Back with Hank on another Amazon Studios request.

This time we’re headed deep into Sawtooth Canyon to find ourselves a Bigfoot. Justin Buettner’s Sawtooth does a good job in some places of spooking us with the sasquatch and in other places, well let’s see if we can’t clean a few things up.

Before we get started though…

How to create a Final Draft Title Page

I’m not trying to be an ass here. You don’t know HOW long it took me to finally figure this out initially, and as Justin doesn’t have one, I’m going to give a quick explanation here.

I’m using an older version of final draft, but to do so it’s a bit tricky.

From the menu bar select “Document” then scroll down to “Title Page” and enter your info.

When you’re done, go up to “File” then scroll down to “Close.”

Hard, huh? I joke only because I felt like an idiot because I had to google how to do it, but at least this didn’t happen to you.

1.) Can we visualize the description?

Some parts yes, even more parts no. What I mean by this, for example, is the beginning is good when the two hunters are being attacked, but there’s a lot of description both before this and throughout the rest of the script that goes into such detail that we’re overwhelmed.

First off (and this is something I still have trouble with as I’m detail oriented) is we should only ever have action/description in blocks of four lines each. Using less is often best. Reasons to use more would be when our setting is someplace completely made up, where normal rules don’t apply.

Even then though if we have more than one page of solid word blocks not broken up by dialogue, a professional reader’s going to give us the smack down.

As it is here, Justin’s trying to describe EVERYTHING that’s going on, when some things would be understood just from the visual on the screen. We can say, “Character A stands,” without describing how he puts his hand on the table to push himself up with both feet firmly planted. This is generally understood, and unless it’s directly related to the story, like a character trying to stand but is drunk, we don’t need to include it.

4 out of 10 points.

2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?

Before Justin gets too upset, this was better formatted than my first script.

Having said that, there’s a lot that needs to be worked on here. Continuing with my above example of action, let me try to play Roy here a sec and show you what I mean.

Action.

Page 2:

At that the Sasquatch throws the deer down and sprints
aggressively in their direction. Greg screams in terror and
begins running away. Bill takes his gun and takes aim.

Bill gets one shot off before the sasquatch reaches Bill. In
effortless fashion the bigfoot grabs Bill by the head lifting him from the ground the grabs Bill’s body with his free hand. The Sasquatch rips Bill’s head from his body and tosses his body parts aside, hardly breaking stride.

Cleaning it up:

The sasquatch tosses the deer aside, then sprints at them.

Greg SCREAMS and flees, but Bill raises his rifle in self defense.

MISFIRE and the sasquatch is on top of him. With a massive hand around his head, Bill lifts off the ground, feet dangling.

The beast’s free hand grabs his torso, and Bill SCREAMS in pain as his head RIPS from his body.

The sasquatch tosses both aside, then ROARS after Greg.

proofreading…Proofreading…PROOFREADING!

There were a TON of grammar errors that could easily have been fixed with a quick read through. Keep in mind, none of us are perfect, and spell-check can’t find words if you used “on” instead of “in”, “and” instead of “an”, etc.

Something so simple needs to be corrected, as it SCREAMS amateur and a professional reader will toss a script in the trash in an effort to save time.

I’d try to point Justin in a particular direction, but in this script there were small errors everywhere.

Two specific instances came to mind, once at the beginning, and again near the end.

Jamie is supposed to push BLAKE in the library, but the script says CARLOS. I eventually figured out what was meant, but it’s something easy that needs to be corrected.

The other spot at the end was when Jamie mentions his father right around making his video to his family. Jamie’s dad has the same last name as Carlos’s from the flashback.

Transitions. Camera Angles. Director’s Toes.

Don’t step on ’em.

We get one “FADE OUT” and that’s when we’re done. All the others, and the CUT TOs, etc. need to be scrapped.

A scene heading is all that’s needed to signify a new scene. For those of us using Final Draft, it adds an extra space between the end of the last scene and a new heading. This is enough.

Also, in the version I read, I think Final Draft had some goofy setting checked as it used “(Continued)” at the end and beginning of each page.

Camera shots and angles, that’s another thing to leave out. One instance can slide by, but unless you’re the director, general description will suffice.

1 out of 10 points.

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

Dialogue was another issue. Too much standing around and trivial talking.

LYNN
I was thinking more along the lines of Harry and the Hendersons or those beef jerky commercials.

JAMIE
I love those commercials!

CARLOS
No, not blood thirsty. Don’t you see, it took the ones with the weapons out. It was protecting itself. It could have hurt my dad if it wanted. Honestly I believe Bigfoot, Sasquatch, is actually a descendent of Gigantopithicus Blaki, an ape-like creature that existed 100,000 years ago. Since it’s like an ape I think it is completely plausible that they live in groups. Most of them will be placid
shy creatures but there is an alpha male that protects the group. He would be the hunter and the protector. I think the few acts of aggression these creatures have demonstrated is to protect its clan or territory.

LYNN
You are so convincing.

CARLOS
About what?

LYNN
You talk like Bigfoot exists and like you can go see one in a zoo.

CARLOS
But I know he exists.

LYNN
(disbelieving)
Yeah right.

JAMIE
Enough Bigfoot talk. Let’s tell ghost stories.

LYNN
I don’t want to.

JAMIE
(teasing)
Ewww, is the strong and powerful Lynn scared of ghost stories? Fine then you tell the story. Make one up about a werewolf. I love werewolf stories. It’s kind of like a bigfoot really but half dog instead.

LYNN
Actually half wolf since it’s called a were”wolf” brainiac.

JAMIE
See you’re already an expert on the subject.

LYNN
No thanks.

JAMIE
That’s lame.

LYNN
Up yours.

CARLOS
C’mon you guys, what are you even fighting over?

JAMIE
She’s just mean, like all the time.

Lynn stands angrily.

This kind of back and forth is okay for a bit of a story, but two thirds of the script is them walking through the woods picking on each other. Dialogue needs to take us somewhere, driving the heart of the story. I know this sound generic, but characters need to be DOING things while talking.

There were also spots where characters seemed to say things that weren’t true to their characters, like Jamie not knowing simple facts when he’s a super nerd, and Lynn knowing something about a topic she just seemed clueless about earlier. During a proofread Justin should also check character’s dialogue with the question on his mind, “Does this support who my character is?”

Leave out direction in parenthesis. The actor can read and interpret the mood of each line. If it’s super important though, throw it in a quick action line.

Dialogue is tricky for a lot of writers (me included) and here’s a quick dialogue post to keep in mind while writing.

1 out of 10 points.

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

Again, and I think I hit hard enough with this above, but too much talking. Granted it’s talking AND walking, but it feels like the cliché “coffee shop” scene only we’re around a campsite, with no coffee. I won’t subtract a lot of points on this, but I think it also needs to be mentioned that it’s just as easy to have a fake campsite on stage as it is to have it on the big screen.

Other than the opening scene and the ending, not much formulated in my mind as an exciting trailer.

5 out of 10 points.

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

Justin seems to have researched the sasquatch topics a bit. That was cool.

It did feel a bit like Blair Witch Project though, and I’m glad he didn’t end it with one character finding another standing with their back to the camera and a nose in a tree.

6 out of 10 points.

6.) Does the script have a hook?

Yes. When I read the logline on the Amazon Studios site I thought it sounded very cool. With the success of cheaper to film horror combined with the fact that Animal Planet now has a show called Finding Bigfoot, I think a lot of people would want to check this out.

15 out of 15 points.

7.) Is that hook effective?

Based on the first two pages, probably, but then we’re slowed to a crawl with the dialogue and the nerdy characters. I didn’t feel invested enough in the main trio until they got inside the forest and Lynn was popping shots off with her paintball gun.

8 out of 15 points.

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

Again, a lot of talking.

Even when they encounter the sasquatches, they never really attack.

The whole pace of the script needs to be stepped up several notches. Justin needs to drag these characters through the forest, like they’re being pulled through a field of thorn bushes.

Here’s a few suggestions I would make to step things up.

Their food gets stolen the first night.

This instantly creates conflict among the three characters. Jamie will want to turn back, Carlos will want to go on, and Lynn’s self esteem can have her convince the other two that she’ll find food and water (after all she does want to be the first woman Navy Seal).

Have the drug dealers follow them.

This is a horror script, and part of the thrill is wondering if what’s happening to the characters can be reasonably explained, or if myth has truly come to life. As they’re hearing sounds and such in the woods, it could easily be the drug dealers trying to find them. This also works because Lynn can be taken by the drug dealers (I don’t think she should die) and show up later to save the day.

Introduce the sasquatches at the midpoint.

They’re in the woods to see them, we’ve come to the movie to see them. Give us a glimpse.

Finding fur and footprints early on is fine, but they need to catch video similar to that video from the 60s that’s on the internet. They know they saw it, but the video doesn’t show it. This convinces them to press onward.

Once Lynn’s lost though, Jamie and Carlos need to stumble onto a sasquatch nesting grounds or something. I love the idea of them being surrounded by the hairy beasts, but they need to be near death before they escape. Having Jamie toting a gun helps, and them stumbling into the pit of bones/remains is a good escape.

MAKE…A…SAWTOOTH…

I understand it’s the Sawtooth Canyon, but people love a good back story. How cool would it be to have Carlos slam down a newspaper in the library saying, “Sawtooth struck again!” This can be anything from the jaw talisman Carlos finds to the King Sasquatch being the legendary Sawtooth.

It ties your title to the script, but also gives a more interesting setting, in that the area is full of town legend.

3 out of 10 points.

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

It’s a horror story. Sadly, audiences go to see sexy women and guys in peril. Making one of them a nerd is okay, and making Lynn like girls isn’t a problem. Just remember they need to be entertaining, and not written as normal people. We’re all normal, and don’t go to the movies to see ourselves.

Carlos should be a medium, in that he can talk comics, but he also can throw a football when needed. He doesn’t have to be popular, but he and Jamie are too much alike currently.

Lynn’s character is probably the best drawn, but she needs to be toned, athletic, and a desire for the other two (she just doesn’t swing that way) which causes more conflict between the boys.

Another character problem I had is they all felt like 12 year olds, not two 16 year olds and an 18 year old. I mean Blake throwing a juice box at them? A JUICE BOX?! It should have been a beer can, with the joke being was it light beer? No, genuine draft.

We also need to be on the EDGE of our seats each time the sasquatches show up. I wasn’t. Our trio got out of things too easy, and sometimes it was like Justin forgot about the sasquatches altogether. This happened two times at the end where they were surrounded, but just sat down, and suddenly it was morning and they were perfectly fine.

It’s a horror, no one should be perfectly fine…ever.

3 out of 10 points.

Conclusion:

Justin, don’t read this and give up. There’s a very interesting story in there, you just need to focus on that more instead of making the characters rag on each other.

I’m guessing that this is one of your first scripts, and that’s okay. We all have to start somewhere.

The beauty of your idea is it’s not an expensive script, and people are into bigfoot and the whole crypto zoology thing.

Don’t give up.

46 out of 100 points.

(Just so you know, Roy’s always gives my scripts 20s…just kidding. One time he gave me a 25.)

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for taking a look. I knew it needed some work and you got a lot of it right. This was my first feature script and it was a shooting script pretty much written for my eyes only until on a whim I posted it on Amazon Studios. It was written with a tight budget in mind (thus the over reliance on dialog). However the next rewrite I am planning is not written with a low budget in mind, I intend to clean up my act in regards to formatting and grammar, and the ideas I have in mind are much better (now that I’m older and wiser). I really appreciate the constructive notes and I will most definately be refferring to them as I write.

    Although the script is flawed I think the concept has a ton of potential. My next draft will better mine that potential. Thanks for all the help!

  2. Not at all a problem, Justin. As I mention on the Amazon Studios forum, I think you’re also onto something here, and the trends are pointing towards horror scripts with low to medium budgets.

    I think once cleaned up right, folks would wanna take a look at it. (Finding the folks, that the trick though.)

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