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"Lousy Coffee" by John Foley

Rewrite: 4/30/2008 12:00 AM

Logline: How someone pulls himself through.

Genre: Drama

Cast Size: 4

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

Contest: Small Round Things (Oct. 2007)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent

Comments Made During the Contest

Adam Grage (Level 4)

I liked the story but the format needs some work. I think if this was properly formatted it would be more than 5 pages. The sluglins needed to be sttd with time of day also such as


This script looks like it was written using Word and not some script software. I would suggest Celtx. It is free and easy to use.

Some the dialogue is a little on the nose, but the ending part with the wedding rings and the old man giving advice was nice and I think the characters seemed the most natural.

Adrienne Jorgensen (Level 4)

I had a feeling I was going to like this one from the title...and I was right. I love your script. I'm especially fond of the old man. I want to buy him some coffee, too.

I really love the story as well. It feels round and resolved nicely.

I would say some of the dialogue sounds a little canned and formal. Especially watch what the young man says while talking about his situation. It goes from sounding natural and charming to sounding like he's telling the audience instead of the old man.

Austin Bennett (Level 4)

You need a line space between slug lines and action. You need a title page. Is the old man 85, or about 85? You're the writer, right?

Your France slug line is wrong. "EXT. FOREST" is all you need. The winter part goes in the description. The year belongs as a title. It's (V.O.) instead of (VOICE-OVER).

Austin Jones (Level 4)

Nice job with this passing the torch story. Some of your action could be streamlined and more engaging...I had to go back a few times to see it all play out. I also think the dialogue is expected. We have all heard the "good old days" story so there needs to be something new and fresh.

Barbara Lewis (Level 4)

I think you have a good ear for dialogue and I like the contrast between old and young here, brought together by bad coffee.

Couple of things - definitely break up that long paragraph at the top of Page 1 - try to stick to 3 or 4 lines and then skip, adding white space. Only capitalize the character names on first reference - also your dialogue margins are off, and that's important because format helps directors to know how long a film runs (that's why there's a standard one).

Brian Wind (Level 5)

There were some pretty drastic formatting errors. Incorrect sluglines, missed spaces and very bulky description that could stand to be broken up a bit to make things flow better.

The story itself was good, but the improper formatting made it a tough read.

The format issue reminds me of the first script I submitted here. Everything was wrong on it, but over the past few months, I've seen myself improving consistently each month. Stick with this website. You will learn something new each and every month. Nice work.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

You must seriously, SERIOUSLY work on trimming your action sections. They are way too long, especially when describing something so mundane as putting a coin in a vending machine.

You could have reduced that WHOLE long thing to something like 'An OLD MAN puts 75 cents in to a vending machine. The price of a coffee is $1' We don't need all that stuff about he approaches it, fishes in his pocket etc. etc. We can take that for granted.

I like films that have old people in them. There aren't enough of them. The flashbacks - I don't know...maybe a bit too overplayed - dead soldiers and so on?

It was good the way the coffee was a thread throughout. The story just needed more pace and more economy. As it was it was rather cumbersome.

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus)

Cool story, like how the coffee plays into the various stages of the Old Man's life and weaves in and out of the screenplay. (If anyone ever needed a good cup of Starbucks, it's the Old Man).
The biggest problem I have with your entry are all the typo's. They're everywhere. This doesn't kill you in my book, but it did continually take me out of the story and made it less enjoyable. Clean them up if you plan on going any further with it.
All-in-all, good job.

Chris Messineo (Founder)

The opening is a little slow and you over describe some details, but once you get into this story it is actually very nice.

I like these two characters a lot and the way the bond over a cup of lousy coffee.

I think though, this script will be much stronger if you can find a way to add a little conflict.

Dawn Calvin (Level 5)

Okay, you met the three props requriement!

This was a nice touching story. Mine was sentimental too and I think it will be interesting to see how many people used sentimentality to convey a message in their story.

There were a few typos, but nothing major. I liked the way you told the old man's story in history!

I think a ring just has a special meaning for all of us.

Good job and good luck!

Elias Farnum (Level 5)

Formatting issues abound. Nighttime should just be NIGHT. That huge chunk of action at the beginning should be broken up. I would do something like

He walks through a waiting room area and to a row of vending machines on the far wall. A few PEOPLE (only use caps the first time a character, or group such as people are introduced) are seated (not sitting down) reading newspapers, eating. (you don't have to say they are waiting, what else do people do in a waiting room)

A YOUNG MAN (20’s) anxiously checks his cell phone(notice everything I'm taking out is really unneeded)The OLD MAN reaches into his pockets and pulls out 75 cents, he puts the money into the coffee vending machine and hits his selection. Nothing happens. The old man looks at the machine reads the sign COFFEE 1.00 (or if you really want to show a lot of action without dialogue do it as a series of shots)

Quite a bit of unnecessary action bogs the writing down. I always try to write in the present tense and avoid using gerunds. Phrases like, "all of a sudden" are for novels, Explosions erupt would be fine. How do I know they are even artillery? Did we hear a whistling. No there was no warning so of course it would be all of a sudden. I hope I'm not nit picking, it can be a challenge to write screenplays when you've been used to novels/short stories.

But now to the most important part because even if your formatting were perfect, the story isn't even fair. As it plays, it's just an old stranger giving a young stranger life advise with some nice visual cuts (incidentally you don't really need to use CUT TO) at a coffee machine. That's it, I didn't see a story, maybe a big set-up. There was no conflict or resolution, no twist.

I would recommend buying the Screenwriters Bible (someone recommend it to me after some of my first scripts) It is very clear and easy to understand. Even better though is the community feedback here:) Keep writing.

Graham Trelfer (Level 4)

watch your formatting. I think you could have cut this down to make a more concise piece, I did not really get what you were aiming for. $100 in 1948 was about too months rent which is fair whack for someone who says "it was all I could afford"

Personally I don't like people talking to them self, it is unnatural "he wasn't kidding, this stuff is lousy" is a bad line that could be shown in a look.

Jane Beckwith (Level 4)

I really liked this. The pacing was nice, the dialogue seemed unforced and vivid. I liked the comment about "making sure he didn't have a chance to work out the recipe" and the kid being "not sure its enough". Technically and for visual clarity, I think you should add some element to the old man's wardrobe or effects so that the viewer can tag the old man in his 20s, 30s, etc.

Jay Knisely (Level 4)

Nice modest pretty much real-time story, around the universal agreement on vending machine coffee, that doesn't rise or fall a great deal. Pleasant friendly banter.

I'm guessing you got spacing and scene headers comments with your Sep entry that you didn't see them before this one got submitted. Or, you're doing your own thing.

Kirk White (Level 5)

This one is magnificent. Hands down my favorite so far. BRILLIANT concept! BRILLIANT!!! I want to film this! this one should win (of course I say this with only 14 under my belt) I had two reactions when I read this and the second one was envy. the coffee analogy is what we call "mental Real estate" so good! so very very good!

I'm giving you an excellent and seriously considering taking away the other excellent's I've awarded!

Liz Messineo (Level 4)

This is a very sweet story and a nice relationship between the two men. However, there's too much exposition; the story should be told through dialogue. It needs a little tightening.

Margaret Avnet (Level 4)

First I have to say I like how you connected coffee with some very important events in the Old Man's life. It make for a nice connection and a flow to the story. However, you had some typos. And the formatting was wrong. I take it you don't have screenwriting software. If you're serious about screenwriting it's a great investment.

Michael Cornetto (Level 5)

Not bad. I thought your characters were good. I would have liked to have had more of a resolution. It was kind of like you started a story but never finished.

Michael Thede (Level 4)

I was ready to give this one a lower mark on the basis of the regrettably poor use of English and improper screenplay formatting, but you've actually got a really nice story to tell here. There are a few things I would suggest, however. First, you've got a really boring and uninspired opening. A hospital that looks the same as any other; non-descript characters; and a big chunk of description that's really tedious to read. Liven it up a bit! Give us some interesting descriptions of the surroundings and the people in it so we can see this thing taking place on the screen. It is a blue-print for a film after all. As it is, you're just putting us to sleep. If nothing else, give these characters some names so we can empathize with them a bit. Again, you've got a good story, you just need to tell it in a way that will get our attention. Now, go do it! :)

Rick Hansberry (Moderator)

I would suggest a different title. It's a sweet piece. A nice slice-of-life and I liked the contrast of the Old Man and the Young Man. I also liked the links of time to the lousy coffee. I thought it was poignant to show both men, worried for their significant others in the hospital at different periods of their lives. The dialogue felt real. The only thing lacking for me was the element of forward momentum. We don't know what happens to either men or their spouses at the end. Neither of them change from the beginning of the piece, so there's no arc - no conflict to overcome. It's hard in five pages to insert that. My only suggestion would be to have them maybe have an argument or conflict over the last cup - then they gradually resolve it as they get to know each other's past.

Rob Gross (Level 4)

I have to say I really enjoyed this story. I liked the interaction between the old man and young man. The dialog was good and I liked the flashback to the war.

I thought you told a good message through the story.

I think the formatting could use some work. It was a little awkward to read but I didn't mark off. I would get a formatting book or software to help.

Good job with this story!

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

I think this is a nice story and I like the rapport between the young man and the old man.

I like the way the coffee is woven into the script throughout. And I thought the ending was strong.

Some things were not as clear, the dialogue needs work, to make the pacing move a little faster.

But I thought this was a nice vignette of two people waiting to hear about their loved ones.

Stephenie Ruffin (Level 4)

The story was just okay for me. There were a few typos and missing words to complete sentences. The formatting needs a bit of work. You do not need to capitalize the characters names again after you introduce them the first time. Periodically throughout the script, the scene headings are not properly displayed. I think with a rewrite and a little more "action," this could be a very nice story.

Sylvia Dahlby (Level 5)

Sorry, I really wasn't feeling it. You had a lot of great elements for an emotional drama - two men with their wives in the hospital and the comfort of each other - but fell short of the mark. For one thing, the flashbacks detracted from the drama of being in the hospital. The dialog was too wordy and lacked emotional impact. The characters were begging to be named so I could connect with them. And a lot could have been done to amp up the anxiety of the premise. I suggest trying again, lose the flashbacks, add a doctor with some tense news, give me some pain and something to really worry about. The formatting also needs work.

T. Joseph Fraser (Level 3)

Nice short, I suggest the characters have names as opposed to just OLD MAN and YOUNG MAN...Murphy got a name... Nice sentiment shared between these two guys at different stages of life...Don't think the last line was needed...just a face would have told the story...the little comment broke the mood.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus)

The transitions didn’t seem smooth. I’m not sure you need V.O.’s to describe the flashbacks. No dialogue there may have a stronger and more powerful presence. The V.O.’s are there to explain, and I don’t feel it’s necessary.

I want something less “on-the-nose” in terms of the dialogue. It’s okay to be unclear, especially with the Old Man… he’s obviously proud, so I was wondering why he’d take the quarter to begin with. I feel like the old man needs a bit more tugging on to reveal as much as he does.

I like the idea and symbol of ‘lousy coffee’.

William Coleman (Level 5)

Tying the piece together with coffee was a clever idea. You use Chris' elements well with the button coming across the weakest. While the looking back over a lifetime is ambitious and worthy, I felt that you needed something more powerful than coffee to enhance your work's power and thrust. It ambles a bit. The incidents in the past after the battle scene need a little more power and insight. Ambitious work.

You cheat a little on formatting. The dialog is too wide, and I suspect you're using 11 pt. That doesn't affect my rating.

Comments Made After the Contest

John Foley (Level 4) ~ 12/4/2007 7:10 PM

Thank you to all you once again who took time to review my script along with all the others.

I was prepared for the comments on my formatting errors. I did the same in the month's before entry. I did not try to cheat margins or font size to get more into my script on purpose. I thank those who noticed that I struck out again on format but gave me some reprieve. I am working on fixing them. I am also using a demo version of Final draft at the moment to get started for now. I used it for Decemeber's entry.

I am getting use to the language and style really needed in a script. This script and the last month's is the most in depth feedback I have received on my writing.

I am going over the comments now. I just want to say one thing for now. There was quite a few of you who thought there should be more sense of conflict between the Old Man and Young Man. My feelings are that the tension is really subtle. It is more in the circumstances they find themselves in. I think both of them just want a time out in a sense. Someone to listen to. I don't think either one of them expect resolution to their problems in a brief meeting. I think they find it nice to just talk and to have someone to listen. I do not believe that direct conflict and antagonism is always needed between people in a story.

Thanks again for the comments. I now need to get into the habit of rewriting.

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 12/14/2007 10:22 AM

I think you have a great attitude and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus) ~ 12/14/2007 4:38 PM

John, you just hit the nail on the head. Re-write and re-write, it's the key. Those little things kill your story. You're a really good writer, you just need to pay more attention to the dull little details.
Can't wait to see what you come up with next.

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