Right. Finished this. I apologise in advance if this review comes across as negative -- I think this has potential to be a really neat little story, but there's quite a bit of work that needs to be done before it reaches that point. So I'm going to pick out the areas which needs the most work.
Firstly, as I just said, I liked the overall concept (A group of teens and young adults are forced or force themselves to go to a Christian retreat to be rid of their homosexuality, only to have a hand in creating man-eating demons). However, I feel that you're missing a massive trick here, as this idea is ripe for so much irony! What if this retreat 'cures' them of their homosexuality, only for them to find that the monsters only attack straight people? So then they have to try and learn how to be gay again? And even the pastors want to become gay, to prevent themselves from the monsters? So the roles are reversed -- instead of the pastors trying to 'cure' the campers of their homosexuality, the campers are now trying to 'cure' the pastors of their straightness?
Also, I never really understood how the camp is designed to cure them of their homosexuality, as we never saw any specifics. We never saw what their methods were. Little things like this do damage your script, as they give the writer the impression that you're not 100% sure of your concept. So show us this!But anyway, what were my main issues with this?
1) The structure.
2) Your protagonist.
I'll go into both these points in a little bit of detail for you, identifying the specific issues I had with both these problems, and throwing a few suggestions out there of ways to rectify this issues.1) The structure
As soon as I opened this script and saw that it was only 72 pages long, I knew there were going to be some issues with the structure. Nine times out of ten, when a script deviates substantially from the norm, in terms of page count, there are some pretty significant structural issues -- and unfortunately, this script was one of these 'nines'.
So what issues did I have with the structure? Well, there didn't really seem to be a structure here. You open up with a monster attack. We then spend the next 10 pages with a closeted star, thus setting him up as our protagonist. We then jump to a camp, spend 15 pages with another set of characters -- where all they do is talk to each other, no scene goals, nothing driving the story, etc. -- only for two of these new characters to get attacked around the page 28 mark. OK, page 28 -- that's fine for a first act break, if you're rolling with a 120 page script, or something similar (roughly speaking, your first act = 25% of your page count; second act = 50%; third act = 25%). But with a script as short as this, you need to get to your second act as quick as possible (around page 20), to stop the script feeling like all it is is set up.
But anyway, OK -- so first act break occurs on page 28... or does it? The reason that I ask this, is because despite this event occurring, no real story emerges for another 20 pages! And what I mean by this is no one wants anything until around page 48 (when they decide to take down the monsters). Until this, everyone's still just sitting around talking, without any scene goals or conflict, etc.
So what would I recommend? I go into this in detail in the page specific notes, so check that out 2) Your protagonist
This was a huge issue for me. You establish this guy as our protagonist, but then he disappears for the second half of the first act, only to reappear in the second act, as more of a pawn to other characters (ie, Kris). Matty needs a goal.
He needs to be the one driving the story. He needs to be the one investigating the disappearances, searching for April and Miriam. He needs to be the one going after the monsters. This needs to be his story.
Matty needs some serious work as a character, because at the moment, he's not a worthy protag. What's his external goal? What's his internal need? What's his inner conflict? What's his flaw? His fears? His ambitions? His backstory? Where's his character arc? You don't have to attack all of these, but the more you can nail, the more we're going to root for and identify with this guy.
But yeah, these are two pretty fundamental issues that need to be rectified, as structure and protagonist (or lack of a protag) is screenwriting 101. In fact, here are two articles I recommend. Sure, people hate on ScriptShadow (and I don't agree with everything the guy preaches), but you could do a lot worse than checking out these articles:http://scriptshadow.net/screenwriting-article-outlining/http://scriptshadow.net/screenwriting-article-character-outlining/Below are some page-specific notes:
Page 1 – Think it would work better if you had the first two sentences as an EXT. scene, then cut to the INT. of the car for when you introduce Ashley and Jacob?
One year olds normally don’t talk as well as that...
Also, how old is Ashley?
Is the girl talking in the OS (“I was downer than down”) Jez? If so, cut the OS and write PRE-LAP in the brackets instead... as that tells us that this bit of dialogue merges into dialogue following in the next scene. I’d also give the girl a name.
And it’s a flashback? You need to tell us this in the scene. After your slug, put FLASHBACK in brackets, or something.
I don’t know what software you are writing on, but sentences shouldn’t carry over between pages. Neither should the character’s name be on one page and their dialogue on another. This goes on quite a bit throughout the screenplay.
Page 4 – “She hides somewhere...” Where does she hide? Behind a tree? In a bush? We need specifics, if you want us to visualise this.
Page 5- “A waitress comes over. She looks an awful lot like Jez.” Huh? Either she is, or she isn’t Jez?
Page 8- All of Nelson’s phone convo should be a VO.
Page 9- I would recommend against introducing us to four new characters in one scene, as this just increases the likelihood that we’re going to forget who they are – especially as we don’t learn much about their personality, as this scene is dialogue-less.
Wowza – another five or six characters introduced in the scene directly after this as well. I would really recommend staggering the introduction of these characters if possible... or, at least, give them more personality when introduced.
Also, how come Ashley’s experience of the springs was so different to what these guys are experiencing? How come she made her own way there and wasn’t greeted by Nelson?
The scenes from page 12 – 19... Arghhhh, haha. These scenes need a serious shake up, I’m afraid – all they are is people introducing themselves to each other. Where’s the scene goals? Where’s the character who wants to achieve something? Where’s the character that wants to stop them from achieving this? Where’s the conflict?
Page 22 – Nelson’s threat seems super weak here... I feel that it would hold more weight if we’ve already heard April and the rest talking about how much they hate rich people, etc.
This focus switch feels really jarring as well... you set Matty up as our protagonist, but then he disappears for the second half of the first act, once they arrive at the springs... This needs to change, IMO.
Hang on – the attack on Miriam and April was the day before this scene with Matty and the boys...? Why not then set the attack at night, that way, when we switch to this scene in the day, we’ll know a day has passed?
Also, this scene with Matty and co goes on for faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar too long – it’s six pages! I’m honestly from the school-of-thought that scenes should only be longer than about three pages if there is something exceptional going on, that allows the reader to keep interest. Tarantino does it brilliantly with dramatic irony. We know something that the characters don’t know, so keep watching to find out what happens. But this is a 6 page scene of characters just talking. No scene goals. Little scene conflict. Just talking. And I’m sorry to say, that I was super bored throughout this scene.
But anyway, this is your act 1 break... and it’s coming at page 32. With a script this length, this should be occurring at page 20 at the latest. Get to your story as quick as you can. That way, you can create scenes where your characters are attempting to achieve their story goals, thus creating scene goals as well. That way, you avoid the dreaded ‘scenes of death’, where all that happens is characters talk to each other, which do kill your screenplay.
And then even after Miriam and April go missing, you spend one scene searching for them and then we are back to more scenes of death
Page 38 – Hang on, where has Miriam been all this time?
Page 41 – This scene is super on-the-nose. “You don’t give a damn about Christopher. You just care about yourself.” “Do you know what he wanted to be after he came out of college? He wanted to be a pastor. He modelled himself on me. You have no idea how responsible I feel.” People just don’t talk like that.
Page 47 – Right, this moment of the story should either be your act 1 break or your midpoint of the story – it really just depends how you want to structure things. If you want your act 1 break to be the first attack (April and Miriam), then you need to make your characters active in achieving a goal until we reach the midpoint (them getting attacked whilst leaving the camp, meaning that they have to find another way out). Have them actively seeking something (probably searching for April and Miriam/ investigating whatever it is that’s going on). That way, you avoid all these scenes of death where characters are just sitting around, talking. If you want to make this moment your act 1 break (as this will force them to be active in achieving a goal – escaping the camp), then push the first attack back to more of an inciting incident. I’d personally go the first route (have this as a midpoint shift), but either will improve the structure of this.
And now they’re going all commando, when they could have escaped... hmmm...
Yeah, this structure needs some serious work, I'm sorry to say.OK, this is how I could personally structure this:
Inciting incident – They arrive at the camp and the audience realise something’s up (dramatic irony) – maybe he get a glimpse of one of the monsters, etc. (I’d then cut out the opening, as it felt jarring and a bit too random for my liking).
Act 1 break – April and Miriam disappear. Matty and co then start searching for them, realise something’s up and start and investigation (part one of your second act). Maybe Nelson is trying to shut down their investigation, as kids have gone missing there in the past and he doesn’t want a scandal, etc. (his objections thus create conflict and obstacles).
Midpoint – They realise what’s going on. Everyone tries to leave, people get slaughtered, etc. The survivors then spend the rest of the second half of the second act trying to fix the buses to escape/ finding another way to escape (might be an idea to establish how isolated the camp is, so we know how hard this goal is going to be).
Act 2 break – They realise they can’t escape (act 2 low point), so all that is left is to go commando and take down the monsters once and for all.
This is just something that I’ve thrown together in a few minutes, so obviously it’s far from perfect. But I feel genre films like these are the types of films which lend themselves to adopting a more rigid structure, and by doing so, you will dramatically enhance reader enjoyment, as we will know have active characters who are in danger... instead of characters slightly at risk, sitting around and talking, which, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t make for the most entertaining of reads
Page 55- Nelson’s speech here needs some serious work, as it’s super on-the-nose.
See! This type of investigation is what you need your characters to be doing earlier! Have the investigation occur earlier, then spend your final act with your characters preparing to take the monsters down. By this point, all the detective work needs to have already happened, IMO. Their journey needs to be nearing the finish line, not only beginning.
Page 61- Will the audience remember what Jez, our waitress from 55 pages ago looks like?
Page 70- I feel that it needs to be Matty, your protagonist who defeats Jezebelle alone. This needs to be his defining moment.Overall:
As I said, I see serious potential in this idea -- which is the most important thing, because you can't polish a turd. There's a lot of stuff that needs improving. The structure needs an overhaul, as does Matty as a character. The concept needs to be developed further as well, to really make the most out of it. And the story needs to be beefed up in general, because 72 pages is too damn short!
But if you can rectify these problems, I'm confident that you'll have a solid little script here.
If you want me to clarify anything that I've said, I'll be more than happy to.
All the best.