A young woman finds out that the biological father she's never known is terminally ill. One of his final requests is to see her before he passes.
This was nice. It just needs to be thought out much more. For a first draft, this has all the basics. But, now it's time to get down into the charcters, and this version has two major problems -
1) All the dialogue is on-the-nose.
2) The reasoning behind Roland not being in Lily’s life is very thin, and completely unconvincing.
Also, when she's talking to Tim on the phone he's (OS) or (OC) not (VO). He is interacting with her. But, that's a stupid little thing.
"Papa Tim" is weird. Personally, I think it's there to show it's her "papa" and we find out he's not her "father". But, it's not good. Tim or Dad would suffice. Then when he says "It's about your father." So, it's not so on the nose (and much more believable), she could say "Are you alright?" Because from the way the script reads, Tim has been her father, not Roland. When she goes to his house, she tells Samantha "I'm here to see my father." Would she really say that about a man she doesn't know? So, it's doubtful she'd call him father or dad or anything.
That's just the beginning of the problems with the dialogue.
But, before I get into that, here's a little (big) thing about Roland. Lily is 18, he's 60. When Lily was 2 he was 30. Lily should be 32. For her to be 18, at best he's between 48 - 50. It's silly because it's numbers. But, it's character. If you can't get the age right, chances are you didn't do much in the background. Here's the problems I had, and it's your script, I'm not changing anything.
Roland was in his early 30s when he got out of prison. Lily was two, and Erin wanted nothing to do with him, and she didn't want him influencing Lily. That's completely believable. But, he just gives up. While, he might have thought Erin knew best. If he really loved Lily and wanted to be in her life, he'd have pulled himself together and eventually proved to Erin and Tim that he was worthy of visitation. So, why didn't he? I know you have a piece about drinking, but that's unbelievable because he puts B'Day cards under the door. He'd show up every weekend at the playground and never said a word. Why didn't he ever approach her? Here's the thing that really has me puzzled, he lived in that neighborhood (same place?) for 14 years. That's as stable as stable can be. He must have built some kind of life, that there'd be room for him to have been in her life. It's all of this, that makes the story unbelievable.
What does Lily know about Roland? We know she last saw him when she was 4. But, what about the cards? Did her mom not give them to her? Tim was willing to take her to the playground, why didn't he let the two hang out? Did Lily know he was in prison? What was he in prison for? A small thing or was he a real criminal?
Something to think about: Lily has a 5 minute relationship with Roland. He's pretty much dead. That leaves Erin and Tim, who did some serious lying to Lily. You pretty much screwed her life up for good. Because she will blame them for keeping Roland away from her, and she'd be right.
There's too many questions that can be asked. Not they necessarily have to be answered. But, it's important to know what Lily knows, and what kept Roland who was only a half hour away from getting together for 14 years. Which boils down to -
On the nose dialogue locks you into facts. If they say what they mean so directly there's no going back. There's no room for interpretation. If your dialogue wasn't on the nose, I probably wouldn't have come up with the problems I did. Because it would be real characters talking about real life.
You have the basics. Rewriting this with real characters might make it longer or even shorter. It's all there. It's just the first draft blues.
A gripping drama about a girl who resents her real father for abandoning her, but then when she realizes why and that he had been anonymously in touch with her over the years, she forgives him.
I’m thinking that structure works, except the ending and Lily’s reversal of emotions came too fast. She should struggle a bit more and feel a terrible loss (that she had hated him for no reason or for not a very good reason). Maybe a few more lines of dialogue.
Also, except for Roland’s secretly staying in touch with Lily, he doesn’t seem to have much going in his life -- why was Lily’s mother attracted to him in the 1st place? Perhaps there is some talent or positive about him that was derailed by circumstances (maybe racism) and/or his inability to have a closer relationship with Lily.
POSSIBILITIES FOR ADDITIONAL LAYERS (that are not necessary): The mixed race issue and Lily’s mother not wanting Roland in her life -- perhaps understandably because he had been in prison & perhaps had been a bad husband and maybe a neglectful father at the time (before going to prison), or would be bad for Lily -- is underplayed I think. And there’s no indication of why her mother married Roland (tho that’s not necessary either). Lily may have had some problems with racism growing up, and could have used her real father’s support (in addition to her stepfather’s support). And/or, perhaps she could have wanted to be more involved with black culture & society, but without her father, she didn’t really have an in.
T, I just got scolded by Mrs.Block. Y (part didn’t show up, it’s white on white) ou and mom can't tell me that you want me to focus my studies then interrupt me when --
mood shifts (with “s”)
him? should not be in italics since it reads better without emphasis
Lily, listen. It's about your
[[Character & dialogue should be in italics since it’s coming over the phone.]]
“She sits down on bench.” didn’t show up - white on white
I think this could be written (beat, softly)
I sometimes use ... instead of (beat), which I think lets the reader to pause a bit.
Also since you mention anger in the action part, you may not need (angrily). My understanding is that we should greatly reduce parentheticals in spec script, unless they are necessary. Often the words in the dialogue by themselves will let the actor know how to say them.
P2: I’d delete “How selfish of him.” The rest of that dialogue expresses this.
P3: early-60s --> early 60s (I don’t think the hyphen is necessary, but would be useful for, say, mid-60s)
and I think only the age should be in parentheses, the rest of the description not.
so: ROLAND (early 60s), black, thin, tired looking sits...
gon' --> gonna (reads more smoothly)
her Roland (delete “here”)
Samantha, you can go home for the day (delete “for the day”)
for too long (delete “for”)
LILY (deadpan stare) No. Roland is fine. (this dialogue may not be necessary, just the deadpan stare).
“by now.” (could probably be deleted)
(pissed) may not be necessary. The dialogue says it and the fact that she uses “Roland” means she’s not taking anything from him.
“Please, sit down and let me explain.” I’m thinking perhaps added, “I wanted to for some time, but--” (that would make him a bit more sincere).
On the issue of concept, it is not strong enough.
Quite true, the beginning got me to sit but as it progresses, disappointment creeps in.
About the scenes, they are well written with a clear sense of purpose.
And the protagonist is an intriguing character. Finding out about her past made her all the more interesting. Honestly I do feel for her but more could be done to feel more.
The dialogue is good and much of it drives the story.
The conflict is genuine. It is a war of words. Though I hoped for more. And it's not words. It's deeds.
The pacing is good. The climax of the story is okay. And the script does not read well.