Sample script report#2
Written by Screenwriter
Script report by Nick Green
Firstly: thank you for letting me read your screenplay. I hope you will take the comments I make below in the good will with which they’re intended and use them beneficially.
Though not original, the involvement of angels in the human condition is a premise with potential. This premise aligns with the genre of this script – drama – well. An ironic take on this premise (DOGMA) may be considered commercially viable; a Biblical treatment will likely not because it evangelises a specific (and thus exclusive) religious perspective.
Explored in a different way, this premise has potential. Explored in this way, it does not.
We begin with two homeless people situated far above earth. Perhaps they are angels, and this is a kind of heaven. One of the homeless people - Ezekiel - then falls to earth. Thus named, we realise that this character is perhaps intended to be the central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. The Biblical theme is thus set up. So far so good.
Now, however, we experience a somewhat incoherent series of events. These events happen to different people, none of whom the reader can invest any care or interest in because their characters and action through-lines are too fragmented and disjointed. This script seems more focussed on Biblical metaphor and morality than the creation of a sound screenplay story and structure. This focus is the script’s most obvious weakness.
Deborah is set up as a cruel/negative character when she slaps the eponymous child Evelyn. Ezekiel then walks along talking to himself. In the next scene, a pregnant Deborah ‘packs her things and her three children and leaves’. How can children be packed? Why is she leaving? Her pregnancy isn’t mentioned when we first meet her. Is this some while later? How long later? The reader must guess. We now cut to 1982, where presumably Deborah is 60 years old. Her actions now seem rather at odds with this age.
A scene now follows in which all we really find out is that Jews don’t mix meat and dairy. This is not a plot point, and the plot should be moving by now. The scene is redundant. In the next scene (THE PARTY) Evelyn is drugged and presumably raped (by the unstable Jeremiah?). She doesn’t seem to realise this at the time. She then imagines things. It isn’t made clear after these imaginings that we are back in her present. The reader must guess. Evelyn now visits a psychic, but nothing really comes of this. The events are off-plot – or rather: they don’t do enough to make what plot there is clear and compelling to the reader.
The rest of this screenplay seems to explore different – though linked – things happening to different, troubled characters. Benny now attacks Evelyn with a knife. Why? Evelyn turn to Raphael for solace, but he rejects her. Why? He, too, is violent and unappealing. He also isn’t part of the plot, or if he is, it’s in a peripheral and disjointed way.
The story continues in this way. Too many characters engage in conversations that are unclear. Evelyn and Deborah argue. The argument sketches Deborah in a very childish and unappealing light. We now move from one situation to another in an incoherent way.
From her own demise, it seems that Evelyn finds the inspiration to rescue the whore Bathsheba. The Biblical foundations of this screenplay are thus extended and confirmed.
Throughout, it’s quite hard to know what’s happening. This is both because of screenwriting techniques, and the focus on Biblical metaphor rather than cinematic story and structure. It’s hard to care what’s happening, too. There is incoherence. Characters are mostly troubled and violent. This is unappealing. Violence is redundant unless it is driven by (and drives) and coherent plot with a set up, an exploration, and a resolution.
These overall issues are amplified by frequent moments of confusion: on page 57 (of the PDF), Evelyn is out wandering around in her underwear (why?); she is then hit by a car and surely killed, yet in the next scene she is seemingly unharmed in a car with Adrian. What’s going on? This plot confusion is compounded by on-page use of language and screenwriting technique. The first paragraph in the above scene on page 57 reads
‘A bicycle rider, economics student, drives on the bicycle path on
the side of the road. Loud music from his Walkman. He stops on the
side of the road to fix something with his bike and then notices
the legs of a naked girl, peeking from the thicket on the side of
the road. He’s sure she’s dead. Evelyn hears loud music, and she
wakes up. She moves her legs a little. The student saw that the
body moves and panics, gets on his bike and ride away from there.’
This paragraph of action text at first focusses on a bicycle rider, but then segues into our central character Evelyn’s experience of the same situation (He’s sure she’s dead. Evelyn hears loud music). Different perspectives on the same situation should be separated on the page. Ideally, we should remain with the perspective of the protagonist. In this paragraph, the writer also changes tense from present to past (She moves her legs a little. The student saw that the body moves and panics); this further adds to the confusion.
These issues with language and technique amplify the tendency of the plot to seem disjointed and confusing. The reader is not thereby invited to progress through the plot, but to abandon it, as indeed various characters seem abandoned and replaced.
A plot is a causal chain. Plots are stories in action. They tend to involve a sequence of causally connect events that effect and which are effected by a small group of characters, with whom an audience can identify and with whom they remain until the story is told.
While Evelyn is a central character, we jump around between others characters, who seem to be trying to find their way through a world in need of redemption. This idea would be better suited to, say, a stageplay or a novel. Screenplays are a very specific narrative form, and they require very specific narrative skills. These skills are not apparent in this script.
What is the purpose of the scene on page 30 (of the PDF) ‘Deborah heads to the hanger in the living room . . . ’? If this scene was omitted, nothing would really change as far as the reader is concerned. All scenes in screenplays should be fundamental to, and advance, the plot. If omitted, critical information should be missing that helps to bond the reader to the story. That is not the case with this scene, or most others throughout this screenplay.
The plot is rather fragmented, confusing, overly referential, and unsatisfying. Much work is required to improve it, should this premise be further developed and explored.
A good structure should grow organically out of a good plot. Just as the plot of this script needs work, so does the structure. The building blocks of this (and most) structure are the activities caused by the relationships between the principle characters. Because these relationships don’t catch fire sooner and burn brightly for longer, the structure is off.
The three (or five) act structure is something a good screenwriter will ignore with the same skill with which s/he applies it. An experimental approach to structure can often yield some interesting results. Linear or experimental, this structure must find a way to roll out a more developed plot in a clearer, intuitive way. Evelyn’s problems should be set up early on; we should remain with her during the middle stages of the script, and we should be satisfied by the changes in her (which we experience vicariously) by the end of the story. This is not the case now. We lose Evelyn on her journey towards the light. We jump around from one set of characters to another in different situations not set up by previous characters in previous situations. This is not ideal. Structurally, this is like a collection of vignettes – or short stories – with a common religious/Biblical theme.
The structure is as blurred/disjointed as the story and plot, and the way they are narrated.
Work is required to create a more solid, recognisable structure. Developing the story and plot will tend to achieve this because of the story>plot>structure>narrative hierarchy.
While the script moves along at a reasonable rate throughout, pace suffers from
• Unnecessary scenes
• Insufficient drama and emotional causality
• A structure that needs development
• Too much/unnecessary dialogue
• A tendency to digress
• Story and plot issues
Pace can be improved via
• A better developed story
• A better structure
• A more impactful plot
• Minimal, smart dialogue
• Minimal, smart action text
• Sharper screenwriting techniques
The readability of the script can be improved. Too little happens throughout. There are redundant scenes, and there is excessive dialogue. The reader is often bogged down by plot stall, and excessive action text that effectively tells the actors what to do. If this was a shooting script written by the director, this may arguably be required/acceptable.
A minimal approach to word use (and all-round improvements) will speed the read.
Development is required to make this heartfelt script the page turner it needs to be to make an impact on busy and distracted financiers, agents and talent etc. Ideally, an objective reader must feel compelled to turn the page. At the moment this isn’t the case.
Putting seemingly impossible barriers in the way of relationships defines, refines, tempers, and proves those relationships to the characters in question, and to the audience. The characters are thereby changed, and then influence their worlds accordingly.
Evelyn is by turns victim and saviour. Disappointed and abused, she, like others, is tossed around by unpleasant/tragic events, and eventually finds a kind of salvation. She lacks human reality, however, because the agenda of the script seems to be to create a Biblical fable. It’s hard to know who she really is, what she wants – and what she does.
A victim herself, Deborah is an unattractive character who it’s very hard to care about. Her relationship with Evelyn is clichéd in its childish unpleasantness. She, and her relationship with Evelyn, need more reality – more organic nuance. More depth.
Other characters and their relationships are cursory. It’s as if they exist only to explore the deeper Theological agenda of the script. There are somewhat too many characters. It can be hard to keep track of who’s who and what they are doing, or what they want.
Who is Albert? What does he want? Why does he take Evelyn in? He seems demonic, but where does this lead? Where does he go, and why? Evelyn seems absurdly gullible when she meets him. Is she a metaphorical child? If so, Evelyn is rendered unbelievable via her relationship with Albert, which isn’t part of a recognisable plot and doesn’t lead anywhere.
Much work is required to develop characters and relationships. These should/will tend to grow out of a better understood, more cinematic, and more cohesive story and plot.
Dialogue should have an organic feel to it. If the screenwriter must tell her/his characters what to say, s/he will never understand them. Dialogue should arise naturally out of the situation the characters are in, and the characters themselves, which should be dynamic.
Dialogue should be a last resort in screenplays – particularly action or thriller screenplays. If an event or intention or subtext can be shown or alluded to in action text, all the better. In this way, screenplays are the reverse of stageplays, which are dialogue dependent.
While the dialogue is sometimes fair and occasionally good, much of it is redundant and doesn’t do enough work. Too many words are used to create too few plot advances or changes. Much dialogue distracts the reader from the story. Development is required.
This screenplay is not viable as a feature film in the current market. It should not be presented to the industry in its current form. It requires work that addresses fundamental issues of structure and plot, and the way that plot is narrated. Once this work has been done, the script will stand as good a chance as any because the premise has potential.
There are numerous issues here. Less than ideal use of grammar compounds issues with on-page technique to make this a challenging read. There is action text mixed up in the dialogue space and visa versa. Much action text is redundant (Yosef suggests to Jeremiah; Evelyn asks Jeremiah; (wrinkling her forehead); (wondering) etc.
Spelling mistakes like ‘She pics up another glass’ (should be picks) are frequent. Below this, what does ‘Upset, Evelyn i.’ mean in the scene heading action text?
One can’t just write ‘Recall childhood trauma. His mother committed suicide after the
collapse on the floor.He tries to wake her for two days.she’s dead.’ This belongs in a novel. This text seems to refer to situations and actions that took place in another time, and over quite some time, and such need to be written out accordingly in the script.
Similarly ‘Evelyn considers the doctor’s words. She concentrates as she walks along the street. She saw a dim image of Jeremiah .she recall the torn zipper , the next morning, the pain of the body, the physical difficulty walking days later. She realizes now that she was raped that night.’ One can’t write that she was considering the doctor’s words. One can only show this. Where does she see the dim image of Jeremiah?
Things like (frowning) and (summarising in pain) are not needed. What’s being said should tell the reader what’s behind the dialogue. And actors can be left to work out when to use their faces, and how, in order to portray the emotions of the characters they play.
Where there is a scene heading, there needs to be an introduction to the scene below it. Who’s in the scene? What are they doing? Etc. So -
INT. DEBORAH’S HOUSE/KITCHEN AND LIVING ROOM – NIGHT
(screaming at Evelyn)
What in God sakes do you want?
Etc., just makes things harder for the reader.
Having created Evelyn A and Evelyn B, which one is involved in future scenes must be clearly specified throughout those scenes; otherwise the reader is left to guess.
What does ‘– remote sees a woman pushing a baby carriage’ mean?
On page 77 (of the PDF), PAUSE seems to have become a character.
Much work is required to bring the script format, presentation and grammar up to the standards required to make this script presentable to the industry/talent/finance etc.
Issues in this script from the premise ‘upwards’ through story, plot, narration, screenwriting techniques, and grammar require work. Has the writer considered treating this story via another medium? A stageplay or a novel might be better suited to exploring this idea, and manifesting the spiritual drive behind it. Films are very expensive to produce, so the ideas behind screenplays and the way they are executed need to be spot on.
The basics of good film and TV screenwriting are easy to access. Successful screenplays can be downloaded and read, and there are many screenwriting books and courses available. Beyond that, screenwriting takes a huge amount of practice.
Well done and very best wishes for your ambitious project.