Problem Reading Dark Scripts

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  • TigerFang
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by StoryWriter View Post
    . . . any kind of script with even the slightest animal cruelty is dead in the water.
    Originally posted by EvilRbt View Post
    Story is story.
    Thanks for the POVs, one and all. Nevertheless, I'm going to patch up my screenplay and put it back in action; say what you will about its viability or marketability. Story trumps everything, and it's a classic story.

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  • StoryWriter
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    I entered a comedy script once, entitled "Dead Son of a B#tch".

    It was about a dead, egotistical prick, told from his point of view. It began with him kicking a dog and breaking his toe and then trying to kick the dog again. The dog dodges, he goes over a cliff, breaks his neck and dies.

    While he's decomposing, the dog pees on him several times a day, he even yanks off one his leg bones.

    The obvious point being the Dead SOB, got the worst of it, compared to the dog.

    A couple of demented people thought it was funny. But, in general, I got more grief from this script than from anything else I ever entered into a contest.

    BECAUSE, the man kicked the dog.

    Probably thirty people commented on this (and judged it). At least half chewed me out for hurting a poor, innocent dog. Mind you, this script was up against chainsaw massacre type scripts (at least three of them) and other scripts where young women were cruelly and graphically murdered.

    Did I mention my script was a comedy?

    Anyway, I decided then and there that any kind of script with even the slightest animal cruelty is dead in the water.
    Last edited by StoryWriter; 08-31-2017, 11:48 AM. Reason: Correction

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  • EvilRbt
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Some folks can be objective, others have a hard time suspending their personal tastes and likes/dislikes. There are genres I favor and some I don't care for. But I pride myself on my ability to help clients with ANY genre. Story is story.

    For instance, I like a good comedy but it's not my favorite genre. For over a decade at New Regency, however, I was the go-to guy to read comedy specs.

    I'm also not a fan of torture-porn or hardcore horror, but I've read hundreds and can help writers who work in that genre.

    If you're reading for fun, then of course why would you read a style of movie you don't like..? This is why there's an inherent risk in getting feedback from friends, family or writer's groups. They may not have enough experience or context to draw from, which can help them be more objective in assessing material. If I had only read 50 scripts instead of thousands, maybe I wouldn't be as useful when it comes to giving you feedback on that slasher pic.

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  • TigerFang
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by Centos View Post
    That's fine, everyone has a different opinion. You're right about one thing at least -- I don't know enough about your script. I was just going by how you described it. I still don't think anyone wants to watch graphic scenes with dogs (or children) being hurt -- and if that's what happens here, I seriously doubt you'll find a market.
    Yes, as mentioned, that's what was the second reviewer's take on it. Worse, I believed it to be true.

    Worse than animal abuse (to me) is first, rape (Irreversible and others) and after that, murder (take your pick of any number of movies). Movies like these depict worse things than a man fighting a dog (Mankind versus Nature).

    Not to appease those who despise animal cruelty, but not every tousle with the dog is going to be shown, nor ought they all be shown. That would grow tiresome and lose the impact of the struggles. Only the key fights where there's a turn in the dog's advantage are viable for a screenplay, which is just as they were depicted in the original short novel. Besides, there's a lot to be said for maintaining suspense in any conflict we write in our projects.

    In the short novel by the original author and in the original author's day and time, Mankind was supposed to best Nature at its every turn. To satisfy that end, even though the original author made the man the villain and the dog the underdog hero (bad pun, but true!), both succumb to their end at the hands of the “peace-keeping and law-abiding men” of the town. To the original author, Good (men) triumphed over Evil (dog abuser) and over Nature (dog).

    More in line with the Truth, the ending in my adaptation is changed from the original ending. In my screenplay, Nature (the dog) triumphs over Mankind (the villainous dog abuser) and evades capture by the townsfolk (Mankind) to roam free.

    There's an old business sales standard to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative to make a thing desirable. The first reviewer had some keen insights on how to make the existing screenplay better and where it needed some serious bolstering to “make it play.”

    That's where I'm headed, even if it turns into a “calling card” screenplay or a writing exercise. It's now a personal challenge to employ the first reviewer's comments to the detriment of the second reviewer's comments whether the script should find an audience or not.

    The short novel was a great story and moved me when I first read it and it's still a great story and moves me whenever I reread it. That's what I'll try to capture, infuse, and suffuse throughout the screenplay.
    Last edited by TigerFang; 08-27-2017, 12:05 PM.

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  • Centos
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by TheConnorNoden View Post
    I know I'm in the minority around here on this issue but finding a "market" for every story isn't the way to go about things. I know the ultimate goal is to be able to live off writing but sometimes you have to tell the story you want to tell regardless of whatever everyone else might think. You start by writing something YOU want to see. Good or bad at least you have a story at the end that you can be proud of.

    EDIT: It's just...how many people here are writing for the joy of it? Isn't that what should come first?
    Excellent points. Over and over again the pros tell us to not to worry about the market - write something you love to write. The chances of your spec script getting made into a movie is almost zilch. But if you write well and with your heart (and don't worry about the budget and all the other niggling things that seem to preoccupy some new writers) your script might lead to an assignment and from there ... with a lot of luck ... a career.

    I, personally, couldn't write a script with graphic cruelty to a child or a dog - no matter how much justice prevailed at the end. But if you can - and you're best writing comes out when writing this kind of story, and you're really compelled to tell this story - then that's probably the story you should write.

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  • KitesAreFun
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    I enjoy getting out of my comfort zone, so don't mind when I'm asked to read something in a genre that I don't work in.

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  • TheConnorNoden
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by Centos View Post
    That's fine, everyone has a different opinion. You're right about one thing at least -- I don't know enough about your script. I was just going by how you described it. I still don't think anyone wants to watch graphic scenes with dogs (or children) being hurt -- and if that's what happens here, I seriously doubt you'll find a market.
    I know I'm in the minority around here on this issue but finding a "market" for every story isn't the way to go about things. I know the ultimate goal is to be able to live off writing but sometimes you have to tell the story you want to tell regardless of whatever everyone else might think. You start by writing something YOU want to see. Good or bad at least you have a story at the end that you can be proud of.

    EDIT: It's just...how many people here are writing for the joy of it? Isn't that what should come first?
    Last edited by TheConnorNoden; 08-27-2017, 01:36 AM.

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  • Centos
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
    Nah. Not buyin' it. You don't know enough of the story or its setting to make that call. The dog is anything but helpless. Me? I'm going with the first reviewer's comments. Later.
    That's fine, everyone has a different opinion. You're right about one thing at least -- I don't know enough about your script. I was just going by how you described it. I still don't think anyone wants to watch graphic scenes with dogs (or children) being hurt -- and if that's what happens here, I seriously doubt you'll find a market.

    Leave a comment:


  • TigerFang
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by Centos View Post
    As for the script about the dog abuse ... if it's graphic cruelty, I have to agree with the second reviewer, there's not going to be a market for it. People simply have trouble watching helpless creatures, dogs or children especially, being hurt. The closest you can come to making this work is if the story starts with the results of the cruelty (not the graphic display of it) and works towards healing.
    Nah. Not buyin' it. You don't know enough of the story or its setting to make that call. The dog is anything but helpless. Me? I'm going with the first reviewer's comments. Later.

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  • Centos
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
    In conclusion, if one screenwriter is going to read the work of another screenwriter, then it's of necessity that the first screenwriter must adopt a mantle of objectivity in order to better assist the second screenwriter.
    Which is exactly why I wouldn't read something I found odious. I know I couldn't be objective about it. (I don't even want to be.)

    As for the script about the dog abuse ... if it's graphic cruelty, I have to agree with the second reviewer, there's not going to be a market for it. People simply have trouble watching helpless creatures, dogs or children especially, being hurt. The closest you can come to making this work is if the story starts with the results of the cruelty (not the graphic display of it) and works towards healing.

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  • TigerFang
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by TheConnorNoden View Post
    Great post, TigerFang. I won't turn this into another thread ragging on Black List readers but it certainly feels like the second reader missed the point. If it were exploitative violence for the sake of it then he might have a point but that really isn't the impression I get from that story. You can't have a script where a character, in this case a dog, overcome suffering without the audience having to experience that suffering too. In trying to write about the evil of animal abuse some people will miss the mark and say you're pro animal abuse. I have dealt with similar things in the past and it's maddening but you're intelligent enough to know that this story won't be for everyone. I commend you for picking the script back up with that knowledge in mind. It takes guts to write something that people could love or detest.
    Guts I do have in abundant supply. Thank you for the encouraging words!

    As far as the OP's original post query goes about “dark” scripts getting into his reader's Inbox, I might add to my admonishment of adopting objectivity that it's helpful to see the screenplay as a device that carries first a premise, and then from which it develops a theme. Are those things present? Did the screenplay achieve its story goals of delivering a satisfying story that leaves the reader/audience with an overarching theme to consider?

    The other advice to the OP would be to trade loglines before accepting the “dark” material. Just tell 'em you write Mouse House tales.

    As far as the popularity of evil incarnate in today's modern screenplays, I agree that the writing of dark stories does seem to be a trend, and for me, it's from younger screenwriters.

    Astonishingly, the “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce spoke of this very trend of dark and evil storylines in the entertainment industry on Atlantis. In his trance-like state of “connection” with another dimension, Cayce simply stated it was not good (the implication being it was not good for society as a whole). The Atlantis entertainment industry, apparently, had technologically advanced means of broadcasting their fare but was one whose images and imagery had grown violent and perverse in the final days before the four destructive subductions of that Mid-Atlantic continent. This alone was not what caused the destruction of Atlantis, but was a contributing factor. In order to receive more and better communications on all levels, both entertainment and official, the demand for power from the vibrations of crystals were elevated to the point that it created the earthquakes and volcanic activity that rent Atlantis asunder. This vibrating crystal effect would be much like Nikola Tesla's much smaller device, the electromagnetic oscillator, one which nearly took down the building it was in when it malfunctioned one day in 1898 and almost couldn't be turned off.

    When I was a kid, the big news way back then was that the San Andreas fault was going to cause all of Hollywood to slide into the sea. Perhaps it will do just that after we've gone to vibrating crystals as a power source.

    Yet, I digress.
    Last edited by TigerFang; 08-26-2017, 03:52 AM.

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  • TheConnorNoden
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Great post, TigerFang. I won't turn this into another thread ragging on Black List readers but it certainly feels like the second reader missed the point. If it were exploitative violence for the sake of it then he might have a point but that really isn't the impression I get from that story. You can't have a script where a character, in this case a dog, overcome suffering without the audience having to experience that suffering too. In trying to write about the evil of animal abuse some people will miss the mark and say you're pro animal abuse. I have dealt with similar things in the past and it's maddening but you're intelligent enough to know that this story won't be for everyone. I commend you for picking the script back up with that knowledge in mind. It takes guts to write something that people could love or detest.

    Leave a comment:


  • TigerFang
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    In 2009, I adapted a short novel written in 1902 about a man who regularly beat a dog.

    My passionate reason to take on the task was that one of the many job titles I've held in my lifetime is that I once bore witness to such kinds of people. Usually, at the behest of complaints by their neighbors, it was my job to separate these people from the possession of their animals. They were and are persons who I find thoroughly repugnant and deserving of receiving the same treatment they give the animals they mistreat and abuse, but then that would put me at their level.

    When the screenplay was completed (ha!), I submitted it to The Black List. I paid for two reviews.

    The first review came in with an overall score of 7, with which I was happy enough knowing full well I'd need to rewrite the piece many times to come. The review had many praises, scored some areas as high as nine (egads!), and also (rightfully, I can see easily now) pointed out the deficiencies and scored them appropriately. The combined “almost high” score gave me cause to purchase a second review.

    The second review, however, reflected the reviewer's disgust with the subject of the story — that of a cruel, inhumane dog-beater — even though the dog won the struggle in my version of the story (I dared to change the short novel's unhappy ending).

    That didn't matter to the second reviewer, apparently, whose personal vitriol against the practice of animal abuse was suffused throughout his or her notes on the screenplay. At notes' end, the reviewer felt that the screenplay would find no audience because my descriptions of the dog's abuse were so graphic. The second reviewer gave me an overall score of 4.

    Even though I received a low score from the second reviewer, I took some satisfaction in the unintended left-handed compliment they'd delivered in their review summary by practically telling me my writing had turned their gut.

    The second review also made me consider the audience factor. I allowed the reviewer's comments to dissuade me from my belief that the story and screenplay had merit, so I set aside that screenplay. I determined to try to reduce the violent dog abuse without watering down the story altogether too much.

    To date, much like the author of the original short novel, I haven't found a better way to make the story work than to leave in the animal cruelty (it worked well for the original author, after all).

    Also, as Time marches on, it seems to me that more violent and more graphic screenplays have been written and produced that far exceed the levels depicted in my adaptation screenplay. Many a movie depicts cruel and inhumane abuse between people that are far worse than what I've written in the adaptation screenplay.

    Thanks to the impetus of this thread, however, I'm reviving that screenplay once again. Why ought I allow that second reviewer's pejorative comments sway me about a subject that is distasteful to them?

    In my opinion, the screenplay would make a fine showing on HBO or Showtime, or any of the other cable and streaming outlets for production nowadays. It has inexpensive sets and few locations, only two main characters — one of whom is a dog — and a supporting cast who appear infrequently (or once) and who serve only to move the story forward.

    Also, in my opinion, the second reviewer allowed their personal dislike to taint their review perhaps more than they ought to have done. This, in turn, tainted my perception of my work. As a neophyte screenwriter, I was easily influenced by others who I believed held their position through experience. The first reviewer saw great merit and potential. Why not take the pains now to rewrite the adaptation using those guidelines?

    In conclusion, if one screenwriter is going to read the work of another screenwriter, then it's of necessity that the first screenwriter must adopt a mantle of objectivity in order to better assist the second screenwriter.

    Otherwise, it's just a trade between them of personal likes and dislikes, something that can be found in any screenwriting forum.
    Last edited by TigerFang; 08-25-2017, 04:08 AM.

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  • Centos
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by docgonzo View Post
    With all the writers groups I've been a part of over the years, as well as all the read requests, I've come across countless pieces of material that I personally wouldn't read or watch on my own. But I do my best to give notes, and typically focus on character and story structure, and whatever else I think I can be of help with. Plus it's never a bad thing to be exposed to other genres/subjects, since there's always some lesson to be drawn from them.
    In my opinion, life's too short to read stuff you can't stand. I'm not going to compel myself to tolerate stuff I find repugnant so I can learn some "life lesson." I can find that in stuff I like to read and enjoy myself while doing it.

    A pro writer once stated in a defunct writing newsgroup ... "You don't owe anyone a read." I agree wholeheartedly.

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  • StoryWriter
    replied
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by docgonzo View Post
    I'm going to offer the counterargument and say judge a script on its own merits, not your personal tastes. You can be picky with what you watch or read for your own purposes, but if you're giving notes, you just don't have that luxury. If you're too picky, you'll quickly find yourself in want of people to read your own material, because you won't read others.
    If you're getting paid to give notes and if you want to keep your job, I agree with you. If you're not getting paid and don't have to worry about keeping your job, you can choose NOT to read anything you want.

    Most people are only fooling themselves anyway. I've read far to many notes, written by people who obviously didn't like the subject of a certain screenplay, even if it was well written and suddenly got very picky with their criticisms.

    Complete objectivity is great to shoot for but is rarely achieved -- at least by amateurs.

    And even production companies often specify what genres they are interested in.

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