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"Tick, Tick, Tick" by MJ Hermanny ~ First Place

Rewrite: 6/18/2014 12:00 AM

Logline: Time is running out for a British Army officer who has a secret to hide as he controls a hostage rescue mission.

Genre: Thriller

Cast Size: 7

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

Contest: Tick Tock (Oct. 2010)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent

Comments Made During the Contest

Ayal Pinkus (Level 5)

Well-written. And a fantastic start! Hooked me right into the story.

I don't know what else to say; gripping story! Captain Roberts having to order the killing of his lover. But we understand he is doing the right thing, she'll be tortured to death otherwise, and might give valuable information before. So it is probably the right choice, but what a choice... It does make him a bad person, but not unrealistically.

Can be improved:
Small typo on page 5: "thermal images against the far war.". "war" should perhaps be "wall"?

What was the role of the ticking clock, actually? I didn't get why it was in the story.

A superbly written script. Hooked me from the start and grabbed me by my throat at the end. Five minutes, yet a full story with inciting event (the capture of Harriet) and the climax (Harriet dies).

Bill Clar (Level 5)

"Blood seeps into the filthy floor from a gunshot in his throat". I love this line. Very descriptive.

"PFFT. Basur drops dead by the window.". Do we know for sure that Basur is dead? Maybe he's just stunned or unconscious?

I like the tensions but the Captain's response at the end feels flat. Could he look at a picture of Kasra's son or electronic file?

Brian Howell (Level 5)

This was excellent... until the last page, when your excellent set-up diminished to a rather flat ending. I think you are relying on the shock of them accidentally grabbing the wrong person, or the shock of the target actually being the dead soldier. Part of my reaction stems from the slight confusion I'm having as to who the target was. I think it's Harriet, but I'm not certain. But ultimately, I'm calling this flat because I don't have any sense for your theme. Not every film has to have a message, but it should have some kind of theme. This feels like things just happen, and Harriet is killed by grenades just because you, the writer, are thinking I won't expect it; that's how it feels to me.

As far as the set-up goes? This was amazing. Excellent job setting up the various groups of people, all while sticking with the real-time requirement. There was so much tension mounting. Nice work.

Other than the flat ending, the only other weak point is the title.

Harriet is such a strong and courageous soldier. She doesn't crack, even while being tortured. Her screaming "No" at the sight of the grenade felt a little off from her strong demeanor. I almost want her to tackle Kasra and hold him directly over the grenade - sacrifice herself, with honor, in order to eliminate the enemy.

Anyway, I really feel like you could clarify some of the ending, which includes clarifying your theme, and this would easily be an excellent. Right now, I'm going with a VERY GOOD.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

I don't love the title, but there isn't anything else in this script that I didn't like at all. Really well done. Nice and tight. Good mental imagery. Overall, a really great job. My 2nd Excellent this month.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

I thought this was Excellent!

EXCEPT...I hate it when characters say 'Nooooo!' Does that rhyme with 'too'? I'd rather Harriet had screamed or said nothing than said Nooooo!

Basur became Basra at one point.

Was this inspired by the story of Linda Norgrove?

Chris Keaton (Level 5)

- At least it's not a minutes to live piece.
- She where trousers, is a description, not an action, so put it up when we meet her. Or in a more appropriate action block, but not by itself.

Nice ending, I was rooting for you to kill her and make a reasonable twist and you came through.

Chris Messineo (Founder)

You managed to pack a lot of story into five pages.

I found it all a bit confusing the first time through and I had to read it twice to get it all. I'm glad I did though.

Revenge and betrayal are powerful emotions and I thought the twist ending was very cool.

Lots of compelling images, throughout. Overall, I really did enjoy it; I just wish it had flowed a bit smoother.

Christina Anderson (Level 4)


1) Too much filler; drown her and hit her and start asking question all on page one. I don't get a glimmer of a story until the interrogation on page four, and I'd done lost my patience by then.

2) I don't buy the end sequence. The Lt is responsible for the success of the mission, and as the only team out there he's the one that ultimately knows if the target has been secured or not.

3) What about the nationality of the kidnappers? And it’s a good idea to state their kinship; in the event of a casting.

A good premise for a story, just be more aggressive telling it.

Elias Farnum (Level 5)

This is a very unique story imo. But, I really didn't care for the ending, and the laptop was overused.

Perhaps if you cut down some of the set-up, and have a confrontation between Harriet and Captain Roberts. I think it was too easy for him, and as a character we hardly know him. As for the laptop, I dunno, I'm old fashioned I guess, I would rather see Roberts sweat it out with a regular radio. Just all my opinion mind you, there are two or three ways you could take this right off the top of my head. And when I get ideas springing in, that means it's a good concept.

Really good concept. Your writing is fine, but I think "scramble" for purchase would work better. I had to stop, and think about how legs would, "grovel." Lol.

I'm going to give you a good. There is more than potential with this concept however, it is always fascinating to see through the "enemy's" eyes.

Fred Koszewnik (Level 5)

An engaging and tightly written screenplay with considerable high drama and hang on tight scenes. One difficulty with the script is that it leaves the reader with so many unanswered questions. If the main theme of the storyline is torture retribution, I'm not sure if there's anything else to say about the script beyond the obvious "horror and pointlessness of war." Still, I'd like to know more of Robert's factual involvement in this. Is he the actual cause of the bungled mission resulting in Harriet's death? It feels like the end of a Shakespearean play where everyone on stage is dead. And I'd like to know WHY? Continued good success to you.

Heather O'Connell (Level 4)

This is very well done. The torture is disturbing, but realistic, every scene follows the other logically. I can picture how it plays out. I like how you show the doubt about the captain, which is confirmed at the end. Very tense and a good portrayal of the ugliness of war.
Oh, the one thing that did pull me out was when he pushed the pliers into her throat - I pictured them actually going down inside her throat. I had to reread.
:) Heather

Herman Chow (Level 5)

The opening was an attention grabber, although I'm not sure what the clock staying at the same second is supposed to mean. I read to the end and couldn't find its significance.

So we finally understand the reason behind the torture, but Harriet's role in the previous rape and torture was a mystery. Was she part of it? Or it was just Captain Robert alone? I knew Harriet denied that she was part of it, but why would Kasra tortured an innocent woman then? I don't know, it just made all of the characters unlikable.

At the end, was the intended target Harriet?

The format and writing style is good.


James Resendes (Level 2)

Nicely done. Tension built up right from the beginning, and the ending was totally unexpected. I guess you're not given enough time to even think Captain Roberts as the antagonist. Good twist. I felt like the writing was a bit off. Something about it didn't entirely seem to fit. But I really enjoyed it.

Jamie Collins (Level 3)

Nice screenplay. It's well structured to get the story across. I did notice one typographical error but other than that it's a well written screenplay and packs a lot of action into its five pages.

On page five, "Several thermal images against the far war" should be "Several thermal images against the far wall" otherwise it doesn't make sense.

Nice work...

JeanPierre Chapoteau (Moderator)

"Eyes red-rimmed and raw" I like that description.

You said he shoved the pliers into her throat. That means he killed her. I think you meant to say "he shoves the pliers up to her throat" Even that sounds strange. Maybe scrap "shoves" all together and say "He holds the pliers up to her throat" that's threatening her, which I think is what you were going for.

"fade on the screen" what screen?

Wow... so he killed her to cover up his scandal. What a messed up story.

I liked how you went back and forth between real life and thermal vision, but for some reason I couldn't picture it. Your descriptions were beautifully written but this seemed like it was a snippet out of a larger story. You did explain the reasoning behind it all but it didn't seem full. Maybe you should have brought up the picture earlier so we know the torture has something to do with this mysterious picture, but we have no idea why.

Great story, characters and description, but something was just... missing. I'll give this a VG. I won't be surprised if this placed though. It's a really good story.

Jem Rowe (Level 4)

Miserable but very good story. My eyes rolled as soon as Kasra and his two pals were introduced because I thought they'd be stereotypical two-dimentional "terrorist" characters, perhaps this trickery was your intention but how brilliant it feels to have been wrong :)

I loved the character of Captain Roberts too, another vicious betreyal of the readers expectations.

Great to see this genre of modern warfare shaken up a bit, well done :)

John LaBonney (Level 4)

I'm inclined to believe that Captain Roberts was guilty of torture, and let Harrient die to keep that secret--I'm hoping that's what you were going for here. Strikes a touch of Platoon.

Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5)

The idea is great - someone from the good side wronged the ones on the bad side... (i hope I got the sides right). And I liked the script very much too.

At the beginning I couldn't understand who was the man and who was the woman. You established them all in a very clear fashion though, but perhaps you introduced Harriet as a WOMAN at first and also KASRA feels like a female name to me. But maybe it's just me since I'm international.

The script is hard to shoot though, no? I try to stay away from writing heavy budget scripts lately.

The thing that did not work for me - I'm not convinced that Kasra is right about Ron - few glances and the fact he killed them doesn't cut it - they are the enemy and even if they got Harriet... and that part is not very clear, I think - did he know Harriet was with them? Otherwise it's very interesting.

However, I think it deserves an EXCELLENT because if they asked me to pull out one script out of this bunch I'd select yours. Yours is the most memorable too although there's one other excellent I found this month.

Very Good. Thanks.

KP Mackie (Level 5)

Riveting images. Particularly vivid ending; as he hears that Harriet is dead, "Captain Roberts exhales." Whoa.
Characters are distinctive and easy to tell apart. Might want to have Captain Roberts address Lieutenant Wilson at the Lieutenant's initial introduction, since his character is all voiceover. Also might add one more TICK-TICK-TICK for a total of three (Rule of three). Would make an even stronger statement, especially with the apt title.
This short could easily be a longer screenplay. There's conflict/war, something dreadful happened in Laru, and a relationship of some sort between Harriett and Captain Roberts. All the elements are here. Excellent.

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

Wow! I think I actually held my breath from somewhere on page one to the end! The tension is visceral.

I'd love to see this filmed. There's a complete story in these five pages, but I could see this as part of something longer, too... Have you thought about a feature?

I really liked the title and the use of the broken clock.

Excellent, excellent work!

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

Nice job building up the suspense on the first page and suggesting camera angles without being too obvious.

This seems very similar to a real life case which was probably your inspiration. Maybe leaving it for some more time before submitting it would have been in better taste.

Nevertheless, this was very suspenseful and had interesting moral grey areas. Very good.

Matias Caruso (Level 5)

Strong opening.

If I got this right, Captain Roberts deliberately sent wrong intel to his team to get corporal Haynes killed, correct?

Twist endings are quite effective and work well in short pieces, but I'm not sure about the logic behind the Captain's plan.

The evidence in Kasra's possession didn't seem very strong. It was just a photo of a dead body. Perhaps stronger evidence of the Captain's involvement is needed for the Captain to take such drastic measures?

And it seemed to me that the Captain ended with another problem in his hands; he made a major "mistake" that resulted in the death of the target.

Good job, though.

Paul De Vrijer (Level 5)

A dramatic thriller-esque warstory with a grim ending. Could be the opening sequence for a bigger movie. Did I say 'Could'? I meant 'Should'.

The dark edges of the story make it stand out in the genre. I mean, kidnap and torture stories aplenty in war-torn countries. The torture technique used here isn't really that original, but the visuals are. The dark cruel ending certainly sets it apart.

You see this on a poster? Or a flyer? Or a theater ticket? What does this tell the reader? There's no sense of genre, and I personally believe both the title and the clock in the script are totally unnecessary and just there to overlap with the requirement. This needs fixing.

The dialog itself is a bit too in-your-face. Kasra requesting specific details and Harriet going all Luke-Skywalker: "Nooo...Impossible!". Captain Roberts is not your father Harriet, you don't have to get all dramatic. This is a guy who is LITERALLY torturing you, and now you are worried that your captain commit some atrocities? Why would you even believe Kasra, and if it WERE true, there's no reason to get so dramatic over it. Hell, seeing what these people are capable of, perhaps there was even a good reason.

I love the cold execution coming from Captain Roberts. It's cool and calculated and the terms you used with the actions all feel really realistic. I believe that this could be a mission and that's the most important thing here. Immersion into your world and you emulated the military actions well.

There is a little problem of WHY Robterts would execute her. Perhaps by now, he figured that he would know the truth. We have no direct indication of that, and that's perhaps not necessary. It does make it hard to feel for any of the characters at the end. I mean, Harriet sure, it's hard for her, but she never actively does anything. Just gets tortured and blown to pieces. You are a cruel auteur sir.

Get rid of the clock though. I expected it to be a bomb and you let me down.It has no reason to be there, only to underline an unfitting title. Don't get me wrong, you can HAVE a bloodsplattered Clock, skipping the same second over and over again. Just don't pull too much attention to it if you aren't going to do something with it.

It falls within the 5 minutes. You didn't really do something EXTRA with the requirement though. The title overlaps, but it feels forced.

There's a sequence on the second page where you literally describe three different persons as 'figure'. This breaks the flow somewhat, and I can understand that it's hard to describe these heatsignatures, but switch up the names, or give them a more distinctive look.

"Thrusts the pliers into her throat" when I read this, I picture this to be a killing moment. Getting pliers in your throat is usually pretty damn lethal. Unless he just HITS the throat. In that case, bad description visually.

Who the hell is Basra by the way? Kasra I get, but is this a deleted character or a name-error? Because he's certainly not standing by the window in the beginning. Basur perhaps?

Your writing itself is tight and action-packed. I actually really like your descriptions, I just think you make a few errors. You focus on the right things. The trembling hands, the spit in the eyes, all perfectly placed for emotional impact. I really like that.

Quite big budget for a short, but cruel and original enough for an audience to like. Requires quite a bit of set work and props. It's possible, but I think you might have to write a longer story out of this. I like this as an opening sequence, give me the opening credits now and BLAM i'm along for the ride. Let's see this Captain Roberts kill his squad (for whatever reason) and get killed.

Running out of characters here: I really liked it, but it has some flaws too.

Biggest flaw: No emotional hook here. Characters only funtional.
Best Aspect: Cool swift well written story. Needs a feature.

Paul Williams (Level 5)

I think I get what's going here and Captain Roberts' motivations. He "kills" Harriet because she now knows what he did to Kasra's son. Pretty hardcore.

What I didn't quite understand was Kasra saying the dead teenage boy was Captain Roberts' brother and his son. Doesn't that make Captain Roberts Kasra's son also? Or are they half brothers? I apologize if I'm the only reviewer who didn't understand that.

I think you can curtail the character count by eliminating or combining some. It'll make it easier to follow everything.

Not a huge fan of the title.

Your screenwriting is good, but wording could be simplified in spots for clarity. Format overall appears in order. Didn't detect any major typos.

Very Good!

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

My first excellent, I thought this was really well done. The story was exciting, fast paced and the twisted ending was really good.

The only thing to nitpick is the 'tick tick tick' of the clock. Can you find a way to show this instead of writing tick, tick tick?

Excellent story, wonderfully crafted characters, and I felt sympathy for the 'enemy'.

The dialog was spot on, also. Very well done!!

T. James DeStein (Level 5)

This was extremely well written. The pacing was awesome and I loved the action. But the story just didn't do anything for me. It just kinda ends. Nothing much really happened in my eyes, you need to have a little bit more of a character development or something for this to really have an effect.

Teo Gonzalez (Level 4)

Not a bad script, but I'm not sure that all that much happens in it as a story.

Pretty much everything the reader can do is imagine why all this is taking place and what is the relationship between the people involved. And is not that I am saying that a narration has to have a definitive something as the ending, but I have read the script twice and I still don't know what is at stake. Why are these people doing what they are doing? How would things have been diferent in the future if the outcome was another?

You have good writing skills, good format, everything flows well, but it is too much like real life. I don't need to read stories to feel like real life; I just need to wake up.

Tim Aucoin (Level 4)

This had me interested from the start. The description is excellent, it's clear you have a solid grasp on the craft of screenwriting. My only problem with it is it just seemed to be picking up steam and it was over.
I am confused about exactly what was going on in the story. Who was the bad guy? Kasra or Captain Roberts? What exactly is the relationship between Roberts and Harriet? I wasn't clear on a lot of things when I finished reading. There's a definite subtext there but I can't figure out what it is. This is very well written it just leaves me with a lot of questions.

William D. Prystauk (Level 5)

Interestingly sad and horrible. Well done to evoke that emotion.

The only problem I have is how such a rescue would be conducted. Once the mission is underway, radio silence would be maintained. After all, the extraction team knows what to do. However, if there is such proof that something like this would actually take place, then I apologize.

Most importantly, instead of having two reveals at the end - Roberts' inhumanity as well as Hayne's death - you can reveal the information regarding Robert's sooner. This would lead to a suspenseful finish as Hayne's grapples with the information: Should she say something or protect Roberts? The end would have far greater impact.

Zach Jansen (Level 4)

Good tension. I was thinking for a while that Haynes was the actual target, but the ending still works.

There's a similiarity here with my script:)

I don't understand INT. SMALL BUILDING -- is it a warehouse? An office? A shack? Be more specific with that slug.

I'm not sure what this means: Several thermal images against the far war.

Well-written and keeps me wondering what will happen next. Good job.

Comments Made After the Contest

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 12/1/2010 12:02 AM

Congratulations on winning first place!

Brian Wind (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:13 AM

Congrats MJ! Great script!

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus) ~ 12/1/2010 12:22 AM

Go the Brit chicks! This was one of my excellents!

Chris Keaton (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:30 AM

You got a VG from me!

Margaret Ricke (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:35 AM

Wow, MJ! You nailed this one perfectly! Congratulations!

Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:49 AM

Congrats MJ! Great great script - I just realized I said both Excellent and Very Good in my review and did the same for one other script I voted Excellent this month:)))
I voted Excellent for yours:)) (not very good)

Marnie Mitchell Lister (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 2:14 AM

WoooooHoooooo!!!! Knocked the king down a notch! :) Congrats MJ!

KP Mackie (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 2:48 AM

Congratulations. One of my two excellents. You are on a roll...

MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 4:34 AM

NO WAY!! Absolutely shocked as a shocked shocked thing!! Wowza. Yipeeee.

Thanks for all your comments.

Heather O'Connell (Level 4) ~ 12/1/2010 9:19 AM

Congratulations! I loved this one.
:) Heather

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:25 PM

How am I supposed to tell my Argentine friends that I got my ass kicked by a Brit chick? They'll point and laugh and point and laugh... I'll never see the end of it.

Still, congratulations. I'm very happy to see your hard work paying off. :D

Erich VonHeeder (Level 4) ~ 12/1/2010 1:50 PM

Hard core excellent, MJ.
Loved this one. GREAT work.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 2:39 PM

Wow, thanks Eric, you've boosted my beaming grin even more.

Thanks Heather!

@Matias - risa & indicar! Hahahaha! :)

Great comments, extrememly happy bunny over here. Thanks everyone!

Rustom Irani (Moderator) ~ 12/2/2010 11:23 AM

I so imagine this to be a script about zombie fleas with that title. :)

MJ sweetheart, could you enlighten us about winning this month on our monthly winner's tell all, forum here:

See, I can call her sweetheart coz' she dreams 'bout me in a bonnet and pram. And I sound like a creepy producer from LA :D

Congrats for the win!

MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 12/2/2010 1:35 PM

Anything for you Rusty-rrr (oohp caught myself).

See you over there in a tick...

JeanPierre Chapoteau (Moderator) ~ 12/2/2010 2:17 PM

What imbecile gave you a poor? Smh... there's always one in the bunch.

Great job MJ. :)

Sally Meyer (Moderator) ~ 12/3/2010 8:13 AM

MJ wow, this was amazing! Congrats on your win! I've been busy the last few days and so haven't had my normal post competition time to congratulate the winners and etc.

This was awesome, you should really try and film this, it wouldn't take a big budget with the setting and characters. Go for it!

Awesome job.

Shawn Cottrill (Level 4) ~ 12/16/2010 2:26 PM

I think this is a very clever script. I was drawn in instantly.

I really like when you can sympathize with the "villain"

You had some very unexpected twists.

Good job.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 12/18/2010 7:32 AM

Hi Shawn, thanks for taking a look. I'm glad you liked it.

Caroline Bucholz (Level 3) ~ 12/19/2010 9:53 PM

Thought it was very good, loved the shortness of the action and descriptions inbetween the dialoge.
I really loved the ending. Great job all the way around.

Ed Jones (Level 4) ~ 1/28/2011 11:00 AM

Congratulations for a well deserved win with what is, IMO, a perfect script.

The title is good and I liked that the clock it refers to has stopped, thus adding to our unease in a an extremely tense situation.

The logline is also good, though it is a pity that it makes all too clear Roberts' guilt. Thankfully, the script allows the reader himself to arrive at that conclusion. Does a logline need to be so explicit? I don't know.

I like also that the story is not partisan and that the twist carries the implication that Roberts' atrocity may not even have been for military reasons.

Concise action, bulding in pace and tension to a dramatic end with a disturbing twist. A good read making for a potentially excellent short film.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 1/28/2011 4:57 PM

Hey Ed, thanks for having a look and for such great praise, - I now have lovely warm cockles.

And Caroline, thanks to you too, appreciate your time and comments.

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Brian Wind ~ Caroline Coxon ~ Margaret Ricke ~ Khamanna Iskandarova ~ KP Mackie ~ David Birch ~ Marko Trcic ~ Sally Meyer ~ Ed Jones ~ Reginald McGhee