Thursday, July 27, 2017

Screenplay Review from The Blacklist - Teenage Bodyguard

After a couple of tense weeks waiting, I finally got my first review back from The Blacklist on my true crime biopic, Slipping "The Enterprise", also known as, Teenage Bodyguard. First off, this is a story that is set in a time and place that has not been harvested. The Tacoma Mafia? Seriously. Plus, it's a true story and kind of unique. One would think the right studio could make it something very interesting.

Anyway, I had originally slapped the Teenage Bodyguard working title on it when I wrote the screenplay for a London production company who had asked for it a couple of years ago. I wrote it in nineteen days after they asked for it, worked on it night and day. In the end, they didn't pick it up. But then it is about a teen in 1974 Tacoma, Washington, and the local mafia. It's a hell of a true story in a location and about people that are as yet untapped in Hollywood, or elsewhere.

Mostly it felt like the reader\reviewer liked it, just saw some issues (thankfully). These are $75 reads by industry professionals. According to The Blacklist themselves:

Think of as your personalized, real-time Black List. Instead of an annual list of the year's most-liked unproduced screenplays, you can log on at any time and get list of the week's, month's, and year's most liked unproduced screenplays AND a list of screenplays you're most likely to like based on your tastes and everyone else's.

I got the exact number rating from 1-10 that I'd expected. In fact, nailed it. On the specifics, some very nice indicated strengths including dialog and showing not telling. Finally, as that'd been an issue of mine years ago in a prose writer learning screenplay format. Part of the Strengths summary said:

There are a number of sequences in this screenplay where the pace of the dialogue really stands out. When conversations move quickly - as the exchange does between Gordie and Sara from page 44 to 46, for example's sake - it keeps the reader's (meaning prospective buyer's) eyes moving down the page and gives the scene an energy that can translate to the screen effectively. (But, be sure that those characters have distinct voices; a character's personality really comes to life on the page when their voice is unique and idiosyncratic.).

That last comment is important and I will go over the screenplay again to review and enhance the dialog.

Down side, as expected, the time line. It's a hybrid, it not linear. It's indie, it's nearly experimental. But properly handled by a deft hand at the helm, not only very doable, but a very entertaining and complex ride. But that doesn't sell easily. Part of the Weaknesses summary were:

This script could benefit from some serious streamlining. Ultimately, the 1974 timeline is the one that matters; Gordie is the true lead, and his central goal is to keep Sara safe until she can leave Washington. Let's focus on that plot, and have Gordie come across his primary antagonist - Caliguri - long before page 95.

I already have a fix for that. I will probably make the changes and put it out again for a new review. I have one more coming in as one review is always at least somewhat dangerous for a variety of reasons. Still, that's $150 for two reviews, but worth it.

Comments were also that an 18 year old lead will be a hard sale to producers/studios for this property. But let's face it, it would end up being most likely, some 26 year old baby faced lead. That's just the nature of some of the hurdles of some projects that one has to get over. As in studios not wanting senior citizen types as leads in a film and yet, we've seen some amazing films with older people as leads. Think, Driving Miss Daisey, for instance.

The reader also didn't like, quite as I had expected, a flashback in a flashback in a flashback. I've seen those done in big movies, mostly indies, and they can be fun. Again, a deft hand directing and it's quite doable. But I figured I'd get push back on that and will probably come up with a better format to exposit that information and that part of the storyline.

Again, not easy to sell originality (hopeful and perceived as it may be) because buyers are looking for easy money with little effort. I get that. I can fix that issue with little difficulty, even though it will drift away from an accurate docudrama to loosely held biopic. But then, I was shooting to make a biopic. And nearly all of them drift off from reality to entertainment. That's the nature of the beast.

I will save this current version of the screenplay, version twelve. The twelfth draft. But I will keep it as version one. After several more potential drafts this next iteration will become version two, just in case I get somewhere and someone wants to see the original. In the case that the revised version sells the property and that opens the door for the more convoluted and creative version or some form in between. I'm not tied to my original version, just looking to make the best film possible while remaining as true to reality as is possible.

Next up, gather my energy and get back to a new draft and start all over again. After I get the response from the second reader....

UPDATE 7/27 3pm: King of had the blahs today. Finally got myself motivated to get on my Harley and rode up a long road, turned around, came back to the Garage bar, had some tasty lunch lunch and a 22 ounce beer and read more of David Mamet's book on directing.

Then I got the idea. Move a teaser of a scene to the beginning of the screenplay, change all dates to the primary year and have it all happen within the one primary week in the story, then take one scene and make the leads be the ones to witness to a crime the bad guys perform.

Tightens most of the issues up incredibly well.

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