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Sorry to post another WIP (I promise, I am taking these feedback's and incorporating them, I'm just working on a few things at once).
Anyway, here's a feature. I did a vomit draft then went over it and fixed the structural and (hopefully) caught major issues. Also got some feedback from trusted people. It's weirdly structured, based around "chapters" that are fairly discrete from one another plotwise so it's not really something I think will go over well in terms of structure and pacing - let me know.
ANYWAY: My current log line is: "Twenty years after being rescued from his incestuous family as a child, a traumatized man attempts to find the twin sister he was separated from in the process." Inspired a tiny bit by a true story in Australia, the logline doesn't really capture what I've written.
I'm a social worker for my day job, currently studying my Masters. My thesis touches on inter generational trauma (and some other boring stuff), so when I learned about the case this is inspired by I was really intrigued academically...and as a writer. So I've been sitting on this premise for years. I shared a much more early draft of this with a trusted person and I'm feeling a little to share this longer draft. It's 115ish pages, so I appreciate any length of read - I know it may be a slog.
Here it is.What I really wanna know is - does the "four chapter" structure work at all, or is there a way it could? Is Chapter 3 way too out of place and does it disrupt the narrative too much? Anything else that could be better (I know there of course would be)?
Thank you so much anyone who helps me with this! As I said, academically and as a writer, this script is important to me which is why I've sat on it for so long (before writing it quickly in two bursts the last fortnight, haha).
Takes serious balls to write a story with this kind of subject matter.
Raises interesting questions about nature versus nurture.
Easy read. The first act reads really fast.
i liked the message at the end
The part with the foster family in present times was kind of a drag and took me out of the story. At that point I was already invested in David and Jess and Daisy so it's hard to care about these people.
I didn't see Jess being so traumatized that she killed herself. Maybe I missed something. Maybe give us a little more Jess instead of the family in the middle.
You use the --- (idk what to call it) in your dialog a lot. It got kind of annoying. Not a big deal tho.
the multiple narrators was a bit much. I think only a hand full of filmmakers could get away with that technique (like Scorcese) and there was a lot of cuts to black which didn't feel necessary
The payoff at the end was good but it might have been more impact if we spent more screen time with David. Maybe we can see him searching for sister a little more before he eventually finds her. Or maybe show David's life going off the rails a little more instead of having the woman explain it to us.
This is a gutsy script. It feels like one of those indie scripts that competes for Oscars. Not a traditional Hollywood narrative style script, but something more ambitious. The subject matter makes it hard to read at times but it raises interesting questions. I was about to give up on it when I got to the part with the family but i stuck through it and it paid off in the end.
Hey man, I appreciate you giving this a read. Your thoughts on the third chapter echo a few others' thoughts so you're definitely right, it drags the narrative and is the wrong focus.
Re: Jess. My intentions were not necessarily that she kills herself (at least purely) from trauma. She is supposed to be the failed caregiver, a lot like Dauphine - she hated caring for her senile mother, then immediately conceived and cared for a disabled child. When her husband dies, she knows the rest of her life will be the same caring, alone again. I definitely need to make this more clear.
About the narrators - I agree. It's a lot. I'm re-thinking it, and it when I redraft it's something I will consider strongly.
Thanks for the (very strong) overall thoughts. I appreciate it.
Yeah, we need to see Jess and David's life going off the rails in the second act because it would make the tragic ending a lot more ... tragic. Even though the script was pretty long I still felt short changed because I didn't see the characters grow into their final state. They were already there because of a time jump. That sums up my thoughts. I think this would work as a movie with a good director who knows how to get those tear jerking performances out of his talent.
I agree the time jump may be a bit much. Thanks again for the read MGayles. You are a very perceptive reader, and I hope you stick around to give other people critiques and upload more of your own work!
There is a lot to admire here. First off, I like that itís a mature piece, with mature subject matter and mature things on its mind. That might sound condescending or whatever but I think itís an increasingly rare thing in our ever more infantilized culture, particularly the film industry. This is a film for adults, and while you handle the tough subject matter with restraint and tact, it doesnít shirk anyway from devastating emotional truths.
It has a curios structure which I like for its unconventional nature as it dips back and forth between, I would say, 3 time period, 2 primarily. It gives the piece an expansive range as we see the beginning, the middle and, for some characters at least, the end.
As I mentioned in my final note on your script in response to the last line of dialogue, when it comes to actually articulating my overarching thoughts on your work, grasping for some overall message or theme, I think it might in some ways be a futile endeavour.
I detected that tone throughout; what does this all mean? There are numerous instances of subverting our expectation, defying us to pigeon hole this into an identifiable narrative arc. Why do people do the things they do and the consequence our actions have on those with whom we come into contact. How the decisions of a few people have far reaching implications for an ever growing number of people. The effects of trauma and how different people deal with it different ways.
There are no real happy endings here, everyone is bearing the marks of this family, feeling their presence in their lives long after the time has passed, some more directly than others.
This baggy, somewhat unwieldy structure and atypical approach to telling your story is, in a way, a reflection of life and all its messiness. Like life there are loose ends here, unresolved relationships, people who don't learn, don't experience that profound epiphany, people who canít move on, turn a corner, live happily ever after.
So while I appreciate this resistance to formula and dedication to telling a human story with real people and tackling a serious subject matter, these attributes also mean itíll be a hard sell. I know that Australiaís film industry is predominately state funded which means opportunity is slim. However, since this is rooted in a real life story familiar to most Australians of a certain age, it may contain some relevancy/importance appeal to mitigate the inherent lack of commercial appeal.
Also, as youíll have gathered from my notes, I feel the flashback/flashforward structure and broad panorama of characters has its shortcomings. I compare it to a common criticism of the standard biopic where they try to cram as much stuff about a famous personís life into 2 hours. As a result, what we end up with is essentially a montage of scenes, some pointed dialogue and heavily signposted events that are meant to sum up the person; the how, the why, the when. It can often lead to a very superficial and unsatisfying experience.
Here, I think there is an imbalance in how much time you spend with certain characters, relative to their importance to the story. Not enough with Dauphine in her early years, too much with Adam in his later years, definitely not enough with Jess in either timeline and virtually nothing of Daisy until the end. Yes, she does narrate and, I feel, is intended to be this quasi omnipotent presence presiding over events, at least in the latter half. I also appreciate that the suspense of finally seeing her in the end is meant to be emotionally cathartic too for David and us...but I still think she isnít given enough development for it to really pay off in the end.
The digression to Adam and his family and where theyíve ended up is affecting but, within the context of 115 page script, is disproportionate and unbalances the story. Maybe if this were in a mini-series format you could devote an episode to him.
This most egregious example of this though has to be Jess. As I noted numerous times, I really couldnít connect with this character and the choices she makes when we rejoin her in that final third. Yes, the material is there, the impetus, itís just not woven into the fabric of the story in a satisfying way. There is too big of a gap, too much has seemingly happened (primarily her marriage to Rory who we never even meet alive again!) off screen in those intervening years that there simply isnít room to backload it into the scenes we do get. Itís like youíve left yourself with too much to do and not enough time to do it. As a result, it feels incongruous, tacked on.
David is the one character who feels like he gets the right amount of screen time and fair treatment. Not a likeable character by any means but thatís not an issue, He feels real, flawed, troubled, confused, frustrated, lost. I genuinely felt for the guy, I saw him mostly as a victim but one who has gone on to make victims of others. Thus, repeating the cycle which, unfortunately, is an all too common repercussion of abused people. This complicates matters and makes him a far more compelling individual than someone who is one dimensionally good or evil.
Overall, I get the feeling this story would be better served as mini-series or like a 3-4 hour 2-part TV movie. The scale of the story you want to tell seems too big for a feature length.
Alternative, you could rework the story, downsize it, reduce its scope. My suggestion, if going this way, would be to excise the Adam section and just focuses on the diverging lives of David, Daisy and Jess. The pages given to Adam could be dedicated to developing Daisy and Jessís storylines and filling in some of those gaps.
It all up to you of course, these are just my initial impressions having finished reading it.
Regardless, keep at it, and as I said, Iím open to a back and forth here or on email if you wish.
Wow, I don't think I can respond to all of this because everything you've said is very true and useful. I really dig how you've looked at this thematically, because like I said, the themes in here are what inspired me to write it. And you're spot on about how this was intended to be about how a singular trauma can spread, like an illness, through time and space and affect people who are so disconnected from it's origin that it's almost a "butterfly effect" situation. The rabbit study is a real study that's been debated for it s applicability to humans. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24677-fear-of-a-smell-can-be-passed-down-several-generations/
Jess, you're right, is a character that doesn't fit at the moment. I intended to include some parellel scenes in each chapter that highlight how she has been affected by the case (aside from writing about it) - like the scene with her immense guilt at leaving David at the youth home, and the scene with her abandoning her daughter. As an ex-child protection worker having similarly had to leave kids places that may not be the best for the them, it's something that sticks with you forever and perhaps I didn't establish clearly in the script.
Again, I completely agree re: chapter three. It's something I have to think about or a new draft. I don't know how I feel about doing a miniseries or anything like that. You wouldn't know this, but the "satire" about Australians loving true crime books and mini-series (hence the reception to Jess' novel) is rooted in reality and I feel like the real-life events deserve more than the standard Aussie true crime TV mini series, gutted for network TV.
Yeah, that is fascinating...and sort of humbling too in regards oneís quest for individuality. That we are so inextricably wedded to our ancestors will be a troubling notion for a lot of people...and a comfort to others I guess.
Jess, you're right, is a character that doesn't fit at the moment. I intended to include some parallel scenes in each chapter that highlight how she has been affected by the case (aside from writing about it) - like the scene with her immense guilt at leaving David at the youth home, and the scene with her abandoning her daughter.
Hmm, as I mentioned in my email response there are perhaps a few things going on here to which I didnít give enough attention...this parallel can be added to that list. You're right, she mustíve felt immense guilt for that (and, as you say from your own experience, David wouldn't have been the only case) so wouldnít that have made her extra conscious of turning her back on Abigail? Wouldnít it have made her do everything in her power to NOT do that with her own daughter? She couldnít control what happened to David, this was her job, this is what she was directed to do but with her daughter she has authority over the situation. She can summon every drop of her will power, along with the experiences her job has taught her, and choose to do the right thing. Yes, Izzy is not the same as some random foster parent or an orphanage but that same sense of abandonment will be keenly felt by Abigail for the rest of her life. Jess, more than most people, comprehends this...and it's this understanding while still not having the strength to counteract it which maybe drives Jess to do what she does to herself. Man, that is sad.
It reminds me a little of when I hear about abusive alcoholics who came from families with abusive alcoholic parents. It seems to happen more often than not (itís almost expected or at least a reason given why) that the son or daughter follow the same maligned path as a wayward parent...and my reaction is (which I know is rooted in ignorance and naivety because I came from a safe, secure, loving, dysfunction-free family) shouldnít these sons/daughters be the last people to become alcoholics? Shouldnít they have learned from the mistakes of their elders, not repeated them? They had firsthand experience! Surely, having lived in a household gripped by abusive alcoholism would drill into them the horrors of such vices and make them go in the opposite direction. Sure, sometimes that does happen, and they become teetotallers, straight-edgers, whatever, but a lot of time, they take the baton and carry on the ignominious legacy. I guess I just donít understand humans very well, it makes no sense to me. Maybe Jessís genetic trauma theory is the answer
I don't know how I feel about doing a miniseries or anything like that. You wouldn't know this, but the "satire" about Australians loving true crime books and mini-series (hence the reception to Jess' novel) is rooted in reality and I feel like the real-life events deserve more than the standard Aussie true crime TV mini series, gutted for network TV.
Yeah, I understand that wariness of the TV format. Maybe try to pitch it to Netflix (other streaming services are available ). They seem more open to ceding creative control to the artist than your standard, state run TV network.
Anyway, I think there is a feature length film in here. It probably just needs some restructuring and prioritising of characters.