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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Series  ›  Toxic Moderators: bert
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Don
Posted: April 30th, 2019, 9:27pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Toxic by Ben Clifford & Rob Jones - Series, Comedy - Recently released from hospital after a half-hearted suicide attempt, and against the advice of his friends and therapist, a young man does everything in his power to pursue a likely-doomed relationship. 62 pages - pdf format

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You will miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
- Wayne Gretzky

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LC  -  May 1st, 2019, 4:27am
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AlsoBen
Posted: April 30th, 2019, 10:41pm Report to Moderator
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Hey guys.

I posted an early WIP of this on the board. Then, I took on a co-writer and we did a few drafts back and forth, resulting in this - anybody who read the WIP will see it's a really different (and hopefully funnier) script and that's all thanks to my co-writer.

Anyway, thanks in advance to anyone who reads this.


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Dustin
Posted: May 1st, 2019, 1:44am Report to Moderator
Of The Ancients


Action speaks louder...

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You mean a 'half-hearted' suicide attempt.


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AlsoBen
Posted: May 1st, 2019, 3:46am Report to Moderator
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Most likely. Don, would we be able to fix that?


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LC
Posted: May 1st, 2019, 4:27am Report to Moderator
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Fixed, Ben.


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AlsoBen
Posted: May 1st, 2019, 4:33am Report to Moderator
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Thank you


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colkurtz8
Posted: June 6th, 2019, 2:34am Report to Moderator
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Ben

Firstly, I should say, I’m not much a TV watcher and not as well versed in the rhythms and expectations of a TV pilot. I’m much more into films.

Still...character, story, tone, theme etc all apply here to so its no big deal.

You have seamlessly set up a couple of diverse characters, some more interesting than others. The stories are woven really well, going back and forth and intersecting. At least to me anyway, it flowed nice on the page, it moved.

You give each character distinct personality traits, there is no risk of some blending into each other which can often be the problem on the page with everyone sounding the same. Here, you have archetypes, Ted, Alicia, Kelly and to a lesser extent Sierra and Donald are all modes of characters we’ve seen on screen before; the tortured gay guy, party girl, rich snob, etc which is to be expected. It’s very difficult to come with wholly new characters (even if there a sitcom-y “What happens when you put a neurotic homosexual and a buttoned-up yoga teacher under the one roof?!?!?!” vibe to it) but you give them all an equal share of page time and, most  importantly, you are not afraid to have them look bad, do and say terrible things, show an absence of morals or empathy. I don’t feel like you’re desperate for us to like them either, you are showing them in all their flaws.

Story wise, within these 63 pages, there is nothing too major in terms of plot points. Yes, a big moment happens at the end of Act 1 but its avoided, emotional repercussions notwithstanding. What we see are smaller moments, specific character interactions as you establish the world in which they inhabit and the different dynamics between them. The push-pull of their lives. (more on this later)

So while all this is set up well and I was engaged for the duration of the script, would I be tuning into episode 2? Of course, this carries the disclaimer that I’m not a TV person but right now I don’t think I would. There is just not enough there to keep me watching...but hey, I would say that to 90% of pilots.

What would maybe have me come back for the second episode is the Alicia character. She’s fun, unpredictable and pretty much provides the majority of the laughs.

However, as I mentioned in the notes, she is anomaly amongst this cast, bar Kelly probably. Frankly, I was surprised to learn this was meant to be a comedy. Only Alicia kept reminding me of that as you go to fairly dark places. I mean, you lead with that in the opening act; rejection, drug abuse, self harming, attempted suicide, child rape. As a result, I figured this was a straight drama.

Only once Alicia became more prominent and we see Sierra’s yogic pretentions and Kelly’s blatant conceitedness did I start to get a handle on the tone. As I said in the notes, mixing comedy and drama is always a tricky balancing act but mixing comedy with the aforementioned “dark places”...now that is bold...and as present, I’m not sure if you’ve struck that happy medium. The laughs seem to few and far between so that when Alicia blurts out something wildly insensitive or Kelly is so obviously a shallow narcissist, it can jar. It doesn’t help that some of the comedy is rather broad and quirky too, not a lot but occasional enough to makes the oscillation back to drama all the more difficult.

In short, I think we need more comedy, not so much gags/jokes but some comedic characterisation that straddle the line between Alicia on one of the spectrum and Donald on the other. I would’ve said Ted here but I guess he is somewhat ridiculous amongst all his hissy fits and emotional fanny attacks.

Of course, this might just be me since I was still fumbling with the tone 20 or so pages in.

Thematically, with the title in mind, what are you exploring here? Incompatible people, mutually destructive people, people who are inexorably drawn to each other but in reality are not good together.

Obviously, the Abby/Alicia duo is explicitly labelled as “Toxic” but is there something similar (albeit less dramatic) to Ted and Sierra’s relationship too? Are they really well suited housemates? Is Sierra too indulging of Ted’s ups and downs? Does Sierra deserve someone more conducive to her goal of attaining pure nirvana? Is Kelly a positive presence for Sierra to have in her life? I can see that dynamic and her copying of Sierra’s life goal (but with bottomless cash) causing unwanted stress/jealousy/competitiveness for Sierra in the future. Is Ted’s pursuit of Daniel foolhardy and ultimately doomed to fail and cause pain? Daniel doesn’t seem too keen on him, its more out of sympathy and Ted’s mild coercion. I can see them just being friends because of what happened on the first date, and the second, in regards Ted’s disclosure. So the question is, what does Ted want? Presumably more. So you wonder if it’s best of his well being to be around Daniel. Speaking of Daniel, who, while appearing the most well adjusted “normal” character, has a less than ideal  relationship with his parents and the big secret he holds from them. It must be a great burden for him to carry around. He’d probably be better off to lead his own life, leave that “childhood bedroom” behind sooner rather than later.

I don’t know, I’m probably reading too much into it. That is the nature of human relationships, they’re complicated, messy, full of inconsistencies and contradictions...especially on screen. You gotta have conflict or there’s no show.

Anyway, it was an interesting read. I haven’t read many pilot scripts so it was something a little different.

Just curious, how many episodes have you planned out or written already?

Col.


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AlsoBen
Posted: June 9th, 2019, 1:54am Report to Moderator
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Thanks Col. I really appreciate the read and feedback. I'll respond more indepth by email.


Quoted Text
you are not afraid to have them look bad, do and say terrible things, show an absence of morals or empathy. I don’t feel like you’re desperate for us to like them either, you are showing them in all their flaws.


That's great that it came through. Thematically, every character is supposed to be emotionally and interpersonally toxic (even though only Abby is accused of it) so them being flawed is on purposed. Ultimately, the central conceit of the show would hopefully be about people trying escape toxic friends, relationships, and behaviours mostly unsuccessfully.


Quoted Text
However, as I mentioned in the notes, she is anomaly amongst this cast, bar Kelly probably. Frankly, I was surprised to learn this was meant to be a comedy. Only Alicia kept reminding me of that as you go to fairly dark places. I mean, you lead with that in the opening act; rejection, drug abuse, self harming, attempted suicide, child rape. As a result, I figured this was a straight drama.


Where is there child rape in the opening act? haha


Quoted Text
In short, I think we need more comedy, not so much gags/jokes but some comedic characterisation that straddle the line between Alicia on one of the spectrum and Donald on the other. I would’ve said Ted here but I guess he is somewhat ridiculous amongst all his hissy fits and emotional fanny attacks.


My writing partner here is the comedy guy; you'll find an earlier draft of this that I wrote by myself in the WIP board somewhere that is even more devoid of laughs (somehow I still called it a comedy?). He brought in all the characterisation for Alicia and Kelly which I love even though it sometime jars with the original tone I wrote.






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colkurtz8
Posted: June 9th, 2019, 9:20am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from AlsoBen
Where is there child rape in the opening act? haha


Sorry, brain slip on my part. Page 42...

"A QUICK INSERT:

- A snapshot of childhood memories: an older teen holding YOUNG TED down on a bed.

- Unheard, but hostile whispers into young Ted's ear."

I assumed this to be some form of sexual assault since it comes amidst Ted and Donald about to have sex. Right after it, Ted declines Donald's advances. Perhaps I misconstrued. Is the older teen bullying him?

Anyway, either way, it's not in Act 1 haha








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