Script reports sample#1
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.
Steve and Jane rig their divorce so they can get their child into a good school outside their catchment area; but the divorce soon starts to feel all too real to Steve. The case ends up transforming UK divorce legislation because their divorce judge becomes involved.
It’s a wonderfully original premise, explored in an entertaining and innovative script. It’s unclear, however, whether rigging your divorce would enable you to send your child to a school outside your catchment area. How this is possible needs to be flagged up more clearly so that an objective reader can be in no doubt that the premise holds up; because while the script becomes enjoyably surreal and dreamlike, this central premise must be watertight at a legal . . . and behavioural level: is this something two clever people would really do? Why not just move? Doubt haunts the premise. For that reason, perhaps the divorce should be real. Much thereafter could be as it is. Tuesday may then get into the school. Early may then get involved because he followed the book and thus destroyed Steve’s life while giving everything, including custody of Tuesday, to Jane. This scenario would feel more believable because it actually happens all the time in the real world.
The premise is original, then, but questionable, and should thus be given thought.
The genre is in the dramedy/caper/musical area. It resists pigeonholing, and that’s admirable. This script is as refreshingly anti-label as it is anti-establishment. Bravo.
Uncertainties about the premise ask questions of the plot. Early on, there are a lot of characters, some of whom feel redundant. There is no need to start with the African couple in front of Judge Early. We can just start with Steve and Jane’s divorce hearing. It would be good to see them discussing and arranging it first, however, so that we can know what’s going on. Knowing it’s fake would then load up the scene with Early. At present, it’s a bit unclear (and very long winded). Perhaps they realise that the conceit won’t hold water. So one of them agrees to be unfaithful. But they wouldn’t sacrifice their marriage for the sake of their daughter’s education, whatever the school. So perhaps they are about to rig the divorce, but then one finds out the other has been unfaithful, and so it’s real.
What if Grindstone was a private school? That would present much opportunity for further social comment, and alter the socio-political hue of the piece and the characters. If it was, and Steve and Jane were dirt poor, they might indeed do anything to get their child a bursary to study there in order to develop her musical genius – even rig their divorce.
Although the intention is the reverse (a comment on the way the law sees black people and black emancipation etc.) Jordan’s possession of a knife and consequent expulsion feels like racial stereotyping. That seems to be the only function of this character.
Implausibility around the premise resurfaces when Steve goes to Early on page 37 and asks him to undo what he has done. Steve wouldn’t do this. This is the wrong sort of farfetched (whereas shenanigans in the House of Lord etc are gorgeously brave and fun).
The classical and baroque musical and cultural dimension is superb. It seems this might be a story about the plight of the mature, white middle-class Radio 3 listener that has something original to say about immigration. But it soon yields to a PC vision of such a man being enriched by a plural experience. It feels like a Remain cop out. It’s obvious that this is required to give the film a chance of finance and distribution, but the sense of yielding to the liberal-left mandate is predictable and slightly too fashionable.
The first act is about Steve and Jane, but Jane soon vanishes. What’s her story? Even Steve vanishes while the script puts Early at its centre, and focuses on his (and thus the establishment’s) transformation. This needs to be about Steve and Jane, or about Early, or all three equally. At the moment, it isn’t quite either/any. Steve vanishes on page 46. Early becomes the central character, and Steve doesn’t reappear until page 54. It’s way too long.
It would be reassuring to make it clear that the Russian girls who seduce and then attack S on page 60/61 are over age. Telling us they are in their late 20s would help steer the reader away from any concerns about Steve’s appetite for teenage/underage girls.
Steve’s musical hallucination in the shopping centre on and around page 41 is just brilliant. It feels climactic, however. This should be his resurrection, and so happen around page 70 (the script feels too long because of story and structural issues and too much dialogue). It comes early in the second act, however, and doesn’t have the effect is should: his rehabilitation, and inspired journey back to Jane (which is quite cliched).
That Steve falls so low and suffers so much makes Jane seem callous and uncaring. If the divorce was rigged, why doesn’t she help him? Perhaps she now finds out that Steve actually was unfaithful before they ‘divorced’, and so vents her hurt and hatred on him.
Des isn’t used enough, and/or feels a bit redundant. Why is he spying on Steve? ‘Is he a terrorist suspect?’ That seems to be going somewhere dangerous, but doesn’t.
The story’s transferral from Steve and Jane to Early now picks up speed. It becomes all about Early’s transformation. It’s amusing and original and fun. Great. But the foundations upon which it’s all based need to be strengthened, and the script time given to S, J and E needs to be better balanced. This imbalance amplifies the long windedness of the late middle act and last act. It seems as if the end is nigh by page 90, and overdue on page 95. Excessive verbiage is in part to blame, as are structural issues. Catalyst Early makes two attempts to get S and J back together. One would be better. Early and Stacey getting together is a bit too twee – though in keeping with the fairy-tail nature of this.
Overall: the plot stands on slightly uncertain concept and story legs, and then meanders on its rather long-winded way to a slightly too predictable (but pleasantly eccentric) ending.
A tighter story will yield a better structure. Something like:
· Poor, eccentric and madly in love musicians Steve and Jane plan to fake their divorce to get their genius daughter Tuesday into a posh school on a bursary.
· They get rumbled. J finds out S was being unfaithful anyway. S crashes and burns.
· Tuesday brings them back together by making good on her educational advantage.
· Like the central characters, the establishment (and a Judge with a personal history) is transformed by the story, which is engrossed on social media and the news etc.
90 pages would be good. 104 feels too long because the story is discursive (and includes the global/national and the intimate – tough and risky to do) and the structure flounders. There’s so much that’s so good in this. It just needs paring down and strengthening.
The action text is well-written and concise, and keeps the reader reading. Things are slowed by plot and structure uncertainties, too many scenes, and some excessive/ long-winded dialogue, however. Judges Early and Wilkins in scene 124 is a case in point. This, and this kind of thing, can be dropped to keep things moving and a reader involved.
Steve is well sketched, but Jane much less so. Their relationship needs substantial work to make a reader buy into it, and root for them. Judge Early is entertaining, but ultimately slightly too cartoonish (even in light of the surreal nature of this piece). Early becomes too wayward too quickly, and without sufficient motivation. Something personal is needed to catalyse this transformation – something that will make us believe he is willing to sacrifice his privilege. A pluralist and social awakening doesn’t quite cut it. If Early’s life was similarly ruined by divorce and he experiences all that vicariously via S, we should see that (not be told), and we should feel it. Then we will buy into him and his actions.
Paprika and Rudi are entertaining, real, and memorable. Other secondary and tertiary characters are up to task, proving enjoyable substance and human reality to the story.
The inclusion of Rob Brydon is gold. Small man in a box please.
Some of the dialogue is wonderful – it’s organic, clever, warm-hearted and amusing. But there is, overall, too much of it. The reader becomes ever more bogged down, and late in the script starts to wish for a short, sharp, surprising yet satisfying end. Work is required.
Locations can be characters as much as the people who inhabit them. Locations and climatic conditions can also be used as metaphors for screenplay characters’ states of mind. This often-used precept should be applied to this script to help bring it alive.
This original and ambitious screenplay has something wonderful at its centre that deserves to be championed and developed. It has something good to say about culture, people and society. As things stand, however, it’s not quite viable as a feature film project. Work is required that addresses issues of structure and plot, and the way that plot is narrated.
Some scenes lack introductory text (e.g. scene 87), which can leave the reader having to try to work out what’s going on; but that’s about it.
It’s refreshing to read a script that wants to break the mould. This is such a script, though there is a degree of PC in its pro-immigration political conformity. The only question is: will audiences like it? The only answer is: some will, some won’t. This isn’t a mass-appeal/big box office project; but the chance of a sleeper or cult following is there if this is produced exceptionally well. It’s just sad Alan Rickman isn’t around to play Early.
Well done and very best wishes for your project.