A screenwriter, going to school in Austin, Texas, won this year’s Nicholl and Austin Film Festival’s top screenplay spot (same week, same script). I really had no intention of focusing on Austin based writers as I put up 1st 10 page breakdowns for folks to compare, study or even be inspired by – it just so happened that when these last three (THE ARCHITECT, THE BEAVER and now, THE JUMPER FROM MAINE) gained notoriety the writers were Austinites. It certainly inspires me to sign up for their water service!

Our winner is a drama with a slightly off-center tone (not to the extent of THE BEAVER, but certainly this story of an un-stable personality won’t be for everyone). This is worth noting because if you follow word on the street or on the tracking boards; it is pretty much fact that dramas aren’t selling, barely even being read. Even this past weekend’s DUE DATE an R-comedy, bordered on the uncomfortable side of drama just as much as it did comedy but there is no way they’d ever promote it as such. So don’t believe the hype — this proves the adage that trumps word – write your story, not the trend’s story – write your story so that it is so compelling it trumps trend, treat your story right and it will treat you right.

(btw I really liked DUE DATE and though I think WB did a better job at marketing than some other studios typically do, I personally think they should have pushed the ‘out of your comfort zone’ a bit more to do it justice, so folks don’t think they’re buying into another HANGOVER.)

Shall we…?

These 1st 10 pages introduce us to our protagonist, and antagonist (him and his affliction), the main characters and justify the title and genre. The underlying theme is everywhere in these 1st pages, ‘the wave, the genetics and the driving force of their dangerous combination. Most importantly, our main character’s fatal flaws are very nicely woven from past to present setting up a dramatic catalyst. In reality, the ‘1st10’ is wrapped up in 9 to the effect that we’ve basically seen a mini-movie by the bottom of 9 and are into what will become the rest of the 1st act on page 10.

1st up: Our writer presents backstory in a cinematic way that literally conjures the image and moves on. This is perhaps one of the best examples of setting a visual without directing (or art directing), there’s no camera angles, cut to, fade here blah blah… The ‘voice’ of our writer is economy at it’s best, the action lines and descriptions are very sparse throughout, yet we never feel ripped off or out of touch.  It’s a fast read, which no doubt helped it advance in the competitions.

Onward: The dreaded V.O. Voiceover (particularly this much of it) could be an instant turnoff, (our 1st 5 pages here are mostly V.O.) what makes it work in this case, is that it is adeptly woven with the snapshots of backstory. Is it perfect? Will it stay this V.O heavy if it ever gets the greenlight? No and probably not. However, I know in both of these contests (AFF and Nicholl) the reader has to give the script a chance by reading at least the first act, and by page 10 in this case it’s no surprise they wanted to read more.

The tiny scene on page 3, where it cuts to the siren and honking is important to note, because it gives us the snapshot we need to connect to the V.O. without going through his growing up first. This tiny snippet makes the V.O. more tolerable.

So, we’ve learned a little about the origins of our hero’s affliction, and certainly what makes him the focal point, we’ve met all the key players (and even killed one), we totally understand this is an intense life/story but much like reality television, you can count us in for the ride of voyeurism. And your reward for this somewhat uncomfortable journey is that all of these elements bookend and are paid off nicely at the end.


Stay tooned…

2 thoughts

  1. Wow! That is a terrific 1st 10! I was not looking forward to the voice-over, but this is one of those scripts where you could actually leave it out. So much info in such a short time – and pretty riveting. Thanks for posting!!

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