Saturday, November 24, 2012

A ScriptShark review of the "All I Want For Christmas" screenplay

"All I Want For Christmas" is a family/holiday screenplay written by me (Jack Marchetti) and Robert Friedman. The idea was first brought up by Elizabeth Friedman. You may know her from L.A Ink and some other minor roles she's done over the years.

She came to me with the idea of a Christmas story where the main characters get what they NEED for Christmas, not wha tthey want. After her father completed an early draft, I wrote my own. This screenplay was previously optioned by Lighthouse Pictures.

Below is a coverage/comments of the screenplay which was done by Script Shark.


Excellent
Good
Fair
Poor

Budget
Idea

X+





Story Line

X+



High

Characterization

X+



Medium

Dialogue
X




Low
X+
Production Value
X









COMMENTS:  Cleverly orchestrated, impressive in its character voices, dialogue, and overall written style, and cleanly effective on a number of levels, this script feels as though it begins with a solid holiday movie concept, and proceeds to build upon it a gratifyingly unique take on the classic Christmas story paradigm. Following an ensemble of characters, all of whom feel unique, refreshing, and original, it builds a collection of relationships and conflicts with genuine chemistry, depth, and texture.
While there might, perhaps, be one or two fairly minor areas to simply consider potentially exploring a little further, it feels as if, by and large, the elemental foundations of this story are already firmly rooted on solid ground. Here and there, there might be opportunities to tighten, polish, or enrich one or two specific aspects of the script’s execution, but even as it presently stands, it seems as though the heart, the core, and the largely impressive delivery of this story come together in service of a finished product that represents not only a strong written sample but also a project that seems to harbor substantial cinematic potential.

Structurally, the opening montage of various children celebrating Christmas supplies a mood-setting prologue to the central story, paid off, impressively, when each of the children, at the conclusion, turn out to be either the kids or grandkids of the central characters. Stepping forward, Jake, Becky, Santa, Nikki, and George enter the story seamlessly, establishing, in their respective status quo routines, a solid sense of texture, depth, and dimension in terms of their everyday lives. After Becky accepts the contract that turns out to furnish grounds for Jake's eviction, only to begin forging a relationship with him at the same time, the story launches into its second act, tracing increasingly complex yet perennially accessible and believable character stories. The plot reaches its emotional low point as Jake learns Becky's role in the demise of his business, on top of the failure of more or less all of the other pivotal relationships in the story, at the same time. The conclusion, drawing together each of these conflicts, wraps up its plot on a distinctly satisfying note.

One area that proves particularly impressive in the execution of this story, throughout its unfolding plot line, is the way in which the script seamlessly plants its details, character quirks, and plot points, and then pays them off with a similar sense of organic transparency. The story about Nikki's ice hockey skates, for example, feels, when initially broached in conversation with George, like a perfectly normal and organic conversation between these two characters. When it later becomes a pivotal component of the conflict between Nikki and her father, Robert – not to mention with Becky – the script achieves a particularly satisfying sense of justification for this minor thread. The same feels true of other ancillary details such as Nikki's initial refusal to let the Hip Guy shower with her, paid off at the end when George is allowed this gesture of intimacy. Not only does this satisfy this earlier detail but it also furnishes an almost invisibly elegant reflection of her character arc.

     Similarly impressive throughout the execution of the story is the combination of character dialogue and written voice. Lines such as “The faint sound of elf sex heard,” on page 30, for example, furnish genuine laugh out loud moments, as do Nikki's likening of her cute one-night stand to a couch – only good to sit on and admire. Similarly, as Becky tells Nikki to “act surprised when she opens” the gift dress she has just bought, the script achieves a flawless sense of character rapport; clearly, from lines such as these, these two characters are old friends, know each other well, and interact in a natural, organic fashion. From “You smell like McDonald’s,” to more or less all of the other dialogue throughout the script – and, in particular, the scene in which George continues to not understand that Nikki is trying to turn him down, on page 67 - the script demonstrates an excellent flair for voices and chemistry.

Scene-to-scene orchestration, rhythm, and flow, also feel exemplary throughout the script. It is transitions such as those on page 46 - an abrupt cut from Becky hopefully reasoning that perhaps Jake does not want his business after all, to Jake, in the very next scene, describing how the café is his life - that allows the execution of the unfolding story to come across so effortlessly and cinematically.

In part because of the overwhelming strength of so many of these components, it now seems possible to perhaps simply nitpick and examine a little more closely one or two fairly trivial other elements over the course of the unfolding story. It is worth noting, though, that these are polish-level notes, and that, as it presently stands, it already feels as though the essentials of the story and characters in this script prove thoroughly impressive and engaging on a number of levels.

In the name of honing and refining the overall execution of the story to a shine, it might simply be interesting to examine some of the descriptive prose throughout it with an eye toward perhaps sharpening the sense of vivid detail, imagery, and texture here and there.

For example, Jake’s coffee shop is introduced on page 2. Because of Jake's personality, it becomes relatively easy to picture the type of establishment this is. However, in pure, black-and-white prose, little more is described about his shop than that his name is scrawled in cursive on the windows. Is it an earthy, Bohemian place with local abstract art, beat poetry, cork boards riddled with classified ads, handcrafted espresso drinks, pies, and vegan crepes? Or is it a more trim, businesslike Starbucks clone - brushed steel, store-bought/processed coffee, powdered creamers, etc.? These are tiny details, of course, but by throwing in one or two specific images, props, and notes about this setting, it seems the script has the opportunity to intensify its sense of place, while also contributing to Jake's character, as the proprietor of this shop.

The same feels true of some of the other locales throughout the script. In introducing Becky, on page 4, for example, the script has the opportunity to portray her in her personal nest, her bedroom. Is it a disaster of tangled sheets, bills, dirty laundry, beer bottles, homemade art, etc.? Is it a cold, reserved, straight-from-the-catalog Ikea clone? Again, these are virtually trivial details, yet in fleshing out some of these descriptions, the script simply has the opportunity to enhance its sense of character and texture all the more.

Separately, at a similarly fairly trivial level, the moment when Sammi discovers Jake and Becky together, and explodes, is an effective story turning point. However, her dialogue, asking how Jake could do this to mom, seems perhaps slightly mature for an 11-year-old. Is she a little older, or is there perhaps just a slightly more youthful way of phrasing this to convey her lack of complete understanding of what is happening? Along similar trivial lines, it might simply behoove the flow of the story to clarify the means and reasoning behind Santa's arrest. Although this development directly follows Jake picking up the phone in frustration, and Jake later apologizes, as it happens, at present, this simply feels a slightly abrupt and not-entirely-clear development. The police simply telling Santa what he’s charged for might address this.

Finally, at a purely subjective level, it might be interesting to consider, in the conclusion, the potential to let Dr. Franks realize his passion for art and even find love, but remain a bachelor. This is purely a matter of taste or opinion, but it might simply seem slightly less perfectly tied together if at least one of the three central couples does not get married and have kids.

Clearly, though, these are extremely minor notes, and it is worth noting it would not even be possible to explore the script at this level without its present degree of refinement and professionalism. A solid story, excellent characters, and a superb written voice come together in service of a finished product that, even as it currently stands, feels as though it demonstrates substantial artistry and potential.



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