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I knew I was in the right place when I saw 'The Art of Dramatic Writing' as recommended reading, and it was already in my lap for a re-read, having just finished re-reading 'The Innocence of the Eye', which is probably also on the list somewhere, or should be. By the time I read an amazon blog post which read 'Screenwriting is a lifestyle, not a diet' - I was just nodding my head saying 'church' haha. I'm here to share some written storytelling and to use the test movie medium as a way of testing the sharpness of my writing, directing, editing and a producing skills under pressure. I spent a few years studying photo as well and I think that will come in handy since I only have a few months to come up with some goods.

Reviews Aled Has Written

"THE LIFE & TIMES OF AN ARMY RECRUIT", jim 's Original Draft

4 out of 4 people found the following review helpful:

On one hand, great material to serve as background info for a screenplay or novel; on the other hand, a screenplay lacking a satisfying main character arc and story arc. The drama needs sculpting.

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
No rating
Story structure:
No rating
3 stars
No rating
4 stars
December 20, 2011
"The Life and Times of an Army Recruit" is a memoir story of a young Greek man named Aris who learns a secret about his family's past on the eve of his departure for military service. This awakening about his family background is in someways more groundbreaking than his tenure as an army recruit, which comes across as eventful but pretty standard as military stories go. During his service, Aris volunteers to go to the front lines despite having fallen in love with a woman he wishes to marry - but events change and he doesn't have to fight. Bringing his love interest home to mom leads to a far more dangerous war zone, since the two women are at odds with one another and vying for his loyalty. Aris is a trained soldier but a passive weakling in comparison to these two strong women, and the result is that his bride-to-be tries to kill herself. As if saved by a higher power, Aris winds up getting to keep both women in his life and having his financial troubles solved by some gold that his mother had saved up. The End.

In reading this screenplay I was very torn in terms of its entertainment value.

On the one hand, in looking at the script as a blueprint for a potential novel or screenplay, I was very engaged. I liked the idea of Aris learning that his otherwise 'perfectly normal Greek family' is actually full of drama from the past - his father was a rebel fighter who was arrested for being a Communist, his mother was secretly Jewish and had seen her family and all of their friends disappear during World War II. At times I enjoyed Aris' bold tendency to question authority, a habit which gets him in trouble with superiors, especially when his Captain discovers that Aris' father was a Communist. I liked Aris' friendship with Manolis, a kindred spirit and fellow soldier who protects him from being unfairly mistreated. The romance with Matina is nice, especially since Aris is determined to find true love as opposed to an arranged marriage with a good dowry. And in particular, the juxtaposition of Matina and Aris' mother is very compelling, since his mother is portrayed as a diabolical, manipulative, cunning figure - an evil mother-in-law, and Matina is this vulnerable innocent woman who is strong-willed but no match for a seasoned opponent's deception. It was sad to see Matina throw herself into traffic and try to kill herself, but in some ways it felt only fair, since Aris had brought her into a dangerous place (his home) and done very little to protect her. The fact that she survives and everything works out fine was, for me, just another happy ending. I tend to like films with ambiguous endings because when films have engineered happy endings, I quickly forget them and replace them in my memory with my interpretation of what might _actually_ have happened in my own imagination.

A few more words on that last point before I explore what I didn't like so much. A film like the recent "Sleeping Beauty" by Julia Leigh ends on a completely ambiguous note, which infuriates some audiences. And yet I can't stop thinking about the film, what it means, and what the writer/director might have been implying. Sure, it's initially frustrating, but it's also incredibly powerful in what it provides for the imagination to work with. By contrast, the film "Taken" finishes with everything resolved and wrapped in a nice little bundle.

So when I say I like to replace happy endings - I tend to reject the engineered happy conclusion and form my own thoughts. So with "Taken", it begins with a lonely dad alienated from the world due to his black ops past, ostracized from his daughter by a controlling mother and her wealthy new husband, and feeling paranoid and helpless when asked to sign a permission slip to send her overseas for the summer. In the film, what happens next is that the daughter gets kidnapped and the Dad goes to Paris to basically become superman, save her before anything too scarring happens to her, and bring her home safely. Bullsh*t. Loved the action of the movie, but that storyline is just complete bullsh*t.

In my mind, in my 'replaced' ending, Taken is actually largely the fantasy of a depressive, near suicidal father who has nothing left in the world except his daughter. So when the daughter goes on a trip to Paris, Daddy feels like he is completely powerless. He imagines the worst possible scenario that could happen, then dreams up the most ridiculously heroic thing he could do to save the day, and momentarily feels better. Then he wakes up from the dream, looks around his empty apartment at the photos of his daughter and does one of two things - he either shoots himself in the face, or he sits and wallows in self-pity until he hears from his ex-wife that his daughter is enjoying herself in Paris, seeing museums, meeting boys and watching concerts.

Ok, back to the review.


What I didn't like about "The Life and Times of an Army Recruit" *as a screenplay* was that it featured a completely passive protagonist who basically floats through the events of the script. He gets rescued by other people every time something bad happens. He doesn't grab life by the balls, he doesn't go down a bad path and turn everything around, he just keeps floating. As a kid he plays 'soldier' and mom is there to give him his snack. As a recruit he witnesses some bad things happen (like an officer jumping on a grenade after another recruit drops is) - but I never see any evidence that he comes to a deeper understanding of the world through these events. Things happen, he reacts.

In some ways the film reminded me of "Public Enemy Number 1" and "Mesrine", the two part french film. People love those movies. And while I enjoy Cassel's performance and thought they were beautifully shot - it was just storytelling-by-numbers. The character just gets into trouble, miraculously it all works out, then this repeats again and again, and then finally things go bad. Finally.

By contrast, the multi-part film "Carlos" was more interesting. The character does manage to survive some dangerous situations, but he does it using a combination of wits and his personal moral code, which is one small part revolutionary and one big part power/money hungry. When he falls from grace it's a tragic descent, and a much more compelling story for me.

The most interesting playground for dramatic elements in "The Life and Times of an Army Recruit" is when Aris brings his love interest home to Mommy's house. His first mistake is not telling his mother he's bringing a woman home. He cowardly says "it's a friend". So right away, the mother feels territorial and lied to, as if Aris and Matina are on one side and she on another. So she reacts by trying to win Aris to her own side, by any means necessary. Her anger heightens when she realizes that Matina is poor, 'beneath them', and truly the light of her son's life. Things get so bad that she succeeds in driving Matina crazy. Rather than return home, pregnant and scorned by Aris and his mother, Matina tries to kill herself. This is all great stuff - that is to say, the stuff that good films are made of. But then what happens? Without any help from Aris, his mother decides to 'turn a new leaf' and buy a new family home. Notice - she doesn't buy Aris and his bride-to-be a new family home...she buys herself a family home which they will all live in together. This really solves nothing, it just transplants them to a bigger home. The only reason we are led to believe that everything is solved is that she is acting nicer all of a sudden. But anyone who has known a manipulator knows that a) they don't change overnight and b) they are masters of 'playing possum', only to strike again later.

All in all, I would say that a more interesting screenplay based on this material would take place largely in the mother's house after the war was over. Many of the events of the backstory could be filled in through dialogue with visiting friends (such as Manolis) and family (i.e. Matina's family). Unless there is a way to make Aris' experience in the army more compelling, such as a rivalry or close friendship that is somewhat continuous through the experience - it seems difficult to show a character arc. Alternatively, perhaps the story could be a First Act of his search for true love, unfortunately interrupted by military service, and then a Second Act full of the struggles he and his new bride face when returning to 'peace-time' domestic living, rising to a Third Act of intense psychological breakdowns and cathartic resolutions from all characters. And all the while Aris would either need to be either more assertive, or completely passive and gradually gaining the strength to really take a stand and choose between his mother and his girl.

Best of luck with this, it is a compelling world currently lacking a main character and story arc that would bring the screenplay to life. That's just my opinion. If you prefer to keep the screenplay in it's current form, below I have put some questions which might be helpful in clarifying it..


If Aris' mother doesn't want him to go to the military, why not show him the letter earlier? And why is she justifying fighting in the Army as a good thing right before he leaves? it sounds like she now wants him to go...this was confusing.

The officer who throws himself on the grenade would be a perfect person for Aris to have a rivalry or friendship with..even if it was the evil Captain. It would be a way of Aris coming to a realization that even the worst behaved military person is still willing to sacrifice his life for his countrymen...this is the dichotomy of the modern soldier.

On page 15 he says "I am about to kill you". Really? We have no evidence of him being so strong willed about Jews. Perhaps you could establish this in your central character if you wish for your audience to have any empathy with him whatsoever.

On page 8 the dialogue is boring. Couldn't you just show him go and sign up, then return and we see the look on his mother's face and know she is disappointed?

Your logline provides nothing useful about what your screenplay is actually about. It provides a summary of one scene in the first act.

In general, the language and grammar of the script will be difficult for some readers. I think it's fine assuming the film is in Greek and these are the blueprints for what will be the English subtitles. However, the words are very literal much of the time - i.e. characters state the obvious, and this can detract from entertainment value.

4 grammar - I can and don't want to find my future bride.
14 spelling - your favorite, mushaka
21 spelling - waste two years
110 spelling - match

The San Quentin Express, Kurt's 2nd Draft

3 out of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Funny script. Fans of 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' & 'Pineapple Express' will dig the great one-liners and disasters these characters face. More reviews will help determine how it 'reads' in terms of tone..

Overall Recommendation:
4 stars
5 stars
Story structure:
4 stars
3 stars
4 stars
3 stars
December 16, 2011
This is a fun, easy read with slapstick humor and a pretty strange group of action sequences. It plays like a mix of 'Midnight Run', 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' and 'Of Mice and Men' hahaha. See I'm laughing already.


Ben Ray is an inmate drug dealer and drunk who's life is in danger unless he can replace some heroin that his antics caused to get confiscated. Elliot is an aspiring comic artist with Asberger's Syndrome or some variation of it, and he just needs a friend. The two break out of Minimum Security and go to Frisco to make a quick, pre-arranged drug deal. But when the deal goes wrong, they embark on a seedy and absurd adventure to make it back to safety and security of prison. There's just too much drama on the San Fran streets!


The key to a movie based on this would probably be the casting. The Ben Ray character is a die-hard Brit who turns out to be a poser. Can't quite put my finger on who he reminds me of. At times I was picturing a young Robert Shaw and at other times maybe Robert Carlyle. He's a charmer, manipulator, and the dry wit delivery would be key. Elliot is at times like Pauly Shore and at other times a bit more serious. I really get the sense the tone of the film could be pulled or pushed in terms of drama and comedy, and the results would vary greatly.

Lots of good one liners in this, like Ben Ray's anger at the suggestion that Swedes are the best hung Europeans, Elliots defensiveness over a childhood tradition in his home where his single dad would dress up like his mother; the debate about outsmarting a dwarf, and arguments between prison guards over the appropriateness of the slur "retard". I definitely laughed my way through a lot of the pages.


It struck me as strange that Elliot would be so gung-ho to break out of jail when he's a two strike offender, when all Ben Ray offered him was some encouragement on his writing and the distant promise of a 'connect' in the publishing world. This seemed like weak motivation for breaking loose. Perhaps if Ben Ray was protecting him in some way and Elliot feared life in jail - even for one night - without him, then maybe I would buy it more.

Should be made a bit clearer why Ben Ray is going to get 'hit'. It's all very subtle, but first act stuff in a film like this should be as explicit as possible in terms of motivation. Think Beverly Hills Cop - we may not understand exactly what world his dead buddy was into out in L.A., but we definitely recognize that Axel has GOT to go out there to find out.

Elliot surprises us with good fighting ability. More of this would be better. He gets his as$ kicked later in the script and I felt like "what was the point of establishing that he was a good fighter?"

It was also strange that Elliot's wife showed up. He could have mentioned her earlier. And Ben Ray's fake accent needs a better back story, even just a one-liner. It was a bit strange.

Ben Ray in general hits one note for the first part of the film. The British jokes are funny, but too many of them. In my view, funny people make fun of the moment, and are spontaneous. His comedy seemed too scripted at times, like he had a million "Britain is better than the U.S.A." jokes and just dished them out at will. I'd say keep the most laugh out loud ones and ditch the rest.

The wheelchair race in the hospital is a good scene. Would be very memorable in a movie.

The Priest is a great character, I almost wish he could have been part of the beginning of their time in SF and then reappear later. He came and went way too quick. That "it was too good a set up" moment was comedy.

What was Ben Ray charged with at the end? Streaking?

Spelling mistake on page 85, should be "I know he can".


Funny stuff. Clearer character motivation and less 'one note' comedy in the first half of the script would improve character in my opinion. And because I didn't always understand their motivation, it made the emotion suffer a small bit. All in all it's up to the writer as to whether the film plays more like a "Pineapple Express" slapstick adventure, or if it has a slightly more "Go" or "Spun" tone. The spectrum of goofy to gritty is pretty vast.

Lamalif,The Toad Skin Hat, Abdelouahab's 2nd Draft

5 out of 5 people found the following review helpful:

Read between the lines and there's a Jumanji, The Fall, Star Wars hybrid here which could be really great. But in its current form, reading the script is a labor of love - emphasis on the labor..

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
4 stars
Story structure:
1 stars
4 stars
2 stars
3 stars
December 16, 2011
Before my review, I have to bring attention to the number one thing that frustrates me about this project. The LOGLINE, SYNOPSIS and TRAILER are completely misleading.

The synopsis and trailer suggest that the story begins when Shahbour brings the box to Setwara and entrusts it with Amar. But we don't meet Shahbour until page 50!!!!! Why would this be introduced as the beginning of your story? That would suggest that you have a 40+ page prelude to your first act.

If, to use an outside example, you write a novel and say it's the story of a butcher who becomes a gangster - your audience may stay with you for the first 50 pages while you create the world of the butcher's childhood, upbringing, and how he came to be a butcher. And then from that point onward you can show how he becomes a gangster.

But this is not a novel. This is a screenplay. I find it very frustrating that the story that is advertised is not the story being told. Since I received a personal message that shows that the writer DOES know his story - it frustrates me that these introductory materials communicate to the world that he DOES NOT have a grasp of what his story truly is. Just as an essay has a thesis, a screenplay has a logline and synopsis. They must correlate or a reader will be fully justified in saying 'pass' which is Hollywood talk for 'fail'.


This story is epic, exciting and has a broad appeal to an international audience. It has elements of films like JUMANJI, THE FALL, and STAR WARS. However, that is all _potential_. It's just not there in this screenplay. The rest of this review will discuss this further, and will probably only be of interest to the writer or someone who enjoys reading long reviews. Sorry in advance, but there was no way around it in this case. It's a long script, a ton of plot material and a lot to wrap one's head around.


I tried to read this script the first time around and was completely lost. Then I requested more details and explanation from the writer. The response was a very compelling summary of a fascinating world and an epic story. So then I went back to re-read, keeping the summary in mind. The story underneath the script suddenly made much more sense! But it is a story hidden underneath and between the cracks of a screenplay that is problematic. The presentation of events, the structure, the prevalence of detailed descriptions. Some very serious choices need to be made about how to clearly and concisely tell the story underneath it all.


I'll do my best to tell the story, using some Structural headings which only sort of work. This really is too much stuff for one movie. Even though the writer has said 'this is only part 1' and the current script ends abruptly...I would argue that even this script is two separate films. So his total project could be as much as a 3-5 part mini series or something.

_Prologue to Act 1_

A mysterious Professor in London steals a Toad Skin Hat from an antiques dealer. He jumps on a plane...

_Act 1_

Amar is an educated guy who works as a gas station attendant to support his kids and strong-willed wife Shahra in the town of El-Mesnouba. He has an adopted mother who has basically given up on life and a violent Uncle who likes to abuse animals.

One day, Amar receives a letter inviting him to work as schoolteacher in a distant, obscure Southern town called Setwara. It's a tough decision, made more complicated by some strange happenings. First, Amar discovers a magic ring around the neck of a cat which follows him around. Amar puts on the ring and a sword appears in his hand! Amar and Shahra decide to keep this a secret. Then when they go to visit Amar's adopted mother, Sawdya, they learn that she has mysteriously disappeared from her sick bed and left town with her son Aissawa. The two have allegedly gone to Setwara!

Meanwhile, we learn that Aissawa is the same mysterious Professor from London. He stole the Toad Skin Hat and brought it to his mother, Sawdya, who is overjoyed. Sawdya was banished from Setwara years ago for witchcraft, and the Toad Skin Hat is an important part of a magical process that will give her great power. The other part is a Magical Box with a few items inside. Using magic, Sawdya plans to lure the Magic Box to the Toad Skin Hat so that she can use the combined power to get revenge on those who banished her.

Amar makes the decision to go to Setwara to make a better life for his family, and to find out what happened to Sawdya. And so the unlikely hero of our story embarks on a journey...

_Act 2 Part 1_

Amar settles in to his new job at the school, and his new family farm. He meets his new neighbor, Kedwara, who is raising a boy named Anwar whom he found in the woods years ago. Amar and Anwar have a kinship of sorts. They both have visions which they can't explain and enjoy practicing sword fighting. Anwar has a hidden cache in the woods full of ancient clothes and weapons. He keeps it secret.

Meanwhile, Sawdya prepares her magical lure for the Magic Box. Aissawa roams around Setwara - where he lived as a child until they were banished - and reunites with a pair of roughnecks he used to be friends with - Tlothy Zawich and Dohmene. He becomes allies with them, knowing that they will be able to help him and Sawdya take revenge on those who banished them.

One evening, a man named Shahbour appears and gives Amar the Magic Box, explaining only that the contents of the box MUST stay together or hell will be unleashed. Amar and Shahra are confused, but accept it. Luckily (or so he thinks) Amar soon runs into Sawdya. They reunite, she introduces him to Aissawa, and Amar tells them about the so-called Magic Box. Loyalty goes out the window at this point. Aissawa breaks into Amar's house, terrorizes his family and steals the box. Sawdya begins using magic to terrorize those who banished her - but she's just warming up. Her plans are spoiled, however, when the buffoonish Tlothy Zawich and Dohmene remove the Heart-Shaped component of the box, which unleashes a Hideous Warrior who begins to terrorize Setwara.

Amar realizes that the only weakness of the Hideous Warrior is that it is afraid of mirrors.

At some point, a showdown of sorts takes place, the Hideous Warrior kills those who banished Sawdya. Sawdya and Aissawa watch in delight. Nearby, Amar and his family, his neighbor Kedwara and the boy Anwar watch in terror. The Warrior then turns on Amar. Luckily, Shahbour appears and instructs Tlothy Zawich to remove an Eye-shaped component of the box, which transports all of them into the distant past. Same landscape, just a past epoch, a place called Shahawand.

_Act 2 Part 2_

Suddenly the strange visions and behavior of Anwar makes sense! He was sent to the future world of Setwara from this place, Shahawand, by the villainous Vizier Dhawadi. Anwar is a prince, son of the King and Queen who have disappeared. Dhawadi appears with his men and they come after the box - but the Hideous Warrior reappears and causes chaos. Amar gets separated from his family but stuck with Dohmene.

Sawdya, Aissawa and Tlothy Zawich are nowhere to be found.

Amar wants to find his family, help Anwar find his royal parents, and unravel the mystery of how he came to be a part of all of this. Kedwara is just as confused as him. Luckily Shahbour and Anwar are more familiar with the lay of the land. They bring Dohmene along and journey into town to meet up with Nana Lakri a former servant of the king and queen. Amar learns more about the history of the place. Nana also tells them about a letter written by the missing King and Queen. It is with Hajj Ibrahim.

The travelers go to the warrior Hajj Ibrahim and read the letter, which is cryptic.

Nana Lakri and Dohmene go missing. The travelers decide to decipher the words of the letter, which leads them to a cave. In the cave they battle a monster who guards Dhawadi's prisoners. Among the prisoners are the King and Queen, as well as Amar's family.

_Act 3_

Restoring Anwar to his family, and the King and Queen to power, the story's over, right? Wrong.

Amar realizes that he, too, is from Shahawand. That he is the eldest son of the King and Queen, and that Dhawadi sent him to the future epoch before sending Anwar. Amar is a prince! The reason Shahbour gave him the box is because of the cat - Zomorodda. Shahbour knew that if that cat was following Amar around, then Amar must be the elder prince. Sawdya, as it turns out, also knew that Amar was a prince. She raised him knowing that he would eventually be her thread back to her old world. She was banished because she tried to exploit the power of the box.

The missing royal sibling is a princess - Amar and Anwar's sister. She is held by Dhawadi - who wants to trade her life for the Magic Box, since it is power he seeks.

Sawdya appears at the palace to get her revenge on the king and queen who banished her. But Zomorodda the cat saves the day and scratches her eye. So Amar and his friends have the box again.

Suddenly, the Hideous Warrior returns. Everyone must escape the palace.

Amar comes up with a plan to defeat the Hideous Warrior AND Dhawadi. They arrange a meeting with Dhawadi, who brings the missing princess. The Hideous Warrior kills Dhawadi and his men, but the princess survives.

Amar has arranged a hall of mirrors to distract the Hideous Warrior. He is able to grab the heart shaped component and return it to the box - which makes the Hideous Warrior disappear.

Amar has now saved the day.

But then the Hedgehogs appear - a group of primitive underground people - and try to attack the palace. THey have been sent by Sawdya.

The film ends abruptly at this point and text says: End of Part 1.



"Lamalif, The Toad Skin Hat" is a HUGE story. Truly an epic. It has fascinating characters, magic, adventures and excellent lessons about love, family, faith, forgiveness, and how power, vengeance and greed can lead to disaster.

I think it is at least 3 films. Not one.

I think Script 1 is Amar going to Setwara, learning about the magic, battling the Warrior in Setwara and then being transported to Shahawand. End of part 1.

Then Script 2 could be the adventure in Shahawand, reuniting family, finding the missing King and Queen, battling the warrior, the cave monster and Sawdya, and then ending with the arrival of the Hedgehogs. End of part 2.

Then Script 3 could be whatever the writer plans to unravel next.


The summary above is my effort to make sense of your story. I haven't mentioned every character, I haven't told it perfectly. But I've done my best to tell it so that it can be followed, more or less. Your screenplay does not achieve clarity, so it was very difficult to summarize it.

You provide extremely detailed descriptions of what a town looks like, what people say to one another - you spend a great deal of time showing us characters that have nothing to do with the main story. I was constantly meeting new people and events and searching for significance. I strongly encourage you to reassess your approach to screenwriting.

To use a simple example, your opening sequence in London is far too long. This is exciting stuff! A mysterious Toad Skin Hat, a Professor who will stop at nothing to get it! So make it exciting - and brief! Instead, you spend over 6 pages introducing me in detail to completely irrelevant characters just so that Aissawa can steal the hat. Did I need to see his lecture in University? Did I need to see the woman go to the antique store? No. You can tell that part of the story in 1 to 1.5 pages. Maximum. It is just a simple prologue and it doesn't even involve your protagonist.

Then when you transport us to El-Mesnouba - why so much detail? Do I need to spend so much time with Uncle Salim? No.

You've read Save the Cat but missed its point. It is a simple book, not an incredible book, but a simple book. It encourages writers to reduce their ideas to something bite-sized, and to avoid doing things that take the reader out of the action. It starts with a logline, progresses to 'beats', and emerges as a screenplay with solid structure. Your script does not.

You also use "Double Mumbo Jumbo" a lot. You expect the reader to believe that Sawdya goes to Setwara, and that Amar also coincidentally gets invited to Setwara as a teacher. In a script full of magic, this coincidence has nothing to do with magic. It is just a coincidence. Is it fate? So you're asking the reader to believe in magic and fate, and that all of this happened on the same day? I think that is triple mumbo jumbo.

Amar and Anwar are brothers from a previous epoch, both transported into the future, and now Amar just happens to move into the house next door? Double mumbo jumbo.

Aissawa was sent to search for the Toad Skin Hat. So for 20 years he goes to school and becomes a professor? And then he finds the hat randomly one day down the street from his school? Strange. If he is searching for the hat - begin the film with him searching for the hat.

The writing also lacks a cinematic feel. Everything happens literally. I think it will be more efficient to allow events to happen such that only essence of the scene is shown. I don't need to see every character walk up the road, knock on the door, shake hands, have tea and then get to the conversation. Don't get me wrong - the writing is often VERY GOOD - it is just too much writing. It commands too much attention to small things and not enough clarity for larger, essential plot elements.

I really enjoyed moments like on 104 when Amar deduces that the letter is written in blood via a needle by either a woman or a man who is with a woman. I enjoyed details like on 108 when the dance prepares the warriors psychologically for the battle to come. These are 'essential' moments where we learn something useful. You should make the majority of your script 'essential'. Right now it is the minority.

Pale Dragon Destroyers, S's Original Draft

7 out of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Old-school Warrior film. Will make a very cool movie. Need work to engage readers.

Overall Recommendation:
4 stars
4 stars
Story structure:
3 stars
4 stars
3 stars
4 stars
December 15, 2011
I want to give it 3.5 stars but I've rounded up to 4. There's too much hostility on AS sometimes - gotta round up not down people!


There's nothing quite like this one on AS.

Now I see why the writer made a thread explaining that this is not a Tarentino ripoff. Because I can imagine someone trying to make sense of the script in terms of it being a Western homage to Asian martial arts genre films - which makes them think Kill Bill.

But this is something very different. Perhaps a little closer to what Takashi Miike set out to do with '13 Assassins', or to use a strange example - what DeNiro set out to do with 'The Good Shepherd' - that is, tell a story using the visual language, manner of speaking and culturally specific tone which iconic films in a given genre have used...but not in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Totally straight-faced - except when characters are actually making jokes within their serious world.


The script is not as simple as the writer's pitch. For me, the extended story is this:

Four year-old Amy, the only survivor of a forest-dwelling family killed by an evil Man in White during a marauding party, is fortunate enough to be discovered by the benevolent Golden Master, who raises her in a sheltered world as his daughter and student. A strong-willed child and tough fighter, Amy grows up into a vibrant young woman capable of teaching the warrior arts to new members of their isolated community. But there is one enemy Amy cannot conquer - the spirit of the slain Man in White, who fills her dreams with terror. Plagued by internal strife, Amy abandons her adoptive home in search of peace and contentment, even at the cost of her slow-cooked virtue. Her journey introduces her to a Salvation Master who resides in a netherworld between dreams and waking life, one who can help her gain an inner strength to balance her outer strength. But all signs point back the way she came when a dangerous group of killers set out to destroy Amy's adoptive home. The key to her destiny lies in protecting those she has grown to love - and only then will she possess the clarity to conquer the evil attacking from within.


'Pale Dragon Destroyers' is written in English, but in such a way that it seems ready to be spoken in a Chinese or Japanese dialect such that the dialogue can appear as-is as the translated-into-English words on screen.

Pretty freakin' fascinating world created here. Definitely written for the screen by a director. It will totally lose certain readers, who will complain that it's too much about who is jumping and swinging and flipping and dodging, etc. But if you concentrate on hearing the characters speak and picturing their movements, it works. All except the climactic sequences in the New Village worked pretty well for me. Some worked very well, like the sequence where the ghosts of Amy's dead family dance within the haunted sheet of the Man in White while Amy fights him. Very cool.

The script is very descriptive in terms of action scene, but quite sparsely written in terms of emotions and other action. You have to really work to visualize the world. It's a rewarding but taxing process, one that I was able to maintain until the standoff in the New Village, when I just got confused.


I've seen a handful of serious action films that incorporate fantasy, but few in English. One that comes to mind is "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story", in which an internal battle within Bruce Lee's character's spirit (between his soul and a relentless demon) has a serious place inside the world of a bio pic. Triumphs and hardships within that spirit world then relate to the character's ability to achieve success in his waking life.

That's basically how I would explain what Amy's character is going through. She's dealing with a lot of angst under her tough exterior, and she needs help and guidance to get through it.


What is the significance of the opening dream with the Flying Serpent? I think it sends the reader in the wrong direction. The film should start in the forest with the juxtaposition of the tranquil village and the marauders, in my opinion. That would make a better 'bookend' to match the standoff at the new village at the end. Your opening dream is very distracting.

The scene descriptions get really good when Schu arrives in the forest. Suddenly it's a lot easier to picture this film as an actual Asian martial arts movie - not as a fantasy film with Asian themes. If there is some way you can infuse the beginning of the script with more of that clarity, it will draw in the reader much earlier.

If there are four people at the table, why not describe all four? In the New Village you should paint the picture in broad strokes and then tell us what's happening in the closeups. Don't take for granted that we see the same world you do. I actually do see the world you've created, but I had to really, really think about it. Make it easier and you'll hook the reader much more efficiently.

Why are the 10 Representatives important? See, to me, they are pretty random. There's no precedent for them. They're not disciples of the Man in White (are they?). They have history with Say and Myen, but we don't know that until later. It just felt strange that they became the villains of the climax. I think you could work them in earlier.

Your dream world, waking world and in-between are too ambiguous, in my opinion. Sometimes all that separates them is a word "Dream sequence" in the heading. You could easily invent devices to make this much more intuitive, especially since most of us skim over headings when we get into a script. For example, you know how in some films people make a compass using a leaf and a piece of metal? Well what if you establish some kind of forest compass early on? Whenever Amy is awake, the compass slowly moves to North. When she is asleep, the compass spins wildly. When she is with Salvation Master - perhaps it could do something in the middle. Like whichever way you point it - it stays. Visual clues like this will add greatly to your world.

The problem with your elaborately written action scenes in this script is that this type of action is completely overwritten relative to the non 'action scene' action. For example, we get no description of creatures in the early dream sequence, but we are told they are weird and mysterious. We are told that Golden Master fiddles with twigs and leaves...we are told that the Man in White pins (Amy's mother) her head to the ground...that a character stares through heavy another line Amy mentions "it was worth every step" (to come here). Each of these examples requires at least one more line to just give more details. What do the creatures look like? When he pins her to the ground,you mean he stabs her in the head, right? Is Golden Master fiddling with twigs to add them to the fire, perhaps? What do the facial tattoos look like? Why was it "worth every step" - is it beautiful where they are?

The minutia of an action scene must be balanced with detailed scene descriptions, in my opinion. And if one must be sparse - it should be the action. (which reminds me - I need to take a dose of my own advice when doing rewrites of my recent work.) I think the writer could enhance the script by giving far more emotional and environmental details, and reduce some of the fighting to fewer, more impactful words. Use poetic devices to tell us how someone moves and what they try, try and fail, or try and fail and succeed in accomplishing during the fight. But don't get so caught up in it that the reader has no idea where one house is relative to another, or where characters are relative to each other when a fight is taking place. That whole 'Occupy New Village' sequence is a mess in my mind. Can't make heads or tails of where one Representative is relative to the villagers and how they're coexisting in the same village when there's such tension in the air.


This is a first draft of a very cool concept. Many of the problems I've mentioned are probably best explained by a director writing something he sees in his own mind. The trick now is to make it more tangible to the reader, more concise where it is overwritten, and more elaborate where it is sparse. Make the subplot villains more significant so that they remind the protagonist of the ominous villain who has always haunted her. Make the fantasy worlds and real world collide but provide visual cues for us to know where we are. That spinning thing in Inception is an example (that's probably what I was thinking of earlier when I mentioned the compass...well, that and McGuyver or something!)

Looking forward to the second draft. Will make a cool movie one day. And again - not tongue-in-cheek genre homage! The real deal!

Eat At Joe's, JanetElizabet's Original Draft

4 out of 4 people found the following review helpful:

Quirky horror comedy with great potential- needs to get turned up a notch and then it will really entertain.

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
4 stars
Story structure:
4 stars
3 stars
No rating
3 stars
December 08, 2011
I like darkly comedic stories, and I enjoy a rapid back and forth between strange characters. So I enjoyed "Eat At Joe's" overall.

The basic premise is this:

Three regulars worry that the new fast food joint in town will ruin business for Joe's Diner. But when Joe starts serving an irresistible new meat dish that draws the crowds back in - the team of would-be sleuths wonder if MURDER is on the menu!

This is a simple film with very few locations. In fact I assumed it was adapted from a play while reading - especially since we never actually cut to the fast food joint. Then later in the script the characters move around a bit. But clearly this could be done for a really low budget.

Things start innocently enough, and then as the suspicion grows regarding the source of Joe's mystery meat - the three main characters find themselves in increasingly comic and desperate situations. In this sense I found the story to have a nice rising action with a few good twists. For example, Zeke - a homeless man who disappears early on in the script - suddenly reappears just when the characters are CONVINCED that he and others have been killed to make the meat. Devices like this, and the scene where they interview a self-professed cannibal to get more info - were well placed within the story.

The main thing I think needs work is the dialogue. It was very on-the-nose a lot of the time. There were definitely funny, great moments (eg. 'you have no soul'/'you have no life' and the David's dialogue regarding the Cannibal's 'heart') - but there were also moments where I felt more energy could be put into making things a bit more natural.

Joe, for example, has a conversation about the fast food joint that follows the main characters basically having that same conversation. He says "I'd give one of my arms for the answer" - which turns out to be a funny ironic statement - but that scene and others like it feel like characters are yelling out key pieces of information just for us - the viewers - to hear. This is fine for a play but in a screenplay it detracts from the reality. Same goes for the Detective referring to Fiona's pills. Is there a more subtle way to do this? To use an obscure example, the french film 'Cache' features a scene where the husband spends the weekend at his mother's estate. Their interaction makes it clear to us that his mother thinks he is a very strange man. If that scene is on the vague end of things, then your scenes tend to be on the 'on-the-nose' end of things. I think somewhere in the middle, with key information being revealed with greater subtlety - would really elevate the screenplay.

I was quite surprised, actually, that you didn't include more about Fiona's mental illness. I felt like you could really up the suspense of the film, and increase the craziness of her dialogue with Henry and David, having them do all sorts of embarrassing things that Fiona manages to block other people from seeing and hearing - and then later we could find out that Fiona is actually a paranoid schizophrenic who is hearing voices and having delusions. It would be a nice 'reveal', since by starting the script with a 'Save the Cat' moment with her taking the homeless guy to breakfast - she seems relatively normal. It would be a great twist to show instead that we've been in the mind of the town 'crazy' all along - and that people tolerate her ramblings because they are used to her. Just a thought.

All in all, it's a good premise that would be cheap to shoot and, with some additions and mods, could definitely entertain the horror/comedy crowd. Nice job.


2 ambiguous line about not eating. perhaps just say 'i don't want you to starve'

4 by describing David only as 'a web designer' and others by their jobs, you conceal from us your view of what they look like and how they behave. This would add a lot to the world of the script.

6 I'm guilty of this as well - but I notice you add a lot of description. You could just say 'as she sits, David leers at her'.

8 i prefer her announcing his job in a line of dialogue to you writing it in the script, but still, this line feels unnatural.

the soul/life back and forth is funny

11 strange usage of 'junk in the trunk'. normally this means a big butt not food in the stomach.

16 scene headings, just for consistency of formatting, could be just INT. DINER- NEXT MORNING

18 in light of this 'eat joe out' line - maybe David could be in the habit of misusing popular and inappropriate phrases. This would be a funny character quirk.

29 some kind of rtf glitch with the 'whose body, unidentified man's' sentence. you'll see

34 amusing when they start eating. maybe more suspense?

37 good moment to introduce this mental health issue...but maybe more subtle?

39 this scene could start en medias res because we already know the initial info

52 lol - why would they eat it? hahahaha

82 the fry cook is joe, right? it sounds like two different characters go inside.

climax - maybe they don't all need to be in the kitchen with joe. maybe there are other reasons why the investigators all disappear. and, on that point - do we need all three? perhaps if you do the schizophrenic thing that gives you three extra characters to add more over the top hilarity.

The Nevsky Prospect, Guillermo's Animatic

5 out of 5 people found the following review helpful:

A great director makes his debut.

Overall Recommendation:
5 stars
4 stars
Story structure:
5 stars
5 stars
4 stars
5 stars
December 06, 2011
This review has two parts. One is about the film, the second is about the director's personal onscreen message which follows the film.


Excellent test movie. The bar is really high right now within AS. Really high. And it's funny - the 'star' system of rating films is not specific to directors of test movies and what they bring to the table - it's more for scripts. So I am rating all of the great test movies really high. Because where one film lacks, it compensates by having something else in droves. And how can I compare the cinematography of one to the animation quality of another, etc?

Guillermo's test movie has two things which I found uniquely extraordinary: First, the sound design is the best I've heard so far in a test movie. And as many of us know - sound is HUGE. The nuances of clothes being folded, guns fired, people running, and the quality of the music (if some of it was produced directly for the film, which I suspect) - was top notch. I use a pair of recently purchased Grado headphones for my editing work and for music - and this film sounded like a dream through them. I'm very impressed by that degree of attention.

The second extraordinary attribute of this film was the cinematic editing - the use of montage. It's so difficult in a hand-drawn film to really give us that visual movement and depth of feeling. There is one sequence in particular - after Melissa kills a group of men - where the film shows us the remains of the bloody day - the collapsed bodies of these men. This - coupled with the shocked look on Melissa's face - really gives us the sobering reality of what type of world she has gotten into.

Add to that the fact that I have read the script already, and found that emotional realization to be somewhat lacking or a bit unrealistic - and it's like the test movie has literally brought the script to life and made it real.

In general, I felt that the directing brought the script to life in a tangible way. I liked the dialogue from the script much better when I heard it spoken. It made more sense to my ear.

Same goes for the action scenes. It was a touch absurd in the script when Melissa kills goons with a gun, or that her and her father allow a bomb to detonate in a presumably crowded building - but that's ME reading a script. When I watch films, different story. I watched "Man on Fire" again the other day and realized - I probably would have disliked the second half of this script and found it over the top - but the movie, I love.

Great music. Really great choices. Not sure if there are copyright issues with that song when Andrea gets dropped off, but all around great job. When we first get to Leningrad - really nice string music. The director's music choices had great dramatic impact in too many scenes to mention.


First things first - Ricardo Dominguez, I salute you. You are fast (a month and a half was the total turnaround for this whole production) and you are sharp. You did what needed to be done and made the deadline. I tried to do a test movie and the guy fell to pieces before he'd drawn a hundred frames. Whereas are, as they say in the streets, a straight G for your work on this film.

Moving on...

The very interesting, paper cut-out/comic book style of this film was engrossing and impressive. However, it presents a unique challenge - how can you paint with light and shadow if the objects are white and the backgrounds are all gray?

The film worked because the look was consistent and stylish. It just lacked artistic cinematography - the depth and nuanced presentation of objects in space that are lit (either deliberately or incidentally) or captured in an artful manner. This detracted from the cinematic experience for me personally. I still feel that even a basic animation film with cinematography and motion communicates more to me than a still frame test movie. However, that is more an issue pertaining to the role of the test movie as a "blueprint" for a film. As a standalone work of storytelling, The Nevsky Project's look serves it's story well.

The one notable exception I recall is that there was a nice David Lynch-esque moment where Melissa looks into a brothel room, and darkness but for the gap in a door she was looking through - this was a nice cinematographic moment for sure.


The great editing, sound and music tell the emotional story...and the images efficiently move the script forward. Very impressive effort. One of the top test movies for sure.


With no warning - the director appears after the credits and pours his heart out. Some will love it, others will complain. But what's done is done. It's like a DVD Special Features all rolled into the main film.

His words resonate with me because Guillermo has burned the midnight oil, after finding out about the competition very late, and put his all into getting this project done. It's an inspiring story.

On the other hand, your words are absurd. And for your own good (I hope), I will tell you why. To argue that this could be "your last chance" is foolish. I think I know what you mean when you say it - I think what you're saying is that whether you're young or very old - there is a certain turning point where chasing the dream of being a director gets sidetracked. Where without some kind of recognition, positive outcome or salary (!) it will just be time, at some point to quit. Especially when you are not in a place where it seems possible to progress in film.

But that's where you're wrong. People will see this film and will appreciate your talent. It either will or won't win you some money. BUT - what it has already done is light a fire under you to achieve this goal and unlock a ridiculously impressive amount of work ethic and grit. And this is what will push you forward to keep directing.

Last chances are for those with no more fuel in the canister. That's where the term 'burnout' comes from. That's not you, bro. You're on your way. And that's why I entitled this review "A great director makes his debut." Now it's up to you to live up to that, and to use the incredible platform that AS has provided us to keep the candle burning and keep this thing going. Power to you.

Favorite Movies

Heat, The Conversation, The Celebration, Jackie Brown, Three Colors: Blue, Boomerang, Coming to America, Children of Men, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Badlands - just to name a very small cross-section of favorites.


Big fan of Polansky, Kieslowski, Spike Lee, Melvin Van Peebles, Coppola, Antonioni, Robert Rodriguez, Soderberg, Tarentino, Dario Argento, Coen Brothers, Kurosawa, Chan Wook Park, Innarritu, Cuaron, and Ridley Scott, to name a few.


7 People