I had a script knocking about for a couple of years, a real passion project that I hoped would change the world. But there was something wrong with it and I wasn't sure what. So I did a minor rewrite and entered it in the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition as you get feedback.
Even though I knew it was wonky in some way, I was still surprised that it wasn’t shortlisted, at least. I thought maybe there was too much English slang for the American reader to understand and they would be biased against Brits. And then Pill got shortlisted and got to the semis.
When I didn’t get my report at the same time as everybody else, a more obvious explanation came to mind: they hadn’t actually read it. I emailed Blue Cat saying I hadn’t got my report, hoping to get my money back as well as my pride. But, instead, they sent the report.
Scott the Reader believes bad admin messed up his chances. Lucy shows that readers can misunderstand and there might be a difference between US and UK readers.
Unfortunately, my feedback was fair and I have no complaints.
What did you like about this script?
You have written some very nice scenes between Eddie and Bess as they begin to get to know one another. From the start, it is a bit hard to grasp onto the two characters and the relationship between them – but some of the conversations they have later on are very well written and give a good deal of character information. Page 32, for example, is a great example of well written and very functional (in terms of serving the end of advancing your characters) scene. As a general rule, the second portion of your script is much stronger than the first: after page 40 or so, things seem to calm down and relax, allowing us to actually get a good look at the characters and situations. You make it possible for the viewer to watch the relationship between Eddie and Bess grow naturally and effectively – which is a nice accomplishment in its own right.
Your scene between Eddie and his son is nice and quite touching. Though Eddie clearly does not have much time in this screenplay with his son, this scene is effective and seems to provide all the necessary information.
Your choice of subject matter is very strong, interesting and compelling – and gives you the opportunity to investigate some interesting issues and characters throughout.
What do you think needs work?
As a general rule, the first half of the script feels very rushed, cramped, and scattered. You introduce things and characters very quickly, and we never seem to get a chance to really latch onto things and catch up. While there is certainly no reason to make a script longer just for the sake of being longer, this early section of your screenplay could really benefit from some fleshing out. Slow down the scenes you have (and possibly add a few more) and allow us to absorb information more slowly – the relationships you build in the first half of the screenplay will pay off by being useful in the second half.
Throughout, there is some generalized confusion about who is who. There are a large number of characters in a fairly short period of time, and it can be hard to grasp onto who is who and what the relationships are between each of them. Slowing down the first half of your script will help – but make sure you pay careful attention to each character and give us as many clues as possible to help us follow along. Find ways to differentiate them.
It feels like we (the reader/audience) need more information about Eddie's criminal activities. You have done a great job of outlining his family situation, and we understand that he is on some sort of probation. What is not necessarily clear are the details of his criminal past and what he has to do know to make up for them or avoid further trouble. How high are the stakes for Eddie?
Along that vein, it seems fairly odd that there is not time given at the end for any retribution for Eddie's rampage. Sure, he killed all those people in the name of justice and truth and light and what have you – but might he face some sort of trouble based on his actions? He never has to answer for or speak to what he has done – and moving from scenes of general carnage to a wedding seems like a big, confused rush.
I was going for pacy, lean and mean but the audience is going to need some hand-holding in those early stages especially. I know the story and characters because they were in my head for ages, the reader can only go by what’s on the page.
I know about the introducing too many characters thing, I’ve known it for ages but I didn’t think I did it in this script. In retrospect I did and I was too close to the script to notice.
Of course now I've read this article about minor characters (that I found as part of the Project) I realise part of the problem was in naming all the minor characters as well as having too many of them.
Eddie’s criminal activities were deliberately vague and the ending deliberately abrupt and nihilistic. That's a subjective point I can argue with but I will have to look at it again. Just because it was deliberate it doesn’t mean it was good.
I would hope I’ve learned a lot since I wrote that script, and doing the Project has helped me learn new things, remember things I had forgotten as well as reinforce the things I already knew.