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Don
Posted: December 4th, 2020, 12:46pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Unarmed by Chris Shalom - Thriller, Drama - When an altercation with white supremacists leads to the deaths of his wife and son, a straight-laced academic takes to the streets with a burning desire for justice and a newfound death wish. 107 pages

Content warning: This script contains depictions of racism, including offensive racialized language. - pdf format

Writer interested in feedback on this work



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Heretic
Posted: December 4th, 2020, 1:48pm Report to Moderator
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Thank you Don!

This is is a love letter (and hate mail?) to Death Wish and the seedy, increasingly absurd dad-turned-vigilante flicks that followed it in the 70s and 80s. I figured we could use something a little different in the subgenre after the Death Wish remake and Peppermint.


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Grandma Bear
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How cool!!! I don't think I've read anything of yours in ages. Will try to read this weekend.  


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spesh2k
Posted: December 4th, 2020, 5:20pm Report to Moderator
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I'll definitely give this one a read and comment by the middle of the week, return the favor for HM.

-- Michael


THE SUICIDE THEORY (Amazon Prime, 79% Rotten Tomatoes) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2517300/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
RAGE (Coming Feb. 2021) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8874764/?ref_=nm_knf_i2

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eldave1
Posted: December 4th, 2020, 7:53pm Report to Moderator
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Going to try to get to this - but I did get a hiccup on the first page.


Quoted Text
Jeremiah looks out at the scene below.

A PICTURESQUE 4TH OF JULY BBQ IN THE BACK YARD -- cozy and
friendly. Jeremiah and Sydney’s son Joseph, his Caucasian
wife Abigail, and her grandfather, parents, sister, brotherin-law, nephew, and niece -- all Caucasian.


When you first intro'd Jerimiah and Syd - I did;t see them as African-American. I know she had brown fingers - but so do a lot of ethnicities.

Shouldn't you be introducing the characters properly if you are going to name them here. e.g.,

JOSEPH WALKER (age-description), etc..

If not - then you probably should just fo generic. Something like:

A YOUNG BLACK MAN among a dozen CAUCAISONS, various ages - both genders.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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LC
Posted: December 5th, 2020, 1:32am Report to Moderator
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Had a peek, Chris, and you have a very powerful start here...

I have to reiterate what Dave said regarding the character intros.  Even though I got it later on it's a bit clumsy to start as the African American/ white differentiation with characters is crucial from the get-go.

Great piece of dialogue here:

DYLAN
This is the deal, Jeremiah. There
are too many versions of too many
stories with too many perspectives
to worry about the truth. The
question isn’t what happened, it’s
what you think should have
happened. You think I can just run
a story about a murder? People
don’t care about murders, they care
about arguments. Your son, it’s
clear cut. He was a good person,
wrong place, wrong time. Readers
don’t want to think about that.
Tragedy’s only news if you can
pretend you’re too smart for it to
happen to you.


I had to read that last line a few times though. Not sure if it's hitting the spot.
It could be just me...

This bit, spot on. You make me feel it.

OPERATOR
We have a report of a black male
breaking and entering. Are you
sure you’re safe?


And here:

Joseph starts to get some colour back in his face as he
finally brings his hands down. He kneels to scoop up the
dropped supplies as Barry watches the truck disappear.
The mini tripod is cracked.


Incredibly emotive, which elicited a visceral response in me. I felt Joseph relax when the threat was gone and then he thanked Barry - the character's relief was palpable and then wham! You brought ignorant knee-jerk Barry back:

BARRY
Show me your hands, boy!

Great job. Your timing with building the scene, Joseph still attempting to show him it's just a tripod is perfect.

If I get the time I'll try and read more.

We've seen it all before (and that's half the problem) but you made it fresh and dangerous with the inclusion of the other faction and the escalating tension and unpredictability.




Revision History (1 edits)
LC  -  December 5th, 2020, 2:00am
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Heretic
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Thank you Pia and Michael!

Dave -- yeah, agreed. I'm still working on this and whether it's viable. This is supposed to be a cheeky joke running throughout: character ethnicity is only mentioned when relevant, but with Black as the default assumption, in a mirror image of the "default Caucasian" tendency in screenwriting. It definitely gets in the way of the read, no arguments there. Thank you!

Libby -- thank you for the in-depth thoughts so far! Very pleased to hear that it feels fresh in some way. That's my main goal with this as I typically just avoid these subgenres where everyone more or less knows how every beat is going to go...


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eldave1
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Quoted from Heretic
Thank you Pia and Michael!

Dave -- yeah, agreed. I'm still working on this and whether it's viable. This is supposed to be a cheeky joke running throughout: character ethnicity is only mentioned when relevant, but with Black as the default assumption, in a mirror image of the "default Caucasian" tendency in screenwriting. It definitely gets in the way of the read, no arguments there. Thank you!

Libby -- thank you for the in-depth thoughts so far! Very pleased to hear that it feels fresh in some way. That's my main goal with this as I typically just avoid these subgenres where everyone more or less knows how every beat is going to go...


My pleasure. Best of luck with this


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Grandma Bear
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Just letting you know I'm halfway through.  


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Grandma Bear
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Hi Chris! Been years and years since I read something of yours, I think.

I think you did really well with this. Thought provoking, but argued well from all angles and not sounding preachy or with an agenda.

The story works well, except for one thing, and it’s a big one, IMHO. That issue to me is Jeremiah himself. I think you can easily fix this though, if you decide to do so. My big issue here was mainly his actions. It’s not hard to empathize with a man who just lost his son and his wife within the span of a day or so. Then, what’s the issue? He didn’t come across as really grieving. He seemed pretty cold/cool for someone who’ve just gone through such a traumatic events. I failed to connect with him. Things didn’t improve on that front when he started to kill. You mention Death Wish, I haven’t seen that one in many years, but I know I felt for Charles Bronson. Don’t remember the difference between him and Jeremiah, but I know it worked in DW. I felt that Jeremiah went out of his way to put himself in situations where he would have, in his mind, a justified reason to kill these people, but because it felt he went out of his way, it was more like premeditated rather than preemptive. Hope I’m using the right words here!!!

Anyway, good story, provocative and thoughtful, just needs a bit of tweaking regarding Jeremiah, IMO.

The following are just thoughts while I read. Good Luck with this one.  

By page 2, I got confused at the many introductions. I’m sure on film it’s easy to tell people apart, but reading is a little harder.

Finished the first ten pages and my thoughts are that there are still a LOT of introductions. It seems to me that the three Neo-Nazis are going to play at least some sort of part in this story, so it would be helpful if they had names rather than just a number. Maybe some description too. As far as the story goes, it seems like classic young people in love and want to get married, while their families sort of disapprove. If not right out, but maybe deep down. Then there are those Nazis. Ugh. I honestly thought they were long gone, but they’ve made a reappearance even in Sweden. Who would’ve thought.

In short, so far so good.  

Page 12.    Magazine instead of clip, maybe…

Page 13.    Things sure changed in a heartbeat here. Not so sure I buy Barry’s reaction, but we’ll see how you’ll handle that.

On this same page, you write that Abigail looks down at her dead husband, but then later he’s in surgery. Maybe not describe him as dead yet, or show EMTs reviving him before he’s headed to surgery.

Page 18.    Someone called the cops on Jeremiah, but since it’s their house, wouldn’t the neighbors know them? It seems a little unlikely, IMO. I would think the Worried Neighbor would know them.

At the cemetary, you have Jeremiah standing alone. A strong visual, but I think we could benefit from seeing at least one scene with Jeremiah prior to this. See how his dealing with losing both his son and wife.

Page 20.    I like how the reporting is so skewed. Walker and his three unknown associates…

Page 22. A gay black woman…

“People don’t care about murder. They care about arguments.”  Without drama, there is no entertainment.

Page 30.    I think the story is fine. A lot of characters. I think, so far, the only thing I don’t really understand is Jeremiah. He’s experienced a lot of tragedy, but he doesn’t really show it. He’s the same person he was before the two deaths. Of course, if that’s how you want him to be, then fine, but it seems most people would be more affected by these losses than he is.

Page 31.    The white woman feels uncomfortable around Jeremiah because he’s black and wears a hoodie? I didn’t think too many people worried about “old” black men.

Page 32.    So, is it the hoodie itself that people are wary of or the combination hoodie and black male?

Page 33.    I can’t help wondering where this all takes place. It seems like everyone is a racist and on edge.

Page 32.    When Jeremiah looks at himself in the mirror, I wonder why he bought the hoodie in the first place. To provoke? As an experiment?

Page 39.    There were or they were honest men?

Page 41.    Again, it strikes me that Jeremiah or anyone else for that matter is mentioning that he has lost both his son and his wife.

Page 48.    Excellent discussion there and how true it is that people see sides and easily chose one that they prefer. Great job!

Again though, I’m missing Jeremiah having some sort of emotion showing. It is after all his son they are talking about.

Page 50.    Peaked my interest with the dumping of the backpack.

Not sure what he’s up to, but it has me wanting to find out.

Page 52.    I have absolutely no idea why Jeremiah did what he just did. It better be good though.

If he’s out to prove something, he went too far IMO by killing the Driver.

Page 59.    The citizens arrest thing is kind of funny actually. A nice little twist.

Page 60.    Good thing about the deaf part. In most movies and Tv shows, people shoot outside with heavy weapons and indoors too without any effect on the hearing when in reality you would be at least temporarily deaf.

Page 61.    I’m starting to have a hard time with Jeremiah’s actions here. I understand if he’s out for some kind of justice for his son’s death, but it looks to me that he himself is provoking these people. Sure, they are hassling him, but after they do, he’s the one taking the steps that lead to murder. He’s even shooting the thug in the back. Fine line between revenge and provoked murder.

Page 65.    Did Jeremiah buy a second hoodie? I thought he through his jeans and hoodie in the dumpster.

Page 67.    Wouldn’t it also technically be a serial killer? Three kills in a short amount of time?

Page 70.    Do the trains have camera surveillance? Just a thought. Seems like they would know and be aware?

I didn’t even know Jeremiah was on the train? I must have missed that description.

Page 79.    Interesting. This time we have to bad guys. One white, one black. I wonder how Jeremiah will handle this.

Page 80.    Since I’ve had a bit of an issue with some of Jeremiah’s actions and I haven’t really connected with him fully, driving while drunk, (he stumbled) doesn’t make me like him more. Just saying…

Page 83.    Don’t get why Jeremiah did what he did there. Seems to me the smartest thing to do would’ve been to wait for Wilson to call for backup and let them handle the traffickers. Attacking a police officer like that is never a good idea.

Page 84.    So, the cop is one of the John’s brother. Jeremiah didn’t know that (I don’t think), so it still makes his actions bad. Stupid even.

Jeremiah rolls onto his back. I thought he was already on his back…

Page 91.    The sixteen year old girl in the car, is she supposed to be the same girl as the one they were talking about in the bar? If so, I thought she was fourteen.

Page 96.    I’m having a hard time with them letting Jeremiah get away with this.


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Heretic
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Hey Pia,

Apologies, I missed this!

Really appreciate this review and especially all of the very specific thoughts.

You're right on with the issue with Jeremiah, and thank you for putting it so thoughtfully. I haven't yet decided which way to take this. Unarmed is kind of a half parody of the original Death Wish, and in the original Death Wish, this is exactly what Bronson does: he walks around with groceries and waits for someone to mug him so he can shoot them. And they let him get away with it in the end! That said, though, most vigilante movies since Death Wish have been more straightforward about having a clear bad guy, with the protag on a clear quest for revenge. And I've also toned down the initial attack from the way things happen in Death Wish. So I will think about whether I can make Jeremiah more likeable without giving up what I want to do, which is make a "left wing Death Wish" that feels as egregious as the original.

It'll definitely help to clarify some things that you asked about. I want to make it way more clear that Jeremiah figures out that the cop is John's brother, and I'll try to lean on the emotion a bit more -- I think one or two big moments where we see him feeling the loss could tip the scales a lot.

I won't keep rambling, but thank you again Pia for the very helpful notes -- they will definitely help guide my next pass.

Chris


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MarkItZero
Posted: January 28th, 2021, 3:15pm Report to Moderator
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Hey man,

That was a damn good script! I’ll say up front this doesn’t really align with my politics. Or maybe I should say my lack of interest in politics. But I don’t even consciously notice that stuff or really much of anything as I’m reading/watching. So, onto the actual writing…

I thought the story world was masterfully executed. Right off the bat, we get that uncomfortable, subtle racism with the stepfather’s reaction to the gun play. Then there’s the numerous occasions of mistaken identity, the radio comments, etc. It’s all oppressive and degrading in a way that fuels his rage, gives a sense he has no other option.

The sequence of him fighting the guy on his lawn then losing it in front of the mirror was great. IMO, far superior to the scene in Death Wish when he comes home after using that sock weapon. And when he finally starts on his killing spree, the tension is palpable.

The only real issue I have with the entire script is the trip to Arizona. This goes along with what Pia said about not being invested enough in Jeremiah…

In Death Wish, the trip is all about Bronson. It’s personal. We get a sense of his emotional state when that Cowboy guy says something like “There once was a man who never looked back, because something might be gaining on him. What’s gaining on you, Paul?”. Later, Bronson talks about being in the military, growing up a hunter till his father died and his mother wouldn’t allow guns. We get context, details about his past that round out his character and make him feel real. Most of all, you get the sense there’s something eating away at him. He may be outwardly stoic, but this is a man full of pain with violence on his mind. When the Cowboy gifts him the gun, it doesn’t feel like he’s egging him on, it feels inevitable.

In contrast, your Arizona trip has Eddie doing most of the talking, about himself, Death Wish film theory, defending territory, etc. None of it is about who Jeremiah is, what he’s really feeling. It’s almost like Eddie’s forcing the idea on him.

I would go so far as to consider a different setting entirely. In Death Wish, Bronson went from city to sprawling country. Getting in touch with his gun-toting Republican side. Your story takes place in the suburbs. Maybe he can go back to the city and meet a more liberal version of Eddie trying to get guns off the streets? That’s just a random idea. The important thing is that we get to know Jeremiah better. Whatever scenario can most efficiently build backstory and convey the turmoil going on inside.

Other than that, here’s a few random nitpick things. These didn’t really interfere with the read…

--- Jeremiah seems a bit too confident in his first couple fights. It’s hard to tell he’s nervous at first. Might want to show right off the bat his hands shaking, etc.

--- Could include some explanation as to how Jeremiah is so prepared with weapons and body armor. That goes along with the backstory thing. Could be his father was ex-military or something like that.

--- Jeremiah’s often noncommittal when talking with others about the killings. He mostly nods or outright dismisses the killer’s actions. I get he doesn’t want to give himself away, but I think it adds to the scene if he tacitly defends the killing. It gives us a window into his thoughts, like he’s trying to process his own actions. The scene in Death Wish where Bronson defends the vigilante to his son-in-law is a good example of that.

--- I think Pia already mentioned this, but I wish there were one or two moments later in the movie where we see Jeremiah still grieving heavily.


That rug really tied the room together.
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Heretic
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Hey Mark,

You even told me your review was coming and I still missed it! Sorry for the delayed response.

Thank you very very much for this review. I think you're dead on about the trip and I think you're right about that being the area that will really help address Pia's points as well.

I think your smaller points are bang on too. Basically, if I upload a newer version, expect to see all of this taken on board. Really appreciate the thoughts, and please let me know if there's anything you'd like reviewed!

Chris


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eldave1
Posted: February 10th, 2021, 3:44pm Report to Moderator
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Getting to this in fits and starts -

On the first ten - I already like where I think this is going. Two suggestions:

Not crazy about the dialogue between Abigail and Joseph on page 3. Didn’t quite land for me – a bit too schmaltzy maybe but more important there are better things for them to talk about.. What I really wanted to know at this point was – was this the first time these families got together? how’d it go in Abby or Joesph’s view?  Did they expect more tension? Gald that it is over?



Quoted Text
EXT. SPINELL UNIVERSITY - STAFF PARKING LOT - DAY A CAMPUS

SECURITY OFFICER rushes through a cigarette at the edge of the lot, smiling and waving as a Caucasian PROFESSOR in his mid-60s pulls his current-year SUV into a spot.

Moments later, a decade-old sedan pulls in. The Security Officer watches with mild suspicion as Jeremiah exits. Jeremiah smiles at him. The Officer returns a curt nod.


The above didn’t really make sense to me. I trust you are doing two things here – 1) establishing a contrast between Jerimiah’s need for a fancy car vs others 2) the distrust that the security officer has towards a black man.

BUT – this is a staff parking lot. It makes no sense that there would be distrust. He has seen Jermiah a thousand times – right?

Maybe instead…

He is the substitute security guard (the regular one is sick or something) – he’s waving in the white dudes/rich cars into the lot pretty automatically. When Jerimiah approaches the gate – he stops his car asks for staff ID.  There could be a brief exchange  - Something like – Guard: ID please (Jerimiah complies – gives hin the ID) – Guard (returning the ID): Sorry – first day on the job.  Jerimiah: (pointing to the white folks exiting their cars) – so, you already knew them somehow?  

Hope that makes sense.
     


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Heretic
Posted: February 16th, 2021, 1:12pm Report to Moderator
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Hey Dave,

Thanks very much for the thoughts! I think you're right about the Abigail and Joseph dialogue, although I want it to be somewhat schmaltzy. But I agree with you that the information you're wondering about would be good to add.

I'll think about how to change up the security guard -- maybe "suspicion" is not the right word. Thanks!


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eldave1
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Quoted from Heretic
Hey Dave,

Thanks very much for the thoughts! I think you're right about the Abigail and Joseph dialogue, although I want it to be somewhat schmaltzy. But I agree with you that the information you're wondering about would be good to add.

I'll think about how to change up the security guard -- maybe "suspicion" is not the right word. Thanks!


My pleasure


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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