Writer(s): Edward Shine & Frankie Shine
Genre: Contained thriller
Why you wrote it: There are a lot of contained thriller/horror specs out there. We wanted to throw our hat in the ring and I think we’ve come up with a unique take on the genre. We were shooting for Misery meets Green Room. Would love to see what people think. It’s a quick read too at 85 pages.
Script: THE ALBUM
Script notes: THE ALBUM – notes – 5.25.17
(*I’m only one opinion – seek out more feedback before implementing anything)
Prudence (26) and James (26) are a band (a la The White Stripes) and have been touring and gigging for some years now. Not only are they the duo that make up The Dropouts, they’ve been in a relationship since college; where they met, formed the band, and subsequently dropped out to go on tour.
We first meet the band at a pub one night as they set up. There aren’t many patrons in the audience and the ones who are don’t seem all that excited about tonight’s performers. Just when the MC is ready to start the show, we notice that James isn’t present on stage (he’s the drummer).
Prudence heads out back to let him know that it’s time and he just nods as he hangs out next to their beat up, white van. James then trudges on stage and is in a bit of a funk. When she can’t get any type of response out of him, she fires up the guitar and the show begins.
After the show, Prudence wants to know what his deal is and he lays it on her: he’s quitting the band to get a real job and a more stable way of life. It turns out, Prudence is not in favor of his choice and declares that he wouldn’t do that to her nor is he fit for that lifestyle. The two argue and James states outright that they just aren’t successful enough for him to keep going. Prudence isn’t ready to give up on her dream, so in order to keep it going, she tells James that if the band breaks up, they break up.
Now that she’s taken James emotionally hostage, she heads back into the pub in order to get their payment. While inside, the pub manager attempts to short Prudence on the money. She ain’t having this either and convinces the manager to pay her what they’ve rightfully earned.
As that was happening, a shadowy figure approached James (not Carson – in case anybody was wondering) to ask if he was in the band. When James turns around he is immediately tased and a hood placed over his head. When Prudence returns she looks around for James and eventually finds him tied up in the back of the van. And then she suffers the same fate as well.
We learn that the shadowy figure is named Phil (see, not Carson) and he has specific plans for these two. Using his laptop, he shows them a video of an interview Prudence had done stating that she wanted to record an actual vinyl record using analog equipment. This is Phil’s gift to the band. He’s provided them a studio and all the equipment to do so. Not only is it a gift, it’s also his demand with the caveat that he gets to produce it. Together, they will record an album.
Since I pick on quite a few things in this script, I’m going to start with a note I don’t think I’ve ever given: This script gets stronger the further you read (with qualifiers)
I would say from the beginning that my confidence in the writing was uncertain, and confirmed by page 6. If I hadn’t been reading this script for today’s post, I most likely would’ve stopped reading somewhere between pages 12-19.
I’m always a story first guy and I’m more in favor of this concept than the story as it is delivered. Your first 30 pages are its weakest, in my opinion, and the most important. If I wasn’t doing a feature review I wouldn’t have made it to page 30. Which would’ve been a shame. Here’s why:
This has got to be the first script I read where it got stronger as it moved along. Now that could be because I felt the opening was so weak, but I don’t truly think so.
It’s true, I had to do a lot of forgiving and letting go of the things about the characters, especially Prudence, that I didn’t like. But again, that problem originates in the opening pages of the script.
There were a lot of things I did like and could see the potential in. I may not be entirely sold on the music/recording an album aspect, but I love the challenge that you issued yourselves with this concept. It’s most likely my inability to appreciate that music portion in here — which again — I feel is failed to be set up proper in the opening. You gotta tell us what type of band/music they are…at minimum.
The biggest failure in set up overall for me was the core relationship between Prudence and James. Their argument that takes place on page 3 is unearned, too direct, and in much need of subtlety, nuance, years of relationship digs, etc. — which hopefully I covered fully in the notes I’ve included. Plus, the stresses of their relationship disappear entirely once they are kidnapped and don’t truly influence the story until much later in the script (I believe their first escape attempt).
Here’s the argument I had issues with in case others disagree and wish to weigh in:
Are you going to tell me why I’m getting the silent treatment?
James hesitates, afraid to tell her.
I called Niall back.
Prudence fears the worst.
I’m taking the job.
Prudence wilts — it’s like a slap in the face.
You wouldn’t do that to me.
To you? I guess what I want doesn’t matter.
Office work just isn’t for you, James.
I think bumming around playing shit-holes like this isn’t for me.
Prudence has no answer.
Enough’s enough. We gave it our all, it’s not working out, let’s just face up to that. It’s time we
both grew up and started living in the real world.
Prudence stares at him, shocked, insulted.
What do you mean the real world?
Well, how about a real job, money in the bank, a house to live in?
This is my real job.
James shakes his head. It pains him to let her down like this.
I love you Prudence, but I hate to see you deluding yourself. It was exciting when we were young but now…
Prudence turns away.
Is it someone else?
No! Christ, how could you say that?
Prudence turns to face him, shaking her head.
I don’t see how we can go on without the band.
Don’t be ridiculous.
I’m serious. If the band breaks up, then we break up too.
You don’t mean that.
You’ll have to turn down that offer.
He steps back, defeated.
This premise feels a bit like “What if that guy in Whiplash just kidnapped the kid straight up to mold him?”
I feel this is more GREEN ROOM meets WHIPLASH with a lot less depth and effective tension. It’s a bold statement I know, but there is hope. You’ve got a premise and structure that can get there if you can nail those things.
From top to bottom I’m not suggesting a huge overhaul. You’ve got the page length to utilize since yours comes in at 86 pages. You may think that you wanted to keep it small, but if you do some cutting and more adding, you’re still going to come in under 100 and I think that will work great for this.
I did feel as if there was a lack of a dramatic question or a promise that is made early that if I read/watch this movie, I will be rewarded. I don’t have the solution for that. And if it’s in the script and I overlooked it, then that’s on me.
The character of Phil’s mother is amazing and handled splendidly. Not too much and not too over the top. Excellent job with her character.
The final thing I want to focus on is Phil. I feel that whatever is driving Phil to commit this act just for an album really needs to be explored more. There’s a depth and soul to music and the intention behind its creation, like story. And I feel Phil would be having moments to wax poetic about what he wants from this endeavor and how it sees it impacting the world. Both big and small. And regaling his artists with the bigger picture that they can’t comprehend because they can’t see beyond their chains. And not just the ones that have them tethered to the walls. I feel it’s gotta be bigger than creative differences spurned by a radio station where he was a mere techie who got an opportunity that was taken away from. What was it that was taken, from a theme perspective?
Overall, I’m hopeful for this premise and I feel it’s a few drafts away from being ready. I’d also love to be wrong and the business thinks it’s ready now.
Good luck to you, gentlemen.
ECLIPSE TOTAL = 61%
STORY = 6 / PLOT = 6 / RELATIONSHIPS = 5 / CHARACTERS = 5 / DIALOGUE = 5 /
FORMAT = 9 / CONCEPT = 7 / THEME = 4 / STRUCTURE = 8 / WRITING = 6/