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btangonan
05-05-2008, 05:14 PM
Title: The Reunion.
Logline: Old friends face shadows from their past as they struggle for survival in the desert.

http://www.dvxfest.com/scriptfest/The_Reunion-btangonan.pdf

Michael Anthony Horrigan
05-05-2008, 08:48 PM
Interesting story. I liked the back and forth approach.
Seems like it would be fairly easy to shoot as well with the right location.

Sad though. Definitely not an uplifting movie.

Nice work.

Mike

btangonan
05-06-2008, 12:13 AM
Thanks for giving it a read, Michael. The co-writer and I debated about whether we should deploy flashbacks or just tell the story straight. We ended up going with a non-linear story in order to reveal key information about the past at crucial moments in the present. Hope it isn't too confusing.

I live in SF, so it wouldn't be too out of the way to drive down to Death Valley to shoot this thing. That is, unless the Mod Squad wants to make it! :happy:

It's definitely not the feel-good short film of the year. I've always been a fan of the darker, brooding movies about isolation and betrayal.

-Brad

seansshack
05-06-2008, 05:57 AM
Formatting wise, I would cut back or break the descriptions into smaller paragraphs (as it read like a book in parts - which is a hats off to the writing, but in the screenplay world, they like empty spaces on the page). Page 2 is a prime example of this: one big scene in one big paragraph.

The conversation between Elliot and Abe read a bit on the nose and from the same person.

Think you should (beat) on their own lines + noticed one on page eight with incorrect brackets []


The story worked for me. I liked the use of flashbacks to slowly draw you into their story. I don't think a standard linear approach would have worked as well.

Not 100% sold on the ending thought. I felt it would lead up to one outsmarting the other for the water supply.

Good job and best of luck with it.

btangonan
05-06-2008, 09:43 AM
Thanks for the feedback, Sean. I agree that some of the descriptions should be broken up. We would have done so if we had the space.

I also agree that the conversation between Elliot and Abe does sound a bit on the nose and even a bit expositional. With such sparse dialog, we found it difficult to communicate backstory, context, mood, relationship, etc. efficiently without being a little obvious. The ability to do all that concisely using subtext is what makes a great screenwriter, I suppose.

We considered writing a more suspenseful ending, ultimately decided that it would be more interesting to see what Abe would do when forced to abandon his friend a second time. It may not be as viscerally exciting as, say, a car chase or a knife fight, but the psychological suspense is there.

I've been busy with work the past couple of days, but I'll be sure to read through DDP and leave feedback on your thread, Sean.

TeeJ
05-07-2008, 01:39 PM
[From the co-writer of The Reunion]

I wanted to reiterate Brad's thanks on the feedback, Sean. Very useful.

As Brad said, we had the description broken up, but couldn't keep it under 10 pages the way it was, so sacrificed some blank page (and consequently tidyness) for the sake of keeping the content there. It's interesting to try to create a story that you are confident can be relayed in 10 (or any circumscribed # of) pages, as you don't really know exactly how long it will take you until you are well on your way and committed to imparting large swaths of the information on the reader in order to successfully relay your story to them. I guess that's something you get a sense of with repetition hopefully.

It's interesting that you thought that Elliot and Abe sounded like they were written by the same person. It's something we focused on avoiding in the writing (we were trying to express that Abe was a bit colder and rational and Elliot a bit more emotional and to some extent childishly dependent on Abe), but we might have shied away too much from making them caricatures to the detriment of expressing their individuality. This is definitely something we should revisit in the next incarnation of this.

On the ending: it's funny because this idea germinated from the seed of the ending - we liked experimenting with one friend betraying another under extreme conditions and the psychological/internal cat-and-mouse game, rather than a bunch of twists/games between the characters at the end. To mollify this, we put the story out of sequence to draw the reader into the story (as you noted) and give them kernels of important information throughout, right up until the end (which revealed the impetus for the betrayal and was intended to serve as a final twist to the reader and to Elliot).

Again, numerous thanks for the thoughtful feedback. I'll be reading Deadly Dangerous Pursuit shortly and intend to repay the favor.

Russell Moore
05-08-2008, 06:26 AM
This script held my interest and I wanted to find out what was going to happen to the characters. Did a good job of building the mystery about what was going on.
There were a couple of big blocks of descriptions that could be broken up. It seemed to slow the pace down a bit. But I liked the content.

I thought Abe did come off like the colder rational one, but I could see where there might be a little personality confusion.
One example...Abe says "It just feels weird to leave him out there like that."
and Elliot replies "Would you rather sleep next to him."

To me that sounds like those lines should be reversed to be more in line with their characters.

I enjoyed the story, I liked how you told it through the flashbacks, that worked for me and I was fine with the ending. I thought it was pretty much in the the right tone for the script. I liked the script, good job.

TeeJ
05-08-2008, 07:03 PM
Thanks a lot, Conlan. It's funny because after Brad and I read Sean's previous comment about the characters sounding similar, we specifically implicated this line as well. We originally discussed this ad nauseam, but decided that it was important to give the reader a sense that Abe has some softer/human/emotional side. We didn't want Abe to seem like a complete monster/robot and we wanted the reader to be able to sympathize with him as much as possible (i.e. leave it up to the reader to decide if he is an evil automaton or not).

We have since reconvened on the matter and decided that we should definitely switch these lines.

My take-away from this: In a longer film, you can give a character multiple dimensions. But when you only have a few lines per character for the whole thing, every line uttered should be more purposeful in delineating the most important aspects of the speaker's personality that the writer specifically wants to express. Maybe that's too strong a statement, but I think it's a good rule for me to think about the next time I write.

alex whitmer
05-12-2008, 08:52 AM
Arg, I hate it when ther is a lock on the text.

****************

Major overkill on the word sand. 5 times in the opening scene.

Page 2

A strong wind is blowing, causing Abe to shield his face ... can be simplified to 'Abe shields his face against a strong wind'.

You save three word and lose the INGs!!

Scout for more of those. I'd do it, but a lock on text is a major deterant.

You have an action block with 11 lines. 3 is nice, 4 if you have to, 5 if it's an emergency. Need that white space.

This ...

His tracks blow away as soon as he leaves them ... can be simplified to 'his tracks vanish behind him'.

Page 3

He pulls bottles out of a pack, but then you say they are strewn on the sand.

Up through page 7 really enjoying the dialogue.

************

Well that sure ended ona weird note.

Not sure what they were originally doing in the desert with a guide, but I assume it had something to do with Abe's dad, Can't be sure.

Enjoyed this a lot, but it left me a little unsatisfied. I don't like clean endings, but this feels a tad unfinished.

Nice dialogue, nice pursuit, and would look nice on film.

alex

Captain Pierce
05-12-2008, 04:31 PM
His tracks blow away as soon as he leaves them ... can be simplified to 'his tracks vanish behind him'.

Alex, I don't know why I keep feeling the need to comment on your comments, but in this case, I think their original version sets a little better mood. :)

That said, once the mood has been set, the story seems to be a fairly standard "two people trapped in [place] with only enough [basic need] for one." The flashbacks break that up a little, but at the end, it's still just one dude willing (and maybe even eager) to sacrifice his "friend" in order to save his own skin.

Don't get me wrong, the script is well-written, but once you see two guys in the desert, with one near death and the other doing fairly well, you kind of know where this is going...

btangonan
05-12-2008, 05:43 PM
That said, once the mood has been set, the story seems to be a fairly standard "two people trapped in [place] with only enough [basic need] for one." The flashbacks break that up a little, but at the end, it's still just one dude willing (and maybe even eager) to sacrifice his "friend" in order to save his own skin.

Don't get me wrong, the script is well-written, but once you see two guys in the desert, with one near death and the other doing fairly well, you kind of know where this is going...

Point taken. What separates this story from others like it are two things: the format and the last scene. The flashback scenes are strategically placed in order to reveal tidbits of key information in a specific sequence at specific times in the story. This was intended to create suspense and to shift the audiences allegiance between Elliot and Abe. Things happen at the outset that are intended to provoke certain questions in the mind of the reader: Who is the Egyptian man? Did Abe kill him? Why are these guys out in the desert? What is Elliot's relationship to Abe? (and of course the obvious) Why is Elliot following Abe?

The flashback scenes deliver facts that allow the reader (or viewer) to slowly piece together the story and answer these questions along the way. The answer to the big question--Why is Elliot following Abe (or more importantly, why did Abe leave Elliot)--sets the stage for the last scene. In one sense, this scene is a chase scene--Elliot is after Abe's water. At the same time it bears the dynamics of a prisoner-captor scene: the prisoner (Elliot) is pleading with the captor (Abe) for his life. Abe has the water, and thus the power to save his friend. Abe must choose between saving his friend and abandoning him again. It's one thing sneak away in the night, but it's another to watch your friend die at your feet. Also, the last shot of the film prompts one final and disturbing question: Did Abe let Elliot catch up only to retrieve Abe's camera, which he needs to find his way to the water source?

Thanks for your feedback, CP. Both criticism and praise are necessary for improvement. I'll definitely read through Endgame and comment when I get the chance (so many scripts, so little time!).

mjjason
05-13-2008, 10:16 AM
Really enjoyed the script overall. I had some difficulty with the flashbacks early on but they worked for me in the end. The issue I had early on was that I assumed that flashbacks would follow a linear pattern as well, i.e. the second flashback would follow the first but that was not the case. This was an issue with the first two or three but I realised after the fourth that they were not in order. The flashbacks helped to add depth to the story without breaking up the flow of the pursuit between Elliot and Abe. This made the read more interesting.

The things that can be improved on in a longer script are the backstory and the ending. I really wanted to know why they were out there in the desert. I guess its hard to do it in 10 pages but I wasn't clear on the motivation of the characters and why it was so easy for Abe to leave his friend. As for the ending, I don't have that big a problem with it other than to say that it just came suddenly and was somewhat anti-climatic.

Overall, this script felt like Gus Van Zant's film 'Gerry'. Similar story with a similar ending. His film worked too though his weakpoints were similar to this script. All in all I liked the script and feel that in a longer feature this would work great if you explore the characters further.

krestofre
05-13-2008, 03:11 PM
Nice structure to the script. The use and placements of flashbacks build the suspense and keep the drama of the script moving.

I also really apprecaite how you set up the ending where the outcome is unquestionable, but didn't feel the need to show it to us.

btangonan
05-13-2008, 11:35 PM
Alex - Thanks for reviewing the Reunion. I honestly don't know how you are able to give such thorough line-by-line critiques of everyone's scripts. Are you a teacher?

I agree with most of your technical criticisms. Regarding the 11-line block of text--we tried cutting it down, but we felt everything there is essential and couldn't afford to insert page breaks. We'll definitely break it up now that we don't need to meet a strict page requirement.

Thanks for your honest feedback on the ending. We wrote the entire story to build up to that scene, so for us it's indispensable. I think with more fleshed out characters and a better explanation of the context of the story the last scene would play better. I feel that it's a pretty closed ending as it is: Abe makes a definitive decision that he'll probably never recover from.

Jason - Teej just forwarded me the plot synopsis from Gerry and wow--very similar story. Two lifelong best friends get lost in the desert and are forced to face unspoken grudges. Despite the striking similarities, though, the mood, tone, and genre I had in mind for The Reunion is very different from the impression I get from the Gerry trailer. It makes Gerry seem much more meditative and lyrical as opposed to ominous and brooding. I'll have to watch it to find out how it ends. According to your post, it's much like how my story ends. That really sucks. To quote Nas "No idea's original...it's not what you do but how it's done."

I 100% agree with you that the script needs to be a little longer to accommodate more backstory and character development.

Krestofre - Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad the structure worked for you. It's my opinion that this story is a lot more difficult to read than it would be to watch. So much information is packed into a few visible actions than can easily be fit into an action description. Also glad the ending didn't feel too anti-climactic to you, as it did for others.

Thanks so much for the feedback, fellas.

LouiseG
05-14-2008, 10:43 PM
I really enjoyed the script. Nice and dark. I liked the ending, how it wasn't an active "bossfight" of sorts, but a passive killing. I didn't expect that.
I think this would be stronger if it could be longer than 10 pages. Though I like the 10-page version, it doesn't allow for as much character depth as a longer piece. I had a small problem with Abe's motivation, if it was simply self-preservation or really about a girl as Elliot suggests. Again, a longer script would remedy this.
Abe and Elliot were similar at times, but those 2 lines you have already addressed seemed to be my only problem with their dialogue. I think Elliot's curiosity about how the Egyptian died introduced his character well, and Abe's dismissal of pretty much everything Elliot does reflects his contempt for their predicament and for Elliot.
Great read. I got a little confused structurally with the flashbacks, but they were clear enough that by the end of my first run through it, I understood what was going on. If you guys are planning on writing a longer version, I'd love to read it.

Isaac_Brody
05-17-2008, 09:36 AM
Good points brought up. I felt as did others that I knew where this was going, and I think it would be interesting to end where these two guys began. Instead of ending with Abe's betrayal, this could be more poignant to end by showing them both at the start of this journey before things went awry. I would also try starting this piece with Abe's betrayal. If you do this it would setup the piece so that the audience slowly learns how these two friends got to this point, and you might even build up more sympathy for Abe in the process.

The flashbacks were a little confusing at first, but I think it can work once we grow accustomed to them.

I also wanted your action paragraphs broken up more and for this to be tightened. Short descriptive sentences would keep this visual and less short story like. I just want to see the very basic necessities. Anything more and this piece is slowed down and you lose that sense of atmosphere. Good work.

TeeJ
05-20-2008, 10:24 AM
Hi Isaac. Thanks for the feedback. I actually really like your ending idea. It makes for a different vibe than we were going for potentially (more sentimental/sadly nostalgic; less bleakly dark - though certainly still dark). It does have the potential of reminding the audience that Abe is a human and that these guys were friends and has the potential to make the viewer more sad/depressed rather than disturbed/empty. But yeah, your points are very well taken about potential other orderings.

On the action paragraph front, I had a request: is there any way you could suggest a few lines that could be removed/significantly altered? Brad and I undertook what we felt was a heroic effort to remove any descriptors we didn't think were crucial to (1) most importantly, making the plotting clear, given the confusing structure and the lack of dialogue and (2) setting the mood correctly, since it's a mood piece in a way. Obviously, we would break up the action paragraphs if the page limit didn't exist, but even then your second point would stand on removing the story-like nature of the script (which is difficult overall because it is intended to have a low dialogue:action ratio). Any specific examples you could provide would be uber-helpful. I understand if you don't have time though, as this is a semi-labor-intensive request....

Thanks again.

TeeJ
05-20-2008, 10:29 AM
Louise, thanks for the kind feedback. Brad and I are glad you liked it. I agree that a longer version would enable a lot more character development, which would add significantly. We'll definitely send you over said lengthier version if/when we write it.

Isaac_Brody
05-20-2008, 11:36 AM
Hey Teej, I've got a couple errands to run today but I'll take another look and get you specific examples.

Isaac_Brody
05-21-2008, 07:23 PM
Hey Teej,

Here's an example of trimming I would do.

Here's your version of your first big action paragraph:


A strong wind is blowing, causing Abe to shield his face. He turns around and scans the landscape behind him. The desert is empty. He looks down at the ground, where his footprints are disappearing with the wind. He turns back around, kneels down, removes a work piece of paper from his vest and begins to study it. He looks up frmo the paper and stares at mountains in the distance.

Here's my version to trim this down:

A strong wind blows, Abe shields his face.

He turns and scans the landscape behind him.

Desert, empty and vast.

He looks at his disappearing footprints on the ground.

He removes a scrap of paper from his vest, studies it.

He stares at mountains in the distance.

I actually wouldn't keep all the details you created. I would just pick a few essential ones. Too many details can get the reader lost in the forest. Your writing is fine, it's descriptive, but it reads like part of a novel or short story. When I mentioned tightened I meant cut the fat out and just give us the very basic essentials for the reader to survive. Also, look for those places where you have a character beginning to do something. Beginning isn't interesting to see, but doing is. Instead of beginning to leave, Abe leaves. Beginning to look at a paper, not so interesting, Abe looks at the paper, much better.

I would go through your script and look for those descriptive paragraphs and take a pen and just cut out the extra words. Get this down and it'll flow better.