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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Comedy Scripts  ›  The Orphans of Mansfield Hall (7WC) Moderators: bert
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  Author    The Orphans of Mansfield Hall (7WC)  (currently 3071 views)
Don
Posted: December 23rd, 2009, 12:03pm Report to Moderator
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The Orphans of Mansfield Hall (7WC) by Tom Pascal (tommyp) - Comedy, Drama, Children - When an orphanage gets taken over by a woman with no care for anyone but herself, the orphans must fight to get their old carer back, before the woman ruins Christmas day for everyone.  68 pages - pdf, format


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Tommyp
Posted: December 23rd, 2009, 12:28pm Report to Moderator
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Cool, first 7WC script that is up, thanks Don.

As I have mentioned earlier, this is a bit short, but I thought I would submit it anyway.

I read through it again today and there are a few typos, but I don't think it's too bad.

The only thing to look out for which is important to the story is on page 63. The action line "She turns to Clare" should be "She turns to Sarah". Wrong name.

Anyways, advice would be lovely to receive, and I hope you enjoy reading it



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Tommyp  -  December 25th, 2009, 9:40pm
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grademan
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Hey Tommy,

First off, congrats on finishing the challenge! A script in seven weeks while being a student, publishing another short (HUNTED), and participating in THIEF is a great achievement.

Second off, I liked this one. I was prepared to be “read that, scene that” for the orphans but I was pleasantly surprised. This was good esp. the first 25 pages.

As always, I have a few comments to share:

VOICE OVER – V.O. was appropriate to the story but we never get to see the (older) Elkie who would be telling the story. You know, like a young women sitting outside the orphanage remembering her time there. Also, when a character is identified as V.O. we know that somehow the character survives.

MONTAGES – You may be known as Tommy “The Montage” Pascal after seeing the montages used in this one. Just pointing out when a tool may be overused however well they may be used. (I am guilty of this too in my 7WC). In your first montage you have a fourth point in the montage incorrectly identified as a third point.

PLAUSIBILITY – JT would be identified as a missing orphan immediately if Mrs. B was half the stickler we think she is. Also, the fire JT starts led me to believe he is the cause of the alarm going off in the next scene. I don’t think the two were connected.

Also, if Mrs. B was a sleep cooker, she might wonder how all the dirty pots and pans would be there in the morning. Maybe Clare is a sleep dish washer?

What happened to the puppies?

I was surprised at the mention of Mrs. B’s kids but then I noted it is Mrs. B. What a subplot that would make!

Andy’s mom provided too convenient a way for Trad/Trent to find about how fickle his new friend was.

HUMOR – Great use of the cat and the sawdust in the food. Not overdone, just right. Making Mrs. B four foot tall was a great idea. Does she have a hairy mole on her face? Does she?

CONVENIENT – It was too easy for Trad to get back to the orphanage. He didn’t suffer while away from the orphanage (that was the point I know).
JT and Brent were the orphans whose parents came back for them. The scene was well done in a slow-mo feel.

Uncle Brian was shuffled off a bit too easily. One more effort to stay would sell us on his commitment

CHARACTERS – I liked your characters. Uncle Brian could be Santa anywhere. The feuding brothers were esp. good. What boy wouldn’t want to be JT?  Clare felt a tad one dimensional. I was ready to adopt Elkie and the lot of them.

Cheers mate!

Gary
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stevie
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Hi Tommy. Mate, once again, congrats on doing your first feature. You did well!

Yeah, I liked this, it was a nice read and very accessible. Once you get feedback, you can revise it and maybe add some more to it.

A couple of points: I think you should establish right at the beginning, what country this is set in. At certain stages, you mention Tranmere(England) and Launceston(Tasmania). Also, the kids talk about someone throwing a ball over the house? Which hints at American Football. A super would suffice, in the first scene.
Some of the kid's names nod to the US too, though Elkie is more Scandinavian?

I was looking at Gary's comments. I thought the VO was handled pretty well. The montage were a little hazy - if you have dialgue in them, to me it becomes just a normal scene. Or at least the dialogue should be VO or maybe OS.

another thing I felt needed changing was Mrs. Bertrus. she's intro'ed as being 4 feet tall??!! she wouldn't be much bigger than most of the kids. Yet you don't allude to this again, and it would be a funny thing the kids would use to annoy her more. Just a thought.

anyway, your writing has its usual nice flow and the formatting is good. Great job! Cheers buddy and I'll get to reading the others today.




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Tommyp
Posted: December 23rd, 2009, 10:06pm Report to Moderator
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Gary... Thanks for the encouragement and congrats.

Ah yes, the V.O. I didn’t want to break the fourth wall at any point, have Elkie wink at the camera at the end or anything, because I think it’s lame and ruins the story.

What did you think about her doing the V.O. at the end... sitting in a yellow house with Trad. With their dog and a fence, and all the stuff they talked about at the start?

I thought about doing that, but then it could take away from the whole Christmas family feel. Thoughts?

Ah, yes, the montages. There are a few, aren’t there. The first one is the biggest and most important, as I wanted to show the connection between the children and Uncle Brian. Do you think I shouldn’t have a montage here, and have longer scenes instead?

JT. Well, his back story is that he would have left the hall, Brian would have tried to get him back, but JT didn’t want to come back. Brian checked up on him, and didn’t want to push him, and realised that he could live fine the way he was. I don’t think Miss B would worry about this, but I might add a scene of Clare looking for JT, and JT hiding from her.

No, they weren’t connected.

Good point. I will add a scene of Clare cleaning up after Miss B. She would know about the sleep cooking, but not say anything.

What happened to the puppies? Not important, I don’t think. They were taken off the children at the end of the day. I should probably have a scene of that, hey.

Yeah, I took aaaaaages trying to figure out a way for Trad to realise that Andy wasn’t his real friend, and I finished up with the weak scene that it is now. Any ideas on how I could fix it up, or change the scene all together?

Glad you liked the slo-mo feel. It was a risk putting it in there, but I think it paid off.
With JT getting back to the orphanage, I think I might have it that he just got back to HIS house in time, and he went with Uncle Brian. I would have to change a few lines and stuff, but that would be more believable.

Glad you liked the characters. With Clare, I thought the music thing was enough, but I might add something else in there, if you think it needs it.

Thanks again man, glad you liked it. I really enjoyed writing it.

Stevie... Yeah, I didn’t think the country was important, but I suppose it is, hey. I think it’s okay to have random names, but the places have to be set, yeah.

I thought Miss B would be funny to be 4 feet tall. And yeah, I don’t mention it much more, BUT I think on screen, all the stuff she does would look funnier BECAUSE she is 4 feet tall. I will add it a bit more though, thanks.

Thanks again for the read man.


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grademan
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Quoted from Tommyp

What did you think about her doing the V.O. at the end... sitting in a yellow house with Trad. With their dog and a fence, and all the stuff they talked about at the start?

I thought about doing that, but then it could take away from the whole Christmas family feel. Thoughts?


I am not sure Tommy. Maybe if the house was decorated for Xmas. Prompting the memory.


Quoted Text
Do you think I shouldn’t have a montage here, and have longer scenes instead?


Again, I am not sure. No need to change the montages. I was  just pointing out there were a few. Sometimes, I don't see  stuff like that until someone points it out.


Quoted Text
What happened to the puppies? Not important, I don’t think. They were taken off the children at the end of the day. I should probably have a scene of that, hey.


The kiddies will want to know.


Quoted Text
Any ideas on how I could fix it up, or change the scene all together?


Maybe another scene where Trad sits alone after being dumped by Andy. In that same scene, you could have him remember Elkie.

Gary
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greg
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Hi Tom,

This was a really nice story.  It was a quick, enjoyable read regardless of its short feature length.  A couple things I took note of;

*Just out of curiosity, is the 50 year age thing a real law where the story is set?

*Something that glared at me was that Mr. Preston came to the Hall and told Brian that he's got to leave because of this law...but then Miss Bertrus comes and a lot of things she pulls seem borderline illegal and at the end it's learned that she wasn't even recommended.  It just seemed odd that Preston enforces this law on one end to get Brian out of here but then doesn't do his part to make sure the law is upheld on the other end.

*What happened to the puppies?

*The beauty of what you have in this draft is that there's plenty of room to expand and there's plenty of way to go about it.  I'd like to see more of Uncle Brian after he leaves Mansfield, because once he's gone his appearances are pretty limited.  Also, maybe show a little "meshing" between the kids and Bertrus so it can depth to her character.  It doesn't have to be anything good, just maybe involve her a little more so we can know a little more about her other than that she's just a raging bitch from hell.

*Is Trad a common name in Australia?

So, regardless of the above feedback, the script has a lot going for it.  I think its biggest strength is that the dialogue is all natural and flows well.  Everyone had their own voice, adult or child, and were easy to follow.  The characters were real and likable and you captured the kids' voices very well.  The idea of bringing in this bitch to replace Brian is a fine one as are her goals for the kids but, again, it just seems a bit odd to me that she didn't come recommended and, well, she's just such an ass-slut.  

Elkie was a fine lead and her V.O. was well timed and appropriate.  I liked the final  Christmas climax and falling action.  A blend of sadness, anger, intensity, and ends on a happy note.  Good way to wrap everything up.  Overall I liked it a lot and I think there's a pretty large market for something like this.  It's clean, it's family-oriented, and I think if extended to proper feature length you'll have something very special here.  Well done!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

-Greg


Be excellent to each other

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greg  -  December 24th, 2009, 3:30am
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Tommyp
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Hey Greg, thanks for the read.

I'm not sure if that's a rule, the 50 year old thing, but it would be something similar, maybe. I might do some research and find out about that...

Good point about Miss B and Mr Preston. In the next draft I will say she wasn't recommended, but this was her first job. That would make sense.

The puppies were taken away from the children... I need a scene with that in it. It's not important to know where they went after that. Good question.

More of Uncle Brian? Yeah, there isn't really much of him after he leaves the hall. I think I'm a bit confused whether the main plot is Brian/orphans or Elkie/Trad. I think it's more the orphans, so I will have to add more on Brian.

I haven't heard the name "Trad" before, but I thought it sounded cool.

I'm glad you liked it. I wasn't sure about the V.O. I thought about taking it out, but I think it's needed in certain points, most notably the ending.

Thanks for the feedback, it will be used in the next draft


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mcornetto
Posted: December 26th, 2009, 12:21am Report to Moderator
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Hey Tommy,

That wasn't bad.  Good ending.  I liked the concept and you did a nice job with the writing.  

First off some technical stuff.  You messed up on your shot numbers in the first montage.   Second, on one of the VOs toward the end you mentioned something about yesterday or the day before that didn't make sense time-wise with when I imagined the VO would be happening.

I liked the characters.  I thought there could have been a bit more differentiation between the minor characters and maybe a bit fewer major ones.   Most notably I would get rid of the JT subplot because it doesn't really contribute to the main through line of the story and seemed kind of contrived.  You could use that space to further the fun of the children trying to spoof Mrs. Bertrus.  Think of all the fun the children could have trying to catch that cat.

I thought Mrs. Bertrus was pretty evil but I didn't really feel you made her quite evil enough.  I actually felt kind of sorry for her a couple of times and I really shouldn't.  I should be on the side of the kids on this matter and want to see her gone.  So you need to get rid of her softer side and make her hard as iron.   Like she should have been on the warpath after the cat, while in the script she didn't tell anyone about it.  You did a good job with her but she can be even better.

The children are the protagonists in the story, so you need to up the stakes a bit more.  Be like Mrs. Bertrus and make them work for their win.  Finding out about the cat was too easy.  Make them discover that fact rather than be told.  I think the cake thing should be first the cat second.  Also there should be more events in this war and after each time Mrs. Bertrus' "lessons" should get tougher in retaliation for the kids pranks.

I think you did a good job with Trad and Grandpa.  I would have liked to have seen Trad learn his lesson about his new friends more directly rather than taking the chicken's way out and having Andy's mother tell him. I don't really like the name Trad BTW.

Overall this was well done, but it could be much better if you focus more on escalating the story rather than unnecessary side plots.  

Michael
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Tommyp
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MC, thanks for the read, and for point out some technical stuff.

Get rid of the JT subplot, eh? I really wanted to have an orphan reunited with their parents, so I thought JT and Brent's parents would work. But, yeah good idea, if I took out JT, then I would have more time to involve the other, more important characters.

I think there is still space for that ^^ though, as it is so short at the moment.

Yeah, I wasn't sure what to do after the cat scene in terms of Miss B, but her overreacting and getting cross at the children could work.

The Andy's mother/Trad scene needs to be changed... but you get the idea of what I was going for.

And yeah, I need to up the stakes. It's a bit too tame at the moment, hey.

Glad you liked it overall. In the rewrite I will focus more on the main characters, yeah. Thanks.


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Dreamscale
Posted: December 28th, 2009, 2:03pm Report to Moderator
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Tommy, my friend, Happy Holidays!  I read this yesterday and have been struggling with myself on what to say, and how to say it.  Guess I have to be me and let you know exactly how I feel.  These are obviously just my own personal opinions.  I started taking semi page by page notes but stopped after page 23.

This didn’t work for me at all, or on any level, I’m sorry to say.  The whole thing just came off as extremely juvenile, poorly thought out and conceived, very dull, and slapped together.  For some reason, this is posted in the Comedy section, and that is also quite odd, as I didn’t see much humor in it at all.  The writing itself wasn’t good either, and after about 15 pages, I had grown very weary and seriously thought about giving up on it.  I didn’t, and read through till the end, but things actually got worse from there, IMO.

Let’s look at it a bit closer.

From the very get go, this was a mess.  We start out with a 1 ½ page story being read and it’s dull and goes nowhere.  Then we get the first of many montages and V.O.s.  Things don’t get any better from there.

As many have noted, you went montage crazy here, and I’m not sure quite why.  IMO, it would have been much more effective if you showed much more detail of the orphan’s life with Uncle Brian, as apposed to jumping through it like you did.

The V.O.’s from Elkie were also very odd in just about every way.  First of all, using V.O.’s is a technique that many despise.  I personally don’t have a problem with them when they’re done effectively and correctly, but in here, they were a nightmare.

IMO, there are 2 ways to effectively use V.O.’s.  Firstly, you can have a “narrator” give info in the form of a V.O.  This is a rather cheap way to offer info, but in a big scale script, it’s sometimes the only way.  Secondly, you can have a main character recounting events in a V.O.  This is only going to work if you show this character in later life though (which you didn’t).  Usually, this works in a big, sweeping epic, that covers many, many years (which, again, yours does not).  So, the V.O.’s were a big distraction for me, and IMO, very poorly used.

Characters seemed like cardboard cutouts.  Dialogue was completely flat and unrealistic.  Action was few and far between, and I can’t recall a single event that actually intrigued me.  The setup was ridiculous and unrealistic.  The conclusion came way too fast and was also completely unrealistic, and the overall feel was just downright weak.

I’m sorry to be so negative, but this was just a train wreck, IMO.  You’ve got this 1 character, JT, who is intro’d rather late, who is just so completely unrealistic, it’s downright crazy!  This kid is living out in the wild, hunting animals to eat, building fires to stay warm?  Huh?  C’mon…that’s just insane!  So this cat he caught, are we to assume it was a wild cat, just roaming around the woods?

The stuff about Trand’s “new friends” went on forever and seemed so out of place, as it had nothing to do with the core of your story.  The WII stuff was also very out of place.  We were told that Uncle Brian and Trand moved 4 hours away…how in the world did Trand get to the orphanage then, since Uncle Brian left without him?

I know writing a script in 7 weeks is tough.  I backed out and produced nothing, so even attempting this is a step in the right direction, and I commend you for it.  In all honesty though, I don’t see this as even being salvageable.  There’s basically no story here that hasn’t been told a thousand times before, and what you’ve got now doesn’t offer anything at all, IMO.

Congrats on completing a short feature.  Now you know you can do it in a short time frame.  My advice is to work on a story you want to tell, flesh it out, get to know it, take your time writing it, get to know your characters, set up some interesting scenes…

Sorry again, bud, I really am, but I think it’s important to be 100% honest in this regard.  

Take care.

Page by Page notes

Page 2 – This should actually be Page 1

No need to use all CAPS for “UNCLE BRIAN” a 2nd time.

Page 3 – Don’t skip spaces when using “…”

You’ve got “….” Here…1 too many, also, don’t cap the next word when using this.

A bit lengthy with this story reading.  Would be quite dull onscreen.  I’d try and break it up, while showing different characters listening.

OK, this first V.O. – how would we know who’s speaking?  We wouldn’t, as Elkie only has had 1 speaking line so far, and she whispered.

Also, I think the montage seems a bit out of place…maybe you need some sort of transition to make it work better.

Page 4 – You used “3” twice here in your montage #’s.

Period after “Mr”

Page 5 – Dialogue doesn’t sound realistic.  You need more contractions in there, as it sounds like they’re reading from an English text book at times.

Page 6 – Slug missing a time

Same with the next Slug

“ones” – “one’s”

Page 7 – Huh?  What’s with this “new law”?  That doesn’t make any sense at all, and is complete BS.

General note – a lot of the dialogue is running way too long…as in these characters have a tendency to spout off 20+ seconds of dialogue, which is quite long.  I’d suggest trimming it back and adding in more action lines with some breaks.

Page 8 – “Other’s” – “Others”

I’m not buying the dialogue at all, sorry to say.  Doesn’t sound remotely realistic.

“Pause.” – Huh?  No need for this.

General note – Maybe I missed something, but as far as I know, we’ve only been introduced to 3 children, Elkie, Trad, and Brent. There are numerous references to all these children, but none of them have popped up to do or say anything at all.

Page 13 – “shes” – “she”

Page 14 – “We don’t see the drivers face.” – No need for this line…if you don’t mention it, we don’t see it.

Page 15 – “Clare”?  have we met her yet?  Next dialogue lines are from Sarah.

“four feet high”?  Huh?  That’s insanely short. Also it would be “tall”, not “high”.

Now Clare is intro’d...I think the earlier reference was a mistake.

Page 17 – JT is whizzing through the air on a rope, then he’s stoking a fire?  I don’t get it.

Slug missing a time again.

Page 18 – drums?  Where’d they come from?  I thought she was playing a guitar?

“SMASH CUT:” – Totally unnecessary, IMO.

Page 22/23 – Totally unrealistic with Clare revealing Bert’s weakness.

General note – I don’t get this “sleep cooking/sleep eating” thing.  I imagine it’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s not funny to me at all…and goes on for quite a long time.  Weird.

Sorry, but no more notes…this isn’t working for me at all.


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Sandra Elstree.
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Hello Tommy,

First off congratulations for completing the 7WC! You've got something here that I think you can improve on both visually and character wise. It's a story. You've got a story!!! Most importantly, that's good...

Now, how can we make it an original story, that's my question.

Although all stories are just that, the same stories, I believe they need to be wrapped in a way that makes them unique. This one, I'm afraid fails in that attempt. There's nothing here that hasn't been done a gazillion times. I feel like if I actually sat down to watch some television now and again, I could devise myself a program, write like hell and plug in different names, change the scenes and have the formula down... well, on second thought, I might never have the formula down.

Yes, it's all formula for all of us, but I think the trick is that it shouldn't read like formula. This one does and I'm not going to lie or pretend or try and be nice to a friend who I believe has what it takes to make it. And I sincerely believe you do.

You've got the plotting elements down. You've got the story. I think you need to develop the characters more and build in detail. I guess I'm telling you to do what your teacher told you not to do.

The highlight in this for me was Mrs. Bertrus doing her sleep cooking. This was lovely and when the kids replaced the ingredients, it was fun to watch. I say watch because I definitely could get a sense of the visuals here.

This was an easy breezy read that's for sure and maybe some people on here are looking for easy reads, but I'm not. I'm looking for a challenge. I'm looking to learn something. Give me more. Challenge my lilly brain. Make me ask, "Why? What? and Wherefore?"

In the beginning, when Uncle Brian was telling the story, I thought it should be a voice over and show the girl opening the door to the room with all of the candles.

Now I know that "that" wasn't the story, but I actually thought in the beginning that this story he was telling, "was" the story. I was wrong, but it would have made some good visuals had it been so.

I felt that the story becomes sidetracked with Trad at the mansion and the waterslide.

It felt at the time like it was going off course. I don't know if this is really the case or not because on screen vs in the read is different; so I'm not sure. I whacked around so much in my script, surely to God I was off course to many; so who knows?

Perhaps the reason I felt this way is because this wasn't Trad's story. Whose story was it? Or was it Trad and Elkie's story after all? Yes, it was, but then other stuff took over.

Maybe if you lengthen this, you could ground into Trad and Elkie, forget about twelve lessons and the montages and whatnot and (gee I think I said this in another review) go with a more intimate feel. No matter what is going on, perhaps try and circle back to Trad and Elkie.  I think it would be more meaningful.

On page 51 there's a little typo

It's patience and not patients

Here on 61

MISS BERTRUS
Children. My name is Miss Bertrus,
you are the orphans. Welcome, to
Christmas.

They already know who she is and so she wouldn't announce herself again.

I'm currently thinking that Mrs. Bertrus always addresses them as an impersonal "group". She's plain out bad, but I personally believe that all human beings were once babies and babies are not bad and thus: they all have a story to tell and are not just plain bad without any other qualities.

It would be nice to see Mrs. Bertrus interact with one of them maybe on a personal level and that one child sees something good in Mrs. Bertrus and comes to her defense. This would make this rise and bring a real and human element to the story.

You have done a superior job here, Tommy, and that's why I'm giving you a hard time.

Luvya
Sandra





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Brian M
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Okay, number 5/6 of the 7WC entries. Nearly there...ha ha.

Mixed feelings about this one, to be honest. It does feel like you were writing this as you went along without any real planning of your scenes or plot points, which would explain why you feel short of the length you were aiming for. As others have mentioned, it’s a story that has been done countless times before so there has got to be a new twist to it. Here, the only difference is that the head of the orphanage is only 4 feet tall, but you missed the opportunity to throw a lot of good jokes in there. In the end, I had almost forgot she was that size, it seemed like you did aswell.  

On one hand, some lines of dialogue came off real good. Others were too long and didn’t sound quite right, in my opinion. I liked Elkie a lot, but some other characters really got on my nerves, Trad being the main culprit. I think most of the characters suffer from being underdeveloped with little back story, any of which is only  discussed in one sentence so it’s easy to miss.

Uncle Brian should put up more of a fight against this law so he could get the children back. He gives up far too easy and does nothing the rest of the script until the ending. You should show him in some way or another trying all he can to fix this, even a phone call. Don’t have him sitting doing nothing.

Not sure about the subplot with Trad’s new friends. I didn’t like Andy’s mother telling him her son likes to keep his friends ‘fresh’. Not something a mother would say about her son. I don’t think Trad should choose to go with Andy when Uncle Brian is going back to the orphanage then suddenly change his mind when his new friends have disappeared without him. He should choose his old friends at the orphanage over Andy and co, anything else and he shouldn’t have the happy ending with Elkie at the end. That was the main reason why the ending didn’t work for me.

I’m in two minds about the JT subplot. Sure, it is so over-the-top, but similar movies do things that are unbelievable too, so it could work. I agree with a previous poster that Miss B and Clare should hunt for him in the woodlands. Lots of potential for comedy there. His back story with his brother wasn’t developed enough for me to care about them being reunited with their parents. Again, that is another example of something important to your story that was only mentioned in one sentence and some people could miss it. If you do keep JT in, develop this further.

I wasn’t a fan of the voiceover. I think it would work if you used it at the start and then again at the end, but not everywhere and anywhere through the script. It started to get distracting and didn’t really add much that couldn’t be shown some other way. Same applies for the montage scenes. I would cut back on some as they are way over-used.

I think Clare’s character could do with a lot of work. My opinion had turned slightly towards the end, but at the start, I hated her. She gets a happy ending but happily plays the music during musical chairs at the start without a care that half of the children would starve that night. I think you need to make her more caring and even question Miss B’s techniques some more. Have her on the side of the children from the very beginning and stand up for them in the end before hitting Miss B with the brick. You could do more with her for sure.

Miss B was a problem to start with. Her ‘lessons’ were so unreal and I think you should take another look at some of them. Starving half of them for no reason over a game of musical chairs was the worst. You can make her come across just as mean other ways. She should have went off her head after the cat incident too. I’m thinking Miss Trunchbull from Matilda is a good example of a film which got this kind of character right.

Other than the cat, the kids didn’t do an awful lot to stop her. They should be constantly thinking of new ways to force her out. Again, more opportunities for comedy moments, which could only help your cause here.

I also had a problem with the pacing. I mentioned earlier that Uncle Brian disappeared for a long spell. You then concentrated on Elkie and the kids, then devoted several pages, scene after scene, of Trad and his new friends. I think you could intercut these better. Like show Elkie and the kids thinking of a way to get rid of Miss B, then cut to Trad meeting his new friends, then cut back to Elkie and the kids setting a plan in motion and failing, then cut back to Trad and Andy on the WII, and so on. It would work better than the big blocks of scenes you currently have which makes it look like you forgot about the other characters while you were writing them. I hope you get what I mean there, I don’t think I’ve explained it very well.

So that’s it. It needs work, but it is a first draft completed very quickly so that is to be expected. Congratulations for completing the challenge on time!

Brian
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Grandma Bear
Posted: January 2nd, 2010, 1:49pm Report to Moderator
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Tommy,

I think you did a pretty good job on this. I've read four of the 7wc scripts so far and they have all been good for first or so drafts. You have the basic skeleton of a script here, but you definitely need to add some meat to it now.

The story itself isn't really anything new. I think most of us have heard of or read stories about kids at an orphanage where an "evil" person is running the place and the kids try to get rid of that person. That's fine though, you t need to make yours a little different. Having memorable characters for example.

One problem here for me was Elkie. I felt that since she was the narrator that she was also our main character, but you didn't really treat her as such in the script. She didn't really have a bigger role than anyone else.

I liked uncle Brian. He seemed like a very likable character. Bertrus was sort of interesting. My only gripe about her was that you never explained why she did some of the things she did. The part where they got the puppies for example. What was the reason for not wanting the kids to feel happy? That just didn't make any sense to me. I would have liked to know h reasoning behind her "exercises". Let us learn a little bit more about her because I think she could be very interesting. Also wondered how she could have kids. She lives at the orphanage...

I understand what you were doing with Trad, but I think you need to work on his part a little. His supposed to learn a big lesson about friendship and it didn't seem his lesson was hard enough. It was quick and pretty easy. Since your script is short, I think that would be a good place to add some pages.

A couple of small things that bothered me. I didn't like the idea that the orphanage seemed so out of the loop. It's okay to be poor, but being 14 and never heard of a wii seemed odd. Were they really that isolated out there? No TV. No internet? They moved to a place that was 4 hours away from the orphanage, yet Trad shows up right after his grandpa.

Anyway, good job and congrats for writing a feature in 7 weeks

Pia  


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Tommyp
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Jeff... Sorry for the late reply, I've been busy.

I'm sorry it didn't work for you. I hope that once I flesh it out a bit and reach 90 pages, you will see it as more of a complete story, and in turn, like it some more.

Okay, with the montage at the start, I didn't want to take 20 pages to show the connected between the children and Brian. But I think I will make it clearer and longer (and not a montage) in the rewrite.

I will take out the V.O.'s in the rewrite too.

I'm kinda annoyed that you didn't think the dialogue was realistic. I spent a long time on it, so it sounded like real children. Maybe it's just because you don't like the "family" genre... I dunno. I will work on it though.

Yes, some things were unrealistic, such as JT living how he does, but it is a children/family film, and they have a lot more unrealistic stuff than some of the other genres, and I think here it works.

Anyway thanks for reading it, and the page by page notes, and I'm sorry you didn't like it. I am going to rewrite this, so I can say I have finished a feature. I hope you will enjoy my next one...

Sandra... Thanks for reading it Yeah, I know this is a cliche story, and has been done before lots, but I just wanted to finish a feature. Is that the wrong way to go about it? Maybe...

I see all your points, understand, and agree. You make sense. Initially I was going with the Brian and orphans relationship, and Elkie and Trad as a subplot, but I might change that round. Hmm.

Whatever I do, you are right, I have to make it more intimate.

The rewrite WILL be better!

Thanks again for the read Sandra.

Brian
... Thanks for the review.

Yeah, I didn't use enough jokes of Miss B being short, and in the rewrite I will add some situations where that comes in to play.

I will add Brian fighting against the law while he is living with Trad. I don't know why there wasn't much of that in the script, I suppose I kinda forgot about it and focussed more on Trad.

V.O. is going.

Miss B and Clare looking for JT would work out well, and could be very funny, yeah.

The whole point with Clare is that she has been basically brainwashed by Miss B, so at the start she doesn't care about the children, but learns too. I should show that journey more, yeah.

I think once I expand it the pacing will be better.

Thanks again for the read, man

Pia... Thanks for the read.

I think Elkie did have a big enough role. She was the one that organised most of the stuff, and had a relationship with Trad. But maybe it wasn't enough, like you said, yeah.

Yes, now, the reason behind Miss B's actions. I don't have one and I need one. I'll add some backstory in the rewrite, good point.

You want to push Trad a bit more? Me too. He found out too easily that he got dumped by his new friends, and he gets away with it too easily. This will change, thanks.

The orphanage is out in the country, and Brian doesn't really believe in having too much electronic stuff. So I think it's okay that the children haven't heard of a Wii, but maybe I don't explain it properly (that there is no TV, etc).

I am changing the way Trad turns up the orphanage, it will be more believable.

Thanks again


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_ghostwriters
Posted: January 8th, 2010, 5:45am Report to Moderator
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TommyP...

How you doing?   I'm slowly making my rounds.  Congrats on finishing the 7WC.  Not an easy thing to do.  As evident in all deadlines like this one, some always fail or decided to, "I'm pullin' a Palin."  And no pun intended, I like her.  

Yea, I know this has been done before but you know what TommyP... despite popular belief...

"It doesn't matter if a story has been told a million times.  Guess what?  Pretty much everything you see now days at the movies has been told before in one fashion or another.  It's what you as a writer do to make yours stand out from the rest."

Having said that... I'm not going to re-hash what's already been said.  So, I'll just give you my thoughts.  I don't think you separated this from the pack though.  Just my humble IMO.

I thought you first couple of voiceovers were good.  The opening storytelling scene was alright.  You didn't waist no time either, you got the conflict going right away when Mr. Preston showed up.  Always a good thing.

Took me a minute to figure out who your main character was.  Maybe Elkie needs to play a bigger staring role.  As with Miss Bertrus, I'd make her as mean as possible.  I think you let her off too easy.  I felt sorry for Uncle Brian in the beginning.  Mainly is that what we have to look forward too when we reach his age?  Kidding here.

Clare was my favorite character though.  I thought you used her very well in this.  Almost like an equalizer.

I thought your dialogue was okay for the most part.  It's a tricky thing to do when it comes to children.

I didn't find too many things funny in here though.  I was surprised because unusal because you seem to have a knack for it.

Add about twenty more pages in the middle to beef a few things up and I think you'll have a winner here.  Why? because I thought you handled the ending very well.  Did you ever consider an alternate one?

Be consistant with your sluglines, get rid of the FADE OUTS  and cut down on all the pauses.

I really can't add too much more, everything was pretty much covered.  So again congrats man, good first draft for only seven weeks.  

Good Luck,

Ghostwriter


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Revision History (2 edits; 1 reasons shown)
_ghostwriters  -  January 8th, 2010, 6:45am
Too many mispelled words
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alffy
Posted: January 8th, 2010, 7:32am Report to Moderator
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Hey Tommy

Forgive any repeated questions, I don’t like to read over too many responses before reading.

Page 2, Uncle Brian says ‘She steps onto the large doorstep and peaks around the corner’.  ‘Peaks’ should be ‘peeks’.

Page 3, the ‘children slowly emerge behind a huge hill’, this doesn’t sound right, should it be ‘slowly emerge from behind a huge hill’?

The opening scenes are good, I especially like the story telling.  One thing though, I’ve never heard an Orphanage owner being called a ‘caretaker’?  Maybe just me on this but I assume a caretaker to generally look after the maintenance of a building and not children?

Probably pointed out already but you have two number 3’s in your montage on page 4.

Not sure why but Uncle Brian’s rant at Preston seems a tadge long.  He seems to fill in some back story and it doesn’t feel natural.

If Uncle Brian came to Mansfield Hall with Trad to start a new life I assume he bought the hall?  Or was it already an Orphanage?  I mean, if he bought the hall and then turned it into an Orphanage, why is he moving?  Wouldn’t they just force him to close it, they couldn’t force him to move away from his own home?  I may be barking up the wrong tree here lol?

Bottom of page 13, I think you have a typo, Sarah says ‘I bet shes can sing’?  I say maybe because I don’t know if it’s deliberate child talk, like Brent who says he bets the man can ride a boat.

What the fudge!  The rabbit was run over?  I nearly stopped reading after that lol.

I like how Miss Bertrus informs the children she is their boss.  This already gives us insight to her personality as a disciplinarian.

Page 18, ‘Clare starts up again on the drums’.  Where did the drums come from?  She was playing a guitar then the drums.  I think she’s playing some sort of one-man-band arrangment but I think you should explain this earlier.

Page 25, Suz reaches the bench. She reaches hand onto the bench, feels around.  I think there’s a word missing after ‘reaches’?

The kids have good banter between them and I like the way they seem so innocent and naive about their situation, thinking they can get Uncle Brian back if they scare off Miss Bertrus.  Their mischievous actions are pretty realistic.

Page 29, the montage has Trad, Andy and Tyson but then it’s Tyron?  Are these different kids or is it typo?

The scenes with Trad and his new friends, friends come and go, I think this is your underlining message here.


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alffy
Posted: January 8th, 2010, 7:33am Report to Moderator
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Page 38, ‘Clare points at her’ but is referring to James.

Page 41, Elkie refers to Trent?

I find it hard to believe that JT lives in the woods.

Page 52, walkie talkie should be walkie-talkie.

Seems a massive coincidence that just as JT emerges from the woods and confronts Brent, their long lost parents turn up, and their reasons for leaving their children is a bit cheap.  If parents abandon their kids, are they able to just say they’ll have them back now?

Page 62, Miss Bertrus says ‘Very ignorant and ones at that’.  I think you should lose the ‘and’?

Page 63, Miss Bertrus says ‘he went against the rules’, when referring to Suz.

Page 67, Elkie says ‘We hadn’t really learnt anything from Miss Bertrus that she wanted us to learnt’.  Second learnt should be learn.

Page 68 Elkie says ‘Soon some of would be getting older’.  Think you’re missing ‘us’.

Sorry for pointing out all the mistakes but thought you might want to know.

I liked Clare, she was a good character, although I envisioned her and Uncle Brian running the Orphanage at the end, so I got that wrong.  Miss Bertrus was also a good character, just the right mix of nasty but thinking she was helping the children.

I wasn’t blown away with the Trad’s story, it seemed a little to stuck in, if you know what I mean.  I think you could easily expand it and make his realisation that he had left his real friends behind stronger.  You certainly have room for expansion here.

I mentioned before about TJ’s story, and I stick by it.  I can’t see a child living in the woods in modern times, which leads me to a thought.  I really saw this playing out much earlier, like at the turn of the twentieth century.  I think this would make a lot more of your story plausible; the children being left and parents just turning up and taking them back, the fact that the children don’t seem to have any educational facilities and also the fact that they are being cared for by only two members of staff.

I thought you had a few too many montages, some worked like Miss Bertrus going over the daily lessons but I think you could lose a few.  Same goes with V.O.’s, I think you could lose a few but on the whole they worked OK.

Overall I enjoyed this but it needs some work, which I’m sure you know.  For a first draft written in 7 weeks, you did a good job and there’s plenty of scope for improvement.  There weren’t too many laughs seen as this was in the comedy section, I’d say more family drama but never the less it was an enjoyable read.


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Tommyp
Posted: January 16th, 2010, 11:27pm Report to Moderator
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Ghostwriter... sorry for the VERY long delay of my reply, I’ve been away from the Internet for a few days.

Thanks for the advice, and I’m glad you liked Clare.

I suppose it is more drama than comedy, although I thought it was funny. I think I can let myself go more when it is adult comedy.

Add 20 more pages? That’s the plan. When I posted this I said it wasn’t done, and I like the fact you have taken that into account when reviewing it. Thanks.

I did not consider an alternate ending. Thoughts on anything?

Again, thanks for the read, appreciate it.

Alffy...
Glad you liked the opening scene, most people don’t.

Yeah, not sure about “caretaker”. Will do some research.

Okay, the Brian rant. I needed some info in there some how, some backstory, and I thought this was a good way. Because he had to fight back, and had to say his reasons for fighting back. But yeah, I will cut it down a bit.

Hmm interesting point about who owns the orphanage. I think
Did you really  stop reading when the rabbit was run over? I just wanted to show that Miss Bertrus was a bad person before we met her.

Now, about Brent and JT’s parents. My mum read this and she said that bit didn’t work. I’m going to change their initial reason for leaving JT and Brent, and it will be better than the one now.

Yeah the scene of Trad realising is weak, I will work on it.

I wasn’t sure what time to set it in when I was writing it, and at a point I thought much earlier. I might change it to that.

Thanks again reading it and giving me all those notes, very helpful


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JonnyBoy
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Back on my mission to read all 7WC scripts (and then Jeff's SoulShadows script), and you're up, Tommy. I have lots of suggestions to make, and advice to offer. I'm going to try and suggest what to change rather than bash you over the head with what you did wrong, since others have done the negativity for me.

I like the basic premise of this. Kind man who runs orphanage leaves, replacement is horrible, children try to drive her out, As others have said, it's not ground-breakingly original - I think it's usually about a nanny / governess rather than an orphanage, though - although given how unoriginal my 7WC entry was, I feel like a real hypocrite saying that! Also, just because it's not new doesn't mean it can't work. So yeah, the basic idea, I like. I just think you need to develop it in an entirely different way. I'm just going to put up a few basic, numbered areas and then expand on them one by one; very unfocussed, I know.

1. THE OPENING

I liked the opening with Brian telling a story. It was a good intro to him and the kids, established their dynamic early on. HOWEVER, I'd introduce a little prologue with Elkie explaining who Brian was and what Mansfield Hall is. A bit like the beginning of Edward Scissorhands, you know? That ties in to what I'm going to say later in 'VOICEOVER'. I actually think you can take a little longer establishing characters and relationships. The transition from the opening to the Elkie / Trad scene felt awkward and sudden, especially since we snap right back to Uncle Brian anyway. I think you need to consider losing that.

Which leads me into...

2. WHY UNCLE BRIAN LEAVES

This was a problem, for me. I just didn't buy it. I don't believe that this rule would suddenly be introduced, and it clashes with the fact that Brian was running the orphanage on his own in the first place. Both things are plausability issues that need to be addressed. I'm going to suggest an alternate reason why Brian has to go, which you can take or leave.

Brian has an accident around the page 10-15 mark, and is hospitalised. Maybe it's a fall (perhaps trying to rescue / stop a kid?), maybe he has some sort of heart attack / stroke. He's taken off in an ambulance and it's unclear if he's going to make it, and then Miss Bertrus is brought in as a temporary replacement. That, I think, would work better than what you have now. The point would be not that the kids have to drive her out in order to get Brian back, but that they just have to survive her rule until he recovers and returns. Maybe he's due back in the new year, so all they have to do is survive Christmas. That would give this script a much-needed sense of direction, I think. Which brings me on to my next point.

3. A MUCH-NEEDED SENSE OF DIRECTION

It really doesn't feel like you outlined this at all. I know you were struggling to keep going, and it does show because at the moment this really just feels like a bag of ideas rather than a focussed narrative with a beginning, middle and end. There's no sense of it building to anything, no real feeling of resolution at the end because there's nothing to really resolve. I have a feeling you added the whole 'Twelve Lessons of Christmas' thing because you thought it would give you some sort of anchor for the story, but while it's not a bad idea it's not enough. The ending just sort of...comes, without any real fanfare of sense of excitement. Jeff’ll hate me for saying this, but what you need here is to establish your plot points, the beginning and end of each act. Act 1 is the introduction, and Brian leaving. The arrival of Miss Bertrus is what begins Act 2. But where is the transition into Act 3? What exactly does Act 3 consist of? That’s what you need to give this a sense of direction.

Here, for what it’s worth, is my suggestion of how the story should go. Brian has an accident and is hospitalised, meaning that a TEMPORARY replacement has to be drafted in. The kids know that Brian will be back for the New Year...but they’ll have to try and survive Christmas without him. Maybe she could declare that Christmas has been cancelled, so they have to try and drive her out in order to be able to have it? That way you have a timeline for your script, and a definite end point to aim for. There’s also another angle you could take, which is that Miss Bertrus really isn’t all she appears to be...I’d love it if it turned out she was, in fact, a MALE dwarf on the run from the police, or planning to commit a robbery, or something (imagine a scene where one of the children sees her taking off her wig, and runs to tell the others only for them not believe them – perhaps that character could be a habitual liar?). So you’d also have the kids trying to survive her tyrannical rule AND save the day. Maybe Miss Bertrus framed Uncle Brian for some minor crime in order to get him out the way so he/she could be at Mansfield Hall at the right time, so the kids have to reveal Miss Bertrus’ deceit and thereby clear Uncle Brian’s name...you get the idea. Of course, that’s a completely different story, but it has more direction than the slightly aimless plot you have going here. Here’s a very quick logline: “When the kindly old man who runs the orphanage at Mansfield Hall is hospitalised, the kids are horrified to meet his replacement: a mean, vertically-challenged woman called Miss Bertrus. Can the children survive two weeks under Miss Bertrus’ rule? Will Christmas really be cancelled? And is there, in fact, more to Miss Bertrus than meets the eye?” Home Alone (kid beats robbers) meets your original orphanage idea.

Your subplots, I think, are expendable. I didn't buy into either of them, and I don't think either of them really added anything. Neither were really developed and both reached very sudden conclusions. I didn't really understand the motivation for the 'Trad and his new friends' sideline, apart from perhaps to get some more pages down. What does it tell us about Trad that we didn't already know? What does he learn from the experience? Good subplots often end up being connected, somehow, to the main plot. You didn't really have a main plot here, which is why the subplots just felt adrift and slightly redundant. The JT plot was pushing the boundaries of plausability; it felt out of place here, because the rest of the script isn’t similarly bizarre. If you want it wacky, make it wacky, but don’t go wacky half-heartedly. It also just...ended, rather mutedly. I have a question or two about that scene, actually: if it’s been so many years, then how do the adults recognise their children immediately? And wouldn’t the boys be slightly less overjoyed to see them? They have been abandoned at an orphanage, after all! Also, I didn’t really like that the boys were seen by their parents as essentially things they could pick up and drop at a whim – ‘oh, now we want a family again so come home...until we don’t anymore, at which point we’ll abandon you again’ – and we were just supposed to accept that and still view it as a happy moment.

4. VOICEOVER

I think you do need a voiceover at the start, but in my opinion you’re seriously mis-using the V.O. at certain points here. The main thing about voiceovers is this: “who is speaking here?” That doesn’t just mean ‘which character’, it also includes their perspective on the story. Your voiceover jumps around from past to present tense, meaning it’s confusing to establish Elkie’s perspective on events. Is she looking back at what happened that year, or explaining it to us as she goes along?

Here’s how I think you should use it. Have the narration be spoken by NARRATOR, an older woman who’s explaining the story to us. Then don’t use it again – the fact that you used it haphazardly suggests structural weaknesses to me – until the very end, where you have a little epilogue scene. A woman is telling the story – of the Christmas without Uncle Brian – to a group of kids. And only then do we realise, just like at the end of Edward Scissorhands, that it’s Elkie telling the story, all grown up. Trad comes in with the big golden retriever they always said they’d have, and the kids go running out to play outside. Elkie and Trad have taken over Mansfield Hall, carrying on Brian’s work. That, I think, would be a sweet ending.

Which quickly brings me to another point. When is this set? Your main plot has a very timeless, classic feel, almost as if you originally planned to set it in the past. But then you undermine that by using the Wii, water parks, leather jackets and so on in the sub-plots. Also, where is this set? Rural, urban, suburban? England, USA, Australia? You allude to different places, but in trying to be universal and non-specific you end up being vague. I think setting it in the past, in rural Australia / Tasmania, is the way to go. There’s no way that Miss Bertrus would be able to behave like this in the modern world – the kids would all be on Facebook or something, complaining to the whole world. Anything’s a news story nowadays...she wouldn’t get away with it. Have you seen the Australian film Picnic at Hanging Rock? It's about what happens on a school trip in rural Australia around 1900. It’s not massively similar to your script, but the location of Mansfield Hall reminded me of the girl’s school in that film (also Mansfield Park, the Jane Austen novel – people will pick up on that similarity of title, so you should be aware of that if it wasn’t a deliberate allusion). I’m not saying go and watch the film, because it’s completely different to this. But it is a pretty good film in its own right, so if you have time...

5. OTHER ISSUES / NOTES

- I don’t think the dialogue is too bad. There are some scenes where it felt a bit expositional, like you were just trying to talk out the story and move the plot forward but tried to pretend that’s not what you were doing. One thing to watch is your inconsistent use of contractions – “won’t / will not” “don’t / do not” and so on. Take page 40, for instance. JT says “they are hard to catch” and “I will have the cat for you”, and Elkie says “we are having hamburgers for dinner”, but they also use “can’t”, “that’s”, “shouldn’t”...inconsistency is bad unless it’s deliberate inconsistency, and this didn’t feel like that. Just something to bear in mind.
- You have a couple of moments that you could have made more of. The reveal of Miss Bertrus’ height: a potentially wonderful comic moment, but you severely underplay it here. You should make more of it...for instance, Miss Bertrus steps out the car. The camera starts to do one of those shots where we see her feet stepping onto the ground and then we move up her body – but the camera misjudges her height, goes too far up and has to jolt back down, thereby comically underlining her surprising shortness. Or something like that. Don’t know how you’d write that in the script, but hopefully you get the idea. Also, with JT.

EXT. WOODLANDS - DAY

Ellie makes her way through the undergrowth. A CRACK comes from left OS. She WHIPS round.

No-one there.

She shrugs, carries on walking. A bush RUSTLES in front of her, branches and leaves twitching menacingly.

ELKIE
Hello?

No reply. She approaches slowly, fearfully. The bush is deadly still. Elkie's clenched hands tremble. She only metres away now, and as she reaches out a shaky hand --

-- a SAVAGE FIGURE leaps out, spear raised. He wears war paint and a loincloth, his mouth is a snarl.

Elkie relaxes, rolls her eyes.

ELKIE
Oh. Hey JT.


Or something. Just bigger than what you have now. Another moment is the reveal that Trad is Brian’s grandson. I think you can hold onto that rather than giving it to us straight away.

6. CONCLUSION

That's it, really. Unlike Jeff, I don't think this is unsalvagable. What you have here is a basic idea, but it will need a lot of work. You don't actually have a story - you have some ideas and a beginning, but no real path, no end in sight. Like I said earlier, you need to sit down and map out your structure. Act 1 - Plot Point 1 - Act 2 - Plot Point 2 - Act 3. Send Marty back in time, have Marty stuck in the past, bring Marty home. There's enough here to convince me that a) you shouldn't can this just yet and b) you are definitely capable of writing good, feature-length scripts. This one just needs more work. I offered a lot of advice for Stevie's script and most of it, I can see now, wasn't particularly helpful because I suggested a direction he wasn't interested in going in. If the same happens here with you, then that's absolutely fine. Just make sure you do PICK a direction, whatever it may be!

Well done for getting something in, and good luck with whatever you attempt to do next! Hope some of what I've said is some help. I have a bit of change of tone coming up now - Pia's script is the next one on my list of reads...


Guess who's back? Back again?

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JonnyBoy  -  January 21st, 2010, 3:26pm
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