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The Jack Off: The Life & Times of the Greatest Lumberjack to Ever Live by Chazz Christopher - Comedy - When the greatest competitive lumber jack ever realizes he's broke and decides to come out of retirement, he comes to understand that to truly make a comeback, he must get more than his body in shape to defeat his arch-nemesis and be a world champion again. 111 pages - pdf, format
Okay - I've hit the first paragraph and I'm struggling.
Back-tracking some, I've got issues with the log line, so could do with a re-write.
On to the first paragraph:
INT. TV STUDIO - DAY RALPH WATERSTOWN (40), tall, sturdy, massive beard, wearing a flannel shirt and a too-tight pair of jeans. These arenít meant to be skinny jeans. Not on this guy. It isnít right. Across from Ralph, pronounced Rafe, sits STEVE EAGERTON (40), newscaster-kind of good-looking, perfect hair, perfect teeth - the kind of guy most people want to punch in the fucking mouth if they ever meet them in public. ------------------------ Okay, you said TV studio in the slug, but that's all you've given us. Opening images are important - they set the stage.
Then I'm okay with the description of Ralph, but you're over-doing the unfilmables and talking to the reader. And because you focused on the jeans - my mind's-eye had him standing.
You then tell us how Ralph is pronounced -- as part of your introduction of Steve ... you see how crossed wires are going to start sparking?
... and Steve's sitting - so I was then wondering if Ralph was sitting, but you don't really say, so I'm not really sure ...
Knowing you, sicol, I'm pretty sure that this isn't your kind of script anyway.
Read actual writers. They use unfilmables strikingly a lot. As writers we should have a style. This first bit of action/description tells you immediately the kind of script you're reading: funny, sarcastic, absurd and outlandish. And if you read even the first 10-15 pages, you'd realize that these are used very, very sparingly (as they should).
Read Paul Haggis' early specs. Read Shane Black's early specs. I could go on, but why? These 2 are 2 of the biggest spec writers ever. Their early scripts have unfilmables out the wazoo. It's creating a style, which I've realized in reading post after post after post by you - you don't get. And that's okay.
I mean, seriously? Can you not tell that someone is wearing too tight pants while they're sitting?
You make me chuckle sometimes, that's all Thanks for reading the first page.
Anyway, if this could please be moved over to the Comedy section, I would be greatly appreciative.
I read the first scene and I like it. However, I have to agree with SiColl007 that I had a problem trying to picture them. Even after I realized they were sitting down, I don't know if it's behind a desk or sitting opposite on chairs. A quick sentence would clear that up.
As far as the unfilmables, they seem okay to me.
I didn't realize this was a comdey - because it's in the wrong section - but I may finish reading it.
Thanks, Dom. I'm not saying it's perfect - in fact, you and siColl may actually have a point about the actual sentence (though in roughly 20 reads not one person has brought it up) - I had never thought about it in the way that he/she brought up.
I'm not defensive at all about my work -- unless someone comes on, reads a paragraph and talks trash about it.
But my being rankled doesn't mean that his deal with the jeans is necessarily wrong. I do disagree with the unfilmables comment, however.
Knowing you, sicol, I'm pretty sure that this isn't your kind of script anyway.
I think that comedy is one of the hardest genres to write - so kudos on you for going for that.
Paul Haggis, I respect - Shane Blake is a little out-dated.
Style, I agree with - it's difficult to accomplish, and I respect the people who manage to pull it off.
Unfilmables work to my mind when they flow well with the script. The problem I had here, was the full-stops that you used slowed the read, so that focused my attention on the unfilmables, not the story.
The script-writers I tend to read most, are the likes of the Coen brothers - they don't use a lot of unfilmables, but do tend to be dialogue heavy.
Don't worry too much in regard to what I say - it's just my opinion - I'll have no impact on your career ...
Hey Chazz, I'm into highly offensive, R rated comedies so I'd thought I'd give this a look.
I got an Eastbound and Down vibe from it, but unfortunately almost all of the jokes fell flat for me. It had a mockumentary feel to it because Ralph seemed to be telling us how bad ass he was rather than having us actually seeing him being a bad ass. You could easily remedy this by showing a couple of quick flashbacks of lumberjack competitions that play over his voiceover.
Romanowski's intro with the pig didn't work for me. (Plus I would give him a different name, having your two main characters names start with an "R" is something to avoid) Of course with the v.o. I knew the payoff would be a twist on how the scene began, but the end result was a huge letdown. Romanowski's character is a good villain to Ralph, they both want the same exact thing, but they come across as too similar.
I read until pg. 16, but decided to stop there. The story structure is spot on and the characters are well drawn. Ralph has a lot of motivation and I can instantly visualize the characters/story/movie poster, but again in a comedy the jokes are king and they just struck out for me.
I'm not a stickler for format, I try to focus on character and story, but there are a ton of opportunities for you to trim a few pages from this without losing a single ounce of story by cutting orphans. On page 10 alone there are four lines of description that could be shaved to one line by just re-wording or eliminating certain adjectives. It could help make it an even quicker read.
Like I said I can picture the movie poster in my head after reading just a few pages, and if you're able to re-work some of this you could have an entertaining story here. Best of luck, Nate
New comedy short, "CRIME SCENE REENACTMENTS." The only TV show that lets actual crime victims reenact the worst moments of their lives for your viewing pleasure.
I decided to check this out. Got to around 20 pages. I'll try to read more. I've seen you around this site, but I'd really like to see you commenting on more scripts.
I liked your angle here with the lumberjack. I can't come up with a movie that has explored this territory before so you have a unique concept. However, after 20 pages, I didn't see one tree cut at all. It felt more like a bodybuilder universe. The muscle flexing and the obvious ode to Shwarzenegger (I know I misspelled that).
Your style borrows a bit from Shane Black. I think it's okay to have some unfilmables to intro your characters if it helps visualize the character. And you did a good job here as I got a great sense of who the characters are.
I didn't like the Austrian "bad guy". He's too much of a caricature that's been done before. And to top it off you made him Austrian, which is a big nod to the Governator.
"See what I did there? Good." The nod, nod, wink, wink here might turn off some readers. At least you kept it short and sweet.
Dialogue heavy for the first ten pages. I know you were looking for some laughs here, but it didn't work for me. However, dialogue is subjective so this is just my amateur opinion.
I think you missed an opportunity in the first ten pages to show some tree cutting. I've seen these lumberjack events in ESPN and some of this stuff has comedic gold waiting to be unlocked. Instead of the heavy emphasis on dialogue, why not have Ralph competing in an obscure, amateurish lumberjack competition. Here's your chance to show the comedic side of lumberjack competition. Also, you get to "show" rather than "tell" how Ralph has really fallen. He could be competing for a $500 check and making a real fool of himself. Thus, building sympathy for your character.
As is, you have an opening image of Ralph making gay jokes to an interviewer. Then you have him in a bar and we're told he needs to get a real job. I didn't have much empathy for your main character here, as you're just "telling" us this, not "showing" us.
I think you got a unique angle here, as I've never seen anyone make a movie about the wide world of lumberjacking. In short, less talking and more tree cutting. Screw them tree huggers.
First off, I do hang out here from time to time. When I do, I comment on full scripts, not just 5-10 pages of a script. It's one of the reasons I don't spend more time here - people don't read full scripts, they read 1 page or even 20 pages and think they understand a script. My normal hangouts are Talentville and Zoetrope. But when I do come over I read full scripts (as I did with the Boob Job).
Secondly, thanks for those of you who did read a few pages and commented.
It doesn't really help the overall arc of the script, but it did hit me with a couple of ideas on the first act. Which is good. Thanks.
Cooky - to your point. In this script there is close to 25 pages of lumber jack action. But the real story here isn't about lumberjacking - it's about a man who is a complete asshole overcoming himself to return to being a champion.
He isn't down and out. He still lives in a mansion. But he's headed towards desperation because of some bad investment he and his sexually starved wife made. So, he's forced back into competition.
He's a 10-time world champion who retired in his prime. He doesn't need to do small competitions (though I'm not saying that's a bad angle - that was something I looked at in my planning, but decided against).
I do think, however, that you have a point that there needs to be some images of what he does great. So, during the interview I've added in a montage/highlight video that he comes out of into his conversation about his rock hard groinal area.
I am sure that every script's first 10 pages can be funnier and I will for sure look at how jokes can snap a little better. But the overall, consistent theme I've gotten from most readers is that it's pretty damn funny - even the first 10-15 pages. But comedy is subjective, so I am not saying that you're wrong or right - just that some people think it's really funny.
When a highly offensive former champion competitive lumber jack realizes he's broke, he contemplates a comeback -- and realizes he needs to get more than his body in shape to truly defeat his arch-nemesis.
Can't you just put:
When a former lumber jack champion realizes he's hit rock bottom, he contemplates a comback only to realize he needs a lot more then physical strength to defeat his arch rival.
Do we need to know he's highly offensive right off the bat?
When the greatest competitive lumber jack ever realizes he's broke and decides to come out of retirement, he comes to understand that to truly make a comeback, he must get more than his body in shape to defeat his arch-nemesis and be a world champion again
Try the Blake Snyder method of writing your logline:
On the verge of a Stasis=Death moment, a flawed protagonist Breaks into Two; but when the Midpoint happens, he/she must learn the Theme Stated, before All Is Lost.
- Right at the beginning your protagonist is stuck somehow. - He/she has a flaw, weakness. - Something happens to push the protagonist into a conflict situation. - At the middle the protagonist is challenged to learn/get/implement the theme. - Because, otherwise, everything is lost.
I understand, I, too, am personally a little annoyed when people read the first few pages and only comment on those as if they pertain to the whole script. If you want to, we can swap and I can give some of my thoughts on the whole thing. I remember reading a few of your scripts before and enjoying them. I definitely need some reads and comments. If you're interested, let me know or send me PM! Thanks.
You may be annoyed, but the first 10 pages of your script are uber important. If there's no hook, or inciting incident that draws the reader in, most people will stop reading. It doesn't matter if you think your script is killer after page 10. Learn to outline.
Industry professionals can tell within these 10 pages if your script is any good or not. They read scripts all day long, it's their job. They see the same mistakes and same flawed openings.