I submitted both the short version of “Beautiful” as well as Detox to the Slamdance Script Competition. I paid for coverage on Detox and just left the “brief feedback” do for “Beautiful.”
First the short (and sorta sweet) part. For “Beautiful,” the one-sentence feedback was: “Interesting idea. Title really doesn’t work for me for this short, first of all. I think the first half moves a bit slower than necessary, but still interesting.” Not entirely horrible. Like I told Chris, at least the one sentence wasn’t: “Quit writing.”
For Detox, they were more in-depth (since I paid a chunk extra, I hope so). Some highlights: “a story that at times teeters on commercial greatness.” Of course, that’s selective editing. The full comment is: “Inconsistent characters make for a schizophrenic tone. The ending kills a highly original concept, and a story that at times teeters on commercial greatness.”
Well, there’s promise there at least.
Since no one (aside from a select few) knows the details of Detox, here’s their logline: “A young man kidnaps his ex-girlfriend in a demented, misguided attempt to get her off heroin.” Fair enough. A few of the comments:
“Blake Snyder would call a “Monster in the House” film. As a writer, there’s nothing more challenging than filling 100 pages with a story that really only takes place in one setting. But, when done correctly, these stories are often the source of box office and critical success. Detox has the potential to garner both. The premise is highly original and so simple… Just get to that first plot point sooner.”
Well, here’s the thing – and I’m no expert, believe me – there are milestones in a script. you’ve got plot points that are supposed to hit at certain places (page 17 is a doozy). So we structured it that way. Moving that plot point up goes against the expected standard format. That’ll take some thinking.
“Kidnapping an ex to get her sober is a pretty big sell to an exec, so drop a couple clearer hints about Mat’s condition at the outset.”
Okay, this is helpful. Not an easy fix granted. But definitely something I can see working.
“(Basically from the beginning of the second act) the pacing is stellar. There’s literally never a dull moment. Again, crafting a compelling narrative within the confines of one setting is an extremely difficult task, but it is done to near perfection in the second act of Detox.”
SCORE! So we’ve got the 2nd act nailed – that’s 1/2 of the script. Although they had some issues with a number of elements. Julia (the girlfriend being forced to detox) hallucinates. This is supposed to create tension and give an outlet for some horror elements. They didn’t like that. For example:
“I would trim the scenes in which Julia is hallucinating. While I liked the writing, and the scenes almost play as B story, ultimately the (hallucination) detracts from the credibility of your characters and story and makes for an uneven tone. I thought it clashed with the scenes in which Julia is lucid.”
Question… Do you understand what they are saying? There’s supposed to be a contrast. In the story she is given a sedative (used to treat both heroin withdrawal and bipolar disorder – which our lead, Mat, has) to calm her from the withdrawal. At times, he uses ketamine which is a hallucinogenic and also a stronger fix during heroin withdrawal. When she gets the ketamine, she hallucinates. Most of the scenes, she’s either jonesing or hallucinating. There’s really no lucidity. Which makes me wonder about the next comment:
“For the most part she’s very calm, and rational throughout the ordeal, and that’s far more endearing as she really needs something to redeem her.”
This is where I heard the needle scratch across the record. Crap. She’s not a redeeming character. Later, they say “Mat and Julia, are fairly unsavory characters” Zowie. The two leads are “unsavory.” I think we fucked up big time. And yet, the feedback suggests it’s an okay thing. That if we were to fly with that and embrace that, the script would be better for it. “It’s great to craft flawed leads, but their flaws should endear us to them, not repulse us.” Not sure where to go with this.
“Reggie (who is the nosy neighbor that keeps coming over at the worst time) is a phenomenal supporting character, and such a vital cog to your story. He’s the perfect obstacle for Mat to overcome and he’s used to subtly layer in back story and advance plot. Great job.”
I love Reggie. I’m glad they do, too. He grew into a major player in the last draft. At least we got something right.
“The scripts ultimate downfall is the tone. To say it’s uneven and inconsistent is a huge understatement.”
This could be a factor of Chris and me tossing the thing back and forth and not sitting down and working on it together. There are definitely “me” parts – the darker stuff, and “chris” parts – the lighter stuff. They each, according to this coverage, have their merits and downfalls. And parts where I don’t know where I end and he begins.
“The ending is something out of a Hallmark movie.”
Ouch. The ending has gone through so much discussion and rewriting that I don’t even know what the original ending was. Oh, wait, I do. Reggie was beheaded. I don’t think that’s the way to go.
Then, there was this comment (after calling him “unsavory”):
“Mat (the lead) is a character straight out of a Hitchcock movie. He’s wonderful because you’re always wondering is he a complete lunatic, or does he just have the biggest heart in the world? Is this a demented, misguided, self serving attempt to get back with his lost love? Or is this the ultimate act of altruism?”
I have no idea what to make of any of this. There are flaws, yes. Everything they pointed out will be thought about and talked about and addressed in some manner. But I think the stuff we think is good that they didn’t like will stay… in some fashion.