Author Topic: Night and the City Sleeps  (Read 2374 times)

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polkablues

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Night and the City Sleeps
« on: August 10, 2006, 05:51:47 PM »
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Hey all,
I just finished a first draft on my most recent feature script, which I've been working on for longer now than I care to remember.  But now it's ready for some feedback, and as many of you are both intelligent and understand film (you know who you are), I'd love for anyone who's willing to read it to read it.  All constructive criticism is welcome.  I also accept glowing admiration and sexual advances, but those are certainly not mandatory.

A little setup: it's a genre piece, basically a detective thriller.  I've described it in the past as "Chinatown" meets "Seven", but please take that only as an indicator of content, not of quality.  I don't need anyone's expectations to get too out of control.  Like I say, this is a true first draft, so there may be hanging threads, forgotten clues, obligatory scenes left unobliged... that's the sort of thing it would be helpful to have pointed out to me.  I'd also just like to know, story-wise and character-wise, what does and doesn't work, and if possible why it does or doesn't.

So if you have a couple hours free, and want to earn some good karma, please do check it out and let me know your thoughts.  Here's the link: http://rapidshare.de/files/28945243/Night_and_the_City_Sleeps_-_1st_draft.pdf.html

If Rapidshare is giving you shit, just pm me with your email address and I'll send you off a copy that way.

Thanks!
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matt35mm

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Re: Night and the City Sleeps
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2006, 04:05:44 PM »
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This is okay for a first draft, but to be honest, only because anything is okay for a first draft.

If you decide to keep working on it, I think you might be able to make something good of it, because I know you to be capable of wit and charm (even if this draft lacks both).

The main problem is that there is nothing new or interesting being brought to the genre.  Every scene here has been done before, in just about the same order.  I could almost say that it's a very decent attempt at a demonstration of formula-based writing, except that it doesn't have the expected twist--indeed, it goes exactly where you think it's going from the first time you see the mayor on TV (or was it the radio?).  The effect is of watching Cowling taking nearly 2 hours through many clichéd scenes to figure out something that's already pretty clear to us, and there is no suspense because we know exactly whether he's going in the right or wrong direction.

I can't tell you what to do, BUT I would recommend changing your attitude about obligatory scenes (left unobliged, as you posted above), and the idea of pitching it as any movie meets any movie.  I think that spirit will rob your script of a chance at being unique or interesting.  Brick, which you liked, is a good example of taking what's been done and playing around with it (but don't do what Brick did, 'cause it's now been done).  Sure, honor the genre, but you've got to bring something of yourself into it.  I just didn't see any of you in this.

However, whatever of yourself that you might put into this often comes in later drafts.  That's how it works for me.  This first draft is much better than my first drafts (which I don't show to people so that I can feel completely free to be awful), and it's in the re-writing that I get to really develop what I want to see from it.  My final drafts tend to look nothing like my first drafts.  I think that you, too, will have to make significant changes to this screenplay to make it one worth even considering to produce.

A couple of other small notes:

- I felt like there were too many dead bodies on the street.  That happens like 4 times where a bunch of people are huddled over something and (gasp!) it's a dead body of someone Cowling knows.

- The Elodie/Cowling relationship will have to be worked on.  There's nothing there.  I know it's not exactly a love relationship, but I'm just saying it was particularly blah, especially since I know that you can work something more interesting there.

- The Magnolia references are cute, and I'm sure are just there in this first draft, but I still felt like I had to say that they're distracting and have to go.  You could even work your own number scheme instead of using all the 82's.

Uh, I think that's all for now.  I'd say take a break, maybe start writing something else, and later come back to this and re-write it with fresh eyes.  I think much will have to actually be changed, not just polished, but that's just me.  See what others have to say and see what you think in at least a month's time.

Good luck on it.

polkablues

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Re: Night and the City Sleeps
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2006, 06:35:54 PM »
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Thanks for reading it.  Interestingly, every one of the points you made were things that I was afraid of about the script, so I guess I was right to be afraid.   :ponder:

When I go in and start rewriting, which approach do you think I should take: make the "investigation" more twisty and unpredictable, or lower the importance of the investigation, focusing more on the characters and the situation?  I'm toying with the idea of Cowling finding out everything he needs to find out at the midpoint of the story (basically push the revelation at the end of the second act up about twenty minutes), and then having the second half be more about him and Elodie in hiding, figuring out what to do with the information they have, and concentrating on the danger it puts them in.  Would that help get it out of the formula rut a bit, do you think?  I'd like to get Elodie more involved in the plot as well; I think that would help build up the relationship, if they have some scenes together that aren't just trading exposition.

Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to read it, and all the feedback is helpful.  I think you're very right about needing to set it aside for a while and work on something else before I tackle it again.  More than anything, I don't want to get so burned out on it that I never want to touch it again, because I know there's a good movie somewhere in there.
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matt35mm

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Re: Night and the City Sleeps
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2006, 07:16:49 PM »
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When I go in and start rewriting, which approach do you think I should take: make the "investigation" more twisty and unpredictable, or lower the importance of the investigation, focusing more on the characters and the situation?  I'm toying with the idea of Cowling finding out everything he needs to find out at the midpoint of the story (basically push the revelation at the end of the second act up about twenty minutes), and then having the second half be more about him and Elodie in hiding, figuring out what to do with the information they have, and concentrating on the danger it puts them in.  Would that help get it out of the formula rut a bit, do you think?  I'd like to get Elodie more involved in the plot as well; I think that would help build up the relationship, if they have some scenes together that aren't just trading exposition.
The latter idea might be interesting.  FOR ME, plot and stuff doesn't really matter.  And the mayor seems like not an über major threat (and who cares about hobos, really?), so I could see all of that being pushed aside.  I often do that (I'm doing that right now).  I'll write all this stuff that's just building up to something interesting, then I scrap all of it and start where it gets interesting, using previous drafts as backstory more than anything.  Though you might want to make the investigation itself less obvious... or play with making it extremely obvious (after all, why does Cowling have to be adept at murder investigation... it's out of his league!).  As it is, there is no genuine curiousity or suspense.

If the Elodie/Cowling relationship was a genuinely interesting one (so that shouldn't be formula-like, either)... something we've never really seen before... that'd be interesting.  And you could do all sorts of things with the plot, like have it seemingly be resolved and then come back in unexpectedly toward the end (but something better).  This could start after Elodie and Cowling meet just to completely sidestep the feeling of cliche of the femme fatale or damsel in distress feeling when a cute chick walks into a P.I.'s office.

I think there are lots of possibilities.  There always are.  Out-of-the-box thinking (again, a la Brick) could do wonders for it, or it could work as a straightfoward story about very fascinating characters, as long as you can make them deeply interesting.

I mostly encourage you to think about what YOU have to bring to this story that has never been brought to it before.  Be more ambitious with it.  What do you have to bring to cinema that has yet to be brought to it?  I promise you there's something, if you work hard enough at it.  Then, yes, there is absolutely a good movie in this.

P.S.  Now if you ever want to return the karma.  Ahem... there's a wonderful movie that's linked below just waiting to know what you think of it.

JG

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Re: Night and the City Sleeps
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2006, 03:43:38 PM »
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Hey, i didn't know you were a sean.  welcome to the club. 

polkablues

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Re: Night and the City Sleeps
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2006, 05:39:14 PM »
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Hey, i didn't know you were a sean.  welcome to the club. 

We should find out if there are any Shawns or Shauns on the board so we can ostracize them.

Unless it's Shaun of the Dead, to whom we can totally grant honorary membership.
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