In chronological order.
A few days ago I was trying to think of movies with cats in them (real ones, not some giant CG Garfield monstrosity), because (I think you’ll agree) cats are awesome. I could watch those cute little guys all day. But sadly, after ten minutes of deep thinking, all I could come up with was ALIEN, MILO & OTIS (which is in fact a horrible Japanese pet torture movie) and five seconds of TO CATCH A THIEF. This is not enough cat content, Hollywood! Seriously.
Luckily, my wife heard my call for help. A rapid Google search lead her to a great site which about a million cat movies – http://catsonfilm.wordpress.com which is exactly what the doctor ordered. Now my to-watch list is filled with the likes of THAT DARN CAT, HARRY & TONTO and THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA.
After getting a good evaluation previously, I thought I’d go for another one and see what happened. I’ll tell you what happened – I got another good evaluation. An extremely impressive read, they said. EXTREMELY IMPRESSIVE. If you’re a Blacklist member you can check it out here: https://blcklst.com/members/scripts/view/10419
Locations: Various Houses/Apartments, Library, Subway, Palace, Hotel, Various London Exteriors
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Logline: In 1800s England, an otherworldly crystal grants geologist JOHN HALDANE supernatural powers and sends him on a journey to uncover its mysterious origin.
An extremely impressive read, THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST is a captivating, classical adventure tale that skillfully combines an Arthur Conan Doyle-esque sensibility with an astounding science fiction mythos. The central conceit of the crystal is exceptional, and the reader is hooked from the moment its surfaces begin to multiply. The way in which the writer is able to integrate a TERMINATOR-esque POV into the period Victorian setting is quite engaging, and yet Haldane’s superpowers never feel novel or gimmicky. The script’s visuals are equally fantastic – inventive and beautifully described, one can easily imagine them translating well to the screen. The action set-pieces are similarly strong and propulsive, and Haldane earns a transformative character arc that lends emotional weight to the sci-fi spectacle. The ultimate revelation of the crystal’s origins (as well as Haldane’s true purpose) makes for a standout climax, and yet the moral ambiguity of Haldane’s mission leaves the reader in a place of disturbing unease that works to good effect. It’s always difficult to find a truly original piece of genre writing, but THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST delivers on its premise with an assured level of skill and style that is to be admired.
Certain elements of the plot occasionally feel contrived, such as the abrupt introduction of Charvil, whose presence feels too much like a plot device. Similarly, Stanlake functions primarily as an exposition machine, and while his role in this capacity is not problematic per se, he does little to transcend this obvious narrative function. Also, the period dialogue often feels forced and deliberately arch, lending the characters a stilted quality that occasionally skews melodramatic. While it’s understandable that 1800s speech must be rendered in a different fashion than our modern dialogue, it feels a bit stereotypical here – an imitation of 1800s speech rather than an authentic portrayal.
Sadly, the budget required to do justice to this impressive script would have to come from a studio, but the period setting and lack of a built-in audience would more than likely preclude a studio from taking a risk on it. Science fiction specs always face a difficult path to the screen given their production demands, and tent-pole movies are generally adaptations of known commodities, not original work. Still, THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST could – at the very least – serve as a striking writing sample that more than adequately demonstrates the writer’s affinity for the genre.
My sci-fi script ENTANGLEMENT made it to the finals of the PAGE Awards! Down to the last 10. I am extremely pleased about this, more so even than last year for some reason. Something about consistency over luck? I dunno. Anyway, there it is. They announce the winners on Oct 15th.
You can see all the finalists here: http://pageawards.com/past-winners/2013-winners/2013-finalists/
Here’s a review of EXTRASOLAR from the Black List. (They’re a tough crowd to please, so I’m taking this as a good sign…) Another good one that I’m happy with. Definitely disagree with the note that that characters don’t sound distinctive enough, but hey, no reason I can’t punch up the dialogue to differentiate them even more.
Era: Present; Unknown
Locations: Earth; Planet Illumino
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Comedy, Family Adventure
After a young girl gets teleported to a distant planet, her grandfather, a former Space Colonel for the military, suits up to save her.
EXTRASOLAR celebrates a lot of the characteristics that make animated family adventures so enjoyable. The dynamic between Merrin and her grandfather balances sass and affection in a way that seems authentic for a little girl who has lost so much, between her lost parents and her distant alien friends. The setting is imaginative and constructs another world believably. Scenes like the one in the market as Merrin examines the exotic local food, the one with the Ferryman in which they must barter with the native to get through the fog, and as they cross the forest to get to the capitol, help establish the foreign planet in a very vivid way. This story utilizes physical description well, both when describing setting and characters, without offering too many unnecessary details. The plot is reminiscent of popular family films without being unoriginal or formulaic. The set-up is done well because it subtly foreshadows how the world may end without explaining too early on that the Monarch wants to destroy Earth’s sun. The twist that the prophecy is only favorable for the planet Illumino is exciting, as Merrin grows so attached to the idea that she could save their world without examining the consequences for her own planet.
While the plot and setting work strongly in this story’s favor, the characters fall a little short comparatively. They lack distinct voices—with the exception of Mr. Gubbins and his stutter, it is nearly impossible to pick out characters based on their dialogue alone. For how physically different all of the characters are, it does them a disservice to not give them their own idiosyncrasies; Granpa seems to have them in the beginning, as he describes the aches and cricks in his body after suiting up, but even those are forgotten by the end of the first act. Merrin lacks chemistry with her traveling companions, with perhaps the exception of Speedy, as well. They travel together, but speak to each other very little. In fact, Tota Dodo seems almost like a plot device–a way to get Merrin to the Monarch—more than an independent character. Additionally, this story’s demographic appears to be children and families, and for that reason the language should probably be toned down. There are curse words sprinkled throughout, with even ten year old Merrin dropping one late in the story.
Family movies are often so successful because of children’s abilities to identify with and fall in love with characters from them. While the plot and setting make this story exciting and enjoyable, the lack of original voice from character to character may harm the long term commercial prospects of the story. The set up for a sequel is interesting because it does delay some payoff from this story, which may be a draw for audiences to return. As the stand-alone project this story currently is, this script has the potential to find moderate commercial success among families.
If you’re a Black List member you can check it out here: https://blcklst.com/members/scripts/view/10493
My sci-fi script ENTANGLEMENT made it to the next round of the PAGE Awards! Today is a good day.
Here’s a review of THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST from the Black List. (The Black List uses professional reviewers, the same ones you would find as the gatekeepers at the studios. It’s a high standard.) Really loving what I’m hearing, it’s very encouraging stuff.
Locations: London, English coastline.
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
A geologist living in Victorian London falls under the influence of a strange crystal whose properties defy the current limits of scientific understanding and whose effects on the scientist lead him on a frenzied hunt to discover the origin of the object.
This is a high concept idea with remarkably clear execution, something that’s altogether too rare amongst the many scripts that populate the sci-fi spec universe. The details that distinguish the world of “The Augmented Geologist” are particularly impressive, with action writing thoughtfully formatted so that it leaps up off the page and description revealing recognizable yet highly imaginative takes on the retro-futuristic geology that illustrates the conceptual underpinning of the story. Despite being a relative curiosity –
in that he’s a Victorian era geologist – the protagonist is a relatable character whose reactions to the incredible situation he finds himself in are largely believable. His initial fascination is a great way to mirror or solicit an audience’s initial curiosity, while his descent into obsessive mania is a frightening and compelling way to maintain attention.
Although this script is generally very impressive, the plot doesn’t allow the audience to make significant discoveries independent of those made by characters within the diegesis, resulting in a narrative that’s a little less exciting than it could be. In particular, it seems somewhat anticlimactic that the protagonist is told he is a beacon, rather than allowing this to be something that is inferred for the audience to discover. It may be worth considering ways to separate out audience and protagonist discovery in order to heighten the anticipation for catharsis of the story conclusion. In addition, some of the interactions between the protagonist and supporting characters – especially his wife and astronomer colleague – seem more purely functional than they ought to be. If steps were taken to invest the protagonist’s wife with a little more idiosyncratic appeal, her role in perpetuating some of the climactic events of the story might make a more vivid impression. Along the same lines, it might be worth interrogating the means by which the astronomer infects himself with similar powers to the protagonist, as currently this seems a little pat, thus reducing the plausibility of this character as a well-matched antagonist.
“The Augmented Geologist” is a big, bold, retro-futuristic sci-fi script that showcases some strikingly cinematic writing. A cross between “Sherlock Holmes” and an earth-bound “Prometheus”, this would not be an inexpensive project to take on, but as a piece of writing it’s a commendably fresh take on the sci-fi genre. Although it’s not unheard of for high budget spec scripts penned by previously un-produced screenwriters to get picked up for development, if that is the situation here then the kind of investment this script represents might make the path of “The Augmented Geologist” from page to cinema screen a bit more difficult. That being said, however, the achievements of this script certainly mark its author as one to watch.
You can check out the whole breakdown on the Black List site.
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