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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    One Week Challenge    March, 2013 1+6WC  ›  Reset to Default = 1+6WC Feature
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Don
Posted: April 27th, 2013, 12:33pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Reset to Default by Eric Wall - Drama - After fourteen years in prison, Daniel Toth is being given a second chance. A chance to reconnect with his family, and rebuild his life. But when a gift for his son results in unintended consequences, the demons of his past begin to catch up. - pdf, format


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EWall433
Posted: April 27th, 2013, 3:52pm Report to Moderator
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Hello. Iím a first time poster, long time visitor here. I came here a little over a week ago to get inspired, and I suppose I was. This is my first feature in a long while, so I hope itís up to snuff.

Despite the Drama genre listing, this actually drifted into paranoid thriller territory and found its footing there.

I hope you enjoy, and Iím looking forward to reading the other entries.

Good Day all  
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nawazm11
Posted: April 30th, 2013, 4:25am Report to Moderator
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Hey, Eric. Saw you reading a few other features so thought I'd jump on this one. Apologies if any of this comes off as harsh but I'm just trying to help you, man.

I think I'll focus on the first page since I think you may be somewhat new to screenwriting. Your writing is barely readable sorry to say, which is a huge problem. Eventually, this all figures itself out as you start to write and read more but it's still a good thing to keep in mind.

Page 1: "INT. COURTROOM. DAY." Should be "INT. COURTROOM -DAY." There shouldn't be a full stop after the location.

There are a few problems with your first paragraph, but the major one that sticks out is that you didn't put a full stop at the end of your last sentence. I hate for it to sound like this but 90% of readers will put the script down the moment they see this. This may not be the case, and I doubt it is, but it makes the reader feel as if the writer doesn't really care enough to put full stops, so why should the reader care about reading the script. It's the smaller things, Eric. That's what you have to fix.

And unfortunately, the whole sentence doesn't make a lot of sense either. "The small courtroom is filled with people." A few problems with this sentence alone. We already know it's a courtroom from the slug so there is no reason to mention it again. The sentence isn't really visual either. Another thing is that it's written in passive form, which is a big no no as it slows the read down and doesn't belong in screenplays. Almost always, this emerges from using the word "is" and having words ending in "ing".

Let's just try and restructure it here and now. "Small. Pews filled with PEOPLE. DANIEL TOTH, early 40s, clean shaven, short haircut, sits in the front row."
Okay, so it's not much better but it flows easier/faster off the tongue because we've eliminated all the BS. This needs to be done with every sentence of the script, Eric. As a screenwriter, you're [probably] trying to get reads with producers but if there are small simple occurrences like this, they'll simply just put it in the bin and get to the next script.

So, just as an overall note, you gotta focus on the writing, man. You can't have it awkwardly structured or have glaring errors like no full stops and preferably, not have passive writing in it. I'm going to stop focusing on the writing as I go on but I'd still like you to keep in mind that it needs some major work. There are also a few formatting errors and a few other things but you don't need to focus on them just yet.

Page 3/4: Goodness sounds really awkward to me, I think you could replace it with "Good" instead, even though it's not much better.

Page 4: Strange, man, the last two paragraphs are decent enough as a whole, they could still use some work though. Not sure why the first page had so many mistakes. You need to set a good impression or else nobody will want to read the script.

Page 7: Daniel's got a big vocabulary for an inmate... Have to make him sound more natural, Eric. Unless there's a reason later on why he talks like this, you have to give him a 'voice', so he sounds like what you think he'll sound like.

Page 11: Try and split your sentences to max 4 lines. Helps for a better read.

Page 16: I'm having a lot of trouble reading here, Eric. Nothing is happening, really, we've just been standing there and watching the characters talk. That'd be fine but it's really not leading to anything. The guy's came home but he's doing all this boring stuff which honestly, I could care less about. I need something to latch on to, I'm afraid I'll have to quit if it doesn't come soon enough. Have you ever watched American History X? The story seems very similar but if you study the first 20 minutes, there is a lot of stuff happening. We see the infamous jaw breaker scene, the police discuss Edward Norton's life before he became a skinhead, there's the confrontation with the black guys in the bathroom, a confrontation with the teacher, the basketball game where surprisingly, we want the skinheads to win. All these scenes are major plot points in the film and they reek of conflict. You can feel that something's going to happen soon.

So far, we've had about 6 people tell us how much they hate our main character, which also really makes me hate him. I can't feel sympathy for him. And then when his wife comes, the first thing he does is ask for a cigarette? How about apologizing, bro? Why does he act like nothing is wrong? It makes him come across as a dick to say it bluntly. And after that, we have chatter between the sheriff which wasn't very engaging, since I know nothing about any of the characters and can't really understand why I would care if these guys have a neighbourly crush on each other. And after that, he's at home, just messing around and talking to his wife about his life. There needs to be some type of catalyst, man. Something that I need, show me one of his buddies that helped him with the bombing, show me some hate from his son, I need conflict man, or else I'll have to bow out...

Page 18: In Australia, an iPhone costs 900 dollars. And yet people still buy it... Strange that Daniel would be this behind on the tech, but I suppose I can believe it.

Also, man. Hopefully you're not going to stall this any longer, the phone should really be a top priority to the story. I didn't even know you had one in the story until now.

Page 34: Sorry, Eric. But this is where I'm going to stop reading. The script is slow, man, it really is. You mention one or two things but they aren't leading any where, we're just following this guy's life and to tell you the truth, it's not fun. It's boring, there hasn't been an inciting incident, or a first act finish. We're not being lead anywhere since Daniel just keeps going on his daily day like nothing's wrong. But for a script to be enjoyable, there needs to be conflict. Honestly, I don't think his son hates him, in actuality, he always seems to be in the wrong here.

This needs to be faster, man. You need to get to the story's heart and not get clogged up with so many details. I can understand that you feel this is important to the story but first tell us only what we need to know, and then get to the phone. Really, I'd scrap that courtroom scene, just a full exposition fest without any real point. Now, as we read on, we'll eventually know everything. If the courtroom scene is taken away, we immediately start with a mystery, we're thrust into the story and we see these people calling him up and accusing Daniel of a crime. Naturally, we want to know what it is, we want to know what happened, there's something that we can feel the script leading to, so we continue reading.

Sorry I couldn't finish it, Eric. And again, I apologize if these comments come off as harsh but they're just to help you.

Good luck!
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EWall433
Posted: April 30th, 2013, 3:17pm Report to Moderator
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Hi, nawazm. Thanks for the read and don't worry about apologies. I understand the spirit in which these comments are given. In my reply I hope you don't mind that I skip around your comments at will.

First off most of your comments aren't coming out of left field for me.

I'll admit I'm limited in my knowledge of all the proper rules and formatting procedures. As far as the basic grammer mistakes (no stops) I'm going to chalk most of that up to submitting this right before the deadline (I'm talking ten minutes left) and not having nearly as much time to go over it as I would've liked.

As for the first act length, I'm aware of my guilt here too. I'm sorry it was too much to take. At page 34 you were only a few pages away from the inciting incident, but I know that's at least 10 pages too late. I've already been thinking of ways to try to crunch all that info into a shorter page length. I do want to get most of it in the beginning, however. I feel like it's absence would just lead to confusion in the later stages.


Quoted Text
Page 7: Daniel's got a big vocabulary for an inmate... Have to make him sound more natural, Eric. Unless there's a reason later on why he talks like this, you have to give him a 'voice', so he sounds like what you think he'll sound like.


This one I'm of two minds about. I do struggle to find the voice at times, but Daniel's voice isn't one I had much of a problem with. There's no real reason 'to be revealed' why he's smarter then you'd figure an inmate to be. I just think Daniel's problems aren't because the educational system failed him, they're because of his personality.


Quoted Text
Page 18: In Australia, an iPhone costs 900 dollars. And yet people still buy it... Strange that Daniel would be this behind on the tech, but I suppose I can believe it.


I thought it seemed natural that someone in jail since '99 would be technologically incompetent. Maybe I should at least make him aware of the tech's existence.


Quoted Text
So far, we've had about 6 people tell us how much they hate our main character, which also really makes me hate him.... It makes him come across as a dick to say it bluntly.


Quoted Text
Honestly, I don't think his son hates him, in actuality, he always seems to be in the wrong here.


This may be a situation where I have roll out such traits more gradually, or find something sympathetic about Daniel to offset them at the start. Your observation that he's constantly in the wrong is correct (and intended). If someone were to finish the story and tell me they 'liked' Daniel, I would be worried for them.

As harsh as you may think you're being, your comments actually help a lot and are giving me some new ideas to mull over. Hopefully, I can come back with a draft you can get through.  
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nawazm11
Posted: May 1st, 2013, 1:13am Report to Moderator
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Thanks for getting back, Eric. Will get to a few of your statements.

I'm going to chalk most of that up to submitting this right before the deadline
Understandable.

At page 34 you were only a few pages away from the inciting incident, but I know that's at least 10 pages too late
Actually, inciting incident should be earlier in the script, but I think you mean the shift to the second act.

If someone were to finish the story and tell me they 'liked' Daniel, I would be worried for them.
Can understand that but usually if your main character is meant to come off like this, you should inject another supporting character into the mix that's incredibly likeable. Or even have another character that's 100 times worse than Daniel. Which I assume might be the case if I'd read on.

Anyway, bro! Just remember different people have different opinions, this may just be me.

Have a good one.
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SteveUK
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Hi Eric,

Congrats on getting a script finished for the deadline, it's a massive achievement. I'm sorry to say that this didn't work for me, though. I'll get on to the parts of the story that I had problems with in a moment, but there were also a few issues I had with the general writing itself:

Your action lines need a lot of work. You tend to overly describe some scenes, and your sentence structures often read awkwardly. It's something I've done myself in the past, and something that will definitely improve the more you write. Go over each paragraph and ask yourself "Is there a better and more succinct way that I could word this?" - I always do, and usually find that there is. As an example, in one scene you have:

'Kathyís making a sauce now and Daniel stops just inside the door to the living room. He leans on the frame.'

Which could be streamlined to:

'Kathy makes a sauce at the stove as Daniel watches on from the doorway.'

Your slugs are formatted wrong - you need a hyphen between the location and time of day instead of a period.

You don't need the 'continueds' at the top and bottom of each page. This is probably a setting that needs turning off in your software.

Now, onto the story. The biggest problem I had was with Daniel. I understand he's a bit of an anti-hero, especially with his past, but as he's the main character the audience has to find some reason to root for him. As it is, he comes across as a bit of a dick. Pretty unlikable. And by the end, he's the worst person in the script - it's like a big middle finger to the audience. If I were you, I'd change it completely. Have the story be about Daniel redeeming himself by stopping the second bombing. You've set it up really well with him inadvertently being responsible for the first bomb. And with his past, there's no way the police would believe him if he went to them, so the main focus of the story should be Daniel trying to figure out who is responsible for the bombing and then finding a way to stop it, thus making him the hero and redeeming his past crimes. You literally have the perfect ticking time bomb to add urgency and suspense to your script, but the whole bomb plot seems to take a backseat for large parts of the story, which brings me to the second problem I had...

The subplot with Josh just doesn't work for me. I'm assuming that at first he's supposed to be distant and unloving/untrusting of his father, but it doesn't really come across - he seems more indifferent than anything else. Then Daniel gives him the phone and he seems slightly happier, but still indifferent. Then he gets busted with drugs, owes someone money, attempts a botched robbery and gets killed. Unfortunately I never cared about Josh, and by this point in the script I pretty much disliked Daniel, so his death had no impact whatsoever. Also, the whole drugs/robbery/death sequence took up pages 67 - 85... This is a prime moment in the script that should be used to build up to the big finale, but instead we get sidetracked for almost 20 pages where the bomb isn't even mentioned once!

In my opinion, a better way of using Josh in the story would be to have him hostile and bitter towards Daniel when he gets out of prison - he's spent almost his entire life without his father and probably been teased and abused all his life because of his father's crime. Daniel could get him the phone in an attempt to buy his forgiveness, allowing Josh to soften towards him a little, but still be cold and untrusting. Then when Daniel saves the day in the end and becomes a hero, Josh can finally be won over and have a father to be proud of.

You also need to add more urgency to the story. It really drags at the beginning with nothing much important happening. Daniel gets the phone on page 25, but the first bomb doesn't go off until page 36. Ideally, you need to get the phone into Daniel's hands a little sooner, have the bomb go off the following day, and Daniel realize he only has 4 days to stop the second bomb. This should all have happened before the 30 page mark, setting the story in motion for a race against time in the next 60-70 pages.

Another thing that I think needs changing is the beginning. Imagine watching a film that opened straight into a courtroom scene with numerous people giving their statements - it would be pretty damn boring to watch. It would be far more interesting if you opened with a series of scenes showing - Daniel being led out of prison; Daniel riding in a prison bus; Daniel being led to the courtroom - and over this you could have the victims giving their statements in voice over, then end with the final victim finishing her statement in court as Daniel looks on.

As I've mentioned, in spite of the big problems I had with your script, I do believe it has potential. With some big changes you could have a really good thriller here with a ticking time bomb to drive the story forward (the second bomb due to go off in 4 days), a main character in search of redemption (Daniel needs to atone for his past crime) who has a clear goal (regain the love of his son).

I made some page-by-page notes as I was going, trying to pick up typos and mistakes, but I'll send these to you in a PM instead of clogging up this thread.
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EWall433
Posted: May 7th, 2013, 3:12pm Report to Moderator
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Hey Steve,

Thanks for the read and the extensive notes. Theyíre a big help.

I think I was originally going for a Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer thing with Daniel here, but made the mistake of setting it up as a thriller and keeping Daniel isolated from events. Nawazmís note about having an extremely likable character, or one thatís ten times worse, rings true here. I believe Henry had both.

Right now Iím thinking I might just cannibalize Danielís general arc and make it part of a larger, more direct story. That way this rather unlikable character doesnít have to support everything by himself.

Thanks for the suggestions though. Iím sure theyíll help no matter what direction I take this in.
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RJ
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Eric,

Although I liked parts of the story, unfortunately I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said. The only real difference of opinion would be with your action lines - Except for a little rewording - they were pretty short (which is a good thing) but in some instances, there were just talking heads where you needed to throw some action in between. I did find this pretty easy to get through.

The courtroom scene does drag on a little long.

You can get rid of 'CUT TO' - more for shooting scripts.

I liked the scene you set between Horton, Kathy and Daniel at the start, but it does drag - dialogue can be cut.

Remember than only the most essential items for the story should be included in the script.

I liked the way he purchased the phone, but it was very out of the blue - who is Al? We don't know him at all and then we are supposed to care about him later?

I don't believe that daniel would write the numbers down - they're of no importance what so ever to him. I thought this could be better played out by Daniel getting text messages or something like that. At first he pays no attention then keeps getting them and sees the news with the date then gets worried, etc. Later on this could play more into the 'I was framed' type of thing, with Al and Tim being the bombers the whole time (even before Daniel got caught).

As a drama, this just doesnt work for me. There is only one that I really liked and that is the whole 'high school drawing' and it tying together with the ending. There are plenty of other things you can do with this script and twists you can interwind - you just need to see the possibilities - they are there. But drama is also the hardest genre to sell, so I'd keep that in mind.

Otherwise; you could easily turn this into an action/thriller - as steve said 'ticking time bomb' type of thing. You could have the police suspecting Daniel after the first one goes off, then he wants to find the bomb to clear his name, all the while trying to protect his family, with the police hot on his tail. By page 30 you'd want to kick in the action - daniel's frantic search - police chases, etc. There is so much you can throw in to make this interesting.

With a lot of work, this could all come together nicely and work.

Good luck with the rewrites.

Renee

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irish eyes
Posted: May 8th, 2013, 10:09pm Report to Moderator
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Hey Eric good to see you got a script out and also give reviews


Page 1

We need to start with FADE IN: on the left.

INT. COURTROOM. DAY..... Should be INT. COURTROOM - DAY

CUT TO is only used when moving to another scene and even then you don't need it... it's very rarely used anymore.

MALE VICTIM 1 (AGE 22).... character name is not the place for ages... describe the character first, age, what they're wearing or whatever in your description/action.

ok so i'm noticing a lot of issues with format and grammar... don't worry those are easy fixes.The more you read and write the more you learn.

I'll concentrate on your story and if I notice spelling mistakes. If you have any questions on format, pm me and I'll try to help.

page 5

Kathy takes his bag and starts to her car.... starts walking to her car

page 41

DANIEL
Let me phrase this another way, why
do you have to active phones?... two

page 80

Danny boy is a big copyright no no...

OK I finished.

Not a bad little story here Eric.

Obviously Daniel has been released and given a 2nd chance. Especially redeeming himself with his family, which he did up until a point, although a smartphone was a pretty quick fix with his son Josh. Kathy welcoming him after a long absence, was actually a nice touch, trying to get the family back together.

But Daniel himself, although had moments and being your protag, came off as unlikable especailly with the cop Horton who seemed like he wanted to help, watched out for him, had cop cars at his house incase in was attacked. He accidentally shot Josh who was wearing a mask... and as revenge Daniel blew him up.

I actually thought Daniel was gonna kill himself with the bomb, which would have been more of a bittersweet ending for everyone and would have made more sense... thus making Daniel that little bit more likable.  

Besides that ,some of the dialogue was very over written at times and could be toned down at times.

Overall you managed to get a script out in 6 weeks... awesome and with a good rewrite, you could have a really good script.

all the best

Mark  




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EWall433
Posted: May 20th, 2013, 8:53pm Report to Moderator
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Hey Renee and Mark,

It's been a bit, but I wanted to acknowledge your comments.

@Renee


Quoted Text
I don't believe that daniel would write the numbers down - they're of no importance what so ever to him.


I was keeping my eye out for that comment. I was hoping general curiousity might be enough, but now I think I'm going to have to reinforce it better.

@Daniel


Quoted Text
Danny boy is a big copyright no no...


I assumed it was public domain. Oh well. I'll probably end up dropping it in any case.

Once again, I thank you both for the read.

Eric
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