Thursday, July 06, 2006

You May Not Be a Winner

So I didn't win. Even so, I did receive feedback from my entry in the Bluecat Screenplay Competition. And though I didn't win, it's good to see that the judge actually read the whole thing. Here are their comments.

Sinbad and the Sword of the Prophet
(by Jeff Crook)

What did you like about this script?
This script is full of action, adventure and peril at every turn. Immediately it begins in the middle of that action as Nuri betrays Sinbad to steal the Sword of the Prophet and a battle ensues. Although he is unable to take the sword, Nuri kidnaps his love, Leiley and Sinbad and his companion Ketei must traverse to the lost city of Ankara to find her. The journey is long and arduous and a cast of unusual and mysterious characters joins them along the way.

The supporting characters and subplots are equally entertaining. Minion’s adept thievery and manipulation helps the clan sneak into the ancient Pyramid and uncover the forgotten name of King Osiris. Chandra lends a mystical and portentous hand to the group of warriors and her foresight helps them defeat Kherefu in the end. The captain is a hilarious, begrudging, old man, griping through the entire film and adding comic relief to some of the more serious moments. This is a well-rounded group of characters that enhance the story with their skills and their entertaining personalities.

The story has many twists and turns as the characters set out on their journey. The characters almost never have a moment to recover from one life-threatening predicament to the next. The sea voyage is one of the more suspenseful parts of that journey, as the dragon attacks and they are forced into the ocean. The detailed descriptions of the exotic locales create a vivid backdrop for this mythical adventure. The Pyramids and the ancient city of Ankara are all beautifully depicted in this tale.

The author has an authoritative grasp of this subject matter. The supernatural feel of this story is prevalent throughout. The script has the mood of an ancient mythological folktale. It combines the mythology of several cultures to create a unique fairytale. Structurally, the story is very strong. Not only are Sinbad’s adventures colorful and entertaining, but they build steadily towards the climax of the film.

What do you think needs work?
The action and character interactions feel really cartoonish. It seems as if this could be a good animated film, but that probably isn’t the way this story was intended.

Actually, I think it would make a great animated movie. Somebody call Pixar.

The light and airy tone doesn’t reflect the epic quality of this story. The characters don’t take the peril of their situations very seriously so it’s difficult for the audience to. Because Sinbad always brushes everything off with such bravado and ease, it’s hard to feel the suspense and tension of each scene after a while.

I wrote the script with the old swashbuckling Sinbad movies very much in mind. I wrote scenes, especially the first scene with the phoenix and the sea dragon scene, as a tribute to Ray Harryhausen.

It’s an interesting subject to chose for a feature film. But it’s unclear what makes this ancient story so pertinent today. What makes this unique to all other fantasy/action/adventure films? In other words, why tell this story now?

The ending isn’t climactic enough. After all of the crew’s treacherous traveling, battling with both man and monster, the last few scenes are a bit of a let down. Sinbad doesn’t really confront his main adversary, Kherefu. It’s the resurrection of the old King that defeats her. This ending would work if there were closure between Sinbad and Kherefu. The characters also explain too much of the plot. For such an active story, the characters spend a lot of time talking about where they have been and what they are about to do.

The love story between Sinbad and Leiley is all told in flashback. We don’t get a real sense of their relationship from these scattered moments. It’s unfortunate that she gets kidnapped in the first scene, because it would be interesting to see her dynamic with Sinbad. She is a weaker character in that respect, a stranger to the audience. She becomes more of an object that they are fighting over rather than a flesh and blood character. It’s not until the last scene that we see them together. The love story that develops between Ketei and Chandra is more tangible.

Some of the descriptions give historical and factual information that won’t come across in the film. Description is only meant to describe what the audience will see and hear. There are several fascinating details that are lost for the audience because they are added into the description. If a character doesn’t talk about a detail of the story than how will anyone that doesn’t read the script know about it.

Altogether an astute reading of my work and valuable feedback that I will use to make the script better, just in time to enter it in the Zoetrope constest.

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