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Old 04-08-2011, 09:02 PM   #1
Hamboogul
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Default Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

For those who haven't followed what's gone down, here's some context. I posted a blog entry a few weeks ago where I challenged anyone on Done Deal to a writing contest in the vein of Iron Chef America or Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

I was really thrilled when Jeff Lowell volunteered to challenge me for a chance to win a voucher for a free drink at Starbucks. I felt it'd be a unique battle if we both were forced to adapt a short story from Popcorn Fiction run by Derek Haas. In particular, we chose this story.

Both samples were written in about an hour. And luckily, we both took completely different angles to this story. Without further ado, here they are.

Just a small note: I had to edit the obscenities to "phuck" and "phag" to bypass the DD auto-censor.

SAMPLE A:

Code:
EXT. CENTURY BLVD - DAY A parking lot shared by a strip mall with a payday loan center, a liquor store, and a laundromat on one side and... ...a 24 unit MOTEL COMPLEX that's as decrepit and hopeless as its tenants who waste their lives. ON THE SECOND FLOOR We move from one unit to the next. Sabado Gigante blares from Unit 12 with a Mexican family of eight packed inside. GRUNTS and MOANS of cheap, ugly sex from Unit 13. Then-- BETH hurries out of Unit 14 with her cart of cleaning supplies. Beth could've been a singer or a teacher. Or perhaps even a nurse. But somehow she ended up here. RONALD (O.S.) I'd pay, of course. I always pay my models. RONALD, old enough to be her father's older friend, steps out. At his age, the pudge around him and the bald patches on his head look dignified. Plus, he has an easy smile. BETH Yeah, I'm no model. She smiles to alleviate the awkwardness. A beat. Finally remembering, Ronald walks back into his studio unit filled with portraits of nude women in idle poses. He reaches into his dresser and pulls out a roll of twenties. He walks around an easel with an unfinished portrait of a corpulent woman whose rolls of fat cover her genitals. RONALD I almost forgot to pay you. Good thing I made it to the bank today. BETH It's only ten dollars. But you keep the place so clean I don't-- RONALD I insist. Ronald places two twenty dollar bills on her palm. And holds on to her hand just a little too long. Then he lets go. RONALD Well, thank you for coming. I'll see you next week? BETH Yeah, sure. RONALD You're a beautiful woman, Beth. (locks eyes with her) I hope I didn't make you uncomfortable. BETH No. Of course not. (selling her smile hard) I'll see you next week. Ronald. Beth pushes her cart toward the stairwell, not daring to look back. Keep walking, Beth. You're almost there. When she finally reaches the stairs, she peeks back to see the door on Unit 14 closed. A slight look of disappointment. INT./EXT. UNIT 1 - DAY Beth pushes her cart to the door that reads "BUILDING MANAGER." She looks up toward Unit 14 one last time. The door remains closed but the curtain moves ever so slightly. JAKE (O.S.) Tit for tat. I'll show you my tats if you show me your-- (laughs) Yeah. You know it. Anger boiling inside her, Beth throws open the door. JAKE bolts up his seat, grabs a remote, and turns on the TV. JAKE (loud into the phone) I'll check that out. Thank you for calling. (hangs up fast) The wigger in seven has a leak. BETH I didn't ask. Beth shoves the cleaning cart into the closet. JAKE You're back fast. Were you in the phaggot's apartment? BETH He's not a phag. He was married. (off his indifference) He paints women, you know. Naked. Beautiful models. Actresses. JAKE So what? A guy paints apples. Doesn't mean he phucks them. Jake plops himself on the couch and watches baseball. BETH He wants to paint me. (Jake raises TV volume) He said I was beautiful. I'm going to pose for him. Naked. Shaved. He clenches his teeth and approaches. She knows what's next. JAKE You'd better phucking not. (grabs her arm) I'm not kidding, Beth. BETH Maybe I'll even phuck him to find out if he's a phag. Right after I stop by number seven to see how that leak's going. SLAP. Jake hits her full in the face. She doesn't care. BETH Maybe you ain't screwin' someone else. (another SLAP) Maybe you're screwin number seven. Maybe you're the phag. (SLAP, SLAP) Maybe you're so damn drunk you can't get it up anymore for me or-- Jake HITS her. The first punch hurt. Second punch, too. But each punch hurt less and less until Beth becomes numb to the pain. He pushes her to the ground. She curls up in a fetal position, bracing for a kick. But he steps over her and enters the KITCHEN. He grabs a beer. He steps over Beth again, sits down, and watches the Dodgers blow a goddamn ninth inning lead to the motherphucking Giants.

SAMPLE B:

Code:
EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING - POOLSIDE - DAY Two guys in their 60s (RONALD and BILLY), sit by the debris strewn pool in an apartment complex that's well past its prime. They look up as BETH comes out of an apartment on the second floor. Beth's early 20s, with a killer body and a face that'll do. She's carrying a box of cleaning supplies, waves down at the guys. BETH Hey, Ronald. Billy. The guys wave in return, wait for her to get out of earshot. BILLY Man, I'd like a piece of her. RONALD Good luck with that. BILLY Like you could do any better. RONALD Oh, I could get her. I'd just pull a Hefner. BILLY The only thing you pull is your pud. RONALD You don't know the Hefner, do you? A guy as ugly as you, you really should know it. BILLY All right, genius. What's is it? RONALD Hugh Hefner's a guy that proves no matter how old and wrinkled your ass is, you got enough money and you can nail anyone. BILLY You ain't got Hefner money. You ain't got McDonalds money. RONALD I'm not gonna marry her. I don't have to have the money - she just has to think I do. It's all about the story. INT. JUNK STORE - DAY The sign on the door may say "ANTIQUES," but it's all just crap that no one wants. Ronald sorts through a stack of bad amateur art. He sets aside all the nudes. BILLY (V.O.) You tell whatever story you want, you're living in an apartment building filled with winos and ex-cons, and you ride the bus to get your lottery tickets. RONALD (V.O.) That's why it's a story, my good man. INT. RONALD'S APARTMENT - DAY Ronald's scattered the paintings around his apartment. He's talking to Beth while she cleans. RONALD I'm a pretty well known artist. I'm a rich man. I could buy this building and ten like it and never notice the money was gone. EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING - POOLSIDE - DAY BILLY No way. Girl like her's heard a thousand lines of bullshit. INT. RONALD'S APARTMENT - DAY He's sitting on his bed with a bank deposit book in his hand, writing in it. RONALD (V.O.) That's where we need proof. BILLY (V.O.) But there is no proof because you're flat ass broke. RONALD (V.O.) It's not real proof. It's a lie - fake bank receipts, something like that. CLOSE ON the deposit book - Ronald's switching between different colored pens and filling in larger and larger numbers. EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING - POOLSIDE BILLY Why would she believe it? RONALD Because I don't show it to her. She finds it. INT. RONALD'S APARTMENT - LATER Beth's alone in the apartment. She pulls his bankbook out of his dresser, looks at it. Can't believe what she's seeing. BETH Three million, four hundred twenty two thousand, five hundred and twelve. Three million. Four hundred twenty two thousand. Five hundred and twelve. EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING - POOLSIDE - DAY BILLY And then you bang her. RONALD Not quite yet. INT. RONALD'S APARTMENT - DAY Beth's posing naked on the bed, while Bill dabs inexpertly at a canvas in front of him. RONALD (V.O.) I get her to where I could bang her, but I don't. Now she knows I'm not feeding her a line of bullshit to phuck her. Now she'll do anything to get me. EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING - POOLSIDE - DAY Billy shakes his head. BILLY I'll be damned. That might actually work. You gonna do it? INT. RONALD'S APARTMENT - DAY Ronald's alone in his apartment, wiping the paint off his hands. RONALD (V.O.) I just might. There's a knock at the door. Ronald smiles - show time. RONALD (V.O.) Because I gotta tell you - you do it right, and it's foolproof. Ronald opens the door. But it's not Beth - it's her huge, pissed boyfriend, JAKE. And he's holding a wrench. He pushes Ronald back into the apartment and slams the door as we... FADE OUT.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:03 PM   #2
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

This post is where I'll tally the votes. Since it'll be a logistical nightmare to tally everyone's vote, I want to count only the votes of DD moderators of the Advanced Script Pages (mods+admins+the writers) and writers who are in the WGA guild. But I'd love to hear everyone's comments since Jeff and I both took completely different approaches in the adaptation.

SAMPLE A: some lint.

SAMPLE B: Johnson, Todd Karate, jimjimgrande, sarajb, Derek Haas

Was waiting for my mom to vote the tiebreaker since it's SO CLOSE. Sadly, she voted for SAMPLE B. Winner is JEFF LOWELL!


Btw, you guys can comment all you want. I just want to keep the voting itself manageable. Also, please visit Popcorn Fiction. There are so many amazing stories posted there by many fabulous writers.

Last edited by Hamboogul : 04-09-2011 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:40 PM   #3
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

I'm neither a DD moderator nor a WGA member, but you said you wanted other opinions. I vote for B. Among other reasons, I found Jake showing up with a wrench much more succinct than all the dialogue from Jake in sample A. BTW, I did not read the story from which these were adapted and don't know if that would've made a difference in my choice.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:42 PM   #4
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

I don't think it's necessary for you to read the short stories. That being said, the source material had such richness that it's worth reading regardless.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:53 PM   #5
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

Jeff's original story is really well told. Great stuff.

I thought it would be easy to tell who wrote which sample, because I've read enough of Boog's work, but I gotta say I can't tell. They are both pretty good.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:58 PM   #6
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

Okay, I went back and read the original short story, and now I'm sure that sample B was written by Jeff. I'll be very surprised if I'm wrong.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:59 PM   #7
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

I gotta roll with B on this one. Just a fluidity to the conversation that gives you a complete arc in a short span. We know almost nothing about Ronald in sample A... But sample B tells us sooooo much.

Also, even though they are drawn very differently... I feel like I know more about who Beth is as a person from sample B. Then I do about the Beth in sample A....

See a theme... It's not the dialogue, it's not the story... IT'S THE CHARACTERS... They sing in sample B. They talk in sample A.

And because the characters are well drawn, their dialogue flows better. Their actions are more concise, clear and entertaining. And all that adds up to a scene that (for me) is much more interesting.

That's my vote... FWIW.

I am WGA if you want to count my vote.
If you do member look up.. either Joe or Joseph R. Johnson work.
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Old 04-08-2011, 10:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

B SO kicks A's ass.

It isn't even funny. It's like... not fair.

Yo, Jeff. I'll [redacted] for that Starbuck's voucher. Not yours, obviously. But, you know, whomever's you choose.
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Old 04-08-2011, 10:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

I'm not giving away which is which, but I do want to say one thing: I think Hamboogul did a great job with his, and I also think he gave himself a big handicap - I knew the characters already.
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Old 04-08-2011, 10:05 PM   #10
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Default Re: Throwdown: Hamboogul vs. Jeff Lowell

I recall reading this story on Popcorn fiction. starting with my favorite:

Sample B.

I prefer this one because it includes the fake bank statement twist, which I really liked in the short story. Also, the characters felt more "real" to me. Nice ending, too. I liked putting the focus on Ronald -- him thinking he's so slick -- the touch with buying cheap paintings was really good. A wanna-be Hefner who never considered alternative outcomes to his master plan.

Although both are written well, I felt the writing in choice B flows much better than ...

Sample A.

It seemed a bit too Lifetime movie/abused woman for my tastes. Then it got further melodramatic with Beth's dialogue as she's being beaten by Jake -- it felt too "heard it before," IMO. Also, there was a switch to an interior shot of Ronald's room without a slugline or mini slug. I got lost for a second there. Ronald was "neither here nor there" as a character in Choice A. I didn;t feel like he was a person but rather a catalyst for the fight between Beth and Jake. And Jake felt like "abusive husband" straight out of central casting.

Bottom line:

IMO Choice B would be far more intriguing on the screen and felt "fresh."

Whereas, with Choice A, I got the feeling the writer was more concerned about how his writing read on the page.

Yet, he gave far less consideration to how many times we've seen the "woman getting beaten as she antagonizes her man with insults" scene in movies.

Sorry, writer A.
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