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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Family Scripts  ›  Christmas Joe Moderators: bert
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  Author    Christmas Joe  (currently 1692 views)
Don
Posted: August 30th, 2022, 4:39pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Christmas Joe by Kathy Cranford - Family - In 1967 a bedraggled stranger appears in a small southern town.  Who is this difficult man who has shown up at a most inconvenient time - four days before Christmas?  Is he just another loner, down on his luck or has he come to bring a more important seasonal message?  82 pages - pdf format

Writer interested in feedback on this work



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EC
Posted: September 8th, 2022, 4:20pm Report to Moderator
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If you are in the market for a Hallmark movie of the week with a white Christian conservative bent, look no further than Christmas Joe. The writing is solid, and the action flows, but some wording is excessive, and some scenes need revising. For example, the opening scene introduces the character Joe, a vagrant freighthopping his way across the deep south; by page 10, you are bored with repetitive information about his social class.

Suggested revision: Pg 2.


Quoted Text
INT. DARKENED RAIL CAR — DAY

A heavy door slides open, and sunlight rushes in. The two RAIL WORKERS squint into the darkness. We see a huddled mass in the corner of the empty car.

The RAIL WORKERS react.

                         RAIL WORKER #1
           Come on, buddy, get on out of there before
           I call the Sheriff.

The two RAIL WORKERS scramble up into the car.

EXT. RAIL CAR DAY

Suddenly a mass of rags and flailing arms and legs come flying out of the open rail car. We follow the ARC of the RAGS out into the hot disinfectant sunlight of day as it lands hard on the ground sending up a dust cloud.

The two RAIL WORKERS leap down from the rail car, and each takes an arm to stand up the ball of rags.

                         RAIL WORKER #2
           He smells worse than the cattle car.

RAIL WORKER #1 takes off his cap and dusts off the man, revealing the face of JOE TELLS. 60ish, possibly younger or older; we can't tell because he is unwashed and hidden beneath a week's worth of beard growth and filthy clothes.

                         RAIL WORKER #2
           What's your name, buddy?

JOE doesn't answer but looks around at his surroundings. He appears dazed and confused.

                         RAIL WORKER #1
          A night in the clink will sober you up.
          Come on then, off you go, move it!

Sometime later.

EXT. OUTSIDE THE RAIL YARD OFFICE.

A PATROL CAR pulls into the parking lot. A UNIFORMED SHERIFF, large in circumference, gets out. The two RAIL WORKERS act as guards as JOE stares intently at the ground.

The SHERIFF takes off his hat and starts fanning the air as he takes in the sight of JOE.

                           SHERIFF
           What's he done?

                           RAIL WORKER #1
           Freighthopping.

The Sheriff pulls an exasperated look as The SUPERVISOR appears in the doorway, wiping sweat from his brow.

                          RAILYARD SUPERVISOR
           He's breakin' the law riding the rails, is what he's done.
           And I want him arrested.


Script continues—




That's my two cents—


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Nomad
Posted: September 9th, 2022, 1:15pm Report to Moderator
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These first few pages are riddled with formatting errors to the point where even if the writing was enthralling, I'd still bail.

You start with a black screen and a voice over where the Narrator says "FADE IN:" then proceeds to speak action lines?

Then you cut to an EXT. shot of a place called DAYBREAK?

Then the narrator speaks more action lines before you cut to a place called EXT. ?

My brain hurts just trying to decipher if what I'm reading is dialogue or action lines and I haven't even gotten to the main character.

Read up on format and rewrite this.
Focus on tightening up your descriptions and read your dialogue out loud to see if it sounds natural.

You write...

Quoted Text
From their POV we see a huddled figure in the corner of the empty car.
This is JOE TELLES. 60ish, possibly younger or older, we can’t tell as he
is unwashed, filthy clothes, possibly several weeks worth of
beard stubble. He is barely able to raise his head.

Which could be tightened up by writing...

Quoted Text
We see a huddled figure in the corner of the empty car.
This is JOE TELLES (62). He's filthy. Filthy clothes, filthy hair, filthy stubble.
He struggles to raise his head.


But that's just how I would do it.

-Jordan


Read my scripts here:
SOCIAL EXPERIMENT 8pg-Drama
THE BRIDGE 8pg-Horror
SCHEISSE 6pg-Horror/Comedy
MADE FOR EACH OTHER-FILMED
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kcranford
Posted: September 11th, 2022, 4:23pm Report to Moderator
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Thank you both for your time in commenting on "Christmas Joe".  EC - I am always revising LOL, I will take your suggestions to heart. Thank you so much.

Jordan, I am not a professional screenwriter (I'm actually a working RN).  I have had no formal training in writing screenplays, no seminars, no college courses, just a love for writing.  I just try and read as many scripts as I can and emulate their style.  I do my best to format correctly and I hope my errors don't detract too greatly from the heart of my stories.  I hope to improve the presentation of my work with the feedback from others.  If you come to my ER I promise to treat your headache from reading this and that my nursing care will not be riddled with errors LOL.  Thanks again for your input.


Scripts Available:
Christmas Joe (Holiday Drama)
Every Time It Snows (Holiday Drama)
Happy Holi-DNA (Holiday Romance)
Let That Pony Run (Family Drama)
With Love, From Romance (Holiday Romance)
Essex (Historical Drama)

Shorts:
Santuario (OWC Writers' Choice)
Death  (OWC)
Savior  (OWC)
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Nomad
Posted: September 12th, 2022, 10:38am Report to Moderator
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Kathy,

I'd say that most of us on here haven't had any formal training.
We're all a bunch of rebels who like to write and sometimes we get things right.

If all you're missing is the "proper format" aspect of things, get some screenwriting software and let it do the hard work for you. I use Final Draft, but there are a bunch of cheaper options that work just as well.

You have it right though that what's most important is the heart of the story.
If the story is compelling enough, anyone will overlook formatting errors.

Just keep at it and you'll be thanking me in your Oscar acceptance speech while I'm at home saying "I could have written something better than that."

P.S. My wife was an RN in the ER for almost 20 years and now she's an NP in the ER and urgent care. I understand your plight. Thank you for taking care of all those characters, because you do things there that I wouldn't wish upon my mortal enemy.


Read my scripts here:
SOCIAL EXPERIMENT 8pg-Drama
THE BRIDGE 8pg-Horror
SCHEISSE 6pg-Horror/Comedy
MADE FOR EACH OTHER-FILMED
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kcranford
Posted: September 12th, 2022, 1:49pm Report to Moderator
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Oh wow, what a coincidence!  Our family business has been ER - my husband started out as an ER doc before coming to his senses and going into private practice. Thank your wife also for her service on the frontlines ❤️  Back to my screenwriting endeavors - I also use Final Draft and couldn’t live without it. Sadly, it can only do what I tell it - too bad it doesn’t have an autocorrect mode for many errors. Thanks again so much for your time in corresponding.


Scripts Available:
Christmas Joe (Holiday Drama)
Every Time It Snows (Holiday Drama)
Happy Holi-DNA (Holiday Romance)
Let That Pony Run (Family Drama)
With Love, From Romance (Holiday Romance)
Essex (Historical Drama)

Shorts:
Santuario (OWC Writers' Choice)
Death  (OWC)
Savior  (OWC)
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Nomad
Posted: September 12th, 2022, 2:09pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from kcranford
I also use Final Draft and couldn’t live without it. Sadly, it can only do what I tell it - too bad it doesn’t have an autocorrect mode for many errors. Thanks again so much for your time in corresponding.


It just take a bit of practice. You'll get the "Tab" key under control soon enough.

It's my pleasure. The more we interact with each other, the more we learn and grow.

Keep writing and I'll keep commenting. Eventually I'll write something new also.

-Jordan


Read my scripts here:
SOCIAL EXPERIMENT 8pg-Drama
THE BRIDGE 8pg-Horror
SCHEISSE 6pg-Horror/Comedy
MADE FOR EACH OTHER-FILMED
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zi94sm65
Posted: September 17th, 2022, 10:49am Report to Moderator
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A newbie 2-cents: that was one of the best emotionally touching scripts i have read. I didn't notice nor care about the formatting errors because the story was good. I cannot offer any suggestions on how to make it better as i enjoyed it just the way it was. I judge stories by how many kleenex tissues i have to use to dry my tears from the emotions it invokes in me and this was a 5 tissue/star story in my opinion. Thanks for sharing it: like you i read scripts to learn.
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kcranford
Posted: September 17th, 2022, 4:48pm Report to Moderator
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Oh my!  Thank you so much for your extremely kind words.  I'm so glad you enjoyed my story.  It's tough when you write something you love and throw it out there for (hopefully constructive) criticism.  We all learn from feedback from others but it's so very encouraging to hear something positive.  Thank you again, you made my day.  


Scripts Available:
Christmas Joe (Holiday Drama)
Every Time It Snows (Holiday Drama)
Happy Holi-DNA (Holiday Romance)
Let That Pony Run (Family Drama)
With Love, From Romance (Holiday Romance)
Essex (Historical Drama)

Shorts:
Santuario (OWC Writers' Choice)
Death  (OWC)
Savior  (OWC)
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kcranford
Posted: September 27th, 2022, 9:49pm Report to Moderator
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Playing with movie posters tonight. This one speaks to me

https://postimg.cc/N5FkLQ9v


Scripts Available:
Christmas Joe (Holiday Drama)
Every Time It Snows (Holiday Drama)
Happy Holi-DNA (Holiday Romance)
Let That Pony Run (Family Drama)
With Love, From Romance (Holiday Romance)
Essex (Historical Drama)

Shorts:
Santuario (OWC Writers' Choice)
Death  (OWC)
Savior  (OWC)
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ghost and_ghostie gal
Posted: September 30th, 2022, 10:15pm Report to Moderator
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Ahoy Kathy,

Yup, the photo is befitting.

Given that this is based on a small town legend, you have hooks to hang your script on.

OK, read it in one setting.  Drive-by comments:

I liked this. A lot.  yes, it was a bit wordy at times and some descriptions tended toward prose and would benefit significantly from being tighter, but there's no denying it, you can write.  It gave a strong sense of mood, which I liked. Most importantly, I got a feeling the writer had something to say and was in command of the story, for the most part, knowing where it needed to go.

Um, I think VO is only "risky" if it's poorly done and is too "on the nose." I don't see that here. In a nutshell -- ME, personally would rather the spirit of the VO be brought out in the action and dialogue rather than just laid bare. Methinks you succeeded.

OHHHHhhhhhhhh! I was pleasantly happy towards the end to find out it is Rebecca as our narrator. Wise choice methinks.

My biggest gripe -- I get it, I do, Elizabeth.  A pivotal character -- I just didn't care for her, and being a pastor's wife -- even when she learns of Joe's death I was hoping that would have been her saving grace for me.  Sadly, Elizabeth's reaction just ranged a bit hollow for me.  On the flip side -- after one setting, sometimes to a fault - my observations of characters, such as Elizabeth can be a bit hasty - I akin it to one you get when you stand two inches from a Monet painting. It often helps to step back to see the whole picture.

So I guess in the the grand scheme of things it works as you have it laid out.

I commend you -- dialogue was a strong suit here - could use a trim, but overall pretty good. Kudos.

My homework assignment for you: write these scenes with as few or no words as possible. See how far you can get with literally zero words. Then work up from there. I think you need to free yourself a bit from the chitchat, particularly because some of your best moments (when we first me Joe, the Dog's reaction upon seeing Joe, the children) are the silent ones. In any case remember -- 'Less is more'.

Read other scripts, fix the format. Missing a ton of periods! I.e. it needs housekeeping.

There's a few other nitpicks but no time to get into them, I'm writing this on the fly. So forgive my grammer errors.- _ghostie gal


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kcranford
Posted: October 1st, 2022, 9:07am Report to Moderator
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Thank you so much for reading my script and for your time in posting feedback, ghostie-gal. Your points are well taken and I’m actually in the middle of making a few revisions from suggestions received here - your advice will be taken as well. I’m so glad you enjoyed Rebecca’s story - and now I’m off to find those missing periods!    Thank you again for valuable input.


Scripts Available:
Christmas Joe (Holiday Drama)
Every Time It Snows (Holiday Drama)
Happy Holi-DNA (Holiday Romance)
Let That Pony Run (Family Drama)
With Love, From Romance (Holiday Romance)
Essex (Historical Drama)

Shorts:
Santuario (OWC Writers' Choice)
Death  (OWC)
Savior  (OWC)
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kcranford
Posted: November 6th, 2022, 5:03pm Report to Moderator
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Christmas Joe

Revised script/ New Link

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eq3-8H4pJDPLnw0i2qkkarGsx403V_r1/view?usp=share_link


Thanks for all your comments!


Scripts Available:
Christmas Joe (Holiday Drama)
Every Time It Snows (Holiday Drama)
Happy Holi-DNA (Holiday Romance)
Let That Pony Run (Family Drama)
With Love, From Romance (Holiday Romance)
Essex (Historical Drama)

Shorts:
Santuario (OWC Writers' Choice)
Death  (OWC)
Savior  (OWC)
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eldave1
Posted: November 6th, 2022, 8:34pm Report to Moderator
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Hey, Kathy - took a look.

As mentioned earlier - the formatting is well off. The good news is that there is free screenwriting software out there that will greatly help you in this area as it helps auto-format much of the page. J just Google it and see what fits for you

To give you an example, your first page should look something like this:

OVER BLACK
                                      NARRATOR (V.O)
                             (female, Southern accent)
                 Time is a fleeting thing. It comes and goes without much
                 notice, but as it passes it leaves a footprint...what we call
                 memories. Some that seem so real to me, are remembered very
                 differently by those who experienced the very same events.
                 I remember the day my mother died. We buried her in a yellow
                 dress. I chose it because it was her favorite. Her sister  Rose swears
                 it was green. I guess everyone has the right to remember personal things  
                 in their own way.

EXT.  TRAIN TRACKS – RURAL SOUTH – DAWN

A low RUMBLE and WHISTLE as a FREIGHT TRAIN travels through fields of cotton and rice.

SUPER: Somewhere in the deep South. 1967

                                  NARRATOR (V.O.)
            But then there are events that are so profound that they make
            their mark on all of us. I wonder if time purposefully
            inserts itself into those days so that they are never
            forgotten, nor their message ever dimmed. December twenty-first
            that year was a day like that in our town.

EXT. INDUSTRIAL RAILROAD YARD – DAWN

The train pulls into the yard, slowing to a stop. On its engine the words “DELTA SOUTHERN”.

Nearby, other railcars filled with freight, lumber, machinery, dry goods and livestock are loaded and unloaded from other trains.

TWO RAILWORKERS exit the Delta Southern, make their way to the platform.

                               RAILWORKER #1 (O.S.)
                           Hey, you there. Stop!

Note: the margins are off because I can't quite post the correct ones here - but you get the point.

Anyway - hope this helps

ADDENDUM

Just saw that you post an update link fixing many of the problems with the original -

So, the above doesn't really apply anymore


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts

Revision History (1 edits)
eldave1  -  November 7th, 2022, 4:26pm
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FrankH
Posted: November 11th, 2022, 9:10pm Report to Moderator
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Hi Kathy,

A great, but sad story. I really liked it.

The script kept me engaged, needed to know who Joe was.
I read it in one sitting, easy read for the most part.

My mind started going in a couple of direction after Joe played the violin and was "referred" to as an angel.
So, I was thinking maybe there's something deeper here. I didn't think of him being a well decorated veteran. Nice.

I wonder if the small town would've treated him differently if they knew he was a veteran. Did he know he was dying, last xmas celebration?

Even if dialogue at times was wordy, it didn't take away from the read and it had a small-town-folks interaction. It felt real. You fleshed out the characters well, IMO. I liked the piano woman. I got nothing to add to the story.


Here are some nit-picks and thoughts, my 2 cents worth.
* I consider a spec script a blueprint for a film, keep it tight and lean.
* Some unfilmable Actions are okay, but I'd like to see more "show me" than "tell me."
* I wonder if you jump into some scenes later, that will scale back on some of the repeat dialogue
(Ex: introducing Joe, Rail workers -> Sheriff -> Doctor -> reverend etc.).
* Remove "we see/we hear/ we are. Not needed.
* P1: I don't believe "DAYBREAK" is an appropriate headline/slug.
* P1: The NARRATOR dialogue is formatted as an action segment, needs to be dialogue.
* P1: I would use SUPERIMPOSE: "Deep South, 1967"
* CONT'D isn't really used that much anymore, disable in software.
* Some headlines need to be corrected. Keep it on one line, clean (Example: EXT. RAILROAD YARD - DAY).
   (Note: "A FEW MINUTES" in a headline, not sure if that is necessary, stick with DAY or NIGHT)
* Characters are only capped when introduced the first time in Action.
* I believe interruptions in dialogue is written as two hyphens, "__"
* The length of the script is on the short side at 81 pages
* Not sure if (O.C.) is used more for TV/Playwrights than film where (O.S.) is mostly used.
* Don't repeat in Action what has been established in the headline/slug (RECTORY, and some others.)
* A few missing periods, ","
* One example of keeping Action lean and visual is the introduction of JULIE ANN JEFFERS.
Something like: "JULIE ANN JEFFERS (2, short description, motions to a group of children and adults on a stage."
That's all we need to know at that point. You show me when she starts playing piano that she's very good, accomplished and more exposure later in dialogue, musical director, where she studied etc.
* Transitions like CUT TO: FADE OUT: not needed in a spec script. FADE OUT: can be used at the end of script.

Most of what I have mentioned are easy corrections and keep in mind, my own thought and opinions.

Thanks for sharing your script. A great story that needs some polishing. IMO.

The best of Luck to you.

Frank


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