Thursday, June 11, 2009

Face-Lift 642


Guess the Plot

justice/vengeance

1. e. e. cummings is back . . .
and this time it's personal.

2. ((Ida - sister)/(grief + rage)) * mistrial + 3months*((new evidence + trial)/(shooting range + sniper rifle)) + 2years*(appeals /martial arts training) + (murderer free / training complete) = justice/vengeance: A Vigilante Mathematician Story

3. The telecommunication industry is in a shambles, having been targeted for reprisals by a renegade band of philologists who blame cell-phone texting for the younger generation's appalling disregard of the established rules of capitalization.

4. Danielle Mallory, family expatriate/private detective, teams up with her father/ex-con to search for her missing/dead? younger brother/drug user before the unthinkable/indescribable happens. Also, a deep conspiracy/race against the clock.

5. Strunk and White arise as zombies and slay all those who neglect proper capitalization. White considers it vengeance, but Strunk considers it just.

6. Dante Cherish is a criminal lawyer with a knack for keeping her clients out of prison. When one of them turns on her, assaulting her and burning down her house, she has to decide whether to pursue the case through the courts or don spandex and mete out some street justice as Red Janus, the Avenger.

7. A series of episodes in the life of little Miss Holly Day, who continually falls prey to an evil madman in an act of unimaginable cruelty that simply must be avenged by Coyote Jones and his flame-throwing sidekick Mungo Bean.


Original Version

Dear Agent/Producer/Person whose Roommate [/Butler/Plumber] is Friends with the Coen Brothers' Assistant: [The main duty of the Coen Brothers' assistant is to keep the Coen Sisters off the set. Or so I hear.] [You'd think the Coen Brothers could afford to each have an assistant.] [I'm thinking of getting an assistant myself. How much does an assistant make? The Coen Brothers' assistant probably makes enough to hire an assistant. Then when the Coen Brothers summon their assistant to do something vile like give them foot massages, the assistant's assistant has to do it.] [My assistant's main duty will be to inform me when I've run a topic into the ground.]

All her adult life, private detective Danielle Mallory has distanced herself from her family - until her younger brother sends a frantic call for help just before disappearing in the middle of a drug deal gone bad. [Because there's no better time to rejoin your family than right after your brother swindles a Colombian drug cartel.] Against her better judgment, she teams up with her ex-con father to find him. In a race against the clock – and against her father’s short fuse – Danielle is forced to compromise her own moral code to unravel the threads of her brother’s life. But when the unthinkable happens and she stumbles into a deeper conspiracy, Danielle realizes too late that nobody can escape their past. [That last sentence could use some specificity.]

"justice/vengeance" is a smart, stylish noir that can be shot for a low to medium budget [unless you can get Julia Roberts to play Danielle, in which case we can still come in under 100 mil if the Coen Brothers are willing to give up their assistant]. I myself am a recent USC graduate with several completed screenplays under my belt. Currently I am an assistant [to the Coen Brothers] and occasional copywriter for a movie advertising company.


Notes

Aren't you supposed to start with one or two sentence log line? Not that I've ever figured out how that can convince an agent you have a viable project.

I hear it's even harder to get an agent for a screenplay than for a novel. Have you considered the many screenplay competitions? They aren't free, but many do give feedback, and winning scripts sometimes get put before producers as part of the prize. At least a winning script would look good on a resume. I say this only because it's such a tough field to break into. Right now all screenplays that get produced are written by the same five people.

Another way to break in that's much easier than sending your screenplay to agents is to convert it to a novel that becomes a runaway bestseller.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

This doesn't have any more info about the story or script than the average GTP. Is that really enough?

Even if that's all you care to say about the story, you might also mention number of pages, where/when it's set, whether you registered it anywhere.

150 said...

Dude, we have no idea how to shop screenplays, it's a totally different ballgame than shopping novels. Better find a crit site that specializes in film writing.

I'm not sure how trunked screenplays are supposed to bolster your cred, but again, maybe things work differently in Hollywood.

wendy said...

I'm certainly no expert, but I've been doing a good deal of research, have written a few screenplays and gained experience recently that MAY be of help to you...really who knows, right?

Your structure seems to be in place and that's good. You complicate the conflict several times (also good), but you're missing clarity. Hone your turning points; they're messy.

You have extra words in your query which makes me wonder about the script. Better go back and check your: "is, are, the, that, walks, sits, looks etc."...You know the drill.

It feels (to me) like you are trying too hard to tell me everything I might want to know. Leave room for the reader to ask questions and wonder about the answers.

Example:
"All her adult life, private detective Danielle Mallory has distanced herself from her family - until her younger brother sends a frantic call for help just before disappearing in the middle of a drug deal gone bad."

I would cut!

Private detective Danielle Mallory struggles to distance herself from her family's outlaw traditions until a call for help from her little brother drags her back in.

Well there's my two cent. I hope it's worth at least one. Good luck with your screenplay.

wendy said...

Oh, and I heard managers are easier to get than script agents in LA. They're supposedly better for new writers too, in that agents are mostly fielding offers for the established few and managers hunt opportunity down.

What have you heard?

Anonymous said...

This seems to be a passive statement of what you wrote without addressing your reasons for hailing the agent/producer/lacky's roommate. It doesn't say whether you're including pages or a treatment, or whatever. It doesn't ask if they'd like to see pages or a treatment or whatever. Maybe I'm wrong but I thought it was standard to just make that clear in the letter.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Thanks for your comments and the awesome fake plots! A word of explanation...

Yes, I have noticed that this is a website for books, not screenplays. The kick of it is, there AREN'T any comparable sites for screenplays. EE was kind enough to put this up so I can get some feedback on the plot section. Any comments on the clarity/ grammar/ voice of the plot section would be gratefully received!

A couple comments on structural issues people have raised: screenplay queries are supposed to shorter than their literary counterparts - though if there's not enough plot info that's obviously not good. And depending on whom this was addressed to, I would include a intro paragraph detailing what I want (represent me! produce my movie! buy my script!).

Wendy - I've heard the same thing about managers! I've met a couple and that's why I need a good query - every place I go to network they always ask for a query instead of a script.

Anyhoo, thanks again for letting me infringe upon your collective goodwill!

Anonymous said...

As described here the plot is about as gripping as the usual GTP, which makes me think it's probably about as gripping as the usual screenplay query which means it seems unlikely to generate unusual attention. Will millions of people rush to pay $ to see this movie? Will A-list stars rush to be in it? If so, why? I think you're going to have to say more about the plot/characters, and reveal more of your own particular talent.

_*Rachel*_ said...

You could tell more of the ending. That's my opinion and you should take it with a bucket of salt.

Matthew said...

Is justice/vengeance a working title?

If it will be cheap to produce, maybe you could take it to some indy directors and build a reputation through film festivals. Isn't that how Matt Damon and The Guy Who Is Not As Good As Matt Damon got started? I honestly don't know.

I wish I could be of more help.

Xenith said...

This sounds like something that's been done before, many times before. I hate to think how many times it's turned up in queries A:\

So why is yours different?

Can you be more specific? What compromise? What unthinkable? What conspiracy? What about her past is she trying to escape?

Anonymous said...

As I read it, this part = confusingly stated backstory

All her adult life, private detective Danielle Mallory has distanced herself from her family - until her younger brother sends a frantic call for help just before disappearing in the middle of a drug deal gone bad.

I'm wondering -- how many scenes do you spend establishing that?? The timeline is jumbled here, what's the sequence in the script?

This = Act 1
Against her better judgment, she teams up with her ex-con father to find him.

Now, I'm wondering why you describe your opening scene in such a bland way. Or does your script take beaucoup screen time to get here? Is this a talking & hugging scene, a yakking to a telephone scene, or an exciting break-pop-out-of-the-joint sequence complete with spectacular car chases, or what?

This = Act 2
In a race against the clock – and against her father’s short fuse – Danielle is forced to compromise her own moral code to unravel the threads of her brother’s life.

Now I'm thinking -- translate that to something we could possibly shoot, please.

And this = Act 3.
But when the unthinkable happens and she stumbles into a deeper conspiracy, Danielle realizes too late that nobody can escape their past.

Yeah, that sounds like some kind of literary novel and those usually bomb at the box office. The "unthinkable happens" appears to be your big action climax. But since we can't imagine what happens we have no idea if it can actually be filmed and if so, whether a justifiably large audience will want to see it. Often times unthinkable happenings are either unfilmable or too gruesome to watch.

So in my humble esteem, you need to be more specific about the action and make your description less cerebral and more visual.

Anonymous said...

What, exactly, have you got against salt?

Matthew said...

I was doing some research on selling screenplays and I came across this random log line generator.

http://www.lifeformz.com/cgi-bin/idea/idea.fcgi

BuffySquirrel said...

I'll be your assistant, EE! When do I start?

_*Rachel*_ said...

The way my critiquing has been going lately, I'm not worth my salt and everything I say has to be taken with a grain of salt--or a bucket, just to be safe.

I'm wondering: why would her brother, who she's been distant from all these years, call HER when he's in trouble?

BuffySquirrel said...

Rachel makes a good point. Why wouldn't the brother go straight to dad?

Anonymous said...

"The kick of it is, there AREN'T any comparable sites for screenplays."

With over 7 billion people on the planet and- I'm just guessing- lots of screen writers, I thought "boy it's weird that there aren't any comparable sights for screen plays...

So I googled Screenplay writers blogs...wait for it... blogs... about screenplay writing exist. Whats more, if you click them they link other blogs. And, I didn't do this, but I'm going to guess, if you read the comments you'll find even more clues.

I know, you said, comparable. Here's just one that crits screenplay synopsis.

http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/screenwriting-workshop/screenplay-synopsis-critique-hollywood-house/

There are more too. And one thing I've found even for us writers- the best blogs don't come up when you google them. You read one blog and in the comments someone mentions another. You go to that blog and then you get a tip on another. What you're looking for is out there but you have to be willing to put in the time (more than an hour) and effort. And yeah I know you're going to come back say you've put in (insert outrageous number of hours)to find what you were looking for.

"there AREN'T any comparable sites for screenplays" =I'm too lazy to look but I expect yall to spend your time critiquing something you don't know much about... and I'll scratch my head when my new handy dandy query is ignored. I'm sending the clue gun your way: we aren't screenplay writers, we're novelists.

Anonymous said...

"Dear Agent/Producer/Person whose Roommate is Friends with the Coen Brothers' Assistant:"

Clue Atomic Bomb coming your way. Every author here knows better than to do this. Lots of people have been really nice to you, but before you ask people for their time, it would behoove you to read some basics, like the proper way to address a query. If you don't know why this is so, you need more help than any of us can give you.

Evil Editor said...

Regarding the two previous comments, I think it's safe to assume the author did not open his actual query letter Dear roommate of the Coen Brothers or whatever, any more than novelists open Dear Evil Editor. It's a joke placeholder to be replaced by the actual name of the recipient.

Also, while most of the minions have tried their hands at novels, we've also done Face-Lifts for a dramatic play, a comic book series, and numerous nonfiction books.

Finally, I think we can all agree that there are no "comparable" blogs, no matter what the subject.

Xenith said...

You know, Anon, no one is making you read or comment on anything here, and some of us appreciate something a bit different from time to time.

rod the roofer said...

I brung my tools; heard someone needs a stick removing.

Whoa, see you got it under control...

Matthew said...

I read that a pitch in film making requires the writer to lay out the hook, premise and essential beats of the story. So in that sense it is not all that different from a novel query, it's just shorter.

I can tell you that this letter is definitely lacking a hook...Something concise and eyecatching.
See the random log line generator I posted earlier for examples.

freddie said...

In a race against the clock – and against her father’s short fuse – Danielle is forced to compromise her own moral code to unravel the threads of her brother’s life. But when the unthinkable happens and she stumbles into a deeper conspiracy, Danielle realizes too late that nobody can escape their past.

I'm assuming the "race against the clock" is that the drug dealers give her a certain amount of time before they kill her brother? More specifics would help here, as I sort of had to circle back to her brother and the drug deal in my mind. For me, I'd prefer things to be spelled out explicitly in a query. What conspiracy does she fall into? Show me how the stakes rise.

I like the idea of the underlying family problems, but I think the phrase 'and her father's short fuse' feels unnecessary. We get the gist in the rest of the query. Good luck!!

freddie said...

Also, I think the whole tricky thing to finding blogs and sites regarding screenplays is trying to find sites that are actually helpful. There are probably a lot of blogs and screenplay sites, but how many of them really know the ins and outs of pitching to producers? As some of you know, I'm studying film composing, and while I'm not 'in' Hollywood yet, I'm becoming associated with people who are. I'm learning Hollywood is a strange business. That's not a complaint. It just means there are a lot of things to learn that no one tells you - and some of it is counterintuitive.

Phoenix said...

Hey, Rod! Good to see you again. Been missing you!

Rachel, I don't think you've meant any harm by your comments. We all make a misstep or two. Besides, your observations are usually pretty good, so throw away your salt bucket and do keep speaking up - please!

I'm sending the clue gun your way: we aren't screenplay writers, we're novelists.

Um, excuse me? That's a pretty broad generalization, Anon. While EE mainly panders to the novel crowd, that doesn't mean his readers are only novelists. Some of us write other things, too: short stories, non-fiction, picture books, comic books, manga, stageplays, screenplays ...

A good pitch is a good pitch no matter the vehicle. Likewise, a bad pitch. You don't have to write in the medium to recognize tension, pacing or characterization problems. Much like a piano player can tell when a trumpet player hits the wrong note.

Besides, Sarah from H. has been around here awhile. She knows the breadth of talent here, and knows what kind of help she can hope for here. She's family -- no reason to trounce her out the door because she brought us tea instead of coffee to try.

Sarah, if it helps, I do think you need to be much punchier in the pitch and hook 'em fast. Something more like:

It's [popular drug cartel/PI movie] meets [popular estranged-family-comes-together film] when [sassy, sensitive, straight-arrow] Danielle Mallory, PI, teams up with her ex-con dad to rescue her wayward brother from a sinister drug czar in the smart, stylish noir "justice/vengeance."

When a frantic call from a brother she hasn't heard from in a decade ends abruptly during a drug deal gone bad, Danielle reuctantly enlists the aid of her short-tempered but street-savvy dad to find him. What Danielle doesn't know is that her estranged brother is also involved in a conspiracy [to appoint a drug czar to a senate seat vacated under suspicious circumstances].

Following the threads of her brother's shady past, Danielle arrives in [Thugtown, where politicians and crack collide]. But she's too late. Her brother dead, her father ready to go in with guns blazing, Danielle is forced to examine her own moral code -- and to decide for herself where justice ends and vengeance begins.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I greatly appreciate all the constructive criticism I've received here. The general consensus seems to be that I'm far too vague and the details I'm trying to jam in are just resulting in awkward, run-on sentences. I didn't realize I was coming off that way. Now I can take that and go rewrite.

Special thanks to Xenith, Rod, Freddie, and Phoenix for putting in a good word for me. I was reluctant to submit this query because screenplays aren't really what this site is for and to anyone just browsing through I do look like a lazy noob.

I'm not offended by the anons - I realize I am preempting your regularly scheduled novel queries and reading about a screenplay may not be of any help to you.

But I know the time I've spent here with all of you reading other people's work and seeing the comments made on theirs has already made me a better and smarter writer. I've posted my share of scathing remarks, I felt it was only fair to open myself up to the same. When I'm ready to query my novel, I'll post that query. In the meantime I'm deeply grateful to those who have taken time out of their day to assist me.

Long post is long... but heartfelt.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Freddie 3 pm, you reminded me of the Evil Overlord List. If she's right, Sarah, you might want to check it.

Freddie, I just took the time to look at your picture. Hilarious!

You don't query for short stories, but I've sent in short story beginnings here. We're not too picky, as long as it's interesting and loosely related to writing.

Robin S. said...

[My assistant's main duty will be to inform me when I've run a topic into the ground.]

OK- NOW I get the buffy assistant thing.


PS - I could do this, and I won't even chatrge ya. Because I'm that nice.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hands off Robin! I saw him first!

:D

freddie said...

I don't know what the Evil Overlord list is, Rachel? Thanks for the avatar vote!

Sarah, good luck!