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"Trial By Error" by John Brooke

Logline: A lighthearted spoof about an uptight Spinster who has sued a Cockney shoe salesman for uttering an obscene word directed at her. The trial takes place at the famous "Old Bailey Law Court" in London, England. With a tip of my wig to both W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Genre: Comedy

Cast Size: 10+

Production Status: Available (Please contact the author to negotiate the rights)

Contest: Lex Poeta (Jun. 2009)

Contest Scores
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Comments Made During the Contest

Aralis Bloise (Level 4)

This was a bit confusing. Feels more like a poem than a script. I'm good with the poetic dialogue but not so much with it on the action, I feel that should be more straight forward. After all, the audience is not going to hear that. There are quotations in a few places that don't really need to be there and there are also quite a few typos, but that is very easy to solve.

Bill Delehanty (Level 4)

You definitely have a writing style sense. Writing a script this way is risky. It could either turn off the read if they think it's too weird or difficult to follow. Some might think writing like this is more meant for books than screenplays as scripts should be as simple to read as possible. I liked it because you took a chance and was daring. The story didn't do too much for me, but this one still stands out to me. Good job.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

The first paragraph gives us information that the viewer would not be privvy to. Remember, show not tell. Richard Fingers is not properly introduced. There are several paragraphs that are a bit too thick and should be trimmed or broken apart. The old English language makes this a difficult read and the on and off poetic verse really has a negative effect on the flow. Overall, this script did not really work for me. Because of the language barrier, I feel like I didn't get this script. I didn't get the comedy, I didn't get the drama, I don't even know which it was supposed to be. I think this one could use some polishing.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

This I thought was clever. Too clever by half. Clever at the expense of a plot and characters with any depth. I love wit and playing with words, as you'll know, if you know me - but I did feel that this erred too much on the side of self-indulgence - just flexing your 'clever writing' muscles!

Some notes:

Clever title.

"Venerable Crown Court of Law usually reserved for High Treason and Murder trials. Lesser Courts are booked solid, The Old Bailey, available." - hmmmmm. Too much information. Not necessary information. It could just as well be 'A Crown Court in London.' Why do we need to know the bit about lesser courts being booked solid? We couldn't see this on screen.
Clever names!

“Never have I seen so much
exquisite beauty.” - why is this in quotation marks?

I'm getting a bit confused with the rhyme/not in rhyme thing. It seems to be neither one thing nor the other.

"Obviously Randi Scmut’s remark is not appreciated" - this is self-indulgence. It's what you want us to think.

I think that writing dialect phonetically like you have done is...difficult to read and may annoy. As I'm familiar with Cockney it tripped quite lightly off the tongue but BEWARE. Better, I think, to say Cockney and leave it up to the actor.

Richard Fingers Q.C - should be capitalised.

Leaned Judge? Or Learned Judge?


The use of the word FUCK as the obscenity didn't really work, because it's so commonplace (sadly) that it wasn't shocking, so the reactions to it were not credible.

Chris Keaton (Level 5)

I'm guessing the dialog was supposed to rhyme, but it didn't seem like it worked out in many places. I don't really get the point of the story. Not sure why the judge let the pervert go? I can't say much more.

- Why do you have quotes around some dialog?
- No need for 'The End'

Chris Messineo (Founder)

I can tell a lot of work went into this story - what with all the accents and rhyming.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure it is all that effective. It actually made it kind of hard to read (especially the accents). It didn't feel like there was much depth to the story either.

I applaud you for your effort, I wish it had been more effective.

Dan Lennox (Level 5)

This was a very interesting piece. From my past experiences here at MP, I'm betting that you might get some not so good remarks on your dialogue. Contrary to what others may say, I thought your dialogue was well done. I enjoy reading dialogue like this, as it gives your characters unique voices of their own and shows originality in your writing style. Good job on that.

However, the story in itself seems a bit mundane to me. It just doesn't move very quickly and I was often wondering to myself how much longer it was going to take to get to the point. Being restricted to just one location can make things a bit difficult, but it seems as something was missing that could have moved this along a bit better and made it a bit more engaging for the reader.

Overall, I still think you did a good job, and I appreciate your writing style in regards to your characters and their dialogue.

Good Job.

Darren Cole (Level 2)

mis-used briliance

you had me at hello and lost me at...well you know where you lost me. Had a hard time following at the begining and felt like the story was going somewhere...then...

Good description on setting and characters. I could see it all forming.

Wanted to like it, but I feel like it robbed me of time....

David Birch (Level 5)

pg. 1..."the usher put(s)" don't need the comma after Usher...unless you were to say - the court usher, marshaling the jurors, turns to the judge...things like "obviously, randi scmut's remark..."...should be avoided (like the plague)...most studio readers don't want to be told that something's obvious...writing well will make it the same way that actors take a disliking to the "wrylies"...they don't like writers dictating to them how to interpret their 4...bottom..."the learned judge" opposed to "the leaned judge" 5...same thing...the leaned judge...(beat)...not (BEAT)...also, beat should be put in its own line...not after a line of dialog...

Faith Friese Nelson (Level 5)

The second paragraph reads "wordy" to me. I believe that some editing to streamline will make it more powerful.

The following can be cut: "He announces:"

Reads "wordy" to me, plus no ending punctuation: "Today together in this sinister Arena Summoned here by a silly subpoena RANDI SCMUT, DEFENDANT former barrow boy - a Pervert sued by Annis Tittus shortly will appear"

"Obviously Randi Scmut’s remark is not appreciated," Why is it obvious? Show us!

Geoff Willis (Level 3)

"Lesser courts are booked solid", how would you film that? Does that mean anything to the story? Only write what can be filmed, this isn't a novel it's a screenplay. "She stuck 'er stockin' foot aaaht between my thighs fer me ter put a trick de boo on", distracting to the reader. I found myself dreading having to read the defendant's dialogue. Let them know about his accent and let them use their imagination while reading the dialogue. Just because you understand every word he's saying doesn't mean we do.

Jeannie Sconzo (Level 5)

The dialogue was tough to follow for a number of reasons - accents and rhyming.
Some of the names were clever.

Jeffrey Slocum (Level 4)

I thought this was well written and a good comedy set in olde englishe tymes. I initially had some difficulty reading through the middle aged vocabulary and set up, but overall, I thought it was well done.

Joel Davis (Level 5)

Synopsis: In a surreal, stylized Victorian courtroom, a shoe salesman is accused of indecency. After deliberation, the usher reveals that the accused said the word "FUCK", which, is an acronym (at least apocryphally), and so the judge dismisses the case.

I felt like I must not be part of your target audience, because this didn't make any sense to me at all, despite the clever writing and abundant wordplay. Even the time and place were unclear, mixing a very stylized Victorian courtroom with modern anacronisms like "Crocs" and "flip flops".

I liked the strong and dynamic characterizations, but I couldn't find a character to identify with. I don't need a cut and dry "hero" and "villain", but I need something relateable as a reader. The "punchline" at the end wasn't all that funny, and felt like the kind of joke I'd outgrown in junior high.

The writing had personality and confidence, but it just wasn't my thing.

Also, be careful including things that we can't see directly. The opening paragraph ("Venerable Crown Court...") in particular.

Jose Batista (Level 5)

I don't know whether I was supposed to laugh at the end of this script, or simply feel appalled by the illogical behavior being presented...LOL!!!

The story makes little sense, other than to show how corrupt the courts were in england. Slow pace and dull dialogue made for little entertainment. The whole plot evades me still, as I cannot fully udnerstand the purpose to the trial. Even the visuals seem sort of muddled by the heavy and burdensome wordiness of the dialogue at times.

Kevin Carty (Level 4)

This is an ok script with a surreal (understatement) ending. I don't really care about the characters though. Try and cut down the dialogue. It doesn't read well cut down some of the descriptions. Try and make your story less unusual and more cohesive.

Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5)

I appreciate the poetry and the humor. Very funny at times.

It was hard to read due to all the accent (is it cockney? if yes you could state so beforehand - just a thought) - but you probably know that. Not that I don't appreciate the accent, sounds funny at times, but I had to translate it all in my head all the time. I wouldn't mind if not all the characters, all the court members/workers with speaking parts... So coupled up with the accent - I'll say I had to read it several times before I got a hang of it. By the way, I don't think you set up all the characters - like "the learning judge". You just said judge and when he speak he's "the learning judge".

I think the first paragraph may hurt your script.

On the other hand, you made me keep reading and despite it was not a smooth read for me I wanted more. Which is a very good thing. All in all, very good, I think. And funny. The end was clever and hilarious.

KP Mackie (Level 5)

Switching to Google to decipher "The Old Bailey" and "Red Judge" proves educational.
Do not know what "PERCY LIPSE gnome like" means. Googled Percy Lipse and got nothing. Not sure it's a good idea to be pulled away from a story with the first paragraph, but the info is interesting.
Repetitive when The Usher puts his fingers to his lips to indicate silence, then admonishes the room? to be silent because "the Great Judge approaches."
Love the rhyme device. Breaking lines, an extra comma here and there would help make the read easier.
Maybe: "Today together in this sinister arena,
Summoned here
By a silly subpoena..."

The entertainment value from the words is slow
When lack of punctuation prohibits the flow...

Particularly liked: "What word did Randi Scmut utter
that has caused him to be charged
with a grossly indecent mutter?"
Fun to read.
Oh, Percy/Percey Lipse the Court Usher is the name and title?
Needs some proofing but this original, so much work with language, is a delight.

Kyle Patrick Johnson (Level 5)

Great title. I'm not sure quite why it fits your story, though.

How would the average viewer know that the other courts are "booked solid" if we can only see the Old Bailey on-screen?

"THE LEARNED JUDGE", who has dialogue on page 1, isn't introduced, unless he's the same as Montague above, in which case the character name above the dialogue ought to be consistent with the ALL CAPS way in which you introduce him in the first place. Hope that makes sense.

The dialogue breaks in and out of rhyme. Rather intriguing. I'm a great lover of rhyme, myself.

The defendant's dialect is rather distracting.

I had trouble getting into the flow of the story, and perhaps that left the ending flat for me. I was curious as to the word, but once the word was revealed, the story seemed to wilt with the unnecessary acronym and the too-subtle reactions.

-I don't know what a "Red Judge" is.
-There's a lot of characters to try to keep track of, here.
-Too many punctuation problems and omissions for a professional submission.
-Not quite proper to introduce a character in ALL CAPS in the middle of dialogue. That's really reserved for the action lines.
-"ear holes"? Haha.

Leigh Smith (Level 4)

This is an interesting group of characters.

The defendant dialogue is difficult to read. Not so much difficult, but it slows down the pace while reading. I might work better to put the accent the Defendant is using in parenthesis.

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

I thought that "FADE IN:" was supposed to be left justified... Just googled it and it is supposed to be left justified.

Your opening header is longer than it needs to be, and the first action section describing the reason for the case being heard in this particular court is unnecessary. If you want it explained to your audience, put it in the dialogue.

I really like the names you chose for your characters. Very clever. I find the bulk of the script hard to read, though. Your descriptives are written as if the audience will be aware of the words. They detract from the dialogue, which is difficult for me to follow by itself.

You don't need to write "END" at the bottom of the last page. That's what the "FADE TO BLACK." tells the reader.

Marla Brecheen (Level 4)

This was a fun read. I liked how the story takes place in London and the dialects come through. It was written quite well. The very first paragraph should be deleted since it isn't something one can visually see on screen. It might be good for a good historical read in a book or a short story only. I would love to see this made into a film. It's wonderful. Keep up the great work.

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

It took me probably twice as long to read this script because of the horrible dialect. Just introduce it once, like this:
(Cockney accent)" or whatever it was supposed to be, and then forget about it.

I'm not sure I understand about the occasional rhyming couplet. They were common and obvious enough to be noticed, yet seemed to not have a purpose or relevance to the story. I also couldn't think of a reason to justify everyone speaking in archaic language structures, unless this was meant to be set in the past, of which there's no other indication.

The etymology of the word 'fuck' has also been traced, and definitely never came from an acronym.

I'm sure there's a good story in this script, it's just that it's really hard to find.

Michael Hoffman (Level 4)

I liked the atmosphere and unique dialect of this script but some of the narrative and dialogue became a little too distracting and made things difficult to follow.
There were also several strange formatting issues that caught my attention.

I'll just run down some things as they unfolded:

- The very first action lines read awkward and tell us things we cannot see.
- I'm not sure why some of the dialogue is put in quotations?
- The word 'obviously' can be cut from the line "Randi's remark is not appreciated."
- It's a little confusing that some characters have names but their dialogue is presented with generic titles like 'Judge' and 'Defendant'. If you are worried about us forgetting their role, maybe something like 'Defendant Scmut' would work as a character heading.
- The pages are fairly light but the blocks of dialogue are slightly thick.
- Overall, I'm finding there are a bit too many characters to keep track of.
- In the end, I think the story is just a little thin and the ending doesn't send me off satisfied.

I know this sounds like a lot of negative commentary but I really did enjoy several things in here. I enjoyed the fun 'monty python' like atmosphere of the piece and the farcical nature of the entire event. Some of the rhythmic dialogue worked well and made for interesting banter (although I think it could be scaled back a bit)

This is a unique idea that just needs a little refining to be it's best.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5)

'Venerable Crown Court of Law usually reserved for High
Treason and Murder trials. Lesser Courts are booked solid,
The Old Bailey, available.'

Is the above something we should be able to see on screen? If so you need to use SUPER: or TITLE OVER: so we know it is something that will be up on screen for the audience to see. If it's not, then it shouldn't be on the page. If the audience won't see it then don't use it.

What's a red Judge?

'well versed' - how will the audience know this about him? Also comma missing after this.

'the assembled' - the assembled what? crowd? viewers? lawyers? Who else is there?

Is The Learned Judge the same judge as AListair or another one? Not very clear.

The cockney defendent's speech pattern changes from his first piece of dialogue which is stilted but not in verse or cockney lingo and then it changes.

The rhyming? Influenced by the Grimm winner's entry?

An interesting future for London and I like the acronym.

This didn't really work for me, a lot of flowery prose and grandiose characters who i didn't warm to. An amusing light touch though.

Paul Williams (Level 5)

Unfortunately, there are a number of spec screenwriting, formatting, and typo issues throughout that, inevitably, detract greatly from your plot.

Simplification: Right from the opening slugline, I was confused and not quite sure when or where this is all taking place. Then a number of characters with elaborate descriptions are introduced, causing more confusion, all creating the unfortunate bi-product of my interest waning.

The best advice I can give: Read other screenplays on this site that have placed in contests throughout the months, determine their common denominators, and incorporate that into your future screenwriting.

Never stop writing, good luck!

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

I had a few laughs at your story, I think it's clever. However, it was very very difficult to read, and if you have no British background, I would imagine it would be even more difficult. When you submit a story, you want others to be able to read it, quickly and not have to work at it so much. I will be interested to see what others say about the story.

As I said, it's clever and fun, but really so hard to decipher the dialogue that it's a hard read.

Scott Merrow (Level 5)

It was very hard to read this. Between the rhyming-on/rhyming-off of the dialogue and the heavy cockney accents (and the cockney rhyming slang), I had to keep stopping to figure out what was actually going on. And then it turns out the whole thing is a set-up for (basically) a one-word punchline. Not very satisfying. Needs more focus on the story and less on the gimmicky stuff (funny names, rhyming dialogue, etc.). Those things are fine, and could be really effective, if 1) they enhance an already-strong story, and 2) they're not laid on so heavily that the reader has to fight his way through them.

Shaun Bragg (Level 4)

I grinned every time the name Annius Tittius was said. As for the rest of the script the dialouge seemed to rhyme especailly coming from the Defendent.

If this wasn't a comedy please let me know.

A few typos in the dialouge, otherwise a good effort.

Shawn Cottrill (Level 4)

This screenplay was definitely interesting. To be honest though, I do not think that I quite understood exactly what was going on. The dialogue sounded very smart, but I guess I had a hard time following it. There were very few typos and errors which is great because I really find a lot of typos very distracting.

Stephen Brown (Level 5)

I found this quite hard to follow. I really liked the dialogue, although a little cliche of a cockney, it had a musical feel to it. I'm not sure whether that is something you were attempting but I think most, if not all the dialogue could be sung.

The hard to follow comment comes from the descriptive text really.

I thought the opening paragraph was telling instead of showing.
The Defendent wasn't introduced as far as I could see.
'Learned Judge' repeatedly mispelt - 'Leaned Judge'.

Overall, this was fun. Liked the dialogue and the comical names. Could use another rewrite to clear some parts of this up though.

Susan Anderson (Level 1)

Format was good, but I felt the script never grabbed me. Was confused with the rhyming and the olde english style. If it was a comedy style, I didn't get it. I know courtroom dialogue can be boring, and I feel there was a good attempt to make it lighthearted, I just wasn't into it.

Thomas W. Brown (Level 4)

This piece presented an interesting world of sheer non-sense. I liked the ridiculous judge and his utter detachment from anything even resembling reality. I found it pretty hilarious. The random rhyming was a little annoying, although it did add to the surreal nature of the trial. One thing that bothered me was dialogue, specifically naming a character and then having them speak under their court role (Court Usher, Learned Judge). I think this took away some of the comedic value for the reader, mainly because your character names were pretty good. Best of luck!

Comments Made After the Contest

John Brooke (Level 5) ~ 8/1/2009 1:15 PM

Thank you Movie Poet members for your critical insights on my comedic script attempt. Your comments will prove invaluable during my rewrite.

Paul Williams (Level 5) ~ 8/1/2009 6:06 PM

Hi John,

You definitely swing for the fences every month (sorry for the sports cliche) and are fearless with your story ideas and script presentation. You have a great attitude towards your reviews and I've never heard you complain about anything on this site.

I'm happy that you are part of the MoviePoet community, especially with your comprehensive reviews every month and your postings in the forum.

Never stop writing!!!

John Brooke (Level 5) ~ 8/1/2009 6:16 PM

Hola Paul,

You just “made my day.”

Thank you for your acknowledgment and positive support. I don’t give up easily and do take the insights and comments into consideration in my rewrites.

If failing teaches anything, well I should soon be the most successful script writer in the world.


Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5) ~ 8/1/2009 6:28 PM

I really liked your script, John. I'm going to read it again just for fun!

John Brooke (Level 5) ~ 8/2/2009 7:11 PM

Hola Khamanna,

Thank you so much for your kind words. I laughed as I enjoyed writing it. So that makes two of us that were entertained. I that was my purpose, to simply entertain.



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