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Touching Blue, Scott's 3rd Draft

5 out of 5 people found the following review helpful:

Write to Reel Review - Touching Blue

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
 
Premise:
No rating
 
Story structure:
No rating
 
Character:
No rating
 
Dialogue:
No rating
 
Emotion:
No rating
 
March 27, 2012
From our website - http://writetoreel.com/touching-blue


Hank here.

Headed back to Amazon Studios to check out another script that they seem to be excited about.

Today’s pick is Touching Blue (which I thought was about someone jumping high and touching the sky initially) by Scott Mullen, and the version I read is here.

Overall all, decent idea, and a quick read.

1.) Can we visualize the description?

Yes…BUT, and I’ll go into this more later, there wasn’t enough action. The descriptions were easy to see in meh mind’s eye, but it was mostly when Blue was just touching objects, or sitting in one of the many modes of transportation glaring at other characters.

9 out of 10 points.

2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?

Yep here too. Although, and I know I sound like a frickin broken record, but there’s a few instances of “we see” and a few references to how a scene should be shot. Again, 9 out of 10 professionals giving you notes are going to nail you on this, so avoid doing it. They’ll tell you it’s the director’s job to say what gets shot how, so instead of giving them an excuse to leave your story, just rephrase action into an accepted format.

Since there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of it in Mullen’s script, I won’t take points off. (A few instances actually helped me visualize too, but before that qualifies you to include shot angles in your script, use them sparingly if at all.)

10 out of 10 points.

3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?

First off, and most annoying…

Spencer’s dialogue…fix it. Mainly after the first exchange he adds nothing but, “Are you okay?” “It’ll be alright.” “You’ll be fine.” I wondered why he even came along for the ride, other than to drive and steal a quick kiss from Blue near the end. He’d be WAYYYY cooler (and more dynamic to use a Roy word) if HE didn’t talk to Blue initially. She should try to get him to open up a bit, and let her know if she’s being watched or not. Have him answer in a word or two. This way, little hints can show he cares, and still have the payoff near the end where he wants to bring her back, by really opening up.

Also, Blue needs to be reworked in some areas. I get she wants to live in solitude, and fears the outside world, but she really hits us over the head with her point of view. Mary Alice had a much better way of showing us how she views life.

7 out of 10 points.

4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium in which they have chosen to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?

As I said above, clocked in at 111 pages in pdf format. Was it a play? No, but I also saw a lot of examples where it felt almost like it could be a show somewhere in between CSI and Fringe. Not going to deduct points though, as that seems very objective.

10 out of 10 points.

5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s idea, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?

The initial idea was cool. After that though, the powers were all too similar. Imagine reading X-Men where most mutants fell into three categories. Three of the main characters had unique abilities, then it felt like Mr. Mullen got lazy and just gave them all a choice of a, b, or c.

It was cool how he took the idea of police using psychics to the next level, but I would have liked to have seen some different powers on the “screamers” being killed, or at least different ways they located people.

4 out of 10 points.

6.) Does the script have a hook?

Initially, yes. As I mentioned above, it’s like Mutant CSI: The First Class. The first few pages were confusing though when trying to figure a setting. We’re set up by seeing a screamer able to touch a wall a criminal is leaning against and find out where he buried his dead wife. Not totally unique, but I’m curious how she can do that.

13 out of 15 points.

7.) Is that hook effective?

Continuing from above, so far so good.

Then she’s killed, and the room goes dark. Blue turns on a light and it took me several pages to figure out this was a different room. I kind of got what she was as she was going through her motions of touching objects, but I thought she was there trying to find out who killed the woman from the previous scene.

Another problem I had is Blue initially chases a bad guy that gets away, but I wasn’t sure if he’s the main bad guy, or someone else. If he’s not the main bad guy, him getting away has no payoff. (But Spencer says it’ll be alright, like he always does, so I guess we as the audience must take his word for it.)

Why can’t this be Jack from the get go? Makes more sense for Quinn to come in and takeover the case from Meyer. Also lets Graham get what he wants, by forcing Blue to help as it isn’t an isolated incident. Both instances can be a chance to really turn up the conflict

5 out of 10 points.

8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?

Alright, here’s where my imaginary red pen ran out of ink.

Ever read The Lord of the Rings Trilogy? The books, not scripts from the movies. If you did, and compare them to the movies, you should get what I’m talking about here.

Not…enough…ACTION!

There is a lot of dramatic talkie talkie, but when we finally get to a good part, like Blue almost catching the criminal, it’s sped through so we can get back to more talking during forensics.

This is what I was referring to when I asked about Lord of the Rings. Remember the epic battle scene at Helm’s Deep? Awesome ending to the second movie right? In the books it was, and I’m drawing on my aging memory here, like one and a half pages.

What?! That’s right, Tolkien wanted to get back to the talking and debating.

Now, unless you’re genius enough to create an entire world with THOUSANDS of years of descriptive history and various ages, you probably should avoid this, which would be my advice to Mr. Mullen.

There are numerous cliché scenes, whether riding in a plane or a van, or sitting in hotel rooms, that need to be jettisoned for ACTION.

I didn’t really care what happened next as I went through the script, and had a hard time initially understanding why. This is it though, the few times I did get excited, it was over before I could do anything with it.

LOVE STORY PROBLEMS.

This is beginning to be my pet peeve as I read these scripts. If you’re going to have a love interest for the main character that they end up with in the end, introduce them early. (Most professionals advise RIGHT AFTER the inciting incident, but again, the earlier the better.)

Taylor was introduced halfway through, besides a reference or two in the beginning, but when we find him, we’re playing catch-up. Blue’s all over the place with him, and although I liked her being selfish because she could finally touch him, I found myself asking, “Does she really love him?”

That whole “bringing him back” segment needs to be cleared up to answer that previous question. If she’s selfish, fine make her selfish, but if she truly loves him, she won’t want to touch him regardless of how good it feels.

GRAHAM.

He needs to be reworked. He mainly needs more depth. My suggestion would be like a Professor Xavier, but with a really dark side. The older screamers from the Barn know he’s selfish, but he should be very gentle and nurturing with the younger folks like Emma. That way we’re left wondering if maybe he isn’t somehow connected to the murders.

1 out of 10 points. (Unlike Roy, I feel mean giving zeros.)

9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?

Another problem is the target audience is kind of undefined. If we’re shooting for sci-fi buffs, I think the lack of unique powers and all the sitting around will leave them wondering if they need more popcorn.

If it was meant for the dedicated, and they are, CSI type viewers I think the slight sci-fi stuff will weird them out. (It’s why my mom loves CSI, but dad watches Fringe by himself.)

5 out of 10 points.

Conclusion

I liked it, but mainly because it was a fast read and didn’t take up a lot of my time. I can very much see it as a cable TV series more than a major motion picture. And if with current trends, that might be a better strategy to get it going, what with the original programming successes of HBO, Showtime, and even Scifi.

My favorite character was Norman. I loved him being able to know when people were lying or not, and once I figured out the finger thing I thought it was very cool. If more characters could have little unique characteristics like his, I would have been more worried about them getting bumped off.

The ending was a nice twist. I knew Sandra was in on it, but how it was presented was different than how I imagined, and had me thinking I was wrong right before the conclusion. I think this scene could have also been drawn out more, but that falls under #8, but I remembered it here.

64 out of 100 points.
 

ZvG: Zombies Vs Gladiators, Lauri's 2nd Draft

2 out of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Is Amazon Studios still interested in this?

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
 
Premise:
No rating
 
Story structure:
No rating
 
Character:
No rating
 
Dialogue:
No rating
 
Emotion:
No rating
 
March 27, 2012
From our website - http://writetoreel.com/zombies-vs-gladiators


First off, I want to apologize and this is a “Hank” review. My reviews are in no way as eloquent or visually appealing as Roy’s. For that I apologize.

Having said that, the reason I’ve chosen this script is I stumbled upon this contest on Amazon Studios. As we research our target demographic, Amazon Studios is a prime location where I think new writers will be interested in getting some detailed notes when the price is right. Or in our case, free.

I’ve chosen to review the contest winning rewrite of Zombies vs. Gladiators by Lauri which you can find here, and have not read the original script so I don’t know how it differs. Essentially I picked this rewrite as it was an award winner, and with other sites having reviewed the annual award winning script, I wanted to do something different.

Enough chatting, let’s get to reviewing.

1.) Can we visualize the description?

Lauri did a really good job of researching the terminology of both the setting and culture of the time. I’m not a historian, but the way she describes things likes palaces, slaves quarters, etc. it’s more than just, “They walk past a pillar.”

10 out of 10 points.

2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?

Formatting is also acceptable. As there’s no “set in stone” exact format, I’m not going to pick her apart. There are certain things Lauri uses like, “we see,” parentheticals, and ellipses that I don’t necessarily agree with, but she uses them sparingly, so like I said, it’s not worth deducting points.

10 out of 10 points..

3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?

Here’s where things start to unravel a bit. Hermann has his own unique voice, and is crafted well. After that though, the rest of the characters begin to fall flat with the way they speak. The easiest example of this is Titus and Daria interacting, especially when trying to develop a romance. It was painful.

Dialogue is hard for almost every writer, so I feel bad being critical about this, but as it’s been said countless times before, we should be able to tell who is speaking even if a character’s name is covered.

3 out of 10 points.

4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium in which they’ve chosen to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?

The name itself generates a basic trailer in the mind of the reader. With the large setting and even larger action scenes you’d have a hard time fitting this on a single stage. However, I will deduct a few points as at times I felt I was reading more of a realty TV series script than a character driven screenplay.

8 out of 10 points.

5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s idea, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?

I mentioned above I enjoyed that Lauri had a bit of knowledge for the setting she was writing in, but that enough doesn’t yield originality.

The first opening scenes were easily regurgitations of Gladiator, Rome, and even Spartacus (the Starz series). We’ve seen gladiator movies before, and we’ve seen zombie movies before, but what we haven’t seen is a movie that blends the two. This is what people are longing to see, and within the first 15 pages I was yawning, having seen very similar situations in previous works.

What would be more interesting (and original) is having the zombies present in the very first scene. Instead of Titus and his buds fighting slaves, have them fighting captured zombies for sport. This creates an alternate Rome, where zombies are a nuisance, but kept under control to entertain the masses.

2 out of 10 points.

6.) Does the script have a hook?

Again, the title is Zombies vs. Gladiators. Nine out of ten people will instantly perk up when you say the title alone and ask about it. I think this is one of the reasons Amazon Studios was so interested in it in the first place.

15 out of 15 points.

7.) Is that hook effective?

The hook itself is effective, but it takes us a while to get there. Lauri set’s up a B story with Titus being the actual father of the next emperor. Although I think this idea is effective, it takes too long to set up, and thus takes too long to get to zombie fighting. Just as effective would be Flavius knowing his wife’s lust for Titus, and seeing the similarity in his child’s face to that of the gladiator.

Once the zombies show up though, the characters’ goal is pretty self explanatory, stop the zombies.

10 out 15 points.

8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?

This is another problem I had with the script. Although there are a decent amount of good scenes, especially when taking into account the genre, they don’t flow well. There isn’t a steady build up.

The best analogy of this was when I heard someone describe Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The story was hard to follow, and it felt like they just wrote a bunch of REALLY EXCITING scenes and then had different production companies try to outdo each other when shooting those action sequences.

Zombies vs. Gladiators felt like that, and there wasn’t a steady build up to a climax. Although there were good scenes, characters got out of trouble too easy.

For instance, one scene has the main characters riding two war elephants through a horde of zombies. Cool setting, especially when zombies start climbing the elephants’ armor. Uh-oh. But our main gladiator, Titus, just flips a pachyderm bitch, and squishes the zombies off as the elephants pass by each other.

A simple way to improve the scene is have one of the elephants get overrun, and just when all seems lost, have Titus ride his elephant over. Right as the elephant loses balance, being brought down by the zombie horde, the two remaining main characters jump, with Titus struggling to pull them aboard his elephant while zombies nip at their sandaled heels.

Another example of “too easy” is just how willing everyone is to let the empress escape with rough and tumble slaves.

Pg. 40ish, where they escape the Senate. These are senators who consider themselves the elite of Rome. When confronted with the idea of staying to “die in the name of the empress” they should at least put up a fight. Not one of they or the soldiers argue that it should be Titus and his team of gladiators that should be staying. This would add much needed conflict. It should also develop how Lavinia is able to coerce others to get what she wants.

One last note on this topic is character development. Titus felt flat. I get that killing has become boring to him, and I like it, especially with the idea of his love for Daria making him feel alive, but that needs to be developed more. Also, if he’s going to have the son angle, he should want to become a man that his son could be proud of.

An example of how to fix this is have he and his friends get their papers to be free in the troop garrison. They’ve escorted the empress to safety and she releases them, but when Hermann turns to go, Titus chooses to stay behind, to save Rome and it’s people. Using this idea also adds more of a payoff when the empress betrays he and Daria later in the story and makes us cheer for Titus to succeed.

2 out of 10 points.

9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?

Although I think Lauri got the gladiator part down, with epic fighting and such, I think she missed the mark on the zombies.

Having zombies with glowing red eyes, uncanny healing abilities, and the ability to communicate and reason felt unnatural. Almost as unnatural as vampires that “sparkle” when they’re in the sunlight.

Flavius’s plot was decent and helped move the story along, but I think he needs a slight change. Making him into a jealous brother type character works better, where he can choose to control the zombies and unleash them as a horde in a play to become emperor. This way he can do cool things like drive a zombie driven chariot, but the zombies stay mindless which gives out characters the opportunity to defeat them.

Another example common to horror/zombie movies is having characters split up. This could easily be worked into scenes like where the fleeing Romans enter the brothel. Having Hermann go off on his own, and teasing him (and us) with the three naked girls could have been built up a bit more. Especially when you consider we can’t seem them through the steam so it’d scare the hell out of him and us as the audience. Ideas like this combine the old of zombie flicks in the settings of Rome.

*EDIT* Something I forgot to mention. VERY much disliked the cure being “what all men need” part of the script, and then it turning out to be salt. At first I was expecting “love” and rolled my eyes, but then when it was salt, I was almost wishing for love. The whole thing felt like the Signs “swing away Merrill” plot point. We all know how fast and far M. Night Shyamalan has fallen by rehashing the same “crazy twist” plots, so it is my suggestion (take that for what it’s worth) to rework the salt angle, or consider dropping that type of cure altogether.

5 out of 10 points.

Total Score:

65 out of 100 points.
 

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