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I see what you are trying to do with this, but I don't think it quite works as it is. My reasoning below
1) What's the point in the experiment - For the life of me I cannot see what the point of the experiment is. Why send 3 prisoners to the desert under the pretense they are on Mars? if there is a good explanation, I don't think it is adequately expressed to the audience
2) Send prisoners to mars - In addition to the above, is the long term goal of the professor to legitimately send death row prisoners to mars? I mean, that would cost hundreds of billions of $ - for no other reason than just to get them off Earth and out of prisons. This doesn't sit well as logically, scientists would be sent - not prisoners. I can't imagine a space program for the damned would be cheaper than imprisonment.
3) Are these 2 prisoners really that stupid? - They are in the desert, on earth - So gravity is the same, clouds, wild animals, plants, airplanes maybe - could 2 human beings be stupid enough to be fooled into thinking they are on Mars? - actually, as I write that, I think some humans probably are stupid enough for that to happen lol
4) The professor - Surely the professor was alerted to the fact Carlos had figured it out when he took his helmet off on page 5 and you know, could breathe and didn't die. Instead he only "thinks" there's a problem and doesn't act until he discovers Carlos is a keen astronomer
5) The Twist - I think you were going for a twist at the end. We (the audience) are meant to believe these people are on Mars, with the twist being they actually are not - Right now, the twist doesn't work as it is blatantly obvious to the viewer they are not on Mars - going back to my point 3, the prisoners may be thick as pig shit, the audience is not. Also, it's set in 1977 so we know they can't be on Mars.
Oh, while I'm on the subject - did you mean Carlos to be keen about Astrology? I think you mean Astronomy
Astronomy = Scientific study of Universe and everything inside it (outside of Earth) Astrology = Debunked "study" of how celestial bodies affect events/humans on earth (EG Star signs/horoscopes)
Alrighty - all the above seems really negative - I'm not trying to be. But I think this needs revisiting with a bit more thought and care.
IMHO I think you need to thoroughly think out this experiment - Even if we don't see it all, we need to feel that it is real and well thought out, with a defined purpose, parameters blah blah blah... at the moment they are just kinda dumped and left to it. I would go more down the route of a fake base to house the prisoners - they think they are on a base in Mars - this, removes some of the uncertainties around them noticing they are on the surface of Earth, and gives the experiment implied purpose - can they live and survive together on another planet. This will also help towards my point 5 above, getting the audience to believe they are actually on Mars.
The long term plan though... needs more thought - we need legitimacy of what the long term plan is for them. otherwise, I think it's a bit too much of a reach for an audience to get behind.
I don't know if the symbolism was intentional or not - or if you used Australia because, well you're Australian. But convicts being sent to a distant land... sounds familiar lol
I quite enjoyed this. It read suprisingly fast. Some influence of Silent Running and Capricon One. My criticism would be the lack of spaceflight detail and a bit implausible. But fits a lot of story into 8 pages.
Hey writer! I think if you want more in depth stuff feedback, attached a discussion username to your script upload and make it known you can at least see our feedback (and arent talking to the wind!). Even better, read some other short and features on the unpro board and let your thoughts loose.
That said -
Your basic premise, broken down to its most reductive ideal (like your logline), is very fascinating and ripe for exploration. Probably more so than can be explored in an 8 page short. This is without having read it
Now that I've read it -
There's a twist I saw coming 1/4 of the way into the script. That's not necessarily even critically bad - most people reading and watching media arm't writers and might not see twists so easy.
The problem with hooks (your premise - which is good) and twists (your ending - which is easy to see coming) is, that if they're surrounded by good execution, their own quality means nothing. Not a value judgement on your script. Here's some things I did like:
- Although not semantically/metaphorically perfect, I liked the detail you added about the professor's view regarding the prisoners like "library books". Disgusting thing to think, but textures like that make characters distinguishable and interesting.
- Being 8 pages, you don't waste any time here and I feel like you got to your ending and established yourself there efficiently.
But let's talk about -
- your action lines after slugs. First page of the script, I'm the reader - I dont know what I'm seeing till you tell me. "INT. OFFICE - DAY" Ok, i can see that i guess, little vague but I'll keep going. Then, seperated by a line break: "A small soulless room, taken up by a large desk. On the back wall, a spectacular photo of Earth." - OK? I'm still in. I'll keep reading. I'm imagining an empty office with a lovely photo of Earth. Then, your super: this is NASA?? Ok. Why not put it in the slug? If its an official NASA office, it would be clear from the photo of Earth with labels on the Earth photo etc so you wouldnt even need the slug.
THEN: you introduce the fact there's two dudes in the room having a conversation AFTER you spent all this time describing the setting, and the rooms contents. Jump right into a scene - slugline with as much info as possible, breif scene setting, one small sentence no more (I.E "its a dark room.) and IMMEDIETELY jump into any conversations or actions that happening in your scene.
This same issues happens again twice throughout the other 7 pages. It seems like I'm being nit picky, but I used to struggle with this issue (jumping in at the right time and how to dress the scene) and learning this method helped me be efficient and creative.