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***EXAMPLE OF ANALYSIS***
 
 
An in-depth analysis (similar to the one below) and a follow-up phone consultation are included in all Basic,
Premium and Manuscript Plans.
 
Please note that the analysis includes remarks on the various elements of the script. but also suggestions
for improvements appear in blue ink.
 

ANALYSIS OF AN UNTITLED CRIME DRAMA

SCREENPLAY BY “JOHN DOE”


(The screenplay title is not indicated and the name of the writer has been changed to protect the identity of the writer.)

 

 

Your script is being returned to you herewith. You will notice that there are notes written directly in your script on most of the pages.  These notesare either in the form of a strike out (strike out) which means those words should be eliminated or in blue or red ink.  Blue notes usually refer to comments or questions on a given scene or dialogue as well as suggestions for possible fixes you might consider. The red ink notes signify corrections I already made due to missing words, grammatical errors, misspellings, formatting errors, spacing errors and improving clarity for the reader.

 

As you go through and read the blue notes, allow me to remind you that my suggestions for changes are only that and not chiseled in granite, and you may have better solutions or ideas.  Again, use whatever suggestions work best for you.  

 

I found in your script the potential for a compelling, crime thriller ala THE DEPARTED which starred Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, but there is a lot of work for you to do to accomplish that. What you have written is a crime drama, and you need to look at ways to enhance your story and raise the stakes so that it will read like a crime/thriller which is more in demand in the theatrical film market place.

 

 

1.  THEME:

 

The overriding theme that I came away with after reading your script was that “it is never too late to do the right thing.” And, the subtext of your story could have been “never underestimate the power of a woman.”       

 

 

2.  CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:

 

In this analysis, I will only be addressing those characters from your script who play major roles and/or those who I feel needed additional work or better definition.

 

DWAINE:

 

This is Dwaine’s story, and he is a character torn between loyalty to his family and clan and wanting to go straight. He is also torn about not being able to have a relationship with Victoria because of the life he has chosen. He is a hero with a moral dilemma and character flaws which makes for good drama. It would appear that Egan is his nemesis (and rival for Victoria’s affections,) but in a surprising twist to the story, the real villain of the piece is Tara.

 

Even though Dwaine is a criminal, there is something quite noble in his character which makes him interesting and identifiable.  However, there are some facets to his character that I feel could use some strengthening and clarification.

 

a. When we first meet Dwaine as an adult, we see a picture of him, but you do not describe him at all.  Is he Black Irish

and handsome with a powerful build?  You need to give just a few details of his appearance so that the reader of your script can form an image in his/her mind. Also, I changed Dwaine’s age from “twenties” to “late twenties” to more closely align his age to that of Victoria and Egan. 

 

b. After Egan makes his first bust with the bank robbers, Dwaine goes crazy and takes a bat to a car and states that “it’s me he wants” and “I’m tired of him hiding behind a badge.”  How does he know this? And, it would appear that Egan just recently decided to go after Dwaine (instead of underlings) when he is put in charge of a new task force to take down the O’Connor clan.  You must show that their rivalry goes back to Egan hassling Dwaine before this. Could they have been childhood rivals? This could be handled with a line of dialogue such as Egan stating that Dwaine has been too clever and has slipped through his fingers in the past, but that wasn’t going to happen again. Or, Egan can say that Dwaine has been a thorn in his side since they grew up in the same neighborhood.   

 

c. It is unclear what Dwaine did, if anything, to Al. We see that he is sick to his stomach and angry after fighting with Al, but we don’t know if Dwaine was the one who “took him out” or was upset that others took him out.  We know that Dwaine is a thief, but is he a killer, too?  If he is a killer, it might be hard for the audience to accept the resolution to your story where he goes free. We need to know what happened to Al.

 

d. Dwaine doesn’t seem to have any relationship with his brother, Aiden.  Dwaine believes that Aiden is at least his half-brother, sharing the same father, until he reaches the conclusion later that Tara was having an affair and that Aiden was actually Mel’s son.  We need to see them have some connection since they spent some of their formative years in the same household.  You will see that I inserted Aiden in a couple of scenes, and gave him an additional line of dialogue or two to bring him more to the fore.

 

e. Dwaine solves his moral dilemma by the end of the piece by triggering Tara to tip off the police which was a clever way to avoid being a snitch, but you must make it clear that he has definitely gone straight at the end of the piece, and that is questionable because he appears with Jimmy in the final scene, and Jimmy has killed and his family appears to be still engaged in crime. I suggest that you drop Jimmy from that final scene.  After all, Dwaine can reach out to and help others at the youth center who will later become success stories.

 

f. Dwaine is saved by Steve in the end, but Dwaine must also be the hero in his own life, and that is what I call a WP or Writer’s Problem, as it is one that you will have to solve on your own since you are the one who created this story and character. Dwaine is not responsible for bringing the bad cop Larkin to justice nor is he responsible for bringing Tara to justice.  Tara gets away in the end, and it is Jimmy’s people who leave her impoverished and crying in the end.  Tara was responsible for Dwaine’s dad’s death, and she “snitched” on him (and maybe planned to have Dwaine shot during the last job he was on --more on this later); therefore, he’s got to be the one to bring her down.      

  

EGAN:

 

a. I suggest that you make him closer in age to Dwaine…maybe early thirties. 

 

b. As you have written the script, we don’t truly understand why Steve chose Egan to head the task force or why the other officers give him a bad time. We know he is ambitious, but that isn’t enough.  I suggest that he be college educated in Criminal Justice which is why Steve puts him in charge of the task force but would also be a good reason those cops who have worked the streets longer than him get bent out of shape.  

 

 

VICTORIA:

 

a. When she first appears on screen with Egan, it seems that she can barely tolerate him (i.e. “rolling her eyes”), so then I questioned why she would even go out to dinner with him again.  You should soften her reactions to him and have it appear that she is somewhat torn about her relationships with the ideal man that Egan represents and Dwaine with his criminal connections. Besides, it is Egan who is pursuing her while Dwaine is pushing her away.

 

b. We don’t know what Victoria does down at the youth center.  At one point someone refers to her as a teacher, but I don’t know what she is doing to teach young adults like Jimmy.  Is she a school teacher and then goes to the center to work or volunteer afterwards?  Or is she a full-time employee at the center, and if so, what does she do?  Her obvious education and Dwaine’s lack thereof, could be a further reason he pushes her away…he doesn’t feel worthy of her.

 

 

TARA:

 

a. Perhaps Tara married Dwaine’s dad; that isn’t clear.  However, she obviously lived with Dwaine's dad after Dwaine's mom died, and she gave birth to Aiden at that time which led Dwaine's dad to believe that Aiden was his and Dwaine to believe that Aiden was his half-brother.  And, Tara set it up so it appeared that Dwaine’s dad was a snitch, and that was why he was killed.  What I don’t understand is what was the “tipping” point that caused Tara to do this?  How was Dwaine’s dad going to find out that Aiden was not his and that Tara was having an affair with Mel?I think it is important that you clarify this.

 

b. When Dwaine tells Mel and Tara about the last robbery he has planned and that he wants to use the “boys” on this job, Tara voices an objection.  I know that Dwaine tells her not to worry and that he will be going in first, and that the job is an easy one with inside help; however, she capitulates a bit too easily. Perhaps when he goes to meet with her alone after finding out that Mel will do nothing to bring her down, he should reiterate that he always takes care of his “boys,” even if it means scrubbing the job.  There’s no doubt that she wants this job to go forward because she wants more money, but she wants it even more so after Dwaine tells her he knows what she’s done, and she sees an opportunity to get rid of him.       

 

AIDEN:

 

As mentioned before, Aiden’s character is not developed in this script nor is his relationship with his half-brother, Dwaine.  I assume that Aiden doesn’t know the truth about his mother, and that Aiden believes that Dwaine is his half-brother.  How does Aiden feel toward his older brother?  He could feel some pride about him and want to emulate him, but also at the same time he could be jealous of him and not really want to take orders from him. 

 

LARKIN:

 

a. I am not sure why Larkin is paying money to Senator Kerrigan?  I can understand that Larkin wants to make money because of his own greed and there are plenty of opportunities to do so as a cop on the take, but why give money to Kerrigan?  This story point is unclear.

 

b. It should be made clear that Larkin intends to kill Dwaine and make it look like someone else did it or kill him while Dwaine was trying to evade police or engaged in a criminal activity. 

 

c. It is unclear why Larkin is in cahoots with Tara.  Does she pay him to look the other way when her clan engages in crime?

  

AL:

 

Do you ever reveal what happened to Al?  I assume he was killed, but there was no reference made, and I wondered what they did to hide the body.

 

JIMMY:

 

He is loyal to Dwaine and appears to be conscientious in his work, but he does turn violent and kills in retaliation for what happened to his brother and mother.  I think that he has to be one of those young men that Dwaine couldn’t turn around just because of the circumstances, and that Jimmy should not be in the final scene with Dwaine and Victoria.

 

SHAWN:

 

You had two Shawns in your script, which can be confusing to the reader, so I changed the name of the lesser Shawn to Eddie. 

 

*** Your characters are pretty much white bread, although you have the Cape Verdeans, but they all seemed to be involved in crime in some way.  I believe that you alluded to Craig Diaz being a Cape Verdean, but when he first appears on screen, you should describe him as an African American man as his name sounds Latino.  You need to have African American good guys in your story, so you might even consider making Steve Murphy one as well.

  

 

3.  POINT OF VIEW:

 

The story was told from Dwaine’s POV predominantly, and I had no issues of split focus.

 

 

4.  DIALOGUE:

 

You will note that I have written a number of notes in blue ink on the pages of your script where I didn’t quite understand the dialogue and it needed much more clarity, or I questioned the use of a specific word. Other than that, the dialogue was serviceable.   

  

 

5.  EXPOSITION:

 

This is an area that you need to address, as many times your exposition (including action sequences and stage directions) was not well-written and ambiguous. You will see a number of notes in blue ink on the pages of your script where I felt you needed to work on your exposition in the following areas:

 

a. Sometimes you didn’t identify who was in a scene until they spoke up in that scene.  You need to place people in a given scene by alluding to them in the exposition before they speak.

 

b. There were times that you left out stage directions for the actors.  This note will become clearer to you when you see the blue ink notes within the script.  Or, your stage directions didn’t make any sense such as when Dwaine “raises his powerful hands” (after beating the car with the baseball bat) to do what?  Or, where Egan “covers his mouth with both of his hands” (in the scene with Tara) for what reason? And how does Egan deliver his next line of dialogue with both hands over his mouth?

 

c. There were a couple of times in the script where your sentences or thoughts were incomplete; therefore, I had to work at fathoming your intent.

 

d. There were a number of areas where I thought there would be a more appropriate descriptive word so you will see those changes in red and blue ink.

 

e. There were times when you needed to include a character’s reactions to events in that scene, but they were absent.

 

f. A couple of times, I had some issues about the credibility of what you described such as near the end of the script where Dwaine comes out of the tunnel only forty feet away from Egan and the rest of the police hunting him down. Surely, the cops needed to be further away because at that distance, Dwaine and Steve could have been seen or even heard. 

  

 

6.  ACTION:

 

This screenplay is a crime drama that has some action sequences, so there isn’t a great deal for me to address here as I would if it were a an action/crime drama or action/thriller.  However, when you ascribe stage directions and actions to your characters, many of those stage directions are not clearly written.  You will see a number of these instances that I have marked in your script in blue ink.

 

In addition to those notes, you should be mindful that you sometimes neglected explaining what’s happening on screen while time passes and you are at the same location.  An example of that would be that Dwaine sits in the car while Aiden and the boys go into Larry’s to collect from him, and you just state that “time passes.”  You either have to describe what Dwaine is doing while that time passes or you have to go into Larry’s and play part of a scene there, then come out again when Aiden returns to the car.  

 

 

7.  CONFLICT AND/OR JEOPARDY:

 

The major conflict in your story as it is currently written deals with whether Dwaine will be able to survive his past wrong doings and lead a life without crime.  His inner conflict is part and parcel to this major conflict as he is torn between his loyalty to the O’Connor clan and wanting to go straight. When you chisel the story down to those basic issues, those issues are not strong enough for today’s theatrical film market. Dwaine’s biggest jeopardy is going away to prison for a long, long time.  I believe that you have to “up” the stakes and conflict in your piece to make it more marketable and a more compelling read.  It is not enough to have Egan on a mission to put him behind bars and make him pay for his crimes.  Someone needs to be “gunning” for him and want him dead.Perhaps Larkin and then Tara? Tara comes to the realization that she would like to see him dead but only near the end of the story, and that is too late.  As you have written your script, Egan is in more mortal danger (when captured by Shawn) than Dwaine is, and you need to put Dwaine into mortal jeopardy if you want to market this script as a theatrical film.  Also, it would elevate your chances of selling your script if you could find a way to introduce a “ticking clock.” A ticking clock means that something dire is going to happen within a short period of time (like someone planning to set off a nuclear device or killing a loved one if money isn’t paid).  It can also relate to introducing jeopardy to a major character early in a script and carrying the threat until the final confrontation (or denouement).  In your piece, you can introduce jeopardy to Dwaine’s life early on in the piece, and he would have to spend most of the story evading and outsmarting that person who posed the threat throughout the piece.  Egan is a good cop, and he has a legitimate reason to want to catch Dwaine in the act of some crime in order to have the goods to put him away, so he would not be the one to pose that kind of threat. But, Larkin is a bad cop and wants to kill him because Dwaine has foiled his attempts at making more money or Dwaine has seen him in the act of some crime. However, Larkin has to be careful not to expose himself as Dwaine’s killer so he may have to set up his murder plot in such a way as that it would look like someone else committed the murder.           

            

 

8.  EMOTIONAL DYNAMICS:

 

There are plenty of emotional dynamics in your story, but they, like the conflicts, will be strengthened when you raise the stakes. A couple of other areas that you might think about stressing more strongly are:

 

a. It should be evident that Dwaine really loves Victoria as he is pushing her away, but he can’t show his feelings to her.  When they are first on screen together at the youth center, and she turns and walks away as Jimmy walks up, perhaps he can look longingly after her before addressing Jimmy.

 

b. Dwaine seems to have little caring for his half-brother, Aiden, and treats him as though he is just another kid coming up in the clan.  I think that Jimmy should reprimand Aiden and tell him how disappointed in him he is when he sees that Aiden broke the rules when he and the other boys went to collect from Larry.

 

 

9.  PLOT AND SUBPLOTS (TWISTS AND TURNS):

 

Your main plot deals with whether Dwaine will be able to go straight in the end.  As mentioned above under CONFLICT AND/OR JEOPARDY, this plot point could be greatly strengthened by putting Dwaine in mortal danger, and when you do, your reader/audience will become more emotionally invested and will find your story a most compelling read. Like the Mafia, crime families don’t let their members leave voluntarily, so if Tara thinks that Dwaine might be planning an exit strategy or might “snitch” on the clan, then she might have further cause to find a way to “take him out.”     

 

There are a number of subplots woven through the script that made for a more interesting read, including the love story between Dwaine and Victoria, and the ongoing rivalry between Dwaine and Egan, the manipulations by Tara and the greed and misdeeds of Larkin, to name a few.  You also had the warfare between Shawn’s gang and Jimmy’s gang of Cape Verdeans. So, I questioned the need for the subplot involving Senator Kerrigan and Larkin.  Why would it be necessary for Larkin to “pay off” the Senator and contribute to his campaign?  If you use this sub-plot, then you should resolve what happens to the Senator as result of being on the take.  I’m not sure that you even need this sub-plot, as there seems to be enough bad guys to go around in your story.

 

Stories are enriched by surprises, and you had several of them, most of which I didn’t see coming…

 

a. Larkin being a bad cop. (this one I suspected)

b. Tara being responsible for Dwaine’s dad’s death.

c. Aiden not being a blood relative to Dwaine after all.

d. Steve helping Dwaine go free.

e. Tara taking all of the money in Mel’s safe.

f. Dwaine orchestrating a way to escape the clan without having to snitch on them.     

 

          

10.  STRUCTURE AND CONTINUITY:

 

You have structured (and written) a very complex story which is not an easy thing to do, and I feel you have done a good job in this area.

 

 

11.  PACING:

 

You have effectively kept your story on the move with no lulls or boring episodes. Good job!  The pacing will be even better if you incorporate real jeopardy to Dwaine.

  

 

12.  RESOLUTION AND DENOUEMENT:

 

I have previously mentioned under CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT that we need to see a more satisfying resolution to one of your sub-plots, and that is Dwaine must find a way to take Tara down (without killing her, of course). She has done the greatest wrong to him more than once, and therefore, Dwaine has to see that she meets with justice in the end and not leave it to the Cape Verdeans.  I must admit that I didn’t believe that final sequence that took place in France with Tara, Aiden and Manny.  I didn’t believe that Cape Verdeans had such a far reach when you consider how small their country is or even that the Cape Verdeans would have found Tara in France (even if Cape Verdeans also live in France). 

 

Also, as mentioned before under CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT,  I believe that Jimmy should not be in the final scene at the cemetery with Dwaine and Victoria because it gives the reader/audience a mixed message about Dwaine going straight.    

  

 

13.  TONE:


The reason that this aspect of script writing is mentioned in all of my analyses is that quite often writers do not maintain the tone that they start out with in a script.  You, however, are completely consistent, and your tone is appropriate for a drama/crime story/thriller. 

 

 

14.  MARKETABILITY:

 

As the script is written now, it is a crime drama, and those are tough to sell unless based upon a high-profile, true case or a best seller book.  Crime dramas proliferate on TV in the form of series (from both CSIs and both NCIs, to BLUE BLOODS, THE MENTALIST to the new MOTIVE to name just a few), so much so, that theatrical film buyers aren’t interested in them.  However, if you were to revise the script and make it a crime thriller with a ticking clock, you will have a much sexier project to take into the market place.

 

In the realm of TV movies today, crime dramas aren’t selling either unless HBO decides to make a high-profile crime drama based upon a true incident or a book.  Besides, your script would be too expensive for most TV budgets.

 

 

15.  FORMATTING:

 

I was honestly surprised by the number of formatting mistakes you made in this script because I don’t recall that you had this problem to this degree in your earlier script. In addition to the format corrections that I made in red ink in your script, what follows is a list of some of the formatting errors that you made:

 

a. You will see that I have changed a number of your slug lines (or master scene headings or location settings) where you designate a specific location and the time of day. Sometimes slug lines were completely missing or incomplete.  This information is crucial to budgeting, setting up a shooting schedule and location managers who have to find locations.

 

b. At times you had a dialogue heading for character that you forgot to identify BEFORE they spoke such as Jeff or Mike.  This is a no-no.

 

c. You had some difficulties with formatting the introduction of characters.  When characters first appear on screen, you should type their names all in caps in the exposition not within someone’s dialogue.  Also, Dwaine at 12 is one character, and Dwaine in his late 20’s is another character, so both times when they first appear on screen, their names should be all in caps.  Also, there were times that you didn’t type a new character’s name all in caps when they first appeared on screen such as “Manny.”

 

d. You very often did not state that a character was in a given scene in the exposition before giving that character dialogue in that scene.  At times I didn’t know who was in the room until they had something to say in that scene.  This is a no-no.

 

e. This next issue may be as a result of transferring your script from the program you wrote it in to one I could work on, but in the version that I opened, your dialogue headings were indented too far to the right.

 

f. You repeatedly utilized two periods at the end of a sentence such as a line of dialogue, and neglected to employ three periods at the end of someone’s dialogue that was purposely unfinished or interrupted.

 

g. You neglected to indicate that Dwaine was delivering a voice over (V.0.) during your opening sequence, as he was narrating events that took place in the past. 

 

h. You incorrectly indicated CUT TOs, so I showed you their proper placement when they should be utilized.  Many times they don’t have to be utilized at all since your slug lines will indicate a change to a new scene and venue.  CUT TOs are most often utilized when a scene ends abruptly or before a character finishes a line of dialogue in that scene and you move to another scene or location.   

 

i. You rarely employed (O.S.) for a character who was speaking but not while on camera, so you will see the numerous places where I added it.

 

j. A number of characters had the same identification such as POLICE OFFICER or BARTENDER, etc.  You must distinguish one man or a police officer or a bartender, etc. from another by either designating them as POLICE OFFICER or POLICE OFFICER #2 or OFFICER (for example) so that the audience knows that they are distinctly different characters and the UPM (Unit Production Manager or whoever is doing the budgeting) and the Casting Director will know how many cast members will need to be hired.


k. When writing a slug line for a particular location that you use more than once, you must identify it in the same exact manner each time you refer to it. The only thing that might change is the time of day or whether the scene is continuous or moments later. 

 

l. Sometimes a stage direction was missing where it was needed, such as when Larkin was holding the girl hostage inside her home and had to shout to the police outside. 

 

 

16.  TYPOS AND GRAMMATICAL ERRORS:

 

There were typos, misspelled words and missing words in your script; however, your most frequent mistakes were in your punctuation.  Having a lot of errors and formatting mistakes can severely hamper your persona as a professional writer.  It is always wise to give your script to someone who is a good editor before circulating it to agents, managers, actors you may want to interest in a role in your script, and, of course, potential buyers.  Hopefully, I have caught all of your typos and errors, and you will see those fixes in red ink.

 

 

17.  SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:

 

Please make note of all blue ink comments written within the pages of your script and in this analysis as many of them are suggestions for improving various facets of your script and story.  Suggestions are just that.  Hopefully, the suggestions will act as a catalyst to your creative thought process and you will come up with far better solutions to the issues I have raised.

 

 

18.  PRODUCTION CONSIDERATIONS:

 

Your script would be an expensive movie to produce due to the large size of the cast with speaking roles, numerous locations, quite a lot of exteriors and the urban venue. Urban venues require much more security, crowd control, traffic control and many costly permits because of interruption of ongoing businesses in that urban environment or higher rents.    

 

 

19.  PACKAGING AND CASTING:

 

The stars of this movie would be young, good looking men ala Ryan Philippe, Channing Tatum, Chris Pine or someone else of that ilk.  These actors would be considered good casting, but none of them would have enough star power to “trigger” a picture.  So trying to package your script with a star to try to sell the script would not be a way for you to go.  You need a producer or production company which would love the script who would then try to sell it to a studio or financing entity or try to package it first with a director who is sexy to a studio or financing entity. So the script will have to sell initially on its own merits, and that means that you need to invest the time necessary to make it as professional and commercial as possible.

 

 

20.  TITLE:

 

I only include this facet of your script in my analyses when I don’t understand or respond positively to a title.  I think SNITCH would be a far better title, but the Dwayne Johnson and  Susan Sarandon movie released earlier this year beat you to it. 

 

 

 

 

 

I thank you, John, for the opportunity to work with you on one of your scripts, and I am hopeful that your project will be realized on the big screen. 

  

 

Stephanie Rogers  

 

WRITE 2 WOW

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Email:  write2wow@aol.com

Website:  www.write2wow.com

 

 


SEE ANOTHER SAMPLE ANALYSIS BELOW:
 


 Analysis for "A Christmas to Remember” 

Screenplay by John Doe


 

I get a myriad of requests throughout the year from producers and production companies who are looking

for a contemporary, realistic Christmas story that the whole family can enjoy.  They tend to ask for scripts

that are adult-driven (for meaningful casting purposes), but wherein a kid or kids play prominent or key

roles.  Things that happen have to be realistic.  Buyers don’t mind a suggestion of magic or things that can’t

be explained or otherwise attainable, such as something divine or an unseen angel or Santa having a hand

in the story, but that element would be very ambiguous and unobtrusive.  Ideally, the buyers want a project

that can touch you emotionally, if not bring you to tears, but also make you laugh.   And, it should have a

happy, celebratory Christmas scene at the end.

 

The fact that you have written a script about two emotionally-scarred adults who dread the holidays but find

each other and the true meaning of Christmas, family and love might not appeal to as broad an audience as

needed.

 

 

Before I get into specifics, I want to discuss some things for you to consider when approaching your rewrite:  

What is this script really about?  And, why is it important to set it at Christmas time?  And, to whom do you

think this story would appeal?  I believe you can answer all of those questions if you rethink the thrust of

your story.

 

 

1. THEME:

 

Two emotionally-scarred people who dread the holidays find each other and the true meaning of Christmas,

family and love.

 

Good concept but a bit on the soft side and which may be a liability in marketing your story.  More on this

later….

 

 

2. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:

 

This is perhaps an area of your writing that needs the most work, and once you apply yourself to solving

some of your character problems, the rest of your story will improve exponentially.

 

Kayla is not a fully-developed character, and she needs to be if you want your audience to make an

emotional investment in her and empathize with her. And, she needs to be “worthy” of your audience’s

two-hour investment in her.  She has many admirable qualities, but there is just too much that I don’t know

or understand about her.  I don’t know why she is working as a nanny, what are her goals in life, where or

how she was educated, and I don’t believe that as a result of her having cancer as a young child, she can’t

make a commitment to a relationship as an adult. Does she have any family, and if so, where are they and

why wouldn’t she be spending (or trying to spend) time with them during the holidays?  You never explained

what kind of cancer she had, but as I am sure you are aware, many cancers are curable and treatable, so

having “cancer” isn’t exactly a death knell.  Yes, it is true that once you have had cancer, it may return, but

the more years that transpire from the onset of the first cancer, the less likely it is that that cancer will return.  

 

In that Kayla had cancer as a child and she is now in her mid-20’s, it’s a pretty good bet that she won’t have

to fight that cancer again.

 

Also, you have given Kayla the title of a “nanny” for Jackie and Phil Baxter’s family, but she performs very

few functions as a nanny in the script.  She is depicted more like a personal assistant, gal Friday, gopher and

“Jack of all trades.”  Is she going to make a career of this job?  I don’t think so.  So something else has to be

at play here… why she is doing this job at this particular time in her life?

 

I would like to suggest that you re-consider Kayla’s back story, and at the same time give her more

dimension in the present.  Perhaps we keep what you have done in the script with Kayla’s parents and have

her subsequently raised by her grandmother, but while she was in college or graduate school, she was

diagnosed with ovarian or uterine cancer (the treatment for which would leave her barren and unable to bear children).  This could have been very devastating to Kayla, as she loves children (you demonstrate that well

in the script) and wanted to have a family because she missed out on one growing up.  But now that goal

seems impossible.  Jackie could have been her college counselor or one of her professors when this medical

crisis happened.  Perhaps Jackie even offered Kayla to stay with her and her family after her surgery 

while undergoing radiation and/or chemo therapy which brought her very close to the family.  She’s well now

and back at her own apartment, but works for Jackie and Phil (and will do just about any task for them) as a

way to help them with their busy lives, earn some income and allow her to take a night course or two toward

her degree (possibly in psychology or social work…you decide).  This kind of back story accomplishes a

couple of things.  First, she will have a more concrete reason to shy away from a commitment with a man

since she can’t have children, and she may feel like “damaged goods” having had cancer.  Also, it gives her

a goal in life (her degree), explains why she is so willing to perform all sorts of tasks for the Baxters and

provides a better understanding of her closeness with the Baxters’ kids.  It would provide more conflict in

her relationship with Brad who might want to have a wife in the future who can bear him more children and

who wouldn’t possibly die of cancer in the future.  Additionally, you have created Kayla as a character who

has wisdom beyond her years and who knows how to deal with children (even though she has had none of her

own) and with fiercely competitive people like Peggy Sue, all of which could have come from her studies.

 

Brad’s back story is effective and provides the audience with a good emotional pull toward his character.  He, too, must be better developed, as you have a number of miscues about his character that work against him being sympathetic to the audience.  He must be worthy of Kayla’s growing love for him and for the audience to

empathize with him.  Yes, they will relate to him trying to raise his son alone after the death of his wife, but

you make him “comfortably well-off” when he states to his dad that they don’t need the money or aggravation

from the mall.  And, he appears to be a braggart or self-important when he announces to Kayla that he and his

dad own the mall.  He really doesn’t know her, and it might be a better idea to have him state that he and his

dad actually manage the mall (which is true), and it would be a nice surprise when she learns later that he

didn’t want to be a braggart and tell her he owned the mall.  As you have written that scene, it appears that

Kayla becomes more impressed with Brad as a result of learning that he owns the mall, making her appear

a bit of a snob and impressed by wealth.  I know that you didn’t intend to convey that, but the scene could be

interpreted that way.  Also, Brad is very child-like in his response to Peggy Ann in the scrapbooking sequence

and intolerant of and angry with Kayla when she doesn’t “perform” and win the contest. Also, you have him

running away from her when she tells him her cancer might come back.  When Kayla tells him about her

cancer, he should take it like a man and perhaps question why she didn’t tell him sooner.  He more than likely

would feel blindsided by this revelation, if not angry.  He should tell her that he’s sorry for what she has

suffered and has had to bear in her life, but that he can’t see a future with her under the circumstances… for

he and his son couldn’t deal with the possibility of losing another wife and mother.

 

As subsidiary characters go, I really respond well to Adam, Jackie and Dana; they’re very likeable and real.

  

 

3.  POINT OF VIEW:

 

Good… The emphasis is on Kayla’s point of view but somewhat shared with Brad which is acceptable in a

romantic comedy or dramedy because the audience should be rooting for, and identifying with, both the

female and male leads.

 

 

4.  DIALOGUE:

 

Needs some work.  You will see notes on the pages of your script where I don’t understand what you are

trying to convey or where the dialogue might not be in keeping with the characters you want to create.  I like

a lot of the dialogue you have given to Adam; he’s a very likeable character with an upbeat personality. 

Also, the dialogue you gave to Timmy when he tells Brad “I’ll never be a real boy if I can’t get hurt” was

wonderfully “spot-on” and the source of a revelation in Brad.

 

I didn’t understand why you had Dana stutter with the word “love.”

  

 

5.  EXPOSITION:

 

Some of your exposition is lacking clarity or required detail.  An example of this is when Kayla is in the

sporting goods’ store talking to Arnie and Will…she leaves the store with the skates without paying for them.  

You will see other notes within the script that ask for clarity.  Also, there are a number of scenes where you

describe things to the reader of the script that a viewer would not be privy to.  If there is information that you

want to impart or clarify to your audience, that information should be revealed in the dialogue or action only,

as the viewing audience won’t have the benefit of reading your exposition.  To demonstrate what I mean, you

have written “Kayla drives up to the place of her employment as a nanny"… You do reveal this information

later, which is good, but putting it in the exposition may make you look like a novice writer to film industry professionals.

 

And, sometimes you are missing a necessary “stage direction” such as when Kayla’s phone rings, and she

says “Hello” without having picked up the phone or having the news reporter speak to Mr. Evans on camera,

but you forgot to mention that she had a microphone in hand.

  

 

6.  ACTION:

 

The emphasis in your script is on character and not action, but you did employ movement well (as opposed
to just showing talking heads) in a number of scenes such as walking through a Christmas tree stand,
jogging, ice skating, sledding, scrap booking, driving, etc.

 

 

7.  CONFLICT:

 

Because of the nature of this piece, the conflict of your “A” story (will Kayla and Brad come together in the

end) tends to be soft (no possibility of dire or life-threatening consequences or a villain to vanquish). 

However, you do need to heighten this conflict if you want to sell your script.  And, Kayla, who is your leading protagonist must have the major conflict and must resolve it herself.  This goes back to Kayla’s character development.  What conflict does she have to resolve?  Is it that she holds back in relationships because of

her back story (see above) and that she can’t be entirely open and truthful with Brad because of her fear of

being rejected and, perhaps even more importantly, she can’t tell Brad how much she cares for him or loves

him?  And, then when she finally opens up and admits to him that she had cancer and can’t have children, he

decides the relationship is over?  He goes away upset with her, but he’s also been truthful with her (that’s one

of the things she most admires about him) and has expressed his feelings about her, but I never heard her admit

that she loves him.  She must make the next move to try to get him back.

 

 

A good exercise before writing a script is to take each of your leading and prominent players in your story

and make a file card on each outlining their history, strengths, weaknesses, and their goals. And, the very

most important piece of their character description that you have to delineate is what do they need to achieve

by the end of your story and what obstacles do they have to overcome to achieve it or them.  This helps you

keep the characters very clear in your mind as everything that they say or do in your script flows from that. 

And, it will provide the all important and necessary “character arc” wherein a character “grows” or resolves

one or more of his or her weaknesses by the end of the story.  For example: Kayla avoids committing to a relationship with men because of her fear of rejection and her inability to have children, but by the end of the

story, she has overcome this liability.

 

What is Kayla’s goal?   She wants to find a man who can accept who she is and with whom she can build a

family.  And, Christmas time is difficult to endure without a family.

 

Brad wants to have a loving and trusting relationship with his son, Timmy, and he wants to be able to fulfill

Timmy’s needs.  He also wants to find someone whom he can love but who will also be an excellent mother to

Timmy.

 

Timmy wants to have a mommy as a Christmas present.

 

Adam wants his son and grandson to be close and happy.

 

Jackie wants to deliver the very best Christmas her family has ever experienced.

 

Sarah wants to do a good job in the school play.

Jason should also have a wish or a gift that he wants for Christmas (perhaps a puppy?  And, Kayla can find a

stray or litter of puppies at the mall…rescuing one for Jason, Timmy, Dana, Adam and herself (you decide).

 

Dana wants a job and perhaps when she brings the director to the mall, he in turn can offer her a part in his

new play after seeing her “work” at the mall.  It might be a nice touch that Dana and her director friend start

dating as a result of her bringing him to the mall.

 

 

8. EMOTIONAL DYNAMICS:

 

This can be strengthened as discussed above.  What would be ideal is if you can find a way to bring Kayla

and Brad back together by the end and have Kayla, Brad, Timmy and Adam (maybe even Dana and her new

director friend) share a Christmas celebration with the Baxters in the final scene.  Buyers love big, happy, celebratory endings.  And, wouldn’t it be amazing if all of the key players had their wishes come true!

 

 

9. PLOT & SUBPLOTS:

 

We have already identified the A storyline above, and you have secondary plots that work well:

getting Timmy and Brad’s relationship back on track and including Kayla in their relationship;

saving the mall; getting work for Dana; and helping Sarah to get over her fears (of the play and learning to ice skate); etc…

 

But what about Kayla’s future?  She can’t just aspire to being a nanny for the rest of her life?  Does she

want to be a child psychologist or a social worker for orphaned children?  She needs to have a goal other than

wanting to find a man she can share the rest of her life with, and this goal has to be worked into the fabric of

your story.

 

  

10. STRUCTURE:

 

I know you are in love with the opening sequence, but it doesn’t work here for several reasons in my

estimation.  It has nothing to do with the rest of the story or characters.  You need to get into your story and

conflicts sooner, and it adds a great deal of expense to the production.  Otherwise, your story is told in a

linear fashion which most buyers prefer (they often don’t care for flashbacks or dream sequences).

 

One scene that you omitted which should have been in the script is when and how Brad actually introduces

Kayla to Timmy.  You played this scene in the middle, and we didn’t see how Brad identified Kayla to Timmy,

and therefore, it was a bit forced when Timmy (who just got hurt from a fall off the sled) would gravitate to

Kayla instead of Gibson. Perhaps Gibson should not accompany them on this outing?

 

And, we also need another scene or two to see more of Brad attempting to get next to his son since this is his

primary goal.  If you drop the opening sequence, you can add scenes of interaction between Brad and Timmy

without adding to your page count.

  

 

11. PACING:

 

The story moves well.  There was one scene that played much too long and that was the scrapbooking event.  

Ideally, unless it is necessary to impart crucial information about our leading characters or to further the plot

(which it doesn’t do), this scene needs to be much shorter.  I believe it was seven pages in length and should

be no longer than five (if that).

  

 

12. CONTINUITY:

 

You did a good job in this area as there were no holes in the story, and the action and progression of the story

were realistic and credible.

 

 

13. RESOLUTION:

 

I have addressed this issue in the previous numbered items.

 

 

14. TONE:

 

Appropriately for this kind of story, there is humor and angst in the proper proportions.

 

 

15. MARKETABILITY:

 

The potential strength of your script is that there is a heavy demand every year for Christmas-based projects. Because your story is not an outrageous comedy (CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS) or action comedy

(HOME ALONE) and it is a female-driven story, it is better suited as a TV film than theatrical film.

 

 

16. FORMATTING:

 

There were a few formatting errors that could be easily fixed.  You must establish which characters are in a

given scene BEFORE they speak in that scene, otherwise you make it very difficult for an AD (Assistant

Director) to draw up a shooting schedule.  Also, you have to be more careful in identifying a location before

writing the action that takes place in that location.  You will see specific notes within the script to help you

understand this better.  Also, if someone is talking off screen, such as when Kayla calls Dana from the

Mercedes, you have to establish that Dana is off-screen by denoting her dialogue as either OS for off-

screen or VO for voice over…or you have to establish an INTERCUT or SPLIT SCREEN.

 

 

17. TYPOS & GRAMMATICAL ERRORS:

 

These issues are addressed directly on pages of your script in red ink.

  

 

18. SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:

 

All suggestions for improvement that I could devise will be found within this checklist and others are written

on the pages of your hard copy script in blue ink.

  

 

19. PRODUCTION CONSIDERATIONS

 

The opening sequence is too expensive for a TV project and doesn’t progress the story or introduce the key

players in your story.  You have numerous locations which may also have to be cut down or condensed (such

as making Dana and Kayla roommates so we don’t require two sets to serve as their apartments).  Also, the

sledding scene may have to be shot as a jungle bar in a local park.  Making snow or finding and shooting in a

location with snow (which can’t be guaranteed) adds expense to a production and makes the project less

appealing to producers who are concerned with delivering the show on time and on budget.

 

 

20. PACKAGING & CASTING:

 

If you do your rewrite effectively, Kayla and Brad should be appealing and well-defined characters who would

attract name actors to play the roles.  These kinds of projects don’t get made unless they can draw a

prominent actor or two.

 

When rewriting the script, it might be helpful to have a female and male TV star of the right age in your mind –

sort of as a prototype.

 

I have included a small list of potential actresses and actors for the Kayla and Brad roles on the last page of

your script.

 

 

21. TITLE OF SCRIPT :

 

It works unless you can come up with something more provocative or indicative of the story like CHRISTMAS WISHES.

 

 

Stephanie Rogers


WRITE 2 WOW 

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Suite #200-716

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