Amateur Script – THE ALBUM

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.

(possible spoilers)

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:

PRUDENCE (CONT’D)
Are you going to tell me why I’m getting the silent treatment?

James hesitates, afraid to tell her.

JAMES
I called Niall back.

Prudence fears the worst.

PRUDENCE
Why?

JAMES
I’m taking the job.

Prudence wilts — it’s like a slap in the face.

PRUDENCE
You wouldn’t do that to me.

JAMES
To you? I guess what I want doesn’t matter.

PRUDENCE
Office work just isn’t for you, James.

JAMES
I think bumming around playing shit-holes like this isn’t for me.

Prudence has no answer.

JAMES (CONT’D)
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.

PRUDENCE
What do you mean the real world?

JAMES
Well, how about a real job, money in the bank, a house to live in?

PRUDENCE
This is my real job.

James shakes his head. It pains him to let her down like this.

JAMES
I love you Prudence, but I hate to see you deluding yourself. It was exciting when we were young but now…

Prudence turns away.

PRUDENCE
Is it someone else?

JAMES
No! Christ, how could you say that?

Prudence turns to face him, shaking her head.

PRUDENCE
I don’t see how we can go on without the band.

JAMES
Don’t be ridiculous.

PRUDENCE
I’m serious. If the band breaks up, then we break up too.

JAMES
(shakes head)
You don’t mean that.

PRUDENCE
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/

Written by admin

  • Edward

    Hey man, thanks for selecting my script and posting the review.

    A lot of your criticisms are similar to feedback we’ve received from other people. We’re making a list of these problem areas and will address them in our next draft, so your feedback is very helpful to us.

    As I’m dealing with these issues now, I’d be interested to hear you do an episode on how a writer deals with incorporating feedback into a new draft. It can be difficult to identify what you should change based on a readers opinion and what you think your particular script should be. I think that the best indicator of what should be changed is where you get the same negative feedback from multiple sources. I’d like to hear how you have you dealt with this or maybe you could ask one of your guests about it?

    • Linkthis83

      It’s on my list of topics to cover and one that I think is truly challenging for each writer.

      My immediate advice is to cover things in a manner that you feel enhances your overall intention. Some feedback would have addressing simpler things while others truly effect the spine of the story.

      Addressing those implementations are not equal, so you’ve got to do a good job of processing the notes in a manner that’s going to push your story towards the intention you have for it. And if you need to alter the intention but are on board with it, then embrace it.

      As Kirk states, he had a lot of issues in the early pages, with which I also agree. There’s a lot of choices in there that don’t feel inspired from the characters core nor authentic/unique to their scenario.

      But addressing some of those may affect the overall spine. For example, I personally dislike Prudence’s degree of selfishness, but your entire story thread is built upon it. It’s not something you easily tweak with out massive reverberations throughout the entire script.

      I’m hoping some of the others will see your request for ways they implement feedback and will offer their opinions as well. But I can tell you that it will be covered on the show.

      • Edward

        I agree that Prudence comes across as very selfish. I think it’s a consequence of us trying to make her an active protagonist who has a flaw that she she is unaware of until the end of the story. We’ll have to find a way to create more empathy for her at the beginning so that people are engaged in her journey.

        I look forward to hearing you cover the topic of implementing feedback. It’s definitely a bit of a minefield for amateur writers like myself who are trying to improve their craft.

  • Kirk Diggler

    Read the first ten. Started skimming after that. I’m not sold on the concept. Forced to record an album? Huh?

    A few tropes noted here and there.

    The club owner who refuses to pay in full…. until Prudence yells at him, then he just forks over the money. Well that was too easy.

    This line kind of bothered me. PRUDENCE: “Just let us go. We won’t tell anyone.”

    Very very first choice. It’s small stuff like this that does not inspire confidence. And then a lot of the dialogue drifted into exposition territory, both with Prudence’s video interview and the talk with Phil. The big block of text on page 18 has to be more interesting and done so with less words.

    The line in politics goes something like this, “If you’re explaining, then you’re losing.”

    That’s how I felt about the first twenty pages, lots of dialogue giving boatloads of background on the characters instead of bleeding it out in more natural ways.

    Screenwriting is tough, good luck to the writers.

    • Linkthis83

      I agree with essentially all of this. One of the reasons that I support the concept is this:

      There are plenty of easy, straightforward concepts that people choose all the time that don’t deliver. While I’m not on board with their execution, I think tackling a tough concept like this should be encouraged. Because if they could in fact make it believable and engaging, then this would be the type of project to set them apart.

      Always a damned if you do, damned if you don’t type business.

  • Levres de Sang

    “… these aren’t mysteries of importance or consequence. So the reveal is ineffective…” [From the pdf notes]

    This is a terrific note, Mike! I also believe that it takes lots of drafts and time with your story (allowing things to develop organically that may NOT be in your outline) to successfully eradicate all of them. And I think this is because when we start a script we have lots of ideas we wish to include and they all seem important. Over time, however, some of those ideas lose their sparkle and are jettisoned or replaced by sharper, more thematic ideas. We then have to remember to amend / remove all the setups that relate to these now redundant ‘mysteries’.

    By the way, I like the idea of the Eclipse percentage score!

    [** Sorry I still haven’t replied to your email. It’s been a stressful week or so.]

    • PQOTD

      G r e n d l posted a comment on SS about scripts being more tapestries than patchwork quilts that pertains to what you’re saying, Levres. If a story was a quilt, you could simply unpick the offending square and replace it.

      With a tapestry of a story, if you pull a thread (i.e. jettison a plot beat), it’ll have an impact on the other threads all around it and you may have to excise a bunch more threads.

      It’s a good metaphor.

      [Oh, yeah, Mike – I haven’t forgotten your email either! Today hopefully. :)]

  • PQOTD

    Finally had some spare time to get into ‘The Album’ beyond the first few. Think I got to about 14 then skimmed through to near 40. I agree with Link – the writing gets better as it progresses, but the first few are hard work and somehow need to be made more engaging. And, yeah, what sort of music do they play? Help us out here!

    The pluses: contained with few characters and locations, and unless Tom Cruise climbs aboard, it’ll be very cheap to make. (Did you intend this for tv? It’s the sort of flick that may go straight to DVD.) The writing’s blessedly free of typos, grammatical issues, and what-not. There were no passages where I had to re-read to understand what was going on.

    The minuses: my concerns are all to do with character, and particularly Phil’s. I agree with the comments about Prudence’s, and her relationship with James. Personally, it seemed to me like they were already over, but James just didn’t know how to tell her.

    While maybe there’s more to Phil’s motivations that hasn’t come out in the first 40-ish (or that I missed), I think we need more early on as to why this seemingly time-warped audiophile would risk a lifetime in jail for a double kidnapping with the potential for homicide just to cut an analogue album. Losing his job doesn’t seem like it’s nearly enough to tip him over the edge like that.

    I’m wondering if we shouldn’t see Phil first in the bar, pestering them for selfies with him when they finish the gig and they try to brush him off because they’ve been fighting (‘Oh, shit – not that creepy dude again! What’s his name again? He got upset when we forgot last time.’). It’s not the first time they’ve kept him at arm’s length, and in his mind, he’s now like the aggrieved guy who shot John Lennon: they’re not giving him the respect and time he deserves for his stalwart support. So he figures he’ll impress the hell out of them and they’ll have to be grateful. He’ll give them what they seem to want and if they don’t appreciate and respect him, he’ll show them.

    Fwiw, my thoughts. Good luck with the script, guys!

    • Edward

      Appreciate the feedback. Thanks for taking the time to give it read. We definitely have some work to do on those opening pages.