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When I open the file the FADE IN and first scene header are misaligned - maybe just my software?
Anyways, I rather like the concept, something of a Black Mirror vibe which pulled me in. I like the set up and bookend approach - I think that’s important to empathise the repetition. That said, once you got to the reveal, I felt the control room scene ran longer than maybe it needs to.
By my understanding, this program takes people convicted of a crime (here it’s texting and driving) and then subjects them to a series of simulations designed to invoke a reaction that, in effect, reprograms them to a different response.
So every night for some 20 days, Sarah is forced to experience the same scenario until she performs the desired response of ignoring the phone. If she doesn’t, she hits the pedestrian etc. Can’t learn socially acceptable behaviours? Then the state will impose its will it upon you. That’s a strong concept.
But then when Derek gets upset with Jason - ‘You are messing with a girl’s mind’ - immediately, I’m thinking - but this whole program is predicated on messing with her mind - that’s the idea. She’s being subjected to a traumatic experience until the desired response is achieved. Or have I missed something?
The resulting argument between Derek and Jason seems to play out as more a way to deliver backstory - the who, what, how and why - than servicing the logic of the plot.
You set up Sarah, throw her into this nightmare situation and then reveal the twist - nothing is as it seems. But, then we cut to the control room where Jason’s decision to include the mother and his plan to delete the profile etc. becomes the focus of the story. Problem is, there are no real stakes attached. I don’t know what a profile is in this context, therefore I don’t know the consequences in deleting one. More importantly, the consequences of this decision never play directly back into the storyline.
I like the idea of switching random pedestrian to mother, it does give you a jumping off point to get your technicians talking. Though I’d consider what’s more sinister: these people caring about their subject and the effects of their manipulation or them simply carrying out their task with a cold detachment?
‘…I’ve been running the standard driving rehab sequence, you know the one..’
The dialogue then goes on to outline what we’ve just seen and therefore already know - is it necessary?
‘…we should start to see the phone being ignored’ - that works - gives us a good understanding of what this is all about.
Do you need the radio broadcast at the end? That’s a big exposition dump which feels somewhat out of place. A few choice comments between the technicians could tease out some of that information in a more organic way.
Writing wise you could stand to trim this for a tighter read. The first action block is pretty chunky, a lot of which you could lose:
SARAH (32) is driving along a dark 40mph country road. The dark winter night is illuminated by intermittent street lights that cast an eerie glow on the empty road. SARAH switches on the radio, glancing at the clock. It is 11.04pm, SARAH yawns. SARAH’s old blue volvo is the only car on the road in either direction. SARAH glances at a passing cemetary to her left, her eyes switch focus as she watches the cemetary pass by in her rearview mirror. She slowly returns her gaze to the road as it returns to being flanked by fields and hedgerows on the left and right.
- do you need ‘40mph country road’? - How would we know? - Is the season important to the story? - You tell us twice that it’s dark - but the scene header already indicates the scene is at night. - Is it a dark country road - or one intermittently lit by street lights? - If we’re inside the car, how would we know it’s an old blue Volvo? If someone films this, they’ll use the car they have to hand in which case, is it necessary? - Empty road/only car on the road in either direction - telling us the same thing. - What part does the cemetery play? If it’s not essential to the story, then do you need it? Same for the fields and hedgerows. IMO, country road/quiet country road sets the scene.
These things might seem like nitpicks, but so much of that opening paragraph is unlikely to make it to screen that you lose nothing by trimming it out. It allows a faster read that concentrates on the story and characters.
For instance, it could be:
SARAH (32) drives along a country road illuminated by intermittent street lighting. She switches on the radio, glancing at the clock. It is 11.04pm. She yawns, restless, eyes drifting from the road.
Need a new scene header when Sarah exits the car.
Things like ‘turns her body to look’ and ‘reaches to open the car door’ can be shortened to ‘turns’ and ‘opens the car door’ or simply ‘exits, shaking’. That she turns her body or reaches for something is a given.
I hope this doesn’t read as being harsh, it’s not the intent. I think you’ve got an interesting (and low budget) idea here - the kind of thing that could get picked up. Tighter writing will help for a smoother read (and lower page count). As to the storyline, that’s up to you - others might have no problem with it. Hopefully you get some more feedback. I do hope you stick with this.
Best of luck,
My short scripts can be found here on my new & improved budget website:
Thanks Steve, I value your feedback, especially as this is my first completed script and I have a tendency to put in loads so I will definitely look at your suggestions for trimming up a script on my next venture. Cheers for taking the time to comment too.