Today’s script takes us back on the hunt for vampires, or vampiri as our Serbian characters refer to them. In the lore it’s also possible for these creatures of the undead to spawn dhampir which are forced to kill their vampiri relatives if they want to escape the curse of eternal unlife.
Dhampira: The Vampire’s Daughter by Eduardo Soto-Falcon
Logline – A woman dreams with a seductive and haunting man that drains her energy. With the aid of a mysterious foreigner, she investigates her family’s past and learns that the legends of vampires and dhampirs (offspring of vampires and mortals) are much more than simple folk tales.
Let’s get to it.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Yes, and it was adequate, but nothing more.
I didn’t have trouble understanding any of it, which was good, but as Roy and I delve deeper into the questions we have set up for the Sunday Spotlight, I’ve got to say “just adequate” isn’t enough.
Remember Friday’s article where it talked about the HUGE stack of scripts on a reader’s desk? Is adequate description going to make your script better than all the others in that stack? Some maybe, but it needs the BEST chance to beat them all.
I think Eduardo could do with a bit of spicing up in his descriptions, but as nothing was drastically wrong:
8 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Format was pretty good.
There were a few spots that had grammar problems. Now in the dialogue, I excused these as a lot of the characters were Serbian. I have a bunch of friends that are also, and the characters reminded me of their parents who were born there but moved here, and their sentence structure or choice isn’t always correct.
Page 5 – Saying “lifesaver boats” instead of “lifeboats.”
Page 5 – German warships, airplanes and a pack of U-boats attack relentlessly the convoy. (Should be “relentlessly attack.”)
Page 25 – “Clench” used instead of “quench” when talking about thirst.
Simple things like that. There were a few of them, and they weren’t terrible, but remember any slight slip up that takes a reader out of your story isn’t good.
Oh and 92 pages is short, especially when you read about some of the problems later on.
6 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
The voiceover at the beginning wasn’t bad, BUT there should be a big change. Jovan should write the diary, but have it preface the story he wants to tell Nellie. Currently it’s too long and too detail oriented, so skip the day to day stuff.
Before he leaves her, have Jovan tell Nellie there are things he needs to tell her, then throw us off by having him start a diary that includes more than just his life on the ship.
As you know, Tess…
Mara and Tess’s talking in the beginning was almost complete exposition, and it was pretty bad.
In one line, Tess even says, “Oh yeah, I forgot,” when asking where Mara’s dad is. Of course she forgot, because she had to ask or how else would we know that?
Most of what they discuss is that Mara doesn’t know much about her family, especially who her father is. Make this come out in a more exciting way that seems more natural.
Go back and look at the script. ANYTIME Tess and Mara talk, cut that scene and come up with a way to give us the information that is showing, not telling.
Ditch all the “girl” talk.
Uncle Gaston and the Family Tree
This part was positively primeval…
Gaston and Mara sit around and talk too much. In fact the entire script is almost all talking.
It’s not enough to give characters an interesting place to talk if all they’re doing is just sitting/standing and talking. They need to do something.
Vuk’s Real Purpose
Vuk and Mara are going through the graveyard, and the exposition there is pretty good. It’s to the point, BUT I’d argue they should be doing something more, like trying to find Daniel’ body, so Vuk can cut the head off.
Tess says “girl” way too much.
I would delete the chief engineer dialogue at the beginning since it doesn’t add anything.
The lines of dialogue weren’t bad, there was a bit of subtext, but the biggest problem as I mentioned above was getting over all the exposition.
Characters were drawn well, as their dialogue did seem to set them apart.
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?
It’s a vampire story, with a folk tale kind of twist.
Other than flying and quickly disappearing though, the vampires don’t do anything outrageous.
There are a lot of detailed locations that might be hard to show in another medium, but when I think of how the story is now, I admit I have a hard time picturing a trailer.
I guess what I’m saying is this could be as much a movie as it could a play.
5 out of 10
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?
As I mentioned above, the twist and the lore seemed either well researched if true, or well thought out if Eduardo made it up.
Personally, I also like how he drew the Serbian characters, giving us little hints of their culture.
My favorite? Page 17, where Vuk askes for SLIVOVITZ! I had one buddy in particular, who’s grandfather had a still and made his own slivo. He’d run that stuff through several times, and when you took a shot of it, you lost your breath it was so strong. (Looking back I wonder if anyone ever went blind until they got the number of runs just right.)
This might be personal preference, but for some of the exposition or locations it’d almost be better to see more of the culture, or at least parts of the Old World these folks still cling to in the US, similar to the older generations in examples like Good Fellas or The Sopranos.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
The first two pages are good.
Jovan’s going off to sea, and he has a feeling something’s going to happen.
I’ll admit I kept reading (but remember I have to for what we do here). A reader may or may not.
Going back, as I mentioned before, if Jovan’s writing in the diary about his past, he should hint at this to Nellie (his daughter) early on that she doesn’t know, but it’s important he tell her.
10 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Nellie still waits for him at the dock.
We’re introduced to Mara, who’s moving back in with her mom as she goes to school.
Her mom is being visited by a ghost each night called the Revenant.
And someone calls to say they’ve found Jovan’s body lost at sea after all these years.
The nuts and bolts we need are there, but the problem was, again, the exposition in it all. Too much talking and it took too much time.
I assume the inciting incident was supposed to be Jovan’s body being found, which is a good engine for the subplot, but a weak plot point.
The body being returned should be more of a B story, with the Revenant attacking Emma being the main story that gets us going.
There needs to be a complete restructure of the script, and I’ll give my suggestions in the conclusion for the author to consider.
7 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
This script had a definite midpoint.
Around page 46 it went from being a dull story to a good one.
I think we can all see this as a problem, but once Mara teamed up with Vuk, the story really started to move along.
Good thing for Eduardo is that he’s got a structure there, it’ll just take some moving around.
Another large problem is not utilizing good scenes.
An example from page 64 has Vuk and Mara dealing with the corpse of Jovan. They have to chop off his head to take away his vampir abilities, but they’re worried he’s going to come back in another form and attack them as they do so.
This scene reminded me a lot of ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. A lot of watching over dead bodies to make sure they’re not vampires in that book. I was expecting the same sort of suspense here, but Vuk and Mara do exactly what they came to do, cut the head off tie it to the feet, and that’s that.
(For this scene I actually started writing “good scene” as it started, then wrote “lame, nothing happens” after I completed it.)
Now there’s a reason Jovan doesn’t come to attack them, but this is still an excellent opportunity to have suspense build, like hearing something from the other room, or someone burst in that they think is Jovan, but isn’t, SOMETHING to give this scene a better payoff.
And there were a few more examples like this. Just when something was about to happen, it seemed to, but the scene ends so it happens off camera. (A HORRIBLE place for it to happen, by the way.)
3 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
There’s enough vampire stuff to placate that crowd, but I think there’s enough mystery and lore to play to folks looking for a good ghost story of sorts too.
Some of the things people will have problems with is Mara’s quick acceptance of the Revenant.
She never argues it, ESPECIALLY when she sees it on top of her mother, then it vanishes, and her mother wakes up all startled screaming, “What are you doing?”
Mara doesn’t ask what the hell she just saw, but asks if her mom’s alright, and then once it’s confirmed she’s all, “Cool, I’ll see you in the morning!” Mara just saw a ghost, vampire, SOMETHING she can’t explain and doesn’t even mention it? Doesn’t make sense.
That scene brings up another point. Why all the candles? This part is set in 2011, and they live in an apartment building, so why no lights? That part was very odd.
Page 5 (that infamous page) – I was curious if there wasn’t a better way for Jovan to lose the diary. Almost like it is always escaping his grasp. Him saving the chief engineer is a bad point, because it shows there’s good in him, but that never comes out in the rest of the story.
Page 31 – Jovan comes off very creepy with how he almost forces himself on Mirela. She doesn’t give any clear indication she’s interested, but he kisses her, takes her skirts off, etc. I had the feeling you were going more for true love here, which plays better, especially considering the tragedy that love costs him.
Again, more needs to happen early on for the audience or reader to stay with this story.
4 out of 10 points.
This is really two stories intertwined. One is the story of how Jovan came to curse his family, while the second story is of one of his descendants, Mara, trying to end that curse.
If done properly, this can be a really deep and thought out calling card (as Roy likes to call spec scripts). The problem for some is to capture Jovan’s story we’ll need flashbacks. Most people will say this is a huge error, but as readers we’ll CRAVE that info of how did this all start.
When faced with the problem of either “telling instead of showing” or opting for flashbacks, I think flashbacks are the better choice. The story actually reminded me a lot of Godfather 2 or even a Lost episode, where we were getting the background information that we were curious about as the main story develops.
That said, here’s a brief synopsis for your rewrite.
Jovan goes to sea, starting his story, but dies.
Flash forward to Mara, moving in with her mom. (Cutting out 90% of the Tess talking points.)
Night one, she sees the Revenant on her mom. Mom dismisses her, so she goes to see Gaston the next day.
Gaston then tells her about her father, and her being a dhampir. She doesn’t believe it, but then mom dies and Gaston is murdered by the Revenant.
Enter Vuk (who showed up briefly before leaving Gaston’s shop), and serves as her guide as she goes to kill Daniel.
In between these scenes present one scene as Jovan falling in love with Mirela, and a second him being cursed by Buba.
MIDPOINT – And where the two stories will intertwine. Mara kills Daniel (goes from being a regular girl to a vampire-slayer), and we see the scene of Jovan coming out of the sea undead and attacking the Nazis (she killed her father, but the stories not done).
Rest of the script involves Vuk and Mara trying to stop Jovan, while the story of what happened to Nellie is presented, showing us there’s more than just Jovan.
As I mentioned in another question, the first half of the story was horrible, while the second half was really good. It’s time to go back and cut almost all of the exposition and flush out the scenes with the most conflict and excitement.
This will be tough, but I think if you at least consider the outline above (to use or inspire better plot points), you’ll see how you can turn this story into something a Hollywood reader can’t put down.
Total 56 out of 100 points.
First, I’m unsure why the comment box here is not linked already to my username, but then since I haven’t used this site much, I probably don’t know how to.
Second, I think the review is too harsh. Even so, it would have been very helpful back when this was competing in Amazon Studios. For good or bad, the contest was fundamental on the rewrites, and not precisely regarding feedback and critiques, which I didn’t get many and certainly not this detailed or harsh.
The first draft, done back in April was around 120 pages. Then in July I recorded the dialogue track and that led me into the next rewrite. I actually cut the audio and then I matched that in the script. Then I started doing the test movie, which was a colossal endeavor and needed to cut as much as possible (since every screen minute required days of work), but keeping it over the minimum that I set (90 minutes).
This process determined by the Amazon contest makes some of your comments a bit strange for me, since the trailer and test movie are already done. And I’m sure if you watch it (at http://www.dhampira.com) many of your views would change, because you’d see my vision. This process made me realize that what I put on the page as a writer is just a fraction of what there really is in me as a filmmaker. In order to see and judge exactly what I meant to do, you’d need to watch the test movie.
Those 30 pages that were cut out by the dialogue track and the test movie make a big difference, although perhaps you would have hated them too.
The origin of this story is 10 years back, when I wrote and produced the 10-minute short film of the same title. This short film was greatly successful (not monetarily) and is considered one of the best vampire movies to ever come out from Mexico. My main objective in writing the feature was to keep as consistent as possible with the short’s plot and style. This would answer many of your questions of why I did something or other.
In closing, thank you very much for taking the time to do this critique. I will save it for my future reference as I don’t want to give up on this project. I plan to write a novelette which will have a little bit of this script’s plot, but it will mainly deal with the prequel (“Lovers of Darkness”) which you can find at my Amazon Studios page. I also need to go back and write a new draft if I want to show this again. Improve the first half and recover some of the pages that were cut out during the test movie process. Perhaps even combine my two scripts into only one, as I plan to do with the novelette.
Falcon, hvala for letting us read it. (Sorry, my serbo-croatian is limited.)
I think the scriptwriter would do well to incorporate these critiques as he rewrites the script, rather than being so defensive saying the reviews were “harsh”.