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The One I Loved (First 10 Pages)

by Elinor


INT. CAR - DAY

1988. The middle of nowhere. An old, worn out and dirty car speeds down a country road.

It’s an awkward time of year that is neither winter nor spring. It’s above freezing, but the snow that remains is black from dirt.

Its driver is ESTHER ALTMAN (18). Her hair is short and dark, her eyes wide. She blasts a heavy metal song from a cassette tape. Her eyes are red from crying.

In her rearview mirror, she sees a car tailing her, and curses under her breath. She exits towards a rest stop.

EXT. REST STOP - DAY

Esther parks and gets out of the car, and waits for the car that’s been following her to park next to her.

She sighs when she sees its driver, ADAM WHITMAN (31), her older half-brother.

ESTHER

What the fuck? Stop following me!

ADAM

You’re hysterical.

ESTHER

Leave me alone.

Adam approaches his younger sister.

ADAM

Look. Just come home.

ESTHER

I can’t.

Esther dries a few of her tears.

ADAM

So you’re just going to leave and never come back?

ESTHER

Why not? It’s not like they want me there anyway!

ADAM

That’s not true.

Esther says nothing.

ADAM

Come on. It’s cold as shit. Let’s go back.

ESTHER

Adam, why don’t you just go back to your wife?

ADAM

I’m not leaving you here in the middle of nowhere.

ESTHER

Why do you care what I do? I’m eighteen.

ADAM

Because you’re family.

ESTHER

Fucked-up family.

ADAM

What difference does it make? We’ve always been there for you, haven’t we?

ESTHER

Sarah hates me.

Adam takes a deep breath.

ADAM

She doesn’t.

ESTHER

I know the way she looks at me. It’s no different from the way Grandpa does.

ADAM

Esther. You are not your mother.

ESTHER

Well, then why does everyone act like it then?

ADAM

Look. Everyone would really like it if you came back and had the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner.

Esther sniffles, almost as if she’s seriously considering it.

ESTHER

Adam... you’ve always been so good to me. But. It’s too late for me, okay?

He nods.

ADAM

I suppose you’re not a little girl anymore.

ESTHER

No, I’m not.

He hugs her tightly, trying to mask his own tears.

ADAM

You need anything, you call me. Okay?

He smiles shyly at her as she starts to get back into her car.

ESTHER

You really do like so much like him, you know.

She gets back into her car. Adam watches as she drives away.

EXT. SEATTLE STREETS - DUSK

SUPER: EIGHT YEARS LATER

It’s June 1996. Rush hour. Follow up coverage on the recent Mount Everest disaster plays on the radio. Rob Hall’s daughter has just been born in New Zealand.

AMY FOX (25), redheaded, freckled, is stuck in traffic. It’s pouring rain. Her car is cluttered, filled with papers, bags, and assorted trash.

In the passenger’s seat is TARA STONE (24), wide-eyed, sweet-faced. She checks her watch.

AMY

What time is your flight?

TARA

Eh, in two hours. But I’m sure it’s delayed.

Tara winces as coverage about Rob Hall’s daughter continues.

TARA

I’m sorry, can we not listen to this?

AMY

Oh, sure.

Amy changes the channel. Just then, she hears the familiar sound of a guitar and the voice of Kurt Cobain, singing Nirvana’s cover of Where Did You Sleep Last Night.

AMY

Yes.

Amy turns up the radio, and begins to sing along.

AMY

I still can't believe he’s gone.

Tara says nothing.

AMY

So, when’s Nirvana being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

TARA

I don’t know. I’m not charge of who gets in.

AMY

I’m just joking.

Am purses her lips, and continues to drive, lost in the music.

AMY

His poor daughter.

Tara takes a deep breath.

TARA

Yeah. I’m sorry, it’s just... things like that get to me.

Amy sighs deeply.

TARA

So many people take having two parents for granted.

AMY

Yeah. Believe me, I know. Mom still won’t tell me who he was. What’s she afraid of?

TARA

At least she knows who he was. It’s so hard to imagine my mom as having a one night stand, but here I am.

Tara cuts through the awkward silence by changing the subject.

TARA

How’s your mom, by the way?

AMY

She’s good. I should call her.

Tara bites her lip.

TARA

I’m not supposed to tell you this, but my mom and I are coming to LA to visit over Fourth of July.

AMY

Really?

TARA

And your mom’s going to buy you a plane ticket.

A smile forms on Amy’s face.

AMY

Tara. You really are the worst at keeping secrets. I’ll be pretend to be surprised.

The girls both smile.

AMY

I know you were here for work, but thanks for making time to see me anyway.

TARA

Of course.

AMY

God, I haven’t been home in forever. I’d say we could go to Disney if I wasn’t broke.

TARA

We could go to the pier.

AMY

Yeah.

The girls realize that they haven’t really moved at all. Amy sighs in frustration.

AMY

We’ll get there... sometime.

They exchange another smile.

INT. AMY’S APARTMENT - NIGHT

Later. The rain has subsided, but is still present. Amy turns on her light and flops onto her couch. The apartment seems empty, half lived in. She sighs.

Just then, the phone rings. She sits up and answers.

AMY

Hello?

A British woman’s voice, CLAIRE, answers.

CLAIRE (O.S.)

Hi, darling.

AMY

Hi mummy.

CLAIRE (O.S.)

I hope I’m not calling too late.

AMY

I was about to see if I could catch the last bit of Seinfeld. If it’s not a rerun.

CLAIRE (O.S.)

Tara make it to the airport all right?

AMY

She did.

CLAIRE (O.S.)

Are you working summer school?

AMY

Not this year, ma. I told you.

CLAIRE (O.S.)

What are you doing for work?

AMY

I’ve been babysitting. It’s alright, but it’s not enough.

Amy’s eyes drift to a few past due bills on her coffee table.

CLAIRE (O.S.)

Well, do you want to come home for a week? I’ll buy your ticket.

AMY

Yeah. Sure. That sounds nice.

CLAIRE (O.S.)

Okay. I can’t wait to see you.

AMY

All right.

Amy smiles and hangs up the phone.

INT. LAX AIRPORT - DAY

Amy, carrying a suitcase, exits at her gate to find her mother CLAIRE (46) waiting for her. Amy is a spitting image of her mother, only the shape of her nose and eyes are different.

Claire hugs her daughter.

CLAIRE

Hello. How was your flight?

AMY

Good.

Just then, she sees Tara and her mother DEBBIE (43). They wave.

CLAIRE

(to Amy)

Surprised?

AMY

Totally.

Amy is a bad liar, but if Claire notices, she doesn’t let on. She walks over to Debbie and Tara.

Tara and Amy hug.

TARA

Hey.

AMY

Hey yourself.

They all stand in a semi-circle.

DEBBIE

Hi Amy, how are you?

AMY

Good.

DEBBIE

How’s teaching?

AMY

Well, I’m off now because of summer, but it’s good.

DEBBIE

How’s Scott?

AMY

Oh, we broke up.

DEBBIE

I’m sorry.

AMY

It’s fine.

Just then, Claire joins the group, and turns to Amy.

CLAIRE

Darling, did you check a bag?

AMY

Oh no. I’m ready whenever.

CLAIRE

Are you girls hungry?

AMY

Yeah, I could eat.

CLAIRE

Tara?

TARA

Sure.

They begin to walk. As they do, Claire gives Amy a tight side hug.

CLAIRE

I’m so glad you’re here.

AMY

Me too.

INT. PIZZA PARLOR - DAY

As they all eat pizza and drink wine, Tara is in the middle of telling a story.

TARA

So, Paul comes over to me and I’m red as a tomato and this point he shakes my hand and tells me--

She tries, but fails to imitate Paul McCartney’s distinct Liverpudlian dialect.

TARA

“Keep up the great work.”

She blushes.

TARA

Sorry, I can’t do the accent.

Claire smiles wryly.

TARA

He did give the most beautiful speech about John Lennon. I wanted to cry.

CLAIRE

How lovely.

Just then, the table falls silent.

DEBBIE

Girls, there’s something we wanted to talk to you about.

Both Claire and Debbie’s faces turn serious. They listen.

CLAIRE

Does the name Jay Whitman mean anything to either of you?

TARA

The cult leader?

Claire laughs nervously.

CLAIRE

Yes, I suppose so.

AMY

I mean, I’ve heard the name, but...

TARA

He was a cult leader in the early seventies. Like Jim Jones. Or David Koresh, I suppose. It was in Colorado. He had a harem of all these girls, I guess, and they believed in the end of the world. And a few of his followers ended up killing five people.

DEBBIE

All right, Tara. Enough.

TARA

What? I was just explaining to her.

DEBBIE

Enough.

Debbie takes a deep breath.

DEBBIE

We always told both of you that we were friends in the early seventies. That we met the night of the moon landing. That’s all true.

She takes another deep breath.

DEBBIE

But what we didn’t tell you is that we met because we both knew Jay Whitman. We were... a part of that cult, I suppose you could say.

Debbie trails off, and Claire jumps in.

CLAIRE

And both of you are his daughters.


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Wed Mar 11, 2020 6:02 pm
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4revgreen wrote a review...



Hey there! Che here for a quick review.

So I saw that someone else has left a really long review detailing any typos/errors etc. so I will just focus more on the story as a whole.

The speech was really realistic; I could picture everything in my head very clearly, so I can absolutely see this as a film! The characters came across well, and obviously this is only the beginning so I'm sure we will get to know them a lot better later on.

The only slight criticism I would have is the way the parents told their daughters about the cult leader being their father? I don't know why, it just felt quite random and sudden, like that moment should have been much longer and drawn out and emotional? I hope I'm not being too nit-picky here!

I can't wait to read more, it is such a great concept for a film and something I would definitely watch!




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Tue Mar 10, 2020 11:14 pm
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Nyla wrote a review...



Hi Elinor!

So, first off: I watched your short film! I saw you talking about it on your profile page and I immediately knew I had to check it out. I'm always eager to support a fellow female filmmaker. ^_^ That's also what brings me to this script! And I think, having viewed your film, I have a big advantage in reviewing this, since I'm now more familiar with your style, your strengths and weaknesses, and, of course, the larger story behind these pages.

I'll begin with the fun stuff, aka what I liked: I think this is a really cool idea, seeing the children of a cult-leader and how knowing (or not knowing) about their father has affected them. That plot has the potential to go in many interesting directions, and you could turn this into a really smart character study. I also like that (both in your short film and here) you are focusing on the women of the cult: those who participated, and their daughters. A lot of material to work with there, lots of gender stuff to unpack, and I'm curious to see how you handle it.

So, not a lot happened in these 10 pages (other than the big reveal at the very end), but that's not a bad thing. You don't want to throw too much at the viewer too soon, so I like that you're taking your time and letting things unfold in a slow, deliberate way. With that said, I do think the ending—the aforementioned "big reveal"—felt a little rushed, especially in comparison to the slower pace of the rest of the script. That reveal was the most interesting thing to happen, so I was a little surprised you didn't take your time with it and kind of unravel it bit by bit. I understand that there's more I'm not seeing—because this excerpt ends mid-conversation, I'm sure the girls have a big response and share a longer discussion with their mothers that I'm just not privy to—but, even still, I felt like the way Debbie and Claire revealed the secret was too fast, not only because of the buildup/pace of the rest of the script, but also because they've been keeping this secret for so many years—would they really just dispense with it so easily, after all that?

Plus, it was sorta weird how, one minute, they're talking about Paul McCartney (for some reason) and eating pizza, and then, wham, the girls' lives are flip-turned upside down. I mean... what? If my mother was going to reveal my father was a cult-leader, I'd hope she'd at least spring for a nice meal, preferably one with lots of wine. Essentially what I'm saying is that the transition—from "funny story and pizza" to "hey girls, your dad was a cult-leader and you're half-sisters!"—was rough. I could've used a little more lead-in from Claire and Debbie. Maybe they share some guilty glances, maybe they bite their nails, maybe one of them tries to ease into the confession by describing how cool and romantic Jay seemed—how he was "more" than a cult-leader, how they fell for him, how they hope Tara and Amy don't judge them for what they're about to admit, buttt...

I'm just spitballing here, but I do think there should be more of something—of tension or catharsis or some kinda fireworks—before Claire and Debbie tell the girls the truth. And yes, I know you may've been going for a quick reveal deliberately, to get it out of the way or to make it seem like a band aid that Debbie and Claire are desperate to rip off, but it still didn't really work (at least to me). It also didn't strike me as entirely realistic.

Which brings me to my next point: realism! One of the reasons the ending stuck out to me so much was that the rest of these pages are written in a hyper-realistic style. Between this and your short film, it seems to me that—at least for this story—you favor realism over a grandly cinematic approach or a lot of artistic license. If that's your preference, I can't knock it, because it's a legitimate choice some filmmakers gravitate toward. At the same time, this review is written from my perspective, and as such, I'm going to give you my completely subjective take on this style. Personally, I'm not a fan. I don't go to the movies to watch people interact exactly the way they do in real life. (I always think of that Seinfeld quote: "If I wanted a long, boring story that goes nowhere, I have my life!")

Some of the exchanges in this script were so intensely realistic that they were drained of any personality or entertainment value. And I realize you're in a tough spot, because you're trying to set up a lot of stuff about these characters/this story vis-a-vis exposition and brief interactions that seem to have no purpose (but secretly do), and you're limited as a result. At the same time, I don't want to sit through characters just chatting on the phone about nothing. Wait, scratch that—I do want to sit through that, and I have sat through that many times, but only if it's done in an entertaining way. The best movies are ones that can make every conversation, no matter how minute or inconsequential, somehow worth watching. In fairness, that's easier to pull off if you're writing a comedy, because then you can insert jokes and humorous asides into character exchanges, but I think a drama can still do it. (And, on that topic: how do you feel about adding some levity to this? Because I think notes of humor would really liven up the dourness of the story. It would still be a drama, just one with bits of comedy sprinkled throughout to keep things from being too self-serious. I also think the absurdist nature of cults lends itself well to dark humor, but that might just be me...)

To give you an example of what I'm talking about, let's break down these pages into scenes. There's the first scene: Adam and Esther and their confrontation. That scene was good: it was tense, it established things about the characters, and it held my interest. (Though I did have some issues with parts of it, but we'll get to those problems later.) Then we have the Amy-and-Tara-stuck-in-traffic scene, the Amy-on-the-phone scene, the airport pickup scene, and finally, the pizza parlor reveal. Of those, I found the first three pretty uninteresting, and the last one, while enjoyable, fell flat because of how rushed it was. That reveal had the potential to be incredibly fascinating, but I feel like most of that potential was wasted. However, I've already talked about the pizza scene, so let's instead discuss the three I haven't: Amy and Tara in traffic, Amy on the phone, and the airport pickup.

Those three scenes are just sorta... there. Like, yes, they set up what's to come and establish some pertinent information. But they don't do so in a way that motivates me to keep watching (or reading, in this case). I also feel like I don't really learn much about the characters from those interactions. I mean, I learn that Amy's got bills to pay, and that she and Tara don't know who their fathers are. But I can't tell you much more than that. At this point, there's nothing about the characters that's making me want to know more. They don't really have any color.

And, again: I know it's early in the story, and there's only so much you can do in ten pages. I get that. But I do think there's a way to write these scenes that would make them pop. And I think there's a way to make the characters vivid right from the start.

The main reason these scenes were underwhelming was because of the dialogue. Like I was saying, you've favored that hyper-realistic style, and it's just... not any fun, I guess? I'm going to put some examples in spoilers so you see what I mean:

Spoiler! :
AMY
What time is your flight?

TARA
Eh, in two hours. But I’m sure it’s delayed.

TARA
I’m sorry, can we not listen to this?

AMY
Oh, sure.

AMY
Yes.

AMY
I still can't believe he’s gone.

AMY
So, when’s Nirvana being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

TARA
I don’t know. I’m not charge of who gets in.

AMY
I’m just joking.
...
AMY
I know you were here for work, but thanks for making time to see me anyway.

TARA
Of course.

AMY
God, I haven’t been home in forever. I’d say we could go to Disney if I wasn’t broke.

TARA
We could go to the pier.

AMY
Yeah.
...
CLAIRE (O.S.)
I hope I’m not calling too late.

AMY
I was about to see if I could catch the last bit of Seinfeld. If it’s not a rerun.

CLAIRE (O.S.)
Tara make it to the airport all right?

AMY
She did.

CLAIRE (O.S.)
Are you working summer school?

AMY
Not this year, ma. I told you.
...
TARA
Hey.

AMY
Hey yourself.

DEBBIE
Hi Amy, how are you?

AMY
Good.

DEBBIE
How’s teaching?

AMY
Well, I’m off now because of summer, but it’s good.

DEBBIE
How’s Scott?

AMY
Oh, we broke up.

DEBBIE
I’m sorry.

AMY
It’s fine.


You've succeeded in capturing how real people talk. The problem is that realistic conversations like these just aren't very interesting. Now, don't get me wrong, if you occasionally had exchanges like these (to create a sense of realism or establish the relationship between characters, for instance), it would be okay. But the problem is that most of the dialogue in these 10 pages sounds like the dialogue I just excerpted. You have three scenes in a row of characters talking like this. If I was watching this movie, I'd be itching to change the channel. It's especially important, in this day and age—when attention spans are so short, and there's never been more choices of what to watch whenever you want—that you grab your audience's attention. You don't have to do that by being super flashy, you can still have quiet moments between characters where they just talk, but the conversation needs to exist for a reason. And that reason shouldn't just be exposition or setting something up for later. There should be at least a nugget of entertainment value buried in these interactions. Give me a reason to keep watching. Give me something.

Another problem I noticed is that you make a lot of pop culture references. It feels like you're continually trying to remind your viewer/reader that this takes place in a different era, and you don't need to do that. What's more, you don't just do it with the 90s, but the 60s/70s too. Let's see—you've got the Mt. Everest disaster/Rob Hall, Kurt Cobain AND Seinfeld all within the first 10 pages, then you make sure to mention that Debbie and Claire met during the moon landing as if to tell your audience—in the most obvious way possible—that they've known each other since '69, and you throw in a left-field story about McCartney for good measure (not to mention name-dropping famous cult-leaders, though I'll give you a pass on that one since it works in context). Hold on, let me get a broom so I can sweep up all these references...

Seriously though, that's a lot. I get that you like the twentieth-century (who doesn't?), but remember that people who lived through those eras did not constantly refer to their then-contemporary pop culture. Those sorts of references should be used sparingly, or else they'll begin to feel forced and grating.

(The only time you can really get away with this is if your story's a love letter to a certain era. Like, I haven't seen it because I hate Tarantino, but I've heard Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood is one big 1960s pop culture love-fest. HOWEVER, that movie is explicitly a romanticized, idealized portrait of the titular decade, and one that is specifically grounded in Hollywood and 60s film, meaning it can get away with it in a way that your story—unless it's also intended to be a love letter to a decade?—cannot.)

Anyway, those are some of the big-picture issues. Now let's get into the nitty gritty.

She sighs when she sees its driver, ADAM WHITMAN (31), her older half-brother.

I don't think you need the word "older" when you've already mentioned their ages.

ADAM
You’re hysterical.

ESTHER
Leave me alone.

Adam approaches his younger sister.

ADAM
Look. Just come home.

Something about him saying "you're hysterical" doesn't really jibe. For one thing, he's trying to get her to come back and acting sympathetic to her the rest of the scene, so to have his first line of dialogue be accusatory and antagonistic sets the wrong tone. (I mean, going straight from "you're hysterical" to "come home" just sounds wrong, and also, if that's his strategy for winning her over, it's a bad one!) For another thing, she's not really acting hysterical? Like, I get that she left suddenly and wants to be alone and is now telling him to stop following her, so obviously she's upset and maybe he thinks her response is not proportionate, but "hysterical"? I think if he says something like "c'mon, you know you're overacting," that would work better—because it establishes him as someone who is trying to reason with her (not harass), because it blends better with the subsequent dialogue, and because it's a more understandable response to her behavior than calling her hysterical.

So, while we're here, let's talk about the Adam/Esther scene. I like what you're going for here, and it's a lot more interesting than most of the following scenes. As I said before, it's got a good amount of tension, and the way these two interact intrigues me. I want to know more about their dynamic. Which is great! The only problem is that I think some of their dialogue dips into a melodramatic territory. At times it feels less like how people argue in the real world, and more like how people argue in movies: spelling out their feelings and problems in very explicit, on-the-nose terms, expositing enough that the viewer has a sense of what's going on, et cetera. It wouldn't stand out so much if it weren't for the fact that the rest of the script goes for hyper-realism. (The other problem with hyper-realism: it makes exposition and all incidences of foreshadowing/setting things up seem very, very incongruous.)

Here are some examples of dialogue that kinda-sorta slip into soapy territory:

Spoiler! :
ADAM
So you’re just going to leave and never come back?

ESTHER
Why not? It’s not like they want me there anyway!
...
ADAM
Because you’re family.

ESTHER
Fucked-up family.
...
ESTHER
I know the way she looks at me. It’s no different from the way Grandpa does.

ADAM
Esther. You are not your mother.

ESTHER
Well, then why does everyone act like it then?
...
ESTHER
Adam... you’ve always been so good to me. But. It’s too late for me, okay?

ADAM
I suppose you’re not a little girl anymore.


It's not bad, it's just not quite right. Again, if this was how the rest of the script was written, I don't even know if it would bother me. But the problem is that after this scene, things take a hard left into the den of ultra-realism, and that makes the dialogue in this scene seem odd—almost literary—by comparison.

You really do like so much like him, you know.

Typo.

Amy changes the channel. Just then, she hears the familiar sound of a guitar and the voice of Kurt Cobain, singing Nirvana’s cover of Where Did You Sleep Last Night.

As far as I know, italics aren't "allowed" in standard script formatting. All italicized words should be underlined instead. (Unless that rule has changed and I'm just unaware of it? It always did seem hopelessly dated to me.) Furthermore, even if italics were allowed, this is an incorrect usage of them. Song titles are supposed to be in quotes.

TARA
Yeah. I’m sorry, it’s just... things like that get to me.

Amy sighs deeply.

TARA
So many people take having two parents for granted.

I think you struggle with trusting your viewer. You feel the need to spell things out for them pretty often. This is one example. Like, does Tara really need to explain herself here? Wouldn't there be more of an impact if you left it for the viewer to infer why she doesn't want to listen about Rob Hall's daughter, or why her heart breaks for Kurt Cobain's kid? I think, by making that subtext explicit, you spoil the moment and start telling rather than showing.

AMY
Yeah. Believe me, I know. Mom still won’t tell me who he was. What’s she afraid of?

TARA
At least she knows who he was. It’s so hard to imagine my mom as having a one night stand, but here I am.

Obvious foreshadowing is obvious. Seriously though, this part feels pretty clunky. Between Amy's "Mom won't tell me who he was, what's she afraid of?" and Tara's "it's hard to imagine my mom having a one-night stand..." it's all just way too clearly telegraphing PATERNITY TWIST UPHEAD.

Altogether, this exchange comes across as mere exposition/foreshadowing instead of a naturally-occurring conversation. I'd suggest a rewrite. One idea I had for how to smooth out Tara's response would be to change it to something like: "Well, at least you're not the product of a one-night stand." That's still kinda clunky, but hopefully you get the general direction I'm going in, which is this: Tara doesn't need to explicitly state that she's a one-night stand baby. The audience will follow you. They don't need to be spoon-fed information.

I’ll be pretend to be surprised.

Typo.

AMY
Hi mummy.
...
AMY
Not this year, ma. I told you.

Okay, so I know your viewer won't see or care about this, but I'll point it out anyway because it's worth knowing: if a character is calling their parent by mom/dad/some variation thereof, the first letter should be capitalized (e.g.: "Hi Mum!"). It should be lowercase in all other situations, including whenever there is a pronoun in front of it (e.g.: "her mom went to the store"; "I thought my dad already did that"; "she's a mother of two"). So, in the case of your script, the M in both "mummy" and "ma" should be capitalized. A nitpick, I know, but one I take seriously!

Also: Amy calls her mom "mummy," then "ma." That seems a little weird to me. Wouldn't she call her mom "mum" instead of "ma"? Do English people even use "ma"? Is that your way of signaling to the audience that she's British-American so she uses both English and American turns of phrase? Am I overthinking this?? (Probably!)

I’ve been babysitting. It’s alright, but it’s not enough.

"All right" is two words in American English. That rule still applies regardless of whether or not the character is British (or her mother is).

CLAIRE
Does the name Jay Whitman mean anything to either of you?

TARA
The cult leader?

Claire laughs nervously.

CLAIRE
Yes, I suppose so.

So, I like what you're going for here—that Claire still doesn't think of Jay as a cult leader and is taken aback when he's referred to in such a way—but I feel like her reaction is off. She must've imagined telling Amy this a gazillion times, surely she would've anticipated that response. I mean, she's been keeping it a secret all these years. She knows that Jay is thought of in this way, and she knows the girls, if they're familiar with him, will probably only have the cult as their frame of reference. So to have her react like this seems... wrong?

But, like I said, this isn't a bad idea. I just think that, instead of having her respond with a giggle and an "I suppose so"—as if the idea hadn't occurred to her until that moment—you should make it seem as though, intellectually, she knows what's up, but it still takes her aback to hear the words aloud. So, to get that across, maybe have her tense up instead of laugh, and then say something like, "Yes. Him." That, to me, would be the more realistic response: she knows he's a cult leader, she knew this response was coming, but it still startles her to actually hear the words and she can't bring herself to acknowledge that reality beyond "yes, that's the guy." It's a small change, but one that would make a noticeable difference.

Yes, I suppose so.
...
Or David Koresh, I suppose.
...
We were... a part of that cult, I suppose you could say.

You use "I suppose" a lot. This wouldn't be a problem if one character was saying it, but these are all different characters using it within one brief exchange. Not only does it sound repetitive, but it also kinda blurs their speech patterns together so they don't feel distinct from one another. Every person talks a little differently, and I'd suggest trying to capture that with your dialogue.

Okay! So I think I've pretty much hacked this thing to death, haha. Time for some final thoughts:

I like the idea and I think it's brimming with potential. But I want to see dialogue that pops off the page. I think, even if you want this thing to be realistic, you could still spice up the character interactions. Maybe one of the characters is witty and makes a lot of sardonic quips. Maybe one is enigmatic and always leaves the audience with questions. Just something to keep me, the viewer, invested.

I think the opening scene doesn't need much work, but could still be edited enough to smooth out any forays into melodrama or overly on-the-nose dialogue. The next three scenes should be edited within an inch of their life. (You could maybe even delete one entirely, or radically alter what's happening/what's being said in all three.) And then that final scene, at the pizza parlor—take your time with it! Have a little fun. Experiment, see if elongating the conversation improves it. (And perhaps consider relocating it to another venue? Unless you're really attached to the pizza place, but like... I wouldn't be.) I'd like to see Debbie and Claire struggle to tell Amy and Tara. I want to see their inner conflict play out; I want a sense of how hard this is for them. On that topic: I know you know your characters inside and out, but I wouldn't have thought that based on these pages alone, so I definitely want to see more of their personalities. Even in the first 10 pages, I think I should have a read on at least a couple of them. So, when you edit/rewrite, that's something else to bring to the surface. And cut down on the pop culture references!

Those are my notes. I hope they help. ^_^

PS: Let me know if you ever need a beta-viewer for any of your projects! Like I said, I'm always eager to support a fellow female filmmaker. <3




Elinor says...


Wow, thanks for such an in depth critique!

Yeah, Amy's lived her whole life in America but been raised by her mother who lived in England so I envision she would have picked up a few cultural ticks. Tara's anecdote about Paul McCartney is supposed to be my why of illustrating that she works at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is explicitly stated later, as McCartney gave John Lennon's induction speech the year before. I get what you mean about all the pop culture references, though and all of your other notes! Thanks so much! :D

Ah! I love that you're a filmmaker too. Feel free to PM me, I'd love to know more about your work as well and maybe you send you the full script too. I'm happy to return the favor!



Nyla says...


OHHH, OF COURSE. Okay, that makes way more sense. Now I also understand the exchange about Nirvana and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Somehow those clues soared way over my head, lol. I figured her job related to music and the McCartney story was shorthand for that, but I could not put the pieces together and then just assumed it was a random pop culture reference. My bad. Now that I know there was a specific motivation behind it, I retract my objection. :P

I would love to PM you sometime! It would be great to talk shop. And yeah, if you ever want to send me any scripts, please do. I am actually trying to fine-tune my script evaluation skills over the next few months so I am definitely available, haha. :D




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