Hi all, and welcome to our FIRST Monday review.
Hopefully you all know by now Roy and I have switched to a Monday through Friday schedule. We did this since views seemed to VANISH on the weekends as you do whatever else struck your fancy instead of browsing the internet.
Today’s story is part one of a trilogy.
Eons Part 1: The Greatest Story NEVER Told by Jeff Langham
Logline: As a new world order unfolds, a man leads group of ex-government officials on a dangerous expedition to find his estranged father who holds the key to understanding the Biblical origins of recent UFO activity and what it means for the future of mankind.
Synopsis: A UFO crashes. The Philadelphia group needs answers.
Jeremiah and a small group have to find Jeremiah’s estranged father who might hold the key to the answers.
When they find him in the mountains, he tells them an unbelievable story of the First Earth Age.
Knowing this information, they try to make it back to Philadelphia.
In the meantime, Leader Lucci is tracking the group. Deception allows the group to get caught. Now, they face a world leader ready to make the world his own.
Before we get started I wanted to share some back and forth I had with the author.
He told me this was the first of a three part story, and not to hold that against it. I mentioned that I wouldn’t so long as this portion had a clear beginning and ending in and of itself.
He argued the first Lord of the Rings movie didn’t really have an ending (I’d argue it did, since the Fellowship broke up thus ending the story of the Fellowship of the Ring), but let’s say Tolkien left us completely hanging.
Now, I’m not going to say right here whether Jeff succeeded or not with his story, but we, as new writers, need to be careful.
The scripts we’re writing as unknowns should have a start to the story on page one and end that story on page 110ish. Can it be open for a sequel? Sure, but you need to tie most of the plot points up.
Cherry picking an example to support your argument won’t suffice, and you’re fooling yourself when you do. Roy and I get upset a lot when people argue with us saying things like, “Quentin Tarantino does it, and he’s a genius.”
Yeah he is. Chances are, you’re not, and I’m sorry to break that to you. Even Tarantino’s genius only works half of the time with his dialogue and exposition heavy scripts. But HE can do that, since HE’S made money for studios.
The same thing applies here with the ideas of trilogies.
Lords of the Rings was a successful book trilogy BEFORE it was ever a movie. If you write a book series that leaves things open ended in the first book, and it becomes a success (chances are it won’t since audiences need closure) then you can write your script however you want. Studios will be lining up to cash in on the established brand.
But with the deck stacked so unfairly against us to begin with, would you rather follow the “rules” and have say a 1% chance at making it, or go the “rebel” route that leads to a 0.00000000001% chance?
Sure my numbers aren’t exact, but hopefully you see my point. It’s already hard, so why would you make it any harder?
Look at George Lucas. He had success on American Graffiti which allowed him to do Star Wars. Sure he had all three stories planned out, but he was pretty sure he’d do the first one and it’d be a flop. STILL, A New Hope could stand alone if that had happened. He followed the “rules” even after he was already established.
Same thing with the Matrix. (Too bad the sequels weren’t as good as the original.)
Look at most trilogies, books AND films, and you’ll see there’s a definite beginning and an definite end.
Our scripts REQUIRE that.
With that off my chest, let’s get started.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
This script started off rather well.
EXT. OUTSIDE A PENNSYLVANIA DAIRY FARM – DAWN
A DAIRY FARM WORKER drives up to a building in his old
pickup truck for work. He steps out of his truck.
BRIGHT LIGHT zoom over his head.
DAIRY FARM WORKER
A UFO CRASHES
into the field next to the building. The dairy farm worker
stands in disbelief at what he just saw.
Military vehicles and helicopters chasing the UFO whiz by
the dairy farm worker. They surround the UFO on all
sides. MILITARY PERSONNEL exit their vehicles.
One MILITARY PERSON – a camera around his neck, climbs on
the UFO. His camera
I liked this initial image as it was fast paced.
Unfortunately after that everything became detail oriented and a classic case of overdescription which we discussed in Friday’s article.
There is plenty of food in the
kitchen and drinks are in the
refrigerator. Jeremiah, make
Angelica a plate as well.
(already in the kitchen)
No problem Pop. Already started on
Jeremiah, Stalls, Fitzgerald and George go to the kitchen to make sandwiches.
A moment later, Angelica comes out of the restroom.
Angelica, Jeremiah has made you a
plate of food. Please come join us
and I will try to tell this story
as well as I can.
Angelica sits down beside Jeremiah on the couch. George
plops into one of the comfy chairs. Stalls sits on the
other side of Jeremiah on the couch. Fitzgerald sits in the
other comfy chair. Jacob still standing in the great room.
I left the dialogue in this example too, because it all demonstrates the same point.
Do we need all this info? No.
Unless it’s important to the plot, we don’t need to know where they’re sitting, if Angelica has a plate waiting for her, etc.
There were numerous other similar examples of this in the entire script. Jeff’s job is to now go back and find them.
Enter late, and leave early.
The group sits around Jacob and eats.
Angelica exits the bathroom and Jeremiah hands her a plate with a smile.
Want to know what you’re up against?
4 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Format was good.
The one thing that BUGGED me though was the constant parentheticals.
(pounding out the letters)
I HATE them.
Get rid of all of these.
Oh, and do a quick proofread for the typos (grammar, spelling, proper tenses, etc.).
7 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Another script where I’ll be spending a lot of time in question 3.
The dialogue was TOO LONG and/or TOO MATTER OF FACT.
From what I can tell, these type of
hieroglyphs are nothing we have
seen before. I have collaborated
with some of my colleagues across
the world, and none of them can
identify what they are.
He said the same thing twice. Pick one of those sentences, then cut it down.
Where in Colorado does he live
Well I am not exactly sure but I
know it is in the southern
Jackson, you better not be pulling
our leg on this one. This is
serious. Who is this guy?
It’s my father.
I thought he was dead?
Well, he is not. I believe he
Faked his death? And we want to
trust this guy?
If this is a wild goose chase
Jackson, I don’t even want to tell
you what could happen to you.
Never repeat a character’s name like this. Plus this is a perfect example of being “matter of fact.”
How about a little subtext?
I didn’t know you had someone in Colorado.
I don’t tell you everything, boss.
Alright wiseass, who is it?
He’s dead. I saw the report.
That’s just the kind of thing he’d want you to think.
Fitzgerald cuts short Jeremiah’s smile with an icy stare.
If you’re not one hundred percent on this, it’ll mean your ass.
But again, I’m sure you can come up with something better.
Page 10 – George’s instructions in the van should be snappier.
Page 13 – George mentions that Angelica wouldn’t hold them up. Only problem is he wasn’t in the scene when she promised that. (This type of thing ANNOYS readers, since we can easily keep track, and so should you.)
Page 22 – NO INTRODUCTIONS! Again, we should ENTER LATE in these instances.
You are always so curious about
No, not really. We all have our
place in this world. Everyone is
special and has a unique job to do.
Yes. And mine is to be curious I
You for sure liven things up
here. I enjoy your company
All the angels talk like robots. It comes off very odd.
Page 61 – Two “Well’s” on one page. Drop all the Well, Um, Uh, etc.
And that was all I took notes on.
The dialogue was a HUGE issue with this script, and a SIMPLE SOLUTION would be to read each line out loud.
You’d easily see where it sounds too clunky (matter of fact).
Once that’s done, focus on trimming the lines down so they’re mostly one sentence deliveries with the occasional two sentence line.
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?
It wasn’t a play, but it felt very much like the pilot episode of a TV series on Scifi.
This isn’t bad, but it isn’t good either as there wasn’t enough to make me think BIG SCREEN.
Something to consider before a rewrite, as there’s nothing wrong with writing for television (other than Roy and I can’t really help you, lol).
4 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?
The one thing that was unique was the angel story. It felt like a cool marriage of a science fiction story with the Creation story.
Since I’m a fan of Ancient Aliens (which the wife HATES, btw, especially with a marathon on the history channel yesterday) I found that part interesting for what it was.
(I’ll go more into what I didn’t like about it later on.)
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
The script starts out nice, with that quick moving, and quickly recovered UFO.
Then we’re at a government type meeting where they’re talking about hieroglyphs.
Unfortunately, that part drags on, and coupled with the dialogue it slows down the pace to a near crawl.
7 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Fortunately it recovers somewhat quickly, and after some boring chit chat about Jeremiah’s father, our group moves towards danger, headed for a restricted zone where they have to fake a car explosion to get off the automatic super highway.
One thing I wanted here was MORE suspense when they’re trying to exit the van.
The security patrol coming to check up on them is good, but they need to be more pressing.
Angelica’s rope not working is also a decent dramatic element, but again the guards should be right outside the van’s door, and us literally wondering if two folks in the group are going to be caught. We should be on the edge of our seats.
Those below the bridge shouldn’t be all happy go lucky either, like Angelica is putting the finishing touches on her makeup. They should be running for the tree line where they’re watching the guards get closer and closer to the van.
Lastly, Angelica’s rope shouldn’t magically work, Charles should get her out of the van some other way. Maybe he cuts her rope, they jump out together on his, and blow the van while in midair, leaving her injured once they hit the bottom. (Better way for her to grow closer to Jeremiah, since now it’s too convenient.)
Add more drama.
12 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
We get through the woods and find Jacob.
He’s alive and been expecting his son.
We also find out that he can read the images on the UFOs and troubles coming.
To explain to us what he means we’re treated to…approximately 30 pages of a completely different story?
This felt very much like The Dark Tower – The Wizard and the Glass. If you’re not familiar with the series, Stephen king spent the first three books establishing the gunslinger and his ka-tet. This book however has them stop, sit down, and has Roland flashback to a story of he and his original ka-tet as teens.
It was okay (he referenced some of his other books which I only now read), but it HALTED the story we were all getting into. (Spoiler, the new Dark Tower book is more of the same.)
This was a problem in Jeff’s script. He had a very decent story going, and the group was being chased by the government as they struggled to unearth a conspiracy and we suddenly stop for a creation story?
Not that the story of God vs. Lucifer was bad, just that it didn’t fit in this movie. Especially not to stop the main story and do this side story for 30 pages.
This is where I think this project might make a better TV series than a movie, as something like that would be good in a pilot.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work for a movie since there’s two storylines that are presented and neither are truly finished.
A side note, I did like the Jerusalem stuff, but again, it left me at a cliffhanger, nothing was resolved. This would be perfect for a TV show (hell, Lost did it week after week) since we’d be waiting a week to find out what happens.
Do this with a movie, though, and they’ll throw popcorn at you.
1 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
I’m not sure.
Scifi folks will probably enjoy it, but the religious stuff I think was too in the middle that scientists will scoff at it while religious folks might come off as annoyed.
Thing that bugged me was the mammoths roaming around with the dinosaurs. If you’re going to pair this with God and creation, most people are going to sigh and roll their eyes.
It’s pretty established that woolly mammoths didn’t roam around with T Rex and to suggest otherwise is going to alienate a lot of people.
Jeremiah vs. Jacob
There needs to be more turmoil in their relationship.
Whether Jeremiah’s pissed his father faked his death, or just mad that he wasn’t there for him when his mom died, SOME sort of STRIFE needs to happen between them.
Right now Jeremiah talks a good game before they reach Jacob, then is all, “Hi, pop.”
Page 62 – I didn’t like how the drones weren’t a problem when Jacob was retelling his Act 1 story, but once he finishes suddenly they’re in immanent danger?
Page 89 – Jacob can be chummy with the guards, since he has an idea of what’s going on. Even if the guards are nice to Jeremiah though, he should be fighting back since these are the people holding him against his will.
4 out of 10 points.
Eons Part 1 does have me wondering what parts 2 and 3 have in store, but unfortunately I’m currently under the impression calling them “the greatest” anything is a stretch.
The author needs to decide which direction to take this. On one hand it would make a decent TV show if flushed out properly, but if he’s sold on making it a movie he’s realistically going to have to drop the Earth Act 1 story completely, or GREATLY reduce it to various quick flashbacks.
Either way there’s a decent amount of work in front of him, so it might be worth it to move onto an easier linear project, then come back to Eons if the itch to complete it is still there.
Total 50 out of 100 points.
First, let me say thank you for reading my script! It is an unusual thing to see something you wrote broken down like that. I do have some comments but will try to put them down here later after I have read things a couple of times (plus get some sleep – I work night shift!). Again, there is no way to thank you for giving a thorough analysis like this done on your own time. Most people pay a premium price just to get this. I can’t say enough about how I feel about what you guys have done here. My extended comments later.
Not at all a problem, and thanks for letting us read it. If you have comments or questions abut what I meant in certain parts, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Better to put them in the forum or on here? Let me know. I’m good either way!
Personally I think it’s easier in the forum, but Roy likes to get more comments in the reviews as people are more likely to check the review out if it looks active.
You have definately given me some things to think about. I like what you suggested about the van scene and will be looking at making that better. You are also somewhat right about Jeremiah vs. Jacob. I have been thinking about this as well. It is hard because I do want Jeremiah to be angry about how “different” Jacob was when he grew up and how things even got more strange when his mother died. What I was trying to show (and probably not very well) was that even with all of that, when he sees Jacob – it is his father. That the respect and love he has for him he can just toss all that anger/frustration away. Probably doesn’t work that well on script/film as I wanted it to. So, I am probably going to think more about creating more tension between them. You are also right about Jeremiah’s interaction at the prison. He should be more pissed off, and in the next rewrite he will be!
This is my first completed screenplay. To be honest, I didn’t know that I was even going to write one. I have a bunch of complete stories in my head, and this was the best way to get them out. I process was to get the story out, then fix the dialogue and action next. I just needed to get the story out. Now I can really work on getting the other elements fixed as well. The story still has some issues, but I think that I can fix them. Some I am not sure if I can or not. Which brings me to… (CUT TO:)
The story. I really created the Jeremiah/Jacob story just so I could tell the other story. To me, it is the real story. I may not have been able to put it together correctly, but it is what EONS is all about. You made me think though when you talked about it being for TV. Interesting. I never even thought about it. Separating the two stories can be done, but not sure how I could tell the one without the other. For now, I am going to fix some of the issues with the way the story is. I will, however, start playing with changing it up into flashbacks or working it in but maybe in less detail and more of the Jeremiah/Jacob story. Part 2 (already started on) does have flashbacks instead of a “story in a story.” I will hold off on that one until I decide how I want this one to work out.
Again, without your breakdown I probably would not have this much to consider. Do I agree with everything you said? No. But your analysis will help me make this story better. And actually I expected a 30 and you “gave” me a 50!! Woo Hoo! I think you just didn’t want to embarass me and padded some of the other scores. It’s o.k. You don’t have to admit it. Thanks again.
Two quick things:
1.) “What I was trying to show (and probably not very well) was that even with all of that, when he sees Jacob – it is his father. That the respect and love he has for him he can just toss all that anger/frustration away.”
This is a great thing to do, but remember, for a movie it can’t be all at once. This is a main plot device for Jeremiah’s story, and so Jacob should slowly have to win his son back with his actions and knowledge. I was reminded pretty much of the relationship between Indiana Jones and Henry in Last Crusade.
2.) If the Eons story you’re most concerned about is the angel and creation thing, go with that. Don’t force it into another story. Just tell the story you want to tell. Showing Lucifer revolting against God is an interesting topic, and if you can make us feel for WHY he does it, that’d be a very dramatic piece of writing.
It actually made me think of the Gonstic Gospels, the ones not included in the Bible, of how there’s a Gospel of Judas. In it, the Easter story is quite a bit different as Judas was shown as Jesus’s most trusted disciple, and the only one He trusted enough with the task of turning Him in. Judas didn’t want to do it, but once Jesus understood what needed to be done He trusted only Judas with the task of setting the wheels in motion that brought us all salvation. Stuff like that is really deep, and makes us think about classic stories in a new light.
Again, you are making me think! I hate that! I just might pull out the Lucifer story, keep the religious references, put more tension between Jeremiah and Jacob, make Leader Lucci more diabolical (easy to do), tighten up the dialogue (Michael Jennings and Randall Hahn have very nicely told me my dialogue sucks! I agree and want to work on it), and “tighten the screws” to make them hurt more. My intention was to have Jeremiah carry the bitterness all the way until the first of Part 3 where *spoiler* Jacob dies. Maybe the story will be good enough without the flashbacks or the other story. I can just sprinkle it in throughout to keep the tone there.
Thanks for keeping my brain active on this. I am for sure going to make sure my dialogue is up a few notches before submitting again. I am working on a couple more scripts right now and will apply the WtR blueprint and Michael’s suggestions to see if they can start out the gate better! Will let this sleeping dog lie for now and will not beat the dead horse any more!