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Sample Analysis #2

The following are a few selected paragraphs from an analysis of another screenplay.
The character names have been changed, along with any identifying plot aspects,
and permission has been granted from the screenwriter for the use of these paragraphs in this context.
...First, I'd like to discuss a broad, conceptual flaw that, for me, diminished the script's power. The problem is that until late in the story it's never clear what Freddy really wants. I don't think he has a strong goal -- not till the build-up of circumstances forces him to have one (getting revenge against Alphonse). This lack of a clear motivation for Freddy also results in him being a less interesting character than he could be. Whatever you might decide to use as his motivation, let me suggest that it be something that he accomplishes by the end (or poignantly doesn't accomplish), and more important, it should be something which he's being prevented from accomplishing right from the start -- in other words, his motivation should be the very thing which results in the story's central conflict.

Page 33: It's still unclear what the core of the story is. It seems to have to do with danger from Alphonse, but I don't see why he's a danger, nor do I understand what Freddy's relationship is with him (uncle-nephew love/hate? Crime boss versus young upstart violent rivalry?) It also seems as though the central issue of the story might have to do with pressure on Freddy to leave the criminal life behind, but if so, there's no internal, emotional/moral pressure, only practical pressure, which prevents Freddy from being a more complex, interesting character.

Page 87: I really like the idea that Freddy has to "break his own spirit" in order to convincingly fool Alphonse and Fenton. However, you don't let me see the crucial part of this process: the point at which Freddy's spirit IS broken, and he's able to truly BE a meek wimp instead of just pretend (badly) to be one. I need to see the moment at the end of the beating by Sal, the moment in which Freddy's young-buck arrogance finally disappears. If you write it with depth, this could be one of the story's emotional/thematic high points: there would be a wonderful Zen-like quality to the idea of Freddy having to kill, in himself, the thing which defined him up to this point (his youthful arrogance).

The following are a few selected paragraphs from an analysis of yet another screenplay.
The character names have been changed, along with any identifying plot aspects,
and permission has been granted from the screenwriter for the use of these paragraphs in this context.
...Page 38: I still see little indication of what the story's central problem/conflict is -- other than a very vague one: Frank feels lost, doesn't know what to expect in his life, and he's scared by that. This isn't strong enough or specific enough: even in a coming-of-age story about a young man trying to find his way in life, if it's going to work dramatically it needs a more specific, active story to serve as a backbone on which to hang his musings and uncertainties.

Because there's no specific central problem, the mid-section of the screenplay (roughly the second act) tends to drift along, and it becomes repetitive. There are too many similar scenes of Frank being unsure about what to do. By contrast, secondary-character Johnnie's story line has the kind of structure that Frank's needs: Johnnie's situation develops and changes, as does his inner reaction to his situation. First, he's involved with drug dealing in a fairly peripheral way; next, he witnesses Scruggs committing murder, which freaks him out; next, he learns that Scruggs killed the guy to teach Johnnie a lesson, so now he feels guilty; next, he learns a lesson from Arnold about not turning your back -- but he doesn't learn it well enough, and the two Punks rip him off; etc., etc. If Frank's story had that kind of dramatic forward motion, the script as a whole would be much stronger. You might consider having Frank be the one who gets involved in drug dealing, and Johnnie be the one who goes to work in the factory -- in other words, give the active story line to your central character, and let the secondary character's subplot be the place for the softer, more inner emotional/thematic story line.

The scene between Frank and Ellen on pages 71-73 is heartfelt -- but it has a structural ramification: at the end of it, the conflict between the two of them is more or less gone. This conflict was no great shakes to begin with, but since there's little other conflict for Frank, it seemed important -- and after he and Ellen come to terms with her leaving, and with their feelings about each other, the conflict is gone, even though they are still emotionally caught up in each other. (NOTE: I wouldn't consider this a problem if Frank had another, more pressing conflict to deal with; in that case, his relationship with Ellen would be what it should be: a subplot -- and as such, it could resolve in this way, at this point in the script, since it's perfectly okay for a subplot to be more or less over before the main plot resolves.)

I like the way Richard's small subplot develops in the last section of the screenplay. I'd suggest, though, that this subplot's beats be spread out a little earlier in the script -- have the various events start occurring sooner, intercut with the scenes which focus on the other two guys. This will also help to give energy and forward motion to the second act.