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  Author    Black Male  (currently 1770 views)
Don
Posted: December 9th, 2016, 5:18pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Black Male by RonH - Short, Drama, Thriller - Events escalate when a black man and a racist cop cross paths one night.  18 pages - pdf, format

Writer interested in feedback on this work



Visit SimplyScripts.com for what is new on the site.


-------------
You will miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
- Wayne Gretzky
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muttonman
Posted: December 9th, 2016, 7:38pm Report to Moderator
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Very well written.  Just a few notes:

If this is a spec script, then you need to remove things like "CLOSE ON", "WE MOVE INTO SLOW MOTION".  Those are decisions the director will make and you don't need to include them.  If it's not a spec script, then those are fine. (Same thing when you say that Little "doesn't like the question".  Once again, only applies to spec scripts, but you should only put in things you can see, not what the character is thinking.)

The passers by in the cars at the beginning weren't really necessary.

" you won’t have to go to the movies to see a president, who looks like I do"  We already have a black president, so this doesn't make much sense.

Other than that, it's really solid.  Very intense and topical
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eldave1
Posted: December 9th, 2016, 9:01pm Report to Moderator
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Interesting piece - well written.

SPOILER

Loved that the officer and Malcom X shared the same last name.

Malcom's voice was a bit inconsistent at times for me - he ranged from college grad to stereotypical street talk. I presume that that was purposeful. My preference would be that he stay at the college level.

I like the twist at the end, but it does stretch credulity:


Quoted Text

A fleet of police cars enter the theater. They converge upon
them. A dozen doors fly open, as the officers emerge. All
with their guns pointed at Malcolm.


It's a bit much to believe that the entire force would be in on this conspiracy - more plausible to me if you limit into one or two responding officers.

Nice work





My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Herbert
Posted: December 9th, 2016, 10:07pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from muttonman

" you won’t have to go to the movies to see a president, who looks like I do"  We already have a black president, so this doesn't make much sense.


The story takes place in 1995 per the SUPER at the beginning.
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Herbert
Posted: December 10th, 2016, 2:38am Report to Moderator
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This was strong. Geez. That ending hit me like it hit Malcolm.

Well executed premise.

Well rounded characters (especially for a short).

With regard to Malcolm’s dialogue, I’ll disagree with Dave’s idea that it should be more consistent. People tend to regress into old speech patterns when they’re agitated, so it’s completely logical Malcolm goes from college educated speech to more personal, street level speech when the situation escalates. It added to the realism of the character. I do think you could have reined that in a bit, though. Specifically, have Malcolm speak closer to his college sensibilities when he gains control of the situation on Page 8.

I love that Malcolm wasn’t the standard “nice guy in a bad situation” I normally see in stories of police brutality. He gets angry, he gets scared, when the tables turn he gets happy, he felt like a real person. Same goes for Deputy Little. He’s a pretty standard racist cop, but letting us see him in a position of vulnerability adds a nice depth to his characterization. I can’t recall the last racist cop I’ve seen get scared in a film/script- if ever.

I love the revelation that Little and Malcolm X share the same surname. The wheels turn in Little's head ever so slightly. He doesn’t believe it; because how could he share anything in common with a black radical?

If I have one complaint with the characterization; Malcolm’s monologue at the end is a little too preachy and obvious for my taste. I could picture him staring into the camera like it was a 90’s PSA as he went on about dreams and seeing a black president and etc. In a fairly complex script, that struck me as a tad too typical.

Themes and Ideas:

Racial profiling and racially motivated abuse/injustice are certainly big themes, but the idea that I found the most interesting arrives at the end with the other cops.

I love the idea that not all of the cops were directly involved in planting that gun on Malcolm, but they were still complicit in their own way. They arrive, try to cuff Malcolm, see his wrists are already bloodied and bruised, then they panic and instinctively fabricate a story about Malcolm’s resistance. People wouldn’t necessarily believe them if they said “he was bleeding when we got there”, so they concoct a story in effort to cover their own skin. So, while we have Little and Simpson planting a gun, we have the other two cops indirectly helping them. I like that complexity. The idea that the system is designed to protect itself from any and all scrutiny, and that even the smallest fabrication under this system can aid in creating much larger problems.

That quote from Malcolm X at the end said it all; this is, at its core, a story about freedom. About a young man trying to exercise his basic freedoms, in a place where he’s only free if the powers-that-be say that he is. In this case, those powers deemed his freedom immaterial.

Malcolm resists that authority- eventually employing the very instrument originally intended to restrain him (Little’s gun) in effort to fight for his right to even the very basic of freedoms; life.

But that resistance also sealed his fate.

I’d held on to hope for a happy ending, but Malcolm’s fate was sealed the moment he fired that warning shot into the ground. Even if he’d lived, he held an officer at gunpoint and shot at him. He wasn’t walking away from that, no matter how strong his story was, or how obviously corrupt Little was. The very system Malcolm as a citizen allowed to stay in power, killed him to serve its interests instead of his.

The ending left me with this question; Is a person really free if the exercise of their freedom requires special sanctioning and oversight?

On the technical side; it was pretty well written. Some of the description could be cut down, but nothing egregiously long. Just little areas like-

Another white officer, SIMPSON, approaches Little. Bends a
knee, whispers into Little’s ear, as he takes out his keys
and releases him.

Could be cut down to-

Another white officer, SIMPSON, approaches Little. Kneels, whispers into Little’s ear, uncuffs him.

And areas like this;


MALCOLM
I told you, I didn’t do nothing.

A car, carrying a WHITE FAMILY, passes by. The driver slows.
They stare at Malcolm, lying on the sidewalk, his face
pressed against the pavement.
The driver shoots him a pitiful look.

Could be cut entirely.

Overall; solid work. Well done.
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muttonman
Posted: December 10th, 2016, 3:51pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Herbert


The story takes place in 1995 per the SUPER at the beginning.


Touche.  sorry, I missed that...
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MarkItZero
Posted: December 10th, 2016, 10:13pm Report to Moderator
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Well-written. I like how you handled the arrest, adding little touches like this...

MALCOLM
Yeah.

Little holds the light.

MALCOLM
Yes, sir.

Made it seem more real for me. And you kept the tension up throughout. Overall, very solid writing.

I agree with what Herbert is saying in principle about speech regression, but it seems like he's two completely different characters at times. I can't buy this is a college bound student who loves star trek, is well versed in civil liberties, and launches into long diatribes about progress and dreams... yet slap some cuffs on him and he starts saying "cracker". Either he was raised to use street level racial epithets or not. For this character, probably not. So he's not going to resort to that regardless of the level of agitation.

And I doubt he's been arrested so many times he's used to having plastic cuffs put on him by now ("not so tight with the plastic").

I guess his long speech at the end was the biggest problem for me. It's hardest to square that with anything character-wise beforehand. It sounded very preachy. Considering Malcolm's fate, it's almost comical that he's standing there going on about some utopian future where police can't be corrupt/break the rules, then ends up dead because of an entire police force full of crooked cops.

Which brings me to a bigger question of what the message is of this script. Because the way Malcolm dies is very anticlimactic. We don't even see him get killed. He basically rots in prison, then commits suicide, and we only learn that through the officer's testimony. Then you end with an empowering Malcolm X quote (at least I think that's what it is).

I'm not sure how these things work together. His fiery speech, the Malcolm quote, his sad demise... I'm not sure what you're going for.

If it's supposed to be tragic but hopeful, I'd think Malcolm wrestling free at the very end and grabbing a gun, then getting shot down by the other cops, might be a better way to go. Sure, he still dies, and he's still overpowered by this oppressive police force... but at least he goes down guns blazing, he fights till the last breath.


That rug really tied the room together.
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eldave1
Posted: December 11th, 2016, 11:16am Report to Moderator
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Quoted Text
I agree with what Herbert is saying in principle about speech regression, but it seems like he's two completely different characters at times. I can't buy this is a college bound student who loves star trek, is well versed in civil liberties, and launches into long diatribes about progress and dreams... yet slap some cuffs on him and he starts saying "cracker". Either he was raised to use street level racial epithets or not. For this character, probably not. So he's not going to resort to that regardless of the level of agitation.


Concur with this and would add that the digression started to soon. This line here from page 4 (start of the interrogation)

I agree with what Herbert is saying in principle about speech regression, but it seems like he's two completely different characters at times. I can't buy this is a college bound student who loves star trek, is well versed in civil liberties, and launches into long diatribes about progress and dreams... yet slap some cuffs on him and he starts saying "cracker". Either he was raised to use street level racial epithets or not. For this character, probably not. So he's not going to resort to that regardless of the level of agitation.


Quoted Text
MALCOLM
I told you, I didn’t do nothing.


College educated and using double negatives - it was just a hiccup for me. It made him sound like he didn't graduate high school.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Herbert
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Quoted from MarkItZero


I can't buy this is a college bound student who loves star trek, is well versed in civil liberties, and launches into long diatribes about progress and dreams... yet slap some cuffs on him and he starts saying "cracker". Either he was raised to use street level racial epithets or not. For this character, probably not. So he's not going to resort to that regardless of the level of agitation.



Well, "raised" and "went to college" are two separate things, to be fair. He very well could have been raised that way, yet still worked hard enough to go to college. Proper speech and college aren't mutually exclusive.


Quoted from eldave1

I can't buy this is a college bound student who loves star trek, is well versed in civil liberties, and launches into long diatribes about progress and dreams... yet slap some cuffs on him and he starts saying "cracker"


We have to consider the immense stress the character was under; he was being harassed by the police purely because he was black, and walking down the wrong street at the wrong time.

Imagine yourself, walking, minding your own business, then all of a sudden some cop pulls up, forces your face to the cold, hard pavement, puts his knee to your back, slaps a tight pair of handcuffs on your wrists (mind you, you still don't even know what you're accused of yet), then that cop threatens to "beat your ass", then, to compound things, makes fun of you when you acknowledge your civil liberties and rights. Depending on how you were raised, proper decorum, more than likely, goes out of the window at that point, lol
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eldave1
Posted: December 11th, 2016, 12:44pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted Text
We have to consider the immense stress the character was under; he was being harassed by the police purely because he was black, and walking down the wrong street at the wrong time.

Imagine yourself, walking, minding your own business, then all of a sudden some cop pulls up, forces your face to the cold, hard pavement, puts his knee to your back, slaps a tight pair of handcuffs on your wrists (mind you, you still don't even know what you're accused of yet), then that cop threatens to "beat your ass", then, to compound things, makes fun of you when you acknowledge your civil liberties and rights. Depending on how you were raised, proper decorum, more than likely, goes out of the window at that point, lol


I have actually been in a similar situation other than the fact I am not black. Surrounded by 6 cops, cuffed, arrested face on the hood of one of their cars because they thought I robbed a bank. (background: I made a deposit at the bank, a bank teller ID me as the robber from the week before and called the cops as was pulling out of the lot). Anyway - it didn't result in any change in my decorum - quite the opposite actually.

Now, I have never been harassed because of the color of my skin - so, am willing to say the 6th or 7th time I was stopped unjustifiably, my reaction would lean more towards anger then safety and I assume that the character here is on his umpteenth unjustified arrest. So, the anger angle works for me - the "street talk" not so much. I found it too stereotypical and lost some of who the character really was. That's just my take. IT could be that it is perfectly logical and dead on in terms of what would happen. Just didn't ring true for me.  


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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MarkItZero
Posted: December 11th, 2016, 3:57pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Herbert
We have to consider the immense stress the character was under.


That was part of the problem for me, he doesn't seem that stressed. The second line out of his mouth is "not so tight with the plastic". He acts like this is a routine thing.

MALCOLM
(calmly, defiant)
No, sir.

He seems angry (understandably so), but not overwhelmed to the point where speech breaks down completely or reverts to childhood patterns.

I just can't wrap my head around this character for this story. Regardless of what speech patterns/slurs/habits he encountered in his environment, if his parents raised him to learn proper speech, that's what he'd regress to. So we're dealing with someone who had parents (or lack thereof) that did not focus on education at all, not to mention he was frequently arrested to the point where he got used to it, yet through all this he struck out on his own to go to college. At which point his speech patterns greatly altered. He stopped using racial slurs. All hints of "street talk" disappeared from his daily speech. Only to return at moments of extreme stress.

That is a very unique character. So unique that the entire story should probably focus on his life rather than this police confrontation. I think it makes more sense story-wise for him to have grown up learning proper speech such that there is no extreme reversion. He is, and always been, a well educated, articulate person who this racist cop mistakes for a criminal.


That rug really tied the room together.
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Herbert
Posted: December 11th, 2016, 7:12pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from MarkItZero


That was part of the problem for me, he doesn't seem that stressed. The second line out of his mouth is "not so tight with the plastic". He acts like this is a routine thing.



You have to take into account the totality of the situation. When the encounter began, Malcolm was as compliant as could be expected. But slowly, as Little’s behavior became more antagonistic, you can see the cracks form.

Look at the timeline:

At first, Malcolm is proper, respectful. Lays on the ground without being instructed to. Uses yes sir/no sir.
Little then accuses Malcolm of robbing a woman, an accusation to which Malcolm flippantly responds-

MALCOLM
I hate to break it to you, but you’ve got the wrong black male, officer. <---- This is our first clue that Malcolm isn't above speaking improperly. This is our first crack.

Shortly after, Little threatens to viciously beat up Malcolm.

LITTLE
I swear to god, you run, and I’ll beat your ass into the ground. You got me?

To which Malcolm responds.

MALCOLM
Yeah.  <---- Another crack. A shift from the proper "yes sir/no sir" mindset we'd just seen earlier, to the less proper "yeah".

Little shines his light on Malcolm's face, blinding him, and gets this response.

MALCOLM
Yes, sir.  <----   The proper speech returns, but here it’s purely the result of forced compliance.

It's only after Little laughs off the idea of Malcolm's rights that Malcolm snaps and says

MALCOLM
Fuck you, cracker.

As Little’s behavior became less civilized and more antagonistic, so, too, did Malcolm's behavior. And Malcolm became antagonistic in a way that’s familiar to him (from his perspective it's purely a race thing, as his dialogue shows). Malcolm doesn't just suddenly go from proper to improper, there was a steady shift in his behavior which started as early as the first page (notice, he's described as saying "no sir" with a tone of defiance). It's subtle, but it's there.


Quoted from MarkItZero


Regardless of what speech patterns/slurs/habits he encountered in his environment, if his parents raised him to learn proper speech, that's what he'd regress to. So we're dealing with someone who had parents (or lack thereof) that did not focus on education at all



Why do you assume it’s an either or thing? That either his parents care about how well spoken he is, or they don't care about his education at all? Speech patterns and education/intelligence aren't mutually exclusive. A person can be well spoken, yet undereducated/unintelligent, and a person can be poorly spoken, yet well educated/intelligent. Maybe his parents cared more about his grades than his speech?
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MarkItZero
Posted: December 11th, 2016, 8:02pm Report to Moderator
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Fair enough, Herbert. I think Ron's got plenty to work with for now so let's see what he says about all this. By the way, I like the notes you've been giving people. Very thoughtful and detailed stuff.


That rug really tied the room together.
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Herbert
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Quoted from MarkItZero
Fair enough, Herbert. I think Ron's got plenty to work with for now so let's see what he says about all this. By the way, I like the notes you've been giving people. Very thoughtful and detailed stuff.


Thanks. And sorry if I overloaded you with information. Being as thorough as possible is the only way I know how to write.
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MarkItZero
Posted: December 11th, 2016, 9:07pm Report to Moderator
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Thorough is always good. My hangover is what's overloading me, seemingly more so by the hour.


That rug really tied the room together.
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