Today we’re taking a look at The Sublime Freedom by Antony Davies.
If you remember, Mr. Davies was a coauthor on the Return Fire script we reviewed last week. (Sorry about that, but we’re still trying to take the scripts in order and Antony was up.)
Let’s see how he does flying solo, shall we? (Han Solo style? Sorry Roy.)
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Excerpts from the first two pages:
An unmarked Crown Vic winds its way into the Hills, bathed in the orange glow of SUNRISE.
Far below, the city of Los Angeles stirs slowly to life.
The car drones past houses that a cop would have to work a
hundred years to afford, all with that CITYSCAPE passing by,
dawn light and morning mist creating real beauty.
Russo stands at the edge of a dusty lookout, taking in a
panoramic view of the city. He’s wearing a smart polo shirt
and chinos, gun holstered on one hip, badge on the other.
Now this was broken up by dialogue, but I liked it. Had a clear picture in my mind of what I was looking at. Similar to the Return Fire, got the picture in my head then got out before burdening me down with details. This led to an easy read. (Thank you, by the way, lol.)
Was a quick booboo though, anyone catch it? “He’s wearing…” Right. “He wears,” but as this was the ONLY ONE I noticed, we’ll let it slide. (If I missed others, please shout them out, cause those are easy fixes for Mr. Davies.)
Before we award full points and move on, I want to show you all something.
Both men fall silent. Just two guys, enjoying the view.
What’s everyone’s take on this? It’s hammered into us that we NEVER use the present progressive right? I had a screenwriting teacher who told me once that you shouldn’t use it, UNLESS it sounds more natural.
I liked the way this was worded. I saw Russo and Crawford just sitting together looking out at LA in the morning. It’s good because it’s subtle, which I feel made it all the more effective. (In fact I read it the first time and didn’t even notice until I came back for something else.)
You probably already noticed too that Antony used “-ing” in the second part of a few sentences. This works just as well.
However, changing a sample:
Russo stands at the edge of a dusty lookout, and takes in a
panoramic view of the city.
Russo stands at the edge of a dusty lookout. He takes in a
panoramic view of the city.
All three are fine, but personally, I think the first one sounds the most natural.
For getting the job done, but not overdoing things:
10 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Another positive here. The whole thing flowed great, and clocked in at 114 pages.
10 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Now, I’m no Roy, and have trouble reading into dialogue, but here’s a sample of dialogue that kept things moving and developed characters.
That’s a pretty unchlorinated
pool. Anyone hunting there using
different weapons… he’d be hard
to pick up.
Unless he strings em up and
paints symbols with their blood.
Or sends the cops a note.
I never had a note. Why do you
think that is? Somethin’ about me?
Another bit from page 26:
You work a serial before?
No. I’ve read a lot, though.
Picked a doozy to bust your cherry.
There’s more examples of this playful banter between Russo and a lot of the characters, all of which come across as unique. (I think this is actually a script I could cover up the names and guess who said what.)
Now to the bad.
Er, um, cos…
Avoid this. These little things are littered throughout the script, some even seen in the samples above. It’s not our place as screenwriters to put in slang, pauses, etc. That’s up to the actor (and why they get paid the big bucks).
Frank’s from New York, and as such, would most likely speak in a New York accent. Again though, his dialogue should be written in natural English, and the actor will decide where to take the accent later.
The same thing goes for Crawford, and what, by the way, is a California accent? He never says, “Duuuuuuuuuuuude.”
Page 24 was where I reached my limit. I got that “vics” meant “victims” and “doers” were the “killers” but enough with the cop lingo. We’re not watching an episode of Stephen Segal – Louisiana Sheriff (or whatever that silly show is called).
D-2? Unis? I had a hard time following, and just enough should be added so they sound like cops, but we also know what they’re talking about.
All three of these things were a bit distracting, especially early on in the script.
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?
The first half of the script felt like a TV series. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take off for that or not.
BUT, once we hit the midpoint this sucker REALLY picks up. Had a lot more twists than an episode of Dragnet. (Sorry I’ve been listening to old radio dramas on Siruis. Talk about a GOLD MINE for script ideas.)
Since Antony had good story structure, and we’ll talk about the beginning later:
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?
The twists and the defining dialogue. Based on what I read here and also in Return Fire, I think Antony Davies has a shot at the big time. Now if he can only figure out how to find the right “someone” to give it to him.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
Based on logline and first few pages alone, it’s a cop drama. We can turn on the TV at anytime of the day and stumble onto something similar somewhere on cable. Although the LA cityscape was easy to see in my mind, there was potential for a better draw.
I think it REALLY needs to be a mystery of why Russo left New York. Even Crawford asking, and Russo changing the subject bluntly is enough to get us wondering. He’s a cop with a dark past, and we’ll keep reading to learn what that is.
10 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Things get going as we’re introduced to Kim, Russo’s daughter. That’s good, as she seems very flirtatious with Crawford, and makes daddy a bit jealous. Unfortunately Russo never really follows up on this anger (even when she puts her email into Crawford’s phone).
It’s here we also find out she’s part of some chat room where folks obsess over murders.
Although I don’t think it’s been done before, nothing felt rather pressing. I think part of that is they should already know there are murders going on, and Kim knowing should be a big problem. (Perhaps Crawford even thinks she’s behind it, and Russo wants to prove him wrong by pinning it on Lance.)
OH, OH, OH! You give us Sean too early. AT MOST we should see a man’s silhouette from behind. I don’t want to KNOW it’s him until AFTER the twist at the midpoint.
Beginning needs more suspense all around.
7 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
Continuing with the talk from the beginning:
We need an ulterior motive for Russo to be investigating Kim. Making her a suspect, or at least knowing the suspect puts more of a strain on Crawford and Russo’s relationship. I also think you miss a good set up to make us think that’s Lance.
(Since it’s a crime story we should almost be left guessing until the end.)
Russo’s past should also be a mystery, throughout the entire first half of the script. Not even his coworkers should know what he did. It’ll keep us interested. You ABSOLUTELY had my attention when he went to see Megan in jail, but before that, not so much.
Then you gave me Sean too early, so I already knew they were right guessing it was he or his dad. Keep them busting Gerald, but after that we should almost think they got it wrong. In fact have Crawford CONVINCED they’re wrong. Point back to Lance, which throws us off.
Lastly, they felt like they did too much bouncing around investigating previous cases. Sure that’s good old-fashioned police work, but it was boring seeing it, which is why I suggested them already being familiar with a pattern in the previous cases. This way they’re only investigating the current murders and always one step behind.
As I said, once I hit that part about Megan being alive, the script FLEW BY. Literally. You had me, and I CANNOT stress this enough.
What I didn’t like though were all the set ups and lack of pay offs.
Kim was interested in this forum, but it should have been a bit darker. Almost like she felt like she wanted to kill people, and was afraid she’d enjoy it. The only sobering moment should be when she meets Megan, and realizes she’s more like here dad then her mom.
Instead she’s just, “Oh, I only liked that stuff cause I’m going to be a profiler. That’s why I didn’t tell daddy.” Lame.
Sean + Megan = Kim
Nothing ever really happened with this, which is a HUGE mistake. Especially at the end, where Kim would be afraid for her life and probably tell Sean, which would make Russo more likely to kill Sean, giving us conflict all around. Big ball dropped here, and I would consider working that into the ending.
Back to that final scene, the only people present should be Sean holding Kim with Russo and Crawford pointing guns at him. This greats a HUGE problem as Russo wants to save Kim and do the right thing, but let’s not forget Crawford’s home has been invaded, so he’ll probably only feel safe with Sean dead.
Not to mention if you take Kim down that dark path, her killing Sean fulfills the urge to kill, but for the right reasons. All three now have motives and we’re left at a stand off.
Right now, it’s too drawn out, and I don’t think the ending was worthy of the twists set up in the second act.
In closing, on the twists, and hooks, etc. it’d be simply AWESOME to have a cut to Crawford in his house RIGHT AFTER Megan says she tutored a spoiled rich boy with a lust for blood. All signs point to Sean, and then we get to see it.
This takes some working around, I know, but do you see the potential payoff? We’ve been strung along the entire time, and hopefully even saw the murderers car pull up in front of the house, AND NOW Sean’s about to attack a character and his family that we’re pretty attached to.
Just some thoughts, but seriously that beginning needs a facelift.
4 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Here are some of the things audiences will hate.
You can’t use a Hotmail account on an iPhone. Kim must be using a Yahoo email account for her murder talk, because that’s what I have on my iPhone.
Really? Couldn’t Crawford just have easily said, “This isn’t the same email address Kim used to email me,” and then they found out she had two accounts? Do we really need all the name dropping?
(This goes for referencing TV shows and movies too. Pay homage to them in your Oscar speech, not in your script.)
Not to mention the fact that it took them an entire third of the script to wonder where Kim was getting her info on the murders? Wouldn’t that be one of their first questions?
Few small things:
Bottom of page 6 and top of page 7, I had no clue what Russo was talking about when he let that guy go. Consider rephrasing. (Probably has to do with the cop talk.)
Page 39 with it’s WASPish lawyer. Not exactly a fond term over here across the pond. I’d consider dropping it, when you probably just meant to say, “powerful yet corrupt.”
Page 46, Gladys is into Russo or she’s over him? I got that she still liked him, or at least was still fond of Kim, but you need her, especially in this spot, to make more of an effort to let Frank know she’s moved on.
The whole Audrey thing. (And not the “DA in the pool” which was pretty lame. I rolled my eyes when she was swimming and talking to Russo.)
At the end, I didn’t get what she was meeting about, how she wanted it to end with Sean, and then her showing up at the BBQ. It was all a blur. Wasn’t sure if you were trying to make it like they were letting Russo take a fall, but you might want to revise that portion making it clearer.
6 out of 10 points.
Another good script from Antony Davies. It’s clear now why he’s done pretty well for himself at Amazon Studios. I think if he cleans this one up a little, focusing on keeping us as the audience in the dark, he’ll have at the least a decent script to get him other writing jobs, and at the most a shot at seeing his dreams on the big screen.
Total 74 out of 100 points.