SCRIPT REVIEW --
Hey, Rob. I know we decided to do a swap on Stage 32 but I figured I'd post it here as well.
I'm on page two and my eyes already hurt from this six, seven and eight lines of blocked action. Try to break it open a bit. It's way too verbose.
Another wolf appears, and joins, the two dig in unison. Now, two more wolves arrive, hurriedly join in the dig. There are several wolves, quickly a dozen, a PACK, digging with purpose, as a team. In seconds, the hole becomes a trench, nearly four feet deep.
It's too much. Try something like this...
A whole PACK OF WOLVES join in the dig. In seconds, the hole becomes a four foot trench.
If it all possible, make your descriptions as brief as possible. Every description is six or more lines of action. Keep it to one or two. Three at the very most. Your way with words is fantastic and I'm impressed. But that's not the point. This is a script not a book.
Otto in bed, reaching to the lamp, CLICK, the lights are off. All is dark.
This is a simple action that doesn't require a huge explanation.
Otto crawls in bed and turns off the lamp.
Plain and simple. Save the big descriptions for when they're needed.
INT. EL PASO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CAFETERIA - DAY
The school cafeteria during lunch.
Don't mention school cafeteria in your description. You've already acknowledged it's a school cafeteria in your slugline. I tend to do this all the time and have to remind myself not to mention the same things twice. Try to be careful of this.
Try to cut down on POVs unless it's absolutely necessary like when using binoculars or staring through a peephole on a door. Otherwise, it takes the reader out of the story and it becomes twice as hard to visualize the scene.
Alicestair drops a SACKED LUNCH on the table, uprights the decoration, as she arranges her purse, grabs coffee, eats toast, and fix her hair, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
This is perfect here. You've managed to trim this to two lines of action. No big blocks and it really works to set the scene and give us a glimpse of this character's life. I could visualize Alicestair doing her usual morning routine, going a mile a minute. This is how the rest of your script should read. Very economic in your descriptions.
In a spec script, don't ever say O/S or OFF SCREEN or give any other kind of screen direction. That's the director's job. You can however say (O.S.) or (V.O.) in parentheticals under your charater's name to show where the dialogue is coming from. (V.O.) for a telephone conversation, or (O.S.) when it's coming from a radio or another room. And like I said earlier, only use POV: when it's absolutely essential. Like looking through a telescope, binoculars or peephole.
EXT. EL PASO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL - DAY
OTTO WALKS to school alone. OTTO WAVES, awkwardly, at a group of kids who don't wave back, but move quickly to avoid him.
Remember, when you mention school in the slugline, there's no need in repeating it in your description. You mention he walks to school, but according to your slugline, he's already AT school. So where is he walking? Through the halls? Is he walking into the school building when he notices the other kids? And you're using ALL CAPS a lot in this script. Not necessary.
EXT. EL PASO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL - DAY
Otto passes through the halls, waves to a group of kids who move quickly to avoid him.
Keep it brief.
Page 16, you mention in the action that Otto forgot his homework, again. How do we know this by watching this film? We only know because you told us in the script. There needs to be dialogue here that mentions Otto not doing his work.
Otto sitting alone. Otto looks down at his stomach as it grumbles in hunger. Otto’s scowl returns.
Another pattern I see here is the overuse of Otto's name. You can describe what Otto's doing without mentioning his name over and over. Here is an example:
Otto sits alone as usual. He scowls as he grabs his grumbling and hungry stomach.
Try to be economic in your descriptions. I get it that there's very little dialogue here and we're seeing Otto's life play out until his inevitable demise, but we don't need to see his name being mentioned every three lines.
Otto's supposed suicide is dark for a 10 year old. The title is The Naughty List. It's title implies a Christmas comedy of sorts, or even a dramedy but this is too dark and strange in tone. Krampus had a similar dark tone but nothing this dark. It will be a hard sell the way it's written. But there's a unique concept here once you brighten the tone and cut the bloodshed.
"By looking at historical patterns of incidents, we can quickly use a variety of possible Primary Events, to find potential hot spots and strategically deploy resources"
This is interesting and smart but it feels too contrived, just as Holly mentions in her dialogue. Like it's thrown in there for the sole purpose of Holly making this big discovery. For five years, El Paso youths have committed suicide 11 days before Christmas. That whole scene feels contrived and unnatural. It's like we're biting off more than we can chew and it's too much for the audience to swallow. I honestly checked out of this story after the 10 year old was murdered and police wrote it up as a suicide.
Holly muses. John realizes this callous talk won’t help his chances with Holly. An awkward pause.
I love this. Despite my opinions of your story, there's some strong writing in here for sure. You have a way with words.
John is a douche bag without redeeming value. He's inviting Holly for dinner in the wake of a 10 year old's suicide? And he's only closed 2 cases all year. This is too much, even for an anti-hero type or the guy you love to hate. Again, the tone of your story is all over the map.
The scene with Abuela explaining how Pedro Negro came about was terrific. I love the tie-in with The Moore's and North Pole. This is some strong dialogue and made me wish there was more of this in your story. A more consistent tone of dark comedy and fantasy.
I spent a few summers studying ornithology with the Audubon society, before I decided to study psych. Ravens are – usually – larger, as much as twice the size of crows, they have thicker bills, and shaggy throat feathers, crows don’t.
Holly sure seems like a know-it-all and this was hard to swallow. How do either of them know the flight patterns of crows or ravens? Back in El Paso, we have the American Crow and the Chihuahuan Raven and the Common Raven. For whatever reason, crows DON’T GO west of El Paso, NOR to Vegas. They don’t come out this way either… even in migration.
We are stretching believability to the extreme here. Even for a fantasy. Make me believe it. I would have a scene where John and Holly go to the local library, get online and study the bizarre flight patterns of ravens and crows and have to work out the explanation. Or maybe even a visit to an expert on bird flight patterns. As it stands now, her knowledge of birds comes out of left field. It feels expository and not real.
From page 75 until the end, John and Holly's pursuit for answers becomes a pretty involving story and holds your attention for the most part. I would say this is the point in the script I enjoyed the most. The two of them playing detective and putting it all together.
I loved your creation of Pedro Negro and his backstory with The Moore's, North Pole and being excommunicated by Santa Claus. It was at this point where I started believing in your story and thought it may make a great dark comedy. An R-rated Christmas film with plenty of gore and gross out laughs. But, the big problem here is how you handle the violence and the kids deaths. It is too dark and unpleasant to include the supposed suicides of young children into your story.
Have you seen the Project Greenlight movie Feast? It too has a ten year old boy who is killed by one of the monsters. But not only is it not unpleasant, it's hilarious! The film's heroine, a waitress at the bar they are trapped in, runs upstairs to hug her boy after they are all almost killed. She swears that she will never let him out of her sights again. It's a sweet moment, until the monster crashes through the window and swallows him whole. My friends and I laughed our asses off. It's a very self-aware kind of kill and played for laughs, not shocks.
I think you could do something similar here by having Pedro Negro swallow them whole or make their deaths less shocking and even humorous to an extent. Maybe make the children missing instead of being found dead. Could it be these kids are being held as slaves by Pedro Negro? Sort of like Santa's elves, but they're Pedro's slaves?
I am conflicted with your script because it's a slog to get through. Nearly every one of your 111 pages is filled with big block action that most screenwriters would lose patience with by the second page. You will honestly be hard pressed to find anyone else to read it.
But I loved Abuela's introduction to Pedro Negro and how he came to be. It was because of that scene that I felt a tonal shift in your story. It felt like it was a scene from an entirely different movie. Gremlins and Krampus came to mind. Movies that weren't as dark but played the violence for laughs. If you were to do a rewrite on this thing I'd definitely cut the language, pre-teen suicides and graphic violence and make it a more family friendly story, i.e. Gremlins and Krampus.
I think Pedro is a great creation and would enjoy seeing him on screen. What I don't enjoy is watching the death and destruction of young children. The suicide angle just doesn't work. I would personally make this more of a tongue-in-cheek monster movie where the violence is played for laughs and not so serious. If you take that route, you may have something really cool and original on your hands.
Your talent for colorful descriptions and dialogue is obvious. But I would seriously work on keeping your action between one and three lines at most.
I hope this helps. Good luck!