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"Grassy Knoll" by Debra Johnson

Logline: Nothing exciting ever happens at Best Car Rental until Diane rents a car to Carl Thomas.

Genre: Comedy - Drama

Cast Size: 4

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

Contest: Fifth Year Open (Dec. 2011)

Contest Scores
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Comments Made During the Contest

Alex Mitchell (Level 3)

While at first I was intrigued by the possibilities of what might come of the schizophrenic man, it ended on a very anti-climatic note. There was an opening when the cop arrived on the scene to make it go another way but nothing shocking came of it. This might have been your intention but it doesn’t read well with the audience, especially with such a short length.

Ayal Pinkus (Level 5)

That Carl is one hilarious fellow! Great hook into the story as I want to know the story behind why he's that way.

Priceless dialogue also! "There's a bomb in my car." "What makes you say that?" "I can't get my windows up." Hilarious!

And then on page three it is revealed. Carl thinks there's a conspiracy against him because he thinks he saw who killed JFK. He has delusions that the FBI is out to get him. Amazing, that does explain all that he did before and I hadn't guessed it. I thought he was just crazy. That was helped by the fact that the two car rental workers treated him as such.

And then it turns out he IS crazy! Hahaha! Didn't see that one coming either. I was expecting the conspiracy theory to be true because the two car rental workers didn't believe him.

Good writing.

Bill Clar (Level 5)

I like the title. It's simple and peaceful. I'm curious as to how it relates to the story.

It's probably not necessary to say "A flight arrives" before "people accumulate in the baggage area". If it's necessary to convey this information, have a voice over stating that flight 12 has arrived.

"It’s gonna be another boring day at Best Car." The company name feels like exposition. Could you have a sign over the booth states this information?

Carl reenters, exits, then reappears in front of Vickie and Diane. Did I miss a second reenter?

I don't believe that Diane would walk with a customer to the far end of a parking lot. It's not safe. Have Carl pull the car up to Diane, or have him leave it in the rental parking space.

Remove the "(sarcastic)" wrylie. Diane's dialogue tells us she's sarcastic.

I like the setting and set up, but the payoff feels flat. I was hoping that Carl was really not crazy, and in fact his car did have a bomb.

Bill Sarre (Level 5)

On the one hand it was interesting to see where this was going but on the other the end was a bit so so.

In my experience those on medication can be a tad defensive once asked, and if he doesn't think he is mad, then why offer the information so freely - afterall a touch of conflict and drive is probably what this needed.

I think this needs some work but the idea of a mentally troubled patient at the car rental desk has potential

All the best.

Brian Howell (Level 5)

Does this take place in present day, or is this set in the '60s? You should probably tell us because referencing a historic event in history as casually as you have, kind of indicates that this is set back in history.

I'm understanding that the man was crazy after all...? I was kind of hoping for some kind of twist here.

Also, most of the information you give us about the situation comes through dialog, is there anyway to put a little more action into this? I'm not talking action/action, like from a Rambo movie, I just mean have your characters doing things that give away information.

I didn't really connect with the story in this one. I wanted to, I wanted the car to explode after they took him away; I wanted some kind of twist to happen that left me thinking, but instead I'm left with the ladies working the car rental counter talking about bridesmaids dresses. Good luck.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

This was written, paced and formatted okay, but what was the point? A crazy guy shows up to rent a car, ends up getting taken away by the cops and his rental is canceled, the end. There's not much of a story there. We're not really given any reason to care about any of these characters. The dialogue was okay and the descriptions were written fine. My only real issue with the script is the story, or lack thereof. Nice effort, but this needs some polish before it works for me. Good luck!

Byron Matthews (Level 5)

First impression, I don't know if I was supposed to smile while reading this but it made me smile. The ending was a bit of a letdown; I was kind of hoping that the car would explode or something.

Story wasn't bad and you're writing is pretty clear.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

Despite the potential for drama in this situation, it was written in such a way as to offer none. Almost, as you said at one point, " just another day at Best Car"..

You really need to ramp up the suspense, the danger, the apprehension in order to make this work! It COULD work if you did although humour at the expense of someone with mental health problems...I don't know...

Mismatched not miss-matched, nowhere not no where

Chris Messineo (Founder)

I like this story. The characters are fun and you do a nice job of capturing the zaniness that can interrupt an otherwise boring work day.

I think what's missing here though, is a real arc to this story. As it is now, we know so little about this man and he seems to have so little effect on the women who work here. I wish we connected with someone a bit more.

Still, your craft is good and this was a fun read.

Christopher Pedersen Cook (Level 3)

Well played. There was a kind of tension running through the story, and you just know Mr Thomas isn't as crazy as he seems. But then, as far as we can tell, he is. A clever anti-climax, with an original effect. A twist that does the opposite of shock. I alos like the humor between the bored workers. References to things such as the "rental process" had me giggling.

Dan Delgado (Level 5)

It was a complete story with some subtle humor. Some of the dialogue was little on the nose, but not too back. I liked the last line of dialogue -- it did a nice job of framing this as an every day part of life for these two.

One thing bugged me a little bit, was that you gave no description at all of Diane and Vickie, other than then their ages and that they were rental car agents. You did give us a picture of Carl, which misdirected my attention to him, when this was really Diane's story. It doesn't have to be a lot, but tell us what we're seeing.

I liked this.

Good luck. Thank you for entering.

David M Troop (Level 5)

I only have one rule. If a crazy guy says there's a bomb, the bomb must go off.
If there is no bomb, the guy is just crazy, and so what? There's no story.
But, if the bomb goes off, the crazy guy might not be so crazy and there may be some truth to his story.
You don't have to kill anybody, but as the crazy guy is being taken away by the police, the bomb has to go off.

Denise Jewell (Level 5)

Nicely done. A few notes - I think you could use an extra scene heading or more description in the beginning. I was confused with him going in and out of "the airport" and the conversation at the counter. Also I would like more suspense built up with him.

The dialogue is a bit stilted and unnatural. But a good job in five pages.

Gary Rademan (Level 5)

-- A man rents a car he is sure has a bomb cause he knows who was on the grassy knoll --

Good script. Could use a little energy.

One dry sense of humor. I can see Bob Newhart as Carl. Dialog was a bit vanilla. The rental girl was in need of a flaw or attitude to really pull this one off. This might benefit from shortening/tightening.

Greg Tonnon (Level 5)

Title - I love the title! It instantly conjures up thought of conspiracy theories and intrigue. Great choice!
Craft - your craft is nearly perfect. But one very minor point is that FADE OUT should have a period after it not a colon.
Dialogue - I was a bit confused by this: VICKIE Your customer just came back in.
Where was he heading? DIANE Washington DC. Why? VICKIE He just came back inside. Why would Vickie ask where he was going? Why would Diane know? Why would either of them be surprised that a customer would come back in? Also on page three Diane asks "What was that?" wouldn't "What did you see?" be more natural? And ..."that was never proved" should be "proven" but what theory is she referring to?
Story - I love the idea.

JeanPierre Chapoteau (Moderator)

Diane would have called security, not go and check it out. If this were a regular car rental place, I would believe it, but not at the airport. When you hear bomb at the airport you call security.

Now that it's at the far end of the airport, Diane would definitely back away and call security.

Huh? The script didn't end. This sounds like a true story kind of thing that's only interesting when you tell your friends. This was be an AMAZING story if my wife came home one day and told me about it, but as a screenplay... it needed more. I was going to say that Diane should have known Mr. Thomas. He should have been a regular, then her walking with him to his car would be more believable. But that still wouldn't help the ending. Where's the aha moment, the twist, the shocker?

Your writing was clean. Very to the point and I liked that.

Jem Rowe (Level 4)

This has a clarity that is far too often missing from amateur screenplays, which is in my opinion the scripts major asset. You write well and clearly and stay with the story. Unfortunately I'm just not sure that this is a story worth telling, at the end I felt like saying "so what?".

Find yourself a brilliant story and I think you could be great, for now this script is just too inconsequential to make any impact.

Jeremy Kriss (Level 1)

The writing style is economical and lean, but there is no reason for us to care. About any of this.

Get rid of the "wrylies." Put it in the description, or leave it to the actors.

Character description needs to pop. It just sits there right now. Make these people come to LIFE. Make the situation urgent right away.

Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5)

It's entertaining.
You point was - another dull day turned out to be exciting.
I think it's a bit too easy - to have a schizo in a short and call him that. I think we need to understand and follow his medical condition ourselves.
The main character is Vickie, right? I think you showed her being impartial and cold really well.

Kirk White (Level 5)

i think the components are here for a good story but they just don't quite fit together. The dialogue is a little too utilitarian...more concerned with the minutiae of renting a car than telling the story or revealing character or even exploring sub textual stuff… There’s no real movement in the story which leads to an unsatisfying resolution: we see this odd guy acting crazy, everyone thinks he’s crazy and in the end…oh, he’s just crazy. A story like this, with this kind of setup, is screaming for some kind of twist: there’s really a bomb in the car! There’s not a bomb in that car, but a different car! He put the bomb in the car! It’s not a bomb but something else! He thinks she put the bomb in the car and shoots her! Something to give us a twist on our expectations.

I think you have the ingredients for a compelling, tense just need to spend a little more time really crafting the events.

giving a fair.

Kisha King (Level 4)

This is a nice easy read.
The Diane character reaction to Carl should have been more emotional with her words and her action towards Carl, Vickie, the police and the situation.

All of the characters emotional behavior is a little off and it leaves me disconnected with the story at the end.

KP Mackie (Level 5)

Terrific story idea. Original and riveting. Almost skipped to the end to find out what's going on with Carl...
Perhaps inject some more contrast between Diane and Vickie. Diane comes across a little controlling; Vickie is captivated by a bridal magazine. There's potential already evident, but more distinction could provide even more interest.
Wonder whether Carl being schizophrenic is a bit too predictable. What if Diane misunderstands the word "bomb?" Maybe Carl's eating something, and Diane thinks he says "bomb," and she overacts. Just an suggestion...

Kyle Patrick Johnson (Level 5)

I'm puzzled... if Carl is deathly afraid of the FBI, why does he docilely allow a police officer to take over the case? That storyline didn't seem consistent with the character of Carl. I expected his paranoia to reach new heights when he heard the word "police".

I wonder if the title is quite right. The story is much less about Carl than it is about the life of the bored women who remain unaffected by the crazy customers they encounter. The title puts the emphasis on Carl's oddness, but I think the title should emphasize the ho-hum dreary nature of the women's job (as they see it).

The writing was good, and kept me interested. I had only two issues with the writing: the fizzled-out ending was a letdown, and I thought some of the dialogue was a bit on-the-nose. This could be excellent with a rewrite!

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

I think I would have liked this better if the car had exploded. That's where you seemed to be going with the whole thing, and the ending was a letdown because of that.

The writing is very good. I didn't find any formatting, spelling or punctuation errors. The characters were well-thought out and executed. The dialogue was good and the character voices individual.

I just felt really let down by the ending...

Marjory E. Leposky (Level 2)

It was a well thought out script with good characters telling the story. I like the flow of the storyline. I did not see anything wrong with it. I got into the story easily. I hope you the chance to have this short script made. Is this script part of a long script?

Marnie Mitchell Lister (Level 5)

Okay...this was different. A crazy guy rents a car. That's it. It's a scene not a story. It was sort of entertaining, I thought the dialog was decent and the characters got my attention but it didn't feel complete. And I don't think that title really fits. How about something like "Just Another Day at Best Car". Because it was more about that I think.

There were some grammar errors and I'm not sure people can "accumulate"...although I could be wrong on that.

Keep writing.

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

I thought the dialogue between Diane and Vickie was really good, selling their relationship in a short time, giving a good grounding to the crazy story.

I like the ambiguity leading up to the anti-climax ending. I like that there isn't a point beyond showing simple random encounter between strangers.

Very good.

Michael Hughes (Level 4)

I am not sure the script gave me enough information to understand whether to believe Carl or not. It could be read either way, and maybe that was the intent, but I don't know if ambiguity is the right goal for this subject matter. The fact that Carl is not believed by the other characters in the script would be even more powerful if the reader knew he should be believed. I think some of the dialog between Diane and Vickie seemed a little un-natural for two co-workers. I also thought Carl leaving and then re-entering with a concern about a bomb seemed odd. Wouldn't he have that concern from the beginning?
Anyway, I liked the idea for the story a lot. I wonder if the tension could be increased by showing Carl looking over his shoulder and acting very worried even as he is going through the intitial rental application stuff. This would help lead the way to the worries about a car bomb. I also wonder whether Carl should show reluctance to speak to the police, fearing that they may be in on the conspiracy as well.

Mike Senkpiel (Level 4)

This was well written and interesting to read. The characters were developed and differentiated nicely.

My only nit-pick is that it seems more like part of a movie rather than a complete script. It's not always easy to do that with only five pages, though.

I enjoyed this. Thanks.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5)

You build tension well at the start and have created individual characters, Carl in particular comes to life.

It's a well told slice of life and small character study but holds no surprises.

Paul De Vrijer (Level 5)

Title page:
Oh goody. JFK Murder Mystery? Here we go.

Pg 1:
Interesting opening. Are we going to follow Diane, or Carl? Who's the lead here. That was a bit odd with the keys. Interest piqued.

Pg 2:
Ah both mains. More interesting developments here. Bomb in the car. You have me along for the ride here.

Pg 3:
Alright, fair enough. Could use a little more tension. I mean, if somebody told me there was a bomb in the car, I'd at least get a little nervous turning the keys. But okay. Okay, there's the Grassy Knoll reference. Hmmm.

Pg 4:
Would such a paranoid guy really be okay with her calling the cops?

Pg 5:
Okay, this is getting tense. Is Walters going to assassinate him? Going for the kill? He's right all along? Nope. Schizo. Just not on meds.
And she continues to read the magazines....hmmm

See I kinda like what you did here. Try to make a daily situation seem special and such. With all the overly dramatic shout outs from Carl. But you never really layer that drama. There's no tension when she turns the keys. There's never truly anything suspicious. Just a bit odd. You had me along for the ride, but it proved a bit anti-climatic.

Reginald McGhee (Level 0)

I have not notice any grammar or formatting errors.

Carl is a clever character. I enjoy the tension you are building up from the first page of the screenplay.

Well, the story is funny a little bit, but I’m not sure what happen at the end. The story is about a schizophrenic name Carl who falsely reported to the police and co-workers that someone placed a bomb in his car, the police report the crime, and the officer sends him away. I don’t quite understand what the payoff is because the ending of the screenplay fell flat.

The story would have been better if Carl’s following dialogue would have been “Oh shit!” after the police asks him if he is on medication. Then a cut scene of Carl’s kitchen could show his medicine bottle lying on the kitchen table to indicate that he had forgotten to take his medicine. Then, the audience would have known that he filed a false police report, since the bomb was a hallucinating object in the car. That would have brought that up to a better score. I'm not telling you to make the story that way, I'm just offering suggestions on how you might want to make it stroger. So please don't feel that I'm trying to control how you should write this.

Rick Hansberry (Moderator)

I thought this was going in a different direction. It wasn't bad, it just sort of ran its course. I think the characters were fine. They weren't extraordinary in any way and maybe that's what it is -- people want to watch a movie where they get to live a bit vicariously and for me, this seemed like it played out for you or someone you know exactly like it did and it didn't surprise me at all. I think if you keep the first four pages, I'd suggest having some type of twist ending to catch the reader off guard -- otherwise I think this is too much like a slice-of-life. Nice dialogue.

Robert Newcomer (Level 4)

I am mad at you, author, because this scenario was so very cool.

After Carl returns to the rental desk, I was like, "wow", and my comment was to lose the entire first page. Carl's assertion is so powerful and weird I could not wait to see where this went, and I thought it better to jump right into the action.

Skip all the boring rental stuff altogether, you know? Open on crazy old Carl at the desk, and his first line of dialogue is about the bomb.

And I proceeded through the story with growing anticipation until...pfft.

All the directions to go and you choose the most mundane possibility of all -- kicking this from excellent to good in the space of a half-page.

Writing and concept are great. The only advice I have is to lop off that last page and do something -- anything -- different with this brilliant scenario.


Ryan Brannan Doyle (Level 2)

Interesting setting. I like the Car Rental place. It opens up a lot of possibilities.

The story feels underdeveloped. The tone is unclear. Paint a picture with your words. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Who are these people? You might want to try giving your characters specific voices.

Good formatting. Kudos on no spelling mistakes.

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

When you introduce a character, it's usually better to put a general age 20s, 30s, than an exact age. It's not really important to have their exact age, plus it opens up the casting for people who fit in a broader age range.

I found it a little unbelievable that Diane would actually go with Carl, who she doesn't know, who is acting erratic and get into the car and start it etc.

I would think that someone who works in an airport would have called the police right away, when he mentioned the word bomb.

So the rest of the story isn't believable. It ends as it begins, as if it's just another ordinary day, which hopefully it isn't. I just felt like the story was too far fetched to be believable, therefore it didn't work for me.

I didn't buy the characters actions at all.

I did think that you made Carl seem very deranged from his dialogue and that was good writing. It was Diane's actions that were not believable, and that is what spoiled the story for me.

Shaun Bragg (Level 4)

This is a good script, however not as rewarding as I hoped. The writer in my opinion could've gone to more complicated places with this script due to the characters diagonsis and the type of story it was a thriller.

The structure here was really good. I knew something was up when Carl said that he knew who killed JFK. It was obviously sick, right?

Keep up the good work.

Sylvia Dahlby (Level 5)

The title grabbed me right away & I had higher expectations. This could do with some heavy editing - and a better ending. I suggest losing the first page and the "he acted weird thru the rental process" show don't tell - have Carl rush in and demand another car because he thinks there's a bomb... and get rid of the redundant dialog. Carl says there's a bomb in the car FOUR times. OK, I got it the first time. Is this Diane's story? I need a little more to identify with her - like maybe she's new on the job or she's busy with HER wedding and can't be bothered with a high maintenance customer. Consider ditching Vickie because she doesn't contribute anything to the story. Let's have more interaction with Diane trying to "fix" Carl's problem with the car (offer him a different car, then he thinks there's something wrong with that one like aliens or whatever), maybe add some slapstick humor - good material for a dark comedy.

Tim Westland (Moderator)

This seems to be part of a larger script. As it stands, there just isn't any story here at all.

So you know, if a man were to be anywhere near an airport and mention a bomb, the reactions of the car rental staff would not be so blase. They don't know if he's crazy, a terrorist, or what. They would be VERY serious.

William Phibbs (Level 2)

The vapidness of the workers at the car rental is interesting in relation to the seriousness of the situation. The fact that they take the bomb thing so lightly is funny because it is in a way relative to how lightly we as a society sometimes take things. On the other side of the spectrum this situation would probably be quite a spectacle especially at an airport. I guess the title adds to the notion of unknown conspiracies. Structure and dialogue were put together well but just unsure about reactions of characters.

Zach Jansen (Level 4)

"A flight arrives..." -- does it land in the airport? Or are we seeing the passenger entering the terminal? The way I'm ready it, we're supposed to see the plane.

This is really all over the place for me. I'm thinking first it's about Carl, but then he leaves, so it's about the car rental girls, but no there's more of Carl, but then, hey, it is about the car rental girls. There's no point of reference for me. I don't know whose story this is, so it was difficult for me to get into it.

And the whole JFK thing was totally left field and shifted the tone of the piece. Perhaps another blatant example of Carl's instability while he renting the car would help -- the mis-matched clothes and handing over his keys are nice, but they don't indicate a crazy man, just someone who's inexperienced with renting a car and has bad fashion sense.

The dialogue was quite wordy and not really speakable. I saw a few lines that could be completely cut. A few punctuation errors.

Comments Made After the Contest

Debra Johnson (Level 3) ~ 2/1/2012 6:02 AM

This is a story that actually happened to me when I worked at Budget Car Rental in a small airport in NC. Everything that I wrote, happened. The character Diane was based after me.

As for should Diane ask where Carl was going - yes! I was trained to ask in case I could sell an upgrade.

Perhaps I should have made it more interesting according to some. But crazy stuff like this happened all the time so Diane's reaction is normal. The stories I could tell!

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Perhaps in another contest I will do better.

Reginald McGhee (Level 0) ~ 2/1/2012 6:29 AM

This is a good scrippt, Debra. It improves each time you write. Good luck.

Debra Johnson (Level 3) ~ 2/1/2012 8:20 AM

Reg - this is a script I wrote before my screenwriting class and I have improved tremendously! If you want, I can email you the scripts that got me into the finals at NYC Midnight contest. :-)

JeanPierre Chapoteau (Moderator) ~ 2/1/2012 11:40 AM

I knew this had to happen to the writer. Did you know the guy, or did this happen post 9-11? You didn't think he might have been telling the truth? Why didn't you call security! Now I'm very interested...

Debra Johnson (Level 3) ~ 2/1/2012 12:00 PM

No, didn't know him. Was just another wacky person renting a car. He seemed a little odd during the rental but didn't think much of it. We were trained to handle customers like this. The car was just cleaned and he had it for like 5 minutes. I've seen so much that stuff like this that I don't over react. It just becomes funny. I can rewrite the script to make it stronger. I just might do that.

Debra Johnson (Level 3) ~ 2/1/2012 12:00 PM

Oh, it was before 911.

Reginald McGhee (Level 0) ~ 2/3/2012 12:13 PM

Hi Debra. In case you are wondering, I sent you an email about your script. I hope the reviews are helpful to help this one stand out.

Debra Johnson (Level 3) ~ 2/3/2012 12:56 PM

yes. I got it Reg. I've just been so busy with other projects.

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