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"Black Cherry Lane" by Chris Messineo ~ First Place

Logline: As a global pandemic rages on, the Turners are locked in their home without power and with food and water running low - just like everyone else on their street. Communicating with their neighbors through signs in the window, the bonds of family and friends will be tested when the house across the street writes, “murder”.

Genre: Drama - Horror - Romance - Thriller

Cast Size: 9

Production Status: Available (Please contact the author to negotiate the rights)

Contest: Feature ~ Round 2 of 3: Ten Pages (Apr. 2010)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent

Comments Made During the Contest

Bill Delehanty (Level 4)

I liked the quick one scene character intros. It also gave us a feel for the house.
Nice annoying sibling banter.
Nothing really happens, but the fact of they are stuck inside, but it is written very well and flowed nicely, and very easy to read.
I very much would like to see this advance and read the rest of it.
Great work!

Brian Howell (Level 5)

VERY GOOD. The idea of this fascinates me! There is sooo much potential here and I love that you are tackling such a robust challenge. I don't know if you plan on ever leaving the house, but I get a sense that a lot of this movie is going to be limited to the Turner's house - this is impressive and will be amazing if you pull it off. So far, you're on your way.

The brother sister stuff wasn't that interesting to me. Brothers and sisters fight, that's normal. But the tension between Ellen and Sean is fantastic. I don't know if something has happened, and if it has the other knows, but I really get a sense that some kind of affair has taken place between the neighbors.

I have one hang-up: I don't buy Sean saying that he doesn't really know what he's going to do with the gun. I think he knows damn well what he's going to do with it. Ellen can be shocked at the site of it, that's plausible, but I think Sean knows what he's doing. You have left me hanging, I was going to complain that you should get to this point quicker because I want to see what happens - but that was the point of the first ten pages. You definitely have me hooked.


Brian Mark Churchill (Level 3)

This is a very nicely written story. The most important are the dialogues. Not only the writer drives the story forward, but also gives some very important lessons to the society (like, one should respect another's privacy). i liked that. I would love to read the full story. Congratulations to the author.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

I didn't notice any errors of any kind.

This script is off to a great start. Well-defined characters, ominous atmosphere, some good conflicts being set up...

The viral outbreak genre is, in a lot of ways, similar to the zombie genre, so it ranks right up there amongst my favorite sub-genres. I suppose I have a very dark imagination, but these type of scripts really appeal to me. I find them much more horrifying than most horror scripts about demons, ghosts, vampires, zombies etc... because it's based in reality. Obviously, it's fiction, but there's a very real possibility that we could be faced with a situation like this at some point in the future and that makes these type of stories so much creepier.

This is the 7th review I've written and the 2nd script I've found that I'm certain will advance to the Finals. If the rest of the script was here, I'd still be reading, but since I'm sure it will advance, I guess I'll just have to wait until the Finals come around. Really nice work! I can't wait to read the rest of it.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

I loved this and want to read (see?) more. With your skill at writing I have a real sense of the characters already, which you manage with very few words - and I want to find out what happens to them because I already care!

A few notes:

Good opening scene which in very few images sets up the overall scenario.

Up to this point the dialogue was natural and credible:
Something is wrong.
Everything is wrong...I just think they'd probably use contractions - Matthew at least 'Something's wrong' though Rachel may not for the sake of emphasis.

Same here... 'I think someone is in the house.' - makes it sound wooden.

Chris Keaton (Level 5)

This logline really confused me. I can see how this logline could be much better if it wasn't filled with fluff. Then I think you could use the saved place to build up the drama. Oh well onto my review.

- Why not have a title page?
- I would suggest opening with an unusual image and then show the blach x's. What type of unusual images, maybe a new car in a yard or sitting on teeter toter, just something that you wouldn't see normally. Give us this strange world with a punch.
- Write only what we'll see. We don't know the girl this guy is watching is his daughter. They will see a guy looking at a sleeping chick. How he looks at her will tell us if he's family or a stalker, but the viewing audience will only know through action.

Man this suffers from everyday boredom, life is boring that's why we go to movies. I think this could be killer good, but, yes but, right now you drop us into this strange story, but right into the boring bits. Yes, I know you are setting the claustrophobic desperate mood, which it did. However, you need to grab the audience in the first ten pages and I wasn't grabbed. I can see tons of potential, but they aren't showing through. Maybe you can trim the boredom and get the feel of being trapped done in a page or two and then cut to the intruder faster. Keep at it and it could be great.

Dan Delgado (Level 5)

You did a nice job of describing the claustrophobic lives of a family that can't leave their house, but that could have been done in four or five pages. In my opinion, you could cut a lot out and not miss anything and get to the meat of your story. Maybe introduce us to the residents of the house that writes the message "murder" across the street. It's an original idea and I think it could be interesting, especially the part about communicating by putting signs up to the windows. You can almost see a homemade pony express thing where the people in the houses pass the messages from one end of the neighborhood to the other, but that's all just set-up, the story needs to get in motion. Your characters are in a situation that makes the reader sympathetic to them and you created characters that the reader cares about. That seems like an obvious thing to do, but I'm surprised by how many people miss doing it. I slipped this one up a notch from "Good" because I think your idea has potential and I wouldn't mind seeing where it goes. Just get going.

Thank you.

I gave this one a rating of "Very Good".

David Birch (Level 5)

"she has kicked off the covers in the night..."...not only does this read awkwardly, but it is a passive (and past tense)...just write what he (sean) does...sean draws the covers..."watching intently" = not in the active voice + the use of an adverb....better to just say "stares"..."fixates"...i'm not a big fan of the overuse of adverbs (some okay) but it seems to make your story slow to read and "wordy"...would have preferred a little space dedicated to some backstory....why is everyone being quarantined???...most of the dialog was good (especially between the children)...but some of it didn't really ring true...they hear footsteps....sean grabs a gun...she asks the bizarre question "what are you going to do with that?"...and then, his more bizarre retort, "i don't know."...i'm not sure what the "black x's" are for...usually that means a condemned building...if so, are they living in a condemned building?...if so, why are the buildings condemned and why are they refusing to leave...if they are forced to stay there is anyone going to resupply them???...what about water, sanitation...some things to consider when you set up an apocyliptic world...good luck on the vote...

Dexter Williams (Level 3)

Who are the main characters? The Turners are the main characters of this screenplay.

What is the story about? The Turners are a family trying to survive being locked in their home.

What are the circumstances surrounding the action? The Turners are a family who try to use their limited resources to survive being locked in their own home.

Overall reaction: This is a pretty decent, if somewhat boring, start to a script that promises to get more interesting. Not great, but good.

Elias Farnum (Level 5)

It's best to describe the sun rising in the action instead of using DAWN, or course it may just be personal preference. I don't know what the rule is nowadays.

How do I know the toys have been "hastily" abandoned? There are instances throughout where little adverbs, and telling more than showing. That alone isn't hurting too much. There isn't a whole lot of tension driving the first 9 pages. Some, and I do like the whole watching the neighbors in the window appear and disappear, it certainly foreshadows something foreboding.

I really wished we could have had some tension between Sean and Ellen, and some back story. I kinda wonder why the family would stay. It's apparently been some time since the pandemic. Come to think of it not too long ago I saw a made for History channel(?) movie with the same premise. The family hung out till foodstuffs were gone, then went out into the dangerous new world and found a community. Everything reverted to way, way back socially. Is that where this story is going? Even so, or not, the first 10 pages give us a nominal set-up with chit chat, though it does flesh out your characters.

Drive more tension into the scenes. You have likable characters but right now I don't sense the dire straights they are actually in.

To me it's not "who's" taking him to a doctor, but "what" doctor are you taking him to. I did think the dialogue sounded natural otherwise.

So trim the unnecessary dialogue, (I'm bored, you're bored, we're all bored) and descriptions that can't be seen. Jam more drama and tension into each scene. Drive the story forward with all. Good luck.

Faith Friese Nelson (Level 5)

The first 10 pages of this screenplay earned a ‘very good’ from me. I am invested in the family and want to know what is going to happen to them. The tenth page, with the intruding footsteps, makes me want to read more.

A copy of small things:

How old are Ellen and Sean Turner?

Be careful not to overwrite. Example #1: “Sean kneels down and gently…” Consider instead, “Sean kneels and gently… Example #2: “Rachel storms upstairs to her room.” Consider instead: “Rachel storms upstairs.” Example #3: “Every few seconds a drop of water falls from the tap into an open jug.” Consider instead: “Every few seconds a drop of water falls into an open jug.” Example #4: “Rachel sits up in bed…” Consider instead: “Rachel sits in bed…” Example #5: “Sean and Ellen sit in bed reading by candlelight.” Consider instead: “Sean and Ellen read by candlelight.”

One way to write in a more-active voice is to eliminate as many ING words as possible. Example: “Rachel smiles, but before she can respond her brother, Matthew, comes traipsing downstairs making loud kissing sounds.” Consider instead: “Rachel smiles. Before she can respond, Matthew traipses down, makes loud kissing sounds.”

Felice Bassuk (Level 4)

Well done! Very engaging opening. Clear, concise, taut writing - both in the dialogue and description, which adds to the suspense. Good pacing and good description of this family through action. I loved that the spouses got a glimpse of one another. Nice touch. If I had to suggest one thing it would be to give more of a description to some of your characters when you first introduce them. Just a few minor technical points:
p. 1: 12-year-old son
p. 1 and 2: you."
p. 4: not clear why Matthew would hang his head in despair.
p. 5: Daniel's
p. 10: going to do
Great job. Can't wait to read more.

Herman Chow (Level 5)

The opening scene quickly sets the tone of the script. Morning mist, unkempt lawn, abandoned toys, lifeless tombs, black "X" on doors, weathered signs. All these props and settings made it look real and I was immediately drawn to your story.

After you seem to have a laundry list of character appearance. Just a suggestion, maybe it's better to hold them off until they have something to do, not just sleeping in their own beds.

Liked the bickering and bantering between Rachel and Matthew. The scene between Sean and Matthew playing with flying cushions was good. You illustrated these family scenes well, demonstrating the relationships between the characters, and what they usually do when they're trapped in their homes.

Didn't understand what Matthew was referring to when he told Rachel about something is weird. You kinda left that one opened, maybe it'll become clear after 10 pages.

Whoa, Ellen was kinda blunt. She doesn't seem to love Sean pretty much, confessing that Sean is just another guy to her own daughter. If that's what you intended, then that's fine. If not, then you probably want to re-write the dialogue.

Okay, the last scene got me excited that something's gonna happen. You have introduced the neighbors in some obscured way in the first 10 pages. And I liked it, kept them mysterious throughout.

I would like to read on to see what happened.


JeanPierre Chapoteau (Moderator)

The logline seems very interesting, but the first ten pages didn't do it for me.

The dialogue needed a lot of work in my opinion. Unless this is supposed to be a comedy.

There was way too much wasted space with the "yes" "I know" "Okay" "No" responses. If your characters talk, then have them talk. If they are going to go back and forth like that, then don't have them talk at all. It was cool the first time, because obviously that's how people really speak, but then you used it like 3 other times. It started to become humorous and I'm assuming this is supposed to have a dark tone.

I love the mystery from across the street. That would be very eerie. I also liked how you didn't explain what was going on yet. I'm sure you will have people complain about it, though.

I did have a problem with you never specified how old the daughter was. Is she 14 or 17? Both teenagers, but completely different personalities. Where did they pick up these kid like behaviors and language? I mean I know they read books, but I would assume children in that sort of environment would be very serious. And sound smarter because their only entertainment would be books.

I also didn't understand Ellen's comment about taking the son to a doctor. Was she being sarcastic or are they actually able to go outside?

I don't know. I wish this was darker and less ABC family movie. The logline made me believe it was going to have that post Apocalyptic tone. Your beginning descriptions made me think that too.

Jose Batista (Level 5)

An excellent intro. I was looking forward to this script and I am not dissapointed. The setting and main players are brought into play in an effortless and clean manner of writing. Your visuals are powerful and the stark presentation allowed for me to understand so far the scenario that this family finds itself in. The X's and other markings on most doors was an excellent scene to start off the script. It would have been nice to know a little bit about the pandemic and how it has affected, but as I read on I feel that the reveals are perhaps going to come embedded into the story itself, as has been the case so far. If so, then I can see this being a very succesful script.

The characters interacted in normal ways, much like a family would on a normal day, but because of the situation, the things they did served to convey facts of life about their situation. Their dialogue was not bad and the way the script cut off - it's like a hook within a hook. You have written this piece excellently with an economical and powerful style and grace. Truly looking forward to reading the rest in the final phase of the contest. Cheers on a most excellent entry.

Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5)

I think it's excellent.

The logline is not that exciting to me. Even though the premise is quite original, I think, I kind of suspected a slow read. But it's not.
Structurally it's great, I think. The characters have distinctive personalities and fun to read about. Everyone has a secret - which is very good and I think you introduced all the "secrets" in a very subtle way which is hard.

It's very well written too. And easy read. Easy to produce. The main thing is I so want to read on! Couldn't believe your pages came to an end. Wish it goes to the top!

KP Mackie (Level 5)

The opening scene on "Black Cherry Lane" is riveting. Even without the logline providing clues to the storyline, it's clear that something is terribly wrong in this neighborhood. Description is visual, concise and clear. Especially intriguing is the hint of a relationship in the brief exchange that occurs between Ellen Turner and Charles Miller, "watching her (Ellen) through his...window...a little sad." There's more evidence that all is not well in the Turner household when Sean and Ellen argue in their bedroom.
The characters could use a little more description so as to be able to tell them apart on the page; bit picky, but the last names Turner and Miller end similarly. The first names of everyone are common too. Might be helpful to use an unusual name or two, or maybe use a name indicative of a personality.
Most of the scenes seem to concentrate on the normalcy of family life, as opposed to focusing on the distressful situation. There are some really good examples like Ellen and Sean discussing the problem if Matthew were to be hurt, Matthew and Rachel acknowledging that "Something/Everything is wrong," and Ellen's accounting of the diminishing supplies.
The beginning ten pages are really well written and the story idea is terrific. Perhaps a little less about family discourse would allow the impact of the "global pandemic" to be revealed earlier.

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

I was waiting for this one and it came up number 25.

Really, really good work.

I don't know what else to say. You nailed the characters and made me care about them. The tension buildsslow and steady and I was ticked that I had to stop reading before there was a release.

Excellent work.

Marla Brecheen (Level 4)

The story has potential, but feel it is coming up short from the great logline. Where's the take of the panademic? We see the family in their home without anyone talking about the seriousness of what it would be to leave their home. Why not talk about the panademic on the first page to hook the reader right away. When describing the character for example: Sean's 12 year old son. Just write: MATTHEW, 12 years old. We're getting the picture that this is Sean's house and family. All the characters feel flat and too sterotypical. Make them unique in their on ways so they can each stand on their own without the other characters if that should need to be.

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

I love how you just throw us into this situation where the family has adjusted around it. It's interesting to see the characters trying to act like a normal family, around the presumed horror of what's going on outside. I like that you don't explain it. It's definitely not important - we as an audience have seen pandemics on screen before and can come up with a reason for it. Much better to get to the characters straight away.

You've established a personal problem for each of the characters really well. I hope they pay off well. Good writing on the kids' characters, that's tough to get accurate without being obnoxious.

Well, the last page really has me in suspense now. I'd just say that if you're going to keep it all set inside this one house you will need to think of all possible suspense scenes that can happen there. Excellent.

Michael Alberstadt (Level 4)

This is a good start. It sets up the story and provides a number of curious scenarios and questions about relationships both past and present. The tenth page offers a good hook to move the reader on to the next few pages.

I had trouble with the dialogue. It sounds like something from an Ozzy and Harriott episode. Too vanilla. I don't mean to say that it should be riddled with swear words, but I don't think people really talk like this. Most people talk in snippets, little three or four word sentences; which you have managed well. But most people talk with clipped or contracted words. Instead of "something is wrong" we usually say "something's wrong". Sentences like "Nothing. Just a bird in a tree" could be shortened to "Nothing. A bird." saving words and perhaps creating more impact. Makes Ellen seem more icy.

Just a couple thoughts. I think if you rewrite the dialogue, thinking of how people talk, you'll be amazed at the texture your story suddenly has. Great start and great concept . . . keep at it.

Michael Cornetto (Level 5)

I gave this my first excellent of the bunch. I liked it. It read fast and was crisp. The story intrigues me and that's really the most important thing. However, even though I marked this very high there was aspects of it that I didn't think worked.

First, the kids were too normal. Going through something like that is definitely going to change people. If they were recently quarantined then maybe they would be acting normal and they'd need that reminder from Mom. But from your descriptions I had the impression they were quarantined for a while. And if that is the case then the way they were acting was out of character. Anyway, it's something to think about and it rubbed me the wrong way.

The other issue I had was the kids period. I'm not sure of the audience you are intending but the kids are going to definitely pull it toward a younger or a family audience. You could have a good independent film here with your concept but I think the kids are going to nix the chances of that. This is also something to think about and it makes me wonder whether I'll enjoy the rest of the script.

Excellent job though.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5)

You paint a good picture of a family with secrets and your dialogue is natural.

I found the names and the manner of speaking of Rachel and Ellen too similar and had difficulty differentiating between them.

You use a lot of passve -ing verbs and I found the whole first 10 pretty passive on the whole with not enough to grab my attention. Some hint of why they are quarantined might punch it up a little; as it stands it reads a little too much like a romantic melodrama with the adultery and teenage love taking centre stage.

'hastily abandoned' – how does the audience know they're hastily abandoned – kids generally just abandon their toys – show don't tell I.e - a half built sandcastle or a half eaten sandwhich alive with maggots.

The dialogue, although natural, is rather hum-drum without revealing much character. Yes, the fmaily is bored but you need to show us that in an interesting manner. You do this with an interesting reveal on page 5 – with the bird/Mr. Milller moment – shows us Ellen's character and that she's obviously hiding an affair.

P8 – the dialogue between mum & Rachel tells us nothing new, it's dialogue that has been heard many times before and does not reveal character or information.

Dawn/dusk – use day/night

p5 – Int. Rachel's room – should be hall outside her room until Matthew enters.

Try and avoid -ing words and adverbs – they're passive and you want active verbs so that the action is immediate.

sleeping/covering/waking /escaping become - sleeps/does not wake/escapes
fitfully/carefully/gently/intently/narrowly – in the middle of fitful dreams/
who smiles/who grins
'sits in the bay window, watching intently' becomes – perches in the bay window, attentive.
slows slightly – Matthew slows; savours the food.
Sits up in bed.. writing – Rachel sprawls in bed; scribbles away in her journal
Sean is dead to the world – Sean, dead to the world, lit by blue shadows

Overall the pace is too slow and plodding and my interest has not been hooked enough.

Paul De Vrijer (Level 5)

This was my favorite logline and the changes you made to it, are (to me) absolutely unneccessary. You have a lot to live up to, but hopefully you'll meet my expectations. I want you to win! Okay, here we go (reading now)

Oi, little problem here. One moment you show her sleeping, and the next she's awake in the living room writing notes. If anything, don't show her sleeping then. Kinda confuses the viewer. It's already a bit weird reading it, but now the sleeping scene seems absolutely unneeded.

Weird use of a comma with "Before she can respond her brother, Matthew...", should be "Before she can respond, her brother Matthew..."

I don't really like the long dialogue's but the tone is natural. It does feel like it's a really empty movie here. I really blew through these pages, so good writing on that behalf, but it also feels really empty. What have I really learned in these few pages? Nearly nothing.

Wish there was a bit of story behind it all. There's an obvious element of surprise at the end, but the rest doesn't really feel dynamic. REally passive actually
If this is the athmosphere you are going for, great, but it doesn't make the most rivetting story. I also don't think the tone of your logline fits the script thusfar.

In particular, I do like the eating scene. Nice hints and use of visual elements.

Paul Williams (Level 5)

Title: I like it for the story. I imagine we'll probably never leave Black Cherry Lane during the story.

Logline: It doesn't appear you've modified your logline in anyway.

In summary, this is excellently written and was a breeze to read, but the unanswered questions thus far are killing me! But, that leaves me very intrigued and I hope to read more of this later.

I thought the catalyst would be the neighbor's "murder" sign, but the cliffhanger on page ten works.

If it wasn't for you telling us it's a global pandemic in your logline, I'd be a little lost as to exactly why everyone is quarantined in their homes. It can be inferred while reading, but I wouldn't be 100% sure.

There's been a lot of post-apocalyptic-type movies over the past decade, some successful, some not, but try to keep this as unique and fresh as possible.


Good luck to you.

Pete Barry (Level 5)

Wonderful. Every word counts. The opening wastes no time or space to give us the whole world of the movie. Little details, like a jug under a dripping faucet, and the lack of phone or television, tell us everything we need to know about the disaster. We are as in the dark about the global scenario as the Turners, and it forces us to live through their helplessness, their futility. Each scene says exactly what is has to, and ends. "Don't tell Dad," and it's over. Perfect.

Sean is very likeable, a man losing his strength when no one is watching, but funny and kind because he has to keep his children sane. Despite their conflict, Ellen is understandable in her sadness and her practicality about potential injury. The kids are believable and don't get annoying, as they easily could.

This is an incredible start, and I'm sure I'll get to read the whole script. Bravo.

Philip Whitcroft (Level 5)

Let's see how this goes...

Pg 1 - The opening scene setting description is a good succinct way to get quite a bit across.

I like the scenes with Sean keeping watch on the others although I was a little disappointed that those scenes ultimately don't go anywhere because they are followed by the scene with Rachel awake.

Pg 2 - "It made me sick to my stomach." - This is an example of dialogue that might be a little bit formal.

Pg 5 - I'm glad you put some edge and intrigue into a scene here because the challenge of this dull life intro is to keep it energetic even whilst showing it as being dull. An awkward balance to strike.

Pg 8 - You're doing a nice job of working the subtleties of each scene.

One nagging doubt that has formed in my head is the question of whether they are all a bit too nice. I wonder if you are setting things up to deteriorate, but picturing this situation in my mind it seems like things would be a whole lot less pleasant and even a strong family might be pushed to the ragged edge.

Pg 10 - This page kicks off a simple story device, but it really works in firing up the tension.

Overall I like what you've done so far. For me it's good that you have eased us into the story and softly introduced various issues and details around their lives.

The nature of your story requires a subdued start which might not be a good thing for this particular contest, but it's good you have stuck to your guns. Another positive on this so far is that you have the beginnings of a low budget movie.

Going forward on this you are now under pressure to step this up and build from here. I know I'll be interested to see if you can build that story in your confined setting.

Richard Scott (Level 2)

I liked this. It basically achieved it's goal as a 10 page teaser, in that I have a basic idea of the general plot, but I am desperately seeking answers to just what the hell is going on. As annoying as the kids are, I thought they were well presented and believable. The scene where Rachel is sending messages with her boyfriend is chilling, and does a great job of establishing the situation without really digging deep too early.

My only real complaint is the bird scene. I understand that you are developing some sort of infidelity plot line, and that's great, but I really can't see Sean putting the extra effort into "searching" for the bird. Maybe he's suspicious, or really just that bored, but I think something a little more feasible, or at least interesting, could be used, and still draw his attention towards Mrs. Miller (could this be a hint at double infidelity? I hope so!).

Another thing to consider is that these people are in quarantine, and although I obviously do not understand why at this point, if mere exposure alone is the case, then it could very well be just as dangerous for animals as it is for humans to be outside.
(Although you do show a bird in the very early stages, so I recognize that I may have missed the point altogether that you are eluding to the fact that it is not so much a chemical problem, but more a physical problem, hence other life can survive just fine. It's impossible for a reader to know at this point, so it was merely a blind observation.)

All in all, an interesting read and has sparked my interest.

Rustom Irani (Moderator)

This is my second excellent amongst the scripts so far and it has a fantastic Hitchcock vibe to it with a completely original premise that I really, really love.

Some might complain about nothing really happening but you've made me feel so comfortable with this family by showing one complete day that now if anything happens to the characters I'll really feel for them

The ominous drama through the quarantine and the Miller house is just the right amount of tension this needs and page ten has a very neat hook.

I want to read a lot more of this and then some.

My first place winner!

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

Great title and I enjoyed your ten pages. The concept and situation the families are in is very intriguing. I like the dynamics of the Turner family and already am hooked as to what is going on, and also that there is not complete happiness in this family.

I'm wondering when we'll see the sign that says murder? I was hoping it would be in the first ten pages, that would be a great inciting event. As it is, we've established whats going on in the house, had an inkling of what's going on in other houses. We know they're running short of food and that the kids suspect something weird is going on.

To ratchet it up a bit, would it be good to have the murder sign come in very quickly after we establish what is going on in the house? Maybe lose some of the ordinary conversations between father and son about what they did when they were young and the mom and daughter's convo about boys, and bring the murder sign in these ten pages.

Imho neither scene with the father and son and mom and daughter do much to push the story along, so they could be used at a later time.

Well done, I think this will definitely move on, and I'm anxious to read more.

Scott Merrow (Level 5)

This has a lot of potential. I really like the logline. But I don't think you've used the first ten pages to your best advantage.

Your first priority should be to get us hooked on your story, but were it not for your logline we wouldn't even know what the story is. Something's going on, these people are quarantined in their house, their food and water are scarce -- great set-up! We know there's some connection with the people across the street. But other than that, all we've seen are kids bickering, jumping in pillows, Ellen screaming at the kids, etc., in other words...typical family life. That's not too interesting, especially in those first few pages where you ought to be telling us a story that we can't wait to keep reading.

And introducing a potential intruder at the end of the last page just isn't enough. In fact, it feels a little forced, like you felt a need to make something exciting happen to pique our interest. But it's too little, too late. (For me, anyway.)

My recommendation would be to get us into the story a little quicker. You can do a lot of trimming of the stuff you've written so far. For example, the shot of the sparrow landing in the tree. And a lot of the mundane stuff can be trimmed. "I hate you freak." "I hate you more." "I'm bored." "I'm really, really, really bored." "There's nothing to do." Okay, we get it. Typical kids. Bored. And the scene where Rachel asks, "What do boys like?" Save that stuff for Act 2. We need to get into the story. Fast!

Anyway, it seems like this will be a great story, but we need to get to it faster.

My score: GOOD.

Tim Westland (Moderator)

Title: Fairly mundane.

Logline: There are the bones of a good story, and the end of it is really good... but there is SO much about the logline that could be improved to give this an "I gotta read this script" punch.

But I'm only commenting on Title and Logline... not including them in my review.


The title doesn't belong on the first actual page of the script. It belongs on the Title page and nowhere else.

Gotta give all characters ages... and in this format: SEAN (40s) or MATTHEW (12)

Other than that... I don't have much to critique.

This was exceptionally well written. Fine pacing, great dialogue, interesting setup, great characterization. Where the other scripts I've read so far have failed, your script excels.

This is my only Excellent so far... you've set the bar pretty high.

Great work!

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus)

I love the title and logline. What I found odd in the script is no mention of what is going on. Are you trying to portray that the family is doing the best to seem normal?

I do think the writing is good, but feel that some of the conversations are awkward, for instance, Rachel and Ellen about boys, and the conversation between Sean and Ellen directly after that. They don't feel natural, I guess -- something felt amiss to me at those instances whereas the other conversations flow a bit better.

I would like to read the rest of the script, it does pique interest and has an interesting premise.

Good luck.

Comments Made After the Contest

Pete Barry (Level 5) ~ 5/26/2011 4:55 PM

Whatever happened to this one, Chris? (I was taking a trip down MP memory lane.)

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 5/27/2011 10:20 AM

I finished the first draft this past winter and I'm having a second draft reading next week.

I'm really happy with it and I'm hoping I get a chance to shoot it!

Reginald McGhee (Level 0) ~ 3/2/2012 3:47 AM

Hey Chris, what ever happened to this script?

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 3/2/2012 7:10 AM

Thanks for asking. I continue to work on it. Always trying to make it better and hoping that someday it might be good enough for me to shoot.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus) ~ 3/2/2012 7:40 AM

Yes, I've been waiting...patiently.

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 3/2/2012 7:44 AM

I know, I know. :)

I've been trying to "solve" this latest rewrite. It's like a puzzle, but I can't seem to make the last piece fit.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus) ~ 3/3/2012 9:30 AM

Use a hammer.

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