Every Feature screenplay entered into the 2014 Competition receives two written analyses as part of their entry fee, while Short screenplays receive one, and all screenplays are eligible to be resubmitted after receiving notes.
The BlueCat Screenplay Competition guarantees what every screenwriter expects when they enter a contest: two independent readers reading their entire screenplay and writing analysis of it as a part of the entry fee.
We strive to hire script readers who are thoughtful, intelligent, fair and clear. How they present their thoughts will, of course, vary, and you might not agree with what they think. But hopefully you will be able to glean some idea of how to improve your screenplay and gain ground on your objective of getting your script to screen.
What follows are some examples of the feedback we send to our entrants. Remember: what you receive is one person’s opinion.
Archive #4209: Buttercup
What did I like?
Your description is well done. It is clear to your audience what is happening, how it is happening and what it looks like. The descriptions are vivid and very colorful. You are writing about and dealing with mythical creatures and people. Therefore, it is important that your description be strong, since the audience has no frame of reference for how these creatures and people are supposed to look, think and act. Even though these creatures are mythical, audiences are familiar with them. We have seen several movies, books, plays and television shows where these Roman gods are the central characters. Because audiences have seen these characters in several places and have been exposed to them in many different ways, your description becomes very important. The audience needs to see how your visions of these characters differ from anything they have ever seen before. The way your Gods act, look and think can help set them apart from other versions.
Even though these characters have been seen before, you did a good job of giving them a different setting and a different mission: the battle of Venus. It was interesting to see all these gods interact together and with the mortals. It was fascinating to see them rage a war against each other and see how they fight against each other and what the results of those battles will be. We have seen the Gods fight amongst themselves before and even control the lives of the mortals, like in The Odyssey and The Clash of the Titans. However, we have not seen Gods and mortals interact in quite this way before.
Also, you did a nice job of developing the romantic relationship between Warren and Harry. It was interesting to see John fall for a mortal girl and to see that girl change into the father, a deadly and feared creature.
What needs work?
Try reworking the pace of this film. The film is a little slow. The film is about the battle of Venus. Get to that battle quicker. The story lags, especially in the beginning and in the second act. There are several different ways that could quicken the pace of the story. For example, you could try cutting out scenes and storylines. For example, you might consider cutting out about the first fifteen pages, the pages that include the formation of earth and the Titans. Most audiences are familiar with these already popular stories. If audiences are not familiar with this specific past, they really do not need the information now. The Gods themselves are important but not necessarily their origin.
Another technique you might consider to speed up the story is to change your formatting. Throughout the story, you have several very long action / descriptive paragraphs. They are really long and almost too descriptive (even though your description is generally good, there does not always need to be tons of it). These paragraphs, especially for an audience that is reading this story, become mundane. Consider editing out some of the description in these paragraphs, use more concise words or split these giant paragraphs into several smaller ones. Think of the way a film is cut. If the editor wants to slow the film down, they stay on the same shot or in the same scene longer. If they want to speed up the story, they cut much quickly. Apply this same idea to the formatting of your paragraphs. We understand that you do not intend to only have this story read; you want it scene on the screen. However, the script is the way to sell your film or sell your writing ability, therefore, try to keep your audience (even the reading audience) engaged.
Furthermore, consider getting to the action quicker. There are some great scenes where Iowa and Wisconsin fight and great scenes during the battle of Venus. However, try to have some more action. Have less dialogue. Don’t just constantly explain things to the audience in words, show us. Tell us the story through actions.
Archive #245: The Whipping
What did you like about this script?
This is a bold treatment of sexual harassment in the workplace, and it focuses on the chauvinism shown by white collar, as opposed to blue collar male workers towards their female counterparts – it traverses very different territory to NORTH COUNTRY. Although the screenplay has a contemporary setting , the main players seem to be locked into a MAD MEN era of office politics. Sadly, these attitudes remain all too prevalent. People everywhere will recognize and relate to Bruce’s predicament especially when his career glory (the Pulitzer Prize) is quickly soured by his experiences in his new, supposedly dream, job. Bruce is represented as someone who likes to be creative, likes to get the work done, who is blindsided by the internecine struggle at Neiman’s. The analogy that he has fallen through the looking glass is appropriate, as he finds herself in a world where he cannot apply the usual expectations and standards to his co-workers’ behavior. The audience will share his misery and confusion as he is initially powerless to stop Bob: they will also share her satisfaction when he eventually manages to muster her resources and hangs him out to dry. It’s a nice touch that they manage to join forces with Tim’s previous victims and launch her own agency. Harold is an all-too believable office Lothario who, as Paul puts it so succinctly on p.9, “thinks with the wrong head”. He appears charming at first, and there are some charged moments when it seems as though Susan might be attracted to him. However, he soon reveals himself to be a rogue, through and through, quick to resort to all kinds of chicanery to get his own way. He makes a powerful antagonist because he has an entrenched sense of entitlement. Whenever he has a vague notion that his behavior might be inappropriate, he is arrogant enough to go ahead anyway. The screenplay raises some interesting questions about Patrick’s role as his enabler. Is Paul- whose moral compass seems to be more accurately aligned – more or less reprehensible than his buddy, given that he facilitates and covers up all Mark’s transgressions? The screenplay includes some brutally honest comments on what is likely to happen to a whistle-blower in Annie’s situation. Her lawyer tells her “once the word gets out, you’ll probably never work in advertising again” on p.98. This goes to show why cases like Annie’s don’t emerge into the public eye very often: perhaps a timely movie like this could change all that?
What do you think needs work?
Given the battle she becomes engaged in, Annie is a very passive protagonist, and the narrative feels very slow as a result. Alice is always waiting for things to happen to her rather than driving events herself – she should track Melissa down rather than waiting to be approached in a coffee shop on p.8. Part of the problem lies with her perfect existence, her “Ordinary World” that doesn’t appear to have a flaw in it until she catches Mark and Kitty going at each other on p.21. Even then, this is not really her problem. The audience is repeatedly told that she has a gorgeous, sexy husband, adorable children, a supportive mother, and a great career – this makes her very dull. What are her wants and needs? What keeps her awake at night? What vulnerabilities does she have that a practiced predator like Mark can pounce on? Act One needs to be more sharply focused on setting up Alice for a fall, acknowledging her flaws and suggesting the strengths that she will need to develop through the course of the narrative. Perhaps she has more than her fair share of arrogance? Perhaps there are issues between her and John that make her respond to Mark’s initial flirtation? Perhaps she articulates her desire to become a partner at K&J at whatever cost? More elements need to be added to Act One that will generate and complicate conflict further down the line. Tonally, this present draft feels too much like a romcom, and could actually be one until the car accident on p.37. The sustained ALICE IN WONDERLAND references feel very stale – these have been overdone in everything from THE MATRIX to LOST – and overly obvious here (the heroine’s name, the fact that her mother was a children’s book illustrator). Every time the screenplay could be raw and confrontational, Annie retreats into another cartoonish hallucination – the target audience is unlikely to want the message sugar-coated this much.
Archive #5690: What a Rainbow
What I Liked:
Here we have a non-traditional leading man. Joe is a single father, depressed from the suicide of his wife, stressed by his teenaged daughter, and burned out by his door-to-door salesman job. He sells textbooks, yet for all the knowledge he carries around in his wagon, he doesn’t know much about life. I liked that Joe was confused, hurt and sensitive; that he was composed of more flaws than perfection. He was a character that you wanted to like, that you felt sorry for, and that you hoped would figure things out at some point.
I liked the idea that Joe was in the midst of being replaced by technology, and that the writer chose the early 1990s as a time period in which to set the script. It was a savvy choice of setting because this was a critical time in the transition to the tech boom we are in now. Joe is an old fashioned kind of guy, and his interaction with Gary (his more modern sales counterpart) was intriguing. I liked that Joe loses it and punches Gary in the face. I thought that this scene was so incongruously violent and active compared to the rest of the languid script that it really stood out.
What Needs Work:
One problem with this script is that virtually nothing happens in the first 25 pages. Generally speaking, when reading a script, a person can tell if it is going to be worth finishing within the first 10 to 15 pages. The first 25 of this were static and repetitive. Joe wakes up, he sells, he argues with Joanna, and he goes to the bar and gets ribbed by peers and the customers. The writer needs more to hook in his readers. Was I not committed to reading the whole script; I would have set this one down unfinished from disinterest. The plot suffers from the old “all talk, no action” stigma throughout the story. There is too much being said that could be shown more effectively. The facts of the script are these: 1. Joe’s wife killed herself. 2. Joe’s job is being phased out. 3. Joe blames psychiatrists in part for his wife’s death, or for not preventing his wife’s death. 4. Joanna is depressed. These are the facts, but what of them? The writer makes a clear enough effort to make these facts known to the reader, but seldom expands upon them to any degree of depth. By the end of the script I still had no idea why Joe’s mother really hated Joe’s father, yet Joe’s father had a wonderful relationship with Joanna. I also didn’t know any of the circumstances behind Cara’s suicide. What was the reason for her death? How did she kill herself? These things seem more than a little important, yet the writer chooses to remain vague and cagey about the more complex aspects of the scenarios. He gives us the what, but not the why. Sometimes, the why is nice to know.
Furthermore, Joanna has a distinct lack of personality. She is easily the second most important person in this script, yet beyond her characterization as a brooding teenager, we know almost nothing about her. I’d like to see some more of her story as a potential subplot. Why tell us about her meetings with her grandfather when you could show us some of them? In doing so, we’d automatically have a viable subplot, and a greater dimension to the currently one-track story being told on these pages.
Another way to add a bit of variety would be to bring Elise into the script sooner. The writer has planted the seed of all these interesting subplots, but then has failed to tend to them. Emily’s tumultuous relationship with Joe, Joanna and Joe’s father is really fertile ground to be explored in greater depth. I’d like to know more about what Joe’s upbringing was like, shown through Emily’s actual presence in the script, and perhaps even through a confrontation with her ex-husband. With Joanna in the middle, this could easily be accomplished. Either of these subplot possibilities could be integrated seamlessly into this script by editing some of the repetitive bar scenes. I would rather learn more about Jack through his father and mother than through the bartender wisdom of Mackie.
Archive #9: Song of Land
What did you like about the script?
Peter’s passion for his cause is evident throughout the script from his dialogue. For example on page 18 when CJ tells him that the funding has been cut, Peter jumps out of his chair and replies “It can’t be cut! We just proved it works! No! I won’t let you kill it. Not when it works. I’ll go straight to the Boss”.
The situation that the characters find themselves in certainly appears to be challenging and potentially insurmountable. As Brian says on page 23 “Nemesis will pass close by Saturn on its way toward the inner planets. And on November 11th…It will come into direct collision with the Earth”. The fact that the characters appear to be able to do very little to save the earth creates a good sense of intrigue.
There is a great deal at stake for the characters and the audience therefore to root for them to succeed. For example Ronnie says on page 45 “I know you’ve all worked hard and sacrificed. You’ve put your lives on hold, left your families and friends behind. But the whole world is united behind you. The whole world is depending on you”.
Peter faces the dual conflict of the Machine and also the threat from the terrorists who are trying to stop him saving the earth.
The midpoint crisis works well. After the explosion Rosalie explains that “repairs to Houston will take six months”. Peter then replies “We don’t even have three weeks”.
Tension builds well as the script nears its resolution.
What do you think needs work?
One of the main problems with the script is that it lacks a sense of urgency. For example, on page 20 Peter says “we slow the Earth enough over the course of six months so that when it reaches this point…” The senator then says on page 34 “it has been determined that the Machine will collide with the Earth in just over two years.” This does seem to be a rather long time frame in which to take action.
There are also large jumps in time frame which do not help with the building of tension. For example, on page 29 the narrative reads “eight months later”. The script therefore is not able to build momentum.
For the most part, the script includes no emotional reaction from the general public. This is unusual as they do appear to be aware of the situation. It is not until page 63 when “a nearby transformer explodes and the crowd panics, rushing to their vehicles. Several hundred cars and trucks try to squeeze through the two lane opening to the drive-in. They grind and smash into each other, pinning several pedestrians in the process.” It is only from this point onwards that the pace begins to improve.
The conflict between Peter and Rosalie’s husband, Bill, is set up but not paid off. This is because they rarely interact. This is unfortunate as they seem to clash on both a professional and personal level. This is therefore this is an excellent opportunity to generate some conflict and tension, but the writer has failed to capitalize on this.
The writer focuses a great deal on some of the other characters. Therefore, there are occasions when Peter appears to fade into the background. This is problematic as he is the protagonist and he has come up with a plan on how to save the earth. The writer should try to ensure that Peter remains at the forefront of the script, driving the action.
The writer may wish to consider that all dialogue and scenes should progress the story in some way. For example, Kelly and Evan’s discussions on pages 42 and 44 do not appear to be relevant. These two characters have not been seen before and their discussion does not progress the plot in any way.
Archive #401: The Man in the Rearview Mirror
What did you like?
The pacing is interesting – the whole script taking place in the car gives us a sense of the suffocation and tedium Greg must feel. You’re still able to build and sustain a lot of tension by using the landscape and the characters. The characters are constantly being challenged, for example when Greg is waiting for the cop to come back and sees the green car go by in the opposite direction. Greg’s character is specific and engaging. His interest in coins, license plates, and photography makes him come alive in a truthful way.
You are very skillful at building tension. For example, on pages 25-27, you do a good job interweaving the tension over the hitchhiker, and the tension over Greg not selling the estate. On page 43 there’s a great moment where Greg reverts to being a child and Mrs. Stuart twists his ear. On page 51, Greg has to decide whether to go straight or right, and he takes his anger out on Mary. Mrs. Stuart contributes by suggesting they go right. You could consider adding more moments like this for Mrs. Stuart – where she finds herself unconsciously drawn into the mystery – instead of her constantly saying that Greg is crazy. On page 72, there’s a nice moment where Greg calls Mrs. Stuart “Mother” without realizing it. Again, you’re progressing the hitchhiker plot while also progressing the Mrs. Stuart/Greg plot. Greg’s outburst on page 86 is well executed, and comes at just the right time in the plot. Other specific details make the story come alive – the dog that Greg wants to take a picture of, the moving tail light, Mrs. Stuart’s needlepoint.
What needs work?
Try to make Mrs. Stuart’s character dimensional and human. We clearly understand that she is irritating and fussy, but what are her vulnerabilities? Seeing glimpses of another side of her will make her more interesting. As it is, her tirades become a little repetitive. Maybe you can shape her character so that we see her trying different tactics to annoy Greg. Her and Greg’s resolution on page 87 feels too fast and easy. Consider prolonging this tension longer so that their emotional beats feel more truthful. Cut out obvious dialogue that repeats what you have already shown us, i.e., on page 6 when Greg says, “I just like to keep a record of new and unusual things I see.” You should still break up some of the script into scenes when they arrive at a new location, i.e., on page 69 when they come to a gas station there should be a scene heading, “EXT. GAS STATION – DAY.” Also, is everything we see a point of view from the car? If not, there should be other scene headings, “EXT. FORD TWO DOOR LUXURY CAR – DAY.”
The final car chase is a good climax, but keeps Greg and the hitchhiker at such a distance from each other, diluting the tension of imminent danger. One of the strongest moments in the script is when the two cars stop at the gas station. Think about including more situations such as this where the characters have to face-off in close proximity. Your script has Hitchcockian undertones. Using Rear Window as an example, consider how that protagonist observes the antagonist from his window throughout the entire film, but is finally confronted by him in the climax. While your ending is effective in that it does not follow a traditional denouement, the final image of the car sinking into the river does not quite feel appropriate or satisfying. What feeling do you want to leave us with? Just as you begin the script tellingly with Greg’s meandering point of view, you should end the script with something meaningful.