Author Topic: Wanting your opinion on the tone of the beginning of my script(6ish pages)  (Read 16562 times)

Offline lilgreggy

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Just wondering everyone's opinion on the tone of the beginning of a script that i'm working on. It's a drama.
Also, I implied a few things. Did you understand everything?


INT. JACKíS ROOM-NIGHT
Jack, 25, tall and skinny, depressed about his life and not very joyful, sits in his room at his computer desk with a bottle of water by him and he is laying out his sleeping pills in a long line. He pours them out and then scoops them back into the bottle. He then pours them all in his hand and is about to scoop them all in his mouth when he hears a knock on his door. Itís jackís mother, Tina.
Tina
Jack! Letís go, youíre grandparents are here and dinner is almost done, get down here.
Jack(startled and holding back tears)
Ok, Iím just getting dressed.
Tina
That would be nice! Maybe wear those nice jeans I just bought you.
Jack
Ok mom, just go, Iíll be there in a minute.
INT. JACKSí PARENTS DINING ROOM-NIGHT
Jack parents Tina and George have dinner on the table and Jackís grandparents, Linda and Bill, have already sat down. Jackís sisters, Shelly and Laney are at the table as well. Jack walks down the stairs in a t-shirt and Jeans.
Linda
Hi jack. Is that a new shirt?
Jack
Uh, no.
Linda
Yeah, I didnít think so.
Jack rolls his eyes and just walks over to his grandpa.
Jack
Hey grandpa, how are ya?
Bill
Iím good son, you see that Braves game last night?

Jack
Uh, I donít think so.
Bill
Yeah well, they won, theyíre in first place now.
Jack
Thatís good.
Tina
Ok foods done, letís eat!
CUT TO:
INT. DINING ROOM TABLE-NIGHT
Linda
So Jack howís the job search going.
Jack
I mean I donít have a job so not that great.
Linda
Well you should get one soon, people must be needing help around he holidays.
Jack
Yeah..
Linda
Where is Pj tonight?
Tina
Oh heís still in California shooting his film. But heíll be here Thursday for Thanksgiving.
Linda
That is so wonderful that heís doing that. 22 years old and already starring in a movie. Who did you say was the big star on that movie?
Tina
Oh I canít think of her name now, but she was in Harry Potter.
Linda
Well at least heís doing something with his life.
Jack gets up and leaves the table before finishing his meal and goes upstairs.
INT. KITCHEN-NIGHT
Tina and Linda are discussing what Linda said at dinner.
Tina
Iím just saying, he gets upset when you bring that stuff up.
Linda
I was just telling the truth.
Tina
Well I just donít want anybody to push him over the edge again.
Linda
Well I guess thatís true. We might as well enjoy him while heís still here.
Tina gives her mom an exhausted look.
Laney,28, comes into the kitchen.
Laney
Hey mom, can you watch the kids tonight? Me and some friends from work are going to see a movie.
Tina
I guess so..did you pay the babysitter for this week?
Laney
Well I donít get paid until next week,can you do it?
Linda(giving Tina a disapproving look)
Hmm, she can go to a movie but she canít pay the babysitter.
Jack comes down the stairs.
Jack
Hey mom, Iím gonna go meet up with Alice for a drink.
Tina
Ok, but the van needs gas.
Jack
Iím not taking the van, Iíll just catch a cab.
INT. LIVING ROOM-NIGHT
George and Tina are watching TV.
Tina
I donít know what we are going to do on Friday. The babysitter is out of town, Laney has to work, mom and dad are going to the church and Iím supposed to see a few clients that day. I guess I could just cancel themÖagain.
George
Yeah, I wonít be home till around 7.
Tina
That means Iím gonna have to pick up some clients next week or we wonít have enough to pay the electric and Katelyn has field trip thatís gonna cost us.
George
Us? Donít you mean Laney.
Jack stumbles in.
Tina
Jack? Youíre home early, you were only gone an hour.
Jack
Oh yeah, well the bar was really packed so we didnít stay long.
Jack has a bottle of his special dr. pepper in his hand.
Tina
So, howís Alice?
Jack
Fine.
Tina
Now which school is she in now?
Jack
I donít know mom, Iím going to bed.
Tina
Itís 9:45 Jack.

Jack
Iím tired.
Tina
Well next time you see Alice, you tell her I said hello.
Jack
YeahÖfor sure.
INT.SHOWER-NIGHT
Jack starts the shower and stares into the mirror, eyes bloodshot, holding back tears. He opens the mirror and takes out some of his dadís prescription painkillers. He examines them for a while and then puts them back and gets in the shower.

hillwalker3000

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If this is meant to be a script then the first thing I'd advise you to do is look at other scripts to see how they work. Your opening is crammed with pointless distractions. How is an actor meant to show he is 'depressed with life and not very joyful' for example? And how is the director meant to show Jack's mother knocking on the door when the camera is inside his room?

INT. JACKíS ROOM-NIGHT
Jack,
25, tall and skinny, depressed about his life and not very joyful, sits in his room at his computer desk with a bottle of water by him and he is laying out his sleeping pills in a long line. He pours them sleeping tablets in a long line out and then scoops them back into the bottle. He then pours them all in his hand and is about to scoop them all in his mouth when he hears a knock on his door. Itís jackís mother, Tina when someone knocks the door.

As for the tone - I'm sorry, but the dialogue and scenes you have shared on here are rather flat and uninteresting. Most of the time they discuss banalities - what Jack is wearing, a game he didn't watch, then some pal shooting a movie.
We then switch to a discussion in the kitchen about how to pay for baby-sitting. I'll admit I gave up reading before Jack went out because I'd got bored.

Presumably Jack is depressed and is considering taking an over-dose but there's little here to suggest why. He doesn't have a job - big deal. More importantly, there's nothing here to make us care whether he OD's or not because he's not a believable character.
And for the record how will the cameraman show it's his dad's painkillers he's taken out?

You obviously have a plot in mind, maybe involving someone down on his luck who's showing the classic signs of depression. But this opening is far too simplistic. And if you want drama you have to make your characters come to life rather than have them going through the motions of being a stereo-typical suicide.

Also the dialogue has to serve a purpose - driving the plot forwards mostly. If it doesn't it's a waste of words. The interaction between your characters is meant to reveal some aspect of their personality or emotional state. Unfortunately your script manages to avoid all of the above as it stands.

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Offline lilgreggy

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thank you for your critique.....
Quote
Presumably Jack is depressed and is considering taking an over-dose but there's little here to suggest why. He doesn't have a job - big deal. More importantly, there's nothing here to make us care whether he OD's or not because he's not a believable character.

However, I'll have to disagree with you on this point, making him a believable character? This is the first scene so I have all story long to make him a believable character and still have time to suggest why he is so down. As for making the audience care whether he OD's or not, I think it's human nature to root for the main character not to kill himself in the first scene, or maybe that's just me.

Offline Gyppo

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This is the first scene so I have all story long to make him a believable character

Sorry.  But you haven't, that's the point.  People don't go to the cinema or buy a book to watch or read pages of warm-up material as the writer gets into his stride.  You don't necessarily need a dead body or a fiery car crash on the first page, but something needs to be happening to keep people interested.  The line of pills isn't bad in it's own right, but then you back off from the brink and discuss his choice of clothing.

It may be that you've fallen into the trap of thinking you need to show 'normal' first, so as to contrast with what happens when his world goes pear-shaped.  It's a common approach in new(ish) writers.  But the story proper starts when the world goes wrong.  People know normal.  It's their everyday life.  You don't need to show or tell them that bit.

Experienced writers often still write 'warm-up' to get into their story-telling stride, but they know what it is and discard the first false chapter during the first edit after the story's finished.

There's an old guideline for writing any scene.  Start late and finish early.  Otherwise you might as well go back to the moment of Jack's conception, or even that of his parents ;-)

As an example...  People are forever entering and leaving rooms in the course of a story, but if you show every opening and closing of a door you'll bore the readers/viewers to death.  Conversations and action start when the players are in the room.  The only time the door is really relevant is if they kick it open, blow it off the hinges, or slam it behind them.  

Gyppo
« Last Edit: January 21, 2015, 07:03:51 PM by Gyppo »
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Offline lilgreggy

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Quote
It may be that you've fallen into the trap of thinking you need to show 'normal' first, so as to contrast with what happens when his world goes pear-shaped.  It's a common approach in new(ish) writers.  But the story proper starts when the world goes wrong.  People know normal.  It's their everyday life.  You don't need to show or tell them that bit.

This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I have taken from this forum so far, so thank you for that.
Quote
  The line of pills isn't bad in it's own right, but then you back off from the brink and discuss his choice of clothing.
As for this, what I was trying to pull off is that he's obviously thinking of doing something awful and when his mom knocks on the door and starts talking about his clothing choice, it sort of knocks him back into reality. I see now that this may have not been very clear and I will work to change it.

hillwalker3000

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As for making the audience care whether he OD's or not, I think it's human nature to root for the main character not to kill himself in the first scene, or maybe that's just me.

Gyppo gives great advice. And the same issue applies here. I'm not going to invest my time caring for your MC if he's portrayed with the emotional depth of a cartoon character. It's human nature to care about real people. You have to flesh him out right from the start - or at least give us enough reason to believe he exists, and to like or dislike him. Audiences have short attention spans. If your screenplay doesn't hit the ground running it's not going to appeal to anyone no matter how wonderful it becomes 15 minutes into the movie. This is particularly important if you're starting off in the business. For instance, I'd give Spielberg or the Coen Brothers much more latitude than I would an unknown because I know ultimately they rarely make dud movies.

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Offline lilgreggy

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Jack, 25, tall and skinny, sits in his room looking at a picture of him and another guy at their high school graduation, a tear runs down his face. He takes out his bottle of sleeping pills, he pours them out in a long line and then scoops them back into the bottle. He then pours them all in his hand and is about to scoop them all in his mouth when he hears a knock on his door. Itís jackís mother, Tina.

I was thinking of changing the beginning to something like this, I was thinking I should wait to show the death of his friend but I guess it would catch more readers attention if it were right at the beginning

hillwalker3000

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Jack, 25, tall and skinny, sits in his room looking at a picture of him and another guy at their high school graduation, a tear runs down his face. He takes out his bottle of sleeping pills, he pours them out in a long line and then scoops them back into the bottle. He then pours them all in his hand and is about to scoop them all in his mouth when he hears a knock on his door. It’s jack’s mother, Tina.

I was thinking of changing the beginning to something like this, I was thinking I should wait to show the death of his friend but I guess it would catch more readers attention if it were right at the beginning

It's a script not a novel. So most of the above is unnecessary.
A tear runs down his face?
OMG. You have your MC acting like a complete loser from the start. Is that likely to have an audience rooting for him? Personally I'd be force-feeding him the sleeping pills.

INT JACK'S BEDROOM

Jack is looking at a high school graduation picture as he pours out a long line of sleeping pills. Then he scoops them back into the bottle as he hears a knock on his door.


Unless his bedroom door is made of glass he can't possibly know who's outside knocking so telling us who it is doesn't make any sense.

The next scene should then feature TINA outside in the hall or wherever she is standing - but if all she's going to do is tell him dinner is ready you're already missing the point. We need something interesting to happen not banal domestic routine. We all know what happens when dinner's ready.

As for the friend dying - if this is the crux of the entire plot you maybe need to rethink. What kind of movie is this meant to be? I can't imagine anything more depressing.

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« Last Edit: January 22, 2015, 06:52:24 PM by hillwalker3000 »

Offline Inseriousity.

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The good thing about scriptwriting is that you don't need to be poetic or flowery with your writing. You can be as blunt and brief as you like. Of course, you still have to write good and you can add your own flair to things.

I don't know enough about suicide-by-pills (thank God) but if you want to be dramatic, instead of showing us him thinking about it, have him actually do it (if it's actually plausible. I'm assuming there's a delay before it kicks in). Suddenly that dinner scene is the Last Supper but the family don't know. They're bringing up his lack of a job. It's almost like they're writing the suicide note for him until... he collapses...

...he survives. Now he's got to deal with the fallout. Will he spiral further downwards under the pressure? Just a thought. Don't have the hindsight to know where you're actually going with this so it's up to you but you need something to hook the reader.     

On a side note, my main character is called Jack too and someone told me once that it seemed to be a common name for characters. I might have to change mine now after seeing this haha. 

Offline lilgreggy

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the reason I made him not take the pills yet is because I wanted to show him thinking about suicide for a few scenes before he actually tries...and as for using the name Jack, I am somewhat using it as a symbol for how average he is, no other reason! :)

hillwalker3000

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Re: Wanting your opinion on the tone of the beginning of my script(6ish pages)
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2015, 05:36:51 AM »
I wanted to show him thinking about suicide for a few scenes

Here's a question for you. Who would want to watch this ^^^?

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Offline lilgreggy

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Re: Wanting your opinion on the tone of the beginning of my script(6ish pages)
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2015, 01:53:51 PM »
it's just an idea I had, showing a few scenes where he's down on himself at the beginning, and then finally being pushed over the edge rather than showing the suicide attempt right at the beginning, it's definitely something I will think long and hard about...thanks for you comments

Offline Magdiel

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Re: Wanting your opinion on the tone of the beginning of my script(6ish pages)
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2015, 06:23:35 PM »
Quote
showing the suicide attemt right at the beginning
Honestly, though, that'd make a pretty solid start, out of which you could quite an interesting struggle.
Pentatonix will rule the music industry one day... I hope.

Offline lilgreggy

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Re: Wanting your opinion on the tone of the beginning of my script(6ish pages)
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2015, 02:08:29 PM »
I mean do think the suicide attempt is at the beginning of my story, just not the first page

hillwalker3000

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Re: Wanting your opinion on the tone of the beginning of my script(6ish pages)
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2015, 02:48:22 PM »
I mean do think the suicide attempt is at the beginning of my story, just not the first page

If that's not at the beginning then what else do you have in the opening scene to attract a viewer's interest? Someone thinking about doing something. . . that'll never translate to screen. And if it did, who wants to watch someone thinking?

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