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Company Town by Mitchell Rait - Drama - In this contemporary drama, a reluctant business owner faces blackmail and murder while trying to save his company and the local town from a powerful corporate raider and a ruthless union buster. 99 pages - pdf, format
I have to wonder about the set-up here. Your log-line has it down as a contemporary drama, but it's more like a light comedy.
I think you spend to much time not really getting anywhere during the early stages - the issue with Jason's wife will have to be resolved, and I'm not sure you've a good reason for depicting her in that way? I don't think it reflects well on Jason, and lightens the peace too.
If you're going for an action piece, I think you need good reason - Jason's early antics could have been placed earlier but they are way too unrealistic & this changes the mood of the script again.
I think you need to made a clear decision on genre and then still to it.
Hi Mitchel. Please try and read other people's scripts as well - you're more likely to get feedback, and the more heads you have looking at what you're writing, the better for you; but you'll have to input before you get decent output.
I read some more today. Some general thoughts:
Jason's action-scene: The danger here, is that you are saying you want Jason to be seen as being likable because he's saving an employee. What the audience is seeing is an action-hero -- that is what's dominant in the scene, and that's what they are going to take away from it. You've already hinted that Jason is athletic, via him running earlier. If you want to suggest that he cares for his employees then there are more subtle ways to do it -- visiting one of his employees who's sick; paying out for education for an employee's child - a myriad of options.
The scenes on pages 21, 22, 23 all came across a little unrealistic, but I would probably look to place these a lot earlier as it helps to establish what the story is - 'till that point there's really nothing to give the story any direction. Everything from page 1-20 really needs to be either condensed or ditched.
In principle, the key driving point of the story works - in that Jason is inbetween a rock and a hard place: forced to sell his company by unscrupulous business men, a man's morals and loyalties are tested.
I would suggest that if you had that as your key leading theme, you build the rest of the story, and the sub-stories around it... his relationship with his wife, his relationship with his employees, is all brought into the story on the basis of that key element.
And read other people's scripts. Quid pro quo and all that.
It does turn out to be a drama, the Die Hard scene at the beginning is the only Action, although there is a shoot-out (of sorts) at the end.
Good to see you are up for comments. Well done on completing a script and thanks for posting. I thought it was well written with just a few typos (a couple of missing words and Matt with a small m) and it's pretty much correctly formatted so you are OK there because that's what comments usually are about.
99 pages might be a little short for a drama although I found myself counting before the end. Your story is earnest but not very engaging. It relies on believing that the workers are right and the corporate raiders must be defeated, but without proper motivations it was hard to care as the sides are drawn in too broad strokes. I would certainly work more on this, I hope you would not be put off if I told you what I thought could be better. Others might like it as it is.
You do have some format issues, for example not mentioning characters in a scene before they speak. There are a lot of characters and a lot going on at times that made it hard to follow. I had to keep backtracking to find certain characters e.g. the managers in their introduction are described all together, by name only, and some characters are not properly introduced e.g. Murphy, Rory and Tex. You can work that out, I would be more concerned to get your characters speaking like real people, or like people in a film anyway, and not as stereotypes reciting the plot. Kimberly is so much a bitch that she derails the story because why would this nice guy - a cartoon level of nice - want to be with her?
I'll need to think a few things through before I give you notes, I read the script just once. I'll wait for anyone else to chime in.
I received your e-mail. Better I leave comments here so your thread gets a bump and you get more views.
Save the cat moment on page 10 although I think Jason stands out and comes across as likeable from the very jump. Those sex scenes and the Rhinestone Cowboy bit on the radio were great.
My attention was fleeting until around page 17 when Jason notices Sasha's swollen fingers. I can't help but think this plays a part later on? Maybe Shaw or somebody did that to her. But yet, another scene where Jason comes sweeping in to save the day, helping Sasha with the doctor bill... however, not as blatantly obvious as when he saves Santos from the machinery going haywire.
I think the very next page Jason finds out over the phone that his father died and we cut to the funeral with a bunch of factory men attending, etc. Kind of reminds me of Tommy Boy, but without the emotional punch. In Tommy Boy, we got to see Tommy and his dad interact and connect with each other. That wedding sequence where they're dancing and singing together and having an awesome time... then his father drops dead of a heart attack, everyone at the wedding gathers around, and then we cut to them gathered around at his funeral. It's hard hitting. Here, I don't care that Jason's dad died. It wasn't handled right.
Page 20 -- The priest talking, raises the bible, and then he talks again without his name over his dialogue. I've noticed some writers do this -- the first time with Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises script -- and it takes me out of the story because I stop and think, why did they do that? It looks weird, etc. Don't take us out of the story. I think I read a review on SS where Carson said the same thing. I don't always agree with the man, but on that one I do.
Page 21 - Jason gives a homeless man some money and the above problem I just had issue with. I already get that Jason's a good guy. You don't have to keep shoveling that into our face. The following scenes that follow contain some pretty OTN and corny dialogue and a lot of exposition. Barone's "Smith and Wesson" line made me snicker. He comes across as cartoonish. Also, Barone Enterprises? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't The Sopranos have a guy named Barone running a Barone Enterprises?
There's a lot of stuff in the script making me laugh but I don't feel like you intended for that (except for maybe in the beginning). I was into this when I first started. I really liked the opening, but everything is just going down hill from there. There's a bunch of stuff that's turning me off from the read -- and the fact that this isn't really my type of script to begin with -- makes me a little wary to continue on. Hopefully you found something useful out of this post, dude. Welcome to the boards too, and merry Christmas.
I took a look at the 90 FEET review to see what kind of comments you find useful. That writer doesn't seem to be around but others would find your review helpful.
One thing that surprised me is "You cannot write in a script what the audience can't see or hear" because you do this in COMPANY TOWN e.g. third line in, Jason is on his "daily" run. If you know about that and the rest I won't say anything about format except you need at least a few words of action description after a scene heading, if only to say who is in the scene. You shouldn't assume it's obvious, for example on page 91 as Barone is driven away and there are a few words to the driver, this carries on from the previous scene where the driver speeds off, yet INT. BARONE’S LIMOUSINE - MORNING might be a day or a year later, in a different location, with a different driver or other people in the car. With no description or context the dialogue floats. Aside from that your format is fine and there are just a few typos so I would expect comments to be more about the story.
You ask about motivations. Sorry to say I found all the characters one-dimemsional, only doing a thing because they were doing it. All are stock roles: rich kid with the common touch, his selfish fiance, old school factory owner, grifting union bosses, regular working joes, head busting strike breakers, crooked corporate raiders, etc. Everyone is playing a part with one object, even the smallest, like the security guard or bar staff. They are not characters as much as caricatures. The 'Fat Tony' Barone character will have you up before the Italian American Anti-Defamation League!
Your main character is a "reluctant business owner" but why reluctant? He takes over the family firm on his father's death and does the best he can. Jason is supposedly trying to resist a hostile take-over (that he has passively facilitated) but only stumbles through, insisting "I'm working on it" without any clear plan, putting his faith in the wrong persons and succeeding mostly through the actions of others or by coincidence. I've never read Save the Cat but I can't care about this guy, however nice he may be and concerned for the workers. John McClane was more than a bloody shirt and machine gun.
It's given that the town needs Gray Industries and jobs are all, so if it's not to be work for work's sake, why is the work important? It isn't made clear what the factory does ("jet engines for the government" could be built by any rival business) or why Jason is the man for the job. I think because it is described as old and brown the factory seemed anyway in decay, and by implication the town too. It may be that the factory closing or a change of ownership is the best thing that could happen, since half the town are stuck in it; you open with a near-fatal incident, the place is a death-trap.
The working men conform to stereotype blue collar roles down to darts in the pub, and words: "I ain’t standing for it without a fight!" The suits are likewise stereotypical: "we can shut down the factory, sell off the assets, pocket the cash from the pension plan, and put the company into bankruptcy." I'm expecting evil laughter. The only motive for the corporate raiders is greed, and for the workers clinging to a job.
You state the theme at one point: "Good always wins" but does the good have to be this good, or the bad so bad? Try giving your characters proper motivation instead of stock standpoints. If you can't see what I'm talking about, watch THE DEER HUNTER. These working men seemed to me more like the peasant farmers in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN - doesn't someone actually say "All I ask is enough to feed my family"? I don't believe any of these characters exist beyond the pages of your script. Make me.
The themes seem important to you and I don't know your background so excuse me if they really are but they are handled here in such a cliche manner that it's not far from parody, most noticeably in the intercut scenes with Burley and Parker that illustrate union ambitions and capitalist control. It's what I mean by broad strokes, it's too obvious where our sympathies should lie.
COMPANY TOWN is the story of a take-over and fight for jobs. That is a universal theme, so you will need to work on characters as people, with more than surface wants and needs, for a story to be told in this place at this time to seem important. What would be the difference if it was set in Taiwan or Argentina?
Start with your main character. Intensify relationships, private and professional. Although he doesn't realise or do anything about it, Jason faces a personal crisis as fiance to a woman who is entirely unattractive except physically, and he doesn't even seem to enjoy her that way in the raunchy sex scene at the start. From a screenwriting point of view I think you are using this wrongly, it is unlike anything else in the script - jarringly crude when you want the early scenes to make us like Jason. With the 'Howdy, ma'am' moment in the elevator it even makes it like comedy as the other reviewers found. Kimberly is hot, we know that, and can imagine her wild lovemaking if we need to. What you want here is the disconnect, because her physical assets are all she has. I can't see why Jason doesn't notice.
There are hints that the relationship has been arranged by their elders, but not why this should be. A rash mistake and pregnancy is one option. Jeremiah cementing the future by marriage to an heiress or a fellow bosses daughter is another. The option you choose - Jason has a hot model girlfriend because that's what a guy in a luxury condo just has to have - paints Jason as shallow as she is. I might think you have Kimberly in the script only to add glamor, and to write in the sex scene. When Jason does eventually ditch her, it has no effect on his life or the story.
If I can show you why sketchy character roles are a problem, you have Jason doling out secret tips and hand-outs to the homeless to illustrate his concern for the disadvantaged. He lives what should be a carefree life in his condo so that in reality these things would seem insulting. Mr Big Shot in his swanky apartment. You say he went to Ohio State but not what he studied there or who paid for it. What if he rebelled against the silver spoon and went to college to study Interpretive Dance? (I mean that not literally.) Cut off from the family until he stops this foolishness, and having paid his way through college waiting tables, even if he chose to return to the family business the money he has made is his own, the hard way, and now his principles matter.
You miss a trick since there is just the one brief scene alone with his father. It could be the time for Jeremiah to expound the family philosophy, to make plain Jason's duty and responsibilities, have the son defiantly state reasons why he wanted to rebel, show the forces acting on him. Instead there is chat and awkwardness between them (quick hug / pat on the back) and a semi-cryptic goodbye. When the story needs it we don't get to see what kind of straitjacket his father has ready that makes Jason "reluctant", because this should-be important relationship is only hinted at before Jeremiah's death. The real triumph will be in Jason finding unexpected reward in assuming the role his father had planned for him, because he takes it on under his own terms and does things in his own way.
That's the point on motivations. I have notes for a full review, but I read on another thread you believe COMPANY TOWN "stinks"? It doesn't, but if I posted here it might seem like it. I'll send a PM instead because a thousand words about changes means I do agree it "needs a ton of work." I hope I can help.