How’s everyone’s weekend so far? Hopefully good, and thanks for spending a bit of it with us.
Today we’re taking a look at our first completed project from the CeltX forums.
Break by Chase Hinton
Two young lovers use each other to try and fill the void abuse has left in their lives.
Nick meets the girl of his dreams, Jessica, when he stops her from boyfriend, Jake, from beating the crap out of her in a parking lot.
A few months pass, and Nick then runs into Jessica at the grocery store. She’s fresh from a another fight with Jake, and with a little convincing she spends the night with Nick.
The two fall for each other and Jessica stays with Nick.
Jake isn’t done yet, and Jessica is pregnant with his child.
Nick seems okay with it, and wants her to go back to med school, but it comes out he’s lied about wanting to raise the baby, and about his dead father.
They straighten things out, Jessica gets the abortion, Nick proposes, and all seems happy.
Nick goes to work for his abusive dad in order to pay for Jessica’s UCLA internship, but the two barely have time to talk, let alone be a couple with their hectic schedules.
It’s this that tempts them back into the arms of past lovers, but will their love be enough to bring them back to each other?
Let’s get to it.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Visualize, yes. Can we film it? In a lot of cases no.
The details included about what the characters are thinking and feeling are good in a book, but too hard to convey on the big screen.
It’s much easier (and better) to show them doing things because of what they’re feeling, and then the audience can fill in the blanks in their head why the characters are doing this. If we, as writers, draw our characters well, then the audience will know what a character’s motivation is.
Shocked JESSICA turns, nearly bumping into NICK. He is so close. So confident that this is the girl. That this is the right thing. She can’t help but lock eyes with him.
How do you show he’s so confident Jessica is the one? Does he smile? Does he stare at her?
If you really need to convey this point (I’d argue you don’t since the entire script is about him fighting for her) then it needs to be a piece of dialogue. Otherwise just leave unfilmables like this out.
Page 19 – No need to tell us she’s crying from the pepper spray too. Jessica cries. Plain and simple.
Page 20 – Drop the bit about adrenaline keeping her together. Have her take a deep breath, straighten up, and open the door. THAT can be filmed and conveys the same sense.
Page 78 – Jessica can’t ask questions in descriptions. Even “what the hell” type questions. It either needs to be voiceover (which is lame here) or a more effective way would be single line back and forth, her looking at the marker, the pregnancy test, then herself.
Page 84 – Jessica and Nick kiss passionately, okay we can see that, but how do you show “probably for the first time in a long time?” It either is, or it isn’t, and we’ve either seen them kiss recently or we haven’t.
I’m going to stop with this last one, because it’s important. We can’t cheat and catch our script up to the story with short description like this.
What we’d need to see is it set up with the two of them just being too busy to have time for intimacy. Chase does a decent job of this, but remember we need to have a stark contrast, so when we as an audience see a moment like this we’re completely moved by it, and you won’t have to say “first time in a long time” in the description.
Now these instances weren’t horrible, but they were distracting as I kept asking, “How do you show that?” There were a few smaller ones, so doing a thorough reread asking, “Can that be filmed,” isn’t a bad idea.
One problem I found towards the end, and not sure if it was in the beginning, was taking too long to say something simple.
The bedroom is not completely dark due to light outside the window that is brighter than the blinds can shade and a small glow coming from a night light in the bathroom.
It’s much easier to say:
The bathroom nightlight give the bedroom a glow. Or. City lights permeate the blinds, illuminating the room slightly.
We dont need two sources of light unless they’re essential to the progress of the story.
After that, there was at least one case where you ran over 5 lines near the end.
The final thing I’ll mention is the beginning. It’s a full page of description. Now it’s not bad, but I’d warn about starting a spec script like this.
Is there a way you can bring us into the scene right as Nick is about to eat his sandwich, but is rudely interrupted by Jake yelling after Jessica?
5 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
A few minor points.
No need to capitalize complete names throughout the script. This is another “tell” for new writers. You have two options:
A) Capitalize a complete character name when they’re first introduced in the script.
B) Capitalize character names when they first appear in each scene.
FYI, most people use option one, but I have heard people argue for option two, saying readers skim, and it gives them a better idea of who’s in a scene as they skim.
Viewing angles. I made note of it on page 13 of how we’re supposed to look at things. (After WIDE SHOT OF GROCERY STORE.) Just show us the scene.
Leave out ALL song references. That’s someone else’s job to assign music to a scene. You can have it playing in your head as you read it, but leave it off the paper.
Page 97 – Just “Fade out” or type “The End.”
Overall, it was good formatting, but we need to remember:
Unless shooting this ourselves, we’re writers, plain and simple. We’re not the directors, we’re not the composers, and we’re not the actors. We’re expected to convey a great story in an acceptable format.
6 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
The dialogue was good. Nick and Jessica had a very snappy rapport. (Nick mainly.) And it stressed how Nick was unlike her typical boyfriend.
My boyfriend is abusive to me now–
And yet you’re still with him.
It’s not that easy.
Yes it is.
Did you ever say anything to your
That’s not the same thing. I
actually want things to be good
with my dad.
I want things to be good with Jake.
Wow. Suddenly going seems like a
There’s a lot of quick back and forth similar to this. The reason I think I liked it is that most of it was excellent examples of how we should be economical with dialogue. As new writers we tend to have them say too much, and this is an example of what we SHOULD be doing.
Was it all great? No, but it worked and kept the story moving forward. That’s what we need.
Was there subtext, yes, but look at that last line, Jessica doesn’t say, “I’m leaving cause I’m mad.” She suggests she’s leaving in a way that’s not “on the nose.”
One suggestion I would make is to go back and find the areas where Nick seems to monologue. Is this needed? Can it be trimmed back?
Then reread the dialogue and find cases where it’s more than two lines. Can you cut that back to one line to keep up with the better paced dialogue in the story?
Lastly, the characters were all true to their voices. The one minor thing that bugged me, was Jessica and Nick could sometimes be sarcastic with each other, but I wasn’t sure if the writer was just suggesting they were both similar personalities.
8 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?
Do I see a trailer in my head for this movie? No.
It’s a drama with a lot of talking. Most of it in and around Nick’s apartment once we get past the first couple of scenes.
This might be good though, as it wouldn’t take a lot to produce this movie and make it an independent film.
It doesn’t trumpet big screen, but the one thing I’m afraid the stage wouldn’t be able to convey is the emotion on the character’s faces as things happen. Our caring about Nick and Jessica’s story is very much dependent on that.
7 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?
If this is one of Blake’s first scripts, I’d say he’s off to a great start.
The one thing I think he has going for him is his ability to move the story forward. This is rare in all writers as we like to overindulge our audience with details and cool scenes that don’t always fit.
One thing I think he could polish up on is basic plot points. We’ll talk about this in question 8, but this story in particular could have used a bit more structure so we arc through it better.
7 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
Starts out good.
A delicious sub.
Our main character being attracted to someone else’s girlfriend.
Said character then beating up abusive boyfriend.
It drew me in. I wanted to know where this was going. The one problem I had, and I think professional readers will too, was the wall of description the script started off with.
It was daunting.
As I mentioned before, do we need all those details? Can’t Jessica just get out of the car and storm out faster? Can Jake grabbing her be sooner?
Reading it again for this question it’s too bogged down by minute details. We get a great picture in our heads, but speed things up a bit.
13 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Nick beats up Jake, but Jessica leaves with him.
Nick’s missed his chance with his dream girl.
Or has he? (Not to worry, Chase won’t leave us hanging.)
They bump into each other at the grocery store, Nick finds her favorite cereal, they go fly kites, then make sweet, sweet love that night.
In essence they fall in love.
It’s all there, and I think moves very well. The only criticism I have is that it’s not a story for me, but I can’t take points off for that.
15 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
Okay, here’s where I had the biggest issue.
Over simplified, here’s the plot:
Nick and Jessica meet and fall in love.
They make up.
They make up.
Rinse, wash, repeat.
Now, for most dramas that’s how things work right? Sure, but it’s always building to something huge.
The problem here is, the fight doesn’t last long enough and Chase let’s Nick and Jessica off the hook too easy.
There’s some big issues he deals with too. Abuse. Abortion. Insecurity. All flow into the story well, he just seems too afraid to hurt his characters.
Hurt them. We’ll like them more.
Miss Opportunities for Great Drama
It’s established early that Nick lied to Jessica. It’s a big issue for her.
Unfortunately after he admits to it, he never lies again really. What I thought would be awesome, and what was established once we meet Nick’s dad (until the work shoulder squeeze) is that he seems like a really good guy.
What if he never abused Nick, and it doesn’t come out until the end. This can be the lie that then works as your “darkest moment” fight between Nick and Jessica. Then you’ve offered up a world of opportunity for your main character. What if being abused like Jessica, he was actually abusing himself, thinking he could never be a great man like his step dad is to him. That’d be a hard shadow to live in, because Michael is just a great guy.
The problem is, right now the issue of Nick’s abuse is never truly resolved. When he goes to confront Michael about beating him, he doesn’t fight back, and seems to accept the cop out answer by Michael of, “That’s just how I love you. Get over it.” That’s a lame way to handle it.
The fight that leads Nick to that is also somewhat lame. Jessica is upset about her weight, and mad Nick still thinks she’s hot, even if she’s fatter. It plays out awkwardly and doesn’t naturally lead to the fall out that comes of it.
They have so many issues they could fight over, pick something else.
A GREAT example of going too easy on a character.
Nick didn’t want her to have Jake’s baby, and she was mad about that. She still does it because she loves Nick.
This is HUGE. Him wanting to propose to her is another great part of this plot, BUT she can’t want to talk about ANYTHING right after that operation. That’s one of the biggest decisions a woman can make regardless of which side of it you’re on.
Treat it as such, and make it real. Marriage will be the last thing on Jessica’s mind, and there should be a resentment towards Nick right after this decision, because her love for him made her go through with it.
Nick and Jessica are growing apart due to their different schedules. That’s good.
Then we see old romances wander back into the story. That’s GREAT!
Unfortunately, Nick and Jessica run back to each other before anything really happens.
Chase did an EXCELLENT job of setting this up, and then, like a house of cards, it just collapsed.
Make it worthwhile. Push Nick and Jessica almost to the point of cheating (or maybe even have one of them cheat) and THEN bring them back together.
That’s drama. Drama’s screenwriting.
Faked Pregnancy Test
Nick and Jessica want a baby together. Nick’s really into the idea. So much so that Jessica decides to draw an extra line on the pregnancy test. She doesn’t think it looks legit, and tosses it into the garbage.
I’m thinking, “OMG,” as I read this, but again there’s no pay off.
Big missed opportunity here. HUGE!
Think of the drama you’d have on your hands if Nick gets done with his pushups right after, goes in to take a shower, and finds the pregnancy test in the garbage can. He thinks it’s real. He thinks it’s positive. He thinks Jessica is lying to him, and doesn’t want his baby.
Don’t WASTE this. Make it PAY OFF!
Given these few issues, the story seemed to have no real progression. It got us from point A to point B, sure, but it meandered on the way. Novelists can do this. Screenwriters can’t.
3 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Few things here that will annoy an audience or a reader.
The first thing I noticed and wondered was if Nick could somehow read minds.
Knowing the fight around the corner was going on.
Knowing Jessica’s favorite cereal was Frosted Flakes.
Knowing Jessica had never flown a kite before.
It’s all a bunch of set ups with no later explanation. This doesn’t work. You either need to include how Nick knows these things, or leave them out.
This one’s reader specific. Nick likes to “take it all in” in descriptions and usually about Jessica.
It’s too much staring. Staring is boring. Keep things moving, or give him alternate ways to show he admires Jessica.
The last thing is minor, but worth mentioning. On page 55, Jessica says if she goes back to school she’ll have to stop tutoring, thus losing her primary source of income.
I didn’t know she tutored, and it was stated as if it were previous knowledge. Mention it early or get rid of it.
6 out of 10 points.
Again, this type of story isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but I think by the score we can tell Chase still did a lot of things well. The major area he needs to focus is on the development of his characters’ relationship as they face the rigors of a more challenging story.
Total 70 out of 100 points.
This script deals with an almost dangerously serious subject in a heartfelt manner.
Hank correctly notes formatting and description problems, but for me the main thing the script needs is a compelling B story to take us out of the main story and give us a couple of breaks.
Also I believe this, like many of the director-at-heart scripts I’ve read, would play shorter than a minute per page.
Still the author is to be congratulated for choosing to address these issues.