Author Topic: Thomas Edison (Short Film Available for Viewing)  (Read 28994 times)

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matt35mm

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Thomas Edison (Short Film Available for Viewing)
« on: January 01, 2005, 04:15:06 PM »
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This Spring, I'll be shooting my "real" movie.  By which I mean that this is my first honest attempt at making a great short film that I'll be taking to as many film festivals as possible.  There's about $10,000 put into this movie (mostly equipment).  My "practice" technical run-through movie was Poof!, for those who may have seen it.  Uh, this next movie is nothing like that.

What Poof! showed that I could do is make a film that didn't have the standard awkward pacing, terrible sound, and ugly, cheap photography that has become synonymous with short, independent films.  Poof! looks and sounds pretty good, which was my only main concern while making it.  That movie barely had a screenplay, but still managed to become fairly popular among those who've seen it.  If you're interested in seeing it, AIM me and I can send it in a Quicktime MP4 file (33 MB, 10 mins).

This next movie has a screenplay, and will definitely be made.  It will look and sound better than Poof! because I have much better equipment now, as well as much more practice and a more solid crew.   The screenplay is in its fifth draft, with the tentative title of Thomas Edison (it's... not about Edison, if you were wondering, but the name ties into the movie).

I need your help, fellow Xixaxers.  Please PM or AIM me for the screenplay--24 pages long--and give your thoughts.  I want to make this the best movie that I can, and no one knows movies better than this group.  Criticize it as harshly as you'd like, and hold it to high standards, because only that will help me in making it as solid an effort as I want it to be.

I will not be cutting corners or glossing through the important parts of the filmmaking process.  This won't be a quick run-and-gun shoot.  We'll be taking our time and getting it right.

This is a dramatic short film about a serious situation--a death--in the middle of nowhere that unleashes hidden thoughts, buried emotions, and tough questions between two people.  It's a character study with the central philsophical question: "If Edison had killed somebody when he was eighteen and had never gotten the chance to become Thomas Edison because he was imprisoned, and the person that died wasn’t going to make anything of himself anyway, so that the world was robbed of both that dead 'nobody' as well as Thomas Edison, what would be the greater loss?  The loss of life or the loss of a man's chance to contribute greatly to science and society?"

Please please PLEASE help me out here.  I think I have a pretty good screenplay here, but I'd do as much as I have to to make it better.  I can't post the screenplay on here because I don't want random people skimming through it--I need people who are seriously willing to help to read it.  Please PM or AIM me for the script.  Thank you.

EDIT:  Available in Word Doc file or PDF.  Indicate your preference, please.  (Thanks Kotte)
« Last Edit: March 24, 2006, 09:47:50 PM by matt35mm »

matt35mm

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« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2005, 05:58:24 PM »
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Oh right, and you can also ask for it by replying to the thread.  Actually, that's probably better because it'll keep the thread alive.

Also, the thoughts on and suggestions for the movie should go in here, too.

Thanks!

Pozer

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« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2005, 11:08:24 PM »
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Send away

kotte

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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2005, 01:29:59 AM »
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SPOILER

I'll be 100% honest. Anything else would be a waste.

I really like what you're saying with the story. It asks the questions I'm dealing with myself.

The danger here is the trap of pretentiousness. They're 18 years old. I'd be much more interested in seeing this if they were 20 years older. I don't really believe what Alex is saying (see Dawsons Creek).

I feel there's way too much dialogue. I'm confident you can cut at least 30 or 40 per cent with a heavy re-write.
If you feel there's nothing to cut it would work alot better as a Stageplay than a Screenplay.

When Paul woke up I was so hoping Alex would come to the conclusion that Nicole would serve him better dead. Paul coughs. Nicole is about to tell Alex. Alex, from 10 feet away throws a big rock in her head. She dies. Alex notice Paul's not dead. I would have enjoyed the irony.

The story's important here so I tried not to think about formatting too much but there are some errors.

'We see', 'we hear' is not a good thing to write.
Instead of 'she is playing' you should write 'she plays'
Questions in the action is not a good way to deliver a character's thoughts. Never write stuff into a screenplay that cannot be shown on screen.
You refer to the movie once '...since the start of the movie'. Not a good idea.

You're directing it so formatting doesn't matter too much but If you ever intend to bring in people other than friends or sell it, formatting is very very important. If you can afford it, get Final Draft. It kills. I love it. You never have to think about formatting again.

The film falls into melodrama quite a bit which is totally fine but I've learned amateur actor handle this poorly. I'm mainly thinking about how Nicole cries over Paul's body and how she runs her hands over him. This is very very hard for an actor to pull off believably (even Naomi Watts misses a few beats in 21 grams). Keep it as subtle as possible.

Directing advice. Instead of having them look straight into the camera catch it from another angle or have them look just outside the frame. Straight into camera shots are old and a bit gimmicky.

These are my two cents. God, I hope you see these things as my opinion not as rules or anything. I really enjoye what you're saying with the story.

Good luck!!

ono

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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2005, 02:05:18 PM »
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I should say I agree with everything kotte said.  He's the man, he seems to know what he's talking about here.

If anything, you've overwritten this script a great deal.  That's not a negative comment, but it says something about what can be put on the screen.  Only write what you can show.  Too much description just fills the page, and will get you into a hole.  Since you're shooting this yourself, it doesn't matter TOO much, but this is stuff you should be telling the actors in your directions to them.

If you haven't, read Boogie Nights (the deleted scenes on www.ptanderson.com are really good, too), and listen to the Boogie Nights commentaries.  Hard Eight, too.  Read the Magnolia screenplay, and listen to the secret commentary.  It's accessed the similarly to the Pulp Fiction one, except you need jelly.  Apple works best.  It's a bit of a cliche here but I can't think of any other source that's been so helpful for me (maybe others can).

In the first Boogie Nights commentary, PTA talks about working with Macy, and how he sticks to the script verbatim.  Also, how he is able to write something like "Beat." in a certain context, that, because of that context it conveys PARAGRAPHS of information.  You need to condense this, and use action words, instead of passive verbs.  Each paragraph should be as short as it should be.  No needless elaboration, the main idea, and maybe a couple sentences more.  People don't like reading big blocks of text.  I realize you wrote this for yourself, so it isn't much of a concern now.  But it will be.

Page 2, for example, was a bit hard to get through because of its repetition.  You go to great extents to describe everything about what Nicole is feeling, when a few lines, and some apt direction would have sufficed and made it easier to read.

A screenplay is your blueprint, your architecture.  Like kotte said, again, thoughts, questions, these things don't work here.  Condense it.  Pick up The Screenwriter's Bible by David Trottier.  It seems you have a general grasp of format, but that book, and Final Draft, will go a long way to solidifying all of that.

Dialogue is/should be very telling.  Page 12, "Nicole shakes her head with disappointment."  Period.  The end.  None of the rest of the paragraph is necessary.  All that is implied, and the dialogue, if well-written, will carry it.  The actors will pick up on that.

Page 17 is the heart of the script, where things start to get interesting.  I wish you would've gotten there sooner.  Trimming the script will help that a great deal, but also, remembering that this is a visual media will help even more.  Write what can be shown, without using "We see" or anything like that.

Another example:

NICOLE: Now you're comparing yourself to Thomas Edison?
(Actions...)
ALEX: No!

Delete those actions in-between.  They are more internal and are all implied anyway.

"Nicole truly loves God, and Alex truly despises the idea of God."...  Again, it's obvious from the dialogue, which, really is a good thing.  So that can be deleted.

ALEX: Seatbelt.

Again, you can delete most stuff that comes after that.  It's implied, so that part is well-written, just overwritten.

Keep looking for passages like this to trim as much as you can.  Good luck.  Break a leg.

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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2005, 03:46:54 PM »
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I'd like to read it.
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UncleJoey

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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2005, 05:41:13 PM »
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I would also like to read it.
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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2005, 02:49:45 PM »
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me too - if you could email it to planet_schmanet_@hotmail.com that'd be great.
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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2005, 01:42:12 AM »
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Me too, although I may not be too speedy in my feedback -- you can send a Word file to davidpatricklowery@gmail.com

SHAFTR

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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2005, 03:19:55 AM »
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I'll do my best.
You can either AIM me or email me.
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Jeremy Blackman

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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2005, 08:44:04 PM »
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I'm going to write reactions as I read the script...


Nicole sees this and she snaps her venomous fangs at Alex, as a mother snake would protect her eggs from harm.

NICOLE: STAY AWAY!


Is Nicole turning into a hysterical witch stereotype?

NICOLE: get away from us…

Great line... revealing... I think it works...

I think you're going to need a lot of music for this scene... that or some very interesting silence... because it feels very brooding and delicate, like In the Bedroom or something. All this introspection and dread could be a complete disaster or a great success. I think you could do a lot with the blood... when/where it gets on Nicole's face, if Alex has any on him, stuff like that...

Nicole lifts her head out from Paul’s shoulder.  Only through her face do we see the weight of her loss.

You're going to be so dependent on actors for this scene to work. I hope you have some one good for Nicole.

Suddenly, a small mud clump hits Alex in the back and bursts apart.  He immediately snaps out of his trance and turns his head to look at Nicole, whom he knows threw the clump.

Nicole is standing, also worn out.  She’s looking right at Alex, clearly trying to pick a fight.

Alex turns back to face away from Nicole, trying to ignore her.  He attempts to return to his thoughts.


I love this moment. It's so funny and so tragic at the same time. It's like Nicole is back on the playground. Is that the only way she knows how to deal with this?

NICOLE: God, Alex.  You should be in more pain.

I don't understand where this is going. Why is Nicole focusing on Alex's emotional depth? She's not over Paul's death yet. To be honest, it seems like the screenwriter isn't sure why his character isn't in more pain.

ALEX: I know you, Nicole.  You’re a stupid girl, living in your own little bubble.  You think what people tell you to think, and you have no ideas of your own and I’m asking: why should I care what you think when your ideas aren’t your own?

NICOLE: Why are you talking about me?


This is awkward. Maybe you could simplify this. I'm starting to turn against Alex because I don't have any evidence to support what he's saying. And Nicole's indirect reaction makes it more awkward.

ALEX: Because you’re mindless and you don’t appreciate things.  You drift from phase to phase, fad to fad, whatever’s popular and you’ve got no real center, no ideas of your own, nothing to contribute.  You don’t think I realize that I was just a phase?

The connection between her unoriginality and his being deceived is a little tenuous at this point. I don't get it. It seems like Alex is rambling, and I may lose interest in his argument soon if he doesn't make a coherent point.

I'm not sure this dialogue approach is working. You seem to have constrained yourself to one setting and one time for a purpose... Is it this dialogue? I think you could open up to a more visual approach to express what you're trying to say, but maybe you'd have to break up your story chronologically. Cause right now it's pretty hard to believe they're having a self-interested life philosophy conversation. I'm not sure the transition between thinking about the dead guy to thinking about their own futures was convincing enough. Maybe a few days need to pass.

Also, I think you've taken Alex's side, but I definitely haven't. There's not enough to go on.

ALEX: Well… some people are just… more important than others.

Well, I guess I take back that last point. Did you intentionally weaken Alex's argument so you can break it down now, or were you really on his side before?

NICOLE: You’re wrong.  If you don’t see how hard God is working, then I feel sorry for you.

I think the God talk has gone on too long at this point. Maybe you could trim down some of the dialogue. Make it shorter. I have a hard time believing that they're not interrupting each other more.

Alex gets into the driver’s seat and Nicole into the passenger’s seat.

Wouldn't she get in the back seat with Paul?

I loved the twist. I would almost say it would make more sense for Paul to stand up where he was lying in the woods and come up behind them when they're having their God conversation. It would deprive us of the great car scene, but it would get rid of the action between (which I didn't like), and it would be a more visual way of discovering that he's alive. It would be an even more surprising finisher (for the audience).

Also, I disagree with this...
Quote from: kotte
Directing advice. Instead of having them look straight into the camera catch it from another angle or have them look just outside the frame. Straight into camera shots are old and a bit gimmicky.

I think you should go for the direct shot. It's perfect for your story. And maybe you could end with a shot of Paul looking right into the camera.
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matt35mm

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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2005, 10:03:24 PM »
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Thanks guys.  Great help so far.  Most of these comments are definitely in my mind and a lot of changes will be made.  Mostly the dialogue will be changed.  Hopefully I can make it more realistic.  I don't feel it's beyond their age (I'm 19, and I wrote it.  These words could definitely come out of their mouths), but a lot of it is beyond their abilities at this very moment after such an event.

I'm also rewriting it in actual screenplay format, removing the excess description (I was writing out the description more like a short story for those who don't normally read screenplays, but Xixaxers are much more sensitive to that, and I agree that it would be better if made sparser).

But I agree on a lot of the key criticisms that many of you have, and so the next draft should be much stronger, and should better for the both of us.

Ghostboy

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« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2005, 02:09:34 AM »
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I'm going to go ahead and say that I'm glad you left all the descriptive, prosaic stuff in -- normally, I jump all over that, as Kotte and Ono did, but I won't for two reasons:

1.) You're directing it yourself, so yeah, it's not that big of a deal.
2.) In being so descriptive, you've demonstrated that you know EXACTLY how to direct this. You've described the perfect approach for the material, and had you left it out, I would have been unsure as to how you were going to handle it; I would have written a much more critical response, full of warnings. But thanks to your excessive breaking of screenwriting rules, I think I can safely say that you have the blueprint for a pretty amazing short.

And since you seem to have such an astute concept of how to make this film work, the only risk you face is with the actors, who are going to have to be top notch.

I think some of the dialogue could be cut, but I'd also consider waiting until you begin rehearsals to settle on a finalized draft. Work it out with the cast, and make it sound realistic. Stuff that sounds excessively wordy on the page can work fine when performed well, and vise versa.

I don't think it's similar to Dawson's Creek at all. The characters are smart, but they're not pretentiously so. The dialogue in this is closer to something in I Heart Huckabees, actually. That they get in such a heated philosophical conversation is the only thing that is perhaps a little unrealistic, but that's the point of the film, and in that context it works fine.

A few more notes:

I disagree with Kotte on the ending; the lack of irony is a beautiful thing. Don't change a word of it.

I too liked the clump of dirt thing that JB mentioned.

I don't think you should use any music. Just natural sound FX, like wind blowing, crickets, stuff like that. It'll be far more evocative (and Bergman-esque!) that way.

The repetition of 'Give Them Their Space' was the point when I realized you knew exactly what you were doing, and when I realized this piece had the potential to be brilliant. All in all, your descriptive passages are very well written and communicate with clarity - something that's important for actors.

I loved the Space-man Thing dialogue, although I'd cut out the line later on where he explicitly references exploring deep space.

I'm rendering some massive files at the moment and my keyboard is sluggish as a result, so I'll stop typing here and just say: make sure your cast is perfect, and I look forward very much to seeing the finished film (and, if you post rough cuts for feedback, commenting on those as well).

matt35mm

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« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2005, 03:03:48 AM »
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I really want to make this a great movie, and I want to take my time with it.  I've pushed the shooting back to Summer (instead of Spring) to be able to focus completely on it (without worrying about school and that junk).  From now till then, I'll be working on the screenplay and doing as much of the pre-production as I can fit in.  But mainly this extra time will help me to gather my thoughts more, let it live in me for a bit more.

As I was writing it, I definitely realized that I would need very solid actors.  I'm not going to just be casting friends, so don't worry about that.  I realize that if the actors are bad, the movie won't work.  Trust me, I won't make this movie with actors that I don't believe could do it well.  I'll push the production back further if I have to.  Just know that when I do make this movie (and I definitely will), I'll be prepared to make it the best movie it can be and that I can make.  I've made several quick movies, but I'm at the stage where I'm ready to put my all into a movie with which I feel I can be truly judged as a filmmaker with.

Thanks a lot, everybody.  Every evaluation and comment and suggestion is driving and inspiring me more, and I appreciate it very much.

kotte

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« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2005, 08:58:59 AM »
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I'm with Ghostboy, I believe you can make this a good short. There are different ways you can read and appreciate a script.

Take what you want from my comments but I so want it the characters to be older, much older. That would set it apart right away...

 

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