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EDIT: Content warning. Script has graphic depictions of child death outside a horror/action/thriller context. Very matter of fact.
I'm trying to write treatments//block scenes a little better and it's resulted in this.
This is a newer draft of a strange premise I posted once before, breaking the plot down to it's barest elements.
I'd love thoughts on it's pacing - the opening titles don't come in until about page 30. That first act is easily suspenseful and horrific and I'm wondering if the rest of the script promises enough drama or conflict?
Similar to pacing, although I'm not especially bothered by how long it takes to get to the "opening titles", are there any "pre-tragedy" scenes that you think are wasteful?
Alan is based on real domestic violence behaviors but is he too villainous? I never right straight villain's and struggled here.
Just general writing - I wrote really quickly and I am concerned the dialogue is too focussed on getting to plot points, or in other scenes is too aimless. Anything you ant to comment on.
I've got time lately to read specs so happy to trade if you're a solid writer, too. If you don't want a trade, I don't mind what you comment on/how much you read. Anything is helpful - this is just such a sensitive topic that I wanted some beta eyes before I went and spat out a full draft.
LOGLINE:After a grieving woman crosses paths with the cop she believes is responsible for the tragedy which ruined her life and broke her forever, she must choose between exacting violent and overwhelming revenge on him, or dealing with her trauma via the help of a kindred spiri
Thoughts on the logline (EDIT: I Change it, but it still needs more help).
Ben, I read the lot, and silly me, got to the last page and thought - where's the rest? Didn't read the instruction manual properly.
A few thoughts:
Apologies first cause I'm reading this on my tablet and I always find dropbox files slow and sluggish to pinpoint pages and scenes I want, so most of my feedback is based on memory of scenes that stuck out and impressed me or made me baulk a little.
Random out of sequence comments follow because of this.
I think you've chosen interesting subject matter just for the fact of how a person survives a horrific tragedy like this. How do you possibly go on? Compelling subject matter. Rosie Batty's resilience comes to mind.
Speaking of baulking: the 'roasting' family description, could be written better imho. In terms of this nightmare scene I think it requires a bit more finessing. Actually, I think you should consider not showing the entire graphic nature of events. Sometimes with clever cuts and audio our imagination can fill in the blanks and it can be just as horrific, if not more so.
Your logline needs a revamp, but then I suspect that's a WIP too?
As usual your writing is a fast, effortless and an engrossing read. I kinda had a love/have relationship with the story content. Not sure as to its marketability.
This was, I assume, inspired by (for lack of a better word) the horrific Hannah Baxter tragedy?
Is the 'white stairs' quote from a lyric/song, or your own creation?
The pacing is not quite there for me considering the main thrust of your logline. If you really want the story to be focused on the revenge aspect then both the setup for Julian's betrayal is too light on, there's no talk or indication prior to us seeing Julian again on p.56. that she even has an issue with him, and it needs more bookmarking along the way.
Honestly, I had a WTH moment with the appearance of the titles on p.30. It just didn't fit for me.
The character names of Madonna and Bowie seem more suited to a comedy imho.
Olive goes back for her phone charger? Credible though it is - people do weird stuff, but hmm, not sure...
The evolution of the relationship with Chris is nice, some great touches of awkwardness and faux pas on Chris's part. His own reveal was good and surprising. I loved Olive's comment about her reluctance to have a relationship based on mutual trauma. Didn't love as much their mutual masturbation and vaping scene. Seemed a bit premature at that point and I've read a similar scene in your other script with the two guys doing the same thing so it just didn't feel entirely original (even though they're two entirely different scripts and it's unlikely we'd watch a double-bill). I get it, and it's plausible. I just think something more, I dunno, less sexual and more sensual might work better. Presumably both have suffered from a deprivation of human touch for quite a while and I'd personally lean towards a lighter more audience inclusive/impacting scene there by way of tenderness.
I liked that you were slow to build and reveal Alan's character. Not overt from the start that he's an abuser but the elaborate 'gift from nowhere' and sometimes ingratiating actions signpost all is not well and are in good contrast to where we end up. Honestly though I didn't have him pegged as an abuser. As an added note the scene where he effectively rapes Olive needs some refinement imho. 'mounts'? The word choice just seemed a bit clumsy. Might just be me there.
At the top you describe Olive as 'swollen and pregnant' and I pictured her as well into her pregnancy, but then she takes a pregnancy test? Was she ever pregnant? Does this come out later?
The school subplot with the twins and their apparently lesbian mum which then took a convenient detour? Not sure on that either but then perhaps it plays out more later? And I did ultimately like that Olive was vindicated.
So, those are my thoughts so far...
I'm not overly squeamish btw with regard to sex or violence in general but some things will have me walking out of a room. I'm just not convinced in telling a story like this that this is the way best to tell it or that I'd want to buy a ticket. I really don't know. Just picture me on the fence. The rest of the story might convince me otherwise.
So many thanks LC for reading all of this and giving your thoughts...I'm planning to stick it out and at least write a whole draft (I've abandoned like four half-written features this year alone).
Yeah, the whole thing is a WIP, logline included. I don't do treatments/beat-sheets so my first draft often ends up drastically different from my logline. I think my focus here will be more on Olive's journey towards deciding to let go of her anger, rather than a "she chases him down with a gun" trope. I admit to using some of the stalking scenes as red herrings though....
So yeah, I totally take your point about this not really being "about" or featuring prominently Julian as a villain, or even about vengeance. I think I'll write the last act and see what Olive ends up doing, and then re-adjust the premise.
In answer to your questions - this was more inspired by this enraging story of a local Cop who release a domestic violence victim's address to his mate/her attacker...and kept his job. Admittedly, the Baxter thing is in the forefront of my mind because it happened a few streets away from me. I feel a little icky writing about it though.
Re: the graphic-ness of the page 30 scene, totally agree. I think I'm going to make it more implied rather than on-screen.
EDIT: just to help the confusion over the pregnancy test....the opening scene is a dream. Olive is only dreaming that she's pregnant, but when she wakes she decides to rule out the possibility entirely by taking the test. She mentions it in dialogue later that the dream felt like a nightmare - I was trying to establish that Olive would rather not bring another child into the world who Alan could harm.
I would lose the opening dream - it's confusing and took me a couple of goes to realize it is a dream. If you need to keep it - gives us a better clue that it's a dream. Something like:
Slowly...Olive removes another tooth, white and bloodied.
AN ALARM BEEPS!!!!.
SMASH CUT TO:
INT. OLIVE'S BEDROOM - PRESENT DAY
Olive bolts up in bed, examines her stomach - clearly not pregnant.
EXT. NEWBURY HOUSE - DAY
ALAN NEWBURY (33), bulky and proudly masculine, opens the door to a car parked in the driveway. The house and street are small-town suburban. It's a new development with full of cheesy "this could be you!" development company billboards.
Once in the car, Alan roots through the glove compartment. He retrieves a gift bag.
Alan, smiling, returns to the house.
Is a bit backwards - describe the area first - then intro Alan - i.e.,
EXT. NEWBURY HOUSE - DAY
Small-town suburban set in a new development full of cheesy "this could be you!" development company billboards.
ALAN NEWBURY (33), bulky and proudly masculine, approaches a car parked in the driveway. He opens the door - enters.
Once in the car, Alan roots through the glove compartment. He retrieves a gift bag.
Alan, smiling, returns to the house.
MADONNA and BOWIE - not a fan of these names - changes the tone, IMO.
OLIVE (firmly) Kyle, what are you doing?
The boy is so shocked that he is wordless, almost fearful.
If you are going to give him a name - just intro him as Kyle rather than boy. It reads awkward for her to refer to him as Kyle and in the next action line he is the boy.
Pages 17 - 20 - you intro a character as POLICE OFFICER - your cast of characters don't know this person. It struck me as odd since you had indicated earlier that it was only a two-cop town. Seems that they should know the woman.
Thanks Dave. I agree, I added the late pregnancy in the dream for it to make sense but swapping the scene fixes it, so I agree!
But I really like the dream, even removing the pregnancy fear aspect, But I do use them as lazy crutches, so I'll consider it.
You're right, it's a two town (full-time) cop town, not uncommon in rural Queensland. Julian would know the cop'sname which i bu I just hate naming characters that only appear once, I take your point. She's now named "Jezzenda'.
Dave or LC - Did you feel/guess like Alan was a perpetrator of violence even before the reveal? i had tried to drop hints - the desperate gifts, the clinginess, the child-like reliance on Olive (he can't even tie his own daughter's hair) because I don't want audiences to think that she's just fleeing an uncomfortable marriage, rather than saving hr kid's lives (which is what she is actually doing). If he didn't seem like a perp early enough, how could I do that without tipping my hand or veering into Lifetime too much/.
Was Olive's overreaction to child play (EDIT: her first scene at school) enough of a tell?
Would an earlier post-titles (the titles on pg.30) scene where Olive considers or reads Julian's lack of sentence get us going into the plot soon enough? I acknowledge that the revenge isn't really the plot (and Olive does meet Olive at one point - she does not kill him, spoiler) but rather the script is about how unimaginable loss CAN be dealt ith. I feel like I'm watching so many tragedies recently with women who never get any better -- Olive is supposed to be resilient and funny and a person in her own right and I wanted o give her the life she deserves. Her relationship with Eric fizzles out when he realizes she isn't willing to take care of him and his trauma (so, Olive was right about avoiding a relationship built on shared loss).
So yeah - once Olive confronts Julian 1st time and realizes killing him won't make her feel better, it's more about facing a loss that none of can comprehend and finding your own personal bubble to keep yourself savfe within (SPOILER: my current draft is a double cross, and Olive ends up killing Julian anyway. It doesn't make anyone feel better.)
Regarding the mutual masturbation scene, LC - Olive is shown to be a multiple rape victim (typical of domestic violence). She is attracted to Eric but I understand not wanting vaginal sex so soon after Alan's death. Look, it's not a romantic scene but sad sex happens.
For those winder what happens to Olive at the end -
This is the the majority of the final act of my scriptment, which answers whether Olive kills Julian.
The final act, post Olive's separation from Eric after initially confronting and not killing Julian, are finally answering her phone calls from Robyn (her bestmate from Act 1 -- hers and Alans home town friend, and Julian's (ex) wife). They agree to meet in town as Robyn is aware Alan's parents, in a nursing home, only have a few months to live and cannot remember that Alan and the children are deceased. They'v been asking for Olive nd the kids, and were close with her when Alan was alive. Alan's emotionally immature sisters have refused to explain it, according to Robyn. Olive agrees to be this person.
As Olive is driven to the nursing home by Robyn after flying in town, we FLASH FORWARD several days later, back in the city. Julian carries groceries to his apartment tower. Olive, seemingly unplanned, stabs him to death in the street hundreds of times because he doesn't die immediately. He doesn't die immediately but will do so from blood loss in a week's time. Sheb stabs him so many times on-screen that it's shocking by current filmic standard. We never find put what happens to Olive, who walks from his body, covered in blood.
FLASHBACK: the day Olive visits her ex in-laws in a nursing home. Alan's mother, SAOIRSE(70s) , is Irish and mostly demented, Alans Father DOMNHALL is on a ventilator and not conscious. Olive is forced to explain that the kids are dead and have been for over a year - Saoirse is upset and silent but takes it well. Music for e moment, she acts what Alan died, assuming he was responsible. Olive is vaguely truthful and Saoirse responses by describes raising Alan, who was possessive and struggled with âownershipâ as a child. An upset Saoirse implies she once caught him trying to strangle a feral cat, as a non-sequiter, perhaps with some relevance.
Alan's mother also reports to Olve that Alanâs high school girlfriend, Keiko. a CNA at the nursing home, still refuses to go near Alan's parent's Saoirse adds to Olive â you know none of this could possible be your fault, right?â
Saoirse is the first person to really say this, causing Olive ends up in tears. When Olive denies a complete lack of culpability, Saoirse laughs and says "well, I'm not sure you understand what "fault "means then. My boy did those things...I just wished he waited a few more years....." Olive doesn't respond, itching to leave. "Y'know. The girls. They come out of you pre-planned. Fully cooked. I know that's not the political thing to say anymore, but they do. Boys -- they leave your body and start contorting into something...heedless. Loveable. But not likeable..." Olive mods. Saoirse is exhausted.
Siaorse asks for a cup of tea. Olive presses for assistance. They wait for the nurse. Saoirse monologues to Olive-
"He ever tell you about the teacher in Grade 7?". Olive nods âHe did. Alan's father tore him a new one, right?â Saoirse laughs, shaking her head:"Alan and his mate Julian are straight A student, right? Mr. Jensen calls me and says, âoh, I actually lost Alan's home work book, I'm so sorryâ. And I said that's fine, we know he deserves as an A anyway, don't ye, right? Well, Mr. Jensen did not take to me happily. Letter to regional education board as if ids ask him be [i]disethica[\i]. Principal tears me new one. It was the funniest thing because jensenâs the spasic who lost my boyâs work." Saoirse turns to Domhnall, not here in any real way. The sounds of a ventilator respond.
"So, Domnhall, he goes to the school building - little wooden shack in town back then - makes barely a push on the teacher's lounge door and chases Mr. Jensen down the street to the beach, Alan and Julian cheering him on. He was shittin' himself, hey Domhall?" Domhall gurgles. "Domnhall finally catches up and...let's just say he werenât exactly a PE teacher. Saw him a wheelchair in town a few months later built no idea if is stuck, or if it was jus a mobility aid --â. The irony is, Sapirse finds this HILARIOUS - but isnât sure how Alan became violent.
Oive stands and scurries uncomfortably towards the door, but Saoirse says sheâll meet her outside for a smoke. Olive doesn't wait and takes an express elevator to the ground. She not see her mother in law again, and it is determined that Julian shouldâve know Alan was violent (in her head - all subtext).
Robin is still waiting in the loading zone. Olive wordlessly sits in the passenger seat staring straight ahead. Before Robyn could say anything, Olive unbuckles herself lays her head in Robyn's lap.
She asks "was it really that bad?" Olive quiet still in the woman's lap: âJulian wouldnât known he was violent, Robyn. For years.â Olive is shamed by the fact that she is crying over Alan again and apologetic for shit talking Julian to Robyn, his recent ex wife.
There is a sound that Olive suspects for a moment ma be the radio. But it's Rovyn singing that folksong they both learnt in order to dance and Nutbush in high school. Olive tries not to laugh. She changes the subject, âI need to get back to Brisbane quite quickly. Maybe today. I've decided to quick get something over with."
As Robyn nods, she keeps singing. Olive lies back, her face pointed towards the cars ceiling.
Robin runs her cool fingertips through Olives hair and skull lightly. Humming and making comments about the hair being clean and smelling of shampoo.
olive is content, knowing she will soon have it all over and done with. She kill Julian soon.
Robyn cradles her like a mother would a baby.
She kisses Olive on the cheek, who has been crying. She slides the bangs from her face, affection olive is desparate for. She suddenly feesl jealous of Robynâs children, being held by her touch everyday. The irony of Olive's current plans at that moment and her empathy for Julian's children, soon to be fatherless.
[Julian's dying screams are heard over the last moments of this scene]
Dave or LC - Did you feel like Julian was a perpetrator of violence even before the reveal? i had tried to drop hints - the desperate gifts, the clinginess, the child-like reliance on Olive (he can't even tie his own daughter's hair) because I don't want audiences to think that she's just fleeing an uncomfortable marriage, rather than saving hr kid's lives (which is what she is actually doing). If he didn't seem like a perp early enough, how could I do that without tipping my hand or veering into Lifetime too much/.
I think leave Alan's character as is. There are enough hints he's off kilter and then the later scenes are more impacting because of it.
Olive killing Julian? I think you're veering into the wrong territory there. You don't want to make her a killer - she might have fantasies about killing him but that just doesn't fit in my book. If she wants to exact some revenge I'd go a more psychological less physical confrontational route. My instincts tell me that tone is just not going to sit well with a wider audience. I could be wrong but turning her from victim to perpetrator?
P.S. I think I did get that opening with Olive being pregnant was a dream, then promptly forgot. Love the tooth bit and the symbolism there.