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Bert's Goals: them quite easily, as they are always rattling around somewhere in the back of my subconscious:
#1 - The father character, Greg, is the weakest link amongst the main characters. He needs to be more involved in the story. #2 - There is a teddy bear that some find frightening, and others find comical. I need to cut it or change it or…something. #3 - There is a character named Yoder, and his motives are too convoluted. I need something nice and clean and immediately understandable. #4 - There is a group of children in this script -- and they have exactly the same problem that Yoder does. Perhaps even more so. #5 - The story loses its way a bit in the third act -- as action elements step to the forefront and the horror elements are nearly lost. I need to change that -- ideally through condensing the story and stripping away what is not really necessary. But I fear I may be a poor judge of that. #6 - The script needs to be cheaper to produce.
* * * *
GENERAL NOTES: As is, after the opening sequence, there needs to be a SUPERIMPOSITION of : "One week later" as the car dives across the snow-banked country road flanked by wide, barren fields.
GENERAL COMPLAINT: Mom's name, MARY EL, (I'm guessing it's short for Mary Ellen?) has no carrying import later in the story. Simplify it to just plain MARY or ELLEN for plain script reading clarity.
The sheriff's dept is not going to allow a 6 y.o. kid to reman at the house under any circumstances, even if supervised. Kid's going to county facilities.
Have the ERECKSONs arrive to help find their niece the day after the parents' bodies are found. Two dead parents + missing girl. ANGEL shows up when the ERECKSONs arrive. Cuts two actress roles.
Sheriff Gaskins must have ABSOLUTELY nothing else to do in town. He needs to state this is the most excitement this farming town has had in quite awhile or this is the only thing I've had to fool with for weeks and about the most ruckus in the tri-county area for decades.
I don't think you want the ERECKSONs to be super heros, just a regular family with the regular internal dysfunction general families have. They need to be smartened up a bit to not come across as schmuck idiots the audience will derisively hate. They need to pack for a stay, not a day-trip grab-A-niece-and-go.
Bring out the similarities between father and son. Give them more wise-a$$ banter.
17/16 >> Ty shrugs and hands Greg the album. TY So play something. Show me how it works. << TY needs to dish more cr@p back that Dad's serving. Look, I don't expect you to know how to work a 21st century iPod. How about you show me how this dinosaur cr@p works? GREG laughs.
30/29 Nice ghost children sequence.
35/34 >> With the hand not manning the trigger he reaches for the door. Then, with a sudden lunge, he flings the door open and LOOSES A ROUND from the weapon.<< Has the boy just lost his effin' mind the first night in?
By page 40/39 there are no internal conflicts within any main character to overcome and grow as a human being (barf) There are no significant inter-character conflicts to overcome.
The GREG ERECKSON family needs to be made smarter and more tight knit. More love. More benefit of a doubt. More humor. There are a lot of logic and time gaps in ACTs I & II. This story begins vignette style then changes into traditional spoon-fed A-B-C-D-E style.
The children died in a freak, lighting sparked field fire. Why the Ghosts? Ghost stories are based upon "guilt". The teddy bear can be the source of an evil spirit, but a back story needs to be crafted.
By the time YODER goes back to the ERECKSON house on PDF pg 64 what happened to the shotgun he had back on his front porch pg 61? Oh! PDF 85 I see that YODER had left the shotgun back at his house in the shed. SO he went to the ERECKSON's with just a verbal warning "You need to take your family and leave"? And he can't be there to "help". He's trying to get that land. He needs to be more overtly malevolent/malintentioned.
REWORK GOALS: #1 - Cultivating a positive father/son relationship will provide more opportunities to fill his character out.
#2 - Ghosts are a metaphore for guilt. Freak crop fire doesn't establish guilt. If it's ghosts of Native Americans then that story needs to be developed. If it's the lingering "lost child" whose remains were never found to be buried - then, once again: no guilt. Wrongs need to be righted in ghost stories. Sarah posessed Angel's ski pole stabbed corpse to seek justice for a crime commited against non-relevant parties. Sarah isn't guarding anything or righting a relevant wrong commited by her infant/now grown brother. The bear thing... I dunno. There's no tie in. Ditch it. Rework as the children ghosts to freak people out instead of the bear. And the GREG ERECKSONs are guilty of nothing. They shouldn't be harmed or even threatened. Ghosts can take their things away to lead them to clues or places, but not harm them. Meaning if Sheriff Gaskins is going to get chewed up in the combine, even partially, then he has to be guilty of not turning in the bug-poison syringe, or some such (which he refilled and is toting around in his pocket? Or did he just get that back at YODER's house earlier? If so reference needs to be made earlier of "curious circumstances" to the DAN & wife's cause of death.)
#3 - When YODER's siblings burned he was but a babe guilty of nothing. I don't know why the ghosts of his siblings would rise from their graves to right the greed inspired wrong old YODER commited against the DAN ERECKSON family.
#4 - Yeah. I see the problem you've stated. Fixing one will fix the other. Got it: Make YODER a guilty older son or cousin living with the YODERs long ago that started the crop fire while illicitly smoking behind the barn. He watches a small fire burn into a larger one that gets away from him. Rather than warn the other children he runs away because he's not supposed to be smoking anyway. As a cousin, his family eventually inheirits the farm and his guilt lingers. Later, hard times force the farm to be subdivided and sold off in parts. The DAN ERECKSON family bought the parcel with the graves. You gotta dream up some reason why old YODER wants the land back an that'll be his greed on top of guilt that incites the ghosts. If there's a history then some tragedy has to have befallen the previous families, as well, all due to old YODER's greedy attempts to reaquire that parcel.
#5 - ACT I: Intro characters & situation. ACT II: Creepy sh!t and "story". ACT III: Conflict resolution & button up. What are other horror movies that horror doesn't trade places with action in the third act? Cheat. Or be inspired by, depending upon how you wanna look at it!
#6 - The quickest way to make this a cheaper film would be to have the setting be late spring or early fall. The snow doesn't add anythng to the story but will add to expenses.
Overall, structurally: You gotta find a better way to isolate these two households from the rest of the world. Windmill on a car doesn't keep me from walking miles/hours over to the neighbor's to ask for help. Especially when there's a freak kid and my family involved. H3ll, I'd drive the combine across the snowy fields to get help.
Mostly, make the GREG ERECKSON family stronger as a unit + give them personal growth challenges to be resolved across ACTs II into III.
Have the ERECKSONs arrive to help find their niece the day after the parents' bodies are found.
What I think I am actually going to do now is have them arrive WHILE Angel is struggling with Gaskins -- they are plunged right into the chaos -- so the decision to let Angel remain is more organic to the story -- and the decision is not made while the family is absent.
There are no internal conflicts within any main character to overcome.
I hear you. I do think some of that is coming through in Mary El (it is really her story), but in this regard, it was largely envisioned that the family as a whole would serve this purpose, through conflict and eventual growth. I acknowledge the weak spot, though.
Yoder...can't be there to "help". He needs to be more overtly malevolent/malintentioned.
But he is also plagued by the spirits. Point is (muddled though it may be), you are supposed to think (at least for a while) maybe he really is there to help. Maybe Yoder even believes that, to a point. But with this:
I am completely agreed. Yoder's role in this event must be changed. What I like that you have is making him older. Let's go with the oldest, in fact -- and he cowardly saves himself at the expense of the remaining children. Letting them burn. Something like that -- but it needs a little more thought.
You gotta find a better way to isolate these two households from the rest of the world. H3ll, I'd drive the combine across the snowy fields to get help.
And there is your "money" comment, Ray -- 200+ posts and nobody has mentioned that, as far as I can recall. And it makes me think, "Who says they need to be completely isolated for this story to proceed?" It just ain't so, is it?
Somebody taking off in that combine is a marvelous thought that opens up many logistical possibilities I was struggling with.
You have definitely earned your keep with that thought, Ray. Thanks. I am not sure what I am doing with that just yet, but something will be done, for sure.
Glad you can sit down and clean out (computer) shop.
>> have them arrive WHILE Angel is struggling with Gaskins << Love it. Works fine.
OLD YODER: >> But he is also plagued by the spirits. << H3ll, yeah! Guilty old bastard! He ought to be. Ditch the "help". Make it flimsy and weak "help". Villify the old goat.
>> Somebody taking off in that combine is a marvelous thought that opens up many logistical possibilities << I can't help but think of other "trapped with a monster" stories like JCarpenters "The Thing" re-make or that PoS "Virus". Gotta destroy all modes of transportation or close routes of escape - or - really get things going FAST before anyone can get to help in a rational fashion.
Which brings you right back around to - "What other horror movies DON'T morph from horror to action in ACT III?"
>> I am not sure what I am doing with that just yet, but something will be done, for sure. << Some things just need to marinate for awhile. You can't bake a cake that's supposed to be 15min @ 400 degrees and get it in 7minutes @ 800 degrees. Some shhhhsruff just takes time.
Welp, had a couple of hours to kill today. And did so right here. The biggest comliment i can pay you is that I read this straight through in one sitting. Never done that before on any unproduced feature.
You've got a boat load of comments on this. Glad to see. Didn't read them all.
Your opening could be more jarring IMO. I love a slow start to a horror. Just give me a unique scare to start me out. "The Ring" and "Scream" did exactly that. Make the audience a bit uncomfortable to start.
I frieking love a good legend in horror. The story about the Yoder kids getting burnt up by dry lightening was cool, but never sent a chill down my spine. Wish they had a reason to stay in our realm. Looking for revenge.
Yoder himself needs a reason for his siblings to torment him. I may have missed that. Wish it would of been his fault they all died. Some way or another.
I think you mentioned this, but Yoder's motives eluded me. What was so bad about Angel/Sarah?? Why was he insistent on killing her and her parents?
Loved fish-head. The teddy bear? Seemed a little stretched. Your story is about ghosts. Though, a clawed bear could look pretty creepy on film if done right.
I commend you on the ending though. I felt it. Anyways, gotta tell ya. Probably the most promising feature I've ever read here. Though, I've not read many. Don't let your head get all big and stuff.
Edit: Psst... And where's Jeff's comments? Scanned all the pages and didn't see the back of his ugly mug anywhere.
It is supposed to be quiet, hopefully a little eerie. In my own mind, the soft Celtic score I envision should help. What will change is when the Erecksons arrive -- it will be during the struggle with Gaskins. More chaos, less exposition, but still keeping the parts I most like.
The story about the Yoder kids...was cool, but...Yoder himself needs a reason for his siblings to torment him. I may have missed that.
Totally agreed, and fixing that. Yoder will be the oldest, not the youngest, and will play a more active role during that key piece of backstory. His motives are an issue I will let hang for now, as I've currently got that in the ol' mental blender.
I commend you on the ending though. I felt it. Don't let your head get all big and stuff.
Thank you, James. That ending is supposed to speak to a wider audience, you know? And don't worry -- hanging out on these boards long enough is the perfect cure for big heads.
Quoted from your worst nightmare
INSERT JEFF'S UGLY MUG
Haha -- repulsive or no (and I am still deciding in which camp I reside) -- I kind of discouraged Jeff from reading this in an off-the-boards discussion. I just didn't think it was his speed -- from what I know of his tastes, anyway -- both story-wise and writing style.
Whether that dissuades or encourages him to someday pick up his dripping-red pen on this thread remains to be seen, I suppose.
These recent reads have me feeling oddly inspired. I think I will open this file tonight -- for the first time in a very long time -- and noodle around with it a bit. So thanks for that, too, James.
Hi Bert. I just read the first 20 pages, will read more when time permits, but I really should be sleeping since I have a doctor appt. at 11am but it's like 90 degrees here in Socal.
Anyway, I've been writing screenplays for 9-10 years but only posting them on here in the last year or two. I'm not sure I'd classify this as a horror film, but then again I haven't finished it yet
I actually liked the opening, and it was intriguing. It got me to continue and now I want to finish it. There's not much to critique.
I'd say the descriptions are a little long, but I think in this particular instance it works. The old adage of "Show it, don't say it" does bear in mind a little though. Don't worry though we all fall into wanting to say what's going on, but for whatever reason, I didn't mind it and I'm an actor - and I usually hate it when I read descriptions. I think the dialogue could be a little more, what's the word? Natural? Something to that effect. Meaning it sounds a little 'rehearsed'
Anyway that's all I could think of. Most on here know me for Sunset Summer in which I plan to post the new rewrite on hopefully by the weekend or next week. However my favorite genre is mystery suspense - Htchcock style and am currently writing dark, mystery, romance. It revolves around reoccurring dreams, and is more clue-based than anything like action. I really like the way I'm going with it. Hope to have the first half of the first draft done by next week, so I'll see if I can't post it in the progress section.
Anyway, I'll try to finish it in the next few days if not sooner.
I'm not sure I'd classify this as a horror film...
Well, it is supposed to be a little different -- that is what we strive for anyway -- and it aims for an audience beyond the teen demographic. You are sure to find a few familiar conventions should you choose to continue, but it never ventures into slasher territory, if that is what you mean.
And I know what you mean about the dialogue. Some people just have a knack for that -- Shelton comes to mind -- but I struggle with it, preferring the descriptive aspects of the craft. I continue to work on that.
Most on here know me for Sunset Summer...however my favorite genre is mystery suspense...hope to have the first half of the first draft done by next week.
You know, I looked for Sunset Summer and found you had posted that 3 separate times.
Did you know you can just let Don know you have cooked up a rewrite, and he can swap out the old draft with the new draft on the same thread? Keep that in mind when you next post up a draft.
You did catch my attention with the look at my stuff -- the best way to attract reads on your own work is reading active members (emphasis on active -- I generally avoid scripts by those who post-n-run) -- but if it is all the same to you, I will keep an eye out for the upcoming thriller you have got cooking. Let me know. There is an audience for films like Sunset Summer, for sure, but I do not think I am the guy to give you much sound advice in that genre.
Might want to get a snack and beverage for this. Nothing bad, just long. I tend to ramble, I apologize up front. -Matt
Finally found time to finish your script. Nah, I never expected it to go into the teen slasher genre or that you were aiming for that demographic. I actually though it was one of the better scripts, regardless of genre. There's a definite horror factor as you move further along, but it really sticks with the thriller, suspense genre as well. I think that's a plus. I didn't read all 17 pages of comments but I remember a few people say they liked the fact that the body-count was low, and I agree. No worries on the dialogue that gets changed so much anyway that it's so minor in this case it really doesn't hurt or hinder the script.
I didn't know that Sunset Summer was posted three times, but then again I rarely search for my own work, I usually just head to the it's thread. I though Don did switch out the old ones for the ones. Though I did alert him today though I have a rewrite and tried sending him an email, but didn't work, so I had to submit it again, so it might be #4 Though maybe my email will work again... I think the issue's on my end- my email, but it should be fixed soon, I hope.
Yeah, there's definitely an audience for Sunset Summer and I am really not a huge fan of cheesy, corny typical teen rom-coms, but I was challenged by a writer friend of mine to write something that I'm not comfortable writing in, and so I did. I think this final draft, while the premise of the plot is altered it's centered story stays the same. Though I did rework the dialogue to make it a little more natural, at least I think so. And it puts closure to things I left hanging out there in previous drafts. But what will really put this over is if I can get the soundtrack I want. Classic Rock, Hard Rock, and that stuff - I really think the soundtrack is a center piece - which I know is pretty risky, but hey if it works, awesome.
I've been trying to read scripts here more often, when time permits. I love trading screenplays but want to give them my full attention and not have to break them up in to multiple day reads if I can help it. But I've been here more often, now that Sunset Summer is completed. I, like so many writers can see the entire film in my head before I write it - so it feels like I've already filmed it. I'll definitely check out more of your stuff and others in the coming weeks.
Yeah, I'm really excited about my 1940s mystery/thriller/romance "Dreams of Reality". It's not going to be the modern stunt-driven action blockbusters you see today like Salt, or A-Team, etc. but It won't be boring. That's the hardest part-not willing to the other side and writing a stunt-driven action scene. I'm going old school on this one and skimming very close to the same genre as one of the legendary directors, who is also one of my all time favorites, and if I don't get this absolutely right, it will be hell to pay, at least with myself. If you're wondering - no it's not a remake of one of his films, at least I don't think so. But if my film was on Netflix and recommendations came up for similar movies I'm sure a few of his films would pop up. I think while it's in the same manner as the legend's films, this script will have my own style as well.
I wrote a short script called "A Twist of Fate" that I just submitted on Wednesday that you should keep an eye out for when Don posts it. I wrote it in like two days, just wanted to get in the groove of writing the dark stuff again. I also wrote my own Horror film today, but the dialogue near the end turned into witty banter and I hate that, but it's called "Flickering Whispers" I might revise it into a feature in the near future.
Yes, sorry for the five pages of plugs, I'd say it wasn't intentional or subconsciously, but it was more just rambling. a lot of those ideas have either been changed or gone by the wayside anyway.
Dreamscale - I was just responding (maybe in too much length) to Bert's Q's from the first/second post. But I will try to be more aware of my rantings and such. the last thing I want to be "known" as the guy who plugs his own work and never reviews anyone's else's. Though I'm not sure it was necessary to exaggerate say I was five pages of personal plugs, but if you felt it would help get your point across I understand, no worries.
*coughs his way through the dust cloud and sees a script*
Well lookee here, I love me some rustic genre fun. I'm halfway through the script and will continue as work allows. This is a fluid read and your "asides" to the audience do not detract for me. If a writing style appeals to me, those tend to draw me into the read more. I'm getting a rustic Joe Dante playful horror vibe from your words. I like The Howling, Gremlins and a lesser extent in Small Soldiers and The Hole. I'm a big Joe Dante fan, so this is working for me, despite some motivation ambiguity. Greg seems a bit waffley at times for someone that just lost his brother. Little to no back history so far with the bro relationship, could help shore him up. I like the pacing and the imagery. The blizzard seemed a bust, no urgency there. For a while, I thought you were going for the dark and stormy night survival horror. Marl El's tie in with a child loss is overdone, but gives her additional motivation. I'm looking forward to finishing this one off, you've got some real nice stuff here.
A few scene specific notes...
p. 4 empty swing and blossoming butts, stout imagery p. 19 Alona, feels real to me very quickly. You got a lot on the page with her fast. p. 24 Lucier the kitten eating super cat. LoL I want more of this humor. p. 43 Wrecked car, power down, I feel we're missing a big reveal here. Something. p. 50 Yoder snow globe freakout played very random, we'll see where that goes.
Thanks for posting and keep writing and rewriting!
P.S. I'm kinda surprised this isn't sold. Ever try?
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