Tag Archives: Screenwriting

Just Read: The Brigands of Rattleborge

The Brigands of Rattleborge

written by S. Craig Zahler
Draft Dated 2006

Set in the days of the old West, a sheriff and a doctor seek revenge against three ruthless thugs who robbed them and terrorized the town.

I haven’t written a script review in a while, so I am finally going to write up what I thought about The Brigands of Rattleborge by S. Craig Zahler.

This is a very popular script. Many people love this script. Being so well received, I was very excited to sit down with a nice cup of coffee and take some time out of my precious day to read this popular lovable script. I don’t necessarily regret that decision, I think something can be learned from every script I read, but I have absolutely no idea why so many people enjoyed this script.  After I read this script I literally said out loud, “What the fuck did I just read!”.  I was even more perplexed after going online and finding out that everyone enjoyed the shit out of it.  Either I am alone in my dissatisfaction or people who don’t like this script simply don’t share their views online.

Just like my previous reviews, I will not go through the entire story and bore you with all the plot details, I will simply make a list touching on what I did and did not like.

The Good.

  • The writing in this script is absolutely phenomenal. Zahler’s ability at describing the characters and the world around them is extraordinary. I felt like I was reading a novel. If there is one reason to read this script it would be for the writing.
  • It’s very easy to make darkness and violence cheesy and laughable. This is a dark story, it’s a violent story, but the grit is written well and comes across as intended. If you don’t want a detailed description of a head being blown apart — don’t read this script.

The Bad.

  • Way to much exposition.  Seriously. What the fuck.  It takes 60 pages just to set up this story.  I’m still being introduced to new characters half way through the script and I literally have no idea what is going on. Who are all these people? Why do I need to know every person in this town? WHY AM I 60 PAGES INTO THIS SCRIPT AND THERE IS NO PLOT?! I don’t know how people got through half of this script before saying, “Well that’s neat… but what the hell is going on?” There was really nothing driving me to keep reading. You know that movie Open Range? Kevin Costner’s Western? Yes. Remember how the entire movie was super slow and boring until the very end when we have one of the most epic gun fights in movie history? That is kind of how this script is.  Except the gunfight at the end isn’t as good.
  • Who is the main character? We are introduced to so many people I had no idea who to invest my time in. Who should I care about? Who do I want to root for? For almost the entire script I had no idea who the main character was. This is bad… and the Doctor guy?  Am I supposed to care about him when I only learn who he is near the very end of the script? He could have been killed and I could have cared less.
  • I personally thought the very end of the script was dumb. I’m not going to give it away, but it came across very weak to me. That was it? Really? After 137 pages that is what you give me as a resolution? Come on.

The Verdict

I think I would love this script if you took the first 60 pages and crammed it down into 25 pages. That would be amazing.  Also, introduce a main character and let the audience know it’s the main character so that we actually have someone to care about. Introduce the doctor earlier as well. We are given intimate details on so many characters and none of them actually matter.  When the inciting incident doesn’t take place until half way through the script you have a problem. Make the storm happen around page 30. That would be amazing as well. Then you can spend the rest of the movie following around the two main characters and their quest to kill the bad guys. Now that sounds like a good script.  Maybe bring the Indians we meet at the beginning of the script back into the mix. We see them at the beginning and then never hear from them again.

I say READ IT. You’ll probably like it just like everyone else. I obviously have serious problems with it.

I bet many of my concerns with the script will be addressed in production. I doubt the actual movie will follow the obscure structure of this 2006 draft.

Just google this script and you will find a .pdf link to it.  Like I said, It’s very popular.

It’s All About Story Structure

Student and independent film makers, more often than not,  have an annoying unrelenting ability to make films without plot. I’ve never really understood it. In fact, it drives me crazy!  Being in film school at the moment I see this happen all the time.  The worse part is that these film makers seem to not even notice that their films are sometimes downright hard to get through. Yes, making a film is hard. Yes, that dolly shot was beautiful. Yes, you really did a good job pulling some great emotion out of those actors. Wow, that location was great! Very artistic cinematography!  Holy shit! You did a sweet crane shot!

BUT WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!? There is absolutely nothing going on in your story to keep me watching.

I talk about this now because I happened to read a great article by John August that you can read right now HERE.

No. Really. Read it. Now.

Read the script Buried. I did a small review on it a while back. The entire script takes place in a coffin. ONE LOCATION. ONE ACTOR. Yet you keep reading because it is full of story, conflict, and questions that you want answered!

When all is said and done, your crane shot doesn’t matter, your witty metaphorical dialogue doesn’t matter, your million dollar location doesn’t matter. Not even your actors matter more than the ability to tell a clear and concise story that keeps your viewers intrigued and watching. Story is the backbone of any successful film.

Story, Story, Story.

In Jerusalem!

Hey Guys,

I’m currently in Jerusalem. This place is crazy… and awesome. I’ve been in Israel for 6 weeks on a dig. Yes, an Archaeological excavation. It was amazing. I leave on Tuesday. I’ll write more later.

Note: If you want to increase your writing potential… TRAVEL. Experience. Indulge.

Note 2: Petra is awesome. Indiana Jones…..last……crusade.

Note 3: Depressing article in the LA times.

So… I didn’t write before I left. I will write when I get back. Sometime.

Void Rays and Writing Partners.

Work on Christopher Stone has stalled out for the moment.  I  just recently got a writing partner, and rather than continue working on Christopher Stone by myself, I am now working a new untitled thriller with my new untitled writing partner.

Working with a writing partner is SO MUCH EASIER than working by yourself. Just being able to collaborate and shoot ideas off each other helps the creative process explode.  In a good way. We’ve only had two meetings so far…and we’ve already beat out most of the script.  We should be able to start writing here soon. I’m pretty excited about this script. I think it’s going to be a fun one.

In other news I just got my Starcraft 2 Beta key! I’ve been raping noobs in the ass with some Void Ray rush cheese. 10min games. Currently trying to develop my Protoss skills and actually learn how to play.

So basically Starcraft 2 and this new script are all I’ve been doing recently. If I don’t start work on this doc in the next couple of days I give you permission to slit my throat.

Hollywood Vpype Pitch Contest Extended

The Hollywood Vpype Pitch Contest on Face book has extended its deadline.

***Please note – due to a sudden high demand and the updated version of Vpype Live Broadcaster…and the fact that you might just be worrying about your taxes – we’ve pushed the deadline to Midnight Sunday April 18th Pacific Standard Time!*** GOOD LUCK!

You have a few more days to get those pitches in! Good Luck!

The Screenwriter’s Board

I got five whole pages done this weekend on Christopher Stone. I think I am going to write an article soon on finding the time to write. Hopefully I will learn some things.

Today I am going to talk to you about The Board — and how it is awesome.

In developing Christopher Stone I decided to set up a screenwriters board for the first time.  I have always wanted to do this, and it’s a lot of fun. Screenwriters boards come in all shapes and sizes, but basically perform the same function.  They are tangible forms of your story and how it is structured. Some boards are small and use post-it notes, some are bigger and use index cards. Some boards are on a wall, others are on a flat surface. I personally enjoy using colored index cards and a cork board. For now I will assume you know what index cards are as they relate to screenwriting. I may write an article on index cards later.

First go out and buy your board!  Figure out what size and type you want. I got a cork board for $15 at Walmart. Once you have your board, divide it into 4 sections using tape or a marker. Top row is act one, 2nd row is first half of act 2 ending at the midpoint, 3rd row is 2nd half of act 2 ending at the act 3 break, and last row is act 3. From here you simply take your index cards and put them up on the board. You should end with around 9-11 cards per row. Each card represents a scene, or sequence of scenes, such as CAR CHASE.  I use colored index cards. In the picture above I have BLUE cards as main story, RED cards as action, PURPLE cards as B-story, and GREEN cards as C-story. This really helps me visually see the flow of the story and improve on my pacing. You can use whatever colors you want, or no colors at all.

I find the board extremely helpful. Look at the end of act 3 in the picture. There is a big  hole in my story, and I know this because it is literally right in front of my face. The board really lets you know where your story is light or heavy. Another great thing about the board is how you can switch index cards around at will.  Changing the sequence of scenes has never been so easy! If you want, you can take all the cards down and bring them with you. Shuffling them around and improving on them during class, church, or the bar. The board is also a great way to procrastinate before actually writing. I have procrastination down to an art form. In the end the board means nothing… but I think it greatly helps the writing process.

Christopher Stone and the 10 Page Twist

My current project is a post-apocalyptic adventure/zombie road movie . I just finished breaking story and have started writing.

I’m on page 10. I believe something important is supposed to happen on page 10. I believe it’s called the 10 page twist. Do I have a 10 page twist? I do.  But at the moment it doesn’t hit page 10. Am I supposed to write the whole screenplay first, and then come back and rewrite to hit my marks? I’m not sure at the moment. Although I do believe something important should happen to grab your readers attention on page 10.

A fact of life: People do not have a high attention span.  If you cannot hook your audience into the story in 10 pages, my screenwriting teacher says you’re fucked. I believe him.

Another fact: The 10 page twist does not have to be a twist necessarily.

It has to be something that catches the readers attention and makes them say, “I want to know what happens!.” This is especially true if your screenplay magically falls into the hands of a producer/script reader. These people read so many damn scripts a week, they’re just looking for a reason not to read your script. DO NOT GIVE IT TO THEM! When they get to page 10, they’ll know if they want to continue reading. Give them something that makes them want to turn to page 11.

That’s where I am at, and that is what I’m trying to do.

The First of Many

As if I didn’t have enough distractions in my life already… I have finally decided to follow the crowd and start my own blog. Yay for me.

Why don’t I take this time to tell you a little bit about myself.

I am currently a film major set to graduate in December. After spending a small fortune for school, I will finally receive a worthless piece of paper that reads B.S. Film Production.  …Finally.  It’s really weird to think about not being in school.  I have been going to school every fucking year of my life since kindergarten.

I have recently decided that I would absolutely love to be a professional screenwriter. Everything about it seems attractive to me. The ability to set my own hours, and work when and where I please. The chance of selling big and paying off my student loans. Taking a simple idea and developing it into a monster of plot, conflict, character, and emotion. In the end holding in my hands 120 pages of ideas that came out of my head. Something I created. Something I can be completely proud of no matter how much it sucks ass. An assortment of thoughts and ideas that somehow, over the course of many months, has come alive. A Frankenstein, written in 12pt Courier, with 2 brads holding it in place.

This blog will turn into a story of my life.  Finishing college, hopefully  getting a job in the industry, writing screenplays and trying to sell them.  Between updates on my life and screenplays, I will write rants and random tidbits about life.  I will also occasionally review a script I have recently read. My aim is to journal my life in pursuit of my goals. Hopefully, I will inspire others to pursue their goals, and maybe they will find some useful information through my journeys. Perhaps we can go on this adventure together.

So sit back and enjoy the ride. (Can’t believe I just said that.)