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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board  /  February, 2008 One Week Challenge  /  All Highways Lead Downtown - OWC
Posted by: Don, February 23rd, 2008, 11:34am
All Highways Lead Downtown by Greg Baldwin - Short, Drama - They survived the attack.  They survived the wait.  Now they must survive the escape. - pdf, format 8)
Posted by: ABennettWriter, February 23rd, 2008, 1:37pm; Reply: 1
Best idea of the first batch. It's original, good story, good characters. I don't think anyone really uses the word "dissipates", except my boyfriend when he wants to sound like a snob.

I think saying, "The End" is redundant, since you have "Final Fade".

Great job!

Edited to Add: I think it fits into the theme very well, too. Even though its not a literal cell, being confined to an area works for me. I think this could be a very good film. You've got some great visuals and I'm fascinated by the end of the world stories anyway.
Posted by: Souter Fell, February 23rd, 2008, 2:16pm; Reply: 2
Pretty good.

Seemed like a big action movie trying to be contained in 10 pages. Couple of notes.

Doc's sacrifice. Not only was it completely unspoken and had no emotional consequence on the three of them, but without the Doc advance or singling himself out, you say all three dogs attack him first. Just kinda cliche if you ask me.

I like the idea of the acid rain, but you take out it's knees pretty quickly. First it quickly starts to melt road signs but then Doc says "no big deal." It's scarier if they have to cover themselves, maybe the skin on their fingers start to peel as they hold planks and whatnot over their heads to shield themselves.

"I'd say it's now or never. There's more out there than there is down here." What does that mean? More of what? Food? People?

Oh and the building coming apart is just a little too convienent. Ty and Lori do nothing to save themselves but run. They're completely passive. Ty doesn't even kick the dog when he's distracted. Everything's happening to them and they don't take an active role.

And jumping into building rubble. You get hurt when it happens. I'm not saying this as far as "that could never happen." I'm saying it as a missed opportunity. Maybe Ty gets some rebar through his calf, Lori won't leave, is ready to die trying to defend them their against the dogs, and as the canines advance towards them, the building collapses. At least Lori would have intended an active role.

I liked it. Don't get me wrong. Little tweaking here and there.

Good show.
Posted by: Zombie Sean, February 23rd, 2008, 2:45pm; Reply: 3
This one was a good one. It took me a while to figure out that the destroyed city was actually a metaphor for a prison cell. That was cool.

The mutated dogs sort of reminded me of Resident Evil. And Doc's, it didn't really affect me in any way. It actually seemed a bit cliché.

The acid rain was a cool idea, and I agree with Souter, maybe you should have the skin from their fingers or shoulder begin to get eaten away by the acid.

Posted by: bert, February 23rd, 2008, 5:20pm; Reply: 4
I love this title, but I am not sure if this is the kind of story that lends itself to a short.

Not without some kind of resolution, at any rate.

The journey of these characters has a past and a future, but you have only provided a snapshot from a single point in time.

Our characters do not experience a change of any sort, there are no new revelations for them to experience, and they end much as they began.  One character dies, but with only a dozen or so passages of dialogue, there is no time for his death to have any resonance.

Of course I like the dogs and the acid rain and the shell of the city, all of that is good.  You have many fine details, and it was fun to read despite the fact that it was empty calories.

It is not that nothing significant occurred, but there just was not anything to take away from it when we were finished.  A good effort, but the survivors of the apocalypse probably warrant more than 12 pages.

OWC Score: 75%
Posted by: James McClung, February 23rd, 2008, 6:17pm; Reply: 5
How sneaky. The whole city's a prison. Clever. Not sure if I approve, considering the OWC guidelines stated a prison cell. Nevertheless, I guess I can't blame someone for finding a loophole. I do have to say though, I didn't like the sound of the word "prison" being thrown around. The only reason it's used is to justify the script for the OWC. I think people would've been able to figure out the loophole without it. Oh well...

Anyway, pretty standard, this one. It's a post-apocalyptic plot, which is always ripe for drama. I guess you got the genre right, despite your mutant dogs (I did like the extra tails BTW, freaky stuff). Nevertheless, I felt this has all been done before. Nothing really new for the scenario. This was fun, I suppose, but hollow. I can't say I didn't like it although I do like a little more drama in my drama. The conflict amongst the characters felt lukewarm.

Oh, and why are you calling the characters hermits? Hermits are people who live by themselves. These three definitely know each other and two of them share the same last name. Hermits, I think not.
Posted by: ABennettWriter, February 23rd, 2008, 6:32pm; Reply: 6
"Not sure if I approve, considering the OWC guidelines stated a prison cell."

I think life is much more rewarding if you think outside the box. Even if he didn't use a cell, he took what characteristics make a cell. Confinement, isolation, solitude.

There are a lot of interpretations for "prison cell" and I think you've got a pretty narrow outlook on life if that's what you wrote about.
Posted by: James McClung, February 23rd, 2008, 6:56pm; Reply: 7

Quoted from ABennettWriter
Even if he didn't use a cell, he took what characteristics make a cell. Confinement, isolation, solitude.

Those are the characteristics of a prison, not a cell. A cell is an actual physical environment designed to confine. A prison doesn't always have to be physical. The environment here is confining as a prison, not a cell. It doesn't really matter though. I still think the entry's legitimate, regardless of it being unconventional.

Quoted from ABennettWriter
There are a lot of interpretations for "prison cell" and I think you've got a pretty narrow outlook on life if that's what you wrote about.

I'd be willing to bet a lot of people wrote about conventional prison cells. It doesn't mean they have a narrow outlook on life or even writing, for that matter. Seriously. No need to make things personal. I don't mind people bending the rules but you can usually tell when someone's more focused on finding a way around guidelines than writing a good script and usually, that's detrimental to the final product.

In any case, the script's a legitimate entry, like I said. Let's let other people read it and give their thoughts.
Posted by: rc1107, February 23rd, 2008, 7:15pm; Reply: 8
Lol.  This is off-subject, but the first thing that popped into my head after reading the first line was the Sublime song 'Caress Me Down'.  "And when it came out, it went drip, drip, drip.  I didn't know she had the GI Joe Kung Fu Grip."  It got a smile out of me.

All right, back on-subject.  I can't really praise this one as much as ABSteel has, but I don't necessarily think it was bad.  I'll give you the credit of it fitting (ever so slightly) the theme, only because the characters run around calling it a damn prison, but nothing else.  I think them staying down in their shelter better represents the theme better than, (oh no), them being trapped in a couple hundred square miles of a city all to themselves.   You didn't nail the drama genre in the slightest.  There was nothing between the characters.  He calls her baby twice, that's about all the emotion I felt out of it.  Even at first, and a lot of the way through, I thought they were brother and sister.  The forces chasing after them isn't drama, it's action/adventure.  Don't get me wrong, it was a good action/adventure.  And it is good to think outside the box, but I imagine you'd be fired on the spot if a producer gave you a week to come up with a solid drama and you came back with this kind of budget.

And Bert is ultimately right.  You start in the middle of something that has already begun, and you take it nowhere.  You don't give it a resolution.  Just a bunch of monsters chasing people.  The people escape only for the time being and they make a forced joke about Los Angeles.  It is a good story and deserves a lot more than that.

The acid rain was a very good idea, but as it is, doesn't make sense how it can melt a traffic sign and their clothes, but doesn't seem to do much damage to their skin.  In fact, the only reaction I saw was the girl saying 'Ow.  Crap.'  I just sneezed a couple of minutes ago and it hurt worse than how Lori is reacting to acid pounding against her flesh.  (It seriously did hurt.  I think I pulled a rib or something when I did that.)

So, all in all, a pretty good and interesting story.  But, ultimately, for this challenge, barely... BARELY... passes the theme, and fails without question at the genre.

- Mark
Posted by: mcornetto (Guest), February 23rd, 2008, 8:14pm; Reply: 9
I enjoyed this read. As a matter of fact, I hope more of them are like this one.  The story was a bit light but the action was good and the characters well drawn.  My major issue with this is that I don’t believe it met the prison cell challenge.  

Some other comments are that I didn’t really feel enough compassion for the characters involved. When the Doc gets it, I should be feeling the hurt but I’m not because there isn’t enough build-up for me to really feel his loss.  

Plus the other two don’t have a chance in hell of surviving, at least I don’t get that impression from the script – and I should.  There needs to be a bit of hope that these characters are competent enough to survive in order to carry this story.

Otherwise, not bad for a week, and since we aren’t talking budget constraints then I would give it an OPTION.
Posted by: ABennettWriter, February 23rd, 2008, 8:15pm; Reply: 10
Emotion doesn't equal drama.
Posted by: greg, February 23rd, 2008, 8:36pm; Reply: 11
This was definitely the most metaphorical of the first batch.  That may or may not be a good thing.  I think I picked up on most of the metaphors in here; the city is the cell. While it does seem big for one, when the entire world is a prison, suddenly it's not that big.  The escape, the dogs as the other prisoners, and even the title; the "downtown" has a double meaning here.

Could have added more drama with Doc's death.  Like the others said, all the dogs pouncing him at once was cliche.  Maybe have him run with Ty and Lori and then have the dogs attack.  That would have been better, I think.

Overall I liked it.  The imagery was cool and the mood was nice.  You took a dare with the metaphors, but it was enjoyable and paced pretty well.  Good job, "Mick."(I would have expected something like this to come from Kieth =P)
Posted by: rc1107, February 23rd, 2008, 8:36pm; Reply: 12

Quoted from ABennettWriter
Emotion doesn't equal drama.

I got a whole list of ex-girlfriends that tells me otherwise.

:-)  On a serious note, though, I'm sure emotion is in the equation somewhere.  I'm not saying the story was bad in the slightest, minus the few small element problems.  I did enjoy it.

But it almost seems like this was a pre-written, longer story cut down to fit the 12-page limit.  Then dialogue was added about being trapped like California was a prison, to fit the theme.  Then, it seems like the writer forced some kind of emotion between the brother and sister and the Professor to fit the genre.

I'm probably wrong and that's not the case.  But to me, it seems like a much bigger story than what it here.  Like an excerpt.
Posted by: chism, February 23rd, 2008, 10:41pm; Reply: 13
This piece was okay. Like other people said, the drama could be amped up a bit with Doc's death and some of the dialogue was a bit on the nose (especially the speech about humanity being a stupid species. It's a good point, but the way it's written is a bit obvious).

I also don't really care for the ending lines. Their (seemingly) long term companion has just been eaten to death, on top of which they were just being chased by a pack of mutated dogs through a collapsing skyscraper, and they're making jokes? It spoils the mood a little, for me it did anyway.

But those are minor quibbles in an otherwise good piece. Some cool ideas and imagery, end of the world type stuff is always interesting. The metaphor of the city as the prison was a nice idea as well. Overall, this was a pretty good one. Good work.

Posted by: BryMo, February 24th, 2008, 12:03am; Reply: 14
Your title immediately intrigued me.  And your beginning proved that you know how to write. Your descriptions are beautiful, very detailed and complete. Shows you thought about the surrounding the character was in. This one is easily the best in the first group for me. But when I look at the story itself…it doesn’t seem to come full circle.

Also, when the time came that the professor sacrificed himself, I wasn’t too shocked nor did it touch any nerve. Too cliché for me I say.

Really all your story could use small modifications. But it was still really well written.

Good luck.
Posted by: pwhitcroft, February 24th, 2008, 1:21am; Reply: 15
Being “almost” on the brink of extinction is the sort of line I write all the time but it doesn't make sense.

I'd say this story is a bit of a stretch on the prison cell theme.

It starts off intriguing but does not really resolve.

Posted by: ReaperCreeper, February 24th, 2008, 6:04am; Reply: 16
I disagree with what the writer did here completely. There was no prison cell. There was a metaphor symbolizing it, which is cool, but there was no prison cell.

It is a well-written piece with a nice post-apocalyptic feel to it and the acid rain was a nice touch, but I don't think that what was done here was fair at all.

If a producer came up to you and asked for a script featuring a prison cell and you came up with this, he would say "fuck you" and go away. Later on you would find out that he could only film on a handful of locations and the prison cell was one of them. And thus, you would feel like an idiot.

Using metaphors is all right--it makes both the writer and the reader think. However, the OWC is an excercise meant to help us find out how well we can write under limits. And you overstepped the limits here.

Good script--but it didn't fit the challenge. I understand the writer was trying to be unique, but I didn't buy it at all.

Posted by: sniper, February 25th, 2008, 10:40am; Reply: 17
While this script certainly stretched the theme to its fullest, it wasn't a bad idea.

But it was executed very poorly.

The characters all seemed like they were produced at the same LEGO-factory. To me, they came across as the same character with three different names, nothing set them apart. They talked like three stiffs from a 1950s sci-fi flick.

Oh, look. A mutated dog.

A mutated dog, eh? Well, that's peculiar.

As a result I felt they offered me nothing and frankly I couldn't have cared less about what happened to them. This script was heavy on exposition-dialogue that never relayed any of the emotions these characters obviously must have felt after a - what I presume - must have been a long stay in the bomb shelter.

Doc's so-called "Hero-moment" was destroyed by wooden dialogue plus the fact that the talked for what felt like an hour before actually running from the dogs. After that it just turned into an typical action flick with dogs to the left, right, front and rear.

Cry havok, and let slip the dogs of war.

Nah, this didn't work for me at all.
Posted by: Blakkwolfe, February 25th, 2008, 1:40pm; Reply: 18
First, Sir Mick, you're not supposed to put your name on it, but being a knight of the Realm and all, I suppose it can be overlooked...Real loose interpretation of the theme...The bomb shelter prison i can see, but other references are a bit too metaphorical...Felt the genre more sci-fi/action than drama...However, for what it was, I liked the story very much...The action and pacing was good and I liked the mutated dogs, the visual descriptions of a devastated San Diego...It's a little convenient to have the skyscraper collapse just when the dogs are closing in, but it works for the short...Agree that the acid rain should have had more deadly effects..(It can make the paint on street signs melt, but it only slightly annoys the people? Pain, agony as they run to the bridge...They are barely hanging on when suddenly...4 legged freaks show up...Would have added to the intensity....Regardless, if it was two years, the rain would have eaten away the signs entirely by then)...I don't know how you managed to not have radiation scarred zombies roaming around, but I'm confident they'll show up before they hit the 5...
Posted by: James R, February 25th, 2008, 3:31pm; Reply: 19
Everyone loves a post-apocalyptic tale, but it's hard to make it a drama when there are mutated creatures chasing them down and buildings collapsing. The acid rain issue has been addressed, so let me get to my usual typos, grammar and WTFs.

pp. 3 "Almost to the brink of extinction" "Almost" Need to say "Almost extinct" or "At the brink of extinction" but the combo you have doesn't work. It's almost close.

pp. 7 Wouldn't they know where the highway leads? The joke about LA proves that they know the area. They wouldn't need it spelled out like that. Maybe Doc can just tell them to make their way to Sacramento, Portland, Canada, wherever.

pp. 7 Another one of the dogs barks.

pp. 8 Need a period after Canada.

Why are the dogs all flopped in the building? Are they tired?

The couple comes face to face with a dog and they outrun it because of a loud noise? Don't dogs have better reflexes than that?

I don't think a collapsing building creates a mushroom cloud, the dust spreads outward (I have to be picky).

Overall a good idea, and I think it fit the theme (even though it was stated too much). But the drama just wasn't felt. Give the characters a little more conflict, some inner struggles, etc.

Posted by: The boy who could fly, February 28th, 2008, 7:04am; Reply: 20
Yo Mick, loved you in FreeJack :P

I thin this was a very clever way to incorporate the theme into your story and I think that it fits quite well.  The idea was very cool and in a way reminded me of Escape form new york/L.A.  I pictured Doc like Doc from Back to the future for some reason, any time someone is named doc that is my first image.  I wish there were more than just mutant dogs out there, maybe people or even kitties, that would have been neat. Good action and it moved pretty well.  Once in a while the dialogue seemed kinda forced though.  All in all I thought it was pretty cool and it was a most original way to use the theme.
Posted by: Abe from LA, March 2nd, 2008, 9:42am; Reply: 21
My feeling on this one runs similar to other readers.
I think it stretched the theme to the point where this story could fit any number of themes.
Some of the dialogue made me cringe because they are expositional.  Check out the first words Lori spits out: "It's been two years."
They know it's two years.  Oh well...
The characters (hermits?) seem like human leftovers with their rotten teeth and frizzy hair.  I think you might have pushed it too far in their descriptions.  Frizzy hair, ok, rotten teeth, nah.
I would have liked to see a better way to kick-start the story.  Perhaps they send a gopher outside and two days later, the gopher returns with good news.
Or maybe they hear something moving around outside.  

Anyway, I liked the action on a very superficial level. Somewhat entertaining.  It could have been better with more fleshing out of the individuals and the dialogue needs a transfusion.
The acid rain was cool, but I think they need to be near the overpass for me to buy the effect.  Otherwise, their skin should be as bad off as the sign.
I'm not sure why there are only mutant dogs.  No other species?  How about a mutant man?  It doesn't have to be a zombie.  Just something for the mutant dogs to chow on.  Otherwise, they'd eat each other.
Doc making the ultimate sacrifice was so unemotional, that I had to read it twice to see if he did get eaten.
While you might have slyly or cleverly worked your story to fit the OWC theme, I think you really failed the acid test on the drama.  Doc's death is my case in point.
And with all those dogs, why would they go after one morsel of food?
I think all 3 of them would go down as puppy chow.  As soon as Ty and Lori hoof it to safety, some of those dogs would be on them in seconds.
Hey, they've been cooped up in a bomb shelter.  They've got to be out of shape.  Probably undernourished.  I'm not even sure they could run far, if at all.

The building thing could have been a good idea, but in this story it doesn't work.
Unfortunately the ending was a no ending.  Just a couple of wisecrack comments and then the fade out.
I wanted to like this story.  It has some potential, but it's too big for a short.
Rework it and follow the consensus.  Good luck.
Posted by: cybercelt, March 2nd, 2008, 11:28am; Reply: 22
  Another good read.
  I was stopped at;
Remains of small sailboats, cars, and army vehicles can be
seen at the bottom of the shallow bay. Some of their tails
stick out of the water as the hermits work around them.

and paused.
  Tails? Typo for sails? parts of the vehicles?

Remains of small sailboats, cars, and army vehicles can be
seen at the bottom of the shallow bay. Rusted bodies breaking
just above the water as the hermits work around them.

  ..or something better. :)

  Well done.
Posted by: Zack, March 2nd, 2008, 2:50pm; Reply: 23
I liked this one a lot as well. Very interetesting premise that really takes full advantage of the theme. Drmama didn't seem to be a big part of it, but it was definetly there.

Some of the dialog is a little hammy, but it wasn't enough to take me out of the story.

Quick question, why are only the dogs mutated?

Overall, I liked it a lot. To me, it was a fun read.

I'll give it a B-

Posted by: Mr.Ripley, March 2nd, 2008, 3:38pm; Reply: 24
The story was interesting and simple but it did not stay within the theme. That's a big downer. But congrats on thinking outside of the box. However, it seemed that you dragged that scene bit when the three characters meet the mutated dogs for a while. It should have just started out then and there. Character-wise, I let you pass. I kind of went into the flow of things especially for a short like this.

Hope this helps,
Posted by: mgj, March 8th, 2008, 4:38am; Reply: 25
Hey Greg.  A nuclear fallout story.  Interesting take on the prison cell theme.  Glad to see the survivors are planning to head up to Canada.  When I was young, I used to reassure myself that if the U.S. got bombed, all of us up here in Canada would be safe.

A few things:

Referring to them as hermits seems almost comical.  Maybe it's just me.  'Survivors' might be a better term.

After Doc's death there is a very abrupt transition to Ty and Lori.  In fact, it's only inferred that he died in the attack.  I might give a little more description here.

All in all though, this was pretty good.  I know this is an old addage but it had the feel of being a smaller part of something much bigger.

Posted by: greg, March 13th, 2008, 4:05pm; Reply: 26
Hey everybody, a few days late here, but thanks everyone for reading.  

I already made my metaphorical spiel in another thread, so I'll just let that go.  I actually had a lot of fun writing this.  Maybe it'll be longer one day, who knows.

Thanks again!
Posted by: ABennettWriter, March 14th, 2008, 8:14am; Reply: 27
I don't remember if I mentioned this, but I like the "hermit" description. It gives me an automatic visual, whether its correct or not, and that's what we should be going for. One word or phrase that gives us a visual.
Posted by: greg, March 15th, 2008, 1:18pm; Reply: 28
Thanks Austin, before I forgot.  Addressing the hermits:

1. a person who has withdrawn to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion.
2. any person living in seclusion; recluse.

further down the page is the one I like best:

A person who has withdrawn from society and lives a solitary existence; a recluse.

or this, my personal favorite:

A spiced cookie made with molasses, raisins, and nuts.

Since the story opened with them basically secluded, "survivor" seemed odd to have in since the reader will likely go "wtf? survived what?"  So I used hermit in that opening scene and stuck with it.
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