Monday, July 18, 2016

Where the writer gets trashed...

 ...So this is what happens to "the rest of the story."  

So you read two stories back about being a writer and being a real writer. But it's not all that good also. 

So here's the original "strengths" as the reader at the Black List wrote it.
The premise of a presidential heart transplant is strong and commercial. It takes a personal need with a ticking clock, and transforms into a global crisis with a journey at its center. It's a smart base for an affordable political thriller which still has worldwide stakes. Making the protagonist a doctor was an intelligent decision, and introduces a fish out of water element that always plays well in a thriller. The setting - a chase from Paris to Luxembourg - is perfectly commercial.

That's the one you read last time. Sounds really positive, I should get meetings at least, if not an option. But this is where the reader begins to show how smart he or she is. I've been through a lot of readers and the only thing I could describe is this --

-- everyone is different. 

I've seen notes anywhere from 1 page to 20 pages (of which this 20 pg was good).

But this one I got from Black List is just plain dumb.
The biggest issue is undefined and unresolved antagonists. The "tease" of a conspiracy at the end is not enough, and only emphasizes a lack of answers. We absolutely need to know who Ulani is, who he's working for, and get a sensible explanation of their motivation. OK, maybe I can add the character's motivation, or not. I call this even.

From the standpoint of character, not enough romance or closeness develops between Doc and Judy. Neither Doc nor Judy are personally invested in delivering the heart: what drives them? Too much of the plot is under-explained or outright implausible. This is way too easy to say something that is basically their choice or mine. The signing of the papers to pass the presidency is not established as necessary, and is a false drama - its failure has no consequences. Here I say he/she is wrong. Using a word like implausible is just telling me he/she wishes they could write this.  And what the hell is "false drama." The reader is now showing off to his/her producer. None of that paragraph means anything.

Additionally, it's not realistic that the speaker is taking the presidency. It's not possible through the means suggested (impeachment doesn't remove a person from office, is exceptionally slow, and is only an accusation of a crime). The lack of believable usurpation seriously undermines the stakes. Again, the reader says it's "not realistic". Of course it's not, it's a movie!! Their realism and mine are clashing here. And the reader missed the point, unfortunately I can't post the entire script. Or maybe I can? Hmnn.
There are many small plausibility issues. E.g.: why would a random doctor be drafted for such a critical mission, why would the terrorists have a satellite link to the heart, how could world governments be totally incapable of securing the heart, and why wouldn't Ulani kill Doc and Judy. "Why would a random doctor be drafted for such a critical mission." Because that's what I wrote. There's too many how's and whys? Chances are that the reader is young and wants to impress their boss. 

fyi My first produced movie for Lifetime was a first draft. I finished it in 2 weeks and handed it over on a Friday to the AD and they started shooting Monday. Honest. Maybe a few changes in dialog or locations.
THE PRESIDENT'S HEART has a commercial premise and setting, but needs work on its execution before it will be seriously considered for purchase or production. This could be the death of this screenplay as this person definitely is contrary, they say it's a great script and then they tear it to pieces. If a story is good, it's good to anyone who reads it. It's a rookie, for sure. 

But if you want a good set of notes, I still have them. I had my Side by Side screenplay and didn't really want to get the production company's reader (or in this case she was an "exec". She took the script home and came back the next day. I was totally embarrassed, she came up with one great thing;

Rather than trashing it, she offered alternatives. 

Yes. Alternatives.

I still have those notes and I should maybe post them, if I can figure out how to do it on this darn thing...

But you can see the notes from the kid, just killing the story rather than helping the story. I learned that teaching UCLA classes, "if you trash someone's work, then offer some ideas."

I'll try to fit the exec's notes on this blog, if I can, I still read them now and then. She knew her business and loved movies and looked for the best in a screenplay, not the worst.

And more readers than you think envy the writers often and trash them just because they can. It's easier to trash a script then to champion it. So if you ever get trashed, there's more chance that they are envious but also that you can recognize good readers among them. After all a lot of them get paid $50 to read your script. This one did I know for sure.

And you will find good readers.

And you'll know it.

No comments:

Post a Comment