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JasonA, I think you give away too much of the story in your logline.
Some quick thoughts about the script:
I think the townspeople characters you've created are likable and their behavior is believable. They are ordinary people in extraordinary distress -- the makings of a good story. The difficulty is in keeping the audience convinced that the actions that the townspeople take are believable and worthwhile.
As a film, I think you would need additional urgent threats to the main characters, the car running out of gas on the way to the hospital was a good moment -- a few more scenes like that would intensify the drama, I think.
On the other hand it seems that Jacob's children don't know that the family is on the verge of ruin -- it's difficult to believe that in prolonged hard times a son would think his father had ready cash. Maybe yes maybe no, but it makes the reader think that maybe things aren't quite so bad. We understand Brenda's desperation when she goes to the local food charity for provisions -- but the fact that there is a local food charity, and it's well stocked and Brenda has easy access to it -- those are good things, remarkable things in a failing community.
Generally the townspeople's dialogue is plain, in a good way, and conversations are mostly blocked by the awful reality of Ruin that's on everybody's minds. This works well.
The conversation between Frank and Jacob at the bank is good except that I don't think Frank should say outright that the bank doesn't lend to severely distressed areas -- that's known as "redlining" and I'm pretty sure it's illegal. And it would be more effective, I think, if Frank tried to deliberately avoid saying that... the way that he reluctantly admits that improvements on a house wouldn't really make Jacob a better risk. (It's a good moment when Jacob seems eager to try anything to improve his chances at getting a 2nd mortgage.)
I like the scene at the bar where the local people don't let the investigators buy them drinks, the timing of the bits of conversation is very good and effective.
And the scene where Harold speaks to the investigator about the envelope in his mailbox is very good, I think. Harold doesn't lie but he doesn't volunteer information, either.
The ending was not really satisfying for me, we can't know that other investigators won't be around... if only Stella could have been more savvy, held her liquor better, scared off the investigator somehow. Robin Williams used to say that in the old USSR, the KGB would greet every political leader with "we have film of you with duck" to keep them in line.
Somehow if we know that the town can survive, maybe they all go to Washington DC and lobby to have the government regulations removed so that the mine can reopen (after all, it's not that there's no market for coal, it's just getting to be impossible to meet the environmental standards) (maybe that's good, maybe that's bad) -- but some kind of resolution other than driving the bad guy's car into the water...
I like your townspeople, I think they would rally and figure something out.
A very deep and poignant script about the very things we depend on like a good paying job (such as a coal mine) maybe at the expenses of something more important --- or health and well being. And as long as there is some monetary gain, it shows the government and people in positions could care less of human life. This is when the human psyche reaches desperate thoughts and produce desperate actions. (P.S. Please Check out my script '80s baby.)
Henry's explanation of why Jacob can't get another loan reads more smoothly now and Jacob's children now seem more aware that money is scarce, and still never doubt that somehow their parents will always love and provide for them. That's beautifully done.
Glad to see that this version retains the very likable interaction between townspeople, they don't waste their breath on chit-chat, they know they can count on each other, the audience will have no doubt about that.
I love how the women in town seem to favor pony-tails, I'd like to see Stella's "dressed up" hair style be just a fancier version, maybe a curled pony-tail on the side of her head instead of in the back.
I wonder if Brenda could perhaps, be less surprised that Jacob is the bank robber, still be insistent that he return the remaining money to the bank, but only because it's more than they need.
Shawn's crass, condescending behavior is nicely irritating, and I don't think we really start to hate him until he double crosses Jacob, in the mine, and that makes a nice build up of tension and it's a relief to see that Shawn is the true villain.
I was hoping that Martin, rather than take the train back to Philly, would be running a parallel investigation of Shawn (reading lips from a distance when Shawn confronts Jacob, etc.) -- and that Martin would be quietly waiting outside the mine entrance where he sees Jacob exit without Shawn and --- calmly talk to Jacob about how to make things right, return the money, etc.. Maybe they have a couple of beers. Eventually the now hysterical Shawn stumbles out from the mine. Maybe Martin and Jacob are standing not too close to Shawn's rental car, which is on fire.
Forgive my rambling on -- but you've written some memorable characters -- and I guess I just don't want to let go of them.
Best wishes and congratulations on your work, Cathy
Thanks, Cathy! I really appreciate the helpful advice & for you taking the time to read it again. As I'm new to screenwriting, I've been searching for constructive criticism; both of your postings gave me a lot to think about. Have a great weekend!, Jason
Hey Jason. I read the first 10 pages. Well done. A couple of nits for you too consider:
Avoid them if you can. You use 10 on the first ten pages. I try to avoid them altogether as they are disruptive to the read, get in the way of the Directors and Actors job and can lead to lazier dialogue. Go through each time you use them and see if they are really necessary. I didn't see anything in the first ten pages that warranted their use.
Watch out for mundane dialogue. Or is this expert calls them - "everyday pleasantries" - here's the link:
Hi Jason, I see your script as: A simple story well written with believable characters.
The scene where Brenda lift the bills and he asks "how bad is it?" I don't get it. I would assume if a man is in his situation, he would know about all the debts, or at least, he would check with his wife everyday which bills were coming.
I believe that father Howard should be on his side all the way to give more power to Jason. Is it that easy someone get out of the hospital and take a bus to move to Florida?What about comvalescense? What about preparation to move permanently to another state?