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"Heaven is a Hell of a Place" by John Brooke

Rewrite: 6/28/2009 12:00 AM

Logline: A deceased skeptical fool’s poetical view of Heavenly Bliss tinged with his haunting fear of being born again.

Genre: Comedy - Fantasy

Cast Size: 1

Production Status: In Production

Production Web Site: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW42qOLKIO8

Contest: Monologue (Mar. 2009)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent
21%50%24%3%3%

Comments Made During the Contest

Ammar Salmi (Level 5)

That was a good attempt, but it was confusing. Never suggest the music. Why you wrote a word in each line. I could understand the concept, but it wasn't clear enough to understand what the narrator wanted to say.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

Well, I don't even know what to say on this one. The dialogue is not formatted correctly. The story isn't really a story at all, more of a preachy poem that I don't think I fully understood. Being that I didn't understand it, I guess there's no way to say for sure it was preachy, but it seemed like it probably was due to the setting, the music and all the Heaven and Hell talk. I generally offer advice on how I think a script can be improved, but honestly, I have no idea what was going on here so there's not much advice to offer specifically towards this script. My general advice would be to try to have a coherent story and properly formatted dialogue. This one didn't work, but maybe it's just me. I'll be curious to see how others reviewed it. Nice effort. I wish I knew what you were going for.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

Fantastic title! Though not original.

I wasn't sure about the use of CONTD all the time. What was wrong with NARRATOR (CONTD)?

You don't need to put SFX Church bell knells - that goes without saying.

I found the strange formatting of the dialogue very distracting. Was it necessary to do this? It made it a choppy read and frankly it was pretentious.

Although I have a broad classical education, I didn't know all of the images you were suggesting. That meant that I couldn't visualise much of what was going on in your mind, which is a disadvantage for a reader.

This was surreal and mad and left me bemused and cold. I'm sure it was very clever but it went WAAAAAAAY over my head.

Chris Keaton (Level 5)

Holy shit of a shooting scripts. Lose all this hoy-palloy. You are a writer not a director or whoever would want to put all this direction and industry lingo into a screenplay. Just write what we see.
What's wrong with your dialog? And CONT'D isn't a name or needed.
Ok, this was a strange piece.

Chris Messineo (Founder)

I guess this is a sort of poem set to music with dramatic animation.

You get points for originality, but honestly, I'm not sure what the effect of this short would be. There isn't really much of a traditional story.

Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy to read. Still, I think this might be visually compelling if filmed.

Christopher Castle (Level 4)

Good title.

Narrator expresses his thoughts about heaven.

It all seemed to be pretty much the same throughout and then the baby was born at the end which threw me. Personally I felt the animation parts were overdone and it did affect the flow. Not sure they were all needed and were all relevant.

Dialogue was pretty but I learn very little about the narrator.

It all felt very arty with very little room to get emotionally involved.

David Birch (Level 5)

big mark downs when you "cue" music...basically it's the sign of an amateur writer...plus, you can't use the song unless you own the rights...

Dom Kullander (Level 3)

Poetic and exerstential- perhaps too much for its own good. I found it hard to keep up with the animation directions arround NARRATOR, though I'm sure no such problems would occur in a visual context. You clearly have an interest in music, which I felt was well interwoven with the monologue. Godd stuff

Faith Friese Nelson (Level 5)

The format is excellent. The writing is very good. But the rest of it, I just didn't understand ... probably me.

Garrett Box (Level 4)

The format was very distracting. It doesn’t matter what it looks like on paper as much as it matters what it looks like on screen. It’s even very awkwardly written out as a poem. I like that you were thinking outside the box.

Jeannie Sconzo (Level 5)

In the words of Kara, the new judge on American Idol, "That was artistry". Seriously though, only a true artist with an imagination I could only wish for could come up with something that original. It was just downright clever and unique. Your word choice took us to an entirely different place and dimension.

Jeff Ferry (Level 5)

I didn't notice any obvious grammatic or spelling issues. I really didn't care for the story. I thought it was more a poem then screenplay. I also think it circumvented the purpose of the contest. it was a lot of voice over and talking for talking's sake. Also the style of speech while useful in poetry I think detracts from a screenplay and quickly made me lose interest.

Jon Hill (Level 4)

You have a nice way with poetry and I kind of liked what you did. It has to be said that I found your screenplay hard to read, what with all the line breaks instead of commas in the Narrator’s dialogue.

The other thing that struck me was there is no real story here, just a basic template for something else, a grand multimedia extravaganza that may be a joy to watch and listen to, but one with very little story behind it.

As such, it makes your screenplay more like a shopping list of things that will happen rather than an engaging story.

Jose Batista (Level 5)

A hellaciously long music video set to heavenly inspired animation. Reminds me of a twisted version of Disney's Fantasia. The lyrics were a bit of a bore and did not entertain. While lack of story coupled with the constantly changing music and unintelligeble lyrics made for a difficult read. A movie (short of feature) is supposed to have a story, and this script is missing one. If the visuals and words blended themselves to create a panoramic display of opposing ideals, then this could have worked alot better.

Kevin Carty (Level 4)

Ok technically this script sucks. One you broke one of Chris's rules your character has to talk that mean NOT JUST VOICE OVERS. 2 Contd its easy to cut out cut it out. Your script is so MUCH SHOTS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STORIES. When writing think about your story and not just how it will look with all the fancy special Effects and cool lil cut scenes. So when you write don't add Shots and animation it brings down your script. Dialogue monologue is not just some stage for just poetry, remember that please when you write or rewrite. Narrator should be an angel that is fed up with life in heaven.

KP Mackie (Level 5)

So much work went into structure, setting up this work as poetry. Very attractive. Creative adherence to prompt.
The many unfamiliar references interrupts the continuity. Not an easy read; puts the reader at a significant disadvantage, bouncing back and forth between script and Wikipedia. For a niche audience, the paintings and carefully selected music probably provide an enjoyable experience.
24 hours later -- took another pass, reading only dialogue/words. Some of the imagery evoked is lovely. Rambling musings. Some of the run-on language, coupled with all the paintings and music, is overload. Need a break or some kind of resting period to allow the brain to refocus.
Liked the contrast of "a heavenly experience in utero" to the stark birth process in a hospital. Substituting the masked Narrator for a masked Obstetrician was quite clear; the relevance of the medley, "Toot, Toot, Tootsie...California Here I Come" at the end is confusing.

Kyle Patrick Johnson (Level 5)

Bergman rides again. Accompanied by Disney? And maybe a little Python? The reincarnation aspect had me rolling my eyes. Some of the poetry was well done, but the five pages dragged by in an excruciating manner.

I'm familiar with most of the music and art you so specifically choose, but be aware that many readers may be so bewildered by it that they just shut down and refuse to read any more. The constantly-changing details are mind-numbing, surreal, exhausting, and seem LSD-imposed. Not an enjoyable read, nor probably great fun to watch, but I'm glad you had fun experimenting.

Instead of just using "(CON'T)" before every dialogue, consider actually using the Narrator's name. It's much more accepted to repeat the name and skip the (CON'T).

Laureen Muller (Level 4)

Love the title, but the story could have been so much more. I felt like I was reading a poetry recital outline, not a short film. If not poetry then a music video. There was no real story just a narrator, who really wasn’t narrating anything, he was reciting a poem. The only piece of story was the baby being born (or reincarnated). Trying to follow the poetry and read the direction in between was too much like work to enjoy the writing or to try to envision the scenes. And all of the music in the background seemed like over kill. It is very hard to see a story within the text of the script. Give us true dialogue and not a poem and maybe we can see the words come to life.

Laurie Paulin (Level 2)

I thought this was very original. I wanted to keep reading because I couldn't work out what the twist was going to be. The contest concept itself is a bit abstract and difficult to work with and I think this script rose to the challenge admirably.

I could see how the rapid image changes would be exciting to produce and watch. The only thing I wasn't sure about (and it's a small thing) was the spacing of the dialogue, e.g. one word per line sometimes. I could see the pacing effect that you were trying to achieve but I guess the risk with this approach is that someone might think it's an attempt at padding?

Overall, very dramatic and a good example of making the reader want to know the end.

Lewayne White (Level 4)

Points on for the extensive array of art and music in what is probably a brilliant piece of artist film, but it doesn't do anything for me.

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

"MUSIC:"
This is rarely if ever used in screenplays.

"ANIMATION:"
To me it's obvious that these shots would be animation - after all, how would a moving painting be shot in real life?

I get that it's supposed to be poetic, but all the line breaks in dialog made it really hard to read. Near the end my eyes were glazing over.

It might make a really interesting short film, but the script is quite hard to interpret - it feels as if you've already decided how everything should look exactly. In which case, great, just go and make it.

Melissa Mitchell (Level 4)

Wow! How different is that? Your "theme" is really cool and nicely expressed in the first lines. Your familiarity with classical music and art is commendable. Although things change: death to heaven to birth, the pace was slow for me. This same information could be conveyed in half the pages or fewer. Although the contest limits the maximum number of pages, I don't think you're required to use them all. How would you have written it if it could only be 2 or 3 pages?

Micah Ricke (Level 4)

This is a hard one to nail down because I am unfamiliar with many of the paintings and music that it relies so heavily upon. The monolgue itself is quite good, but the visuals suffer because you rely on the reader to be familiar with the artwork. So, from my perspective, this script needs some work. However, I still think you may have something that is very compelling visually it just doesn't come across as written.

Michael Cornetto (Level 5)

That was an interesting approach but there were far too many references to things I couldn't picture inside. One or two might be ok to look up but with all the songs and paintings that you mentioned there were too many that I would need to look up. I would maybe suggest describing what you are seeing without the specific reference, even the music. I thought this was very creative but only a few people are going to understand all the references you used so you need to allow for people who aren't going to know them.

Michael Cuculich (Level 3)

This was a chore to read. It seems that the formatting way off on this one- the lyrics for the song were far too generously spaced, perhaps to reflect the inflections of the song? It was not clear and only distracted while reading. I do give some kudos for originality- the writer is clearly trying to do something a bit different with this, and I do appreciate that. I do get the gist of what he/she is trying to do, a sort of Terry Gilliam credit sequence, or something of the like. But it just doesn't translate well here. I think that writing such a thing as a short script is quite the challenge, but the writer here seems to miss the mark on a few fronts. Once (if) you are able to get past the strange formatting and typos (a few examples of floating periods...), the descriptions of the animations are completely vague. The writer states exactly what the animation is, but we have no concept of its execution- what's the style? What's it look like, exactly? What does it do? If you're not familiar with the references (for example, what does "Raphael's paintings" look like?), all of this will be completely lost on the reader. It is the writer's job to paint the picture- not lean on references that may not be common knowledge. There was absolutely no atmosphere to any of this, and it was written in a way that either treated the pacing far too literally, or ignored it entirely (I can't decide). While I strained to read this carefully, I would imagine most will start skimming by page 3. I can imagine the fantastic images and movements buried within the writer's head- he/she just needs to figure out a better way to translate them to the page.

Michael Hoffman (Level 4)

This was certainly unlike any screenplay I've read. Visually, musically, it could be stunning. However, this being a script contest, I just couldn't get past all the liberties taken with the format.

While there was obviously effort taken with the beats and timing of the dialogue, this is not poetry and trying to read a script this way is frustrating.

I'm also not sure about initially just setting it up as the NARRATOR speaking and then going with only (CON'T) throughout the rest of the script.

I also took issue that you just named famous paintings in lieu of describing it in the narrative. For anyone unfamiliar with the particular figure or painting, just giving us the name does absolutely nothing for me visually.

Like I stated, obviously a lot of precision went into assembling this short. However, I feel I have to evaluate scripts based on the entire craft of screenwriting so this didn't do well for me.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5)

Rather too clever for it's own good I think.

I'm sure it would make a wonderfully, visual short film but as a screenplay it's left me extremely frustrated and feeling woefully inadequate that I can only picture a few of the paintings you mention and I know only the ragtime piece of music.

I'm sure if I looked up each piece I would realise I know more but quite frankly I can't be bothered.

The poem itself is fun and frothy but not really suited to screenplay format in the way it is laid out.

You present an unusual and unique script but alienate a majority of readers by using titles of classical paintings that many may not know rather than utilising your own descriptive voice.

Nathan Goldman (Level 4)

It was a very interesting and creative idea. The subject matter was well handled, but it simply did not follow the screenplay format very well. The use of "cont'd" to hold the Character position was incorrect and more importantly off-putting. Using (v.o.) cont'd as the heading really took it even further. Also, the free-verse format for the dialogue was odd. It also violates the rule to bring down a one line (one word) dangling dialogue to the next page. For me, the techincal side really dragged this effort down.

Neal Barringer (Level 0)

an interesting, juxtaposed title. I'm excited to read where you chose to go with this.
I don't think you need the "Fade In" when you start "In Darkness." the slug line is enough to tell the images are starting.
the Music cues didn't help me throughout the piece. I'd really need to see/hear the finished product to understand the importance of those elements.
I believe the Narrator character should only be used when it's actually a narrator doing voice-over work. in your case, you actually have a character on the screen, right?
overall, I didn't get the framework you've laid-out here. I'd really need your full involvement and explanations of the music and animations to create a film from this script. I am unable to understand the story based solely on the words on these pages.

Paul Williams (Level 5)

This is one of the oddest (not meant in a bad way) scripts I have ever read. Very visually stimulating.

I feel this one will be either loved or hated. I'm somewhere in between, a lot of this was lost on me, but I do understand your theme and message here.

I do applaude the originality, creativity and imagination that went into this.

Your title is great, I was intrigued as soon as I read it.

Your screenwriting and formatting are...well...unorthodox, so I really don't know how to comment on it.

Philip Whitcroft (Level 5)

The way the dialogue lines are written out seems to suggest a particular intent on how they are being spoken but I'm not really getting a feel for what that intent is from reading through it.

I suspect that the visual shifting might work quite well in this. I'm seeing an accelerating sequence of cuts between all the imagery. I'm not so sure about the constantly changing music, because strangely that might be more jarring and harder to smoothly transition.

I'm not sure I understand what the end is trying to get at.

Overall this is a very challenging thing to script out. It is an art piece. I like the concept but I guess I'd like it more if I had an understanding of a story thread that runs through it.

Ron Hooker (Level 4)

Kudos for creativity. I think the use of a poem as the monologue, along with the animations and music, makes for a very interesting high-concept script.

But I felt this was more a shooting script than anything, as if the Director wrote it and was holding his notes in hand before shooting. You use a lot of specific camera angles and musical directives that are generally at the discretion of only the Director. Also, the specific action shots (various artists and their paintings, etc.) was over my head as the reader. Only the most educated scholar in the fine arts would be able to envision the full depth and beauty of this script.

If you constructed the narrators lines more traditionally (for a script) instead of as a poem, you would free up a lot of space. Use that space to simplify and better describe your action to ENGAGE the reader, not throw them for a loop.

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

There have been so many unique takes on this months assignment. I like your story and all the music and the musings of the narrator. I like the ending, it finished it off really well.

I think this is such a unique take on death and dying, and I enjoyed it.

Stacy Milbourn (Level 3)

I really liked the title. I liked the kind of play on words throughout, like "Heaven is a Hell of a place you're dying to get into." I thought this was a creative way to go about a short film. I like that the dialogue is poetic, and when I was reading it I was kind of getting an old jazz sort of feel. I must say, though, I wasn't really a fan of the "spanked into this sinful world" line at the end. It just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the poetic rhythm to me. I would just change "spanked" to something else.


Comments Made After the Contest

John Brooke (Level 5) ~ 5/1/2009 9:49 AM

Thank you all for reading and reviewing my short filmscript. I always do my best and unfortunately I have to learn how to write filmscripts by writing my filmscripts. Unfortunately so far I have failed nine times to connect with the majority of the readers here. But I’m a persistent SOB.

My poetic script is in production starting on May 28, 2009, completion is anticipated in early July.

Kyle Patrick Johnson (Level 5) ~ 5/1/2009 10:03 AM

Well, congrats, John! I'm still looking forward to my first production, so you've certainly beaten me to the punch. Enjoy the flavors of seeing your baby on film. All the best!

John Brooke (Level 5) ~ 5/1/2009 10:26 AM

Thank you Kyle, yes I really wanted to turn this poem/rant I wrote into a movie. I regret that my formatting prevented me from sharing my vision with most of the patient members here. I think the final production will be a send up!


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