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America's Ben Franklin in: The Electrocution String Alexander's 1st Draft (Script 64)

4.0 stars
22 01/31/12


I write stuff.

Reviews Alexander Has Written

America's Ben Franklin in: The Electrocution String, Lauri's 1st Draft

1 out of 2 people found the following review helpful:

For my money, the best script of the contest

Overall Recommendation:
5 stars
5 stars
Story structure:
5 stars
5 stars
5 stars
5 stars
February 16, 2012
This is the one truly serious, the most emotionally moving and lovingly crafted version of "Ben Franklin" among the participants I've read (about 60% of the batch).

I understand that "serious" is probably not a quality AS looked for in their punch-up contest -- but there's no comedy without tragedy, no humor without drama. A true historical script should at least try to address the horrors of the era (although war could and should be funny, as Ms. Donahue demonstrates so spectacularly) and the age of the protagonist (in the final scenes we see Ben as a naked old man and it's both poignant and eventually uplifting). And I'm still haunted by the author's use of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

I may be somewhat biased (both my and Ms. Donahue's takes have Mr. Franklin biting and gouging people, the strip search jail scene and a downbeat ending), but I'm quite honestly flabbergasted that this didn't get a $500 nod.

My only explanation is, AS is moving in a totally different lite comedy direction.

Treasure Road, Lauri's Original Draft

3 out of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Mules, bandits and watermelons

Overall Recommendation:
4 stars
4 stars
Story structure:
3 stars
3 stars
4 stars
3 stars
September 01, 2011
First of all, I love jungle-set movies, admire serious historical westerns and Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" is my favorite novel - so Ms. Donahue's premise seemed right up my alley and made me grab and read the script in one sitting.

I'm glad to report that TREASURE ROAD didn't disappoint. It's a sprawling epic much in the vein of THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. It has the atmosphere of muddy Panamanian jungle down pat - you are in there, with the birds and monkeys and crocodiles... and grim men riding a string of mules through 40 miles of bandit-infested terrain from Panama City to the coast.


At first, the characterizations seemed a bit weird - we have a hero with an improbable alliterative name of Randolph Ran Runnels who owns slaves and is so badass that COMANCHE are afraid of him!
But of course (as the cover picture would have hinted to a less dense reader) Mr. Runnels was a real person, and (as it was the case with Judge Roy Bean) TREASURE ROAD is a somewhat fictionalized account of his exploits.

And what exploits they were! You have to admire the ease with which the author switches the action from Panama consulate to Texas slave ranch to a steamboat bobbing on the ocean waves - all this without the help of supers and Indiana John-style cheesy map montages.

The script is really moving: we're introduced to the titular Treasure Road on page 7, are given our in-depth briefing (it's about gold, not about travelers, Mr. Runnels) on pages 23-25 and are on our first trip through the jungle by page 37.

The time-consuming matters like the foundation of Runnels Express Service, travel, police investigations and Eliot Ness-style attacks on the bandits are handled deftly through a series of silent montages. The author faced an enormous task of fitting several months of jungle warfare in the second act of the script - and dealt with it marvelously.

The secondary characters - the teenage prostitute Angelique, the villain Copeland and Runnels’ sidekick Joe Stock - are all have memorable entrances. Copeland's in particular deserves a mention: he establishes his villain's credentials by shooting a Minister's daughter down in cold blood (with a very funny one-liner). Later, he saws through some poor dead lady's finger to get her diamond ring.

Joe is introduced via a nice BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID-type confrontation: and I really liked that there was no "hey, nice job in here" dialogue between Runnels and Stock afterwards.

Just a calling card in Joseph's hands. Beautiful.

There are lots of goodies in this script: the cougar scene, the mass hanging (straight from history, as I understand it), the awfully charming episode on pages 61-62 where Ran tries to buy Angelique (with some LOLITA and TAXI DRIVER references), the hopelessness and desolation of the rain season in act three, the cholera outbreak, the innovative white-hatted (quite literally) hero vs. dirty villain confrontation in the end... where things DON'T go as you expected.

So - yes, this is a good script. But is it a great one?


The answer is no - at least, not yet.

The "based on a real story" angle can only take us so far - it's the author's job to cull, cull, cull irrelevant and distracting real life details to leave the reader with a coherent and cinematic narrative.

TREASURE ROAD has quite a lot of irrelevant stuff going on. I suspect that many weird characters - like Rev. Jesse Hord, who is introduced as a major player only to vanish two pages later without a literary trace - come straight from the author's research into Runnels' life.

But do we really need them? Reverend's only function is to turn Runnels around from his path of peace - and it is never explained why, how or if Colonel Hays convinced Hord to give that particular sermon.

Colonel Hays himself is set up as the hero's partner with a drinking problem - but also vanishes on page 29. I suppose that's how things went in real life - but narrative-wise, I'd rather spend these pages getting insight in Runnels-Stock's relationship.

To put it simply, there are too many characters. Only on the female front we have Mrs. Seacole (who is important for the racial tension subplot), Angelique (who gives Runnels a clear-set goal), Ms. Lola Montes cameo and Isabella the governor's "niece" (well, it looks like she WAS his niece after all!) as the final love interest.

Then we have the railroad subplot with its own characters, and the market subplot with the locals setting up the Watermelon War in the grand finale.

What's more, we have Ulysses S. Grant's cameo and even a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" joke as political commentary.

On this cluttered background we lose Copeland as the villain - he doesn't make his return till page 83 (yet again demonstrating his unfortunate penchant of cutting people's hands off), and then we have the chase for the railroad's money bag segueing into Angelique's murder while Panama goes to hell in a hand basket with all the rioting...

It's just two or even three too many things to keep track of - even on the written page, were you can scroll back and check the names and locations again. On the screen, I would find act three - in its present state - even more confusing.


ZULU - the Minister opening
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - opening (although those were Peruvian jungle)
UNFORGIVEN - Runnels’ non-fictional background and drinking problem (not as well handled in TREASURE ROAD)
SORCERER - the Jungle trail full of dangers
APOCALYPSE NOW - "a river full of demons and monsters"
TAXI DRIVER - buying out Angelique
DARK OF THE SUN - it's about diamonds, not people
WRATH OF GOD - if there only was a way to make Rev. Jesse Hord a major character in the mold of Robert Mitchum's wonderful Father Oliver Van Horne!

With some serious culling of the rich real life material TREASURE ROAD could be a great historical Western - just keep the focus on Runnels, Stock and Angelique and maybe even make Copeland into a more fleshed-out and credible villain (the author definitely should keep the scene of his demise, though).

Like in Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, the coming of civilization to Panama could and should propel our characters forward - but not at the cost of the script's action-adventure heart.

The wonderful world of steam - with all the railroads and bridges being build, and the teeming town brought to life with just a line or two of description - should simply be a background for the central human conflict.

Of course, TREASURE ROAD could also be a drama about the hellish working conditions of Pacific Railroad (which eventually lead to the climatic Watermelon Riot)... but I'm not sure if a straight drama will do justice to such a dynamic historical character as Randolph Ran Runnels.

Memetic, Steve's Original Draft

2 out of 2 people found the following review helpful:

Not a zombie movie - but that's okay

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
3 stars
Story structure:
1 stars
2 stars
3 stars
3 stars
August 31, 2011
Okay, first of all: this wasn't a zombie script (which is not necessarily a bad thing considering the number of ZvG rewrites flying around). But - as Mr. Peterson promised us HIVE-MIND ZOMBIES and spreading of the deadly disease, I'm going to review it as a zombie script.

Just kidding. But sir, "zombies" is not a WORD to be used LIGHTLY, as our old pal Weston would say...


The script starts as a M. Night Shyamalan-esque low ghost-budget story before veering deep into generic serial killer film territory.

Unsurprisingly, the ghost story elements are the best part of MEMETIC and Mr. Peterson should seriously consider ditching the serial killer (and maybe even the zombie angle) all together. It could be a really, really good examination of power that more obscure forms of pop culture psychology (like Tarot reading or Horoscopes) can have over people even in our modern and Internet-connected age.

The opening tarot cards sequence was very well written, really draw me into the story and made me read the thing toward the bitter end.

Congrats on the great opening, Mr. Peterson, and please keep it around for the next drafts!

The tarot theme is what made the first 15 pages read like a perfect ghost story - I was engrossed in the fates of the 3 female characters and rooting for Madison to overcome her fear of death (was she the one suffering from the advertised epilepsy? Perhaps the author should've made it more clear) and find solace either in her psychology science or in Connie's new age bullshi... I mean wisdom.

The character of Connie has the absolute best introduction in the script - I really liked how her bad eyesight was established through the abstract wall tapestry.

The antagonist Westland was also nicely presented - especially when he did that creepy thing with his phone on the road. Well done.

(Although I'm not sure if Westland was the Too-Smooth guy in the coffee shop or was it a totally different character?)


The whole second act (pages 15 - 70) was for me the less interesting stretch of the script, the killer's broad choice of weapons notwithstanding. Boring, generic, irrelevant stuff - the FBI guy, the evidence, the investigation of the dead girls...

At page 70 we finally got to the premise: the killer was controlled by memetic radio broadcasts!

Now, sir, it wouldn't do to have a zombie movie with a single active zombie for the majority of its running time. It's more of a memetic mummy movie - or a memetic vampire movie...

On a more serious note, when the memetic zombie baton passed to Amber and she stared to shave her head - that was a genuinely good, creepy, memorable scene. But it should've happened on the page 30 - 40 max, and not in the beginning of the third act.

The final stretch of the script with the bomb shelter was decent - it's a good enough setting for some memetic zombie action.

Mr. Peterson should consider keep it as the shelter for the memetic zombie plague survivors should he ever decide to go full throttle and demolish the city - or the world - in act two.

I didn't quite get from where the broadcasts were coming from - was there a HALLOWEEN 3-esque cult of some kind? Was Westland crazy? Or were it aliens?

The ending (again, very well written and surprisingly clear after all the serial killer's muddled business) strongly suggest it WERE aliens...

But that's fine, not knowing where zombies come from is part of the fun, and at least it wasn't an evil corporation doing evil experiments or something.


Author should check on the excellent use of I Ching in Philip K. Dick's Man in High Castle (if he hasn't already done that) - that's how you utilize hexagrams as a bona-fide plot device. They don't just direct the protagonist's actions - they underline and drive home the major THEME of the novel ("the world we are living in is not real").

In MEMETIC, there's simply a bunch of cool obscure plot devices (I Ching, Tarot, medicine wheels, etc.) that struggle to but can't quite organize themselves in a clear and coherent message.

I sort of understand what the script is trying to say "it's all connected - ALL OF IT - and you're part of it, and you better wake up to the fact before you're DEAD DEAD DEAD", but the message comes through as garbled as one of Westland's radio broadcasts.

The best use of Tarot I've seen in movies was in Wes Craven's great PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS - but I think that the beginning of MEMETIC was actually a better, more thoughtful and prolonged use of the same basic setup (an innocent parlor trick suggests death and doom for the main character).

PONTYPOOL is the obvious beast the author has to beat in the war of memetic zombie concepts: Tony Burgess' book and script (and the radio play) are all written in jaw-droppingly awesome literary style. A beautiful multi-linguistic vocabulary is important when you are writing about memetics, and I don't think MEMETIC has it in itself to compete with Burgess on that front - at least not in this draft.

Last but not least, Stephen King's THE CELL as an example of hive-minded zombies with bird-like pattern activity. I think they're still making a movie out of it?


What MEMETIC can and should do is decide what kind of script it wants to be.

I'd prefer a ghost story - but there's some survival horror potential in it. Just watch (or read, or listen to) PONTYPOOL (again?) and make the script more about zombies and less about the underlying connections between psychology and fortune telling.

There are also some purely stylistic habits that Mr. Peterson can get rid of if he wants to - like the recycling of action lines in the characters' dialogue ("All have images of water on them." - "They all happen near water!"). It's not a big deal and won't reflect on a finished movie, but from a reader's perspective it can be a bit jarring.

Oh, and I don't think one line of description is quite enough for the introduction of a major character's corpse.

Favorite Movies

Alien: Ressurection, Day of the Dead, The Hidden Fortress, Play Dirty, Slipstream, The Avenging Eagle, Wizards, Streets of Fire, Big Trouble in Little China, Phantasm II, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Galaxy Quest, Salute of the Jugger.


The filmmakers and screenwriters I admire the most are Ralph Bakshi, Sergio Leone, John Carpenter and Walter Hill.

Other cool people: Alan Moore, Johnny Cash, Batman.


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