Overall Recommendation:
3.0 stars
(2)
5 Stars:
0%
(0)
 
4 Stars:
0%
(0)
 
3 Stars:
100.0%
(2)
 
2 Stars:
0%
(0)
 
1 Stars:
0%
(0)
 
Premise:
3.5 stars
(2)
 
Story structure:
3.0 stars
(2)
 
Character:
2.0 stars
(2)
 
Dialogue:
2.5 stars
(2)
 
Emotion:
2.0 stars
(2)
 
 
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Quicksand Review

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
 
Premise:
4 stars
 
Story structure:
3 stars
 
Character:
2 stars
 
Dialogue:
3 stars
 
Emotion:
2 stars
 
July 26, 2011
Disclaimer: Beside the usual, “I’m not a pro, etc, etc…, a teen dramedy taking place within an African-American community couldn’t be further from my comfort zone, but hey, I’m gonna give it my best shot.

I tend to write detailed notes as I read and provide an overview afterward, so some of what I noted earlier may be resolved later.

Aside from the spaghetti sauce gag, the opening starts out rather mundane; a teen banters back and forth with his parents during dinner. HOWEVER, the snappy dialogue and your vibrant, interesting character descriptions kept my attention.

I think you did a good job of establishing this family’s financial situation, which of course is the impetus for Jaden’s actions later on (I think).

P. 3: I was confused about Lonnie’s remark (about Sydney),

“LONNIE
(to himself)
Just like your old man.”

I suspect this is a set up for a pay off later, but as it stands now, it seems to come out of nowhere, especially since you didn’t reveal anything about Sydney (her looks, actions or speech) that would at least hint at why Lonnie would say such a thing.

P. 3: You may wish to consider splitting action lines like the following (and, as it turns out, throughout the script) to reflect different POV’s and camera positions and to create more white space.

“Grubby fingers dig in a giant pile of greasy french fries on
a split open brown paper bag. [line break]

Jaden leans back and squeezes a stream of ketchup in his
Potato stuffed mouth. [line break]

Ketchup squirts everywhere as one of his buddies,
BILLY smashes the sides of the bottle.”

P. 5: “Jaden, Billy, and DeJuan smile like sick puppies…”
I had trouble picturing this. How (or why) do sick puppies smile?

“PASSES RIGHT PAST THEM to--” This seems a bit awkward. Better? “Blows past them…”

“Mika throws a SMUG “I got your girl” SMIRK right at Jaden...
And Jaden can’t help getting mad and determined to get her
back.”

I feel Jaden’s pain, but the underlined seems more telling than showing. I think you missed an opportunity to really show us Jaden’s frustration.

“But Briana’s attention is now drawn to the money origami he
carelessly tramples.”

??? - Is Jaden dancing on the table or the floor? I thought the origami money was on Mika’s table?

“Jaden unconsciously smiles at Sydney who’s moving right along
with him to the beat.”

Unconsciously smiles? Not sure that fits.

P. 7: “INT. BIG DOG CARS & AUTOPARTS, RETAIL SHOP - DAY

Big Dog walks through this place which is decked out with
high end auto parts for muscle cars, racing cars, and
expensive vehicles with shiny rims, leather goods, and
memorabilia, etc...”

Nitpicky, but I think you can amp up this description to match the grittiness and edge of the setting and story. Let’s see attitude shine through! Get rid of the passive “… which is…” How does Big Dog walk? Maybe just start with what we smell, see…

“The smell of axle grease and body odor. High end auto parts, racing cars, shiny rims, leather… etc.” Big Dog struts up to the cashier…”

P.8: “BIG DOG
You need to adjust the timer on
that light sensor.
KENNY
I did. You said thirty seconds is
enough time for anyone to go to--
BIG DOG
I mean you knuckleheads that work
here. I don’t pay you to sit on
the toilet.
KENNY
Okay, I’ll fix it.”

I read this 3x, but still can’t figure out BD’s response to Kenny’s, “I meant you knuckleheads…” Is he referring to the public/employee restroom vs his private bathroom?

P.9: “As the Big Dog turns, Guy gives him a Nazi salute behind his
back. Jaden laughs and abruptly stops when the Big Dog looks
back.
BIG DOG (CONT’D)
And use the cheap grade.
GUY
That ain’t funny. He really is a
butthole.
JADEN
Takes one to know one.”

Underlined… What ain’t funny? What is Guy referring to? Guy gives the Nazi salute. Seems like something is missing between these dialogue lines.

P. 10: “Pulling out of the gas station[,] Jaden sees the large “Big Dog Cars” sign[,] [t]hinks for a moment and then turns in the WRONG direction.”

Sorry, but I’m a bit of a grammarian.

General Comment on Pacing:
The inciting incident (Jaden stealing cash from the register) falls nicely around p. 14, but as I look back on the first 13 pages, while there’s some interesting development of character and storyline there, I think much of it can be cut and interspersed later as the action unfolds. It think it would be interesting to open with (or very close to) the theft. This would get us wondering what this kid is doing, and why is taking such a risk.

P. 15: “Briana peels off her outer clothes as they rush down the
stairs. At the bottom of the stairs BAM! She’s got on a tight, sexy outfit now. Jaden does a double-take.

Briana stuffs her abandoned clothes underneath a mail table
atthe apartment building door.”

Good stuff. I think my sisters actually did this!

P. 19: “JADEN’S BEDROOM
Jaden looks around. It’s a typical boys room with all the
wants a boy could have: a small flat screen television, a
computer, video games, etc...”

I must admit that I was disappointed to learn that Jaden, based on this scene description, actually comes from a well-to-do family. I assumed earlier that his dad may be a tightwad because cash was tight, but then when we learn that the kid’s got the latest electronics, etc., that must not be true. I understand that you may not want to follow the typical stereotype of an African-American family, but things, at least this far, seem askew.

p. 24: “RENEE
Remember, its okay to yank on your
own ding-a-ling.
JADEN
Mom!
RENEE
As long as you keep your hands to
yourself.”

Sorry, but I can’t imagine any Mom (from any culture) within her right mind saying this to her teenage son. If anything, there needs to be a much more obtuse reference to masturbation, but even then, it kinda makes me cringe.

“RENEE
Jaden’s fooling around with girls.
You better talk to him. He’s just
barely fifteen.”

OTN – Dad should know what age his son is.

The father-son exchange about girls was nice, even the “two-heads” reference didn’t seem too overt or perverse.

P. 45. Sorry, but I can’t buy this conceit:

“JADEN
You’re not going to call the
police?

BIG DOG
Putting someone in jail[,] what good
would that do? It won’t get my
rims back. I’m a business man.”

Why wouldn’t calling the police get his rims back? I think you need to create a more clever reason why Big Dog won’t call the police. Maybe he’s also hiding something? EDIT: I see BD is hiding something later in the story, but this scene needs refining so as not to take the reader out of the story due to the implausibility of BD's action.

P. 49. But wouldn’t the record store employee report the lost/stolen keys and report it to his boss. Wouldn’t that lead to the locks being changed? I think you should go back and watch some good “heist/caper” films and study how they overcame some of the logic and technical issues so that, even though the action borders on unbelievable, we can accept it and go along for the ride.

P. 54 “Big Dog thinks for a minute.
BIG DOG
Okay. I believe you, kid. You get
it and bring it back right after we
close. Got it?”

Why on Earth would Big Dog believe him, the kid who’s stolen from him twice and has lied multiple times? Again, I think you need to create something that makes it conceivable that BD would not just bust Jaden. EDIT: Again, it becomes evident later why BD reacts this way, though I must say the pay off falls flat.

P. 59. “Two Cops [the same two cops we saw earlier with Renee] wait
behind him.

BRIANA
(sweet and innocent)
I’ve been home all day. What are
you talking about?

He looks back at the Cops and nods. They step in the
doorway.
He notices her new leather outfit.”

It’s not clear who “He” is after Briana’s dialogue. You should indicate if it’s Cop 1 or Cop 2.

P. 68: “Gauge” needle, not “gage.” Better yet, Fuel tank needle.

SYDNEY
I didn’t bring my phone.
(a beat)
Maybe you better call somebody.
Jaden flips open his phone... then shuts it.
JADEN
No juice. SYDNEY
I didn’t bring my phone.
(a beat)
Maybe you better call somebody.
Jaden flips open his phone... then shuts it.
JADEN
No juice.”

Ah, the ole how to do deal with cell phones problem. I think you need to be more creative here. Forgetting the phone and running out of juice is so clichéd.

I think HENRY could use a bit more description beyond just a “jovial face.” Is he old, effeminate, etc?

P. 78: “SYDNEY
Are you the Big Dog at Big Dog
Cars?
77.
BIG DOG
Aren’t you too young to have seen
my late night ads on television?
SYDNEY
I’m here on behalf of Jaden Rice.
BIG DOG
You mean that punk who washes my
cars? No, washed. Past tense.
You can tell him, he’s fired!
SYDNEY
I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to
work at your establishment either.
So you’re both happy.”

This exchange seems forced and unconvincing. Big Dog’s TV add remark to Sydney is odd… BD already fired Jaden. Why would he ask someone to tell Jaden he’s fired?

P. 95: “EXT. MIKA’S HOUSE - DAY
Sydney knocks on the front door. Jaden stands back a few
feet on the sidewalk.

SYDNEY
His parents won’t let him go back
to the mall anymore.”

Who’s Sydney speaking to?

Dialogue:
Beside some of the issues pointed out above, I think you have a knack for getting to the heart of your character’s thinking and actions through their words. There’s great promise here and I hope you continue to work on this story.

Formatting, etc:
Good. Nothing stands out particularly.


Overview:

Story, premise, plot:

I like the tone you’re going for in this story and the personal, interrelationships that you use to give the story heart. The biggest problem that stands out is that your protag, Jaden, might just be the most passive, reactive, hapless protag I’ve ever met. On top of that, he’s a lying, thieving, selfish punk, verging on sociopath, who puts himself and others in danger on impulse – and for what? The same might be said for the girls in the story. Both Sydney and Briana came off as shallow, conniving, manipulative brats. For that matter, aside from Jaden’s parents, who disappear for virtually the entire story, almost every character, Big Dog, Guy, Eric, etc, is unlikeable. As a result, the story feels flat, one note.

Sorry, but I really disliked these kids from beginning to end, which leaves us with the question, “What was this story really about? Whose arc were we following? Why should we care about anyone in this story?

Some of the set ups, i.e. mall heist, police station, etc, need refining so as not to be so implausible or contrived that they take the reader out of the story.

I think you have a good concept and skeleton of a story – how one bad decision by a youngster can lead to some really serious consequences. But this dark comedy needs a heart. It needs its main characters to arc. It needs richer, more diverse characters who ground the story. This doesn’t mean you need to give up the dark comedic tone, just that the comedy and dark twists will mean more when balanced against emotion and motivation. It’s similar to the note on the characters. If everything is sarcastic, sardonic and innuendo, then nothing stands out… one note.

I want to see Jaden struggle with his decisions more. I want him to at least be haunted by good judgment (instilled by his loving parents), while succumbing to some of the pressures and bad influences early on. But, as I stated earlier, there needs to be at least one well-developed character who balances the negatives, the dark comedy. I don’t think you have to go Disney, but eventually, I want to see the scales tip, with good decisions winning out, albeit it at great expense to Jaden.

All the best with this project!
 
1 out of 1 people found the following review helpful:

A Solid Start

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
 
Premise:
3 stars
 
Story structure:
3 stars
 
Character:
2 stars
 
Dialogue:
2 stars
 
Emotion:
2 stars
 
June 28, 2011
With great humility, I submit this review.

Generally, I thought that this was a solid effort. There are some areas that can be improved, but I think there is plenty of good stuff from which to build on.

The fundamental building blocks of intention and obstacle for the characters and scenes is there. There are some ticking clocks which help push the action and raise the stakes. And the structure leaves me feeling like I’ve seen a movie – although I would make some slight adjustments in the pacing.

If I had to compare it to something, I would say it reminded me of an urban Adventures in Babysitting or Date Night.

Some areas for improvement:

Overwriting. I share this habit, so I readily admit to throwing stones from my glass house. The writer could use another pass to pare down some of the action lines – eliminating “-ly” words, unfilmables, “is..-ing”, “starts to,” “just”, etc. It slows down the read with little value.

Rooting interest. Once I reached the mid-point of the script I went back to re-read the beginning to see if I missed something that would make me want to root for the kid. Certainly, I can relate to being a teenager without money (but lacks little), who wants the girl. But I think there needs to be more there in the first act that doesn’t necessarily justify his actions, but gives it more extenuating circumstances.

Some clunky or on the nose dialogue. There are some spots where the dialogue slips into expository or trite TV dialogue. Another pass or two focused on infusing more subtext could alleviate it. Some examples:

(p. 35)
JADEN (CONT’D)
(smooth)
You think you can handle me?
BRIANA
(smoother)
I can handle you just fine.

(p.53)
BIG DOG
Okay. I believe you, kid. You get
it and bring it back right after we
close. Got it?

(p.51)
JADEN
(near tears)
Well, I’m not. I feel like I’m
sinking in quicksand. The harder I
try to climb out the deeper I sink
in.

On the last, I’d stay away from the explaining the title through dialogue. Like the Hurt Locker – no one ever explained the title. I felt it was a cool touch and didn’t let the audience off the hook.

Passive Protag in Act 3. One of my biggest concerns was how Jayden almost slips away, leaving Sydney to drive the action to the end. I wanted to see Jayden solve the problem and confront the primary antagonist. Might require a significant rewrite, but will pay off in future drafts.

Scope. Might be a difficult task, but think about condensing the timeline even further into perhaps a day and a night. Will add more to the stakes.

I would definitely read future drafts. Best of luck on the project.
 

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