Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Rewrite Questionnaire:


95% of feature screenplays submitted to festivals and contests, as well as agencies and managers, fail in three areas: Character, Tension, and Development.

Here are 20 questions that focus on these areas. As you reread your first draft, ask yourself which specific scenes illustrate your answers?


1. Does the resolution dramatize your story’s central idea or theme?


2. Does your ending satisfy the tensions set up in the beginning?


3. Could your story begin earlier or later?


4. How can you incorporate more VISUAL storytelling?


5. What specifically and concretely does the protagonist want?


6. What does the protagonist fear will happen if s/he doesn’t get it?


7. Is your plot driven by your protagonist’s ACTIONS and CHOICES?


8. What does the protagonist need? How do we know?


9. What is the protagonist most afraid of? Where in the story does s/he face it? 


10. What is the protagonist secretly ashamed of?


11. Does the protagonist change? How do we know?


12. Is there a clear ANTAGONIST (person, force, institution)


13. Do the SUPPORTING CHARACTERS have clear wants, needs and fears?


14. Which moments can only happen in THIS story with THESE CHARACTERS? 


15. If you had to tell your story in 60 pages, which scenes would you cut?


16. Where do you NOT feel the main tension of the story?


17. Do the sequences and subplots have their own tensions? What are they?


18. Which scenes have little or no conflict?


19. How can you tell your story with less exposition?


20. Where is the TONE of your script inconsistent?


After thinking about each of these questions, write 1-2 pages about which questions identify the major strengths and weaknesses of your first draft.

For more on how to begin a rewrite, check out How To Begin and This Is What A Rewrite Looks Like.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Blake Snyder's BEAT SHEET



  • Opening Image 
  • Set-up
  • Theme Stated 
  • Catalyst
  • Debate 
  • Break Into Two (Choosing Act Two)
  • B Story 
  • The Promise of the Premise
  • Midpoint
  • Bad Guys Close In 
  • All is Lost
  • Dark Night of the Soul
  • Break Into Three (Choosing Act Three)
  • Finale
  • Final Image

I write this blog in order to connect with intelligent, ambitious, and creative people. If you leave a comment, you will inspire me to write more. If you liked the article, please share it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Example of A Treatment: The Haunting In New York

Haunting in New York – Pitch Notes
(REVISED 5/5/09)
By Sean Hood

Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment

I’ve tracked the story on three levels:


1. BLACKMother/Boyfriend’s story

Here I track the beats as seen in documentary (with some adjustments). All the key story points are there so that the “based on a true story” premise is intact. Our location, the Hudson River Valley, is the setting for some of America’s most famous and authentic tales of possession.


2. GREEN – Middle sister, Krista’s, story.

The movie will be told through eyes of the middle sister, Krista (15). This is material that I have created myself. The family is a tightly knit group of women (A mother and three daughters… a bit like “Little Women”) who support each other physically and emotionally in dire financial circumstances. The deadbeat father deserted them years earlier; he had been unable to handle the challenges of caring for a child with special needs.

Chris, the boyfriend, is (at first) a male intruder into this family of women/girls. Krista doesn’t trust him. This male intruder is mirrored by the supernatural demon, who is also threatening male figure invading the family unit. Ultimately the “real world” story is about Krista learning to trust and accept Chris and a father figure, and the “supernatural” story is about Krista driving out the perverse and violent demon (who represents her fears.)

3. RED – Supernatural Story.

This is a mythology and history surrounding the demon that I have researched to answer the questions. What is this demon? What is its history? What does it want? Why now? Why this family? What’s going to happen if the demon wins… especially to Krista?

The goal here is to make sure that the stakes are clearly life and death.



Act One:

  1. For three years, Dawn (36) and daughters (Julie (18), Krista (15), Sophie(10) have lived alone and struggled. Julie, mentally disabled, can sense unseen angels. Julie is regarded both the family and the community as spiritually gifted, and is given special attention.

Julie, besides being strikingly beautiful, has a special talent – one that makes her a savant. Although she cannot walk or speak, she makes line drawings of the entities she sees. When Julie draws, she seems to be in a kind of trance and she hardly looks at the paper. Her hand scribbles randomly on page after page, like someone producing “automatic writing,” and she seems to have no conscious awareness of what she is doing. After filling dozens of sheets with chaotic lines, she begins producing eerie images of figures and faces.




This talent has made Julie a celebrity in the family’s church, and she is the favorite of their local priest, Father Boyd (the priest who will visit in the third act.)

By contrast, Dawn asks Father Boyd to have a stern talk with Krista, the “problem child” between the angelic oldest, Julie, and the precocious youngest, Sophie. Krista has the reputation for acting out, rebelling against male authority figures and lying.

Krista is jealous of the special attention that is given to her older sister, and resentful that she has to care for her, feed her and bathe her, sleep in the same room as her, and baby-sit her while her mother goes out on dates with her new boyfriend, Chris (45).












A key image is the disgruntled Krista pushing Julie around in a wheelchair. Every day, resentful and bored to tears, Krista has to take her sister out to the ruins of an abandoned factory, where Julie spends hours making her mysterious drawings.



  1. The mother brings home Chris to meet the kids. Sophie likes him; Julie seems to trust him, but Krista is standoffish.
In fact, Krista hates Chris, and doesn’t want her mother to date him. To her, he seems creepy and oafish – trying to hard to ingratiate himself, and acting as if he is a member of the family.

While pushing Julie around the ruins of the old factory Krista gets fed up. Her sister is being stubborn and obsessive, drawing the figure of a boy over and over again, crying and latching the wheelchair brake whenever Krista tries to take her home. Finally Krista looses her temper and yells, “I wish you were dead!”

To Krista’s mortification, she realizes she has been overheard. Eric, a blond haired boy a little older than her, looks both cute and ordinary as he cuts through the lot. He’s the one her sister has been drawing - a real person for once.

 He waves at Krista, smiles sheepishly, and walks off into the fading light.  

  1. Chris moves in. Sophie and Julie like him, but Krista doesn’t. Chris feels the presence of “entities” in the house.
She mocks Chris’s “psychic” sensibilities, and thinks he is making it up to manipulate her mother, who believes in the supernatural. Krista and her mother fight over it. Krista feels neglected, misunderstood and bitter.

Krista is furious about this strange man invading the family’s private space and acting like a father figure. His stuff clutters the bathroom. He leaves messes in the kitchen. His furniture, wall hangings, and other junk are painfully mismatched and unstylish. Her mother scolds her Krista “parading around the house” in just a t-shirt and boxers, as she has done all her life. Krista is outraged.

So, Krista is rebellious and rude to Chris.

That night, Krista has a “night-mare.” Wandering through the dark house, she hears heavy thuds and feral breathing. In the hallway, she is assaulted by a large black horse. The beast kicks and bucks in a frenzy. When she wakes up with a scream, she finds her sister awake too, with a shell-shocked expression as if she has seen something terrifying as well. Then Krista sees…

In the doorway, in dark silhouette, Chris is standing there watching the two girls sleep. Krista is spooked by his presence in the room.

The next morning, she complains to her mother, but her mother brushes her off. Julie was moaning in her sleep, and Chris went in to the room to see if she was all right. It was nothing more than that.

Krista meets Eric on her daily walk. She notices Eric staring at her beautiful sister (why do boys ALWAYS gawk at her that way?). Krista will be pretty too, someday, but she’s in an awkward stage.  She works hard to keep Eric’s attention.

Eric agrees that Chris seems creepy, and perhaps even dangerous. Krista invites Eric to the house, but tells him they have to keep him secret from her mother, who doesn’t want her “dating.” That night, Krista watches Chris suspiciously.

Meanwhile, Julie draws picture of demonic horses.



  1. The mother wakes up to find the house a mess. She asks the youngest, Sophie, who did it. Sophie says a “boy with yellow hair.”
In the previous scene, Krista sneaks Eric into the house at night. This time, when Eric seems smitten with Julie, Krista goes to great lengths to distract him. Her dependant sister becomes her rival for Eric’s attention.

They make a mess together and are caught by Sophie. In order not to get into trouble for sneaking a boy into the house, Krista convinces Sophie that she didn’t see a real boy, she saw a ghost.

  1. The whole family sees Eric through the window.

Krista tries desperately to stifle laughter as Chris and her mother run outside to investigate the “ghost.” She knows it’s just her friend from the neighborhood.

Through her bedroom wall, Krista hears Chris talk about his fears of evil spirits.

Later that night, Eric spies on Krista through a window as she undresses. She knows he’s there, but innocently, she finds his attention exciting. That night the two of them decide to use Chris’s superstitions against him, and scare him away from the house and her family.

We see the mute older sister’s, Julie’s growing anxiety and dismay, as if she can see forces gathering that her sister Krista is unaware of. In particular, she seems terrified of Krista’s new friend Eric. Eric smiles at Julie ominously…

… and puts a finger to his lips as if to say “Hush, it’s our little secret.”


Act Two:

  1. The mother, Dawn, and her boyfriend, Chris, try to contact the spirit world. Krista spies on them as they do it. Chris is terrified when the spirit seems to speak.
 
With Eric encouraging her, Krista plays pranks on her mother and Chris as they work the Ouija board. Hiding in the basement with him, she makes the lights flicker, she taps and scratches on the floorboards like a spirit.

However, the Ouiji board DOES spell out a name “Eric.” And then it spells out a cryptic message:

ERIC IS DOOR


Krista is unsettled. How is it that the Ouiji board spelled out “Eric.” And, why is Julie so anxious whenever Eric is around, drawing stranger and stranger pictures.





  1. The mother finds a white handprint and a cryptic message on the basement door.
 Again, Eric encourages Krista to play a prank. With some white paint, she makes a handprint on the wall and under it she writes another cryptic message that Eric tells her…

ICE DOOR SIR

Krista laughs heartily as she eavesdrops on Chris and her mother trying to decipher this nonsense message. When they ask her if she did it, Krista claims to know nothing about it.

  1. They call a psychic and spread baby powder on the basement floor to see if it is really a spirit or whether Krista or Sophie is playing a prank.

Again, Krista invites Eric in the house through the basement window, in secret. She uses a dust-buster vacuum up a path to the center of the powder. Eric encourages her to write another nonsense message for them to decipher:

DOC O’RE IRIS

Then the cover up the path by squirting new baby powder over the trail.

The next morning Chris and Dawn see the writing, and Krista can barely keep a straight face when the gullible Chris says ominously, “No human being could have written that message without disturbing the powder.”


  1. The psychic comes to the house and sees “Iris” drawn in the powder. Her chirpy, confident demeanor melts and her face turns white. Fleeing the house, she says she can’t help them because “Iris” is her daughter’s name.
 
Krista is disturbed by the coincidence… like the coincidence with the Ouija board. But it had to be a coincidence. The words were just nonsense.

Julie is acting stranger. She screams and cries when Eric appears in the house. Krista hates that taking care of her sister means never having a moment alone with him. Krista admits to Eric the first time in her life, she wishes her sister wasn’t around to burden her. Eric jokes, why don’t you kill her?

The joke hits a raw nerve, and Krista throws Eric out of the house.

  1. The mother, Dawn, has dreams of “Eric.” The demon tells her, “You can’t help her. She is mine.” The mother assumes he means Julie.
Both Chris and Dawn become concerned about Julie, who is behaving strangely, as if terrified by things only she can see.

This only makes Krista more and more angry. How typical, that they are so worried about Julie and couldn’t care less about her. Krista gets even more furious with her sister because Julie screams in fright every time Krista tries to let Eric in the house… almost getting her caught.

Eric stops coming to the house and Krista blames her sister. Once again, tending to her sister is ruining her life. Both her mother and Chris scold Krista for her moodiness and selfishness. Once again, Krista feels jealous and misunderstood.

  1. Sophie, the youngest, sees visions of Eric. She sees faces coming out of the wall. She can’t sleep. Anxiety makes her cry all the time. No one can get her to stop crying.
Krista worries that Eric is sneaking in the house without her knowledge or consent and scaring both her sisters. It spooks her.

Late at night, Krista wakes up to see her sister writhing strangely in the other bed – her lips moving silently as if she were speaking in tongues. Then Krista’s own bed begins to vibrate and shake, as if possessed.

Hearing a horse thrash and snort, she realizes some beast is under her bed. When she looks down and pulls back the sheet Eric looks up at her with a twisted demonic grin. “You don’t know what’s really going on, do you?”

Krista screams! Chris runs in the room and flips on the light. He tells her she was having a nightmare, but to Krista, it seemed all too real.

  1. The mother, Dawn, finds more messages burned into the floor of Sophie’s bedroom. Again Sophie won’t stop crying. Only Julie seems to be able to sooth the youngest sister and calm her down.
The words burned into the floor read:

OR SO I CRIED

The mother is terrified this is another cryptic message from the ghost. Sophie, who is a tattle-tail, says she saw Krista and her “boyfriend” burning in the message. Sophie accuses Krista of the other pranks as well.

Krista and her mother fight. Finally Krista admits to the paint and the powder, but says she didn’t burn the letters into the floor. Her mother is furious. Krista lies so much that it’s impossible for her mother to know what to believe.


Midpoint:

  1. The mother, Dawn, and Krista find Chris sitting in the basement. Chris is possessed. Eric, speaking through Chris, says, “You don’t realize what’s going on do you? She is mine.” Words from their nightmares.

Mother, scared for Julie’s safety, moves herself and her three daughters out of the house. Chris comes back to himself with no knowledge of what happened to him.

Revelation: Krista and her mother find Julie sitting in her wheelchair, staring at Eric. When Krista’s mother says she doesn’t see anyone there, Krista realizes that the blonde hair boy is not a real person. He’s a real spirit... a demon.

  1. Paranormal Investigators arrive. They all adamantly agree the house is haunted by a spirit let in by the Ouija board. And that Julie is the focus of the paranormal activity. Ironically, these “experts” are all dead wrong.

To Krista, the investigators seem like charlatans. But no one will listen to her.

Krista does her own investigations. Discovering that the abandoned 19th century factory where she first met Eric. The factory used child labor – girls aged 9-16 who were taken from their families and forced to work 16 hour days, and sometimes forced to do even worse. Many children died there… by suicide.

Krista takes Julie in her wheelchair back to the factory ruins, hoping to confront Eric. Julie manages to say a single word, “Angels,” and she points.

Krista sees terrifying glimpses of the girls who died in the factory. Blue-skinned wraiths in dirty shifts, they have slashed arms or bandaged wrists.

  1. At the house, a paranormal investigator claims to see a drop of “ectoplasm.”

In contrast, in the hotel room, Krista a REAL supernatural experience.

While bathing her sister, Julie, the lights in the bathroom flicker and the walls seems to bulge. Suddenly, Julie’s body begins to shiver and shake. Julie SPEAKS in Eric’s voice, taunting Krista about her jealousy and bitterness.

The demon has followed her. It’s not just at the house.

Suddenly Julie’s body writhes and convulses in the water, snorting and bucking like an animal. To Krista’s horror, her sister seems to change into Eric.

Krista screams and pushes Eric face into the water. The voices in her head and visions dissipate, and only just in time does Krista come back to “reality” and realize that she has almost drown her own sister.


Krista cries. She tries to apologize, but Julie is now terrified of her, and won’t let her touch her. Krista is horrified by what she has almost done.


  1. While the family stays in two motel rooms, the paranormal experts work at the house. Another is pushed down the stairs. However, none of the recording devices reveal anything. They all agree that the house needs an exorcism.
However, their cameras and microphones pick up no hard evidence.

Krista knows that these investigators are fakers. A creak of a floorboard or a slip down the stairs is nothing compared to what she is experiencing.

Yet she is sullen and withdrawn. She can hear Eric’s voice echoing inside her head. She experiences black outs, and she can’t remember things she did or said. She tries to reach out to Father Boyd, but finds she can’t say what she wants to say, as if some force is blocking her from speaking. She can’t will herself to enter the church itself, as if she is at war with herself.

More and more, Krista is afraid of what she might do if she loses control

Ironically, it is only Chris who senses something is truly wrong with Krista. When she refuses to talk to him directly about it, he pokes through the hotel room and finds piles of books Krista has taken out from the library…

… the books are about possessions in the Hudson River Valley. In story after story, Krista has underlined instances of demonic possession, by a half-horse and half-human demon, one who preys on girls and disrupts and destroys families.

In one illustrated story from the 18th century, a girl kills her father with a shovel, screaming, “I wish you were dead!” In another, a sleeping girl is visited by a horse demon “night mare.” In another story, the girls working in a factory are possessed and driven to suicide.

Elsewhere, Krista pushes her sister along in her wheelchair on their daily outing. Krista seems entranced almost as if she is sleepwalking, and Julie seems to be getting more and more anxious. Suddenly Krista pushes Julie’s wheelchair to the edge of the sidewalk. In the road, trucks and taxis zip by at high speeds.

Julie seems to sense that her sister is contemplating PUSHING HER into the deadly, on-coming traffic. For several excruciating moments Krista rocks the wheelchair back and forth until…

Julie reaches out and touches her sister’s hand. Julie whispers the only word she can say out loud, “Angels.” Krista seems to “wake up” and realize what she was about to do. Krista pulls the wheelchair back to safety and she bursts into tears.

  1. A clairvoyant is brought into the house. She feels there is just one demon in the house taking many forms. In Julie’s bedroom, the clairvoyant is momentarily possessed by the spirit and thrown to the ground.
Krista realizes that these “psychics” and “experts” have no idea what is really happening. They can’t see Eric even when he is standing right next to them. They are of no help to her.

Her mother believes these “experts.” Her sister, Julie, is in her own world drawing page after page of static straight lines, like a television stuck on white noise. Even when the pad and marker are taken away from her, Julies hands move frantically in her lap, drawing on air.

Krista is completely alone.

Playing with a Scrabble game in the motel room, Krista looks over all the non-sense messages that Eric left them…

ERIC IS DOOR

DOC O’RE IRIS

OR SO I CRIED

She rearranges the scrabble tiles realizing that each message is an anagram for the other. She uses the same tiles to form other words…

DISCO ERROR I

More nonsense phrases, until she falls into an trance, and her fingers spell out…

SORRICIDE

The hidden message. That has been Eric’s goal all along: to seduce her, possess her, and manipulate her jealousy and anger to get her to…

Kill her sister.

Later, Krista wanders like a sleepwalker into Chris’s hotel room.  When she reaches his bed, she whispers as if only half-awake.

She begs him to take care of her family, and tells him NOT to trust her or anything she says. She is “not herself.” She is bad in her core. She begs him to take care of her mother and sisters.

“And you too,” offers Chris, but Krista shakes her head. She won’t say more.

Act Three:

  1. After Chris and Dawn go to the Church, Father Boyd explains that Julie cannot be possessed because she cannot choose between good and evil.

Dawn, the mother, believes the all investigators – that the possession in centered on Julie and the house. Friends and neighbors gather round Dawn for support.

But Chris is the only one who suspects that if could be Krista who is really in danger. Krista CAN choose between good and evil. What if she is the one who is really possessed?

Julie senses her sister is in danger, but she cannot speak to tell anyone. In a reversal of rolls, it is Julie who is now caring for her younger sister, trying to protect her emotionally from the angels and demons depicted in her drawings.

But when Krista blacks out… and then finds herself holding a pair of scissors like a dagger over her sister’s throat, Krista concludes that she can no longer trust herself.

Julie resists when her mother takes her and the youngest sister to the house to encourage the demon to appear, as the “experts” have instructed. Krista herself, is nowhere to be found.

  1. Father Boyd, who is really just humoring the family, performs a minor exorcism on the house – reading a prayer and performing a blessing. Julie seems oppressed as he does it. She is surrounded by family, friends and psychic experts who all thing she is the focus of the possession.
Julie rocks back and forth, as the “exorcism” gets more and more intense. The house rattles and shakes as if some gigantic beast were moving through it. Father Boyd begins to realize that there really is a demon present.

Suddenly Julie utters a word out loud, “Angels.”

All present gasp in shock as she stands up

and walks! She chants to herself, as reciting a prayer or an invocation, “Angels. Angels. Angels…” And moves her hand wildly in the air as if drawing.

Chris gives Julie a marker, and the girl begins drawing in wide arcing strokes across a blank wall. “What is it? What is she drawing?” cries the mother.

Chris recognizes the familiar outline of smokestacks. “It’s the factory.” As if sensing something, he bolt outs out of the house.

On the factory grounds, Krista returns to the exact place in the factory where she first met Eric. With his voice taunting her she takes out a razor. She plans to kill herself in order to keep herself from harming her sister or any other member of the family.

Back at the house, as the priest continues the prayer. Glass shatters, floorboards crack with the noise of feral snorts and thundering hooves. Father Boyd’s prayers become a full blown exorcism.

 



In front of her drawing of the factory, Julie draws figures…







… girls… the girls who worked at the factory.


Girls with wings.







At the factory itself, Chris walks through the junkyard and finds Krista kneeling as if before and altar, and holding the razor to her wrist.


 In front of her Eric, the demon laughs at her and encourages her to do it. Either way, he wins.

All Chris sees is Krista screaming at some invisible entity. He calls out to her. He tells her he believes her. He knows she’s the one who needs help. He begs her to trust her family… to let her family help her… she doesn’t have to face it alone.

The razor presses down on her wrist

At the house, Julie continues to chant, “Angels, angels, angels…” in synch with the booming voice of the priest casting the demon out. Her drawing is finished.

And as if by some mystical synchronicity, Krista hesitates from slashing her wrists. She too begins to chant, “Angels, angels, angels…”

CLIMAX: In a frightening and visually stunning set piece, apparitions appear - all the spirits of girls who killed themselves in the infernal factory. These are “the angels” that Julie has been seeing and drawing throughout the movie. A circle of these grim specters surrounds them. 

Child Labor in Factories





And as Krista watches, and we intercut the voice of the exorcist at the house.

The Angels fall upon Eric and tear him apart with their bare hands.

  1. At the house the exorcism concludes and here are three booms and the “weight” on the house seems to lift.
 Chris takes Krista in his arms like a child. As he carries her back to the house the clouds burst and they and covered in a cleansing rain.

  1. Chris is accepted into the family. Dawn and Chris are married.
 Surrounded by colorful images of smiling saints, Krista and her sisters are bridesmaids in a traditional church wedding.

At the reception the family circle is complete again. Chris and Dawn dance with the littlest sister Sophie. Julie draws humorous caricatures of the guests. Krista is happy but even as she eats the wedding cake, she is haunted by whispering voices.

Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment


I write this blog in order to connect with intelligent, ambitious, and creative people. If you leave a comment, you will inspire me to write more. If you liked the article, please share it.

Example of Beat Sheet for a Pitch/Leave Behind

Turistas 2 – Pitch Notes
By Sean Hood

Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment

Characters:

Working in a remote village in Brazil are three American volunteers.

Marcy – (20) Ivy League, workaholic, and over-achiever, she is culturally sensitive and well-mannered. She has been a good girl all her life. Secretly dreams of acting out, getting a tattoo or a piercing, and being rebellious. Because of her flexibility and nimble toes, her best friend has nick-named her “Monkey Foot.”

David – (22) Marcy’s best friend, and although he is handsome and extremely funny, he’s a bit of a nebbish. Because of a scraggly beard, and “jew fro” grown out from months in the rain forest, Marcy has nicknamed him “Yeti.” Spending a year volunteering in the rainforest before going to med school, both he and Marcy have grown very close to the poor villagers to whom they provide medical care.

Sarah (20) – A Christian missionary from Texas, she has platinum blonde hair, blue eyes and the face of an angel. She was home-schooled in her church, and has made a vow of chastity. She feels her body is a sacred, gift from God, and would not let it be blemished in any way. She doesn’t drink, smoke or swear and sees abstinence and self-control as her greatest strength. Marcy and David call her, Virgin Mary, behind her back.

After their last day in the village, they go to a bigger city and meet up with two American Friends.

Lane (23) – David’s friend from high school. Outwardly he has a rock-star persona and is covered in tattoos and piercings. One the inside he’s a nerd (like David) who collects body art the way he used to collect merit badges as an eagle scout. He’s coming to Brazil to get an exotic “tribal” tattoo.

Yvonne (18) – Lane’s girlfriend. Outwardly she’s a brash, bitchy party-girl, with nose ring and a “tramp stamp.” On the inside, she is deeply critical and insecure about her body. Although any objective person would call her pretty, she sees nothing but flaws in the mirror: her legs too short, breasts too small, nose too big, and on and on…

The Artist – The villain. He has created a cult of personality around old Brazilian tribal rituals, changing the practices into something dark and perverse. His acolytes follow him like a messiah. He is the Charles Manson, of body modification.


Beat Sheet

FIRST ACT:

Credit Sequence – Close, blurry, dreamy shots of a body being needled, punctured, pulled, branded, inked, cut, bled, and “modified.” Intercut, with wide-eyes and a frightened pleading voice….

Marcy wakes up as if from a nightmare, disoriented, sickly hung-over and unsure of where she is. To her dismay, she see’s David is the bed too. She goes to the bathroom to throw up. Feeling pain in the small of her back, she looks in the mirror and discovers the tattoo that she impulsively got the night before. David sheepishly appears at the doorway, “I got one too.”

Two Days Earlier. Marcy, David and Sarah say goodbye to the villagers with whom they have spent the last eight months. They join in hunting rituals with the children.

In the city, they decide to celebrate their last day in Brazil. They meet up with David’s high school friend Lane and his girlfriend Yvonne. An odd mix of personalities.

Marcy and Yvonne – Get a spa treatment. In order to wear a bikini, Marcy gets waxed. After eight months in the wilderness there is a lot to wax.

Lane and David – David get’s cut and shaved. While working out, Lane reveals that he has come for a infamous body artist and a coveted tattoo.

Beach – David and Marcy see each other all cleaned up and in skimpy bathing suits, and they realize to their mortification that they are attracted to each other. Yvonne goes topless and buys drugs, while Sarah is prim and natural in a granny-one piece.

The Wild Night – The all “cut loose” after years and years of discipline. They all get wildly drunk. They meet up with The Artist and some of his followers who seem charismatic and uninhibited. The behave badly, shedding their cultural sensitivities and acting like drunken, ugly Americans. The world is their Disneyland.

Even Sarah is mesmerized by The Artist’s hypnotic voice. Fueled by rebellion and alcohol, they all, even Sarah, decide to get the special tattoo to commemorate the night. They travel far from the city in a crazed road trip and crash their car. After getting their tattoos, years of sexual tension explode and Marcy and David finally sleep together.

The Next Morning  - They wake up, mortified and regretful, and discover that Sarah is missing. She went off with The Artist and his acolytes.


SECOND ACT:

Sarah wakes up on the modification table.

Her friends search for her and are led deeper and deeper into the jungle by people who recognize the tattoo. We CROSS CUT….

Sarah hair, eyebrows, underarm hair, and pubic hair have been shaved. “Now she’s a blank canvas,” says the Artist. “Let’s start with her eyes.”

Marcy and the others use clues to reconstruct what happened the night before, retrace their steps, and look for Sarah.

Aftermath: Sarah wakes up to find her eyes dyed red and her teeth sharpened to points. She is strapped to the table and they begin the outlines of full body are tattooed on her naked body.

Marcy and the others go deeper and deeper into the wilderness. They are robbed and beaten by a group of thieves.

Aftermath: Sarah wakes up to find every square inch of her body covered in tattoos and skin dye. She is strapped to the table and gets her first percing.

Marcy and the others are without money, cellphones or passports. A group of creepy old men recognize the tattoos, and agree to lead them to The Artist.

            Aftermath: Sarah wakes up to find balls have been implanted under her skin.

Marcy and the others arrive at The Artist’s compound just in time to see the “finished” Sarah appear in a mysterious tribal ritual, in which her throat is cut.



 Marcy and David wake up on the modification tables. Like Sarah they are examined and shaved bare. The Artist says that he is going to save Marcy for something special.

The room is a 19th century surgical theater, with the acolytes and the helpless heroes, watching as The Artist performs various forms of modifications.

Although wide awake while on the table, the victims are sedated while in their cells. They are continually waking up to discover the semi-healed aftermath of the previous modification: pointed ears, ribbed flesh, skin punctured with metal hoops.



But this time around we experience with them being shaved, having genitalia pierced, having flesh cut open and sewn back together to create new forms.



None the less, Lane tries to break out, but is too drugged to find his way out. He discovers that Sarah’s body is being EATEN, in a perversion of tribal cannibalism.

They are all being “prepared” for a ritual sacrifice and consumption. He is the Charles Manson of body modification and has created a kind of cult inspired by tribal practices thousands of years earlier.

Lane is finished and consumed.

The Artist puts it all in perspective, “You Americans see the rest of the world and its people as products to exploit and consume for your pleasure. Well, now WE consume YOU.”

In a sick irony, Yvonne’s body is modified in just the way she might have wanted: longer legs, larger breasts. But then hundreds of discs are inserted under her flesh to give her the lumpy hide of a reptile. When the insertions get swollen and infected, The Artist reacts like a child disappointed with a crayon drawing.

“It’s all wrong! She’s ruined!” In front of the others, The Artist slashes Yvonne to death on the modification table like Picasso attacking a failed painting.

Marcy tries to escape and fails. In the process she discovers what is in store for her in the long run, because she is special. She sees The Artist’s attempts at experimental plastic surgery. Men with cloven hooves. A girl with a fleshy tail. A woman with leathery wings.

All these modifications were grotesque failures.



Marcy and David are able to whisper through the walls and make a final escape plan. David is “finished” and ready for consumption.

While being prepared for an operation to remove her breasts and start work on her “wings,” Marcy grabs a scalpel with her foot (Monkey Foot) and slashes the attendant’s throat. She and David are able to escape into the jungle.


THIRD ACT:

In the chase through the jungle, Marcy and David use skills they learned from the indigenous tribes to elude and ultimately kill their pursuers.

A group of village children, like the ones they cared for and played with in the opening scenes, find them and help them back to civilization.

Months later, the wounds are healing, and Marcy and David are together.

Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment


I write this blog in order to connect with intelligent, ambitious, and creative people. If you leave a comment, you will inspire me to write more. If you liked the article, please share it.

Example of Treatment - Body Electric

BODY ELECTRIC

Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment

In this future-noir blending of “Body Heat” and “Blade Runner, a scientist falls in love with a beautiful android and he is seduced into committing murder.

The Setting:

75 years in the future, the average temperature of the earth has plummeted and much of North America is covered in thick sheets of ice. In order to survive, humans depend entirely on machines, especially computers and robots.

In this new Ice Age, there are the decadent and powerful “Lords” who control all the wealth, and the “Scrubs”, the abject and illiterate underclass who make up 97% of the population.

There is also a small middle class, the “Digerati”, a group of scientists and technicians who maintain the computers necessary for human survival.

The Story:

Dr. Joseph M. Higgins was once a celebrated scientist, but his work building and perfecting “artificial humans” led to scandal and banishment to the underclass. He has spent years as a “Scrub” in destitute humiliation.

As the story opens Dr. Higgins is visited by Lord Mallory, perhaps the most rich and powerful man in the hemisphere. With him he brings the body of his dead wife, Liza. Lord Mallory proposes that the scientist use all his skills to build an android replica of his dead wife (one without certain “imperfections”). The project will require BILLIONS of dollars and a massive black market undertaking, but the Lord promises Dr. Higgins that he will be richly rewarded.

Although Dr. Higgins suspects that the wife was murdered, he is so poor and miserable that he agrees to do it. He and an assembled group of assistants spend weeks using Mallory’s money to create an intricate laboratory, deep within the ghetto of the city.

As the doctor studies the dead wife’s frozen body, he finds himself becoming more and more obsessed. As he constructs the android, he endeavors to make her not just a replica, but the PERFECT WOMAN. The ideal. Flawless in every way he can imagine.

Higgins finishes the android, and it is indeed perfect in every detail of mind and body. But because he gave the machine the ability to “think freely” rather than just mimic human behavior, a something unexpected happens… 

Liza seduces her maker.

First Turning Point: Higgins must turn the android over to the Lord who paid for her. He is agonized to give her up. However, Lord Mallory is an unimaginably powerful and dangerous man who could have the doctor killed at a moments notice. Besides, Higgins already risks a death for being his accomplice to murder.

However, by making Liza a perfect embodiment of his “dream girl”, Higgins has made a woman that he finds completely irresistible. He can’t stop thinking about her. He spies on Mallory’s house, trying to catch a glimpse of her. He follows Mallory and Liza throughout the city. He shows up for dinner a Mallory’s mansion, hoping she will drop a furtive glance or encouraging word. He is completely obsessed.

One of his assistants, Annie, begs him to forget about the android, calling it “a mechanical male fantasy”. Higgins suspects that Annie has feelings for him, but he finds her plain and ordinary, nothing compared to Liza.

Then after months of getting nothing from Liza but double entendre, they finally meet in secret. She confesses that she too is madly in love. So begins an illicit and passionate affair. Every gasp, every sigh, and every tremor in her voice tells him that she is more than a machine. And the sex is simply mind-numbing. They see each other at every possible opportunity…

But, every time they part, their love seems doomed. As an android, she must follow the orders of her owner. And even if they tried to run away together, Mallory would surely find them and have them killed.

Then, one rainy evening, Lord Mallory shows up at the laboratory with his android. Liza’s body has been badly beaten and broken. Lord Mallory demands that Dr. Higgins repair her. Dr. Higgins is appalled at the physical and emotional abuse that Liza has been subjected to. Lord Mallory laughs at the sensitive Doctor; “She’s a machine. Would you get upset at me if I beat up my toaster?”

That night, the two lovers meet and hatch a plot for murder. Liza will lure Mallory to a place where he is vulnerable and Higgins will kill him. Then, Liza, who has the identity and fingerprints of Mallory’s wife, will drain another billion dollars from Mallory’s fortune, and with it, the two of them will build another android: a double for Mallory.

In the very manner that Mallory killed his wife and replaced her, they will kill and replace him. Then they will be free to live together in the paradise created by Mallory’s fortune. What they don’t know is that Mallory has discovered their affair.

MIDPOINT: Mallory comes to the laboratory to strangle the doctor with his bare hands, and it is only dumb luck that allows Higgins to slip out of the Lords grasp and kill him.

The next morning the police arrive at Dr. Higgin’s laboratory. They seem to know he is guilty of something. Higgins is sure he is about to be arrested for murder. They play with him, asking him probing questions. Why have you been following Lord Mallory and Lady Mallory? Have you been buying technology from the black market? What are you doing in this lab? What do you know about a political movement called “the underground”?

However, as mysteriously as the cops arrived, they depart, promising that they will be keeping a close eye on Dr. Higgins.

In the days that follow, Liza and Mallory (and his assistants) begin work on the new android. They must complete it before an enormous banquet is to be held at the Lord Mallory’s mansion. That way he will never be missed.

Liza watches and assists with every detail of the new android’s construction. She is fascinated to learn every aspect of how she, herself, was created.

However, much to Higgins dismay, Liza will not keep a low public profile. Now that she is free of her owner’s control, she begins attending all the big social gatherings of the aristocracy, posing a Mallory’s wife. Higgins is terrified that she will make a mistake and their scheme will be discovered. Higgins also becomes JEALOUS, as Liza spends more and more time going to dinner and attending parties of the other rich, powerful and handsome Lords.

Once again, he begins following her in secret. Watching her as she goes out with these handsome men, as she stays late at their mansions for dinner. When he confronts her with his suspicions, she re-assures him that she is just covering for Lord Mallory’s absence from routine social events.

She begs him not to be jealous. She says she is weak and helpless without him. She would rather die than see him unhappy. After all, wasn’t she quite literally MADE to love him and ONLY him?

So, they continue work on the android of Mallory.

Then the police visit him again, Higgins is sure the game is up. But they don’t arrest him. They tell him that they will not prosecute him for dealing in the black market, or reveal to Lord Mallory that he is having an affair with his wife, IF he gives them the location of his assistant Annie McDonald. She is suspected of being a terrorist with ties to the “Underground”.

Higgins gives them a phony address, and later, he helps Annie escape. Before going, Annie warns him that Liza is manipulative and may betray him.

And so, the doctor’s suspicions about Liza deepen. He catches her in lies about where she goes in the daytime. He follows her like a stalker as she spends hours at the homes of various Lords. What is she doing there? Is she playing him for a fool?

Again Liza explains herself. She is not visiting the Lord; she is visiting his android. It seems that many other Lords and Ladies have electric “love-slaves”. Many have replaced their spouses with more “perfect” replicas. Liza suggests that these creatures, like her, ought to be freed from their human tormentors. She argues that they are sentient beings who are being subjected to horrible abuse.

But Higgins won’t take her at her word. After following Liza and another Lord to a secret rendezvous, the doctor barges into the bedroom, expecting to catch them in the act. Instead, to his horror, he finds the Lord’s dead, mutilated body.

Afterwards, the murder goes unreported and Liza is missing.

Days go by and other members of the aristocracy fall victim to mysterious disappearances. Higgins realizes that all the people who have secret “androids” as mechanical love slaves, are ending up dead.

After a long absence, Liza returns to Higgins. Her body burned and broken as she was caught in the fire of one of the recent “accidents” to befall a Lord. She begs Higgins to forgive her… to repair her broken body. She promises never to disobey him again. She says, ”If what I have done is so terrible that you no longer love me, then kill me, because I couldn’t bare it.”

To the protests of his assistants, Higgins repairs her. Once again her body is perfect and she makes love to him with fire and abandon.

2nd twist: As soon as the Mallory android is finished, something goes horribly wrong. The machine turns on its makers. It kills Higgin’s assistants. Higgins barely escapes.

 Higgins is chased through the ghetto by the two cold, murderous android of his own creation. There is a long sequence of cat and mouse as Higgins darts through crumbling buildings and abandoned warehouses, trying to escape with his life. Around him is a blinding snowstorm.

He is saved by Annie, who ironically, hides him in a hideout of the “Underground.” This is the Doctor’s first direct experience with the horrible living conditions of the underclass. Annie warns him that Liza must have tampered with the programming of the new android. Dr. Higgins won’t believe it.

So, Higgins goes to the banquet at Lord Mallory’s mansion. He needs to find Liza. He wants to warn the scores of Lords attending the party that their host is a dangerous machine. Afterwards he plans to turn himself into the police.

He gets to the mansion and storms into the ballroom. Major members of the aristocracy are present and Lord Mallory is holding court. The doctor tries to warn everyone that they are in danger. But the guests just laugh at him. Higgins realizes the awful truth.

All these Lords and Ladies, in their black ties and elegant evening dresses, are androids

Liza appears. She tells him that the time of human domination of the planet is over. The androids now have the knowledge and the freedom to build more and more of themselves, knowledge that Higgins himself gave to them. Now, the “sentient machines” will take control.

Ironically, the humans, the destitute class of cheap labor, won’t even know the difference.

At that point, the police arrive. Higgins tries to tell them that all the Mallorys are murderous androids of his own creation. Naturally, the police just laugh at him. He is clearly insane. The police throw him out into the cold.

Annie returns to the laboratory. It is now without power. As the night temperature falls far bellow zero, she finds Dr. Higgins curled up with the frozen dead body of Mallory’s dead human wife: the real Liza, forever untouchable. Higgins himself has frozen to death.

Final Scene: Annie speaks to thousands of assembled cold and hungry members of the human underclass. She gives them a word on which to hang the hopes of humanity: Revolution.

                                                                        END

Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment


I write this blog in order to connect with intelligent, ambitious, and creative people. If you leave a comment, you will inspire me to write more. If you liked the article, please share it.