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Dispatch by Sean Elwood (thedeadwalk2nite OR zombiesean) - Short, Horror, Thriller - A 9-1-1 operator gets a call from a woman claiming someone broke into her home and killed her family. But they both realize that they're dealing with something far more dangerous. 16 pages - pdf, format
Hey Sean, I really liked this script, pretty intense stuff. You talked to me earlier about how you were going to write this one and I think it's a really cool concept, builds the suspense factor up in the whole "what you don't see is scarier" type thing. I think this would make an interesting feature, yeah it'd be hard to stretch but with the background of the operator it could be pretty neat! That or I think this would be such an awesome opening to an alien movie, it'd be kind of a long opening in a "scream" type of way but it builds up the suspense and could really work, that's just my opinion anyways. Overall though, I have no complaints, nothing I'd change really the formatting, descriptions and dialogue all seem good at times Tim's dialogue felt a bit repetitive but I mean it's generally close to what he would be saying anyways, can't really change that. But good work, I liked it!
I found it interesting as well. I think I have some idea of what happened.
Is she some creature that transforms like a werewolf?
Anyway, it's debatable to trim some dialogue or leave as it is. I think leave it since it gives character. This could easily be done with a small budget. I'm working on a short in the same realm. Hopefully have it posted soon.
I liked the descriptions but would have liked to seen action as well. It kind of reminds me of my own short Obscure in regards to the action that takes place but not seen. Can't wait to see any other thing you're working on.
I thought this started out really great, but kind of sputtered a bit in the middle and end. On the positive, this seems like it would be easy to film, but on the other hand, I think you really need to switch between the operator and the house in order to make it work effectively. There is too much expositions otherwise, and the dialouge gets a little weighed down. Anyway, like I said, you started great and I think you have somethings here, but I think it needs a little re-think. Anyway, good luck. A few comments below.
TIM Ma’am, it’s for self-defense; you do realize that if the person who committed this crime has a weapon, or looks like he will attack, you will have to shoot in order to defend yourself.
How bout cutting this down, to just "For self defense Maam." Or something along that line.
"The other end clicks and clatters (O.S.)." - p.4 think you can do without this, or the previous line where Mary say's she need to put the phone down. One or the other, or else it gets redundant.
MARY (V.O.) No! I don’t! - p4 just "No!"
Lessen up on the bolded and underline throughout.
MARY (V.O.) (Whispered) No, no, there’s no safe way out of the second story...Damn it, I knew Erik and I should have put that fire escape outside Susan’s window...! - too much exsposition I think. I have the same issue.
Yes, I did tell you about this concept and how I wanted to write it, but I couldn't figure out how to start it out. But I found a way, and I'm glad you liked the finish product. I'm glad we're both on the same page of "what you can't see is scarier" idea. And it would be interesting to see how I could stretch this into a feature, but as of right now, I can't see it happening. But I'll save that idea for a rainy day...
Thanks for reading
Yeah, that's the idea I was going for. Kind of like a shape-shifter, I'm not really sure into what yet. My idea overall was it to be some kind of alien or demon, but since you can't see it, it's hard to say what it really is. But alien or demon was my main idea. Yeah, Kevin and I were talking about how easily it could be made, so maybe that could be a future project for me. It'd be simple and very quick to do. With the action debate, I could have added some, but really, Tim can't get up and leave while he's on the phone with this distraught lady. And then I wanted it to have an ending that I tried not to be so ambiguous about, but I wanted it to end it there (also because i couldn't really find a way for him to do something...). Thanks for reading! I'm curious about your upcoming script and Obscure. Is that one on the site?
My main objective was not to switch from the operator to the house and back. I wanted it to be in the POV of the 9-1-1 operator. I always found intense 9-1-1 calls from people who are being "attacked" by someone and they're calling in about it before it happens...I always find those scary because just hearing the fear in their voices freaks me out. So I wanted to do it with this one, and since there's more to the story than just a family who was killed, I feel as though it adds to the suspense factor when you can't see what's going on with the woman's character. You're sort of stuck in Tim's position and going through what a real 9-1-1 operator probably goes through.
Sorry about the expositions. They could actually work pretty well, in my opinion, because when people are scared or something traumatic happens like what this woman is going through, they will—how should I put this—"over say" what they're getting out. It's just too much going on that you don't really know how much your saying, that even some of the irrelevant and unneeded stuff slips out. Especially with the last line you posted, about the fire escape ladder. It's just that kind of useless information that someone would tell when they're in a panic. Or this is all based on my opinion. I know I'd have a lot of exposition going on if I were in this situation.
But thanks for reading, and your comments. They're greatly appreciated.
Obscure is on the site but I think its a crappy draft that's posted up. I did four drafts. lol. If you want I can send the 2nd draft which most people liked especially because of the story that I tried to convey. You can see the action as opposed to yours where you don't but I think the suspense is the same.
I'm working on something similar to this in that its low budget so I'm choosing my scenes carefully so that I can possibly make it.
Back to your story, I really thought it was going to be zombie. lol. I was saying to myself "it's a zombie , its a zombie" but then when I read the descriptions it was something completely different. That was a good twist.
Yeah go ahead and send it to me, I'd like to give it a read.
Ha ha, yeah, someone else asked if it was a zombie, too, but I said, "No, i'm done with zombies...for now." This time I was going for something different, something scarier, I suppose I like how you called that a twist. Ha ha ha that's awesome.
I admit, I assumed it was a zombie. Can't imagine why .
I wrote a script kind of similar to this a while back called Caller Unknown. It all took place at the dispatch center. You do a good job of building the tension and setting the scene. I did wonder about the advice the dispatcher gave about getting the shotgun. It seems like he would tell her to get out of the house as quickly as possible.
But, I think the one problem with this is the length. Twenty pages is just too long for a story that takes place completely offscreen. I think my Caller Unknown script was something like eight or ten pages, and even then I felt I may have been pushing it. The thing is, a lot of the action gets very repetitive. A lot of heavy footsteps, screaming and munching, the dispatcher crying, etc. The tension you created begins to wane very rapidly. I think you could cut this script in half while keeping all the scares and tension. Just eliminate the repetitive action and dialogue.
It'd be nice to throw a twist in at the end there. Instead of just more people being attacked over the phone, maybe come up with something even more frightening. What if the zombie/creature problem isn't localized to that one house? Like, the dispatcher looks up to see a co-worker enter the room and he doesn't look "quite right." Just a thought.
911 operators arent likely to be in the actual police station. They work seperately, since they are just as likely to be needing fire or medical. When did tim notify the officers? he just picked up the phone. Aren't we watching him, so we should see him get on a radio channel and speak to officers. Nitpicky aside, but 911 would just tell her to get out of the house, not get a weapon. But hey, maybe its in texas. Haha, you get your police codes from sublime songs? or is this in Cali? I think the officers recover a little quickly, IE the dialogue with the girl. Just a little more emotion, nervousness would be good.
Overall, great job, did a whole lot with not much, if you know what I mean. Sticking with the 911 operator is great, it really keeps us feeling impotent and helpless. Specially when hes trying to convince the cops to leave. Yea I dont see this stretching into a feature, but it would make a good intro at least, if the rest of the story had its own story arc. Nicely done.
Mine: HARD CASE (65 Pages) Stealing the case is just the beginning...
APU (80 pages) A city where superheroes are murderers and villains walk through walls...
I thought this one actually worked quite well. Yeah, it's a little on the long side for a one-scene-one-character piece but with a really good actor (Tim), a really really really good camera operator mixed with some nice editing plus sound fx, then this could work.
Have you ever seen the movie called Pontypool? It pretty much takes place only in a radio studio and uses much of the same technique as you do here - and it's 93 minutes. I you haven't, then check it out - you'll like it.
Like others have mentioned, I'm not sure a 9-1-1 operator would ask the caller to arm herself but under the circumstances (her staying in the house) I guess it was needed. I still think he should keep telling her to get out of the house - let the law handle it, you know?
Some of the dialogue ran a little long - an easy fix though, just use a scalpel when you comb through it. There was one piece of dialogue that really sounded wrong though, this one (page 16):
OFFICER #2 (V.O.) Shit, man, that guy out there was obviously shot, but what the fuck happened to these people?
No cop speaks like that (in movies).
All in all, I thought it was effective for what it was but could use a little editing here and there. Good work, Sean.
Down in the hole / Jesus tries to crack a smile / Beneath another shovel load
Pretty good, though the ending was predictable. I heard a similar story on old-time radio in which a father found his family dead and it was his mother who had killed them. But they mentioned that she was bitten by a dog aka werewolf so it also had a predictable ending (at least by our standards--it may have been new in the 1940s).
911 operators would try to get people out of the house ASAP, even if children are left inside. And maybe the girl's powers include having the mother imagine that her husband was a monster. Otherwise, she must have been too scared to realize that he was just a man.
You would need to do a scene in which Tim sends the police. We don't see him do in his directions.
Sean, I work the grave shift at a manufacturing plant. I read your script last night and it gave me the chills (even with the slightly flawed dialogue), it had GREAT FLOW.
You MUST do this feature length!
Just so I can read the scene where Tim, after obssesing over the call for days, goes on a ride-along in the 'infected area'. Only to be locked in the back seat outside of another suburban home as two patrol officers head in to their certian death.
Tim hears it all on the radio agian...
And then sees the skeletal being... staring out at him from the window...
A really great read. I enjoyed myself while reading this and found myself really intrigued- and that doesnt happen too often.
my biggest concern (which has already been noted), is that an operator would not encourage Mary to defend herself. Instead, he would tell her to get out of the house immediately. but like i said, several people have already mentioned this. no need to beat a dead horse
this film reminded me a lot of Alien and the fact that you hardly ever see the Alien itself. we fear what we dont know...and we dont know what we dont see. so the fact that the audience never sees this creature makes it all the more scarier. i would encourage you to go back and forth between the station and the house however (if you were to film it), yet still dont show the monster.
unfortunately im going to have to disagree with the previous poster and say that this is most effective as a short. im not sure you could turn this into a feature without it seeming cliched. but then again, maybe you could. it would just have to be really unique (like maybe inventing a whole new kind of monster with its own rules. "the next frankenstein" so to speak)
so overall, i really enjoyed this and would love to see it produced. the descriptions were fantastic and really captured the script's atmosphere. i would cut some of the dialogue, but then again that creates build up and suspense.
For all intents and purposes, this was a well-written script. It was suspenseful and tension-filled.
I also loved the concept and it works well for a short feature.
Some things that took me out of suspension of disbelief: 1) The dispatcher telling her to arm herself with a gun. This is HIGHLY improbable. The thinking is that "violence begets violence." He would most likely be telling her to lock herself in someplace safe until the police arrives.
2) The dispatcher leading her to find her daughter seems awkward. "Look in the closet!" It would probably be more dramatic if, against his advice and her better judgment, she does it anyways. Extra points for conflict, and it adds to the audience's feeling of helplessness.
3) With all that's going on, why isn't there a supervisor involved somewhere?
4) The ending seems false somehow. I get the feeling after something that crazy, the dispatcher would be panicked out of his mind. Not resigned. Although...I understand what you're going for...
Overall though, it's clear that you are more than a competent writer. You have none of those awkward "hiccups" that interrupt the flow of story.
If you are considering expanding this into feature-length, this sequence works as an excellent "prologue" for a zombie flick. I've never seen one start from a 9-1-1 dispatcher's P.O.V.
Hey everyone, sorry for getting no responses from me lately. It's been a long week.
I'm not surprised people thought this was a zombie script
NOTE TO EVERYONE: The beginning of this script is sort of based on a true story. I grabbed the idea from a 9-1-1 call I heard on a website about a woman who called the police because someone was at her door and she didn't know who he was. The operator, in fact, told her that she had the right to shoot him, but also advised that she should lock herself in a room. You can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4Z_2oU9B2o&feature=fvw
Alright, back to your comments, Cam. The length was a problem. I wasn't planning on making it this long, but there's so much going on that it was kind of hard not to. There is repetitive dialogue, but it's kind of bound to happen during a time like this, especially when you have a woman panicking and frantically trying to figure things out/trying to find her daughter on the other end.
That last suggestion: I was trying to go for a little bit of a more ambiguous ending, but enough to where you pretty much have an idea of what happened, which is why a couple people have asked if was planning on expanding. I'm thinking of leaving the ending just the way it is.
Thanks for reading. I always assumed the operators worked at the police station as well. But according to what you've said, I guess not. My reasoning for the operator telling her to get the gun, look at the link I posted above. And yes, this is located in Texas, ha. The video I provided above is in Oklahoma, but that's right above Texas, so it still applies And I was informed by a friend about the police code. The police officers recovering a little too quickly when they find the girl I feel may not be too flawed, since they have just found a little girl after seeing the carnage of dead bodies everywhere. So they're going to focus on her more without trying to scare her.
Also, I forgot to show Tim contacting the officers. My bad. Doesn't it work to where they grab the information the call is coming from, and send it to the nearest police station, in which they report it to all the officers (just as well as the information popping up on the little laptops all the patrol cars have in the front of the cars)?
Hey, man, how's it going? Thanks for reading. Yeah, if this were filmed, it's one of those films that has to be done right with little-to-no flaws. Also, I think it'd work well even if both of them were just voices, and it had B-roll of pictures along with captions, like you see on the news or on YouTube.
I have seen Pontypool. Loved the technique they did where it was all kept in one location. Pretty eerie movie. Though, did you see after the credits? Made noooooo sense.
(take a look at the video I posted earlier in this post, along with the note above it)
That piece of dialogue you provided does seem a bit odd now that I look at it. I'll change it up, along with shortening down a little bit of some other dialogue, though I'm not sure I'll change too much.
I was really trying not to make the ending predictable until possibly the very last bit before the cops are attacked. Or at least when they found the girl. I didn't want it to be predictable any time before Mary died.
(earlier in this post I posted a video with a note above the link, so check that out. I also mentioned that I'll work on giving Tim the direction to contact the police).
Nah, I want the girl just to be able to fool people by looking like a little girl, but really be some frightening creature underneath. The woman just shot the man because he was covered in blood, her family had been butchered, and he was trying to break into the home.
Thanks for reading!
Ha ha, I'm glad I was able to give you the heebie-jeebies. When I was writing this, I was home alone, and it was nighttime, and I had creeped myself out once I was finished with this. I was even a bit of afraid to go downstairs because my imagination was running. Feature-length is most likely not a possibility, but maybe...
Glad you enjoyed it!
Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it. Yes, thanks for mentioning that. I've posted a video earlier in this post and a note above the link explaining why that happens in my script.
That's what I liked about Alien, because you don't see anything that much. It's all too dark and claustrophobic. Which makes it all the more scary. I don't really want to distract away from Tim at the station because I want the audience to get that sense of helpless-ness. I want them to really be in his position, sitting at the computer, listening to all of this happening and not being able to see what's going on, and not being able to help.
I'm glad you enjoyed the majority of it though! Thanks!
1) Already explained earlier in this post. Take a look if you'd like!
2) Yeah, I see what you mean. But Tim can't really do anything but help and tell her what to do. She's so focused on finding her daughter, she won't listen to him until she does, really, and so he might as well help her find her daughter so she can get the hell out of there.
3) A supervisor wouldn't come and check in on an operator during a 9-1-1 call?
4) The operator is in shock after hearing all that he's heard. Maybe after the call disconnects, and he backs away, he jumps up and does something. But, unfortunately, that didn't make it into the cut
Thanks! And glad you liked it. Ha ha I think I might keep this from a zombie script...For now. I'm done with zombies...
...For now. Right now, it's up to the audience to decide what's happened.