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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board  /  May, 2020 Challenge  /  We Are Still Here - May OWC - Optioned!
Posted by: Don, May 16th, 2020, 12:27pm
We Are Still Here by Mark Renshaw (markrenshaw) writing as Agnes of Beans - Short, Family - A grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's stays connected to her family during lockdown thanks to technology and a bit of ingenuity. 5 pages - pdf format

Writer interested in feedback on this work

Posted by: Grandma Bear, May 16th, 2020, 2:35pm; Reply: 1
Not bad. Sad, but occasionally funny too. My biggest issue with this story is that it's rather dull. If you're going to have talking heads with no visuals of interest at all, the dialogue needs to be really sharp. Other than Tonia getting mayo splattered over her face, it's really just an old woman in a bed and two talking heads on a computer screen. I love the idea of Agnes re-watching the call over and over, so that's good. You just need to kick the dialogue up a few notches, IMHO.

So, good job, but can be much better.
Posted by: Rob, May 16th, 2020, 8:26pm; Reply: 2
You have captured a sweet exchange that is tinged with some regret. An effective script overall. Good dialogue. I liked the line about teenagers preparing for this quarantine their entire lives. The exploding mayo was cool--I'd like to see that on film.

Had to read the last page a couple of times to get what was happening. I'm still not sure if the old woman was replaying it, or the family was re-sending the conference again. A bit of clarification might help here.

Overall, a nice read. Best of luck to you.
Posted by: Gary Howell, May 16th, 2020, 8:39pm; Reply: 3
Not a badly written story at all, but it seems like there wasn’t much going on, although the hook at the end of her replaying the call saved this for me somewhat.  Not sure I got why she was staring out the window and what about that prompted her to replay the call.

Overall, I guess I liked it but just kind of wished there was a little bit more going on with the story other than dialogue from a call with grandma.  Still, a pretty good effort here.  Best of luck.
Posted by: eldave1, May 16th, 2020, 9:01pm; Reply: 4
Is blowing exhaust pipes a thing? I may have missed something in my youth. I'd pick a different childhood prank.

Okay - you have a great core premise in the replay thing - poignant - especially in her surprise each time she opens the call.

But ....

The dialogue - at least the subject of it - does not serve your story well. It's too everyday.  There has to be a jolt - a tear - or a belly laugh somewhere. I just found it like a thousand other conversations.

Kudos on entering.
Posted by: Reef Dreamer, May 17th, 2020, 5:15am; Reply: 5
We are still here

Lovely effort.

Simple, engaging, and poignant

Three generations sharing the same ride, with the middle one in reflective mood. Strangely I find myself in a not dissimailr position.

One idea I had was, you could add in a mistake in the first dialogue - perhaps something that annoys Agnes - which they correct in the second. Mother and daughter working together etc

I would also feel for Agnes if I saw a little more distress, and confusion

Well done.
Posted by: LC, May 17th, 2020, 6:10am; Reply: 6
Nice.

Agnes doing the rinse and repeat on Skype is what makes this work.

The dialogue could do with a few more surprises maybe, but the overall idea is a good one.

Mum, eh? Well, unless you're masquerading as an Aussie, UK, or NZ writer you are not a U.S. writer.   ;)

FYI: When to capitalise - Mum should be capped if you can replace Mum with the person's actual name. If not you use lower case.
Posted by: MarkRenshaw, May 17th, 2020, 7:20am; Reply: 7
Easily fits the criteria, could do with a bit more happening though and something to make it more obvious the twist at the end but decent effort overall.
Posted by: ajr, May 17th, 2020, 1:49pm; Reply: 8
Definitely poignant, and a good subject to mine for emotion.

I thought the tonal shift - which was the oddity of Tonia keeping a mayo packet as a keepsake, to the mom saying that she was sorry for everything she's ever done, happened in the blink of an eye. With 6 pages of what is essentially all dialogue, most of it from the mother and daughter, you have time to set this up better. Maybe Wendy tears up first?

And I didn't get anything that showed me she has Alzheimer's - is Agnes answering the video? Because she says the same thing the first time, so it's not clear. If she is, then Wendy's and Tonia's dialogue have to be written as (ON VIDEO) to distinguish from when it happened live to the taped version. That's critical to your story.

AJR
Posted by: _ghostwriters, May 17th, 2020, 9:15pm; Reply: 9
Did you know Talking Heads use to be a band... ;D

Ok, I'm gonna approach this a bit differently.

There was enough eye candy(your logline) to hold my interest while I endured the exposition of dialogue you used to advance your story. So the twist was quite effective, so kudos.  Also, I thought you did just enough to show the decline in Agnes' mental function.

Bogart called them two humping camel scenes because you would need two camels humping in the background to keep the audience from falling asleep while the boring dialogue was said.- ;D  Now I didn't find your dialog boring by any means.  You had a few funny lines.  My point;

I read it the first time through, then I gave it a second read, only I *skipped* all of the dialogue, just read the actions of the characters.  So... did I still understand your story?  Wait for it.... absolutely.  If that tells you anything. ;)

I liked this a lot.- 8)-A
Posted by: Fais85, May 18th, 2020, 6:44am; Reply: 10
It was an average read until the end twist came through. The ending saved this script.

Overall, decent writing.
Posted by: PKCardinal, May 18th, 2020, 3:49pm; Reply: 11
There's a lot to like here. And, also room for some improvements.

I enjoyed the twist at the end and the emotional elements of the script. Very well done.

The writing could use some punch. 2 of the first 4 action lines are passive. Turn them around. Photos adorn... and Agnes gazes... None others stood out, but a quick check of the script would help, just to make sure.

And, the dialogue is on the verge of being very good. The sentiments are all in there. But, it's mostly overwritten. I think you could get twice the emotional hit with half the words.

Then, for this to really sing, a bit more action would be helpful.

Now, having said that... part of what makes this work, is that they've recreated an every day conversation for Agnes. So, making it too unusual kind of runs against the theme.

All in all, a strong effort that could be even stronger with another draft or two.

Good job.
Posted by: JEStaats, May 19th, 2020, 1:08pm; Reply: 12
A nice little read, thanks, writer. Great dialogue and banter, some good descriptive visuals, and perfectly fits the challenge.

My biggest gripe is your logline as it (for me, anyway) gives away the reveal. The recorded call is the best part of the story and I shouldn't have been expecting it.

Nicely done, thanks for entering.
Posted by: Dreamscale, May 19th, 2020, 2:27pm; Reply: 13
So, I see we have a Brit writer here.

Not sure if this is a Brit thing, but "out of the window" is a mistake - just "out the window".

Not giving Agnes an age is a mistake - "willful old bird" does not give me a clue if she's in her 60's, 70's, 80's, or even 90's.

When I saw your reference to Skype, I had to do a quick google to see if it's even around these days.  It is, but it's rarely used and is being completely phased out, based on what I saw.

Page 4 - "apologies"? - You mean "apologize"?

OK, the end. So, it's a touching tale, but it's also a dull tale, with literally nothing happening of any visual interest.  I don't get the mayo thing, nor do I get the blowing an exhaust pipe, and the "reveal"...I'm not really sure what that's supposed to signify.

There's nothing wrong with this effort, but there's nothing here to remember or really care about, either.

***
Posted by: khamanna, May 19th, 2020, 3:43pm; Reply: 14
Hmm, why is she repeating the call? Did they die or stopped calling her?
Or does she miss them so much that she needs them all the time?

It's very touching - the end I mean.
I miss my mother now and am scared for her. Yes, very easy for me to relate.
Beautiful story.
Posted by: Spqr, May 19th, 2020, 9:30pm; Reply: 15
Good story. Wendy and Tonia's reminisences are nice. Good touch having Agnes re-living the Skype call over and over since it makes her so happy.
Posted by: PrussianMosby, May 22nd, 2020, 8:32am; Reply: 16
Hey!

The pitch reads like drama, whatever, I like how you sell it.

p2 dialogue does not work well so far. It's too slow when me being in the room and watching her/them - verbal interaction has few balance just as.

Then last page contradicts everything in a positive way. Sure. However, I still would go along quicker, which makes the whole story experience more effective and balanced. Like… don't give us too much that feels wrong before saying this is clever, which it is btw. First and second act still have to work as an experience on their own and not a mere long trap which only works in reverse. Concept saved this in the end. Maybe only one page less and things look much better here. Is good though.

All best.
Posted by: MarkD, May 23rd, 2020, 4:48pm; Reply: 17
I was really touched by how wholesome this was. Great job.
Posted by: MarkRenshaw, May 24th, 2020, 10:41am; Reply: 18
Thanks for the read/reviews.  This was the simplest/easiest short I could come up with that could be shot during lockdown or during strict social distancing.

A family record a video conference call which they set to play on loop for an elderly relative who suffers for dementia and is in lockdown in a care home. It is so she has some company and isn't afraid, that's the intention anyway.

I wanted the conversation to be wholesome, funny and full of love. I also wanted to avoid tropes and cliches so I used real events of my past.

The blowing down the car exhaust and getting caught by mother - that was me. I did this and I got caught out in exactly the same manner as in the script. The stop button on the escalator and being asked to leave the store, also me.

The mayonnaise incident happened in a restaurant with my niece, Tonia. To this day it is the funniest thing I've ever witnessed in real life and we were still belly laughing about it hours later.

Finally, I wanted to get across a few things I'd like to say to my mother, Agnes if she were still alive. This was my opportunity to do so.

Some got this as is, others seemed to want it more obvious. There is always a dilemma in scripts in how much you show and how much you tell until you are confident the audience gets it. I believe I show enough in this but I may add a few more pointers to make it a bit more obvious as I want to avoid telling.

I think the easiest way to do this is the post-it notes on the wall. Thet are reminders for Agnes. I'll highlight some of them.  

Thanks again for all your thoughts. It is appreciated.
Posted by: MarkRenshaw, July 18th, 2020, 10:50am; Reply: 19
UPDATE

I've removed the script as a Venuzwalen filmmaker who lives in Mexico has bought an exclusive two-year option on it. She spotted it right here on SS, so thank you yet again, Don for this amazing place! And doesn't it show how many lurkers we have on these boards?

Things have moved rather quickly since. I've spent a couple of weeks transferring the setting to Mexico and extending it to be a few pages longer. The filmmaker has then translated it into Spanish.

Two production companies are involved, the location picked and casting begins today. They are looking to begin filming as early as the 26th of July.

I am so excited!!
Posted by: AnthonyCawood, July 18th, 2020, 10:54am; Reply: 20
Great news Mark!
Posted by: khamanna, July 18th, 2020, 10:56am; Reply: 21
Oh congrats to you on it! It's a very good one. I remember it so well. And all of it! That's the power of a great story I guess.
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