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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Short Drama Scripts  ›  Killing Joseph Smith
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  Author    Killing Joseph Smith  (currently 2325 views)
Don
Posted: February 7th, 2018, 10:19am Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Killing Joseph Smith by Matthew Akisan - Short, Drama - On a hot summer night in 1844, a small group of jailers must stop a determined, vengeful mob getting their hands on their prisoner, Mormon leader and founder, Joseph Smith. 19 pages - pdf format

Writer interested in feedback on this work



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

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Don  -  October 31st, 2018, 4:41pm
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HyperMatt
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Based on historical events, but with some 'liberties' taken.



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HyperMatt  -  February 8th, 2018, 8:41am
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Don
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Link fixed.

- Don


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HyperMatt
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Thanks Don.


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MarkItZero
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Hey HyperMatt,

I struggled with some of the description writing. I think you can be more efficient with your sounds and visuals.

I'm gonna write out different versions but it's just to illustrate a point. You have your own style so it'll be completely different when you write it... maybe you won't be convinced any changes are needed... but I want to stress descriptions be clear, efficient, and visual.  

So, looking at page 2:


Quoted Text
Cyrus looks behind him anxiously as an angry voice in the
unseen crowd seems to be aimed at him


Is it efficient? You already described him as nervous in the character description so you can probably lose "anxiously".

Is it clear? I found the description of "the unseen crowd" confusing. There's a torch on the door and the mob is holding torches, why can't he see them?

Is it visual/auditory? A description of an "angry voice" in a crowd we can't see that "seems to be aimed at him" is not much in the way of a clear sound.

How about something like...

Cyrus glances over his shoulder - the crowd SNARLS and JEERS as it inches towards him.

Or...

Cyrus glances back - the crowd seethes towards him, faces smeared by torchlight, lips curled into SNARLS and JEERS.

Okay, I may have just broken my own rules of efficiency and clarity with that second one. We all get carried away sometimes lol.




Quoted Text
Cyrus quickly reaches for his bag in a quick motion, causing
the rifle to be cocked. Chester jolts in fear.


Same test.

Is it efficient? "Quickly" and "quick motion" are redundant. You probably don't need either, actually.

Is it clear? I think so.

Is it visual/auditory? This may be more a personal preference but I'd rather "causing the rifle to be cocked" be a sound effect.

For example...

Cyrus reaches for his bag - hears the CLACK of a rifle bolt - he freezes.



There's many other lines throughout that could do with a second look. I notice a lot of "the sound of something..." as in, "the sound of a window breaking".

Again, just put the actual sound up front. It's more efficient. A window SHATTERS.


That rug really tied the room together.
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HyperMatt
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Thanks so much for your comments  MarkItZero. Must admit I rush through this just to get down the story that I liked. And I did struggle finding different words to sound on the online thesaurus, as sound and voices is used a lot in this script. A lot of what you wrote makes sense. I thought Cyrus Wheelock was the most interesting character in the story and maybe I overemphasised his anxiety and weirdness.


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Gerlinde
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From the Script:

I am going like a lamb to the slaughter.

This sentence is said to have told Smith before going to jail. However, according to recent sources, he said that even in Nauvoo, shortly after the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, he exposed some of Smith's evil deeds.
I downloaded the script and will read it later. As a former member of this cult I am interested in the topic.
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Gerlinde
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Matt, I looked at the first five pages of your screenplay, and the last pages (the death of JS). Apart from some historical untruths (as Mr. Wheelock did not jail with a message from Governor Ford, but with smuggled guns for Joseph Smith and others, as John Taylor testified), two things are particularly disturbing the script:
On the one hand, it is very tendentious, as if a Mormon defended his church leader. Tell me, are you a Mormon? And on the other hand, the many drawings disturb me. Film is a visual medium with sounds, voices and images that move.
By the way, when Smith fell out of the window after he was fatally hit, he sent out the Masonic's call sign, which also confirmed many witnesses. My advice: Rework the script again. And make it clear that Smith did not want to die because he called the Nauvoo Legion to help him out. And by the way, Joseph Smith was not General of the Nauvoo Legion, but Lieutenant-General, A title few had before him, and he gave himself in his megalomania.
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HyperMatt
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I'm not a Mormon, but I am fascinated by their culture and ties to American folklore. Maybe I need to clearly spell out that this is a work of fiction playing with the facts.  All the jailers are fictional and there was no Albino Freemason in Carthage Jail, that was totally made up.
Is there room for these kinds of pseudo-historical stories? .... Hmmmm.


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HyperMatt
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Hey Gerlinde, Cyrus telling the jailers he had correspondence from General Ford was a deception. If you read the whole script you would have seen that he hid the Derringer pistol in a compartment in his shoe. When I wrote this I wanted the reader at the end to think ‘What the f**k was that?’ And I seemed to have got that response from you. I’m glad somebody thinks my description of pencil sketches are disturbing. I feel like an artist now!


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Gerlinde
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Quoted from HyperMatt
Hey Gerlinde, Cyrus telling the jailers he had correspondence from General Ford was a deception. If you read the whole script you would have seen that he hid the Derringer pistol in a compartment in his shoe. When I wrote this I wanted the reader at the end to think ‘What the f**k was that?’ And I seemed to have got that response from you. I’m glad somebody thinks my description of pencil sketches are disturbing. I feel like an artist now!


He got more than a gun brought into Carthage Jail (4 of them, hide in many places on his body).
That it was a deception, was clear to me, but that was not true from historical point of view.
BTW, why you're interested in a church, which lie so often to public and their members?
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HyperMatt
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Quoted from Gerlinde


BTW, why you're interested in a church, which lie so often to public and their members?


Isn’t that interesting in itself? Wouldn’t that make good drama?


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Gerlinde
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Quoted from HyperMatt


Isn�t that interesting in itself? Wouldn�t that make good drama?


I'm personally interested because I used to be in the "club". And yes, it would be a good drama to show the way of a Mormon from missionary instruction, baptism, and life as Mormon, to the first observations and doubts, and the inner and outer struggles. And what happens when someone leaves the Mormons. How your own family shuns you because you no longer want to be part of the "club". How "friends" avoid you, and pretend falsehoods about you. And you, because they are afraid that you are talking about the negative about the Mormons, banning you from their so called "churches," and warning members against you. That would be facts based on true events!
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Dustin
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Quoted from Gerlinde


I'm personally interested because I used to be in the "club". And yes, it would be a good drama to show the way of a Mormon from missionary instruction, baptism, and life as Mormon, to the first observations and doubts, and the inner and outer struggles. And what happens when someone leaves the Mormons. How your own family shuns you because you no longer want to be part of the "club". How "friends" avoid you, and pretend falsehoods about you. And you, because they are afraid that you are talking about the negative about the Mormons, banning you from their so called "churches," and warning members against you. That would be facts based on true events!


I'd rather watch grass grow.


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HyperMatt
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I could watch grass grow, but it would have to be on fast forward.


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Dustin
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Quoted from HyperMatt
I could watch grass grow, but it would have to be on fast forward.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN0ihkOCy_A


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HyperMatt
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Gerlinde,
I wouldn't watch Trey Parker's 'The Book of Mormon' Musical if I were you.
It violates most of the laws you are talking about, but it is very, very entertaining.
I wish Trey would read this script and consider adding it to his Mormon/South-Park Verse. Y'know, that dimension where Satan is lucky enough to have Saddam Hussein as his boyfriend.



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HyperMatt  -  February 20th, 2018, 9:26pm
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eldave1
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Matthew - a suggestion on your opening montage.

MONTAGE -  A SERIES OF OF PENCIL SKETCHES ON PAPER

First, the Sun highlighted in a graceful sky, surrounding
by tranquil, still clouds.

Then the Sun is partially covered by dark gray shaded clouds.
A CRACK of thunder follows.

Then just depressing dark clouds, The sun has disappeared. The
sound of heavy rainfall begins.

Then wind forced rainfall descending diagonally. The ROAR of the shower grows louder with each second.

A moment passes. The image becomes faded. A
powerful, authoritative voice speaks.

Just spit balling - thought it would read crisper.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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HyperMatt
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Any comments you make I take into serious consideration Eldave.
I'll look into it.


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eldave1
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Just an alternative - what you have works. This just shortens it a bit


My Scripts can all be seen here:

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Gerlinde
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Quoted from Dustin


I'd rather watch grass grow.


What do you mean by that, Dustin? I just made it clear to Matt that you can make a drama (or a comedy) out of it, you just have to research enough. For a good script, extensive research is essential. The creators of my screenplay software, even scriptwriters, who achieved great successes nationally and internationally with the children's film "Auf Augenhöhe" (At Eye Level) have, for example, before they wrote the first line of their screenplay (I have a version) much researched on the subject of dwarfism, because the role of Tom is dwarfed (played incidentally by a Canadian actor). If you want to see the movie (it's in German), just click on the Link:

https://www.zdf.de/kinder/film-ab/auf-augenhoehe-100.html

It was broadcast by a German TV Station.

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Gerlinde
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Quoted from HyperMatt
Gerlinde,
I wouldn't watch Trey Parker's 'The Book of Mormon' Musical if I were you.
It violates most of the laws you are talking about, but it is very, very entertaining.
I wish Trey would read this script and consider adding it to his Mormon/South-Park Verse. Y'know, that dimension where Satan is lucky enough to have Saddam Hussein as his boyfriend.


I would love to see it shown in Berlin. Only, so far there are no plans for it, only stupid Disney musicals are shown. And then, even if it were shown here in Germany, it is questionable whether the lyrics would also be in German, because, as you know, English is not my mother tongue.
What the hell did Satan and Saddam Hussein deal with? It's about screenplays, more specifically, the script about the death of Joseph Smith. And there are some historical facts to consider. Because Smith was a historical figure. By the way, explaining much of the plot with drawings, where film is a visual medium, is more evidence of the will to be economical than telling a story visually.
I would have started the story with Cyrus walking around the city, scared because the mood is against the Mormons, and you can see where he hid the guns. Maybe Cyrus says something about his mission in the off? And then he comes to the door of the prison. This would create a mood that shows what it was like back then.

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Gerlinde
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Quoted from eldave1
Matthew - a suggestion on your opening montage.

MONTAGE -  A SERIES OF OF PENCIL SKETCHES ON PAPER

First, the Sun highlighted in a graceful sky, surrounding
by tranquil, still clouds.

Then the Sun is partially covered by dark gray shaded clouds.
A CRACK of thunder follows.

Then just depressing dark clouds, The sun has disappeared. The
sound of heavy rainfall begins.

Then wind forced rainfall descending diagonally. The ROAR of the shower grows louder with each second.

A moment passes. The image becomes faded. A
powerful, authoritative voice speaks.

Just spit balling - thought it would read crisper.


Also a good idea for the opening scene. Although there was no rain at that time. But please, no sketches! Make it REAL!
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HyperMatt
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Accord to some accounts, it did rain on the morning in Carthage the day before Smith’s death.


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Gerlinde
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Quoted from HyperMatt
Accord to some accounts, it did rain on the morning in Carthage the day before Smith�s death.


It had rained a little bit in the morning (a few drops, not cats and dogs). Then it stopped, and it became a clear day, a clear evening, a clear night. I found this interesting comment from an eye witness:

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3961&context=byusq
It's a LDS source. I quote from it:

The weather was hot, we all of us had our coats off, and the window was raised to admit air. (page 10)
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eldave1
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Quoted from HyperMatt
Accord to some accounts, it did rain on the morning in Carthage the day before Smith’s death.


I wouldn't sweat it. It's not a documentary.

I like it as is - more dramatic


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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HyperMatt
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Thanks. I thought the sound of rain and the rain sketch was effective.

Joseph Smith is a fascinating character of the 19th century who deserves more exploration in film (I have yet to see the Vincent Price version).

Another historical figure I would like to tackle at some point is Aleister Crowley.


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eldave1
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Quoted from HyperMatt
Thanks. I thought the sound of rain and the rain sketch was effective.

Joseph Smith is a fascinating character of the 19th century who deserves more exploration in film (I have yet to see the Vincent Price version).

Another historical figure I would like to tackle at some point is Aleister Crowley.


Concur - the sketch approach is more compelling


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Gerlinde
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Quoted from HyperMatt
Thanks. I thought the sound of rain and the rain sketch was effective.

Joseph Smith is a fascinating character of the 19th century who deserves more exploration in film (I have yet to see the Vincent Price version).

Another historical figure I would like to tackle at some point is Aleister Crowley.


It always depends on how you want to portray a historical figure. Based on facts, you have to study friend and foe of JS in order to get a complex image of him. Or you can tell your own interpretation of JS, which describes him either as a hero, as a devil, or something in between. When I wrote my manuscript about the life and teachings of JS, I was faced with the dilemma. I had chosen the historically proven facts.
Crowley would be an interesting person, no question! But would he be interesting to most people? If I were to write a screenplay of historical characters (assuming I was good at scriptwriting), I would like to tell the love story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, both of whom were instrumental in shaping the British Empire. Or, to take a German, the author Karl May, a truly fascinating person who managed to become from a prisoner to one of the most celebrated German author of youth literature, and of which some of his works were filmed. For example, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBnRnYhnSQ4

ore here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_oi0glkvk8

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HyperMatt
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New draft uploaded. A few changes.
I was surprised how many typos were in it. and a duplicated and an incomplete paragraph to my shame.


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Gerlinde
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Matt, can't see the new draft. Maybe it takes a little time to be uploaded.
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HyperMatt
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Hi Gerlinde, I was able to get into it okay.
Thanks for giving a second look.


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Matthew

Fantastic opening images, very striking and vivid.

“Cyrus looks behind him anxiously as an angry voice in the
unseen crowd seems to be aimed at him.”

- I would be wary of writing things that don’t translate to screen. This would work of course if you had written out what the angry voice actually said. As it stands though, it’s too vague.

Looks like you could fit more text at the bottom of page 2, big gap there.

“Bill grabs Cyrus...”

- I assume Bill is Deputy Morris? If so, it should be clarified in his introduction.

ROTHERHITHE
Shut up with that song singing
Taylor!

- Ha, I enjoyed this line.

So far I’m really liking this. I don’t know the history of Mormonism outside of the key players and a few bullet points of information and  consider myself an atheist so its testament to your writing how engaged I am with it. Although, I guess you’d nearly prefer an audience who don’t know the story so they won’t know how events transpires...script title aside

MORRIS
(shouting)
Sheriff! Get in here! The
undertaker’s looking for business!

- Good line

“With no eyes on him, Joseph quickly slips the pistol down his
sleeve.”

- Wow, that was a hell of a diversionary tactic by Cyrus...but I fear what will become of him now for his actions.

“Chester and Morris jump and Cyrus and holds him down.”

- Should be “on” instead of the “and” between “jump” & “Cyrus” No “s” in “holds”. There are quite a few typos like this throughout the script so far, would be worth giving it another proofread I reckon.

MORRIS
American Mohammed my ass!

- Don’t mean to be pedantic and otherwise you’re dialogue, by and large, sounds like it’s from the era but would they’ve used this expression back then? Or the word “sh?t”?

“Warwick and Rotherhithe pull the triggers but the rifles
don’t fire to their chagrin, they are empty.”

- How did they allow this oversight...or is it the work of some higher force? Reading on, it’s evidently the former. I know you want to set it up so the dude with the sword can slice ass unimpeded but it’s hard to believe Warwick, no matter how incompetent he must be, would’ve forgotten this of all things. Is there a way you can have them without their guns entirely when they come face to face with Stranger?

WARWICK
(to Rotherhithe)
He must be talking about Smith.

- This line feels surplus to requirements, unnecessary, as if you’re spoon feeding. It’s safe to assume we can all infer, the characters and us the reader, who Stranger is talking about.

“Before he can strike, the stranger unexpectedly jumps out,
turns and pierces Chester in the chest with the sword in
swift coordinated movements.”

- You know, the cliché of the black guy always eating dust first has been subverted so much in recent times that this now feels fresh and unexpected again. A bold choice

“The stranger falls on top of Morris. Morris groans in pain.”

- Oh, that was a quick demise, wasn’t anticipating it. Seems like a waste to have a sword wielding Cloaked avenger, with the entrance he made, only strike once.

“He is an ALBINO, (20s), with a baby face and a splendid mop of curly
hair.”

- A startling visage for sure, interesting.

“A barrel from the door fires and hits the

A barrel enters from the opened door and fires. The shot hits
the light and the whole place is plunged into DARKNESS”

- Not sure what is going on here. Seems like a line is partially repeated or something.

“The man is knocked out and falls behind the door.”

- Knocked out by a book? Really?

“The pistol fires and hits John’s watch. The ticking stops.”

- Nitpicky yes, but I doubt we’d hear the ticking over all this commotion.

“Warren grabs one of Warwick’s canes by the door.”

- Who is Warren? First mention of him here.

Nice bookend with the sketches.

Overall, this has a lot going for it. You can clearly write, the characterisation is strong, the storytelling clear and concise (I won’t comment on how accurate it is to true events, rather judge it as pure fiction) and the dialogue is believable and quite rich in places, in a good way.

The biggest criticism I have, which I already mentioned in the notes above, is the amount of errors in the writing, particularly in the prose.

Some of it is down to awkward phrasing, but to be fair, technically it’s not too bad. It, like most scripts (including my own) can always do with some trimming. The main problem here is just basic proof reading. It is strewn with typos and missing words (oxymoronic I know but you get my meaning). Unfortunately a lot of people won’t be able to get past this, will fixate on it and maybe even give up on your script without giving it the consideration and I think it deserves. Thankfully, it’s also an issue easily fixed.

Nice work and with some rigour it could be great.

Col.



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Colkurtz8  -  March 4th, 2018, 11:47am
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Quoted from HyperMatt
New draft uploaded. A few changes.
I was surprised how many typos were in it. and a duplicated and an incomplete paragraph to my shame.


Thank you so much for your thorough examination of the script colkurtz8 and your detailed comments. You don’t know how much I appreciate it.  I think you must have downloaded and read previous draft 7, as I could find only the ‘Bill grabs Cyrus’ error (Bill was indeed Morris’ name in previous drafts). That ‘He must be talking about Smith’ line of dialogue was also taken out as I saw how redundant it was on another read. I'm so upset with myself on the typos I made. Always thought the quality control on a short script will be easier.
I very much enjoyed writing it, especially the dialogue, which I think is strong for me. That song singing line, my dad used to say that to me.  The characters came alive and took a life of their own. I know I've got some anachronistic dialogue, as some films do. If it ever gets filmed, I’ll leave it for the film-makers if they want to keep it or not.
I was really pleased with some of the visual ideas that came while writing this, like the sketches. You’re right in saying that I am more interested in readers who have only partial knowledge of the history of Mormonism. They’ve got some rich stuff in their mythology.

Thanks again Col.
I’ll definitely return the favour. (favor for our American friends).

Matthew


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HyperMatt
Posted: March 4th, 2018, 10:10am Report to Moderator
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Oh and Warren is Willard.
Thanks  Col


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Colkurtz8
Posted: March 4th, 2018, 11:49am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from HyperMatt
I think you must have downloaded and read previous draft 7, as I could find only the ‘Bill grabs Cyrus’ error (Bill was indeed Morris’ name in previous drafts). That ‘He must be talking about Smith’ line of dialogue was also taken out as I saw how redundant it was on another read.


- That's good to hear, it's worth working on this. There will always be a typo or two with anything you read but when it distracts from the read you've got a problem. Yeah, I often download a script on to my computer and then read it when I get the chance, sometimes weeks can pass. I must have downloaded this before you posted the new draft.

Anyway, best of luck with it going forward.


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JordanB
Posted: April 5th, 2018, 6:24pm Report to Moderator
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After a couple of reads, I can appreciate your use of sketches to set the tone of what’s to come. The integration of voice-overs really adds to it. Having a little difficulty with the description writing but am intrigued enough to work through it. Will let you know my final thoughts after I take some time to absorb it.
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HyperMatt
Posted: April 5th, 2018, 6:46pm Report to Moderator
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A few people have had issues with my descriptive writing. I've really got to work on that.


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HyperMatt
Posted: April 29th, 2018, 4:53pm Report to Moderator
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New draft uploaded.

Thanks a lot for your constructive criticism everyone, it has been very helpful.


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Gerlinde
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I didn't daw any changes at the script. In your script, JS is still a martyrer of his faith, not the person, which killed and wounded wit his prison smuggled weapon three people. And, don't forget, he call the Nauvoo Legion, to free him from prison. And he called the freemasons, as he got out of the window.
Historical not correct, and in my eyes a try, to whitewash JS.
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Clark
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Hey Matt, I don't know if it was just me, but I felt confused by this and I hate to say a little hard to follow? I don't know anything about the true history. It could just be my ADD etc, but I just couldn't get into this one.
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