Nicholl 2011 finalists' scripts



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  • Nicholl 2011 finalists' scripts

    Has anyone read them? I'm going to try to read some of them today and do a live-evaluating. So far, gave Fig Hunt a shot. It opened with a history on some sort of fantasy quest, like from a child's point of view. I'm not a family/G-rated/mockumentary movie sort of guy so couldn't get past page five.

    Moving on to The Tiger's Child.

    10 pages in. Love the world it's created. Feels like I'm right there. Definitely a drama and not commercial. Met about six characters. Think they're Hmong villagers in Cambodia. Have no idea where it's going. But it feels like I'm in good hands.

    20 pages in. The brothers' Cheng and Tou are a delight to watch. Very young and innocent. Plot thickens with Americans coming in helicopters. Village elders demand one person from every family join the war. Momentum building.

    30. Find myself caring about what happens to the characters. The brothers' father might go off to war. Summers, a man from the CIA, and in charge of turning the Hmongs into a battle-ready force, is likable enough which is smart on the writers' part.

    40. Reminds me now of Graveyard of the Fireflies. A simple life is interrupted by the horrors of war.

    50. Main characters trying to survive. Go to neighbors for food, sell stuff. While small actions, characters are being active.

    60. Things grow tougher for the boys. Tou, the eldest, now has to join the army to take care of Cheng, the youngest. Plot and read has been very brisk. No missteps so far.

    70. Ah, the evil aunt. I think every coming of age tale has one and with good reason. Fascinating that the US used Hmong child soldiers against the Communists (either Chinese or North Vietnamese), not sure the year is in the script.

    80. Love the use of the tiger as a metaphor. VO works, gurus be damned. Yikes. The Americans left. Can't believe how quickly. Our boys gotta move West to Thailand to escape the Communists now. Man, this screenplay is going by like a blur.

    90. Journeying into darkness. Run in with Communist soldiers, a decimated village. Love how smart and distinct both the boys are. Eldest is responsible, resourceful. Youngest is naive but has good instincts. Tension high, stakes are youngest's innocence.

    95. Land mines. Giant Mekong river. Cheng's foot is injured. Danger everywhere. Love it.

    100. Nice little climax as brothers try to cross. Run into another family. Fight for the flotation tube. Communist soldiers thrown into mix. Tiger appears. Part of me wishes there was a coda, but suppose ending at present is in keeping with tone of the script.

    Wrapup: I can see why writers won the Fellowships. Heartbreaking, delightful, historical, authentic, always engaging. Still not commercial in traditional sense, but I could see it making some waves at the box office with an Oscar nomination.

    Just remembered I read Unicorn, another 2011 fellow script a few weeks ago. It was about detectives going to a psychic in order to stop a serial killer. It was hard buying that true psychics actually existed, and there was a lot of waiting around by the detectives for their psychic to give them their next clue. Did like the romance between one of the detectives and the psychic, and there was one good sequence towards the end where the psychics are in a race to stop each other, but tropes felt hackneyed and it felt a couple of drafts away from truly crossing over into great territory. Great title, though.

    * About script requests, sorry guys. I don't want to get into trouble with the mods.
    Last edited by AlexNoa; 05-25-2012, 02:52 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Nicholl 2011 finalists' scripts

    Where are you reading them?
    "Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again." -[/SIZE] James R. Cook


    • #3
      Re: Nicholl 2011 finalists' scripts

      Starting Guns and Saris now. Holy crap. There's a character listing that's nearly a page long. I won't read them because we shouldn't need it. But certify me scared. Looks like I'm travelling to India now. By the way, here's the log from the Nicholl web site:

      "Guns and Saris"
      They’ve been oppressed and brutalized at the bottom of India’s caste system for 3000 years, but now the “untouchable” women of India have found an unlikely source of hope - and she’s armed.

      10 pages in. First character we meet is Anu, 7, but it's her sister, Vanita, 11, who's getting married. Child bride at the age of 11. It's got my attention. Focus is shifting to Vanita and her dealing with the marriage, but I'm still thinking about Anu. Writer beware: readers will tend to designate first character they meet as the main character.
      Like Tiger's Child, this script is giving us a firsthand look at how the poorest of the poor in India live. This is better than a travelogue.
      Lot of stuff happening. Bandits rape Seeta, an aunt, while villagers watch helplessly. Bit of a time problem here, writers forced up the timeline of Vanita's laying with her new husband to intercut with the rape. Easy fix, though.

      20. Script is starting to lose me. Met quite a number of new characters. Confusing but that's fine. I can easily imagine filing away their faces on screen. But the main problem is that despite Seeta's rape and murder, her sister, Leela, only tries once to do something about it when she goes to the police station. She's rebuffed, and yes, that's probably how it is for the untouchables, but Leela quickly goes back to work, witnesses another rape of a co-worker. Lesson: the bigger the event, the bigger the reverberation.

      30. Relieved to see Leela is not letting her sister's death go. I would've liked her to be more proactive sooner, but she speaks up about the murder when a local politician comes, which gets the ball rolling for the investigation. Relieved that the goal has just been defined. The lower caste villagers, living in squalor - the situation that needs to be improved.

      40. Did the Indian soldier, Vishal, just say "Jesus?" Vishal shows some kindness, thought he was just a fatass, always nice to see that sort of nuanced character. And he provides comic relief which is important in potentially sleep-inducing material. Problem: a bit too easy for Leela (our main character) to get the guns she'll need. Would've had more tension if she stole it without Vishal noticing. Though Vishal allowing her to keep it may be in step with the lawlessness of the area, in story terms, that was a missed opportunity.

      Lunch break. Panda Express. Yum.

      50. "Eyes brim with gratitude." Yeah, I'm okay with those lines. Whatever communicates the message better.
      Santosh (politician) orders Vishal to get the rifle back. This is where rewriting is hard: the scene where Vishal gave the rifle now works but RETROACTIVELY. It makes sense and works now, but at the time, that first scene didn't work. Better to make that first scene work then to go back and fix 'cause then things get messy. I see writing like this all the time and then it's so hard for the writer to come back and fix it because they argue, "just wait five'll see it works." But you lost me for those five pages.
      Empowering to see Leela walking around, head higher, thanks to the rifle. My inner woman is unleashed. But Leela isn't smart about it, going to her boss and the police station, demanding things just because she has a rifle which of course she can't use to shoot them. So far, this script is a teeter totter of good and bad.
      Binod (Seeta's husband and lackey of the men who murdered her) eats dinner with Leela's family. After dinner, he tells her to stop carrying the gun. The prose tells us that Leela instantly knows he was sent by the men. This won't work on screen.

      60. Vishal hands 20 guns to 20 women. Have to shake my head. Guns are expensive and he's handing it out like candy because they're flirting with him. The number should be limited. This all goes back to giving obstacles to your protagonists. That said, humor goes a long way to smoothing over credulity.

      70. Women are helping to guard Leela's house. This should be given a scene to setup. Why are they doing it, what are the women sacrificing. Instead, they are just kinda there. The reader needs to be told certain information. Make exposition your friend.
      The women want even more guns. The twenty guns earlier I can understand, but without any impetus, this goal for more guns is unmotivated. Drama is showing, folks.

      Certain cultural aspects like dialogue with "****" and "Jesus" and Indians singing Happy Birthday remind me that this script is written by non-Indians. Perhaps this happens in India, but for laypeople, what's more fascinating is seeing their culture on every page.

      The conflict has not escalated. We are still with the same level as after the opening, seventy pages ago. This is why opening with such a big bang can be dangerous, as it sets high expectations, but even without it, conflict should escalate.

      80. Finally, some danger. Two of the village girls are disfigured. Panic. We needed more of this.

      Missed opportunity with Vishal and his father, the general. This has been the pattern with the script, unfortunately. It's good but repeat missed opportunities, to really affect the reader and get to the core of these characters, is glossed over.

      After the attack on the girls, the women get more guns and begin target practice. They giggle as they practice. In this instance, the tone of the practice should be graver. Seems that the writers are afraid of going for the jugular and instead play it safe.

      Vishal tells the women not to give their guns to any man, even their husbands. This reminds me that the husbands' point of view is not being shown, causing a lack of depth in the story.

      The women stand and wait to be attacked, which means passivity. Leela confronted Ram and some of the other bandits suspecting they were the ones who killed her sister. Bandits were also shown to live in a mansion. Leela should be leading the charge to find them instead of waiting around. Always make your characters active. It intrinsically makes them smarter and thus more likable.

      90. Santosh and his family's house is shot up in a driveby. Whenever you give me an escalation of danger, I'm gonna respond positively.

      Lineless scene of Santosh and his family at police station seems unnecessary. With lines, it'll be the opposite.

      Vishal, who was introduced as a side character, is suddenly becoming the protagonist. He leads the women into a restaurant and demands the finest food. This is not a positive development. Reserve the main catalysts for your story for the protagonist.

      And, there are not nearly enough obstacles. Having just read Tiger's Child which was replete with conflict, this script's absence of it is amplified. This goes to show that one script read may affect another; nothing exists in a vacuum.

      A thought just occurred: the vagrancies of the structure could be helped by its setting. It meanders a bit, but my brain is "tricked" into thinking its a foreign film so I give more leniency to the looseness in plot.

      Okay, so one of the girls kills her rapist and suddenly, Leela is hiding her guns because they're banned now. But the gun is the metaphor for Leela's fight for equality. For her to squirrel it away so quickly unfortunately tells me she has no backbone, and again, the conflict that was escalating de-escalates because our main character backs off. Don't do it. Keep your foot on the gas pedal, and push even harder as the story progresses.

      100. Fears confirmed. Leela's brother in law's house is attacked. She could've helped, made her stand, but she hid her guns and ran. We want our protagonists to stand up for what they believe in, whatever that may be. If they don't and others are injured, then they're accountable. Kinda like in Saving Private Ryan when the journalist doesn't help the soldier when he's killed. We hated that guy. We don't want to hate our protagonist.

      Holy hell. Leela escapes with her family to the next village where...her parents are! Almost a hundred pages in and this is when we first see them. This would be the deux ex machina for characters if there ever was one. And, giving a protagonist such an easy out makes me feel that she was never really in danger. No no no. Make it harder, not easier.

      Man, so Binod dies because Leela ran when she had guns, had women with guns. And now Binod's children is left both mother and father-less. Way to turn me against Leela, writers.

      The guilt Leela feels over the rapist's death now is given to us. It's too little, too late. We should see it as close to the event as possible in order to keep our engagement.

      Leela goes to pick up her 11 yr old daughter who got married. We are better off without seeing her again. Her absence is stronger for the story.

      Looks like one of the women that Leela armed (Radha) is going to help save Leela from being beaten to death by villagers. Problem: there were about thirty women who had guns, and now only one steps up to save Leela. Plus, we don't know much about Radha as those women were not nearly distinct enough. I don't mind this sort of ending; I just wished that as the protagonist, Leela made her stand first even if she failed.

      I've been waiting for an explanation but haven't received one yet and the script's almost over. It should be clear who these angry villagers are. Are they lower caste, upper caste?

      Vishal reappears and suddenly reminded that he disappeared for something like twenty pages. Writers need to keep track of where their main characters are at all times.

      111. So Leela is rescued by her army of women. The bad guys go to jail (apparently still without any evidence against them; or did the villagers testify against them? Make it clear). Insane to learn that Leela and her milita actually exists; and that horrific crimes are commited every minute against them.

      Wrapup: Good script but I finish it unsatisfied. It needs to be tightened up with another couple of drafts. Protagonist needs to drive the action. We need to learn about other women like Radha. Vishal actually needs to be in the script less overall. Dramatic moments needs to be exploited.

      After reading Tiger's Child, the expectations were raised. Compare the length of my post about TC versus Guns and Saris and now you can see why readers love good scripts because there's less to carp about! Guns and Saris was only 10 pages longer than TC but man, I feel like I just played a chess match.

      Alright, the experiment's done. I hope you guys liked getting a look into the thoughts of this non-reader writer's mind while he evaluated these scripts.
      Last edited by AlexNoa; 05-25-2012, 02:56 PM.


      • #4
        Re: Nicholl 2011 finalists' scripts

        Great blow-by-blow insight into a reader's mind. Glad I wasn't a Nicholl finalist last year or I'd be biting my nails waiting for the review.... Nicholl seems to like those exotic settings....
        "Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again." -[/SIZE] James R. Cook


        • #5
          Re: Nicholl 2011 finalists' scripts

          Ok, since I write dark, twisted thrillers figured I'd start with the one most similar - UNICORN. I'm a real stickler for logistic, so I had problems with this one from the start.

          On the first page, a woman, bound and gagged, is lying face down being raped. She's "moaning" - a word used to imply in the opening that consensual sex is going on and she's enjoying it, and later we learn she's being raped and still "moaning" - implying - to me - she was enjoying it - not to mention she's gagged.

          Then she "screams through the gag." A bit over-the-top and again did not seem physically possible.

          And she's face down with the killer behind her and she reacts to seeing the knife... does she have eyes in the back of her head?

          The first slug-line is an apartment, but the next slug line is "SOMEWHERE ELSE." Wouldn't a DP go: Huh? trying to figure out that location?

          Didn't find much unusual about the sleuth/MC... there were some nice bits of business in the descriptions but "A YOUNG SERGEANT with a lean and hungry look raises his hand" - was evocative of Marc Anthony sizing up Cassius - a jarring Shakespeare reference that made we wonder if YOUNG SERGEANT was more important a character than his lack of a name indicated..

          That's as far as I'm going with this one.
          "Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again." -[/SIZE] James R. Cook


          • #6
            Re: Nicholl 2011 finalists' scripts

            Where can I read Unicorn? Inbox me.


            • #7
              Re: Nicholl 2011 finalists' scripts

              Last edited by AlexNoa; 05-27-2012, 08:11 PM. Reason: rewriting review