010 – DEATH VARIATIONS – Interview with Scott Serradell Pt.1

 

 

Title:  DEATH VARIATIONS

Genre: Crime/Drama

Logline: The lives of a private eye, an INTERPOL agent, a police detective, a millionaire, and a psychopathic killer intertwine in a story of violence and redemption.

Script: DEATH VARIATIONS_EtS

My Script Notes: DEATH VARIATIONS – Serradell – EtS notes – 6.23.17

Link to Scott’s Short Script Competition Script: One Knight Stand Revised_EtS

 


 

On today’s episode, I talk with the extremely gracious screenwriter and community contributor Scott Serradell.

He is a great guest and provided a lot of interesting content for this show. And…had no qualms about going into the deep dive with his script and I can’t thank him enough for that discussion. For me, getting to hear a writer talk about their choices and beliefs in a script is always valuable. It’s also a reminder about how much thought writers put into scripts and their specific story choices.

I did cut this particular episode into two parts due to the total run-time. Since I won’t be doing an episode next week, I thought this may suffice. Besides, each week I’m encountering a new issue with the show, and thought this week’s would be making it a two-parter.

Scott was also kind enough to make his short script ONE KNIGHT STAND available. This is the one he entered into the Scriptshadow Short Script contest. He originally posted it in the comments section there and it ended up winning it’s particular weekend. It’s a good read (and funny).

 


 

After I’d already published my notes on today’s script, I had few more thoughts that I wanted to include briefly. I feel they are important and didn’t want to forget them (POSSIBLE SPOILERS):

  1. Once I understood the story as a whole, Perryman’s motivation towards Wolf doesn’t feel justifiable. For one, I don’t feel Perryman’s screw up on the missing girl case is believable enough. Especially for a detective who seems to have a reputation for being awesome. I just don’t believe he would’ve made the error that is chosen for the story.  Secondly, Wolf has had an effect on 68 cases. Which is substantial. So that fact that he comments on wondering if Wolf even existed seems unbelievable. And I almost feel that they would’ve crossed paths long before Jenna’s case.
  2. Perryman’s determination to pin either Jenna’s death, or the trifecta of deaths in one afternoon, on Wolf, also seems misguided. Because, again, Wolf’s backstory seems to indicate a credible ally – even if his methods aren’t to the liking of Perryman. Now, I know I’m sort of losing focus that it’s because of the grudge Perryman has towards him, but I feel if that grudge can be more solidified through Perryman’s backstory, then the rest feels more credible.
  3. Helen’s motivation seems a bit misguided as well. This one was tough for me to process in a way because her reason is justified, but it’s hard to believe that she would carry that specific grudge to the degree she has and would be so blatant about her intentions. It’s borderline “cartoonish” for me. And I feel like an ass for typing it out like that. If her overall actions fit the TONE you are going for in your script, you should probably ignore this note. However, if you feel there’s some merit, or would like further discussion about it, don’t hesitate to reach out. You know where to find me!

 


 

EMAIL: eclipsethescript@gmail.com

LINKS:

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  • Levres de Sang

    Just a quick line to say that I really like the two-part format! (I’m at the halfway point and will hopefully listen to pt.2 tomorrow.)

    • Linkthis83

      Please let me know if you still feel this way after listening to part 2.

  • Scott Serradell

    Just wanted to drop by and say a warm Thank You to everyone who checks out ‘Death Variations’, as well takes the time to listen to the cast.

    I won’t lie: I was pretty nervous (which is probably sparkling clear) as I’ve never done anything like this before. So full credit to Mike for keeping my ramblings at bay and making me sound coherent (subject to subjective assessment, I’m sure.)

    More importantly though is I feel truly fortunate that Mike reached out, gave me this opportunity, and for his incredible support of my work. It’s been a boost to both my confidence and creativity. I’ve thanked him a hundreds times already and still owe him a few more.

    I’ll be checking back periodically to answer any questions. My e-mail is also on the script and open to anyone who want to contact me there. Any negative criticism and/or insults can be sent to the following address:

    Dr. Nigel Fullerton-Nesbitt
    C/O Department of Criminology
    Beta Place, 27 Bath Road
    Cheltenham
    Gloucestershire, GL53 7TH
    United Kingdom

    (please include fingerprints and/or DNA sample)

    • Linkthis83

      Since Scott’s not lying, I won’t lie either: This has been my toughest edit yet – but also the one of which I’m most proud. So in a weird way, I’m glad that you were nervous. It just provided me with more experience on the production side of the show.

      In all seriousness, and I’ve already mentioned this to you, the thing I care about most when I publish is that the guest feels like they are showcased well.

  • Paul Clarke

    Great stuff Mike and Scott. Always enlightening listening to others work through the process.

    With regards to Link and his hangups on over-explaining: I think it’s good if the audience fill in the blanks and work things out for themselves with regards to the story elements. Especially in a detective story. But the writing itself needs to lean on the side of extra explanation for the sake of clarity. From the minimal interaction I’ve had with producers they always want me to spell things out more (I think I write more to Link’s preference). And from reading so many amateur scripts I know that knowledge snowballs, so if we miss an important detail early on it affects our ability to put the whole thing together, things rapidly grow more and more confusing and distant. Basically, it’s better to be clear than risk the reader missing a crucial detail. And if that means some readers get a little annoyed, I think that’s the price to pay. So you might have to work on letting that one go Mike.

    Of course it can be totally overdone and intrusive. My preference is to describe the action and sometimes add a little comment of clarification (sometimes in italics to indicate it’s not really part of the story) just to spell it out.

    • Linkthis83

      Hey Paul…many thanks for chiming in on this. The more I’ve been encountering it lately the more I was wondering if it’s something I just need to let go of and only mention when it’s really an issue.

      You definitely write more to my preference. Hell, yours are almost too lean. There are times when I feel like you’ve left out whole scenes 😉

      With Scott’s script specifically, I think it fits in there fine. Especially with his style of writing.

      • Paul Clarke

        Agreed.

        The concept I’m trying to work with is to let the reader join the dots in the story, but make sure those dots are as clear and spelled out as possible (if that makes sense).

  • Angie

    Mike thank you for this two-part show. Yes, it’s long but the discussion in Part 2 informed much missed in Part 1. I’ll miss your broadcast next week, but wish you a happy and safe, Fourth of July. Same wish for all the Yanks listening/reading this podcast.

    Scott, thanks for sharing with us. Enjoyed your clarification re the fable like opening, and explanation of the title. Still debating if those are the best choices.

    I’m taking you up on your suggestion that I can email you my notes. One more read through and they’ll be ready.

    • Linkthis83

      Thank you, Angie.

      Just so I’m clear, are you thankful I split the episode into two parts? Would it have mattered to you if I had kept it as one long episode? If you find the time to reply, I’d really like to know. There are some technical things on my side I have to take into consideration for splitting an episode like this.

      And many thanks for taking the time to do some reading and note giving. I was truly hoping when it came to that aspect I’d get a little more “audience” participation than I have.

      I feel like I’m letting these writers down a little bit. Something I will spend some time trying to solve for the next batch of episodes.

      • Angie

        Oh, I see. Doing the two parts may present technical problems for you. Sorry about that.

        I appreciated the two parts. Doing it that way gave me an opportunity to hear the second on the next day. One long one might have had me fidgeting. My attention span has always been wonky and I might have zoned out missing something.

  • Mayhem Jones

    HA! I freaking loved the anecdote about how Tarantino’s films inspired you in the beginning. Mid-listening now… excited to check this out as I had read and loved Death Variations months ago. (now I know…ONE OF THE LUCKY 6! hehehe). I found Scott’s descriptions in particular to be just phenomenal–he’s a really beautiful/cinematic writer. Twists were insane. Gonna check out this new ending, can’t wait….. WTG, Scott and Mike!!!

    • Linkthis83

      Just wait till you get to them outtakes too!

      • Mayhem Jones

        hahahahahaaaa love you guys!

  • Sal Ayala

    Great episode Mike. It was tremendously instructive.

    As a guy in his late 30s — who like Scott — fell out of writing for many years, I'm always fascinated by how people fall in and out of a calling.

    To that end, making it a two-part episode was the right choice.

    And I guess since Mayhem got the ball rolling i might aswell out myself as another of the Lucky 6.

    First impressions from this latest draft are:

    1. May Scott’s darlings rest in peace.
    2. It’s much more visual than I remember. Looks good.

    • Linkthis83

      I’m grateful that Scott was willing to share his story. I felt there would be quite a few listeners that could relate to it, like yourself. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that others have gone through something similar.

  • Levres de Sang

    Belated Congratulations, Mike, on reaching that tenth episode!

    Finally got around to pt.2 on this ‘off’ Monday. Another absorbing show. Thanks guys! Sorry to say I haven’t read Scott’s script, but I did want to make a few observations on things that came up:

    — I could totally empathize with Scott’s tale of the great unfinished novel consigned to a box in the garage!

    — I agree, Mike: why is “directing on the page” thrown around so much as a criticism? Surely, that’s the essence of screenwriting?

    — Fantastic note, Mike: “Everyone is so flippant and indifferent it made me feel the same.” As I say, I haven’t read Scott’s script, but it was interesting that he mentioned ZODIAC as an influence (it’s a film I also like very much and rewatch often). For me, what makes it so watchable is the exact opposite of this note: namely that Jake G’s character is absolutely OBSESSED with the Zodiac case. He lives for nothing else, it seems — and as a consequence (added to his also being the likeable underdog who has no right even being on the case) we want to see him solve it. As well, we fear like hell for his safety when he’s invited into that creepy projectionist’s basement! In short, establishing an emotional connection to the protag will help a script’s cause immeasurably. No one said it was easy, though!

    — Formatting came up and I hate to be that guy, but the narrow margins were noticeable. Just worth bearing in mind that they might be seen as a way of reducing page count.

    • Linkthis83

      Thanks, Levres.

      I didn’t mention it in the show, but I’ve only seen ZODIAC once, and I watched it at a time I don’t think I would’ve been able to appreciate it, so I plan to rewatch it. But the feeling I remember getting from it was frustration because if I recall, there’s no real resolution at the end. I could be mistaken there…but that’s the feeling I remember.

      In regards to formatting, if anything felt off, I thought the margins were too wide. There was a part of me that felt I read more than 108 pages worth of content. But even by what you said, if the margins are narrow, that would increase page count…right?

      Thanks again for listening…and this might not be an off week…

      • Levres de Sang

        You’re right on both counts! Zodiac does peter out towards the end (the perils of the true story, I guess, as they never caught him in real life). It’s also true of its illustrious 1970s predecessor, All the President’s Men. However, I find both films utterly absorbing.

        ** Re: formatting — See my reply to Scott.

        N.b. Thank you as well for your email. 🙂

    • Scott Serradell

      Thank you Levres.

      I didn’t think the margins-thing was going to be that big of deal. I did it primarily for aesthetic reasons (I think it looks better) but also I thought it read better, if we’re going by the rule that says 1 page equals 1 minute screen time. But as you and many others have pointed out, it’s distracting or perhaps noticeably thicker.

      What’s interesting is every draft before had the correct formatting. Last draft page count: 103 …

      For this one draft I blew-out the margins and added three scenes.
      Everything else is the same. Page count: 108.

      • Levres de Sang

        Yes, that page-count differential is strange…!?

        Anyway, as I said yesterday, I really don’t want to be any kind of formatting Nazi because (in keeping with your own script title) I believe that writing scripts is not dissimilar to writing musical notation — and that every script should have its own motifs and stylistic flourishes. Moreover, there are occasions when we can even use this strange old screenplay format to our advantage. I also recall Gordy Hoffmann in one of his Blue Cat videos saying that he couldn’t ever recall a Hollywood reader making any kind of comment as to format. (I may be wrong here, but fairly certain he also wrote his scripts in Microsoft Word.) No, it seems to be us amateurs who are far more bothered about these things!

        However, with Death Variations, it’s the combination of a narrow left margin, single carriage returns between master slugs and some very long dialogue lines (I counted 41 characters a couple of times) that makes me think “Phew, this looks more like 125 pages than 108”. And this is my point: Carson and the SS crowd may well ding you for “cheating the margins” to reduce page count. I honestly believe that’s NOT the reason for your stylistic choice — and I’m not necessarily saying you should change the margins for anyone — but we all know AOW can draw a tough crowd looking for ANY excuse to pass on your script.

        Overall, I fully support Mike’s contention that “Writers should write their scripts how they want to…” Ah, now I’m wishing I hadn’t mentioned formatting because we could have talked about ZODIAC instead! 🙂

        • Scott Serradell

          Re: Formatting … To be absolutely frank, at this point in the game I REALLY don’t care what an imaginary and faceless gallery of commentators may or may not ding my script for; I have no way to predict what they will say, and no way to control it. That all may sound thoroughly arrogant but I feel that letting “invisible” voices dictate your actions gets dangerously close to (self) censorship, which I am vehemently against. For good or ill, I do what I do…

          THAT ALL SAID… I will take a sober assessment for the next draft and, if it’s really reading too crowded, I’ll put the margins back (or cut the hell out of it). What happened is that I had printed the whole thing out and saw that, with the expanded margins, it looked really damn good! BUT… reading the PDF is another story entirely. So, another day, another lesson learned I suppose…

          Speaking of old screenplay formats: I’m working on something new — And actually you helped inspire it! If you recall a few weeks ago you said you were working on what you deemed an “alpine melodrama”. I was actually taken by the images that simple phrase conjured and did a rough plot with a co-writer for a story that takes place in the Swiss alps in the 1930’s… But with a horror element: I describe it as ‘Gosford Park’ meets ‘From Dusk till Dawn’…

          ANYWAY… Once that was done I planned on breaking out the old Royal typewriter, fleshing it out, and scanning it so it looked like some old Hollywood relic. I don’t know what that will do but it sounds fun to me…

          And incidentally: We can always discuss ‘Zodiac’! Let me ask you though: Do you have any idea what is up with that movie and the color yellow? Truly: There is a bit of yellow placed in just about every single frame of that movie. Weird (or not weird…)

          • Levres de Sang

            Sorry for my late reply on this one, Scott…!

            Anyway, I admire the fact that you’re sticking by aesthetic choices. Especially, as we all know there’s a lot of dangerous advice (indiscriminately mixed in with the good) to be had on SS. As a matter of fact, I also try to edit hard-copy print-outs every so often in the writing process. As you said on the podcast, I tend to spot so many things that I’ve missed electronically. In fact, I like laying them next to each other and surveying whole sections of the script in one glance, so to speak.

            I’m also fascinated and (flattered) that you’ve been inspired by the idea of my “alpine melodrama”. (I finally completed it last week after two years!) Who knows, maybe it will inspire a whole new genre? Incidentally, my own project was largely inspired by the work of Fassbinder. I’ve already sent it to Mike, so who knows it may show up in the near future… Best of luck with your new ‘alpine’ project, by the way!

            Finally, I hadn’t noticed the predominance of yellow in Zodiac, but you’ve made me want to rewatch it again — and I’ll endeavor to do so within the next few weeks and get back to you…