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Old 04-22-2007, 04:08 PM   #1
bierhound
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Default too much?

hi all,

just got feedback on my script, my girlfriend pointed out three major problems she had with it.

i'm now unsure and want your opinions. the script is dark and very twisted.

problem one - one of the characters kills his wife in a heated argument, his two kids witness the incident. he dosen't love his family and fearing he'll lose everything (professionally) he locks the two kids and the corpse in a bedroom and torches the house. is this too much?

problem two - the character's brother, and business partner, finds out that his wife has had an affair with said character, that she is pregnant with his child and throws her over a cliff. is this too much?

problem three - the script builds and builds (i hope!) until we reach the final scene... which is basically a 'who does it' situation. the screen freezes and a poem is read as a V.O. it lasts for just under a minute.. 57 seconds to be exact. is this too much? will the audience accept it or should a cut it by a verse or two... or three?

thanks. need some input before i decide what to do.
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Old 04-22-2007, 04:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: too much?

I don't know if there is such a beast as too much...except in the description. Do you go into detail about what happens after the kids are locked up and the house torched, or do you fade out on the house being torched?

Question Two...same thing. If it's what works thematically, then it isn't too much...unless you go into the gory details.

Personally, though...out of context, ending a film with poetry seems not enough: as in, it sounds as if you wrote yourself into a corner and need someone else's words to bail you out (assuming it's not original verse).
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Old 04-22-2007, 05:00 PM   #3
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Default Re: too much?

From your brief description (which obviously cannot do a full length story justice) my concern wouldn't be that it's "too much" (hey, a story of tragedy and woe is just that) ... but that you run the risk of hitting a dramatic and emotional peak too soon (murders, child burnings) ... and that it doesn't "build from there" that it merely hits a plateau of de-sensitizing violence.

But you didn't tell us what it builds to, so you may be right. Just my concern ..
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Old 04-22-2007, 05:28 PM   #4
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Default Re: too much?

I agree with the earlier replies; the question is not is it "too much" but did it feel like too much when your girlfriend read it? If it felt like too much then you obviously have a problem either in the tone, the narrative, the quality of the writing full-stop or the way these events are set up and paid off. I have read waaaaay worse stuff than that and it's only "too much" to me when it doesn't work meaning the graphic or disturbing event was not grounded in character and narrative, when it was handled clumsily and/or feels gratuitious.

Like everything in screenwriting, difficult subjects are all about execution.
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Old 04-22-2007, 05:55 PM   #5
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Default Re: too much?

Quote:
Originally Posted by La Femme Joyeuse View Post
I have read waaaaay worse stuff than that ....
Waaaaay worse than burning two children alive? I hope you sent a bill, then called the police.

In two decades in the news business, I handled any number of stories that involved murdered children. They were terrible. But one struck a nerve with everyone involved in the case and I think most people who read about it: A father in a custody dispute with his wife set fire to his young son in an Anaheim motel room. If I remember correctly, the poor kid survived. As you might imagine, he was tragically disfigured. The father served his time and when he was released years later, he was harrassed by people who still remembered the savagery and forced to go into hiding. There was a similar case a few years ago involving a guy who chopped out the arms of a teenage girl.

I know movies like Saw and Hostel are popular and lots of you guys are trying to write this stuff. But I'm just not sure anyone could actually "execute" a script where two children are burned alive and get somebody to finance and distribute it.

And Bierhound, if your girlfriend starts treating you differently, you know why.
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Old 04-22-2007, 06:17 PM   #6
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Default Re: too much?

Yes, M66, I have read worse. Sorry to say. You'd have to walk a mile in my reader's shoes to really appreciate what's out there - good and bad.

But remember - this is not real life, this is the movies. I can certainly understand from a newspaper man's perspective, that these types of things are cumulatively sickening and paralyzing. But I do not care for the intimation that to write about something terrible is to in some way glamorize or exploit it. Is this child-burning topic particularly awful sounding? Yes, it is. So the writer better have excellent execution and a damn good point to make - or it won't fly. But give him a chance - I haven't seen the work and I don't know the writer. He does have to listen to that feedback, however, because that is a barometer of the efficacy of the pages.

To intimate that terrible things happen in real life and that therefore we should not tell stories about them is antithetical to the creative process and to the contribution that writers, musicians and artists not only make but are compelled to make - because we are the mirrors of expression in which society is reflected. We push audiences, we give them solace, we make them laugh and we make them think.

If executed properly, a story about terrible, dehumanizing events can have redemptive, resonant and universal qualities that leave audiences moved, uplifted or changed by the events depicted. As long as it's not gratuitous - shocking violence for the sake of shocking violence - writers should absolutely explore the difficult subjects if they feel so inclined. Work that is poorly executed and exploitative will get stopped by readers before it gets anywhere, because the lack of skill and authenticity will be glaring and offensive. But something written with heart and purpose will be elevated by sincerity and professionalism.

If Terry George and the producers of Hotel Rwanda said well, what happened in Rwanda was too horrible to put on the screen - then millions of people would not have had the opportunity to learn more about what happened and to thusly reflect upon their own humanity and that of those around them and perhaps be able to stop this kind of thing from happening again.

Disclaimer: I am not speaking to the piles and piles of scripts I have seen which are indeed exploitative, grisly, graphic and disturbing for the sake of being disturbing. However, that said, am I to judge a writer and name him shallow when in fact the underlying message for the writer has been obscured by lack of experience? Everybody has something to say. Even if they don't quite know what it is.
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Old 04-22-2007, 06:32 PM   #7
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Default Re: too much?

I probably would have reacted the same why if somebody suggested a script about having sex with a horse. What do I know?

(I hope you didn't pass on that one, La Femme. It got decent reviews -- even though the writer's girlfriend actually left him after reading the script.)
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Old 04-22-2007, 06:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: too much?

Should the writer of the Exorcist be locked up for even imagining the scenes that were written for that movie? He must be sick and unfit to live in our society, right?
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Old 04-22-2007, 06:45 PM   #9
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Default Re: too much?

Quote:
Originally Posted by M4estro View Post
Should the writer of the Exorcist be locked up for even imagining the scenes that were written for that movie? He must be sick and unfit to live in our society, right?
Right! Now you understand it!
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Old 04-22-2007, 06:47 PM   #10
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Default Re: too much?

If the priest had gone into the room, poured gasoline on the girl and set her on fire, I doubt we would ever have seen The Exorcist.
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