Script: Judgement Date by Ed Love
Logline: When a wrongly convicted death row inmate gets a chance at freedom on the live comeback TV show of a disgraced Idol judge, he gradually turns the tables on her.
A death row inmate is given a chance to win his freedom by dinner dating a disgraced Idol judge on her live comeback TV show. Initially, she toys with him, but soon realises he’s not quite the pushover she expected. What begins as a simple quest for ratings becomes far more serious, involving a knife attack, a near drowning, kidnapping, guns and more, as he gradually turns the tables on her.
Again, we’re back to an amateur script this week because I felt like it.
On top of that Roy and I are always impressed by the exchanges that go on in the forum, especially swapping reviews.
And of course, Ed had me at “contained thriller.”
Will he do better than 127 Hours? One can only hope…
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Description was alright.
Nothing too fancy, and where that would usually make me criticize, I’d say the real value of this script is the fast moving dialogue, so description is better kept minimal, keeping that flow intact.
Here’s the opening that I thought was good:
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
INT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT
A SHORT MAN in a white blazer brandishes a Colt .45 pistol.
FELICITY, mid 40s, Chanel clad, faded former TV talent show
judge, clings to her chair.
The Short Man stares at her. BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
CLICK. CLICK. The slide locks back, magazine empty.
It might not be fluffy and poetic, but it certainly grabbed me.
Then from page 2:
TONY appears in a Tux. Ex Oklahoma, early 30s, tall, blond hair, blue eyes, clean shaven. Observant, street smart, often underestimated. He blinks like a deer in headlights.
He sizes up Felicity, the table, the room.
Uniformed arms behind his back free him from
Still paying attention, so as much as I’d like to say, “Be more creative with your words,” even I’d find it hypocritical since we argue grabbing and then keeping the reader’s attention is paramount.
Some things I did have trouble with:
They’re too detailed. We don’t need information like “flat chested” unless it’s important to the story, like a female character impersonating a male one.
Keep it simple.
NAME (AGE), brief description.
Focusing too much on the details halts your story, and when they’re not important later it’s an amateur strike against you, and any strike gives a reader a reason to say “no.” We don’t want that.
Bit with the Guard and Gun.
There was too much going on around page 88.
Tony gives the guard back his gun, but bullets are scattered everywhere, and the magazine ejected?
Parts on the table, parts on the floor, parts with Tony and the guard…do we need to know where all the parts are?
This was VERY hard to follow and pulled me out of what was shaping up to be a very intense moment.
All in all, pretty fluid though, save for each new character being introduced.
6 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Format was good.
Other than “Over Black” and “Fade In” at the beginning, there was no other instructions on how I should be viewing the characters.
One problem here though is the lack of (CONT’D) with two lines broken up by description/action.
Usually this isn’t a problem, but with this script relying heavily on two characters conversing, there’s a few times where Tony especially goes on for a bit. I got lost on a few of them.
8 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Again, dialogue was good.
Felicity and Tony going at it was really great in almost every part.
You’re gonna have to excuse me, I
ain’t done this for a while.
Take your time. We have plenty. Do
you like the music?
Can we stop pretending it’s a
regular date? You might do it every
week, but it just ain’t natural.
Where’s your sense of romance? How
about sweeping a girl off her feet?
My current situation distracts me.
If you want to improve your current
situation, get with the program.
Yes, ma’am, whatever you say.
Let’s start with a blast from the
past. A song, if you please.
I couldn’t sing to save …
You know I can’t sing.
Surely you done your homework?
I leave that to my assistant.
It must be real tiring delegating
all that work. You trust him?
Why do you assume it’s a man?
Tony’s more or less trying to woo her for his life. He’s brash and short with her, and although she seems to fight it, you can tell she’s also kind of into it.
What Tony points out, and I agree, is that he’s unusual given the situation as most people before him have just pleaded for their lives.
That seems like a natural thing to do, so his contrast to that intrigues us.
There were also smaller examples of “the most interesting way for your characters to say something.”
You’re not so pure. How’d you get
those debts? Not exactly popular,
neither. Skeletons in the closet?
You’ve got an Indian burial ground.
Tony seemed to be full of stuff like this. I enjoyed it, but would argue (without taking off points) that Ed Love should cut right to the good part, dropping any “fluff” dialogue. I’d argue the above example still works cutting out the first three sentences.
Smaller things to watch out for.
All characters had unique voices except Dick. On page 32 he uses the word “homie” which I know the author is Australian, but normal Americans don’t use that on a daily basis.
This VERY much took me out of the story, as I was thinking, “That doesn’t sound like Dick.”
Then there’s odd transitions similar to page 63:
You men are so possessive.
He takes a mouthful of trifle, savors it.
Hold your horses. Whatever happened
to slow down and smell the roses?
This one happened before a flashback, and seemed very unnatural given the previous discussion and even queuing up the flashback.
I’d go through and check to make sure each scene flows successfully into the next, as I’m positive there were two other examples to this that were odd, but not odd enough to write down.
(I kept reading, and was interested which is good, but remember a professional reader doesn’t guarantee a page 1 to fade out read.)
7 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?
At the end of the day it was just two people talking.
This was the one downside I felt with the script, as nothing really screamed “MOVIE!” at me.
It was suspenseful and kept moving which was good, but it was just two people talking at a table for the most of it. Dialogue was great, but plays have great dialogue too.
The flashbacks did spice things up a bit, even if some of them weren’t always needed.
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 story, especially the premise of a first date being linked to one’s freedom, was unique.
I’m also a fan of the dialogue, which may be cheating, but since Roy and I struggle with it ourselves, we’re excited to see amateurs who do well with it.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
I won’t list it again, but we start with a guy firing several rounds at a woman during a candlelit dinner.
Then you have a similar situation where the woman’s kind of bitchy and a guy comes in handcuffed wearing a tux.
(The “reading” means Ed Love’s doing his job.)
15 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
We find out that Tony’s on a date with Felicity where a studio audience will determine if he goes free based on how entertained they are with his actions, or back to death row.
We also see Tony’s a bit chevalier given his situation.
Felicity is very much in control of his fate, which should be scarier to him.
The one thing I didn’t like was the flashback to the pool.
Felicity gave Tony the chance at his freedom if he could swim the length of the pool.
He’s deathly afraid of water, and fails miserably.
Unfortunately this info never becomes important again in the story, nor does it make sense how Felicity was able to give Tony this shot.
If you’re trying to set her up as a bitch, there’s easier ways, and I’d say this scene is almost unnecessary since the other flashbacks and her dialogue do it better.
If you want to have a saucy initial meet up, especially with Tony thinking he’s her intellectual equal, then do something else. Don’t promise him his freedom when it’s a crucial part of the story later on that she can’t deliver.
This seemed to want to serve as an inciting incident, but didn’t.
9 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
The rest of the story was good.
Cool midpoint where Tony turns the tables on her and is in control.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but things definitely started to escalate, and the ending was a perfect payoff.
What I HATED though, was the scene where Felicity can’t reach Naomi.
There was SO MUCH potential, but she just freaks out, and the way she does is so silly.
Ed Love (and I keep referring to his first and last name because I think it’s awesome) did a good job of having Tony bluff Felicity earlier with a truffle.
She should think he’s doing the same here. He can shrug, but then as she checks things start to unravel and escalate.
Since it makes perfect sense that he knows exactly where Naomi is, his certainty should play into her fears more. (It will also play into our suspicions about him, as we’ll also be wondering how he knew.)
As it is now, she goes from zero to one hundred in less than a line of dialogue.
Then she flips out and grabs a guard’s gun. It all seemed like too much of a reaction.
This scene has a lot of promise, so make use of it.
The other thing I didn’t like was Tony lying about Peter. It was fine that he lied, but I didn’t like the fake flashback.
(I could take or leave the flashbacks anyway, but this one really made me mad since it never turned out to be true.)
Flashbacks are by nature confusing, so if you’re showing us things that never actually happened, there’s an even bigger chance we’ll get lost.
7 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
It was set up as a contained thriller, but wasn’t due to the flashbacks.
Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, unless you’re trying to sell it as a contained thriller. Setting scenes in bars, jail cells, casinos, etc. is outside of where your story is taking place.
This will make a reader question your screenwriting knowledge which is another strike against you.
The restaurant setting is fine, the control room fine, and even Felicity’s dressing room. Outside of that, your thriller just became uncontained.
Another big problem was Felicity’s past. With all the flashbacks, I was confused what she actually did to fall from grace. Answering the question, “Why is she a faded TV reality show judge,” felt like it was important, especially since Tony kept hinting at it.
Nothing was ever done with this. No payoff equals unhappy audience.
The other two things I didn’t like was the “who’s not paying” bit Jane was talking about.
First, it took me a while to understand they meant for Tony’s release and not the technician Felicity said to fire.
Second, I didn’t understand why Carol said she would, then decided not to. What was her decision based on? Felt like a cheap trick that was only put in to increase suspense, but screw Tony over like that and we’ll need some semblance of an explanation.
Lastly, and it ties into Felicity’s freak out, on page 82 the guard tells Felicity she can’t leave. Why? It seemed like another cheap trick to get her to stay there.
Oh, and I found it kind of odd that security wasn’t in the room with Felicity at all times. No one’s that stupid, whether you’re fishing for ratings or not, to go one on one with a death row inmate.
(Ed Love DID deliver on the thriller part though.)
5 out of 10 points.
Ed Love did something unique.
He took a setting most people, including Roy and myself, would advise against and made it interesting.
Making a romantic dinner for two into a inmate reality TV show was very interesting. Not only that, but he delivered on keeping me interested from page one to the end.
Very good job, and if you contain this thriller I think the right people that read it will be very interested.
Total 71 out of 100 points.
in the 90’s we used homie a lot. like in embarrassing amounts.
Why does that not surprise me in your case, lol.
i blame homie the clown. and who ever started that “all that and a bag of chips” saying.
oh the 90’s.
Ok, I’ve finally got some time to reply to your detailed review. There’s lots of helpful stuff here for me! I would like to explain myself around a few points, and would like to know if it makes more sense after doing so.
Here we go:
Character Descriptions. Yes, I suspect I could be more consise with those. Re flat chested, that was included to show how Dick is a transparent womaniser. i.e. he ignores the flat chested girl but follows the busty blonde later on. Not a big deal, but I did include it for a reason.
Bit with the Guard and Gun on p88. I’m not sure about how to handle this. If I leave out detail, another reader will knock me for ignoring/forgetting said detail. Each element is important.
Tony is very observant, so he must deal with the spare round Felicity ejected. He must also disarm the gun to make it safe. When Tony waves the magazine at the guard, it shows (doesn’t tell) that the guard, being stressed, doesn’t realise that he’s pointing an empty gun at him.
Then, after the guard reloads the gun, and points it at Tony again, then lowers it, I’m attempting to show that the guard finally realises that Tony isn’t a threat to him.
Does that make sense? I believe all of those aspects are useful within the scene. It also provides a break from the talking heads.
I’m unsure about using (CONT’D) as some writers suggest leaving it out.
Skeletons in the closet? Yes, perhaps I could have left out the earlier lines. It saves space, too, which always helps.
You say Dick doesn’t sound unique. I painted him as an older guy trying to sound younger, by his dress, and by using a mix of slang that doesn’t fit together. That’s where the word homies fits in. Make any sense? He thinks he sounds cool & hip & young, but is obviously laughable.
Then there’s odd transitions similar to page 63 … I don’t quite get this bit. I’ll have to have another look.
Re film/play, yes, definitely. I tried to pick a topic with very high stakes, but didn’t realise how talky it would be til I was deep into it. Talking heads aren’t very exciting, which is why I added some flashbacks. I’m still not 100% happy with them, but at least they add some variety & action here & there.
The pool scene. I wanted to show rather than tell the reader how nasty she is. There probably IS a better way of doing that. I didn’t reuse the fear of water, which would have been good, but there didn’t seem to be a natural way of doing that. It might have been on p76, before Tony refuses her next surprise.
She had the power to do that because she bought it from the state, as explained on p52. It was a flashback, so Carol hadn’t yet revoked that power.
In retrospect, it’s not a great scene, I couldn’t figure out how to better convey through action how horrible Felicity was.
Good point about the Naomi thing going from calm to crazy too quickly. I’m going to play with that, as I like your idea of including more nuance.
The Peter flashback was again to break up the talking heads, show rather than tell, and also a nod to The Usual Suspects, with an unreliable narrator. I love those, if not overdone. That was my intention, anyway!
(un)Contained Thriller. Yes, I’m still not sure about that. I wanted it contained for tension & cost, but wanted flashbacks to break up the talking heads. Maybe I didn’t trust that I could make it good enough without flashbacks? It’s my first screenplay, so I erred on the side of caution.
I might redefine it as a simple thriller. Not sure yet …
Re her fall from grace, I had a 3 minue flashback early showing the entire thing: a TV talent show where a singer on stage revealed that she promised him a free pass to the next round in exchange for sex. Everyone was horrified & she walked out in disgrace.
Other feedback suggested the flashback was too intrusive and too early, so I dumped it. Hmmm …
Jane & not paying. Good catch! I’ve clarified that line. Thanks.
Why did Carol change her mind? I tried to set that up on p20 when Dick says;
Carol just won’t take the risk.
and again on p53 :
She might be in your position soon.
i.e. she’s scared Felicity will replace her.
p82 where Felicity isn’t allowed to leave? Yes, good point. I’ve added a line where the guard explains she’s not trained for the situation. The last thing they need is a hysterical woman involved.
Re security in the room at all times, it’s a valid concern. I tried to address that on p21/22. i.e. Dick wants the security, she doesn’t: she wants to emphasise the danger, while happily protected by the wall.
I hope some of these comments help clarity things for you. The bottom line is that some things weren’t clear, and I need to address them.
Thanks again for your detailed notes, they’re most helpful!
Thanks for getting back to me. I think you hit it on the head when you said thing might not have been clear enough. Don’t just take me being confused before making a bunch of changes. Take what I said, and if more folks are confused at the same points THEN you need to make changes.
Hope that helps.
Yes, that makes sense. Sorry for the delay replying, I didn’t get an email saying you’d replied?!
Never mind, I checked just in case.
Feedback is SUCH a useful thing to get, and then figuring out what to use & what to let go of.