothing wrong with the script at all!
Nicely done indeed!
If you can't beat 'em, then get yourself a bigger stick! John Mavity
Jerry and Nick, thank you. It's been quite some time since you posted. My wife and I have been writing so we hope you'll forgive the absence. Elf-Analysis has been rewritten I believe one other time since. Par for the course. We're glad you think the structure works. With so many elves running around, it's a little too easy to be thrown off course. But to their credit, the dialog sort of writes itself. Just picture people, but happier.
Thank you again. And please let us know if we can return the favor.
Up to page 18 so far. One thing that bothers me is all the action lines between dialogue. It seems like you describe an action way too often. Also Joy getting the fact that shes at Santa's North Pole so early defuses the "wonder" element too soon. And the scenes are so short they dont give a lot of time for character development.
Made it to page 30. You also have characters repeat what characters said too often like:
Cal: You watch a lot of TV.
Stan:They're not really TV.
Small sample. Maybe not a good one. But over and over a character says something and then another says it back to them in a conflicting way. People may talk like that but not in film and not as often as you have it in the first 30 pages.
Joy is a character to build around. Her grumpiness juxtaposed with the happiness of Christmas is a great thing to explore. I think You rushed her and her son to the north pole too quickly and then had Joy make a connection (that Santa Clause is real) so fast you didn't give her time to kinda play with the notion. Every scene she's with her son and we only see one side of her: Being grumpy.
I tend to go on... This script from a technical standpoint is solid. From a story stand point it feels like I'm being rushed from scene to scene and only getting a little taste of something that could really be good.
I’ve listed my comments as I read this below. Often I’m more likely to note negatives than positives.
Title Page – The title works okay in that I immediately get that it’s a Christmas movie. I’m not sure it needs the “-“.
Pg 1 – The first page does a solid job of introducing a character and showing what his problem is.
Pg 4 – This is moving along well.
Pg 6 – It occurs to me that the Christmas hating protag has been done quite a lot so it’s quite hard to make her stand out in this respect.
Pg 11 – I like the way the story has been “incited”. You could consider whether a phone call followed by dinner in a restaurant might be a bit of a bland approach.
Pg 13 – “scribbles through Ted's name” – For me this might be going a bit far since you’ve already given us this message repeatedly and it’s pushing her in the direction of being irritating. On the same overall topic, it might be that you could consider how much an audience would empathize with her based on how she’s behaved and what has happened so far.
Pg 18 – The last few pages are the expensive and wondrous core of a Christmas film.
Pg 19 – For me Joy has become the antagonist of the story. I realize that she will ultimately have a character arc, but I’d suggest thinking about whether she could be more positive, but for cynical reasons. It also might be possible to make it more comedic if for example she is trying to catch out all these “special effects”.
Pg 27 – I like the fact that she appears to make a statement of intent here. I’m not completely sure a psychologist would opt to attack prospective clients in this way.
Pg 29 – “Holly leaves and finger paints.” – What does this mean?
“This is crazy.” – Sometimes this kind of line can work great, but it’s worth thinking about whether it encourages the audience to break out of suspending disbelief.
Pg 35 – I’ll admit that I’m feeling a little weary of the wise-cracking aspect of this. I know that personal taste makes a big difference in reactions to comedy and so it might just be me. However you could consider trying to mix up the tone a bit, i.e. put in some scenes that give us a different emotion so that the comedic stuff retains an element of surprise.
Pg 44 – The scene that ends here has an amusing element, but beside that I’m not getting a sense of how it is moving the story along. I’d suggest seeing if you can set Joy minor objectives that she can be trying to achieve.
Pg 47 – As a general point it occurs to me that I’m not sure what market you are targeting this at. It has a large budget and is about Christmas which normally means kid friendly. However much of the humor here seems to be targeted at adults. As a TV movie I could see the concept working okay, but I’m not sure how edgy the TV companies would let you be.
Pg 51 – “401k deduction” – This is a bit USA specific for a film that would have to sell globally.
Pg 52 – The scene before this with the slaves revelation worked well in that it showed an antagonist apparently moving the story forward (unless he’s a good guy and Santa is the antagonist). However this scene reminds me of things that have happened earlier so it makes me question whether the story is moving along.
Pg 59 – The flashbacks are okay, but again this feels like a repeat of issues that have already been covered.
Pg 62 – “your HMO” – USA specific?
Pg 74 – I can see the story has moved along into some different issues now.
Pg 77 – Things are building up for a finale.
Pg 82 – These last few scenes have been the culmination of the solving of the psychology problems of various characters. I wonder if there is a more dynamic way to resolve these things than having her talk them through with each of them.
Pg 89 – The row between Joy and Stan works well in bringing their issues to a dramatic point. I like the fact that Stan has turned out to be a bad guy, however you could consider having him not be the actual Santa (he could be Santa’s CEO or something), because that avoids the issues that many people would have with doing down Santa.
Pg 93 – I like the chase and confrontation.
Pg 100 – The finale is going well. One thing I noticed though is that Leon’s problems were pretty much solved by himself and now he is trying to save Christmas. You could consider ways of making it so that Joy is more active in resolving the problems.
Pg 108 – And the wrap up quickly concludes the story.
Overall the story has an imaginative setting and introduces an array of characters who are different and have effective dynamics between them.
The technique works fine for me and the read was quick and smooth.
As I mentioned I’m not sure the comedy worked all that well for me, however I know other people might feel different. Along with the notes I made above I’d add that overall the story kicks off and concludes quite well, but perhaps becomes a bit directionless through the middle.
Sorry about not being more positive. Good luck with it.
Thank you very much for your notes. I think the inciting incident could potentially be rethought -- for example, Stan surprises Joy at her office or on the street vs. them having a planned lunch date. We always thought of Joy as our protagonist, but I could see how Stan and co. might feel otherwise.
In earlier drafts, elfin wise-cracking antics were more rampant. We dialed them back for the sake of more story, i.e. developing Joy's relationship with Cal. One idea we're contemplating is strengthening Cal's relationship with Stan and seeing how well Joy copes.
Giving Joy minor objectives to help move the story along is a good idea. Our objective was finding a way to get that across by showing a steady improvement in the therapy of her patients since that's the crux of our plot. More psychological breakthroughs, spaced out accordingly, may be just the ticket. Adding some physicality to these scenes would make them less "talky" in nature.
Congrats on being awarded the Screenplay of the Month! The thread looks like it could use a little love. I read the first third, 36 pages, this morning. I will continue as my work schedule allows me to.
Right off the bat, there are several things that appeal to me personally. I adore family tales. There, I said it. Despite being a bachelor, go figure. And now you've set it in my neck of the woods. I'm a born and bred New Englander, through and through. Not to mention our beloved Bruins reclaimed the Stanley Cup last night.
So, you could say, I'm in a "good place" to read your work. The pacing is pretty stout from the start, as well as format. Your pages read well, nothing slowing down my read.
I had a difficult time understanding what Joy does for a living at first. A clearer client consultation could speed things up a bit. A joyless psychiatrist named Joy, cheeky. I like it. The line about the divorce rang false. I'd rather it be gone and let us see the letterhead or something.
I'd liked the Christmas jet, vibrant and creative description. Your North Pole is creative, but not to garish proportions. The flourish of child like imaginative architecture is appealing.
I didn't get a strong sense of time period here. Cal plays with a Rubik's Cube, Joy doesn't seem to have a cell phone. Does this take place in the present day?
It reads a bit weird that Joy would up and desert her clients without notice. Perhaps the $25k one day offer could be extended before the flight. I could see Joy getting on that plane regardless then. And it puts the pressure on Stan to win Joy over, tightens up the arc. My two cents. Saving Christmas is worth much more than 25k too. Up the price.
p. 25. Their elves, not eggs. Really good line, nailed Joy's flaw. Kudos. I like the turn on p. 27 where she's essentially goaded into the job. However, it feels a little hollow to me, I want to know more about Joy. We're wrapping up act one and I don't feel I know much about her. Perhaps her obsession with efficiency is borderline compulsive?
Why is she an efficiency expert? What is inefficient in her past? I want to see Joy neglecting her own well being and throwing herself into her work. She doesn't mean to alienate her son, she can't help it. She's overwhelmed, it's the holidays and now she's facing a divorce. Cal seems way too jovial for a kid whose family is breaking apart. Joy and Cal's emotional dynamic is too benign for my tastes. I find it hard to believe they have no conflict during this family crisis. Does Cal blame Joy for dad leaving? Does she hate herself for being a failure?
Overall, I like the tone and pacing. The character conflict between your protags feels a bit light to me. This is well constructed and has the earmarks of marketability. I'm looking forward to seeing where you take the story from here.
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Picking up from p. 38 this morning. Starting off the second third with more sessions, no new discoveries do far. The Stan/Joy thing at the reindeer ended just when it got real interesting. I wish that one had gone on longer or started later in the chat.
Leon's rant on p. 48 feels like it should be coming sooner. Much sooner. Had I heard this late in act one, I'd have a better idea of the conflict. It gives the "movement" a face and our story a clearer antagonist. Even better if Leon somehow reminds Joy of her absent husband. I'd like one of Leon's demands to be something Joy can identify with. Something she feels strongly about, but she's on the other end of the issue. I dig stuff like that, supporting characters giving sideways insight into protags.
p. 61 makes no sense to me, the infirmary scene. Joy learns that Leon had an allergic reaction to something. Yet, she flips out because she thinks Cal is hurt? But she was informed about Leon, not Cal. Does Joy think Cal gave Leon the nicotine gum and then got injured somehow? I don't get her reaction, and then it's all harmless anyways, it reads odd though.
Stopping at p. 73 today, Joy's Christmas pedicure scene. We're seeing some emotional conflict here in the mid 60 page mark. For me, these beats need to develop sooner. I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around a total work stoppage over a girl.
All these elves that are quite old come off as very emotionally stunted. They seem to be easily talked into abandoning the Christmas spirit. They're not angry picketers protesting injustices, they're just hanging out. Stan and Joy's developing relationship is a bit off putting. The last thing Santa should be worried about is his personal life. Christmas is on the line here, if anything it should be quite the opposite. Perhaps they do have chemistry, but their work keeps getting in the way. That's a nice way of enhancing both their individual problems, when united. It's also a nice canvas for some comedy between them. Speaking of comedy, there's isn't much in the way of physical humor. In a holiday wonderland, I expected a little more whimsy.
I liked your first act set up, very much. However, I don't feel like the story progressed much in the mid section. Lots of sessions, truncated talks skirting issues, etc. Having Cal continue school with the kid elves would be a nice touch. Joy sees Cal happy, making friends, connecting with his male teacher. She needs to see that her lonely son needs role models, and so does she. Those kind of unspoken connections resonate with me on the page. Just a thought, my two cents.
Looking forward to the conclusion tomorrow.
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We open the final third with some more sessions. I think if the sessions lead to some activity they might work better. They tend to bookend into each other, and that leads to confusion for me. It's hard for me to distinguish between the elves when they're back to back.
p. 80 We're finally seeing the divorce affect Cal. IMO, this kind of reaction should be on Cal's mind from the very outset. It's the emotional crux of what Joy and he are going through. But the first real chat about it is on p. 80. It should be a throughout the script.
It seems to me this script is aimed at a family oriented audience. I think you'll capture more of that audience with a stronger arc for Cal.
p. 91 The room of rejected toys scene. I love the idea of showing off a room full of rejects. And thematically it's a good place for this argument to take place. However, it goes on for 7 pages. That's way too long for a scene in a room. Anything over three pages and you're pushing it, industry standard. It's very talky, little exploration in the room, it would never play on screen. I think you can handle that sequence in less than half the time. Perhaps if they moved around, something to liven the environment would help.
p. 102 The gnome reveal is kinda neat. However, revealing that to the audience much earlier would tighten the plot. Making Hark the villain and instigator to the audience gives us an antag anchor. We could see him manipulating Leon and the others into apathy. Gnome plants like terrorist cells could be a funny analogy for it all, etc.
Prophetic words there for your closing line about the Bruins. LoL! I really enjoy the concept you've put together here. It's fresh and ripe with whimsy and Joy is a likeable protag.
However, I don't feel the pages are doing justice to her emotional plight. There's not enough development of her dilemma with Cal. They have one scene where they talk divorce and it's pretty on the nose. Joy and Stan's romance didn't quite come to life for me.
I didn't feel the urgency of the pending holiday crunch. A countdown with a calendar would help give some urgency to the dilemma. I had a hard time seeing what Joy, Stan and Cal learned to grow.
The pacing never caught fire for me, likely due to a lack of villain. We only get a real antag on p. 102, pretty late in the game. I feel your gnome reveal should be a plot to thwart Christmas from the get go. That allows Leon to step up, overcome his misguidance and be a hero. Throwing it all into the last seven pages made it feel very rushed.
For a family Christmas tale, there's not a lot of kid time on the pages. There are long stretches were Cal is absent. Too long for me. Being an efficiency expert is more than couch consultation. I would've liked to seen Joy pouring over performance charts. That data leading to discovery hinting at the gnome plot to destroy Christmas. A little plot here and there could give some pace and urgency to your pages.
Love the concept, like the characters, but the story and plot didn't engage me. Congrats again on being Simply Scripts Screenplay of the Month. Best of luck with all your endeavors. Keep writing and rewriting!
LATEST NEWS CineVita Films is producing a short based on my new feature!
Thank you very much for the read, E.D. And for your thoughtful notes. I’m glad to see the B’s bring the Cup back to Beantown. It’s been a while.
I think one of the difficulties we’ve run into on this script is sheer numbers. By that I mean the number of elves. We give focus to a lot, in and out of therapy. It lends credence to the concept, but in the process, the relevance of each elf gets watered down. Honestly, I think that’s been the issue all along. Turnstile therapy makes it tough to feel connected to any one particular individual. It’s many things happening without much resonating, and that has to change.
The story is set in present day. I think upping the offer from $25K makes sense. Joy would still need to push back so tension isn’t diminished too much. The idea of her being an efficiency expert may become less important in the next rewrite; I’ll explain why below. The Rubik’s Cube isn’t integral. Swapping it out for more conflict between Joy and Cal is a good way to build on their arc and lace in more backstory. Gives us more of a chance to experience what this family is going through as a result of the divorce, and humanizes Joy.
Leon reminding Joy of her absent husband has lots of comic potential. Nice call. The stuff about the nicotine gum is a little muddled, agreed. I think it works better if Cal gets himself into another jam by disobeying his mother, and then having to deal with the consequences. It raises the stakes of their relationship and, at the same time, doesn’t dilute the threat from Leon.
I disagree on the point of Stan’s personal life. He doesn’t need to be worried about it, per se, but he’s pretty much without human contact 24/7/364. And if he has a successful Christmas Eve, make that 365. Seeing that isolation creep up on him at an inopportune time could be an interesting twist, and gives Joy a “patient” outside the confines of her office. The trick is getting that across in a comedic way. Re: the toy reject scene, some dialogue could be trimmed and more action woven in. But generally speaking, I don’t mind pushing the 3-page limit as long as what’s happening on the page continues to move the story forward.
When we dive back in, I think Leon being the ‘problem elf’ needs to be known right up front. Even as early as Stan and Joy’s first encounter. His notoriety needs to be upped, and done so in singular fashion. Make him sort of the Hannibal Lecter of the elves, minus the cannibalism. That would be a different film entirely. Christmas needs to hinge on whether or not Joy can turn him around in time. Hopefully, this would crystallize things and stoke the sense of urgency. Furthermore, it will nudge Noel and Hark to the forefront, giving Joy a manageable trio of elves (gnome +1) to work with. Ode, Schmelf and Ancy would thankfully blend into the woodwork, enabling us to focus on the main relationships.
Thanks again for your comments, E.D. They’re greatly appreciated and will be very useful in Rewrite # We Lost Track. There’s a seachange coming to Candy Cane Central.