I am a writer from the UK and a student of the craft for many years. Until now I've never wanted to put my work out there but I love the craft so much and enjoy the process that I feel maybe now us the time to share; knowledge and work.
A well written piece with explicit images of horror by a writer who has an apt grasp of the written word. There is a real sense of the intended emotional journey albeit as an impression as opposed to getting it off the page. I think it's more down to the actual approach to creating these scenes, on the page, contrary to the writers creative ability; which I think is exemplary. Suffice to say the tell itself loses its way as the horror elements are introduced into the story. The first act is a good attempt at tackling the theme of emotional neglect: The first impression of Dom is that of a ten year old boy who, seemingly, has a high IQ, which is believable. The upturned sketchpad displaying the 'God is good' message could be a symbol of Dom' demeanour at this point in his life; an upturn of personality subsequent of a tragedy, which is soon revealed as his mother death. To a response of anger, rebellion and violence. It's a nice sub-theme about how drastic and sudden change is not necessarily as good thing in children. Children need to be nurtured, by their parents. All he has now is his father, Paul. A drinker, setup as neglectful, a man struggling to adjust, to the loss, himself and can't cope with the changes in his son. Their relationship going forward does not bode well without the intervention of exceptional circumstances. I'm not sure of the significance of the spirit/imagination of Dom's mother, Penny, has on reconciling this change unless another sub-theme is introduced about letting go. The kitchen scene introducing Paul and Kassie feels too long and took me out of the moment. I get the point of the scene, just need to get there quicker; nothing a little imagination can't fix. Paul helping Dom read seems a little contradictory considering the smarts Dom has been set up with; how does he read and absorb the knowledge of all those books on theology if he can't read and understand the words? The scene would serve the story better if Paul displayed more signs of emotional neglect. Maybe he's really not interested in listening to all that bible stuff, masking the fact that he's actually not interested in listening to his son read. The passage Dom reads here is interesting as it relates to change and truth which ties in well. At the end of that scene, Paul shows some air of care, which seems out of character at this point; it's still the first act and it's better if we get the feeling that fatherhood, not necessarily Dom, is a burden on him. The atonement and ransom theory I find a little weird uttered by the kid, okay he's a little genius but he's still only ten years old, meaning his social skills and EQ are not likely to be as well developed. Why does Dom's mother egg him on to help the Homeless Man? Then later on, she says 'Don't'? Confused by that. If she is indeed a spirit, surely she must sense the evil lurking there. If she is a figment of his imagination, is there some schizophrenia issues going on that I haven't picked up on? The Homeless Man character as a whole felt arbitrary to the story, integrated for two reasons. So Paul bring his gun on the camping trip, which didn't payoff. And to reinforce how Dom is feeling about his mothers death which would eventually act as the herald for said camping trip, but it didn't feel strong enough for me. A better approach may have better emotional impact. So at the church, Dom attends Sunday service, and I get the impression Paul is working on the building being constructed next door. Why is Paul working on a Sunday? Is he on a deadline he is struggling to meet? If so, set it up, in fact I'd recommend it, to help the dynamics when crossing the first threshold. In this church scene, I sensed something off about Dom's poise. I associate ten year olds as being inquisitive, imitative and full of tantrum through play. Here Dom is in debate, teaching and forming opinion, showing the social EQ of an adult. Came across as odd, I have to keep reminding myself that Dom is just ten years old. I don't know, maybe I only see it this way from my own experience. Socking the Elder's nose is fitting of a troubled kid who gone through such tragedy, but it would be a lot more convincing if it was in Sunday school, in a fight with another child. Would spark that first lecture on parenthood between Paul and the Sunday school teacher. Non plus, Paul is just proud that he's taught his son how to punch, not much of a role model. Back onto the Homeless Man, I don't understand the act of violence to Dom's kindness other than the aforementioned tool to goad the camping trip. An after thought begs the question, why would a traumatised kid, like Dom, care about the homeless man anyway? I'm assuming his mother has died recently, so kindness would be the last thing on a ten year olds mind, right? I think anyone who is in the anger stage of grief would be bitter and resentful, guilty and blameful, loss of faith etc.. Dom's no different, he's still a human being. Asking why? Why does that Homeless man gets to live, and his mother gets to die? Anyway, that's how I see it and I'm only speculating on Dom's stage of grief. I could be wrong. The story has been set up well, I understand there is an emotional foothold here, no pun intended, but I do feel that the scenes need a fresh approach to tackle the subject matter, in a visual sense, with a view of pacing to give room for an opening scene, maybe, that will set the tone of the story in the horror genre. There is elements of the heroes journey called 'The Call to Adventure' and 'Refusal of the Call'. Some may argue that it's not necessary, but from my point of view, I see it as a reason to display the natural human instinct to resist change/fear the unknown. Just up and going camping just to get away from it all, and conveniently at the church no less, comes across as a bit wayward. A call is needed to get them both out there somehow. This is the reason why I suggested work deadline set up. If Paul receives a phone call demanding work to be finished by the morning otherwise he doesn't get paid, he would have no choice but to go to work, at night. It poses a dilemma, a major story telling tool. Paul would resist but has to comply. Of course, after that lecture he received from the Sunday school teacher about parenting, he can't leave his son at home alone. Being shanghaied into an adventure works just as well, so long as that fear of the unknown is established. The first threshold would then be the doors of the church which Dom would pass through. But not before receiving a call of his own, a supernatural call, luring him into the church whilst his dad is over-engrossed in his work. After that the story gets way too confusing. I couldn't piece together what was going on in relation to what was set up; which is why I can't give a detailed analysis like with act one. In fact, the story became more about the Nothing, and its purpose, than it did about Paul and Dom's relationship. There's a lot of really well written scenes, very explicit and fitting for a horror story, that were not enhancing the emotional story moving forward. Paul's fatherly instinct doesn't take centre stage in his life; no visual way of representing how he is now sacrificing everything for his son moment. Kassie merely serves as a device to the story and is void of any character development that would magnify the themes in place. And Dom doesn't go through the bargaining, depression and acceptance stages of grief which would return his demeanour back to love. I believe this is because the Nothing's purpose does not test the strength of the protagonists current personalities in order for them to see the light. All they got was a time-line of horrifying events of which they were separated for longs periods. Subsequently, the theme of emotional neglect faded into the background along with the sub-themes of change and truth. Of course, the writer knows this story and I may be way off with my interpretation.
Great title for a movie. The brief synopsis was enticing. I was drawn to the script thinking this could be an interesting chase story in the vain of The Island, The Fugitive, Sixth Day, Paycheck and the like. I love these films. I didn't completely get what I was hoping for. The story is categorized as an Action/Adventure/Thriller but the tone wasn't setup that way. It came across as more light hearted and comedic; throughout the script the one liners, and I hate to say it, are somewhat cringe-worthy and untimely. The story idea seems okay, there is enough foundation laid to rebuild on. From my point of view it would need to be a complete rebuild. I can only assume that the story was not outlined, prior to hitting the page, because I can't identify any kind of road map to suggest Michael's emotional journey, I mean what does he learn from this ordeal? I can't empathise with someone I can't relate to. What the story shows us of Michael contradicted what is told; the first impression of this ex-military man in his 40s, now a committed, stubborn LA cop, is that of someone breaking the law, stealing a water bottle from a dog walker. Then he arrests a man who he thinks is a paedophile only to later find out he collared the wrong man. He becomes childlike when assigned to, what he calls, a babysitting task. These are not the actions I would associate with a committed copper. Add all that to the lack of exposition regarding his military background, this visage of Rambo-esque combat at the end, I didn't buy it. Other notes concerning the story is that everything happens conveniently to serve as an easy path to the end for Michael. There's no significant setups/payoffs. No foreshadowing. The initial 'The girl or your wife' dilemma was excellent but was never really engaged to tighten the drama; in fact, once he had the girl, Robertson let the wife go, ridding himself of any leverage he may have needed later on. The courtroom scene didn't feel real. The coroner scene didn't feel real. I interpreted every character as a cardboard cut out of the archetypes instead of original creations. Actually, I tell a lie, I liked Robertson character; I understood that from his mind he was doing good albeit in a very immoral way. All for the greater good in defiance of the bad that precedes it. The thugs on the train is a massive cliché and that scene really serves no purpose other than to show us how macho Michael is; scene needs a rework. Ortega's betrayal comes out of the blue, there's nothing written to foreshadow his greed that leads to it. The last place you would want to go to lay low when wanted by Mercs and the law, is home. Place would be staked out and then some. But that's where Ortega finds Michael and the Emily. The micro-management of characters is off putting; he does this, then that, then this, then that. Need to manage the characters more creatively. I doubt exposing this young girl Emma, and her gifts, to the world, would be condoned by the WHO or any medical advisor around the world, for her own safety. Scrap the post credit scene regarding COVID and the pandemic, it might be looked upon as conjecture which may offend without facts. The FBI stopping the LAPD from enforcing the law, by clearing out the precinct, would never happen without serious paperwork signed from above; active inquiries are in progress and preventing this would be considered obstruction of justice. There was also no ambiguity regarding FBI agent Colin. Him being a mole was predictable. Innocent until proven guilty is the saying, and he rubber stamped Michael as guilty from the get go. Out of character for a agent of the law. The bad guy gets away in the end? You sure that's the ending you want to give to your audience after they have invest so much time to the story? The action lines are clunky. The dialogue is disjointed. There is some kind of beginning, middle and end here but it moves in one straight line and lacked real emotional conflict to empathise with. And without that conflict, it's really difficult to root for the protagonist. Loved the chase scene, though, despite the state of the action lines and dialogue. There is a substantial amount of screenwriting 101 issues throughout this script, repeated issues as well. Pinpointing them all would be jarring. I'm gathering that this is just a rough first draft to collaborate and get some views and these are only my views. Apologies if it doesn't come across as constructive as intended, sometimes words on their own can mislead. All written with good intentions. Good luck with your next draft.
Yes, I really liked the idea. A well written and thought out tell with believable dialogue. This concept has been walked over and walked over so many times it's worn away a crater, so when I began reading, I was wondering would this story it fall smack bang into that crater as well. To my surprise, no it doesn't. I was actually quite staggered by the intriguing purpose of this murderous cult. They celebrate their own history to form a new ideology, fathomed from the ongoing virus pandemic, by using the immune, in their rituals, as a means of survival. At least that's how I interpret it. And that's great, a perfect concept to set a tale around. Wearing other peoples faces as mask?! Nice horror element but gross as hell. The trio of protagonists were well rounded but could have more depth to their personalities, sometimes it was a little difficult to differentiate them and I felt like Mac and Izzy's relationship with Dev turned quite suddenly, in ACT2b, without gradually getting their. But, having said that, all three were still very interesting and I was rooting for them throughout. The setups and payoffs were good, especially the Christa scar set up as that was quite integral to the fracturing of the Cult's seduction of Mac and Izzy. The nine page opener, although it is a good opener, seemed a little over paced. Six pages would settle better for me. The general pacing of ACT2a and ACT2b did also come across a little slow; the suspense sequence when Jack first appears to the trio and Jenn's death, were the only really gripping moments of action, everything else serves as exposition or a means to move forward. Don't get me wrong that's all good, it would have been nice to have seen a little more action; the seduction elements especially as they may come across as cliche in some eyes. The ending was a bit cheesy but I enjoyed all the same. But on the whole this script is workable. I liked the writing style, I liked the story, I liked the screenplay.
It was quite difficult for me to write a detailed synopsis because there is a lot of storytelling elements missing from the draft. I'm under the impression that the writer is just putting the feelers out as if to ask if the idea can grow into something great. I can say that the idea is good but now it needs executing, because as of now there are no established story beats that hit the correct storytelling signposts. The approach to the story lacks believability; think about the film 'The Last Action Hero', the whole Houdini, magical ticket, approach set up the story as believable. Here we have a guy, Richard, who seemingly is a engineering genius but never comes across that way simply because one, we don't see him at it, and two, because of the Beavis and Butthead style of relationship he has with Josh. I just wasn't convinced the 'Alternator' could do what it was designed to do because of the lack of exposition attached to it. There is no drama, no dilemma, the protagonist does not travel the hero's journey and comes home with the elixir. All I can interpret from this draft is that two grown men act irresponsibly and inconsiderately, where the F word is the word of the day, that do not come of age. Although acting this way is good for starters, for me the change was way too insignificant to warrant the tell. It's a bummer having to write such a negatively critical review and I apologise, but I just didn't get it.
Really good. I enjoyed the read very much. The subject matter of dealing with self inflicted mental illness and how it consumes us, such as guilt, is very real and relevant, especially is in todays day and age, albeit not in such extraordinary circumstance such as this story but, for the sake of drama, I totally get it. The tone is set up from the start and the writer comes across as aware of the theme in place because there is a strong sense of story here that has a clear direction that ends in a satisfying way, although probably not in the most appropriate way. Which is suicide. Don't get me wrong; Revenge. Suspense. Excitement. Got to add some spice to such morbid subject matter to keep this thing a page turner. I'd be thinking along the same lines too. I've marked this story up highly because everything is in place to rewrite and hone the craft into a great screenplay. However, I did wonder what it was that drove Brooks to the booze, which lead to drink driving, which led to killing Sammy. So, although the Hooded Man connected the dots for the reader, I did feel that not all the dots were connected. The flashback scenes with the grandparent threw me somewhat as I couldn't see the relevance, unless it was to foreshadow the scene where Brooks steals money from the homeless man. If that's the case I can safely say I would understand his need to steal without the flashback. It's tough living rough. Speaking of foreshadowing, alluding to the Honda in the phone call with his father and the child playing with the toy cars in the café was a good move. The scenes are well written and polished and, like I've already said, it really set the tone of the story. There are minor craft concerns with regards to structure and dialogue which I'd rather discuss in my additional notes as it's not a direct influence on my review. Because craft is craft, we're students of it with our own opinions and style; and my thought process may not align with yours. Also, on a final note, the length of the script might, and probably will, come across as way too long for a short feature; the length of Man on a Phone is borderline episodic TV. But again this is probably down to its place in the rewriting process, nothing honing the craft can't fix.