Time to review a script! Which I am not at all used to doing. Reviewing movies is a bit easier, chances are the film I’m critiquing isn’t being read by the actual writer or director.
But having said that, I did offer the winner my input towards the winning script. And I must warn you beforehand, this won’t be pleasant. I have a ton of issues with this script that I will elaborate on. I will try my best to be as helpful as I can. You can take my criticism with whatever grain of salt you like.
Since the writer has stated he’s more interested in hearing about the story, characters and dialogue, less of the technical format stuff, I’ll try not to focus too much time on it. But there are problems. They are all easy fixes though. It is what the delete key was made for.
The camera shots need to go. There is a way to frame a scene the way you want without spelling out THIS IS THE SHOT I WANT. Unless you have plans to direct it and/or produce, star… Just put an axe to all that stuff. It really isn’t necessary. And is seriously distracting.
I peeked and saw some others have mentioned the use of adding music. As bad as you really want to include that stuff, it too needs to go. Sure, it sets the mood you want, but you have no idea if you’ll be able to get the rights or if the director has any interest. Most likely he won’t and will have his own vision. One that will contradict your own. This also comes back to your use of setting up camera shots. I’m not saying it is a script killer or anything, it’s just another thing drawing the reader’s attention away. I don’t want to have to stop reading and think of the camera angle you want or have to remember the song you have noted as to be played during this scene.
And what exactly is the purpose of the songs? At the nightclub, maybe I’d understand, but even at the end with the scene taking place at the hospital you have music cues. Do you want the reader to stop reading and play that particular song? And what if they don’t know that song, which is going to be the case. It completely defeats your purpose. So lose the music cues and the camera shots. It isn’t needed.
You can have your reasons and justify them to yourself, but the name of the game is to keep your reader reading. Avoid unnecessary distractions. If this script gets in the hands of a producer, you got one shot with them. They aren’t going to read it a second time. You were lucky to get them the first time.
And that does it for me harking on the technical stuff. Now for story. Though one more thing, as a rule of thumb, try removing any unnecessary ARE, IS or words with ING at the end. Especially the most evil of words BEGINS.
For example: ROLF AND FRANZISKA are standing, that should just be ROLF AND FRANZISKA stand…
That isn’t always the case obviously, just use at your own discretion. Things should be happening, not about to or are going to.
Ok, this time for real.
Actually, before that!
Maybe I’ll go over the dialogue first because that is really this script’s major issue. I hated the dialogue here. Maybe bad dialogue wouldn’t be that much of an issue but here there is just so much of it. Dialogue I mean. It all feels so unnatural or it’s just there to move the story along. It was like every line of dialogue I was expecting a character to start out saying, as you know…
Dialogue needs to flow and seem as natural as possible. There were also a few typos that didn’t help. Like page 109 the Doctor says “Where you’re going”. Either it is broken English or a typo. It isn’t a lot, but there are a bunch of instances like that. That’s really where you start to see maybe English isn’t your first language. When it comes to dialogue I don’t really know what to say to help fix it. I’ve found you either have a talent for dialogue or you don’t, it can’t really be taught. It’s just something you’re good at or you’re not.
The best fix is to keep what characters have to say to one another short. Don’t let the story be told using dialogue, which happens a lot here. Too many unnatural encounters.
I’d start things right off with Hans. He is our main character, let him be the first thing we see. You can keep what you have, just maybe rearrange some things. Maybe have the kid Kurt overhear the guards talking about how only half of someone made it across, that would make him even more frightened.
Also, I think it is best to keep the dialogue to a minimum here. There’s way too much talking for people trying to be stealthy. It seems mostly like dialogue trying to explain what is going on. The characters already know all this stuff, you’re basically just telling the audience what they’re about to see. But we aren’t complete idiots, I’m sure we will be able to put it together.
There’s just too much fat. It takes like 20 or more pages to get Hans to say yes to the job we already know he is going to say yes to. He has to say yes or else there’s no movie. The pacing needs to be more fluid, there’s just too much stuff getting in the way of your story.
I mean, Hans doesn’t even meet Danika until like page 90. They should have met around page 30. They also should have started the process of crossing the border a lot sooner too. Again, the plot doesn’t seem to start until page 90. And by then the movie is almost over.
There just doesn’t seem to be too much story here. Everything is drawn out, packed full with filler. There needs to be a sense of urgency. A timetable, a bad guy after them, cops after them, something. Shit needs to happen. Sure we got Dieter going around shooting people after he has a 3 page conversation with them, but… honestly, I didn’t really see the reason why Dieter was in this. You set him up to be the villain and then just drop the idea half way through. That just leaves a giant vacancy in the film. No more bad guy, no sense of urgency or care. Someone killed his boyfriend that we met once, why do we care? You say he’s the love of his life, but again that doesn’t come across as so.
Hell, now that I think about it, I’d even cut the stuff at the beginning with the kid. I’d make Hans a drug trafficker. That would make more sense. Or at least make his character more interesting. Keep Dieter the same, but make him a partner in crime to Hans, he supplies the drugs, Hans gets it across the border. Something goes wrong, maybe there’s a police raid. That would mean Hans would now have to find new work, this time smuggling a young girl. Just an idea.
And now that ending.
It’s kind of ridiculous. Nothing that I read leads up to this big supernatural revelation. Mostly it has just been talking about paintings, Hans’ drug addiction, breakfast foods, fun facts about rats… In the end it is just thanks for the girl, we’re going to go sacrifice you now so the gods can heal my daughter’s brain tumor.
Take for example The Kill List. Same kind of setup. A man is hired to do a job, kill a bunch of people on a list. But little by little you start to get the feeling that things just aren’t right. People are accepting happily of their own deaths, contracts are being signed in blood, and the creep factor is just too much to take until the big ambiguous ending.
There is zero setup for what you gave us here. It’s really does just come off as you not having a clue how to end things. Even though you stated that the opposite is true. There is just no connective tissue here. Either cut it off or find another path.
Like I mentioned before, one thing you must do is introduce Danika earlier. And not just to Hans, to the audience. We literally only see her once and that is her trying to hang herself. Since the story is centered around her, it needs to actually feature her. Also, there needs to be more interaction with her and Hans. I know it is kind of cliché, but a budding romance wouldn’t hurt your story or character.
Maybe have them have to stay at the house a little longer before it is safe to continue forward into the sewer. I’m not saying it has to be a full on romance but some attraction wouldn’t be the worst thing. Sometimes a cliché thing is the right thing.
I kind of get what you were going for with Dieter but it just doesn’t work. Keep him as the bad guy. Hell, at the end he could even be the sacrifice needed to help Danika. Have the big final confrontation with Hans stabbing him with a sacrificial dagger or pit or whatever. Just don’t end the story with doctors explaining more things to the audience.
Also, the crossing of the border needs to be more difficult. It mostly seems like anyone could have done it, not sure why they really needed Hans. Unless it was to just kill and sacrifice him afterwards. Which was the plan, right? I got kind of lost there, I was too confused with 1, why Dieter was even still involved with this story and 2, since when did this become a supernatural cultish film?
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done here. Thankfully, nothing is ever written in stone, you can always change anything you want. And hopefully you are able to get something from my ramblings that might help in future drafts. Or just ignore me and listen to what Hank had to say. I’d mostly go with option 2.
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