I'm an aspiring screenwriter from the UK. I studied film at university, but have been working outside of film & television in the years since in an unrelated field. I am fighting a constant battle to try and pursue screenwriting in as much of my spare time as I can! My profile photo is of my partner & I's pet rabbit Frank.
Concept I thought the concept was terrific and really hooked me into the script. Immediately we see Jonathan, a guy not in a great place being stalked by phone calls and the Stranger. Jonathan is really rattled, and it drew me in, and kept me guessing all the way until the end. I really liked the way also that you’ve written some of the action so that there are surreal, dream-like moments, which may be real or not, but visually are really clear on the page. I wasn’t sure if there was a supernatural element to the script until the very end when we learn the truth about the Stranger, but when the ending came it had a good impact and felt true to the story. Story Really riveting story, I’ve mentioned it in the synopsis above, but you’ve done a great job weaving clues and foreshadowing into the story; the constant ringing, the child in the cafe with the crashing toys, Jonathan’s drinking, his lack of career, it all comes out bit by bit in the story and build up a picture of him as a character, in parallel with the main thrust of the stranger stalking him. One thing I did want to question was the stranger himself. I get that he finds Jonathan’s apartment after picking up his wallet, but how does he find him before at the bus station and the subway car? Is it by chance? That’s the only element that maybe felt a little off to me at the moment. But overall, really good, really compelling. Structure Your structure was strong, particularly for a short, the opening scene served as a hook, and then you gave us a bit a bit of time to breathe as we learnt about Jonathan, and his situation, then around mid-way through, there’s another encounter with the Stranger, before Jonathan’s life spirals further and further out of control, building to the tension and fear of the climax. I thought it worked really well. If I’m being picky, I think there were a couple of scenes I think which could be trimmed down shorter. Jonathan’s eviction by the police for example takes around 4 pages, and i think you could easily half that, to keep the pace of the story up. Similarly, I think the job interview could be edited down slightly, if you just retained the key information that it delivers about Jonathan’s backstory... Characters I’m going to focus on Jonathan here, as he was the main protagonist and central character in the plot. What I’d really like to highlight and praise is that although Jonathan isn’t written as a heroic character, and you’ve chosen not to make him that likeable, his journey and story is written well enough that as a reader, it didn’t matter, I was invested in what was happening to him and ultimately felt for him and his fate. I wanted to call that out, as I think it shows really good writing. Dialogue I thought that most of the dialogue was good and felt realistic, there was an example or two where the dialogue was maybe a little too on-the-nose which I picked up on in the page-by-page notes below, but for the most part I liked it, and the balance between action and dialogue was really good. Summary I really enjoyed your script. Some great storytelling technique, with tense and exciting moments, and a satisfying ending. I hope you get it made, and look forward to more of your writing. All the best.
I have to be honest up front and say that I think you have a fair bit of work of work to do here. One of the first things I would say is that I wasn’t entirely sure of the tone you were going for. It’s listed as a straight comedy, but when I read it through, it felt like more of a dark comedy drama. There are certain points where it comes off extremely dark, such as when Carl smashes up the furniture store, or considers suicide, but then there’s also moments of slapstick comedy (where Carl faceplants doing a knee slide). The shifts in tone can come off as quite jarring. I think the structure you’ve got in place works at the moment, starting to Carl in his present situation, then looping back to fill in the back story, before the climax with the lottery win, you’ve got a 3 act spine there, but I think the issue I had with it, is that I wanted to know what happens next! The premise of the script is that a homeless man wins the lottery, and I think there’s an interesting concept there, but because the script ends just as Carl wins the lottery, we don’t get to explore the premise of the show. How will the lottery win affect him? What will he do first? As a reader, that’s what interested me. When you break down the synopsis of your script in terms of the story you’ve got, I think you could easily condense it down into your first 10 pages say, and use the remaining 15 to explore what Carl does with his winning ticket. There’s two scenes of Carl having affairs with other women where his wife walks in, you only need one to get your point across. You could also save some space by culling the narrator, I don’t feel that they add a great deal at the moment, they just really reiterate information that the story already tells us. Carl himself I think needs a little work make into a strong character. He’s an obnoxious jerk, and that’s the intention, it’s not necessarily a problem, but I think as an audience we need a little more to latch onto, to want to watch more of him. We find out that he’s had everything, a wife, a good job, but he was a jerk, and he blew it. Now that he’s homeless, he’s still a crude jerk. And we get the hint at the end that now he’s won the lottery, he’s going to be a rich jerk. From a character point of view, it would be great to get more of a sense of internal struggle and conflict. Say for example, Carl being homeless had actually made him a better, more sympathetic, sensitive person. But winning the lottery starts him slipping back towards his old ways. How would those two sides to his personality battle each other? Just a final suggestion from me, is that the title ‘The Hobo’ could sell your concept more. How about something like, ‘The Hobo Millionaire’, or ‘The Richest Hobo’. Great work on completing your script and getting to a second draft. If you do a third and upload it on here I look forward to seeking it out. All the best.
I really enjoyed reading this, I felt that it was very well written and executed, which I think is more impressive given the challenging way you’d chosen to approach the story. Concept At it’s heart, you could describe the concept as a character study of a troubled man with a dark history. But it’s much more original than the way it is on the page, through the non-linear structure, use of surrealism and unreality that it was fascinating to read. I was engrossed from an early stage, and had no idea what was coming next or where the story would turn. Story The way you’ve written the story makes it fascinating for me to actually consider what happened in the script. What i mean by that is that everything can be questioned? What really happened, and what didn’t? I’ve written a relatively detailed synopsis above, but it doesn’t really get into what actually happens (or could have happened!) Does Darren really have telekinetic powers? My interpretation as a reader was that he does not, but everything is left open and implicit, and I think that’s testament to your writing, and the way you’ve used imagery to suggest and add to the story (I particularly thought that some of the stronger horror aspects reminded me of Clive Barker.) I don’t know that the otherworldly, abstract style of storytelling will appeal to everyone, but it worked for me (even when I don’t think i have an understanding of a fair amount - what is the significance of the animals for example?). Structure It’s difficult for me to rate the structure because it’s quite an alternative structure that you’ve used. What I would say is that you’ve got a relatively clear through-line throughout the first two acts, as we learn about Darren from child, to youth, grown man, to middle-age and the challenges and experiences he faces, before a clear climax when young Darren faces Spader, and we are presented with the full picture behind Darren’s character. It’s not traditional as-such but i felt that it worked well. The only thing i would say is that in structural terms you spend a large portion of the first 10 pages with Darren in the refuge of the bathroom. It’s a brave choice and it didn’t bother me as a reader, but I can see how some might be concerned by how confined things are early on. Characters You’ve written a really strong lead character with an interesting arc in Darren, taking us from sensitive, sweet child, and a stronger, but conflicted youth, to a successful but dangerous man, and finally a defeated and downbeat middle-ager. From an early point in the story, I was really invested in his journey. We see a lot of different sides to him, and there’s some great little character touches (like the fake smile the adult Darren gives to his neighbour when leaving his house). Some of your other characters make a really strong impression with more limited time. Tommy’s a straight bad-guy, but he’s written with enough care that he’s doesn’t come across as one-dimensional, there’s a believability to the way he throws a half-compliment or justification Darren’s way before he puts him down or beats him down. Similarly Spader is a memorable creation who manages to be both friendlier and more charismatic than Tommy, but even more demonic. For me, I think it would be great to see a little more meat on the bones of Cassandra and Jude, to flesh out Darren’s family a little more. Jude for example we see early on in the bathroom, but doesn’t really re-appear until the end, and it creates a bit of a disconnect there. But overall, I think what you’ve done with the characters so far is really promising. Dialogue I’ve made a few notes in the page-by-page comments about bits of dialogue that I liked, or things that I felt could do with some tweaking, but overall most of your dialogue felt really natural and honest for the most part. There were a few exchanges, notably early on with the bathroom scenes, and also the press-up scene with Spader where the dialogue was the key driver, and (this isn’t a criticism) the script took on a theatrical / stage play edge where the characters were quite vocal about feelings, emotions, experiences. In a different script it might have seemed a little out of place, but in the world you created, it seemed to work. Possibly only the bathroom scene with Jude early on seemed a little on-the-nose. Summary Overall, as I said, I really enjoyed what you’ve written, and I hope you’re able to take it further. I do think that if you chose to there’s mileage in converting into a stage play also if it helps get more exposure for the story. I hope my comments were helpful in some way, and wish you all the best for the future.
Concept Three people in a sealed room with casket and a ticking clock. It’s a simple concept, but it’s a strong image and immediately creates strong intrigue in the reader. Who are the people? What’s in the casket? What happens when the clock reaches zero? Immediately you’ve got those nagging questions set-up within the first ten pages or so which draw a reader in. You make a point in the script where Shawn says that he’s in a saw remake, and it is true that there has been a fair number of confined location thrillers in the last twenty years or so, with Saw itself, Cube, Devil etc, but I don’t necessarily think that’s an issue here, you’ve got your own take on it, and as a reader it worked for me. Story I really like your concept and structure of your script, but there are some elements of the story that didn’t always work for me. I wasn't 100% on board with the idea of the Voice / Erin and the supernatural aspects this brought with it, although I though you handled it in the writing relatively well, but some of the plot developments (the way that Erin was omnipotent in the story, able to make things appear and disappear, overwhelm the characters with noise, make them unable to speak) meant that the characters were sometimes passengers in the story, they didn't always have agency to drive the story forward that much themselves. Another thing I noted, was that the duel at the end between Shawn and Paul was an interesting idea (with both men visually impaired), but i wasn't sure how well that it would work on screen. Also, from a story point of view, Shawn is the protagonist, and he's the one with the advantage in the scene, not Paul (who is completely blind). It detracts from the drama a little. I think it would work better if Shawn, the protagonist was the one who had to overcome the odds to win out. Structure I think that your structure was one of the strongest elements of your script, which is a great positive (i think the writer William Goldman said, ’Screenplays ARE structure’). You’ve got a nice short opening scene, before the main premise of the story kicks in. With the fixed location of the room, there’s a risk that you could run out of steam, but in my opinion you did a great job of breaking things down, we get drip-fed information about the characters’ back stories through dialogue & flashbacks periodically, alongside new developments in the room itself even ten pages or so; the casket, the appearance of the ax, sleeping beauty waking up etc. so there’s a great pace and as an audience we’re compelled to read on, as we discover things at the same time as the characters. The timer is woven in really well, building up towards the end, and the climatic conflict is handled really well, with some neat reversals. The only thing I would say is that when the ending comes, it’s possibly a little abrupt, possibly you could add in a little more here to let things breathe a little more and increase the impact. Character Development You’ve written 3 distinctly different main characters here, which suits your story well to help create the conflict. Shawn is crass & sarcastic, offset by Paul’s square-ish persona, before Sleeping Beauty’s fiesty character enters the mix. Beyond that though, I did feel that certainly Shawn as the main protagonist could do with a little work to develop him. It’s a brave choice to make him the way he is, he’s clearly intended as an anti-heroic character, he’s rude, seemingly quite self-centred, albeit he’s the only one unwilling to kill to save himself. It’s true that protagonists don’t have to be likeable or sympathetic, but I think here as an audience we need a little more to engage with, so that the ending has more resonance. Currently, Shawn’s flippant attitude to things is present all the way through the story, and it can serve to dilute the tension - if Shawn doesn’t take the situation that seriously why should the audience? The other issue with Shawn’s character is that it doesn’t come over that he deals with any significant change or growth in the story. It’s tricky sometimes, as thrillers and horrors don’t always follow the same rules with character goals & needs as other genres, but with the situation you’ve created in the script, I think Shawn should have to deal with more difficult choices that he does, with more difficult consequences. He has a little agency in the story, where he chooses not to kill the others in exchange for his freedom, but it doesn’t come over as a difficult decision for him. Paul has a potentially interesting arc where he initially comes off as the more reasonable of the characters, before turning towards his darker impulses as the story goes on. It might be worth exploring this in more detail. Dialogue A lot of the dialogue you’ve written is short and punchy which is great. There’s nothing really in the way of overlong speeches, ond it reads pretty well. The reason I’ve not scored you higher on the dialogue for me, is that the bulk of the conversation is between Shawn and Paul, and it can be a little one-note. Paul will say something, and Shawn will shoot back a sarcastic retort. A lot of what Shawn will say is quite crude and colorful, which isn’t a problem in itself, and it is in keeping with his character, but it does get a little repetitive in places. If you can, it would be great to work on polishing up some of the dialogue, to see if you can use it to draw out some more moments of character. Script Overall, I think your script shows a lot of promise, i liked the concept, the structure was very tight also. There were some elements of the story which didn’t ring true for me, and I think the characters need some attention to make the drama as strong as it can be, but that said, I did find it a compelling read and was always intrigued to find out what happened next. I think the core of what you’ve got here is really solid, if you’re able to polish up the characters, some of the dialogue and story elements, you’ll have something special. I was torn on how to score some elements, but if it feels like I’ve scored anything lower than my comments reflect, it’s only because I think it’s clear you’ve got a lot of capability and can take this script to the next level. Writer Good luck in your future, you clearly have talent, with an economical style of writing and handle on structure, and you know how to put together a good combination of visuals, dialogue and action. I look forward to reading your work in future.