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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Screenwriting Class  ›  Script Club Feb/2020 Moderators: George Willson
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Grandma Bear
Posted: February 5th, 2020, 9:23pm Report to Moderator
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Okay, let's do this!

This is a little bit like a book club where we are given a script to read and then we discuss the story, characters and everything else we can think of.

What inspired me to do this Script Club again was reading a Blacklist script titled #IHeartMurder. Why? Sony Pictures picked this one up for six figures. Carson called it impressive. I just had to read it, so I did. I will tell you that it kept my attention throughout. A page turner in other words. Despite it being 120 pages, it read VERY fast and I basically read it in one sitting. It's a lot of dialogue and like I said, a page turner, so the reading is easy.

What really made me want to discuss this script is that I've read many scripts from some of our own members that write just as well and know how to plot and pace a script. So, why did this one sell for a bunch of money and our scripts do not? Especially since this one has a very unlikable lead character and an ending that is sort of cold and limp at the same time. How did the writer pull this off? That's what we will try to find out.

You have until Friday next week to read it. Should be super easy, and then we will start to dissect it. If you have already read it, that's great too. Maybe just skim over it again before we start.

Here's a link to the script.
I Heart Murder

I will lock the thread until 2/14 then we'll start the discussion.  

PS: The first couple of pages are gory, but after that, there's really none more of that.

I Heart Murder by Tom O’Donnell
A true-crime podcaster tries to solve a gruesome cold case, putting her in the killer’s crosshairs.



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LC  -  February 6th, 2020, 12:24am
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Grandma Bear
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 8:34am Report to Moderator
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Okay, let's start the discussion.

Instead of giving reviews, I would like for all participants to discuss the script. Rather than just find out if we like or dislike this script, let's try to figure out why it sold and our scripts do not. We'll dissect it bit by bit. Hopefully.  

Let's start with the read itself since that's what I assume is what keeps the all important reader reading or putting it down.

For me, it was a clean and fast read. A page turner even though I can't say I loved the story. What did you think? Pages flew by? It was a drag to get through? The writing style? Anything else you can think of about the writing and the read itself. We'll move on to characters and story later.


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StevenClark
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 10:19am Report to Moderator
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Good to see this up and ready. I read I Heart Murder shortly after it was posted, so what follows are my initial musings directly after reading. Looking forward to joining the discussion.

So, I started reading this the night you posted the script. The writer, Tom O’Donnell, is on IMDB with a few credits to his name. So, when you ask how he got this thing sold it might be safe to assume he has some connections, or maybe not. But they always help. It makes it that much easier when you have a champion for your work. That said…
The script so far is good. Why? First of all, one thing I notice in almost every pro script I read is how sparse and clearly everything is written. Good writers can make you see exactly what they want you to see using as bare a description as possible. And if you have that “mind’s eye” thing then you can see it too. But, somehow when I read pro scripts I feel more at ease because I know I’m in good hands. Kinda like… well, let’s not get into that here.
So far, the opening catches you right off the bat. The murder. Immediately you are drawn into the world of Ana, and you like her. She’s quirky and fearless, and it shows in her speech and actions. She has dimensions, not just a talking head.
Same goes for her sidekick, Seth. He’s his own character, his own kind of laid back nerd-type. I like him too. The writer has done a great job of detailing these two, making each of them unique in their own ways.
The ending felt a tad rushed. Everything happened so quickly, though it was easy to process. I guess I just didn’t know what I was expecting really. I’m fine with how it all tied together and ended, but we’ve seen this kind of reversal before -- it’s a tad contrived. It didn’t just flat out hit you over the head. Pretty standard far as I’m concerned. Nothing that made me sit up from my seat and say WOW!
You could easily see that Ana actually driving at the end would come into play. That was a call back.
Impressive? Not totally. Good, yes.
Which begs the question – does it need to be impressive? Probably not. This was good, and written in a style that you could easily follow along with. The writing itself, I mean. Like I said, writing style is very key. Story, of course. Story is THE one thing you must have down, and must be good. So, this story was good. But the writing is what elevated it.
So, yes, I can see how it would get picked up. Honestly, I’m sure there’s thousands of scripts out there as good as this. So, why was this picked up and do we know how? Was it seen on The Blacklist, was it given a boost by Carson’s review, or did this writer just get lucky?
Anyway, that’s my initial take.
*** And I would also like to mention again the clarity of the writing. I think it’s huge. A friend of mine who used to read for screenwriting contests said that’s one thing he and other writers would look for – readability. Again, a good, compelling story. But can the writing get you through the story easily?


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MarkItZero
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 11:06am Report to Moderator
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Okay, gonna limit this to the writing and the read.


Thought writing was very good. Visual. Easy to scan through the pages.

Doesn't waste time over-describing unimportant stuff:


Quoted Text
EXT. CHARLESTON AIRPORT - DAY

A SMALL JET lands on the runway of a tiny airport.

SUPER: CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA


But when you need to set a certain mood and build the tension...


Quoted Text
The patchy front yard is littered with junk: an old washerdryer,
a rusted out lawnmower, a pile of cinder blocks and
more. A faded Confederate flag and a Nazi flag flutter side
by side on the side on a flagpole.

Flies buzz around a flayed deer that hangs on a tree. Clearly
dead awhile. It reeks and maggots continuously boil out of
its eye sockets. Nearby a hunting knife, encrusted with fur
and dried blood, is jammed into a tree stump.


I liked the occasional sarcastic descriptions...


Quoted Text
Ana and Seth enter their motel room: acrylic bedspreads,
nicotine-stained wallpaper, Abstract Expressionist water
damage on the ceiling.



Quoted Text
Ronnie tosses her a 10-year-old Nokia flip phone. Ana
inspects it. It sucks.


And I thought it handled the social media posts fine.


As for the read, the pages flew by for me. Don't know how else to say it other than it read like a pro script. Not gonna lie, some of the exposition stuff early on with her giving so much info through the podcast dragged a bit. And little things like that long ad for mattresses. But once it got going, I lost track of time and everything and was gone into the read.

Maybe dialogue is a separate discussion, but the snappy exchanges between Ana and Seth helped keep it lively too. Some genuinely entertaining quips, especially once they got to Virginia.


That rug really tied the room together.
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James McClung
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 11:07am Report to Moderator
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I haven't finished, but I'm close. Aiming to finish tonight, if not early tomorrow. I'll hold off on thoughts for now other than to say, while I don't necessarily care for it, I can understand why it'd be picked up.


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StevenClark
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 11:44am Report to Moderator
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I think the read itself was great. It didn't over indulge in unnecessary exposition, and only provided more when the scene called for it, like James mentioned. Overall, it was very readable and I think that is very key. Huge, I think.

I don't recall, at any point, being uninterested in what was going on. It's a thriller/whodunnit type story, so the last thing you want is to be bored. The writer did a great job at not boring us.


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Grandma Bear
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 12:18pm Report to Moderator
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I agree that the writing made this an easy read and I don't ever recall having to re-read anything just to know what exactly was going on.

To be honest, I was at first, on the very first page kind of bored with the whole torture set-up- It felt like I had seen this a million times before and had it not been for one tiny detail at the bottom of that page, Ana's VO that simply said Why?, I would probably not have read on. Why does this matter? I think we have all read that you need something to make the reader want to turn the page and tiny detail did it for me. Immediately, I wanted to know about the person who was telling us this. Something to think about.

Steve, I could be wrong, but I don't think Carson reviewed this until after the script landed on the Blacklist and the deal with Sony had already been done. Probably did help to know some people in the biz already though.


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StevenClark
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 12:37pm Report to Moderator
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Not for nothing, the whole podcast angle, I think, gives this story a more contemporary angle, and I think that helps as well. How many times did we see Ana posting to social media and the like? Many.

So, writing, yes, but also peripherally, the subject matter and being able to to convey that. And to hear it towards a certain audience. What age group is something like this aimed at? 18-35? It’s certainly R rated, but could easily be made pg-13.


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StevenClark
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 12:45pm Report to Moderator
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Why?

At the bottom of page 1.

Top of page 2 starts off with the figure and a gas can.

Bottom page 2 ends with Ana talking about the bruising on the girl’s head.

Top page 3 begins with the baton, THWIP AND THUNK.

Page 3 and four do likewise. So right off the bat the writer has given us every reason not to put this script down, and I’m quite SURE this was a conscious effort. Definitely something for us to bear in mind regarding our own scripts.


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MarkItZero
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 12:59pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Grandma Bear
I agree that the writing made this an easy read and I don't ever recall having to re-read anything just to know what exactly was going on.

To be honest, I was at first, on the very first page kind of bored with the whole torture set-up- It felt like I had seen this a million times before and had it not been for one tiny detail at the bottom of that page, Ana's VO that simply said Why?, I would probably not have read on. Why does this matter? I think we have all read that you need something to make the reader want to turn the page and tiny detail did it for me. Immediately, I wanted to know about the person who was telling us this. Something to think about.

Steve, I could be wrong, but I don't think Carson reviewed this until after the script landed on the Blacklist and the deal with Sony had already been done. Probably did help to know some people in the biz already though.


Yeah, the first page I was kind of settling in for that same old victim gets killed in the opening but then "Why?" turns it all about and we realize it's someone observing this scene or describing it for us so it takes it in a new direction.


That rug really tied the room together.
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MarkItZero
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 1:08pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from StevenClark
The writer, Tom O’Donnell, is on IMDB with a few credits to his name.


Apparently, he's a novelist and writes for animated TV shows too. The rights to his newest book got bought by New Line:

The novel follows a group of adventurers who exist in a fantasy world. During the day they embark on quests and battle evil wizards and when they get home from their busy day of slaying, they unwind by engaging in a role-playing aptly titled game “Homerooms and Hall Passes” where they assume the identities of average eighth-graders. All is fun and games until an ancient curse sends the young adventurers into a world of mundane suburbia. While there, they must band together to survive their toughest adventure yet: middle school.

That's a fun concept!


That rug really tied the room together.
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StevenClark
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 1:45pm Report to Moderator
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It’s weird. If you look up I Heart Murder on IMDb it gives you the writer TIM O’Donnell, not Tom, so I’m a little confused. Tim has a whole plethora of credits, more than Tom, I think. But anyway...


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MarkItZero
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 2:22pm Report to Moderator
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I guess there's a lot of O'Donnell's. This is his personal website...


That rug really tied the room together.

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mmmarnie
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 3:38pm Report to Moderator
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The writing was easy enough to read, but I mostly struggled through Act I. Took a while for it to get moving for me. And I did find myseld stopping many times throughout when I found things to be a bit on the hard to believe side...or when things happened way too conveniently.


  
“If someone is trying to bring you down, it just means you are above them."
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Geezis
Posted: February 14th, 2020, 4:36pm Report to Moderator
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Read through it this evening and it is very well written.
I thought the pacing was good and it kept me reading, although it did seem very familiar to me in many places.
I haven't read many scripts but I've seen many movies and there were times reading it when I thought I saw similarities in some of the films I've already watched.
I suppose that is the nature of these types of thrillers though, familiarity with the story and genre but relying on character to give it a slight slant.


If at first you don't succeed........bribe someone.
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