Script Coverage Contest – Winners

First of all, I want to thank everyone who participated. Considering that I just started this blog and my list is still quite small, we had a lot of people participate – 37 sets of coverage!

I was only planning on posting the top 10 pieces, but I decided to post everyone’s writing. If you submitted coverage and are not on this list, you have my apologies – I posted everything that got to me.

Just seeing this many versions of what folks read into my script was wonderful. So many perspectives came out and the priorities and preferences of the coverage writers also came out. Although most of you looked at it as a whole, some folks cared most about the action, some about the setting, some about the story, some about the characters and some about the theme.

Despite the biases and the differing opinions of the quality of my work, some things are mentioned again and again. Some things are brought up that I never intended to express. This has been an incredibly valuable exercise for me.

I loved it all – even the ones who beat me up. What a great learning experience.

Picking winners was difficult. I figured I could have done it several ways:

a. The person(s) who liked my story the most – that’s what my ego wanted to do.

b. The person(s) who liked it the least – so I could show how utterly impartial I was in my decision.

c. The person(s) who pointed out the biggest writing issues in the script and focused on the mechanics of writing – because they are right – my wordsmithing needs some energetic polishing.

d. The person(s) who did the best at using proper “coverage format” that most production companies want to see – which I appreciated because they made it easier to read.

e. The person(s) who gave me feedback that I felt showed they understood where I was trying to go with the script (even though I may not have accomplished my goal) and gave me ideas that I could use to improve the movie.

Except maybe “a” and “b,” all of these are valid ways to choose a winner. All of them were done well by at least one person.

I decided to pick the winners based on “e,” the writing that was most helpful to me personally as I prepare for the rewrite work.

Although, I got a ton of ideas from nearly everyone, here are the folks who I feel accomplished this on the highest level. And I’m not putting them in any particular order – all three are 1st prize winners as far as I’m concerned.

Each one of these people will receive $100 each.

Winner A: Chris Ross Leong
Winner B: Gerald Hanks
Winner C: Arin Kambitsis

I have sent the winners an email asking where I should send the money and if they want it paid through paypal, if they want a check sent in the mail, or (easiest for me) have it automatically deposited into their U.S. checking account using ACH. Just let me know which and I’ll have my bookkeeper send you the funds.

NOTE: I’m leaving for a two week vacation in Europe with my family on Saturday (07-14) afternoon, so if I don’t hear from you before then, we will take care of this when I return the week of July 30th. I am leaving the country, but don’t worry, I’m not skipping out on you.

**************

Now, I’d like to acknowledge everyone who participated. Here is the list of names of the folks who sent coverage - thank you all!

Andrew Elliott
Christina Barclay
Ryan Williams
Brian O.
Daniel Finn
Mark-Curtis Dunn
Karla Geter
Bill Walker
Ian Strope
Jeffery Potts
Adam Goldberg
Kingsley Pascal
D.F.W. Buckingham
Sam Klein
Michael Kane
Chris Ross Leong
Kelli Michelle Andrews
Russ Lea
Nolan LeGault
Turner Jacobs
Jevan Vu
Arin Kambitsis
Jim Boyer
Gerald Hanks
Brian Shea
Joe Kieninger
Larry C. Heward
Amin Osman
Darryl Banton
Makenzie Barski
Nadia Michelle Robertson
Ben Sullivan
Sue (no last name)
Joe Ogrinc
Kat Bosworth
Joju Varghese
Ben Robertson
Megan Stokes

Below, is the coverage that they sent. I hope you will take the time to read it and see all the different perspectives – I think it illustrates the diversity of thought and opinion that an educated audience brings to any film.

To be honest with you, I feared the coverage might end up looking like a “Yahoo” comments section, with half of the submissions being trolls – but instead, I got a ton of serious coverage with lots of educated and diverse opinions.

I was impressed with the quality of work and I look forward to hearing from you all in the future. The purpose of this blog is to create a community of artists and storytellers who love filmmaking. I think this is a great start.

Thanks again,

Joe Crump

PS – Feel free to put your comments below.

PPS – I left all the email addresses off the coverage. I didn’t want to do it without express permission. If you want me to post your email, website or phone number (or both) next to your coverage with a short note about what you would charge for coverage if someone were interested, just send it over and I’ll add it to the page.


Winner One:

Escalation – Joe Crump

Notes – Chris Ross Leong – 04JUL12

Contact Chris At:

Joe, hello!
Forgot to mention to please quote my email (chris@chrisrossleong.com) in my section, I’d love to help others out as and when I’m able. No standard reader’s rate, I’m really more on your side of the fence, usually.
Cheers!
Chris

SYNOPSIS: An online urban warfare shooter game is turned upside down when a team leader’s 12-year-old daughter joins in and breaks all the rules, forcing their enemies to escalate their game to try and outmatch her unorthodox zest and wild talent.

CHARACTERS: TEAM A:

CONRAD, hard edged leader, futuristic rifle

OKU, striking, dark-eyed woman. Two 1911A1s.

JIMMY, thin man with lamb-chop sideburns, Stetson, six-shooter, sniper rifle. Later bubbles.

HANNA, blonde/blue, 12 years old, school uniform. Shoulder mounted laser cannon.

TEAM B:

SAM, fighter, M16, canister bomb with bunny. Later a force field and a mini-gun.

KALYN, sniper rifle with X-ray scope.

WINSTON, another shooter, assault weapon.

REFEREE: STAN buzz cut, horn rimmed glasses, pens. Aura.

BEATS:

1) Hanna breaks into a straight urban warfare shooter game that Conrad, Oku and Jimmy are playing against Sam, Kalyn and Winston.

2) Conrad wants her to go home but instead she materializes a laser cannon and shoots a section of wall, 3) putting her in violation of the game.

4) Sam, who’s the one shot at, escalates by adding a bunny bomb, and this puts him in violation as well.

5) Hanna catches the bomb and throws it away.

6) Kalyn adds an X-ray scope to her sniper rifle, also in violation. She shoots Hanna with it, killing her. 7) Conrad is annoyed, Oku and Jimmy wince.

8) Conrad disappears, and attacks Kalyn in the next building, making the floor under her disappear. 9) Winston sees Kalyn falling through the floor. She falls into space. 10) Conrad kills Winston, jumps up and lands next to Sam in the floor above. Sam disappears and Conrad gives chase.

11) Hanna re-spawns and Conrad tells her to leave. 12) Winston tries to run through a wall and fails. 13) Conrad and Hanna talk while Oku kills Kalyn. 14) Winston succeeds in running through a well and appears next to Conrad and Hanna, only to be shot by Jimmy. 15) Hanna disappears in a pique. The rest react as they hear gunshots, Conrad disappears.

16) Hanna shoots Kalyn and Winston time and time again as they re-spawn but before they can react. She taunts Sam.  17)  Conrad appears and they talk about Hanna’s mother as the keeps on shooting Kalyn and Winston. 18) Jimmy and Oku listen in and react. 19) Sam kills Conrad and Hanna with a grenade. Kalyn and Winston re-spawn and can rejoin the fight.

20) Hanna and Conrad re-spawn at their base, talk.

21) Sam escalates with a force field and a mini-gun. He’s in violation.

22) Conrad, Oku and Hanna take aim. 23) Winston and Kalyn join Sam. 24) Jimmy launches bubbles. 25) the gunfight starts 26) Winston and Kalyn quadruple themselves. 27) They fire, killing Conrad and Jimmy.  28) Hanna talks with Oku about Hanna’s mother. 29) Jimmy’s bubbles explode and kill the 8 Winstons and Kalyns. 30) Conrad and Jimmy respawn. 31) Conrad sees Jeannie, his dead wife, in Hanna’s image for a second. Oku reacts.

32) Winston and Kalyn re-spawn and clone themselves 20 times.

33) the B team confront the A team – but Conrad and the A team aren’t there.

34) Oku asks Hanna to do the honors, Conrad approves. Hanna goes out and faces the B team. They jeer.

35) Conrad tries to intervene but Oku stops him. 36) Hanna conjures magic and engulfs Sam and his army in flames, ending the simulation and leaving an empty grid.  Jimmy laughs.

37) Oku grins, Conrad says that’s my girl.

38) Stan the ref enters. The B team enter through the empty grid. Sam complains. 39) Conrad and the A team approach. Conrad welcomes Hanna to the A team. Hanna reacts. Stan bans the A team for two weeks. Hanna takes Conrad out of the game and back to find milk as he plays with his daughter. 40) Stan waves his hand and both teams disappear. 41) Stan disappears.

NOTES: (on beats above)

1)     would love to see the scenery/battleground before teams are shown – just a moment with the world before we get swept up in the story. Also, the beginning DX is unnecessary. This would have been said before the game commenced, not at that point, for the convenience of the audience. During a room clearing by a pro combat team, that DX is unnecessary. Use hand signs.

2)     Would prefer to see a disparity between the teams. Right now Hanna’s appearance makes the A team four people against the B team’s three. Unfair. It should be the other way around, since Conrad’s lost his wife and team mate, Hanna’s mom. Actually, Oku and Jimmy should be just Jimmy. Two guys. So when Hanna appears, even though we don’t know it yet, this balances out the teams. Otherwise Hanna’s very appearance in a straight game is a violation, or should be.

3)     see  note above. Hanna should be in violation as soon as she appears. In order for the escalation to be better graded, I’d love to see her be in violation, then overruled because now the A team is at full strength. Part of why she showed up anyway? This gets rid of the ray gun which is too much escalation too soon (a ray gun beats a mini-gun, in my book, and anyway she doesn’t know how to use it since all it does is hit a piece of wall.

4)     Likewise with Sam, in beat 4. He can just use a regular grenade, it doesn’t need to be a bunny bomb, and he doesn’t need to be in violation at this stage (escalation, remember)

5)     love Hanna throwing the grenade away, angering the B team and prompting their escalation – however,

6)     Kalyn doesn’t have to have an X-ray sniper scope yet – the heat sensing scope will do the same thing and not put her in violation yet.

8)     watch this moment – Kalyn disappears out of the grid, yet reappears in time to get shot by Oku in beat 13. How does this happen? What’s the game mechanism at play here? Could be a little more elegant.

12) Winston running through wall. Comedic, sure. But what, he’s an incompetent Neo?

16) love this moment – but don’t like that Hanna uses the radio to talk to Sam. And her DX should be “Hey Sam, I’m in your base and killing your dudes”. She can just talk.

21) Sam loses it and now the escalation starts – and now he makes his mini gun and force field and is in violation.

24) When Jimmy launches his bubbles (very funny, great moment), he shouldn’t be in violation, right? It’s a new trick the referees haven’t seen before

it’s great there until 34) Oku isn’t the team leader and can’t tell Hanna to do the honors. Only Conrad can do that. This needs a further looking at, for sure, because as the team is set up now, it’s a mistake in procedure.

38) Stan the ref. Hmm. He could do a load more than he is at the moment.

This is a game, right? An RPG? A MMRPG with online audience?

So where are the points systems? The bonuses? The innovation awards? Isn’t this what Hanna is accumulating? Or is it ratings that are going through the roof?

Isn’t Hanna’s great contribution here a cross-genre program, bringing a piece of D&D magic into a 1st person shooter game?

Shouldn’t Stan give her awards for that, before banning the A team?

In other words, in the world of the game, what’s the points system and who finally wins the game? And what are the rules?

Why does Stan not intervene earlier? And why does Sam and team not escalate further? Why only 20 clones each? And not 2,000,000? Which Hanna then blows away as easily as Neo did before her?

GENERAL WORLD NOTES

It might behoove you to think about the games world as an escalation of the real world. In other words, what kind of real world would it be that a father who’s lost his wife would spend his time in a VR game without his daughter, fighting with 5 other adults and a ref?  Does this point to a dystopia? Would be nice to see Conrad tickling Hanna in real life, not in the game (where she would lose street cred if she were really wanting to be a serious game player)

MORE NOTES

REFLEX STORY CONSTRUCTION:

I think you missed a great opportunity for a more sophisticated writing technique for short films that I call Reflex Construction. This is when you plant story points way ahead in a short film spine – and pay this off when? On subsequent viewings of the film. In effect, you put payoffs ahead of the plants.

Yes, you read that right. Set up story points that the viewer can only put together on the second, third, maybe even fourth or subsequent viewings.

The most obvious of these plants is Jeannie.

What I would do is to fold Jeannie’s image into various places in the location. Pictures on the wall. Even a huge headshot that’s blended, like a watermark, onto a wall of a building, like an old building-sized mural that’s so faded you can’t see what it is – until you’ve watched the film enough to be able to recognize the face and pick it out from more and more places.

What this device does is give Conrad, and later Hanna, a reason to be here. So maybe what these payoffs are telling us is that this was really Jeannie’s world – her love for the game, her escape. Which is what bought Conrad here, after her death, and why Hanna is so gifted. Opens a concept door instead of closing it.

And then I’d go even further, escalate that into Jeannie as a half-seen ghost in the machine. Is she in Conrad’s head? Watch the movie again, there’s more to be seem as the onion unpeels and another layer of planted information is revealed…

You can even escalate that more if you go into the real dystopic world that Conrad and Hanna come from – and show some of Jeannie’s taste in interior design, some motifs that exist both at their home and the game area.

GAME WORLD

Now, after you’ve worked out your game structure – points system, innovation bonuses etc., and have made  some rules for both the shooter game and the RPG D&D style games, you can organize your escalations and grade them a lot more precisely. Grenades – OK. Bubble grenades – not, obviously, but there are several more shades of detail that can be sculpted from the same clay, that will enhance your world and the investment of the people therein.

I’m sure you’ve seen the live action films of  Mamoru Oshii, especially Malgorzata Foremniak in “Avalon”. And the other one after that, not so good, called “Assault Girls”. But these two films, especially “Avalon”, are the precursors to the imagery you’re referring to in “Escalation”.  Do check these out if only to avoid being labeled as derivative at a later date.

EVEN MORE NOTES

WHAT MY GUT SAYS

Mainly, my gut’s going “why?”

Why are they there? Why am I there?

Conrad and team are playing a game. They’re there for fun(?). ‘cos it’s cool?

For me, I’d be looking deeper than that. I don’t necessarily need to see a scene about that, ‘splaining it all to me in a pre-digested, dumbified manner – in fact, for my gut, the more obtuse, the better, ‘cause now I have to work at it some (see reflexive construction, above). But there had better be some juicy bone at the end of it for me, otherwise… why?

So mainly it’s ‘why is Conrad here?’ and the only thing I can think of is ‘because Joanne was here too and this reminds him of her’, plus maybe ‘this is what Conrad does for a living’ – i.e. his team is out there making their daily bread.

They have to be the top team. They have to be undefeated thus far, even if they might be short-handed. In fact, if they were, my gut would love it more.

Why? Because then Sam and the underdog team know that Conrad has had to respond to their challenge even when understrength, and now Sam and his team will be top dog and bring home the biggest…. What? Prize money?

Otherwise, what are the stakes? What would bring five or six people together in this scenario, apart from the winning of it?

Then when Hanna appears, maybe Conrad’s team loses the points handicap that they were hoping they’d have if they did combat understrength – and Hanna’s very appearance puts Conrad deeper into the proverbials. My gut likes that better than her simply showing up and going illegal for no reason (“why?”)

So now she’s put them up the creek and Sam and his team decide that they’ve got the advantage and can now attack with impunity. After all, they have an under experienced player on the opposing team, and as we all know, MMRPGs are won and lost by the numbers, by the last man standing.

Only Hanna is a wild card. Now I don’t know about you, but I have a 12 year old myself, and no way is he watching Dad play a game without knowing all about that game and figuring out a way to bead either Dad or the system, preferably both.

So Hanna has been watching hundreds of these game scenarios at home on the computer while Mom and Dad go to work, and over the years, have become a top shelf team. Maybe it’s sponsorship that keeps the entire thing afloat? You know, the DS team against the PS3 team, but with sponsors and battles inter-team? Which is how Hanna can get away with games violations but also not cause Stan to stop the game and eject the players? So technically in violation would mean that a sponsor has to step in and ‘bail the player out’ by adding money/credits to the game to unfreeze the player? Same for re-spawning? So then every time Hanna does something cool, the watchers vote, the sponsors pay more, and she gets away with it?

Now my gut would feel better, because now it’s not just a BOSH (bunch o stuff happening) but one thing causes the next – cause and effect, the stuff of storytelling.

Since we’re still in genre, something like that wouldn’t take much more in the script to outline and get straight – maybe just a scorecard, as in modern day games – so it’s not just ‘VIOLATION” but “VIOLATION: 30,000 credits” and then “SAMSUNG – PAID” and a quick Samsung logo like a prize pickup in a real game, with the 30,000 now representing a real corp putting real skin in the game.

We then don’t need to be told any more about why these people are here, and my gut feels happier still.

Finally, why is Hanna really there? Just to mess up the game for her Dad? Because she surely, surely does, as surely as my boy knows not to yell and scream when Dad’s on location in the middle of a shot and the camera’s rolling.  My gut doesn’t believe that she’s innocent of that, not for a second. This isn’t just any kid. This is a kid born to play, born on a gaming field, of two gaming parents. It’s in the blood, so she knows not to mess up and go into violation, unless…

Unless…

Unless she already has this all figured out and knows what to do next and how all the moves are going to be made and she is the one who makes it all happen. She has figured out Sam’s breaking point and she pushes him to violate, and then escalate until the violation points against Sam’s team pass a critical level – called ‘advantage’ in regular games – and that gives her and thus Conrad’s team the leeway to go into violation without stopping the game but just upping the stakes.

She has to bend the rules of the game so much that by the end of this game, the entire game has changed  before Stan knows it.

And then Stan has to say he’s been with it all along, the sponsors are happy, the audience is happy. Sam wins in name, Conrad’s team gets a suspension, but… but…

Everybody, including my gut, knows who the true winners are.

My gut would feel a lot better if Joanna were resolved as well. Maybe if the second team member were to be a woman, who loves Conrad too but Joanne got him first, and Conrad can’t get over Joanne because of Hanna, and now it’s up to Hanna to alter the game so that Conrad can find closure with Joanne and the other woman has a chance, again all orchestrated by Hanna, that would resolve Conrad’s inner conflict as well and make my gut happier still. This resolution has to be the same action that resolves the main conflict, so it’s something to do with Hanna’s Matrix Angel routine, which is now cool and wonderful, but it’s not as satisfying as if we can suddenly, in the middle of the action, go “wow! THAT’s what she’s REALLY doing! As well as just defeating this army of clones (which we’ve seen before in the Matrix, etc.).

Then my gut moves on to Sam’s team. Why are they here? Who are they, really?

And so on.

I could go on!

Cheers

Chris


Winner Two:

READER: Gerald Hanks
TITLE: Escalation
AUTHOR: Joe Crump
DATE: 2 July 2012
GENRE: Sci-Fi/Action
LOCATION: Virtual Computer Game Network
FORM/PAGES: SP/12
PERIOD: Present/Near Future
LOGLINE: A widowed father clashes with his young daughter when she tries to join his team of video game soldiers during a battle with a rival team.
SYNOPSIS:
CONRAD leads his squad into a virtual battle against his rival, SAM, and his team of video game warriors. Conrad and his squad mates, OKU and JIMMY, are holed up in an abandoned industrial site. They are taking heavy fire from Sam and his fellow soldiers, KALYN and WINSTON.
Just as Conrad and his squad prepare a counter-attack, a young girl appears in a doorway. Conrad and his team turn to fire on the intruder, until they recognizer her as HANNA, Conrad’s twelve-year-old daughter. Hanna enters the room hoisting a laser cannon almost as big as she is. She fires the weapon through a broken window at Sam’s team, blowing a hole in the wall of their base.
Hanna’s use of an illegal weapon earns her a “Violation” icon that hovers above her head. Conrad rebukes Hanna for getting involved, endangering the team and violating the rules of the game.
Sam responds to Hanna’s illegal attack with one of his own. He launches a canister bomb at Conrad’s base, which earns him a “Violation” icon from the game. Hanna dives, picks up the bomb and throws it back out the window, where it explodes in mid-air.
The battle escalates as Kalyn attaches an X-ray scope to her sniper rifle, which brings a “Violation” badge down on her head. She aims the scope at Hanna’s head and pulls the trigger. The shot punches through brick, flesh and bone into Hanna’s chest. Conrad turns his grief into anger and teleports himself to the enemy base.
When he materializes inside Sam’s base, the red “Violation” badge hovers over him. He uses more illegal tactics to dispose of Kalyn and Winston, then goes after Sam. Before Conrad can get a shot off on Sam, the enemy leader teleports away.
Frustrated, Conrad teleports back to his own base, where he sees that Hanna has reappeared, alive and well, thanks to “re-spawning” within the game. Hanna argues that she should be allowed to join his squad. Conrad refuses, but Oku and Jimmy take her side. They claim that she has much of the same talent as her late mother for the game. During the discussion, Kalyn and Winston teleport in the room, where Conrad and his soldiers dispatch them without missing a beat.
Hanna senses that she won’t changer her father’s mind and teleports into Sam’s base, where she repeatedly kills Kalyn and Winston as they re-spawn. Hanna also taps into Sam’s radio channel and taunts him as she tries to lure him into her trap.
Conrad teleports into the room to confront Hanna on her destructive behavior. Hanna expresses how much she misses her mother and how she doesn’t want to lose her father. Conrad tries to reassure her, but their father-daughter moment is interrupted by a grenade Sam tosses into the room. The blast obliterates Conrad and Hanna, sending them back to re-spawn at their base.
Conrad chides Hanna for her recklessness, telling her that she’s just like her mother. Before they can start another argument, Sam’s team launches another offensive, using illegal techniques ranging from a Gatling gun to energy shields to multiple clones. As they open fire, Conrad shoves Hanna to the floor and takes several rounds to the chest. Jimmy takes out the clones with explosive-laced soap bubbles, earning him a “Violation” icon.
When he re-spawns, he sees Hanna turn to look at him. He sees the face of his late wife, JEANNIE, in Hanna’s eyes, which allows him to see his daughter in a new light. He now sees her less as his “little girl” that needs his protection, but a valuable member of his squad.
Sam’s teammates re-spawn and create twenty more clones in an attempt to overrun Conrad’s position. Hanna wants to use her abilities to take the fight to the enemy. Oku and Jimmy agree to the plan and, after some hesitation, so does Conrad.
Hanna steps out of the hiding place and into the courtyard between the two bases. She transforms from an innocent schoolgirl to a dark angel of destruction, with black wings, a black cape and a golden halo. She unleashes a devastating firestorm of power that destroys the enemy squad, the clones and the base, reducing all of them to floating pixels and an empty game grid.
As her teammates congratulate Hanna on their victory, an angelic figure descends from the heavens. The “angel” transforms into a stereotypical computer nerd, complete with horn-rimmed glasses and pocket protector. The “angel”, who goes by STAN, acts as the server administrator for the online game. When Sam and his team re-spawn, they complain to Stan about how Conrad and his squad violated the game rules and used illegal weapons and tactics.
Jimmy and Oku look expectantly at Conrad, waiting for him to approve of Hanna joining their squad. Conrad hesitates, then gives his consent. Hanna jumps into her father’s arms and the squad shares a joyful embrace.
Stan delivers his judgment: Conrad’s squad is banned from the game for two weeks. Stan waves his hand and the players, weapons and structures fade from the game grid, then he also disappears.
GRADES:
5 – Excellent
4 – Very Good
3 – Good
2 – Fair
1 – Poor
COMMENTS
STRUCTURE
The escalation of the conflict, from realistic to ridiculous to magical, heightens the tension in the battle as well as the strain between Conrad and Hanna. The “deus ex machina” ending (in this case, quite literally a “god from the machine”) may cause problems with some readers, as the characters did not “earn” their outcomes, but it could work in the context of a virtual world.
GRADE: 3
CONCEPT
The mixture of the video game battle and the true-to-life relationship of Conrad and Hanna works as an interesting concept that should appeal to audience of both action shoot-em-ups and family dramas.
GRADE: 4
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
While the goals of both Conrad and Hanna are relatable, the ways they attempt to accomplish them aren’t always clear. They argue about Hanna’s role, but the resolution also seems to come from out of nowhere, rather than from the characters’ actions and choices.
The secondary characters, especially the antagonist Sam, have almost no development. Oku has a few instances where she appears to be a sister/mother surrogate for Hanna, but Jimmy is nothing but a cowboy hat and a rifle. Sam’s motivations for the battle are unclear, and Kalyn and Winston make no contributions except as cannon fodder.
GRADE: 3
DIALOGUE:
As with most combat situations, the dialogue is kept short, sharp and direct. Hanna’s speech about her mother on page 7 seems disjointed. If she were to relate a more concrete memory about how she misses her mother would give the audience a way to relate to this vulnerable little girl.
GRADE: 4
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE
The premise is highly promising, as it offers a story that fans of different genres can find relatable. The addition of the Conrad/Hanna relationship takes it beyond the simplistic “guys with guns” action film.s
GRADE: 4
LOGIC
One of the biggest flaws in this script is how it handles the flow of the narrative. Part of the problem stems from the writer not taking the time to keep the story tight and including more scenes than needed just to show off “cool” weapons and special effects, without making some things clear.
As we saw earlier, the reason for the battle is never established. Also, the writer can give some brief details is to what differentiates one team from the other, including uniforms or team names, that will make the story easier to follow.
Since the major conflict in the story is the death of Hanna’s mother and how it fuels the arguments between her and Conrad, the audience also needs to see how the difference between death in the “real” world and death in the video game world.
The biggest logic flaw comes at the end. Hanna’s team should be in the midst of celebration and Conrad should have consented to have her join the team before Stan, the “angel” of judgment, arrives to wreck the party. Also, why do Sam and his team get off scot-free for their violations? Was it because they were retaliating? Shouldn’t they also be punished for their illegal activities?
GRADE: 2.5
ACTION
The length and details in the action passages, especially on page 1, are overwrought and unnecessary. The writer should keep those passages brief and to the point, as with the dialogue. The director will handle the visual aspects of the film, and most directors do not read or pay heed to detailed descriptive passages.
GRADE: 3
FIRST IMPRESSION
“Good idea, but needs tighter and clearer execution”.
GRADE: 3.5
SPELLING/GRAMMAR
The script contained very few mistakes. The word “ordinance” refers to a city law, but the word “ordnance” refers to weapons and military supplies. Also, starting a sentence with a number (“6’4” Jimmy” on page 11) is both a poor choice of format and comes much too late in the story.
GRADE: 4
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
The script offers some intriguing ideas, especially in the relationship between Conrad and Hanna. Since Jeannie’s “real” death affected both of them, the script could examine how they use this world of simulated death to deal with their grief. Is it an escape? A coping mechanism? An outlet for anger and loneliness? If the script could answer these questions, and tighten up the action sequences, it could make for a deeply moving and entertaining story.
FURTHER ACTION: CONSIDER

Winner Three:

Arin Kambitsis

The revealing of the story’s secret, mainly, that it is a game, needs to happen more slowly. If your intent is to catch the audience unaware, you should take more time to establish the situation that the characters are in. The character Hanna is formally introduced far too soon, I believe, and it would work better if the viewer spent at least a page actually worrying about her welfare before she reveals that it’s all a simulation.
I think it would be interesting if Oku and Jimmy both encounter her on separate occasions, before they are all gathered together in a group where Conrad is present. The first encounter(being with either Oku or Jimmy, it shouldn’t matter) would occur somewhere early on the second page, and whomever runs into her should act as if she were no more than just a helpless child, and tell her to keep her head down. During the second encounter, about a minute later, Hanna should enquire about her father, but the adult should seem exasperated at her sudden appearance, this time more annoyed than worried, as if she were just a nuisance. Finally, when they are all together, she can be introduced fully, just as in your current version.
Also, when Hanna first appears, the exchange between father and daughter here should not reveal too much, just yet. Conrad should seem irritated with her, tell her that she shouldn’t be there, but before she utters her line about being out of milk, and his response, allow a little more time to pass, and in the interim add some dialogue between the adults about the game, and their strategy, as if her presence there had changed nothing. Now, when it seems the adults have appraised their situation, and are going on the attack, pretending as if Hanna is not there at all, she could then pull out her upgraded weapon and upset their plans, doing it, both, out of spite for being left out and to impress her father.
The thing to remember is that when the VIOLATION signal appears, most savvy viewers will immediately understand what is happening, that this is not a real war at all, but a simulation, and from that point on the story has to be told somewhat differently. It will no longer work as well as a thriller, from the point-of-view that this is gritty and real, which is what the viewer is led to believe, at first.
Think of how different The Matrix would be, as a film, if the main characters, while immersed in the virtual world of the matrix, were not in actual danger. If their actions while online had no real life repercussions, the film would not be nearly as dramatic. The filmmakers knew this and contrived a scenario, in which, actual death was a consequence of death online. This also justified the over-the-top acrobatics the film is known for, thus rendering regular people superhuman abilities, allowed for new visual possibilities unseen anywhere outside of the universe of superheroes, while never losing the inherent drama of life and death conflict. Which is, really, the heart of its popularity.
This story, however, lacks that dramatic element, because once the audience understands that it isn’t real, both the mystery is lost and the stakes drop considerably for the characters, who are not actually in physical danger. Emotionally, since those stakes have changed, the viewer will lose their concern for the team members’ well-being, this will lessen the dramatic potential of the film. To make up the difference, and keep the viewers from losing some of their interest, you’ll need to rely more on cleverness, unexpected twists, and maybe even some comic elements. To put it succinctly, no longer treat this as strictly an action film. From here on, pacing will also be an issue.
Also, before you reveal it’s a game, show one or two deaths on the opposing team, waiting only until after the revelation to let the viewers know that the characters can respawn. This will maximize the drama before some of that tension is ultimately lessened. And there seems to be no penalty for committing a violation in this game. You should come up with something. Maybe a player can shroud themselves in a magnetic shield of some sort, but when they commit a violation it disappears, leaving them vulnerable. Or their weapon stops working temporarily. But that’s up to you.
A little more on the character Hanna, she acts more like a child than her described twelve years. Her persistent need to tag along with her father’s team, and not be left out, seems more like the emotion of a child than a young adult. A twelve year old might feel this same need, but I don’t think one would act so rashly as she does when she pulls out her cannon and nearly spoils everything.

The rest of the coverage entries start below:

 

Overall, it’s a script that moves fast and certainly has enough action to make it visually exciting.  The following questions/comments are perhaps more for what you need to think about during shooting, or maybe to come through in quick dialogue fixes.  Also, quick note—given that the movie Hanna was about a kickass teenage girl and her relationship with her father, you might want to change Hanna’s name here.

The main issue is that nothing seems to happen for a specific reason—all the characters seem willing to provoke a “Violation” in order to get the job done.  The rules of the world need to be clear and established, even in such a short time frame (perhaps a beat in which Conrad explains the rules to Hanna?)  If people can violate the rules at will, what are the stakes of the story?  The problem is we don’t know/care about the characters’ strengths or weaknesses if they can clone themselves or transform into a golden glowing cape/cyclone thing—everyone is invincible and immortal, so who are we really rooting for?  Something that could maybe be done is to have only Sam/Kalyn’s team be the cheaters who abuse the rules of the universe—maybe Conrad’s team tries to stick by the rules, but Hanna’s insistence on winning (and Conrad’s love for Hanna) mean that they eventually have to make the tough choice to break the rules too.  Either way, you need to have this rule-breaking happen progressively—if everyone busts out their best, craziest trick right at the beginning, then there’s nowhere to go from there because we’ll be used to insane stuff happening and won’t be surprised anymore.  Perhaps you can even play with our expectations—maybe we think this is a real war zone that’s played totally straight, no magic or physics-bending feats.  Then, maybe Hanna can be the first one to do something that alerts us that this is no ordinary fight or world—this sort of happens already with her surprise “upgrade” cannon, but it doesn’t necessarily register as a huge shift in the narrative universe.

The rules of re-spawning here also beg the question—if these people can re-spawn, why does Hanna’s mom not come back?  Was she different?  Is that an ability she didn’t have, even if everyone else does?  Or is the dead mother just an idea programmed into Conrad and Hanna’s head—she never existed, but their characters are burdened with this ‘pre-programmed’ knowledge in order to make the game/their relationship harder?

The real focus needs to be on Conrad and Hanna’s relationship—why is she here?  Why does he choose to fight if he has a daughter?  Does he fight differently because he’s a father (less offense, more defense)?  And most importantly, what happened to the mother that makes Hanna want to fight?  Is it just avenging her death?  Who killed the mother—was it Sam or Kalyn or someone completely different?  You seem to have a dead mother plot running parallel to the fight itself, but they need to intertwine to lend excitement to the mother plot and meaning to the fight.  A possible fix for this—perhaps Hanna’s ultimate goal is to get revenge on Stan, who let her mother’s death happen as part of the universe of the game—she’s violating all the rules in order to get his attention and finally take revenge on the real person responsible for her mother’s death (the game master), whereas we are maybe first led to believe Sam’s team is responsible for the death.  This would also solve the problem of Stan’s presence in the first place—he sort of shows up out of nowhere and it’s sort of lame that they’re banned for two weeks and then have a good chuckle about milk.  If Hanna causes enough mayhem to bring Stan into the game specifically to get answers/revenge for why he let her mother die in the game, then it’s a nice trick on the audience.  We can admire the badassness of this teen girl fighter and then be moved by the fact that sure, she likes to blow shit up, but it’s for a very real and painful reason.  She has the angst about her mother, but what she doesn’t have (yet) is the target for it.

Is it Conrad’s story or Hanna’s?  Who is changing the most?  Every story has a love story, and in this case, yours is a father-daughter love story (not in the creepy way, obviously).  So make us feel the loss and the trepidation and the agony of a father who is being forced to accept his daughter becoming a solder—essentially, a metaphor for a little girl finally growing up and out of his protection.  The seeds of this are all here, but they’re not exploited enough to make an emotional connection with.  It’s possible the right actors will take care of all of this through acting choices and looks, but I’m sure even in an action context, the actors for Conrad and Hanna will appreciate a little more meat to their story.

Now, realistically—this seems like a piece designed to show off action filmmaking and special effects.  I think if judged by those standards, it will work absolutely fine as it is.  It’s kinetic and the visuals are original and intense.  However, if we are to care about these characters as people, it’s important to a) establish what they can and cannot do instead of having them perform as many cool tricks as possible, and b) deepen the relationship between Conrad and Hanna to carry out the mother storyline to a more meaningful conclusion.  Hope that helps, and best of luck with shooting– from the storyboards, it looks like it’ll be great fun to watch!

CONTACT INFO–

Amin Osman


Nolan LeGault

Hey Joe.

Let me just start by telling you how wonderful this script is. I loved it. It was so much fun to read. I really enjoyed how it plays out, where at first we think this is reality, but all of a sudden it just clicks. Especially if you are a gamer like me. As soon as Hanna walks in and says “I got an upgrade!” we know we are going to be in for a gaming ride. It literally made me laugh out loud.

I knew right away we were in some multiplayer platform like that of Halo or Counter-strike of the future. (I love how she has just gotten home from school and jumps on the game!) The action is so similar to situations I myself have been involved in late at night, gaming with my friends. The script is like how I picture gaming will be 20 years from now (fingers crossed haha) I love the little details like the “evil, grinning rabbit” on the cluster bomb or the thump the weapon makes. It just pulls you into the action more and has a bit of nostalgia attached to it, making me think back to customizing weapons and of just gaming in general.

The red “Violation” marker that pops up on every ones head made me laugh and again that detail pulled me in just that much more to enjoy the action as if i was playing a futuristic video game that still has hints of the “old ways”. All of the hacking and glitches brought me back too. I remember frustrating long battles with hackers. I also remember hacking to get an edge on the competition too.

I like how Conrad’s team has a history. They’ve been through shit together and you can tell. Winston cracks me up with his noobness. Conrad and Hanna’s relationship brings a beautiful reality to this virtual reality when Hanna camps the others Base (The camping is hilarious. We’ve all been there, being camped and being the ones to camp. Again we are pulled deeper into believing this is a video game.) When we find out that her mother died, it kinda punches you in the gut. She brings a humanity to these two, to their team and to all the death that is happening around them. All of a sudden this isn’t just a game anymore. This something more to these players.

She wants to be a part of something her mother was a part of, and also be a part of her fathers world too. This was something they did together. She was a part of the team. The team is a piece of her mom. This is true for both Hanna and Conrad alike. People die in the real world. Not like the game where you respawn with a fresh life to fight again. That theme is so beautifully clear in this part.

Jimmy’s bubbles are SO cool. I was hoping they would do something like that and when they did, I’m pretty sure the nerd in me did a little dance! I love when Conrad’s wife is shown through Hanna and she acknowledges him with the “Let’s Play” nod. There is just so much meaning behind that nod. Lets Play. Its beauty in chaos. When he lets her go out by herself, we can feel Conrad’s concern because now they have life together. Its just a lovely moment. Stan the game master or game host descending like a god after Hanna has taken out half of the map is great! Again those kind of details make this short. It just involves us more.

All in all, I enjoyed this SO much. You’ve got a great, coherent script, with great characters, sick action, and a very powerful voice for the relationships between Hanna and Conrad and  Jeannie and between the teams. Great job. It was a wonderful read and it will be an incredible short film. You got something great here. I wish you all the luck and I will be frequenting your blog for updates. If you need any help on this (and I mean anything, I already believe in this project, I loved it so much.) just shoot me an email or a call. Great job!


Andrew Elliott

Overall

This is an entertaining sci-fi action script that is verbose and feels more like a short story than a screenplay.  It’s a good treatment, however it could use more dialogue and backstory to round out the characters, creating better goals and arcs for them.  The action and description of the characters and their surroundings is detailed and vivid, but it’s unclear what the point of everything is, which is why more character development could aid in this.  It is unclear what they’re all playing the game for, what the stakes are and if they’re in a TRON-like virtual world, made up of ones and zeros, or they inhabit the “real world” and these are simply their avatars in an on-line virtual game.  An explanation at the end with Stan would assist with fleshing this out.  The formatting is correct and there were very little grammatical errors present.  My recommendation is to develop the characters more and explain the environment they inhabit and what the goal of the game they’re all playing is.  Don’t be afraid to extend the length of pages to 20, a still acceptable length for a short screenplay with that much action.

Premise

This science fiction drama involving two teams of players in a virtual combat world and the reluctance of a father to allow his daughter to enter the fray isn’t immediately apparent although ultimately discernible upon a second reading.  Midway through it is apparent that Conrad doesn’t want his daughter to compete because of the loss of her mother at some point in the past.  But he ultimately gives in and lets her face off against Sam and his team despite being in violation of Stan (the game’s creator?) and his rules.

Structure

Although there is a coherent beginning, middle and end, certain elements aren’t defined and there isn’t an expressed goal for the protagonist.  The beginning has Conrad’s team facing off against Sam’s, but for what aim isn’t defined.  If it were clearer as to what Conrad’s goal in playing the game were, his actions would make more sense with regards to trying to protect Hanna.  Also, it’s never clear what the point of the game is, whether it’s to annihilate the other team, capture some resource, simply out-duel each other, or world domination, etc.  Without this basis for the game in any of the acts, the conflict suffers, as it’s difficult to discern what they’re all fighting for.  With regards to the mother, perhaps a flashback to her might establish a pre-existing life to lend more to the plot and give Conrad more reason behind his actions.

Characters

The characters seem real, have empathy and entertaining elements to them, but they lack sufficient arcs.  Conrad has the most arc as he is hesitant to let Hanna play the game, but ends up giving into his own fears by finally allowing her to.  SAM, serves as the leader of team #2, who are situated across the courtyard of this virtual world, and fires back at team #1 (Conrad’s team).  Other than complain that Conrad’s team cheated, meanwhile attacking back at them, he has little arc.  It leaves the question of whether Sam has the same or similar goal as Conrad’s or if he has a more sinister goal.  Oku and Jimmy are described well enough in physical appearance, but lack any backstory or arc.  Conrad calls Oku “sister” at one point, but it’s unclear if that really meant she’s his sister or if he’s referring to her as if she’s like a sister.  Also, these characters, with the exception of Hanna (12), could use an age description to round out their physical appearance.  The familial bond present in Conrad’s team establishes empathy, but it could be built upon with perhaps more dialogue between them.

Conflict

Tension is established from the get-go with Conrad, Hanna and the team in an apparent face-off against Sam and his team, but overall the conflict could be heightened if the stakes of what they’re all playing for is outlined.  The futuristic guns and explosions is entertaining and well described with clearly written action and interesting detail, for instance the grinning bunny on the canister.  But the fact that they are all able to re-generate constantly undercuts some of that tension established by all the fighting.  If it were explained that they only re-generate a certain amount of times and after that they’re actually dead, in real life, it would add a layer of complexity to the conflict and heighten it.

Dialogue

The dialogue sounds real and believable and doesn’t take away from the plot, but although this was intended to be mostly action and visuals there could be more dialogue to assist with character development and plot.  What little dialogue is there is well written and doesn’t become expository or boring.  But there could be more dialogue between Sam and his team to establish their relationships as well as between Conrad and his team.  Also, perhaps Stan could explain the rules of the game a bit at the end.

Pacing

The pacing is pretty action-packed, as it was obviously intended.  Adding in a couple of beats here and there where the reader learns a little bit about the world they’re playing the game in as well as the character goals might add some slower moments to balance things out.

Logic

The logic is sufficient, with the knowledge that they’re playing a game and that “players” are automatically re-generated when they’re killed off.  Since the gaming environment is virtual, the sky is the limit as to what they can and can’t do.  Other than that there aren’t any major holes in logic.

Andrew Elliott


TITLE: Escalation

AUTHOR: Joe Crump

DATE: June 22, 2012

ANALYST: Christina Barclay

LENGTH: 12 pages

GENRE: Action/Adventure

SYNOPSIS:
A team consisting of two men, CONRAD and JIMMY, a woman named OKU, and Conrad’s daughter, HANNA, battle against their foes in a bloody, virtual game of guns, plasma cannons, and magical powers. The opposing team, known as SAM, KALYN, and WINSTON, expect the battle to be a “straight” game, but when Hanna cheats with the first “Violation,” Sam’s team decides retaliate and the semi-friendly game escalates into an all out bloodbath. Hanna desperately wants to prove her worth to her father so that she will become a real member of the team, but Conrad is hesitant to allow this, despite Hanna’s obvious proclivity towards violence – she’s good; probably better than her father. In the end, Hanna pulls out a move that completely obliterates Sam’s team and greatly impresses her father. However, when the game’s overseer, STAN, appears he acknowledges that Conrad’s team did cheat, but they don’t seem to care as they congratulate their newest member in joining the team.

STORY:
The story is a condensed coming of age tale, but with a Tron-ish spin to it, which gives it an updated look and will certainly resonate with the gamer generation. The viewers will definitely crave for more back-story on why or how they are in a virtual MMORPG game; however, the story is effectively told without giving any specific information and one could almost imagine the game as the next evolution of paintball.

THEME:
The theme is definitely centered on Conrad’s hesitation of allowing Hanna to participate in the game, not necessarily because of the danger or violence, but rather because he doesn’t want her to grow up quite just yet. Hanna already believes that she has come of age, so to speak, and now it’s all up to Conrad to accept his daughter’s maturity/ability to kill people with scary efficiency. Therefore, the main theme of this story is not about Hanna’s rite of passage, but her father’s. There is also a secondary theme buried in the story that speaks to our generation’s desensitization towards violence due to first-person shooter games and MMORPGs because, although Hanna kicks ass and viewers will love it, it is still disturbing how easily she “kills” people.

CHARACTERS:
The characters are definitely well-rounded and distinguishable, especially Conrad, Hanna, and Sam. The mark of a good writer is creating characters that the reader can identify just on voice alone and the author was successful in this, especially since many of these characters have extreme personalities. However, it can be contended that some of the dialogue felt recycled or predictable. There are also instances where the characters don’t have to speak at all because the viewer will be able to read their thoughts just by their reactions and expressions. An example of this is on page three when Conrad says, “This will NOT go unanswered.” His fury at the other team’s cheating will effectively convey to the audience that he’s going to retaliate.

GRAMMAR:
The story is good; however, readers with experience in screenwriting format may pause at certain grammatical issues (I’m a stickler for them). Throughout the script, sounds such as explosions, breaking glass, etc. should be all-caps. The rule is to capitalize the sound and the object making the sound – the exceptions being characters making sounds like coughing, laughing, clapping, etc. and the exception to that exception are sounds that the characters make off screen. Also, on page one, the author says that Conrad “…looks down to his left and sees….” This could be classified as camera direction, which should also be all-caps. In addition, there are also a few punctuation mistakes, such as page one’s “window edges” should be “windows’ edges” and “sniper rifle, butt” should be “sniper rifle butt.” Also, page nine’s “Your team wants to hack, we’ll…” should be “Your team wants to hack? We’ll….” However, despite the grammar, the script was still a pleasure to read.

EVALUATION:
The story was a very enjoyable read with its casual and abundant use of violence and special effects – some even to the point of absurd hilarity; hence Hanna’s killing of Kalyn and Winston as they re-spawn. The issue for this short film, of course, will be funding for the special effects, location, etc. However, if it is done right, then it will be well received due to the fact that it will already have a large fan base of MMORPG players as well as those who play Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. At first glance, the script appears to be written by gamers for gamers, and many may say that it’s restricted to that audience only. However, I believe that the underlying themes shine through and non-gamers will see it even as they snicker and guffaw at the exploding bubbles. Besides, if that restriction was true, then why is The Big Bang Theory so popular? As Leverage’s Alec Hardison, often says, “Age of the geek, baby.”

 


Escalation:

Coverage Report

Synopsis:

In a desolate industrial park, two teams of warriors fight for their lives. Bullets fly between the buildings, dropping heaps of human flesh to the ground in hails of bullet fire. Conrad, along with Oku and Jimmy, hold their positions, barely, as Conrad and his team attempt to gain the upper hand in a never ending fight to the death.

Things get complicated, when a young girl; Hanna, appears on the battle asking for milk, then wants to join the team.  In a series of action sequences, Hanna must save the team by unleashing her unique powers in the world.

Structure:

The intent of this film is obviously to showcase the visual effects abilities of the film maker, in a Zack Snyder kind of way. The story boards tell a story that does not appear on the page. On page two our expectations flip as we are shown that this world exists as some sort of video game limbo, however, no further reversals occur throughout the next 11 pages. What we have instead is a series of the same type of thing repeated over and over again.  The three act structure does not exist in this world, and the original threat of death fails to be a point of conflict once the audience becomes aware that the characters can and will respawn after any attack.

It is this very issue that removes all interest in the readers mind after the twist passes. The other major issue deals with the identity of the main character.  Ostensibly, Conrad should be the hero of the piece, though his character fails to go through any sort of journey. Hanna becomes a focal point in her interactions with Conrad, but she too fails to change. If a character maintains one level through the entire film, then the story lacks an arc that draws the reader or viewer to be engaged with the story.

Dialogue:

Being action driven, the piece does not focus on the characters voices, which may be a benefit, since the character don’t speak in a unique way. Any character in the piece could be swapped with any other at any point. The lack of subtext in the lines also allows for the ability to cut any one of them at any point and have that not affect the over all story.

Characters:

As mentioned above, the main character remains some-what of a mystery throughout the script. As do their wants, needs and motivations. Hanna wants milk and to be a part of the team, presumably because she is thirsty and wants to kill things because of it.  The antagonists exist simply to be villains, with no need for names or lines. And the heroes come across as equally disposable throughout the film.

Would advise figuring out who these people are and where they came from in order to give them a richer history and voice. When the idea of the mother comes up it carries little to no weight to the audience because it carries no real weight to the characters, we don’t know her and we now know that we exist in a world where these people cannot truly die.

Then there’s Stan. Who is he? No idea. What purpose doe he serve? Ummmm… nerd powers? He simply shows up to embody the Greek tradition of Deus ex Machina, hovers there… and we’re out.  Nothing gets resolved in the end and ultimately, actions do not have consequences.

Over all thoughts:

If the intention of the piece is to show off the abilities of a director/visual effects team, then there really is no need to change anything, for the “wow factor” can carry the film. However, if the intention is to tell a compelling story that will draw the viewer into the story, then I would recommend burying the video game reveal later into the story, add more causal events so that everything that happens comes from a choice or action of the protagonist and, while we are on the subject, clearly set up a main character and that characters journey.

The film will look cool, but to be considered a well told story the elements of storytelling require more tinkering. I would recommend reading Aristotle’s the Poetics, as well as Cyd Field. The structure of the script is off from standard screenplay format, and the story is not written in a visual way.

The above exists, naturally, as my opinion. Which given the years of training and the degree in screenwriting as well as fifteen years experience as a professional writer, can be somewhat trusted, or just tossed out. As you see fit.

Ryan Williams


Hey Joe!
First off, I love the entire situation. As an avid gamer, (and ex-WOW addict) I got it right off the bat and really dug how you nailed the fragging/spawning motif.
The best thing about the draft is its pacing. That being said, there’s a lot of descriptive text that you could easily pare down to make the script a lot easier on the eyes and therefore boost its chances of getting read/finished.
For example, THIS:
OKU, also in military fatigues.  She is a striking, dark eyed woman sitting propped against the same brick wall.  The top of her head is below the first window to the right of Conrad.  She faces the center of the room, her legs spread out before her in a “V.”  She cradles two Colt 45s, crossed against her chest.  Her body is in sunlight, her eyes are in shadow.  She is bloodied and trying to keep conscious.  Her head rises slowly, sensing Conrad’s eyes on her.
Could all be boiled down to the following, without losing anything but all those extra details that add up to eye fatigue, which leads to skimming, which leads to a higher chance of: the agent’s assistant putting it down, or, your potential investors or crew skimming the text and not understanding it:
OKU (28) – sexy, two handguns, bloodied and woozy – sits in the center of the room, legs spread out in a “V”.  Her head rises at Conrad’s stare.
The only other major problem with the script lies at it’s heart:  once the reader realizes it’s a situation where the characters can respawn, all tension flies out the window.  That is, I’m no longer on the edge of my seat, worrying about them, because I know whatever they do, they’ll come back to life.
A corollary to that is the idea of the escalation itself.  Once you start escalating, the rest of the film sort of rolls itself out, and I can see where it’s all going.  And that’s a problem, because you want your audience to be genuinely surprised at the turn of events, rather than just moderately surprised at the “flavor” of events they’ve already figured are gonna take place.
So you take those two problems:  (1) lack of tension because we know nobody’s in any real danger, and (2) the fact that the audience has figured out the general idea of what’s going to happen (you’re going to escalate the weaponry, etc.)… and you’ve got a situation where,as an audience, we’re just watching events unfold, rather than really being *involved* in the story.
So to involve the audience more, you need to give the story more tension, while OF COURSE keeping the comedic tone.
And the only way I can think of to do that…
...is to make the deaths more horrific and painful looking, while still being hilarious.
So now, with that fix, the audience “seeing where this is all going” is not as much of a problem, because you top each horrific, hilarious death with one that’s even more horrific and hilarious.
Escalation!
Okay, that’s the major notes.
The minor notes:
Conrad seeing his (dead?) wife in Hanna for a brief second is unclear and awkward, and seems to dampen the comedy
Stan descending from reality into the game and chastizing everybody is clunky and seems like that space could be used for a bigger, funnier tag to close the film out.
The “hacking” to get better mods/weapons/powers etc. should come with an expense.  It should cost something.  For example, everytime someone uses a hack, one of their team members gets killed permanently, so the script can progress from a full team on each side down to just two or three key players.  OR the mods could cost the “world” some integrity or stability.  For example, each time a hack is used, the landscape changes to be more and more unpredictable.  19th century London, a desert, Q-bert world, whatever.
Anyhow, I hope my perspective helps a bit, even if I got everything completely wrong.  I run the script coverage service, Screenplay Readers, so this is what I do, but it doesn’t make me 100% infallible.
Good luck with the script, and good to e-meet you!
Brian O.

Hi there,

My name’s Daniel Finn, I’m a writer based in London. I’ve spent the past 6 years involved in all elements of production including Directing, Producing, Acting, Script and Storyboarding, Music. MD, MUA and concept artist. Just found this online, had the morning off and the money was right so I thought I’d have a look.

This is what I found. I hope it helps.

First off congrats . . . just by getting to the stage where you’re working with a useable script, have a plan and are preparing to shoot you’ve outdone most hopefulls. I’ve worked with several production companies in London and around the U.K and the lethargy of writers is a very REAL thing. So cudos. In regards to the script I’ve taken an angle based on how you’ve put things down – and then gone onto the piece as a whole from there.

Firstly:

Introduce characters at start of scene, all of them – unless one enters half way through – then describe positions.

Limit the detail with body postures. You have to create that world for the reader. But do it in such a way that it’s easy to connect with – think less about prose-like descriptions.

Do not be vague “Jimmy can peer over the sill into the battleground…” Does he? Or doesn’t he? Yoda says “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Same rule applies to scriptwriting only it’s ‘Tell. Or tell not. There are no can’s, could’s or may’s.’

“He also holds a sniper rifle…” Same paragraph. You’re still describing the same character.

Go through and constantly think, do I need to say this? Is it essential. Any producer, director or actor reading this needs the world to be crafted in such a way as to explain enough . . . but also to leave enough open for their interpretation. If you limit things by lengthy description it not only slows the read but also restricts the chance of development on set. Yes, storyboard. But storyboard it. Don’t script it all. Simple sentences. Let their imagination bring things to you.

Adverbs are a writers worst enemy. Stephen King swears by that as well as several other writers. They are superfluous. Try writing a sentence with an adverb in it – read it – then find a way of removing it and read it again – I promise you will prefer the second.

So as another note – avoid adverbs.

Example: “He is not bloody or

bruised, but he too, breathes heavily.”

“He is not bloody, or bruised but his breathing is heavy.” – this is just one way to reword it. There are others. By doing this you lose the ‘but he too’ which is a nice turn of phrase but this isn’t shakespeare, hit em with short sentences. To the point.

Dialogue – Never use a bigger word where a smaller word will do . . .

William Nicholson swears by this. And he fixed ‘Gladiator’. The Ridley Scott one. He was the script editor brought in to reassess Maximus’ character. He’s a little full of himself, but rightly so I suppose as he is a genius. Look him up.

In CONRAD’s case here – with his first piece of dialogue – he’s talking to his sister for one. I know the warzone is there but the relationship suggests something slightly less formal.  For another, they are obviously in some sort of military-like group. Words like ‘deviate’ and ‘precisely’ seem a little jarring here. There are plenty of smaller words to chose from. Unless CONRAD is extremely intellectual.

A small figure is in shadow behind the door.

Confusing. If the door is now open. ‘A small figure stands in the shadow beyond.’ or even just ‘A small figure stands in the shadow.’
‘Internal gyroscope’ – It jerks in her hands is enough. She’s twelve and she has a canon. We can already see the image. Don’t over explain.
‘The canon bucks violently in her hands’ – great description. No more and no less needs to be said. The reader is with you. Nice choice of words.
fullisade (sp) – fusillade – I know it’s just a typo but spelling is essential. If you want your scripts to be taken in and read by other Producers etc. Check it before you mail it. Then check it again.
‘This is NOT going unanswered…’ It’s a tad prosaic.
(Large in the centre of the frame) Save shot descriptions for your shot breakdown or storyboard. If you really want to include them use short hand. C/U – (POV) etc.
‘Game over sweetheart’ – Nice.
‘Teeth clenched’ not clinched. You clinch a deal and clench your teeth.
‘satistfied smile, then hears something…’ two seperate sentences. Also, short sentences increase pace, tension and drama.
She hears something; a noise from the doorway. She quickly turns, panicked. It’s CONRAD! etc.
WINSTON crashing into the wall is very funny and it’s written well.
Getting into some really nice territory with the conversation between CONRAD and HANNA.
Don’t start sentences will connectives. In some cases it’s fine where dialogue is concerned. But here. “She left us.” is stronger than “And she left us.”
“And I’ll be all alone.” – “I don’t want to be on my own.”
Although the noise from Conrad’s team makes a terrible din – Same thing I said earlier. Needless description. Or rather, not needless but it’s over described.
“Your team wants to hack’?’ We’ll give you a hack Conrad!” Seperate sentences and there’s a question in there. Otherwise it’s a really nice line.
“Full on in defiance” avoid colloquialisms in description.
6’4” Jimmy . . . the height should be addressed in the first description of JIMMY. If you want to show the height difference here then something like ‘He towers over the little girl’ works.
I’m being picky. And I know this is something that you yourself are planning to shoot and as such, the script has to work for you and you alone. I’m sure the description is there to help you on the day that you shoot. Like when I write, you can already see the scenes, the characters and shots in your head. And you can definitely hear how a line will sound. So really the only way I can talk through this script is to focus on the things to watch out for were you to send this – or another – script out to others.
The concept is really nice. The videogame film has been done before, but you haven’t limited it to just that as you have the relationship between CONRAD and HANNA in there too. Because of that relationship, you are pulled into a story which is more about a father and daughter in the wake of the mothers disappearance/death and that’s really nice. That’s the catch here. That the little girl is there and wants to take part. The action supports this plot point, not the other way around. Although, the action is going to look great too and the pace of that will definitely keep the audience with you up to the point where we hear more about HANNA and CONRAD.
The dialogue and the description are the only things to watch out for and even then I must stress, I’m being picky. It’s a short, and it’s an ACTION short, so you’ll always struggle to develop characters as much as you’d like. In things like this costume and gestos replace backstory. You’ll give the audience much more information on a character by saying ‘he wears a cowboy hat and sits – slumped – in one corner’ than you will by trying to explain WHY he’s wearing that cowboy hat and is slumped in a corner. This rings true for the description too. If you can keep it short and simple – but still get the image you want into the readers mind; you’re onto a winner.
Overall. Its nice. Pace is good. Character development is good. You should be pleased. Send me a link with the finished film – I’d like to see how it turns out.
Hope there’s something in here you can use.
And again good luck with the shoot Joe,
Best Wishes,
Daniel
_________________________________________________

ESCALATION

Review

Narrative clarity. Overwritten. More economy of words, e.g.

“He looks to his left and sees…” – His eyes go left.

 

“OKU, also in military fatigues. She is a striking, dark

eyed woman sitting propped against the same brick wall. The

top of her head is below the first window to the right of

Conrad. She faces the center of the room, her legs spread

out before her in a “V.” She cradles two Colt 45s, crossed

against her chest. Her body is in sunlight, her eyes are in

shadow. She is bloodied and trying to keep conscious. Her

head rises slowly, sensing Conrad’s eyes on her.”

To

OKU, striking, dark-eyed woman in military fatigues, sits propped against the same brick wall at the first window to his right. Shielded below the window sill, she faces the center of the room, her legs spread out before her in a “V”.

She cradles two Colt 45s, crossed against her chest. Her body is in sunlight. Her eyes are in shadow. She is bloodied and trying to keep conscious. Her head rises slowly, sensing Conrad’s eyes on her.

No more than four lines per narrative paragraph. Passim.

Sounds should be UPPER CASE, e.g. SLAMS, FIRES, SHOOTS, etc.

No CONT’D with character names.

P. 4 “the scope sees” to

SCOPE

Three flashing words above the crosshairs:

X-ray Vision Enabled

Hanna comes into the crosshairs.

BACK TO SCENE

INT. RUINED INDUSTRIAL BUILDING #1 DAY

A single, high powered shot FIRES. It RIPS through the brick and Hanna is hit. (etc.)

Avoid ellipsis.

p. 9 ‘You look like you just saw a ghost.” And “Care to do the                honors, Hanna?” = hackneyed dialogue.

p. 11 “That’s my Hanna.” Ditto

p. 12 “Welcome to the team, kiddo.” Ditto

Suggestions: “Hey. Get over it.” And “A chance like this. And at your age.”

“Just like her daddy.”

“We’ve decided to let you in, Hanna.”

Against the background of a 4D, HD interactive combat game, a father-daughter relationship plays out.

Has novelty and some heart, although the violent action seems paradoxical to the tender bonds of family. But maybe that’s where technology takes us. Away from the niceties of everyday life to the callous blasts of a video game. The bonding is more important than the means to it is what I’m taking away.

Mark-Curtis Dunn


Escalation is the name of the game; I just realized that as I was writing this review. Overall I like the script and the characters. The theme I’ll talk about lastly.

I like the opening scene, On the battlefield, team members are taking mental notes on eachothers position and well-being. I felt like I was there anticipating the next move as the team positioned themselves for the next wave; then the little girl walks in asking for milk. That’s when I knew it was a game. as the story moved on I wasn’t sure where it was headed; were they in a house playing tag or playing a game system. As the story continued I began to understand the theme of the story and what you were trying to convey. The action kept me wanting to know what happens next so I kept reading, as I read I was reeled in to the main characters conflict: Do I endanger the only part of her that keeps me going or protect was mine. So needless to say the ending was totally awesome.

as far as the overall theme I was lost at first but as i continued to read, it  all came together except the name; what does Escalation mean? Until I began writing this review.

I have a few thoughts:

The scene where the little girl comes in; before she says anything about the milk, she should bust in blazing at enemy. The moment she comes in and you give the reactions of the other team members; to me that gives the story away. the can have the milk conversation after she takes down some bad guys.

2nd. You showed the first teams members; we should see the other team members so we can see who the bad guys are; you introduced them into the scene one by one it confused me as to who they were fighting or maybe show a good guy symbol or bad guy symbol so we can differentiate the teams.

3rd. Hanna has a line: “Hey Sam, we’re in your Base killing your dudes.” I don’t like that, it sounds too lame. She should say: “Hey Sam, your men are Toast.”

4th. The characters shouldn’t tilt and stay alive, they should die. Each team should get 3 lives, if they tilt they die, the last one standing wins.

These are just a couple kinks I found in the story.

Karla Geter


Dear Joe:

I’m not going to give you formal coverage, as I don’t see that it needs that, per se.  What I will do is offer you some “notes” and you are free to take them or leave them accordingly.
From what I gleaned on your site, you are making this pretty much as a showcase for your ability to create visual effects.  That’s fine, but right now this comes off more like a “reel” than a story.  Granted, twelve pages is not a lot of time to develop a full-blown story arc, so you have to think of this more like a short-short story.  A vignette, if you will.  With that in mind, I think the biggest issue is that we find out this is a very realistic holographic video game too early in the story.  I think this should be revealed at the very end, much like the ending of a Twilight Zone episode.  If you accept that premise, you will have to get rid of anything that gives that away, such as the “Violation” signs that appear over people’s heads and having people resurrect.  This will change your effects, but you might be able to create other ones.  One of the reasons for suggesting this is because once the audience realizes it’s a game, all your dramatic tension goes by the wayside, because they’ll know there’s nothing really at stake.  If you make the audience think it’s real up until the very end, these characters and their actions will have far more weight.
Other than this, the idea is solid and the dialogue is very good.  Hope you can take this through to fruition, and I hope my comments are helpful.
Best,
Bill Walker

“ESCALATION” by Joe Crump
notes by Ian Strope
These are mainly notes and suggestions as opposed to a proper coverage. I think you’ve got the great idea for a fun visual effects action short, but need to bolster the story and character elements to provide the audience with a sense of real world stakes, and to make things more clear as to how the characters in the game are manipulating their environment. It would also be nice to add some depth and arc to the main character, and possibly his team mates by having them progress from being less confident underdogs to more confident players with the help of Hanna keen hacking skills.Slugline could be more concise and description of the building could go into the action which could be tighter. As in he “…takes cover and looks through a flithy window onto a blasted …”

Describe the movements, are they jittering or rapid? “indistinct” is tough to see.

It is a little confusing that Conrad knows Oku and Jimmy. Seems like he is sort of surprised to encounter them at first. This could be a good place to get a little more about the characters and some set up for the fight to provide context and give a sense of what the rules and the goal is for the game. It doesn’t have to be clunky exposition, but perhaps if some kind of flag was shown, and it was made clear that is all 3 players are killed at the same time then that team loses then it would provide some sense for how strategy would be implemented in the game as well.

The magical glowing violation symbol shows the hand a little early that this is all inside a videogame. Hanna’s actions started to hint at that, but could have stayed more mysterious for a little longer. Though since this is a short it’s not too bad to show it early, then get to explaining some of the rules via Conrad talking to Hanna, and addressing that she is manipulating the game. Making it clear that Hanna is the one doing the manipulation would be a good thing. It would also be good to bring up Hanna’s real world concern over losing her father, and the rationale to why this might happen and then relating that to the importance of this particular game. It could be that Sam is a co-worker of Conrad’s and they are both up for a promotion, but their boss wants the one that has the most killer instinct. So far Sam and his team could have been cheating, manipulating the game, leaving Conrad and his team to face the loss of their jobs in real life. You don’t need crazy depth for the antagonist, but there needs to be a reason for the audience to route for Conrad and dislike Sam.

Sam’s description of fighter is confusing and vague. Is he a solider or a boxer?

Does the violation literally mean it is a breaking of the game rules? Or is is more like Quake when someone beats someone really badly? It seems unclear how they violate the rules, without the game being shut down. This is undermined even further by the appearance of the moderator character Stan at the end. If Stan were the boss then he could give a final judgment that might show that Conrad’s team used creative manipulation to defeat Sam’s manipulations. I think leaving the cheating side out will make Conrad’s win more appealing.

Conrad is able to teleport, another violation, and manipulate the physics, and geometry of the game that is hinted at cleverly on the first page when he breaks through the brick wall, but here it seems to bring up more questions, and dilute any sense of stakes for the characters.

Conrad gunned Winston down, but he is alive quickly after. If he re-spawned this should be made clear. It would also be a good time to start to introduce the clones of Winston, and his team mates, and create the ominous sense that Conrad’s team is being overwhelmed by Sam’s team.

What dark room? Kalyn was falling through the map, how did she end up on another side falling? The spacial continuity and causality of the story needs to have some kind of rules or explanation. Think of “Inception”. Of course it’s best to show this.

So Conrad and his team don’t know what happened, yet they were casual in dealing with it, and it seems like Conrad has some control over manipulating the physics of the map. Conrad’s team being too cool for school from the get go further undermines any sense of stakes. They seem to be in a dire situation in the beginning, but they don’t reflect this later, as the game rules seem to get further violated they are keen shots that are nonplussed. Jimmy could be more neurotic, and Oku could be stubborn and unwilling to trust the other members. As the game progresses Hanna could help them all work together and be a stronger team. This could give the whole team some character arc that would work with the narrative to make the story more compelling, and the visuals more emotionally resonant.

Why is Conrad frightened for Hanna? This stuff about his wife, and Hanna being scared he’ll leave her does not have proper context. Also the stakes in the game are not clear. Can they spawn infinitely? What are they trying to achieve? Is there some flag or prize for winning the game?

It needs to be more clear that Hanna is the one using her precocious hacker skills to connect with her father in this game. That she cheats could be more smoothly addressed, as hacking the game in innovative “creative” ways. These ways could impress Stan despite his verdict. If Conrad and his team were overwhelmed, and the underdogs at the beginning, and the system was set up with some stakes that made Conrad sympathetic, and Sam’s team like a bunch of cocky jerks then the actions of the characters would be more compelling. Since it is quickly made clear this is a game that means that nothing is of mortal or dire importance in that world. So the stakes need to be made on a personal real level for Conrad and Hanna. Perhaps if he loses this game he will be demoted, and it will be one more thing that leaves him sad and depressed after his wife left him. The results of the game should affect the quality of Conrad’s life in a way that is meaningful to an audience. You accomplish this then all your visual effects will really shine, and people will get lots of emotional joy out of watching Conrad and Hanna kick ass.


Joe,

First of all, great story. The writing is well done and it flows nicely.

That said, here are some things that I think could be worked on to make it a tighter, more intense story.

First thing I notice, is that by page four, it is revealed that this is a video game. Which, while there is the conflict of the two sides trying to win, the stakes can never be raised, so that even if someone dies they can be re-spawned. Which then begs the question, who cares? I think that the story is about these characters needing to keep each other alive. Perhaps this is the end boss battle or it’s a team that they have never been able to beat before- or something. Actually the story is about Hanna and Conrad. Hanna is growing up and wants to play. Conrad, who’s her father doesn’t want there to play. If he really doesn’t want her there, then why doesn’t he just sign off? I have friends who have kids and they just won’t play the games when the kids are around, so, why does Conrad? It makes him seem like a bad father. The only way to get around this is to make it seem like they are not in a video game; this is a real world. Or the best fix, I think is that Conrad is her brother late teens, early twenties and their parents “died” in the war.

Hanna, is the best character. She is a little girl struggling to be accepted by her older father and allowed to play. Her struggle with Conrad is good. I honestly think, at this point she is the main character. She has the most to prove and to gain by being accepted to play, and her exuberance is what keeps Conrad trying to protect her. So again, if no one can really die, why can’t Hanna play?

Hanna getting shot shouldn’t happen so fast. It needs to be near the end, when the team is almost beat. For that matter, who are we rooting for? Conrad and his team have the most screen time, but there is nothing for us to get behind. The only person we don’t want to see killed is Hanna, and she is shot on page 4.

The Violation bubble is used way too much. Almost everyone is in Violation somehow, but never really discussed what is fair and what is unfair. There need to be a setup near the beginning to tell the audience what is fair and what is unfair and then it is used only once when the chips are down.

The characters for the hero team are good.  But I don’t think you need the same amount for the antagonist’s team. In general there are too many characters for this length of a short film. Too many characters and too many special effects take away from the heart of the story, which is about Hanna and Conrad.

Also, why is the Mom brought in? It’s confusing since she is never really talked about (and she’s seen only in ghost form briefly). I think there only needs to be Conrad, Hanna, Jimmy, Oku, Sam and Stan. Winston and Kayln could be cut and just have Faceless soldiers. That would also show how good Stan is, so that is if takes a team to defeat one guy, then that’s a formidable challenge. Also the faceless soldiers are disheartening, and something monstrous.

I love the image of Jimmy blowing the bubbles. That should be your opening image, bubbles floating across a desolate landscape, revealing the space and the war zone.

I like Sam carrying the Mini-gun out in the middle of the no man’s land and firing on the building.

Like Stan coming down telling the team they are banned. This However should be like a Rocky ending it doesn’t matter they lost the game, Conrad and Hanna have gained a respect for each other and when they come back they will be a stronger team.

Hanna needs to be reckless and see Conrad as a stick in the mud. So that when, Conrad cheats the game for her she can have a newfound respect for her him.

Also, Conrad needs to see Hanna being reckless and unsafe, which put more pressure on him to keep her safe. But he also needs to see by the end that she is also REALLY good at the game.

These are a few of my thoughts after a first reading. Again I like the idea and it think it has a lot of potential to be a really cool, effects heavy, action short. Ultimately everything comes down to the story and right now the story is getting lost in all the effects. Just keep the story simple, two people struggling to get something from each other. Let the effects compliment the story and not be the main focus.

Hope this helps.

Jeffery Potts


COVERAGE: ESCALATION by Joe Crump
By Adam Ultraberg
Technique:

The script has far, far too much descriptive text. It’s visual, but films are a combination of images and sounds. There are huge paragraphs of description with few action lines (although this gets better as the script goes on). Details are buried (Oku’s exact foot position is explored before the fact she’s wounded and trying to stay alive). As a reader, please give me meat.

Aside from that, there are minor inconsistencies (Hanna is introduced as 12 years old, then giving a teenage shrug), and a lack of OBJECT CALLOUTS.

Action paragraphs should be SHORT.
For example:

Hanna steps into the room, aims out a broken window and shoots a BASEBALL SIZED, RED BALL OF FIRE at the other building.

The cannon BUCKS VIOLENTLY in her hands.

An explosion BLOWS OUT a section of the wall.

The current action lines would be hard for an effects designer to read and  imagine.

There’s also no easy visual cues. When we meet Conrad’s team, they should wear a unified color (like the BLU and RED teams of TF2). This gives the audience an instant look at who’s who, important in any action film.

Sentences have odd referents. Before bouncing to a stop (large in the center of the frame),
Hanna dives…
(pg 3).

Once we get into the action sequences, the writing improves tremendously, but t here are still errors (their/they’re, use of apostrophes to imply plurals).

Dialogue
The first line of dialogue is like the opening novel of a book. There’s only one opportunity to get it right. In this light, Conrad’s speech is EXTREMELY mechanical. His partner Oku is bleeding, trying not to pass out. (This near fatal wound doesn’t seem to have an impact as the movie goes along – Oku doesn’t regenerate her health, or die to a foot shot, or anything else that’d go with it).

The dialogue isn’t very gamery, in all honesty. Hanna’s “Im in ur base, killing ur d00ds” is fine, but it’s neither highly decorated faux tragic Gears of War dialogue, or Hot Pockets and D20s gamer dialogue. It’s just there.

I think Conrad is too stilted, even with his daughter. “You make me laugh, just like she did” is something to be shown, not told.

Sentences like Oku’s YOU LOOK LIKE YOU SAW A GHOST are hilariously on-the-nose.

Everything otherwise is fine, but the reference of “a straight game” instead of “a vanilla match” or “vanilla game” is odd. I’ve never heard “a straight game” in 12 years of online gaming.

Story: Interesting enough, a father and daughter reconnect through an online game. The back and forth of both teams are alright, but Jimmy and Oku serve the same purpose – they’re the chorus to Conrad and Hanna’s relationship. Having Conrad’s team be a man down would make the match more interesting – as it stands, team Conrad has 4 people, and his opposition has 3.

Theme:
The climax of the game (where everyone is banned) is a logical outcome, but not thrilling. There’s little about Hanna, or even the scenario, that suggests an Angel-Witch demonic asskicker. The entire game is military blackops, not Arcanum. What are the stakes of the game? It can’t be a tournament (unless Hanna’s filling in).

The outfits and costumes don’t really reveal much about the characters. There’s some of that in choice of weaponry (Jimmy the Cowboy and his revolver), but why is Hanna the only one who’s a civilian? How can other players react to that?

Are other characters alright with killing a 12 year old girl? Why? Do all children (and there are a lot of 12 year olds on XBL) manifest as themselves?

Why did Mrs. Conrad die, and how does Conrad’s escape into military shooters reveal that? Was she the victim of terrorism? Did she die as a soldier overseas?

Character:

Hanna is a little kid. Conrad is her controlling dad, Sam and Kalyn play to win, and Winston is comedic relief. WHY? Why do they play this game?

Viability:
The short already has funding, which is good. However, there are still feasibility issues. The Matrix Reloaded featured a 100 on 1 fight sequence between Neo and the Agents Smith. Despite a huge budget, the movie came to theatres with bits under-rendered. Any shot with 40 soldiers will take months of processing to look right; any set with 40 identical extras will require a ton of trips to the army/navy store. The same with realistic explosions. Everything else can be done with good production design, but “armies of clones” seldom look good without major, major budgets.

OVERALL, “Escalation” is an enjoyable short that would look great on the screen, assuming it comes to fruition. A better array of character moments (like the spawn-killing sequences) will ensure that this is a winner, instead of a retread of “Gamer” and “Videogame High School” (which both had amazing FPS action sequences).


Kingsley Pascal

The opening scene of “Escalation” is great.  That, and the entire theme of some type of safe “virtual reality” game, that may or may not  lead to actual deaths is very intriguing and high extremely high concept. The action flows smoothly throughout, and the imagery reads in the mind like a video game. I believe that I am in some world I’m not familiar with, and am excited to find out where exactly that is. The ‘futuristic” looking guns and “laser canons”  add tremendously to that,  however it is the  red “violation” symbols that make the rest of the story easy  and exciting to read, as you now know that this is some place out of the norm.

The story is simple, but it works, particularly because it’s a short. A basic take off from this would be a  battle  that likely takes place in a time later than 2012, and that it may have been in preparation for something bigger, badder, and possibly real. I also like the hints towards the mother daughter relationship, and why Conrad is reluctant to  be pleased with her as a teammate in the beginning.

Although the story works fine, the characters might benefit from some tightening a hair. Not so much in the dialogue but in the action lines. It wasn’t clear to me that Hanna was Conrad’s daughter at first, and because of that I was able to fathom her “appealing” as flirting, until of course the next line which indicated they were father and daughter. I also feel like Jimmy could have benefited from maybe one ore two more lines. Other than that the rest of the dialogue worked, particular at and near the end. It brings us back to some type of reality, yet at the same time teases there is much more to see.


D.F.W. Buckingham’s Notes

For a script as action-packed as ESCALATION, the writing is dry and dense.  Many moments seemed overwritten, yet underwritten at the same time.  I couldn’t grasp a tone.  While the action can be clearly visualized, the description’s overly clinical .  The gunplay and explosions weren’t exciting because they weren’t written with any excitement. There are a few moments that could be funny but they’re not written in a way that directs one to laugh.  The family drama between Conrad and Hanna seems contrived because there’s not a lot of emotion on the page.  I could see everything, but I couldn’t feel it.

I can see in my mind what the characters look like, but they behave so similarly I found most of them indistinguishable from each other on the page.  They’re just killing each other over and over again.  Some are better at it than others, and everyone has a different weapon, but that’s not really enough.  Think more specifically what characters’ actions say about themselves.  Considering that this is a short, I’d just think about reducing the amount of characters.  Even if action is the emphasis of this story, it wouldn’t hurt to have interesting characters involved in it.  That’s easier to do if there’s less of them.  If you’re deadset on having a bunch of characters, maybe come up with some sharper ways to introduce them, especially the central ones.  Hanna appears with the “We’re out of milk” line, she’s dressed in school clothes, and she’s not sweating or panting like the rest.  That’s pretty good, and we know things about her in a flash.  With the exception of Stan, no other characters (including the protagonist Conrad) really get that treatment.

While I eventually figured out the story was about Conrad learning to trust his daughter and allowing her to play with the big boys, this idea isn’t really introduced until page 5, nearly halfway through the screenplay.  Up until then we’re just following the shootout, which is pretty low stakes because everyone keeps returning to life.  You should set up the dramatic situation closer to page 2 when Hanna is introduced, then your audience will know what they’re supposed be following for the remainder.  For a short, I think the dead mom (Jeannie) complicates the story in the wrong ways, especially when Conrad hallucinates and sees her face on Hanna.  We haven’t seen Jeannie, so how do we know Hanna has her face?  Also, how is Conrad’s video game character hallucinating?  Furthermore, did Jeannie die in this world?  I found myself wondering how Oku relates to all this.  She’s got a lengthy bit of description at the beginning, but she’s not playing much more than an eye candy role.  Is she Conrad’s girlfriend?  If Oku and Jeannie were removed, you could have a clearer (and in my opinion, stronger) story with the same meaning:  Hanna’s a tough girl who wants to play with the big boys, but Conrad doesn’t want his little angel to feel the heat of battle.  Hanna makes him understand she’s ready, and Conrad accepts her into the group at the climax.

Another big problem is that the world isn’t set up very well.  I understand that this is supposed to be a video game or something, but I think it hurts the story that everyone has a Gameshark and literally anything can happen.  Good stories should have unexpected turns, but you want to set up some rules so the audience can know what to unexpect.  Right now some parts are just completely bewildering.  For instance, who is Stan and where does he come from?  He should be set up or alluded to.  Why can Sam duplicate himself?  What are these black holes that Conrad creates?  How does Hanna turn into a black angel at the end (also, why is she dressed in school clothes and everyone else is in combat gear)?  Even in a video game world, these things don’t make sense.  It might help if we have a better idea of what video game this is.  I was thinking Modern Warfare, but when Jimmy pulls out his bubble wand I got totally lost.  Also, the characters have facial expressions and buildings can literally blow up?  Not in any game I’ve played!  And what do the violations mean?  Nobody seems to care about them until Stan pop up and bans them at the end.  In any case, clarify the story environment to keep your audience from scratching their heads every 30 seconds.


Project: Escalation

Written by: Joe Crump

Coverage by: Sam Klein

Overall, the story itself doesn’t really need all that much work. A fair amount of the dialogue reads fairly corny, with lines such as Sam saying “Damn that kid, this was supposed to be a straight game.” Since this is not a dialogue-rich story, you could even show this thought he is having with his body language, such as Sam rolling his eyes, looking up and sighing, etc. If this doesn’t matter or effect the story, or is on purpose, then there isn’t a ton of dialogue revision. However, if you don’t want us to be taken out of the moment by thinking that the dialogue comes off as something a person wouldn’t ever actually say, go through each line and say them outline to see how you find it.

I would wait a little longer to inform us that Oku and Conrad are siblings. Nobody would ever actually say “You ready little sister?” as Conrad did on page 1. Instead, make it a little more obvious that Hanna is Conrad’s daughter a bit earlier on in the script, and reveal Oku as Hanna’s Aunt when they have their brief conversation about Hanna joining the team. It wasn’t fully confirmed for me that Hanna is Conrad’s daughter until in the dialogue I read “it explodes and the father and daughter are blown away”. Which means at this point the audience could still be unsure, since they won’t get to read this informational bit. Though Conrad says “your mother would kill me” on page 4, he could still be anyone to her; a big brother, uncle, cousin, even friend.

The character Winston doesn’t seem necessary to have. He has no lines and isn’t all that memorable in the action. That being said, Jimmy could go as well since it’d need to be an even game. Oku could take the majority of Jimmy’s dialogue, and eliminate what wouldn’t work for her or isn’t necessary. We never really know who Jimmy is to them besides a teammate anyway. This would also help with shortening the script for a few pages. A lot of the action began to feel repetitive. I would take out several blocks of action scenes. If the entire project is loaded with action after action after action, it becomes a lot less enjoyable as we are conditioned to it. There is only so much variety you can do with the action given that it’s just gunplay from building to building. However, if the script is shortened, the action will become a treat to the audience, interwoven with a story. Look for scenes in which the action feels similar to something that has already happened, and eliminate it.

Though it is a short film, Conrad’s change of heart still happened a bit too quickly. He went from day to night with his opinion of Hanna joining the team. It is a great touch that he sees her mother in her and that finalizes him allowing her to join and appreciating her talents, but that one thing isn’t enough. I would add a proud smile from Conrad somewhere a page or two earlier in the script as he watches Hanna fight, to show that he is warming up to the idea. But Hanna absolutely cannot know about this warm smile.

The rules of the game they are playing are not very clear as well. They mention ‘straight game’, but we don’t know what that means. It would be nice to either throw in a line or a shot of some score indicator of some sort that clues us in on what is happening.

The conclusion is a nice, heart-warming moment for the father and daughter, but two things to think about. Firstly, she doesn’t show character growth as far as personality. Obviously she wouldn’t mature in that quick time, but she goes back to the ‘milk’ line and then is tickled, yet is now a part of the team. If the message is that she can still be herself and also be on the team that’s fine, but it’s a little off putting. Also, though she shows tremendous ability, she is rewarded for breaking the rules of the game and getting the team banned for two weeks. You’d think she would want to prove that she can win a ‘straight game’ with her fantastic abilities.

Might wanna change the girls name from Hanna, may remind people of the feature film “Hanna”. Though the story isn’t so similar, it’s about a young girl named Hanna with extraordinary fighting ability who becomes “ready”.

The character Oku was very believable in every way. Stan was also a nice touch in the end, being a pretty funny character. Sam’s character is annoying and unlikeable at the very end when Stan emerges. To show Stan’s power while shutting up the character that nobody is going to like (Sam), I would have Stan cut off Sam off with a simple raising of his hand as Sam complains about cheating for a second time.

Really there are just a lot of minor tweaks to make throughout Escalation that will make a huge different, the most important being eliminating unnecessary action, tweaking the dialogue, and establishing what exactly you want us to take away from this story besides it being a nice father-daughter bonding piece.


Michael Kane

Escalation Script Coverage

This is a very imaginative script that is both a lot of fun and has some substance to it. There’s a lot of potential with this, especially if the special effects can be done right. But since FX isn’t what we’re talking about here let’s get to the writing…

I like Conrad. We immediately identify him as the hero. I see Gerard Butler from Gamer right off the bat; equally as good with Hanna and Jimmy. Be wary of the cowboy cliché with Jimmy (I think you did just fine but just want to put that out there).

It wasn’t clear to me that Hanna and Conrad were father-daughter. My first thought was brother-sister (Conrad has a line on pg 1 where he says “ready little sister” and then Hanna appears). Make it clear Conrad is an older man in his description. Also, when Hanna complains they’re out of milk we need a “dad” out of her or a “sweetheart” out of Conrad. That’ll clarify their dynamic.

We could also get a little more of their family history. Was Conrad around when she was growing up? I got the sense he wasn’t and showed up on the scene when her mother died from Hanna’s line on pg 7 “I won’t get to know you.”

Also on page 7 is Conrad’s line “You’re reckless…” This confused me on the world. Is this a video game or is it some hard core futuristic cyber-clan world where it’s acceptable to bring up a dead mother’s play style in an argument?

Oku is introduced very strikingly, bleeding and tough (you even describe her as “striking”) but after that she’s just kind of there. There’s a hint at a connection between her and Jimmy when she touches his hand when Hanna walks outside. You could build their relationship.

The opponents were solid yet felt thinner.

Sam was introduced abruptly. Bring us to his side of the battle either before Hanna shoots her rocket or when the rocket is shot. He also seems empty. Is he a villain? If that’s the intent he needs more evil. I get the sense he’s just another gamer. If that’s the intent, you’re in the right place.

Winston is great as some comic relief. Love the camping bit with him and Kalyn.

Develop rivalries between secondary characters. For example: Kalyn and Jimmy are their respective team snipers. You could build a rivalry between them that they are trying to one-up each other all the time either in kills or (in this case) intensity of violations. This would provide more story to the escalating combat.

Violations are a point of confusion for me. This is an imaginative world but it’s not very clear. Violations are dished out to everyone but strangely go unpunished till the end. And even then it’s only Conrad’s team that gets banned when, in fact, both sides committed violations. Why doesn’t Sam’s team get banned for a time? (A humorous twist with Winston’s character could be he’s the one guy who doesn’t commit a violation yet is still punished by Stan in the end). The violations felt unimportant because it didn’t matter if players committed them or not. Violations are an opportunity to define some of the rules of the world. If we understand some basic rules then crazy things like teleporting and jumping through walls are more shocking. Don’t assume your whole audiences are gamers who know the ins-and-outs of hacking and online play.

Violations occurred awfully quickly. We need further set up of regular combat to show that these are out of the ordinary. Easy fix: tweak the intro so the battle is in full swing already (I was under the impression the shooting hadn’t started yet).

Stan is a cool concept, though he’s oddly used. I, personally, am not a fan of introducing the omnipotent god-like character at the end of the story; feels kind of cheap. To solve that you could do a few things: 1) reference him throughout the script in dialogue, possibly enhancing our understanding that violations are bad because Stan will punish them. 2) Show him just briefly at the beginning watching over the arena and then don’t go back to him till the end. Or 3) There’s a bit of concept art that gave me an interesting idea. It’s the ones with a girl talking to a man in a chair in a dark room. That could be Stan and we are unclear as to who or what he is till he descends at the end (which is great imagery btw).

Also with Stan, we are unclear as to what he actually is. Is he a person who manifests in this game world in such a state? Is he an AI who’s in control of this world? Is he a server? We don’t need a full explanation (it’s better if we only get a tease) but something more than what we have now.

Below I’ve noted some specific places in the script that would make it a more fluid read:

Your writing is incredibly specific (see description of Oku on pg 1). Trim up the description removing extraneous details such as which specific window she’s at and what’s in sunlight and what’s not (unless it’s critical to the story). It’s easy to over describe things which unfortunately confuses the reader more often than not.

Another example is the first sentence of the very next paragraph: “Conrad looks at her and then his heads turns as he shifts his gaze to a thin man with perfectly trimmed, black lambchop sideburns.” A lot of extraneous details can be erased. Trim it down to: “Conrad shifts his gaze to a thin man with perfectly trimmed, black, lambchops sideburns.” Do things like that in enough places and you’ll cut a lot of fat from your script. You’re trying to say as much as possible as efficiently as possible.

On page 1 and page 3 “the plan” is mentioned. It’s unclear what that is and why violations break that. If the plan is to keep it a “straight” came, use that language when talking about the plan for consistency.

Page 3 you give camera direction: “Before bouncing to a stop (LARGE IN THE CENTER OF THE FRAME), Hanna dives…”. Do not direct from the script. Let the images come to the reader naturally. Even if you plan to direct yourself, it pulls others reading your script out of the story.

On page 4, go ahead and say Hanna is dead. This will be a major shock to the audience who figured her a major character. Then embellish her suddenly appearing alive again, making an even bigger shock. Then when re-spawn is shown it all clicks in the audience’s mind.

On page 4, does the “flash of fluttering particles” happen every time a character disappears?

Page 4, does Conrad kill Winston when he “guns him down”? Is unclear.

And lastly on page 4, why do Sam and Conrad run from one another? Can they fist fight at all?

On page 5 no need to write “Hanna is appealing to Conrad.” We get that from the dialogue.

Page 6: Do dead bodies ever disappear?

Page 8: Love the bubbles. Could embellish irony even further (line: “time to bring out the big guns” [blows bubbles]).

Page 9: When Hanna turns into Jeannie. I’m not sold on the idea. Perhaps Jeannie appears behind Hanna, giving her approval to Conrad. Something felt odd about it. Could it be something that Stan did?

Page 9: Take Sam’s line “Your team wants to hack…” and move it before Kalyn and Winston duplicate themselves twenty times.

Page 11: When Stan descends we need a bell to toll (or something similar) that makes clear that the game has ended. Possibly a score counter appears in the sky above him.

Page 11: “Sam directs comments to Stan” is superfluous because Sam clearly addresses Sam in dialogue.

Page 12: What do you mean by “Stan survey’s his work”? This could be expounded upon in developments of Stan. Or you could simply say “Stan lingers. Then he, too, disappears.”

This is a really fun and exciting script and could make for one heck of a film. Thank you for taking the time to consider my notes, wish you the best.

God bless,

-Michael Kane


Escalation by Joe Crump

Page Length:  12

Genre:  Action

Type of Locations:  Two Interior, three exterior

Read By: Kelli Michelle Andrews

Script Registration Number:  1587143

Content Summary:  Two teams fight it out for supremacy over a cyber-assassins battlefield.  The story starts out strong but minor flaws can distract the audience and inevitably lose them.  Escalation has many well fleshed out parts that if fixed would garner an outstanding action-packed story.

Recommendation:  Consider

 

Excellent

Good

Fair

Poor

Premise

X

Story Line

X

Structure

X

Characterization

X

Dialogue

X

Synopsis:  The team in building #1, are in a bind.  They are hiding in a partially destroyed room of the structure.  Oku, suffers from severe wounds, Jimmy, light abrasions and Conrad, a moderately wounded member of the team wait out to see what the opposing team’s next move will be in building #2, across the courtyard that is sandwiched between both buildings.  Low and behold, Hanna, Conrad’s tween-age daughter, pops onto the scene giving the team in building #1, a near heart attack.  Hanna decries that there is no milk, and so joins in on the fury.  She blasts at the indiscriminate figures weaving every which way within building #2.  This causes a game rule violation by Hanna.

Sam’s team, in building #2, responds with a volley of ammunition.  This places Sam in violation of the game rules.  Kalyn, a building #2 teammate, snipers Hanna out.  Conrad, in turn, disappears from building #1 and re-appears in building #2, taking out both Kalyn and Winston, but misses the opportunity to nix Sam.  Sam takes this opportunity to make his escape.

Meanwhile, Hanna re-spawns back to life in a new body beside her deceased one.  Winston, re-spawns as well and attempts to make a raid on Conrad’s team in building #1.  Jimmy decisively out guns the other Winston.  Hanna too, vanishes after the attack, re-appearing in building #2 with two handguns in hand, she shoots Kalyn and Winston as they both re-spawn back to life, over and over again, their previous re-spawned bodies pile up, upon the newer re-incarnations.  Conrad confronts Hanna, wanting her to leave the game, while Hanna argues back that her Mother would’ve allowed her to stay and fight.  As father and daughter argue, Sam takes his opportunity to bomb Hanna and Conrad, killing both combatants.  Winston and Kalyn are finally able to be fully re-spawned and flee the immediate room’s premise.

Conrad and Hanna re-spawn in the room occupied by Oku and Jimmy within building #1, overlooking the courtyard just in time to see Sam, who again, is in violation of the game’s rules.  He is enwrapped in a glowing blue aura, carrying a suspicious golden glowing mini-gun as he approaches his opposing team’s building.   Conrad continues to bemoan Hanna, telling the girl that she is too much like her mother.

For a long moment, Sam stands outside of building #1, making Jimmy antsy and impatient, the latter whips out a bottle of innocuous party bubbles and blows a few bubbles in Sam’s direction.  The remaining team members in building #1 fire at Sam.  Kalyn and Winston take cover behind Sam, who is indifferent to the barrage of shrapnel.  After Conrad’s team has ceased fire, Sam, Kalyn, and Winston, multiply before Conrad’s team’s eyes and return with more fire power, killing Jimmy and Conrad.  But while building #2’s team fires-at-will, Jimmy’s  bubbles float in unsuspiciously and blast the opposing team away.

Jimmy re-spawns back to life, resuming his old post, then Conrad, and finally Jeannie, Hanna’s mother, is re-spawned back to life as well.  Kalyn and Winston re-spawn back to life and multiply themselves even further so that there are ten clone Kalyns’ and ten clone Winstons’, Sam summons twenty clones of himself to do his bidding.  There is a quiet stand-off.  Sam breaks the silence, claiming that Conrad has hacked the game and therefore is cheating.

As a last resort Hanna walks out into the courtyard to the laughter of forty clones and transforms herself into something akin to a dark-avenging angel and obliterates the army, defeating Sam, Kalyn, and Winston, as well as destroying building #2.  Once complete Hanna reverts back to her normal self, in time to meet Stan, who floats down from the digital heavens of the game engulfed in a golden aura, Sam protests from the nothingness where building #2 once stood, stating the other team had cheated.  Stan confirms that Sam is correct, banning Conrad and company from playing another game, for awhile.  Hanna joyfully joins Conrad’s team as its newest member.  Stan dismisses all of the players and even he too leaves the digital space that the game has occupied.

Comments:  Escalation starts with a gripping beginning that draws the viewer right in.  However, there were  some minor oddities that could easily be elaborated upon without sacrificing the quality of the story.  Such as, Oku being barely conscious but somehow able to wield not one, but two hand guns, in the first scene.  In the latter parts of the script she is conscious but presumably weak and even walking towards the end.  Would it be easier to have her die from her wounds at some point and then re-spawned as the other characters have done.  At least then her mobility at the end would be considered plausible.

What are the game rules, when violated?  A suggestion would be to have a nonchalant voice over announcing, for example, that code 0110101, has been violated, for a player having too many weapons on the field at one given time, and so on and so forth, thus explaining why all the violations are being made throughout the script.

There needs to be a consistency of location when a player is re-spawned, since some keep coming back to life in the same location but others do not, i.e. Hanna shooting Kalyn and Winston, over and over again, but then later on in the script both characters are re-spawned in other locations.

Outlandish weapons, such as Jimmy’s party bubbles were truly original and would keep any audience guessing as to what would happen next.

Conclusion:  Escalation is truly a well fleshed out story that just needs some minor tweaking to reach its full potential.


Russ Lea

TITLE – Escalation

DATE – 06/28/12                        

WRITER – Joe Crump

LOGLINE – Futuristic live action war gamers go at it to the death.

MPAA Rating – PG for violent content.

Schedule – Not given                         Budget – Not given

Classification – Character-Driven

Genre – Science fiction.

Locations – Industrial park.

Time Span – One night.                        Time Period – Future.

Similar Films – (Not given)

Length – 12 pages                 35 scenes             1 location            9 characters                        1 day

Consideration – Pass

Contact – 2113 E. 62nd St. # 202 Indianapolis, IN 46220

(317)598-1220            joecrump@joecrump.com                        JoeCrumpFilm.com

SYNOPSIS – Conrad plays futuristic live-action war games with Oku and Jimmy. His twelve-year-old daughter, Hanna, wants to play with them, but Conrad has reservations. Hanna joins in against Conrad’s wishes and holds her own until she is shot. Hanna re-spawns. Conrad takes vengeance on the enemy and reprimands Hanna. Hanna continues to fight the enemy. Conrad and Hanna are killed together and re-spawn. Each team tops the other with illegal maneuvers. Conrad sees the ghost of his late wife in Hanna’s presence. He accepts her request. She defeats the enemy. The game master suspends their team. Conrad welcomes Hanna to the team. All are overjoyed.

PREMISE – None given.

(The daughter of a futuristic war gamer and widower pressures him to allow her to join in the dangerous game.) Every scene revolves almost exclusively around the premise. There is one plot with one hero with a goal or dilemma.

OVERALL –Mediocre.

ACTION – Effective and escalating, but laden with inconsistent, narrative, overwritten, redundant, and repetitive points, ‘ly’ adverbs and other adverbs, gerunds, passive voice, past tense, compound sentences, directions, non-visuals, negative actions.

CHARACTER – Convincing. Hanna is a good, believable, and consistent hero with an emotional goal that she strives for in the beginning and achieves in the end. She makes choices to reach her goal and drives the plot by taking direct action against conflicts. Her emotional need is revealed when she dies. She holds the greatest dramatic impact. Her relationship with her father improves in the end. An audience would want to see her succeed. She is three-dimensional by being young, female, ambitious, and vulnerable. Conrad, Hanna’s father, is a believable antagonist as he is hesitant to allow her to play in a dangerous war game, because she is the only family that he has left. The relationship ultimately changes the character for better. Conrad is 3-dimensional by being physically tough, mentally strong as the team leader, and socially responsible for wanting to protect his daughter. Each supporting characters’ actions always affect the hero.

COMMERCIAL VIABILITY – None. Short film.

CONFLICT – Satisfactory. Hanna and Conrad experience internal and external conflict directly throughout. The conflict is significant, established, heightened, and resolved.  The script features multiple levels and types of escalating conflicts. The reader experiences pleasure when the conflicts are overcome. Everything is addressed in the climax.

DESCRIPTION – Numerous scenes are extraneous, incomplete, lengthy, narrative, repetitive, and vague with a heavy use of ‘ly’ and other adverbs, gerunds, metaphors, and directions.

DIALOGUE – Competent, but bland. The dialogue enhances the plot and plays off the visuals. Key characters sound realistic, consistent, and unique. The subtext is more confusing than creative. The dialogue flows, with each interaction leading into the other. The action and dialogue balance and compliment each other.

FORMATTING – Inadequate due to a few inaccurate sluglines and spacing’s and a few missing sluglines.

GRAMMAR – Imperfect. One typo. One punctuation error.

LOGIC – Acceptable. The story makes logical sense but is not predictable. The plot is solid throughout. All points are clear. All scenes are believable. There is solid continuity throughout. All character choices and plot are supported by development. All questions are addressed and strange phenomenon is explained. All moments, conclusions, and actions are supported within the world.

ORIGINALITY – Feasible. The story is pleasantly creative with a unique idea.

PACING – Average. All events offer timely anticipation, suspense, tension and release. Every role appears at the right time, place, frequency and duration. The most important events for the characters appear on screen. Each scene either advances the story or a character’s arc. Scenes are well balanced between action and dialogue. All scenes are the appropriate length for their purpose. An appropriate amount of time is spent on each conflict/storyline. Plot advancements/changes are shown through action/description.

PLOT – Conceivable. Moderate concept.

PRESENTATION – Incorrect title page format.

PRODUCTION – Possible. Special and visual effects will be costly.

STORY – Competent. Interesting throughout.

STRUCTURE – Conventional. Hanna’s pre-existing life isn’t revealed. The inciting incident occurs in the first act. Hanna decides on her goal to be on her father’s war game team and acts upon it by getting into the game. She decides to continue through the fight after she is killed. The stakes of her goal are raised as Sam retaliates for her not playing fair. She is killed at the midpoint. In the end, she basks in her success.  Each scene occurs at its proper time and place. No scenes are missing. Each sequence has its own interesting beginning, middle, and end. Her subplot is her relationship with her father, which reflects the main plot and molds his arc. The subplot pays off for both in the end.

SUBPLOT – Common. Directly reflects the premise.

THEME – Simple. Prove yourself.

TITLE – Satisfactory. Short and fitting.

WRITING ABILITY – Amateurish and lengthy. Characters, settings, and circumstances are distinct and memorable. There is a clear and consistent tone throughout.


Turner Jacobs

          Escalation is a strong, intensely-visual story that inhabits an intriguing world.  The setting is an imaginative look at the potential of virtual reality, and although the rules of this alternate reality are never clearly-defined the audience is given enough information to understand how it operates.  The characters have distinctive personalities and are easily distinguishable from one another by their appearance; however the character of Jeannie is left disappointingly vague.  The story works very well as it currently stands, and only minor changes would be necessary to make the setting and plot more coherent.

From the very beginning, it is clear that Escalation takes place in a world very different from our own.  Anyone even vaguely familiar with video games can easily recognize that the soldiers are in a virtual world with a unique set of rules.  These rules are explained to the audience over the course of the story, but the fact that they are not explained in-depth might frustrate some viewers.  The audience is never given a glimpse of the real world, which raises the question of who the virtual soldiers are and how they get their “powers.”  Hanna’s massive show of force at the end is visually impressive, and the audience is left to assume that she is a talented hacker.  Showing the players outside of the virtual world would shatter the sense of immersion however, so any additional explanation would have to be done through dialogue.

Assuming that the characters are hacking the game, Jimmy’s question of “how long are they going to let us go on like this?” (pg. 8) becomes all the more relevant.  Why doesn’t Stan stop the game once Hanna enters?  Her presence on the team is already unfair in that Team Conrad has 4 players to Sam’s 3.  While the audience is given the visual treat of watching the two teams duke it out, it makes little sense that an omnipotent administrator like Stan would allow the game to continue with so many violations.   The violation symbols themselves are problematic in that they never truly impact the story.  They provide a nice, tangible visual reminder that the characters are playing a game, but there are no consequences such as forced re-spawns or reductions in the teams’ “scores.”  Addressing this issue may make the story easier to follow and the setting much more vivid and realistic.

The characters in Escalation are very strong for such a short script, and the audience is able to connect with them almost immediately.  With very little dialogue, the characters are defined effectively through their mannerisms, appearance, and actions.  Conrad’s team is very well-defined in contrast to Sam’s team, which comes off more as a group of faceless antagonists.  Sam has a bit of a temper, but his other teammates are virtually indistinguishable from one another except for their genders.  This is perhaps due to their lack of dialogue, which seems unrealistic when compared to Conrad’s teammates.  One would expect a similar amount of chatter or banter, or at least a few taunts or challenges.  It is important to give the “bad guys” a similar amount of personality, especially since these antagonists are not explicitly bad.

Jeannie is an important character whose mysterious circumstances are never explored or discussed.  Conrad and his team know what happened to her, but the audience is only vaguely informed of her death.  There is an awkward exchange between Conrad and Hanna that appears intended to shed light on this situation, but the dialogue is unnaturally minimalistic to the point of being cryptic.  Did Jeannie die in a game-related accident?  Is that why Conrad is reluctant to let his daughter join the game?  By defining this more clearly, the stakes for Team Conrad would be raised dramatically.  Otherwise, Jeannie’s death is ineffective in introducing tension or conflict into the story.

Stan’s character is also very mysterious, especially given his portrayal as a messianic figure.  He seems very detached when he appears at the end, and the audience is left to wonder what his intentions are.  Is he interested in seeing what Hanna is capable of?  An action as slight as giving her a small nod or wink would make this clearer to the audience, who is currently left with no clues as to his intentions.  Perhaps Stan just likes to watch a good bloodbath every once in a while.  Instead of portraying Stan as a disimpassioned administrator, giving him some degree of personality other than a comically-contrasting appearance would go a long way in giving the ending a stronger amount of depth.

With these suggestions in mind, Escalation needs little work other than a few adjustments in dialogue to make the plot and setting more complete.  The story is an exciting visual experience that packs a lot of interesting material into just a few pages.  With strong characters and a plot that is easy to follow, Escalation should be easy for audiences to connect with.  This is very strong work overall, and this evaluator is certainly looking forward to seeing the film upon its ultimate completion.


Jevan Vu

I read your script and i thought it was pretty good. A script can be defined a good script if it keeps the reader reading after a said number of pages. For short format script that tends to be two to five pages. Your script keeps the reader engaged all the way to the end. I wanted to keep reading to see what happened next. I may be a little biased because i do love action and special effects so that is what really engaged me.

I did enjoy the story as well however i felt as though i was dropped into it and there didnt feel like there was really a beginning. This short felt more like something i would see on YouTube then anything else. If you wanted it to be more for festivals i would recommend having a beginning and more background of what is going on. It is kind of confusing in the beginning that they are in a video game and the whole contex of the story. If that is what you were going for then mission accomplished.

Okay now on to the breakdown of your script. Throughout the script there were a few spelling and grammer errors that i would fix just proof read the script a little more and you will find what i am talking about. The comments about “like a wizard” are not usually in a script. That is usually conveyed to the actors in your notes on the script so it is easier for the direcor to tell the actors what to do and how to do it. On that note don’t put how characters are feeling in the script because that would take away from the actors view of the character. You dont want to tell the actors what to do you want them to become the charters and make them their own.

When you tell them how they should be feeling and what they should be thinking at certain moments that is taking away from what they think the character would be thinking and feeling. A script is a blank slate from all that. It is just actions and dialogue. Let the Director and his actors figure all the rest out. The … thing really doesn’t work. I know what you were trying to do in the script but that is not really needed. When you do that you want a pause and a beat to be there. However again that really isn’t the script writers job to do that. Leave that to the Script Supervisor and the editor to figure out once the film is finished. When i was reading that i came out of the story because i didn’t want a pause in the story when i was reading it i just wanted to continue. And when i read a … i pause and reflect but in a script you want a flow that is constant not allowing the reader to get distracted or worse uninterested.

The setting of the film could be more descriptive. You just say industrial building and courtyard but there are thousands of things like that. I would have like to be able to place the characters in my head exactly where they were so i could see the full vision of what you are writing. When you don’t describe your scene that leaves interpretation up to the reader and then you may get a bunch of different views of what the scene looks like. That is a good thing sometimes but if you want something specific that can be a very bad thing. I would just make it more clear and with more description of where and what the place they are at looks like.

The characters are good i enjoyed them. They had good chemistry and were very dynamic together. Again i would have liked to see more but that is probably because i like more longer format scripts that show more depth. And i believe that you could make this a 20-30 page script and it be perfect. The relationship between the father and daughter was good but i think that Conrad would be a little more protective of Hanna. And more against her being in the game. This is just me thinking but it might be even funny is he kicks her out of the game and then she finds away to get back in. I dont know that is just my brain thinking about stuff.

Then the Conrads team dynamic is very good. I liked that they respected Conrads leadership and fatherhood as well. I wanted to see more of the Jimmy Oku relationship though. You showed them holding hands i just wish i had more of that element in the script. A good bit of romance always get me. I know that this is an action script but you can appeal to a wider audience if you added that element a little bit more into the script. On to other things that i feel that you might want to rethink. I wouldnt put yourself in a whole for the editing. in your post you have an editor finishing the project. That is really not a long time at all. I know a lot of good editors and they would much rather have a lot of time then a short amount of time. Always give yourself double what you think you will need just in case. It always helps on the backend when you want to change something or you messed something up. Again this is just my opinion and advise you do not have to take it. I am not sure if my post is a full page but i think i have said enough about it. If you want anymore feedback you have my email and i would love to read more or even help you create and/or extend this film if you are interested.


Notes on “Escalation”

 The story is a blistering, fast-paced, futuristic, stylized, action thriller.  What I enjoyed about it is the unique weapons, heavy production design and kinetic energy.  The characters were fine for a piece of this length, but if it were longer I would want to see some other facets to them.

Unfortunately the story blurs by with one scene melting into the other with no sense of story movement or scene breaks.  It is one long shootout, albeit fantastical.  The core of the problem here is conflict… TRUE conflict.  And there isn’t any.  “What??” you say.  “How could that be??”  “Why there are guns everywhere, and walls exploding, and blood.. isn’t that CONFLICT?”  Well, no, it isn’t.  Conflict happens when our protagonist’s goal is impeded, especially when he/she has to make tough choices.  Yes, our character wants to win the virtual video game, but that isn’t enough reason to watch this.  There aren’t any real choices here.  And that is because there aren’t any real consequences.  If the character gets shot, he/she simply respawns.  They can, evidently, do that for infinity.  Even if they lose, the actual “people” playing the game are not hurt in reality.   In the end, Conrad’s opponents simply walk into the virtual screen and say that their opponents are playing unfairly.  Okay.  So what?  The only glimpse of  conflict we might see is that Conrad doesn’t want his daughter playing, but she does anyways.  But that isn’t REAL conflict anyways.  He says “no”, she says “yes”.  No conflict. Also, your characters can just get bigger and bigger weapons evidently.  Whoever is able to bring the biggest gun to the game wins.  It doesn’t seem as though they fought hard to obtain those weapons.  If anyone can just cheat and win, what’s the point?

Check this out: at the end of Casablanca, Rick must choose between taking Ilsa away (the woman he has always loved) to America, where he has longed to go for years, and giving his pass to Lazlo, saving his life and possibly helping the resistance movement.  His choice is between doing the thing that is easy and pleasurable, and doing what is morally right.  There is conflict.

Here’s an example of conflict in an action movie:   Mad Max.  Max is good at what he does, running foul, evil, road-gangs over and restoring peace to the land.  His conflict: he likes it too much, and he’s afraid that he’ll become just like the enemy he is fighting.  He decides to quit so he can lead a gentler life with his wife and child.  In this life he is completely different (great complexity of character… making him very interesting).  He is quiet, kind, tender and very loving.  The exact opposite of the ruthless, cold, killer that he is on the road.  But then his wife and child are brutally run over by the evil, motorcyle gang.  Max is overcome with grief and rage.. and so does the only thing he knows how to, become Mad Max.  Even though he hates himself inside for it, he unleashes the killer needed to uphold justice.

The third and last example may be closer to your film: BlackHawk Down.  A great film.  It is definitely a shoot ‘em up, so it is within the same realm as “Escalation.”  Here our characters have a simple but powerful conflict: go out and risk their lives to save a few men trapped and mostly dead, or save even more by leaving their own behind.  A gut wrenching choice that plays out over and over throughout the film.

Add some real conflict to this story and you will have something great.  Your characters to make real choices, with consequences.  Choices that involve risk and uncertainty.  That may be a difficult task when the parameters of the story involve being inside a game.  There just aren’t any true consequences.

Jim Boyer


STORY REPORTTITLE:  ESCALATION                  FORM:  SCREENPLAYAUTHOR:  JOE CRUMP                  PAGES:  12CIRCA:  Assumed Future              SUB. BY: AUTHORLOCALE: Video Game Grid             SUB. TO:  Brian SheaDATE: 7/1/2012GENRE:  Action                      ANALYST: Brian SheaDATE:  7/2/2012LOGLINE:  A group of mercenaries participate in a quasi –realistic war video game simulation. However upon entry of the main character’s daughter into the grid during play, the rules change and hacking begins; leading to an escalation in the use of game cheats on the side of both teams.BUDGET:        HIGH MED.   X  LOW

RECOMMENDATION:      YES    X  NO      MAYBE

ESCALATION

COMMENT

This is a unique story that will attract for the most part the video game demographic males, I would venture to say 13-35. It has elements of Action, Sci-Fi, and humor. I for the most part was lost during the reading of this script. The ending did not have a sufficient pay off for the audience’s time spent. It felt like Gamer meets The Matrix meets Tron meets Kick Ass or Sucker Punch.

The characters seem two-dimensional, in this sense I would feel that the audience would not relate to any of the characters. While the characters have back-story such as Conrad’s dead wife; no explanation is given, whether it be chronologic, emotional, or causative.

Who is Oku? Were you trying to explain that it is Conrad’s sister or is that something he just says? Who is Jimmy, what is his relationship to Oku, to Conrad? Is this anyone’s first time in the game?

Again there seems to be nothing at stake here, no sacrifice; without sacrifice, how does our hero learn his lesson and thereby grow? In a game where it doesn’t matter if you die because you just respawn seconds later how can your life ever really be in danger? Does Jimmy even think of his dead(?) wife anymore?

More conflict, what if one of the supporting characters is pissed that Conrad’s kid keeps hacking into their game. Maybe his salary rides on this game being completed fair, or a gambling debt he made. Wait a second do I sense betrayal brewing?

Then you can throw in the other character on the other side of the argument, and leave Conrad in the middle with audience to decide whether he should allow his daughter to compete, is it moral, ect. What about your villain; a good hero is created by making a better villain. What is the villain’s motivation, why is he the villain? Did he kill Conrad’s wife. Again these are all just suggestions.

Motivation, now the simple motivation seems to be to win. However that doesn’t seem to matter much because they all start cheating and get banned anyway. Cause and effect should connect dots in a good script. The main character should have strong motivation.

The dialogue simplistic and at times seems canned.  My express feelings on this one would be that it would make a great B film. I know dialogue is difficult to write; I’ve experienced this myself. However there’s a reason good dialogue is challenging to develop. It must be genuine, clear, and add to the story; not detract from it. If its exposition that can’t be shown, it’s needed; otherwise trim the fat.  “What ever you do don’t deviate from the plan”? This could be completely replaced with hand gestures and a simple reference go code or if you like cliché supplement it with a snarky/smartass response: “What plan?”. Above all it must not seem cliche, though this may be the particular style you are trying to achieve (Shoot ‘Em Up). The one liner’s were weak. “I’ve got an upgrade” I mean come on.

The whole violation gimmick, do we really need an eyesore like that in this film? Maybe a sound cue would be better suited or color correction. Take out the X-ray thing too. It can be shown through sfx or editing.  You could also trim a lot of useless fat off the script by excluding lighting, wardrobe, makeup, directing, camera movement, those decisions aren’t really your department and should be left to the director and other dept. Remember screenwriting is primarily visual, show emotion through visuals and action.

I really liked the comic relief with Winston running himself into the wall (reminded me of X-men for some reason) maybe you could develop that a little more even. Maybe he goes to reach for its gun but its stuck in the wall, you know like wall purgatory. I think you should develop more humor.

Ending was different. Why does Stan=Messiah? Plus Stan sounds a lot like Sam that could get confusing, then again if I recall correctly we don’t really find out to many of the other character’s names. By the way I know this isn’t really a coverage sort of comment but as this isn’t a traditional sort of coverage I’ll state it anyway: the art in the storyboards looked extremely good.

SYNOPSIS

We meet our hero, Conrad, and his team of players, Oku, Jimmy in a video war game simulation. They are playing against their rivals Sam, Kalyn, and Winston. Conrad’s team is interrupted when Conrad’s daughter, Hannah enters the game. Conrad seems distressed at this but somewhat powerless over controlling it. Hannah begins hacking, which begins a war of escalation as both teams begin cheating and hacking. At this time a great deal of action occurs as each team tries to out hack the other. Just as prospects look grim for Conrad’s team, Hannah uses a hack to become a being of superior power and saves her father and her team. Stan the games creator bans Conrad’s team for the hacks.

Contact info:  Brian Shea


Hi Joe,

I’ve read several sci-fi scripts, shorts and features, most in the manner of what you have written here. “Mass Effect”-style action with lots of effects and heavy visuals and humor. You want it to be cool and add that something extra with the underlining family theme. Not that it doesn’t make sense to do, you just don’t do it effectively, creatively or entertainingly enough.

First, your formatting and script prose. Since you are making this yourself the detailed description and action are meant for you and your production crew, there really is nothing to change. But still, I want to cover that.

You write too detailed, and too stilted, when your words should sing, sparkle, and fly off the page. Examples: “Conrad hefts a futuristic rifle, unconsciously caressing his face with the barrel.”

Also, “The top of her head is below the first window to the right of Conrad…,” “…her legs spread out in a ‘V’.”

A lot of this in unnecessary description. And it limits your actors. It’s not needed.

But the blocking and character position is important. When you write where your characters are, Conrad next to the window, Oku below a window, do it in as little words as possible.

Example: “Conrad leans in cover by a window. Oku, right next to him, ducks below another window.” Something along these lines.

And about the lines, I’d recommend keeping them to a minimum of 2-3, when you have them up to 4-6 Make the readers eyes happy. Again, description and action should be spare and have action verbs to excite the reader to move on to the next sentence.

And your intercutting between Buildings 1 and 2. Giving us the Scene Heading each time is causing the pacing of your script to drag. The industry standard is Scene Heading when you introduce the scene, then let the reader know you plan to intercut.

Example: After the Scene Headings type INTERCUT BETWEEN BUILDING 1 & 2 in ALL CAPS. Although I wouldn’t call it Building 1& 2, maybe a creative team name for each one, or something like that.

Only remember to ALL CAPS anytime you go back on a different scene.

Example:

“They peer past the windowsill and see…

SAM WALKING TO THE MIDDLE OF THE COURTYARD.”

And because there are characters in different parts in each building, remember to ALL CAPS that too, as it is a new filming location.

Anyway, the movie is funded. And as long as your crew understands, (Especially your AD and DP), you don’t have to make the changes.

Now, the creative stuff.

The dialogue you have is flat and too conventional, and everyone talks the same. Depending on how your actors will say them, this could be unintentionally humorous.

But a lot of writers have this problem. Less to no dialogue would be better.

i understand your characters are intentionally stereotypical (Hanna in a school girl get-up, to name one), which is fine, because “Escalation” looks to be going in that direction. But flesh them more, add more to the Stereotype. Not much body or wardrobe detail but character detail. Mannerisms, ticks, speech, body language. Describe the character to us, and in as little as 1 sentence, which you did.

Example: Conrad, “a hard-edged man…” Oku, a “striking, dark-eyed woman…”

And “meek, blonde, blue-eyed” Hanna.

But, what does this really say about them? Round them out a little more.

Last. About the Theme. The father, daughter, absent-mother dynamic is okay. And it works.

In as little time as you have to set-up the relationship you give Conrad and Hanna a conflict. She wants to be a part of the game, he disagrees. It’s holding them back.

However, there’s a problem. What are the stakes?

Because it seems that those stakes are, literally, superficial, as the life and death situation is false. So, Conrad doesn’t want his daughter a part of something that is an illusion? Why?

Is it emotional stakes? Will it effect Hanna mentally, emotionally? Is it too violet for her?

Essentially, what will happen if Hanna refuses to listen? What can we the audience expect? It’s what keeps us interested.

And what really happened to the wife? It’s not clear. Did Conrad and her divorce? Did she die? If so, how? Couldn’t of been in the game, right? Or was it?

If she did die, then that’s the stakes. The game is real. Conrad lost his wife. He doesn’t want to lose Hanna, too.

And what are Conrad’s stakes? Why is he obliged to play? What are his reasons? What’s his driving compass?

And the end? Hanna gets to be a part of the team. Is that it? Is the moral that violence is okay?

Work on the stakes, as well. The one piece of story advise.

But the one thing I really did like? The gags. Hanna blatantly shooting down the opposing team, Winston’s running through the wall trial, and my favorite, the “Violation” gag.

You set it up nicely, showing that something is off about the world, along with people disappearing/reappearing and running through walls. It interests us, and I can see it being funny (if it’s done right). And the best of it is the nice pay-off when they all hug at the end.

Maybe add some more laughs. But you have enough, I think.

One last thing. Lose the title. One word titles are a marketing gimmick distriubuters use to help audiences remember them. “Escalation” says nothing.

It should say something about the story, what’s it’s about, it’s plot, it’s idea. What will audiences respond to in the title? What will excite them and make them want to see it?

Wells, that’s it.

Good Luck on your short, Joe. Again, ambitious, and it could work.

Make it mean something. Bring more to the table. Surprise your audience.

Make it funny, exciting, heartfelt, a visual kaleidoscope of shadow, stark contrast and sharp edges. It’s what you’re going for, right?

And make it good.

– Joe Kieninger


June 28, 2012

Story Evaluation – Escalation

Reader – Larry Heward

What works…

The story opens quickly, engaging the reader right away.

Character descriptions and settings are definitive.

We know these characters are in danger by the writers close detail to action sequences.

Conrad appears to be the leader and main Protagonist, although it could be argued that  his daughter Hanna may be the true heroine of this story as the story unfolds.

Oku is perceived as a strong female supporter of Conrad’s which attests  to her daring and  initiative in close quarter drills.

Jimmy appears as a laid back  veteran soldier, unmoved by the hail of gun-fire and explosions  occurring around him as he diligently proceeds to thwart the enemy at every turn.

We learn that Hanna is Conrad’s daughter late in the story, appears to be blessed with several characteristics and unique talents of her departed mother.

What doesn’t work…

We are introduced to Hanna in a very strange and awkward situation.

As a reader, I found myself confused by the nonchalant attitude of Hanna as she brazenly opens a  door wide amidst  gun-fire, stating something ridiculous which has no bearing on the situation at hand nor anywhere else in story.  Found this to be weakest part of story.

Would have been better if foreseen as a rescue mission.  Hanna could have shown the reader and potential audience that she had capabilities right away of being a heroine.

Example: One or more bodies could have been laid out or bound inside building/house, as Hanna sports her rocket gun adding to the sequence of play unfolding. This would lead to her credibility of a potential player/recruit in the upcoming battle/s.

The theme itself is not very definitive… that is to say it reads somewhere between  a neighborhood paint-ball war or computer game.

Would have been better if opening sequence a setting was in place.

Example: TIME FRAME – Post Apocalypse Meltdown 3500 A.D.

This tells reader where we are, what time/era reference, and brief description of situation.

Leads to understanding of situation our characters are experiencing as story opens/unfolds.

Enemy participants descriptions very vague.

We do not know who main Antagonist is?  Ie Sam, Kayln, or Winston? No background, no way for reader to understand why there is a confrontation?  Can it be resolved? Who is trying to defeat who and why?  These issues must be addressed before going forward. They must be clear to reader, if not – they will never be clear to potential audience.

I found morphing/spawning sequences baffling?  Which goes back to main question?  Is this a computer game?  Is this our future world? Where are we?

In the real world, once you’re dead, you’re dead. If not in this world, then how does writer explain why Hanna’s mother is dead, when Hanna herself appears to die then relive later in story??? Very confusing.

Reads somewhere between John Connor story, The Matrix, and Alien vs Predator.

All in all an entertaining read, fast paced and I believe it would be enjoyable for a young audience to middle-age computer/sci-fi fans.

Best of luck.

Larry C. Heward/reader


Darryl Banton

 

The screenplay “Escalation” is about a game in which two opposing teams compete against each other, armed with futuristic weapons and ordnance in a virtual reality urban environment, toward an unstated goal. This is referred to early in the story as “The Plan.” The game itself is played according to a set of rules and protocols that are known to the players, but explained mainly through implication in the computer generated images visible to the characters themselves and to the audience.

There are three stated members, two men and a woman, on each team, all apparently experienced players of this competition. The first team, the protagonists, is composed of the leader Conrad, along with Oku and Jimmy. Also associated with this group is Conrad’s 12 year old daughter Hanna. The second team, the antagonists, is made up of the leader Sam, in addition to Kalyn and Winston. There is another character present throughout the story, Stan, whose involvement is made clear as the story progresses.

There are various themes present in the story, all centered on the playing of the game. There is the matter of the individual and collective skills required and employed in handling the particular weaponry depicted, as well as the strategies involved in virtual reality urban warfare. There is also the theme of team work between the team members. The story also includes the plot line of the relationship between a father and daughter, where the mother is not present.

The scripted story relies heavily on the action of the characters and special effects, with a minimum of dialogue. To a certain extent this is effective, but there are places in the story where some dialogue would assist the audience in understanding better what is taking place, and the reason for it happening at all. For example, the “re-spawning” of characters is not too difficult a concept to grasp when seeing it within the context of action described in the printed word. As it appears in the script, on pages five and six, re-spawining is shown through special effects after the disappearance or death of a character.

It would be helpful to have a character state briefly, in an early occurance of this process, just what a re-spawining is and how it is important to the story. The special effects alone might mislead or confuse audience members into comparing it with similar visuals that have appeared in other productions such as “Star Trek,” and even “Peter Pan.”

The father-daughter relationship depicted in the story is one that could serve as the basis of a separate work altogether. There is already a great deal of action and information that the audience is being given to process, and the scene on pages ten and eleven, with Hanna becoming the “avenging angel” borders on overkill in terms of story content. This is one element that detracts from the main story. Hanna, as a character, already has enough to do in this production.

It is clear from her first appearance on page two that there is an element of conflict and pathos present between father and daughter. This is especially the case on pages five through seven, where there is discussion about the absence of Hanna’s mother. One constant theme also present is that Hanna is trying to win the acceptance of her father with regard to being a member of the team. On pages two, five, and six Hanna is described using weapons with a proficiency that earns her the admiration of Oku and Jimmy, and the irritation of the members of the opposing team. The elimination of the “avenging angel” scene would allow for an easier transition, in terms of the story, to the point where Conrad agrees to let his daughter participate in team activities.

The use of the floating “Violation” warnings throughout the story is an effective way of maintaining the premise that story is set in, that of a game. In some ways it is reminiscent of the “Tron” films, here with a slightly darker edge. The character Stan is not so much of a surprise to anyone when he finally appears in the story, on page eleven, as it suddenly makes sense how it has been determined that a violation of the rules has occurred when they have.

It is also effective that the opposing team members have someone to appeal to regarding the breaking of rules, after earlier comments about this happening by the character Sam, notably on pages three and six. This is a clear reference to the title of the film, “Escalation.” The ending scene of the disappearance of the players, and then Stan, leaves the audience with the feeling that the game has been “turned off,” or reset for another session at another time.


Makenzie Barski               At its core, “Escalation” is a fast-paced action short mixed with science-fiction elements.  From the opening line to the very end, the action is relentless, and the story moves quickly.  A mish-mash crew of experienced agents team up with Hanna, the pre-teen daughter of one of the team members, to defeat the opposition.  At first, the situation seems dire:  one agent, Oku, is badly hurt, and the team is trying to decide what to do next.  Almost on cue, Hanna bursts through the front door, and is almost greeted with friendly fire.  She shows her father her new gun, an oversized rocket-launcher that she can barely lift, and begs to come along.  At first he refuses, but when the enemy opens fire, he quickly forgets his reservations.

The team responds to the enemy fire, and a battle ensues.  Jumping back and forth between combat going on in different buildings in the urban environment, the story takes on both a suspenseful and playful tone.  It quickly becomes apparent that the rules of the real world don’t apply in this story.  Agents are able to run through brick walls, spontaneously create holes in the floor to trap their enemies, and appear instantly across the arena.  Their weapons are equally over the top, and each agent’s technical prowess with their firearm is impressive.

Though the dialog is minimal throughout the piece, Hanna and the other agents, including her father, continue to argue about whether or not she should be allowed to join in the fight.  Although it is clearly too late to have this discussion, Hanna ignores their accusations that she is too hotheaded and reckless to be in combat.  They continually compare her to her mother, who passed away years earlier.  The interjections of these details about her life suggest that there is a deeper story at play.

In fact, it is here that the piece’s faults, of which there are few, become apparent.  It’s clear that Hanna is the protagonist, as her progression from child to deadly agent becomes apparent in these twelve pages, but few deeper details about her are included, aside from some similarities she bears in comparison with her late mother.  There must be more going on with this character, and her father, Jimmy, but it’s omitted from the story.  It’s as if her mother’s death, which indeed maybe an event placed distantly in the past, has had few repercussions in her life.

Furthermore, it seems like there are no of any kind consequences in this story.  Though the story’s setting is cleverly hidden for the first few pages, it becomes apparent that it is taking place within the confines of a video game.  Agents, or players, walk over their own dead bodies to continue the game, and though their wounds are bloody, they don’t suffer.  This story mechanic has been explored in several different films and stories, but perhaps this angle is one that could make it fresh and new.  Conflict in story is created from consequences, so removing consequences entirely certainly makes an interesting narrative structure.

At the end of the story, Hanna and her team are victorious, and, though they are scolded for breaking many rules by Stan, a sort of referee, she is welcomed to the team.  It is a happy ending, as even the most skeptical team members are glad to have her on board.  This moment solidifies its status as a coming-of-age story, but with an interesting twist.  Hanna is physically handed her adulthood when she picks up the rocket launcher, and, like all adults, she must elect to live recklessly or cautiously, with or without the approval and guidance of her father.

The strengths of this story definitely lie in its aesthetic appeal.  “Escalation” is riveting, as the reader stumbles through the story with the agents, trying to piece together the story as they swiftly move through their environment.  Reminiscent of the dingy futuristic environment of Bladerunner and with a hybridization of the action and melodrama genres not unlike Luc Besson’s Leon the Professional, this film is an interesting short with the potential for a truly human story.  The only fault of the piece is that it leaves the reader craving more, to know more about Hanna and the world she lives in.


Nadia Michelle Robertson
For coverage, contact Nadia at: MMH20LS@aol.com, NadiaMRobertson@gmail.com Rate varies by project- please contact for more information.
Coverage for “Escalation”
 
Title: Escalation                                                       Type of Material:  Short film
Number of pages: 13                                                 Date:  7/11/12
                                                            
Author:  Joe Crump                                                   Circa:  In the future
 Location:  Unknown/Industrial area                         Reader: Nadia Robertson
                                                                                   
Genre: Sc-fi
                                                                                                                                                  
Logline:  Two opposing teams fight in a video game like arena in a futuristic industrial setting.
 
 
GREAT
GOOD
FAIR
POOR
PREMISE
 
 
X
 
CHARACTERIZATION
 
 
X
 
DIALOGUE
 
 
X
 
STORY LINE
 
 
X
 
                                          
                                          
                                                                        
RECOMMENDATION: Consider/Pass
COMMENTS
 
There are two different teams in combat within this video game like world; one in which Conrad and his daughter Hanna, alongside two other characters Oku and Jimmy, wage militaristic like battle against the opposing team. It is unclear what the relation to the other team is, if any, while it is established that Conrad and his daughter had a mother who left them for reasons unknown, and it is revealed that Oku is Conrad’s younger sister and therefore Hanna’s aunt. Jimmy does not seem to have any connection to the rest of the group aside from being a teammate. The other team consists of Sam who is the leader, Kalyn and Winston, none of which seem to share a connection outside of being a team.
The rules of the game are unclear. There are clearly stipulations of the game in which both teams violate, as noted with the red violation symbol that appears above their heads during play, but the rules are not established at any point. We just see when a rule is violated via the floating symbol, yet we do not know the rules in which they are to follow. On the same note, things happen within the game that have us learning what is plausible to happen as the story progresses, so since there are no pre-established boundaries of what is expected to be allowed in the game, we find out as we go—for instance, seeing that Conrad can phase through walls, disappear and reappear and create holes in the floor without any context for his abilities which no one else possesses (with the exception of Hanna being able to disappear, and Winston who finally is able to phase through a wall after a few failed attempts- but again, no reason as to why he could not do it the first try and then later he and Kalyn are able to do it with no problem). Also, Winston and Kalyn are able to create duplicates of themselves, which no one else does.
We see that once someone is killed, they ‘re-spawn’ in a blue light, like characters in a video game often do once killed and rebooted; yet, the conditions of the re-spawn vary, sometimes they re-spawn in the same place they died and sometimes they re-spawn in a completely different area- there is not a consistency. Conrad in a fit of worried anger for his daughter, commands her to “disconnect”, which implies that they may have lives outside of this videogame realm, but there is no indication of that. There is a moment where Jimmy is blowing bubbles, which is an item that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the surroundings, perhaps eluding that he has brought the item from somewhere else; however, if that were the case, it doesn’t make sense that he would still have it on him after he was killed and re-spawned. Also, Hanna forming into an image of her mother, Jeannie, is unexplained as well and feels strange and out of place—especially since by the end of the story you are introduced to Stan, who seems to either be the referee of the creator of the game, who could possibly have control over everything, meaning that he could possibly have created the image of Jeannie, but it also doesn’t really make sense as to why he would be inclined to do that. Hanna’s ability to conjure up some sort of spell adds a new element of magic that isn’t really introduced before in this video-game like arena, so it feels out of the blue when Hannah grows wings and blasts fire from within herself as that element switches the pre-established perspective of this futuristic military like video game into a more magical type game.
Once again, since the rules of the game are not concretely established, it is hard to understand the meaning behind Sam’s accusations of the other team “cheating”, because we do not know what rules have been broken. When Stan descends from the sky, we can only assume he is some sort of higher element to the game, some kind of creator perhaps since his garb varies so much from the other players and its office like nature implies an office type person. Again, Hanna insinuates that the realm they are playing in may not be the world in which they live as she reminds her father of the milk they need—then along with Stan, the characters disappear to somewhere unknown.
The premise of some kind of futuristic world is interesting, where we have characters in some sort of game like-combat that mirrors the concept of a film like “Tron”- however, unlike that film, it is never clear who or what these characters are, where they come from, what their overall motivation is aside from Hanna trying to join the team. It’s an interesting overall concept, but the rules and element of the characters and the world in which they exist in are unclear and make it more challenging to have a grasp of the movie. As a short film, it is extremely ambitious with its use of special effects, and could easily risk looking like a under-budgeted Sci-fi channel made for TV movie if not executed with the utmost attention to these effect needs. The story could use some more sense of background in order to have a better idea of relatability and ethos for the characters and their personal stories. As is, it offers interesting visuals, but not enough substance to create an emotional response to the characters and what is happening.

“Escalation” as a Metaphor

First of all, good work. It’s a great concept and well written. You do a good job of keeping us guessing as to what the hell is going on, yet giving us answers at the right time to keep us from being too confused.

I think the characters are well developed. We know what they want, and that’s important.

Hannah is the most complex character. She wants a couple of things. The first, most obvious need she has we hear her articulate herself telling her father that she doesn’t want to lose him like she did her mother without getting to know him. I think there is a deeper need in her, however. She wants approval and validation from her father that, for Hannah, would signal a sort of arrival into a deeper sense of identity that is closely tied—for both of them—with a memory of her mother.

At first, Conrad seems to want to protect Hannah for her own sake, but as we watch each player re-spawn, we start to doubt that this can be the sole reason for his hesitation. The real reason is revealed to us as Conrad sees his wife in Hannah. He does not want to risk losing Hannah like he lost Jeannie—whatever that loss may have been.

Oku is good supporting character as she provides a voice of reason to Conrad’s adamant refusal to let Hannah in, which is an expression of his fear. She also serves to characterize Conrad and his respectability as she differs to his judgment when talking to Hannah. In other words, if she has such a respect for Conrad to tell Hannah what she does, Conrad must be a pretty good guy.

Jimmy is somewhat flat, but functions well enough in his role. I like the cowboy persona.

Sam performs well in his role of the macho military man who will not be undone. Kalyn and Winston are well written also. I like the scene when they are re-spawning but Hannah is shooting them before they can move.

So, well done. I think the script would do very well as is, but digging a little deeper, I would have just one suggestion really.

The question that is prevalent throughout for the viewer—and very nicely highlighted by the title—is, “How far is this going to escalate?”  And that question is given a voice for the viewer in Jimmy as he asks, “How long are they going to let us go on like this?” We assume he is referring to the “gods” of the game, the logical authorities from whence the “violation” icons come from. However, it’s clear Stan exhibits some definite God-like characteristics when he finally shows up as a ”golden character…like the second coming” of Jesus “his arms outstretched, palms up” like Jesus on the cross, and his “long-suffering” voice. I think the Bible was the last time I heard the term “long-suffering.” And then Stan surveys his “work” after everyone leaves as if he had a purpose in all of this. And it’s my reading that he did. He wanted Hannah and Conrad to connect like they did which is why he “let it go on for so long.” Everyone has “violation” hanging over their heads as Stan issues judgment for their “sins”—a merciful and grace-filled slap on the wrist of just two weeks suspension. I think that story can be seen as a metaphor for the relationship between God and man and the plight of humanity.

So I might try and highlight that very subtly. If you’re too obvious about it, I’m afraid people will think it’s contrived and will write it off not wanting to be manipulated. But instead of Jimmy saying, “How long are they going to let us go on like this?” I might have him say, “Why are they letting us go on for so long?” That introduces the idea that the “Gods” might have a greater, more meaningful purpose in allowing chaos to ensue down in the “world” of the game. I think this would bring a subtle—yet I think profound—bent to the story that might communicate some degree of hope for the future.

That’s my two-cents.

Ben Sullivan
Writer/Director
Novel Motion Pictures
novelmotionpictures.com


Joe Ogrinc

Coverage for “Escalation”

An imaginative, creative work! In fact, the unique, odd setting and set-up made me wonder what was going on so that kept me reading to find out exactly what the situation was. Once we learn that, unusual things happen to let us know we are in a different world.

For instance, Hanna, a twelve-year-old with the bazooka that blasts away at the enemy stronghold. Or jumping through floors to transport them to other locations. Or that they can clone themselves. By then it’s obvious we are in a video game or the like. In any case, this made for visual action scenes in which the unexpected happens. Again, that holds our interest.

The characters are also well described when first introduced. A positive because we get a real sense of who they are and what they look like. Just one example: “CONRAD, a hard edged man in bloody fatigues, slams himself into a brick wall and takes cover next to a window.” This one sentence right at the beginning tells us who he is and that we’re not in a simple comedy. He’s a serious character in a serious situation. Which, of course, veers completely once Hanna enters the scene.

Another nice touch was the “We need more milk.” Introduced at the beginning, it has a nice payoff at the end. It also ties up the end with the beginning. Skillfully done.

A few things did bother me, however, but none of them serious or insurmountable. First, I wasn’t sure whose story it was. By the end, I would say Hanna’s because she was trying to prove herself to her dad so she could be added to the game team.

Consequently, I think she should try to draw attention to herself and her skills more when she first comes into the industrial building, not on page 5. Possibly she could say, “Here. Look what I can do.” Or “Hey, dad. Look at me.” Children always want their parents to see them doing a new skill that they’ve learned or mastered. Doing this from the beginning, from the first moment Hanna appears in the story, would let us know that she’s out for something and we should follow her. Exactly what we don’t really know yet.

The other problem is with a theme. Unless I misread it (which is entirely possible, by the way) Hanna basically cheats so her dad’s team wins. Not once, but twice. Especially with the unapproved bewitching powers that she dredges up out of nowhere to blast the enemy team into submission. Then she gets rewarded for that by being promoted to the team? Perhaps I’m making too much of something that is not that big of a deal, but it rubbed me the wrong way. It seems like she should be able to contribute to the game within the rules first, then add the other abilities later.

Along the same lines, when the players get the “V” over their heads for a violation, there’s no consequences. They can still use extra weapons, can still re-spawn, can still clone themselves. Hanna uses the unapproved bazooka at the beginning and gets the “V” over her head, but still stays in the game and can call upon even more powers to win the game. Again, there doesn’t seem to be any consequences for their abusing and ignoring the pre-approved rules of the game.

The last major point is the Stan character. He was not introduced early in the script, but at the end he is being summoned to rule on what happened in the game. A character that important should be introduced by the first quarter of the script. Plus, in the way he comes in, he clearly is a deus ex machina; that is, a god who comes in and sets everything right. The characters themselves don’t solve their problems. Further, in a short you want to limit the number of characters anyway.

One way to handle this would simply be to get rid of the Stan character altogether. The story is about Hanna and her dad, so just have Sam mention that someone will have to make a ruling on this game because of all the violations. Or introduce Stan early and give him enough of a role to establish him without giving too much away about him, since what happens in the story and discovering that is part of the fun of this script.

A minor point is on page 3. “Fullisade of bullets” should read “fusillade of bullets.” I think that’s what you meant.

Overall, a solid piece of work built on a dose of imagination and creativity, albeit with a few problems that, once corrected, will only strengthen it.


Escalation/evaluation :

The writer  does a good job of quickly establishing the setting and the characters  and succeeds at moving the story forward without overuse of dialogue. The opening scene puts us in the middle of the action, a sense of some war that is going on…a nice contrast then, when a teenage girl causally enters  and announces “we’re outta milk.”

The drama unfolds as we learn that Hanna, the young girl wants to become a member of her father’s team. There are allusions to her mother, who is deceased. Through Conrad and Hanna’s interactions, we can sense that her father doesn’t want her in harm’s way. It’s his role, as any fathers, to keep her safe. Hanna’s need is to prove herself a worthy team member. Hence this is an archetypal, coming-of-age story.

Our first sense of fantasy comes when the red word Violation appears in the sky. The audience is clued in to the fact that this isn’t the real world, and subsequent fighting scenes reveal other, video game like attributes,  such as running thru walls, falling into empty 3d space, re-spawning, and cloning.

A good dramatic moment is when Hanna is seemingly shot dead. After her “re-spawning” we sense her resolve to kick some major butt, and nothing is gonna stand in her way. She takes it upon herself to destroy the opposition. After an apparition of Hanna’s mother, Conrad begrudgingly lets her have her way. This leads to the dramatic conclusion where Hanna’s full power is realized and she is let on the team.  A new character, Stan, is introduced. He seems to be the game-master who sets the rules and we get another glimpse into how this world operates. The team gets a slap on the hand for ‘escalating’ the game, and we’re left with the feeling there are many more battles to come…

All in all a good action-packed short, with compelling characters and neat resolution. Best of all is the use of story, rather than just a shoot ‘em up. The only question is whether  Hanna is in enough peril. Not sure how these characters can really die. Can there be more obstacles in Hanna’s way?

Thank you for the opportunity to read your script- that’s ballzy of you! I just happen to come across it, and then realized it was only a few hours before the deadline. Thanks again and Good luck with everything, Sue.

 


Script Coverage for Escalation, Screenplay by Joe Crump

Kat Bosworth

 

Hi Joe,

Just wanted to say thanks for the opportunity to write coverage for your script! I’ve divided up my suggestions into story, character, theme and overall comments below. Hope they’re helpful to you.

Story:

– There was some exposition missing in the beginning. We’re thrown into the middle of a battle, which is fine because it hooks you into the action, but we’re not sure why these characters are fighting each other. At least not right away, until we find out it’s a videogame. Maybe you could put in more about why it’s important for Conrad’s team to beat Sam’s?

– It might help to put more tension in the B story that ties in with the A story. The A story is Conrad and his team winning the game against Sam, Kalyn and Winston. The B story is Hanna wanting to join Conrad’s team. To “raise the stakes” you could either take out the regeneration or limit the amount of “lives” they have in the A story and have Conrad try harder to keep Hanna in safety for the B story.

– The only character we can really connect with right away is Hanna because she has a goal, which is to join the team. Make Conrad more of an obstacle to her by trying to protect her and Conrad’s goal of winning the game clearer.

– If these characters can regenerate, then all the tension of them dying is taken away and the stakes are lowered. I think that because they die/regenerate so quickly, it takes a lot of the tension out and the audience won’t care as much about these characters. They know that they’ll just come back, so it’s harder for them to care about their success in winning the game. You could raise the stakes by having the characters state that they only have so many “lives” or give them powers that can take away the other team’s immortality.

– Maybe the characters can regenerate but then Conrad, Jimmy, Oku or Hanna uses something on the other team so that they only have a set amount of lives/can’t regenerate? Or could they only have a certain amount of “lives?”

Characters:

– Hanna: Hanna reminds me of Babydoll from Sucker Punch, Hit Girl from Kickass and Go-Go from Kill Bill, who are all awesome characters. Hanna catching the canister and throwing it outside is pretty badass. The only qualm I had was the description of Hanna’s legs in an “un-ladylike fashion.” It seems a little too suggestive for a 12 year old. It might be better to cut that part. It seems like Hanna would be the sort of character to ask Conrad to join the team many times before the story begins. Make Conrad seem exasperated when he first sees his daughter and tell her “no” and that she isn’t supposed to be there.

– Conrad: Make Conrad’s goal of beating the bad guys stronger. We’re not sure what makes the good guys better than the bad guys other than that we’re focusing on Conrad’s team. Make Sam’s team more sinister and give the audience a reason to dislike them. Also, Conrad shows three emotions at one point: “calm, annoyed and a bit confused.” I would pick just two of them which will be easier to visualize/animate.

– Oku/Jimmy: It might be better to introduce Jimmy before introducing Oku. She’s in the worst shape of the three and that will build up the tension for stacking the odds against the protagonists.

– Sam: To root for Conrad and Hanna, we have to dislike Sam. Make him a bit more sinister so that he’s not just an opponent.

– Kalyn/Winston: Kalyn is pretty awesome. I thought it was funny when her and Sam keep trying to regenerate and Hanna keeps shooting them. I also liked the visual when Kalyn falls.

– Stan: It’s hilarious to see Stan hailed as a god by these badass characters. It might be funny to give him dialogue and hear him talk in a super nerdy voice.

Theme:

– I wasn’t really sure what the “violation” symbol meant. It makes for cool imagery and it feels like it’s referencing something in the video game world, but for someone who doesn’t play a ton of videogames (like me) I kind of missed the point of what it was or its symbolism. Maybe it could be quickly explained at some point in your script.

– Since this is sort of an action/drama turned comedy in the twist (the godly nerd that descends down from heaven is hilarious) you could have more comedy laced in the script, especially toward the end when you reveal that it was just a nerd’s fantasy. You could add seeing real people playing the game online at the end which has a lot of potential for humor and how they could look nothing like the characters they’re playing.

– The explanation of what’s really going on is a little vague right now. Are Hanna and Conrad “real” characters that actually live in this world? Hanna saying that they’re out of milk hints that these are videogame players, but then Conrad sees his dead wife in her. Make it clear that it’s a videogamer’s fantasy and the characters think he’s a god.

– The script is very stylistic which makes the visuals/theme clear. I enjoyed using the storyboards as references for the script as well.

Overall comments:

– There were some nitpicky format issues/a few misspellings, but otherwise the action flowed nicely. The visuals are really cool and it was easy to picture the action, especially after viewing the amazing storyboard art.

– It’s usually good to put an action line after a scene heading just to orient the reader. Ex. “Int. Ruined Industrial Building #1 – Day” and then it just jumps into Jimmy’s dialogue. Write where Jimmy and other characters are in the room so it’s easier to imagine/animate.

– Capitalize all sounds in the action. Ex. He MUTTERS to himself. On the subject of sounds, since this screenplay is so action heavy, it might be good to break things up by inserting sounds of the guns, or glass breaking or what the black hole sounds like. Sounds will help immerse your reader even deeper into this world.

-“Across the courtyard, Kalyn’s head snaps back as she falls into the dark room.” This visual is slightly confusing. Is Kalyn in the courtyard or is she in the same room with Hanna and Conrad?

– Why are these characters waiting to use their biggest weapons (cloning themselves, making the black hole, etc.)? Is it draining for them to use these powers? Does it make them weaker afterward?

– Here are a few questions I had at the end, and you don’t necessarily have to answer all of them in your screenplay, but make sure these are intentional questions you want your audience to ask:

  1. What does “violation” mean? Is it a reference to them being in a video game?
  2. Are the characters “real” in that they exist in a video game or are they real people playing the video game and these are their characters?
  3. Why are the two teams fighting if they know both sides simply regenerate? Would it be possible to give them a set amount of lives or the ability to officially kill them?

Otherwise, I really liked the visuals! The storyboard art is awesome. Just remember to focus on creating tension between Hanna and Conrad, clarify if the characters are videogame players or actually characters and make Sam a tad more evil. Good luck, I enjoyed reading it!

Kat Bosworth


Escalation Coverage by Joju Varghese

“Escalation” does many things right while attempting to depict a visually intensive action story. However, as a whole, it suffers from some glaring lapses in clarity and overall inconsistency in tone and focus.

The script was successful in its attempts to paint visual encounters and scenes. “Red balls of energy” and other projectiles popped from the page and are guaranteed to stand out from the landscape of dark and ruined industrial buildings. The spectacle of having Conrad phasing through walls and then sending Kalyn plummeting through the floors of the building is excellent.

The concepts of the futuristic weapons felt uneven themselves though. For instance, Hanna wields a cannon that blasts the aforementioned balls of energy while Jimmy handles a very ordinary seeming sniper rifle.  Oku dual wields Colt .45s, another example of some anachronism in the script. If that was an intentional effect, a purpose should be more clearly implied. Also, considering the futuristic feel of the story, the specific way that Hanna wiped out Sam’s team at the end felt inappropriate. Her attack felt too akin to magic in a game of guns. Conrad’s running through walls could feel the same way, except that it was more clear that he was just manipulating the rules of the world itself, instead of summoning some force from beyond that world.

The story was simple and straightforward enough with a strong, unexpected start. The expectation initially is for the story to be more typical action fare but quickly it becomes evident that this was no real world situation. Tonally, however, the story was uneven. For a visually based, action script, there were some surprising exercises in the slapstick (Winston running into the wall) and a bit too much made of the emotional parts between Conrad and Hanna. The script does not appear to actually be about either of these subjects and perhaps tries to do too much for what should likely be a more narrowly focused story. If a more emotional story is desired, having Conrad make his decision based on momentarily seeing his wife in Hanna does not really seem to do that end justice.

The length of the script and the number of characters included in it limited the depth of the primary characters and as such, made it harder to relate to them as well as differentiate them initially. It might be easier to connect to characters in this short form if there were perhaps fewer of them.

Dialogue, while sparse, felt reasonably real throughout although definitely relied too often and heavily on cliché and melodrama. The focus of the script was intentionally not on the spoken word, but what spoken word was included would benefit from more naturalism.

Grammar and spelling mistakes were apparent throughout the script and, while they mostly could be ignored, significant amounts were noticeable (“fullisade” instead of fusillade, “clinched” instead of clenched, “their” instead of they’re etc.). On a similar note, the script relied on using passive descriptions (using “is”). The story would have read smoother and felt faster by simply making these descriptions active (i.e. “A small figure is in shadow behind the door” to “A figure looms in the shadow behind the door”). While these are minor issues, they could be easily corrected and help the overall feel of the script.

On a similar note, there were a number of unclear or unnecessary descriptions. For instance, the following line “She flicks a switch on the cannon and it jerks in her hands as though it has an internal gyroscope” does not seem to effectively convey the image that is intended. The phrase “internal gyroscope” does not really tell the reader much. As for unnecessary descriptions, there is likely no need to have a title declare that Kalyn’s scope is an x-ray scope, considering the fact that it is shown that Kalyn can see Hanna through a wall. Furthermore, the script had a tendency to “tell” instead of “show” (“Hanna presses a button on the side of her headset, casually taunting the other team” and “He nods his approval, reluctantly. He’s concerned and a bit frightened for her”).

On the whole, there are a number of interesting qualities in this script, centered mostly on its imaginative visuals. Fine-tuning and focusing the story along with addressing the more minor aforementioned concerns could help the script become a significantly cleaner and smoother experience, allowing for those strengths to truly shine.

Other notes:

When Hanna has set up in the enemy’s base and has the drop on Kalyn and Winston repeatedly, it seems unrealistic for Kalyn and Winston to rush headlong into the same situation. As apparently experienced players, they should try different tactics to get in and to take Hanna out. Naturally, though, Hanna can still dominate them and the same effect is accomplished.

It might be worth considering showing the limbo after someone dies and before they re-spawn. Having a scene with Conrad and Hanna continuing their discussion/argument there could be very interesting and it would offer another opportunity to create a visual experience.

Is there any penalty associated with being guilty of a violation? Players from both teams seem to incur them frequently but nothing seems to happen afterwards. As a result, the whole notion of violations seems insignificant and subsequently tacked on, especially in a short. This could be an opportunity to include another set of visuals, this time related to what a violation really means in this world. On this note, it is unclear why Conrad’s team was suspended for their violations while Sam’s team was not, although both teams committed their fair share.

There were a couple examples of awkward phrasing like when Conrad rushes into the room on page 4, since he has entered the room before it’s explained how he did. Also on page 4, Hanna is somehow seen in the crosshairs even though the scene takes place in the building in which she is standing.


Ben Robertson

For coverage, contact Ben at: MBenRobertson@aol.com Rate varies by project- please contact for more information.

Escalation is the story of two groups of combatants battling for victory in a hyper realistic virtual reality game.

While not with it’s moments, I felt that Escalation was a bit of an unfocused script. Ideas are presented clearly and the virtual reality set up is easy enough to understand, but the character development was just too rushed, not allowing for anything that happens in the script to resonate.

Story wise, Escalation was briskly paced and easy to understand. The rules of the game quickly became clear and it was easy to wrap my head around the presented concept within a few pages. The narrative felt a bit rushed, but it was breaming with energy and the action flows smoothly enough. The stakes were made clear from the start and the simplistic approach to the story was quite an asset. Adversely, the script was wordy to the point of over explaining and that took away from my ability to actually get what was going on. Every action or gesture was described in great depth, but a few times I definitely was more focused on a described detail than the actual story.

Unfortunately, the strongest detriment to Escalation are its characters. This has less to do with the characters themselves than how they are developed. There are so many characters to cover in a thirteen page screenplay. Considering the tone of the piece, that’s not necessarily an issue, but the relationship between Conrad and Hanna just doesn’t feel very fleshed out. Their interactions are natural for a father and daughter, but it seems they experience such a great emotional spectrum in such a short time, it is difficult to get any grasp on who they are. Oku and Jimmy are similarly vague and it becomes difficult to have any emotional investment in the story.

Escalation was an interesting script thematically. I liked the contrast of the sense of fun coming from the competitors with the overwhelmingly violent nature of the competition. These guys kill each other over and over, yet there is a constant sense that no one is in danger.It many ways it reflects the digital age that we live in and how we often play violent and twisted video games for a some sense of release. As games become more and more real, the lines between fantasy and reality grow a bit blurred. This was apparent in scenes that contrasted Hanna’s violent actions with her childlike behavior, as well as the familial nature of Conrad’s team.

Ultimately, Escalation has a lot of strong ideas, but would benefit greatly from a little more simplification of certain element. As is, some of its more good natured character moments become heavy handed due to poor devolpment, mainly the relationship with Conrad and his team. A little more clarity in the action as well as honing the characterizations with a little more subtlety, Escalation could make for a very exciting film.


Script Coverage:

Megan Stokes

Logline:  A man tries to relate with his daughter as they can’t see eye to eye of her joining the game in the mist of trying to survive in the game.

The ratings I chose for different topics is between:  Great Good Fair and N/A

-Concept: the story s unique Fair

-The story has a clear hook Fair

I get bored halfway through due to the characters not really being engaging enough to carry the story.

-Strong Sense of pacing N/A

pacing is ok, needs to build more anticipation.  The pacing builds through the action a bit and then slows down with the dialogue.

-Protagonist internal/external goals Fair

-Strong Antagonist N/A

not sure who is really the antagonist here is it the daughter who’s will go against her father’s belief?

-Protagonist worth investing time in N/A

I don’t really find him engaging or even flawed.  All I know is he lost his wife and afraid to lose his daughter.  But I don’t know anything else about him.

-Supporting characters add value N/A

-they have no back story, no interesting traits, no goals

-Protagonist is 3 dimensional N/A

why does he play the game is he avenging his wife?  Is this what makes him happy?  Don’t know much about him.  What makes him tick?  Is he ever unsure about himself or his decisions

-Characters have differ beliefs N/A

-All you know is OKU wants Hanna to join the team

-Antagonist has clearly defined objectives N/A

-Each character has own unique voice N/A

They all sound the same.  Where are these character from?  Do they have different dialect?

-There dialogue is too on the nose, not natural

-Subplots intergrated in the main plot N/A

-the main plot is confusing is it about surviving the game or is it about the father daughter relationship?  Which is the subplot?

-Why is it so important for the daughter to join the team?  Is it because that’s the only thing they have in common

-The setup clearly establish the film’s tone and purpose Good

-Scene transitions are suitable Fair

-The climax worth waiting for Fair

-The protagonist isn’t active enough for the climax

-The daughter resolve the game or beats the other players ultimately.

-The inciting incident is strong enough N/A

-You don’t get a clear instance of what starts off things

-What’s forcing the characters to take action are they running out of supplies or time?

-There is dramatic building and releasing thension N/A

-Characters arrive late and early Fair

-Visually engaging Great

-Location is a supporting character Good

-it keeps pacing quick, on your feet

Comments:

-In some areas the dialogue needs to provide the viewers with background information we won’t get effectively from simple observations.

-There is no cliffhangers especially since the characters just keep respawning each time with no problems, flaws, or issues to them.

-but the story is fast paced

-I don’t like the line “We are out of milk,” when the daughter first appears.  Her first lnes doesn’t move the story or hae any importance its as if she is talking just to be talking.

-Why do they even play the game?

-Is there any consequences to the playing this game?

-What is the drive if they just keep coming back to life?

-If he is so concerned about his daughter wouldn’t he make more moves to get her out of the game instead of the one time he moves to her from going out side in the end by herself?

-And the other gamers the enemies who are they to our main heroes are they constant rivals,etc?

-At certain times it almost seems that Hanna is our protagoist.  But why should we root for her?  What’s her reason for playing?  Is she trying to gain her father’s approval?

-She seems more active than Conrad

-Is there a specialty each member of the game have?


 

Final Notes From Joe:

Thank you again for all of this wonderful coverage. It has been immensely helpful to me and I’m excited about doing another rewrite – I wasn’t expecting THAT to happen.

Below, I’m going to paste a bunch of the the comments from the coverage above that I pulled out to help with my rewrite.

These are a few of the excerpts that I found particularly helpful. Some of these ideas were expressed by multiple writers. After I pasted them in, I realized I should have put the writers name next to them – sorry about that.

*************

Hanna basically cheats so her dad’s team wins. Not once, but twice. Especially with the unapproved bewitching powers that she dredges up out of nowhere to blast the enemy team into submission. Then she gets rewarded for that by being promoted to the team? Perhaps I’m making too much of something that is not that big of a deal, but it rubbed me the wrong way. It seems like she should be able to contribute to the game within the rules first, then add the other abilities later.

Eliminate or explain Stan.

– If these characters can regenerate, then all the tension of them dying is taken away and the stakes are lowered. I think that because they die/regenerate so quickly, it takes a lot of the tension out and the audience won’t care as much about these characters. They know that they’ll just come back, so it’s harder for them to care about their success in winning the game. You could raise the stakes by having the characters state that they only have so many “lives” or give them powers that can take away the other team’s immortality.

Why are these characters waiting to use their biggest weapons (cloning themselves, making the black hole, etc.)? Is it draining for them to use these powers? Does it make them weaker afterward?

For a visually based, action script, there were some surprising exercises in the slapstick (Winston running into the wall) and a bit too much made of the emotional parts between Conrad and Hanna. The script does not appear to actually be about either of these subjects and perhaps tries to do too much for what should likely be a more narrowly focused story. If a more emotional story is desired, having Conrad make his decision based on momentarily seeing his wife in Hanna does not really seem to do that end justice.

It might be worth considering showing the limbo after someone dies and before they re-spawn. Having a scene with Conrad and Hanna continuing their discussion/argument there could be very interesting and it would offer another opportunity to create a visual experience.

Escalation was an interesting script thematically. I liked the contrast of the sense of fun coming from the competitors with the overwhelmingly violent nature of the competition. These guys kill each other over and over, yet there is a constant sense that no one is in danger.It many ways it reflects the digital age that we live in and how we often play violent and twisted video games for a some sense of release. As games become more and more real, the lines between fantasy and reality grow a bit blurred. This was apparent in scenes that contrasted Hanna’s violent actions with her childlike behavior, as well as the familial nature of Conrad’s team.

Assuming that the characters are hacking the game, Jimmy’s question of “how long are they going to let us go on like this?” (pg. 7 becomes all the more relevant. Why doesn’t Stan stop the game once Hanna enters? Her presence on the team is already unfair in that Team Conrad has 4 players to Sam’s 3. While the audience is given the visual treat of watching the two teams duke it out, it makes little sense that an omnipotent administrator like Stan would allow the game to continue with so many violations. The violation symbols themselves are problematic in that they never truly impact the story. They provide a nice, tangible visual reminder that the characters are playing a game, but there are no consequences such as forced re-spawns or reductions in the teams’ “scores.” Addressing this issue may make the story easier to follow and the setting much more vivid and realistic

It is important to give the “bad guys” a similar amount of personality, especially since these antagonists are not explicitly bad.

Jeannie is an important character whose mysterious circumstances are never explored or discussed. Conrad and his team know what happened to her, but the audience is only vaguely informed of her death. There is an awkward exchange between Conrad and Hanna that appears intended to shed light on this situation, but the dialogue is unnaturally minimalistic to the point of being cryptic. Did Jeannie die in a game-related accident? Is that why Conrad is reluctant to let his daughter join the game? By defining this more clearly, the stakes for Team Conrad would be raised dramatically. Otherwise, Jeannie’s death is ineffective in introducing tension or conflict into the story.

The scene where the little girl comes in; before she says anything about the milk, she should bust in blazing at enemy. The moment she comes in and you give the reactions of the other team members; to me that gives the story away. the can have the milk conversation after she takes down some bad guys.

Show a good guy symbol or bad guy symbol so we can differentiate the teams.

A corollary to that is the idea of the escalation itself.  Once you start escalating, the rest of the film sort of rolls itself out, and I can see where it’s all going.  And that’s a problem, because you want your audience to be genuinely surprised at the turn of events, rather than just moderately surprised at the “flavor” of events they’ve already figured are gonna take place.

The “hacking” to get better mods/weapons/powers etc. should come with an expense.  It should cost something.  For example, everytime someone uses a hack, one of their team members gets killed permanently, so the script can progress from a full team on each side down to just two or three key players.  OR the mods could cost the “world” some integrity or stability.  For example, each time a hack is used, the landscape changes to be more and more unpredictable.  19th century London, a desert, Q-bert world, whatever.

Although there is a coherent beginning, middle and end, certain elements aren’t defined and there isn’t an expressed goal for the protagonist. The beginning has Conrad’s team facing off against Sam’s, but for what aim isn’t defined. If it were clearer as to what Conrad’s goal in playing the game were, his actions would make more sense with regards to trying to protect Hanna. Also, it’s never clear what the point of the game is, whether it’s to annihilate the other team, capture some resource, simply out-duel each other, or world domination, etc. Without this basis for the game in any of the acts, the conflict suffers, as it’s difficult to discern what they’re all fighting for.

The theme is definitely centered on Conrad’s hesitation of allowing Hanna to participate in the game, not necessarily because of the danger or violence, but rather because he doesn’t want her to grow up quite just yet. Hanna already believes that she has come of age, so to speak, and now it’s all up to Conrad to accept his daughter’s maturity/ability to kill people with scary efficiency. Therefore, the main theme of this story is not about Hanna’s rite of passage, but her father’s. There is also a secondary theme buried in the story that speaks to our generation’s desensitization towards violence due to first-person shooter games and MMORPGs because, although Hanna kicks ass and viewers will love it, it is still disturbing how easily she “kills” people.

A corollary to that is the idea of the escalation itself.  Once you start escalating, the rest of the film sort of rolls itself out, and I can see where it’s all going.  And that’s a problem, because you want your audience to be genuinely surprised at the turn of events, rather than just moderately surprised at the “flavor” of events they’ve already figured are gonna take place.

The magical glowing violation symbol shows the hand a little early that this is all inside a videogame. Hanna’s actions started to hint at that, but could have stayed more mysterious for a little longer. Though since this is a short it’s not too bad to show it early, then get to explaining some of the rules via Conrad talking to Hanna, and addressing that she is manipulating the game. Making it clear that Hanna is the one doing the manipulation would be a good thing. It would also be good to bring up Hanna’s real world concern over losing her father, and the rationale to why this might happen and then relating that to the importance of this particular game. It could be that Sam is a co-worker of Conrad’s and they are both up for a promotion, but their boss wants the one that has the most killer instinct. So far Sam and his team could have been cheating, manipulating the game, leaving Conrad and his team to face the loss of their jobs in real life. You don’t need crazy depth for the antagonist, but there needs to be a reason for the audience to route for Conrad and dislike Sam.

Jimmy could be more neurotic, and Oku could be stubborn and unwilling to trust the other members. As the game progresses Hanna could help them all work together and be a stronger team. This could give the whole team some character arc that would work with the narrative to make the story more compelling, and the visuals more emotionally resonant.

If Conrad and his team were overwhelmed, and the underdogs at the beginning, and the system was set up with some stakes that made Conrad sympathetic, and Sam’s team like a bunch of cocky jerks then the actions of the characters would be more compelling. Since it is quickly made clear this is a game that means that nothing is of mortal or dire importance in that world. So the stakes need to be made on a personal real level for Conrad and Hanna. Perhaps if he loses this game he will be demoted, and it will be one more thing that leaves him sad and depressed after his wife left him. The results of the game should affect the quality of Conrad’s life in a way that is meaningful to an audience. You accomplish this then all your visual effects will really shine, and people will get lots of emotional joy out of watching Conrad and Hanna kick ass.

Also, why is the Mom brought in? It’s confusing since she is never really talked about (and she’s seen only in ghost form briefly). I think there only needs to be Conrad, Hanna, Jimmy, Oku, Sam and Stan. Winston and Kayln could be cut and just have Faceless soldiers. That would also show how good Stan is, so that is if takes a team to defeat one guy, then that’s a formidable challenge. Also the faceless soldiers are disheartening, and something monstrous.
I love the image of Jimmy blowing the bubbles. That should be your opening image, bubbles floating across a desolate landscape, revealing the space and the war zone.

There’s also no easy visual cues. When we meet Conrad’s team, they should wear a unified color (like the BLU and RED teams of TF2). This gives the audience an instant look at who’s who, important in any action film.

I think Conrad is too stilted, even with his daughter. “You make me laugh, just like she did” is something to be shown, not told. Sentences like Oku’s YOU LOOK LIKE YOU SAW A GHOST are hilariously on-the-nose.

Having Conrad’s team be a man down would make the match more interesting – as it stands, team Conrad has 4 people, and his opposition has 3.

Why did Mrs. Conrad die, and how does Conrad’s escape into military shooters reveal that? Was she the victim of terrorism? Did she die as a soldier overseas?

While I eventually figured out the story was about Conrad learning to trust his daughter and allowing her to play with the big boys, this idea isn’t really introduced until page 5, nearly halfway through the screenplay.  Up until then we’re just following the shootout, which is pretty low stakes because everyone keeps returning to life.  You should set up the dramatic situation closer to page 2 when Hanna is introduced, then your audience will know what they’re supposed be following for the remainder.  For a short, I think the dead mom (Jeannie) complicates the story in the wrong ways, especially when Conrad hallucinates and sees her face on Hanna.  We haven’t seen Jeannie, so how do we know Hanna has her face?  Also, how is Conrad’s video game character hallucinating?  Furthermore, did Jeannie die in this world?

A lot of the action began to feel repetitive. I would take out several blocks of action scenes.

Violations are an opportunity to define some of the rules of the world. If we understand some basic rules then crazy things like teleporting and jumping through walls are more shocking. Don’t assume your whole audiences are gamers who know the ins-and-outs of hacking and online play. Violations occurred awfully quickly. We need further set up of regular combat to show that these are out of the ordinary. Easy fix: tweak the intro so the battle is in full swing already (I was under the impression the shooting hadn’t started yet).

Stan is a cool concept, though he’s oddly used. I, personally, am not a fan of introducing the omnipotent god-like character at the end of the story; feels kind of cheap. To solve that you could do a few things: 1) reference him throughout the script in dialogue, possibly enhancing our understanding that violations are bad because Stan will punish them. 2) Show him just briefly at the beginning watching over the arena and then don’t go back to him till the end. Or 3) There’s a bit of concept art that gave me an interesting idea. It’s the ones with a girl talking to a man in a chair in a dark room. That could be Stan and we are unclear as to who or what he is till he descends at the end (which is great imagery btw).

Would prefer to see a disparity between the teams. Right now Hanna’s appearance makes the A team four people against the B team’s three. Unfair. It should be the other way around, since Conrad’s lost his wife and team mate, Hanna’s mom. Actually, Oku and Jimmy should be just Jimmy. Two guys. So when Hanna appears, even though we don’t know it yet, this balances out the teams. Otherwise Hanna’s very appearance in a straight game is a violation, or should be.

What I would do is to fold Jeannie’s image into various places in the location. Pictures on the wall. Even a huge headshot that’s blended, like a watermark, onto a wall of a building, like an old building-sized mural that’s so faded you can’t see what it is – until you’ve watched the film enough to be able to recognize the face and pick it out from more and more places. What this device does is give Conrad, and later Hanna, a reason to be here. So maybe what these payoffs are telling us is that this was really Jeannie’s world – her love for the game, her escape. Which is what bought Conrad here, after her death, and why Hanna is so gifted. Opens a concept door instead of closing it.

So mainly it’s ‘why is Conrad here?’ and the only thing I can think of is ‘because Joanne was here too and this reminds him of her’, plus maybe ‘this is what Conrad does for a living’ – i.e. his team is out there making their daily bread.

Develop rivalries between secondary characters. For example: Kalyn and Jimmy are their respective team snipers. You could build a rivalry between them that they are trying to one-up each other all the time either in kills or (in this case) intensity of violations. This would provide more story to the escalating combat.

Violations are a point of confusion for me. This is an imaginative world but it’s not very clear. Violations are dished out to everyone but strangely go unpunished till the end. And even then it’s only Conrad’s team that gets banned when, in fact, both sides committed violations. Why doesn’t Sam’s team get banned for a time? (A humorous twist with Winston’s character could be he’s the one guy who doesn’t commit a violation yet is still punished by Stan in the end).

Love the bubbles. Could embellish irony even further (line: “time to bring out the big guns” [blows bubbles]).

Assuming that the characters are hacking the game, Jimmy’s question of “how long are they going to let us go on like this?” (pg. 7 becomes all the more relevant. Why doesn’t Stan stop the game once Hanna enters? Her presence on the team is already unfair in that Team Conrad has 4 players to Sam’s 3. While the audience is given the visual treat of watching the two teams duke it out, it makes little sense that an omnipotent administrator like Stan would allow the game to continue with so many violations. The violation symbols themselves are problematic in that they never truly impact the story. They provide a nice, tangible visual reminder that the characters are playing a game, but there are no consequences such as forced re-spawns or reductions in the teams’ “scores.” Addressing this issue may make the story easier to follow and the setting much more vivid and realistic.

The relationship between the father and daughter was good but i think that Conrad would be a little more protective of Hanna. And more against her being in the game. This is just me thinking but it might be even funny is he kicks her out of the game and then she finds away to get back in. I dont know that is just my brain thinking about stuff.

The revealing of the story’s secret, mainly, that it is a game, needs to happen more slowly. If your intent is to catch the audience unaware, you should take more time to establish the situation that the characters are in. The character Hanna is formally introduced far too soon, I believe, and it would work better if the viewer spent at least a page actually worrying about her welfare before she reveals that it’s all a simulation.

I think it would be interesting if Oku and Jimmy both encounter her on separate occasions, before they are all gathered together in a group where Conrad is present. The first encounter(being with either Oku or Jimmy, it shouldn’t matter) would occur somewhere early on the second page, and whomever runs into her should act as if she were no more than just a helpless child, and tell her to keep her head down. During the second encounter, about a minute later, Hanna should enquire about her father, but the adult should seem exasperated at her sudden appearance, this time more annoyed than worried, as if she were just a nuisance. Finally, when they are all together, she can be introduced fully, just as in your current version.

While the goals of both Conrad and Hanna are relatable, the ways they attempt to accomplish them aren’t always clear. They argue about Hanna’s role, but the resolution also seems to come from out of nowhere, rather than from the characters’ actions and choices.

Hanna’s speech about her mother on page 7 seems disjointed. If she were to relate a more concrete memory about how she misses her mother would give the audience a way to relate to this vulnerable little girl.

What about your villain; a good hero is created by making a better villain. What is the villain’s motivation, why is he the villain? Did he kill Conrad’s wife. Again these are all just suggestions.

And what really happened to the wife? It’s not clear. Did Conrad and her divorce? Did she die? If so, how? Couldn’t of been in the game, right? Or was it?

The main issue is that nothing seems to happen for a specific reason—all the characters seem willing to provoke a “Violation” in order to get the job done. The rules of the world need to be clear and established, even in such a short time frame (perhaps a beat in which Conrad explains the rules to Hanna?) If people can violate the rules at will, what are the stakes of the story? The problem is we don’t know/care about the characters’ strengths or weaknesses if they can clone themselves or transform into a golden glowing cape/cyclone thing—everyone is invincible and immortal, so who are we really rooting for? Something that could maybe be done is to have only Sam/Kalyn’s team be the cheaters who abuse the rules of the universe—maybe Conrad’s team tries to stick by the rules, but Hanna’s insistence on winning (and Conrad’s love for Hanna) mean that they eventually have to make the tough choice to break the rules too. Either way, you need to have this rule-breaking happen progressively—if everyone busts out their best, craziest trick right at the beginning, then there’s nowhere to go from there because we’ll be used to insane stuff happening and won’t be surprised anymore. Perhaps you can even play with our expectations—maybe we think this is a real war zone that’s played totally straight, no magic or physics-bending feats. Then, maybe Hanna can be the first one to do something that alerts us that this is no ordinary fight or world—this sort of happens already with her surprise “upgrade” cannon, but it doesn’t necessarily register as a huge shift in the narrative universe.

Once again, since the rules of the game are not concretely established, it is hard to understand the meaning behind Sam’s accusations of the other team “cheating”, because we do not know what rules have been broken.

The question that is prevalent throughout for the viewer—and very nicely highlighted by the title—is, “How far is this going to escalate?” And that question is given a voice for the viewer in Jimmy as he asks, “How long are they going to let us go on like this?” We assume he is referring to the “gods” of the game, the logical authorities from whence the “violation” icons come from. However, it’s clear Stan exhibits some definite God-like characteristics when he finally shows up as a ”golden character…like the second coming” of Jesus “his arms outstretched, palms up” like Jesus on the cross, and his “long-suffering” voice.


Joe Crump

About Joe Crump

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Filmmaker and Serial Entrepreneur, he recently co-directed (with his sister Kristina Wagner) the documentary,, Children of Internment. You can read his full story here on 20 Questions Film. Joe is the founder of 20 Questions Film.

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  1. Dear Joe: Thank you for posting all the entries to this contest. It’s instrumental for writers like myself who haven’t done actual script coverage, which seems like a pretty useful skill. It’s pretty similar, as far as content, to academic writing workshops (when they’re good), which is something I have a ton of experience with (though workshopping is mostly obsolete once you leave academia). It’s cool to see how artistic critique can be used in the real world! As I finish my MFA, I’ve been looking for jobs within academia, even though I’m *really* bored with most of it and won’t have the seniority to get fun professorships in creative disciplines for many years (except the odd semester here and there when the administration throws me a bone and gives me a section of Intro to Poetry or something). This posting, and in fact this whole blog, is opening my eyes to the fact that jobs in the arts, where creative people can do what they were trained to do, actually DO exist! They’re not unicorns!

    Heidi / Reply

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