I received two pieces of feedback from the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. It’s great to get stranger’s perspective on your script, they see it with clarity that you don’t have when you’ve been working on something for ages.
Note: I might change the title because of The Hunger Games. Here’s the feedback:
HUNGER STRIKE – Reader #5051
What did I like:
“The grotesque food descriptions throughout are consistently clear, yet not overdone. They would be a pleasure for any set designer or prop master to execute for the screen. The descriptions and imagery have an overall cinematic flare that justifies the screenplay medium and would work well either on the page or a screen.
Johnny’s reaction to Mitchell being taken (52-53) works as a realistic, emotional midpoint to the story and could easily be the highlight of the entire script. Even though it’s an extreme, violent reaction, in the context of the moment, it feels reasonable and manages to organically capture the severity of the situation.
Additionally relating to Johnny, the detail that the police assume Johnny killed his wife adds a brilliant complexity to the story and the overall structure. It’s the kind of detail that automatically explains why Johnny and Matt are the center of the story, despite only being EMTs. This is clearly a situation that the police cannot and will not understand, leaving Johnny and Matt to fend for themselves.
It is a good sign when a script starts out with a P.G. Wodehouse quote. In this case, it’s especially well-used, starting a horrific story with just a touch of dark humor.”
What needs work:
“While the grotesque scenes are well-written and interesting, they don’t really escalate over the course of the script and they rarely help Johnny and Matt figure out what’s going on. Alternatively, the occasional newspaper articles feel like an unusually easy plot device compared to the script’s more powerful scenes. Try to shift some of the plot’s progression onto the grotesque decay scenes to take some of the emphasis off the newspaper articles.
Give the Harvester a single name or identification within the description passages and use it consistently. Over the course of the script, it seems as though the Harvester goes by at least four different names and it’s difficult to distinguish if these names all belong to a single character, or if they denote several separate monsters.
Consider introducing Doctor Kendrick earlier within the script, even if it’s just a brief moment when Matt or Johnny’s at or near the hospital. The Harvester has a tendency to target Matt and Johnny only at home or at work and it might be an interesting detail for Doctor Kendrick to also be connected into the same world and locations that Matt and Johnny are typically in.
Clarify Doctor Kendrick’s explanation of the Harvester (78), how it came about and etc. He tries to explain this information, but ends up being so crypitc or genuinely uncertain of what has really happened that he only provides information that a reader can assume based on seeing the Harvester in action.”
HUNGER STRIKE – Reader #6005
What did I like:
“Hunger Strike is a rip-roaring gore fest with a very compelling premise (and villain!). I’ll say from the start that I’m a fan of the horror genre, barring the more extreme torture porn, and I think you toed the line here very nicely. The beginning, as we’re learning about the harvester and you’re building the suspense, is sufficiently eerie and gross. The insects and maggots appearing out of nowhere added to the yuck-factor. You also have some great initial scares–the one that sticks out the most is when Johnny’s wife is kneeling in front of the hole behind their stove. You’ve built that up very nicely–nothing happens when Johnny looks in it, so we’re just waiting…and then The Harvester pops out. Well done.
Overall, your premise is interesting and not something we’ve seen for a while–after all, there’s nothing truly unique. Hunger Strike is reminiscent of say Candyman from the early 90’s. In a good way. You’re at your best when your characters are active and battling the horror in their midst. There’s some very intense scenes, especially when Matt and Johnny are fighting The Harvester for the first time in the tower.”
What needs work:
“That said, the story still needs some work. You’re a good portion of the way there, but it’s not quite “there” yet. You have a lot of threads, you just need to pull them together better.
First, your opening hook should start with a death and some indication as to who the villain is. To be honest, after the opening as it is, I thought I was reading some kind of dark comedy–what with the car flipping over the obese man who’s just eaten a cow eyelid. It all seemed a bit farcical. But more importantly, the current opening doesn’t clue us in to what kind of story this is going to be. From the get go you want to show us that this is going to be a supernatural slasher-fest. Of course, this is easy to fix. You have the seeds of it in the first butcher shop scene with the girl behind the counter (by the way, just call her Counter Girl, or something so we know she’s not important, really.) Just follow her out of the shop, and she starts stepping on cockroaches and perhaps a whisper from the Harvester in his disturbing cant, and as she whirls her neck slashes open. Then move on to the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that’s exactly how you have to do it. That’s just an example of what I mean about an opening that tells us what the story’s about.
The midpoint is also weak, but easily fixable. In any story–screenplay or otherwise–the more you stretch out the timeframe it takes place during, the less tension your story will have. That’s what happens at your midpoint. The protags have just had their first big battle with the harvester, he’s stolen Haley, there’s been chasing and death and mayhem and lots of building tension, and Rebecca shoots the Harvester and then BAM… three weeks pass. Huh, what? And the characters have done nothing during that time. They’ve put the battle and quest on hold,while they sit around. I think you attempted to accommodate some logistics by adding the time in between, but it’s not necessary. Keep the freight train of your story going. Sure, you may need to re-arrange some things, but keep it moving. After Rebecca saves Matt, perhaps they can go look through her husband’s stuff and find out more about Starkand, or whatever you come up with. Just don’t lose the momentum, because we’re invested at this point.
In some places, I didn’t think your characters acted the way I would expect someone to. Instead, they felt more like they were acting the way you wanted them to in order to advance the plot a specific way. For instance, when Rebecca’s husband goes into what Matt deems as anaphalaxis shock, they rush to take him to the hospital…but isn’t Matt an EMT? Wouldn’t he have an epi pen in his bag? It seems like a no brainer. At the least, he would ask if they had one. Look for other instances where you may need to modify how your character’s react.
Finally, you descriptions were good, but could still be pared down. Especially the fight scenes. We don’t need a blow by blow in most cases.
That said, nice job and good luck!”