Is my script is doomed?

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  • Is my script is doomed?

    My advisor hates the script I'm writing and that's okay, there are a lot of times when I hate it too. There have been problems all along, but they seemed small or things that could be dealt with in revision, but now she pointed out a problem that I'm not sure I can get around and I think it could be the fatal blow.

    A 16 year old geeky kid becomes friends with kids who are "obsessed" with death.

    So the problem is, according to her, the audience can see it coming from the beginning of act 2. It may not be clear exactly how they're going to die, but it ia obvious some are going to die.

    She's right and I can't get around it. Is the script doomed because it's obvious what will happen, though not how? There's no way to write around this because I can't establish the philosophies of the group without writing how they think and how they think creates the situation in which they die.

    Is it doomed? I was trying to write a story about how far one lonely kid will go to make or keep friends, but if the reader can see it coming from the start, then apparently I did that, but nothing more.

  • #2
    Re: Is my script is doomed?

    So the problem is, according to her, the audience can see it coming from the beginning of act 2. It may not be clear exactly how they're going to die, but it ia obvious some are going to die.

    Unless these deaths are supposed to be a complete surprise...then it shouldn't matter.

    Did you like TITANIC? Did it ruin it for you KNOWING that the boat was gonna sink?

    APOLLO 13...we all knew there was gonna be a problem.

    With your story, it's obvious some are gonna die. The drama will come from the uncertainty of WHO is gonna die, WHEN they're gonna die, and by what unique methods you will effect their demise.

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    • #3
      Doomed?

      Have either you or your advisor seen THE VIRGIN SUICIDES?
      JEKYLL & CANADA (free .mp4 download @ Vimeo.com)

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      • #4
        Re: Is my script is doomed?

        I'll tell you what I think...

        I think the criticism that a movie or a script is "predictable" is overused.

        Sure, there are certain films in which the outcome is supposed to be a mystery or there's supposed to be some great twist or revelation, yet you can see it coming from a mile away because the execution is so poor. Those films are "predictable."

        But there are other films in which the outcome is inevitable and the focus is not on hiding what the outcome is going to be, but on how we're going to get there. Or how the characters are going to develop on their way there. Or how the theme ties in with the end. Or exactly HOW it's going to happen. Or whatever the film (or script) is actually exploring.

        I'll give you an example:

        SPOILERS FOR REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (Ha! Funny that I include a spoiler warning for a film in which the outcome is, by my own admission, inevitable; oh well, it's a courtesy.)


        In Requiem For A Dream, we know from the point when things start going downhill that it isn't going to end well for our heroes. Hell, the friggin' TITLE gives it away. But the film isn't trying to hide the outcome. That's not its purpose. Its purpose is to explore theme (if addiction is the death of hope, what happens when we're addicted to hope? We're really fvcked then, aren't we?) and character.

        And yet, I've heard people call it "predictable."

        No, it's "inevitable."

        There's a world of difference.

        Just my take.


        (Great call on The Virgin Suicides, Fortean. lol)
        I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

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        • #5
          Re: Is my script is doomed?

          I didn't see it and I don't know about her.


          Okay, but here's a different part of the problem: the kids are re-enacting the death of Yukio Mishima and in order to make that believable, I "show" a clip from "Patriotism" in beginning of Act 1 (page 15) as foreshadowing. They don't discuss the way he dies after page 20 (?) but they do talk about him and the Samurai views of death (suicide) throughout the script.

          So the audience does know everything, or at least everything has been presented to them. I don't think people put it together, but there's no way for me to know if they do (my advisor is the only one who has read the entire script, though not at one time). She read Act 1 and (later)15 pages of Act 3 (suicide scenes) and then read 30 pages of Act 2 and that's pretty much all that I've written. 75 pages in and I'm so close to finishing this draft but I'm starting to wonder if it is worth it.

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          • #6
            Re: Is my script is doomed?

            It is worth it. Finish the draft.

            You can always work out ways to be more subtle or whatever you think you need to be in the rewrites.
            I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

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            • #7
              Re: Is my script is doomed?

              I'll give you another example:

              The trailer for Mean Creek gave away the jarring "reversal." So if you ever saw the trailer, you knew what was going to happen.

              But you didn't know exactly how it was going to happen. Or why. Or what the characters were going to do about it. Or any of the other nuances.

              And those nuances made the movie.
              I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

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              • #8
                Re: Is my script is doomed?

                Basically what Writer1 said with some caveats.

                In Apollo 13 that was the whole premise of the movie - spaceship goes ploof, astronauts struggle to get home. In Titanic the question wasn't does the ship sink, it was do these particular characters survive and how. I'd submit that if the whole dramatic question of Titanic had been, will this ship make it to New York or will it hit that big iceberg we keep cutting to, then you'd have had a problem.

                Yeah there are movies where we know a big part of what's coming. When a bunch of teenagers go to a creepy old house in the woods for a raucous night of boozing and shagging, then you pretty much know they're going to start dying badly.

                On the other hand it is possible (trust me on this) to create a story where you start off with someone warning that some horrible thing is going to happen to the hero. The hero thinks they're nuts. And then, sure enough, it happens. The end. The story ends up pretty flat and boring.

                Of course we can't tell which side of the fence your script is on. One helpful thing to remember is that there's a critical distinction between your characters and the audience. The audience knows they're watching a movie. What is surprising or unbelievable to your characters is what they came to see. They'll immediately accept propositions that they would consider ridiculous or dangerously insane if they encountered them in the real world, and think your characters are stupid for not instantly recognizing the truth of the situation.

                It's easy for writers to get so into their characters' viewpoints that they only assess the emotional impact from their POV. Try reading through your script and thinking what the audience knows, expects and feels at any given point and see if that helps.
                Last edited by jmsullivan; 11-26-2005, 11:46 AM.

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                • #9
                  Re: Is my script is doomed?

                  Whoa, on reading the spate of replies that came up while I was composing, let me amplify a bit.

                  Not only does the audience know they're watching a movie, they assume there's some reason the movie was made. If we're following these students, as opposed to any of the hundreds of other students, then there's a reason for that. Similarly, if you show us the Mishima thing in act one, as opposed to what goes on in math class or lunch, then there's a reason for that too.

                  Heck, that's basic Chekhov. "Where do you keep the nuclear wessels?" No, wait, that's not it. "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there."

                  It does sound like you're telegraphing the idea that someone's going to get a sword in the breadbasket before this is all over and on the "this is going to happen - see, I told you" side of the fence I was talking about before. I agree, that doesn't necessarily trash your script - it all depends on what you do with it now that you've got that cloud hanging over everything.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Is my script is doomed?

                    You guys are great. Titanic is on right now and as that plays in the background, I'm reading all these amazing responses.

                    I opened the script and got back to work on it.

                    Thanks. I really needed the encouragement to get back to work on it and all of you did that.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Is my script is doomed?

                      Ditto what Rex said.


                      If your story is missing the pieces that make it inevitable then it will feel like contrived and manipulative false drama that is not an organic result of the characters and situations.


                      Your story should never be predictable but it should always be inevitable.


                      Fortune favors the bold - Virgil

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                      • #12
                        Re: Is my script is doomed?

                        Originally posted by Fortean
                        Have either you or your advisor seen THE VIRGIN SUICIDES?
                        Originally posted by Fortean
                        Have either you or your advisor seen THE VIRGIN SUICIDES?
                        Originally posted by Fortean
                        Have either you or your advisor seen THE VIRGIN SUICIDES?
                        woops. If you brush this aside then, yeah, your project may be doomed to failure as a spec script.
                        The Complete IfilmPro DEVELOPMENT FORUM (PDF)

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                        • #13
                          Re: Is my script is doomed?

                          Dude- Check out the biggest "everyone on planet earth knows what the hell is going to happen film" ever written filmed and distributed it's called the 'Passion of the Christ'. Maybe some of you have heard of it?

                          I'll give you an example of films where EVERYONE knows how it ends - Saving Private Ryan and Carlito's way. They both begin from a flashback so in the end it's somewhat predictable that Ryan get's saved and Carlito gets whacked. I've not read your script but the problem might be that it's not just that she can see what's coming it's that she can't see how ANYTHING else could come. Therefor what's the point in continuing to watch the movie?

                          In most films I watch I know what happens, who is the villain, where billy is hiding, etc. very quickly (even when they're supposed to be real tricky and difficult answers) just because I'm quick like that. However, the only time that is a disappointment is when I can't see ANY POSSIBLE WAY that I'm wrong. Then when I'm right I'm just pissed at having wasted the additional hour and a half to see what I already knew.

                          However, if for example, I'm PRETTY DAMN SURE that Mrs. Scarlett did it in the Study with the Candlestick but there's a slight doubt that it might have been Colonel Mustard who is the culprit I'm bound to stick around. Then if it turns out to be Scarlett I feel good about being right because I had the doubt and if it turns out to be Col. Mustard then I'm surprised but also satisfied. I hope you understand the difference.

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                          • #14
                            How Much Imagination Have You Used?

                            I think the question is - does *what* happens happen in a predictable way? Did you engage the imagination?

                            Neal Marshall Stevens has a script called DEADER that's probably online somewhere. It's about a group of people obsessed with death... and staying "alive" after death. So they kill themselves, and by sheer force of will, manage to stay on their feet. But when they stop believing, they drop dead.

                            FLATLINERS is also a flick about people obsessed with death - medical students who kill themselves, then bring themselves back after they've flatlined.

                            So, being obsessed with death and dying is okay... if what happens next isn't what we expected. We usually know what's going to happen in a movie - the cop is going to catch the crook - it's *how* all of that happens that makes it interesting. As long as the *how* is creative and unexpected, you're okay.

                            - Bill
                            Free Script Tips:
                            http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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                            • #15
                              Re: Is my script is doomed?

                              The raw spec: http://www.horrorlair.com/scripts/DEADER.pdf

                              Development Hell: http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Hellraiser-Deader.html

                              Some bg on the sale:
                              http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=4414
                              The Complete IfilmPro DEVELOPMENT FORUM (PDF)

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