Love Getting Great Notes on a Screenplay

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Blog | No Comments

Was very happy with the latest review of this screenplay at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope — very good notes:

BBC College of Production

Overall, this might be the best script I’ve read so far on Zoetrope. It’s definitely the one I can most visualize as a Hollywood film. Erin is a great character with a lot of depth – she can be sexy, sarcastic, tough, tender, thoughtful and brazen, and often several things at once. My mental picture of her kept changing throughout the story – first she was Nancy Allen from Robocop, then Carla Gugino from Sin City (probably my pick) and then Jennifer Garner from Alias. To me, that’s one sign of a well-written character. The setup for the story was a little clunky, with too many cuts between different media outlets providing exposition on the different missing women. It would have been more effective had you wrapped a few of them up into the same exposition, possibly delivered via an authoritative source such as a DHS report or something. The use of flashbacks to Erin’s childhood worked very well, both in terms of providing backstory and reinforcing the primary narrative. I especially liked the refrigerator story. I’m sorry, but the initial fighter pilot scene seemed straight out of Top Gun, right down to her midair-braking maneuver (which showed up again at the climax of the story and REALLY bummed me out). You teeter on the edge of really losing audience credibility by having such a photocopy scene from such a well-known movie. The scene in which Erin gets abducted was very suspenseful, which proves two things: first, it’s a well-written scene that we don’t see coming, even though we probably should. Second, we care enough about Erin at that point to be emotionally invested in her well-being. So doubly good job there. The Russian slavery ring scenes were creepy as hell, and really got me thinking about how this stuff must go on all the time in real life. Brrrrrr. The harem was both good and bad: Good because each character has her own distinctive voice and personality, which is often tough to pull off in scenes like this, and bad because their overtly diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds seem forced, like it’s some kind of Benetton commercial or something. It reminded me of Tarrantino’s “Fox Force Five” bit from Pulp Fiction. The scenes between Erin and Neeraj were HOT! Not just the sex scenes (which were nothing short of smoldering) but even their simple verbal exchanges – there was just a ton of underlying energy and subtext. I can imagine that with the right casting, the chemistry between these two characters would burn up the screen. Niaz was a fantastic villain, basically evil incarnate. Her scenes in the first ¾ of the script had me hating her with a passion! But I must admit, her showing up at the end – and especially the way she’s “disposed of” I found to be a little too over-the-top. I would have enjoyed it more if Erin had taken care of her before (or while) escaping, and Neeraj had come after Erin back in the States. Now, my biggest beef: I saw the escape coming from WAY too far away, largely because you show the fighter jets as Erin is on her way INTO the palace. Normally such a setup is a good idea, but here I found myself distracted because I KNEW she was going to use a jet to get away, it was just a question of how. I think it would be much more effective if she either doesn’t see the jets until she tricks the guards into allowing her up to the rooftop, or discovers them in the process of escaping. That way, there wouldn’t be this obvious escape device – which she just so happens to be an expert at operating – distracting your audience. (BTW, the fact that Neeraj also happens to know how to operate a jet fighter I found way too convenient. I understand that it makes for a great showdown scene, but that was the moment were I stopped reading and thought, “Here’s where the audience starts moaning and groaning about lazy Hollywood storytelling.”) But like I said, overall I found this to be a great script. With a little tinkering I see no reason why it couldn’t be made into a really cool – and commercially viable – Hollywood movie.

This seems to be a “love/hate” screenplay — but as long as more people love it than hate it, I will keep polishing…




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