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Scapegoat - Guilty by Billy James - Dramedy - A drug addicted attorney; And dysfunctional father learns through a traumatic accident that the only way to save his daughter from becoming like himself, is to change his ways. 124 pages
I had a weird dťjŗ vu feeling as I was reading this -- no insult intended, I just mean I'm getting a familiar vibe, it reminds me of stuff *I've* reviewed before. Heck, maybe that *is* an insult! Is this suppose to be an updated draft?-ghostiegirl.
Sup ghostie girl yeah I originally wanted this as a series but figured it was too boring for a whole series, so I changed it into a feature itís way too long I know that and Iíd love some advice to cut it down at least 10 pages. Iíve just finished my second script and itís way better than this one and a different genre. Iíd really love your opinion on it and I can read any of your scripts just tell me the name and Iíll review it. Just reading grand avenue atm and writing a review today I could review yours tomorrow. Really would love some advice with this script. Thank you
I got to page 6 of your script and I just wanted to let you know why I stopped because I did intend to read more (and still might). The problem is itís very over written. When I got to page six I felt like the writing was really slowing things down. For exampleÖ
The little shit of a boy legs it in hyper speed mode. Jack, with a disgruntled look upon his face gets up from his seat. Making his way across the lively room, nobody notices him. Leaning down to get the paper he looks across and gets a peak at three girls looking across and giggling at him- he looks away grasping the paper and returning to his seat. He bites at his lip, his head facing forward, staring at a white wall. All the time wishing he was anywhere else.
I feel like it took me longer to read that than for that to actually happen. You also have a few bits where you describe what a character is thinking. I usually donít have a problem with the odd unfilmable but the word ďthinkingĒ shouldnít be in your action lines. Thereís also some badly structured sentences to watch out for and some odd descriptions such as ďLOGAN- a loud, ADHD filled classmateĒ. ďADHD filledĒ sounds strange.
6 pages in and itís just your writing style that made me stop. Your dialogue is pretty good and Iím interested to know what happens and you have a good set up. I think if you went through and got rid of 50% of the action lines your story would come through more. Writing is articulating your story and I think your story is hidden under your over descriptive writing.
Iíll probably read more later but I just wanted to let you know why I stopped reading because fixing those problems is an easy rewrite. PS Iíve just seen the page count! Did you group all the action lines together to get the page count down?
I just had a peep to check out page count - 148 for a Spec? The good news is you can edit this easily.
BillyJ, (as Sam noted) you gotta streamline your action lines. One particular action line bottom page 3 goes over the page for a total eight lines. Try to keep them at four lines. Think in terms of shots when writing too, and break them up when the POV changes.
This five line description for example you can condense into two or three:
She turns, expecting Jack to acknowledge her like all the other kids but he's away with the fairy's. Lost in his writing. The kids start to quieten down apart from The sugar rushed Logan with his plane. Logan Makes the sound affects obnoxiously. It's all too much for her frustration.
Suggest something like: She turns to Jack, but he's away with the fairies.The rest of the class quieten down, expectant looks on their faces...Except Logan making whining noises with his toy airplane. Miss Walton's face reddens. She snaps -
MISS WALTON Logan, sit down!
Got rid of the wrylie there too. And no need for CAPS.
Get rid of the CAPS in action lines in general.
Go through and remove extraneous lines like this one: Trying his best to survive, Jack shuffles forward. The trauma somewhat tamed. Jack shuffles forward is enough.
Show us, don't tell. Unless we see her stubbing out the cigarette or a kid comments on her foul breath we can't know this below:
Her breath smells of the last cigarette she had five minutes ago in the parking lot.
MISS WALTON (Unheard over shouting kids) Good morning! sorry I'm late my ex showed up at my house last night begging to get back with me. Anyway, long story short I'm on the waiting list for a restraining order. It was was a late night with my new boyfriend.
That wrylie above, not sure you need it. Do we hear this dialogue or not? It is intentionally or unintentionally funny, regardless, so I'd personally wait till she has the attention of the class and have her say it. It's funny cause it's entirely inappropriate for the kids.
BillyJ, there are also lots of uncapped beginnings of sentences too.
That's about all I have time for now. It needs a big edit but there's some very nice humour throughout and a lot of your dialogue is good.
P.S. You start with a dream sequence. How long does that go on? And, I can't see ages for the kids. Did I miss it?
I'm really not fond of the title either. Maybe leave it at Scapegoat if you're fond of it. I don't know, that may just be me, see what the general consensus is.
I see you new at screenwriting. That's fine... we all started out writing as horrible as you here have done (I say that sincerely). Trust me, my first script was much worst! Reading it now I want to slit my wrist.
Here on SS I learnt (Still learning) a lot from the hard (cruel to be kind) constructive criticism. Don't ever think that we been mean...
I'm going to second what Sam said... PS: I stopped on page 2 for the same reason.
First off the bat... Your PDF title reads; This is definitely the fucking one. Maybe wanna change that little "frustration" oops.
INT- RETRO CLASSROOM- DAY
DREAM SEQUENCE: 1986 - in a small elementary class JACK FULTON- a quite and sensitive son of an American Immigrant lawyer, sits at his wooden desk writing. His back is hunched over, hiding his work as secret. The class is playfully out of order with no teacher present. LOGAN- a loud, ADHD filled classmate of Jack's runs past with a toy plane stopping at his desk.
*INT or EXT Must end with a dot ~ INT. CLASSROOM - And Leave out RETRO, its not a location. And as you wrote 1986. We know its years ago "retro"
*in a small elementary class. This threw me... the word elementary means BASIC, UNCOMPLICATED... May also be used to describe pre-school. Do I read small as in AREA SIZE or AMOUNT OF PEOPLE? Does SMALL need to be written... Is it relevant to the story?
*When you introduce a character (JACK FULTON) for the first time, you must describe him/her to us: JACK FULTON, 7, red curly hair, chubby, a quiet and sensitive kid. ~ You see here I wrote DESCRIPTION followed by his PERSONALITY. Later on JACK is an adult, here again you'll need to re-describe him as an ADULT FIGURE. LOGAN is also to be described.
*...LOGAN- a loud, ADHD filled classmate of. I don't know what ADHD is? So... I cant make reference to why you stated Logan is LOUD? And or any of his actions along the way of this 148 pager. Don't write to sound intelligent... You may insult the reader in that he/she does not understand what ADHD stands for. Its always best to first write it out in full; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Now that the reader knows, you can then go with ADHD (more commonly known as just ADD)
*...ADHD filled Leave out filled. We got that he has ADHD! We don't write CANCER filled or H.I.V filled.
*LOGAN- a loud, ADHD filled classmate of Jack's runs past with a toy plane stopping at his desk.
I read JACK'S the one RUNNING. and stopping at HIS OWN DESK... Yet its Logan. I'd write as; Jack, toy plane in hand, he runs up to Logan's desk.
I'd write your opening paragraph as:
INT. ELEMENTRY CLASSROOM - DAY
1986. The children are playful and out of order with no teacher present. Of the children is JACK FULTON, 7, red curly hair, skinny. A quiet and sensitive kid. He's a son of an American immigrant lawyer. Jack, at his desk writing, he's hunched over it - hiding his work as a secret.
LOGAN, 7, chubby. He has Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D). Toy plane in hand, he comes running up to Jack's desk...
LOGAN (Loud voice) ...what you doing?
Hope this has helped? Further to, I have tons of "writing course" material, that I can send (PDF) you... if you wish? Send me a PM.
I read up to page 32. The problems that I mentioned above are consistent throughout so I wonít go on about them. LC gave some good advice which I would apply for the whole script. I found myself skimming the action lines and just reading the dialogue because otherwise itís just too dense and slow.
The good news is that itís a fairly simple fix that will improve the script enormously. Action lines are like jokes, you want to use the least amount of words possible. As mentioned above action lines are basically your shots. Thatís why they shouldnít be more than 4 lines because really they should just convey one point. I found that you tended to repeat points in your action lines. Youíll have one line describing it, which is great but then youíll say the same thing in an overly complicated, descriptive and more often than not confusing way.
This is something I struggle with as well. Iím an awful writer who struggles with grammar, spelling and structuring. But I know this is my weakness so itís something I take time over with my rewrites.
As for the story I can see why this is 142 pages. It feels more like a TV series because at times it feels a bit aimless. 32 pages in and I donít feel like the story has started. It all feels a bit random. I couldnít tell you what the story is about.
Reading your logline I think the problem might be that youíve focused on the characters internal goal rather than their external goal. The external goal is the vehicle that drives the internal goal and so thatís why it might have felt a bit static. Because films are a visual medium they donít work best when the story is confined to the characters emotion because we canít see that. You can do that in a book but it doesnít translate well for film. Maybe Iím wrong about this and the story just hasnít kicked in yet but I would really think about the concept and plot points. Your script also changes tone at certain points. In the beginning it feels very PG and almost like a childrenís film (I actually liked this tone) but by page 16 it turns into an episode of the inbetweeners. Thereís no real swearing up till page 16 and it felt like a different film.
I hope this doesnít discourage you. I think youíve got a productive rewrite ahead of you and Iíll be happy to read a new draft. There are some really good parts as well. You use inter-cutting a couple of times and theyíre written really well and I enjoyed them. The characters feel 3 dimensional and I think you make some interesting story choices like when the boy crushes the bird at the start. My advice is to go through and fix the action lines. Clearly set out what the story is. I know itís a bit of a clichť and not something us ďartistĒ should entertain but I would recommend reading ďsave the catĒ to help you with those plot points. Then go through and cut out the scenes that donít go anywhere and the long conversations.
Donít feel you have to listen to me though. Iím a nobody, a chump and a drain on societyÖ
Hey Sam - yeah I know the page count is fucking insane and that's what I mean I know the action lines are so shit on this script. They're way too long your right and I guess I was writing it as a book almost and it is bland and boring. I promise my second script is nothing as shit as this. I just bought fade in but this old script I was using celtx on it and I hope when I buy a subscription back I can edit it on there. Thanks for saying my dialogue is good but there's still alot of trimming down and poetry to even do on that. Ok I'll cut it down and hopefully have a rewrite done in less than a month I hope you read it then because there's still bits that I don't like, or unsure of and I promise I'll read anything you want, just pm me. Thanks man.
Barry John - yeah sorry about putting ADHD filled o wanted it to be funny but I do like your criticism. I will read what you send. Sorry I didn't see your stuff. Thankyou I will read yours next and everyone I know I come off stupid for writing like this I promise my second script isn't nearly this bad. I think I just wrote this because it was personal and I went about the wrong way writing it in the first place, I litterly sat down and started writing which turned out bad for the page count. Slug lines are so fucking hard for me that's why I bought the book but yeah nobody hold back this is all good for me. I also have a question, for copyright do you guys actually use a service or do you write copyright? Is it even a big deal? On the UK the law is as soon as you write it it's copyright but I was thinking of using raindances services - (not that anyone would buy this piece of shit lol) but I mean for future reference? Thanks Barry I'll take that advice.
There's a lot of good in the script, BillyJ, so no need to keep saying it's bad. It's not. It just needs tightening up and a bit of focus. You have positive feedback on this thread too, so my advice is to stop apologising. We all take the positive comments with the negs, especially if you're starting out, and learn from it.
Hey Sam I just read your second part and no I'm really listening to you, could I ask you to read the treatment and help me come up with a logline it's really difficult because it's character based and I don't even understand what the goal is, Jack doesn't even know what the goal is until his daughter overdoses. Later on in the script there's this bit I hate where he goes from being a drug fueled guy to completely flipping in a montage and I need to space it out because it feels so cheasy.
I'll re read save the cat but could you please read the treatment and help me figure out the logline? I'll appreciate it immensely.
Hey LC what's up I just want to say to you aswell thankyou for the posive comments, I'll have it cut down in the next 2 weeks and then could you review it? Also LC do you copyright with a service everytime you make a script? Or just write copyright?
I'm glad you enjoyed the humour and I'll try to change it. Yeah my grammar is so bad I much prefer fade in to help me with that.
I was just asking about the copyright because I have my second script all ready to go but should I copyright it first? Or it doesn't matter and just get all your comments Frist than copyright it?
I write this as per Don's blurb, on all my scripts: (c) 2020 This screenplay may not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author.
Just a coupla of comments FWIW. No offense intended. You've already gotten lots of good advice and one quib, not so much. The logline is indicative of a drama about serious subject matter. Not to say that there wouldn't be lighter moments in a drama, but tone is crucial, and the tone you set throughout much of the first act comes across as comedic.
Methinks the thing with Dramedy, is finding the right balance could be a real challenge.
Also, I noticed you spend too much time trying to make whatever points you are making. Try to tighten up the scenes, or find a better way to make your points.
Having said all that, I read up to page 65. But I'm nice. Readers are the hell spawn of putrid corpses mating.
You set a very high bar for yourself in trying to execute a story like this well. My full review is coming. I just need to make some minor alterations. -A