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3.0 stars
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4 Stars:
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3 Stars:
100.0%
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2 Stars:
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1 Stars:
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Premise:
3.0 stars
(1)
 
Story structure:
2.0 stars
(1)
 
Character:
3.0 stars
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Dialogue:
2.0 stars
(1)
 
Emotion:
4.0 stars
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Think before you drink.

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
 
Premise:
3 stars
 
Story structure:
2 stars
 
Character:
3 stars
 
Dialogue:
2 stars
 
Emotion:
4 stars
 
December 14, 2011
My review of Flat Pennies is not flattering. But then, none of my reviews are.

The premise/logline for Flat Pennies would have you believe that it's the story of a troubled teen who becomes the errand boy for a former train engineer living in a world of heroic fantasies and untold guilt until a revelation ends it all.
This is a ruse. It's a fine stab at copy for the DVD card or catalog, but does little to communicate what the story is really about to fellow writers and/or potential producers.

While I found Ian to be generally interesting and the double twisted second/third act very strong conceptually, the problem I'm having with this story is that it's clear from the beginning that Alex is not the main character because he strives for nothing. Ian also has no clear goal. So I'm struggling to understand how to relate to either of them.

The writer is confusing exposition/character development for story telling. I came up with that phrase, find I have to use it often, and suffer it's accusation myself.

This story could function without loss of impact as a two act play with only two actors (I don't know diddly about theater but hopefully you understand what I mean to imply).

The end works very well, but I don't understand why it's a feature length script, especially for the kind of competition AS appears to be hosting.

I also had a very hard time with Act One.
Here's some notes I made while reading. I hope they're meaningful to you.

Reader gathers that Alex feels abandoned and that he achieved something or other (the stuff about being in the papers), but his dialogue is repetitive, expressing the same sentiment over and over for an entire page.

Reader does not understand how to picture a shadowy pale-white figure.

Don't people usually lean forward when they're engrossed?

Shouldn't pages be numbered?

By page 4 Reader concludes that Writer is directing a movie rather than telling a story. This feels like it's going to be a long read.

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Tanya is a pretty 15-year-old girl bored with everything.
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Reader is praying this personality trait is about to come across via her dialogue.

Nope. Why was it necessary to inform the reader that she's bored with everything if she's clearly getting a kick out of trading verbal shots with Alex?

----------------------------------------------------------
Doris
I have to run. Great to see y'all.
----------------------------------------------------------
I've heard of getting into a scene late, but that's ridiculous!

----------------------------------------------------------
Tanya smirks.
----------------------------------------------------------
So much for being bored with everything.

Ian keeps "working the controler" and the like. It's nit-picky, but don't electric trains have a throttle, maybe a switcher, and - what? Some light switches or something? What's he so busy with?
(mumbles) Reader knows he mumbles, read it the first time.

sunlight attacks Ian. nice line.

Ian is a likeble bum at page 10. Reader feels good about page 10 and is now looking forward to the adventures of Ian and Alex.

Interesting backstory on Ian, but the script is extremely lean on subtext at page 15.

Alex has a knack for using a bizzare combination of contemporary slang, old school jargon, and proper English. Is he putting on some kind of act or is this just poorly concieved dialogue?

coincidently -
----------------------------------------------------------
Alex
I'm so looking forward to my
eighteenth birthday.
PHYLLIS
I'm so thrilled you're so looking
forward to it.
ALEX
Quit buggin' on my rap. I can't
help the way I talk. Blame my
deadbeat parents.
----------------------------------------------------------
This is confusing. Is Phyllis mocking his proper English?

How long has Alex lived with Phyllis? 5 years, 10 years, all his life? Is it supposed to matter at all?

Alex and squirrel puppet - the absolute epitome of on the nose dialogue, but utterly priceless. The sad thing is that this Reader would rather spend more time exploring this perfunctory team than go back to Ian's apartment where there is very little conflict occurring.

-----------------------------------------------------------
Ian digs out some cash and hands Tony a twenty and ten. Tony hands Ian his change.
-----------------------------------------------------------
Writer is often doing things like this. Does the reader really need to be held by the hand through these kinds of shots? Of what significance is this?

Page 29, great subtext, but way too late to be meaningful.

OK, here's the deal. It's 7AM. Reader hasn't slept, and on page 31 Writer informs that Ian has an unusual relationship with his "layout" and that Alex is broken up over being rejected by his parents.

Writer demonstrates some writing flare, a bit of wit, a talent for directing - but most importantly - the same thing over and over and over for 31 pages.

Writer has been tip-toeing around, exploring and nudging for 25 pages and then pages 26-30 are great - but they should be pages 1-4.

Once past page 30 there is a good deal of exposition about Ian, which is learned through lots of on the nose dialogue between Ian and Pete and then more between Ian and Alex. It's all very interesting, but it's not a story - it's backstory. Why aren't Ian and Alex plotting their trip on the Eurostar? What do either of them want?

OK, maybe this is it. They want to get to the railroad. I guess that works, but it could be stronger.

Dialogue is often very on the nose throughout - sometimes very good and sometimes very cornball.

This sequence is confusing. are they yelling/fighting with the train practically scraping Ian's nose or are they just talking on the way back to the car?

Alex tends to go from being a mature well spoken boy to a full on inner city thug. Back and forth back and forth. Sure, he could be just feigning the thug personna, as kids do I suppose - but there's no clear reason. He just switches his speaking style and attitude right in the middle of conversations.

Dialogue is split between pages often. That can't be good.

There's plenty of small talk. In other words, dialogue that does not drive the story. The dialogue for the most part comes across as that of a play - not that I know much about plays, but the dialogue is not big or "cinematic".

page 76 - 77, super-duper on the nose dialogue retelling of the previous pages.

Alex is now hollering at Ian in proper English. Reader can't tell if this is character trait or oversight.

Around page 82 there's little more to comment on. It's handled well and very depressing. It is, as I believe the writer mentioned he aimed to achieve, a kick in the balls. And a pretty good one too.
 

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