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Sample Script Analysis

Below are sample critiques of one short film and two feature films.

Short Script Analysis

“Money in the Bank”

Pg 1 - Is the voice that rings out Off Screen or Voice Over? I’m presuming it’s simply off screen from in the van. To clarify I’d add (OS). Also it’s somewhat confusing to assign a character two different identities, one being Voice and the other his actual identity, Kristoff. I’d highly recommend replacing VOICE with KRISTOFF (OS). Your A.D. will appreciate it.

Pg 1 - “… I must of forgot, sorry.” The ellipses here is unnecessary.

Pg 1 - It would be easier to get a feel for your Characters if we knew how old they were.

Pg 1 - A description of “pixie-stix” would be helpful. I had to look it up to remember what it was.

Pg 3 - I like Jeffrey’s line about the Beatles. And Kevin’s reaction. Funny.

Pg 3 - Jeffrey’s line “We thought you were the one who has done it before,” doesn’t feel like something a bumbling idiot might say.

Pg 4 - The singing is amusing as well. Though it’d be expensive to obtain permission to use a Celine Dion song.

Pg 4 - I like how they digress about their bank accounts. Amusing.

Pg 5 - In Kristoff’s second section of dialogue on this page he talks about the masks again, which we already know so it slows the story down to repeat it. Also, it feels somewhat convenient and contrived that he just reveals his motivation and need for the money in his dialogue. This is remarkably reflective for someone who is supposed to be very upset as his future comes crashing down on him.

Pg 6 - Kristoff doesn’t need to tell us his life is in danger, we need to feel it.

Pg 6 - When he’s introduced, SECURITY GUARD should be in CAPS.

Pg 7 - Didn’t they have a plan? It seems odd that Kristoff would set out to rob a bank without a plan. Perhaps he expected that since the others were very experienced they’d have one, but it seems out of character for him to have gone there at all without some kind of idea about what exactly he’d be doing.

Pg 7 - Isn’t Kristoff smart enough to know that if they rob the bank down the street someone will remember 4 burly guys in black who bought masks minutes before the robbery? Also, why would Kristoff want all the guys to come with him? It’d make more sense if either Kristoff went in by himself (which would give us a chance to see a different side of him independent of the others) or have the guys jump out to go find masks leaving Kristoff to have to stop them because it’ll get them caught later on. I think you’re passing over a good opportunity for added conflict and/or character development.

Pg 8 - Why would Kristoff talk about robbing the bank in public?? Maybe he’s not supposed to be as smart as I thought he was.

Pg 8 - The first time Kristoff talks about the changing of the guards seems expositional and is repeated later in, I think, a more effective way. I’d take the first one out.

Pg 9 - Tim’s “It’s for the party” line would be more effective if we knew what, precisely, they were buying.

Pg 11 - Again, Kristoff’s dialogue about how much money he owes feels very expository. If it’s essential that we know this information I’d give it to someone else to reveal. You might even want to rethink your character dynamics in that we’d be able to get to know Kristoff better if someone in the van knew him well and could reveal information about him by the way they interact.

Pg 11 - I don’t believe that Kristoff would trust any one of these guys with his daughter.

Pg 12 - The reveal of all the masks is HILARIOUS! I laughed out loud.

Pg 14 - The mints are a nice touch.

Pg 15 - I’m not sure I believe the customers’ reaction to Kristoff clicking his gun. I think the natural reaction of most people would be to freeze, look away or cover their heads, not poke their heads up when someone might be cocking a gun at them.

Pg 15 - Also, if it were me, as soon as I heard sirens I’d grab the bags and be out the door, I wouldn’t wait around for another 30 seconds to try and get more money.

Pg 15 - I like the idea that Kristoff cracks and becomes this person capable of violent acts he was never previously capable of, but for that to feel justified in happening to a Character I think we need to feel the pressure building within him, but I don’t feel that here. It seems more like he’s annoyed than angry and I never really get a sense of his fear of being hurt for not paying off his gambling debts. I think we need to sense his fear for this change in him to feel natural.

Pg 16 - What do you mean when you say, “His eyes tweak”?

Pg 16 - Kristoff’s daughter just appearing at the bank is far too coincidental.

Pg 17 - I feel the guys are much too forgiving and calm about having left the bank without any money. Their reactions don’t seem natural. Why wouldn’t they be pissed off? They risked their lives, they’re still risking getting caught, and they had the money right there in their hands… and then Kristoff changed his mind. This is where the drama is. Make the most of it.

Pg 18 - I think your ending works fine but I’m left to wonder what you’re trying to say. What is the message of your story?

One concern I have is that while you generate a fair amount of humor by having your not-too-bright characters doing far from brilliant things, it’s always difficult to relate to characters that aren’t particularly bright. They all seem to be one-note, with the exception of Kristoff. I think having only one developed character works well in many short screenplays, but why not individualize your characters just a little bit by doing something as simple as giving them each their own look, or a bit of a different flare in their dialogue. With the exception of Kristoff, they all sound the same, and this keeps the audience from getting to know any of them. If you feel it unimportant for us to relate to your minor characters then I’d suggest spending less time focusing on their humorous and silly antics and give us more time with Kristoff.

You have some good moments and I think your structure is solid: a man sets out to rob a bank to save himself from his gambling debts but can’t go through with it. However, the business in the car in the beginning slows your story down more than it sets it up. The purpose of setup in this story would be to become familiar with Kristoff’s situation: what he needs (money), why he needs it (to save himself), and what kind of person he is (I’m not sure). Perhaps I just don’t feel I know Kristoff well enough to understand the change he undergoes and why it’s significant.

I think you have a lot of potential with your story. Thanks for an interesting read and I hope this helps.

Script Analysis (Feature Film):

“Dinner With Frank”

In its current state, “Dinner With Frank” has little commercial potential and is lacking in both structure and character development. The premise is sound, but the execution of that premise is flawed. The story jumps all over the place with no clear goal at its center. Circumstances that the main character(s) is thrust into and motivating forces within the character(s) must determine the basic structure of the script. What we have here is many individual scenes with potential, but that potential is never fulfilled. This script doesn’t come together as an entire whole to tell a single, unified story.

What makes these characters uniquely interesting? The writer needs to give us more of a reason to care about these people. Let us spend quality time with them. This problem often occurs in action films or horror flicks, where the characters are too busy blowing things up or chasing each other in circles for us to be able to relate to them as people. Since this script isn’t in one of those genres, it needs character in place of action. Let us see the emotional workings of your characters. Why does Sam feel she must bend to her mother’s wishes? Why do Sam and Frank care so much about each other? What makes Sam and Joseph meant for each other? Give us reasons to care about them and the means to understand their actions as they continue on their journey. I’m not saying that you should spell everything out; in fact, the worst thing any writer can do is explain everything, but give us some measure of insight. Let us see the tip of the iceberg.

It is also difficult to determine which genre this script is meant to fit into. Is it a drama? Comedy? Both? There is nothing wrong with doing a comedy-drama, but if this is one, it is not a successful mixture. I would advise more humor.

In general, there is a lot of small talk in this script. In film, virtually all small talk is unnecessary. Though there is occasional sharp dialogue, unfortunately it is just that: occasional. I know it seems natural to include this type of talk, but when people say they love films that seem “real,” they don’t mean it literally. They mean they like finding themselves in the characters and situations. We like films to seem real, emotionally. Every storyline, every scene, and every line of dialogue must advance either plot or character (preferably both); if it doesn’t, take it out. It takes a lot of effort and months of engaging in a completely unnatural process to make a script seem natural. Think of it this way: writers are the best liars in the world. The most effective lies are built upon a kernel of truth and thus appear to be truthful, as are the best screenplays. The emotional context of your characters should be your kernel.

Every individual scene should be a whole with it’s own beginning, middle and end. Make each one count. You should ask yourself, what is the conflict in this scene? Without conflict, attention dwindles quickly. Each scene must provide new insight into the main character(s) and/or add a new dimension to the plot. In most scenes, this script does neither. It also seems to me that the story would be much stronger if you focused more on the relationship between Sam and Joseph. They end up together, but we know next to nothing about Joseph, and even less about their relationship. Maybe Sam’s relationship with Frank should be a subplot that comes between the couple.

A more catchy title would also be advisable. “Dinner with Frank” is a bit stale and gives no indication of genre.

To be more specific:

Pg. 1: I initially liked the opening in the elevator. It grabs our attention quickly. Unfortunately, it sets a tone that is lost after this scene. This is not the tone of the rest of your movie. The opening scene is extremely important in that it sets a precedent. Make sure it’s setting the right one or the audience will be left with unfulfilled expectations of the type of movie they are about to see.

2: What is the point of the woman leaning threateningly over San Francisco bay? Why don't we see Lisa talk her down instead of being told offhandedly by the Mayor? It's tense, it's engaging, let's see it. If it’s not important enough to take the time to see it, then it’s not important enough to be in your script.

3: "CO-WORKERS converse: “Mr. McNicoll in yet?” “My galleys.” “I can’t find my galleys”…" - This isn't improv. You have to tell us who's there and who says what. Stick to standard script format. If you’re not sure what that is try picking up a screenwriting book from your local library. Don’t follow the format of just any script you pick up because chances are it will either have some formatting errors in it or it may be a shooting script.

4 & 13: INSERT SHOT
19: BAND STAND, BACK TO SCENE, DANCE FLOOR, BACK TO SCENE, WEDDING CAKE TABLE, BACK TO SCENE etc… Dispense with all of this. Write it all as a master. Camera angles are the director’s domain and almost always unnecessary to the telling of the story in script form. Point out whatever information is necessary, but let the director decide how to best capture that info. Even if you left all of these directions in, the director will have his/her own idea about how best to shoot the scene.

6: “(nautical coordinates) Two o'clock.” How does the audience know that these are coordinates? Remember, the only information that belongs in a script is information that can be seen or heard. If this needs to be explained, find another way.

7 & 26: “...” “...” “...” Careful not to overuse ellipses. They are often unnecessary. If someone is being interrupted mid-sentence, fine. But you don’t need to tell the actor’s when to pause, they will figure out the best place.

9&19: Avoid using POVs unless it's necessary that we see that particular scene through that character's eyes (e.g. -One character sees something that another Character is oblivious to.)

-As soon as I begin to feel like I'm going to learn something a little more in depth about your characters, you pull us away. Perhaps it’s because the plot is moving but the characters are quite static. You also seem to have fallen into the trap of starting your scenes too early, before important things happen. Start your scenes late, make your point and get out early if you want to keep the audience’s full attention.

16 & 3: Dialogue does not belong in the action description.

16: While the choices of music are interesting, someone is going to have to pay for the rights to all of these songs, and the director will have his own selections. I would suggest limiting your musical selections to songs that are essential to the story. You can, however, get away with suggesting a certain style of music in given situations to set a certain tone.

16: Don’t forget to capitalize all character names when they first appear (e.g.- band leader)

18/19: You have an entire page of ‘So handsome” and “Oooh la la” commentary between various female wedding guests. Why waste an entire page with repetitive dialogue? The audience will pick up the exact same information if you were to write it in one sentence: “The women look adoringly at Frank.”

20: "Somehow it seems the knife has (emotionally) stabbed her heart." How does this translate onscreen? Show, don't tell.

22: “MUSIC OVER” and “MUSIC OUT” What the music plays over and where it ends should not be of any concern to the writer unless it is essential to story or character. Don’t worry, the director and his composer will find the appropriate places; that’s their job.

23: I'm still wondering what the main character's dramatic needs are. Clearly Betty's desire is to marry Samantha off. But what do Sam and Frank want? I thought for Frank it might have been that big ad campaign, but he's already got it. Smooth sailing so far. Almost too smooth.

23: While it may be cool to meet Naomi Judd, Bruce Willis, Elle McPherson, Ru Paul, The Village People, Robin Williams and Calvin Klein, someone is going to have to pay for them to make their cameos. What purpose do they serve in your story? I haven’t seen so many cameos since The Player, but there they were making a film about Hollywood.

27: With the introduction of Jessie, I feel like the story’s finally starting. There is finally some real conflict.

29: What is the point of the anniversary scene? It is all seems to be insignificant exposition.

32: Why would Frank leave the fortune sitting right there for Sam to read? Particularly if he’s so secretive that he would feel the need to read it under the table.

32: Your script is filled with montages/series’ of shots when it doesn’t need to be. Many of these montages are used to show atmosphere. I would advise sticking to the essentials and letting the director decide on the shots he wants to use for aesthetic purposes.

35: Here we have a good example of a lost opportunity. Sam tells Frank, “I left my favorite pair of shoes under the table! I was so embarrassed.” Let us see this. The image of her being so distraught that she leaves without her shoes is a powerful one. Far more powerful than her telling us about it in a line of dialogue, after the fact.

36: “It’s Ryan O’Neal.” Why?

37: You have made good use of the medium here by juxtaposing the entrances of Sam and Frank with the former on the verge of tears and the latter ready to kill someone. It SHOWS us the difference in their personalities. You need more of this. And now I know you can do it.

39: Why does Sam go straight back into the dating pool after what’s happened? I don’t understand her thought process. Can she just not bear being alone? Is she in denial? Angry? Deluding herself that she’s over him?

42: As with the music, someone is going to have to pay for any movie clips shown, so I’d recommend leaving out specifics like, “Gone With The Wind”, “Snow White”, “Vertigo” etc…

44/45: Why are you repeating the entire firefighter sequence? How does the repetition add to the story and/or character? It will only slow things down.

36 Use proper format for those “speculations” in the office.

51: “Executives attempt to focus the conversation back on business.” There is no need for this in the action description line. We see it in the dialogue. You need not say it twice.

52: Series of Shots 1-5 can be summed up in one or two sentences instead of 11 lines.

56: If possible, try not to date your film. You would be wise to remove the reference to the year.

61/93: It is
very difficult
to read a
script that
is broken up
like this. Why waste space? And more importantly, why break industry standard?

91: Making your Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart fantasy come to life would be extremely expensive. Is it necessary?

106: I enjoyed the confusion and opportunity for humor in the scene between Frank and his father.

112: I also like how all the characters come together in the end at the wedding.

124: Why end the film with Brenda? She’s not the main character. Ending on Sam would be more appropriate.

Studio Coverage:

TITLE: Crazed Industry
GENRE: Drama
SUBGENRE: Hollywood
CONCEPT: Fair
STORY: Fair
CHARACTERIZATIONS: Fair
DIALOGUE: Fair
COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL: Fai
r
BUDGET RANGE: Medium

Logline: A struggling young screenwriter is driven to madness by the Hollywood studio system.

Synopsis: BILLY, a struggling screenwriter, pitches an important Producer, to no avail.

Billy meets KAREN and there is an immediate attraction. Karen sets up a meeting between Billy and her Producer friend/relative Tom.

Billy pitches Tom and his team of Executives. After a couple of weeks Billy is invited in for a second meeting. Ideas are tossed around, but Billy is ultimately rejected.

Karen breaks up with Billy, claiming that she’s seeing someone else.

Billy goes to try and win her back and discovers that Tom is the man she’s seeing.

Billy reads that Tom is developing a script with the exact same premise as his.

He then gets a gun and goes to confront Tom about stealing his idea. Billy kidnaps Tom and heads out on a high-speed car chase, toying with both the police and the media along the way.

They arrive at Tom’s office and Billy takes the entire office of Executives (who passed on his script) hostage.

Billy gets them to admit, on live TV, that they stole his idea and then he surrenders.

Tom and the other Executives meet with Billy in jail to discuss buying his screenplay. Billy negotiates a hefty price.

Comments: It is clear that a great deal of work has been put into “Crazed Industry,” but it needs a great deal more. First off, I liked the character descriptions. They were both concise and revealing. You need more of this quality throughout. I also enjoyed the humor and found some of the dialogue to be very sharp, but inconsistent. Watch out for cliché in your dialogue.

I found Billy both likeable and real, but I want to know more about him. Why is screenwriting so important to him? Why can’t he take failure again? Why is he inching toward his breaking point? Is he about to run out of money and be forced to work at a burger joint? Did he allot himself a certain amount of time to either make something of himself or return home to work in the family business? It doesn’t matter what the reason is, but something is needed to raise the stakes and help us see inside his mind.

I found all of your characters lacking in depth. Why are Eric and Billy friends? They seem to spend half of their time trying to ignore each other’s annoying qualities. I dislike Eric until near the end where he is genuinely supportive of Billy, and by then it’s too late for me to start caring.

It also seems like Billy and Karen’s relationship moves too quickly for me to believe that he cares very much about her. It seems more like a passing fancy for both of them. Why do they care about each other? Why should the audience care about Karen? Also, what happens between them in the end? This relationship is left unresolved.

The premise alone is a good one, but the execution of it does not live up to it’s potential. Not enough happens, and what does happen is not involving enough to keep our attention for 120 minutes. There is also difficulty integrating story and character to make the film appear to flow naturally. Don’t’ be deceived by the preceding statement. No film flows naturally. It is the writer’s job to make it appear that way. This is a very difficult task.

Also, this script has robbed itself of its own commercial potential as it is difficult to place in any given genre. This certainly does decrease the quality of your script, but be forewarned that it will make it more difficult to sell and market. There are elements of drama, comedy and romance, but there is no real focus. Focusing on one or two of these genres may help you clarify what you want the piece to say, how you want it to affect the audience, and which relationships need further development the most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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