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"A Doorway Whispers" by Don Riemer

Logline: A man finds healing and hope after the death of his abusive father.

Genre: Drama

Cast Size: 4

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

Contest: Tournament of Champions (Feb. 2012)

Contest Scores
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Comments Made During the Contest

Alex Hollister (Level 4)

Again, excellently written. Nice flowing dialogue. Dream sequence was a strong visual and had some shock power (although quite obviously a dream early on). Liked the way of having the title correspond to the poem. A fair amount of emotion to this piece.

On the downside, a lot of the dialogue seems superfluous. There's a lot of talk in the pawnshop that need not have been there, as good as it was. Also, despite an attempt at a resolution, I didn't quite feel it. Would have preferred that the poem by used as some definitive closure for James. Maybe it did and the symbolism was lost on me.

As to the integration of the two words, that side worked pretty well. Especially the 'Poet' side. To get it in the dialogue like that with his curt response worked really well. Nicely done in that respect.

But overall, I just didn't feel any strong reaction to the piece in spite of the subject matter. Hence why I didn't give it any more than- GOOD.

Ayal Pinkus (Level 5)

The theme of courage is woven into this story in a few ways. The courage of James to show his work to his father, and later on the courage to throw it away, to move on (it takes courage to throw away something you have been working on for a long time).

His father already states the theme; You grow a pair yet Jimmy?

James bought a gun but never dared to use it.

A doorway whispers. Time to move on to a new life. His father dead, a burden fell from his shoulders. He didn't suddenly learn to be courageous but the story is too short for that to happen.

Byron Matthews (Level 5)

The title of the script should probably have it's own page. I don't understand the point of the story. Sadly, I believe this one sailed over my head. The writing was clear and I really liked the opening scene; where he's shooting his father. That was making me laugh. I assume that his father was his inspiration even though he hated him?

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

Capitalisation issues! First you don't capitalise characters like doctors and nurses when they first appear. Then you DO capitalise action lines.
That's very distracting, taking me out of the story - as does capitalising random props and sound effects. Really, I just want to read your story, not have my brain blown apart!

I found this a little bemusing. Great set up. The dream scene was powerful. I'm thinking that his father despised him for being a poet/writer?

The scene in the library? What purpose did it serve?

Then the ending. The poem was good but I don't think it was strong enough to explain why he would ditch his life's work.

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus)

I thought this was well written and interesting. Really liked the dream sequences and the pen is mightier than the sword banter. For me the poetry didn't really work as poetry although it helped to complete the story.

Thought this was all good, just didn't set me afire.

Good luck.

Chris Messineo (Founder)

This is beautiful - like poetry.

I love the main character, this poet, this librarian, haunted by his father and his failure to measure up to this man he loves and loathes.

So many poignant moments here. Touching without melodrama.

Your craft is flawless and this script is excellent.

Christina Anderson (Level 4)

I didn't connect with this story-- never really understood where the guy was coming from.

It's written well enough; I didn't get confused and it didn't drag out, and most of all nothing annoyed me.

David M Troop (Level 5)

A Doorway Whispers

The character of James definitely has some issues with his dying father. It seems from the opening dream sequence that his father was less than a saint. James was subject to verbal abuse as a youngster (maybe worse) and fantasizes about ahooting his father.

After spending most of his adult life abroad, James returns home to visit his father on his death bed. To confront him? To reconcile? To forgive? We're not sure because the father dies before he has a chance to see him.

James is seen pawning a gun, so he may have had serious thoughts of revenge. But why kill a dying man? He also carries around a notebook containing a hundred page poem about his life. Reading the poem aloud to his father may have also done him in -- and not left any evidence behind.

At the end, I think the two characters may have forgiven each other in their own way. The father appears to James one last time before taking the last bus to Saint Petersburg. James finishes the poem. He keeps the last page and chucks 100 pages of regrets, resentment, and anguish in the trash. He is ready to forgive and move on.

I like the message here.
The formatting is a little questionable. The title belongs on the title page. The End instead of Fade Out. More than a few ing verbs in the action. All caps in the action.

I did appreciate that you didn't resort to a sappy deathbed scene and you let us fill in the details on our own.

Overall I thought it was GOOD.

Elias Farnum (Level 5)

The dream sequence was a great hook to a family father son bonding drama. Written at the champion caliber that this contest demands. The visuals were vivid, and the dialogue was candid, and real. Some of the short library scenes didn't move the story to me, and I wondered why they were there.

This story will resound with many, I am sure. I hope it gets filmed. Good work, good job, and good luck. Clever use of title, and contest instructions.

Faith Friese Nelson (Level 5)

The story's action really caught my attention on page one but, after the dream sequence, it fell flat for a while. I think the library scene on page two can be deleted. The reason for the scene is so James can get his phone call. Consider having the phone call wake him up from the dream sequence. In my opinion, much of the conversation between Maureen and James on page three could be deleted. It feels too much like back story. All the reader needs to know is that James and his father were on the outs. The story picks up, again, at the pawn store.

As to the writing, remember that less is more. Here are some examples to illustrate what I mean:

1: “James glares down at his father, jaw clenching.” The following says the same thing with less words: “James glares at his father.”

2: “His father starts to laugh.” Consider: “His father laughs.”

3: “James lies in bed, curled on his side in a tangle of sheets, just waking.” Consider: “James wakes, tangled in bed sheets.”

Fred Koszewnik (Level 5)

It's so difficult to offer meaningful criticism when your screenplay is written in such an intelligent and engaging manner. I don't think screenwriting gets any better than this. Your script can only merit an Excellent.

Continued good success.

Gary Rademan (Level 5)

"Not enough action for a movie"
"occupation poet"

A tense beginning that morphed into a thoughtful ending. I think it was a what-was-that? ending that grows on you after the read is over. Probably like that in a film too. His sister was okay. If she could have had an attitude, that may have helped add weight to her dialogue. The final couplet that he kept was cryptic but maybe that's poetry.

Little Jimmy, you grow a pair yet?! My favorite line so far.


Greg Tonnon (Level 5)

Title - the title is intriguing; it sets the tone well.
Craft - your craft is flawless.
Dialogue - the dialogue is good; it seems quite natural and realistic for these characters.
Action lines - your action lines are good; clear and concise.
Story - the story is interesting. It reminds me a little of "The Shining".

James Hughes (Level 5)

I feel like I have to reflect on this one for a bit which is cool. I liked reading it. I liked the experience of it. When done, I'm not sure what his reason was for keeping this poetic journal, what the meaning is of that last entry, or why he'd throw out the rest but keep the one page. That is what I want to reflect upon.

JeanPierre Chapoteau (Moderator)

I understood the story, (well, up until he end) but it seemed scattered. I didn't understand the tone you wanted to set. When he started crying at the end, it shocked me.

The dialogue between his sister felt forced. Like it was there just to tell us what his plans were. And the whole gun thing... why would he think that was a good idea? To shoot his dad? That's going to be loud and messy. Why not suffocate him? Or choke him? He's a skeleton, he couldn't fight back, and it would have been more personal.

Why did he go to the library? I didn't get that scene. What was he looking at and underlining?

I wasn't sure why you told us his poem, or why he saw his father at the end either. Just seemed random.

I guess I didn't understand more than I thought. I'll try and give it another read if I have the time at the end of the month.

Jeremy Rose (Level 2)

I think "A Doorway Whispers" is a very incomplete and very unsatisfying script. The writer gives us no details of james' and his fathers past.If what James read to Maurine on the phone at the end of the story is considered a poem then I have an entire notebook of my own personally writing that needs to be thrown in the trash also.This script leaves me feeling empty and cconfused. In my opinion, this script does not belong in this competition.

Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5)

I really liked the way it started - thought it would be about his father and Jimmy - "did you grow a pair" is a very strong line, I loved the dream sequence. It switched gears though - it's more about Jimmy and his poetry. I still liked it a lot but I wish it was either one or the other.

Kirk White (Level 5)

I’m not sure what to make of this one. I get the tone and, more importantly, FEEL what (I think) I’m supposed to feel from this. So on that hand, you’ve crafted a really powerful and moving exploration of loss and missed opportunities and all that other stuff that comes from missed connections. But, on the other hand, something about this script just doesn’t resolve for me in a satisfying way. I found myself wanting more of the notebook and the struggle and less of him in the Library. I’m thinking this might be a page limitation thing but I just found myself wanting MORE with James.

KP Mackie (Level 5)

Unexpected and interesting turns from the beginning. Glued to the page. Particularly surprised by James' sudden appearance in the pawn shop with a gun, in the middle of the story not the end. Intriguing twist.
James comes across as a sensitive writer. His valuable "worn spiral notebook" is suddenly discarded when inspiration strikes. Terrific exchange with his sister Maureen. He asks her, "Wanna hear my new poem?" and she responds, "Uh, okay." Speaks volumes about their individual personalities.
This story would make a terrific independent film. Excellent.

Kyle Patrick Johnson (Level 5)

The pivotal poem at the end of the script confuses me slightly. It's not written in couplet form, even though he said he's been writing couplets for years. Also, it's a bit obtuse at first glance, although the meaning is clearer on a second read. Lastly, the couplet is going to have to be the best couplet you could possibly write, because the whole story seems to pivot on the fact that Jimmy is actually a good poet. The danger here is if the audience doesn't like the couplet, then the film will fall a little flat. I personally found the poem a bit self-indulgent and, as I said, confusing, and it's tough to see why Maureen likes it.

The final action of throwing away the notebook is a bit of resolution, but it's not entirely satisfying, because the tension was between Jimmy and his father, not Jimmy and his notebook. I would have preferred a human resolution, I think.

Lee Carlisle (Level 4)

I felt like some of the pieces here weren't quite fitting together, but I still wound up enjoying the story overall. The writing style was easy to follow and kept the script moving at a good pace. Nice repetition and variation with the two hospital scenes.

After James' father dies, though, the piece lost some direction for me. Buying that James would kill his father in a dream is no problem, but to see that he actual had a gun and was debating doing it didn't really land for me without any kind of framing for why he would feel this way (the fact that his dad didnt approve of him being a poet didnt seem strong enough for me).

The ending was also a clunky way to get James' poetry out. I didnt get the impression that he and Maureen had a really close relationship, so when he offered to read her his poem and she responds "Uh, okay" I found myself feeling the same way. The poem also failed to transcend the story for me - it didn't really show me any of the characters or plot in a new light. If anything, I felt like James' character arc could be more strongly wrapped up without us ever seeing what he finally wrote in his journal.

But as I said before, despite some shortcomings I still enjoyed the piece overall and thought it had a nice unifying tone.

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

I love the title. Absolutely and completely.

The story is so creepy good I can hardly stand it. The subtext is incredibly powerful and screams out at the reader.

The formatting, spelling and punctuation are all perfect. If there were any problems, the quality of the story and the writing blinded me to them.

I would love to see this filmed and I hope someone picks it up for you, or you produce it yourself.

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

This was interesting. I like how, from the first scene where I was expecting a melodrama, you constantly subvert expectations.


Martin Lancaster (Level 4)

Another big story told skillfully in five pages. I love how you peel back the layers of the character and his relationship with his father without resorting to lots of exposition.

Great story.

Michael Cornetto (Level 5)

That was different. I liked it. Nothing to complain about as far as the writing went. A few phrases felt awkward but that's probably a matter of personal taste.

The main issue I had with this is that it was solidly good. It never really lifted me beyond that. It didn't stir my emotions, or make me think all that much. It was what it was which was a good script.

Fairly easy to produce too. Good luck with it.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5)

I love the title.

This has a cracking pace to it and reads very smoothly.

Even though the 'it's only a dream' sequence is so tired it sets up James' hate for his father well - is there not another way you could have done this?

I'm not sure what releases James - why the ijmage of his father gives him the words ' a doorway whispers' - is he about to kill himself?

Although I didn't fully understand this, I liked it.

Olga Tremaine (Level 5)

I like the title.
Does the father have a name?
You introduce Maureen as his sister, but how does this type of introduction translate on screen?
Honestly, the pawn shop scene seems unnecessary, I understand you wanted him to come up with a poem, but that could happen in million different ways/locations.
It's a nice little story, but seems you had too many locations, feels a little scattered. Maybe just me.

Good luck.

Paul Williams (Level 5)

Congratulations on your eligibility to enter this contest.

I really like your title and the themes explored here; they're identifiable and universal. I also appreciate the bittersweet, yet hopeful, ending.

I think, ultimately, the obstruction to the script's effectiveness is the familiarity of these themes and the scenes presented. We've seen a lot of this before: a traumatic scene that proves to be only a dream; our protagonist awaking in the morning from that nightmare; death-bed encounters; daytime visions of the deceased; etc. I feel a new angle, spin, interpretation, dimension, etc., should be incorporated to maximize the story's potential.

Your screenwriting is very good; format appears in order; didn't detect any typos.


Philip Whitcroft (Level 5)

This is a very effective story that has some eye catching elements and a good poignant pay-off.

Raymond Kwok (Level 3)

I thought this was great. The psychology, the father/son relationship, the frustration: all captured extremely well in such a short space. The use of the key terms "movie" and "poet" fit very well in the context.

My only complaint is the "ghost"? of the father at the end and how he manages to excorcize it (if that is the right term) by writing the last part of his poem. This introduces a whole new concept of writing being able to somehow influence reality. If that were the case, then why didn't he just do it earlier?

But all in all, well structured and beautifulyl written.

Reginald McGhee (Level 0)

What is going on here? Jimmy wants his dad killed? I haven’t notice any grammar or formatting errors.

So the story is about a Poet writer whose father died, and the poet cannot stand him. I don’t quite understand the story though, and I’m not sure what the payoff is. Is the father a ghost, or is he writing about his father? Why couldn’t he stand his father? A lot of unanswered questions need to be answered.

Your scene transitions run smoothly. You also captured my attention until the end. I just don’t quite understand the ending.

The characters are fine, but not developed fully. I still wanted to learn more about James and his father. I found it hard to engage with him and identify him.

Your dialogue is real, and the decrption lines are visual. If only the ending was strong, if it had an alternative ending, or if the above quesations were answered, the story will turn out stronger.

I’m not sure what the dialogue “You grow a pair?” What does that supposed to mean? Is he afraid of his father? Is that the surprise ending? If that is, why was he afraid of his dad?

This story as a full begnning, middle, and an ending, and you have enough meat to fufill the needs of a five-page story. Nice work.

Everything else looks fine. The writing is good.

Rick Hansberry (Moderator)

A few others will comment not to put the title at the top of the page. Not a big deal. The opening is nice - felt dreamlike and works to show the way James plays things out in his mind - what doesn't work for me is the 'grow a pair yet?' line. It rings of an expectation from his father that's not explained.

I thought it would be better to show Maureen before we meet her at the deathbed. Maybe James imagines his father being happy with her life choices?

For me the script came off the rails with the pawn shop guy. I didn't quite know why you chose to show that scene versus giving more of a background of the struggle between James and his father. Show us how they've been at each other for all these years - never really coming to terms with things.

Maureen doesn't really factor much into the story other than as a springboard for James and I think she needs to play a factor somehow.

Others will comment not to close a screenplay with 'The End' but use 'Fade Out' instead. Again, it's not major, some choose to focus more on technique and style rather than storytelling. It is worth noting though that screenplay contests often use minor elements like this as a sign that you're not completely aware of the nuances of the craft. I see this as a piece that can be re-worked and fleshed out to create a quality drama. I don't think it's there yet but I think you have a unique voice and can build from this.

Rustom Irani (Moderator)

This is a well-written coming-of-age drama but I feel a bit letdown after the amazing initial set-up.

I would've loved atleast one direct confrontation of sorts and am not sure why did his sister not help him in the past despite knowing what he was going through?

A little more hint of why his dad hated him being a Poet would work much stronger since it's really troubling him to the extent of being tormented all his life.

You've got some great style and the writing is well-paced.

All this needs is a quicker re-write and this'd be really good.

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

Another really well done script. I enjoyed it. The first scene was a really great set up. I wish we could have seen the pay off. With his father dying,before he got to the hospital you kind of missed out on there being a great pay off to that scene.

I did like this alot. It was well written and the characters were strong. You had a really great opener,that would definitely get everyone's attention!

good work.

Scott Merrow (Level 5)

The writing is good. It's easy to read, and it moves right along.

But I didn't quite get the story -- it was a little too deep and abstruse for me.

I know it's about James and his complicated, strained relationship with his father, but too much was hidden from us. Most of what we (the readers) learn comes from (1) a dream, (2) a couple discussions with his sister, and (3) things he says to a pawn broker. From those three things, we learn that he has a complex relationship with his father that's (probably) been haunting him for his entire life, and he may or may not have been intending to murder his father (in real life). Then he sees a vision of his dead father and (I guess) realizes his torment is over, so he throws his poetry away. (Not much reason to keep the anguished poetry when the source of the anguish goes away.)

But through all this what do we know about James? Not much. What do we know about the relationship with his father? Not much. The dream tells us most of what we think we know. His father taunts him. (Is that a reason to want to kill someone? No, so there must be something else.) Nothing much is revealed in his conversation with his sister. So how can we be invested in James? What should we feel? Are we glad that he's free from his tortured relationship? Not really. We don't know enough about any of this.

This has lots of potential, but James and his story are a little too cryptic as written. (At least for me.)

But it's nice clear writing. Great job with that.

My Score: Good.

Tim Ratcliffe (Level 4)

Not a fan of having the title on the first page of the script or having 'The End' in place of 'Fade Out'.

The story was written competently enough but it was a little lacking for me. I think because we don't know what the backstory is between the father and son the emotional element here doesn't really connect. I had no idea why he wanted to kill his father, other than he may have been tough on him growing up. I need more than just that, though.

Don't really know what the point of the journal was, it sounds like he was trying to come up with something perfect to show his dad. If that's the case, I don't understand why. Didn't seem like that was the sort of thing that would lead to his father's love and approaval. So it just confused me.

Good effort anyway.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus)

I thought this was a solid entry... though I can't shake the feeling that I wanted something more from it.

Comments Made After the Contest

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 4/1/2012 12:26 AM

I loved this script so much. One of my all-time favorites from you and that is really saying something! This is epically beautiful.

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