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Small time producer trying to become a big time producer.
 

Reviews Todd Has Written

The Call Center, Holly's Original Draft

7 out of 9 people found the following review helpful:

First 10

Overall Recommendation:
5 stars
 
Premise:
No rating
 
Story structure:
No rating
 
Character:
No rating
 
Dialogue:
No rating
 
Emotion:
No rating
 
August 06, 2011
I saw your request on the message board for reviews and figured I'd oblige. Your logline seemed interesting enough and I liked what you tried to do with your opening.

To be completely honest, I only read the first 10 pages. I'm rating your script 5 stars for that reason.

There are three big things that jump off the screen to me and I hope that you are able to use them as constructive criticism.

1. Typos -- I really am not a typo guy. I really don't care if the writing is good, but in the first ten pages there were easily 25 typos. Including these two on your first page:


They are all standing up anticipating the out come of the game. ** Outcome

Or...your cell phone service is disconnected and you know paid your bill. ** missing a you.

Typically this is not something I would point out, but when readers are catching typos they are being pulled out of the story. When it becomes a pattern, they lose faith in the writer. I trust that's all that needs to be said in that regard.

2. Massive Text Chunks -- When I got to the bottom of page 3 and saw the monster, I flipped to 4, 5, 6, these monsters are throughout the entire script. On page 8 there isn't even a line of dialogue.

This indicates that it is drastically overwritten. A good rule of thumb is to limit your paragraphs to 3 lines. 4 if it's especially important. There are many subtle details that you do not see in most screenplays. If it's unnecessary don't write it.

Again this feels screenwriting nazi of me to write, but honestly, in my experience, you have to have this stuff right. Unless you are Christopher Nolan, who writes however he wants to, the rest of us are competing for the attention of a production assistant. Trying to stand out in a GOOD way.

In particular in your genre, comedy, things need to be quick, fast-paced, moving. Much of your writing is more novelesque.

If I had at this script, simply trimming the prose. I think you would have a 75 page script. This would make me concerned about the depth of your story.

3. Clarity -- Perhaps these other things got in my way, but by page 8 I wasn't sure who's story this was.

I encourage you to read a ton of screenplays. In particular comedies that you like. Study how they are written and come back strong.

It's not fair, but it's the truth: just by the way your script LOOKS it will not be considered. Eliminate all these silly distractions and let people judge your story!
 

Memory, Christian's Test Movie

4 out of 5 people found the following review helpful:

Solid, but story need work.

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
 
Premise:
3 stars
 
Story structure:
2 stars
 
Character:
2 stars
 
Dialogue:
4 stars
 
Emotion:
2 stars
 
August 04, 2011
I’ll start by saying that I’m not sure someone could make a better photo storyboard. It’s top notch. While the Photoshop filter isn’t necessarily my thing, you were consistent, it’s your look, it looks good. There were only a couple things that were visually challenging for me, just food for thought. A different type of look when Nick was having a vision, versus the real world would be ultimately the choice of the director. Some sort of difference perhaps could have helped. The final fight, while well done in your medium, had me confused geographically at times. However that’s all minor minor stuff.

The major stuff unfortunately is the story. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things in there. The hook is great, the homicide detective with the images is great, when he used them it was great, the dialogue was generally strong with exception of some of Melissa’s exposition. It’s a fast start, but to be honest I didn’t have nearly as much fun as I expected.

You mention it being like Seven and Memento so I’ll use those two films as examples. Those films are fun because you are invested in character’s relationships and it’s a guessing game all through the second act. In my opinion, that stuff does not happen here. The potential for it certainly is though. In my opinion it’s still some iterations away (storywise) and I’ll spell out a few of my issues here for you. Feel free to drop me a StudioMail line if you want me to elaborate.

1. Structure – You start like you are shot out of a cannon. While I didn’t read the screenplay, I’m sure this is a fast read. By my count you get to your Inciting Incident, the first Melissa – Nick meeting at minute 6. And he jumps on board, your Act 1 turn at minute 12. You may have those pegged differently, but those are my calls. While this does get things going quickly, I think you pay for it in the 2nd act in a big way.

Mainly because you have no suspects, no red herrings, and no conflict between your two leads. I don't even really know who Melissa is. This is the perfect story to have a “refusal of the call” from your hero. I’ll get to Nick specifically in a paragraph or two, but for me the lack of guessing game in the second act kills this from a potential A to a C-.

Now I know you’ll think the America’s Most Wanted Guy and Nick himself are misdirections, but neither of these work for me. AMWG is in and out in a couple minutes. Nick, as written, is completely impossible to be the killer. He’s withdrawn, a nice guy with little flaw and he’s actively pursuing the killer. This also appears and disappears in a matter of 5 minutes.

I don’t want to get into spoilers, but 15 minutes in, seeing who was introduced as characters and listening carefully to two lines of dialogue about who might or might not have been at the scene, I already knew who the killer was (even though in the end, I don’t think there was any logic/motive behind it, more later).

2. The Nick – Melissa partnership – the reason Seven, Memento and other crime thrillers are successful is in large part due to the conflict between these partnerships. Young vs. Old. I really want to sleep with you. I don’t know if I can trust you.

There’s nothing like this here.

In between the creepy visions and crimescenes, it feels like you are just trying to keep the seat warm. There’s nothing interesting happening between Nick and Melissa and there are a number of fixes for this. Looking at your number of drafts and redrafts you’ve probably thought of all of them.

One of the worst parts of the story for me is when she, out of the blue, thinks he could be the killer. Now I think you saved this nugget to be your midpoint turning point, but that takes away from all the possibly conflict throughout. Right up front we should know she thinks he could be the killer. This suddenly makes all of the interactions interesting and it starts the guessing game. Did he? Or didn't he? Affleck’s the Town (first act) is a shining example of how effective this can be.
When Melissa says that, I thought it was ridiculous because there was absolutely nothing that would indicate she felt this way and nothing shown in Nick to indicate it was possible at all. It comes in irrationally and leaves just as quickly (he sure does forgive her quickly don’tcha think ;- ). Starting with this and keeping this option open throughout the ENTIRE second act would make your story much stronger. As long as…

3. Nick – has some work done on him. A guy with this condition goes probably one of two directions anger or withdrawl. I think you chose the much less interesting choice. I’ll bet you did it out of fear Nick wouldn’t be likeable, but with his problem I think he’d have a great amount of sympathy. Having Nick have some rough edges would make him a far more interesting character. He’d be more likely as a suspect and he’d have an arc. The way I’d see it would be…

His wife bangs dude. Nick gets angry angry. He absorbs into work. Obsessed. Gets angry there. Blows his lid and loses his job.

I think with a screenplay like this you need to dare walk that line. Trust your hook to reel in the fish. Tell the best story you can.

4. His skill -- While it was uneven in spots, when Nick went back to the scene of the crime and used his photographic memory to find clues I was like, this is the movie. He's the only one that can solve this crime! But then.....let down. Outside of the villain reveal that’s the only time we see it. While this means Nick has to spout tons of exposition to keep everyone clued in, you strength in dialogue can probably make it work.

5. Villain – The hooded guy knocking off fortune tellers was kind of cool. The problem is it doesn’t make sense with the villain (name withheld). You throw in a couple lines as he’s dying to try and sew this patch, but that just doesn’t work for me.

It’s hard, but the minute you finally get the reveal of who the villain is you want your audience to be “of course it is!” My reaction was “Yeah, I figured sixty minutes ago. Why does it make any sense at all?” Having more legit red herrings, 3-4 suspects certainly would help. Again the main reason this fell apart for me was in the 2nd act there were really no suspects. This type of movie doesn’t work like that. But also again, something you can certainly fix.

There’s other issues I had with the paper-thin Melissa, the lack of 3D side characters, the logic behind why they were sure the key was in the little girl case, and why the hell there’d still be fortune tellers in a city where fortune tellers are getting murdered :-), but I’m going to stop here.

The product of your test movie looks good. Style looks good, hook is great, substance is very meh. Scoping out the test movie scene, this style will soon not look special. I encourage you to get your substance solid quickly so this can have a shot at winning.
 

Cooties, Donnie's Animatic

2 out of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Good work

Overall Recommendation:
4 stars
 
Premise:
4 stars
 
Story structure:
5 stars
 
Character:
5 stars
 
Dialogue:
5 stars
 
Emotion:
4 stars
 
August 04, 2011
Now I’m going to admit up front, I’m not a big comedy guy. I’ll also admit your test film looked so solid my wife wanted to watch it with me.

You guys obviously spent a ton of time on this. The look of it is in a class all to itself. Even 12 Princesses (what I thought was the highest quality test film on the site), paled in terms of the technical quality. When the mouths started to move, literally synced up to the lines, I had to replay it. I can’t imagine how many hours you guys poured into this, but it’s a job well done.

That being said, in my estimation “best test movie” has less to do with how it looks but it comes down to story and whether or not it’s something that can be released. Honestly I’m not going to run to the theatre to see this. It’s just not my thing. However according to my wife, I’m going to go see it. While men – women difference are played in literally every Rom-Com ever made, your hook provided for me a freshness and made some cliché feel free again.

There were a few story issues that I ran into that I figure I’d share with you, but keep in mind I really enjoyed it. However patting you on the back won’t improve anything.

1. Cooties Logic – It’s a comedy so the rules have some more flexibility. For the most part your story logic was pretty strong. Things made sense. Things organically occurred and came out of character. However I think you could stand to make it more clear the danger of Cooties. Perhaps an actual historical video. I liked what you did with the Pig Video. Between that and the voiceover it’s layed out. Maybe I just wanted more. Maybe I’m splitting hairs.

2. Danger – Considering how the danger of Cooties is the hinge of your story, I think Eden and Dagger were a bit easily convinced to touch fingers. The issue likely isn’t that as much as not really knowing what danger they were in after they touched. You eluded a couple times that it would take about a week for the Cooties to take effect, maybe increasing the stakes would help.

3. Perhaps too cliché – some of the humor the gender jokes were too easy. Considering the creativity on display throughout the film, I’d bet with some more digging you’d be able to liven up and find some stronger jokes in spots. However, I have to acknowledge that audiences gravitate toward familiar and I can imagine (and experienced) a number of nudges and sideways glances at some of the more stereotyped humor spots. Even still the ball scratch worked for me. Him giving her a baby as a present was hilarious. You also were able to milk the cross-dressing humor for all it’s worth. With live actors and actresses, I’m sure these bits would be elevated.

Honestly as I’m working through this I’m having a hard time with much more constructive stuff. It’s obvious that you invested a ton of time in your characters to round them. Not just your main, but a number of side characters all are dealing with internal conflict. I wasn’t really expecting all that when the tone struck me in the beginning. It’s carefully plotted and makes sense logically (after I accept your world). Conflict in multiple storylines carries you through the second Act. You’ve got some good stuff here.

I have to admit I am a Dr. Winston fan and I would be going to his birthday party.

Good work guys. Sending you positive vibrations. Best of luck with it.
 

Rayfield Scott, Ryu's Test Movie

2 out of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Work in Progress

Overall Recommendation:
2 stars
 
Premise:
No rating
 
Story structure:
No rating
 
Character:
No rating
 
Dialogue:
No rating
 
Emotion:
No rating
 
August 04, 2011
Let me preface everything by saying that I have not read your screenplay. I also can see the skill on display in some of the artwork here. I completely respect the amount of time you obviously spent on putting something like this together.

Hopefully you will take this as constructive because that’s all that’s intended here.

1. Audio -- The audio needs a lot of work. When you are storyboarding like this, it’s so important that the sound track is awesome. There is an echo on the dialogue which makes it difficult to understand what the characters are saying. To make matters worse your levels on the music and the sound effects drown this out even more. Being unfamiliar with your screenplay, I’m relying on the audio and pictures to understand what is happening. For me the voices were not distinctive enough to tell the characters apart.

2. Unclear Images -- The art is clear, what's happening in the art is not. Perhaps the bigger problem is actually the images. I hate to say that because it’s obvious a lot of time was spent on these. Some of the frames look really nice, the problem is from one frame to the next I cannot tell which character is which. Within scenes I could stay with the characters, but not from from there on. The style and quality of the frames bounces around considerably if you had more frames like what at 17:40 I could better distinguish the characters. Even your lead character blends in. I think you have to be even more careful considering it's a Western and everyone dresses about the same.

Additionally, there were plenty of places where you are probably in needs for some extra frames to better communicate what’s going on. I feel like a broken record, but I was lost.

3. Communicating the story -- Considering the increasing competition for the test movie prize at a minimum your pictures and sound will have to be able to communicate what’s written in your screenplay to your audience. I honestly watched the whole thing and could gather a guy came home, got married, his wife was killed and he became a vigilante to get the guys who got his wife. I can’t tell you about any of the characters, what they want, etc.

4. Running Time --The other concern is that at 70 minutes this is nowhere near meaty enough for a feature and to be honest the entire 70 minutes dragged. I cannot imagine beefing this up to 90. Now perhaps this is also related to my problems with the audio and storyboard.

I’d like to be able to go and talk about the story specifically. It’s difficult for me to give you any help on the story here because I could not understand what was happening most of the time. Since I could not figure out who was who, I couldn’t put a stamp on their interests, their goals, their motivations. Perhaps these problems disappear with an improved audio track, but I have a feeling the pictures will still be a point of confusion.

I’d encourage you to watch it with a friend who has NO IDEA what you’ve written and tell them to ask you questions or have them try to tell the story to you. If they can explain what’s happening, who the characters are, which characters are in the scenes, what’s happening in the scenes, then perhaps the problem is just with me. If they can’t then that can be valuable feedback to use when revising it.

Out of respect for you, I will not grade the individual strengths and weaknesses, because I could not follow, but I will grade the film as a whole.

I hope this gives you some juice to go back, make a revision and gun for August. Best of Luck.
 

Sky Pirates, Gary's Rough Cut

6 out of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Nice looking, meh story

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
 
Premise:
3 stars
 
Story structure:
3 stars
 
Character:
1 stars
 
Dialogue:
2 stars
 
Emotion:
2 stars
 
August 03, 2011
This guy has a promising premise, strong dialogue track and passable art work that adequately tells your story. I enjoyed the frames and for the most part stayed engaged throughout your entire film – big thanks to your strong dialogue track (although music and fx could use some improvement).
I think this test movie probably does what you want it to do, present your screenplay and tell your story. However for me that was the weakest link. The story.

The test movie highlights a number of areas that stand to be addressed. I suppose this is the point of the test movie. To iron out story problems. However I’m sure you’d rather me say a frame or two needs punched up than rewriting, re-recording and re-storyboarding your entire project. I’m only going to focus on a handful of the story issues that I had, if you’d like me to elaborate more, feel free to StudioMail me.

1. Sarah – I like what you’re going for, but the first act does much more harm than good for her character. She goes from a materialistic daddy’s girly-girl, to winding up at a Circus to scout airplanes (no idea what she’s doing or what her role is), why she’s able to meet with the US military, why she’s able to go ALONG on this mission. The lack of clarity is more confusing than anything.

None of this feels organic to the story.

You need the first scene is to connect her to the plot issue and the villain, somehow she needs to meet Jack so she’s wandering to a circus, but you need her to go along on the trip (so you can have a romance) so she just gets to go. These are just a series of convenience and these missteps happen all throughout and it makes me lose faith in the story.

On the trip, she shares a kiss with Jack, for no good reason simply because you need it to happen. She ventures away and gets captured, why? Because you need it to happen. She says we can’t leave without the gold and then says leave the gold…why? Because it’s intended to raise the drama in the climax. The problem is at each and every one of these turns you are sacrificing character for story.
While Sarah is an example the biggest problem I had is it felt like you are playing the role of “God of the Story”. Let’s have these irrational character choices happen so story beats can hit at the right spot. Only looking at the story structure, the beats, the story is fine, but if you ask yourself if they make sense, that’s where I have a problem. I understand that you have to make a logic fudge or two when you're writing. It's inevitable, but the sheer volume of these coincidences took me right out of the story. I know it’s an Action movie and everything doesn’t have to make sense, but I’m sure you’re better than this.

Simply (probably way too simply) here's the spine, the US govt, chooses to takeover a blimp with another blimb, by recruiting a circus pilot because there's no one else in the US that can do an "air hook move", which was fortunately seen by a British girl, there for some reason. Regardless of their military standing, both of these characters get to go on this military mission, under the guise of piratry, under the command of a drunk with no desire to hide it. Being honest, I might be able to get over this and get into the story, but the problem is this type of story logic continues throughout the entire film.

2. Jack – I can get on board with the brash, cocky, gold digging anti-hero. He mostly worked for me because he was witty and the voice actor was very solid. Constantly reiterating his desire for gold was just tiring for me. The relationship with Sarah was paper-paper thin and it turns out he ends up LOVING HER. I feel like I’m watching the Bachelorette here. 2 days of contact and he LOVES her. I’d also work on his emotional reveal. Laying literally all of his cards on the table did not feel organic at the time he did it and seemed to just be an attempt of a 3-D character, piling it up into one monologue 28 minutes into the movie doesn’t work for me. And he goes right back to talking about gold. While these are big problems for me, the biggest problem for me is how he seems to disappear during the most important parts of the story.

3. Climax – Watching it, I wasn’t invested in the climax. Other than your characters telling me “the fate of the free world is at stake” I didn’t really know why or how. Because they might get a formula for an atomic bomb? That will take years and years to test and build. The main villain seems to disappear for the middle 55 minutes of the film. Why the wanted the gold or didn’t want the gold wasn’t really clear for me, but perhaps I missed this.

4. Lastly at 78 minutes, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough meat for a feature. The 2nd act really drug for me even compressed. There’s such a strong title and good hook, in Sky Pirates, but it doesn’t deliver for me. I’m not even sure there was any Pirating. I guess I envision something more like a 1940’s Executive Decision type film, but this just isn’t it. Interacting with the villain and doing some pirate things in the 2nd act would dramatically improve the story. A full blown impersonation of Nazis in order to infiltrate and learn about what they are after might be a better way to go.

I’ll stop here, but if you’d like to pick my brain more, feel free to StudioMail me. I know this seems predominantly negative, but patting your back won’t make anything any better and I’m sure that’s what you want. There are good pieces here and good touches there.

Best wishes.
 

Favorite Movies

Indiana Jones
Star Wars
Anchorman :-)
 

Influences

George Lucas
Christopher Nolan
 

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