Sorry this is WAYYY late, but with getting stuff done for the holiday today, and fireworks last night, things are a bit busy.
Plus most of you probably won’t read this until tomorrow since you’ll be at BBQs and picnics and what not.
First off, a bit of housekeeping, since I noticed Matt’s message on the script links post. Roy and I are busy, and even if it takes us a month or more to get to your scripts, you need to upload the version you want reviewed. If you’re still rewriting, take your time, but this is on our contact us page for a reason:
Due to scheduling and timely reviews, please make sure the draft you submit is the most current you want to have reviewed.
(Sometimes there’s exceptions, but only if you’re communicating with us. If you have a more recent draft, and you’re not yet on the schedule, chances are we can let you switch, but NO PROMISES.)
Keep in mind we’re giving you detailed notes that take us anywhere from 8 to 12 hours, and doing it for free. Like Karl mentioned a while back (to an unhappy writer), if you don’t like the rules we set up you can always ask for your money back. (FYI – Roy handles returns, lol.)
Second, this one took a while to get through and I won’t give too much away, but don’t hold out hope for our fourth script in a row for “Great Script Wednesday.” Any idea why? One hundred and fifty one pages, that’s why.
I’m going to chat with Roy, but I think scripts will need to be 120 pages or less. If you can’t figure that out, there’s nothing we can really do to help, since it’s the first obstacle you’ll have to overcome unless someone of James Cameron’s caliber is personally handing your script to a reader.
More than 120 pages announces, “I’m an amateur.” Then the reader tosses you in the trash.
Alright, today’s script:
Mob Ties by Matt Hubsher
Logline: An Atlantic City mob collector gets caught up in a deadly scheme and must go into hiding with his spineless brother while following the trail all the way up to the top.
Enough chit chat, let’s get started.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Description wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t fantastic either.
Matt’s main focus on his next rewrite should be, “What can I cut?” Getting this script to a readable length should be the primary goal, then polishing it can become a concern.
Still this from page 1:
EXT. SUBURBAN HOUSE – NIGHT
A pristine black Cadillac Escalade is parked at the curb.
In the driver’s seat–
PAULY DEANGELO, early 30s, natural tan, kind of muscly.
He wears a sharp suit and a tacky gold chain with an equally tacky gold cross–classic mafioso.
The neighborhood is quiet.
Nothing horrible, but none of that fancy description that Roy’s so fond of and makes reader perk up.
Just like with dialogue, we should be asking ourselves, “What’s the most interestingly short way I can picture this?”
But again, for now the job’s done, but cut out any unnecessary details. (i.e. Do we need to seem characters reload guns, exit cars, open doors, enter places, etc.)
7 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Format. 151 pages, so points off for that.
There’s also directions, and a lot of POV’s that don’t add anything.
Page 12 – Pauly’s POV
Page 26 – A POV of the gear shift
And a ton of others.
None of these really add anything, and instead of showing off, it’s telling readers you’re not sure what you’re doing. As this is an expensive story, I’ll also assume this won’t be self shot, so leave these for the director.
The last thing I’ll mention is sluglines.
They weren’t bad, but anytime we had the scene set in the same location as before, it went like this:
INT. SAME – MORNING
I’m not arguing whether this is right or wrong, but a lot went on since the last slugline, so by putting “same” for the next one, I was instantly pulled out of the story trying to remember where we were.
This is also very assuming, since a reader will be scanning your script, and there’s a good chance sluglines won’t get a lot of attention. Since our goal is to keep the momentum of the story going, just write it all out. (Especially since programs like Final Draft keep track of that stuff for you anyway.)
3 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Dialogue was another BIG problem, and area for trimming.
A lot of it we didn’t need.
Page 9 has a card game. It’s meant to show the personalities of the various mob guys, and to establish that there’s tension between Tony and Pauly.
Unfortunately, it’s the first of many scenarios where characters are just sitting around talking, and telling instead of showing.
Next comes page 16, where we meet Tony’s dad in a restaurant. Tony’s also there, and more tension. Since we see the same sort of conflict here, I’d say the earlier scene is unnecessary, especially considering it’s only stronger here, being that Victor sides with Pauly and not his son.
Since there was a lot of sitting and talking, I need to say this:
ANYTIME your characters are eating and talking, drinking and talking, or not DOING and talking, take those scenes out.
(Avoid restaurants, coffee shops, bars, etc.)
Then take the idea you were shooting for with that scene and make it involve the information with some sort of action that moves your story forward.
Can’t figure out how to make them DO and tell? Then leave it out. Chances are we don’t need that info anyway.
(On page 87 there was Pauly and Vic sitting and talking over breakfast, where there’s a flashback of Vic sitting and talking to Amy. Double sitting. Double talking. If you’re going to use a flashback, MAKE IT COUNT!)
Page 13 – Three well’s” on one page. Go back and edit out the um, well, er, etc. from ALL dialogue.
Page 27 – Sal says, “Shit Pauly,” like 3 bits in a row.
Page 37 – Pauly says, “They never learn.” Who doesn’t learn, and what?
Everybody shut the fuck up and listen
or I will cut your vocal chords out
so you have no choice in the matter.
Whatever Mr. Carnelli is promisin’
you for Pauly’s head, I will match
it. Alive. I’m gonna be the one to
slice his fuckin’ throat open. Any
one’a you kills him, I’m gonna kill
everyone you ever loved.
Trim stuff like this down.
Was there subtext? Not important right now. Were there unique character voices? A bit, but again, not the primary issue.
Main area to focus is cutting out ANY dialogue that doesn’t move the story forward.
After that, it’ll be time for a good polish, but right now, be economical with what characters say.
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 was a pretty decent mob story, it just ran long. The action scenes were something that belonged on the big screen, and a trailer could definitely be seen in my head.
10 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?
Problem with the last question is, a lot of this we’ve seen before. It felt like a typical mob movie stereotype.
I think a good thing to compare is that right now it feels like a Sopranos movie, but to look at things like The Departed, and see how they give a different mob feel.
Since this is set in Atlantic City (albeit present day) another good idea might be to take Boardwalk Empire and watch that, seeing if there are unique aspects to Atlantic City to use for your story.
3 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
The first scene was very good. Established Pauly as a badass, and although he’s a bad guy, I kind of liked him since he was giving Al a second chance to pay him back.
The problem was there’s a lot of chit chat, so can we just cut to the point? Pauly wants money, and he wants it now, end of story. Al’s used up his free pass.
10 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Then we get to the poker scene, which I was wondering the entire time if we needed. (I knew what it was there for, just thought there was a better way to approach character establishing as the story unfoled.)
Meeting Vin is pretty important, since he plays a large role in the rest of the story, and I liked how he was paranoid. (I DIDN’T like how Pauly just knew the guys following him were due to Vin sleeping with a married woman.) One other thing I didn’t understand, does Vic work for Mr. B or not? He had to deliver stuff for him in the beginning, but the end made it sound like he wasn’t affiliated with the mob in any way.
Then we finally get to the scene where Pauly is ordered to kill Tommy. This scene should stay (lose the brief bit with Mario), and needs to come sooner.
(Losing the poker scene should make that happen.)
8 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of decent scenes in the script, even if they didn’t feel completely original.
One thing I will suggest is to concentrate on ONE story, for now.
Too much time is spent having Pauly and Vic spend brotherly time together, when both should be running from the mob, and Pauly focusing on taking those responsible for his setup down.
This is also a great area to cut things back.
Pauly and Vic’s relationship should be a subtle B story. Just like everyone else, they should never sit around and talk, so Pauly’s jabs at Vic being a sissy should be in passing, as are Vic’s feelings towards Pauly’s criminal activity.
Things that need to go
Amy and Vin meeting and falling for each other.
Church Confession (I like this one, but you’re running too long, so it should go.)
The too long happy ending.
I think Amy should be in there, but she should be dating Vic initially, and SHOULDN’T like Pauly. I mean really hate him.
This way Vic can piss someone off for something else, and when Pauly covers it up, Vic’s death means no more Amy. (Uh-oh…DRAMA!)
This also gives you conflict for Vic wanting to sneak out (Pauly shouldn’t let him leave their new place, EVER) and a way for Vic and Amy to get taken at the end as they’re both sneaking around behind Pauly’s back.
Definite stuff to think about, as it should streamline the story.
And your ending. End sooner rather than later, and a great point for that is when Pauly dies.
I get that he’s a tough guy, but things are too easy for him.
Even when he gets shots it doesn’t seem to phase him, as he takes snipers down with pistols, and goes out clubbing after he slaps a few bandaids on bullet wounds.
The action was decent, but again, he shouldn’t just easily blast his way through everything. Even making him miss one or twice isn’t enough, Pauly needs to be in danger in almost every scene, leaving us wonder if he’ll come out the other side.
5 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
There’s definitely a demand for movies like this. Our fascination with the mob is never satisfied.
Few aspects where an audience or reader may have trouble.
Tommy and Tony, plus a lot of the other character names, that either sound similar, or like a mafia stereotype. (Good question here, who has a little to no dialogue that can be a generic name?)
Page 44 – How did Sal plan to kill Pauly when he switched cars? Was the bomb originally in Sal’s Benz?
Page 87 – With Vic supposed to be dead, and Pauly on the run from the mob, why would Vic use his real name, with anyone? (And why wouldn’t Pauly make a bigger deal out of it?)
Page 109 – I mentioned this before, but Pauly gets shot in the arm and shoulder, but just goes into the bathroom, washes up, and is ready to hit the town? Does he have a mutant healing factor I missed somewhere?
6 out of 10 points.
The nuggets of the story are in there, but Matt needs to focus on getting the page length down.
Once that’s accomplished (or perhaps in conjunction with it), he needs to focus on what his main story is.
Right now it feels a lot like Payback while also trying to mix in the “family” aspect of The Godfather. That wouldn’t be bad if it wasn’t taking so long to accomplish.
If he can find a way to do that, great, but again, it’ll have to clock in under 120 pages to have any shot of a professional taking it seriously (unless, of course, Uncle Jimmy Cameron, or the like, hands it out in LA for him).
Total 53 out of 100 points.