Tuesday, 22 January 2013

From Script to Screen - Online Greenlight Review


  1. OGR 24/01/2013

    Hi Alex,

    Okay - your script is pretty much nailed down, and the bulk of my feedback is going to focus on opportunities for production design and visual story-telling.

    What I will say is that you just need to kill off the janitor-was-once-a-tightrope-walker idea; it doesn't actually matter at all in terms of the audience's experience of the story; it's simply enough that the character assumes the role of tight-ropewalker, and you really don't need to 'explain' how an ordinary janitor is able to perform the act, just assert it. Make the janitor and ordinary janitor faced with an extraordinary situation - job done.

    Okay - in production design terms I think you need to make much more of your cemetary environment, by which I mean make the 'death place' into an epic graveyard - some epic vista of headstones and statues and tombs etc. This is Death's realm, and I think it's an opportunity to have some fun and be really creative. For example, the fruitmachine prop; why not approach the design of this as if it's based on gravestones and gravestone shapes; you know, the actual fruit machine is shaped like a tombstone, with a skull-topped lever; the fruit-machine is carved from marble; in other words, the fruit machine is made from the same material as the rest of the stuff in death's realm. (I think too you could think more creatively about the 'three ticks' - maybe using three skeletal thumbs up or thumbs down, but on the tumblers you could also have the devil, for example - i.e. other pictures representing other fates awaiting the dead when they first try their luck...

    Likewise, the chasm - make the chasm coffin-shaped. I want you to look for opportunities to create a world here - and use your experience and knowledge from Unit 2; so, look for a visual concept and use it to design a memorable cemetary settting. I want to see some great concept art paintings and hero prop stuff from you, and I want you to be as bold and fearless and creative as you were when you were imagining your secret lair. It seems to me that you have a nice opportunity for some great contrasts - the mundane world of the janitor as contrasted with the epic underworld cemetary.

    For some cemetary reference, check out the celebrated pere lachaise in Paris...




    In terms of designing your death character - yes, you've got the obvious 'grim reaper' archetype which is a very established way of expressing this character, but you might want to consider some more original design ideas: for example, there's something about the gambling idea that might lead you in some new and exciting directions; for example, perhaps in this instance 'death' is dressed like a casino croupier? Indeed, maybe your cemetery could be layed out like a giant roulette wheel? Is there a way you can combine your cemetary imagery with casino imagery, for example? Indeed, could some of the tombstones etc. actually be more one-armed bandits - you know, the idea that this realm is a bit like a gothic vegas, where souls come to try their luck and cheat death (but as we know, the 'house always wins').

    I guess my point underscoring all of this is about using design to really make this story memorable. I think your story is there, but now I want you to invest completely in the visual aspects that are going to make it memorable and original.

    Oh - reading your script, I did have an image of death sort of idly pinging the trip-wire like a guitar-string... Your script suggests that death gets increasingly angry, but what you don't have yet is a proper escalation of events to make death angry - and escalation sequences tend to work out best in 3s...

  2. ... so, for example:

    1) Death pings trip-wire like a guitar string - janitor wobbles, but stays upright.

    2) Death causes a great wind to blow (or whatever) - janitor prevails.

    3) Death tries something more extreme - Janitor still prevails etc.

    If you don't create this kind of escalation of obstacles, you won't create tension, and you won't get your audience rooting for the janitor, and if they don't root for him, your 3rd act won't work, because we won't be disappointed/frustrated by death's triumph. I want you to really think now about this middle act and work out some decent challenges; I think they should be comic too.

  3. Finally, I'm not sure that death should 'click his fingers' and be present in the janitor's world at the end of the story. I think it will be clear to audiences when he just falls and dies and then death wags his finger that this was death's plan all along. It will have greater comic effect if the janitor just falls, because if you show death clicking his fingers, the audience will be prepared for the janitor's death, not surprised by it.

    So - time to start thinking like a production designer, concept artist, character artist and storyboard artist! Onwards! :)