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The Courier by Matthew Lincoln - Short, Crime, Noir/Neo-noir - A man fallen on hard times meets a stranger who makes an offer he can't refuse: Deliver a briefcase and get paid a lot of money. 24 pages - pdf, format
You use "we" a lot, ie; "we hear, we find, we'll come". Personally I'd avoid those. Just say "A bland, dimly lit apartment with sparse furniture" rather than "We find a bland, dimly lit apartment with sparse furniture".
You introduce Martin as a young man, then say "We'll come to know him as MARTIN" in the action lines right after he's introduced as a YOUNG MAN. You can skip the young man all together, there's no need for it.
And Black Suit can just be introduced as Jonas. His name doesn't change throughout the story, and no one says it until he does himself. As a reader, it's not giving anything away if we know he's Jonas. Know what I mean?
The re: that you use in the wrylies is unnecessary. For example, (re: card). In the action line right above it "Jonas pulls out a card. Writes on it. Hands it to Martin." What else would he be referring to?
Those are just a few things I noticed.
Anyway, hope some of that helps and that some other people respond. I love coming on here and taking feedback for my stories. It's really helped me grow as a writer!
I figured you haven't forgotten. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. By the way, I just read "The Combination" and I thought it was fantastic. The dialogue was great, and I thought it was neat the way your scenes as well as characters. It was a great read.
We fade in over black, and we hear voices. The voices sound ominous enough, but are they needed. These are points youíre going to make during the film. Why take the suspense out of whatís coming?
We next visit Martinís apartment, and I donít know why you donít just say that in the slug line. There is no reason not to just name him. You show us the calendar with the note about the job, and then you give us Philís message. Donít need both. And the bills are the bills. I donít understand the thing about the message. If the phone rings, why doesnít Martin answer? If heís dodging bill collectors, let him say so. And the ending dialogueÖyouíre going to go over the same point in a minute or two.
And then the flashback. While it does elucidate Martinís crime, what does it do for the story? Itís vandalism, but not all that criminal. Did he actually steal something? Is it needed? Or would it better if the audience inferred something?
And Martin leaves with a comment that seems obvious.
And why did he leave the apartment to make a call?
The next scene starts with a panoramic. Fine. Again, I donít know why you donít name your characters. The newspaper headline and how he bought it are clichť. Does he need the paper for something? It feels like something the author inserted, not something dark suit needs to do. And we get lengthy text with a name. Wouldnít the phone number be recognized?
We go inside the car so the audience can hear the news that Martin spent time finding and then shuts off? And itís the same as the newspaper. Hmm
Back to Dark suit who gets another long message with an initial this time. Do we need it? Let him glance at his phone and move on?
The next scene is just acting out what we already know. ITís far better than the text message. But you change from dark suit to suit and tie? And do we care that itís 6th and Lincoln? Does the location matter? Put dark suit and tie in the post office and let him retrieve the envelope and the phone. Do you have to show the audience? Or can you build a bit of surprise by not showing the cash?
The next scene shows Martin entering the bar, and for some reason, Dark suit is there too? A random bar in a big city?
We go inside the bar where Martin is drinking despite the fact he canít pay his bills. But thatís OK. Martin doesnít make good decisions. Dark suit enters and gets a beer, goes to a table by Martin, and then takes out that slip of paper. You would think dark suit would have memorized that little bit of information. And why doesnít dark suit ask the bartender where the hotel is? That seems reasonableóor the guy at the juke box or the couple? And then dark suit doesnít do the normal startóare you from around here? But Martin gives directions and then goes on to talk about not getting a job? And so does dark suit. The dialogue needs work. For me, it doesnít sound like two strangers. Then, we get more info on the fighter thingÖand Jonas (finally a name) wants to hire Martin. OK, youíve got an item that youíre willing to pay 1000 to have delivered, and you hire a stranger in a bar? Youíre going to tell me that Martin is not a stranger to Jonas who came looking for him?
Outside, the tow truck has Martinís car. And Martin doesnít react like a real human. What would you do? Iíd tell the trucker that I was going to call the cops because there is no legal reason to take the car. And then I would sue the bejesus out of the trucker. And you really donít need this setup. You already established that Martin is behind on his bills. This is a simple repo. If Martin can pay the past due amount, he can keep his car. Why is Jonas on the phone? Wouldnít it be better if he simply appeared? Or if Martin passed Jonas? And Jonas comes to the rescue? Why? Well, we know why, but again, why Martin?
Iím not sure what we gain by following Jonas into the hotel. Jump to the car scene and then hotel. You can show what you need to show while Jonas is on the phone with Martin.
And why the park? Jonas has a perfectly fine hotel room which would be private. Instead, he meets in the park where Martin conveniently is reading about the club vivid. The information is given a second time in dialogue. And Martin takes the case. Jonasí phone rings why? We already know the plan is in progress.
We go to the bar and get an info dump. Vargas tells all to a big thug. Really?
And Martin heading for the meet. And Vargas in the parking lot with the cops in that car across the street. Nothing like playing the blackmail game right in front of the cops.
The delivery is made. All is good. Martin gets his job, although Iím not sure why Phil is calling at 11 PM. You would think heíd wait till morning.
And we get the bomb in the car. Since Vargas checked the contents of the briefcase, wouldnít he spot a bomb of any sizable proportions? Or the phone? And the cops grab Martin.
And Jonas makes the last run of the night to pay off the tow truck driver. Needed? Why wasnít that taken care of earlier?
OK, Iíve been fairly thorough in going through the scenes, but the bottom line for me is that these characters donít act reasonably. If Jonas is setting up Martin, then show that or at least hint at it. If Jonas knows Martin has money issues, why doesnít Jonas just call or stop by and offer the job? BTW why pay 2000 when you can hire a delivery service to make the drop for 100?
Others have pointed out some of the formatting issues. Drop the Ďwe seeí, Ďwe hearí and other directions. Just describe what happens. Cull your dialogue. Make it lean with double meanings. Give us a bit more conflict. If Jonas knows Martin needs money, then let him use that. But the biggest question is why Martin? Of all the men who canít pay their bills, why this man? Because if Jonas is as good at his job as it would seem, this would not be left to chance.
I see this as possibly a first script for you. It has the look and feel of one, and that's not a bad thing. Just means you have work to do to make yourself better and you're definitely in the right place for that.
I read the comments and they're all pretty right on. Your use of "we see" is unnecessary and doesn't read well. It's typically a no no in spec scripts, or even pro scripts. You can get away with a well placed we see every once so often, but not many as you have here.
I also noticed repetitive sentences. You used one something like "we see a familiar face." I saw that three times maybe more, and twice on the same page. Just doesn't read well and really doesn't need to be there. If, for example, Martin is sitting in the bar then just tell us that. No need to say we see a familiar face. These are thins that take readers out of your story.
Your use of italics are unnecessary as well.
It seems to me you were having fun writing this and thinking things were going well, but I'd recommend reading a few pro scripts -- as well as scripts on these boards from some regulars -- and get a handle on how some of this should be done. Writing wise and format wise.
As for your story it wasn't bad. You had an interesting set up, but the pay off was kind of obvious. I figured Martin would be killed, but he just ended up back in the same boat. And I didn't really buy that the Tow Truck driver was in on it all. However, you made an attempt, and you had things in place for this to be an interesting story, but it just didn't quite work for me.
So, keep on writing AND reading. You can only go up for here. You did seem to have a pretty good handle on how your story should be set up. Just that the formatting and execution was off. Without all the unecessaries this could have easily pulled in at around 15-18 pages and would've made for a much quicker read.
Nice effort. I read this a week ago and realized I didn't provide comments.
Your formatting is outdated in places. Still legal but the trend now is to not use CUT TO:, avoid the use of WE, and some of your character introductions are clumsy as well. The practice of introducing characters twice is challenging for the reader. For example, DARK SUIT receives a name further in. Look at how many of your secondary characters are called MAN or similar. And what's with all the INSERTS?
The opening three: The title, logline and the quote could use a bit more work. THE COURIER might be better as THE RELUCTANT COURIER. The logline could have more of a hook than "an offer he couldn't refuse" - it's a classic but also overused. The quote (from the rock band Kansas?) applies in this case but why use it? It takes a while to figure out and doesn't really add anything to the script that isn't already there.
Could these issues have been part of your effort to write this as a noir script?
The story itself is predictable. THE TRANSPORTER films gave the courier a set of rules he followed for every job. That and a kick ass fighting style. The story needs something like that. The reveal of the big boss was anti-climatic. Was anybody looking for him?
You put a lot of effort into this so far but consider these suggestions as you prep it for show.
Thanks. I'm glad you liked the script. I'm doing some re-writes on it and will re-submit it at some point. In regards to the briefcase/schematics, the schematics were for a cell-phone detonated bomb. The bomb itself was fitted into a compartment in the briefcase. When the number was dialed the cellphone charge activated and the rest is history.
Thanks for your thoughts. First off, on re-introducing the character, I'm working on some re-writes that will fix that. Same with the inserts, though some will remain as they are dealing with important information. To the point about the quote from Kansas, that is for thematic purposes--it sums up Martin's relation to the overall plot.
The purpose is to make it a noir/neo-noir film. The Transporter is not an influence on the film, nor was it intended to. The whole concept is about a desperate man who through one bad decision(delivering a briefcase) winds up in situation more dangerous than what he was initially involved in. The crux is a Fall guy story--a classic noir trope. Thanks for reading--and the re-write is coming soon.
Thanks for taking out time to read the script. I understand if the script didn't work for you. I'm planning on submitting a revised version of the script that may clear up some of the issues you pointed out. Also, Tow Truck Driver was in on it. He was part of the criminal organization that hired "Jonas". I'll make that a little clearer. Thanks again.
P.S. The Combination was a great read from start to finish.
I wanted to let you all know that I've written another short film. You can find it in the short sci-fi section. It's called Inescapable. It's a 24 page Sci-fi/Horror/Thriller script that takes place in the near-future. It was heavily influenced by the film The Terminator. It's about the CEO of a robotics firm that gets kidnapped, and finds himself hunted by a droid programmed to kill him. I'd appreciate any feedback I can get. Also, I'm making some tweaks to The Courier, and I might put it up when it's finished. Thanks a lot.