Today we take a look at Tridecagon by BS Kalsi.
Logline: It’s a story of how a good, happy-go-lucky young man turns evil.
A more appropriate version for this script is:
A group of friends, on their way home from vacation, stop in a strange town to get gas only to find the town completely vacant and permeated by a weird fog.
For those of us who don’t know (I didn’t until BS told me), tridecagon means thirteen sided polygon, the luckiest of all polygons, lol. Here that polygon is the shape of a room where the fog got its power.
But I digress, so shall we?
1.) Can we visualize the description?
BS does a good job of giving us what we need, but too much in some parts. One example is early on in the script.
Hanna spots a souvenir shop and walks leisurely to examine
the window. She likes something, walks inside, smiles at
the sales girl.
She picks up a gift, turns it to see from all sides,
doesn’t like it, keeps it back and picks up another one,
She decides to take it, moves ahead to find a card that
will go best with it.
What’s the purpose here? Is this to show Hanna likes wandering off? That her smile at the clerk shows she’s friendly? Or is the action here just to waste time?
If this IS needed it should be:
Hanna eyes a souvenir through the window of a shop.
She walks inside, smiles at the clerk, then purchases her souvenir with a card.
Boom, two lines. (But again is it even needed?)
There are numerous spots throughout the script like this, and I think they need to be reworked to figure out what’s important and what’s not.
4 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Kind of. There’s the old caveat of “is” and “are” followed by doing things.
ANDREW 27, is driving the car from the parking area towards
the main entrance of the hotel.
Everybody is looking closely at the fog, trying to figure
out if what Jason is saying has any relevance.
This is active voice, and a screenwriting party foul. During a proofread we should be going through and making sure it’s “Andrew drives” and “Everyone looks”.
The next subject is the extensive use of various shots.
SERIES OF SHOTS:
1. Car getting out of hotel’s gate.
2. Long shot of car going down the slope.
3. Medium shot of car down the slope.
Nothing should be set up like this.
If it’s an important part of the story, write it as description. There were at least four of these series in the script. Some were needed, some where just for show. It’s the writer’s job to go back and ask, “What should I keep that moves my story forward and what should I get rid of?”
Lastly, at 97 pages, this is a great length to shoot for on this “should be” fast paced thriller flick. Unfortunately, and we’ll read in the next question, some of the information in the script is doubled, thus inflating the length.
4 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Don’t DOUBLE DESCRIPTION by using it in DIALOGUE!
Hanna notices blood on the seats.
Look! Blood on the seats.
Remember, this isn’t a radio drama. It’s meant to be SEEN on the big screen. A good director will set this up, where Hanna walks to a seat, looks down and calls for her friends to come over. Once there we’ll see what they see, that there’s blood on the seat.
This script was LITTERED with numerous examples of this, but should be written similar to this:
Hanna walks over to a seat on the bus.
Guys, look at this.
Her friends join her and see a pool of blood on the seat, which spills onto the floor.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Now this is a bit longer, but as I mentioned, there’s some page length to play with here.
Don’t EXPLAIN it. SHOW it!
A rookie mistake (and I don’t say that to insult BS as we’ve all been there and I still do this at times) is characters explaining what they’re doing instead of just doing it.
Dialogue is meant to create conflict and move the story forward.
Example of the problem from page 5:
Hold your breath, we’re going to
enter the fog, I’ll have to
Slow down, keep all eyes on the
The road is steep, narrow and
getting slippery with the moisture.
… I think we should stop in the
first available town.
Honestly I’m not in favor of
stopping here. None of us are
familiar with this place…. Soon
we’re reaching plains.
I think Andrew is right… We
shouldn’t stop in these hills…
The area is very remote and cutoff
Brian ‘s dialogue is what I meant, but I included the other two characters as there’s a need to clean up dialogue throughout.
See how Brian is literally giving us the play by play? He shouldn’t be. If there’s stuff he’s saying that is needed bump it up to description.
The car enters a thick fog. Visibility drops. Brian stops the music as the car descends a steep hill.
We need to find a place to pull over.
But we’re in the middle of nowhere.
I’m not driving in this.
What will we do if we get stuck?
Something of that nature. Remember, the description is literally what we’ll be seeing on the big screen so no need to double it up with dialogue.
Andrew and Hanna are examples of dialogue that needs to be trimmed down, which again are throughout the entire story.
For practice, page 10, read this quick part and tell me how’d you change it:
What the hell, the bus is empty.
Looks like the passengers deserted,
leaving their things behind.
Everybody is in the bus now. They look at the belongings
Where is everybody? There is no
reason why a bus should stop like
this in the middle of the road.
Page 82 – The crooks say “Man” too much. In addition to this, the characters spoke almost as if they weren’t native English speakers. This should be revised throughout.
Because these problems were numerous, but because a few characters did have their own voices (Andrew is funny, Hanna friendly, Brian blunt/matter of fact):
3 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?
Despite its faults, this was definitely something I could see in my head, and envision on the big screen. There was decent action and suspense, but it should have all been tied together better especially with the title, but I’ll give suggestions on that later.
8 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?
We’ve seen monsters before. We’ve seen eerie fog before. No points there.
The two things I liked was first how BS created the deserted town.
Second, and this one is hard to put into words, he conveyed a sense that he understood how things worked. For instance, how to break into a safe, how the gas generator would work, etc. These small things made the story more believable in a way that’s hard to put my finger on.
5 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
With the current logline? Nope. With the title (other than being in a flashback)? Nope. Within the first two pages? Nope.
There are things in the script that have no reason being there.
They are all working in a large Computer firm.
This never becomes important.
(on cell phone)
Hurry up Rebecca, all of us are
waiting for you down in the lobby.
INT. ELEVATOR – NOON
(on cell phone)
I’m in the elevator, will be right
down in a moment.
Rebecca switches off her cell phone and puts it back in her
There’s a boy about 12 years in the elevator with her,
wearing roller skates. He notices the suitcase she has by
Are you leaving now?
Yes we came for the weekend. What
I’m here with my parents on
vacations. We’re from Argentina.
Oh! Boy! You remind me of Buenos
Aires, Argentina the beautiful land
of pure air.
We’ve just had a page wasted, and for what? To hint at a fondness the writer has for Argentina? (I say this because he then has characters speak Spanish later on, that could just have easily in English.)
If they’re leaving at night (which is GOOD, so keep it) we need a decent reason. Maybe it’s Sunday night, and they all have to work the next day. They’ve delayed their trip as long as they could, but now it’s time to go.
Driving at night is never good, and heading through strange hills only makes it that much spookier. These points let us know they’re destined for some sort of trouble.
The only other thing missing is a warning to the characters (but excitement for us to keep reading/watching) talking about the fog. This could be the crazy old maintenance man warning of a strange fog moving through the hills, or a local newspaper title Hanna passes on her way to the souvenir shop that reads, “Strange Fog Plagues Hills.”
As things are now, there’s nothing to draw us in.
1 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Once we’re inside the car and the fog’s all around us, we’re interested. (At least I was.)
Cleaning up the dialogue will help this fact, and tweaking the descriptions of the fog and town will enhance it.
Things need to be drawn out more in the bar. This is an initial example of establishing relationships while also giving the audience scary moments. Having Hanna go off by herself was a good idea, but she needs to be scared by something. This could be Brian or Andrew, who tries to startle her, then make romantic advances.
Too much focus on the fog currently, and not what it’s hiding.
10 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
There are a lot of good scenes in here, unfortunately they’re too bogged down by the dialogue.
Setups that I liked:
Hanna hurting her ankle.
Leaving the gas can behind.
Jason getting hurt and needing medicine.
The dog being a warning system.
These things all create opportunities for conflict.
What I didn’t like:
Page 67 – Hanna’s got a bum ankle but can run to the drug store with Brian?
Page 73 – Brian and Hanna are afraid of being caught by John and the fog, their friend is hurt and could possibly die, but hey, it’s cool let’s stop and have sex? Seriously?
If you need this, it needs to be flushed out in an earlier scene.
Page 80 – They get back to the hotel, but why didn’t they just grab the gas can while they were out there?
If they don’t grab it, and I don’t think they should, it needs to be left back at the car. This makes getting the gas can very dangerous, and their choice is either get the gas and live a bit longer, or eventually be overcome by John in the hotel.
5 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Big things first.
The title. If you’re going to call it Tridecagon there needs to be a better tie in than the flashback. This scene just seems like it was added for the sake of having a thirteen sided room.
Honestly, we don’t need to know how John got his powers. It’s a super natural thriller, and our disbelief is suspended in that he has weaknesses. Because we have a general idea of how we can beat him, we don’t need to know where he came from, or at least our characters don’t. (Remember their lives are in jeopardy, so self preservation is at the front of their minds.)
If BS is dead set on keeping this though, there needs to be a thirteen sided room IN the town. Maybe John awakes from a 100 year slumber in it with a thirst for blood. Maybe the group stumbles onto it with fresh blood on the alter. Maybe both. Whatever the possibility it needs to tie in better.
Other things that audiences won’t like.
Page 75-ish – The doctor comes out of nowhere. It seems too convenient, so much so that it’s barely a step above one of the characters saying, “Gee, I wish we had a doctor,” and then one magically steps forward.
Make the doctor in the hotel from the get go. It’s not unrealistic in this type of story to have a doctor watching over the hurt townsfolk, but not being able to do too much for them.
Page 79 – There’s an entire section of the script dedicated to Mary making coffee and then passing it out. Again, why is this important as it completely slowed down the pace of the script? Give scenes a purpose or get rid of them.
Page 91 – New characters were introduced in the third act, and then killed off. These fellas came to rob a bank and then all die. I thought one or two of them were going to somehow assist our main characters. Give characters a purpose or get rid of them.
Page 97 – And this last one might be chalked up to my personal preference, but the dog should have helped them catch John in the end. He’s a friendly dog and runs from John the entire time, but when he has a chance to help his new friends he’s nowhere to be found.
5 out of 10 points.
I LOVE when we’re presented with a story that has an abandoned town and our characters are right in the middle of it. Usually it’s zombie movies, but that doesn’t matter. I love the not knowing.
This script has the bare essentials of that idea, and by working more to set up conflict and drama by removing the matter of fact dialogue and over explanatory description our author will be onto something.
Total 45 out of 100 points.