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Love and Debt by Dena Mckinnon (pale yellow) - Short, Drama - In financial ruin, after a devastating divorce, a young woman finds herself falling in love with the collector who's been hounding her all along. 12 pages - pdf, format
I've seen you making a real effort here on the SS boards lately. So, it's my pleasure to offer up a peer review to you.
P. 2 I like how you dive right into the scene. Facebook and office cubicles are good, very contemporary. But you hamstring yourself with over descriptives like this one: Anna shrugs, the side of her mouth curls up, her face wrinkles. Just, "Anna shrugs.", is more than sufficient, IMO.
P. 6 Feels implausible the hungover girls would step out with a survey taker. What is it about Ian that would make the girls go long with him?
P. 10 You've got a lot of descriptions that aren't relevant to the story. I"m guilty of this too, typically I have to fix that in a later draft. But repeated detailed decor and plates of food gets in the way.
You end with the expected reveal that was pretty obvious all along. There's only one guy in your script with a name, who else could be the collector? That's fine, even though it does go on for a bot too long, IMO. But after that, there's no resolution, just Anna's discovery of Ian's identity. What happens next? Are they through as a couple? I felt left flat by the FADE OUT.
Overall though, this is a better than average read. Hope this helps. Keep writing and rewriting!
LATEST NEWS CineVita Films is producing a short based on my new feature!
Hi Dena, as requested, I read your script and took notes. The notes are pretty detailed and nitpicky early on. After about Page 3, the notes are pretty simple and I didn't bother to note everything I saw.
I don't mean this to be harsh, as you know...I mean it to help and bring up things that either are, or could be issues.
Hope it helps...
IMO, your first page is so important, as it literally sets the tone of how a reader is going to “feel” about your writing, and how they’re going to view it, as well. Some will call my comments very nitpicky, others will just call me an ass, but IMO, everything I bring up is info that you can use to improve your script and writing in general.
Page 1 – Opening Slug – Not that there’s anything “technically” incorrect here, but IMO, it’s a poor start. It’s like starting off with “INT. BEDROOM” or whatever. Why is this a bad thing? Well, this “WORK CUBICLE” is obviously inside some kind of office building and if you make any movements around it, outside of this single little cubicle, you’re going to run into trouble, just as you would if you didn’t identify the house that the “BEDROOM” is in. For instance, if you have a 2nd cubicle, you’re screwed, just as you would be if you had 2 different houses with bedrooms in them. I always stress to be as specific as you can in your Slugs, as it doesn’t take any extra room and it gives your readers so much extra, appreciated info.
Your first passage is also very problematic, IMO. Both “sentences” aren’t actually sentences, as there’s no verb. Also, the “typical work cubicle” is only 5 or so feet high, meaning, there’s really no room for a poster that I can picture. Also, you want to do your best to avoid repeating your Slug in your opening sentence underneath it, as it’s repetitive and a waste.
Next sentence – Another thing I always stress is not to use the word “the” in front of a noun, unless it’s already been intro’d. In this case, I’m referring to “the phone”. It reads poorly and makes your readers wonder whether or not they should be familiar with whatever it is that’s following “the”. Does that make sense? If not, just ask, and I’ll clarify.
“A cursor blinks across the screen landing on the married box. Unchecks. Rechecks the single box.” – IMO, this would read so much better if you replaced the periods with ellipses.
Comma between “hair” and “stands” – always use a comma to offset your character description.
Comma between “mess” and “Jay” – always set off a name with a comma in dialogue.
“em” – “’em” – like you have above.
“I think, single again, calls for a celebration?” – Dialogue is tough to critique, but IMO, this line is way off. IMO, it should be written like this,
“I think “single again” calls for a celebration.”
Page 2 – First line – as Brett pointed out, this line is a bit overwritten, but IMO, it’s not poorly written, but it ends in an ugly orphan and every time you see that, you should look at the sentence and see if you can cut it back…and here, you definitely can…and should.
“Panelled walls of rich dark timbers, bevelled mirrors, Irish beer posters. Stained glass sign reads: Gypsy’s Irish Pub.” – OK, first of all, 2 misspelled words – “Paneled” and “beveled”. But, more importantly, it’s like a carbon copy of your opening passage under your first Slug and shares the exact same mistakes. Neither “sentence” is an actual sentence, and you repeated your Slug again (at least this time, you used a visual – the sign) but based on this passage, I have no real visual of where this sign is or anything other than a very generic look of an Irish bar – this is because you didn’t use a verb in your description again.
Your next single sentence passage is again too detailed, IMO, or maybe the better words are, it’s just not necessary to describe the counter in this detail.
“The BARTENDER walks over to the girls. He slides two drinks in front of the them. Smiles and leans forward.” – OK, this is very interesting. The passage before was overwritten and contained completely unnecessary detail, but this is way underwritten and doesn’t provide detail that is important. You want to describe your characters, at least an age. This guy speaks, so should probably be named as well. He seems to be friendly with the girls, so why treat him with such disrespect? Other issues as well – an extra space between “drinks” and “in”. “the them” – obviously should just be “them”. Finally, the last period should be replaced by a comma. But wait…there’s more, IMO. Most probably will call me crazy, but why not name or describe what they’re drinking? So we can visualize this scene, and not have to make a guess as to a glass of wine, a glass of beer, a martini, cosmo, mixed drink, etc. Doesn’t take any extra room really, and goes a long way adding to the reality feel, and also shows that the writer is really thinking things through.
I do not understand what the bartender is saying to them - inside joke? You haven’t given us anything that would make his comment make any sense to anyone, either reading or watching.
“Jayden lifts her drink in the air. They tap glasses together CLANK. They chug it down.” – Numerous issues here. You start the passage with Jayden. Then, in the next sentence, you’ve got “they”. The “CLANK” part of the sentence is all wrong – if anything, “CLANK” should be its own sentence/sound effect – it’s definitely not part of the sentence. Then, in the last sentence, it’s they again, but we never see Anna do anything. Make sense?
GENERAL COMMENT – This entire 2nd scene doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t tell us anything about either of your 2 characters. The bartender says more than either character, for God’s sake! It’s a waste, IMO, unless you include some interesting/engaging/important dialogue from the girls.
Look at the first sentence under your new Slug here. What did you do again? You repeated your Slug, which you do not want to do.
Page 3 – You’re missing most of the “O.S.” for the Collector’s dialogue. Also, keep in mind that stagnant phone conversations, especially only showing 1 of the callers, isn’t a very rich visual experience onscreen.
Page 4 – “SLAM it…” – missing a comma after “SLAM”, (which totally changes the meaning and emphasis of the sentence) but in reality, when you have a sound effect, especially an all capped sound effect, give it its own line, or at least its own sentence.
“The girls stumble toward the hallway. Living room silent and empty.” – The 2nd “sentence” isn’t a sentence, again, and it’s awkward and completely unnecessary to say the least. But look at it closely…what else is it? It’s a lonely little orphan that should never have been left alone like this.
“FRONT DOOR” – is not a good Slug heading in any way, be it INT or EXT. Both passages here are awkwardly phrased.
Page 5 – Unless it’s now Saturday, does it make any sense that the girls aren’t at work first thing in the morning? And if it is Saturday, does it make sense that some random survey guy would show up at people’s house in the morning? And that anyone would let him in, as opposed to trying to kill him for waking them up on 1 of their 2 mornings they don’t have to get up?
GENERAL NOTE – In no way do I remotely believe the scenario here at the bottom of 5, top of 6. Ludicrous, actually.
Page 6 – You’re using lots of slang in your dialogue, which is fine and even appreciated at times, but you have to understand that when you drop a letter from a word, you need to use an apostrophe.
“dinner check”? Huh?
GENERAL NOTE – Again, I don’t buy any of this immediate attraction/dating thing going on here. It’s also moving way too fast as we really know nothing about any of our characters.
Also, you continue to write very detailed description lines, but they’re always unnecessary, while you continue to omit anything that provides necessary detail or character building things.
Page 7 – “evening” doesn’t last very long. If it’s evening when they’re eating dinner, it’s definitely not going to still be evening when they get back to her place.
Page 9 – When you use an ellipses, there aren’t any spaces before or after it.
Page 10 – Anna’s last dialogue block is a doozy, and without any beats or pauses, it sounds so false.
Ending is both very predictable and very weak, IMO. It really defeats any “cute romcom” feeling that you were developing. It makes this all for naught, actually and almost seems like a bad ending to a long rambling joke. I mean, what are we supposed to think or feel now that this is over? What did we learn? What did we see that was visually appealing or interesting? What’s the meaning of all this?
We’ve spent 11 pages with Anna and Jayden (and Ian). We know Anna and Jayden are good friends. We know Anna just went through a rough divorce and is now broke, in financial jeopardy of losing her house, and most likely lonely, looking for new love, or at least rebound love.
She meets this mystery man, Ian, and they spend lots of time together and seem to be hitting it off for weeks. Then, Anna finds out that Ian is actually the collector who has been after her about making her mortgage payment, and it ends, as she slams the door in his face.
I have to assume that means they won’t be spending any more time together, and everything is as it was when we first started.
I think your only real possibility at success here, is if you continue your romantic comedy/fantasy angle and have Ian turn out to be Anna’s savior. You’d need an extra page or so to pull this off, but at least, you’d leave your audience with a good taste in their mouths and give this thing some necessary meaning.
As it is now, it doesn’t work for me in any way. Please note, though that I am far from a romcom kind of guy, although, if successfully put together, I can appreciate them for what they are. This just doesn’t provide what your core audience is after, and that’s always a big mistake.
Hope this helps. Please note that I stopped taking detailed notes on about Page 3.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
Thanks for reading this. Honestly, this one I wanted to write as a feature. It needs a lot of backstory and it would never end the way I ended it in this short. I had a hard time cramming it into a short honestly. It is only my third attempt at screenwriting, so I shouldn't expect it to be as good as a veteran's. I'm learning as I go.
The drunk/bar scene...I had to try and throw something here. I was thinking, if they weren't drunk, they would have never did the book slamming thing, and the next morning, if they weren't so hung over...they wouldn't have gone to breakfast with some guy they didn't even know. Whoo...this story has problems.....but I will fix them soon enough.
I tend to put stuff up before I should. Thank you though very much for giving me some feedback and giving me some directions to work with it.
Started off okay. Two girlfriends, one in the dumps, the other the pick me up.
The first thing that felt unnatural was Ian showing up and they go out to breakfast like old friends. Right then I suspected Ian was the debt collector.
Why did Ian show up anyway? To see if Anna got shot? How would he act upon seeing her alive?
The fast romance, none of it sparked though.
It's a decent enough idea you have yet it's not alive.
It kind of reminds me of RED with Bruce Willis and the government check lady but without the guns and bullets.
So what is missing? Is it a love story? Or is Ian trying to collect the debt?
If Ian is trying to collect the debt then Ian is using her and you don't show that.
Was Ian falling in love over the phone, feeling sorry for Anna, so he shows up? Should he just announce he is the debt collector right away and he was afraid that she got shot so he just had to check on her? If that was the case, wouldn't he show up that night? So maybe not the case. But what if he did? What if he showed up that night and Anna thought that was sweet but weird at the same time?
If you explore that, you haven't lost anything. You still have potential for a love story. But where will it end up?
If Ian is being deceptive then falls in love he'll later have to explain and that will put a rift in the relationship that has to be overcome, you know, like running to the airport to stop your loved one from flying away forever and all that jazz.
So, again, is Ian being deceptive? How would he behave, what would he do, beyond pretending to be a surveyor (which no surveying occured)?
Right now there is no character or relationship development in the pages you have. Could be but you have to economize to get it there. There is too much Anna and Jay time for there to be Anna and Ian time.
This was a well written piece and an engaging story which kept me guessing.
“Anna hangs up the phone, props her head on her forehead.”
- Sorry what does the underlined part mean, should it be "hands" instead of "head"?
ANNA Yeah I finally changed it. He left me in a financial mess Jay.
JAYDEN I don’t trust any of em. I think, single again, calls for a celebration? Tonight? Gypsy’s?
Anna shrugs, the side of her mouth curls up, her face wrinkles.
JAYDEN (CONT’D) No. You’re coming. Happy hour starts at five thirty. I’m buying.
-- In a way, I appreciate Jayden’s upbeat attitude in cheering up her friend but she doesn’t seem too concerned about what Anna just said about her money situation. Lets have a drink, is all fine but its slightly counterproductive to Anna’s plight.
JAYDEN That’s why I’m driving.
-- And she like to drink drive too! I’m oddly fascinated by this girl, you got her number?
-- Can’t help but ask if this is a reference to Marge Gunderson from Fargo?
The invitation to breakfast or “trade” and instant appeasement from Ian struck me as odd and unnatural, thus piquing my suspicions early on. As I said at the top, I was liking the read, the set-up, characters, etc and really didn’t know where it was going until it just well...ended. It seemed like you forgot to conclude it, or at least in a satisfying way.
I got that something was up with Ian, that he was the debt collector or worked for them in some capacity but you didn’t seem to go further then Anna copping this and shutting the door in his face.
I wanted to see more of this dynamic, like, for a start, what were Ian’s intentions? Was he just trying to get into Anna knickers, reckoning his chances would be greater by taking advantage of her depressed, needy state. Was this it? If so, how could’ve he predicted that an opportunity to go to breakfast with them and get to know Anna better would’ve arisen. I take it he used the survey subterfuge as a way of calling to the house to ensure she was ok after Anna pretended she shot herself so he seemed genuinely concerned about her well being and was just checking up on her. Then before he knew it, things escalated and he possibly started liking her and was honest and noble in his advances. He did pay for dinner and send those roses plus they seemed to get on well.
Was Anna too hasty in her judgement and ultimate dismissal of Ian at the end? I’m curious to know whose side you’re on. Do you think Anna, and Jayden for that matter, were right in being distrustful of him. Or do you believe Ian was an ok guy, just doing his job but also going above and beyond that by checking on the welfare of a client and possibly getting personally attached once getting to know her. With the abrupt ending you got here it’s difficult to know what you wanted us to take away from the story.
I’d like to believe it’s more than just a feminist “all men are basta?ds” critique showing a horny, unscrupulous a?shole (whose a debt collector of all the horrible professions) following his dick trying to get his hole no matter what the consequences are or who he hurts in the process.
This is a well written short, I read it's only your third attempt which by the way is two more than me, so it's good for how much experience you have.
There were some issues but other people have already commented on them. I don't think it would be helpful to repeat what has already been said so I will comment on the story as a whole.
I didn't feel like I got a conclusion to this, it just suddenly ended and I felt like I had missed something along the line. I think the ending needs to be revised to get a more satisfactory ending, maybe a happy ending for Anna.
The biggest problem with this IMO was the morning Ian turns up at the door. Would you let somebody into your home so easily? If I was woken up with a hangover by some person with a clipboard asking me to do a survey, I certainly wouldn't be polite in telling to him go away. The last thing I would do is to invite him in and them ask him out for breakfast. Unless he was paying? That would make me think anyway.
This is where the story fell apart for me and I was unable to believe in their relationship after. I think this is the main issue for you to resolve if you are thinking of doing rewrite.
I don't mean to be harsh and take my criticism with a pinch of salt. Like I say, I am a new at this and don't know nearly enough yet.
Jeff, Clorox, Col. and Steve....thank you all for reading and reviewing.
There were a lot of mistakes and typos, as this was a quick draft. I think I was being lazy and wanted to turn one of my feature ideas into a short(which didn't work too well). Anyway, here is where I was trying to go:
A girl in financial ruin, down and out, lonely, on the verge of committing suicide.....
A collector who hates what he does, yet it's money...hears what he thinks is a suicide over the phone. His knight in shining armor mode kicks in and GUILT over hounding her....some men(not many) do have emotions and he feels like her blood may be on his hands.
A friend(I just added her for the short) drunk, loud, spirited, doesn't worry about anything tries to take her out and get her drunk to cheer her up...
When they get home...the crazy friend slams the book down as a funny attempt to make the collector quit calling...He won't call you if you're dead thinking here....
Then I wasn't sure how I was going to end it...I just quit writing in this short....I wasn't sure if it would be happily ever after and the collector would end up marrying her(so it wouldn't matter if her house foreclosed or not) or if I was going to kill her... or if I was going to let it end ...them friends but not in love, because of the broken trust thing. UGH
In my opinion, this story needs to be a feature.....to set up the backstory.
Do yall think that this idea is "worth" writing as a feature??
Thank you again to each who took the time to give me feedback and help me ...It will help greatly when I try to rewrite
By this point all the typo's, detail etc has been dealt with so no need to repeat. What I will say is that for a third attempt you should feel good about this and see it as the next step.
Questions. 1) how to introduce Ian. Clearly the strange surveyor allowed into the house doesn't work. One idea I had was that she could be part of a local event ( don't know what but could be a car boot sale where the entrance fee was paid for her) and in her argument with him states that a friend had to pay the entry fee. It reinforces the debt image, is a passing comment, but then gives him info. He turns up curious, finds her, sees her and likes her, then decides to make the approach. This takes the surprise away but maybe this script is not meant to have that surprise at the end?
2) feature - the rom com of jilted woman in debt, meets man under unusual circumstances, clearly has feature potential. The challenge is to make this stand out. Even Bridesmaids had a touch of this.
Just a thought, and by no means "new", first act sets up woman, her background and him as single man. Break into act two they meet, go out. Mid point shack up together, second half he has to pursue a friend or family of her's for debts and take action. Save the cat, "Dark night of the soul" stuff. Into three they split leading to the hard decisions of whether to stay or call it a day. What gives? Whats important? Ok nothing radical and thought out in two mins, but a suggestion all the same.
The Elevator Belonging To Alice - Semi Final Bluecat, Runner Up Nashville Inner Journey - Page Awards Finalist - Bluecat semi final Grieving Spell - winner - London Film Awards. Third - Honolulu Ultimate Weapon - Fresh Voices - second place IMDb link... http://www.imdb.com/name/nm7062725/?ref_=tt_ov_wr
I thought this was okay. It was more or less well written but there were a few things that were irksome.
First off, "a girl in financial ruin, down and out, lonely, on the verge of committing suicide..."
No, I don't think so. She certainly doesn't come off that way. She refers to her debt and divorce in such a nonchalant way, they sound more like annoyances than things that are ruining her life. They're also worded in such a way that they come off as overly expository. Try to rework them so they don't sound like you're spoon feeding information, for starters.
After that, you'll really just need to rework Anna's character in general. I mean, romantic comedy or not, debt is serious business. The kind that can turn people into raging alcohols. Anna definitely needs to be more distraught. She also needs to not be an idiot.
...Seriously. If you're on the verge of losing your home, I don't think it's the best idea to be blowing off your collectors. I mean whether you have the money or not, you'd probably want to talk to them. Does Anna really think things will get better if she keeps hanging up on the guy? Also, just the manner by which Ian speaks, he sounds like a real pushover. I think Anna'd be at least a little more inclined to hear him out.
All these things actually make Jayden look like a worse character. I mean if the person who's actually in debt isn't taking her situation seriously, maybe it'd be the duty of a close friend to convince her to take it seriously. Instead, she pulls the suicide gag... which is fine, I suppose. I mean you can't play by the rules too much if you're going to write a comedy. But maybe Jayden could've tried to talk to Anna about her predicament before acting out such a drastic solution.
Speaking of which... Ian. So through his cover, he discovers that Anna is alive and well. However, if he didn't and indeed believed her to be dead, he really wouldn't have much reason to call Anna back after that. Yet he does. A little suspicious, I'd say. This doesn't peek Anna's curiosity some? On the other hand, if Anna's trying to stick to this whole suicide ploy, why would she answer the collector's call? If Ian were somehow a legit dude who took his job seriously, wouldn't Anna have some explaining to do?
Which leads me to why Ian even got into debt collecting in the first place? I mean if he's such an easygoing dude, why would he even consider the job? Because "it's money?" I'd say fair enough but if you're going to be a debt collector, it kinda goes without saying that some people won't be able to pay, which will result in you fucking them over horribly and ruining their lives (through repossession and the like). Obviously someone didn't think things through.
Also, I'm going to echo everyone's sentiments and say that Ian's whole cover just isn't that great. No one wants to fill out surveys. Honestly, he'd have a better chance at Anna as a debt collector. I mean he can show up at her place and pester her all he wants without looking like a stalker because his job is to track her down and get her to pay up. Plenty of ins in his line of work, really.
But then, of course, Anna doesn't want to talk to any collectors. So I'll just leave it at Ian needs a better story to get through that door the first time around. Again, no one wants to fill out surveys.
Hmm... I actually didn't realize I had as many issues with the script as I did until just now. Anyway, the writing's okay and you've got a reasonably good setup but you need to work on logistics and really step things up. Hope this helps.
Hey Dena, a couple things I want to throw out here...
First of all, you (and everyone else) has to understand that millions and millions have either lost their homes to foreclosure or are going through the process in the last 5 or so years. It's a cold reality in the US and there is a very set procedural way it goes down.
Trust me here, I've been through it.
It's nowhere near as cut and dry as a "collector" saying, "pay up, or else." With unemployment the way it is, and real estate values nose diving, it's not only commonplace, it's also something that many jump into on purpose (when you owe $500,000 on a property that's only worth $200,000, it no longer makes sense to throw out $4,000 a month on it).
What am I saying? Well, it's old news and it's not handled remotely believably here.
Which leads me into my 2nd comment. I've seen where you're considering adapting this into a feature, and my recommendation is not to. IMO, there's really no feature sized story here, and alot of that is based on what I've said above.
The bottom line is that so many people have been devastated by the real estate crash (and unemployment) that IMO, at least, it's really not the subject of a funny romcom-type flick. Sure, it could be, but as it sits now, there's nothing here that wold lend itself well to a feature, and I'm basing this remark on what I see here now...story, plot, characters...none of which are feature worthy.
This is just my 2 cents here and it's not meant to put you or your script down in any way. Just throwing out my advice.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.