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Black Doors by Christopher Sorensen (Thenextscott) - Sci Fi - One scientist, millions of miles between victory, and defeat. But in the midst of success, a new form of communication is discovered. 128 pages - pdf, format
I've read up to page 54. So I won't comment on your script's story until I've completed it. However, I do recommend that you read more produced scripts, ideally pdf's. as opposed to html or txt. The pdf scripts give the clearest examples of how to format a script or you could get scriptwriting software. I've heard rumors of free downloadable ones. I know there are some reasonably priced software that are downloadable. I also recommend a grammar guide. For example, you wrote ...our bosses car is a porche..., but it should be...our boss's car is a Porsche... In the USA, the most widely read grammar guide is "The Elements of Style" by EB White (Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web) and Wm. Strunk. I don't know what the British/Aussie/Irish/SA equivalents are? With a that said, congrats on writing a full script. Best Regards.
You're absolutely right. I did make the semi finals in 2009. What prevented it from going even further into the finals was because, the screenplay was written in the past tense. So it was like reading a novel. Although it was my learning curve to rewrite it to the present tense, I was happy it could make it to the semi's. This year however, I entered back into the screenplay festival with the same script (Present Tense Now) along with another which is on this site that is titled 'The Melody Of Sephira'. But here's a real kicker, Inktip which sends me lists of Studios which are looking for unique scripts, wanted one with a female lead in it, hence Black Doors. So I sent them a synopsis along with a log line, and a day later, I got an E-Mail from woodpine studios asking me for the entire script to be read with the staff. Blew me right away. This is the first time a studio has contacted me since I started writing five years ago. I am so excited.
Hey congrates on that! You may be getting your script produced soon, very cool. You look like you have a lot of scripts in the works and your getting solid attention. Keep up the good work and as I mentioned above I'll take a look at this asap.
All right, this is my first read-through, so here goes. As rmaze noted, brush up on your formatting. Have you tried Celtx? It has its detractors, but it'll at least put you in the ballpark, and it's free.
I won't harp on anything formatting from here on out, unless you reply and let me know you want me to.
Okay - Page 2 (I'm going by how they're numbered internally). Right off the top - is this quote spoken, or text on-screen? Just clarify that.
Make sure you capitalize characters when you introduce them.
Also, you spend 7 lines introducing Marsha, with a bit of superfluous description. Tighten this up, and I bet you could collapse everything from "A team of scientists" to "Her name is Professor Marsha Crane..." into four lines or less. If I may -
A team of scientists sit working at their stations. MARSHA CRANE, attractive, 30s, dressed conservatively but with an eye for thrift, paces behind them, barking out orders.
That's really all you need, I think.
In general, proofread, proofread, proofread. Keep an eye on your apostrophes and commas, especially the ones that aren't in there right now but need to be.
A lot of people will get on you about introducing someone as VOICE and then introducing them as their character two lines later. Be careful with that - see if you can adjust it so we introduce Devon all at once. Is it really necessary to obscure his identity in the first place? I could see it if we don't see him for a while, but he's on-screen pretty much instantaneously. Clarity's king.
That would also allow you to describe Devon right up front - as it stands, I don't know if he's a kid, an eighty year-old kook, or something in between. I'm assuming he's important to the story though, because you named him rather than calling him NERVOUS TECHNICIAN or something.
Watch repetition with "each one." Tighten, tighten, tighten.
You don't need to tell the readers "she speaks out loud" - that's already understood.
Again, your descriptive paragraphs are a bit long.
"Marsha's glare burns down on Devon, but he doesn't waver. His confidence softens her."
That's assuming, of course, you introduce Devon earlier.
If we're staying in the same place and no time has passed, you don't need to throw up another slug for INT. TEST LAB. Oh, wait, we did go through the observation window, didn't we. Might help to add "(CONTINUOUS)" to the end of this and the previous slugs to clarify.
Wendy's dialogue - I'm not sure what "meanest" means. Is it supposed to be "most average?" Consider "nominal" instead.
Consider doing a little research on space missions - 80 million dollars is DIRT cheap for - well, anything, really. The Mars Exploration Rovers, for example, while considered barebones and super-cheap to NASA cost almost a billion bucks. Unless they're talking only about a specific instrument - but still, sending something to Jupiter is going to be hella expensive. And again, this is assuming this is set relatively close to present day.
"Wendy chuckles." That's all you need, if even that.
Noun/verb agreement - "Both" don't "watches."
Noun/verb agreement again. A set "flips."
Not sure you need the ONSCREEN tag.
Watch the run-on sentence. Don't be afraid to throw a period down.
"lightning," not "lightening."
I'm not really sure what the bit about the giant red spot means, or if it's really necessary for the story.
How do we know visually - as viewers of the movie that this script is the basis for - that disappearing around to the dark side cuts off communication? Consider cutting that part, and making it slightly more clear that the satellite's red blip on the screen in the lab disappears when you go back there.
Formatting again, which I know I said I wouldn't harp on, but it's kinda bugging me - I don't think you need the "(CONTINUED)" at the bottom and top of every page.
"Marsha laughs. Devon glances over." Tighter. Doesn't have the redundancy of "asking."
Who's typing at her station? Oh, Marsha? Maybe change the slug line to "INT. TEST LAB, MARSHA'S DESK DAY" and/or start the sentence off with her name, just so we as readers are clear.
Again, introduce and describe your characters the first time they pop up.
"Hanging on the wall behind her are her numerous diplomas."
"Scientists sit anxiously at a large conference table, its head seat still unclaimed. Marsha, Wendy, and Devon sit together." Just another way to tackle that opening description. And please, don't take anything I say as gospel - I'm just throwing ideas out and trying to help.
"The door opens. The GENERAL, 50s, tall, intimidating, with enough medals on his uniform to (some sort of clever quip), enters. He's followed by two other OFFICERS.
The General moves quickly to his chair and sits."
I think "thereafter" is one word, not too.
The General's speech here feels like too much exposition, and somewhat out of character for a military guy.
Watch tense - should be "give" their thanks, not "gave." How do they do this, by the way? Are they just clapping, or what? And careful with "all three."
Again, "all three."
The first two paragraphs seem a little overwritten. Careful with "which causes" - usually in screenplays, just write the actions, rather than cause/effect.
You really don't need sentences like "Wendy finishes chewing her food and asks..." Again, the "asks" is repetitive, because we see the question right after, and small actions like chewing are going to be picked up on by actors reading your script. Same thing with the parenthetical (surprised) just before with Marsha - it's pretty obvious by what she says that she's surprised, so it's not really necessary.
You're. Your. Know the difference - you've got the wrong one in Devon's line.
Again with the "asks" and minor actions.
Okay, that's as far as I'm going with this level of notes. I'm going to continue to read it, because I'm somewhat of a space geek, but any notes from this point out will be more "big-picture."
From your first ten pages:
Who is your main character? I'm assuming it's Marsha, only because she was introduced first, but she, Wendy, and Devon all seem somewhat interchangeable. Sure, she's conservatively dressed and Devon's kinda sloppy, but that doesn't really differentiate anyone as characters. Especially here in the pub scene, as well, they don't really seem to act like professional scientists, but more like middle-schoolers.
Also, what's driving the story? Haven't really seen too much conflict in these first ten pages. Is the General going to be your antagonist?
This scene with Marsha and Wendy is really exposition-heavy, and isn't really doing anything to forward the plot. See if you can find another way to work the backstory in - if it's really necessary.
Page 16 - You don't need the (V.O.) tags here. That's for when someone's narrating or verbalizing an internal monologue.
Page 18 - Getting sorta confused here. Thought this was a sci-fi script, but going on seven pages now we're following these three scientists on some semi-wacky antics.
20 - Introduce Dale right up front in the scene.
22 - Characters talking about backstory does not compelling reading make. Also, capitalize "Mars."
34 - 39 - Don't be afraid to CAPITALIZE words for emphasis - actions, sounds, etc. But be CAREFUL you don't OVERDO it BECAUSE then it LOOKS kind of RIDICULOUS and is a PAIN IN THE ASS to read. Lot of text in these pages, that to be honest I skimmed over, because it felt kinda repetitive. And I missed the intro of the "black dots," which I'm still not entirely sure what they are. If they could be clarified/introduced as characters, that would help, instead of burying them in the rest of the description.
42 - 47 - Just like I felt overloaded with description on that last set of pages, so too am I feeling overwhelmed with dialogue in here. See if you can find a way to mix it up and have somewhat of a balance between the two.
Lot of unfilmables and unnecessary descriptions. Feels in places a lot like novel writing rather than screenplay writing. Trim it down. Screenplays need to be lean, lean, lean.
66ish - These people seem to be making some giant leaps of understanding of how this stuff works.
Kinda feels a bit like "The Happening" except with ovals instead of the wind.
71 - Alternate world? Seems a little late in the screenplay to be introducing that sort of concept. Any way this can be brought into play sooner?
Page 80ish - I feel like no character's been active for the past 50 pages. It's all been reacting to the ovals. Characters need to drive the story.
95 - People talking about how they feel. Not visual. Figure out ways to tell your story visually - not just here, but throughout.
I like the concept of these scientists accidentally creating portals to other worlds. Make that stronger, and more the focus of the story. But it needs more conflict somehow than just the repetitive scenes of the "ovals" chasing people. Is there another name you can give the oval things? Constantly calling them "ovals" just doesn't sound scary enough for what they seem to be doing.
And give all your characters goals - something to be striving for. It'll help them become more "real" if you know what they're after.
Lemme know if you have any questions after this - I know it was long. And again - don't take any of this to heart. Just one person's opinion. Just trying to help.
WARNING: I am neither a professional screenwriter nor reader. My opinions are my own. Take from them what you will, and throw the rest aside.
Just to let you know, I use a three hundred dollar program which all writers use in hollywood. It is called Final Draft 8. A program which is a god send, because it can help me with spelling mistakes. But final draft is not all that I use, I also use a program called Whitesmoke, which is a grammar checker. So when I finish writing, I run it through whitesmoke to detect any mistakes. Paraphrasing, or other. I also learned that when writing a story, most producers do not look for bold or caps on certain words or sentences. A few grammar mistakes are allowed, but as long as the story remains contstant, without any bold letters, or capped words they are satisfied. Either way, bold or capped words are usually done in the studio, this is more because the producers wish it. If they want a script made that way, they'll request it. Although I may have a few paragraphs in capped format, it was because it was my decision to do so. Producers are very picky when they do not know the writer. So in keeping myself in a safe distance with them, I kept a normal format in my script.
Chris, congrats on the contest finish. I took a peek, and don't have time to really dig in, though from the looks, it's my kind of story.
But right off the bat, grammar and spelling problems occur. 'Oversee' is one word. And 'projects' should be 'project's'.
I am really not all that picky on format and spelling, but 2 mistakes in the first few lines tends to tell me I'm in for a rough ride. This kind of thing will really give someone who has to read a ton of scripts an excuse to drop this.
Please understand I'm only trying to help. To put all that work into something, and have people stop reading it for these reasons is a shame. I don't want to see it happen to you. So I would humbly suggest get someone to give it a good look through for these kinds of things. Some of these problems might even be software related. For example, you probably had 'oversee' correct in your original draft, and maybe it did not convert when you changed file forms. I don't know.
Anyway, best of luck with everything! Glad to have you here.
Mmmmm. The Melody Of Sephira is one on my list -- but I've not actually read it yet.
I don't really mean to cause any offence or anything -- but as soon as you open this - well, you've got 'more' & 'continued' on the title page ... ?
Then starting off on page 1 (which you've numbered page 2) you've got continued ... what, from the title page? And then 'CONT'D as if it were a character name or something.
Moving reluctantly on -- we have a dodgy split infinitive with "... metal large ring ...", before being assaulted by " ... equally metallic spires ... " - before being assured that " ... She grabs the windows ledge and holds on tight ..." 'cos she knows that she's in for a rough ride???
I may come back and give this a better read -- but to be honest, I don't know how this is a justifiable start ... ?
Most scripts would have more's and continued's. It is not a really a big obstacle for producers to see these in any script. But to be fair, final draft 8 which is what all script writers use does include more's and contuinued's to be more efficient. Stories which are simply written without those are fine too. Producers don't really scrutinize it too much unless it is a mess which cause their reading to be cut short. However -- when you mentioned numbers, they are only page numbers which are added automatically. I do not use scene numbers. Producers do not want them unless they specifically ask for it when they request a script. Page numbers are no problem.