Print Topic

SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board  /  July 08 One Week Challenge  /  The Ballad of Uncle Sam
Posted by: Don, July 26th, 2008, 8:45am
The Ballad of Uncle Sam: An Anarchist’s Medley by Bryan Mora - (Pignut Hickory) - Short, Drama - Grown weary to the established order of society, a man introduces a motivating idea of his very own in perilous ways. - pdf, format 8)
Posted by: Breanne Mattson, July 26th, 2008, 12:01pm; Reply: 1
I’m sorry. I just couldn’t get past thinking of the Joker from Batman here. You’ve got a guy in white face paint robbing a bank and tossing out one liners. One line, for example; “I like that,” just instantly made me think of the Joker. And I just couldn’t shake the comparison.

The script is written well enough. And I can usually shake off comparisons to other characters because I’ve been around long enough to know that a lot of characters are really similar. But the Ripper practically IS the Joker with a slightly modified name.

I couldn’t get past it. Sorry.

On a technical note, I found it difficult  to buy that SWAT team officers barge into a bank full of hostages and fire weapons and throw grenades. The hostages seem to be forgotten until the firefight is over. None of the robbers try to use a hostage for leverage. I don’t know; I just didn’t buy it.

This one was just okay for me.

Posted by: stebrown, July 27th, 2008, 10:58am; Reply: 2
I enjoyed reading this, it was pretty action-packed. Although, I see where Breanne is coming from with the Joker comparison I still liked his character. He wasn't so similar that it affected the story for me.

I didn't see the relevance of the quote either -- it's a bank not a post-office -- and what wouldn't they believe and why? Didn't make any sense to me that.

What did affect the story was the believability of the end. That's not how this situation would finish and I kind of felt a bit robbed of an exciting climax. Build-up was great and I thought Ripper had a lot of depth.

I'd love to see a rewrite that has an ending that does the build-up justice and maybe some character development for someone else -- as this all kind of hung on Ripper -- I'd have liked to have seen someone for him to play off.

Well written and a breeze to read. I think you should have had O.S not V.O at the start though.

Posted by: pwhitcroft, July 27th, 2008, 1:44pm; Reply: 3
I think I understand what you are trying to do with this - a kind of high impact monologue told by a strong character in exceptional circumstances. If that is your objective you are brave to even attempt it because they either hit the right note or go down in grenadey bulletty flames. In this case I think you made a nice effort but ended up with the flames.

Having said that you have much of what you need to nail this but you’d need to rework the background story and really strengthen the monologue element to make this work.
Posted by: Higgonaitor, July 28th, 2008, 2:41am; Reply: 4
Hey friend.

I agree with Breanne.  It seems like you were a big fan of tdk and couldn't let the jokers character go.

I'd overlook it, but it's difficult as this piece is built on that character.  It seemed to me, while reading this, that every other action, every other line of dialogue, from every other character was just a set up for the jo- um, the ripper.  While it is difficult to be detailed with more than one or two characters in a 15 page drama, and that a really good strategy is to explore the mind of a single character and have him reach some sort of epiphany, it doesn't mean you don't need to work at all on the other characters.  They all seemed so fake that it took away from really experiencing the rippers thoughts.

So my advice is to work on the characters: the bank executive, the swat agent, brains, and possibly even the accomplice.  It will really round out this piece.

Also, this one will seem more original in a few months when the Joker buzz has gone down.

One more thing ishow you just sort of tossed in the post office line.  that sort of bugged me, it didn't fit at all.
Posted by: Moroh, July 28th, 2008, 4:00am; Reply: 5
Saw all the Joker complaints but I haven't seen "Dark Knight" yet (shame on me huh?), so i figured I could maybe give a more objective review.

- However, most of my thoughts were already echoed by other posts.

- Ripper character was okay for me.  Had some interesting things to say.  Could have just ditched the make-up aspect and it would have helped diminish the Joker connection.

- Agree that the swat invasion was far fetched.  Could have entered the bank in a more creative (and more responsible) way.

- Also agree that another main character would have been helpful.  Take the load of Ripper to carry the whole story.  Maybe do a little more with the SWAT team as they assemble and assess the situation.  Maybe the leader of the SWAT team knows the Ripper and how dangerous he can be.  He could be used to reveal things about the Ripper's character without having to explain everything through the Ripper's long speeches.

- Very anti-climatic resolution.  Ripper built up throughout the story but in the end he comes off as just some blowhard who is weak and easily defeated.

- Honestly got the feeling that this was something bigger you were working on and crammed it down to fit the challenge. (post office line definately forced in there)  Or maybe you just had an idea about the Ripper and threw some story around him just to allow him to speak.

- Overall, I didn't completely dislike the piece.  The action was told well and I can tell you have an understanding of appropriate screenplay language.  Based on your dialogue, you are obviously a thoughtful person with some things to say, just think you need a better story to bring your Ripper idea to life.

Posted by: Blakkwolfe, July 28th, 2008, 7:50pm; Reply: 6
Like the opening scene, moving from the happy family into the bank...The writing was good, if not a little over poetic...Only in the movies do bank robbers wax philosophical with their hostages, However, Ripper does wax well...

Pet Peeve: Accomplices should have thier own names and distinct characteristics, according to the Henchman'S Union. Brains gets a name, cause he's the techno-geek that always has to crack the code in these kinds of pictures...But the others...Just expendable red shirts, i guess...

Liked the response to the guys at the post office line...He does have some good lines...
(It's never any fun until you hear those words...)

Good action sequences, too as the swat team moves in and takes down team Ripper.

It seemed a stretch that he was a criminal only to support his daughter...Surely he's smart enough to know that he wouldn't do her any good being in jail...More so he's just a maniac who is into for the thrills more than the money.

Overall, good job. Liked it.
Posted by: bobtheballa (Guest), July 28th, 2008, 11:13pm; Reply: 7
As everyone else mentioned, the first thing I thought of while reading this was The Joker.

Overall I really liked the story though, I think it has a lot of potential. It was well written, enjoyable to read and I think you pulled off the "one character narrating the whole thing" bit better than everyone else has given you credit for.

I wasn't too big on the use of the line, it definitely felt like a throw-in (the only thing I could think of to connect it was that maybe he used to be a post office worker before he started robbing banks, but then he said something about counting other peoples' change).

Also I wasn't a big fan of the use of the grenade by the swat team. Realistically I would think that would be too dangerous with hostages involved and I think it would make more sense if it was changed to a smoke bomb.
Posted by: Takeshi (Guest), July 29th, 2008, 7:11am; Reply: 8
This was an enjoyable read. I thought the Ripper was an insightful character who obviously suffered from the same type of depression as me. LOL

But seriously, the dialogue had me mesmerized and worked in well with the action as it unfolded. I laughed at the Olsen and choir lines and I thought the insights into the soul destroying nature of mundane work were good, as were the insights on parenting.

As for the similarities with the Joker, that wasn't really an issue for me. In fact while I was reading it I actually started thinking about that Bill Murray heist movie where he dressed liked a clown and then took of his make up and pretended to be hostage.


When the cops came I thought the Ripper was acting calm because he had something up his sleeve that was going to help him escape and I was waiting for it to happen, so I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't turn out that way.

You nailed the theme (assuming that his crappy old job was in a post office ) and the genre, but more importantly you wrote an entertaining story. Well done.
Posted by: sniper, July 29th, 2008, 7:15am; Reply: 9
This has Joker written all over it. I won't go as far as calling you a copycat, though it would be so easy, but a guy with face paint robbing a bank while spewing all sorts crazy dialogue?'re just asking for it.

Not much of a story here. If you take out all of The Joker's, um, Ripper's rambling, all you have is a bank robbery gone sour with the ever so predictable outcome.

This is The Dark Knight meets Dog Day Afternoon, and it doesn't really fit.
Posted by: Takeshi (Guest), July 29th, 2008, 7:22am; Reply: 10
Hahaha. Compare my review to Sniper's. Isn't it amazing how two people can look at the same thing and have a completly different take on it?
Posted by: sniper, July 29th, 2008, 7:28am; Reply: 11
Just the way it should be, Chris :)
Posted by: mcornetto (Guest), July 30th, 2008, 4:20am; Reply: 12
Definitely inspired by the most recent Batman movie.  Even down to the whinging.  

You did ok with it, there is definitely some good stuff inside.  But, I think it was a bit uneven.  Initially you should be building continous tension.  You built tension then you let it slide as the Joker whinged on.  Then you built it up again.  The result was that when the big bang hit the tension level was minimal when you could have had me on the edge of my seat.  

I think you let the Joker go on too much about himself.  It made him weaker than he could have been.  And that guy you kill, the one before the big bang, maybe it would be better to wait until the bang happens and make him the first victim.  Because you killed him tension was released and that was tension you really wanted to build on when that grenade came down the duct.  

Anyway,  it wasn't bad, definitely inspired by Batman, but an interesting take on it anyhow.
Posted by: Sandra Elstree., July 30th, 2008, 5:16pm; Reply: 13

This is a well written script. It doesn't have any real technical flaws except a few typos.

One thing that felt off:

When The Band Executive is "In tears" I just don't feel it was a good choice here.

What I can offer here is only that if your surface writing such as what is exhibited here, remains good and consistent and you develop the characters, your writing will be at a very high level.

My job here is to critique; so what I'm going to do is make some suggestions, not because there's much basicallywrong with this, but in order to promote the move to that next level.

When I was reading this, I felt like I was in "The Dark Night" script and Ripper was "The Joker". Ripper's dialogue was written perfectly for the kind of bad guy he'd turned into.

Ripper, just like Conrad, in "Delivery", gives "the big talk," "the bad guy spiel" and I think it works: In movies, it works. It might be considered a screenwriter's sin, but "dems da breaks, eh Brains? Gotta wave doze guns and knives around, 'splain the reason 'round i dall."

It does, it works. It might not be a deep and serious film style, but it works.

What I'm trying to think of here, is how you can raise the stakes in this. How maybe you can make people care more about the villain in this.

What if his daughter, has been dragged into this bank heist? And she is shouting "No! Dad! Please!"

What if we see this Ripper character before he flips out? Does the girl need surgery? Is she on a waiting list? Does Ripper want to take her on her dream trip before she dies? Any of these possibilities might make Ripper into more than he currently is. You might even give a credible reason for why he's called "Ripper".

I liked some of the raw humor in this: Like the way you used the line:

The guys at the post office are never gonna believe this!

And then:

Wait! I killed the guys at the Post Office!

My feeling about this script is that it lives up to what it was intended for.

It's not meant to be a deep film. It feels like it's got a comic edge to it and I have a guess who the writer is.

Excellent job!!!!


Posted by: CindyLKeller, July 31st, 2008, 8:35am; Reply: 14
I loved this dialogue: A good theif is a master of body language. and you - you're just screaming for attention. :-)

I think this script has a lot going for it, and was quite good for a OWC, but it still needs some more work.

When I read the part about the granade, I was like what?
What if the cops and SWAT killed a hostage?

Yes, I think this one needs some tweaking. Get some more into the bank robbers head. Maybe get into some of the hostages heads, too.

My two cents,
Posted by: Mr.Ripley, July 31st, 2008, 1:39pm; Reply: 15
This was inspired by The Dark Knight. The difference is that this lacked tension. Some of the dialogue was good but this could be cut down especially when he explains about himself.

When the SWAT member rappelled down, why didn't the other SWAT members follow? Why wasn't the undercover SWAT guy more subtle? I think it would have been better that it automatically happened without having Ripper seeing the undercover SWAT guy.

The quote didn't fit. It seemed that you just wanted to have that quote out of the way in the beginning.

A different take of the Joker. A valiant attempt.

Posted by: Souter Fell, August 1st, 2008, 7:37am; Reply: 16
While this had nothing to do with the quote and barely counts for drama, it's okay.  Most of my comments have already been said so I'll try to be new.

Bold and italics. No. Stop it. They should be reserved for, if at all, the twist of a 90+ page feature, not multiple times in a 15 page short.

When you wrote something about a robber and his accomplices. This seemed to not included the Jok-- I mean Ripper. (did anyone refer to his as Ripper. I can't remember. Point is that if no one activly calls him that, a viewer don't know thats his name. No point in have a cool name if no one knows it til the credits.) Oh yeah, if  this is the introduce of Brain, call it Brain and accomplices.

Whether it was previously written and the line thrown in or what, it just didn't feel like it was for the challenge.
Posted by: slap shot, August 1st, 2008, 8:09am; Reply: 17
take heart fellow scribe...i was guilty of the very same thing (presentation)...we will learn together and will emege better for's all part of the process...dust yourself off and get back on the horse...


db "slapshot"
Posted by: BryMo, August 6th, 2008, 9:10am; Reply: 18
Not sure who Tim Betts is, but I’m sure as hell not him! Looks like some folks lost a bet there.  But Thanks to the lot of you who gave such insightful comments and observations. I’ll go into detail what went through my mind while writing, but first…I have a teeny weeny dilemma to purge myself of:

When I had first started reading the Joker comparisons, I started to get upset. Then after a day of it I started to laugh. And, yesterday, when I checked back to find these reviews were flooded with Batman assessments, I guess the irritation settled in again.

It seemed like all the work I’d done was simplyfied to being “the joker” or “joker-esque”.

The idea had derived from a journal(ahemm not diary) entry I had written a few weeks back on a myspace blog. They were thoughts of abandonment, depression, and the lack sense of belonging.

A few days after the OWC was announced, I stumbled upon that entry and decided to see what I could make of it. Hence came the character of “Ripper.”

My original approach of Ripper’s appearance was an old town Daniel Day Lewis fully clad with a hint of cowboy feaver.

HOWEVER, I will give people this. AND I should have been smart enough to know that it would draw comparisons… The ONLY thing the joker inspired was the skeletal paint portrayal.  UGH!!! What a mistake.

Now to the STORY ASPECT of it all.

The drama to me wasn’t in the bank hiest. It was with Ripper, and how he was so caught up in America’s BS.

One thing people had a problem with, was that he basically gave up at the end…And that’s what I wanted him to do. Because something I had conceptualized – yet executed horribly – was that Ripper actually doesn’t want to live. I started to aim at it with the “Are you sure you blocked the alarm?” and he responded “ofcourse, you think I want to be caught” … and I forgot to make a point of how impassive he was in robbing this bank.    

Don’t get me wrong, Ripper was a guy trying to save his daughter – but really, he was wanting it all to end.

OH AND BTW – the SWAT invasion was in actuality a smoke bomb.. A simple slip of words on my part…

In closing, THANKS ALL! Had great fun and  its too bad there’s no iscript this time.

PS. I feel like if this challenge was one week earlier, I’d get a completely different set of reviews and I can’t help but feel cheated.

PSS Damn you Batman.

Posted by: Sandra Elstree., August 6th, 2008, 5:09pm; Reply: 19

That's why I always do my critique first, before reading any of the other reviews; that way I know that my insights and opinions are completely my own and not biased in anyways.

When I read your script, I immediately saw The Joker, but this isn't a bad thing. The same thing happens in other scripts. I will think: This is like "Stardust" or "Hook" or whatever.

This is actually a very important thing to consider when you are writing a query, or in script, its often referred to as a treatment. And that thing is:

Giving the reader something that they can identify with. Like:

"One Good Hit" is built in the same tradition as "Rocky" but with a twist, BB Breemore is an ex convict, and "The Big Fight" is part of a bet where if he dares to lose, his friend in jail will die.

When a cruel guard with big dreams of a life out of the pit hole, discovers a gambling ring, he takes the lack of ethics to another level. The gambling promotions already include cock fights, dog fights... A human life seems like the only wager, but it's soon discovered that many people's lives are on the line.

** You see what I mean here? The comparisons can be your friend; not necessarily your enemy.

By the way, if anyone wants to use that idea, by all means, go ahead. It's not the type of script I would be good at writing, but I would certainly offer to help with the storycraft, side of things, and a lot of small details.

As I said Bryan,

This was a good effort.

Posted by: Sandra Elstree., August 7th, 2008, 1:29am; Reply: 20

How far will a father's love go? Maybe too far. The Ballad of Uncle Sam treads softly, but with big footprints.

Posted by: BryMo, August 8th, 2008, 5:45am; Reply: 21
Thats quite fine, win some you lose some. On to the next thing i say.
Posted by: rc1107, December 10th, 2008, 2:04pm; Reply: 22
Hey Bryan,

I write down my responses as I read screenplays so I'm not influenced by anybody else's comments.  To be honest, I didn't even know this was a One Week Challenge until seeing other people's responses.

First of all, you are a really good writer with I think a lot of potential.  I liked the moody writing style of the overall piece.

As for the Joker thing, to be honest, when I was reading it, I didn't even think about the Joker at all.  (But I also haven't seen Dark Knight, either.)  I did think the make-up skeleton was a little overboard, but I guess he did have to disguise himself.  What were the accomplice's make-up?

One thing that did get to me was I had to read a bunch of descriptions over and over because of simple mistakes.  I kept on getting lost.  Such as on Pg. 3:  'The air thick is with fear'.  Not saying I couldn't figure it out, but it got annoying having to go back and figure out what you were actually trying to say.

A few other things that didn't add up was when Ripper asks Brain how much time they have.  Brain says 5.  Then Ripper says 'You have 7.'  Why did he even ask him how long he had in the first place.

Another question I had was the swat team.  If they're in a country town, with 'moo'ing and everything, bank robbers have more than enough time to get in and out before swat from the city arrives.  Trust me, I used to live in a hick town, there's no swat.

I have to go now but I'll be back in a few minutes to finish.

Posted by: rc1107, December 10th, 2008, 2:21pm; Reply: 23
Allright, sorry about that, I'm in the library and we only have so much time on one certain computer.

Anyway, back to the hick town with their own SWAT team.  Another thing I fingered out was the bank vault.  My hick town never had any laser walls or anything high-tech or anything like that, so it made it hard for me to get into the ending.  It just didn't seem real and it felt rushed.  Now, with the hindsight of knowing it was an OWC, I understand why it was rushed.

Like I said, I do like your writing, how moody it is, and I was really into it in the beginning.  Also, Ripper had some really intelligent things to say and I got into that aspect of it, too.

I will be checking on some more of your stuff to see if I like it as much.

Nice meeting you, Bryan

- Mark
Print page generated: December 7th, 2021, 12:21pm