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I thought some of the technical choices you made to tell this simple story made for a surprisingly difficult read. The opening slug isn't great. Character description's like (40 and average) tell us nothing. I can appreciate this is a 3 pager but I'd still like a little more.
The choice of split screen is interesting, but things get messy, because you then cut back and forth from the two locations on the page mid-dialogue. I was really confused at this point, wondering if you meant split screen or an intercut.
I haven't actually heard of this urban legend, so I'll be sure to google it. Mannequins are incredibly creepy. I've always loved the old episode of the Twilight Zone set in the mall, and I'm a big fan of the movies Tourist Trap and Maniac, so I like the concept of this. The execution was problematic for me, however.
The ending -- well, I dunno. It might be because I'm not familiar with the urban legend, but is their a reason why Mrs. Dobkins isn't involved in the finale?
TECHNICAL CHOICES: Sorry that it was confusing. I didn't mean it to be. What I tried to do was keep it...lively. I mean it's two people talking over a phone until the ending so I had to make it interesting. I usually act as director when I write.
SPLIT SCREEN. When I researched on how to illustrate a split screen in a screenplay, this was the way I found a lot of people doing it.
Only in Kill Bill did Quentin Tarantino do it differently. He put it alongside each other. I don't think QT's way would have worked for this script so I decided to choose the first option.
I think what made this confusing is that I didn't put Left Screen or Right Screen. I've been told that I get bogged down with details. I considered that a detail not worth mentioning. Let the reader decide which side of the screen Rosalie or Mrs. Dobkins pops up on.
THE OPENING SLUG: Do you mean the over black? or Int. Dobkins part? And would you mind explaining why it doesn't grab you.
CHARACTERS: The urban legend doesn't go that far in depth with characters. It's very general. The only thing they mention is the relationship between the parent and teenager. And I think that's why it succeeds. So I tried to emulate that.
I included the trust between the parent and babysitter. Nerds are usually trusted by people. lol. And parents are...average. Was their anything else you wanted?
CONCEPT: Thanks. I always nail the concepts down. lol.
I get freaked out by Mannequins as well. lol. The Twilight Zone has always been a great inspiration to me. The concept of the Mannequin came from "The New Exhibit".
ENDING: The cops get there first. They're not going to let people into danger.
Hope this answers your questions. If not, let me know. Feel free to leave suggestions and comments.
I totally agree with B.C. about the the creepiness of mannequins. Something about their ability to hide in plain sight just scares the crap out of me. Anyways...
The thing that's killing this story for me is the flow and the setup of this thing. I don't know why you decided to split the screen or intercut when Mrs. Dobkins could have been a V.O. throughout. Keeping us in one location definitely would have clarified this whole thing, especially since Mrs. Dobkins' location or screen presence has no real impact on the story.
I'm not sure how others feel about questions in action lines but I'm not a fan. I'll chalk that up to style.
"It's alright to ask me." I don't know why but this line sticks out like a sore thumb. Perhaps she knew about the mannequin but her bewildered reaction contradicts it. Maybe I'm thinking about it too much.
"He BLACKS out Rosalie's screen" So now I'm pretty sure it's a split screen. I still advise you to stick with Rosalie entirely. I think capitalizing "screen" would help as well.
Overall I'm not sure how I feel about this one. The clarity is not good with the split screen and whatnot. I think it's better left to the shooting draft if that's the route you'd like to take. The story didn't really work for me either. It kinda felt like the mannequin just appeared out of nowhere for Mrs. Dobkins and Rosalie was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. At least that's what I'm thinking with the final message. Hope to hear from you soon. Take care.
Thus was pretty good. I actually had to go back and re-read, never a good thing, because I felt it was so disjointed I lost track of what it was about. But it's so short, it wasnt a problem and I wound up getting it and it was worth it. What I'm talking about is your dialogue is broken up mid sentence with action blocks, then there's the split screen to contend with. It got a little confusing at first, but the story is solid and very creepy.
Not a fan of the structure here, like I mentioned with the broken dialogue, but I think I understand why you did it. And I suppose it adds a certain amount of tension to the read, though initially it took me out of the story early. Perhaps it was just me reading too fast?
Anyway, I really enjoyed where it ended up, and when u realized the mannequin was a real person (I think) it was a real wow moment for me. Good stuff.
Sorry Gabe, I should have clarified what I mean't regarding the slug:
INT. DOBKINS FRIENDíS HOUSE - HALLWAY - NIGHT
It's just reads awkward. Probably better to have her in the restroom of a restaurant or a bar. It would eliminate the need to explain that there's laughter and chatter in the background in order to get over she's out for the night. Not a big deal by any means, however.
Regarding the average description. In a three page short it's not really a big deal to use this I guess, but it's not something I recommend. All parents are average??!
Indeed, the split screen definitely throws things off here. It eliminates the need for slugs but you still use them anyway, which break up the action for no reason and to the detriment of whatever tension you're trying to establish. The dialogue is also needlessly broken up and to the same effect.
Why does Rosalie need to ask permission to cover up the mannequin anyway? I mean, using the TV, sure. But she could just as easily throw her coat over the mannequin and take it off when she's done.
Also, I donít understand how the mannequin is wearing a balaclava and a mask at the same time. Isnít a balaclava a kind of mask in and of itself?
Your opening slug has been brought up. Indeed, I'd change it.
Overall, I like the concept but even if you changed all of the above things, I don't think it would work. It's just too fast. No tension. No build up. Just one plot point to the next. Your mannequin starts moving almost the moment it's introduced, which does next to nothing, considering you're still establishing the setup at this point.
My advice. Extend it. I think this could easily merit 5-8 pages. Build up a sense of dread. Rosalie doesn't even get a chance to use the TV. I'd say she should.
Otherwise, I don't see much of a point to this one. You have an interesting idea but the execution is so sparse, it barely amounts to anything. Needs more meet on its bones, for sure.
I don't know what a b.g is. I'm assuming background, but then you use a possessive pronoun with it so I'm not sure. I had to read this three times to get it. No real story. New characters are intro'd at the end. What happened to Mrs Dobkins? Wasn't she aware that she had a Mannequin in the house that kills people?
Story very thin on the ground with this one.
@ James, Balaclavas can be open-faced. Although I agree with you as that one gave me pause for thought too. It does confuse things. I usually call the closed-face ones, ski masks. The motorcycle masks that go beneath a helmet are good too.
Alright. Finished revising this as best as possible.
Fixed format to represent a true split screen...hopefully. Tried to see I can add more character through dialogue and actions. Eliminated alot of V.O. My bad. lol. I edited that slug B.C. mentioned. Thanks B.C.
Page count now is 6.
Thanks for reading James and Dustin. Thanks for your reply B.C. I actually did that.
Here's the version my teen cousin showed me:
[a few years ago a mother and father decided they needed a break, so they wanted to head out for a night on the town.
they called their most trusted babysitter when the babysitter arrived the two children were already fast asleep in bed
so the babysitter just got to sit around and make sure everything was okay with the children later that night the babysitter got bored and went to watch tv but she couldn't watch it downstairs because they did not have cable downstairs so she called them and asked them if she could watch cable in the parent's room
the parents said it was ok but the babysitter had one final request - she asked if she could cover up the staut outside the bedroom window with a blanket or cloth because it made her nervous
the phone line was silent for a moment and the father who was talking to the babysitter at the time said
"take the children and get out of the house... we don't own a statue."
the police found both of the children and the babysitter slumped in pools of their own blood within three minutes of the call
no statue was found. ]
I did take some liberties with the material. Nevertheless, I still kept true to the piece.
I think this story works best as a shocker. If I delved into the whole horror cliche of showing the parents and teenager before hand and a person stalking the teenager, this wouldn't work. The reveal needs to happen like a snap of a finger cause neither the parent or teenager is expecting it to happen. And that's what scares the person. It's like a surprise sucker punch. People will get the hint from the title that something is going to happen with a Mannequin but, not how.
I decide to use split screen since it's something new that the other shorts I've found on youtube haven't done. It helps shorten the tale and adds a new dynamic to it.
I decided to describe the Mannequin in order to show that it wasn't simply a guy standing still like some other versions I have read (ex. clown). I wanted to make it as least plausible that this guy can pass off as a Mannequin cause... they freak the shit out of me. lol.
The urban legend works on it's own as a scare factor. The fact it's survived this long is a testament to that fact. What I found is that if you offer to much explanation, it lessens the scare factor. So I decided to keep true to the urban legend and...add a few of my own nuggets with it.
Definitely a creepy little tale. I'd lose the split screen altogether. Major distraction to the reader. Also it doesn't ring true that Mr. Dobson would use the F word to the nerdy 16 year-old babysitter. Plus it changes the rating and decreases the amount of views you might get if you were to film this.
It would be a good one to film though. Best of luck with it.
For some reason the opening bothered me. Loud rock music and a cell phone donít mix, especially over black. Is there some specific reason for this thatís integral to the story?
ďWith his hands, he beats music on the steering wheel.Ē Ė What else would he use, flippers? Sorry for the sarcasm, but you see my point?
The screen splits. In general the first draft of the script doesnít include camera angles or editing suggestions. Thatís the job of other people. As it was this made the script confusing to read.
I would give Mrs and Mr Dobson names, I could not differentiate the two.
ROSALIE (16 and nerdy) Ė How is she nerdy? What can we see about her that screams nerdiness?
ďRosalie looks like a chipmunk on how she bites her lip.Ē Thatís a very strange way to describe someone being nervous.
As for the ending it comes totally out of left field. Thereís no tension or anything in the build-up to suggest this ending. Nor does it make sense for Rosalie to think there was a mannequin dressed up as an intruder in their house and thatís a totally normal thing to happen.
So it didnít work for me but keep on trying, keep on writing and learning. Thatís how it works.
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I'm 50/50 on this. I like where you're trying to go with this but something seems off. Why would Rosalie ask Mrs. Dobkins to watch TV in her room when she could ask for the code to unblock the TV in the living room?
The dialogue for me is hit and miss with the way the Dobkins' talk to Rosalie. Take Mr. Dobkins' line on Page 3. "No. That's too much power for a young female teenager to have." Sounds a bit weird. Is he being serious? or being a smartass?
On Page 4. Mrs. Dobkins' line "Girl, I just let you use the tv in my bedroom. What else do you want?" She sounds like a bitch but maybe that's what you were going for there. The way they talk to Rosalie it feels like she's their daughter and not the babysitter.
So Mrs. Dobkins knew about the mannequin? How? Why? You leave it as a mystery which is fine but if she knew how dangerous the mannequin is then why leave Rosalie & the kids alone to go out to a concert. Another thing, I feel there should be a bit of a build up with the mannequin. With the back and forth banter between Rosalie & the Dobkins the mannequin part happens so fast that there doesn't have much of a payoff. She asks to cover up the mannequin and it's like hurry up and get out then the next thing we know is the cops arriving on the scene. Expand the mannequin scene a bit if you can.
One last thing, the Left & Right screen before each slugline you could do without. When you start the telephone conversation just put
INTERCUT or SPLITSCREEN on the following slugline and when the scene is over put END INTERCUT or SPLITSCREEN to end it.
Hope this helps in anyway. Best of luck going forward.
You got plenty of comments on most of the things I had problems with so I won't repeat them.
The biggest suggestion I have is to lose all the "LEFT SCREEN" and "RIGHT SCREEN" slugs. Once you establish that one location is on the left screen and the other is on the right screen, leave it at that. Using the screen slugs as well as the normal slugs is overkill.
Creepy story. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go call my babysitter.
When I opened this up, I didn't read the logline before hand.
I was going to say this reminded me of the scary clown statue story, which oddly enough my girlfriend had told me a few weeks back, but apparently that's what you were going for... only a variation of it. On to other things....
I like the use of split screen. Not sure I would have formatted it that way, though.
The way it's written kinda takes up a lot of space, making this longer in page count.