Hi all, and welcome to another week.
Hope no one has a case of the Mondays.
Today we’re taking a look at one of those types of scripts with a twist that gets Roy and hot and bothered in a good way.
VOYAGER by Brandon Hanna
Logline: A team of scientist trying to prove the existence of alien life get more than they bargained for when they find themselves trapped during an alien invasion.
College grad, Joe, and the rest of his SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) team get the deal of a lifetime, a summer at the world’s largest radio telescope in Puerto Rico.
Tempers rise in the hottest summer in history as Joe’s girlfriend, Darci, ends up stationed in New Mexico and the team must share dish time with a group of scientists studying strange solar activity.
A record tropical storm blows in and cuts the team off from the rest of the world. Amidst the lightning, thunder, torrential rains and intense winds come visitors searching for something unthinkable.
Joe finds himself on an alien spacecraft thousands of miles away from the Earth, cornered, with one small chance to escape.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Yes, but again it’s only adequate.
I don’t think Roy and I can stress enough how important it is for ALL OF US to read not just pro scripts, but those recent specs that sold and aren’t made yet.
We’re going to be putting some up on the read scripts page so you can see what we’re talking about.
The type of description in Voyager paints a picture, but it feels more like a child’s paint by numbers portrait that isn’t really any fun.
This needs to be dressed up.
Also in quite a few parts, the description runs over 4 lines, so this problem will need to be addressed.
One thing I did like was the transitions from one place to another. Brandon does a good job of just using the capitalized location we’re going to without defaulting to a new slugline. I’m a fan of this technique as it keeps things moving.
6 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Format was good. I think I counted maybe 5 typos, which I’m always happy with.
The one thing that needs to be done properly is character descriptions.
Right now characters are just introduced by capitalized names, but we need at least an age with them.
As I mentioned in my amateur script review of Flood:
CHARACTER NAME (Age), brief description.
Brief description isn’t necessary, but it is one more way where our description can pack a punch.
8 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Another script that struggled with dialogue.
It actually wasn’t too bad, other than what the characters were saying related to things that aren’t exciting enough for a movie.
This planet orbits a star just like
ours. The distance from its star
is very close to the distance from
the Earth to our sun. It’s a
little bigger. It has liquid
water, an atmosphere and temperate
climates. We found this planet
about a month ago. It definitely
isn’t the first planet like this
we’ve found. There are plenty of
other planets just like Earth in
our galaxy. You cannot convince me
that life does not exist out there.
You cannot convince any of us.
Look up into the night sky and gaze
upon the stars. Most of those
stars have their own systems of
planets. There is intelligent life
out there, life as advanced as us,
more advanced than us. They’re out
there, probably asking the same
question as us. Are we alone? We
can’t be alone. Why are we alone?
Come on, explain it to me. Who can
Thirty-six years ago today, NASA
launched the Voyager One space
probe. Its mission was to study
the outer planets and leave our
solar system. Last week Voyager 1
officially left our solar system
and is now in interstellar space.
It’s out there, carrying a message
to any intelligent,
extraterrestrial life form that may
find it. Our voices have reached
the cosmos. What an achievement.
Some of the greatest minds in the
world created this message in a
bottle. What if somebody out there
has a message in a bottle waiting
for us to find it? SETI has had a
presence in Arecibo for years and
thanks to your help, we’re going
All this needs to be broken down DRAMATICALLY. It’s exposition setting up the plot, but as the planet never plays a specific role in the script, the author should just default to talking about finding earth-like planets.
This is my girlfriend, Darci. She
just graduated from Berkley.
Nice to meet you. Masters?
Under grad. I want to spend a year
with SETI before I go to grad
Will you be joining us in Puerto
Nope. I’ll be in New Mexico.
Pretty short plane trip if you ever
want to transfer. Looks like
Alderez wants to talk to me. I’ll
catch you guys later. Have fun.
Boring, and we should always choose incluing over straightforward introductions like this.
Still hanging around with this bum, Darcy?
For two more days, then I’m off to New Mexico.
Smart for leaving you, but dumb for going there.
That’s what I keep telling her.
If you change you mind, let Joe know and I’ll pull some strings.
Have fun charming the donors.
Jeff stands, feigns a smile with a wave across the room.
Kiss my ass.
Something along those lines. It’s always better to have your characters familiar with each other because this adds depth. It’s understood that there’s history between them.
Hey Lindsay! Darci, this is
Lindsay. Lindsay, Darci.
If you’re SOLD on these characters meeting for the first time, have us come in AFTER they’ve done the whole “A meet B, B meet A” thing.
Page 9 – Here we hit our umpteenth “Well,” at the beginning of dialogue. Go back and edit ALL OF THESE out.
Page 12 – More introductions that either need to go, or we come in late on.
In addition to all this, the characters all have too many one liners making fun of each other. This might happen with a group of friends in real life, but we need varying character personalities that stay true throughout the script.
Overall I can’t be too harsh, as I said, it was more the plot’s fault that the dialogue didn’t work since the characters were often in boring situations.
4 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 second half of the script was definitely movie material.
The first part felt more like a documentary about space and the SETI program.
5 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?
That knowledge of the SETI program was interesting, but here’s the problem, Contact used SETI for their brush with aliens, and Signs did the whole Alien’s with a twist thing.
Having said that, I do think Brandon’s got a good idea on his hands here, and the twist is better, so if he can find a way to use the setting in an original way (I’m thinking contained thriller) and beef up the plot so the twist has a greater impact, he’ll DEFINITELY have something.
5 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
We start out with Joe looking up at a night sky that isn’t on Earth. He’s also apologizing for something he did.
I liked this. Instantly set up the unknown and that something bad was going to happen. I wanted to know what.
The problem is the very next scene. It’s an exposition heavy fundraiser where we’re introduced to the characters.
I don’t think the premise of the scene is bad, just the length and the implementation of that idea is what bogs us down.
With some brainstorming though, there’s probably a much better scene that can accomplish what the fundraiser’s trying to.
9 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
I understand what the author was trying to do by separating Joe and Darci, but it doesn’t work, as we really don’t care and she just ends up in Puerto Rico anyway.
I’d actually argue the reverse to be better, since they can FINALLY be together after a year or more with her at Berkley, and this packs more of an emotional impact later in the script.
Them sitting around SETI is BORING. There needs to be more here, and as this script is only 89 pages, the inciting incident needs to be sooner than it is on page 16.
I very much like the fact that they hear Voyager getting destroyed, but this needs to be more menacing. More people should be up in arms, in that maybe there’s nothing large enough out there that could give off readings like that, so what just off’ed the satellite?
Get characters panicked and we’ll be more interested.
One plot point that Brandon missed was utilizing the Cornell team. There was an EXCELLENT opportunity to set up a rivalry with two characters on their team, and maybe even a possible romance between Darci and one of them.
This is a movie after all, and we need to be interested in every scene, not just getting filler of people sitting and listening to the stars while we wait for the “bad guys” to show up.
3 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
In the first half, absolutely not, especially considering the potentially awesome twist Brandon has in store. There’s too much day to day stuff in the first 45 pages.
The aliens need to get there A LOT sooner, not just at the midpoint.
If anything, the midpoint should be where Joe and crew decide to fight back, thinking the aliens will most likely kill them anyway.
But before I get too hard on him, here’s what I liked:
The noise getting louder and louder from space. This needs to be more of a pressing problem with the characters asking, “What’s coming?”
Ross being separated from the others. (However, if you utilize the Cornell team, here’s a cool situation where enemies now must become friends.)
Aliens using Voyager’s recording of little kids’ voices. AWESOME.
What needs Fixing
They can’t just sit there, but on the other hand they can’t just run either.
I liked the fog idea, or total darkness, but the aliens need to come in sooner. Here’s where they (and we) should get freaked out by the noises and the cell phone calls with freaky kids’ voices. (I can’t stress how much I loved that.)
But after that, they need problems to solve. If they want to run, they should try some sort of escape, not just sending one person out to get attacked.
Dangle carrots in front of them, like a clear way out, that could be a trap but they have no choice and try it.
Keeping your characters on their toes will keep us on the edge of our seats.
At some point though, they’ll want to say screw it and just take their chances.
Remember, each victory they win against the aliens only makes your twist that much more of a payoff.
Lindsay’s panic should be trying to get to Ross. This will keep her at odds with the others.
Joe should have more of a leader role, which puts him at odds with Jeff, since Jeff is his boss and the realistic first choice to lead the group.
Darci shouldn’t calm down, and only after threats of restraint will she shut up. Making her a ticking time bomb is good, just don’t overdo it.
Once they get to the spaceship, you can’t have them just running. It’s LITERALLY like, “The aliens are here, run there. Oh no more aliens, run back here. Oh no, go back to where we started.” GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DO! (i.e. an elevated view of the escape pods, but a group of aliens they have to bust through. They know where they have to go, and that there’s an obstacle they must overcome.)
A LOT of work needs to be done on the plot though, especially initially.
3 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Once Brandon fixes all the other stuff, people will like it.
Few things that bugged me.
Ross and Joe drinking at the controls. I thought there should be some tension with Carlos there, as he’s fighting to get them time, and they’re drinking beer with an expensive, one of a kind piece of equipment.
Lindsey switching frightened roles with Darci didn’t make sense, ESPECIALLY when Darci then yells at her. I was all, “Wait a minute, you were just freaking out a few pages back.” Keep characters true to their personalities, and give them unique problems to worry about. (i.e. Lindsey getting to Ross and Darci just wanting to come out of it alive.)
Lastly, an audience will want more of a fight. When all hope seems lost, we want to be inspired by people making a final stand, because that’s what we’d like to think we’d do.
Overall though this script has decent potential.
7 out of 10 points.
Even with my comparisons to Contact and Signs, I think this script has real potential, since Brandon has a shot at making the similar elements in those stories unique. (Since the twist itself is ten times better than Signs.)
What it will take though is a lot of work, given that almost half the script will need to be scrapped in favor of more drama and plot.
Personally I hope he does it, because the script is an exciting premise, and one that would do well with professional readers. The mechanics need to be put in place first, though.
Total 50 out of 100 points.
Uh, not to be a buzzkill or anything… but didn’t Aricebo lose funding in 2010, and now is owned by a private company and no longer does the SETI mission?
Oh, you’re Captain Buzzkill now, taking the wind out of my sails for being excited and Brandon’s for basing his script on it, lol.
Can my catchphrase be “down, down in the dumps, oy vey!”